Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Christmas!

We never made it to Andrei's killer bash, but weather and circumstances made it possible to share our "Namesday" Winterfest brew with the aforementioned Mr. Rockshop and his lovely bride.

The verdict? All good. Everyone loved the beer and we consumed it for both Xmas Eve and Xmas Eve eve. The brew is nicely balanced--no one flavor dominates. There's a nice hoppy tang and a rich malty sweetness that work in concert to give you a full-flavored easy-drinking ale. We noticed today that the beer in the glass is the color of our cherry wood kitchen table! Thus it also matches the cherry wood cabinets and mouldings. A lovely dark honey hue, perhaps best described as amber. Whatever we label it, it was beautiful. Great batch of brew.

Happy Holidays!

a.d. VII Kal. Ian.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Winterfest tapped!

Alas, we never made it to Andrei's killer bash, for a number of reasons, but we did celebrate Namesday (for two, actually) by tapping the Winterfest.

Mmmm-mm! Damn! That's what I said. It was good. Very good. The rich, complex maltiness was evident from the nose to the tip of the tongue to the back of the mouth to the final swallow. The hops were there, just a hint up front, then coming on in the finish to balance the sweetness. The 6% abv (approx., I used OG 1.057 and FG 1.010 with RealBeer's calculator) was detectable in the aroma and flavor but not detrimental at all. In fact, this is a superb beer. The color is by no means yellow, and certainly not red. Let's say dark honey or light amber.

A frighteningly quaffable brew. Next time? Perhaps spike up the keg priming a tad. Just a tad, mind you, I like to see bubbles rise. This brew looked great out of the tap, with a thick and creamy head, but the retention was poor and the fizz seemed to peter out. A quibble, to be sure, this one had too much flavor to argue with.

Sorry, Andy. Na Zydorovye!

Id. Dec.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Winterfest IV

The kegs went into the fridge last night after we returned from our holiday sojourn. The house had dropped to 55º F, about 10 degrees lower than normal. I'm glad I put the kegs out in the warmth for a few days before we left. I should be using the so-called "CA/SF Lager" yeast variety these days (Wyeast 2112 or White Labs 810)--it works well at cooler temperatures. Maybe I'll order a few for the holiday brew sessions. I've made some lovely stouts with this strain. And I'm going to take another shot at an amber beer, which always gets me thinking of Anchor Steam. Supposedly that superb brew is made from this yeast.

prid. Kal. Dec.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Winterfest III

It was a little cool, not getting above 65º F in the closet, so I moved the kegs out into the dining room were it hovered mostly around 70º F (with high of 74º). I kept the kegs there from Thurday evening until yesterday (Sunday) afternoon. Then I returned the kegs to the closet. We'll be off for the week and out of town so the house will drop quite a bit. I wanted to make sure the priming would have a chance to succeed before the cooler temperatures stopped it completely. The beer will go to the refrigerator when we are back on the weekend.


a.d. VIII Kal. Dec.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Winterfest II

The Winterfest Ale went to the keg today. I primed two 2.5-gallon (half-sized corny) kegs with 50 grams of corn sugar each and added the beer. I'll take one to Andrei's and keep one for personal consumption.

Check the bottom of the page for a change: adverts. Yes, advertising. I said "yes" to AdSense! I'm curious, and wanted to experiment. This site has very little traffic, so I don't expect much, as you need thousands of hits to generate money. But this blog is narrow in scope, and I figured the ads would be targeted to brewing, so I felt better about plugging them in here than my other sites.

a.d. XVI Kal. Dec.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Rack 'em

The beer had fermented out nicely by Tuesday and so I siphoned it to another carboy.  When the yeast is that fast-acting, I figure the beer shouldn't sit on all that sludgy stuff.  It looked and smelled good, very bright and clean.  Amber is a stretch, perhaps dark honey would better describe the color.  I think we'll be kegging the whole batch up soon and hauling it down to Andrei's killer bash.

Na Zydorovye!

Prid. Id. Nov.

Monday, November 3, 2008



. . . from Gr zume, leaven, and in Sci, denoting '(of, by or with) ferment'. . .

From Eric Partridge of course. I'm an Origins groupie.

The yeast was pitched about 1620 yesterday. At 0500 this morning there was an inch-thick head of foam and the closet reeked with the rich aromas of fermenting wort!
(There's supposed to be a macron over the e in zume but I can't figure out how to do that with Alt-codes.)

a.d. III Non. Nov.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

It's About Time

Today we moved the clocks back an hour and got rid of summer time. I remember an outfit of amateur astronomers that referred to Daylight Savings Time as Darkness Squandering Time. It's all a matter of perspective, eh? I lost a faithful companion as well. My Casio Twincept digital timepiece with analog display ceased working. I've had this watch for at least 15 years--using its features like stopwatch and timer in the classroom in my science teaching days. I used those same features on brew days to keep track of mashes, boil times, hop additions, sanitizing regimes, etc. This humble apparatus has been a part of dozens of lessons and lectures, as well as over 100 brews. I carried it with me and used its alarm clock and dual time feature for our summer odysseys overseas as well as our recent trip to Mexico. I replaced the battery in June, probably the third one of its lifetime. The watch was dead, the battery drained when I went to use it this morning. Time to get something new, I think I got my money's worth from this one.

Speaking of money, honey, I hit it right on the money today. I was hoping for a final gravity of 1.055 and I hit 1.056, 14º Plato. That was perfect! I tasted the sweet wort and I think we have a winner. Everything went according to plan. It was a gorgeous autumnal afternoon, cool and wet with intermittent sunshine and warmth. I followed my Winterfest formulation and didn't have any complications or setbacks. I did try to have a higher initial mash temperature, raising the strike heat to 172º F, but still only managed a 150º F mash. I let that go for 40 minutes, the 12 pounds of grain soaking in 12 quarts of liquor, then added a gallon of boiling liquor which brought things up to 156º F. I was hoping to start the mash up high like that and try to get a more dextrinous wort. But that's OK, like I said, it looked and smelled delicious. I tend to overshoot the color on my brown ales, pushing them almost to black, and I also tend to undershoot my ambers, winding up with sort of a dark honey color rather than a true red. I think I should have used a whole pound of the 60º L caramel, or maybe tossed in a 1/4 pound of something a little darker. We'll see. I had a great time today cookin' up a batch and I'm real happy with the result so far. Of course, only time will tell.

a.d. IV Non. Nov.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


31 Oct Hallowe'en. 01 Nov All Hallows. 02 Nov All Souls. 06 Nov Samhain.

That says winter to me. Not to mention the (welcome) rain here in the State of Jefferson.

Tomorrow I'm cooking up my annual Winterfest. I don't go in for weird, spicy brews, so my moniker reflects the season. Lots of spiced winter ales and barleywines out there, something to have in a snifter around the fireplace, but not something for quotidian quaffing. I'm a practical brewer, I need to replenish my stocks. Here's the plan:

9-1/2 lbs Great Western 2-row
1 lb Weyermann Munich
1/2 lb Weyermann CaraMunich
1/2 lb Weyermann CaraHell
1/2 lb Briess Caramel (60 ºL)

All organic stuff from 7 Bridges. The hops were from William's, lovely whole Northern Brewer, not organic. (It is hard to "go organic" and miss out on the superb hops they always have there.) I decided to go with 1-oz for 60 mins, 1/2-oz for 30 mins, and 1/2-oz for 15 mins. Dr. Bob says between 40-49 IBUs. If I get a good yield that ought to balance the big malt flavors. Damn, I'm tasting it already!

Going with the quick, easy and foolproof Safale dry yeast: number 05 "American Ale." Dry yeast has come a long way. These guys have a very clean, fast-acting product. Check for an update tomorrow evening.

Kal. Nov.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

It was soooo yummy

That's how my lovely bride responded to the question "how'd you like the beer?"

We cracked open a bottle of the Harvest Ale this afternoon. It was warm and sunny on the patio and we had a glass with our chips and salsa. The brew was smooth with a delicate maltiness but a full body. The hops were just right--balanced to give it a clean, dry finish. The color was dark brown in the glass, with rich amber hues when held in the sunlight. Overall, the mouthfeel on this brew is the winningest point. The flavors are soft and subtle, but the effect on the palate is big and satisfying. This organic malt is good stuff. I'm also happy with the new mashing arrangement. Tomorrow we'll tap the keg.


p.s. We drank the dregs of no. 162 today as well. We got a final pint to share. Fitting, for today the Rays and Sox decide the ALCS. One of them will end their season tonight. Full Season Ale was a success. Despite being sweeter and more alcoholic than my usual fare, it was drinkable and refreshing, with a good flavor. Looks like the first weekend in November will be my next brewing opportunity.

XIV Kal. Nov.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


The latest batch, Harvest Ale (# 163), went to the refrigerator today. By the time I tap this one (in a couple of weeks), the "harvest" season will be long past. We had freezing temperatures in the State of Jefferson yesterday! I left this brew in the Main Conditioning Room (hall closet) for a few days longer than necessary, mostly due to forgetfulness. Hovering around 68-70 ºF, there's no harm done. The plan was to cook up another batch this weekend, but a cold virus has seized me and I plan nothing more strenuous than laying about and drinking healthful beverages. Brewing is a vigorous and time-consuming pursuit. I'm up and down all day long, organizing, cooking, and cleaning. I don't like to do it if I can't fully enjoy it. Too bad, it looks like this weekend will be sunny. The autumn is the best time to make beer. The days are still long enough, like summer, and the chill in the air is refreshing, unlike the mind- and finger-numbing winter cold. Next weekend, perhaps, will be a chance to brew. I've got those great Northern Brewer hops and a heap of wonderful crystal malts--after a pale and a brown an amber is next on the list.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Homebrew joys

Beers are alive. They don't just sit there in the keg--they grow. They mature. They sometimes die. (That's a serious beer foul. Drink your beer.) The nice thing is that they "don't age in the glass" as Cap'n Bill would say. Each pint is a frozen moment in the life of that brew. Today's draught version of Full Season Ale was a beer at its peak. Fully blended and settled, the rich hop flavor perfectly complemented the malty sweetness and warm alcoholic aroma. Two things to learn: be patient, and add hops in stages. I did multiple additions in this one and it is clear that hops add much more than bitterness. The complex taste sensations are too hard for me to describe. (Where's WordMan when I need him?)

Best to just drink and go mmm-mmmm!

a.d. IV Non. Oct.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Party On!

Full Season Ale came out of the keg clear and bright with a creamy head. It was a big hit: full-flavored, nicely balanced, easy-drinking, smooth and delicious. We sucked down the 20 pints rather easily. In fact, we dubbed the brew "Memory Loss Ale" as half a pint (at 7% abv) had a profound impact on your cognitive functions.

Today, half the Harvest Ale will go in the now-empty vessel. I'll post a post-bottling update later.

UPDATE @ 1655 PDT: The Harvest Ale only yielded a touch over 4 gallons. I lost at least 1/2-gallon to a sludgy trub. Nonetheless, we got a nice looking, smelling, and tasting beer in one 2-1/2 gallon keg, a sixpack of 12-ounce bottles, a fourpack of 0.5 Liter Grölsch bottles, and four 22-ounce bottles. I used 50 grams of dextrose in 1-1/3 cups of water for both priming jobs. The final gravity was 1.010 or 2.5 ºP, an eleven-degree drop, coming in at almost 6% abv.

And Tim Lincecum won his 18th against the Chavez LAtriners, striking out the first nine men he faced. Not a bad way to end the season.

a.d. IV Kal. Oct.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

162 and 163

Full Season Ale is on for a public tapping tonight! We cracked one of the kegs on Monday and had a sample with pals J & R. It is a big, potent beer, bright straw-yellow, with a full range of hoppiness. The final taste had a sour edge, maybe I went over-the-top with the hops. Or maybe it was just a bit "young" and needed a little more aging time in the fridge. Regardless, a party, a genuine social event, is on FSB's calendar this evening. I've got an untapped 2-1/2 gallon keg ready to go--twenty pints for a notoriously thirsty crew. I expect to have it emptied quickly. Tomorrow, I'll clean it out and fill it with the new brown (Harvest Ale) cooked up two weeks ago. I think I've come up with an easy transport system for both the keg and the gas cylinder set-up. I have an abundance of square-bottomed, thick-walled plastic bins just the right size. I can use one for the cylinder and toss in the tap, tools and towel I need. The other hold the keg and ice packs. We'll see how well everything works tonight. I'll report on things tomorrow after kegging and bottling #163.

a.d. V Kal. Oct.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Harvest Ale

I have a lovely batch of whole Northern Brewer hops from William's that are not organic. My old organic Perles looked and smelled sort of sad so I composted them. When I decided to "go organic" I still had some odds and ends around, like the hops. My plan is to make a "steam" with them this winter when I can use my favorite yeast strain, WYEAST 2112 CA LAGER. They have a rich minty-evergreen aroma, and they just seemed brighter and fresher than the Perles. At 8.2% α-acids I only used an ounce for an hour. Dr. Bob sez 25-32 IBU.

I used 10-1/2 pounds of the new pale 2-row from Great Western/7 Bridges, plus a half-pound each of 350ºL Briess Chocolate, 120ºL Briess Caramel, and Weyermann CaraHell. My goal is a malty brown, my beautiful bride's favorite brew. I wound up with 1.054 for five gallons. It was a low-temperature (148-150ºF) short-duration mash, only 45 minutes. These modern malts go quickly.

I scrounged another cheap-o yeast from the bargain bin, this time WYEAST 1332 NORTHWEST ALE. I should probably avoid that urge to save a few bucks. After all, freshness is a big part of why I brew my own. I need to find a local liquid yeast supplier or I need to go with the new generation of dried yeast.

It was an easy day--the whole shebang went smoothly. And the Giants won! The Harvest Moon shines brightly tonight and tomorrow, enjoy the lingering light--the autumnal equinox is just around the corner. The 13th is the Ides in a Roman September, so today is a.d. XVIII Kal. Oct. by their reckoning. This beer will split the birthdays here at French Street Brewery--let's say we'll be enjoying it on Hallowe'en.

P.S. Note the dearth of links and font fiddling, etc. For some reason I can't use my normal Blogger wysiwyg editor. That means I have to use html codes to make a link, etc. I'm lazy. I don't want to. I'll make sure all my links are up-to-date at the bottom of the page so readers can find any product I mention in a post. I hope to fix this annoying techie glitch soon.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Labor Day

The Monday holiday afforded me a chance to get no. 162--FULL SEASON ALE--out of the fermenter and into the kegs. I used 50 grams of dextrose in 12 oz. water each to prime two 2-1/2 gallon kegs. Each keg got just about 2-1/4 gallons of beer from the 4-1/2 gallons the carboy yielded. It all looked and smelled good. The final gravity was 1.012 or 3 ºP and that makes this one a big 7 % abv. Wow. An ass-kicker! Should be ready to drink a a few weeks.

Balling scale (IB - FB) * (0.525)
(16 ºP - 3 ºP) * (0.525) = 6.8 %

Gravity Units (OGU - FGU) / (7.5)
(65 - 12) / (7.5) = 7.1 %

Today is the "Kalends" of September, the first of the month!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Brew Day

Things worked well today. I ran 3 gallons of liquor at 170 ºF into the mash tun. Stirred in the malt--13 pounds. It was a bit lumpy, and took a bit of work to smooth it out and get an even temperature. There was just enough liquid to pool a bit on the top of the grain bed. It settled out at 148 ºF. I added 2 tsp. of gypsum. After 30 minutes, it had dropped 5 degrees. I added 2 gallons of boiling water at that point. This made the mash soupy, and it was easier to stir and mix the hot and cold spots. The mash was 156 ºF, just about perfect. After 30 minutes it had dropped 2 degrees. I re-circulated 10 quarts of runoff, collected about a gallon in the kettle, then sparged. I used 4 gallons (initial 170 ºF) and collected 6 gallons of wort. I topped up with a gallon of carbon-filtered municipal water and we started cooking. I wound up with 5 gallons at 1.065 or 16 ºP after a 70-minute boil and 4 hop additions. I used whole Perle hops, an ounce for 60 minutes, 1/2 ounce for 40 minutes, 1/2 ounce for 20 minutes, and 1/2 ounce for 10 minutes. That's about 50 IBUs, according to Dr. Bob, so I'm glad I got a pretty big beer. My brewhouse efficiency seems around 65%, so that means I'm getting approximately the equivalent of 8.5 pounds of malt extract. It looked like I was only going to have 4-1/2 gallons in the carboy, but I tipped the kettle to top it up to the 5 line. The last part was cloudy with trub. I left about a quart of sludge in the kettle. The yeast pack that was nearly a year old took a full week but it was completely swollen this morning. It was Wyeast 1187 (Ringwood Ale), and I had the 125 mL packet so I pitched it directly in the carboy. It was warm in the closet, 74 ºF, so I expect a vigorous fermentation tomorrow.

I called this brew FULL SEASON ALE because it is number 162, a full season in major league baseball. It should be ready to drink just as the regular season ends!

a.d. XV Kal. Sep.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Formulation Day 2

This is my 50th post here at FSB!

Doctor Bob Technical didn't confine himself to malt. No, he made a slide rule for hops as well. He called it the Hop-Go-Round.

Check out Alephenalia Publications, Seattle WA 98122. They don't seem to have a web presence, but we all know Dr. Bob is Randy Mosher, the man behind Radical Brewing. This is a great little device, and we'll see what it says for our new batch of brew.

For bittering, one ounce of Whole Organic Perle Hops (@ 8.1% α-acids), assuming a 25% efficiency in an hour-long boil, should yield 32 IBUs. The chart suggests less than 25% with a high-gravity wort, but I've always just bracketed readings for 20 and 25% to give me a ballpark figure. At 20% I get 25 IBUs.

I weighed out several half-ounce sets of the hops, and I think I'll have two or three flavoring additions. A half-ounce for 15 minutes is about 10-15% utilization. That gives us 6-9 IBUs. Another half-ounce for 5 minutes (5%) is 3 more IBUs. The total is 34-44. If the wort is not too big or sweet, that could be a nice match. We'll see what I do on brew day.

a.d. III Id. Aug

Formulation Day

According to Doctor Bob Technical (Randy Mosher) and his Amazing Wheel of Beer, if I mash 13 lbs. of 2-row malt I should get an OG of 1.070 at 70% efficiency. That's about 17 ºP. If I only get 60%, it drops 2 ºP. That 's 15 ºP or about 1.060. That's pretty strong wort. I'll have to balance it with a series of hop additions. Note that I have modified the original slide rule with a compromise line marked in orange. There really wasn't a spot for North American 2-row pale malt, and I took some thoughts from John Palmer's How-to-Brew (hence the notes) to settle on that line. (I forget what the "80%" is for!) I'm not sure this slide rule of Mr. Mosher's is available any more. That's too bad, I've been using mine for years. I love stuff that doesn't need batteries.

a.d. III Id. Aug.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ready to Rock!

The 7 Bridges shipment just arrived. I want to try their new domestic (Vancouver, Washington) organic malt. The full sack (50 lbs.) price is $42.00 and they charge $8.00 to crush and repackage. The body blow is the shipping cost, $21.59 for standard UPS ground. I received four packages: two 12-lb. and two 13-lb. bags.

Great Western Malting Co. is an independent subsidiary within the ConAgra network. It is tough to find anything on ConAgra Malt, and I got the story of the mergers here, here, and here.

These guys aren't too happy with ConAgra. I wonder if they know that Great Western produces organic malt! Regardless, the arrival of the order from 7 Bridges means the brew season will begin soon.

a.d. VII Id. Aug.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Saving the world, one beer at a time

One organic craft brew at a time, that is.

Hard to argue with a fellow whose motto is:


Check out The Beer Activist, Chris O'Brien. My pal and co-worker KV is a big fan of FSB's brews. He's always reading interesting stuff while I bury my head in 50's noir. He turned me on to this book, but I'll admit to not yet adding it to my pile. So that's it, then. It is a must read.

Thanks to the good folks at 7 Bridges for pointing the way.

BTW, we intend to resume brewing here very soon. We'll be home throughout the rest of the summer and fall. Astute domestic climate control and liberal use of the swamp cooler will beat the heat and enable proper fermentation temperatures.

I think a refreshing pale ale is long overdue, don't you?

a.d. III Non. Aug.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

It ain't August yet

But we're back!

I opened a bottle of the School's Out Stout (# 161) and it gushed, geyser-like, all over the kitchen counter. Yuck, what a mess. Worse--the beer was undrinkable. Turns out I had five more 22-oz. bottles. They were all gushers. What a loss! Such a lovely brew, undone by, I assume, a sanitation problem.

Back to the drawing board for this fall. I pledge that the next brew I concoct will be cleaner and better organized. I figure gushers are a reminder not to be sloppy, and to put it all together patiently and precisely. Frankly, I'm surprised more beers aren't tainted when you consider the number of chances bacteria have of invading vessels and tubing and whatnot during the process.

There's a good piece from BYO by Alex Fodor on foaming. I'll be sure to keep this in front of me when I'm formulating the first batch of the season.

a.d. III Kal. Aug.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Feast of St. Vitus

June 15 is the Feast Day of St. Vitus, the patron saint of Bohemia. He's also the patron saint of dancers, actors, and dogs, and his name is invoked as protection against lightning, snakebite, and epilepsy. (Sydenham's Chorea, a neuro-muscular disease, is known as St. Vitus Dance.)

If you like beer, you know that Bohemia is a sacred beer zone in the Czech Republic, home to famed beer cities Prague and Pilsen. Bohemian hops--Saaz--are prized for flavor and quality, and are crucial to the clean, crisp flavors we expect from pilseners.

It is also the name of a delicious Mexican beer, Bohemia. Beer drinkers and bohemians, unite! Raise your glasses to St. Vitus!

FSB will be on hiatus for the next few weeks. Our summer sojourn takes us southward, to México, in fact! July is a lousy brewing month here in the State of Jefferson anyway, due to the summer heat. The blog will be back in August. The brewing season will resume when cool, autumn nights come back. ¡Adios!

Monday, June 9, 2008

School's Out!

The work year is over for us here at FSB. We celebrated that fact many times this past weekend, culminating with tapping the keg at Steph's party. The School's Out Stout (SOS) was explosively foamy at first. I sprayed a half pint of the stuff around, sloshed another few pints into cups, towels, and the cooler before finally managing to get a decent draught pull. It took an hour perhaps for the foam to finally settle and the pressure to equalize. The first dozen pints required no help out of the keg, but I had to push the last few out with a bit of gas (about 3-4 PSI). It was worth the wait. The sumptuous, layered malt flavors had drinkers "oohing" and "ahhing." There was a rich toast-and-chocolate taste right up front, and a spicy hop tang on the finish. The beer was full-bodied, but smooth and easy-drinking. SOS was a success!

On another note, FRENCH STREET BREWERY is now the proud sponsor of a page in THE BASEBALL REFERENCE. Stuggling right-hander BRAD HENNESSEY was available for only ten bucks. I get him for a whole year. C'mon, Brad, show 'em what you got. Bring glory to FSB!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Black Beauty: now cooler than ever

Yep, we shipped 'em from the main fermenting room to the refrigeration unit. Cold storage. Lagering time. 10-14 days at 42 Fahrenheit and we got ourselves a kickass brew. I just have a feeling about this one, the School's Out Stout. Ten work days left and we are gearing up for some serious R & R here at FSB. The 2-1/2 gallon keg should be in perfect condition on the 8th of June (a.d. VI Id.Iun.) for Stephani's GradFest.

a.d. XI Kal.Iun.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Black Beauty

We kegged and bottled the School's Out Stout today. Got to taste a bit of it when I siphoned it to the priming bucket . . . this one is a winner. Should be ready for Stephani's Graduation Party and our own end-of-the-school-year festivities. The final gravity was 4 ºP (1.016). The beer looked and smelled nice and clean. There was a big, thick sludge layer, and I managed 4-1/2 gallons of yield. I kegged 2-1/2 gallons, priming it with 2 oz. of corn sugar, and we bottled an assortment, priming at 2 oz. to 2 gallons. Steph gets a six-pack, K & K get a couple of 0.5 L bottles, and we get seven of the 22 oz. "Etna" style. This will likely be the last brew for a while as the hot weather is just around the corner. The Giants won today in unlikely fashion with Steve "Backup Catcher" Holm provding the heroics with a 2-run homer. Another gorgeous spring day in the State of Jefferson!

a.d. V Id. Mai.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

"School's Out" Stout a week later

It has been hovering between 66 and 68 ºF in the Main Fermenting Room (hall closet), and the brew has a creamy brown half-inch thick head. This has been a long, slow, steady fermentation. I'm used to a big, explosive action in the first few days, then a gradual tapering off. After a week the top of the beer is usually visible with a few islands of residual froth. I've never used this variety of yeast before--Wyeast 1338 or European Ale™. My regular source (7 Bridges) has this little descriptor:

From Wissenschaftliche in Munich. Full-bodied complex strain finishing very malty with full bodied profile, very desirable in English Style Brown Ales and Porters. Produces a dense, rocky head during fermentation. (emphasis mine)

I used Continental malts and hops with this batch, and I'm really interested in the so-called "German Ales" (Altbier and Kölsch varieties). Achieving proper lager fermentation temperature regimes is tough here at FSB. My hall closet rarely gets below 60 ºF and can get over 70 ºF on occasion--that says "ale" yeast (Saccharomyces cerevesiae) to me. I'm not much for "styles" when it comes to brewing. I almost never try to copy a commercial beer, and since I almost never enter contests, I don't build recipes around categories. My formulations are inspired not only by beers that I've tasted, but ones I've read about! I've never had actual Altbiers, only California-micro versions. I can't say I've ever drunk a beer from Köln. But the Germans are known for rich flavors from their decoction techniques and kilned malts, and I want to get that into my beers. I was weaned on the first wave of California micros, which used British descriptors (bitter, pale ale, porter, stout, etc.) for their interpretations. But these are mere labels. As a homebrewer, I have the freedom to experiment. I think this latest "stout" is going to have a unique flavor profile. Ultimately that is my goal--tasty, satisfying brews with the particular signature of the brewer and the brewery. What is a "stout," actually? Guinness would be the most famous example, of course, but that's just it. It is an EXAMPLE, not the DEFINITION. The American Homebrewers Association, god bless 'em, has a 289 KB file you can download that describes all the acceptable beer "styles" they can think of. They go on and on about all sorts of "stouts" and what the rules are for making and/or judging them. "Bah," I say. Dr. Michael Lewis, UC Davis professor emeritus of Brewing Science, had this to say about the word "stout" in his book of the same name:

To conclude, it was not difficult for us to decide that a stout is simply a black beer called a stout by the brewer who made it. (author's emphasis, p.66)

(STOUT, Michael J. Lewis, Brewers Publications, 1995, ISBN 0-937381-44-6. This book is part--no. 10--of the Classic Beer Style Series well known to homebrewers.)

In the end, a "stout" is what you make it. That sounds like a good credo for a homebrewer.

a.d. IV non. Mai.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

"School's Out" Stout

Actually, I have twenty-nine work days remaining in the calendar. If this brew ferments out in two weeks, gets kegged and bottled, spends two weeks conditioning, and then two weeks in the fridge, it will be ready to quaff come summer vacation. The whole thing can take half that time, but I've found over the years that slow and steady wins the race. The beer is almost always better when you wait. Speaking of "School's Out" Stout, the Bazooka Screen™ made its debut on this splendid Spring day here in the State of Jefferson. (I've added the link to Zymico™ to the list below.) Here at French Street Brewery, we like stouts. This one had 5 lbs. of base malt, a Briess 2-row pale, 5 lbs. of Briess Munich, and 2lbs. of Weyermann Vienna malt. All of these ORGANIC grains were purchased pre-crushed from 7 Bridges in Santa Cruz. I had some odds and ends, not really adding fermentables, just color, body, and flavor, like a 120 ºL crystal, some flaked barley, and Weyermann Carafa-2, all three totaling a pound, also in the mash. I steeped a half-pound each of roast barley and dark chocolate in 2 quarts of liquor which I added to the kettle. The OG came out at 15 ºP (1.060) which means my kooky method was around 75% efficient. I doughed-in the grain with 14 quarts of 155 ºF liquor (municipal water from a lovely volcanic spring-fed creek, moderately soft, charcoal filtered, brought to a boil and allowed to cool, otherwise untreated). The mash settled around 140 ºF. I pulled out a gallon of the grain porridge and heated it to boil on the hot plate. This I added back to the mash tun, bringing the whole thing up 5 degrees. After some stirring, I added one gallon of boiling liquor, which brought the whole thing to a range of 149-155 ºF. Some mixing got things to blend a bit, 150-152 ºF seemed to be the final temperature. After 45 minutes I spray-sparged for 30 minutes with 170 ºF liquor, 3 gallons worth, then mashed out with another gallon, a quick fill-and-drain. The final gallon of liquor went in the kettle, bringing the volume up to 7 gallons. Organic Perle hops and a 70-minute boil produced 5 gallons of wort. I pitched Wyeast European Ale 1338 into the chilled wort, bunged the carboy with a foam stopper, and put it to bed. All in all, a great brew day.

a.d. V Kal.Mai.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Amquard Ale II & OSP VI

The Amquard Ale was moved to the refrigerator this afternoon. In a week or so we should get the first taste. I'm quite curious about my little "dry-hopping" experiment--one of these days I'll figure out how to get a rich hop aroma. We've also been enjoying the OSP. We had a bit of an issue with an under-carbonated keg, but I blasted it with 30 lbs. or so of gas for a week, and some tweaking and twiddling with the dispensing pressure produced a good draught. We've pulled a few pints since then and the brew has a sharp flavor and a dextrinous mouthfeel, but is also smooth and drinkable. The bottled version was a bit harsh at first tasting. We let it lager for a few more weeks and that has paid off. The flavors seemed to have married and the rough edges have been smoothed. The result? O'Connor's Stout Porter lives up to its name!

a.d. X Kal.Mai.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Beware the Ides

Tomorrow is the Ides of April--not nearly so fraught with literary danger as the Ides of March, but interesting nonetheless. The OSP has done well in the bottle, but the keg version was nearly flat. Not sure why, but I've been gassing it with a steady 30 psi and I hope to get it drinkable within the next few days. We bottled and kegged the Amquard Ale. Stephani and Amber will come away with a 2-Liter growler each, and will split 8 12-oz. bottles. My goal was a 6-pack apiece, but after kegging 2.5 gallons there wasn't enough left over, and the last bit in the priming bucket was pretty sludgy. I bottled a 12-oz. clear Newky bottle that had a bit of debris, we'll see how it settles out. I decided to play around a bit and added a cotton sack with two ounces of whole organic German Perle hops (from Seven Bridges) to the half-keg. I'd like to get a little hop aroma into this rather simple extract golden ale. It was a gorgeous spring day in the State of Jefferson, and we had a relaxed day here at French Street Brewery. I've got a bit of sanitizing left to do before I'm done with the brewery chores for the weekend. In the meantime I'm enjoying my favorite radio show, Craig Lloyd Faulkner's "American Rhythm," on KSOR 89.3 FM.

prid. Id. Apr.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Amquard Ale

Amber and Stephani came over on Friday and we cooked up a simple extract batch. The eponymous ale serves three purposes: 1) an experiment for their science class, 2) an education in brewing, and 3) a batch of easy-drinking beer. We used 7 lbs of light dry malt extract, boiling it for 70 minutes with 7 gallons of charcoal-filtered (for chlorine removal) municipal water. Two ounces of Willamette hops were in for 60 minutes. At an alpha-acid rating of 5.5%, we estimated they'd add about 40 IBUs. The brew came out at 1.060 starting gravity, so it will be a little higher than my usual acohol content, and high in general for a light ale. The ladies took 3 Liters apiece home for a class project. Each of 3 Liters were dosed with varying amounts of dry yeast: 0.3, 0.6, and 0.9 grams/L were the pitching rates (o.6 g/L is real close to the 11.5 g/5 gals. recommended rate). I dumped the rest of the packet (7.9 grams of the 11.5 g original amount) of Safale S-04 in the remaining 4 gallons of wort. It is fermenting vigorously as I type this.

(Sunday update: I forgot to say "Happy Birthday Onyx.")

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Stout Heaven

The OSP went in the fridge today. Should be ready to drink this coming weekend. We'll be heading to H & D's in Bend, and we'll have 3 homebrews to sample! Ah, Spring Break. I need a fookin' holiday, lemme tell ya! Fortunately, we have a kegger of the St. Patrick's Day Stout on hand, and it is indeed Stout Heaven. I've been making a black beer here at French Street in honor of Padráig since Super Bowl Sunday of 1992 (Redskins over the Bills). That first "St. Paddy's" was batch number XXVI (26). I've made over 500 gallons of homebrew since then! The new stout is a thick and creamy fellow, with a smooth, oily quality I attribute to the high gravity and the flaked oats. It has an espresso-like palate, but without the bitterness. I backed off the hops a wee bit and I think it paid off. I like to taste the roast grains--the hops should just be background in this beer. Man, it is soooooo easy to pull pints of this magic nectar, I don't expect it to last long. May the blessings of the Feast of Patrick be with you all!

In Irish:
Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!

a.d. XVII Kal. Apr.
(The notorious Ides of March were yesterday--there are 17 days inclusive to the Kalends of April.)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

OSP kegged & bottled!

MATT CAIN had his Spring Training Debut today. And we bottled & kegged here at French Street Brewery. The OSP had an extra-thick layer of sludge and I only managed to siphon about 4-1/4 gallons of beer. Standard priming regime: 1 oz. per gallon for bottles (just shy of 2 gallons today) and 50 grams per 2-1/2 gallon keg. Beer looked good, smelled good, tasted good. Batch 159 yielded ONE 2-Liter jug, FOUR brown swing-top bottles (approx. 2 L), TWO half-liter green Grölsch bottles, and a mixed sixpack of 12-oz. crown-capped standard bottles. Final gravity was 1.012 or 3º Plato. O'Connor's Stout Porter will spend 10-14 days in the closet, depending on how cold it gets. Then the refrigerator for at least a week, so it ought to be ready just in time for my SPRING BREAK! Outstanding!

a.d. VI Non. Mar.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

OSP: T + 115 hrs

Approaching noon here at FSB, the OSP is apparently done fermenting, finishing out at 1.012 (3º Plato). With the OG around 1.050, I think this one has come out OK. It wouldn't be homebrewing without the fretting and worrying, but I should probably have more confidence in my skills. At least I should realize that these modern, well-modified malts are pretty damn idiot-proof. Next time I will dough-in with much warmer liquor in the small pot on the hot plate, then dump it in the mash tun. With the higher start point, adding boiling liquor should bring the whole thing up closer to the conversion temperatures, then I can "de-coct" a much smaller portion. That way I can play with the old-fashioned technique but not depend on it quite so much. If I can thoroughly soak and pre-heat 2 pounds of grain or so at a time (in 1-1/2 pints of water) and slowy build up a full mash, I think I will finally start to see some better yields and more consistent malt flavor. I'm going to try the bazooka screen in the bottom of my horizontal cooler. Then I can mash and lauter in the same vessel, and can "no-sparge," "batch-sparge," or just plain sparge to my heart's content. Here's the picture from William's Brewing:

a.d. VII Kal. Mar.

Friday, February 22, 2008

OSP: T + 86 hrs

It is 0700 and I figure it is about 86 hours since the yeast was pitched (1700 Monday). The closet has dropped to 61 ºF after reaching a high of 65 ºF. The head on the beer is gone. Looks like the primary fermentation is done. I should probably dig out my "thief" and take a sample.

Mine is a clunkier, over-sized version, but it will do the trick.

a.d. IX Kal. Mar.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

OSP: T + 24 hrs

It is 63 ºF in the hall closet and there is a quarter-inch head of ferment on the brew. The wort looks like it has been covered with an opaque brown bubble-wrap, but a creamy, undulating one. It's alive! It's alive! The fire is going tonight, and I expect the house will warm up a wee bit, that will probably be good with an ale yeast. Stay tuned for more on OSP here at FSB.

a.d. XII Kal. Mar.

Monday, February 18, 2008

O'Connor's Stout Porter

a.k.a. "What a cluster-fuck!"

Perhaps not. But I am entranced by the notion of decoction mashing, and I blame that on Greg Noonan's excellent New Brewing Lager Beer. So I stumble into the wilderness and wander dazedly, and, in the end, I think I got beer. I doughed-in with cold water, and was never able to get enough thermal mass into the mash to bring it up to saccharification. I must have pulled out and brought to boil every quart in there, and then I finally gave up. I could taste sweet wort, but I think I had a hell of a lot of other stuff swimming around, too. I wonder specifically if there was a surplus of enzyme-deprived starches, and a shortage of fermentable sugars. I went ahead and batch-sparged it with my half-assed system, resisting the temptation to chuck the whole shit-a-roo into the compost heap. It was a stout-ish combination of adjuncts to the pale malt: Weyerman Carafa 2, Briess roast barley, flaked barley, and Extra Special malt (just a touch), and a heap of oat flakes (I suppose they could be a source of hazy debris). Organic German Perle hops and White Labs Irish Ale yeast completed the package. Stay tuned for improvements here at FSB. These forays into new techniques are starting to pay off, even if this beer turns out to be lousy. I can see what I need, and I think I know how to get there. It was beautiful today, reaching the low 60s with lots of sun, a great day to have the brew paddle in hand and the brewpot raging.

a.d. XII Kal. Mar.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Stouts

The St. Patricks Day Stout was refrigerated this past Friday (the 15th). Tomorrow is Washington's Birthday, another holiday here at FSB. I'm planning to brew another stout, but something a little lighter and drier. We'll see. It hit 60 ºF today with lots of sun. I hope we get more of the same.

a.d. XIV Kal. Mar.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Groundhog Day

We don't have groundhogs here in the State of Jefferson, but we do have rockchucks, which naturalists consider a cousin, I believe. All are kinds of marmots. Our local fellow, Montague Charlie, is not as well known as his famous relation Punxsatawney Phil. The report from Gobbler's Knob for 2008 is "6 more weeks of winter." Here in our alpine wonderland, it snowed from dawn to dusk. I'm willing to bet there were no shadows to be found today anywhere in the State of Jefferson. That means this raging winter we've been experiencing is set to finish early. A beautiful spring is just around the corner! Even if M.C. is a lousy predictor of the weather, one thing is for sure: a fabulous brew is just a few weeks from peak consumption. Today we bottled and kegged the St. Patrick's Day Stout here at FSB. The yield was about 4-3/4 gallons from the batch with final gravity of 4º Plato (1.016). That works out to just shy of 7% abv. The opaque black beer had a thick, chewy softness and a sweet roasted flavor with a hint of raisins (the Extra Special Malt?). I think this is going to be one hell of a stout. It has at least a week, maybe two, to spend in the 60-64 ºF closet before refrigerating. Besides the 2-1/2 gallon corny keg (primed at 50 g dextrose), we got 7 Etna bottles (22 oz.) and a sixpack of 12-ouncers. These were primed at 1 ounce per gallon. We also put together a special 4-pack of "original" Guinness bottles--we've had these bottles for twenty years, and this is the first time we've used them! They are tall, thick brown glass with small ridges on the neck, and come in at a wee bit less than 12 ounces. Guinness Extra Stout used to come in these back in the 1970s and 1980s. It is fitting--these were all scrounged by Ken, the man who taught me to brew, and came in the batch of stuff I bought from him. This January marks 20 years of homebrewing. We also pounded some more of batch number 157, the New Year Beer (Aught-Eight Ale). It is very light and drinkable despite its deep coppery-brown hue, with a full but not bitter hop flavor on top of a mild malt sweetness. I've got it flowing from the keg at about 8 PSI and it is almost gone! Damn tasty!!

a.d. IV Non. Mar.

Thursday, January 31, 2008


Tappa Kegga Brew, the homebrewers fraternity! Yes, we tapped the Aught-Eight Ale last night. And it was damn yummy. Damn yummy! This weekend the SP Stout gets kegged and bottled. Check back later.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

60 hours later

The head on the brew has doubled in size--or more--and is frothing and bubbling with alacrity! Wow. I think of this yeast as an easy-going, mature fellow, not an ADD-enhanced teenager, but the youthful, exuberant character is the one I see this morning. The Stout is a big beer, but not spectacularly so, and the closet is hovering at 60-62 ºF, not exactly warm, but things are cookin' nonetheless. I like to think it was my superior yeast management that created this beautiful fermentation.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

XX Years

Twenty years ago today, the 22nd of January, 1988, I brewed my first batch of beer. Actually, I brewed it at my friend Ken's house, on his equipment. I later bought the equipment from him, and in May of that same year, brewed a second batch at home. Been cookin' up brews ever since! The St. Patrick's Day Stout is batch number CLVIII (158). The hall closet is at 60 ºF and after 24 hours the yeast has formed a one-inch head on the wort. It seems to be fermenting perfectly--a creamy whitish foam with flecks of brown covers the surface. I expect we will have beer real soon.

a.d. XI Kal. Feb.

Monday, January 21, 2008

MLK Brew Day

We take advantage of school holidays to brew here at FSB, and today was no exception. Things were still freezing when I started this morning, and were freezing by the time I finished this evening. In between it was a gorgeous winter day here in The State of Jefferson. I attempted another "no-sparge" brew, but with the lautering problems I have, I wound up sparging the hell out of it! I used a big horizontal cooler as a mash tun, figuring to get more surface area and make it easier to stir. I figured to use my bucket and strainer bag for the lautering. The cooler worked OK, but I still had many hot and cold pockets in the mash. I "doughed-in" by adding water to the grain (20 lbs: 15 lbs. pale, 1 lb. chocolate, 1 lb. Carafa II, 1 lb. oat flakes, 1 lb. flaked barley, 1/2 lb. roast barley, 1/2 lb. 120 ºL Special Malt). Five gallons (20 quarts) at 170 ºF only managed to bring the grist to 146 ºF. I used the decoction method to finally get it up to 152 ºF after several additions. I took out a gallon or gallon-and-a-half of mash out and cooked it to boiling in a saucepan on the hot plate (I have a primo commercial hot plate). Then I tossed it back in for a big mix-a-roo. Slowly but surely I got the mash to a saccharification rest. (I think I might get hooked on this decoction thing.) I attempted to lauter, but the mass of grain and liquor was too big and eventually the flow on my bucket shut down. It seemed to be a lack of air--the fat plug of mash in the bag ballooned in the bucket and acted like a stopper. After lots of heaving, wrestling, sloshing and splashing I managed to get a wort into the kettle. Man, do I need to solve my lautering and sparging problems! Nonetheless, I got just shy of 5 gallons at about 17 ºP (1.067). Ideal, really, for my St. Patrick's Day Stout. I under-hopped with an ounce of whole Northern Brewer (IBU approx. 33), but I'm looking for some dark malt and roast flavors with this one. Lots of cleaning up to do tomorrow and the next day, but the big messy stuff is done, and I can relax. I pitched my flask of SF Lager yeast at 1713 hours PST.

a.d. XII Kal. Feb.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

January action

The New Year Beer ('08 Ale) went from closet to fridge today. It should be perfect by Stupor Bowl Sunday. Tomorrow is the first chance to tackle St. Patrick's Day Stout. I'm not quite sure yet what it will be, but I have a crop of SF Lager ready to pitch. Last Sunday I cooked up a starter, and by Thursday (the 17th) it had fermented out, the yeast making a compact layer on the bottom of the flask. So I refrigerated it. Tomorrow morning I will put it back in the closet so that it will warm up to the ambient temperature before pitching in the brew. Cold and snowy today, I expect more of the same on brew day. Tomorrow is a holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. I like to take advantage of three-day weekends during the work year for brewing tasks. Look for an update tomorrow here at FSB.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

¡ Ay Corona !

Yes, friends, it was Corona Mill Time again. CMT is a regular feature here at FSB. Let me tell you, I'm thinking about buying the stuff pre-ground. I "cranked" 24 pounds of pale malt this afternoon! Who's the man? Give it up! Actually it was a pretty relaxed chore despite the tedium. Cleaning up--when everything is covered in grain dust--is the worst part. I also cooked up a yeast starter: 2½ cups water (600 cc) with 2¾ oz. DME, ¼ tsp. yeast nutrient, and ½ tsp. corn sugar. I boiled it in the Erlenmeyer flask for about 20 minutes. When the vial of yeast (WLP-810, SF Lager), the starter, and the hall closet reach equilibrium (about 62 ºF at this point), I'll pitch. I'm planning to brew a big stout this coming weekend that will reach its peak of perfection on the seventeeth of March--St. Patricks's Day.

Id. Ian.

Saturday, January 5, 2008


Aught-eight oughta be great! The New Year Beer, batch number CLVII (that's 157 to barbarians), got kegged and bottled today. It has been snowing off and on all day, and we have an alpine wonderland here. Great day to stay inside and work in the brewery. We got 4 gallons of a lovely dark amber/brown ale: 2.5 gallons in the keg (2 oz. dextrose to prime) and 1.5 gallons (approx.) in 5 22-oz. bottles and 7 12-oz. bottles (1.5 oz. priming sugar). I had to lose at least a quart maybe closer to 3 pints due to the huge volume of yeasty sludge. This one might have been helped by racking earlier this week. Hovering around 64 ºF in the hall closet right now, I expect it will take at least a week to properly condition.

Non. Ian.