Enjoying a black IPA and a new found passion

So when we opened up and started as a vendor on www.homebrewtalk.com a guy named John Rowley was quick to jump in and offer some good feedback and some great ideas that we immediately adapted. Over the course of the last 6 months, John and I have become for a lack of better term, penpals. We always hit up each other on facebook and send an email back and forth just checking the current status. When I started Apex, I never really dreamed I would make so many new, fast friends from all over the world just by treating them good, and going the extra mile to make sure they got what they needed from us. John recently collaborated with Sante Fe Brewing Company and designed and brewed for them a black IPA that I am currently enjoying now as I type this. Its packed full citrus hops, who as anybody who knows me knows that I am always a fan of Amarillo, Citra, Cascade and Simcoe. I have a feeling that this IPA has a good amount of all or most all of them. I can honestly say that this is one of the easiest drinking, smooth high IBU IPAs that I’ve ever had. Im not 100% sure if we sold him any part of the ingredients or not, and honestly I dont even care. I am just glad that he is living the dream and turning out killer beer and that I get to enjoy the “fruits” of his labor. John……Prost my friend.

Now for the new found passion part. I have in the last month seen a larger number of brand new brewers come through my doors looking for a little hands on help selecting brewing equipment and just getting a general idea of what they can expect. One of them emailed me every few days with a status update including pictures throughout the fermenting cycle of their first brew. How cool is that????? With Facebook I just tonight watched, through a progression of pics, another couple of guys that we helped out just a couple of nights ago, brew their very first batch. Again………Awesome!

I have decided that when we move to our new location that I am going to focus on new brewers and their first brews. We will offer classes for new people, and classes on stepping from extract to all grain. I am so passionate about brewing and I love to see new people coming into their own and exploring a new way to craft something that they can call their own. Happy New Year everyone and I sincerely say thank you to all that make this possible for me!



November Stonehenge Steinbrew

November 13 Stonehenge Steinbrew   

So 14 of us from our small brew club met up at Genes home for a step back in time. The preparation for this day took a lot of time and several different guys with specialties but we all knew we were in for a really unique experience. We had planned on making 75 gallons. 5 gallons for each guy there, and 5 gallons for the gentleman that allowed us to use his brew pot. We used Beersmith to scale this recipe and it came out to 70 pounds of two row, 75 pounds of munich and 1 pound of Hallertau hops added at 60 minutes.

The pot was a 110 gallon stainless steel pot that we put two ball valves in so that when it came time to chill the wort, we could run two different plate chillers and dump into two different fermentation vessels at once to speed up both cooling times and dividing times. Josh managed to procure this and to fabricate a stand in order to level it, and to raise it enough to get burners under it.

We had 5- 70 quart coolers for mashing 10 gallons,  and also 5- 40 quart coolers for mashing 5 gallons. We heated strike water in various containers on many different propane burners and mashed and sparged all of the batches separately. While we were mashing and batch sparging, we build two large fires in two separate fire pits in preparation for the granite stones to be heated for the boil. The granite stones were stacked in two metal baskets that were fabricated especially for the occasion. Each was made to handle about 100 pounds of stones each, and were to be lowered into the kettle using a bar with a good strong brewer on each end.

After all of the mashing and sparging was complete, we dumped all of the wort into the kettle and slid two burners under the kettle to help bring up, and maintain temperature. The rocks however, would provide the heat needed to boil.

We put the first round of rocks into the kettle and even with the 20-30 gallons of head space, it still boiled over and made one heck of a ruckus. We dumped the whole pound of hops in at the start of the boil and we were officially underway!

We allowed the first round of rocks to stay in about 15 minutes and decided to go ahead and pull them out and put in the second batch even though we had a gentle boil still from the first rocks. At the second addition, we got another boil over and did so every time we added the new hot rocks.

At the end of an hour, we pulled the rocks and killed the propane. We hooked up two March pumps with plate chillers and we were able to get the boiling wort down to 72-74 degrees going into the fermenters. Some guys used buckets and added a rock into the bucket to leave through primary fermentation , and some simply used glass or plastic carboys. Lots of guys used Safeale o5, some kolsch yeast, some various Bavarian strains, and some English yeast strains. I used Wyeast 1450 Dennys favorite 50.

Amazingly enough with that many mashes going and with all of the boil overs we were able to get everyone there the 5 gallons of wort and we were just 2 gallons short of our final goal. Not too shabby considering we had 10 separate mashes and sparges going. Our estimated original gravity according to Beersmith should have been 1.052 and guess what………1.054 was what we recorded. Pretty amazing once again all things considering. I think I have a new found respect for the guys in the craft breweries that make these large batches every time. Of course their equipment is much more geared to this.

All in all, I think the feeling overall all was of great fun. We had amazing food that we all brought from our homes, and Gene smoked some amazing pork butts to make some killer pulled pork. Many of us brought our wives and or kids and it was for me at least a great chance to hang out with a lot of guys who had placed orders with us, but for one reason or another, I had not had the opportunity to meet face to face yet. It is always great to put a face with a name.

Some guys have already racked to secondary and some guys are simply planning to bottle or keg right out of primary. I plan to let mine go for 30 days and then rack to my keg and force carb as usual. I also plan to bottle a couple of 750ml bottles for a little post-holiday tasting that I think we will surely have to have to compare everyone’s final outcome.  I for one am looking forward to pouring my first pint of the Northland Brew Crew’s Stonehenge Steinbrew!

Upcoming brew!

So the brewing “club” that I brew with has decided we are going to explore the idea of brewing with rocks. Yes ROCKS. It called a Stein Brew and you mash like usual but then you boil using hot rocks (granite) in the boil kettle to boil instead of using a burner. So there are about 5 of us that are committed and then another several that are maybes. We plan to mash in at least 3 different 70 quart coolers and probably a few 10 gallon coolers as well, and the boil all of it together and then everyone can siphon off 5 gallons to take home to ferment. Everyone will supply their own yeast as well.  It is so far a lot of fun in the planning stages, and looking around for the kind of stones we need and finding a 60 gallon boil kettle, and blah blah blah……Yes the planning is sometimes the worst but here, doing something brand new, it is actually a lot of fun! I did go ahead and get a new mash cooler, and a new march pump to be able to do ten gallon batches so even if this brew turns out to be a disaster……………I still win! We are making this a family brewing event as most of us are married with children so we will do a bbq and have a lot of fun! We brew on the 13th of November so I will let everyone know how it goes!