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CCHBS News for March 2004

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  1. March Recipe Specials
  2. April All-Grain Class Date Change
  3. Price Increases on the Way
  4. Refractometers at a Good Price - Any Interest?
  5. Belgian Pale Malt on Sale in March
  6. Hop Rhizomes - Tell Us Which You Want
  7. Spotlight on Technique - Why Take Gravity Readings?

March Recipe Specials

The Pacific Gravity featured style for March is India Pale Ale, and we've got not one, but two IPA recipes on sale for the month of February. Plus, we'll continue our special on Anchor 2003 Homebrew Club of the Year Steam Beer.

Inglewood IPA is one of our oldest recipes, originally called Indiana Pale Ale. We changed the name last year because beginners were getting confused, but it's still the same great recipe. It's a fine example of an American IPA. If you haven't made it by now, isn't it time you tried it? Ordinarily selling for $34, it's on sale for only $30.00.

30 Minute IPA is our newest recipe, even though it's a recipe Greg has been working on for a couple of years. It gets its name from the fact that the wort is only boiled for 30 minutes, with a very large hop addition at 20 minutes for both bittering and flavor. That means you can shorten your brew day considerably. - Greg once brewed two batches before lunch, just because he could. It's not a recipe for the faint of heart, but then no IPA is. Try 30 Minute IPA for $30 for the month of March.

We're also continuing to feature our recently renamed Anchor 2003 Homebrew Club of the Year Steam Beer! This special will run through the end of the year, or until Anchor's lawyers find out about it. This is the perfect time of year to brew this style, and it's only $22.

April All-Grain Class Date Change

We realized that our next all-grain brewing class was scheduled for Easter Sunday, so we've moved it up a week to April 4th. This class will show how to use the club system to brew 10 gallon batches using the traditional sparging technique. The class will start at 11AM. Plan to stay until the end of the day because knowing how to properly clean the system before putting it away is essential.

Price Increases on the Way

W'eve been putting this off as long as possible, but the weak US Dollar means that the price of imported goods is going up. We've been getting warnings from our suppliers about price increases for a while now and they're finally starting to take effect. Unfortunately, as our costs go up we have no choice but to raise prices accordingly. Sorry.

Refractometers at a Good Price - Any Interest?

We've got an opportunity to buy refractometers at a price which would let us sell them at $45/each, compared to typical prices of $60-70 or even higher. The catch? We've got to buy at least 30 of them to get that price, so if you're interested, please let us know. If you don't know why you need a refractometer or even what they are, read the "Why Take Gravity Readings?" section below.

Belgian Pale Malt on Sale in March

We're overstocked on Belgian Pale malt, so we're putting it on sale for $1.25/lb. during the month of March. This is a great pale ale malt, and is suitable for any style of beer, not just Belgian ales.

Hop Rhizomes - Tell Us Which You Want

It's nearly time for us to order hop rhizomes, and while we'll be ordering the usual suspects - Nugget and Cascade, there are other varieties available to us. So if you're interested in growing Centennial, Chinook, Fuggles, Glacier, Goldings, Hallertau, Horizon, Liberty, Mt. Hood, Saaz, Santiam, Sterling, Tettnang or Willamette, be sure to let us know - soon!

Spotlight on Technique - Why Take Gravity Readings?

One of the most-overlooked pieces of equipment included with our starter kits is the hydrometer, used to measure the sugar content of a liquid. Since sugar is what yeast turns into alcohol, this measurement should be of significant interest to all brewers. In fact, it's so important that ideally brewers should take constant measurements at every step in the brewing process. Unfortunately, there are some practical considerations which make this difficult, but not impossible to do.

The biggest difficulty lies with the hydrometer itself. In order to be accurate, hydrometers are calibrated at a specific temperature - 60 degrees F. Unfortunately it takes a good while to cool mash runnings or boiling wort down to that temperature, and by that time it might be impossible to do anything useful with your reading. Enter the refractometer. Since they work on a different principle, refractometers aren't as sensitive to temperature. And since a sample of only a few drops is needed, it will cool much more quickly. How useful is that? During a recent brew session I took gravity readings of the initial and final runoff of my all-grain batch - in time to calculate that my final gravity would be approximately what I'd planned on. Then towards the end of the boil, I was able to take readings every few minutes until I hit the exact gravity I was shooting for. Not too shabby, eh?

If you're brewing extract batches, gravity readings aren't quite as critical but they're still important. In fact, partial-boil extract brewers face a different problem. Because water is added to wort to bring the volume up to 5 gallons, it's very hard to get an accurate reading because the heavy wort tends to sink to the bottom while the lighter water rises to the top. The answer? One is to stir your wort vigorously after it's cooled and take the gravity sample after stirring. The other approach is to take a sample before adding the water, then calculate the gravity based on the relative volumes. Neither is a perfect solution, but they're both workable. And the only practical way to determine the alcohol content of a beer (a frequently asked question at CCHBS) is to know what your original gravity was before fermentation

All brewers should take gravity reading before bottling. If there's too much residual sugar left in the beer, it's possible to end up with bottle bombs when you revive the yeast up by adding priming sugar. It's also necessary for the alcohol content calculation. I also like to take readings every time I rack the beer between fermenters, just to check on the progress of the fermentation.

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