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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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. 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.


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.


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.


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.


Kegerator Supplies:

Brewing Fresh Hop Ale with Homegrown Hops

One of the questions I hear a lot is, “will I get enough homegrown hops the first year to make a fresh hop beer?” And the answer is “maybe.” As you can see from the photo, I got a whopping 2.1 oz of homegrown Cascade hops my first year. An IPA was NOT in the cards.

It seemed like a good time to bring this up, because if you’re going to plant hops to use this year, you need to do it in the next week or so. (And because I stumbled across these photos and realized I never used them. Ha!)

2 oz of Cascade Hops
2 oz of Cascade Hops

Continue reading Brewing Fresh Hop Ale with Homegrown Hops

Broken Shard IPA: A ChardonnIPA

When we took our beery road trip to Northern California last month, one of the most unusual beers we sampled along the way was an oak-aged Hop Rod Rye at Bear Republic. They’d taken their standard brew, and cellared it for a bit in some old Chardonnay barrels. The bartender didn’t like the beer (said he was ashamed to be serving it), but I found it pretty interesting. The tartness of the chardonnay and big oaky notes paired well with the fruity, somewhat dry Rye IPA.

Yesterday, I brewed my own version inspired by the Bear Republic one. I considered a few options for getting Chardonnay in the beer:

  1. Chardonnay juice added to cooled wort: this is the option I eventually went with. It seemed like the most true to the idea of a hybrid wine/beer. I would have preferred un-concentrated juice, freshly pressed, but I don’t know of a good source for that. Perhaps another time.
  2. Bottle of Chardonnay added to fermented beer before bottling. This seemed like a good option, as I could have a high degree of control in the blending, but it seemed a bit like cheating.
  3. Age beer on Chardonnay-soaked oak chips. I’ve tried this successfully with Maker’s Mark Whiskey before in my “Bourbon Spice Mystery Ale,” and been pleased with the results, if not the timeline. To retain the source flavor (whiskey), the chips need to be soaked a long time, perhaps 2 months or more. Didn’t have that much time this time.
  4. Adding a bottle of non-alcoholic Chardonnay to wort before fermenting. I don’t know enough about how NA wine is made to know if there is fermentable sugar in there, and wasn’t willing to take the risk of a too-sweet IPA. Perhaps another option if this attempt doesn’t work well.

Here’s the full recipe:

  • 2 lbs. 40 L caramel malt
  • 1 lb. 80 L caramel malt, steeped with the 40L at 150 degrees F for 30 minutes
  • 7 pounds extra-light malt extract added just before boil
  • 3/4 oz. Cascade hops, boiled 60 minutes (I thought the citrusy flavor of this hop would pair well with the Chardonnay, and used lightly, adds a “basic” bitter element)
  • 3/4 oz. Cascade hops, boiled 15 minutes
  • 2 oz. Amarillo hops, boiled 5 minutes (Amarillo is my favorite aroma hop for IPA, with a ton of floral aroma)
  • 2 pinches Irish Moss for clarity (don’t see too many cloudy wines)
  • 2 pinches Wyeast Yeast Nutrient (since I’d be asking the yeast to do double-duty)
  • 1/2 46 oz. can Alexander’s Pinot Chardonnay Extract, added to cooled wort

I pitched Wyeast 1388 Belgian Strong Ale once the wine extract had been mixed into the wort, which I selected based on the manufacturer’s description: “Fruity nose and palate, dry, tart finish.”

I plan on oaking the beer in secondary fermentation with some new American oak chips, for perhaps 2-3 weeks. I don’t want it to be tooooo oak-y, but that would be true to the Chardonnay spirit, so we’ll see.