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West Coast Brewer Home Brewing Blog

Month: June 2015

Best American Beers of 2015

Top 50-Beers of 2015

Top 50-Beers of 2015

The American Home Brewers Association has released its 2015 Best American Beer results.  For the most part it is the usual suspects rounding out the top 10 with out too many real surprises on the list. Pliny the Elder captured the 1st place spot, a nice tribute to a great beer. They also ranked the Top Breweries of 2015 and Top Import Beers.  Those lists can be viewed at homebrewersassociation.org.

 

1) Russian River – Pliny the Elder
2) Bell’s – Two Hearted Ale
3) Ballast Point – Sculpin IPA
4) Stone – Enjoy By IPA
5) Founders – Breakfast Stout
6) The Alchemist – Heady Topper
7) Bell’s – Hopslam Ale
8) Three Floyds – Zombie Dust
9) Dogfish Head – 90 Minute IPA
10) Firestone Walker – Wookey Jack
11) Deschutes – Fresh Squeezed IPA
T12) Left Hand – Milk Stout Nitro
T12) Sierra Nevada – Pale Ale
T12) Sierra Nevada – Torpedo Extra IPA
15) Goose Island – Bourbon County Stout
16) Russian River – Blind Pig I.P.A.
T17) Stone – Arrogant Bastard Ale
T17) Founders – KBS
T19) Russian River – Consecration
T19) Russian River – Supplication
21) Deschutes – Black Butte Porter
T22) Firestone Walker – Parabola
T22) Firestone Walker – Union Jack
T24) Firestone Walker – Double Jack
T24) Odell – IPA
T24) Tröegs – Nugget Nectar
27) Founders – All Day IPA
T28) Dogfish – Head 120 Minute IPA
T28) Sierra Nevada – Celebration
30) Lagunitas – IPA
31) North Coast – Old Rasputin
32) Lagunitas – Little Sumpin Sumpin
T33) Ballast Point – Grapefruit Sculpin
T33) Boulevard – Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale
35) Surly – Furious
36) Stone – Ruination IPA
37) Deschutes – The Abyss
38) Green Flash – West Coast IPA
39) Oskar Blues – Ten Fidy
40) Cigar City – Jai Alai
T41) Great Lakes – Edmund Fitzgerald Porter
T41) New Belgium – La Folie
43) Oskar Blues – Dale’s Pale Ale
44) Founders – Backwoods Bastard
T45) Victory – DirtWolf Double IPA
T45) Fat Head’s – Head Hunter
T45) Lagunitas – Sucks
T45) Stone – IPA
T49) Odell – Myrcenary
T49) Russian River – Pliny the Younger
T49) Ballast Point – Victory at Sea

Russian River Pliny the Elder Beer Kit

 Russian River Pliny the Elder Beer Kit

Russian River Pliny the Elder Beer Kit

Russian River Pliny the Elder Beer Kit

 

If you have never had the pleasure of trying Pliny the Elder, then trust me when I tell you that Pliny the Elder is perhaps the best example of a DIPA or Double India Pale Ale available for purchase.  It has a malty body that is perfectly balanced with one of the nicest hop profiles I personally have ever tasted. Unfortunately Russian River does not produce enough of it.  The good news is that you can brew it at home and MoreBeer has about the best kit around for it and it is sanctioned by Russian River Brewing.

 

They have a sale running on the Pliny the Elder extract beer kit today, but if you are an all grain brewer fear not, they have a Pliny the Elder All Grain version as well, it is just not on sale.

 

Click Here for Pliny the Elder Home Brewing Kits

 

How to install a thermowell

How to install a thermowell in a stainless steel brew kettle or fermentor.

How to Install a Thermowell

How to Install a Thermowell

 

I live in Southern California and it is not unusual for me to get daily temperature deviations of more than 30 degrees depending on the time of the day.  As you can imagine, this makes regulating fermentation temperatures a bit of a nightmare.  So about a year and a half ago I purchased a chest freezer to use as a fermentation chamber.  The chest freezer greatly helped in creating a more stable environment for my fermentation but I was taping the temperature probe of my digital thermostat to the side of my carboy or fermentor and that was not giving me a true reading of the actual temperature of the fermenting beer. As beer ferments, especially during times of high yeast activity a good amount of heat is created inside the fermentation vessel which means that the temperature of the beer can differ significantly from the ambient temperature of your fermentation chamber.  If the temperature in your fermentation vessel gets to high, your yeast may begin to create off or undesired flavors in your beer.  Since the heat produced by yeast activity changes significantly over the course of fermentation, simply compensating by moving the thermostat temperature down a few degrees is not ideal.  For this reason, many home brewers choose to either purchase a fermentor with a thermowell built in or add a thermowell to their fermentor.

 

A thermowell is a hollow thin walled tube that reaches from the outside wall of the fermentor to a near center point of the inside of the fermentor.  The hollow chamber of the thermowell allows you to insert a thermostat temperature probe so that you can get a far more precise reading of the actual temperature inside of the fermentation vessel.

 

For my fermentation vessel I use a 7 Gallon Stainless Steel Brew Bucket.  If is far less expensive than some of the higher end stainless steel fermentors but unfortunately it does not come with a thermowell built in.  That being said, it still costs a couple hundred dollars and the last thing that I wanted to do was ruin it by improperly installing a termowell. After doing a little research I was able to install the thermowell with no issues and it only took me about 20 minutes to do.  The tools that I used were a center punch, hammer, electric drill, 2 small drill bits, step drill bit, crescent wrench and a little fine grit sand paper.

 

How to Install A Thermowell Step1

How to Install A Thermowell Step1

 

First things first, you will want to gather your tools and mark the point on your fermentor where you want to place your thermowell.  The thermowell should be near the center of the fluid level of your filled fermentor.  Also consider that if you prepare different sized batches in your fermentor, you will want to place the thermowell so that it will be able to read the temperature of small batch sizes as well, so it may make sense to place the thermowell a little lower in the fermentation vessel.  After you mark your installation spot on your fermentor, you will want to use a punch or sharp instrument to make a starting point for when you drill your pilot hole.

 

Thermowell Installation Step 2

Thermowell Installation Step 2

 

 

Next you will want to drill your pilot hole as shown in the image above.  In my situation I actually increased the size of the initial pilot hole with a slightly larger drill bit to help accommodate the head of my step drill bit.

 

 

Thermowell Install Step 3

Thermowell Install Step 3

 

I then used my step drill bit to increase the diameter of the hole until the thread of my thermowell was  able to enter it snugly.  Once I verified that it was able to enter, I used the fine grit sand paper to remove any sharp metal and to polish the edges of the drilled hole.  Next I mounted the thermowell, making sure to use the included silicone o-ring.

 

Thermowell Step 4

How to Install a Thermowell Step 4

 

 

Lastly I cleaned the fementor and thermowell and tested it to insure that there were no leaks.  The install was a success and I currently have a batch of beer in it and the thermowell is working well as expected!

 

If you are looking to either purchase a fermentor or a thermowell for an existing fermentor, here is where I purchased mine.

 

Click Here for Fermentors and Thermowells

 

Home Brewing Sale!

There is currently a great sale going on at MoreBeer.com that can allow you to save up to 30% on some fantastic homebrew items! Click the image for a list of home brewing items that are currently on sale!

 

Home Brewing Sale

Save up to 30% on some of the most popular home brewing supplies!

 

Some of the items currently on sale include, home brewing pumps, stainless steel conical fermenters, stainless home brew kettles, grain mills, mash paddles homebrew plate filters and much more.  To take advantage of this sale click the link below to view the items currently available.

 

Click Here for Home Brewing Sale Items

 

 

Home Brewing Quick Disconnects

For a limited time, save 15% on home brewing stainless steel quick connects and quick disconnects!

 

Home Brewing Quick Disconnects

Home Brewing Quick Disconnects

 

Looking for an excellent way to upgrade your home brewery and save some money? From now until 6/5/2015 you can save 15% are MoreBeer.com on their home brewing quick connects and quick disconnects.  I use them on my home brewing rig and it is a nice time saver when it comes to cleaning and moving pump hoses from kettle to kettle.

 

To take advantage of this limited time coupon code, just enter promo code SSQD15 during checkout to save 15% off our stainless steel quick disconnects!

 

Click Here for a list of available quick connects

 

 

Home Brewing Wort Chillers

Wort Chiller

Wort Chiller

 

A home brewing wort chiller is a piece of brewing equipment that is important to both all grain home brewers and extract brewers. That being said, different home brewers have different needs when it comes to chilling wort. For instance, one of the main factors to consider before purchasing a wort chiller is batch size!  If you are going to opt for an immersion chiller, you are going to want a larger format chiller for a 15 gallon batch size than you are going to want for a 5 gallon batch size.

 

Speed is important when it comes to chilling your wort!  The quicker that you can knock down the temperature of your wort from a boil to around 70F and get it into a sanitized fermentor, the better. The more time it takes for you to cool it, the greater the chances of it coming in contact with wild yeast strains or bacteria that would just love to dine on that cooling wort.  No pun intended, but the primary qualification of a wort chiller typically BOILS down to how quickly it cools your wort. That being said, there are other things you will want to consider before making a purchase.  I have used immersion chillers, plate chillers and counterflow chillers; each had qualities that I liked and and a couple had aspects I disliked.  Ultimately the counterflow wort chiller worked out best for my needs because it is compact, fast, easy to clean and fairly clog resistant. They can be used in some gravity fed brewing systems but I would recommend having a pump available to maximize the chillers cooling potential. I will also say this, I have a good friend that has been home brewing for about 20 years now and he swears by his immersion chiller and has a few compelling reasons for not making the switch to a counterflow chiller.

 

Lets review some of the wort chilling options that are currently available for a home brewer:

 

 

Immersion Wort Chillers: Click Here for Immersion Wort Chiller Pricing

 

Immersion Wort Chillers

Immersion Wort Chillers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Counterflow Wort Chillers:  Click Here for Counterflow Chiller Pricing Options

 

 

Counterflow Wort Chiller

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