Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Gassed out

When I pour a beer from my keggerator, I always check the pressure on the gauges.....and the other day, found my 20 pound tank (that should last for dispensing 20 5 gallon kegs of beer) was nearly empty.  Damn!  A leak.  The likely suspect is my new keg of Naked Blonde.  I just bought the keg, and was having pressure issues, but pressed them into service anyway when my brother bought his keggerator. I think about it, it might really be something else...a truly insideously slow leak on my Sanke (Commercial) keg system.

I didn't think too much about it at the time, but a few weeks ago, I noticed that beer in the commercial keg's beer line would retract or drain back into the keg when unused for a few days.  I thought it strange, but didn't think anything about it.  Now, I am thinking that the only way for it to drain is if the pressure drops in the keg.  Interestingly, the beer never was flat, but with a truly slow leak you would never have flat beer, but merely flattening beer.

But, it still could be the new keg.  Unless I leave the kegs unattended (as in stop drinking from them), and something does go flat, I will not know.  The other solution, of course is to buy more gas and experiment at high pressures to see if I can find the leak.....more to follow.

Monday, May 16, 2011

fully converted

For the last few weeks, I have been feeding my brother craigslist advertisements of decent keggerators that might be acceptable in his den.  He got a slightly beat up professional one for $400 (which retails new for $1,300).  I also picked up 4 more kegs on craiglist for $120, but unlike the previous two, they were not beer ready.  I spent the week rehabbing them to get them in shape.  I had two ready to go (for me) when my brother informed me of his I gave him the good ones (I hope) and rigged the other two to hold pressure (I hope).  Summer beers are in the cans (don't you love it in the can?) and now the weather can't get above 50 degrees.

I do hope my brother will send me pictures of his new "toy" once he has it up and running.  We should all take a pool to see when he will have it ready.  He still needs to buy hoses and fittings in addition to giving it a thorough cleaning, but he has two kegs full of beer and the summer is looming (not much, but it is) he does have incentive.  Perhaps July 1?

So, we have fully converted to kegs....I figure we will bottle our christmas beers or other ones that would benefit from age.....but I don't relish the thought of it.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Back in the Saddle

Since last Saturday I have been thinking about our last brew session.  I have been somewhat obsessed with it, and this is what I have been hoping for.

Last week, I fell in love with brewing again, and I can not wait to brew again.  For the longest time, we had made so many changes to our brewhouse that we never got the process down, and continually had various problems such as stuck mashes, plugged piping during transfers, and problems priming the pump.

The brewery finally transferred to my house from my brothers, and I spent a lot of time preparing the gear and thinking about the setup and operation.  I had convinced myself (and subsequently my brother) that we were not only able to do two brews in a day, but that it would be fun (and easy).  And, barring any problems, it is.

The real secret is preparation and timing and secondarily a good brewhouse layout (which we are still working on).

Expecting that the day is going to be a long one and making preparations to shorten it not only does, but it changes your expectations.  The first thing in the morning that needed to get done was the hot liquor tank needed to get filled and a fire lit under it to heat.  I had the HLT 100% assembled.  I started the night before (or maybe a few nights before).  I had all of the days brewing hardware soaking in sanitizer the night before, and assembled the HLT before I went to bed.  I could have set the HLT outside on the burner and filled it with water to save even more time, but it was supposed to be rainy (or snowy), so I waited on that

I lit the HLT and set up the mash tun.  I measured my grains and milled them directly into the mashtun.  I set up my recirculation pump before I mashed in at 170 F to settle at about 155F at the top and 148F as it exited  my kettle.  I was running smoothly before my first assistant showed up (my nephew) at 9:30am.  I had the mash steady at 154 (eventually settling at 155 top and 153 bottom).  I also devised a temp gauge at the top of the kettle to measure the wort as it comes out of the heat exchanger and enters the tun.

As we sparged to the boil kettle, we refilled the HLT, cleaned the mash tun and started preparing the grains for the second batch.  We had some trouble with milling the just wouldn't catch in the mill.....and issues with a boilover, but otherwise a quiet day.

All told, we brewed 24 gallons of our Girls of Summer series.  An American Wheat and our Naked (all malt) Blonde.  They have been tempting me from inside the open fermenters all week as the weather has warmed.  With kegging, I could be drinking one (or both) by the middle of next week.  I need to either empty my brown ale (by drinking it) or buy more kegs in the intervening week.  I think I will need more kegs, as I have my head already into my next beer or two.