Father’s Day Gift Guide: Super Swanky Swing Top Bottles

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“Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?”

Remember that guy? That was one classy dude. I’m not sure what his plans were for that Grey Poupon mustard… maybe the world’s classiest hot dog? I bet he had some swanky homebrew to go with it too.

If you want to give a little style and sophistication to your homebrews, you need to check out Grolsch-style bottles, otherwise known as EZ cap bottles. They all have a built-in swing top cap and gasket that latches closed with a strong steel wire assembly, which means you never have to cap these bottles. The caps have a reusable rubber gasket which makes a very strong seal.

Remember though, if you do use these bottles for your homebrew, you will be required to wear a tuxedo on bottling day.

How much are they?

Individual bottles range from $4.99 to $6.99 and a box of 12 ranges from $34.99 to $39.99, depending on the bottle size.

Why will the person I give it to think I’m awesome for giving it?

These bottles kind of speak for themselves. They’ll make bottling day really easy, and Dad will look like one charming homebrewer drinking out of them. The swing tops will last a lifetime, too, by simply replacing the rubber gaskets every so often. They’re a great addition to any Dad’s glassware.

Stop in and pick some up for Dad today!

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Father’s Day Gift Guide: Ginormous Stainless Steel Spoon

kingkongspoonNothing says, “I love you Dad” like a huge, shiny stainless steel spoon. Anyone reading this and thinking this is a joke does not understand the mind of a homebrewer.

As Donald Trump might say, “This spoon is huge”. King Kong swatted down planes with this spoon. Andre the Giant could eat Honeycomb with this spoon. George Washington could hang this spoon from his nose on Mount Rushmore. Did I mention it was really big? Your Dad will never be insecure about the size of his spoon again. It’s the barbarian broadsword of brew day. Put this piece of cold steel craftsmanship in your Dad’s hands and he will become a true brewing legend.

How much does it cost?

It is $9.79 and worth every penny.

Why will Dad think I’m awesome?

Homebrewing Dads love their shiny metal objects. You can’t beat stainless steel… it’s easy to clean and strong, it’s a homebrewer’s best friend. You’ll see it on Dad’s face when he unwraps it, and the spoon glistens back at him. Dad will be very happy.

Stop in and pick one up for Dad today!

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New Packaging from White Labs

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I really like White Labs new packaging! The vials were awkward and sometimes could build pressure and fizz up when opened creating a nice yeasty mess. These packages do not build up CO2 so there is no fear of spilling yeast…..or is there?

cut hereSee that “Cut Here” dotted line?  If you cut on that line you will more than likely make a mess. I did the first time I tried it. There is a better way.

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I like to cut my yeast packs at the very top. That way I can pull out the inner pouch out and get all that yeasty goodness mixed back into the liquid. After that it is a breeze to cut the corner off and squeeze all those yeasts into my wort.

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No drinking while homebrewing! Is this even legal?

“I’m not thinking straight, why did I have that wine cooler last month?” – Ned Flanders

I’ve always adhered to the immortal words of Charlie Papazian while homebrewing, “Relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew.” But then, something crazy happened which threatened the golden mantra I’ve always lived by while cooking up 5 gallons: a morning brew time.

Like an 8:00am class in college, a too-early tee time, a long run with friends at sunrise – just starting things a wee bit sooner than is ideal. That was my last brew day. The window was in the morning. Brew it or lose it. Typically I’m pouring that first pint when I’m pre-heating the mash tun, but it was 9:30am. Would it make me a degenerate to drink beer that early? Probably, but more importantly a beer at breakfast sounded about as appetizing as mustard on eggs. A banana would do.

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Milk and a mash tun make a nice morning combo.

Before I knew it, I was mashing at 152, then later collecting the perfect volume from sparging. I remembered to put in Whirlfloc, yeast nutrient, even measured out my hops with a scale instead of eyeballing. Every ingredient went into the pot at the exact time it was supposed to, and guess what: I hit all my numbers. The brew day felt like a metaphor for the precision of Swiss timing.

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Beautiful fermentation. FG was dead on.

By early afternoon, still no beer has touched my lips. Why mess with a winning streak, right? It was feeling a little weird, but that was overshadowed by the satisfaction of knowing I was on my way to a winning pale ale. Don’t worry, I still had that homebrew…after I pitched the yeast. Thinking I might try the “Teetotaler Brew Day” approach again, immoral as it sounds. I know brewing with a clear head helped improve the final product. If I start in the morning (but not too early) I won’t be tempted and the beer will be a nice reward at the end of the session. So consider this my conversion step from happy four hours to just happy hour, with the forecast of better beer at my home brewery.

 

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Wyeast vs White Labs: Why we’re switching sides.

Wyeast vs White LabsWe have been a Wyeast shop since the beginning. I really like Wyeast. But with all things there comes a time for change. White Labs is opening a facility in Asheville and that means we can get yeast from them in a day instead of 2 days. It also means that we will be supporting local NC jobs which is important to me. Switching to White Labs is a big decision and as with all big decisions I wrote a pro/cons list to help me.

First the cons:

  1. Loss of a few wonderful strains most notably 3763 Roeselare and Denny’s Favorite 50, not to mention the 3711 French Saison.
  2. Due to Wyeast ordering minimums we will not be able to special order yeast.
  3. As a customer I love Wyeast packaging. Proofing your yeast in advance to pitching is a great idea.

Now the pros:

  1. White Labs will be local.
  2. They have a larger selection. 4 different strains of Brett, WLP090 San Diego Super Yeast, WLP099 Super High Gravity Ale Yeast, and Charlie Papazian’s WLP862 Cry Havoc just to name a few.
  3. We will have access to The Yeast Bay increasing our selection even further.
  4. White Labs has new packaging that fixes several issues with their old packaging.
  5. Once the facility opens in Asheville shipping will be significantly cheaper. Shipping Wyeast is over 1/3 the cost of the yeast!

As you can see the pros outweigh the cons. Some of you may be asking why not carry both? Well we tried that about 2 years ago and we couldn’t keep the yeast fresh. What we’ve heard from customers is that fresh yeast is very important.

So what do I do if I’m used to using 1968 London ESB Ale Yeast and I want the same character in my beer? Well according to this chart you would use WLP002 English Ale Yeast. We will have copies of the conversion chart in the store to help anyone choose an equivalent yeast.

We will begin phasing out Wyeast towards the end of December, by the first of the year we will no longer be able to order Wyeast. I believe that this will be positive change and I can’t wait to try the WLP860 Munich Helles!

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Mental Health Brew Day

Reading Kyle’s post of brewing at work made me jealous. For the 99% of us for whom this is not an option I offer a new suggestion: take a day off from work to homebrew.

Why cram your brew session into what may be an already packed weekend when you can cook up something great on a Tuesday? Part of my problem was blocking out 4 1/2 hours for my all-grain on a Saturday or Sunday. Chauffeuring kids to their activities, watching their soccer games, yard work, etc. doesn’t leave a large chunk of time. Instead of squeezing it in, I took a relaxing day off during the week to brew. My boss says, “If you need a mental health day, you should take it.” So I did.

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Along with a simple concept of playing hooky to brew comes a simple recipe: a SMaSH (Single Malt and Single Hop) ale. Ten pounds of Maris Otter, two ounces of Citra, two more ounces to dry hop with.  Mash at 152 degrees.

It was nice not racing the clock, worrying if I could run errands during the mash then return to sparge in an hour before having to do another chore. My buddy Scott stopped in to keep me company. We caught up without interruptions.IMG_1305.JPG

I emerged refreshed from my mental health day, and with 5 gallons of wonderful pale ale as a bonus. Thinking about organizing a bigger brew day during the week in January, then maybe in March. Recruit more friends, take the day off, make beer with no other worries or distractions. Perhaps the best part of the deal: when I went to my daughter’s soccer game that weekend I was totally focused on her. After the game – instead of the mad dash back to heat up strike water – we went out for lunch, then followed that up with some shopping.

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One could argue that the Mental Health Brew Day helps elevate parenting skills, too, since we had more time together. Classic win-win scenario. So, if you have a bunch of sick days, why wait until you’re sick to use them? Take a day off to brew. It might just make you a better person, but it will definitely make you feel better than if you worked.

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Too busy to brew? Brew at work!

I have been really busy lately. The day to day running of the store takes up a lot of time. Generally on my day off I have chores that take precedence over brewing. Hows that for irony? I manage a homebrew store and I can’t even brew beer! Dammit! I want to brew beer.

Wait a minute, I’m the boss. I’ll just brew at the store! I’ll put on all grain brewing demos!

So it started, I lugged all my equipment to the store. Great huh? Nothing beats brewing at work!

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Moving my entire brewery to the store was definitely a challenge. The logistics of my brewing process had to be adapted for a different environment. The good news is when you forget something for brew day and you’re at a homebrew store it’s not a big deal!

I wanted to brew a few batches to get use to the new location before making an official announcement. So I brewed up a porter, just for some practice.

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Delicious sweet porter wort!

The brew day for the porter had a few glitches. I got started late and it was something like 90 degrees out that day. I miscalculated my strike temperature and mashed in too high. Instead of cooling it down I decided to just mash at a higher temp. Porters need body, right? The heat must have fried my brain because that turned out to be a bad choice. I completely missed my numbers for my preboil gravity. It was so bad that I added some DME  to get my numbers back up. Crisis averted!

The boil went well, no serious issues there. I’m proud to say that I have boiling wort, down pat! After the boil, even with the use of a wort chiller, cooling the wort took forever. I have since installed a pre-chiller.

Of course in my heat induced brain fog I never thought about how the hell am I gonna get 12 gallons of wort from outside to the kitchen in the back. I wound up using a bucket with a spigot and making several trips. The spigot was necessary so I could pump the wort into my conical.

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Pretty sweet huh?

After a long brew day the wort was finally in the fermentor, but it was at 80 degrees! AAHHHH! OK I’m done, it is 9:30 at night I’ve been at work for 11 hours I’m going home! So I set the temperature controller and left. I’ll pitch yeast in the morning.

Well I learned a lot and the porter was fantastic! We served a bunch up tailgating at a Railhawks game. It was a lot of fun!

After that I brewed up a sour black ale with my friends from Sam’s Quik Shop. That brew day went a lot better. The pre-chiller was awesome and I learned that transferring wort in kegs is easier than buckets!

That should be enough practice so I announced the first brew demo. A German wheat beer called Wheatpeat. It was great, several folks showed up to help brew.brewdayKen even brought some homemade Sassafras Cider! It was delicious!

I learned a bunch about how to teach during a brewing demonstration. I hope that the participants learned a lot about all grain brewing.

The Wheatpeat tastes pretty good, but the fermentor is empty now, so it’s on to make another beer….

 

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