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Monday, October 16, 2017

The BA Is At It Again With #TakeCraftBack


It's no secret that big beer, primarily AB-InBev, is gobbling up craft breweries and controlling shelf space in doing so. The Brewers Association have been actively fighting for independent craft breweries in some very creative ways lately. I love the seal that they recently launched to help distinguish independent breweries products from cleverly disguised beer pretending to be independent. The BA took another swing at AB-InBev with their latest campaign, Take Craft Back.

Click HERE to see the video at TakeCraftBack.com. It is essentially a crowdsourcing campaign to buy Ab-InBev with a goal of $213 billion (yeah....with a B). The staggering number along with the goofy, but good, video makes me believe that the BA has no real goal of buying the evil mega-conglomerate and that this is merely a creative marketing campaign to raise awareness of their Independent Craft Brewer movement.

Although I don't think that the BA has any real goal of buying AB-InBev the campaign does make me wonder how we craft beer lovers could infiltrate the enemy and influence their tactics from within. It is possible. I'm not an expert of stock exchanges by any means but it seems to me that the BA would not even need a controlling interest in AB-InBev. Craft beer would only need to hold enough stock to create some noise. Let them push their swill; plenty of people like Bud Light Lime and that is ok. Let them keep Goose Island, Wicked Weed, Boulevard, and the others. Raise hell when they try to buy another craft brewery, but do so from behind enemy lines.

Another option is to not care at all and just brew your own beer.

Join us on Facebook to discuss realistic options and ways to truly #TakeBackCraft.

EDIT: The campaign is "Take Craft Back," we noticed our error after publishing.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

A New Year For Better Beer: 2018 Edition


It is hard to believe that 2017 is almost over but here we are, staring at 2018 coming at us like a freight train. Last year we set some homebrew goals; you can read about them HERE. Before I set goals to improve my beer in 2018 it would be wise to take a look at how 2017 went for the No Ragrets Brewatorium and HopHead Hardware. Allow me to grade myself on how well I did to achieve those goals. It may be only mid-October but I don't see much more getting accomplished towards meeting my goals in 2017.

2017 Goal #1: Control Fermentation Temperatures
100%
I obtained and used a fermentation fridge and did some lagering. I can check that goal off of the list.

2017 Goal #2: Start Kegging
0%
I didn't make any progress towards kegging my homebrew.

2017 Goal #3: Begin Using Yeast Starters
85%
I dabbled in yeast starters using a small amount of rinsed yeast and growing it into a pitchable amount for a lager. I did not make or use a yeast starter from a first generation pouch or vial of new yeast. I build a stir plate. At the time of this writing, a 2L Erlenmeyer flask is on-order but hasn't arrived yet but a yeat starter will definitely be used in the next batch

2017 Goal #4: Use Bulk Ingredients
80%
I use hops bought in bulk almost exclusively and get most of my grain in 10lb bags. I hoped to be using 55lb sacks of base malts by the end of 2017 but that did not happen and won't by the end of the year.

2017 Goal #5: Get Water Usage and Chemistry Under Control
30%
I got chlorine and chloramine under control but that is all. I'm giving my self a 30% completion grade only because those two factors are so important.

2017 Bonus Goal: Enter a Homebrew Competition
110%
Why an extra 10%? I entered one beer into my first homebrew competition and it was a lager. Lagers a typically judged harshly in competition and mine scored a 40 out of 50 in the International Pale Lager category (2A). Diggin' Up A Date Beer 2017 won a silver medal.

My grade for completing my 2017 homebrew goals is a meek 67.5%. 

In order to ensure constant improvement, I have to set some goals for 2018.


This is a carry-over from 2017 but I want to complete this goal more than ever. Not only do I want the convenience of kegged beer but I also need to eliminate exposure to oxygen. Huntress 1.1 was an expensive beer to brew and many of the bottles suffered from oxidization and inconsistent carbonation.


Using bulk grains will greatly reduce the cost of brewing each batch. By the end of 2018, I will be measuring my grains from 55lb sacks of base malts and 5lb or 10lb bags of specialty malts. The occasional malt may still be purchased in smaller quantities if it is rarely used in my brewing.


Sooner, rather than later, I will start building a frozen yeast bank. I plan to have a bank of my core yeasts that I use in my homebrewed beers. This will greatly reduce the cost of brewing and allow e to brew more.


It is time to upgrade to stainless steel fermenters. Glass carboys are too fragile so I won't spend money on them. Stainless steel fermenters allow for complete sanitization, they have higher quality fittings and last a lifetime.


There is a silver medal in the collection but now it is time to shoot for gold. I'm entering more competitions in 2018 and hoping to help my club in the MidSouth Series of homebrewing competitions.

I skipped carrying over water chemistry goals from 2017. Frankly, my tap water is good and it makes good beer when I remove the chlorine and chloramine. Who was it that said, "good water makes good beer?"


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Recipe: Diggin' Up A Date Beer 2017


It's August in the South. The humidity is unbearable and it is close to 90F even at night but you still need a date. When you walk your self down to the grave yard with a shovel in your hand you know you have alot of digging to do. You might need to dig a few holes before you find a date you like. The rigors of the task are exhausting and you need to stay hydrated. A nice crisp lager that won't put you in a hole too is what you really need.
Diggin' Up A Date Beer 2017 is an International Pale Lager that is classified as category 2B by the BJCP. The style is similar to an American lager but slightly more robust and flavorful. Here is our version of the classic style:

10 lbs Brewers Malt 2-Row
8.0 oz Vienna Malt
8.0 oz Wheat - Red Malt
0.50 oz Mandarina Bavaria [8.50 %] - Boil 45.0 min
1.00 oz Huell Melon [7.20 %] - Boil 10.0 min
0.50 oz Mandarina Bavaria [8.50 %] - Boil 10.0 min
1.00 oz Huell Melon [7.20 %] - Whirlpool for 30 minutes at 170F
1.00 oz Mandarina Bavaria [8.50 %] - Whirlpool for 30 minutes at 170F
1.0 pkg SafLager West European Lager (DCL/Fermentis #S-23)
This is the basic recipe. If you would like the full recipe that includes water treatment, yeast nutrient, etc message HopHead Hardware on Facebook or Twitter.

Mash: Single Infusion, Light Body with a step temperature of 148F
This photo does not do the clarity justice.
You could read a book through this beer.

Targets:
Batch Size: 6 gallons
Target OG: 1.047 SG
Estimated FG: 1.009 SG
IBU: 27.5
Color: 3.5 SRM

Ferment using Saflager S-23 at 62F and ramp up to 70 for a diacetyl rest and then cold crash before bottling.

Estimated Bottling Volume: 5.5 gallons
Carbonate to 2.5 Volumes of CO2



So What Does It Taste Like?
The body on this beer is very light but not so light that a craft beer drinker will feel like they are drinking water. It is very clean on the palate with slight notes of citrus and melon. It is incredibly balanced with a noticeable but faint breadiness. This is a beer that you drink while mowing the grass in the hottest part of the year. This is a beer that craft beer drinkers can enjoy and macro crap drinkers will like and not be intimidated by. Just think of a run-of-the-mill American lager that is actually tasty.

UPDATE: This beer placed silver in its category in competition. We are very happy about that as this was our first competition beer.




For The Sake of Transparency: Affiliate Links Explained


I recently stumbled upon a discussion about affiliate, sites, links, and "self-promotion" on Reddit at r/homebrewing. Some Reddit users appreciate content that sites like this one provided and some users see us as being sneaky and just after your money. For the sake of transparency, allow me to explain how affiliate links work on HopHead Hardware.com and all of our social media pages.

I often link to Adventures in Homebrewing. Their starndard url is http://www.homebrewing.org/. I simply add ?AffId=500 to any page on the AIH site to create http://www.homebrewing.org/?AffId=500 and when someone clicks the link a cookie is placed in their browser. Any purchase made over a certain period of time (i think it is 30 days with AIH) will give me a commission on the sale.

More examples:
Here is a 1lb bag of Briess 2-row from AIH
-Not an affiliate link: http://www.homebrewing.org/2-Row--Pale-Ale-Malt-1-lb_p_3724.html
-Affiliate link: http://www.homebrewing.org/2-Row--Pale-Ale-Malt-1-lb_p_3724.html?AffId=500

MoreBeer is another site that I use:
-https://www.morebeer.com/ vs https://www.morebeer.com/index?a_aid=HopHeadHardware

When someone clicks on one of the affiliate links a harmless cookie is placed in their browser that triggers the site to say "hey, this person came to our site via HopHeadHarware." We get a small commission from the sale and it doesn't affect the price of an order in any way. It could be argued that affiliate commissions are calculated into prices but it can also be argued that affiliates are a good way to boost sales numbers while keeping overhead low. That results in a more profitable business that can provide better service, pricing, and selection to their customers.

Some Reddit users that participated in the discussion were concerned about biased reviews and their concern is valid. I think the majority of the homebrewing community is above that. I know that HopHead Hardware never recommends products for the sake of sales via our affiliate links. Getting caught doing that would tarnish our reputation that we are just starting to build. Naming names would not be cool but we recently dropped two affiliates due to reports of them screwing their customers by inflating shipping charges to outrageous amounts at the same time that they were running a big sale.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Saflager S-23 Review

I'm a big fan of dry yeasts. Many brewers believe that liquid yeast is the only way to go and that dry yeast is inferior. That may have been the case in the past but dry yeast processing has come a long way in recent years. I use lots of US-05 in my homebrews, especially when I am in recipe development mode. For Big Brew Day 2017 I brewed up a "Polish Ale" kit from AIH but it was actually a lager because I used Saflager S-23 from Fermentis. S-23 is a dry lager yeast. It is recommended for the production of fruity and estery lagers at 51F-59F. I have had beers fermented at typical larger temperature range with this yeast and it produces quite a bit of fruity esters. When fermented at ale temperatures something magical happens. It ferments out to an unbelievably clean lager.

That was the last beer that I brewed before I got my fermentation fridge so I was very tempted to pitch US-05 but some fellow club members told me about their experiences with S-23. One guy, in particular, has used it a lot. He said that for clean results treat S-23 just like an ale yeast. My experiences confirmed his advice.

We have used S-23 a few times now at the No Ragrets Brewatorium and we are now building a big healthy culture of this yeast to keep on hand. For most of my S-23 beers, I use the following fermentation schedule:
  1. Pitch re-hydrated S-23 into well-aerated wort at 52F.
  2. Immediately start the rise to 64F and allow beer to ferment for 7 days
  3. Bring the beer up to 68F for 4 days.
  4. Bring the beer up to 70F for 3 more days.
    We are now at the two-week mark for fermentation.
  5. Drop the temperature to 64F for 1 days.
  6. Drop the temperature to 58F for 1 days.
  7. Drop the temperature to 48F for 1 days.
  8. Drop the temperature to 44F for 1 days.
  9. Drop the temperature to 40F for 1 days.
  10. Drop the temperature to 37F until bottling day.
    This profile fits my system and your values may vary from mine. The crash phase is extended but is planned around my beer rotation. Crashing can be done in as little as 2 days but more time should yield better clarity.
After bottling I let these beers sit at room temperature for carbing and conditioning for two weeks and them "lager condition" in the bottle for another week by placing them in the refrigerator. After that, the beer is ready to drink. Please note that I have only been using this yeast for beer in the 4.5% to 6.5% range so a higher gravity beer will need more conditioning time and possibly more primary fermentation time.

I have noticed a long lag time using this yeast of up to 3 days but once it starts it moves fast. A diacetyl rest is advised since this is a lager strain but I cannot say that it is necessary because I have always taken the time for that step when using S-23. Safale says that the attenuation numbers on this strain are a little low but I have gotten up to 88% attenuation using a big healthy pitch that was harvested from the fermenter and rinsed.

Get a pack or two of S-23 and give this yeast a shot. You will be surprised at how easy you can craft a nice lager without all of the typical lager troubles and legwork. Treat your beer like an ale, add a diacetyl rest and voila, you have a homebrewed lager.

Get some S-23 from AIH by clicking HERE.
Get some S-23 from MoreBeer by clicking HERE.

Note: I am bottle conditioning an international pale lager that included S-23 now. I am currently fermenting an IPL (India pale lager) with S-23 and those recipes will be linked here when the beers are ready.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Recipe:Huntress IPA version 1.1


Huntress 1.0 was a really nice beer and I will brew the recipe under another name. It wasn't exactly what I was shooting for so I developed the Huntress 1.1 recipe in an attempt to dial in my perfect IPA that is tuned specifically for me. That is the beauty of homebrewing. A brewer knows what they want and they can make it rather than settling for a commercial beer that they just like a lot. In the end, Huntress will be a tropical melon bomb with a touch of over-sweetness. The dialed in Huntress will also have a big silky body. There is no strict goal for the appearance.

Huntress 1.1 almost hit my goals on the head but it does require some more tweaks. The hop profile is spot on, the body is exactly where I want it to be but the sweetness a little more than what I want and the alcohol level is too high. Even though this version isn't exactly what I want I will reuse it again. An aggressive Belgian yeast strain would make a great Belgian IPA with a big estery juicy profile...yum.

To summarize Huntress 1.1:
The aroma smells like opening a bag of Amarillo hops and taking a whiff. (....well maybe not THAT strong) It tastes like a big juiced up Bell's Two Hearted IPA with heavy melon and citrus note4s. There is very little lingering bitterness and a very silky mouthfeel. The head retention isn't very good and that will be tweaked and could be a product of too much FermCap S used at the end of the boil. At 8.2% abv this tasty treat is sneaky after a fair amount of conditioning time.

This is certainly a recipe worth re-brewing and sharing with all of you fine folks. Here it is:

Batch Size: 5.5 Gallons   Bottling Volume Target: 5 gallons
Targets: OG: 1.070  ABV 7.3%  IBUs: 56   SRM: 5.4  Mash PH: 5.2

  • The mash step temperature is 152 F for 60 minutes for a medium body
  • Primary fermentation should be 65 F
  • Dry hops are 5 days before bottling
  • Bottling calculations are for 2.4 volumes of CO2
  • Let this beer condition for a full 4 weeks and cold condition for at least 5 days
I had some fermentation temperature spikes, a stuck sparge, and too fine of a mill on the grain so this brew session wasn't without problems. I ended up with an OG that was higher than expected and an FG that was lower to make up 8.2% abv. My volume was a little short so my boil off was a very high rate. I decided to let it ride. After running the numbers I could have topped off the batch to the volumes specified by BeerSmith and been right on my OG target. Due to the reduced volume, I experimented with rehydrating the dry hops before pitching them into the beer in order to reduce hop absorption. I used 1.5oz of sanitized and cooled water per ounce of hops. I will do this every time I dry hop from now on.

So far all of my bottles are a little darker than my gravity samples. I believe that they were slightly oxidized but that is a problem with my process and not the recipe. You folks with CO2 access and kegs shouldn't have that problem.

To see the grain to glass video visit our YouTube channel by clicking HERE. I should have waited another week before sampling the beer. If conditioned out some of the flaws that I was picking up during the tasting portion of the video.

If this recipe peaks your interest brew it up and let us know what you think on our social media pages. You can see those links on our Connect page. If you use the links provided we will get a small commission that goes towards more brewing and more brewing means more content for HopHeadHardware.com. Cheers!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Next Up: Frankenbier 001

So..... I may have gone on a few too many shopping binges at our affiliate sites. I have a bunch of ingredients that I need to use up before they start aging on me. We're doing a "Frankenstein" brew and calling it Frankenbier 001. It will be an India Pale Lager and should be ready by the hottest time of the year here in Tennessee. Late August is pretty brutal here with triple digit temperatures and jungle level humidity. This batch is definitely an experiment, but hey...... isn't the experimentation half of the fun. We didn't name our home brewery the No Ragrets Brewatorium for nothin'. Stay tuned to our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see how this one turns out. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to see me rambling and for brew day videos.

UPDATE 7/24/2017: This brew day was pushed back by one week. We're letting another beer lager and cold crash for an extra week before proceeding with Frankenbier 001.

UPDATE 8/23/2017: This batch is sitting in the fermentation fridge waiting to be bottled. Just gotta find some time...