Checking in: I’m still brewing…

Barry here with another much needed update…

Priorities, priorities, priorities…

As an orthodox Jew, husband, father of two, and clinical social worker  life has definitely not slowed down since my last blog post (11/28/18). Thankfully I have been able to keep brewing and taking advantage of local homebrewing related opportunities. All of which have continued to enrich my overall quality of life and keep me motivated to develop my brewing and fermentation management skills.

Beers that I’ve brewing since my last update include the following….mole bottles

My final beer of 2018 aka Churchill’s Mexican Vacation, an oak aged molé imperial porter. I deemed it a porter because its color is more brown than black. In order to add the molé flavors I made whisky tinctures with vanilla beans, cocoa nibs, Mexican cinnamon sticks, and ancho chiles. While the oak didn’t come through, the molé flavors expressed themselves quite nicely. If I brew this recipe again I’ll  make sure the base beer is up to par before adding any adjuncts. That way the beer will be a bit more well rounded and will score better in homebrewing competitions.

quad 2019Next, came my two “baby” beers aka the beers that I brew in honor of each year of my kids lives. First was my daughter’s Belgian quad aka First Fruits quad. For this year’s vintage I went back to my original recipe and split the batch after primary fermentation. The first half was bottled as the “base beer” and the second was aged on oak cubes and bourbon for 28 days. Unfortunately the oak and bourbon did not come through in the finished beer, but both versions are tasting great. Next, time I’ll age the beer on the oak for as long as is necessary to achieve my desired flavor profile


SB pic

Great despite some bottles being flat.

The second of my two “baby” beers was my Second Blessing Barleywine aka my son’s annual brew. In terms of recipe changes for this beer’s second vintage…I decided to replace the small amount of roasted barley with 4oz of carafa III and slightly increase the amount of crystal malts. Though my mash didn’t go as planned, my use of maris otter extract for making up gravity points and a two-step mash for the base grains led to my FG being 1.024. Meaning, the beer came out at 11.7% ABV and was/is not too sweet. Unfortunately the oak and bourbon that I added into my secondary carboy did not contribute much flavor to the finished beer. This was most likely due to my not bulk aging it for long enough (29 days)  and or adding the bourbon and oak separately instead of making a tincture with the oak and then adding it and fresh bourbon to the carboy.

kveiky!My most recent two beers came from the same mash… Instead of brewing my usual summer beers aka dry hopped saisons I decided to use one mash to brew 2 kveik pale ales. The first which I named Kveiky! was hopped with galaxy and nelson sauvin hops and fermented with Omega Yeast Lab’s Hornindal strain. It came out tropical and smooth. So while the lemon-lime flavor that I loved in gravity samples quickly faded, I am happy with the beer overall. The second beer aka Dry Heat? pale ale (Jeff Dunham fans may catch the reference) was hopped with citra, azacca, and cashmere hops and fermented with OYL’s Voss strain. The beer turned out citrusy with great melon undertones and ended up being the beer that I prefer drinking on a regular basis.

mead bottleBeyond beer I’ve also immersed myself in the world of home mead making. Taking inspiration from Melovino meadery (which is a 20 minute drive from my home), the Modern Mead Makers Facebook group, and the mead subreddit. So far I’ve made 5 meads…1. Maiden Forage- made with mixed berry and clover honey this mead came out quite tasty and I’m looking forward to opening aged bottles. 2. Tempered Decadence– made with dried figs and dates along with avocado blossom and wildflower honey…This mead needed to be tempered with 3 quarts of wildflower traditional in order to not be cloyingly sweet. Deemed a “dessert mead”, it is still more sweet than some may prefer, but I’m happy with the flavor profile and will use the lessons that I learned while making this mead for future iterations of its recipe.  figgy pic3. Duvdivnei Rimon (Hebrew for Cherries of Pomegranate More contextual than literal in meaning) – I topped off the aforementioned wildflower traditional mead with both tart cherry and pomegranate juices. Then after re-fermentation was done I stabilized and back-sweetened the finished mead with orange blossom honey. 4. Zing of Nostalgia – this mead is still “in progress” – a base of strong green tea (the water) had orange blossom and fresh ginger added. An initial gravity sample did not have enough ginger character and therefore I racked the mead onto more ginger and it now needs to be racked onto more tea, back-sweetening honey, and lemon zest. 5. Bies Please! – this mead is still in progress- 15 lbs of clover honey have been fermenting with 13 lbs of organic blueberries since Wednesday 8/7/19.

Let’s sum things up…Delving into mead making has gotten my brewing curiousity wheels turning again and I hope to make time to share my experiences on this blog more consistently in the coming months. Cheers!


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Innkeeper Barleywine Collab @ Bitter & Esters

“Brewed On August 6, 2018, this English barleywine represents a five year friendship of passionate homebrewers. All of whom take pride in teaching others how to brew great beer at home and enjoy related experiences.”

DSC_0577     Ever since I  fully transitioned to all grain brewing in November 2013,  Bitter and Esters (Prospect Heights, Brooklyn) has been my homebrewing “home away from home.” As a full service home-brew shop one can either buy your ingredients and equipment for brewing at home or brew there on their impressive 20 gallon electric HERMs system. To me owners John LaPolla and Doug Amport and their staff have made it their mission to instill a sense of community and camaraderie with their fellow NYC homebrewers; and I continue to be blown away by how they’ve enhanced and grown along with the NYC craft beer and homebrewing communities.

While at the shop’s August beer swap  (8/1) John, Jack Misner ( B&E staff), and I finalized the details for brewing a 10 gallon batch of my most recent barleywine recipe with the goal of developing an approachable English barleywine recipe for the shop’s recipe binder. Though their brew-on-premise batches are usually 15 gallons, we felt it would easier to have the shop and I end up with 5 gallon gallons of barleywine each.

DSC_0509        On August 6th I headed to Bitter & Esters for brew day with Jack. Whilst weighing out and milling the grist I learned that due to its density, milling Maris Otter barley twice can improve mash extract yield. Moving along, brew day went quite smoothly until we took an original gravity reading and realized that we’d collected too much preboil wort. In order to compensate for the missed gravity points Jack and I decided that we’d add dextrose to the fermenting beer once primary fermentation had calmed down a bit. So while the realization of the missed gravity points was anxiety provoking, adding the dextrose thankfully proved to be a good decision.


When the beer was done fermenting and subsequently carbonating (keg) I once again teamed up with Jack to taste and bottle my half of the finished product. Once we got a rhythm going I found my first experience using a Blichman Beer Gun quite fun…Upon tasting the beer Jack, John, and I were all pleased to find it bursting with dark fruit esters and notes of caramel and toffee all while being quite drinkable for an almost 11% abv beer. In turn, we were all optimistic about how well the beer will potentially age.


It was then time to finalize the scaled down recipe (click picture below to purchase the ingredients kit) that would end up in the shop’s recipe binder, design the bottle label, and put away as much of the finished beer as possible for aging.

Thanks to John, Doug, and Jack for this amazing opportunity. I hope we can find time to collaborate on more brews soon. Cheers!



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Where I’ve Been…

Though I’ve continued homebrewing since my last blog post my life has gotten significantly busier and my motivation to create posts about my brewing adventures has admittedly diminished. However, I would be remised if I stopped posting completely because too much of what makes my passion for all things beer stay strong is sharing it with others. Below are the beers that I’ve brewed in the recent past.

EPS 2.0Extra “Precious” Bitter 2.0

My ode to Lord of the Rings…In terms of sticking to traditional this version was brewed with floor malted Maris Otter pale malt, noble hops, and fermented with an English yeast strain. However, for version 2.0 I decided to use German noble hops instead of English varietals. The beer turned out great and the malt character that became more apparent as the floral and spicy hop character faded was definitely more inviting than my first iteration of this recipe/beer. I think that for version 3.0 I’ll keep the German hops, but take out the honey malt to let the floor malted Maris Otter shine.

Second Blessing Barleywine

Brewed in preparation for and celebration of my son’s birth, this 12% ABV barleywine turned out better than expected. It’s recipe was/is an amped up version of a Firestone Walker Sucaba clone recipe that I found in Brew Your Own magazine. Because I started with just over 22 pounds of grain, I decided mash using the reiterated mashing method. While I still had to correct my preboil gravity with dry malt extract (DME) my original gravity (OG) ended being 1.118. I fermented the wort with Wyeast 1098 British Ale for 4 weeks and then bottle conditioned the beer. At first the 2.2% roasted barley gave the beer a slight roasty quality, but after 2 months in the bottle it faded significantly. Next time I’ll either take out the roasted barley from the recipe or less since it’s mainly there for color.

First Fruits Quadrupel 3.0

For the third iteration of my award winning quadrupel which I brew annually in honor of my daughter I decided to make two changes to the base recipe First I added some white wheat to add some “fluff” to the mouthfeel. Then after primary fermentation I transferred the beer to a secondary fermenter and added 3oz of medium toast oak cubes and half a bottle of cabernet sauvignon wine. After 4 weeks in secondary I bottled the beer with demerara sugar and champagne yeast. While there was some bottle to bottle variation in terms of oak flavor I’m happy with how this vintage turned out.

6172fb5f3150797776bf01b42cfda450_640x640Drop Kick Nate Saison

Inspired by my friend Nate’s infamous house pale ale recipe I decided to ferment his recipe with saison yeast (The Yeast Bay’s Saison Blend 2). In addition to the blend of pale and Munich malts, the combination of Galaxy and El Dorado hops proved to make sure an awesome aroma and flavor profile. When tasting the finished product I picked up both the classic tropical notes from the Galaxy hops along with some added ripe melon and pear notes which I assumed were added by the El Dorado hops.

LR 3.0Lion’s Roar Pilsner 3.0

Having enjoyed the first two versions of my pilsner I decided to change up the hops for this one. Meaning, in addition to the Magnum and Spalt Select hops, I used hallertau blanc instead of Saphir hops. At first the finished beer tasted quite similar to the previous two versions, but over time the tropical notes from the Hallertau Blanc hops came out and made this beer quite sessionable. Next time I brew this recipe I may combine the Saphir and Hallertau Blanc in order to find out how much complexity can be added to my original recipe.


HT Dipa


Heave and Tithe Double IPA:

This was my first post-baby birth brew day and lots of things both on and after brew day did not go as planned. Hence, I hope to write up a separate blog post about the finished beer.



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Balanced Creativity: Smuttynose Brewing Company Tour

BTS tour of Smuttynose Brewing Company’s Towle Farm production brewery. (8/14/17)



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Extra Clips: Allagash Brewing Co. Tour

After editing together my Allagash Brewing Company full tour video I felt that the clips that I left out were still worth sharing.  Hence, in this video I present them with one comic touch thrown in. Cheers!

Clip One: Pre-tour introduction

Tour guide Bob Kutch talks about the expansions that came along with their current 70 bbl Brau Kon brew house.

Clip Two: What happens to Allagash’s Spent Grains

How a local farmer shares the wealth after picking up about 128,000 lbs of spent grain each week.

Clip Three” Fermentation temperature control software and the “bunker’s” larger fermentation tanks

A description of Allagash’s fermentation temperature control software and how wort and beer are transferred into and out from the brewery’s largest fermentation tanks.

Clip Four: Bright Tanks, Packaging and Distribution

Bob talks about Allagash’s bottled vs. kegged ratio, shows us the brewery’s largest bright (conditioning) tank, and describes its distribution network and use of the Micro Star keg co-op.



 **Click this picture to view all of my photos from the tour.

Clip Five: Site of the original Allagash brew house

While looking at pictures of founder Rob Tod brew on his original brew house (brewing system) and the painted layout of it on the floor in front of us Bob describes the story of Allagash’s gradual expansion process.


Clip Six: Ghoulschip

Bob describes of process of brewing Allagash’s Halloween beer aka Ghoulschip.

Thanks again to Bob, Lindsay, Rob, and the entire Allagash team for showing my wife and I an amazing time!!



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Efficiency & Innovation: Allagash Brewing Company

Having not paid a visit to Allagash Brewing Company (Portland, Maine) since 2011 it was a clear choice for the first of three breweries that my wife and I would visit on our five day New England road trip…So after informing Allagash founder Rob Tod (whom I’ve interviewed three times) of my plans and direct messaging the brewery via twitter, I received an email from VIP tour coordinator Lindsay Bohanske and subsequently arranged a tour with her assistant Bob Kutch.

DSC_0019   After meeting up with Bob and telling him about my 2011 visit to the brewery he made sure to point out all the upgrades and expansions that Allagash has made since then, the first of which was their 70 bbl Brau Kon brew house (brewing system). With his passion for all things Allagash showing from the beginning Bob candidly said “I’ll probably sound like a skipping record for the amount of times I say the word efficiency” as we ascended the stairs to the brew deck. In turn, while taking us through the entire brewing process he made sure to point how each step had been carefully planned and engineered for just that, efficiency and at the same time to be in line with traditional Belgian brewing practices.

DSC_0028  From there we moved on to the brewery’s relatively new “small” batch brewhouse. In others words, Rob Tod’s original “Frankenstein / repurposed dairy equipment” brewing system has been replaced by a 36 bbl Brau Kon system. It was here that Bob described how Allagash brews and subsequently ferments its coolship beers. As a home-brewer who has brewed and thoroughly researched sour beers (wild ales) it was great to hear about how they’re brewed on a larger scale and experience how the knowledge that I’ve gained over time is also being applied at Allagash with so much passion and attention to detail.

Following along in the brewery’s main building; we then got an extensive overview of its larger fermentation tanks in an area known to Allagash staff as the bunker which included the following. How the tanks are filled, how long the beer remains in them, all that goes into controlling temperature during and after fermentation, and what happens to the beer once the tanks are emptied. Later on, we were also taken through the bottling and packaging areas (not shown in the above video) and I was surprised to learn that as a Belgian ale focused brewery Allagash kegs more beer than it bottles and that California (a state on the opposite coast) is currently its largest market.

DSC_0050   Across from the “small” batch brewhouse is the “Curieux room” where Allagash Tripel is aged in Jim Beam barrels for 5 weeks and then blended with fresh Tripel to bring it down to 11% ABV. Both my wife and I were both impressed by the scale at which Allagash is able to produce this complex tasting barrel-aged beer year-round.


20664501_1498497626839944_1643956182160512190_n      From there on the remainder of our tour focused on the production and fermentation of Allagash’s sour and spontaneously fermented ales. After a quick look at the barrels in which most of these beers are aging we moved on to where they’re packaged and aged on a larger scale. It was there that after a detailed description of aging their sour beers on fresh fruit (see video) we got to taste some amazing examples at Allagash’s “VIP bar”, which is comprised of a bar area made mostly out of barrel staves, a fully stocked fridge  of sour/wild ales, and a lounge area with leather arm chairs and lots of beer décor. The first beer that we tried was Ghoulship aka Allagash’s Halloween beer. Though its being fermented with wild microflora makes it different from other pumpkin ales from the start, I particularly liked that it’s not brewed with pumpkin pie spices which allows for the flavor of the pumpkin itself to shine and blend quite impressively with the flavors from the wild yeasts and bacteria. Next, Bob popped the cork of a bottle of Monmouth Red, a Flanders-style red ale that’s first fermented with Allagash’s house yeast in stainless steel tanks and then aged with Lactobacillus and Pediococcus for 18 months in an oak foudre. It is then transferred to freshly emptied Laird and Company apple brandy barrels where it ages for an additional 12 months before being blended and bottle conditioned ( Bursting with dark cherry, apple brandy, vanilla, and oak flavors; this beer blew my mind and was elated when Bob later found a bottle that I could enjoy again at home.

20708479_1498497643506609_7894520129006222892_n       Saving the best experience for last, Bob grabbed a bottle of Coolship Resurgum for us to enjoy in the coolship itself. Upon entering the coolship he poured each of us a glass and we discussed our thoughts on the beer of which mine were the following. I felt that Resurgum had a more mild “funk” and tartness than the gueuzes of Belgium (e.g. Cantillon) that I’ve tried, while at the same time a more balanced complexity (mild funk, tart lemon, oak, bready malt sweetness, and a semi-dry finish) from the first sip which in the end made it quite drinkable and approachable. As shown in the video above Bob then concluded the formal portion of the tour with a detailed description of the construction of the coolship (e.g. how the rough cut pine ceiling harbors dormant wild yeast and bacteria which is constantly being brought inside through the windows that are always open and a fan which circulates the incoming air) and the excitement around the brewery on coolship beer brew days.

Though we knew that we’d be shown more of the brewery than on their general tour. Both my wife and I were blown away by how in depth and fun our tour was from start to finish.

Thanks to Bob, Lindsay, Rob, and the entire Allagash team for the tour, tasting, and never ending dedication to brewing high quality Belgian-style beers! Cheers!

Coming Next: Extra clips video!


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#FABQ: Frequently Asked Beer Questions

Video Synopsis: Sharing the history of my craft beer and homebrewing journey by answering Tasting Nitch’s Frequently Asked Beer Questions.

The Questions:
1. how did you get into beer geeking?/why beer?
2. whats your favorite beer?
3. if you have one beer forever what would it be?
4. how can you drink so much?/ how do you stay healthy?
5. are you an alcoholic?
6. whats your favorite ingredient?
7. do you brew?
8. what was your first beer?
9. who in beer world do you look up to?

These questions have been answered via video by many YouTube homebrewers (BrewTubers) and beer reviewers (BeerTubers). Please search #FABQ and or Frequently Asked Beer Questions to watch their videos.

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