I made a batch!

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s been a while since I’ve made a batch of homebrewed craft beer.

I forgot how great brew day is. It’s an excuse to talk about, drink, and make beer.

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Rocking the Oskar Blues IPA for the brew session.

Where’d you start?

This may make some people cringe and others left in confusion. Dont worry, I’ll explain.

The extract kit I used was a bit dated. The best-by date was September of last year. Before that, it sat in a myriad of storage conditions ranging from hot garage to freezing basement. It was old.

Extract kits contain the basic ingredients needed to brew a home batch. The liquid malt canisters in the feature photo have an incredibly concentrated sugar syrup that provide the starches needed for the yeast to do its alcohol-making thing.

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Heating up 3 gallons of water to a boil on the world’s smallest stove.

Cleaning and sanitizing.

I used a soft wash cloth to wipe down my ferment bucket and ran my various tools through the dishwasher.

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My oh-so-clean cleaning area.

After they were finished, I filled the bucket with IO Star-San and threw them in it.

I’ve learned to streamline the process a bit by not cleaning every single piece used, including the racking and bottling tools.

The boil.

I let my grains steep in the water from the time that I fill the pot to the point that I’m adding the liquid and dry malt.

I let the batch get to a low roil and wait for the hot break in the surface.

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We’re almost to the ideal temperature. I also didn’t ever actually take ANY temperature readings for this.

For this specific batch, it was a 6-row 20L and 2-row 60L barley mixture. It smelled delicious.The hops used were Hallertau at the start and Fuggle hops 10 minutes from the boil termination point.

We then let the batch sit on the stove with the lid on for the next 4 hours for it to drop to our ideal pitching temp, which again, was getting eyed.

Sealing it up.

Once it cooled down, we moved it to the ferment bucket for the water topping, yeast pitch, and the lid and airlock put on.

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In case it isn’t clear yet, we did not follow proper cleaning procedures for any of this.

My friend has a rickety stair case that leads to his basement which this had to be carried down. That was probably the hardest part of the night. But once I survived the 10-step trek, I put the warming blanket on it to keep the temps around the sixty-degree mark.

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Pictured: fabulous climate control

His basement is chilly and the fermenting of the beer produces heat, so I planned ahead. Now to wait for the next two months.

-Cheers, Nick

 

 

I went to Barb City BrewFest!

Here’s the crazy part. I only tried one beer. That’s not to say that there wasn’t plenty to choose from. Quite the opposite.

I had my camera out the entire and was meeting plenty of new people.

The day.

I ran into old friends like JD Heinrich who owns The Forge in Sycamore. He had let me hang out and interview while he was in the middle of making a new batch of brew.

We talked for a few minutes about his opening a new brew pub in the summer and starting the process of opening a production facility in DeKalb.

The need for a second location comes as he has grown short on room in the current building. The current set-up utilizes four large tanks in the dining room and shares space with the beer bar.

“I’m excited. It’s still a long road, but we’re past most of the hurdles.”

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Right next to the Forge’s table was Cademon Brewery. I had worked with owner Andrew Nordman on a previous video project and he let out a loud “Hello!”

He brought his IPA and another variation of the Eve’s Tuition porter. I gave it a sip and was not disappointed.

Like JD, he ran into room constraints at his current building and already opened a second location. Now  he’s working on the menu with a taco recipe that he’s proud of and wants to use.

“Right now, I’m leaning towards tacos as the menu building block!”

A great turnout.

On top of old friends, I floated around to different tables who had people from the breweries. As I found out, it was volunteers doing the pouring for a majority of the breweries represented.

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Overall, the festival was awesome and Alessandro was pleased with the turnout. Before I departed, he told me they were getting ready for the second of wave of ticket holders.

I burned through both camera batteries shortly after the VIP tasting and took my leave after.

I can’t wait for the next one!

-Nick

A chat with Alessandro Vazquez about Dekalb’s own beer fest.

So if you don’t know already, the NIU Convocation Center will play host to the Barb City BrewFest on March 25.

Alessandro Vazquez is the owner of Brew Avenue Events, the company putting on the event. I decided to get in touch with him and ask him a few pre-event questions about putting on a beer festival in a town that doesn’t have much in the way of craft beer.

What About BrewFest?

He got his start in the beer festival scene after going to one and seeing all the different ways he could host and improve on the beer festival experience. He found his way to NIU’s Convocation Center by way of attending a concert there.

“DeKalb is very unique, and has been a different experience from any of our other festivals. Working with a venue like the NIU Convocation Center is new for us, as many events take place in the summer and outdoors. But we thought that a Winter craft beer festival, indoors at the NIUCC, would be a big hit.”

His Future Forecast.

He thinks craft beer will continue to grow in popularity and beer festivals will need to continue to push the limits and explore new styles and techniques.

He expects upwards of a few hundred people so far and is still pushing promotion for the event. You can get tickets on TicketMaster and he tries to release new $5-off promos every so often.

You can also expect great coverage of this event because your favorite beer writer will be there! I hope to see you at it and until next time, cheers!

-Nick