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).