Archive for July, 2015

Small batch, the American way.

Posted in Beer on July 27, 2015 by Aleforge

I made a trip over to my good ol’ buddy Brads place last Saturday. He had invited us out for some BBQ and to do a small batch of brewing. He had some ingredients he shared (thanks Brad), it was enough to do a 2 gallon batch that we split between us. It was pretty hot, but once the smell of hops and malts wafted through the air nothing else mattered.

He had the ingredients to make an American pale ale. Very standard, nothing tricky, but it will be wonderful session beer. He overshot the gravity (1.070) and added some water to hit his numbers (1.060 OG). I went ahead and left it, figured we could compare. Small batches are really fun, it seems a lot of work for for about a 10-12 bottles (12oz). But it allows a lot of experimentation, lower cost and lower risk. For instance, Brad plans on going with either a lime or strawberry addition. Myself, nothing I am too lazy, I will be bottling my last batch tonight or tomorrow (more on that below)

Golden Light Liquid Malt Extract 3.3 lbs 60 min
1/4 oz centennial 60 min
1/2 oz willamette 5 min
2.5 gallons of water
US-05 Yeast with a massive starter (Brad made a sweet stir plate)

Everything went well and nothing tragic happened. Brad grilled up some kabobs (pork / chicken), they were excellent.

My last batch (Scottish 80) has still not been bottled. The fermentation temps have been a steady 68 and the cake is fully settled. I don’t have much fear that its going to pick up off flavors but I need to get it done. Brad once again helped me out by giving me a bunch of bottles he has been saving up. And coupled with the ones I have saved I have around 40 now. The one thing I am doing is soaking them to remove the labels (which reminds me I need to get custom ones made up). I have them in a solution of dish soap and water. So many methods of doing it, but dish soap always works fairly well. I plan on bottling tonight or tomorrow.

A few more pictures of the day!



Babyback Day

Posted in Meat on July 17, 2015 by Aleforge

I decided last Sunday (July 12th, 2015) to smoke two racks of babyback ribs on my Kamado Akorn. I was going to use the 3-2-2 method, but once again had some issues with overshooting my temperature. I am going to honestly say for me anyway the smoker has been a learning process. I did add double the coal and double the wood this time around. Spacing the wood chunks (hickory) in various areas so they would burn during different times. I was shooting for about 250, I ended up at 375. I shut the smoker down by closing both air vents and waited. An hour later or so I was down to around 275 and I just went with it, it seemed to stay stable. But by that time most of my wood was burned up, and with the bottom grate, water pan / diffuser, main grill and meat it made it difficult to just add more. The idea behind this smoker is mainly to hit your temp and stick there, burning lump charcoal and allowing it to “slowly” spread so you can easily get 10-12 hours out of one batch. Since I hit 375 it caused the charcoal to burn faster and it ate up all the wood.

So I had no choice put to pull out the setup (the boiling water pan was the hardest) and add more wood, I also moved the charcoal around trying to become Mr. Wizard and fix the burn rate. It seemed to work, and when the meat was much farther along I pulled it out to wrap it and I still was getting smoke.


This is obviously a positive, and I was fairly happy. So I wrapped and spritzed it down with this combination I randomly came up with. Mostly because I thought we had apple juice but did not.

Some of the serious guys do not spritz at all. They say it can ruin the bark and it ends up kind of chewy instead of a slight crunch. Others have noted it helps keep it moist and adds an extra kick of controlled flavor. All I know is it smells absolutely wonderful when it hits it. I didn’t notice the bark being ruined Of course I am not a pro at this.

I ran the ribs over a bit on temp, its suggested to take them off at 180. Ribs should NOT fall off the bone, obviously if you have ever had them you know you kind of chew them off. There is this fine line of staying on the bone and being tender. I jumped over that line. I am so use to pulled pork butts and beef chuck roast that I didn’t consider a lower final temperature. So instead of 180, I took them off close to 195. They full completely off the bone, you couldn’t even pick the rack up without it breaking apart.


OK so maybe someone is wandering does it taste OK? Yes, honestly staying on the bone is a style guideline on how they should be. My ribs were moist the fat was all rendered by the higher temps, and the bark exactly how it should have been. However I pretty much made pulled pork.

I learned a lot from this rib journey. However my old vertical smoker was so damn easy, it made me question why I would put myself through this stress. Well I will tell you why, this is real. It was one of the main reasons I went with a Kamado. There is a huge debate over what type of smoker is the best in the community. When I watched guys smoked there was something about hand lighting up the fuel (and setting it up right), placing logs on top and feeling the accomplishment of no switches, feeders or gas. The hands on if you will, a craft perhaps. Not putting down all you guys flipping switches and turning knobs, lol. Smoke is smoke and hell if it isn’t delicious using any setup.


So anyways it turned out OK, not to the style, not to the best it could have been but it cooked and worked out. I also as with each time learn a little more from my mistakes and I am eager to go again.

A second topic, my beer is ready for bottling. I plan on doing it this Sunday. Brad was over a couple days ago and we took a FG (final gravity) reading. I don’t have the number with me but it got fairly close (4.5 ABV), a little off but I had added a gallon of too much water for the boil. In the past I had always added a gallon and it boiled off. But I finally realized it was because I mostly brewed in cold dry weather. This is one of the first times I have brewed during the summer months and I believe that caused less boil off. I plan on brewing up a one gallon batch of barley wine next week out at Brads place.


July 3rd Brew Day

Posted in Beer, Meat on July 8, 2015 by Aleforge

I had a good full day of brewing with my buddy Brad (and Chris later on) last Friday (3rd of July). We did three batches, two for Brad and one for myself. Brad did a partial mash “pale” stout, his own creation (Orcs Brew) that included the following:

1 lb pale malt
1 lb oats
3/4 lbs dark malt extract
1 ounce centennial at 60
Nottingham ale yeast (500ml starter)

The calculations from brewsmith predicted an OG of 1.080, he ended up hitting 1.076. He believes this was due to the oats not providing enough sugar.

The second batch Brad did was an American Amber, he made some modifications to the hop profile to lower the IBUs. He will be adding raspberries to the secondary . It sounds really awesome.

I ended up going with a Scottish 80 w/ specialty grains. Its considered an English ESB but focuses on malt instead of hops (lower IBU).

OG 1.047 (I had too much water ended up with OG 1.043)
1lb English medium crystal (specialty)
3.15 lbs Gold malt extract (60min)
3.15 lbs Gold malt extract (15min)
1oz US Fuggle (60min)
Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale

I also used my new smoker for the first time. I smoked two 6lb pork butts. I ended up running way to high of temps (300-325) and it completed the smoke way to soon (6hrs). Talking with some experts I found out I just plainly set it up wrong. First off I didn’t add enough charcoal / wood (you would guess less fuel would make it cooler, but its not true for a Kamado). In fact I needed to triple the charcoal and double the wood. Once things shoot a bit over temperature you shut it down closing both dampers to kill some of the fire. Then slowly open them up to hit your target.

I did wrap them a few hours in and kept spraying them down with a mixture of apple juice and maple whiskey. It seemed to help keep things moist. The maple whiskey smelled really awesome. Overall it didn’t turn out bad, but it lacked on the smoke.

That’s it for the July 3rd brew day! Brad is encouraging me to do a Scottish Wee Heavy next. Its one of my favorite styles and one I don’t get very often. Its a great fall / winter beer so I might take him up on it. I also would like to get a mead going ASAP!