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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...

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...

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...

Brewing High Gravity Gluten Free Beers

I’d like to start this article off by talking about my first homebrewing experience. I had found out that a mutual friend homebrewed when I went out to a Nanobrewery in the OC area that served Mead. This Nanobrewery just so happened to also be a homebrew store, so we got to walking around, and I started to think, “Why can’t I make my own gluten free beer?” So, I started asking questions, and got invited to brew a beer at the house. However, I wanted to make sure I could drink it. Being a glutard (someone allergic or intolerant to gluten), I went in the best direction I thought possible—just grab some stuff off Amazon and see what happens, that’s what brewers do right? Every time I look back at that first grain bill, I’m on the floor laughing: 4 lbs. of Steel Cut Oats 1 lb. Buckwheat honey 1 lb. Brown Rice Syrup 1 lb. of Sorghum extract 1 lb. of flaked corn For a 5.5-gallon batch… I’m laughing as I’m typing this. I had to throw the entire batch out, not fun. At this point, I...

Winemaking Terms

Winemaking has been both a business and a hobby for centuries. Whether you are a commercial winemaker or make your wine at home (or considering getting into the game), there are general terms that you will want to familiarize yourself with. The following terms are ones both commercial and home winemakers use. This is by no means a complete list of the terms used, and definitions have been simplified. However the terms contained in this listing should be quite sufficient for the home winemaker to begin with. List of Winemaker's Terms Acetic Acid – Along with ethyl acetate, creates a volatile acid, and is a sign of spoiling wine. Acetic acid is associated with the taste and odor of vinegar. Found in all wines, it is also known as Ethanoic Acid. When levels are low, the wine's flavor can be enhanced by acetic acid. But if the levels are too high, then the flavor can be dominant, producing a vinegar taste, which is considered a (major) flaw. Acetification is the process that, through...

The Meadmaker's Corner: Categorizing Your Mead

When I started looking into making mead it seemed so very simple. Dump some honey in some water, add some yeast, ignore it for a while, and tada! Nectar of the Gods in your bottle. And sure, you can get mead that way, but as I started researching, I found a whole lot more information on the subject. Things started to get complicated. Even categorizing my mead became pretty cumbersome. I found that I would have to search about and look things up. To be honest, the HomeBrewTalk forums have most all the answers you will need. The only down side is I can’t say I’ve found a single place where they are all grouped together neatly and easily accessible. So I shall endeavor to provide newbies to mead making a reference document. Also, I won’t tell if any experienced mead makers check back as a quick reference either. Categories of Mead There are several different ways that meads can be put in to categories. The simplest way is by what is added. Of course there will be honey and water, but...

Accelerated BOMM Experiments

Bray’s one month mead (BOMM) thread had me fascinated in accelerating fermentation as soon as I stumbled upon it at homebrew talk. The entire idea is centered around the fact that mead generally takes longer to ferment, clear, and age because the yeast are stressed to a greater degree than what we normally would see in fermenting beer (or even wine). The reason is nutrients and pH; honey is mostly just sugar, with a bit of pollen and some enzymes, but really, it’s mostly just sugar. It’s also acidic with a pH averaging around 3.9 (about the higher end for an orange, or similar to cherries). To overcome these issues, often (even in beer brewing where the grains generally provide a lot of nutrient) yeast nutrient is added. In mead this is essential to shortening fermentation and aging times, and Bray has quoted the standard additions of nutrient as the following: TOSNA Nutrient Schedule and Organic vs. Inorganic Nitrogen To compound on Bray’s idea, and promote my own laziness, I...

Meadmakers Corner: Brewing A Cyser

One of the great things about being a homebrewer is being able to use what’s in season where you are, and being able to get it into your brew at the peak of freshness. As summer has slipped away from us, we are now welcoming the fall. Hay rides, harvests, and of course apples? Apples you might ask, isn’t that cider? By themselves yes, but what if you were to brew a concoction of mead and cider? A liquid mixture of honey and apple to get the best from both? You would have the elixir known as cyser. I can’t say that I’ve seen very many commercial examples out there. Yes they exist, but they are not very wide spread. Now that you know what we are shooting at, let’s take a look at what we will need for our home made cyser. Of course we will need some amount of honey. In the future we’ll take a look at the different varieties of honey and how they might bring different flavors out in your mead, but for now, we’ll keep it simple. While you can get adventurous and try any type of honey...

Meadmakers Corner: A History of Mead: A Tale Over 8 Millennia in the Making

I often find that when I am a launching into a project, it can be very helpful to know the background and history of what I’m doing. So I’ve decided to begin with various notes about mead, and the natural starting point should be the history. We’ll take a look at how we came across this beverage and perhaps even a touch of how it has influenced the world that we are currently living in. So let’s go back a few years. It Was a Way to Hide Honey At its most basic level it is merely fermented honey. But that causes a bit of a problem. When bees make honey they keep it at a low enough water content that it won’t ferment, so it won’t go bad. That way they have a good source of honey for whatever lies ahead (Winter etc.). Honey has been found in Egyptian tombs that is still edible. Also if you take honey from a bee hive and have it out somewhere, the bees will come and take it back, most likely inflicting some stings in the process if you get in the way. Since our ancient counterparts...

Balancing Lactic Acid in Sour Beers

Few things are as satisfying as tasting a newly opened homebrew and having it meet your expectations. Even more satisfying is when that beer is from the somewhat unpredictable realm of sour beers. Not all sour beers have to be left up to chance in order to achieve predictable results however, especially when trying to balance lactic acid. Lactic acid is produced when lactic acid bacteria (LAB) converts carbohydrates into lactic acid. In addition to beer, it is also found in kombucha and dairy products such as buttermilk and yogurt. Two strains of LAB are available for producing lactic acid in beer, Lactobacillus and Pediococcus. An entire article could be devoted to the different characteristics of Lactobacillus and Pediococcus, so for the purposes of this guide I’ll stick to solely to methods for balancing the sourness and lactic acid produced by these bacteria. Balancing Lactic Acid To achieve balance while exhibiting both control and also allowing for the LAB to fully do its...

Sour Beer Do's and Dont's

Few things get a beer geek ready to talk your ear off than name-dropping a sour beer or two. Sour beers are more of a distinct continent on Planet Beer than a style as there are many styles of sour and/or wild ales. It’s a world countless homebrewers want to dive into, but also one they may find a little intimidating. Between strange microbes, lengthy fermentation times, the risk of contaminating your equipment you’d be forgiven for thinking that brewing sours is difficult. The good news is, brewing sours isn’t all that much different than brewing any other beer. You brew, you pitch, you wait, you package. The only thing different are the details. Consider some of the DO’S and DON’TS below and you’ll find yourself navigating the slightly offbeat world of wild ales in no time. Homebrewing has come a long way over the years, and there are now means of making quick sours that don’t require the extensive aging and wild fermentation traditionally used in making these beers. This piece...

Rise of the Gruit

Gruit…what is it? Well for those of you who are unfamiliar with this term, it represents an entire forgotten past of brewing. For thousands of years humans have been brewing with whatever they could get their hands on. Before the 14th-16th century that included an extremely wide variety of spices, herbs, and grains. I’m sure hops were used occasionally but they weren’t the staple ingredient they are in beer today. It wasn’t until the 20th century that we started realizing the preservative properties of hops. After this, it only made sense to use them as a standard in modern day brews. Thanks to the effort of the homebrew and craft brew brewery community, Gruit has made a come back of sorts. It’s still on the slow rise but I’m sure we’ll see some of the big breweries take on mass production of Gruit at some point (some have fooled around with them but I’ve never seen one stick around for long). I myself stumbled onto Gruits looking into brewing a beer without hops, not knowing that...

The Cider Making No Brainer

First off, if you aren’t already making hard cider, you should be. It really is a no brainer, which I will explain briefly here. Cider is cheap to make, easily sourced, hardly any work, and great for those friends who can’t do gluten! Your only materials are Apple cider/juice, yeast, and maybe a few optional adjuncts, so cost can be as low as $20 a batch depending on your juice source. There isn’t an actual brew process, so it cuts a couple hours out of your normal brew day requirement. Just clean, sanitize, mix ingredients and profit! Since you aren’t using grain in this, it becomes a convenient brew to have on hand for friends(or in my case, SWMBO) who don’t/can’t do gluten. Edwort's Apfelwein apples ready for crushing Using Juice/Cider for your recipe is the quicker route, but if you have access to apples, pressing your own can be wonderful as well. I have many a great memory of pressing apples...

Beekeeping 101

Honey bees working to fill each comb with honey and cap it off. Bees are one of nature’s most amazing and complex insects, and one of the more useful for humans, flora, and fauna. Pollination of plants and flowers is crucial in farms and agriculture, as well as for wildlife. Beekeeping is especially useful now due to the increasing rate of bee colony collapse disorder around the world over the past decade.This has many looking into supporting bees by keeping them on their properties. They can be kept on both large rural properties, as well as small urban environments. A word of warning. Just like getting into beer brewing as a hobby opens your mind to the world of hops, yeast, fermentation and appreciation of a quality product; beekeeping pushes you to respect and pay attention to the natural world. Beekeepers know which flowers bloom first, are attentive to rain, and pay attention to humidity, all of which affect their bees and the honey produced. Some keepers are bee-centric, and...

Tasting Beer: A Primer To Share With Your Wine-Loving Friends

It was a kick putting together this video to share knowledge about tasting beer at the 101 level. You will find information here about appearance, aroma, taste, mouthfeel and character. For those of us who grew up with wine, discovering the complexity and depth of craft beer is akin to entering a parallel universe of gustatory delights. I was a wine snob until the day I tasted my first peanut butter milk stout in Vista, California, a San Diego County town of about 100,000 people, and over a dozen established breweries. My husband, Peter, and I feasted like vampires on the fresh craft beer along Hop Highway 78 in the area. One day, Peter turned to me and said, You make bread "why not make beer? I jumped into five-gallon, all-grain brewing after completing three partial-extract beers, and was invited to assist a local brewer in making an IPA and a Pilsner. The members of my homebrew clubs, The Society of Barley Engineers (SBE) and the Quality Ale and Fermentation Fraternity (QUAFF)...

A (Slightly Schizophrenic) Kombucha Primer

I've always enjoyed fermenting things, ever since I made my first hard cider when I was 19 and not cool enough to have friends that were old enough to buy me beer... er, I mean, 21 years old and not a day younger. I am fascinated as much by the process as I am the finished product. Cider, beer, wine, kimchi, sauerkraut, kvass, mead, sake, pickled vegetables; all a combination of science and culinary art which I can take part in right in my kitchen. When one of my friends told me I could ferment sweet tea, I thought ew I have to try that! [/hide]

Top 10 Ciders on HomeBrewTalk

Summer is coming to an end, and with autumn right around the corner its time to start considering whats up next for your brew day. Youve made it through the wheats and saisons of summer, but now you look out at your brewing landscape to find the days getting shorter and cooler. With the harvest season coming up, one thing comes to mind: Cider! Whether youre fermenting a straight apple cider, or something far more complex, cider can be an outlet for your creativity and your need to experiment with bolder and more seasonal flavors. Today we take a look at the top 10 cider recipes here on HomeBrewTalk as we continue our Top 10 series. [/hide]

The Latest On Craft Soda

If there is a topic that is not up for debate, it is that craft beer is a mighty beast, and there is nothing stopping this beast from barreling down most any other alcoholic beverage. What can be debated, however, is the legitimacy of craft soda and its uprising. Some see craft soda riding the waves of its craft brethren and setting itself up for a craft movement of its own. Why else would a company such as Pepsi create lines of craft soda such as Calebs or Stubborn Soda unless they truly saw some glimmer of a brighter future at a time when soft drink sales are plummeting? Is there any truth behind this movement, or is it only a pipe dream? [/hide]

Top 10 Wines on HomeBrewTalk

HomeBrewTalk may be known as one of the largest resources for all things beer, but did you know we're about all things fermented and brewed? Aside from beer we have sections on mead, cider, soda, smoked meats, cheeses, and of course, wine! Many of us are well versed brewers. Aside from our beer we have tried a number of other methods of making homemade libations. If you've never made a wine I highly suggest you consider doing so. Even if you're not personally a fan of wine being able to introduce your friends and family to homebrewing through something they love can be the difference between brewing with friends, or a brew day spent alone. I don't know about you guys but I always appreciate the company! Here's the top 10 wine recipes from HomeBrewTalk for you to consider. [/hide]

Profile Of The Black Spanish Grape

ORIGIN The Black Spanish grape has been called El Paso, Jack, Blue French, Ohio, and Jacquet, and is now legally known as Lenoir or Jacquez (more about the name in a minute). It is a hybrid which appeared in America (probably in South Carolina) sometime in the 1830s. One of its parent grapes comes from the species Vitis vinifera (the species of most wine grapes) and was brought to America from France. Its other parent comes from Vitis aestivalis, a native American species. They crossed to produce Black Spanish, or Vitis bourquiniana. This hybridization may have been purposeful or may have occurred naturally. HISTORY Black Spanish played a significant role in the worldwide phylloxera crisis in the late 1800s. Phylloxera is a vine louse which is native to America and to which American grapes are resistant. European grapes have no resistance and are killed by this pest. Phylloxera was accidentally transported to Europe in the 1800s and devastated the vineyards there. As a hybrid of...
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