Zero To Sixty In Eight Months

I have been a craft beer fanatic for most of my adult life. I remember when I paid a whole seven dollars for a six-pack of Sam Adams Boston Lager, and my mind was blown. If I had all of the money I spent on craft beer in my bank account, I could be driving a fairly nice new car. My new life motto is “give a man a beer and he’ll waste an evening…teach a man to brew and he’ll waste a lifetime.”

But, as I seemingly have convinced my wife, this is a much cheaper mid-life crisis than a fancy sports car, or god forbid, a girlfriend. Brewing is all at home and with my family surrounding me (my 6-year-old twins help me bottle, and even pour the grain into my mash tun).

So, back in April, I did my first extract batch – a Black IPA from The Brew Hut in my hometown of Aurora, CO. I was shocked at how easily and cheaply, with only a few hours invested, I could make a GREAT CRAFT BEER!

Then soon after, a BH Apricot Blonde, Belgian Blonde, and Hefe. All great, all easy.

Addicted.

Now, I was a cyclist from years ago, so I have always loved mechanical stuff, tools, and great equipment (I have thousands of dollars of bicycles in my garage. Remnants of a skinnier past). With homebrewing, I could buy really cool equipment and toys, and I was making beer!

First, I went “off recipe” and added 8 lbs. of canned pumpkin to a pumpkin ale. It took a long time to bottle age all the fruity solvents away, but now it is like a wonderful pumpkin champagne! I was even more hooked. Then, I built my lagering fridge from an old dorm fridge (using HBT recommendations), and made a beautifully clean Pilsner.

Next, I used AMEX points to buy a lagering cave (a deep freeze with a temperature controller), and learned how wonderfully homebrewed and home-bottled beer ages. I swear all of the beers I haven’t finished off get better with each passing month. So my addiction increased.

Now, I have a gravity 3-tier shelf system, a 15G Blichmann mash tun, and plan to upgrade to all Blich burners/pots in the next year or two (depending how much tolerance my wife allows me).

I brewed my 1st All Grain California Common, which was fantastic. In fermentation is my 1.073 IBA, which reeks of hops through the airlock.

My evolution: I have added four 5G glass secondary carboys. Hoping to age great largers, doppelbocks, and Belgian styles in them soon. I just had a delicious Dunkelweizen that I can’t wait to duplicate…there are too many wonderful beers and I can’t drink enough to keep up with what I dream of brewing.

In addition to all grain, I grow starters on a stir plate, and I oxygenate all worts and starters. One of my best investments was a bench bottle capper, so while I want to keg, bottling isn’t so bad (plus, my kids do help with that). Good thermometers help achieve accurate mash temps. A refractometer is a cool tool.

My turkey fryer pots now have 1/2″ valves on them, which greatly facilitate my 3-tier gravity shelves.Do I lust after a 20G Blich burner/kettle, and a 15G HLT- yes, but I have a workable, reliable, efficient system.

I have founded a local brew club, the Beacon Point Brewclub, Aurora, CO. Join us on Facebook.My next personal goal is a Dunkel Doppelbock, with a double decoction. Go big or go home!

And I must say that home brewers are the nicest people I have ever been a part of. My LHBS, The Brew Hut, has homebrewer nights that I consider free mini-GABFs. And being in Denver, I am a 3-yr. GABF alum, it is a highlight of my year if you’ve never been.

I hope to be a highly contributing member of this site, we homebrewers must work together to rid the world of crappy mass brews. Amen.

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24 Responses to “Zero To Sixty In Eight Months”

  1. Colby_Bergen on

    Awesome write up. I am write behind you. I have been brewing for a year now and just started partial mash and an trying to get the equipment to go all grain, and kegging. I cannot drink enough beer to keep up with all the recipes I want to try. I need more friends with good taste in beer.

    Reply
  2. dlester on

    Your on the road to happiness. I enjoyed reading the progression of your experience. I did the same, went with Blichman pots and fermentor, and built the Brutus 10. With mash tun temp controllers, pumps and all my gear, Brewing is much easier than it used to be. The hardest part is always the clean-up. By the end of the day, your tired, but still have to clean your system. When my son is old enough, I’ll get him to do it for his allowance, LOL.

    Reply
  3. Arrheinous on

    Awesome sideways cooler fermentation chamber. Been looking for something to reduce temperatures and that looks pretty simple.

    Reply
  4. Cyclman on

    @Arrheinous In experimenting with what I grandiosely call my “fermentation chamber” I have found that cooling the lager wort quickly in my 40 degree beer fridge or simply a keg bucket with lots of ice water, then adding yeast at 50, then keeping it in the chilled cooler with a gallon of frozen water works awesome to ferment at 50. Then, after 3 weeks, I cool it 2 degrees per day, until it is at 40- then into the beer fridge for lagering. So far, 2 beautiful, clean lagers.

    Reply
  5. VipertheIV on

    So, this might show how naive I am, but did you turn a regular cooler into a temp controlled ferm chamber in the second and fourth pictures? I really want to start lagering, but don’t want to buy a fridge just for that.

    Reply
  6. Cyclman on

    @VipertheIV Yes, I had a dorm fridge that I hadn’t used in years. I ripped it apart, being careful not to break the coils. The interior freezer part I put inside the cooler by cutting a slice from the cooler, the exterior coils I stapled to the wood (bend them very carefully). Use a temp controller to control the fridge components. Cost about $50 for the cooler / wood, $60 for the temp controller. When cooling the lager I supplement with ice, once down to temp it keeps the temp really well. Lagers came out super clean. Got a Dunkel Doppelbock in there right now, on wk 2. of fermentation.

    Reply
  7. PerryS on

    Hello from Fort Collins! Enjoyed reading your article.

    Also a former bike racer, many pounds ago. Been brewing since October ’12, and also have more beer than I can drink (except for Belgian Trippel, it seems). My kitchen process is limited to 5# mash, but it works for now.

    Reply
  8. Cyclman on

    @PerryS I haven’t made it up to FC yet, beer heaven! Gotta come up and just spend a weekend where I don’t have to drive touring some of the finest breweries in the world.

    Reply
  9. butterpants on

    A-Town in the house! I feel like a kid in a candy store when I waddle into The Brew hut.

    I recently got into brewing and boy did the bug bite me. Unfortunately it’s on a collision course with my other stupidly expensive hobbies, but I hate to do something half assed. It might be a while before I get away from extract kits, but next week I’m dropping the hammer on a kegging system. Why eat hamburger when you can have steak?? Right!

    Your porch looks like S/E….saddle rock? Tallyns? By the res??

    Reply
  10. Cyclman on

    @butterpants Beacon Point Brewclub, we are brewing Saturday for National Homebrew Day. Join the club, join us. We drink as much as we brew, have some great homebrewers in the club.

    Reply
  11. butterpants on

    Ah ok, I know that area well. Unfortunately I work weekends….and I don’t see that changing for a few years. Sucks having a job with an abnormal schedule but that’s life!

    I don’t do social media….do you guys just have a Facebook page only?

    Reply
  12. Walzenbrew on

    It’s amazing how one batch can turn somebody into a lifelong brewer. This happened with me and I’m excited to continue on this journey.
    Great write up!

    Reply
  13. drumuglyknuckles on

    @Colby_Bergen
    brew smaller batches. all recipes are scalable. you while be able to cover more recipes faster.

    ps nice write up

    Reply
  14. Cyclman on

    @drumuglyknuckles Funny you say that, I am just moving two directions- I can now do 10 or 15G batches of “core” beers, and have a 2G mash tun to experiment with.

    Reply

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