Tag Archives: Beer

Camping at Pedernales Falls State Park

After flying into Austin-Bergstrom and picking up our trusty rental car we made our way into the city for lunch at Mr. Natural which is a vegetarian store and restaurant on E. Cesar Chavez Street.  We ordered a couple of their sandwiches which were good, but it seemed that most people were there for the lunch buffet.  We finished lunch and made our way more into downtown Austin to stop at REI for some camping fuel and Whole Foods for some dinner and breakfast items.

Austin

I also had to check out the walk-in beer fridge where you could build your own 6-pack, so I created my very own “local roundup” of Texas brews. Among them were a Shiner Black Lager, Shiner Farmhouse Ale, Austin Amber, Independence Pale Ale, Alamo Golden Ale, and Real Ale Brewhouse Brown.

Local Texas Beer Roundup

Whole Foods was even kind enough to supply some free ice to keep them cold!  With supplies all loaded up we headed out to Pedernales Falls State Park, which was about a 45 minute drive out of the city.

Pedernales Falls

The drive through the green Texas countryside was beautiful despite the weather being totally overcast. When we arrived at the ranger station to check in they let us pick out our own camp spot, rather than just assigning us one, which I thought was nice.  With a recommendation from one of the rangers, we chose camp #36 which was near one of the trails that led down to the river.

Pedernales Falls Site 36

Before setting up camp we decided to drive down to where the falls were and check out that area.  From the parking area there is a short hike to an outlook over Pedernales Falls and the river.

Pedernales Falls Pano

Pedernales Falls

The river seemed to be a little low, but it was still a very scenic area. We explored down in the rocks and near the water for a while and then headed back to camp.

Pedernales

Pedernales River

Back at our campsite, we got everything set up and then decided to go down the trail that was right next to us before it got too late.  At the time, we weren’t even really sure where the trail led to but it seemed worth checking out since I had overheard some other campers talking about something they saw down there. 

Trail

We followed it down to a part of the river which was further downstream from the falls we had just visited.  The trail followed the river downstream for a little bit and then came to an area called “Trammel Crossing” where it was shallow enough to wade across to the other side, however we did not feel in the mood for wading so we headed back to camp.  On our way back we came across a family of deer that were out for their evening snacks in the foliage and I realized that this was what I had heard the other campers talking about.

Deer

Back at camp we made our dinner which consisted of the soup and biscuits we had bought at Whole Foods earlier.  Not very extravagant, but it was a quick and simple meal to prepare and eat.

Soup

Somehow we were able to stay up somewhat late despite running on only 3 hours of sleep from the night before, but this made it easy for us to fall asleep. In the morning we awoke to the sound of raindrops on our tent, but luckily it was not a heavy rain, and it let up eventually so we were able to get out, make breakfast, dry the tent out, and pack up.  Then we were off to Luckenbach!

More pictures from this trip can be found here.

The Irish Red Ale has been Bottled

I just love the sight of a batch of beer that has just been bottled.  It’s very satisfy to think all the time and work has paid off, and even better that it’s almost ready to drink!  I’m really excited to try this one.  While bottling I tasted a sample and it was pretty interesting.  It had a strong flavor; not very hoppy but slightly sweet.  I just wonder what it’s going to taste like when it’s done conditioning in the bottles.

Brew Drink Dream Fest

Last weekend my buddy John invited me to Brew Drink Dream Fest 2 which took place in Culver City.  The mini beer fest is put on by Pipe Dream Brewery which seems just like a few dudes that really love making tons of beer in their garage (what I dream on doing someday). They had a great selection of different types of brews.  I’d have to say my favorite was the Offshore Breeze but Green Dragon and Double Dubbel were great too.

Pliney the Younger at Hollingshead

Russian River’s seasonal release of Pliny the Younger when on tap at Hollingshead in Orange this morning at 10am.  I pulled into the parking lot at about 10:05am only to witness a long line of people waiting to get into the sandwich shop.  The line was out the door, down the walkway, and around the corner where it ended in front of the Staples office supply store.

This was drastically different than previous years.  Yeah, the shop would get crowded, but a line out the door?!  Although it’s a great beer, I didn’t have the patience to wait in a long line and maybe get a taste.  Maybe next year.

Beer is Bottled!

After a week of sitting in the glass carboy my beer was finally ready to bottle.  It was probably ready to bottle after just 5 days but I thought leaving it in a little longer wouldn’t hurt.  I covered my carboy with a black plastic trash bag to eliminate the chances of any light hitting the beer.

Bottling is probably my least favorite part of making my own beer since it can be messy and time consuming, but hey, I kinda gotta do it.  A lot of advanced home brewers move on to kegging their beer which is a lot easier but requires extra equipment.  I also feel like kegs are less conducive to sharing with your friends unless they come over to your house, so I’m just sticking with bottles for now.

Over the past few weeks I had been collecting various glass beer bottles since I didn’t really want to buy new ones from the brew shop.  I sanitized the bottles in my dishwasher so I didn’t have to mess with soaking them in a huge bucket of sanitizer.

After I cleaned and sanitized all my equipment, I got the priming sugar ready.  The priming sugar (corn sugar) is what will carbonate the beer.  I boiled some water in a small pot with the priming sugar for 5 minutes and then cooled it in some ice water until the temperature fell to about 80°F.

I poured the cooled sugar water into my bottling bucket so it would be able to mix with the beer.  I siphoned the beer out of the glass carboy into the bottling bucket as well.  In a haste to bottle I forgot to stir the beer and sugar water together, so I am hoping it mixed together enough when I siphoned in the beer.

With the priming sugar and beer in the bottling bucket it was finally time to bottle!  The bottling bucket has a valve with a spout which you can bottle from, or you can attach some vinyl tubing and a bottling wand which is what I did.

After we filled and capped all the bottles we put them in a cool dark place to condition for 2-4 weeks.

Brewing Oldcastle Brown Ale

I noticed my dad had recently been drinking Newcastle so I figured why not make a Newcastle clone.  Not only that, I though it would be nice to compare how my beer turned out in comparison to the real thing.  Plus brown ales are easy to make and just plain tasty.

I bought the “Oldcastle” recipe kit from Midwest Supplies and it included everything you needed to brew:  Golden Light dry malt extract, pre-milled specialty grains (13oz Crystal 50/60 & 3oz Chocolate malt) plus a throw away grain bag, 1oz Challenger hops, 1oz Kent Golding hops, Irish Moss, a dry yeast pack, priming sugar, and directions.

We didn’t use any pre-filtered or natural spring water… just good old fashioned City of Orange municipal tap water.  Once we got the water temperature up to 155°F we steeped the grains for about 20 minutes.  We kept an eye on the temp making sure it didn’t rise or start to boil.  The smell was great.

Once the grains were done steeping we tossed them out and cranked up the heat to get a boil going.  After we achieved boiling we moved the brew pot off the burner in order to add the dry malt extract (DME).  While adding the malt we made sure to stir it in so it wouldn’t clump together or sink to the bottom of the pot and potentially burn.

With the malt extract fully disolved we returned the brew pot to the burner and got a boil going again.  This is when we added the Challenger bittering hops.   I personally like using a reusable hop bag because I don’t really think you need the hop pellets floating around in your beer.

In the last 15 minutes of the boil I added the Irish Moss which is a fining agent that helps take out unwanted cloudiness from your beer.  At this point I also went ahead and dropped in my stainless steel wort chiller in order to sterilize it in the boil.

At the last 10 minutes of the boil we added the Kent Golding aroma hops to the same nylon hop bag that the bittering hops were in.  We also started rehydrating the dry yeast at this point in a plastic water bottle.

Once the 60 minute boil was finally done we removed the pot from the burner and got the wort chiller going.  This was the first time I used an immersion chiller at my house so I basically made an ice bath in my sink with a submersible pond pump (258gph) which would pump the cold water into the wort chiller.  The chiller I have is a 25ft x 3/8″OD stainless steel coil which has clear vinyl tubing attached with hose clamps for entry of cold water and the exit of the hot water.

My original idea was to recirculate the water and try not to just let the hot water go to waste, but man when that water exits the wort chiller it is freakin’ hot!  We decided not to burn up all the ice and just let the hot water go down the drain and kept filling the “cold side” of the sink with cold water as needed.

We got the wort down to about 75°F from 199°F in about 20 minutes using this method. I think the only thing I might change is to use more ice packs next time and try to recirculate the water and eliminate the water waste.

With the wort chilled to yeast pitching temperature we transfered the wort from the brew pot into a sanitized primary bucket fermenter.  While we poured the wort from the pot into the bucket we used a sanitized strainer to eliminate any large sediments. Pouring the wort through the strainer also helped to aerate it. Before we pitched the yeast we took a hydrometer reading showing an original gravity (OG) reading at about 1.07, which I think is just about correct for a brown ale.  It was the first time I used a hydrometer so I’m not exactly sure if we took the reading correctly or not.

After taking the reading there was really only one thing left to do… pitch the yeast and seal up the fermenter.  We also drank the sample we used for the hydrometer reading and it was pretty tasty.  The beer should be ready to transfer to a carboy in 5-7 days.

I must say for the first complete brew I’ve done at my house I am pretty happy with the results so far and the processes we used.  Everything went smoothly.  We paid attention to temperatures and times.  We kept things organized, clean, and sanitized.  I think  one of the most important factors to a successful beer is having a clean and organized working space.  We will see if these efforts pay off in the end!