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Week 07: Ninety-Nine Problems but a Beer Ain't One

Ninety-Nine Problems returns after a brief hiatus with this installation featuring advice from Golden Road Quality Assurance Manager Cris Carter. 

 
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What kind of yeast should I begin brewing with? Is there a way to tell what different strains do?
— David N., Montebello, CA

Most homebrewers are no stranger to 001 yeast from producers such as White Labs or Wyeast. The former, also known as Chico or Sierra Nevada yeast is a very neutral yeast with good vigor and low diacetyl production. For homebrewing, it's important to select a yeast with good flocculation characteristics unless you have a refrigeration area to cold crash. Getting your beer clean/bright helps avoid yeast autolysis which is something to always be cognizant about when brewing.  

It's imperative to rack to bottle carefully as to not risk getting yeast in your bottles. Some sedimentary yeast is not a bad thing, but to achieve clarity, it's recommended to rack to a clean bucket or carboy first before adding your priming sugar (if necessary) then moving on to bottling. 

Selecting the right yeast boils down to style and flavors that you hope to attain. A strain such as White Labs' Hefeweizen yeast (WL300) will produce more fruity esters typical of a Bavarian Hefeweizen while WL007, an English ale strain, is a great one to use for brown ales, porters, and stouts. When selecting yeast strains for your brews, controlling your fermentation temperature is critical. If using 001 yeast for an IPA for example, a hot ferment would produce undesirable esters (and we can't have that).  Do your research when formulating your recipe and once you've brewed enough, you may even discover that a variety of strains combined will help get you to where you want your beer to be. 

For a run-down of yeast strains and their characteristics easily available in many homebrew stores and online, check out White Labs and Wyeast

Got a question? Let us know! Feel free to comment or e-mail frances@goldenroad.la with any of your burning homebrewing questions and we'll try to answer them! 





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Week 06: Ninety-Nine Problems but a Beer Ain't One

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How can I get more involved with homebrewing with other people?
— Kyle from Santa Monica, CA

 

Here at Golden Road, we love the many facets of our growing craft beer community. Whether it’s a cool craft beer bar, a specialty bottle shop, or neighboring local breweries -- all of these elements make up the patchwork that is our beer landscape. Another important part of this community are homebrewers. But how does one meet and network with like-minded individuals? Join a homebrew club!

In our quest to learn more about everything under the brewing sun, we’ve discovered that a great way to get hands-on experience in a group setting is to join a club. There are quite a few active organizations in the Greater Los Angeles/ Southern California area including The Maltose Falcons -- America’s Oldest Homebrewing Club. We’ve compiled a list of some clubs for you to explore. Many of these organizations offer crash courses and group brew days, monthly meetings, and even host annual events. If you’re lost or need support of other homebrewers, a club is a great way to meet new people and discover which methods work best for you.

Don't see your club listed here? Let us know! Feel free to comment or e-mail frances@goldenroad.la with any of your burning homebrewing questions and we'll try to answer them! 

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Week 05: Ninety-Nine Problems but a Beer Ain't One

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Week 05: Ninety-Nine Problems but a Beer Ain't One

Fermentation: What to do when your homebrew ferments at too high of a temperature

 
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Adam asks: I just bottled off a homebrew I made (my 3rd batch) and it seems a little boozy. Is there anyway to improve the flavor of this beer or do I need to dump it out?
— This week's question comes from Adam K. from Redondo Beach, CA.
 

Temperature control is a crucial part of the fermentation process. Often times, when a beer ferments at too high of a temperature, certain off-flavors or an increase in alcohol levels can occur. When a beer is described as too hot, this generally means a warming, boozy flavor. If there are no other signs of glaring off-flavors (such as infection or high levels of diacetyl for example), then a brew (while not ideal) can still be consumed. 

When fermenting at home without much temperature control, it's important to always take note of the ambient temperature of the room your fermenters are in. During the peak of fermentation, temperatures can rise between 7-10 degrees. Avoid fermenting at too high of a temperature so that yeast won't produce such high alcohol content or estery off-flavors. Very high temperatures can also halt fermentation completely. Depending on what your recipe calls for, you can take precautionary measures by selecting yeast strains that do well in warmer situations to get that clean and properly attenuated brew. 

There is one option that we would recommend if you are on a quest to save a hot batch. Bottled beer can be conditioned over time, which can help mellow out a boozy brew. Make sure that you are properly storing your bottles in a cool, dry place. Assuming that you have properly carbonated your brew and have experience bottling, conditioning can help alleviate some of the heat, but will most likely not "fix" your hot brew completely. We recommend this for many styles that can withstand some age -- obviously, not a good idea for hoppier brews such as IPAs that should be consumed as soon as possible. 

Got a question you'd like answered? Have any pro-tips you live by? Feel free to share them in the comments section of e-mail frances@goldenroad.la! 

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Week 04: Ninety-Nine Problems But a Beer Ain't One

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Week 04: Ninety-Nine Problems But a Beer Ain't One

Getting Started: Where to buy equipment and gear

 
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Calen asks: I’m trying to get started in homebrewing, but I don’t know where to shop for equipment and ingredients...help!
— This week we're answering a question sent in by Calen G., from Burbank, Ca...
 

Our first tip for the aspiring homebrewer is to find a supply shop near you. After you’ve read a little more about getting started (ie: read the Palmer book), take some time to visit your local shop and explore the different methods and gear you are interested in. Homebrewing is an investment, but with good research, you can easily find ways to cut costs by finding great deals in shop and online -- or even building things out yourself. 

For the Los Angeles area, here are a few homebrew supply shops we recommend.

  • The Home Wine, Beer, and Cheesemaking Shop in Woodland Hills is a local favorite and is the meeting grounds of The Maltose Falcons -- America’s oldest home brew club!
  • Eagle Rock Home Brewing Supply is the closest shop to our brewery herein Atwater Village. Located just a few miles away, Eagle Rock is also owned by the folks over at Culver City Home Brewing Supply for those in need on the west side of Los Angeles.
  • South Bay Brewing Supply in Torrance has our friends in the South Bay covered. While only a handful of years old, this shop’s very popular and is just minutes away from the area’s best breweries.

Other resources:

  • MoreBeer is a great online store that also happens to have a showroom/shop in Riverside, CA. Keep an eye on their annual sales for great deals on equipment.
  • Northern Brewer is an industry standard has a wide variety of gear, cleaners, and brewing ingredients.

Our tips?

There are always people trying to get rid of things on Craigslist. Often people who have either given up on the hobby or decided to upgrade their brewing systems. Additionally, we’re big fans of Homebrew Finds -- follow them on Facebook and Twitter to take advantage of some great deals.

Did we leave out your favorite Los Angeles-area shop? Leave us a note in our comments section!  Got a question you'd like answered? Have any pro-tips you live by? Feel free to share them in the comments section of e-mail frances@goldenroad.la! 

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Week 03: Ninety-Nine Problems But a Beer Ain't One

Sanitation is Key: Three Methods to Keeping Things Clean

 
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Golden Road’s Quality Assurance Manager Cris Carter drops some sanitation advice on us this week for our third installation of this series. When first learning to homebrew, you will notice that sanitation is one of the most important things to learn and practice whether you are a beginning extract brewer or a seasoned veteran. But what types of measures are necessary to create a sanitized brewing environment? What other agents can you use if you don’t have easy access to products or a home brew supply store? We first must delve into the three ways to keep things clean. This is only the first in what will be a handful of posts dedicated to sanitation. 

When brewing at home, there are three cleaning methods you should know:

I. Mechanical: Do you see dirt and residue on your kettle, fermenters, and equipment? Cleaning things mechanically is the good ole’ fashioned physical method. Scrub those carboys well and make sure you don’t have any dirt stuck to the surface of your gear. A little elbow-grease goes a long way in the cleaning process.

II. Chemical: A crucial part of sanitation isn't just making sure you don’t visually see dirt. Chemically treating your equipment with an alkaline material such as Powdered Brewing Wash (PBW) or a mild detergent like Oxiclean goes hand in hand with the mechanical cleaning method. These agents can help loosen and break down dirt and residue found on fermenter walls for example. 

III. Thermal: Heat things up. Heating water to 175 degrees for 5-10 minutes is enough to kill mirco-organisms, active yeast, and bacteria. Boil that spoon, sterilize that ball valve -- don’t skip out on this step if you have any doubt that your equipment may not be clean. In need of sterilizing bottles and small items? The heat from your dishwasher is also a great tool. 

Tips: 

  • Using a chemical agent or base detergent raises the pH and helps kill or inhibit bacteria. However, it is important to rinse these agents well as to not leave any chemical cleaner behind. 
  • If you do not have access to a cleaning agent such as Star San, you can use citric acid or vinegar (acetic acid) -- once again, just be sure to rinse well after soaking as to neutralize the pH. 
  • Bleach is an effective cleaning agent when used in the mildest of solutions, but can often have a lingering aroma. Using bleach also increases your odds of acquiring an undesirable chlorophenolic off-flavor. 
  • In a pinch but want to avoid using bleach? Iodine or Betadine used in the appropriate concentration are effective, tasteless, and widely available at your local drugstore. 
  • A spray bottle filled with (cheap) vodka is a handy tool to sanitize small items and surfaces such as the top of your fermenters, racking valve, etc. Vodka used as a mist is mild enough to not leave a distinct flavor or odor. 
  • Case in point: Sanitize EVERYTHING. (Yes...EVERYTHING -- from the hydrometer you're inserting into your fermenter to take a reading to the spoon you're using in your kettle. Absolutely, positively, everything.)

This is only the first in what will be a handful of posts dedicated to sanitation. Got a question you'd like answered? Have any pro-tips you live by? Feel free to share them in the comments section of e-mail frances@goldenroad.la! 

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