These questions and answers come from our third all Q&A episode in Episode 25! (aka Part 2 of the second Q&A episode )Thanks to Richard Westmoreland for listening through the episode and giving us these answers for you!
Table of Contents
- Packaging Questions
- Brewing Philosophy Questions
Denny Okay, for our next question we have Les James on the phone from Joliette, Illinois. How are you doing today, Les?
Les I’m doing well. How are you doing Denny?
Denny I’m great, man. I’d be better if I was drinking and not working, but you know. That’s life and at least my work involves drinking. So, Drew. Are you there?
Drew Yes. I am. Alright. Why don’t we get down to some questioning business, here?
Drew Alright. So, Les wrote in, and Les, I’m going to read your question out to the audience and then we can talk about things as we go. Les writes in,
“First off I love the podcast. I stumbled upon it a couple of months ago and have been binge listening.”
You poor man.
“I started brewing about 4 years ago, but for medical reasons I had to give it up after six months. Like Drew, I lost a crap ton of weight, (around 155 pounds)….”
Which beats my record. So, good on you, man.
“…which coincidentally cured all of my ailments. Well, I got the itch to start brewing again and started up in May of this year. Previously I was only able to keg 1 batch before I stopped brewing so I don’t have a whole lot of experience with it. Now that I’m brewing again, I have a question about aging in kegs. I brew in a bag; typically, 5.5 gallon batches and many of my friends enjoy the fruits of my labor. This leads to me having to brew more often than I used to. Such a tough problem to have, I know! Anyway, I only have two lines for my regulator in my kegerator; with the ability to fit a third keg in the fridge. Since I double-brew on brew days I usually have 4 kegs going at a time. My current practice has been to unhook the CO2 from the two existing kegs and bring one of them into the basement which remains around 65 degrees at all times. Then purge the O2 from the new kegs and leave them on gas for a few days. I will then bring one of the new kegs downstairs and re-install the older keg that was in the basement. I have found that when I re-tap that older keg; the beer is darker and tastes changed in a bad way. This doesn’t happen to the keg I leave in the refrigerator. I am careful not to transfer trub and yeast from the fermenter when kegging, so I’m not sure why this is happening. I typically don’t wind up finishing that keg due to the changing beer, which is disappointing and goes against my frugalness as a homebrewer. Do you guys have any idea why this is happening? And what I do to prevent it? Am I better leaving the keg out in the garage next to the kegerator so I don’t shake it up as much by moving it? I’m pretty sure it has something to do with yeast, but I don’t know how to stop it from happening. Would I just be better off purging the oxygen from the new kegs, then bringing them down to the basement full until the other ones kick? Or will the same thing happen to those kegs? I can’t tell if this has happened to the newer kegs that I’ve brought down to the basement as the two times I’ve done this they’ve been darker beers anyway.”
Denny Hey, Drew! I have a question!
Denny When are we going to start screening these emails?
Drew Hah! Alright! So, Les it sounds like the problem is (if I’ve got the gist of everything that you’ve asked here correct) you have more keg capacity than you have fridge capacity so you can’t cold store all of your kegs.
Drew And when you move one of the kegs down to your basement, which you say is at 65. When you bring it back it’s aged in a terrible and disappointing way that makes you unhappy.
Les It does it pretty quickly, too.
Drew Pretty quick? Like how quickly?
Les If I’m pressurizing that keg, trying to force carb it, typically what’s that? About a week and half, two weeks? So, in that short period of time, when I unhook it and put the old keg back in…most of the cases it’s been a lighter beer style. And they’ve gotten significantly darker. Almost to the point of being brown. Like when you pour some of your yeast starter off and put it in your fridge. Sometimes your get that darker brown layer on top of the yeast. That’s kind of what the color of the beer turns to. Darker, like that.
Denny Do you detect any change in the flavor of the beer, or the aroma?
Les Yes. The flavor degrades a little bit. Sometimes you do get that butter-scotchy flavor. I’ve noticed that I pick that up in there. Which I don’t get in the beer before I move it. It’s almost like a yeasty flavor. But it doesn’t seem to clear. I just let it sit in the fridge. It just stays with that color and that flavor for the rest of the time.
Denny My first thought is you’re getting oxidation somehow. Because that will cause darkening and if there’s oxygen there it can turn diacetyl precursors into diacetyl. Which would be the buttery butter scotch flavors your tasting. Do you notice an increase in the caramel flavors in the beer or anything like that?
Les Off the top of my head I’m going to say no…
Denny Wrong answer! Wrong answer!
Les Okay then yeah, I have been!
Denny Man! Drew, what do you think?
Drew My first thought is whenever somebody says, “hey, my beer is darkening”, is oxidation.
Denny Yeah, right.
Drew So, that would be my first suspicion. Particularly if you’re not seeing this when the beers are staying cold.
Drew As we know, oxidative reactions will speed up the warmer the beer gets. So even at 65 degrees as in comparison to the time it’s spending in the fridge at, say, 30-35; depending on where you have your fridge set. You’re going to see logarithmic increases in oxidative reactions just in that temperature span. The other possibility. You say that you’re careful about trub and yeast going into the kegs, which is good. But before you go into the kegs are you doing any sort of cold crashing or gelatin fining or anything to really force clarity out of the beer?
Les Yes. I just recently, like the last three batches or so started fining with gelatin. But I always cold crash them. And I do have a fermentation chamber so I am able to cold crash.
Drew Awesome. Because my other thought would be; if it’s not an oxidative reaction (which I still think is the most likely culprit). I wonder if the beer, when it’s warmed up, if you’re not experience sort of a re-fermentation in the keg. And so, getting yeast growth. Because, let’s face it. Even with as good of a job as we can do with cold crashing and gelatin; there will still be yeast in the kegs. So, part of me would wonder if you may be getting some yeast growth and that’s murking up the beer. If that was the case then that would settle out.
Denny And that also assumes that there are still fermentables in there for the yeast to be working on. Are the beers finishing at a gravity where you expect them to, Les?
Les Yeah, usually within a point. I’m pretty good with that.
Denny Yeah, right. So theoretically there shouldn’t be a lot of stuff left for the yeast to feed on, but you never know.
Drew Let’s talk about when you go into the kegs. Talk about purging O2 from the new kegs. How exactly are you going about doing the purge?
Les So, I actually do not purge prior to transferring in. Once I get out to the garage, I hook up the CO2 and I crank it up to like 15 or whatever and pop it for a good half a minute or a minute, let it fill, hit the release and I keep going through that process to purge the O2 out of the head.
Denny This could be the issue. And it’s definitely something you can try. And it’s really easy. Drew, why don’t you describe your technique?
Drew I would say, if we want to prove whether or not it’s oxidation. Or at least eliminate oxidation as a cause. Try my keg purging process. Because it will drive all of the oxygen out of the keg. Or most of the oxygen. And what I do is I actually will fill a keg with sanitizer. In my case I use Sani-clean. You can use iodaphor or star san or whatever you have. Fill it all the way to the brim. You actually want liquid spilling out of the keg when you put the lid on. It’s that full. And then push the sanitizer out of the keg with CO2. And push it into another keg to sanitize that. Or push it into a bucket and hold on to it. If you use distilled water with Sani-clean or star san you can hold on to it and reuse it for a while. But drive all the liquid out of the keg. You’re pretty much left with nothing but CO2 left in the keg. Then rack your beer into it. And then try this technique that you’ve been doing where you take the keg and move it into the basement. And see if that causes the same sort of change. If you see a different set of reactions. If you don’t see that same level of darkening; that would say to me that you have an oxidation issue.
Les Let me back you up a step, Drew. You said that you force the sanitizer out under pressure. That’s not a big deal. I can do that. But then don’t you have to relieve the pressure, then to get the lid off to rack into the keg. Will there still be residual CO2 in the bottom of that keg?
Drew Yeah. The whole keg will be filled with CO2. So, what I do, if I’m racking out of a carboy; something that’s not pressurable. (Or you shouldn’t pressure it). I pressure them anyway. Which is me being a bad person.
Denny Don’t try that at home, kids.
Drew Yeah, don’t do that. But I will sometimes crack the lid and just pull the lid out and drop the hose in and put tin foil over the top of it. If I’m going from something that I can pressure transfer out of, say a conical or a keg. Because I ferment in ten gallon corny kegs. Then I will just go straight into the out tube and just crack the PRV. And that will allow the pressure to bleed out through the top. And even if you have to go in through the lid; like crack the lid and put the foil on top; you’re still improving your level of oxygen in the keg by many, many folds
Denny Right And you know what, Les. This is something that I’m going to be trying too. Because I pretty much keg the way you do. And Drew had been talking to me about his method and I have a couple batches ready to keg. And so, what I’m going to do is I’m going to split the batches and keg the way I do and the way Drew described. So, if you use Drew’s method we’d really like for you to get back to us and let us know if you detect any difference in your beers
Les I will definitely do that. This afternoon I’m going to be racking over two separate IPAs
Denny Cool! That’s a good test, too. Because oxidation will really kill the hop character in an IPA. So, if this works then you should end up with definitely better quality hop character in your beer, too.
Les I will check that out. I’m going to try it Drew’s way today. And I won’t know until I brew again a month and a half from now.
Denny Just get back in touch with us whenever you brew. And let us know if you detected any difference by kegging that way. And I will have done mine by then, se we can compare notes.
Les Sound like a plan!
Drew And this is an easy technique. And I’m telling you, if it’s oxidation like we suspect; this will fix it.
Denny Yeah, right. And you’re going to have to mix up star san anyway, so why the heck not do it? You know? Or whatever sanitizer you use, so. Okay, man. Anything else we can do for you while we got you here?
Les No that’s probably about it, gentleman. I appreciate it and you guys are rock stars in my world.
Denny Yeah, well you say that until you actually meet us, man. And then your opinion will change.
Les Hopefully next year in Minneapolis. I’m planning on finding you guys.
Denny Oh great man! We will be there. We’ll be recording a podcast live once again. So, please, if you make it, come by. Make sure you find us somewhere. We’ll be around.
Les Sounds like a plan.
Denny Great! Great talking to you Les. Thank you for your time today.
Les You too, guys. Have a great one.
Denny Buh bye
Les Buh bye
Drew Buh bye
Denny Oh boy! Oh boy! Oh boy! I’m on the hot seat now.
Denny This question comes from StoutFan – over on the Brews Bother’s forum. His first name is actually Frank and I can’t pronounce his second name, so I’m not going to screw it up. It’s a longy! So, get ready. He says,
“Okay, Denny! I got two. Number 1: Can Drew create a pepper beer that you can appreciate?” Maybe. You know….we’ll see. I haven’t had one that he’s done yet so I can’t really tell you. Okay, now. Number 2.
Drew Hold on! I will say, the best pepper beer I’ve ever had and I’ve ever been witness to in terms of homebrewing isn’t even mine. It came from Harold Grobonson down in San Diego. Good ol’ Hal. And Hal did a Jalapeño wheat that I judged one year in a competition. That damned thing was sublime. Like good pepper flavor, good heat. But not so much heat that it made you go, “why am I drinking this?”
Denny Yeah and the ones that I’ve liked tend to be the ones with less heat and more pepper flavor. I’ve had like a roasted poblano pepper beer that was actually darned good. It was a little off-putting at first because of the vegetal quality, but hey. So anyway, Frank. There you go. Yes; somebody can create a pepper beer I like and maybe Drew will do one someday. We’ll see. Okay question number 2; the serious one,
“On the Brewing Network’s “Session”, (sorry I forget which) JP had a guest that did a foam protein collapse test. One pale ale from a tap into two liter bottles with carbonator caps. One was left untouched. The other was depressurized, suffered head collapse and then re-pressurized. That process was repeated several times and were both served on the show. The one-time pressurized bottle was clear in the bottle, and served clear with good head stand. The other had sediment in the bottle, served very cloudy, had poor head stand, and some off taste. All were attributed to fractured proteins. So, after that setup here comes the question. I keg beer green within 1 or two Plato of final gravity; allowing the yeast to scavenge any remaining oxygen even though I CO2 purge my kegs. Sometimes this goes past a Plato or two and I have to bleed off a 60-psi keg. Please tell me I’m not alone here.”
You may be, buddy.
“I’m betting I suffer from the same protein breakdown. (First half of the second question). What do you think about this?”
Should we just take these halves separately?
Denny What do I think about it? God, I don’t know, man. You know, with the bottles I would have guessed that maybe they were suffering from oxidation by the one bottle being opened and re-pressurized. That’s what they call a WAG; a wild-ass-guess. As to what’s going on with you; yeah. I could see that maybe it is a protein breakdown going on with you and maybe even in the bottled beers. I just don’t know. You got a guess?
Drew Well, I mean. First; there is a whole running gambit about not doing re-pressurization and not doing the “shake” form of carbonation that I at least so. Because the theory is that the heading proteins (largely albumin and what-not) that are present in the beer really can only form up once. They can only create a stable bubble structure the one time. And that by doing some sort of “shake” carbonation or the sort-of re-pressurization thing they did in the bottles will lead to poor foam. Now, having said that, I’d be a little curious to do this test myself because I’m trying to think exactly why you would get haze. Because that would take a good amount of broken down protein I think.
Denny Yeah. And not only haze, but he said there was sediment in the bottles also.
Drew Yeah. And so, I don’t know. Part of that is probably whether or not there was sediment in the bottles to begin with. Like a little bitty bit of yeast and a bit of re-shaking disturbed it. Now for his keg question, though. I wouldn’t be so worried about the 60-psi bleed off because, really, that’s a much gentler thing (I would gather) than this shake and foam and shake again with more pressure. I would actually say (for the most part) any sort of sediment you’re going to see (particularly after doing a bleed off) is probably going to be from residual yeast that is in the keg. Beecasue when you do the keg conditioning like this…I know for me one of the biggest problems when I’ve done keg conditioning in the past is just the sediment and dealing with that. I mean, hell. I deal with sediment even when I don’t do that. If I haven’t cold crashed and given it enough time.
Drew So, I would think that if he’s seeing any sort of negative impacts in terms of cloudiness and whatnot, I would actually just go ahead and say it’s probably sediment from the keg conditioning.
Denny I mean, it’s possible. To go back to the first part about the bottles. When I’m kegging a beer, I generally don’t want to wait for the whole keg to carbonate and chill down and stuff. So, I’ll fill a two-liter bottle, put a carbonator cap on, shake the crap out of it and stick it in the fridge. That bottle comes out, gets served from, gets re-pressurized and shaken again, goes back in…. This happens multiple times until that two-liter bottle is gone. And I gotta say, I have never seen anything like what Frank is describing. As far as I can tell the beer retains the level of clarity it had when I started. And no sediment shows up in the bottle. So, I really don’t even know what to say since I have done the same thing and haven’t really seen that happen. All I can say is, Frank, maybe I live cleaner than you do so I get the good things.
Drew Well, I don’t know. I would say my only natural response to this is, “well…it sounds like we have an experiment”.
Denny Yeah! That’s a good idea. Thanks, Frank. We’ll do an experiment.
Drew And this one will be easy to do.
Denny Yeah. It would be. It would be. Now for the second half of the question,
“For the lazy SOBs like me out there who have not yet bought a second gas cylinder, and have not run a regulated CO2 line into your beer fridge…”
I’m right there with you, Frank! I’m the lazy SOB. I do not run CO2 lines into my beer fridge. Anyway…
“…and are presently dispensing off of keg pressure, re-pressurizing when the flow of beer gets too low for our impatience. Do we suffer the similar degeneration in our beer quality even though it is a one or two pour per day outflow rate?”
Uhhhh you know, I don’t think so. Because I think it is the shaking that is the cause of the problem. Just like how using a stir plate can cause shear stress on your yeast cells that can kind of do something similar. So, I think it’s the actual agitation itself that’s causing the problem. This is another WAG of course. So, my guess and my experience from doing exactly the same thing you do, is that, no. It’s doesn’t have the same kind of effect. What do you say?
Drew Yeah. I don’t think it does either I think the actual problem with this methodology (and I’ll be up front. I do it too. Because ain’t nobody got time to set up a giant grid in your kegerator). I think the bigger problem is actually just the change in quality because of the inaccuracy of your carbonation over time. AND, if you’re not careful about it, and you’re pulling too much beer out of the keg and not re-pressurizing; you always have the possible issue that, with our corny kegs, which generally seem to need about 10-psi on them to seal properly. You could actually drop low enough to leak CO2 out of the keg. But that takes a pretty vigorous session. But to me; I would think the bigger problem, any quality suffering you’re going to get from…I just from the varying level of carbonation and the fact that you’re losing that precise target that you try and get yourself to. And you’re no longer 2.5 or 3. Suddenly your beer is at 2, so you’re going to perceive it differently. And if you do re-carbonate and shake, then you could possibly introduce issues.
Denny You know, I have to admit to being one of those people who’s pretty lackadaisical about carbonation.
Drew If I’m not too deep in my “celebratory habits”, shall we say. I am diligent about re-pressurizing the kegs after a session. Because I want to make sure that I don’t suffer from that. But having said that, I’m not always that diligent. Because sometime I get a little too deep in “celebratory practices”.
Denny And for me, it just comes down to more laziness, you know. Sometimes I do; more often I don’t. And Frank’s question number 3 is, “I’m an EE and not a math major. Are you sure you want me to ask you any more questions?” Sure, buddy. Bring ‘em on. We may not have an answer but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask. And who knows. We may just stumble on to something accurate. Okay! Mr. Beechum! Your turn.
Drew Our next question comes from Mike Hall who’s asking about “chill haze”. He said,
“I’ve noticed that most of the beers I’ve brewed taste better to me at carbing temperature compared to after being chilled in the fridge. I also notice how clear the beer is when drinking warm. I tried one which had been placed in the fridge for about a week. It had a 'chill haze' and just didn’t taste great. It tasted dull compared to a warm one. Can chill haze be perceived by taste or was it just that the beer was too cold? My understanding is chill haze is only a cosmetic issue caused by proteins.”
So, let’s see. Let’s tackle the first part. Chill haze is a cosmetic issue by proteins. Basically, you have proteins colloiding together. They come together and they become large enough; visible enough structures that they mess with light transmission through the beer. “Tasting dull”. And “can chill haze be perceived by taste?” I’ve never done anything to try and perceive to see whether or not chill haze is actually taste-able. I’m trying to think how I would actually test that without actually having the temperature question involved. So, you would almost have to have a setup where you have one beer that you chill and allowed to settle for a good long period of time. Because one thing about chill haze is that chill haze will settle over time. IF you keep the beer sufficiently cold it will settle.
Denny Sure. Right.
Drew So, what you could do test this is chill two bottles in the same environment. One bottle; agitate periodically. Every day pick it up, take it out of the fridge, give it a little quick stir. Nothing too violent because you don’t want to deal with any sort of oxidation issues. The other one just leave rock steady. And have somebody pop the caps on them and decant the one that has been allowed to settle. So that you’re not stirring the sediment back up. Decant very carefully. And then do a triangle test that way. But, because chill haze is a cosmetic issue – it’s a visual thing. To really be accurate about I, you’re going to want to go into opaque cups. So you’re not seeing the chill haze in one of them and going, “AHAH! That’s the different one”. Because here you’re trying to figure out “does it actually affect the taste?” And not whether or not it affects the visual qualities. You Already know it affects the visual qualities. So, that would be my first thought in terms of how you test it. In terms of why your beers taste better to you warmer than colder. Think about it…most home fridges are fairly cold because we’re trying to keep our food fresh. So, yeah. Most craft beer is better a little warmer. Most home brew is better a little warmer. Particularly if you’re dealing with something that’s got a nice hop character to it. I kind of like those up in the upper 40s, lower 50s. So, yeah. I generally find that you’re going to taste more when it’s warmer. And they may be a part of what you’re seeing. But I think you can test the chill haze part. You just need to be diligent about getting that thing to settle out.
Denny Yeah. I agree with that. I don’t know. It would be a hard thing to test for sure. Because by the time you get the temperature equalized, the chill haze may be gone from the beer that you’ve warmed up. But like Drew said, if you just let it settle…. ….well every time I drink a beer with chill haze I’m going to be thinking that maybe it doesn’t taste quite right. So, thanks a bunch, buddy!
Drew Yeah, great. Now you’ve made him paranoid.
Denny Yeah, that’s right.
Drew It’s just what the world needs.
Denny That’s right. A paranoid hippie.
Question 4: Care and Maintenance of Kegs
Denny OKAY Next question is gonna come from Satchel Douglas of Alameda, California. He says,
“Love the podcast!” Love back at you, buddy. “Here’s my question. I’m new to kegging and just got two pin lock kegs and a ball lock keg. What kind of care and maintenance is required for keeping them functioning well? How should I store the ones that are not in use?”
OK. If they’re used kegs that you just got, I would break them down completely. Take off the posts. Take out the poppets. Personally, I would use some Craft Meister alkaline brewery cleaner and fill the keg with it. I’d drop the posts and poppets down into the keg to let them soak there too. And that also prevents you from getting them mixed up when you put them back together. Not all kegs use the same size posts.
Even though they’re “all ball lock” or “all pin lock”. There’s going to be some difference in the diameter and the threads of those, so you want to make sure the posts go back on the keg that they came off of. Set the lid on top there. Kind of soak it, too.
The O-ring. Take a look at it. If it’s nice and flexible – not cracked or anything. I would probably put some keg lube on it. Just a little bit to kind of keep it flexible. If it does look cracked or dry; replace that O-ring. Same thing with the O-rings on the posts. Take a good look at them.
When I am done washing a keg, I make sure it’s thoroughly dry, put it all back together, put the lid on, pressurize with about 10 pounds of CO2. I put a little post it note on top with the date when the keg was washed and pressurized. That is good because if you go to use the keg, and you pull the pressure release valve to open it and there’s no pressure in there; you know you’ve got a leaky keg. And you want to set that one aside for further work at some other time. What’s your procedure?
Drew Mostly the same. I’m very pro “just replacing your gaskets whenever”. But I will generally break down my kegs at least once a year. I have about 30. Somewhere in that area. I have a few kegs. Which is the reason why whenever you see pictures of my brewery there are always kegs ready to be washed. But I will break them down. I use a circulated keg cleaner. I do use the alkaline brewery wash on them as well. I replace all the seals whenever I feel like it. Which is generally about once a year. And then I (same as you) make sure to track where the poppets are and where the lids are. In fact, I actually wash the poppets and soak them in separate glasses. So that I know “hey look, those poppets go with this keg”.
Drew But then one thing I do that’s different than you; (and this will play into our next question as well) is I wash them out, rinse them. Then I fill them up with sanitizer, run the sanitizer out via gas and store the kegs pressurized and have them ready to go. And I have a special pile of kegs that are pressurized, and in a corner and ready. And in my Brewhouse if a keg is pressurized, it’s sanitized.
Denny Interesting I don’t tend to sanitize in advance because I have questions about if it stays sanitized. Even though logically I know that it would, man. That keg is sealed, there’s CO2 in there. There’s no reason for it not still be sanitized. But I just prefer the warm fuzzy feeling I get by sanitizing right before I use it.
Drew Denny, I don’t think it’s warm fuzzy feeling. I think it’s called (looking back at our last question) “you’re paranoid”. You need to lay off the crop
Denny Yeah. Possibly so OKAY So, why don’t you talk about purging a keg?
Question 5: Keg Purge
Drew Alright. So, next question is from Pete Boyle. Who emailed us and asked,
“How does one purge a keg? Do you purge both before AND after filling? What is good enough (in a homebrew sense) that we are not packaging commercial beer that might be mistreated (stored warm for weeks). I only have two five-pound tanks and doing 11 purges at 30-psi as the chart / link suggests seems overkill.”
He gives us a link and we’ll make sure to include it in the podcast notes.
“My process is 7 purges at 30-psi after filling which translates to…”
Number And he asks,
“Is this too high?”
Alright. I have never. Never liked the “purge the headspace in the keg by running CO2 into and venting it. Running more CO2 into it and venting it. Running more CO2 into it and venting it”. And the reason I don’t like it because it’s imprecise. Impossible to know that you’ve actually urged everything and yes, also wasteful of CO2. In my mind.
Because here’s the problem. Homebrewers like to say, “CO2 is heavier than oxygen, so it will displace all of the oxygen in the keg.” Some people will go into the out dip tube and say, “CO2 is flooding into the bottom. And allowing the oxygen to get pushed up out the top.” Horse hockey! CO2 and oxygen mix. They’re miscible gasses.
Denny That’s Henry’s law. Isn’t it?
Drew Yeah. And so, here’s the thing. IF you’re mixing the gasses, you’re never really going to know. So, what people are trying to do with these multiple purges is reduce the overall oxygen percentage, right? How much PPM of oxygen do I have in here? And the more these purges I do, the less I presume to have.
I don’t like it. I don’t trust it. I think it’s a waste of CO2, and meh.
RANT! Here’s what I do. Just like we alluded to in the last question; when I get done washing the keg, I fill my keg with sanitizer. A lot of the times I’m using Sani Clean. Sometimes I use iodaphor, depending on what my needs are. But I fill that keg and I mean FILLED. To the top. So that when I put the lid in; sanitizer is actually coming out of the keg.
Close it up. Let it sit. Let it sanitize.
And then I use a jumper line to let it run out the port and over to the out port of another keg that’s ready to go. And use CO2 to push all that sanitizer out through the hose and into the next keg. And that next keg has the pressure relief valve popped or the lid off. So that all of the gasses can be pushed out.
Once all the liquid is out of the first keg; pull the lines, don’t do anything with the pressure. Just pull the gas line. Pull the jumper line. That keg is now sealed. It is sanitized and it is absolutely 100% full of CO2. For certain values that are close to 100%.
And the reason for that is aqueous solutions like our sanitizer solution are incompressible. They don’t have the oxygen entrained with them. When we’re pushing the piqued out via CO2 we’re pretty well guaranteed that everything that’s going to be in that keg is going to be CO2.
Now the reason why I have faith in this process is because I’ve done some very stupid things over the years. Because I am very stupid. A perfect example was; I had a beer I brewed for the 2011 National Homebrewer’s Conference in San Diego that I called “The Gnome is in the Details.” And the idea was something inspired by Brewery Achouffe. Sort of a 6% 5.5% Belgian Blonde Ale with the Achouffe strains.
Absolutely wonderful beer. Didn’t drink all of it down in San Diego. And I kind of forgot about it down in the corner of one of my chest freezers. And forgot about it until the NEXT San Diego Conference. Which was 2015. And I went “OH! That’s unfortunate.” But I tapped the keg. And this is now a multiple year old keg of a relatively session strength beer in one of my purged kegs. It had been kept cold, and guess what? It’s still tasted fresh!
So, I attribute that to the fact that I removed as much oxygen from that keg as I possibly could before I packaged. After that, I never purge it. I never do anything else with it. I just keep the pressure on it. So, there you go. There’s the Drew Beechum method of purging. I like it a lot better than all of this stuff of “oh vent gas and pull the pressure relief valve.” Because I don’t trust it. I don’t like it. NOSSIR!
Denny And that’s exactly why that’s what I do. Not just because you don’t like it.
Number 1: I generally don’t have a keg of beer around for a year.
Number 2: Like I said, I don’t fill mine with sanitizer and push them out for storage.
I could do that. I obviously sanitize them before I use them. So, I could do that and them fill them. Okay so my question is how do you fill these kegs? Do you fill them through the out post? Or do you open them up and run a piece of tubing into them to fill them? How do you do that?
Drew It depends on what I’m coming out of. If I’m coming out of one of my carboys and still actually do have some carboys. And I have some buckets. If I’m coming out of one of those and they’re not really pressure vessels; I always rack with CO2. Even in non-pressure vessels, which is very dumb. But it’s how I do it.
I will go in through the lid. And I will actually pop the lid and I will cover it with foil and whatnot. And drop the line all the way down to the bottom. There’s a little bit of mixing of gasses, I know. But as long as I’m not going and flinging the keg around or running a fan at it. There’s relatively little mixing.
Denny Or so you think. Do you really know that there’s minimal mixing?
Drew Well there’s really not a lot of convection across the top of those kegs.
Drew If it’s all covered up.
Denny Ok. It was just a question.
Drew I mean, do I know according to Hoyle with instrumentation and everything else? No But still, for the most part, it seems to work out fairly well. If I’m coming from one of my kegs or another vessel that can be pressurized; those I will go in through the out post and leave the keg sealed. Just using a spunding valve or the pressure relief valve to pull off the pressure off the keg. So that the transfer can take place.
Denny Yeah. I I’m doing a keg to keg transfer, of course I do the same. So, this seems like fertile ground for yet another experiment. You could fill one keg with beer and have the keg be pre-purged and then the other one not pre-purged but do the “put in the CO2 and pull the PRV and whole bunch of time”. And compare. That would be an easy one, huh? Okay!
Drew Best way to do it would be with something hoppy, right? Because it would expose that flavor change.
Denny Right. It just so happens I have a batch of a very hoppy pale ale that is darn close to be ready to being kegged. So, I may have to give this a try.
Drew By the way, since I know homebrewers out there; we love to be cheap. I think by purging this way you save CO2. But with the pre-sanitizing step; the fact that I sanitize before I store the keg.
And now I don’t re-sanitize when I use the keg. I actually am using less sanitizer, I feel, doing what I do. Because I will stack up multiple kegs for processing. So, I run sanitizer straight through 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 kegs. And I’m not doing it discreetly with different batches. Which is why I feel I can get away with doing whole keg sanitizing and purging. And not spend an arm and a leg on sanitizer.
Denny Yeah. And that does have that advantage, so.
Question 1: Overcoming Brewer's Inertia
Drew And now we’ve come to the time of the show where it’s time to get a little philosophical.
Drew It’s time to talk about things just more than technical. All things that make us stay up warm and fuzzy at night; all about the homebrew.
So, Denny, why don’t you go ahead and take our first philosophy question? Shall you?
Denny Alright! First question comes from Leonard Ashcroft; a Facebook bubby. Leonard starts off with a little philosophical statement that actually fits in really nicely. He says,
“A home brewer at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted on by a net force.”
And I don’t mean “Annette Funacello”. I mean “a net force”.
Denny Thank you!
Drew You’re not allowed to make jokes anymore.
Denny So, Leonard’s question is this:
“I haven’t brewed in far too long. My last brew day was in February. I’m wondering if taking breaks like this has been something that either of you guys has experienced. And if so, how did you break yourself out of the slump? I’ve got all sorts of excuses. I tell myself, ‘it’s too hot. I’m too busy. Wynonna Ryder just won’t stop calling me.’ I love my beer and I miss being able to pull a pint of home drank. Cheers!”
Well, Leonard. Yeah, I have gone through slumps like that. A lot of it did come down to actually being too busy to brew. And then a lot of it came from after being too busy to brew; to not being able to work up the energy and excitement to brew. And you know what, man? There’s nothing that says that you have to be out there brewing. If you don’t feel like it – don’t do it. It’s a hobby. It’s supposed to be fun. If you’re not having fun you’re doing it wrong.
So, I would say just kick back and wait until the urge strikes you again. Because at least my experience is that it will come back around and you will get back into homebrewing and you’ll tell Wynona that she’ll just have to call back some other time.
How about you, man? Do you ever go through a slump like that?
Drew Sometimes it feels like my entire life is a slump. I totally have and I’ve written about this in the past. Sometimes I get what I kind of think of as “brewers block”. And I go through the exact same thing Leonard described there where it’s too hot. I live in southern California so there are days when walking outside is just a bad idea. Other people may say “it’s too cold”. They live where they have actual winter.
But yeah, I do it all the time. I will tell you right now, the biggest thing that I think you can do to break out of it (if you get into one of these slumps) is to do something new. So, get a new ingredient. Get a new piece of gear. Try a new style. Try a new yeast. Invite somebody over. Get somebody to come over and say “hey, come brew with me on Saturday”. And that will motivate you because, guess what? That person is going to come over on Saturday and go “dude, what do you mean we’re not brewing?”
Just do something different. And that, I find, will almost always help. Because, yeah, there are times when you just get in a slump or a rut or anything else. And, truthfully, I know with Denny and I – there are times when we’re busy with the podcast. Or there are times when we’re busy with writing projects, or other projects.
It’s hard to get out into the garage and do some brewing sometimes. So, and I know that Leonard just put a message up today on Facebook because I was talking about a beer I’m brewing today. Its actively brewing right now. And he actually went out thanks to our interview with Laughlin Family Malts from the NHC. He went and picked up a whole sack of Irish Ale Malt to get him back into the brewing game.
Denny Good on you, Leonard!
Drew And that’s exactly what it is. So, just try something new. If it’s a break, it’s a break. People aren’t out there playing golf all the time.
I’ve totally gone through it. I’ve totally done it.
Another good tip I find, particularly when you’re talking about this “inertia” type stuff. Is to break things down into smaller chunks of discreet time. So, that’s part of the reason why I adopted doing pressure can starter wort. Because I can do all my starter wort ahead of time and I lose the ability to say, “well I couldn’t make a starter, so I can’t brew”, right? Because now making a starter is popping the top on something a pouring it into something else and pitching yeast.
The other thing is get into the garage and do all of your cleaning ahead of time. Sorry – into your brewery. Your brewery may not be in the garage. Mine is.
Another one, and this is one that I’ve recently started to have to adopt because I’ve found it was annoying me to no end. Get everything prepped the night before. So, for today’s batch of beer, I went out to the brewery last night and I crushed all the malt. And I made sure I had all the hops lined up. And I had everything set. Alright? That’s all I did. And that made it so much easier to come there in the morning and fire everything up and get to brewing.
Denny I have to admit, that’s my normal method also. The day before I brew I get all my water measured and in containers ready to go. I measure out all my water treatments and wrap them up in aluminum foil; ready to get dumped in when appropriate. I weigh out my hops and put them into plastic bags with the timing of the hop additions written on them. I get the grain crushed the day before. Maybe even farther ahead than that.
That does make it more fun and easy when you get out there the next day to actually tart brewing. But, again, you know, you just gotta wait for it, man. One thing that helps me sometimes is to imagine one of the favorite beers that I like to brew and what that beers tastes like. And how great it would be to drink some. And sometimes that inspires me.
I would say, Leonard, don’t sweat it, buddy. Just deal with it as it comes. I guess that’s the Oregon philosophy, right?
Drew (Coughs) Yeah, it’s definitely not the LA philosophy.
But no, seriously. I swear if you try and picture the whole brew day as a thing; unless you’re super psyched for it, it kind of feels like a drag sometimes. So, totally break things down into discreet chunks.
To Denny’s point; remember, we just had that experiment that showed at least one result where we had month old grain that had been pre-crushed. The beer still came out fine. And we had reports from people with longer spans. So, you can do some prep work. Get ahead of yourself. And make it so that when it comes to brew day; it’s fire up the kettles and go!
Denny Our next caller today is Jason Nelms. How are you, Jason?
Jason Doing good!
Jason How are you guys doing today?
Denny I’m good considering the fact that technically I’m working.
Jason Well it’s not a bad place to work.
Denny Yeah, you know that’s true, man. Working at home and while you’re talking about beer is not a bad thing. Drew, say hi to Jason.
Drew Hello, Jason.
Jason How’s it going man?
Drew It’s going. It’s a beautiful day here in Pasadena and I’m brewing. Now, I didn’t catch….where are you at?
Jason I am in, basically a suburb of Nashville. It’s called Mt. Juliet, Tennessee.
Drew Well, there you go. Alright Today is an important game!
Denny Drew is from Florida.
Jason Oh yeah? Yeah, I’m from Alabama, actually. So, I don’t have a dog in that fight.
Drew And Denny is from Iowa and Oregon and going, “What are you guys talking about?”
Denny Yeah that’s right. I dunno, man
Drew Let’s get to the question, shall we? That’s enough football. Jason wrote in and he asked,
“What is your favorite method for getting fruit flavor into a beer without the added sweetness?”
So, for me, I tend to not mess around with fruit flavors other than just by fruit additions. And so, I don’t usually have to worry about the sweetness because I’ll just give it enough time to ferment away.
But that does come with the caveat that when you allow it to ferment away, the fruit flavor is obviously going to change because you no longer have that back end. So now you get all the acid without anything else.
If I’m really trying to go for fruit, and I want strawberries. Strawberry is the classic one because strawberry is the one that’s impossible to purge. That one I will actually go to an extract.
But actually, I’ll tell you what. A dirty little secret here. My favorite way to add fruit flavor to something (like raspberry) is I go the liquor store and I go buy the cheapest bottle of raspberry liqueur I can find. And I add that. And it does come with some sweetness packaged into it, but the alcohol is in there as well and it tends to cut away.
I did a cacao stout. And left it on the cacao nibs for a month, which is a bad idea. By that point in time all the tannins had leached out of the nibs and so the beer was extraordinarily bitter. And just not drinkable. I dumped a 750 of Razzmatazz liqueur into the keg, shook it up…..
Denny Razzmatazz! Oh God!
Drew It was high class. And it worked like a charm. So, if I’m trying to get big fruit flavor without a lot of sweetness, but still get that obnoxious fruit thing; then ill usually go with liqueur. How about you, Denny?
Denny Well, you know. I don’t make a lot of fruit beers but when I do my theory is to use the fruit just like I do when I’m making a mushroom beer. And that is to freeze it first and then let it thaw out and dump it into a fermenter, and rack the beer onto it.
I tend to use things like blackberries. I’ve used blueberries. And I have never found that I had a sweetness issue to deal with. And, again that might be, like Drew, I just make sure that it gets fermented out. But that’s pretty much my method too. I haven’t gone as far as razzmatazz yet, though. That sounds like the fruit version of ripple, right?
Drew Kind of. It’s terrible stuff. Don’t come anywhere near it. It’s like somebody made Chambord but decided to take all the class out of it. Jason, what are you looking to add fruit flavor for? What sort of fruit?
Jason I like adding fruit to beer and I always check in to see what other people’s methods are. I’m always interested. Is there a certain time if you’re using the frozen fruit method? Do you put it in at a certain time? Do you wait until it’s fully finished with its primary fermentation before you rack over onto it? Or do you maybe move over while there’s some active fermentation still taking place un primary? Do you want some extra yeast still kicking about when you move it over so that it really gets ahold of the sugars? Because I like fruit beer, but I’d rather somebody say, “Hey what’s that flavor in there?” Instead of being able to drink and saying, “Wow that tastes like a blueberry.”
Denny I think that has more to do with the amount of fruit that you use. Although I do wait until the end of primary fermentation because I believe (right or wrong) that if you add aromatic ingredients during primary fermentation you’ll lose a lot of that aroma with the CO2 that’s coming out of the beer.
So, I tend to wait until the beer if fermented out and do it in secondary. And I guarantee you, no matter how clear that beer looks, there’s going to be a lot of yeast left in there that will still take care of fermenting the sugar in that fruit.
Drew And I’ll add onto Denny’s take. I will generally rack over to another primary fermenter towards the end. Either just after primary is done, or really as it’s edging the finish.
And I will dirty rack. I will make sure I pick up just a little bit of yeast. I don’t try and take up the whole yeast cake. I’ll just take up a little bit. By the way, the other really interesting technique that I’ve had in terms of getting really good fruit flavor. That gets into that realm of “what is that?” is to use dried fruit.
Denny Good idea.
Drew Dried fruit straight into secondary actually works like a charm. I find the one that works the best for that is one of those ones that is impossible to ever capture correct, which is apricot.
Jason Apricots. I’ve done that with a blonde ale that I put into an oak whiskey barrel with a bunch of dried apricots. And that turned out pretty well. I felt like the apricots got hidden because the oak-whiskey kind of stole the show.
Denny But that’s a really interesting idea for a flavor combination. I could see how if you get the balance that could work really well.
Drew Well, I mean it’s southern comfort. Southern Comfort is peaches and apricots and whiskey. But yeah. And I will stress to the listeners who are on the other end of this podcast. Make sure if you’re going to use dried fruit – make an effort to get unsulfured dry fruit
Jason Yeah that’s really hard to find, too.
Drew It looks terrible and it seems like you can find a lot for peaches and apricots in particular. It looks terrible but the flavors couldn’t be better and you’re not dealing with sulfur. Even though you can blow that out. That’s my preference. Moving on to the other parts of the question. Denny! Jason is asking, “Have you changed your mind about tinctures?”
Denny This is a good question, Jason. I have to admit that Drew has calmed a lot of my qualms about a lot of things that I used to be totally opposed to. Because he does it and it seems to work. I’m still not going to taste his damned fluffernutter beer no matter what.
But tinctures. I’ve had his beers that have used tinctures. I’ve seen his shelves in the garage lined with tinctures ready to go and I think it’s a really cool idea. I have not gone as far as to do it for myself because my own results have not been good in the past. So, I have just kind of resigned myself to fact that I’m not going to be able to do it right. But I’m not going to try and talk other people out of doing it like I used to do.
Jason Okay, that’s fair enough.
Drew A good way to actually make that into the least “sound-bitey” way of saying, “You know what? Drew is right.”
Denny I try to avoid saying that, but here it is. Drew you can record this. You can put it on your phone for a ring tone. Drew was right! There you go.
Jason Do you use a whip siphon to make your tinctures? I can’t remember if I read that in your book or if I read it in another book. I saw someone uses a whip siphon. I do that a good bit and have mixed results depending on what it is I’m using. I was wondering if you ever did that method?
Drew Yeah. I totally do and I’ve used it in our talks to demonstrate it to people. Because I love it. I think it’s fantastic. I’m going to put a video online so people can see it. It’s in the book.
Get a whipping siphon; or if you don’t have a whipping siphon and don’t feel like spending the 60 bucks on one, you can do this with a two-liter bottle and a carbonator cap. Basically 4 ounces of vodka and your spice or whatever it is that you’re trying to do in there. Get it under a lot of pressure. Let it sit for a minute or two and just crack it all at once and watch the pressure just flood out and all the stuff come into the vodka.
I do that all the time. I actually use it as a party trick to make flavored martinis for people. In addition to other things. It’s awesome. And thanks for reminding me that I need to make a video.
Denny Drew has a wide variety of types of alcohol that he enjoys. Pretty much any!
Drew If it tastes good, I’m there. So, last part of your question that you asked was,
“If you had to make low alcohol beers, what would have to do to these three styles while keeping the alcohol below 5 percent? Yes, I know they would not technically fall into the style by definition. But I’m looking for techniques to get as close as possible.”
And the three styles you listed were IPA, Saison and barrel-aged anything.
So, I’ll tackle at least on the Saison angle. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a Saison down below three percent and my table Saison that I write about comes into play. I will tell you right now – my primary trick for all of this is figure out a way to keep body.
Drew The biggest problem that any of these styles have, or any of the session beers have. You go and get something that’s 3 percent and it tastes like you’re drinking water. But water with a funny flavor.
And so, for me, my big dirty secret is not even that much of a secret because I talk about it all the time. I use oats. I use a lot of oats. Because I find that oats give a wonderful richness and roundness to the mouth fell of the beer without being overly sweet and gummy.
When I do my table Saisons, it has a hefty dose of oats in there.
Barrel-aged; same sort of thing. Some sort of body-giving adjunct would actually give you some room to stand up against the oak tannins.
IPA. The hardest trick about the IPA and the reason why I object to a lot of the session IPAs that are out there right now; is not only do they miss out on the body. They still try, for some reason to think, “oh it’s an IPA, so therefore I have to have 60-80 IBUs.” And when you’re up against that whole thing it’s just terrible.
Jason Yeah, I’ve got one that I think I’ve gotten where I want it. Annie Johnson really helped me out there. She got me started on it. And that is basically to try and keep your IBUs somewhere close to equal to your starting gravity. So, if you’ve got a 1.030 starting then shoot for 30 IBUs. You’ll end up with a decent balance and then try to build your aroma from the dry hopping. It’s on the pico brew library. I think it’s called “low grav” or “low ABV IPA version 1” is the name of it.
Denny I probably will. I think that that’s really sound advice which is no surprise coming from Annie. When I’m making and IPU, I generally think in terms of the gravity unit to bittering unit ratio. And I try it at least at 1. So, I think doing that even when you’re making al lower gravity beer could work really well. Because you’re still maintaining that same stylistic definition of your IPA there.
Drew And the IPA, also. If you don’t want to use oats in there; but hey if you use oats, you’re in the new-fangled world of New England IPA.
Denny Juicy, baby! Juicy!
Jason That’s what’s fermenting right now
Drew Ah, see. There you go. I would also say, for the IPA, if you don’t want to do oats then I would go for doing an all Munich IPA. In the session style
Jason That’s interesting. This one is a 70% Munich, 20% oats and 10% C-80, I think is what I’ve got in there with it.
Denny That’s perfect
Drew You’re reading my mind.
Denny That’s just right there with exactly what we were talking about.
Jason Awesome. That validates what I was trying to do. I’m glad that that seems to be on track. I’m kind of excited. It’s going through its first round of dry hopping right now. I’m ready to pull it out and start drinking it.
Denny Oh cool, man. And you made this in a Zymatic? Is that what I gathered?
Jason Yeah, I did. Yeah
Denny Ok. Well I’m definitely going to be checking out the recipe because I need to break out the Zymatic and brew something with it. And that sounds like a good thing to do.
Jason Awesome. I’ll publish this one. This is a new one. It’s called Wilhelm (inaudible) IPA.
Denny Okay! Well, I guarantee you man, my next Zymatic brew is going to be one of your low alcohol IPAs because I would love to have something like that around.
Jason Awesome man. I’ll send it over to you on Facebook or something. I’ll give you the names of the two that I’ve got out there.
Denny Excellent. That would be great. Anything else we can do for you while we got ya?
Jason No, man. You guys were awesome. I love your books and I’m just a big fan of the show and everything. I really appreciate you guys calling and answering my questions for me.
Denny Hey man we appreciate you taking the time to sit here and bull*** with us. Alright, Jason. Thanks a bunch, man and have a great rest of your day.
Jason You guys, too. Have a great one
Denny Thanks a bunch!
Question 3: Kettle Souring Basics
Drew So, our next question comes from Frank McKinney, who emailed us to ask about kettle souring.
“Drew, Could you please explain in detail your method of kettle souring? I know you made that extract version from you last ‘Brew day with a Falcon’ day. And hearing you talk about how delicious it came out piqued my interest. I’ve recently fallen in love with sour beers and would love to hear more about this kettle souring process; including a simple all-grain recipe. Thanks guys. Love the podcast and keep up the good work. Frank”
Well, Frank. I will tell you right now in comparison to a lot of people out there I am a piker when it comes to kettle souring. This is a technique that I’m really starting to just get into and explore more. But I will give you the rock-solid basis of it, alright? Because, ultimately, when you come down to it, it is fairly straight forward.
Now you already heard my extract version. If you didn’t, go back and listen to interviews with ‘Brew with a Falcon Day’ and I think it was 2 or 3 episodes back where we talked about the beer itself. So, go and look for that if you want the extract brew details. They’ll also be on the website shortly.
For all-grain; here is the thing about kettle souring. Your all-grain day is really just broken into two. So, what I like to do if I’m going to do an all-grain kettle sour:
Mash, do all of my usual work. Depending on how you want to be in terms of accuracy or in terms of providing additional food sourced for your creatures. You can try doing a turbid mash or adding flour. Some people will do that. Generally, I wouldn’t stress it too much. At least when you’re just starting off. Just do a normal mash. Pilsner, some wheat, maybe some oats, call it a day. Get it into your kettle.
Now, if you want to be in pure control over what’s in the kettle; bring that kettle up to a boil or a brief simmer – say 10 minutes – so you kill off all of the lactobacillus and all of the other things that are coming in from the grain.
Turn the burner off and chill the beer down. Let the beer drift down to say, around 120°F.
Go ahead and add your bugs.
Now, what sort of bugs you’re adding depends on what you want. There are some people who will do lactobacillus grain starters. Literally take a small portion of grain, and a small portion of hot water. Toss the grain in there and let that sour overnight. Remember, barley is full of lactobacillus and it will tackle it. If the starter smells right they’ll pitch that into the kettle.
Other people will do things with yogurt. With live active cultures. You’ll see people talk about GoodBelly. Or even just some of the probiotic capsules that you can find in the drugstore. Because these things are filled with live cultures of various lactobacilluses and other creatures. And pitch those into the still-warm wort. The important part is it needs to be warm wort.
You want it to be warm wort because lactobacillus prefers heat. It also prefers de-oxygenated wort. So, freshly boiled is good because that removes a lot of entrained oxygen in the wort. And then if you keep it warm that allows the lacto to stay very active and crowd out other things.
So, what I will do is Il will actually take my kettle. I will wrap it with some camping bags, and here’s the other piece of the trick. If you’ve ever done a whole thing where you’ve left a mash in the mash tun overnight (not that I’ve ever done that – not at all).
Denny (Laughs) Yeah, right. Never!
Drew If you come back to it the next day and open the lid. Or two days later. And god forbid longer. (Not that I’ve ever done that). It smells like death. It smells like you’ve stumbled upon a corpse factory. And a good portion of the reason for that is lactobacillus and oxygen together tend to make those very corpse-y type smells. They’re terrible.
So, what I will also do after I pitch the lactobacillus and other probiotic cultures; other fun critters. In the case of the extract beer I just used some bug country. I will flood the kettle with CO2. Now, unlike our previous discussion about kegging where I ranted about making sure to fully purge the system by pushing out liquid and filling up the whole area with CO2. It’s not really practical with your tank and in that particular case, yes, I will do multiple bursts of high pressure CO2. And really, what you’re trying to do is generate a CO2 blanket on top of the wort to keep oxygen away from your critters and generating very bad smells.
Then you let that go. Cover the kettle up. Hold the kettle as warm as you can for a long period of time. Again, I’m fortunate. I live in southern California. My garage is a broiler. And I will let that go for 2, 3, 4 day. And at the end of if it; if you want to be really precise you pull a sample. You taste it. You see whether or not it’s where you want it to be.
If it is, you take it. You throw it on the burner and you bring it up to a boil. Again – brief boil. In my case, I tend to add a little bit of hops. When the lactobacillus is done, I really want to make sure that I have the hop in there to avoid any further lactobacillus activity. Let it boil for 15 minutes so that I’m pretty certain I’ve killed off most of the critters in there.
Chill it just like I would any other beer. Straight into the fermenter. And pitch with a regular ale yeast. Let it go for two weeks. And when you come out the other side you’ll probably have a pretty decent kettle sour. And there’s going to be a lot of variables and process to play with in order to really drive it home. But I think the big key ones are:
- A brief simmer to kill off the lactobacillus in the beginning
- Let it chill down
- Flood the kettle with CO2
- Pitch whatever cultures it is that you want to play with at 120°F
- Hold that warm for as long as you can. Until you get the taste you want
- Bring to a boil. Little but of hops
- Pitch your yeast
There you go. Kettle sour in 10 minutes.
Sounds like a lot of work, man. But I know that you can make some great beers that way.
I have to admit that I don’t think I’ve ever made a sour beer that I recall. Generally, because I don’t like to have 5 gallons of it around. It would just take me too long to drink it.
One other little note that I will put in. Living here in Eugene where we have the Springfield Creamery started by the Kesey family. They make an amazing yogurt called Nancy’s Yogurt with lots of lactobacillus in it. That is the preferred method of souring here in hippie town.
Drew That’s one of the things that I think is the most amazing part about the whole, not just kettle souring, but also the other activities that you’ll particularly see on “Milk the Funk”. Which we talked about before. The fact that brewers are out there and they’re seizing hold of these cultures that you would never have thought (at least when I started) that, “Oh I can use that to make beer.” And they’re cheaper than going out and buying Pure Pitch cultures of lactobacillus and Brettanomyces from the brewing supply places.
Denny Yeah, right. Exactly. Okay!
Question 4: One Beer We Wished We Never Brewed
Denny Next question comes from Steve Rutch. Steve, I hope I pronounced your last name correctly. It’s pretty straightforward. Steve wants to know,
“What is the one beer you wish you had never brewed?”
I’ve been sitting here trying to think about this. I’ve come up with two.
One of them almost was OK because it was such a funny conclusion. One of them was a Dortmunder export that I made with the S23 dry lager yeast. I know some people have had good experiences with that yeast, but I am not one of them. This beer turned out so weirdly fruity, (I would say disgustingly fruity) that I thought I needed some help with what’s going on here. So, I sent some to John Palmer. This was a good 15 years ago or more.
John was kind enough to take his life in his hands and try the beer. He sent me an email back saying that it tasted to him a lot like Bartles and James passion fruit wine cooler. Which I thought was a great description. And he followed it up by saying, “hey you live in a college town so you’ll probably be able to find some girls to drink it”. Well, I didn’t do that. It went onto the lawn. I lagered that beer for a year. I tried dry hopping it heavily with cascades to cover up the disgusting mango, peachy, passion fruitiness of it. Nothing ever worked. It became obvious after a year that no one was ever going to want to drink that beer and it got dumped out. So, that would be one except for the story about Palmer.
1: I could see Palmer saying that and
2: I think if you would have held onto it now, people would be describing that beer as “juicy”.
Denny Yeah, that’s right.
The other one was a beer that came to me in a dream. I should’ve known right there. It was a very weird dream and the part of it that concerned the beer; I was in some sort of old west town. It looked like a movie set from “High Noon” or something like that. I was walking down the wooden walk with the hitching rail beside it. I looked over, and, to my left, there was a poster hanging on the wall about the local saloon having a “Nugget Porter”. There was something more to the name. But it was something like that.
So, I decided I would try one of those. I made a porter with a while lot of nugget hops. I don’t know if it was the only hop. It might have been. I was so enthusiastic, I eve planted a bunch of nugget hop rhizomes. Well, the beer just absolutely sucked. It was terrible. It was not worth drinking. There was something just too earthy and bizarre about it. Almost “fuggle-ish” about it. So that beer got dumped and I spent the next five years trying to kill off the nugget hops because (believe me) once you plant hops and you done want them anymore; they’re a bitch to get rid of.
So how about you? What’s yours that you wished you never brewed?
Drew Well, first I have to stop and go back and think about taking a dive from a dream for you beer.
Denny Yeah, well. Like I said, I should’ve known better.
Drew Also, I don’t believe that you actually brewed this beer unless you can tell me which batch number it is – from your logs.
Denny You know what? I will go back and look it up. And next episode I will have that answer for you.
Drew There you go. If Denny doesn’t have the answer – he’s lying about his logbook and we can no longer trust that he’s on batch 500-something.
Denny I’ll actually take a picture of all my logbooks lined up and we can put that on the website too.
Drew For me, it’s fairly straightforward. The second I saw this question there was one beer that jumped instantly into mind. And that was my attempt (oddly enough) at a porter. A historical porter. This one did not come to me in a dream. There was no “old west odor-visions here”. This was reading about historical porters from the time when “three threads” and all this stuff that’s been debunked. That was very popular and they said “historical porters during that time were 1/3 pale malt, 1/3 brown malt and 1/3 amber malt.”
I went to my homebrew store and I said I have pale malt, I have amber malt, and I have brown malt. Awesome! Let’s do this! And so, I made that beer.
That beer was terrible. It was terrible because what I hadn’t realized (because I’m a dummy) was that modern brown malt (like what you find from Thomas Faucet’s) is radically different, in theory, from what brown malt would have been back in the day.
Nowadays, brown malt is sort of an accent malt. It’s a toasted malt. It has a very strong yeasty, bready burnt flavor to it. It’s not the sort of thing that should be used anywhere near the quantity of 1/3 of your grist. And that beer was astringent, burnt, terrible. Terrible. And just like you, I refused to give up on it. “No! No! This beer will be something! And I know the historical porter had a lot of brett in it right? And they aged them for a long period of time. That’s how they were made. Stale porter. That’s going to smooth out all of the flavors.”
So, I pitched a bunch of brett into the beer and I waited. And I waited. I lost the keg in my closet. And I waited. I think I finally tasted it again about 2.5 years after I pitched the brett into it. And it was still terrible. Absolute terrible. So terrible that I didn’t even use it to make beans. I just dumped it straight away.
So, that is the beer that I regret brewing. I don’t regret the lesson I learned from it. I do know that it gave me a lifelong aversion to brown malt. So, if you ever see a recipe from me that has brown malt in it, you can ensure that it is a coed message that I am being held hostage.
Denny Yeah. I gotta tell you. My bourbon vanilla porter has some brown malt in it. That is about the only thing I use it in.
I think you’ve got a good point, though about learning from your mistakes. I hate to say it. It’s an old cliché, but I think that we really do learn more from our mistakes than our successes. It may not be as pleasant but it is a learning experience.
Question 5: Did We Keep Our New Year's Resolutions
So, the next question comes from Alex Rhistrom, who wants to know,
“Did you guys keep your new year’s resolutions?”
And before we get to that, Alex also has a helpful tip:
“I always wrap a towel around the top of my immersion chiller. Because even if I check ahead of time it will still inevitably leak. The towel will keep that out of the wort and give you a chance to fix it before it will ruin your beer.”
Alex, buddy, I know that. My homemade chiller had more than once blown a hose as I was chilling. That’s a really good tip. The other good tip is to keep your ends of the chiller long enough so they go over the edge of your kettle so you don’t have to worry about it. My best tip is to go get yourself a hydra chiller like drew and I did. It will be quality stuff. You won’t have to worry about it.
Ok. Back to the New Year’s Eve resolutions. I remember a few….
Drew I have them!
Denny Do you?
Drew I have them listed. Let’s see
Hold on, now I’ve lost them
So here are the New Year’s resolutions for Denny:
“Get my life organized so I can brew more”
Denny Uh, no.
Drew “Try more new ingredients. Red X, for example”
Denny Yes, but I haven’t made it to Red X yet.
Drew What new ingredients have you played with?
Denny The D240 candy syrup, some interesting hop varieties, and I’ve been playing with a whole bunch of new equipment, too.
Drew And the Laughlin Irish Ale Malt.
Denny Well, yeah and the Laughlin malt, too. Yeah, right.
Drew “Try not to get grossed out by Drew’s beers”
Denny I’m doing better at that, actually. I’ve actually even complimented you on a couple and said maybe I could drink that.
Drew I think the last one you objected to was the fluffernutter one, which I still don’t get.
Denny Well it’s because I’ve never been a fan of peanut butter and chocolate those kinds of flavors together. So, ok.
Drew And then
“Get my chicken coop built”
Denny Oh, yeah man! Not only is the chicken coop built and beautiful, but we collected our first two eggs yesterday. And they came from our Americanas, which are kind of like a version of the Arcana chicken. And they lay blue-green eggs and they are just gorgeous.
So far, the most expensive eggs you’ve ever had in your life, right?
Denny Yeah, I figured that for the next five years my eggs are going to cost me close to 40 bucks a piece.
Drew There you go.
And the last one that I have recorded down here is,
“Practice Uke and other instruments”
Denny I’ve been a little bit better at that but I haven’t gotten to it as much as I need to. Especially I need to get on my uke playing. If I’m going to do it in public I just can’t inflict that kind of stuff on people anymore.
Drew Yeah and yet you’re still going to do it.
And then on my side, the ones I have recorded down is,
Because I have an obnoxious amount of malt in the garage and I have been doing more brewing.
“More session beers”
And I feel like I’ve been doing more session beers. Particularly with my table Saisons and right now I’ve got a hybrid – maybe “session” beer going on in the garage right now. The “double Irish”. But we’ll talk more about that on another show.
And we also promoted the hell out of session beers earlier this year when we were doing Lou Bryson’s Session Beer Day. So, totally all about the session beer. People should totally be about it too.
“Promote the heck out tasty things that aren’t so shocking”
I think I’ve done a spectacular job at that.
Denny Yeah, you’ve been trying. Yeah, I’ll give you that
“Get back to better note taking”
Denny Yeah right! That ain’t gonna happen, huh?
Drew One of these days.
“Stop letting kegs stack up and get things better organized”
I’m halfway there. I’ve got another couple months to close that one out. But at least I’m down to I think 6 kegs left to sanitize.
Drew And then the sixth and final one was the one where I had the small breakdown and talked to everybody.
“That I needed to be more sincere”
I have no clue if I’ve been more sincere. I’ve tried. I’m still a raging smart ass. But I’ve tried to be more sincere.
But you’re a sincere smart ass.
Yeah. So, that’s where I’m at on my “Brew Year’s Resolution”. I hope that I can close these out but I think “not too bad”.
Denny Yeah, that’s what I would say too man. I came closer than I usually do. I guess it’s the public scrutiny, huh?
Drew Yeah. I guess that’s the whole reason to do it, right?
“Hey, you guys said you were gonna do this! You suck!”
Denny Yeah right.
Okay! So, the last question in the philosophy section goes to you.
Question 6: Do Refractometers Work
Drew And this one comes from a friend of the podcast. The person who always comes up with great questions. Lynn Noella. Out of good ole Los Angeles, California. She says,
“Hi Denny and Drew, Question. Do refractometers work? It is the opinion of many amazing homebrewers in my club that a hydrometer is much more accurate than a refractometer. I’ve been using a refractometer for some time now, before AND after adding the yeast, with some good results. For the post-yeast stage I simply do the conversion in the BeerSmith software to get my numbers. I also compared my results with those of a hydrometer and found them to be the same. I really like the fact that I can just use a few drops on my refractometer to assess the gravity rather than filling a hydrometer packaging tube. Nevertheless, all the amazing brewers can’t be wrong, can they?”
Yes! They can. And they can be for you. And they can be right for themselves. That’s the important part. I am a dedicated refractometer user. I know Denny is not if I remember correctly.
Denny That’s correct.
Drew I am in the same boat as you, Lynn. I like having a refractometer. I like having just a few samples. I don’t like wasting a ton of beer. Particularly since I’m doing more brewing now at the smaller batch stage. A hydrometer tube becomes a much more precious volume of the wort. So, I use my refractometer both pre-and post-fermentation. I do the same adjustments. And I’ve found, for my particular needs, that the refractometer is accurate enough in the post fermentation stage. Now, I’ve done the same checks you’ve done and I’ve checked them against hydrometers. And the most difference I’ve ever seen is like 2-3 points.
Now, for people who are numbers driven, 2-3 points is going to seem wildly off. But to me..
Denny I’m raising my hand here.
Drew Yeah, I know.
…but to me, if I’m not trying to do something with numbers. Like, say, nail the ability to naturally carbonate with the residual gravity in the keg. I don’t care that I’m 2-3 points off as long as the beer itself tastes right. So, I can use a refractometer, pour myself a small sample and see if I’m in the ball park. If the beer tastes right then I’m satisfied.
I don’t stress a lot about fermentation times unless I need to. And so, for me, with the good yeast health I’m pursing and everything else. I know my beer is going to be done in 10 days. So, I’m rarely ever concerned about it unless it’s something massive. At that point in time, yeah, I will definitely double check. For me, I’m fine with a refractometer. I have two. I have the old handle analog unit that you stare through and try to find the thin blue line. And I have a digital refractometer. Which – a little sample on the optical eyeglass and it comes back with a nice digital number. I like the both. They’re awesome and I love to use them. And I know Denny doesn’t
Denny Well, you know. Maybe I just got a couple bad refractometers, but I have two of them and they never agree with my hydrometer. And you’re right. It is within 2 or 3 points, and I’ve tried to tell myself, “OK, close enough. Just don’t worry about it.” And I’m afraid I’m just too OCD to be able to do that. So, I stick with my hydrometer. I had thought about buying yet another refractometer to see if it matched up better, but you know. I’ve got two that I’m not using. I don’t see any reason to have a third one that I won’t use.
Drew I’m just going to say you’re the most anal-retentive hippie I’ve ever met.
Denny Yeah! Well, you know. Somebody’s gotta wave that flag.
So, I have come up with a method to quickly cool a sample of boiling wort so that I can get a hydrometer reading with it.
Put 8 ounces into a metal cocktail shaker. Put the lid on it. Put that into a bowl of ice water and swirl the shaker around and in less than 60 seconds I can go from boiling to 65 degrees and get a good reading.
When I comes to final gravity, I just don’t care a whole lot about whether or not I’m pulling beer, you know? I actually pull more. I fill a 20-ounce bottle to about the 16-ounce level with the beer. I use a little bit o that for my hydrometer reading and pour it back into the bottle. I put a carbonator cap on the bottle. I hit it with about 30 psi. It goes in the freezer for 45 minutes and then I have a cold carbed sample of my finished beer ready to go. So, it’s like I’m not concerned about trying to get as little as I can because I’m going to drink it anyway. I’m not pouring the sample out.
So, but to answer your basic question, Lynn was “Do refractometers work?”
Well, obviously, they do. They work for you. They work for Drew I would say that both the refractometer and the hydrometer are good pieces of equipment used the right way. It’s a preference choice. Use what works for you.
Drew Indeed! And that’s really the story of everything about brewing, right? There are 50 ways do anything to make beer. And you just have to find the process that works for you and works for your brain.
Denny OKAY! So finally, we’ve gone through that whole big stack of questions and I hope that maybe you guys found some useful information in there. And we haven’t actually led anybody astray.
We’ll be doing another one of these in a few more month. So, stand by. Keep sending in those questions. We do at least a few Q and A every episode on the show. Keep sending those questions into [email protected]
Drew And hey, don’t forget, if you like this segment or if you like any of the other segments. Or if you have any feedback. Let us know at [email protected] as well. We are depending upon you to tell us what we’re doing that’s right and what we’re doing that’s wrong.
Denny Tell us gently, please.
Drew Yeah Denny’s heart can’t take the harsh criticism. He’s a gentle soul.