Carboy

My homebrewing misadventures

Back in the saddle

The key to brewing in the heat of the summertime? Start at 6 a.m.

From Carboy

Read the recipe.


By Tom on 06/11/2017

Stage: Brewing

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On nitro...

Inaugurating my brand new nitro setup by tapping the keg of sweet stout.

From Carboy

Read the recipe.


By Tom on 03/18/2017

Stage: Enjoying

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Wishful thinking

Hoping to bring an early start to spring by brewing a saison in February.

From Carboy

Sparging...

and weighing out the three ounces of East Kent Goldings, Saaz and Styrian Goldings for this saison.

From Carboy

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By Tom on 02/26/2017

Stage: Brewing

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Drink beer to make beer

First brew day of the New Year.

From Carboy

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By Tom on 01/21/2017

Stage: Brewing

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Another year, another beer

Planning for 2017's homebrew endeavors.

From Carboy

By Tom on 01/07/2017

Stage: Thirsty

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2016 Beer in Review

A look back at the most ambitious year of homebrewing yet.

After a few years of brewing infrequently, I began 2016 with a bold goal, to brew a batch of beer every month of the year. Remarkably, and somewhat unexpectedly, I managed to meet my goal. In the process, I learned quite a bit about how to brew faster and better, or at least be more consistent about hitting the original gravity a recipe calls for.

I also dabbled in growing hops for the first time, planting Sterling, Cascade and Centennial rhizomes. Sadly, only the Centennial hops took hold. Likely I put the others in bad soil, bad light, or, in one case, planted it too late in the season. The Centennial vines grew like mad. I wasn't expecting many cones this first year, so I was happy to see how many healthy and fragrant ones popped up.

Then I screwed up and forgot to harvest the hops. By the time it occurred to me, in mid-September, the hops were dry and browning, past their prime. Next year, I'll try to grab them up earlier.

Finally, on Dec. 31, I installed a fourth tap in my kegerator, a forward sealing faucet that won't get stuck shut.

But back to the matter at hand. What became of all that brewing in 2016? Here's a brief overview of each batch I made and how it turned out. In retrospect, the tasting notes, which I jot down on my phone, don't make a whole lot of sense much of the time, but I'll share them nonetheless.

 

January — Chocolate Milk Stout

4.06% ABV, 29.72 IBU

Enjoying a pint of my chocolate milk stout while brewing a Kölsch. From Carboy

Tasting notes: Smell the chocolate. Deep burnt malt taste with notes of chocolate and coffee. Sweet creamy. Rich. A little bitter at the end. Quite good for late winter/ chilly springtime

  • Look: 4 of 5
  • Aroma: 4 of 5
  • Taste: 4.5 of 5
  • Mouthfeel: 4 of 5
  • Overall: 4.5 of 5

 

February — Irish Red Ale

4.06% ABV, 27.21 IBU

From Carboy

Tasting notes: Beautiful reddish amber brown. Nice, almost sweet with a lingering malty after taste. Super drinkable. Great complement to soda bread and corned beef. Very popular at our St. Pat's dinner.

  • Look: 4 of 5
  • Aroma: 3 of 5
  • Taste: 4 of 5
  • Mouthfeel: 3 of 5
  • Overall: 4.25 of 5

 

April — Kölsch

3.8% ABV, 35.66 IBU

From Carboy

Tasting notes: Dry, grapefruit tang. Cloudy golden hue. Spritzer, effervescent. So sparkling.

  • Aroma: 3 of 5
  • Look: 2 of 5
  • Taste: 4.5 of 5
  • Mouthfeel: 4.5 of 5
  • Overall: 4.25 of 5

 

April — Czech Pilsner

3.67% ABV, 50.45 IBU

From Carboy

Tasting notes: Cloudy and strawlike hue. Smells a bit sour of tannins. Bitter lager taste with a tad of astringent. Hops on the aftertaste. Almost a grapefruit sour to it. Way too hoppy for my taste. A bit of a letdown

  • Look: 2 of 5
  • Aroma: 2 of 5
  • Taste: 2.5 of 5
  • Mouthfeel: 2.5 of 5
  • Overall: 2.5 of 5

A month or so later: Pilsner mellowed well. Still bitter and cloudier than I wanted, but the taste has improved with time. Not too bad, especially on a hot day.

  • Look: 2 of 5
  • Aroma: 3 of 5
  • Mouthfeel: 3 of 5
  • Taste: 3.5 of 5
  • Overall: 3.25 of 5

 

May — Raspberry Wheat

4.4% ABV, 15.65 IBU

From Carboy

Tasting notes: Light, golden amber hue. Wheat and sweet with a taste of raspberry that's not overpowering or cloying. Smell the raspberry wafting off it. Pleasantly surprised with this one.

  • Look: 4.5 of 5
  • Aroma: 4.25 of 5
  • Taste: 4.25 of 5
  • Mouthfeel: 4 of 5
  • Overall: 4.5 of 5

 

June — Oktoberfest Märzen

4.65% ABV, 19.11 IBU

From Carboy

Tasting notes: Brown caramel. Sweet. Solid märzen. Very drinkable. Went in one day at our Oktoberfest party.

  • Look: 4 of 5
  • Aroma: 4 of 5
  • Mouthfeel: 3 of 5
  • Taste: 3.75 of 5
  • Overall: 3.75 of 5

 

July — American Wheat

3.3% ABV, 33.64 IBU

From Carboy

Tasting notes: Light. Cloudy golden. A little pine-y and bread-y. Good for a hot day. Sweet.

  • Look: 3.5 of 5
  • Aroma: 3 of 5
  • Mouthfeel: 4 of 5
  • Taste: 3.75 of 5
  • Overall: 3.75 of 5

 

August — German Alt

3.9% ABV, 61.48 IBU

From Carboy

Tasting notes: Dark mahogany, golden brown. Delicious and bitter. Hoppy. Strong alt, but not high abv. Malty, almost chewy.

  • Look: 3.5 of 5
  • Aroma: 3 of 5
  • Taste: 3.75 of 5
  • Mouthfeel: 3.5 of 5
  • Overall: 3.75 of 5

 

October — Saison de Noel

8.12% ABV, 51.73 IBU

From Carboy

Tasting notes: Higher octane. Deep brown. Rich, malty. Closer to a tripel than a saison. Slight sweetness in the backend. Almost boozy. Good for cold winter nights.

  • Look: 3.75 of 5
  • Aroma: 3.75 of 5
  • Taste: 4 of 5
  • Mouthfeel: 3.5 of 5
  • Overall: 4 of 5

 

November — Extra Special Bitter

5.11% ABV, 54.54 IBU

From Carboy

Tasting notes: A bit dull and flat. Bitter. In some ways perhaps a good English bitter but I may be serving it too cold, honestly. Not bad but a bit underwhelming.

  • Look: 3 of 5
  • Aroma: 2.5 of 5
  • Taste: 3 of 5
  • Mouthfeel: 2.5 of 5
  • Overall: 3 of 5

 

November — La Petite Orange

5.11%, 18.24 IBU

From Carboy

Tasting notes: Orange-y brown. Light. Sweet. Clean and citrusy. Lovely for a very light Belgian Pale.

  • Look: 4 of 5
  • Aroma: 3 of 5
  • Taste: 4 of 5
  • Mouthfeel: 3.5 of 5
  • Overall: 4 of 5

 

December — Tallgrass Brewing's Buffalo Sweat Stout

5.6% ABV expected, 21.51 IBU

From Carboy

Tasting notes: Review TK in 2017

 

 

My favorites of 2016, in no particular order, were the Kolsch, the Raspberry Wheat, the Oktoberfest, the Chocolate Milk Stout and the Saison de Noel.

For the new year, my goal is to continue to brew, albeit at a less breakneck pace. It's great to have fresh, homemade beer on tap year-round. If I can make seven to nine batches in 2017, I'll be more than happy.

Rest assured, I'll let you know how it goes. Until then, happy New Year and sláinte.

 

By Tom on 12/31/2016

Stage: Enjoying

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The last mile of the marathon

Finishing 2016 by preparing for St. Patrick's Day

From Carboy
On a cold and rainy late December morning, I brewed my 12th and final batch of beer for 2016. This recipe comes from Tallgrass Brewing in Manhattan, Kan. via Northern Brewer. This sweet, milk stout, Tallgrass' Buffalo Sweat, will be a nice treat for our St. Patrick's Day celebration in March.

Read the recipe.


By Tom on 12/29/2016

Stage: Brewing

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Cooling down fast

Finally putting my own plate chiller to work

More than six months ago, my brother-in-law introduced me to the wonders of the plate chiller. It took me a while to purchase and assemble all the pieces, but I'm happy to report that I've finally got my own setup.

In this photo, you can see all of the essential pieces before assembly:

  • The Shirron Plate Chiller in the center
  • A Thrumometer with a 1/2-inch bore, allowing me to see the temperature of the wort as it runs through the mometer and into the carboy
  • A garden hose shut-off valve, which lets you adjust the flow of water into the chiller to make the wort colder or warmer
  • Half-inch thermoplastic, food grade tubing
  • Quick disconnects to quickly attach the tubes to the chiller
  • Worm clamps to hold the tubing in place

And here she is in action, chilling my latest brew, a La Petite Orange Belgian dubbel, to pitching temperature in just a few minutes. It easily saved me 30-45 minutes at the end of my brew day.

In case you want a close-up of the Thrumometer in action, here it is, nailing the pitching temperature of the wort to a perfect 72° F, just like the Trappist Style High Gravity yeast likes it.

Now that I've got my own plate chiller, I can't imagine going back to an immersion chiller, particularly on those hot summer brew days. Luckily, with this new setup, I won't have to.

Read the recipe.


By Tom on 11/27/2016

Stage: Brewing

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Extra, extra, extra special

From Carboy

With the Bavarian banners still hanging in the backyard, I took a cool fall Saturday to brew an Extra Special Bitter. It's actually a little chilly in my basement beer cellar for fermenting the warm ale yeast of an ESB. But I'm a big fan of English ales, and I'm hoping this hoppy bitter will help keep us in good spirits come the New Year when the days are very short indeed.

Read the recipe.


By Tom on 11/12/2016

Stage: Brewing

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What's left behind

Cleaning the trub after primary fermentation of an 8 percent Saison de Noel

From Carboy

Read the recipe.


By Tom on 11/06/2016

Stage: Secondary

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