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TableHop! Beer brewing, wine making, for tabletop gamers (and general fermentation)


#1

“Hops,” according to Wikipedia, are the flowers of the hop plant, Humulus lupulus. But what do you care? They help make beer!

This is here for any hobbyist who wants to talk about the art and craft of home-brew. Ironically, when board gamers usually talk about “home-brew,” we talk about our own house rules about an RPG or something. We’re not actually talking about fermenting a physical volume of liquid one can eventually consume in real life. But, here, we can!

Being that we all are, more or less, huge nerds, fermentation has kind of a strong appeal to many of us. There’s a lot of science there, and much like board gaming, the process of turning something from a weird slush into a fine consumable result, takes skills. Skills of strategy, tactics, and luck (and occasionally bluffing. Don’t ask me how you bluff yeast, BUT SOMETIMES YOU NEED TO!)

Also, having a carboy of a living mixture of liquid is sort of like having an amazing pet that sometimes misbehaves, but can’t get lost because it’s in a huge glass bottle in your closet. Or maybe it’s more like a secret aquarium? I don’t know, people, you’d have to try it for those analogies to even make a little sense.

This was inspired from a post from @FunkJem in the “What are you drinking?” topic started by @Boydesian.

This doesn’t need to be just about beer, I know a few people here make their own wine, as well, and I’ve made my own mead before (it suuuuuked!) as well as many, many beers.

Just keep the topic to the fermentation of beverages (or possibly pickles or sauerkraut, that’s also a cool process! Probably, though, stick to beer or wine. Or cider. Or even distillation! That’s some fun science! Just keep it legal for your region.)


What are you drinking?
#2

Just to start this off, I’ll write what everyone else writes:

CLEAN! Clean clean clean, clean and sterile before you even begin. Make sure you get whatever you used to clean it is off, too. Rinse, rinse, rinse!

If you’re doing open fermentation, FINE. Screw you, buddy, rub everything under your armpits, why don’t you? (I’m kidding, open fermentation has resulted in some good brews. But…mostly it’s resulted in kombucha-like vinegar-y eww, so don’t do that if you’re starting out).

Other basic rules, besides clean and sterilize and rinse!

Watch your timing when you add hops to the boil!
Add them early, add bitterness; add them late, add aroma (both are important, you do want some bitterness in most good beers, but you need to control it).

Dry-hop to add both (adding hops in a dry-sock after you’ve sparged the wort and everything’s in the carboy can lend a fresh, herbal note). Dry-hopping was kind of a fad in the 90s, but no one really does it anymore. It’s not a bad technique, though, I’d encourage anyone to try it, however there is a chance that it can cause the airlock to get clogged, which could be a huge mess.

OK, I need to go away, now. I have a Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA in the fridge calling my name, they’re so rare and I only have four of them.


#3

As the first comment I feel a little bad derailing the topic, but, let me talk to (or at) anyone who will listen about vinigar!

I’ve just started making my own apple cider vinegar, and I’ve got a bottle of raspberry vinigar aging until it’s tasty in the garage. The raspberry vinigar was started from a bottle I brought that tasted amazing right up until the bottle filled with goo… Turns out that’s the goodness that makes vinigar and seeing as tasty vinigar here cost an arm and a leg I thought I’d have a go.

So far everything has been sterilised in boiling water before being open fermented. I have no idea how any of this will turn out but it’ll be fun to try.

Slightly more on topic, has anyone used the cheap bucket cider kits that’re available in brewery stores? Do they make reasonable cider? I might have a fair few more apples than I know what to do with.


#4

Hey, it’s about fermentation in general (even if it’s about making alcohol specifically), don’t feel bad about derailing the topic!

IT’S SCIENCE! (Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.)

I would stay away from the kits, and look online (or at the bookshop) for cider-making. The kits might be just fine, honestly, for anyone just getting into fermentation, but the hobbyists and pros have much better info and tips, and you’re better off sourcing your own gear.

And to be perfectly honest, making your own fermented beverage is a lot easier than most people think. You’ll either screw up your first time, or it will be amazing.

Either way, the next time will be better (and better, and better, and then you’ll actually get self-critical for perfectly fine stuff, "dammit, how did I not compensate for that expected specific gravity?!?"
Or you’ll just not give a dang, and it’s going to be just fine every time! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: )


#5

I also have to say, open fermentation is kind of a crap-shoot. If you have the perfect place, and the just-right time of year, and a container that’s already had an acceptable strain of yeast that you haven’t cleaned for the last three generations, it can be amazing.

Otherwise, you’re looking at a formula for massive hangovers (from yeast that don’t produce pure EOTH, but produced some inverted ethanol and other alcohols) and probably a good dose of diarrhea. Open fermentation should be something that only experienced brewers should attempt.

(EDIT: Or possibly desperate brewers! I think that would be acceptable. Otherwise stick with good yeast and a clean carboy with a standard water air-lock)


#6

Yeah, I certainly won’t try open fermented booze, only vinigar so far. The raspberry vinigar already has a mother bacteria/yeast so I’m hoping that’ll turn out fine. The apple cider vinegar recipe I’m using appears to grow its own mother from the apples so it’ll be interesting to see how that turns out. Especially seeing I used baking apples instead of the nice rosey eating apples the recipe seemed to use.

Worst case I can introduce it all to the sink and pretend it never happened, right?


#7

Not to be nit-picky, but sterilization in at home kitchen/homebrew situation can be hard to achieve. Perhaps the better word is to sanitize properly which is more than sufficient for at homebrewing applications. Creating a proper sanitation program for your homebrew can also be applied and can carry over to better food hygiene practices in general. This also can lead to a great reduction in accidental at home foodborne illness instances (which no one ever wants to admit to, but happens more often than people think).

The number one issue most people have when homebrewing is that they get a scummy film (or Bio-film) of organic material baked onto the glass surfaces of improperly cleaned equipment.

Number 1 cause of this is using too hot of water to wash your equipment in. When protein molecules build up on surfaces of equipment they harbor unsavory homes for unwanted yeasts and bacteria. When you have a light layer and use super hot water (200F+ ranges) you can actually “cook” the proteins to the smooth surfaces causing it to be a pain to properly clean.

Number 2 cause of this is by letting things sit around and dry out. When I got done with my pots and glassware I always rinsed in warm water (not hot) to rinse off the proteins. Even if I had to do the full clean up at a later time due to schedule conflicts.


#8

Absolutely!

If you have a healthy mother for your vinegar, it’s hard to go wrong (unless you actually end up with something you can drink. Which is kind of bass-akwards, usually people screw up the other way!)

It’s all about waiting and not messing around with it for a while. Give it another few days just after you feel like “I totally should check on this now.”


I don’t know how this conversation got into vinegar (and possibly pickling, eventually). I wanted it to be about making beer, and possibly wine. I did say it was about fermentation, so pickles are also great.

Actually, I don’t know what I’m complaining about, I’m still having a great time talking about vinegar. I’m almost all set to go off on pickles, and maybe even kimchi!

(I would like some more beer talk, or wine making. I know beer, but almost nothing about self-made wine, someone give me knowledge!)


#9

WIne I stayed away from with a 100-yard pole and a mote and bailey castle. That is too much work for me and there are some very good inexpensive wines out there…

Now cider, mead, beer, and kvass I could definitely talk a bit about. But I am out of practice…


#10

@UllinBethalto

We try to let our equipment dry, either on a warm surface or with a blow-dryer (not the best, a blow-dryer can introduce unwanted particles).

But, yeah, the rigamarole with keeping the stuff clean is a major part of the hassle of brewing. Once that’s done, though, the rest is just cooking! And then waiting. And then cleaning again. And waiting. And then a lot of activity! And then cleaning, and waiting.

Actually, brewing is mostly just doing nothing after doing a lot of other stuff. Which is great! I love doing nothing, and if doing mostly nothing (even if it involves brief periods of a lot of something) can get me several gallons of beer, I’m all for it!


#11

A quick note: I am talking in general, very general terms. Not really in regards to any of the practices mentioned above. These are more like… general thoughts on the topic. If we wanted to get really nerdy I could start talking HACCP and everyone here can gouge their eyes out in boredom…

Why closed fermentation is the best:
For any and all of my recipes, I used an air-lock. The big reason here is that the rate of your yeast growth is so quick that the alcohol levels will get high enough, fast enough to kill off most anything that can kill or do serious harm to you. The number one reason why people will get sick from homebrew is cross-contamination. A lot of that comes from not properly washing your hands (which I will talk about at the end). That is non-sanitized spoons, setting spoons on unsanitized surfaces (thus no longer being sanitized), dirty siphons… well you see where I am going with this. Honestly, AHA should write a book, not on the elements of brewing (water, yeast, et all) but on sanitation… or am I that out of date and they finally wrote one?

Open fermentation must be conducted in a very controlled environment. Any air-borne particles can land and start growing on the nutrient-rich layer of your mash thus causing ‘wild flavors’. Sours were traditionally made in this way. So… if you have pets, please do not open ferment, that is just asking for some nasty surprises.

Proper hand washing: (sorry, I am a bit of a nut about this because at my job I calculated a long time ago that I spend anywhere between 30-60 minutes everyday washing my hands…)
Running water.
Soap.
Wet hands and rub for 20 seconds (count them slow!)
Rinse.
Dry with clean towel.
Shut off the sink with the towel (or you can just re-wash your hands :wink: )
If you are interested in more details:
https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/index.html
https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html


#12

I couldn’t agree with you more @UllinBethalto, even though I wouldn’t be able to pronounce your user name, ever.

"You-lyn Beth-al-tow"
Is that kind of close? At least a little?

Anyway, I was going on a rant about this, and I hit contol-z to undo it, because you said it all.

I have another rant about hallertau hops, but I think this topic has found it’s legs and I’ll save it for after the weekend.

(OK, dammit, fine, I’ll say this: add them late in the boil, they’re better as a fragrant hop than a bitter, but they work well as either, especially with a malt-heavy brew.)


#13

I doubled them up in a barleywine that had an ABV of 13.75% (used for the bitter and the aroma) :shushing_face: don’t tell anyone… it was delicious…

Honestly… it has not been definitively decided… I have been using this handle for… Oh god, 2002, 16 years! At SHUX this year I am going to take a poll and the top one will be the winner…


#14

I will publicly put my address here if you will send me a bottle!

(I’m just kidding, a lot of people here have my actual address, it’s not a secret, and I don’t want you to risk your barley wine breaking in the post.
My main goal for this year is SHUX! I’ve been a mod for years, and I missed the first one, and now I feel like a jerk. I’ve messed up the pronunciation of other people’s names here, I want to officially screw up the pronunciation of their names to their faces. If I’m going to be an idiot, I want to do it right!)


#15

Sadly, it is long gone… But I can try and see if I can find the recipe… That will have to be a weekend project as it is buried under a lot of cookbooks in my office…


#16

We’re in the middle of fresh hop season here. I’ve not heard of dry hopping beer before though. The mechanical difference seems to be in the name, but is there a particular difference in taste? I would have described fresh hopped as fresh and herbal too…


#17

This is another method of using fresh hops for post fermentation aromatics. https://www.blichmannengineering.com/products/hoprocket

I was never a fan of this method. I do not care for the resin-like flavor profile you can end up with by using a too aggressive hop. Some people really dig it though. With that being said, I was never an IPA type of person…


#18

I will also try to find the recipe for the unnamed self-malted beer. I will never find the recipe for “Big-Ass Stout,” that’s lost to the ages.

(Just to recap, I had previously mentioned this here. So then this happened. Because I couldn’t help myself. I’m sorry, brewing’s super fun! Please someone give me a better suggestion for a title.)


#19

I haven’t had a successful brew since I moved from London to outside High Wycombe.

Tried chlorine bleach and oxygen bleach. Tried changing around everything I can think of. Every single time, the primary fermentation is absolutely fine, and I bottle, but secondary doesn’t kick off at all, or goes very very very slowly and then stops.

Might it be something to do with the water, which is fairly hard?


#20

That’s an interesting problem (when other people say a problem is “interesting,” it usually means “It’s not my problem!”)

It may be your water hardness? Maybe? It might not be, but it sure the hell could be. If you were cleansing the sterilizing agents out of your equipment before, successfully, the change in environment would indicate there may be a water issue. Double check everything is fully rinsed and clean (which I’m sure you already have).

You already know that most “softeners” are actually soap or petroleum products (not all of them). You may want to try brewer’s pitch.

You can try to boil it off, or just let the chemicals that are making it hard evaporate (it doesn’t always work, and it won’t work if you have hardwater from metals, as opposed to chlorine or other sanitizing chemicals).

Campden tabs may help remove metals from the water, and charcoal (charcoal! Shout out to carbon! I was into carbon before it was coal! (Sorry, chemistry joke))

Try an activated charcoal filter, or even just soaking activated charcoal in the water you plan to use, and strain it out with a coffee filter or something. We have hard water here, too.