Firkin Festival July 18th 2015

Firkin Festival

That’s 5 kegs and 4 CO2 tanks crammed into my frugal vehicle of choice: 2001 Focus wagon

If you weren’t aware, I’m a home brewer and I was invited to serve one of my home brews at the Milwaukee Firkin Festival.

Between me and two of my friends, we brewed 5 gallons of a cream ale with some notes of a hefeweizen, 10 gallons of a Belgian and 5 gallons of coffee stout.

I’ve served at small festivals before but this was my first time serving among professionals. It was great to meet so many brewers and people passionate about beer. And I got great feedback on my cream ale.

We ended up emptying the 5 gallons of the cream ale, went though about 7 gallons of the Belgian and 3 gallons of stout.

The three beers were examples of different ways you can brew today. The Belgian was an expert level “all grain”, meaning we did it the old fashion way with malted barley mashed in hot water for an hour to convert starch to sugar then we extract the sugars. The Cream Ale was an example of an easy to make beer anyone can start out with. The cream ale used malt extract where the mashing step, that is one of the more complex processes to brewing, has already been done for us. The stout was an extract with specialty grains steeped in hot water before adding malt extract.

Firkin Festival

My friend had trouble dispensing the stout. He found a way.

Sugar Creek Ale Recipe

If you’re interested in an easy to brew, easy drinking summer beer, here is the recipe.


Type: cream ale with hefeweizen(wheet beer) taste profile.

6 pounds of liquid gold malt extract.

1 ounce of Fuggle hops.  – .5 ounce at 60 minutes and .5 ounce at 20 minutes.

packet of Safale S-33 yeast – I guess they changed the name to safbrew S-33.

That is it, 3 things.

Boil 6 gallons of water, stir in the malt extract. I added half of the ounce of hops right away giving 60 minutes of boil time and the other half was added at 20 minutes. Chill down the wort, transfer to fermenting vessel, add the yeast and wait 5 to 10 days for fermentation. Fuggle hop is not typically used for bittering and is really used for taste and smell. This beer ends up a little sweeter for that reason and you should get some wheat beer taste profile(without any actual wheat in it) from the yeast. a little under 5% alcohol, it’s a good easy drinking summer beer.

Frugality warning:

I don’t really recommend brewing beer as a way to save money because the equipment can get pretty expensive and many people don’t stick with it. But, if you started simple with a 8 gallon kettle, small burner, used the ice bath method, fermenting bucket and reused bottles from your favorite micro brews, you can actually get started for under $200. That recipe will make over 50 bottles of 12 ounce beers for about $23. Ingredients get cheaper as you go to all grain as well.

I calculated it out years ago and saw it took several years to pay off the equipment with how much I drink. Plus if you love beer, you never really stop buying the occasional $9 six pack. It’s definitely a hobby, can be as cheap or expensive as you want.

I also have a good super simple Amber ale and Pale ale recipe(borders on IPA) if anyone is interested. I’ll probably brew the Pale Ale soon and do a post for it.

* I actually went pretty much straight to using an 10 gallon kettle, home made immersion wort chiller, fermenting buckets and kegs. I’m attempting not to expand any further since that is a good chunk of cash and I don’t really drink that much beer. I have bottle carbonated though and used the Ice Bath wort chill method, they are very tedious and time consuming.

If you are interested in brewing, feel free to pick my brain, I’ll be happy to help. This guide is also very in depth for learning how to.

Thanks Pete for inviting me to the festival, I had a lot of fun on the other side of the counter!


7 comments on “Firkin Craft Beer Festival

    • Believe it or not, I started brewing because of a combination of an episode of Futurama and power lifting. It was a good time, It’s rare I get a chance to get that much feedback on my beer.

  • Perfect!!! I’m a FI seeking 30 year old who has been talking about opening a brewery, but have never brewed beer in my life…

    I guess I need to start somewhere… so here it is… thanks!!!

    • Opening a brewery or brew pub has been on my mind since I started brewing. Unfortuately I’m not willing to walk away from a lucrative engineering job to start a something like that. Breweries have very slim profit margins and brew pubs do OK but I would have shit tons to learn about running a restaurant.
      Start out super simple, I have other simple recipes if you want too. And for remember to keep the kettle lid off during the boil! That was a rookie mistake I made the first time I brewed. It will make your beer taste like gross soap, I had to toss my first beer baby it was so bad.

      • I agree on the lucrative engineering gig.. Right there with you.

        I am going to have to start some home brewing and see how it goes..

        • Check out that note at the bottom of the post, I have a link to what I consider the bible of brewing. He has an older copy of his book online for free. If you’re near southeastern Wisconsin I can always show you how to brew. If you look you should be able to find some home brew clubs around you, go to one of their brew meetings and get a taste of the process.

  • Great festival with dozens of beers to sample including some cask conditioned ales.  It was a big crowd but never felt crowded. Even when a few hundred people line up around the block at the beginning, they move you in quickly. This is a well run event.

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