Friday, February 29, 2008

Helpful Hint: visit your local bakery

It's always cheaper to buy grain in bulk, but how to store it to keep out unwanted scavengers and bugs? Being that I'm an avid thrifter, I have this helpful hint to offer: visit your local bakery. Most bakeries don't make their own fillings or frostings, they buy them by the gallon in buckets. So, many have an ample supply of empty buckets around that have been used once. My favorite donut bakery, Hinkley's in Jackson MI, often will have buckets sitting out for $1. The one pictured is a 4.5 gallon Bavarian Creme Filling bucket (can you imagine the diabetic coma 4.5 gallons of Bavarian Creme would cause!?) with 10lb of 2-row pale malt. It will probably hold 20lbs of malt. It could also double as a small primary fermenter. You might have to ask for the buckets at some places, but I would imagine most bakeries will have them. Remember it will always help your cause to buy some baked good first. Deli's will often have pickle buckets, but the pickle smell lingers for a while. Happy scrounging!
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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

2008 Batch #1 Recipe (posted out of order): Pine Tar Porter

This is my first brew of the year, but I haven't got around to posting the recipe until now.

  • 8lbs US Pale Malt (Briess 2 Row)
  • 1lb Belgian Munich Malt
  • 1/2lb Crystal Malt (lv 49-60)
  • 1/2lb Black Patent Malt
  • 1/2lb Chocolate Malt
  • 1oz Northern Brewer (good luck finding some)
  • 1oz Northern brewer from my garden

10 qts H20 at 145º add grain and stabilize at 134 º for 30 minutes. added 3 quarts of boiling H2O ( would
have added 5, but that was before I had my large mash tun) stabilize at 153
º. Mash for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes heat to 158º for 10 minutes. (My conversion looked complete after 30, but I continued with this schedule anyway). Then mashed out at 168º. Sparged with ~3 gallons of 170º H20.


I had to boil in two pots. I filled my main boil pot to the brim and boiled the rest in a smaller kettle. When boiling, added 1/2 oz purchased NB hops; at 30 min added 1/2 oz garden NB hops; at 45 minutes added the other 1/2 oz of garden NB hops. I turned off the heat at 60 minutes and added the final 1/2 oz of purchased NB hops. After chilling and combining the kettles I had 4.5 gallons, so I added cold H20 to make 5. Added saved yeast from 12.12.07 (White Lab California V). Original Gravity was 1.060.


The ale yeast stopped working before it reached the gravity I was hoping for. So, I added the sludge from a lager I was transferring and let it worked a little more. This brought the gravity down to 1.020 which is acceptable (plus I was out of beer) so I put it in a keg.
The final gravity was 1.020 which gives it an % alcohol of ~5.2 . I'm not sure why the yeast stopped. Too cold in the kitchen? Maybe too many unfermentable sugars? Or, maybe I just didn't have enough patience and everything would have been fine. Either way it turned out great.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Porter is in a Keg

After letting the specific gravity drop to 1.020, I've decided to keg the porter. The extra few weeks with the lager yeast seems to have helped. I'm happy with the way it's turned out, once the CO2 is balanced out (I hit it hard with pressure so I could tap it 6 hours later when friends came over) it will be the perfect brew to tide me over until spring. I'll post the recipe soon.

Friday, February 22, 2008


Some friends of mine are part of a group from the Kalamazoo Gazette that have started Kalamabrew; a beer blog with a focus on the Southwest Michigan beer scene. Its packed with information about Michigan beer as well as news about beer in general (I'm sure it helps having access to the AP wire :) While is great reading overall, one cool feature is the Michigan Brewery video tours. I've included the most recent below. Nice job guys, and keep up the good work.
Freakin' Firkin

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Is that six pack for me?

Being a busy person, I can't always have a batch of home brew in a drinkable state. So, currently I have 15 gallons of beer lagering in carboys. My cheap beer of choice is High Life, however my wife came from the store with a surprise yesterday: a six pack of Bell's Hop Slam. Now, I normally would never pay $15 for a six pack (thats would cover the entire grist bill for 5 gallons of home brew with a few cents to spare!! Hops are another story these days...) but as my wife pointed out, my birthday is next week and what better gift is there? The cashier asked her if it was, "some kind of special beer." I'm happy to report that it is. Man is it good. At 10.0% alc. you can split a bottle amoung friends and sip it like scotch. Is claims to be brewed with honey and has slight residual sweetness that you would expect from a beer of this octane, but its balanced perfectly with the hops (centennial I'm guessing??) This truly is a great beer that I'm sure will keep well. Its only availabe for a short time, so you can pony up the cash now and drink one a month for the next six months. If I can get one of the beers in my basement into a keg or bottles, I might be able to keep a bottle or two around until... March.