No one will ever argue with the statement: “San Francisco is a beautiful city.”
View of the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset on 11/4/2010
The final step in brewing beer (aside from drinking it!) is to carbonate it. You would be hard pressed to find someone who enjoys a flat beer. Carbonation gives beer a light and refreshing feel in the mouth when consumed and also enhances flavors and aromas. The questions is: how is beer carbonated?
As I eluded to in The Final Countdown, there are two ways to carbonate beer: force carbonation and natural carbonation. Both have their advantages and disadvantages:
To naturally carbonate beer, a small amount of sugar (called priming sugar) is added to the beer after fermentation has completed. The beer is then put into bottles, growlers, kegs, etc. and sealed. Residual yeast will then ferment this sugar and produce alcohol and CO2. Because the vessel in which the beer is being held is sealed, this CO2 dissolves into the liquid thereby carbonating the beer.
To force carbonate beer, it is transferred to a keg where it is chilled. CO2 is then pumped into the keg and kept at pressure. Over the course of a few days this CO2 will dissolve into the beer carbonating it.
In the end how beer is carbonated is a matter of personal preference. I happen to have all the equipment I need for force carbonation, and combined with my lack of patience, results in my preference of force carbonating beer.
Today was a special day in San Francisco. It was a day for the entire city to come together and celebrate with our hometown team: the World Champion Giants. The Giants ticker-tape parade marched through downtown San Francisco and I was lucky enough to have a front row seat for the show. It was an incredible sight to behold as 100,000+ plus people lined Market Street to cheer on the team. All I had to do was put on my Giants hat and I instantly had 100,000 new friends.
Montgomery Street Market Street
Some highlights of the parade included seeing the “Say Hey Kid” Willie Mays, Bruce Bochy with the World Series trophy, and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. I actually made eye contact with the mayor and gave him a thumbs up that even he would be proud of.
Willie Mays Bruce Bochy
Of course the grand finale of the parade included the entire team. From my vantage point above Market Street I saw all familiar Giants faces: Cody Ross, Matt Cain, Buster Posey, Brian Wilson. I also saw the faces of all the Giants no one knows, whose names I’ve already forgotten but cheered for anyways!
Cody Ross Buster Posey
The Giants won their first World Series since moving to San Francisco in 1957! It seemed like the entire city was pulling for this team and last night it seemed like the entire city was drinking for it!
Chestnut Street, San Francisco, CA
Sorry for the poor picture quality, I had to use my phone.
Watching Tim Lincecum dominate the Rangers begs the question: can he throw a football as well as he throws a baseball? The 49ers need the help!
This weekend was Halloween which meant it was time for candy, costumes, and of course beer! Between some great football games and the World Series, I was able to transfer the Brown Ale to the keg. The process is very similar to the one used when moving the beer to the secondary fermenter; using an auto siphon to carefully transfer the beer.
Glass carboy and 3 gallon keg Siphoning beer to the keg
The next step is carbonating the beer. There are two methods for carbonating beer: natural vs. forced. The difference / advantages / disadvantages of these two methods will be discussed in a future posting, but because I have a draft system and because I don’t have enough patience to wait for natural carbonation, I have chosen to force carbonate my Brown Ale.
The process of force carbonation begins with cooling the beer down as gasses dissolve easier in liquids at lower temperatures. Once the beer has been cooled, CO2 is pumped into the keg at kept at a pressure of around 10-12psi. Over the course of a couple days, the CO2 will dissolve into the beer and an equilibrium will be reached. At that point the beer is ready to be enjoyed!
Keg at CO2 tank in the fridge
As you can see, I keep my draft system in a mini fridge. This set up works for now, but I’m planning on coverting the fridge to a kegorator… stay tuned!
While the focus of this blog if beer and barbecue, there are other things that need to be enjoyed in life. Yesterday was a great example of that philosophy. October 27th, 2010 was a very eventful day for me. I knew ahead of time that it was going to be an extraordinary day, but I wasn’t prepared just how exceptional it would be.
The day started out with a World Series tickets on the line. It’s not every day that one has the opportunity to see his or her hometown team play on the biggest stage in their respective sport, but that is exactly the position I found myself in. To win the tickets I would need to compete in America’s other pastime: Corn Hole.
It was do or die; one ticket, two people, and a best of three match. The competition was fierce. Back and forth the scores went and it all came down to a third and final game to determine who would get the ticket. This wouldn’t be much of a blog entry if the story ended there, so you’ve probably already guessed that I emerged victorious. I was elated!
At 4:00pm I made my way down to the stadium to meet the rest of my party. While waiting by the Willie Mays statue, I was treated to pleasant surprise: a complete stranger came up to me and informed me that I look a lot like Giants backup first baseman and fellow hapa, Travis Ishikawa.
Travis Ishikawa Willie Mays statue
My friends showed up shortly thereafter and we made our way to our seats. The seats were fantastic; lower deck, down the first baseline. The place was packed and the atmosphere: electric. Two of the games greatest pitchers were about to square off, and I couldn’t help but think of the other great match up from the day: me vs. my friend on the Corn Hole pitch.
The view from my seat Tony Bennett sang I Left My Heart in San Francisco
The game however, did not start out well for the home team Giants. Trailing 2-0 after the first inning, things were not going well, but Giants came alive in the third tying the score at 2. In the fifth inning something magical happened. Yes, the Giants scored six runs, but this thing did not happen on the field. After enjoying a few Sierra Nevadas I needed to take a bathroom break. Lines for the restroom can be very long so I was worried about missing the game. With two outs, I decided to make a move. I devised a clever strategy. The Giants had runners on first and second with Juan Uribe at the plate. Everyone else in the stadium was glued to their seats as the Giants continued to rally. The line at the bathroom was nonexistent. It was also at that moment the Rangers decided to make a pitching change giving me just enough time to make it back to my seat to see Uribe launch a ball deep in the the left field stands. I had just completed the greatest bathroom break in sports history!
The Giants went on to win the game by a final score of 11-7. Three more games and the Giants will bring our first World Series Championship to San Francisco!
Here we are on Monday morning and after showering last night AND this morning, I still smell like a campfire. A telltale sign of a good weekend!
Hapa’s Brewing Company went on the road over the weekend. Naturally we were accompanied by the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker and naturally we make a stop at Cash & Carry on the way out. This time around we would be cooking pork loin back ribs, better known as baby back ribs. Baby back ribs come from the top of the rib cage between the spine and spare ribs.
Pork rib diagram Bone side of back loin ribs Meat side of back loin ribs
At Cash & Carry I was able to find a Cryovac pack of three slabs of baby back ribs totalling 8.4 pounds. I prepped all three the same way. First, I removed the membrane from the bone side of the ribs. This membrane prevents the rub and smoke flavors from being imparted into the meat and does not make for good eating. I also removed any large pieces of fat from the meat side of the ribs.
Removing the membrane Fat removed
Next, I applied the rub that consisted of: sugar, salt, brown sugar, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, black pepper, granulated garlic, and onion powder.
For this cook I fired up the cooker by lighting a full chimney of briquettes and adding another full chimney on top of that. I used four chucks of oak and two of apple for my smoke wood. When the cooker came up to 225 degrees I added the ribs. In order to get the ribs to fit onto the cooker and to promote even cooking, I rolled the ribs and used a wooden skewer to hold them in place.
Out of the house and onto the fire
I kept the cooker in the 250-270 degree range for the entire cook and after four hours I checked on the meat. To check for doneness I gave the ribs a pull. They meat came right off the bone, and I knew it was time to eat! After unrolling the racks and divvying up portions, everyone added their favorite barbecue sauce and ate. One hour, 40 sticky fingers, 200 napkins, 4 sauce covered faces, and 4 smiles later we were done.
Out of the fire and into the mouths!
It has been a week since the Brown Ale went into the fermenter which means it’s time to transfer the beer to the secondary fermenter. I use a glass carboy for secondary fermentation.
Glass carboy and siphon
Secondary fermentation is not a necessary step in the brewing process, but it definitely has some advantages. During primary fermentation dead yeast, proteins, and other particles like bits of hops settle to the bottom of the fermenter forming a layer call the trub. Separating the beer from this layer prevents unwanted flavors from being imparted into our beer. Allowing all these particles to settle out will also result in a clearer final product.
When transferring beer from the primary to secondary fermenter, it is important to minimize the beer’s exposure to air. Extended exposure to air or excessive slashing can lead to oxidation of the beer. Oxidation can lead to off flavors or a stall in the fermentation process. To minimize slashing and exposure to air, I use an auto siphon and to control the flow of beer I pinch the line with a clamp.
After transferring all the beer it is important that the carboy go back into a dark area with a stable temperature of 65-75 degrees.
One more week to allow the beer to condition and clarify. Let the countdown begin!
Beer comes in a wide variety of styles, colors, and tastes. Some are full bodied and have strong hop flavors, while others come in a can with a wide mouth and vent to help it pour down your gullet faster. What is it that distinguishes one beer from another? At the highest level, differences in beer styles come from the strain of yeast that is used during fermentation
There are two kinds of yeast used in beer making: ale and lager. There are several differences between these yeast varieties that impact the brewing process and final product.
Lager yeast prefers a lower temperature while it ferments sugars to alcohol. If you’ve ever heard the slogan “Frost Brewed,” you’re drinking a beer made using lager yeast and are probably drinking out of a can with blue mountains.
The lower temperature of the fermentation process means it takes longer to complete. Where primary fermentation for an ale might be one week, a lager can take up to three. Lager needs a longer time to condition as the yeast produces more sulfur based compounds. These compounds can impart a bad smell and taste to the beer and need time to vent off and be broken down by the yeast.
Lagers are characterized by their clean, crisp taste. Some might call it “drinkability.” This is opposed to ales whose fruit flavors and full bodied feel are a result of warmer fermentation temperatures and increased bittering hop usage.
Top vs. Bottom Fermenting:
Lager yeast is bottom fermenting, meaning it sits at the bottom of a fermenter during the brewing process. Ales yeast do just the opposite, fermenting sugars at the top of the fermenter.
Lager is the America’s most popular style of beer. You are very familiar with American Lagers as they are produced of the most famous names in beer including Budweiser, Coors, and Miller. You have undoubtedly enjoyed a lager… or ten… while watching football on Sundays. Now you will able to impress your friends with an Alex Trebek like knowledge of beer!
After discussing the basics of brewing beer, it’s time to put our knowledge to use. Yesterday, I paid a visit to San Francisco’s iconic homebrew shop, San Francisco Brew Craft, with the intention of purchasing all the ingredients I would need to brew a batch.
San Francisco Brew Craft
After a brief deliberation I decided to make an English Brown Ale. This is one of my favorite styles of beer; if you’ve ever had New Castle, you’ve had an English Brown Ale. Characteristics of this style of beer include a dark brown or amber color and a nutty and/or malty flavor. They also like long walks on the beach, candle lit dinners, and romantic comedies. Often, Brown Ales will have hints of chocolate and burnt toast flavors. These dark colors and distinct flavor profiles are due, in large part, to the use of Crystal malts.
It had been awhile since my last brewing session, so I decided to knock off some rust with a malt extract brew. Malt extract is made by boiling down wort to a syrup like consistency and allows brewers to remove mash from the brewing process. I have mixed feelings about extract brewing. The mashing process is a major component of brewing and removing it always leaves me feeling like I’ve cheated. I’m sure Mr. Budweiser and Mr. Coors never brewed with extract! I laid out all my brewing equipment before getting started:
Specialty grains, extract, brew pot, wort chiller, fermenter
The first step for this brew was to steep the specialty grains which, for this recipe, were Crystal malt, oat flakes, and chocolate malt. Steeping grains is essentially like an abbreviated, small scale mash. As such, it is important that the water in which we soak the grains is at the proper temperature to activate the starch converting enzymes. The grains are place in cheese cloth and dipped in the brew pot just like a giant tea bag.
Steeping specialty grains Wort after steeping
Our next step in the brew is to add the malt extract and begin the boil. I used 6.5 pounds of extract.
Adding malt extract
When the wort begins to boil proteins from the grain being to coagulate and form what’s known as the “hot break.” The hot break takes the form of a layer of foam on the surface of the liquid. As more protein clumps together they will eventually settle to the bottom of the pot and the foam will dissipate. After the hot break we add our bittering hops. I used Kent Golding hops in pellet form for this brew.
“Hot break” Pellet hops
The wort boils for an hour with additional hop additions at thirty minutes and ten minutes. These additions help add a nice aroma to the finished beer.
After the boil, the wort needs to be cooled down quickly to reduce the chances of contamination as well as induce additional proteins to precipitate. To chill my wort quickly I used a copper immersion chiller. Cool water is run through the copper tubing that absorbs heat from the wort.
Chilling the wort
After cooling the wort to 75-80 degrees, we transfer it to the fermenter and pitch the yeast. I used Burton Ale yeast in liquid form for this brew. Secure the lid on the fermenter, insert the airlock, and stow in a an area with a stable temperature of 65-75 degrees that does not receive any sunlight. Exposure to direct sunlight can kill a vampire. It can also skunk your beer.
Pitching the yeast See you next week
I checked on this batch today, and am getting some active fermentation as we speak. After one week of fermentation I will transfer the beer to a secondary fermenter for an additional week before kegging / bottling. The hardest part of brewing is not all the chemistry or biology, it’s the waiting!