THIS PAGE IS DEDICATED TO SHARING CRAFT BEER AND HOMEBREWING INFORMATION THAT I FEEL IS WORTH SHARING OUTSIDE MY BLOG POSTS
1/2/20 – TESTING YOUR CARBOYS FOR BATCH VOLUMES
IMPETUS: Out of curiousity I went on the better-bottle website to check where the 5 gallon mark is on their 6-gallon carboy. In a state of disbelief I confirmed with one of my extra carboys that I’ve been collecting 5.25-5.4 gallons for years and not the 5.5-5.7 gallons that I’ve been putting into Beersmith.
1/1/20 AMERICAN BARLEYWINE VS. ENGLISH BARLEYWINE
BJCP Style Comparison: Although often a hoppy beer, the English Barleywine places less emphasis on hop character than the American Barleywine and features English hops. English versions can be darker, maltier, fruitier, and feature richer specialty malt flavors than American Barleywines. Has some overlap British Old Ale on the lower end, but generally does not have the vinous qualities of age; rather, it tends to display the mature, elegant signs of age.
BJCP Style Comparison: The American version of the Barleywine tends to have a greater emphasis on hop bitterness, flavor and aroma than the English Barleywine, and often features American hop varieties. Typically paler than the darker English Barleywines (and lacking in the deeper malt flavors) but darker than the golden English Barleywines. Differs from a Double IPA in that the hops are not extreme, the malt is more forward, and the body is fuller and often richer. An American Barleywine typically has more residual sweetness than a Double IPA, which affects the overall drinkability (sipping vs. drinking).
My Perspective: Both styles can be viewed as progressions from a base style. The English Barleywine being the beer produced from the highest gravity runnings of a large mash, the top beer of a British brewery’s line up, and the pinnacle of malt and hop character following lower ABV styles such as ESB and English IPA. On the other hand while American pale ales and their bolder, higher ABV related styles can be seen as building. Because of its bold hop character it can be hard to distinguish an American Barleywine from today’s Double IPAs and “Triple IPAs”. Secondly, with exceptions aside (e.g. Sierra Nevada Bigfoot and Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA)…due to the lack of complex malt character American Barleywines tend to benefit less from aging their English counterparts. Oxidation causes a loss of hop character and a sweet bready malt character which lacks the layers of complexity that are created as an English Barleywine ages. In turn,American Barleywines are best when consumed within a year of their bottling in order to full experience the prime of the beer’s flavor profile. English Barleywine’s on the other hand can be aged for many years and vertical tastings of multiple vintages can be a great learning experience.
3/2/16 – Basics of Mashing Malted Grains and Common Mash/Lauter Tuns (via /u/chino_brews)
Malted grains (aka malts) contain enzymes that the seed would normally use to convert stored energy (in the form of starch) into energy that the young shoot can use to grow (in the form of sugar). Brewers use the enzymes in malts to convert the starchy insides (endosperm) of the grain into fermentable and unfermentable sugar.
Mashing is the process of converting the starch in the grains to sugar.
Mashing is accomplished by hydrating malted grains (add hot water) and holding them at the ideal temperature or temperature range for the various enzymes in the malt. The most important enzymes are the starch conversion enzymes, and chief among them are alpha amylase and beta amylase. These enzymes are collectively called diastatic enzymes or diastase.
Alpha amylase and beta amylase each produce somewhat different results and each has its ideal temperature range in which it works best. If the temp is too low, they work very slowly or not at all. If the temp is too high, they will work very fast — for a while — but also get destroyed by denaturing. Therefore, holding temperature at a precise temperature (+/-) for a specified period of time is very important in mashing.
Compared to the past, the length of time you must control mashing temperature is less critical. This is because of two reasons. First, modern malts are very well-modified. Well-modified means that the first part of malting, which causes the seed to change from “flinty” or steely” (very hard) to “mealy” (kind of crumbly) is done very thoroughly and consistently compared to the past. It stands to reason that it will be easier to get good stuff out of something that is mealy compared to steely. Second, modern malts have high diastatic power (there’s that word diastase again!), meaning that maltsters have figured out how to make the malts without destroying a lot of the diastatic enzymes in the heat of the malting processes. Because many mashes can fully convert in less than 30 minutes (often in a few minutes), the ability of a mash tun to hold temperature is less critical than in the past. This coincides with the advent of “extreme” insulated coolers that can maintain (cold) temperatures for multiple days.
As a side note, mashing is different from steeping grains in an extract + specialty grains beer because the specialty grains should not need starch conversion in a well-designed recipe. Instead, the specialty grains have undergone other processes in addition to or in lieu of malting in order to make the aroma, flavor, color, and sugar available to home brewers by a simple steep. Steeping temperature is not critical, and it is possible to steep at room temperature all the way up to boiling temperature, although the latter is not advised.
A tun is a vessel used in brewing, and a mash tun is simply a vessel in which you mix hot water and malts.
In home brewing, the two most common types of mash tuns are insulated beverage coolers/ice chests and kettles.
After mashing, the next step is to separate and drain the wort from the mash. This step is called lautering, and is not part of mashing. Frequently, the brewer adds more water to the mash, which is called sparging, and separates and drains the resulting wort. I won’t get into methods of sparging. The point of bringing this up is that commercial brewers will often move the mash to a lauter tun. However, home brewers tend to build the lauter function into the mash tun, And thus they use a mash-lauter tun (aka a MLT).
The key to lautering is to have a metal or plastic perforated filter, screen, or mesh in the MLT to separate the wort from the mash, and a drain of some sort. To be clear, the grains themselves (particularly grain husks) act as the actual filtering mechanism, and the metal or plastic filter is there to hold the grains back to allow them to organize into a filter.
The drain is usually controlled by a valve, such as a ball valve, and In home brewing the valve is usually fitted on the lower side of the MLT to allow gravity to drain the wort. Some home brew mash tuns have a glorping valve on the bottom to allow easy dumping of the spent grains (drained mash) or pumping of the wort-filled mash to a separate vessel for lautering.
Common filters used by home brewers include (1) a perforated false bottom fitted onto the bottom of the mash tun, (2) a stainless steel water supply hose aka hose braid that is attached ,to the intake of the ball valve; (3) a bazooka screen, (4) a manifold comprising copper or CPVC pipe that is scored with perpendicular cuts on its underside, or (5) a fabric mash bag of some sort. In the past, a common filtering method was to use a zap bucket, which is one HDPE bucket nested inside another, with the bottom of the top bucket either drilled with numerous holes or partially replaced with stainless steel window screening material.
To wrap this up, I will cover a few common types of MLTs, filters, and their uses:
COMMON MASH TUN TYPES:
Round Beverage Cooler: these coolers are ideal for fly spargers because they allow for even distribution of sprinkled sparge water and even flow through the mash, but have the disadvantage of having high column pressure near the filter, so can lead to stuck lauters. Because the mash cannot easily be directly heated, the only way to increase mash temperature is to infuse more hot water or decoction (remove part of the mash, heat it, and mix it back into the mash tun to increase the overall mash temperature).
Ice Chest-Style Beverage Cooler: these coolers are most often found in “extreme” or “5 day” versions, so can often hold temp better than round coolers. They have a shallow mash depth compared to round coolers of the same volume, and allow easy access to the entire depth of the mash. Chest-type coolers are not well-suited for fly sparging because of the poor fluid dynamics of both sparging and lautering, but are very common in batch sparging setups. As with round coolers, chest coolers cannot be directly heated.
Kettle: a kettle can be used as a mash tun, and has the advantage of being able to be direct-fired (heated directly). They have the disadvantage of losing heat more quickly compared to beverage coolers due to being uninsulated. Kettles are used in mash tuns in “brew in a bag” (BIAB) brewing. Brewers will often insulated kettles with some removable insulation during mashing.
Insulated Stainless Steel Mash Tuns: like a round beverage cooler made of stainless steel.
Zapap Bucket: the primary advantage of this system is low cost.
COMMON FILTER TYPES FOR LAUTERING
Perforated False Bottom: First made popular as the “Phil’s Phalse Bottom”, this is a classic choice, albeit the most expensive choice for a filter mechanism, and is very difficult to create as a DIY project. The advantage is that wort drains evenly through the false bottom. However, false bottoms are the most sensitive to hydrostatic pressure changes, which can lead to compacted grain beds and stuck lauters.
Stainless Steel Water Supply Hose aka Hose Braid: This is popularized by Denny Conn, and consists of a water supply line, with the interior hose removed, one end crimped closed, and the other end crimped onto the inlet of the valve (usually with a ball valve). DIY makers should be careful not to be fooled by a plastic hose braid, which is usually painted to look like stainless steel. The primary disadvantage of the hose braid is that it can easily be crushed by the mash paddle. Brewers often insert a coiled wire inside to give it rigidity.
Bazooka Screen: this is a manufactured product that is like a hose braid on steroids, and typically threads onto the valve inlet with male NPT threads by use of a female-to-female NPT coupler.
Manifold: a manifold is a system of copper or CPVC pipes laying on or near the bottom of the mash tun that connect to the valve inlet and have perpendicular scored cuts on its underside to allow for wort to pass in and drain. See Appendix A of John Palmer’s How to Brew for info on the fluid dynamics affecting proper manifold design.
Fabric Mash Bag: a bag made of mesh fabric, usually nylon, voile, or poly-cotton, which acts as the filter. This is typically just laid in the mash tun to blanket it, with the ends being fasted over the lid or edge of the mash tun by means of elastic or straps. This is the screen used in BIAB brewing, and is also commonly used in “mash in a bag” (MIAB) – aka mash-in-a-bag-in-a-cooler – brewing. As a relatively cheap piece of equipment, many home brewers invest in a high-quality, durable grain bag with small mesh/hole size that is usually made of a high thread-count, polyester fabric, with many experts considering Swiss voile as being the ideal material. A common, cheaper or entry-level solution is to use 5-gallon paint strainer bags in a 5-gallon or smaller kettle or cooler, but these bags will have wider holes and be less durable. The lautering method with a fabric mesh bag is as simple as can be: just lift the grains out and allow the mash to drain. The primary advantages to fabric mesh bags are the low cost of the equipment and their ability to filter finely ground grists that would stick a lauter using other filters.
12/4/14 – Cold Steeping Dark Grains – Here’s a couple videos and articles about cold steeping dark grains, a way to get the flavor out of your dark grains without adding astringency to your beers. Cheers!
Follow up video i.e. straining the dark grains and adding them to the boil.
Also, if you’re subscribed to Brew Your Own magazine then there’s a great article in the advanced brewing section of the October 2014 issue (couldn’t find it online) called “Dark Grains: Options for using highly kilned malts.”
12/16/13 – English Barleywine vs American Barleywine – My opinion on these styles with be discussed in a future blog post, but here’s some useful information about them.
Comprehensive BJCP Style Guidelines:
19B. English Barleywine
Aroma: Very rich and strongly malty, often with a caramel-like aroma. May have moderate to strong fruitiness, often with a dried-fruit character. English hop aroma may range from mild to assertive. Alcohol aromatics may be low to moderate, but never harsh, hot or solventy. The intensity of these aromatics often subsides with age. The aroma may have a rich character including bready, toasty, toffee, molasses, and/or treacle notes. Aged versions may have a sherry-like quality, possibly vinous or port-like aromatics, and generally more muted malt aro- mas. Low to no diacetyl.
Appearance: Color may range from rich gold to very dark amber or even dark brown. Often has ruby highlights, but should not be opaque. Low to moderate off-white head; may have low head retention. May be cloudy with chill haze at cooler temperatures, but generally clears to good to brilliant clarity as it warms. The color may appear to have great depth, as if viewed through a thick glass lens. High alcohol and vis- cosity may be visible in “legs” when beer is swirled in a glass. Flavor: Strong, intense, complex, multi-layered malt flavors ranging from bready and biscuity through nutty, deep toast, dark caramel, toffee, and/or molasses. Moderate to high malty sweetness on the palate, although the finish may be moder- ately sweet to moderately dry (depending on aging). Some oxidative or vinous flavors may be present, and often complex alcohol flavors should be evident. Alcohol flavors shouldn’t be harsh, hot or solventy. Moderate to fairly high fruitiness, often with a dried-fruit character. Hop bitterness may range from just enough for balance to a firm presence; balance therefore ranges from malty to somewhat bitter. Low to moderately high hop flavor (usually UK varieties). Low to no diacetyl. Mouthfeel: Full-bodied and chewy, with a velvety, luscious texture (although the body may decline with long condition- ing). A smooth warmth from aged alcohol should be present, and should not be hot or harsh. Carbonation may be low to moderate, depending on age and conditioning.
Overall Impression: The richest and strongest of the English Ales. A showcase of malty richness and complex, intense fla- vors. The character of these ales can change significantly over time; both young and old versions should be appreciated for what they are. The malt profile can vary widely; not all exam- ples will have all possible flavors or aromas.
History: Usually the strongest ale offered by a brewery, and in recent years many commercial examples are now vintage- dated. Normally aged significantly prior to release. Often as- sociated with the winter or holiday season.
Comments: Although often a hoppy beer, the English Barley- wine places less emphasis on hop character than the American Barleywine and features English hops. English versions can be darker, maltier, fruitier, and feature richer specialty malt fla- vors than American Barleywines.
Ingredients: Well-modified pale malt should form the back- bone of the grist, with judicious amounts of caramel malts. Dark malts should be used with great restraint, if at all, as most of the color arises from a lengthy boil. English hops such as Northdown, Target, East Kent Goldings and Fuggles. Char- acterful English yeast.
Commercial Examples: Thomas Hardy’s Ale, Burton Bridge Thomas Sykes Old Ale, J.W. Lee’s Vintage Harvest Ale, Robin- son’s Old Tom, Fuller’s Golden Pride, AleSmith Old Numb- skull, Young’s Old Nick (unusual in its 7.2% ABV), Whitbread Gold Label, Old Dominion Millenium, North Coast Old Stock Ale (when aged), Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot
IBUs: 35 – 70 SRM: 8 – 22 OG: 1.080 – 1.120 FG: 1.018 – 1.030 ABV: 8 – 12%
19C. American Barleywine
Aroma: Very rich and intense maltiness. Hop character mod- erate to assertive and often showcases citrusy or resiny Ameri- can varieties (although other varieties, such as floral, earthy or spicy English varieties or a blend of varieties, may be used). Low to moderately strong fruity esters and alcohol aromatics. Malt character may be sweet, caramelly, bready, or fairly neu- tral. However, the intensity of aromatics often subsides with age. No diacetyl.
Appearance: Color may range from light amber to medium copper; may rarely be as dark as light brown. Often has ruby highlights. Moderately-low to large off-white to light tan head; may have low head retention. May be cloudy with chill haze at cooler temperatures, but generally clears to good to brilliant clarity as it warms. The color may appear to have great depth, as if viewed through a thick glass lens. High alcohol and vis- cosity may be visible in “legs” when beer is swirled in a glass. Flavor: Strong, intense malt flavor with noticeable bitterness. Moderately low to moderately high malty sweetness on the palate, although the finish may be somewhat sweet to quite dry (depending on aging). Hop bitterness may range from moderately strong to aggressive. While strongly malty, the balance should always seem bitter. Moderate to high hop fla- vor (any variety). Low to moderate fruity esters. Noticeable alcohol presence, but sharp or solventy alcohol flavors are undesirable. Flavors will smooth out and decline over time, but any oxidized character should be muted (and generally be masked by the hop character). May have some bready or caramelly malt flavors, but these should not be high. Roasted or burnt malt flavors are inappropriate. No diacetyl. Mouthfeel: Full-bodied and chewy, with a velvety, luscious texture (although the body may decline with long condition- ing). Alcohol warmth should be present, but not be excessively hot. Should not be syrupy and under-attenuated. Carbonation may be low to moderate, depending on age and conditioning. Overall Impression: A well-hopped American interpretation of the richest and strongest of the English ales. The hop char- acter should be evident throughout, but does not have to be unbalanced. The alcohol strength and hop bitterness often combine to leave a very long finish.
History: Usually the strongest ale offered by a brewery, and in recent years many commercial examples are now vintage- dated. Normally aged significantly prior to release. Often as- sociated with the winter or holiday season.
Comments: The American version of the Barleywine tends to have a greater emphasis on hop bitterness, flavor and aroma than the English Barleywine, and often features American hop varieties. Differs from an Imperial IPA in that the hops are not extreme, the malt is more forward, and the body is richer and more characterful.
Ingredients: Well-modified pale malt should form the back- bone of the grist. Some specialty or character malts may be used. Dark malts should be used with great restraint, if at all, as most of the color arises from a lengthy boil. Citrusy Ameri- can hops are common, although any varieties can be used in quantity. Generally uses an attenuative American yeast.
IBUs: 50 – 120 SRM: 10 – 19 OG: 1.080 – 1.120 FG: 1.016 – 1.030
ABV: 8 – 12%
Commercial Examples: Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, Great Divide Old Ruffian, Victory Old Horizontal, Rogue Old Crustacean, Avery Hog Heaven Barleywine, Bell’s Third Coast Old Ale, Anchor Old Foghorn, Three Floyds Behemoth, Stone Old Guardian, Bridgeport Old Knucklehead, Hair of the Dog Dog- gie Claws, Lagunitas Olde GnarleyWine, Smuttynose Barley- wine, Flying Dog Horn Dog
The craft beer information below was taken from my now offline beer blog Craft Brew Advocate. As such the dates represent when the information was posted there.
10/06/09 Corn Sugar – Also referred to as “brewer’s sugar,” the most fermentable and commonly used adjunct. Often used instead of the more expensive barley malts, and usually used for priming. Increases alcohol level without increasing body. Flaked Corn (Flaked Maize) – Provides depth of character to lighter beers. Increases alcohol but not flavor, color or body. Color is 0-1 SRM.
10/07/09 Belgian Candi sugar- A Belgian sugar used in brewing, especially stronger beers such as dubbel and trippel; basically this is an invert sugar, i.e. one that has been converted from sucrose to a mixture of fructose and glucose by heating with water and some acid, usually citric acid. It is used to boost the alcohol content without adding extra body to the beer and without forcing the yeast to produce invertase, which some drinkers claim adds an undesirable taste to the beer. Also used as a priming sugar, to aid in bottle-conditioning and carbonation, with the same benefits as listed above.
10/08/09 Some beer glassware info.: Snifter – Used for brandy and cognac, these wide-bowled and stemmed glasses with their tapered mouths are perfect for capturing the aromas of strong ales. Volumes range, but they all provide room to swirl and agitate volatiles. Goblet (or chalice) – Majestic pieces of work, ranging from delicate and long stemmed (Goblet) to heavy and thick walled (Chalice). The more delicate ones may also have their rims laced with silver or gold, while the heavy boast sculpture-like stems. Some are designed to maintain a 2-centimeter head. This is achieved by scoring the inside bottom of the glass, which creates a CO2 nucleation point, and a stream of eternal bubbles and perfect head retention as a result. Shaker Glass – otherwise known as a tumbler or todays American pint glass. This glass was never meant to be used for beer and does not benefit beer’s aroma, head retention, or complexity of flavors. However, since most people can not afford to own ever type of glass; shakers are good as default glasses.
10/9/09 Unpopular beer styles: Biere de Garde:: The Biere de Garde is golden to deep copper or light brown in color. They are moderate to medium in body. This style of beer is characterized by a toasted malt aroma, slight malt sweetness in flavor, and medium hop bitterness. Noble-type hop aromas and flavors should be low to medium. Fruity esters can be light to medium in intensity. Flavor of alcohol is evident. Earthy, cellar-like, musty aromas and flavors are okay. Diacetyl should not be perceived but chill haze is okay. Often bottle conditioned with some yeast character.
10/12/09 From Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher: Drinking a hoppy beer with spicy food, will only intensify the spicy heat in your mouth. For contrast to the hoppyness try rich and or sweet foods. One suggestion he gives is carrot cake.
10/15/09 (from Brew365.com) Wet hopping is the use of fresh hops that a have recently been picked. Hops are not hard to grow in most areas of the US. They are grown from a rhizome, which is a root-like ‘stick’ that is planted. Wet hopping is a fun and rewarding way of using home-grown ingredients in your beer. Because of the moisture content of fresh hops as compared to dried pellets, plugs, or whole hops you might get from a manufacturer, one ounce of fresh hops will impart much less bitterness than a comparable mass of the same variety that has been dried. Dry hopping is the process of adding hops into your beer after the onset of fermentation – either in the primary or secondry fermenter (if one is used). Because there is no boil, not bitterness will be imparted to the brew. However, the volatile oils that make up the aroma aspect of hops will be released into the beer. Usual amounts of hops are anywhere in the 1 to 2 oz range … but if you like hops, knock yourself out!
10/16/09 Cask ale or cask-conditioned beer is the term for unfiltered and unpasteurised beer which is conditioned (including secondary fermentation) and served from a cask without additional nitrogen or carbon dioxide pressure. Cask ale may also be referred to as real ale, a term coined by the Campaign for Real Ale, often now extended to cover bottle-conditioned beer as well.
10/17/09 In 1997, eight Trappist abbeys – six from Belgium (Orval, Chimay, Westvleteren, Rochefort, Westmalle and Achel), one from The Netherlands (Koningshoeven) and one from Germany (Mariawald) – founded the International Trappist Association (ITA) to prevent non-Trappist commercial companies from abusing the Trappist name. This private association created a logo that is assigned to goods (cheese, beer, wine, etc.) that respect precise production criteria. For the beers, these criteria are the following: 1) The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist abbey, by or under control of Trappist monks. 2) The brewery, the choices of brewing, and the commercial orientations must obviously depend on the monastic community. 3) The economic purpose of the brewery must be directed toward assistance and not toward financial profit.
10/18/19 Brewing Water (Beertown.org): Making up 90-95 percent of beer, water is an important ingredient in the brewing process. Tap water will work, but overly chlorinated water can result in harsh flavors in the finished beer. Chlorine can be removed by boiling or filtering, or you may choose to use bottled water. Factors such as mineral content and pH of brewing water can a have significant effect upon the final product, although these are of less concern in extract beers than in all grain beers. Certain minerals may be added to beer to achieve flavors found in beers brewed in certain areas of the world, for example the famous English pale ales of Burton-on-Trent are brewed with the very hard water found in that region. The more common mineral used in brewing include Calcium Sulfate (gypsum), Calcium Chloride, Sodium Chloride (table salt) and Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom salt).
10/19/09 Belgian IPA (BeerAdvocate): Inspired by the American India Pale Ale (IPA) and Double IPA, more and more Belgian brewers are brewing hoppy pale colored ales for the US market (like Chouffe & Urthel), and there’s been an increase of Belgian IPAs being brewed by American brewers. Generally, Belgian IPAs are considered too hoppy by Belgian beer drinkers. Various malts are used, but the beers of the style are finished with Belgian yeast strains (bottle-conditioned) and the hops employed tend to be American. You’ll generally find a cleaner bitterness vs. American styles, and a pronounced dry edge (very Belgian), often akin to an IPA crossed with a Belgian Tripel. Alcohol by volume is on the high side. Many examples are quite cloudy, and feature tight lacing, excellent retention, and fantastic billowy heads that mesmerize (thanks, in part, to the hops). Belgian IPA is still very much a style in development.
10/22/09 (Brew365.com) Amarillo Hops: Characteristics: Amarillo is a relatively new American hop variety that has been described as “super cascade.” The bitterness is between 5 and 11% AAU, making Amarillo a good hop for flavor and aroma additions. The flavor profile is very citrusy, especially leaning toward a distinct orange flavor and aroma. I also find Amarillo to be somewhat sweet until it mellows out in a beer. This hop was reportedly discovered and introduced by Virgil Gamache Farms Inc. and resulted as a mutation of another hop variety. Citra Hops Characteristics Citra is a new moderately-high acid (10-12%) US hop variety releaset sometime in 2008. Citra is a cross between several hop varieties including Hallertau Mittelfreuh, U.s. Tettnanger, E.K. Goldings, and other unknown varieties. The aroma is reported to be very fruity (citrus fruits especially.) Descriptors I have seen used include: grapefruit, lime, melon, gooseberry, lychee fruit.
10/24/09 Supporting your local brewery is one of the important part of being a craft beer drinker and or advocate. Please check out Supportyourlocalbrewery.com for information on how to get involved in Craft Beer Activism.
- Buy two of each beer: One to drink now and another to age.
- Store corked bottles upright (see article for full explanation.
- Put bottles in a cool (constant 50-55F) and dark area to prevent “skunked beer”
- Using a refrigerator is not recommended because it can dry out a cork.
10/21/09 Winter Warmer Description:
These malty sweet offerings tend to be a favorite winter seasonal. Big malt presence, both in flavor and body. The color ranges from brownish reds to nearly pitch black. Hop bitterness is generally low, leveled and balanced, but hop character can be pronounced. Alcohol warmth is not uncommon.
Many English versions contain no spices, though some brewers of spiced winter seasonal ales will slap “Winter Warmer” on the label. Those that are spiced, tend to follow the “wassail” tradition of blending robust ales with mixed spices, before hops became the chief “spice” in beer. American varieties many have a larger presences of hops both in bitterness and flavor.
11/23/09 Mashing is a step in the brewing process that combines crushed Malts with hot water in a mash tun to convert complex starches into simple sugars that are more readily fermented. There are many variations of mashing, but the single infusion mash described below is easily done with home equipment, and suitable for most popular beer styles. During the malting process barley grains develop many enzymes that are needed for mashing. These enzymes, when heated with water in the mash, react with the starches in the malt and produce maltose. Maltose is a favorite food for yeast during fermentation. After the mashing process, hot water is used to extract the sugars from the grain in a process called sparging to produce a sweet liquid called wort for brewing.
- Use a clean glass. A dirty glass, containing oils, dirt or residuals from a previous beer, may inhibit head creation and flavours.
- Hold your glass at a 45° angle. Pour the beer, targeting the middle of the slope of the glass. Don’t be afraid to pour hard or add some air between the bottle and glass.
- At the half-way point bring the glass at a 90° angle and continue to pour in the middle of the glass. This will induce the perfect foam head. And remember, having a head on a beer is a good thing. It releases the beer’s aromatics and adds to the overall presentation. You may also want to gradually add distance between the bottle and glass as you pour, to also inspire a good head. An ideal head should be 1″ to 1-1/2″. With bottled conditioned beers, that may have a considerable amount of yeast in the bottle, you may wish to watch closely as you pour … if you don’t like yeast in your poured beer. However, this is the highlight of some beers and actually wanted. Just note that the inclusion of yeast will alter the clearness and taste of your poured beer, and lively yeast is high in vitamins and nutrients!
Myth A “beer belly” is caused by drinking beer.
Fact A “beer belly” is caused by eating too much food. No beer or other alcohol beverage is necessary. According to research conducted at University College London, Beer has been falsely blamed for expanding waistlines. The study (conducted in the Czech Republic, which has the world’s highest per capita beer consumption,) analyzed the beer drinking habits and weight of more than 2000 men and women. According to the results, light to moderately heavy beer drinkers were no more overweight than non-beer drinkers. Because of beer’s high calorie and carb content, it was previously blamed for adding extra pounds and causing the dreaded Beer Belly. But researchers warn, the study is not a license to consume beer carelessly. As with most any simple pleasure, enjoy your brew in moderation.
12/21/09: Sorry for not updating this page for a while here are some cool craft beer videos that I found recently:
12/28/09 Continuing with the beer related videos here are two more great ones:
Alcohol By Volume
Alcohol by volume (ABV) simply represents what portion of the total volume of liquid is alcohol. Our liquid of choice is, of course, beer. And to determine the ABV of a beer, a brewer typically uses what’s called a hydrometer, which is an instrument that aids in measuring the density of liquid in relation to water (it essentially free-floats in a cylinder or liquid). The hydrometer will be calibrated to read 1.000 in water (at 60°F), and the denser the liquid (example: add sugar to the liquid), the higher the hydrometer reading.
Okay, so how does this relate to beer? Well, before yeast cells are introduced to ferment beer, the liquid is called “wort (pronounced wert),” and it’s full of all kinds of sugars that were previously extracted from the grain. A brewer will take a hydrometer measurement of the wort (at 60°F) to determine what’s called the original gravity (OG). Then yeast is pitched into the wort, and fermentation begins. As the yeast cells eat the sugar in the wort, they create two wonderful by-products: carbonation (CO2) and alcohol. And once the brewer has determined that our hungry yeast have had enough (could be days, weeks or months), s/he’ll go ahead and pull another hydrometer reading (at 60°F) and record what’s called the final gravity (FG).
Notice that all measurements were taken at 60°F. That’s because the temperature of the liquid will impact the hydrometers’ measurement of the liquid, and the hydrometer was calibrated with water at 60°F. So in order to maintain controlled calculations … you get it. Otherwise you’d need to make adjustments in calculations, and we don’t want to worry about that.
Calculating the ABV
Say our brewer crafted a high-alcohol beer. The OG measured at 1.080, and the beer stopped fermentation with a FG measurement of 1.011. Simply subtract the FG from the OG and multiply by 131.
1.080 – 1.011 = 0.069 x 131 = 9.039%
So we’ve got a 9 percent alcohol by volume beer. Easy!
Check out the following videos that I’ve watched and enjoyed recently.
- Series of home brewing instructional videos release by the Brewer’s Association on their YouTube Channel.
- History of Allagash Brewing and background story behind many of their brews: click here
- Brewers Assocation Releases Top Breweries of 2009
- Two beer books that I’ve read and recommend to all: 1. Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher 2. The Brewmaster’s Table by Garrett Oliver
Home Brewing: Some info. on decoction mashing which is good for brewing warmer weather styles like pilsners and wheat beers.
I recently asked Charlie Papazian, president of the Brewer’s Assocation: What causes the vapor or “smoke” that rises from a beer bottle upon opening? and he answered “That smoke when cap is popped is actually supercooled air from sudden pressure differential.”
Have recently brewed a witbier I thought I’d share some good info. with you that I found about what makes wheat beer special. click here
New Home Brewing Video Blog: Brewing TVVodpod videos no longer available.
Wheat malt’s characteristics have important consequences in brewing, especially in wort production. Wheat mashes are considerably more troublesome than malt mashes, and sticky mashes and slow run-offs are the rule. Those brewers fortunate enough to have upward-infusion mash vessels and rake-equipped lauter tuns will have a much easier time than most of us who struggle along using infusion mash tuns that were perfectly satisfactory until we started brewing wheat beer.
For the brewer with a typical infusion mash tun, wheat brewing is often a slow and laborious process. What follows is a distillation of the experience and advice of several experienced wheat brewers. You may not choose to use all these techniques, but be aware of them – you may need them.Try to avoid grists that contain more than 50% wheat malt and large amounts of grist that produce a deep mash bed, at least until you are experienced and comfortable with wheat mashes. Wheat mashes are so sticky and generally gloppy that it’s a good idea to keep them on the thin side, at least 1 bbl of mash liquor per 100 lb of grist. Use plenty of foundation water – at least 2 in. – over the false bottom plates. Mash in a proportion of barley malt first to ensure that some husk rests over the false bottom. Wheat malt can tend to ball up, especially if you don’t have a premasher to do the really hard work for you. Be sure to mix the wheat and barley malt together as uniformly as possible; any layer or clump of wheat malt will blind the area below it and block run-off.After conversion at your preferred temperature and time, you might consider remixing the mash with very hot water to raise the temperature to 76-78 degrees C (168-172 degrees F). The increased temperature will reduce the viscosity of the wort and mash and make run-off much easier, but it’s an awful lot of work. To do this, heat an appropriate amount of liquor to boiling in the kettle, then underlet into the mash tun and stir like a madman.For breweries equipped with mash vessels and rakes in the lauter tun, working with wheat is much easier. Thorough mashing-in is eased by the agitator in the mash vessel. A short proteolysis rest at 50-52 degrees C (122-125 degrees F) will help run-off by breaking down some of the high molecular weight proteins and gums without excessively degrading foam performance. High mash-off temperatures (76-78 degrees C or 168-172 degrees F) are again beneficial in reducing wort viscosity. In the lauter tun, use the rakes liberally to keep the bed open and draining well. Rake systems that provide a lifting action close to the false bottom help prevent clogging of the slots and are useful in wheat beer brewing. Home brewers can rake and grain bed easily using a kitchen or table knife. Because the danger of leaching out husk flavor is reduced, you can use hotter sparge water than usual, up to 80 degrees C (176 degrees F), to reduce wort viscosity, but by all means harden or acidify your sparge water as usual. Wheat mashes compact all too easily, so sparge and lauter more slowly and carefully than usual to prevent a set mash. It is common for wheat mashes to take up to 50% longer to sparge and lauter than normal mashes.Regardless of your mashing equipment, wheat worts are turbid and will never clarify as well as normal worts, so recirculate only enough to get the particles out, usually 10-15 min. The high protein content of wheat wort means that the hot break in the kettle is quite spectacular and large amounts of trub are deposited in the whirlpool, so be careful in drawing off the hot wort. Cold break volumes are also relatively large.Wheat beer fermentations using conventional ale yeasts proceed normally; some brewers feel that wheat proteins are beneficial to yeast nutrition. Excessive foaming may occur in fermentors with insufficient headspace, in which case silicone antifoam agents (available from specialty brewery suppliers) can be used to advantage.6/17/10The International Bittering Units scale, or simply IBU scale, provides a measure of the bitterness of beer, which is provided by the hops used during brewing. Bittering units are measured through the use of a spectrophotometer and solvent extraction. This technique was adopted at the same time as another method based on measuring the concentration (in milligrams per liter; parts per million w/v) of isomerized α acids in a beer, causing some confusion among small-scale brewers. The American Society of Brewing Chemists, in the introduction to its methods on measuring bitterness, points out some differences between the results of the two methods:
While the results of the IAA [isomerized α acids] methods are practically identical to those obtained by the [I]BU method for beer brewed with fresh hops, the IAAs of beer brewed with old or poorly stored hops, and with certain special hop extracts, can be significantly lower than the [I]BU figure.
The bittering effect is less noticeable in beers with a high quantity of malt, so a higher IBU is needed in heavier beers to balance the flavor. For example, an Imperial Stout may have an IBU of 50, but will taste less bitter than an English Bitter with an IBU of 30, because the latter beer uses much less malt than the former. The technical limit for IBU’s is around 100; some have tried to surpass this number, but there is no real gauge after 100 IBUs when it comes to taste threshold.
- Belgian Lambics: 11–23
- Blonde ale: 15–30
- Kölsch: 18–25
- Märzen/Oktoberfest: 18–25
- Ordinary English bitter: 20–35
- Porter: 20–40
- Brown ale: 15–25, with North American styles higher, 25–45
- Bohemian-style Pilsener: 30–45, sometimes it can range up to 100 (e.g. German Bitterpils)
- India pale ale: 40 or higher
- An Irish stout: 25–60 (e.g. Guinness ~45 IBU)
A formula craft brewers use to estimate IBU is:
- , where
- W refers to the weight of the hops used,
- A refers to the alpha acid percentage, which is influenced by many factors, including cultivation method, species, and time of year — hops are often sold labeled with this percentage
- U is the percentage of alpha acid that is actually used during the boiling process
- V means the volume of the wort,
- Kis a constant factor that adjusts the measurement to account for the units used.
There are several different methods for finding U, which can yield very different results. Generally, U increases with longer boiling times and decreases with higher boil density.
6/30/10 – Growing your own hops
Here are some informative videos I found with useful information on growing your own hops.
Here are a couple videos about the history of Dogfish Head and Allagash
Wild Yeast (info. taken from wyeastlab.com)
Brewing beer with wild yeast and bacteria adds a new level of complexity to an already complex process. Making beer with these specialty cultures is less precise and much less predictable than brewing with a single yeast strain. The rewards however can be tremendous if a brewer has patience.
The most important factor to keep in mind is that these cultures take time to fully develop and do their jobs. A good lambic or sour style beer usually takes 1 to 2 years to fully develop. The temperature at which the beer is fermented and then stored will play a large role in determining how quickly the characteristic aromas, flavors and acidity develop.
Growing and Managing Wild Yeast and Bacteria
Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Saccharomyces carlsbergensis are, in many modern brewers’ minds, the only desirable microorganisms in the brewing process. For the vast majority of beer styles, this is true. There are, however, a few styles of beer that require what are considered spoilage organisms to create the desired profile.
In the traditional setting nature acts as the source of the desired cultures. Cool ships and fermenters that are open to the air allow a host of microbes to enter the wort. It is the specific combination of these microbes and their sequence of activity in the fermentation that creates the unique and complex profile of lambic and sour beers.
The following is a list of the cultures involved in true lambic fermentations and the sequence of activity:
- Enteric bacteria (3 to 7 days)
- Kloeckera apiculata (3 to 7 days)
- Saccharomyces species (2 weeks)
- Lactic acid bacteria (3 to 4 months)
- Brettanomyces yeast (8 months)
- Oxidative yeasts (8 months)
Each one of these groups of organisms adds some character to the finished beer; however three groups in particular do the lion’s share of the fermentation and contribute the bulk of the flavor characteristics. Typically, it is impractical to try and manage all of these cultures. The enteric bacteria and the Kloeckera apiculata are not readily available and contribute the least amount of character to the final beer. The Oxidative yeasts are also not readily available and also contribute very little to the final profile of the beer. That leaves the Saccharomyces yeast, the lactic acid bacteria, and the Brettanomyces yeast.
The bulk of the available sugars in the wort are fermented by a Saccharomyces strain. In modern lambic brewing, the rate at which fermentation begins is much quicker than in a traditional lambic. The brewer has a large number of choices on how to begin the fermentation. The easiest choice is to use a prepared lambic culture that contains the Saccharomyces culture along with the lactic acid and Brettanomyces cultures. The other choice is to use any other commercially available Saccharomyces culture. If the prepared lambic culture (Wyeast 3278) is used, it is important to keep the primary fermentation temperature relatively low (68-72°F) in order to keep the lactic acid cultures in check. If the temperatures get too high, the bloom of the lactic acid cultures can inhibit the Saccharomyces cultures.
If the brewer chooses not to use a prepared lambic culture, then any Saccharomyces culture can be used for primary fermentation. The primary fermentation should be allowed to progress for about two weeks before adding the lactic acid cultures. This allows plenty of time for the primary culture to establish itself and complete the bulk of the fermentation.
When the main fermentation is complete and the Saccharomyces population in suspension begins to decrease, the lactic acid bacteria start to increase in population. If a prepared lambic culture was not used, this is the time to add the lactic acid bacteria. It is important to note that Lactic Acid Bacteria is very sensitive to even moderate levels of IBU. Keep IBU levels below 10. The lactic acid cultures responsible for souring a lambic beer are: Pediococcus and Lactobacillus (Wyeast 5733 and 5335 respectively). The temperature of the fermentation should be allowed to rise to allow the lactic acid cultures to establish themselves. The sourness will continue to increase for up to 2 years.
The final players in the homebrewed version of a lambic beer are the Brettanomyces yeast. The available cultures are Brettanomyces bruxellensis and Brettanomyces lambicus (Wyeast 5112 and 5526 respectively). If a prepared lambic culture has not been used, the Brettanomyces cultures can be added anytime after primary fermentation is complete. The Brettanomyces cultures are slow growers that are able to ferment complex sugars that Saccharomyces is not able to utilize. These cultures do not add a significant amount of alcohol to the beer, but they are the primary contributors to the aroma of the finished beer. The characteristic horsey aroma and flavor are by-products of Brettanomyces metabolism. These cultures also produce large amounts of ethyl lactate and ethyl acetate along with some acetic acid. These cultures can remain active for 16 months.
For the home brewer, the prepared lambic culture is the best choice for producing a great lambic beer. The cultures contained in the lambic blend will perform their jobs in sequence as long as the primary fermentation temperature is kept under control. If a brewer is looking to make a Berliner weisse or a sour brown, then the lactic acid cultures should be added with the pitching yeast in primary fermentation. Once again, it is important to keep IBU levels below 10.
The lactic acid cultures and the Brettanomyces cultures are both slow growing cultures that have complex nutritional requirements which makes growing and maintaining the cultures problematic. It is extremely important that brewers using these cultures understand that the beer will take 1 to 2 years to develop the desired characteristics.
Beer Freshness / Bottling Dates
While shopping at my local beer stores I often find it hard to interpret the codes on the bottles to find out when the beers I want to purchase were bottled and or until when will they taste fresh. One site that I’ve used to decipher these codes is Fresh Beer Only! I hope this link helps you pick which bottles to purchase next time to visit your local beer store or beer bar. Cheers!
American-Style India Black Ale
American-style India black ale has medium high to high hop bitterness, flavor and aroma with medium-high alcohol content, balanced with a medium body. The style is further characterized by a moderate degree of caramel malt character and medium to strong dark roasted malt flavor and aroma. High astringency and high degree of burnt roast malt character should be absent. Fruity, floral and herbal character from hops of all origins may contribute to aroma and flavor.
Original Gravity (oPlato) 1.056-1.075 (14-18.2 oPlato) ● Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (oPlato) 1.012-1.018 (3-4.5 oPlato) ● Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 5-6% (6 -7.5%) ● Bitterness (IBU) 50-70 ● Color SRM (EBC) 25+ (50+ EBC)
Check out this article on the above style
- Beer Advocate description: Often released as a fall seasonal, Pumpkin Ales are quite varied. Some brewers opt to add hand-cut pumpkins and drop them in the mash, while others use puree or pumpkin flavoring. These beers also tend to be spiced with pumpkin pie spices, like: ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice. Pumpkin Ales are typically mild, with little to no bitterness, a malty backbone, with some spice often taking the lead. Many will contain a starchy, slightly thick-ish, mouthfeel too. In our opinion, best versions use real pumpkin, while roasting the pumpkin can also add tremendous depth of character for even better results, though both methods are time-consuming and tend to drive brewmasters insane. Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 4.0-7.0%
- Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Detailed guidelines: rather than copying and pasting them click here
- Brewers Association description: Pumpkin beer is a popular fall seasonal in which pumpkin is added to the mash. This is one of the oldest American-style ales originating when colonists, lacking a reliable source of malt, used whatever fermentables were available for brewing. Some pumpkin flavor is present in most pumpkin ales, but most of the flavor comes from pumpkin pie spices added late in the boil.
- Brewers Association style guidelines:
Field beers are any beers using vegetables as an adjunct in either the mash, kettle, primary or secondary fermentation, providing obvious (ranging from subtle to intense), yet harmonious, qualities. Vegetable qualities should not be overpowered by hop character. If a vegetable (such as chili pepper) has an herbal or spice quality it should be classified as herb/spice beer category. A statement by the brewer explaining what vegetables are used is essential in order for fair assessment in competitions. If this beer is a classic style with vegetables, the brewer should also specify the classic style. Note: If no Pumpkin beer category exists in a competition, then Pumpkin beers should be entered in this category.
Original Gravity (oPlato) 1.030-1.110 (7.5-26 oPlato) ● Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (oPlato) 1.006-1.030 (1.5-7.5 oPlato) ● Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 2-10.5% (2.5-13.1%) ● Bitterness (IBU) 5-70 ● Color SRM (EBC) 5-50 (10-100 EBC)
Pumpkin beers are any beers using pumpkins (Cucurbito pepo) as an adjunct in either mash, kettle, primary or secondary fermentation, providing obvious (ranging from subtle to intense), yet harmonious, qualities. Pumpkin qualities should not be overpowered by hop character. These may or may not be spiced or flavored with other things. A statement by the brewer explaining the nature of the beer is essential for fair assessment in competitions. If this beer is a classic style with pumpkin, the brewer should also specify the classic style. Original Gravity (oPlato) 1.030-1.110 (7.5-26 oPlato) ● Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (oPlato) 1.006-1.030 (1.5-7.5 oPlato) ● Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 2-9.5% (2.5-12%) ● Bitterness (IBU) 5-70 ● Color SRM (EBC) 5-50 (10-100 EBC)
Tip: Once you’ve gotten a feel for your personal preferences for craft beer it may be helpful to keep a list of beers you’ve tried. In that list you can accompany the name of each beer (e.g. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale) with its style (e.g. American Pale Ale) or any other bit of information about each beer that will help you remember what you though of it. As of 10/18/10 this is my list: Beers Tried List Yet another list which I recommend to those who cellar (age) beers is a list of all the beers in your cellar and how many of each you have there. I have yet to put one together, but I plan on compiling my list ASAP.
Fall / Winter Seasonal Beers
This time a year is my favorite time for seasonally released craft beers. Here are some styles I recommend trying this Fall / Winter and what I like about them.
Pumkpin Ale – Nowadays this style has really caught on and many craft breweries brew their interpretations of this style. Most are brewed with a combination of pumpkin pie spices such as nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, and all spice. While some are brewed with actual roasted pumpkin, most are brewed with pumpkin puree. I like pairing pumpkin ales with thanksgiving dinner. The spices will complement turkey, cranberry sauce, and sweet potatoes. The pumkpin and pumpkin pie crust flavors will par seamlessly with desserts such as pumpkin and pecan pie. Before pairing these beers with food make sure to try a good amount of them to see which ones you enjoy most.
Winter Warmer – Also brewed with spices, these beers vary greatly based on the brewers aim for brewing a spiced winter ale. Usually the spiciness of the beer is balanced by a malt sweetness reminiscent of caramel, molasses, and or roasty flavors.
Imperial Stouts – While this style can be drank year round by craft beer drinkers. The higher alcohol content and rich complex of imperial stouts lend themselves to being paired with hearty cold weather meals and desserts. These beers are best sipped on a cold night when you’re in the mood for a dark chocolate tasting beverage that will warm you up and help you enjoy the festive atmosphere of the colder months of the year.
Nowadays many choose breweries choose to age their imperial stouts in bourbon barrels. The barrels usually contribute flavors of oak and vanilla which complement the dark chocolate flavors in pre-aged beer.
Here’s a cool video of bourbon barrels being filled with Schlafly Imperial Stout
Are you thinking of brewing a spiced holiday ale? Check out this link for some cool information on brewing with spices.