Hapa's Brewing Company


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The Final Countdown

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!

By in Other 0

Life’s Three ‘Bs’: Beer, Barbecue, and Baseball

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!

By in Cooking 0

Keeping the Napkin Industry in Business

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.

Rub applied

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!

By in Brewing 0

Fermentation: Fun Enough to do Twice!

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.

Siphoning beer

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.

Full carboy

One more week to allow the beer to condition and clarify.  Let the countdown begin!

By in Brewing 0

Ales vs. Lagers

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. 

Fermentation Tanks

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!

By in Brewing 0

It’s Not Me, It’s Brew

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!

By in Brewing 0

Welcome to Brewing 101

I know what you’re thinking, the name Hapa’s Brewing Company implies a devilishly good looking founder, and you would be correct.  You might also be thinking that the name implies something concerning the brewing of beer, and again you would be correct.  Hapa’s Brewing Company is devoted to the art and craft of brewing beer.  However, we are also equally devoted to the creation of delicious food to enjoy with that beer. 

Thus far the subject matter of our blogs has been focused on food.  Well it’s time to get back to our roots and talk about beer.  If you’re like me, you made the natural assumption that beer is created by collecting the tears of leprechauns and adding a dash of witchcraft.  This is surprisingly far from the truth.  The process of making beer combines equal parts science (biology and chemistry) and culinary arts. 

How then does one make beer?  We begin the process here:

Here is a barley field.  It turns out the beer is made from barley and not the sweet delicious tears of leprechauns.  After the barley is harvested is it soaked in water, dried, and allowed to germinate.  Once the seeds have begun to sprout, the germination process is cut short by baking the barley.  During the germinations process enzymes are triggered that will convert the starches in the seeds into simpler sugars.  It is these sugars that will be fermented during the brewing process.


The next phase in brewing is to extract those sugars.  This process is called mashing.  During the mash the ground malted barley is soaked in hot water.  The hot water activates the enzymes in the grain which after some blah, blah, blah, science, science, science convert the starches into sugar.

Mash tun

The hot sugary water is then separated from the grain in a process called lautering.  At this point the water is called wort (pronounced wert).  The wort must now be boiled.  The boiling of wort accomplished several things.  First, the hot temperature of the boil will sterilize the sugary solution we have created (a perfect environment for microorganisms).  Secondly, the boiling process will cause the natural proteins in the grain to coagulate allowing them to later settle out.  Thirdly, we will be adding hops during the boil.  Hop oils only become soluble at high temperatures which is necessary to impart the bitter flavor that we enjoy in beer.


After the boil, the hot wort must then be chilled before yeast can be added.  When you think of fungi, you don’t necessarily think of an organism that is very particular about where it lives. However, yeast is very picky about where it thrives and perpetuates and will only flourish at certain temperatures.  Wort right after the boil is too hot. 

The process of adding yeast is called pitching the yeast and is the next step in brewing beer.  Yeast is an interesting organism in that it can respire both with oxygen (aerobic) and without (anaerobic).  When yeast is exposed to an oxygen deprived environment it is able to produce energy by converting sugar into carbon dioxide and ethanol (a.k.a. fire water); a process called fermentation.  Yeast may be a microscopic organism, but it truly does a lot of the heavy lifting in the brewing process.

Yeast cells

The fermentation process takes approximately two weeks.  Eventually yeast cells will clump together in a process known as flocculation.  These clumps fall to the bottom of the fermentation tank allowing us to siphon off our freshly made beer.  The beer must then be bottle or kegged and carbonated.  Beer can be naturally carbonated by adding a small amount of sugar and sealing the beer in a bottle.  The residual yeast will ferment this sugar creating carbon dioxide which will dissolve in the bottle beer.  Likewise, we can artificially carbonate beer by sealing it in a keg and pumping in pressurized carbon dioxide thereby dissolving the gas into the beer.

The last step in brewing is everyone’s favorite:


Homebrewing is a fun and ultimately rewarding hobby.  It is also easy enough for anyone to do.  Check out the complete homebrewing kit in our “Featured Products” section in the right hand navigation.  Happy brewing!

By in Cooking 0

Pull My Pork

It’s been a whirlwind last few days; between barbecueing, Fleet Week, and football it was quite an action filled weekend.  I kicked off the busy weekend on Friday by paying a visit to my favorite wholesale warehouse store in the city, Cash & Carry.  Trying to not get distracted by 10 pound wheels of cheese and 30 gallon tubs of mayonnaise, I made my way to the meat locker.  There I found exactly what I was looking for: a Cryovack package of two untrimmed, boneless pork butts totalling 15.45 pounds in weight.

Pork butt still in Cryovac packaging

I prepped the meat Friday night so I could begin the cooking session early Saturday morning.  I began by trimming off all large visible pockets of fat.  Unlike with brisket, I didn’t have to worry about leaving a layer of fat as pork butt has more internal fat that keeps the meat moist during the long cooking process.

Untrimmed pork butt                                                   Trimmed pork butt

To ensure an even cook, I used kitchen twine to tie the pork butt.  I then applied a generous helping of rub to the meat.  The rub I used for this cook consisted of black pepper, paprika, raw cane sugar, sea salt, mustard powder and cayenne pepper.  After applying the rub, the two pieces of meat went in to the refrigerator over night.

Pork butt: trimmed and tied                                         With rub applied

I woke up at the unholy hour of 5:45am Saturday morning, cursed the heavens for being up that early, and then calmed down by reminding myself that this would all be worth it.  I then stubbled to the backyard to fire up the barbecue.  Some people drink coffee to wake up in the morning.  I light 20 pounds of charcoal on fire in complete darkness while half asleep.  What can I say?  I love the smell of barbecue in the morning.  Armed with the knowledge that this cook would take as long or longer than the brisket, I decided to use the same technique to light the coals and wood.  I filled the charcoal chamber to the top with briquettes and interspersed my wood chunks.  For this cook I used four chunks of oak and two of hickory.  I lit 25 briquettes in a chimney starter and spread out the burning coals on top of the unlit ones in the charcoal chamber.

While the barbecue was coming up to temperature I removed the pork butts and applied the rub for a second time.  I took them out to the back yard and threw them on the cooker just as the sun was rising.

After a second application of rub                                 Just thrown on the cooker

My target cooking temperature was in the 220-250 degree range.  Over the course of the cook I adjusted the three lower vents to keep the cooker within that range.  At hour nine I checked on the meat and turned and basted it.  The baste I used was made up of apple cider vinegar, water, salt pepper, worcestershire sauce, paprika, cayenne pepper, and the left over rub.

Meat being basted after nine hours

7:30pm marked the 12 hour point in the cook and by that time the internal temperature had reached my target of 195 degrees.  I took the pork butt off the cooker and let it rest for 30 minutes.  After this rest I used two serving forks to pull the meat apart.  It was so tender that this took very little effort.  I served the pulled pork in as classic dish with cole slaw and barbecue sauce on a hawaiian bun.  The meat had a great smoke flavor with the pepper and a little bit of spice from the cayenne adding to the taste.  The dark exterior bark was incredibly flavorful and led to several ballyhoos as to who got more than their fair share.

Pulled pork                                                                     Let’s eat!

By in Cooking 0

This Little Piggy Went to the BBQ

The forecast for the weekend calls for clear skies and warm temperatures, which means it a perfect weather to fire up the barbecue.  Two weeks ago, I applied the “low and slow” method of cooking to a beef brisket with great results, but I think this weekend I’m going give pork a try.  I decided to use the same cooking technique to make pulled pork. 

Pulled pork is generally made from a cut of meat known as the butt which, as the name clearly suggests, is cut from the shoulder of the pig (a common and completely unfounded misconception is that pork butt comes from the rear of the pig). 

Like brisket, pork butt is not a naturally tender cut of meat.  There is an abundance of connective tissue in pork butt that require high temperatures and a long cooking time to break down into the flavorful and tender meat we all enjoy.  After cooking, the meat becomes very tender to the point it can literally be pulled apart by hand, hence the name pulled pork.

Pulled pork is a very common dish in Hawaii so I thought making it was especially applicable for a blog whose name sake is a Hawaiian word.  In Hawaii, pulled pork is called “Kalua pig” or “Kalua pork” and is often the center piece of a luau where it is cooked in an underground pit called a “imu.” 

By in Cooking 0

Secondhand Smoke Never Tasted so Good

The forecast for Sunday, September 26th called for clear skies and warm temperatures which meant it was time for me to finally fire up my new Weber Smokey Mountain  cooker.  This cooker is a bullet style smoker used to cook foods “low and slow.” 

I had plenty of time to think about what kind of meat I wanted to make for this inaugural cook and finally decided on brisket.  Brisket is a tough cut of meat that requires a long cook to tenderize.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to try such a long cook on my first attempt, but very easily convinced to do it.  The plan was to cook the meat at a low temperature of 220-250 degrees for 10-12 hours.  I bought the brisket and other supplies on Friday before the cook at a great restaurant supply store in San Francisco called Cash & Carry.  The untrimmed brisket weighed in at 12.19 pounds!

I used Saturday night before the cook to prepare everything I would need for the next day.  I assembled the grill and prepped the meat.

The grill: fully assembled

To prepare the meat, I first trimmed the fat with the goal of leaving a 1/4 inch layer of fat, that would break down during the cook adding moisture and flavor.

Untrimmed                                         Trimmed

I then made my rub using salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and dry mustard and applied it to both sides generously.  The brisket spent the night in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic wrap.

On Sunday morning I woke up at 6:00am to fire up the cooker.  I filled the charcoal chamber with briquettes and interspersed wood chunks.  I used apple and hickory wood.  I lit 25 briquettes in a chimney starter and added them on top of the unlit charcoal.  By 7:30 the cooker came up to the correct temperature and I added the brisket.

Brisket: just added to cooker

The cooker did an amazing job of retaining heat.  I checked on the cooker every hour and made slight adjustments to the vents to control the temperature.  I turned and basted the brisket with apple juice at hour 6 and hour 9.  I also took the internal temperature of the brisket at hour 9 which was 175 degrees; ten degrees below my target temperature of 185.  Right around 5:30 the brisket hit 185 degrees and I pulled it off the cooker.

Right after being taken off the cooker

The brisket looked and smelled amazing.  It had a very nice bark on the outside which is characteristic of a good brisket.  I let the meat rest for 20 minutes (a very long 20 minutes) to allow the juices redistribute.  In finally carved into the brisket at 6:00pm and full 12 hours after I started the smoking process.  The meat had a 1/4 inch smoke ring and tasted absolutely delicious!

Now we eat!