Friday, October 24, 2008

I Always Knew This Day Would Come

A profound hat tip to Tim Jones for inspiring me to take up beer brewing once again. There's a good reason why I never threw out my old equipment - and this day was that reason.

Yes, outside of Holy Matrimony and the Beatific Vision I'm not sure there is anything which makes a man feel so much like a real man - like he is fulfilling his destiny as brewing beer.

This one is called "Ram's Head Weizenbock" which, as the name suggests, is a cross between a German wheat beer and a bock beer.... in other words... liquid gold. Should be pretty awesome.


Josh McManaway said...

I knew there was something I liked about you - we both brew! I've been teaching brewing classes here in Greenville trying to get the brewing culture up and running.

Good luck on getting back into it!

Gretchen said...

Tim, I grow hops -- an old heirloom variety. Do brewers like fresh or dried hops, and I'd be happy to send some to you at some point. The ones still left on the vines now are pretty trashed.

Joseph said...

Oh my, Tim. You'd better take Gretchen up on her offer. This is what makes the blogosphere great! I might have to start brewing again too. My favorites used to be weiss and and stout.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Hmm.. Yea Gretchen let me think about that and get back to you... Ok I thought about it. YES!!

As I understand, it's best to use dry hops for the bittering process and then fresh hops right at the end. Josh may know more about that than me though.

That would be really awesome though Gretchen, I'm excited! What do you normally do with your hops?

Gretchen said...

Well, this is the first year I grew them. I was allowed to dig up some of the roots of a very established heirloom vine at the local historical museum. I divided it into three and planted along the fence. Each vine grew about 30 feet and flowered beautifully. I probably had five pounds of hops heads altogether. Next year it will double or triple (hops are notorious for taking over everything in sight). The vine at the historical museum grows close to 100 feet each summer. Basically, between the museum and my vines, you could probably have as much as you wanted. I will go out and pick some of the 'dried on the vine' heads and see what they look like. If they seem okay, I'll send you a sample and you can judge for yourself. We had an old time beer brewer out at the museum last year and when he found out we had a vine he promptly picked the ripe heads and plunked them in his demonstration brew. I could also send you some roots and you could establish your own vine. Believe me they grow like wildfire.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Gretchen, that sounds great. My email address is on the side bar, I didnt see yours in your profile. I'll be happy to send you shipping costs.

Tim J. said...

Here's hoping you have better luck than I did with my most recent batch!

The yeast was a bit old, and on top of that I think I pitched it too soon and pretty much killed it. The brew did bubble for a day or so, but it tastes green and has little or no carbonation.

It smelled like bread, rather than beer, when I opened the bottles.

So, lesson(s) learned and on to the Oktoberfest Brew (for which I bought some fresh yeast).

Let us know how it comes out!

Tim A. Troutman said...

Tim, did you use priming sugar for bottling?

Josh McManaway said...

Tim J.

A few things that may help you:

1) How long did your brew sit in primary? I have a 3 week minimum on anything I brew. And bubbles aren't necessarily a good indicator of anything (it's just to release CO2, it's not really a precision device to measure fermentation).
2) Get a hydrometer if you don't already have one. The readings are essential.
3) What kind of yeast did you use? Did you make a starter?

4) Sorry about hijacking your thread to ask questions about beer...

Tim J. said...

Tim T. - Yes, I used priming sugar individually added to each bottle before filling.

Josh - I did not make a starter, though I have read about it. The instructions said only to pitch the dry yeast into the wort.

I kept my brew in the primary fermenter for 3 or 4 weeks. There was a good deal of crud and sediment in the bottom, and that makes me think that some good fermentation had to be taking place, but I can't say for sure.

I still have some of this in bottles. Is it possible that if I just let it age it may perk up?

Tim A. Troutman said...

I've always used a starter when I had dry yeast. On the last batch I made, the starter was almost growing out of the sanitized glass I had it in so I had to pitch it sooner than I wanted and I was worried that the wort was still too hot. But it did ferment pretty actively.

Still waiting to see how this turns out.

I've never primed each bottle individually, I usually do it in bulk and make sure to mix it well. Another thing I thought of, how much room did you leave in each bottle? Should be about an inch or two I think.

Josh McManaway said...

Tim J -

Time will definitely heal all wounds. I've heard of nearly undrinkable beer being aged into the best batch someone's ever made. Granted, this isn't the optimal way of making beer (who wants to wait 14 months for good beer?).

And starters aren't really needed for dry yeast. However, you may want to "proof" them (heat up a pint of water to 90 degrees, dump your yeast in there - wait 15 mins. Put a couple of tablespoons of wort into it and wait for 15-30 mins. If you see bubbles, your yeast is viable). Starters are really to culture more yeast. Liquid yeasts need starters because they only have about 100 million organisms, whereas about 180 million is necessary for a good pitch on a 5 gallon batch.