Tag Archives: homebrew

2012 Learn 2 Brew Day hosted by Amsterdam Brewery…

The home brewing community has always been big on encouraging and supporting up and coming brewers. Learn 2 Brew Day is a testament to this spirit. Started in 1999 by the American Homebrew Association, it is an event held around the world to encourage people to come out and learn how to brew their own beer. Seasoned veterans and newbie’s alike, it’s a place to share ideas and to be inspired by new ones. Everybody brews just a little different, so there’s always something to see.

The 2012 Toronto Learn 2 Brew Event was hosted by Amsterdam Brewing at their new brewery location in Leaside. The folks at Amsterdam have always been huge supporters of the local homebrewing scene in Toronto. We sincerely thank them for being so generous with their time and their space. The new brewery looks fantastic and we look forward to many more years of great beer from Amsterdam!

About 10 homebrewers showed up bright and early on saturday morning, cars full of gear and gadgets, with apprentices in tow. Everything from a ‘3 tier gravity system’, to a fully automated ‘R.I.M.S system’, to a ‘brew in a bag system (B.I.A.B)‘ complete with a pully system to haul the spent grain out of the brewpot. There was a porter, an IPA, an ESB, a Hefeweizen and many other styles to watch as they came into being.

The atmosphere is very Continue reading

Introduction to kegging Part 1: Ball Lock and Pin Lock kegs

At some point in time, if you’re serious about brewing your own beer, you’re going to probably want to invest in some kegs. Using kegs has many advantages. First, it is much quicker to carbonate your beer using forced carbonation from a CO2 tank, and easier to control. Secondly, and probably the biggest reason that home brewers use kegs, is it eliminates the need to clean, sanitize, fill & cap all those bottles. I still prefer having my beers in bottles even though it’s more work. Having my beer in bottles actually curbs my consumption, as I don’t perpetually keep filling my glass from the tap, but it’s the control and speed of carbonation that really sells me on using kegs.  They are also great vessels to lager your beers in as it’s much safer and easier to move around a stainless steel keg than a glass carboy.

KEG SIZES

There are various sizes and styles of kegs in existence, all which come with various types of connections. The kind that is most commonly used by home brewers is the 5 gallon soda keg, or “Corny” (Cornelius) keg. In the days before the “Bag-in-Box” system was used for dispensing soda pop, both Pepsi-Cola and Coca-Cola had kegs designed for dispensing their products. The basic design is similar, both are made from stainless steel, but the connection type for each is different. Pepsi- Cola manufactured them with a ‘ball lock’ connection, and Coca-Cola used a ‘pin lock’ connection. There are literally hundreds of thousands of these kegs floating around, which is great for us!

CONNECTION TYPE

Here’s a view of the connection posts for each:

PIN LOCK

BALL LOCK

 

 

 

 

 

Which style you chose may have more to do with what’s available to you than anything else. I have a mix of each style and both work fine. Having said that, the ball lock kegs have a manual pressure relief valve that you can use to vent excess pressure before bottling or dispensing, which is very handy. With pin lock kegs, you need to depress the poppet on the gas side to release pressure, which if you’re not careful and on top of your sanitation, could introduce the potential for contamination. It can also be a bit messy sometimes since the ‘gas in’ and ‘beer out’ connections aren’t always clearly marked, you just have to know that 2 pins are the ‘gas in’ and 3 pins are the ‘beer out’. I’ve sometimes chosen the wrong one and soaked myself with beer!!!

SOURCING KEGS

Do a random search on the internet for ‘5 gallon kegs‘ and you’ll find a multitude of options. You can usually find used kegs anywhere from $20-$70 depending on where you get them. Sometimes you’re in the right spot at the right time and somebody’s offloading a bunch for next to nothing. Otherwise, you may need to buy them from a home brew supply store. Try and find ones that have been pressure tested, cleaned, and have new O-rings if possible to start. It just gives you one less thing to worry about. Old O-rings will be embedded with soda residue and smells that just don’t come out, so it’s easier just to replace them. I’ve personally bought great kegs and replacement parts from Patrick at Ontario Beer Kegs here in Ontario. I’ve also bought from Keg Connection in the States. Don’t forget to check Craig’s List and Kijiji every once in a while as they do show up from time to time!

Once you familiarize yourself with kegging, you can learn how to disassemble your kegs and replace the O-rings, which is something I’ll explain in a future post.

Cheers!

Upcoming Posts:

  • Introduction to Kegging Part 2: What you’ll need
  • Introduction to Kegging Part 3: Cleaning and reassembling your kegs
  • Introduction to Kegging Part 4: Carbonating your beer
  • Introduction to Kegging Part 5: Bottling with the Blichmann Beer Gun

The Pilsner Urquell Showdown: Decoction vs. Single Infusion… was it worth it?

Standing over my temperature controlled chest freezer, looking down at my 2 kegs of fully carbonated Bohemian Pilsner, is a very pleasant sight indeed. I used the exact same recipe and maintained the same fermentation schedule for both a single infusion and a decoction version to see what differences could be had. (See original post: Pilsner Urquell: Decoction mash or Single Infusion?) It’s been a long time in the making. Two separate brew days, with the decoction taking me a whopping 11.5 hours (!), 14 days in primary, and another 40 days of lagering. The fact that it is ready to bottle this week, lines up perfectly with us being at the height of summer.

So was it worth it?

Continue reading

Enjoying a Belgian style Witbier in the heat of summer…

It’s been scorching here in Toronto this summer, with temperatures reaching as high as 42°C/108°F in the shade one day! As a result, the Belgian Style Witbier I brewed a few weeks back is finding a very happy home in my pint glass. Don’t get me wrong, the heat is great, my garden is loving it and growing like crazy. Downside is, our central air conditioner is broken, and hot, uncomfortable nights don’t always make for restful sleeping. No A/C also means my Belgian Witbier was fermenting in the 73-75°F range, with it hitting 77°F one day!

The Yeast

Belgian yeast strains can usually handle, if not enjoy, higher fermentation temperatures. Stan Hieronymus describes many fermentation schedules for wheat beers in his book, “Brewing with Wheat” being in the 73°F range, so I was hopeful that things would still work out.

Man, did they really work out.

The White Labs – Belgian Wit (#WLP-400) yeast I used in this beer is rocking the classic fragrance that is such a signature in Belgian witbiers. Unlike some German wheat beers that can be heavy on the banana or clove, it’s very balanced. Primary fermentation was quite slow, taking a full 2 weeks for the krausen to finally drop. I did some research on White Labs’ site after noticing that it was taking its time, and many others noted the same thing. The consensus was to just sit tight and be patient, as it would be worth the wait. Worth the wait it was. Continue reading

Brewing a Belgian Style Witbier using an adjunct mash…

With the onset of summer and the occasional 40°C weather up here in Toronto, it’s about time I get a nice cold keg filled with a summertime favourite: a Belgian Witbier. There’s nothing like the refreshing taste of that orange infused bubbly goodness on a hot summer day.

Witbiers normally contain a large amount of unmalted wheat, either raw or flaked. When using such a large amount, it’s a good idea to give your mash a short protein rest around 122F to help loosen things up. I’ve just finished reading Randy Mosher’s book “Radical Brewing: Recipes, Tales and World-Altering Meditations in a Glass” in which he talks about “white beer” as being one of his favourite styles. He also talks about how it can be a difficult beer to brew well and offers some insight from his trials and errors. He suggests an American style “adjunct mash” (or a ‘double mash’ as it’s called in Dave Miller’s Homebrewing Guide) as the best way to get that real creamy, lubricious body that is a famous characteristic of good witbiers. After researching some historical brewing texts, he claims that this was similar to how some brewers would have made these greatly varied beers in the past in order to deal with the large amount of raw wheat in the grist.

The recipe I chose uses the following grains: Continue reading