Archive for March, 2008

Zymurgy March/April 2008

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

Off the cuff, nothing really stands out about this issue of Zymurgy, but I’ll page through it with you and let you know what I think.


HA! The first thing that caught my eye was an ad from Blichmann Engineering and they have released the ultimate homebrew vessel. These vessels could easily be used for a mash tun or boil tank and they are loaded with features plus look sick. They call them the BoilerMaker. I think Williams Brewing (sp?) sent a catalog and they ran in the mid $300+, and that was without any extra features. Sick.

Next there was an article on setting up a homebrew kegerator, which I thought I might find some useful information, but it turned out to feel like a common knowledge piece. I think one of the most “helpful” bits was the ‘Balancing Your System’ part of the article. I knew a system had to be balanced, but this went into it a little bit.

Oh yeah, I forgot, there was a cool piece on ‘Homebrew Club Bars’. Initially I was like whoa, clubs or bars that sell/have homebrew? But that wasn’t the case at all. These are homebrew clubs (like our local the First State Brewers) that have build portable “bars”/draft systems to serve there beers. Some of there are very elaborate serving up to 36 different homebrews on draft plus 4 hand pumps. I would love to be involved and contribute to a club bar like this, even if it were only used once or twice a year, knowing that your club was rocking the casbah.

That’s about all I got for this one.

Keg Rebuilding, Pt3

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

OK, it’s official, keg rebuilding is the worst – though I’m sure it will get better.

Refirb Kegs 1

So yesterday I finished rebuilding the four kegs I bought back in the beginning of January. It has taken me until now to get around to it because basically I thought it was going to be hard, boring, and dirty work – and it was. I started actually rebuilding the kegs last Wednesday. That is when I took the kegs apart and cleaned all the little bits. This wasn’t too bad and kind of interesting, and all in all really only took a little more than an hour, actually more. Then I had to order missing gaskets and wait for them to come in. During this waiting period I realized that by mixing up all the keg parts I basically amplified the amount of work I was going to have to do. So on Saturday I sat around and tried to dry fit all of the individual pieces to all of the kegs in hopes to get the best fit. This took quite some time. Then I took the kegs to my friends and spent over an hour and a half cleaning the outside of the kegs.

Refirb Kegs 2

So, now that we’re all up to speed, on Sunday I finished cleaning the inside of the kegs and reassembling them. I started around 1PM and probably finished around 7PM. Most of the time it was like most of the homebrewing chores waiting for things to soak. But when I was physically working it was stressful to me since I really didn’t know what I was doing besides following some paper instructions. Plus the black parts (rubber) of a few of the kegs put off an awful black smear. And, it was almost unavoidable, but I got water everywhere. So I felt stressed, dirty, and wet – yuck! After all the soaking and rinsing I began to put them back together. Two of the four went together great and with no issues. One of the four had very “tight” posts that didn’t want to go on to well, but these posts didn’t want to fit well on any of the kegs while I was dry fitting them. The other keg that was having issues was having lid sitting issues. The lid would not sit tight. Actually it wouldn’t sit tight on any of the kegs. I tried to bend the latch on the lid to make it sit better but it didn’t seem to work. When the keg was put under pressure the lid seemed to hold and is still holding pressure now over 24 hours later.

After the kegs were cleaned and rebuilt I filled them and put them under pressure to see if I could tell if there were any leaks. One of them bubbled slightly on one of the post out puts, but after I depressed it and equalized the pressure it seemed to be fine. So it looks as if they are all put together properly. I then drained the kegs and put them back under pressure to store, under the assumption that it is a less likely environment for “critters” to survive in CO2 then ambient air. I will obviously still sanitize before use.

Refirb Kegs 3

One thing I did notice when pressurizing the kegs while they were full of water had me concerned. My CO2 tank is “T”-ed and there is a line running to two kegs so that I could carbonate twice as much if I so chose. If I relieved the pressure in one keg, the other keg would “suck” water back up the CO2 line and push it into the keg being relieved. OK, no real big deal in this scenario and with water, but what if those were beer, or worse two different beers. So I wonder is there (1) a way to stop liquid from exiting through the gas input of the keg, and (2) if not a way to completely stop it, is there a way to stop it from going into the other keg? Also, some of the kegs I had a real issue pushing on and pulling of the quick disconnects. They really did not want to go in either direction I really had to force them. I don’t know if I was doing something wrong, or if they need to broken in or what, but they were so tight they were actually gouging the new O-rings around the top of the poppets. I didn’t like this one bit. I’m sure I will enjoy kegging in the long run, but for now it seems like a new royal pain in the balls.

NHC Judging Invitation

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

I was invited once again to judge in the first round of the National Homebrew Competition presented by the American Homebrewers Association.

NHC Medal

I received an email today informing me that the Northeast region will be judged in Philly at Yard’s brewery this year. He is a section of the email:

The Northeast Regional judging for the 1st Round of the National Homebrew Competition will be held the weekend of April 25-27 at the Yards Brewery ( in Philadelphia.

For those of you have judged this competition before expect the same great time with excellent judges and friends from the region. Perhaps the new location to be a big improvement over last year. For those of you who haven’t this is a great opportunity to judge in the largest home brew competition in the world. We expect to be judging on Saturday and Sunday, although the number of flights and time needed to judge will depend on the number of entries we receive and the number of judges who commit to judging. We may do some judging on Friday night for anyone who is available. While the details haven’t been fully worked out expect to start judging on Saturday AM at 9am, on Sunday at 12:00 and if we judge on Friday night it will be about 7:30pm.

So reserve the weekend of April 25-27 and plan to judge in Philadelphia. Let me know that you can judge. If you know someone who’d like to steward, let me know as well; we can use several.

The deadlines for entries this year are March 31st to April 11th. Our regional mail-in spot is Home Sweet Homebrew in Philly. The prices have gone up too, $9 for AHA members and $14 for non-members (ouch!).

Keg Rebuilding, Pt2

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

So I slowly moved along on the path of rebuilding kegs today, I think I might like this less then bottle prep.

Brushed Kegs 1

So, I am a little hesitant in putting these kegs back together since I essentially mixed up all the pieces. It appears as if there are different posts for gas intake and liquid output, figured those all out. It appears as if there are some posts that will only fit on certain kegs (“skinny” – 2), and some posts that fit on all the kegs (“universal” – 2). It appears as if there are two different size poppets. I still have not determined if one size belongs to gas and one size belongs to liquid or if one size belongs to the “skinny” posts and one size belongs to the “universal”. So besides even putting the kegs back together I still need to thoroughly clean and sanitize the inside (very important) and clean the outside (only important to anal-retentive types, like me). So to avoid playing with my pieces I decided to mess around with cleaning the outside of the kegs.

Brushed Kegs 2

So, I’ve been talking to my friend Craig this week to see if he has any suggestions on how to clean the outside of these kegs since he has access to a lot of power tools – my thinking is let the tools do the work not me. He says he has an eraser-wheel (red handle above) which will clean them right up, removing the stickers, and grime, and some of the scratches. Great, I’ll give it a shot. I go over to his place to try the eraser-wheel and it works OK. It totally ate up the stickers on the kegs, but left a residue on the kegs I didn’t like. Craig said that I could use a solvent to get it off. I was still under-impressed with the eraser-wheel. So I ask if he has anything else that will do a better job. He offers me his surface grinder (silver handle above). This has a small abrasive pad on it. I initially start by targeting just the left over residue from the eraser-wheel, it seems to take it off fairly easily, but I notice that it actually scratches the keg as it is removing it. Now I have to decide: do I not use the surface grinder any more, surface grind all the kegs where the sticker was but leave a scratched/brushed finish, or try and use the surface grinder on all parts of the keg on all four kegs. I chose the last option. It took about 20 minutes per keg and one surface grinder pad only lasted for two kegs, would have been even better to change per keg.

They look OK. They definitely look cleaner and less scratched than they did before, but they also look a little amateurish. The brushed finish is nice,but it is inconsistent. I tried to go only vertically but the grinder didn’t really work that way. I don’t know if I’d do it again when I buy more kegs, but it is an option I would still consider. According to Craig I can buy finer discs which will give it a more consistent finish. But 20 minutes per keg twice is a lot of time to clear up something that doesn’t need to be cleared up. We’ll see.

Iron Hill Mug Club

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

So yesterday, 02.29.08 (may favorite date, the 29th of February), was the Iron Hill Wilmington location Mug Club renewal party.

Iron Hill Mug Club

The deal with the Iron Hill Mug Club is basically you pay a yearly $35 fee to be a part of the club. For being a part of the club you get in return for the year: a mug of beer (24oz.) for the price of a pint of beer (16oz.), you get a $25 gift certificate for every 300 points you accumulate, you get 1 point for every dollar you spend at any Iron Hill, when you sign up or renew you get a “free” 200 points, you get special invites to other Mug Club only events which typically include free appetizers,  special beer releases, and raffles, at the end of the year you get to keep your mug (I think I have 3 now), and your Mug Club card gives you these benefits at all of the Iron Hill locations (7 total now). I think that covers it.

So last night I went up with Karen and we didn’t get there until about half way through the event. I renewed and then went for a beer. I grabbed an Imperial Stout and Karen grabbed a Raspberry Wheat. The place was mobbed, and after talking to one of our friends that works there it was supposedly even worse earlier. Part of the problem was that normally for these Mug Club events we are given the whole upstairs to use, but last night they had already rented out the back room (half the upstairs) for a private event. So we had less space and probably more people than usual, ugh. So after renewing and buying our first round of beers it was enough to put me over the 300 point mark again so I was rewarded with a $25 gift certificate. Also during the door prize raffle I won a 2007 bottle of Iron Hill Old Ale. Plus I walked with my new mug. So to me, scoring a gift certificate ($25), a bottle of beer ($20), and my mug (priceless) all in one shot like that I feel like I was already reimbursed on the price of signing up for the Mug Club and the rest is all gravy, sweet.

To me, if you go to any Iron Hill enough to spend $100 in a year (plus the 200 “free” points) in order to get even one $25 gift certificate and pick up your mug at the end of the year you have more than covered the expense, not even counting the other benefits throughout the year.