Author Archive for Carl

Carl Weaver is a writer, editor, and photographer based in Arlington, Virginia and is available for assignment around the world. He is the author of A Good Day to Die: Haiku in Traditional Form and Next Life in the Afternoon: A Journey Through Thailand and can make some kick-ass fried noodles. In his spare time, Carl enjoys reading, writing poetry, and being a traveling man. Sorry, ladies, he is not available.

How to Host a Brew Day

approved on Flickr” href=”” target=”_blank”>Teach A Friend to Brew DayLots of people are curious about how to make beer and even more simply want to come over and drink it. Either way, it is nice to have a group over to make beer together, whether it is for them to learn or just to hang out for fellowship. Having done this a few times, I have learned some key steps to have in place prior to people arriving for the event.

Getting More Alcohol in your Homebrew

troche on Flickr”>Watermelon wheat beerI need help.

I was dining out with my wife recently when she happened upon 21st Amendment Brewery’s seasonal, website Come Hell or High Watermelon (cans or draft). Come Hell or High Watermelon is an American Wheat beer flavored, arthritis as you would expect, with watermelon. I gave it a try, and though fruity wheat beers are not really my preferred style (at all), I could easily tell it was a crisp, good quality, and nicely balanced beer. My wife’s reaction fell closer to the religious epiphany end of the spectrum. After consuming more than one can she says, “I love this! Figure out how to make a watermelon beer.”

At this point it occured to me that I was about to experience a dilema that most homebrewers deal with from time to time: keeping the spouse happy. To ensure things stay positive and I can continue to fill the garage with absolutely necessary brewing equipment, it is necessary to brew a beer she will enjoy from time to time. This has historically been a small price to pay and has actually done me good by forcing me to expand my brewing experiences into different styles. However, this watermelon beer has become my own personal homebrewing perfect storm.

The problem:

  • Taste (specifically mine). I do not like wheat beers…at all. I know enough to tell the difference between a good and bad wheat beer, but it is just not my thing. I am also not a big fan of fruit beers, but I can tolerate most for recreational purposes. My wife will not drink five gallons of anything and because wasting beer is a sin, I will have to find creative ways to distribute the batch. One of the tried and true methods of disposing of excess homebrew is to share it at barbeques and parties. Unfortunately, taking a watermelon wheat beer to a barbeque would be the homebrew equivalent of taking a DVD of “Steel Magnolias” to a bachelor party. I am not ready for that kind of social awkwardness.
  • Logistics. A smaller batch is not possible without additional equipment. This may sound counter-intuitive as well as a great argument to buy more stuff, but it has taken a great deal of effort to engineer my brewing activities to be soley five-gallon and keg-based. Bottles are not an option. They take too much space, are a pain to clean and sterilize, and I have my pride. In addition, I have a finite amount of refrigerated space and based on the issues outlined in problem #1, this beer will most likely be a long-term resident. At the end of the day I am going to have a lot of beer I’m not a fan of taking up valuable space and equipment.
  • Fear. I might mess this up. This is not going to be an easy beer to make. So far I have never brewed a batch of beer that went so “bad” that it was undrinkable. I have brewed beer that did not end up like I expected, but it was still a good, enjoyable beer. I once tried to brew a Christmas Ale (essentially the same as our Pirate’s Ale), which ended up being a great porter, just not very Christmassy. This watermelon wheat is dangerous. Based on the research I’ve done so far, it will probably have to be an all-grain batch, relatively low bitterness, and the watermelon will need to be added in either the primary or secondary fermentation. Contamination is going to be a big concern and the use of watermelon can still be considered “experimental.” Plus, if this thing ends up going south, I lose some serious street cred. “What finally did Andy in? A watermelon wheat? We shall never speak of him again.”

A dilema, by definition, implies that there is no safe direction to go and I think that is the situation I’m in. Another way to look at this is a challenge, a way for me to mature as a small batch brewer. Maybe I should take an eastern philosphy mentality and look how this experience will craft my inner brewing soul. Regardless how I personally accept my circumstances, I think I’m going to have to embrace this storm, hope fate will show me the path and trust that the brew that does not kill me only makes me stronger.

Suggestions, recommendations, and/or condolences are absolutely welcome!

Watermelon wheat beer by Nicole Lee, on Flickr.
cialis on Flickr” href=”” target=”_blank”>Teach A Friend to Brew DayLots of people are curious about how to make beer and even more simply want to come over and drink it. Either way, ed
it is nice to have a group over to make beer together, whether it is for them to learn or just to hang out for fellowship. Having done this a few times, I have learned some key steps to have in place prior to people arriving for the event.

First, decide what your event is for. Here are some suggestions:

Teach A Friend to Brew Day by stephee, on Flickr.
aerating your wortAerating your wort is one of the more important steps when making beer. After boiling it for an hour or however long your recipe specifies, unhealthy a lot of the oxygen that was in the water has come out. All those bubbles during boiling are water vapor – H2O – a third of which is O, recipe or oxygen. This oxygen is a vital part of the fermentation process, as yeast are aerobic creatures, meaning they need oxygen to thrive and procreate, just like we do.

Anheuser-Busch Bullies Microbrewery into Changing Name

pilule on Flickr”>Anheuser-Busch EagleI just read an article about Anheuser-Busch telling a new microbrewery in London to change its name. AB apparently though the Belleville Brewery’s name was too similar to their own Belle-Vue beer because it starts with “Bell” and ends in an “e.” Pretty weak argument, visit in my book. Belleville Brewery, which has since changed its name to Northcote Brewery, is run by some fathers who met because their children all attend Belleville Primary School, and distributes its brew locally in south London.

Brew Beer. Be Awesome.

Andy and I set out to find some gifts we think most, drug if not all, brewers could benefit from having. Here is our list of the top ten things we think you should have to make brewing more enjoyable and successful.

1. Refractometer

A refractometer allows you to read the specific gravity of a liquid without needing to take a large sample from your fermenter, as you would if you were using a hydrometer. This device requires just a drop of solution and a light source so you can read the gradations. In addition, the automatic temperature compensation (ATC) means that you do not have to do any computation to offset the temperature.

2. The Brew Hauler

The Brew Hauler is a carboy carrier that makes a glass or plastic carboy easy and safe to carry. The webbing is tough and strong and the buckle makes the carrier easy to load and unload. I do not (yet) have one of these but my friend Jason does. It is much easier to move carboys around with these, rather than using one hand to steady the neck and the other to cradle the bottom. That is an accident waiting to happen. This device can save you some time and energy and possibly help you avoid a trip to the hospital.

3. Carboy Cleaner

This bottle and carboy cleaner is ideal for getting that stuck-on schmutz knocked off the inside of the glass and get all the junk removed before you need the container again. I used to discard bottles that had not been rinsed well enough and had some remaining junk dried to the side. Of course, now I keg my brew, but the fact remains that without using some sort of device like this, quality cleaning is tough to ensure.

4. Carboy Sprayer

To go along with the cleaner above, you can hook up this sprayer to a faucet or spigot and spray water all up in your carboys and bottles to wash away all the schmutz you removed from the glass. Schmutz – I guess I like that word. This device will screw on most hose spigots and utility sink faucets but if you want to use it at the kitchen sink, chances are you will very likely need an adaptor.

5. Digital Scale

A digital scale like this one will help you measure out precise amounts of hops, and even help you when recipes call for a quarter pound of grain, for example, and your homebrew store only sells it by the pound. No more guessing. This is all part of the standardization of your brewing process. Rather than estimating, you will know for certain that your measurements are repeatable so you can replicate a process, or opt to change it.

6. Beer Glasses

These are advertised as “craft beer” glasses. Let’s be honest – that does not really mean anything. They are cool beer glasses that you can feel good about serving your homebrew in. Personally, I have a set of non-descript pint glasses, similar to what you would find in most bars. However, once I break enough of them I will probably get a set like this. Truth be told, there are optimal shapes of glass for different kinds of beer, but mostly it is just an intermediary vessel that goes between the long-term storage (keg or bottle) and the main processing unit (my innards).

7. The Complete Beer Course

Educating yourself on the finer points of beer is always good for someone who is in the business or hobby of making beer. All of us, no matter how experienced, can find something to learn in this book, and this piece is good for beer lovers young and old. While it is not technically a homebrewing book, it is informative and can help beer lovers understand what the different ingredients are and how they affect the flavor of their favorite drink.

8. Periodic Table of Beer

This is a good guide for how to classify beers, so that if you want to make a porter, for example, you can see what is related to porters and get an idea for something else to try that you might also enjoy. It is not an official BJCP diagram but it is a general way to classify beer. Fun, clever, and useful. Exactly the type of thing I enjoy. I think you will as well.
Anytime you are trying to convert homebrew recipes to your available ingredients, check
you have to do a little figuring and guessing, even experimenting. This is because different ingredients have different properties and substituting one for another may not give you the exact end product you want. However, in the end it will be beer, so you will never stray too far off course if you follow the directions and get good approximations for your substitute ingredients.

One problem comes in converting grain recipes to extract. I do not like to do this is because my grain recipes list specific grains I want in the mash. If I try to use an extract, I do not know exactly what kinds of grains were used. Plus, my general philosophy is that the more an ingredient is processed, the more it loses nuance and character. The base malts do not differ significantly but you can get more variation with actual grains than you can with liquid extracts. The same goes for the difference between dry malt and liquid malt. The more you process something, the more nuance you lose. This is not a scientific statement, I know, but I believe it to be true.