August, 2012

Dead Ringer Sample

Dead Ringer Sample

Brewers Hardware Thermowell

To go along with my dual-stage Love temperature controller, I ordered a 16″ stainless straight-wall thermowell from Brewers Hardware. I don’t have a lot to say about thermowells in general, and I haven’t had a chance to use this piece in an actual batch of beer yet, but the quality of these blew me away, so I thought it deserved a quick post and a few pictures since the lone image on the Brewers Hardware site is a bit lacking. Read more →

North Shore Escape

Fitger's Brewhouse Growler


Love TSS2 Temp Controller

Just in time for the Dead Ringer brewday, I finished up the last of the top three wanted items for this year: a fermentation temp controller. I did a bunch of research on the differences between the budget-friendly STC-1000 and Love TSS2. Ultimately, I found more information on the Love, and I felt more comfortable buying from a company than off eBay, so I spent a little extra and went with the Love and a stainless-cap probe.

Love TSS2 Temperature Controller

I originally planned on splitting the hot feed to a single outlet for the heating and cooling circuit and nothing else, but I decided rather than come back later and re-wire the box to add another outlet should I want an always-on option, I added a second outlet to the build. I used a $9 weatherproof box from Home Depot for the housing, and aside from wresting with getting all the 12-gauge wire into the box, everything was pretty straightforward.

Love TSS2 Build

I’d be happy to post up a wiring diagram if anyone is interested, but generally I have one outlet that’s always on, and the other has a split hot feed from the TSS2 so one plug controls the heating circuit, and the other the cooling circuit. I used a carbide grout-removal bit on the plastic box to cut out the holes for the controller and the outlets. A few tips to anyone that’s building one of these:

  • Mount the controller first, and then figure out where you want your probe and power-supply wires to come into the box. You’re going to need to work around the controller and the outlets, and still make everything fit.
  • Make use of the bridged connections on the outlets. Rather than trying to wire-nut several wires together, make use of the common neutral on the outlets. The screw-terminals are more secure than wire nuts, which tend to come undone just when you have almost everything into place. The fewer connections, the better.
  • Keep your wire lengths reasonable. You need some slack in the connections to make installing everything go smoothly, but unless you have a ton of space in the box, you’re not going to have room for big balls of extra wire.

I also ordered a thermowell from Brewer’s Hardware so I can submerse the probe directly in the wort. Since that hasn’t shipped yet, I had to tape the probe onto the carboy & insulate it for my IPA fermentation. I hadn’t done much reading about how accurate this was, but it seemed very effective:

TSS2 Trial Run

My IPA wort was 85°  when I decided to give up on my immersion chiller, so I racked into a carboy, taped on the probe and insulation, and plugged in the fridge while I cleaned up. The above shot shows the ambient temp in the fridge (69°), and the wort temperature given by the probe (84°), so it was exactly what I expected. My setpoint was 64°, and when I woke up the next morning, the probe was registering 64.2°, so I went ahead and oxygenated and pitched my decanted starter.

Besides finally having proper, accurate control for ale fermentations, I’m really stoked that I’ll finally be able to ferment lagers, and I purchased ingredients for an Oktoberfest that I’ll probably be brewing up in a week or so.

Strawberry Belgian Blonde Tasting

Strawberry Belgian Blonde

The first keg of 11 gallons of strawberry Belgian Blonde ale is drinking quite nicely after only a week in the keg. Since I cold-infused the fruit at 34 degrees, I went ahead and boost-carbed the batch. 30 hours at 30psi made for a quickly-drinkable beer, and it’s gained just a slight bit of dryness on the tonge as the carbonation has leveled off this week. The opaque haze isn’t surprising given the beer was fermented with Wyeast 3944 (Belgian Witbier), though I am surprised how little it’s cleared given how cold the beer was for over a week. Side effect of the fruit? This brewer can’t say. The beer picked up just the slightest hint of red from the strawberries, which left it a pleasant pale orange.

Appearance – Pours with a pearl-white, single finger head that recedes slowly to a white ring around the glass. Body is a thick haze of orange and gold.

Aroma – Light notes of strawberries backed with a touch of spice. Smells sweet initially, but leaves you with enough yeast notes to know it’s a belgian underneath.

Taste –  Strawberry flavor is present, but not overwhelming, and gives way to some of the belgian spice typically present with this yeast. The balance between the strawberry flavor and the underlying beer style is as nice as I could’ve hoped. At first sip, it seems on the sweet size, but the finish is dryer on the back of the tongue, and gives the beer a more balanced feel.

Mouthfeel – Really soft carbonation. I may just be a bit early in tapping this keg, but I think the added sweetness from the strawberries covers up what would have been a lighter body.

Overall Impression & Notes – I entered this in the Award of Brewing program (read about it here) at my club meeting Wednesday and received a 33. I was dinged for slightly low cabonation & haze (both expected), and it was suggested to use more fruit overall. I’d argue that would mess up the balance, but I’m not a BCJP judge either.

Personally, this is probably one of the better homebrews I’ve made to date, or certainly one of the more approachable. It’s a bit sweet to be an everyday drinker, but  very refreshing, and I was aiming for something tasty, but light as summer wanes. I may let the second keg warm to room temp for a week or two and see if the added sweetness from the strawberries ferments out, but leaves some strawberry aroma and flavor behind, but I’m very happy with this first keg.


Brewed – Dead Ringer

Rebel Mill

As far as IPA recipes go, Northern Brewer’s Dead Ringer kit is as straightforward as they come. NB has been sold out of Centennial hops for some time now, so I was sent 5 ounces of “Centennial-Type” hops from Hop Union. There’s a brief writeup found on the NB blog explaining that these are 70% Cascade, 30% Columbus. Substitutions notwithstanding, this was a pretty relaxed brewday for me.

With groundwater temps in the low 70s, I was again forced to knock out around 85° and throw the sealed fermenter in the fridge to cool before pitching. Actually, it’s still in the fridge on it’s way to 64°; I’ll most likely pitch in the morning, so I’m calling this Two-Parted on account of my brewday and pitch being non-contiguous.

The grist for this batch is 11# two-row, 1# crystal 40L. I love the color of this wort:

Dead Ringer Wort Sample

Sometime in the future I’d like to do a split batch of this grain bill and brew half with all Centennial (actual Centennial) hops, and half with all Columbus. Right now, I’m intent on building up my pipeline a bit again and getting my kegorator filled with beer I want to drink for the next few months. Fall is always a busy time at our house, and I spend most of my weekends chasing pheasants with my dog.


  • Batch Size: 5.5 gallons
  • Total Grist: 12 pounds
  • O.G: 1.060
  • F.G:
  • Brewhouse Efficiency: 75%
  • Boil Time: 60 minutes


  • 11# US Two-row
  • 1# Crystal 40L


  • .75oz Hop Union Centennial-type @ 60m
  • 1oz Hop Union Centennial-type @ 20 m
  • 2oz Hop Union Centennial-type @ 5 m


  • Irish Moss – 1tsp @ 15 minutes remaining


2012/08/05 – Brewed late-afternoon. Knocked out 5.5 gallons at 85°.  Fermenter went into the fridge about 8pm to chill to pitching temps. Was still at 77° at 11:30pm, so I left it to chill to 64° overnight.

2012/08/06 – Wort given 60 seconds of oxygen; Decanted and pitched a 1600mL starter.