By Chris Jennings
For the Oregon Beer Growler
In the wondrous age we live in, it seems as though technology can’t get any better. Then the new-and-improved smartphone model that will call your mom and email your boss at the same time hits store shelves. As you know, we can use our phones to surf the web, solve crossword puzzles and check in all of the beer that you drink to earn badges. But you can also get assistance with developing your homebrew.
There is a vast array of apps that pop up with just a simple search for “brewing” in whatever app store you have. Some — not all — are helpful for making beer and can be used throughout the entire process. Naturally, free is the best price when it comes to acquiring anything, but you also get what you pay for. Some of the no-cost apps may not have features you’re looking for. Some of the free apps for Android products include Biermacht, Brewing Assistant, Brewing Calculator, Brew Timer, and Wort Homebrew Calculator.
Biermacht, Brewing Assistant and Wort Homebrew Calculator are all full-service brewing apps. You can use them to build recipes, add and edit ingredients, and even plan brew days in advance so that your phone will remind you when it’s time to brew (not that you really need to be reminded about something you’re looking forward to, anyway). The best way to decide which app will work for you is to install and play with each to figure out what suits your brewing habits.
The other two apps work better as a tool for your brew day if you already have brewing software or just a recipe on paper. Brewing Calculator is exactly that — you can calculate everything from alcohol content and IBUs to even how much sugar is needed to bottle condition a beer. The app is a quick and easy way to calculate all the little equations that may get a little fuzzy after you’ve had a few of those tasty homebrews. Brew Timer allows you to program in all of your different beers’ hop schedules and save them for later use. You create an “event” and set the minutes once you’ve entered all of the information and start the timer. Basically, this app replaces the kitchen timer or the need to constantly watch the clock so that you don’t miss an addition.
In the land of the free brewing apps, those mentioned will work for most applications. Of course, you can purchase options with more bells and whistles. BeerSmith 2 is a popular option. It works in conjunction with your desktop, allowing you to keep track of your brewing process, share and compare recipes with other users, get assistance or inspiration through a podcast and much more. The price for both Mac and PC is $27.95.
Apps aren’t just for making beer — there are plenty that exist for entertainment. Untappd is designed as a social network for beer drinkers. You can rate the beer you’re consuming, list where you’re drinking it and even chat with friends about the beers they’re trying. This app also keeps track of the beers you check in, so if you can’t remember whether you like a brew you can look up your rating from the past. There are also brewing games like Fiz: The Brewery Management Game where players build their own brewery from the garage up, SimCity-style.
Have fun exploring the world of beer apps where one thing is certain: as technology improves there will likely be more ways to improve our batches of homebrew in the future.
Bell Hop Porter [AG]
Bell Hop Porter [Extract]
By Chris Jennings
For the Oregon Beer Growler
There are all kinds of new fancy gadgets to make our lives easier these days. This phenomenon is also prevalent in the brewing industry, with homebrewers on the forefront of the innovation. One such advancement in the homebrew world is the use of electricity in brewing. We aren’t talking about using a pump or an extension cord. The technology of using electricity as your primary heat source has become affordable and relatively easy to implement. The future is here and it will shock you…
Bad puns aside, changing your homebrew system to all electric is not as difficult as you may think and can have some benefits. To start with, converting to electric means you can make beer indoors. Apart from needing a window open for the steam, you no longer have to shiver in a cold garage while brewing on a typical, drizzly Northwest winter’s day. Even if you decide to keep operating in your garage sanctuary, you don’t have to open the door, exposing your brew to the elements. With the ability to produce inside comes an even greater control over scaling. That also means going electric is handy if you live in a small apartment or lack access to an outdoor area. Additionally, you can build a system that doesn’t rely on your stove, eliminating excess heat and wasted energy. And if you get space to expand your brewery, you can always use your electric setup as a pilot system.
Unfortunately, as with everything in life there are some drawbacks. The first negative is that converting to electric can be expensive. If you’re just starting out, it’s relatively cheap. However, moving from gas to electric can get a bit pricey unless you can sell your old burners. Some existing equipment can be retrofitted with electrical components, though. Now that we’ve got price out of the way, the next issue to address is uneven heating. Be sure to warm your wort evenly to avoid over-caramelizing or even burning the liquid.
Of course, you need juice to brew. And while power outages are uncommon, it’s something to take into consideration. Perhaps you should postpone your brew day if a giant windstorm is in the forecast. Losing power halfway through the process could mean you end up ruining a potentially award-winning batch.
The most serious concern is electrocution. With gas brewing, there is always the risk of an explosion. But there’s a better chance an exposed wire and liquid could meet with an electric conversion. Check your system carefully before you begin and remember that at the end of the day, brewing was never meant to be easy or completely safe — otherwise everyone would do it. Minimize risk, press on and brew bravely.
Finding an Electric System
Rather than bombarding you with diagrams and multiple steps on how to build your own electric brewing system, I’ll steer you in the right direction. There are a handful of companies that pop up with a simple web search for “electric homebrewing” that will sell you fully operational systems. This can be beneficial if you’re just starting out or have some money to spare. However, if you want to DIY, instructions are also available online — everything from the most complicated, nearly pro-level build-out to something as simple as adding a single hot water heater element to a pot. Also be sure to check in with local homebrew clubs, shops and bloggers. All can serve as an ally in this new, electric world.
House Porter [AG]
House Porter [Extract]
OBG Blog Archives
Welcome to our archive pages! Read stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler from June 2012 to January 2018. For newer stories, please visit our new website at: