Sunday, September 24, 2006

Chocolate malt update plus hydrometer revelation

First, I tried to take a gravity reading of the malt syrup we used to make chocolate malts, but it was apparently too strong for the hydrometer. I would guess the gravity was somewhere around 1190, but that's assuming a linear relationship between the graded part of the hydrometer and where the hydrometer was actually floating (sorry if that didn't make any sense).

Also, while trying to take the reading I discovered that our hydrometer is calibrated to 60°F, not 68°F, which, combined with the fact that our hydrometer is off 3 gravity points, could explain why we're always low on our target gravity. The lesson? Don't assume your hydrometer is calibrated to 68°F!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A post about ice cream... and beer, of course

About a year ago Leah and I were brewing and we had some leftover dry malt extract. That evening we went to Lindy's Chili & Gertie's Ice Cream, where Leah got a chocolate malt. Suddenly I had an idea... what if we made a chocolate malt using the dried malt extract? We tried it, and it was delicious! But then I had a better idea... what if we took a little bit of wort from our beer (before adding the hops, naturally) and reduced it to a syrup to use to make a chocolate malt? My dream is to one day own a brewpub, and I think it would be cool to sell malts made from the wort of specific beers (e.g. Weizenbock Chocolate Malt; Saison Strawberry Malt, etc.).

So, you probably know where I'm going with this. Last week, after Leah and Marta brewed our weizenbock, I stole a couple cups of wort and threw it in our fridge. Tonight I ran out to the store, picked up some vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup, and busted out the wort. Here's what I did:

1. I poured the wort into a sauce pan and reduced it to 50% volume (not sure what the gravity is, but I have some left so I might take a measurement later).
2. I added 1/4 cup of the wort/malt to three scoops of ice cream plus a little milk and chocolate syrup.
3. I blended it.

It was awesome. I'd really encourage other brewers to try it. Oh, and if any brewpub owners are reading this and decide to steal the idea for their place, that's cool. I only ask that I get a free malt as a thank-you (you can email me at rchibe [@t] gmail [d0t] com). Anyway, just wanted to get this down (specifically the amount of wort used) for future reference before I forget.

In other news, I heard back from the Schooner people and it turns out that, unlike last year, our Best Of Show recipe will not be brewed at a brewpub. I'm kind of bummed, especially since I already called our friends in Wisconsin and told them that it would be brewed up there, but the bottom line is it's still awesome to win Best Of Show, and any prizes are just icing on the cake.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

OKTOBERFEST next Saturday!

Not that anybody really reads this, but just in case they do and the reader happens to reside in or near Chicago, GO TO THE HOPS! OKTOBERFEST. It's Saturday, Sept. 30th from 3-8pm. $25, all you can eat and drink. How can you beat that? For more info click here.

Monday, September 18, 2006


So, I try not to brag, but I can't help myself... LEAH AND I WON BEST OF SHOW AT THE SCHOONER HOMEBREW CHAMPIONSHIP! Apparently our Gust Front Leipzig-style Wheat (aka Leipziger Gose) was a big hit. It's our first Best Of Show so I'm pretty pumped. Anyway, I'm at work so I should get back to work, but just had to share.

Ceiling Update

Just in case you've ever wondered what a ceiling covered with partially fermented weizenbock-bits looks like, here it is:

Beer Explosion V2.1

On the plus side, very little got on the new HDTV. Also, it's a bit better than when our mini keg exploded a few years ago. That didn't spew bits onto the ceiling, it geysered (is that a verb?) onto the ceiling. You can see the carnage in the following picture.

Beer Splatter

Sad. But for that one, we didn't so much clean it up as we, um, moved. Now that we own our house I suppose we should clean.

However, there is no mess large enough to overpower cute baby + dog pictures. Bwah ha ha ha!

Ogie and Dorrie

Ogie kissing Dorrie

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Crappy day beer-wise

So what made the day crappy? Nothing major; just two annoying things.

First, the weizenbock was fermenting so vigorously that I had to rig a blow-off tube using a rubber stopper and 3/8" tubing. Unfortunately, the tubing was too thin and clogged. So what happened? The stopper blew out, throwing chunks of beer and yeast across our white basement ceiling. I'll post a picture later, but let's just say it wasn't pretty. Ultimately, I had to run to Home Depot to get a length of 1" (ID) tubing which is pretty much clog-proof (knock on wood). The ceiling's still a bit of a mess but who looks closely at a ceiling?

The other crappy news is the results of the Cactus Challenge were announced and neither our Gust Front Leipzig-Style Wheat nor our Cocoa Puffs Stout won anything. I know competitions are a bit of a crap shoot, and entering the "specialty beer" category is even more so, but losing always sucks. And I was also annoyed that a rye beer won their "most unusual ingredient" category. I'm not saying our Cocoa Puffs Stout should have necessarily won, but rye? Go to and search "rye." There are 25 beers listed, and those are just beers with "rye" in their name. But, to quote Nigel Tufnel, "that's nitpicking." I'll be curious to see what the judges had to say about the beer, especially considering that it was most likely the first time they tried a Leipziger Gose, homebrewed or otherwise.

Brew day: Cloud-to-Ground Weizenbock

Last night Leah and Marta brewed our popular Cloud-to-Ground Weizenbock. Leah and Marta are planning on entering it in the Queen of Beer competition, so per the rules of the women-only event, I was relegated to heavy lifting duties. Theoretically that made for a relaxing evening for me. Realistically it meant I got to clean/sanitize stuff all evening, and do the heavy lifting. Fun!

Anyway, here's the lowdown. Leah and I have developed a stovetop partial-mash routine that's pretty good, but this month's Brew Your Own magazine had an article about doing a partial mash with a small, round beverage cooler, and we decided to try it since it seemed less messy. The procedure pretty much went as follows: put the grains into a nylon bag and then place them in a 5-gallon Rubbermaid cooler. Added 9.5 quarts 164°F water (with a target mash temp of 153°F) to 7 lbs. grains. Let it mash for 1/2 hour. Drain the first runnings (recirculating until clear). Then add 190°F sparge water to the fill level of the mash water (was probably around 6 quarts). Let sit five minutes and drain. As an observer seemed to work pretty well, and was much less messy than our old method of sparging with a strainer over the stove.

The rest of the evening went as planned, except that I misinformed Marta as to how much water our brew kettle holds at certain levels. As such they ended up with too high an initial volume and had to boil an extra 45 minutes or so before they even got to 6.5 gallons, at which point they added the hops and boiled another hour. The end result is we were high on our final volume and low on our original gravity (1064 instead of 1074). The thing that sucks about that is 1.) now I'm not sure how efficient the mini-mash method was; and 2.) we had a half pound of liquid wheat extract we could have added. Oh well. They pitched with a 600mL starter of White Labs Hefeweizen IV (WLP380) yeast. Woke up this morning and it was fermenting like a mofo (for those of you who don't know, mofos are highly fermentable).

Couple other notes... First, successfully kegged the ESB earlier in the day. As would be expected since I just kegged it, it was very cloudy and low on carbonation, but was happy with the results. Did a mini-tasting with our S.O.B. ESB, Fuller's ESB, and Lakefront Organic ESB, and found ours compared particularly favorably with Fuller's. Could use a little more hop nose up front--might consider reducing the bittering hops just a hair and dry-hopping next time. Still need to check on the final gravity (I hope I can do that with carbonated beer!). ... Also, no news from the Cactus or Schooner competitions, but I can deduce from this post on that Leah and I are not finalists in the Sam Adams Longshot competition. Oh well. I just hope we get score sheets. Well, that's a wrap on another successful brew day.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Kegging the ESB... brewing this weekend?

Tonight I'm planning on kegging the ESB. It's been fermenting at a pretty high temperature (I was too lazy to move the lagering Dunkel from the chest freezer to the garage fridge, so I just left the carboy in the basement which has been around 75°F all week), but from what I've read those crazy Brits usually fermented at high temps anyway, so we'll see how it turns out.

I also think I'm going to make a yeast starter for our Weizenbock, and if it's firing by tomorrow evening we'll go ahead and brew. Leah may do the actual brewing, with our without our friend Marta, so she can subsequently enter the finished product in the Queen of Beer competition (in which, I might add, she took third place in the "estery beer" category last year).

Ooh! And this weekend is a big one competition-wise, as our Gust Front Leipzig-Sytle Wheat and our Cocoa Puffs Stout will be judged in the Cactus Open and our Gust Front and Lake Effect Kölsch-style ale will be judged in the Schooner Homebrew Championship. Here's hoping we're a ribbon or two richer this time next week!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

ESB Update

Woke up this morning at 7am (a certain baby didn't feel like sleeping much last night) and fermentation was already vigorous. Woo hoo!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Brew Day!!! S.O.B. ESB

Feeling good after a very efficient 3 1/2 hour brew day. Brewed our first Extra Special Bitter (ESB), which we're calling S.O.B. ESB. The label can be found to the left, and for those of you who aren't Blackhawks fans (which is pretty much everybody except me and ten other Chicagoans), the man pictured is one Bill Wirtz, the worst owner in all of professional sports. Anyway, here are the specs. The beer came in with an original gravity of 1059, one mere gravity point shy of our 1060 target (!). I then pitched roughly 10 oz. of a dry London yeast graciously provided to me by Matt and Andrew over at Flossmoor Station brewpub. Everything went smoothly (except for the City of Chicago deciding to spray for mosquitos while I was chilling the wort). I also discovered that I enjoy the smell of Challenger hops--a nice, floral quality. Of course, I used them as flavor hops, not aroma hops, so hopefully they taste as well as they smell. Anyway, I think that's about it for now. Should be ready to go in three weeks. Mmmm... ESB.

Updates on the Dunkel and upcoming competitions

First of all, began carbonating our Nimbostratus Dunkel yesterday. Right now it's at 15 PSI, but I'm thinking of upping it to 17, especially since it's at around freezing. Tasted it and everything seems fine, though it has that sharp bite that all of my beers seem to exhibit when they're young.

Second, it turns out my entries for the Cactus Challenge did not explode; they just didn't show up on time. Everything's fine, though. It was a problem with UPS (apparently the head of the competition had many problems with UPS this year) and my entries have been submitted. I also dropped off my entries for the Schooner competition, so now I just have to wait (both competitions take place the weekend of the 16th). No word from Sam Adams.

Next up is our S.O.B. ESB, which will be brewed tonight!