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Brewing Process

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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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

Gluten Free Holiday Beers

It’s colder out, spirits are high, and it’s so freaking DARK out! Things are getting spiced out the wazoo, there’s pie everywhere, turkeys ducks and chickens are getting bird-centipede-ed, it’s bedlam- and on top of that, the in-laws… Got anything for me? YOU BETCHA! There are so many ways to envision holiday brewing, from flavors to themes to gift basket ideas- the list goes on. This is the one true season where is really is worth saying FU to the Reinheitsgebot- forgive me Beer gods. Not only do people give you the benefit of the doubt with your flavors, but they’re down to try something they would likely poo-poo in other seasons- so seize your moment. Spices and Styles for Holiday Beers Pumpkin Spice Holiday Beers: I might lose some of the audience here. It happens I get it… but it’s worth a try once. The methodology would include adding ground spices to the boil, typically under 15 minutes, very similar to the way you add coriander to a wit style beer. Where some differ in...

Water Profiles of Popular Beers

Home brewers take great care when constructing a recipe for aroma, appearance, flavor, and mouthfeel. Almost always, water chemistry is an after-thought mainly because it is confusing. I hope to shed some light on how breweries basically have similar thoughts on addressing water chemistry. There are some fairly well established rules of thumb you can apply as well. Some Basic Concepts of Beer Water Profiles Water chemistry is an advanced topic. The explanations provided on water chemistry are greatly simplified so that the information on the water profiles of beers are in context. pH – The measurement of pH is easy to perform - See my article on Selecting, Care and Use of a pH meter. But wait…there is more to water profiles than just pH. Ions – the thing that impacts pH directly are the ions in the water. In your tap water, the most common ions or dissolved salts that impact brewing are: Ca +2 , Mg +2 , Cl - , OH - , CO3 -2 /HCO 2 - , SO 4 2 (for simplicity, in this article, I have...

Brewing with Coconut

Like most beers with an ingredient other than hops, malt, water or yeast, coconut beers stir up a lot of emotion in the beer enthusiast’s talking circles. Coconut may have more of a reason for this than most other flavor enhancers and that’s because the oils in coconut can quickly ruin any head retention you’ve fought so hard to build into your beer. But, if done well, you can find a balance between stable foam on your brew and great coconut flavor.

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Selecting and Caring for pH Meters

Selecting, using, and caring for pH meters seem like complicated concepts. This article will answer all the questions you were too afraid to ask, did not know whom to ask, or did not know needed to be asked. Selecting a pH Meter There are three styles of pH meters: pen or pocket style, portable handheld, and bench top. The important specifications include precision, calibration, and temperature correction, stated as ATC for automatic temperature correction. 

Precision: For brewing, it is good to have a precision of ±0.01 pH units or at the least ±0.02 pH units. At this level you will be able to detect even yeast autolysis. Remember, when you read an article that mentions pH units in tenths (e.g., mash should be between 5.3-5.7), you want one additional digit to better determine how close you are to that level. If you don’t have that precision, your mash could be at pH 5.78 and not know how close you are to 5.70 or 5.79. The pH scale is logarithmic, which means each pH gradation is...

Mastering British Porters

The original London Porter was a smoked beer which utilized exclusively British Brown malt, smoked over Hornbeam. There was until fairly recently a general consensus that it was in its original form a mixture of a ‘mild’ beer (actually a ‘fresh’ or ‘green’ beer) and a ‘stale’ (or mature beer with sub-acetic ‘sour’ flavor). Others have provided convincing evidence that it was a much improved brown beer highly hopped and matured for a time to facilitate a more mellow character. As technology advanced particularly with the advent of black patent malt and as pale malt itself became cheaper both technology and economics conspired together and held a powerful sway on the grist of the Porter which inevitably led to changes in its character! In brewing recipe books Porters and Stouts are often presented together and there is sound historical justification for this. For example in ‘The Carlisle Journal’, dated Saturday 2nd of April 1836 we read of a certain ‘Double Brown Stout Porter’...
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