Working @UBottleIt and Brewing Like Crazy!

Hello friends!

I’m sure some of you are aware that I just worked my first week at my favorite homebrew store in the world, U Bottle It! I can’t tell you how happy I am to work with Gary and Heather every day. Not to mention the warm and fuzzy feeling it gives me to hook you fine folks of Las Vegas up with your winemaking & homebrewing needs.

Five gallon partial mash kits (designed and assembled by yours truly) for an Oktoberfest as well as a Pumpkin Spice Ale are now available on the shelves and hopefully I’ll get our Holiday Ale & ‘Grant’s Saison’ kits finished up tomorrow.

I’ve never taken much notice of any dry yeasts, but Lallemand’s Belle Saison looks quite interesting and I’ll definitely fire it up on the ‘Grant’s Saison’ kit in the coming weeks.

Above all else though, I really want to express my gratitude towards Gary & Heather at U Bottle It for welcoming me with open arms and wish my good friend Tom Harwood the best of luck in his new position as Assistant Brewer at Big Dog’s. I look forward to drinking a Big Dog’s Rye IPA very soon. 😉

The beauty of working at a homebrew store is that I’m getting a great opportunity to live and breathe homebrewing again. In the last month I’ve brewed 3 Helles lagers, a Russian Imperial Stout, & my Purring Kitten Session IPA. You’d think a beer that did as well as Purring Kitten would’ve been on the agenda sooner, but I was waiting for the seasonal WLP006 Bedford yeast to be available again. And I’d been a little busy. Or something like that.

Anyway, I thought I’d share some info on my latest brews:

Helles 7/28

–          I used the recipe from Brewing Classic Styles.

–          Mashed around 150-151 with 75% RO & 25% Brita filtered & boiled Vegas city water. Sparge was all RO. Salts added were 7g CaCl, 4g Epsom salt, & 2mL lactic acid.

–          I used 1.3oz of German Hallertau for bittering to 19.2 IBU.

–          My gravity came in at 15 plato (1.061) and my efficiency was 88% so this bad boy could easily be  1% ABV or more above the style guidelines.

–          I also set the timer incorrectly on my phone for my first hop addition and ended up boiling considerably longer than 90 minutes. The result being that I think my color is a little too dark.

–          I brewed spur of the minute so didn’t have a starter of the WLP838 made up. Therefore (because Jamil says pitch big for lagers), I pitched 2 vials of WLP838, 1 of WLP833, & 1 of WLP830.

–          Finally, this was my first time using my freezer & Johnson controller in this temperature range so the first few days it was getting as low as 44 until I got it a little better dialed in. Now it floats at 49-54.

Helles 8/4

–          I used the same water profile, grain bill, and mash temp as the previous for comparability.

–          Of course this meant I was going to end up with another 15 plato beer if I got similar efficiency. Of course I got 88% again.

–          I bittered with 0.7oz of Motueka for 18.9 IBU because my Hallertau smelled a little passed its prime.

–          I pitched WLP830 that I took directly from the fermenter of Big Dog’s Pinscher Imperial Pilsner. I pitched a pretty healthy amount and could smell considerable hop aroma from Pinscher.

Helles 8/15

–          Knowing that I was getting pretty high efficiencies helped me to design this beer a little better. I got 85% efficiency and ended up with a 1.050 beer. This might actually be a real Helles!

–          I used 86.8% Pilsner, 7.9% Vienna, & 5.3% Munich and mashed at around 150.

–          The mash and sparge water were all RO and 8g CaCl, 7g Epsom salt, & 2mL lactic acid were added.

–          I hopped with 0.8oz German Opal for 18.1 IBU and threw in the remaining 0.2oz at 5 minutes.

–          Once again I was without starter so I put together a Franken-Lager blend of WLP802, WLP820, WLP833, & WLP862.

Here’s Helles 8/15 cranking away:

promising helles

Russian Imperial Stout 8/19

–          I did this as a ‘demo brew’ for my friends Sean & Andie last Monday and this was my first stout.

–          The grain bill was 77.1% Maris Otter, 8.6% Roasted Barley, 5.7% Special B, 3% Caramunich, 2.9% Pale Chocolate, & 2.8% Chocolate Malt.

–          I bittered with German Polaris for 63.7 IBUs, flavored with Meridian for 7 IBUs, & used 1.5oz Polaris at Flameout. I got such interesting minty ice candy flavors from Polaris the last time around, so I’m hoping those turn out well in a stout.

–          I mashed around 154 and built the water to resemble Dublin’s. The mash was 25% filtered Brita, 75% RO with 1.5g Gypsum, 0.5g Cacl, & 7g Chalk added.

–          I ended up pitching 3 aging vials of WLP090 San Diego Super & 2 vials of WLP001.

Purring Kitten Session IPA 8/23

–          I made a few changes on this re-brew. I was mashing at 151 but found out 15 minutes in that my probe thermometer was reading 3-4 degrees low. I heated to actual 151.

–          I kept the salt additions similar to the last go round but did a 90 minute boil instead of 60.

–          I used all RO and added 5.5g Gypsum, 3.5g CaCl, 8g Epsom salt, & 4g Chalk.

–          My grain bill was 64.7% 2row, 14.7% Goldpils Vienna, 5.9% Flaked Wheat, 5.2% C-40, 3.6% C-60, 2.9% Aromatic, & 2.9% Carapils.

–          My starting gravity was 1.048 versus 1.044 last time. I also spilt the batch on WLP006 Bedford (which I used last time) and WLP002 English Ale.

–          I substituted Chinook for Centennial in the recipe and upped my flameout additions.

–          I also found my probe thermometer untrustworthy with lower temps as my big bucket of water and fermentation was actually running 4-5 degrees cooler than I was being told. Therefore the Session IPAs started pretty low and the Russian Imperial Stout was fermented on the cool end of its desired range instead of the high end.

Here’s my magical bucket of water, frozen water bottles, & fermenting beers:

high tech fermentation

As per usual, it’ll be interesting to see how everything turns out. I should mention that I have been drinking my year old Farmhouse Oktoberfest (on WLP670 American Farmhouse) lately and it has some really interesting funky citrusy Brett notes to it. I can barely tell it ever started as a rich malty beer because now it drinks a little thin with a chewy almost ropey Brett finish.

I should also mention that hopes of heroicness have been revived! I went through the BJCP style guidelines today and picked a style from each of the 23 categories that I would like to brew. That set a lot of wheels in motion but the first recipe resulting from that exercise was a Smoked Dubbel for category 22B Smoked Beer as well as a 16E Belgian Specialty entry (possibly with some Brett B).

My other brews in the works are: a Berliner Weiss, a Belgian IPA using WLP400 Wit yeast and Mosaic & Pacifica hops (because the cask I did of dry hopped Wit at Big Dog’s smelled so awesome), a re-brew of my Sink Spoon Brett Rye IPA (that I will send bottles of to Joseph), & my French Bulldog Rye IPA on Wyeast 3711 French Saison yeast. Just because I’m no longer with Big Dog’s doesn’t mean I can’t brew the beer I had on deck!

I know, I know. A lot of 16E Belgian Specialty and 23 Specialty. I’m making weird stuff as per usual. My general tastes in beer and desire to innovate will probably mean I re-punch those categories award-wise a fair amount (hopefully).

Finally, for anybody who has been doubting my assistant brewer’s work ethic and helpfulness, here’s a picture of her watering a plant while we were brewing:

watering plants

Alright, I’m off to hunt for more fermentation space on Craigslist. Be well and ferment clean my friends!

Update with many pics of @BigDogsBrewing life!

Hi brewing friends!

Given that it’s been a month since my last post, I should probably drop an update. Life has been good my friends. I’m enjoying my time at the brewery and being a brewing human being in general. My homebrewing has certainly slowed down greatly, but I’ve got pics of pro brewing for you instead.

Here’s a look at our brewery from on top of the walk in cooler:

brewery up topSo far most of my time has been spent filling kegs, cleaning kegs, troubleshooting why the keg washer isn’t working properly, graining out, cleaning lines, & just generally being the most baller guest tap manager our establishment has ever had. I’ve also done a fair amount of labeling the past couple of days (although this is Sam doing it while I was dry hopping the IPA):

sam labels

And here’s my big pile of labeled Dirty Dog’s:

dirty casesOther fun things included the removal of Sled Dog Imperial Stout from the Maker’s Mark Bourbon barrels:

sled dog bourbon

And trying to grain out a stuck mash batch of Sled Dog:

stuck mash grain out

My Mom was also in town to say hi and run the Vegas marathon:

mom at bd

Other than that, we did have an awesome time down at Pizza Port’s Strong Ale Festival in Carlsbad. Our War Dog DIPA was tap 31 and my lady & I promoted the hell out of it because War Dog’s Simcoe & Citra make it a real bad mutha:

strong fest

I was shocked to see how small, open, & close to the action Pizza Port Carlsbad had its brewery:

pizza port

And their employees were wonderful for after-partying:

pizza port crew

Wild mustaches are definitely taking over out in the San Diego area. My scraggly brewer’s beard felt a little out of place.

But ok, back to homebrewing. Tonight I kegged up Hay Gurl II: My Boyfriend Brett Is Back, my 2nd attempt at a rough 3 Floyds Gumballhead clone, and my strange Farmhouse concoction that blended Wyeast 3333 kristalweizen with White Labs 538 Saison Blend. All of them smelled quite tasty and I look forward to them carbing up. Tomorrow I’ll keg my Clean Dog IPA & my Farmhouse Oktoberfest with Citra dry hop. Gotta keep rocking that specialty category!

I’ll also be brewing up my home version of Dog Gone/Dank Dog Saison soon. It’ll be 71.5% 2-row, 11.9% White Wheat, 7.9% Vienna, 2.7% Honey malt, & 6% corn sugar on White Labs 560 Classic Saison Blend. Heavy Liberty in flavor & aroma with big Columbus at flameout. I acquired a Heat Belt to run it at 75-80. If I turn it around quickly enough it’ll be helpful R&D for the 15bbl batch of Dog Gone Saison we’ll be brewing to release at Big Dog’s Winterfest on January 26th.

Here’s a pic of my 2nd Best Of Show winning Purring Kitten Session IPA (which has been requested on http://www.homebrewtalk.com):

IMAG1011

So anyway, brewing life is good. My buddy Clyde is going to let us borrow his Sabco Brew Magic to whip up 10 gallon R&D batches. Expect fun tastings at Big Dog’s once we get going with that program. Also, we’re going to start doing exclusive one keg dry hoppings of some of our staples like the Holy Cow Original Pale Ale. Expect to see a Nelson Sauvin dry hopped version on tap pretty soon!

Otherwise I just keep plugging along. Being a pro definitely has its perks. Here’s the super fresh sample of Joseph James Hop Box DIPA I got the other day when I stopped by to deliver some Citra hops:

hop box

And because I believe in strongly representing where you’ve come from, here’s our forklift at work – The Hop Dog 500 with its new Brewing Network sticker:

hop dog

Alright friends, time to wind my bad brewing self down. Be well and prosper and expect more frequent updates.

Proost y’all!

Fun with Water, Farmhouse Oktoberfest and Lime Saison Update

Howdy my brewing brothers and sisters. Since my last post I’ve brewed a couple batches & continued to expand my knowledge & efforts in the field of water building.

If you’ve followed my brewing at all, you’ve noticed I have a tendency to start trying things and then I double back for proper schooling. Water building certainly has not been an exception. My 8/20 Hef had a Residual Alkalinity of -58 with a Chloride:Sulfate ratio of 2:1. Perhaps a little aggressive on the chlorides. My 8/24 Hef had a Residual Alkalinity of -80 with a Chloride:Sulfate ratio of 0.89:1. A little more reasonable. It appears Residual Alkalinity values that low are acceptable for rather light beers, although they might be coming in a touch hot.

Anyway, I built water for my 8/27 Farmhouse Oktoberfest and had a RA of -60 with a Chloride:Sulfate ratio of 1:1. I based my water building off of an online water profile I found for the city of Munich (75ppm Calcium, 120 Sulfate, 18 Magnesium, 2 Sodium, 60 Chloride). I upped the chlorides to shoot for a little maltier interpretation of the style. All was well. My RA looked low for the color of the beer, but I was ballparking Munich’s water. However, today I ran into Munich’s water profile for Oktoberfest in John Palmer’s How To Brew and he indicates the sulfates are 10ppm & chlorides are 2ppm.

Needless to say, my water is way out of the ballpark if those are more accurate numbers. Even my chloride:sulfate ratio is way off. Oh well, we’ll see how it turns out. I did a small single decoction mash on an Oktoberfest base recipe (a modified version of Jamil’s in Brewing Classic Styles) that’s running on White Labs 670 AKA saison yeast with brettanomyces. I’m not sure with all those other factors that my water building attempt will be the biggest issue. At least Farmtoberfest dresses stylishly.

Regardless, my water knowledge is growing appreciably. I listened to (and took notes) on the first 3 Brew Strong water shows. I’ve listened to the 4th part with the Q&A, but I don’t take notes or retain things quite as well on the treadmill.

I have also taken a look at the Vegas water profile & filled its values into this water spreadsheet for your using pleasure. At first glance it appears that Vegas water is best suited for rather bitter beers that are pale-amber-copper colored. These deductions are based on a Chloride:Sulfate ratio of 0.41 & a Residual Alkalinity of 64. John Palmer says a ratio 0-0.5 puts you in very bitter beer territory & a RA of 0-120 puts you in that color range.

My other news to report is that a sampling of the 6/10 Lime Saison went down quite favorably with one of the Mikes that assisted in last night’s brewing. It had a little spice, a little fruit, & the lime is present but not overpowering. I added 2oz of Motueka dry hops almost a week ago and I dare say that bad boy might be ready for bottling.

Alright, time to squeeze in a quick workout & then go do a little grilling and beer pairing. Proost y’all!