What’s New in the Basement in April?

There is a lot of interesting stuff going on in my little world of craft brewing. It’s about to be a pretty good summer! The learning (and drinking) continues.

Dieting and Craft Beer

I’ve been smoke-free since January. After 4 months, I’m in the middle of a short relapse, but am looking forward to stopping again. Of course, during the first few months, I gained a lot of weight and got up to 230 lbs. After a checkup with my doctor, I decided to start using http://www.livestrong.com. It helps me calculate my meals for the day so that I’m in weight-loss mode and incentivizes me for exercising. I started running and biking again, 2-3 times a week. So far, after 2 months, I’ve lost 19 pounds. I seem to be stuck at 211. Craft beers are heavy on calories and I’ve had to really plan out my consumption and take it easy. I had my first “cheat day” on Easter and found that to be awesome, but counter-productive. I may only do a cheat day every two weeks until I get down to below 195.

I’ve found the secret to dieting is eating less and exercising more. I’ll be darned, eh?

IBU Meeting

I’ve been a member of the IBU for a year now and it’s starting to pay off. I’ve met a few people who have offered sound advice and really helped me improve my beers. Tony Schubert, the current club president has been big on helping me re-focus on yeast. I’ve been concentrating too much on mashing, sparging and hops and need to focus more on pitch rate and temperature. I’ve also started reading Chris White’s book (of White Labs fame) on yeast. It has been quite eye-opening.

The meeting was pretty cool this month. I met a chef named Todd Buffington who is also a brewer, cheesemaker and cool guy. He also makes malt vinegar, bread and sauerkraut. I’ll be freezing my spend grains from now on and bringing them to the meeting to give to him. I bought some of his cheese dip, which is amazing. Next month, he’ll bring some malt vinegar and sauerkraut. Check him out here: www.5minutestilmidnight.com

We also decided in the meeting to have a contest where they pair up an experienced brewer with an inexperienced one (like me) and we make an extract beer. I’m excited to do this and learn some stuff. I still do an extract brew from time to time, but grain is more fun. We are also planning a big bike ride which will include stops at local breweries and some tasting training in upcoming meetings.

If you’re a new brewer, I highly recommend joining this club. It will decrease the learning curve. It’s only 25 bucks a year and comes with discounts and free beers.

Iron Brewer

In the April IBU Meeting, I brought Bedfordshire IPA to compete in the monthly competition we call “Iron Brewer”. There were about 4 other IPAs, all of which were far more exciting than Bedfordshire, which is crisp, clean and to standard, but unremarkable. I’ll need to redefine my recipe and make it a bit more exciting I think.

Next month, the style is Bocks and I’ll be bringing a sixer of Arminius Bock.

Drinking St. Stremph

St. Stremph Irish Red Ale turned out great! I have a lot of it, so swing on by the house and I’ll give you some. I won’t be able to drink it all before the next batch is ready to put in the fridge, which is getting pretty full.

Bottling this Month

Tonight I’ll bottle about 20 bottles of Tyrannicide American Stout, another favorite. I’ll of course be saving some for the Lake Trip, Block Party and Iowa State Fair Competition.

Tomorrow, I’ll bottle about 45 bottles of Offa of Mercia English Dark Mild, another of my favorites. I’ll again, save some for the events and competition coming up.

Learning to Keg

I finally broke down and bough a kegging system. I’ll need to learn how to use it, but I imagine it will be a while. I’ll need to re-furbish the basement mini-fridge to hold 2 5-gallon Cornelius kegs. (Also called “corny” kegs) It may cost quite a bit, but I can reach out to the IBU and see if anyone is selling used tappers and such.

Planning SouthEast Woodcreek American Pale

It’s getting close to crunch time for brewing for the block party. I’m excited for this 4th iteration of SEWC American Pale Ale. This year, there is also a beer label contest. Don’t forget to enter a design, you artists out there!

I’ll be brewing on May 5th, yes Cinco De Mayo. Come join me!

Planning a Trip to Oregon

I’m planning a trip to see John, Dan and Sarah at Stone Circle Cider in July! I’ll be free manual labor and drunken entertainment for these guys for a full week. We may also brew some beer and I hope to learn a bit about making cider and open fermentation. It should be a trip filled with dirt, sweat, beer, cider and laughs! Don’t worry, I’ll take plenty of drunken pictures.

Perfecting Bedfordshire

A buddy of mine is very interested in making a Toppling Goliath clone. I may decide to switch up Bedfordshire to be a more citrus-flavored, low flocculation IPA. I’ll be reaching out to people I know to find a good recipe so I can improve this. A lot of brewers are interested in consistency between batches. I think I make enough good notes and have enough sanitation that I can have good consistency. But I would like to improve each iteration until I have fantastic beer. then I’ll worry about consistency.

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