Current homebrews

 

A pint of #VandalEyesPA

On tap:

  • Nothing at the moment

In bottles:

  • No Quarter Honey Sage Seasonal

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Catching up – Porter, Pompey, and W00tstout

I didn’t have much time to homebrew over the summer, thanks to a very busy work and travel schedule, but now that Autumn is in full swing, and the end of the year has brought with it the usual slowdown in my industry, I’ve had time to set up and brew three different beers in the last few weeks.

First up, I did the St. Paul Porter from Northern Brewer (in fact, all of these kits came from Northern Brewer, because I work with them to do some of my own things). This was an extract kit with specialty grains, and I did a liveblog of it on Twitter during brew day. Here are some highlights:

It was a fun brewing session for me, and I enjoyed sharing the steps along the way with people who follow DevilsGateBrew on Twitter (it’s much lighter than my main account, so I can actually interact with people who have questions). In fact, I had such a good time with it, I hatched an idea to do a livestream video of a brew day, explaining all the steps as I do them, and taking questions during the long stretches of waiting for something to happen in the kettle. As a proof of concept for that video (and potential series) I shot a couple things and posted them to G+ when I made Northern’s Plinian Legacy kit, which I call Pompey The Great.

I can’t embed them, because why in the world would Google want to make it easy to embed things that might drive people to G+? So here are links to

The sun went down in a hurry, so it was too dark to film the last part, but after I pitched the yeast (2x 1056), it was bubbling like crazy within two hours. It’s a good thing I used a blowoff, because not only did it overflow the mason jar I was using, but it nearly filled up the little bowl I put the jar in, just to be safe. That beer will be racked to secondary next Sunday, and dry-hopped twice before it gets kegged. According to my brewing calendar, it should be ready to drink around January 16.

Yesterday, I finally had time to use all of my shiny, fancy, new equipment to make the all grain #w00tstout kit that we started selling at Northern Brewer a couple months ago. This is a huge beer, with a target OG of 1.108, 21 pounds of grain, a two and a half hour mash, and a ninety minute boil. I tweeted it, and here are some highlights:

I know it’s called a carboy, by the way. I was just being silly. It was tremendously relaxing to spend literally an entire day — from about 1030am until nearly 6pm — just taking my time to make this beer. I made a couple of small mistakes, most notably not collecting enough wort. I got about 6.5 gallons, which is usually enough for a typical 60-minute boil, but with this being a 90 minute boil, I really should have collected closer to 8 gallons. I ended up with about 4.5 gallons when I was finished boiling, and undershot my OG, ending at 1.106. It’s not the biggest deal in the world, but I’m always learning while I brew, and next time I do this kit, I’ll make sure to get more wort. (I also ended up letting the mash tun run extra runnings into a separate kettle, and got about 4 gallons of 1.030 wort, which I was going to use to make a partigyle stout today, but it’s raining. I have it refrigerated, so I’ll try to turn it into beer before the end of the day tomorrow, just for kicks, and make a 1 gallon experimental batch).

As I type this, the #w00tstout is fermenting a few feet away from me. It’s making happy, tiny bubbles in the blowoff’s Mason jar, but it isn’t filling my room with the magnificent smell of hops like the Pompey did (unsurprisingly). The recipe instructions say that it will be ready in about 3 months.

So that catches me up on my latest brewing adventures. Coming up soon, I’m going to post pictures and descriptions of my equipment, brew the extract version of #w00tstout, share a new brewer’s holiday gift guide, and maybe have a new homebrewing webseries to announce. Thanks for reading, and happy homebrewing!

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Northern Brewer and Devil’s Gate Brewing Company bring you the official homebrew w00tstout kit

Northern Brewer and I have teamed up with Stone Brewing Company to make an official homebrew version of w00tstout!

w00tstout-homebrewThis is an official recipe for w00tstout, converted to homebrew specs with the help of Stone Brewing Company’s brewmaster, Mitch Steele. It is released with the blessing of all the collaborators, and I can’t wait to make it myself next week. It’s available in both extract and all-grain kits.

This is a huge beer, and not something I’d recommend for a first time brewer (if you’re looking to get started in homebrewing, you can get your feet wet with my #VandalEyesPA 1-gallon kit).

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Devil’s Gate and Northern Brewer Team Up To Bring You #VandalEyesPA!

Wil Wheaton joins Northern Brewer

I’m super excited to announce this today, because it’s one of those things that’s been in the works for almost a year, but I had to keep secret.

I’ve partnered with Northern Brewer to design and release some homebrew recipe kits this year (and hopefully beyond, if people like them enough).
Some of the marketing language in the announcement is a little much (I don’t think I’m a master brewer, yet), but I love how excited and enthusiastic everyone at Northern Brewer is to work together with me.

Our first kit is the #VandalEyesPA that I designed for my wife,  about a year ago. It’s a big IPA with lots of hops aroma, but a big caramel malt backbone to balance it out. Think of it as an IPA that drinks like a double IPA, I guess. It’s available in extract and all-grain versions.

As the year goes on, I’ll release more kits. I’m thinking about doing a sage saison, a coffee stout, a nice pale ale, and maybe a #w00tstout clone.
I’ll keep blogging about my homebrewing adventures right here at devilsgatebrewing.com, and when you make these for yourself, you can even check in on Untappd because I’ve been entering Devil’s Gate brews there since I started almost three years ago.

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Progress Report: Smashing Pumpkin Ale

About two weeks ago, my friends Bobak and Rileah came over to help me make the Smashing Pumpkin Ale from Northern Brewer. I’ve made it before, but this was their very first time homebrewing, so I got to talk them through the whole experience, teach them a little bit about brewing science, and spend an afternoon with two people I really like.

I’ll have an entirely separate post about that brewday soon, including tons of great pictures. Until then, here’s a progress report:

Smashing Pumpkin Hydrometer

Our target OG was 1.054, which we hit on the nose. I was hoping that we’d be able to get it down to around 1.012 or so, but while I was in Texas doing some shows, the yeast (US-05) went nuts, and as you can see here, it fermented all the way down to 1.010. Beersmith tells me that this will give us an ABV of about 5.8%, and an ADT of about 80%. I have to tell you, I’m more and more in love with dry yeast each time I use it. I’ve done starters with White Labs and Wyeast, and I’ve never gotten the kind of ADT I’ve been getting from Safale and Danstar.

There’s a bit of haze in this sample, but it tastes really great and has a wonderful orange colour that isn’t coming across in the photo. I roasted a 10 pound pumpkin and put its flesh into the mash this year, and it seems to have made quite a difference. Last year, I didn’t use any squash (and made the extract version), and it wasn’t very good. I ended up dumping most of it. This year, though, we went all-grain, and it’s looking like we’re going to have a really tasty pumpkin ale.

 

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Brewday: Synchronicity Extraordinaire Wheaten Saison

Northern Brewer had a sale recently. If you ordered four extract kits, they were shipped for free. Extract kits can sit in my closet for a few weeks (hops go in the freezer) so it seemed like a good deal and I pulled the trigger.

One of the kits I got was the Synchronicity Extraordinaire Wheaten Saison. I am absolutely crazy for Saisons, and I kind of loved the idea of a relatively quick extract-based brewday with minimal ingredients. It’s been really warm here so letting it ferment up around 77° shouldn’t be difficult, and if everything goes well, it’ll be ready in about 6 weeks.

The kit was really simple: 6 pounds of wheat malt extract, three hops additions, a late addition of 1 pound of honey, and some lemongrass and sweet orange peel. Holy Hell did it smell good in the last five minutes!

Normally, when I do extracts, it’s a partial boil that gets topped off before pitching yeast, but I’ve done a couple from Brewing Classic Styles, and I much prefer doing a full boil (partially because it makes getting a correct OG reading much easier than if I add water and have to worry about striation) so I got on the line with the support crew at Northern Brewer, and asked if I could go ahead and do full boil without messing up the hop utilization. Gabe at NB told me that for a non-hop-forward beer like this, it would be fine to do that (for a hop-forward beer I could still do it, but there’s a bit of math involved to ensure the hop utilization is correct) so I went ahead and did a 6.5 gallon boil. Everything went great, with no boil overs or accidents, and I was able to drain right into my bucket leaving trub and hop debris in the bottom of the kettle. Unfortunately, I miscalculated my boil off and ended with just under 4.5 gallons, but my OG was 1.052 (right on target!) so I didn’t top it up. I aerated it for about 20 minutes, pitched Danstar’s saison yeast, and after about 3 hours lag, the yeasties were doing their thing.

I checked it this morning, and fermentation is going like crazy, so I’m staying out of the way until it’s all done sometime next week. I’ll do about a five day secondary (while I’m in Phoenix next weekend for Comicon, probably) and then this one will go into bottles because I don’t have enough kegs or kegerator space [FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS] to package it any other way.

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Pro-Am contest results and other news

My entry in the Golden Road Pro-Am competition was not selected to go to the second round, which did not surprise me. It’s not the best beer I’ve ever made, and there were a number of problems with the process. If I had to do it all again, I’d probably go extract or partial mash, and instead of focusing on just one hop like I did, I’d go ahead and use some other hops for bittering. It scored an average of 31 on the judges forms, which isn’t bad, and the feedback I got was very useful. I learned a lot from the experience, and it really was a whole lot of fun, and I can’t wait to enter more beers into more competitions.

I went on a buying bonanza recently, and took advantage of some sales at Northern Brewer. If you want to see what’s in my queue, it’s in the sticky at the top of the main page. A couple of days ago, I brewed their Dead Ringer IPA, partially because Anne and I love IPAs, but mostly because I harvested a bunch of yeast from Batch 31 (which finished a little sweet at about 5%, but tastes amazing and is on draft in my office right now) and I wanted to repitch it into something new. Dead Ringer calls for US05 or 1056, but my yeast was harvested WLP001, so that’s what I used. I’m pretty excited to see how it turns out, since it should theoretically be comfortable with my water and brewhouse conditions. It’s also the first time I’ve used an aerator, which was pretty neat, and the shortest lag I’ve ever had, right about 2 hours.

I was hoping to celebrate today’s Big Brew Day by making a Saison this afternoon, but it’s also Free Comic Book Day, and I don’t think there’s going to be time, so I’ll celebrate it tomorrow. For the first time this year, I’m hoping it stays warm so I can really let that Saison yeast go nuts at 80+°.

I also bought myself a three-keg draft system that will be delivered on Monday. I can not begin to describe how excited I am to have multiple homebrews on tap to share with my friends!

Finally, I found a really great guide for new homebrewers at Homebrew Finds that I wanted to share with the world.

Happy Homebrewing, everyone!

 

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Brewday: American Pale Ale

I really wanted to make beer yesterday, but I didn’t have time to do the all-grain Halcyon Wheat I’ve had on my schedule for so long, the grains have probably gone stale. So I asked Anne what style she’d like me to make, and went to the homebrew supply to pick up the ingredients for the caramel American Pale Ale from Brewing Classic Styles.

The only problem was, my homebrew supply didn’t have any Munich extract, which is an important part of the recipe. Greg (the owner of Eagle Rock Homebrew Supply) and I stood in the store for several minutes trying to figure out what I could do instead, and then we simultaneously realized that I could just substitute Munich malt for the extract, and do a partial mash of that malt with the caramel 40 specialty grains.

I gathered my hops, milled my grains, and then went to get the LME … only to realize that the recipe calls for 7.9 pounds, and the homebrew supply only sells LME in 6 and 3 pound units. Undeterred, Greg and I did some math, figure out that I could substitue an appropriate amount of light DME for 2 pounds of LME, and pretty soon, I was in business.

I mashed the grains at 154 with a thickness of 1.5qt/pound for 45 minutes, circulated the resulting wort through the bag one time, and was delighted when I saw that my calculations were spot-on, leaving me with exactly 2.25 quarts, which I added to about 6 gallons in my brewing kettle.

My boil was uneventful. I didn’t boil over, I didn’t boil too much, I didn’t evaporate too much, and when the whole thing was over I collected just over 5 gallons of wort. The best part? The target gravity was 1.052, and that’s exactly what I got. I pitched 2 WLP001 at about 74* (a little warm, I know, but I had to leave) and when I got home six hours later, the yeasties were already doing their thing.

This beer is currently unnamed, but I’m looking forward to drinking it in a few weeks, so I can find out if the adjustments I made worked, and if I brewed to style.

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It’s a stand up Tripel!

Last night, I opened the first bottle of the Carmelite Triple Grain Tripel I made to celebrate the end of the world last year. It’s absolutely sensational, and one of the best beers I’ve ever made. Its color and clarity exceeded my expectations, and the balance of yeast esters and alcohol warmth is delightful. I can tell that it probably wants another week or so to condition the alcohol and smooth it out a bit, and when that happens … boy, it’s going to be challenging to not just dive into the whole thing and go to town. I kind of wish there was a competition I could enter it in, just so I can get some feedback from someone with BJCP. If you have the patience to make it and let it condition for two months, I highly recommend it.

Speaking of competitions, in the next few days I’m going to deliver my Patient Zero Pale Ale to Golden Road for the pro-am competition. I went ahead and kegged the portion that I thought was infected (but hoped was okay) and … well, I’m not entirely sure what’s going on with it. There’s definitely something a little off, but it isn’t ruined. In fact, I’m going to brew it again and make sure that it stays healthy, because I believe the recipe is solid. I’m really glad that I did the dry-hopped gallon, because I opened a bottle of that last night and OH MY GOD SWEET HOPPY JESUS IS IT GOOD. The hop aroma is just magnificent (and makes me think that the mystery hop is some kind of New Zealand Cascade), even if it’s just a little bit too much. I used 3/4 of an ounce for the gallon, and if I did it again, I’d probably pull that back to 1/2 or so, just so that it doesn’t overwhelm the malt profile. Still, it’s a great beer and even if I don’t make it past the first round, it’s something I’ll be brewing again (dry-hopped and not).

In the next day or so, I’ll be racking my Pliny the Elder clone (which I call Pompey the Great — bonus points if you can figure out why) to secondary for five freaking ounces of dry hops. I lifted the lid of the fermenter when I moved it to my racking station (kitchen counter) and it looks and smells great. I’m really excited about that.

Finally, the Mystery Parti-gyle just isn’t working out. It’s way too bitter for the malt profile, and it has this bready, doughy taste underneath the bitterness that I just don’t like. If it was the 17th century and we needed it for survival, I’d keep it, but life’s too short in these modren times to drink crummy beer, even if it’s beer you made yourself. So that’s going to the Land of Wind and Ghosts as soon as I need the keg. Oh well. I did learn a lot from that whole experience, so it wasn’t entirely wasted.

Cheers!

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Brewday: Pliny The Elder

I recently figured out that brewing is a stress release for me, so when I have a ton of stuff going on, I usually end up making some beer. One particularly busy time in February was preceded by me making four freaking all-grain batches of beer in a week. I have a big week coming up, and I’m sort of hung up on a story I’m writing, so yesterday I made an extract Pliny from More Beer.

We’re having weird weather in Los Angeles, and yesterday a lot of warm unsettled air dropped hail and quite a bit of rain all over the place, so I set up under an overhang by my back kitchen door, and got to work. This particular kit uses six separate hop additions, including 2 ounces of whole Cascade while steeping the specialty grains (holy hell did that smell good), as well as a lot of extra sugars (maltodextrin and dme and corn sugar) to lighten the colour and increase the fermentables.

It was a delightful brewing experience, just me and the weather and my dog sleeping on the floor in the kitchen behind me. I had some trouble keeping the long boil going (I’m still figuring out my new regulator and burner), but I had an uneventful brewing session that gave me a little over four gallons of wort that finished at 1.098. After topping it up to 5 gallons, the OG dropped to 1.078, so if my yeast stays happy and hungry, this could be a monster double IPA when it’s all done. I pitched 2 smack packs of 1056 (I didn’t think to make a starter this time, which was kind of silly considering the high OG) and after about a 5 hour lag, they went to work. I’m using a blow-off tube into a glass Wheaton lab bottle filled with StarSan, and HOLY BALLS is it going crazy. It sounds like playing cards in the spokes of your childhood dirt bike and the wheel is just slowly spinning in perpetual motion.

This is a great kit, and More Beer includes instructions for full or partial boils (I did a full boil, and in the last 30 minutes had a ton of evaporation, probably because, like I said, I’m trying to figure out this new regulator and burner). They also give you the recipe for all-grain, so if you wanted to make it yourself after you’ve made the extract version, you have that at your fingertips.

In other homebrewing news: later today, I’m going to bottle the tripel I made three months ago (usually I keg, but I think a tripel should go in big bottles). I pulled a sample of the possibly-infected Patient Zero yesterday, and it tastes off to me. I’m hoping that the yeast will clean it up for another 10 days or so, but I think it may be a lost cause.

But that’s one of the joys of homebrewing: it’s entirely out of my hands (and inside one of my kegs) so all I can do is let it do its thing, hope for the best, and accept that it’s out of my control now.

 

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infect (?) me with your love

About a week ago, I racked my Golden Road Pro-Am Mystery Hop Beer (tentatively called Rule 34) to secondary. I also pulled one gallon out of the five into a smaller carboy and dry-hopped with 3/4 ounce of the mystery hop, just to see how that would taste. The competition instructions encouraged us to feature the hops, and I thought that was a worthy experiment.

This morning, while preparing to bottle both brews, I discovered what looked like an ugly infection on the surface of the large carboy:

Infected(?) Beer

Gross.

It looks pretty nasty, and I had a big old sad.

Luckily, the dry-hopped gallon is fine and healthy, so I think that’s what I’ll submit into the contest.

But here’s the thing: I popped the airlock out of the carboy and took a big smell (Thinly rolling for a Smell Check and getting a critical success). It didn’t smell sour or gross or off at all. Intrigued, I pulled a few ounces into a glass (using massively sanitized equipment, of course) and tasted it. It didn’t taste weird to me at all, so I asked Anne to taste it, and she also thought it tasted fine.

So I suppose it’s possible that what I thought was an infection is actually something yeasty that looks bad (there is a big, ugly whitish bubble on top, which is what really makes me nervous) but isn’t a problem. If it is infected, I’m worried about bottle bombs, so I decided to keg that four-ish gallons and let it naturally carbonate right up until it’s time to submit my bottles. I’ll use my beer gun to bottle some, and then make a decision about submitting the dry-hopped version or this one. At the very least, I’ll submit the dry-hopped version and hope for the best.

And if the infected(?) batch is drinkable, I’m calling it Patient Zero Pale Ale.

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