June meeting notes

We took orders for Berks Homebrew work shirts. These are slate gray Dickie’s Brand work shirts with a printed, full color club logo on the back. The price is $30 each. Orders are open for a short time, but email  asap to place your order. We anticipate a 3 week turn around.

We proposed a brewery trip through Lancaster County for Saturday July 2nd. The itinerary is still rough at this point, but includes St. Boniface, Spring House, Stoudt’s, and Iron Hill. We are going to try to get a special meet-the-brewer at each place. Already have a handful of people signed up, and with just a few more, we can do a van rental. Let us know if you want to go.

At the end of the meeting, we tasted the Barrel Project beer and topped off the volume with a reserved batch. I must say, it was quite tasty. Bourbon/oak notes were present already. Stay tuned for more info as the beer ages.

Upcoming Beer Events:
Saturday July 16; Pints for Pups. This is a big fundraiser for the Humane Society of Berks County and promises an awesome participant lineup. We are an event sponsor and will have an info-table to promote the club and the hobby in general.

As a last note, feel free to use the Google Group for buy/sell/trade. I know lots of people have extra ingredients/equipment. Save on shipping and sell/trade it locally!

— Colin Presby

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Hops planting

This my first attempt at growing the little green goodness. I purchased the starters, 3 Nugget and 2 Galena, from Freshops.com back in March and kept them in their plastic bags in my fridge as per the instructions, until my mid-April dig. When planning a location, full sun is a must, but plants will still grow if partial shade is your best option.

Since the rain gods had been so generous, the ground was relatively moist. I spaced out my plantings about 2.5′ between the Nuggets, and then about 4′ until the Galena, which turned out to be one large shoot. I anticipate adding two 12′ posts soon on either end of my hoprow and running cables across the top and bottom, then using twine or coir yarn to lead the vine. I dug each hole about 16″ deep and 12″ in diameter, loosening the dirt with a pry bar. Then I used a post hole digger to remove the soil and placed it in a wheelbarrow.

After clearing out the 4 holes, I refilled about 5-6″ with small loose dirt, 2-3 cups of potting soil and a bit of Osmocote, mixing it together. I filled in with more dirt and topped with a bit more Osmocote, placing the rhizome vertically in the center of the hole, with the bud of the plants around 1″ below the surface.

After about three weeks in the ground I have a 5″ and two 1″ Nugget shoots, and a 1″ Galena shoot. I’m anxiously checking every day for progress, which I hope expedites with the warmer weather.

This is a work in progress and I’ll be giving periodic updates. Freshops has a great break down of the simple steps that I followed.  – Jeremy Drey

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Making the switch to all-grain

After 2 years of brewing I have finally made the jump.  I am an all-grain brewer…at last.  I’ve suffered from the curse of knowing too much. I’ve read the books and magazines, listened to the podcasts and talked with other homebrewers, and I have desperately wanted to go all-grain.
Now, don’t get me wrong, you can make some award winning beer from extract, but for me, all-grain has always held the power to fully customize my beers, to have the maximum amount of control when it comes to things like flavors, mouthfeel, head retention and more.

The first thing I did in order to make the move was the purchase of a 10 gallon Rubbermaid cooler.  I removed the stock spout and installed a ball valve and bulk head assembly with pipe fittings from Lowes.  I also needed a screen so I wouldn’t clog the spout with grain.  I built my screen out of the steel braiding around water heater hose.  Just cut the ends off and pull out the vinyl interior.  All of the instructions I used came from How To Brew, by John Palmer, a great book every homebrewer should own (in my opinion).  If you’re not in the mood to buy another book, instructions can easily be found all over the Internet.

With my mash tun assembled, I opted to buy a kettle to use on my camp chef burner.  I looked for an old sankey keg that I could buy to turn into a keggle (always make sure you pay for the steel if you go this route, it is considered poor practice to convert a keg you get from a beer distributor.  A deposit is not a purchase.) After a lot of looking I finally just decided to buy myself a new kettle.  I ended up with a 10 gallon Blichmann Boilermaker Kettle.  Go ahead, say I threw my money away, but I’ll tell you this much, it works, and it was easy…and that’s good enough for me.  The great part of homebrewing is you can grow and expand how ever you want to, and how ever much you want to.

With the necessary pieces in place, my ability to brew all-grain was complete.  All I had to do now was actually brew on the system.  The first beer I brewed was a Mild recipe I got from Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer’s, Brewing Classic Styles.  Two main factors went into choosing the recipe.  The first was my love of session beers.  I love a low alcohol beer that is full of flavor and that I can have a lot of.  The second factor was the simple grain bill.  Although there were five different grains involved, the total weight was just over 8 pounds and I felt this might make things like mashing and run off easier and less susceptible to producing a stuck mash.  Its also completely possible that my theory is wrong, but hey, that was my rationale.

I won’t bore you with the details of mashing and brewing as I’m willing to bet you are already at least vaguely familiar with these processes and if not, they are easy to look up.  I will tell you, the only hang up I ran into was during the 60 minutes of mashing.  Ideally, for a single infusion mash you want to keep the mash temperature at a specific temperature for the entire 60 minutes.  My system lost approximately 10 degrees F during the hour.  I’ve attributed this loss to the fact I didn’t preheat the cooler with boiling hot water before mashing in.  The cooler absorbed much of the heat from strike water.  Fortunately, I still achieved enough conversion to hit my target O.G.  No problems running off either, just pulled off the first gallon until it ran clear, added the sparge water, and collected the sweet wort.

Boil, cool, ferment, blah, blah.  We’ve all done that song and dance, and if you’ve even just brewed extract, you know what I’m talking about.  The important thing for me was how it turned out.  Fast forward two weeks, and I was drinking a caramel, bready, English Mild.  Now, I may just be sensitive to it, or listen too close to the podcasts, but I always did detect a cloying sweetness in my extract beers, despite what I did to mitigate it.  This Mild, however, didn’t have that flavor and I was ecstatic.

So, in the end, I learned that all-grain is not some incomprehensible mess of coolers and hoses, temperatures and volumes.  It is in fact, pretty simple.  Like anything in this hobby, it can be agonized over and analyzed; to maximize this, and minimize that, and yield some desired number of some specific variable.  The truth of it is, is that you just need to do it.  Just get the cooler, build the manifold and go for it.  You don’t need to have it all nailed down, just right, before you get into all-grain.  You’ll learn so much more by actually working through it than by assuming you need x, y, and z in order to all-grain brew like a champion.  In the end, its just beer, and the fact you made it all yourself is the real achievement.

– Mike Kuhns

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Randy Mosher

“Radical Brewing” and “Tasting Beer” author, Randy Mosher met with a small group of members from the Berks County Homebrew Club at Appalachian Brewing Company in Harrisburg.  We shared a few pints before getting a tour of the brewery from Appalachian Brewing owner and brewer Artie Tafoya.
Holding true to his “radical” nature, Randy shared a variety of sugars and spices from around the globe; from cane sugars from China to Tasmanian pepper berry from Australia.  Especially interesting were the different types of coriander that he shared.  We tasted Iranian coriander, which was peppery and bold, American coriander,  that was slightly grassy, and Indian coriander, the best for brewing, which was delicate with citrus flavors.
Thanks again Randy!

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Welcome everyone who heard about us today through the article in the Reading Eagle!  Our meetings are the second Tuesday of every month at Canal Street at 7pm.  We do not charge dues!  Once you show up or contact us you are a member!  To stay current on the club events fill out the contact form and we will add you to the mailing list!  We look forward to having a lot of new faces at our next meeting on March 8th at Canal Street!

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