Saturday, March 23, 2013

Kegging - The Not-So Awesome Side of Packaging

Browse the homebrew forums in their "Bottling/Kegging" section and you will notice a lot of reoccurring questions pop up.  Many of those questions revolve around a fairly new homebrewer asking questions about bottle carbonation.  A few people will respond with well constructed and helpful advise...then, there is always one wise guy who posts "Just keg and you don't have to worry about it!"  While that may be true, there are quite a few frustrations that can accompany the pleasantries of kegging.

We know the benefits of kegging our homebrew:

  • Clean, Sanitize and fill just one container
  • Fine tune your carbonation level
  • Force carbonate your beer quickly (<24 hours if necessary)
  • Draft homebrew is awesome and it allows you to sample less than 12 ounces at a time
  • You cold condition and carbonate at the same time, producing a larger quantity of clear beer sooner.

Now let me explain some of my problems I have had while kegging:

(Velcro Picnic Tap)
  • CO2 Leak:  I avoided this for over a year!  I decided to upgrade my dual body regulator with 2 wye splitters (allowing myself the ability to carbonate and serve 4 beers rather than 2) and I guess I didn't find the leaks...killed 2 tanks worth of CO2.  Not a huge deal, but thats about $40 down the drain right there.  Solution: My problem was I didn't check for leaks at 30psi, I did it at 10psi.  Make sure to check for leaks at a higher pressure so they will be more visible. Use soapy water or star san for visibility.
  • Unsecured Lines:  I started out with the plastic "Picnic Taps" to save some scratch until I could upgrade to perlick forward-seal faucets.  I learned the hard way that picnic lines lose flexibility the colder they become.  This led to my picnic tap falling and opening itself, making a huge mess! Solution: Secure your lines.  I purchased some velcrow tape and fastened it around my tap and secured it to the side of the fridge.
(Foamy Beer!)
  • Overcarbed Beer:  Remember the benefit of quickly carbing beer from above?  Well what if you do to much too quickly?  While it is fixable, an overcarbed keg is a nuisance.  I recently had this happen while trying to force carb some beer for bottling for NHC 2013.  Solution:  Vent keg daily.  You can pull the keg out of your keggerator and leave it a room temp (higher temp = less CO2 in solution which means you venting is more effective). 
  • Equipment Maintenance:  You are always needing to replace O-rings, or other items.  I just recently had a HUGE SNAFU because I bent a poppet valve on one of my kegs.  After a trying a bunch of things, including purchasing a universal poppet which didn't seal fully (I need a long-legged poppet), I find out there are 3 different types of poppets for pin lock kegs (6 types overall?)!  Solution: First off, be very carefully tightening down your keg posts - I didn't notice the poppet pin was being obstructed by the post itself and ended up bending it AND the flange on my dip tube.  Second, make sure you know which type of kegs you have and have a backup plan - either spare kegs, poppets, o-rings or All three!  (just purchased bulk o-rings from Orings and More - highly recommend!)
(Different poppet types)

  • Bottling:  Wait! I thought we are talking kegging, right?  Well yes, but even though you keg your beer  you will eventually have to bottle some of it for competitions or to give to your friends and family that can't make it to your tap.  Solution:  You can create a cheap bottle filler (execution here) or buy a Blichmann Beer gun.  Either way, you are now doing twice as much work as you originally were just bottling!
So beware!  Kegging comes with its own set of problems.  Spending hours trying to find leaks, or cleaning up gallons of beer from the garage floor may make that hour of bottling and 3 weeks waiting for carbonation to be achieved seem just a little better.  But at the end of the day, nothing beats pulling a pint from one of the 3 taps below!

(Shegogue Brew's 3 Perlick Taps)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Wrong Coast - IPA

Its been a while since I have brewed anything hoppy, almost a half a year to be exact.  My taste buds have been asking for the hops, and I finally decided to indulge them.  I have been reading up a lot about hoppy beers over at fellow blogger Scott's site: Bertus Brewery.  Scott has some of the best info out there on how to make a great IPA and I used that info to formulate the recipe below.

The grain bill is based on principals made popular for pale ales by Firestone Walker Brewmaster Matt Brynildson.  Mostly 2-row or pale ale malt with some munich and carapils.  This will provide a solid canvas which I then showered with hops - close to 10 ounces for a 5-6gal batch.  My wife bought me 3lbs of hops for my birthday - 1lb each of Simcoe, Cascade, and Citra.  I decided to hop this beer with a classic IPA combo, Simcoe and Cascade.

(Hops for Wrong Coast IPA)
Living on the East coast, my first IPA experience was Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA - great beer.  Since homebrewing and becoming a more educated craft beer consumer, I have come to enjoy the hop blasting lupulin bombs from the west coast.  This beer is more to that style, but from an east coast brewer.  I therefore have deemed this beer "Wrong Coast" and adulterated the U.S. Map in the logo.

Brewed On: January 26, 2013 (My birthday and 3 year brewing anniversary)
Kegged On: February 18, 2013
Style: 14B -American IPA
Batch Size: 6 gallons (5 gal into fermenter)
Efficiency: 75%
OG: 1.066
FG: 1.012
IBU: 63 calculated (Rager) 
ABV: 7%
Yeast: Safale S-05 American Ale Yeast Slurry from Porter.  Fermented at 62° for 3 days then rise and held at 67°

Grist Mashed at 151 for 70 minutes
80% - Great Western Pale Ale Malt - 11.5 lbs
15% - Briess Munich - 2 lbs
5%  - Briess Carapils - 12 oz

Hop Additions
.7 oz - Magnum - 60 min - 38 IBUs
1 oz - Cascade - 20 min - 8 IBUs
1 oz - Simcoe - 20 min -17 IBUs
1.5 oz - Cascade - 0 min 
1.5 oz - Simcoe - 0 min
Dry Hop Addtions, equal parts Simcoe and Cascade
1st Addition - 2 oz - 8 days
2nd Addition - 2 oz - 4 days (added to primary 4 days after 1st addition)

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

Tasting Notes
The beer has a nice white head and a grainy gold color, which due to some kegging issues is still fairly hazy - shows nice lacing.  It smells of sweet citrus and grapefruit and overall fruity dominance backed up by subtle maltiness from the munich. It currently has medium-to-low carbonation (keg issues) which contributes a creamy mouthfeel that finishes slightly bitter and dry with a slight alcohol warmth at the end. Fresh american hop character sounds its trumpet throughout.  Delicious :)

The only real knock on this bitter is that I don't think the bitterness is bold enough.  In the future I will increase the bittering charge, or lower the total malt a bit to decrease the alcohol, which should enhance the bitterness.