Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Draft handle update

I'm currently pouring two fine and lovely brews, and we sampled them both this evening. Mark's Pale Ale (MPA) has settled down nicely after some early troubles. It is a hop-flavored, honey-colored beer with a crisp finish that goes down much too easily. The Fifty-fest has a more complex profile, with some subtle spicy-floral notes and a rich malt flavor. It is a potent (6% abv) dark beer but, again, goes down too quickly. This one has a dark amber color that is evident when a pint is held up to a strong light source. At first glance, it looks like a porter or stout but lacks the black color and opacity of those brews. It is a deep brown overall, a little darker than I wanted, but not far from the red I was shooting for. The MPA has amber tones highlighting the golden color, and it was not quite as red as I was shooting for. Ah, the elusive red ale--I shall nail one perfectly very soon, I think. Otherwise, I've got two delicious beers on tap for the holidays. Who can complain about that?

a.d. III Kal. Ian.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Forever Fifty

I've been having such a good time turning 50 I think I'm going to stay 50. No more counting. Just say "fifty" when anyone asks about my age from now on. Whaddya think? Speaking of 50, I tapped into the Fifty-fest today. Rick and Nancy were here for the first pints of this dark, lager-like ale with the curiously spicy flavor and smooth, dry finish. So far, so good. I expect this brew will open up a bit with time, and I know I'll get lots of chances over the holidays to dive in and give it a thorough evaluation. It's Christmas Eve eve, and the fridge is stocked with some seriously tasty homebrew. What could be bad?

a.d. IX Kal. Ian.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Fifty-fest--a month later!

It has been a month since my 50th birthday and the beer is ready for the refrigerator. This one was unusual in that I gave it a secondary ferment in a fresh vessel and at a lower temperature. The yeast seemed to call for it, and it fit nicely with our travel plans. Brewed 29 days ago, batch no. 169 spent 8 days in the primary in the mid-60s (64-68 ºF), and after racking was dropped down to 56º for 7 days, then got primed for the keg and conditioned for 14 days between 62 and 66 ºF. I'm going to tap it in 10 days, so check back over the holidaze for updates.

Merry Everything!

Id. Dec.
(The Ides of December)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

All kegged up!

I've had this old Cornelius keg laying around the brewery collecting dust. I stumbled upon it about fifteen years ago, it was beat up on the outside but bright and clean on the inside. One problem--no lid. Eventually I acquired a properly functioning piece, and armed with a new gasket and lid valve I suddenly had a five-gallon system ready to go! By then I'd been using my two-and-a-half gallon kegs for some time. They are convenient and easy to handle, and the five-gallon keg is too tall for the fridge. The poor old thing sat around and collected some more dust. Mark's Pale Ale is occupying the two shorties at this moment and the Fifty-fest needed someplace to go, so today I cleaned off the cobwebs and put Corny to work. I primed the batch with 3 oz. (84 grams) of dextrose in one quart of water and managed to get about 4-1/2 gallons of clean, well-settled beer out of the secondary fermenter. The brew had a dark, reddish-copper color with a final gravity of 1.010 (2.5 ºP). It's potent one, about 6% abv, and should be ready for quaffing over the Xmas holidays!

a.d. III Kal. Dec.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday in the brewery

Today I racked the Fifty-fest to a secondary fermenter. (I have another of those fabulous Better Bottle PET carboys, and I cleaned and sanitized it yesterday.) It was a yucky, sludgy mess, but the beer seemed fine, no funny smells or weird floaties. This yeast should only be used for open ferments where you intend to "crop" the frothy mass off the wort. That being said, the worst is over and I expect we'll get a nice, clean brew after a cool week in the closet. Since we'll be out of town, the house won't be as warm, and the beer should have a chance to finish properly. We also busted out the MPA and had a pint. I bled off the CO2 and poured a full, proper glass without the excess foaming by only cracking the tap half way. I had to add some gas to draw a second, and that came out fine as well. (I capped the keg with 8 lbs. and put it back in the fridge.) The beer is honey-colored, golden with amber edges. It has a distinct fruitiness (apricots? raisins?) in the nose and on the tongue, but the finish is dry and refreshing, so I like the balance. It has an unfortunate haze, but the full body and rich malt flavor is quite nice. The hops seem to hover in the background, and then emerge to keep the sweetness from dominating, adding just a hint of bitterness as you swallow. Good stuff! Another week of lagering should help smooth it out and I expect it will be even more delicious next Sunday.

a.d. X Kal. Dec.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tappa Kegga Foama

I pulled a couple of pints of MPA tonight, and got one hell of a lot of bubbles. It got so bad with the dispensing that I finally popped the lid off the damn keg. Then I re-set it with the hand-pump and managed a decent draw. The beer is over-carbonated, and my first thought is that I over-primed it a bit. My last few batches have been a little weak on the fizz, so I know I dialed it up a tad for this one. As I pondered further, I realized that I'm dealing with a bizarre yeast strain, and it is entirely possible that the brew is still fermenting! I'm not sure if the yeast was fully attenuated when I kegged the beer. A serious faux pas, I know, but that's what happens when you are an "old hand." I saw the gravity drop to 1.053 from 1.010 (from 13 ºP to 2.5 ºP) and assumed it was done. What really matters, though, is the beer. Simply delicious. Rich and sweet, but not cloying, with a dry finish. Some interesting, complex fruity notes are there, but they are not overpowering, in fact, they are quite appealing. My lovely bride says she really likes it and and calls it "quaffable." Can't argue with that.

a.d. XIV Kal. Dec.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fifty-fest ferments!

When I checked on the brew at 0900 I saw a very vigorous ferment--the carboy plug had been shoved out by a thick jet of foamy goop! There was a nice sloppy trail of it down the side of the vessel. It was easy enough to wipe up, and I keep the carboy in a big circular plastic bin for just this sort of eventuality. But, wow, what an active wort! They call this strain a "true top-cropping yeast" and I can see why. Looks like this beer will finish the primary fermentation damn quickly. We'll see how it settles over the next few days and then rack it off to a fresh carboy.

a.d. XVII Kal. Dec.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


That's what I decided to call this one. It is batch no. 169, which of course is 13 squared. I had intended to brew it on Friday the 13th, but festivities got in the way. I got a late start today--I didn't fire up the hot liquor tank until a little after 1300 hours. It was an eventful Friday evening, and I was a little fuzzy this morning, so I didn't get my brewing legs under me until the afternoon. Fortunately it was a bright, sunny day, and that took the edge off the cold, wintry air. I used 12 pounds of Gambrinus organic pilsner malt for a base, and brought the bill up to 13 with 1/4-lb. of roast barley, 1/4-pound of 140 ºL Briess Extra Special Malt, and 1/2-lb. of 60 ºL Briess Caramel. I mashed at 150 ºF, and after a quick-and-dirty batch sparge got a kettleful of thick, dark wort. I kept the hops simple, too, a sixty-minute single-addition ounce-and-a-half of whole New Zealand Hallertaur. The packet of Kölsch yeast had swollen by Thursday evening so I tossed it into a starter early on Friday. It was pitched into the wort just shy of 6 p.m. today, 1755 hours to be exact. It gets dark pretty quick these days, so I only managed a quick clean-up, and a pile of work still awaits me tomorrow. I hope to rack this stuff into a secondary fermenter next weekend. This is a messy yeast, if I remember. We'll be gone for Thanksgiving week, and the house will get quite a bit cooler. I think the extra time at a lower temperature might be a good thing before kegging and conditioning.

(Note that yesterday--the 13th--was the Ides of November)
a.d. XVIII Kal. Dec.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Punch 'n' gro

I activated a 'smack-pack' of Wyeast Kölsch this morning and put it in the hall closet to swell up. I expect it will be ready by Wednesday when I can pitch it into a starter. I'd like to brew with it on Friday.

a.d. VI Id. Nov.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

MPA to the fridge

Temperature in the main fermenting room held a steady 68-70 ºF for most of a week then dropped to 66 ºF over the last few days. Mark's Pale Ale should be properly conditoned by this point, so I've moved both kegs to the refrigerator at 36 ºF. I'll tap one in a week or so--check back.

Prid. Non. Nov.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Mark's Pale Ale

MPA was siphoned from the carboy today, primed with 100 grams of dextrose, and racked into two 2-1/2 gallon kegs. The beer was thick with yeast--the 1338 does not flocculate and settle very well. The fermentation stayed at 68-70 ºF, but I could detect some potent, floral aromatics which I assume are esters--this strain is known for that. They'll get reduced, I expect, in the lagering to come. It was a messy operation and the carboy required a fair bit of cleaning. I always forget that these "Continental" ale varieties are so messy. Now I remember why I like those clean Safale products! The 1338 is supposed to have an interesting flavor profile, unlike the more neutral ones I usually use, so we'll see. Plus I can't resist the 7 Bridges bargain bin!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pilot Brew Weekend

After a layoff of several months I finally got things cranked up this weekend for the fall and winter brewing to come. Yesterday I played with my new toy--well, my second new toy (see below)--the Barley Crusher Malt Mill! Other than failing to secure the grain hopper, and knocking it over (along with a couple of pounds of uncrushed malt), it worked beautifully. I crushed up 5 kg of Gambrinus Organic Pilsner Malt without much effort. I got a full sack (25 kg) of this British Columbia-grown base malt from 7 Bridges. I weighed out some hops as well, 1/2-ounce of Belgian Admiral whole hops for bittering, and two 1/2-ounce doses of whole New Zealand Hallertaur for flavoring. I like to have things all laid out for the brew day--it saves time and I can cope better with unexpected events. That was a good thing today as the temperature probe I use to keep track of the mash stopped working in mid-brew. Not good. And I missed my strike temperature and had things a few degrees below where I wanted. I grabbed the hotplate and the 10-quart pot and drew off a gallon of the mash and brought it to boiling like in a decoction. I threw that back in the cooler with the rest of the goods and that seemed to do the trick. I got a decent final gravity of 13 ºPlato (ºBrix on my refractometer!) for the 5 gallons that went to the fermenter. With some 60 ºL Great Western Crystal and a touch of 140 ºL Briess Extra Special Malt, I'm shooting for a pale ale. I have to say I really like using the refractometer and not having to mess with hydrometers and cylinders and all that. I pitched a pack of Wyeast European Ale (1338) which ought to add some interesting character. Clean-up went smoothly, it always does when the weather is nice (and today was spectacular), and I'm feeling good about my first "exhibition game." I'm now ready for the "regular season." Mark's Pale Ale should be ready to drink by my 50th birthday.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The brewing season is nigh

I recently purchased a cool, new gadget for the brewery: a refractometer. This one (from William's) measures sugar content from 0-32 Brix. I hope it will help me keep better track of the mash run-off. I don't get anywhere near the yields I think I ought to so I need to get a better look at the process. I know I should take a little more time with the dough-in, and I could probably improve mash efficiency with more uniform mash temperatures as well. But I don't really need an excuse to get a new instrument for the lab. These things work on refraction--the higher the concentration of sugar in the solution the more the light bends. This is a regular phenomena and a measurment scale can be calibrated empirically. The Brix scale goes back to the 1800s and is an improvement on the original tables of the German chemist Karl Balling. The scale reports "% sucrose per 100 grams of solution," that is, a solution of 15 g of sucrose in 85 grams of water (100 g total) would read 15 ºBx. Beer wort is not sucrose, of course, but the malt sugars behave similarly--their concentration determines the refractive index of the solution. So a brewer can put a drop of wort on the lens (the angled part on the right side of the photo) and look through the eyepiece (on the left, with the rubber cup), and get a reading. You need to be outdoors in bright sunlight. A dark/light boundary will form on the scale marking the degrees Brix. Mine is a low-cost, made in China device, but it will be accurate (+/- 0.2%) enough for my fairly rough purposes. Stay tuned--cool weather is on the way and FSB will be back up for the fall.

a.d. VIII Id. Sep.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


My friends threw a party last night and I got to share the Summerfest with a happy crowd. Everyone got to have some, and I filled a growler for the host and hostess to stash in the fridge and enjoy later. That's one keg down, and I think there might be a pint or two left in the other, which I'm saving to taste with our houseguests later this week. It has been very hot here in the State of Jefferson, and it's barely civilized to be outdoors before the afternoon sun has set. Yesterday, we enjoyed a crescent moon and a twilight view of Mt. Shasta while drinking our homebrew. Today, we will flee north, over the Siskiyous, hoping it will be cooler in the Rogue Valley. The hot weather will continue for another month, precluding any brewing here at FSB until at least September. I'll be looking for some new equipment this fall, in particular another hydrometer (I broke the old one), and a refractometer. Yes, I'm going to splurge on a fancy gizmo. I'd like to better monitor the wort gravity, for one thing. Also, a buddy of mine will be harvesting some grapes, and one of these days he'll grow enough to make wine. I told him I'd ready with the instruments, equipment, and fermentation experience for that day!

a.d. VII Kal. Aug.

Monday, July 20, 2009


My lovely bride worked for the University of California library system on the Berkeley campus for many years. She was always bringing home discarded reference books and other treasures. One of my favorites is the third edition (1959) of Louis De Vries' German-English Science Dictionary for Students in Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Agriculture, and Related Sciences. I figure that includes brewing! On p. 492 Prof. De Vries defines "Vorlauf" as "first runnings, heads." When you run the wort off the mash, the so-called "first runnings" are the richest in sugar content. The sweet, viscous liquid is the portion of the wort with the highest specific gravity. It also contains much undesirable material--proteins, grist debris, unfermentables--that ideally should be separated from the kettle liquor. One of the ways to do this is to re-circulate the "heads" by running it through the grain bed one more time. The porridge-like mash acts as a filter and helps clarify the wort. You can actually see this if you take a sample in a glass and hold it to the light. My Dictionary of Beer and Brewing (2nd ed., Rabin & Forget) defines "vorlauf" on p. 275 as "German term for recirculation of wort through the grain bed." I noted in my first tasting that the Summerfest had a cloudy appearance that I hoped might disappear with time. Alas, it has not. Looking over my session notes, I see that I neglected the "vorlauf" stage! I just ran the wort off, sparged the grains, and cooked away. Much of the haze-causing material settles out in the boil, especially if it can be strained through a bed of spent hops. I do this by having a colander-like false bottom in my kettle, and after the brew is chilled it drains through the sieve into the carboy. Lots of gunky stuff sticks to the hops and does not get into the finished beer. I pride myself on bright, clear beers, so this one is a little disappointing, despite the fact that it tastes great and is very refreshing. So, all you brewers out there, don't forget to vorlauf.

a.d. XIII Kal. Aug.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

It's the water

I am continually reminded why I love living in the State of Jefferson and why I love brewing at French Street. The waters around these parts are known not only for their taste but their purity as well. Fall Creek, off the main stem of the Klamath River, is the source of our municipal water. It originates somewhere underground in the southern Oregon volcano country--I like to think of it as ancestral Mt. Mazama water. The latest water quality report from the city just arrived, and I was eager to compare my brew liquor to the famous waters** of brewing lore. Water from Pilsen, in Bohemia (Czech Republic), is renowned for its softness and for its contribution to the feel and flavor of those legendary beers. It clocks in at 30 ppm on the Hardness scale and 35 ppm in Total Dissolved Solids. My water? 61 ppm Hardness, 122 ppm TDS. Not as soft as the famous pilseners, but lovely to brew with nonetheless. Munich waters (250/275) and London waters (235/300), as you can see, are quite a bit harder, with more ionized matter. The most important thing in a brewery is to have clean, good-tasting water, and we have that in abundance. You can work with chemical profiles if you need to, but I don't have to because I'm lucky to have a great municipal source. The biggest contaminant in the water is the chlorine they put in to comply with federal drinking water standards! I carbon-filter the water for that very reason before it becomes my brew liquor. (Brewers call water "liquor" once it has been prepared for the mash tun.) I like to think that my twenty years of brewing experience is why my beers taste good. But I might just have to give the hat tip to Mother Nature for her Fall Creek water.

**The numbers are taken from Gregory J. Noonan's invaluable book, New Brewing Lager Beer.

a.d. XVII Kal. Aug.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Summer in the glass

We tapped the Summerfest today to have with our chips, salsa, and Giants baseball. Alas, the game has been a disappointment. The beer, however, is smooth and dry with just the right touch of sweet malt flavor. I think we have a fine summer ale. Here in the State of Jefferson, summer has been unusually mild, with cool breezes and afternoon clouds softening the sun's blows more often than not. I'm loving it! I'm glad I didn't overdo it with the hops on this batch--they have a nice, bright flavor with a clean finish and no lingering bitterness. Perfect for thirst-quenching! It is a little cloudy in the glass so far, we'll see if that settles out. What say we have another?

a.d. IV Id. Iul.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Summerfest II

The beer went into the fridge today. It spent the last nine days in the "main fermenting room" (er, the hall closet) hovering between 65 and 69 ºF. It has been HOT here in FSB-Land, and I had to use my old trick of putting a milk jug of ice in the closet to keep it from getting too warm. We hit the road tomorrow for a family Fourth Festival in Lake Tahoe. Should be much fun. Then we go to SF and stay with old friends and go to TWO GIANTS GAMES! Too cool. We are back on Wednesday the 8th of July--beer should be in prime condition a week or two after that.

FSB readers (are you out there?) might note that yours truly is now on Facebook. That's right, the computer has taken over and enslaved me.

Be seeing you.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Kegging the brew was today's business. I used a quart of water and 120 grams (about 4-1/4 oz.) of dextrose to prime the batch, and then I split it between two 2.5-gal. kegs. My yield from the fermenter was about 4-1/2 gallons. I dropped my hydrometer last week, so I had no way to measure the final gravity. Alas, it looked well-fermented! I have this thing about breaking those tall, skinny glass hydrometers. My next one will be my 4th? 5th? I can't remember. Yet I also have a mercury-filled glass thermometer that is darn close to twenty years old, and it is "no worse for wear." I'll keep this in the closet until the end of the month. We hit the road on the 1st of July so it should be in the refrigerator by then.

a.d. IX Kal. Iul.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Worshipping at the maltar

I'm on summer holiday, and that makes everything more relaxed. Brew days are less frantic because I can get the clean-up and take-down done over a long evening--no early morning work alarms to worry about. Something about Sundays for cooking up a batch, I suppose I worship at the Malt Altar, the Maltar if you will, and need to keep the Sabbath like the rest of the believers. Who says The Big Guy doesn't drink beer?

Matt Cain was smokin' today for the surging SF Giants, throwing a complete game with nine strikeouts in a 7-1 win. I love baseball season, and having the G-men on the radio while the aroma of boiling wort mingled with the smells of spring was delightful. Yes, we are still having this wonderful spring, cool weather, occasional rain, the sun in and out behind the cloudbanks, and it feels great. I named the beer Summerfest, a bit boring, but we'll be sucking it down in the summer heat soon enough.

Two things about today's session: (1) I used 12 lbs. of 2-row and 1 pound of 20ºL crystal but only managed 13ºP wort--1.052--which is disappointing; (2) I used digital probes to monitor the mash temperature. I have a standard food thermometer with a steel cable and food probe that works for roasting meat, candy-making, and whatnot, and I finally realized it would be better in the brewery than in the kitchen. I also am field-testing some old lab apparatus from work, a Casio EA-100 kit. Using the temperature probe in "multimeter" mode was too easy. The two devices were several degrees apart, so I'll have to do some calibrating. But it sure is nice to have a continuous read on the mash, I think it will help me improve my technique and, I hope, my extract yield.

I kept the hops simple, a one ounce addition for sixty minutes and a one ounce addition for 30 minutes. That's two ounces of (7.4 % alpha-acids) organic New Zealand Saaz whole hops. Lovely stuff, should taste great. I used a pack of US-05 Safale yeast, pitching it directly in the carboy. The Giants Fever is done, we polished it off last weekend. It was delicious. I'm looking forward to the new one.

Happy Flag Day!

a.d. XVIII Kal. Iul.
(The Ides were yesterday!)

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Giants Fever V

We've had a chance not only to sample but to share the brew, and we are very happy with it. It is light and dry with the easy drinkability of a "session ale" and the refreshing crispness of a "lawnmower beer." This one has real flavor, though, a fine layering of malt and hops, surprisingly complex in a low-gravity (1.043) beer. The amber-orange color looks great in the glass, too. The 2-Liter swing-top jug ("growler") ferried draft beer to a party in Weed, and it worked beautifully. The entirety of this batch was kegged, but now there's an easy way to share it. Graduation Day starts my summer furlough, and that means there will be a party in Montague this Friday. We'll be drinking Giants Fever!

Giants win today 5-3 v. St Louis.

Prid. Kal. Iun.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Giants Fever IV

Thirteen days at 66-68 ºF ought to be enough to finish the beer. I'll give it at least two weeks in the fridge and we can crack it open on Memorial Day weekend. Not a good day for los Gigantes, but a gorgeous day in the State of Jefferson.

a.d. VIII Id. Mai.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Giants Fever III

The beer went to the keg this evening. We had a bit of a heat spell earlier and it pushed the hall closet up to 70 ºF, but the trend lately is cooling, so I expect things to drop back down a few degrees. The yield was 4-1/2 gallons, and I batch-primed with 100 grams of dextrose. I ran it all into the two 2.5-L corny kegs. The final gravity came out at 2 ºP or 1.008. I'll give it plenty of time to condition--at least 10 days, then lager it for at least two weeks. Check back then.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Giants Fever II

It has been almost a week, and the thick layer of fine, creamy bubbles marking primary fermentation has started to subside. The temperature held for most of the week at 66 ºF, but with the warm weather enveloping the State of Jefferson this weekend, it has inched up to 68 ºF. As long as I can keep things there, or at least under 70º, I'll be happy. I'm not a big fan of racking beer. I don't like to disturb it. I used to think the trub was responsible for off-flavors, but the quality of yeast is so improved these days I don't worry about it much anymore. In fact, the oxygen introduced and the contact from handling is probably worse. Plus, I'm lazy. Racking means more cleaning. I've had pretty good luck letting the ferment run out to two weeks, then sending the beer straight to the kegs, so I'll stick with that. I think this is going to be a unique and interesting brew--the multiple hop additions and the variety of grains and adjuncts should produce something a bit out of the ordinary. This yeast always gives me such bright, clean flavors, and seems to especially emphasize the malt side of the equation that I'm getting thirsty just thinking about it!

a.d. XIII Kal. Mai.

Monday, April 13, 2009


A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the San Francisco Giants had a "theme song," and the money portion of it went:

. . . be a believer
in Giants Fever . . .

It had one of those 70s-disco feels to it, catchy, pointless, impossible to erase from the memory banks. I've cooked up batches before in the spring that have been called "Giants Fever" so I thought I'd go for it again. The team is 2-5 and spent the afternoon stinking up Chavez Latrine, but hope springs eternal, eh?

Today was my kitchen sink brew. I had 5 lbs. of pale malt, and several 1-lb. packages of grain that I added to that. To wit: 1-lb. pilsener malt, 1-lb. Vienna malt, 1-lb. British pale malt, 1-lb. CaraPils and 1-lb. wheat malt! Crazy, huh? Then I added a pound of specialty malts (1/4-lb. roast barley, 1/4-lb. 140 ºL Extra Special Malt, and 1/2-lb. 60 ºL caramel), and presto! there was a load for the mash tun. All this stuff is organic/7 Bridges.

I used 3 gallons of liquor at a 171 ºF strike heat and the mixture settled in nicely at 156 ºF. After thirty minutes it had dropped two degrees and another two degrees after an hour. I re-circulated two gallons and then sent all the runnings to the kettle. I re-filled the tun with 4 gallons and ran that out as well. The "batch-sparge" is the lazy man's method, but it seemed to work fine. I got about 5+ gallons and topped it with 2 gallons to start the boil at the 28-L line. The yield was 5 gallons at 1.043, which I was happy with. I made three hop additions, one at 60, one at 30, and one at 10 minutes--1 ounce, 1 ounce, and 1/2 ounce of whole New Zealand Saaz (alpha acid 7.4 %). It should make a nice amber brew with a full flavor and light-to-medium body. My yeast o'the day was SF Lager (810) from White Labs, one of their pitch-n-go vials. I have made many brews with this yeast strain and I love its crisp, clean finish. The carboy went to the closet a little before 1500 hours State of Jefferson Daylight Time. It was a pleasant 66 ºF, just right, let's hope the cool weather holds and that I can keep it there or a little lower for at least a week.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Party on!

The St. Patrick's Day Stout was a big hit at Nancy's party. It is a little anti-climatic to have a St. Patrick's Day party after the actual date (Day: Tues 17th; Party: Sat 21st), but it is a great group of friends and it is always a great party. Three brewers are in attendance each year, and each brewer brings a special creation. This year we had 100% stouts. Tom brought a dry stout that had a nice roasty edge to it, and Steve brought a big, sweet, caramel-and-maple-syrup stout. Both were excellent. Nothing like sharing brews with fellow brewers--we got to do a lot of nerdy brew-talk and quench our thirst at the same time. My stout was over-foaming a bit. The beer itself was perfectly carbonated, but dispensing was an issue. I finally took the keg off the gas and served it with the hand pump, "real ale" style. That solved the problem. My beer was light and crisp, with a smoothness and drinkability not ususally associated with stouts. I got lots of compliments, and the hostess herself told me more than once she liked mine the best! Saturday the 21st was the first full day of Spring, as the vernal equinox happened Friday morning. Saturday the 21st was a good day for Ireland as well--they won the Six Nations rugby trophy by beating Wales in Cardiff, completing a Triple Crown and Grand Slam for the first time since 1948. Éire go Brách!

a.d. X Kal. Apr.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

SPDS debut

We busted out the stout today. It has been conditioning for a nice long time and it was a fully mature beer. The color was very dark brown, almost black. It was clean and smooth, easy to quaff, with a dry, malty finish. It was a little over-excited exiting the keg, but I think I got the gas pressure figured out and I expect smooth pouring from now on. This beer will get sucked down like candy!

Non. Mar.
Beware the Ides! (15th)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


The St. Patrick's Day Stout went to the refrigerator on Quinquagesima, or Shrove Sunday, which fell this year on 22 February. It should be ready by the full moon.

a.d. VIII Kal. Mar.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Carboy to keg

Today I kegged the St. Patrick's Day Stout (no. 165). It was a little short of the opaque black I like in a stout so I cooked up a batch of black malt and malt extract. I soaked 1/4 pound of Carafa 2 (Weyermann organic from 7 Bridges) in a quart of warm water. The crushed malt was in a cloth straining bag, and the process was not unlike steeping a tea bag. I warmed up the water and added 200 grams (just about 7 oz.) of dried malt extract. I boiled the whole concotion for about 15 minutes. The brewery smelled of chocolate for the rest of the afternoon. As I siphoned the brew into the priming bucket, I added the priming mixture. It seemed to do the trick. A much darker brew went into the kegs! I could have added more, in fact. The beer finished at 1.012 (3ºP) and I should expect no more than 4% abv. This is almost a "session" beer, but with typical FSB rule-bending, it will be a dark lager and not a light ale. I think it will be quite refreshing and delicious and can't wait to try it.

a.d. VI Id. Feb.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Batch number one hundred sixty-five is this year's St. Patrick's Day Stout. I kept it simple. It was cold and wet, and the short brew day was a good way to ease back into the new year. I used an extract--Briess from 7 Bridges--and flavored it with a mix of chocolate, CaraMunich, and roasted barley. I should have included black malt, and it looks like I will have to touch it up at kegging time to get the color right. Regardless, I got 5 gallons at 1.040, just right for a dry stout. I used New Zealand Saaz hops, 42 grams for 60 minutes, or about 35-44 IBUs. I'm hoping for something on the lighter side with this one, and I used SF Lager yeast from White Labs (no. 810). The closet is a little cooler than normal and maybe I can get a run of days under 65ºF.

Today we also finished the last two bottles of no. 163, Harvest Ale. It was clean and fresh and bright despite over three months in the bottle! Points out the benefits of cleanliness and good sanitation. Or just plain luck. Either way I get some tasty brews.

a.d. VI Kal. Feb.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Last Call

Winterfest was laid to rest. We pulled the final draughts from the keg today and sucked them down greedily. I'd made a point to save a few pints for the annus novus and it was great to enjoy them on this bright, sunny day. It is winter in the State of Jefferson, but the skies are clear and the nearby hills are free of snow. We've had the cold, just not the moisture we need for snow. We like to ski here at French Street Brewery, so that is a discouraging thing.

The next important brew event is Nancy's St. Patrick's Day party. I bring a stout, of course, and my deadline for that brew is Groundhog Day. That time of year--the first week in February--is host to a number of traditions that mark, in some form or another, the halfway point between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. Seems like a good time to cook up a hearty batch for a celebration that welcomes the coming spring. The pagan festival of Imbolc was the rootstock that Irish monastics and the Roman Church used to graft on the Feast of St. Brigid and Candlemas. So whatever your spiritual pleasures, St. Patrick's Day Stout is the next item on the FSB agenda.

a.d. IV Id. Feb.