In case you are wondering, I.M. Hammered Brewing is:
Mark -- Head brewer and drinker (brewer of over 65 batches of extract and all grain brews, drinker of many thousands of bottles and pints of beer), CEO and President of the finest Nano-brewery I know of, head bottle washer, and sanitation engineer
Liz -- Vice President in charge of bar decorating, keeping me from becoming too fanatical in my brewing habits, and is also known as "she who must be obeyed"
Michael -- Brewhouse assistant, equipment consultant, Chief IT Geek and self-appointed Official Beer Taster (great work if you can get it)
Schpankie -- Newest convert from fizzy yellow water to finely crafted beers and ales, adds little value to the brewhouse, but we like him anyway
Scooter -- The gas man (and I mean that in the kindest of ways) bringing propane and co2 when needed, also has keen interest in the brewing process
Knuckle Jefe -- Newest convert to brewing (has four batches under his belt), has began a start up nano-brewery in Kentucky known as "Double-Wide Brewing" with the catchy slogan of "double wide beers at single wide prices". Boy has a brilliant future in marketing. IMH is helping with equipment in the start up. We all work for beer, then again, why wouldn't we.
Parrot Pete, aka, Pappa Draft -- Bar designer, humidor raider, label celebrity, and Just because he should have been on the list the whole time.
We hope to make this site fun and informative and look for outside input, or inside output, whatever works.
Friday, October 31, 2003
New System All Grain Brew Day Disaster, Part Duex.......

Well, as I feared (knew!) would happen, there is zero activity in the fermenters. But, fear not as we now have a plan C. The Pro called me last night with another thought. Let's see if we can break down some of the dextrines and salvage the batch. Wow....How do we do that?

Well, we are going to add some Amylase Enzyme to the fermenters. This stuff is designed to break down some of the dextrines into fermentable sugars. We could see as much as another 10 points of gravity come off of the total over the next several days. The new fermentable sugars will wake up the yeast in solution and cause another little eating frenzy. When those guys are hungry it is something to watch! If you can ever ferment in glass, do it so you can see the explosion of fermentation. The amount of energy spent in the process is incredible given the size of the organisms involved.

If we get additional fermentation from this, then we might just slavage the entire batch of beer. It will be quite drinkable though it won't be the end product the recipe was designed to yield. It's like Crash Davis says in the cult classic Bull Durham, "Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes it rains. Think about it!" This batch looks more like a rain out than anything else.

Stay tuned for the next installment of "As the Fermenter Turns".

Sunday Brew Day:

Well, since we had such a stir with last weeks batch there is only one thing to do. No, not take a road trip.....brew again. As with my brewing plan schedule that is exactly what I plan to do. This time it will be the Angry Dog Amber Ale. Since the "Stillers" aren't playing till 4:00pm, I'll get an early start and go from there. This will be the first variation of this recipe to make it from all-grain. I have extract brewed this recipe many times and partial mashed this recipe many times, and I hope this will be the first of many all grain brewings of this recipe!

Trust me when I tell you, there will be several thermometers in the mash this time around.

Happy brewing, fill your glass, drink up, repeat often.

Mark, the brewer, and hoping for 10 more points.

Thursday, October 30, 2003
New System All Grain Brew Day Disaster........

Well, we set up the new system last weekend for the first time and brewed on it. The recipe was solid, all of the valves and fittings were water tested before starting, the grain was crushed perfectly, there was plenty of propane gas for the burners, the stars were aligned and Mars was visible without a telescope. What could possibly go wrong.......What could possibly go wrong......That reminds me of a line in a movie....."I'm flying in a United States Fighter Jet, a perfectly good aircraft. What could possibly go wrong!"

Well, If you are a believer in "Peter's Principle", i.e., if there is something that can go wrong it will, then read on, because it did.

The brew day started gently enough, the weather was picture perfect and the grain crushed on the new mill to a perfect professional crush. The water was heating in the hot liquor tank and the mash tun was warming. The strike water went in at 170 degrees F. The perfect temperature to set a mash at about 152 degrees F. Again, perfect. The grist was in and the temperature guage on the mash tun read 144 degrees F. What???? How can that be? We just mashed in with 170 degree F. strike water to a warm tun in a matter of just minutes. How could we possibly lose that much heat? HHHMMMMM.

I applied some heat to the mash tun. I applied it in short blasts and we stirred as we went. Finally the thermometer read 152. Thank goodness. We allowed the mash to sit. The tun seemed to keep losing heat. It is 304 guage food grade stainless steel, ok its a converted sankey keg, but it shouldn't be losing heat that fast, specifically since we heated the tun before mashing in. Again with a blast of heat. We had to repeat the heat a couple of more times. I'm getting suspicious, but we carried on.

After about 50 minutes I applied an iodine test on a white plate. The test was positive for conversion. Conversion has been reached!! Excellent. Time to mash out. Mash out is a process of heating the mash to about 165 degrees F. to denature the enzyme activity and to thin the run off for recirculation. It is an OPTIONAL STEP but one that I have had success with in the past, specifically in a partial mash regime. Well, I felt like I was aging it was taking so long for the temp to get up with the heat being applied. I was real suspicious at this point and Michael suggested (strongly) that we check with another thermometer. So we did. Good call Geek. Oh my goodness, it looks like we have ourselves a natural disaster!!!!!

When I took out the thermometer, it read 190 degrees F. The mash was out of control hot at this point. Well, I know that a hot mash means the leaching of tanins and other proteins from the husk material of the mash and these can produce off flavors, astringency, a stuck sparge and even a stuck fermentation. What to do? What to do? What to do?

We started sparging. I figured, we'll go ahead and ferment and see what happens. We sparged and that went famously and virtually without a hitch. Flow rates were very easy to set. Then we cooled, got cold break, and transferred to fermenters. I pitched the yeast and sealed them up. Activity started quickly, within six hours and I thought, HHMMMM, everything should be OK.

At the end of Day three, Tuesday, all visible fermentation activity had ceased in both fermenters. In fact, in the one fermenter the activity was less than vigorous. Now I'm worried because I knew we aerated reasonably well too. Now I've seen three day fermentations happen on beers before and they were just fine, but given the circumstances of the mash..... Well, I went to Country Wines (my local brew supply store) and talked to the pro there. When I say pro, I mean professionally trained brewer. We decided to add some yeast nutrient and some more yeast, but only after I checked gravity and made a determination that fermentation was not completed.

Well, I checked gravity and it was high. Only about 50% of the original gravity had been fermented and the yeast had flocculated all over the place (its not as dirty as it sounds, it just means fell out of solution). I used Irish Ale yeast which is pretty attenuative (stays in solution and eats as much sugar as possible) and usually goes to 75% to 77% attenuation. That usually indicates a stuck fermentation. Not today. I added nutrient to both fermenters and pitched more yeast (windsor dry).

As of this morning, there is no activity. Hard to believe, but no activity. Here is what happened and it won't happen again. That is why we always strive to get better and can't wait to brew again to test our new found knowledge.

1. The thermometer malfunctioned and I now believe the mash tun has a small design flaw. The thermometer is in contact with the wort in the tun, but is inside the pickup tube. I would like to believe that the wort inside the pickup tube is only a few degrees different than in the tun, but it looks like it runs anywhere from 8 to 25 degrees different depending upon the level of heat. The higher the heat, the bigger the difference. The pickup tube is stainless steel and if you don't know, stainless can be a lousy conductor of heat. I now have proof.

2. Because of this, the 144 degree reading at mash in was probably more like 152 to 156. 156 is High range for sachrification, but still in the range. It probably took about 15 minutes to completely mash in and I gave the mash another 5 to 10 minutes to stabilize temperature, so that explains why we got conversion (some believe that conversion can be attained in as little as 7 minutes though I wouldn't try that), but then we added heat to the mash tun's thermomter reading of 152 which means we probably went anywhere from 160 to 170. At 165 the enzymes would begin to denature, but while the temperature raised, my wort became very high in dextrines (unfermentable sugars) because we stayed in the high range of sachrification or temperature greater than 153 degrees F. Enzymatic activity is a discussion for another day, just trust me today.

3. The yeast only had a limited amount of fermentable sugars to eat and finished them off very quickly, but only moved the gravity by about 50% instead of the normal attenuation of 75-77%.

4. The wort definately leached tannins, but with good cold break, I think we dropped out a good bit of it.

5. The beer actually doesn't taste too off (I sampled the gravity sample), but has a real big body and mouth feel for a dry stout. There is also a sweeter character more like an English stout from the high level of dextrins. I will call it drinkable, but nowhere near the effort or the beer I envisioned.

6. The beer still has about 3.2% alcohol in it so there aren't any infection worries at this point. The PH level won't harbor the bad guys (another technical discussion for another day).

What am I going to do you ask? Wellllllllll, I am going to see if there is any activity by tonight from the repitch (doubtful) and go from there. I will probably keep 5 gal of this brew and keg it after clearing, and then just dump the other 5 gal and brew again. This time we will manage the mash with a thermometer right in the middle of it. I also am done with the mash out process. The pro doesn't do it. First he recirculates, then he just goes to sparge with 170 degree water which does the same thing, skipping the mash out prior to recirculation.

Did we learn anything? You bet and the next batch will the best I have ever made, you can count on it.

Mark, the brewer, Humbled by the chemistry of it all, and itching to brew again!!!
Wednesday, October 29, 2003
IMH Taps Update........Thoughts on Choosing Malt Extract for a Batch.........

The IMH taps are still going strong with Uncle Buck's Wheat Dunkel (name inspired by and the Angry Dog Amber still pouring. The "Dog" keg is getting light, but not to worry, Hefe's Wheezin' is poised in the background ready to go. I know, two wheat beers on tap at the same time. Ok, bad planning, but you know, it's hard running a brewpub while doing a full time job on the least they are different colors!!!

The Uncle Buck's is so very tasty with hints of chocolate and raison in the finish turning to the wheat tartness and dry ending. The aroma continues to be of banana, chocolate, and clove. I am happy with the results and will brew this again (well, maybe with some level of alteration). The Angry Dog Amber is still maybe the best overall extract and grains recipe that I brew (see recipe page). I love this stuff. I will be scaling and brewing a 10 gallon all grain version soon, probably this weekend. Stay tuned for the all grain rant on our excursion into stout (maybe tomorrow?) from last weekend. You won't believe what happened!!!

Choosing Malt Extract:

When scaling an extract and grains recipe, selection of the malt extract can be critical in hitting a certain type of style. As I have found over time, not all malt extract is created equally!!!

The first thing I look at is what am I making and does that brew fit a certain BJCP guideline. If not, then buy the best value all barley extract and brew away. But if you are looking to brew to style here are some things to consider when you go to buy your extract:

1. What is the origin of the beer? British beers are pretty easy as there are quite a few British made extracts that work well in most British styles (Munton's and John Bull to name a couple). If you are making lagers, this gets a little harder and the extracts are harder to find. Laaglander is usually readily available, but it has a much higher dextrine content than most extracts and will leave a higher ending gravity (remember, dextrins don't ferment) and that might not be what you are creating. Weyermann is an excellent extract for lagers, but hard to find. Several US companies make great all purpose extracts as well. Briess and Alexander's are great products and make great beers that are generally true enough to style whether it is lager or ale. I've used both with great success. You get the idea.

2. What color will the beer be? You might not consider this option too often and just grab dark extract to make a stout and amber extract to make an amber ale. But if you are using steeping grains, i.e., roasted barley and black patent in the recipe, you might want to consider using extra light extract. Dark and amber extract already have some of these roasted grains in them as they were mashed to this color range using those grains. The problem is, you as the extract brewer don't know the content of the grist bill that made these extracts. That means you don't know how much roasted grain was used and could possibly overshoot your % of roasted grains in your recipe by adding your "grain tea" to your wort. When I make these beers with roasted grains, I allow my "grain tea" to color and flavor the beer and use light or extra light extract. That way my darker beers don't become too astringent or bitter. There are times that you might want the extra "OOMMPH" that the colored extract gives. Your experience will tell you what to do. That just means you have to brew a lot and experiment. Don't you hate when that happens!!!

3. Dry malt extract or liquid malt extract? This is often only a matter of preference and storage. The only difference generally between liquid and dry is the water content of the extract. The liquid has more water in it. That means that there aren't as many fermentables in the liquid and you might need more of it to obtain your starting gravity requirement. The dry is easier to store and keeps much longer than the liquid extract does. I generally use dry extract. It keeps longer, takes up less space, is easy to add to the kettle, has less chance of scorching in your kettle, and is a little more cost effective as you don't really have to pay as much for packaging (cans). Now don't get me wrong. I have used liquid extract on many occasions with great success, and sometimes to meet your requirements for style, you have to use liquid extract. Again, you just have to brew a lot to try all of these products.

4. And finally, don't use an extract that doesn't have all barley malt extract written in the ingredients (the exception of course is wheat malt extract). If you are puposely making Miller High Life Clones and need an extract cut with corn, then OK, but otherwise, that cheap extract might just be that, cheap. It might be cut with corn syrup, rice syrup, or worse yet, cane sugar. Great beers start with good all barley extract (and complete almost fanatical sanitation) that is made to a high quality standard and is freshness dated.

Happy Brewing, Brew a lot, fill your glass, empty, refill, get the idea.

Mark, the Brewer, and the guy who can't wait to brew more Angry Dog Amber..............

Tuesday, October 28, 2003
Do Homebrewers Still Buy Beer........

That is a question that gets asked to me and other homebrewers quite often. The answer to that question is unequivocally "YES".

As homebrewers, one of the things we try to do is make beer that fits into the beer style categories as described by the BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program). This is the premise for all homebrewing competitions. Beers must be brewed to the exacting standards of the category in which they are entered. That said, the only two ways to know if you have brewed a beer that fits a category is to:
1) Be certain the ingredients used to brew the beer are allowable within the category
2) Know what a beer from that category is supposed to taste like so that you can be certain your finished product actually fits the style.

Well, the only way that I know of to be sure a beer tastes like beers are supposed to in a certain category is to taste commercial products made to fit those categories. In fact, I believe you need to practice tasting, practice tasting, and practice tasting some more. The flavor profiles of these beers needs to be ingrained into your head. Don't you just love a hobby that requires this much diligence to be sure your beers "taste right". I do!!!

Now shopping for "craft" beer can be a little more difficult than it sounds. The big problem comes with what many call the 3-tier system of distribution. The brewery takes great care to make sure their finished product (and livelyhood) is well made and carefully packaged to assure freshness. The handling distributor may not be so careful (hey Joe, there ain't no mo room here in da main warehouse, so ya better take those five pallets down to 12 Maple Street. Huh?? Yea, I know it's 95 degrees in there cause o da way da sun lights up da whole place, but so what, its just beer ya know!). Then when the product gets to the retailer, it often gets put in coolers under costant intense artificial lighting, or worse yet is subjected to several large temperature swings. Craft beer is more suseptible to light and temperature swings and also will begin to deteriorate if on the shelf too long. If the brewers knew (and most of them do know) what happens to their beer after it leaves the brewery and before it gets in your fridge........ Then you have beer packaged in clear or green bottles. Do you know that some people actually think Heineken is supposed to smell like a skunk when you open the bottle and like that light struck taste?

Here are some tips on buying craft beer:
1) Look for bottling dates. Most of the better craft brewers like Sam Adams, Red Hook, etc will have a bottling date or a best before date on the packaging.
2) Ask the retailer their turnover rate on the beer you are interested in, or if you frequent the retailer, keep track of it yourself.
3) If strongly lighted display cases are used, ask for a sixer from inside the cooler where there is no light. If a retailer is serious about beer, you won't even get a dirty look. If they don't know why you asked, you might need to find another retailer.
4) Ask questions of the staff. If it is a "specialty" liquor store and they can't answer questions about the beers, look elsewhere. Knowledgable retailers will sell you better beers because they drink them too and treat them appropriately.
5) E-mail the brewery for their preferred distributor and retailer in your area. This information is often available and the brewer is trusting these people with their livelyhood.
6) If the brewery is in your town, see if they sell direct, specifically if you are buying kegs. It will be fresher beer, will be cellared properly, and will probably be cheaper.

All of this might take a little effort, but then again, so does homebrewing. Good luck shopping and I hope you find that 6-pak of Bell's Two Hearted Ale. And if you do, send me a bottle will ya!!!

Mark, The Brewer, Craft Beer Drinker, and the guy Waiting for Penn Brewing's St. Nicholas Bock to be released.......

Monday, October 27, 2003
College Football and Cask Ale Revisited.......

Wednesday night I had the pleasure of attending the WVU vs Virginia Tech football game. I was excited as it was an event for my alma mater, WVU, to have the #3 team in the country on the home field, relished the prospect of some level of revenge for Tech leaving for the ACC, and reveled in the chance to have some fun on a crisp autumn night. Well, have some fun we did. I must say that I have never been to a football game with that much of an electric feeling in the air. The WVU win over Miami at home that won them their first Big East Title was good, but it wasn't anything like this game. This is the reason why college football is so much fun. WVU, a 13 1/2 point underdog, bloodied their nose and kicked them when they were down the entire game. It was total domination from the opening whistle. It was a fitting going away present, specifically for the cocky and smug Tech fans in attendance. The best part of the evening was watching them file out with about 9 minutes left to play while the crowd whimsically chanted ACC at them. It was fun!!!! I attended with John "the Wood Man" and we must have been out til 3:00am or so. I'm too old for that stuff, but It sure was fun. I'm just now getting my voice back!!

All Grain Brewing:

We finally tried out the new system on Saturday. There are 10 gallons of stout now bubbling away at 68 degrees F in my fermentation room. I will give you a blow by blow account of the day later this week. You won't want to miss it as we encountered a couple of disasters during the session. I would have expected no less on a new brewing system the first time out. Stay tuned for this later in the week.......

Cask Revisited:

My rant on the joy's of cask ale have been answered. The following is a tidbit on not only cask ale, but a tip on a bar for anyone living or traveling to the Boston area. Thanks Art for the contribution. Also, anyone reading this should take a look at Art's website, It is a pretty cool site and encompasses most of the things we love the most, i.e., beer, music, fun, and did I mention beer????? Art checks in with:

I made the pilgrimage to a bar with the best selection of micros in New England... The Sunset Tap and Grill on Brighton Ave in Boston. This place rules! 115 taps and over 300 bottled beers. I started with a cask conditioned Redhook Blackhook Porter (they were out out the cask of Victory Hop Devil). I moved on to a Dogfish Head 60min IPA another fantastic brew, I love the 90min but I always stick to the taps whenever I go out. The third, and the third is always a charm as they say, Rouge Dry Hopped Red... DAMN! The hop aroma and flavor was outstanding! For the record, I'm a huge hop-head, I love Stone Runation IPA and brewed an Imperial IPA that one friend called "unnecessary" but the Rouge was a nicely balanced beer with what I can only call a "fresh hop aroma and flavor."

Wow....that makes me thirsty (or as my 4 year old says, "stirsty" which may actually sound like I say it later in the evening). I can only hope to brew a beer that others call "Unnecessary". HHHMMMMM, I think I have a clone recipe for Stone Brewing's Arrogant Bastard Ale...

If you haven't checked out the new system photos, please do so. How about that stainless steel stand!!!! Stay tuned later this week for adventures in all grain brewing. But for now, drink up, refill, repeat!!!!

Mark the brewer, big Mountaineer Fan, and hoping to brew "unnecessary" beers in the future........
Sunday, October 26, 2003
The Photo Gallery has been updated. The all Grain system had it's first brew and boy, was it a blast! check out the photos of the setup. Feel free to email the Brewer with any questions you may have. Enjoy!
-Michael, Chief Geek and Number 1 brew assistant (aka. the guy who cleans everything up ;) )
The Evolution of a Homebrewer......

I wrote this story shortly after the bar was built. I hope it makes somebody laugh. Have a great day of football today and check back on Monday.


My odyssey began one fateful day about three and a half years ago in one of those large warehouse stores that sell you many things you never really need. We were wandering through the kitchen junk, er, appliance area when there it was. I was drawn to it like a treasure hunter to the unknown and forbidden cache. I walked cautiously closer, like an addict hearing the call to the opium pipe, wondering aloud if I could do it myself. Of course I am talking about the well-known Mr. Beer kit, complete with PET bottles and canned, hopped extract of unknown origin and manufacture date.

I really blame the whole thing on my wife. You see if she hadn’t uttered those fateful words, “go ahead and get it and give it a try if you want to”, I wouldn’t have shelled out the $32.95 that has totally changed my life. I’ve heard it said that behind every successful brewer, er, man there is a good woman, and in this case whoever should be credited for this statement is absolutely correct, though my wife might tell you she wishes she had a mulligan on this one. In any event, less than 5 hours later I was pitching the granules from the packet notated as “yeast” from the kit into that plastic thing the box said was the fermenter and sealing the lid. I knew then, and so did my wife, that she had created a monster.

Three of the longest weeks of my life passed and it was time to try this fateful brew. Well, it tasted kind of like beer. OK, it was awful, but I was not deterred. Many would have chalked this up to one of life’s experiences and folded up like an old broken lawn chair. Not me. I was on the quest for good, real, beer. Like all of you reading this, I was sick and tired of the lifeless liquid that was being passed off as beer and was spending a lot of time in specialty stores and brewpubs in search of the good stuff. I knew I could do it; make my own real beer, so I pressed on. The old Mr. Beer kit made three more batches before I officially destroyed, er, retired it. All three were palatable, each registered a level of improvement, and a stout was even fairly good, but I knew there had to be more!!

Ah, the Internet, that gateway to knowledge and commerce. Surely I could find information and equipment there. Well, I didn’t go cheap. My newly found friends at Midwest Supplies were more than happy to send me their advanced brewing set up and a couple of their recipe kits, plus the publication that changed it all. Yes, the home brewers bible, The New Joy of Home Brewing (thank you Charlie). You should have seen the look on my wife’s face when the UPS guy had to make three trips to the truck to get all of the boxes. I’m not sure if it was pure horror, or a look of contented joy she had. I do know that she was unable to speak for about two days (or was that not speaking to me for about two days). I can tell you about the look on my face. I didn’t look like I was the kid in the candy store; I looked like I was the kid who just bought the candy store.

My first extract and steeping grains beer was an ESB kit (a Red Hook Clone) and I brewed it the day after the equipment arrived. This was after staying up all night reading Charlie’s book from cover to cover. For a motivated but fledgling brewer this was a difficult jump from a no boil Mr. Beer kit to the then seemingly complicated procedures of temperature control, steeping, boiling, hop strike additions, sanitation, transferring, hydrometer readings, cooling wort, and using liquid yeast. I did it though. I just jumped in with both feet and did it (Charlie’s advice). I got that recipe boiled, cooled, in the fermenter, and the yeast pitched. After I thanked the national guardsmen who came to the certified disaster area known as my kitchen to provide much needed relief efforts, I went looking for my wife. She had hunkered down in the bedroom during the brewing session, and since she hadn’t been able to speak yet (or still wasn’t talking to me?) it took me about an hour to find her folded in the fetal position behind the chair. I assured her that everything was fine and she could come out now. She slowly walked into the front of the house, inspecting the kitchen and noting that with the help of the National Guard, it had been replaced to a facsimile of how she remembered it. But then it happened. She saw that I had completely emptied the front closet to set up a fermentation area. Shrieking with anger (or fear?), she disappeared back into the depths of the bedroom. Again she was unable to speak (or not speaking to me??) for another two or three days.

Well, that ESB was in my mind as good a beer as I have ever tasted, and I knew then that I was hopelessly hooked on brewing. When I got transferred to another city, one of the things I demanded in a house was a large basement to set up a brewery. I now talked confidently about my brewing needs and even my wife looked at me with respect (or disdain, I’m not sure what that rolling of the eyes means?) when I talked of my hobby. We found the right house after an exhaustive search (“yea, I like the pool and the game room, but I don’t have anywhere to brew so we can’t buy it!”) and I now have the brewing space I wanted, no, demanded to have. The I.M. Hammered Brewing Company now had official space to call it’s own.

Since the ESB I have brewed over 50 extract and grain and partial mash beers. I no longer use kits and scale my own recipes or convert other recipes to partial mash regimes. I even won a category first place ribbon in the 2002 Three Rivers Association of Serious Homebrewers (T.R.A.S.H.) Competition for a brown porter that I concocted. My wife no longer cowers in fear when the UPS guy shows up at the house. In fact they are on a first name basis. It’s amazing what a couple of good wheat beer, grand cru, and cream ale recipes that you specifically make for your wife can do for you.

Well, we were just about at a happy medium with me brewing a couple of times a month and turning out good beer when I got another maniacal idea (yes, I am becoming consumed by brewing). Why don’t we build a bar in the basement? I can have homebrew on tap! Of course my wife knows that I can’t even use a screwdriver without reading the instructions first, so she nonchalantly said, “sure, whatever you want to do”. I’ll have to give her credit (or blame?) for this one too as she provided me with that strong bit of inspiration that I needed to press on.

Working my dad and my neighbor like rented mules over a President’s Day weekend, we were able to construct a wall and attached eight foot bar frame that my dad proclaimed “sex ready” upon completion. Now I needed a bar top. I decided to call one of my best friends who happens to be in the wood business and in no time I had him conned, er, convinced that he needed to make me a custom hard wood top for free, er, for the ability to drink free for life at my basement bar. I figured that was a good deal, especially since he lives in New York and I live in Western Pennsylvania and he only gets down to see me about every other year. Heck, I even got him to deliver it to me.

Well, the only thing left to do was to put in a draft system for my homebrew. Once again, my wife seems to have some type of phobia when it comes to the UPS guy. I’m beginning to wonder if I should be concerned that they are on a first name basis and seem to have some type of little secret smirk when he makes deliveries when I am around. Well, anyway, I set it up just like the experts say you should with a chest freezer, temperature controller, and ball lock kegs.

I drilled no holes in the freezer. Instead, I hung a board down from the bar frame next to the freezer and ran two shanks and faucets through the board. I have some beer line outside of the freezer coming out using a “V” cut in the foam stripping that seals the freezer lid to the bottom. The temperature in the basement runs about 65 degrees year round, and I insulated the beer line outside of the freezer with pipe insulation from the freezer to the faucets. This has been very successful in keeping beer in the line from rising to a temperature that causes excessive foaming (of course it never stays there for very long). I bought reconditioned kegs from Sabco Industries and keep two taps running and have several kegs conditioning at all times. My wife thought (knew?) I was crazy when all of these parts kept coming to the house. Now that I have it all put together and it works, she knows I’m a genius (or is that a Guiness). I think she takes great pride (embarrassment?) for being my inspiration during my home brewer evolutionary process (again I’m unsure about the meaning of the rolling of the eyes thing?).

Well, since my wife is on a first name basis with the UPS guy, they should have something to talk about later this month when he delivers the 15 gallon three tier system that I just ordered. That ought to be a bunch of boxes! As Dave Barry so eloquently states, “There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness."

I hope your adventures in home brewing have been nearly as fun as mine.

Select your favorite pint and drink it up, refill your glass, and most definately repeat the process. Go Steelers!!!!

Mark, the Brewer, and homebrewing maniac...........
Saturday, October 25, 2003
Ale or Lager???????

Decisions follow us all through life. Right up there with "Wheat or rye", "red or blue", and "do you want fries with that" comes what to brew, ale or lager?

Well, the answer might not be as easy as you think. Most will tell you that because of the temperature restraints that most of us have, ale is your best bet to brew because you can't control fermentation temps down to 55 degrees F. Now don't take this the wrong way, I love ales and almost brew them exclusively. They ferment quickly, mature quickly, and best of all are ready to drink quickly. But did you know that fermenting lagers in the ale range is an acceptable practice? I'm not talking about California Lager yeast, I mean just about any type of lager yeast. If you can ferment ales in the 62 to 64 degrees F. range, then you can ferment lagers too. In fact, according to the St. Patricks of Texas homebrew site, some of the most distinguished yeast authorities for homebrewing recommend using lager yeast whenever possible. It will make a cleaner and less estery beer, even in the lower ale fermentation temperature ranges.

These beers must still be cold conditioned for 4 to 10 weeks like normal for a regular lager, at refridgerator temperatures below 40 degrees F., but that is easier to do than to hold temps in that 52 - 55 degree range for 10 to 14 days. At least you can do it with your regular fridge and not have to buy another unit and an external thermostat to achieve that tough temperature range. You can start spending you children's college fund real quickly in this hobby if you're not careful.

Do you have to do anything special? No, just brew as normal and pitch yeast when the wort gets down to 62 to 64 degrees F. Will it be a perfect lager? Well, yes and no, you might get some level of esters because you are 10 or so degrees above optimum fermentation temps, but they will be significantly less than an ale. You will get the cleaner malt flavors associated with lagers and hopefully the wonderful hop edge that makes a Bohemian or Czech Pilsner so good.

So, don't always reach for the liquid ale yeast during the season when you have lower end ale temperatures available to you on your basement floor. You might just be surprised at the outcome.

So drink up the Bohemian Pils (Bitburger???), refill your glass, and by all means repeat the process many times.

Mark the Brewer, and one who often craves a clean malty lager....
Friday, October 24, 2003
Detailed Bottling Instructions......

Here are some detailed bottling instructions. They might not be the most up to date, but could help you if you are struggling with part of the process. These were written about a year ago or so. Good luck and happy brewing:


Ah yes, the most tedious and mindless portion of the brewing process is about to take hold of your soul. Unfortunately, you have no choice as this is the only way that you will be able to properly carbonate this fine malted grain beverage that you have created. Bottling also provides what is currently the only medium in which you have to serve this brew which you created with all of your being. That said, let’s get on with the proper instruction on the mindless art of bottling.

You will need the following items to get started:

· Beer (of course)
· 50, 12-oz bottles or 40, 16-oz bottles, 30, 22-oz bottles, or 20, 32-oz bottles, or any combination that yields two full cases of beer (you can do the math)
· Sanitizer of choice, Recommended is Iodophor
· Bottling Bucket
· Priming Sugar (corn sugar) or dry malt extract
· Beer (in case you missed it the first time)
· Racking Cane
· Siphoning Hose
· Bottle Filler
· Bottle Capper (unless you have swing tops)
· Bottle Caps
· Beer (just making sure)
· Two Pans or Pots for boiling (small ones)
· Beer (well, you might have missed this one before)
· Jet Bottle Washer
· Hydrometer and flask (container it comes in)
· Turkey Baster


I split bottling into a two-day process. It isn’t as bad as it sounds. I will move on.

Day 1 = Bottle Preparation
You must prepare your bottles to be filled. This might include emptying the last few you need to make the total. Here is what I do:

· Be certain of the bottle count as indicated above.
· Visually inspect each bottle looking for mold or other residue or nasties on the inside. If they are incredibly bad, discard and use an alternate bottle. Incredibly bad would be visually disgusting to the point you want to hurl. Don’t worry, this stuff will all come out in the soak.
· Most of the bottles you have are going to be from commercial breweries meaning they will have labels on them. These must be removed to ensure sanitation.
· In order to remove the nasties and labels, a minimum of an overnight soak is needed.
· In a large container or the sink (wife will love you for that), begin filling with hot water. After putting a couple of gallons or so in (about 30% full), add One-Step or cleaner/sanitizer of choice to the water at 1tbsp per gallon (you cannot go short here as you must kill any nasties inside the bottles).
· Start drowning bottles into the container making sure the interiors are full.
· Add water as the level makes it hard to get bottles in adding more cleaner/sanitizer at 1 tbsp per gallon. Hopefully all of the bottles will be in before water starts spilling on the floor. It’s ok to make the water hot.
· I will generally sprinkle another tbsp or two of cleaner/sanitizer on top after all bottles are in for good measure. Be sure to swirl the water to get the powder to dissolve.
· It is now time to hurry up and wait. I hope you were drinking the whole time!!

Day 2 = Final Sanitation and Bottling

Now the real fun begins.

· Open a beer up, you probably deserve it anyway.
· Most of your labels from commercial beers should be basically soaked off whole. All you have to do is fish them out.
· The Jet Bottle washer comes in handy here. I love mine. It saves you water and time. I will attach it to the sink (it comes with an adapter, you’ll figure it out).
· As you pull label-less bottles out of the container, you want to rinse them with warm to hot water through the jet.
· Empty residual water and place into a strategically positioned carrier or case.
· You should sanitize again depending upon the mess that came out. If the soak water is really gross, set up another container (plastic bucket????) with the sanitizing solution of 0.5 oz of Iodophor to 5 gallons of water, dunk the bottles in here for 3-7 minutes. Repeat till all bottles have been de-labeled and sanitized. You might have to scrape/scrub some of the labels off. I hope not for your sake. I hate it, that is why I went to cap labels for my beer.
· Good Job, have another beer!!
· Take the bottles to the dishwasher. Be sure that it was run on hot with heat dry before putting any bottles into it and that it is of course, empty.
· Place the bottles upside down on the prongs in the dishwasher.
· After all of the bottles are in the dishwasher, run it on short wash with hot water and heat dry. It will get up to about 300 degrees in there and it will sanitize your bottles (contrary to a written article I just read in BYO, just make sure the damn thing was run before you put the bottles in and that there aren’t any food items or chunks visible inside, I mean, it sanitizes your dishes doesn’t it?).
· After the dry cycle has ended, it will take your bottles about 2 hours to cool inside of the dishwasher. This is OK as you want them to cool slowly so they don’t break. The dishwasher is also insulated against outside air, limiting any chance for additional outside contamination.
· I always do this process several hours before I intend on bottling to ensure that the bottles are cool. Bottles too hot (burn your hands to touch) will kill the yeast left in the beer that you need to create the carbonation.
· Congratulations, you are ready to bottle your beer, in fact, open another new one and drink up, you’ve earned it (you’ll see what I mean the first time you must scrub off a label).

Bottling Procedure:
It’s crunch time babeeeeeeeeee!!! Time to be a PTP’er.

· Open up a nice cold brewski.
· Place your full secondary fermenter up on the counter. It’s nearly time to do number two of the several thousand siphons you will be doing over time.
· Make sure all of the equipment that will touch the beer has been sanitized ahead of time with the procedures we talked about during brewing and racking.
· Before we rack to the bottling bucket, we must prep the priming solution and bottle caps. These items must get cool before we can use them.
· Since you are short of liquid in the secondary, take ½ gallon of water and place into one of the pans. Bring this water to a boil. (With the Normal volume of 5+ gallons in the secondary, you would use about a quart of water)
· When the water begins to boil add ¾ cup of corn sugar to the water. The boil will stop but quickly restart. Let this boil for 4 minutes. You may substitute dry malt extract for the corn sugar. You must use 1 ¼ cups of DME to prime. It is more expensive to use and the results may or may not be better. I use corn sugar.
· After four minutes remove this from the heat and sit where it can cool. This solution is now sterile and can be added to your beer when cool enough.
· While waiting for the priming water to begin boiling, place needed amount of bottle caps upside down into the other pan. Always put 4 or 5 more than you will need in as sometimes boiling loosens the gum seal in the caps. We don’t want to lose any beer because of a bad seal. Cover the caps with water about 1 inch above them and bring to a boil. Boil for at least 5 minutes and set aside to cool. They will be cool by the time you need them. Always visually inspect them before committing them to a bottle top.
· By now you should have worked up an unbelievable thirst. I suggest opening another beer!!
· If you are the forward thinker I know you are, all of the other equipment was in sanitizing solution in the bottling bucket waiting for you to get these items boiling. Place sanitized equipment on clean paper towels and empty the bucket. You are just about ready to rack to the bottling bucket.
· At this point, take the bottles out of the dishwasher and place them carefully into six pack or case carriers. This will keep the bottles from moving, falling over and getting into your way while you work. It also keeps them in an orderly fashion while you fill them. Try not to touch the lips of the bottles while you transfer them. Move them to where you can easily reach them near the bottling area without having to move much. You will understand why later.
· Place the bucket beneath the secondary just like you did when you racked from the primary.
· Pour the priming sugar water into the bottling bucket. Don’t touch it, but put your clean hand close to get a feel for the temperature. It can still be warm, just not steaming hot. The beer will cool it quickly without harming much of the residual yeast if it is still has a little heat coming off of it.
· Take the stopper and airlock out of the secondary. You now can take the final gravity reading on the beer. You might have to tilt the carboy to get the sanitized turkey baster into the beer to get a sample. Do not Splash the beer!!! Fill the container the hydrometer comes in about ¾ of the way full and place the hydrometer into it. Take the reading as you did before and record. Do not return the sample to the rest of the beer. I always pour it into a glass and taste it. It is not carbonated, but will give you an idea of the beers flavor profile. If it tastes good now, it will be unbelievable when it has gas on it.
· Now place the racking cane into the carboy, put water in the hose, and attach and start a siphon as you did before placing the end of the hose into the priming sugar water inside of the bottling bucket. Take care to limit splashing during this entire process as much as possible.
· After the beer has all transferred to bottling bucket, take the racking cane, remove the hose from it and reserve the hose back on clean sanitary paper towels. You will be using it again in a couple of minutes. Use the already sanitary racking cane and carefully stir the contents of the bottling bucket (without splashing) to mix the beer and the priming sugar water.
· After thoroughly mixing, you are ready to bottle.
· Attach the still sanitary hose to the bottling spigot. Now take your bottle filler and attach to the other end of the hose. Your ready.
· Before going any further, make sure you have a couple of beers within arms reach, just in case you get thirsty. I’m guessing you already are.
· Arrange your bottles on the floor so that you don’t have to stop to get more, or reach very far. Place the bottle filler into the first bottle and open the bottling bucket spigot (be sure to have run sanitizing solution through it, i.e. drain the solution out of the bucket through it for about 3 minutes or so after sanitizing the other equipment).
· Follow the instructions on your bottle filler and start filling bottles (call me so we can figure out how it works)
· Be sure to leave ½ to ¾ of an inch of headspace in each bottle to allow for gas pressure build up of CO2.
· After you have filled all of your bottles and can’t get any more beer out of the bottling bucket (you’ll figure out how that gyration goes on the last half gallon or so), it is time to cap them.
· Take the sanitized caps (remember we boiled them earlier and now they are cool) in the pan. Take one out and place it on the bottle. Take the capper and use it the obvious way (Hint: practice on the day you start bottle prep with a cap to two to get a feel for it, caps are very cheap). Repeat till all bottles are capped. If you have swing tops, they are pretty self explanatory.
· After you have finished capping all of the bottles, quickly open another beer. You really need it.
· I generally wipe off all of the bottles with a damp towel as there might be some droplets of beer on them and it can get a little sticky. Clean the kitchen area, your equipment, and your done.
· Put the bottles in the same place you kept the beer while in the stages of fermentation. I recommend at least 68 degrees to achieve optimum carbonation in ales (and up to 70 degrees).
· Let the beer condition a minimum of 3 weeks, then bottoms up. Remember, this is a beer that will age gracefully and I would reserve 3 or 4 bottles for next Christmas to celebrate the season, and to remember how pissed off you were by the time you finished bottling. Bottom line is don’t drink it all in a week. Spread them out over a period of a couple of months and note the flavor profile changes as the beer matures. It will continue to get better. Besides, you’ll have other beers to drink in a few weeks as well.

· Cheers!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2003
Recipe Day!!!

Check out the recipe page today. I am posting the Irish Dry Stout recipe for your viewing and future consumption pleasures. It is a partial mash regime, so good luck and happy brewing....

Mark, The Brewer and a Guy who Loves to Brew Stout
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
Racking Revisited.....And Some Thoughts on Megaswill......

Recently I talked briefly about racking. It is a mindless thing that we all have to do if we want to participate in the hobby, or until we win the lottery and have a custom built homebrewery fashioned that is all pumps and quick disconnects, but I digress. The following was a training document that was set up for new brewers that gives a rather detailed dissertation on the racking procedure complete with items needed to complete the task. It might even have a spot of humor in it as well. Racking is a drudge and we all know it, or for those thinking of "taking the plunge" it can be intimidating. I hope this will take some of the sting of the process. Enjoy! Oh, and by the way, I haven't heard from anyone on the dunkel wheat profile or gotten any name thoughts.....I know your all out there looking and reading, your just not participating. Please do, just e-mail the brewer from the provided link!!

And now, on to Racking.........

I.M. Hammered Brewing Company

This is the easiest part of the process. Here is what you will need:

Beer to Drink
Glass Carboy
Siphoning Hose
Beer to Drink
Rubber Stopper
Air Lock
Sanitizer of Choice, I use Iodophor
Beer to Drink
Bucket of Beer Finished with Primary Fermentation
Beer to Drink
Bucket Clip
Racking Cane
Beer to Drink

Now that we have all of the essentials, here is the process.

· Open a Beer and take a big sip!
· Sanitize the Glass Carboy, Siphoning Hose, Bucket Clip, Rubber Stopper and Airlock, and anything else on this list that could potentially touch the beer. (Hint: fill the carboy with about 0.5 oz’s of iodophor and cool water. Place racking cane inside of carboy in solution. After a couple of minutes, pull cane out and put in upside down. After a couple of minutes, take cane out and put back in right side up. Remove before emptying. Put 0.5 oz of iodophor and about 5 gallons of water into the bottling bucket and place all other items into that solution. Let everything sit for about 7 minutes)
· Empty the carboy. The solution will run out slowly and will sanitize on contact the upper portion of the carboy and the lip of the carboy. It is the beauty of iodophor.
· Take everything out of the bottling bucket and place on sterile paper towels until ready to use (including the racking cane from the carboy).
· Open Beer number two.
· Now, its show time. This will be the first time you have seen your partially fermented beer. Don’t panic when you open the lid to the fermenter. There will be an ugly looking ring around the top of the bucket. This is called beer stone and is mostly hardened hop resins. It is a good thing for this to be out of the beer. There may also be some floaters on top of the beer. Do not worry as this is more of the same, or could be yeast that just hasn’t settled. Again, out of your beer is better than in and besides, worry ruins the batch. Put your nose close and take a big sniff of this wonderful nectar. You are ready to begin racking.
· Open Beer number three (only because the partially fermented beer smelled so good, you chugged the rest of beer number two).
· Place the open fermenter bucket full of beer carefully on the counter top. To start a siphon, the liquid moving out must be higher than the receiving container.
· Snap the racking cane onto the bucket clip and place it on the edge of the bucket with the cane inside the beer. It is important now to limit the beer’s interaction with oxygen, so try to keep splashing at a minimum. It can impart off flavors in the beer.
· Place the sanitized carboy on a chair under the bucket on top of the counter.
· Take the siphoning hose and put water into it holding either end covered with your own clean thumbs. Carefully put one end of the hose onto the racking cane. Take care not allow water to backflow down the cane into the beer. (hint: leave about ¾ to 1 inch of space on the end of the hose you will be attaching to the cane). This is a little tricky and may take a couple of tries. Take your time. Trust me, the hose fits over the end of the racking cane even though it may not seem like it wants to. It needs to be tight to seal.
· Be careful so you don’t knock the bucket over or lose the clip into the beer (the reason why you sanitized it, just in case).
· After you have attached the hose onto the cane, take the thumb covered end and place it into the carboy. Be sure after you release your thumb that you get the hose to the bottom of the fermenter quickly to avoid splashing, spilling, or some other catastrophe. The water in the hose will start the vacuum required to get the siphon started and beer will begin moving out of the bucket and into the carboy below through the cane and hose. Be sure the racking cane is about 1 inch from the bottom of the bucket above. There will be a layer of trub (pronounced Troooob) and sleeping yeast on the bottom of the bucket of beer. You want as little of this in the secondary as possible.
· Congratulations, you have started your first brewing siphon. If you continue with this hobby, it will be your first of thousands.
· Open Beer number four, just to calm your nerves a little.
· Watch as the beer moves into the carboy. Take a drink of Beer number 4. When the level in the bucket fermenter starts to get low, you will want to tilt and hold the bucket. You want every bit of this precious liquid to transfer to the carboy as is possible. You will start to see the tan or white Trub on the bottom. It is ugly to look at as well and might have some nasty looking chunks in it. Again, better on the bottom of the fermenter than still in your beer. You want as much of the liquid off of the Trub as you can get. That translates to more bottles for you. You may have to adjust your racking cane. You will visually see what I mean as you complete this step. Keep the siphon going, i.e. don’t let the bottom of the cane come out of the liquid, until you are satisfied you can get no more beer out of the bucket. It is very hard to start another siphon when you only have an inch of liquid left to get!!!!!
· When you have gotten all of the beer humanly possible out of the bucket and into the carboy, you are ready to place the stopper and airlock into the top of the jug. Again, be sure to have ¾ inch or so of water in the airlock. When the stopper and airlock are in, move the carboy to a place in the house where it will be about 68 degrees or so. You will want to wrap a blanket or something around the carboy to keep any light out. (hint: put a dark tee shirt on it or old sweat shirt if you don’t have an extra blanket. Dressed carboy’s look sharp). In about 2 weeks, we will be ready to bottle.
· Wash your fermenter bucket and lid with hot water, regular dish soap and a rag. Don’t use anything that could scratch like a brillo pad. Scratched plastic can provide safe harbor to nasties that want to infect your next batch of beer. If you clean now, the stone ring will be a lot easier to deal with while it is soft rather than if you let it harden over night. Besides, now you have a reason to drink Beer number 5. Cleaning is hard work!!
· Open Beer number 5.

You now have the skill required to rack beer to secondary. I know it is a skill you will cherish immensely. The next time you do it, it will be a no brainer for you. That is what it was for me.

Record the completion of the racking process and the date on your brewing log for this batch. It will help you know the time line in which you did the process. This makes it possible to duplicate timelines or other items. If anything out of the ordinary happens, write that down too. The beer I won the competition with I originally thought was ruined when after I pitched the yeast I had to transfer the beer again because the grommet in the fermenter bucket came loose and fell into the beer. It turns out, I set the beer up for a better fermentation because of the process I used to transfer the last time. Now I know what helped to make that beer special. You might think something is a disaster and it will actually turn out to be something good.

Open Beer number 6. You’ve earned it!!!!!

Megaswill Musings.......

Those of us who partake of craft beer regularly make fun of the megaswill mentality. You've all seen the twins on the Coors Light (Which I have personally dubbed the Icewater of Beers) and the rock music or humorous ads served up by the self proclaimed King of Beers. We also all know that the beers have become lighter as each day passes, more tasteless, and fizzier than ever before. That is why we don't buy them. I don't remember the last time I drank a beer from a can, and when I did it was probably a Yuengling Traditional. Well, now that we are in agreement that the beers are lifeless, bland, almost clear, and have no taste to speak of, I will now tell you what I think about their brewing process:

It is amazing. What, sacriledge you say. Megaswill brewing is amazing? Well, yes it is. Think about it, these brewers brew in multiple locations, millions of barrels of beer per year with ingredients that change with the rain patterns each year. Hops never have the same alpha content (yes, they say that there are actually some hops in their beers), malts have varying yields from field to field let alone year to year. For these megaswill brewers to brew these consistent (even if consistently bad) beers in multiple locations to millions of barrels that meet the same specs, flavor profiles, etc is amazing. A Budweiser, no matter how bland this rice water continues to get, tastes equally tasteless whether it was brewed in Los Angeles or Tampa, New Jersey or St. Louis. For brewers to duplicate whatever the taste is supposed to be that well from location to location, barrel to barrel, year after year is amazing. The brewers can't do anything about the accountants and the appetite of the masses. But they do practice their craft with the utmost precision and for that, they should receive kudo's even from the most die hard (me) craft beer drinker.

Now I don't drink Bud, Miller, or Coors (though the Killian's product is very tolerable), but I have been known to tilt an Old Style, a Hudepohl, or an Iron City on occasion and I actually like Yuengling Premium. But I do respect the skills that the big three brewers must have. You can't make beer tasteless by accident, you have to know what you're doing and be very good at it. So on Tuesday, October 21, 2003...Hat's off to the Megaswill Brewers!!! I hope you guys homebrew.......

So come on everyong, grab an Old Style and drink it up, grab another one, and repeat (then switch to the craft beer of your choice after that).

Mark, the Brewer and sometimes regional brewery beer drinker
Monday, October 20, 2003
A New Week of Adventure

Well, here we go onto another week. I'm off to a great start. I have everything ready to go to brew on Sunday including the yeast going and suddenly I realize (after the local homebrew shops had closed for the weekend) that I have no hops. Remember my dissertation on planning about a week ago?????????? Apparently I don't. We'll make it work here in a day or two. I promise to have a stout fermenting one of these days. No, really I do!!!! Ouch!

Then to add insult to injury, my football prognostications didn't pan out too well this weekend either. HMMMMMM. Maybe if the Giants and Bucs weren't such choke artists.......

Tip of the Day: Priming

Priming can be done a number of different ways depending upon your packaging requirements. I keg so I obviously batch prime. I also advocate batch priming if you bottle as well. Measurement for bottle priming is quite difficult and allows too high a margin for error. If you "quietly" stir in priming solution (avoiding splashing as much as possible), you will get a better result in your carbonation quest. The age old argument is about using corn sugar or Dry Malt Extract. I can tell you that over time I have used both. I have also used honey and cane sugar as well. I'll never use cane sugar again and recommend that you don't either.

I cannot tell a difference between corn sugar and DME primed beers. I know a lot of people tell you that DME gives you better foam with smaller tighter patterned bubbles (although I'm not sure how that is ever measured other than by the naked eye), but I honestly don't see any difference. There is also no taste difference that I can see either. I do know that corn sugar costs a lot less to use for priming, and goes a lot further than DME. So, which should you use???? I say it is up to your preference as the brewer.

For the record, I use corn sugar and I even batch prime kegs rather than force carbonate. I like to give the beer a little more time to mature naturally. Yea, I know, so old school when I could be drinking the beer within hours of kegging if I force carbonated. That's just me. I guess I'm just old and have learned some patience over time. Whatever type of priming that you do, good luck and I hope you have the fine tight bubbles that you as a homebrewer deserve. So, drink them up, refill your glass, and repeat often.

Mark, the Brewer and off to buy some hops later today!!!!
Friday, October 17, 2003
The Evil Empire And Dry Stout Yearnings

Well, here we are at the end of October and those Damn Yankees are in the World Series Again. C'mon American League, can't any of you stand up against the Evil Empire and liberate (libate?) the free world from the clutches of the doom and destruction? Has baseball become a Yankees against everyone else proposition? Why must Darth Steinbrenner continue to dominate world order from his ivory tower in New York? Was it a mind meld that caused the knuckle ball not to knuckle? Was that one pitch in the 11th inning hit with a light saber disguised as a bat? Why couldn't Grady Little take charge and get Pedro out of the game two batters earlier? Did he go to the Dusty Baker school of managing?

It looks like the Evil Empire will again prevail, and that is the worst case scenario for baseball in general. The "game" needs overhauled or small market teams like Pittsburgh (the same name city version, not the midwestern version also known as the Pubs), Kansas City, Milwaukee (though they have plenty of places to drown their sorrows), and others have no chance and become extensions of the minor leagues.

Enough of that rant.....


Irish Dry one of my all time favorite brews. Contrary to the megaswillers thoughts (probably infused into their brains by the other evil empire, megaswill breweries) Dry Stout is actually a light beer. Ever look at a black and tan. Notice that the stout floats on top of the lager. HMMMMMMMM. Anyway, this beer is best know for that wonderful roasty, coffee like bitterness that is imparted by the unmalted roasted barley that certainly must be in the grain bill to have an authentic Irish Dry Stout. This beer can be well bittered with hops, and just about any variety that imparts smooth neutral bittering can be used. Irish Dry Stout has little hop flavor and generally no hop aroma. It should be dominated by the roasty malt and finish smooth and dry. Guiness is the best know commercial example in this country, but other imports such a Murphy's and Beamish should not be overlooked. I personally like Beamish. There are a lot of American Micro's that are great versions and variations of the Stout theme. Don't be afraid to try any of them.

Irish DryStout is usually lower in alcohol than many think as well, often only being 3.5% ABV to 4.2% ABV. It is a brew that is made to quaff in "sessions" (more than one) and you often just can't help yourself. There are other versions of stout out there as well, Engllish Stout which is a sweeter version with less roast, Export Stout, a stronger hoppier version of stout made to withstand travel, and Imperial stout which is an over the top high alcohol version that was favored in the Russian Courts of old (Try Old Rasputen Imperial Stout and you'll know what I mean). Regardless of the type of stout you try, it will be an experience and you'll love it!!!

So, go out and order a stout, drink it up, refill your glass, and repeat often.....

Mark, the Brewer and Stout Drinkin' fool
Thursday, October 16, 2003
No Joy In Mudville.......And Musings on Cask

Wow. What a let down last night at Wrigley Field. The Cubs just couldn't quite get it done. Don't fret Cubs Fans. Your team will be back and with a chip on the shoulder. Hold your heads high and remember that it is quite an accomplishment to get to game seven of the LCS too. I'll bet that this week you spent more time talking to friends and relatives and about baseball and life and had an enjoyable week doing it. Baseball will be back in the spring, but those moments with family and friends you can't ever duplicate. Yea, there won't be a Wrigley World Series, but you probably got way more out of the past week than you can imagine.

Tip of the Day:

Cask Ale.....
When out and about at your favorite craft brew watering hole, seek out cask conditioned ale. Warning: consumption of cask conditioned ale will cause you to have yearnings for more at inopportune times, make you quiver in anticipation of the next sip, make you drive out of your way 100 miles just to get a pint, and generally change how you have ever looked at beer in the past.

Cask ale is ale that is brewed normally, but packaged in a keg, cask, or firkin and then primed with unfermented wort and additional yeast. The beer is allowed to then have another small fermentation in order to carbonate the beer for serving. If you think of it, this is very similar to what you do when you bottle or keg your homebrew, priming with corn sugar and allowing the beer to carbonate naturally.

Cask ale is often served with a device that is called a beer engine. I love that name!! It is a method of drawing the fresh beer out of the cask, keg, or firkin using a vacuum draw. Sometimes it is just left to gravity to pull pints out of a firkin. What is a firkin you ask? It is a type of cask that is generally made of wood and is tapped with a spile or spike. It is often laid on its side and gravity does the rest for serving. It's fun to watch the brewer drive the spile to tap one of these.

Cask ale is always served at "cellar" temperatures which is about 52 to 55 degrees F. Cask ale has a creamy head and texture and all of the wonderful ale aromas and flavors are in play because of the serving temperature and the additional fermentation for carbonating. I love this stuff. I recently had Victory Hop Devil from the Victory Brewing Co. in Philadelphia on cask and couldn't stop drinking it. Well, you do because you have to, but you know what I mean. It was unbelievable and totally different than when you get a cold pint of the same beer at a pub. In fact, most ales are served way too cold in most pubs. Let them warm up some and you'll be pleasantly surprised. Some beer styles that are great on cask include bitter, mild, pale ale (like Hop Devil), IPA, ESB, and porter. Do yourself a favor (although it will ruin you too) and find a pub that serves finely crafted ales on cask. You'll love the beer but hate me for suggesting it because there is always limited availability.

If you find a unique or excellent ale on cask, please E-Mail the brewer at the above link and let me know what you had, how it was, and where you got it!!! I'll post it here on the site so others in your area may partake. I'm always looking for sources of finely cellared cask ales!!!

And when you find a great cask conditioned ale, bottoms up, refill many times, and repeat as much as you can!!!! Just don't hate me in the morning when you realize what a monster I just created with this suggestion.

Mark, the Brewer and always in search of cask conditioned ale served via a beer engine.
Wednesday, October 15, 2003
Oh Those Crazy Cubbies......

Wow.....Can you believe what happened to the Cubs last night!! It looked like game, set, match!! I guess somebody forgot to tell the Marlins. I can't wait for tonight's game. Remember, no goats allowed in the stadium!!!

DunkelWeiss Taste Profile:

Well, no one gave me anything to go on with the Dark Wheat beer taste profile (or a name), but that's OK. I'm thinking it must be pretty close to what it's supposed to be because it tastes awful darn good. The brew has a nice banana and apple nose. The first sip yields the signature wheat sharpness with grainy malt character, but then there are hints of chocolate and honey. The finish is long and dry with just a hint of tartness. It is very drinkable, has good carbonation levels, is well balanced, and has a medium mouth feel. If this is what these are supposed to taste like, then I have been missing out all of these years as this is really the first Dunkel Wheat that I have ever tried. If anyone out there knows any other characteristics that I should look for or am missing in my description, let me know, and let me know if there is any ingredient that should be added as well, and please give me name for this beer. Just E-Mail the brewer at the provided link. I will attempt to get this recipe up on the recipe side as it is pretty good.

New System Brew:

Lord willing, and if the creek don't rise, I hope to have the inaugural new system brew on Sunday, 10/19. There are still some gyrations to go through to make that date, but I think it will all be do-able. Brewing assistants, take note, I'll describe a time later, but I am thinking it will be in the AM hours to start with set up taking place probably Friday night. That's the plan anyway. Wish us all luck!!!

Tip of the Day:

Properly Crushed Grains. It is so important to get your grains properly crushed for both all-grain brewing and for grains you are going to use for steeping or partial mashing. A good crush is the only way to get all of the wonderful goodness out of the grains. What is a good crush you ask? A good question. The proper crush of the grains would be with the husks in tact, cracked open exposing the inner part of the kernel. This is the part that will be enzymatically changed from starch to sugar in base malts, or for kilned malts is already sugar and can be leached from the barley kernel. How do I get a good crush? Wow, we're full of good questions today. The only way to get a professional level crush is with a quality malt mill. These will cost you anywhere from $50 to $500 depending upon your level of brewing insanity. This can be a strong cash outlay for some, so as always in homebrewing, there are alternatives. Most homebrew shops have a mill on premise and will gladly crush or allow you to crush your grains. Often there is a nominal charge of 10 cents a pound or so for this service. This is the best way to assure a professional type crush on your grains in the absence of your own mill. At home, you can place grain in a zip lock bag, and use a rolling pin or beer bottle to roll crush your grains. This will not get you as good a crush as a mill, but for steeping grains this method will get the colors and nominal amounts of flavor that you want. Never crush your grains to the point that they are flour. It is important to maintain the integrity of the husks, specifically for all grain brewing. In all-grain brewing the husk material acts as a filter during the sparge allowing the sweet wort to get out of the grain bed, but keeping little bits and pieces from the grain in the grain bed. Husk material is high in proteins and these can lead to off flavors, stuck fermentations, and stuck sparges (for all grainers). Finally, a good crush means a higher extraction efficiency for all grain brewers. Don't ask me how to measure that efficiency other than with hydrometer readings because it takes carboy calibration, sampling and other thoughts that would clog up my brewday. There is a limit to the level of madness and that is above mine. Remember, think through your process so you will remember to get your grains crushed at purchase and you will have a much better color and flavor extraction. Good luck and happy brewing.

Drink Up, Refill, Repeat.......

Mark, the brewer and someone who has on numerous occasions forgot to get the grains crushed, so he now has his own mill
Tuesday, October 14, 2003
IMH Tap Alert:

The Yinz'er Wheat is done. But.....that means that the DunkelWeiss is up and running. I'm still waiting for some cleverness from the readership to get a name on the board. Is there anyone out there with an imagination??????? anyone out there??????

Quote Of the Day:

Here is a quote from an email that I got today that is really quotable:

"I am quite impressed with the entire site. Consumption and chemistry have never created so much pleasure. You stick to the chemistry and I will do my part in consumption."

This quote comes directly from the "woodman" himself, Mr. Donaldson. I now stand humbled beneath his literary presence and witty banter. Cool!!!!!!

Brewing Tip of the Day:

Planning.....I know, this is not something any of us do well, but can make your brew day go so much better. Be sure to plan your brewing strategy based upon the style your planning to make. Double check your ingredients the night before. It would not be fun to find your missing a key ingredient 30 minutes into the boil. Check equipment for cleanliness and readiness the night before you brew. I hate when I forgot to clean some important equipment thoroughly enough and have to spend 40 minutes cleaning equipment when I should be brewing. Look over your recipe and be sure you are comfortable with process. Think it through and plan enough time to remain in control. If possible, pre-set up equipment and crush grains the night before you brew. This can be very beneficial to all grain brewers as it shortens the brew day. The grains are fine if you keep them in a bucket with a lid and in a nice dry place. Make sure your yeast culture or starter is going to be ready to brew. The bottom line here is, do everything you can the night before your brew day. Double check, write down your thoughts, and be sure you are ready. The 45 minutes to an hour you spend could save you several hours of headaches the next day.

Drink up, Refill, Repeat......And Happy Brewing

Mark, the Brewer who learned the importance of planning the brew day the hard way............

Friday, October 10, 2003
Bavarian Wheat Beer and Other Assorted Ramblings:

Well, the last wheat beer of the season is officially kegged and conditioning. It is a Bavarian Wheat and is the exact recipe that is posted on the recipe page. The Ending Gravity is 1.012 and the ABV is approximately 5.1%. The gravity sample had the nice banana aroma hint and the beer had a nice medium body with the signature wheat character and the nice finish imparted by the Weinhenstephan Yeast culture. When it's ready it will be good, and it will be gone quick (then again, aren't they all gone quick).

The DunkelWeiss is now in the cooler and will be ready to tap when the Yinzer' finishes up, which should be sometime this weekend. This beer will be a taste treat based upon the gravity sample. It is not a form of the bavarian wheat style that I am familiar with so if anyone out there can give me a taste profile to expect, I would love to be able compare it to something. Just E-mail the brewer at the link at the top of the page. I also am searching for a name for this brew to put up on the " On-Tap" board in the bar. Any clever suggestions are welcome and I will post any that I get right here. Just E-mail the brewer at the link provided. Don't be shy!!!! You'll get full credit for your cleverness.

A new Guest Tap Keg was tapped last night as well. The new guest tap is Killian's Irish Red Lager. I don't recall ever seeing a beer style that is Irish Red Lager, but hey, for a mega-swill brewery, it's not that bad of an effort. Now Irish Red Ale is another story. I've never made one but it fits my taste buds profile, long on malt and short on hoppiness with a medium body. I'm open to suggestions so anyone with a good recipe, all grain or extract, feel free to share. Just e-mail the brewer.

On the recipe page is a picture of one of our founders, Ole Parrot Pete himself. This is a classic photo and one that I am going to have framed and put into the bar.

We hope to soon have some more pictures posted. We will be having the inaugural brew on the new 15 gallon all grain system soon and that must be a documented event. I should be able to reclaim my "Brew Room" here very soon from the remodeling contractor.

Has anyone ever seen such a lineup of college football as there is this weekend????? It's almost as good as the New Year's week lineup of bowl games. I'll be watching as many as possible.

Brewing Tip of the Day:

Hops.....those wonderful little flowers that give so many brews such wonderful flavor and aroma. I love a balanced beer the best. Don't get me wrong, I like IPA as much as the next guy, but a well balanced beer is the best of all. Today's tip revolves around the new mega-alpha-acid hop varieties Vs. the classic hop varieties. The new hops are excellent choices with varieties like Columbus and Horizon finding favor with many craft brewers due to their high alpha acid content, low cohumulone content, and versatility. What I want to tell everyone is, don't forget about some of the classic British and German Noble hops. They didn't become classic and noble by accident. These hops have been the backbone of brewing for a couple of centuries now and for good reason. They impart very smooth neutral bittering and have flavor properties that make classic porters and german lagers that we take for granted every day. Varieties like East Kent Goldings, Fuggles, Hallertau, Spalt, Tettnanger, and others will make you classic beers. Don't be afraid to bitter with EKG's or Saaz hops which are considered more for flavor and aroma properties. You might be surprised at the outcome. Yes you have to use more to get your bittering levels where you want them, but when has been using more hops a problem for a homebrewer????? Experiment all you want with the new hop varieties, I do. But remember to also experiment with the old favorites as well. You might be surprised at the outcome. The most important thing is to keep brewing and have fun.

That's all for now. If you visit the site, e-mail with suggestions or improvements. This site is for fun and the advancement of homebrewing on a grass roots level. That means you may participate as much as you like. Have a great weekend. Drink Up, Refill, Repeat often......

Mark, the Brewer and classic hop lover............

Thursday, October 09, 2003
Brewing Tip of the Day:

Sanitize!!!!!!!!!!!! You can clean your equipment until it looks sparkling clean, but it still can have microbial bacteria inside of it just waiting to ruin your wort. Don't let it happen to you!!!!!!!! The single biggest tip I can give any aspiring homebrewer is to be sure to sanitize everything that will come into contact with your wort or beer.

Cleaners clean and that is good, but they do not sanitize. There is a difference by the way between sanitized and sterilized. Sterilization of equipment is impossible. Most plastic equipment won't stand up to the temperatures needed to achieve sterilization. That said, how do you sanitize your equipment?

The best thing I have used to date is Iodophor Solution. Iodophor is tamed Iodine. But isn't Iodine poisonous, you ask? Yes, but not in this form or level of concentration. In this form, it is the same thing that hospitals use to sanitize surgery instruments. It is basically odorless and adds no perceptible flavors to your beer, doesn't need rinsed (though drained and air dry is recommended) and is very easy to use. The best part is that it is inexpensive with a liter costing between $9 and $14 depending on where you buy it. That is enough for 330 gallons of solution at working strength. You know it is working as it maintains an amber hue while it is active. It can be re-used as long as the amber color is present. When it clears, it is no longer active, just dump it out. It won't harm your pipes or the environment. It is a great alternative to virtually everything else, especially bleach. Bleach will work, but has odor and taste detriments to your beer. I would stay away from it at all costs.

Remember, Iodophor is not a cleaner. Equipment should be clean to the eye before using Iodophor to sanitize. Good luck and happy brewing!!

Remember, bottoms up, refill, repeat!!!!!

Mark, the Brewer, and keeping it clean and germ free........
Wednesday, October 08, 2003
Kegging and Buying Kegs

It will be a fun night as I get to watch youth soccer, go to Save On Beer to purchase another commercial keg, and then keg the batch of Bavarian Wheat Beer (Hefe's Wheezin'). Should be fun and interesting as always.

I also plan to get the DunkelWeiss set up in the cooler this evening to begin chilling this fine brew. It is going to be a banner long weekend coming up. Can't wait. I am open to suggestions for the name of the dark wheat. Click the Email the brewer link if you have any. Thanks.

Until next time, bottoms up, refill, repeat..........

Mark the brewer, who loves shopping in beer distributors with warehouses!!!!!!!!
The World According to IM Hammered

This was submitted by Mark Prodan, a good friend of the IMH family and it is so true. Enjoy:

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar........and the beer.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous "yes."

The professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

"Now," said the professor, as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things-your family, your children, your health, your friends, your favorite passions-things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, and your car. The sand is everything else-the small stuff. If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.

The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. So pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house, and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented.

The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of beers."

Brewing Tip of the Day:

Starting a siphon!! This is one of the most thankless and mindless things that you do as a brewer, but is something that you will do a jillion times if you intend to participate in this hobby.

The first thing I would say about siphoning is to be sure your hose and racking cane are as clean and sanitary as possible. I know I harp on the sanitary thing, but it is probably the single most important aspect of brewing and the easiest to let slide. Don't do it!!! Once you are ready I fill the hose with cool tap water. With the racking cane already placed in the carboy or bucket, I then put one end onto the racking cane curved side, and put my clean thumb over the the other end. Put that end as close to the mouth of the receiving vessel as is practical. Take your clean thumb away and put the end of the hose into the container. The little bit of water (only a couple of ounces) will create the vacuum needed to start the siphon and the beer will begin to flow for the transfer. Obviously the racking cane must be held in place with a clip or your hand as you do this to keep it stationary. As the liquid gets low in the transfer out vessel, don't be afraid to carefully tilt that vessel to get every viable drop!! After you have done this a couple of times, it will be second nature. The small amount of water involved from your tap won't contaminate your beer as there would be plenty of alcohol present and the PH would be wrong for any bacteria to grow.

You will find this method quick, painless, and eventually easy to do. Give it a try and good luck!!

Remember, drink up, refill, repeat........

Mark the brewer who is getting ready to start siphon number 2037..........
Tuesday, October 07, 2003
Brewing Tip of the Day:

Plastic or Glass?????? The age old question at large. Well, I say, for primary fermentations that last only 5 to 7 days that it doesn't matter that much. Plastic is very easy to handle and use, is light weight, and easier to clean up. Two things are important here.
1. Plastic can scratch and harbor bacteria, be very careful when cleaning and retire discolored or scratched pails to cleaning or grain duty.
2. Transfer to glass secondary after primary fermentation has subsided on beers that need that time to clear and mature.
To keep your fermenting beer in a plastic pail during primary fermentation is fine, but after about 10 days, air will begin to permeate the plastic as it is not air tight like glass. This will promote staling of the beer giving it a shorter shelf life (known as oxidation). Also, You shouldn't keep the beer in contact with trub for more than 14 days anyway. Wheat beers for example, could be directly kegged or bottled in 10 days and really don't require a secondary maturing for clearing of the yeast. They ferment quickly and stay cloudy. Other ales need that extra time to complete fermentation of the last few gravity points and time to effectively clear in secondary. Use your experience and gut feel. You'll probably be close enough to right and the fermented beverage will generally always taste like something similar to beer at worst!
Finally, be sure to thoroughly clean and sanitize your equipment before committing your beer to it whether using plastic or glass. Happy Fermenting!!!!!

Remember, drink up, refill, repeat!!

Mark, the brewer and user of both plastic and glass.........
Friday, October 03, 2003
Mountaineers Come Oh So Close!!!!!

Why on 4th and 14 to go, do you blitz when you haven't laid a glove on their QB all night?????? We may never know the answer to that question, though it almost worked and only a circus catch by Winslow saved the day for the hated 'Canes. I'm proud of my guys and as always will continue to support them through thick and thin. Let's Gooooooo, Mountaineers!!!!!! Some cold Yuengling Traditional Lager kept me company during that painful ending anyway.

I hope to be assembling all grain equipment today and tonight. We'll see where we are and will try to schedule the inaugural system brew as soon as schedules allow. Liz has the ESPN gig this weekend so I got the kids and the contractors working on my bathroom have the garage loaded up with stuff. We'll see where we are at the end of today.

It's a hectic day today and a hectic weekend. I hope everyone has a great one. IF we brew, you'll all be the first to know.

Cheers, Bottoms Up, Refill, Repeat..........

Mark, the Brewer
Thursday, October 02, 2003
Did a little updating to the site. Check out the links section. Here we will list links to a few good web sites...Check out the HomeBrew forum. a great place to talk with other home brewers. Time for a beer I hear the Angry Dog calling.....
-Michael, Geek
The Return of Angry Dog Amber!!!!!
The Pale Ale finally gave up the ghost and it was a sad moment, albeit a very brief one. Because the expiration of the pale ale keg meant the restoration of an IMH Brewing Staple. The Angry Dog Amber ESB!!! Those present last night were not disappointed by any means. The "Dog" starts with a nice floral hop nose from a late addition of Willamette hops. This brew starts with a big malt profile followed by smooth bitterness from a hefty dose of Tettnang and Willamette hops at the beginning of the boil. The brew finishes smooth and dry with a hint of a floral hop flavor. The beer is clean throughout and has great balance. OK, I like it, but can ya blame me?????? For those uninitiated, this is a clone recipe of one of my all time favorite craft beers, Red Hook ESB. I first drank Red Hook on a trip to Seattle over 10 years ago. My local Seattle buddy, Bugsy, took me to the old brewery. I was enchanted by the old neighborhood and the old brick building, but even more enchanted by the beers that they made inside. We got there for a tour at about 2:00pm and they told us we didn't have to go home, but we couldn't stay there any longer around midnight that night. After the tasting room, we went into their on premise pub and stayed till they threw us out. I would have slept there on a cot. Anyway, The "Dog" has a pretty nice resemblance to the original and always takes me down memory lane to that beautiful August summer day. If you ever get to Seattle, I highly recommend a stop there, and at the Pyramid Brewery. You'll be glad you went to both.
Anyway, the "Dog" is terrific as always and weighs in at 5.4% ABV. Not for the faint of heart, but be careful as the "Dog", like Red Hook ESB, is so deliciously drinkable, that you might find yourself speaking in tongues after a few of them. I will be posting the recipe on the recipe page, so if you brew, and you take a look at this recipe, please do yourself a favor and brew it.
All this talk about the "Dog" is making me thirsty. I can't wait to get another one when I get home!!!!

Mark, The Brewer and a Big Fan of Red Hook ESB
Wednesday, October 01, 2003
The Rest Of The Hardware Is Here!!!!!
That's right!!!! The box from Beer, Beer, and More Beer came last night with the rest of the fittings and the food grade silicone tubing, which by the way is heat resistant up to 500 degrees F. Yes, you can boil it!!! The system is about to be up and running and will soon be making it's first batch.

Buying Supplies on the Web:
I always make an effort to support my local homebrew shop or shops and I buy a lot of items there, specifically ingredients such as extract, specialty grains, fresh yeast, and hops. These items are fresh, available, and ready to use. I will always urge new brewers to support their local shops as much as possible. The people who run your local shops are dedicated folks who love the beer and winemaking hobbies and are dedicating their personal businesses to them. They are well informed, generally accomplished brewers and winemakers, and love to talk about brewing/winemaking. They are willing to talk with you about your process and to give you tips to help you make the best beer and wine you possibly can. Everyone wishes that their job was also their hobby and I envy those who take that chance. I can't say enough good things about the dedicated homebrew shop owners in any town you may live in. They are part of the grass roots movement that makes our hobby so much fun. Please support those folks that bring the hobby to your community.

That being said, I also buy items over the internet from larger homebrewing warehouse vendors. I specifically buy brewing equipment, sanitizers (bulk), yeast, and hardware. Here is my short list of the best of the web and what you can get there:

1. Beer, Beer, and More Beer: This company is located in California and is known for it's inovative hardware and design. If you are in the market for a pre-assembled brewing sculpture, those hard to find fittings for a system you are fashioning, hardware to set up a draft system, or any brewing project, this is the place to call. If they don't have it, tell them what you need and they can probably make it. It is also a good source for base grains in bulk and bulk extracts. I have never used any of the recipe kits so I am not qualified to comment on those. When I look at their catalogue, I want one of everything!!! This place is the all grain brewers mecca.

2. Midwest Supplies. They are located in Minneapolis and also have a large selection of equipment. Begginers can use their extract with specialty grain kits to make outstanding beer right out of the gate. Their beginning equipment kits take you into two stage fermentation very quickly and start you out on the right foot. They also provide new brewers with a step by step video, free with your order that really can take the guess work out of brewing for a beginner. It's a little hokey when you watch it, but you get the gist of what they are doing pretty quickly.

3. Northern Brewer. Located in St. Paul, MN (MN is a hotbed for homebrewing and craft brewing) has wyeast products freshly cultured, and very inexpensively priced. They also stock a wide variety of grains including some very hard to find items.

4. St. Patricks of Texas. Another good source for supplies. They carry a wide variety of equipment though they now tilt more toward winemaking than beer. The bulk prices on cleaners and sanitizers is the best I've seen. They are also a source for ball lock kegs. Unfortunately, they have discontinued all of the brewing ingredients and kits.

5. Sabco. Located in Toledo, Ohio, they will select and fashion half barrel kegs into kettles or mash tuns for you at very reasonable prices. They also have custom outdoor burners and some of the cleanest ball lock kegs you'll ever see. You might find kegs cheaper elsewhere, but you won't find better quality kegs that come to you completely rebuilt and ready to sanitize and fill with no dents or labels.

Here in the Steel City, there are three local homebrewing shops that are owned and run by very unique folks.
1. Country Wines -- Located in the North Hills
2. South Hills Homebrewing -- Located in the South Hills (duh)
3. Triangle Homebrewing -- Located on the edge of the strip district in the city.
If you live here, seek out these folks, they are knowledgeable, friendly, and have what you need to make great beer.

Until next time, bottoms up, refill, repeat!!!!!!!

Mark, the Brewer and internet shopper extraordinaire.....

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