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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

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

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