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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...

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...

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...

The Why and How of Entering Homebrew Competitions

Some may ask why any self-respecting homebrewer would pay to enter beers in a competition. You make what you like and sure, we all like to share our homebrew with friends and relatives but that’s quite a bit different than PAYING to give away your beer. Each of us brews for a different reason and perhaps you have no interest in entering a competition and that’s fine. But just as we all brew for different reasons, many of us have our own reasons for entering competitions. This is by no means a comprehensive list and the order is only roughly by most popular to least popular reasons to enter a competition for the average homebrewer. Here’s my list: Why Enter Homebrew Competitions [/hide]

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...

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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Temp Controller Overview

It took me a couple of years of homebrewing before I started worrying about my fermentation temperatures. Up until then, whatever the temperature my basement was at, was what my beer would be at. However, I eventually wanted to control my fermentation temperatures to improve the quality of my beer, be able to cold crash, and try my hand at some lagers. So I bought a used fridge on Craigslist and built a simple temperature controller to control the fridge’s temperature more accurately. The small control pad can set a temperature range and the controller will turn something on and off to stay within that temperature range. Just like the air conditioning in a house. I use a generic controller that’s very similar to others that I’ve seen, but they almost all have the same problem. They’re not intuitive. Mine only has 4 buttons and a simple LCD screen to change a dozen different settings, so knowing how to access each menu and what each menu does is vital. Changing the desired...

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...

The Pros and Cons of 5L Kegs

Five liter kegs have been used for a long time. You can get them empty for you to fill with your homebrewed beer, cider, or soda. Or, you can buy them filled with beer and reuse the container after you drink the beer. They hold 1.3 gallons of beer, or 169 ounces. That’s equal to 10 pints or 14 twelve ounce bottles. They have gone up and down in popularity. There are several manufacturers that made countertop dispensers for these kegs that were very popular a few years ago and had a fair amount of breweries filling them for the dispensers. That number has gone down quite a bit now. But now, some of the new mini/nano brewing systems are bringing them back for use in their systems. I bottle, keg, and use mini-kegs. I use what works best for me for the situation. Bottles are easiest to share and kegs are easier and less time consuming to clean and fill. Plus, the kegging setup becomes more expensive, as you move up the ladder. I started out using the mini-kegs as my first step into...

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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