River Crew Brewing


By in About RCBC 0

Latest Picture of The River Crew

The River Crew

Of course we're at a bar

Here’s the latest picture of the crazy cast called the River Crew.  From the left it’s myself, Travis, Mattie, CB, Timmy and Mikey.  Stew and Jake are the only missing parties.

This was taken at our annual “Shit Show at the Ugly O”, which is begging to be the name for our Winter Seasonal.  Every year, we get together the night before Christmas Eve and fill our faces with big laughs and great beer.  It’s rare when the gang is in the same place at the same time, so we try to cram as much catching up, reminiscing, and drinking into 1 night as possible.  The result is the crew’s signature: an highly-entertaining shit show.

So far Timmy, Mattie and Stew have had beers created for them, with Mikey and Travis’s brews in the works, and my and Jake’s beers being formulated.  The goal is to have at least 1 beer for each person by the end of the year, plus a few for different events of occasions from our collective history.

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 About RCBC 0

“All For The Love of Beer”

Love Beer

The Things You Do For Love

This phrase left my mouth in middle of our move this weekend, as I steadied the door to my kegerator while my dad unbolted it, just after we put our front door back on it’s hinges. 

New Taps

Glad It Was Worth It

Now,  I knew moving the kegerator would be a pain.  I mean, it’s a fridge – it’s huge, it’s heavy, and its awkward to move.  I just didn’t realize exactly how much of a pain it would be. 

You see – my new place has 2 entryways: the front and the back.  I assumed the back door would be the easiest way in the house, since it was closer to where we wanted to put it.  But my dad, ever the engineer, measured and decided the front would be easier since it’s wider.

We got the kegerator up the front stairs and in the front porch with the help of an appliance dolly and some muscle from my dad and brother.  Some additional negotiating got it into the hallway leading up to our apartment door rather easily.

Here’s where we learned just how wide this thing is.  It didn’t fit through the main door to our apartment, and we couldn’t find an angle to fit it through.  As much as I’d like access to beer in the hallway, this is less than ideal. 

My dad had the idea to take the front door off it’s hinges.  After measuring, it’d give us enough room at least get the kegerator into the house.  Great, we aren’t even fully moved in and we’re already dismantling the place.  We take the door down, cafefully lean it against the wall, and get the kegerator into the house (albeit, the living room).

Now our next challenge – getting the kegerator into the kitchen.  The entrance into the kitchen from the dining room is even smaller than the front entrance, and there’s no door to take off the hinges.  We lined the kegerator up with the door to see if there was any way to angle it through, but no dice.  At least the dining room is better than the living room.

Then my dad takes a few more measurements (I’m so glad we unpacked the tape measure first), and announces that if we take the doors off the kegerator, it should fit through.  So not only am I dismantling the house, I’m taking apart my kegerator as well.  As we’re unbolting the doors, I uttered the title of this blog post.  Luckily beer is completely worth it.

With the doors off, the kegerator effortlessly slid into the kitchen, and nestled into it’s new home.  Reassembled and fully loaded, it’s ready to keep the brews flowing as we settle in to our new place.

“All for the Love of Beer”

By in About RCBC 2

Upgrading to All-Grain

Big Boy Pants

Time to graduate to Big Boy pants

That’s right – we’re officially graduating to Big Boy pants.  The River Crew Brewing Company is upgrading to All-Grain.

The pending move brings new opportunities.  Space was the main concern for not making the jump.  We’re moving to a bigger place with a more-appealing layout, paving the way for the room and the set up necessary for all-grain.

Now the fun begins – getting all new equipment, finding new recipes, and making my own recipes just like the pros do.  I’ll be updating the site as I start to put my brewery together.  I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and it should be a ton of fun get started on.

Up first – building my own mash tun.

By in About RCBC 2

Brewing on Hold for a Bit

Brewing's On Hold

Please hold while life intervenes..

Sometimes life interrupts the best laid fermentation schedule…or something like that.

Kim and I are moving, which means instead of creating delicious beer, I get to pack my entire life into lots of boxes, load it into a rental truck and cart it on down the road.  We’re only moving a few miles away, but, as I’m sure you’re aware, it pretty much consumes your entire life until it’s done.

Believe me, I’ve thought through every scenario where I could still brew and move at the same time, especially with the lack of brewing I’ve done lately.  However, the thought of a carboy full of freshly fermented wort riding shotgun in my car isn’t very appealing for me or the beer it’d produce.  It’s best to shut it down all together for the meantime.

But, that’s doesn’t mean I’ll have nothing to write about.  I have a healthy backlog of topics to get up here: my write up for Stew’s Beer for Breakfast Stout, new equipment purchases and procedures I’ve learned, and a few collaborations I was apart of.  So while I won’t be brewing up anything new, I’ll have plenty to talk about.  Be sure to keep an eye out for updates!

By in #BrewYork 2

Ain’t No Stopping Us Now – #BrewYork 7!

BrewYork 7-2

Bob from Bolero Snort Brewing Comapy and myself obviously enjoying ourselves (Photo courtesy of New Jersey Craft Beer)

Neither snow, nor snow, nor the ridiculous amounts of snow could stop us from getting the gang back together to enjoy the finest fruits the craft beer world has to offer.  We hadn’t gathered since just before Halloween, and with cabin fever setting in, a whole bunch of new faces, and several engagements to celebrate, it was long overdue that we get together – snow be damned.

Despite the layoff and the cold, this group hasn’t lost a step, and #BrewYork 7 was a beer geek’s Valhalla.  The bottle list could bring a tear to your eye.  Talks of brewing rigs, brettanomyces, bottling methods, and beer-vacations echoed around the hallowed grounds of New Jersey Beer Company.  A MacGyver-esque method for removing a corked bottle without a corkscrew was devised.  We spontaneously booed a Budweiser Commercial in unison.  It was everything a #BrewYork event should be.

Check out pics of the shenanigans here: http://www.facebook.com/#!/album.php?aid=365623&id=394283293265 (courtesy of Mike from New Jersey Craft Beer).

BrewYork 7 Bottle Assembly

The humbled Beertographer kneels before the awesomeness assembled at #BrewYork 7

Here’s our bottle list, which has to be one of the best assembled on the East Coast.  This list is lovingly stole from the Reverend David Flaherty over at Grapes and Grains.  Like his list, my favorites are in bold.  Careful now – you may get a visual drunk:

  1. Boulevard Brewing, Bourbon Barrel Quad (missed this one)
  2. Dogfish Head/Sierra Nevada, Life & Limb
  3. Surly, Smoke
  4. Flat Earth, Element 115
  5. Bell’s, 25th Anniversary Ale
  6. Summit, Imperial Pumpkin Porter
  7. New England Brewing Co., Imperial Stout Trooper 2010
  8. Cisco, Lady of the Woods
  9. Hopworks Urban Brewery, Rise Up Red
  10. Just Beer, Case of the IPA
  11. Homebrew: Pumpkin Ale
  12. Homebrew: Black Pepper Brown Ale
  13. Homebrew: IPA
  14. Berkshire Brewing Co., Lost Sailor IPA
  15. Rock Art Brewery, The Vermonster 100 IBU Ale
  16. Innis & Gunn, Lightly Oaked Blonde Ale
  17. Homebrew: Chocolate Milk Stout
  18. North Coast, Old Stock Cellar Reserve
  19. Weyerbacher, Riserva 2010
  20. New England Brewing Co., Ghandi Bot
  21. Cantillon, Lou Pepe Framboise 2007
  22. Boulder Brewing, Killer Penguin 2009
  23. Bell’s, Hopslam
  24. The Bruery, Old Richland
  25. Telegraph Brewing Co., White Ale
  26. Dogfish Head, Pangaea
  27. Fantome, Pissenlit
  28. Cigar City, Warmer Winter Winter Warmer 2009
  29. Cigar City, Improvisacion
  30. Brewdog/Mikkeller, I Hardcore You
  31. The Bruery, Saison Rue
  32. Dogfish Head/Stone/Victory, Saison du BUFF
  33. Flying Dog, Oak Aged Brett Gonzo (pissed I missed this one)
  34. Sam Adams, Triple Bock 1997
  35. Unibroue, Quelque Chose
  36. Sierra Nevada, Celebration 2001
  37. Brewdog/Stone, Bashah
  38. Bolero Snort, Wee Heifer’s Fruitcake
  39. Widmer Brothers, Barrel Aged Brrrbon
  40. Dogfish Head, Wrath of Pecant
  41. Founders, Nemesis
  42. Founders, Curmudgeon Ale
  43. Founders, KBS
  44. Sam Adams, Longshot Winners
  45. Terrapin, Wake & Bake
  46. Palmetto, Bocat
  47. Palmetto, Espresso Porter
  48. Moor, Peat Porter
  49. Moor, JJJ IPA
  50. Muskoka, Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout
  51. Lost Abbey, Judgment Day
  52. Avery, The Czar Russian Imperial Stout
  53. Odell Brewing Co, Woodcut No.4 Oak Aged Lager
  54. Cantillon, Kriek 100% Lambic
  55. Capt. Lawrence, Golden Delicious
  56. Goose Island, Vanilla Bourbon County Stout
  57. Surly, Coffee Bender
  58. Bellwether, King Baldwin Hard Cider
  59. Ithaca, Excelsior! Series Alphalpha
  60. Jolly Pumpkin, Noel De Calabaza
  61. Southern Tier, Series 3 Cuvée
  62. Dieu du Ciel!, Péché Mortel Imperial Coffee Stout
  63. Capt. Lawrence, Flaming Fury
  64. Brasserie à Vapeur, Vapeur de Bises
  65. Blue Point, Toxic Sludge
  66. Ommegang, Zuur
  67. Ten Dudes, Smoked Barleywine
  68. Ten Dudes, Cupcake Porter
  69. Ten Dudes White Peach Sour Ale
By in Mattie's TKO Winter Warmer 0

Mattie’s TKO Winter Warmer – The Beer

Mattie’s TKO Winter Warmer

If you antagonize this beer, it won’t hesitate to cold-cock you.  Big, malty, with a strong boozy backbone, you may only last a few rounds with this brew.

The Beer
Given the back story of this beer, it had a lot to live up to.  With winter right around the corner, I knew I wanted to do something in-season.  I just had to decide what style I wanted to do.  I’m not a big fan of overly spiced beers, so I wanted to avoid those styles.  I wasn’t set up to do a lager yet, so that was out.

While doing some searching, I found a Winter Warmer recipe on NorthernBrewer.com, and I knew I had my recipe.  I’ve only drank a few brews in this style, most notable Lancaster Brewing Company’s, and I always really enjoyed them.  It was exactly what I was looking for – a big, complex malt flavor complimented by a nice hop profile and ending with a boozy alcohol note.

And I have to say – this beer falls right in line with the style.  I’m really pleased with how it came out.  It hits you with the malt up front, but there’s some nice layers to it.  The hops kick in about mid-taste, and the boozy not takes over at the end.

The Recipe and Process
The recipe for this beer is interesting. It’s got a few ingredients I’ve never used before, and combinations I wouldn’t have thought to put together. Unfortunately, since it isn’t my recipe, I can’t post the exact specs here, but I’ll refer to the ingredients without the measurements.

The specialty grains in this beer are unique combo.  I was expecting to use Simpson Crystal and Simpson Chocolate grains for this beer.  I can definitely see Crystal, since this brew has a high OG, but the Chocolate threw me.  It added a good amount of color and complexity to this beer.

To achieve the OG mentioned above, which is 1.069, this beer has a beefy malt backbone of liquid Gold Malt Syrup.  We’re talking almost double digit poundage of the stuff.  It definitely gave the beer the rich booziness I was looking for.

And believe it or not, this recipe had the most amount of hops I’ve used.  This calls for a good amount of Willamette hops, which have a modest bittering value, but are great for aroma filled with earthy spice notes.  While it’s a lot in quantity, it’s not a lot in terms of bitterness, and the hops add a nice richness to this brew.

Although the process was pretty by the books, I was introduced to a new procedure – late malt extract additions.  This is used to combat the carmelization that can occur with liquid malt extract during a 60 minute boil.  Basically, if you put the liquid sugars in the boil for too long, they can burn to an undesirable level.  Adding the liquid malt extract later in the boil helps keep the flavors and color where they should be.

I did make my first ever yeast starter for this beer.  I probably made it a bit small with a 500ml starter for a 1.069 OG beer.  I have to say, this made a HUGE difference in the quality of the beer.  The increased number of yeast cells did their job, and I got a really clean beer in return.

Then came the real tough part with this beer – aging it.  Because of the amount of malt and the deep flavors with this beer, the recipe recommend aging the beer for a month in the secondary.  This way, all the flavors would get to know each other and blend together.  As tough as it was to leave it alone, the finish product benefited from it’s aging.

So there you have it – how a drunken knock out between friends inspired a big, boozy winter brew.  I’ll be enjoying this one until the summer months and hoping it doesn’t put my lights out.

By in Mattie's TKO Winter Warmer 2

Mattie’s TKO Winter Warmer – The Inspiration

Mattie’s TKO Winter Warmer

If you antagonize this beer, it won’t hesitate to cold-cock you.  Big, malty, with a strong boozy backbone, you may only last a few rounds with this brew.

The Inspiration
Back in 2008, our buddy Travis decided to pop the question to his girlfriend while on vacation in Disney World. This being the first crew member to take the plunge, we decided to go down to surprise and celebrate with him (and hopefully not ruin it).

We knew Travis was planning on proposing later in his vacation, so we flew down a few days earlier to hang out, catch up and enjoy a few adult beverages.  And for us, a few usually means about 10….each.

CB and Mattie flew down earlier in the day, where they met up with Jake and got an early start on things.  I’m pretty sure they went straight from the plane to the bar and never looked back.  Timmy (of the Porter fame), Kim and I got in after dinner, and boy did we have some catching up to do.

Pulling in to Jake’s apartment, we were greeted by Jake’s dogs roaming freely through the complex, and later discovered CB in a drunken stupor near one of the ponds in the complex.  He said he dogs wanted to go outside.  Granted, he doesn’t have dogs, but the alcohol may have clouded his mind to the fact that this is normally done with a leash.

This is where I realized we were in for a long night.  Little did I know how far things would go down from there – like down for the count.

After downing a few beers, a few laughs, and the general man-love that happens then the Crew gets together, we were all lounging around and catching up.  I was hanging out on the couch with CB and Mattie, while Timmy, Kim and Jake were hanging out in the kitchen.

Now the exact details are a little hazy, mainly because it happened so quick.  CB was antagonizing Matt, messing around and roughing him up a bit.  Apparently he got a little too rough, and Mattie took exception, hauled off and cracked CB right in the jaw from point blank range.  CB immediately grabbed his jaw and went down into a heap.

It really happened so fast that I wasn’t sure it actually happened.  But when I looked down, there CB was holding his jaw with his eyes shut.  It took a little bit, but we got CB to come to.  Mattie, being the big softy that he is, was so upset he went into the bathroom, and it took a group therapy session to convince him to come out.  CB even joined in and entertained us the only way a recently unconscious person can – with getting simple questions wrong and not remembering the rest of the night.

In the end, we all hugged it out as we always do, and we had a ton of fun down in Florida.  Oh, and Travis’s engagement surprise was a success!  She said yes, and he had no clue we were there.  They’re set to be married on June 18th.  All of the Crew who made the journey to Florida will be in the wedding.  We might even enjoy some of this commemorative brew at the nuptials.

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.


By in About RCBC 0

New Site Features!

This site – it is a changing.

The addition of the kegerator opened up an opportunity to revise this site and add what I consider to be a pretty cool feature.

At the top navigation bar, you’ll now find an What’s On Tap? tab.  Here you’ll find everything I currently have on the 3 lines of the kegerator.  Each description includes a picture and a link back the posts about about that beer.

I think this is pretty cool.  I can share what I’m currently enjoying in the pub (and hopefully enticing you to stop by for a pint).  And I can share with you what brews I have coming up for the River Crew Brewing Company.

I’ve also reorganized the site a bit.  Now at the top navigation bar you’ll also find #BrewYork and Homebrewing links.  #BrewYork is where I’ll share my shenanigans with my crazy cast of beer-loving friends.  And in Homebrewing I’ll share some different techniques and equipment upgrades I’ve picked up along this brewing adventure of mine.

I think these upgrades will go a long way in share what I’m doing and brewing.  Definitely check back to see what we’ve got going on!

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