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 :)