May 172013

O2 Regulator


Surely, most who read this article will find the information rather obscure, but for any brewer who uses a PSI meter on an O2 tank with a sintered stone, it was very difficult to find any info related to this on the Internet.  So here we go:

For those of us who use O2 tanks with a regulator that displays PSI rather than flow, it can be a dubious battle to figure out proper air flow.  One way to do this is to set the O2 regulator to a set PSI, attach the .5 micron sintered stone to the tube, affix a milk bag (1 litre) to the stone, start flowing the O2, and time how long it takes to fill the milk bag.

For our system, we found that setting our PSI regulator to 15 will fill a milk bag from crumpled to plump in exactly a minute.  Using a .5 micron sintered stone, this flow rate will saturate our wort with ~8-10ppm of 02 (optimal) in one minute.



Apr 152013

sham bock

AROMA: Chocolate, coffee, dark fruit.  Slight cola aroma.  Clean aroma (to-style).  Some warming alcohol.

APPEARANCE: Reddish-chestnut, very clear for a darker beer (to-style for a lager).  Nice, dark tan head with respectable lacing.

FLAVOUR: Coffee, chocolate, cola.  Slightly vinous.  Finish is clean and short (to-style for a lager), but is also fruity (to-style for a Doppelbock).  Warm alcohol in finish (to-style, and no hot alcohol present).

MOUTHFEEL:  Thin mouthfeel.  Good carbonation.

OVERALL:  Sham-Bock covers a lot of descriptors in the BJCP style guideline for a Doppelbock.  A Doppelbock, however, should have a medium to full body, and this is where this beer falls a little short.  In contrast, for 6.8% abv., the thin body helps to make this beer very drinkable, disguising the higher alcohol percentage well.
Apr 152013

red bread

The Liquid Bread Carbonater is one of our favourite brewery “mini” must-haves.  The concept is simple — Put flat beer into a plastic bottle (PET, pop, whatever…JUST NOT GLASS), chill in fridge, and carbonate in a few minutes.

Yep, it’s that easy.  All you need is a CO2 tank, regulator, and a ball lock gas disconnect (not sure if they work on pin locks, as we don’t use those), the Liquid Bread Carbonater, and a bottle.

CAVEAT:  Go to and watch the instructional video on how to use this device correctly.  The way we use it works for us, and may not follow the safety instructions on how to use the product.  We suggest you always put safety first, and decide what method works for you.

Now, here’s what we do…


When carbonating a flat beer, you want to squeeze out the headspace containing air.  Air contains a lot of oxygen and nitrogen.  Oxygen you don’t want in your beer.  Nitrogen you can’t get in your beer (at these levels of PSI).


We attach the Liquid Bread Carbonater to the ball lock gas dispenser while the CO2 tank is shut off.  We then squeeze out the air from the bottle, and screw the Liquid Bread Carbonater onto the bottle (again, with the CO2 shut off).  We then turn on the CO2 tank, and set our CO2 regulator to 40 PSI, and set an alarm for 2 minutes if we are force carbonating a 500 ml PET bottle.  The video on states that the PSI should not exceed 40 PSI, so we feel using that PSI should be safe (figuring the product has a safety buffer factor).  The video also states, however, that the product should never be attached to the bottle and CO2 for more than 20 seconds.  We leave it on for 2 minutes, 3 for a beer like a Hefeweizen, while vigorously shaking the bottle.  Again, do what is safe and what works for you.  Using safety glasses, and perhaps a towel over your bottle while force carbonating are two ways to increase safety no matter how you use this device.


Here we are vigorously shaking the cold flat beer for 2 minutes at 40 PSI (for a typically carbonated beer).  We then take it off the gas, and shake it some more to further infuse the CO2.


Here, we have shaken the cold flat beer for 2 minutes.  We then try to put the beer in the fridge for as long as possible…Doing so will help diffuse the CO2 into the beer, reducing slight overflow of the beer when opening the bottle.  Most of the time we just open the beer and pour it quickly.


Et Voila — Our chocolate stout force-carbonated for 2 minutes at 40 PSI from completely flat (we used the BRIX chocolate in the beer…mostly because it said it was “for wine”).  Beautiful carbonation, lasting lacing, no waiting weeks to bottle condition, and very good use of extra beer that didn’t fit into the keg when transferring from the fermenter.  We do find, if we feel especially discerning, that putting the beer into the fridge and waiting a few hours or days will make the carbonation seem more infused into the beer (mouthfeel).  Typically, this is only rather slight, and not always worth it.  And hey, if you need a beer to go from 0 to carbonated in 2 minutes, that’s probably not your primary interest.  We have also put entire batches of beer into 2 litre pop bottles, and used this method to carbonate them.  Carbonating bottles does not correlate  on a linear scale with respect to PSI vs time.  For example, while we force-carbonate a 500 ml bottle for 2 minutes at 40 PSI, we often force carbonate a 2 litre bottle for 5 minutes at 30 PSI (we use 2 litre bottles very infrequently, so please experiment with these on your own).

The Liquid Bread Carbonater is a great, relatively inexpensive (~$20-$30 CAD) addition to your brew house.  The best reason to justify its purchase is this: While you are transferring your beer from your fermenter to either a keg or even while bottle conditioning, you can fill a plastic bottle with your flat beer, chill it, carbonate it, and know what it takes like right away.  Not only does this give you impatient gratification, it also gives you a benchmark in regards to how the beer will develop in keg/bottle.  Also, for brewers like us who like to tweak their beer post-brewing/fermentation, this is a great way to do so.  You can even use a thief to fill a bottle, and quickly turn it into a finished beer to evaluate it and decide whether the beer is good for the keg/bottle, or needs adjustment.







Apr 102013


APPEARANCE – Gold with off-white head and sticky lacing.  Lazy bubbles drifting up from bottom of glass.

AROMA –  Subtle orange zest, pine and perfume hop notes.  Some bready malt aroma with a very slight caramel.

TASTE – Mild hop flavour overcome by pleasant hop bitterness.  Long, pleasantly hop-infused aftertaste.

MOUTHFEEL – Thin mouthfeel that drops out quickly, making it quite sessionable.  Very good level of carbonation that lends itself to improved hop qualities, and scrubbing of the palate.

OVERALL – A great example of a pale ale.  A beer that is aromatic, flavourful, and bitter, but also one that is heavy on hops and light on malt — which, really, has been what the hop-maddened crowd has demanded for years.  I would, however, personally enjoy a tad more malt backbone to carry the hops.

Apr 102013

dead elephant

Dead Elephant IPA is named after an elephant named Jumbo who was hit by a train in the late 1800s.  If that doesn’t advertise “impact”, than I don’t know what does.  Sifting through Railway City Brewing Company’s website, two strong opinions come to mind.  First, while the website does offer some insight into what Railway City is about, it would benefit from a face-lift that needs to be fleshed-out.  Second, the section on “Our Environment” is a nice addition.  Here, the website explains how, as a beer consumer, one may reduce their carbon footprint.  Here’s to you, Jumbo.


APPEARANCE – Between dark gold and light amber.  Clear.  Bubbles rise lazily.  Off-white lacing with a lasting head.

AROMA – Pleasant, slightly harsh, assertive hop aroma with subtle supporting malt.  Some alcohol warmth that blends nicely with the hops.

TASTE – Hop bitterness dominates the taste profile, but not to an excessive level.  I do get some hop harshness, but it isn’t too distracting.  Malt resides in the background, somewhat bready/biscuity, and could be a little more in the foreground.  Bitterness is nice and strong in the finish.

MOUTHFEEL – Moderate body, but quite soft, slick, and could have a little more carbonation to spritz it up.

OVERALL – I do like this beer, and I think it has merit.  It seems like a little extra carbonation would bring this beer together nicely.

Apr 102013

French Press 1

Dry-Hopping is virtually synonymous with certain beer styles, such as American IPAs.  The process is simple in its basic form — add hops, leaf or pellet, to your beer after fermentation is complete.  The idea is to impart your choice of extra hop aroma, flavour and/or bitterness to your beer.  The process works so well because aroma and flavour compounds are saved from being lost in the kettle during boil or scrubbed away by CO2 bubbles escaping from your fermenter.  In addition to these plusses, it enables a brewer to add more bitterness to a batch of beer after the brew is complete.

Often, brewers will add the hops straight into their beer, while others will use a hop sock or stainless steel tea balls.  There is much debate on topics such as which hops work best, and how long the hops should be left in for.  We’ve dry-hopped, and enjoyed the contribution it gave to our IPA, but we also wanted to play with another concept — French Press Hop Tea Infusion.

French Press 2

With French Press Hop Tea Infusion, the idea is as follows.  Follow these three easy steps.

1) To add aroma – Bring a small amount of wort to a boil to sanitize.  Let cool.  Add wort and desired amount of hops to french press.  Let sit for desired amount of time (typically 15-30 minutes).  Press down.  Add to fermenter.

2) To add flavour – Bring a small amount of wort to a boil to sanitize.  Let cool to ~170ºF.  Add wort and desired amount of hops to french press.  Let sit for desired amount of time (typically 15-30 minutes).  Press down.   Add to fermenter.

3) To add bitterness – Bring a small amount of wort to a boil, add hops, continue boiling for 45 -60 minutes.  Add boiling wort and desired hops to french press.  Press down.  Add to fermenter.

NOTE: Using a small amount of water in place of wort works as well.  It’s up to you.

Liquid Hop Gold

Liquid Hop Gold

We tried this experiment with an IPA we had brewed to showcase Zythos hops (a proprietary hop blend developed by Hop Union — supposedly containing Simcoe, Citra, Palisade, and Amarillo).  After using our French Press to hop-infuse this IPA, the difference was night and day.  We’ve read, and agree, that you need less hops when using a French Press than you would if you were to dry-hop in the traditional way.

A major benefit to using a French Press to hop-infuse your beer is that you can pretty much add it to the beer instantly, rather than waiting days or weeks to dry-hop traditionally.  With this technique, you can really explore hops…simply take a small amount of different hops, use them separately with the French Press, and add your hop liquor to a sample of beer.  Instant results!

We are, admittedly, new to French Press Hop Tea Infusion, but currently feel that it’s a fantastic way to experiment and improve beers that need that extra aroma/flavour/bitterness kick!



Apr 102013

beaus beaver Kopie

We’ve heard Beau’s referred to as “the happiest place on earth”.  There is such a strong loyalty to this brewery.  In fact, it happens to be Tina’s favourite brewery, and we haven’t even visited them yet.  There labelling is, hands down, some of the most amazing we’ve seen.  Where so many breweries believe that the more noisy their labels, the better, Beau’s walks with rural confidence, with the odd wild label that really showcases the merits of their Creative Director, Jordan Bamforth.  We both love what this brewery is all about.  Good work, Beau’s.

Beaver River I.P.Eh? is considered the pegged-down version of the Screaming Beaver.  Perhaps Beaver River is meant to be a more approachable example of a highly-hopped beer.  We would agree.  Hops are this beer’s strongpoint, with malt taking second place, which is to style.  It’s a confidently solid beer that makes you want another the moment the first is finished.

APPEARANCE: Attractive amber with a solid off-white head and great lacing.  Bubbles are rather aggressively floating up to the surface.

AROMA:  Strong hop aroma that isn’t insanely over-the-top hop.  A little more restrained than we had expected.  Pacific Gem dry-hopping is difficult to discern (should impart oak & blackberry) which adds to the complexity of the aroma.  Some sweet, citrus, pine aroma mixed in.  Malt is in the background here, but some breadiness comes through.  Very spritely and approachable.  A stronger malt aroma would make this beer even more enjoyable.

TASTE: Strong hop bitterness and a sharp hop taste that is a little more assertive than we had expected.  Finish is all hop flavour and bitterness.

MOUTHFEEL: Medium bodied, which makes this beer satiating yet still very drinkable.  Seems like harder water is used than many other Ontario Craft Brewers, which works very well to make the beer hop-forward at a small loss to the malt profile.

OVERALL: A session IPA that shouldn’t offend many people who would try an IPA in the first place.  The beer’s hop assertiveness is a plus, but a little more malt aroma and flavour would make this beer that much better.

Apr 092013

spring oddity Kopie

APPEARANCE: Hazy light gold colour with little to no head.  Moderate amount of bubbles rising.

AROMA: White Labs 500 Trappist Ale yeast (the one Chimay uses).  Heavy fruit esters, especially banana.  Very pleasant malt aroma.  The added ingredients, such as juniper berries, heather, and orange peel are most masked by the yeast, but are still there.  We know that yeast well.  We have brewed many beers with it.  Very nice aroma.  We can’t find hops.  Magnum is typically a clean bittering hop, so that makes sense, but Sorachi Ace is known for its lemon aroma, but we can’t find it.

TASTE: Trappist Ale yeast (seriously identifiable stuff), with orange peel and perhaps juniper and heather (harder to discern as we have less experience with them).  There is some bitterness that seems not from hops…orange peel?  Finish is a yeasty-orange peel plus some more complexity.

MOUTHFEEL: Lightly Moderate body.  Beautifully mouth-coating.  Moderate, assertive carbonation is complimentary to the beer.

OVERALL: Very enjoyable beer.  We’d love to see some head-retention and lacing, as well as, perhaps somewhat higher carbonation.  These are minor notes.  Overall, this beer is great.

Apr 092013


beaus coffee

APPEARANCE: Stunning reddish copper hue with a light custard frothy head.  Beer left in bottle after pouring displays large soapy bubbles.  Brilliantly clear with tiny bubbles.

AROMA: Coffee.  Very good coffee.  Malt aroma secondary.  When glass is swirled, some grassy hop notes peak though.

TASTE: Coffee at, perhaps, 50% intensity.  Here is where malt actually makes a comeback, balancing the coffee taste.  Some hop taste and bitterness, but only enough to balance the malt and coffee.  Aftertaste is a pleasant melange of coffee and beer.  Slight caramel notes in the finish.
MOUTHFEEL: Soft and smooth.  Carbonation does well to cleanse pallet.
OVERALL: Beer in general tends to deliver coffee upon the vehicle of stouts and porters, and so it’s a pleasant change to experience coffee in an amber ale.  Beau’s does a great job packing in the coffee aromas and flavours, and then balancing the coffee with a very stable beer.  Very drinkable.
Mar 092013

Hop City Big Mouth Pale AleBrewery: Hop City Brewery
Style: Pale Ale
ABV: 5%






“Rebranding of Happy Hour Pale Ale”

A division of Moosehead Brewery, Hop City is nestled in Brampton, Ontario, and has been brewing moderately known beers such as “Barking Squirrel Lager” since 2009.   Seeing large breweries taking notice of the craft beer scene while trying to corner a piece of the market is a sign of the times, and one that reassures the fact that craft beer is creating more than just foam.  And hey, it also means that the big guys are making some better beer.  Molson seems to be doing very well with their BEER ACADEMY in Toronto, while Labatt’s Alexander Keith’s has just launched their “Hop Series”, debuting both a Cascade and Hallertau version this month.  While this, in a way, puts pressure on smaller breweries, it seems that they are doing just fine, collaborating on brews to ensure strong bonds to survive the oppression of the large, dominating entities.  If a movie were to be made about this, “Beerheart” featuring Willamette Wallace, would seem fitting.

Like the Belgian beer, Delirium Tremens, it seems that the LCBO is not willing to carry Hop City’s pale ale while branded as “Happy Hour Pale Ale”, as it (arguably) promotes inebriation.  Hop City has therefore rebranded this beer as “Big Mouth Pale Ale”, and utilized a rather “loud” label to go with it.  The back of the 473ml can defines the beer as “an extremely well balanced pale ale with a flowery and citrusy aroma, ample hop bitterness, and caramel malt sweetness…48 IBUs of US Cascade and UK Kent Golding Hops.”


APPEARANCE: Golden and clear (presumably filtered).  Thin, white creamy head with moderate lacing.

SMELL: Stong hoppiness with some caramal malt notes.  Hops have a slightly harsh soapiness.  Get some hoppy citrus, and maybe some floral.  Aroma does diminish rather quickly, but then levels out to something approachable.

TASTE: Hop-dominant flavour & bitterness.  Body is a thin and soapy.  Finish is mostly hops which is enjoyable and has the palette ready to drink more.

MOUTHFEEL: Moderate carbonic bite and hop bitterness on the tongue.  Very soft (presumably a soft water profile).

OVERALL: A session pale ale seemingly geared to be consumed in more than modest quantities.  The beer is thin in body, but the hop-flavour is noteworthy.