Technical Article

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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, 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...