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Thursday, March 24, 2011

New Site finally up! Goodbye Blogger!

I'll keep this one around for those who've yet to make the transition, but GrassLands Brewery has a new site!

From now on, that'll be the site that's updated on a frequent basis.

GrassLands Brewery.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Brewing for Charity

Okay, don't have the web site up & running just yet, but the pieces are slowly falling into place. Patience, young Grass Hoppers. As I stated previously, the next brew I'm planning is what I lovingly refer to as the Happy Wife Hefeweizen. If you've got a wife and she's slightly into beer, it's highly likely that she's a potential hefe-addict. Mine is no different!

Hefeweizens are broad ranging in styles, flavor & content. The one I'm planning on brewing is a traditional Bavarian style, much like Paulaner (if you've yet to try one, GO OUT AND DO IT!). They're awesome. Mine will have a very slight caramel hint to it and I'm itching to get on to the brew.

Anyways, the Brewing for Charity title - let's get to it. My local homebrew club is sponsoring an event that you should definitely attend, called Pints for Paws. This is the 2nd year I've been participating, after a multi-year hiatus where things were a little too heated in town to pull it off. Mark your calendars for this year - May 21st, 2011 from 4-8 PM - at the Market Square Pavilion in Tallahassee, FL. Patrons get to taste a number of homebrewed beers in exchange for a modest donation to the Animal Shelter Foundation of at least $10. Last year's event saw hundreds of guests and we were able to successfully raise over $7500 for the Animal Shelter Foundation - our beneficiary. Many of my fellow homebrewers donate what they can (usually a 5-gallon keg) of a beer of their choice. Last year, my buddy and I brewed a hard cinnamon apple cider and a light summer ale. Those two kegs floated within 45 minutes of the start of the event - so get there early! Actually, many homebrewers bring more than 5 gallons worth, so you'll have plenty to taste. I'll be advertising this event out the wazoo in the coming weeks ahead. It's a great time for everyone. 

In anticipation for P4P, the NFBL is having a club brew this coming Sunday (March 27) where we're all getting together and brewing beers specifically for the event. I'm going to take some photos and post them here for you guys to check out. It'll be a fun chance to see what everyone else is thinking about making. All in all, you'll have your chance to taste the creations from 40+ brewers in the Tallahassee, FL region. It's for a great cause, one that's close to my heart, and we're all very excited. More to come!

Lastly, I'll leave you with a pint of one of my new favorites: Red Panda Rye. For more info on rye beers, click here. And while you're waiting for my commercial variety of RPR, go out and try Blue Point Brewery's RastafaRye Ale, you won't be disappointed. 
Goodness in a glass.
Oooh, isn't she lovely?

Monday, March 14, 2011

*Belgian Update*

Wasn't I talking about fermentation being awesome yesterday? Not 6 hours later, the Belgian Strong (pictured top left - and this is the inside of my temperature controlled freezer) started producing major amounts of CO2. The foam at the top that gets created is a byproduct of the fermentation process and it's called krauzen (pronounced "kroy-zen"). The Harvest Blueberry is still doing its thing below, but doesn't have much of a krauzen head at the moment - typically, the first part of fermentation (called primary fermentation) is when the yeast have themselves a couple of all-day/all-night parties. Right now, the Blueberry is in its secondary phase of fermentation, and the remaining yeast are a little tired and don't work as hard (slackers). With big beers (like the Belgian), the krauzen can get so intense that you need a blow-off setup (like the above) so you don't end up with yet another mess to clean up.

As many times as I've seen fermentation happening live (like the video below), I still can't help but be amazed and intrigued at the process. (turn up the volume - sorry for the piss poor phone/video quality, I'll have better clips in the future)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Belgian Strength

Adam monitoring the baby.
So here I am, relaxing after a good 4+ hour marathon of a brew session, enjoying one of my own beers, and reflecting on the day's events. As promised, I'm reporting back after brewing with Adam, the NFBL president. We had some ups & downs, but at the end of the day, we had a great 10 gallon batch of Belgian Strong ready to get fermenting. For the ups: We ended up with what we think will be an extremely well-balanced 10%+ ABV Belgian Strong - one that has a slight hint of licorice, caramel and spice. In fact, aside from the grains, here's the hop/spice/sugar additions:
Holy Adjuncts, Batman!
For those counting at home, that's 3 oz of "Fuggles" hops on the left, then 1 oz of "Saaz" hops in the next two containers, and then a cool 2 oz of Saaz I had left over from previous batches that went in during the final few minutes of the brew. Then we've got Star Anise spice (licorice-flavoring) and Bittering Orange Peel (slight citrus), followed by 3 lbs of Dark Belgian Candi Sugar - an ABV booster. This in compliment to the 30lbs of Belgian Pilsner, Maris Otter and various other specialty grains in the batch:

I've given it all she's got, Captain!
Which leads me to one of our brewday "downs": only 25lbs of grains would fit into my mash tun (cooler) - which holds 48 quarts (12 gallons). Drinking Thinking on the fly, Adam and I double mashed (25 lbs first, then the remaining 5 lbs afterwards) and came up only slightly below our targeted amounts. Not bad, all things considered!

For those of you who are completely confused by everything I just wrote, here's the skinny on my brewing process. In the first picture, you can see my brew rig - a gravity-fed all grain system. The hot liquor tank (hot water tank) is on top, the mash tun (cooler) in the middle, and boil kettle on the bottom. Here's how the proces works: Hot water gets immersed with a certain mix of base and specialty grains (depending on the type of beer you want to make) - called the mash - and after 60 minutes or so, the hot water/grain mixture gets converted to sugars. The brewer then drains those sugars into the boil kettle, sparges the grains (rinses the grains) with hot water to get the remaining sugars into the kettle, then the boil begins.

Full-on Boil Mode

Certain hops/spices/adjuncts are added during the boil - which lasts from anywhere between 60 and 120 minutes. The brewer then cools down the beer (now called "wort" - pronounced "wert") and adds a specific strain of yeast and the fermentation process begins! Fermentation is awesome - it's microbiology really - the yeast consume all the sugars in the beer, farting off CO2 and creating alcohol. We wait about a month and a half for all this to take place, then consume the finished product and the process starts all over again. Beer is awesome.

Ready to get started? Easy right? Maybe so, after some practice. But it's definitely fun...and addicting. The only thing is that you have to deal with this afterwards:
A hot mess
An owner of a brewery in Maine once told me: "If you like cleaning, you'll love brewing beer." Yeah, no kidding. Awesome day today and we'll see how this batch tastes. I plan on entering this specific one into a competition coming up in May along with two other beers I've had aging for a little while now. I'll report back on how that goes as well.

Other updates: the website is still under construction - but we're getting there. Almost time to officially launch it. Still researching and working on the business plan. Next brew will be a Bavarian Hefeweizen! Stay tuned!