If you have been following me on social media you have likely noticed that I am in the process of converting my brewery over to all electric. The motivation behind this change has many factors.

Number 1 is that I am sick and tired of schlepping propane tanks around. I don’t like having to include this errand before every other brew day. I get demoralized when I have to stand in front of that orange cage at Home Depot in the snow or rain waiting for someone to come out of the store to hand me a tank. Getting them filled at a local rental store has been a bit more enjoyable, but I still dislike having to go out of my way for this.

Number 2 is safety and environment. I brew indoors with a serious industrial fan and a vent hood that provides more than adequate ventilation. I also have a CO monitor to ensure the ventilation is working properly. But at the end of the day it is a bit nerve racking running propane burners indoors. Electric elements, when wired properly with grounding and GFCI breakers, are definitely going to be safer. The burners and fan are also very loud. Electric brewing is practically silent and I will be able to dial the fan down to simply remove the steam.

Number 3 is automation. I use the Brew Control System (BCS) 462 which has PID control built in. By using the PID functions I will be able to more accurately automate and control electric elements vs. propane burners.

Number 4 is Cost. I rip through half of a 20lb tank for each brew session, a bit more for a 15 gallon batch. That is roughly $11.50 in propane per batch. For my proposed electric design let’s assume the following:

  • Run two 5500 watt elements at full power for 30 min to get my strike and sparge water up to temp.
  • Run one 5500 watt element at ½ power for 1.5 hr during the mash and sparge.
  • Run one 5500 watt element at full power for 1 hr during the boil.

This would result in essentially 3 hours at full power. At a $0.14 per kWh cost, that would equal $2.31 per batch or about a $9 savings. Multiply that by 20 batches per year and that works out to about $180. That amount certainly doesn’t justify the overall cost of a switch over but when combined with the other factors, it’s a home run. Additionally, I am in the process of installing a 10.92 kW solar array on my property which will offset my entire electric bill, thus making my brewery solar powered and electricity practically free (not factoring in the cost of the array).

My approach to the design of my electric rig takes inspiration from a few builds that are well documented online. They include eBrew Supply, The Electric Brewery, and a thread on Homebrewtalk.com by user JonW. Jon is a BCS power user and a great inspiration for my approach to controlling March/Chugger pumps along with automated mechanical ball valves. Ryan over at eBrew Supply has an amazing amount of information available about panel wiring to use the BCS to control all the various systems. The Electric Brewery was great inspiration for how to plumb the kettles. Ultimately I am building a system that draws from, and builds on, elements of each of these designs.

Stay tuned to hungusbrews.com for updates as I work through this system build out.

American Pale Ale (APA) is probably one of the most widely brewed styles for homebrewers. OK, maybe it falls behind IPA and Stouts but I would bet that at some point in your brewing career you have crafted one. APA can be a difficult style to master though as brewing them really is an exercise in balance and finesse. I have heard brewery owner’s comment on how creating an APA can be a good test of a new (or prospective) employees brewing chops. Sure their new brewer can create exciting experimental styles but how do they do when it comes to this old classic? It’s kind of like a good chef being able to make a quality omelet.Hops Pic

There are a few moving parts to an APA. The first, and arguably most important, is the hop character. You need to hit a good level of hop bitterness while not going into IPA territory. One metric that helps keep you in the correct range is the bittering units to gravity units (BU:GU) ratio. This ratio is simply your IBUs divided by the last three digits of your OG. For me that sweet spot for an APA is between 0.7 and 0.8. The other end of the hop character equation is hop flavor and aroma.  I like to get at least half of my bittering from late hops and even lightly dry hop to really get the point across. This is where you need to be careful. Since you are working with a lower gravity beer, excess late process hops can lead to grassy flavors.

For the malt bill I generally like to use American 2-row with about 10% Munich and 5% C40. The Munich adds a subtly bready character and the C40 obviously a caramel character. This is another area where finesse is key. You want to create some malt complexity without taking away from drinkability or distracting from the hop character. If you overdo it with the caramel malt you can easily create a muddled APA. Use restraint here! Instead of using 2-row and Munich you could also try using 90% Maris Otter to get a similar effect. Additionally I like to use 5% carapils to help with body and head retention but you could also try using malted white wheat instead.

Water chemistry has a profound impact on an APA and this style greatly benefits from high levels of sulfate. I like to go all the way up to 300 ppm to make the beer very crisp and accentuate the hop character. Yeast should generally be neutral but sometimes I enjoy blending WLP 090 with an English strain to get a hint of fruity esters. This plays particularly well with new world fruity hops.

When I brew this APA I always keep the grain bill, water, and (usually) yeast the same but use different hops for each batch. The recipe below uses a blend of Belma, Amarillo, and Cascade but you can substitute any hop combination you want so long as you pay attention to your BU:GU. This recipe is also great for experimenting with new hop varieties by simply using one type.

I hope this recipe gets you closer to brewing that perfect APA! Feel free to comment below with questions or let me know what hop or yeast combinations you find enjoyable. You can follow all my brewing adventures on social media @hungusbrews and if you ever find yourself brewing one of my recipes, feel free to use #hungusbrews. Cheers!

Hand Stand Happy Hour

2008 10A – American Pale Ale  2015 18B – American Pale Ale
Recipe for 6 gallons of post boil

Malts

9 lb / 81.8% US 2-Row (Briess)
1 lb / 9.2% German Munich (Weyermann)
8 oz / 4.5% Carapils (Briess)
8 oz / 4.5% Caramel 40 (Briess)

Hops

20.5 IBU / 0.5 oz 10.4% Belma 60 Min
5.2 IBU / 0.5 oz 10.4% Belma 5 Min
2.5 IBU / 0.5 oz 5.0% Amarillo 5 Min
3.2 IBU / 0.5 oz 6.3% Cascade 5 Min
4.3 IBU / 0.5 oz 10.4% Belma 0 Min
2.1 IBU / 0.5 oz 5.0% Amarillo 0 Min
2.6 IBU / 0.5 oz 6.3% Cascade 0 Min
0 IBU / 0.5 oz 10.4% Belma Dry Hop
0 IBU / 0.5 oz 5.0% Amarillo Dry Hop

Yeast

WLP 090 – San Diego Super Yeast
Feel free to use other neutral yeasts or even blend with English varieties

Water

CA 165 ppm
MG <10 ppm
NA <20 ppm
SO4 305 ppm
CL 53 ppm
HCO3 65 ppm
Alk 54 ppm

Mash

Mash at 151? for 1 hr with a pH of 5.3. Mash out at 168 if your system allows. Sparge with 168? water acidified to under a pH of 6.0.

Boil

Add the bittering hops at 60 min. At 10 min left add your kettle fining (SuperMoss/Irish Moss/Whirlfloc) and your yeast nutrient (I use White Labs WLN-1000). With 5 min left add your second hop addition. At flame out add your last hop addition and whirlpool to create a trub cone. If not whirlpooling and cooling quickly with an immersion chiller you may want to move your late hops to a 10 and 15 min addition.

Fermentation

Rack to fermenter at 66? and ensure the wort is well oxygenated. Pitch at 66? and hold below 68? until fermentation is complete. Once fermentation is nearing 90% completion, add your dry hops and let fermentation finish. After 3-4 days, cold crash slowly to 40? and rack into keg or bottle.

Measurements and Calculations

Wort Volume Before Boil: 7.0 US gals
Wort Volume After Boil: 6 US gals
Volume Transferred: 5.5 US gals
Volume Of Finished Beer: 5 US gals
Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.043 SG
OG: 1.051 SG
FG: 1.010 SG
ABV: 5.4 %
IBU (Rager): 40.4 IBU
Color (Morey): 5.7 SRM
Mash Efficiency: 75 %
Fermentation Temp: 68 ?F

When fermenting a batch of beer we often times find ourselves wondering when fermentation will be finished. We have expectations of how our yeast will perform based on an attenuation range for our selected yeast strain but there are many other variables at play. Your wort composition and yeast health will vary from batch to batch and estimations of final gravity are exactly that. A quick and easy test that can be performed at the beginning of fermentation is called the forced ferment test also known as the limit of attenuation test or the fast ferment test.

The theory behind the forced ferment test is simple. Take a small sample of the pitched wort you created and place it on a stir plate in a warm location. Only enough wort is needed to take a hydrometer reading. The constant oxygenation and warm temperature significantly speed up the fermentation of this small sample of wort. Fermentation can be done is as little as one day but will most likely be completed well before the primary batch is finished. The final gravity that is measured at the end of this test can be considered to be the lowest your primary batch will reach. Usually the actual final gravity of the primary batch is a point or two higher.

Performing the fast ferment test will ease any worries you may have about wort fermentability. The FFT can also help you make decisions in the fermentation process. Planning on dry hopping near the end of fermentation or beginning a diacetyl rest? The forced ferment test will tell you where that end is. It is also a good indicator of contamination in the primary batch. If the FG ends up under the FFT then you can be pretty sure that some wild yeast or bacteria got into the fermentor.

I try to perform this test for every batch and it really helps alleviate some of the guess work. For example, I recently brewed a stout that I expected to finish with a final gravity of around 1.012. After performing the FFT it only actually finished at 1.017. I then knew that I created a wort that was not as fermentable as I had hoped, likely due to an excessive amount of flaked barley. If I did not have this information I would have been worried when my primary batch finished at 1.018.

Below is a series of photos with instructions under each explaining the process I use and variations for other brewing equipment.

IMG_8198

Clean and sanitize a small flask. I like to use a 250mL Erlenmeyer Flask with a small stir bar. Ideally you would run this through an autoclave or a pressure cooker to sterilize but a good soaking in starsan will suffice. Cover the lid with a small piece of sanitized aluminum foil. You could also use any other small container that will work on a stir plate. I suppose a mason jar might even do the trick. Just make sure it is clean and sanitized.

IMG_8199

Here is the step where I am a bit spoiled. Pulling a small sample from the conical racking arm is very easy. I sanitize the triclover barb, flame the tip with a small torch, and use the foil from the flask to cover the opening.

IMG_8200

Pull a small sample. You only need enough to be able to obtain a gravity reading once the FFT is completed. I generally shoot for 150mL. If you do not have a conical, you can simply divert this small amount of wort into the flask when you are filling from your kettle. You could also use a wine thief similar to how you would take normal readings from a carboy or bucket. Just take precautions to be as sterile as possible. Any small amount of wild yeast or bacteria can skew the results.

IMG_8202

Here you can see the small sample pulled from the conical on the left. The 2000mL flask on the right contains my pitch of yeast for the primary batch which has already had the starter beer decanted off. This is a key point where my approach differs from published methods which instruct pitching the yeast and THEN pulling your sample. I like to pull my sample from my oxygenated wort and then pitch yeast into my sample. I’ll explain this process below.

IMG_8205

Flame the opening of your sample. If you do not have a bunsen burner, a small alcohol lamp or even a candle can work. This is the best method to attempt to make the transfer without picking up any wild yeast or bacteria. If you do not have any of these flame sources, use a lighter to flame the opening and make the transfer in a draft free room. Notice that the 2000mL flask is empty as it has been pitched into the primary batch.

IMG_8209

Even after pitching into the primary batch, there are always some dregs leftover that do not pour out. There is an amazing amount of yeast in those dregs, enough that you will be overpitching your small 150mL sample. Pour the sample into the dregs from your yeast starter after flaming the lip. If you are pitching directly from a vial or smack pack, you can pour you sample into that as well.

IMG_8213

Give the small sample in the large flask a good stir and then pour back into your small flask. You will notice the frothy head that transfers back. That is all of your yeasty goodness. Briefly flame the opening of the small flask and the aluminium foil and cap loosely.

IMG_8214

Place your sample on a stir plate and let it rip. You do not need a huge vortex for the FFT (or any starter for that matter), just a small dimple on the surface. This is plenty to dissolve the needed oxygen into solution. Ideally you want to place this in a warm location or even an incubator at 80°F if you have access to one. In the winter I usually put my starters on top of my refrigerator.

IMG_8216

After a day or so you will notice significant yeast growth and the FFT will start to turn a milky color.

IMG_8224

Once fermentation has completed, shut off you stir plate and let the yeast settle to the bottom. Look at all that yeast! If you are making another beer with this same strain, you could use this to step into another starter, especially if you took precautions to be as sterile as possible.

IMG_8228

Pour you FFT into you hydrometer test tube and take a gravity reading. Note that 150mL is just enough to get an accurate reading. If you expect the FG to be well below 1.010 you may want to take 200mL at the beginning to be safe.

IMG_8230

And finally a shot of the reading. Go ahead and taste the FFT beer but do not be alarmed when it tastes oxidized/papery/yeasty/harsh. This pale ale ended up finishing just a touch over 1.011. This means I can expect the primary beer to at least hit an FG of 1.013. I plan on dry hopping directly in the fermentor with only 4 gravity points (1°P) left to ferment so I now know that when I get a reading of around 1.017 I should be good to go.

So there is my method for performing the FFT. I think if you can find a way to work this into your brewing routine you will be amazed at the information you can gather from this simple test. Feel free to comment below with questions/comments or lay out a method you may use for the FFT. Cheers!

Just Married

Nearly every home brewer that is planning a wedding wants to involve their own beer in one way or another. There are multiple approaches to achieving this goal including handing out parting gifts to their guests, special keg tappings at some point in the evening, or simply using a homebrewed beer for the toast. Me? I of course had to take it one step further and decided to only serve beer that I brewed myself to our 220 guests. Very quickly I realized that this was going to be quite an undertaking and set out to create a plan. Step one was to decide how much beer I would need and what styles I was going to brew. Step two was to brew all that beer! Step three was to determine how to make the bars “plug and play” to serve all of that beer at once without my assistance. Step four was to determine the equipment needed and then make, buy, or borrow all of it. Finally step five was execution and getting all the beer in place for the wedding.

The bar in full swing

Step 1: The caterers recommended that we stock at least two bars. At first I wanted to stock both bars with the same 4 styles so that each bar was the same. After some prodding from friends I decided to do 8 different styles and put 4 at each bar. The reason we chose 4 at each bar was because my friend Todd and I built matching jockey boxes with 4 faucets in each. I called one bar “America” and the other “Europe” so that helped determine what styles would be brewed. Choosing to bring 8 different styles was a potentially risky decision. Having to nail 8 different recipes, with different yeasts, and aging requirements would prove to be very challenging. I only went for this because I felt confident in my brewing skills and most of the recipes had been tried out before. If you are new to brewing and cannot achieve repeatability, it may be wiser to stick to fewer styles. After making that decision, next was to determine quantities of each style and brewing schedule. I know everyone loves IPA’s and lagers so I brewed the most of those. Here is how it all broke down:

1st – American Stout – 1 – 10 gal batch
2nd – English Brown – 1 – 15 gal batch
3rd/5th – Oktoberfest – 2 – 10 gal batches
4th – Saison – 1 – 10 gal batch
6th – American Pale – 1 -15 gal batch
7th – American Amber – 1- 15 gal batch
8th/9th – IPA – 2 – 15 gal batches
10th – Hefeweizen – 1 – 15 gal batch

I knew there would be extra beer but I didn’t want taps to start kicking which would make people switch to styles they would not enjoy. This volume worked out to 0.59 gallons per person and at the end of the wedding we finished about 100 gallons or 0.45 gal per person. This was even with a full open bar including wine.

Close up of the tap handles

Step 2: I pretty much spent all summer brewing these batches and getting them into kegs, many of which were borrowed from friends. Once all the beer was brewed the challenge wasn’t complete. I had to get all of the kegs cold and carbonated. I pulled my two big fermentors out of their upright freezers and was able to fit 11 kegs in the large upright and 5 in the smaller one. I also fit 10 kegs in my lagering fridge, and then put the final 2 in my kegerator. Being able to keep the kegs cold right up until the day I brought them to the venue was integral to the successful serving at the proper temperature. I cannot stress enough that it is very easy to lose these beers in the cellar and it would have been very embarrassing to serve flat beer. I spent three weeks leading up to the wedding getting all these kegs carbonated and tasting to ensure all the beer was up to par.

Large Upright with 11 kegs conditioning

Step 3: It was very important that this setup run smoothly without the need to continually change kegs. On your wedding day you will not have time to teach this to the bartenders and you will not have time to do this yourself. The goal was to set the kegs up so that the bar tenders could pull the faucet until it blew foam. This was accomplished by “jumping” the kegs of the same style together. A jumper was simply a short length of tubing, generally 1 ft or less, connected to a beverage and a gas disconnect on each end. By connecting the “beverage out” post to the “gas in” post, you could essentially make one large keg. To set this up you connect the last keg to the gas, then jump it to the remaining kegs of that style until the last beverage line went to the faucet. Next you systematically purge the air from the relief valve from the first keg backward to the last until beer starts coming out the relief. When the tap handle is pulled, gas is pushed into the last keg, moving beer forward through the kegs until there is no beer left. As the kegs empty, the last ones just fill with CO2 while the ones closest to the faucet remain full of beer.

Keg Jumpers

To help the cold plates work most efficiently, I had the jockey boxes setup with hoses pressed into the drain plugs to continually remove the cold water into a bucket and keep the plates on ice. To keep the cold plates form working overtime, I made 28 keg cozy’s from reflectix insulation which would help keep the beer cold once I took them out of the refrigerators. Wrapping the kegs with reflectix had a profound effect and the kegs with beer left in them were all still cold two days later! In fact, the reflectix worked so well, the jockey boxes did not need to be re-iced during the entire wedding.

Mobile Draft Tool Box

Step 4: Now that the plans were in place, it was time to start acquiring all of the support equipment. I borrowed kegs and quick disconnects from 5 different homebrewing friends (thanks Tim, Tom, Todd, Adrien, and Boyer!) I made the 16 beverage to gas jumpers which was a tedious task and set up two 4 way gas manifolds to distribute the CO2. I created a tool box in an ammo can containing tools that could be used to fix any hardware problems. This included wrenches, a faucet wrench, spare tap handles, tape, flashlight, hose clamps, sharpies, extra QD’s, screw driver, etc, I also emailed the caterers photos of three home brewers that would be in attendance that could address any issues since I would not have time. My friend Luke made me 8 custom tap handles turned from native Appalachian woods. My friend Dan made me matching custom wood facades so the guests would not see the cooler jockey boxes. I ordered custom 16oz Belgian beer glasses as gifts for all of the guests. This served a few purposes, it was a gift for everyone, cut down on rental expenses, and provided a much more enjoyable experience than drinking out of a lame pint glass. Lastly, I asked the caterer to provide a cooler of water to act as a rinse station.

Pickup ruck loaded with serving equipment

Step 5: The day before the wedding was when it came time to move the kegs into position and execute the plans. With the help of a few friends, we pulled the 28 kegs out of the refrigerator and immediately put the cozy’s on them. We loaded up the truck with all of the CO2 tanks (including two backups), kegs, and jockey boxes. Once on site we moved all kegs to their respective bars and began jumping them all together and then connecting the gas and faucets. Once all the lines were hooked up, we purged the excess headspace in the forward kegs and tested their operation. As you pulled the faucet you could easily see the beer moving through the jumpers. Each bank of kegs got an additional wrap of reflectix to help keep even more heat out. We then put the bar tables over the bank of kegs and covered everything with the table cloths. By doing this you could not see any kegs, CO2 tanks, or jockey boxes. It just appeared as if there were 4 magical tap handles in the middle of the room that poured endless beer. We turned off the CO2 for the evening so to not overcarbonate the beers. Jumping these kegs together and pushing the beer through the cold plate required about 25psi of pressure to get a good steady pour.

Keg bank jumped together and insulated

View of the drain bucket and kegs tucked under the table

A month before the wedding I decided to stock a dessert bar with two sour beers that I had been aging along with some whiskey and cigars. I borrowed a third jockey box from my friend Tom and had the caterer set this up after dinner. I had 5 gallons of a blonde sour aged with East Coast Yeast Bug County and another 5 gallons of a Saison aged with Brettanomyces Naardenensis.

Sour Beer Bar

During the wedding all of the serving went off without a hitch. The beer stayed cold and was all well carbonated. Only the Blonde sour and the Saison kicked. The servers from Salt Gastropub Events took pride in presenting a good pour and rinsed the glasses each time. I was even able to give them the Hefeweizen, Saison, and Oktoberfest in 22oz bottles to cook some of the food for the evening! At the end of the wedding we drank about 100 of the 140 gallons I brought. When I broke everything down the next morning any kegs with beer in them were actually still cold. The reflectix was really a game changer and ensured all of the beer stayed cold. The only issue that had to be dealt with on the fly was a low serving pressure. Luckily the homebrewers in attendance noticed this and fixed the issue easily. At the end of the night they even remembered to turn off the CO2 to not overcarbonate the beer that was left. RJE photo did an excellent job capturing the big day and were nothing but professional.

HungusDrinks Inspecting the Brews Custom Glassware

Planning on doing something like this for your wedding or have any questions? Feel free to leave comments below and be sure to subscribe to hungusbrews.com to get these posts in your inbox.

KolschOne of the things that has kept me from posting more recipes on this blog was the level of detail that I was providing. I attempted to capture ALL of the little details beginning on brew day following through to pouring out of the kegerator. While that was all well and good it dawned on me that posting my recipes in that manner may be making it harder for anyone to actually use them! So this is going to be my first recipe post that is simple and straightforward so that you can grab it and brew! I decided to scale them down to 5 gallon batches so that it would serve the largest amount of homebrewers.Adding the Hops

All recipes will be designed so that you end up with 5.5 gallons in the fermenter, 6 at the end of the boil, and 7 or 7.5 at the start of the boil depending on wether it calls for a 60 or 90 min boil. I will also include the grain percentages for easy scaling and a water profile that I like to use. For hops I will specify the IBU obtained from each addition so that you can adjust based on your alpha percentage. For hopping you will notice that my late additions always pick up a small amount of bitterness. This is because I go through a 15 min hot whirlpool before racking into the fermenter. My hope is that this will provide a great starting point that can be easily modified to work with your brewing system and style.

Weyerman Pils

Todays recipe is for another classic German style that I love brewing and have had a lot of success with. Some notable awards this recipe has won include a best of show at the Kinckerbocker Battle of the Brews and a 1st place in the 2014 NHC 1st round NY region. The key to brewing Kölsch (as with many beers) is the yeast selection and fermentation. White Labs 029 German Ale/Kölsch yeast is the one I have used with this recipe but I would also recommend trying East Coast Yeast ECY21. Kölsch yeast likes to be fermented in the low 60’s. You will likely notice a lot of sulphur during fermentation but don’t panic this is normal. This yeast strain is also slow to flocculate out so a month or so at lager temps really helps clean this beer up. I think this cold condition period is key to the style. I like to use some late addition hops for just a hint of that noble hop character. Water chemistry is also very important for this style. You want to hit a mash ph at the lower end of the recommended range. I shoot for 5.3 at room temperature. Since you want this beer to have a crisp and dry finish, a sulfate to chloride ratio of 1.2 is a good place to start. I usually shoot for about 75ppm of sulfate. Calcium above 50 will help with clarity during the cold conditioning period.

Here is the recipe:

German Kölsch

6C – German Kölsch
Recipe for 6 gallons of post boil

Malts

9 lb/85.7% German Pilsner
12 oz/7.1% German Wheat
12 oz/7.1% Carafoam

Hops

18 IBU/1 oz 4.5% German Spalt Select 60 Min
2 IBU/1oz 4.5% German Spalt Select 0 Min

Yeast

WLP 029 – German Ale

Water

CA 70
MG <10
NA <20
SO4 75
CL 60
HCO3 0
SO4/CL 1.2

Mash

Mash at 149* for 1 hr with a pH of 5.3. Mash out at 168 if your system allows. Sparge with 168* water acidified to your mash pH.

Boil

Use a 90 minute boil to remove any DMS from the German pilsner malt. Add the bittering hops at 60 min. At 10 min left add your kettle fining (I use SuperMoss HB) and your yeast nutrient (I use White Labs WLN-1000). At flame out add your finishing hops and whirlpool to create a trub cone. If not whirl poling you may want to move your late hops to a 10 min addition. Instead of using a traditional German hop at the end of the boil you may try a fruity new world variety such as Motueka. Those work well with the subtly fruity esters from fermentation.

Fermentation

Rack to fermenter at 62* and ensure the wort is well oxygenated. Pitch at 62* and hold below 64* until fermentation is complete. Cold crash slowly to 40* and lager for one month.

Measurements and Calculations

Wort Volume Before Boil: 7.5 US gals
Wort Volume After Boil: 6 US gals
Volume Transferred: 5.5 US gals
Volume Of Finished Beer: 5 US gals
Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.039 SG
OG: 1.049 SG
FG: 1.012 SG
ABV: 4.9 %
IBU (Rager): 20 IBU
Color (Morey): 3 SRM
Mash Efficiency: 75 %
Fermentation Temp: 64 ?F

Trub Pile post whirlpool Coming to a Boil