Friday, July 25, 2014

Feature Beer Friday! - Dogfish Head Noble Rot

And it's back!  Along with the general push to get back on the blogging wagon is a renewed round of Feature Beer Friday!  These have been very sporadic since the initial run, but I want to try to make it as close to a weekly occurrence as possible.  I have a small backlog of reviews, then it'll be time for some more drinking with friends and new reviews to post! 

Today's Feature Beer is the Noble Rot, Dogfish Head's "saison-esque science project." The standout feature of the beer is that it's about as close as you can get to beer-wine hybrid.  Two rounds of distinct grape must are added to give the beer more fermentable sugars and complexity.  They use pilsner malt, wheat, minimal hops, and a Belgian yeast strain.  This is sure to be an interesting review...
Reviewers: Eric Ducote (BR Beer Scene), Jeff Herman (Tiger Deaux-nuts), Dan Fisher, and Mandi Kaelberer.

Serving: 750 ml. bottle.

Appearance: Golden, clear with a white head, sort of like a cider. 

The grapes are prevalent.  I remarked that it was crisp, and more like a wine than a beer on the nose.  Dan had an array of notes, grapes, dry, funky, musty, sour apple, pear... there's a lot going on for sure.  

Taste: Fruity, very wine-like, almost like a chardonnay mixed with a riesling? 

Highly carbonated with a crisp fruity finish.

Overall: Absolutely worth drinking, this is a unique beer that really can change the way you view the brewing process. We all enjoyed it, and it had solid 70ish scores all around the table, which means not one of us was turned off by this science project gone right. 

Overall Rating: 70.25
My Rating:71

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Building A Jockey-Box!

Time for a bit of a different post... but in order to serve beer at the wedding I decided to turn an old Schlitz keg that my grandma had from years past into a nice new jockey-box.  For those who don't know, a jockey-box is a device to serve beer using heat transfer to rapidly chill the beer so that the kegs don't need to be on ice.  If you've ever been to a beer festival and see people pouring from taps on the side of an ice chest, that's a jockey-box.  

The Process:

For this project I started with an old Schlitz keg... my grandma had two of them in her backyard forever, and at one point they made their way to my possession.  The first one I cut in half and am currently using as planters for herbs that will find their way into the brewing process eventually.  The second one I decided would be the perfect jockey-box.  The first step was to cut the top off, so I used a hand file to get a groove going along the red line, then took a reciprocating saw and a 10" blade to get the cut going.  Once I had cut through the shell I switched to a smaller 6" blade for easier control and kept on going until I had the circle complete.  One thing I would do differently is notch the keg somewhere other than what ended up being the front. There are scratches from the blade and you can tell the cut wasn't perfect and I'd rather that imperfection be on the back, but oh well!  

After I had it cut I cleaned out the inside the best I could, and removed the handle and cleaned out an old 5-gallon bucket that was going to serve as the inner liner.  I was pretty concerned that if I just used the keg shell by itself then condensation on the outside was going to get really bad, plus there would be no insulation to keep the ice cold on a hot summer day. Yes, I made sure that the 4-port cold plate would fit fine inside the bucket! 

While the keg and bucket dried out, I installed all the barbs on the cold plate, with rubber washers and plumbing tape to keep them from leaking.  I also cut 4 long pieces of tubing (about 6' each) and fitted one end of each one with a FFL fitting and a hose clamp.  In addition, the setup needed 4 short pieces of tubing (about 18" each) to go from the cold plate output to the faucet shanks, so I got those ready to go.  As I attached them all to the cold plate I made sure to number the end of each line so I wouldn't get things crossed up.  The cold plate fortunately came pre-numbered, so no confusion there!  

Once the keg was dry, it was time to fill the bottom with spray-foam insulation and set the bucket liner in.  This wasn't really a hard process, using a few large beer bottles to weight it down as I then filled the perimeter with spray-foam insulation as well.  It took several cans, but eventually I was able to fill it up to the rim of the bucket with insulation, essentially creating my own ice chest out of the keg shell.  I took special care to avoid spraying around the existing bung hole though, as I had plans to use that existing hole to run the beer supply lines.  

Once the foam set (it took a little while, and I had to wipe excess foam off a few times) it was time to drill the holes for the faucet shanks.  I measured and marked each location with a sharpie, then used a hole punch to get a mark started, and drilled a small (3/16" or so) pilot hole.  Once that was done I used a 1" spade bit to drill out the full holes.  I think a 1" step bit would work just as well here, if not better, but mine only went up to 7/8".  You can force a faucet shaft through a 7/8" hole in a plastic ice chest or through a fridge, but with the threads on the shank and the curve of the keg I decided to go one bigger. It helps too that the shanks are above the bucket, so I didn't have any worries about leaking as they would be out of the ice water.

After all the holes were drilled, it was time to install the faucet shanks, which was one of the easier parts of the process.  Once they were all run through and tightened, I dropped the cold plate complete with hosing into the jockey-box, and started the process of attaching the output lines to the faucets.  This is where the numbering came in handy, so I knew which one went where without having to trace the line back to the jockey-box and try to read the number.  There wasn't a lot of room to work (be sure to put your hose clamp on BEFORE you work the line onto the barb!) but eventually I was able to get all four lines connected and tightened.  

Almost done now... I decided that the best way to let people know what was on tap would be to use chalkboard paint on the middle band of the keg.  A lot of painters tape and magazine pages later, I had it covered and ready to paint.  Two coats of chalkboard paint later, it was done! I really think this came out nice, and in all reality it wasn't an extremely difficult project. The hardest part of the labor was cutting the top off of the keg, once that was done nothing was terrible time consuming or hard on the hands.  The bulk of the project took about 7-8 hours one Saturday, and I painted it on a later afternoon, although it could have easily been done on the same day.

If you have any questions on how the process went, shoot me an e-mail (contact tab up above) or leave a comment!

Parts Required:

This was the tricky part... prices change, shipping rates fluctuate, availability changes, etc. I spent several hours on a few different websites before placing three orders for all the parts. I got some of the parts from Micromatic, some from Midwest Supplies, and some from Amazon.  Most of this stuff is available at Austin Homebrew as well if you prefer them. It will also vary greatly on what quality you go with.  I bought everything other than the taps in stainless, and eventually I'm going to upgrade to Perlick stainless taps as well.  There are all sorts of combination purchases, kits, etc., so I can't give you a straight shopping list, but below is most likely what you're going to need, and links to places to get it! So some e-shopping, find the best deals, and get what you need.  A lot of this can probably also be found at a homebrew store if you have a good one nearby.

Schlitz Keg (you could probably make this work with any 15.5 gallon keg)
4-Port Cold Plate (the most expensive part of the project, I only found it available at Micromatic)
8 Cold Plate Compression Gaskets (AKA flared washers)
4 Faucets (quality is your choice... I'd say the Perlick stainless faucets are the best, but Perlick Chrome works too)
4 Tap Handles (standard black ones sometimes come with the faucets, but if you want something fancier, go for it!)
4 Neoprene Washers (3/4" to 7/8" in diameter, goes between the end of the shank and the tail piece)
4 Barbed Swivel Nuts (FFL Fitting, 1/4" Barb)
4 MFL Liquid Ball-Lock Disconnects (or pin-lock depending on your kegs)
25' Roll Of 3/16" Interior Diameter Clear Vinyl Hose
Spray-Foam Insulation (it took 4 cans, more than I expected, these are far cheaper on Amazon than Home Depot, trust me!)

Tools Used:

I had all of this stuff already, except the right sized step bit, and the spraypaint of course, and chances are you do too, but here's what I used:

Ryobi 18V Cordless Reciprocating Saw (an angle grinder would probably also work, or of course a plasma cutter!)
10" & 6" Metal Blades
Ryobi 18V Cordless Drill (cordless or not, either should work fine for you)
1" Spade Bit or Step Bit
Various Wrenches and Screwdrivers (For attaching the nipples, hose clamps, shanks, hex nuts, and disconnects)
Faucet Wrench (specialized wrench for beer faucets)
Painter's Tape
Chalkboard Spraypaint

Friday, July 11, 2014

Tin Roof's Tap Room Coming Soon!

Hey friends, I'm back.  It has been a really busy 2014 so far and the blogging has slipped, but rather than just call it quits I think I'm going to do the opposite and return full strength!  A few days ago I stopped by Tin Roof Brewing to talk with William about their upcoming tap room.  Not too long ago tap rooms because legal in Louisiana thanks to a loophole left in an effort to allow distilleries and wineries to sell direct to the public.  Parish, Great Raft, and NOLA all have theirs up and running, and Tin Roof will be following soon.

The biggest hurdle facing the guys at Tin Roof is that they didn't start out their brewery layout with a tap room in mind.  For those familiar with the space, there is an area with tables on the far left, with the new brewhouse to the right and all the fermenters and bright tanks filling out the space.  The restroom and office are to the back left. Not too long ago they leased the space to the rear of the building and expanded their operations, primarily with storage for all the grain coming in plus empty kegs and everything else that goes into the process.  

The plan is to convert the entire left section into the tap room, moving the offices to the rear space and adding a conference / meeting room that can be used for special events.  William also told me that the plans include opening up to the grass field to the left of the building (where Iron Brewer has been held in recent years) to create a decked patio / beer garden.  I love the idea of a beer garden, we have enough nice days in the Fall and Spring, plus with some shade and fans going it would be tolerable in the Summer. If you're an Eskimo like me it will probably even be nice in the winter!  

The division between the tap room and the brewery is planned to be a long wall with windows down the length to allow everyone to see into the brewery and check out what's going on.  This sounds pretty similar to Great Raft's layout and I think it really works.  It's nice to see that connection between the tap room and the brewery to really make it feel like you're in the same place the beer is made, rather than just another bar.

Most importantly though, the beer.  William said that they are planning on having 10 taps pouring in the new bar, with all of the regulars plus a handful of special releases and experimental brews.  They were already working on a few batches in anticipation of the opening, and that really gets me excited.  Going and checking out the regular lineup is great for out of towners, visiting football fans, people just getting into craft beer, but for those like me and like my readers, it's the special releases that will keep us coming back.  

It really sounds like all the right ideas are in place to make Tin Roof a good place to stop in and drink some beers. The goal, according to William, was to be open in about a month, maybe the second week of August.  There is still a lot of work to do, but it's not unreasonable... and I'll be here to update everyone on how that goal is going.