By Chris Jennings
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Now that summer has arrived, it’s time to start getting ready for all of the activities that are best enjoyed in our small slice of glorious Northwest weather. Camping, road trips and weekend vacations are just a few options and all are made better with some tasty beer. As homebrewers, it would be even more exciting if the beer we drank was crafted by us. Transporting, storing and serving our award-winning beverages is a challenge that’s easy to overcome with some good old-fashioned homebrewer ingenuity.
Have Beer, Will Travel
Of course, once your homebrew is ready for consumption, it’s already in some sort of container — be it bottles or kegs. Naturally, the amount of brew to bring on a getaway depends on the circumstances. A day trip or hike will only require a six-pack or a couple of growlers and those can easily fit in a small cooler with the rest of the picnic goodies.
However, a weeklong camping adventure is another story, and being the only homebrewer in the group can be a bit trying. With everyone expecting you to supply all the beer, make sure there’s plenty to go around and plan ahead so that you don’t wipe out your cellar. It might also be fun to brew a special batch for the gathering. Aside from getting the chance to make something different, your fellow campers will be able to look forward to sampling a new brew crafted just for them.
If you don’t have a homebrew keg system, then be sure to use a cooler that’s large enough to hold all of your bottles. But if possible, you can have some fun building a keg system that will make pouring beer in an outdoor setting nice and easy.
Taking kegs camping doesn’t have to be difficult. You’ll simply need a place to keep them cold, CO2, a way to get the beer out of the keg and ice.
As with everything in homebrewing, there’s the easy way, the hard way, the expensive way and the cheap way. The costly way might not be easy, but it will probably look the coolest. Let’s start with a place to keep the kegs cold. Any container that will hold ice and allow you to submerge the bottom six-inches of the keg will work. It’s not necessary to keep the entire keg covered in ice because the beer is drawn from the bottom (as long as you’re not drinking a gallon a minute).
There are only a few options for CO2. Option one: You can pull your CO2 cylinder off your tap system and haul it with you to the wilderness. Though effective, this can be cumbersome. Option two: Use a travel-sized cylinder that’s around 2.5 pounds. There are also adapters on the market to attach your regulator to a paintball cylinder. Using an actual regulator and CO2 tank will give you much better control over how fast the beer comes out, preventing foaming and beer loss. Option three: A hand-held device that uses 14-gram CO2 cartridges with a trigger. This allows you to add CO2 to help push out the beer, but there’s no control. You could accidently add too much CO2, purging the keg or pouring out a lot of foam.
Now that the beer is cold and we have CO2, we need a way to get the liquid from keg to glass. The old standby would be a picnic/cobra tap on the end of a piece of hose. It’s simple, inexpensive and it works. But where’s the fun in that? The next option is a fancy adapter that will allow you to connect a beer faucet directly to your quick disconnect. Overall, it’s not that expensive and you have the benefit of beer not sitting in the baking sun all day. The Cadillac version is the jockey box. If you’ve ever been to a beer festival, you’ve seen one. It’s a cooler with a beer line going in one side. The beer then travels through either a stainless steel coil or plate that is inside the cooler. Ice is added to the cooler to ensure the beer is cold when pouring out the other side. A jockey box system isn’t cheap, but it can be an awesome addition to any homebrewer’s outdoor adventures.
Ensuring that our tasty homebrew is not only available to us everywhere we go this summer, but is treated right, helps guarantee the perfect pint every time.
Hop on it IPA [AG]
Hop on it IPA [Extract]
By Chris Jennings
For the Oregon Beer Growler
If you love to experiment, it’s no wonder you’re a homebrewer. Anything that we can eat safely can be used to craft your next award-winning beer. But all too often, brewers get stuck with the same old ingredients out of habit. The only way to break the cycle is to try something very different — something that perhaps you’ve never heard of anyone else using before. For example, maybe you want to explore the possibilities of a tropical fruit like a banana. But what about swapping in banana candy? Yes, candy! Using candy in beer is twice as easy as using fruit and you might discover some interesting outcomes in the process of experimenting.
Candy may seem like a cop-out ingredient because it’s basically sugar and flavoring. However, it offers several advantages. Ginger candy, for instance, doesn’t have a sharp bite or taste anything like raw ginger. Licorice is similar. But we can push the boundaries further. Why not step outside the box and brew up a watermelon Sour Patch Kid cream ale? How about a lemon drop Berliner weisse? The best part about deciding what type of candy to pair with certain styles is that the sky’s the limit.
One thing you do need to be careful of is ensuring that the candy doesn’t have a large amount of preservatives. You’ll also want to take into account that candy is mostly sugar and flavoring. The sugar will ferment away and leave behind some of the flavoring. Some candies are not very tasty once the sugar has been removed, so taste testing is a must when selecting the right treat for your brew.
Once you’ve selected your candy and beer recipe, you’ll want to know when to use it during your brew day. Since it’s mostly sugar, definitely add it sometime before or during fermentation. Putting candy in the boil can help dissolve and sterilize it, making sure you get the maximum amount of sugars possible. But if you put the candy in at the beginning of the boil, you run the risk of caramelizing it. This could also ruin the compounds that give the candy its unique qualities that you’re trying to impart on your brew. Tossing in the candy at the end of the boil is optimal, then. Stir to be sure it has all dissolved. If this isn’t happening fast enough, take a bit of the wort and put it in a separate bowl — then add the candy. While chilling the rest of the wort, you can stir the candy with the hot wort and add it directly to the fermenter or pour it back into the boil kettle once it’s dissolved. If you add the candy solution to the fermenter, be sure to have enough chilled wort in the container so that the temperature isn’t affected.
Remember that experimentation is the name of the game. You’re the brewer coming up with new and interesting flavor profiles. If you enter your beer in a competition and it doesn’t fit neatly into a style category, you’re doing something right.
Drop the Lemon [AG]
Drop the Lemon [Extract]
By Chris Jennings
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Much like everything else in the homebrew world, there is a seemingly endless array of cleaning and sanitizing solutions to choose from. Given that it’s that time of year where “spring cleaning” is the popular topic, we thought it would be a good time to compare and contrast some of those options. There are a number of opinions of which product is best. However, it is true that some are better than others — it all depends on what fits your needs.
Cleaners are the chemicals we use to break up debris and give our kettles that shine. They can do everything from descaling that beer stone buildup on your boil vessel to breaking up the dried yeast in your carboy.
The most common would be an oxygen-cleaning agent, like unscented OxiClean or Powdered Brewery Wash (PBW), which is like unscented OxiClean with trisodium phosphate added. For the most part, these white powdery cleaners work best with hot water. Naturally, every chemical company has its own fancy name for these products, but the formula is the same. It really only comes down to price point.
Avoid chemicals that have odorous oils — like OxiClean with lavender. Also steer clear of all soap products. They tend to have added scents that can leave residue on your equipment, causing every batch of beer to have the same flavor and aroma.
Sanitizers come into play during the second phase of the cleaning process. These chemicals make sure nothing contaminates our award-winning brews. There are several different solutions available, but the most-common and longest-used sanitizer is bleach. Yup! Bleach works great to kill absolutely everything with the added bonus of affordability. There is a downside, though. Once you’ve applied the bleach, the equipment needs time to completely dry or you need to rinse everything. Either way, you risk contamination.
The next most common sanitizer is an iodine-based product such as Five Star Chemicals’ IO Star, a low-foaming iodophor sanitizer. These types of solutions are also relatively inexpensive. However, if not diluted properly — they can give the beer an iodine taste. The sanitizers also don’t have much of a shelf life once mixed and can cause issues for people with a shellfish allergy.
The final category of chemicals are acid based. This would include Star San, made from food-grade phosphoric acid, and PuriSan, which uses peracetic acid. The biggest difference between the two is that Star San is infamous for foaming (unlike PuriSan).
Whatever sanitizer you decide upon, be sure to dilute with water. The iodine based sanitizers won't last to the end of the day. Either of the acid-based sanitizers can be stored for future use in spray bottles or fermenters if you make a batch that’s larger than what you’ll need for one brewing session. You can tell the solution has gone bad when it turns a milky-white color. You can do the same with bleach, but it is impossible to get that flavor out of your beer if you aren't careful.
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as an “all-in-one” cleaner/sanitizer. Yes, technically once you have cleaned something it is pretty well sanitized. But unless you use a sanitizing agent, there is no way to be positive that you killed everything.
The next time you brew and you’re waiting to add hops to the boil, use that downtime to sanitize instead of just pouring yourself another pint from the keezer. Keep this guideline in mind: sanitize anything that will touch your beer after the boil, including plastic buckets, glass carboys, bottles and kegs. Keep a spray bottle full of sanitizer handy when bottling, kegging or transferring as well. If you stay on top of cleaning and sanitizing, that’s a sure fire way to keep the award-winning beers flowing instead of pouring them down the drain.
Weizen Not Hefe [AG]
Weizen Not Hefe [Extract]
By Chris Jennings
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Celebrations are always a great occasion to crack open a tasty homebrew, be it a birthday, holiday, Thursday or even a wedding — your skills as a homebrewer can be on display at any given event.
Weddings can be the most romantic and extravagant displays of affection, so once you’ve found that perfect someone to share your life with why not begin your adventure together with a homebrewed commemorative beer? Naturally, your soul mate likely shares at least a certain degree of passion for your homemade concoctions (how else could you have possibly wooed them to begin with?) Or perhaps you know the soon-to-wed couple and can create the perfect social lubricant as a gift for their reception. Either way, the process to select what beer to make and serve at a wedding can be a difficult task. Once you jump through any legal hoops, paying a tapping fee can be annoying at best. But the satisfaction of knowing the guests will be enjoying a quality homebrew as they toast your union of love will make it all worth it.
You Can’t Please Them All
In the process of selecting which of your award-winning brews to make for your own wedding or the happy couple’s, there are several things you should consider. Of course, the most important factor is the two people who are getting married. In a perfect world, they would want the same beer. However, you may have to make two different styles to accommodate differing tastes. You should also consider the guests and try to get a sense of what kinds of beer they’ll find palatable.
Make sure to give yourself enough time to brew and ferment so that you’re not rushing or sending green beer to the party. Additionally, remember to make enough beer for the size of the reception. A 5-gallon batch produces approximately 41 pints. Naturally, you can probably drink a third of that yourself, so factor in the estimated number of other people who will be there and increase the volume, as needed. And even if you only manage to make the couple happy, you’re doing a perfect job because this is their special day.
Are You a Bootlegger?
Once you know which brews you want to showcase, you need to figure out how to serve them. There are a few legal matters to become familiar with, but first and foremost keep in mind that there is absolutely nothing illegal about serving homebrew (no matter what the event space or organizers might tell you). However, the decision to do so lies with the party that possesses the liquor license. A tapping fee may be required, particularly if the venue is providing bartenders and servers. If they will not accommodate your request, you can always look for a different location — so ask about serving homebrew early in the planning process.
Another option would be to use bottles of homebrew as favors to the guests. You could go as far as packaging the beer with specially designed labels reflecting the theme of the wedding. There are a handful of websites to help with that process. In the end, remember that the beer you’re making — whether it’s for your own wedding or someone else’s — is a way to show support for two people who are celebrating their love and devotion to each other for the rest of time.
Bone Dry Black [AG]
Bone Dry Black [Extract]
By Jim McLaren
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Seeing Tim Brinson standing in his Southeast Portland garage, his brewing system sparkling in the early winter sun, it’s hard to think Portland Brewing’s Ryan Pappe would be envious.
“I am,” he says, explaining he no longer has the freedom to do what Brinson, or any homebrewer does, “especially here where our brew system is a giant kettle. The smallest we can make, maybe, 80 barrels. That’s too much upfront cost to have that freedom.”
Which is why it’s hard to imagine head brewer Pappe doing what Brinson did to earn the third slot in Portland Brewing’s Home Brewer’s Series.
“I was actually brewing a Belgian dubbel — first time — and realized I could do a triple batch.”
Brinson, a professorial-looking fellow who works in IT is a rapid-fire talker when it comes to beer. He explains his three-way split:
“One, a Belgian dubbel. Then an English brown ale. And then the third one would be a brown IPA. I’d never done any of those before, using the same base malts and wort. From there, I split it out into different carboys and fermented it with different yeasts.”
The result is a joyous, complex, ale that tastes like a Christmas celebration in your mouth — light and fruity at the start, the flavors evolve into chocolate and coffee on the back end. Labeled “Tim’s Holiday Ale” Brinson’s masterpiece is the third collaboration in Portland Brewing’s inaugural Home Brewer’s Series, which has become a way for one of Portland’s oldest breweries to reconnect with the spirit, energy and creativity that put Oregon at the forefront of the craft beer revolution.
In 2015, the brewery set up a 2-barrel system and made some beers inspired by Portland neighborhoods. Pappe says the next step was to get in touch with the Oregon Brew Crew, a long-established and well-respected homebrewers club.
“We wanted to give them an opportunity to brew with us and have an exchange of information.”
The first beer chosen for the collaboration series was a witbier from Sander Hoekstra, which was not without its hurdles.
”I get his recipe and I try and convert it to our system and send it back to him, and he’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, except the water chemistry doesn’t look quite right. It looks like you added too much.’ So, it’s like, ‘OK, you’re on top of this.’ He did some stuff in his house to hit different temperature rests that we didn’t have the capability to do on our system. So then we had to get creative and figure out how to do that.”
Pappe got it worked out. But the second beer, a red rye ale from Alex Brehm, proved to be as big a challenge.
Pappe says, “He’s a passionate extract homebrewer, so he was excited that I wasn’t going to talk him into doing all grain. That beer was heavily based around every different kind of rye malt you could find.”
But that wasn’t the hard part of upscaling from garage brewer to the professional level.
“Rye is very hard to run off,” Pappe explains. “I didn’t really account for that in our mash — just scaled everything up to our system: more extract, more malt. Put it in our lauter tun. Well, Alex doesn’t run things through a lauter tun. He puts his specialty grain in a bag and steeps it, and then rings it out and makes up the rest with extract.”
So, Pappe says with a smile on his face, “Alex was bringing the spirit of homebrewing into what we are doing. We ended up having to do what he did: shoveling the malt out of the lauter tun into mesh bags and squeezing out what we could. It turns out a great beer.”
Back in Brinson’s garage, he admires how Pappe was able to upscale his beer. “They were very careful in matching, proportion-wise, to be true to the recipe.”
These are one-off projects for Portland Brewing. The beer is only available in its Northwest Portland taproom and, possibly, each brewers’ favorite tavern. But that doesn’t matter to Brinson. Like other homebrewers, including Pappe, the process is “something that makes my wheels turn.”
Proceeds from the sale of Tim’s Holiday Ale went to the Oregon Food Bank.
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