Eric’s Brew Day Template v4.0

I’ve uploaded my latest brew day template v4.0 to the blog for those interested.
Latest revision updated the sheet to reflect my brew process on my new system. Biggest change is related to switching from batch to fly sparging. Also added lovibond line for malts, indented certain lines for 3 hole punch, and other minor formatting changes.
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Induction Brewing: Using the Avantco 3500

This post is an overview of my experiences as an induction brewer using the Avantco 3500 cooktop.

Apologies, again, for the long blogging hiatus. Things have been quite busy on the homebrew club side and GTA Brews has eaten almost all of my free time. The club is doing extremely well, over a thousand people in our Facebook group, and about 100 people (growing quickly since it was recently introduced) that have elected to become paid members.

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This was my last brew day that used the induction cooktop (after I got a lower table for the new system)

I’ve still been brewing plenty often but haven’t had much time to write up overviews of my recipes. I also recently finished setting up a brand new brew system from the ground up (20 gal Stout Kettles, HERMS, with eBrewSupply BCS panel), so I’m hoping to start blogging more Continue reading

How to Pull Off a Homebrew Wedding

Tap List

Well, it’s over! I have to say I’m relieved, it took way more effort to brew all the beer for my wedding than I expected it would. It was definitely worth it, and I know there are a lot of people out there in the process of planning to do the same thing so here is a post going over everything I experienced and learned while brewing the 11 kegs of beer that I served at my wedding. Continue reading

Saison 1.1

Saison isn’t a style of beer I have much experience brewing. In the past I tended to shy away from brewing most styles of beer that focus on esters. I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of brewing a clean beer, free of esters and other yeast derived compounds, that allows the malt and/or hops to shine through. For some reason back in September I decided to eschew this and brew a saison, I suspect it’s because it’s so popular with my brewing friends. I needed to brew one to fit in.

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Version 1.0 of this beer turned out okay but I decided to make a few changes when I brewed this 1.1 version. I decided that I wanted more wheat character, so I upped the wheat a substantial amount from 9.5% to 36.4%. I love the creamy mouthfeel and bready flavour that high percentage of wheat gives a beer. I had decided to use WY3711 as the yeast in version 1.0 of this beer because many of the saison brewers I know swear by it. I believe that is mostly because of how attenuative it is, and doesn’t have the same sticking problem as the Dupont strain (WY3724). I had already harvested some WY3711 from version 1.0 so I didn’t change that for this iteration. I also decided to add some Amarillo at flame out, to give a more interesting grapefruit flavour, unfortunately at the time I had forgotten how much I hate the 2013 crop of Amarillo. I decided to go with a somewhat neutral water profile, electing to use slightly more sulfate than chloride to help accentuate the crispness of the beer. In the previous attempt I mashed at 150*F and the beer attenuated all the way down to 1.000, so I upped that a bit this time to 152*F hoping the yeast would leave a bit more body. Continue reading

Helles 2.1 – Where the Helles Newton

This may have been my first time re-brewing a recipe without any changes. I last brewed this beer in September and it turned out pretty fantastic. Very clean, low grainy malt flavour, and just a hint of spicy hop in the flavour. The 2.0 was brewed back in September and submitted into a homebrew advent calendar, the 2.1 was re-brewed on Nov 16ᵗʰ for the wedding. The name is inspired by my dog Newton, who is always off somewhere getting into trouble! The below picture is of the 2.0, it is slightly blurry but you can see the perfect clarity and beautiful pale gold colour.

Going back a step, Helles is kind of an obscure style for some people in North American. According to the German Beer Institute it accounts for one out of every four beers consumed in Germany, only less popular than the German Pilsner and Weizen styles. The name Helles comes from the German word “hell” which means light. This style is one of the few with a definite birthday, first released by Spaten Brewery on March 21ˢᵗ 1894. It is the main beer style served in the beer tents at the Munich Oktoberfest, and is typified by beers like Hofbrau Original, Spaten Premium LagerHacker-Pschorr Münchner Gold, and many more. Those listed beers are available in the LCBO in Ontario, and it was the Hofbrau Original that inspired me to try my hand at brewing a lager (because it was delicious)!

My thinking behind this recipe was to keep it pretty simple and only add things with a purpose. My original recipe had Munich I and Melanoiden in addition to the Pilsner so this version is simpler. The traditional Helles recipe is just 100% Pilsner malt with just enough hop bitterness to balance. I decided to add a tiny bit of interest in form of Vienna malt and a touch of Saaz as a late boil addition. I’ve found that sufficient lagering time is very important for lager styles since high clarity increases their appeal. Check out how clear the 2.0 turned out!

DSC_2601 Continue reading

Brett Brux Trois IPA – My GTA Brews Advent Beer

Advent Calendars aren’t a new idea, but the idea of a homebrew advent calendar is a relatively new one to me. I took part in one last year with the regional SOB group. This year my local club in Toronto (GTA Brews) managed to get a full 24 people (and then some) together to exchange homebrew and create a club advent calendar. This post is about my submission to that advent calendar.

I poured this for Rebecca before I left for work. Hey I needed a picture!

I poured this for Rebecca before I left for work. Hey I needed a picture!

When deciding on a style of beer to brew for an advent calendar there are two approaches people take. The first is the brew something safe, something that can showcase your skill as a brewer. The second approach is to go outside the box and try something new and exciting. I decided to go with the latter approach on this one and brew my first brett beer, a 100% Brett IPA.

I had read enough to know that Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Trois (WLP644) is the most common strain used in beers like this. With this beer I decided I wanted to go with something fruity and tropical so I decided on Galaxy hops, then paired them with Simcoe to get the grapefruit and pine. This beer was brewed right before the local bulk grain buy so I was running low on 2 row (after brewing my Ten Fidy clone) so I was forced to substitute most of my grain bill with Pearl. I had also just run out of Crystal 45L, so I just went with the closest I had, which happened to be Caramunch III (65L). I used my usual Magnum US bittering hop, and threw a little bit of Cascade in for good measure. Continue reading

Eric’s Brewery Setup

Before I start posting about recipes and brew days I thought it would be a good idea to start with a post about my setup and an explanation of how I do things at a high level. In the interest of making this post digestible I am going to skip over some of the details and explain them as I go.

First thing’s first, here is my brewery (image below). My favourite thing about it is that I can leave it set up, which saves considerable time on brew day. The heart of my brewery is a 10 gallon stainless kettle (Bayou Classic 1040) and a 10 gallon Igloo cooler with false bottom. My setup is very similar to most people’s turkey fryer and cooler setup, I batch sparge in a cooler, and boil in a 10 gallon kettle. The kettle is heated by a 3500W induction cooktop (Avantco 3500) which is plugged into a 40 A stove outlet (via a custom adapter cord). I have a vent hood to allow steam to escape during the boil, powered by a Vortex VTX600 fan capable of 452 CFM. There is also a stainless sink (from kijiji) and pre rinse faucet to wash up, and few other things I’ll get around to explaining over time.

A glimpse into the brewery

A glimpse into the brewery.

Under the brew table you can see my pump and chiller setup. My kettle has two valves so that I can whirlpool while chilling. When chilling a non-hoppy beer, I hook up my hoses, knockout at the 0 min mark, then kick on the pump to recirculate boiling wort through the chiller. When the output of the chiller reads above 180*F I turn on the chilling water and recirculate until the output of the chiller matches my pitching temp. Though I usually need to chill further in my fermentation chamber for lagers.

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A closer look at the brew stand.

I am a big believer in precise fermentation control so I have dedicated two mini fridges to the cause. Each batch is independently controlled and can be heated and cooled. I usually pitch lower than fermentation temperature, hold at target temperature, then ramp up towards the low 70’s. As you can see they comfortably fit 6 gallon carboys, these are the 4.5 cu ft Danby models.

My two fermentation chambers. Imperial Stout on the left and Brett IPA on the right

My two fermentation chambers. Imperial Stout on the left and Brett IPA on the right.

My fridge and shelf don’t need much explanation. My fridge holds harvested yeast and beer, and the freezer compartment holds vacuum sealed hops. I always make my starters larger than needed so that I can save some for the next batch. This way I can avoid mixing my harvested yeast with hop solids and excess protein. The brew shelf holds pretty much everything I haven’t found a nice spot for in my brewery. Empty fermentors are stored on the first two shelves, I use Better Bottles as much as I can. Empty growlers and swing tops, oxygen wand/tank, keg parts, pH meter and calibration solutions, it’s all on there.

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Brew shelf and brew fridge. The shelf could be better organized but it does the job.

Two starters going. A 2L on the left of WLP090 for a Robust Porter, a 4.5L of WLP833 on the right for a Doppelbock.

Two starters going. A 2L on the left of WLP090 for a Robust Porter, a 4.5L of WLP833 on the right for a Doppelbock.

I store and mill my grain at the opposite end of the basement, in the cold room. I buy full sacks of grain through bulk buys run by a regional homebrew club. Keeps the costs down per batch, and allows me to have lots of grain options for when the inspiration strikes. Once a sack is opened I pour it into a pair of buckets. I like to think this is better than storing an open sack since there is a better seal, plus they stack nicely to reduce the footprint. My mill is a Monster MM3-2.0, recently acquired, but I am definitely loving it so far. I usually store my extra full sacks in the grey rubbermaid but I have an extra few sacks right now since the fall bulk buy just happened last weekend. Not pictured is a 75 lb capacity blade scale that I use to measure out grain bills, and a 1/2″ drive corded drill to run the mill. Also, my empties box is overflowing, I should probably work on returning those to the much hated recycling center, aka The Beer Store.

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Mill and grain storage in the cold room.

In the room next to the brewery I have my keezer and bottling station. I store my empty kegs next to the keezer, and also my carboys being used for long term aging (current a sour stout and a cider). The keezer itself can fit approximately 11 corny kegs, though I haven’t tried yet. It has a 4 output secondary regulator so I can set unique serving pressures for each keg. I use the mirror behind the keezer as the tap list, writing the beer menu on it using window marker. The bottling station is currently just a wobbly shelf that hold my vinator, beer gun, and other bottling accessories.

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Keezer and bottling station in the room adjacent to the brewery.

Inside the keezer.

Inside the keezer.

Thanks for reading, if you have any questions about my setup please don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments below! I’ll be sure to elaborate on the more important parts in future posts about brew days.