River Crew Brewing

Homebrewing Techniques/Equipment

Everything has changed, absolutely nothing’s changed

It’s been too long.

When last we wrote to you with any regularity there was only one River Crew baby. Now there are four.

Two members lived and brewed in Texas. One has since returned to Pennsylvania with our brewing equipment, while the other has moved north of Seattle (and purchased his own equipment.)

Even the style of beer we prefer has shifted. While our group text once focused on finding big, dark, barrel-aged stouts, most of us now prefer bold, citrusy Northeast DIPAs. We use the word dank a lot.

A lot.

Brew days have been few and far between. Before loading his gear into a Penske truck and leaving Texas, our brewmaster Andy stirred up some pumpkin ale and let it spend time in a bourbon barrel. That beer was served at his brother’s wedding.

Then late last summer, three of us got together on a sweltering day and got to work on a hop-forward rye IPA. Brew day went perfectly, for the most part. Our kettle had trouble with the boil — we’ve since upgraded — but the smells coming from Andy’s new garage — a lot of Nelson Sauvin hop juiciness — filled the neighborhood. The beer was gorgeous and the smells were righteously dank. We had high hopes for what we called Clear Ryes, Full Hops, Can’t Lose.

And here is where this post turns into a rumination on failure.

The beer never lost its smell (thanks, dry-hopping!), but the pine and juice dissipated from the taste profile. We were left with a very nice, coppery, slightly spicy ale that, honestly, was something of a let down coming off a bright, exotic nose. We still drank it, of course, but for the most part we wondered what could have been.

Andy was devastated. He’s a craftsman in the truest sense of the word, and he’s sure that he did something along the way to make it all go awry. But of course that is nonsense. These things happen when you’re dealing with delicate hop flavors and using a homemade system that calls for lots of jostling and introduces the chance for oxygen to get to the product on numerous occasions.

In brewing, and in life, you often deal with knowing that you’ll never really know where something went wrong, or why.

All you can do is try again.

We’re going to do that on Saturday. It’s not the right time to go after Clear Ryes again — we envisioned it as the perfect early fall beer — and we’re excited to produce our own interpretation of a hazy NE IPA.

We’ll tell you more about it later this week.

Equipment Upgrade – Burner


My Burner

Another step in my upgrade to all-grain was purchasing a free-standing propane burner.

While my new apartment came with lots of storage space and a great layout, it also came with an electric stove.  I have a few friends who brew on electric stoves and they hate it.  They say it takes forever to get the wort to a boil, and maintaining a consistent temperature is next to impossible.

I hit the ‘nets and got to researching.  I looked into a few options, the first being 4 free-standing electric burners.  These high-output burners could give adequate power to boil 6+ gallons of wort, but balancing my brewpot between them all was an issue, not to mention the “ghetto” nature of putting a pot on 4 different burners at once.

In the end, the most logical step was the one most homebrewers have already taken – getting a free-standing propane burner.  I got acquainted with the different burners out there, and narrowed down my preferences to a quality burner with good output and a low PSI so I didn’t burn through propane like crazy.

I decided on the Bayou Classic SQ14 Single Burner Outdoor Patio Stove.  The 30,000 BTUs was a pretty good amount of power, and the 10 PSI regulator would keep my propane use at a reasonable level.  Plus, at $50, it was pretty affordable.

Burner In Action

Burner In Action

So far – I love it!  It kicks pretty good.  I can get about 6-7 gallons of wort to a boil in about 15 minutes.  It’s a far cry from the hour plus it would take on the electric stove.  It has an oxygen regulator as well, which lets me get a nice blue flame to shave a few minutes off the time to boil.  Plus, I’ve started heating up my sparge water with it.  I can start the burner right before I mash out, and when the 10 minutes of the mash out are up, the water’s already at 170 degrees.

This burner has really shaved a lot of time off my brew day, and has helped me produce better beer.

Fermentation Fridge FTW!

The Fermentation Fridge in Action

The Fermentation Fridge in Action

My fermentation fridge rocks!  I had to call it into it’s first action of the season last week.  I brewed Jake’s Swedish Blonde – a highly-hopped but light-bodied blonde ale for the summer.  The beer was happily fermenting in my basement when Mother Nature decide to turn off the super-soaker and throw us into the oven, and weather went from mild and rainy to mid-summer hot overnight.

Yeast isn’t the biggest fan of temperature swings, and I learned the hard way fermenting at too high a temperature throws off-flavors into the beer.  So, as the thermostat in my house crept higher and higher, so did my worry about this beer.  I checked the temperature in the basement and it was sitting around 72, and temperature inside the carboy was around 72-74, which is the highest I was comfortable with.

I didn’t want to shock the yeast and put them to sleep, so I set the fridge to 55 degrees and monitored the temperature inside the carboy like a hawk.  As soon it got to the 68-72 range, I set the temp as high as it could go, which I was presently surprised to find was 65 degrees.

68 Degrees - Perfect Fermentation Temp

68 Degrees - Perfect Fermentation Temp

The fridge completely bailed me out and saved a batch of beer before it went bad.  Jake’s Swedish Blonde is still fermenting away, enjoy temperatures of 63-68 degrees regardless of how hot it gets outside.  It takes a ton of worry out since I can now control something most homebrewers can’t.

Jake's Swedish Blonde sitting at a comfortable 68 degrees

Jake's Swedish Blonde sitting at a comfortable 68 degrees

I’m so glad I picked this thing up.

Equipment Upgrade – Brew Kettle

Brew Kettle

Better pot for better brews!

After building my mash tun in my quest to upgrade to all-grain, my next move was a bigger brew kettle.  I had been doing partial boil extract, and my little 4 gallon pot just couldn’t handle the 6+ gallons needed for all-grain.

Like most homebrewers, I started my research online.  I knew I wanted to keep to to 5 gallon batches, so larger pots and keggles were out.  I consulted with my homebrew guru Joe Postma, who heavily recommended checking out the Heavy Duty Brew Kettles with Ball Valves from MoreBeer.com.

I went with the 32 Quart Heavy Duty Brew Kettle with a Ball Valve.  It was exactly what I wanted.  It’s big enough to easily handle a 5 gallon batch.  The seemless weld for the 2 ports ensure no leaks.  And it’s super solid so it should last a long time.

From the picture above, you can see I did a few custom upgrades to it.  First, after getting the ball valve assembly, I added a threaded thermometer to help keep a close eye on my temperatures.  Since I use this to heat up my sparge water, the thermometer will definitely be helpful.

Second, I added a braid filter to help keep the hop leaves and trub in the kettle and out of my beer.  I use the same braid filter I made my mash tun.  I simply made 2 with the correct fittings when I built my tun.

Brew Kettle in Action

The Brew Kettle in Action

So far the kettle’s been great.  I’ve had no problems with it at all.  It holds heat really well.  The thermometer’s been a huge help too.  I always know where the water and the wort are at.  My only complain is by my own doing.  I didn’t use hops bags making Travis’s Matrimonial Mild, and the hop pellets clogged my braid filter.  I was hoping to be done with hops bags, so its my own fault.  But, I learned my lesson, and I’ve got my all-grain brew days down pretty well!

Equipment Upgrades – Fermentation Fridge

Fermentation Fridge

Say goodbye to high fermentation temps

If you remember back, I had some trouble with my fermentation temperatures.  Due to the ambient summer temperature in my apartment, I had a few beers ferment at around 80+ degrees.  This led to some off-flavoring in my beers, and I actually ended up dumping a few of them. 

After getting a few negative reviews and feeling the pain of dumping beer down the drain, I knew I had to step up my game.  One of the first things I did was jump on Craigslist and look for a small fridge to help control my fermentation temperatures.  With space being an issure, I wanted something I could keep tucked in a closet, but big enough to hold a primary fermentor.

After a few days of research, I came across the wine fridge pictured above.  It was exactly what I was looking for – it’s 48 bottle capacity can hold a primary fermentor, airlock, and have enough room for a blow off tube.  Plus, I could easily slide it into a closet to keep it out of the way.

What put this fridge over the top was its external temperature control.  It has buttons and an LED readout that let me keep the fridge at a constant temperature between 60 and 45 degrees.  It’s the control I was looking for and was sorely lacking before.  While 60 degrees seems low for an ale, it’s better than 80 degrees, and I’ve found that the temperature inside the primary during fermentation is usually a few degrees higher than the temperature around it.  Plus, this gives me the ability to lager beer as well.

So far I haven’t had to use it, as the temperatures lately have been fermentation-friendly.  Come summer or my first lager, I look forward to giving it a spin!

Building My 10 Gallon Mash Tun Cooler

The Finished Product - She's A Beauty

The Finished Product – She’s A Beauty

*UPDATE: Rumor has it Home Depot has a new cooler they sell in stores. The spigot is larger, creating a sizable gap. It looks like some people solved this with more washers, but it wasn’t ideal. This link looks to be the same cooler I used: 10 Gallon Rubbermaid Cooler. It’s more expensive than I listed below, and it looks like you can only buy them in-store. Use the store locator to make sure your local Home Depot has this exact cooler. Or, it looks like Homebrew Finds located this cooler at Walmart, which looks to be the same: Rubbermaid 10-Gallon Water Cooler, Orange.

The first step in putting on my big boy pants and upgrading to all grain is getting a mash tun.  A mash tun is used to hold grains at a specific temperature for a long period of time in order to extract those sweet, sweet sugars that give beer it’s flavor and turn into the hooch after the yeast is done with them.  There’s no need for a mash tun with extract brewing since the mashing process is already done for you, and now that I have more space with the new apartment, it was time to get one.

The Start of Something Beautiful

The Start of Something Beautiful

For my mash tun, I chose to build my own out of a 10 gallon cooler.  I’ve been fortunate to collaborate on some all grain recipes with a few very experienced brewers.  They all recommended a 10 gallon tun because it offers enough room for the amount of grain boozier beers and larger-volume batches require.  Props go out to Jonathan Moxey, Chris Lehault, and Andrew Maiorana for the advice.

I was pretty set on buying a pre-made mash tun I saw on Midwest Supply. But then I did some digging around, and I stumbled upon this post over at HomeBrewTalk: Cheap & Easy 10 Gallon Rubbermaid MLT Conversion

$60 vs. $120? Yes, please!

Using that link as my blueprint, I took a free Saturday afternoon and 3 trips to Home Depot to build my mash tun.  Here’s how I did it.  I made a few modifications along the way, and I’ll outline where they were.

Getting Started

Getting Started

First, here’s the inventory with links to what I bought at Home Depot as a reference. Items are listed in order of their use in the project:

The equipment I have outlined above totals $68.30, which is half of what I’ve seen for pre-made tuns.  A sense of accomplishment = priceless.

Here’s how I put this thing together:

First – Remove the Seal
Before the customizing starts, you need to take apart the existing spigot. To do this, hold the spigot outside of the cooler with one hand while unscrewing the piece inside the cooler with your other hand. If you need, use a wrench to loosen the plastic nut inside the cooler. You can disregard the spigot and plastic nut, but hold on to the white rubber seal to use later on.

Second – Create the Braid Filter
This took me the most amount of time for this project. You need to cut the ends off the Watts Stainless Steel Faucet Connector. Now, you might have the tools laying around to cut through metal, but I sure don’t. I picked up a mini hacksaw made to cut through metal) ($6.94), and used a 2-step method to cut it off.

Making the Initial Cut

Making the Initial Cut

To get through the metal braid, I made the initial cut with the hacksaw, and kept going till I got about half way through the tubing inside.  Then, I took out my pocket knife and cut the rest off.  Sturdy regular scissor should do the trick just fine.  I trimmed a few of the stray metal pieces off to avoid them scratching up the inside of the tun.  Careful – they’re freaking sharp.

Switching to Finish Cutting the Braid

Switching to Finish Cutting the Braid

Next, you need to get the metal braid off of the tubing.  This is a bit tricky, and took me awhile to get started.  The braid is kind of like a Chinese finger trap, so pulling it off could cause it rip.  Take a pair of needle nose pliers, open them, and use the 2 sides to push the braid off the tubing. Once you get it going, it’s should push off pretty easy.

Removing the Braid from the Tube

Removing the Braid from the Tube

Take the Watts A-737 Square Plug, put the threaded end into the braid, use a zip tie to lock it into place, and cut off the excess.  The post I followed called for Stainless Steel Hose clamps, but a follow up post showed the screws rusting on the clamps. Rust and beer don’t really mix, so after weighing a couple of options, I went with the zip ties.

It’s almost a filter now, but we’ll save the final assembly for later.

3. Assemble The Internal Bulkhead
Now we’ll start assembling the pieces that connect through the place for the spigot. Take the Watts A-786 Brass Pipe Nipple and apply a few wraps of the Teflon tape to one end of it. Slide on the Stainless Steel Washer from the Create-A-Bolt kit onto the middle of the nipple. it will be a bit loose, but that will change once everything’s fully assembled. Attached the Watts A-298 Female Barb Adapter onto the end of the nipple your wrapped with the Teflon tape.

Completing the Inside

Completing the Inside

4. Insert the Bulkhead
This part is a bit tough, but it’s because we’re making the tun water tight. Place the White Rubber Seal from the original spigot back to its original spot through the inside of the cooler. Take the Nipple with the barb attached and insert the non-Tefloned end into the seal. It might be hard to get it through, but with some negotiating, you should be fine.

5. Assemble The External Bulkhead
Now that the connecting mechanism is in place and the inside is partially assembled, we can get started on the outside. Start by sliding the 5/8″ O-Ring onto the nipple, and apply a few wraps of Teflon tape to the threads of the nipple. Slide the 3 5/8″ Fender Washers onto the nipple as a spacer to make sure everything’s tight once the ball valve is attached.

Starting the Outside

Starting the Outside

Attach the ball valve to the nipple, keeping in mind how the lever for the ball valve opens and closes (I put mine on backwards at first.) As you screw it on, everything should get pretty tight. Apply a few wraps of Teflon tape to the Watts A-294 Male Barb Valve, and screw it into the ball valve.

Attaching The Ball Valve

Attaching The Ball Valve

6. Attach the Braid Filter
Take the Stainless Steel Braid Filter with the attached Square Plug and slide it onto the barb inside the cooler. Use a zip tie to attach it to the barb, and cut off the excess from the zip tie.

Success! With about an hour’s worth of work and the right parts, you build a mash tun and save in the process. Like I said, sense of accomplishment = priceless. But don’t forget to…

The Attached Braid Filter while Testing the System

The Attached Braid Filter while Testing the System

7. Test The System
Everything’s assembled, but does it work? Give your new system a test to make sure. I filled mine up with about 2 gallons of hot water, put on the lid, and let it sit for about 10 minutes. After that, I checked for leaks, and thankfully there were none. I drained the water through the ball valve without any leaks as well.

Testing the System - Success!

Testing the System – Success!

Can’t wait to put this baby to use!

By in Homebrewing Techniques/Equipment 0

Kegerator Upgrade

New Taps

From Awesome to Epic

What’s better than having your own beer on tap? Having your own tap handles for your beer that’s on tap!


Tres Beauties

Tres Beauties

I picked up 3 Oak-Finished Changeable Tap Handles from NortherBrewer.com.  These double-sided beauties have a space for 2″ x 3.5″ business card stock, which means I can print out different labels for my beer and put them in the handles.  Check it out:

Joe's Endless Summer Wheat Tap Handle

Joe's Endless Summer Wheat Tap Handle

Ballast Point Big Eye IPA Tap Handle

Ballast Point Big Eye IPA Tap Handle

Bad Dog Tap Handle

Bad Dog Tap Handle

It’s a neat level of customization that I really like.  It makes the kegerator feel more like a bar, and adds a nice layer of sophistication to my homebrews.  Another step closer to that ultimate dream – owning a brewpub.


The Kegerator Project

From boring to beautiful in just 3 taps

From boring to beautiful in just 3 taps

Since right around the time this crazy brewery idea started materializing out of the wort, I wanted to build a kegerator.  My buddies and I talked about it a lot.  They ended up buying single tap systems, but I knew I wanted something custom – something I could put together and really make mine.

Then I started homebrewing, and seriously, how cool would it be to have your own beer on tap?  I could have a system that I built with my beer flowing from it.  It’d be like having my own brewpub at home, and another step towards legitimizing the River Crew Brewing Company.

So follow me as I take you through one hop-head’s journey on taking another step towards his dream by building a kegerator.

Planning for Greatness
My first step in building a kegerator was to figure out my ideal configuration.  Kegerator or keezer (freezer instead of fridge)?  How many taps?  Just homebrew or commercial as well?

After months of research, debates and sitting-on-pins excitement, I decided on a 3 tap kegerator, all 3 lines for homebrew, and one line where I could attach a commercial coupler.

There are a few reasons I wanted to go this route.  I didn’t have the space for a chest freezer in my apartment, so I went with a fridge.  Three lines would give me a variety of beer on tap.  The 3 lines also encouraged me to get a lot of brewing experience under my belt.  And the one commercial line gave me a place to put a beer I like on tap, and allowed me to put a crowd-pleaser on if we were having people over who weren’t beer fans (and gave me ways to convert them).

The Purchases

Future Beauty

Future Beauty

To build my mini-brewpub to-be, I need a few things.  First off – a fridge.  I scoured Craigslist to find the right fridge, and saw a few, but none of them were my ideal set up.  As luck would have it, I found just what I was looking for at a yard sale around the corner.  One awkward walk down the street with this thing on a handtruck later, I was halfway done with my equipment recon mission.

Next, I needed a conversion kit.  I found that most places only really offered a 2 tap system at most, and it was expensive on top of it.  I compared a few kits, and decided the 3 Tap Door Mount Homebrew system from LearnToBrew.com was the best fit for me.

The 3 Tap Door Mount System from LearnToBrew.com

The 3 Tap Door Mount System from LearnToBrew.com

It came with the faucets included, and the kit came pre-assembled.  They also offered a Sankey D Coupler with threaded fittings already attached so I could move a line from homebrew to commercial with ease.

It was a happy day in my apartment when the kit arrived.

The Assembly
Finally, construction day came!  Before I got started, I assembled a few necessary tools:

The hardware and tools

The hardware and tools

  • Drill
  • 1″ Bi-Metal Hole Saw bit from Home Depot
  • A drill bit set, most importantly a 1/4″ bit
  • An adjustable wrench that can accommodate up to a 1″ hexagonal bit
  • Masking tape
  • A few smaller screws to hold the gas manifold in place
  • The 3 Tap Kit
  • Tape Measure
  • An assistant

Step 1
I cleaned the heck outta the fridge. It was in pretty good shape to begin with, but I wanted to be sure it was pristine.

Step 2

Measure Twice. Drill Once.

Measure Twice. Drill Once.

With the fridge in place, I took the masking tape and made a straight line on the front of the fridge at the lever I wanted the taps to be.  I really wanted to be sure everything was level and looked great.  After measuring, I put a dot on the tape with a marker where I wanted the faucets to be, ensuring they were evenly spaces.

Step 3
Drill baby drill!  On the dots I drew, I started drilling with the smallest drill bit I have, making sure I made the first hole level. It took a little while and decent amount of re-centering to punch the initial hole in the steel.  Once I had the initial hole, I used increasingly larger bits, usually jumping 2 sizes at a time, to increase the hole size until I got to the 1/4″ bit.  Every now and then the bit would get stuck in the steel, so I backed it out and started the bit spinning before I put it back to the fridge to try and power through.

My assistant for the day

My assistant for the day

When it was time to use the 1/4″ bit, I attached it to the center of the 1″ hole saw bit.  There’s a spot for it in the middle of the bit, with and adjustable tightener at the bottom.  The 1/4″ bit stuck out about 1/4″ from the hole saw, leading the way for it, and creating an anchor for the hole saw to grab hold of the steel.

This is when the sparks fly…literally.  Cutting through steel is tough, let alone a 1″ hole.  It took awhile for the hole saw to cut into the door, and a pretty decent amount of time to get through it.  I had to lean into the drill, and even then it got stuck and I had to back it out.  It took about 15-20 minutes to get through the steel.

Once through, drilling was pretty easy.  All that was left was about 2″ of insulation and the plastic on the other side.  The hole saw bit filled with insulation once or twice, but other than that, it was smooth sailing.  As I neared the plastic inside of the door, I slowed the drill to make sure I cut through carefully.  Plastic can splinter when you drill it, so taking this part carefully is really important.

One down, 2 to go

One down, 2 to go

Once I had 1 down, the next 2 were pretty easy.  The only road bump I hit was the center faucet.  Behind where I marked on the door was where you’d normally keep butter and other smaller items.  And, of course, I chose to drill directly through them.  I used a small saw on my trusty pocket knife to cut out a section, and got some duct tape to help insulate the places I cut.

Step 4

Starting to take shape

Starting to take shape

Now that the heavy lifting is out of the way, now comes the time when it starts looking like a kegerator!  I unscrewed the tubing and the “door-tightening nut” from the back of the shank and faucet, loaded the rest of the equipment into the fridge, and put the shank through the newly-drilled hole in the door.  I rescrewed the “door-tightening nut” and the tubing to the back of the shank.  To make sure everything was tight and secure, I tightened the “door-tightening nut” (see why I called it that) till it was flush and beginning to press against the door. I then took a second to admire that my kegerator at least LOOKED like a kegerator.

Step 5

Sizing up the inside

Sizing up the inside

Now everything on the door’s hooked up, and I have a whole equipment in the fridge that needs my attention: the CO2 regulator, the gas manifold, the CO2 tank, both ends of the taps, and all the tubing.  To start, I attached the CO2 bottle to the regulator to get a sense of how much room it will take up, and how high the gas manifold would need to be mounted.

Again with the measure twice, cut once

Again with the measure twice, cut once

From there, I positioned the gas manifold on the back wall of the fridge where the CO2 regulator and tank would comfortably allow it.  I held it there with one hand and put marks on the back wall through the screw mounts on the manifold where I wanted the screws to go.  I put the manifold down and drilled out holes just smaller than the screws I had to anchor it to the fridge.  At least I thought they were just smaller.  Turns out the holes I drilled were a little larger than the screws, but they still held the manifold comfortably in place.  Nothing a little superglue couldn’t fix.

Here, I took a step back and was very proud.  It looked like a kegerator!  Now to see if it works…

Testing The System
It took me a week or 2 to do this part.  I stopped by Maltose, my local homebrew store, and got my 5lb CO2 cylinder filled.  I hooked it up to the system and made sure all the valves to the lines were open.

Now, here’s the nerve-wracking moment of the night – opening up the CO2 tank and seeing if there were any leaks.  I turned open the CO2, and set the regulator to about 20 PSI – enough that if there were a leak, I’d hear it.  I listened closely to all the connections, and luckily I heard no leaks!

Being as neurotic as I am, I put some dish soap into a spray bottle, and filled it up with water to give me some nice soapy water.  I got into full sniper mode (minus the ghillie suit), sprayed water on all the connections, and looked for any bubbling that would indicate a leak.  I saw no bubbles.  Not being convinced, I continued to soak the connections, just to be sure.  After using about half the bottle, I could finally put to rest any concerns about leaks in my system.  Woohoo!  I turned off the CO2 and released the pressure from the lines.

Cleaning/Sanitizing The System
I waited till my Flying Dog Doggie Style Pale Ale clone (which turned out to be Bad Dog) was ready to be kegged to do this.  I figured – why not kill 2 birds with 1 stone and clean/sanitize the keg while cleaning/sanitizing the system.

Fill 'er up...with OxiClean

Fill 'er up...with OxiClean

When my fateful first kegging day finally rolled around, I first removed the lid and all the stems from the corny keg.  I poured a full 1/2 cup’s worth of OxiClean Free into the keg, and filled it with hot water, while I soaked the parts I removed in a small bowl with some OxiClean Free. After hand-washing the small parts and rinsing, I put them back on the keg, which is still full of the OxiClean mixture, and made sure they were tight.

I carried the keg to the kegerator.  And, I have to say, I definitely felt like a bar owner moving a keg around.  I set my system to about 30 PSI to make sure I got a lot of cleaner moving through quick.  I hooked up my keg to the first line, let it pressurize for about a minute, and gave the tap handle it’s first ever tug.

Holy Crap!  This actually works!  OxiClean-filled water came rushing through the line and out the tap.  I did a little dance of joy as I filled up a 32 ounce mug of cleaner.  Who would have thought I’d get so excited over OxiClean!

After 2 full mugs, I moved the keg to the next 2 lines and repeated the same procedure.  And yes, my beer dance of joy was repeated 2 more times.

I followed pretty much the same procedure for sanitizing the lines as well – mixing up a 5 gallon batch of sanitizing solution inside the keg, then running it through the lines at 30 PSI.  Sadly, the dance of joy was not repeated.  Guess I like OxiClean better than sanitizer.

Kegging and Tapping The First Brew
I outlined the full kegging of my first beer in a previous post.  To summarize: it’s glorious!  It’s basically racking your beer into a bottling bucket (minus the carbonating sugars), and that’s it.  No rinsing, cleaning and sanitizing 48 bottles.  No bottling wands or stuck beer buttons.  No capping like a madman.  Kegging. Is. Awesome.

This being the first brew I kegged, I wasn’t exactly sure how to carbonate it.  Do I force carbonate it – cranking the PSI to 30, forcing the CO2 in, and having my beer ready to drink in a day?  Do I set-it-and-forget-it for about 2 weeks at 12 PSI?  Do I use carbonating sugar? After consulting with homebrew guru Joe Postma, I decided on the second option – setting it at 12 PSI and letting it slowly carbonate over 2 weeks.  To make sure I had the right serving temperature, I stuck a glass of water with my thermometer in it in the kegerator overnight, and adjusted the temperature till I got to 38 degrees – the optimum serving temperature.

All hooked up and ready to flow

All hooked up and ready to flow

I again did the wannabe-bar-owner waddle with the full keg to the kegerator.  I load it in, attached the lines, opened the CO2 tank, and set the lines to about 12 PSI.  I heard the CO2 rushing into the keg, and did my happy dance all over again.

Now, the moment of truth.  I gave the tap handle its second-ever tug and…….YES! IT WORKS! IT WORKS! IT WORKS!  Happy dance indeed!

My beer came slowly pouring out of the faucet.  At first it was a mixture of sanitizer and beer, change quickly to just pure, pure beer.  I filled 2 pint glasses and discarded them to be sure I didn’t drink any sanitizer.

Then, I couldn’t help myself.  I tapped my first ever homebrew.  Though it wasn’t carbonated, still filled with leftover yeast, and eventually turned out to be bad, it was the best beer I ever had.

And there it is – my little how-to on taking a step towards a dream and owning a brewpub.  It took awhile for the plan to come together (and to write this post), but damn, is it worth it.

If you’re reading this, you have a standing open invitation to come out, view my baby, and sample anything I may have on tap at the time.


A brew, a dog, and a sense of accomplishment. One step closer to the dream.

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