Thursday, November 17, 2011

Kris Krinkelweizen - The Winter Dunkelweizen Experiment

The Kris Krinkelweizen, the winter seasonal dunkelweizen that should of never been a winter dunkelweizen.

Of course there's story behind this beer, as is most of the things we do when it comes to beer/brewing. Let's start with the basics.....

A dunkelweizen is an interesting beer to begin with, combining a dunkel or dark wheat with a traditional Weissbier or hefeweizen. Basically, a dunkel has sex with a hefeweizen, and they create this super interesting kid with white hair and dark skin.

My first experience with a dunkelweizen was this past August in the small German town of Jasper, IN. There's a great German restaurant there called Schnitzelbank, which serves up some great traditional German food along with great German beer. If you're ever there, check it a'ht.

Side note -  I was there for work, working on a project at the local turkey farm. We won't get into the turkey farm because it will most likely have you cooking ham instead of turkey next week because of the gruesome details. 

Ever since then, I thought it would be cool to try to brew a dunkelweizen. From what I saw online, it most likely had to be an all grain brew, which we've never attempted. So I basically forgot about it, until my last visit to get bottles at the Porterhouse Brew Shop. Ruth usually keeps all there kits on the shelves and I was browsing while I was waiting in line. THERE it was, a dunkelweizen kit sitting on the shelf. I've never seen this kit in the past and asked if it was rare. Ruth said her husband brews it, but they usually don't sell it often. It's an all grain kit and a little harder to brew. I didn't care, I scooped it up and thought we'd figure it out later. I asked, "What do you need for the all grain kit?". "Just an extra pot, I think", she said. I was sold.....until later I figured out that you need more than an extra pot. 

You need more time, water, energy, and a mash tun...and by the way, you have to build your own mash tun. If it wasn't for the insomniac wisdom of Bedont, we would of never even began to brew this beer. He basically took the mash tun by the balls and made his own with a 10 gallon jug, some pixie sticks, a few washers, a bolt, 1 can of chew, and perseverance. After that he passed out on the couch after not sleeping for 30 hours. 

After all that, we actually began to brew the beer, which was originally supposed to be a Pumpkin Dunkelweizen (Pumkelweizen) without actually using pumpkin in the beer. We were going to add all the necessary pumpkin spices in the beer during secondary fermentation. Well, we actually did do that, but in the end it didn't taste like pumpkin at all, not even close. We even had Eric Boyd create another great label for the Pumpkelweizen before we even tasted it. Don't worry, we'll try again next year. Check it out below...this guys is good!

Long story short, It tasted like a dunkelweizen with winter spices. We added cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, all spice, cloves, and chucks of whole ginger root to the secondary. All fresh spices of course, not that cheap ground up shit you get at the store for 99 cents. What came out was a dunkelweizen with great winter spice aroma and taste. Was it meant to be....Who the hell knows, we're hoping it tastes pretty good when it's done naturally carbonating. I cracked one open yesterday, not fully carbonated yet, but it was truly unique. 

In the spirit of the season, and because he was pretty hammered, Hays started "brainstorming" ideas for the name of the beer. Sure we wanted to incorporate Christmas and the holidays, but everyone already used Elf, Santa, St. Nick, and the term "winter". Those names were pretty played out....

The jolly man that he is, he said, "Why don't we use Kris Kringel in the name?" And so it became.....the Kris Krinkelweizen (dropped the "g" for a "k" to go with the dunkel vibe). Of course, the label you see above was designed for Eric Boyd. Only he can give the Brick Alley scene a feeling of holiday cheer. Of course, back in the day, I guess you could go there for some holiday "cheer". 

Have a great Thanksgiving!


Until Next Year....

Well, it's been awhile since the label designs were posted and I wanted to give an update on how the bottles looked with the labels designed by Eric Boyd. The home brew turned out better than expected and I think we've really locked down a good recipe. We'd love to brew it again, but we're at a dead end on finding fresh apricots this time of year. Since the recipe uses fresh fruit we figured it would be best to stick to fresh instead of canned or dried. Unfortunately, not only is the fruit gone for the season, but so is the beer....

Good beer never lasts long, and we want to thank everyone of our friends and family that got it enjoy it while it lasted.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Brick Alley IPA Label Art

So here are the "finalists" for the Brick Alley IPA label designs. BIG THANK YOU to Eric Boyd for the time spent on designing the labels. Most brands are defined by the artwork that goes into their labels and I think these designs really represent the nostalgia and overall vibe we are trying to convey. We would love to get your feed back on the designs so feel free to comment! If you want, you can always contact any us of via twitter.

@tummybeeyord - Josh Hays (Brewer)
@MasterOfReason - Eric Bedont (Brewer)
@Leber412 - Chris Leber (Brewer)
@EricBoydTweets - Eric Boyd (Label Designer)
Brick Alley IPA Design 1
Brick Alley IPA Design 2
Brick Alley IPA Design 3

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Pints Full of Passion

There's a certain excitement and adrenaline rush you get when you are doing something you love. Time stands still, problems fade, and the only thing you can focus on is what is happening at the present moment. Many people call this being in the "zone". I call it passion.

Some people can search their whole lives to try to find their unique passion. For a couple of the guys I know; we've found it. 

For a long time, our passion was intangible. We would talk about it, write it down, brainstorm about it, and even dream about it. 

Sometime between Wednesday June 15th and Thursday June 16th, that dream will come full circle. Intangible dreams will be become tangible as they fill empty pint glasses. 

It's so close, we can almost taste it!

Welcome home Brick Alley, you never looked so good.

"Courage is the capacity to confront what can be imagined..."
- Leo Rosten

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Birth of the Brick Alley IPA

It's an old area... with old people, old ideas, and old stories. It's an infamous place, where most people live pay check to pay check and always talk about how it used to be. It's a rough area, and when mentioned any where in the North Hills of Pittsburgh people tend to cringe. It's a place that I call home; the place I grew up, and the place that inspired what I will soon create. Most people know it as the Mon Valley. There's a saying that has echoed through the generations of certain people in the Mon kind of went..."If you ain't Mon Valley, you ain't Sh*t." Again I some how find a way to digress from the main story, but it's all part of the ride. A bumpy ride indeed.

Tucked away nicely in the Mon Valley is a place "Where the sun always shines, and the mud never dries." I didn't make that saying myself, but it's a great way the old folk describe Port Vue. It's a small town that lies above the city of McKeesport. The town is full of older people that lived the "American Dream" of working in the mills and providing for their families. A small boro of overall great people all trying to live average lives doing average things. Inside of that boro are a few young people that are motivated to step outside of that common dream and create something special. I happen to be one of those individuals.

It's funny for me to say this, but back in the day their used to be a place....a place that most knew of, but few ever went. My grandfather used to tell me about it all the time, but he never really got into detail of what it was. The place was called "Brick Alley". You're probably thinking, "Wow, what a build up for Brick Alley, who cares." Well, Brick Alley was more than your average trashy alley in McKeesport. It was internationally known as one of the most infamous red light districts in the country. In the 50's and 60's, Brick Alley was booming! From what I hear, Brick Alley was run by corrupt political figures and the place only got "raided" to keep the common citizens happy.  Most of the "johns" were white males, and mostly all of the women were African American. This place was kick back city, and to be honest, an establishment that this country was founded on. Sad, yet true.

Anywayyyy....that's besides the point. Brick Alley is a nostalgic place that most people still talk about today. It was a rough place with hints of happiness, shame, bitterness and sweet pleasure. It quenched your metaphorical "thirst" until the next time you could get there. It was best enjoyed on a hot summer day, and it was everything the Brick Alley IPA will represent. 

The Brick Alley IPA will be the first in a series of summer beers that will be brewed by a few men with a big dream. 

Memorial Day is right around the corner, and so is the Brick Alley IPA!

Next Post:

Did Someone mention Rosenberry????

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rumor Mill - Fort Pitt Special Beer

It's more about how you say something, than what you actually say....

"Why would Jerry bring anything?" Did he emphasize Jerry or bring? (Seinfeld fans will remember this one).

This is the dilemma I faced this week when I sent @Duquesnebeer a message on twitter about some "here say" that has been circulating about the possibility of rekindling the flame of Fort Pitt Special Beer. Allegedly there has been some talk about starting the brand back up again. Fort Pitt Special was a beer brewed in Sharpsburg, PA from 1906-1920. Once prohibition started in the US they ceased operation until 1933. Beer operations began again after 1933 until 1957 under Fort Pitt Brewing Company. Fort Pitt Special Beer was one of the top selling beers in the 1950's in the Pittsburgh area. From the research I've done, it came in various styles under the 'Fort Pitt" brand name. I've seen everything from Fort Pitt Special, Fort Pitt Beer, Fort Pitt Lager, Fort Pitt Pilsner, Fort Pitt Ale, Fort Pitt Porter, and even Fort Pitt Pale Ale.

This wouldn't be the first time that Fort Pitt Special Beer has attempted a comeback. Jones Brewing Company, famous for brewing Stoney's, tried to bring back the Fort Pitt legend in 1989 by claiming to brew with the original formula and starting an extensive marketing campaign. To make a long story short, it didn't work, and Jones Brewing Company closed up shop in 2001. Stoney's is still brewed today at City Brewing in Latrobe, PA.

City Brewing.....huh........the same place Mark Dudash is brewing Duquesne Beer. I've heard from a few sources, AKA people who drink beer that talk to people who sell beer, that Fort Pitt will be making a comeback AGAINNN......allegedly under the same umbrella as Duquesne Beer. Mark said to the Trib on March 7th, "we never expected the consumer response to be so great and lead to such record growth,"  as he talked about the sales of Duquesne Pilsner and there availability in cans. That quote is exactly this why I believe he will try to bring back Fort Pitt. 

The beautiful thing about Pittsburgh is we love old things. We love things that aren't there anymore, and old school thoughts and ideas. Mark took a shoot with Duquesne beer, and we didn't let him down. We love it!
It's an old school beer, brewed in Latrobe with great nostalgia. If it worked once, why wouldn't it work again with another brand? Why stop at Duquesne Beer, when you can tap into that old school mentality and bring back Fort Pitt.

So do I believe that Fort Pitt will be out in 2011??? Well I'll let you decide that one.
Below is the what I asked Duquesne Beer and their response.

Me - @DuquesneBeer - I know the cans are in the works, but is there a new brand in the works? Fort Pitt?

Prince of Pilsner - @Leber412 - ....The Price, like Washington cannot tell a lie. All I can say is you may be pleasantly surprised!

So again, it's not really what you say at's all about how you say it....


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Porter House Brew Class - a hidden gem

It's been awhile since the last post, but I figured I would wait until after my brew class at the Porter House Brew Shop to update the blog.You usually don't find a diamond on the side of the road, especially in Butler county, but that's just what I found by discovering the Porter House Brew Shop. A tiny, store front next to a general store that is home to 2 of the best people I've met in my home brewing journey.

Let me start off by saying: I had a busy weekend, but to make a long story short, I missed a trip to Penn Brewery for a good friend's Bday, and my girlfriend became Miss Butler County. In the midst of all that action, I got take my brewing class at the Porter House Brew Shop. Do yourself a favor....  just sit back, grab a beer and enjoy this story, because it's a good one. My brew class was yesterday from 4:30 - 6:30 in Portersville, PA. Portersville is right off of I-79, exit 96, on Perry Highway. Not too far from Moraine State Park. The shop is a great little place run by the husband and wife team of Ruth and Don. Ruth and Don decided to open up the shop three years ago and this place is has the classic mom and pop vibe. Ruth is a real firecracker and one of the most genuine people you'll meet. She makes everyone really comfortable and relaxed, especially if you don't know anything about brewing. Don is more of the silent type, full of knowledge, really nice guy, but is a little awkward in front of large groups. I'm pretty sure that's why Ruth had the reins during most of the class

Ok, ok, let me back this train up a bit. So I walked into the Porter House Shop right before 4:30 and to my surprise there were about 20 people all seated and huddled around the front table. Everyone had a beer in their hand, so right off the bat I knew this class was going to be good. There was a food table set up with cheese, crackers, and a crock pot filled with hot sausage and the shop's special sauce. Ruth greeted me and grabbed me a beer just as Don walked in from the back patio. Don looked to have something brewing on the deck. We'd later find out Don was brewing a black IPA that he had been working on for awhile. Ruth jumped right into introductions and told us what we would be learning. This was the breakdown for the night:
  • Laws on homebrewing
  • History of Brewing
  • What beer is made of and how to brew
  • Home brewing levels
  • Equipment
Oh, I almost forgot the best part. The really awkward meet and greet with everyone in the room. You know the feeling, everyone says their name and introduces themselves like you're in 4th grade again. Almost had an AA meeting vibe as we went around the room. "Hi, I'm John, I don't home brew yet, but I heard you were giving away beer samples". Who knows, maybe brewing classes are precursors to half these people going to AA - I joke, I joke. We all went around and said who we were, how much experience we have in home brewing, and what their favorite beers were. Some people were there to learn, some to get the free beer, and some to show everyone else how much they knew about craft beer. It was an eclectic assortment of people, but a fun group none the less. My favorite part about the meet and greet was how Ruth would judge what kind of person you were by the beer you said you liked to drink. I guess you can learn a lot about someone by what they have in the glass in front of them. Ruth is your classic beer snob and she's not afraid to tell you all about it. Ruth grabbed our hands and took us for a walk down memory lane. She said she used to like shitty beer when she was younger. Many years ago you would find her at a bowling alley with a pitcher full of coors light and a plastic cup. Not until her husband Don started brewing his own beer did she realize how bad coors light really is. She drinks craft beer now, and when she goes out, you'll find her with a rum and coke unless she's at a place that serves good beer.

OK, sort of went off topic there, but I wanted to paint a picture of the scene and the people. Home brewing, is it legal? Yes, you can brew up to 150 gallons of beer in a year per person or 200 gallons of beer if you have a family. Ruth said, "Let's get serious, you can brew as much as you want." According to her, unless you're selling it, no one is checking. After a brief history on beer we jumped right into beer and how to make it. Ruth went over all the basics I've been reading about - malt, hops, yeast, water, and sanitation. We talked about why and when you used each ingredient in the beer. We actually got to sample some of the liquid malt Don was using for the black IPA. The best part about the class was as we would go over something, Don would take us outside to show us what that step entailed. He was brewing the black IPA so we could see how home brewing is done. Of course we sampled a new beer during each step to make sure everyone stayed "hydrated". I had my notebook and took notes during the class. Some stuff was a repeat from the book, but I learned a good bit of stuff from the class that I did not cover in my book (so far).

Next, we went over equipment - from beginners to advanced brewers. The Porter House shop has a great selection of equipment and will even build you a custom kit. They sell 4 main kits at the shop ranging from basic to ultimate. The price range of these kits falls between $78.00 for a basic kit and $285.00 for the ultimate kit. I'll be buying one of the ultimate kits, which includes all the kegging equipment to keg the beer. All the other equipment/ingredients you will need: malt, hops, yeast, pots, carboys, sanitizers, hydrometers, brushes, and tubing can all be purchased at the shop as well - just in case you don't need a whole kit. Ruth and Don have a ton of recipe kits ready to go right there at the shop. They even offer call ahead service. If you need a certain kit, just give them a call, they'll put it together and you can pick it up that day. All the kits they sell have been brewed by either Ruth and Don so you know they are good.

I thought it was pretty funny going back and looking at the notes I took in the class. Most were readable and some were not. There was always a funny caption attached to the note I took. Soooo here's my top 10 for "Things I learned during home brewing class"

10. Don't use reverse osmosis water or distilled water - it F's the beer up
9. Don't use water from the sink - it sucks, smells bad, and has chlorine in it
8. You need a 24 quart stainless steel pot - why...Ruth knows best
7. Black canning pots are OK
6. 60 minute boils most common - don't brew unless you got time
5. If you want to add flavors in the beer aka fruit, candy - soak it in vodka before 2nd fermentation step
4. Don's black IPA is phenomenal
3. The brew shop smells really good
2. The kid behind me thinks he is running the brew class
1. Krausen is a sweet word - look it up

As you can see I started good - but was more interested in the hands on learning and the beers to keep taking notes. Luckily they gave us a cheat sheet of everything they were over, so my note taking could take a break.

Before I knew it, our 2 hours were up and I had to head to BC3 to watch Amanda win Miss Butler County. I'm not going to lie, this class was way more than I expected. From the beers and food, to the personal hands on training with Beth and Don, everything was great. This is my new brew shop, and they definitely won me over last night. I recommend this class to anyone interested in home brewing.The next brew class is on March 26th from 4:30 - 6:30 and it only costs $25.00. Trust me, you'll get your money's worth at this class.

Next Post - Mystery Post (rumors and here say)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Who Drinks Beer from a Wine Glass

While exploring the wonderful world of beer, I've discovered something so elementary, so easy, I can't even believe I initially missed it. Something so simple, yet so important to what you are trying to accomplish while drinking beer. Well, let's take a step back real quick and make this a little easier to understand. If I'm playing baseball on a warm summer day and I step to the plate to take an at bat, what am I holding???........ I'm holding a bat right....usually made of wood, aluminium, or some combination of space metal filled with air that will most likely propel the baseball at 1,000 MPH off of some poor kid's forehead. That's not the point, nor the time, but I'm holding a bat none the less. If I'm teeing off at a golf course with a few friends, what am I holding???....I'm holding a golf club (probably a shitty one) but it's a golf club. And if I'm sitting around enjoying a great craft beer, what am I holding???.... I'm holding some type of beer glass. Beer glasses are the bats and clubs of drinking. You cannot drink a certain style of beer the right way unless you are drinking it from the proper glass for that style of beer. Believe it or not, your lucky beer mug is not the right glass to use for every type of beer you consume. WHY???? Well one might think, "I don't care what my beer is in, as long as it gets me drunk." Well, well my friend, then this blog is not for you. This is dedicated to people who enjoy the ingredients, flavors, and brewing techniques behind the great beers we drink. Of course everyone has a premeditated slaughter house weekend planned from time to time, when you are going to do just that. You plan well in advance a complete annihilation of your liver, mostly because of a special event, birthday or bachelor/baccalaureate party. Then your lucky beer mug plays 99.97% of the time. Back to the point. How many times have you been at a microbrewery and you order a beer from the list that you've never had before? If you're like me, this happens all the time. When I get my beer sometimes it's in a mug, a pilsner glass, or in a wine glass??? I think to myself, "Wow, wonder why it's in a wine glass?" Usually I'd assume because the beer is some kind fancy pants beer that deserves a classy wine glass. Or the beer has a high alcohol content, so it's best if I drink a wine glass full instead of a pint glass full. Well those rookie assumptions are completely and utterly wrong. Certain beers are served in certain glasses to compliment how they were made. What happens every time your pour a beer into a glass? It foams, some more than others, but it foams. As Al Snow once put it "What does everybody WANT........HEAD!!!" Al should of said "What does everybody WANT......GOOD HEAD." When you pour a beer into a glass the foam (or head) that forms is considered to be a net to release aromas, flavors, and volatiles from the beer. Volatiles are compounds that the beer releases AKA aromas, spices, certain additions and flavors. If your beer creates the proper head and proper retention, then you actually can taste all of the flavors of the beer. If it doesn't, then they don't get released and stay trapped in the beer. So if I'm enjoying an American Ale I should actually use a flute glass instead of my pilsner glass. Huh, I've never even thought about it until today. I'm sure some people are thinking, "Shit, no wonder that Imperial Stout beer I had didn't really taste as good as I thought." Well not only did you have it in the wrong glass, but you probably didn't have it at the right temperature either. Believe it or not, but not all beer should be "tap the rockies" cold. Certain beers should be served ice cold, cold, cool, room temperature, and warm. I'll give a link in this post of types of beers and temperatures as well. Better go get those IPA's out of the fridge. Go, right now, because they are supposed to be kept between 54-57 degrees F.

Below are 2 very important links that you should check out ASAP. The first link is on glassware for your beer and the second link is a serving temperature guide for beer.

Enjoy!! - Glassware - Serving temperature guide

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Craft Beer in the Burgh'

If you like craft beer/microbreweries and you're from Pittsburgh, there's a really good chance you've been or drank at the following establishments:

Church Brew
Penn Brewery
Rock Bottom

You might be at the point where you are thinking, "I've been there and done that." What else can you drink that's local, craft, and delicious? I set out on that journey, only to find the Craft Pittsburgh magazine. A full color publication dedicated to the craft beer scene in Pittsburgh. What a find!!!! They even have a website that provides local craft beer tastings, events, home brew recipes and great info on local craft beers. Have you ever heard of East End Brewing or Voodoo Brewing? I hadn't, but I wanted to find out more. Just because these places don't serve food doesn't mean they don't provide quality beer. Where do I buy this beer, how can I try it, and what does it taste like? How great would it be to go to a brew event in Pittsburgh where you could sample great home brews and local breweries craft beers? I mean I never knew there were such things as the Millvale Brew Fest, the Pittsburgh Big Pour Event, and the Pittsburgh Brewmasters tasting event. There's a 3 Rivers Beer club??? Where do I sign up? There are 40, events just in February listed on the Craft Pittsburgh site for beer tastings, meetings, and craft beer events in Pittsburgh. For all the math people out there, that's 1.428 beer events per day, since 2011 is not a leap year. How bored are you in the middle of winter in Pittsburgh when it's 11 degrees outside? You don't ski, the gym is always packed, so what do you do? I mean you can play Call of Duty, NCAA or Madden but eventually you win 10 straight Super Bowls, take SMU to elite status, and prestige 10 times. While doing all those things you never leave your house, you start to go crazy, and most likely your eyes burn from staring at the TV for 5 straight hours a night. I figure, get a friggin' hobby, meet some people, drink some beer, talk about ideas and recipes. Everyone already loves to drink good beer so why not do it as a hobby with other people who like to do the same thing. Check out this site, follow them on twitter, and check out an event. - It's a great read. You can also download the magazine for free.

Rando Thought: I'd actually like to hold a local brew fest for charity some day. Invite tons of local breweries and home brewers. Give out awards, sell merchandise, and make some money for a great cause. What cause? Not sure yet. I once drank to raise money for cancer. I drank a lot, way too much, but it was for a good cause.

So in the meantime before the next post on the book, I figured I'd throw out some good info.

Monday, February 7, 2011

I said a hip HOP.....and you don't stop

A lot has happened since the last post. Much of that involving copious amounts of beer, celebrating, tears, happiness and disappointment. Let's take a quick minute and think about drinking. Drinking beer is really not that fun unless you're with great people enjoying great beer. No one likes to sit there and drink beer by themselves listening to Sugarhill Gang. People do it, but it's really not that fun. You can't play photo hunt by yourself at the bar. You can't enjoy sports with a beer by yourself because there's no one to high five when the Steelers score a TD or the Pens score a goal. Let's face it, when you drink it should be done with more than yourself. Same with brewing beer. It's best done with multiple people. Can't wait to get back with the old crew and talk about brewing beer together.

As I promised last time, this post will be about the wide, wonderful world of hops. Let's hop in (pun intended).

Let's start off easy. What are hops and what do they do?

Hops are the main bittering agent in beer as well as a natural preservative. There are 2 main varieties of hops, bittering and aroma.

  1. Bittering - increased alpha acids 10% by weight / these are added at the start of the boil process
  2. Aroma - lower alpha acids 5% by weight / these are added at the end of the boil process
Now that you know there are 2 main types of hops in brewing and the basic time they are added to the boil let's move onto hopping processes and types of hops.

Bittering Hops
  • These additions are boiled for 45-90 minutes  to isomerize the alpha acids
  • Most common internal boil time here is 60 minutes
  • Usually use 1/2 ounce 
Flavoring Hops
  • These hops are added 20-40 minutes before the end of the boil
  • Most common time is 30 minutes before the boil is over
  • Any hop variety can be used - usually lower alpha varieties are used
  • High alpha varieties that can be used in this rare occasion are Northern Brew and Challenger
  • Small amounts of several varieties are recommended - usually 1/2 ounce of several varieties will be combined at this stage to create a high complex flavor
Finishing Hops
  • These hops are added closer to the end of the boil to retain more hop aroma
  • 1 or more varieties can be used here as well
  • Amounts can vary from 1/4 ounce to 4 ounces depending on the character desired
  • Most people use 1-2 ounces per hop added
  • Finishing hops are added 15 minutes or less before the end of the boil or added at the "knockout" - when heat is turned off
  •  and allowed to steep for 10 minutes
  • In some setups a "hopback" is used but I won't be using this step in my brewing. Mostly because I won't have a heat exchanger or chiller. If you want to know about the hop back you can go to and search it
Next I'll talk a little bit about dry hopping. Dry hopping is not the safer alternative to sex, but it is a different way to add hops to your beer.

Dry Hopping
  • This is when you add hops to the fermenter to increase hop aroma in the final brew step
  • The fermenter is the bucket your beer sits in so the bacteria can do work son.
  • This step, if done, is best done late in the fermentation cycle
  • Usually 1/2 ounce per 5 gallons of beer - rule of thumb
  • After bubbling has slowed and beer is going through conditioning
  • Good idea - add hops to nylon mesh bag to facilitate removing hops
  • High alpha varieties used in this step are usually Centennial, Columbus, and Horizon

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Drink Up Yinz Bitches

So I wanted to throw one of those random thought posts in before the next segment on hops. To get you warmed up for the hops, just fast forward to 1:16 in the Super Bad video. I can't tell you how many times I've said, "I hear they recently added more hops!"

Also I wanted to take a second and shout out my Super Bowl beer of choice for this weekend. I'm from the Pittsburgh area so I figured I should be drinking some type of Pittsburgh beer. My first though was , "Well I live 3 minutes from a microbrewery so I should get my growler filled and treat myself to some Firehouse Red, Jack Frost Winter Warmer, or Winter's Gold." Then I thought, "Well I'd like to have more than 5.333 repeating beers for the game." (capacity of the growler 64 oz divided by 12 oz). I wanted to get a case of something, but what should it be? Some of you maybe thinking: Iron City, Rolling Rock, Penn Pilsner.....well I'm actually going with the hot hand in my opinion. I've been riding the Duquesne Beer hot hand since the first batch came out in late August 2010. At first I had no idea what it would taste like or how much it would cost. All I know is my grandfather used to drink it and it had a reputation for being a blue-collar working man's beer. AKA it used to taste like shit and was pretty cheap, so most people drank it on a steel mill salary. When I saw that Mark Dudash was bringing the beer back from the dead I was intrigued. I had questions....big questions. How do you take a beer that was at one time Pittsburgh's best selling beer, and make it into something that's your own brand, flavor, and style? Well according to Mark you basically "can", no pun intended, the shitty ingredients and go with two row barley instead of 6 row barley. I'll answer that question before you can ask it. According to the Duquesne beer site, 2 row barley has greater fermentable sugar content. 2 row barley is used a lot in Germany and the Czech Republic. This sets it apart from 6 row barley because it has lower protein content and tastes less like animal feed. 6 row barley is more suitable for animal feed? I'm guessing I don't want my beer tasting like that, though I do hear you can make it taste just like that if you screw up your finishing hops step in home brewing. - Note to self - don't do that. And to make my decision a little easier, I hadn't had a Duquesne Pilsner in about a month. My decision is made and I'm going with Duquesne beer for the Super Bowl. Brewed in Latrobe, PA at the old Rolling Rock plant. The plant is now owned by City Brewing and brews other varieties of beer, malt beverages, and iced tea. My favorite being 4 Loko (joke), which is pretty much banned in PA (except for college kids selling it for $300 a case). I'm definitely going to get my growler filled tonight as well. I need a good micro brew for Friday and Saturday night. I think I'm set on the Jack Frost Winter Warmer. I had one last weekend at dinner and it was one of the best tasting 
The Prince of Pilsner
beers I've ever tried. It's a malty ale beer that leaves you feeling like you just had 3 beers, when you've only reached the bottom of your first glass. 

I'll dabble into the wide world of HOPS in my next post. In the meantime, drink up yinz bitches!!!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Make it, don't break it

Took a 1 day hiatus from blogging to rest up, and read on into the How to Brew book. I want to move into breaking this down the easiest way without actually you actually having to read the book. I left off explaining alpha acid unit calculations. This may seem like rocket science, but it's actually a pretty easy calculation. I'm going to go into the most basic brewing procedure for home brewers.

Brewing Procedure: Chapter 1 Continued
  1. Prep Work - get your shit together
  2. Boil Water - boil 1 gallon of water
  3. Sanitize - clean all equipment
  4. Making Work - usually 1.5 hours
  5. Boil Brew Water
  6. Rehydrate Dry Yeast
  7. Add Malt Extract
  8. Add Hops
  9. Add finishing hops (optional)
  10. Cool Wort
  1. Cooled wort poured into fermentation bucket
  2. Add water
  3. pitch yeast
  4. Store fermenter (2 weeks)
Chapter 2: Brew Prep

This chapter basically goes over brewing sanitizers. I won't beat this to death, but different sanitizers like detergent, bleach, and percarbonates are used for different situations. These sometimes come with the kit that you buy.

Chapter 3: Malt, Kits, Sugars

Malts - concentrated sugars extracted from malt barley
Malts come in syrup and dry form

Basically, there is more to this chapter, but for me to try to explain it in a blog would be pointless. We'll talk later.

Chapter 4: Water

Water is super important for brewing your own beer. Minerals, harness, and nastiness in water can fuck shit up for the beer. Basically there are a few methods for cleaning your dirty, nasty, mon valley water.
  1. Boil it
  2. Potassium metabisulfate tabs
  3. activated charcoal AKA Brita
  4. Water softeners
Well I'm tired and I think this is a good point to stop tonight. Enjoy what there is today because the next entry will go into the wonderful world of hops. When to add them, what to use, and techniques. ALL YOU CAN EAT HOPS!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

If you ain't movin' you losin'


Sure everyone can read what I type on here, but many people are visual learners and want to see how brewing actually works. I've added some brewing videos from youtube on the right panel of the blog so you can check out some basic brewing techniques and how the process actually works. I've linked a channel from youtube called Home Brewing. They post some really good videos and most of them are pretty short AKA - you can watch them at work pretty quickly without wasting your whole lunch break. They also have a website with some really great content for everyone that is non-youtube savvy. - check it out!!!!!!!!

Also, check out the beer poll below the videos. I'm trying to get a feel of what most people are drinking during the winter months. I feel that I like to try a variety of beers in the winter for some reason. Mostly craft beers or beers I've never tried before. I'm not sure why, but in the summer I tend to stick to my "go to" beers for refreshment more than taste. Maybe because it's 100 degrees outside and I need to taste something remotely close to water???? Not sure but it's a trend I tend to follow.

Next post:
Break down Ch. 1 - 3 of How to Brew in the easiest most non - technical way (easier said than done)

Monday, January 31, 2011

How to Brew Ch. 1 Part 1 Breakdown

Let's make this easy.....I'm not going to break down every sentence that this guy writes because this is called a blog, not a book. I'm basically going to go over some important information that I found to be helpful for a guy who has never brewed an ounce of beer on his own. The closest I've ever been to brewing my own beer is when it "brews" in my kidneys. First few pages of the book break down minimum essentials that you will need when brewing. Most of these come in a kit but I'm going to break them down here.

Brewing Essentials
  1. Airlock - 2 types - single bubbler or 3 piece. Single is the better option for ease. 3 piece can allow water back into the fermenter.
  2. Boiling Pot - 3 gal. minimum - aluminum is best
  3. Can opener
  4. plastic wrap
  5. foil
  6. stirring spoon
  7. sanitizer - iodophor, starson, final step
  8. fermenter - 6 gallon food grade plastic, I'm going to go with a 6 gallon glass carboy
  9. glass measuring cup - quart
  10. thermometer - 80 deg. F - 180 deg. F - floating dairy thermometer or LCD
  11. Hydrometer - measures specific gravity between water and water with sugar. Gauges progress of fermentation by measuring attenuation.
    • attenuation - degree of conversion of sugar to ethanol by the yeast
I'm going to skip over specific gravity of typical beer. Basically you need to know the original gravity of beer is between 1.035 - 1.060. Final gravity ends up around 1.015 - 1.005. Alpha acid unit is a unit of measurement that you will probably need to know.

AAU is the unit of measure for hops. You find it by multiplying alpha acid rating of the hop (% value) by weight in ounces.

Example: 2 oz. of 6% alpha acid hop = 12 AAU's

Sooooo I have 4 pages of notes on Ch. 1. I don't wanna overwhelm everyone too early so I'll go over brewing procedure as well as malts and sugars in the next post.

1st Impressions Mean Everything

Jotted down a few quick thoughts before I left work today. I wanted to accomplish 3 main goals when going to the Porterhouse Brew Shop.
  1. Sign up for the brewing class on February 26th 
  2. Meet the owner and introduce myself
  3. Get some quick tips on kits and prices
I'm not going to lie, I'm looking for a good kit. Not some BS kit you brew root beer with. I talking a full blown, manly brew kit. I'm not 100% sure what is going to go down with my first brew session, but it doesn't matter. I always play buy the "you get what you pay for" technique. UNLESS you find a killer sale at a major department store, right? No not really because those killer deals were made in some country where it costs $0.04 to manufacture. And you thought $4.00 was a steal............Morale of the story, buy a good kit damn it.
So after a long day at work I got to finally check out the Porterhouse Brew Shop. The place reminds you of a general store from the early 1800's, it's awesome. I walked in and was greeted by Beth and her husband. Didn't get her husband's name because he was chasing down their toddler through the store. The store is all wood shelves and has a true old school vibe. I told Beth I found them on the internet and wanted to sign up for the class. She said I was lucky because they only had 1 seat left. I pre-paid right there to ensure I had a seat. Josh asked me via text this week "do they have classes all the time?" Well they do have classes once a month until May. After May they have a long break until September. Beth and I talked about the book I'm currently reading: "How to Brew". She said that it is a great book and has a lot of good technical info that can be easily understood. I wanted to check out some brew kits and see what they were working with. Beth said they were currently sold out for the first time in the existence of the shop. They can't keep them on the shelves. She said they have a bunch coming in for the weekend but they are coming from Maine so she couldn't guarantee anything. It didn't really matter to me at this point, I wasn't going to make a purchase today anyway. I really want to take the class first and wrap my head around what is really going on. After scoping out all of the awesome brewness they had, I told Beth I'd catch up with her on the 26th. In the meantime she said to call with any questions I had on the book or on brewing. They don't make em' like Beth anymore.
Side note: There is 1.5 beers left in my fridge from North Country Brew. I will need to get that in a glass ASAP before I review Ch. 1-3 of the book.

Drinking it is the best part....Right?

About a month or so ago I decided that I wanted to start brewing my own beer. There's just something really exciting to me about creating my own beer. I'd say it's the entrepreneur inside me that wants to own his own microbrewery, as well as the satisfaction of taking that first taste of something you created. So, instead of just talking about it, I went out and started to do some research on home brewing. Sure, Amanda's family brews their own beer in California, and I could easily contact them for advice and troubleshooting. That's too easy. I want to blaze this trail the old fashioned way (Oregon Trail Style). I want to do the research, talk to people, go to classes, buy a kit, and then brew my first lot of beer. I mean c'mon, I love to talk to people and pick their brains about why the do the things they do. I want to know why they used a certain ingredient over another. Why they boiled the wort for 5 minutes longer. Where they let their beer ferment, and at what temperature. These are things I want to find out myself and then put my own spin on them. Isn't that how most people do it? (Zuckerberg, Gates, Trump). Usually me and my friends sit around, on a porch or around a fire, and talk about ideas, places, trips, and goals. You'll more than likely find a few adult beverages being enjoyed on the porch or at the fire. Our biggest character flaw, as a group, is we never really act upon any of these great ideas for one reason or another. The underlying reason 99.9% of the time is because we do not have the money to pursue an idea. Another underlying theme to most of the ideas we have is they all center around owning and working our own bar/restaurant. Even in high school we used to brainstorm about the bar theme, specials, locations, and names. Every last detail was discussed from the color of the walls, to the style of the bar, and even the jobs we would all hold at the establishment. Each of us had a unique skill that would benefit the business in a positive manner that none of the other members had. Josh (logistics, buying), Eric (finance, money), Russ (F&B manager), myself (marketing, sales). Our girlfriends would be the bartenders, and we even had Jordan to fly the plane with promotional signs. Wait, I almost forgot, Josh C. could play a tune and we would play live music on the weekends. Everything is perfect, right? Well, everyone put this idea in the back seat and went to pursue their career out of school. Well 4 short years later everyone has realized they don't want to work for the man. We want our own place, with our beer, our food, our rules, our customers, and our quality. I don't know when this dream will happen, but I know it will. It may take investors, luck, the lottery, who knows...but it will happen. A wise man once told me, "I'd rather make less money to do something I love, than make more money and never be truly happy." Sure, money buys big houses, nice cars, and a hell of a swimming pool, but if you work 100 hours a week to obtain them, you never get to see them. At this point in time, you may ask yourself "What the hell does this have to do with brewing?" EVERYTHING....This is the story behind why I want to brew my own beer. Drinking it isn't the best part to me, it's the dream behind the drink. It's the story of the flavors and aroma that makes the beer taste so good. It's the hard work put behind the curtains so people can enjoy what you've created. So this will be my blog of how I go from chemical and environmental marketing to microbrewer/pub owner. It may take awhile, but the journey is the fun part. I'll be updating the blog with everything I learn, everything I read, recipes, random thoughts, and reviews on what I brew. At the end of each post I'll give a little preview of what's to come next. We call that a cliff hanger or a teaser. So here it goes!!!!!

Next Post:
Chapter 1 - 3 Review of How to Brew by John Palmer
My experience at Porterhouse Brew Shop