Hapa's Brewing Company


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Hapa’s Favorite Month: FeBREWary

Of all the holidays, Valentine’s Day has to be the most polarizing; people seem to either love it or hate it.  It’s easy to see why this is the case as this can be a very stressful time of year.  Football season has just ended, tax season is just starting, and those who find themselves without a special someone are forced to watch all the happy couples galavant around town sporting flowers, teddy bears, or anything sold by Hallmark. 

It doesn’t seem right that those fat cats at Hallmark stuff their pockets with cash while some people wallow in Valentine’s Day solitude, so Hapa’s Brewing proposes that we celebrate something we can all agree on: beer.  To kick off the new FeBREWary tradition we brewed up a classic American Pale Ale.

The grain bill for this batch was a basic as it gets including only 2-row base malt and crystal 60.  A multi-rest mashing schedule was used with a hot water infusion added to achieve the second rest temperature.

The grain bill: 2-row and Crystal 60                                           Doughing-in

After a half an hour at each rest, the wort was recirculated and siphoned into the boil kettle.  Hops used for this batch included Northern Brewer and the classic American Pale Ale varietal: Cascade.  The hour long boil included three hop additions at the beginning of the boil, 30 minutes, and 45 minutes.  At 39 IBUs this pale ale will be nicely hopped, but will not be a hop bomb like some IPAs (we’ll save that for a future brew).

Lautering                                                      Hop additions: Northern Brewer and cascade

After an hour in the boil and being quickly cooled to a microbe-friendly temperature, an American Ale yeast was pitched.  Active fermentation is currently in full swing and will be monitored closely.  Looking forward to giving this beer a taste in a few weeks!

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On Tap: Holiday Ale

Over the weekend the Holiday Ale keg was tapped.  It was perfectly carbonated and tasted great.  It truly reminded everyone who drank it of the holiday season.  Of those who had a taste, some said it had the essence of pumpkin pie while others got the same ginger bread flavors that I got when I tasted the beer in Christmas in January.  By all accounts it was a tremendous success, and we’re looking forward to making it again for the holidays!

It’s five o’clock somewhere… drink up!

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‘Tis The Season to Drink

After a week in secondary fermentation, the Holiday Ale went into the keg for carbonation.  Using an auto siphon the beer was transferred to the keg where it was cooled in the kegerater. 

Transferring beer to the keg

Once the beer was chilled, CO2 was pumped in and will take 3-5 days to carbonate the beer.  Just a couple days now!  In the meantime, check out the label we’ll be using for this seasonal ale.

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Christmas in January

I always feel a little guilty complaining about the weather in California; fifty degrees hardly seems worthy of bitching about when other parts of the country are getting hammered with blizzards and below freezing temperatures.  I may be a baby when it comes to the cold, but I’m not the only one.  Like me, yeast doesn’t do well in the cold.  Cooler temperatures will slow yeast’s ability to metabolize sugar into alcohol and CO2.  With temperatures in San Francisco hovering around the mid fifties, I left the holiday ale in the primary fermenter for two weeks.  This gave the yeast more time to completely convert sugar to alcohol.

Yesterday marked the two week point, so the beer was transferred to a glass carboy for a week of secondary fermentation.  Just like the amber ale in Amber Ale Fermentation – Take Two, I used an auto-siphon to transfer the beer.

Siphoning beer into the carboy

I took the opportunity to take a quick measurement of the sugar content (gravity) of the ale that I used to calculate the alcohol content of the beer.  The high initial gravity of this ale resulted in a relatively high alcohol by volume of 7%.

Hydrometer measuring gravity

Lastly, I had a taste of the young beer.  This beer has very distinct aromas with the cinnamon and cloves standing out.  Taking a sip of the ale reminded me of ginger bread.  Another week and a half until it’s finally ready to be poured.  Looking forward to Christmas in January!

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Christmas, Now in Beer Form

The holiday season has come and gone, but that doesn’t mean we can’t relive the merriment through beer.  As mentioned in Holid-Ale Hapa’s Brewing was inspired to create a beer for this festive time of year.  As a little Christmas gift to ourselves, we hit the local shops to gather ingredients.  This brew will slap you in the face with holiday spirit by combining specialty herbs, spices, and flavors.

As with any brew, this one started with the mash.  The grain bill called for American 1-row, Crystal 60L, Cara Pils, and Crystal 120L.  Just as in Do the Mash… The Brewing Mash I used a multi-rest mashing schedule with the hope of a better sugar yield.

The grain bill                                                                    Doughing-in

After thirty minutes at each rest, the wort was siphoned from the mash tun, recirculated, and collected in the boil kettle.  Heat was applied to the kettle and the hot break soon formed.  Once the wort was at a full boil, it was removed from the heat and the first additions were made.  This first addition included Hallertau hops, light brown sugar, and molasses.

Hot break                                             First addition: brown sugar, molasses, hops

After thirty minutes the second addition was added which included more hops and cinnamon sticks.

Second addition: cinnamon sticks and hops

The last addition was introduced forty-five minutes into the boil.  This last addition included many specialty ingredients that will give this beer its holiday flavors.  These included: honey, irish moss, another cinnamon stick, ground cardamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla extract, and more hops.

Final addition: honey, irish moss, cinnamon stick, cardamon,
cloves, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla, hops

After an hour of boiling the wort was cooled rapidly using a copper immersion chiller and moved to the fermenter where yeast was pitched.  I took a sample of the wort to try, and was surprised by how complex the young beer smelled and tasted.  The cinnamon was definitely there as were hints of honey, vanilla, and clove.  It’s going to be a long few weeks waiting to try this brew!

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A basic beer uses only four ingredients: water, malted barley, hops, and yeast.  Brewers often add other ingredients like specialty grains, fruit, and spices to change the flavor, color, and aroma of their beer.  During the holidays, people often adorn their houses with festive decorations and in that spirit, beer makers frequently use unique ingredients create special holiday brews.

There is not a succinct definition of what makes a beer a “holiday beer,” but breweries often kick out suds that are packed with dark malts, hops, or interesting spices like cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, irish moss, and vanilla.  These ingredients are usually added during the boil and give holiday beers interesting and novel flavors.

Cinnamon sticks                                                                        Irish moss

Breweries only make a limited supply of holiday beer and when they’re gone they’re gone.  While searching for gift for a beer lover or brainstorming what to bring to the family dinner, keep an eye out for these beers.

Hapa’s Brewing is flush with holiday spirit these days, and is planning a special holiday brew on New Year’s Eve that will include cinnamon, honey, molasses, and allspice among other ingredients.  Stay tuned!

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Drink Better!

There is certainly no wrong way to drink beer.  Some people prefer to suck their swill straight from the keg while being held upsidedown, while others seek out rare brews with enough ABV to put hair on your unborn son’s chest. 

While there may not be a wrong way to enjoy beer, there is a better way.  We, at Hapa’s Brewing, were recently privileged enough to meet a group of beer lovers whose mission is to help educate the public on drinking better.  Their mission is to “allow you to appreciate the world of alcohol in a classier fashion.  You still pick your poison.  [They] help make sure it’s the blue chip pick, not the absolute bust.” 

Their drinking fountain of knowledge can be found at Hooch & Hops.  While you’re there, check out the guest apparence by Hapa’s Brewing Company.  Drink better!

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Blame it on the Alcohol

One of the most common questions people ask about beer is “how much alcohol is there?”  Generally speaking, beer will have anywhere from 4-10 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) but many exceptions exist.  The alcohol content of beer is a distinguishing characteristic that can speak volumes about the ingredients used and brewing method as well as affect the taste of the beer.

Alcohol content is dependant on the concentration of sugar in wort and how much of that sugar is metabolized by yeast.  Several factors influence sugar content and yeast performance including how much malted gain is used, the temperature of the mash, added sugars (i.e. brown sugar or honey), the strain of yeast, and the temperature of fermentation.  For example, if a recipe calls for a large quantity of malt, brown sugar is added to the wort, and an aggressive strain of yeast is used at its ideal temperature, it is reasonable to assume the resulting beer will have a high alcohol content and will eventually lead to questionable decisions.

So how is alcohol content measured?  One method might be to toss back a few and see how many it takes until Sarah Jessica Parker starts looking good; the beer that takes the fewest is the one with the highest ABV.  An alternate and more scientific method involves measuring the sugar content of the beer before fermentation and comparing it to the sugar content after fermentation.

Measuring final gravity

As mentioned in Carbonation Nation a tool called a hydrometer is used to measure the concentration of sugar (gravity) in wort.  Essentially what we’re measuring is the difference in density between water with sugar and pure water; the more sugar dissolved in water, the denser it is and the higher its gravity.  As sugar in wort is converted to alcohol, the gravity will decrease because there is less sugar and alcohol is less dense than water.  If we know a beer’s gravity before and after fermentation, we can calculate how much sugar was converted to alcohol.  A simple formula can be used to describe this relationship:

ABV = (Starting Gravity – Final Gravity) * 131

Starting gravity is sugar content before fermentation and final gravity is post fermentation counterpart.  The constant 131 is the number used to convert the difference in gravities to alcohol content.  For quick reference (and less math) here is a chart summarizing gravity vs. ABV:

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The Tank Belt

In Two Kegs are Better Than One I modified the kegerator to accommodate a five and three gallon keg.  To fit them both, the CO2 tank had to sit in the back of the unit on top of the compressor shelf.  This shelf is only a few inches deep and the tank would not fit without tipping over.  With two full kegs this wasn’t an issue because their combined mass helped hold the CO2 tank in place.  However, this did become an issue when one or both kegs started to empty.

To address this problem, something needed to be added to the kegerator to hold the CO2 tank in place: enter the Tank Belt.  The first step in creating this support system was to purchase some nylon strapping.  In order to assure that the straps would hold the weight of the tank and not fray, I planned to use brass grommets and steel bolts to secure them to the walls of the kegerator.

Nylon strap with hole for the grommet                                       With grommet added

To make the hole in the nylon strap, I held a lighter to it to melt it.  Using a kit, I hammered the grommet in place.

The next step was drilling two holes through both sides of the kegerator and securing the straps to the walls.  To assure that no cold air would escape, I used rubber washers to create a tight seal once the bolts and nuts were tightly secured.

Nylon strap with buckle, nut, rubber
washer, and bolt

Plastic buckles were attached to each strap and used to secure the CO2 tank in place. 

Locked and loaded