Posts Tagged ‘barrel’

new kegerator

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

2

after over three years of dutifully servicing hundreds of homebrew pours, my keezer/kegerator gave up the ghost.

  • it wasn’t too surprising, as I had purchased the chest freezer used, and cycling the freezer repeatedly to act as a refrigerator using an inline temp controller couldn’t have been good on the compressor.  despite the significant effort I had put into my now-dead keezer, I wasn’t too sad to see it go.  the lack of air circulation and humidity control resulted in an accumulation of moisture that even a large dessicant couldn’t control, and it was always a pain swapping in full kegs since they had to be awkwardly lifted to fit over the lip of the keezer collar.
  • therefore, my replacement was a full-size refrigerator.  I scored a used model on craigslist that matched my other basement fridge – many thanks go out to MS for helping me swap fridges though my narrow basement staircase.  after getting the fridge into position, I cut one head off a full-sized barrel using a sawzall and mounted it to the fridge using some threaded bolts.  four faucet holes and a little internal hacking/improvising later resulted in a kegerator that clearly conveys my preferred aging vessels.
  • the fridge fits four corny kegs without modification (with room for bottles in two bottom drawers), and my tiny CO2 tank tucks nicely into the door.  as a bonus, the freezer seems sizable enough to start working on some more ice concentration projects.  a little thanksgiving applejack, anyone?

1

3               4

santa barbara barrel retrieval

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

last weekend AP and I headed up north to seal the deal on a barrel for my lambic solera project.

  • we drove north of santa barbara to quality wine barrels in arroyo grande where we picked up a neutral barrel.  the seguin moreau french oak bordeaux barrel had been previously filled with cabernet sauvignon at both bridlewood winery and lucas and lewellen.  the barrel was steam cleaned and leak tested just prior to our arrival, and drained upside-down in the back of my truck on the drive back to SB.  the staff at quality wine barrels was friendly and patient, and their prices were more than fair – I walked out with a clean barrel, two-barrel steel rack, and bung for around eighty bucks.

after purging the drained barrel with CO2 and plugging it up, we left the hotel room and headed out on our bikes to explore downtown santa barbara.

on sunday afternoon, after fighting a serious rainstorm back down the coast, it was finally time to fill the barrel.

  • after rinsing the barrel once with hot water (making sure the hot water came in contact with the entirely of the barrel interior), I then rinsed the barrel with cold filtered water and let it drain for around fifteen minutes.  AP and I then lugged the beast downstairs, where I purged it again with a healthy dose of CO2 and filled it up, leaving about five gallons of headspace for krausen from the ongoing fermentation of my last two batches.  fermentation ramped up as soon as all the wort was in the barrel, and soon my airlock was shaking like a weight valve on an old pressure cooker.
  • with 106 lbs. of grain, 1.5 lbs. of aged hops, and over 24 hrs. of labor invested, the lambic solera barrel is definitely the crown jewel of my fermentation room.  hopefully the micro-oxygenation and cellobiose feeding it provides will be good to my yeast, bugs, and wort!

              

              

              

lambic solera prep, eagle rock, cabrillo tasting

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

last weekend marked the start of my most ambitious homebrew undertaking yet – the procurement and filling of a 60-gallon solera barrel.

  • since my usual batch size is around 10-13 gallons on a good day, cranking out over 60 gallons of wort appeared *challenging* at first.  however, after some significant research and planning, I decided to suck it up and commit to two 30 gallon brew days.  however, I couldn’t bring myself to engage in a full turbid mash for each session after remembering the significant amount of time associated with the procedure in previous brews.  luckily, I came across jim liddil’s lambic brew page, which proposed some promising turbid mash alternatives for extracting useful dextrins and starches from an unmalted wheat component of the grain bill.  after some number crunching, my final recipe and procedure included the following:
    • GRAIN BILL (15.5 gal wort, 80% efficiency)

16lb belgian pils malt
8 lb american wheat malt
2.5lb unmalted white wheat berries
6 oz aged organic saaz hops (75-90 min*)

    • PROCEDURE

-mash 15lbs, 9oz of the pils and the 8lbs of the malted wheat (change up the mash temp for each of the 4 batches – 152F, 153F, 154F, and 155F)
-mash 7oz of the pils and the 2.5 lbs of unmalted wheat at 150F for 30 mins, then add a gallon of boiling water and boil the mixture for 15 mins.
-add the unmalted wheat mash and liquid to the main mash, stir, and sparge with 180+F water (60-75 mins)
-end up with 18 gals of wort (13 in keggle, 5 in turkey fryer), boil for 60-90 mins until 3 gals boiled off (2 in keggle, 1 in fryer)
-chill and pitch yeast – do not aerate

  • some notes from my first of two brewdays – one gallon of water at 161F will result in a mash temp of 150 for the raw wheat and pils (I did the mash on the stovetop).  each of the four batches have a different mash temp to vary the sugar chains available to the yeast and bugs over the years.  adding the viscous unmalted mash to the main mash may result in a stuck sparge (it did for me) – pump hot water through the dip tube to help clear out the pickup and add plenty of rice hulls.
  • after my first mash stuck upon adding the unmalted malt mash, I decided to put just the wort from the unmalted mash into the main mash tun the second time around.  there was no stuck sparge as a result, but my OG took a small hit (batch 1 OG: 1.049/batch 2 OG: 1.046).  I’m debating whether to risk another stuck mash to get an improved efficiency for my last 2 batches, or to just dump the unmalted wort directly into the brew kettle and bypass the mash tun altogether.
  • after cooling the wort overnight, I pitched 2 vials of ECY bugfarm VI into the first batch and pitched a variety pack of roselare, lambic blend, and sour mix I into the second batch.  within 24 hours both batches were chugging away, and by this afternoon krausen had blown out the top of both fermenters.  I’m halfway there!

to celebrate the start of the solera project, AP and I headed over to eagle rock for some great food and killer beers.

I also managed to get in a review of my long-anticipated cuvee de cabrillo after a couple months in the bottle:

  • style: strong sour
  • appearance: good carbonation, healthy initial head that turns to light lacing, dark amber/maple syrup color, transparent when held to light
  • aroma: sour cherry with slight earthiness in back, belgian yeast notes evident upon swirling
  • taste: strong tongue-coating sourness with cherries close behind, sweet vanilla oak finish
  • comments: at 11% I am amazed that this is so sour and also drinks so well.  the medium toast french oak imparts a sweet vanilla note that was overwhelming when the beer was fresh in the bottle and not carbed (it tasted like buttered popcorn jellybeans), but this has faded into a pleasing vanilla finish with age and carbonation.  this one was a ton of work, but the results were worth it.