Gowanus Brewery

Cleaners Pale Ale Goes Over by Jeremy
January 28, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, extra pale ale

My girlfriend and I hauled the Cleaners Pale Ale up to Greenpoint last night to a friends place. This extra pale ale was met with unanimous approval. One thought it rivaled Sierra Nevada’s pale ale, which, as a Californian born and raised, really means something. Our friend pictured was trying Gowanus brew for the first time and, as you can see, was amazed. Nobody was more impressed that I was, though.

I bottled the Cleaners almost a month ago and sampled the beer once a week since then to track its progress. To say I was worried the first, second, and even third week, would be an understatement. It was flat and boring. But last night, wow, it was like a new beer. The carbonation was fully developed. The flavors and aroma are suddenly interesting. And it was a pleasure to drink. I’m feeling much better about serving this stuff up at our Superbowl party next weekend.

Mash Postponed by Jeremy
January 22, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: equipment

Barry’s in the middle of building his kegerator. He, oddly, has a few pieces set aside that he has no idea what to do with. Homebrew is that kind of operation, though, which is why we love it. In the meantime, I’m not doing squat.

I had planned to start Gowanus Brewery’s first all-grain batch today but ran into a major obstacle. I don’t have a way to lauter. Caught up in the details of the mash, I didn’t consider the relatively important steps of lautering and sparging.

Lautering follows the mash, which involves heating grains to make sweet wort. Lautering is draining off the sweet wort from the grains. It’s a simple step to define, but is complicated by the step that follows it: sparging. Sparging is rinsing the grains with water to maximize the total amount of fermentable sugars drawn from the grain. Lautering and sparging, as a practical mater, are interconnected, because the method you choose to lauter, i.e. the way you drain your sweet wort, effects your sparging, i.e. how much more fermentable sugars you can draw off your grain. There are a few different ways to lauter and each one requires special equipment.

I contacted customer service at Northern Brewer and was told that they don’t carry false bottoms for any of their MegaPots, which is what I’m working with. False bottoms, as I understand it, are ideal for the home operation. That leaves bazooka tubes. They aren’t perfect, but they get the job done. So, problem solved, I guess. I just have to wait until I get my hands on one, before I get to do any more brewing.

By the way, how great would it have been to be Tynes last night?!

Nut Brown Ale by Jeremy
January 20, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, brewing, brown ale

Barry got rocking and rolling on his Nut Brown Ale last week, a Christmas gift from his girlfriend that I think she got from Beer-wine.com. It is a True Brew Maestro Series beer and has some crazy ingredients. Well, maybe crazy’s the wrong word, but I got a kick out of it anyway. It included liquid and dry extracts, brown sugar, Fuggle hops, and a great specialty grain bill: Chocolate, Dark Cyrstal, and Roasted Barley.  Can’t wait to try this one!

With the exception of the finale, Barry’s not doing anything special in brewing this beer. He’s following a standard extract brew method, but, instead of bottling, he’s kegging it.  We haven’t kegged beer before, so I don’t know what to expect.  We haven’t even really done our homework on it yet, but we do have all the hardware.  I’ll run down our keg set up some time soon, just as soon as we get it all set up.

Brown sugar adjunct.  Awesome!

Christmas Kettle by Jeremy
January 11, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, brewing, equipment

This is a preview of things to come!

This is a large, stainless steel kettle, courtesy of my lovely girlfriend, that I can use to expand the Gowanus Brewery operation into two new areas. First, with the capacity of this pot, I can boil a full five-gallon batch of beer. This is known as a full-wort boil. Right now, I boil three-gallons at a time and add two gallons of water at the end to bring it to its final volume, five gallons. There are benefits to be had, or so I’ve read, to opting for the full-wort boil.

Second, since this pot fits in the oven, I can use it to do full-mash brews. I’ve read that, instead of using an insulated container for an infusion mash, you can use an oven. I will bring the mash up to temperature on the range, move it to the oven set to the same temperature, let it rest, and then move it back to the range to move onto the next temperature rest.

I have to get an oven thermometer and one or two other little things before I can test this bad boy out, but, this weekend or next, it’ll get done. I’ve already got an ingredient kit to work with. My girlfriend gave me that too. How lucky am I?!

Extra Pale Ale – Bottled by Jeremy
January 7, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, extra pale ale

I bottled the extra pale ale today, which a few weeks ago I named Cleaner’s Pale Ale, and it all went off without a hitch. Third time’s the charm.

This was by far my most successful bottling. I got 48 bottles of beer out of this batch, compared to about 43 from my first two. This I owe mostly to a change in my bottling method that I discussed previously, which allows me to preserve a maximal amount of beer through the fermentation process. According to the retailers I’ve used, the upper limit here is about 50 bottles.

I made a change to my brew process today that I’ll describe briefly. In the past, my girlfriend and I labored for hours scrubbing labels off old bottles, just to slap on a new label when we were finished. Removing the glue that binds both commercial labels and even our own homemade labels is next to impossible. We tried boiling the bottles, soaking them over night, we even used a citrus-based degreaser. Nothing really seemed to make the job reasonable. The daunting task of scrubbing the hell out of 50 bottles took all the fun out of bottling my second batch of beer, the Chinook IPA. So, this time I did things a little differently. I did nothing.

As you can see in the picture, I just threw the new labels on over the cruft clinging to the bottle after cleaning and sanitizing. For some, that meant the original label was intact and it looked like I was pawning off, for example, Long Trail Blackberry Wheat Ale as my own. For others, that meant the original label was an unreadable, pulpy mess. It’s makes for an inconsistent, raw look, and is completely worth the time saved. As soon as I decided to go this route, a weight was lifted off my shoulders and I got excited about getting to the work of putting this beer to bottle. If possible, I’ll let labels accumulate over time, to build up into thick, uneven layers. Maybe I can craft an aesthetic here, even if it is based on what amounts to laziness. Besides, I feel like slick’s been done and a grungier look is more fitting for a brew produced a block and a half from the Gowanus Canal. Long live Gowanus!

A Happy New Year by Jeremy
January 1, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, competition, roadmap

We threw a NYE party last night that turned out to be a huge success. Everybody had a great time and I was finally able give away the last of my holiday gifts. To several people at the party, I gave homebrew six packs with three bottles of Olde Nash and three of the Chinook Me. Everybody was impressed and some were doubly impressed, because this was their first look at all the work I’ve done over the last three months. Even as I think back now, I’ve done a lot since October and ’08 is shaping up to be just as busy.

My resolution for the new year is to enter and place at a beer competition. I’ve never even been to one and have no doubt that I’m being overly ambitious, but you have to aim high. I got some new equipment for the holidays and even got a book of recipes from a friend, all of which will help me move this hobby of mine forward. I’m excited about the prospect of crafting my own recipes and moving away, in general, from the simplified process I’ve been using to learn the fundamentals, which I’ll have to do to get serious about competition. In January, I’ll do my first all-wheat batch and my first beer outside the IPA family. By February, I hope to have a couple of recipes outlined that I can begin perfecting in preparation for competition. And, by mid-year, I should be set to test the waters with an initial offering at, probably, a smaller, local beer competition.

Anyway, here’s to the New Year!