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.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. 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.
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.
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.)
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
I hope you guys are enjoying these updates!
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.
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!
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:
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.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.
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.
The rest of the pictures are of the labeled beers ready for shipment! Thanks for reading, everyone!