Home brewing in Connecticut Discussions - CT Beer Trail

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Thoughts on Yeast & Ice on Bottling Day Eve

I'm still concerned about my yeast and their lethargic efforts... So I'm reaching out to the beertools.com community for advice. Below is what I posted in the forums over there this morning.

Lazy Yeast? Please Help!

I brewed a batch of English Pale Ale (From a Brewer's Best Kit) last Sunday. My airlock stopped bubbling on Wed. Or so I thought. Yesterday, Sat, Upon closer look, I was getting 1 or 2 bubbles subtly in about a minute.

But here's the deal, there's very little foam on top of the beer in the glass carboy. Shouldn't there be a ton of foam?

The funnel I got from my brew supply store that I used to dump the wort into the carboy on brew day had a strainer, so most of the "clumpy stuff" did not make it into the carboy, was that my mistake? Did I short change the beer on some yeast or other important ingredient for the fermentation process?

Should I add more yeast or something? Please let me know, THANKS!

I hope some brew-guru reads that and offers me some sage advice. Were the yeast lazy because my beer kit was a 4 - 6 months old? Was it that damned funnel with the strainer? Or was it something else I did on brew day that slapped the yeast into a coma? And what the hell is yeast any way?

What is it?

Yeast belongs to the fungi family. It is a very small single cell micro-organism. Like all other fungi it doesn't have the power to produce food by photosynthesis. Instead it ferments carbohydrates (sugars) to produce carbon dioxide and alcohol...

Bottom line, there's tiny monsters in your beer... Frightening isn't it? But back to business...

Did I make a mistake?

I wonder if I cooled the wort down too slowly, or not enough, before adding the pitched yeast? As stated previously, I don't have a chiller, and depend on the kitchen sink filled with water and ice. What about adding ice directly to the wort as part of the water required? Would that work? Here's a tip I picked up on line that I will need to read more up on and perhaps try with my next brew...

If you don't want to invest in the wort chiller I mentioned before, here's another trick for cooling the wort a bit more quickly than an ice bath.

If you follow the steps, you'll notice that you start with 2.5 gallons of water (step 1), into which you put some malt extract - typically a quart or two (step 3) - and then somehow manage to pour 5 gallons of cooled mixture into the fermentation bucket.

What actually happens is that you pour about three gallons of cooled wort into the fermentation bucket, and then fill it the rest of the way to the 5 gallon line with water.

The trick I wanted to mention is that you can actually use ice instead of some or even all of the water. One pound of ice is equal to one pint of water. So once the wort comes off the boil, pour it into the fermentation bucket and pour two five pound bags of ice in there. The ice will melt, becoming five quarts (1.25 gallons) of water. Top it off to the 5 gallon mark and you're ready to go. - scottb (found here)

Does this work? Any one else have an opinion? Could there be any harm in using this method?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

UPDATE! The Yeast Still Has the Farts!

In my previous post I mentioned, with some genuine concern, that my current batch of beer (still in the fermentation stage) is no longer producing bubbles in the airlock. In other words, the yeast is no longer farting... *GULP*

I posted this in the hopes of fishing for some advice, but either no one read my blog today, or no one had any hints to share. So I was going to wait it out and press on with the next phase on Monday all while hoping for the best.

The wife and I are having company tonight, so I had to pitch in with some house cleaning this afternoon. Sadly the brewery smell is no longer in the kitchen, it left some time shortly after last Sunday night. So cleaning was fairly quick and painless. On my way downstairs to the do some vacuuming, I decided to check in with the beer, in the hopes that perhaps the yeast woke up and started to fart again.

There's it was sitting there all alone in the dark, with no one or nothing for company but the box fan I set up to keep it cool. It still proudly wore the yellow beach towel I wrapped around it to block any sun that may seep in through the window, blowing in the fan's breeze, it looked more like a super hero's cape than a beer making accessory. Sorry, I how long was I out just then?

Here's the thing, I thought I caught the airlock bubble once out of the corner of my eye. So I sat there on the floor staring lovingly at the glass carboy, like a father waiting for his son's first steps. And sure enough about 45 seconds later, another subtle bubble appeared. This thing may not be a bust yet... Stay tuned!!!


What happens when the yeast stop farting?

Seeing that airlock bubble is a good thing. It lets you know "stuffs happening", the wort is becoming beer... I always think of the bubbles as yeast farts. Gassy yeast are happy yeast, and happy yeast make happy beer. At least that's my theory...

Most home brewing directions and how-to books I've read say the bubbles should keep coming for about 5 - 7 days. In this case, I brewed last Sunday, and by Wednesday, the bubbles stopped. I'll admit, I'm a little concerned...

I was so concerned that I called the guy at my local home brew supply shop. According to him, I shouldn't be worried. But he admitted he was more of a wine making guy, I guess the beer guy was out sick or something, he really didn't say...

So the wine guy said I should stick to the plan, and come Monday (which is an off day at work for me! Yeah!) I should take a reading with the hydrometer, and if was where it should be I could bottle. So, I'm going to stand bye and see what happens.

Unless someone out there has a better suggestion? It's only Sat morning, if I need to do something to save this beer, please chime in and let me know...

"For beer drinkers with a weight problem"

I was checking out some of my favorite beer blogs this morning and saw this headline on Stonch's Beer Blog. "For beer drinkers with a weight problem"

With my current push to keep enjoying beer while losing my extra weight, I immediately took interest in this post, but it wasn't exactly what I expected.

Stonch tells us about the parents of a friend who found some interesting items in their new home, left behind by the previous owner, including a stack of "pork sword" movies and a bag of "old beer mats" or bar coasters as one in the states might call them.

"...moving images of the previous owner wielding his pork sword in the direction of his lady wife..."

Now that's comedy... HA! But on a more relevant topic, one of the "beer mats" they found was for an old British beer called Low 'C' Pale Ale... An early low carb beer from Marston's... You gotta love that slogan!

I guess Michelob Ultra is not only a terrible tasting beverage, but also an unoriginal one at that! The lesson here is, what's new is old and what's old is new... And don't leave behind your home made dirty movies when you sell your house... And that's one to grow on...


Friday, September 28, 2007


The thing I hate about brewing beer is keeping everything clean. I've read that your stuff should be nearly as clean, if not more than, as a hospital. That aint happening at my house. But I sure did give it a good try this time around.

This time around I was going to use my brand new glass carboy, so I can check in on the beer periodically and watch it grow up into a tasty liquid refresher right before my eyes. There hasn't been this sort of excitement in my life since I got that Sea Monkey kit back in the day!

I used my old plastic fermenting bucket as a cleaning basin, filling it to the 2 gallon maker with clean water and some C-Brite sanitizing solution. I believe that's suppose to be a non-rinse cleanser, but I always rinse anyway.

I always flash back to my days of working the all night shift at that crappy gas station in Willimantic, CT, otherwise know as the heroin capital of the East Coast. The manager told me to clean the coffee dispensers with comet, and she wasn't all that particular about rinsing them out... Keep that in mind the next time you help yourself to a hot cup of gas station Joe...

At any rate, I think I did a pretty good job cleaning the gear, but I wouldn't do any open heart surgeries on my kitchen counter. Especially considering that ugly yellow towel I used to dry the equipment on has been to Afghanistan, God only knows what sort of microscopic funk lives in that towel.

But I'm sure the beer will be fine, what could possibly go wrong, right?

I love to watch the water slowly turn that wonderful copper color as the Crushed Crystal Malt begins to work it's magic. The water is now gradually becoming wort, and before you know it, it'll be beer! (Well hopefully in a few weeks it will be...)

Now here's one of the steps in home brewing that I always hate. The age old problem of the watched pot... You know what they say... IT NEVER BOILS! My pot took nearly an hour to boil. Completely frustrating! I'm beginning to think I need to spring for one of those outdoors, propane brewing cooker things. Does anyone know if they're more powerful than your standard stove? I almost wonder if there is some sort of heat governor on my stove, to prevent the glass top from cracking? I couldn't find the pot's top, so I had to improvise and use an old cookie sheet on top to speed up the boiling process.

The biggest challenge for me continues to be the hydrometer. But I followed some advice I got from "Camper" over at beertools.com

To get rid of the foam fill up your test tube almost to the top. Then when you place your hydrometer in the tube the wort will overflow along with the foam. I will spin the hydrometer to get rid off any bubbles that are on the hydrometer...

Try and look at the level of the wort. Sometimes you take an average reading. I have a precision hydrometer that reads from 1.000 to 1.070. This is easy to read than the ones that have a large range. - Camper

I followed "Camper's" advice and the wort did in fact overflow onto my kitchen counter. The wife loves that... It was a little easier to read. Although I'm still confused about my reading. According to the brew kit instructions, the initial gravity should have been somewhere between 1.044 and 1.048... My reading was 1.034, off by .01... But I called my local home brew supplier and he said not to worry too much about it.

He suggested sinking my hydrometer in water and take a reading. It should be 1.000 if it works properly, I guess I'll try that later this week.

At any rate, I did my best to cool the wort quickly, I really need to get one of those chillers, it cools almost as slowly as it boils! I just hope I didn't shock the yeast, I hope it was cool enough.

After the yeast was added I used my new funnel to fill the new glass carboy with my wort, and only splashed a little on the kitchen floor. The wife loves that...

Here's the thing. The new funnel has a mesh trainer built in, and the sediment ended up clogging the funnel, a big pain in the butt. I had to scoop it out as I poured the big pot of wort, not an easy thing for one man. I sure hope that sediment wasn't critical to the fermenting process, I guess I'll find out soon.

After I got the wort into the carboy, I popped on the airlock and brought the whole thing downstairs to the finished basement. It's cooler down there and the temperature is more stable. But, it was a little warm, so I aimed an old box fan at the carboy and hoped for the best...

I have more to tell you and more pictures to add, but blogger is being flaky, and I'm tired... Time to get some shut eye so my eyes stay open at work tomorrow...

More to follow...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Beer Diet (video)

OK, well I started blogging about my recent attempt at home brewing, but got side tracked. More to come on that tomorrow. In the mean time, check out this tongue-in-cheek video on the "beer diet"... Careful, this maybe a little NSFW...

Miracle Beer Diet - Watch the top videos of the week here

Monday, September 24, 2007

Back in the saddle again!

I finally got off my butt and started brewing a batch of beer last night. I've been a little gun shy since my last turn at bat...

If you recall. my first attempt at home brewing came out pretty well, but my second batch was a disastrous flop. Would the third time be the charm? Or would I regret mocking Michael S. Marsh for his recent brewing blunder? I guess we'll find out in a couple of weeks...

For now I'm sticking with the pre-packaged brew kits. I've got a lot to learn, and I'm hesitant to get too creative with my own recipes until I've at least half way mastered the basics. This time around I chose Brewer's Best Classic English Pale Ale.

A classic style that will produce slight caramel flavors, golden to deep amber color with a crisp hop finish. - Brewer's Best

English Pale Ale is one of my favorite styles of beer. I love Bass Ale, and hope my brew has some sort of resemblance once it's completed. Here's Beer Advocates definition of the style:

The English Pale Ale can be traced back to the city of Burton-upon-Trent, a city with an abundance of rich hard water. This hard water helps with the clarity as well as enhancing the hop bitterness. This ale can be from golden to reddish amber in color with generally a good head retention. A mix of fruity, hoppy, earthy, buttery and malty aromas and flavors can be found. Typically all ingredients are English.

3.3 lbs. Plain Light Malt Extract
2 lbs. Plain Light Dry Malt Extract
8 oz. Crushed Crystal Malt 60L
1 each Grain Steeping Bags
1 oz. Perle Hops (Bittering)
1 1/2 oz. Willamette Hops (Finishing)

Sounds delightful, doesn't it?

Maybe living in a "a city with an abundance of rich hard water" will finally pay off!

I'll blog some more tomorrow and let you know how phase 1 of batch 3 went, but now I need to eat some chow and kick back after a long day at work...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Speaking of Oktoberfest, did you see Beerfest?

Have you seen Beerfest? If you enjoy cheap laughs, home brewing, breweries, beer drinking party games, and all kinds of tomfoolery, than this is the movie for you! It's from the same gang of goofballs that brought us Super Troopers. And it's chock full of humorous beer related sound bytes like this little gem... "It's magical!"

IMDB has some great photos... There's even a pretty good soundtrack...

If you're not afraid to laugh at a keg full of sophomoric beer humor, than it's well worth the rental fees for anyone who loves beer and laughter. Or better yet, why not buy your own copy?

It touches on the cultural phenomenon that is Oktoberfest and skips over to a fictional version of the world famous German festival that involves an international competition revolving around high stakes beer drinking party games. The main characters own their own microbrewery and brew pub and represent the USA in the Olympics of beer swilling. What could be better than that?

Check it out this week over a tasty pint of your favorite Oktoberfest brew...

Dial up the Beerfest web page for more info!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

O'zapft is! Oktoberfest has begun!

Yes, it's Oktoberfest once again. But, do you really know what Oktoberfest is? Is it just a bunch of beer loving Germans swilling large tankers of fine German beer? Or is it more?

Read up on what Oktoberfest is all about over at Wikipedia...

The Oktoberfest is a two-week festival held each year in Munich, Bavaria, Germany during late September and early October. It is one of the most famous events in the city and the world's largest fair, with some six million people attending every year.

The event traditionally takes place during the 16 days up to and including the first Sunday in October. The schedule was changed following German reunification in 1990 so that if the first Sunday in October falls on the 1st or 2nd, then the festival will go on until October 3rd (German Unity Day). Thus, the festival is now 17 days when the 1st Sunday is October 2nd and 18 days when it is October 1st. The festival is held on an area named the Theresienwiese (Field [or meadow] of Therese), often called "d’ Wiesn" for short. Beer plays a central role in the fair, with every festival beginning with a keg of beer tapped by the Mayor of Munich who declares "O'zapft is!" (Bavarian: "It’s tapped!"). A special Oktoberfest beer is brewed for the occasion, which is slightly darker and stronger, in both taste and alcohol. It is served in a one-liter-tankard called Maß. The first mass is served to the Bavarian Minister-President. Only local Munich breweries are allowed to serve this beer in a Bierzelt, a beer tent which is large enough for thousands. Note: the words 'stein' and 'lager' do not mean what many English speakers think they do so instead use 'Mass' or 'Helles' respectively

Visitors also consume large quantities of food, most of it traditional hearty fare such as sausage, hendl (chicken), käsespätzle (cheese noodles), and sauerkraut, along with such Bavarian delicacies as roast ox tails.

Other cities across the world also hold Oktoberfest celebrations, modeled after the Munich event.

OK, so it's not just about beer, it's also about food! But why is it call Oktoberfest, when it starts in September?

In 1819, The town fathers of Munich took over festival management. They decided that the Oktoberfest should be celebrated every year without exception. Later, it was lengthened and the date pushed forward. The reason being that the end of September in Bavaria often has very good weather. The high temperature in the first week of Oktoberfest nears 30 °C which stimulates the thirst of the visitors.

Well that makes sense, and Septemberfest doesn't sound as good either, now does it?

Check out the official Oktoberfest website here!

Plenty of photos, here and here!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Happy Friday: Now Laugh and Have a Beer!

Beer is good for you

I found a could of sites that list the top reasons why drinking beer is good for you. Here are some examples...

Beer is Good for your Liver

Alcohol expands the small blood vessels in the liver. This speeds up metabolism so it can help clean all the toxins out of the liver. This is from Beer Net Publication, April 2001 Biological Institute.

Beer Cures Insomnia

Lactoflavin and nicotinic acid, both present in beer, can promote sleep. Also hops are a natural sedative.

Drinking beer help in combating cancer, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and other immune system attacking diseases.

Hops contain compounds that are unique and rare in nature –like prenyl flavonoids (8PN) which are phytoestrogens that are natural plant based compounds, which mimics the natural oestrogens in the body (Bingham et al 1998). The highest 8PN levels in beers have been found in dark and bitter ales and stouts and from craft breweries where whole hopping is practised.

Beer Fends off Gallstones

According to Professor Oliver James at the University of Newcastle, beer protects against gallstones and kidney stones.

Just a little something to think about tonight at Happy Hour! Read more here and here

Thursday, September 20, 2007

First time brewer goes flat in front of Jim Koch

Michael S. Marsh over at the Cigar Aficionado recently gave home brewing a try at the urging of the one and only Jim Koch. The good folks from Sam Adams sent Mr. Marsh a home brew kit to promote their 2007 Samuel Adams American Homebrew Challenge.

When the time came to show off his creation to Mr. Koch here's what happened...

He was genuinely happy to see that I had attempted what he has been so successful at, and immediately cracked one open. His first impression was encouraging. From the aroma, he was surprised that it was my first homebrew. He noted hops, citrus and a flowery note.

So far so good, but then...

Then came his first sip and it was back down to earth for this homebrewer. It wasn't that it tasted bad, in fact, he said, it tasted very good compared to thousands of homebrews he'd sampled in the past, just that it was lacking carbonation. He questioned if I had properly sealed the caps as he felt gas might have escaped. It should be more carbonated, he said, and suggested that adding an extra teaspoon of priming sugar could help, but most likely it was because I hadn't crimped the bottle caps tight enough.

Damn. I was positive those caps were on as secure as they could be. Oh well, I was happy with the results.

Happy with the results? He's delusional! Damn, Mr. Koch went easy on him! LOL! I'm just kidding! But that must have been a little embarrassing, falling short in the face of a beer making legend. Live and learn I guess...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Worldwide Beer Nutritional Values

Here's a great source of info that may helps us all enjoy beer and manage our waistlines!

Worldwide Beer Nutritional Values

Bob Skilnik is currently offering a PDF listing of the nutritional values of around 1,100 beers. But it'll cost you $6.95. Not a bad price if you ask me. I mean come on, the guy has his own food pyramid that include beer! What else can I say?!?

His book "A nutritional listing for beer, wine, liquor and liquers" should hit the market this fall in paperback. Price is still TBD. Stay tuned!

Toast the Beer Hunter

At 9:00 pm EST on Sunday, September 30, beer drinkers across the continent will raise a glass to the memory of the man who did more than anyone to further the cause of good beer, the one and only Beer Hunter, Michael Jackson.

The event will also contribute to the National Parkinson Foundation. More Info Here.

Tell your local pub about this event and get them on board...

Jackson, who had Parkinson's disease, died on Aug. 30 at the age of 65. He was a journalist by trade, but his appreciation of good beer and of disappearing traditional styles compelled him to research and write "The World Guide to Beer," first published in 1977. He traveled the globe, tirelessly researching and updating the "World Guide," making a TV special called "The Beer Hunter," and writing many other books about whiskey and beer. One of his best known, "The Great Beers of Belgium," put that country's traditional brews on the map.

The Englishman considered beer as complex and as deserving of respect as wine; his enthusiasm and appreciation of styles old and new endeared him to brewers around the world. Source

Open Source Beer, Brilliant Idea...

OK, so this is probably old news for the wiser and more worldly beer lovers of the world, but it's news to me...

Denver’s Flying Dog Brewery today announced plans to release what is believed to be the first “open source” beer to hit the market in the U.S. “Open source” is a term most commonly used in the software industry and refers to any program whose source code is made available for use or modification as users or other developers see fit. In this case, Flying Dog’s Open Source Beer Project will allow beer drinkers and homebrewers to create and recommend changes and modifications to the recipe.
I think this is a BRILLIANT idea! The cool thing is, if the beer is good, you can make it yourself at home with the open source recipe...

Lite Beer+ Calories Cheat Sheet

I made a quick cheat sheet for the bar to help me decide what lite beer I should order when both calorie counting and beer swilling... It's almost business card size, so should fit in your wallet pretty well.

I've only included common lite beer brands, and I included Guinness as a point of reference.

Oddly enough, Guinness isn't so bad when it comes to calories, something to really consider when you are contemplating the calories to quality ratio. Having said that, it does have 10 grams of carbs. But take note, one of my favorite lite beers, Sam Adam's light, isn't all THAT lite now is it?

Got any other beers you think should be added to the cheat sheet?

Check out this great book on Worldwide Beer Nutritional Values!

Homebrewing while counting calories

The hardest thing about staying in shape, besides cutting back on my beer intake, is counting calories. Half the stuff I eat don't have that label on the back to tell me how many calories I just shoved down my throat. Fortunately it's relatively easy to find the caloric content on the back of a beer bottle but what about the calories and carbs in your own home brews?

Enter, the calorie and carbs home brew calculator...

I'm glad I stumbled upon this thing. I'm thinking of getting back into the kitchen this afternoon and finally brewing up a new batch of home brew and this thing will come in handy regarding my recent fitness push.

To use this calculator you must have your original and final specific gravity readings. You get these readings from a hydrometer or refractometer which can be purchased at your local homebrew shop. I'm still searching the globe for a digital hydrometer. I've never been good at getting those readings...

Monday, September 17, 2007

YouTubing YouBrewing: Home Brew How Tos Part 1

There's some pretty good home brewing tutorials available on YouTube. Check out this 4 part tutorial from CraigTube.

Home brewing the easy way part 1

"This is an easy way to prepare home brew beer inunder 1 hour"

Home brewing the easy way part 2

"Part 2 of easy home brewing. Make beer easily in your home"

Home brewing the easy way part 3

"Bottling a batch of Home Brew"

Home brewing the easy way part 4

"Bottling a batch of home brew"

sixpacks for soldiers

Somethings transcend political and idealogical differences. A combined love of beer and respect for our armed forces is a perfect example of "Beer-Partisanship".

I submit the following link for your review... www.sixpacksforsoldiers.com

No politics - just beer.

Six Packs for Soldiers is a "beer-partisan" campaign to thank our troops. We are grateful Republicans, Democrats, and Independents joined in a simple mission - we want to buy our soldiers a beer. And you can help:

Simply click here to upload a photo of yourself toasting the troops with a beer (or non-alcoholic alternative, if you prefer). For every "virtual toast" we get, we will deliver one real beer to a soldier (thanks to our sponsors for springing for it).

Red state, blue state? Who cares! Liberal, conservative? Doesn't matter! We've got our differences...that's true. But for just a moment, we are putting them aside, joining together, and sending a frothy, refreshing "thank you" to our fighting men and women. Please join us, make a toast, and make this just the first thing of many that you do to help these brave men and women.

A the time of this posting, the sixpacksforsoldiers campaign has ended. But they already extended the deadline once, maybe they'll do it again if enough of us send in our pics...

From what I understand, Sam Adams was a big supporter of this effort, donating a ton of free beer and not looking for a pat on the back in the process. Brewer, Patriot, INDEED!

The Beer Drinker's "Diet": Brad Cailor

This guy is living the dream. He drinks beer, but lost weight, and even turned it into a book deal with a little fame and fortune. I think I have a new hero! www.thebeerdrinkersdiet.com

Don't be a friggin whining quitter like the guy below!

Big baby, keep drinking, just do it in moderation!

Beer = Yes / Gut = No!

It's been a while since of really blogged here... And I haven't made a batch of beer in a long LONG time. But I have had my share of beers in that time, and my waist line is starting to show that.

A year ago, I got back from Afghanistan, in the best shape of my life, lean and strong. Today, I've managed to hold on to about half the progress I made in regards to physical fitness, but the beer has had it's toll on me. Not to worry, I'm not giving up on beer... But I am diving head first into getting in shape.

Here are my goals...

Phase 1: Reduce my weight from 194lbs to 180 lbs or fit into size 34 jeans comfortably, which ever comes first.

I want to do this before Jan 1, 2008, if possible. That gives me a little over 3 months to make this happen.

Phase 2: Increase my weight to 190 lbs (through muscle gain) while maintaining size 34 jeans. I would like to accomplish this by July 4th or 2008.

Important: Now keep in mind, I want to do all of this, while still enjoying, reviewing and hopefully soon making beer. Which means this blog will not lay dormant, and it will not turn into strictly a fitness blog. Consider it the blog for all things beer, including health...

Can it be done? Can I lose the fat, gain the muscle and still enjoy the beer? Sure, but it wont be easy.

Wish me luck and track my progress here… Or on my traineo.com web page. I've also started a new forum/group on traineo for beer drinkers who want to lose the gut and keep the suds. Beer = Yes / Gut = No.

Other things to look forward to: I have a ton of beer reviews I've done on paper, that need to be added to the blog, including some I did this past winter on a Caribbean cruise with the inlaws.

I also went back to Boston and toured the Sam Brewery again and then journeyed across town and hit the Harpoon brewery, all in the same awesome day. A great trip, I recommend it to anyone who loves beer. I'll have details and photos up soon!

I will finally be brewing a batch of beer sometime in October. I'll have all the details posted here. Stay tuned...


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