Update - brew days, new equipment, and contamination

The last few weeks have brought many great advances in our brewing as well as a fairly major set back. First, the bad news. On February 22nd we brewed our Muckalee Oatmeal Stout and were very excited about the progress of this beer was making in fermentation. While bottling our Scotch Ale on March 9th I checked in on the gravity of the M.O.S. ultimately deciding it needed more time to sit on the yeast. The theif I used to take the sample must not have been sanitized properly, or a rogue hair or dust mite fell into the brew because when I went to check on it again on March 18th the beer had a white mold layer on the top and gave off a sour smell and flavor (yeah, I tried it). Here is what Lactobaccilus looks like:

Lactobacillus Monster

I've noticed earlier brews were taking on similar properties but to a lesser extent. Well, I have learned my lesson and have had to dump all 5 gallons of the Muckalee Oatmeal Stout. The Homebrewtalk forums claim that the beer is salvagable if aged for several months but this beer was so contaminated that I think the only remedy was to count the losses and move on. With previous batches having similar effects (sour flavor and thin white film during fermentation), we realize we need to completely overhaul our sanitation process and bleach bomb everything we use to brew. We will try to age our bottled scotch ale (also effected by contamination) for a few months to see if the problem is remedied.

Now for the good news! We received another shipment of brewing toys from MoreBeer! last week including a new 5 gallon fermentation vessle. We also thouroghly sanitized our 5 gallon carboy giving us two open vessels to fill with beer. The day after St. Patrick's day, filled up on soda bread and guinness from the day before, I brewed our Áth na Ríogh Irish Red Ale. The brew day went well with the airlock bubbling less than 12 hours after boil. Fermentation was so vigorous that we had to hook up a blow off tube after an old faithful type moment. This venture was followed up by yet another brew day yesterday. We brewed the Áth na Ríogh Irish Red Ale again but with a varied grain bill. With the local home brewing store out of roasted barley we moved along with just the crystal malts. So hopefully after the contamination setback that has plagued our brews in early march, we can move on to perfecting the product.

Some pictures from the brew days:

Bringin' the heat!

Steeping the grains

Full boil

Northland Brewery Equipment

A couple of great freinds and our personal "brew couple" at Beach Brewings brought up a great point in a recent post on their blog. Jeremy writes "The trick is to find a good balance on overall knowledge while at the same time perfecting your craft in a specialized area." We totally agree with this point and believe that our main focus has become European style ales (including browns, stouts, scotches and reds). While we will not be limited to just these styles, we will try to keep this an area of greater focus while mixing in some of the other great beer styles sporadically.

Another side project being worked on here at NB is label production. Labels are the first things that people see when shopping for new beer to try and often times the most visually creative are the first brews to be bought up. While we have no previous experience or natural artistic creativity in realm of label making, we will be doing our best to provide the greatest visual appeal as we can. Something to look forward to!



Naming the Brews - Áth na Ríogh Irish Red Ale

Although a work in progress, our Áth na Ríogh Irish Red Ale is a medium bodied brew with a deep red/amber color. Crystal malts with a touch of roasted barley round out this ale that is inspired by the famous Irish folk song "The fields of Athenry".

Written originally by Pete St. John in the 1970's, "The fields of Athenry" has been made famous by artists like The Dubliners, James Galway, and Dropkick Murphys. The song tells the story of two lovers being separated during the Irish potato famine that claimed nearly one million lives. The young man is caught stealing grain from his neighbors stockpile and is sentenced to a prison colony across the ocean. The song, although very sad and haunting, serves as a unifying chorus to many Irish descendants and is used as a sporting anthem for both the Republic of Ireland national football club and my beloved Celtic FC.

Whether you're Irish or not, we feel that this is a brew is great for any occasion and will help you celebrate you're family's past generations. In the words of Papa Axford "Don't ever forget where you came from!"



Irish Potato Famine Tribute - Dublin, Ireland

Family heading towards the harbor to emmigrate.

Naming the Brews - Muckalee Oatmeal Stout

Our honeymoon to Ireland was a scheduled trip around the southeastern portion of the country relying only on public transportation. This led to many humorous and sometimes awkward situations including the following.

Paraphrased from our travel journal:

On the way towards Kilkenny from Dublin on the 007 bus we made our normal stops that were to be expected. It was around about Castlecomer that things started to get interesting. Less than one kilometer outside of Castlecomer a Garda (police) stopped the bus to say that the town was closed off due to the New Year's Day wellie races (later found that it was a 5k run through the streets in Wellington shoes, no running shoes were allowed). The race was to raise money for local charities while participants could run off their Christmas excesses. Simple enough, its a detour with a well seasoned bus driver. What could go wrong?

Next thing we know, we are marching a 15ft. wide bus down a 14ft. wide detour while attempting to pass oncoming traffic. One of the cars flagged us down to tell the bus driver that a very narrow bridge was up ahead that would not fit a bus of our stature. The car driver offered us another alternate route for the trip. A detour on a detour, on very small, muddy roads in a very large bus. Everything was grand.

There were about 15 passengers on the bus with a majority being Irish and from around the area. With this in mind, we found it quite hilarious that at a fork in the road, the driver turned back to us and asks "Well, any ideas?". Uh.. no is what we wanted to say but all we could muster up was an awkward American facial expression. Luckily, sitting next to us was an Irishman who had grown up in the area and knew some of the roads as best as one could.

It was upon entering the township, or hamlet, or whatever word qualifies a location with one house, a pub, and a church very appropriately named Muckalee that the bus driver found humor in the situation. "Anyone for Muckalee?" the bus driver jokingly shouted back, which produced laughter from every passenger. While this simple joke may not qualify as a great closer in a stand up comic routine, it did show that even in a sticky situation, anyone can laugh at themselves and the matter at hand, especially the very friendly Irish.

We did finally make it back to the major roads towards Kilkenny which brought on a round of applause from all the passenger that almost broke into a standing ovation for the courageous bus driver. Upon hearing the cheers, the bus driver said "Thank you very much. Now I could use a spot of the black stuff... coffee of course."

Our Muckalee Oatmeal Stout is inspired by a journey to this small town in the middle of rural Ireland that symbolizes everything we travel for. Muckalee Oatmeal Stout is a deep, rich brew as dark as the country roads surrounding the little town. We feel that the full body of roasted and chocolate malts paired with the smooth finish of oatmeal is the perfect combination to enjoy on a cold, rainy day while retelling stories of yesterday.

Graffiti art in Dublin

Áth na Ríogh Irish Red Recipe

1/2# crystal malt 60L
1/4# roasted barley
3# Muntons light DME
2# Muntons amber DME
2 oz. Willamette hops
1 Smack pack WYeast Irish Ale Yeast

- Crush grains and steep at 155 degrees F for 30 min.
- Bring to boil, add all DME
- Add 1 oz. Willamette hops at 60 min.
- Add 1/2 oz. Willamette hops at 30 min.
- Add 1 tsp. Irish Moss @ 15 min.
- Add 1/2 oz. Willamette hops at 10 min.
- Chill wort to 70 degrees F
- Pitch yeast
- Primary for minimum 2 weeks
- Secondary optional

Scotch Ale Bottled

The scotch ale that was brewed on February 11th was officially ready to bottle today. I took a sample with my recently bought sampling thief (an awesome tool to have) and took the final gravity measurement. Our scotch ale had an original gravity of 1.048 and a final gravity of 1.010 leaving the alcohol by volume at a moderate 4.99%. This is exciting to see as the vanilla cream ale I brewed earlier in the month only came out to roughly 2.5% - 3.0% abv using the same strain of yeast. Altogether, the brew finished just under 5 gallons which equates to 45 twelve ounce bottles. Half of a bottle was leftover so I decided to chill it and have a nice, flat scotch ale for tasting. While I'm not ready to offer my full opinion on the brew, at least until the rest have carbonated, I feel it is going to be one of the better brews to date and could become one in the regular rotation. We've included an image of the 5 gallon batch in the carboy pre-bottling.

Also while bottling, I tested a sample of the Muckalee Oatmeal Stout brewed on February 22nd. While the stout was still underfermented by at least a week, the abv is about 5.0% and tasted great. The chocolate and roasted malts were very apparent with the nice mellowing taste of oats on the back end. I'm really excited about this brew and can't wait to bottle this batch.

I'm also including an image of the Apfelwein that we brewed in the middle of January. The batch turned out okay and we would certainly try this again with slightly different techniques. We would certainly use a different strain of yeast like a cider or champagne yeast rather than the lager yeast we did try. Aging seems to help this batch as the month and a half old bottles taste much better and more mellow than the two week old bottles. Enjoy the images and Sláinte!

New Brewing Equipment

I just put in an order in at www.morebeer.com for an additional 6 gallon fermentation unit as well as 3 one gallon glass units that will serve as experimentation vessels. We have already been tossing around ideas for new brews and some that may be a little off the wall. A nice dark chocolate stout with a hint of orange peel or cayenne (or both) sounds pretty intriguing. We will now be able to produce small batches of brew with very experimental components without putting 5 gallons (50 beers or so) in jeopardy. I've made that mistake once... never again.

Let us know what kind of flavors intrigue you and maybe we can work on a brew that suits your taste buds.


First Stout Recipe! and updates.

So I brewed my first oatmeal stout from a recipe that I came up with all on my own. Wow... my family would sure be proud. Anyway, I decided that the first basic stout I brewed was not sufficient, although it was tasty. So I made my way down to the local Co-op to buy ingredients for an oatmeal stout that I could make changes to in the future. I am still striving to nail down one recipe that I can replicate at will before going wild with the experimentations.

Here is the recipe:

1/2# roasted barley
1/2# black patent malt
1/2# crystal malt (60L)
1/2# chocolate malt
1/2# rolled oats
4# Munton's dark DME
2# Munton's light DME
1 oz. East Kent Golding hops
1 oz. Willamette hops

**I'll post the specifications on the boil times and gravities when I have the notes handy**

I put this batch together on Feb. 22nd and am looking to let it primary for at least another week. Right now my pipeline of brewing is being held in check by a lack of bottles. I've commissioned some friends to help me out with the acquiring of empties. Right now we have between 100 and 150 12 oz. bottles in our possession and are in need of more. Most of the bottles we do have are filled with a fermented liquid of some kind and are in different stages of aging. This leads me to a whole new topic... my equipment wishlist.

A couple of weeks ago I received a brochure from www.homebrewery.com. Inside I found a plethora of things that I need/want to get the ball rolling even faster. First thing on my list was a wort chiller. Up to this point, my wort chiller has been a cold North Dakotan snow bank. Although effective, this is an excruciatingly long process and not the most effective. So I broke down and spent $55 bucks on a copper wort chiller that will cool down the sweet wort to yeast pitchable temperatures in around 12-15 mins rather than 30-40 mins.

Other items I am in desperate need of are: some sort of temperature control chamber (old mini fridge) so that I may keep lagers cold fermenting and ales fermenting at a more constant temperature. I also need another 5 or 6 gallon carboy to add to the brewing pipeline so I may have more than two batches fermenting at any one time. Individual 1 or 2 gallon fermentation units would also be a great addition so that I brew small experimental batches.

Well that's all I have to update on for now.

Hopefully I can post something more rapidly than what I have been doing.