Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Rebuilding a March Pump

So, as promised, here's a quick down-and-dirty on how to rebuild a March Pump with a new head.

As you may recall, I dropped mine, and broke off the intake side of the head:
I ordered a new one from MoreBeer, and it arrived shortly, in good order (but for the shipping box...):To install the new pump head, first you have to take off the old one. This is accomplished by removing four screws, located on the 'face' of the head. (Sorry for the blurry picture; the arrows indicate the individual screws' locations.)Having pulled the head off, you're faced with another quartet of screws on the inner workings of the head:With these removed, you can pull things apart. You're now faced with the impeller assembly:
A bit of tugging, and the whole thing will come apart nicely, including the impeller (the spinny bit) and its axle:
A quick inspection revealed a problem for me, however: mold had taken up residence on the impeller!
So, after much washing and scrubbing and sanitizing of the impeller, I was ready to re-assemble. The re-assembly process is identical to the disassembly process, only in reverse. In all, not counting the 'break' to clean things, it probably took me about 10 minutes to have the old one off and the new one screwed on.
Note to self: Run sanitizing solution through the stupid thing during post-brew cleanup, otherwise I'll be left with the possibility of infected batches...

That's all for today--lots of pretty pictures. I'll be brewing Friday night, so check back after!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pear Cider, and the UPS

My Hard Pear Cider has been started. As promised, I will document its progress. I used 100% pure pear cider, not mixed with apple cider or with water. The only things I added were some fructose I had laying around (to bump up the OG, in the hopes of this ending up with a little residual sweetness), some pectic enzyme (to help it clear), and the yeast. Here is the cider, before going in to the fermenter:

Images of it fermenting, and further progress, will come along shortly-ish.

As for the UPS: I've had issues with my local UPS drivers. Normally, they leave packages sitting on my front stoop, not bothering to knock, or ring the doorbell, or even yell to let someone know that they've been by. To expand upon this, some of the local neighborhood teens find it amusing to 'liberate' things from people's front yards--normally pink flamingos and the like, but small packages aren't outside the realm of possibility. This week, they hit a new low.

So, as I was cleaning up from my last Brew Day, I accidentally dropped my March pump onto the cold, hard tile of my basement. Ordinarily, things get dropped around here all the time, to no particular damage, but the pump heads are somewhat fragile things--while they can handle the heat of recently-boiled wort, sudden blunt force trauma is bad for them. With the impact, the pump head broke. 'No problem,' says I, 'I'll just order me a new one.' So I did.

The pump head arrived on Monday. Again, the UPS driver dropped off the box at the door, with no notification to anyone (my Lady Wife was home all day) that he had done so. But a look at the box:
...Reveals that it was handled less-than-gently. Fortunately, nothing inside was damaged; still, I am less than pleased with them, and they will (again) be hearing from me.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


So, I found a source for 100% pear cider (no apples involved, just pears). The sample was quite sweet; the price was right. So, probably tomorrow sometime, I'll be adding some pectic enzyme and some yeast; by this time next year, it will have fermented out, come clear, and been bottled. Hopefully, it'll taste as good then as it does now--albeit changed slightly by the alchemy that is fermentation.

I think an interesting thing will be to document this brew. I'll post occasional (monthly?) updates, including photos and the occasional tasting note. We'll see how this ends up.

In other news, I'll be racking the Kolsch tomorrow; I may well rack the Wit, as well. The wit has decided to kick into fermentation again--I suppose it has decided it likes the cooler temperatures in the basement now that autumn has decided to really kick in. (Another couple of weeks at this rate, and the basement will be at its annual 'cool' temperature level.) No telling how much longer it'll ferment--I'd be surprised if it were more than a week or so, though. Regardless, the Kolsch will go in secondary for a few days, then head into the chill chest for a bit.

I'm also ready for my next Brew Day--this one will be my Halloween Brew. A nice Holiday Ale for Samhain. (It'll be ready for next year's holiday season--or at least, that's the plan.) I'm still waiting to see what everyone thinks I should do for it--the poll is off to the right... Vote early, vote often!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Quick note...

It's late, so this will be brief. The Brew Day on Sunday was a success; there were 5 of us (myself included) in total, and 3 brews were completed--2 all-grain, one partial mash. The Witbier was the final one of the day; I think it will be my favorite of the all-grain ones. The Kolsch was completed, as well, and my initial estimate is that it'll be as much like version 1.0 as to make no difference; we'll call this version 1.1. Version 2.0 will definitely see the hops scaled back a bit, although I'm not sure I'll cut all the way back to the recipe I based it off of.

I got an email yesterday from one of my brew-buddies, who happens to live down in Dun Carriag; it seems that the site for their War of the Roses event (for which I brewed the Wit) is dry. That's a shame; I'm really impressed thus far with how much citrus I'm detecting in the nose. I hope the brew can hang on to that until I find a venue to serve it.

In all, a good time was had, and beer was brewed. What more could you ask for?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Brew Day Coming

It looks like this Sunday's Brew Day will be well-attended: at least three people have expressed the intention of coming. If things go as 'normal,' that's all that will be coming--but after University, the brew day may attract one or two others. Including me, I'm setting the over/under at 5, which is rather a large crowd.

I'm still planning on re-doing the Kolsch; one other brewer wants to do a spiced Saison 'half-batch.' Fairly simple brews, for the most part--the Kolsch, in particular, is straightforward. I need to hit Maryland Homebrew (my local supply store) for the yeast, hops, and about a half-pound of grain. I should probably refill a propane tank, too; I've got two that need swapping, and I'm not sure that the two that are hooked up will last the day.

The weather promises to cooperate this time, too. The last brew day was nearly rained out--Hurricane Hanna, or at least its remnants, was rolling through town just as the boil was starting. This weekend they're calling for clear to partly cloudy skies, and a comfortable 71 degrees F. We may be able to sit outside for large chunks of the brew day, even!

I should probably contemplate my Halloween brew, while I'm thinking of it. I've got it narrowed pretty well to two recipes; which one to brew is (as always) the question. Go with the 'bigger' (OG 1.090), more highly spiced recipe? With the 'smaller' (OG 1.075), more restrained one? Or mix-and-match? What say you, loyal reader(s)? I've added a poll at right to express *your* opinions. Let's hear it!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

University, October 2008

Yesterday was Atlantian University, and I taught my long-awaited Intro to All-Grain Brewing class. (Well, long-awaited by me, anyway.) Things seemed to go pretty well. I think that I'll stretch the class out to 2 hours next time, as that's really a *lot* of information to go through in an hour; I felt a little rushed for parts of it. 2 hours would also give me the opportunity to bring in a bit of equipment to help describe what's going on for the brew.

One thing that the class was good for was creating a number of new contacts. It seems that there are a number of folks both (relatively) locally and within a reasonable driving distance who want to learn to brew. Everyone who was in my class now has the URL for this site, as well as for my webpage; by extension, this means they have my email address, and we can arrange further hands-on classes at a later date.

Also, I let everyone there know about my upcoming Brew Day, a week from today. I believe I'll try for 'take two' of the Kolsch that practically disappeared last weekend. I'll have to use the Golden Promise malt, rather than the American Pale 2-Row that I used last time, but that should only improve things, I would think. Regardless, it's more beer, which is always a good thing, right?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tasting Notes, 10/1/08

Tasted tonight: three of my brews, specifically my Northern English Brown, my Russian White Mead, and my Unoaked Merlot. Tasters were: my Lady Wife and myself.

First up: the Brown Ale. This poured from the tap with a moderate
white head. (The first pint of the night had a perfect, 3/4-inch head.) The head dissipated within a few minutes, leaving a nice lace, and a ring of foam that chased the top of the beer down the glass. The aroma is of malt and fruity esters, perhaps a bit heavy on the fruit if anything. Visually, the beer is crystal-clear and a light amber-brown in color. The flavor mimics the aroma, with a nice malt forwardness balanced by the hop bitterness and some esters. It's a touch over-carbonated right now, so tastes a little thinner than it ought; the CO2 also adds a bite from the carbonic acid that really shouldn't be there. (Oh, the problems of not having independent regulators for the kegs...) It finishes rich, but a little dry. In all, a pleasant brew.

Second: the Russian White Mead. This is the third tasting of this mead; it's been in the bottle for nearly a year, now. It is scheduled for two more tastings, unless the next one shows vast improvement. This mead is hopped, which changes its aging characteristics drastically, compared to my 'usual' brews. It pours smoothly, with perhaps a bit of carbonation; the second glass had some bubbles in the glass, which may have been the result of agitation from the first pour. These dissipated quickly, and were not a factor in the taste. The color is a light gold, comparable to a lightish Chardonnay. Aroma and taste-wise, it is smooth, and not unlike a decent white; there's a backbone to it which is reminiscent of oak tannins, but not quite the same. Some oak would, in fact, probably benefit this mead immensely. It is definitely a dry mead, but not obtrusively so--it doesn't suck the water from your mouth like some white wines do. Well-balanced. I would call this good for the white wine drinker who's looking for something a little off the beaten path. Tasty, but my Lady Wife is put off by the 'grassiness' of the hops (which, to be fair, she tastes in nearly anything with hops in it).

Finally, the Merlot. Pours a deep garnet red. No carbonation, which is as it should be. The aroma is fruity and rich, promising a luscious richness. There is a backbone of oak and, yes, mineral, present, but it doesn't overshadow the sweetness, merely supports it. The flavor is all dark fruit and rich grape, again with the tannin support. It starts sweet and floral, and ends richly; the 'middle' leaves a little to be desired. There's a certain undefinable quality about it that says that it needs something. I had been aiming for the Georgian wines when I started this; it has the sweetness and mouthfeel, but lacks the spiciness and crispness of the Georgian reds. I believe a blend will do wonderfully to remedy this--perhaps 70%/30% Merlot/Gewurztraminer. I believe this one is ready to serve, and will age beautifully over the coming months (years?).

Ready for the Weekend

Well, almost ready, anyway. I've got my handout typed up; I just need to make sufficient copies of it. I also need to get my teaching points down by heart, as best I can. And once it stops raining, I can grab my grain mill and make a sample of well-milled grain. Other grain samples are prepped; other than those, that's all I really need! The student count was up to 13 this morning; I can guess at four, and make some wild stabs at who maybe two others are. Double or triple the 'usual crowd' will be a great showing, for something beer-related. I'm pleased!

I've also just finished comparing my recipe for the Kolsch from last weekend to the recipe I based mine (loosely) off of--and the hopping was, in fact, much higher than it really needed to be. To wit, the 'basic' Kolsch recipe didn't have the late hop addition at all, only the bittering. Still, I rather enjoyed that bit of it, even if I would tweak it downwards slightly. I think I'll keep to my recipe for the next version, but use the Golden Promise malt as a base, rather than the standard American 2-row Pale that I use. Hopefully that will bump up the malt flavor enough to compensate for some of the hops; a third batch (perhaps as late as January?) will see the hops shifting, depending on what version two ends up like.

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