Been a while since a last entry, so here we go.

I was able to squeeze two brew sessions into a single day last month. I’d been wanting to make a double IPA again for a while, but wasn’t really too sure how to go about it. The Dawn Spawn DIPA I made last summer was okay, but I was still pretty new at all-grain brewing, and there were a lot of things I could have done better. This time, I wanted to use something to help thin the beer out. My friend Allison offered up some honey that was sourced up in Northern Minnesota. Perfect! Two pounds of it would push the gravity to the point where we’d have a 9% DIPA, and it’d have a bit less heaviness to it, since the honey pretty much totally ferments out. The recipe took shape quickly, relying on a lot of Centennial hops.

The brew session took place at Ed’s as part of our monthly homebrew club meeting. We started earlier than usual, and I started mashing in before people arrived, since that’s really no fun to watch (but it smells great!). The local paper was there, asking us many questions and taking photos of the process. They were nice, and seemed to enjoy what was going on. We ended up being on the front page, which was cool. I’ve since had many people come up and ask me about it. So next week’s meeting should be interesting, I am curious to see if we have some new folks coming. The more the merrier!

Anyway, so the brew went along fine, and I added the honey at the end of the boil, partially to sterilize it, but mainly to try and preserve some of the amazing flavor and aroma that it had. I missed my gravity by a few points, but the beer finished out a bit drier than anticipated, so it sits at 9.1% ABV. A pretty hefty IPA. It fermented out in a couple of weeks, and It’s been double dry-hopped. The flavor seemed nice enough to me, but I wish it had more aroma, something I notice in a lot of big IPAs. The solution? Build a Randall! The idea came from the wizards at Dogfish Head, and the thought behind it is simple, and brilliant. Between the keg and the tap, put a device, filled with hops for the beer to flow through. The alcohol in the beer will attach to the hops, taking to the glass some of the aromatic and flavorful oils, giving the beer one last happy blast of hoppiness before it’s served.

I was amazed at how simple and easy this thing was to build. I’d need a few things:

- A whole-house water sediment filter
- 3/4 to 1/2 inch reduction fittings, then 1/2 inch to 1/4 flare fittings
- A tube for the middle to act as a filter (it’s widely suggested to use a stainless steel tube, but I used a 10.5″ length of 1″ blowoff tube). I drilled about 20 holes in the bottom 1/4 of it to force the beer down through the hops.
- about 10 feet of beverage line and some clamps, and a picnic tap (I used 1/4 inch beer line)
- a few ounces of hops.

Here are the parts laid out (sorry for the dark background). I’ve already assembled the brass fittings to the filter inlet and outlet. I chose a picnic tap, because while I am testing it out, I’ll have it set up on its own, not hooked up to the kegerator (this will also make comparison easier, hopped vs. unhopped).

Here’s the Randall cleaned, sanitized and assembled.

I threw a couple of ounces of Centennial in for testing. I could have fit another ounce or two at least.

So far, so good! Now I need to introduce pressure and beer! I had a small leak at first that was easily fixed. I assumed the beer would foam up pretty good, and it did. The filter did a pretty good job of keeping particles out, although there were a few in the glass, mainly from hop leaves that dropped into the tube while filling it. I did notice a nice kick in aroma and flavor, but I decided that I am going to use a different hop.

Here’s a shot of the glass!

All in all, it was a success! It only took about an hour to build, and was around $20 in parts. I think keeping it separate from the kegerator was a nice idea, since now it’s kind of portable. I don’t know how often I’ll use this, but it’s here, and I think it’s kind of cool! Now I just need to read up on keeping the foam down so I can fill a growler with it!