Tales of Homebrewing

Since I’ve taken such a long break from blogging, I feel like I need to update a few readers on the status of my homebrewing adventures.  While perhaps not my most popular posts of all time, they also get some of the most thought provoking responses.  Anyway, right now I have three different brews I’ve created since my last homebrew posting, and I’m working on a brand new one right now.

Hoppy Groundhog Dark Shadow – Black IPA

This past birthday I hit a minor lifetime achievement by reaching the age of 30.  I say minor because everybody does it.  While ithoppy groundhog labels feels like a kinda big deal to the person involved, it’s probably not nearly as big as we all make it out to be.  Anyway, I had decided to brew this beer right around Christmas, and it was ready right around my birthday (Groundhogs Day), so I figured name it after the holiday that shares my birthday.  Overall it’s probably my favorite beer I’ve brewed thus far.  I like one of the ones a little further down on the list here, but I think this one is still an all around better beer.  I actually entered it in a homebrew competition, but I’m an idiot and just put it in the IPA category and not specialty beers.  I was basically disqualified. It’s a bit heavier and more roasted than your typical black IPA, but I think that’s what I like about it.  The hops don’t blow you away, but I think they are present enough to still have it hold strong as a black IPA.

Heisenberg Honey Wheat

This beer was an attempt to take a different direction.  I had been hanging out in the realm of dark beers for a while, and I wanted to make something lighter and easier drinking for the summer.  I saw this recipe online, so I tweaked it a little to make my own.  The beer has about a pound of orange blossom honey added rather late (last five minutes) to the boil.  It helps to make the beer a bit sweeter, but I did run into a slight issue on this one while brewing.  My parents had gotten me a wort chiller for Christmas, so I wanted to make use of it.  Unfortunately, since I was still brewing on my stove, I lost the boil when I put the chiller in to sanitize.  Therefore, the honey wasn’t really added during a boil.  I tried to compensate for the mistake, but it may have effected the outcome.  Lately the hops have really kicked up on this one, so it’s kind of like a hoppy honey wheat.  Ultimately I had to pay tribute to one of my favorite Vigilantes. However, I’m not sure you can still think of him as a vigilante.  Is Walter more of a villain now?

Pretentious Hopster – Red IPA

About a year ago I tried to make an imperial IPA that was probably my biggest disappointment as a homebrewer.  The bottles never managed to carbonate, and I ended up with 48 bottles of syrup.  Ultimately, other than the black IPA, it’s been my only Pretentious Heisenbergattempts at making a hoppy beer.  I love IPAs and hops, so I felt like I needed to have another go at it.  I decided to make it a red ale for the fun of it as well.  While this beer wasn’t problem free, I solved my issue with the chiller by purchasing a propane burner for use in the backyard.  This of course helped keep temperature up, but I instead had to handle a boil over or two.  I guess I need to learn how to control temperature a little better with my new toy.  The only other issue I had was with clarity.  There is a fine line of soot at the bottom of each bottle, but with a careful pour, it isn’t too much of a big deal.  This is probably my most aromatic beer to date, and it has some great hop flavor.  It’s only been drinkable for a week, but the malts are beginning to kick up to help balance it out.  Pretentious Hopster was the name of my failed double IPA, and I couldn’t let a great name like that go to waste.

Peppercorn Blonde (yet unnamed)

The next brew I’m aiming to create is for my late summer month consumption.  Within the span of a week or so I enjoyed a number of beers that feature peppercorns as the special ingredient.  Ultimately, that was all the inspiration I needed to look at giving my next beer a little spice.  One of the beers I had was a saison (which I have already brewed) and the other was a rye beer (which I hear doesn’t work well when you are doing extract brewing); therefore, I decided to choose a bit of a different summery type of style for my peppercorn usage.  A nice Belgian Blonde seemed like the right way to go. The recipe is still being finalized, but I would love to hear any suggestions for how to make this beer great.  I’m also a little unsure of when to add the peppercorns.  I thought I would add 2 ounces in the last five minutes of brewing and then add an ounce or two to secondary fermentation.  Has anyone worked with peppercorn before?  Is that overdoing it?  Just have to ask.

I’m slowly working my way away from extract brewing and into all-grain, but I have quite a few expenses coming my way, so I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep it moving just yet.  I’ll get there eventually.  For now I’m just having a good time.



Pretentious Hopster & Seppuku Asian Saison Update

I feel like I’m in a bit of a limbo right now.  I would love to pick up all my ingredients for my next brew, but I still have over 80 bottles of these two concoctions sitting in my bedroom.  I guess this is once again the problem with living in a little two bedroom two bath condo in Washington DC.  I wanted to shoot a little blog out here for a little insight on one particular issue for sure.  I have really enjoyed the feedback that I’ve received on a few things thus far, and I want to keep everyone in the loop on these beers.  I know you may never get to drink them, but I would love to start being able to produce beer a little more regularly.  I think some of that may depend on my ability to find a place to store these.

Pretentious Hopster:I’m sure some of you can’t believe I’m talking about this beer on here.  I believe I first brewed it two or more months ago; however, it still seems to not be ready for consumption.  I put it in the bottles a little over a month ago now.  I’m not really sure why it hasn’t quite carbonated yet, but it is really struggling to build any carbonation.  The directions I used told me to use DME as the priming sugar and it gave me a specific amount to use.  I gave the beer a try after 2 weeks knowing that it wouldn’t be ready yet but hoping to get an idea of the flavor profile and how the carbonation was developing.  I really thought it was building at that time.  Last week

Pretentious Hopster label if I was making one!

I opened another bottle I truly thought would have slightly more carbonation to it, but it really seemed to be lacking.  I have thought it had some really good flavors in there, but it has been extremely hampered by a lack of carbonation.  The book I got it out of said it would take three months to be optimal, so it may just need more time in the bottle to carbonate, but I am not very patient.  Should I just keep waiting, or do I need to do something to get this carbonation kicking?  I really can’t wait to have a good imperial IPA of my own!

Seppuku Saison: I’ve also written about this one on here before as well.  In fact, I got a lot more input on the actual recipe the last time I wrote about this one.  As a little reminder, I decided to use a saison base.  From here, I used Sorachi hops and Amarillo hops.  The Sorachi really had most of hopping responsibility.  I put it in at the 60,15, & 5.  The Amarillo only went in at the 15. I really wanted to try to focus on Asian flavors, so I added coriander, fresh ginger, and fresh orange zest.  The beer really didn’t seem to do a whole lot of activity in primary which had me worried; however, I took the final gravity and saw that I made my mark.  I didn’t want to stop there, so I added fresh ginger and orange peel to the secondary for a week as well.  They made it into the bottles almost a week ago, so I’m not really sure how it is doing at this point.  I’m of course tempted to pop one open this weekend and see how it is progressing, but I’ll give it another week or two before I break down and do that.

As I said earlier, I know what I want to do next, and I’ve already got my next name ready to go for it as well.  I really need to free up some bottles for a new brew so once one of my beer is ready I’m going to really enjoy drinking it, and I’ll start to get ready to brew my next one.  I feel like I can’t get started until I at least know that bottles are getting emptied.  Hopefully that happens soon!

Would be my label if I was making one!

What to Brew Next?

I received my homebrew kit in February and have now produced two different beers.  Pretentious Hopster isn’t quite ready yet to be consumed yet, so as I wait with great anticipation, I have begun to start thinking about what I want to brew next.  I tossed around a few different ideas at first.  I wanted to create something I could drink over the summer and enjoy; however, I wanted to start heading into a style I could play with a little bit more.  Summery beers are somewhat easier to play with, but there are specific flavors you really don’t want to consume during those warm summer months.  I thought of doing a wheat beer, but my friend John just created a Hefe that he wasn’t quite happy about, and we tend to share our creations so it’s like I’ve also brewed it.  So, heading in a different direction, I decided I would brew something Belgian.  I love Belgian beer, and I almost fear brewing something that doesn’t live up to the amazing beers I’ve had from other breweries.  Of course I don’t expect to be better than trappist monks who have 100’s of yeas of tradition, but I want to brew something I’m proud of.  Ultimately I landed on the idea of a saison.  I’ve had quite a few of them lately, and I have enjoyed a lot of them quite a bit.  Plus, I get the feeling I can really play with the flavors.

I have a clone recipe, and I’ve found a few different recipe ideas online that I may try and use as the backbone of my creation, but I want to a little more free with my recipe this time.  The amber I made was a pre-made kit, and the IPA was a recipe.  So, this time, I want to take a recipe and make a few changes and alterations to really have something that I can call my own.  Perhaps something I make a yearly tradition.  I think I’ve found a recipe to use as a base for my beer, but I want to see if anyone has any suggestions on what I should be using in my ingredients.

Ultimately I’ve decided to try to brew what I will be calling an Asian Farmhouse Saison.  I thought it would be fun to put a little spin on the typical saison with this one.  So I have some ideas with a lot of the back half of the boil, but I’m really most confused with what steeping grains I’ll use.  The recipe I found as a base tells me to use 8oz Flaked Oats, 8oz Vienna Malt, and 4 oz Cara Red.  Looking these different grains up, they seem like they will be fine for what I’m doing, but I’m not really 100% sure on that.  Would any of you homebrewers change anything about those steeping grains?  Keep in mind I’m doing extract.  The malts are much simpler when it comes to extract brewing.  It has me using 4 lbs DME Golden Light (Briess) and 2 lbs LME Wheat Bavarian (Briess).  That definitely seems fine, but I’ll once again listen to any suggestions out there.

A lot of the fun should be coming in the hops and spices I intend to use.  Like I said, I want to try to make an Asian Farmhouse Saison, so I’m going to utilize Sorachi Ace hops.  I know Brooklyn makes a Sorachi Saison, so I’m trying to not really make something too close to theirs.  I really want to have a hop that can complement my Asian hops.  Once again I’m looking for suggestions, but based off the research I did, I think I will look to use Citra hops.  Does anyone else have any ideas on a good hop that can compliment Sorachi Ace hops?  Finally the spices that I’m looking to use are more Asian in nature.  Right now I’ve definitely settled on using candied ginger, but I don’t know if there is a good one to put with it.  I was thinking of using some orange in there as well, but I would like to use some other Asian spice with it.  I’m not great with spices, but is there a spice out there that would compliment the rest of these flavors really well?  I want to have flavors that all work together.

Pretentious Hopster is the beer that I like to drink, but this beer will be my true baby.  I want to really piece it together with some of my own concepts, so I can really call this one my beer.  I am definitely looking for some help, so if you have any thoughts on some good things to include, please let me know.  I am excited for this next one!

Vigilante Brewing Company – Pretentious Hopster update

There is a chance I’m making too many presumptions, but I trust everyone remembers that Vigilante Brewing Co is my own name for my very new homebrewing company I started just a little while ago.  Maybe there will come a time when I don’t feel the need to tell everyone who Vigilante is, but I really don’t foresee that time coming very soon.  So far I have only really brewed one complete beer: Happy Amber Anniversary.  However, I am currently a little ways into getting my second concoction into bottles.  Even though I’ve gone through this process once, I realized approaching bottling time that I have a few questions regarding some of the things I will need to do when bottling this one.  I’m hoping I can get a good idea of how I should go about finishing off this brew.

Question 1: What is the best way to filter the beer when moving it from the secondary to the bottling bucket?  This is really the biggest question I have.  This beer has more sediment in it than my previous bottle.  Plus, I had to dry hop this one, so it contains even more hops floating around in the secondary.  I’m trying to figure how best to make sure all of that junk doesn’t get into the bottles.  I was thinking of making some type of filter at the end of the tube with cheesecloth or something, but I’m not sure if that is the best way to go about it.  I’m also concerned about getting to much air in the beer when trying to filter it.  What are some methods that have worked well for some other people before?  I just want to produce the best beer possible.

Question 2: What is the best way to clean used bottles?  The bottles I used last time had never had liquid in them.  Therefore, I used the dishwashing machine, without soap, to sanitize them.  I read somewhere that the heat cycle can be used to sanitize the bottles.  This time, however, I’m concerned that I need to also clean out all of the garbage that may still be in the bottles.  I rinsed the bottles after using them, but I am sure that are still things in there that need to get cleaned out.  How do I make sure I get everything out?  Also, along the same lines, how do I best get the labels off the bottle?  I have some ideas for this one, but I want to see if there is something I haven’t thought of.

Questions 3: Why do I have to add a second batch of yeast three days before I bottle?  The previous batch I made sent you all of the ingredients and you just pieced them together.  This time I’m following a recipe and buying all the ingredients myself.  It’s really essentially the same thing, but there are different instructions to follow that I didn’t need to do the last time.  Is there anything I should keep in mind adding a second batch of yeast, and should I be concerned about any additional stuff to filter out adding the second batch?  I’m not sure why I’m a little worried about screwing this batch up.  I think it’s because I paid for all of these ingredients this time, and I feel like it’s kind of more my baby!

I think this covers all the questions I have about my upcoming brew.  I want to make sure it’s amazing, and I’m most worried about getting a lot of sediment in the bottles. Any advice you have for me will be appreciated, so I hope I get some good feedback. Help Vigilante Brewing Co become the next best thing in Washington DC!

A New Brew & Brewery

Recently I saw my very first beer through to completion, and I must say, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.  I have to be honest, if I hadn’t produced 45 bottles of the stuff myself, I doubt I would be looking to go back to it a ton.  However, I wanted to brew something I could mess up the first time.  Thankfully, it seems to have turned out pretty well.  If you didn’t read my friend John’s review of my beer, you need to do that now!

John stated at the end of his post that I needed to figure out a name for my brewery.  He is a far more active homebrewer than I am, and he has named his brewery Revere Brewing Company.  Spurred on by his comment, and the opinion of a few other readers, I decided to invest some time and mental energy to figuring out my brewery name.  I had a few different ideas for coming up with the basis of the name.  I could go the teacher route, and I did enjoy one reader’s idea to for Demerit Brewing Co.  In fact, I would say that was a close second.  I also thought I could combine something with beer and music like I do on this blog, but I really couldn’t think of something that had a good ring to it.   While still mulling it over my wife and I took the dog for a walk.  Finally the name came to me on a sign I saw on the walk.  I’m not sure what the sign was advertising, but Vigilante Brewing Co was born as a result of it.  I’ve already had some people ask me if it has anything to do with Batman.  I do have a little Batman obsession too, but I just thought the name had a good ring too it.  So even though Vigilante only makes 5 gallons at a time, and we (me) only brews extract at the moment, Vigilante Brewing Co has begun.

Saturday morning I got up early to brew Vigilante Brewing Co’s second ever beer.  This was the first time I actually set about finding a recipe, buying all of the ingredients, and having some clue how to do this.  When I first got into brewing I bought a clone book, so I figured I would put one of those recipes to use here.  John’s review made one really good point about me, I don’t like to drink bland beer.  Even though I’m proud of brewing the amber, and I like drinking it, I wanted to brew something that was right up my alley.  Therefore, I decided to go with an imperial IPA.  I know it’s a big jump, but I have been super excited about brewing it for weeks now.

The brewing process went really well; although, I did find one really interesting thing out while getting this brew done.  The previous brew only used liquid malt.  This one on the other hand used both 4 lbs of liquid malt, but also 6.8 lbs of DME (dry malt extract) as well.  Having never used it, I started by putting the .8 into the brew pot first.  It hadn’t even crossed my mind how much it would clump when it hit the water.  I immediately had to go grab a whisk instead of the spoon I had been using.  Even though it took a little longer to get all that DME into the mix.  I eventually got it in and got it boiling.  If anyone has a tip for working with DME, I’ll be happy to heed your advice.

The wort is now in the primary fermenter, and it has been bubbling away for days now.  I am really excited to see how this one turns out.  I plan to have it spend one week in the primary, two in the secondary, and 4 (minimal) in the bottle.  I’ll also be dry hopping this one in the secondary for sure.

This beer is a clone, so I’ll be revealing the beer it is a clone of later when my beer gets closer to being ready.  I actually saw a bottle of it at the store this weekend and picked it up for comparison when my version is ready.  Since I’m sure mine will be a little different, I want to name my beer something that I can call my own.  Once again, I debated a few different ideas, but I ultimately fell on an idea that combine both beer and music.  I love how Stone’s Arrogant Bastard is a beer that really doesn’t need a style associated with it.  Therefore, I decided to do a little play off their name.  Thus, my imperial IPA will be known as Pretentious Hopster.

If you live in the DC area, look for updates for the release of Pretentious Hopster from Vigilante Brewing Co!

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