Binder Clips

Home Brewing with Binder Clips

Binder clips are the multi tool of home brewers at least in my little brew space. The clips are used throughout the entire brew process. While brewing the clips are used to hold hop bags, pinch tubing, and as hose stand offs. I am racking the Sour Hammer today. A binder clip prevents the auto-siphon from falling into the fermentor. Disturbing the yeast lees is not wanted. The clip allows me to draw off clear liquid. The beer has been aging since January 2013 fermented with various yeast & bacteria some wild others from commercial laboratories.

The lab strands:
Brettanomyces Lambicus –produces a pie cherry-like flavor and sourness along with distinct "Brett" character. A pellicle may form in bottles or casks.
Roeselare Ale Blend –produce beer with a complex, earthy profile and a distinctive pie cherry sourness. Blend of Belgian ale yeast, a sherry yeast, two Brettanomyces strains, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus.
Lactobacillus –produces moderate levels of acidity and is commonly found in many types of beers.

The house bugs:
JPBD –Jolly Pumpkin bottle dregs harvested from commercial beer.
Special B –A blend of Belgian Saison yeast, Brettanomyces and Lactobacillus.
TX-BB –A blend of wild yeast from persimmons with a heavy dose of Brettanomyces Bruxellensis.

The intent was to make a unique sour with second runnings. In good faith I must admit I dumped much of this project. The beer had sat around too long or had less than stellar results. I reserved best batches for bottling and blending. The bugs achieved 95%+ attenuation. The samples ranged from funky, fruity, fusel, hot, and solvent. Notes of oxidation ranged from stale to cellar like. Very little notes from kettle caramelization held up. The beer lacks body it is aged beer for blending with young beer. Blending will help replenish body and display the intended character. The ones I dumped were too far gone.

The TX-BB Sour Hammer was bottled as-is with a high dose of priming sugar. Corked bottles are carbonating while half-keg is cold aging. I am preparing a young Flanders Red for blending. I've also though a secondary batch on black cherries would be nice.

Sour Hammer Racking
Sour Hammer Tasting
Sour Hammer Corked Bottles

Works Cited:
Thanks to MP father of The Velvet Hammer‎

German Brewmaster Chats

Franconia Brewing Dennis Wehrmann

A conversation happens once a year when my local homebrewing club meets at the Franconia Brewery. Each year we are greeted with some new equipment. This year the 6000 square foot brewery was is fitted with a bottling line. Dennis Wehrmann and his loyal crew have been on the scene six years and counting. New equipment means more beer for the masses. As a homebrewer I've learned better questions get better answers on brewery tours. When quizzing a German brewmaster those questions should also be proper for making long-term-pure-beer not trend-seeking-thrill-beer. Those terms I completely made up but you get my point. I seek to understand the classic styles in an effort to harness creativity. Last year's conversation was about the merit of professional brewing programs. We touched on volunteer training and brewing operations. This year we chatted about the billowing Dallas beer market its challenges and its hope. I'd like to understand tap capacity, keg prices, market share, and brand overload. The current tap space seems limited for the amount of breweries coming online. This year alone 20+ breweries were approved by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. Shelf space and tap space will be even more limited. Yet the race for space continues. My question: How will the new comers fare in this brand sensitive industry? I want to know which beers will stand market clasp? I'd also like to know if it's safe to get in? Well fortune tellers that's a million dollar question for palm readers. My hope is simple "Get In Where You Fit In" –stop there with the rapper quotes.

I believe the Dallas area breweries are here to stay. I'm in agreeance with consistency being far more reaching than hype. German styled beer have been around for a very long time. Their merits seem lackluster to thrill seekers yet there is no replacing repeatable quality and craft. The beers I like the most are creative. I am learning on a production scale thrill-beers can also expand or cripple a market. Specialty has its price. I'd like to see this creativity continue by way of local agriculture. The farming industry could use more local support –back to beer. The limited almost nonexistent damned if you don't Franconia IPA will return. This time with organically grown hops. Thank head brewer Cam Horn for that one. I'm looking forward also the Franconia Triple Dunkel. At some point I think the craft beer industry started making things up not for creativity but just so we over zealous types could fumble for words. I also believe this is thrill marketing. Post shake down Dallas craft beer will have some long term beers to be proud of.

After the club meeting I walked away with 10lbs of base malt and some aged hops. This screams sour beer but I have reason to make session beers. My next homebrew will be a well styled malt tilted classic. The hops I will saved for sour brewing.

Franconia Brewery Malt Hops Homebrew

Works Cited:
photo by Abhishek
Malt gifted by BB of
Aged hops gifted to club members

Beer Yeast Bread

Imperial Stout Beer Bread
Beer Bread

My thoughts on making imperial stout beer bread using brewers yeast.

"This is not going to work. The yeast is spent. Roasted grains are harsh, the bread won't rise. You are wasting time." All pessimism, here are some positives: "It's bread. Feed for the chickens if all fails. Bread is simple use more yeast and more flour. Beer is alcoholic dilute with water try again."

"Okay, I'll give it a shot! Starting with an easy recipe and a lot of yeast. I have a yeast cake from a stout beer and some flat imperial stout to play with. There's enough yeast for several batches. The imperial stout is sweet and should make an interesting bread. This could work!"

The second attempt was a bread to be proud of. The first turned out yeasty with a doughy consistency. I had used too much yeast and the initial rise was too dry. The second attempt was exceptional. Keeping all things the same I would use bread flour* instead of the all purpose listed below. Additional research says the two look the same but are different products. I would also make two batches because the bread turned out great.

Imperial Stout Brewers Bread
1.5 pints (24 oz) Room Temperature Imperial Stout (flat no carbonation)
3.5 cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon salt
3 oz Yeast Slurry
1 tablespoon Honey
4 oz warm water
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 oz crushed malt (optional)

Brewers Yeast -Step 1 Revive The Yeast
I was concerned about the viability of spent yeast so I mixed 4 oz of warm water with 2 oz of Imperial Stout and 1 tablespoon of honey. Any sugar can be used as instead. I preferred honey for its light sweetness. Mix in a bowl, cover, and allow to sit overnight. This gives the yeast a boast before working into the dough. If a less alcoholic beer is used try less water. My attempt was not to stunt the yeast with 12% Imperial Stout.

Sticky Dough -Step 2 Make The Dough
I mixed the sticky dough before work so that it could rise during the warmer daylight. Simply shift 3.5 cups of unbleached all purpose flour into a bowl. Add the liquid yeast and 1.24 pints (20 oz) of beer at room temperature. I used imperial stout bottles which never carbonated. Making bead helped to easy my frustration with the flat beer. Add enough beer to make a wet sticky dough. Coat a large bowl (pasta boiler in my case) with three tablespoons of olive oil. Transfer (flip out of the bowl) the sticky dough and allow to rise 24 hours.

Knead The Bread -Step 3 Work Dough
The following day dust the counter top with 1 tablespoon of salt and flour. Adding the slat late allows the yeast to be fully active before salting. Prepare for kneading. Mix in a hand-full of crushed malt. I added roasted barley for additional character. Knead until smooth be sure not to over work the dough. Add more flour as needed. When the dough is smooth cover and allow to rise 1 to 2 hours before baking.

Bake The Bread -Step 4 Slit The Dough
Cut slits in the dough before baking. Preheat the oven at 400F. The heat helps to form the crush. Bake for 45 minutes until the bread is golden brown. You are done! Allow to fully cool on a baking rack. Cut and serve fresh.

Knead Bread Dough
Wet Sticky Dough
Sticky Dough
Beer Yeast Bread
Beer Bread

*Note on Flour
All purpose flour is used in most recipes. It results in a soft low gluten bread that is slightly crumbly. Bread flour is higher in gluten used to make bread and pastries. While both look the same out of the box bread flour is more elastic resulting in a more chewy product.

Works Cited:
No-Knead Bread by King Arthur Flour (aka the Crusty White Bread)
Ottolenghi: The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi
Joy Of Cooking by Irma Rombauer
+baking tips from _sunshine_smiles

The Blue Stein

Sour Ale Blue Stein

This weekend I was almost trampled by Buffalo JL at the 28th Bluebonnet Brew-off Awards Ceremony. I’d won 1st Place in Sour Ale with a Black Cherry Kriek. Greeted with the most gigantic hug ever was priceless! JL is a hoot and awesome brewer!

Wining anything from the nation’s largest single site home brew competition can be daunting. I am humbled. My one award is a penny in comparison to great brewers with multiple awards. When it comes to sour ale my journey will forever honor SF at for my first ever sour beer experience. Thanks for sharing your awesome sours!

The ladies and gents of my club are also proud. North Texas Home Brewers Association took home Bluebonnet Club of the Year as well as The People’s Choice Award for best beers served during the glass evaluation. Moreover I am excited to see CH walk away with two awards the first for a Kolsch and the second for a Golden Sour. Watching his brewing take down giants has been fun. This excitement is mutual.

The Bluebonnet Brew-off is also a technical conference. This year speaker Gary Glass from The American Home Brewers Association spoke on homebrewing laws. The talk included federal and state legislation how laws are passed and how they affect be home brewer. Gary gave a quick list on what is legal in Texas and what is not. The Bluebonnet entered the year with some legal challenges. The competition while educational and non-profit needed to be sanctioned by the state alcohol and beverage commission. Steve Westrom led this charge with success. Home brewers could enter their beers for evaluation without fear of violation.

Keynote speaker Eric Warren of Karbach Brewing gave a historical overview of craft beer culture. He predicts the culture will become increasingly more local. He also predicts the industry will focus on more balanced flavorful beers. On Saturday the technical sessions were followed by pub tour. I skipped the tour for a panel discussion. Five leading North Texas breweries were represented Cedar Creek, Lakewood, Rabbit Hole, Revolver, and Rahr & Sons. Home brewers received technical advice from commercial brew masters. I found the discussion very informative. Topics included starting a brewery, water analysis, yeast management, recipe scaling, dry hopping, and brewery operations. Home brewers are encouraged to seek formal education and make the switch to professional brewing. The dreams of working wort for a living equates to a full time commitment to running a successful business.

Awards Ceremony

Works Cited:
Awards Ceremony Photo by Marina
2014 Bluebonnet Brew-off Results

Lucky Leprechaun

Bottling Home Brew

In the wee hours of the morning AT snapped this photo of me bottling home brew. This morning would change my life in more ways than one. This was October 2012 the weekend my daughter returned to Alabama. My small house of beer would revert back to the silent cave you read of today. Like a Leprechaun on St Patrick's day I'd emerge to chase rainbows and store treasures. The beer made for competition are my treasure. The passion for brewing rages like a flame. I ponder brewing professionally as a business. I am equipping for the journey. I find the market part-talent part-force where much investment is required. The year of 2013 nearly wrecked me. I've been lucky my brews are gathering a small bounty of awards. Outside of the beer world these ribbons, glasses, plates, and medals are meaningless. However, for the barefooted home-brewer talented of limited resources they read job well done! Success happens one step at a time validation is worth it's weight in gold. Merging across this rainbow I brew beer and write these letters. The green weekend begins tomorrow my sister AT has returned to keep me busy. She insists on celebration. I'm not a fan of green beer but the experience will be priceless.

Keep Calm & Brew On
Domras Cup Award

Works Cited:
*photos by
Home Brew Bottling*
Keep Calm and Brew On*
2013 Brewer Royale

Beer Judging Batman

2014 Midwinter Awards

Awards for the 2014 Midwinter Homebrew Competition have arrived by snail mail. It feels good to receive something other than bills. I was not expecting these! Given the nature of homebrew competition I suspect there were a lot of hands involved for Midwinter. Homebrew competitions don't just magically happen many volunteers are involved and many unpaid hours. We are in the midst of judging the 28th National Bluebonnet Brew-Off. All clubs in my region are busy. This weekend I had the honor of judging alongside Nationally ranked BJCP judges as far as Shreveport Louisiana. This weekend was for the die-hard fans of beer. We embarked on the task facing another cold front. The Dallas metropolis is covered in ice as I write. If you have ever wondered what it's like to judge beer imagine spending hours with your nose in a glass. Rise only to scribe notes then return lips to glass in a search for flavor the task can be daunting. At some point JD the 2014 Bluebonnet Director cued up the 1989 Nicholson & Keaton version of Batman. The crowd found new vigor with the back drop of Gotham City even beer geeks are superheros. Here are a couple of action shots.

Beer Judging Batman
Nose In Glass
Cheers Buddy

Works Cited:

Cheers Buddy!

Cheers Buddy

This weekend was packed with beer exercises as my region prepares for the Bluebonnet Brewoff. In the coming weeks we will judge 1300+ entries from all over the United States. The first week began with unpacking, verifying, and sorting entries. I volunteered on the yellow sticky line. Having put dots on about 4500 bottles of beer I am still seeing dots. Sunday began with some spiritual cleansing. After worship I gathered with the community of beer lovers to empty the barrel. We racked the Berliner onto various bugs in attempt to get it sharply sour. The base had reach a SG 1.008 while fermented solely with WLP677 the beer tasted clean –Belgian clean that is with light notes of lactic acid. Pitching different bugs will allow us to identify which bugs are preferred. I will work much of the batch with a house culture. I am thinking Brett B will move the base into the Berliner family without being out of style. The challenge will be to produce sharply sour notes within three weeks. I am open to ideas on this. Having not pitched the bugs I’m still gathering thoughts. While the crew was around we also shared some award winning home brew. Cheers Buddy!

2014 Midwinter Homebrew Competition
1st Place - Straight Unblended Lambic - House Guest 2.0
Cuvee Conditioned -Dec 2012 Golden sour dry with medium funk and deep acidity | Exceptional | Bottled for aging

3rd Place - Open Category Mead - Coffee Mead
Coffee Mead 2.0 ground coffee added to 1/2 gallon. Stored cold. Racked and bottled.

2014 16th Annual Domras Cup Mead Competition
1st Place - Open Category Mead - Oak Aged Caramelized Honey Mead
Oak Stick Aged Caramelized honey mead. Ruby brown color. Fruity floral aroma. Flavor of toffee and light cinnamon. Getting better aged at room temperature. The sweetness and alcohol are becoming one/well rounded.

Works Cited:
Family Photo - AB, CH, AG, DM, SW, EF