Sunday, July 13, 2014

4 on Tap

Finally, we have 4 beers on tap. The first 2 (Belgian and Not Oberon) are just so-so, but the APA is tasting really good and the Saison is looking promising so far.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Back For Real

Long time since our last post. I could bore you with the same old reasons of being busy, new job, 2 kids, yada yada yada. We'll stick with whats going on now.

We've brewed twice in the last two weeks! We've joined a homebrew club!

First, about the club. We've joined Special Hoperations, a AHA sanctioned club in Tampa. They are newer (with B.E.E.R.S being the older club in the area) but are climbing the ranks quickly in terms of Florida's homebrewing circuit. We've gone to 1 meeting so far with another planned for this weekend. The clubs meets twice a month to discuss styles, upcoming events, and taste each other's beers. I can't wait to bring some of our beers in to get feedback on ways to improve our brews. We are also looking forward to meeting a great group of people who share a passion for homebrewing as well.Elise and I are really excited to start improving in our beer, our brewing process, and our equipment. There are a few things we have in mind like a new cooler, but are also toying with the idea of getting a second fermentation fridge. We'll see what happens with all of that.

As for the beers, the first brew was a Pale Ale with Columbus and Cascade that will be dry hopped with Citra. Should be about 6% and be ready in a couple of weeks. We've been out of hoppy beer on tap, so this will definitely be a big welcome to our draft lineup.

The second beer (brewed last night) was a Saison modeled after Great Divide's Colette. This was a lower gravity saison, with the OG only at 1050, but since the saison yeast attenuates so well, it will still probably be close to 6%. Can't wait to try this one as it will be the hottest we've ever fermented a beer before. We're starting off at about 72 (beer temp) and will increase to probably 75 by the end. Hopefully we'll get some good spicy notes from the yeast to make a great saison.

We've been brewing at night after the boys have gone to bed for the last 2 brews. It's a little bit easier and allows us some time to actually hang out (as opposed to me getting up at the crack of dawn). Needless to say, the photos are a little darker and we've been getting some good use out of our flashlight.

The next batch will be a porter, which is perfect of course for the insanely hot temperatures of Florida. But, I always like to sip on some dark beers at the end of the night, so I want some porter on tap. We'll have to wait for that one until after the saison is done and the pale ale is finished cold-crashing.

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.