I love DIY projects, and I've really been wanting to make some tap handles for my kegerator. I was considering making some ones out of wood, or possibly buying some of the beautiful wooden, hand-turned handles, but I couldn't really justify the price. Recently while cruising the web, I saw someone make tap handles from used White Labs yeast vials. Brilliant! So I stole the idea, and took some pictures of the process.

Every now and again a batch I brew doesn't turn out quite as I hoped. Contrary to popular belief, most flaws in beer don't occur during wort production, they occur during fermentation. When I brewed the Honey Blonde Ale for the Crossfit competition, I split ten gallons into two fermenters. One fermenter went into my temperature controlled mini-fridge, the other went into a water bath that I tried to keep around 65* using cold water and ice cubes. The five gallons from the mini-fridge turned out excellent, and that was the batch that I served at the Crossfit event. The five gallons from the water bath are another story.

Nuclear Penguin aka 120 Minute IPA clone

Last July I took on the monumental challenge of cloning Dogfish Head's 120 Minute IPA. I documented the entire process here and it turned out really well. It tastes just like the older 20%+ ABV versions of 120 Minute. Mine topped out at 21.1% calculated ABV, but considering volatilization of alcohol, I called it 20% for good measure. I drank a few bottles, gave away a few bottles, and now have about 30 left that I'm going to stash away for a long time to mature.

Despite my best efforts, I don't always have home brew on tap, at least not in as well-conditioned state as I would like it to be. Patience is something that I typically find fleeting, but when it comes to waiting for a beer to condition, I can stick it out. Thankfully, the solution to this little conundrum is as easy as a trip to liquor store.

I actually find it nice from time-to-time to take a little break from home brewed beers to sample some new craft beers. And I'm not ashamed to say I have a little chubby for Firestone Walker beers at the moment; there's lots of DBA, Union Jack, and Mission St. Pale Ale in my fridge right now (The Mission St. beers you find at Trader Joes are actually brewed by FW, and at $6/sixer, they're a hell of a bargain.) The quality, flavors, consistency, and originality that Matt Brynildson is brewing up in Paso Robles is pretty fucking outstanding. That combined with a Sierra Nevada or two are keeping this brewer happy until my next few beers are ready. Speaking of which....

My Czech pilsner I brewed awhile back has been lagering away for the better part of two months now, and I can't wait to dig into that keg. Also the Foreign Extra Stout from two weekends ago has fermented out, and is conditioning on the yeast cake at the moment. This weekend I'm brewing a robust porter, so stay tuned for the details and recipe on that one, and an American amber ale is soon to follow.

In other exciting news, my Girlfriend and I decided we are going to Austria and Slovakia in late-April, so if anyone knows of any good bars or breweries in Vienna, Salzburg, or Bratislava, drop me a comment!

hop haze?
If you drink hoppy beers, I'm sure you've heard the term 'hop haze' before. There's a notion that heavily hopped beers or dry-hopped beers will inherently have a hazy appearance due to the hop oils in suspension. I see it all the time on home-brew forums and beer websites; hell, even the BJCP states it's acceptable. Personally, I call BS. I think hop haze is just another excuse to fall back on for hazy beer.

Almost complete

This weekend I brewed a foreign extra stout. This is my first attempt at brewing this style, so I'm fairly eager to see how it turns out. Equally as exciting, I finished building a counter-flow chiller, and it made it's maiden voyage on this batch. Where has a counter-flow been all my life! I recirculated wort back into the kettle, and in about 7 minutes it brought the entire batch down to 120* using hose water to cool. Once I switched the cooling water to recirculating ice water, the wort was coming out at 60*, which I pumped directly into the fermenter. The entire batch was chilled in about 15 minutes; I'm very impressed.

Over the past few months I've been inching closer and closer to using one yeast for most everything I brew. I fell in love with WLP007 early last year, and I've been looking for just about every excuse to use it since. I've used it for Blonde Ales, IPAs, Double IPAs, English Pales and American Pales. It has a very clean ester profile for an English strain, attenuates extremely well, and it flocculates like peanut butter. In the low 60* range it's nice and clean, and in the upper 60* range it makes some nice esters. What's not to like?

I had been using the chico strain for just about everything, but I'm finding that 007 gives beers a malty, softer edge than the sharp, bright flavors of chico. So I'm jumping in the deep end with 007. I washed the yeast from my Special Bitter, and then pitched it in the Honey Blonde. I'm going to re-pitch this culture for my next 6 batches (outlined here), and see how they turn out. This is a good mix of styles, and will serve as a good test to see if it 007 can replace chico as my go-to house yeast.

If you haven't tried WLP007, I strongly encourage you to. It's an excellent all around yeast.

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