Monday, January 12, 2009

Search For A Free Web-Based Brewing Tool

I've decided to start brewing my own beer again. I once entertained a thought of actually brewing and selling my beer someday, but right now I'll just settle for brewing. It's been about 4 years since I seriously (seriously meaning 2 or more batches a year...which isn't that serious!) brewed, and two since I've made anything at all! But it's fun and easy to do, and I'm hoping to get back on the horse.

I decided to look for an online and free utility for brewing, and after a couple of quick searches I saw mention of Brewtility on a brewing forum. The site first came online as a place to store and share recipes as well as communicate with other brewers. It has a recipe generator (more on this later) and will soon have the ability to log brew sessions. Sounds awesome to me - I'm tired of using pencil and paper, and besides my brewing notes are so scattered, it'll be good to put them all in one spot online.

I've had a couple of glitches with it. I can't seem to upload a profile photo, and the recipe generator crapped out once on me trying to select hops for the recipe. In its defense, it auto-saved what I had done, so I didn't have to go back and rebuild the malt bill. I've emailed support about the picture (Cuz it's that cool picture of sailors drinking beer on shore leave in WWII.)

My first recipe is going to be an IPA. I made one a few years back that came out okay, but I missed my target gravity (that means I didn't have the amount of fermentable sugar I'd planned when I started fermenting and therefore came out "light" on the alcohol content). So, as best I could remember (I have the notes somewhere!) I put together the recipe on the generator and was very impressed.
Adding and subtracting ingredients is pretty intuitive. It flows well from top to bottom, and you can play with everything from mashing efficiency to the alpha acid content of the hops you select. You can also work in whatever scale/measurement system you want to use by adjusting your preferences.

The menus for recipe items (grains, extracts, hops and yeast) are pretty good, they even have "generic" liquid extract values on there, but not dry ones, which I prefer to use. Still, assuming one is like the other I could pick a DME (I used Breiss vice Coopers which I prefer). It would be nice to see a way to submit new items for consideration. The generator will even go as far to predict the final gravity, %ABV and calorie content for your beer.

So all that's left is to verify what I put in with my old notes and go from there. Once I dig up my gear, figure out what I need to replace, and buy the recipe.

All in all, I like what I see so far in Brewtility. It's not a big network - only a handful of active users - right now, but it has what I need so far until I can find a full-blown social network for actual brewers. I'll keep looking.


MRMacrum said...

Men and their toys. If it's sharp and will cut something we're into it. If it hits something, we're into it. If it's fast and dangerous, we're into it. If it means violent collisions with other men, we're into it. If it's something we can drink and get a buzz, we're into it.

Damn, we're not a very deep group are we?

Anonymous said...

I am intrigued by the idea of making homemade beer... is expensive equipment required?

Bull said...

Mr. Macrum - Amen! And when I'm done, I'll hoist an IPA to your newly acquired edged hobby!

replicant - it's pitifully easy. If you can boil water and keep stuff clean, you can make beer. And I mean good beer. I'm betting you can get a complete starter kit for about $100 - if I remember, San Diego has some good homebrew stores, or there are plenty online. Also, pick up a copy of The New Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian (the Godfather of Homebrew) and read the first section - it's only about 30 pages, and it's all you need to know about procedure. Plus, whatever recipe you buy will come with instructions and most homebrew shop owners are more than happy to explain the process.

Mary Ellen said...

My husband used to make homemade beer, way before it became a fashionable thing to do. Some guy he worked with who was from Germany gave him the recipe. I was just bugging him recently to get rid of the bottles and such that were taking up space in the basement, and then my future son-in-law gave him some books on brewing beer and he wants to get back at it again. Now my house is going to smell like a brewery again....which some people may enjoy, but not me. Ugh.

I'll show him the site that you linked to, here. Although I shouldn't encourage him. :-)

Bull said...

Mary Ellen - Thanks for coming by and commenting! I've been lurking around your blog the last few days, and I love your work.

My wife hates the smell, too. So I do most of the work outside on a propane burner. It moves more quickly, too.

Dr. Momentum said...

I have an ongoing love affair with yeast, but my calling lies clearly in the bread category now.

Although I enjoy so many different beers, I never had much patience for beer recipes and for keeping track of what I was doing so that I might replicate it.

These are not the habits of a future master brewer!

I'll stick to bread for now, and hopefully show up on your doorstep with a couple of baguettes and an empty pint sleeve. ;)

Bull said...

That sounds like a helluva' idea. Just make sure it goes well with the chocolate bock I brewed today.