2014 Brew Year in Review

It’s 2015, isn’t that crazy?  Twenty-Fifteen. It sounds so… futuristic.  A friend shared an article with me comparing how close certain dates were to each other, like 1980 being closer to FDR, Churchill, and Hitler fighting each other than it is to today.  Cray-zee. Well we’re looking forward to what the future holds for us here at MHB as we look back on the awesomeness of 2014.

2014 Brew Year in Review

  • We brewed 12, 5-gallon batches of beer
  • We brewed 3, 1-gallon experimental batches of beer
  • We brewed 2, 5 gallon batches of mead
  • We brewed 2, 5-gallon batches of hard lemonade (Sweet, sweet lemonade)
  • All in we brewed 83 gallons of alcoholic beverages in 2014 (Maybe we should shoot for 100 this year)
  • We failed miserably at growing Centennial hops, not a single cone
  • We completed OU’s 400 level chemistry course, The Chemistry of Beer
  • We were invited to brew and serve one of our beers at a local brewery (Burnt Hickory Brewery) for their anniversary party
  • We entered 3 of our beers across 4 BJCP sanctioned contests
  • We won 2 awards for our beers: A 3rd place finish for Synesthesia Saison and recently a 1st place (we think, it’s a long story) for It’s The Great Pumpkin, Timmy D!
  • I almost forgot, our label for Atlantarctica was selected as a finalist for AHA’s Label Contest

A few stats about our website in 2014

Looks like we’ve got our work cut out for us in 2015 if we want to top our 2014 accomplishments.  I think we can do it.  Our main/only goal in 2015 is to brew better beer.  We improved our knowledge and process a lot in 2014 and we’ll continue to do that in 2015.  There are a few pieces of equipment we’d like to add our upgrade, since Santa punked me out on the Sabco.  I’ll remember that, Santa.

I hope everyone had a great 2014 and that 2015 is even better.  We’re definitely looking forward to what the year in beer holds for us.

DIY: Stainless Steel Hop Spider

I’ve seen a few write-ups on DIY hop spiders around and decided to make one myself.  Most of the other builds use a PVC pipe coupler, PVC is not safe at high temp.  A lot of people building them with PVC say it doesn’t touch their wort during boil but I’ve also seen a lot of posts where the PVC has warped from the heat, I ain’t taking any chances.  As a disclaimer, this isn’t my design but I can’t find the post where I first saw it to give credit, probably a post on HBT.

Hop Spider ready to rock

Hop Spider ready to rock

Material and tool list:

  • Stainless steel sink / garbage disposal flange. (I paid $18.00 at Home Depot but found this one on Amazon for $12.78 with free shipping 2-day for Prime members.)
  • 3 ea. stainless steel bolts.  Measure your kettle to see what total diameter you need.  My kettle is 15″ across, I used 3/8 x 8″ bolts
  • 6 ea. stainless steel nuts to fit your bolts
  • Stainless hose clamp big enough to fit the sink flange
  • Reusable hop bag
  • Power Drill
  • Metal punch
  • Metal drill bit, one smaller and one the same size as your bolts
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Pliers
  • Safety glasses so you don’t get metal shavings in your eyeballs

What you need to do:

I always mean to take pics of the process on these things but I forgot to here.  The build on this isn’t that complex though so it should be simple enough.  You can do it, I believe in you.

  • Measure the inner diameter of the flange and mark equal spaces for your three bolts, centered along the height of the flange
  • Using your metal punch, mark a starter spot to drill your holes
  • Drill a hole with the smaller drill bit, if you have a drill press and vise you can likely skip this step, but this made it easier for me
  • After drilling the pilot holes, drill out the holes the same size as your bolts
    • Be careful doing this.  The metal can grab the bit and spin the flange and can hurt you, which sucks.
  • Put a nut on each bolt and screw it about 1/2″ onto the bolt, these nuts will be on the outside of your flange
  • Place the bolt through the hole and adjust the outer nut so just enough bolt is inside the flange to secure the second nut
  • Put another nut on the bolt inside the flange, use the pliers to hold the outside nut and tighten the inside not to secure the bolt to the flange, repeat the last 3 steps for each bolt
  • Take your hop bag and put it through the center of the hose clamp
  • Place this over the bottom of the flange, most of the flanges have a lip at the bottom that works well to keep the clamp from slipping.
  • Measure the depth of your kettle to see how much of the bag you’ll need hanging down, you want a bit of clearance so it’s not setting on the bottom of the pot but you also want to make sure it’s deep enough to stay in the wort when full of hops.
  • Pull the bag through the hose clamp to adjust the length and then tighten the clamp down.
  • You now have a hop spider, go brew some beer.

This setup worked great for me, I used it this weekend to brew an IPA with fresh Simcoe hops.  It held 12 oz of hops with plenty of room to spare.

Hop Spider in action

Hop Spider in action

How to make super sexy tap handles.

Some more DIY action here at The Mostly Harmless Brewing Co.

With our recent keezer addition we kegged our first beer last weekend, an Oktoberfest Ale dubbed RAWKTOBERFEST!  We also brewed a Pumpkin Pie Ale that we hope will be our most awesome and highest ABV beer to date, estimated to hit ~9.5%.  With amazing brews like this coming along we needed some awesome tap handles to pull our pints from.

Disclaimer:  I am not a carpenter or wood finisherer.  There may be better methods to do this but this worked for me.  If you have a suggestion please feel free to leave it the comments.  Also, I probably should have taken some pics along the way but I didn’t, sorry.  I’ve just got a nice pic of the finished product but you’re smart guys and gals, if you figured out how to brew beer and make a keezer then I’d bet a dollar you can figure this out.

Super Sexy Tap Handles

Super Sexy Tap Handles

What you’re going to need.

  • Wood.  Pick whatever you like to use but just make sure it’s thick enough to install the threaded insert and not break.  I used maple for mine.
  • Threaded wood inserts.  Probably a 3/8″ x 16.  You can get a pack of 10 on Amazon for $6.37 with free shipping for Prime customers, that’s the best price I’ve found.
  • A saw.  I used a jigsaw, it got the job done but a tabletop scroll saw would be even better.
  • Screwdriver.  A thick flat tip for installing the threaded insert
  • Paint or stain of your choice
  • Wood glue
  • Foam brush
  • Plastic squeegee.
  • Lint free clean-up rags
  • Protective finish.  I used gloss spray polyurethane with good results.
  • Fine sandpaper.  I used 400 grit wet sanding pads, worked well for me.   It will depend on the quality of your lumber and your finish.
  • Optional: Pre-stain wood conditioner.  Good idea for woods like maple that tend to blotch when stained.

How to make this happen.

  • Decide on a shape and length for your tap handles and mark the outline on your lumber.
  • Cut that sucker out.
  • Sand it real good.  Get it as smooooth as you can as that’s going to help get a good finish.
  • Mark the center point of your tap base and drill the hole for the threaded insert.  The insert I used required a 1/2″ hole.
  • Install the threaded insert.  Be careful here, if the hole you drilled is too small the insert can break when you’re trying to screw it in.  Make sure to get this straight and centered when you install it.  Use an extra-wide flat head screwdriver.
  • Touch up any rough edges with your sandpaper.
  • Stuff a piece of paper into the threads before you start finishing the wood.
  • Optional step, use wood conditioner if you’re going to stain your handle.  Follow directions on the can.
  • Apply paint or stain.  I was going to stain these but wanted it darker than the stain I had so I used gloss black spray paint.  You’ll likely need a few coats to make it look nice.  Don’t get sloppy here.
  • My paint had a bit of the orange peel look to it.  After painting I sanded with wet 400 grit sanding pads and it smoothed out nicely.
  • Affix the label (if you’re putting a label on yours) with wood glue.   Put a very thin layer on with a brush, coat the entire area where the label will go.  Place the label and then use the squeegee to get out all excess glue, make sure to really squeegee it well.
  • Use a damp cloth to clean up the residue.  Make sure it’s not too wet or you’ll damage your label.
  • Chill out and have a beer and let this dry.
  • Apply your finish.  I used gloss spray poly and like the way mine came out.  You’ll need a few coats, just eyeball when it looks like you’ve got a nice layer on there.
  • Let it dry for a day or two
  • Polish the finish with wet sanding with super-fine sandpaper.
  • Install on your tap and party on.

And there you have it, handmade tap handles.  A pretty simple project that gives you a nice custom touch to your setup.  I can’t wait until our beers are ready to flow with these fancy tap handles, I’m sure they’re going to make the beer taste even better.