Homebrewing DIY: Custom Tap Handles

As a hobby that can easily turn into an obsession many homebrewers (including myself) often find themselves spending many of their free moments during their work days reading homebrewing blog articles and keeping up with the latest posts on their go-to forums. Personally my go to forum over the past two years has been the homebrewing sub-reddit aka /r/homebrewing. In time, I’ve come to notice that certain types of posts garner lots of activity (up-votes and comments no matter how often they’re posted.

One of these popular types of posts (or topics) is keezer build pictures and step by step blog posts…As a homebrewer who has put a lot of effort into the appearance of his keezer I tend to click on every keezer post that I come upon; including darthKOTOR‘s posted link of a video showing him building/making custom tap handles for a brewery named Cold Fusion. After watching the video a couple times I decided to message him and ask if he’s be willing to work on a tap handle design with me and then  create custom tap handles with the resulting design. He happily accepted the opportunity and within a month we were able to go from design to finished product.

In order to best document our process I’ll use the pictures that  darkKOTOR aka Nik Stevens of Thunderdog Tapwerks sent me along the way to explain each step…

Step One: Initial Design

Handles post.001       Upon inquiring  about the possibility of him making custom tap handles for my home-brewery aka The Holy Inn Brewing Company Nik asked me for a digital image of my design and I sent him a copy (left) of my hand drawn (pastel crayons) design that I have hanging above my keezer. A few days later sent the picture that you see on the right and asked for feedback on his initial mock up of the design that he’d be laser cutting onto the future tap handles.

Step Two: Refining and Finalizing the design (graphic):

4f8tsa6    In response to his first draft of the design I sent him the following message. “Since my design it quite detailed I see why it will be easier to make a more simplified version for the tap handles. I like the idea of putting the hop picture on the steeple (like in my design). The only thing that I’d add is a star of David on each door. Also, if you can put that star of David in a Torah scroll (like on the door of my design) that would be ideal. Thanks!” Nik then sent me the image that you see on the left with some questions. “So I am not too familiar with Torah rolls, is it okay to have them go vertical like I made them in the photo? I know its a small detail but I was just curious if someone would look at that and be like “Yeah, that’s not how scrolls are read” and be distracted by the detail.”

JWYW3OU

…My response to his questions/concerns led to the final iteration of the design which he laser cut onto a piece of cherry wood. Due to some glitches in his computer’s design software the hop leaf didn’t show up when he tested the design on actual wood, but he assured me that he’d try his best to make sure that all the details of the design would make it onto the finished tap handles.

 

 

Step Three: Designing the Tap Handles Themselves

2apaiXW        After finalizing the image/graphic that would appear on the tap handles it was time to decide which type/s of wood would be used, the shape and dimensions of the tap handles, and whether any portions of the design would  be painted with acrylic paint. Before arriving on the shape that you see on the left we considered using barrel staves, different wood stains to differentiate between the tap handles, and eventually decided to use different types of hard wood whose color would be matched up to the color of each beer on tap. In terms of dimensions we went with 3in wide by 4in tall because my tap faucets are between 3 and 3.5 inches apart.

TKRtF9nWithout much knowledge about hard woods I first asked that the tap handles be mades using walnut, cherry, hickory, and red oak. However, after further discussion we ended up going with mahogany, walnut, maple, and cherry

OcbJW6B…Before laser cutting the cherry wood tap handle Nik realized that we was out of cherry wood and would have to go get more.

As with each step he asked me to confirm whether I definitely wanted to go with cherry wood or go with a barrel stave or different hard wood. After I confirmed my decision he cut the cherry wood tap handle and sent me a picture of the tap handles with a coat of wood oil to bring out the differences in color and wood grain.

 

Step Four: Finishing Touches

Before applying the finishing touches Nikolas sanded and did some edging on each handle and painted the stars of David blue. ..The finishing touches included installing a threaded insert into each tap handle and adding a coat of lacquer. As you may have seen in his video (linked above) he applied the lacquer by screwing each tap handle onto a long bolt/post to ensure even coating.

12748123_1032945200061858_7742059522978028240_oOnce the finishing touches were completed and the tap handles ready for shipping Nik sent me a picture of the tap handles.

 

 

Step Five: Installing the tap handles

HandlesInst1 HandlesInst2A week after being shipped I received the tap handles and installed them immediately upon arriving home from work. Overall, they were easy to install however I did encounter the following two minor obstacles. Due to their flat shape I had to have my keezer lid open during the installation process. Secondly, upon reaching the point wear each tap handle was screwed on tight it/they weren’t facing forward. Therefore, after some tinkering with one of the faucets (Perlick 630SS) I figured out the I had to turn back the handle until it was facing forward and then loosen the compression bonnet until it was tightened up against the tap handle. As a side note, one obstacle that I thankfully did not encounter was there not being enough space in between each handle. At 3 inches wide I was left with 1/4 to 1/2 an inch in between each handle i.e. I do not have to worry about accidentally pulling two handles at ounce.

Step 6: Enjoying the experience of having custom tap handles

Shortly after installing the tap handles I filmed this week’s episode of Homebrew Wednesday which includes an intro clip of me pouring a bit of each beer into a snifter to show how I matched up each tap handle with the color of the beer pouring from its faucet and a clip of me installing the cherry wood tap handle…Then while editing the video clips I enjoyed the beers that I had just poured.

As I adjust to having custom tap handles in the coming days I’m sure I’ll pause for a moment to admire them each time I enter my kitchen. However, because home-brewing is both an individual and a communal experience I’m sure that most of the enjoyment that I’ll gain from the new tap handles will come from my pouring beers for my family members and friends… Lastly, I’d like to thank Nik Stevens for being so easy to work with and for being patient with me when my excitement led to extra Reddit messages and emails asking for updates on the progress and whereabouts of the my tap handles.

Cheers and Keep on brewing great beers!

 

 

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Homebrew Wednesday 72: No More Plugs

NfaucetsWhen I first built my keezer I used picnic taps to dispense my beers and plugged up the 4 tap holes that I drilled with a pieces of a  1 inch (diameter) wood dowel that I cut up. A few months later I purchased and installed two Perlick 630SS faucets which I purchased a faucet/stank combo kit on beveragefactory.com. For the next year or so I used a picnic tap whenever I had more than 2 beers on tap, but I never lost sight of my goal of having four faucets. So after returning my vacation at the end of January I went back to beveragefactory.com and purchased 2 more of the same model faucet as part of the same combo kit, which was again on sale…In turn, this episode of Homebrew Wednesday includes a quick update on my Belgian Pale Ale and  dark sour, plans for additional keezer upgrades, and footage of me install the two new faucets.

Upcoming posts: Holy Inn Brewing Company custom tap handles: From Design to Install, Homebrew Wednesday 73, Extra Precious Bitter (ESB) brew day.

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Homebrew Wednesday 71: Back From the Holy Land

 

On Sunday, January 31st I fired up both of my brew kettles for my second ever double brew day. This time I brewed a Belgian Pale Ale whose recipe was inspired by Allagash Brewing Company’s House Beer and the base wort for a dark sour ale whose grain bill comprised of a scaled down version of a dark saison that I brewed in 2014. Aside from some issues with controlling my mash temps (see video) this brew day went smoother than my first double brew day and the beers are both fermenting along quite well.

Episode Notes:

  • Carbonating my doppelbock / lost CO2
  • Homebrew Alley 2016 – NYC’s biggest homebrew competition: Discussion about the 5 beers that I entered.
  • Recap of my recent trip to Israel / The Israeli craft beer scene (see video for pics).
  • Tasting notes of and inspiration behind my Satiator doppelbock.
  • Brew day footage!!!

Recipes:

Birrat Habayit (House Beer)

Grains:

  • 7.5 lbs 2-row Pale Malt
  • 0.5 lb Victory Malt
  • 0.5 lb Cara-Pils
  • 0.5 lb Flaked Wheat

Hops:

  • 1 oz Tettnang @ 60 minutes
  • 0.5 oz Nelson Sauvin @ 10 minutes
  • o.5 oz Saaz @ 10 minutes
  • 0.5 oz Centennial @ 5 minutes
  • 0.5 oz Nelson Sauvin @ Flame out
  • 0.5 oz Centennial @ Flame out
  • 0.25 oz Saaz @ Flame out
  • 0.30 oz Tettnang @ Flame out

Yeast:

  • Wyeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes – 1 liter starter

Brewing Processes:

  • Mash @ 150F for 75 minutes
  • Mash out @ 168F for 10 minutes and then fly sparge
  • Target pre-boil gravity 1.044 (Actual: 1.041 @ 6.1 gallons)
  • Boil for 60 minutes (Boiled for closer to 75 minutes)
  • Target OG 1.049 (Actual: 1.051)
  • Ferment @ 20-21C for 2 days and then let rise to 22.5C
  • Batch Size: 5 gallons

Fruits of my Labor dark sour

Fermentables:

  • 8.5 lbs Belgian Pilsner Malt
  • 1.25 lbs White Wheat
  • 0.5 lb Vienna
  • 0.5 lb  Midnight Wheat
  • 0.25 Rye Malt
  • 1 lb D180 Candi Syrup

Hops:

  • 15 IBUS Tettnang split between 60 minutes and 10 minutes left in boil

Yeast:

  • Allagash dregs dark sour slurry – 1 16oz mason jar
  • DanStar Belle Saison

Brewing Processes:

  • Batch Size: 5 gallons
  • Mash at 155F for 75 minutes – BIAB method w/ 65% estimated brew house efficiency
  • 7 gallons water in kettle at start.
  • Mash out by raising temp to 168F
  • Drain grain bag and then measure how much wort is in your brew kettle
  • Sparge w/ enough 170F water to get to your target boil volume.
  • Boil for 90 minutes adding the D180 syrup with 10 minutes remaining
  • Aerate, pitch slurry, and ferment at room temperature.
  • Add Belle Saison yeast 3 days into primary fermentation.
  • Target / Actual OG 1.061

More details about the above recipes will be added ASAP.

Related Links:

 

 

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HBW 70: Whirlwinds and Reviews

Video posted 1/12/16 – New videos coming soon…

Episode Notes:

12419030_1011687372187641_1739487322160972054_oKelSo / Heartland Brewery gives wort to local brewers: Bitter and Esters homebrew shop and KelSo brewery teamed up and offered local homebrewers the opportunity to ferment 5 gallons of hopped or un-hopped wort as part of their monthly bottle swap at an event called Brewpiphany.

  • Wort Composition: 
    Grain Bill: 
    85.3% Bohemian Pilsner
    5.3% Cara Munich 60
    2.7% Flaked Barley
    2.7% Melanoidin
    2.7% Dark Munich
    1.3% Chocolate
    90min boil
    Hops:
    Bittering (60min): Magnum
    Mid (30min): Select
    Aroma (added at transfer into whirlpool): Hallertau
    -25 IBU
    Recipe provided by: Chris Cuzme
    Brew Crew/Special Ops/Brand Rep, Kelso Beer Co.
    Brewer, Cuzett Libations Inc.
    Co-Host of Fuhmentaboudit! on Heritage Radio Network
    Saxophones, Electric Bass, Craft Beer…and other stuff.
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HBW 69: Happy Brew Year

Happy Brew Year my fellow homebrewers and craft beer enthusiasts…In this episode of Homebrew Wednesday I taste my fellow BrewTuber’s saison and then I both reflect on my 2015 homebrewing experiences and attempt to clearly explain my brewing goals for 2016. If that’s a bit confusing watch the video and you’ll understand my cryptic description of this episode. Cheers!

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Homebrew Wednesday 68: Juggling of the Kegs

Happy Homebrew Wednesday!!! As the title for this week’s episode states I’ve been busy lately especially with transferring beers in and out of my kegs and organizing my current bottled beer stash. Therefore, I’ve decided to break down the footage that I’ve included in this episode of HBW in text form in order to add an educational element to my sharing of recent home-brewing activities.

Cheers!

Clip 1: Bottling the remainder of my Russian Imperial Stout

Since kegging my Russian Imperial Stout a few months ago I’ve been meaning to bottle a portion of it (using the “poor man’s beer gun” method) so I could age it for 6 months to a year. However, it wasn’t until this past Tuesday (12/15) that I actually did so…As shown in the video I decided to split the remaining beer between bottles of just the base beer and bottles with cold brewed whisky barrel aged coffee added. Just to reiterate the coffee, which I bought off my friend Merlin was aged for 6 weeks in a recently emptied 10 gallon whisky barrel and then home roasted i.e. the beer itself was not barrel aged, the coffee that was added to it was.

Clip 2: Tasting a gravity sample of my doppelbock prior to kegging.

As mentioned in the video I’ll now share my doppelbock fermentation schedule:

  • 8 days @ 11-12C (51.8-53.6F) – 0.5C higher than with my pilsners to aid attenuation.
  • 2 days raising to low 60s
  • 2 days in low 60s
  • Lowered to high 50s and left for 2 days to aid attenuation to goal of 1.022 (Beer Smith estimated FG).
  • 3 days lowering to 5-6C (41-42.8F)
  • Kegged for lagering in keezer for a month.

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Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 10.47.46 PM

Clip Three: Splitting my brown ale between my recently acquired 2.5 kegs.

As mentioned in the video it was difficult to make the split even. The primary reason for it being difficult was my not knowing where the 2.5 mark was inside the kegs. However, as shown in the video, another reason was that I didn’t lower the siphon or tip the carboy in time to siphon in as much as I would have liked into the keg of base brown ale. Once one of the kegs kicks and I finish cleaning it I’ll definitely be filling it with 2.5 gallons of water in order to find the 2.5 gallon mark for future reference.

Recipe coming in my next HBW post…

Clip Four: Organizing my current beer stash (homebrew and craft beer).

After showing off the new set of shelves that I purchased recently to consolidate my cases of beer; I talk about a problem of mine that I’ve been meaning to discuss in a video, my “beer graveyard”. I routinely have too much beer on hand and a good amount of it gets lost in the shuffle and becomes either undrinkable or not attractive to drink. Some examples are the following. 1) The leftover beer from a beer and cheese tasting I hosted this past June (shown in the video). 2) Hop forward beers that I don’t get to before their hop character fades beyond recognition. 3) Kegs that take quite a while to kick (finish) and I end up having to growler and or bottle up the last gallon or so. Then some of that left over beer sits around for a while and I end up dumping it. Hence, my decision to dump the last 4-5 liters of my rye IPA (shown in this video)…My goal is to find ways to prevent this problem from continuing on its current coarse. Two solutions that I’ve come up with are brewing smaller batches and or finding more opportunities to share my beers e.g. sending out more beer mail packages.

 

Cheers and Happy Homebrew Wednesday (or whatever day of the week you read this)!!!!

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TBP Podcast: Celebrating 20 years of Allagash with founder Rob Tod

The Brewed Palate podcast is back! For the the third year in a row I recently headed to my go to NYC craft beer bar, Blind Tiger Ale House for their annual Allagash Brewing Company event. However, this  year’s event was different in that it was a celebration of Allagash’s 20th anniversary…After catching up with some Blind Tiger regulars I invited Allagash founder Rob Tod outside for our third annual interview to chat about his brewery and the state of American craft beer. Afterwords we continued our celebration with a few Allagash beers and a couple of my home-brews. Both of which he and all those who tried them enjoyed…Now that I finally purchased a new audio recorder I hope to record and post more podcast episodes in the near future. Cheers!

Topics Covered In This Episode:

  • Description of this podcast episode / Intro. [0:00-0:54]
  • Reaching the 20 year mark. [00:55-2:10]
  • 20th Anniversary celebrations in put on by Allagash in Portland, Maine. [2:11-3:50]
  • The “growing up” of the American craft beer industry / Classes of ’95 and ’96 reaching the 20 year mark. [3:51-6:57]
  • What’s gone on at Allagash since Blind Tiger’s 2014 event? [6:58-8:57]
  • Allagash’s use of their three brewing systems with a focus on their current brew house/system. [8:58-10:46]
  • The Brew Palate’s sponsors [10:47-13:02]
  • An update on Allagash barrel program. [13:03-15:13]
  • The impact of recent craft brewery buyouts and sales on the American craft beer industry and community. [15:14-18:40]
  • Wrapping things up…Looking ahead to the future of Allagash [18:41-end]
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