Category Archives: Equipment

Building a copper manifold for your mash/lauter tun…

When making the transition from extract brewing to all grain brewing, the main piece of equipment that is usually missing from a home brewers arsenal is a mash tun. If you’re already brewing from extract, chances are, you probably have most of the other equipment you need. Converting a basic 5 or 10 gallon beverage cooler to use as a mash/lauter tun is the easiest and most economical way to make this transition.

A mash tun is what you use to infuse your crushed grain with water and allow the various enzymes to go to work at breaking down the starches in the malt into fermentable and non-fermentable sugars. Thing is, once you get the those enzymes to work and they’ve done their jobs, how do you separate the liquid from the grain? Well, there are a few different options; one is to use a false bottom, which is essentially a screen that sits on the bottom of the cooler and creates a pocket where the liquid wort can collect without allowing any of the grain in. You can then have a dip tube tap inside that area which will then connect to your ball valve where you can drain the wort off. Another way is to use a type of “Bazooka Screen” which is essentially a mesh tube that filters the husks and other matter, allowing the wort to pass through. I’ve seen people make them out of the stainless steel braiding that comes on the outside of a standard faucet supply hose. I’m a little suspicious of this approach because it sounds like it could collapse pretty easily under the weight of the grains, but perhaps you could insert some kind of wire to help prevent that. Yet another way, is to Continue reading

King James Special Bitter

As a big fan of Pale Ales, I was very happy to brew this beer.
My brewing partner Eric happened upon Propeller Brewing Company’s Extra Special Bitter a few weeks ago and fell in love with it.
He suggested our next brewing session should be that of a traditional English Special Bitter. No problem here!

We turned to one of my favourite brewing books, Brewing Classic Styles: 80 Winning Recipes Anyone Can Brew by Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer, so we could base our recipe on a traditional version of the style. It’s a fantastic book to reference award-winning recipes for every style listed in the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) style guideline. We had to tweak a few ingredients to suit what we had in stock, so we weren’t 100% true to the style, but the results were nonetheless delicious.

We recently switched to brewing outside now that we’ve got our propane burner set up and working properly. The regulator that originally came with our turkey fryer did nothing but burn bright orange and cover our pot, and everything that touched it, in black soot. My good buddy James stepped up to the plate, and drawing upon his experience in the propane industry, built us a wicked regulator that burns like no tomorrow. This alone cut at least an hour off of our brew day. Now it’s time to step things up to 10 gallons!

Since James’ birthday was coming up, Eric & I thought it a good idea to honour him with the first beer we brewed with the new regulator, aptly titled, “King James Special Bitter”. I wasn’t sure if he was going to like this type of beer, but after repeated requests for another bottle, I think he did.

The label design is courtesy of “The Beer Labelizer”, which I just cutout and glued on with a standard glue stick.

Here’s a small video of the name coming into existence:

Download the recipe here:

King James Special Bitter – All Grain

King James Special Bitter – Extract




My Bachelor Party Invades the Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery

As any guy who’s about to go down the aisle with the love of his life should do, my buddies and I put together a bachelor party weekend of good times and good beer. We started the day off with some self-inflicted bruises during a few rounds of paintball in 30 degree weather and full sun. Running around with full length hoodies and pants, it proved to be pretty brutal, but all in all it was a great time and quite a laugh. After surviving multiple attacks, the thing we were most looking forward to was getting our hands on some good beer. Having chosen Barrie to experience all this, there is no better place to find outstanding beer than at The Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery in downtown Barrie.

I was first turned on to their Hoptical Illusion at the Toronto Festival of Beer last year and fell immediately in love with its extremely smooth hop flavour, something I don’t always find in other beers. I was hooked. Previously, I had been in contact with one of the owners, Andrea Chiodo, wife of brewer Peter, for an unrelated matter. From the start, she was open and friendly and shares an incredible enthusiasm for her brewery and the people who are a part of it. You can see it in her designs and the great packaging that the Flying Monkeys brand is known for. This brewery is just plain fun. So when it came time to think of where to visit for my bachelor party, well, there was only one logical choice.

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Brewing with the brewmaster at Black Creek Historic Brewery…

I’ve always been intrigued by history. How people lived, evolved, and created things that we now take for granted. Life must have been gruelling and much tougher compared to our electrified, air-conditioned, mass consuming lifestyles of the 21st century. In the northwest corner of the Greater Toronto Area is Black Creek Pioneer Village. A settlement that dates back to the early 1800’s. Life was much slower and more dependent on animals to for usable energy, and running water to power mills to grind grain. It was a time when all the technical inventions we have enjoyed over the last century just didn’t exist yet.

Black Creek Historic Village has recreated an 1860’s type brewery on the premises to help educate us on what life was like back then. I’ve had the pleasure of sampling their wonderful Porter and Pale Ale (some of my personal favourites) from the LCBO, which is what re-sparked my interest in the village.The beers that are found at the LCBO aren’t actually brewed at the historic brewery itself as it would be impossible to supply the demand as well as meet the strict quality control standards of the LCBO. Trafalger Brewing Co. company in Oakville and Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery in Barrie are contracted to produce the beers according to the same recipes Ed uses at the historic brewery. Black Creek offers tours on the weekends that take you through the social and historical implications of brewing in the early 19th century as well as a working mill and the cooperage. As a special addition, you can sign up to ‘apprentice’ for a day with the brewmaster, where you get to wear ‘historically appropriate’ attire, and learn the process of brewing beer in the 1800’s. Continue reading

How to filter your beer using a plate filter…

There’s no doubt that part of the overall pleasure experience of drinking a beer is looking into the glass and seeing that sparkling quality that we’ve been conditioned to value. It’s a quality that denotes refinement and professionalism. It’s pursuit in brewing is an entirely esthetic one, but one that increases the sense of pride that comes with brewing your own beer.

Filtering is obviously more suited to beers on the lower end of the SRM scale, because who in the world can see through a glass of stout anyways? When it comes to clearing your beer, you have a few different choices: you can use finings such as isinglass or gelatin, you can lager (or store) your beer at just above freezing for a few weeks to a few months to allow yeast and particles to precipitate out, or you can take a short cut and filter it using either a cartridge-type or plate style filter. I have a plate filter and this is what I’m going to show you in this post.

I have to admit, I was very hesitant to use a filter to clarify our beer. I had hoped we could approach things from a more natural process, and because I had concerns that we might end up stripping out some vital components of the beer. Since taking the chance, upon the urging of my fellow brewer Eric, I don’t know if I could ever not filter our beer, unless of course the style calls for it like in the case of a Kellerbier or a Witbier.

When you decide to use a filter, it also makes the process of brewing a little more flexible, because after I’ve lagered a batch for 2-3 weeks in my cold cellar, and after everything has nicely dropped out of suspension, what’s going to happen when I have to move it for racking if I don’t already have it in the correct spot? Yep, I’m going to bang it and knock it and kick up all that sediment back into the beer. But let’s be honest, unless the style of beer you are brewing requires it, the last thing I want to do is wait another 2-3 weeks before I can drink my beer. If I want to endure the slow process of aging something, I’ll leave that for when I make my wines.  I understand that when brewing lager beers, part of the process and part of their charm come from the long aging times, or like in the case of IPA’s, where the aging process helps to balance out the higher hopping levels and gives the beer time to develop more of a complexity. However, when brewing most ales, they do not need the same aging times and are usually better when consumed within a shorter period. When it comes to racking, you can also be a little less worried about sucking up any trub and debris from the bottom because you’re going to filter it out anyways! I’m sure there are some traditionalists out there that will debate me on this, and that’s fine,  but it’s just too damn appealing to me to look through a crystal clear glass of home-brewed beer when it’s all said and done.

Regardless of what you do to clear your beer in the finishing stages, good brewing practices have shown us that there some things you can do along the way to produce clear beer:

  • keep a strong, rolling boil for a full 60 minutes, ensuring a good hot break
  • use kettle finings such as irish moss or Whirlfloc tablets at 15 minutes left in the boil to coagulate particles formed from the hot break as well as other proteins
  • when you’ve finished your boil, create a strong whirlpool by stirring the wort (making sure not to splash it around!) and allowing it to settle for 15 – 30 minutes before racking to your fermenter
  • cool the wort using an immersion chiller or by running it through a counterflow chiller as quickly as possible to form a solid cold break

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