Thursday, December 17, 2020

Now is the... something-something.

So it's Winter. Or at least it's close enough. 

We pretty much remembered how to do this!
We're a few days shy of the solstice and I'm pleased to be able to communicate that Sound & Fury is slowly shuddering back to life. There's been A LOT™️ since last we spoke and as always the inclination is to apologize with incredulity at the length of my recent hiatus. But that is starting to feel vapid and pointless. If you're reading this it doesn't necessarily matter that it's been close to 7 years since last we spoke. Now here I go wasting airspace with something I'm essentially decrying. Hush now.

The events of the past year have cast much into stark contrast with our closely held assumptions and beliefs. For me it's been an introspective period, with no small share of personal growth and a search for balance and meaning in an otherwise topsy-turvy world. 
"But what does all of this have to do with beer?" I hear you ask. The answer is, like many things, as meandering as it is meaningful. I'll try to be concise, I'll probably fail. After all this is kind of just talking into a void so... Who cares?

I think in the end it has to do with beer because it has to do with everything. It's the 'community' stupid. That is of course the royal stupid, not writ large. It's the people; those we love, those we miss, those we help and those who keep us going. Beer, like most things in life is a vehicle for community. To share, to celebrate and maybe also to commiserate on occasion. We've been through a lot, and there's more to come so my hope is that I can participate communally by sharing the fruits of my labor with those I love. Additionally, right now it feels more important than ever to engage in tangible pursuits. To create things we can see, feel touch and in this case taste.
We want the grist. Gotta have that grist!

Dusting off the brewery after so long (more on that in a coming post), we at S&F were moved to consider timing. We were still in early fall and seeing no shortage of IPAs the feeling was to turn in a different direction. Enter: 'Winter's Discontent Spiced Ale'. It was a favorite of the early days, and something of a left-field entry in the Sound & Fury canon. A chewy, fruity number with festive spicing for that holiday kick. In attempting to re-create this tipple, I first consulted the digital oracle (the BeerSmith database) but finding not a whiff of the recipe I ended up having to go into the archives and read something I believe our ancestors referred to as a 'book'. It was a relic of the 20th century, paper bound in more protective materials to physically record thought.... I digress. Upon referencing the S&F brewery's original journal I was miffed to find that this recipe had been constructed upon a malt extract backbone in the pre-allgrain days. 

No matter, our intrepid brewers sallied forth and using guesstimates based on the original recipe, brewers intuition and a heaping dose of 'just winging it' we've come up with something we're quite proud to share. It is a somewhat by the books affair with a close to 75% Pale/Marris Otter grain bill, but with some cheeky Chocolate Malt added for color/depth and a smidgen of Smoked Peat Malt thrown in for... well for fun I guess. We also went a little adjunct-crazy with a punch of boil-time cardamom and cinnamon complementing the borderline iconoclastic Willamette and Saaz hop bill. All this is boosted with a dollop of black strap molasses mid-boil to make for an [un]intentionally massive winter warmer. Clocking in at an unprecedented 9% ABV this year's WD will warm the cockles of your cold-dark evenings with a complex spicy smoke flavor and rich mouthfeel that screams coziness. Stoke the fire and snuggle up under that blanket. Let's get through this "together", so we can be together.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Time Marches On/Events of Woe/New Dawn

So here I am again, beginning a blog in the manner I assume most do much more often than they'd like: Apologies to have been so absent of late, I guess it is kind of a mixture of the improving weather and beginning training for my next ultramarathon in earnest. The weather has been good to us, and as such we've yet to brew indoors. Its pretty freeing to be outside working and it also allows us to put off the consideration of burning propane indoors (maybe we'll never have to confront the issue?). There hasn't been a flurry of activity as with recent build days, but nevertheless it stands to reason that if one is to be incommunicado for nearly a month events will inevitably transpire. And transpire they have.

#1 - New Tap Handles

A friend of ours, upon hearing of our keezer endeavor, offered to share his CNC Router, in order to have a bit of fun making some tap handles. We were naturally quite excited to see what would come out of it, and disappointed we were not. I don't know if you'll see this but many thanks Rick! We'd love to reciprocate in some way for this awesome gift!

6 servings of tap-handly goodness

I'm really not sure how I've managed to avoid getting a picture of them in action. In fact, my focus has been less on photography and more on method and results of late. Maybe we need to draft an official photographer...

#2 - Damn You Hubris!

I'm fairly sure this was my fault. The wild boasting of my previous post has caused the ever giving goddess Ninkasi* to smite our efforts. I guess a picture is probably worth a thousand words, and indeed this is worth a moment of measured silence...

No one was hurt

*that's right, HISTORY LESSON! It seems these days if you've slick enough SEO and smart enough marketing you can supplant the gods themselves! It's a good job they make such good beer too ;)

#3 - To Old Beers and New

The aforementioned horror that elapsed comes, however, as a mere footnote to the announcement of two new beers! Just put into keg yesterday were Pistachio Porter v2.0 & the newest S&F creation - Halfwit IPA. The former is a altering of the original favorite. There's an argument to not fix something that isn't broken, but what about improving on something that's great? The porter has been a real hit, and we're taking it into flavor country with a more diverse grain bill and some adjunct help to smooth it out. We kegged it yesterday and couldn't have been happier with the provisional results. Fully fermented yet uncarbed and room temperature it is almost everything you'd want from a finished beer. It's complex, its rich and it will tell you a tale you'll not soon forget. The first hit is an upfront toasted note that belies the luxury of the new mouth-feel, exposing the rugged, robust roots of the style. But don't get complacent because go back for a second draw and you'll be seduced all over again but this time by an earthy nuttiness that delights the palette and nose in equal measure. Still to come for this seemingly well rounded brew - the pistachio treatment and carbonation/conditioning. I'm anxious to experience the results.

And of course, who could forget the Halfwit IPA - this most glorious blend of international styles pitting wheat against hop for supremacy in your glass and heart. We've had our greatest experiment with flaked wheat thus far and we think its shaping up swimmingly. It's a concoction of two-minds boiled with a healthy 4oz pile of Chinook and Citra hops that we think this is going to be a feisty brew that will hold its own in any arena. And just because we felt like it could maybe stand to be hopped all the more we've gone and thrown another full ounce of each hop into the keg to spice up the nose even more.

And as if that wasn't enough, we went for another of our crazy yeast experiments - we've fermented half of the batch with a Burton Ale Yeast (White Labs P023) for its fruity notes and the other half with California (White Labs P001) to get something of a cleaner standard IPA feel. Both have come out strong, but have a ways to go before judging, now comes the carb and and the chill. So far, the Burton is giving hints of Belgian spice and fruit notes without overpowering the way some Abbey yeast strains can, I'm optimistic about both but will want to put it to the vote. So get yourselves over to see us in a couple weeks time and we'll see which is best!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

This Sunday past (4/7) was a Red Letter Day in the annals of Sound and Fury beer service. After what seems like a much more significant time than it really is; and certainly much sooner than it had any right to be, the kegerator is operational!

It truly is a thing of beauty, and there's little better than kicking back in your garage and taking a pour of your own beer from your own draught taps. It makes even a chilly early spring afternoon manageable, and fills one's mind with fabulous daydreams of lovely long summer days kicking back with friends and enjoying a pint or two in repose and without a care in the world.

It has been a hoot to build and a will be a joy to serve from. Here's to many more homebrews to come!

In raising the door height, we've made room for a 5th keg too, which is nice... though not reflected in the taps on the front. This was because we're toying with the idea of the fifth tap being a stout faucet or something like that. Ruminations continue, and we've drilled and filled the hole for future expansion. In other news, custom tap handles are on the way!

Enjoy these pics of the final build and serving:

Weatherstripping on the freezer top, to keep the seal on the wood

Settling the collar into its new home - really digging the stain

Affixing our CO2 manifold for line tidiness

More faucet goodness!

And with a couple of tap-handle threads sitting around, I couldn't help but play around with these stylish tap-handles - not to be confused with the spectacular product that is to follow!

Gotta get a couple growler fills in

Monday, March 25, 2013

And now for something marginally different - Carpentry Edition.

As has been alluded to and flat out stated, we're building a kegerator! There's little sense in having these kegs filled with delicious beer if there's nowhere to keep them cool. And while it works, a picnic tap just gives a sub-par pouring experience on the whole.

Hooray for Cornys!

So as was previously shared, we've got our chest freezer and temperature control in house and hooked up. We're dispensing happily from it with our two picnic taps and our gas lines. We've actually had all the gear to set up our keezer for some time. All of it except the wood for the collar. The collar is the real beauty of this endeavor. It gives us the headroom we need to fit that extra keg in, and gives us something less dramatic to drill holes in, and at the same time maintains the structural integrity of the freezer itself.

We have decided to go with 2"x8" Fir for our main structure, as this gives us a nice solid base without breaking the bank. Then for flair, we're going to cover that with an outside layer of 1"x12" oak, with a rich Red Mahogany stain. She's gonna be a beaut!

Measuring out the 2"x8" Fir for the inner collar

I was working alone today, so there weren't a ton of opportunities for 'at work' shots. But I tried my best to document each step.

Setting the measured & cut pieces to make sure they're right (they totally were!)

Fixing the whole thing together with angle brackets and 3" wood screws

There was a curious moment in the making of the butt joints where I thought I was blowing it. I was drilling guide holes for the main connecting wood screws (at the outside of the joint coming into the smaller side pieces) and twice in a row the screw went loose right after it got a little ways into the adjoining piece. The heads would just loll to one side and spin in a wide, sad arc that made me think the inside had rotted out or something weird like that. Instead what had been happening was the screws were hitting a particularly gnarly knot in the wood, which was so hardcore that the screws were snapping off due to the pressure I was putting on them and the resistance from the stronger segment of wood.
Momentary woe gives way to ultimate relief - nothing is going to loosen that joint

Once it was all screwed together and fitted on the freezer, it was time to make a judgement call - would I get heroic and finish it as far as the staining? We want the Oak to be brilliant, so we want to do miter joints for maximum greatness. I was using a chop saw, and so I felt like it might be worth a go. I measured up a few times and made my marks and set the saw to a 45° angle then paused. In cutting the 8" wide Fir, the saw was not quite large enough to make the cut in one stroke, I had to flip the piece to get all the way through. Needless to say, this just about sufficed for 8" on a butt joint and so I couldn't fathom of a way to make it work mitering a 12" wide piece of Oak. Maybe there is one, but quite frankly I wasn't in a position to figure that out.

Next up, the circular saw! It happily had capacity to make 45° cuts, and was hand-held for extra ability to cut through 12" of luxurious Oak. And this brings us to the lesson portion of our time together ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. The maxim is to measure twice, and cut once and its a good one, but why not go one better? In this instance I went by the rule of measure twice, cut twice. And boy-howdy did it save my skin. I decided I'd take the circular saw to a bit of scrap wood we had laying around to make sure it would work as intended. Sadly my steady hand wasn't so good with a hand-held and the wood I cut deigned to start smoking halfway through. Although if I had done my first cut on the Oak it would have been a much less happy occasion.

Down tools. It was time to relax, not worry and have a homebrew. I immediately admitted defeat. The mantra of this failure (if it could indeed be classified as such) is: "We need to do it right, not right now."

So the collar isn't ready to stain, and the tap holes aren't drilled. But my limits are happily in check and a not insignificant amount of the work was done. The Fir fits, and I played around with the taps on some scrap wood. This thing's going to rock!
Fully assembled and ready to rock - the inner collar

Gateway to the sweet ambrosia

Imagine these straight and nicely spaced - maybe even with a cheeky stout faucet on one end.
If you look really close, you can see where I tried the mitering on that last photo, I used the same piece of scrap for that and for test-mounting the taps (the 7/8" spade bit worked a treat!). Another great day with useful lessons learned and another step closer to a magnificent beer delivery service. Hey, and the beer wasn't half bad either, the picnic taps still get it into my glass ;).

Fancy a pint?

But, soft! What light, through yonder IPA breaks?

A delicious IPA. Yesterday.
It is the beer, that welcomes in the sun.

And with that it was spring. As has become typical around here we were enticed with gradually warming temps, only to be suddenly slammed by snow beyond vernal equinox. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure its worse back east (on both sides of the pond), but it was a most jarring contrast albeit a brief one. Thankfully that is behind us and Seattle is now quite balmy... at least by recent standards.

And to the matter at hand; our dear sweet libations. Much has happened in the intervening period since last we spoke. Our testing ground IPA is coming to fruition, and our Pistachio Porter has matured to term - both are excellent. Although at risk of falling foul of the trappings of hubris, I had fully expected that would be the case with the Porter. The IPA however, has surprised in spades. From a modest beginning with the simplest of grain bills and a moderate to aggressive hop schedule I had expected to come out with a serviceable yet somewhat hop-heavy end result. However, the beer we've ended up with is somewhat startlingly delicious. The balance of hops seems to have worked quite nicely, and instead of overwhelming the whole affair they instead have deftly complemented the malty goodness with but a hint of bitterness and a smooth, soft edge. Hop-heads might not sing its praises, but its got a decent identity and has been worthwhile beyond the simple exercise of finding how clear we could make a lighter beer and seeing the results of using but one style of grain.

So if you see me, give me a shout, we've a bonnie pair and the Amber is but a couple of weeks away. I think that might end up being the catalyst for some kind of hootenanny so mark you calendars for a weekend in early to mid April for Sound and Fury goodtimes. We've even been expanding our kegging capacity in order to mark the occasion.

See our kegs, see our kegs - made from real Stainless Steel...
We've added 8 Cornelius Kegs since we put the Porter on tap, so we're going to be needing some help sampling our wares (or we'll have a very unproductive next few brewery days). We're also going to be working on classing up our dispensing system. But that's for the next post.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

To keg... Perchance to serve.

When I started out, making 5 gallons of beer on the stove seemed like a lot, but still a manageable amount. Enough that I might realize the dream of drinking a bottle of my own beer. Times have changed, and so have I. With ~10 gallons a time coming out of the new system we have finally embraced the awesome power of the keg!

Our first kegs - two cornies, a 5lb Co2 tank and picnic taps.

We are now primarily going to be serving out of Cornelius kegs (a smaller, more user-friendly keg style that is now deprecated from the soda industry). With this luxurious problem comes the dilemma of how best to store and serve from these kegs at temperature worthy of the fruit of our labor. Enter the keezer!

A scrap wood preview of what is to come.
This brings me to another aspect of homebrewing that I've been thoroughly enjoying. I have never considered myself handy and I'd never want anyone relying on my construction work, but homebrewing affords both the scope and flexibility of amateur DIY projects that make even this novice dream of grand feats of home improvement. We built our brewery stand and its not immaculate but it works and its a tank. We'll build our keezer and I've full faith it will delight and dazzle (potentially in unequal measure and likely proportional to the amount of contents consumed).

The taps and such came in this week, and we're still making decisions on the wood. However that hasn't stopped me from unpacking everything and checking out what we've got to work with in the mean time. Enjoy these pics from an evening reveling in the anticipation of work and victory yet to be!

Brewmaster Pete pours the primary pistachio porter - carbed up and ready to roll

Our chest freezer - 7 cu. ft. Should be enough for 5 kegs once we get the collar on

Ranco Two-Stage Temperature control

Myriad parts - Perlick 525SS faucets, faucet wrench, shanks, gas manifold, tubing (both 3/16" & 5/16")

The perfect pour - the porter's looking fine and tasting smooth

Do you like luxury?

Finally set the regulator to be read from within the freezer.

Lots to be going on with here, and lots to be explained. I'm planning on having my camera handy during the build that I might expound upon each step, its virtues, vices and place in the brewing cosmos. Goodnight for now, and cheers to a future of quality brews served right. For in that deep of keg, what beers may come....

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Pistachio Diaries

Hey you pistachios! Get in my beer!

Over a month since brew day and the Pistachio Porter is finally taking shape. With somewhere in the region of a 9.5 gallon yield we decided we'd do a little experiment by splitting this batch over two kegs and conditioning each with a different amount of pistachio extract.  One has 27.5ml and the other 23.7ml (the latter calculated proportionally to the original mix and the first as a 'bumping up' experiment). Part of the fun was had via administering the pistachio extract into the bottom of the kegs using an infant medicine syringe.

Whilst we were at the brew house (wink, wink) last weekend having exciting adventures we decided to give these both a try, even though it had been less than a week. Initially we poured off the first few ounces into a jug, assuming a mess of sediment would come out. Happily it was pouring clean right from the get go (this has oft been my experience with darker beers). It was under-carbed but we had been carbonating at serving pressure to get a nice even distribution so it had only been at 7psi for 5 days. But there was potential in the body and already a decent mouthfeel.

Tasting out of the jug was pretty alarming, a lot of bitter and chemically notes came to the fore. That may have been because it was the first runnings, or even the vessel itself. I cannot be sure, but once we put some in a regular glass things got better pretty quick. It was at the very least suddenly recognizable as a serviceable replication of my prior efforts. Being tasted so young, there were some harsh flavors and inappropriate bitterness, and the pistachio flavors seemed a little more pronounced than I'd like. But on the whole I think that any real negative points are things that we feel will ebb nicely with another few days in the keg.

Side-by-side, despite the overwhelming nature of the pistachio at this point, I felt like the stronger mix was preferable. This could have been because it better cut the harsher bitterness of the base style. I was surprised by that as I had recalled a winning combination with the original proportions. But that's why we push the boundaries right? Why not chase that edge, that finer product,  that new horizon? I'm moved to muse that perhaps a more complex malt profile might be beneficial for future renditions of this ale. We'll search for the right mix until we know its just right.