Category Archives: Brew In A Bag

A Snowball’s Chance

IIMG_20130330_085738 have decided to see if I can grow hops in Central Florida.  I have read about people having success in South Florida, so reasoning says I should be able to get a decent crop up here. From what I can discern, Cascades seem to thrive in just about any climate, so I’m planting a rhizome.  I also like Willamette, so I am going to give those a shot, too.


I chose a spot that gets full sun from about 9 AM to 4 PM.  I planted the Willamette about 5 feet to the West of the Cascades so it will get shade first.  Both will get watered by my lawn sprinklers twice per week, so I’ll probably have to supplement with a third or fourth watering per week until the summer rains come.  I am planning to trellis them to 6 feet, then trim them to contain them to the trellis.  Hopefully keeping them bushy will not alter their flowering ability.

Cost, you ask?   I can’t sell this as a cost saving maneuver just yet, since I am up to $30 between rhizomes, soil components (Black Kow, bagged top soil), and the fancy cedar edging.  Assuming I get one or two two-ounce crops this year, I’ll still be out $25.   But, I will have grown those hops, so I am sure they’ll taste ten times better than pellet hops…

I’ll post updates as the bines grow and (hopefully) bloom.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s Wee Heavy


Saturday around these parts meant it was Wee Heavy brew day.   Eight-plus pounds of grain is pushed my 2.5 gallon BiaB setup to its limits, I think.  I normally start my mash with 4 gallons of water in the kettle, and after absorption and boil off, I end up with about 2.75 gallons.  That’s just enough to get 2.5 in the fermenter and leave most of the settled out protein and hop crud behind.   Today, anticipating a 90-minute boil, I started with 4.5 gallons of water.  Once I put the grist in, the water level rose within an inch of the top of the kettle.

Mash temp was 154 to promote body.  Boiled for 90 minutes, 1 hop addition (Fuggle) at 30 minutes to get to 20 IBU.  Nailed estimated brewhouse efficiency, 79%.  OG was right on the money at 1.088.  This was my first experience with a carmelized wort, and I am sold.  The stuff looks, smells, and tastes like caramel.   Pitched 1728 from starter@ 64 degrees, hoping to get it down to 61-62 in a few hours..

IMG_20130330_095822In an amazing bit of coincidence (er, poor planning), it is also bottling day for FDE, my camping beer.  How this beer ultimately turns out is anyone’s guess.  Going in to the bottle it is crystal clear and smells exactly like a margarita.  The taste right now is a little too fruity for my liking, probably from the combination of higher fermentation temps (65-68) and the lime/agave nectar combination.  I do get a blast of the tequila flavor, too.  I am hoping the strong flavors mellow out in the next 30 days.  If not, we might be drinking it from salt-rimmed solo cups at the camp site.

UPDATE:  The Wee Heavy SG was 1.032 after 7 days.  The hydrometer sample had a very yeasty aroma, but tasted pretty good.  Heavier than expected alcohol taste.  I am planning to let it go for another 14 days in primary, with a free rise up to 66-68.

Me at 20

The first batch of beer I made was from a Mr. Beer kit on April 3, 2012, just shy of one year ago.  Fast forward to today: I’ll be brewing my 20th home-brewed beer this weekend.  Much has changed in those 12 months, particularly my understanding of the brewing process.  I have also gone from making purely extract beer, to adding steeping grains, and finally, to all grain Brew In A Bag (BiaB) brewing.  I have concentrated on having a consistent, repeatable process that produces expected results.  I am just hitting my stride in that regard.

There is one thing has not changed with my process in the past year, and that is the fermentation vessel I use.  I have continued to use the Mr. Beer fermentation vessel.  Also known as the “Little Brown Keg”, or LBK, this fermenter is perfect for my setup.  Some things I really like about it:

  • It fits inside a cooler with the lid closed.
  • It has a built-in spigot.
  • It has a void in the base that collects the yeast and trub that settle to the bottom.
  • I can fit a 2.5 gallon batch of beer in it, which is roughly a case of beer.  That’s the quantity that I find best for me in the frequency with which I brew.

The list could continue, but suffice it to say that for now, the LBK will continue to be my first choice for a fermenter.

As far as my 20th beer goes, I have decided to go with a high gravity brew to test how my process and setup hold up to the challenge.  I am brewing a Strong Scotch Ale (aka Wee Heavy).  The estimated OG for my recipe is 1.088, so it is a fatty.

Great Grandma MacConchie Strong Scotch Ale:

80% British Golden Promise
9% British Crystal Dark (77)
6% Wheat Malt
2% English Special B
2% Briess Roasted Barley
2% Dextrin (CaraPils) Malt
Fuggles to 20 IBU


Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale

The 1728 is happily chewing away at some Bavarian Wheat DME in the starter.

See you on brew day.

Tagged , , ,

Camping Beer Update

I racked the beer on to the zest of two limes which had been sterilized using 50 ml (1.7 oz) of Jose Cuervo Gold.  I was not prepared for the strong aroma of the lime zest, so I am very curious to see how that translates to the finished product.  Smells pretty much like a margarita in the fermenter right now.

2.5 Gallons of Camping Supplies

desotoI am going on my annual camping trip to St. Pete in May, and this will be the second year that I take along some homebrew for my fellow outdoorsmen to enjoy. Last year I took my inaugural homebrew (Mr. Beer West Cost IPA kit) that, if I am being completely honest, was just kinda drinkable.  Granted, just about any beer is drinkable when you have been on the water in the blinding sun for 10 hours.

So this year, I want to take a beer that we’ll remember fondly instead of try to forget.  I decided to go with a citrus-themed ale, and I wanted to make an easy-drinker with a tropical vibe. I originally set out to make a Cerveza or Caribbean lager, but I bagged the idea once corn came into the picture. Plus, I really didn’t have time for a lager.

So I set about crafIMG_20130317_212014ting the recipe for my ale. I targeted 20 IBU to keep the profile balanced. I wanted it light, so I used Briess Pilsen Light LME. To give it a citrus aroma and flavor, I planned to use Cascade hops in the boil and lime zest in the secondary. I chose US-05 (rehydrated, as always) to provide clean yeast character.  To give it that little something extra and to dry it out a bit, I added agave nectar to the recipe.  The lime zest will be sanitized using an ounce (or so) of tequila.

Knowing that I’d be pressed for time on brew day, I decided to brew an extract batch. This would be my 19th brew, and I hadn’t done an extract brew since my 4th batch. It didn’t take me long to remember that while you sacrifice a certain degree of control with extracts, you get back convenience in spades. My brew day dropped from its normal 5-6 hours to a shocking 2 hours. That’s a cleaned-everything-up-and-put-it-all-away 2 hours.  Fantastic.

IMG_20130317_212057Brew day went swimmingly.  It was one of those days when everything goes according to plan.  This was also the first time I have done everything outside, including chilling and transferring to the primary.  The wort is a very pale 3 degrees of SRM, and it already has some clarity.  The addition of the agave nectar jacked up my ABV to 6%, but hey, we’re camping.  Billions of yeast cells seem to be happy about the addition of the agave nectar, so much so that US-05’s joy is overflowing into my fermentation cooler.IMG_20130317_212151

One week primary, one week secondary, two weeks bottle conditioning, two weeks in the fridge to finish.  Taste test to follow…


Fuerte Desoto Especial
3lb 3oz Briess CBW Pilsen Light
14oz Agave Nectar (by weight)
15 .50 oz Cascade ~ pellet 7.2 » 13.2
5 min .50 oz Cascade ~ pellet 7.2 » 5.3
Fermentis US-05

1.056 OG
1.012 FG
3° SRM
18.4 IBU
5.9% ABV
184 Calories

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,