River Crew Brewing

Timmy’s Polarizing Porter

Name Changin’ & Brand Buildin’

From this day forth, Timmy’s Polarizing Porter will be known as Put Your Boots On Porter.

Why the name change, you ask?

Well, The Beer formerly known as Timmy’s Polarizing Porter was the first beer I brewed under the River Crew Brewing Company banner.  Back then, all I knew is I want to make beer inspired by the River Crew, and I thought it’d be fun to name it after them.

As my brewing experience grew and I got more beers under my belt, the brand started to evolve.  Beers started getting named after our stories and memories together, and not after individual people.  It focused more on what we shared together, and culminated in the invention of our tagline: Get Crewed.

This name change falls in line with the refined direction of the brand.  Timmy’s Polarizing Porter was more about Timmy and less about the Crew and what we did together.  “Put Your Boots On and Go Home” is a phrase that came to it’s infamy in high school, and still gets tossed around with regularity by the crew today.  It was only fitting to switch things up and name a beer after it.

Giving My Sierra Nevada Porter Clone A Proper Name

If you checked out my post about how the River Crew Brewing Company came to be, you’ll see each of the beers we concepted had a unique name and tagline.  The Sierra Nevada Porter Clone I brewed is from a kit, but I feel it needs to be properly “Crewed” since it’s the first beer I brewed under this banner.

So here it is, the official name for my Sierra Nevada Porter Clone:

Timmy’s Polarizing Porter
A pale, broke, skinny-bodied beer this is not.

Timmy's Polarizing Porter

As a reference, here’s me and Timmy:

The Man Behind The Polarizing Porter and Myself

Let me know what you think!!

First Taste Test of the Sierra Nevada Porter Clone FTW!

So you know how I mentioned my posts are riding the chronological short bus? Yeah, they haven’t graduated yet.

A little over a week ago, I got my first taste of my Porter out of the bottle. It spent about a week carbonating in the bottle, so I wanted to see how it was progressing.

I’m happy to say – it’s doing really well! The beer poured darker than I remember. It was a really rich brown, almost black. Its darkness made it tough to see though, but you could tell it wasn’t cloudy, which made me happy. It didn’t have much of a head on it, barely a centimeter or so. I’m not too worried though, as this will change as it spends more time in the bottle.

The carbonation helped bring out some of the aromatics and flavors in my beer. I could really taste the roasted malt and other dark flavors as the tiny bubbles danced across my tongue. It finished perfectly crisp, with an extremely subtle aftertaste that left those a bit of the richness behind.

So – so far, so good! I’m excited to see how this beer changes with another week in the bottle, and can’t wait till it’s finished.

Putting Lids On The Porter

After letting my porter clarify for about 2 weeks or so, I squeezed in some time to bottle it up amongst the chaos that was my Memorial Day weekend.

Now bottle, as most of you home brewers know, bottling is probably the most labor-intensive part of the home brewing process. The actual brewing portion of the process requires more attention from the brewer, but bottling definitely requires more labor. Bottling is the roll-up-your-sleeves and prepare-to-get-soaked step, and sometimes it can get rather ugly (and slippery).

The first step in bottling, just like the other steps in home brewing, was cleaning everything – bottling bucket, siphon, bottles, caps, and other necessities. I mixed up 2 gallons of cleaner in the bottling bucket and got to work.

Everything was going fine, till I realized I had to clean 32 bottles…by hand. Always the most dreaded part of bottling. Since I’m reusing these bottles, and I don’t want the stench of failure from my first home brew infecting this batch, I ran the bottles through the dishwasher on sanitize first with no detergent. I figured this would give me a head-start on cleaning.

I started dunking the bottles one by one into the cleaner, and scrubbing them down inside and out with my bottle brush. This got old after about 5 bottles, but I did get a decent amount of junk out of them. I repeated the same process, replacing the cleaner for sanitizer once all the equipment was clean.  Again, it’s a painstaking process, but it’s absolutely critical to producing a high-quality beer.

Finally, after about an hour, I had everything clean, sanitized and ready to bottle.  I started by boiling some malt extract in water.  Adding this to the beer just before it’s bottled causes another fermentation in the bottle, where the beer is naturally carbonated.

Once the priming sugar mixture is good to go, I added it to my bottling bucket.  Having the priming sugar already in the bucket as I siphon the beer over helps mix everything together and lends for an evenly-carbonated beer.  I climbed into my closet to retrieve the beer.  I got it to my kitchen, hoisted it up to the counter, removed the airlock, and got ready to siphon it into the bucket.

But first, the all-important taste test.  I siphoned off about half a pint glass worth of beer and took a deep breath.  I always find this part nerve-wracking, since I want it to be good.  A quick look at the beer showed the extra week clarifying really paid off.  The beer was too dark to see through, but I could definitely tell the clarity was there.  I raised the glass and took a sip, and I’m extremely happy to say the beer’s flavor stayed consistent with the first taste I had: dark, rich and smooth, with almost no hint of yeast.  Woohoo!

Yes, those are red countertops.

Pleased with my product, I started the siphon, which went rather quickly since I had the carboy up rather high (note to self for next time).  I traded the positions of the bottling bucket and the carboy and got ready to bottle.  I took my sanitized bottles, gave them a quick rinse to get rid of any remaining sanitizer, and got to bottling.  I’d stop to cap after getting through about a dozen or so.

In the end, I had a case of 12 ounce and a case of 22 ounce bottles, all filled with a very promising porter.  I’ll have to wait 2.5 weeks for the final product, but all signs are pointing to having a winner on my hands.  It was more than enough to make the final cleaning of all my equipment bearable, even though I did turn my kitchen to a neck-breaking slip-and-slide in the process.

Porter on the Move

If you haven’t noticed by now, my posts have been on the chronological short bus. I started this blog about a week after I initially brewed my beer, and then life kept getting in the way of keeping this up to date.  I promise to do better in the future, and graduate my posts to a regular bus.

About 2 weeks ago, after the botched redecorating attempt, my airlock pretty much stopped popping, signaling fermentation had completed.  It was time to move my beer to the secondary glass carboy.  This is usually the the first taste a brewer gets of his creation, so I was excited to get going.

After cleaning and sanitizing my carboy, auto-siphon, and second airlock, I carefully removed my beer from it’s resting place in my closet and examined.  Because of the ridiculously active fermentation, I had a ton of krausen at the top of my beer.  The beer appeared to be a very dark brown in color.  I could be black, and the light carpet in my bedroom could be giving it an off color.  Either way, I thought this was a good sign – right in line with the style.  A good amount of yeast, protein and other solids had settled at the bottom of the fermenter.

Time to get a better look at my beer.  I took the airlock off the fermenter, and placed the siphon in my beer, with the other end going in my trusty Captain Lawrence pint glass. I got the siphon going, and filled the pint glass about half way.  I held up my creation to examine.  The color was the same inside the fermenter.  Raising the glass up to the light, the beer was cloudy and thick, and I couldn’t really see through it.  Again, all good signs since this is a porter and its due to spend another week or so clarifying.  I held it up to my nose and took a smell.  It was a nice, dark, rich smell, right on par with porters.

Now, the moment of truth.  I raise the glass to my lips and took a sip.  Low and behold, it tasted like beer!  I’m always amazed by this, that I can make a beer and have it taste like beer, and not some sort of back-country moonshine.  The flavor was dark, rich and malty, and the texture was a bit syrupy.  It was extremely smooth, which I think is a combination of the style and the fact the beer isn’t carbonated yet.  Everything seemed to be right on with what it should be.  I did a little happy dance.

I finished siphoning the beer over to the secondary carboy, popped on the airlock, and moved it back into the closet to clarify.  It will be there for a week or 2 as more yeast, protein and other solids settle out of it.  Next it will be ready to bottle, and soon it will be ready to drink.

Keep your fingers crossed – I might have a winner on my hands!

Painting With Beer…Involuntarily

Not only did my yeast throw a party in the fermentor, they decided to do a little redecorating.  I guess the party thought the walls in my closet were a little too bland and decided to take matters into their own hands.

I came home from work to find that not only had the krausen bubbled into my airlock, it had popped the airlock clean off of the fermentor.  This resulted in my fermentor sitting in a healthy heap of krausen, with a little bit of spatter on the wall.

Needless to say, I panicked.  I quickly grabbed my second airlock, rushed it into some sanitized water, and popped it on the fermentor.  The airlock almost immediately started popping about twice a second, so I knew my fermentation was still good and active.

I commenced clean up of the botched painting experiment, wiping down and underneath the fermentor, and the little bit on the walls.  That’s when I realized I positioned the fermentor directly underneath my suits.  I’m happy to say my dressy threads were spared, and I will not be creating a new fashion trend of beer painted suits.

I did some research on the popping off of airlocks, and luckily, it isn’t as bad as I thought.  The general consensus is as long as the yeast continued producing gas at the rate at a high-enough rate, it’d keep out any contaminants and the beer would be fine.  Since the airlock immediately started popping at a fast rate when I replaced it, I knew the beer was still good to go.

So no harm, no foul.  I’m going to need a bouncer for the next yeast party.

(Note to self: buy a blow-off tube.)

Yeast Gone Wild – with 100% Less Boobs!

The yeast decided to throw a party in my fermentor.  And from the looks of it, this party is off the chain!  This is definitely the most active fermentation I’ve had to date.  My 3-piece airlock is popping twice every 2 seconds.  All this in less and 8 hours since I pitched the yeast.

I’m glad this fermentation is so lively.  It means when I pitched the yeast, it was really healthy and ready to get started on producing a high-quality beer.  It also means I reduced my risk of infection, since the wort will be active and not sitting around.  I’ve had previous trouble during the stage – ala my first brew of burnt-rubber ale.

I’m really excited this brew is off to a great start, even if my invitation to the yeast party was lost in the mail.

*Note – I’m about a week ahead of my posts in the brewing process.  This actually happened last Monday, but I wanted to get a post up about it.

Sierra Nevada Porter Clone

I’m back at it – back in the brewing saddle. I forgot how much fun brewing is. For Christmas, Kim (my girlfriend) bought me a Sierra Nevada Porter Clone kit from a local home brew place, Maltose Express. Although, the porter style was actually a mistake. I told her I wanted to brew a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale clone, and she went in and grabbed the first kit she saw that said Sierra Nevada. No worries though – I’ve had their porter before, and it’s one of the best out there. I’m eager to get started!

This will definitely be a learning process for me. This is my first time brewing a kit from Maltose. I’ve learned most home brewing stores have their own philosophies and ways of brewing. Each one has their own tricks and twists on how to brew, so I’ll keep an eye out for Maltose’s take on how to brew.

Even before I start the ever-so-fun process of cleaning and sanitizing 6 months of sedation from my equipment, I smack into my first different – literally. Maltose is big believes in the new Wyeast Activator “Smack Packs.” Basically, its pitchable yeast in a sealed plastic container, kind of like the new tuna pouches. Inside the bag are the most important part of brewing, the yeast, along with a sealed nutrient pack. About 2 hours before you’re ready to pitch the yeast, you take this package out of the fridge and smack it to break the sealed nutrient and release it to the eager-to-eat yeast. This wakes the yeast up and gets them multiplying even before you pitch them, minimizing time to full fermentation. It’s basically a built in yeast starter, and I got mine going early on.

After the cleaning and sanitizing is complete, I notice my next twist. In my first 2 recipes, I added a full 3 gallons of water to the brewpot, and steeped the grains in the water until it reached 150 degrees. This recipe calls for me to steep the grains in 1 gallon of 150 degree water for 50 minutes. It’s not a huge change, but it was a bit of a challenge.

So I decided to try a combination of both ways. I loaded my crystal, chocolate and black malt into a muslin bag, popped it into 1 gallon of water in my brew pot, and brought the temperature to 150 degrees. Keeping the temperature at a constant 150 for 30 minutes was tough. When I got the temp to 150, I put the lid on the brewpot, kept the thermometer in, and turned the burner on my stove off. When it dipped below 150, I removed the lid and turned the burner back on. I played this game a few times during the 30 minute steeping. I contemplated putting the brewpot in the oven at 150 with the lid on so I didn’t have to keep playing this yo-yo game with the temperature. I may do it next time, but this system seems to be working for now.

After 30 minutes of steeping, I sparged (rinsed) the grains with a half gallon of 150 water, which I kept in a sanitized pot in the oven. I thought that was rather clever 🙂

Here’s where I made a mini-mistake. After removing the muslin bag and rinsing the grain, I immediately started adding the light dry malt extract (DME) to the pot. I had trouble keeping it from clumping together, and I was only able to pour a little at a time. I checked the recipe and found I was supposed to boil the grain water before adding the DME. Oops. I was a bit pissed at myself for overlooking this, but I only added a little bit of the DME, so it’s all good.

I boiled the grain water after some fighting with my stove (damn burn didn’t want to stay on), and added the rest of the DME (which barely clumped, so I was able to add it much quicker) along with the malto dextrin, malt extract syrup, and nugget and centennial hops, both in hop bags. I brought everything to a nice, hot rolling boil based on advice from Joe Postma, a great homebrewer and fountain of brewing knowledge. I was worrying about clarity of my beer, and he told me this would go a long way to help make it crystal clear.

I boiled everything for 45 minutes, avoiding a few boilovers in the process. At that time, I popped in cascade hops and some Irish moss to add a nice, subtle hop flavor and some clarity to the brew. After 15 more minutes, I removed the brewpot from the burner to complete the boil.

Now came the ever-so-important process of getting the wort from boiling to 70 degrees as quickly as possible. I contemplated buying a wort chiller based on advice from Joe, but I decided against it. Because I’m still brewing with extract, I can add cold water to the concentrated wort to get the temperature down quickly, as opposed to all grain, full 5 gallon brewing, where you add no water to the wort. I filled my sink with cold water, ice cubes, and ice packs, and put the brewpot in for 20 minutes. I got the temperature down pretty quickly.

Next I put my trusty filter funnel in the mouth of my glass 6.5 gallon fermenter. I carefully poured the wort through the filter into the fermenter. It took a pours because the filter kept clogging. which means it’s doing it’s job well. After all the wort was in, I added cold water until I hit my 5 gallon water line. This put the temperature at right around 72 degrees – perfect yeast-pitching temperature for this beer.

I turned back to get my already-smacked yeast pack, and oh boy did the package expand! It was just about to pop, which means I have some very active and eager yeast on my hands. I sanitized the outside of the packet, tore it open, pitched in the yeast, and popped on my 3 piece airlock filled halfway with water.

My apartment is nice and big, but it’s lacking in the closet department. The best place to store my brew while it’s fermenting and clarifying is in the closest in my bedroom, which just so happens to be clear on the other side of my apartment. I now have the lovely task of waddling 5 gallons of beer to my bedroom…and it’s about 11pm at night. Lovely. Luckily at this stage, getting oxygen to the yeast is a good thing, so all the splashing around inside the fermenter the beer did was a good thing.

And that’s where it currently sits, tucked in the back of my closet, next to my suits and my Dharma costume from Halloween. Minimal fermentation began before I went to bed, with the airlock popping about once a minute or so. The full-on fermentation should begin in a few hours.

Be sure to check back to see how this brew progresses. I’m also in the process of thinking of a name for this one. Stay tuned!

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