Tuesday, March 31, 2009


The New York City Homebrewers Guild is sponsoring a BJCP class for homebrewers who want to become beer judges. The first meeting is tonight at Jimmy's No. 43 at 7:30PM (I know, three hours notice). But the real classes don't start until next Tuesday, April 7th, at Burp Castle. The topic will be Malt and we'll be covering light lagers and pilsners. Discussion lead by none other than yours truly.

This is a great opportunity for any homebrewers in the area who want to get more involved in competition judging, to check out the Guild, and get more involved in the local homebrewing scene. You can pick up a lot of great pointers from the experienced brewers in the Guild, no matter what your personal level of experience may be. So come by one of the meetings or check out the NYCHG Yahoo Group for more information and up to the minute discussion.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Beer Porn

So I'm brewing the Altbier described below and waiting around for the last 10 minutes of the boil to finish up. Thought I'd share some beer porn while I wait. Not bad for a crummy camera phone.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Latest homebrewing plans

As a fairly frequent homebrewer - about twice a month here - you eventually succumb to the yeast. Unless you want to spring for a new pitch of yeast every time you brew, you have to get a strain that you want to use for a little while and re-pitch from batch to batch. (And if you're really out of your mind you bank agar slants so that you have your favorite strains at the ready and (with some serious planning) can brew with them whenever you wish.)

I had three beers in mind that I wanted to brew - a German Alt beer, a Berliner Weisse, and a French Biere de Garde. How forunate that all three are perfectly suited to the Wyeast 1007 strain! So last night I smacked a smack pack, innoculated some agar slants, and made a 3 liter yeast starter. This weekend I'll brew the Alt.

Two weekends after that I'll brew up a parti-gyle batch - one big mash, the runnings of which will create a hoppy American style wheat beer and a Berliner Weisse. The slurry from the Alt will be divided to pitch into both wheat beers. The Berliner Weisse will also get a dose of lactobacillus (which will also innoculate an agar slant, thank you very much).

Then a few weekends after that I'll brew up the Biere de Garde, pitched with the slurry from the American Wheat. I know I can squeeze a few more beers out of that slurry, so I think I'll experiment with a Pale Ale of some kind fermented with the German ale yeast after the B de G.

Here's the Alt recipe, just in case anyone is interested. We'll see how it turns out:

5lbs Weyermann Lt. Munich
5lbs Weyermann Dark Munich
.5lb Weyermann Melanoidin
2oz Weyermann Carafa Special I

Mash at 150 degrees until starch is converted. Collect 6.75 gallons, boil down to 5.75 gallons over 75 minutes.

1oz Mt. Rainier hop pellets, 6.2%AA @ 75 minutes
.25oz Mt. Rainier hop pellets, 6.2%AA @ 20 minutes

Whirlfloc tab with 15 minutes remaining. Going for OG 1.052. Pitch yeast from starter described above and ferment at 60 degrees until done.

You like?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Agar slants

Today I've decided to make some agar slants. The yeast that culturing is the Whitbread dry ale yeast, otherwise known as White Labs Dry English Ale yeast (WLP007) or Wyeast British Ale (1098). I made a few beers with this yeast and I was quite pleased. Made a great Brown Ale, Bitter, and hopefully a great Olde Ale. The Olde Ale is sitting in a secondary right now and the initial tasting on transfer was questionable. The good news is that it attenuated to almost 80% at 12% ABV!!!


See the equipment list here. Only additional equipment used is:

1) Test tubes with autoclavable screw on caps - these guys are great. Request the autoclavable caps.


1) Prepare the medium - I added 100ml of 10 brix wort to a flask with a pinch of yeast nutrient, a pinch of 5.2, and half a tablespoon of agar. I heated this in a double boiler type situation with for about 15 minutes to dissolve the agar.

2) Fill the test tubes - Using a small funnel and the test tube grabber, I poured each test tube about 2/3 full. Very loosely screw a cap on each.

3) Set up the pressure cooker - The instructions for mine call for 2.5 quarts of water, just enough to cover the cooking rack. Yours will likely be different. I placed a glass pyrex dish in the pressure cooker and the top half of a petri dish inside the pyrex dish, so that I could...

4) Lay the test tubes in the petri dish lid - The bottom of the tube goes inside the petri dish lid and the capped end rests on the edge of the petri dish lid. This way the test tubes are resting so that the culture medium will solidify in a slanted configuration when they cool.

4b) You'll also want to put some distilled water in a pyrex container of some sort and cover it with foil. Place it in the pressure cooker along with the test tubes (I put it next to the pyrex dish that the tubes are in, not in the dish). You'll use this to cool the flamed innoculating loop.

5) Process at 15lbs for 15 minutes - Follow the instructions for your particular pressure cooker.

6) Wait... It will take a few hours for the whole thing to come down to room temperature. Just before everything is cooled down and you're ready to innoculate...

7) Set up to innoculate the slants - Have your yeast, flame, and inoculating loop ready. I also wear a dust mask so I don't breath my filthy germs into my culture medium. This should be done in the cleanest, most draft-free area of your house.

8) Open the lid to the pressure cooker - Seal the caps on the slants. Note: At this point, if you notice that the medium in the slants has not congealed, you'll need to start over. You either boiled the medium for too long and denatured the agar, or you didn't dissolve the agar enough and didn't get enough into the test tube.

9) Get ready to innoculate - Put the test tubes in a test tube rack, and bring the rack and cooled container of distilled water over to your innoculating area.

10) Set up your flame. Quickly unscrew the cap from one of the test tubes.

11) Quickly flame the inoculating loop to sterilize it and cool it in the distilled water.

12) Quickly dip the sterilized inoculating loop in the yeast sample.

13) Quickly dip the innoculating loop into the test tube and streak the agar slant.

14) Quickly screw the lid back on the test tube.

15) Repeat steps 11-14 for each test tube.

16) Allow the yeast to culture up in the test tube at room temperature - You'll need to burp the test tubes periodically. Once or twice a day quickly unscrew the cap to release any pressure that has built up and screw it back on.

17) Once you've reached a point where the test tube no longer releases CO2 as you burp it, you can store the slants in the fridge. I put them in a ziplock bag and put the name of the yeast and the date on the bag.

Now I've got this yeast at the ready when I want to brew with it. Naturally, I need to culture this up to a full pitchable amount of yeast, which takes about a week and a half (10ml starters to 100ml to final 2 to 4 liter starter). Most literature says that a refrigerated agar slant will last about 6 months. So if you're not going to use the agar slant within six months, you'll need to culture it up to a small starter and innoculate a new slant. I'll probably use this yeast again within the next 6 months for a batch (or two or four) and when I start culturing it up, at the 10ml starter stage, I'll just innoculate another slant.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

New beer documentary: Beer Wars

So there's a new beer documentary called Beer Wars coming out. The angle seems to be craft beer vs. the mega breweries. Looks interesting:

There has been a lot of hype around the craft beer scene the last few years, and not all of it very well informed (witness this recent dumb article). So I tend to be skeptical. Also, there appears to be a healthy dose of St. Sam in this, which is a real eye roller for me. But I think this is definitely worth checking out. The simulcast panel discussion is intriguing enough to get me out there.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Earth Bread + Brewery and the General Lafayette Inn

This past weekend took a trip with R down to the Philly area. Visted Earth Bread + Brewery, which we'd been meaning to check out since it opened. Founded by the owners of the late Heavyweight Brewing, of Ocean Township, NJ, they're trying to do an American Flatbread type thing - a couple of house beers, a bunch of local taps, and good, simple, locally sourced food. The beer selection and menu told me this much, but the chef walking around wearing an American Flatbread t-shirt was a dead giveaway.

We loved American Flatbread when we went to Burlington a bit over a year ago, so the bar was set high for Earth. We tried two of the house beers - a Mild and a Scotch ale. Both were excellent. The Mild was really fresh and lively and somewhere around 3.5% ABV. A blog post from Lew Bryson tells me that the Mild must have had something to do with the Session beer thing going on for Philly beer week. The Scotch ale, on the other hand, was big and malty and somewhere in the 8-8% ABV range. Delicious, both of them. The flatbreads that we had were very good too. Not quite as mind blowing as American Flatbread, but still excellent.

After a little jaunt around Chestnut Hill, we checked in to the General Lafayette Inn. This was our second stay at the General. I can say from both experiences that after going to a brewpub with great food and trying every beer that they have on tap, being able to simply walk across the parking lot to your bed is a beautiful thing. The food didn't disappoint this time either and the beers on tap ranged from solid (Pale Ale, Sunset Red) to excellent (ESB, Biere Des Fraises). The Winterfest was the shining star of the eight on tap - you'd either call this a really strong Alt or a Doppelbock fermented with ale yeast. Loaded with Munich malt character and strong (about 8.5% ABV) but smooth.

Great times. We totally recommend checking out both places.