Thoughts on Cleaning and Sanitation (I: Airborne Contamination) 

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Wort being chilled with an immersion chiller. The kettle is covered loosely with a lid. Steam from the boil sanitized the lid. I also drape clean T-shirts over the kettle while chilling to prevent airborne microorganisms moving vertically through the crack in the kettle lid.

Recently, I posted an article advocating that brewers think about cleaning and sanitation as a matter of degree rather than a “good enough”/“not good enough” dichoctomy. In this article, I’ll share some ideas to move your cleaning and sanitation practices from “good enough” to just a bit better than that. For the sake of completeness, I’ll cover some familiar ground, but I think there are a couple ideas in here that are not well appreciated in the homebrewing community.  [Read more…]

Rockville Gordon Biersch Collaborative Flemish Red

Mike Tonsmeire, The Mad Fermentationist, is collaborating with the Gordon Biersch Rockville, Maryland, location to produce a blended, barrel-aged Flemish Red, and we got the chance to get a preview sampling.

Mike Tonsmeire and Christian Layke with their barrels

Mike Tonsmeire and Christian Layke with their barrels

One of the best parts of being the producer of Basic Brewing Radio is attending the National Homebrew Conference (Homebrew Con) every year. We typically arrive a day early to take in some of the local beer culture wherever the conference takes us. This year, the get-together landed in Baltimore, and we were thrilled to have Mike show us around his neck of the woods, as he lives in the D.C. area.

Our first stop was a visit to the Gordon Biersch Rockville restaurant and its head brewer, Christian Layke. Christian is a former homebrewer and has been with Gordon Biersch for around eight years. He left a job with a non-profit environmental think tank to work with stainless steel tanks instead. [Read more…]

Brewing Liquor For Pale Beers (0–10 SRM)

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 3.51.03 PMFor brewers who want to start treating their water appropriately, but don’t want to wade through the requisite chemistry, here’s the final installment in my series of simple water guides. Today’s post is a straightforward guide to generating brewing liquor for pale beers from 0 to 10 SRM. In practice, of course, it would hard to brew an all-malt beer below 3 SRM. But, I’ll cover the whole range. This includes some pale ales, most wheat ales, Kölsch, Pilsners and other light lagers. You begin with 5.0 gallons (19 L) of distilled water and add minerals to create your brewing liquor. [Read more…]

Brewing Liquor For Brown Beers (20–30 SRM)

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 3.51.03 PMFor brewers who want to start treating their water appropriately, but don’t want to wade through the requisite chemistry, here’s the third in my series of simple water guides. Today’s post is a quick guide to generating brewing liquor for brown beers, from 20 to 30 SRM. This includes brown ales, some porters, many dark lagers, etc. You begin with 5.0 gallons (19 L) of distilled water and add minerals to create your brewing liquor.

I will post the remaining guide — for pale beers (0–10 SRM) — soon. [Read more…]

Brewing Liquor For Dark Beers (30–40 SRM) 

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 3.51.03 PMFor brewers who want to start treating their water appropriately, but don’t want to wade through the requisite chemistry, here’s the second in my series of simple water guides. Today’s post is a quick guide to generating brewing liquor for dark beers, starting with distilled water as the base. I’ll discuss beers ranging in color from 30 to 40 SRM — porters, stouts, and the like.

I will post the remaining two water guides — for brown beers (20–30 SRM) and pale beers (0–10 SRM) — soon. I’ve skipped to dark beers because of an interesting quirk to making brewing liquor for dark beers. [Read more…]

A Better Way to Think of Sanitation

DSCN0716There are many ways you can improve at brewing. You can learn new ideas and try new techniques, ingredients, or equipment. You can work on perfecting the things you already do on brewday (or when formulating recipes, serving your beer, etc.). And in one case, simply changing how you think about something may lead you to being a better brewer.

You’ll often hear brewers ask if their beer is infected. (I’ll skip, for now, that it is much better to refer to beer that is soured or spoiled by microorganisms as contaminated than as infected.) There is really only one answer to that question. (OK, there’s two, and one is, “no, but it’s contaminated.”) And that answer is “yes . . . to some degree.” [Read more…]

Brewing Liquor For Amber Beers (10–20 SRM)

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One diagram of beer color, from Wikipedia.

Water chemistry is a topic that many homebrewers wait to tackle until they have been brewing for awhile. For those who don’t deal with chemistry on a regular basis, the learning curve can seem pretty steep. For those brewers, here is a quick guide to generating brewing liquor for amber colored beers (SRM 10–20), starting with distilled water. I’m using the word “amber” here fairly loosely, as 10 SRM is really a dark golden color and 20 SRM is almost into the brown range.

This rough guide can help you treat your brewing liquor, and improve your beer — without having to dig into much of the underlying chemistry.

I will put out three other quick water guides — for brown beers (20–30 SRM), black beers (30–40 SRM), and pale beers (0–10 SRM) — soon. [Read more…]

Beer Foam (Part 5: Brewing Considerations)

DSCN2679Most of the time, brewers give comparatively little thought to foam. We brew our beers and foam appears on top of them. There is no single ingredient or procedure that creates foam, it simply emerges when a beer is brewed properly. However, there are things you can do when brewing that affect foam production and stability. It pays to understand these things, especially if your foam isn’t always what it should be. [Read more…]

The Easy Way to Fly Sparge (Part 2 of 3)

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You don’t need a sparge arm for this, although you can use one if you have it.

Fly sparging can be made less complicated, and less wasteful of water, than the way it is presented by some homebrew books, magazines, or websites. This is a description of “my” way of continuous sparging. It’s “my way” in the sense that this is how I do it, not that I was the first or only person to consider it. I call it pulsed sparging, but some commercial breweries do this as their method of continuous sparging and don’t have a special name for it. [Read more…]

Beer Foam (4: Foam Negative Elements)

DSCN2673Just as there are elements that contribute to the formation and stability of beer foam, there are also elements that accelerate the rate at which foam collapses. Brewers tend to think of these foam negative elements as something to be avoided. If they are in excess, they are — of course — undesirable. However, if beer contained no foam negative elements, foam would continue to form as the beer released carbon dioxide bubbles. And if this foam were not collapsable, it would soon be an impediment to drinking the beer. As such, I would argue that foam negative elements are just as important to foam as foam negative elements, when present in the right quantities. [Read more…]