Tag Archives: homebrewing

Cultivating a New Yeast Culture for My Cherry Beer

A couple weeks ago my mother-in-law gave us a bag of organic cherries from Costco that she said were too sweet for her.  I thought, “Great! I will make a beer with them using some of the yeast I have been cultivating from a project I started well over three years ago.”  I have been a little too busy to brew on the regular schedule that I normally follow.  When I went to look at my yeast, I saw mold in it, and it smelled like old socks.  Three years of use is a very good run for a yeast culture. I think it might have happened because I had started using a smaller malt-extract-to-water ratio for feeding it. So, I started over again, making a new yeast culture, and I got to play with my yeast science equipment.  

After I collected the yeast in a baking pan from the air next to an open window in my condo in West Fairview in Anchorage, I put the starter into an Erlenmeyer flask.  Before, I had used a growler.  I brewed up a batch with the cherries after feeding the yeast for about two weeks.  It was frothing in the flask when I pitched it into the cherry beer wort I made.  When the flask was open, I also took a small sample out and viewed it with Maria’s new microscope (I gave it to her for her birthday, she requested it). It is now happily fermenting away in the corner of my second bedroom.  I only brewed a gallon, and used one pound of cherries.  The wort tasted great, so I have high hopes for the final product, but you never know when utilizing wild yeast.  There will only be 8, or 9 bottles total as the cherry puree and trub will absorb some liquid. I intend to brew another gallon batch this weekend but I will use lingonberries instead of cherries.  

Cheers out there!  I hope you find tasty beers to keep you fortified during the pandemic!  

The science station.
The new yeast culture viewed through the microscope. The big green blog is a hop particle.
The yeast culture in the flask, and a small batch of cherry wort ready to ferment in the green jug.

Product Review – uKeg 128

ukeg growlerwerks

In 2014 I was really into craft beer, well I guess I should be honest — I am still really into craft beer.  I might just know more now about it than I did five years ago, which means I realize how much more there is to learn!  Anyway, in 2014 I was releasing a new beer painting every day, and so 2014 was the “Year of Beer” for us.  We entered a giveaway on Twitter for a uKeg pressurized growler by a new company called GrowlerWerks in Portland, OR, and actually won!  We were really excited, and I remember telling everybody about it.  Well, the uKeg didn’t show up in 2014.  In 2015 we contacted GrowlerWerks inquiring about the contest, but apparently the company was struggling with production delays, so it didn’t arrive in 2015.  A few months ago I started seeing these things all over the place: the local home-brew shop (Arctic Brewing Supply), Zymurgy Magazine, and at the homebrew club meetings as well.  So we decided to ask whatever happened to our uKeg one more time.  Well, we received a very nice and apologetic reply from GrowlerWerks, and a few days later, the uKeg, along with a bonus insulated steel pint cup arrived!!!  Better late than never.

A uKeg is a fancy insulated stainless steel growler with a cap that houses a CO2 cartridge.  It has a pressure gauge, a sight glass, and a mini-tap allowing beer to be poured without the beer oxidizing.  I have had a draft system in our house since 2006, and I’ve enjoyed home brewing for quite a bit longer than that.  A 5 gallon keg can be a bit much (the 2014 me would be shocked to hear me say that), and I’ve lately been making 1 gallon batches — part of my house yeast and coolship project.  I brewed two one-gallon batches this week and now I can use the uKeg to dispense my homebrew.  I wanted to test the system so I made a trip to my favorite beer store here in Anchorage, Alaska — La Bodega. It has many draft beers available for sale, and when I asked if I could fill the 128oz uKeg they said, “Of course!”  

I had it filled with an exclusive IPA brewed by Midnight Sun Brewing Co. for a restaurant called The Potato, located in McCarthy and also Valdez.  The beer is called Hop Potato IPA, brewed with (no, not potatoes) Idaho 7 hops.  This is a one batch beer at this time, so you can only get it at The Potato restaurants in Valdez, or McCarthy, but there is also only one keg at La Bodega because the owner is friends with owners of The Potato.  I enjoyed this beer greatly two weeks ago at the release party in McCarthy, so naturally I filled the uKeg with this IPA.  So my house might be the only place in Anchorage to get a draft pint of Hop Potato from a CO2-charged dispensing growler keg, thanks to my uKeg!

Using the system is pretty easy.  I first cleaned and sanitized the uKeg with just an iodine rinse and a second rinse with plain water.  Then the fill at the growler bar.  Put the cap together with the CO2 cartridge, adjust the pressure and pour away!  There is a cute little button to lock the tap closed so it won’t pour out while in transit.  The gooseneck on the faucet swivels in order to fit better in a backpack. The people at GrowlerWerks really designed this product well!  It holds two growlers, so expect to pay double, but you won’t have to feel obligated to finish the beer in one session, since it will stay fresh in the uKeg. 

Cheers to GrowlerWerks for inventing the uKeg and bringing draft beers to the nano scale!  

ukeg growlerwerks

Year of Beer Paintings – Day 86

Today’s beer painting is of my favorite homebrew of all time known as the SPR, Scott’s Private Reserve.  All great beers have three-letter name acronyms: IPA, ESB, APA, PBR, and now SPR.  I named my favorite beer after myself, because I wanted people to know that I made it.  This is the first beer recipe I made 100% on my own, and I am constantly monkeying with the formula, mostly because I try to keep my homebrew affordable, and I use ingredients that are freshest and readily available.  Large doses of dark grain and hops make this dark beer more of a porter than a stout.  I brewed this particular dark ale with California ale yeast #5 from White Labs, the liquid yeast that comes in a vial.  This yeast produces a fruity quality in the brew.  I used exclusively Simcoe hops, which is one of my favorites.  Normally utilized as a bittering hop, this high alpha hop does the trick nicely.  Simcoe has a piney citrus aroma that will knock your hat in the creek!  I brewed three batches in a row, each with different hops and yeast.  The dark grain is always delicious with any combination of yeast and hops to go along with it.  This is a session beer that is not too strong.  I hate hangovers and I brew this one to be consumed during the long dark winter when people gather and have deep conversations in Alaska.  I keep the beer light in alcohol, but high in flavor to enhance the moment.

Here’s to homebrewing!  A fun hobby with great results!  If you haven’t had an SPR, stop by and I’ll pour one out for ya!

You can purchase this painting, or a limited-edition print at my Etsy Shop.

View the complete Year of Beer Paintings gallery.

Beer painting of homebrew stout in mason kerr pint jar year of beer

Year of Beer 03.27. Scott’s Private Reserve Homebrew. Oil on panel, 8″x10″.