Archived Posts from this Category

PSA: Hops Kill Dogs!

Posted by on 22 Aug 2011 | Tagged as: images, links

I was chatting with a Brewer buddy of mine about his dog and mentioned that hops can kill dogs if they ingest them. He wasn’t aware of this, so I was inspired to spread the word. Hopefully we can protect hungry canines from some pain or worse.

The only Bruer that doesn't like hops

When dogs eat hops the symptoms will likely be hyperthermia, increased and heavy breathing, and rapid heart rates. I have read that dogs generally ignore hops that are growing, but you might want to fence them so your dog can’t get at them. Dogs like to eat hops when they’ve been coated in sweet delicious wort. If you see your dog eat hops, spent hops or spent grains mixed with hops then don’t wait for signs, just take your pet to the vet. The vet will induce vomiting, so if you are unable to get to a vet try to make your dog spit up the hops somehow. A Louis CK joke leads me to believe that making them drink hydrogen peroxide does the trick. It seems that some breeds are more susceptible to this, notably greyhounds, but I wouldn’t rely on a dog as being immune. There is more to the treatment than just getting your dog to heave, as discussed in the first link below, so a professional vet is always your best bet.

While I’m all for composting, if you have a dog or if dogs might gain access to your compost pile then I think it is best that you only put spent grains in and dispose of your kettle waste elsewhere.

Good Beer Loses a Great Friend

Posted by on 01 Jul 2011 | Tagged as: images, links

Ray Deter was tragically struck by a car while riding his bike in Manhattan earlier this week. The owner of the d.b.a. bars in the East Village, Brooklyn and New Orleans was also a host of Beer Sessions Radio and a great friend to those who knew him. If you’re in the city, hit up one of the d.b.a. bars and share a drink with his spirit. This is the best way I know to celebrate his memory.

Rest in Peace Ray. I’ll always remember your stories, the laughs you bring out in people, your passion for good drink and that diacetyl isn’t always a bad thing in beer.

Jimmy Carbone and Ray Deter in 2009, with the Mayor’s Proclamation of July as Good Beer Month

A Brewday at Westbrook

Posted by on 26 Jan 2011 | Tagged as: brewery tours, images, links

Westbrook Brewing might be South Carolina’s newest brewery but it’s certainly not its smallest. With the first batch brewed on Thanksgiving, Founder Edward Westbrook and Head Brewer Smith Mathews are now crafting some tasty beers in Mount Pleasant across the bridge from Charleston. I assisted Smith on Edward’s favorite Belgian Pale Ale recipe. Other beers in their lineup currently include White Thai a Belgian Wit with some novel spices, a smooth Belgian Tripel with a nice hop character and an IPA that is sometimes American and sometimes pleasantly twisted with their Belgian yeast. Barrels just arrived at the brewery and they have exciting plans for aging all sorts of beers in them. The experimentation doesn’t stop there, currently a Lichtenhainer is in the works, a little known German beer that combines elements of wheat, smoke and sour.

Westbrook Brewhouse

Westbrook’s brewhouse is a 30-barrel system with a steam jacketed kettle. Energy efficiency is always a concern in brewing. Westbrook reclaims thermal energy by directing the outlet of the wort chiller to the hot liquor tank. The water heaters pump water through solar panels on the roof.

Healthy Yeast

Multitasking is key to getting everything done on brewday. This bucket of creamy sludge is some healthy yeast from the slurry to be tested for viability and counted to determine the pitch size.

1000 Gallon Boilover

Point of Safety: During the boil don’t lean against the kettle doors. When opening the kettle doors stand back, certainly don’t have your face near them. Boilovers will happen.

Room for Growth

Westbrook definitely has room for growth. Plenty of space for more fermentors, the lab they are building gives a brewer some nice quality control toys and the tasting room is just a few weeks away from completion.

Fermentation Vessel CIP

Fermentation Vessel 2 is being cleaned. Once it’s been sanitized the yeast pitch will be pumped from another FV into it prior to pumping the chilled wort.

Spent Grain

One business’s waste becomes supplies for another. Like many small brewers the spent grains are passed along to farmers to be used as animal feed.

Brewers Are Janitors

People think brewing is a glamorous, rock star profession. Really it’s mostly janitorial work. Most of our time is spent cleaning, but at least frequent beer tasting is a job requirement.

If you’re in the Charleston area, look for Westbrook beers wherever they serve good beer around town. Hit up the tasting room which is opening soon and has 20 taps. For food after Foster’s Pub is down the street, good food, great staff and the owner Greg loves giving people samples to promote great beer. Their jalapeños stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in bacon are off the hook.

Westbrook Brewing:
Foster’s Pub:

More photos in the gallery: Click Here!

Black & Tan

Posted by on 13 Oct 2010 | Tagged as: images

You can float a Black & Tan either way, with the same beers at the same temperature. These aren’t my photos, but rather from a fellow homebrewer on one of the forums.

Black & Tan layered with either Black or Tan on top.
Black & Tan with either Black or Tan on top.

Brewery Tour: Goose Island Production Facility

Posted by on 08 Jul 2010 | Tagged as: brewery tours, images, links, siebel, video

As part of the Siebel course we went on a tour of Goose Island’s production facility, which operates 24/7/365.  It’s an awesome operation, it looked like a lot of fun to work there, all the people were really cool.  They let us take pictures, so check out the gallery linked below.

Something Went Wrong!

In addition to the video above, you can Click Here to visit the Goose Island Photo Gallery.

They were great hosts.  Their barrel-aging program produces some amazing beers.  We were fortunate to get a taste of a very rare, never released beer that took a Silver at GABF that year: Red Woody.  If you’re ever in Chicago I recommend checking out their original brewpub location.  It’s across the street from Siebel Institute near the Clybourn & North stop on the red line.

The have enormous fermenters:

A bad ass looking centrifuge:

And of course a room that probably resembles heaven:

My boy Tim, in addition to some ridiculous red eye in this photo, has a sick 5-gallon system on which he conducts various brewing experiments.  Check out more of the photos in the gallery.

Goose Island Photo Gallery

Build Your Own Kegerator – Homebrew Draft Beer

Posted by on 30 Jan 2010 | Tagged as: images

Building a kegerator to have draft beer at home, be it commercial or homebrew, is much easier than it seems.  You can save money compared to premade kegerators, moreover you can upgrade the critical components to better parts.

You can view the full gallery by clicking here.

This is version 2 of my kegerator design, I have plans for an upgrade this year. Now that I’m settled back home after 4 straight months on the road, I wanted to get some of this up on the site while I have time.  I have seen other designs using the same style fridge, but they are rare. This one is a Kenmore model, but I’ve also used the Haier counterpart. It is essentially a tall dorm fridge. The great benefit of this is that you do not need to spend the money for an expensive tower and the faucets are still at the correct height for easy pouring.  Still it doesn’t take up much floor space, and the work is less than building a chest freezer collar.

The parts list is not extensive:

  • Compact Refrigerator
  • External Temperature Controller
  • CO2 Cylinder
  • CO2 Regulator (double body or with a splitter)
  • 2 Kegs, or of course many more
  • 2 Shanks (w. wing nut, washer & nipple)
  • 2 Faucets & Tap Handles
  • Plywood
  • Gas and Beverage Lines (3/16″ ID for beverage)
  • Gas & Beverage Keg Couplers (Quick Disconnects)
  • Clamps (worm or otherwise)
  • Gas Leak Eetector
  • Drip Tray (optional, i prefer it)

    You’ll need some basic tools; if you don’t have them already they aren’t expensive to buy. A saw to cut the plywood, some sandpaper to smooth the edges, a drill with a 1″ hole saw and a screw driver if you get worm clamps. Another special tool that you’ll need is a faucet wrench which is shown in another picture below. Pictured above is a cheap cordless drill with the attached hole saw.  Neither are expensive, gets the job done.

    Pull out all the shelves, and the bin in the bottom. You need to build a sturdy plywood shelf for the bottom where the compressor hump is. Cut the plywood down to the shelf’s size, but longer since you want to have it extend out a little bit and still provide support to kegs & the like. The image above shows a plank that’s actually too short, I wish I had made that bigger as I will be replacing it to do my upgrade.

    You’ll need to drill a couple holes for the shanks to pass through. Open the door and line up where you want them to be. Choose a nice height for you to easily pour a beer. I have a 6″ drip tray. I spread the faucets 4″ apart which leaves 1″ of drip tray on either side. You’ll drill through plastic, metal and insulation; so wear some safety glasses, or at least your Oakleys. Before drilling remember to take a hammer and nail and center punch the spot where you want your faucets. A little dent will prevent the drill bit from running when you start. Mark your spots, close the door and saw through the door.

    Slide the shanks through the holes and tighten down the nut, the more sturdy the shank the more sturdy your faucet will be. I used stainless steel shanks on this build. It’s a not wholly necessary upgrade.

    Attach your faucets to the shanks on the front. Hand tighten at first but then use your faucet wrench to secure it. These faucets are forward-sealing Perlicks. I think that in the home setting, it makes sense to at least have forward-sealing faucets, if not flow-control. I built a new kegerator for a buddy awhile back and he went straight for flow control faucets. It ups the price, but they are slick.

    You have many options for tap handles, but it can be fun to collect some unique ones from the wild. My friend went for plain black plastic. I use that on my jockey box, but at home I have tap handles on display.

    Attaching a drip tray is just a matter of drilling two screws into the door. Grab your tallest glass and use that to figure out how high you want to mount it. Then just center it and mark the spots for the screws. Then you can easily remove the drip tray for cleaning.

    You need to build the beer lines. Use 3/16″ ID beverage grade tubing. Connect it to your faucets using a wignut, washer & nipple. Read up on the internet about how to balance a tap line. The Brewers Association’s Guide is a great place to start, click here. You can use barbed disconnects for the keg coupler, or the flared version so you can swap them out for perhaps a commercial keg coupler.

    To control the temperature of your kegerator, you use an external thermostat. It plugs into the wall socket and the fridge into it. Then you secure the temperature probe inside the fridge and set the fridge for its coldest setting. Then the little control box on the outside can be used to set your desired serving temperature.

    You will need to attach your regulator to the CO2 tank. I recommend first finding where you will be getting your gas, I get mine at the welding supply shop. Find out their policy, do they swap tanks or refill yours while you wait. If it’s a swap place, there is no reason to buy a new tank, just pay the deposit there for one. This picture shows the upgrade to a double body regulator which allows you to run different pressures on each keg. Also shown is the tubing connected with the inline gas quick-disconnects. This makes it easy to break the gas line and move the tank. Note the gas leak detector as well. All the lines and connections you build should be tested for leaks. Put them under pressure and use that to ensure you aren’t leaking.

    The internal assembly for usage is shown. Two kegs in the back, with the regulator and tank easily accessible. This is why the inline QDs are so useful for moving the tank out of the way.

    These are the QDs I use on my gas lines. Note the use of clamps. Some will debate the use of various type of clamps, but what matters is that you use them on all your line connections. And no matter which clamp type you use you should test each line before putting it into production use.

    The homebrew keg couplers are separated unlike commercial kegs. The black is the beer, and grey is for gas. Ball locks just pop on and off the keg. But I recommend always removing the keg from the kegerator before disconnecting in case a poppet gets stuck and a beer shower begins it’s easier to work with.

    The design of the kegerator provides extra cold space at beer serving temperature for use. Shown above are mugs in the freezer box, which are probably slightly colder than the beer, but not too bad. Below is the emergency sixer, ideally I like to keep 3 lagers and 3 ales. And also the desiccant is there underneath the platform.

    Putting it all together, you have upgright bottle storage in the door which great for your bombers and Belgians. Unless you upgraded to the flow control faucets you’ll have coils of the beer line which can be contained in the door too. On top of the kegerator you can store glasses and decorations.  Below is the completed interior.

    So find yourself a fridge, pick up a few tools and build yourself a kegerator. Shown in this guide is a homebrew kegerator build, but it can easily be modified just by changing which couplers are used. If you use flared fitting for the homebew couplers, then you can just swap in commercial couplers as desired. If you’re good at classifieds, you can save a lot of money on the fridge. Get it done, and pour yourself a beer.

    Diesel Drafts Gallery – Now Live

    Posted by on 21 Dec 2009 | Tagged as: images, links

    I just launched the Diesel Drafts Gallery.  You can access it from the landing page of this site, or also by clicking

    I have many images and galleries still to post, but there are already a couple up there for your browsing.

    World Brewing Academy Graduate

    Posted by on 16 Dec 2009 | Tagged as: images, siebel

    A little over a week ago I received my diploma from the World Brewing Academy.  The experience was incredible.  As valuable as the education are the friendships built over the course of several months.

    Receiving my diploma from Eder

    Receiving my diploma from Eder

    With limited internet access it’s difficult to keep the site updated, but rest assured there are many photo sets that will be uploaded in the coming months, including the Goose Island production plant, barrels of alt aging at Uerige, perhaps the most beautiful brewhouse I’ve ever seen at Rothaus, and more.

    Till then…

    Touring Briess

    Posted by on 26 Sep 2009 | Tagged as: images, links, siebel

    On Monday we hopped a bus to Chilton, WI for a private tour of Briess Malting.  They don’t have public tours available, but their website is pretty awesome in terms of an online tour (see link below).  A full tour of the Chilton Malthouse was fantastic, it was a lot of fun sticking my head into their steeping tanks, playing with germinating malt in my hands, and watching how they bag the final product.  There is something very calming about the germinating rooms, it’s a nice cool temperature, there are these long tubs of moist barley in its early growth phase.  I wanted to lay down and take a nap in a bed of grain.  The lab was also pretty sweet, it’s bigger than my apartment and has all sorts of fun toys.

    The folks at Briess are all very cool.  Midwestern accents are kind of funny, but the people are chill.  Due to issues with proprietary processes and the like, they don’t let folks take photos inside the malt house, so all I have this is shot of the front of the corporate headquarters.  They do have some photos on their site, including one of the basement of the malthouse with the ancient wooden supports for the entire building.  It’s amazing that this malthouse was built over a century ago and is still operating as a modern specialty maltster.

    Briess HQ

    We spent quite a bit of time discussing how to use their products from their specialty malts to extracts.  Like I said already, these people are cool and their passion for helping people produce good beer really comes across when you’re chatting with them about their products. We spent almost an hour just tasting various beers and discussing how the specialty malts were used to achieve some of the flavors in them.  They have a 500 barrel brewhouse and can give some great insight into recipe formulation.

    Visit their website and checkout their tour, I really like their site:

    Jockey Box Success – Wedding Celebration

    Posted by on 19 Aug 2009 | Tagged as: images, looking back

    This past weekend a good friend of mine got married; he and his wife asked me to provide all the beer for the celebration.  Using a 3 tap jockey box we self-served 3 beers at the rehearsal dinner and had 3 different beers served by the caterers at the reception.  American Amber, Kölsch and a British Ale were served on Friday night, with German Lager, American Wheat and American Brown Ale being featured the next day. The beers were outdoors in the middle of a 90 degree day for hours, but cooling potential of the jockey box kept pace with the demand.

    Self Service Beer – 2 Perlicks on either side of a Ventmatic
    Self Service Beer

    This was the largest party where my brew was the sole beer available, 120+ people.  It was the first time I was completely out of the picture when my beer was being served.  After setting up the jockey box and showering for the pictures, my boy and I looked out the window and saw the caterers had completely broken down the bar back we built and were moving my kegs and jockey box.  While crawling under the table in my brand new suit to figure out which beers were flowing on which taps for them, I gained a deeper appreciation for the need of a draught beer guide published by the Brewers Association.

    All told, they did a great job.  We had two kegs of each beer so we set up the 3 beers on the porch where the reception was, and had the spare kegs down the hill in the tent for the dinner.  That way they only had to move the serving gear and the beers wouldn’t get shaken up carrying them back & forth.  One of the brown ale kegs was also overcarbonated, but I explained to the head caterer about leaving it off the gas until it wasn’t pouring anymore.  Then the carbonation level and pour came to a nice balance by the time the reception really got going.

    Underneath the Table – “G” mix gas split by a 3-way manifold with inline QDs
    Under the Table

    The feedback I received was wonderful.  Comments were ranging from, “How do you get so much flavor in your beer?” to, “We live on California craft beer and we loved all the beers you had.”  All the kind words were a mighty ego boost, but I was especially proud of the stuff people were saying behind my back without having met me yet.  They aren’t just being polite to your face or falsely enthusiastic.  I met a couple people who are trying their hand at homebrewing.  We got to talking processes and I offered what I thought was some sage advice to hopefully help them improve their own brews.  My “coaching tree” continues to expand.

    Display & Signage – Three Kings Kölsch example pour & wedding themed labels
    Three Kings

    One thing that made this such a great success was preparation.  I brought spare parts for everything; I’m not sure how a faucet would actually break, but I still had spare faucets.  Leak detector was a clutch item to bring along, my gas manifold had a leak despite testing prior to packing the car.  With leak detector I found and fixed the issue in about 5 minutes with a fresh wrapping of teflon tape.  Like with athletics, visualization before the event allows you to anticipate problems and prepare yourself to deal with them.

    Triple Coil – 3 Stainless Steel 120′ Coils in a 100 quart cooler – each holds ~1/2 gallon
    Triple Coil

    I should have more photos later, but these are all I got on my own camera.  I shot these the morning after the rehearsal dinner while the jockey box was still set up from the night before.  People were able to self-serve all night and even for a little hair-of-the-dog until we moved the jockey box after lunch.

    Next Page »