Monthly Archives: September 2013

New Orleans Beer Time

If you’re in a town for a conference, you might as well find some good beer.

Crescent City Brew House

With a name that mentions nothing about it’s attempt to recreate a little bit of Bavaria in delta country, the Crescent City Brew House seems to be the only brewpub downtown.  Nice atmosphere, not trendy, not fancy.  The staff was friendly and helpful.  The food was OK, but this being NOLA it was quite meat heavy.

Beware they only do lager, the founder is apparently German and brews according to the Reinheitsgebot, so if you like hops look elsewhere.  And unfortunately for beer geeks, they haven’t jumped on the specs bandwagon, so no malt, hops, IBUs, gravity, or explanations for anything.  A bit old-fashioned, you could say.

  • Pilsner – billed as a “light, crisp, and traditionally hoppy beer, with a soft palette and floral bouquet”.  It met expectations.
  • Red Stallion – “A malty, aromatic and hoppy mixture. Copper colored, this beer is medium bodied and full of flavor. Vienna Style.”  I would have liked more malt, but this one was solid too.
  • Black Forest – “A full-bodied dark mahogany beer, with a rich malty texture. It is sparsely hopped, in the traditional Munich style.”  Also solid.

They also only serve 12, 20, and 24oz glasses.  No pint glasses here you English-loving tool!  All the beer was “solid” for German lager with no particular standouts

Final score: one thumb up from Brew It Right.

New Orleans Lager & Ale (NOLA)

One microbrew (besides Abita) that everyone seems to have on tap is NOLA Blonde.  This was the bright spot wherever I happened to be, because it’s a good, solid blonde ale.  You should try it.  It’s like Summit EPA: no matter what bar you’re in, they’re going to have it because it’s “local”, and that means you don’t have to drink Miller Lite like a chump.

Next up: Hopitoulas.  A great IPA, which you should try, but I can’t give you tasting notes or bouquets or backbones or resins or any of that stuff, as I was fairly drunk by then and I’m not going to take notes when I’m having fun.

Final score: two thumbs up from Brew It Right.

Fill a Growler From Your Keg

Have you ever wanted to fill a growler from your keg without the beer tasting like cardboard the next day?  Have you never, ever run across BierMuncher’s post on the topic?  Well today’s your lucky day!  Hold on, because it’s really complicated…

The Parts
1 x 5/16" siphon tube
1 x #6 Drilled Stopper
1 x Party tap kit (unless you've already got one)
The Tools
Coping saw (or other fine-toothed saw)
Fine grit sandpaper
The Procedure
Cut thee carefully...
Cut thee carefully…

Cut the large black seal off the bottom of the tube.  Then cut the hook off the top of the top, but make the cut diagonal.  Use the sandpaper to smooth all the burrs off both ends, both inside and out.

Then work the drilled stopped up the siphon tube, with the small/bottom side of the stopper closer to the diagonally cut end of the tube.  Check it against your growlers so that the tube touches the bottom of the growler and the stopper seals well in the growler’s mouth.  For a normal-size growler, the bottom of the stopper will be a bit over 9 3/4″ from the pointy end of the tube.  You’re done!

The Pour


You’ll need a party tap (or “cobra” tap) since this doesn’t work with Perlicks and the like.  Once you’ve hooked the party tap up to your keg, slip the flat end of the filler tube into the outlet of the party tap. It’ll be snug, but that’s good.  Twist it in if you have to, but it shouldn’t take too much force.  You also don’t want to shove it in too far, otherwise you’ll block the tap’s gasket mechanism. No worries, you’ll get it.

Now purge your growler with CO2.  It also helps if the growler is cold, but it doesn’t really matter.  Insert the tube into the growler, making sure the stopper forms a good seal.  Pull the tap trigger and watch the beer flow!  It’ll foam a bit at first but you shouldn’t get too much.  The flow will stop as the pressure builds up inside the growler, so now just squeeze the stopper a bit to let some CO2 out and keep filling until the foam hits the neck of the growler.

Mmmm fresh beer.  Enjoy!

Build Me a Randall

randallmeMy brother-in-law’s birthday was coming up, and this year he’s been into Randalls.  So I figured why not build one, I know there are plans out there.  You can even buy them on eBay, but how much fun is that?  Rhetorical question; it’s not fun.  What is fun is building it yourself.

Unfortunately, while researching this, nobody said where they got the internal filter tube.  I need links, people!  So I’ll do the Internet a service and post actual links to stuff I bought.   So if you really want to make a Randall just like mine, it’ll be dead-simple.  You’re welcome.

First, the criteria.  The filter tube must be sanitary, high-polish 304 or 316 stainless steel.  Some people use PVC, but ewwww.  Second, it’s got to have easy keg connects, which means MFL fittings onto which I can screw all the kegging stuff I already have.

The Parts
1 x 1/4" NPT Cartridge filter housing
1 x No. 2 solid stopper (NB SS2)
2 x 1/4" MFL to 1/4" MPT
1 x Teflon plumber's tape
1 x 50-pack AS568A Dash 206 Silicone O-Ring (McMaster 9396K208)
1 x Sanitary Stainless Steel Tube 3/4" OD .62" ID (McMaster 4466K731)
 The Tools

toolsDremel with re-inforced cutoff wheel and grinder, drill, 1/8″ bit, utility knife, safety glasses, Teflon tape, and a hacksaw (not pictured).

A Brief Word on Stainless Tubing

If you’re observant you’ll note I bought my internal filter/dip tube from McMaster Carr because they’re awesome, not because they’re cheap.  I couldn’t find cheap stainless high-polish tubes on the Internet, despite lots of searching.  I really tried.  McMaster’s tubing is high-polish but it’s also 0.065″ wall which is really hard to drill with small bits.  More on this later.

Step 1:  Put a hole in a box

stopperActually, first you want to cut the #2 solid stopper in half.  The solid stopper (rather than a drilled one) forms a better seal at the bottom of the filter housing and helps keep the filter tube in place, as you’ll see later.  Discard the large end, and shave down the edges of of the small end so it fits very snugly in the end of your stainless tube.  When inserted in the filter housing, the stopped will keep the tube upright and stable while you screw on the filter’s cap.

Step 2: Measure and cut your tube

tube-cuttingThis is really the only hard part; you really don’t want to cut it too short, or it won’t seal right.  And obviously you can’t cut it too long, or the cap can’t seal.  If you’re using the same filter I am, then a length of 9 5/16″ is about right.  9 3/8″ isn’t going to kill you though.  If you just cut this length, fine, don’t blame me if it doesn’t work. Make sure it’s the right length first, by cutting longer than you need, checking, and then recutting if you need to.  You don’t want to F this up or you’re out $15.

Step 3: Taper your tube

taperThe listed cartridge filter outlet at the top of the cap isn’t quite 3/4″ in diameter, so you’ll want to taper one end of the stainless tube to make sure it fits into the hole in the filter cap.  You can do this with either a Dremmel or a metal file, but either way, just keep filing it down all around the end of the tube until it fits snuggly into the filter head.  Remember to put a silicon O-Ring in the filter cap first, which forms the top seal.

Step 4: Drill like a Boss

drillHere’s where you make the Randall a Randall.  You want to drill a bunch of 1/8″ holes in the opposite end of the stainless tube from the taper you just made.  This is the end that sits at the bottom of the filter and sucks up all the hoppy goodness that your Randall was born to provide.  Just drill some holes.  You can drill as many or as few as you like, and in whatever pattern you like.  Drill baby drill!  Show your true colors.

I drilled two rows 90 degrees apart, all the way through, from 1/4″ to 2 1/2″ from the bottom of the pipe.  You’re drilling at the bottom (where the stopper will be) because the beer flows from the top of the filter, through the hops, and down to the bottom of the filter where the holes in your stainless tube filter out any large particles and finally channel the beer out of the filter and into your tap.

When you’re done, grind out all the burrs and make sure both the inside and outside of the tube are smooth.  Use a file or a Dremmel or sandpaper or whatever you want.  But you really don’t want metal filings in your beer.

Step 5: Fit like a Boss

Now you get to wrap the MPT ends of your MFL/MPT fittings in Teflon tape, and carefully screw them into the filter cap.  Remember, the cap is plastic, so you don’t want to screw them down too hard and split the cap or strip the threads.  Screw them finger-tight, and then use a crescent wrench to turn them about one or two more turns until they are snug.

Step 6: Put it all together


Insert the half-stopper into the bottom of the stainless tube, at the same end your drilled the holes.  Then put one of the silicone O-Rings into the center hole of the filter cap.  Insert the tapered end of the stainless tube into the filter cap, and then carefully screw the filter cap down onto the filter, making sure the rubber stopper end seats correctly into the bottom of the filter.  Guess what?  You’ve got a Randall.

Using your Randall

randall-in-useSo you’re going to a party and bringing your kegs and your Randall because you’re the Guy with the Beer.  How do you use this thing?  Well, you hook CO2 up to your keg, then you hook your beverage out line to the Randall’s “in” side.  Then you hook your tap up to the Randall’s “out” side.

Next up, what to put inside?  Leap hops, clearly.  Never ever use pellets.  But think outside the box here.  Grapefruit.  Bell peppers.  Cherries.  Hot peppers.  Vanilla beans.  But if you ever do hops, I have some advice; soak them in water overnight first, otherwise you’re going to taste bitter grass all night and nobody will drink your beer.  The AA of your hops won’t really matter much, what you’re getting out of your hops are the aroma and flavor chemicals.  Remember, if something doesn’t taste good, you can always take it out and put something else in, even in the middle of the keg.

So there you go.  Randall hard, my friends!

British Series: Timothy Taylor Best Bitter

Ever since a three-week vacation in the UK a couple years ago, I’ve had a thing for researching and brewing British ales.  While there I picked up copies of Dave Line’s Brewing Beers Like Those You Buy and Graham Wheeler’s Brew Your Own British Real Ale.  Having had quite a few of these beers on cask in various pubs made the whole experience that much more awesome.

Since I have all the ingredients (except the yeast) we’ll brew Timothy Taylor Best Bitter, since renamed Boltmaker.  A few notes:

  • Malt: Wheeler simply states “pale malt” but a bit of research indicates that Timothy Taylor may use Golden Promise, at least for Landlord.  There are few references to Best Bitter/Boltmaker, and none state the specific malt used.  In any case, I have Maris Otter on-hand, so that’s what I’m using.  On the other hand, I only have Crystal 60L while Wheeler recommends 120L – 150L, so this brew will be a bit lighter in color and a bit less toffee flavored.
  • Hops: Wheeler refers only to “Golding” hops, and does not specifically mention any particular variety such as East Kent or Whitbread.  I have some generic UK Goldings at 5.5% AA, so in the pot they go.
  • Yeast: It appears that Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire is the actual yeast Timothy Taylor uses, based on quick research.  Quick trip to the store and we’ve got it.

The Recipe

Expected OG: 1.039
Expected FG: 1.009
Mash: 90m @ 151F

6.68 lbs (3030g) Muntons Maris Otter
5.7 oz (160g) Muntons Light Crystal 60L
0.9 oz (26g) British Black Malt

1.23oz (35g) UK Goldings @ 90m
0.42oz (12g) UK Goldings @ 10m
Whirlfloc @ 10m

Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire Ale

The Process

I hit strike temperature exactly but since there’s a couple degrees difference between the MLT and the HLT due to the pumps and coil, the temp dropped to 148 for the first few minutes.  I brought it back up to 151F about 10 minutes later and adjusted to pH 5.25 with some lactic acid.

Mill me some Best Bitter

After a 90 minute mash and mashout at 168F my first runnings were about 1.040.  Because I was lazy I ended up with 8.5 gallons @ 1.025, while my pre-boil target was 7.5 gallons @ 1.030, so boil down we go.  40 minutes later we’re at 7.5 gallons @ 1.030, so I toss in the first batch of Goldings, and start the clock on the boil.  11:00 o’clock rolls around and the chilled wort is kegged and the yeast added, ending up with 5.5 gallons @ 1.040.  Not too shabby.

Cleanup lasts longer, unfortunately.  I really need to find ways to make brew days shorter, though my main breaker tripping while heating the strike water didn’t help.

This morning the airlock is bubbling every 10 seconds or so, and the chamber is set to 66F which is on the low side of the Wyeast recommended range of 64F to 71F.  I prefer to ferment low to reduce esters.