Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Home Brewing Beer: During [Part 2]

So, now that you've done your preparations you're ready for your big Brew Day! As a disclaimer, please correct me if I've used any terminology wrong and I'll amend the post. This is my first batch after all, I'm a home brew noob. Thanks!

For my first brew day I was lucky enough to have two experienced brewers come over and help (and bring some equipment I don't yet have). Another friend brought over a ton of Rogue beer to help us ensure that the day was enjoyable. I can understand wanting to try your first batch on your own and in privacy (I mean, what happens if I did it wrong and this sucks!) but I strongly suggest involving others in the process. It will be that much more enjoyable and we all make mistakes.

So, as we popped our first top things got underway. Remember that every recipe can be a little different but this should give you a good feel for the process. As mentioned in Part 1 I was brewing an Irish Red Ale from Midwest.

1) First we had to sanitize the equipment. This is very important as any unwanted substances that get into your beer can ruin your batch. Anything that touches the beer should be sanitized, preferable right before you use it.

2) Next we added a couple of gallons of water to our pot. We added as much as we could but tried to leave enough room at the top for a rolling boil and everything else we had to add later. The water was then headed up to 155 (we actually went too high and had to cool it back down) and then the crushed barley grains (in a bag) were steeped similiar to steeping a cup of tea. This adds color and flavor to the brew. After 30 minutes we pulled it off the burner for another 10 minutes of steeping.

3) After steeping the grains we added the liquid malt extract. This was slowly poured into the water while stirring to keep it from getting scorched on the bottom of the pot. Liquid malt extract is commonly used by home brewers and can save a lot of time from the brew process. If malt extract (dry or liquid) is not used then the brewer has to Mash the grains in order to get to the same result. This is commonly referred to as brewing "all-grain". Regardless of using all-grain or malt extract the end result is sugars which are later broken down by the yeast to create alcohol. Since I didn't mash I won't go into any details on this topic.

4) Now that we have our mash (with the addition of the malt extract) we brought the pot back to a boil. As soon as it began boiling we added our Cascade Hops (in a bag) to steep similar to the barley grains. There's a lot of history to the usage of Hops in beer but most brewers today use it for bittering and/or aroma. We let this boil for 60 minutes, adding some irish moss (to help clear the beer, not neccessary) at 45 minutes and Fuggle Hops at 58 minutes for aroma.

5) Now that we had our wort (pronounced wert) it needed to be cooled quickly. This is where the borrowed equipment came in as my friend had brought his Wort Chiller. We flushed cold water through the copper tubing and quickly brought the wort down to about 80 degrees.

6) The cooled wort was then poured into the initial fermenting bucket. I poured it quickly and moved it around when pouring to aerate the wort. This is necessary for the yeast. I also left a little bit at the bottom of the pot where you could see sediment. Then the bucket was filled up (leaving room at the top) with some additional luke-warm water so that we had about 5 gallons. This was also done to aerate the wort.

7) Before closing the bucket you should take a reading with your hydrometer to determine the specific gravity. This tells you how much sugar is in the water which can then be used to calculate the alcohol content (since the yeast eating the sugar is what produces this) once you have a final gravity reading. Make sure to sanitize anything that will touch the brew!

8) Now I took the packet of yeast and sprinkled it over the top of the wort. Then we placed we placed the sanitized lid on the bucket and after filling the plastic airlock half full of gin (vodka is often used, we didn't have any - helps to disinfect) we popped it into the hole in the bucket. The yeast will eat the sugars, causing fermentation. In feasting on the sugar the yeast has two byproducts. The first is alcohol, yay! The second is carbon dioxide which will flow out through the airlock.

9) The last thing to do was to tuck the bucket away in a spot where it'd keep around 65 degrees Fahrenheit and was dimly lit. Oh, and to keep drinking the other beer.

The next day I could see the airlock bubbling away! A brief video is posted on my YouTube channel! This is a great sign that the yeast is hard at work devouring sugar and leaving behind alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Now, a fairly common question I've gotten is "So, how was the beer?!". Well, we won't know that until about 4 weeks down the line. Different beers take different amounts of time to get to a drinkable state and 4 weeks is pretty minimum. For mine we still have to wait a week and move it to the secondary fermentation in my glass carboy. Then in another week we'll be able to bottle it. Then another two weeks go past before I'm able to enjoy. I'd be happy to have you over for a beer at that time.

You'll be able to hear more about these last steps (particularly enjoying the beer) in about a month when I blog - Home Brewing Beer: After [Part 3].

Home Brewing Beer: Before [Part 1]

As I initially set out on this Blog I'd decided to deviate from standard guidance that a blog should be focused on a subject, lest you'll potentially deter readers. In going against the grain I wanted to focus on 3 big areas of my life, Real Estate, Family (Personal), and Web Development. I've mostly trended on Real Estate so far but that's all been very important information that needed to be in your hands sooner than later. I'm venturing into my first Family/Personal post by introducing you to my new hobby of Home Brewing.

I'm going to break this post up into three pieces to keep the length down: Before, During, After. Also, if I'm going to try to keep this simple for my friends who've never brewed. I'm open to feedback from you professionals but please keep that in mind while reading this blog!

Before brewing my first batch there were a few things I did to help get prepared which you may or may not want to consider.

1) Attend some brew days (where people get together to brew and drink beer) and watch people who knew what they were doing talk about the process. You'll find most people who brew are incredible helpful, knowledgeable, and genuinely interested in getting other people involved in the hobby.

2) Read a book or online articles about home brewing. A book I started on was The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing (because it came with my equipment).

3) Buy home brew equipment! Some thoughts:
  • Try to pick up used to save money if you can, but make sure you're getting quality (that's what I did).
  • Start out small, you can get along without some equipment until you decide to commit to the hobby.
  • Ask other people you know who brew for their opinions and do some research online. The more serious brewers I know recommend staying away from the Mr. Beer Kits. While they are cheaper apparently the quality isn't as good and you're less likely to keep brewing. Here are a couple of kits to look at to get an idea when you start researching: The Home Brewery Equipment Kit and Superior Home Brew Beer Kit.
  • If your equipment doesn't come with sanitizer, buy some. Per recommendation I bought some One Step.
4) Buy an ingredient kit! You don't need to do this if your equipment came with one. You can buy these from a local store or online. Again Mr. Beer has these such as the Mr. Beer St. Patrick's Irish Stout Refill Brew Pack. I ended up buying an Irish Red Ale from Midwest Supplies. I'd heard good things about them from multiple brewers and this was supposed to be a good kit for a first-timer.

Most basic kits will include: Liquid Malt Extract, Roasted Barley Grains, Hops, Yeast, and Sugar. Make sure to read the instructions as you may need to refrigerate the yeast prior to brewing. I'll mention more about these ingredients in the next installment.

Keep an eye out for - Home Brewing Beer: During [Part 2]

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

MHDC Free Money

Well, no money is ever really free as someone is paying for it, but why not try to get ahead by taking advantage of opportunities out there like the Stimulus Tax Credit?

MHDC often has different programs in place to benefit buyers (and therefore benefit seller's also!) so make sure to ask your Realtor. For those of you who haven't heard of MHDC it is the Missouri Housing Development Commission and it's homepage is www.mhdc.com.

The major initiatives that I'd like to comment on today is the HOPE initiative. HOPE stands for Home Ownership Purchase Enhancement. This plan was originally announced in November jointly by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and Treasurer Clint Zweifel.

The current allotment for this program is $15 million dollars. Sounds like a lot doesn't it? Well the maximum amount an individual can obtain from this program is $1,750 and it's for the entire state of Missouri. This means that at the maximum only 8,571 people can take advantage of it. With an estimated 2009 population of just under 6 million people you can see how this money could go fast (and will probably be used up by the time the Homebuyer Tax Credit expires).

So, what is the $1,750 for? While, it's broken down into two sums. A maximum of $1,250 can be allotted towards real estate taxes and a maximum of $1,750 minus the tax credit amount can be alloted towards energy efficiency improvements.

In order to qualify for these funds the property must be purchased as a primary residence and that residence must be maintained for 1 year. There are also income limits which vary per county.

Here is the link to the official page and more detailed information for the HOPE program: http://www.mhdc.com/homes/HOPE/index.htm

There are always lots of different programs out there whether at the city, county, state, or federal level. Be sure to speak to someone knowledgeable in your local market to ensure that you are maximizing the potentially programs you can utilize.

If anyone has benefited from this or similar programs I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Homebuyer Tax Credit

Unfortunately my wife and I did not qualify for the tax credit when buying our home in 2009 but we are very jealous of everyone who has been able to take advantage of this great opportunity afforded to you by the federal government.

To some of us, particularly those in the Real Estate business, this may seem like common knowledge. The reality is though that there are many Americans who have little familiarity with what the Homebuyer Tax Credit is and more importantly what it means to them. There's already a lot of information on the Internet so I'll do my best to provide a summary of key points and then some links to more detailed information. If you have any specific questions around the tax implications of your situation make sure to consult your tax person!

This tax credit not only benefits first-time home buyers and qualified move-up buyers but also anyone looking to sell a home that these two audiences might desire. As a seller this is a great opportunity of increased demand to get your home on the market and sold.

As a qualified first-time buyer you would be eligible for up to $8,000 in a tax credit. What is a first-time home buyer?
The law defines “first-time home buyer” as a buyer who has not owned a principal residence during the three-year period prior to the purchase. For married taxpayers, the law tests the homeownership history of both the home buyer and his/her spouse. [1]
As a qualified move-up buyer you would be eligible for up to $6,500 in a tax credit. What is a move-up buyer?
The law defines a tax credit qualified move-up home buyer (“long-time resident”) as a person who has owned and resided in the same home for at least five consecutive years of the eight years prior to the purchase date. For married taxpayers, the law tests the homeownership history of both the home buyer and his/her spouse.[1]
As a buyer, what do you need to do to take advantage of this tax credit?

    - Find a local Real Estate Agent who is a good fit for you and your needs.
      (This step is optional, but highly recommended.)
    - Start house hunting!
    - Have a contract on a property by April 30, 2010.
    - Close on that property by June 30, 2010.

As a seller, what do you need to do to take advantage of this tax credit?

    - Find a local Real Estate Agent who is a good fit for you and your needs.
      (This step is optional, but highly recommended.)
    - Get your house on the market ASAP!
    - Have a contract on a property by April 30, 2010.
    - Close on that property by June 30, 2010.

So, have you been able to take advantage of the tax credit? Why do you think you should or shouldn't take advantage of the credit?

For any of you who were familiar with the prior tax credit here is a table with some of the differences from the initial tax credit and the now extended and expanded tax credit: http://bit.ly/75u71M

[1] This website has extensive detailed information about the tax credit (make sure to check the FAQ) and is the source of the above definitions - http://bit.ly/8jB2Fn