Colin Kaminski started his professional brewing career in 1998 and since that time has written several magazine articles, including "Bring On The Heat" for BYO Magazine. Colin's articles have earned him the prestigious Beer Writer's Guild Feature of the Year Award and he also co-authored the book 'Water - A Comprehensive Guide for Brewers'. Since 2003 Colin has been the Master Brewer for Downtown Joe's in Napa, CA where he has since brewed over 1000 seven barrel batches of ales. [/hide]
As the Fall season approaches here in the Northeastern United States it brings with it the shorter days and cooler temperatures that signal the end of summer. In a few weeks the leaves of the deciduous trees in my neighborhood will start to change color. The same green leaves that provided cooling shade throughout the hot summer months will soon change their colors to yellow, orange, red and gold as they prepare to fall to the ground. [/hide]
Whenever I transfer my wort from the kettle to the fermentor or my beer from the fermentor to a keg or bottling bucket I also see it as an opportunity to clean it too. Reducing the amount of trub your finished beer contains before packaging it goes a long way in preventing the formation of chill haze, floaties and off flavors. Trub consists of yeast, proteins, hop debris and other solids left over from the beer making process that are no longer wanted or needed in your finished beer. If left unchecked trub can ruin the appearance and taste of an otherwise perfect glass of beer. [/hide]
I have been using my BrewsBySmith Fermentation Kit for about nine months now and it has undoubtedly become an integral part of my brewing process. I've grown so attached to the way I can set it to accurately control the temperature of my fermenting beer that I won't ferment another batch of beer without one. Here in the Northeastern United States the temperature outside plummets during the colder months of the year. Even though my garage brew room is well insulated the temperature inside can still get down to 45F in the dead of winter. Using the 32 watt Fermwrap heater that came with the kit, together with a homemade 100 watt 'paint can' heater, the controller was able to maintain a stable 66-72F temperature range with ease. This worked out really well and over the winter and I was able to produce a number of different styles of beer that turned out great. [/hide]
Over the years I had read plenty of mixed reviews about the Blichmann Beer Gun before actually pulling the trigger and getting one for myself. It seemed that the two most common complaints brewers posted about had to do with how beer bottled using the Blichmann Beer Gun could be under carbonated and the overall cost of the Beer Gun. So although I had been interested in a better bottle carbing solution for years I held off on using a Blichmann Beer Gun to bottle my beer for a very long time. That is until I toured the Triumph Brewery in Princeton NJ and saw that they had been using one to fill up their new line of 750ml bottles! I figured if the Beer Gun was good enough for a commercial brewery to use to package their beer then it had to be good enough for me. [/hide]
When someone asks which style of beer is my absolute favorite I half-jokingly tell them that I like all styles of beer, which in fact I do. From the moment I take that first cold sip of beer I start to single out everything I like about it. Perfect color, good carbonation, a lingering head, great lacing, plenty of flavor, aroma and taste.... See what I'm saying, I've just cited seven common qualities to look for in a beer, without hinting at any particular style of beer at all. Still unsure about which style of beer is being described our mind works hard to fill in the missing details. Suddenly a mental image of the beer begins to develop and soon you find yourself thinking about your personal favorite beer style. The imaginary beer can be darker or lighter in color and if you were to focus on it long enough you may almost begin to taste it too. The question is did seasonal weather conditions influence your imaginary choice of beer style at all? [/hide]
You just had a party, some friends came over and you shared your latest batch of homebrew with them. Suddenly someone lets you know the keg's been kicked. You realize how busy your schedule is but you're going to have to brew another batch of beer and soon. It's happened to all of us at some point in our brewing career, you brewed a perfect batch of beer and everyone including yourself drank the @%*! out of it and now it's all gone. [/hide]
This is the third installment in the Brewing Water series. The links below will direct you to parts one and two if you wish to read them to. Craft The Perfect Draft - Brewing Water Part 1 Craft The Perfect Draft - Brewing Water Part 2 Today we look at some of the easy to use tools that are available to homebrewers for tuning and tweaking their brewing water profiles to match the styles of beer they brew. We know that mashing at the lower end of the recommended mash temperature range of 148-158F [64-70C] produces a more fermentable wort and a thinner bodied beer, what isn't so obvious is that the same thing happens when the mash pH is held at the lower end of the 5.4 to 5.6 pH range. Mashing at the lower end of the recommended pH range not only increases conversion efficiency it also reduces chill haze, enhances hot break, beer color and taste while reducing harsh bitterness in the beer. [/hide]
This is the second installment in the Brewing Water series. The link below will direct you to part one if you wish to read it too. Craft The Perfect Draft - Brewing Water Part 1 Today we wade a little bit deeper into what goes on in the mash and how our brewing water can influence efficiency and the fermentability of our wort. [/hide]
Every successful brew day begins with a well thought out plan based on a recipe using the perfect combination of grains, hops, yeast and the brewer's preferred brewing process. Of course the goal of every brew day is to brew the best tasting style of beer possible and to brew it as consistently as possible each and every time. [/hide]
On a hot summer day in the late 1960s a friend of mine asked me to go for a ride and tour the Budweiser Brewery in nearby Newark NJ. I instantly agreed to go, what better way to spend a hot summer afternoon than cooling off inside one of Americas largest breweries. We had no idea then how beer was made, in fact we had never even heard of the term 'homebrew' at the time. All we cared to know about breweries was that you got to drink free beer at the end of the tour. You just had to show up with an id that proved you were old enough to drink and you were in. [/hide]
About three years ago the brewing bug had bitten pretty hard, according to SWMBO beer was all I ever seemed to talk about. I'll admit that hasn't really changed over the years, but I was surprised to get an EdgeStar Deluxe Mini Kegerator as a gift that year. After all I had just bought a new kegging system, connected it to a Perlick tap in my refrigerator and was very happy to finally be drinking fresh draft beer at home. I wasn't sure if I'd be keeping this new kegerator, how often would I use it now that I already had my corny keg setup and working. Long story short I eventually plugged in the kegerator, ran down to the nearest liquor store and brought home a cold five liter Newcastle Brown Ale mini-keg to try. [/hide]
As the seasons here in the Northeastern United States began to change and the temperatures started to fall I knew it was time to install an electric heater in the brew room. The brew room 'slash garage' is well insulated and the temperature inside managed to stay 10F degrees above freezing even as outdoor temperatures dipped into the upper 20's. I quickly found out that a 220 volt 30 amp circuit would be needed to power the 5,000 watt heater that was on sale at a nearby Lowes that week. Fortunately I already had a 220 volt 30 amp line run in the brew room to power up my brewing system's EBC-SV1 controller and a 4,500 watt heating element. [/hide]
It happened to me right at the end of a boil for a ten gallon batch of English IPA. I'd been brewing on this electric BIAB system for several months and loved how easy it was to connect and disconnect the silicone tubing whenever I needed to. But when the line connecting the kettle to the inlet of my wort chiller clogged it was a rude awakening for me. With over ten gallons of boiling hot wort sitting in the kettle I had to quickly figure out what caused the line to clog and fix it. As it turned out I was able to clear the clogged line and cool the wort down without any more problems. I didn't know it at the time but during the mash some grain made its way into the kettle though a few small holes in the grain bag. Since the quick disconnect on the kettle valve was a shutoff type it only took a few pieces of grain to reduce the flow of wort to a trickle. [/hide]
Sooner or later a day comes when many homebrewers decide to add a pump to their brewing system. At first most probably buy a small inexpensive pond pump to help recirculate their chiller water through some ice. Pumping ice cold water through a chiller really cuts down on the amount of time needed to get your wort down to pitching temperature. These types of pumps are easy to setup, are easy to replace and do a very good job of moving low volumes of cool water relatively short distances. For the tougher jobs like recirculating hot or boiling wort either a March pump or a Chugger pump seems to be the homebrewer's pump of choice. Choosing a Chugger pump had nothing to do with the Chugger company being located just five miles from my home, the pump I use shipped with my High Gravity BIAB Electric Brewing System. When ordering a high temperature pump there are a few things you should know before pulling the trigger. Wort is sticky, pumping wort can be a bit more complicated than pumping...
Brew day morning for me started out around an hour after sunrise on a cold and dreary Saturday morning. The night before I had collected fifteen gallons of reverse osmosis water in the large igloo cooler I use for preparing my brewing water. I had already picked up freshly crushed grains earlier that day along with the hops and yeast needed for this recipe. Now with my water profile adjusted and all of the ingredients in place, I filled the kettle with brewing water, set the controller's temperature to 160F, opened the valve and switched on the recirculation pump. While the kettle's electric element heated the water I had time to get the grains and BIAB mesh grain bag ready to put in the kettle and then find something interesting to watch on the brew room TV. [/hide]
When planning to brew an Irish Red Ale a few weeks ago I decided to use White Labs WLP004 - Irish Ale Yeast to ferment it, that is until I found out my LHBS had none in stock. After investing so much time in formulating this recipe I already had my heart set on pitching nothing else, I wanted everything to be perfect for my very first attempt at this beer style. So I postponed my plans to brew that weekend and decided to just wait for a fresh batch of WLP-004 to be delivered, in stock and ready for me to use. Of course that never happened, either I brewed that weekend as originally planned, or I had to wait three more weeks before having time available for another brewday. Ultimately my brewday was saved by a few packets of Safale S-04 Dry Ale yeast that I bought on brewday morning, along with some hops and freshly crushed grain. Nearly a month later this Irish Red Ale fermented with S-04 both tastes and looks remarkably good and if the WLP-004 could have improved this beer any I'm...
When I bought a digital pH tester last year I knew at the time that in order to continue getting the most accurate pH measurements possible, a small amount of regular maintenance would be needed. The way I look at it having to recalibrate a pH tester once a month is a pretty small inconvenience compared to the benefits that an accurate pH reading will provide. Recalibrating a pH tester isn't hard to do, the entire process takes less than ten minutes and can even be fun once you get started. Just like all of the other gear in my brew room I feel like I never get to use my meter often enough, so recalibrating it every month gives me a chance to use it more often in between brew days. [/hide]
Finally, I have a few days off in a row and they couldn't have come along at a better time. The end of the year always seems to be full of things to do and not a lot of time to left to do them all. This year I'm thankful that my brew room and pilot system improvements have given me the control I've always wanted over my brewing conditions from brew house to packaging and that's been a huge relief. The beer shown in the picture below is what I'm drinking right now and it's delicious. It's a Belgian Witbier brewed to style less than three weeks ago and I've already been getting complimented for brewing such a great tasting beer, it's already become one of my favorites. So do I plan on brewing it again soon, no because there's another style of beer I want to brew next, an authentic Irish Red Ale. Not to be confused with its Belgian cousin the Belgian Red ale or an Irish Red Lager, the Irish Red Ale style is unique in its own right. Although I've never brewed this style of beer before...
When I look back and think about all the hours I've spent reading about beer brewing over the years I can't believe there's still something out there that I haven't tried incorporating into my brewing process yet. One year my push was into brewing all grain, one year was all about yeast propagation and pitching rates and another year had everything to do about brewing water chemistry. Why would I ever have waited so long to take control over my fermentation temperatures, I'll probably never know. What I do know is that I seem to have saved the best for last, I haven't been this excited over a new piece of brewing gear in a very long time. Maybe it's because I was passionate about computers, programming and electronic circuitry long before I ever thought about brewing beer but the ability to maintain precise temperature control throughout the entire fermentation process eliminated one of the last remaining variables in my brewing process. [/hide]