Monday, January 4, 2016

Creating a Logo, Not as Simple as You'd Think

If you are one of my few treasured fans over on Facebook, then you may have already noticed the new logo I created.  On most of my labels I had just been using this font to read "SHEGOGUE BREW" and I had some images of grain underneath it, It worked, but I wanted a logo that could stand alone.

Take note of the "Shegogue Brew" in one of my favorite labels

Thought Process

I went through a lot of thought and deliberation to come up with the logo presented below.  Here is some of that thought process:

  • Wanted to keep "Shegogue Brew" - Most brewery names have some variation of Brewing Co or Brewery.  That doesn't rhyme with the pronunciation of my last name Shegogue (pronounce Shuh-goo)
  • Since my home brewery name is just my last name I was at a loss for what identifying mark or symbol I should use
    • I thought about incorporating a beer mug and the letter 'S' but that was too plain
    • I thought about some sort of synergy of yeast, hops, water and grain, but those were all too busy
    • Considered creating some sort of chart or bar graph to reference my tagline (see tagline description below)
  • I put the symbol on the backburner to consider some sort of tagline.  Many of the great breweries have them.  i.e. Dogfish Head - "Off-centered ales for off-centered people".  Everyone in my family knows I have two speeds slow, and slower so I came up with the tagline "slowly analyzing ales"
  • With that tag line in place I had a slightly more narrow focus for my symbol which I decided to go with turtle or a snail.  To be honest, the snail images I found online were easier to work with than the turtles so I went with that
  • As an added bonus, I can now refer to my little guy as the "Ale Snail," which I think is pretty catchy
Without further ado - the new Logo for Shegogue Brew

New Logo

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Brew Year in Review

Another year come has come and gone as 2015 marked my sixth year in this wonderful hobby. The first half of the year I ended up producing zero, I repeat zero, gallons of beer. I held up my vow to not brew until I could do so inside. It took a while, but I finally finished!

Brewery Build

Look back at the progress posts here:

  1. Indoor Brewery Plans
  2. Workbench
  3. Brew Stand
  4. Utility Sink
  5. Ventilation

After setting up the brewery I then decided to shift all my free time into raising a puppy.

Beer Making

I did end up making a few batches of beer - the inTROduction session ale, and the dumper brown.  The Simple Blonde Ale, which had me worried but ended up fine.  And the last brew of the year was the big Russian Imperial Stout for National Homebrew Day.

Beer Blogging/Writing

Though my posts were somewhat numbered here on the personal blog I was able to contribute to other online sites like and

Commercial Beers

We also can't forget that this summer I was able to vacation in Vermont and get Heady Topper!

Resources Created

Created the sortable and searchable Yeast Strain Table to help identify and compare homebrew yeast strains.

Thats the quick of it!  Hope your 2015 was a great one and that 2016 is even better.

Hoppy Brew Year!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Simple Blonde Ale

Blonde ales can be a tricky beer as they are really all about balance.  I tried another quick brew with a 30 minute boil for this one.  Efficiency was significantly lower so I will have to investigate why for the future.

I apologize for the lack of tasting notes and pictures as I wanted to get the recipe up before I forget about it.

Simple Blonde Ale
Brewed On: 9-19-2015
Kegged On: 
Style: 18A American Blonde Ale
Batch Size: 5 gal 30 min boil
Efficiency: 65%
OG: 1.043
FG: 1.011
IBU: 24
ABV: 4.2%
Yeast: WLP090 Fermented 63 raised to 67 and held

Grist Mashed at 148 for an hour
100% - Pale Ale Malt (Rahr) -9.5 lbs

Hop Additions 
1 oz - Cascade 7.3% AA - FWH in a 30 minutes boil- 21 IBU
.5 oz - Cascade 7.3% AA - 5 min - 3 IBU

Water Adjustments
Montgomery County, MD Water - 1/2 Campden Tablet for all brewing water
5 grams CaCl to mash water
3 oz of acid malt used
Estimated pH of 5.52 (EZWaterCalc)

Tasting Notes: Will update once my cold is gone, but as I recall there is low citrus hop aroma that comes through slightly more in the flavor.  The bitterness is moderate and the beer was not as smooth as I was hoping.  In the future I will try to hit a higher gravity or decrease the bittering hops. Additionally, I may try to use all RO or dilute my tap water to minimize any sulfate from my tap water.

Monday, November 16, 2015

National Learn How to Homebrew Day - 55 Gallons of RIS

November 7th was National Learn How To Homebrew Day and the GOBS (Goshen Oak Brewing Society) decided to plan a Big Brew Day.  There were 11 brewers who combined their systems to make 55 gallons of beer!  Five 10-gallon batches of Russian Imperial Stout were brewed, and split into individual 5-gallon vessels to be fermented separately.  There was one individual marching to the tune of their own drum making their own 5 gallon batch.

The group organized the event through a lengthy back-and-forth email chain.  After a little deliberation a version of the winning RIS from NHC 2012 (Chernaya Polnoch) was chosen.  Everyone was left to their own devises for yeast. I believe there will be versions fermented with American Ale yeast, Nottingham, London ale (Wyeast 1968*), Ringwood (Wyeast 1187*), Irish Ale (Wyeast 1084*).

Despite having the ability to brew 10-gallon batches since the inception of my all grain brewing equipment (circa 2010), this was actually the first time I have ever done so!  An RIS was definitely pushing the capacity limit on my mash tun - a 52 qt coleman xtreme was filled with 32 lbs of grain and 9 gallons of water.  We could barely close the top on the mash tun and had to top off the boil with 3lbs of DME.  The batch using my equipment finished at 1.088 FG which should result in an 8.5%-9% ABV Russian Imperial Stout after fermentation is all said and done.

The brew day went-off with only one real hitch - we all finished roughly around the same time and only had one water source to chill our batches.  This left many of us impatiently waiting.  During the day we were able to utilize a newly motorized grain mill.  A Brutus system was used to perform two separate mashes.  10 gallons was transferred to another boil pot and burner, and 10 gallons remained on the brutus system to boil as normal.

A few of the attendees were extract brewers who were able to fulfill the "Learn" portion of the event.  I think we may have a few converts now that they have seen how easy it is to make an all grain wort.

Compliments to our host Vitol for providing his home and smoking some delicious pork. Also praise to the resident GOBS chef, Gene, who provide some amazing ribs!  Lastly, thanks to all who brought samples of homebrew (and commercial) beer to keep us (de)hydrated throughout the day

Setting up - my system is on the far left

Milling Grains

Doughing In

camaraderie while mashing

keeping the kegs cold

The Brutus System

* - Does your local homebrew store not stock Wyeast?  Check my yeast strain chart for comparable alternatives!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Don't get too Lax - First true infection

I have a confession, I have gotten too lax with my brewing.  I have caught an infection in my brown ale, and I possible have another off flavor in my most recent brew, a blonde ale.  Which is currently carbonating and I will reevaluate shortly.

I have been a big fan of all the exBEERiments taking place over on but I my be letting all their statistically insignificant data carry over into some actually significant brewing processes - I have neglected some cleaning/sanitizing and have been using unhealthy yeast.

Brown Ale Infection

For the brown ale, I have narrowed down the cause of the infection to three potential areas
  1. Unboiled DME
  2. Ball valve
  3. Contaminated yeast
I think my infection came from 1 or 3, while its possible number 2 was the cause, I think its slim. 

1) A little back story - when I kegged my brown ale I cleaned and sanitized my quick disconnect and silicone tubing and I sprayed starsan in and around the quick disconnect on the pot's ball valve. I then attached the hose and gravity drained right from the kettle into a cleaned and sanitized keg.  I grabbed a plastic cup in the brew area and weighed out the DME to use in the keg for carbonation.  I dumped it right in the keg (didn't boil it) and let it sit for a little over 3 weeks to naturally carbonate.

When I hooked up the keg and pull some off, it was all foam and had a very sour note.  I did my research and new I was overcarbonated and it was most likely caused from an infection.  I off-gassed the keg twice a day for over a week until it finally was not pouring foam.  The samples were getting less sour, but they were taking on new off flavors - phenolic, clove, spicey, and a slight "meaty" note all accompanied with an astringent bitterness.  The sourness had faded but this beer was not getting better.

Just like a baseball skipper, I made the call to pull my pitcher and dump the brown ale...

[moment of silence for dumping 5 gallons of alcohol]

Life is too short to drink bad beer!

2) Anyways, I did save a bit of the sample to test and the gravity had dropped 2 points from 1.011 to 1.009 so something unintended definitely got to work in that beer. As you can see from the pictures below, even though I clean out my ball valve and boil kettle after each brew, some stuff gets in those threads.  I have since disassembled and cleaned all of those parts.  I also don't think I am going to be fermenting in the kettle anymore - probably not the cause of the potential grime, but I prefer to see what is going on in the clear better bottles anyways.

You can see the dirt in the 7 to 8 oclock quadrant of the valve

Same picture with slightly different lighting

Flecks of crud on a napkin after brush out the inside of the ball valve

3) The last possible cause for my infection could have been the yeast.  I harvested the WLP002 from inTROduction ale by just pouring the yeast slurry from the better bottle into a mason jar which had been boiled.  It should have been fine, but who knows what was kicking around in the air from the time I finished racking to the keg, until dumping the yeast slurry.  It also took a good 2 days for that yeast to show signs of fermentation.  Definitely plan on making a vitality starter next time.

Off Flavor in Blonde Ale?

So I just kegged my blonde ale on Saturday and taking a swig from my final gravity sample I found myself shaking my head in shame again.  I tasted a little bit of a vegetal character, much like V8 tomato juice.  This is where I am really interested to see how this beer turns out after carbonation - did I get DMS from the 30 min boil?  Or was it the slow start to my fermentation?  A statistically insignificant exBEERiment would state it wasn't the boil time, but instaed was caused by the slow fermentation.

Yeah, you caught that did you?  I had an even slower start to my fermentation in the blonde ale than I did with the brown!  I used WLP090 San Diego super yeast which was a few weeks past its best by date.  I was TOO LAZY to make a starter, so I just took 2 L of my blonde ale wort and added the yeast to the stir plate.  About 8 hours later I pitched the yeast and wort into the rest of the wort to ferment.  It took right under 72 hours for it to start to fermenting - not optimal


I have been to lazy to make sure my yeast is at optimum health and pitch rate to ferment my beer to its best potential.  I need refocus my efforts toward better brewday preparation.  I will update when i have a better idea about how the blonde turns out.  If it is DMS I am going to have a constant inner battle with whether it was the 30 minute boil, or the slow fermentation start.

I can control both of those variable in my next brew.

Until then...everyone hug your uncontaminated and off-flavor-free beers for me.  You don't know how much you should appreciate them :)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Bad Bear 2 - British Brown Ale

As you may recall about two years ago I made my first attempt at an English Brown Ale.  It had a nice malt profile, but there was this tangy sour character I didn't find appealing.  I went ahead and blamed it on the S-04 yeast I used.  But after further research I may have placed the blame on the wrong ingredient, or maybe not.

I looked back at the old recipe and noticed I had Victory, Biscuit and Special Roast.  I have come to learn that Victory is Briess' brand of biscuit malt.  I decided to swap out the Biscuit (think the maltser I use is Dingmanns) for all Victory in this recipe.  I then did some research on Special Roast.  Lo and behold it can produce that tangy sour character!  See description from Briess below.

"Special Roast is not only more deeply roasted than Victory® Malt, it is also produced from a proprietary malting/roasting process that kicks up the intensity of the toasty and biscuity flavors, develops noticeable bran flake notes and creates its distinguishing bold sourdough/tangy flavor" - Briess Malting

Harvest WLP002 English Ale Yeast
Harvested WLP002 from inTROduction
So I may have written of S-04 too soon, but I like WLP002 so much and I didn't want to take a chance on the sour/tart character coming from yeast either.  Plus I have been trying to harvest yeast using the simple method and had a couple mason jars left over from my inTROduction session ale ready to ferment away.

Anyways, now that I cut out the Special Roast and S-04, this beer is looking less and less like a slightly modified Bad Bear so I decided to go with pale chocolate, at twice the amount, instead of chocolate malt in the original.  I am a big fan of pale chocolate malt and hope this dosage works well for this beer.  I also am using Caramunich because its what I have on hand.

I made some modifications to my brewing procedures to speed things up on brewday and was able to make this All-Grain batch happen in 3 hours!  I did a 30 min mash and a 45 min boil.  I then fermented directly in the kettle - a practice I may need to implement more often in the future.  The only real issue with the speed brew was that I forgot to take an OG reading so I have no clue what this beers ABV is and am providing the numbers below as a rough guess.

Despite the numerous recipe changes, I am sticking with the name since I enjoy the label so much!

Bad Bear 2 - British Brown Ale

Brewed On: October 6, 2012
Kegged On: October 27, 2012
Style: 11C - Northern English Brown
Batch Size: 5 gallons
Efficiency: 75%
OG: 1.048?
FG: 1.012
IBU: 26 (Rager) 
ABV: 4?%
Yeast: Harvested WLP002 ~250 billion viable cells Fermented at 64°

Grist Mashed at 148 for an hour
80% - Pale Ale Malt (Rahr) -8 lb
10%  - Victory (Briess) - 1 lb
5%  - Caramunich - 8 oz
5%  - Pale Chocolate - 8 oz

Hop Additions 
.4 oz - Magnum 14.7% AAU - FWH in a 45 minutes boil- 26 IBUs

Water Adjustments
Montgomery County, MD Water - 1/2 Campden Tablet for all brewing water
2 grams gypsum to mash water
2 grams CaCl to mash water
2 oz of acid malt used

Tasting Notes: Batch Infected!  Maybe Bad Bear Brown Ale is destined to be bad...I plan on re-brewing this again in the future to try and conquer this style which continually seems to allude me!

See this post for further details

Monday, September 28, 2015

inTROduction - American Session Ale

Since it had been 6 months since brewing and I had drained my stash of Heady Topper, I needed to brew something hoppy.  I had a solid amount of Citra in the freezer just waiting to be used so I decided to make a hoppy american session ale for the first brew on the indoor induction brewery! 

The brew day was pretty solid for the first run on a new system and I tried to document some of it in this video below.  I don't know if my enthusiasm showed through enough, but let me just say it was AWESOME being able to brew a batch of beer inside as it absolutely down poured rain all day outside.

I made my first attempt at a hoppy session beer last year and then failed to document it on the blog - shame on me.  In that attempt I took the Scottish 70 /- recipe from Brewing Classic Styles and threw a bunch of hops in it.  I made it with maris otter LME for a quick extract batch during the mash of another beer for a two-brew, brew day.  It ended up tasting okay and was a light-brown hazy ale, but just wasn't what I was looking for.  Too much malt character and the hopping ended up being too Citra forward (had 3 oz in the dry hop) - if that is possible.

Taking the previous attempt into account I decided to lean more towards a grain bill I would use in a pale ale, but upped the crystal malt %.  I used Weyermann Caramunich I (~35 lovibond) because I purchased five pounds of it in a bulk buy, but I think using Crystal 40 could achieve very similar results in the future.  I like to have a little crystal malt as I think the sweetness it imparts pairs nicely with Citra hops.  Also having a less fermentable grain is pretty crucial in keeping these low gravity hop bombs in check.  I rounded out the recipe with some Munich malt for character and more equal parts of Simcoe and Cascade to prevent the Citra from being overpowering.

I present inTROduction - an American Session ale.  A play on words for my innagural brew on the induction system.

inTROduction - American Session Ale

Brewed On: June 27, 2015
Kegged On: July 16, 2015
Style: 10A - American Pale Ale
Batch Size: 5 gallons
Efficiency: 72%
OG: 1.043
FG: 1.011
IBU: 47 estimated (Rager) 
ABV: 4.2%
Yeast: 1L starter of WLP002.  Fermented at 64° for 3 days then rise and held at 68°

Grist Mashed at 152.5 for 40 minutes
74% - Pale Ale Malt (Rahr) - 6.5 lbs

14% - Munich (Briess) - 1.25 lbs
11% - Caramunich I (Weyermann) - 1 lb

Hop Additions
.44 oz - Magnum 14.7%AA - FWH - 35 IBUs
1 oz - Cascade 7.3% - 20 min - 12 IBUs

1 oz each of Simcoe, Citra, and Cascade at Flameout
Dry hopped with 1 oz Citra, 1/2 oz Simcoe and 1/4 oz Centennial

Water Adjustments
Montgomery County, MD Water - 1/2 Campden Tablet for all brewing water
8 grams gypsum to mash water, and 2oz acid malt for an estimated mash pH of 5.41 according to EZ Water Calculator

Tasting Notes

Appearance: This American session ale pours dark amber in color with good, but brilliant clarity.  It has a frothy just off-white head with great retention and good lacing.

Aroma: High tropical fruit notes dominate the pleasant hop aroma while moderate background notes of grapefruit citrus are present.  There is a low background note of sweet malt character that is most likely accentuated by the Citra hops (which can lend a perceived sweetness themselves)

Flavor: Moderately high hop flavor of tropical fruit with low citrus notes.  There is a herbal-spice character I often notice with centennial that I detect, but need to figure out a better way of describing.  Moderately low caramel malt sweetness.  Moderately-high hop bitterness.  Finishes slightly dry. Balance is moderately hop forward and bitter.

Mouthfeel: Moderately high carbonation, medium-light body, low creaminess, no astringency and no alcohol warming

Overall:  This was a refreshing hoppy session beer, however, at the time I finally got around to writing down my tasting notes it was a shell of what it was fresh.  Alas, that's what happens to all hoppy beers over time. Citra is still the dominant hop in this attempt, but the other hops add necessary complexity too keep this beer from being too one dimensional.  I liked the way this came out and I think in the future I may mash a little higher to increase the body a smidge.  additionally I may use a lower lovibond crystal malt which shouldn't impart as much caramel sweetness, but retain the body I am looking for.