Archive for November, 2009

Holliday Brews

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Next to St. Paddy’s Day and Halloween, Christmas bats a decent clean-up as holidays go. However, it pretty much rules the roost when it comes to seasonal beers. Here’s a quick-list of what I’m looking forward to this year!

  • Sierra Celebration Ale (Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.) – Sure, it’s an easy-to-find beer that’s in just about any supermarket, but perhaps there’s a reason for that! This is also one of the few “Winter brews” that’s a true drinking beer. That is to say, you can, and probably will, want more than one in a sitting and it doesn’t take 30 minutes to drink.
  • Old Soulstice Winter Ale (Half Moon Bay Brewing Co.) – Ok, yes it’s our local brewery, but they don’t often disappoint with their seasonals. This is an English strong ale style that’s only available at the brewery, but it’s worth the trip!
  • Alaskan Winter Ale (Alaska Brewing Co.) – I’m a big fan of AB’s stuff and the winter ale is no exception! It’s another old English style (malty but smooth). It’s not quite as drinkable as the Celebration Ale, but it’s close!
  • Sam Adams Winter Lager (Samuel Adams Brewing Co.) – Yes, another big production brew. Hey, good is good, dig it? I really like this one for basically bumping up, spicing up, then rounding out the flavors of their Boston Lager. It’s smooth and spicy with out being overbearing – a very drinkable brew!
  • Cabin Fever (New Holland Brewing Co.) – It’s difficult to impossible to get this outside of Michigan (I have to have mine smuggled across state lines – or head over to the in-laws for the hollidays), but if you have a buddy in Michigan, and they’re willing to ship you a couple of 22oz bottles, you’ll be thankful! For some reason, this is the kind of beer I think of when thinking of winter ales – a spicy brown ale with lots of flavors going on. This is one that takes a bit to get through, but it doesn’t leave you wishing you’d had something else 10 minutes into drinking it like some other “big” winter ales.

    So there ya go! Have any other suggestions? Feel free to post them!

  • I think I may be the cause of global warming

    Monday, November 23rd, 2009

    Let me explain. Half Moon Bay is located, climate-ly speaking, in an area that stays a constant 55F – 70F degrees. Yet the last few times I’ve brewed, a heatwave hits that jumps the internal temp of our house to 75F – 77F degrees, insuring all those sweet esters get put into my beer as it ferments away in my closet (which any non-brew time sits at a perfect 67F degrees). It’s a bit uncanny. So here I sit, with 10 gallons of drinkable, but slightly sweet IPA. Thanks a lot weather demons! You bastards are on my list! Jerks.

    iPhone/iPod Touch Brewing Apps Review

    Thursday, November 5th, 2009

    I recently picked up a new MacBook Pro and was really not interested in wasting space for a Windows VM which I used pretty much used exclusively to run ProMash on brew days. My dream solution was to see if anyone had created a brewing app for the iPhone and was pleasantly surprised to find that there were a few apps available! Since I had decided to do my research for this on brew day, I was pressed for time and ended up, rather rashly, purchasing 3 apps

  • iBrewMaster by Joe Cannici
  • BrewMath by Kent Place Software
  • Brew Pal by David Parker
  • iBrewMaster ($4.99) lets you store recipes, but would seem to be meant for folks who have several brews going at the same time need a calendaring tool for keeping track of all their brews and when they need to be racked to a secondary or kegged, bottled, etc. It doesn’t do mash calculations at all, and so to me, it’s not really a useful “brew day application”, which is what I’m after. To be fair, if I had read the app description, I would have known that 🙂 But no matter! We soldier on, as they say.

    Brew Math ($2.99) is a series of brewing calculators that would come in very handy if you totally bugger something up in the brew process and need to quickly run a few ideas through to see how bad it really is, or what you might do to remedy the situation. It seems a very good tool for those who like to run scenarios, but don’t care about saving the results. It handles unit conversions, mash calculations, color, bitterness, carbonation, attenuation, SG correction, refractometer results and pitching rates. I’m keeping this one on my iPhone for the very reason I mention above – it can really help you figure out what might happen if you alter step C due to muckup 2.

    Brew Pal ($0.99) is an impressive app. At the $0.99 price point you might nearly pass it up, but this is does an amazing amount work for you and should probably be priced closer to the $5 of iBrewMaster! You can enter and save your recipes, calculate strike temp and mash volume, and it has a proper brew timer. It really does quite a bit and is probably all you need on brew day. It’s great for messing around with recipe ideas and can be right there at the ready if you get bored and feel like checking out of your all-hands company meeting for 10 minutes. It’s easy to add new grain or hop types, or alter the items already there. I did run into an issue when entering the data for Crystal 15L, which most brewing databases seem to ignore. It only gave me the option of 14L or 16L. I guess the elimination of odd-numbered Lovibond measurements makes the wheel-interface scroll faster, and in the end doesn’t really muck up the color calculation too much, but it was my one annoyance with the app. This app may not serve those who feel they need finer control of certain aspects of the brew process, but honestly, it gives me all my numbers at a glance and lets me run through mash scenarios with relative ease. The image below is a animated gif of screen-shots. If you’re looking to run your brew day off your iPhone or iPod Touch, this is an excellent way to go.

    Update: the latest version now supports more granular Lovibond control!

    Brew Pal, by

    Brew Pal, by David Parker

    So How Much Does it Cost to Brew?

    Monday, November 2nd, 2009

    I get this question over and over and it’s a fair one. So finally, on this last brew, I did a cost breakdown just to see. This is purely a cost/10g batch. I don’t factor in equipment and I left out water usage since everyone has different water rates. I figure for a 10 gallon batch I use about 35 gallons of water. That accounts for water left in the mash tun, evaporation, cleaning and so on. I took my most grain intensive recipe (just for a “worst case” cost) and created a breakdown. In the last column I break the costs down by 12oz bottle since non-brewers tend to think in 12oz increments. For quick reference, I list cost per 6-pack and 24 case, again for the benefit of non-brewers (click the image for a larger version):

    Brew cost for my IPA recipe

    Brew cost for my IPA recipe

    So there you go, it’s roughly $0.65/12oz bottle. You’ll note that this does not include labor. My best time on a batch of this size is about 4.5 hours. (Including setup/tear-down). You could argue that adding labor would double, or even triple the cost, but c’mon, it’s a freakin’ hobby!