Apartment Home Brew Experiments

Any home brewer will tell you, no matter how much they love the hobby, that you have to make the effort and get motivated to keep the beers coming. After a week of work, being an attentive partner to your significant other, a parent, and making an effort to be social and hang with your friends... there doesn't always feel like there is a ton of time for brewing. On top of all that add living in the Bay Area of Northern California or other metropolitan area and chances are you will also run into space issues. No garage, no yard, no patio. So what do you do?

Improvise, experiment, and get used to small batches.

When I'm not convincing my buddies to let me brew on their pro systems or blend from their barrels (aka "The Easy Part") I am brewing 1-3 gallon batches on my little stove with a low power electric coil as my only heat source. This doesn't mean, however, that you cant have a lot of fun. I recommend hitting up your local homebrew shop and grabbing some specialty malts or adjunct ingredients you've never tried. Is there a hop variety in their fridge you haven't heard of? Fuck it! Go For it! Although it can suck to only have a couple bottles (I really like bottling in Champagne bottles but you can definitely grab 12oz bottles so you can get a few more to share) it's much less risky to experiment if you are risking only 1-3 gallons going bad.

If you are fortunate enough to have a mini-fridge or other space for temperature controlled fermentation than you are in good shape. But... if you are (like me) really tight on space and have limited ability to temp control I would suggest making beers using yeast varieties that are ok at a wider range of temps. I use saison yeast a lot and let it free-rise. If you really need temp control for the style beers you want to make there are options available or plenty of creative DIY projects you can find online.

For small batch apartment brewing I highly suggest you use the "Brew In A Bag" (BIAB) method. Using a cloth bag you can do your mash in the same vessel you do your boil in. Be sure to get your strike temperature dialed in (the water before you add the grain) and expect a few degree drop once the grain goes in. Click HERE for a handy calculator to help you determine the strike temp.

Invite your friends (who most likely haven't home brewed) over next time you start setting up. Ask your partner to weigh out some grains with you and show them how to use the mill. Making the time to home brew always feels good, and sharing a bottle of something you made in your modest home setup is one the best feelings in the world. Just don't forget the #1 rule of homebrewing... you have to be drinking a beer while you do it!

Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts

(Avenue No. 3 Blending)

While on our European adventure, we spoke with Trevor from De Garde Brewing about how much fun we had blending with him last year when creating Avenue No. 1 and Avenue No. 2 for the folks at New Avenues for Youth and their amazing annual event Brews for New Avenues. The subject eventually got around to whether or not there would be an Avenue No. 3 for this years B4NA. Between the trip we were already on, the projects we had on the books, and Trevor's production schedule... we weren't very sure.

So as you can imagine we were very pleased to discover some free time for all parties involved in March 2017. Not only would Avenue No 3 be happening, but we would have a variety of Belgian Lambics to blend with as well. We called up our friend Bobby Taul, previously featured here on the blog, and he joined us on the trip last week. 

We met with James Bruce and Andy LoPiccolo from New Avenues at De Garde where Trevor treated us to a quick tour and a taste of some of his recent releases including two unblended lambic-inspired beers and his collaboration with Fonta Flora.

Our blending session began by setting our palates with a delicious bottle of Drie Fonteinen Vintage Oude Gueze 2002. It had held up very well and was the perfect way to start our morning.

After having tasted a few samples of Trevor's unblended barrels we knew which of his beers we wanted to serve as the base. Brewed in 2016, these 2 barrels were still relatively young and had a bright acidity and a pleasant amount of brettanomyces "funk" character. 

From there we experimented with the lambic options we had and ultimately decided on equal parts 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2015 while adding a smaller amount of 2012. This combination gave us a complex and rounded quality with no single note overpowering the other. Once blended with Trevor's barrels and just a little more adjusting we were very happy with the results.

The final product will be a 6 year blend of approximately 70% spontaneously fermented Oregon beer and 30% Lambic. We are expecting approximately 300 bottles.

This beer will only be available on August 19th, 2017 at BREWS FOR NEW AVENUES, the annual festival featuring a rare beer auction, live music, food trucks, and much more. All proceeds benefit NEW AVENUES FOR YOUTH, a great organization helping at risk youth in the Portland area.

Buy your tickets ASAP if you'd like access to this beer and many many others. VIP go on sale June 1st... General Admission coming soon. Also make sure to check out our recap of last year's event.