Technical Communications

Republished from BrewingTechniques' November/December 1994.

Welding Stainless Steel

In the article "A Primer on Welding Stainless Steel" (BrewingTechniques 2 [5], 52-54 [1994]), the author reported that arc welding was "no good for stainless." MIG and TIG are the preferred methods, but arc welding is just as acceptable. Welding with stainless electrodes requires practice. All welds must be de-fluxed and buffed with a stainless brush. After buffing, welds are considered to be sanitary welds. By purchasing a used welder the average home brewer should be able to begin welding stainless for less than $100.

David Lloyd
Brew Mania
Gainesville, Texas

Closed-System Home Brewing Modification

Having read Bennett Dawson's excellent article on the use of the carbon dioxide-pressurized closed fermentation system ("Closed-System Home Brewing," BrewingTechniques 2 [4] 48-51 [1994]), the capabilities of my draft system have been expanded tremendously. This is a really great way to extract more benefit from the most expensive piece of brewing equipment I own. However, I would like to add a few comments on pressure regulation.

Mr. Dawson states that the safety feature in the system is the carboy cap's ability to pop off at a fairly low pressure and that we should set the regulator to a level that will not blow it off. In almost all the setups illustrated, the outlet tube from the carboy or canister is led into a bucket of iodophor solution. The depth to which the end of the tube is immersed is the actual determinant of the system pressure, provided the gas flow rate is not excessive. The pressure will build up to the point at which it overcomes the static pressure of the liquid present at the end of the tube, at which time the gas will begin to bubble out.

If you have a balky regulator like mine, which refuses to deliver significant flow at pressures less than 6 psi, you can set the system pressure by varying the depth of the outlet tube and securing it at a level where the cap does not blow off.

The highest pressure you will need is that which you use to start the flow from the fermentor. The pressure must be enough to force the beer to the top of the racking tube before it flows down and the siphon gets going, so the vertical distance from the top of the beer when the carboy is full to the highest point on the racking tube cannot exceed the depth of the solution in the sanitizing bucket or you will not be able to get the flow started (see Figure 1).

The danger of flying glass shards propelled by several gallons of pressurized gas is not trivial, but the use of the immersed tube will minimize this hazard. In two of the suggested setups, for bottling and yeast harvesting, this element is not used. If the carboy cap should for any reason become stuck, a messy and dangerous catastrophe could occur, particularly when using a bottle filler with a shutoff valve. To avoid this, I recommend adding a tee fitting in the gas inlet line and routing a tube into an iodophor bucket as with the other setups (Figure 1). This will also serve as a simple pressure limitation device.

Always carefully inspect carboys for scratches. Carboys get a lot of handling, and a scratch will dramatically lower its ability to withstand pressure. Last, but certainly not least, wear safety glasses. I have not experienced a mishap using the gas system, but I have had a few bottles shatter violently while using a bench-top capper, so now I never bottle without wearing eye protection.

Thank you for an excellent and informative magazine!

Mark A. Bowen
Stow, Massachusetts

Dawson responds: Mr. Bowen will love this solution to his irregular-regulator problem. It was forced on me recently when my carbon dioxide tank emptied "mid-rack." First, elevate the primary carboy and use a 6-ft length of hose, with clamp, to connect the carbon dioxide tank to the carboy cap. Next, start the siphon with carbon dioxide pressure, close the hose clamp, and pull the hose off the tank and connect it to the receiving carboy's exit tube (Figure 2). Open the clamp, and gravity takes over, no pressure involved. The carbon dioxide in the purged carboy fills the space vacated by beer in the primary carboy. This is a beautiful setup because you save carbon dioxide and completely remove any pressure-related hazards while retaining all the benefits of the concept.

Taking Issue:
Closed-System Home Brewing, and The Beer Enthusiast's Guide

I must take issue with Bennett Dawson's description and use of iodophor in his "Closed-System Home Brewing" article. "Iodaphors [sic] are made up largely of iodine, phosphoric acid, and alcohol." The "phor" means "carrier" and has nothing to do with phosphoric acid. Although some iodophors do have an acid base, most don't. The use of iodophor in the bucket as an air lock is a waste of money. Plain water (boiled would be ideal) would be just as effective in this particular setup, and I would much rather have boiled water than iodophor sucked back into the carboy in the event a partial vacuum was formed.

In the same article the author suggests in Figure 2 to detach and suck (albeit using a sanitized surgical glove) on the hose going into the fermentor. Given that the purpose of this whole system is to minimize sanitation problems, it's ironic that the author failed to see a much simpler and more sanitary solution. Sucking on the other hose attached to the carboy cap would start a siphon just as well.

My biggest concern about this issue is regarding Rob Reed's review of The Beer Enthusiast's Guide. I respect Rob's brewing talents and have tasted many fine beers that he has made; however, as a book reviewer, he was much too forgiving. The Beer Enthusiast's Guide is the most error-filled book I have ever read. Rob writes, "Overall, this book is methodically written and generally accurate. . . ."

Actually, the book contains gems such as: "fructose is commonly used only in fruit beers or meads, due to its fruity and honey flavor" (fructose is, in fact, nothing more than a mirror-image molecule of glucose and has no flavor other than sweetness); "The disadvantage of an acid rest is the possibility of increasing the levels of polyphenols" (one of the two reasons for the acid rest is lowering pH to minimize polyphenol extraction); and "hops interfere with the hot break" (actually, they help the hot break form).

In his book, Gregg Smith also writes the following:

  • you should install a water softener if you have hard water
  • southern bitters are more aggressively carbonated than northern bitters
  • EKU "28" is an eisbock
  • headspace of less than 1/2 in. can result in gushing
  • Lactobacillus delbrueckii is a strain of yeast
  • diacetyl is less prevalent in ales.

    Given the book's emphasis on the BJCP and the BJCP exam, I assure you that anyone who uses this book as a study guide for the exam will do very poorly (not even the BJCP point awards are correct). Rob Reed's and BrewingTechniques' endorsement of this book is a great disservice to your readership and I felt it was important to set the record straight.

    Al Korzonas
    BJCP National Judge
    Palos Hills, Illinois

    Dawson replies: Mr. Korzonas's first point is well taken. A flask or mayonnaise jar of sterile water, used as a blow-off receptacle to close the system, is a better tool for the job in all respects.

    His second suggestion surprised me. I assumed, correctly as it turns out, that having a carboy "in-line" would necessitate a much greater suction because of the increased air volume involved. But I immediately tried it both ways. For the test, I didn't use a CO2-purged carboy or I might have expired. After picking my lungs up off the floor I tried my published method. I have to admit, the task of sucking carbon dioxide . . . sucks, even in small amounts, and is a weak link in an evolving system. I'm beginning to think this is a perfectly valid reason for owning one of those Sucking Things I've read about. (I accept free samples!) With a tool like this, Mr. Korzonas's suggestion for starting the syphon becomes the preferred method.

    Reed responds: The presence of technical errors and unsubstantiated conclusions in Smith's book is unarguable, but I stand by my review for several reasons. I believe the relatively complete description of beer styles, interesting historical tidbits, and BJCP information are useful. Clearly this work can't be considered the sole reference for preparation for the BJCP certification exam; the test is comprehensive and requires considerable breadth of beer and brewing knowledge as well as the ability to critique all AHA-recognized beer styles.

    As my review indicated, I found the information on brewing science only relatively accurate and somewhat incomplete. The book is appropriate more to beer enthusiasts and beginning or intermediate brewers; however, I do not find the book to be without value. It contains interesting and useful information, and I do not find it to be a total disaster as Al Korzonas suggests.

    The opinions expressed by book reviewers are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BrewingTechniques.-Ed.

    Quest for the Original IPA

    I commend your magazine, BrewingTechniques, and in particular the recent two-part article by Thom Tomlinson on India Pale Ale (March/ April and May/June 1994). This magnificent style needs research, and Tomlinson has made a great start at collecting information and sorting it out. The major problem I have with his study is that he is too young! He doesn't remember the true Ballantine IPA and thus does not put it in its proper place in the development of the style. As a result, he reaches what I feel are erroneous conclusions.

    Tomlinson copes with contradictory information by defining "contemporary IPA," exemplified by Anchor Liberty Ale, and "traditional IPA," exemplified by Grant's IPA. He describes contemporary IPA as having high alcohol, high hop bitterness and aroma, big malt and hop flavor, big body, big head, and an amber, dark copper color. The traditional IPA he describes as pale in color with high alcohol, high hop bitterness, but low to medium hop flavor and body. He argues that a woody character from oak aging is not a style characteristic. He categorizes the "original" Ballantine with Grant's IPA and traditional IPA. The Ballantine IPA available today is consistent with this description. Although a pleasant beer, however, today's beer is not the true "original" Ballantine IPA and is a shadow of its former magnificence. Ballantine's is one of many brewing companies pillaged by corporate raiders. The beer has been brewed in brewery after brewery, changing character with each move. I am fortunate to have tasted Ballantine IPA over the past 20 years and can perhaps add some information to the IPA discussion.

    Ballantine IPA was one of my early beer tasting experiences. It was in the mid-1970s, during a business trip to Wilmington, Delaware. While staying at the DuPont Hotel, a grand old hotel, I visited the classic oak bar. They said, "We serve Ballantine IPA." What an experience! It was dark amber, with massive malt and hop flavor and bitterness, all melded in an alcoholic complexity with a big oak character. Ballantine IPA started me down the trail as a beer taster.

    About this time, I discovered Michael Jackson's first World Guide to Beer. In this and subsequent writings, Jackson described Ballantine's IPA as the classic example of the style, war and the tax man having destroyed all of the original British examples. In an August 1980 article in CAMRA's What's Brewing, he gives some interesting detail about the beer as originally brewed in Newark, New Jersey, and then about it in its next incarnation at the Narragansett Brewery in Cranston, Rhode Island. The Newark IPA had an original gravity of 1.078 with final alcohol of 7.5%. Bittering was achieved using whole hops and hop oils and was about 60 IBU. The beer was dry-hopped and aged for a year in wooden tanks. The Cranston IPA retained its strength, but hop levels dropped to 45 IBU. Dry-hopping continued, but aging in wooden tanks dropped to five months.

    In the early 1980s, the Cranston brewery closed, and Ballantine IPA brewing was transferred to Falstaff's brewery in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The wood character disappeared at this time, and hop levels perhaps faded a bit. I still buy Ballantine IPA, and it is still a good beer, but it is far from classic IPA. The bottle says brewed in Fort Wayne and Milwaukee by Falstaff, but the Brewers Digest directory of breweries no longer has a listing for Fort Wayne. Falstaff and Pabst are both owned by the same people, and Pabst has a brewery in Milwaukee. The Brewers Digest lists Ballantine IPA as being brewed in the Falstaff Brewery in Vancouver, Washington.

    My beer tasting activities inspired me to write a regular column for All About Beer magazine in the 1980s. I quote a relevant anecdote from the October 1986 "Ye Public House" column:

    "My friend Lee has a very old house. It was built when George Washington was getting in trouble hacking cherry trees. Not that it hasn't been fixed up since then. They put new siding on it when Lincoln was debating Douglas, and about the time of the great stock market crash, they added a room where the kitchen now sits. It has a great cellar if you are less than five feet tall. The cool soil on the floor makes it a great place to store wine and beer. Lee likes to store stuff in his basement, and it drives his wife nuts. Things disappear down there.

    "I was over at Lee's a couple of years ago and he went down into his basement. After a while, he came up with a very dusty long necked green bottle. It was a very unusual bottle. It was a bottle of Ballantine India Pale Ale that had been brewed in Newark. A small "61" on the label suggested the year. It was also unusual because the label was on upside down. Lee gave me the bottle and we tasted it at our beer club, back to back with IPA brewed by Ballantine later at Cranston and at Fort Wayne. The old bottle was like an ancient Lafite, showing its age, but still revealing the once magnificent complexity and character.

    "I visited Lee again last week and he went down into his cellar. He came up with two dusty green bottles, this time shorter and with twist-off caps. They were also IPAs from Newark, but probably brewed in the late '60s, not long before the brewery closed. The bottles had a fluffy red sediment from the Bullion hops and oak that are the source of the original IPA character. The twist-off caps couldn't twist, but they lifted easily with a church key, and the beer decanted nicely off the sediment. The tawny liquid tasted more like a fine sherry. A slight condition remained, and the hops and oak had married with the malt to yield a full complex character. It had a rich aroma inspired by the high alcohol content of the original brew and when the aftertaste had gone, I felt an era had passed."

    All this said, I would argue that there is one true IPA style. It follows the lines of Tomlinson's contemporary IPA description, but with a big oak character. Tomlinson's traditional IPA and Grant's IPA are modern creations, perhaps American Pale Ales. They have little to do with the real thing!

    Pat Baker
    Keene, New Hampshire

    Tomlinson responds: I admit it, I'm a hopeless case! I love to read nonfiction - especially works dealing with the history of the study of animal behavior - good articles and books about beer and brewing history (thank Saint Stephen for BrewingTechniques). Of course, when it comes to fiction, it has to be science fiction.

    My love of history and science fiction even influences my daydreams. Sometimes I daydream about traveling through time, and I often pose the question to any of my beer drinking friends who will listen: If you could travel to another time, when and where would you go? Silly really, grown men and women sitting around and dreaming about distant times and places.

    I know when and where I would go - India, 1795. You could come along and we could witness hogshead after hogshead roll onto the docks in Calcutta. By 1795, Hodgson would have worked out the kinks in his recipe and we could taste the best Bow Brewery had to offer. I'm sure the beer would provide a shock - a highly attenuated, very strong pale ale with apricot fruitiness and intense bitterness!

    No, wait! I think we should travel to 1825 India, when Bow was facing stiff competition from Allsopp, Salt, and Bass breweries. We could taste the impact of the Burton Basin on India Pale Ales. Water quality alone guaranteed a clearer and crisper product. No doubt better beer was being served in Calcutta by this time. We could taste the best efforts of all of the early, great India Pale Ales, the originals, the traditionals. All the while our noses would delight in fruity aromas balanced with Kent Goldings. The crispness of the beer would jump up and grab our palates. The truly intense, crisp bitterness would leave a drying sensation.

    Sorry, but I've changed my mind again. We should travel to Burton-upon-Trent, 1876, and witness the impact of chemistry on the industry. We could drink excellent IPAs and attend the first meeting of the Bacterium Club. The new standard in quality control and yeast management would mean a more consistent beer from pub to pub.

    Wait! Traveling to turn-of-the-century America would be even more fun. We could catch some awesome baseball games and sample bottled IPA imported from England. We could compare those bottled IPAs to the outstanding stock ales brewed here in the States.

    No, I've changed my mind again. We should travel to 1961, when I was a pup of three. I would toddle off to the store and buy a six pack of Ballantine IPA. Mr. Baker's recollections make me want to taste this wonderful, contemporary IPA.

    By the way, did I tell you the time-travel device allows us to bring beer back? Now why don't we sit down and do a real vertical tasting and look for the origin of oak flavor in India Pale Ales. We could drink Hodgson's 18th-century IPA, then the IPAs of the 1820s (Bass, Allsopp, Salt, Bow), the IPAs of the 1860s, and the IPAs and stock ales of 1900. Finally, we could sample the contemporary IPAs, namely Ballantine IPA and other IPAs brewed during the past 30 years.

    During our vertical tasting we would encounter no oak character in the traditional IPAs of the 18th and 19th centuries. Trade with the Baltic States and other Eastern European countries provided brewers with oak that would impart no flavor on beer. Records indicate British brewers went to extremes to acquire oak that would not impart flavor. Reportedly, when trying to find new sources of wood for casks brewers would destroy any casks that flavored their beer with undesirable tannins. Our first encounter with oak would probably be the stock ales brewed in America and casked in oak of American variety. Maybe this is why many Americans erroneously attribute oak flavor to the IPA. Of course, we would also find that several of our friends in the brewing community are brewing IPAs that taste like those of the early 19th century, IPAs I have labeled traditional in their interpretation.

    It is important to separate two important points made by Mr. Baker. First, my error in listing Ballantine as a traditional IPA. He's right, I've never tasted the 1961 edition, only Ballantine as released in the 1970s. However, after hearing Michael Jackson's comments concerning Ballantine at the British Guild of Beer Writers Conference on IPA (London, 21 May 1994), I agree that a change is in order. Jackson's description and my method of classifying the two interpretations suggest that Ballantine is the original contemporary rendition of this style. The description of Ballantine (other than the oak) and my description of contemporary IPA are a perfect match. However, nothing about this changes the fact that two distinct interpretations of the style are out there in the market.

    His second point had to do with whether or not oak character should be present in the style. Here I stand by my article: when trying to brew a traditional IPA (ca. 18th and 19th centuries), leave the oak out. On a recent expedition to brewing heaven (Burton-on-Trent), I questioned brewers concerning wood flavor in beer. Some brewers responded with a laugh and a smile. "No, English brewers would never want wood flavors in an IPA." Other reactions were more severe, "You silly American, no respectable English brewer would want wood flavor in their ale." English brewers I talked with believed no one would ever have chosen wood that could impart flavor to beer. "Wood belongs in wine, not beer," offered one brewer.

    Although the impact of a marriage between tannins and malt flavors on the flavor profile is a matter of personal taste, the presence of these flavors in IPAs of old is not. The records and brewing practices strongly indicate these beers had no oak character.

    Of course, if you have a time machine we could all load up and verify the absence of oak flavor in the traditional IPAs for ourselves.

    Thom Tomlinson
    Boulder, Colorado

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