Gowanus Brewery

Gowanus Strength German Wheat – Kegged by Jeremy
June 19, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, kegerator, review, wheat

Last weekend I dumped the Gowanus Strength German Wheat into a keg and hooked it up to the keggerator.  Result:  tasty beverage.

The beer, which had a final gravity of 1.006, is fairly light and has the distinct banana and clove characteristics of a German wheat beer.  It is cloudy and gold in the glass and retains a tall creamy head.  Overall it’s very good and refreshing, but I’m sad to say that I’m having trouble picking out any flavor or aroma contributions from the honey or hops.  Maybe a side-by-side with commercial German wheat beer without honey is in order.

If in the future I decide to make another batch of strong wheat ale and have the opportunity to make batch of beer like this again, I think I would experiment with a different yeast and other adjuncts.  This is a good beer, don’t get me wrong, but I just don’t think the German wheat style does it for me.

Fortunately, we have a couple folks coming over for the Mermaid Parade this weekend, so I will have plenty of help finishing off this brew.

Using the New Stir Plate by Jeremy
May 31, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: equipment, yeast

The stir plate worked, but I need to fine-tune how I use it.

It lacks the power of a commercial stir plate, so I can’t get a vigorous stir when the 500 and 1000 mL flasks are full. That reduces the amount of oxygen I can pull from the air in the flask to the wort. It has more than enough power, though, to keep the yeast suspended and the wort well-mixed after that. Still, in the future, I’ll shoot to fill these things to only 3/4 capacity.

To begin, I stirred the wort at full speed before and after pitching the yeast to maximize the oxygen exchange. Once fermentation became noticeable, I stirred the starters only once a day to keep the beer evenly mixed. I noticed that, at least for the 1000 mL starter, which I let ferment out over about 3 days, that foaming would subside in between mixings and restart afterwards. That makes me think it was helpful to some extent, but not more than a vigorous shaking would be.

I have to do some follow-up homework here because at this point I don’t see how this setup is more beneficial than shaking the starter by hand vigorously before and after pitching the yeast and then once a day afterwards. The only thing I can do with the stir plate that I can’t do by hand is to leave it on throughout fermentation, which I didn’t experiment with.

Anybody have any information on this?

DIY Stir Plate by Jeremy
May 20, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: equipment, yeast

I mocked up a homemade stir plate last night to prepare the Gowanus Strong Wheat yeast starter.

There are already several how-to’s online with in-depth build documentation, so I’ll just give you the short version here. There are four primary components that go into this project:

Enclosure: This I picked up from Radio Shack.
Computer Case Fan: I have several of these on hand.
Rare Earth Magnet: Harddisks contain two powerful, semi-circle magnets each.
12 volt AC-DC Power Supply: I used an old 12-volt, 500 mA router wall wort.

Plus, of course, various other hardware, including power connector, potentiometer, switch, wiring, etc.

The very last thing to get squared away is the stir bar. At the moment, I’m using a short piece of paper clip, but I’m trying to get my hands on some reasonably-priced magnetic stir bars. As obvious as it may be, this is a worthwhile upgrade. Unfortunately, I probably won’t get one until after the Gowanus Strong Wheat is finished.

Gowanus Brewery Mash Efficiency by Jeremy
May 5, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: all-grain, equipment

I’m happy to report that Gowanus Brewery is more efficient than I hoped.

I’m cutting a new recipe from whole cloth, a strong wheat ale, and that requires taking stock of our mash efficiency. Mash efficiency, in short, is a measure of the amount of sugar extracted from grain compared to the total sugar potentially available. This information is useful to predict, among other things, alcohol content. I won’t complicate this post by discussing precisely how mash efficiency is measured, but, simply put, for one pound of malted grain mashed in one gallon of water it is possible to extract a fixed amount of sugar.

With our set-up, I’m extracting 78% of available sugar.

Home brewers typically have a mash efficiency in the ballpark of 75%, so we’re doing fine. I’m surprised because we cut some corners in certain equipment-related decisions we made months ago, but still… we’re ahead of the curve!

UPDATE: I made an apparently classic mistake by using the post-boil specific gravity, rather than the pre-boil. What’s the difference? Well, we have the same amount of sugar at both points, but a different volume and that means a different concentration. Bottom line, I figured 78% and it’s more like 68%. That’s a bummer, but we’re still in the ballpark of 75%. Kind of.

Hop Trellis Drawings by Jeremy
May 3, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: equipment, hops

These are very basic drawings of the hop trellis I built a few weekends ago. It’s designed to support two hop plants, one on either side. They will grow directly up twine supports, which aren’t pictured, looped over the wrought iron plant hangers I bought at Lowes at the top. The twine will run down to a small roped cleat, also not pictured, attached to the post so I can let down the bines at the end of the summer easily.

These were drawn using Google SketchUp.

There are a few aspects of construction that are not obvious from the drawings. First, the plant hangers sit on the surface of the pole and are secured with two screws, despite appearing to sit in slots in the drawing. Second, I drilled a pocket into the post 1 1/4 inch in diameter (the figure in the drawing is not correct) in such a way that the pole fits snuggly inside it. By the way, the opening in a 2 inch flange is just less than 1 1/4″, so I cut the pole lengthwise like an old-fashioned clothespin to make up the difference. And the whole thing was cemented in place in a hole about 18 to 24 inches deep.

Collision! by Jeremy
May 1, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: equipment

Far too rarely do my favorite hobby publication and favorite hobby collide!

MAKE:Blog covered another impressive computerized home brew system, replete with Java scripting and a steam boiler.

I really want one.

Hops and Hop Trellis by Jeremy
April 20, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: equipment, hops

Saturday, my girlfriend and I laid the groundwork for our summer garden, which included putting Centennial and Willamette hop rhizomes in the ground and putting up the hop trellis. I ordered the rhizomes from Northern Brewer last month and received them directly from their vendor in Oregon earlier this week.

The trellis turned out great and is as basic as can be. It consists of scrap 4×4, leftover closet rod, two six-inch plant hangers, a one-inch flange, an eye-hook, a small rope cleat, and forty pounds of cement. Total cost: $20.

It’s not totally done yet, though. I still have to run the twine that will support the hop bines. The twine will be secured near the hop rhizomes, loop over the top hooks, and will be tied off at the rope cleat. With this design, I’ll be able to let the bines down at the end of the summer with minimal hassle.