‘Lectric brew machine…Nikola Tesla, please meet homebrewing

So for about a year now, I’ve been toying with this idea of making my brewery electric.  Seemed like a great idea, no more propane, no open flames, no CO to worry about in enclosed spaces…it seemed too good to be true, so I just had to jump on board.  I decided to go the route of the PID as opposed to one of the computer based solutions as I want this to just work…no windows crashes or farts…just work. 

I had one major problem.  These systems all work on the premise of a 240V electric water heater element for the heat source, and I had no 240V source anywhere near where I would brew.  Since it was a rental, running new wires and such was out of the question, but I still wanted to do it, so I decided to make a ‘hybrid’ system or sorts.  I would use the propane burner in the brew stand for the boil, but for heating the strike water and maintaining the temp of the HERMS system, I’d use my electric bru box…with 120V that I could get anywhere.  This would also allow me to use my pumps with switches in the box or even automate them to turn on at set temps if I so desired.
.

20131121-090220.jpg
So there it was…a half-assed attempt at electric brewing.  It took forever to heat strike water, ramp up temps for the mash, and actually made my brew day more complicated…NOT what I had in mind.  I had drooled over systems like the one known as the ‘Electric Brewery’ online and knew I had to do something…but I was handcuffed to 120V, until now.  Enter Hot Carl’s new house, and Brewery V2.0.

First up, my original control panel…I tried my best to wire it so that I had to redo as little as possible when I did make the jump to 240V.  After laying down some hard-earned $$$ for another PID and temp probe, some 240 LED’s and some other miscellaneous hardware, I was ready to go. I cut the hole for the heatsink so that I could mount both relays to it, and also cut a hole for the PID and new power switch and led.

 

20131121-090619.jpg

For those with foot fetishes, please notice the naked toe…20131121-090730.jpg

20131121-090754.jpg

Then it was time to drill and tap the heatsink and get it all mounted up to the control box with some sealant/adhesive so that the enclosure stayed watertight.  All of the external components (LED’s, switches, PID’s) are all rated to be watertight and have gaskets where they connect to the holes in the enclosure…And it will have its own 50A dedicated GFCI.  I dont particularly love electric shock, so I might as well try to make it as safe as possible.

I think its time for an obligatory shotgun picture from a ‘recoil therapy’ outing in the middle of all this…killing clay pigeons is a great way to blow off steam.20131121-073339.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, were back…Heres a schematic from eBrewsupply.com (who is local and I have sourced much of my equipment from) on what I am attempting to do.

schematic

As one that isn’t particularly savvy with electricity,, I had to go over this diagram repeatedly and make double sure that I was wiring things correctly.  The last thing I want is to plug the thing in and have all my work and $$$ go up in magic white smoke before any beer is actually to be had  The one thing that I left out was the E-Stop switch/button.  Some will argue that this is absolutely necessary to have in the event that something is going awry…I argue that the on/off switch will suffice for now since it cuts power to everything in the panel when activated.  I may later on however install a e-stop cutoff that would cut all outgoing power (heating elements and pumps) while leaving power to the PID’s and any timers I choose to add.  That way if it is something that can be easily remediated, I can keep going with the brew where I left off without having to start everything over.  That is, however, a future installment to this…and in no way guaranteed as I am inherently lazy.  Since I have spent the past few months moving working and NOT brewing, I have no homebrew to drink…I guess I’ll move on to wine to wet my palette while I work.

20131121-102957.jpg

And the finished product…

20131121-103200.jpg

 

Up next, keggle bottom drain mash tun, or rewiring the garage to brew-land…I have yet to decide.

SMASH Brewing

Lately I’ve seen a few good deals on large sacks of malt…the beers I’ve been brewing have been wildly different each time and most require a substantial amount of specialty malts and it crossed my mind that I might be able to simplify things a bit since I no longer need liquid malts.  I came across a concept known as called SMASH brewing, which stands for Single Malt And Single Hop…kind of a novel idea.  The base malts in alot of the lighter beers I’ve seen seem to be 2-row…I figure that if I buy a sack of either of those I can conjur up maybe 5 or so batches of beer with minimal extras required.  I’d like to do a fruit blonde…a pale ale, and a double batch of lager so far.  Time to go take a peek at beersmith and see if I can work out recipes to make this work.  I may cheat a bit and pick up small bits of specialty grain to swing the flavors of each(especially the lagers since I believe the euro continental lagers use pilsner malt), but since I’m staying light I think the yeast and fermentation temps will do most of the work for me and far as the flavor profiles are concerned.

Marathon Done; Beer Normality Re-Established

26.2 miles is a long way to go on foot, you guys.  Seriously.

Medal

Unicorn and MeAll in all, marathon was ok.  Slow, but complete and I can say I did it.  Perhaps some day (and with much more training) I’ll re-attempt.  For now, though it’s safe to say, normality has resumed and I’m back to brewing.  Now, ON TO THE BEER!

Fuller’s is a well-known ESB. The color on this just looks deeeelicious!

On deck to go in the kegs now is an ESB and an 80 -/ (shilling).  ESB is the Extra Special Bitter or Extra Strong Bitter or whatever combination you choose to argue is correct.  Basically just the standard pint served commonly in England (I understand this statement is a gross generalization; deal with it).  It’s usually dark gold or copper in color, with a mild hop nose and slightly less mild hop taste to balance the sweetness of the malts.  The ‘bitter’ in the name is a misnomer as many bitters aren’t actually that bitter at all (relative to today’s range of hop use); the key to an ESB is balance.

Here is the ESB brewin’!!!

ESB Brew in action!

ESB Brew in action!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

80 -/ however, is the contrast to ESB.  A Scottish style ale, this beer is named based upon the Shilling system. (Here’s a modern look at a bottle).   I won’t go into a long drawn out history of the Shilling system (ScottishBrewing.com does a nice write up here) however suffice to say, the number designates the approximate price for a ‘hogshead'(64.8 USgal) or barrel(43.2 USgal) of ale.  In this context, 80 -/ is referring to the ‘modern’ use of the Shilling system, that is, mainly the style of ale.  This one was approximately 1.066 OG and fermented out below 1.010.  It’s brown in color, with a malt-forward taste, and alcoholic warmth across the back of the palate.  The hop character didn’t develop as I wished in this ale, but then again, it’s a backseat character here.  All in all, it’s a good ale that tastes better once it warms slightly (and also packs a whollop!).

 End result, here’s both of these guys bubblin’ away.  It will be nice to have a taste of both the north and south of England soon!

ESB&80S Bubblin!

ESB&80S Bubblin!

 

 

2012 Travelling Hiatus, Running 26.2 Miles, More Coffee, Etc

It’s been a stupid long year. Really really stupid long. Finally, after the holidays and beginning a new year, I plan on trying to make this a more regular thing.

I spent the greater part of 2012 travelling abroad (perhaps I can put these in as separate posts subjected as “other”). While going about our fair planet, drinking good beers and making new friends I’ve had a blast of a time.  However, I’m finally back in good ol’ Hustletown. This also means that I can get back onto my brewing schedule. And maybe with a bit more regularity and consistency than before!

Currently, my sad keezer situation is:
Keg 1 = Empty
Keg 2 = Empty
Keg 3 = 3/4 Strawberry Blonde Ale (made with 10lbs of real strawberries fool!)

In other news, I’m currently operating under approximately four hours of sleep. To say I need a few more cups of coffee would be a definite understatement. Currently my french press mug and I are best pals (last years xmas present from the Unicorn).  My attention has been drifting for a little bit now to different websites and infographics regarding our sacred earthen bean juice.  Houston is apparently the ’15th most caffeinated city in America.’  Who knew?!

The big news however, is this weekend. The Unicorn, myself and several others are going to Orlando this weekend. There we will run in the Disney Marathon on Sunday. It’s only 26.2 miles right….?  While there has been training going on, whether it’s effective training or not remains to be seen.  I have gotten my mileage to almost 20.  I’ve also probably set myself on a path for a lifetime of knee injury.  I went to a sports medicine doc who claims it was ‘just runner’s knee’ and that I should crosstrain with swimming or yoga(lol).  We’ll see if I wear yoga pants anytime soon, buddy.  He wasn’t all bad though because he gave me some Celebrex, which is like dusting one’s inflamed knee with magic hippo tears or taking 12 advil at once, safely.

Anyway, clear the way, hand me the carbs and let’s crack on with it.  As soon as this clusterf*ck is done, I can get back to Brewtown and projects associated!

 

Cheers!

 

The Hope Tap, Reading, UK

JD Wetherspoons are a staple pub in many English towns. The premise is simple; offer a quiet, comfortable atmosphere, adequate food, and beer at prices all can afford. On beer specifically, not just the price, but also toss in pride in the styles and selections at no extra charge. They usually lack loud blaring music. They also usually attract not only the old fogeys who start drinking at 12:01 pm and are slurring words and/or singing shanties by 4, but groups of ladies, young men and even whole families.

As far as I know, reading has 3 of these establishments. The one this post concerned with is The Hope Tap.

20120715-150209.jpg

This was one of the first pubs I frequented after arriving in Reading. There is no particular friend I meet here for drinks. The food, as stated above is adequate (on a scale of 1-to-delicious, I’d give it a 4 – 6.5 depending on what is ordered). This pub is quite large with a fairly open floor plan, apart from the occasional booths which offer a bit more secluded feel. The carpet seems as if it dates from a hotel convention room floor. The walls, wooden in nature are at least tastefully adorned with historic photos of the town and area granting a bit of a local feel. The toilets are of course up 98 flights of stairs complete with winding hallways and M.C. Escher-like halls (exaggeration). All of this said however, something is oddly comforting about this joint…

Anyhow, let’s move on to what we really care about here: the beer. This place sports 12 cask lines in addition to the standard crap (Carling, Fosters, Carlsberg, et al). Here, usually about half of the casks are dedicated to Fullers or Greene King brews. The remaining lines are more frequently guest ales. The lovely little redhead behind the bar, Katy, offered to serve me and was more than happy to provide samples of any of the casks I wished. Samples of ales are usually always acceptable by pub workers/owners. While customer service may be less than what one finds in the states, asking can sometimes be exactly what’s needed to be a satisfied customer. After trying three of the guest ales, I chose one to find the cask had just run out. So I opted instead for my second choice.

Currently I’m drinking one bitter whose tap badge bore a very excited lad in a kayak pushing a pint in the viewers face as he careens down a river. It’s appropriately named Oarsome (play on words of ‘Awesome’ I suppose). It’s quite a nice ale, golden in color, carrying a taste of malt sugar, molasses and wheat with little head retention. Sitting around 4.4% ABV it certainly is nice and inviting without putting one on their ass after a few.

20120715-150510.jpg