My Home Brewery: Ziggy Brau!

After 20+ years of using a hodgepodge of brewing equipment — albeit it worked (mostly) well — I decided to invest in a new “brewery” for myself this year. Actually, I had a design in place for my brewery since 2002+ … here are a few drawings I’ve done through the years representing what I wanted. The first two images were my original design … some time later I did the next two drawings. The final drawing was a recent design for my brewery based upon all Blichmann equipment. I was trying to incorporate it with my existing Blichmann equipment — that’s the reason I didn’t just go with a Breweasy system.

After doing some research and looking to see how my brewing process, plus my location, matched with an integrated brew system, I decided to go with the Brewtools B40 — their smallest (40L) integrated system. It looked like the right match for my location/process. Having cleared customs here in Canada it came nicely packaged to the house.

Brewtools B40 Pro Brewing System

My wife and I agreed that it should be set up in our basement shop — it is an electric kettle system. My major goal with this system, besides to brew great beers, was to reduce the amount of heavy lifting involved. I found lifting 40-50 lbs of near-boiling water was probably not in my best interest.

Before I could get my brewery up and running, I had to have a little work done. I had a 240V isolated circuit installed to plug into directly — 30A worked nicely — no popped fuses! Next, I searched around for a rolling table to use with it–one low enough to see into the kettle. After much searching the folks over at Okanagan Stainless were kind enough to build me a fantastic Stainless Steel table — perfect for my need! They do such awesome work!

Here’s a look at the table. You can see the swing-arm installed–I’ll show how that works in a follow-on photo.

As a side diversion (lol), I tried to 3d print a block-and-tackle pulley system to use with my swing-arm (see photo). Although it worked, I needed something a little smaller.

With my table and power ready, the final piece of the puzzle was venting the steam out of the “Brewery.” Fortunately, I had two extraneous vent pipes leading out of the house from the old furnace — I decided to attempt to use one of those in the process. I drew up my design and bought the pieces/parts to see if I could make it work.

We set up the system (here you can see the initial layout) and tried boiling some water to see if it would work — come to find out, the exhaust pipe was a cardboard tube. haha. That wasn’t going to work! So I replaced that with a standard exhaust pipe — still not a good seal — too much leaking. I needed another solution — back to the Okanagan Stainless guys! They built me a stainless steel exhaust system to use … here are a few photos of the installed product.

With everything in place, I was ready to test out the system! I ran through about 3 test batches (water only) to understand the best way to attach all the valves. I purchased a few extra valves, the steam hat, and the wort chiller to have a complete solution. Here’s how the system looks set up when I’m brewing a batch of beer …

Overall, I love my system — however, I’m having issues with my brewhouse efficiency — I’m hovering at around 60% for mash conversion — that’s after 4 full batches. Fortunately, the beers still finished in style and are tasting great, but I want an efficiency closer to 80%. Still more research to do. In one of my follow-on posts I’ll talk through my process (I just brewed a Trappist-style Dark Strong Ale) — maybe someone will have some ideas.

I already have a few “upgrades/enhancements” planned for the brewery to make it even easier and more efficient to use. Oh, here’s an updated picture of my steam exhaust … I wanted to show the finished product there as well!

Stand by for more from Ziggy Brau!


Beer 52: Perennial Artisan / 4Hands Marathon

Today Mike and I hit two local breweries making excellent beers!

First on the list was Perennial Artisan Ales.  This place (as I’ve mentioned before) is awesome!  You never know what will show up on tap!  So, we ordered a sample of all 8 (two samplers actually).  The beers on tap this night were: 1) Coffee Abraxas, 2) Abraxas (Mexican Chocolate Stout), 3) Seventeen (Mint Chocolate Stout), 4) Fantastic Voyage (Coconut Milk Stout) [Beer 52], 5) Fete de Noel (Belgian Strong w/ Rosemary, Orange Peel, and Raisins), 6) Hereafter (Witbier (I think) with Sage and Pear), 7 Aria (Belgian Pale Ale with Brett Yeast), and 7) the Saison de Lis.   Wow!  These beers were awesome and they kicked our butts!  Oh, one of the owners/brewers was there and gave us a quick tour.  Score!  The beer was so good we forgot to pay our tab.  lol.  Gave me an excuse to go back and drink some more …


WP_20131127_023 Here was a look at their current stock and beers.  Small volume through the brewery but they are expanding.  They have good demand.

WP_20131127_022 This set of barrels are from the Side Project work … you gotta get your hands on some of these beers.  Most Excellent.

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From Perennial we went to 4Hands for their twice monthly (on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays) “Beer Swap meet.”

I really enjoy everything about 4 Hands.  Of course, we got the complete sampler here too … The folks are awesome, beers are good, and you can sample so many different beers … all so good!  Come on over and enjoy with them.

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Beer Mentor

Beer 44: Blanche de Chambly


Twelve days behind.  Darn.  I keep thinking I will stay caught up and then … I don’t.  Haha.  I need a ghost blogger.  Someone to write all this stuff for me (oh, and do the research as well).  Oh well … time to catch up a little.

Today’s beer was a nice Canadian one: Unibroue Blanche de Chambly.   This is a very nice Witbier … according to the brewery, it is North America’s first abbey beer.  Cool.  One other interesting tidbit for you … Unibroue is actually owned by the Japanese (Sapporo International).

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I savored this nice beer at Tripel.  Where else?  haha.


Beer Mentor


Beermentor’s Neighborhood: Tripel Brasserie (Beer 41)

My favorite restaurant/bar in St Louis is Tripel Brasserie.  To understand why, I need to tell a short story.  I will keep it simple:  Before I moved to St Louis in June I thought I was moving to Belgium.  My mind was wrapped around all those Belgian beers (supplemented with some good German ones).   When I found out that, no I’m not going to Belgium, I’m going to St Louis it was quite the letdown.  However, once I got here and saw the thriving Craft Brew scene I was immediately cheered up!  I went to the Heritage Beer Festival in June and it was even better!  As I was making my way back to my apartment from the fest I stumbled across this restaurant (Tripel) that wasn’t open yet … but they invited me in and I was hooked ever since.  Great Belgian/French food paired with Belgian beer (and local Belgian-style beers) matched with great folks?  Who can pass that up?  I make it a point of hanging out there at least once a week (usually Tuesday) … many times I’m there a couple of times.  Here are a few pictures to show how great the place is:

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 Oh look, Jim is coming out to meet me!


 A little welcome mat …


Plenty of beers on tap (local and Belgian)! And plenty in the bottle … they have a very nice selection.


 Matt and Darla hanging behind the bar.


A great space to have dinner — awesome decor.


Terry getting ready to put together the day’s special cocktail!

Oh, I guess I should go ahead and list my 41st beer in my quest:  The Petrus Aged Red.  On Tap.  They keep their beers moving in here … this is a new one on tap.  Another nice thing about Tripel — they have the right glass for each beer.  Definitely a plus.  Oh, did I mention it is less than a mile from my place?  An easy “walk” home … 


Enjoy!  Beer Mentor


Specialty Beer Swap @ 4 Hands Brewery (Beer 38)

Every 2nd and 4th Wednesday, 4 Hands Brewery hosts a “Specialty Beer Swap” by local homebrewers or beer “aficianados.”  I went to my first one tonight — although lightly attended due to other beer activities going on in the city, I was able to sample several different beers.  Beer 38 for me was one I’ve wanted to sample: The Velvet Merkin.  Whoa.  This is an outstanding beer.   Firestone Walker out did themselves with this Oatmeal Stout.  Although it is 8.5% ABV, it is so smooth.  Many bourbon-barrel aged beers are sometimes overpowered by the residual bourbon in the barrel–not this one!  There was the hint in the background, but you could definitely tell this was all beer!  If you can get your hands on a Merkin, I recommend it! <smile>

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The fantastic thing about this evening is that this was not the only beer I was able to sample.  Next up (none of these are in any particular order) was a Russian River Beer: Temptation.  Wow!  Two world-class beers in a row.  This one is listed as an American Wild Ale.  Here’s the description: “A blonde ale fermented with a special strain of yeast, then aged in French oak chardonnay barrels. Flavors of wine and oak absorb into the brew throughout twelve months of aging. During this aging process, a secondary fermentation occurs using a yeast strain disliked by most brewers and winemakers called Brettanomyces.” [from BeerAdvocate]


Next up? Short’s Brewery Soft Parade.  This one was a little sweet for my taste … very similar to a Lambic/Kriek but I’m not sure they call it a Lambic.  The bottle says “High Gravity brewed with a bunch of different fruit.”  Still a very good beer.


Fourth taster?  Port Brewing‘s Santa’s Little Helper.  An Imperial Stout aged in Oak Barrels … wow again!  This beer was fantastic.  So nice and tasty, the aroma was great with a very good finish.  Find it, buy it.  haha.

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The last beer was one I provided.  Premiant Hopburst by Brouwerij de Molen.  It is bottle 104 out of 366.  This bottle was 4 years old.  This is a single-hopped IPA made exclusively with Premiant hops (a Czech variety).  I liked this beer, but a couple of the guys there didn’t.  Maybe they weren’t used to an aged IPA?  I thought it was really good.

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Overall a great beer tasting evening at 4 Hands.  I look forward to the next one!

Beer Mentor

Beer 37: 4 Hands Chocolate Milk Stout

Curreently, 4 Hands brewing is my favorite brewery in St Louis (followed closely by FOBAB multi-medalist Perennial).  4 Hands’ beers are consistently outstanding.  My only caveat is you have to really like hops, but who doesn’t?  Today’s beer is not hoppy, the Chocolate Milk Stout.

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Some Chocolate Milk Stouts will have a harsh or burnt characteristics because of the blend of cocoa and chocolate malts–not this one!  4 Hands really built a smooth milk stout that is easy drinking.  Great chocolate nose and the finish is smooth.  If you have the opportunity to try some of their beers, I highly recommend it.  If you are taking in a show at The Old Rock House or a Cardinals ballgame (when in season), recommend a stop in before or after the game.

Enjoy!  Beer Mentor

Beer 32: Cathedral Abbey Ale

Another one of the new craft beer breweries to open in St Louis is Cathedral Square Brewery.  They are so new they don’t really have a place of their own, but they are making beers and they are available so I had one– the Abbey Ale.

beer32 - Cathedral Abbey Ale beer32b

As you can see, I had this on tap at PW Pizza (Yes, featured in Beermentor’s Neighborhood).  I found it to be a nice Belgian-style ale (you definitely tell it uses the Trappist Yeast from the flavor).  I would definitely buy this to have in the fridge.  I need to give a few more of their beers a chance–hopefully they will get a place soon so I can stop in and try special stuff too.


Beer Mentor


Beermentor’s Neighborhood: 4Hands Brewing (Beer 28/Day 28)

Welcome Back to Beer Mentor’s Neighborhood!  We are visiting a brewery 1.4 miles from my place but in another world because of the beers they are making!  This place is awesome. 4Hands Brewing.



I usually like to mix it up when I visit but today I stuck with the Resurrection IPA (28th beer in 28 days … keeping the train going!).  This beer is fantastic!  Maybe it is the Mosaic hops they are using … I don’t know.  But the Aroma and Flavor in this IPA is really satisfying.  I thought the flavor was Simcoe at first … but I guess Mosaic is derived from Simcoe and Nugget.  What a great kiddo.  haha.  Quick note: I’d go get some if you haven’t yet … it may be coming off the menu for a while.

They have a tasting option too and it is well presented.  Here’s a couple of pics of the Resurrection and the tasting flight.

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This is really a nice place.


They have food available as well–however, it is a separate service so you will pay for the food separate from your beer.  

They have a great variety of beers and they have an extensive barrel-aging effort.  I didn’t try it this time but they have a beer called “Smoked Pigasus” — a smoked rye porter.  Can’t wait to try that one!


They have great events going on here and all over the city.  These folks are very involved in the Craft Beer industry and support local homebrewers.  Every 2nd and 4th Wednesday they have a bottle-swap event … worth checking out.  A few more photos for those who enjoy a nice brewery! Oh, I should tell you — you can buy growlers or take home some bottles too.  

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Welcome to the Neighborhood!

Beer Mentor

Beermentor’s Neighborhood: Urban Chestnut Brewery!

On Wednesday I was supposed to begin my Mandolin Class at the Folk School in St Louis.  Unfortunately the class didn’t make — I didn’t find out until I went for the class.  Needless to say, I was not very happy!  However, I was cheered up immediately when I realized Urban Chestnut was right there near the school–and only 2.5 miles from my place!

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A short 10-minute drive lands me right in the middle of “an unconventional-minded yet tradition-oriented brewer of craft beer.”  They like to call their unique brewing philosophy Beer Divergency—a ‘new world meets old world’ brewing approach wherein UCBC contributes to the ‘revolution’ of craft beer with artisanal creations of modern American beers, and pays ‘reverence’ to the heritage of beer with classically-crafted offerings of timeless European beer styles.” (from the Urban Chestnut Webpage).

I have to agree with them wholeheartedly — their efforts are really impressive.  I had their sampler of four beers: 1) Hopfen, 2) Urban Blacktop, 3) STLIPA, and 4) (not Wolpertinger … they were out) Stammtisch.

As beer 24 on day 24, STLIPA is a double (or Imperial) IPA.  Really nice beer, but as with most of their beers, don’t expect it to adhere to any style — they make their beers the way they want to and I’m all for that.  I do like the mix of strange concoctions and classic beers — I will be frequenting this place a little more often!

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Oh, here are a couple of more pictures of the brewery.  They’ve got a very nice beer garden — inviting, large — you can definitely celebrate a big party at this place!

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See you in my Neighborhood soon!

(Oh, and check out their little growlers … pretty neat)

Beer Mentor