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HomeBrewTalk.com - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Community.

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Comparing Homebrewing Software

The pioneering American homebrewers of the 1970s were on their own in many respects. “If you wanted to learn to brew you had to find someone who knew what they were doing or read a book,” wrote Stanley Kaminski in his article for homebrewsupply.com, The Complete History of Homebrew. The early homebrewers were intrepid do-it-yourself types with a common passion for beer. Homebrewing as we now know it in the United States began in 1978 when President Jimmy Carter signed into law HR1337, which allowed brewing at home nationwide. The World Wide Web didn’t become publicly available until August 1991. Homebrewing and computer science have been booming side by side ever since. Today you can hop online and watch video on how to brew. You can also make use of software apps that help with everything from recipe formation to inventory control. The rapid simultaneous growth of both homebrewing and computer science makes it tough to keep up with all the developments, so what follows is, at...

Harvesting Wild Yeast

Generally it’s nice to brew with predictable ingredients in controlled conditions. You purchase your ingredients, follow your process, pitch your yeast, and leave your beer in a temperature stable environment. After some time the yeast consumes all the sugars and leaves behind its own flavor characters and some alcohol. I decided that I’d carry out a little experiment to mix the process up a little. I wanted to catch some wild yeast. Yeast grows on a number of plants and also drifts through the air. In the old days people fermented things without even knowing what was causing it. Later brewer’s yeast was isolated and then carefully selected and bred to the different strains we use today. There is however no reason we cannot make use of wild yeast in our beers and see what we end up with at the end. Wild yeast tends to have a particular character and doesn’t ferment as clean as some commercial yeasts. Some beers rely on this unique character to create their particular flavor...

Emulating Bourbon Barrel Aging

If you love barrel aged beer like I do, you have probably thought about brewing a big beer and adding those wonderful barrel flavors to your beer. Aging your beer on wood will add some complexity to your beer and introduce some great new flavors. Aging in a barrel is the most recognized way to get these flavors. Large wood barrels that were used in the distilling industry are very popular for re-use and aging beer. If you are member of a homebrew club or have a big brew capacity, you could get one of these barrels and age a beer in it, just like the pros. I found they are now available in all sizes from 5-80 gallons. But, it’s still an investment and they have a limited lifetime. The more times they are used, the less flavor you will instill in your beer and the higher chance the barrel will at some point get infected. This is a 5 gallon bourbon barrel we picked up for about $100. We have already done a RIS and a Wee Heavy in it. Now, we have a barley wine aging in it. There are a...

Brewing Session Beers

It wasn’t that long ago that if you had offered homebrewers and craft beer drinkers a low-impact, low-alcohol beer with approachable flavor, they would have scoffed. Real beer was meant to be big, bold, adventurous, and preferably have a sizable ABV (Alcohol by Volume). Oh, how times have changed. These days, beer lovers recognize that there is a welcome place at the table for flavorful, low-impact beers that can be enjoyed over a long session without worries about going overboard. Brews like this actually have a long and rich history, with the very concept of “session ales” or “session beers” springing from the British pub scene. They were popularized in the U.S. craft scene thanks in no small part to Founder’s All-Day IPA, among others, and now they are ubiquitous. But before we get into that we’ve got to answer the big question: What the heck is a session beer, anyway? Defining the Session Beer There is some debate and wiggle room on the specifics, but the basic gist...

How to Brew beer in an hour (or less)

Let’s face it, most of us have jobs and other obligations that can sometimes make it hard to find the time to brew. So, brewing usually happens on the weekends. But what happens when life gets in the way, weekends fill up, but you still want to brew beer? Here’s a method to simplify the brewing process to allow the homebrewer to brew a batch of beer in one hour. This method was inspired by brewing Kombucha, which is a fermented tea. Props also need to go James Spencer of Basic Brewing Radio, who helped popularize the idea of the 15-minute boil. In order to successfully brew a batch of beer in one hour, a few traditional homebrewing “rules” have to be broken. It should go without saying that the process uses extract with steeped grains. Secondly, the process uses 2-gallon batches - this lessens the time it takes to heat and cool the liquid. Third, it uses a 15-minute boil, and with such a short boil, you have to throw out the rules on hop additions. Once you accept these departures...

Malt Experiment for a Black IPA — Blackprinz vs Midnight Wheat

Being a fan of hoppy beers, I’ve tasted a lot of different expressions of IPA, IIPA, Session IPA, and in it sboom, the specialty IPA’s like White IPA, Red IPA, Rye IPA and, one of my favorites of that list, Black IPA or Cascadian Dark Ale. This style, according to the BJCP Guidelines, was popularized in the early-mid 2000s. It was a style that boomed (like now the NEIPA) and every brewery was creating some batches of those and selling them like hot bread. Suddenly, the style started to go down in the national numbers, until it was just turned into a seasonal beer with a very well planned volume, so it wouldn’t go to waste. In Mexico City, you cannot find a very good example of the style, because the style never was popularized like in the USA. If you could find a bottle coming from there, it wasn’t fresh because of all importation logistics and the hops were a little subdued. Being a style that wasn’t available, I tried to brew one just for me with a lot of hoppiness in there...

How to Brew A Crowd Pleaser

We have all been there. There is an event coming up that you want, or have been asked, to brew a beer for, and you want to brew up something that sets itself apart from the light lagers that so many are fond of while remaining accessible to those same light lager drinkers. It is a delicate balance, but with some forethought, you can brew an ale that delights the palate of everyone at that next big event, regardless of what they normally drink. What Makes an Ale a Crowd Pleaser? Now, when we say a crowd pleaser, we know what we really mean; a beer that our macro-lager drinking friends and family will enjoy, while packing in character that craft beer drinkers will appreciate, striking a nice balance between the two. Aside from style, which we will get to in the next section, there are four main characteristics that make for a beer that will be loved by all. Light - This is perhaps the most critical factor because one of the chief complaints about craft beer that I hear from BMC...

Finally! New Brewing System That Can Brew A Single Pint of Homebrew

The world of automated brewing systems has exploded since the launch of the Pico Brew in 2013, automated brewing systems have been popping up like fruit flies in a house made out of bananas. Some big name examples like the BeerDroid / BeerFlo, the MiniBrew, IGulu, the Brewie and all the variations of the Pico line. However, there was one system that really caught my attention for a few reasons. It's called the BrewBro and it brews a single pint of beer at a time. What makes this brewing system unique, unlike the others previously listed, is that it brews a single pint of beer at a time. Founder, Ted Bronson, gave us a first-hand look at the BrewBro. Ted Bronson on the BrewBro Brewing System The BrewBro is a revolutionary brewing system that we're launching in April of 2018. What makes this system so groundbreaking is 3 factors. First, it has three phase fermentation. This means that you have your standard fermentation, a secondary fermentation, and an optional third phase; cold...

Brewing Big Batches: Implications & Troubleshooting

When I started the hobby and made some research about recipes, equipment and raw materials, I found that almost everything was in some kind of codified volume : 5 gallons. The recipes I found were for 5 gallons of beer with their respective amount of grains, hop additions and yeast. The equipment was mysteriously listed for 5 gallons, like the carboys, the coolers for the mashing and the fermenters. I thought it was a holy number and always followed the instructions: everything for 5 gallons. Then the time came where I could start buying new equipment and found a boil kettle that was 9 gallons. I thought it was weird, because everything I had was 5 gallons and those 4 extra gals were for more free space and to avoid boil overs (the addition of hops when the wort is boiling and you don’t have some space in the kettle is a headache). After that, I started tweaking around the recipe, the efficiency of the system and realized that I could tweak another variable: the final volume. I...

Three Areas of Consideration When Expanding Your Home Brewery.

Are you totally obsessed with brewing? Are you ready to expand your homebrew operation past the beginner stages? In that case, you’ll want to seriously consider three areas of your procedure: milling, fermenting and bottling. Expanding Your Home Brewery: Milling A grain mill is one piece of equipment that could last us the rest of our brewing careers, so it’s useful to purchase the best possible product to suit our needs. Let’s start by discussing the fact that we cannot mill grain perfectly without the proper piece of machinery. We can attempt to crush the kernels by blending, smacking them with a wine bottle, crushing with a rolling pin or pounding them in a mortar and pestle, but the result will be disappointing. If the kernels are too thoroughly smashed, there could be a large amount of powder in our grain bed, which can lead to a stuck sparge. If the kernels aren’t crushed enough, our efficiency will fall dramatically. There are two main decisions when selecting a grain mill...

Gelatin Fining - Cold Versus Warm

In my last article about gelatin, I explained how it works (physically and chemically) and proved that a short boil does no harm to it, busting a common brewing myth. After multiple positive responses, I decided to do an experiment to bring more light into another commonly discussed, gelatin related topic: “Do you have to cold crash before gelatin fining?” While with the last topic, opinions were quite polarized, some people saying boiling gelatin is a disaster, others being on my side, with this one, most people agree cold crashing is recommended. Let’s look how much of a difference it really makes! What Exactly is a Chill Haze? Every homebrewer knows that sometimes, after putting a warm bottle of apparently clear beer into a refrigerator, the beer becomes hazy as it cools. Generally, some proteins are insoluble in beer, while others are soluble up to a certain concentration if certain conditions are met. The insoluble ones are not a problem, as most of them settle during...

Hefeweizen Yeast Selection Experiment

One of the beers that made me enter the hobby of brewing was a nice and fluffy Paulaner hefe-eeissbier. It was the first hefeweizen I tasted and I fell in love instantly with the style: phenolic, estery, wheaty, refreshing, bubbly… simply delicious. Since then I tried to brew some examples of the style, using the materials I had at hand; good wheat and barley malts, good German hops and some dried yeast (WB-06). It didn’t go well. The beer was crystal clear (an accidental kristallweizen?) and the classic banana and clove were very, very subtle. Not my favorite brew. Then I tried another yeast, Lallemand’s Munich. Same results. I live in Mexico City so liquid strains were hard to find. I was really frustrated because I was brewing nice blondes, American wheats, IPA, stouts and so on, but couldn’t brew my favorite style… Until I found a guy that could bring me a good vial of White Labs bavarian weisse Yeast (WLP 380). I was so excited that the next day after I had in my hands the...

Making Carrot Wine

We’re in the depths of winter and folks might erroneously assume that fresh wine making produce was incontrovertibly thin on the ground. You’re invited to think again. So, with the wine cellar in likely need of substantive input, where does that leave us with several idle months ahead before the dandelions even begin to display their splendid heads? How about a canned pineapple wine? Fair enough. Maybe a couple of gallons of skeeter pee takes your fancy. Bottled lemon juice happens to be in the shops at this time of year. Then again, maybe not! The winter vegetables are a somewhat prosaic candidate for experimentation, yet these uninspired items can nonetheless produce a wholesome wine. For no good reason they appear to somehow consistently languish at the bottom of the lower division and often fall below the radar when compared with homemade country wines derived from fruit. That is a shame because a well balanced and aged parsnip or marrow wine is definitely a tipple to savor if...

Aspects of Brewing a Wheat Beer

With half of my family originating from Bavaria, I’ve been exposed to wheat beers from a young age, and would often proudly pour them for members of my family. I remember the unusual glasses, the lively bubbles, and the golden color of the cloudy liquid underneath a thick creamy head. It was a skill to pour a Hefeweizen correctly. Too quick and you end up with 80% foam, too slow and you end up with sad, headless drink. Wheat beers are a staple in many parts of Germany, with a variety of styles to choose from depending on region. Wheat beers also have some unique brewing aspects, which make them a great beer for homebrewers to experiment with, as they respond noticeably to a number of variables. Wheat Beer Profile Wheat beers, or Weizen (German for wheat) as they are known in Germany, are a very unique style of beer. There are hardly any hop aromas, no discernible hop bitterness, just a rich maltiness and the flavors the special yeast imparts on the beer. It is a very carbonated and...

Climbing Gravity-Taking a High Gravity Beer From Grain To Glass

When I first started Home Brewing my first thought was not to brew some sophisticated Belgian Ale using only imported ingredients from some monastery high in the Alps, but rather I centered my aim to something more American. My aim was to brew something that showcased the truly American ideal of bigger is better. I wanted to hit an Original Gravity(OG) of at least 1.100 and still end up with a beer that I could drink, albeit a bit slower. Considerations When Brewing High Gravity Beers The result is a big, full, sweet stout that I enjoyed very much. The coconut faded over a few months but was just right when fresh. When I do this one again, I may increase the coconut to 3 lbs to help the coconut flavor and aroma linger a bit longer so I can let it age. The grain bill will probably stay the same as I experiment and try some other fruit or coffee to see how they affect the overall flavor profile. In the end, brewing a big beer is a very rewarding experience, you just have reward...

Brewing A Braggot - Meads Combined with Malted Barley

Some of you, when you saw this article knew exactly what you were going to see. Others of you, probably saw the word braggot and wondered, “The heck’s a braggot?” I admit, less than a year ago, I fell squarely into the second camp. Before I started home brewing and reading books about the process, I had never heard of this wonderful hybrid of beer and mead. I simply have never seen a commercially produced one and, looking it up right now, I just am not seeing too many. It’s lousy because there just isn’t much else like a nice braggot on the shelf. However, that's the benefit of being a homebrewer, we get to make whatever we want. So if you like beer and mead, we’re going to be making a modern version of mankind’s oldest drinks. The best way to think of the flavor is the maltiness of beer with the essence of honey, without the pure sweetness that comes with it. With this kind of base, the sky's the limit as to potential flavor combinations you can do. Let’s start considering with...

Do You Really Ruin Gelatin If You Boil It? Experiment Time.

I have been brewing for some 5 years, 2 of those also as a head-brewer at a local brewery. I don’t have any official education supporting my brewing skills, I gained all of them myself, reading forums, books and articles like this, but most importantly, by experimenting. The information you get from other homebrewers can be useful, but as you probably know, you must take it with a pinch of salt. So many times you read posts from people who are claiming something, but then, after some time, you find out they were completely wrong. Sometimes the wrong information just robs you of your time, sometimes it ruins a brew or two, or slows down your progress. Some of these rumors are so widely spread that the counter-information stands no chance. One of the very common rumors is that you mustn’t boil your gelatin solution (that many of us use as a clearing agent), because you DENATURE the proteins present and it no longer does its job. However, as everybody knows, it is a good idea to...

Getting Maple Syrup Flavor & Working with Bacon

Maple syrup is a fully fermentable sugar, so brewing with maple syrup will contribute to the alcohol content of your beer, but not necessarily the flavor. Whether you add the maple syrup to the mash, boil or bottle, brewing yeast will remove all of that natural taste. Luckily a few little tricks can bring the earthy-sweet taste of maple to your next brew.

Now you can make maple-bacon beer BUT remember that simplicity will yield the best results. Want to Read More About MapleS yrup? Check Out This Article » Oh, and pure maple syrup, the lighter the grade, the better. I’ve told many a homebrewer about this technique, and it works just fine, giving good enough results to win numerous ribbons in homebrew competitions. It’s best to bottle from the keg before you’ve carbonated the beer, so right after you’ve transferred to the keg is the best time. You can bottle cold and carbonated beer, but beware as the addition of maple syrup will cause gushing before you get a chance to cap...

Starting & Maintaining a Homebrew Club

Starting a homebrew club can be as casual and informal as a few friends getting together for a bottle share in a garage. Or, it can be a fully formed organization with a mission statement, membership guidelines and a board of members with specific roles. The great thing about starting a homebrew club is there are no rules! You can model your club after an existing club or you can completely make it up as you go. Whatever you decide, starting a homebrew club is a lot of fun and can come with many perks. As a founding member and current Vice President of the SoCal Cerveceros, I can share how we got started and what we do to maintain and grow our homebrew club. Like so many first time homebrewers, I found myself searching online forums and visiting numerous sites trying to learn whatever I could. I bought a starter kit online and jumped right into brewing 1 gallon batches in my kitchen. With the exception of an ex-coworker from a decade earlier, I had never met another homebrewer. No...

Formulating Balanced Beer Recipes

I’ve spent a lot of time researching recipes for homebrewing, and everybody claims to have the best recipe that you need to try for yourself. I find this optimism refreshing since online reviews and comments are usually negative, but I also think homebrewers tend to be too optimistic about their creations simply because they made it. He who chops his own firewood gets twice the warmth right? A lot of times I’m looking for how much of a specific ingredient to use and it’s fun to see how different everybody’s threshold is for each ingredient. I know I’ve brewed beers that feature strawberries, rye, chocolate, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, or just an excessive amount of hops, and many times I don’t get enough out of that featured ingredient. On the other hand you have some beers that use too much of an ingredient and overpower your senses (I’m looking your way Christmas ales). Both scenarios can be frustrating, but there is a kind of beer that delivers on its promises without...
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