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#1 Edited by Brewmaster_Andy (517 posts) -

As some of you know, I have been making beer for the Giant Bomb guys and other Whiskey Media friends (most recently, I made a Screened beer for Alex) for a little bit now. It started back when I decided to brew some up for PAX East, and I was happy to share those beers with the guys. I had wanted to do another Bombcast inspired beer, and after Brad's on-air suggestion of "Casually Racist Pale Ale," I decided to take it a step further and up the racism by brewing up "Vinny Caravella's Casually Racist Black IPA." For those of you that don't know, a black IPA is a newer style. Technically it's called a Cascadian Dark Ale, and it looks like a really dark brown ale - not quite the color of a stout, but damned close - but it's hopped up like an IPA. For this brew, I used all American hops, some German malts, and I added some vanilla from Mexico and some cinnamon from China, just to cover my bases. The hops I chose are spicy, so they won't overwhelm the other flavors with fruitiness like you get in a lot of IPAs. I put together some photos of the brew process so you guys can see what I do. When the brew is done fermenting I will have further pics to add to this thread, but let's get started.

I start by heating up the water for the brew, and the grain is milled then hangs out in my grain bucket. This is the other batch I brewed that day waiting in the wings.

This beer used around 8.5 lbs. of grain. Vinny's used 11.5 lbs. instead, which will produce a beer of around 7% ABV.
  Once this water is heated, I add all of the grain to my mash tun. A mash tun is basically a holding tank with a built in filter. I made mine out of a converted Rubbermaid cooler and some stainless steel supply hose. When grain is milled, it exposes the starch inside. When that starch sits in the heated water for long enough, the starch converts to sugar and this forms the basis for beer.
Basically, it's like oatmeal.
    Obviously, you can't leave all this grain just sitting around until kingdom come. In fact, this barely scratches the surface of the process. After an hour, I drain all of this sugary water into my boil kettle. 
 The first thing to ask yourself when brewing a black IPA is whether it looks like motor oil or not.

 Yup. It does.
Generally, the first pass takes around 15 minutes to fully drain out. While this is going on, I heat more water. This second (and third) volume of water is for a process called "sparging." It's basically a process by which you pour fresh water into the mash tun, and drain a second (and third) time - this rinses any residual sugar from the grain so that you get the most out of your beer. Eventually, you end up with 6.5 gallons of unfermented beer, or "wort." This will make around 5 gallons of finished beer, or the equivalent of two cases plus a six pack. The cost? About 30 bucks. Try getting a case of good beer for less than that - it's really hard. 
 
Once drained, I start to bring the beer to a boil and I put my hop strainer into the kettle. 
 
         
 I love boiling motor oil.
While this is en route to boiling, I usually check my recipe and go over my hops additions. Hops are what make beer beer - without them, you just have malt liquor. Hops also perform differently depending on how long they sit in the brew. The actual boil takes anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes, with most beers boiling for 60. Hops added at 60 minutes are called "bittering hops." They give the beer its bite. Any hops added from 60 to 15 minutes add bitterness. Hops added at 15 minutes contribute flavor only, not bitterness. Hops added at 5 minutes and afterward (including "dry hopping," which are hops added after the beer ferments) contribute aroma only. These are my bittering hops, 1 oz. of Chinook (an American varietal.) 
    
These are pellet hops, hop flowers that have been ground and processed to be more potent.
I add the hops into the center of my hop filter. This keeps things simple to clean for later. From here, it's just a matter of time. 
 
 And this is how I occupy that time.
When the beer is done boiling, it has to cool. The quicker you cool it down to a temperature that yeast can survive at, the better. I use a copper immersion chiller, which hooks up to my garden hose. I run cold water through it to cool the wort down to yeast temperature (approx. 80 degrees). 
Once the beer is cool, in goes the yeast, and the whole shebang gets put into a dark basement for a few weeks. I will update this post when it's time to keg and we'll see the progress we've made! Questions and comments are more than welcome! 
 
 

 KEGGING PROCESS

 
So, I kegged the beer today! Some of you may have actually heard me announce that to Patrick over the Big Red Phone, in fact, and it is no less true! Vinny's beer is kegged and in the kegerator carbonating! I took some photos to show the process. It isn't very exciting but I wanted to document as much as I could so people could see. Enjoy! 
 
First, I fill my kegs with sanitizer. I kegged three different beers today, hence the pile of kegs! 
 
These are 5 gallon kegs. 
Once the kegs are sanitized, I bring them into my shop and use an auto-siphon to transfer the beer from its fermenting bucket to a clean keg. 
 
The beer starts its journey here... 

... and ends it here! Note the rad green shoes. 
Once the beer is in the keg, I bring the whole thing into my bar room and hook the keg up to the CO2. The beer goes into the kegerator after the pressure is set.
 
After that, it's basically a waiting game as the beer carbonates. However, a good brewer always samples his brew at every stage in the process. At this point, it's beer. It tastes very close to the final product, only without any carbonation. Here's the first pour through of Vinny's beer! 
 
Four days from now and the beer will be carbed and ready! 
I hope you guys are enjoying these updates! 
 
 

CARBONATION UPDATE

Well, the time has come (as the Walrus is often rumored to say) to talk of many things. I started a new thread because the original was getting quite crowded and I wanted to make sure people were able to see updates as I posted them. As of this writing, Vinny Caravella's Casually Racist Black IPA is carbonated and drinkable. I had a pint with dinner and it was delicious - a nice, roast flavor with some clean hoppy bitterness. The last time I brewed a black IPA, it clocked in at 106 IBU (international bitterness units, a general measurement of how "hoppy" a beer tastes. The human tongue can't discern over 100 IBU) and was a hop bomb. This brew is much subtler, with somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 IBU and a solid malt background. It drinks like a porter or stout, but has a slight afterburn of hop flavor.

It was painful having to take this picture and not just immediately drinking it down.
 

This thread is a separate thread because it is going to document some very different aspects of my process, namely the labeling and bottling/shipping of the beer. Enjoy the updates as they come! I will have a post this weekend when I bottle and ship this brew out to Vinny!

SHIPPING PROCESS

 

This evening I bottled a six pack of beer for shipment to Vinny and the guys. This is (most of) the process.

First, as with all important brewing steps, comes sanitizing everything that will come in contact with your beer. I use this stuff to sanitize:

Star San, a brewer's best friend!

 I sanitize the bottles after they are clean, as well as the bottling wand that I use to bottle from the keg. I don't need to sanitize my beer lines separately because they are sanitized by way of being full of beer on a regular basis. I clean them between kegs and that prevents any contaminants from getting in the line.

 
 Sanitizing the bottles...
... and the filler. 
I don't have any pictures of the bottling process itself, since it is messy business. Basically, that bottling want goes into the mouth of a standard cobra/picnic tap connected to 10 feet of beer line. The keg is gassed up with a CO2 line. The wand goes into each bottle, and the rubber stopper creates a seal so that the bottle fills under pressure. As the pressure builds, the beer stops flowing and I release the stopper a bit to start the flow up again as some CO2 comes out of solution. Once full, I remove the wand, and put a sanitized bottle cap on top. I use a bottle capper to crimp the crown cap down onto the bottle, but before I do so, I tip the bottle and cap upside down. This causes the beer to foam and purge any oxygen from the bottle. I cap on the foam. 
 
Standard crown bottle capper. 
After the bottles warm to room temperature and no longer have any condensation on them, I label them! I use Avery removable labels and print from Photoshop. 
 
My label sheets! Running out of black ink :( How racist of me! 
The rest of the pictures are of the labeled beers ready for shipment! Thanks for reading, everyone! 
 
First bottle, done! 
Finished product! Six bottles of the delicious stuff on the left! 
#2 Posted by ArchScabby (5809 posts) -

I've had beer before.

#3 Edited by adoggz (1952 posts) -
@ArchScabby said:

I've had beer before.

shit man really? what was it like?
 
but seriously i'm jealous. i want people to make free beer for me
#4 Posted by Wonloong (350 posts) -

@adoggz said:

@ArchScabby said:
I've had beer before.
shit man really? what was it like?

I heard it tastes like cat piss.

#5 Posted by Brendan (7511 posts) -

Woah.

#6 Edited by Ragdrazi (2283 posts) -

Wow. Cool chiller! My friends and I have have never seen the point of one of those though. What's the difference you're getting out of it?
 
What you've described sounds like yum. I want to be Casually Racist too.

#7 Posted by desolation15 (113 posts) -

Makes me want to brew beer again. But those damn plastic stem air locks keeps breaking on me. That and I don't mind drinking the cheap stuff from my class six.

#8 Posted by Brewmaster_Andy (517 posts) -
@Ragdrazi: You get a better and stronger fermentation (as well as lower risk of infection) by chilling rapidly. It also helps get rid of a lot of the gunk that usually sits in the bottom of your boil kettle.
 
@desolation15: Rig up a blow-off tube instead! Just put some plastic tubing in the top and put the other end in sanitizer to close the system, and voila!
#9 Posted by Vinny_Says (5630 posts) -

I've heard multiple stories and watched multiple TV shows and movies where brewing beer results in bottles exploding and making gunshot noises in the middle of the night. I don't need that...

#10 Posted by m0rdr3d (474 posts) -

Nice!  Thanks for sharing.  This blog really makes me want to give brewin' a go. I'm looking forward to your updates.

#11 Posted by Brewmaster_Andy (517 posts) -
@blacklabeldomm: Yeah, if you carbonate beer naturally in bottles it's totally possible. I keg my beer instead, so it's simply not possible.
#12 Posted by strangone (179 posts) -

The possibilities are endless. Off the top of my head: 
 
Brad's Banana-mouth Hefeweizen 
Jeff's "You Can't Beat 100 IBUs" Double IPA 

#13 Posted by HatKing (5557 posts) -

I am going to fantasize about being your best friend and us drinking good beer all the time for free.

#14 Posted by Toxin066 (3196 posts) -

Dude, that was an awesome blog post.

#15 Posted by Nux (2207 posts) -

Awesome Blog Post. I can't wait to see the rest when its done.

#16 Posted by SamFo (1511 posts) -

i would pay way too much for a screened beer, i dont even know why, i just think it would be amazing.

#17 Posted by SSully (4059 posts) -

Get this man on the Community Spotlight stat! This blog post is fantastic.

Question, how did you actually get into making your own beer?

#18 Posted by falling_fast (2142 posts) -

@Nux said:

Awesome Blog Post. I can't wait to see the rest when its done.

#19 Posted by RTSlord (1195 posts) -

wow, thats really cool man, keep it up!

#20 Posted by Claude (16251 posts) -

Barley Pops are the beast. Hell yeah!

#21 Posted by UnsolvedParadox (1852 posts) -

That's a pretty involved process, looks like a lot of fun!

#22 Posted by Brewmaster_Andy (517 posts) -

@SSully: I was always into beer in general, the more flavorful the better. I just decided one day to give it a whirl, and I got hooked. A lot of people start off using malt extract, which does about half of the process for you, but you don't get the same level of customization with your beers. When you brew using all grain you really control all of the flavors and it helps teach you a lot about beer as well. I started making my own recipes about a year and a half ago and never stopped. So many possibilities! Thanks for the comment!

#23 Posted by SirOptimusPrime (1854 posts) -

I love reading about and watching people make beer and learning about the science of it, but I fucking hate the stuff.  
 
Whatever, really cool read. 

#24 Posted by avidwriter (667 posts) -

My dad brews his own beer. It takes awhile to finish, so if you wanted to make your own, you'd have to make a lot in intervals to constantly have enough to last.

#25 Posted by louiedog (2330 posts) -

Looks great. I want to brew but I live in a small apartment and don't really have room to store equipment and beer. I've thought about trying to do a smaller amount, like a gallon at a time, but I don't have any cool areas to store it in. When I'm not home in the summer my apartment is really hot and in the winter I have no control over the heat and it's also pretty toasty. Maybe I could store stuff in the basement by bribing my building manager with some of the finished product.

#26 Posted by desolation15 (113 posts) -
@elsux0r: I googled blow-off tubes. Exactly what I needed. I'm gonna spend this weekend pulling all my brewing stuff out of storage and rigging one of them tubes. Thanks for the advice!
#27 Posted by sirdesmond (1223 posts) -

I really need to get off my butt and finally start doing this myself. I am fascinated by the process and all of the individual decisions one can make to change both the recipe and the preparation process that lead ultimately to specific changes to the end flavor.

#28 Posted by coakroach (2478 posts) -

BEER!

#29 Posted by Ronald_Raiden (1513 posts) -

As someone who drinks a lot of (expensive) beer, I have wanted to try brewing myself for a while. I'll have to give it a go.

#30 Posted by Maluvin (259 posts) -

Brewing is good fun.  My girlfriend's brother and I have done a few batches and they were great. 
 
If you like decent beer I recommend trying brewing a couple times.  Just be careful how much you initially invest since it's easy to go overboard IMO.

#31 Posted by Little_Socrates (5649 posts) -

Definitely read this in the Alcohol Trivia voice from Catherine, and all the comments as other assorted voices from the game sharing techniques.

Very cool blog, I have no interest in drinking beer but you made the process seem fascinating. Also, it's extremely well written, which is even better.

#32 Posted by Ronald_Raiden (1513 posts) -

Black IPA's are pretty good, sippin' one right now. Stone's Sublimely Self RIghteous Ale. Good stuff.

#33 Posted by MrKlorox (11185 posts) -

@Wonloong said:

@adoggz said:

@ArchScabby said:
I've had beer before.
shit man really? what was it like?

I heard it tastes like cat piss.

People say that, until they try "cheesing." 5-MeO-W is one hell of a chemical.

#34 Posted by Brewmaster_Andy (517 posts) -

@Riboflavin: Great beer. Stone's Ruination is my favorite hop monster.

#35 Posted by TheSouthernDandy (3626 posts) -

This is pretty rad. Now I kinda wish I was Vinny.

...ok I always wish I was Vinny...

#36 Posted by Rmack (1025 posts) -

Looks awesome. Always wanted to start brewing myself so this is interesting stuff. Were you the same guy who made the beer for PAX East?

#37 Edited by Seauton (107 posts) -

Awesome post man! I am a huge beer enthusiast and have been debating brewing my own pretty recently. This was a very insightful post and has definitly piqued my interest even more. Gotta ask just for fun, who's your favorite brewer (other than yourself)?
#38 Posted by Brewmaster_Andy (517 posts) -

@Seauton: It kinda depends. Vinnie Cilurzo at Russian River is a good dude, but I also dig Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head - his creativity is fantastic. Discovery had a show on once called Brew Masters that followed him around, and it was super fun watching his process.

#39 Posted by Seauton (107 posts) -

Yeah I agree with said brewers. Speaking of awesome beer shows, have you seen the documentary "Beer Wars"? It should still be on Netflix. I loved it when I first saw it. Sam Calagione seems like an awesome dude through the whole thing and it should convince a lot of beer drinkers who stick with Miller and Coors and what not to jump ship and start ponying up for good beer. You pay for what you get anyway. (There is also a shout out to Stone from Sam in that documentary which makes me happy. Stone might be my favorite brewery but its a pain to get here in Florida.)
#40 Posted by Brewmaster_Andy (517 posts) -

Yeah, Stone is one of my top favorite breweries. Current top favorite brews: Green Flash West Coast IPA, Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA, and Stone Ruination IPA. I do drink other styles, but IPA has always been my favorite.

#41 Posted by rentfn (1267 posts) -

I went on vacation in June and we went to the Dogfish Head Brewery and Brewpub. It was a blast. The tour wasn't the best I've been on because there was a lot of people and the guide didn't get very technical (which I like on tours) But being able to try all their beers on tap was amazing. I live in NH and we get a decent amount of their stuff up here but there were some interesting flavors they make.

#42 Posted by Brewmaster_Andy (517 posts) -

Hello fellow New Englander! Come to PAX East this year and you can try some of my brew :) I am already planning to have a batch of chocolate mint stout this year!

#43 Posted by Mr_Skeleton (5117 posts) -

I love beer, I wish I knew how to home-brew.

#44 Posted by Seauton (107 posts) -

Argh, I am jealous. Of both the Dogfish Brewery tour and the PAX East beer party.
#45 Posted by rentfn (1267 posts) -

@elsux0r: I read something about you having beer last year. I was there and I missed it. Very depressing. We might be moving to a new place with a basement and plenty of brewing space, so maybe I can bring some beer too. PAX East Giant Bomb Homebrewing Festival 2012...and I thought PAX couldn't get any better.

#46 Posted by rentfn (1267 posts) -

@elsux0r: ok here is a question for you. Is there dairy in chocolate mint stout and brews of it's kind. I'm lactose intolerant and it's always worried me so i stayed away.

#47 Posted by Brewmaster_Andy (517 posts) -

@rentfn: It depends how it's brewed. I use unsweetened cocoa powder in mine, so no dairy there. Some brewers use actual chocolate, some use cocoa nibs - the other risk is that often a beer like a stout will have actual lactose added after fermentation to sweeten it up just a bit. I give you my guarantee that my mint stout will not have dairy in it - just cocoa powder, peppermint, and some extra goodies!

#48 Posted by Brewmaster_Andy (517 posts) -

@Mr_Skeleton: There are tons of great resources out there to learn. In reality it isn't too difficult - check out http://www.howtobrew.com/ for a good resource. If you know how to make tea you can make beer - getting started isn't much different, and you won't need a ton of equipment. It's only when you switch to using all grain like me where all these other steps come into play, but you can brew great beer using malt extract and a 5 gallon pot on your stovetop.

#49 Edited by louiedog (2330 posts) -

@elsux0r said:

Yeah, Stone is one of my top favorite breweries. Current top favorite brews: Green Flash West Coast IPA, Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA, and Stone Ruination IPA. I do drink other styles, but IPA has always been my favorite.

Racer 5 is what turned my girlfriend on to drinking IPAs. We were at Little Star* on Divisadero in San Francisco. I ordered a Racer 5 and she ordered some wheat beer thing. She wasn't super into beer at that point. She tried mine and immediately begged me to trade drinks with her. She's been on a quest to try just about every IPA brewed in the country since then and I've been happy to accompany her. It's a mighty powerful beer.

*side note: It's my favorite deep dish pizza. And yes, I've been to the must try places in Chicago.

#50 Edited by Brewmaster_Andy (517 posts) -

Something I forgot to mention is that I have a tumblr site for my "brewery." It was fairly recently created, but I am using it as a place to post my recipes and other beer-related stuff. If anyone is into brewing please check it out! http://columbiabrewing.tumblr.com/

I checked in on Vinny's beer and fermentation is complete. I'm going to let it sit for a week or so while I move into my new house, but once I get my new brew station set up I will do a taste test and a photo update to go with it. After that it's straight to the keg as long as my numbers are correct - generally beer gets really hazy if you keg it too early, but with a dark beer you aren't looking for clarity anyway - my guess is that it will be carbed and drinkable within two weeks.