Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Home Brew Beer, RV Style

Yes, you can brew your own beer in an RV. Perhaps you cannot make 5 gallon/50 bottles batches, but you can make some of the best brew possible. All you need to do is downsize things just like we all did when we moved into our RVs.  But I am getting ahead of myself, how did this idea of brewing beer in an RV come about?

I was still in contact with some of my prior co-workers, when one of the guys had just started home brewing in a small condo and suggested I do the same in the RV.  I explained that storage was a problem in the RV, and he said he had the same problem at his place and was making small, one gallon, batches.  After a short discussion of the ins and outs of small batches, he offered to bring his equipment over to the RV and make a batch with me.  Well, Elliot and I had a great time making beer in the RV, and I realized this is something you could do in an RV. The final product was unbelievable…I honestly said “I cannot believe I made beer better than I can buy!” Elliot also brought up the idea of coming into a new RV Park or boondock site and inviting the people next door over for a home brew!  
What a great ice breaker to meet the people next to you. I only have Elliot to thank for this great idea and some of the best beer I have ever drunk.  We will stay in contact, and I always consult the Beer Dr. when I make a change to one of his/our recipes or need a how to.

The equipment needed can be minimal or as elaborate and expensive as you can imagine. Below you can see I started with a minimal set of two 10-12 qt pots, one 2 gallon drink cooler, immersion cooler and a few other items, well less than $100:

When making beer, the number one ingredient is water and what better place to make beer than Oregon.  We are currently staying in northern Oregon; above the 49 parallel where a fresh water artesian well brings in the best possible water from Mt. Hood.  Before making beer, we make sure the water is right for our brew:

Once the water is tested, it’s time to make beer.  Following our recipe, we make our wort in a 2 gallon sport drink cooler

The wort takes 60-90 minutes, depending on what beer we are making.  Once it is complete, it’s time to extract the wort, leaving the grains behind.  We do this with a stainless steel filter attached to a liquid on/off value connected to the cooler and drain into our boiling pot.

The Fifth-wheel entry steps are perfect for this providing just the right ladder effect for draining.

Following our recipe, we boil the wort for 60-90 minutes, and add hops according to the recipe schedule.

After the wort has boiled for the allotted time, it’s time to cool it as quickly as possible. This helps prevent any airborne microbes from contaminating our batch. I use an immersion cooler and our pure Mt. Hood, Oregon 55 degree water.

Once the wort is cooled, we pitch the yeast and store it in our primary one gallon fermenter for about one week to let the wort settle and the krauesen form at the top of the fermenter and the hop particles and dead yeast will form trub at the bottom. This is what is should look like after one week:

Next, we transfer our wort to a secondary fermenter, away from the krauesen and trub, letting the beer clear further.  This is also where we dry hop the brew. Dry hopping is a new means to add hop flavor and aroma, without adding bitterns.

You’ll notice a hop bag used for leaf hops at the top of the fermenter. The bag lets the hop oil drain from the leafs and buds, without clouding up our batch. We then let the beer settle for another week in the secondary, then into the bottles for a minimum of two weeks to carbonate and settle further.  We use a 48 qt cooler in the “basement” of our fifth-wheel to store the bottles, that keeps them at a more constant temperature and out of the way. Then after waiting, and waiting for our brew to perfect, we finally get to drink some of the best beer money can buy:

So as you can see, making home brewed beer in an RV is easy and simple.  You just have to downsize the batch size and all falls into place.

Cheers and hoppy brewing!!!

Solar Mod

Our solar Mod:  There are already plenty of blogs, articles and even books on RV solar mods, so I will skip the basics, how-to, etc and simply explain what is different about ours and why.  First, we only boondock a few weeks each year, so adding a large expensive, system did not make sense for us. We started with four Interstate 6 volt 108 AH batteries, one 100 watt panel and a 40 amp MPPT from WindyNation, which cost much less than $300, not including the batteries.  I mounted the panel with hinges and bolts so the panel could be tilted in any direction to maximize solar power.

We started the solar mod incrementally to keep the cost low, and determine how many watts we really needed. We also already had a Honda 2000 generator, so if the single panel proved to not meet our needs we could always go back to running the generator and dealing with the noise and exhaust fumes.

We first tested our new solar system in Quartzsite during the big show in January 2014. For those of you that do not know about the big show in Quartzsite, basically over 500,000 RVers arrive and spend about a week in the middle of January to attend the show and boondock in the BLM deserts. Everything you want or need for RVs is for sale during the show. (I’ll explain our big find later)  

When we first arrived, we pointed the rig to the East, with Southern exposure to our awning/solar side for maximum sun coverage.  I raised our panel and check the amp meter, 5.6 amps. 

With full batteries already from our travels, we made the first day no problem. We typically do not use a lot of electricity during the day, however, most evenings we like to check emails, internet and perhaps watch a DVD movie.  Well, this exceeded our new solar systems capabilities by the second day.  As the week went by, we lost 3-5% more each day making us run the generator more and more just to bring the batteries back above 80%. Time for more solar panels!

Next we purchased three more 100 watt panels from WindyNation for right over $300, bringing our total to about $600 so far.  We also purchased a motorized tilt solar mount at the big show – our big find!  This was a big deal for me, because I do not like climbing on the roof every time we arrive or leave and really don’t want to if a rain or wind storm comes in quickly and you jump up on the roof and fight the wind or rain to lower the solar panels. 

 Direct Link to Demo of Motorized Tilt Solar Panel

After the installation of the new panels and the motorized tilt system we returned to Quartzite to retest our solar system.  We were able to stay several days, use all the electric power we wanted (no A/C of course), and each evening the batteries were back to 100%. 
Some more picture of the installation: