Friday, April 25, 2008

The Brew Crew - Denimbrauhaus

In this week's Brew Crew edition we will be visiting with DenimGlen, marking our first international crew member. We cross the pond and hand the mash paddle to DenimGlen and his DenimBrauhaus in New Zealand. Cheers and welcome to the Brew Crew!

1) When/why did you start brewing? Where did the name Denimbrauhaus come from?

I started brewing about two and a half years ago. A friend of mine gave me a recipe to brew hard cider in a coke bottle with bread yeast. I made a few bottles and and was hooked on the process of fermentation. The stuff tasted pretty terrible - like bread soaked in apple juice. I ended up buying a brewing set-up from my LHBS with the intent to make cider but it came with a beer kit so I made that first. I wasn't a beer drinker at the time but ended up liking the batch and kept making beer and forgot about cider.

The name Denimbrauhaus came from a nickname I was given when I was younger. I loved my ripped pair of jeans and denim jacket and people kept referring to me as "Denimglen". The name stuck and I just threw it together as a name for my homebrewery.

I'm still really new to brewing and beer but I've go the bug and can't stop!

2) When/Why did you start blogging?
I started blogging about my brewery not too long ago; first post ever was 29/09/07.
I thought it would be interesting to document my progress on equipment and batches for myself more than anything. I didn't expect my blog to be to interesting to anyone else. I do find it handy to link to when someone asks about my equipment or hop plants etc.

3) What/Why is your favorite recipe/style to brew?
That's a hard one. As the ingredient selection here in New Zealand isn't as great as in the US/UK it's hard to piece together recipes for some styles.

I'm quite fond of US Pale/Ambers. Great flavorful beers that one can still drink a couple of without being overwhelmed with flavor or alcohol. Second to that it would be English style bitters.

4) How did you piece together your brewery set-up?
Too Slowly!
I did three extract with grain/hop recipes (after about 10 failed kit and kilo beers) and decided I needed to go all-grain.

I started off by getting a decent sized pot for heating liquor on an old two-ring burner we had around the house.

The common Rubbermaid beverage coolers are extremely overpriced here in NZ so I opted for the rectangular cooler instead, then converted it in the same way most HB'ers do to use an MLT. I originally had the stainless braid setup but changed to a copper manifold because of the deadspace I had with the braid and it always floated around in the mash. Luckily there was some 0.5" copper pipe lying around so all I needed to purchase were the copper joiners to assemble it.

My biggest problem for an AG brew set up was finding a suitable kettle. I originally was using a stainless steel distilling unit boiler with an immersed element of 1380w. One element took forever to boil so I added a 2400w to run with the smaller unit. This set-up was ok but it was very small capacity so boiling over 23L was a problem, so the kettle had to be watched very closely for a 20L batch. I then was told from another homebrewer about the stainless steel electric urns available that hold up 40L, and also come with a tap and sight glass installed all for a reasonable price about 200NZD (around 150USD). With another element installed and a copper pick up tube they make for a quite a good kettle.

The reason I went with electricity instead of gas is the cost of burners and pots here are quite high. The selection of burners is also not large, there is pretty much only one set of ring burners available and they're not very powerful. And being a big bulky item they're not cheap to import.

I've put together about three copper immersion chillers so far. The latest one fits around the fixed immersed elements in my kettle. The immersed elements were a problem as there was a lot of space around the elements that wouldn't be cooled and the chiller wasn't stable sitting on top of the elements.

I'm also in the process of putting together a single-tier rig at the moment. Nothing too fancy - single pump, direct fire MLT with converted kegs for all vessels.

5) How are your hop plants doing? What variety are they?
It's autumn here so I harvested late summer and cut down the vine afterwards. I had a reasonable first year harvest of about 100gm. After cutting down the vine I buried it in hopes of harvesting some rhizomes for next season. At the moment there are a few sprouts coming up from the original rhizomes and the buried vine.

The variety is a Cascade-unknown cross. I was given a rhizome from another brewer that had found a seed in with some cascade clones. It does smell very cascade-like but I have no idea what it's crossed with.

I've just used them in an APA recipe so it will be interesting to see how it turns out.

I'm looking into getting another variety or two for the upcoming season. One's a Cluster cross called Smoothcone and the other is an unknown German variety. Apparently there are hops growing in the wild in some parts but I haven't been able to venture out for them yet.

6) What brewing technique do you want to learn next?
There's nothing that springs to mind. Currently, I'm working on acquiring parts for and assembling my single tier set-up. After that I will mainly just be focusing on refining my techniques.

7) Do you brew self-sustainably and/or organically?
Although NZ has a few varieties of organic hops grown here I've never made an all-grain organic brew - I don't believe ogranic malt is readily available here. I'd find it interesting to do a side-by-side batch with similar malts and hops to see how they compare.

8) What is your favorite blog(s) to read?
Not exactly a blog but I think the recently started is great. is also a good laugh and has a great name. I do find myself browsing brewing blogs from time to time but nothing in particular. I also lurk around a sort of blog/social-network site for NZ brewers.

9) Are you a member of a homebrewing club or AHA?
Currently no. I am thinking to see if there are any homebrew clubs in my area and I may look into joining Society of Beer Advocates

10) What is your favorite brewery(s) or beers to patronize?
I'm happy to support any small brewery or even large breweries that put out a decent drop. For New Zealand brews I've really enjoyed the Limburg, Epic and Emersons breweries.

11) Is it hard to find brewing ingredients in New Zealand?
Kit and Kilos aren't to hard to find, most supermarkets carry them. Better quality K&K's can be found at homebrew stores who usually carry a large selection of cans.

Extract with added hops and all-grain doesn't seem to be very popular in New Zealand but there are a few staunch followers off these methods. Luckily, a great LHBS, Brwers Coop, is 5' from my house and carries a good selection of grain and hops. Unfortunately, because of supply and demand rules the selection of grain and hops isn't huge in NZ but one can usually make do with what's available for the most popular styles. Yeast is another thing that's hard to get. The common dry strains are easy to find but no stores carry liquid yeast, again because of supply demand.

12) How has the hop and barley shortage affected your brewing?
So far not too bad, I assume because the NZ stocks haven't needed to be resupplied yet. There has been a small price increase of both but nothing too bad so far. I love the process of brewing and fermentation and as long as it's affordable I'll still be brewing.

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