Archive for August, 2008

Blichmann Beer Gun

Friday, August 29th, 2008

OK, so I’ve had the Blichman Beer Gun for almost two months now and I haven’t played with it yet, guess what, I just did!

Blichmann Beer Gun 1

Dude, the Beer Gun is way cool. The first time I tried to use it I hadn’t checked how much beer was left in the keg and basically kicked the keg trying to use the Beer Gun on the first bottle, no good. So this time I was feeling more confident and actually had two kegs lined up ready to go. I was going to bottle a six pack each of the Amber Ale and the Pacific Gem Pale Ale. I hadn’t even tapped the keg for the PGPA, and with the keg issues I have been having, that is almost being cocky.

Above you can see my basic set-up mostly hooked up. So essentially it worked like this. Turn the gas pressure down to half the serving pressure, so for me that is about 5 PSI. Then purge the gas from the head space on the keg and hook up the gas at the lower setting to the keg and let it equalize. With a second gas line (turned off) hook that up to the beer gun. Hook a ten foot section of beverage line up to the Beer Gun, then to the keg, then turn the gas on to the Beer Gun. Essentially your ready to go. I flushed the air out of the CO2 line, then pulled on the beer until no foamy beer was coming out, a couple ounces. I then got ready with the first bottle and held my breath.

Blichmann Beer Gun 2Dude, no problems. Basically you insert the Beer Gun into the bottle, pull on the gas button for a couple seconds to flush the bottle with CO2 then pull on the beer lever for maybe 20 seconds and you have a full bottle of beer. I let the foam rise up and over the opening of the top of the bottle, then pulled out the beer gun which left the perfect amount of head space and then hit the head space again with CO2 to blanket the beer. Then I quickly grabbed a cap and capped the beer. It seemed almost too easy. Pretty fast, not to messy or too wasteful, and I knew the carbonation was controlled – shaweet! So I went through six bottles of the Amber then six bottles of the Pacific Gem in this manner with no issue. I then filled a growler of the Pacific Gem too since the Amber is on tap, I can then enjoy the Pacific Gem now too.

I was thinking of messing with the three tap tower I have and hooking that up, but honestly lately I have been thinking of contacting the company I bought it from and possibly doing an exchange for a two tap tower. Sure it’s cooler to have three taps and more variety, but I don’t know, two just seems like it may work really well. We’ll see.

Hop Filter Experiment

Monday, August 25th, 2008

So as anyone who reads this knows I have been having some issues with my kegs becoming clogged which appears to be from hop debris getting stuck in the liquid out post of the keg.

Hop Filter 4

So, I have determined that my racking technique is poor and could use some attention. The obvious way is to be more careful and more discriminant in my racking. This I can work on. But, I was also interested in possibly adding some sort of course filtration system to my racking system to double insure that I will rack only clear beer. My initial idea was for an in-line filtration system. I imagined some sort of filter on the out-going hose between the carboy and the keg. I also thought about the same idea but instead located at the input location of the racking cane or at the output location of the hose from the racking cane.

While on lunch one day I daydreamed a sketch for the inline version of the hop filter. It seemed to make sense, my biggest questions were what to use as the filtration material and how long should it be. I decided on using a stainless-steel braid butchered from a water line. I have heard of people using these for straining out a grain bed in a mash tun with great success. Then I decided to make it about six inches long just to help avoid any weight issues since the contraption was made out of stainless steel, rubber, and brass.

The parts were easy enough to find, though I would have rathered everything was stainless steel, but the brass was NSF rated and it was really just a proto-type at this point. I bought all the parts and threw it together in about 30 minutes. Next I added 1.5oz of pellet hops to a glass carboy with 5 gallons of water. I had to let the hops “dissolve” so that they were no longer pellets and were more of a particulate. I was amazed how much hop debris was in the water, it was literally green. I can only imagine what it looked like when I brewed my Pliny the Elder clone and it had about 6oz of dry hops in it. I also realize that under normal circumstances the hops would have settled for a week plus, but I really wanted to test the filter under a worse case scenario type of atmosphere. So after all the hops had “dissolved” the experiments began.

Hop Filter 6 Hop Filter 1 Hop Filter 5   

First (Experiment #1) I tried the in-line filter. This is really the one I wanted to work because I like the way it worked and it was the most expensive and time consuming to work on (though it wasn’t really expensive nor time consuming). So I hooked the filter up basically right off of the racking cane. At first, because of the size of the tubing used on the filter (1 inch inner diameter), the chamber would not fill with beer, thus the suction for the racking would not occur. Not that I would want to do this with beer, but I “pumped” the Auto-siphon a few times and things got moving. I figured I was initially testing its filtration capabilities and the efficiency of the rest of the design could be questioned later. So the racking cane pulled much hops and the filter appeared to catch 90%+ of the hops, I was definitely impressed. But you could almost watch the filter clog. The hops were so dense and the filter material so tight it actually caked all of the holes closed on the filter. First it slowed, then it stopped, at about 2.5 gallons. Experiment #1 = Failure. I would say that it slightly worked, but not with this design. It makes me wonder if the filter was longer how much better (or worse, that’s a big chamber to fill) it would do, say at twelve inches or eighteen inches long.

Hop Filter 2Second (Experiment #2) I tried the filter at the end of the racking hose. The idea here was similar to the little lint filter you would put from your washing machine before the utility sink. My expectations though were that it would work the same, that is it would clog internally and eventually lead to the beer “squirting” out through whatever opening were available. So I set the experiment up the same and began racking. This time things began to run fine, but after a short while it was obvious that more hop debris was getting through than the inline. It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough that a small circle of hop debris formed in the middle, maybe the size of a quarter, but quite possibly still enough to clog a keg. Eventually the flow began to slow and then all but stopped, again at about 2.5 gallons. Experiment #2 = Failure. This again lead me to question how much of a difference the length of the filter would make.

Hop Filter 3Third (Experiment #3) I tried the filter at the beginning of the racking cane. The idea here was similar to a fish tank filter where it draws the water from the tank up through a course filter and then through a fine filter, though I would not be including a fine filter. Also, just because I could and it kind of made sense, I used an extra piece of stainless steel filter material that was about twice as long to see if that helped. So I set the experiment up the same and began racking. No problems getting the flow going again this time. Almost instantly it was obvious that with this technique the most about of hop debris got through. Again, not really a lot, but maybe twice the amount then Experiment #2. The flow did slow and it took about ten minutes or so to rack the entire 5 gallons of hop-water, but it did rack and filter the entire 5 gallons. Experiment #3 = Partial Success. It was a partial success for it did filter out hop material, but it did not filter out all of the hop material. It did make me wonder how much of a difference the longer piece of filtering material made.

By this point I had been playing with the Hop Filter Experiment for a couple hours and was kind of burning out on it. So for now, I think it is pretty open-ended and inconclusive. I do wonder about lengthening the inline filter which was the one that filtered the best. I also wonder about possibly adding a filter at both the beginning and end point of the racking cane and hose, a double filter? What it really all boils down to is I just need to unlearn bad habits and relearn how to rack properly, because to me it must be my problem since no one else uses these kinds of products or else they would be commercially available. I also think if I dry hopped with whole hops I would have fewer issues, and if used with one of these filters could possibly have even fewer. Until the next experiment occurs.

SOLD! 1998 VW Golf

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

Our 1998 VW Golf K2 sold today (09.01.08)! We have owned this car since it was new and we have taken very good care of it. If there is anyone you know in the market for a new used car available in Delaware feel free to forward a link to this post to them. Thanks for your help.



This car is a real deal; perfect for a new driver, college student, commuter, or anyone in between.

This car includes the following features:
– Approximately 25-30 MPG
– ONLY 131,500 Miles
– Priced Below Kelley Blue Book Value
– CarFax Certified and Vehicle History Report Available
– One Owner
– Accident Free History – Clean Title
– Cold Air Conditioning
– THULE Roof Rack System with Ski Rack Flat Top
– Plus 1 Pair Womens K2 Skis
– Yakima MegaJoe 3 Rear Bike Rack (New, in Box)
– 4 Cylinder, 2.0 Liter Engine
– 5-Speed Manuel Transmission
– Power Windows/Doors/Locks
– Alarm System
– Moon Roof
– Alloy Aluminum Wheels
– K2 Edition
– Front Seat Heaters
– 40/60 Fold-down Back Seat

ONLY $2500 – FIRM

Please contact Brian at and leave a detailed message with contact information.
There are more pictures available and I can answer any questions. Thanks.

This ad has now been removed from Craigslist too in case anyone is interested. Also, in case anyone does read this, we sold the car through Craigslist.

Tournament 512

Monday, August 18th, 2008

So this weekend it happened again, and it happened in a big way.

Top 64 of the Greatest 512

Click on the above image for a larger view of the Top 64 from the Tournament 512.

We got together for the big one on Saturday (08.16.08), The 512 Greatest of All Time, Randomly Drawn, Non-Seeded Tournament. Yes I said five hundred twelve, ri-dic-u-lous, seriously. So we have been talking about this for the better part of a year, and honestly I think there is a part of me that has been putting this off on purpose for the better part of a year. I was a little intimidated going into this, more for the time commitment and possible rivalry flair-ups, but it appears to have been unwarranted. No major arguments, sheesh honestly I don’t think there were any arguments, and we seriously busted this thing out in like 9 or 10 hours. I know that sounds like a lot of time, but I really thought it was going to take like twice as long.

So Erik, Robert, and I had to figure out the logistics of this thing, I mean really, you don’t want to get 8 hours into this thing and run into a problem from miss-counting. So forward-thinking uses saved all of the previous names from the first four tournaments, so really all we had to do was verify that there were 128 names four times. All the names were there, so we were ready to move on to the next phase, figuring out the logistics of the brackets. Again, forward-thinking, I had asked someone I knew about the possibility of printing the bracket on a plotter. The advantage of the plotter was that we could do the tournament on a single piece of paper 36 inches by however long we needed. Well that turned out to be 36 inches by 96 inches – 3 feet by 8 feet, crazy! The original layout was almost 6 feet by 16 feet, but we remedied that quickly.

This time the tournament was mostly the same idea, but completely different at the same time. The aspects that were the same were that we were doing a completely pointless, random, non-seeded tournament with characteristics from the previous four tournaments (Front-men, Villains, Heroes, and Hot Chicks). A couple of the things that were different were the No-Nah rule, the Top Eight DQ rule, and the No Criteria rule (I just made all those names up).

More pictures for your viewing pleasure. 

Previously we would have our “nah” system in place where we were given a certain amount of over-turn authority in which no one opinion could easily out weigh the game, versus this time we played the entire game with no “nahs” and it never seemed to get out of line. Next we decided that all of the top eight from the previous four tournaments needed some weight in the first round (256 battles). So we decided that if any two of the top eights went up against each other in the first round they would be thrown back into the pot and redrawn, essentially an automatic “nah”, I think this only happened twice. And finally there was the unspoken (remarkable) no criteria that was involved. Somehow the discussion never happened and it made things that much better, that is, the discussion of by what criteria are we judging these battles? Because, really, how do you determine who is better in a battle like Jessica Simpson vs. The Purple Pie Man? Sometimes the thought pattern was along the lines of: Is “X” a better villain then “Y” is a better Frontman? And other times it was more like a Mortal Combat video game with the two players openly fighting each other. And sometimes ‘boobs’ just win. And yes, all of these were going on in my head the whole day.

To say it was a fun crazy day isn’t to say enough. Though this was our “last” tournament I honestly only see this as the beginning.

Naked Wheat

Friday, August 15th, 2008

So after the RYPA kicked the Naked Wheat got to come on down and be the next contestant.

Wheat Pint

So this may not be the oldest keg (first-in-first-out mentality) that needs to go on tap, but it is a freshy summertime beer that needs to be on tap. So this was the first pint pulled from the kegerator, notice – no excessive foaming and the pour was much more the speed it was supposed to be, I was pleased. I agree (I can already hear you thinking it) there is very little head, in particularly surprising for a wheat beer, but as of right now I am not concerned. I also chose this beer to test the dry-hopping technique theory since this beer was not dry-hopped. So far so good. This beer is very easy to drink, nice and crisp and refreshing, like Summer in a glass. But I bet it won’t last the weekend; I heard Batman is supposed to come over this weekend, and if you know what that means, then you know it is always trouble.

RYPA, eeww…

Friday, August 15th, 2008

So the RYPA keg just kicked the other day, and eeww…


OK, it’s official, my racking technique sucks (especially after dry-hopping) and it took kegging to bring that to my attention. Now, don’t get me wrong, the beer tasted good, I actually want to re-brew it with closer to 40-50% rye. But, when I opened the keg, this is what I got to see, lots of debris that shouldn’t be there. The one sort of good thing about this is that I was having some troubles with excessive foaming and a slow pour for the second keg in a row (and only my first two kegs). I was actually quite worried that I was going to have some major kegerator issues and was starting to get a little down about it, but now seeing that my issues could be more because of the kegs/my technique I am feeling a bit more confident about the kegerator. I originally had 8 kegs of beer waiting for the kegerator to arrive, so now that it is here, we’ll have to drink our way through those 8 (especially any that were dry-hopped, about 5 or 6) and see what happens. Here’s another gross shot of my shitty racking techniques for your viewing pleasure.


BeerAdvocate & BYO

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

It’s been a while for the magazine updates (as if you all really care), but this time around it is BeerAdvocate & BYO magazines.

BeerAdvocate Magazine Volume II Issue VI

Since it has been so long I’ll probably keep these briefer, we’ll see. Wowser, not that the magazine was any better or worse than usual, but it took me until page 19 in the Innovation section to have something brief to say. They have an article about these new plastic cups with an “etch area” on them where you could scratch your name. No more parties where you mix up your cup or someone puts out a marker only for it to get lost, I really dig them, but I bet they are not cheap. Next up of interest was the Feature article called Founding Brew – Rebuilding America’s Relationship with Beer. It was a pretty neat article about early America and colonial times and how beer and pubs were the center piece of a lot of life, in particularly politics. They focused heavily on Philadelphia which was OK with me. They didn’t really impress me with an excess of knowledge, but it was a nice concise read put all together. That’s about all I have on this issue for you, but I also did finish it about a month ago, I am tardy, even if I don’t feel tardy.

BYO Magazine July-August

(for some reason the picture I wanted to use didn’t load properly) 

First thing that hit me in this issue was the Tips from the Pros section about Honey & Fruit. I think I am in-line to make another mead so this had my attention. Actually what I am thinking is to make a 5 gallon batch of mead as before and then do 5 one gallon experiments with it – maybe fruit, spice, herbal, chocolate, and a control – maybe. Again, later in the issue, there was a nice little article on Melomels, Fruit Meads for Experienced Dummies, which is the technical term for fruit mead. I think all of these were written in preparation for National Mead Day, the first Saturday in August, but of course I am a little slow. Then there was the annual Label Contest winners. This year there were actually a few decent ones, with the grand prize going to a really nice one, but for a couple of years the winners were so lame I quit entering. There was a weird little article called Turbid Mashing, a technique I had never heard of, nor will ever use, but some writer may have gotten a nice “business” trip out of it. It is basically about how to make cloudy wort and what uses it has, geez and I always thought that was called a mistake. And that’s what I’ve got until next time.

AHA Rally at Iron Hill

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

So the American Homebrewing Association (AHA) held another rally at Iron Hill in Wilmington, and it was another blast.

 AHA Rally at Iron Hill

So, I was looking for another partner in crime for the AHA event at Iron Hill in Wilmington on Friday 08.08.08. The trick is, you either had to be an AHA member or join that day before entry. The discounted entry price was $33, not too cheap, but for what you get in return not too bad. Basically you get to go to local events like this, a magazine subscription for a year, and up to 20% discount at local beer places through the AHA pub discount program, plus other random beer shwag – it’s actually pretty rad, I’ve been a member for I think 7 or 8 years. Anyway, I talked Robert into it, and helped buy him beer all night to compensate for him having to pay to get in and not me.

It was pretty cool again. Stewart’s and Ric and Eric were there, Dogfish Head and Sam and some of his brewers were there, Twin Lakes and Sam, Matt, and Jack were there, and of course Iron Hill and Mark, Brian, and Justin plus many others were all threre. I was a little surprised to not see Fordham at the event, but didn’t feel like we were missing anything, sorry Walter. Anyway, everyone was very talkative and social which made it much more fun. We got to try an early release of Stewart’s ’08 Barleywine, DFH’s Red & White and Midas Touch, Twin Lakes Route 52 Pilsner, and Iron Hill’s Heywood and Oak Aged Old Tom Old Ale. Pretty cool. After the event we hung for a while drinking Iron Hill’s West Coast Golden Ale – yummy!

Here’s what the AHA posted up before hand (abbreviated): “Dear Homebrewers and Beer Enthusiasts, The American Homebrewers Association (AHA) wants you to join us for a fantastic fun-filled event with prizes and an opportunity to meet and mingle with other beer enthusiasts at Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant- with guests Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Stewart’s Brewing Co. and Twin Lakes Brewing Co. Friday August 8, 2008. Bring a friend to the event. The cost is $33 for new and renewing members. Entrance is free for current AHA members. Entrance to the event includes these opportunities: • $33 One-Year Membership to the AHA (reg. $38). • All beer proceeds will be donated to homebrew clubs in the area. • Bocce Ball Tournament.  • Special Release on tap. With your AHA Membership you also receive a Zymurgy magazine every other month, discounts at pubs across the U.S. and much much more!”

The Big LeBREWski

Monday, August 4th, 2008

Just returned from this years Belgium Comes to Cooperstown (BCTC) beer fest at Brewery Ommegang, August 1 & 2, 2008, and once again it was awesome!

The Big LeBREWski

This year the fest even had a theme/nickname, The Big LeBREWski – crazy. Anyway, last year Robert and I went up and volunteered at this even and had a really great time. So this year we wanted to volunteer again. After several unforeseen turn of events we almost didn’t get to go, we didn’t even get an affirmative answer about volunteering until only four days before the event. But, we got in and had a blast, and I guess that’s really what matters. Sorry folks, no new pictures really this year, I forgot to take pictures worse than last year. There are only about five pictures and they are all of Robert and I drinking.

So Friday morning we packed up and made a few short stops and were on the road by 8AM. No real major delays and no real time restraints on the way up since our first (and only) volunteering shift wasn’t until 4PM on Saturday. We were hoping to be able to camp in the same area as last year, but instead we camped a little bit further away. In the long run this worked out just as well with us actually camping between Empire Brewing and a campsite full of local (PA) beer writers. Friday’s pace was way lazy because we didn’t have anything we had to do. We ate some lunch, we walked around, we drank some beer, we played cornhole, we walked around, we drank some beer, we played cornhole, we ate some dinner, we walked around, we drank some beer – – are you feeling the pace of the day yet? Good times to say the least. At 10:30ish they had planned on showing The Big Lebowski on a giant blow-up 60ish foot screen outside. It was ridiculous how big this thing was. So we brought up some lawn chairs, a box of Cheez-Its and a 2007 Three Philosophers to enjoy the movie. Now, I’ve seen the movie a few times before and have always thought it to be OK, but this was just freakin’ hilarious to watch the movie in this manner. After the movie we wound up doing the same: eatin’, walkin’, drinkin’ and wound back at out tent for the night.

Saturday morning came early being awoken to the sound of some idiots setting up three tents practically on top of ours at 5AM. If I would have had any energy at that point I would have strangled them, instead I was half passed-out and basically just drifted in and out listening to them talk loudly. Then around 6AM the rain started. Now, no one likes rain when they camp, it just changes things, but I am also not afraid of the rain, but I’ll tell you what – rain never sounds louder than when you are in a tent, for real. So it basically rained from 6-9AM, just enough to make everything pretty wet and for us to try and figure out what we would do if it kept raining (being trapped in your tent is also typically very boring). So, Saturday morning and early afternoon saw a lot of the same as Friday: eatin’, walkin’, drunkin’, and cornhole. The cornhole set was a huge hit. This year we set it up closer to our tent versus last year it was closer to the car, so there was a lot more foot traffic and a lot more, “can we get winners?” kind of thing. We actually left the sets set-up during the actual fest so that others could play from 6-8PM while we were stile volunteering if they wanted to, and they did.

Around 2PM we got ready to go in to the beer fest, there were so many good breweries we actually tried to strategically go to the booths we wanted to since we only had two hours and didn’t want to get blitzed before our shift. We got to try a lot of good stuff, I’ll try to remember some of my favorites, but for now just Russian River’s beers are standing out like a sore thumb. When we got on our shift, both Robert and I were suppose to poor for a brewery by the name of Old Burnside Brewing Company. Just about when we started one of the people we know from Stewart’s asked if one of us would pour for them since their volunteers didn’t show up and supposedly there is some law in NY about employees not being able to pour their own beer or something. So Robert stayed there and I poured for Stewart’s which I was actually more comfortable with, I knew the people and I knew their beer so I felt I could chat it up properly. It was actually quite fun pouring beer and feel like I missed out on that aspect a little bit last year. At 6PM we started breaking down the equipment and hauling it up to Stewart’s camp which was ridiculous. They had hooked up with several people and had a freakin’ compound. Several tents and RVs with lights, and disco balls, and a 20 foot projection screen that they were showing The Muppet Show and live Grateful Dead shows on, and had the Axis Munde in place – a 20 foot pole wrapped in lights – you couldn’t miss this place. Anyway, we helped Stewart’s and Stone Brewery breakdown and then the momentum kind of fell short. It was about 7PM and we couldn’t see another volunteer and there wasn’t anyone directing anyone on what to do next. We basically hung under the brewer’s tent for the next hour helping where we could, which wasn’t much.

After our shift, we scooped up our beer vouchers for our case of beer payment, which we couldn’t pick up until the following morning, and headed on back to the tent. Guess what we did? You got it: eatin’, walkin’, and drinkin’. We were just deciding on what to do for dinner, make it or buy it, when we were told that Iron Hill Brewery had cooked up a large amount of BBQ and that anyone in the area was invited. We headed down a little unsure, but sure enough Mark asked us to grab a plate and help ourselves. So a burger, beans, and some ribs later I was feeling much better. After that we hooked up with a few folks who met last year at BCTC and later have talked to on BeerAdvocate, MugHugger and HombreWing and went and bowled with them for a while. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that a local bowling alley had donated pins and balls for lawn bowling to help flush out the Lebowski theme? After bowling I think we headed up to the Stewart’s compound and hung there for a few hours to finish the night.

Sunday morning was not my friend with me waking up not feeling like sunshine and with a long drive home still. After breaking down camp, sort of finding my face, and collecting our beer (Three Philosophers for Robert, Ommegang Abbey for me) we hit the road about 12PM. I was so “exhausted” that I couldn’t keep my eyes open and was half sleeping half not for most of the ride home. We stopped for food at one point and I figured that was going to be the make it or break it moment with the food either helping or hurting me. Fortunately for me I started to feel better, but also still couldn’t keep my eyes open which meant Robert was stuck driving all the way up and back. I felt like an ass, but I would have done the same for him. Plus, with traffic, rain, and accidents out five hour drive home took almost seven, lucky us.

To say that this is my favorite beer fest is an understatement. For the second year in a row I had a really great time and wish I had this kind of opportunity more often. Thanks Brewery Ommegang, and thanks Tara for helping us get in.