Searching for the line between "hobby" and "obsession"

Barking Dog (homebrewery operations)

The end of an era

This blog is on the move! I’ve ported all the posts over to www.barkingdogbrewery.com and am in the process of linking all posts here over to their new locations. The new site is built on a more flexible platform (WordPress.org as opposed to WordPress.com) allowing for more robust analytics and CSS experimentation opportunities. Should be fun.

Yes, barkingdogbeer.com was taken, and it’s simply sitting parked right now. Annoying.

This will be the last post on this blog, so move over to www.barkingdogbrewery.com right now!


Getting ready for Oktoberfest

Got my “Osk”toberfest kegged this past weekend (named after one of my dogs, Oscar). I knew my volume was high and that it wasn’t going to fit into just one keg so I ended up cleaning all three out, filling one and then putting the last half gallon or so in another.

I made a mistake, however. I stopped syphoning too late and didn’t have enough volume to get it going again. I had two choices in my mind: I could try to suck the beer through the syphon to get it going again or I could put a funnel on the keg and just pour the last bit in. I went with the latter option, choosing potential for oxidation over potential for infection. In retrospect, I could have syphoned some volume back from the full keg into the carboy, thus allowing me to get the flow going again into keg #2. I probably would have done that if I would have thought of it. I won’t let this happen again, however. I’ll just loose an ounce or two and let the flow continue as I move the syphon hose from one keg to another. (more…)


The neighborhood drank all my saison

I lugged a keg of saison and CO2 out into the street for my neighborhood’s annual National Night Out gathering on 8/7/12. The keg was full, save for maybe two beers I’d pulled off a few days before. Based on years prior, I didn’t expect my neighbors to be big drinkers. I was thinking they’d go through two or maybe three gallons. Once a few people really got to drinking it, the word spread and pretty soon most everyone was giving my saison a try. I was glad, as I think it’s one of the better beers I’ve done. Fermented fully and at a lower temperature so the yeast esters were present but not crazy out of control. Very important, given that this beer had been brewed just 16 days prior.

I’d never seen my neighbors this “social” before! When I grabbed the keg at the end of the night, I was very surprised as to how light it felt… The pic I’ve included here is from a few nights later when I used my Blichman Beer Gun to bottle the rest of the keg. How many bottles were left, you ask? FOUR. Jesus freakin’ H. Christ. The neighborhood downed about 4.5 gallons in about three hours. “Baxter, I’m not mad. I’m impressed!” 

I’ve gotta make more of this stuff. (more…)


Lager time!

Ok, game on. I picked up a 15.3 cubic ft. chest freezer off of Craigslist for $75 and a Johnson Controls temp regulator to turn it into a fridge. You know what that means? Lager time! I’m going to try my hand at an Oktoberfest in the coming weeks and will probably do a dunkel this fall.

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Stir plate for growing yeast

I’m lame. Most homebrewers would have the drive, ingenuity and thrift to to build one of these things out of a few magnets and an old hard drive fan. Not me. I just walked into Northern Brewer and dropped $80. Sorry, but case closed. Call me lazy or good at delegation, but now I can focus on making lots of yeast instead of making things to make lots of yeast. Much more interesting. Here’s a similar stir plate to the one I bought that you can find on Amazon.com.

The first brew I used this on was for my Malinois Belgian Pale Ale, working the WLP-510 Bastogne ale yeast I’d washing from the sour beer primary into a viable amount to pitch for a 1.049 wort. There was a full 24 hrs. between making this starter and pitching. Fermentation took off within 6 hrs. of pitch at 65* so I think this worked out ok.

The only thing I’ll say is that the upgraded $10 stir bar I bought is as loud as shit unless you turn the speed down pretty low. I still think it’s fast enough but I’d be interested to see next time if the smaller stir bar that came with the plate is quieter. Is the noise worth the extra awesomeness of the larger stir bar? Not sure…


Washing yeast

To complete primary fermentation on the sour beer I brewed near the end of March for my brew club‘s barrel-aging project, the organizer had us use one of two specific types of Belgian yeast: White Labs limited edition WLP-510 Bastogne ale yeast or Wyeast Ardennes ale yeast. Naturally I went for the White Labs product as I freaking hate those smack packs (I can never get them going correctly!).

I knew that I had plans to brew a Belgian pale ale in the weeks to come, so after transferring the batch to secondary, I took it upon myself to do a bit of quick research to figure out how to properly wash and preserve yeast. I watched an annoying but information video made by a guy who probably works as Santa Claus at the local mall over the holidays who was just as over-the-top jolly to match. I’ll spare you the agony of watching that video and outline the basic steps necessary for washing yeast here (let me know if I’m missing something, but I’ll say what I did here seems to be  working great after re-pitching yesterday): (more…)


Bottling the smoked lager

Back in mid-December I decided to try my hand at my second lager, having done primarily ales for the past two years. I chose a rauchbier or smoked lager to brew, as the tradition behind the style intrigues me. The Rauch! Rauch! batch sat in primary for the two remaining weeks of December, then moved into a cold closet near my garage to lager for the month of January and first week of February, eventually moving out into the garage due to an unseasonably warm Minnesota winter this year.

I bottled this beer during the Super Bowl on 2/5/12. I described in detail the extra steps I took to prep the batch to bottle condition in a recent post found here. FG was 1.014 on bottling day before adding the yeast and yeast nutrient solution and 4.4 oz. of priming sugar, bringing this beer to 6.4% ABV. The yeast and nutrient solution made the beer quite hazy for about three or four days after it was bottled, something that was quite disappointing at first as I’d been so patient to let it lager for over a month. After that though, the beer cleared and is looking great a week after bottling. (more…)


How to bottle homebrew

No, I’m not kegging yet. After two solid years of brewing, I still haven’t yet carved out the space in the basement nor the acceptance of my wife to head down that road. I’ve got my process down for bottling and sanitization though. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate these basic rubber vinyl gloves. The way I’ve got my water heater set, my tap water gets to about 122* in the middle of winter. This can make it difficult to wash out bottles with full-on hot water without sorta burning my hands. I finally remembered this fact while on a grocery run and picked up a pair of  tough vinyl brewing gloves like these. Amazing! I don’t have to burn my hands while washing bottles or get bleach all over them when cleaning out a fermenter.

My process for bottling is as follows: (more…)


Cleanin’ up the brewery

With a baby on the way, we’ve had a lot of changes happening lately at Barking Dog Brewery. Kicked the band out of the “practice room” downstairs, turned the office upstairs into a nursery and turned the practice room into an office. With all the shifting of space usage, I figured it was time to claim 100% of the “beer room” for my own. Granted, it’s now the “beer and guitar” room so as to consolidate my hobbies into one area, but I’m pretty happy with the result especially because I requisitioned plastic shelves that weren’t serving much purpose in another part of the basement.

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Homebrew Apps: Brew Pal

I recently dove head first into 2007 by finally acquiring a smartphone. Yes, the days of whipping out my flip phone at parties and pretending it had a touch screen are finally over. Sigh. Being one for extremes, I decided to get the best god damn smartphone currently on the market, the iPhone 4s. Though I am a bit embarrassed for having migrated to the dark side, there are still brew-centric positives to this move. Notably, I can start trying out some homebrew apps to see if I can better monitor and refine my process.

After listening to this http://www.BasicBrewing.com podcast on homebrew software, I decided to go with Brew Pal as my first app. I was looking for something free or cheap (it was $1.07 with tax) that also had good reviews.

I’ll walk you through some of the screens here:

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