Brew Dudes

Homebrewing blog and resource

Getting Started in Kegging Homebrew

John had some unfulfilled questions about getting started in kegging homebrew. It has been a long time goal of his to start kegging some of his beer while still bottling most of his batches. He wants the option to quickly carbonate and serve fresh beer at home for family and visitors (mostly me, I hope). This week, we touch on some of my recommendations for his first few purchases of the main hardware.

Kegging Setup

This conversation covers some of the obvious equipment needs to get started. More importantly, we cover the largest ticket items for getting started and we discuss a couple of the not so obvious ways to save some money and/or hassle when getting started in kegging homebrew.

Buy a Fridge

You’d be surprised how often it come up that someone tries to get stared in the kegging process but doesn’t want to invest in a fridge. Buy a fridge because an ice bath doesn’t cut it. Purchase one that can do double duty as a storage fridge for brewing ingredients and bottled beer. In the past, a quality stand up fridge has also been good for storing a large birthday cake or a 6 gallon bucket of turkey brine. So consider the multipurpose utility of a fridge to justify the cost of your first kegging fridge.

It’s incredibly hard to carbonate a warm keg and expect good pouring results later so that is why a fridge is necessary. Also, a dedicated fridge keeps the beer cold which helps clear faster and is much easier to work on balancing the beer lines and carbonation for foam free pouring than trying to serve kegged beer using an ice bucket.

Don’t invest in a CO2 tank

Unless you are absolutely sure you have a vendor that will fill a CO2 tank for you, you’re better off doing tank exchange. I prefer tank exchange because you can save some costs. A brand new tank as a part of a kegging homebrew kit usually costs more than the entry fee for getting into the tank exchange program.

[This is something we didn’t talk about in the video. It’s somewhat cheaper (albeit more work) to piece a system out yourself rather than going with a kit. After the keg, the tank is the most expensive part of the setup.]

Buy a Regulator

This item is pretty straightforward. Buy a dual gauge regulator, though I don’t think I’ve seen too many single gauge regulators. One gauge is for the tank pressure and the other one is for line delivery pressure.

The regulator is a cost that you can’t get around. In fact, it will cost a little more if you heed this very important advice: Protect your regulator.

They sell this device called a regulator cage. It’s usually around $15, pretty cheap money for what you get out of it. A CO2 tank with a regulator and a hose attached to it tends to have a habit of being in the way, a lot. If you’re like me, eventually, you will knock over your tank and break one of the gauges.

I was able to replace the gauge, but for the cost of the cage, I wouldn’t have broken the gauge if you catch my drift. No cage and I’m likely to bust another gauge someday. It’s a cheap investment to save you money in the long run.

Compare the Costs of New vs. Used Kegs

To be honest, I don’t think the cost of a new 5 gallon corny keg is worth it. Used kegs are generally slightly cheaper and just as good. Be sure you buy one that is already holding pressure. If the keg was most recently used as a soda keg (pretty rare for that to be the case these days), you’ll want to get a gasket/o-ring replacement kit.

The rubber rings tend to absorb flavors and aromas. For some reason, soda aroma just doesn’t leach out that easily. New rings might be worth it all together to avoid leaks early on and you’ll know how much service time are on the new rings rather than waiting for a frustrating failure of beer all over the floor of your new fridge (see the first item above).

There’s a lot of ‘little things’ that go into getting started with kegging homebrew too. We’ll address those in an upcoming video.

Until then, BREW ON!

SMaSH Beer Tasting with Amarillo Hops

Amarillo SMaSH Beer
If you really want to know what hops taste and smell like, you have to brew with them.

You can open the packets and sniff them, you can make a hop tea and drink them, or you can put them in your pillow case and sleep on them* but none of these actions will really allow you to understand the true expression of a hop unless you taste them in a beer.

If you don’t have time to brew with them, do the next best thing and read this post and watch our video about our SMaSH Beer Tasting with Amarillo hops!

What is a SMaSH beer?

If you are new to home brewing beer or don’t like acronyms, SMaSH stands for single malt and single hop.

The recipe for this beer only calls for one hop variety and one base malt.

By keeping things simple and not introducing other malts or hops to the list, you can really learn a lot from how the hop presents itself in the aroma and flavor of the beer.

Why Amarillo Hops

Back in 2007, we wrote hop profile about Amarillo hops and it was placed on our shortlist of varieties to learn more about later on. We really never got to it for a few reasons.

The hop crisis at the end of last decade made this variety hard to find and newer hops were released between then and now that have grabbed our attention.

Finally, eight plus years later, we found the right time and the right place to brew up a SMaSH beer.

What Did We Learn From Our SMaSH Tasting?

We tasted the beer and the Amarillo hops certainly played well in this recipe format.

The orange-citrus flavors were present and easy to pick out. They were not overpowering and actually allowed some of the malt flavors to come through in the after taste.

Mike thought of all the recent SMaSH tastings that this one could stand alone on its own better than the rest. It was more in balance where the other ones were more experimental in nature.

Amarillo hops would work well in an American Pale Ale or an India Pale Ale. Another thought we had, which we had on the profile post, was that this hop would taste great in an American wheat beer where citrus notes really taste great against the wheat malt background.

After tasting this beer, I wish we had gotten around to closely exploring them sooner.

If you are looking for some orange notes in your beer, we have the hop for you.

Please leave your Amarillo hop thoughts in the comments below!

Thanks for reading this post. We appreciate your attention and hope you got something out of this post.

Check out our other SMaSH tastings om YouTube.

As always, Brew On!

*I don’t think that last one will really help you out much but you will get a good night’s rest due to the sedative effects of hops. Someday, I ought to try sleeping on a pillow of hops.

SMaSH Beer Tasting With HBC 438 Hops

Are you excited about new hop varieties like we are? If you are a homebrewer, I am willing to bet that the answer is yes. It’s one thing to learn about hops through web sites and catalogs but it’s another thing to actually brew with them in a format that allows for the hop flavor and aroma to really express itself in a finished beer. Watch our SMaSH Beer Tasting with HBC 438 hops to see what we mean.

As you may have read in our HBC 438 hops profile, this hop is not ready for prime time. It is available to homebrewers at this time through a few select retailers. Because this variety is still in its testing phase, you would be a part of the cutting if not bleeding edge of new hop discovery by brewing with it.

HBC 438 SMaSH Recipe

So I brew one gallon batches for these SMaSH beers that we use for these exploratory tasting sessions. I mash and brew in a bag (BIAB) so clean up doesn’t take that much time. I use 2 pounds of base malt (usually American 2-row, sometimes English pale) and mash in 2 gallons of water which translates into a 1.75 gallon pre-boil volume and results in one gallon in the fermentor.

I add one ounce of hops to the boil. For the HBC 438 recipe, I added these amounts at these times:

.25 ounces at 60 minutes
.75 ounces at flameout

I use dry yeast to ferment – Safale US-05 works great and I add a half packet (around 6 grams) and add it straight to the gallon jug. I don’t rehydrate – I just pour it in. There is enough yeast to ferment that volume and then some. Fermentation lasts for 2 weeks and then I bottle with 23 grams of corn sugar (boiled in a cup of water for 15 minutes and added to the bottling bucket). My methods are consistent from batch to batch and I believe the consistency of my output matches that. Try it out at your own home brewery and let me know what you think.

SMaSH Beer Tasting Results

Ok – we feel like we may be a trailblazer in terms of our notes on how this HBC 438 presented itself in this SMaSH beer. The big takeaway was that this hop imparts a distinct red grapefruit flavor and we have not seen that as a descriptor anywhere. I have seen orange but not red grapefruit.

The taste so spot-on comparable to that citrus fruit and it was distinguishable without interference from other flavor compounds.

HBC 438 SMaSH Beer

Should You Brew With HBC 438?

Yes, you should buy a packet right now. Get them before they are not available to just homebrewers and get renamed with something more clever than Hop Breeding Company’s numbering system. Brew with them and let us know if you get red grapefruit out of them too.

As always – comment below with your thoughts. Check out our other SMaSH tasting videos on YouTube.

Brew On!

HBC 438 Hops Profile And Information

Imagine a hop variety that has been released just for homebrewers. What I have learned about hops is that we are way low on the totem pole when it comes to the priorities of farmers and cultivators around the world. There are bigger players with more financial support than our tribe could put forth (at this point in time). That’s why it pleases me to write up this post dedicate to this special variety. Here is my HBC 438 hops profile!

HBC 438 Background Information

We have profiled hops in the past that were known for their non-brand name which include:

Azacca hops (Experimental hop # 483 from the American Dwarf Hop Association)
Equinox hops (HBC 366)
Mosaic hops (HBC 369)
Citra hops (HBC 394)

Of course, HBC 438 does not have a brand or trade name yet. It is still very much an experimental variety. Since the variety is only available to homebrewers, we are part of the test.

The variety was announced at the 2015 National Homebrewers Conference and has since become available for purchase in 1 ounce pouches. I was able to buy one through Norther Brewer.

HBC 438 Hops

HBC 438 Origin

Cultivated by the Hop Breeding Company, which is a joint venture between John I Haas and Select Botanicals Group in Yakima, Washington, USA.

It is the product of an open pollination with a known parentage of a native American variety (Neomexicanus) and unknown varieties in 2004.

Since then, the plant producing the cones has had a nickname – Ron Mexico. You may see commercial beers that have that name too. They are brewed with HBC 438.

HBC 438 Specifications

Aroma/Flavor: The descriptors are as follows: tropical fruit, stone fruit, herbal and spicy, and a subtle cedar. Some others stated orange and mint.

We brewed with these hops in a SMaSH beer and have one descriptor that we didn’t see anywhere else.

Alpha Acid: 14-18%

Typical Usage: We should fully embrace this hop variety for what it is – experimental. I do not think I should tell you what the typical usage is because it doesn’t exist. I brewed with them as in a very hop forward beer. You should try them out in any style where you want hop aroma and flavor to shine.

One thing to note – all proceeds benefit through the Ales for ALS program. So every sale helps that organization fund research to find a cure for ALS. Although we have not been personally affected by this disease, we believe it is a worthy cause. Plus, buying an ounce of hops is probably more pleasurable than spilling a bucket of ice over your head.

If you needed further incentive to buy this hop, know that you will be helping out the Ales for ALS program too.

Hope you found this HBC 438 hops profile interesting. Check them out – Brew ON!

SMaSH Beer Tasting With Azacca Hops

To learn more about hops, we have been brewing single malt, single hop (SMaSH) beers to taste and experience the hop flavors and aromas that certain varieties are described as having. We feel it is one thing to read about flavors and another thing to taste them. Learn along with us as we have a SMaSH Beer Tasting with Azacca Hops

This variety is gaining popularity with homebrewers. I wrote a profile about Azacca hops and was pretty excited about them after I did the research.

Updated SMaSH Process

If you haven’t seen one of these videos before, my process for this experiment is to brew up a one gallon batch using one base malt and using an ounce of the specific hop that we want to learn more about.

The one ounce works well in the batch size and it economical since I don’t have to buy a lot of hops for what is essentially a test.

One gallon batches are great because they don’t take as much time start to finish as a 5 gallon batch and are easier to pour down the drain if need be.

Last year, the hop additions in the 60 minute boil used to be spread out. Now, I just do a bittering charge at the start (.25 ounces) and add the rest of the hop packet at flameout.

How Did The Azacca SMaSH Taste?

This hop variety presented itself as having a dried pineapple flavor in the beer I brewed. There was some citrus notes. Mike tasted some melon. I found it to have a strong bitterness in the aftertaste.

The few descriptors we did not detect were mango and papaya. It could be based on our lack of experience with these tropical fruits or that these flavors did not present themselves in the SMaSH beer. There seemed to be a lot of complexity to the beer’s hop flavor and aroma.

One thing we have been noticing with these new varieties is the level of flavors that are present in the finished beers. It can be difficult to pick out certain flavors as descriptor since there is so much going on in the aroma and flavor.

What Did We Learn From Our SMaSH Beer Tasting With Azacca Hops?

This hop is worthy of the hype. It will definitely bring a big bold presence to your hop profile. It is certainly a variety that will add something extra in your late hop additions in your IPA. We’re not sure if it would work in other styles but American ales are a place to start with your experiments.

Check out our other SMaSH videos on YouTube.

Let us know your thoughts about Azacca hops below.

Brew On!

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