Two more batches of Wit

Posted in Uncategorized on July 17, 2009 by daveshuck

I made the Wit 2 more times. The second batch was lower in alcohol, but was less satisfying in flavor and mouth feel. The third batch is in the fermenter right now. I made it with the remainder of my 2-row. I hope to have more of a pale ale finish than a wheat finish. I’ll know how it turns out on Monday, when I transfer it to kegs.

I think that there might be an infection in the yeast that I used in the second batch. It has started to have a slightly sour flavor and a odd texture to the tongue. I have only noted it in one of the kegs, but my cleaning process is rather solid, so I would be surprised that it was due to a dirty keg.

I pull off all of the parts from the kegs and hand scrub them in StarSan. Then I put them back together and hook them all up in series. I fill the first keg with how water and StarSan and close it up with as little air space as I can. I allow the first keg to sit for 5 minutes and then fill the keg, through the gas-in port, with CO2. This insures that there is as little O2 in the keg as I can get. The StarSan flows from the first kegs beer-out port into the second kegs gas-in. In this was, I am able to fill and empty each of my kegs, first with StarSan and then with CO2, leaving only a little bit of StarSan foam as residue.

The kegs are pressurized to about 20 psi and can be stored for filling. When I fill them, I spray down the top of the keg and fill through the beer-out port with the gas-in port open. It is easy enough to track how full the kegs are by watching the condensation ring climb up the side of the keg. I leave about 3 or 4 inches to give me enough head room to carbonate. 30 psi at 36F for 3 or 4 days usually does the trick. I have 3 kegs that I am pushing up to 40 psi at 36F, for the purpose of bottling. When you are counter pressure bottling, it is easy to lose much of the CO2 from solution, especially if you are using equipment that you don’t have a lot of experience with. I will chill down all of the bottles and the counter pressure filler when I bottle on Saturday or Sunday. I have 3 or 4 cases of swivel top bottles (Grolsh and Fisher, mainly) as well as a good number of mixed 12oz and 22oz. I should be able to put most of the 3 kegs into storage and have the kegs clean for the third batch to come out of primary at that time.

There is a chance that I have found a brewing job! One of my old coworkers is looking into opening a brewery south of KC (by about an hour) in the late fall or early winter. If it works out, I’ll be the head brewer. It will be a production brewery, as opposed to a brew pub. Please keep your fingers crossed.


First Wit beer and a great party

Posted in Uncategorized on May 18, 2009 by daveshuck

So, Christine’s birthday was on this last Sunday and we had a party for her on Saturday, May 16th. I wanted to have some good beer, so I made my first Belgian Wit. Wit is a beer made with 60% unmalted wheat and flavored with spices. I used fresh ground coriander, chamomile flowers, and orange zest.

The brewing method is a little different from most of the beers that I have made due to the unmalted wheat. It needs to go through several temperature steps and rests on its way through the starch conversion. I put the grain into my mash water at 60F and stopped at several places along the way;105F, 115F, 122F, and lastly at 152F. I let the mash sit for ½ hour at each temp to let the enzymes from the Vienna malt do its best at converting what it could into sugar. What happened shocked me. I guess that I underestimated the power of my 2050 brew sculpture, because I ended up with a starting gravity all the way up at 1.055 rather than the 1.045 to 1.050 that I was shooting for. Great conversion rate, just less than 80%! Wow.

I used White Labs WLP400 Belgian Wit yeast. The beer finished at 1.007 in only 8 days due to the big yeast starter I made. That’s 6.32% by volume rather than the 5.0% I was planning on.

We went through 5 gallons in no time and everyone who tried it liked it.

What will I do next time? First thing I want to do is increase the amount of chamomile flowers. There was only a hint of chamomile. The other thing I want to do is to culture the dregs from some bottles of Hoegaarden. I read that it can be the difference between a good Wit and a great Wit.

I’ll bottle up 5 gallons of it and send some off to friends for review.

Fun at Rimann Liquars of Lenexa last night

Posted in Uncategorized on April 3, 2009 by daveshuck

Yesterday, Christine handed me a copy of Tastebud Magazine ( ), a local foodie monthly. They have a beer writer that is a long time homebrewer. I contacted them, asking how I could get in touch with the writer. I get a call a little while later from the publisher. We talked about the brewery for a time. I might be advertizing with them in a few months.

He told me about an event in Lenexa. One of the brewers from Boulevard was going to be at Rimann Liquors from 5:00 to 8:00. How could I miss it? It was a canned food drive for a food kitchen. I showed up with my can of Chicken and Biscuits a few minutes after 5:00. The place was packed in no time. The brewer, Jeremy Danner, was a lot of fun to talk to. He answered every ones questions and everyone seemed to have a great time. I won a Blvd shirt, cap, and bottle opener. Kick ass! The store has a great beer selection and I would suggest it to anyone who lives in that area.

The beer writer sent me an email that said that 4 new breweries are opening up in the area! Great news! One of them is called Dead Canary Brewery ( ), in the West Bottoms. My wife and I had talked about how we would love to open a brewery there. “I would love to have the brewery in the lower levels of the building and live in the upper levels. Wouldn’t that be so cool?” Good for them. I hope to try their beers soon.

First homebrewing class part 2

Posted in Uncategorized on March 12, 2009 by daveshuck

We had the second half of the class on Saturday. This time, there were a few more issues.

During the week, I checked the gravity of the batch. It dropped to 1.030, then to 1.020, and settled at 1.015 by Thursday morning. I turned the temp down as cold as it would go and the thermometer was soon reading 36°. I let the pressure out of one of my 5 gallon kegs, sprayed the top of the keg with StarSan and opened the top. I filled the keg with beer and put the pressure up to 25psi. I was expecting to shake the keg every hour or two while adding CO2 until it was highly carbonated. I only shook the keg a few times that day and a handful of times yesterday. That was a mistake.

Saturday morning, as the guys showed up for class, I checked the carbonation and was chagrinned to find that the carbonation level was low. We tried to boost the level by pumping 30psi into the kegs and rolling them across the floor, back and forth.

When using a counter pressure bottle filler, you have to think backwards. You need to imagine how much carbonation you want the beer to have after it has been poured into the glass. You then need to figure out how much it will need to boosted in the bottle and how much it will lose during bottling. A standard bottle of beer has about 2.4 to 2.5 volumes of CO2 dissolved in it. I needed the beer in the kegs to be more like soda in a can, closer to 2.7 volumes. I think that we were at 2.4 in the keg, which would leave us with sad, low bubbles.

Beer also needs time to sit after it has been carbonated or it will try to spit all of the gas back out right away. While we were trying to bottle the beer, I kept getting almost nothing but foam. Counter pressure bottlers depend on the beer transferring smoothly from the keg to the bottle so that you lose as little of the bubbles as you can. If they are filled with foam, most of the gas leaks out and the beer is flat.

After about 2 6-packs, Doug got the hang of it and was doing much better that I was. We kept him busy for the better part of 3 cases of bottles.

Tim, one of the other students, is a barbeque master. I mean it. He brought 2 smoked pork butts, homemade sausage, and other goodies. Doug and Patrick both brought stuff as well and we had an amazing lunch.

Doug gave me a great suggestion to pull 5 gallons aside and show how to do bottle conditioned beer as well. I will surely add this to the next class. All in all, I had a great time with this first class. With what I learned, I’m sure that future classes will be even better.

I have added several new class dates to the website. Christine also suggested that I make a change to the beer line up. We will be making a Maibock in May, a Wit in July, and a pumpkin beer in October. If I have a December class this year, I want to make a spiced wassail beer or even some sort of gingerbread porter.

First homebrewing class part 1

Posted in Uncategorized on February 28, 2009 by daveshuck

Well, we had our first all grain homebrew class last Saturday. I had 3 guys sign up and I think that we all had a good time. Two of the guys had brewed before and one was completely new to it.

We got the burners started and began talking about water. We had a little trouble weighing out the grain on my bathroom scale (I had better come up with a better scale). Grinding the 40lbs of grain was another matter. I was not using the same bucket that I normally use. This bucket didn’t have a lip for the mill to attach to. It kept sliding around. We had to have one person holding the drill and one edge of the mill, one guy holding the bucket in place and the other side of the mill, and the third guy dumping in the grain. When we were done, we were all covered with grain dust (I need to build a stand for the mill). When the bucket was full, we transferred the cracked grain into a plastic tote. When the water was at temp, about 165°, we started dumping in the grain. They all took turns and it did my heart good to hear them all talking about how great the mash smelled.

I remember the first time that I brewed with my brother, Brian. I wanted to curl up in the converted keg that we were using. It smelled that good. We used the same vessel for our mash tun and kettle. I vaguely remember Brian talking about enzymes and strike temp, conversion and extraction. All I cared about was the smell of the mash. It was hot cereal and brown sugar. It was fresh baked cookies hot out of the oven. It made me feel warm and safe. Then my brother dope slapped me in the back of the head. “Are you listening?” he asked. “I thought I lost you for a minute.”

After an hour at 150° to 156° with the wort recalculating from the bottom of the mash tun, through the heat coil, and back to the top of the grain bed, it was time to start the sparge. We slowly drained the wort into the kettle. I had them all taste the grain before we milled, so I had them taste it again now that it was spent. “Grape Nuts and popcorn hulls,” was the best description that I got from them. We then tasted the wort. Sweet and tasty, it was nice.

While the sparge was going on, I broke out the hops. Our 60 minute addition was Magnum. I cut open the bag from and handed it around. Again, I was happy to see their eyes close as the smelled the hops. I have always loved the smell of hops. We put the whole hops into hop bags so that they wouldn’t clog the drain spigot when it was time to chill and transfer the wort into the fermenter. The wort started to boil and we turned the heat down so that it would keep boiling, but not scorch. At 20 minutes to go, we added Irish Moss. The clear broth like wort turned into egg drop soup before our eyes. Our second addition, at 10 minutes to flame out, was a mix of Cascade and Centennial, as was our last addition.

When my brother Brian first got me into brewing, I made a 20 lb whole leaf order from It came in a huge box. I opened every box so that I could smell them all. Some were like pine sap, some were more like cheese. I shouldn’t have opened the bags until I was ready to brew with them, but I was like a kid with a new toy.

We pulled two garden hoses into my garage and hooked them up to my counter flow chiller. They were leaking, so we put the chiller into a bucket. I had cleaned most of the junk off of my garage floor, but I didn’t want everything that was still on the floor to get soaked. The chiller worked wonders. It was still a little bit on the warm side for pitching, about 80°F, so I turned on the Pepsi cooler that my 24 gallon fermenter lives in so that I could pitch the yeast closer to 70°F. I had gotten a little bit worried about overflowing the conical, so I sanitized a 5 gallon carboy and sent the last 2 gallons of wort into it.

By this time, it was after 4:00. We had another few pints while we wound down. At the next class one of the guys, who is a competition barbeque veteran, will bring a pork butt. I can hardly wait. We will be covering transferring, kegging, carbonation, and bottling when we meet up again. I have also offered to let them all brew with me again if we split the costs of the ingredients.

After they had gone, I pitched the yeast. There was not a lot of mess to clean up. I added some hot water to the kettle, gathered the dishes and equipment, and swept the floor. I was done in no time.

On Sunday morning, I dragged the rest of the equipment out and cleaned it in my front yard. It didn’t even take an hour before I was done. I don’t know how much more spent grain I can fit into my composter. With three 20-gallon batches this winter crammed into it, I am running out of room. It turns into a big popsicle all winter long. It is sure to smell nasty mess when the temp gets above 70, in a month or so, but my garden will love it. Christine, my wife and partner in the future Belton Brewing Company, has been looking at spent grain bread recipes as an alternative to composting it all. I, on the other hand, am thinking about making a morel mushroom patch and would love to have as much compost for it as I can get.

We have updated the Belton Brewing website and have posted several new class dates. This week I hope to find a homebrew shop that will want to advertise and partly sponsor the classes. I also need to pick up glass bottles for the guys to be able to take home some of the beer.

I’ll post again after the second part of the class is over.

P.S. This posted in my wife’s name because I am new to blogging and can’t figure out how post under my own name.

11pm and I have a clean office

Posted in Uncategorized on August 4, 2008 by daveshuck

Well…mostly. I still have one file drawer to go through and one pile of ‘stuff’ to sort through…oh, and then there is the closet. But my desks, both my writing desk and the computer desk are cleared and the Inbox is EMPTY. That is a good thing. There is am small ton of shredding to do, but I can do that anytime, or ask Dave to, he’s usually willing. Before I go to bed I will go through the small pile and pull out all of the books (I am eyeballing about five so far) and I’ll find a bookshelf to re-home them. Most of them are reference for different writing projects, but they were in a filing cabinet drawer and the space usage was inefficient. We have a ‘bare-bones’ website up and functioning. Here it is: Belton Brewing We set up the bank account the other day after we got back our EIN and Articles of Organization for the LLC. That was a big step. Just having a clean office – man, what a difference. I was getting edgy and rather bitchy. And forget about concentrating on anything for more than a couple of minutes. Now I have a drawer set up for the B.B.C. and one for my publishing company, Creative Solutions. With everything in place I hope that I can get back to work on the 3-year business plan that I had begun writing before family flew in from California and my uncle died and I managed to get some horrid intestinal bug. It’s been a crazy two weeks. I also sat down yesterday morning and began fleshing out the outline for the brewery book. I have this dream, this starry-eyed dream, that it will be touted as the most complete, most in-depth and detailed tome on opening your own microbrewery in the history of publishing. Wouldn’t that be nice?! The other day the house phone rang and it was a temp/perm placement agency asking me if I was in the market for a new job. I had to laugh, it had been nearly five years since I applied and interviewed with them! I said, “Hon, I have owned my own business for three years now and it is my intention to never, ever, work for someone else, for the rest of my life.” I said it nicely, but I was completely sincere. The young woman on the other end of the line laughed and asked me what my business was. “Well, I own two businesses, a housecleaning business and a professional organizing business.” I went on to tell her about my book, “Get Organized, Stay Organized”, which should be completed by the printers and in my hands by the end of the month at the latest. And then I realized I actually have three businesses, since I had to start a publishing company in order to self-publish. “And well, if you count the microbrewery we are planning to open in Spring 2009, I guess that makes four businesses. And did I mention I also have a toddler?” I think I blew her away. I can assure you, it sounds far more impressive than it is. But I do enjoy watching people’s reactions to the idea of me owning four businesses at once. Little old me…well, maybe not little. The point of all this is not to brag, but to point out that I’m busy. I have my hands full of plans and ideas and “to-do’s” and I’m enjoying myself. I have no idea what tomorrow may bring, and I’m pretty okay with that. I just take it one day at a time and I stop to play and sing and dance a lot. Our current favorite is Elmo’s song. Would you like to join in?

Where are the details???!!!

Posted in Uncategorized on August 3, 2008 by daveshuck

I’ve got that song from Pink playing – “Dear Mr. President”. It’s one of those songs that just gets me, pulls me in, pushes at my emotions.

“Let me tell you about hard work,
Minimum wage with a baby on the way.”

I can remember those times. I think about how hard it was almost every day – as I give thanks that I’m not there any longer.

A couple of months ago I picked up a book by Ariel Gore, “How to Become A Famous Writer Before You’re Dead.” It’s good so far, just a few pages in. I picked it up a half hour ago and cuddled up to E to nurse her to sleep for her afternoon nap. She’ll be 22 months on Monday and she still nurses at least twice a day. It’s nice, damned convenient, and I love the feel of her tiny body cuddled close against mine. The other day she actually patted my breasts and asked, “nurse” when she got hungry.

She talks more and more each day and it is exciting, I wonder what she will say next. Let’s see, she says:

Mama, Daddy, Baby, No, Ow, Doggie, Kiki (kitty), Hello, Bye-Bye
Mote (remote), Goll Gone (all gone), Squito (mosquito), Nurse (when she’s hungry)
What’s that?, Oh, Mess! (whenever there is trash or a mess), Uh-Oh
Eyes, ears, nose, gums, teef (teeth), Bowes (eyebrows), Juice, Tea, Beer (I blame her father)
I Do!, Sit, One, Two, Tree (three), Tank Too (Thank You)

And I’m sure there is more I just can’t remember right now. I am fascinated at how quickly her learning is taking off in recent months.

Today I took her grocery shopping and we stopped in at Aldi’s. There we found a VTech Alphabet Farm toy and she got busy pushing buttons and flipping switches. One game was a counting game where the machine would light certain letters. You pressed the lighted letters and it would count out loud. Press the dark letters and it was a mistake. I explained it to her, it took a few seconds to get her attention, and she immediately began to press the lighted ones and get the applause. The game was for ages 3 and older, and she lacked the motor skills to only press the lighted ones and not the dark letters consistently, but I was still impressed with her abilities.

Oh yeah, back to the book. So end result of Chapter 1 is to find the frickin’ time to write and just damned well do it. Find the time, make the time, write while you’re driving or write when you should be sleeping – but if you don’t find the time then it isn’t important enough to be real.

I think that is true with anything. I see organizing clients doing the same thing – wondering aloud how in the world they will get organized when they “have no time” and it seems so overwhelming. The answer to that is, if you want to get organized, you have to make the time.

What is it about us that we expect some magic answer? We buy books, attend classes, go to seminars, and hunt down our friends, family and neighbors in order to ask them for their advice. The answer to it all? Make the time and it will happen. Don’t make the time and it won’t happen. Plain and simple.

I have this theory that 75% of the people who take a class (or buy a book or go to a seminar) on how to do something already know how to do it, they are just looking for the magic pill. I’m not talking about taking a class on beading or quilting here, I’m talking about general life skills that have somehow been transmuted and glorified into something ‘special.’

Which brings me to my next ‘issue’ – “How to Start Your Own [fill in the blank] Business” books. I mentioned this to my husband last night. When I first came up with the idea of starting a housecleaning business I checked out a book aptly titled, “How to Start Your Own Housecleaning Business” and read it cover to cover. There was one paragraph in it that covered whether or not to hire employees. It went something like this:

Retaining staff to work for you can be a complicated decision to make. The process of interviewing, hiring and retaining staff requires many details you do not have to deal with if you are a one-person business.

Okay. Yeah, that’s helpful all right. In my case, I was completely against hiring staff…until I found out I was pregnant four months into the business. That was a bit of a hiccup in my expectations!

So I hired staff. And I lost staff. And I hired more staff. Then I fired staff, lost staff, barely restrained myself from kicking one or two staff in the head, hired more staff, lost some staff, and dealt with more extraneous crap than I had any desire or expectation to (even in my own life!).

Ever since, every ‘how to’ book I pick up I find is missing glaring details. And it is the details that make a business succeed or fail. And I find myself asking, is it just me, or are all of the ‘how to’ books I have found completely lacking?

Now don’t get me wrong. There are details on many things. Nearly every ‘how to start a business’ book includes a section on setting up your office, filing, and accounting systems. It usually includes some kinds of advertising info, a description of industry trends, and helpful advice from others currently working in the field.

Perhaps I need to give some examples. So I’ll take our latest venture, the formation of our future microbrewery, The Belton Brewing Company, LLC.

My husband and I had a two-hour long discussion on the merits of aluminum cans versus glass bottles the other day.

That wasn’t in either of the ‘how to’ books we have on starting a microbrewery.

I’ve spent dozens of hours gathering data in order to do a cost analysis for the business plan. It’s included details such as average ingredients costs, liability insurance, batch sizes, waste percentages, bottling/canning supply costs, equipment rental or purchase options. I need all of these numbers in order to present a reasonably accurate income projection for the business plan.

That also wasn’t in either of the ‘how to’ books.

How does one set up an effective floor plan? These machines and equipment are BIG. You need floor drains and you need to treat your concrete so that the yeast doesn’t get into it and dissolve it into dust. Where do you receive and store supplies or stage the finished product to be shipped out? What is a realistic amount of space for offices, bathrooms, and a tasting room?

I found one small paragraph (it was the same article by the same author in both books) that briefly mentioned creating a balsa wood model of the floor plan.

Perhaps it is that I am looking for complete answers. I want the answers to be thorough, researched, action-tested and detailed. And I’m not seeing those answers as such. This leads me to the following questions:

• Am I expecting too much?
• Is each situation so unique that it can’t be described in better detail because it would not apply to the next person’s situation?
• Is that much detail too tedious or boring?

See, I don’t think I’m expecting too much. And while each situation is unique, short of making the details too tedious and boring, I really do believe they need to be said. Anything else is just too broad a generalization. And if you are going into business, generalizations DON’T work, specifics DO.

It all just reaffirms my decision to blog and then put into written form my journey towards starting a microbrewery. If I can have just a handful of people read my book and go, “Wow, that is something I didn’t think of!” and turn their attention to those details before the details become a deal-breaker and cause their fledgling company to fail, than I would feel like a real winner.