The Thirsty Beagle: June 2015

Friday, June 19, 2015

Homebrewers' Corner with the Red Earth Brewers

Diving into homebrewing can be somewhat of a mystifying experience.

Looking back at when I broke into the hobby, I can recall being confused because homebrewers have names for everything, and they prefer to call everything by its name, even when there's a much more straightforward explanation or description.

I remember overhearing the terms "strike water" and "hot liquor," and wondering what the hell that was. Turns out, strike water and hot liquor are just the water you've heated up right before you add your grains. Couldn't we just call it, you know, the water?

Alas, I never met a homebrewer who wouldn't explain what something meant if you just asked -- it's a great community of people to get tied up with.

So what if you decide you'd like to get involved with the community and the hobby? I can help you with that. I've teamed up with the Red Earth Brewers homebrew club for a series of occasional columns to talk about homebrewing from the ground up.

Today's contributor is Red Earth member Sean McCanne. Sean has penned a great intro and explainer on many of the facets of homebrewing. I'll post the first half of it today, and follow up with the remainder next week.

Take it away, Sean:

So you're thinking about homebrewing? If you're anything like me, you've already read some of the thousands of articles, lurked on dozens of forums with more posts and conflicting ideas than you can count, and maybe you've even bought a book or subscribed to a magazine. You've seen pictures of big, shiny brewing rigs, and entire rooms dedicated to the craft of crafting beer.

You've seen that there are stores that sell homebrewing equipment and ingredients and maybe you've even gone to one of them and looked around at all the gear. 

There's so much information, so many people, so many things to buy, so many opinions ... who do you listen to? It can just be confusing. But it doesn't have to be. 

I’m not going to go in to a lot of equipment, temperature, volume, or recipe specifics here, I’m just going to help you sort through the noise. There are many books and other documents about the technical parts of brewing beer that will give you additional detail. This isn’t supposed to teach you how to brew beer, but to help you decide how you want to brew beer.

And yes, homebrewing can be easy.

We're going to cover several topics in this homebrewing primer.

1. Basic equipment

2. Brewing the same beer in different ways

3. Extract brewing

4. All-grain brewing

5. Tech support and the Oklahoma homebrewing community 

But first, how about a glossary? 

I know you normally find these at the end, but there are some things that could use explaining up front. 

Some of the words you hear don't make any sense. Wort, sparge, vorlauf, mash. Really? So I'll add these at the beginning of each section as necessary. 

1. Basic equipment 

There are a lot of ways to start homebrewing and what you do up front is in large part determined by two things: the amount of space you have and the amount of money you want to spend. Brewing takes up space, there's some special equipment, and there's a bit of an entry fee in a pot, and buckets or carboys no matter how you decide to do it.

Let's go through the basics of what you'll need regardless of how you choose to proceed.

"How to Brew" By John Palmer. Read this book. I (and most of the brewers I know) highly recommend it. 

“How to Brew” will go in much more detail on most topics than I do here. It can help you start off from scratch and will be useful to you for your entire brewing career. You can buy it from your local homebrew shop (LHBS), and while you're there you can introduce yourself and ask about brewing. Tell them you're new and considering it. I've not met anyone at a LHBS that isn't helpful.

Most LHBSs or online stores have a set of basic brewing gear for sale in kit form, with large plastic buckets, hydrometer, bottle capper and caps, maybe a carboy (big glass jug), bottling wand, bottling brush, sanitizer, and an instructional DVD. I'd recommend one of these because it will have a lot of what you need up front. And you'll use all of it no matter the direction you go.

You'll also need a pot. Some folks brew in enameled pots and some in aluminum, but most use stainless. 

There are pots available for all price ranges, but you can get a perfectly good stainless pot in the 5 gallon range for less than $50 most places. While you're doing that, get a long stainless or plastic spoon. Don't use wood because you can't sanitize it.

You'll need bottles (unless you're kegging). You can buy bottles ... wait ... you drink beer, right? Save your bottles. Rinse them out and strip the labels off. For your first batch you'll need about two cases (48) of them. Just don't bother saving the bottles with twist caps. You can't reuse them with a standard capper.

Now that you have the basic equipment, let's talk about how you brew beer. 

2. Brewing the same beer in different ways 


-Wort: In its simplest form ... sugar water used for making beer. It's pre-beer, if you will.

-Hops: Flowers of the hop plant. They add bitterness, flavor, and aroma to beer. Added to the wort and boiled or steeped.

-Yeast: The same little buggers that make bread rise. Except brewing yeast is highly specialized for beer in general and especially to the type of beer you're making. Yeast gets "pitched" into the wort to start fermentation.

When you make beer, you make wort, add hops, boil, cool, and then pitch yeast. The yeast eats the sugar in the wort and the happy result (for us) is alcohol and flavor. The yeast really doesn't care and most of it doesn't survive the long-term process anyway.

To be a little more detailed...

1. Make the wort

2. Boil the wort and add hops

3. Chill the wort

4. Put the wort in your bucket or carboy and pitch yeast

5. Wait for a week or two

6. Bottle or keg the beer

7. Wait until it's carbonated

8. Drink

The big differences are all in step 1.

There are two basic ways to do that step 1: using packaged malt sugar extracts, or extracting the sugar yourself using all-grain. Extracts are easier, faster, and normally require less equipment. You only boil part of the wort and later top off with more clean water to reach your batch size, so you can get a smaller pot.

All-grain is more customizable and (dare I say it) makes better beer in general. You do generally boil a larger volume of wort but you don’t have to top off with water. After step 1 the rest is the same. You use the same hops, the same boiling procedures, same sanitation, cooling, fermentation, waiting, and packaging. Let's go through the different ways to accomplish step 1. 

3. Extract brewing 


-Malted barley: Barley grain that has been germinated and then heated to stop the germination process. Some malt is very light and neutral in flavor, some is very dark and roasty, and there's every color and flavor in between.

-Mash: The process of soaking malted barley in hot water to convert starches in to simple sugars and then rinsing that sugar out, creating wort.

-Malt extract: Wort that's been concentrated into a syrup: liquid malt extract (LME); or dried into a powder: dry malt extract (DME). Extracts can come in different colors and flavors (darker is richer and roastier generally) based on the malted barley used in its production.

There are several different ways to brew with extracts, but I'm only going to discuss three of them:

1. Extract kit with grains: You get LME or DME and a small amount of specialty color or flavor malts to add depth and character to the beer but no large amount of sugar.

2. Partial mash kit: Like the extract kit with grains, but contains a much larger amount of grain and less malt extract, meaning you extract your own sugar and supplement it with extract instead of the other way around.

3. Build your own extract kit: You can design your own recipe with extracts and grains as you like, but I have a better option for you later. 

Extract kits with grains

Process: The malt extracts provide the sugar and sometimes more color and flavor. The grains get steeped in your pot like a tea bag in hot water and you add the extracts. That's step 1 for an extract kit. Then you follow steps 2 through 8.

Pros: This is the quickest and easiest way to get started, and there are kits for almost every taste. From the lightest wheat beer to IPAs to imperial stouts, you can make almost anything from a kit. They make pretty darn good beer and I know that a very large percentage of new brewers (including me) started that way.

Cons: If your kit comes with an amber or dark extract you have no control over what grains the manufacturer used. You'll probably get the flavors you're looking for, but it's really someone else's vision you're working with. Still, extract kits make some pretty good beer. 

Partial Mash kits

Process: You soak the larger amount of grains in your pot in hot water for about an hour. This is a small mash. You get a larger amount of your wort's sugars from this process. You remove the bag from the new wort and add the extract. That's step 1. Now you follow steps 2 through 8. 

Pros: This is more involved than an extract kit, and about half way to all-grain. Because there's more grain involved and less extract the flavor can be more customized and you will have a better overall beer. You also don't really need any more equipment ... just a larger mesh bag. This will make better beer than an extract with grains kit.

Cons: This takes longer and still uses extract to make up a good amount of the sugar content of the wort.

Build your own kit 

After the first several off-the-shelf kits I brewed I started building my own "kits" with extract and grains. After all, I could buy grains, and I could buy extracts. I quickly learned that using a light or extra light extract and more specialty grains to make up color and flavor made a much better beer than using the darker extracts and fewer grains. I didn't go to partial mash, but I got close. 

Process: Just like the kits above, but you design the recipe based on your tastes.

Pros: The real pro is that you can basically build whatever beer you want. It's your vision now. My first couple of build your own kit brews were less than stellar but it helped me develop my understanding of flavors and increased my brewing knowledge.

Cons: Companies who build kits brew them many times before they sell them to you. If you're going to spend the money on ingredients you want good beer the first time. This doesn't always happen. 

OK, Nick here. Hate to break up the party, but that will do it for today. Informative, right? Tune in next week for the conclusion of Sean's guest blog.

Pints and Pins

-Reminder: Republic is hosting a Prairie Beer Dinner on Tuesday. Call 286-4577 for more info.

-This may just be one of the saddest things I've ever read.

-Your upcoming Monday pint nights at the McNellie's pubs: Founders Porter in OKC; Bitburger in Tulsa; Left Hand Good Juju at Tulsa-South; and Mustang Washita Wheat in Norman.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Marshall, TapWerks plan Hop Talk event

Marshall Brewing Co. and TapWerks Ale House are teaming up for a new and quite interesting-sounding interactive beer event set for June 25 -- Hop Talk.

Hop Talk will allow craft beer enthusiasts to take part in a "sensory evaluation" of hops and hear from Marshall's Wes Alexander with a historical presentation on hops and an explanation of their basic prinicples and qualities.

Alexander told me that Marshall and TapWerks have been trying to scheme up beer events to extend beyond the standard pint night and tap takeover. It seems like they've come upon a very good concept with Hop Talk.

Here's a news release from Marshall with all the details:

TULSA – Marshall Brewing Company has teamed up with TapWerks Ale House to offer an educational experience featuring one of beer’s most talked about ingredients, hops. Hop Talk will be hosted by TapWerks Ale House, 121 E. Sheridan Avenue, Oklahoma City, OK, June 25th, 2015 at 6:30 PM. The seminar will feature Marshall Brewing’s Wes Alexander offering a historical presentation of hops as well as a basic understanding of the role hops play in beer.

“Oklahomans have maturing craft beer palates. Our goal with ‘Hop Talk’ will be the further educate consumers with respect to hop varieties so that they might make informed decisions in choosing from the numerous craft beers offered today,” states Marshall Brewing director of marketing & sales, Wes Alexander. “I am drawn to the history of beer and enjoy offering my perspective. Hops have played a a fascinating role in the history of the world including solving spoilage issues for sea transportation.”

Hop Talk will offer participants a sensory evaluation of pelletized and whole leaf, aroma and bittering hops. Beers will be presented for side-by-side comparison of hop profiles and include an explanation of perception versus the International Bitterness Unit. Finally, hops will be offered to participants to directly add to beer samples to experience the direct effect of dry hopping, a process used to add aroma to beer post-fermentation.

Arrowhead Pale Ale, Marshall Brewing’s popular summer seasonal, will be used extensively during the presentation. A variety of beers will be offered to include beers with sweetness, balance, and some with strong hop profiles. Hop Talk is geared for all craft beer lovers, and will focus on offering something for most palates.

To attend “Hop Talk” please email a reservation to no later than June 24, 2015.

Pints and Pins

-Cool event set for Thursday at Bleugarten: The Garten Party Brewery Tasting and Date Auction to benefit Chidren's Hospital Foundation. Particpating breweries are Anthem, Black Mesa, COOP and Prairie. Check the Bleugarten FB page for more info.

-And you know Bleugarten is really bringing it because on June 23 they're hosting a Food Truck Beer Dinner featuring Lagunitas pairings. Go to the "Events" section of the Bleugarten website for more on that.

-The COOP Ale Works tap room will be open for a little pre-Father's Day frivolity this Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m.

-Prairie Artisan Ales is hosting a live music night on June 26 featuring the band Nightingale. The tap room will be open at 4 p.m., with the band going on 7 to 9 p.m. They're also expecting a food truck.

-If you're looking for tix for the Mustang Brewing Co. sixth anniversary party at Wormy Dog, go ahead and click here.

-Marshall beer dinner set for June 29 at Siegi's Sausage Factory. Details here.

-Craft & Barrel and Oak & Ore are teaming up for an Evil Twin debut party featuring special branded glassware. No additional specific details have been released.

-Here's an article on growing your own hops at home. As a side note to that, I saw something posted on social media a while back saying that perhaps Lowes had plans to start selling Cascase hop plants in 3-gallon buckets. Keep your eyes peeled for that.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Sam Adams, Weber Grills team up for smoker recipes

For purposes of full disclosure, I should say I'm not a giant fan of Sam Adams. 

A quick scan through Untappd shows that I've tried at least 30 different Sam Adams beers, so I think I'm qualified to make that categorization.

Sam Adams certainly has its place in the craft beer universe; I just feel that place is to serve as a gateway beer to more aggressive craft styles.

I can speak from personal experience on that point -- Sam Adams Boston Lager was one of the first non-macro brew beers I tried in college (I'll defer on the argument of whether Sam Adams has itself become a macro brewery now).

Truth be told, Sam Adams Summer Ale and Winter Lager, and some of their newer beers, are perfectly serviceable beers.

So why am I writing this blog post? Because Sam Adams has always been really good about sending me beer to sample. The least I can do is throw them a plug for their latest promotion, which involved me getting this in the mail:

That's a bottle of Summer Ale plus a bag of apple wood chips. Sam Adams has teamed up with Weber Grills to develop a series of recipes partnering beer-soaked wood chips with beer-infused ingredients.

As someone who thinks smoking meat and making beer at the same time is like some sort of transformative-right-of-manhood type of exercise, I can get behind combining all this into one.

If you're interested in reading more, you can get the details right here.

Pints and Pins

-Congrats to Thirsty Beagle fan James Taylor III! He's the winner of yesterday's drawing for two free entries to Brew Mile OKC on June 26.

-Flint is hosting Wine & Palette for a Painting and Pints event on Father's Day, June 21. Looks like a real nifty deal. Does anyone say "nifty" anymore? You can learn about the painting event here.

-Reminder: The rescheduled Chili Cook-Off and Craft Beer Block Party at Mustang Brewing is set for this Saturday, June 13.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Win tickets to Brew Mile OKC

As someone who has enjoyed a COOP F5 in the middle of running the OKC Marathon, I can tell you personally that running and beer are meant to be together.

At the very least, I've found that running after drinking is a good way to burn off extra beer calories and maintain my girlish figure.

Later this month, running and beer will really come together in Oklahoma City. That's when the Brew Mile -- a 1-mile run that's split into quarters and separated by four beers -- makes its way to OKC.

The event is set for 7 p.m. June 26 and the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.

According to the event website, Brew Mile has teamed up with Big Sky Brewing for the Oklahoma City event and after-party. Here's a nifty graphic that explains how it all works:

You can find more info and get tickets at this link. But why would you pay for tickets when you can win them for free, right?

I'm giving away a pair of entries to Brew Mile OKC to one lucky blog reader. All you have to do is visit The Thirsty Beagle Facebook page and like the post associated with this blog post. I'll pick a winner out of all the likes about 5 p.m. today by random draw.

Good luck!

Pints and Pins

-Anthem IPA cans have made their way to liquor stores. Better scoop 'em up while you can.

-Speaking of new liquor store additions, we should see the newest Elk Valley offering, Summer Ale, hit stores soon.

-Republic has scheduled a Prairie beer dinner for June 23. Purchase your spot by visiting the pub, or by emailing

-405 Brewing has been approved by the feds for a pair of new keg labels for Hybrid (ale brewed with mint) and Grapefruit Sour (sour ale brewed with grapefruit). I had the latter at OCBF and can vouch for it as a great, refreshing summer brew.

-Saw on social media that Brew Dog has purchased a plot of land in Ohio for their first facility outside of Scotland. We'll see if that translates to an increased presence in these parts.

-Expect an early July release for bottles of the Anthem-FOAM Wild Brew Belgian tripel collaboration.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Brewing with the Beagle: Summer IPA

I blogged earlier about how jazzed I was to have converted my wife into an IPA drinker.

One welcome side effect of this development was that whenever I got down to the business of homebrewing, IPAs would now be on the table.

Previously, I tried to defer to styles that she would enjoy as well. No big deal, because there are plenty of good beer styles out there. As a result, in my four-plus years of homebrewing, I had made only two IPAs.

I brewed over the Memorial Day weekend -- a good weekend to brew, since it was a washout -- and decided it was time to whip up a good ol' IPA.

Because I have an abnormal infatuation with adding random ingredients to my beer -- why make a plain old saison when you can make a lavendar saison or some such concoction instead, right? -- I decided I would spice things up with a little dry-hopping-fruit action and make it a summer IPA.

My base recipe was derived from the ever-helpful book Brewing Classic Styles. If you're just cracking into homebrewing, or especially just breaking away from kits, you need to own Brewing Classic Styles. It provides great base-line recipes for all major beer styles, and from there you can tinker and deviate to shape the recipes into something more your own.

I used the BCS American IPA recipe for my grain bill, but I wanted a hop profile that would convey citrus and bright fruit notes, and one that would play off well with the bitter orange peel I planned to add, so I consulted with Gail White at The Brew Shop for that part of the recipe.

Here is the grain bill:

-12.75 pounds American two-row
-0.75 pound Munich
-1 pound Crystal (15)
-0.25 pound Crystal (40)

The hops ended up looking like this:

-1 oz. Centennial (60 min.)
-1 oz. Citra (10 min.)
-1 oz. Galaxy (5 min.)
-1 oz. El Dorado (0 min.)

Brew day was good, except for my dog, Lily Potter, running away just as I was hooking the hose up to the wort chiller. Lily, a 3-year-old Jack Russelish mutt-type, has not had much off-leash time due to the fact that she enjoys running like a greyhound and cannot be caught by any human. That is a true statement.

Anyhow, we had Lily in the garage while I was brewing in an attempt to make her into the brewhouse dog. She sniffed around the open garage door, but always retreated when we told her to get back. Plus, it was downpouring outside, and she's really not interested in getting rained on.

Just as I was grabbing the hose to hook up the chiller, the rain let up for brief moment. Lily took this as a sign that she should bolt. What ensued was a 30-minute chase through the rain and puddles, in my flip flops. If you recall the absolute deluge we had the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend, you know this was not good. My wife had it worse -- she was running through the neighborhood streets in her socks and sweatpants. Good times.

Don't let the cute looks fool you. Lily Potter is a ruthless speed demon that will break your heart and your spirit. I chased her over the mile loop around our neighborhood, always staying close enough to at least see her, but lacking the super-human ability to actually catch up with her. To her credit, she ran on the same course we typically walk on, and she ran back to the house. I almost cornered and caught her there, but she bolted again, and off I went on another mile loop around the neighborhood.

I thought at some point she would get tired and stop, or get distracted to where I could get close enough to carry out a diving-tackle-type maneuver. Nope.

Once I made it back to the house a second time, I hopped in the car to pursue that way. I found her in about 30 seconds, opened the car door, called her name, and she jumped right in all like, "Hey, I sure am glad you're here, I was getting tired of sprinting in the rain non-stop for more than two miles."


So anyway, I finally get back to the garage -- my wort abandoned and sitting out in the open air unattended for half an hour -- and get the wort chiller in. The rest has been good. According to my air lock, fermentation went nicely, and today I added 1 oz. of bitter orange peel.

I'm going to give it three or so days, and then proceed to bottling. I will report back on the final product.

Pints and Pins

-Mustang Brewing has announced that a sixth anniversary party will be July 18 at Wormy Dog Saloon. You can see that and other events on Mustang's events page.

-Prairie Artisan Ales is hosting a tour at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

-Here's a message from Learn to Brew: "Hi everyone. We're extending our sale of 5 lb CO2 tanks at $49.50 and Reconditioned Ball Lock Kegs at $49.50! These sales are available at both Moore and OKC locations until supplies run out!"

-The 2015 Wild Brew release party is tonight at Leon-Brookside (Tulsa). This year's beer is a collab between Anthem Brewing and FOAM. The beer is a Belgian tripel. Here's what the label will look like:

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Brew Shop nears needed expansion

If you've ever gone to The Brew Shop on a Saturday, you know that things can get a little cramped when you've got three or four customers in line to check out and another three our four milling about shopping for ingredients and homebrew equipment.

That problem soon will be a thing of the past. Brew Shop proprietor Gail White is preparing a move down the street to a storefront with three to four times more space.

The Brew Shop is currently located at 3624 N Pennsylvania Ave. The new home will be just down the street, at 2916 N Pennsylvania. The shop will be immediately north of Rococo restaurant and right next to Modern Liquor. Part of White's new store will be in what used to be a tanning salon.

The main retail space has been vacant and run down for many years, but it's been transformed into an open, inviting space that White hopes will convey the feel of a modern auto garage.

You can't see it in this photo below, but the main check-out counter is fashioned out of specially poured concrete and will feature space for two check-out lines and for customers to visit and catch up.

The new shop will have loads more room for storage than the current set-up and will include separate spaces for tastings, meetings and brewing demonstrations.

White said she has been eyeing a move to a bigger spot for quite some time, but waiting for the right place and the right time has been the challenge. Now, the moving date is approaching quickly, with only some finishing touches and clean-up needed at the new store.

She said she expects to start moving products into the new space in as little as two weeks. A grand-opening celebration will be scheduled later once the new shop is settled and up and running.

If you're thinking of diving into homebrewing of beer or ciders, or winenmaking, be sure to pay White a visit at the old or new shop. She helped me get my start in homebrewing and can steer you down the right path, too.

Pints and Pins

-The Mustang Brewing and Local Craft Beer Block Party and Chili Cook-Off that was postponed due to rain has been rescheduled for June 13 at Mustang. More info here.

-COOP Ale Works is opening up its brewery on Saturday, June 20 for tours and tastings. The event is set for 1 to 5 p.m., with tours at 2 and 3 p.m.

-If you just can't wait to go check out the brewery, the Red Earth Brewers homebrew club is hosting its monthly meeting at COOP on June 18. Club meetings are open to all members and those who think they might want to join. More info here.

-Boulevard Brewing announced that its Collaboration No. 5 beer, Tropical Pale Ale, will be brewed with Cigar City. This is due for a September release.

-Anthem Brewing posted some pics on social media concerning their IPA going into cans. Keep your eyes peeled for those beauties hitting Oklahoma liquor stores soon.

-TapWerks is getting ready to celebrate its 20th birthday -- so close to being legal! Keep a watch on their social media channels for upcoming events and special one-offs.

-Speaking of TapWerks, they now have 405 Brewing Brown on tap. It's great to see another Oklahoma brewer start to flex its muscles!