8th MS Anniversary: Magic 8 Beer #homebrew

Update:  I posted an Instructable on this.


Each at Microsoft, people tend to bring in X pounds of chocolate (usually M&Ms), where X is the number of years they have been at Microsoft. 3 years ago, I celebrate my 5th year with5 gallons of Nutcastle Brown, since it has chocolate malt in it.  2 years ago, I brought my Accidental Imperial Stout with 6 oz. of chocolate nibs in it.  Last year I celebrated my Voyage at Microsoft  with my 7’Cs beer.

This year I tried to find a find way to work “8” into it.  And yes, even though I spent the last 3 years working on Windows 8, and we shipped right around then, and shipped Windows Phone 8, I never thought about that.  What I did think was “Magic 8 Ball.”

So I announce this year I have developed  the Magic 8 Beer!

The beer part was easy, Brew a Cascadian Dark Ale.  That took 1 second of mental effort and 4 hours to brew.

Now for the Magic 8 Ball part.  After many iterations of ideas, I settled on an 8-sided Paper die, which is Shellacked and Epoxied and cured to make it water proof, and food safe.


Each die has 8 sayings or pictures.  Each die is unique, though about 3/5 of the sides came from a short list of repeated phases.  The creation of the die took hours of research, prototyping and pondering.  The phrases took a couple of hours to create, the Visio file took a few hours to create (over time) and the shellacking, cutting, gluing and epoxying  to 5-6 hours more.


Then came the cozies.  At a work event that had these cozies


which bent around the bottles or cans.  There were spares, and I knew I would use them somehow.  I hit the idea of dyeing them black and spray painting the magic 8 beer sign across them.

Great idea except it did not work.  The fluorescent green nylon did not take the fabric die, and the raised black ink just laughed at it.  So Plan B was spray paint it black then white stenciling.  Plan B failed with the green bleeding through.  Plan C was spray with white over the green, passable.  Plan F…G…H…, I lost track, was spray Killz, then black, then white lettering.  That is what I went with:


The result was fine, the raised ink really pops.  The hard part was the stencil which got loaded with paint.


Cider Experiment #3–1 week Cider–1 day boom #homebrew

After bottling Cider Experiment #2 (still haven’t posted) Divide! commented that he liked the cider but hated the bottling (this was 100 bottles!).

I thought about it some more, and an experiment was born.

The Hypotheses

“could you make cider lazily, and  just bottle in the juice jugs themselves and be carbonated in a week?”


The steps:

My first experimental steps were:

  1. Buy 4 Jugs of cider
  2. Put yeast in all 4
  3. After 1 day, seal the lid for Jug 1
  4. 2 days in, seal Jug 2, do the same for Jugs 3 and 4 on days 3 and 4…
  5. At a week, bring them to a party and see what level of carbonation is best.

The things that held me back was I did not have an event where I could bring 4 gallons of cider.  Then we started planning a party…

I had a big brewing day.  I was making a mild with 2nd runnings from brewing  at Tom Schmidling’s, and I was brewing 3 versions of a CDA with 3 smoked malts (future post).  The counters were full of brewing goodnesses.


    The Test

    I went for a reduced experiment.

    1. 2 1 Gallon jugs of cider (same as previous).
    2. Put hydrated yeast in both,
    3. Just place the lids on loosely
    4. at 20 hours I closed the lid on #1.
    5. With in 2 hours it was puffing":
    6. WP_000624

      Hmmm, This is science so I should measure
      5 hours later, this is starting to look like a bad idea, and by bad idea, I mean explosively bad, and by that, I mean AWESOME.
      I decided  to take a precaution and put the sealed jug in a pot:
      Yeah, that is going to blow… I put a grocery bag over the top… Which was a great idea, when 2 hours later, it blew:WP_000631WP_000632WP_000634

    The sound was like a gunshot.  Amazingly, no one woke up for that…

    Since I still had a gallon of cider, or so, in the pot, I decided to pour it into a 2 liter bottle and put an airlock in the top.  Now when you write that sentence the fact that 2 litres is significantly less than 1 gallon seems obvious, but at the time it did not.  The problem was pouring from a large pot into a 2 litre bottle.  I did it in the sink, with the idea that any spills would go into the sink…

    It worked, for filling.  It was tricky, holding a funnel and bottle in one hand, and pouring from a 3 gallon pot in the other (2 liter bottles are not very tip proof).  I poured the cider in, suddenly realizing I has too much in the pot.  I then carefully put pot on the counter.  Did I mention the counter was full of brewing goodness, ginger bread houses, and other things?  Well I carefully set the pot on the counter, making sure it was stable, only to discover it was not.  The liquid in the pot has sloshed toward the middle of the counter letting me thing it was stable, and then sloshed back informing me it was not, by dropping to the floor.  The loud clatter was what woke people up, and made the floor sticky, not the explosion.  I mopped the floor 3 times that night, and it was still sticky the next day.


    The results are that you cannot carbonate in the juice jugs, they are not pressure worthy.


    This was likely a known bad idea Smile had I thought about the jugs [insert joke here].  I could have test the pressure worthiness of the jug before hand.  However, using a 2 litre bottle as a back gave me a further idea, that I could just ferment the 2 gallons in 4 of those. 

    So the idea of just going to the store for cider and the LHBS for wine yeast and having cider in a week, now requires more equipment (bottles seem to hold up to 200PSI), but that can be found material.

    B-Day Labels #10 Mango Madness #2


    This is follow up to Mango Madness.

    This time around I had more mango, I also added 3-4 perfectly ripe peaches, and I left the pulp and pits in the mango (it was only in the fermenter for 2 weeks, I removed the peach pits but did not peel them).

    The results was more mango, but also, over time, a bitterness from the pulp (or more like an astringency).  This turns out to be a good thing.  I brought the keg to Beer Stock shortly after kegging, and people loved it, and most said “Needs more Hops.”

    Not a surprise at a NW Homebrew Event.  But in reality, what was happening was the mango cloyingness was overwhelming the 50 IBUs already there.  As the CO2 has taken effect and the astringency kicked in, it has balanced better.  I still might crank up the IBUs 5 more anyway.   Also the efficiency of the grist was way off (1052 instead of 1060) and that may be adding to the sweetness.  When I racked from secondary, before adding Mango,  it was thickkkkkkkk.

    The picture on the label seems to be a screen shot from some flash game I could not find.  I did use a new trick.  Word seems to be struggling with all the Word Art (the CPU spikes when I move the labels as it renders everything).  I create one document with the word art, and just one label.  I then paste it into another, “As a Picture.”  then I use that picture to make 6 labels.  The second document is does not cause all the CPU loading.


    Hopville.com recipe:  http://hopville.com/recipe/841437/american-ipa-recipes/mango-madness-2

    B-Day Labels #9 Mango Madness #1

    You know when you name a beer “#1” to begin with, you are planning #2…

    This beer was specific for Anh.  Years ago Anh spent some time in Florida.  She is crazy for mangos,  While there she befriended a mango farmer who made a deal to sell her Mangos direct every year.  So every year Anh and Mark get over 100 Mangos.  Their kitchen, which is quite large, becomes overwhelmed with Mango.

    Anh wanted a Mango beer.  So off the heals of the Princess Peach Pale Ale I made my standard IPA and added the Mango.  As Anh had mangos get overripe she would cut them and freeze them.  At some point Mark dropped off a ziplock or two of frozen mango.

    I did not really weigh it going in, but I did fill a large sauce pan and hold the fruit at 160-170, though it got to 180.  The problem was I forgot to account for the 12 hours it would take to defrost the Mango.

    Since I knew I was making more than one mango beer, I bottled the whole batch, or really had my minions bottle it for me.

    The End result was very nice.  Interestingly, if the beer is cold, you do not get much Mango aroma or flavor, but let it warm, and it really comes in.

    The Label was based on a photo from their kitchen this year:


    Hopville recipe:  http://hopville.com/recipe/711844/american-ipa-recipes/mango-madness-pale-ale

    B-Day Label #11 Experimental Hop 946 #homebrew

    One of the members of my local home brew club, Tom Schmidlin  had a batch of “brewer’s cuts” in his deep freeze. These are samples (1 cubic foot or so) of hops that growers send to pro brewers to test the seasons hops.  These cuts were left over form 2009 or 2010.  Tom asked me what kind of hops I would like.  I rattled off a list of, oh, about 10.  He replied back to the effect, “Hey Jerk, this is for sharing, not for hogging, pick one!”  Then he admitted he had a cut of “experimental hops.”

    I was like, “why didn’t you say so in the first place?”  That had my name all over it.

    Each year, hop growers grow a number of experimental hops.  These are hybrids, or tweaks of existing hops.  Most never see a second season, and this is likely one of them.  All we know about the hops are the measurements written in sharpie on the wrapper.  Speaking of which, when Tom brought a bunch of the cuts to a meeting, it looked like a very poorly hidden drug deal, handing out brown paper satchels to other members…

    Tom indicated to expect that Alpha and Beta values had dropped by 25%.

    The measurements:

    alpha (5.4 less 25%)

    Beta (5.6 less 25%).

    The package also said:

    Hops:  Burlotee, 0-313-30, Bale #6, 9-18-10, Exp, Lot 946 “RS”

    I decied made a pale ale, 100% from the hops, like my Cascade Ale, to explore the hop. However to get the IBUs up I used a lot of hops:  50gms at 60, 20, 5. That is a lot of hops!  The amount of wort/beer sucked into those hops was heartbreaking.

    The result:  to quote Mark:

    Subject: The beer is delicious!
    It’s great – perfect body and aroma, sweet flavor.

    For the label I wanted to capture the experimental nature of the hops:



    Hopville.com recipe:  http://hopville.com/recipe/775581/american-pale-ale-recipes/experimental-hop-946

    Brewmate.net recipe:  http://www.brewmate.net/recipes/6esV1DqDoofNqmPyqPGz.xml

    7 C’s IPA Anniversary Beer


    As with my Accidental Imperial Stout this is my Anniversary Beer for Microsoft.

    2 years ago, for 5 years, I brought 5 gallons of Nutcastle Brown, since it has chocolate malt in it.

    Last year I brought my Accidental Imperial Stout with 6 oz. of chocolate nibs in it.

    This time my MS voyage has hit 7 years, so I created this 7 c’s IPA.

    This has 7 different “C” hops in it.  I had tasted Lumpoc’s C-Note and really liked it.  Researching a 7 C beer was trickier than I thought.   I was surprised that not many other people had done something with a spin on the name. My version is an IPA, but not an over the top bitter one, these hops mix together to form a moving balance from bitter to floral to spicy to citrus, with a nice malt backbone as it washes down. 

    Finding all the C’s was tricky.  I have Cascade, I picked 3 more C’s (Centennial, Chinook, Cluster) of them at Larry’s Homebrew Supply on my way to Beerstock, and then 2 at Mountain Homebrew (Crystal, Columbus),   That left Citra or Challenger.  Before the brew weekend I was widowering and Working from home whilst my wife was running her fourth Ironman in 3 years, so running errands was tricky.  @beerymcgee had some Citra he was willing to share, but I found that Bob’s Homebrew had both Citra and Challenger in stock, and it was "on the way" to picking up Minion #4’s Bow from the Nock Point. 

    I still did not know what which hop I wanted.  Citra is more "US" but I already had plenty of citrus going in…  Anyway I gave myself an hour to get there by 7pm when the store closed.  First issue was loading Minions in the van, down to 45 minutes.  Then I got stopped by construction (one lane), then traffic ( l love the 520 bridge), then the friggin’ bridge was up at Montlake.  I got to the store at 7:00 exactly, and they still let me in (thanks!).  Clearly the choice was made for me, and I got Challenger.

    BTW that is not all of the homebrew stores in the Puget Sound region 🙂

    I spent of lot of time trying to figure out how I could figure out how to balance the hops.  Rather than trying to craft a plan for the hops, I chose to stay with the theme of 7. I bittered with 21g (7×3) of cascade and Chinook  and added 7 g of each hop at 20 and 5 minutes and then dry hopped the rest of each package. My weights of the rest (dry hop) are highly suspect.

    To say this had a bit of hop sludge would be like saying Germans drink a bit of beer.  I had to strain the wort to get all that goodness out.  I had pellets, whole hops, and plugs.  Each one of those has issues, I had them all.  On top of that I could not get a chance to rack before dry hopping, in the bucket they went.  On kegging day I racked to a carboy and I still got 2 inches of trub/hops at the bottom in an hour.

    Even after kegging, it was still “thick” so I added isinglass to the keg.  This is not surprising, you can look at the recipe, it took 45 minutes just to enter all of the hops into Hopville.com.

    I’ll be serving this tomorrow (10/7/2011) at work.

    Hopville Recipe.

    Alternative Priming Sugars in Cider experiment

    This is a combination of experiments.  The first is the BBR-BYO #9 experiment (Basic Brewing Podcast April 14, 2011 – New Experiments and Scandinavian Brewing) where you hydrate dry yeast for one batch, and then just sprinkle it on others.  I won’t go into the results of that one here (no spoilers). 


    For this experiment I chose to replicate the cider brew that was in the Basic Brewing Video   (Jan 30th, 2011, Simple Cider).  The simple steps were:


    1. Buy two jugs of Treehouse cider from Costco.  This is pasteurized and has no preservatives, and comes in a pack with two 1 gallon jugs.
    2. Add yeast (Red Star Pasteur Champagne ).
    3. Place airlock, tin foil, or just light screw the lid on.
    4. Wait (and beg forgiveness from your wife for leaving yet more crap on the counter).


    Photo of the jugs:





    Now at the end of the experiment I had 2 gallons of cider which I needed to bottle.  Never satisfied to do things simply, I decided to play with alternative priming sugars.  I grabbed some sugars around the house, and using the method discussed in the Basic Brewing Podcast (October 28, 2010 – Alternate Priming Sugars) I tried to calculate the correct amounts to match the amount in 1 carb drop (take grams of sugar from nutrition label and make it  equal to that of a 12 oz, and I think I target 2.4 volumes for 12 oz. Using http://kotmf.com/tools/prime.php I targeted about 2g. There was a fair amount of guess work, and honestly on the honey, which was hand labeled "Blackberry," I just did a dollop.  All of the other sugars were unopened so I did not sanitize them.


    I added each sugar to one each of the batches, but because their FG was different, I did not taste batch vs. batch.  I actually labeled each with tape, then a paper label.  Each type of sugar priming had its own cap (which I kept a table of as well).  Here are the bottles complete:




    Following is the table of the priming schedule, I managed 10 bottles per gallon: 6  sugars had 1 from each batch, I did 2 carb drops , 1 just still, and 1 with a campden tablet and apple juice to sweeten it.


    I tasted 2 of them with my friend Toby.  I then brought 6 bottles to the National Homebrewers Conference in June of 2011.  There I gather some friend, hornswoggled John Palmer, and met with the Basic Brewing crew and recorded a podcast.  Only James had a slight clue what I was up to, the tasting was blind.  Here are my notes from memory.




    Tasting Notes

    Tasted with Toby



    Apple juice

    16 ml

    It was definitely more apple flavored than the honey, almost "concentrated."


    Bit on fork

    Carbonated but drier than the Apple Juice.  No Honey flavor




    Tasted on Podcast



    Carb Drop


    Control:  Good bubble, good flavor



    Less carb, interest flavors

    Cinnamon Syrup


    Less carb than expect, no cinnamon at all

    Mini marshmallow


    Funniest, coated the tongue

    Light Agave


    Most carb, almost a gusher, different flavor than carb drop though



    Did not like compared to carb’ed ones



    Mixed the remain, was actually quite good




    Not Tasted



    Camden Tablet and Apple Juice


    Thought on this, and it  was a bad idea 🙂


    The details will be on the podcast which should air in late July.   It was a lot of fun and we finished with a Princess Peach Ale, which was enjoyed by all.


    My favorite line was from Steve who said "I thought you were going to do some thing like Glucose, Dextrose, Fructose."  Really he should have known better 🙂




    I was surprised how much the priming sugars added flavor.  Even the agave, which I expect to have little flavor impact, had an impact.  The Cinnamon Syrup was also the surprise in not imparting the expected flavor.  I was hoping for apple pie on that one.  I also was worried the mini-marshmallows were going to not dissolve and land in a  cup like a hot chocolate.


    In the future I would probably do a few more sugars:  maple syrup, brown sugars, different honeys, different juices, DME, among others.  I might also just add cinnamon to see what that comes out like.


    Most people felt they like the carb drops the best, but I think you could really tweak the final flavor of a cider like this.  I think I would recommend the apple juice.






    Big thanks to the (starting on my right in the photos):   John Palmer, Andy Sparks, Nathaniel Muller, Steve Antoch, Michael Berta, Steve Wilkes, and  of course James Spencer who took the photo!

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