Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Brew Year in Review

Well, today is the last day of 2012 and I would like to take a few minutes to step back and look at all which was accomplished this year.  First, and maybe most important to anyone reading, is I started this blog back in February.  It has provided me an outlet to spout my knowledge and opinions on craft and homebrewing beer, as well as, alleviate my wife's ears to my constant rambling of beer...well maybe not completely (She has picked up quite a bit of beer related knowledge and I am very impressed with her for that).  2012 marked my 3rd full year of being a homebrewer and I was able to accomplish the following:

The Brewery

I began kegging at the end of 2011, but didn't start to truly understand the difficulties surrounding draft beer until I let a couple of gallons of beer pour out onto the garage floor!  For Christmas I received 3 perlick stainless steel faucets and all the additional equipment to connect those faucets to my kegs.  Hopefully, this will prevent the beer spillage from happening again (although my velcrow solution for the picnic taps worked well).  I created a hopper extension out of some cardboard and duck tape for my Barley Crusher - now if I could just remember to keep my drill battery charged so I don't have to hand crank 12 lbs of grain every brew day!  Additionally, I am slowly creating a more organized brew area in the garage and getting my process down - I purchased some saw horses to hold my mash tun so I don't dump a mash tun full of grains and hot liquor on the floor.

(Trashcan-stand which is no longer being utilized due to being a brewery hazard)

The Beer

After reading Ray Daniels book, Designing Great Beers, I came up with one of my own recipes for an English Mild ale.  This beer was my first personal recipe to place in competition.  I also received a lot of great feedback on other beers and much gratitude from some friends who enjoyed Shegogue Brew at their housewarming party.  I began working on my house Pale Ale recipe and will continue to adjust the hops until I get the flavor profile I am looking for.  I even created a brew calendar, which it saddens me to admit I am already off pace and possibly going to change it up!

(Plastered Pilgrim - Spiced Pumpkin Ale)

Also, as you have seen in some recent recipe posts, I have been creating labels for my homebrew.  Just another way to enjoy the hobby and showcase my beer for friends and family.

Lastly, I want to say thank you to all who read this blog.  I occasionally check the site traffic statistics provided by Google and it is nice to see other people are frequenting the site.  Don't be scared to leave comments, criticism or other feedback.

So for a 2012 Happy Brew Year, I'd like to wish everyone a Happy New Year for 2013!  Be safe out there tonight!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Wall - Russian Imperial Stout

You can check out a little synopsis of the brew day on this post: Double Brew for Shegogue.

The Wall Recipe
Brewed On: July 14, 2012
Style: 13F - Russian Imperial Stout
Batch Size: 6 gallons
Efficiency: 63%
OG: 1.095
FG: 1.021
IBU: 166 calculated (Rager) More like in the 80-90 range, but we will say a nice 100
ABV: 9.7%
Yeast: Safale S-05 American Ale Yeast (2 Re-hydrated packs)

Grist Mashed at 150 for an hour
82% - Pale Ale Malt (Great Western) - 19.5 lbs
6% - Roasted Barley (Briess 300L)  - 1.5 lbs
4% - Caramunich (Weyermann) - 1 lb
4% - Special B (Dingemans 300L) - 1 lb
4% - Chocolate Malt (Briess 350L) - 1 lb

Hop Additions 
3oz of Warrior 15.8%AA - 60 minutes - 100 IBUs?

Tasting Notes:  The Wall pours almost pitch black in the glass, but held up to the light you can get a glimpse of a very dark brown (like the stain of a dark walnut wood) color.  The head on the beer is a dark tan and provides lacing while drinking.

(The Wall - Waxed and Labeled for Christmas Gifts!)

The beer has a bunch of different smells that I picked up on - coffee, chocolate, a dark fruitiness (grapes?) and a sweet malt aroma.  The Wall has a firm bitterness upfront, which is accompanied by moderate carbonation, and leads to the complex chewy flavors already perceived in the aroma.  The bitter from the hops and roasted malts packs a punch on the taste buds and invites the drinker back for another sip!

This beer should continue to age and improve.  If you received one of these as a gift I look forward to hearing your tasting notes in the comment section below!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Brewery Update - Early December 2012

So far the Plastered Pilgrim has been received well by family and friends.  Everyone really seems to enjoy the labels, which I plan to continue.  I did not get time to brew in November, which according to the Brew Calendar was supposed to be a Pale Ale.  At this point I am undecided on when the next brew day will be and what I will be brewing.  The ingredients I purchased for my porter, had some partial cracked grains (chocolate malt) so I made need to buy some new malt for freshness.  Additionally, I have some hops in the freezer I may just attempt a pale ale...Glad I gave myself some leniency when I constructed the Brew Calendar!

In other news, black friday was a big success for some brewery equipment purchases.  Expect to see a post and pictures to come of my new tap system.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Labeling your Homebrew

I have had to work 2 of the past 3 weekends, so I have had very little time to spending on brewing related items.  I missed my scheduled porter brewday and will need to reschedule to sometime in December.  I was able to carve out some time to bottle a case off of my Plastered Pilgrim keg and label them!

I thought I would post about some of the methods of creating and applying Labels for your homebrewed beer or wine.  Hopefully this post will alleviate you readers from some of the leg work.

Label Design

The key to a good label is being able to express your thoughts or theme which will attract and inform your consumers (friends).  Think about what draws your attention when looking for new beers at the bottle shop.  Maybe its a creative logo or cool font (DA Fonts).  Maybe its a picture or a beer name.  Homebrewer's tend to do labels in 1 of 2 ways:  (1) Labels which have consistency (Logo, font, layout etc.) or (2) each label is its own creation.  I like to side with the first option.  I like to think of my homebrew as if it was real brewery.  I want my labels to all have a feel which evokes brand recognition.  I think Samuel Adams and Sierra Nevada are two breweries that effectively do this.

Now that you have some ideas, you need to decide how you will be creating the labels.  Some artistic folks decide to do it by hand.  These can be really awesome!  Unfortunately, I was not blessed with an artistic hand and tend to go the digital route.  I use GIMP, a program similar to photoshop, to create my labels.


Are you making labels for 12 oz or 22 oz bottles?  When I was looking online it seemed like a lot of labels for 12 ounce bottles were 3 inches high by 4 inches wide.  I went with this and, it produces a nice label, but I think I will increase the dimensions as it just didn't cover as much space as I as hoping for.  Additionally, the text which looked rather large on my computer monitor, was almost illegible when printed.  The "Surgeon General" warning I created was in 14px, and other text about the beer was 16px.  I had to increase this and recommend 20px or greater for any text.  In GIMP I set the pixels to match inches.  3x4 correlates to 900px by 1200px.  So keep that in mind with font sizes.  I think my next set of labels will be 4 inches high by 5.25 inches wide

Printing and Applying

Unfortunately, if you have an inkjet printer, you won't easily be able to label with my suggested adhesive (see below).  You can purchase specific adhesive papers from places online such as which will allow you to use inkjet.  If you have a laser printer, you're set!  If not just print out one color sheet from your inkjet printer and take it to a local copy center like Kinkos or Staples etc.  I used Staples and was able to use their straight-edge cutter, which was a real time saver!

Applying - Most homebrewers hate de-labeling commercial bottles.  It is a painstaking and time intensive process.  So why would you want to put labels on your beer that is hard to take off?  I browsed the forums, and although skeptical, found that milk was the best adhesive!  Sure enough, I poured an ounce of milk onto a plate and lightly dipped the back of the labels in the milk and applied them to the bottles.  Held strong!  Came off with a little water and scratching with my fingernail.  And they didn't smell :)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Plastered Pilgrim - Spiced Pumpkin Ale

I felt it appropriate to unveil the first of my new labels in the post for this beer.  I have created somewhat of a template which I hope to incorporate into future labels.

I have been doing some thinking about the best way to share my recipes/brewdays with everyone on the interwebs and decided it would be best to wait until I had the final product before me to do so.  In these and future posts I will give a short descriptive synopsis of the beer, followed by the recipe and sum it up with my thoughts.

The beer smells exactly like pumpkin pie, and not just the spices.  Call me crazy, but as I take deep sniff, I can pick out a the smell of pie crust.  The beer is a bronze-orange color, which at the time of tapping is a tad hazy (picture to come).  The pumpkin spices flood the mouth, followed by a moderate carbonation and creamy body.  The spicing is balanced, and the beer leans a tad towards the malty side.  The finish has a gentle tinge of alcohol warmth (most likely from the low level of bitterness).  This is a very palatable pumpkin ale, and one that could be consumed in session quantities.  The spicing does not overwhelm.

Plastered Pilgrim Recipe
Brewed On: September 15, 2012
Style: 21A - Spice, Herb, Vegetable Beer
Batch Size: 6 gallons
Efficiency: 82%
OG: 1.058
FG: 1.015
IBU: 18 (Rager)
ABV: 5.6% (forgot to change label, but close enough)
Yeast: WLP002 - English Ale Yeast - Rinsed from prior batch

Grist Mashed at 155 for an hour (sparging was a PITA with pumpkin!)
66% - Maris Otter - 10lbs
25% - Pumpkin Puree - 60 oz (4, 15 oz cans baked at 350° for an hour)
3% - Biscuit - 8oz
3% - Crystal 40 - 8oz
3% - Crystal 120 - 8oz

Hop Additions 
1oz of Willamette 4.8%AA - 60 minutes - 18 IBUs

Overall - This beer is pretty tasty.  I can't take full credit for the recipe as I modeled it largely off of the hit "Thuderstruck Pumpkin Ale" on HBT.  I think this may become a seasonal for me, but I will leave it up to friends and relatives to decide.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Craft Beer, Costly in Montgomery County, MD

I moved to Maryland a little over a year ago.  It is a great state and has a lot of things going for it, but the alcohol situation in Montgomery County is not one of them. 

There are four counties in Maryland which are controlled jurisdictions.  This basically means that all liquor, wine and beer is controlled by the county.  This control allows for some positive things such as the department generating enough revenue that it can donate $32.4 million in 2011 or $240 million over the past 10 years to the counties general fund.  But it also means another middle man in the chain.  And it provides two additional times for the consumer to get hit where it hurts, in their pockets.  There are a few different scenarios beer gets to market.  The first two below are standard, the third is Montgomery County:

  • Self Distribution - In some states, self distribution is allowed and provides the opportunity for the brewer to distributes its products directly to retailers (bars, bottle shops, liquor stores, and/or individuals)
  • Required Distributor - That state requires breweries to work with a distributor; a company which specializes in selling your beer.
  • Montgomery County - The county buys and sells all products from distributors.

There are varied rationale's on whether self distribution or a distributor is better for the brewery as far as opportunity costs and actual costs go.  Either way, the third option results in another mark up to the consumer.  The county controls which products can be sold and for what price.  Bottle shops are forced to take a drastic hit in profit or offer beers at a higher price than other counties in Maryland, but most of all higher than bordering state of Virginia... a craft beer oasis in comparison.  

Now we know the cause, but lets look at the effect. I have visited a few different bottle shops in my area, and I was actually really impressed with the selection.  The problem was the price.  I was finding six packs of California based breweries for $15-$18.  These sixers were sitting at room temperature and had some visible dust.  Green Flash and Firestone Walker make some great beers, but I just don't want to take a chance on their freshness, especially when I would be forking over $3 a bottle.  Depending on the shop you could have to pay $9-$10 for a six pack that would be $7-$8 in Virginia.

However, the price gouging doesn't stop a the sticker.  About a year ago, Montgomery County increased the sales tax on alcohol to 9%.  So not only would I potentially be paying 20%-30% more for my beer, I would then have to pay and addition 9%  in sales tax. Disappointed to say the least.  I am glad my hobby allows me to make flavor  beer on the cheap at home.

To end this discussion on a positive note, I will say that thankfully there were 4 grocery stores in the county which were grandfathered in.  These locations, of which I only am aware of one, somehow have reasonable prices and decent selection.  Maybe they get a volume discount, or maybe it is because they are the only grocery stores allowed to sell booze, but they do have reasonable prices.  All I know is I go to buy craft beer in the county, I will be willing forking over way to much cash, or going the Shoppers Food Warehouse in Germantown.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Brewery Update 10-7-2012

Here we are, into October already!  My Washington Nationals will be playing post season baseball this year, as well as the other local team - Baltimore Orioles, who I will also be rooting for!  Gotta keep up with my 2012-2013 Brew Schedule to ensure I won't go thirsty during the games!  Had a productive day in the Brewery yesterday accomplishing the following:

  • Kegged and added the pumpkin pie spices to the Pumpkin Spiced ale - Still working on some potential names, "Naughty Gourd" is at the top of the list.
  • Brewed the Northern English Brown ale - Need to reevaluate my boil off rates, it appears my preboil gravities are higher than expected, but then the post boil is lower than expected.
  • Sampled the RIS which was brewed back in July - Definitely will benefit from some aging time.  Initial notes are a bold bitterness that is partially from the 3 oz of 15.8% Alpha Acid Warrior hops, but also from the large amount of roasted barley.  The bitterness lends to a very brief "flavor" profile period and is quickly washed away by alcohol warmth.  May or may not be at an acceptable profile for xmas gifts, but thats what happens when it gets brewed in July instead of January!

(Pumpkin Ale Hydrometer Sample definitely has a orange glow)

Also have been working on some labels for the brewery.  Hoping to unveil a few of those soon in a separate post.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Flying Dog Brewery Tour

On Saturday my wife and friend accompanied me a few miles north to Frederick, MD to tour the Flying Dog Brewery.  Flying dog originated in Aspen, Colorado as a brewpub, but came to Frederick, MD when the opportunity to expand presented itself through the acquisition of the Frederick Brewing Company.  Flying Dog has a really great story and I would encourage you to take the tour or read "About" it on their webpage.  

When we arrived at the brewery we were able to meet our tour guide - a fellow homebrewer and distant relative through marriage, Jamie.  All tour members got a sample to sip on and the tour began.  I was impressed to find out Flying Dog is currently operating 24 hours a day 6 days week and just about at their capacity around 100,000 barrels.  This allows them to execute some energy efficient practices liking taking the hot water, a byproduct of using the heat exchanger, from cooling one batch of wort down and recycling it to start mashing the next batch. Flying dog has 50 bbl boil kettles which feeds into 200 bbl fermenters.

Flying Dog has its own lab for quality assurance and have two proprietary yeast strains (FDL - Flying Dog Lager and FDW - Flying Dog Wheat) which they use and maintain for many of their beers.  The brewery uses a 2-step filtering process for all of its beers (not including two of their wheat beers) and they have a rock-solid bottling machine (Krones brand is built to last).  I also learned that some years hop crops can be chemically different and will be more or less affected by storage temperature.  After lab analysis of each hop, different beers are allowed to be stored in Flying Dogs warehouse at room temperature before being distributed, as they will not have an adverse affect on the beer.  Those beers which need to be kept cold are housed in their cold room.  Flying dog also hand packages all of its variety packs by pulling 2 beers from 6 different cases and combining them.

After the tour we headed back to the tasting room to sample the great assortment of beers there on least 15 offerings I believe!  They currently have 3 different single hop Imperial IPAs (using El Dorado, Chinook, and Citra hops), their year-rounds, seasonals (Pumpkin Porter, and Marzen), some gruit (no hops beer) and even some small batch's from the staff.  This is a really cool aspect of Flying Dog as a business - all employees are given the opportunity to pitch an idea (I believe it is monthly) for a beer and have it be brewed on a small scale.

Overall, it was a really great tour.  Many thanks to Jamie for fitting us in and being an awesome guide! My wife took a bunch of pictures so be sure to scroll through those!

(Self Explanatory)

(Would love to have this much Stainless Steel)

(First Part of the Filtering Process, OR a rocket ship?)

(Bottling Line)

(Pallets of wonderful beer!  Forefront is where/how variety packs are made)

(Jamie, our great tour guide!)

(About Half of the Tap handles in the Tasting Room)

(Me on the right, occasional co-brewer on the left)

(Panoramic Cheers! Can see all the tap handles in the back)

(Mrs. Shegogue Brew and Myself)

(2008 Horn Dog Barleywine...delicious)

"Good People Drink Good Beer"

Friday, September 21, 2012

Brewery Update 9-21-2012

I brewed the Pumpkin Ale last weekend.  Had some issues with sparging due to the pumpkin, but was able to successfully extract the wort.  I pitched some WLP002 I had harvested from my mild back in April.  I had a lot of issues trying to determine how much actually yeast I was pitching - 3 pint jars of rinsed yeast from 6 months ago I estimated I had about 30-45 billion viable cells.  I pitched this into a 3 quart starter, which was then chilled and decanted to pitch into the pumpkin ale on Saturday night.  I utilized this great Yeast Calculator which is helpful when you are pitching with a specific quantity of yeast outside of a vial.  I will have a full post on this recipe, the process and tasting notes once it is ready to drink.

This week I received the first package addressed to my residence as a Brewery...that makes me official right?  Thanks to my good friend, I was able to source some cheap spice flavoring for the pumpkin beer, which came in the mail.

This weekend we will be touring the Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, MD.  I am looking forward to the tour and trying some of their awesome beers.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Seasonals, out of Season

I recently read Billy's article on Whats the Ideal Beer Lineup?    The article analyzes commercial breweries beer lineups and tries to conclude the perfect formula for the number of Year Round, Seasonal and Specialty beers for a brewery.  As with anything worth talking about, there were a wide range of opinions.  An off-topic statement that got to me thinking in his post was that of Seasonal beers and their "seasons."  Are Seasonal's really in, Season?

I find that a lot of breweries seasonal beers are scheduled to be available for a quarter of the year.  This makes sense as our seasons are 3 months each - no flaw in logic here.  So whats the problem.  Well, I find the problem with seasonals is they come out WAY to early, which leads to them being gone WAY to soon.  I am going to use two Delaware breweries as my guinea pigs for this example (mainly cause I have family in DE and often support those breweries), but to my knowledge, everyone doing it.  The Breweries are Fordham and Dogfish Head and the beer for this example is based on the season of fall and and the sweet tastes of Autumn.

Dogfish produces its fall Seasonal called Punkin Ale, while Fordham produces the Spiced Harvest Ale (which to my knowledge doesn't actually contain pumpkin, just the spices).  Dogfish's offering comes out right about the 1st of September every year, where Fordham's beer comes out in Mid August.  Dogfish recommends pairing Punkin Ale with the following: Turkey, roasted duck, lamb, stuffing, dessert dumplings, sharp cheddar.  Fordham suggests paring with Turkey, Ham, braised veggies, pumpkin pie, cheesecake and cinnamon streussel.

(Photo Compliments of LittleKata)

Man, all those foods sound delicious, making me salivate for Thanksgiving....wait, its September!  We just had labor day celebrations.  Its still warm and humid in D.C.  Thanksgiving isn't for another 3 months?  The first time I start thinking about pumpkins is in October, when I decide what to carve in my pumpkin.  After I binge on candy, my mind shifts to rich pumpkin pie, but this is all months away.  To add insult to my pumpkin spice cravings, dogfish even states on their website that if you want to have some for Thanksgiving, you need to stockpile some up cause its is usually GONE come November.  What a buzzkill.

Maybe breweries do this by design, as the beers seem to be all consumed or sold out at the end of the season when you really want it.  Like all of those summer thirst quenchers in late August and early September, when they were finished distributing in July ( Sierra Nevada Summerfest).  Maybe their rationale is if you want it you will then make a mental note and buy more the next year?

I obviously don't run a production brewery, so I don't know if seasonals are done this way because they all want to fall in line.  Or if there is a business reason behind it, but to me the consumer I would like to see the dates pushed back a little bit to encapsulate the larger portion of the desired season.  In the Shegogue Brewery we will be brewing our Pumpkin Ale this week.  It will be ready for consumption at the end of October and should be good past Thanksgiving into December.

So what are your thoughts?  Seasonals in and out too early or are they just right?  Let me know

Monday, September 3, 2012

2012-2013 Brew Schedule

After some thought (and using my input from my previous post), I have come up with what I think will be my tentative brew calendar.  I say tentative because I fear the unknown...well not really, but I do like to have the authority to change my mind.  I also may need to throw in an extra brew, or delay one to meet friends/family requests.  You will also notice I don't have brews planned during the hot summer months.  This isn't because I melt in the sun, but more cause I don't like/trust my fermentation chamber to handle such temperature differentials in the balmy garage.

So, without further ado, here is Shegogue Brew's 2012-2013 Brew Schedule:

I didn't brew this much last year, but I did the year before.  I hope to be able to brew about once a month.  I have already been doing some extensive research on Pumpkin Ales.  There is some controversy on whether or not using pumpkin is necessary, but I think I will be using the orange substance in my brew. Now to start crafting recipes to determine which hops to buy in bulk, how many sacks of grain to buy and which yeasts to use!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Future Brews Calendar

(Photo Compliments of Hilde and Stock.xchng)

So I read a recent article on Hop Harvesting and Storage Tricks by Scott over at Bertus Brewery and it really got me thinking about planning.  I rarely have a day where I wake up and say "I'm gonna brew!"  I am just to thorough and passionate (some may say nerdy) about this hobby to have not researched and formulated a recipe I think will be great, but I also rarely plan out more than 2 brews in advance.

The last time I tried to plan back-to-back brews, I failed miserably.  I was going to make a Helles and then use that yeast cake to make a Maibock.  Due to a series of problems (ingredients shipping delay, then shipped to my old house, then not being able to brew due to work) I just didnt get around to making that Helles until the end of February.  We had a real mild winter here in D.C. and I didn't think my ferm chamber had enough stamina to ferment at that 48-50 degree range in March, so the maibock didn't happen.  But I digress...

So I have decided I want to try and formulate a rough brew calendar for the next year.  This will hopefully give me the following benefits:

  • Bulk Ingredients - I know what I will be making so I know how much and what kind of grain, hops and yeast I will need to buy.
  • No Keg Left Behind - sometimes my friends get thirsty, but hopefully I will be able to keep the pipeline full
  • Seasonals -  Thinking far in advance I can have seasonal beers ready when I want to consume them, rather than speed brewing to make them in time - like every march when I realize "Shoot!  I need a stout in 2 weeks"
  • Productivity - If I don't have deadlines or a schedule, I tend to put things off (I still haven't bottled the small beer from the second runnings of RIS from mid july yet).  If I have a schedule I will be more likely to stick to it and be productive
So there you have it.  In the next few weeks I will be crafting a master list of beers I want to brew.  I will then narrow it down using a number of criteria and come up with a calendar for the next year.  I have found some links that will be helpful in this quest:

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sour Beer 2 - Petrus Aged Pale

Much overdue posting...

Bavik Brewery's Aged Pale is described as an uncut old beer.  From speaking with the distributor this beer was used in other beers at the brewery for blending, but it wasn't until Famous beer Guru Michael Jackson visited the brewery and tried the unblended version (and highly recommened) that it was released for consumption by itself.

Aroma: musty fruit, like a sweet champagne with slight grain smell behind

Appearance: Deep straw color, thick white head with tiny bubbles rising to the top from the sides of the glass

Flavor: Very sour and tart up front, with a fruity character in the middle

Mouthfeel: More sour than the Oud Bruin, but also less dry.  Strong carbonation compliments and helps balance things out

Overall: Great sour beer! The sour taste lingers throughout.  There is some sweet malt character in the middle mixed with some yeast esters likened to "sweet fruit."  This beer will definitely make you pucker, but more so it will creep up on you in a hurry.  I could NOT tell at all this beer was 7.3% ABV

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sour Beer 1 - Petrus Oud Bruin

Bavik Brewery's Oud Bruin is a Flanders style brown ale.  It is aged for 2 years in oak barrels and comes out about 5.5%.  Unfortunately, I didn't have an appropriate chalice/bowl type glassware, so I went with the snifter.

Aroma: A musty and champagne like smell, with a slight malt character in the background.  Possibly some spicy aroma as well

Appearance: A mahogany brown color with a light tan head which quickly dissipates.  Good Lacing on glass

Flavor:  Sourness up front, dark malt notes of chocolate and toffee are briefly detected in the middle, and a tart finish

Mouthfeel: Prickly carbonation and sourness lead to a crisp and dry finish

Overall: Overall this beer was tart, refreshing and thirst quenching.  As the beer warmed up the malt character started to come through a bit more.  This is very well balanced sour beer and one that I would recommend as a starter for someone looking to try sours.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Brewery Update 8-5-2012

RIS is most likely done fermenting (I don't like to bother it too much) and is just cleaning up after itself.  I plan to keg it in a couple of weeks.  I am considering natural carbonation in the keg as it ages another few months before I put it in the keg fridge.  Either way I don't plan on drinking it until until at least October (we'll see if I can be this patient).  I should probably bottle the small 2 gallon batch, but I haven't got around to that either!

The pipeline is on its last legs.  The pale ale is low, the mild is lucky if there is a pint left.  I will need to brew something soon, but I always have trouble making decisions!  Any suggestions are always welcome!

Since I haven't been active in the brewery, I feel the need to tell everyone that I have been doing something related to beer!  My wife's friend who works for the Washburn Wine Company, was nice enough to get me some sour beers from Belgium.  The beers are part of a sour variety pack from the Brewery Bavik (Will need to Translate, I used Google) and are distributed to the U.S. via the Global Beer Network.  I will provide further details on these beers as I write my tasting reviews, but I will leave you with these pics in the meantime.

Monday, July 23, 2012

2012 Competition Results are in

So the results are in and it looks Shegogue Brew beers have been well received.  Over the past few months I  entered a variety of beers into three BJCP recognized homebrew competitions: F.O.A.M (Frederick Original Ale Makers) Battle of the Bubbles 2, B.U.R.P (Brewer's United for Real Potables) Spirit of Free Beer, and the Delaware State Fair's Battle of the Brews.  I have compiled the chart below so you can see which beers were entered and and how they did.

I am very pleased with the results of all three of the competitions.  Its funny when results come in, often times the beer I think had the best chance of doing something didn't place at all!  For the state fair I thought the stout had the best chance but it was the Mild and the Witbier drawing the attention of the judges.  I will try and post again once I get the scoresheets back.  This is where the real learning experience from competitions comes in, the unbiased feeback!  But until then I am all smiles...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Open a Can!

When I hear the phrase "Open a Can" my mind immediately jumps to the Louisiana bayou where fictional football legend Bobby Boucher drank high-quality H2O and opened can's of "whoop-ass."  Others may associate opening a can with a Light american lager (Bud, Miller, Coors etc) or even a good old soda pop. My brother-in-law likes to associated the sound of an opening can as the "Sound of the Weekend," and I would have to agree.

Aluminum cans have been around for a long time as a packaging option to hold carbonated beverages.  In recent years, craft brewers have been turning the can, and after some quick myth debunking, it has been a great success.  If you take a look at you can see that 201 breweries combine to distribute 599 different craft beers in cans.  The can is a superior packaging product as it is lighter than glass and easily recyclable.  Another advantage of the canned beer is the can is impervious to light, which can prevent skunking.

Sierra Nevada has just recently opened a canning line for their beers and will probably really help change peoples mind on having craft beer in a can.  Other breweries which have been canning their product for a while are Oskar Blues (Known for Dales Pale Ale, Old Chub, and Momma's Little Yellow Pils) and the 21st Amendment (Known for their Watermellon Wheat, Brew Free or Die IPA, and Bitter American).  Locally based Flying Dog, Frederick, MD, and DC Brau in the District are also canning some beer. I could go on an on, but I suggest you just check out the list.

So get out there, and support your local breweries that distribute in cans.  Crack one open and savor the goodness within.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Double Brew for Shegogue

Well,  I finally got my butt out of bed to embark on what was my most ambiguous day in the Brewery to date.  I made two beers, Parti-gyle style.  Parti-gyle brewing was a standard brewing procedure many years ago, and still is utilized at breweries today such as Fuller's in the UK.  The concept is to take the first runnings of a mash to obtain the highest gravity wort.  This wort will be used to brew a big beer, generally over 8% ABV.  Additional runnings are fed to other kettles.  The gravity of the wort in these kettles will be significantly less and be used to make common session beers style beers

I used the first runnings for my Russian Imperial Stout which I am predicting to be around 10% abv.  I was going to cap off the mash (add grain) so the second runnings would make a beer about 1.050, but I had an issue and we will get to that later.

Brewday started around 8am.  This was the first time I have ever tried to utilize my 52 qt Coleman Xtreme mash tun to capacity.  I usually only make 5 gallon batches, but to obtain enough wort from the first runnings the mash tun needed to be filled more as if it was a 10 gallon batch.  I weighed out my 24 lbs of malt using my sweet new Ultraship scale! And then started to hand mill... thats right hand mill :(  I unfortunately had lent my drill to a family member early this week and completely forgot about.  That was a pain in the...arm!  (Note to self, need to start hitting the gym)

I almost had a disastrous moment as I emptied my entire strike volume into my mash tun.  I was almost about to start doughing in the the grain when my brew angel started screaming "Shegogue... NOOOOO!" Quickly I realized why I could not proceed.  I had forgotten to place my manifold in the mash tun!  This could have been a horrific problem had it not been caught.  I was able to runoff all the water back into my kettle, install the manifold and only lose about 15 minutes.

I collected my first runnings of 7 gallons of about 1.077 gravity and started my boil.  I added 3 ounces of 15.8% AA Warrior hops to the kettle at 60 minutes and when about milling my additional 3lbs of grain for the second beer.  I was using a great calculator from Brukaiser's website to approximate the gravity of my remaining runnings.

Unfortunately, as I was chilling down the wort from the Imperial Stout, my mash tun decided to fall over!  Presenting hot stick wort ALL over the garage floor and my feet, ouch!  I think I see a designated brewstand build in my future as that trash can clearly isn't cutting it.  After salvaging what I could, and then cleaning up the mess, I was able to draw off about 3.5 gallons of 1.031 wort for a 2.5 gallon batch.

Anyways, it was about an 9 hour messy brew day.  but I will get two different beers out of it, so well worth it.  The two beers are happily fermenting in around 66 degrees with Safale S-05.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tears for beers

Well, I alluded to it last post and it has been hard for me to come around to write about it...the grief is just too painful.  I don't know if I can go on...


So we had a beer spillage in the brewery.  On Tuesday June 26, 2012, I set out to bottle about 18 beers from my Keg of American Pale Ale.  Some were going to Competition and the rest was headed off to friends and relatives.  I cleaned and sanitized my bottles, and made sure to use new bottles for the competition beers (gotta do everything you can to ensure the best quality beer for a comp).  I used my cheap-man's bottle filler (Bottling wand with a stopper shoved into the picnic tap) to fill and cap all 18 beers.

I was about to make a big mistake, but I didn't know it.  During the bottle filling, the fridge door was open a good 10 minutes or so.  During this time the temp in the fridge dropped quite a bit - all the kegs had condensation on them.  I placed the tap line back in the fridge, reset my CO2 pressure and shut the fridge.  I then went off to visit my friend for the day.  Time rolls around and I am hanging out tanning at the pool when I get a call from my wife.  Within in 5 seconds I understand I am in trouble, within 7 seconds I know I have lost something dear to me...the pale ale.  I think her screams resembled something like this:

"Brett, What did you do?  There is beer dripping out from under the garage door....and its everywhere in the garage!!!"

I had to diffuse the anger, but more importantly I had to explain to my wife how to find the cause and stop the leak.  I was able to explain to her how to shut off the CO2 and disconnect the lines. At this point all that was needed was to clean up the mess and find out how much beer was lost.  Luckily, my wife took care of the mess - what a wonderful wife she is!  I think by the pictures I only lost 6-12 beers thanks to my wife who had come home and caught it in time.

So how did this happen you may ask?  Well the answer is due to temperature change.  The vinyl beer line tubing we use as homebrewers is very flexible the warmer it is and becomes more rigid the cooler it is.  The line had warmed up, and gotten flexible, during my bottling.  Then when I placed it back in the fridge, it cooled down and became stiff.  The stiffness lead the line to "fall" and the picnic tap get "flipped" to the on position.  The rest I will leave to the pictures....

 The mess at the bottom of the fridge

 The trail out of the Garage


Since the incident I have attached velcrow to the inside of the fridge and to my tap lines.  I can now secure the lines above, and out of the way of danger.

Monday, July 2, 2012


I have been slacking on the blog posts, and if you anxiously await them, I apologize.  However, something tells me that my missing posts aren't ruining anyone's days!  I have been pretty busy these past few weeks.  I have been in a wiffleball league and that consumes a large portion of my Sunday afternoons.  I also just took 2 weeks off of work for vacation.  I had planned to brew during that time, but it just didn't happen.  Part of it is my fear of the extra long double brewday that will be my RIS and a subsequent small beer.  The other part - I am just plain old lazy.  If those weren't good enough reasons, well, its pretty darn hot and I don't like (or trust) my ferm chamber trying to beat a 30 degree differential in my garage!

Just cause I haven't been brewing, doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about it, or beer in general.  When visiting my in-laws in Delaware I went on a day-trip to Rehoboth Beach and had to get some "take-out" at Dogfish Head.  I got a growler of the Festina Peche - A quazi Berliner-weisse made with peaches.  I also got a bottle of 120 Minute IPA - An imperial IPA that is a true work of good brewmanship (its hard to get yeast to keep chuggin in such a toxic environment).

So the RIS is still pending brewing... I almost forgot, but there was an accident in the brewery... I will save that for next time!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

U.S. Brewery Roadmap

I came across this awesome poster the other day!  As many people have pointed out, there are a few errors and some breweries are missing, but that's to be expected with the rate of new breweries opening.

It even enlightened me to a few breweries nearby that I was unaware of like Chocolate City.  So what do you all think, is this the map for my next roadtrip?

Friday, June 1, 2012

RIS Postponed - Force Carbonation

Well, nothing ever goes as planned right?  Life caught up with me and I was not able to brew the RIS on Memorial day.  I was however, able to keg the Witty Welker and my American Pale Ale.  Wow, that Pale was ferementing and conditioning for 6 weeks!

Anyways, I thought I would use this time to discuss Force Carbonation.  It is a mystery all new keggers have pondered - How do I carbonate my beer in the keg, and how fast?  There is a lot of science to be hypothesized and tested to know exactly how to do this, so the best way is to search the forums for other brewers trials, follies and successes.  I did just this and here are my findings.

  • Shake, Rattle and Roll - This method is one of the best ways to over-carbonate your beer.  The CO2 tank is set to 30PSI and the gas disconnect is hooked up to your keg.  You open your CO2 valve and shake, rattle and/or roll your keg until you don't hear gas being expelled anymore.  This will take 5-10 minutes.  A Variable that will affect this procedure is the temperature of your beer.  If its room temp you should be somewhat ok. If it is at fridge temps you just over-carbed your beer.  If you dont have check valves on your system you also probably just loaded you gas lines with beer... uh oh!  You can also use this method on cold beer at your serving pressure(10PSI-12PSI) and should have better results.
  • Set and Forget -  This is the simple method, but requires patience.  If you have balanced your system, you set your gas to your desired carb/serving pressure and hook it up to the keg.  In 2-3 weeks your keg pressure will have reached the equilibrium and be at your desired volumes of CO2.  If you aren't in a rush, I highly recommend this method as it is hard to mess it up
  • High Pressure - This seems to be a solid method to speed up carbing a beer, but not to over-carb.  Set the regulator to 30PSI and leave it in connected to the keg for 24-48 hours. 24-36 hours if your beer is already cold and closer to 48 if you put your beer in your fridge warm.  This will get you close to 2.5 volumes or so.  So use less time if you want a lower volume level.

What did I do you ask?  I went with the High Pressure no disturbance method for the Witbier.  I needed this beer to be fully carbed and ready to serve for the party this Saturday.  I set the keg in my fridge at 70* and hooked up my gas at 30PSI and left it on for 2 Days.  I then purged my keg and tasted a sample, it was pretty spot on, but had a little harsh carbonic bite.  I then set my pressure to about 13.5 which should equal to around 2.7 volumes or so for my system.  The Pale Ale got the "Set and Forget" method at around 12 PSI and I will enjoy that in a few weeks.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Results are in

Well, it was a close poll with Imperial Stout and Barley Wine leading the charge and ending in a tie (See results below)!  Since, there was a tie I decided to cast my own vote out there and make the final decision.....Imperial Stout

I headed over to the Flying Barrel Saturday to pick up my specialty grain ingredients.  I also decided to purchase another keg to bring my total to 4.  I have a two-tap system, but between this party coming up in two weeks and the planned aging of a larger beer like this imperial stout, I thought it was necessary to increase serving tank capacity!

I think I will be brewing this bad boy on Memorial day! Stay tuned...

Shegogue Brew Next Brew Results

Friday, May 18, 2012

High Gravity Brewing

As my poll stands now, a high gravity beer is in the future.  What constitutes high gravity?  This differs from person-to-person, but I like to think anything with a starting gravity of 1.060 as high gravity.  There are many challenges when brewing a high gravity beer.  I hope to discuss the potential areas to-watch out for, as a written post to my readers, but also as checklist to myself to produce a quality beer.

Extract Efficiency - Generally in a high gravity beer there will be less, if any, water used for sparging.  This is due to the increased grain bill and volume of liquid needed to be collected for the boil.  This means that the chances for extracting all the sugars (through sparging) like one normal does is not possible.  In general homebrewers tend to agree that your efficiency will suffer 10%-15% from your normal.  Trial and error is key for this, but as a first time All Grain high gravity brew, I will have to guestimate.

Longer Boil - A lot of times to increase the amount of sugar in the wort, a brewer will employ the use of a longer boil. This increased boil time will evaporate more water and result in a more concentrated sugar content in the wort.  This technique is used on a lot of bigger beers

Simple Sugar - Often a frowned upon ingredient in homebrewing circles, a simple sugar can be a critical component of a high gravity beer.  Up to a certain level the use of all grains can produce to many unfermentable sugars and create a beer that is too thick and full bodied.  Although tasty, it would be hard to consume more than 4 oz of such a beer.  Simple sugars are used in a lot of high gravity beers like belgian triples and imperial IPAs.  10%+ simple sugar or so, depending on recipe, can greatly increase the drinkability of a beer and not impart any thin or cidery flavor impact.

(Large amounts of Sugar used at Fordham Brewery for their Sodas)

Hops - There is a lot of science behind this, but with higher gravity wort your hop utilization rate drops significantly.  This will require more hops then one would expect.  I highly recommend brewing software to help formulate an IBU estimate.  Additionally, a lot of high gravity beers will be aged for months to years.  The bitterness will fade over time.  You also need to balance out the higher expected final gravity (residual sweetness) associated with a big beer through a higher IBU level.

Yeast - Lets face it, yeast health and happiness is always important to producing great beer, but brewing a high gravity beer it is imperative. High gravity beers produce a very stressful environment for the yeast. If you can't get the correct amount of healthy yeast, I recommend not brewing this style.  I plan on using a rinsed yeast cake from my pale ale (which I really need to keg, but guess that will happen next week).  If you don't have access to a large yeast cake then you should use multiple packs of rehydrated dry yeast.  Properly control the temperature of fermentation, and make sure to aerate the wort prior to pitching.

Recipe - Balancing a high gravity beer is a tricky procedure.  I highly recommend working with a known recipe for a first attempt.  You want to focus on factors to produce a beer that your palate will enjoy.  The yeast I am using is WLP002 which is a low attenuating english yeast.  I plan on mashing really low for longer than usual and potential using some table sugar to dry things out.  As always, keep detailed notes so changes can be made to future brews.

High Gravity Brews require more prep time, more brewday time, and more waiting time until you can consume.  Given the time associated with a high gravity beer I want to do all that I can to make it successful. Hopefully my first experience will be positive.  Unfortunately we will have to wait a half a year or so to find out!

Monday, May 14, 2012

What should I brew Next?

I have made a poll over to the right.  All my kegs and fermenters are about to be holding beer, but I  have time this month to brew.  So I think Id like to make something that can age about 6 months or so!  Check out the options to the right and vote, and then post your comments, thoughts and/or reasons on this post!


Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Witty Welker - Belgian Witbier

As I may have mentioned in a previous post, I was asked to brew some beer for an upcoming house-warming party.  Saturday was the day to brew, and I produced what I think will be a delightful Witbier in just 3 weeks time.  FYI - I didn't take any pictures, so this post will be a bit wordy.

I accidentally picked up malted wheat instead of flaked wheat when I was at the homebrew store a few weeks ago, so I went with it.  Not necessarily authentic to style, but it will be very close (kinda a cross between a hefe and a wit).  I picked up an organic orange and organic grapefruit to zest.  I also stopped in a local Indian Grocery store here in Germantown for some Coriander (I have heard the coriander sold at Indian groceries are more potent and spicy).

My grist was pretty simple:
5 lbs Pale Ale Malt (48%)
5 lbs Wheat Malt (48%)
8 oz Carapils Malt (4%)

I hopped with a bittering addition of cascade for approximately 21 IBUS (Rager).  And I added the coriander (.5oz), Orange/Grapefruit zest, and a bag of pure chamomile tea at 5 minutes to the end of the boil.  I cooled my wort, oxygenated and pitched a 1 Liter starter of WLP400 Belgian Wit Yeast and I am keeping at 68* and will let it rise a few degrees after a few days.

So for you style nazis you will note that I didnt use flaked wheat or oats.  I have done some research and this should still produce a fairly tasty with in the style, but maybe not give that straight from Belgium twange!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Where's the Beer?

May 5, is celebrated by most as Cinco de Mayo for a day of Mexican cuisine and margaritas.  However, it was also National Homebrew day.  A day for people to spread the knowledge and love of homebrewing beer, wine and mead.  Unfortunately, I was not able to brew beer this weekend or participate in a "Big Brew Day" (Multiple homebrewers meet up to brew large batches of a beer together), but I did spread some of the homebrew love - Packed up a 6-pack of the Mild and Helles for my family in Delaware.

As the post is titled, I have been posed the question of "Where's the beer?"  I have been asked to provide the beverages for our neighbors housing warming party.  I will be brewing up a batch next weekend to try and get a quick turn-a-round and have the beer ready for June 2nd.  I normally like to have the beer take its time and mature naturally, but I will need to push this beer along to meet the strict consumption deadline!  May is gonna be a big brewing month - stay tuned!