OK – my first blog post EVER!
I love beers and was a winemaker in my previous life. Moved from a vineyard in Eastern Washington to Portland a few years back, and am finally settled in a new (1924!) house in the beautiful Irvington neighborhood. So what is more natural than to move on from Cabernet and Sangiovese to brewing my own beer now that I am in one of the beer capitals of the world? (There are supposedly 91 breweries in the Portland Metro Area and Portland is the largest craft beer market in the U.S.) I have several buddies who brew and I have been amazed by the quality of their work. My dad and some buddies took up brewing in Norway a few years back, and they invested in a 50L version of the electric Speidel Braumeister system. I joined him for a brew session last summer and I was very impressed by the setup. Long time ago in Seattle I also brewed my own beer. It was a basic system involving a big kettle and a bigger mess in my kitchen. Then the process was followed by cumbersome bottling and lots of cleanup. This time I want to get the right setup from the start. Speidel has since upgraded their system by adding a touch panel and options to control the automation from a smartphone or tablet so I am leaning strongly towards getting their new 20L unit from http://www.moorebeers.com. For fermentation I am torn between a Speidel plastic fermenter and going all the way with a conical stainless steel fermenter from SS Brewing Technologies. $60 versus $400… I know.. My friends tell me a plastic bucket works just fine… But look – it is a REALLY SEXY piece of brewery equipment. And I know from winemaking that yeast and other sediments can create off-flavors – and the conical design will allow me to get rid of sediments in a much better way. Plus I do probably want to brew pilsners and lagers that require a slow and cooled fermentation which would probably be hard to achieve in a plastic vessel. Maybe I should start with the cheaper plastic option and then get a SS later if I feel the need. Then the question about bottling versus kegging… I want to jump straight into kegging – no more bottling for me after my first experience with that. And what kind of kegging system should I get – so many decisions… My buddy Ted has a kegging system that seems to make sense – it’s what’s called a Keezer. Keg + Freezer with some slight modifications. This picture is from http://www.Homebrewtalk.com. Basically a small chest freezer modified with a wood piece making it tall enough to hold the corny kegs and with tap handles installed and a thermostat cutting off the power when the appropriate temperature has been reached. In my new house though I have a fridge that is about to be replaced so I am planning on taking over the old one and putting it in my garage for kegging purposes. I realize it might not be quite as energy efficient but it should hold the kegs and leave me with some cash to fund the other pieces of my system. Now all I have to do is to clean out my designated area in the garage, get some power pulled, and get a new fridge for the kitchen. If you have any hints and tips on how to get the ultimate home brewery setup done right, or what equipment to select, please let me know!
*** Update 9/24 ***
OK – I pulled the trigger on this. Instead of the SS fermenter I went with a cheaper Speidel plastic fermenter which will be plenty good enough for now. Added some supplies for measuring gravity and cleaning + a copper immersion wort chiller. Plan on getting my ingredients and final supplies from my awesome local Brewing store F.H. Steinbart Co. Still have no bottling or kegging setup, but plan on getting a Cornelius keg co2 setup locally on Craigslist in Portland. I tried bottling many years ago in Seattle and think kegging is the way to go for me. Looking forward to getting my goodies next week!