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Mat Strong

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Hello everyone. For some time I've used this resource to glean amazing tips and tricks for my home brewing habit. I've dabbled in extract brewing, and kit brewing for many years, but only recently have settled on the FestaBrew line of kits as my go to option. Never satisfied with the status quo, I've been modifying these kits with incredible results.

My goal with this thread is to share my experience(s) with those who are interested, in the hope of generating some new ideas to customize this solid line of kits (or any of the other all wort kit options available, e.g. Paddock Wood's all wort kits).

*disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with Magnotta brewing, nor am I am interested in selling their products. I am merely a lazy home brewer, who finds these kits useful, and easy to customize, and I wish to share my experiences with others. :)
 
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Mat Strong

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So here goes!

25 Jan 20, I started a FB Oatmeal Stout in a 25 L plastic pail; I added 1 lb Dry Lactose, and approx. 6 oz of Peanut Butter extract. That's right, I made a PB Milk stout!

Procedure:

Obviously I cleaned and sanitized everything (Starsan is awesome!!). Then, I diluted the lactose in the bottom of my 25L primary bucket with 1L boiling water from a kettle. Generous swirling and swishing helped dissolve the lactose. Then, using my patented (patent pending ;) and see below for description) pouring technique, I vigorously poured approx half the bag of wort into the primary, then sprinkled the packet of provided yeast and poured the 6 oz PB extract into the primary. Then I poured the remaining half bag of wort into the primary to complete the mixing process.

*my pouring technique involves some simple modifications to the FestaBrew box. I cut off all but one flap from the box using scissors or an Olfa knife. The flap I leave attached to the box is the one directly behind the pouring spout. I then cut a notch out of front of the box just in front of, and beneath the spout, this allows the spout to "notch" into the cut, making it easier to control its position for the pour. I then fold the rear flap down on the outside of the box, and cut a hand hole/handle through it, and the box, so I have a spot to grip. When the spout is sanitized, and I'm ready for the big pour, I use a set of plumbers pliers to remove the yellow cap on the bag of wort, then I grip the box with my right hand through the handle I just created, and the bottom of the box with my left. The spout settles perfectly into the notch, and I pour away. The pouring action serves a few functions: 1. it aerates the wort as it flows; 2. it causes vigorous mixing with any adjuncts or additives I may have added; and 3 it saves a boat load of time vs. siphoning.

Anywho:

1 Feb 20 I racked it to secondary (glass carboy), and pulled off a pint or two as operator tax ;) boy it tastes and smells great!

Bottling is planned for one week from today.
 

RM-MN

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1 Feb 20 I racked it to secondary (glass carboy), and pulled off a pint or two as operator tax ;) boy it tastes and smells great!
From now on you should skip secondary unless you have a specific reason to use it like long term aging on oak. Moving the beer to secondary tends to oxidize it, gives a chance for infection, and stirs up the suspended yeast that was starting to flocculate causing it to take longer to clear as the yeast then need to start over. Instead of racking, take a hydrometer sample to see how it is progressing and drink that when done as your operator tax.

To get more control over the end results you can start with a very light colored wort like the "Blonde Lager" and steep your choice of grains in a relatively small amount of hot (150F. or so) water that you add to the wort. It may give you a better, fresher flavor.
 
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Mat Strong

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Hi all (aka the 3 people who may read this),

I managed to bottle PB Milk Stout a few weeks back, my bad for not updating the thread sooner (I ended up getting pulled away to Alaska for work... some solid breweries up there if you're interested in checking them out!).

So yeah, I bottled using my standard method: 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, diluted with 500ish mls of boiling water from the kettle in the bottom of the bottling bucket.

I went with the standard 500ml plastic bottles, and pulled off 45 full pints, not bad all things considered. I let the bottles sit for 2 weeks (standard) and started the consumption stage - my preferred stage. So far (as of 7 Mar) things are going well! The PB Milk stout (featuring FestaBrew) is delicious!

Next up: Mango Milkshake IPA! (featuring FestaBrew)
 
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Mat Strong

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From now on you should skip secondary unless you have a specific reason to use it like long term aging on oak. Moving the beer to secondary tends to oxidize it, gives a chance for infection, and stirs up the suspended yeast that was starting to flocculate causing it to take longer to clear as the yeast then need to start over. Instead of racking, take a hydrometer sample to see how it is progressing and drink that when done as your operator tax.

To get more control over the end results you can start with a very light colored wort like the "Blonde Lager" and steep your choice of grains in a relatively small amount of hot (150F. or so) water that you add to the wort. It may give you a better, fresher flavor.
Great idea, and thank you for the advice. I'm one of those weirdos who still prefer to rack to secondary - my attitude toward the process is I want to pull the beer off the yeast to prevent any issues, also I like the batch aging/settling for the extra week. I'm usually fairly careful with my racking procedure, in that I use an auto-siphon and allow the beer to gently flow against the inside edge of the carboy. I'm really lucky that I've not had much oxidation with past attempts.

Also, as you likely already know, these FestaBrew kits come with the Safeale line of yeast, which all have a fairly high flocculation rate, and I find the yeast cakes which form at the bottom of the fermentor are nicely compacted, which makes the chances of disturbance quite negligible.

I really like your idea of doing some steeped grains to modify the kits, I've given that some thought over the past few batches. In fact, as the spring/summer time frame approaches, I'm itching to try my hand at lagering. Any ideas on how to safely lager without the use of complicated fridges or other contraptions?
 

Jag75

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I was one of those weirdos who racked to secondaries also. It was how I was taught so it's how I did it . If I'm using a conical I'll dump but when I use a carboy I dont rack to secondaries anymore , leaving the beer in there for 3 weeks . I was adamant about secondary but now I very seldom do . Racking over fruit or long term storage is the only time for me now . We all brew how we want and feel comfortable.

As for Lagers you really want that ability to control fermentation. When fermentation is 75% complete you bump up the temp a few degrees a day until you get around 66 or so. Then you hold there for a diacetyl rest for 3 days then you bottle then Lager after carbination or if kegging you drop the temp a few degrees a day until it's about 38 then keg and lager . There is a warm lager thread but imo you really need to ferment at lager temps to get that true lager
 
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Mat Strong

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I was one of those weirdos who racked to secondaries also. It was how I was taught so it's how I did it . If I'm using a conical I'll dump but when I use a carboy I dont rack to secondaries anymore , leaving the beer in there for 3 weeks . I was adamant about secondary but now I very seldom do . Racking over fruit or long term storage is the only time for me now . We all brew how we want and feel comfortable.

As for Lagers you really want that ability to control fermentation. When fermentation is 75% complete you bump up the temp a few degrees a day until you get around 66 or so. Then you hold there for a diacetyl rest for 3 days then you bottle then Lager after carbination or if kegging you drop the temp a few degrees a day until it's about 38 then keg and lager . There is a warm lager thread but imo you really need to ferment at lager temps to get that true lager
Thanks for the info, I'll search out the warm lager thread to get a better handle on the concept, but yeah, I'm with you, I want to get that crisp lager flavour/profile, so will likely need to come up with a way to cold ferment/store/age. hmmm...
 
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Mat Strong

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Mango Milkshake IPA
started on 8 Mar 20

Last evening I started a FestaBrew West Coast IPA kit, doctored with 1 Lb Lactose, about 5 oz Mango flavouring, and approx 1.75 oz Enigma hops (pellets), as a first shot at dry hopping - all adjuncts/hops were blended using 1 litre boiling water from an electric kettle.

I used my usual prep method (see above in PB Milkshake Stout for background on how I mix up a batch), and so far things are going well.

The idea behind the dry hopping was to add more of a tropical hop aroma to the finished beer. I find FestaBrew West Coast IPA kits have a solid bittering hop character, but are a little lacking in aroma hops, especially those aromas with any sort of citrus, fruit or floral character.

Side note: I've searched long and hard for any info on the variety of hop used in the FestaBrew line of kits, but have come up empty. Perhaps next time I am out in Grimsby, I'll stop in and conduct some investigative reporting ;) Unless, someone else on this site has any info, I'm all ears!

I'll keep a nose on how things are going when I rack it in a week, and if warranted, I will add another oz or so of the Enigma to bump things up a bit.
 
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Mat Strong

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Mango Milkshake IPA
started on 8 Mar 20

Last evening I started a FestaBrew West Coast IPA kit, doctored with 1 Lb Lactose, about 5 oz Mango flavouring, and approx 1.75 oz Enigma hops (pellets), as a first shot at dry hopping - all adjuncts/hops were blended using 1 litre boiling water from an electric kettle.

I used my usual prep method (see above in PB Milkshake Stout for background on how I mix up a batch), and so far things are going well.

The idea behind the dry hopping was to add more of a tropical hop aroma to the finished beer. I find FestaBrew West Coast IPA kits have a solid bittering hop character, but are a little lacking in aroma hops, especially those aromas with any sort of citrus, fruit or floral character.

Side note: I've searched long and hard for any info on the variety of hop used in the FestaBrew line of kits, but have come up empty. Perhaps next time I am out in Grimsby, I'll stop in and conduct some investigative reporting ;) Unless, someone else on this site has any info, I'm all ears!

I'll keep a nose on how things are going when I rack it in a week, and if warranted, I will add another oz or so of the Enigma to bump things up a bit.
Update: 15 Mar 20

Fermentation took a little longer than normal for this batch (just over 48 hours from pitch); but once it started, it went off like gangbusters!

Had a small blowout as a result, but now things are on track. I lifted the lid and did a quick visual check this morning, and saw quite a bit of krausen still on top, so I'm going to let it go for another day or so. Then rack to the carboy, and sample the initial offering. Based on how it smells, it shouldn't disappoint.
 
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Mat Strong

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Update: 15 Mar 20

Fermentation took a little longer than normal for this batch (just over 48 hours from pitch); but once it started, it went off like gangbusters!

Had a small blowout as a result, but now things are on track. I lifted the lid and did a quick visual check this morning, and saw quite a bit of krausen still on top, so I'm going to let it go for another day or so. Then rack to the carboy, and sample the initial offering. Based on how it smells, it shouldn't disappoint.
Update 1 April 20

Primary ended up sticking and stalling a little, so around the 19th I made the call to do a gravity test. Turned out it was still quite high (1.030) which didn't make sense given the aggressiveness of the primary once it kicked off. In any case, I decided to rack to secondary which turned out to be the right call, as it kicked off fermentation again.

Finally on 27 Mar I called it, and bottled with 1/2 cup of brown sugar dissolved in 500ml of boiling water. Gravity had fallen to 1.022, which is around target gravity when you factor in the lactose (research I did indicated the lactose added around 7 pts of gravity to the bottom line for the 23 litre (6 gal) batch). Target was 1.013, so plus 0.007, you get 1.020 - not too far off what I ended up at.

While bottling, I obviously pulled off some producers tax, and it tasted great! Really looking forward to 10 (ish) Apr when it will be ready to drink.

Next up, my first attempt at lagering!
 
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Mat Strong

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FestaBrew Blonde Lager
started on 24 Mar 20

We have a small cold cellar in the basement, with two concrete walls and some rough shelving. During the fall, winter and spring months, the temps in this room are significantly cooler than the rest of the house, so of course I got the idea to consider trying my hand at lagering.

I started off by pulling out Palmer, and brushing up on the basics of the process, then I did some temperature tests to make sure the room was in the range. Palmer says anywhere from 7-13 C is good for primary fermentation, and lo and behold, the room came in at 11-12 C -- so giddy up!

I went with the FestaBrew Blonde Lager, vs their "Dry" as the Blonde Lager is compared to more of a traditional German style lager, and the Dry more like a mexican lager (light beer).

As I pondered on the process more and more, I began to worry the pitch rate of the Saflager S-23 yeast would not be sufficient. The package indicates it will work for up to 15 L of wort, at the temps I was planning to ferment. Also, Palmer talks about a pitch rate of around 150B cells for a lager at proper temps, and a single S-23 pack comes in around 66B cells. Now, I'm not a fan of starters, for a few reasons (mostly the hassle), so I thought I would just pitch two packs of yeast; but bad news, my local home-brew shop doesn't carry Saflager S-23, and I didn't want to switch yeasts outright. So I said screw it, and just pitched the one pack...

But I digress, next I prepped the FB box for the standard pour method, pitched the one pack of yeast about a quarter way through the pour, poured the rest of the wort, sealed er up and put it in the corner of the cold room.

As of 2 Apr, it appears to be fermenting (albeit quite slowly), and I plan to rack to secondary on the 8th.

Any tips on the actual lagering phase are greatly appreciated; Palmer indicates a temp decrease of 5-8 C when compared to primary ferment temps; and I definitely cannot consistently maintain those temps without a second fridge... I thought of the garage as outside temps are supposed to increase to around 6-10 C, but that cannot be trusted in the climate I live in... So, more pondering is required...
 
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Mat Strong

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FestaBrew Blonde Lager
started on 24 Mar 20

We have a small cold cellar in the basement, with two concrete walls and some rough shelving. During the fall, winter and spring months, the temps in this room are significantly cooler than the rest of the house, so of course I got the idea to consider trying my hand at lagering.

I started off by pulling out Palmer, and brushing up on the basics of the process, then I did some temperature tests to make sure the room was in the range. Palmer says anywhere from 7-13 C is good for primary fermentation, and lo and behold, the room came in at 11-12 C -- so giddy up!

I went with the FestaBrew Blonde Lager, vs their "Dry" as the Blonde Lager is compared to more of a traditional German style lager, and the Dry more like a mexican lager (light beer).

As I pondered on the process more and more, I began to worry the pitch rate of the Saflager S-23 yeast would not be sufficient. The package indicates it will work for up to 15 L of wort, at the temps I was planning to ferment. Also, Palmer talks about a pitch rate of around 150B cells for a lager at proper temps, and a single S-23 pack comes in around 66B cells. Now, I'm not a fan of starters, for a few reasons (mostly the hassle), so I thought I would just pitch two packs of yeast; but bad news, my local home-brew shop doesn't carry Saflager S-23, and I didn't want to switch yeasts outright. So I said screw it, and just pitched the one pack...

But I digress, next I prepped the FB box for the standard pour method, pitched the one pack of yeast about a quarter way through the pour, poured the rest of the wort, sealed er up and put it in the corner of the cold room.

As of 2 Apr, it appears to be fermenting (albeit quite slowly), and I plan to rack to secondary on the 8th.

Any tips on the actual lagering phase are greatly appreciated; Palmer indicates a temp decrease of 5-8 C when compared to primary ferment temps; and I definitely cannot consistently maintain those temps without a second fridge... I thought of the garage as outside temps are supposed to increase to around 6-10 C, but that cannot be trusted in the climate I live in... So, more pondering is required...
Well, I racked on 9 Apr to a 23 L carboy, and man is it good! Classic Lager flavour, good clean crisp taste with a nice malt backbone - looks like the home brew store guys made the right call, one packet of Saflager S-23 did the trick, didn't need two packs like Palmer suggests.

FG is estimated at 1.008, and at the time of racking it was sitting at 1.016 (yeah I know, I broke my no hydrometer reading rule, meh... I was curious after the Mango Milkshake incident (see above)), which I'm hoping will drop the desired 8 pts while in secondary (fingers crossed).

I'm going to try and give it 4 weeks in secondary, then bottle condition with straight corn sugar (for effect and little to no impact on taste) instead of brown sugar like I normally use for the FB kits; but we will cross the bridge in around 3.5 week's time.

One more thing reference temps in the cold room for the lagering process. Temp came in at around 12C, which is way higher than Palmer suggests; but the garage is far too cold right now (some nights it is still getting down to -3-6C (damn Prairie climate!)), so I am taking my chances and leaving it in the cold room (more finger crossing).
 
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Mat Strong

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FestaBrew West Coast Mango Grapefruit IPA
started on 12 Apr 20

So... this COVID-19 Quarantine has us, like many others, consuming A LOT more adult beverages than the before time... which means, for the first time in many years, I have two beers on the go at the same time.

Unlike the Mango Milkshake (which turned out exceptionally well), I decided to make a straight Mango IPA, but beef it up a bit with a few drops of some grapefruit essential oils. Now, this isn't my first time using essential oils in my brew, I used some peppermint oils in a modified FB Oatmeal Stout kit just before Christmas. That kit was modified with a pound of lactose, 6-7 drops of PMint essential oil and about a cup of cocoa mixed with about a cup of Jack Daniels Whisky - in case you're wondering, the Milk Chocolate Peppermint Stout was awesome!

But, back to the Mango Grapefruit IPA.

The Blonde Lager is safely lagering in the cold room, which means I have a primary free to start the second beer. I started with approx 500mls of boiling water in the bottom of the primary pail to dissolve some left over Enigma hops (about a quarter oz) and a bottle of Mango flavouring (Brewers Best brand). I let that steep for about five minutes, then started pouring the kit. About a quarter of the way through the pour I added about 6-8 drops of grapefruit essential oil, then sprinkled in the yeast. I then poured the remainder of the wort, rotating the bucket half way through the pour to ensure the yeast was mixed into solution.

I then put the lid on, and slid the bucket to its rightful place for primary fermentation. I plan to rack it to secondary on 19-ish Apr, depending on how primary goes.
 
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Mat Strong

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FestaBrew West Coast Mango Grapefruit IPA
started on 12 Apr 20

So... this COVID-19 Quarantine has us, like many others, consuming A LOT more adult beverages than the before time... which means, for the first time in many years, I have two beers on the go at the same time.

Unlike the Mango Milkshake (which turned out exceptionally well), I decided to make a straight Mango IPA, but beef it up a bit with a few drops of some grapefruit essential oils. Now, this isn't my first time using essential oils in my brew, I used some peppermint oils in a modified FB Oatmeal Stout kit just before Christmas. That kit was modified with a pound of lactose, 6-7 drops of PMint essential oil and about a cup of cocoa mixed with about a cup of Jack Daniels Whisky - in case you're wondering, the Milk Chocolate Peppermint Stout was awesome!

But, back to the Mango Grapefruit IPA.

The Blonde Lager is safely lagering in the cold room, which means I have a primary free to start the second beer. I started with approx 500mls of boiling water in the bottom of the primary pail to dissolve some left over Enigma hops (about a quarter oz) and a bottle of Mango flavouring (Brewers Best brand). I let that steep for about five minutes, then started pouring the kit. About a quarter of the way through the pour I added about 6-8 drops of grapefruit essential oil, then sprinkled in the yeast. I then poured the remainder of the wort, rotating the bucket half way through the pour to ensure the yeast was mixed into solution.

I then put the lid on, and slid the bucket to its rightful place for primary fermentation. I plan to rack it to secondary on 19-ish Apr, depending on how primary goes.
Racked it a week late as I ran into a similar krausen issue with the Mango Milkshake a few months ago - I'm starting to think the Mango flavouring is part of the issue. I let it do its thing for about a week, the bottled. We managed to get 46 bottles on the money, and it is drinking well now.

These updates are a little late, as I've been back to work full time now, and have also been brewing quite a bit (did an extract pilsner and my first all grain recipe using a modified BIAB method - I'll do separate posts for both these endeavours).
 
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Mat Strong

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Well, I racked on 9 Apr to a 23 L carboy, and man is it good! Classic Lager flavour, good clean crisp taste with a nice malt backbone - looks like the home brew store guys made the right call, one packet of Saflager S-23 did the trick, didn't need two packs like Palmer suggests.

FG is estimated at 1.008, and at the time of racking it was sitting at 1.016 (yeah I know, I broke my no hydrometer reading rule, meh... I was curious after the Mango Milkshake incident (see above)), which I'm hoping will drop the desired 8 pts while in secondary (fingers crossed).

I'm going to try and give it 4 weeks in secondary, then bottle condition with straight corn sugar (for effect and little to no impact on taste) instead of brown sugar like I normally use for the FB kits; but we will cross the bridge in around 3.5 week's time.

One more thing reference temps in the cold room for the lagering process. Temp came in at around 12C, which is way higher than Palmer suggests; but the garage is far too cold right now (some nights it is still getting down to -3-6C (damn Prairie climate!)), so I am taking my chances and leaving it in the cold room (more finger crossing).
This too is finished up, and has been in bottle for well over two weeks now. It turned out OK... I'm thinking it was the S-23 Lager yeast, because the beer has a noticeable fruity backbone to it, which I suppose could be the result of too warm in the lagering phase, but who knows. I'm now planning my round of lagers for next year, and am trying to find a cleaner, drier lager yeast, any suggestions?

Oh, and I managed to get a full 46 bottles for this batch too.
 
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