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Monthly Archives: August 2015

Bottling Homebrewing

Just Bottled – Vinn’s Java Tour

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My wife is training for a marathon….she is out on a 20 mile training run.  So what should I do?  Bottle some beer of course!

I brewed this coffee stout back on April 30th.  After the primary fermentation, I transferred it over to the secondary, adding some double brewed coffee .  I added in some bourbon soaked vanilla beans, then just let it sit in the dark.  The OG was not killer, 1.047 at 81 degrees Fahrenheit, just before pitching the yeast.  I wish I had squeaked out a bit more on the FG, but adding in the full pot of double brewed coffee drops things a bit….. 1.018 at 62 degrees Fahrenheit.  Final ABV 4.1%.  I think next time I need to make a more potent wort to drive the abv up a bit.

This brew was a fun batch, as during the boiling process, my dad stopped over.  It was a New Beer Thursday #nbt.  We threw down a Ghost Face Killah, from Twisted Pine Brewing Company and a Saranac Disruption Nitro.   Nothing better than drinking some fun craft beer while brewing.

Downfall to this bottling event?  I have to get more bottles ready for my chocolate peanut butter stout and dry hopped hard cider that are almost ready!  I guess I have some bottle cleaning work to do!


Beer wort to be tested with a hydrometer


Preparing Bottles For Your Homebrew

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A few days ago, I spent over an hour with my least favorite home brewing task… cleaning and preparing bottles.  You could spend some bucks, and buy some fresh bottles.  Over time though, those bottles disappear.  You take some brew to a party, the bottles ultimately get left behind.  You go to a buddy’s house for football….you leave some behind…you get the picture.


Anyways, I hate buying bottles without beer in them…..they seem to be a better deal with commercial stuff in them….or craft stuff for that matter.  So I have cases of beer bottles to scrape and sanitize.


A few tips I have gotten along the way.  One, start the process soaking in some warm water.  Add some OXICLEAN to the water.  It helps break down the glue a bit, makes it easier to scrape.  I used to use a pampered chef scraper, but now I use a straight blade widget.  If it leave stuff behind, or is a bit stubborn, back in the water for a little while.


After the scraping is done, into the dishwasher for the sanitizing cycle.  I talked with another buddy who sometimes wraps the clean bottles in foil, piles them in the oven and sanitizes them by heat in there.  Other times, people fill their bottling bucket with one step cleaner and let them soak a bit.


Are there shortcuts?  Yep, get the rounded scraper like this one HERE .  OR just buy the bottles like here.  Ideas?  What do you do?  Leave a comment below.

Ask The Brewmaster Homebrewing

So You Want To Enter A Brewing Competition…

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Every homebrewer’s dream is to win a competition.  We all want to get that medal, or bragging rights telling us our suds are the best.  We want our beer to be the next brew for a larger brewery.  And this happens…..not very very often.  Sorry to burst your bubble.

So what does it take to do well?  Honestly, if I had the full answer, I would be getting medals left and right.  Currently my medal count is ZERO.  Yup, my beer is not world famous.  It is not award winning.  But, it is tasty, fun to make, great to share, and makes for some good conversations.  I don’t brew to win medals.

I remember the anticipation that I had when I entered my first beer into a competition.  I brewed a beer.  I changed my entry as time grew near due to carbonation issues when I checked it (can you say flowing volcano bottles?).  I took an aged brew that I had made previously.  It was different, it was good, but in hindsight, was not my best choice.  From the competition, I got the following feedback from three panels of judges:  sweet, no carbs, oixidated? sherry nose.  Note, the third panel’s sheet got wet and was unreadable.  I got 7 words of feedback.  I was disappointed, but I moved forward.  I keep brewing, and here is what I should do for next time.  Let’s take a look at some helpful advice though….Scouring a bunch of advice, compiling some of the better advice is a good idea.   Here is a sort of min checklist:


First and foremost, a lot of judging is based on first impressions. Try to match the all the guidelines for the style you want to submit when brewing beer for competition. Any major brewing book will give characteristics on beer styles.  Some of the more popular books would be  The Complete Joy of Homebrewing Third Edition or How to Brew: Everything You Need To Know To Brew Beer Right The First Time.  Don’t want to read a whole book?  Check some major websites http://www.bjcp.org/ or http://www.homebrewersassociation.org/AHA/index.htm

After thinking about style, then the judges should look for the clarity of the beer and the level of carbonation.  If you are doing extract brewing (with or without specialty grains), add half of your liquid malt in the last 10 minutes of your brewing.  It will give you a higher utilization of the hops, a lighter color, and a cleaner, crisper beer flavor, and that should be helpful.

Here is the key – pay attention to the judges.  I wasn’t there for the competition.  I wish I had been able to be there.  I would have loved the opportunity to watch the judges, listen to them, and learn from their behavior.  Volunteering to be a pourer or a server will get you access into that inner sanctum.  The more exposure you have to how the beer is judged, what they are talking about, and seeing how they judge, the better off you’re going to do down the road when you enter your next competition.

When the scoresheets come back for your beer, read them carefully. Then read the scoresheets again. Drink a bottle of your beer that they judges, and see if you can see the things they did.  Dissect their comments, make your own notes, and make your beer better for next time.

The last bit of advice – enter MORE beers.  It is a matter of probability, the more often your beers compete the better chances it has….safety in numbers.

So there you have it, sage advice from the guy who still hasn’t won anything, but is always willing to learn.

So what would you suggest?


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