Beer School

Starting a nanobrewery is not as hard as it used to be. The resources are there, and many others have paved the way for you to get started. The following books are excellent reads on getting started.

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The WilliamsWarn Personal Brewery

WilliamsWarn Personal Brewery
Awesome Tech but WTF?

I’m really torn on the WilliamsWarn Personal Brewery. It’s very shiny and does many fancy things but at its soul I think it might be a Mr. Beer on steroids.

The WilliamsWarn advertises that you can have perfect beer in 7 days. Their system is basically a sealed cooking pot,  conical fermenter, bright tank, and serving tank all in one. You put your extract in and cook it up and then from there you seal it up and the machine takes it from there. It ferments under pressure and by the time your beer is finished fermenting, it’s also ready to pour and serve out of the built-in tap system. The tank also has built-in heating and cooling so your fermentation temperature as well as serving temperature is automatically managed.

The video is definitely worth a watch, and their Media Pack has a great breakdown of their system, but some… strange notions regarding the necessity of maturing beers. If you’re a homebrewer you’ll probably wonder who in the hell would buy this thing at $6000. Let me say it again:


So I wont be buying one until I get my Rocket Surgeon degree but it’s definitely got something special going on.

Link: WilliamsWarn

Choosing A Beer Of The Month Club

A Beer Of The Month Club is an easy and inexpensive gift for the person who has everything.  Below is a comparison of three of the more popular clubs out there. Each of these clubs ships you twelve, 12-oz bottles of hard to find microbrewed beer from around the country. You receive 4 different styles each month (3 bottles of each style).  Check out the comparisons and if you are interested click their logo to be directed to their website.

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Microbrewed Beer Of The Month Club
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Gourmet Monthly Clubs – The Microbrewed Beer Of The Month Club

Of all of these clubs I find this one to be the most compelling. Unlike the other clubs this one offers the best range of choices and prices. They offer a free newsletter with each shipment that details each featured beer and suggests glassware and food pairings.  A very unique feature of this club is the ability to reorder your past favorites whenever you want. This is great if you’ve found something you like and 3 is not enough.

One last thing I HAVE to mention; Rare Beer of the Month club. I would like some rare beers please.

  • Domestic Only: $22.95/month
  • Domestic and International: $28.95/month
  • International Only: $32.95/month
  • Rare (2 750ml bottles/month): $31.95/month

[important]BONUS! $10 off on a prepaid 12-month subscription. Use promo code: GMC$10[/important]

Clubs of America
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Clubs Of America – Beer Of The Month Club

This club also ships 12 microbrews per month but has the benefit of no minimum purchase. This means you can sign up for a 1-month subscription rather than 2. They also offer a free newsletter with each shipment and most importantly.. FREE SHIPPING.  If you love someone but aren’t sure for how long this might be a good club to go with.

  • 1 membership type: $36.95/month
  • Free shipping

Original Craft Beer Club
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The Original Craft Beer Club

This club probably offers the most in terms of schwag with your subscription. New members receive 3 gifts (bottle opener, glasses, gourmet peanuts) and once again.. FREE SHIPPING. This club also has been endorsed heavily from many different angles such as Good Morning America, and Stephen Colbert. Like Clubs of America they also only have one membership type and they are the most expensive of the three.

  • 1 membership type: $37.75
  • Free shipping

Kegerators, Keezers, and Homebrew, Oh My!

If you’ve already decided to start kegging and have stowed your cornelius keg in a bland old refrigerator, it’s really time you start thinking about a Kegerator.

I’ve seen them called Kegerators, Keezers, and just plain old Keg Refrigerators. What it really boils down to is a refrigerator or chest freezer with a special temperature controller that shuts the fridge/freezer on an off for a desired temperature. External taps and a drip tray are mounted on the outside Here are a few of the homemade Kegerators I’ve seen that just deserve a second look.

All these geniuses deserve a lot of credit for putting together systems that look awesome. I know that if I decided to undertake this project it would come in significantly over-budget and look like a completely ruined refrigerator!

On the other side of the spectrum, you can just go ahead and buy a Kegerator and get to serving your friends and family  right away. This is probably what I’m going to do once I get around to it. I don’t have the time or energy to handle building one myself let alone what a sub-standard build would do to my delicate ego.

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The Guide To Kegging Your Homebrew

Keg with co2
Stick it in tha fridge

Once you have fully achieved Homebrewer’s compulsive disorder. You will find that you are stockpiling ridiculous amounts of bottled beer. It’s time you started kegging.  There are several benefits to kegging over bottling:

  • You fill up one big bottle, not fifty.
  • You CLEAN one big bottle, not fifty.
  • No maintaining a stockpile of empties.
  • Carbonation is accomplished in days instead of 1 to 2 weeks.
  • CONSISTENT carbonation throughout the batch. No more differences between bottles.
  • Sediment and yeast per glass of beer is less because most of it stays in the bottom of the keg.
  • You drink more beer.

Kegging  requires some initial investment but this equipment can last you a lifetime. You will need:

  1. At least one keg, called a ‘cornelius keg’ or ‘corny’ (seen above). These hold 5.5 gallons which is perfect for a typical batch.
  2. Cornelius keg gas and liquid connectors. For connecting gas and serving tubing.
  3. Tubing and a tap. You know, so the beer has something to flow through.
  4. Carbon dioxide (CO2) tank. This pressurizes the keg for serving and force-carbonating
  5. Gas Regulator. This tells you how much gas you have in the CO2 tank and how much pressure you are applying to the keg.
  6. A spare refrigerator. If you don’t have one you’ll need to find one. See my article on Kegerators if you want to invest in some awesomeness.

All these things may be sourced separately, or you can get just get them here from I recommend purchasing a reconditioned keg so that you know its gaskets have already been replaced and tested. Sometimes used corny’s have vile and putrid leftover in them from years passed.

corneliusWhen you are ready to move your freshly fermented homebrew to the keg you will of course have to sanitize first. Fill the keg with water mixed with the recommended about of santizer for 5.5 gallons. Many people swear by Star-San but I’ve never used it and have relied on a bleach solution or a no-rinse santizer like 1-Step or Easy-Clean. Let the keg sit for the recommended of time. Also soak the lid in a santizing solution.  After this time I like to put the lid on the keg and shake it, this might be OCD though. Drain out the keg (rinse it out like crazy if you used bleach) and rack your beer into the keg.

HINT: I like to fill up the keg with CO2 before racking the beer into it. The CO2 pushes all the oxygen out thereby preventing oxidation of your beer during transfer.

Secure the lid to your keg and just stick it in the fridge for several hours. It needs must be cold for the next step in which we force carbonate this bitch. I should note there are several more gentle ways of carbonating your beer but they require extra equipment or take too long. We need to drink as soon as possible so the voices in our heads quiet down.

Once you are sure your kegged beer is as cold as it’s going to get, take it out of the fridge and connect the CO2 tank to it. Set the pressure on the regulator to 20-25 psi.  You will hear a slight hissing sound as the CO2 pressurizes the keg. Sit on a comfy chair in such a way that you can place the keg across your lap so that you may spank it with carbon dioxide.  Rock the keg gently for 10 minutes or so. Sing a song to yourself or something while you do this. While you are rocking the keg you will hear more hissing as the beer accepts more CO2.

HINT: Make sure the gas inlet of the keg is kept up so that beer doesn’t drain into your gas line.

After 10 minutes of rocking and singing, stick the keg and CO2 tank back into the fridge. I usually set the pressure to around 10-12 psi and leave it all alone for 4 days. After this point it’s carbonated enough for my hillbilly tastes.

For the obsessives:

  • Yes there are particular carbonation pressures for different styles and temperatures. You can see a chart here.
  • You can also just skip the rocking and singing and just leave the pressurized keg in the fridge for 10 days or so and it will carbonate just as well.

HINT: Your stupid refrigerator has to go. See my article on Kegerators so you can realize your true destiny.

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Hough’s – Pittsburgh’s Brew on Premise and Craft Beer Heaven

brew kettle thumbnailLately I’ve been obsessing about the feasibility of a “Brew On Premises” operation in my locality which is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This started as an obsession of understanding the technical issues and legalities of converting a homebrewery to a nanobrewery, but the thought of using that equipment in a dual purpose setting with a Brew On Premises seemed like an interesting twist.

If you don’t know what a Brew On Premise operation is, it’s where customers come to an establishment and basically brew their beer. The proprietor provides the brewing equipment, ingredients and cleanup afterward. The customer gets to spend a few hours among their friends and other brewers cooking their beer, watching sports, and (if properly licensed) drinking beers from the attached bar.

I started to get really interested in this idea because you could effectively turn a functioning bar into a Brew On Premises with the expected amount of red tape (See Homebrewery to Nanobrewery), but this equipment could also act as a brewery to which you could distribute your own craft brews directly to your own bar!

Then I used the Google machine on the interwebs and found out someone already thought of this. The Hough Brothers (and family) own a bar in the Greenfield section of Pittsburgh and are weeks away from opening what I believe is Pittsburgh’s first Brew On Premises operation.  A news article from a year ago indicated that things were going full swing. A quick check of their website indicated nothing about a Brew On Premise. Hmmm, what does it all mean?

So we took a trip to Hough’s today and even though they didn’t open until 4, Papa Hough, as I’ll call him let us in to see the place. This is what we saw.

Brew on Premise Kettles
I Want This In My Garage!

It’s beautiful. Six 15 liter steam-fired kettles line the wall. Counterpressure bottling station on the other wall, fermentation and cooling tanks in the basement. Flat screen tv’s on the wall, tile floors. I could go on but let’s just say it was a beautiful operation. I am a straight up sucker for automation, copper, stainless steel and beer and I really wanted to stay and just start working on stuff.

Then Papa Hough upped the game by showing me their custom-made tap wall. Here it is:

tap wall
Wait, Where’s The Bud Lite?

Ok so this place was totally not what I was expecting. It’s got the dark wood English pub feel going on,  this awesome tap wall of craft brews, and a Brew On Premise operation. The friend I had with me is from the area and was completely excited to realize this was a place within walking distance of his house that he could get a decent craft brew and burger.

So in all I wanted to thank Hough’s for bringing something a little new to Pittsburgh, and for letting me into their business off-hours to poke and gawk at all their shiny things.

Brodie Sediment Extractor

Brodie Sediment Extractors
Brodie Sediment Extractors

How many times has this happened to you? You’ve created your perfect ale or lager, bottled it carefully, let it sit and condition for what seems like forever until the day finally arrives that you can taste your brilliant concoction. You pop the cap pour into your glass when….dammit! The yeast sediment at the bottom of the bottle breaks loose and makes it into your beer!  Granted this is not a major emergency and the yeast wont kill you. But dammit yeast, I’m done with you bitches and I want you out of here.

The Brodie brothers don’t like to drink yeast from homebrew either so they created the Brodie Sediment Extractor. This little device takes the place of capping in that you attach a sediment extractor to your bottle and let it condition upside down. The yeast falls down into the extractor and when conditioning is complete you simply detach that part of the extractor with the yeast in it and pour your beer – sediment free!

I’m not positive if you would want to use this with certain styles such as wheat beers, which rely on the yeast as part of the flavor profile but I could see this working very well with nearly any other style. I know I’ve had a few ruined pours in my time where giant chunks of yeast fall into my otherwise clear beer so I can definitely see the desire for something like this.

From Homebrewery to Nanobrewery

Red Tape
Red tape. The hallmark of starting your own nanobrewery

The idea of converting your homebrewing operation into a nanobrewery is a truly involved operation. There are multiple levels of government you need to pass through before you can start selling your beer.  This being said it’s not impossible as long as you accept that you will be working hard physically and mentally for some time.

First and foremost you should become as knowledgeable about your legal needs as you are about creating the perfect ale. Buy a good book on starting a brewery such as the Brewers Association’s Guide to Starting Your Own Brewery. A membership to the Brewers Association (about $155 for an individual) can also help you along the way to answering pertinent questions that you just can’t find on random web forums. This also counts for deciphering legal mumbo jumbo that you may have trouble with on governmental websites like

While I’m a big advocate of ‘you get what you pay for’, there are some websites out there that offer excellent free advice on legal matters revolving around starting a brewery:

  • Legal Brewing has created an ebook about 21 questions  about opening a brewery in the United State.
  • Legal Libations offers legal advice but it’s in blog format which personally I don’t care for (yeah I know I’m a total hypocrite)
  • The Hess Brewing Odyssey has a great breakdown on the red tape you need to cut through to open your own nanobrewery.

Personally I would go with the Brewers’ Association book to get a more rounded picture of what you are in for. After that start mapping out every detail about how you would expect things to run in your nanobrewery.  When I mean every detail I mean everything:

  • Who is going to buy this beer?
  • Who is going to deliver my beer?
  • Should I upgrade my system so I’m not brewing 3 batches a day for the rest of my life?
  • If demand rises, will I be able to source ingredients in time?
  • What if someone sues me for some stupid reason?
  • How do I hire an accountant/lawyer/consultant without destroying all (if any) profits?

If any of these questions make you sick of reading or shake your confidence then you probably want to calm down, have a homebrew and reflect on how important this is to you.  Knowledge, understanding and planning are key foundations to a successful business which is what you are trying to create. Do yourself a favor and start cracking the books/blogs to become a master of as many ‘what if’ scenarios as you can.

Don’t give up! With a lot of hard work and perseverance you could be the local nanobrewer everyone is talking about!

Recommended Reading: The Brewers Association’s Guide to Starting Your Own Brewery


33Beers Beer Journal

My first real beer festival was at the Penn Brewery in Pittsburgh Pa. It was a magical session of tasting a cornucopia of different beer styles and flavors, all produced in Pennsylvania. I made a mental note of all the beers and styles that I enjoyed best so that I could buy or try to clone them later that year. I was having such a good time I decided I didn’t have the time to wait in line for the free lunch. Things got hazy near the end and I remember sleeping draped across an ottoman back at my house for several hours. I was also greeted by an outstanding 10 pm hangover that kept me awake until the early morning. What beers did I enjoy most from that excursion? Hell if I know.

The gentlemen over at got it right when they created their beer journal. If you’ve every gone to a beer festival with intentions of finding styles or brands you would buy again, you’ve found that by the end of the festival your memory has failed you (for some reason).

The 33beers Beer Journal is a compact booklet that can fit in your back pocket. Aside from general notes and ratings this journal incorporates a unique ‘flavor wheel’ that allows you to visually represent how the beer tastes to you. This is important because it’s easier to fill in some dots on the Flavor Wheel while on your 20th sampler rather thank trying to make a note of or god forbid remember the characteristics of the beer.

The Electric Brewery

Electric Brewery Control Panel
Electric Brewery Control Panel

There are lots of cool ways to use electricity to improve your brewday. Heat sticks, Heat exchangers, and Automatic Temperature Controls can take some of the burden off of you and leave more time for quiet contemplation and drinking.

I have a partial electric brewery in that my hot liquor tank automatically heats itself to a desired level without any input from me. This is great because before that I was heating my mash and sparge water in a pot with a propane burner and then dumping it into the HLT. This became a real problem when I had kids because managing all these tasks takes a long time and is outright dangerous with curious monkeys lurking around.  My setup involves a March pump, a hot water tank heating element and a Ranco temperatur conroller. I based most this off of John P Subsavages designs and I felt pretty special about myself when it was done.

The Electric Brewery” on the other hand, is not screwing around. When I found this site (thanks Reddit) I couldn’t believe my eyes. This guy created a brilliant, beautiful brewing setup.  On top of creating this masterpiece, he provides a complete parts list and how-to on his website so you could do the same.  This setup and website are, in my eyes, perfection. It’s actually a little jealously inducing. Not only has this guy created a jaw-droppingly beautiful brewey AND bar. He’s done it while raising two little ones himself. Well played sir.

The overall cost of creating this system is under $6000 and that’s actually pretty great considering it’s made from all new parts, looks amazing and costs about $2 per session to brew your batch. I think with some Kickstarter funds and a Brewers license one could easily start up a Nanobrewery or small Brew On Premises business relatively easily.