Thursday, August 26, 2010


The wife and I spent some time in Texas last week. Two days in Fort Worth and five days in Austin. Both are great cities that have a lot going for them. I spent the week consuming bottles of Shiner bock and Lone Star (along with a few other delights). Both are good inexpensive brews that Texans should be proud of.

We visited a hand full of bars while we were there, including an awesome dive called Pardners (this place will probably never have a website) about 60 miles west of Austin. If you get the chance go. You won't regret it and you will never forget it (there is a mirrored cowboy boot hanging above the dance floor). We also joined some friends at a place called The Side Bar in downtown Austin. Mellow vibe, good music, good local beer on tap, mural of TomWaits on the wall, and real cork dart boards. My kind of bar.

The highlight of the trip (as far as beer is concerned) was the trip to the flying saucer draught emporium in downtown Fort Worth. It was a beer lovers dream. Great atmosphere, 88 taps, and you can bring your dog on the patio. It was a wednesday night (Which is brewery night) when we stopped for a pint (or two). The brewery tonight was Great Divide. I purchased the Hercules Double IPA in a souvenir glass. Wow, what a beer! One of the biggest brews I have ever tasted. Hoppy, bitter, sweet, full bodied. This beer is off of the charts. If you're an IPA lover track this one down. Some IPAs get lost in a bitter blur of not so delicious hop flavors but not Hercules. The hop note where strong and pleasant, and the strong bitter flavors where balanced by a delicious malty body.

I also embarked on the "Texas Flight" which is a group of five 5oz samples all brewed in Texas. The selections included seasonal brews from 512 brewery, Live Oak brewery, and Saint Arnold brewery. Rachel chose a bottle of Breckenridge Agave Wheat (which we ended up purchasing a six pack of for our trip to Lake LBJ).

I love Texas.

It has been a very busy summer for us. We'll be back to brewing soon. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Buffalo Brewfest 2010

Gene and I attended Buffalo Brewfest last weekend. It was the first time there for both of us. I haven't got any insight into his reaction but I was mildly disappointed. I didn't have a bad experience by any means yet at the same time the event left me wanting more.

Thirty vendors and three thousand guests equals get a sample and then wait in line for the next. $25.00 (presale) got you in the door and gave you a souvenir sampling glass and 25 tickets (1 ticket = 1 sample). Though the fore mentioned lines made it impossible to use all 25 tickets in the time that the event ran. This was just a hiccup, nothing that I didn't expect. The disappointment for me was the lack of any unique brews to sample. Nearly all of the breweries had only two styles to choose from, any one of which can be easily purchased from Wegmans or Consumers Beverages. The atmosphere felt to me more like "Let's get tanked brah!" than "Let's go check out some great new beers".

There was plenty of space (both inside and out) yet the vendors were grouped so close together that at times it was hard to figure out what line you were waiting in. I was also hopping that the breweries would have some merchandise as give aways or for sale but the only thing for sale were brewfest t-shirts and over priced nachos. I think that it has potential to become a great event but there are some major kinks that need to be worked out. I'm not sure if I would attend again. I enjoyed the Art of Beer event much more.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Aaron, Mary Grace, Rachel, and I attended Waldfest at Spring garden in East Aurora for the first time today. This was the 35th annual time that the event has been held. I neglected to bring a camera because I had no idea how big of an event it would actually turn out to be. So the photo was taken with Rachels camera phone. Turned out to be a real good time. It felt like Oktoberfest only in July. The weather was nice, not too muggy. I'm looking forward to Schlachtfest on September 12th. Only disappointment was the utter lack of bavarian style pretezels (which is just unexcusable).

Here is a link to the spring garden website.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Hop growth.

After nearly 3 months the cascade hop vines have reached (and surppassed by several feet) the top of the line that I secured to the garage. The willamette vine is fuller than the cascade but has not yet reached the same height. The nugget vine broke throught the mulch weeks latter than the other varieties and a strong rain snapped the small shoot in two. It has been in active since.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Today the world lost the man on the silver mountain. Bow your heads, if you love rock then you owe Ronnie James Dio your respect.

Monday, May 3, 2010

They're coming up!

The hop bines started peaking through this past week. They were planted on April 13th so it only took about 2 weeks for the Willamette plant to show some healthy young growth. Cascade is just poking through but no activity from the Nugget plant yet.

Healthy looking Willamette

Tiny Cascade bud peaking through.

Friday, April 9, 2010

From keg to kettle

We have begun the adventure of all-grain brewing (update to follow), but before we could start we needed even more new equipment. The most important being a large vessel to boil in. Stainless steel kettles are a bit pricey. The alternative is a modified keg. So we decided to make our own. Aaron legally procured a 15.5 gallon stainless steel keg which was in excellent shape. For this project we refered to Brew Ware - Lutzen & Stevens to guide us through the process.

We decided to base the diameter of the opening that we cut into the top of the vessel on the diameter of a spare lid from a 3 gallon kettle (which was 9") that we had sitting around. The paln was to purge the keg of any pressure and use a drill to make a hole on the line laid out for the opening. Then we would use a reciprocating saw to cut the opening by inserting the blade into the hole that we had drilled.

This proved to be much harder then anticipated for several reasons. First stainless steel is strong, seriously strong (I know that sounds like a no shit kind of statement but it was extremely difficult to work with and neither Aaron nor myself really anticipated just how difficult it was.). Even the 8.0 amp drill we used had a bit of difficulty getting a start into the material. The second reason was that the reciprocating saw that we had was good and power full but ran way too fast and had no speed adjustment capability. It wanted to jump around all over the place before it would beging to make a cut. Which intimidated me a bit too much for comfort. Safety was a major concern here for both of us. We took all the precautions that we found to common sense and that we recommended by the authors of the referance book (Safety glasses! Take it slow!). Neither of us wanted to risk injury (or for that matter ruining the keg), so when we reached this point we decided it was time to take a different approach.

I called my Grandfather, Joe Trinkwalder a man who has profoundly more experiance with such things than either Aaron or I. He suggested that we use a small saw with specialty blades that he had and some cutting oil to keep the blades cool while cutting (Brew Ware suggests that you may go through up to five blades). So we got started. I kept a constant flow of cutting oil on the blade while my Grandfather made the cut.

A messy, smokey process.

Making the cut.

Cleaning up the oil.

Drilling the holes for the thermometer and ball valve.

The process for cutting the main hole took about twenty minutes. Drilling the holes for the brewing thermometer and the ball valve took just a few minutes more. Two blades and a quart of cutting oil were the only casualties. Everything went smooth and safely. I later used a small angle grinder to clean up any burrs left on the holes. I also used it to widen the main opening just slightly so that the lid fit nice and snug.

Installing the ball valve.

A cold OV to celebrate!

The kettle screen installed.

The finished product.

In Primary:
  • Blonde Ale (update to follow)
  • Genther Bock


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Lets grow some hops!

I am excited about growing my own hops for our homebrews this summer. I’ve been reading up on the subject in The Homebrewer’s Garden – Fisher & Fisher and Homegrown Hops – David R. Beach. I pre-ordered three varieties of rhizomes (Willamette, Cascade, and Nugget) from Niagara traditions homebrew supply back in early march and they arrived about two weeks ago. I chose these varieties because they are supposed to do well in this type of climate. I am storing them in our lagering refrigerator until I can get them planted (hopefully within a week or so) because it has been raining a lot lately and I'm still in fear of a late frost. If you grow your own hops and you may be interested in exchange some varieties with us send me an e-mail.

I have prepared a raised bed for growing the hops on the side of my garage. Its dimensions are 8'L X 3'W X 8"H. It is basically just a rectangular box made of pine. This should give the rhizomes a little under 3 square feet of growing space for each variety. I plan on planting two rhizomes in each hill and running a line to guide each vine up to the peak of the garage which is approximately 18 feet high. I like this spot because it gets a good amount of sunlight, the garage provides a structure for the vines to grow up, and a hedge and fence provide wind breaks. It also works well for me because I don’t have the room to create a trellis or pole system.

The hop bed.

Compost pile started last autumn.

Larger bed behind the garage for growing veggies.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Busy Busy Busy

We've kept ourselves busy lately, creating some new gadgets and brewing regularly. Aaron put converted two igloo coolers into lauter and mash tuns. He found a great way to make the lauter tun in the newest issue of Zymurgy. It involved using two braided stainless steel plumbing hoses by cutting off the ends and removing the rubber lining. Then they were looped and secured to a brass T fitting which is attached to a ball valve. This will allow the wort to flow out but none of the grains. The other conversion simply involved removing the plastic spout the cooler originally came with and adding a brass ball valve.

The Barley wine and Stout have both finished fermenting and have been transferred to 5 gallon soda kegs. I was nervous about the Barley wine because it sat in secondary fermentation for a while longer than I would have liked after the airlock stopped bubbling. I also read after the fact that dry hopping should only be done 3 to 4 days before bottling. We dry hopped (and added oak chips) for almost 3 weeks. Upon tasting at the transfer from secondary fermentation to the kegs Aaron we both pleasantly surprised. The Barley wine was awesome. I can wait to taste it once it has aged for 9 months. It was hoppy but not too much, nor was it bitter or astringent. The flavor from the oak chips was nice as well. I'm glad we took the liberties that we did with this recipe. We plan on bottling both batches this week. For the barley wine we plan on using 22oz bottles.
Here's a few quick specs on both.

Barley Wine
O.G. 1.079
F.G. 1.027
A.B.V. 7.13%
Yeast strain : Safbrew T-58
Recipie source : The Brewmasters Bible

Murpheys Irish Stout Clone
O.G. 1.056
F.G. 1.015
A.B.V. 5.37%
Yeast strain : Safale S-04
Recipie source : Clone Brews

Gene, Aaron and I brewed a bock this past Thursday evening. This was the first lager that any of has brewed. So naturally we needed to refresh ourselves. It may be March but it's still cold outside and brewing beer and eating pizza is hard work. I picked up a 22oz bottle of Lagunitas Hop Stoopid Ale that I had heard good things about on the Hopry. I was satisfied with it and it was a great value for the $4.79 I paid for it at Wegmans. On that note I was not exactly blown way (its no imperial double IPA) but I would pick it up again. I poured a nice amber color and had a good hop flavor but it was not very floral or aromatic. It did hold a decent head for an IPA.

So now that I've got myself thirsty I guess I can talk about the Bock brew. This was not only the first time that we have brewed a lager it was also the first time that we used tap water. I purchased an on-the-faucet Brita filter to get rid of all the impurities in the water. I also tested the ph level which was 5.6. We made no modifications to the water other than filtering it.

The recipe called for a whopping 8lbs of powdered malt extract! We started by boiling the specialty grains in 1 1/2 gallons of water. We then used a 1/2 gallon of water to do a bit of a pseudo sparge to extract as much as we could for the grains. I say pseudo sparge because we used the water at temperature, we did not heat it.

More first time methods on this brew included using the stainless steel conical fermenter and an aquarium air pump to aerate the wort before pitching the yeast.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Art of Beer

Aaron and I attended the 4th annual Art of Beer the NACC last night. It was the third year for him and the second for myself. We met some great people, had some good food, and most of all enjoyed tasting some great beer. My favorites where Alternative brews - Honeoye falls hazelnut brown ale and Ithaca brewing - Cold front belgian-style amber. See the full list of vendors below.

 - Jay

Sunday, February 21, 2010

New toy

Cool little notebook designed by these guys
Just picked up a three pack. One each for Aaron, Gene, and myself. Should be a handy tool for critiqing our own brews or whatever our refreshes palates.

Buy them here:
or here:

- Jay

Friday, February 19, 2010

Brewing with maple

First things first. It's hard to get the job done with out refreshments. Klumbacher Mönchshof Schawarbier filled the pints this evening. This was the first time that I have had a Schwarz beer. It takes some getting used to. I found it off putting at first. It has a strong maltly aroma, it's dry for a lager and mildly hoppy. The ABV is 4.9% which may be why I found this so odd at first it has the heft and maltyness of an Imperial porter or a Dopplebock yet is not particularly strong. The flavor reminded me of some strange combination of a pretzel, an oatmeal stout and pumpernickle bread. Although we consumed it by itself it seems it would pair nicely with a hearty earthy meal. All of this sounds strange but as I drank I grew to enjoy it more and more. By the time the pint was empty I found myself wishing there was more. I am looking forward to trying this style from other breweries.

One side note is that the three of us are now official members of the American Homebrewers Association.

Aaron and I brewed up the first two in a series of five 1 gallon batches maple beer last night. Three of the five recipes are from Sacred and herbal healing beers (Buhner). The fourth is a recipe that I found on . The plan is to brew the four recipes that we have, take notes on what worked well and what we liked and then use what we learn to formulate our own recipe. Both recipes that we brewed last night came from Sacred and herbal healing beers (Buhner). Each was simple and used few ingredients and no malt whatsoever. One of the recipes called for spruce extract, which when mixed with maple syrup has an intoxicating, earthy-sweet aroma.

Testing the PH of the water (which was 5.2)

The next two recipes are a bit more complex and should be challenging. One uses wheat malt extract and is more of a beer in the traditional sense than the other recipes. Once the first four batches are ready we'll taste and take notes. Aaron will be posting detailed reviews of each brew along with the recipes to follow. Then it's on to the fun part, formulating our own recipe!

- Jay

In Primary:

  • Maple beer - 1846

  • Maple beer - A modern equivalent
In Secondary:

  • Barley wine

  • Irish stout clone.
On the agenda:

  • Pilsner extract brew February 25th

  • Next two batches of Maple beer February 28th