Friday, August 22, 2008

The Awards Are Here!!!

They shorted us one Silver. We won 4 but, they only sent 3.

The Best of Show won us a slot at the AHA National Competition on 7-27-08. That must be a mistake. That was 2 months ago! I will have to find out if it will be good for 2009.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

New Member of the Freak Brothers Family!

This is the newest gadget we've recently added to our system. It is a 16.5 gallon chemical mixing tank. (they call it a 15 gallon but, it has 1/2 gal. incremental marks on the side that go up to 16.5 gallons.) We will obviously use it as a fermenter. You can build one for around $175 - $200. I got it at Sprayer Specialties in Grimes, Iowa for $193 but, I bought some extra rubber hoses and nipples so, It cost me a bit less than that. You can get it for $175, easy! This is a place that builds spraying equipment for farmers, pest control companies and anyone else who uses large spraying equipment. I manage a pest control company and, they build all of our power sprayers for us. That's how I found this fermenter. I bought all of the parts and pieces from that one company. The frame, tank, valve, hose and everything else. No need to shop all over the place. You can get everything you need right there. They told me that wineries buy them all the time for storing grape juice. They are food grade plastic and they come in 15, 30, 60, 85 and 110 gallon sizes. I think if you look around, you may be able to find a 5 - 10 gallon tank from another company like this one. Sprayer Specialties doesn't have one that size but, some other company might have one. I'm not sure.

I used a black marker to darken the content lines. This will come in very handy. We never really know how much beer we end up with. Now we will know! 16.5 gallon capacity!

My original idea was to use it as a secondary fermenter. Currently we primary in the stainless vessel and secondary in 3 separate glass carboys. I have always felt like we were brewing 3 different beers. If you are a brewer, that brews large batches, you have to admit that each carboy is doing it's own thing. Don't try to tell me otherwise. You know, in your heart, that each carboy is doin' it's own thing. You know it! I know it's the same batch but, I want to make all of our kegs, that come from the same batch, more consistent. I want them to be truly from the same batch. I believe that having the entire batch going into a single tank will give us this consistency that we are looking for. This plastic tank seemed like a cheap and easy solution to our problem. "E" suggested that, if need be, we could use it as a primary fermenter too. I don't see why we couldn't. Sounds like a good idea to me. If we wanted to do 2 batches, back to back, we could. The only modification that I will have to make is putting longer legs on it. It will need to set about 16 inches higher in order to gravity feed into our kegs because, I don't think it would be a good idea to use a pump. Too much oxygen I would think. Maybe not. I don't know. Anyway, this will not be a problem. I plan to take the frame back to the place I bought it. One of the guys there is a welder. He can give it some legs. He said he could hook me up if I brought him some beer. He He! That sounds like a fair trade to me but, if you have any ideas on how to transfer without gravity feeding it, let me know. One other thought! It just might be small enough to fit inside a large fridge or a homemade cool box. That would make one hell of a nice lagering vessel. Just a thought. Let me know if you have other ideas for this thing.

You can spin the large hex nut off the bottom and remove the entire valve assembly for cleaning. This is a cool feature.

I will keep you all posted on how it works. If you have questions about how to get one, just send me an e-mail or comment on the blog. I check it about every day. If you would like me to build one for you, please let me know. I will do it for $350 + shipping.

Freak Out!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"E" is Freakin' Out About the Brew Awards

Here is "E" checkin' out our "Best of Show" award. Hey "E", you look like you know you're good. Nothin' wrong with that. If you got it, you got it! Keep in mind folks, a whole bunch of those ribbons belong to The Freak Brothers. We ain't messin' around! As for that sign, that is posted bellow our beer, they are using the word "Amateur" very loosely. There is nothing "amateur" about the Freak Brothers! Freak Brothers are the Shiznit! We ain't no stinking amateurs!

Freak Out!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008



Last night "E" and I went to the Iowa State Fair Grounds to find out the results of the Iowa State Fair Homebrew Competition and, we won "Best of Show"! I was blown away! I know "E" was pretty freaked out too.

Our winning beer was a Brown Porter. I don't want to sound braggadocios but, I was not shocked as much as I was totally excited and proud. I knew all along we would do well. After all, we have over 30 years of combined experience and, "E" finished runner-up, at this competition, a few years ago. I was positive we would win and/or place in some of the categories we entered. I even felt like we had a shot at "Best of Show". I guess I was right. Believe it or not, this was my first competition. I guess I just never got around to doing it. Now that I have had a taste of success (and lots of tastes of homebrew), I only want to do more. If it were not for "E", I would still be sitting around, drinkin' homebrew, with nothing to show for it but a hang over and a beer gut. He He! Congrats "E"! We may need to build a trophy room!

177 Beers Were Entered and, Here are the Results!

Brown Porter
1st Place Porter and "Best of Show"

Robust Porter
2nd Place Porter

American Stout
3rd Place Stout

Scottish Export 80
3rd Place Scottish Ales

American Pale Ale
5th Place American Pale

American Wheat Beer
5th Place Light Hybrid

Ordinary Bitter
6th Place Bitter
(no ribbon)

India Pale Ale***
6th Place I.P.A.****

We are very proud of our results but, there were a few funny things that happened. As you know, some beer styles are very similar to others. Many times, in beer competitions, things are grouped together in strange ways. This is done when there are not enough beers in a category to justify judging that category.

*First of all, our "Best of Show Porter" had an identity crisis at its inception. When we formulated the recipe, it was intended to be a Brown Ale that pushed the specific gravity limits of BJCP style guidelines. When we tapped the first keg (or even before that), it was obvious that this beer was not a Brown Ale. It was a Porter. We even joked about entering this beer in more than one category. We talked about entering it as a Porter and as a Stout. There is such a fine line between the two styles that we thought it would do well as both. We went with Porter.

**Even though we won "Best of Show" with this beer, it did not get a Gold ribbon. It got a silver. It came up a half of a point short. It was judged for best of show because it got first in that category. Had a different set of judges done the initial tasting, it probably would have been a gold. Who knows?

***There were so many I.P.A.'s that they had to judge them in 2 different groups. We were 6th in our group but, had they judged them all in one group, we would have been 12th. I am not sure why they did it that way. All but 1 were American. The other one was obviously English. Even though we were 12th over all, it may have scored higher in the other flight. The beers in the first flight scored much higher than those in our flight.

****As you may have noticed, I was bragging about our I.P.A. in an earlier blog post. We thought this was the best beer that had ever been created by God or man. As it turned out, it was the worst one of all that we entered (Actually, our Bitter scored 2 points lower than our IPA but, it placed 6th out of 9 Bitters). We were told that our IPA did not have enough IBU's. It was very hoppy in it's early days but, it mellowed out after 6 months in the bottle. Oh Well! If anyone knows the extreme limits, when it comes to hops, it's "E". I'm sure he will come up with an obscene recipe that will push it to the limit. Maybe 100+ IBU's! I foresee next years judges choking on the most insanely hoppy beer on the planet. You asked for it, you're gonna get it! Hold on to your nuts boys!

Monday, August 4, 2008

We're Not Running Second To Anyone!

Here is "E" holding the Iowa State Fair entries. I am confident that our beers will do well.

Yesterday we brewed another batch of our high gravity I.P.A. As you know, we have been experimenting with our second runnings. No longer do we throw out our second runnings. What we have been doing is, save them, add some DME, boil it, add some hops and, off we go.

The I.P.A. that we brewed yesterday came in at 1.076. We took the second runnings (about 4 gallons) , added 2 gallons of water, 3 lbs. of light DME, one ounce of cascade hops, boiled it for 1 hour and, it came in at 1.064. That just blew my mind! I had no idea that it would come in that high. This was the third time we tried this (the 2nd time that we added DME). This has inspired us to try some really radical stuff. Not with the main batch but, with the second runnings. In fact, we decided to go old school. We put the second batch in a plastic bucket and, we are doing open fermentation. The cool thing about brewing this way is that it gives you 5 gallons to screw around with. You can experiment with it. Even if you are doing a 5 or 10 gallon batch, you should try this. You can take that last gallon or two and goof around with it. You still have your primary batch and, all you have to loose is a bit of DME and a bit of hops. Give it a try and, stay tuned to The Freak Brothers blog. If you don't want to try it yourself, we will try it for you. Cheers!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Iowa State Fair Oenology Entries!

Hey all! The Iowa State Fair will start on August 7th and many of the best brewers in Iowa, and the mid-west, have brought out their best beers to go head to head. This is the biggest homebrew competition in Iowa. The beers have been judged and, the results will be in tomorrow!

The Freak brothers entered 8 beers. This is a photo of our entries. I feel good about our beers. We entered the following beer categories.

American Pale Ale, American I.P.A., American Stout, Scottish Export 80, American Wheat, Ordinary Bitter, Brown Porter and Robust Porter.

With any luck, the Freak Brothers will have a good showing. I believe our best beer was the I.P.A. This was a high gravity (1.074) , very hoppy (63.1 IBU) , beer. It was excellent in the keg but, after 6 months in the bottle, it really came around. In fact, it was so good, we brewed another batch of it yesterday. This time it may be even better (O.G. 1.076, 74 IBU). The rest of our beers were pretty good too, with the exception of our wheat beer. We must have had some sort of a problem in the bottling process. It tasted very good in the keg but, it was flat out of the bottle. E uncapped it and added a bit of sugar and yeast. I hope that did the trick. Oh well! The bottom line is, we had a great brewing year. During the year we picked up a Blichmann Beer Gun and a few other little toys. We also made a few modifications to the brewery. That, plus one more year of experience (17 years now), should make our beers a whole lot better. I look forward to the 2009 brewing season. It gets better every year. Keep an eye out for the Iowa State Fair Results. I will let you know in a few days how we did. Cheers!