River Crew Brewing

Home Brewing

By in Kicking It Old School 0

Kicking It Old School – The Recipe

This collaboration  brew’s a throwback to IPAs of yester-year. A nice malt complexity sits underneath an aggressive and floral hoppiness, all topped with an oak-aged smoothness.

Here’s the recipe for Kicking It Old School, an oak-aged IPA from the old Ballantine Brewery with Mike from New Jersey Craft Beer.  It was based on the recipe outlined on East Coast Ale’s Facebook page and modified for our set up using BeerSmith.

Estimated OG: 1.074
Estimated FG: 1.018
Estimated ABV: 7.5%
SRM (color):
IBUs (bitterness):
Efficiency: 72%
Batch Size: 10 Gallons

Fermentables (Grains/Malt)
20 lbs – Maris Otter (3.0 SRM)
4.5 lbs – Flaked Corn (1.3 SRM)
2 lbs – 10L Munich Malt (10.0 SRM)
10 oz – Caraaroma (130.0 SRM)
5 oz – 120L Caramel/Crystal Malt (120.0 SRM)

Mash Procedure
Mash at 152 for 90 minutes
Sparge at 168

Boil – 60 Minutes
45 min – 5 oz Bullion Hops [AA 8.00 %]
30 min – 4 oz Cluster Hops [AA 7.00 %]
15 min – 1 Whirlfloc Tablet
15 min – 1 tsp Yeast Nutrient
5 min – 2 oz Williamette Hops [AA 5.50 %]

3L Starter – American Ale Yeast (Wyeast #1056)

Primary Fermentation
Ferment at 68-72 Degrees for 10 Days or when desired FG is reached

Dry Hop
Rack to Secondary Fermenter
Add 1 oz – Amarillo Hops
Age for 1 week

Transfer to corny keg to carbonate
Add 1.5 oz Medium Toast Hungarian Oak Cubes in stainless steel tea ball to keg

By in Kicking It Old School 0

Kicking It Old School – A Collaboration with Mike from NewJerseyCraftBeer.com

This collaboration  brew’s a throwback to IPAs of yester-year. A nice malt complexity sits underneath an aggressive and floral hoppiness, all topped with an oak-aged smoothness.

National Homebrew Day was back on May 7th of this year.  It celebrates the day Jimmy Carter legalized homebrewing in 1979.  Each year homebrewers celebrate with a Big Brew day, gathering their friends and fellow brewing geeks to celebrate by making beer together.

Bob Olson of Bolero Snort Brewing Company, the resident #BrewYork big-thinker, put out a call to all the #BrewYork homebrewers to see if anyone was interested in getting together for Big Brew Day.  Andrew Maiorana of The Druery, Mike Kivowitz of NewJerseyCraftBeer.com and myself answered the call.

Bob had just gotten himself a new 3-burner rig, all of which had keggles we could use as brew kettles.  Bob and Andrew had brewed together before and already had designs for their brews.  Mike and I were paired up to take over the 3rd burner and had to decide what we wanted to brew.

Whole Lot of Brewing Going On

Whole Lot of Brewing Going On

Not knowing where to start, I came up with a recipe for a BAMA based on our first initials.  BAMA stood for a Belgian-American Maibock Ale, where we’d take a Maibock lager recipe and change it up to use American hops, a Belgian yeast, and ferment it at ale temperatures.  I was pretty excited about this really unique brew and was curious about how it’d turn out (and still am – stay tuned!)

Mike Mashing Kicking It Old School

Mike Mashing Kicking It Old School

Mike, being the Jersey guy he is, stumbled upon a recipe from the old Ballantine Brewery from Newark, NJ on the East Coast Yeast Facebook page.  Given that we were brewing in Jersey and we had the opportunity to brew a classic, we decided to brew this recipe instead of the BAMA. We went about getting the ingredients together, but

Hard At Work

Hard At Work

Brew Day at Bob’s was great.  He’s got a heck of a set up.  I had a good time using it, and now have visions of something similar.  It always good to be around brewers of this caliber on brew days.  You can’t help but learn something.  And, even though I was relatively new to all-grain, I was able to offer suggestions and help out with the other brews, which made me pretty proud.

Kick it Into the Primary - with Jack's Help

Kick it Into the Primary - with Jack's Help

The beer came out pretty tasty.  Unfortunately we weren’t able to get a hold of East Coast Yeast’s Old Newark Ale (which is apparently the Ballantine from the old brewery).  But the American Ale strain we used did well, even though it took its time to finish.  Bob did a great job taking care of our beer as they fermented at his place.

30 Gallons of Homebrew Happily Fermenting

30 Gallons of Homebrew Happily Fermenting

The amarillo dry hop we did gave it a great citrus aroma.  The 90 IBUs are definitely there, but they don’t overshadow the malt bill underneath.  The oak cubes aging in the beer are really smoothing everything out, adding another layer of complexity to an already complex beer.

Keep your eyes out for more collaborations between this crew, as we made some great beer and had an awesome time.

By in Travis's Matrimonial Mild 0

Travis’s Matrimonial Mild – The Recipe

Travis's Matrimonial Mild

This beer is mild in kick but full of flavor, just like the man of the hour himself. This lightly-hoppy, malt-forward beer boasts a toasty, carmelly flavor – perfect for a long night before the Big Day.

The Recipe
Since this beer tasted pretty good, I thought I’d share the recipe.  Be sure to check out the notes behind this recipe’s formulation.

Estimated OG: 1.043
Estimated FG: 1.013
Estimated ABV: 3.93%

Actual OG: 1.043
Actual FG: 1.016
Actual ABV: 3.5%
Efficiency: 72%
SRM (color): 26
IBUs (Bitterness): 14.1
Batch Size: 5 Gallons

Fermentables (Grains/Malt)
6 lbs 6.0 oz – Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM)
12.0 oz – Caramel/Crystal Malt – 60L (60.0 SRM)
8.0 oz – Brown Malt (65.0 SRM)
8.0 oz – Chocolate Malt (450.0 SRM)

Mash at 154 degrees for 60 minutes
Mashout at 168 for 10 minutes

Boil – 60 minutes
60 min – 1.00 oz Fuggles [3.60 % AA]
15 min – 1 tsp – Yeast Nutrient
15 min – 1 ea – Whirlfloc Tablet

500ml Starter – London ESB Ale (Wyeast Labs #1968)

Ferment at 68 degrees for 10 days
Bottle using 2.1 ounces of Corn Sugar (1.65 Volume CO2)

By in Travis's Matrimonial Mild 0

Travis’s Matrimonial Mild – The Beer

Travis's Matrimonial Mild

This beer is mild in kick but full of flavor, just like the man of the hour himself. This lightly-hoppy, malt-forward beer boasts a toasty, carmelly flavor – perfect for a long night before the Big Day.

The Beer
Travis’s love for the Yards Brawler gave me a nice starting point for this beer.  Being able to taste a beer as a reference is a huge help in designing something similar.

And this beer stands right up next to the original.  Actually, I think it has more maltiness than the Yards Brawler.  When compared side by side, the Yards’ taste is more subtle than the Matrimonial Mild, which is upfront with a more robust maltiness.  It’s really rich and roasty with nice amount of caramel flavor mixed in, and I’m amazed how it smells just like my apartment on brew.  The hops are there, but only subtly to help balance the flavor.  There is a sweetness that creeps up a bit towards the end of the bottle, which is probably because the beer finished with a higher gravity than I wanted.

Overall, this beer was met with many positive reviews, and seem to be thoroughly enjoyed by everyone.  Especially the groom, who carried a bottle around with him for most of the night.

The Man of the Hour and His Beer

The Man of the Hour and His Beer

Recipe Formulation
The recipe formulation was a bit tricky.  I’ve never brewed a Mild before, so it was great to have a reference to build on. Unfortunately their site gives you little information about what goes into the beer.  Googling around also yielded few results for a clone recipe, or any information at all around a “Pugilist Style Ale.”  So I had to go with was an English Dark Mild Style around 4.2% ABV.

Grabbing my trusty copy of Brewing Classic Styles, I started building my recipe with the 4.2% ABV goal in mind.  Milds typically lead with a toasty, roasted malt flavor, so I included a mix of Amber, Brown, Chocolate and Black malt on top of a modest amount of Maris Otter.  Since the hops are there primarily to balance the malty sweetness, I went with 1 ounce of East Kent Goldings, a low Alpha Acid hop used mainly for bittering maltier beers.  To stay true to this style’s English routes, I chose a London Ale yeast from Wyeast to ferment this beer.

I bounced my recipe off of my brewing mentor Joe Postma.  He countered with a similar recipe, but one that simplified the malt bill a bit and pulled in a few more Mild characteristics he thought were lacking.  Most notably was the inclusion of Crystal 60 to impart a lot of caramel and roasted flavors into the beer.  In turn, the Amber malt was eliminated, as was the Black malt since the beer was going to be fairly dark as it is.

Matrimonial Mild boiling away

Matrimonial Mild boiling away

Fearing the East Kent Golding hops would be a little too much, I swapped them our for Fuggles.  I had a lot of success with them in the past, and found other brewers who like them in Mild recipes as well.  I also switched the London Ale yeast to a London ESB yeast after reading an experiment by my buddy Jason Rodriguez where he found the London ESB strain produced a pleasant fruitier flavor than the London Ale yeast.

Collecting my first runnings

Collecting my first runnings

This was my first all-grain brew, so of course I was nervous going in.  Luckily, brew day went pretty well.  I nailed my mash and mash out temps, and batch sparging went well.  The Fuggles clogged the filter in my brew pot, so I ended up having to dump the mash through a funnel with a filter to get it into the primary.  I also under-collected the amount of wort needed, and added about a gallon of water to the primary to hit 5 gallons.

Fermenting Away

Fermenting Away

I left the beer in the primary for 10 days before checking the gravity, only to find the beer was 5-7 points higher than I wanted it to be.  This means the ABV would be lower than I wanted, and the beer would have a more robust body.  Since my goal was 4.2% ABV, I was a bit upset by this.  Then I think I remembered the problem – I think I forgot the yeast nutrient on brew day, meaning the yeast could have fallen dormant earlier than they should have.

To try to wake the yeast back up, I moved the primary upstairs, where the ambient temperature is about 10 degrees warmer than my basement.  After a week upstairs, the temperature increase helped me shave 2 points off the gravity, ending up at 1.016 – about 3 points short of my goal.  This was good enough for me, so I went ahead and bottled it up.

Overall, from a brewing standpoint, I’m extremely pleased with this beer and the praise it’s received.  For my first all-grain brew, I think I have a winner!

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.

By in Travis's Matrimonial Mild 1

Travis’s Matrimonial Mild – The Inspiration

Travis's Matrimonial Mild

This beer is mild in kick but full of flavor, just like the man of the hour himself.  This lightly-hoppy, malt-forward beer boasts a toasty, carmelly flavor – perfect for a long night before the Big Day.

The Inspiration
Travis got engaged at Disney World in 2008. The Crew went down to surprise him and celebrate his engagement. Tears, laughs, drinks and concussions ensued.

The thought of making a beer for his wedding never entered my mind at the time.  When he got engaged, I only had a few beers brewed under my belt, and only 1 good one I made by accident.  Luckily, Travis and his soon-to-be-bride wanted a long engagement, setting the date for their special day for June 18th, 2011.

Fast forward a few years and many batches of beer later, and we were hanging out at Travis’s house, discussing the upcoming nuptials and sharing a few new beers.  The conversation turned towards the beers we each had lately and our takes on them.

After explaining a few different beers , Travis excitedly announced his current crush is Yards Brawler.  He loved the maltiness of it, and said it reminded him of another favorite – Yuengling’s Porter.  He liked it so much he picked up a case of it to have on hand.

Seeing how much he liked the beer, I said: “Well, if you like it so much, I’ll make you something similar for your wedding.”

To which Travis exclaimed: “Dude, that’d be awesome!”

Travis was very excited about it, and I thought a beer commemorating his wedding in his favorite style was a really cool gift.

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!

Stew’s Beer for Breakfast Stout

Start your day the beer lover’s way This is a dark but light-bodied brew with a nice toasty character and a sweet finish. Pairs perfectly with CoCo Puffs.

The Inspiration
Back when we were younger lads and drinking was of questionable legality, the crew engaged in the time-honored tradition of Senior Week.  Invading a friend’s beach house, we were fully prepared to take full advantage of all the perks that came with a free beach house and no parental supervision.

About mid-week, Stew decided our usual methods of drinking didn’t give him an early enough start on the day, and took matters into his own hands.  Instead of milk in his morning cereal, Stew decided to make his own breakfast of champions and use beer.  While the result won’t make the culinary hall of fame, it will go down in the book of legends.

Breakfast of Champions - It's Grrrrrrrrreeeat!

Breakfast of Champions - It's Grrrrrrrrreeeat!

The Beer
I knew I wanted to brew a stout, but I didn’t want to do just any old stout. After recalling the story above over some beers with the Crew, I knew it had to be a breakfast stout.  Plus winter was right around the corner, and a stout would be great to have on-hand.

I did some searching online and found a recipe for one on Northern Brewer.  But after reading it over, it looked like it was more of a porter than a stout, and some of the review agreed.

Looking to bump up the body and add a little more oomph to this recipe, I did what any brewer would have done – I doubled it.  I thought this would be the easiest, most effective way to pump up the OG and make this beer a Stout.

What makes a Breakfast Stout are the ingredients, and this one includes flaked oats and lactose – the sugar found only in milk, and the stuff that makes your tummy gurgle if you’re lactose intolerant.  The oatmeal’s intended to add some silkiness to the beer, and I toasted them a bit before I steeped them to give it a bit of a toasted quality.  The lactose is mainly unfermentable, meaning most of the sweetness will stay in the final product.  I’ve never brewed with either of these ingredients before, so it was going to be a learning experience.

And both show through in the final product.  It’s pretty close to the beer I wanted it to be.  Like it’s described above, it’s a dark, slightly toasty and very sweet beer.

Okay – so it’s a bit too sweet.  I may have overdone it with the 2 pounds of lactose.  But like I said, I never brewed with it before, so I definitely learned my lesson on this one.

But, people seem to like it.  I’ve had a few friends who aren’t beer people really like it.  And I had a fellow homebrew try it and say: “Well, you’ve got Guinness beat.”  Can’t beat that kind of praise.

When I brew this beer again, I’m definitely toning down the lactose.  I’ll probably half it, or maybe even less.  I might toast the oats a bit longer to get some more roasted flavor in there.  And, in probably my most ambitious move as a homebrewer, I plan on making a peanut butter version of this beer.

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”

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