Category Archives: How To

UPDATE: Adding a relay to your temperature controller…

updateIt was brought to my attention by a reader of Hoptomology that it would be wise to add a relay to my temperature controller build. The reason being it will render the contacts on the controller safer and extend their life. They are only rated for 10 amps and a refrigerator or freezer may draw more than that for a split second when it kicks on. Up until this point I haven’t had any issues, but it never hurts to go the extra mile when it comes to wiring and electricity. Safety should always be your first priority!

Another thing that should always be observed when using electricity with liquids nearby, is plugging the unit into a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) receptacle instead of a normal one. This way you have added protection for yourself should you accidentally come into contact with your beer or sanitizer etc. and then touch the controls. Any short circuit due to the moisture will trip the GFCI and save you from a nasty shock. I tried installing a GFCI in the actual controller box, but found that it tripped the circuit quite often when it turned on, leaving my precious beer and yeast to warm up until I was able to notice. Instead, just plug the unit into a wall outlet with a GFCI, and you’re set. (Thanks for your input Henry!)

relayI bought the relay (Part # PB321-ND) and relay socket (Part # PB642-ND) from DIGIKEY. socketIt cost me about $31 shipped to my door. I’m sure you could find somewhere else cheaper, like a local electronics store, but I’m guessing the connections may vary slightly. I thought I’d stick with what I know and get the parts that were suggested by Henry.

Here is the updated wiring diagram with the relay added into the circuit.

TEMPERATURE-CONTROLLER-WIRI

Good Luck!

Cheers!

 

Bringing Union Jack IPA to Canada; comparing my version to the original…

Uinion Jack IPA

Kicking back over a recent weekend, I found a good time to sit down and compare my Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA with the original.

I had tasted my version before this and really liked it, but had no idea how it would stack up to the real thing. Turns out, they were both excellent IPA’s, but there were some definite differences…

Appearance

  • colour was slightly darker in my version
  • foam stability was about the same

Malt & Body

  • malt character was more complex and richer in the original
  • body was slightly more full in the original

Hops

  • This is where I noticed the biggest difference. The h0p aroma was more present in mine due to freshness, but it had an entirely different character than the original. Mine had a very dominant ‘rose’ character to it, something I had never experienced in a beer before.  I did read an article in Zymurgy recently that discussed how the finished aroma of dry hopping can be incredibly different depending on how much yeast is present in the beer. There are numerous bio-reactions that happen that convert and change the myriad molecules involved in hop aroma. I was in a bit of a rush to get this one kegged to see whether or not it was worthy of a NHC submission, so I did something I had never done before. Continue reading

Brewing a west coast classic: Firestone Walker’s Union Jack I.P.A….

Union Jack IPA Firestone Walker is not a name you hear too often up here in Toronto. We kind of live behind an iron curtain of sorts when it comes to the amazing selection of craft beers in the United States.

As my interest in the American craft beer scene deepens, I’ve been hearing more and more about them. It seems like they have something very special going on out there in Paso Robles, California. For starters, they are the only brewery in North America that uses a “Burton Union” style fermentation system, aptly titled the “Firestone Union“.

Of their many award winning beers, one has become a classic example of the west coast style IPA, Union Jack IPA. I’ve been reading Mitch Steele’s IPA book and For The Love of Hops by Stan Hieronymus recently, which has got me very inspired to brew some heavily hopped beers. Lucky for us, in both books, the brewers at Firestone Walker have been kind enough to let us in on how they make it.

First, let’s hear what Firestone Walker’s Brewmaster, Matt Brynildson, has to say about Union Jack IPA:

What I found most interesting about this recipe was Continue reading

So how did our Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout Clone turn out?

Samuel Smith'sWell, the temperature has definitely dropped here in Toronto, and winter has  arrived after much delay. At this time of year, a look in my beer cellar has me seeking out the darker side of the spectrum. In particular, a nice dark stout. That would do the trick nicely to warm up my cold bones. Just so happens I have the Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout clone myself and fellow homebrewers David Thompson and Peter Caira brewed back in November.

Question is, is it any good?

As you will recall from the original post, we tried out WhiteLabs’ Platinum Series Yorkshire Square yeast which we had hoped would bring out a complex yeast character reminiscent of Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout. We also attempted to mimic the water from North Yorkshire (or at least our best estimate of it’s make up) with generous amount of chalk and gypsum.

Tasting Results

This time around you won’t have to just rely on my opinion, Peter & David, both avid, award winning homebrewers in their own right, have given us their opinion on our collaboration brew.

Hoptomology:

Straight out of the gate it was evident that there was a massive yeast/chalky character. To me it was pretty overwhelming. My guess it’s from the water additions that we added to the boil and the unique character of the Yorkshire Square yeast. The original has a very subdued yeast presence compared to ours. There are so many factors affecting fermentation, that it would be incredibly difficult to get it exactly as Samuel Smith’s does; open fermentation in slate tubs, pitching rate, oxygenation rate, temperatures, etc. The reason I’m citing this is because yeast performance and the resulting flavour characteristics are dependent on these factors. Perhaps we aerated the wort too much, which brought out a greater amount of esters? Over pitched? Underpitched?
Another thing I noticed is that it’s not as full tasting as the original, and it lacks the rich, chocolatey flavour. There is a touch behind the chalky/yeast character, but it pales in comparison to Samuel Smith’s. I thought for sure with all those oats and minerals in the water that it would have a much bigger mouthfeel, but it doesn’t. Then again, we did mash low at 150F. Next time I’d like to mash higher and see how much it changes things. The head didn’t last as long as I’d hoped for either.
 
David Thompson:
 
I have found that the estery quality has subdued a bit; gone is the initial slight banana notes, but has developed into a pleasant fruityness.  It’s nice drinker for sure, but misses the rich chocolately notes of the real deal.  Not sure how to quite account for that; use some brown malt or pale chocolate?  Either way it’s fine beer.

Peter Caira:

Everyone who’s tried it says something like “this is mild for a stout / I could drink that all day” and in one case, a well-informed friend of mine asked if it was a schwarzbier! When I let a pint warm up a bit I get some faint notes of raisin or fig but very subdued.  Roastiness is also in the background there but again, very subdued.  Mouthfeel is nice – I like the level of carbonation and the oatmeal certainly smooths things out.  Aroma is mostly roast/nut quality but again, subdued.

Conclusion:

All in all I’d like to try this one again. I’d omit the water additions, bump up the mash temperature, and try a more standard yeast like White Labs 002 – English Ale. Perhaps I’m being a bit too harsh on my assessment of this beer, as David & Peter enjoyed it. Although I thought we had made an honorable attempt at cloning Samuel Smith’s Original based on what we knew, I don’t think we succeeded this time around.

Cheers!

Brewing up a Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout…

As the cold sets in, many of us turn to enjoying beers on the darker side of the spectrum. Somehow they make us feel warmer and more nourished in preparation for the long winter ahead. The list of them is long, but one of my personal favourites is from Samuel Smith’s Old Tadcaster Brewery in North Yorkshire, England. Of their long list of stellar beers, their Oatmeal Stout has become a leading example of the style.

The History:

Oats have been used in brewing throughout history. It’s a widely available grain, and is often regarded for it’s health benefiting qualities. In the late 1800′s, Oatmeal Stout gained in popularity for this very reason, but by the 1950′s, the style had all but died out.

Then in 1977, renowned beer writer Michael Jackson released “The World Guide to Beer“. The book would re-ignite people’s interest in many forgotten, or at least, unfamiliar styles. Charles Finkel, founder of Merchant du Vin, took notice of the now defunct Eldrige Pope “Oat Malt Stout” and commissioned Samuel Smith to brew a version of the beer. It has since become the template for most modern versions of Oatmeal Stout. Continue reading