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The Monster Mash was a Brewyard Smash!

And by “brewyard” I mean the parking lot at Princeton Homebrew where 7 of us did a single mash to produce some 42 gallons of wort.

If you have been by Princeton Homebrew lately, you’ve probably laid eyes on the Monster Mash Tun. Its a 60-gallon, stainless steel homebrewers dream. The only problem is that we needed to create a false bottom to filter the grain from our beer. An effective false bottom is like a fine balancing act. If the filter is too course, grain husk will get through into your beer. If its too fine, all the grain will compact on the false bottom and prevent any water from making its way through the grain bed, resulting in worst of all brewing blunders, a STUCK MASH. So, you’d probably be thinking that we would pick a recipe to test our false bottom design that almost ensured success. Something like the brew we did last year at the Group Brew — a light saison with 9 lbs of grain per 5-gallons. Nahh, over several glasses of Hobo Juice at Princeton Homebrew, we decided the best idea was to Go Big or Go Home! We attempted to mash what will easily turn out to be the most difficult grain bill that this mash tun will ever see.

There were 17.5 lbs of grain for every 5 gallons of beer we were creating. And worse, 15 of them were brown malt — which basically pulverizes into a fine dust when milled. Setting the stage for a stuck mash.

Our false bottom combined high-end metal fabrication and items from the dollar store. Trenton Sheet Metal plasma cut a piece of 1/16 stainless steel and mounted hinges and stainless screen along with some 2-inch feet to keep it up off the bottom of the mash tun. And over drain we put a sink strainer over the top of an egg beater — no lie. Turns out our this last line of defense actually kept a decent amount of grain our of our wort!

A special thanks to Sir Al Buck and his magical box of stainless steel sanitary fittings, tri clamps and gaskets! And of course, this day couldn’t have been possible without the vision, cheerleading and Hobo Juice provided by Joe Bair of Princeton Homebrew.

Kane Brewery Tour

Over 30 PALE ALERS trekked out to the Kane Brewery last night just outside Asbury Park. Michael, Glenn, and Clay were on hand to take us on a tour of their 7,500 square foot brewhouse. According to Michael Kane, it was exactly a year ago that they signed their lease and started retrofitting the building and installing equipment.

Kane has a 20-barrel system with a 25-barrel mash/lauter tun — giving them room for some big beers. Their fermenters are 40 barrels, so every brew day is a “double batcher.” Their system was designed and built by DME in Canada. But it seemed like the installer that DME sent down was worth his weight in gold. In addition to helping them plan for expansion and future improvements, his technical understanding of the power and plumbing requirements was invaluable to Kane’s subcontractors.

According to the brewer, Clay, the steam jacket system they have is so fast and efficient that the kettle is at a full boil as its being filled! And the boil is so vigorous that they their hop utilization is better than they expected. They actually plan to dial back some of the bittering hops because of this!

It was an honor to be among the very first people to try their first 3 production-sized batches. I don’t recall a meeting where a series of beers from a brewer were so well received and “favorites” were so evenly split. First up was the Single Fin at 5.0%. This Belgian Style’s sessionability was not at the expense of a full flavor and aroma profile. A 5.5% Rye Beer called After Glow was up next. Even though the grain bill was about 20% rye [edit: it was only 10%], the rye was not over the top. Instead it seemed to create a dryness that was well balanced with the rest of the malt. Last was a 6.5% West Coast Style IPA called “Head High.” Another fantastic, well-balanced beer!

This might be a good time to mention that all three of these beers were VERY boldly hopped. All of them had well balanced — but distinct — hop flavors and aromas. According to Clay, they intend to keep things going in this direction by combining West Coast hopping schedules with East Coast styles and carving out a new style palette along the way.

If you missed the meeting, Kane’s tasting room should be open to the public in a week. Of course, check their blog for the latest news out of Kane and be sure to friend them on Facebook. Thanks, Dawn, for all the great pics!