Archive for November, 2010

The Oh So Important Bottle

Posted: November 23, 2010 by Overclocked in Home Brewing
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Where would our beer be without bottles?

In cans most likely. Actually, the can is mostly superior to the bottle when it comes to storage and distribution of beer. Think about it…

  • Cans are much more “space-efficient”. More cans in a truck means more profit.
  • Cans are lighter, requiring less fuel to transport an equal amount of bottled beer.
  • Cans protect beer better. They keep out all light and oxygen. Even brown bottles let light in (skunked hops) and bottle caps can leak
  • Recent advances in “can technology” keep that metal taste out of beer with a fancy coating inside the can

The one thing that bottles have going for them (and that cans have going against them) is the fact that the equipment required to have a canning line for beer is exponentially greater in cost than equipment needed to bottle. This is the main reason why most small breweries (micros and craft brewers) bottle their beer. You can pick up a bottle capper and a gross of caps for under $25 retail.

The cheap cost of bottling makes it ideal for the home brewer. Pick yourself up a case of your favorite beer in a pop-top brown bottle and you’ve got your first set of home brewing bottles and some “free” beer. Now, back to bottling that home brewed beer.

For new brewers, bottling can be difficult to get right at first. There are a few variables that should be considered.

Its very common for a novice to try their freshly-bottled beer too soon and be disappointed when their beer is flat or under-carbed or just plain tastes bad. Time is your friend here. The general rule is 3 weeks at room temperature to carbonate and about 1 week in the refrigerator prior to consumption. Some lighter beers will take less time and some stronger beers will take much longer. This time allows the beer to properly carbonate and adjust to the cooler temperature of the refrigerator after carbonation is complete.

Beer becomes carbonated when the suspended yeast leftover from fermentation produces additional CO2. The CO2 cannot escape from the bottle so it diffuses back into the beer. In order to get the yeast to produce CO2 after being bottled, fermentable sugar (often corn or cane sugar) is mixed with the batch before being bottled.

Time is also important with respect to taste. Over time, the flavors of the beer will meld together and off-tastes and overpowering flavors can fade out. If your new brew doesn’t taste very good. Try it again in a few months. You may be surprised at what a few months can do for a “rough” beer.


Yeast are more active at warmer temperatures so, beer that has been bottled and stored at a warmer temperature will tend to carbonate quicker than bottled beer stored at cooler temperatures.


You will most likely want to transfer the beer from the fermenter to another container to bottle from. This transfer allows you to transfer just the beer and keep the sediment from fermentation, in the fermenter. This container (a ‘bottling bucket’ is commonly used) will also provide space for you to mix in the sugar which will jump-start the remaining yeast and allow carbonation to occur.

Dissolving the sugar in a small amount of water and then boiling will ensure that the sugar solution is sterilized so as not to infect the beer. Adding the sugar solution carefully (so you don’t splash and oxygenate the beer) will ensure even carbonation once bottled. Care should be taken, especially with glass bottles, that the proper amount of sugar is used. Too much can be very dangerous as over-carbonated glass bottles can explode spontaneously or when bumped and send shards of glass in all directions.

Keep these considerations in mind and you should wind up with a delicious home brew. Anyway, enough home brewing lecture for now.

– Overclocked


The First Home Brewed Beer

Posted: November 23, 2010 by Overclocked in Home Brewing
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Finally got a recipe right and what resulted was a decent American Pale Ale. Copper red in color with a decent head and a hoppy, floral aroma and bitterness from Cascade hops. I could have added some more caramel malt to add to the malt body but it wasn’t bad as it was.

Up until this delicious batch my home brewing trials had been disappointing to say the least. The first two attempts had me wondering if it was even worth all the time and trouble. I had an under-fermented, under-carbonated, stale tasting Oktoberfest and an overcomplicated and horrible looking/tasting cherry brown ale.

After setting aside the “kit-in-a-can” and creating a simple recipe, I was able to get close to the desired result. I was originally aiming for an amber ale, not too hoppy. I probably went a little over on the hops though so what resulted was a nice Pale Ale – about 28 IBUs.

A quick rundown on how making beer works:

1). Malted barley (barley which has been allowed to start to germinate and then stopped) is combined with water at a specific temperature (normally between 150 deg. F & 160 deg. F) for a specific amount of time in a process called “mashing”. The mashing of the grains allows the starches to be converted into fermentable sugars. The liquid, now called “wort” is drained from the grains.

2). The wort is boiled with hops and other ingredients added at specific times to add bitterness to balance the sweet flavor profile of the malt.

3) The wort is then cooled and yeast is “pitched” to start fermentation. The fermentation is done at a specific temperature to allow the yeast to work efficiently. After the beer has finished fermentation, it can either be bottled and allowed to carbonate in the bottles naturally or kegged and force-carbonated.

Now, there are three main ways to brew beer at home. You have your “kit-in-a-can” (which is the cheapest and least involved way) which unfortunately results pretty crappy beer. The basic idea with these kits is to combine the basic beer ingredients (Malt, Hops, Yeast, Water) with a very simple process to make it easier for the novice brewer. The malt (often called extract) is actually wort that has been condensed into a syrup and “pre-hopped” – meaning hops have been added to the extract (condensed wort). All you have to do is boil the extract with water, cool the wort, pitch the yeast and ferment.

The next step up is what is called partial extract. A higher quality extract called DME (dry malt extract) is often used. The extract is a dry powder, rather than a liquid syrup which allows for a more stable shelf life and less chance of “stale” flavors. This method is called partial extract because the wort is only partially made of extract. The other ingredient is often specialty grains (steeping grains) and other adjuncts.

The specialty grains (crystal barley, chocolate malt, black malt, etc.) and adjuncts (oats, corn flakes, etc.) are steeped at a certain temperature for about 30-45 minutes. This isn’t the same as mashing since no conversion of starches to sugars takes place. Steeping is done just to obtain color, body (unconverted starches and proteins), and flavor from the grains and add that to the wort. The wort is created by steeping the grains, then adding and dissolving the dry malt extract. The rest of the process then continues normally.

The last and most advanced way to brew beer at home is called all-grain brewing. Brewers will use nothing but malted grains to create the wort. The base grains are mashed, sometimes along with specialty grains and the brewing process continues with boiling, hops addition, cooling, pitching yeast and fermenting. All-grain brewing allows a brewer to have complete control over what goes into their recipe. It also requires a more precise recipe and more involved equipment.

I find the partial extract method works well because I don’t need a ton of equipment or space (I can brew in my apartment kitchen), its not as time consuming as all-grain but I can still get great results (much better than kit in a can).

The next phase of home brewing, bottling/kegging I feel deserves it’s own section because there are so many variables to take into account.

– Cheers

So I happened upon  a thought last night while drinking a beer and watching a movie.  The movie was Prince of Persia:  something about sand,  and I got to say it was at least entertaining.  Now, the newer games on which this is based I have not played (but rocked it old school back on the Amiga 500, whatup whatup) so it was nice to come into this with no expectations at all.   But, I’ll be damned if it wasn’t like watching Assassins Creed during the running, jumping, and making the way through open air markets.   And I know it wasn’t just me that picked up on the eagle eye moments.  

The more important part of the viewing though was the beer.   Awhile back my Dad and I came across a brew at Goose Island (that I should really talk about sometime) which was as strong a bourbon beer as a bourbon style beer can get.  Since then he has been looking for something similar.  Michelob’s Winter Bourbon Cask Ale was the latest attempt (look at what I did Meh, I linked the word WOOT), when picking it up he didn’t know it was a Micheob.The taste was acceptable, I liked it, with hints of the bourbon, hops, and a carmel flare (couldn’t taste the vanilla).  But as quick as these flavors appeared, poof, they smoothly drifted away.  And that would be my issue with this beer.  It’s too smooth, like many of the  big company beers it’s so smooth you don’t taste it after it’s been swallowed.  Makes it nice for people who are timid about trying new things but those looking for more from a beer trying to be Craft it’s just not enough.

Here’s the thought I talked about in the first line.

When learning about wine, I was told the difference between good and less expensive wines.  At first they all tasted the same (which at the time to me was like gross grape juice).  Then after that I started picking up the flavors that these crazy people were talking about.  (I started by saying everything had a deep berry flavor for a long while and no one got I had no clue what I was talking about) After getting my wine wings drinking way too many bottles, I finally could get the difference.  Just like that one day I got it.  Time for the test; a $15  vs.  $75 bottle.  The 15 was good, I loved it and for the most part this is the only type I would ever drink.  The 75 was also good, but the difference was that the good lasted so much longer.  The flavors danced on my tongue long after the wine had made its way along.  As it sat in my mouth more and more flavors would come to life.  It was more complex. 

So the same thing must stand true on beer, even if the prices are similar.   Each beer has its place but I don’t know if I’m all about big beer company’s trying to fake people out with a craft brew label.  To those who know, you know what you’re getting when you see the package.  But what about those that don’t?  Are they getting robbed of a true craft brew experience?   Should I call Michelobs offerings flavored beer?   Is craft brew only to be used on small start-up company’s trying to take on the giants until they one day themselves become a giant whose beer is referred to as flavored? 

At this point I realized I was lost rambling in thought and gave into the pretty pictures on the TV…

Sko DZ

Focus in a Crash

Posted: November 16, 2010 by Sko DZ in Bike Thoughts

What do you see???   

Man about to lose his time trial, suffer horrible road rash, and humiliation?

Or do you see thousands of dollars of equipment which is just going to be thrown away because of one missed turn.

I see the latter,  like a helmet one crash, one bike… wheel set… crank arms…   Some one get me a nickel! I have a test to see if it’s still ok to ride.

Bigger picture here.

Barleywine Anyone?

Posted: November 1, 2010 by Overclocked in Beer Thoughts
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Tried my first barleywine today. Specifically, a 2008 Schlafly Reserve – Barelywine-Style Ale by The Saint Louis Brewery.

Seeing as this is my first barelywine, lets take a quick look at what this beverage actually is. Generally a barleywine is a strong beer ranging from 8% – 12% abv that has been aged a certain amount of time. Barleywines are ‘big’ beers meaning they use a lot of grain relative to the desired batch size. This means the beer will start with a high specific-gravity and therefore, will have a higher alcohol-by-volume when finished fermenting. The reason barelywines are aged is to mellow, or ‘marry’ the flavors in the beer. The large grain bill and high alcohol content will benefit from years of aging which allows the flavors to combine into something tasty rather than a ‘rough’ taste. (A beer that has little time to age will have flavors that are still very strong and can often overpower each other)

The pour produces a very nice dark amber almost red color with medium haze. A very small 1-finger head shows up and then vanishes. The aroma of very sweet caramel malt is present along with dark fruit (plums perhaps?). Two years of aging has almost eliminated any hop aromas.

Upon the first taste I realized I am using the wrong glass. A standard pint glass is not the correct vessel for this beverage. A goblet or wide-mouth glass would be more suitable. Nonetheless, it tastes very complex. The sweet caramel maltyness coats the inside of your mouth and combines with the aroma to become almost too sweet. Hop bitterness is very very slight but still there. Alcohol hides very well and is pretty much unnoticeable. The sweetness now combines with hints of dark fruit and the oak starts to come in at the end of the taste. The aftertaste is full of oak and sweetness.

Halfway through the pint glass and the taste has almost grown on me. Its still a very different beer than what i’m used to. Still a nice drink to try. I would personally prefer a sharper, perhaps more toasted oak flavor to balance the sweetness. This beer was aged on new Missouri oak with a ‘medium toast’. The new oak definitely adds to the sweet flavor. A heavier toast or aging with an older bourbon barrel along with more hop presence (perhaps a 1-year bottle) might have suited my tastes better.

– Overclocked