Here it is: The Weizenbock and A Little Dabbling in a RyePA!!

About a month back, I decided to brew a wheat beer. I had no clue what kind of wheat beer it was going to be, but I knew I wanted a wheat. I called it “Afternoon Wheat.” Now that it’s finished and I’ve learned more about beer name nomenclature, I can safely call this wheat beer a Weizenbock! Why a weizenbock? Well, because it’s dark in color, it tastes slightly malty, it has very low bitterness, and it’s got a high ABV! I drank one of these yesterday and today and began to feel a buzz just a few sips in. Overall the taste of the beer is refreshing (I can easily see myself popping one of these open at the end of a sweltering hot day), the ABV is high but you’d never guess that just based on the smell and taste of this beer, and it feel smooth going down. Like my Amber ale, I could easily see myself brewing this one again!

On to the RyePA! I had a brew day yesterday evening. After much consideration about what beer type I was going to make next, I decided to try my hand at an IPA. I’m not sure what pushed me to the Rye variety, but that’s what I decided on. I’ll save the Saison recipe idea that I have for the warmer months coming up. Here was the actual recipe I decided on for a three-gallon all-grain batch:

46 ounces of pre-crushed American Pale 2-row grain

24 ounces of Flaked Rye

5 ounces of Carapils (Dextrine malt)

16 ounces of Vienna

16 ounces of Red Wheat

2 ounces of Chocolate

Here’s my dilemma: I can’t remember if I really ended up getting the Red Wheat grains when I went to the homebrew outlet! Something tells me I forgot it; annoying because my ABV will take a hit, but I guess I might have to call this one a Session RyePA if I really forgot the Reds. Ah well.

As for my hops:

0.75 ounces of Glacier pellets at start of boil

0.75 ounces of Glacier pellets 15 minutes into boil

0.25 ounces of Amarillo pellets 30 minutes into boil

0.25 ounces of Amarillo pellets 45 minutes into boil

0.25 ounces of Amarillo pellets 55 minutes into boil

0.25 ounces of Amarillo pellets 60 minutes into boil (end of boil)

Lastly, I went with 9 grams of Nottingham ale yeast for fermentation.

All in all, this brew day went pretty smoothly if I do say so myself. I guess I’m getting better at this hobby.

As usual I will update you all with my review when my home brew is good and ready to enjoy! Until then, happy brewing!

My Amber Ale: A Review

I’m pretty proud of this beer. The aroma is fantastic and flowery, the color is rich with amber hues, and the taste is incredible. You can’t see from the picture but the head of the beer after first pour was magnificent too. All this is wonderful but what makes me most proud of this beer was the fact that I picked out my own ingredients, added them in my own pre-determined ratios, and waited two and a half weeks before finally cracking one open. Prior to making this beer I used a Brooklyn Brew Shop kit that practically spoon-feeds you everything you need for your first batch of all-grain home brew. This is nice for people who don’t want to venture out and experiment with choosing their own things, but I’m the kind of person who is DIY enough to want to choose my own ingredients and here it worked out quite well.

The sad thing is this was only a one-gallon batch and my final output was only eight bottles of beer. This is the reason I’ve stepped up to three-gallon batches now; it doesn’t seem worth the effort to make home brews when you’re only getting about eight bottles of beer as output. I bottled my wheat beer recipe today so now I wait as it bottle conditions. With the wheat batch I made three gallons worth and my final output turned out to be 31 bottles! Now THAT seems worth the effort.

If you’re interested in making either one of these batches, check out my recipes in my previous posts. Bottoms up and enjoy a great home brew!

Brew Day for Afternoon Wheat Beer: 3/6/2017

Ok, so I had planned for my brew day to fall on Sunday but that just didn’t happen. To be quite honest, I had a great time watching Netflix and chilling with my wife that day instead. That said, I knew I still wanted to get my brew day underway as soon as possible. I got it in on Monday, March 6th instead. Unfortunately the lesson I learned from this brew day was simple but painful: Don’t ever schedule a brew day on a weekday when you were just at work all day and have to go to work the next day!

My other brew times have totaled only about three hours per brew day, but they’ve also only been one-gallon batches. This weekend I spent some time picking up my latest toy: a nice, hefty five-gallon carboy to get to work on larger batches. (As an aside: if brewing is going to be a full-on hobby of yours, I’d recommend you get the largest carboy you could imaginably see yourself making brews in sooner rather than later. It’s a lot less costly to just get the large carboy from the jump rather than constantly upgrading to larger and larger equipment. The same should hold true for other home brew equipment too.) I had no idea just how much longer it would take to make a three-gallon batch over a one-gallon one. All in all it took me two additional hours to finish the larger batch for five hours total!

The steps are still the same for larger batches; it’s the waiting and lag time that’s different. I found that both the sparge and the boil take a whole lot longer with larger batches than they do with smaller ones. In order to get a really good sparge with a larger batch, you pretty much have to divide your grains up into multiple allotments in your mesh strainer again and again and again. Not a deal-breaker but it definitely eats at your time a bit especially since you want to recirculate your wort through your grains at least once during the sparge.

Meanwhile the boil was on a whole different level! I used a nice, new, extra-large stainless steel brew pot that I picked up from a nearby discount store for about 30 bucks. While I liked the fact that it fit so much volume inside it making it efficient for mashing, I underestimated how inefficient it would be for the boil. It took almost 45 minutes for me to reach a boil and even then I only reached the boiling point because I temporarily covered the pot with its lid in order to contain the heat!

Once it got boiling, everything else was pretty smooth sailing. Even the ice bath seemed to work out pretty well, and I subsequently found that using a large ladle works really well for getting a good amount of your wort into your primary fermentation container fairly efficiently until you’re ready to just grab the pot and tip the wort into the container directly.

I followed the recipe pretty much as described previously. As for my hops, I used 1/2 Hallertau at the start of my boil, 1/4 Glacier after 45 minutes into boiling, and then I topped it off with the last 1/4 of my Hallertau after turning off the heat following another 15 minutes of boiling.

Primary fermentation seems to be moving along pretty nicely so far; I took a couple of peeks at my batch while it ferments underneath my kitchen cabinet in the darkness, and I saw lots of carbon dioxide bubbles popping along the surface of the sanitizing solution where my blow-off tube is gently relaxing. The inside of the container looks like my yeast is having a grand old party!

All in all, the brew day was a success. To summarize, my main lessons were as following:

  1. Don’t brew after a long day of work. ESPECIALLY if that long day of work is being followed by another day of work the next day. Your body won’t forgive you for it.
  2. Larger batches mean longer brew times.
  3. To help increase your efficiency it might help to divide up your wort into a couple of smaller brew pots during the boil. Boiling wort requires a lot more time and energy to bring one large volume to a boil but that’s not the case when you divide your volume into smaller containers.
  4. The ladle is your friend. Use it when you’re beginning to transfer your cooled-down wort from your brew pot through your strainer through your funnel and into your fermentation container.

I owe you a post outlining my basic all-grain brewing steps. I’m also excited to inform you that the Amber Ale I started making a couple of weeks back looks like it might only be a day away from bottling. Stay tuned for updates on that.

Please feel free to post comments with any questions or thoughts you might have. Have a great day!

An Afternoon Wheat Beer recipe

While patiently waiting for my American Amber Ale to finish brewing, yours truly went back out to the local homebrew shop to pick up some more ingredients for my next brew day! I’m planning on making a nice, hearty 3-gallon batch of a Dark Afternoon Wheat beer. As usual, I’ll be using the all-grain technique to brew this beer.

Here’s the final recipe I came up with:

  • 3 lb. 6 oz. of pre-crushed Briess grain
  • 2 lb. 4 oz. Vienna
  • 2 lb. 4 oz. Red Wheat
  • 10.5 oz. Cara-pils/Dextrine
  • 7.5 oz. Crystal 60L
  • 4 oz. Chocolate

The next brew day is set for tomorrow. My wife accompanied me to the brew shop to help with collecting the grains and milling them, and she even seems excited to help me out tomorrow with the next batch! As usual I’ll keep you posted with the results!

Saving for retirement

I’m not a financial planner. I’m also not a CPA or some other type of accredited “money guru” out there that offers financial advice for pay. My financial knowledge stems from a minor that I earned in economics from my university, having read countless articles on financial topics on the internet, being an avid reader of the New York Times Business section as well as Reuters financial news, and my limited life experience.

In order for you to save for retirement, I offer these pieces of advice.

  1. Have a financial plan. Your financial plan doesn’t have to be anything complex. In fact, I feel the simpler the plan, the better the chances are that you’ll follow the plan, which means the more likely you’ll be to save for retirement. For example, I’ll lay out my plan – it’s basically an asset allocation that I’ve personally decided upon given my tolerance for risk, my investing time horizon, and my feelings about asset classes. For retirement investing, I chose some broad-index mutual funds from Vanguard and decided to allocate myself to 60% US stocks and 40% international stocks. For a while I was invested in a target-date fund but then I decided to go all-in for stocks after reading a New York Times article that I’ll link to here. It was the most convincing article I’ve ever read for an asset allocation favoring plenty of stocks in a retirement portfolio.
  2. Invest at least up to your company match. The company’s match is free money towards your future. If you can invest even more than the company’s match then certainly do so but to leave free money on the table just doesn’t make sense. Maxing out your 401k or 403b is probably the best thing to do for retirement investing but if that’s just not do-able for you then start with the match and gradually work your way up by increasing contributions year after year. Your future self will thank you for it.
  3. Keep costs low. You can do this by forcing yourself to invest only in passively managed index funds. They usually have the lowest expense ratios of the bunch and research suggests that over the long haul they simply perform better than the actively managed bunch.
  4. Start investing early in your career. One of the biggest things young workers have going for themselves is time. The power of compounding is massive, and it works its wonders when its given more time to do so. If you don’t believe me, Google search a compound interest calculator and play around with the variables a bit to see how small changes can make a big difference over time.
  5. Rebalance your portfolio at least once per year. This concept ties back to having a retirement plan. If you decide on a certain asset allocation, oftentimes you’ll find that after a year of allowing your allocation to play out, your ending allocation might be slightly skewed. For example if your US stocks start going on a tear while your international stock values decrease, your US stock allocation might be larger than you originally intended. You can rebalance by selling some US stock mutual funds in exchange for buying some international stock mutual funds. The beautiful thing about rebalancing is you then force yourself to buy low and sell high without even realizing it.

If you have any questions or any added suggestions feel free to comment. I hope you find this post useful.

First Homebrew: DEEEEELicious!!!

I had been looking forward to this day for several weeks now. Before I left for work this morning, I popped two of my bottles homebrewed beer into the fridge after the whole batch of seven and a half bottles had been sitting in the kitchen cabinet for two weeks following bottling and capping. Today was a Wednesday, which means it was my “long day” at work. When it was finally time to leave work, I was amped up. I knew in just a short time I’d finally be tasting my first homebrewed beer.

For some background, my brother bought this Brooklyn Brew Shop Chocolate Maple Porter kit for me for Christmas of 2016. I started my whole brewing experience at the end of January and had been anxiously waiting to see how it turned out for several weeks now. To put things in perspective, the brew process all went mostly as planned except for when I began primary fermentation. For some reason I misread the instructions and pushed my blow-off tube too deep into my fermenter causing some of my wort to escape out of my blow-off tube and into the bowl of sanitizing solution that I had at the end of it. I thought for sure that might cause some issues – in fact it did, kind of, because I ended up with about a 3/4 gallon batch rather than the full gallon batch that I had been shooting for. I corrected my mistake and continued the rest of the way without any major hiccups and even went ahead with making a second batch of beer after bottling my first batch (see my previous article for more details!). But then came the moment of truth: was the beer going to taste good?

I cracked open two bottles: one for myself which I poured into a beer glass and the other for my wife which I left in the bottle. I smelled both of them deeply and then tried them both – let me tell you both of these beers are delicious! I’m so glad they came out so tasty. Not trying to talk myself up, but they honestly taste like they could have been professionally done. I love them so much that I definitely could see this being a long-standing hobby of mine. The one that I left in the bottle to drink seemingly tastes better to me than the one I poured into a glass, but I’m not sure if that’s just psychological.

For me the real excitement comes from the second batch I made, which I’m currently waiting another a few days to begin bottling. While the first batch makes me extremely proud since it came out so well for a first batch, the second batch was primarily my own brainchild. See, with the Brooklyn Brew Shop kits, the ingredients, yeast, and hops all come along with the packaging, which really takes out a lot of the experimentation and guesswork that you’d have to use if you were shopping for your ingredients and equipment on your own. With the second batch, I used Beersmith for a blueprint of a good recipe but then tinkered with it on my own to replace certain ingredients that I wasn’t able to find at my homebrew outlet or that I didn’t think would taste as well as the ones I settled on. If my second batch comes out great, I’d be even more proud of it than my first one.

One thing’s for certain: now that I know that I enjoy my own homebrews, I’ll be purchasing a larger carboy to make larger batches at a time so that I always have a continuous supply of homebrew right in my kitchen. I will keep you all posted with my progress!!

My very own microbrewery!

A few months back, my wife and I stopped in to this brand new home brew shop that opened up in our neighborhood. Prior to entering the shop, I always thought of brewing my own beer as being some imagined fantasy. I psyched myself out by thinking of dozens of reasons why I simply couldn’t do it. When I stepped into the shop and tried my first home brewed beer, I absolutely loved it and thought to myself, “MAN I really gotta make a beer like this some day!!” Several weeks passed, and I still couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Then Christmas came, and my brother texted me letting me know he got me the best gift ever. We exchanged gifts, I tore the wrapping paper off mine, and I was surprised to find a box from the Brooklyn Brew Shop for my very own home brew kit! I had never even TOLD my brother I was interested in home brewing, but the guy just knows me so well. With the kit in-hand I knew there was time for no more excuses – I just had to get to brewing!

First, if you’re not at all familiar with the Brooklyn Brew Shop’s kit, I’d definitely recommend checking it out. Here’s a link to their website: http://brooklynbrewshop.com. The kit is an excellent starter package for anyone who has entertained the idea of home brewing. It comes with most of the things you’ll need to get started like a one-gallon carboy, blow-off tubing, grains specific for the flavor you want to brew, pitching yeast, hops, a thermometer, a stopper, sanitizer, and a racking cane. You’ll definitely need to have some of your own equipment, but it’s such a great collection of things to start out with!

My first brew was a Chocolate Maple Porter. I just finished bottling and capping my batch on Wednesday of last week, so I’ve got about a week and a half left until I’m able to enjoy the fruits of my labor. I can’t wait to try it! I learned a lot from my first brewing. Like for example,  I definitely stuck my blow-off tube too deep into my carboy. Somehow I misread the instructions so that when it said to stick the tube only about an inch into the screw cap, I interpreted that as if I should stick the tube an inch into my wort! When I checked on my beer the next morning, I was disappointed to find that a good portion of my wort had squirted out through my blow-off tube and onto the floor of my kitchen cabinet. Ah well, lesson learned. Here’s hoping the batch still turns out pretty well.

I was so excited by my first experience that I started my second brew yesterday in anticipation of finishing off my first batch and running out of great home brew to drink! For this batch I didn’t want to purchase another kit; I wanted to try my hand at gathering the right ratio of grains, some yeast, and some sanitizer at my local shop to brew my second batch. I used the website Beersmith for a little guidance with tried-and-true recipes. I’m making my very own Amber Ale for the Mrs. since she tends to like paler, sweeter beers. Here was the recipe I put together for a one-gallon batch:

  1. One pound of pre-crushed 2-row grain
  2. Eight ounces of Caramel/Crystal Malt 60L
  3. Eight ounces of Munich Malt
  4. Four ounces of Cara-Pils/Dextrine
  5. Four ounces of Flaked Rye
  6. Amarillo hops

Right this moment the yeast are busily and happily feasting on all of the yummy sugars in the carboy underneath my kitchen cabinet! I’ll update you when I’ve tasted my first batch and when my second batch is completed! I’ll probably be working on my third batch before I get to enjoy that second one.

If you’re interested in home brewing, I won’t sugar coat it for you: it is a bit of a time commitment, and it’s not the easiest thing to do in the world. But there’s just something about the whole process and the do-it-yourself crafting that makes it really worthwhile for me that I’m pretty committed to making this one of my favorite hobbies. I hope the end results push me even more to want to continue with more great brewing!