Tampa Bay Beer Week 2016

I’ve been muttering to myself, wondering when I’d write another blog post.  It’s like that term paper with which you keep proscrastinating.  This week is Tampa Bay Beer Week and it started off as it always does, with a big ass beer festival, the Florida Brewer’s Guild Craft Beer Festival more specifically.  Over 55 breweries, over 250 beers and a beautiful March Saturday.  I tried about 32 different beers which is right about on par with last year.  Standouts were a vanilla cinnamon IPA from Wynwood Brewing ( I think),  Cigar City’s Marshal Zhukov,  Southern Brewing’s Pointillist Sour IPA and Six Ten’s oud bruin (sour brown).  Marker 48 gets honorable mention for a barrel aged milk stout.  The wife couldn’t make it due to a conflicting extracurricular school activity, so my father-in-law stepped in.  It was his first beer festival and probably not his last.


Next weekend, I decided to contribute to  beer week in my own little way by hosting a Pride Craft Brewery open house for family and friends.  We expect about 25 people.  Despite the lack of posts, I’ve been brewing twice a month and I’ve got four batches ready plus some older holdovers from late last year.  Three of the batches are first run recipes:

Number Six Pale Ale:  brewed with 20% rye, hopped with simcoe and amarillo.  This did not turn out very hoppy but I’m happy with the present but understated bitterness.    Has a really nice flavor and the rye comes through.  I think it will appeal to a broad audience.

Savanna Saison:  a semi-clone of Boulevard’s Tank 7.  Not as earthy and spicy as I’d hoped but it’s a zippy little saison that’s clean, citrusy with a little bit of pepper on the end.  By the way, Wyeast 3711 French Saison is a total beast.  Every beer I’ve used it on has tore through the sugars to make a dry FG of 1.001….every single time.  This one was no different.

Quantum Deep Milk Stout:  a semi-clone of Left Hand Milk Stout.  Sweetness is nice and the coffee aroma just from the roasted barley (no coffee added) is just heavenly.   Very pleased.

I also have Witty Kitty Witbier, Night’s King Bourbon Porter and a small amount of Left Nut Brown and the kriek that I brewed last year (for the adventurous).

So there it is, my first post of 2016.  See you in the fall 😉



If At First You Don’t Succeed…..

Since the last witbier debacle, I decided to take a short break from brewing, approximately a month.  Now I’m ready to shake off the bad juju and get back into it.  And the best thing to do is face your demons head on.  So of course my next brew was trying to right a wrong…..tackling that Witty Kitty one more time.  Brew day yesterday was a smooth as could be.  Only difference was autosiphoning my wort from kettle to fermentor while leaving the coriander and orange peel behind.  I even went easy on crushing the coriander this time.  I didn’t want to overdo it. OG was 1.046 (target was 1.047) and the taste test was good though I think I might have detected that same astringency though it was very subtle.  If there, it’s being obscured by the sweetness of the wort and will come more forward after fermentation.  If true, that means that it is coming from the coriander and was not a product of an infection previously.  And even if it rears its ugly head again, I’ll bottle the batch anyway in the hopes that it will subside with some conditioning/aging.  In the future, the only thing I could do differently is cut back on the coriander.  But I feel confident that this batch will ultimately be good.

By the way, it was sweltering yesterday on that back patio here in Florida and a propane burner on full blast didn’t help matters.  Usually I brew on Friday mornings.  But it just worked out that I was going to brew on a rare lazy Sunday this time.  The fiancee had things to do and she was out and about.  So I took my sweet time and didn’t mash in until 1:30.  I wasn’t trying to beat the clock like I usually am (e.g. I have to be done in 5 hours because I have to pick the kids up).  So it was a very zen brew day despite the heat.  And because of that,   I also knocked back a couple of beers in the process to keep cool and refreshed.  One of them was Timmy Time Lime Cream Ale.  This one turned out so nice.  When I first had one of these from my latest batch, I thought that the lime could be dialed back a little.  But now after more than month since bottling and spending a couple of weeks in the fridge,  it’s mellowed out and has reached it’s peak.  Such a clean beer.  And I couldn’t believe how clear it was. I forget what some “lagering” time will do for a lighter cleaner beer like a blonde or cream ale.

Next Friday, I’m brewing Big Mane IPA, with some minor tweaks from the last time I brewed it.  It’s still going to be a Cascade centric beer but I’m working to give the body a little more fullness with the addition of some carapils.


Well This Was A First…..

Something terrible happened.  Absolutely dreadful.  However, this bad thing occurred about two weeks ago, so I’ve climbed off the ledge since and have had a chance to gain some perspective.

My witbier batch had to be dumped!!!

I was prepping to bottle the batch.  I got my sugar priming solution made.  I racked the batch to the bottling bucket.  Everything looked right and smelled right.  Then I took my sample for my hydrometer reading.  FG was 1.007.  Perfect!! This was when I usually drink my hydrometer sample and make sure it’s really good to go.  For the first 3 seconds upon putting it in my mouth, it was good.  Then ASTRINGENCY reared it’s ugly head on my tongue.  FUCK!!!  I took a few more sips to make sure I wasn’t imagining it.  Yep, astringency.  I looked at the bottom of my fermentor.  The yeast cake looked uniform and normal.  No visual or olfactory evidence of a contamination.  Hhhmmmm.  I’ve never had an infected batch in over 5 years of brewing.  I contribute that to my OCD sanitization practices and the fact that my equipment is pretty simplistic.  There are no hidden places, like ball valves, where gunk may build up over time.  Hell I even remove my bucket lid gaskets when I clean.

Then I realized what the most probable culprit was.  If you recall from my previous post, I did something different.  I dumped the entire contents of the kettle into the fermentor, trub and all.  This was based on Brulosopher’s xbeeriments.  But what also went into the fermentor was all the orange peel and coriander.  They sat in the beer for two weeks, where normally they would have been separated from the wort upon racking into the fermentor.  I did a little bit of google searching and found a few sources that stated that orange peel and/or coriander can lead to astringency if there is too much of it or left in the beer for too long.  Though I don’t have a 100% open and shut case, odds are this was the cause.

So this is a situation of taking my lumps and learning something from it.  I hate wasting time, I hate wasting money and I hate wasting beer.  But that is the risk we homebrewers take every time we fire up the kettle.  I’ve been fortunate enough that it took this long to hit me.

Full disclosure:  I’ve had two other batches that had flavor issues.  One was too much coffee in a stout (overdosed the batch with crushed coffee beans).  The other was too much oak in a bourbon porter (soaked the oak chips too long in bourbon before adding to the beer).  The difference is I drank those batches even though they weren’t good enough to share with anyone else.  The fact they were dark, rich beers to begin with made those flaws somewhat tolerable.  But in the case of this witbier, it was in my opinion, just undrinkable…… even by my standards.

Witbier Tasting

I decided to do a comparative tasting between my Witty Kitty Witbier and Cigar City’s Florida Cracker Belgian Style White Ale.  This is the Witty Kitty that was brewed just after Christmas and had that sulphur odor, probably due to lower than usual temperatures in the house during bottle conditioning and me jumping the gun and refrigerating a few after only one week of bottling.  Additional aging  of the rest of the batch allowed the sulphur to mellow out and the beer turned out very nice.

Appearance:  Both were hazy as is customary of a wheat beer.   The Witty Kitty was pale yellowish but the Cigar City had a little bit more golden hue to it.  But the appearance of both was really quite similar.  Both had white dense, creamy heads but the Florida Cracker poured with a thicker head, indicating a higher level of carbonation.

Aroma:  Both smelled quite similar also.  That characteristic belgian yeast character was evident along with some citrusiness.  Witty Kitty just had a tad bit more of a belgian yeast character.

Taste:  Both taste citrusy and crisp with negligble hop character.  The spiciness of the coriander was a bit more noticeable in the Witty Kitty on the back end.

Mouthfeel:  Both had a medium, prickly mouthfeel.  There was a creaminess to both.

Overall:  Really, any differences I try to point out are really splitting hairs.  I closed my eyes, switched the glasses around and tried to pick which one was which blindly.  I guessed wrong.  I’m kind of surprised at how close these two beers are.  Considering Cigar City’s reputation of making awesome beers, I don’t mind not distinguishing myself here.  That means my recipe was solid and I brewed it cleanly.

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Beers of Summer (and Spring)

It’s been a hell of a winter….even down here in Florida. But I’m sure the springing of Spring is just around the corner. And when the warmer temps start settling in, it changes what I want to drink. Beach weather comes much quicker here in Florida than further up north, so I need to start planning on brewing what I want to have in my cooler. I’ve set up my brewing calendar to brew with the seasons for the most part. So starting in March I’ll be brewing 3 successive beers that are lighter, crisp and refreshing: Rye Tymes American Ale (light rye ale), Timmy Time Lime Cream Ale (exactly as it sounds) and Witty Kitty Witbier (belgian white). They are timed so that as we get into the full swing of spring and into the squelching heat of summer, these beers will be ready to be poured into my glass. Speaking of seasonal brewing, I’ve scheduled my hefeweizen and marzen for August so they are ready for Oktoberfest. And of course more of my dark and hearty beers will be brewed for fall/winter.

I posted previously that I was going to focus on my 12 recipes this year, one per month. Then I added my wine/saison hybrid and the marzen to the list. Somehow I can’t stay away from doing something new. So I got the idea of doing a session IPA with chinook and cascade (3.5%). But I won’t be doing that until December. By that time, I’m going to need to break up the monotony of the darker beers at that time of year and have something lighter but flavorful on hand.

I haven’t posted about it yet, but I brewed Regalic Saison two weeks ago (saison with muscat grape concentrate). I’m waiting until it’s time for tasting in about two weeks and I’ll do a full grain-to-glass summary. I’ll also include how the bourbon ale came out this time around.

Brewery Update:

Bloed Koning Kriek:  sitting undisturbed in secondary until August.

2B’s Bourbon Ale and Regalic Saison: being bottled tomorrow.

Next brew day:  Rye Tymes in about a week.

By the way, the Witty Kitty that I brewed the day after Christmas had a sulphur like aroma out of the bottle, which is a by-product of the yeast.  But luckily after a few more weeks, it’s corrected itself.  I’m attributing it to colder temps in the house which may have caused the refermentation and bottle conditioning process to be slower.  I’m going to post a tasting comparison between this and a commercial witbier soon.

The Kegging Question

Most homebrewers usually start out bottling their batches. And most agree that bottling is a pain in the ass for the most part. Which leads most homebrewers to a point eventually where they ask themselves if it’s time to start kegging. And even if the desire is there to make the jump, that opens up a bunch of other questions. How much is this going to cost me upfront? How much is the ongoing cost moving forward? Do I have space for the needed equipment? Do I have the money? Is it worth the money? I came to that point recently and I asked myself those very questions. And here are the answers basically. I don’t have the funds or the space at this time to get a kegerator or a keezer and the equipment that I would need to set up a keg/tap system. And yes I did look on craigslist for used stuff. So I started looking at alternatives. There were basically two that I found. The first has been around for a few years called Tap-a draft. See pic below.

Tap a draft

It comes with three bottles, that together would bottle about a 5 gallon batch, 5 CO2 cartridges and one tap assembly. You essentially treat each bottle like, well, a big bottle. You sugar prime your batch like normal, fill the bottle, let it carb and condition, then you refrigerate it. After its cold, you slap the tap on, insert a co2 cartridge and keep it in your fridge. Draft beer anytime. The bottles are small enough to fit on a standard fridge shelf.

The second option is a relatively new product made by Brewing Tools LLC. It’s called the Beer Box. It’s essentially the same product as Tap-a-Draft in basic design and function. But instead it’s two 2.5 gallon HDPE plastic boxy bottles (compared to the PET plastic of TAD), with a port for a Co2 cartridge and a tap assembly. So the bottles are bit more sturdy and rugged and it comes with an adapter and picnic tap, resulting in a little more versatility. But this runs $200 vs about $80 for Tap-a-Draft.

beer box

So I settled on the Tap-A-Draft mainly because it would fit my current needs and it was cheaper. I just want something to sit in my fridge and dispense beer (with the Co2 component) and maybe throw it in a cooler with ice if I want to hit the road. It arrived last week. My approach is that I’m going to use it mainly for my daily drinkers like my rye ale, cream ales, witbiers and hefeweizens, maybe brown ale. Since I won’t be making one of these until March, I won’t be using the TAD until then. I’m going to fill one TAD bottle from the batch and do traditional bottling with the rest of the batch. So I won’t be eliminating bottling, just reducing it. I still like bottles. I like how they look labeled, they can be given as gifts, portable, etc. I just don’t want to fill and cap 50 at a time if I don’t have to. So I’ve taken a baby step toward kegging. I guess I like to take things slow.

Brewing, racking, bottling

The brewery has been very active this past weekend.   Three beers, three different stages.  I brewed and racked on Friday and bottled on Sunday.

Brew Day-  The Sleeper Imperial Stout

This is essentially my second crack at an imperial stout.  My first was a few months ago with Quantum Deep.  But that was before I really discovered my actual brewhouse efficiency (about 60%), fell woefully short of my target ABV and essentially ruined it by adding coffee beans to my secondary.  It was a mess all around but I learned some important stuff from that fiasco.  So I’ve modified some things, renamed it and and I was ready to go again.

The Sleeper Imperial Stout (2.5 gallon BIAB)


7.5 lbs Briess Pale Ale Malt

0.25 lbs Roasted Barley

0.25 lbs Briess Black Malt

0.25 lbs Crisp Pale Chocolate

0.25 lbs Crisp Crystal 60

1.0 lbs Light DME (added after boil start)

0.5 lbs Light Brown Sugar (added 12 min left in boil)

0.5 lbs Lactose (added 12 min left in boil)

Mash:  90 min @ 151 F

Sparge: 1 gallon @ 170F

Boil: 60 min


0.75 oz Summit (60 min)

0.25 oz Summit (10 min)

0.5 oz Cascade (flameout)

Yeast:  Wyeast London ESB 1968

Because I’m using some DME, this isn’t technically “all grain”.  But it is the only way that I can boost my OG to the level I need with my current equipment.  The brown sugar is there to help also.  I usually prefer to use dry yeast whenever possible because it’s easier to use, it’s much cheaper and I’ve made very good beers with them.  I was originally going to use US-04 for this but my LHBS was inexplicably out.  They’ve been having some inventory issues lately.  So the Wyeast 1968 was the best substitute.   But I’m a little concerned that it won’t get the batch as dry as I need it to be.  So I plan on seeing where my gravity is after two weeks and if needed (which I assume it will be needed), I’ll rack it to secondary and pitch another pack of yeast to keep it moving.  This is also my first time using a blow off tube because I expect this to be a very active fermentation.  I got through the initial couple days of bubbling fury and everything was contained thankfully.


OG:  1.108 (target), 1.096 (actual) I’ll need another 1 lb of DME next time, but I’m still within imperial range.

IBU:  92.46

SRM: 40

Estimated Target ABV 9%.

Imperial Ingredients  Imperial Mash  Imperial Wort

Imperial Primary

Rollin’ Barrel Racking

I racked the bourbon porter onto the oak chips and bourbon.  Gravity reading before the bourbon was 1.022 which makes it about 5.7%.  The bourbon is calculated to add another 1% to that.  The porter will sit in secondary for 7 days before being bottled.

Barrel Primary  Barrel Secondary  Barrel FG

Witty Kitty Witbier

Erika’s witbier has been in primary for 14 days.  Taste test was excellent and FG was 1.003!!!  That’s dry.  Brewer’s Friend calculated it going down to only 1.012.  So the yeast, for whatever reason, went hog wild and we are looking at an ABV of  6.6% instead of the anticipated  4.5%     The yeast has definitely hazed up the beer, which is desirable and it does have that unique belgian flavor imparted by the yeast and the spiciness due to the coriander.  Bottling yielded 18 12 oz bottles and one 16 oz PET.  Erika looks pretty happy.

Witty Racking  Witty Bottling  Witty Taste Test  Witty batch

Next Friday I’m making a small batch of cream ale for Amy, co-proprietor of 2B’s, and bottling the bourbon porter.  It’ll be another busy day.  But I love it.