All posts for the month December, 2012

Before going into full blown holiday mode, I wanted to do up a post looking back at the profiles that I’ve done over the year. Here’s the list of everyone I want to thank for taking the time to contribute to content on this blog (for anyone I may have missed, I apologize, I will no doubt think of you 30 seconds after I click “Publish”):

  • Derek Leslie from Shiretown brewery for being the guinea pig for my first profile of a brewery.
  • The PEI Beer Guy for passing along tips for a new blogger and for taking the time for a Q & A with me.
  • The Garrison Brewing crew for answering questions over email for a profile from early in the year and specifically for Brian Titus for taking the time to meet with me in June for an interview.  Garrison has been great in keeping me in the loop for press releases related to Garrison and the Seaport Beerfest (thanks Katie!).  While I’ve been fortunate to have the cooperation of many breweries in Atlantic Canada, Garrison Brewing wins the award for “Most Atlantic Canada Beer Blog Friendly Brewery”.
  • Taylor McAuslan for taking the time for a brewery tour and interview for a profile of McAuslan Brewery.  No, they’re not Atlantic Canadian but they are a great brewery!
  • Chris McDonald to taking the time to answer questions for a profile of the Brewnosers,  for letting me join the Brewnosers for one of their meetings in June at his place and for letting me sample some of his home brew.  Chris and his brewing partner Brian make a wicked Wit and Creme Brule Stout and are a big inspiration as to why I’ve started all grain brewing myself.  Chris has also answered many home brewing related questions for me “offline”.
  • The Living Legend of the Atlantic Canada Beer scene, Greg Nash, for taking the time to complete a Q & A with me over email.  Also for treating me to a few of his outstanding beers in June at Rockbottom when he shared some of his war stories.  The man could write a book about his experiences brewing just about everywhere in the Maritimes.
  • Patrice Godin from Acadie-Broue for taking the time to do a profile for the blog and for sharing some of his vast beer knowledge over a beer on a few occasions.  In my mind, he, Nash and Daniel Girard from Garrison Brewing Company are the three most creative brewers in Atlantic Canada.
  • “Raven and Sierra” for taking the time to do a guest post for the blog and much more importantly, bringing an amazing selection of craft beer for an unforgettable beer tasting in June.  Between “Raven” and Patrice who joined us for most of that fateful night, I learned an unbelievable amount about beer (and an idea of how much I have yet to learn).
  • Tico and Jaf, a couple of guys from Montreal who met with me for a few beers and the chance to discuss the Montreal beer scene.  Thanks again to “Raven” for introducing me to Tico.
  • The guys from Darkside Brewing for taking the time to do a Q & A over email.
  • Shawn Meek for taking the time to answer questions over email to do a Q & A with him.  On a personal note, Shawn has answered a ton of questions over email to regarding home brewing.  My first batch brewed was a personal recommendation for me and am going with recommendations from him for my 2nd and 3rd batches.  I’ve been fortunate enough to sample a few of his brews and they are excellent.
  • Dennis Goodwin from Picaroons for answering a series of questions over email including information for a profile of Picaroons.  I also wanted to mention that I have heard many stories from multiple breweries first hand (I’m sure there are others) about how helpful Picaroons has been in helping new breweries start up and on-going support (Stephen Dixon is actually brewing at their site).  Sean and the folks at Picaroons take the “brotherhood of craft brewing” to the next level.
  • Andrew Cooper from Propeller for answering questions over email and for setting up an interview with company president John Allen for me.
  • Shaun Fraser from Pump House Brewery for taking the time for an interview for a profile for the blog and for Alina for answering questions over email about Pump House news.
  • Dave Evans, a.k.a Beer Maven, for taking the time to answer questions over email for a Q & A about his blog.
  • Peter Burbridge from the soon to be open Bridge Brewing Co. for taking the time to answer questions over email for a Q & A and then doing it again.  It’s very exciting to see a new brewery focusing on a more Belgian flavour and with a zero-emissions goal.
  • Mike Ferguson for taking the time to write the Story of Ruddy’s Brewpub.
  • Jeremy White for taking the time to do a Q & A related to his new brewery, Big Spruce Brewing.
  • Stephen Dixon for doing a Q & A for his new brewery, Grimross Brewing.
  • Mark Baillie for taking the time to do a Q & A for Hell Bay Brewing.
  • Chris Conway for doing a Q & A related to Newfoundland Beer History.
  • Richard Bennett for doing a Q & A related to the New Brunswick Craft Brewers Association.
  • Mike Buhler for doing a Q & A regarding his Newfoundland Beer Purchasing Club.

Very BIG changes are going to be taking place on this blog in the near future.   Stay tuned.

Tickets are now on sale for both the 2nd Annual Saint John BeerFest and 1st annual Fredericton Craft Beer Festival (here’s hoping Mrs. Atlantic Canada Beer Blogger actually reads one of my posts).

The 2013 Saint John BeerFest will take place this year on April 13th.  Tickets are now on sale at Harbour Station for $60 for general admission or $70 for a VIP ticket.  Last year’s festival website has not been updated as of yet but information is available on Twitter by following them @SJBeerFest .

The first annual Fredericton Craft Beer Festival will take place Saturday, March 9th, 2013 from 7:30 PM to 10:00 PM.  Tickets are $53.99 including a handling fee and can be ordered online.  VIP tickets for the event are already sold out.   The event can be followed on Twitter as well @FrederictonBeer .

With the Garrison Brewing Home Brew-Off announced for this year, I wanted to write a a post about my recent journey into all grain brewing.  With all of one batch under my belt (my second brew day will be over the holidays and third as soon as that one is done) I’m obviously not an expert but hope I can encourage others on the fence, especially those who have done kits or have basic knowledge to get into this incredibly fun hobby.

Making the Plunge

Up until recently, I had been brewing kits (mostly Festa Brew) for several years now.  Of the 20 or so batches I’ve done I’d probably say a few I really enjoyed, most weren’t bad and a couple I don’t think I finished.

As a beer geek, I wanted to better understand beer and brew recipes that I like that are hard to get here.  I’ve waited as long as I have mainly because I can’t get all grain supplies locally (they could be ordered but there is the additional shipping cost) and have been intimidated by the equipment and its price that I thought was required for home brewing:  grain mills, immersion chillers, mash tuns, large pot, outdoor burner (I had heard most stove tops couldn’t deal with large batches), etc.  The thought of McGyvering a Coleman cooler was a scary one…

Last Summer I had the chance to attend a Brewnosers meeting and sample some of the different beers.  Most were excellent and many were unique styles.  While I didn’t make the leap then, that was really the first real push to do so.

A few months ago, I met someone at the Oktoberfest des Acadiens in Northern N.B. that it turned out lived down the street from me and was into home brewing.  I asked him if he made his mash tun he told me he didn’t have one and brewed his beer in a bag.   I thought something was lost in translation (we were speaking in French) or I had made a few too many visits to the Acadie-Broue booth.   The next time I ran into him he told me his brother who was into home brewing was selling a dual tap kegerator (small bar fridge with taps that can hold 2 kegs), 3 kegs and a CO2 tank for a very good price.  The thought of drinking draught and not having to bottle beer?  This I couldn’t pass up.

Keeping it Simple

My goal was to make the transition into all grain as easy as possible.  My plan was to buy a burner, a large pot (I ended up buying an aluminum 10 gallon one), make an immersion chiller and also a mash tun (here’s a link to a great article about start-up home brew equipment).  I made an immersion chiller following a video on You Tube (so easy even I could do it).  As I was doing research I came across the brew in a bag (BIAB) concept.  Turns out you can brew all grain beer without a mash tun by using a large grain bag (it wasn’t too many trips to the Acadie-Broue booth after all).  I asked a couple of experienced brewers about it and they indicated it was easier, faster, didn’t negatively impact quality and many long time home brewers are starting to use this technique.  Based on this feedback, I decided to go the BIAB route.  The other piece of equipment I expected I would need was a grain mill.  Noble Grape locations will mill the grain for you (at least the Burnside location) so instead of buying one I asked them to do it when I picked up my order during a trip to the area.  The burner (70K BTUs), 10 gallon pot, equipment to make the immersion chiller and grain bag ran me about $180.  The cost of supplies for my first batch of beer was $58.26 (due mostly to the large quantities of hops – I had to substitute a couple of types). 

Oversimplified Description of the Brewing Process

Here’s a very high level overview of the major steps to follow in the Brew in a Bag method:

  • Bring the water to the proper mash temperature (in the recipe I linked to it was 151.5F).
  • Once you hit the mark add your grains into the bag and leave it in the pot as per the recipe (in this case 1 hour).
  • Remove the grains in the bag and bring to a boil.
  • Boil as long as called for in the recipe, normally an hour or 90 minutes (in this case 1 hour).
  • Add hops and other ingredients when called for in the recipe (60 means with 60 minutes left in the boil or in this case at the start, 10 means with 10 minutes left, etc.)
  • Cool down your brew using an immersion chiller (you need to add it with 15 minutes left in the boil to sterilize it).  Connect it to a hose and run water through it (it doesn’t need to be blasting through) in order to bring down the temperature of the brew.
  • Transfer the beer to a primary fermenter.
  • Add yeast and let it ferment several days.
  • Move to a secondary fermenter (some leave in a primary until bottling) for several more days.
  • Bottle or keg the beer.
  • Let it age a couple of weeks.

Above is an oversimplified overview but it’ll give you the major steps.  I haven’t identified every step along the way such as gravity and pH readings but want to keep this simple.  For a more in depth description go to this link.  You’ll need to create a free account to download the 8 page “The Commentary” pdf document.  It ends prematurely but will give you information about the vast majority of the process.

Advice for Newbies:

Based on my many minutes of all grain home brewing experience, here are key tips I would have for anyone about to start BIAB all grain brewing:

  • Clean and sanitize everything thoroughly.  Cliches are cliches because they are true.  You don’t want to lose a batch of beer.
  • I’d buy at least a 10 gallon pot, larger if possible.
  • Buy a large grain bag.  The one I bought at Noble Grape probably won’t support some of the bigger brews I want to do.  Here is a link to one of the Brewnosers who sells large grain bags in different styles (with handles or without).
  • Read as much as you can about home brewing.  Check out the local Brewnosers, the BIAB section of their site including this introduction to the topic, New Brunswick Craft Brewers or Brew in a Bag websites.  Better yet go to their meetings to talk to the “Vets”.  Buy  a book or two on home brewing or borrow from the library.  Also look at blogger sites about brewing.  Meek Brewing Co. is an excellent blog with recipes, tasting notes and tips.  More on Shawn in a minute…
  • Plan your brew session.  The website has a great checklist to help you plan out step by step what you need to do.  If you are going down the BIAB road, it also has a calculater you can use to determine how much water to use in your pot based on its dimensions and grains used in your recipe.
  • Try and find a mentor.  As with anything else you are learning, it is so much easier to have someone to bounce questions off in terms of approach / questions you’ll no doubt have.  I have been lucky to get tips and advice from multiple home brewers but have received an unbelievable amount of help from Shawn Meek. Some would say there is a fine line between asking questions to interrogating someone to outright harassment. I don’t know exactly when I crossed those lines with Shawn  but definitely did so a LONG time ago.  He’s a great example of a home brewer who loves the hobby and wants to help others wherever possible.
  • The most important advice?  Get started.  Pick a style (Belgian Blonde Ale anyone?) do some research, ask questions and get going.  I’ve made some mistakes during my first batch but have learned from them and can’t wait to brew again.  In hindsight I wish I would have started brewing much earlier.

Here’s hoping I’ve encouraged some others to start all grain brewing.  After only one batch under my belt (I kegged my first one last night) I am hooked.

I’d invite any Vets to add comments correcting anything in this post or to add additional recommendations for newbies.