DIY Swamp Cooler

Our DIY Swamp Cooler

Our DIY Swamp Cooler

Just thought I’d check in to give you an update on our Father’s Day 2015 Home Brew Extravaganza. As of this writing, both fermenting buckets are happily bubbling away in the swamp cooler we made for them.

The hefe was all systems go right from the start. The IPA was a little dicier. It took a LONG time to get the wort to chill down, and we’d put the yeast (live ale yeast) out on a countertop to come up to temp. So both the wort and the yeast were a little too warm for our comfort (by a couple of degrees), and we were relieved when bubbles started appearing in the air lock.

Since it’s currently 110 degrees here in Las Vegas–and has been for the past week and will be for the next–the ambient temperature inside our house, with air-conditioning running constantly, doesn’t drop much below the high 70s. The fermenting barrels need to be kept at a steady temperature not exceeding 68 degrees F, so we’ve jury-rigged this swamp cooler to do the job*.

We placed a plastic cement-mixing tub (less than $15 at Lowe’s) in a closet in the coolest room and placed the fermenting buckets inside the tub. Then we wrapped the buckets in a couple of cheap beach towels ($5 each at Kmart). We filled the plastic tub with about 4 inches of water, making sure the towels at the bottom of the buckets were soaking in the water so they would wick moisture up the sides of the buckets. Then we saturated the towels with water and placed a tower fan in the closet, aiming it at the buckets. As the blowing air from the fan evaporates the water in the towels, it cools the brew in the buckets. Ambient temp = 66-68 degrees F and holding.

I’ll let you know when we transfer the fermenting brew to carboys and dry-hop the IPA, later this week. Stay tuned!


*Props and thanks to Steve at Vegas Home Brew for hooking us up with this ingenious idea.

Brewing Beer: Happy Father’s Day Edition

We decided to celebrate Father’s Day 2015 with a beer-brewing spectacular. Because dads love beer. Yay!


Brewing on Father's Day

We brewed 2 different beers: a Bavarian hefe and a Stone Ruination IPA clone.
The hefe used malt syrup…


Pouring in the First Malt

Tip: Make sure your stockpot is (a) stainless steel and (b) big enough to accommodate foaming. Ours is 5 gals.

Hefe wort complete and cooling in fermenting bucket:


Hefe Wort Cooling

While we were waiting for the hefe wort to cool enough to pitch the yeast (dry), we started on the IPA.




The IPA required steeping grain in a giant teabag:


Grains for Steeping

After steeping, we added malt and 2 different kinds of hops in the boiling phase:


IPA Wort

Then we pitched the yeast into the cooled hefe wort, chilled the IPA wort, and ate dinner. And possibly went out for ice cream, but I won’t confirm or deny that officially.

Ultimately, we ended up with two 5-gallon fermenting buckets filled with what we hope will be delicious beer. Now the waiting game begins.
Do your stuff, yeast!

It’s Crabbie’s Time Somewhere

Hailing from Edinburgh, Scotland, Crabbie’s Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer has appeared in the US by way of St. Killian Importing. Popular in the UK (where it is available in flavors such as strawberry and lime and Scottish raspberry), Crabbie’s is the official sponsor of the Grand National Festival, an annual handicap steeplechase held in Liverpool, England. St. Killian’s has been importing Crabbie’s into the US for the past couple of years, and it’s currently available available in 18 US states.

Category: Flavored malt and cider20140710_202918

Style/Type: Malt beverage

Description: Flavored with imported ginger cold-steeped for a period of up to 6 weeks, then combined with “four secret ingredients.”

How to serve: In a tall glass, over ice, with a slice of lemon or lime.

Stats: ABV 4.8%

Tasting notes: Has a lovely spicy ginger flavor that provides the gentle, back-of-the-throat burn that ginger lovers will appreciate. Both the original and the orange versions are dominated by ginger flavor, and as is typical of other malt beverages, the alcohol is almost indiscernible. The sweetness is prominent, as in nonalcoholic ginger ale. Because Crabbie’s isn’t technically a “beer,” I won’t use the ASTMO standards in my review.

Comments: Although I don’t typically choose sweet beverages, I enjoyed this one. It’s sweet but crisp, spicy, and very refreshing. It has a complexity of flavors that, for me, worked well with the sweetness. I can see why the words “alcoholic” and “for grownups only” are used in all the labeling.I’d like to try this in a shandygaff, the British version of the shandy, which mixes ginger beer with ale. (Click for my Lemon Shandy recipe.) It’s not the sort of thing I’d drink with a meal–I prefer straight-up beer–but it’s a nice summery change of pace from hard lemonade or cider for patio sipping. I’ll be stocking this one over the summer for sure.

Disclaimer: I received samples of both the Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer and the Spiced Orange for tasting and review. My review is not compensated, and all opinions are mine.

Mix It Up: Beer Cocktails


I know what you’re thinking when you hear the words “beer cocktails”: Why on earth would you do that to a beer? I initially thought the same thing. But consider this: say you have a few cans left of that beer you bought when you were going through your hipster phase. (Hey, no shame, we’ve all been there.) You don’t want to waste it, but it’s not going to drink itself. Those beers are just taking up valuable refrigerator real estate.

With a couple of mixers, you can put those wallflower beers to good use and clear the shelf for those sexy summer craft beers.

Check out my post–“3 Beer Cocktails to Set Your Summer Scene” on and get shaking.



5 Ways to Celebrate American Craft Beer Week


Finally, it’s that most special time of the year: American Craft Beer Week! Here are 5 ways to celebrate this week-long toast to our favorite libation.

1. Drink a craft beer you’ve never tried before. Repeat as necessary.

2. Join Untappd if you haven’t already. Tap in your craft beer and get the American Craft Beer Week badge.

3. Visit a brewpub. Or several. Tip your server handsomely to thank them for facilitating your celebration of craft beer.

4. Host a craft beer tasting.

5. Become a beer activist.

Share your beer chat on Twitter with the following hashtags: #craftbeer #ACBW #AmericanCraftBeerWeek

What are you drinking today to celebrate craft beer in America?

World Beer Cup 2014 Winners List

If you watched the livestreaming of the World Beer Cup 2014 yesterday, you know it was pretty exciting. Lots of competition this year, and a few shakeups. (No gold awarded? REALLY? But that’s completely legit, according to the WBC awards philosophy.) 

Here’s the complete World Beer Cup 2014 Winners list so you can print out a copy and discuss it with your friends over a beer.



10 Questions with Michael Beaman of Banger Brewing

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Michael (Banger) Beaman, 33, single, Co-Founder, Head Brewer, (HMFIC)

Banger Brewing, Microbrewery, tasting room

Address: 450 Fremont St #135, Las Vegas, NV 89101

Web site/blog:
Twitter: @BangerBrewing @LVBanger
Facebook: Michael Beaman
Instagram: @BangerBrewing

10 Questions with Michael Beaman of Banger Brewing

1. What led you to craft beer?

I don’t really know the answer to that question. I have always enjoyed a good pint of beer. I have always been intrigued by the many different beers a single brewery can produce. If I had to put it on one moment I would have to say it is the first time I tried a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I fell in love with the hop flavors and aromas. Ever since that beer my roommate and I would go to the store and try every craft beer we could get a hold of. Eventually I saw a commercial for Sam Adams homebrew competition, found out where to buy a kit and wallah! Here I am, writing this. Ha Ha!

2. If you weren’t doing this for a living, you’d probably be _________?

A ski bum.

3. What are your five favorite beers of all time?

Any one of Avery’s Barrel Aged Series, New Belgium Sour Brown, Deschutes Red Chair NWPA, Rochefort 8, and of course Guinness

4. If you could enjoy a beer with 3 people, living or dead, who would they be and why?

Benjamin Franklin, because he was a home brewer. I would love to try some of his brew and of course I would bring some of mine too. The Dude, because he knows how to party! And has great taste in music. Last but certainly not least, my Dad–we always have some good times over beers. Especially after a long day of four-wheeling or shooting.

5. Please describe your perfect meal and which beer(s) you’d pair with it.

I’d start off with a seared foie gras paired with Le Terroir by New Belgium. Then I would move on to a Kobe rib eye paired with a Lagunitas IPA. And last I would enjoy a chocolate souffle paired with a Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout by Rogue. I would then bring it all together with a shot of Fernnet Branca and a ginger beer back.

6. Favorite beer quote OR drinking toast?

“Once it hits your lips…It’s so good.” –Frank the Tank.

7. How have you seen the craft beer industry change over the past five years, and how do you see it changing in the next five?

I have seen it change in the last five years, after four years of planning and developing, my brewery finally opened!! There are more and more breweries opening every year. We finally just surpassed the number of breweries that there were pre-Prohibition, which is awesome because it shows you that people are drinking a lot more of their local craft brews and less “yellow stuff.”

8. Favorite place to drink a beer?

Lunchtime on the slopes.

9. Pretend it’s bring-your-fans-to-work day. What can we expect to see you doing during a typical day on the job?

I get to work about 8:30–8:45. I go straight to the taps and make sure to “taste” all of the beers, you know, for quality assurance. Then I head to the mill room and start crushing up the days brew. I then walk into the brewery and turn up the music and dough in. During the last part of the mash I order lunch from one of the many places to eat in downtown Las Vegas (Le Thai is my favorite). I then start the runoff and wait for my food; in the meantime I try to figure out a beer to pair with my food. After the boil during knockout I grab my “knockout” beer. Now comes the fun part, cleaning. I make sure to sweep and mop the mill room and brewery.

10. Licence to brag: what’s the best thing you’ve contributed to the craft beer universe?

I am so new to the world of commercial brewing. I don’t think I have contributed anything. But the year is still young!!

11. Bonus round (optional but awesome): Please share a little-known fun fact about yourself.

I have backpacked Europe a couple of times. Once was a beer and food trip, the other was for the amazing skiing.

Thank you, Michael. Cheers to you and yours!