I Don’t Know Ale … Conclusion (Bottling & Tasting)

I Don’t Know Ale … Conclusion (Bottling & Tasting)

bottling beer 11Bottling beer is an exciting step for us in the brew process as we know we are close to tasting (which is my favorite step) …  Depending on the style of beer they may age for months in the bottle or just need a bit of time to bottle carbonate.  This style (English IPA) just needed time for carbonation.  We are hoping in the near future to add a kegging system but we have been going back and forth on designs, I am for one idea Huz has another so until we decide we bottle… Let’s get to it!

Bottling: (This is a pretty straight forward process)

We bottled 6 days after we dry hopped (we were suppose to wait 7 but we had a crazy Sunday so we bottled 1 day early).  To bottle you:

  • Remove the dry hop bag if you have used one.
  • Rack the beer from the secondary fermenter to a bottling bucket using your auto-siphon
  • Add bottling/priming sugar, in this case we bottled at 2.7 volumes to give it a nice carbonation but also stayed in the style guidelines
  • Fill using a bottle filler
  • Cap
  • Give it 1- 2 weeks to carbonate
  • Below are a few pictures of these steps.

Bottling Beer 7


Since we brew a lot and like to have different varieties on hand I bought some 1 inch round labels and label each beer with the name, bottling date, and ABV.  This helps in telling them apart.

To read more about the “Beer Judge Certification Program” and the “14A. English IPA” style guide lines check out here.

We waited about 9 days after we bottled it to try it and  see how it was conditioning and as we suspected it was ready to go… here was the result!

  • I Don’t Know Ale:  This beer delivers with a medium amber color that has a nice light body mouth feel with good carbonation.  It offers refreshing notes of mango fruitiness, taking you away to a tropical paradise.  Also finishes like a true English Ale offering sufficient toasty/biscuit malt flavor.  Bring on summer, ABV 5.1%!

Bottling Beer  10

Bottling Beer 9

This will be be a great spring/summer beer now can we just get this weather to cooperate?  This concludes the overview on how to brew.  We have a Belgian Style beer on deck to brew over Huz’s spring break called “A Wif of Belgian Blonde”.  We also have a French style Saison upstairs in the primary’s which we are hoping is another great summer brew.  Please let me know if you have any questions! Enjoy ~ Megan


I Don’t Know Ale… Part 2 (Racking & Dry Hopping)

Fast forward about 10-12 days after the bulk of the fermenting is done.  It is time to get the trub (gross stuff at the bottom of the primary fermenter) off the beer so it does not impart off flavors to our beer.  This step is called racking.

Here are the steps of racking beer into the secondary fermentor, with pictures to follow:

  1. Wash and sanitize a 5 gallon and 3 gallon carboy.  Remember we made 8 gallons.
  2. Using an auto-siphon start filling your carboys.  We like to start with the 5 then move to the 3.
  3. Once both are full, re-airlock, and condition in the secondary fermentor until it starts to clarify.  Usually a week or two depending on the sytle of beer brewed.  For this specific style it will take about a week, then we will dry hop it.  Will explain that next.
I Don't Know Ale in primary fermenter.  Ready to be racked over to secondary.

I Don’t Know Ale in primary fermenter. Ready to be racked over to secondary.

Sanitized carboy's ready for action.

Sanitized carboy’s ready for action.

Filling the 5 gallon carboy, then we repeat for the 3 gallon.

Filling the 5 gallon carboy, then we repeat for the 3 gallon.

All set, to condition in secondary fermenter.  Don't the look so good?

All set, to condition in secondary fermenter. Don’t they look so pretty?

*****DRY HOPPING******

This is actually the first beer we have dry hopped.  Dry hopping means adding hops after the brew process in the secondary fermenter.  About 9 days  after we racked this beer to the secondary it had clarified nicely.  Thus is was time for the hops.  We added 1 oz of citra hops, so .625OZ to 5 gallon and .375OZ to 3 gallon.  The hops were measured out in sanitized nylon paint bags and dropped into carboys.  The hops are to sit for exactly 1 week then we bottle.  So we made sure we did it on a weekend because bottling takes a bit of time.  I am hoping to be able to keg soon!  Pictures below of beer…

Hops going in.

Hops going in.

Hops in, 7 days later it will be bottling time.

Hops in, 7 days later it will be bottling time.

Note: I just wanted to show a side by side of what the beer looked like the day we racked into the secondary to the day we added the hops, you can see what I mean by clarification.  A lot more of the yeast that was in suspension settled out.

Side by side, notice the clarification?

Side by side, notice the clarification?

Please let me know if you have any comments or questions… Next up bottling!  Enjoy ~ Megan

I Don’t Know Ale… Part 1

I Don’t Know Ale… Part 1

This post is for my cousin Nick, he asked me to blog about home brewing a while ago, so I am going to try over the next few weeks to show the different steps and progression of this ale.  This long post is of brew day, usually about a 6 hour process for us.  I think brewing can be as simple or as complex as you like and your resulting beer will reflect this.   There are also a lot of ways to achieve the same end product in home brewing, thus this post reflects our process based off our equipment, setup, and knowledge we have to date.  On this 40 acre farm there is usually a lot brewing, both literally and figuratively… Let’s get to it!

Here is the recipe we designed on BeerSmith, a program I would highly recommend if you are into designing your own beer, which we are.  This beer is based off English IPA style guidelines.  The name is a direct result of Huz not knowing what he was creating when first designed and it stuck.

I Don’t Know Ale Recipe

Type: All Grain
Batch Size: 8.00 gal
Boil Size: 10.49 gal
Boil Time: 60 min
End of Boil Vol: 9.36 gal
Final Bottling Vol: 7.25 gal
Fermentation: Ale, Two Stage
Date: 21 Nov 2013
Brewer: Huz & Wif
Equipment: 1 Huz & Wif All Grain Set-Up
Efficiency: 70.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 78.8 %
Taste Rating: 30.0
Amt Name Type # %/IBU
12 lbs Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM) Grain 1 75.0 %
1 lbs Biscuit Malt (23.0 SRM) Grain 2 6.3 %
1 lbs Caramel/Crystal Malt – 60L (60.0 SRM) Grain 3 6.3 %
1 lbs Caramel/Crystal Malt -120L (120.0 SRM) Grain 4 6.3 %
1 lbs Melanoiden Malt (20.0 SRM) Grain 5 6.3 %
2.00 oz Cascade [5.50 %] – Boil 60.0 min Hop 6 24.3 IBUs
2.00 oz Cascade [5.50 %] – Boil 30.0 min Hop 7 18.7 IBUs
1.00 oz Cascade [5.50 %] – Boil 5.0 min Hop 8 2.4 IBUs
1.00 oz Citra [12.00 %] – Boil 5.0 min Hop 9 5.3 IBUs
1.0 pkg Burton Ale (White Labs #WLP023) [35.49 ml] Yeast 10
1.00 oz Citra [12.00 %] – Dry Hop 7.0 Days Hop 11 0.0 IBUs

Gravity, Alcohol Content and Color

Est Original Gravity: 1.052 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.011 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 5.4 %
Bitterness: 50.6 IBUs
Est Color: 14.9 SRM
Measured Original Gravity: 1.051 SG
Measured Final Gravity: 1.010 SG
Actual Alcohol by Vol: 5.4 %
Calories: 168.6 kcal/12oz

Mash Profile

Mash Name: Single Infusion, Light Body
Sparge Water: 4.21 gal
Sparge Temperature: 168.0 F
Adjust Temp for Equipment: TRUE
Total Grain Weight: 16 lbs
Grain Temperature: 72.0 F
Tun Temperature: 72.0 F
Mash PH: 5.20
Mash Steps
Name Description Step Temperature Step Time
Mash In Add 20.00 qt of water at 162.0 F 148.0 F 75 min
Mash Out Add 12.80 qt of water at 205.6 F 168.0 F 10 min

Sparge: Fly sparge with 4.21 gal water at 168.0 F

Mash Notes: Simple single infusion mash for use with most modern well modified grains (about 95% of the time).
Our Gravity Fed Brew Setup:
1) Brewing water is heated in Hot Liquor Tank (HLT)
2) Mashing happens in Mash Lauter Tun (MLT)
3) Wort is drained into Boil Kettle (BK)
(explanation taken from brewers friend)
brewing 1
Brew day steps/pictures: The below shows how we go from grains, water, & yeast to delicious brews. (**Disclaimer: this will be a basic overview, if would like more of a detailed overview please send us a comment)
Dump your 16 pounds of cracked grain into your mash tun (MLT).  The converted cooler helps to keep the water at a certain temperature, thus converting the starches in the crushed grains into sugars for fermentation.  Then per the recipe above heat the water in your HLT to 162 degrees and add 20 quarts, by the time all 20 quarts have been added your new grain temperature should read 148 degrees.  Stir the mash grain bed well and close lid.  Let sit for 75 minutes.  See this step below.
brewing 2
When the 75 minutes is up you have to add 12.8 more quarts of hot water at 205.6 degrees to bring the temperature of your mash up to 168 degrees.  Then let this sit for 10 minutes.  The idea here is you are extracting different starches.  Once the 10 minutes is up, you fly sparge as you drain into your boil kettle.  Meaning you will add 4.21 gallons of 168 degree water to the top of your mash as you mash out.  It is important to keep both of these at the same speed.  Fill your boil kettle up to 10.49 gallons. (10.5 is fine )
brewing 3
Then turn it on, once it comes to boil watch is very close as it will hot break.  Meaning depending on the beer it will foam like crazy or even boil over if you do not watch it.  Once all the proteins break down, the foaming will stop and you will have a rolling boil.  To help keep the hot break tame:  stir, spritz with a water bottle, or turn heat up and down.  Once it has past its hot break keep at a rolling boil for 60 minutes as you need to boil out enough moisture to bring your beer down to 8.5 gallons.
There are 3 hops additions with this recipe, so at the start of the boil you add the first, then again at 30, then again at 5.  Depending on the time you add the hops depends on the flavor bittering vs. aroma.  The hops added at 60 minutes add bittering.  The hops added at 30 add a bit of both, and the hops added the last 5 of boil add all aroma.  Those are the hops notes you taste when you drink your beer.  We put our hops in nylon paint bags to keep them contained.  Here are some pictures of the boil.
See the foam?  Hot break almost done.

See the foam? Hot break almost done.

Look closely and you can see the hop bag floating in the boil kettle with the wort.

Look closely and you can see the hop bag floating in the boil kettle with the wort.

Once this has boiled for 60 minutes, you need to cool it and cool it fast.  These is where keeping things clean and sanitized is important.  From now on clean is key to good beer.  You use a wort chiller to chill quickly to 67/68 degrees.  Chilling quickly helps prevent bacteria from growing.  Once cooled to 68 degrees we split our 8.5 gallons into two 6.5 gallon sanitized carboys.   Pictures below of chilling, what I forgot to take a picture of is the lid we put on top while chilling to keep away particles from air.  Remember clean clean clean from here on out!

brewing 6

Once you add your cooled wort to your sanitized carboys you shake and aerate the wort before adding yeast.  John Palmer explains the “why aerate” well here:  Aeration is Good, Oxidation is Bad.  Once a aerated, pitch yeast, and then airlock and do not shake again… we grow our yeast from one tube to save money but this is a whole different process.  Comment me if you want more details.  Below is aerating & pitching the yeast.

Shaking to aerate, remember to pop the top a time or two to let in air.

Shaking to aerate, remember to pop the top a time or two to let in air.

Splitting our yeast evenly into both carboys.

Splitting our yeast evenly into both carboys.

Finished Product:  I Don't Know Ale.

Finished Product: I Don’t Know Ale.

Last step to this post for now is just make sure over the next few days you watch this beer.  Try to keep it around 67/68 degrees.  When it ferments and the insides are going crazy that creates a heat, so to try to keep it in a cool room.  We keep it in our upstairs bedroom during the winter as we do not heat that room much.  So the cool room temp helps to keep the temperature more regulated.  Then once the fermenting has slowed you can move it to a bit warmer room just trying to keep it in that temp range.  Here is a picture of 1.5 days later, I say the yeast is working, isn’t it pretty?

brewing 10


  • Will try to keep you posted as this beer progresses, currently it is still sitting in the primary fermentor, and we hope to rack it over to the secondary fermentor this week… Stay turned.
  • Also from here on out, remember clean clean clean, sanitize is key.  We use star-san as our cleaner of choice.
  • We treat the water when we brew all grain with some gypsum, calcium chloride, and lime.  What we have learned is water can really affect your efficiency and your flavor.  For more on this please comment and we can go into more detail.
  • Just to reiterate this post is a basic overview of our brew process, if would like more of a detailed overview please send us a comment

Again this was a basic overview, hope you enjoyed and please let me know if you have any comments or questions!  Enjoy ~ Megan

Spring Break…

What a week…  Huz had spring break last week starting on March 31st running thru April 5th and while we hung out at home on a “stay-cation” it felt much more like a “work-cation” but we were able to accomplish a lot … check out the progress around the farm!

1)  We visited the greenhouse and started 12 varieties of tomatoes for the garden, we usually plant around 285 tomatoes for canning!  We also transplanted 10 hot pepper varieties and checked on the flowers we have started…  below is a picture of Dianne’s greenhouse 1.5 miles down the dirt road were all of our seeds get their spring start.

Spring Break 1

2) I learned how to bench graft apple trees from my friend and Schwalliers Country Basket donut partner in crime, Robbi.  Rather… I learned the concept and practiced whittling with some scrap scion wood.  While teaching me she was bench grafting through her pile of 1600 honey crisp for a local fruit farmer.  We had bad bunny damage on our fruit trees this past winter so I picked Robbi’s brain and we decided on a new approach which requires new trees.  The plan is to start them pots this year, get them established, then plant in the garden next spring and use different protection to guard against bunny munches.  Robbi was able to help me graft 14 apple tree root-stock for our garden, since it took me about 45 minutes to get 2 of my 14 trees grafted she assisted with the other 12 to move things along.  I will be working with her later this spring in the orchards around West Michigan to help her with her grafting business.  Looking forward to the challenge of learning this new skill.  Below is a picture of the 14 grafted apple trees, they need to stay dormant and undisturbed for about a month, this helps the graft to heal and take.  Will keep you posted on our new orchards progress!

Spring Break 2

3)  Of course we found time to brew beer!  We brewed an Altbier,  Altbier is a German style brown ale, the “”alt”” literally translates to “old” in German.  It will be a good month or so until this beer is ready to try!  We also bottled our Oatmeal Stout and Roggenbier (a German rye ale) on Easter Sunday evening  after we got home from a celebration, so we were up a bit late but it is worth it for good beer!  Below is our bottled Oatmeal Stout and our freshly brewed Altbier.

Spring Break 3

4)  Last but not least the main event, we built our deck, it has been my dream for years to have a large deck off our back slider.  It was a huge undertaking for the week, but we were on a mission.  Saturday to Saturday, I ran the chop saw & Huz ran the screw gun, we leveled and leveled and measured and measured piece by piece… and the hard work has paid off.  It was darn cold a few days early in the week but the weather held and we had no rain delays… Below is a quick film strip of the deck going up, it turned out awesome!

Spring Break 4

Believe it or not between all of this we were each also able to find down time to start and finish a Jack Reacher novel written by Lee Child, Huz read Die Trying and I tackled Tripwire.  We also enjoyed a wonderful lunch with Huz’s Grandma and the  Jeep got a new U-Joint.  Phew!  Huz is back to school today and thankful for the decking break!

Please let me know if you have any comments or questions!  Enjoy ~ Megan

PS:  We have a chicken going “broody” meaning it is nesting on eggs, we think there are about 8 in there now, and it is working its way to 13.  We are going to let it nest and maybe sometime in late spring we will have more baby chicks.  Will keep you posted on this experiment!

Chickens & 2 other topics…

This week:

  •  A crazy chicken story to share
  • Wanted to follow up on Cusick House Honey Ale
  • Provide a spring planting update – yup it is that time!

First the crazy chicken story… Every once in a while life gets interesting out here on the farm and I begin to wonder what the heck we are feeding our chickens!  As many of my family can attest we have some of the best free range egg’s around, but this one still has Huz and I scratching our heads.  Last week Huz collected the eggs and one was a MONSTER egg…  It was HUGE, like 2 and a half times as big as a regular egg, we weighted it with our food scale, it came in a just over 1/3 of a pound or 5.78 ounces. WOW.   See picture below!!!

monster egg 1

That poor chicken must be sore!  Next, we had to crack it open to see if it was a single, double, or the VERY rare triple yoke… and it was not any!!!  Much to our surprise, it was a single yoke with another whole egg, shell and all on the inside.  What the H?  It was crazy… see picture below, it is worth a thousand words.  Never a dull moment around here!

monster egg 2

Next on the list – we finally cracked into our Cusick House Honey Ale, it is full of flavor & delicious for our first attempt into home brewing.  We have already thought of a few tweaks for the next time we brew this recipe but for now, excellent start.  Goes great with pizza, popcorn, chili… the list goes on!

Last but not least the Garden… for those of you out there who are seed starters for your garden now is the time to start some.  We are starting our rocket snapdragons for cut flowers and early tomatoes for our cold frame this weekend (3.2.13).  Hold off on starting the tomatoes if you are not planing on transferring them to a cold frame, our August harvest tomatoes are started more mid March/early April, will keep you updated on the planting timeline.

Please let me know if you have any comments or questions and thanks for letting me share our crazy chicken story!  Enjoy ~ Megan

Cusick House Honey Ale Bottling Day

Bottling Beer 5Finally…. White House Honey Ale, which we renamed to Cusick House Honey Ale was bottled!  We actually bottled it last weekend (2.3.2012) but I had to hold off on the post as I was waiting for the bottle cap labels to complete my post.  So here was the process to bottling….

Step 1)  De-label, clean, and sanitize used beer bottles.  We have been saving all of our non-twist beer bottles for the past few months.  Thanks to a quick internet search this step was easier than I thought.

  • De-label:  Soak beer bottles in a deep sink or bathtub in a oxi-clean/water solution.  Let them soak about 2 hours and the labels just fall off.  I used a couple of scoops in my deep sink.
  • Clean:  We rise all of our bottles before we put them into our storage area for future use, this prevents any nasty smells as well as makes the cleaning process easier.  After de-labeling them we risen them thoroughly to remove any soapy taste from the oxi-clean, then dip each bottle into a light bleach solution to kill anything and then rise again quickly.  Bleach out-gases so once the bottle is dry the bleach leaves behind no flavor or residue.  ( The joy of being married to a chemistry teacher)
  • Sanitize:  Sanitation is important because they last thing you want is a foreign body in your beer as it can impart a flavor or skunk it
    Dry Heat Sterilization:  Bottles coming out of oven after 3 hours

    Dry Heat Sterilization: Bottles coming out of oven after 3 hours

    up.  Thus we follow John Palmers recommendation in How to Brew for Dry Heat Sterilization via the oven.  We cook our beer bottles in the oven at 284 degrees for 180 minutes (3 hours).  We leave the bottles open for the first hour to dry out any moisture on the inside the we cap them with some aluminum foil for the rest of time.  Let them cool completely in oven, then leave them capped and they are ready for beer.

Step 2) Prime and Fill bottles.  Priming adds the carbonation to your beer.  This is achieved by adding essentially a simple syrup to your beer.  For a further explanation of this step by John Palmer click here.  Then we siphoned the beer to our bottling container and began bottling.  See pictures of bottling and siphoning below.

Siphoning beer to bottling tank and bottling it.

Siphoning beer to bottling tank and bottling it.

Step 3)  Once the beer is bottled we cap, and label it.  Then it sits for two weeks to ferment a bit more and carbonate.  For labels we ended up deciding on online labels, they have a very nice 1 inch round label that fits on top of the cap nicely.  They also have a program called Maestro Label Designer that helps you to design the labels free of charge.  Overall I would recommend, they are a nice money & time saver, we also use them for our lip balm labels.  See pictures below!

Capping and labeling!

Capping and labeling!

On 2.17.2013 we will be able to try the fruits of our labor.  Will let you know how it turns out!  Any comments or questions on this process please let me know!  Enjoy Megan

White House Honey Ale: Racking Day (aka Cusick House Honey Ale)

Above you can see our beer needs to clear out yet, during this racking stage it looked like apple cider just a bit paler.  Here is hoping it clears out some!

Above you can see our beer needs to clear out yet, during this racking stage it looked like apple cider just a bit paler. Here’s hoping it clears out some!

A couple of things:

First we have renamed this beer to “Cusick House Honey Ale” figuring it is only fitting since we did not use White House Honey but Cusick House Honey in this brew!

Second, this past weekend we took the next step in our first homebrew experiment, racking.  In the picture to the left we are siphoning our brew from our primary 6.5 gallon glass fermenter to the secondary 5 gallon glass fermenter.    The idea behind racking beer per John Palmer and How to Brew:

“Racking is the term for the process of transferring the beer without disturbing the sediments or exposing it to air. Usually this is done by siphoning. It is imperative to not aerate the wort during transfer after primary fermentation. Any oxygen in the beer at this time will cause staling reactions that will become evident in the flavor of the beer within a couple weeks.”

Why we rack:

” The yeast also produce an array of fusel alcohols during primary fermentation in addition to ethanol. Fusels are higher molecular weight alcohols that often give harsh solvent-like tastes to beer. During secondary fermentation, the yeast convert these alcohols to more pleasant tasting fruity esters. Warmer temperatures encourage ester production.  Towards the end of secondary fermentation, the suspended yeast flocculates (settles out) and the beer clears.” 

It is times like this I am glad Huz is a chemistry teacher who also has the patience to siphon beer as it takes a bit of time.  This has been one large fun experiment.  He is the brains and I am the cleaner…sanitation, sanitation, sanitation.   The next step is bottling, which I think will be done in 2 weeks from the racking day.  To save a bit of money we have been saving our beer bottles, de-labeling them, cleaning them, and sterilizing them by dry heat in the oven.  More to come on that step later this week.

Thoughts, comments, observations… please share!