There are so many great things going on in the American Craft Beer industry. I am always looking at ways that allow me to get the word out. Stumbling on the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) site was a process of stumbling around due to an idea that came from looking elsewhere (see the Why American Craft Beer Label? section).
The American Craft Beer labels are a cool segment of the industry. After all, they are the visual portion of the fruits of a breweries labor prior to seeing the beer. Flashy labels, in a very crowded craft beer section of the beer store, can mean the difference between sitting on shelf and being purchased. Especially when most people are visual.
Now that I have a process in place to quickly get the monthly approved Illinois Craft Beer labels, I will be back filling to the beginning of 2020. If time permits, I may begin to list other states as well.
The goal is to have a list of Illinois craft beer approved labels early the month after they are approved. June should be out soon.
Why American Craft Beer Labels?
I am late to the game, but I just started playing around with the Untappd app on my phone. They have a ton of nice features (no I am not sponsored by them). In looking at some of the features, I noticed that the pictures for their beers are the labels, not actual photos. The pictures of the establishments (they call them breweries/venues) are typically the logos for the establishment.
On top of that, they use the same size for all logos: beers, breweries, and venues. This makes display on the web or the application damn easy. Very smart!
Thinking on my toes, I determined there had to be a way that they get all those labels. I had to search, that’s when I happened upon the TTB site.
May 2020 Illinois Craft Beer Approved Labels
Below are the May 2020 Illinois craft beer approved labels. Some statistics to start:
There were a total of 64 approved labels for Illinois Craft Beer in May.
46 of those labels are below as the others were considered to be keg labels, making them somewhat boring, and, as a craft beer enthusiasts, I don’t think we see many kegs.
Loblolly, an oatmeal stout with coffee, has become an annual staple in the home brewing repertoire. Typically I brew it in late winter or early spring. With everything going on this year in the world, it slipped to the springtime. The day was close to 60*F, the first day over 50*F in a week and a nice break to two days of snow during the week.
The coffee is still remaining from first home brew day of Loblolly, back in early 2018. It has been vacuumed sealed and in the freezer ever since. When I made the beer last year, the year old coffee hadn’t lost a step, I am assuming the two year old coffee shouldn’t be any different.
Now that I have extra free time and getting American craft beer isn’t as easy as before, my home brewing is going to get an uptick. Up next: NEIPA. Enjoy!
Recipe for Loblolly Coffee Oatmeal Stout
General Information: Brew Date: Ssturday, April 19, 2020 Recipe Type: All Grain Yeast: S-04, not hydrated Yeast Starter: none Batch Size (Gallons): 5.5 Original Gravity: 1.059 Finishing Gravity: N/A IBU: 39.9 Color: 36.3 SRM Boiling Time (Minutes): 60 Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.74% Alcohol by Volume: N/A Calories per ounce: N/A Primary Fermentation: start @66*F, slow rise for 3 days @70*F
2020-04-19: @65.6*F, average fermentation. Conical is heat and cold +/- 1*F.
Useless Fact: At a glance, the Celsius scale makes more sense than the Fahrenheit scale for temperature measuring. But its creator, Anders Celsius, was an oddball scientist. When he first developed his scale, he made freezing 100 degrees and boiling 0 degrees, or upside down. No one dared point this out to him, so fellow scientists waited until Celsius died to change the scale.
It has been some time since I wrote up a home brewing session on Grass Cutter American Wheat Ale. Grass Cutter has been brewed a few times since but it is the same old, there didn’t seem to be a reason.
This time around, I really changed it up and I was going more for a straight up American Wheat Ale: ~50/50 barley and wheat with a touch of hops for balance and interest. I decided to drop the coriander and the orange peel as well. Really a different beer and I was going to name it Easy Peasy but decided against it. The recipe below outlines this version of Grass Cutter.
First Time Conical Use
The highlight of brewing this beer is the first time use of the new Spike Brewing conical that I purchased used. It made racking very easy as I used a pump to move the wort from the brew kettle to the conical. It made the amount of supplies I had to bring upstairs from the basement a lot less.
But, there were was one major issue: the heat blanket didn’t work when it was set to go on (the temperature fell more than 1*F below the set temperature). I plugged it into the wall outlet directly, thinking the controller might be damaged: no dice. I couldn’t control the low end of fermentation but the fermentation should allow me to not drop too far but I couldn’t ramp up to make sure it finished. More on this in another entry…Enjoy!
Recipe for Grass Cutter American Wheat Ale
General Information: Brew Date: Sunday, April 05, 2020 Recipe Type: All Grain Yeast: S-05, not hydrated Yeast Starter: none Batch Size (Gallons): 5.5 Original Gravity: 1.045 Finishing Gravity: 1.009 IBU: 27.9 Color: 3.8 SRM Boiling Time (Minutes): 60 Brewhouse Efficiency: N/A Alcohol by Volume: 4.73% Calories per ounce: N/A Primary Fermentation: start @66*F, slow rise for 3 days @70*F
Grain Bill: 4.00 pounds American 2-Row 4.00 pounds Red Wheat 1.00 pounds Munich
Mash: Saccharification @150.8*F
Hop Bill: 0.50 ounces 2018 Apollo @20 minutes 0.50 ounces 2018 Apollo @10 minutes 1.00 ounces 2017 Citra @5 minutes
Useless Fact: The pet food company Ralston Purina introduced, from its subsidiary Purina Philippines, power chicken feed designed to help roosters build muscles for cockfighting, which is popular in many areas of the world.
Brewing equipment never makes the home brewer but it definitely can help with process, make better and more consistent beer . This is for certain: a home brewer needs his/her toys.
I haven’t made an update to my home brewing equipment since I purchased a Blichmann kettle back in 2013. Since I started trying to brew top notch Northeast India Pale Ales, I have tried to identify ways to make the post fermentation processing devoid of oxygen.
In that pursuit, I have tried a number of process changes, each with varying degrees of success; none of which gave me the quality of finished product I wanted or needed. I needed a way to keep oxygen away from the beer while I racked it to the keg. I needed a fermentation vessel that would allow me to move the finished beer to the keg without any oxygenation: conical.
The seed of using a conical was planted in late 2019 while having a conversation at Noon Whistle with a fellow home brewer sitting at the bar. He mentioned the FastFerment Conical Fermenter, which he had two of and had great success.
Research is always my starting point. I needed to find out which conicals where available to home brewers, follow up with the manufacturers, and ask a shit-ton of questions to make a quality decision.
Decision Making – which Conical
When making my decision on which conical was right for me, these are the points that mattered, in no particular order:
Location of manufacturing
Quality: Quality is typically a function of materials used, craftsmanship and money. I find it hard to get a product made of quality materials and high craftsmanship without a price being tied to it. After all, quality materials carry a higher price, while a more skilled craftsman will need to be paid a higher wage/salary.
Grades of materials, the type of material, the type of connections, the number connections, etc all determine the quality/ease of use of the product. This was very important in the decision: the further I went through discovery, the more I realized I wanted a stainless steel conical.
The stainless steel seemed to create the sturdiest product, which meant it would last. Stainless also was more scratch resistant and easier to clean, make it the best for sanitary reasons.
Craftsmanship lead me to looking for kettles that were manufactured in the United States. I know all the 304 stainless steel is made in China but all other work needed to be produced in the United States and at a high level.
Price: This leads to the money. How much was the cost of the materials, craftsmanship and mark-up worth to me. Stainless steel already put me at the high end, now it was more which accessories made sense and were fiscally feasible.
Initially, cost was number one or two on my list in terms of importance to my decision to purchase a conical. From past experience (purchasing three kettles before I landed on the kettle I am still using today – a waste of money) and as I reviewed the options, I realized that it moved down, way down. I still needed a sense of return on my investment: quality for the price.
Customer Care: Customer care was high on my list to start and, after all the emails and phone calls, it moved to the second position, behind perceived quality.
Customer relations: responsiveness, willingness to help, patience, advice, openess, belief in product, videos, etc. really pushed me towards the Spike product. I never had a time that I didn’t think that they were their to assist and wanted to genuinely make sure your experience, as a customer, was top notch.
Spike even has a process in place that customer care representatives cover for each other while another is out, so that responses to inquiries are not delayed.
Unfortunately, there were certain companies that never replied to me or were very short with me in a single reply, never following up. This soured me. How was their customer care going to be after I gave them $1,000+ of my money?
Fittings: The type of connections/fittings that are available for the conical started gaining my interest as I researched. The fittings needed to be something easy to use, quick, and sanitary. My introduction to tri-clamp (TC) fittings was an epiphany.
Never heard of them but they are considered to be the most sanitary fitting on the market for home brewing. Two pieces are paired up with a silicone gasket fitting between and held in place with TC clamp. Amazingly simple but efficient.
Size: Simple here: I needed a conical that serviced my home brewing needs and style. I brew 5.5 gallon batches, therefor the conical needed to be at least 6.5 gallons for headspace.
Accessories: I didn’t know what was available when I started my research in terms of accessories for a home brewing conical. Stainless steel had the most accessories which were a la carte, driving up space.
Temperature control, both hot and cold, and closed pressure transfer were the accessories that had to be offered. Having the ability to hook up to a glycol chiller was necessary in case I wanted to do that in the future. Once again, I didn’t want to purchase a conical that I would want to purchase an upgrade in the future.
Location of Manufacturing: Mentioned this above but this was simple for me: I want to help keep Americans employed.
The Final Decision: CF5 Spike Conical Unitank
Once I settled on the CF5 Spike Conical, including accessories, I needed to share my plan with my wife. A decision of this $ize needed to be a team decision.
She was on board but asked for me to look for a used tank prior to purchasing new. Scouring the usual message boards and online market places, I found a used CF5 tank in Wisconsin that had all the accessories I wanted and, unbelievably, a glycol chiller!
The price was ~$250 more with the chiller included. The conical had been used five times and the chiller twice. For the prices, it was a no brainer.
Getting the glycol chiller was more of a wish. I thought it would be at least a year or so before I could purchase one. The package deal was perfect timing for me.
Next: I have to test all the pieces together and get a feel for how it all works, then it will be time to brew a beer. Enjoy!
Notice: I am not affiliated or paid by any of the manufacturers of these products. This is just my account of purchasing a conical for home brewing, what I took into account, and ultimately why I purchased the conical I did.
Useless Fact: If you went out into space, you would explode before you suffocated because there’s no air pressure.
When I home brewed Squirrels With Knives I had a huge amount of help from my friend Mike: he did all the grunt work. He didn’t take payment outside of a few beverages on brew day, a handshake at the end of the day and a thank you. I got off easy.
Mike is a Miller Lite fan that is willing to try craft beer and home brews but won’t go completely off the deep end for big beers. Multiple times he has told me stories of Moon Man from New Glarus Brewing Company. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that this was his favorite craft beer and making a clone, or there abouts, would be a way of showing my appreciation.
Hombre Lunar is therefore is inspired by Moon Man. Surprisingly there isn’t a recipe out there for it as I know that Dan typically keeps recipe formulation close to the vest and it isn’t any different for Moon Man.
I researched and researched and came up with the recipe below. The only thing that I thought was certain was the fact that 5 hops are melded together, in equal parts, to make the smooth hopping profile. After brew day, someone that went on a hard hat tour, that Dan lead, stated he said there were 7 but wouldn’t divulge which 7.
The only information given on the 5 hops was that 4 were from the north-west United States and the fifth was south pacific. This is were a guess work was put into to play. I settled on Citra, Simcoe, Amarillo and Mosaic hops from the United States. Galaxy would be the down-under hop.
Grain bill needed to be simple and light. I used base malt, carapils and caramel 40L. Carapils for head retention while the caramel was to give it a bit of color. Four ounces seemed to be enough to give it a touch of color. Enjoy!
Recipe for Hombre Lunar
General Information: Brew Date: Thursday, March 05, 2020 Day: Sunny @50*F Recipe Type: All Grain Yeast: S05 Yeast Starter: None Batch Size (Gallons): 5.5 Original Gravity: 1.047 Finishing Gravity: 1.006 IBU: 29.1 Color: 5.2 Mash Time (Minutes): 40 Boiling Time (Minutes): 60 Conversion Efficiency: 76.79% Alcohol by Volume: 5.38% Apparent Attenuation: 87% Calories per Ounce: 152.1 per 12 ounces Primary Fermentation: free float for two days, ramp up to 68*F for 6 days