Archive | October, 2012

The Secondary Conundrum

31 Oct

Since I have been a brewer, this whole debate between performing a secondary fermentation or not has really boggled me. The idea is that when your brew is 75% the difference from your Original Gravity (ABV), then you rack, or siphon, into another container. This allows your beer to clear, and in cases where you must wait long periods of time, can prevent your yeast from becoming cannibalistic, know as autolysis. At this stage in the process, sanitation is imperative, and you risk oxidization, which can lead to flat/stale tasting brew.

So what do the “experts” say? Most of their answers look something like the one at Brew-Dudes. These guys say skip it when dealing with an ale (which is what most beginners end up brewing.) The article tries to make it clear that most “experts” are also kegging and cold crashing, not all beginners use these techniques to achieve clarity in their brew. The reason experienced brewers advise against racking an ale to secondary, is that it isn’t necessary. Ales are known for clearing themselves up with an extra couple weeks in the primary.

After researching a bit, the only main hangs on secondary fermentation were sanitation and oxidation. Many people argue it’s “extra work”, but what do you make of Brew-Dudes’ added 30 minute boil with hot and cold breaks, wort chillers, C02 pressurizers, and vessels big enough to cold crash an entire keg… If you were sanitation impaired, you would have already infected your brew long before a rack to secondary. The myth here is that an extra 15 minutes to sanitize your secondary container and tubing, is a bunch of “extra” work. While sanitization is about the only part of the brewing process that can go wrong, if you are aware of this, it is hard to mess up. Those 15 minutes will go a long way giving you experience with sanitation practices, which are still just as important when bottling or racking to a keg. Interesting enough, Brew-Dudes go as far to say the whole kegging process is a secondary in itself, debunking the fact that “experts” don’t secondary.

As far as oxidization, if you make sure your secondary will fill neatly to the brim, it need not be a concern. My first batch didn’t make it, but I was careful during the siphon, and was able to move my container very carefully, eliminating any splashing inside. Since I racked my brew slightly before fermentation was complete, the carbon dioxide produced will displace any oxygen left. This effectively nullifies any future oxidation concerns. As you can see, these arguments aren’t very major issues to begin with, and both are remedied with practice and experience. This is my whole argument, if you can sanitize, you can secondary, and to do so as a beginner puts you ahead of the rest. You will own a degree more experience when going to bottle your first batch.

There are echos of this in a BeerAdvocate thread on the issue. Most of the first posts are the usual “unnecessary unless” (insert reason here). Getting through that, you start to hear of how it was good practice, beer was still cleared, and how sanitation isn’t the real concern for conscious brewers of any status. Also mentioned here, is how having an extra container open allows you to start another batch.

So if you are a beginner, like me, go for the secondary. I challenge you. If the best warning against it is “too much work”, you are already a sanitation machine. If they try and scare you with words like “oxidization”, fill it to the brim, or transport it like it’s your baby. Your brew is much more resilient than you think, and only time will tell. Do what you can to grab those moments you doubt yourself, and build from them. Getting out there and doing it is the only way to get better. Saying it’s not necessary is a way for the experts to brag about their set-up, which is, as we learned, a fancy secondary fermentation/condition.

Remember folks:

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-ZachAttack

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To Keg, or Not to Keg?

29 Oct

I suspect this was on every brewer’s mind at one point in time. The good thing is, there is no wrong answer to this question! Bottling and kegging is the same basic idea, to store your masterpiece for later consumption. With this in mind there are definitely a few differences in the process, and there lay a few objectives to consider. I suggest the enlightening discussion here at BrewingKB about Bottling vs. Kegging.

Basically, it all brews down to opinion and mostly, resources. Within the first few posts, you will be able to determine whether or not kegs are the way to go. Like I said, there is no wrong answer. Pros and cons are situational to the brewer; so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. In fact, the beauty about brewing at home remains: you can always do both! Keep a few six packs conditioning for an extra week or two while you and your brew crew kill that keg off.

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R.D.W.H.A.H.B- ZachAttack

For the Love of Craft Beer

29 Oct

 

Hey beer lovers, did you know that Dallas Beer Week is right around the corner? This is an awesome 8-day community event that encourages local bars, restaurants, distributors, and breweries to host craft beer-related events. This year’s lineup includes various food and beer pairings, tastings, tappings, and brewery tours. This event is a great opportunity to meet the creators of several of the awesome local breweries we have in the area, as well as cool like-minded craft beer lovers such as yourself. You will also have a chance to sample some brand new local craft brews, and even help finish off the last of some great beers including Peticolas’ Great Scot! Check out this year’s calendar for a complete list of everything that will be happening this week.

Dallas Beer Week has three specific goals: To support craft beer in Texas by introducing more individuals to the world of craft beer. To support local establishments that support craft beer. And to support our community through charitable works. The week’s events will be raising money for charities such as Pints For Prostates and the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. What could be better than drinking craft beer, and giving back to the community at the same time?

This will only be the second year for the annual DBW to take place. Let’s spread the word of this event throughout the community, and of course come out and show some love to the people hosting all of these great events. If you are interested in being more involved than just participating, DBW is still looking for committee members to help with management and promotion. All you need to do is fill out and submit this form. They are also accepting new sponsors. If your company would like to explore DBW sponsorship opportunities, you can email them at dallasbeerweek@gmail.com.

See you there!

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Oh Snap! It’s a Brew-Off!

24 Oct

Are you super competitive, or just a beer fanatic? Either way, I suggest you find yourself a hombrew competition to attend. At hombrew competitions, whether you are entering a beer or not, there lies a massive source of enlightenment. By simply attending, you will be surrounded by brewers of all ranks and disciplines. This isn’t to mention all the delectable craft brews people have brought from all over.

As it turns out then, you don’t need to be a 5-year homebrewer to attend a competition. The magical wonder behind this, especially if you are a newcomer, is that there will be a seasoned brewer at every turn. Take advantage of this, as most experienced brewers would love to chat you up about getting started, or tip you off for better execution next time.

Not only can the brews flavored inspire a recipe of your own, they can raise certain questions about achieving a specific taste/feel to a beer. This becomes essential in the quest to evolving yourself into a better brewer. Isn’t what this is all about? Everything rolls back to the community, the most precious resource for any homebrewer.

At homebrew competitions, you get it all. From beer tastings to tension, and inspiration to education, whether your a newb or the three time competition winner, find yourself a Brew-Off!

Where can you find one? A great place to start, not just for competitions, is the all-encompassing American Homebrewer’s Association. Here I have linked specifically to their page about the National Homebrew Competition they hold. AHA include links for Club-Only runs, sanctioned competitions, and even the Great American Beer Festival. Being a national event, this a great place to start your quest.

For closer to home, I suggest you visit Oh Snap! A Brew-Off! I’ve accumulated several links that will help Texans on their search for competitions held in many different areas. These gatherings area trove help and inspiration don’t be afraid to ask, homebrewers are itching to help!

My first batch made it to secondary, it’s on the low side so I moved very carefully. After just a week it smells and tastes extremely citrusy, with a dry, bitter hop finish. Can’t wait for it to mellow and clear even more!

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-ZachAttack

Homebrew Heaven

22 Oct

Through Storify I was able to make a little section I like to call Homebrew Heaven. Here I have thrown a few pictures together for some inspiration and try to capture some of the homebrewer “vibe.” The more I intimate I become with homebrewing myself, I realize there is more to it than the brew. I’ve experienced how important the community is to its success. Certainly homebrewers give off a certain glow when talking about their trade. Everyone starts at the beginning, and homebrewers are no different. This is why I have found HomeBrewTalk.com to be an exceptional source as well. You can find it as a Storify panel in Homebrew Heaven, but it is worth mentioning here, as the community is fantastic. There are plenty of Stickies on this forum to qualm your newbie fears. Otherwise, toss your question out there, no matter how elementary, and someone is glad to help. If it becomes urgent, member responses are known to be quick so you can’t lose! Good luck, keep at it, happy hombrewing.

My own batch brewing- smells amazing!

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-Zach Attack

Why Homebrew Anyway?

15 Oct

Are you on the fence whether or not to take the leap and brew at home? Have you concerns of the cost for equipment and ingredients? Are you to impatient to wait and just run to the corner store for the cheapie six-pack?  Don’t be! There are many great reasons to brew at home. Try not to become discouraged when researching the process. Going around to many blogs and informative websites helped me begin to understand what is going on, but some of the information seemed overwhelming. At first, the process seemed very scientific with all these decimals and gravity readings. In reality, when I got down to the nitty gritty, I was making what seemed like a big batch of tea or soup! I urge you not to become discouraged; it is well worth the brew.

A great perk about brewing at home, is that once you buy the necessities for the process, that’s it. Everything is reusable; all you would need for your next batch are the ingredients. This is fantastic, because when you are brewing 5 gallons a batch, it almost immediately pays itself off. Although some states do put a cap on production, no matter who you are, you can easily make your years worth for fractions of store bought brew. Not to mention you are achieving a “top shelf” craft beer flavor and feel. Picking your own fresh ingredients, and skipping all the processes like pasteurization and shipment the commercial brewers must follow, will ultimately yield you a much crisper, tastier product. Brewing at home doesn’t just give you quality beer for much less cost, there that aspect of control, making it an art. Similar to how preparing food is a culinary art, the brew process demands certain attention and involvement. Choosing what malt to use, what hops to spice with, which yeast profiles will complement ingredients are all part of this control. Deciding what you want to taste or feel in a brew, and being part of the process to achieve a desired product that is important to you, is art. Brewers themselves as a community are definitely worth a shout out to. When getting into home brew, you can’t help but get sucked into this tight nit community. Everyone is willing to share success stories, and even stories ending not so well. Brewers are a wealth of information and laid back individuals to bat, so as the AHA would say “Relax, have a homebrew.”

-ZachAttack

Homebrew Legality 101

10 Oct

Ready to make your first tantalizing batch? Make sure it’s legal! Only this year has Alabama voted through a bill to legalize homebrewing, but it died in senate and the fight is far from over. An article at: Fermentarium gives some insight on the process, and what people against the bill argue. It is important to understand that since prohibition, laws about home brewing only mentioned wine. Over the years, it has been a struggle to convince our states to include this sort of brewing in its legislation. Fortunately, the majority of the states have been caught up with the times, and it is a quite widely accepted practice. If you are interested in more specific information about states and their legalities regarding homebrewing, I am linking to Homebrewers Association statutes page. It gives a great run down on the federal laws, state laws, and has a drop box with all states and their respective bills. Its interesting to see how each state puts different limitations on at home production, and how, as of now, Alabama and Mississippi senates have successfully postponed bills for legalization since 1933. Bottoms up, good luck in 2013 Alabama.

ZachAttack