Plan Your Brewing Season (Repost)

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This is a repost of an article I first posted last September. Homebrewing season is upon us. Here’s how to prepare. 


With temperatures cooling off, many homebrewers who lack a modified fridge or chest freezer for fermentation temperature control are going to resume active homebrewing. Likewise, homebrew competitions are more frequent through the fall, winter and spring than in the summer, so competitive brewers have more incentive to brew. One thing that can help you have a more productive and enjoyable “brewing season” is a little planning.

Making a plan will involve considering how much time can allot to brewing and what special occasions you really want to brew for. This will allow you to set priorities, as well as plan so that your beers are ready on time.

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Interview with Steve Piatz

meadcoverII9780760345641Recently, I interviewed Steve Piatz about his new book, “The Complete Guide to Making Mead: The Ingredients, Equipment, Processes, and Recipes for Crafting Honey Wine” (2014, Voyageur Press). Steve has been a mead maker for a long time, going back to the days when there was practically no information on mead making and people were still boiling their mead musts. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his meads, including the 2008 AHA Meadmaker of the Year Award. He is also a mead judge.

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Rain Delaying US Barley Harvest: Losses “Catastrophic” In Some Areas


The vast barley fields — OK garden — of Bastrop, TX (in 2012)

Farmers in Montana and Idaho should have been harvesting their barley in the past two weeks. However, heavy rains have caused delays. In addition, the rains have been causing barley to sprout in the field. As little as 2% sprouted kernels will usually lead maltsters to reject a crop of barley, but in some parts of Montana, sprouting has exceeded 50%.

Much of the rejected malting barley crop could be sold as feed grain. But with prices already very low for feed, this is not much help for farmers with damaged crops.

In North Dakota — third in US barley production, after Montana and Idaho — rain is delaying the harvest, too. It is possible that US maltsters may try to buy barley from Canada, but Canada’s harvest is also being delayed by rain.

Some ag sources are calling the losses in some areas “catastrophic”. And, with the typical restraint seen in many on-line news sources, some are already prophesying a “beerpocalypse.” A note on the Probrewer forum, however, gives a slightly more sober assessment. Given that there are barley stocks left over from last year’s good crop, and at least some barley can likely be purchased from Canada (or perhaps elsewhere), the worst case scenarios are unlikely to unfold. A shortage of malt, for example, is unlikely. However, be prepared for malt and beer prices to go up.

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Do Clone Recipes Produce Clone Brews?


Cloned sheep

There are an abundance of homebrew clone recipes in the homebrewing literature. (We even have a couple on our site. See the links at the bottom of this article.) These purport to give you a recipe that will produce a beer that tastes like the commercial example. But can you really brew a clone brew by following a homebrew clone recipe?

The short answer is that it is highly unlikely. I am not saying this to be needlessly contrarian, nor to disparage the skills of homebrewers. It’s simply is a fact that a clone brew recipe is highly unlikely to produce an exact clone of its intended brew. However, if we carefully examine why this is, we can get on the path to actually brewing a very respectable clone brew – if that’s what we wish — or simply to become better homebrewers who are more aware of the sources of variation in beer.

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Clarity Ferm Experiment, by Chris Hamilton (III: Results)

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 3.27.53 PMThis is the final installment of the series on the efficacy Clarity Ferm, the enzyme that purports to produce gluten-free beer, from Dr. Chris Hamilton of Hillsdale College. The series began on Wednesday. Yesterday’s installment described the two sets of experiments. In the first, differing amounts of Clarity Ferm were used to treat different aliquots of cream ale. In the second, different mash schedules were used to produce a stout. Clarity Ferm was added to half of the stouts. The idea was to test if a step mash — that contained a “protein rest” — would lower gluten levels by itself or in conjunction with Clarity Ferm. Here are the results. Hear an interview and tasting of samples on Basic Brewing Radio – September 4, 2014.

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Clarity Ferm Experiment, by Chris Hamilton (Part II: Experiments)

This is the second part of a 3-part article, by Chris Hamilton of Hillsdale College, examining experimentally if Clarity Ferm reduces gluten in homebrewed beer. The introduction was posted yesterday and the results will be posted tomorrow. Hear an interview and tasting of samples on Basic Brewing Radio – September 4, 2014.


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TheRIDASCREEN® Gliadin competitive kit from R-Biopharm.

The overall goal of these experiments is to determine if Clarity Ferm does indeed reduce the level of gluten and related proteins and peptides to acceptable levels. The first set of experiments was done to determine the amount of Clarity Ferm needed to reduce the gluten to acceptable levels. The second set of experiments was done with a different beer and all trials done in triplicate as the additional variable of differing mash conditions was used to determine if a protein rest would aid in gluten reduction.

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Clarity Ferm Experiment, by Chris Hamilton (Part I: Intro)

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Figure 1: Simplified structures of two peptides. The top peptide is made from three alanines, and on the bottom is the peptide alanine-proline-alanine. The peptide bonds are shown in red.

This is the first part in a 3-part series, written by Chris Hamilton of Hillsdale College. The second and third parts will be posted tomorrow (Thursday) and the next day (Friday). Hear an interview and tasting of samples on Basic Brewing Radio – September 4, 2014.


Gluten is a popular topic lately when it comes to food and beer, both due to an increased awareness of Celiac disease and popular diets which eschew any gluten containing food or beverages. Chris Colby wrote the article, Gluten and Brewing, back in November of 2013 that summarizes many of the challenges in brewing a gluten-free beer. The part of gluten and hordein (the barley equivalent of gluten) that can cause problems for some people is the protein gliadin.

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Beer News (Aug 5–26)

BWJlogoAs usual, let’s start with a “listicle” (an article in the form of a list). Here’s a list of fall beers. (And speaking of fall beers, if you’re looking for a pumpkin ale recipe, check out our Pumpkin Ale, by Mark Pasquinelli.) Here’s Thrillist’s ranking of US states according to their beer scene. And, here’s Paste’s confusingly titled “10 Irresponsible Shot/Beer Combinations.” They may wreck a good beer by dropping a shot in it, but the article never exlains why they are irresponsible. (The author also seems unclear about what a beer is, as a few of these involve a shot and Red Bull.) And finally, a useful list — if you are looking for employment in the brewing industry, here’s where the jobs are.

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Breakless Brew Day


Mashing the grains in my brewpot.

I brewed over the weekend. I was going to brew a version of my Copper Clipper recipe, which is just a lower-gravity, “summer” version of my Copper Ale recipe. However, I got better extract efficiency than I expected, so I ended up brewing the regular-strength beer. Oh well. One interesting thing about brewing is you never know when something you’ve never seen before is going to pop up.

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Making the Best Yeast Starter (II: Practice)


Likely outcomes for brewing an ale by pitching one 11.5 g sachet of dried yeast. (Click on chart to enlarge.)

Most of the time, making a yeast starter is going to improve your batch of homebrew. In some cases, you can get away with pitching one homebrew-sized package of yeast, presuming the yeast is fresh. Earlier, I posted a chart of likely outcomes when a single liquid yeast package — containing around 100 billion cells (i.e. White Labs tubes and Wyeast XL smack packs) — is pitched. Today, I’ve included a chart for dried yeast sachets, which have somewhat higher cell count. However, there is a difference between getting away with something, and having something work optimally. And running the best possible fermentation is necessary if your goal is to brew the best possible beer. In this article, I’ll explain what I believe to be the best way to make a yeast starter.

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