Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Oberon Clone

We're in Florida now, and Spring is here. It's already pretty warm and feeling like Summer. Luckily, Bell's Brewery brews their Summer beer, Oberon Ale, year-round for Florida. It's a light, refreshing, citrusy wheat beer that we both love to drink outside. I found a clone recipe online and decided to give it a shot.

It was a smooth brew day that started pretty early. I was able to get the grains crushed and my water measured out the night before, so the brew day was very smooth. I actually bought extra ice to assist in the cooling process and with the extra cold water in my immersion chiller, I probably shaved 10-15 minutes off of my day and cooled my beer down to 60 quite easily.

This one will probably end up around 6% and we'll dry hop it with Saaz for some herbal/spicy notes, and then a good amount of Cascade to help provide the citrus aromas. It should be ready in a couple of weeks.

In other news, we're drinking the pale ales and they are both tasting pretty good. Most people so far are preferring the American version (myself included), but I think the Belgian just needs a little more time to mellow out. I am hoping to post some tasting notes, and I'm off this weekend, so we'll see.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

New Digs

Finally got around to making our first batch of beer in Tampa. It's been a busy month since we got here, and we are officially out of beer on tap. Seeing as though the kegerator was empty I came up with the idea to brew 10 gallons and use the kegerator as another fermentation fridge. I wanted to do a Pale Ale and Elise came up with the idea to split the batch and use 2 different yeasts. We haven't done a Belgian Pale Ale in forever, so we did 5 gallons with Belgian yeast and 5 gallons with American.

It was a relatively smooth brew day, some of the equipment was still in boxes, but other than that my table worked great and there weren't any hiccups in the garage. The ground water is a lot warmer in Tampa, so I will need to start getting more ice for the chilling phase, but that shouldn't be too big of an issue.

I will dry the American Pale with 2 oz of Citra hop which will be a new one for us. I am going to dry hop in primary, as opposed to the keg, as I think some of the off flavors were actually coming from the bags I was using to hold the hops in the kegs. We'll see. I'll be kegging on Thursday and hopefully we'll be able to drink some early samples on Saturday in time for the Final Four.

18 lbs 2-row
1.7 lb CaraPils
1.3 lb C40
0.2 lb C60

1 oz CTZ at 60
2 oz Cascade at 20
1 oz Cascade at 10
2 oz Citra + 1 oz Cascade at 5 min

Dry Hop (American) 2 oz Citra

Friday, January 24, 2014

2013 Year in Review

2013 was definitely a down year at Rowdy Reptile. Life was exceedingly busy during my residency, add 2 kids on top of that, and there's very little time to drink beer, let alone brew it. As a result, we brewed less than half the volume we've done in the previous 3 years. A total of 9 beers were made in 2013, most being very standard beers: 3 Pale Ales, 3 IPAs, and 3 dark beers; no experimental brews, no seasonal brews, and no Barleywine. Including ingredients and supplies (minus the chest freezer upgrade), our cost per bottle this year was $1.12 or $6.72/6-pack; not bad when you compare that to the $9-11/6-packs you see in the store.


As for the quality of the beers, there were definitely some highs and lows. Our Schwarzbier came out fantastic. It was dark, malty, and very very smooth, and probably my favorite beer of the year. Cody's Panda Watch Pale Ale was another very good beer that we've re-brewed as the first beer of 2014. Unfortunately, not everything was great, and for the first time in 3 years we had to dump a batch of beer for taste reasons. The aluminum monster (aka our boil kettle) built up a scorch/grime over time and since I was under the impression to not scrub aluminum for fear of scratching and ruining the surface, the build up grew enough to eventually impart off flavors into our beer. Darker brews could hide the flavors, but a simple beer, like the SMaSH, was overpowered with an unbearable bitterness rendering it undrinkable.


It seems like every year we also make major equipment upgrades, and this year was no different. Our first year we ugraded to all grain, the 2nd year saw the original kegerator, which we've now ugraded again in year 3. In the Summer we sold our old kegerator and upgraded to an indoor chest freezer, added a 4-tap tower, and tiled the lid to complete the look. More importantly (probably), we got rid of the aluminum monster and are now using a keg as our boil kettle. The stainless steel allows me to scrub as much as I want, and the large capacity (15.5 gallons) will allow me to have the option for 10-gallons batches if needed. It was a very easy switch because the keg was free, and I used the money from the kettle sale to go towards the conversion (i.e., making a hole in the top and drilling/welding fittings near the bottom), so it cost $0 to make a very needed upgrade. Compare that with at least $300 for a 10-gallon stainless steel brewpot, and you can see why I jumped at the opportunity as fast as I did. Also, we finally started buying hops in bulk. The savings are incredible (up to $1/oz less than from the homebrew store) and definitely make brewing hoppy beers easier as I am not afraid to add a lot of hops. Already having a Food Saver helped too, because all we needed to buy were some mason jars and a lid attachment and we were set to go.


Looking ahead in 2014, I have a few goals in mind:

1. Brew more

2. Keep all 4 taps full of beer as much as possible

3. Improve in IPAs (we're finally making some progress)

4. Experiment more (another Brett beer at least)

5. Join a homebrew club


Thanks to anyone who is reading this. Looking forward to another interesting year at Rowdy with hopefully more up's than down's in 2014.




Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Panda Watch Pale Ale #2

I hadn't planned on brewing again until after the move (more on that later), but now that we are planning Cody's batptism, it only seems fitting that the beer brewed in honor of his birth be around for the after party. Luckily, I had bought the ingredients at the same time as the Black IPA and I already have my bulk hops, so all I had to do was crush the grain, weigh the hops, and prepare the water the night before.


I brewed this batch at night and with the cool whether (~45) it was a nice night to do it. The brew went relatively smoothly, although I'm still trying to dial in my boil off rate with the new keggle. Instead of finishing with 5 gallons, I finished with just over 4. I dont have a way to measure my pre-boil volume right now, so I'm kind of shooting in the dark with regards to boil off rates. Especially with last night, the fact that I dont know for sure what volume I started with, it's hard to figure out how much I boiled off over the hour. I'm fairly certain I had my anticipated pre-boil volume of a little over 6 gallons, which means I boiled off 2-gallons in the 60 min boil. I either need to start with a higher pre-boil volume next time, or reduce the heat on the burner so the boil isn't as intense and I dont boil off as much.


As a result of the lower volume, my gravity is higher (1064 instead of 1054), so I am toying with the idea of adding an additional gallon of water back to the beer. This will get me to about 1054 which is closer to the Pale Ale I had in mind (as opposed to an almost IPA-strength brew), but diluting may take away from the overall flavor of the beer. I'll think it over today, but I bet I will dilute it. Not only so the gravity is a little closer to goal, but more importanly to increase the number of beers since this is for a party.


We really enjoyed this beer over the summer, and I think the Centennial and Ahtanum work really well together. Hopefully, since we were able to brew it this week, it will be at it's peak around the the time of the party (first weekend in May). I really hope there aren't any off flavors in this beer, but this one (more than the Black IPA) will show me if the aluminum monster (my old pot) was the source of the off flavors, or if it's something I'm doing. We'll see





9 lbs Pale 2-row

10.6 oz Crystal 40L

10.6 oz CaraPils

1.6 oz Crystal 60L


0.5 oz Chinook at 60 min

1 oz Centennial at 15 min

1 oz Ahtanum at 0 min

0.5 oz Ahtanum at 0 min

2 oz Ahtanum (Dry Hop, in keg)


Mash at 153 for 60 min

US-05 at 64 x10 days

Friday, January 17, 2014

Time to get Rowdy in Tampa

Well, so long North Carolina. We're moving (again) and Rowdy is to be located in Tampa, Florida. I was recently hired at St Joe's hospital as the new ER Clinical Specialist and we'll be out of NC within the next couple of weeks. 


Aside from having to physically move, one of the things that we'll have to keep in mind when brewing in the new location is the water. I have been treating my water for a couple of years with basic salts (Gypsum, Calcium Chloride, Chalk, etc) to reach certain targets depending on the type of beer brewed. I'll have to do some research to see if anyone has posted the water reports for Tampa, but I am thinking that since this is likely the last move in a long time, I may send out a sample to Ward Labs to get an exact report. It's not too expensive at $14 and will provide the exact information I need. 

Otherwise, it should be an easy transition and I hope to brew the first batch within 2 weeks of getting there because we only have 1 beer on tap, with a 2nd on the way. The English Porter tapped out yesterday, and the IPA has been gone for a couple of weeks now. The Black IPA is goin strong and we'll keg the Panda Watch in about 1 week. 


Additionally, now that we have family around, I'm going to probably have to brew a lot more than I did in the last year to keep the kegerator full. Hopefully we'll get back to ~100 gallon/year, if not more, which will allow for more experimentation rather than brewing out of necessity. It's seemed like a rarity since we upgraded to 4 taps to have all 4 tap flowing, but that will be the goal for 2014. It's going to take at least 4-5 months to have enough beer brewed to have a good supply, but we'll start brewing soon and won't look back. I cant wait to finally have a good variety of beers on tap, as well as being able to brew our Seasonals and yearly Barleywine, and to finally make another Brett beer again.


Lastly, I really am looking forward to finally joining a home brew club. This move is going to be for the long-run, so I am determined to finally join a club. The last year hasnt been a banner year for Rowdy, some of the blame is on the aluminum monster, but I know I can improve my technique and process by learning from other brewers and tasting other people's beers. I'm sure that joining a club will not only make me a better brewer, but I know I am going to meet some great people regardless.



Centennial SMaSH

Well, the aluminum monster had 1 last casualty, and it was this beer. The aroma is very nice, lots of citrus, floral, "American" hop all the way. The taste on the other hand is waaaay off. There is a very intensely bitter off flavor which I think is from all that scum/scorch in the aluminum pot. Since there is literally nothing in the beer to hide behind, that flavor is very distinct and makes the beer undrinkable.


Subsequently, I used it to water the street the other day. First batch that I've screwed up enough to pour out. Luckily, the aluminum monster is no longer employed at Rowdy Reptile (it was cleaned thoroughly prior to selling and is spotless btw) and now we have the keggle. I've brewed one beer with the keggle so far, a Black IPA, and while that is not an ideal beer to compare to the SMASH in terms of potential flaws/off flavors (there's a lot going on to hide behind between the hops and dark malts), the first sample was good and I couldnt detect any of those bitter/astringent off flavors that we had in the SMASH.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Locked Out Black IPA

With only 2 beers on tap (porter and IPA), we are definitely needing to get brewing to fill that kegerator
 up. Today I brewed our Black IPA (now for the 3rd time). We used the same grain bill as previous versions, but scaled it up for 6 gallons in order to end up with 5 gallons in the keg. Also, now that we have bulk hops, I upped both the late addition and dry hop amounts so hopefully, it will be on par with the commercial example in the hop-department as the malt flavor is spot on (Stone Sublimely Self Righteous).


The day could not gotten off to a worse start though. I went to the garage at about 715a to start the mash and immediately locked myself out of the house. Fantastic start to the day. After that was taken care of, the rest of the day went smoothly. I was able to clean a couple of dirty kegs while I brewed and the weather was nice and cool, although a little windy. I finished in about 3.5 hours, which is one of the fastest days yet.


This batch was also our first brew using the new keggle. Hopefully we wont have similar issues with this brew pot as the aluminum because the stainless steel is so much easier to keep clean. I was happy with it today and it seemed to come to a boil a little quicker than the other pot did. We'll have to keep tweaking our volumes initially though until we get the boil off rate figured out. I'm going to do some reseach about making a dip-tube to draw the wort from the side of the keggle when transferring to hopefully leave a lot of hops and trub behind.



90% Pale 2-row

5% Crystal 60L

5% Carafa III


2 oz Chinook at 60

2.25 oz Centennial at 2 min

2.25 oz Simcoe at 2 min


2.25 oz Centennial -- Dry hop

2.25 oz Simcoe -- Dry hop


Yeast: US05


OG: 1074

Efficiency: 72%

Anticipated alchol: +7%