Friday, July 23, 2010

More Hop Harvesting and Drying

Here's some images of the hops picked and drying. My method is certainly not the most efficient for drying, but it's free! The hops will be dry enough to pack into ziplocks a few days, then it's into the freezer to hold onto the freshness as best I can.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hop Harvest 2010!

The hops are ready for harvest! In fact, I've already picked a first batch, dried, and used them. Now the rest of the hop cones are getting ripe, so I'll be stripping the vine and getting ready to dry and package quite a lot. Last year these cascade hops (the same variety used heavily in Sierra Nevada Pale Ale) had a very floral aroma, but this year they smell both floral and a little spicy. Perhaps the vine is maturing? I don't know, but the aroma is great and I can't wait to start enjoying the ales!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Beer Flowchart

Married to the Sea sometimes has some pretty off-color stuff on it, but then it also has fantawesome stuff like this.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Bombay Red Ale

After a very hectic May and the last of the school year, I'm finally brewing again. This time it's a red ale--malty and hoppy. Red ales are not exactly a recognized beer style, but nonetheless you'll find many a brewpub and craft brewery on the West coast with a great beer by that title. They are normally malty like an amber ale, but have as much (or more) hop flavor and aroma as a pale ale. Here's my current version.

Bombay Red
5 gallons

6 lbs. Alexander's Pale LME
1 lb. Munich Malt
1 lb. British Crystal Malt 75L
2 oz. Pale Chocolate Malt

3/4 oz. Columbus hops (14.5% AA) boiled for 20 minutes
1/2 oz. Cascade hops (6.5% AA) boiled for 15 minutes
1/2 oz. Cascade hops (6.5% AA) boiled for 1 minutes
1/2 oz. Columbus hops (14.5% AA) boiled for 1 minutes
1 oz. Cascade hops (6.5% AA) steeped for 30 minutes during chilling.

Fermented with a packet of Safale S-05 Dry Yeast

OG: 1.047
FG: 1.01?
SRM: 14 (Reddish Orange)
ABV: ~5%
IBU: 32

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Specialman is Working

To my 2-3 readers: sorry for the lack of recent posts. Specialman has been working hard lately (at my real job). Having not brewed for over a month, I foresee a dearth of ale in the future...

I've Got Class (Apparently Fighter/Paladin/Ranger)

I am a d8

Take the quiz at

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sweet Hook-ups for the Bar

Last weekend my sister and brother-in-law, with their two sons, visited from Northern California. It was a great time, bbqing and visiting, trying to keep the boys from knocking each other out with oranges in the backyard.

As a donation to the bar, my bro-in-law gave me a beer sign from a very nice craft brewery, Firestone Ales. I was completely surprised and am very grateful. It will look amazing on the wall of the Brass Monkey. I believe he had said he picked it up at a silent auction fundraiser. Check it out!

My BIL and the awesome light:

My nephew and I, serving up some very weird tasting root beer.

(And yes...his brother IS playing Contra on the 'tendo in the background. You know you're jealous.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Garage Bar is Fully Functional

The Brass Monkey is now fully functional! The keezer is working beautifully, as is the newly installed recycled draft tower and faucets. I even found a ledge boxed up in the corner of the garage that looks great on the wall. Now I must turn to aesthetics, because the TV and shelving unit it sits on is UGLY and the lighting is rather poor. (If you've been to visit lately, the Clapper experiment was a failure. My poor Clapper was much too eager to please, and was constantly registering anything from the blip of a nintendo game to my own voice as a clap. Therefore, throughout a conversation the lights would repeatedly turn off or on. I knew there had to be some defect in the genius of the Clap!)

Here are some pics to show off the new space.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Book Bar: These Guys are Rad

Books = Rad; Bars = Rad; Bars made out of books = SUPER RAD OVERLOAD! This is what I'm talking about when I say, "Making stuff outta stuff". Props to these guys for displaying their awesomeness with both books and booze. Follow this link to see the whole play-by-play of construction.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Old Ale

Tonight I brewed an Old Ale. The predecessor of brown ale, old ale is a dark and malty style of ale that was brewed commonly centuries ago in England. It was also known as Stock ale, because it was brewed at high potency and allowed to condition for longer periods of time, either at the brewery or in the cellars of public houses themselves. In fact, as they aged they grew in value enough that barrels of old ale were sold as commodities, to be laid down in a cellar and resold when the value had increased. Old ales were also served in a bit of a different way than we tend to serve beer now; they would be blended on the spot with a portion of fresh, lightly alcoholic beer called Mild. You could get your ale mixed 50/50, or with a higher percentage of Old ale if you had the duchies to shell out.

This is my first attempt at the style, so I've asked around and gotten a lot of differing opinions on what the recipe should look like. In the end, I've decided to try a new malt, brown malt, and fill in the rest of the ingredients by choosing rich malts that I love. There's also a bit of flaked oats added to make it a little "creamy." It's all finished and tucked away in the fermentation freezer, so let's hear it for the yeast! Chomp up that sugar, guys!

Old Salty Dog
English Old Ale
5 gallons

10 lbs. Maris Otter Pale Malt
1 lb. Brown Malt
12 oz. British Crystal Malt 75L
10 oz. Light Dry Malt Extract
8 oz. British Crystal Malt 120L
8 oz. Belgian Biscuit Malt
4 oz. Flaked Oats

1/2 oz. Fuggles hops (3% AA) boiled for 60 minutes
1.5 oz. Challenger hops (5.9% AA) boiled for 60 minute.

Fermented with 2 packets of Safale S-05 Dry Yeast

OG: 1.062
FG: 1.01?
SRM: 20 (Brown)
ABV: 6.1%
IBU: 34

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Captain Weirdbeer Presents: Combined Harvest Multi-grain Ale and Banana Bread Beer

Tonight I'm sampling two somewhat peculiar beers: Bateman's Combined Harvest Multigrain ale and Wells and Young's Banana Bread Beer.

Ever taste a bready, malty brew and think, "I wish this had bananas in it!" Yeah, me neither, but someone did and the idea actually sounds pretty good to me. This ale pours dark orange with a crisp, off-white head. First whiff is spot on: banana bread for sure. First sip...nooooo! Very bitter, but no flavor from hop or yeast that I can discern. I can't taste any banana at this point, and the malty, breadiness is not present to the degree that I'd have liked. Bummer. Sometimes the perceived hop bite of a beer can be exaggerated by high carbonation, so in this case I took a fork and beat some of the carbonation out of it. Another taste...hmmm. Still a bummer, unfortunately. The malt is a little more discernible, but still masked by a bitterness that seems a little harsh and out of balance. I find myself saying to Irene, "Why did they ruin this beer?" Good points: the aroma of this beer is beautiful warm bananas and caramel-maltiness. Bad points: the hop bitterness kills any nice banana bread flavor that might have been present. This one begs for a homebrew makeover...I've already begun to design the recipe!

The second brew is peculiar only in the fact that several grains are used together. Most beer is made from malted barley. Wheat beers are normally around 50/50 malted barley and wheat. In addition, you can find the odd brew here and there that utilizes rye or oats to add a touch of flavor and mouthfeel. Batemans Combined Harvest, however, proudly uses all four grains!

This beer pours a golden hue with a nice white head that laces the top of the glass with each sip. The aroma is English hops and a little whiff of malt. Though successive sips reveal a bit more complexity, the overall impression of this ale is English hops and light body. I don't detect much in the way of graininess or malt flavor (though I'm no pro beer taster, of course). This would be a nice as a cool quaff on the patio in summer.

So I suppose that probably wasn't a great use of $10, but at least I had an experience of these flavors. A huge part of enjoying beer lies in the experience of many flavors and aromas. You learn to enjoy some, and learn that you don't enjoy others.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Daddy's Little Helper - Dangerous Cream Ale

Saturday we celebrated two of our great friends (and a third in utero) by hosting a baby shower in our backyard. There was a bunch of delicious food and we had a blast. For the occasion I brewed a Cream Ale that got, admittedly, a bit out of hand.

Cream ale is one of the few indigenous American styles of beer. A bit of a mix, it's the result of ale yeast being used to ferment a light golden beer that's made with barley malt and a rather high percentage of adjunct such as corn or rice. Hop presence is very low in aroma and flavor, but it does have a bit more hop bite than what you would expect from a light beer. The result is light in body and color, moderate in alcoholic strength, and very easy to drink. No huge flavors bog you down, so it's good for a hot day.

Now, my particular cream ale was meant to be all those things mentioned above, but something went wrong in process! I brewed as normal, but through a combination of generous malt extract packagers, and boiling off a bit more water than I'd calculated, the starting gravity was 1.070! That means there was enough sugar in solution to produce a beer over 7.5% alcohol by volume...big time! Once the beer finished fermenting and was kegged, my buddy Brian and I decided to do some preliminary tests. Through experimentation (drinking), we confirmed that, while light in body and easy to drink, this beer was POTENT.

Thus was born the beer called Tyson's Punch Out, a tribute to the Dad-to-be (Tyson), and a marginally clever play on the title of the classic Nintendo boxing game from 1987.

Tyson's Punch Out
American Cream Ale
5 gallons

6 lbs. Alexander's Pale LME (probably more like 8 lbs.)
1 lb. Dry Rice Extract
1/2 lb. Cane Sugar

1/2 oz. Columbus hops (14.2% AA) boiled for 40 minutes
1 oz. Saaz hops (3.5% AA) boiled for 1 minute.

Fermented with 1 packet of Nottingham Dry Yeast

OG: 1.070
FG: 1.010
SRM: 5 (yellow)
ABV: ~8%

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Disco Drywalling

I read on the internet that it's important to do a small amount of disco dancing in front of a wall that you just drywalled horribly.

In case you're wondering, no, you don't need to use 15 pounds of drywall mud to fill the cracks and screw holes on 3 sheets of drywall. There's no reason why you should need that much, unless you make a humongous mess of it. As I did.

Luckily, once you sand like crazy and the flat paint goes on, practically all sins are forgiven. It ended up looking great. (Note: Somebody is looking chubby.)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Keezer Collar Finished

What I thought would be one of the harder tasks in building my home bar turned out to be pretty easy in the end. The collar that needed to be built for the keezer (that's right, "keg" + "freezer" = "keezer" for the mathematically inclined) has come together nicely, once again aided by my dad's woodworking skills.
As you can see, the reason for the collar is so that one doesn't need to drill a hole in the side of his freezer. That may or may not even be possible, given the fact that the sides are normally full of the coolant tubing, but either way it's much better to just build a little collar.
Due to the fact that it'll be cold inside, and there's some condensation, I chose a beautiful redwood for this project. Redwood apparently doesn't shrink or expand as much as other woods when it gets wet, plus it looks rad.

Here you can see the whole inside setup. The hole on the left is for the beer lines to go out and up into the draft tower. The CO2 tank is hooked up to the distributor on the right, which then distributes pressure to the kegs.

To finish off the collar, I need two more things: a thick coat of polyurethane and some weather stripping to attach the collar to the keezer. In the photo of the distributor above, you can see the weather stripping caulk I used to stop the gap and affix the collar. A lot of people who make one of these collars are using liquid nails or some other super sticky substance. I'm lucky to have been given some better advice. This weather stripping stuff is slightly sticky and super pliable, even in extreme cold. That means that it makes a nice, air-tight seal, but can also be removed if need be. Here's what I'm talking about:

This is the polyurethane I used. I slapped like 5 coats on that thing in one day. Super. Easy.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bar Counter is Done!

So, after much thinking and little action, my dad finally got the garage bar project rolling. He asked me point blank if I wanted to go pick up some wood and build the bar counter, so I couldn't say no. With just an idea of the design in my mind, we headed to the lumber yard and looked at some wood. Pencilling the design on the side of a 2x4, we were able to estimate how many pieces of 4x8 plywood and 2x4's we'd need to put it together. Miraculously, and quite apart from our normal M.O., we actually bought the right lumber and cut and assembled the counter without errors! Yet another confirmation that God wants my bar to happen!

Though we do produce some rather comical mistakes at times, my dad and I are good partners in DIY-together we've painted an entire house, demo'd interior walls, fixed numerous minor plumbing problems, and survived one very badly planned tree-trimming episode.

I'll post the design instructions for the counter soon, but for now, check out our handywork below!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Monkey Knife Fight

Monkey Knife Fight - 5 Gallons

1# Crystal Malt 120° L

3/4# Biscuit Malt

1/2# Black Roasted Barley

5# Light Dry Malt Extract

1.25 oz. Challenger (Pellets, 7.1 %AA) boiled 45 min.

.75 oz. Challenger (Pellets, 7.1 %AA) boiled 1 min.

Yeast: Safale US-05

Original Gravity 1.049 Terminal Gravity 1.012

Color 25.28 °SRM Bitterness 27 IBU

Alcohol (%volume) 4.9

This is the classic MKF formulation, brewed many times and always delicious. This brew really comes off well with light carbonation and a slightly higher serving temperature (~48-52F).

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Repurposed, Recycled, Reused...

Improvised technology is an amazing niche of activity that has, of late, begun to receive much more of the attention it deserves. Consisting of re-using, recycling, and repurposing old items and materials for new purposes, we in the "first world" have seriously missed the boat. Luckily, it's not too late to learn a little something.

When I decided to begin building the Brass Monkey-my garage bar and brewery-I must admit that one of the main points of interest for me was that I would be forced into a creative use of materials that I already own, could scavenge, or could buy at the local swap meet (more on that land of wonders later). Improvised tech is not always pretty, or elegant, but it is creative. Check out some great examples on this site:

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Easiest Hefeweizen in the World

Dang, I love simplicity. This is the easiest recipe I've ever used, and it's the best hefeweizen I've ever tasted. It can truly be called a close clone for Franziskaner or Paulaner. Hefeweizen, for those of you who are not beer geeks, is a type of ale made from a mix of malted barley and wheat. It's naturally hazy due to the wheat and the special strain of yeast used. Originating in Bavaria, it's been around for hundreds of years because it rocks.

I've brewed hef many times, and it's been good, don't get me wrong. But this is just too good and too easy not to share. The main ingredient is Thomas Coopers Brewmaster Selection Wheat Beer Hopped Malt Concentrate, 3.75-Pound Can

To prepare, simply dissolve the Briess Wheat Dry Malt Extract 3lbs
in a gallon of boiling water, then add the wheat beer kit and stir until well mixed. Top up to 5.5 gallons with cold water and pitch a nice starter of White Labs 300 - Hefeweizen yeast. Make no mistake, the yeast is the clincher. If you use something else you'll get something else. Word. If you use this yeast you'll get a fruity, bready, delicious Bavarian-style Hef.

P.S. If you are a homebrewer whose self-esteem is based on making beer absolutely from scratch, this recipes not for you. It utilizes a beer kit and you'll be ready to pitch the yeast in about 10 minutes. If you're a homebrewer who wants to drink tasty hefeweizen and don't give a freak what people think, come give me a high-five. Then make this beer.

Ent Draught

I first brewed this pale ale about a year ago, formulating the recipe based on some IPA recipes I had seen around the internets. Something about the combination of hops and ratios of grains scored a hit, and now I'm brewing it for the fourth time. The ale pours very light in color, with a slight biscuity-sweet malt flavor providing the background for a powerful punch of resiny, floral hop flavor and aroma.
Named after the powerful draught that Treebeard has brewed in the depths of the forest from the waters of the mountain springs on Methedras, you can sip this and see if you grow any taller!

Ent Draught - 5 gallons

10# British Pale Malt

1/2# Crystal 10L

1# Munich Malt

1/2# Wheat Malt

.5 oz Columbus (14.2%) for 40 min

.5 oz Centennial (9.9%) for 10 min

.5 oz Columbus (14.2%) for 10 min

1 oz Centennial (9.9%) for 1 min

.5 oz Columbus (14.2%) for 1 min

dry hop 7 days in a secondary with .5 oz Centennial and .5 oz Columbus

Safale S-05 dry yeast

OG: 1.060
FG: 1.012
SRM: 7
IBU: 41

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Brass Monkey

The Brass Monkey Brewpub is my own home bar, being built in my garage and serving my homebrewed ale and homemade cider. Having homebrewed for over four years, I started the project of building a little bar when my wife gave me a personalized bar sign and suggested I make a little bar space.

I've always had an interest in repurposing/recycling materials and items, as well as improvised building, so this was the perfect opportunity! The blog will record some of the projects that go into making the bar functional and fun.

Also, if the idea of homebrewing is new to you, I'll be posting some simple how-to's and links to great informational sites. I'll also be posting my latest recipes and showing how easy and inexpensive homebrewing can be.

Welcome! Thanks for looking!