Hob Knob Brewing Company

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Scotsman Wee Heavy Brew Session was a brewing nightmare

So last night was pretty much a brewing disaster by all accounts, save one - at the end of the night (well morning to be exact), we had a wee heavy that was fermenting and should be ready to go by August. Really looking forward to trying it, because it'll be our first beer with an ABV closer to wine (around 10.2-10.5%) than beer! It's a tough balancing act to keep the malty characteristics of the beer in line without it creating a burning sensation from the high ABV.

The biggest area I've been struggling with in all grain is my final volumes. I use a computer program called beersmith to help me estimate final volumes (like boil volumes) etc.

Things started off bad. I go to crack my grain with my corona mill, and get the bright idea to put a bolt in the crank (instead of the crank), and use that to turn the mill. It worked perfectly until I cracked the steel housing on the mill! Some JB Weld and about 2 hours of waiting and permanently installing the hand crank solved that problem, much to the chagrin of my shoulder.

Once we have the grains cracked, it's time to mash. Beersmith says to add the water at 164 targeting a mash temp of 150. Well, it drops to 161 instead of 150, so I'm losing precious enzymes. Not that big of a deal, but not that happy that beersmith was off by 11 degrees. A few ice cubes brought the temperature down to 151, and I let it sit for an hour.

Attempting to keep my HLT water temps up for a fly sparge after my first batch sparge. I failed to realize that thanks to the 2 hour delay, I'd lost a ton of water to evaporation.

About this time, my march 809 pump blew it's housing. I don't know what the problem was, but it sounded like a screw had dropped. Of course when I reached down to fix it, the pump fell all of 4 inches and the weight of all the brass attachments cracked the damn plastic housing!

So while I was waiting for my 2nd sparge water to heat up, I replaced the housing on the pump - another hour gone. I let the second sparge sit for about 45 minutes in the mash tun, and drew it off to the kettle via gravity since the pump was out of commission. Of course, I didn't keep track of how much water I put into the second sparge because I was pissed about not having enough water and having to wait for that and about the problems with the pump (which has been nothing but problems and a huge hassle - now I know why there are so many gravity fed systems - gravity never fails...pumps always fail). When I pull the 2nd sparge into the kettle, I overshot my pre boil volume of 7.7gallons, and end up with close to 9! Crap! My boil time then get's extended from 90 minutes to 120 minutes in order to burn off the excess water, and get my abysmal starting gravity (1.055!) higher in sugar concentration.

After boiling all the way down to 60 minutes, things went rather smoothly from there. The pump was fixed. The cooling went like a charm. The only problem was I ended up with 5.5g instead of the 6g I was hoping for. Final starting gravity after the boil was 1.097. Right in line with where I wanted to be!

So at 6am, I decided to clean up. Since I've gone to all grain, I've picked up some mice in the garage who enjoy taunting me throughout the brewing process. Apparently, they're also the smartest mice in the world, because they avoid the traps and poison. I keep my grain stored properly, but that doesn't mean they don't get the benefit of the few kernals that fall to the garage floor every so often. I've declared war on the rat bastards, and they'll soon meet their maker.

After all is said and done, the brewery's clean, and I've got a fine wee heavy fermenting. I'm really looking forward to giving this brew a try in the near future! The one good things about night's like last night is that after everything, you're still left with a ton of great beer!



Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hob Knob announces it's flagship brews!

Over the past few weeks we've been debating what styles of beers we should brew. I'm happy to say we've reached a decision. The 3 styles we'll be brewing (according to BJCP guidelines) are English Brown Ales (which include a Strong American Brown, English Mild, and English Northern); Irish & Scottish Ales (including a Strong Scotch Ale or "Wee Heavy" as some call it); and finally, a few seasonal/specialty brews (like our Oktoberfest K├╝rbis (pumpkin) ale). Not giving too much away, our beers plan on having something that is (at least to our knowledge) unique to the craft brewing industry on the East Coast of the United States. Keep an eye on our blog as we get closer to our official launch, we'll fill you in on just what that is.

As for our official launch, we got some bad news yesterday. We're dealing with the government right now, trying to get all of our paperwork/licensing/permitting/etc out of the way. After speaking with the folks at the NC ABC (who were very friendly), we found out that the employees at the ttb (the feds) have a bunch of workers on furlow. So it has dramatically lengthened their time for processing our Brewer's Notice form, which we plan on sending in this week. Typically, it takes them less than 95 days (according to their site), but with the furlows, I've found this can take up to 6-9 months. As Arnold Schwarzenegger would say, "DAHALAHGLHALALHLHGLAHLAHA!" So it looks like best case scenario for production to start would be early 2012. Who knows, maybe we'll get lucky and get our paperwork back by mid-late fall. I guess the good news is it let's us perfect our brews, and we can shop around for the best price on our equipment for a bit longer. Delays on shipping equipment are usually around 3 months anyways.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Brew Day at Hob Knob & The Brewery Tour(s)!

Brewery Tours!

The Carolina Brewmasters has been a great club to join. Not only did we get to do a 5 brewery tour yesterday (for a mere $10) in the great city of Raleigh, I got to meet a bunch of great people in the club! We took to the road at 8:45am and headed to Durham to tour Fullsteam Brewery. There I was fortunate enough to meet with the owner, Sean Wilson.

Fullsteam had the most character of any of the breweries that we toured on this fateful Saturday that saw a little bit of everything. There was a bunch of mooching on the bus ride of quality home brews and snacks (thanks everyone!). I would have to say that full steam also had the most unique brew of anything that we tasted, a sweet potato based ale! Delicious! From there, we went to triangle brewing, and then on to lonerider brewery. Again I got to meet another owner. This time, it was Mihir, who with his partners brews on the side of his normal job as an IT guy (at least I think he was in IT - it was the 3rd stop on our tour so my memory is a bit hazy).

It seems like all of these breweries are bursting at the seems. Everyone is upgrading there systems...from a 1 barrel to a 7 barrel...lone rider was going from a 15 bbl up to a 60. Seems all of our friends are meeting with quite a bit of success, and we wish them well!

Sunday Is Brew Day!

There's nothing quite like the smell of a good mash to us brewers! To the non brewer, it bears some semblance to oatmeal, only 100x better.

The Grain:

The Mash:

I'm busy today trying my first batch of all grain brew. We're brewing an American Brown Ale in the garage with the thunder booming in the background. Naturally, with it being my first all grain batch, I've already screwed some stuff up. The amount transferred to the boil kettle is no where near enough, so I'm trying to rapidly bring about 3g up to temp to add to the grain bed to hopefully pull off some extra wort. I'm using propane, so it shouldn't take that long to get up to temp, but we'll see.

All in all, the first all grain batch turned out very well. The OG (original gravity) and efficiency of the system was surprising (and good). It means more fermentables for the yeast to consume. All we have to do now is wait a few weeks and carb the brew up and enjoy some great American Brown Ale!

Monday, June 6, 2011

The brew stand is almost complete!

First off, a big thank you to the electric brewery for the plans for the brew stand and advice on other various parts of the home brewery! We're getting close to our first brew day, and hope to be brewing up a storm this Sunday.

The only hold up right now is the heating system. I supposed I could go propane, but I really, really don't want to have to use 1/2 a tank every time I brew. That would get pretty expensive between brewing and bbq'n!

After hopping to brew on the system the last 2 weekends (which obviously didn't happen), I was getting pretty discouraged with how long the setup was taking . I managed to crack the pump housing TWICE, but was able to repair the second one with some JB Weld, and going with an outer fitting rather than an inner fitting (why the invite people to crack the housing with the inner fitting is beyond me!) I finally had something go my way. To heat 10+ gallons of water, you need some serious wattage. Knowing that my christmas lights routinely popped the breaker in the garage, I figured I'd have to hire an electrician to come out and do the install. The lowest quote I got was $150. Well, it turns out, the people who lived at the house before me had a spa - which they'd wired in the breaker with a big, 50amp, 240v breaker! It got even better when I discovered that this old line ran right by my brew stand under the stairs in my garage! So all I have to do is basically wire a 240v plug, and away we go.

I decided to update everyone on the progress here at Hob Knob, so here's a little video:

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hops & The Gov't

Hob Knob took it's first real step towards becoming an official brewery today. We applied for a 'Certificate of assumed name for a sole proprietorship'. Basically, we registered our name so that no one else can use it! So 'Hob Knob Brewery' is now officially my DBA title. Next up is purchasing a brewer's bond, and filing a 'brewer's notice' with the ttb (that's the 'Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau').

The hops garden is beginning to take root! I'm growing a few different varieties. My personal favorite is the fuggles variety. I'm also growing cascades, goldings, zues, and the jumbo nugget hops you see to the left!