I did nothing this weekend that wasn’t homebrew related, which makes me wonder how I filled my weekends before I started making beer. Oh yeah, I had other hobbies then. What happened to them?

This will be a long update from the bottling of Friday, to the regulator search and buying CO2, to the party on Saturday, to receiving the keg delivery, to viewing an old fridge, and finally ending with my first kegged beer.

Friday night I bottled Beer three (All Centennial IPA). It had been in the primary 2 1/2 weeks, bubbling finally slowing down to almost non-existent on Friday. I might actually have left it a few more days but I wanted to take some to the homebrewing party on Saturday. I thought it safer to just bottle the lot rather than take one PET bottle full (the plan being to add carbonation to the PET bottle using a carbonator cap).

In honesty, I have to say I’m a little disappointed with All Centennial IPA. It appeared to be maturing along nicely in the fermenter and the tastings showed promise, but the result (so far) is a bit too intensely hoppy to me. Not a light fresh intenseness, but a deep, dark intenseness. Maybe some time in the bottles will fix that. One thing is for sure, every time I have tasted All Amarillo IPA it has been different, so who knows how it might turn out.

Friday night I continued with my search for a regulator. I wanted to find a dual gauge model but I couldn’t. According to Advance Brewing, his supplier has stopped making them so there will be no more from him.

In the end I found four sources of single gauge (how much gas is left in the tank) and gaugeless regulators:

  • Beer-server.com – 13,000yen. Beer server is the most expensive of the three, and they were not particularly knowledgeable when I called them.
  • Homebrewing Service – one gaugeless model at 7,800yen.
  • Greens – The best selection so far, including 2 way, 3 way, two mini regulators, and an adapter for using mini CO2 tanks on full regulators. Best prices outside of Yahoo auction.
  • Yahoo auction – Searching for 減圧弁 or ビールサーバ can bring up regulators occasionally. On Saturday I bid on a 2 way model and had it right up to the last minute when someone outbid me by 100yen. On Sunday I searched a couple of times, then late Sunday night a new regulator popped up for an auction price of 3,000yen and a “buy now” price of 3,500yen. I bought it now. Total price including delivery and auction fee was 4,200yen.

Yahoo auction is the cheapest, but it can be difficult to be sure whether the regulators will work with beer or not. Even Advanced Brewing almost got it wrong – recommending a regulator to me on Yahoo auction and then mailing me later to say it doesn’t work with CO2 (Advance Brewing were very helpful though, providing me with the link to beer-server.com). I lucked out by finding a new one on auction, and since it says it’s for use with a beer server (ビールサーバ), I shouldn’t have any problems.

Several homebrewers have said they were able to scrounge regulators from their CO2 suppliers. I’ve tried 5 so far and no luck, however the last place – one minute from my house, where I finally bought my CO2 – is going to speak with their suppliers and see if they can get one, and a beer delivery guy that I accosted on the street said he’s going to have a look for one in his warehouse and give me a call this week, so you never know. Now that I have one from auction it is less urgent, but it would be good to have a spare.

Saturday I went to a party hosted by one of the homebrewers I met at the hanami a few weeks ago. As well as the excellent beers of the host, many other homebrewers brought samples of their beers. It was good to taste Lost in Fermentation‘s Foreign Extra, Extra … Extra Stout – nice to try a beer you’ve read about!

One thing that is continually surprising about the homebrew community is how helpful and friendly people are. There’s no arrogance or ego like you get with some other “hobbies”. Everyone just wants others to succeed.

Under partial duress I brought along samples of my beers to get feedback. It can’t say how embarrassing it is to be taking along the first beers you ever made and present them to people who have years of experience – but I got valuable feedback from it. I only wish my IPA had turned out a bit better so they got a better impression of my skills.

Sunday morning the kegs order arrived – minus carb cap (Advance Brewing’s mistake) and with a gas hose which wouldn’t fit the regulator I borrowed. Yet again an example of people’s kindness, a quick mail to the guy who lent me the regulator with the query “Is this hose really supposed to fit in here?” and he replied back with “No” and offered to give me the right host later that evening.

So while waiting for the evening to arrive, I made more beer. Beer six is my “All Goldings Bitter”. It’s my own recipe, made with the help of the Tasty Brew calculator. I varied the recipe I posted a week or so ago, mainly because when fed it back into the calculator at Tasty Brew it gave me different values – I don’t quite understand why even now. Update: Turns out there was an error in the calculation a week ago.

Beer six: All Goldings Bitter

1.5kg Extra Light DME
0.5kg Wheat DME
0.3kg Crystal 40L (pre-crushed; steeping)

Hops: East Kent Goldings AA 4.6% Leaf

60 Minutes: 48g
20 Minutes: 18g
2 Minutes: 16g

I was aiming for 1.5oz, 0.5oz, 0.5oz of hops (42.5g, 14.2g, 14.2g) but the hops were a block of youngsubrew and I used a knife to cut the block before separating it out, hence the quantities above. Since the AA was a bit lower than I’d hoped, I just left the hops at those weights. 2.5 US Gallon boil; total 6G. IBUs should be around 34.

Process was as follows:
1. Steep C40 for 30 minutes in 68-73 degrees water
2. Remove grain and turn up the heat. As the wort is heating up, add the extra light DME.
3. Once boiling, boil for 5 minutes until most of the foam has disappeared from the top, then add the first hops addition. 40 minutes timing starts now.
4. After 40 minutes, remove the hops and add the wheat DME. Boil for 5 minutes then add the second hop addition along with the first hop addition. 20 minutes timing starts now.
5. After 5 minutes add a teaspoon of Irish Moss.
6. With 2 minutes to go, add the final hop addition.
7. When finished, cool the wort then proceed as usual.

I used S-04 yeast, rehydrating while the wort was boiling. I could only get the wort down to 30-32 degrees. Rather than wait and risk airborne infection, I pitched the yeast at this temperature – I figured that since the yeast was hydrated at 35-40 degrees, the higher temp shouldn’t kill it and might even help it get started.

Starting gravity was 1.035, which should give me a nice light beer – I want an easily drinkable (without getting too drunk) beer for the summer.

The first keg

The first keg

After picking up the gas hose and a few nice beers at the Nakameguro Taproom, I then went to look at the most dirty fridge in the world – a complete waste of time save for the fact that I found a hardware store on the way there – and back home to start kegging.

I have to say that I was pretty nervous about handling the CO2, but it was fine. Putting the beer into the keg was a doddle. What wasn’t a doddle was carbonation. I tried the “add CO2, shake, add CO2, shake” technique but it was taking forever and I was getting no-where fast and very painful arms. Quite possibly the beer was too warm to absorb the gas, or my technique was just bad. I ended up sticking the keg and CO2 in the fridge and leaving it there with the CO2 switched on. It should carbonate that way but more slowly than I would have liked. Later today I’ll look for “how to carbonate” videos on You Tube.

Tonight I’m getting the carb cap which Advance Brewing forgot to send. Tomorrow or Wednesday I’ll get the regulator. At some point this week or next week I’ll get the hops. At the moment I have a free primary. I’m drawn towards making another beer while I wait for the hop order (it will most likely take another week to arrive), but on the other hand it would be great to have a primary free for when the hops arrive. Decisions decisions.

Update: The hops have arrived! Pretty good delivery – ordered 14th April, arrived 20th April.