The latest trials, tribulations, and thoughts from the club you know and love.
  • 06/03/2014 1:16 PM | Frederick (Rick) Okamura
  • 05/02/2014 12:15 PM | Frederick (Rick) Okamura
    Truly a quick read.
  • 04/28/2014 9:48 AM | Frederick (Rick) Okamura
    Up on the Forum:
  • 04/01/2014 11:17 AM | Frederick (Rick) Okamura
    Oye, Oye, March Meeting Minutes Are Posted On The Forum.
  • 03/13/2014 9:51 PM | Anonymous
    The Presidential Pint
    by Ted Assur

    Winter keeps hanging on into March this year. Schlenkerla’s Rauchbier Märzen is an ornery sort of beer to match my feelings towards the weather and the irritating shortness of February. If you want anise crisp märzen with a side of bacon in it, this one’s for you.

    On the flip side, I am thrilled about all I have learned from folks about the OBC this last month: As we get closer to submitting our entry for the inaugural Radegast Club of the Year Award with the AHA, I have had a chance to speak to so many great former and current members and our partners in the industry that maintain collaborative attitudes with each other and with us, the homebrewing community. I wanted to personally thank all who came to last month’s meeting with John Harris of Ecliptic to join in showing off what makes this club the greatest.

    Things are picking up steam this month with activities you’ll likely want to know about, and they won’t slow down until the end of summer:

    Former OBC Presidents Mark Easton and Chris Hummert are kicking off our next BJCP class and test exclusive to new judges in order to get some more folks in the pool to handle our chronic regional shortfalls.

    Strange Brew’s Slurp & Burp comes around early this year, kicking off the 2014 competition season and will be held at 13 Virtues Brewing on March 15. FH Steinbart is hosting the complimentary OBC Basic Brewing Class for all our members who are just getting started in our delicious hobby.

    Speaking of picking up steam, I wanted to take a moment to thank the members of your OBC Board for all their efforts in keeping up the energy and spirit of the club: I find myself being sent out of state for work a bunch this month and am comforted to find the club in great hands when I’m not around. Each time we meet they’ve got good news to share or exciting ideas to try out. The great attitude and spirit of volunteerism in each of them makes this club one I’m thrilled to be a part of. Please be surety offer them a hand if anything they do interests you: just a couple of extra hands makes their jobs so much easier.

    Were I making beer right now, it would be a Dry Irish Stout. It’s by far my favorite session beer to make, and I favor tossing in just a touch of Acidulated Malt when I make it. It’s a simple and pleasant beer to brew, and I find I need to make larger batches of it, as it seems to flow quickly from my taps.

    Rumor has it, I may be allowed near a brewing rig again sometime this month, and will be able to share some with you soon. I leave you with a little Irish Brewers’ Blessing:

    May your runnings all get to your kettle.
    May your hops never be cheesy.
    May your boils always be full.
    And your gravity always hit target (or better). And until we meet again,
    May you enjoy good beer with great friends.
  • 03/13/2014 9:38 PM | Anonymous
    How to Bottle Beer from a Keg
    by Jason Barker

    This is how I get my beer from my keg into bottles. Many people use the Blichmann Beer Gun to bottle their beers. But, when I first got into this hobby I wasn’t sure I wanted to invest the $75-100 for this tool, so I researched and found this cheap setup that has served me well over the years. So well in fact, that I have no desire to buy a Beer Gun.

    Here’s what you’ll need:
    • One of those cheap black plastic picnic/cobra type taps ($4-6);
    • A clear plastic tube from a bottling wand ($4). Buy the wand, then just pull the valve off the end, you don’t need the valve;
    • A “beer out” quick disconnect fitting to connect a beer line from your keg to your picnic tap ($5-6); and
    • A length of beer line. I use about 4 feet. Longer will help with foaming issues due to increased friction ($4-5). 
    All of these parts are readily available at FH Steinbart or Brew Brothers.

    Push the beer line onto the barbed ends of the picnic tap and the keg fitting. (Dip the beer line in hot water for a minute to soften it up and make it easier to slide on the barbs.) You don’t need hose clamps for these ends. Then shove the clear plastic wand into the pouring nozzle of the picnic tap, CAREFULLY! If you jam it too hard, you will crack your new tap. Just push it in while twisting it a little.

    You are ready to go once you’ve assembled and sanitized your new bottling apparatus, bottles, and caps!

    Here’s some pointers to make it go easier:
    • Make sure the keg, beer line, and bottles are all cold. This will help cut down on foaming.
    • Release all pressure from your keg then add 3-5psi for bottling, you want this to be a smooth flow to cut down on foaming.
    • Insert the wand into the bottle about 1/2” from the bottom to minimize turbulence once the beer gets flowing.
    • Press the lever on the picnic tap full blast, do not try to feather it. Once you start flowing, don’t stop. You want one continuous smooth flow until it’s topped up where you want it.
    • Have your caps and capper sanitized and 100% ready to go so when you’ve filled a bottle you can immediately cap it on the foam that should be slowly erupting out the top. It’s ok if a little beer/foam spills out the top, in fact you should plan on it.
    • The #1 problem beginners have with this method is too much foam. If it’s foaming too much then review the steps above, otherwise maybe your beer is over carbonated to begin with. 
    Some people don’t like this method due to not purging the bottle with CO2 prior to filling, meaning your beer is coming in direct contact with air while it’s being bottled and could get oxidized and adversely effect flavor. My opinion is that for the time and surface area that the beer is exposed, there’s not enough oxidation happening to make any difference. Certainly not enough difference to take on the additional expense and fighting with the extra hoses and fittings that a Beer Gun requires. The beer that does come in contact with the air has a layer of foam on it, doesn’t it? What happens to that “contaminated” layer of foam? That’s right, it gets pushed right out the top of the bottle before you cap it. I’m not knocking the effectiveness of a Beer Gun, but for people who want a low cost option, I think this is worth a try. I’ve bottled a multitude of award winning beers using this method, so I’m confident that with some practice you can too.
  • 03/10/2014 10:25 PM | Anonymous
    Ask Mr. Know-It-All
    by Mr. Know-It-All

    There is this great, rare beer on tap that isn’t sold in bottles. I’m going to get a growler of it to save and drink in small amounts over time. Obviously, every time I open the growler, I’m going to lose carbonation, introduce oxygen, etc. Do you have any suggestions in this situation?

    You are in luck; I have the perfect solution! I’ve used this technique many, many times in the past, and I’ve never had oxidized beer, carbonation loss, or infection issues. <knocking on wood>

    You will want to bottle the beer from the growler. Huh, you can do that?! Yes, you can, and safely too. The trick is to do everything as cold as possible and extremely clean. Here is what you’ll need (and all of these items can be found at your LHBS - Google it):
    • A growler with cap;
    • A bottle capper;
    • Some Oxycap brand bottle caps (this is important, keeps the beer safe from oxygen);
    • 5-12 oz bottles (or really any size you prefer, just as many as needed to handle 64oz.);
    • StarSan in a spray bottle (this should be a standard tool in your arsenal already);
    • A spring-loaded bottle filler with a 3/8” OD (outer diameter);
    • About 2 1/2 feet of tubing with a 3/8” ID (inner diameter); and
    • (optional) Nitrile gloves, as so to prevent contact with the StarSan.
    1. Start by sanitizing the growler and cap with the StarSan sprayer (10 sprays should do). Close the growler and shake well; you can leave the StarSan in the growler until you get it filled. You don’t need to fill the growler with StarSan; that few tablespoons of spray will do the trick- trust me.
    2. Get your growler filled, but know that it is imperative that you ask the bartender to only pour out the little StarSan that’s in the growler but not rinse the growler. After filling, ensure the cap is as tight as possible, and head home as soon as you can.
    3. Once home, you’ll want to put the growler in the freezer. (“Wait, did he just type that?!”) Yes, I did. You’ll only want to keep it in the freezer about 45-60 minutes tops (depending on how good your freezer works). The trick here is to get the beer cold enough to start forming ice crystals, but not freeze - THAT WOULD BE BADCAUTION, SCIENCE: Why are we doing this? A gas (CO2) stays suspended in liquid (beer) more stably the colder the liquid is. Thus, if you don’t want to lose carbonation, chill the beer as best you can. More science, liquid expands as it cools, so that’s why we need to be careful here.
    4. While you’re waiting for the ice crystals to form, fit one end of the tubing over the end of the bottle filler until it’s covered only about 1/2-inch. It should fit snugly. If it’s a tight fit, use a little StarSan to help.
    5. If you’re using gloves, don them now; spray them with StarSan. Sanitize your tube works completely by spraying inside and out. Make sure you depress the spring loaded end to let the StarSan run into it.
    6. Clean and sanitize your bottles and Oxycaps. It’s okay to have the caps sit in a dish with StarSan too. I also use a bottle drying tree, remembering to sanitize the tines first.
    7. RDWHAHB. Are the ice crystals formed yet? Good; time to do this thing!
    8. If you’re using gloves, don them again; spray them with StarSan. Double check the sanitization of your caps, bottles, and tube works (spray again if needed; I for one am very “OCD” about “beer clean” - Google it).
    9. Uncap your growler and dip the non-bottle filler end into the bottom of the growler.
    10. Now the next part is up to you starting the siphon. There are multiple ways to do this. Some prefer the sanitize-lips-and-tongue with-vodka way… just remember that the filler is spring loaded, so you’ll need to depress it while starting the siphon.
    11. As swiftly as you can, do the following: fill-cap-repeat. Do not fill-fill-fill as you’re going to lose that precious carbonation you’re trying to preserve. Remember, as the beer warms, CO2 comes out of suspension way more easily.
    12. Done? Great! RDWHAHB and clean everything for the next time. 
    Depending on the beer you’re trying to save, it will stay quite nicely in those bottles. I’ve had beer that I’ve kept for over 7 years taste quite lovely with the age allowed in them. Keep in mind that aging successfully typically works with naturally protected beers such as sours, high ABV, high IBU, and pasteurized (blech) beers.
  • 03/10/2014 10:07 PM | Anonymous
    Festival of the Dark Arts
    by Lee Hedgmon

    February is Stout month and what better way to celebrate it than heading to Astoria and Fort George for the Festival of the Dark Arts. This year was my first time attending and I was not prepared for the sheer scale of this event. I took the Brewvana bus there with my partner and we were going to stay the night, which meant I had planned a day of epic tasting. It was not just amazing beers to taste, but also activities deemed “Dark” and medieval to enjoy. I’d heard that there was going to be a lot of fire. Considering the weather, I was ready to be impressed. 

    The festival touted the “largest selection of specialty stouts in Northwest” on their website and they solidly laid claim to that with 55 different stouts. I was particularly excited because I had a horse in that race, a cinnamon chocolate milk stout put in by Portland U-Brew and Pub and brewed by me. There were the usual participants of great stouts put forward by Boneyard, Firestone Walker, Stone Brewing, Bear Republic, Alesmith, and of course Fort George. With 55 beers to choose from, and only 8 hours to enjoy them, I had to narrow down my choices to not readily available and interesting sounding beers. 

    The festival utilized the full expanse of Fort George’s space. It seemed like every nook and cranny had either an attraction or was packed with bodies slowly sipping dark brews. I missed the opening procession of dancers and costumed folks, but as the afternoon wore on I saw them weaving in and out of crowds. The Captain Jack Sparrow was the highlight and he was constantly mobbed with people taking pictures with him. Due to weather conditions the two story building was jam-packed with bodies, as was the warehouse.

    We resisted the urge to just bolt and run from one building to the next and stopped by the tents they had set up outside with demonstrations of blacksmithing, food sellers, and more beer for the brave and rain-proofed. The fire dancers and world record setting fire-eater were due to perform after dark. There were artisans of metalwork and tattoo artists, tarot card readers, and even a booth that did old fashioned tin-type photos. I contemplated a tattoo of hops but decided against that as quickly as we wandered by the booth. I did come away with an iron rose in full bloom and about 11 tasty beverages over the course of 5 hours. Of the 11 beers that I tried, the standouts were truly interesting and if they’d had bottles available to sell I’d have clubbed folks with my iron rose to get to the front of the line to purchase them. 

    Fort George out did themselves with their Rumkin Stout, made with pumpkin and aged in rum barrel. A close second was the Rum Barrel Cavatica, followed by the Squashed Stout, which was sweet, toasty and earthy. Block 15’s Nebula was stellar, a rich and roasty combination. I had the Dark Matter from Fort George and was blown away by the dark fruit aromas, malty richness and big bodied mouthfeel. Widmer’s KGB blend from 3 barrels was impressive and I’m hoping to find it again in Portland. New brewery Buoy Brewing in Astoria had a solid stout and many beers ran out quickly as word of mouth spread and people made their way to the stations to snag the last few drops of Grey Monday by The Bruery and the wild card beer by the new brewery, Seaside BrewingPortland U-Brew and Pub’s contribution, the Cinnamon Chocolate Milk Stout, blew in little over 3 hours from the start of the festival. As I was carrying the sign to where Warren waited to take our picture with it, I was stopped numerous times and asked by folks if it was still there. 

    People were excited by all the beers there and it was the most well-mannered festival of fairly high octane beers that I’ve ever been to and I can’t wait to go back again next year.
  • 03/07/2014 12:38 PM | Anonymous
    Use and Care of Oak Barrels for Aging Beer
    by J. Frey, F.H. Steinbart Co.

    Oak barrels are widely used in wine making and the spirit industry for the flavor they impart as well as their effect on the aging process. Brewers and breweries have recently grown fond of using oak barrels for similar reasons, but the nature of an oak barrel’s use for beer is a bit different. Brewers typically (but not always) age beer in a barrel previously used for spirits or wine. Beers aged in these barrels pick up the essence of the beverage previously contained in the barrel as well as oak flavor. Depending on how the barrel was handled, sanitation and preparation practices can be different from those used for new barrels.

    The flavors imparted by oak range from smokey, tannin/tannic, toasted/charred to smooth, rich chocolate and/or vanilla and of course, woody. The type of oak used and the level of toast determine the flavors imparted in the aged beverage. In my experience, American oak provides a more wood-forward flavor. The tannins are high impact, lending crisp woody characteristics. French oak is known for its smooth and soft flavor impact. When I am looking for the classic vanilla-like oak flavor and aroma notes, I look to French oak. Please note that these are “nutshell” descriptions based on my personal experience and much more can be learned about the flavors imparted by various oak origins and toast levels.

    The major factors governing how much flavor is imparted are the amount of time that the beverage is left in contact with the wood, as well as the ratio of total oak surface area to amount of beer in contact with that surface area. When adding oak pieces to a container of beer, one can increase the amount of oak used to decrease the contact time necessary to extract suitable flavor. For barrel use this means that smaller barrels impart flavor faster than larger barrels. This is because a larger barrel has a lower ratio of surface area to volume than a smaller barrel. Barrel aging also imparts subtle oxidation to a beverage overtime, and this effect is accelerated in smaller barrels, just as the flavor impact is. It is also important to remember that a barrel will impart significant flavor in the beginning of its life, but will impart diminishing amounts of flavor with consecutive uses.

    Prepping a new barrel for its first use:

    A new barrel from a reputable supplier should be biologically sound and only needs to be swelled with clean water to tighten the joints in the pieces of wood and prevent leakage. If you need to clean a used barrel, refer to the cleaning procedures below before filling the barrel.

    The hot water method for swelling a new barrel is recommended because it uses less water thus stripping out less oak flavor in the process. Follow these steps:
    1. Fill the barrel with clean hot, steamy water to 20% capacity. Hot water and vapor will swell the staves of the barrel faster than cold water.
    2. Insert the bung and slosh the water around the entire surface of the barrel. Agitate the water inside the barrel until any leaky areas in the sides seal up and stop seeping water.
    3. Stand the barrel on one end and allow the head (the round, flat end section) to swell until it stops leaking. Flip the barrel and allow the other head to swell.
    4. Place the barrel bung-down to allow the water to drain thoroughly. Allow the barrel to cool down and dry adequately before immediately filling with your beverage of choice.
    The cold water method will seal most problematic leaks and is recommended for barrels that have been stored dry for extended periods of time. Since this method uses more water for longer contact time, more flavor will be stripped from the barrel than when using the hot water method.
    1. Fill the barrel completely with cold, clean water and soak overnight. This should be done above a floor drain or somewhere that you wouldn’t mind water leaking onto the ground for a day or two.
    2. Add one campden tablet (crushed) per 20 gallons of water to neutralize any chlorine in the water.
    3. All reasonable leaks should seal up overnight or in a few days. Water should never be left in the barrel for more than 48 hours to avoid mold or bacteria growth. If more than 48 hours soak time is needed to seal any leaks, the barrel should be drained and refilled with fresh water.
    4. When all leaks have sealed, place the barrel bung-down and drain thoroughly before immediately filling with your beverage of choice.
    Most brewers prefer to use freshly drained spirit or wine barrels to age beer, because it also imparts the essence of the previous beverage. If the barrel is filled with beer almost immediately after the draining of the original beverage, and the barrel is properly handled, it will not need to be cleaned before filling. If the previous beverage is biologically sound, then the barrel is sanitary as well. If the previous beverage is contaminated (in the case of wine) it is impossible to remove the bacteria completely because contaminants can hide deep in the crevices away from cleaning procedures.

    Since it is not always possible to fill the barrel with beer immediately after draining, it is sometimes necessary to store the barrel either dry or with a storage solution. Storing the barrel dry with the proper method is recommended because it will strip fewer flavors than the storage solution method. The dry storage method is as follows:
    1. After draining the barrel, rinse it several times with hot, then cold water and allow it to drain thoroughly.
    2. Place the barrel bung-side-up and insert a sulfur stick burner with 5 grams of burning sulfur stick per 60 gallons barrel capacity. A sulfur stick burner can be purchased or made at home. It consists of an apparatus to hang a flameproof cup inside the barrel and the cup itself, which needs to hold/hang the burning sulfur-stick and also catch the ashes and prevent them from depositing into the barrel. Most sulfur-stick burners also have a bung to close off the barrel and contain the sulfur gas inside. Think of a coat hanger, a small steel cup, and some ingenuity. Sulfur-sticks should be burned outside in a well ventilated area because sulfur gas is harmful to breathe.
    3. After burning the sulfur-stick, bung the barrel tightly to trap the sulfur gas inside. Store your barrel in a sound environment at the proper humidity. The sulfur-stick treatment should be repeated every six to eight weeks to replenish the antimicrobial effect of the gas. 
    It is possible to store your barrel wet with a storage solution. The downside of this is that oak flavor will be stripped from the barrel as you store it. The upside is that the barrel can be stored for longer periods of time without continuous care, and there is less risk of the barrel drying out. Barrels kept full of storage solution will not need to be checked for leaks/swelled before filling with beer. The steps are as follows:
    1. Calculate your storage solution chemicals needed for your barrel capacity; 1 gram of citric acid and 2 grams of So2 powder per liter of barrel capacity. This solution can be corrosive to metals and can etch concrete floors. Be judicious with its use and wash up residual amounts that may spill.
    2. Fill the barrel half-way with cold water.
    3. Mix up your chemicals needed into a few liters of warm water until everything is dissolved. The fumes of this solution are abrasive and harmful to breathe, so do this in a well ventilated area.
    4. Add the chemical solution to the barrel, mix thoroughly and top the barrel up to capacity with more cold water. Bung the barrel securely.
    5. You will need to top up the storage solution periodically depending on evaporation rates.
    6. This solution will need to be replaced eventually, but it is hard to say how often. A good rule of thumb would be quarterly (every 3 months).
    Barrel aging has a profound effect on the beer stored inside the barrel. Aside from the flavors introduced, barrel aged beers develop superior body and “structure,” in part from the concentration of flavors through evaporation. The slow exchange of oxygen through the walls of the wood lend a controlled maturation. Although the oak flavor contributed by a barrel will be completely spent in about 3-4 uses, the barrel will continue to offer its “structuring” benefits. Barrels that have lost most of their oak flavor can be “refreshed” by adding new oak pieces through the bung. The best determining factor in how long to leave your beer in the barrel is taste. As discussed earlier, smaller barrels impart flavor and other benefits faster than larger barrels. Over generations upon generations of wine and spirit makers and countless vintages of wood aged beverages, professionals have decided upon 30-60 gallon sized barrels as an ideal size for aging. Decisions about the aging process are done intuitively, and it will take some experience to gain an appreciation for the details of barrel aging. It is recommended to save a portion of un-oaked beer outside of the barrel to preserve the possibility of blending back in to the oaken beer, affording you the option of balancing the oak flavors in the direction of less oak. In this way, beer can always be left on oak for longer to develop more of its benefits, and in the case of mild “over-oaking” it can always be blended back into perfect balance.

    Barrel spoilage:

    With proper care and attention to detail, your barrel will provide you years of use. Visible mold growing on the outside of the barrel is relatively normal from time to time, but should be cleaned in a timely manner to avoid the growth of the problem penetrating the spaces between the staves, eventually working its way to the inside of the barrel. These problem areas should be scrubbed with a coarse brush and a solution made in the manner of the storage solution outlined above (1 gram of citric acid and 2 grams of So2 powder per liter of water). Take care not to leave the solution in contact with the metal hoops of a barrel to avoid corrosion of the hoops.

    Unfortunately, a contamination issue left ignored for any period of time will render your barrel unusable. Bacteria can reside deep in the crevices of the wood, safe from the reach of our cleaning methods, only to emerge later and contaminate the next batch of beer introduced to the barrel. Proper sanitation methods combined with the proper barrel care outlined in this article will ensure a minimum of contamination issues for the life of your barrel. Under a worst-case scenario, a barrel can be sent to professional for a service in which the inside of the barrel is scraped, exposing new oak and re-fired to renew the toast to the wood. This can eradicate minor contamination but not well established colonies of bacteria. A confirmed brettanomyces contamination is said to be permanent in the wood, and these barrels should not be further used to age beer unless the bacteria is desired in the flavor profile. They make great decorations, furniture, or planters. Alternatively, you could dive into the murky depths of sour beer brewing (another topic reserved for another article).

    With proper care and a little luck your barrel will provide years of trusty service. Employ steadfast attention to detail to limit contamination to an absolute minimum and you will "WOW" your friends and peers with beers as complex and high-impact as the super limited, wait-in-line, $20 per-bottle, wax-dipped, hand-numbered super beers that we are all so familiar with in this town!

    Thanks for reading and cheers!
  • 03/03/2014 2:26 PM | Frederick (Rick) Okamura

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