If you are brewing you probably should be kegging

If you brew beer you should probably be kegging since the increased efficiency makes life so much easier, making it more likely for you to actually take the time to brew your own.

When I first started brewing beer I was in high school.  I don’t imagine that there were many other high school students who instead of being net consumers from their parents liquor cabinets saw the roles reversed.  That suited me fine since while I like a drink or two, getting drunk has never been my style and I needed the beer consumed so I could try another batch.

At that point I was putting my beer in plastic PET beer bottles.  That made sense since I was a poor student and I don’t imagine my parents would have been into having another fridge or freezer to keep kegs chilled with the bottles could easily go into the fridge door.

Ball lock (L) and Pin lock (R) kegs

Ball lock (L) and Pin lock (R) kegs

After getting my own place it wasn’t long before I took up kegging.  Used 5 gallon soda kegs – particularly the seconds that I purchased were cheap.  At $20 they were about the same price as 5 gallons worth of bottles.  Sure I needed to add the CO2 tank, regulator, hoses and fittings but those added only slightly more than a hundred dollars more to the total.   Toss in a used chest freezer and a temperature controller and I added another $100 to the cost.

So for a total cost of about $300 I secured a start-up for four kegs.  What I got was a whole lot of efficiency.

My cleaning routine with the kegs is much simpler than with the bottles, and I can clean a bunch of kegs at once, close them up and have them ready to fill when it is time to rack the beer in.

Kegs - L to R, 5 gallon ball lock, 5 gal pin lock and 3 gal pin lock

Kegs – L to R, 5 gallon ball lock, 5 gal pin lock and 3 gal pin lock – Note the height and diameter differences

The rest of the process is simply one of racking the beer from the carboy into the keg and pressurizing with CO2.  Fast, simple and none of the mess associated with trying to get beer into the bottles, which all ways saw me spill beer no mater what fancy gadgets on the siphon I tried.

By making the brewing process so much more efficient I find myself continuing to brew in spite of having a lot more on the go.  In fact, I still face the same challenge that I did in high school – getting the beer consumed quickly enough so that I can try the next couple of batches on my list.

So if you happen to be in the neighborhood maybe you can stop by to help me make room in my kegs for the next brew.

As a side note, the best place I’ve found for used kegs and the associated kit is Adventures in Homebrewing.  Their offerings are great, service spotless and their prices are awesome.  All of my kegs have been in sound condition and I’ve chosen the ones that they advertise as being the most dented and dinged!  The good news… they still have used soda kegs – they will probably dry up sometime but if you drink beer and either brew now or want to then now is the time to pick them up.



A homestead wood fired pizza oven – the build begins

A few years ago I enjoyed pizza in a backyard wood fired oven at the Little City Farm B&B and since then have flirted with the idea of getting just such an oven.  That one was a Cobb oven and although the simplicity tempts me I just don’t think that material would survive for very long in Ottawa with the abundance of rain, loads of snow, and lots of freeze thaw action especially given I don’t want to build a shelter for it.

That leaves three alternatives.  Masonry stoves, but with these you get a very permanent installation that is going to cost a pretty penny. Then there is regular steel… cheap, easy to work with… but this material will rust and burn out. Then there is stainless steel… Looks good, it’s  durable and won’t rust or burn out, it should spot weld easily, but it is fairly expensive.

The lovely commercial mangiafuco wood oven

The lovely commercial mangiafuco wood oven

Oh, and did I mention that the Mangiafuoco oven I like is selling for $3,500 before tax? Cool oven but, uh, yeah, no. I think the oven is lovely but I don’t really want it that much…. plus truth be told it, there is an added coolness factor is having something that you’ve built yourself, and I haven’t done much work with stainless steel yet so it should present a good learning opportunity.

So, last summer I collected a load heavier gauge of stainless steel that folks were throwing away… in the form of BBQs.  See, here’s the crazy thing.  Way back when, propane gas grills were pretty much all cast aluminum painted black.  The burners would rust out and need to be replaced but the body would last and last… and if a neighbor happened to decide to upgrade and drag their old one to the curb… well those bodies made for an easy source of aluminum to cast in the home foundry.

Now though, most gas grills seem to fall into the single season (or maybe two) low end units made with regular carbon steel painted black OR much nicer and more expensive stainless steel.  I’ve  got one of the higher end models that is completely stainless steel that I managed to snag at the end of the season clear out with a further discount because it had a ding in the back of the lower housing.  With it plumbed into my natural gas supply I never need to worry about running out of fuel which is great.  I expect that I will have to swap in new burner tubes and covers at some point but apart from that can expect it to last decades.

But, it seems that there are a fair number of semi-stainless BBQs out there.  They have the visible parts like the lid and maybe the doors fashioned in stainless but the rest is made of regular cheap but rustable carbon steel…. which means… those pieces of stainless steel sheet get rolled to the curb when the bottom burns out and the owner decides to buy a new one.  So last summer I started grabbing these lids and doors when I happened to see them…. now it’ time to start the transformation from waste to that $3,500 pizza oven.

Stay tuned as the transformation progresses.  Did I mention that the  $3,500 price tag was before tax?