Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ladies Flock Like Bees to a Hive.

Hey Ladies, Get Funky ...(cue the Cow Bell)

Spring has sprung! Flowers are blooming, trees are getting green and bees are buzzing, especially when you dump six pounds of bees into a couple of hives. This is the 3rd year my brother has had bee hives but this is the first year I have been his right hand man since he has been in and out of town with work and I have had to get into the hives by myself.
This year since I was going have to be the primary bee care giver when Trevor was out of town We hived the bees and made up gallons of sugar water that the bees will need to feed off of when the nectar flow is slow. Hiving bees sounded easy enough I have helped my brother n the past how hard can it be? open the hive, dump a box of bees in and shut the lid! Done! uh...maybe not.
A 'Package' bees is a wooden box with 3lbs of bees, a can of bee food and a 'Queen cage' with 1 queen and 3-4 attendant bees (the queen cannot feed herself). The bees stay in the 'Package' for 2-3 days and come to recognize the queen the the cage by her pheromones this key for when you 'Hive' them because they will stay where the queen is. The package of bees usually contains bees shaken from two or more colonies, and the queen supplied with the package is bred from selected colonies to be sent in the package. So to get them ready the bees are sprayed with sugar water from a spray bottle to slow down their flying and making them easier to install. The lid of the box is then pryed off and the feeder can is removed. The 'Queen cage' is also removed and the lid is laid loosely back on the box. At this moment I was regretting my brother convincing me to not wear gloves because he has decided that he like most proficient bee keepers do not wear gloves because it dulls their sense of touch handling the bees. I being newer to it I was like 'what the hell? I'll go without gloves too'! uh...maybe I'm not ready for that because the moment the bee package was opened bees were steady flying out of it and my arms were getting shorter and shorter when Trevor needed the next nail or frame. Two small nail are then pushed into the soft wood of the Queen's Cage and a small cork is removed. Under the cork is a glob of what they call candy (or fondant) which slows the queen getting into the hive and thus keeping the bees near the hive and setting up house keeping for when the queen is released. To help a little we bore a small hole with drill bit in the candy to assist the attendant bees. The Cage is then placed suspended by the nails (candy down so if an attendant bee dies it does not block the queen getting out) between 2 frames and the bees are ready to hive. The box is sprayed one more time and with a quick bang on the table the bees fall to the bottom of the package and they are dumped into the open part of the hive(see top Picture). Believe it or not but this makes the bees a little testy and you'd be surprised how many bees make up 3 pounds. the bees are dive bombing my veil and I am doing a quick inventory of my boots, suit and veil to make sure I am protected because it seems like they are everywhere and I am not above running away and screaming like a girl if an angry bee somehow managed to get in my suit or veil. The finish the job a half gallon jar of sugar water is placed upside down on the frames, a small vent frame is put into place and the lid is put on on the hive. We repeat this for the other hive but with much more ease since we had practice with the first hive and we can now go have a beer and watch the bees from a safe distance as they make themselves at home. I checked the hives Monday and Wednesday to keep track of how much sugar water they had been consuming and Easter Sunday, with Trevor home, we smoked the bees and opened the hives to make sure the Queen were in the hive and that she was laying eggs. I had witnessed that both Queen's Cages were empty on my Wednesday inspection and we did find one of the queens and that both Queens were indeed laying eggs and hive had been busy making comb that we had to pry off to get into the frames. Bees are pretty cool and not something to be afraid of, they don't want to bother me any more then I want to get stung...but it is a good idea to wear the right protective equipment and Bee careful when doing full inspections of the hive and removing frames. See what I did There? BEE CAREFUL...get it? HAHAHAHA...uh...forget I said that!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

eXiled: Part two - The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick maker

Brad Called me on my lack-o-blogging I am a day late with Part two so here it is:

Transfer to the kettle was smooth and we waited while we filled the kettle to roughly 1,200 gallons of wort to begin boiling. As the wort filled the kettle, the steam jackets in the kettle are turned on in stages in the hopes that by the time our volume was reached we were close to a boil (and then I could add more hops by the 5 gallon bucket). To obtain the gravity we were shooting for we planned for 2 hour boil and the addition of 4 sacks of Rice Syrup Solids which are a 100% fermentable rice powder the same consistency of dried malt extract. Once to a boil and under control I went back to helping Bo Clean some kegs and help myself to half glass of beer that was on tap in the office. It turned out to be the remainder of a vintage keg of Bourbon Barrel Aged Black Jack Stout. It was like velvet but knew that too many glasses and I would be of no help what so ever. So I only had another 3-4 half glasses. I also had brought with me the next pilot batch that Kurt had came up with for me to brew. It was a unique beer that was good and think has a lot of potential but Jim and the Big Boss Man(Dave) make the decision if it sees the light of day. I also took this time to pull the 2 late additions hops for X5 in poundage's of 11lbs. and 12lbs. I also sampled some Black Lightning (APA) and Mayhem (weizenbock) off of the fermentors while we waited to whirlpool the beer as it finished. As we started moving the beer to the fermentor we took a sample and the beer was great color. The color was one of the things I really liked about the pilot batch. When they filter this beer it should be a brilliant straw color perfect and refreshing for back porch summer drinking. While we were wrapping up the maintenance guys stopped by and climbed a ladder I would have never stepped foot on and a push of a reset button the Auger sprung back to life and the batch of Belgian Wit for the next day was saved and Jim could relax (a little). We tested another couple bottles for quality control and began getting the grains ready for the following day. As my luck would have it the grain silo was empty and awaiting delivery so all the grain had to be dumped by hand 50 and 25lbs at a time to the magic number of over 2100lbs. So just when you think the day is over you find yourself in a blast proof room the size of a large bathroom lifting bags of grain in the mill and sweating out Black Jack Stout. It felt good to do manual labor I have sadly been behind my drafting table for too long pushing buttons. So with the beer in the fermentor and grain ready for the next day I helped myself to one more half glass of Black Jack and said goodbye and left with a hand full of bottles of Venom, Sawtooth and 13 Degrees to QC at home. Not a great day brewing but sure as hell beat being at my real job. I learned a valuable lesson that the bigger you get in the production side of beer the bigger smaller problems affect everything else. If I ever had to ditch a brew of mine I would be out 50-60 dollars and morning of my time. These guys need everything to go smoothly daily because one hitch in your auger or the like and that could have potentially pushed back an entire day to a week in production time....and time is Beer Money! My time at the brewery is always fun (minus all that bullshit manual labor)!
Watch for eXile 5 to hit the taps some time in June.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

eXiled: Part One - You Want The Good News or The Bad News?

Yesterday was the brew day for eXile 5 at DuClaw Brewing. I did the pilot batch for this beer in February and it turned out to be very close to what Jim was shooting for and with some minor tweaks it came to life yesterday as a 36 barrel batch of beer. Now anyone who has brewed beer knows that there are good days brewing and bad days brewing. I believe you need to have a bad brew day or two to know what a good brew day looks like if it ever happens. Yesterday was not a great one. Right off the bat, first thing in the morning we needed to mill in some more grain since the grain hopper would not hold it all that was need the day before and as the switch was thrown and I about to lift the first 50lbs bag of grain to the mill it made a hell of a noise and the auger and mill all shut down at once. Now this may not sound so bad, but the auger is what moves the grain after it is milled out of the blast proof grain room, up a tube system to the rafters and then to the top of the brew house where it goes into the funnel shaped grain hopper (see top picture)to be dropped into the Mash tun. Sadly this not just a couple pounds of grain we are dealing with. We a talking about thousands of pounds of grain needed to make a 40 barrel batch of beer. Now the beer we were making was not too badly impacted. We ended up grinding the remaining grains and adding them to the mash tun by hauling them up the stairs by the bucket full. This issue with the auger was going to severely impact the batch of 'Sawtooth' that was to be brewed the following morning much more. So we needed to get our brew going and it was going fine, but Jim was preoccupied with not knowing how to fix the auger issue for the next day so he troubleshot the auger between our brewing of X5. I'm sure when you brew all the time it does not seem like a big deal but even after all the times I've brewed with them at DuClaw I still think it is cool as hell to add hops by 5 gallon bucket. As the beer brewing went on when we had down time I helped Bo clean some kegs and check out the new 12oz bottling line. On a side clear up any confusion the bottles are indeed twist off tops and bottle caps for beer bottles are universal so the beer is just as fresh in these bottles as pop or pry off tops. A ton of research was done to make sure that these bottles were going to be able to house and deliver the product to consumers in brewery form. To prove it, while there we checked a good number of bottles to make sure the beer was fit for consumption and each one we opened was in good form.
Now I'm thirsty...
Part Two Tomorrow!

Monday, April 4, 2011


Austin Lucas is one of my favorite singer song writers since I first heard him on The album Bristle Ridge with Chuck Ragan. Who I had just seen on the Revival Tour with Ben Nichols, Tim Barry and Frank Tuner...did you get all of that? It's kind of like six degrees of Lucero. 'A New Home in the Old World' is Austin's first full band release. A departure, featuring organs, horns and even electric guitars, from his normally stripped down acoustic albums. Hit play below and give it a listen or maybe even buy it if so moved to do so. I had pre-ordered mine last month. I got the limited color vinyl pressing that should be arriving today or tomorrow. Stop reading and start listening!