Re-using Yeast

While surveying the internet for kegerator-making instructions, I fell upon a now-lost (to me) web page that described an unusual process for saving some money in the brewing process by saving, then re-using yeast from previous batches. At $8/smack pack, this seems like a good way to save some coin on homebrewing, further improving the value proposition.

I’ve heard all about making yeast starters and dividing that up after adding it to wort created expressly for the purpose of breeding, but frankly, that has always sounded like a lot of work.

This lost to history web page I discovered had a simpler way to harvest yeast for re-use: simply poor the dregs of a carboy into sanitized plastic bottles after doing your kegging/bottling. Up to six months later, simply open the bottle up and dump into your wort. Even I can do that.

yeast-harvest

Anyone out there tried this method before? How did it work? For the record, the yeast I’m attempting to re-use is Wyeast 1056 American Ale.

How to Make a Kegerator (with Photos)

You know how awesome my wife is? She got me the makings for a kegerator for Christmas last year. At the time, I had a secondhand fridge I kept out in the garage, but only plugged in for parties as I was afraid of the heat it generated causing a fire, and its effect on my power bill was equally worrisome. While walking the dog one day, I passed an Energy Trust truck advertising a $30 bounty paid for old, but working fridges, all the incentive I needed to upgrade. That was in June, but a new baby kept my priorities, and my wallet, focused on non-refrigerator purchases.

Thankfully, Labor Day reminded me of my priorities, celebrating the American worker by capturing a piece of his paycheck, this time in the form of a new, energy efficient fridge, one whose warranty I immediately began to contemplate voiding.

Here’s how I tackled fridge to kegerator conversion. It really couldn’t have been more simple, but there was a nagging voice inside that kept asking, “You’re going to drill holes in a new fridge?” Yep, and it was totally worth it. Hopefully, you’ll see how easy and worthwhile this conversion is, and shut your inner nag up.

1. Mark holes for the taps. Have the taps before you do this, and ideally the tap handles, too. You want the taps high enough that you’re not kneeling to dispense beer, but not so high that opening the freezer door causes you to spill beer all over the floor by activating the tap handles. I suggest marking the inside, where the contours are the most divergent. The nuts that hold the taps in place need to be on a flat part of the door’s interior, so look for a flat area on the interior of the fridge.

1-mark-holes

2. Drill pilot holes. Most hardware stores carry extra-long (8-10″ long) drill bits for less than $10, but in retrospect, I think a four or five-inch long quarter-inch diameter bit would have been sufficient to go through the interior plastic, the insulation, and the sheet metal exterior of the fridge door. The important thing is that the diameter of your pilot hole bit is the same, or slightly smaller than, the bit that guides your hole saw.

2-drill-pilot-holes

3. Drill Final Holes Start by using a 1″ hole saw (just a hair larger than the diameter of the taps) to drill the plastic interior lining on the door, using your pilot hole from step 2 as a guide. Don’t drill through the metal from the inside, though – it will leave a very ragged hole. Instead, drill a little more than halfway through the door from the inside, then finish the hole from the outside. This way, both holes will be nice and neat. I thought drilling the metal would be difficult, but it’s fairly thin metal, and a sharp, new bit made very short work of it.

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4-drill-exterior-hole-saw

4. Insert the Taps. If you fail on this step, you don’t have the brain cells to lose, and I suggest you abandon alcohol consumption, starting immediately.

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5. Secure the Taps. Use the nuts that came with your taps to secure the taps to the refrigerator door by tightening them from the inside. A large crescent wrench is necessary to get the nuts sufficiently tight.

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6. Connect Beer Lines to Taps. Connect the beer lines to the taps using the nut-end of the beer hoses. Make sure there’s a rubber washer inside the nut; tightening the nut will compress this washer, providing a good seal on the taps (no leaks!).

7-screw-hose

7. Connect Beer Lines to Kegs. There are two places you can fail in this step, probably because you’re getting thirsty after all the man work. Do as I say, not as I did. Firstly, make sure the taps are turned off when you connect them to the kegs. Most taps pull forward to dispense, so you’ll want them pushed BACK, in the OFF position. Secondly, the Cornelius kegs (aka “Corny” kegs) used by homebrewers generally have two valves, an “in” and an “out.” The latter refers to the liquid contents, and you want the “out” valve connected to the taps. It is possible to mash the beer lines onto the “in” valve, but you will not be happy with this decision.

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Remember where I said to turn OFF the taps before connecting the beer lines to the kegs? This is what happens when you ignore that advice: your precious beer all over the floor.

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8. Connect CO2 to Kegs. After hooking up the beer lines, there should be only one valve left on each keg. Hook your CO2 up to these valves (marked “IN”), and turn on the pressure at the tank. I adjusted my regulator to provide 10 lbs. of outward pressure, a little higher than I would do for just one keg, but pushing 2 kegs’ worth of beer out seemed to require a little more.

10-connect-co2

9. Attach Drip Tray I’d say a drip tray is optional, but it was really nice of your wife to agree to this kegerator thing, and a clean, unsticky floor is something she probably values. So get the drip tray, and keep your wife happy. It looks cool, too. I attached mine with Velcro so I could remove it for cleaning easily.

11-attach-drip-tray

Kegerator Supplies:

2009 Independence Day Beer Tasting

In 2003, my wife and I bought our first house. We moved in on the weekend of July 4th, and as thank you to all the friends who pitched in on moving day, we held a barbecue on July 4th. Each year since, we’ve carried on this tradition. This year marked our sixth annual party, serving my “4-Day Ribs” and specialty “Red, White and Blue” burgers (the blue is blue cheese crumbles mixed into the ground beef).

In the last several years, I’ve added a beer tasting component to the party. It’s a good chance to clear some space in the cellar, and a fun way to expose my friends to some “out there” beers.

josh-ballot

This year, the theme was “Us and Them.” In two flights, I asked participants to determine whether the beer they were tasting was an American or “global” example. I worried that the theme might be too easy, as American examples of most styles tend to be on the “11” portion of the flavor volume dial, so I threw a few sneaky ones in.

The first flight was IPA, and I tried to find a few non-American versions with amped-up hops, and a few American IPAs with toned-down hops. Here’s the lineup I threw out:

  1. Hair of the Dog Blu Dot Imperial IPA (2009), Portland, OR
  2. Meantime IPA, London, England
  3. Boulevard Double Wide IPA, Kansas City, MO
  4. Full Sail Sunspot IPA (2006, so the hops had mellowed WAY out), Hood River, OR
  5. St. Peter’s IPA, Suffolk, England

From a field of about 20 entrants we had three winners, few of them beer geeks. Prizes were a bottle of the 2009 Hair of the Dog, a box of Bengal Potatos, and a Sam Adams “special beer glass” (that last one I was just trying to get rid of).

dave-results

I was most proud of the sour beer tasting held later in the afternoon. I was a little worried the beers might not go over well – few non-beer geeks have sampled the genre, and the taste is a little … unfamiliar, to say the least. I am proud to say that I converted at least one wine drinker!

The lineup here was a little harder for consumers – as with the IPAs, the Belgian examples tend to be a little more refined and complex-tasting than their American cousins. But, the road is less traveled, and only the beer nerds in the group had tasted some of the examples more than once or twice. My lineup:

  1. La Duchesse de Bourgogne, Vichte, Belgium
  2. Russian River Consecration, Santa Rosa, CA
  3. Cascade Blackberry Ale, Portland, OR
  4. New Belgium Dark Kriek, Fort Collins, CO
  5. Rodenbach Grand Cru, Roeselare, Belgium

The Duchesse and the Consecration were the standouts in my opinion, although the Grand Cru was very “sophisticated” tasting, maybe even too subtle for this red-blooded American. The oak of the Consecration was really apparent when compared to the others, but it’s not something I really noticed when I drank it on its own. And the Duchesse is beautiful, always.

The prizes here included a New Belgium La Folie (a personal favorite), a New Belgium goblet, and a three-pack of sour candy I picked up at Freddies. As with most things in life, the lesson here is not to take yourself, or your beer, too seriously, as Dan Painter so boldly illustrated:

dans-micro

Many thanks to Kari Hay for the photos. I was too busy pouring/drinking beer to document the day’s festivities!

Past Tasting Themes:

  1. 2008: Red States vs. Blue States
  2. 2007: Red, White and Blue Beers

Standing Stone Brewing: Stand UP Guys

Editor’s note: we’re still sorting out all the content from our Bay Area beer trip – it’s taken a bit longer than we thought, but it’s coming. Again, we’ll put together a centralized list of all our stops, in chronological order, when we’re all through.

We got into Ashland a little late on the first night of our beer trip, mostly due to an unplanned stop in Eugene for a sit-down dinner (I thought we’d fast food it). After checking into 4 rooms at the Bard’s Inn, it was already 11:30, but we rushed over to Standing Stone Brewing anyway, since it was the first real stop of our trip. I’d e-mailed the brewery ahead of time (that’s how I got the hotel recommendation), but Thursday looked to be a pretty sleepy night in Ashland, and I wasn’t sure they’d still be open.

In fact, they were just about to lock the front door when 8 thirsty guys from Portland showed up. As our ringleader, I asked if we could sneak one beer in, and Adam, brewer, bartender, and all around nice guy, said yes.

crew-sucking-down-beer

We had the entire place to ourselves, but Adam poured us a round and answered questions for at least a half-hour. Talk ranged from their brewery size (tiny but impressively well-built, beautiful, really) to their energy saving efforts (solar panels on the roof, capturing heat from the brewing process), all while making us feel welcome and unrushed as we drank our excellent beers.

bruce-standing-stone

I had the Double IPA, which was a great way to start the trip – it’s a true West-coast style IPA, with tons of hop bitterness backed up by a healthy dose of alcohol and a nice floral character on the aroma. But don’t let me tell you about it: listen to Adam. He’s the Brewer (and a stand-up guy).