Wednesday, December 24, 2014

2014 Brew Year in Review

As 2014 comes to a close, it marks the culmination of my 5th year of participating in this wonderful hobby of homebrewing.  Though the actual brewing of beer took a back seat due to my deck project, there were noticeable accomplishments.  Back in April I found out the results of my BJCP tasting exam.  Since then I was able to judge a few competitions and acquire enough experience points to receive a Certified designation as a BJCP judge.  I need to judge another 4 competitions to receive enough experience points to qualify to take a different written exam.  If I pass this exam with an 80% or better, I can advance to a National designation.  I usually judge 2 or 3 local competitions a year, so unless I really set a goal to make this happen (travel more than an hour each way to judge) this will be a 2016 accomplishment.

So I did brew some during 2014 - seven batches to be exact.  Unfortunately, I only ended up thoroughly documenting two of them, ouch!  I promise to do better with this in 2015.  I also plan to brew more since I have the ingredients!

Batches Made in 2014

  1. Belgian Pale Ale - Probably the best beer I made all year.  Wonderfully balanced
  2. Session IPA - Extract batch, came out OK.  Briefly discussed the recipe here.  Nothing to write home about
  3. Wrong Coast 2 - Made my IPA for the deck party.  Discussed in this post along with the Witbier below
  4. Witty Welker - Made a slightly modified version of this witbier for the deck party
  5. Cider - Made a batch of cider.  Used WLP002 and added a half gallon of apple juice back to the keg to add sweetness
  6. Oatmeal Stout - actually documented this one!
  7. Belgian Golden Strong Ale - 5 year anniversary brew with Josh.  We brewed this on Dec 21st and I do plan on writing about it once it is ready for tasting in 2015.
And last but not least, I did write an article for and plan do to do more in the future.  Keep an eye out for me on HBT and I will occasionally link to the content over there, on here.

Merry Christmas and a Happy Brew Year!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Not Worthy - Oatmeal Stout

Back in October I set out to brew an Oatmeal stout.  With the weather turning colder I knew I would appreciate a dark and malty beer.  I had a Founders Breakfast Stout last year and remember it having an amazing aroma of warm oatmeal cookies.  I was hoping to replicate that aroma with toasted oats in this recipe.  I also wanted it to have a very strong chocolate presence without being too roasty.  I definitely accomplished this, but maybe have gone too far - see the tasting notes.

Per usual, my notes for brewday were lacking.  I do recall it going rather smoothly and it being one of my fastest brewdays to date at just around 5 hours.  I ended up fermenting 5 gallons in one of my better bottles and a little under a gallon in a one gallon jug.  When it came time to keg, I also bottled the 1 gallon jar and added pumpkin pie spice.  I have not yet tasted the spice version.

Oatmeal Stout

Brewed On: October 12, 2014
Kegged On: October 25, 2014
Style: 113C - Oatmeal Stout
Batch Size: 6 gallons (5 gal into fermenter)
Efficiency: 75%
OG: 1.056
FG: 1.018
IBU: 30 calculated (Rager) 
ABV: 5.0%
Toasted oats
Yeast: WLP002 64° to start and rised to 67°

Grist Mashed at 154 for an hour
70% - Maris Otter (Muntons) - 9 lbs
4%  - Crystal 120 - 8 oz
6%  - Chocolate (350L) - 12 oz
6%  - Pale Chocolate (200L) - 12 oz
6%  - Victory - 12 oz
8%  - Toasted Oats* - 1 lb

Close up of the toasted oats

* Oats were toasted at 300° for 1 hour were stirred every fifteen minutes

Hop Additions 
0.53 oz - Magnum 14.7% AAU - 60 minutes - 30 IBUs

Water Adjustments
Montgomery County, MD Water - 1/2 Campden Tablet for all brewing water
3 grams gypsum to mash water
3 grams CaCl to mash water

Tasting Notes

Aroma: Moderate roast aroma dominates and is made up of moderately strong chocolate and light coffee.  There are some toasted notes from the oatmeal, but not as pronounced as I had hoped.  No apparent fruitiness or yeast character, and no discernible hop aroma, fairly clean.  No diacetyl.  

Can kinda see those garnett highlights
Appearance: Very dark brown with garnett highlights when held up to the light. Nice dark tan and moussy head with good retention. Good clarity.

Flavor: Moderate malt backbone consisting of moderate chocolate and some light toasted oats.   Moderate hop bitterness and no apparent hop flavor.  The beer finishes ever so slightly dry.  The balance is towards the roasted chocolate malts.

Mouthfeel: Moderately low carbonation, medium body, no alcohol warmth, moderate creaminess, and no astringency

Overall Impression: Overall this is oatmeal stout has dulled in flavor since I first kegged, and tasted it a month ago. The toasted oat aroma was not as prominent as I had hoped for a few weeks ago and has subsided even more today. It is still a very sessionable beer since it is fairly balanced.  Honestly, I don't know if the 3/4 lbs each of chocolate and pale chocolate malts contributed a strong enough roast character for this beer.  Next time I will probably increase the oats and include some roasted barley.

I didnt take time to attribute BJCP points to this, but I would guess somewhere around 28.  It might have been in the low 30s three weeks ago, but it just doesn't make the mark now.  I always am my toughest critic, but I have deemed this beer "Not Worthy" since I don't feel it is worthy of a better name.  :)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Saving $ Brewing - Buying Bulk Grains

Last weekend I trekked down to the 3 Stars Brewery in D.C. to pick up the grain I purchased in the local DC Area Grain buy. The grain buy is hosted through the "Group Buy" section on the forums.

The group started almost two years ago and is only possible by the brewery/brew store's help.  A little history: before this group grain buy, individuals could have accounts with the major malting suppliers and have pallets of grain delivered to their house.  A lot of homebrew clubs would have an account with the malting company and purchase sacks of grain through these accounts.  This changed a couple of years ago when the malting companies up the prices they were charging to homebrewers - any accounts which didn't have a tax ID (EIN) for brewing purposes.  Then, they decided to stop selling to all those accounts not associated with a brewery or homebrews shop completely - we were immediately cut off!  I don't know if anyone figured out what the impetus for this was, but there was much speculation that homebrew shops pushed back on the malting companies because they were losing out on business.  So a big thanks 3 Stars for facilitating the purchase.

Sacks of Grain 1

The group buy takes a few members to organize and handle payments.  The DC group buy utilizes a protected (must receive permission to view the sheet) google spreadsheet.  One person manages all the full sack purchases, and another handles splits - multiple people splitting a 50lb sack of grain which is generally a specialty malt.  As the grain requests reach a pallet or more (~42 sacks), the group decides on a date convenient for the majority of the purchasers and all the buyers send paypal payments to the group organizer.  The group organizer then submits the bulk purchase to 3 Stars and schedules the pickup date.  When organized well, like this buy is, things go very smoothly!

Sacks of Bulk Grain

I arrived a little early on the pickup day with my 55lb scale to help with separating the splits.  The split organizer had labels with everyone's HBT screen name, the type of grain, and the weight they purchased.  These labels were organized for each bag of grain to be split.  There were 4 other groups of people splitting and it all happened in less than 30 minutes.

Split Station

More Splits

After I helped split sacks and loaded up my car, I wandered into the 3 Stars Homebrew shop to purchased some other ingredients for future brews - yeast and fermcaps this time.  I was then back on the road and headed home.

So how much $avings are we talking?

Well first off, purchasing from the group buy gives you a much larger selection of bulk grain options.  A lot of homebrew stores carry only a handful of base malts in full sack quantities.  The group buy offers malt from Briess, Chateau, Crisp, Patagonia, Muntons, Rahr, Simpsons and Weyermann.  So that is an intangible bonus to a group buy.  The brew store I normally go to charges $52 for a sack of basic 2-row.  The European pale ale and pilsner malts are in the $60s range.  When you purchase by the pound, the rates go up even higher!  Two of the grains I bought I can't even buy from my local store without special ordering, so I didn't even include the sack price there.  Gas to get back and forth to both the bulk location and my local brew store is about $6, but since its about the same I wont include that here.

Bulk Store
Sack Cost w/ Shipping Per Lb Cost My Cost Full Sack Cost Per Lb Cost My Cost
Rahr Pale Ale (50lb) $44.00 $0.88 $44.00 $52.00* $2.00 $52.00
Weyermann Bohemian Pilsner (55lb) $53.50 $0.97 $53.50 $64.00* $2.00 $64.00
Weyermann Munich (55lb) $55.00 $1.00 $10.00 x $2.50 $25.00
Weyermann CaraMunich (55lb) $60.00 $1.08 $5.40 x $2.50 $12.50
$112.90 $153.50

* - Estimate based on stock grains, since these are not stock items at my local homebrew shop

After all is said and we are looking at a savings of $40.60, or about 26%, on 120lbs of grain.  Pretty solid! Depending on recipes I should be able to get around 10 different five gallon batches of beer out of this purchase.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Life of a BJCP Judge - MALT Turkey Shoot 2014

This past weekend I volunteered as a judge for the MALT Turkey Shoot homebrew competition held at the Peabody Heights Coop brewery in Baltimore, Maryland.  The annual competition hosted by MALT (Maryland Ale and Lager Technicians) is a big fall competition for my area.  I judged this competition for the first time last year, where it was also held at Peabody Heights.  I have been told by some veteran participants this competition used to be held at Heavy Seas (formerly Clipper city) and it was always VERY cold!  Last year, the first which the competition was held at Peabody Heights, wasn't too bad, but this year it was pretty cold.  Good thing I wore my coat and hat!  When I arrived (it was high 20s (Fahrenheit) that day?) all the doors were open to air out the smell of beer and cardboard which was permeating throughout the brewery.  As 9am rolled around and we were preparing to judge, the executive decision was made to deal with the smell rather than the cold. Thank goodness!  Everyone seemed to get accustomed to the smell very quickly, but it took a while to warm up.

Whenever you register to judge a BJCP competition you are usually given a choice to state any categories you would, or would not prefer to judge.  I really have no preference as I enjoy most of the styles.  I may, however, request not to do porters and stouts in the future, as I have been assigned to this category for the past 3 competitions. In the morning I got to judge Category 10 - American Pale Ale and American Amber Ales.  In the afternoon I judged the aforementioned mixed Category 12/13 of Porters and Stouts.  In that afternoon session, we had an American Stout which unfortunately ended up being a "gusher."  This beer had a strong clove character, to the point I am almost wondering if it was intentional, and intended as a "Christmas stout."  If that was not the case, than it was an unfortunate infection.

I have been wanting to start publishing some video based content to the blog, but I always forget to record something, or the recording is poor quality.  Enough EXCUSES I say!  I am going to start pushing out some video whether its ready or not.  My hope is to be able to slowly learn/improve on editing and quality as I go - so go easy on this phone recorded video.  This is a quick clip of opening a gusher at a competition.  Occasionally this will happen at a competition and as judges we always request the 2nd bottle to give the entry a fair chance if there was just a single bad bottle.  I had my friend a fellow judge of this beer, Ed, film opening the 2nd bottle.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Fall Updates - I am alive

I think I have given the Deck post an appropriate amount of Top-Blog time.  I have really been slacking with this blog and hope to liven things up with some more frequent postings.  A Few quick updates:

A few shots of my Wrong Coast version 2 which I brewed for the deck party, subsequently consumed all of it, and never blogged about the testing least I took pictures?

  • I will be judging this weekend at the MALT Turkey Shoot beer competition.  This will be my first competition I am judging where I can official check the "Certified" box on the BJCP Scoresheet.  Looking forward to it!
  • Finally purchased the Avantco IC3500 when it was on sale last month.  I believe I orginally posted about my intentions for buying this cooktop back in August of 2013 when I first blogged about having an Indoor brew space, so it has been a long time coming.  I will be doing some time/temp tests to provide some numerical data for others interested in using this burner.
  • I recently brewed an Oatmeal Stout and will have recipes and tasting notes going up soon
  • I am flirting with the idea of making some homebrew related videos, if so I will post them to the blog.
  • I wrote a guest post for on the Road to Becoming a BJCP Judge
Another beer I brewed for the party was a witbier.  I add some flour at flameout so it would remain cloudy, which it did for a little while...

And then it sat in the keg for quite a few weeks

Crystal clear!  Oh well, still tastes great!

Plan on posting again soon, so stay tuned :)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

I Built a Deck! Now I Can Get Back to Brewing...

As I have alluded to in a few other posts, much of my all of my free time the past couple months has been devoted to taking down our old and unsafe deck, and constructing a brand new one!  It has been a really fun project even thought it has taken 5 times longer than I expected and roughly 30% more than I once, cry once.  I normally keep this blog strictly related to beer brewing and consuming, but wanted to provide everyone with proof of why I have been so absent in the homebrewing and blogging world, and use it as an excuse to show off my skills.

A big thanks to all who came out to help with the project.  I am in debt to you a lot of manual labor and malted beverages.

Without further ado:


The old deck had a lot of problems.  When we bought the house I had inspected it and new it was almost beyond saving.  The fact that we didn't touch it at all over the harsh winter insured there was no saving it.  The previous structure was two 12x12 decks at different levels.  The stairs from the upper level to the lower level took up almost 25% of the lower deck. There were also two built-in benches on the lower deck, which ended up being the most secure part, ha!

(These pics from the house listing make it look much better than it actual was, but you get the point)

Old Deck Issues

Anyone interested on the safety concerns form the old structure - The old deck attached to the house rim joist with a few lag screws installed into one 2x8 right through the siding.  A lot of these screws had rusted.  The deck frame consisted of 6x6 posts with 2x8 boards bolted to the sides.  This means the entire weight of the structure was being supported by the rusty lag screws at the house ledger and the bolts on the posts.  To code today, the beams must rest on top of the posts.  I later find out during demolition that (see picture below) the posts weren't even connected to a cement footing, or burried into the ground!  They were just sitting on the  Once we cut off the beam, the posts fell right over.

(Post just sitting in a bracket on top of the ground!)

New Deck

For the new deck I had to go to the county office and get a permit.  I made I sure I was there right as they opened at 7:30am.  This process would have been really quick and smooth had I not been right behind someone representing a fence and deck company.  This lady was getting 9 it was as if 9 people were in front of me!   So much for being there right when they opened!  The way my county has things set up, if a homeowner is going to build a deck by themselves, they don't need to submit official constructions plans as long as they follow the county deck packet to a "T."  Because of this, my end design would need to be framed a little differently than a normal deck with my proposed layout to meet the county requirements.  I confirmed with the county that as long as my two frames each met the requirements, I could run the decking over both structures.  I will end up having a 12x16 and a 12x12 framed deck at the same level for 336 total square feet!

Deck Plan - The angle on the bottom right was not allowed as I was required to have a perfect rectangle


Demo took a full weekend and some additional hands - big thanks to Steve and Suzie Welker, and John Hamlett.  We filled a 15 cubic yard dumpster up to the brim.  I took a few days off work thinking I could get the bulk of this new deck construction under way.  Started on a Monday morning with my posthole digger and digging bar.  I was greeted with a HUGE rock on my first hole...hope this isn't how they all are!  I dug out 4 holes and broke for lunch, my shoulders were sore and I had sweated so much you'd have thought I took a shower with my clothes on.  After lunch I went back outside and got half of a hole dug...then I think heat exhaustion kicked in...I decided to stop for the day.  Next day I brought in reinforcements, my friend Josh (pictured in the Flying Dog Tour pics), put in some hard work helping me dig the rest of the holes - 10 holes total.  I then had to get the holes inspected, and they passed.

15 cubic yard dumpster

picture doesn't do it just, but this rock covers 40% of the hole and was at least a foot deep

3 of my 10 holes

I then had a little setback in the schedule as I had to wait for a special order of lumber.  There is a LOT of varying opinions online regarding the best way to set posts.  Should they sit on concrete piers which come all the way out of the ground?  Should they be buried in the ground?  If they are buried should you pour concrete all around them?  After much deliberation and over-analyzing, I chose to bury the posts in the ground, sitting them on top of the concrete footing and then packing them with alternating layers of gravel and dirt.  Additionally, since the posts would be buried I special ordered 6x6 posts which were treated to the UC4B level of pressure treatment, rated for in ground burial for use in "permanent foundations."  These should be good for at least 20+ years.  I received my materials on Friday, June 27th from the local lumber yard - TW Perry and took the day off to pour concrete.  I roped Josh into helping again - what a guy!  We rented a jackhammer to bust up the rock from that first hole and poured our 8" concrete footings into the bottom of the holes.  We then proceeded to drink some well deserved homebrew.

Decking boards front left, all other lumber behind, pallet of concrete to the right

6 tons of gravel

I then spent most of the next day remeausring and laying out the exact locations of the posts (took much longer than expected).  I then got Mrs. Shegogue Brew to help me keep the posts level and in alignment as I shoveled gravel and dirt in to secure them.  Mrs. Shegogue Brew has an excellent natural eye for level and plumb.  We finished putting the 6 posts for the 12x16 frame up on Sunday the 29th and I cut the notches in them to hold the 3x12 built-up-beam.  We then called it quits as it was dark.

1st row of posts set

6 posts set for the 12x16 section

On the 4th of July I got my Uncle-in-law Tom to help with putting up the beams and framing.  Uncle Tom is an experienced DIYer and was extremely helpful.  We were able to frame up most of the section. 

Placing the first beam!

Mrs. Shegogue Brew requested a smile for the'd think she was a photographer or something!

Didn't measure each individual board so we had to make some cuts

view from the ground

first boards laid down to lock the frame "in square"

More boards laid down

Over the next couple of weekends I was able to lay the flooring and frame up the second 12x12 frame thanks to my friend Alton.  I laid most of the floorboards on the weekends and finished screwing them in on the weeknights.  I also hammered in my hurricane ties and added diagonal bracing during the weeknights after work.

12x12 section almost framed

Its getting big!

Location of the stairs

 Over the July 19th weekend I was able to bring this thing closer to its final appearance as I finished flooring the entire structure.  I then cut off the excess and its looking real sharp!

flooring, almost done!

excess trimmed off!

Alternate view, through the window of our bedroom

The following weekend I tackled the Stairs.  On paper putting a 3 foot wide stairway in a 4 foot area would be easy.  In realty it wasn't, and there was lots of room for error!  Luckily during the week I mentally thought about how to go about this task.  It required me to bolt the 4x4 stairway posts to the stair stringers prior to attaching the stringers to the outer joist.  This was my first time cutting stair stringers, and thanks to some handy online calculators, it was a pretty simple job.  After installing the stringers and laying the treads, I realized I hadn't leveled the bottom, doh!  The following weekend I had to dig underneath the bottom of the stairs and pack it in with gravel to level the structure.

My first Stringer being used as a template for the other 2.  I checked to make sure this stringer landed in the correct location before cutting the other 2.

View from the top! Blocking was added since the 2x12 middle stringer had warped from sitting in the sun the past few weeks.

Now I don't have to keep moving the ladder around to get to the deck surface!

We are now heading into the first weekend of August and I started to tackle the deck railings.  I cut all of the 4x4 posts to length and then screwed in a 2 x 6 scrap piece to create a template so all the posts would sit at the same height on the deck.  I bolted all of the posts into the outer/rim joist and then screwed in my 2x4 rails.  The next day called for rain, so instead of starting to put the pickets up (didnt want to start and stop) I finished a bunch of little things - nailing in the remaining hurricane ties and leveling my stairs.  By the way, it didnt rain at all, ha!

The following weekend (August 9th/10th) I set up a stop jig so I could rapidly cut down my 12' 2x2 pickets into 36" lengths.  I then used a 2x4 (3.5" wide) block to help me evenly space the pickets all the way around the railings and meet code.  I took a picture later in the week after it had rained and I think it makes the deck look really sharp.

I cut the 2x2 pickets into 6' lengths and then shove an end to my stopper jig and cut.  Ended up with 2 - 36" pickets each time

Cut them at a 45* angle to make them more aesthetically pleasing appears Mrs. Shegogue Brew has been soaking up the sun as I slave away :)

Right after a rainstorm, the deck looks real bright.

August 16th, all deck progress was halted in the name of beer!  Hey this is a brewing blog, right?  I had to brew up a bunch of beer since I was running low and was planning some deck parties for September.  I started 5 gallons of hard cider, brewed an IPA and a Witbier to fill all my available fermenters (two 6 gallon better bottles and two 3 gallon better bottles).  Everything went pretty smoothly despite my kinda "wingy" the recipes.  Still without my computer and brewing software so I used the blog to look at old recipes.  I created the IPA to be very similar to Wrong Coast and the Wit was the Witty Welker, however, I correctly used flaked wheat this time around.

Sorry, no pictures of brewday...I know, I am a slacker :)

The following weekend I was able to add some lag screws and blocking to meet code.  I then capped the stairwell with a 2x6 and installed a graspable handrail.  I had to finish the handrail and sand the ends of the railings down the next Monday night.  On Wednesday,  August 27, 2014 a county inspector came while I was at work for the final inspection...

Blocking added - I was skeptical at the need for this, but there was a little play to the railings prior to adding it.  Aftwerwards it was solid.

Handrail installed!

Sanded the bottom of the 2x6 cap so there would be no sharp edges

View from below!  Looks pretty nice, huh?

So I guess you are in suspense wondering if I passed or not?  Well, I did!  Very happy to start to get my weekends back to a somewhat less productive schedule :)  Finished just in time to have family over for Labor Day cookout on the deck!

The following weekend I installed a screen door and I started to spread gravel beneath the deck. Due to work, Mrs. Shegogue Brew Finished the task all day Thursday September 4th - Quite impressive!  I also quickly whipped up some benches for guests to sit on since we have not purchased any patio furniture yet.

View of Deck from far corner

View of deck opposite side - benches in view

Added two patio stones to the existing one and filled with gravel to prevent a trip hazard with the concrete slab

View from below - Planning to build a shed underneath in the future

Outside view

Well, that about finishes it up!  All I have left to do is stain it in another month or so once the wood has dried out a little more.  I should have time to brew and update this blog more in the near future :)