A Curious History – Can brewing be traced to childhood ?

Each homebrewer has his reasons for homebrewing, but what he might not realize is that his hobby may have something to do with his past. No, I don’t mean reincarnation or hypnosis. I’m talking about something in the psyche that can slowly develop or be triggered by an ordinary event.
I grew up in Newark, N.J. in a section known as Ironbound, named after the surrounding railroad tracks. My school, St. Aloysius, was in a former office building of the P. Ballantine & Sons Brewery donated to the church to help give neighborhood kids an education. The brewery was in full production at the time. It is here that I feel my inner self has been guided to the art and science of homebrewing. I was almost like a barley grain getting ready to germinate.
At St. Al’s in the fifth grade, I developed a fondness for that pungent aroma wafting in the classroom through open windows on the spring air. I was ever so careful not to get caught watching the busy workers and the noisy cans go by on conveyors.
My daydreaming about all that activity prompted Sister Rita to send a note home to Mom. I also remember being chased by the workers as my friend showed me how to get the overhead doors to move using a crushed ale can and reflecting light on the electric eye sensors. The mystery of what went on there made it all the more interesting.
Well, a year later, in 1964, my family moved to the other end of the city to the area of the kinder and gentler aroma of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. It wasn’t until college, while the regular American pilsners were being consumed, that I got an education in Ballantine India Pale Ale. In comparison to what I was used to, it was absolutely amazing. A fondness was developing. I began wondering about ingredients and their effect on the taste and aroma of different beers.
Years later many hearts were saddened to hear of the closing of Ballantine’s plant. Rumor has it that 12 giant wooden tanks of IPA were destroyed as the brew in its prime washed into Newark Bay. Ouch! The new Falstaff product is good but only a faint hint of the original.
All the excitement peaked in 1986 when I brewed my first batch. It tasted great. Things have been constantly progressing as I try new techniques, although I’m still waiting for that noisy clanking sound of cans going by. I haven’t quite figured out that process yet. Progressing from extracts to all-grain is rewarding because I can actually tell the difference.
These days the beautiful aromas I create invoke faces on my children only Sister Rita could muster as she passed out our report cards. Because of that, brewing days start with the departure of the school bus. With proper ventilation of the house and kitchen, the air seems clear by the time the bus pulls up again at the end of the day.
“Dad, were you making beer again today?” I knew it was coming.
“Oh, why? Can you smell something?” I ask.
“No there’s a thermometer sticking out of your back pocket.”
Phew! Lately they admit it doesn’t smell “all that bad.” Maybe there’s a new generation of homebrewers in the making.
Sometimes I get the chance to visit the sites of my childhood memories. The packaging plant, warehouses, towers and brewing buildings are still there, although occupied by other businesses. As a firefighter, there are times I zip past the Anheuser-Busch plant in the summer to get that old scent, albeit ever slight.
Looking ahead, I’m curious to see if history will repeat itself, as my young ones get older.
These days I try to recreate that legendary IPA. I know that being close is good enough.
Some day when I read my hydrometer for the last time and the homebrew tanks run dry, I’ll sneak a peek out the window recalling the clanging and remember how the smell of malt and hops can ignite a passion that lasts a lifetime.*

*Featured in Brew Your Own magazine October 1998,Vol.4.No.10

You, too, can learn how to make beer! We love to drink quality brews and that can include the ones you make yourself. Give home brewing a try. Avoid the hassles and find out how to do it outdoors. Outdoorbrewing.com is here to guide you through the whole process. If you want to start out brewing and have no idea what it’s all about, check out the Beginner Brewing Series. It’s an easy to follow read that is written for the novice and describes the process as I tell you how it’s done. Once you start, you will get familiar with the procedures, do it your way and get experience as you chalk up the batches. Always read as much as you can and you will advance at your own pace. Check out my tips in the various articles, use them and give me some feedback. In brewing beer, we like others to try our creations. Take the criticism as being constructive and hone your skills.
Do it! Join in now! We’re waiting for the next generation to start up and take over. We’re not getting any younger and need you to step up to the brewhouse. Someone is going to have to make our beer! And it’s you!

Korny Keggin’

After bottling about 100 batches, I finally made the leap to kegging. Cornelius kegs ( aka korny ) offer the homebrewer a convenient and fast way of cooperage. You’ll need to get a kegerator or convert the old fridge with a wall mounted faucet or two as well as gas distribution lines. The process of kegging turns out to be easier than you think.

Korny kegs are available online and homebrew shops in new or used condition. New ones are nice if you could afford them or picking up some used ones will work just fine if you perform some minor rebuilding. I prefer the ball-lock fittings since they seem easier to use. Always replace the o-rings and also have an extra set of them and poppets on hand in case some get damaged. Keg lube is another item you will need. Have the keg and all the pieces clean and stored away so it will be ready on kegging day.

Prepare the keg for filling by first putting all the little pieces and lid in a bowl of Star San (SS) solution. Coat the small 0-rings with some keg lube and slide them onto the short and long dip tubes and place them in the respective holes of the keg with the small in the “in” port and the long tube in the “out” port. Apply a thin film of lube to the tips of the poppets and drop them in the keg fittings and loosely apply to the keg with the notched one on the gas side and the smooth one on the beer side. As you turn them to tighten be carefull to see that the poppet is centered in the fitting hole. This is important since you want it to seat right so there are no leaks later. If they don’t center right while twisting them on clockwise, then back off a little and watch as the poppet lines up dead center. Once you have them snug, tighten with an 11/16″ open end wrench or the larger fittings with a 7/8″ socket wrench. It’s tight when they seem to just stop, not like wrenching down on some lag bolts in wood. Apply a thin coat of lube to the relief valve seal and insert into the lid and tighten. Lube the large gasket, fit it on the lid and return setup the SS bowl. Fill the keg with cold water and put in 1 oz. of SS, secure with lid then give it a little shake. It’s now ready for the next step.
Attach CO2 hose and charge the korney keg that’s full of SS solution. Use a faucet attachment on the “out” side to empty contents.
Collect as much as you like of the 5 Gal. SS solution into containers as you push the SS out of the korny as it fills with CO2. The keg is now sanitized and purged of oxygen. Check for leaks that will show up as tiny bubbles on the fittings.

Assemble racking cane and tubing and transfer the beer into the korny. Fit on the lid and hook up the gas line as you prepare to carbonate the beer.
Carbonation levels differ with many styles of beer so determine how much you are aiming for. These levels are measured in volumes of CO2 dissolved in the liquid. Consult a chart with Temperature of Beer to Pounds per Square Inch Applied. After cold-conditioning my beer in the fridge for awhile and transfering it to the keg I usually end up with a Temperature of 44F in the keg. Checking the chart shows that @ 44F and a pressure of 18 psi yields 2.81 atmospheres which I find works well with most of my homebrews.

Once you have determined the carbonation level desired, set the regulator and begin shaking the keg. Sit down on a chair with the horizontal keg on a towel on your lap and while firmly holding it begin a rocking motion to facilitate the dissolving of the gas into the beer. Hold it so the “in” valve is up. You’ll hear a growling noise at first as the gas disperses into the liquid. This will quiet down as time goes on. I find rocking for 15 to 20 minutes is sufficient to reach the full carbonation level desired.
The carbonated beer is now ready, you can sample some now but it’ll be foamy. It’s best to let it settle a day or two in the fridge so it can reach an equilibrium. Before hooking up the gas line relieve some pressure so beer doesn’t back up the gas line. If it did then clean and sanitize the hose to prevent contamination.  Be sure to have a check valve installed to help prevent backups.
You are now ready to enjoy your first kegged homebrew !

Ferment and Cellaring

Here we are at the final stage of our beer in production. You boiled, cooled, aerated the wort and pitched the yeast, fermentation started and is cranking – now you wait, RIGHT?

New Hops For Your New Beer

We’ve all made tons of beers with tried and true hops that have been available throughout the years, but lately some new varieties have emerged in the U.S. markets. These newcomers are actually clones of old stock that have been developed to accent the most desirable qualities of cultivation, utilization and shelf life. Herein lies the magic often aspired by homebrewers seeking to get away from the common rut of sticking to historical styles. These new varieties offer hop oil contents uncharacteristic of the parent strains making them wildly exciting to experiment with. Think about that Pale Ale with a different nose or a spicier bitterness in the middle. The possibilities are endless when the homebrewer does a little research to match the new hops with their favorite grain bill. Now’s the time to search around for these new hops with names like Amarillo, Citra, Glacier, Palisade, Simcoe, and Sterling. I’ll get to the descriptions of these hops later as we review some hops facts.