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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...
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