Where to begin… I have been slacking on blog posts lately.
Let’s start with: it felt really good to finally knock out a brew on the prototype system. Feels like I haven’t had any time to actually brew lately and that sucks.
In terms of the first brew day as a whole, I can’t really complain. That said, it wasn’t truly a full run through. First off, I only used two of the three vessels. I ran a no sparge brew, which is a first for me. Essentially running a very soupy mash. I decided to do a split batch brew and run the system at half capacity. Total yield for the day was 105 liters (pretty small). The mash build up was 80% 2 Row, 17% Cdn. Wheat and 3% Acid malt. The batch was split in to two fermenters; half was inoculated with Escarpment Foggy London and the other with Saison 2 from White Labs.
The fun part of this brew was that I decided to play around with the Tavistock lupulin powder that Kyle dropped off. 75grams at 10min and 400g for whirlpool. The only reason I did this for the prototype brew is because we weren’t running the full system and so it isn’t quite an accurate measure of what the system will be doing on a regular brew day. It was nice to be able to play around with the powder fairly risk free. That being said the target gravity was 1.058 and I hit 1.057. To be honest, I didn’t hate the no sparge method. It seemed a little weird, but numbers and volume were all on point. The main goal of the run was to look for any glaring issues and determine how well the false bottom performed.
Main issues for the first brew day.
This week, after the brew, I spent a lot of time spending a lot of money on new fittings, a new pump and discussing working out the design for our counter flow chiller as well as all the hard piping to run the system (still working on this). If you start a brewery, buy twice as many clamps and valves as you think you will need… this shit is not cheap.
What I have discovered from this adventure to fully build my own system and design it with Greg is that it would have been a lot quicker and easier to buy one… but do I care? Not really, because I have enjoyed the hands-on side of setting the back room up. That being said, every time someone walks in the door and says "hey, I heard you were a brewery," I kind of laugh and say "well, sort of." I am in the process of trying to build one from scratch. If you ask me for a timeline, I am still trying to open the doors before the LRT (ION) is cruising through the Tri-cities in 2020, but I will make no promises. The other thing I have learned repeatedly with starting my own business is just how much I don’t know. That list seems to get bigger every day, and it is super enjoyable to be constantly challenged and forced to learn new things. Working in a brewery is not the same as trying to start your own from scratch, as it turns out.
We will be hosting our final event in the back room for May’s Homebrew Hangout on the Wednesday the 31st before I start some further construction and then fill the room with fermenters and other equipment. This will be our Annual Big Bottle Share event. It was one year ago in May that we hosted our first Bottle Share Homebrew Hangout in the front room before I filled it with shit and so it seems fitting that, before I fill the back room with shit, we should do the same. Where the annual event will be in 2018, I don’t know – maybe our barrel storage facility? This Homebrew Hangout will not have a feature talk but it will feature the first beers brewed on the system: Proto1 and Proto2. Hope to see you all out, and can’t wait to share some Homebrew.
Life is Short.
Just wanted to post a quick reminder that we'll be closed from March 21-25, 2017. After two and a half years of working to build Short Finger, it's finally time for a bit of a break. What can we say? We're tired. With that in mind, here's what you need to know:
1. Our amazing friend Tymm will be keeping the shop open for us on Saturday, March 18 and Saturday, March 25. THANKS TYMM!
2. During Rob's absence, local pickup of online orders will be unavailable. Especially on the 25th, after a few days out, we just can't ask Tymm to pack up the volume of orders that we receive AND provide great customer service in store. Instead, please pop by to say hello and do some shopping. He'd be happy to help you put together a recipe (or a mashtun).
Note: Orders placed during this week will be available for pick-up when the shop reopens on March 28.
3. Milling will be unavailable from March 18-25, inclusive. That beast is finicky, and we're giving it one week vacation.
4. Shipping will also be unavailable from March 18-25. Orders placed during this period will be shipped out on Monday, March 27.
We apologize for any inconvenience that this store closure may cause; thanks for your patience & support.
Note: This post was originally published as a feature in the February 2017 issue of the Community Edition. It is available online here.
It’s no surprise that the recent flood of small craft breweries in Ontario has led to the rise of related industries. Escarpment labs in Guelph is Canada’s first liquid yeast lab, and companies like Harvest Hop and Malt and Barn Owl Malt are offering Ontario grown grain. Hop growers are popping up all over the province, too, but breweries have been slower to make the switch to local hops, which are used to add bitterness and aroma to beer.
The challenges of going local are very real. Hops are terroir driven, meaning that elements like topography and climate play a significant role in the development of the crop. Cascade hops from Oregon will be noticeably different from those grown in, say, Australia. Same deal for those grown right here in Waterloo region.
This can be problematic for brewers who are after the telltale grapefruit characteristic of the American variety. On a more technical level, it can also impact the amount of alpha and beta acids in the cones, which affect bitterness and aroma. When it comes to brewing, consistency is key. Thankfully, there are workarounds.
Culum Canally, worker/owner at Together We’re Bitter Co-operative Brewing, explains their system for managing quality: “As far as consistency of the hops are concerned, we will use local hops to a greater or lesser degree and blend them in with hops from more established growing regions like the Pacific Northwest to ensure that we maintain a consistent flavour profile in our beer.”
Most literature on hops suggests that it takes about three years for plants to mature to the point that the cones are suitable for use in brewing. But with nature involved, that certainly isn’t a hard and fast rule. As an example, Kyle Wynette from the Tavistock Hop Company (pictured on the left) points to the difficulty that growers have had in getting the Centennial varietal established on this side of the continent. While his alpha acids are consistently within range, yields have been low. Considering that Ontario is home to over 200 operating breweries, with another hundred in the planning stages, small yields are problematic.
The Ontario Hop Growers Association lists 61 member farms in their directory. Unfortunately, the listing doesn’t provide details about the age or size of most farms, so it’s hard to get an accurate sense of what’s really out there. Of those growers that do list their acreage, many are farming less than a few acres of crop. In the Pacific Northwest of the United States, for comparison, hop farming accounts for over 40,000 acres in the state of Washington alone. We’ve got some growing to do.
With twelve acres planted and more planned, Wynette’s strategy is to work with fewer brewers to make sure that the supply is consistent in terms of quality and availability. This plan speaks to the needs of brewers like Kevin Freer, who emphasizes the challenge of sourcing local hops in a province where the hop supply just can’t meet the demand.
Speaking about his desire to increase the use of local hops at Block Three Brewing Co, where he is head brewer, Freer mentioned the advantage of being able to work closely with growers who are able to plan for the needs of the brewery and tailor their growth accordingly.
This seems to be the key. Local growers offer the kind of personal relationship that can’t be had with hop suppliers south of the border or across the ocean. Wynette and the crew at Tavistock deliver all of their hops personally, and stress the importance of developing close relationships with their customers.
But change has been slow. For the most part, local hops are still something of a novelty, to be used on special occasions and with a specific purpose in mind. Breweries like Innocente and Abe Erb have partnered up with local growers in the past, for example, to brew harvest-season favourite wet hopped ales.
In November, Together We’re Bitter partnered up with the Tavistock Hop Co. to develop a heritage beer that honours the history of hop growing in Waterloo Region. They were able to use hops that Wynette propagated from more than 100-year-old plants found on the site of the former Preston hopyards, a farm that was active prior to Prohibition.
Later this month, breweries from across Ontario will participate in the fifth annual Great Ontario-Hopped Craft Beer Competition, which partners them up with a local grower. Among others, Block Three, Wellington and Elora Brewing Co. are slated to compete.
One-off brews are great for raising awareness about local hops but, if the industry is going to succeed, there will need to be a bigger commitment on the part of craft brewers. Thankfully, a few breweries have already taken the plunge. TWB uses Tavistock Cascade and Centennial in a few of their staple hoppier offerings, for example, while Wellington Brewery’s Kickin’ Back Dry-Hopped Session Ale is made exclusively with hops from Clear Valley Hops in Nottawa.
Looking ahead, it’s all about balance. Growers need to take the required time to establish a viable and consistent crop, while breweries need to show support by starting to move away from their reliance on imported hops. If everyone plays their part, we should soon be able to attribute the bitterness of our favourite local IPAs to nearby growers.
On Saturday, October 22, I learned that seven breweries in an afternoon is too many. I don't think I have ever cried Uncle before on my beerventures, but it happened. I was relatively well behaved (it's still me) and did samples and flights wherever they were available, but even so by #7 I was walking crooked. I had to look up the name of the last brewery I stopped at when I woke up the next morning. Scholb, it was Scholb. Don't ask me what I thought of their beer. The guys at Absolution treated me well and so Scholb didn't have a chance.
Los Angels has some serious sprawl. The main problem with a beer tour here is definitely the distance. I walked a lot. A lot. A lot. Using Uber, or signing on for a brew tour would be my recommendation, but the walking gave me some much-needed breathing time between pours. This write up is focused on Torrance. I didn't get a chance to head downtown (again with the sprawling distance) and before I even arrived I had decided Smog City was my main destination. There are over 50 breweries in the area, so I think I did pretty well for a long weekend.
3. Absolution Brewing Co: solid beers, solid staff and I got to play with a puppy while drinking in their sweet looking hangar. They made the standard industrial space their own, and I liked their style. Plus, puppy.
2. Smog City Brewing Co: I couldn’t say a bad thing about this place if I wanted to They offer a wide array of beer styles, all of which are done well. Great staff who are knowledgeable about their products.
1. Monkish Brewing Co: Can't be missing if you like funk and tartness. Lot's of barrels and Foeders. This was definitely my favourite stop on the trip, with excellent beer and a great vibe. They also get the #1 spot because I spotted their homebrew gear in the corner on the walk in fridge. In addition to the sours, their hoppy stuff was phenomenal.
Our quick trip to LA was a ton of fun and full of great beer. Thanks to Kat, Jordan and Nigel who were in town for a teaching conference and let me dictate where they ate and drank all weekend.
Here's the first blog post from the newest member of the Short Finger Brewing Co. team, Graham Orser. Graham is an experienced homebrewer and fermentation enthusiast. Beer, cider, rice wine, etc. You name it, he's made it. If you've got follow-up questions about this post, feel free to contact him at email@example.com.
The first alcoholic beverage I truly enjoyed was a crisp, dry, carbonated cider. I was a young man and my acquired taste for beer had not yet developed. One could say cider was my gateway into the world of fermentable beverages. You never forget your first love and home brewing has brought me right back into the arms of cider.
If you are looking for the easiest, quickest brew day ever, then I strongly recommend trying a batch of hard cider.
Apples have natural yeast on their skins that will ferment. However this is a risk. Taking a raw unpasteurized cider and letting it ferment may or may not work. In fermentation the strongest, most dominant organism wins. Perhaps the strongest organism in your raw unpasteurized cider is a bacteria or fungus less desirable to humans. Only time will tell who won the battle.
I personally like to have control over my fermentation. Cider is expensive. Or, if you choose to pick your own apples, you’ve still got to juice them which makes for a long and messy day. With time or money on the line, I want guaranteed results.
If you choose to bottle your cider, please be warned that bottle bombs are a big risk. You can reduce the risk by monitoring your bottles and testing for carbonation levels before pasteurizing. Pasteurizing the bottles will kill any active/live yeast and lock in your carbonation levels. Testing your bottles means drinking one to ensure you are happy with how carbonated the cider is.
Pasteurizing can be achieved by heating the bottles to 160oF/71oC and holding that temperature for 10min. Please note that placing bottles into water at 160o will drop the water temperature below 160o and not pasteurize your bottles correctly. Depending on how many bottles or the size of your kettle, you may need to heat water to approx. 180o-200o in order to achieve pasteurization temperature.
My name is Graham and I love Cider!
One of my favourite things about homebrewing is the ability to create essentially any style of beer imaginable. Sometimes it’s a creative process — “What if I put figs in a brown ale?” — but other times you try a beer and think, “I just want to make exactly that!” This happened most recently when I cracked open a bottle of Amber Ale from Bell’s Brewery, a craft brewery based out of Michigan.
Cloning Bell’s Amber Ale is a little more tricky than some other beers because the brewery uses a proprietary yeast strain. Luckily, Bell’s beer is bottle conditioned, meaning that in each bottle there is a (relatively) small amount of perfectly viable yeast just waiting to be reharvested by an admiring homebrewer.
Given such a tasty brew and the added difficulty of acquiring it in Ontario, I decided to reharvest the yeast and clone it. Here’s an unscientific guide to capturing yeast from a bottle of beer.
First choose an unfiltered beer from which you would like to harvest yeast. Be aware that some breweries bottle with a different strain of yeast than the one used for fermentation (send the brewer an email if you’re unsure).
Also keep in mind that sanitation is especially important while reharvesting yeast because you want to obtain as pure a sample as possible, and scale it up without any other critters coming along for the ride.
Start by mixing about 15 grams of dry malt extract (DME) in around 300 ml of water and boil for 15 minutes. After letting that cool down, crack open your beer, flame the lip of the bottle with a lighter, and pour yourself a glass, leaving about 2 cm of beer behind in the bottle. Swirl up the dregs and pour your cooled wert through a well-sanitized funnel into the bottle to about one third full. Cover with sanitized tinfoil.
After a few days you should notice some bubbling in the bottle and once that settles prepare a new starter, this time about 1 litre in volume with 90 grams of DME. (I like to boil my starter solution inside an erlenmeyer flask, which is a good way to sterilize the vessel.) Remove tinfoil and again flame the lip of the bottle. Swirl it up and pour it into the new (cooled) starter. Repeat this process twice, 2-3 days between, each time decanting the previous starter and pouring it into one with a volume increased by 500 ml.
|Step||Volume||Amount of DME||Time (approx.)|
|1||~100 ml in the bottle||15 grams for 300 ml||4-5 days|
|2||1 litre||90 grams||3 days|
|3||1.5 litres||150 grams||3 days|
|4||2 litres||200 grams||2 days|
|5 (if needed)||2 litres||200 grams||2 days|
By the end you should have a 2 litre starter of reharvested yeast ready to be pitched into your next batch of beer.
And for those of you curious about the Amber Ale, here’s the recipe I settled on.
Volume: 19 L
Yeast: Reharvested Bell’s yeast
Water: Kitchener tap water (treated with campden tablets)
OG: 1.056 FG: 1.012
IBU 35-40 SRM: 10-13
Fermentation: 2 weeks at 20*C
3.73 kg Canadian 2-row
0.68 kg Crystal 40
0.44 kg Munich malt
0.17 kg Crystal 110
0.18 kg Acidulated malt
½ tsp Yeast nutrient 10 min.
½ Whirlfloc tablet 10 min.
14 g Fuggle (4.1% alpha acids) 40 min.
14 g Cascade (6.9% alpha acids) 40 min.
14 g Fuggle 20 min.
14 g Cascade 20 min.
14 g Fuggle 10 min.
14 g Cascade 10 min.
14 g Fuggle 5 min.
14 g Cascade 5 min.
I’ve been wanting to brew a 100% local beer for several years now. I made a few attempts a couple years ago, but at that time the locally produced malt was only getting at best 50% efficiency on my setup and - on top of that - had some pretty odd flavours that, try as I might, I just couldn’t get used to. So I was very happy when I learned of Ontario Select Malt this spring, which is produced by Canada Malting.
Technically it’s not local to this part of Ontario, but it is at least from this province!
Coupled with my own homegrown Centennial hops and a yeast starter built from Amsterdam’s Homegrown Series Farmhouse Ale, I brewed up a light summer saison.
The recipe was simple: for a 3 gallon batch I had 3.75lbs of Ontario Select Malt, 1 ounce of acidulated malt, and a half-ounce of Centennial for bittering plus another half-ounce at 5 minutes.
For mashout I decided to do a pseudo-decoction and pulled out a few quarts from the mash and boiled it for about 10 minutes before adding it back to bring my mash temperature up. I also was hoping this would add a bit of extra colour to a beer that would otherwise be very light. I think it paid off because the final colour seems to be a touch darker than other SMASHs I’ve brewed. Of course this is now preventing me from doing a true comparison of this malt to other malts, so I think in the future I should stick with a standard mashout procedure.
I’ll wait on tasting notes to share at another time, as the beer has been bottled but I haven't had a chance to enjoy it yet.
Next, I plan to brew an IPA with the Ontario Select and my homegrown hops in late August or Early September, depending on when the hops are ready. They have already flowered, so I’m thinking that this year might be an early harvest, especially seeing as everything else seems to be a week or two early this summer. And while I’m brewing that IPA up I can enjoy some of the all-Ontario SMASH.
If you’re into brewing and drinking truly local beers, you should be sure to check out Short Finger and Elora Brewing’s collaborative Locals Only dinner, coming on August 24th!
I thought I would take a breather to reflect on the progress we've made on the upcoming shop. I am very happy to announce that we will be open before the Kitchener LRT! The exodus of equipment out of our house has finally ended. I have not yet emptied out the grain reserves, but that is pretty close to becoming a reality. Once this happens and I finish setting the place up, I think we should be soft opened for Christmas 2018. Ha!
To everyone that has been swinging by and picking up orders or helping out, thanks. It really has been a lot of work, and there is a long way to go, but it is very nice to not be in my basement all day. I apologize if I have not been as prompt with the email responses and if a few orders were mixed up. The transition has been a bit of juggling act, but we're getting there. Here's a few highlights:
Harley has been absolutely zero help. But boxes are emptying and the shelves are already full of gear. Luckily, the tap set up is operational; I just installed our nitro tap yesterday and have an Earl Grey tea infused mild on deck. Please feel free to stop in and check out the space if you haven’t already done so. As slowly as things seem to be progressing, I am quite happy with how the space is turning out and can’t wait to officially open the shop up to the community.
Just in case you don’t know me yet, I really have no idea when we'll actually be open and all earlier dates are merely to poke fun at how slow the Kitchener/Waterloo construction is (and how atrocious it is to try and drive anywhere in this tri-city). Big shout out to my neighbours AMICO for tearing apart the city!
Since I began to brew my own beer just over three years ago I have done a lot of brewing with friends and family. Additionally, I have shared equipment with new brewers and borrowed various items from others. And it’s not just physical items that can be shared—intellectual property can be shared as well.
When it comes to brewing beer I don’t feel like there are any big secrets out there. Between the internet and brewing literature there are endless resources. Add to those resources homebrew hangouts and brewing clubs and there is no limit to what you can learn, both on your own and by talking to others.
In all of my own research as well as the times when I’ve picked the brains of more experienced brewers I don’t think anything has helped me to refine my own brewing processes as much as inviting other homebrewers to come over and brew with me.
When it comes to habits and routines you’ll find different bits of information out there about just how long it takes to form a new habit. Regardless of the number (21 days anyone? No wait, it’s 66 days!) I have found that my own habits form almost immediately when it comes to incorporating new equipment and processes into my brew day.
For example, this past year my brother-in-law helped me put together an electric brewing system. We wanted to increase our batch size from 5 to 10 gallons and go electric to increase our consistency and lower our energy costs. After the first couple brews I had already developed a routine for using the system and was getting results that I was more or less happy with.
Then my friend Seth asked if he could try out the system. He came over to see how everything worked while I was brewing a beer with my brother-in-law. Almost immediately Seth was politely pointing out a few problems with our process. The funny thing was these things were immediately obvious once he pointed them out but my own habits had already been formed and I couldn’t see these obvious things.
I’m not trying to say that I could never improve without the help of others but sometimes it takes a fresh pair of eyes to see the things that are right in front of you. There are certainly times when I love to brew by myself. There is a rhythm to brewing that can have an almost meditational quality to it. And yet the times when I brew with others seem to be the times that I’m forced to re-evaluate the way I do things and to either defend my own ways or be open to change.
This past week Seth came over again and we brewed an IPA together. We emailed recipe ideas back and forth in the days leading up to the brew and tweaked the hop additions more on the brew day. The brew day went very smoothly with no screw ups or accidents. We hit our target pH, and only missed our target gravity by a point due to running off slightly too much wort into the kettle (I’m still trying to nail down what my evaporation rate is on this system).
One interesting thing about brewing with another person is that it is both fun and somewhat stressful. My own experience aligns with what Jeremy Dean refers to in his book, Making Habits, Breaking Habits, as the stress of “decision fatigue.” When it comes to habitual actions we are able to perform relying mostly on our unconscious brain to get us through the steps. This frees us from the stress of constant decision-making and allows us to direct our thoughts to a wider variety of things than the actual thing we are doing. However, when we step outside the norm of our habitual actions it is not only stressful but interesting and potentially exciting. While one’s own habits are open to scrutiny there is also the opportunity for new discoveries and improvements. This has been my experience so far and I feel that I grow as a homebrewer each time I collaborate with another homebrewer.
I still plan to brew by myself on occasion and I will make sure to use good techniques to keep my own habits in check (like using a checklist), but I am planning to brew collaboratively as often as possible.
It has been quite a first year (well, not quite a full year) in KW and I’m glad to say that the plan for SFBC is really starting to move forward. A little slower than we had originally hoped, but changes are happening. For those of you who don’t follow us on social media, and who missed the Homebrew Hangout at Kickoff on April 27th, I’m pleased to announce that our retail location will be 20 HURST AVE. KITCHENER.
The days of picking up at Dale Crescent are coming to an end. I’m definitely excited about this, but it’s also kind of sad for me because I will now have to leave the house. Over the next 2 months we will try to be as accommodating as possible for local pick-ups but please keep in mind that I will be spending every second of my time putting together the store to open it as quickly as possible. This mostly means that daytime pick-ups will be limited. Most people pick up in the evenings as it is, but I’d appreciate your patience if I am not as available as I usually try to be. We are not even going to guess at an opening date at this point. As I am starting to learn, nothing moves as quickly as it should and on top of that I now get to deal with the City. Speed, unfortunately, is not in their vocabulary. Committee meetings, review, and hindrance seem to be the name of the game, but our time will come.
On the bright side, securing our location means that we have something to celebrate. It’s time to throw a party! With that in mind, the next Homebrew Hangout will be held at our new location and will be considered a sneak peak and giant THANK YOU to all of our existing supporters and customers. Without your passion for good beer and, specifically, for making it yourself Short Finger would not exist. I don’t generally like being exclusive with our events, but this time around I am going to be. We will be emailing invites to all of our customers with the password to get into the hangout (yeah there’s a password… we may even make a secret knock). Event details will be included in the e-mail, and everyone is welcome to bring a +1. This Homebrew Hangout will be the first to feature SFBC exclusively, and we will be doing a blind tasting that evening, the nature of which will be announced at the event. Additionally, we’ll be opening up the event as a bottle share, so if you are so inclined to share a few bottles of your liquid gold please bring them with you.
Thanks for the on-going support, all. We’re glad to be here.
Life is Short… You know what to do!