Tag Archives: keezer

No More Beer

Have you ever had gout? No. Trust me, you never want to have even the slightest hint of having gout.

Why? It’s brutal. My father suffered from gout for the last couple of years of his life and it would immobilize him for days at a time. Other people describe even the slightest sensation of touch near their feet as being unbelievably painful.

When I got the first hints of gout in my big toes I got worried. So worried that I started to figure out what I needed to do in order to avoid having full blown attacks. Guess what? Of all the risk factors related to lifestyle I was only guilty of one—alcohol consumption via beer.

Furthermore, I have a long history of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in my family on both my parents’ sides. This makes me especially sensitive to any issue relating to joint health because I know that before too long I will be combating the symptoms of RA. There is no need to hasten that arrival by inviting inflammation of any kind into my body.

The third health consideration is that I am overweight. Not extreme weight loss overweight, but probably carrying a little more than 20 pounds of fat that is extra pressure on my already taxed joints. No matter how much I watch what I eat and exercise I was probably sabotaging my efforts by finishing the night off with a few pints of homebrew from keezer. At about 13 calories per ounce an imperial pint was packing an extra 250 or so calories into every glass I finished. Ugh.

This got me to really assess my lifestyle vis a vis my beer drinking. I love beer. I enjoy the culture of beer. I find satisfaction in trying new beers and seeking out new breweries. I revel in talking about all aspects of beer with like minded folks. However, I like to be able to walk without pain and if the small amount of time I spent with a gout-like episode was any indication I would give up drinking in a heartbeat.

People reorder their lives for all sorts of reasons and I imagine that health is paramount among those reasons. My decision was to make changes before my health degraded to the point where I was dependent upon medication or staring down the barrel of surgery.

Will I still drink a beer now and again? Sure, but it will form a much less significant portion of my life than it has for the past several years. On the bright side, I should be awake early on Sunday mornings to go for bike rides and hikes with my daughter as opposed to shuffling around the house with a hangover.

Anyone know of someone who wants to give a keezer a good home?


Summit in Cans

With two vacations coming up and no time at home during the weekend for the next month—yes, four straight weekends of time away from home—I have been hesitant to tap into any kegs of homebrew for fear of leaving them sit too long. Even with Perlick forward sealing faucets the mechanism can get gummy and it seems silly to leave beer under pressure with no one home to drink it.

To slake my thirst for beer I trudge down to the liquor store and wade through the cooler of craft beer hoping to find something to my liking. Imagine my surprise when I came across Summit Brewing’s offerings in cans. Apparently, Summit just began making its beer available in cans in late-May 2014. Here it is in June in eastern Iowa where I went home with a six pack of Summer Ale and Saga IPA.

Summer beers are an interesting breed and Summit’s Summer Ale is no exception:

Summer Ale

Like television networks dumping sub-standard shows on summer audiences rather than risk damage to fall slates I am beginning to believe that breweries do the same thing with summer brews. What is normally a rock solid brewery pumping out solid beer after solid beer and frequently producing outstanding beer will produce a summer beer that is a real letdown.

This is the case with Summer Ale. Billed as a beer for sunny days Summer Ale has odd notes that make me think it could not decide if it wanted to be a lager or an ale. It’s made like an ale, but the aroma and flavor that lingers in the back of my throat makes me think it is a lager. Plus it’s light (4.5% ABV) and not particularly bitter (32 IBU) give it more of a lager like profile.

Summer beers are also saddled with carrying citrus or fruit flavors. Although it is supposed to have a “fruity and floral aroma” I missed that characteristic entirely. At least Summer Ale did not try and pull off any potent fruit flavorings:

Purchased One Mug RatingSaga IPA should really be named Epic:

Saga IPA

This is a hell of a beer. Named after the Norse goddess who was the drinking companion of Odin—I am taking this word for word from the Summit website—this beer could also easily have been named Thor’s Hammer. Coming in at 6.4% ABV and 80 IBU Saga is packing a hell of a punch, but it is not a story about in your face bitterness or booze.   There is so much flavor with this beer.

The menu of hops employed is extensive– Centennial, Amarillo, Citra, and Rakau which is a variety I was heretofore unfamiliar—and dry hopping was also employed to amp up the flavor. With so much resinous aroma and flavor bursting forth you completely ignore the alcohol. This is a moment when I need to warn others not to drink an entire six-pack in a sitting because you will feel it hit you quite quickly. Learn from my mistakes young Jedi.

The only downside that I can think of with this beer is that it was not suited for a hot, humid weekend in June. Saga would be oh so perfect on a crisp to cold fall day with a plate of smoked meat and football on the television. Sounds like a vision. Saga is available as a year round beer for those of you who do not mind the incongruous melding of hoppy beers and high temps.

The verdict on Saga is an uncompromising recommendation on its excellence:

Purchase 4 Mug Rating

Hand Pump to the Rescue

No, this is not a tool for a return to the keg parties of yesteryear where half barrels of Busch Light were consumed illicitly under the stars for a bargain price. The technology is similar, but the reasoning is completely different. What am I talking about? I bought a hand pump for my kegs:

Hand Pump

Yes, in conjunction with a picnic or cobra tap I could use this pump to dispense an entire keg in a field expedient setup. I might do that if I am certain to drink an entire keg over the course of a short period of times. Otherwise, the air pumped in will react with the beer and oxidize the product. Not a good thing to happen to good beer. Heck, that is not a good thing to happen to bad beer.

Nope, this is all about cleaning. No matter what a homebrewer will tell you this is a hobby that is about cleaning and sanitizing. Otherwise you are likely to brew up a batch that ends up tasting like sock juice pressings.

Kegs are a lot easier to deal with than bottles because you are cleaning and sanitizing a single vessel all at once rather than thirty 22 ounce bottles.

One pain-in-the-ass part of a keezer system to clean are the liquid dispensing lines that run from the keg to the tap. I use Perlick Perl taps in my setup, so I avoid some of the nasty gunk problems associated with taps that do not utilize a forward seal. However, you still want to run a lot of cleaner/sanitizer through the lines to ensure that no bacterial residue remains from a prior batch that will contribute to bad beer in a forthcoming batch.

The easiest way to clean a tap and tap lines is to run the cleaner of your choice through the lines for a period of time. Combine C02 and a gallon or so of cleaner in a clean keg…boom, easy cleaning. The rub here is that I was using a lot of CO2 to pressurize a nearly empty keg and push out a gallon of solution. In conjunction with a small leak in one of my keg’s seals—since fixed with a new seal and a generous application of keg lube—found me blowing through a ten pound tank of CO2 in no time. It’s ~$25 each time I want to fill my tank. Not horribly expensive, but not something I wanted to do frequently.

Enter the hand pump! With a few strokes—wait a second, this sounds bad—I can start pushing out solution and run the keg dry without blowing through a load of purchased gas. The hand pump only costs me a few calories of energy expenditure.

It’s not an elegant solution, but it works quite nicely. I have found that I am inclined to run more solution and do a more thorough cleaning of the lines now that I am not using CO2 to accomplish the task.

Okay, I have to admit that I am going to use this to take kegs on the road as well. If you have met my friends you know that five gallons of beer will disappear in no time. There is no worry about leftovers.

House Pale Ale #2

It’s been a rough go of it lately in terms of quality homebrew. I have not put forth a batch that I loved since I finished my keezer. Is it the keezer or is the brewer? I am inclined to place the blame squarely on my own shoulders.

Granted, part of this has been the process of refining a “house pale ale” recipe. Initially, I thought that I wanted to go with something that was similar to Toppling Goliath’s pseudoSue with its big punch of Citra backed flavor. However, I think that flavor profile is better suited to an occasional beer that is enjoyed for its unique quality rather than an everyday, drinking beer.

After a departure to make a Pale Wheat Ale, it is back to more traditional American-style pale ale. #2 differs in several ways from #1. The biggest difference is that Cascade hops are the primary bittering hop and Citra is used toward the end.

I also used one pound of Briess 2-Row Caramel 40L as a steeping grain prior to the sixty minute boil. A fairly simple extract ale recipe that was as follows:

  • 1 lb. Briess 2-Row Caramel 40L, steeping grains
  • 3 lbs. Munton’s Extra Light DME, 60 minutes
  • 1 oz. Cascade pellet hops, 60 minutes
  • 1 lbs. Munton’s Extra Light DME, 20 minutes
  • 1 oz. Citra pellet hops, 5 minutes
  • Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minutes
  • Safale S-05 yeast

iBrewMaster figured that the beer came out at ~3.7% ABV and ~32 IBU. Fairly mild numbers, but how did it taste:

House Pale Ale 2

It is a good, if unspectacular, beer. The lack of any real Citra flavor confirms my personal suspicion that the hop is better suited to dry hopping as opposed to being used in the boil. I think it is a great addition as a dry hop. Something just gets lost when it is exposed to any kind of heat for any period of time. This leaves the beer dependent upon a small amount of Cascade hops to really “bring the lumber” in the aroma and bitterness department. In the end, the amount of Cascade hops was not up to the challenge.

The body of the beer, however, was nice and neutral base for which to experiment with hops of varying kinds in a variety of ways. I believe that this will be the standard base recipe going forward.

I feel like I am making progress on my house recipe.

Beer Ratings

Point Beer IPA Variety Pack

When is something a sampler pack and when is something a variety pack? I do not know, but Point Beer, the brand of Stevens Point Brewery in Wisconsin, calls it a variety pack. I came across the IPA Variety Pack at the liquor store, along with a few other beers, because a small leak in my keezer setup vented all of my gas and I did not realize the problem until Friday night. No beer for me over Easter weekend.

As a sucker for the sampler…er variety pack I could not help myself. Contained within the box were four IPAs: White IPA, One Shot IPA, Spruce Tip IPA, and Peach Mango IPA.

Spruce Tip IPA was a surprise:

Point Spruce Tip IPA

I wanted to dislike this beer before I even had a sip because I thought spruce tips was another gimmick ingredient that would not contribute in any way to the final product. I have had beers made with cacti and invasive vines and whatever you can scrounge from the forest. Rarely, if ever, is there a flavor note that is present where I say, “Damn it, that foraged vine is outstanding in this beer.”

I am not ready to go there with Spruce Tip IPA, but I felt that the real earthy forest notes from the spruce tips were a perfect flavor pairing with Cascade hops. The beer was near my sweet spot in terms of bitterness at 45 IBU. It was good.

Two Mug PurchaseWhite IPA had a lot of potential:

Point White IPA

This beer intrigued me because it uses Sorachi Ace hops from Japan, which heretofore I cannot remember having in any other beer.

The primary failing of this beer is that the body of the beer disappeared under the bitterness of the hops. At 40 IBU, my sweet spot for bitterness, I thought that this would not be the case. However, brewing a beer in the “white” style does not leave the brewer a lot of room to bring hop flavors or aromas forward without the whole house coming down around themselves.

I feel like this is a beer that could be brewed similar to the All Day IPA from Founders Brewing. There is a nugget of potential in this beer:

Purchased One Mug RatingLike White IPA, I was intrigued by the ingredient list of One Shot IPA:

Point One Shot

Like White IPA, One Shot IPA used a hop that I heretofore had not been exposed. This time it was Calypso hops.

I cannot say if it was the hops or the structure of the body of the beer, but I walked away with an impression of something being burnt. Maybe it was the lightly toasted Vienna malt in a lighter body that came through with those notes of charcoal and acrylamides.

Overall, not a fan.

Purchased One Mug RatingWhat about Peach Mango IPA:

Peach Mango IPA

All I could think about when I sipped on this beer was that I must have dropped a peach Jolly Rancher hard candy into the glass. It was sickeningly sweet. It was sweet to the point that no amount of alcohol or bitterness could break through the syrupy feeling coating my mouth.

This is a common thread among a lot of “fruit” beers that I try from commercial or home brewers. If a can of fruit is added after primary fermentation it just leaves an artificial sweetness to the beer that is offensive.

Peach Mango IPA was a failure.

Zero Mug Purchase

House Pale Ale #1

Somewhere I read a line that really stuck with me. It described brewing a lot of different types of beers as a “series of one night stands.” It was meant to convey that the results might be satisfying, but you were only skimming the surface of your possible skill set because there was no baseline from which to grow.

Okay, it was a metaphor that was meant to shock a little bit and I am sure the writer was not trying for a bit social commentary. The idea, however, is solid. To get the most out of your talents as a brewer and to make the best beer possible you need to focus on creating a single so-called house recipe.

With my keezer finished and pouring pint after pint, as well as the occasional growler, it seemed like a perfect time to start devising a house recipe of my own.

My goal is to create a beer similar to my new favorite—Toppling Goliath’s pseudoSue. I wanted to produce something that had a lot of Citra hop notes and was light enough to drink more than one:

House Pale Ale No 1

The recipe was a fairly simple extract brew with no steeping grains and a low level of hops. It went as follows:

  • 3 lbs. Munton’s Extra Light DME, 60 minutes
  • 1 oz. Citra pellet hops, 30 minutes
  • 3 lbs. Munton’s Extra Light DME, 20 minutes
  • Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minutes
  • Safale K-97 yeast
  • 1 oz. Citra pellet hops, dry hopped after one week of primary fermentation.

Primary fermentation was for 2 weeks, with the dry hopping one week in, and the beer was keg conditioned for 2 weeks prior to hooking it up to the keezer.

I put this beer into the keezer under pressure and waited a few days to serve. The first few glasses were…um…disappointing. The dry hopped Citra notes were overpowering and there was not enough body in the beer to hold up the flavors. iBrewMaster calculated the batch to have 4.6% ABV and 36 IBU.

A few days later the pints went down better, as if the beer had mellowed somewhat in the keezer. Subsequent pours in the following weeks have confirmed that this was a beer that needed some additional time to have the flavor profile blend and mellow somewhat. Oh well, my desire to drink my homebrew got the best of me.

Overall, a minor failure for my firs go at a house pale ale recipe.

One Mug Homebrew

The biggest change I am going to make in recipes going forward is to reincorporate some specialty grains steeped prior to the boil. I believe that this will add some needed complexity and body to the base of the beer so that it can handle bolder hop profiles. We shall see.

Rye Ale from the Keezer

I think that I finally have my keezer dialed in and there have been no incidents with its operation over the past couple of weeks.  My original pale ale is gone and I am on to my second Cornelius keg of homebrew.

This recipe is a rye ale.  In the past I have experimented with various rye ales to varying degrees of success—one recipe was a little too aggressive and others were a little more palatable—but no real knock it out of the park recipes.  So, it was off to try again:

Keezer Rye Ale

Unlike prior extract recipes that used steeping grains, this recipe uses a technique called “steep to convert” or partial mash because I am also using some liquid malt extract.  It was a pretty heavy load of grain that was steeped in the beginning:

  • 16 oz. Flaked Rye
  • 12 oz. US 2-Row Pale Malt
  • 8 oz. Honey Malt
  • 4 oz. Briess Munich 10L
  • 2 oz. Briess Vienna Malt

Once this was done steeping for 45 minutes, 3.3 lbs of Munton’s Light LME was added at 60 minutes and 20 minutes into the boil.  For bittering 1 ounce of Columbus hops were added at 30 minutes and 1 ounce of Citra hops were added at 10 minutes.  A Whirfloc tablet was thrown in with five minutes left in the boil.

The results were…meh.  I did not notice an appreciable difference from the truckload of grain that was steeped at the beginning of the boil compared with recipes that used significantly fewer grains, so that feels like a wasted effort.

Even though the beer was dry hopped with Citra hops, quickly becoming one of my favorite hops, I tasted none of the citrus or grapefruit notes that the hop is known for.

iBrewmaster calculated the final ABV at 5.11% and the bitterness at ~52 IBU which seem right when I drink a pint from the keezer.  It’s not a bad beer, per se, but a beer that really does not have a defining trait that makes you want to brew another batch which I feel is the death knell of any homebrewed beer.

It took a little fiddling with the gas settings on my keezer to get the proper pour, but even then the beer just sort of slides across the palate and leaves no memory of its presence:

One Mug Homebrew