A Big Day - I've Been Asked to Brew for my Company

Posted by Olan on 8/20/2014 at 03:36:13 PM


As you probably know if you read much of my blog, I love to brew but don't actually drink that much.  I'll have a single beer on most evenings, though there are often days that I don't drink even that.  As a result, I end up sharing a lot of my beer.

Presentation is important to me; I feel like if I'm going to spend hours researching and brewing a beer, I want it to be impressive from the moment the bottle is in someone's hand.  To this end, I purchase custom bottle caps from bottlemark.com, and an artist friend of mine creates custom labels for me.  People seem to appreciate the effort; they are usually surprised to get what is darned close to commercial quality packaging in their hands.

Of course, that wouldn't matter if the beer wasn't good.., but I digress. 

At any rate, I have been sharing bottles with my company's owner for some time, now.  While not a homebrewer, he does enjoy craft beer - so much so that he apparently came very close to opening his own brewpub a little over a decade ago.  He doesn't give me deep analysis of my beers, but he's always appreciative of them, and will politely let me know what he enjoys and what isn't his favorite. 

Yesterday, I mentioned to him that I would probably be bottling my roggenbier this weekend, and that I would be bringing him some soon after.  It was at this point that he made a suggestion that knocked me over.

This October, he explained, a company that we have recently joined into a major partnership with (our companies are in the same field of business, but our product lines differ; they are selling some of our products, and we are selling some of theirs) is sending their bigwigs (executives and higher ranking sales personnel) down from Milwaukee Chicago* to our headquarters in Birmingham for a social type weekend.  Our company is going to wine and dine them, take them to an Alabama football game, that sort of thing.  He mentioned that it would be really great if we could present them with some of my beer; he feels like it would be a unique, appreciated gesture to give them quality, unique craft beer like this.

Holy cow. 

I asked what he had in mind, and he said that he trusted my judgment, that I should brew whatever I thought would be good.  He didn't want to impose, of course, and the company would buy the beer from me.  I had to tell him that I couldn't sell him beer, but if the company wanted to buy the ingredients, I would brew it.  Obviously, when the big boss asks for a favor like this, you don't hesitate... and of course, it's extremely flattering that he thinks enough of my beer to want to use it in this way.  He's thinking of calling it a "unity beer", maybe incorporate both of out company logo on the labels, that sort of thing.

My wife pointed out to me that it might be good to offer them a choice; obviously, not everyone enjoys the same types of beer.  I mentioned this to our owner, and he agreed.  He ideally would like to give them more of a "serious craft" alterative, as well as something more universally accepted.  He did point out that they will be providing other refreshment choices (liquor, wine, probably some commercial beer), but still, it would be nice for the beers to be accessible.  It was then that I learned that the other company will be sending some 15-20 people, plus there will be people from our company there... so if I could do two batches, it would be great, but he doesn't want to impose.

Holy cow again.

Right now, we're about eight weeks out from this weekend.  The first thing that popped into my head was an Oktoberfest, but there's not enough time to do a full lager, and I'm reluctant to give Brulosopher's fast lagering method a first shot on beer for an event like this.  So yeah, these need to be ales.

I don't want to do anything super neutral like a cream ale; those are popular, I know, but I feel like if we are potentially bringing Miller or something similar, that's going to be what the macro guys drink, and I won't be providing enough variety there for the craft guys. 

My friend Greg pointed out the obvious.  "What is the best beer you have ever brewed?" he asked.  The answer to that is my Oakenbranch IPA - a beer that has earned almost universally rave reviews since I brewed it.  It's pretty obvious that this needs to be one of the selections (my wife thought I was nuts for it to have not been my instant first choice). 

Even though that is not a bitter IPA, I feel like I still need something more on the malty side as the second selection.  I've had people suggest that I should perhaps clone something from the Milwaukee area (Spotted Cow?), or to go with a simple cream ale despite my initial feeling... but I'm not doing either of these.  I don't want to try to copy something that these guys already have in abundance; at best, it's something that can easily get at home, and at worst, it's a poor copy.  Also, I'm not sure that I want to stray too far into unknown territory with a beer for this kind of purpose.

My mind is not quite made up, but right now, I think that I'm probably going to do my Thundersmoke Brown (northern English brown with a hint of smokiness) as the second beer.  I might do a wheat beer with some low hopping, and I might do an amber... but the brown is the leader right now.  I know the recipe well, it's always well received, it's easy to drink, it's tasty, and it's a bit unique.

The logistics of the process will be a little tricky.  I only have one primary fermentor; I own two secondaries, but I only use them for long bulk aging or lagering, and even then, just to free up my primary.  I'll be bottle conditioning (though my awesome friend Rob has offered to loan me a couple of kegs), so I want to give the beers three full weeks to be sure they are ready.  I have one really good fermentation chamber (mini fridge with STC-1000), and one serviceable one (Mother of a Fermentation Chamber). 

I'm thinking a timeline like this: brew one beer this weekend.  Let it fully ferment in the better chamber.  Pull it out, leave in primary, and brew again next weekend (see if I can get the big boss to spring for the purchase of another primary).   That should give me plenty of time to get the beers bottled and ready.

This is very exciting, very flattering... and a touch scary.

* - it's Chicago, not Milwaukee.  I originally misunderstood.

Tags for this post: company, event, brewing, boss, homebrew, craft special

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Tags for this post: company, event, brewing, boss, homebrew, craft special

Brewing with My Pal, Murphy

Posted by Olan on 8/11/2014 at 04:48:07 PM

Yesterday was a much anticipated brewday for me - I would be tackling my roggenbier. I had done my homework, had listened to multiple horror stories about how sticky rye is, and had (I hoped) prepared for that.

And so, yesterday morning arrived. I had planned for this to be a solo brewday, but my good friend Murphy dropped by unannounced and decided to hang with me for the duration. If you are the sort of person who enjoys gawking at a train wreck as you drive past one, then by all means, please read on.

10:15 AM: It has become a weekly tradition that I fry bacon and my wife bakes blueberry muffins on Sunday morning. I usually heat my strike water on the stovetop to save on propane, but I figured it would be no issue to do so while cooking breakfast. However, my wife also decided to do hash browns this week, so I sat my pot to the side (there wouldn't be enough room for three large items on the stove). Minor delay here, no big deal.

11:10 AM: Breakfast is done. I take the lid off my six gallon stainless steel pot that serves as my HLT - and also does dual duty as storage for various brewing chemicals, smaller pieces of gear, etc. Why, hello there, disaster!

The bottom of the pot is covered in a sticky liquid. Plastic on my scale is discolored, a couple of baggies of brewing salts are essentially...
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Tags for this post: roggenbier, brewday, decoction, mash, homebrew, beer, mistakes, issues, errors

Musings on Creativity and Brewing

Posted by Olan on 8/10/2014 at 03:27:32 PM


I've always been a bit envious of creative people.  Some people can take a blank canvas and a brush and bring a portrait to life.  Others can put pen to paper and spin a witty tale or clever verse.  Some can pick up a musical instrument and speak to your very soul with the songs they conjure.  Creative people can be found in so many different areas, bringing art and enrichment to lives of those around them.

I have never really been one of these people.

I, on the other hand, am more of a "logic guy".  I tend to be task based, compartmentalizing life in an effort to get from point A to point B.  That's not to say that I don't have certain skills; when dealing with a subject that interests me, I am thorough in preparation, I work to learn from the advice and experience of others, and I do diligently try to apply that knowledge to the job at hand.  That being said, I've always been the sort of person to follow a blueprint, to apply known techniques to a problem.  I can often see the big picture, and have been known to apply unique approaches to problem solving... but when push comes to shove, I have always been more analytical than creative.

Interestingly enough, brewing is one area in my life that I find this to not be the case.  Oh, to be sure, I am still very analytical in my approach; I take precise measurements, I...
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Tags for this post: creativity, brewing, homebrewing, beer, roggenbier, recipes

Conan Yeast Giveaway Winners

Posted by Olan on 8/05/2014 at 03:01:20 PM

After much adieu, I am happy to announce the winners of the Homebrew Dad ECY29 (Conan) yeast giveaway.

First off, please do allow me to thank everyone who entered. I said this before, but there were quite a few entries that legitimately deserved to win. Pruning the seventy-six entries down to the seven finalists was extremely difficult; further pruning those down to three winners was even harder.   If you'd like to see, there is a map representing all of the entries

Thank you to everyone who voted. All told, we ended up with a truly impressive total of one hundred and seventy-six votes cast, which is about twice what I was expecting given the number of participants.

To recap, my plan was to select one winner on my own, to allow the votes to select one winner, and to then compare the two lists to come up with a third winner. As it so happens, one winner not only jumped out as the most deserving to my way of thinking, but also happend to win the largest percentage of the votes - by quite a fair margin. That winner is Bret of Warsaw, Poland.

Bret did not submit a recipe idea; instead, his submission was that he would like to pick up the yeast when he returns to the US in a couple of weeks. He will then take the yeast back with him to Poland, where he will share it with other homebrewers there. According to...
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Tags for this post: yeast, giveaway, winners, contest, conan

Conan Yeast Giveaway Finalists

Posted by Olan on 8/01/2014 at 02:53:13 PM

After a week, we have received a whopping seventy-six entries to the ECY29 (Conan yeast) contest! If you'd like to see, there is a map representing all of the entries. I've done a lot of deliberating, and let me tell you - there were a *ton* of great ideas.

I pared down the list once, then pared it down again, and am now down to seven finalists.

If you did not make the list, please don't take it personally - I had a really difficult time narrowing down the finalists, and I had to leave out several entries that I feel that would have been worthy winners. It might sound cheesy or fake, but it's absolutely true that I would like to have given away even more vials. However, I had to draw a line somewhere; I simply can't afford to ship tons of yeast all around the continent.

Homebrewers, here is where you come in. Please cast your vote for your favorite idea of the finalists from the table below. Click the button next to their name, then click the "Process Vote" button at the bottom of the entry. No stuffing the ballot box, folks - one vote per person, please!  Also, please do note that comments to this blog post will not count as official votes - you must use the voting mechanism below.

I will personally select one winner from these finalists, and a second winner will come from the top vote getter. A combined method will...
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Tags for this post: finalists, homebrew, contest, yeast, Conan, ecy29, recipes, ideas

Review: Ruddles County Clone (Best Bitter)

Posted by Olan on 7/30/2014 at 04:00:03 AM


Today's beer review is one I have been looking forward to; it comes to us from my good friend Greg, of High Point, North Carolina.  Greg is an active member of the /r/homebrewing community, and goes by the screen name of /u/vinpaysdoc - give him a shout sometime!  Greg drove through Birmingham recently on the way to visit one of his kids at the University of Alabama, and was kind enough to swap beers with me (as well as hook me up with several vials of yeast).

Greg's beer is a best bitter - specifically, a Ruddles County Clone.  I haven't had the pleasure of trying this beer myself, though it's a real favorite of Greg's. 

This particular bottle spent a good week in my fridge prior to me taking it out for this review.  Since this is an English style, I did let it warm a good bit before I did the review (though it was probably still cooler than it would be served in a UK pub). 

You'll notice that this video is noticeably shorter than my first effort; I decided to do my actual sipping and note taking off camera in an effort to spare the viewer from my strange faces and long pauses.  The "uhs" and "ahs" are drastically reduced, for which I am proud.  I also feel like the sound quality is improved, thanks to my use of a directional mike - but beware, you will still hear my kids in a couple of spots.  Sadly,...
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Tags for this post: best, bitter, review, video, beer, homebrew, ruddles county, clone

The Winds of Change are Blowing at Homebrew Dad

Posted by Olan on 7/28/2014 at 08:10:29 PM


When I first created the Homebrew Dad website, the idea was pretty simple - I wanted a place to chronicle my own growth as a brewer.  I had this idea of sharing the steps that I took from complete and utter beginner to... well, to wherever I might take this hobby.

Along the way, the website has grown and evolved with me.  I learned that recipe sharing is a pretty big aspect of brewing; rather than post a recipe once, as most blogs do, I decided to set up a central repository to keep them in, which would allow me to embed the recipe again and again, and would also allow people a simple, convenient way to refer back to a given beer recipe.  I then had an idea about perhaps expanding that repository one day, so I set it up in such a way as to make the recipes fully searchable - for instance, if you had, say, Munich malt and wanted to see all of the recipes that I had posted that used it, you could do so with a simple search.

I became interested in some of the more technical aspects of brewing, and have always enjoyed programming.  I ended up creating a series of utilities - the priming sugar calculator, the ABV calculator, the beer calorie calculator, the grain and hop databases, etc.  Wherever possible, I have tried to keep an eye on scalability and flexibility for these, as well.

I set up an area of the site for...
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Tags for this post: homebrew, brewing, beer, community, forum, content

Announcing the Conan Yeast Giveaway!

Posted by Olan on 7/24/2014 at 03:54:33 PM


Conan yeast.  The "secret" ingredient behind Heady Topper - one of the most highly regarded beers in America.  The yeast has a unique, bready flavor profile, and is often described as having a honey-like finish.  Many homebrewers view this yeast as a Holy Grail type strain for IPAs, pale ales, and other hop forward beers.

The Conan yeast strain, commercially known as ECY29 (North East Ale), also has a deserved reputation as being difficult to obtain.  East Coast Yeast (manufacturer of the strain) does not yet have the manufacturing capabilities of the big boys (i.e. White Labs or Wyeast), and as a result, this popular yeast strain often sells out quickly. 

So, with that being said... how would you like a fresh vial of Conan yeast for the low, low price of *free*? 

Today, I'd like to announce the first ever Homebrew Dad yeast giveaway.  I have obtained a fresh container of ECY29 (special thanks to /u/GirkinFirker from reddit!), and will be spinning up a large starter for the sole purpose of sharing the love, so to speak.  Of course, odds are that there's no way I'll be able to harvest enough yeast to meet all of the potential demand from folks who'd like a free portion of a hard to find yeast. 

So, I'd like to make this interesting.  To be considered for a vial, please submit an idea for the beer that you would like to brew with the yeast.  I'll judge the ideas off of originality and general...
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Tags for this post: conan, yeast, ecy29, contest, giveaway, beer, homebrew

Review: American Dream Pale Ale

Posted by Olan on 7/22/2014 at 08:36:57 PM

Our very first homebrew review comes to us from Isaac of Leesburg, Florida. Isaac and his buddy Matt both brewed up American pales ales for the 4th of July, and have been kind enough to share them with me.

Isaac's beer - titled "American Dream: Ryes of a Nation" - is actully the brainchild of his wife, Amy. Amy had the idea of a recipe with the desired result of "a piece of bread soaked in rye beer, with orange or tangerine notes". Isaac has been brewing for several years, so he helped oversee which ingredients woudl help provide the intended result, but this was Amy's baby.

I chilled the bottle for about 48 hours prior to my review in the hopes of making sure that any shipping sediment had settled nicely. I took the bottle out of the fridge a good 10-15 minutes prior to filming, then shot the entire review in one take. I used one of my custom pint glasses for this beer, which I gave a thorough salt scrub and multiple rinses to prior to the review.

A few notes about the filming itself - I would call this an unever effort overall. Even though I waited until late at night, then went off alone in the kitchen, you coudl still hear my three younger boys from two rooms away. I ran the round through some noise reduction, which cut some of that out - and made the sound pretty tinny in the process - but...
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Tags for this post: hombrew, review, American, pale ale, rye

Delicious Spent Grain Bread

Posted by Olan on 7/17/2014 at 03:47:43 PM

It has become a required ritual that I bake bread with the spent grains from brewing my beer.  Of course, the final flavor varies a bit due to the variances in my grain bill for the beer in question, but by and large, I end up with a dark, chewy bread that compares favorably with any nice restaurant appetizer.  Expect a nice crusty outside with a moist center.

3 cups spent grain (finely chopped in food processor to cut down on pieces of husk in your teeth) 1/3 cup of water 1/4 cup sugar 6 cups all purpose flour 2 tsp salt 1 egg (beaten) 1/4 cup milk 1 packet dry bakers yeast honey to taste Instructions:
mix yeast, water, and sugar in a bowl to activate your yeast. Use warm - not hot - water (maybe 100 degrees F). Allow 30 minutes for yeast to activate. Add your yeast starter, egg, salt, spent grain, and milk in a large mixing bowl, along with the bulk of your flour.
Mix this up well, adding flour until you reach a consistency that allows you to handle the dough with floured hands without it sticking to you like crazy. You may end up with more or less flour than called for above, depending on the humidity and such. Add honey to taste. I typically add 1/4 to 1/2 cup. knead...
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Tags for this post: spent, grains, bread, grain, bread recipe, baking, beer, beer bread

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