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House of Beer

A co-worker and I tried to "go for one" after work Wednesday night Trouble is, we picked a bar that serves over 500 different beers and about 60 on tap. Needless to say, we had more than one... The name of this fine establishment is the International Tap House in Chesterfield MO, but we prefer to call it the House of Beer

I'm pretty sure it's the only joint in town that serves Saison on tap. I tried the Le Merle Saison and Young's Double Chocolate Stout. I would have preferred a more traditional pub atmosphere rather than its contemporary feel but being surrounded by excelent brews is atmosphere enough.

Next time I'll know better than try to go for the one and plan to stay for the duration. Fortunately that will be very soon cause they hired my new band from 8-midnight on April 3rd!

Will drum for beer...


PS: Next post will be from a true British pub! Gotta catch my plane now!


Recipe for the Ultimate Cake?

How can you go wrong with Guinness AND Irish Whiskey?  I stumbled on this Irish gem of a dessert.   If I wasn't going to be in England next week (for business) I would have requested it as my birthday cake.  

The smokey carmel sauce sounds intriging (from the book Cheater BBQ), I wonder if you could smoke brown sugar in a smoker prior to making the sauce rather than using liquid smoke?

Here's a link to the original article from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle from the book:  Elegant Irish Cooking.  I'll report back if I get a chance to try it first hand.

Biddy Mulligan's Dublin Cake:

Biddy Mulligan's Dublin Cake

We tested this recipe with Guinness Stout and Jameson's Irish whiskey. Be sure to use cake flour instead of all-purpose flour. Cake flour's lower protein content yields a baked good that is more tender and crumbly. Adapted from Noel C. Cullen's Elegant Irish Cooking (Lebhar-Friedman, $35).

  • 2 cups cake flour ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ pound butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup Guinness stout
  • 2 cups golden raisins
  • 1 cup dried currants
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • ¼ cup Irish whiskey, plus more to taste

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch round cake pan, line the bottom with a round of parchment paper and lightly grease the parchment paper. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking soda and allspice. Set aside.

Using a standing mixer fitted with paddle, cream butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. (You can also use a hand-held electric mixer.) Add eggs, one at a time, and mix well after each addition.

Fold flour mixture into egg mixture. Stir in Guinness, raisins, currants and walnuts. Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake for 1 hour. Then turn the oven temperature down to 300 and bake for another 25 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean (or with just a crumb or two sticking).

Remove cake pan from oven and allow cake to cool in the pan completely. Pierce the surface of the cake with fork or skewer. Run a knife around the edge of the cake where it meets the pan and remove the cake from the pan. Brush the Irish whiskey over the top of the cake where the perforations were made and wrap in wax or parchment paper and store in a cool, dry area for a couple days before serving. If you like more whiskey flavor, brush the cake with an additional two tablespoons of whiskey once or twice during the waiting period. Serve with whipped cream or smoky caramel sauce (recipe follows).

Makes 8 to 12 servings.

Smoky Caramel Sauce

Caramelizing sugar requires careful attention and constant stirring to make sure you don't overcook the sugar. This recipe, from Mindy Merrell and R.B. Quinn's Cheater BBQ (Broadway, $17.95), is surprisingly quick, easy and foolproof. The secret is liquid smoke.

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup corn syrup
  • ½ teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until smooth and creamy.

Makes about 2 cups


Making Wine @ Home (part 4)

Be sure to check out the other posts in the series to follow a winemaking kit from fermenter to glass.

Secondary fermentation is complete for my Chilean Pinot Noir kit, so now it is time to stabilize and degas.

Stabilizing mostly means killing the yeast to ensure that fermentation will no longer continue. This is especially important if reserve juice is being added for sweetness. If the yeast is still active, that juice would be fermented as well. Worst case scenario is that fermentation keeps rolling along after bottling resulting in dangerous "bottle bombs".

Degasing basically refers to stirring the heck out of it to release any CO2 dissolved into the wine during fermentation. When brewing beer, we harness the CO2 production to create carbonation. Unless you are after a sparkling wine, CO2 in wine is not very pleasant and significantly detracts from the flavor, residual CO2 can also result in popped corks or bottle bombs.

Most kits contain Potassium Metabisulfiite and Potassium Sorbate for use as stabilizers.  Potassium metabisulfite (also used in the form of camden tablets) is used to kill any wild yeast or microrganisms that may have found their way into the wine and also serves as an anti-oxidant to help maintain flavor and color.  Potassium Sorbate prevents yeast from multiplying and prevents any other molds or yeast from getting a foothold over time.  Wines that are designed for aging rather than immediate consumption typically increase the dosage of these ingredients.  They are also the reason for the warning "Contains Sulfites"  found on commercial wine labels.

Mix these ingredients with a 1/2 cup filtered water and add to your fermenter.  Now the fun part,

time to stir the heck out of it to drive out CO2.  I use an wand attachment for my drill with a stopper that fits the mouth of a carboy.  This is much more effective that any stirring you can do by hand.  Just be careful not to let the stopper pop out and spray the walls : )

I stir with the drill for at least 5-6 min taking breaks every minute or two.  This stirring also suspends any sediment in the bottom which will also help clarify the wine as it settles again by dragging other particulate matter down with it.  That brings us to the clarifying agent which we add at this time as well.  Kits will come with either Chitocan (made with shellfish shells) or isinglass (from fish swimbladders) to aid in clarifying the wine.  Who knew winemaking was so fishy  : )  These additives may sound disgusting, but they are tried and true methods to accelerate the settling of any solids suspended in the wine used by winemakers for decades or longer.

Once you add the clarifying agent, then stir the heck out of it again, top off with a similar wine (water will just water it down), cover and let sit for at least ten days to let gravity do its work.  Next we will rack into a clean carboy off of the sediment (leaving the fishy stuff behind) to finish clarification.

Be sure to check out the earlier posts in the series.



The Vodka Pipeline

Picked up an interesting story today.  I didn't know that bootlegging was profitable enough to drive this sort of effort,

Police have intercepted an illegal vodka pipeline between Russia and Estonia.
Officials in the former Soviet state, now an EU member, revealed details of their four-year investigation into the illicit supply channel.
Eleven suspects have been charged over the one-mile pipe, submerged in a reservoir near the town of Narva, which pumped the alcohol across the border.
They face five years in prison if convicted. Complex negotiations with Russia resulted in lengthy delays in bringing charges.
'It might sound weird and unbelievable but it's a very real criminal case,' said prosecution spokesman Mari Luuk.
The pipeline was discovered after customs officers in the Estonian capital Tallinn seized 1,159 litres of vodka which they allege came through it. Vodka is a third cheaper in Russia than Estonia.
Four Russian men are the alleged ring leaders.
According to prosecutors, the men had pumped at least 6,200 litres of illegal spirit to Estonia, avoiding paying £46,000 in excise duty.



Ms Luuk said: 'The investigation also revealed that the men had tried to sell some of the alcohol in Tallinn in early November 2004, but the quality of the spirit was too bad and no buyers were found.  'They then transported their cargo back to Narva and later managed to sell it in Tartu, the second-largest town in Estonia.A similar vodka pipeline between Russia and Estonia was discovered in the Narva River by Estonian border guards in 2006.  'That time the pipeline was discovered before it was in use,' Ms. Luuk added.

Courtesy The Daily Mail

Homebrewing seems a lot less risky!





Brewing Gadgets: Bazooka Screen v. False Bottom

I've made mention of my poor mash efficiency/conversion rates.  This refers to the amount of fermentable sugar that is extracted during the mash process.  The percentage is in comparison to the theoretical amount stored in grain.  My conversion rate has been as low as 50% over my last several brewing sessions.

To date, I've simply dealt with this by increasing my grain bill by about 10-15%, which costs me about $1.50 per 5 gallon batch overall.  If I were a big brewery, this would be a problem.  However, as a casual brewer its just a matter of pride.  I constantly hear of fellow homebrewers achieving efficiencies over 90%.  I'm skeptical since 100% is theoretical in strict laboratory conditions with small amounts of grain, but that could just be sour grapes.  Anyways, 80% seems achievable so I still have a long way to go.

Two things I've speculated would make a significant difference in my brewery's eficiency are changing from a batch to a fly sparge, and upgrading my mash tun with a new false bottom.  I'm addicted to the simplicity and time savings of a batch sparge so I am saving that for another day. However, this weekend I was greeted at my local homebrew shop that a new false bottom had arrived that would fit the 10gal Rubbermaid cooler I use as a mash tun!

When I first started all-grain brewing I installed a stainless steel ball valve and bulkhead to replace the standard valve in my cooler to control the outflow of wort.  I then needed to find something to allow the wort to flow out while leaving the grains behind. 

Popular options include a braided metal hose (like those used for washer hookups with the liner removed)  or a false bottom.  I couldn't find a false bottom at the time and was concerned about how to keep hose braid material clean, so I turned to the "bazooka screen" which amounts to a copper T connected to tubes of stainless screen material crimped at the ends.  This worked great except I could not get the last inch plus of sticky goodness out of my mash tun since it sits up off of the bottom of the cooler.  I figure this amounted to the loss of at least a couple quarts of high octane wort.

This week I tried a stainless false bottom which is concave and sit flat on the bottom of my cooler at the edges with an outlet for the wort in the center.  The grain bed sits on top of this and liquid is forced via gravity and pressure from the grain into the valve assembly.  Works like a champ!

I'm happy to report that after removing the spent grains, there was no measurable liquid left in the bottom of my mash tun and my overall efficiency has improved 8% while recycling the wort through the grain bed only once (compared to twice or more in the recent past).  This will also reduce my opportunity of extracting bitter tannins from the grain hulls.  Looking forward to more batches to see if this trend improves.  I will plan to use the bazooka screen in a future brew kettle conversion to help filter out hop leaves.

Any other ideas on how to improve mash efficiency?



Brewing for Necessity

Today I found myself brewing for necessity after coming to the end of my Pil-Ale keg sooner than planned. What a travesty, I was out of beer! After the initial shock, I collected myself, headed to my local homebrew shop and threw together a grain bill. Here's what I came up with:

Pretty standard Brown Ale, nice and simple!
11lbs of British Two-Row malted Barley
.5lbs American Crystal Malt 40L (for color and caramel goodness)
.5lbs American Crystal Malt 120L (more color and flavor)
Long mash
30min @ 130-135
60min @ 154
30min @ 158
Mash out @ 160-168 30min
75min boil
2oz Fuggles Hops (pellets)
1.25 oz for 60 min
.50 oz for 30 min
.25 oz for 10 min
SafAle S-05 dry ale yeast (no time for propagation)

Surprisingly this turns out to be my 15th batch over the last 2 years. So far it looks, smells, and tastes great! Original gravity is 1.048. Even got a little better brewing efficiency thanks to a new false bottom I picked up while at the shop. More on that next post..

I'll keep you posted as this beer develops. Could use some help naming it...



Book Review: Alaskan Bootlegger's Bible

You may have noticed some links on our site.  We signed up for their affiliate program in hopes of offsetting a portion of our hosting fees and fund future adventures to blog about.  Mostly this has resulted in me buying more stuff from Amazon!  The latest example is this book that kept popping up in the sidebar rotation.  I couldn't resist the name and I'm glad I didn't.

The Alaskan Bootlegger's Bible by Leon W. Kania is a very amusing read starting out with a brief introduction to life in rural Alaska.  It is full of anecdotal references to life as a a bootlegger while providing very practical advice and recipes for everything from Dandelion Wine to Moonshine and Bathtub Gin.  There are at least a hundred beer, wine, and liquor recipes in this book, and nothing pretentious about it.  While I don't think I'll ever make milk wine, I appreciate this book's bravery in exploring all things fermentable.

As a DIYer I also enjoy the simple instructions and tips for building our your brewery and/or distillery (including several still designs) from everyday objects all while maintaining an emphasis on safety.

This is not a technical book by any means, but it will get the wheels turning if your adventurous.  Its also a fun window into the history of homebrewing and bootlegging moonshine.



Brewing Gadgets: Auto Siphon

Here's a must have gadget for simplifying your brew day!

If you brew beer or make wine at home you will inevitably find yourself needing to move several gallons from one vessel to another.  It is usually important not to disturb any sediment while doing so.  In that case, siphoning is usually the best answer.  A siphon can be tricky to get started while avoiding contamination by creating more contact with the outside of your tubing filling it by submerging to get the flow started (please, I don't even want to know if you suck on it like a straw).  once you get the flow going a break in suction or a need to stop the flow quickly and you're back to square one.

Enter the Auto Siphon!  This magic contraption uses a one-way valve in the bottom of a tube that allows you to draw the liquid up into the tubing with a plunger at the bottom and then force it up into your tubing.  Heck, if you're willing to pump it continuously you don't even need to use gravity!  If you do break suction, just give it a quick pump to get things flowing again.

This device has saved my brew day several times and is easy to clean and sanitize by pumping sanitizer through it for a minute.  Hot fluids take their toll on the rigid tubes and will make them brittle over time.  I've replaced mine once already. At about $10 I think it pays for itself in reduced frustrations in just a few brew days!

Happy Siphoning,



Making Wine @ Home (Part 3)

This is the third part of a series following a batch of wine from fermenter to glass.  Be sure to check out the other posts in the series.

Today I moved the wine from the primary fermentation bucket to a 6 gallon glass carboy.  Its important after the first 10 days or so to move the wine (yes, it is actually wine now) leaving behind the initial sediment and spent yeast or "lees".  If the wine is left to sit on the lees too long they will impart off-flavors to the wine.

This is a good time to check the progress of the fermentation.  This batch started out at an original gravity of about 1.100 and after about two weeks of steady fermentation has dried it out to about 0.996!  This equates to about 13% ABV so far.  This is a pretty good indication that the fermentation is nearly complete.  I will let it sit in the carboy for another 10 days or so and then begin the degassing and clarification steps prior to bulk aging.   Be sure to check out the other posts in the series ...



Conventional wisdom says that the beer and liquor industries are near recession-proof.  Recent numbers from the industry suggest that the beer industry is at least recession resistant.  Check out this weeks story from

Where is going the stock market ?????

NPR's "All Things Considered"

"the beer industry is one of the few sectors not having its worst year since the Great Depression.

...Sales are up 10 percent in January," says Josh Wilson, .... "And I think perhaps people are giving up other things before beer."

With that as a backdrop, please help me reconcile today's call of action from the Brewers Association:

With the introduction of HR 836, the Brewers Excise and Economic Relief Act of 2009, seeking a 50% reduction in the federal excise tax rates for all brewers, America’s small brewers have an unparalleled opportunity to influence policy and strengthen their businesses. We need to build as much support as possible for this bill to give it the best chance of becoming a reality. Please contact your U.S. Congressman and ask that he/she sign on as a co-sponsor of HR 836.

I'm all for tax relief where there is an opportunity to stimulate the economy in a meaningful way, but it seems there are other sectors of our economy that are more desperate for stimuli.  Smells like InBev trying to accelerate their ROI on the A-B acquisition.

Pardon my rant...



Making Wine @ Home (Part 2)

This is the second post following the progress of my winemaking adventure from fermenter to glass. Please check out the other posts in the series.

First off you need to gather your equipment and sanitize everything that will come in contact with the wine (I use Star San). The only equipment you will need to kick off fermentation will be a primary fermenter that holds at least 8 US gallons, long handled spoon or paddle, airlock, wine thief (turkey baster works fine) to take a sample to measure specific gravity and a hydrometer or refractometer.

I have removed most all plastic from my home brewery, but I find that an 8-10 gallon food grade bucket, (non food grade plastic can leech harmful toxins) is still the best primary fermenter for wine. While I prefer glass for wine for secondary fermentation, primary fermentation is just too violent due to the high gravity of wine and carboys easily channel that energy into a high pressure fountain! Unless you don't mind repainting your walls and ceiling, a nice big plastic bucket will do nicely.

Open up your wine kit and you will typically find a large bag of grape juice (about 4 gal), Bentonite, Potassium Metabisulphite, Potassium Sorbate, Chitosan, Yeast, Oak Chips, and possibly a small bag of juice to add sweetness before bottling.First step is to dissolve the Bentonite in hot water in the bottom of the fermenter. I heat up about 2 liters of filtered water in an electric tea kettle, dump it into the fermenter and stir the heck out of it. It will look like muddy water...that's because it is.  Bentonite is a special type of clay that is used for its ability to help draw out protein particles from the wine and allow them to settle out and filter the wine right there in the fermenter.

Next, carefully open up your bag of juice.  The box should have a punch out that supports the neck of the spout to make pouring easier.  A bottle opener comes in handy for removing the lid. Its a lot of sticky liquid so pour carefully.  Next, poor a gallon of hot filtered water into the juice bag to rinse out any remaining juice.  I use the electric tea kettle again to heat up filtered water.  There's a lot of nasty stuff in your water heater's tank, so please resist the temptation to use hot tap water.  It won't kill you (unless its been stagnant for months), but it won't do your wine much good.

 Top off your fermenter to the 6 gallon mark (or the total volume your instructions call for) with filtered water and stir the heck out of it for at least a full minute.  This is an important step because it aerates the must dissolving oxygen into it.  This is very important to giving the yeast a healthy start.  Now is a good time to take a sample and measure gravity (I used my handy refractometer, so I only needed a drop).  Your specific gravity should measure between 1.080 and 1.100 depending on style.  If it is lower you have added too much water, higher and you probably didn't add enough (see your kits instructions for details).

If there are packets of oak chips or elderflowers, add them now and stir them below the surface.  Check your temperature to make sure your must is between 65 and 75°F.  (Temperatures outside this range are not healthy for the yeast).  Temps higher than 80°F will likely kill them (that's a bad thing).

Sprinkle the yeast over the must and put the lid and airlock on the fermenter.  You should begin to notice bubbles in the airlock within a few hours or the next day at the latest.  Now just let it sit for about a week and the the yeast do its magic...

In part 3 we'll check the gravity to monitor progress of fermentation and, if ready, rack to a secondary fermenter.



other posts in the series


Making fuel from leftover brewer's yeast!

Here's an interesting idea for recycling brewer's yeast.  Looks like we'll all have to drink more beer to lower the price of gas  : )  -D

The inventor of the EFuel100 MicroFueler home ethanol maker has signed on Sierra Nevada Brewing to make ethanol from beer dregs.
E-Fuel on Tuesday said that the beer company will start testing EFuel's refrigerator-sized portable ethanol refineries in the second quarter of this year using discarded beer yeast as a feedstock for ethanol.

E-Fuel last year unveiled its $9,995 home ethanol machine which ferments a mix of water and sugar into ethanol. Ethanol is mixed into gasoline at 10 percent. Flex-fuel cars can run on E85, an 85 percent blend of ethanol and gasoline.

Sierra Nevada every year generates 1.6 million gallons of "bottom of the barrel" beer yeast waste, which it now sells to farmers as feed. The MicroFueler will be able to raise the alcohol content in that mix to 15 percent and remove water.

Initially, Sierra Nevada plans to use the ethanol in its own vehicles. Once it has excess fuel, it will look to supply employees and distribute through E-Fuel's distribution network, a company representative said.

In a statement, Sierra Nevada Brewing president and founder Ken Grossman said the MicroFueler has the potential to improve the environment by reducing waste and to make fuel domestically.

more links:[ad#post-ad]


Making Wine @ Home (Part 1)

I made my first attempt at winemaking last year on SuperBowl Sunday and decided this year to make it a tradition. It also provides a memorable reference point as the wine ages. This will be the first of a series of posts following this batch of wine from fermentation to the glass.

To me, wine is a more complex topic than beer due to the wide variety of fruits and varietals used.  However, I find the process of making wine to be much simpler than brewing.  Most of the variables that influence the end result are up to mother nature herself rather than in the brewer or malt house or recipe combination.  The primary influences on any wine is the quality and attributes of the fruit it is based on.  The basic concepts of wine and beer making are the same. The most striking difference is that the sugars are extracted from fruit much more easily than grain.   Carbohydrates and starches in grain are broken down using heat to stimulate enzymes which break them down into simple sugars.  Most sugars found in fruit are naturally ready for fermentation.  Introducing heat would modify their structure in a way that would make them more difficult to ferment, so there is no "cooking" when making wine. Bottom line: making wine is far less time consuming but the raw ingredients are more expensive!

The process is quite simple:


  1. Sanitize your equipment (fermenter/lid, spoon, hydrometer)
  2. Fill fermenter with fruit juice, here forward called "must"
  3. Add yeast to kick off fermentation
  4. Rack to secondary fermenter (after 1 week)
  5. Allow fermentation to complete (another 2-4 weeks)
  6. Stabilize (stop fermentation)
  7. Degass (remove CO2 from fermentation)
  8. Clarify and Filter
  9. Bulk age (optional)
  10. Bottle

The wine I am starting today is a Chilean Pinot Noir using a Wine Expert’s Selection International kit from my local homebrew shop.  The varietals in this kit come from Chile from the same vinyards as the award winning wines in that region.  I splurged a bit on this kit but my homebrew shop has been recommending it to me since I first showed an interest.  Most wine kits range from $60-$170 and produce up to 30 bottles.  The more expensive kits often include award winning veritals which may require special order months in advance of production.

Next post, we'll open up the kit an complete steps 1-3 (day 1) for making wine at home...

Be sure to check out the other posts in the series




Beer Review: Boulevard Saison

KC based Boulevard Brewing has a lot more to offer than the wheat beers they are best known for.  They have introduced a line of specialty brews they call the Smokestack Series.  My first exposure to the series was on the grocery store shelf.  They're bottled in 750ml bottles with champagne style corks.  Appreciating the nod towards fine Belgium brews, I picked up a Saison.  It set me back about $9, but I might pay more if I could find it again!

This beer has an intriguing aroma.  Spice notes from the Belgium yeast are prominent but not one of four of us tasting it described it the same.  The most curious description was "reminds me of antique furniture, like opening an antique a good way"  The appearance is golden in color with a nice full yet light head.  The flavor was the highlight.  Very refreshing yet complex.  Subtle fruit and spice notes from the yeast, a very smooth mouth feel, and lip smacking good finish.

Saison literally  means "season" and is essentially an inverse of the German Märzen.  Saisons are traditionally brewed in the winter for consumption in warmer months.  This beer would be excellent on a hot summer day.   I'm on a mission now for a homebrew Saison recipe so I can be prepared this summer.

Try this beer if you can find it, I think you'll be glad you did.   Yes, its pricey but more memorable than a lot of $9 wine bottles.  This is my first straight A review...


•     Appearance:  A     •     Aroma:  A     •     Taste:  A     •


•     Overall:  A     •





Blink and you'll miss it

Believe it or not, we are approaching the twentieth anniversary of Bud Bowl I.  This year will be the first test of InBev's commitment to A-B's legacy.  Miller seems to be hoping they will blink, while banking on viewers keeping their eyes wide open (or quick on the draw with DVR replay) for a series of 1-second SuperBowl ads.   Keep your eyes peeled Sunday. Until then, here's one of their setup spots. -D


Homebrew Recipe: Pil-Ale Ice

Here's a happy accident.  I recently brewed a batch of beer and only had access to pilsner base malt.  I cobbled together an all-grain batch using the following:

12lbs Pilsner malt
1lb Crystal malt (20L)
1oz Kent Gouldings hops (pellets) -60min
1oz Fuggles hops (whole) - 30min
1/2 oz leftover homegrown Chinook hops (whole) -15min
SafAle American Ale yeast (dry)

I mashed for 90min at 154° and original gravity hit 1.050 despite sub 60% efficiency.

It fermented in the Ferminator for two weeks at 66-68°  to a final gravity of 1.014 leaving about 4.7%abv.   I kegged it, force carbonated it and served it for the first time just before Christmas.  Its quite a tasty brew.   Even one of my my bud light drinking friends asked for a second glass.  Very pronounced pilsner type aroma with a little wheat-like fruitiness up front.  The beer finishes surprisingly dry with a nice hop finish.  The beer turned out great, but the appearance was cloudy (which makes it look like a wheat beer too).  The head retention just plain sucked.

Then, I accidently froze the beer keg while converting my mini fridge to a kegerator!  I was pissed and figured the batch was doomed.  After thawing the keg and re-carbonating it I found that the head retention vastly improved and the beer cleared up considerably after the first few pours.  My assumption is that some of the particulate matter and yeast that didn't flocculate was shocked to the bottom by the freezing process and was removed in the first few pours.  I can't explain the difference in head retention but it is dramatic.  Any ideas?

The beer is quite tasty with a more subtle fruitiness.  Significantly improved by chance!



No Beer for Obama

It seems the President-Elect had asked a Bucktown, Illinois restaurant to send its InaugurAle brew to the inauguration, but the owner was informed that the beer had to be sent in bottles rather than kegs.
Piece Brewery & Pizzeria's celebration plans are bittersweet.

Mr. Obama asked the Bucktown restaurant to send its InaugurAle brew to the inauguration. But owner Bill Jacobs was told the beer had to be sent in bottles, not kegs. There went the deal — and Mr. Jacobs' trip to D.C. "We couldn't do it, so we're celebrating at home," he says.

courtesy Chicago Business

Now that's a first! Usually you can't get a bottle of beer anywhere near a giant street party.  I wonder what their position is on beads?  :)


Can you freeze a beer in under 5 seconds?  

You bet!

This may just prove that I'm too easily amused.  I found this video while reading similar accounts to my accidental freezing of a homebrew keg.  It has parlayed into a set of instant crystallization experiments for my fourth grader's science fair project (It works great with Coca-Cola too).

Move a beer or soda from the fridge to the freezer for a couple of hours (or just put it outside for a few minutes if its as cold as it is here tonight).  The liquid will become super-cooled (below freezing) but stay a liquid.   The pressure of the carbonation prevents crystals from forming until the bottle gets cold enough or disturbed enough to release co2 bubbles and trigger instant crystallization.  Open the bottle carefully, then pop the top of the bottle with another if you want it to freeze from the bottom up or hit the bottle on the counter if you would like it to freeze from the top down.

It's fascinating to watch in a clear bottle!  This also reduces any guilt since most good beers don't come in clear bottle.  Try not to forget and leave a bottle in too long because it will freeze, crack and make a big mess.




Brewing Gadgets: Meet the Ferminator

Say Hello to my little friend, The Ferminator!  Its an all stainless steel 14.5 Gallon conical fermenter made by Blichmann Engineering.  This baby is basically a miniature version of what the commercial breweries use.

Advantages I've found using a conical:

  • The ability to remove beer bottom of the vessel rather than siphoning
  • Ability to remove trub (sediment) without moving beer to a secondary
  • Less opportunity for oxidation/contamination
  • Much easier to clean and sanitize than carboys


  • Very Expensive (this model rang in at $500)
  • Everything is easy to clean, but there are many connections to keep sealed tight
  • Important to keep Teflon tape and o-rings on hand for leaks
  • Its heavy (handles are built in for carrying)

This was a significant investment for me, however it has helped streamline my brewing process in many ways.  Particularly, the elimination of siphoning.

This model has a domed lid, airlock, and corny keg style latch with a pressure valve in the top that allows for mild pressurization.  This allow me to defy gravity and push the beer out of the valves and into a keg sitting next to it.   This also comes in handy for pushing the thick yeast cake and trub from the bottom.  All of the valves are stainless steel and easily disassembled to allow for thorough sanitation.

Adding a conical to your home brewery is an awesome way to take your brewing to a higher level.  I am also certain it will last for decades with proper care, plus it just plain looks like you mean business!

Buy one if your serious about brewing and plan to stick with it.




Comfort Brew

Guinness hardly needs a review since it has been a staple since the 18th century.    Its a rare example of a mass produced, heavily marketed beer that still has street cred.  For me, its as welcome as a home cooked meal after a long workday.

Guinness has done a great job of capturing the pub experience in their latest Guinness Draught Can.  Its a 14.9 oz package with a nitrogen filled sphere or "beer widget" inside that releases the classic beer gas as you open it.  Quickly turn the can up and pour directly down the center of a pint glass and you will have a remarkable facsimile of Guinness on tap.  Complete with cascading bubbles!  Don't hesitate, the 14.9 oz leaves just the right amount of headroom in a pint glass and the velvety head will cover the beer all the way to the bottom.  Drink and repeat!  The cans are pretty expensive at the supermarket fetching as much as $7-8 for a 4-pack.  Luckily both Sam's and Costco offer 18-packs for about $20.


Appearance:  A+ Aroma:  B+  Taste:  A 


•     Overall:  A      •