What is Broken Wrench?

Sometime around 2011, our tiny southern California kitchen became a haven for experimenting with beer making and brewing equipment. Our love for craft beer and homebrewing has grown into a hobby that's produced stouts, IPAs, ciders, meads and more. Each week brings new challenges and new things to learn, especially living in the craft beer rich county of San Diego. Here is where we share our love for brewing, tasting and all things beer!

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We survived India!

by NilesJanuary 26, 2014 14:54

We're back in the States!

It was a hell of a trip, but we made it. I have about 2500 photos, which are far too many to post here, but I'll give ya'll a taste.

We went for Steph's high school friend's wedding. So because of that event, the girls got jewelry and sarees to look all fancy an purty. I and the bride's father were the only guys to have gone with a group of 12 girls, all from various schools Tanya (the bride) went to, from high school, to UC Davis, to Florida.


The saree vendor we found. They do this thing over there where the vendors show you just about everything they have and you have to choose quickly.


Just a small selection of the earrings at the jewelry shop.


More saree colors.


Steph's pretty jewelry.


A really neat temple of Shiva we visited on the 1st of the new year. All the temples and mosques were really busy on the first of the year. You'd think it was a big event or something.


Tanya getting her legs, arms, and hands done up with henna. All the girls had this done, so the guys had to feed and water them while the henna ink dried.


Here's Yashodhara and Mr. Datar, the groom's sister and father. She just had the henna finished and she didn't want to touch anything, plus she liked to show off her ink!


Steph having her ink done. She was so patient!


And then we danced into the wee hours of the night.


One day we went South to the real city of Mumbai, which was crazy busy and where everybody stared and discreetly took pictures of the white people.

This is the Taj Mahal Hotel. Massive structure and just beautiful. We didn't go inside.


Here's Victoria train station. Again, didn't go inside, but it was impressive from the outside.


But really, this is us all decked out in our traditional garb for the wedding. My long shirt dress thing is called a kurta. Mr. Datar and I went to a nice department store where I picked it out and they then took my measurements and tailored the kurta all for 6000 rupees, or about $100. Steph's saree was a long stretch of fabric, from which someone fashioned her underskirt and top for about $40 and her jewelry was about $30.


Here the bride and groom sat and their parents sat next to them. For this part of the wedding ceremony, the announcer woman explained what was going on and then they chanted and prayed. I didn't get the greatest photos of the ceremony, but they were free. Multiple professional photographers snapped a ton of pictures and took video of the entire thing. In this picture you can see two of the other cameras hovering around.


Another part of the ceremony where older women dotted Tanya's forehead, passed a lit candle around her head and gave her a coconut and rice.


The lovely couple!


Well, that's it for now. We hope you enjoyed our trip!

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Blog | Cool things

Hi Everybody!

by NilesNovember 27, 2013 14:30

Things are still knocking around at the ole brewery. We've definitely had many beers since last a blog was posted.

We acquired a storage space recently in which rests the eggs of many brilliant ideas.

We planned for our trip to India soon. I'm prepared for the culture shock of a lifetime. Not too sure about Steph, though.

We harvested the hops, attempted to use them in a homemade hopback and subsequently lost them. The apparatus I use for my hopback split apart at the lid and out spilled the hand-picked hops. I managed to save a quarter ounce of them! I stuck them in the oven to dry and about a week later I turned the oven on, not realizing the hops were still in there. So I added slightly roasted hops to the latest brew.

We've tasted and photographed at least a couple beers. I'll try my best to write from memory and notes taken on the subject for a mostly adequate tasting review.

I even have some pictures! I may be too lazy to post them though.


 Well... alright.


I finally got two bottles of Sierra Nevada's Southern Hemisphere Harvest ale! Albeit, this was back in June...

This was a very tasty beer. Brewed with freshly harvested hops from New Zealand, Sierra Nevada strikes again with this year's SHH...


It's blasphemous to pour this beer into another, wonderful company's merchandise.


Stone 17th

This Stone 17th Anniversary beer was an interesting spin on a pale ale. Brewed with strictly pilsner malts, it is superbly pale. This also contributes to the thin, almost dry mouthfeel. Although this incursion from a beer is not appropriate for all occasions, the German hops used in this brew reward your other senses of smell and taste. Of course, if IPAs don't appeal to you for whatever reasons (coughlotsofhopscough), the aroma and flavor of the German hops won't make this beer any more tempting for you, cuz yeah, the hops? They're there.


This Belgian style ale is none other than Pere Jacques from the lovely lads from Goose Island in Chicago. With raisin scents riding upon a malty freshness, this beer is a great dinner beer. What to pair with it? I don't know. Something fancy. Like proscuto wrapped hotdog sausages and spinach. Or some shit like that. I personally would be put off with drinking this beer with anything that conflicts with the raisin effect. Some food would go nicely with this beer. What kind? Whatever you want to eat while you're having this beer.



If I wasn't such an awful hoarder I would enjoy both of these in celebration of my birth. But alas, only one is chilling in the fridge right now. I am also chilling a half liter of special herbal infused wedding cyser that will probably be enjoyable. I'll get back to you about that.


Most of the hop cones we harvested looked like this. A few were brown and flaky, and some were almost thumb sized. Overall, we got one fresh ounce from the first year of growth! This small harvest is expected for hop bines in their first year, but it will increase. Or so I'm told.



I'm preeetty sure these pictures are the same beer. This would have been the Citrus Pale Ale V. It didn't come out as clear as I had hoped. This brew was the first experimental batch fermented in a keg. I didn't rack the beer off of the sediment and instead pressurized the keg and withdrew the trub through the dip tube. I doubt this was the smartest way of removing most, or much, of the crap on the bottom after fermentation. The beer did begin to taste... different... after a couple weeks. I wasn't worse, but definitely not as good as it one freshly tapped.

In fact, I saved a lot of the first bits that I sucked up from this brew, for science! And potential yeast harvestings.


All my friends. I collected almost a liter total. The different shapes and sizes of the glassware gave a good idea of the beer's color and when I was retrieving less sediment.

Sediment and yeast. Mostly yeast, I think.


Well, that's it for now. I'll update again soon.

Brew Day - Orange Little Sister

by NilesSeptember 23, 2013 16:27


This was my first brew with grains roasted at home. I've brewed a dunkelweizen before and figured this would make a great recipe for my latest venture.


The Recipe


6lb Flaked wheat

3.5lb US 2row pale malt

3lb Munich malt

-Homeroasted grains, all roasted at 350* with durations indicated:

1lb 2row roasted for 2hr

0.5lb 2row, 1hr

1lb Munich malt, 30min

0.5lb Munich, 10min



1oz Halertau pellets, 3.1%AA at 60min

1oz Halertau at 30min

0.75oz Willamette whole cone, 4.5%AA at 30min

0.50oz Nugget pellets, 13.3%AA at 10min


Water: Filtered water, which is just about all I use anymore. I dabble with different salts for each brew in attempt to imitate the salt profiles of popular brewing regions.

Salts added to the mash and sparge: 1/2tsp Sodium Bicarbonate, 1/2tsp Calcium Carbonate

Yeast: WLP300 Hefeweizen, pitched at 65*

Extras: 2.5oz Orange peels, oven dried and slightly browned (from preheating the oven and forgetting they were in there to dry), added to the boil at 30min

1/3gal Fresh squeezed orange juice, added at 30min

2 pinches of Irish Moss at 15min, 2 pinches at 5min


The Mash

Mashed the wheat overnight in ~80* filtered water with 1/4oz orange peels.

Heated 10.5qt strike water to 170*, added soggy wheat.

The wheat dropped the mash significantly to 130-134*. I kept this to sit for 30min, then added 1qt of 158* water and another 2qt of 190* water, turned on the heat and stirred to raised the temp to 153* and then let sit for 30min.

This is a sloppy means of a decoction mash, where you'd let the mash rest at specific temperatures for desired enzymatic activities to take place, such as a protein rest for head retention then add hot water to raise the mash temp to the next desired step.

I then sparged ~3gal and threw this back on the burner to boil while the rest of the sparge ran and added it all together when finished.


Once the wort was finished and chilled, I let it rest at room temp for 4hr, then put it in the kegerator at 43* overnight to bring it down to 65* then pitched the yeast.


No pictures of this brew, but I can appease our loyal viewers with soon-to-be-harvested hops and a mash paddle in the works!


Lupulin glands!

Those fancy hexagons are a bitch to cut out btw. I wrecked the wood trying to cut the smaller ones out.

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Brew Day

Bines Galore

by NilesAugust 25, 2013 16:59


Well now it’s kind of official! The business name is ours and we’re in the slow process of making money from this wonderful hobby, including, you guessed it, permit and licensing.


Without further ado, lemme show off our beautiful hop bines.


Not too shabby for the first year of growth. Two of the three shoots that initially sprouted died a few weeks ago and were replaced by two fat ones soon after. After the surviving bine reached the top of the fence, these other two shoots quickly shot up by over a foot in a week. They’re now at the top and growing horizontally with all the other little shoots that’ve come out for some sun.



Beautiful clusters of thriving hops! My little spider friends are in there, too, safeguarding the leaves and flowers.



At 0.02oz each, 50 total will equal a whole ounce. Considering wet/fresh hops are somewhere between 5-8 times heavier than dry hops, this means that for one addition of a single ounce of these hops in a batch of beer, we’d need over 500 single hop cones! Better get growing!



Small clusters of six hop flowers.



These puppies are producing lupulin like they WANT to be brewed. They don’t have much of the classic Cascade aroma and they taste like grass. A hopback device I’m building will take advantage of these fresh hops.

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We're not dead. I promise.

by StephanieAugust 05, 2013 08:48

Hello all. For a time we were having trouble with our posting for some reason (I think), but Niles is still brewing and we're still drinking plenty of beer. 

Things we should probably get off our asses and talk to you about: 

  • The beautiful hop vines in our backyard
  • Niles' day of roasting grains that made the house smell like cookies
  • W00tStout! :)
  • The San Diego International Beer Festival (or what we remember of it)
  • Upcoming brews, kegging adventures and backyard brewing! 

I swear, we're going to get to one or more of these things soon! Hope everyone's Summers are beertastic so far. 



Yet Another Brew Day!

by NilesMay 05, 2013 11:04

This is the fourth attempt at my summer citrus pale ale.

Last year, I brewed three varieties of a pale ale with lots of citrus peels and experimental hop additions.

For the sake of science, here are the three previous recipes:


Citrus Pale I

6lb US Two-row pale malt

Filtered water + 1/2tsp Calcium Sulfate (CaSO4/Gypsum) in both the Mash and Sparge (6qt Mash, 15qt Sparge)

2oz Cascade pellets 5.5%AA, full boil

1oz Citra whole cones, 20min

1oz Citra whole, 5min

1oz Amarillo whole 8.5%AA, whirlpool (after the heat of the boil is turned off)

4 Dried orange peel + 1 dried lemon peel, 10min

Mash temp 152-156* for 60min

Boil for 90min

Saf-Ale S-05 American Ale yeast pitch at 84*


Citrus Pale II

5lb US two-row pale malt

1lb Flaked wheat

1lb Rice hulls

Filtered water + 1tsp CaSO4 in the Sparge water (6qt Mash, 14qt Sparge)

1oz Cascade pellets 5%AA, Full boil

1oz Centennial whole cones 10.3%AA, 20min

1oz Centennial whole, 10min

1oz Chinook whole 13.8%AA, Dry hop

5 Dried orange, 2 limes, 2 lemon peels, 10min

Irish moss 1 pinch, 10min

Mash 155* for 60min

Boil for 90min

Saf-Ale S-05 American Ale yeast pitched at 84*


Citrus Pale III AKA Wedding Ale AKA Ball and Chain Ale AKA I Told You Guys I Wasn't Gay Ale

6lb US Two-row pale malt

1lb Carapils

1/2lb Rice Hulls

Filtered water + 1/2tsp CaSO4 in the Mash (7qt Mash, 14.5qt Sparge)

1oz Cascade pellets, Full boil

1oz Centennial whole cone, 20min

1oz Centennial whole, 5min

1oz Amarillo whole, whirlpool

9 dried grapefruit + 1 lemon peel, 10min

1 pinch Irish moss 10min

Mash at 152-154* for 60min

Boil for 90min

Saf-Ale S-05 American Ale yeast pitched at ~78*


This last one was the recipe that I had served at mine and Stephanie's wedding. After the ceremony and pictures I urgently told the bar tender to reserve a few bottles for myself as I had only brought 24 beers for 60+ guests. I got a few compliments on the "hefeweizen" that I brewed, even though it didn't have any wheat in it. It turned out a bit cloudy, so I could see that mistake. It was tasty though.


Citrus Pale Ale IV

6lb US Two-row pale malt

1lb Carapils

Filtered water + 1/2tsp in both the Mash and Sparge (7qt Mash, 13.5qt Sparge)

1oz Centennial whole cone 10.5%AA, Full boil

1oz Centennial whole, 60min

1oz Cascade whole 8.9%AA, 30min

1oz Cascade pellets 7.4%AA, 15min

1oz Amarillo pellets 8.7%AA, 10min

5 dried orange, 3 lemon, 3 lime peels at 15min

Blended pulp and juice from 3 orange, 1 lemon, 1 lime at 10min

4 pinches of Irish moss at 10min

2tsp crushed Coriander at 10min

Mash at 145-160* for 60min (I can't explain this range, it's just what I got...)

Boil for 120min

White Labs WLP001 California Ale liquid yeast pitched at 78*


Hopefully this one turns out worlds better than the others. The large quantity of Irish moss I added is already evident in the clarity of the fermenting beer. The whole hops which floated freely in the boil with the citrus peels and Coriander smelled like a warm Spring day with flowers blooming all around and sunscreen on my sunburned skin.


The alchemy begins!

Delectably pale grains


Nice and pale

Pre-boil gravity check. This beer is going to be a beautiful pale.

Whole hops in the boil

Rinsing the wort chiller

Crushed Coriander smells really good! I'm glad I crushed it near the beginning of this process, I kept smelling it and it made me happy.


Celebratory finish!

A very clear fermentation. Those little floaties will fall and I may not have to do a secondary with this brew.


This brew went really well. I didn't forget

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Brew Day

Beer Review: Éphémère Apple...Cider. Errr...White Ale.

by StephanieApril 24, 2013 09:58

There's no doubt about one thing - Canadian brewing company Unibroue makes some gorgeous bottle labels. Their Éphémère Apple is no exception: 


Éphémère is billed as a white ale brewed with apples and other spices, but I think deep down inside it wants to be a cider. Everything about this beer hits you like a cider would: it's crisp with a spicy edge (that would be the coriander and orange peel) and was delicious after coming right out of the fridge. It's got a perfect, light aftertaste that stays on your tongue with a hint of apple/citrus sweetness. Maybe it's just the overflowing Granny Smith apples on the label, but the tartness did perfectly remind me of biting into a green apple. However, this ale doesn't overwhelm you with all the sweetness it contains. The spices and sweets here balance out nicely to make an extremely drinkable concoction with plenty of full flavor. Since I tend to drink much, much darker stouts and porters, when I find an extremely light beer done well, I really enjoy the change. I would honestly drink the hell out of this beer during Summer and wish our local BevMo carried it in six packs. We drank it in our small tulip glasses seen here and thoroughly enjoyed it. As you can see, it has a gorgeous light color and perfectly fluffy head. It's like drinking an apple tart!



I would say that if you really enjoy a well-made cider or mead, this white ale is DEFINITELY for you. It's good choice for people who want a lighter tasting beer but don't want to sacrifice flavor. 

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Beer Reviews

Kegerator Retrofit

by NilesApril 01, 2013 22:51

I had decided last week, much to Stephanie’s approval, to replace the mini fridge of the kegerator with a new one. When the original fridge kicked on, it was just too noisy. I had stuck it on a timer to only be on when we were either at work or asleep, to no avail.

We’ve grown accustomed to the sounds of the freight train blaring by in the middle of the night. We’ve also gotten used to two cats waking us up with many annoyances.

This particular grievance was too much to bear.



Shiny new fridge! After some browsing around on the internets, I found what looked to be the perfect one. What I narrowed my selection down to was the Frigidaire model FFPH44M4LM. That information may not be interesting to everyone, but some of you might find it very handy.

I made sure to ask the guy at Lowe’s if it was quiet. He told me he’s owned one for a couple years and it’s nearly silent and it still runs like a champ.


Stripped down, the freezer door and shelf were simple enough to remove with a screwdriver.


With the bulky temperature controller housing removed, two kegs fit tightly. That means no cutting into the door for proper fitting!


Now, this fridge doesn’t have the chilling element inside of it, leaving the top free of hazards and making the tap tower installation rather simple. Instead, it’s tucked away in between the inner and outer walls somewhere. After allowing the fridge to run for a few minutes, I could feel that the roof of the fridge was cold. So that’s where I determined the chilling coils must be. I carefully pried off the top plastic piece and began to carve away the insulating foam, thus exposing the elements.


After careful measuring and drilling, the tap tower eagerly awaits it’s new perch.

I replaced some of the foam I’d removed, so to give support and insulation, glued the top back on, and installed the tap tower.


Done! For now I have Airman, Hobbes, Dalmore whisky, and honey porter to encourage this project.

I’ve yet to drill a hole in the side to feed the CO2 line, so the tank sits behind the kegs for now. The digital temperature controller is currently wired up inside the fridge as well. More on that later. I got the important parts out of the way.



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by NilesMarch 24, 2013 18:04


This picture speaks for itself.

Fresh, cold porter in my belly... Pretty tasty too, if I don't say so myself.

There's plenty more if you want to sample it and check out this successful project.


Bottling & Kegging

Our first keg!

by NilesMarch 21, 2013 18:26

I racked the White House Honey Porter into a keg today!

It was super easy. I don’t know why I ever bothered with bottles...

I’m sorry, bottles. Please don’t spoil the glorious beer inside each of you while I write this.

But really. All I had to do was clean and sanitize the keg, fill it with beer and purge air (oxygen) out of it with CO2. Now it sits in the sweet kegerator I built until it’s cold and carbonated and… I can drink it! Nice.

Here’s some pictures of how I did it.


Ready and waiting



Let the suction begin!


Good to the last drop.


All set! The lid is set, the oxygen has been purged and the keg stands tall in the kegerator.


To allow carbon dioxide to dissolve in the beer, it is recommended that the initial pressure be set to 30psi for 48 hours. This will allow adequate time for the beer to chill and for Steph and I to party at my dad’s house this weekend.

¡Viva Latringo!

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Bottling & Kegging