Cookie Dough Brown Ale In Glass

On April 26, 2011, in Homebrew Gadgets, Homebrewing, Recipes, by Mark Ranes
Cookie Dough Brown Ale Tap Handle

Cookie Dough Brown Ale Tap Handle

I now have ten gallons of Cookie Dough Brown Ale sitting in a couple carboys.  I’d love to take credit for the inspiration for this wonderful ale, but that goes to my brew buddy, Stephen.  The idea came to him one day when he was sitting around (probably with an ale in his hand:) thinking about how to take his Brew Barn Brown Ale to the next level, and the idea of adding dark brown sugar and raisins to the batch came to him, to give it a deeper, cookie-like quality.  He brews the ale as an imperial, but I scale it back a bit in the OG to make it a bit more of a session ale.  This is the third time I’ve brewed this ale and it just seems to get better with every batch.  The one I have on tap right now is easily in the top five best ales I’ve ever brewed.

This beer was also my inaugural run using my new Therminator plate chiller, and I was on edge throughout most of the brew session, knowing that a big change was coming to my process at the end of the day.  On top of the chilling process change, I haven’t brewed for at least three months, so overall, the brew day was just a bit out of the ordinary.  I chased my mash temps, and I forgot to add the Whirlfloc tablets at the end of the boil. In the end, I made beer:)

Here’s the recipe for Cookie Dough Brown Ale:

Cookie Dough Brown Ale
10-C American Brown Ale
Author: Mark Ranes
Date: 04/25/11

Size: 10.08 gal
Efficiency: 69.06%
Attenuation: 79.0%
Calories: 212.53 kcal per 12.0 fl oz

Original Gravity: 1.064 (1.045 – 1.060)
Terminal Gravity: 1.013 (1.010 – 1.016)
Color: 24.6 (18.0 – 35.0)
Alcohol: 6.66% (4.3% – 6.2%)
Bitterness: 37.9 (20.0 – 40.0)

12.0 lb Golden Promise Malt
8.0 lb Pale Ale Malt
2.0 lb Brown
1.0 lb Cara-Pils® Malt
1.0 lb Chocolate Malt
1.0 lb Crystal 120
1.5 oz Northern Brewer (8.0%) – added during boil, boiled 60.0 min
1.5 oz Centennial (10.0%) – added during boil, boiled 20.0 min
2.0 tsp Wyeast Nutrient  – added during boil, boiled 15.0 min
2.0 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – added during boil, boiled 15.0 min
1.0 lb Dark Brown Sugar – added during boil, boiled 10.0 min
12.0 oz Raisins – added during boil, boiled 10.0 min
2.0 oz Centennial (10.0%) – added during boil, boiled 0.0 min
2.0 oz Northern Brewer (8.0%) – added during boil, boiled 0.0 min
2000 mL White Labs WLP001 California Ale
2.0 oz Cascade (5.5%) – added dry to secondary fermenter
2.0 oz Northern Brewer (8.0%) – added dry to secondary fermenter

Therminator Set Up

Therminator Set Up

Overall, the chilling process with the Therminator went well.  Man, that plate chiller can drop the wort temperature fast!  I was a bit out of sorts with my anal retentive need to super clean the plate chiller though.  I had lots of problems with the March pump cavitating, while trying to repeatedly forward and reverse flush the Therminator.  And the hop bit just seemed to never stop coming out of the chiller.  Steve uses a sump pump for cleaning the chiller, and I got one for these from Mrs. Lazy Brewer for Christmas, but it was the one part of the system I didn’t take the time to flesh out all of the fittings for, so it wasn’t ready.  It will be the next time I brew:)

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Exploratory Amtrak Pub Crawl

On January 21, 2010, in Brew Pubs, Craft Beer, Family and Friends, Travel, by Mark Ranes
Amtrak Ticket

Pub Crawl Ticket

Our homebrew club, the Central Valley Brewers Guild, is looking into a Sacramento pub crawl, where the participants are delivered, and returned home, by Amtrak.  We are looking for alcohol responsible methods of transportation to ensure that our crawlers are returned home safely, as well as not endangering the public at large.

The CVBG Founders have been discussing this for some time now and we finally decided to make a trial run to see if an Amtrak pub crawl is feasible.  We checked train schedules and made reservations (a bit funky as you can’t print tickets made by web reservations – come on Amtrak, it’s a new century!) by phone.  The train departed at 10:34 pm on Saturday and was scheduled to arrive in Sacramento at 12:30 pm.  The return train departed at 4:55 pm, so we knew going in that time would be tight.  Four and a half hours, and four potential pubs in downtown and midtown Sacramento sounded just short of undoable.  Additionally, we were looking at moving 18-20 blocks either by foot or exploring public transportation options.  Our idea was to head out to the farthest pub on the list, Rubicon Brewing Company, and then work our way back towards the Amtrak station.  Our fear is that keeping 30+ pub crawlers somewhat organized, and moving between pubs with such a tight schedule, will be similar to herding cats.  The possible pubs on the list included Rubicon Brewing Company, Pyramid Alehouse, Brew it Up and River City Brewing.

Hop Sauce

Rubicon's Hop Sauce

We arrived at the Denair Amtrak station about fifteen minutes before the train was supposed to arrive.  Once we boarded, we paid the conductor for our reserved outgoing tickets.  We were told to just pick up the return tickets when we hit the Sacramento station.  About twelve minutes later we picked up Steve at the Modesto Amtrak station.  Modesto has a relatively new, and very nice Amtrak station with a ticket counter, so we will probably buy advance tickets there for the real rail pub crawl.  All went well until we were about eight miles out of Sacramento.  They were working on the tracks, and we sat for almost twenty minutes while workers moved equipment and allowed a freight train to pass.  That kind of delay on crawl day would be a huge blow to the agenda.

Once we arrived in Sacramento, we lined up to buy return tickets and burned probably another fifteen minutes.  We discovered that Regional Transit buses would get us within a couple blocks of Rubicon Brewing Company.  Better yet, the Amtrak conductors could provide us with free transfer passes for the buses.  You just ask for them before you leave the train.  Too bad we didn’t know that.  Stephen was able to get four passes and we had to pay for the others.  We arrived at Rubicon about 1:30 ready to imbibe.


Mmmmmm! Bacon Cheeseburger!

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Rubicon had their wonderful imperial IPA, Hop Sauce.  It is served in a 10 ounce goblet and they will only serve you two. I started with a Hop Sauce, followed by a couple of Rubicon’s exceptional IPAs. Rubicon’s IPA is definitely in my top five IPAs for its wonderful flavor and drinkability.  Stephen went all Belgian on us and even introduced Brenda to a sour beer she really enjoyed.  We enjoyed a leisurely lunch and picked our waitress’ brain on bringing 30+ crawlers in on a Saturday afternoon.  We decided that the curb-side outdoor seating would probably best fit our group.

After lunch and ales, we headed back over a block or so to a RT bus pick-up area and rode a bus back to the head of the Westfield Mall and one of my favorite brew pubs, River City Brewing.  RCB has awesome food, decent ale (but no IPA…) and great atmosphere.  I particularly enjoy grabbing and ale or two on a warm day and sitting in their outdoor seating and watching the mall traffic wander by.  Time was getting short, so we ordered up a round of ales and headed outside.  Strangely, while we waited at the bar for our beers, one of the folks sitting there asked if we were on a pub crawl.  Go figure!  After a quick ale, it was time to head back to the Amtrak station to hop on board the 4:55 pm train home.  The ride home was uneventful and we had one last ale on the train to cap off the day.


Feeling Empty and Sad...

Looking back, my impressions of the day are as follows…

I was surprised how many people actually ride Amtrak in California’s central valley.  Pleasantly surprised:)

Four and a half hours is a pretty short timeline for a pub crawl.  Even without our 20 minute Amtrak delay, we’ll probably need to cut the pubs down to three to fit the alotted time.  Rubicon is a must (they have the best ale of the four pubs, in my opinion:), as well as River City, since it is only two blocks from the Amtrak station and it will be pretty easy to move a lubricated crowd onward on a moments notice.  That leaves either Pyramid or Brew it Up to axe.  Since we didn’t have time to visit either one, we may need to go back and do further research.  I’m sure both of the establishments have their upside so we really need to enjoy a pint or two in each to get a feel for the atmosphere – and their ability to handle a group our size.


Feeling Full and Happy!

Additionally, I was really impressed with the friendliness, and helpfulness, of both the Amtrak conductors and the Sacramento RT bus drivers.  They could tell we were “out of towners” and offered friendly advice freely – all with a smile.  I was pleasantly surprised:)

Finally, we are seriously considering two paths for the day of the pub crawl.  One is the 4.5 hour run of three brew pubs. The other, for folks more dedicated to the ales, is a “Crawl Over” where we stay at the Capitol Plaza Holiday Inn – literally crawling distance from River City Brewing company:)

We’ll be presenting this information, as well as doing more research, for a late spring pub crawl to our homebrew guild. We’ll also have some work ahead of us setting up the logistics of the day with the various pubs we visit.  We’re hoping to have a couple of the brewers on hand for tours and Q&A.  Not exactly sure how that will play out on a Saturday, but we want to give it a shot for the good of our guild.

RCB Guys

River City Brewing Guys

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Santa Brings a Therminator!

On December 28, 2009, in Homebrew Gadgets, Homebrewing, by Mark Ranes

My new Therminator!

Woohoo!  Santa brought the Lazy Brewer a new Therminator!

I’ve been an immersion chiller kinda brewer since I first starting brewing.  I’ve always liked the fact that by using an immersion chiller, most of the cold break stays in my brew kettle.  I also have really enjoyed the 15 seconds it takes to spray off my copper coil chiller.  What I haven’t liked is waiting for 45-75 minutes (depending on the current groundwater temperature) for my wort to cool.  It just leaves the wort in the potentially dangerous temperature range, susceptible to  contamination, for too long.

I have been very hesitant to use either a counter flow or plate chiller because of cleaning and sanitation concerns.  I’ve seen sheets of beerstone that have flowed out of Stephen’s counterflow chiller and it chilled me to the bone. He’s never had a batch get contaminated, so I do believe his anal retentive cleaning and sanitation methods work – it just creeped me out when I saw the beerstone exiting the chiller.  Additionally, I’ve known several of my brew club buddies that regularly use plate chillers – and read the forum posts about cleaning and sanitizing them.  Steve started with a Shirron plate chiller, and promptly moved up to the Therminator.  He has a cleaning and sanitizing routine for the Therminator where he instantly pumps PBW through both his March pump and Therminator for several minutes, then pumps clean water through both, followed by StarSan to sanitize the equipment.  Like Stephen’s cleaning regime, I’m convinced Steve has covered all the bases to make sure he doesn’t infect a batch of ale.

Steve managing the Therminator connections

In the long run, I don’t see the Therminator actually saving me any time on brew day because of the need to meticulously clean the plate chiller after use, but it will allow me to avoid putting my wort at risk during the actual chilling phase.  This is obviously a good thing.

I still need to pick up some cheap quick disconnects for my water hose connections, additional tubing for wort, as well as a sump pump for moving the various liquids necessary for cleaning and sanitizing.

I’m a creature of habit.  After 95 batches, I have my brew day processes down pat.  Integrating the Therminator into my brewing process will throw me out of sorts for a while.  Steve has suggested I do a dry run with water, learning to manage the various hose swaps necessary for both chilling and cleaning/sanitizing. This sounds like a good idea…

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Black IPA

On December 23, 2009, in Family and Friends, Homebrewing, Recipes, by Mark Ranes

Back in Black IPA Tap Handle

UPDATE! – I’d highly recommend using this updated version of the recipe.  It omits the Sinamar and uses both Carafa III and Debittered Belgian Black Malt for the dark color.

Batch 95

Before a recent Stockton Thunder game, I had the opportunity to enjoy a couple of Steve Altimari’s Black IPAs at Valley Brewing, in Stockton.  It was a big ‘ole IPA, bursting with a wonderful grapefruit finish from massive amounts of Amarillo hops, and dark as night.  Two of them made me really happy and set the tone for the evening:)

I contacted Steve on FaceBook and he was incredibly forthcoming about the hop bill, and how he darkened up the IPA, without adding the roastiness and astringency from dark grains.  The secret is to use Weyermann’s Sinamar, a proprietary extract of their roasted malt, Carafa, add some Magnum hops for bittering, and bunches or Simcoes and Amarillos for flavor and aroma.  What follows is a wide sweep at his recipe (I’m way too lazy to do the math from Steve’s info:) – with lots of late hops to add the grapefruit explosion.

I’m only five batches away from my centennial batch!

Back in Black IPA
14-C Imperial IPA
Brewers: Mark Ranes, Steve Hillestad
Brewer Focus: Maggie Curley
Date: 12/23/09

Size: 10.08 gal
Efficiency: 75.0%
Attenuation: 75.0%
Calories: 385.8 kcal per 16.0 fl oz

Original Gravity: 1.086 (1.070 – 1.090)
Terminal Gravity: 1.022 (1.010 – 1.020)
Alcohol: 8.56% (7.5% – 10.0%)
Bitterness: 100.0 (60.0 – 120.0)

15.0 lb Pale Malt(2-row)
15.0 lb Maris Otter Pale
1.0 lb Cara-Pils Dextrine Malt
1.0 lb Carastan
1.0 lb Carafa TYPE III- in the Sparge
2.0 oz Magnum (14.5%) – added during boil, boiled 60.0 min
2.0 oz Amarillo Gold (10.0%) – added during boil, boiled 15.0 min
2.0 oz Simcoe (13.0%) – added during boil, boiled 15.0 min
4.0 oz (or more) Sinamar – added during boil, boiled 10.0 min
2 Servomyces Yeast Nutrient – added during boil, boiled 10.0 min
2 ea Whirlfloc – added during boil, boiled 10.0 min
3.0 oz Simcoe (13.0%) – added during boil, boiled 1.0 min
3.0 oz Amarillo Gold (10.0%) – added during boil, boiled 1.0 min
2000 mL White Labs WLP001 California Ale
8.0 oz Amarillo Gold (10.0%) – added dry to secondary fermenter

We’ll be brewing this up at Steve and Maggie’s place, on the Buford 3-10. Additionally, we’ll be fermenting in Steve’s kegmentor (or is that a fermeggle:), so we get 10 gallons of the same wort fermenting in one vessel.  We’ll dry hop with 8 ounces of new crop Amarillo pellet hops that are en-route from Hops Direct.

Black IPAs may simply be a trend, but I’m looking forward to this ale!

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