Extra Dark Blending Beers

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 6.59.33 PMOne of the great things about homebrewing is the ability to have a variety of beers on tap at once. If you enjoy having more types of beer at your disposal, one option is to make beers that are meant to be blended. In the best cases, you can have two beers that taste great on their own, and additionally make a tasty blend.

Another alternative is to brew a beer you like, then brew another beer that darkens it. There are a variety of beers that are basically darkened versions of an existing beer style. For example, schwarzbier is basically a darkened Pilsner, dunkelweizen is a darkened hefeweizen, and black IPA is a darkened IPA. If you can brew a very dark beer, you can use it to blend into lighter beers to make the darker variation. [Read more…]

Beer News (April 2–July 21)

BWJlogoOK, I haven’t posted an installment of Beer News in awhile, although I did comment on two big beer stories — a brewers yeast strain capable of producing morphine and IPA giving you man boobs  individually. So let’s start, as we frequently start, with a listicle — the best craft brewery in every state, according to Thrillist.

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Uses For Black Malt


Black malt works well in blends with other darkly-roasted grains.

Black malt is a misunderstood grain. Written off by many early homebrew authors as yielding burnt, sometimes ashy flavors, and an acrid aroma, it’s actually a fairly mildly-flavored malt, given its extreme color. Because a large amount of the aromatic compounds developed during kilning are vented from the kiln, black malt has a subdued aroma compared to other darkly-roasted grains — something a simple sniff test will show you. Because our sense of taste is highly influenced by our sense of smell, the relative lack of aroma to black malt means that it tastes milder than one might expect. Once you understand the actual properties of black malt, you will have an edge over homebrewers who refuse to use it, or don’t understand what it really adds to a beer.  [Read more…]

The Truth About Black Malt

darkMaltHomebrew malt myths die hard. This is especially true for myths that may have a grain of truth to them. (Get it, a grain of truth?) Likewise, myths that seem to be confirmed by casual observation can be hard to debunk. Case in point — black malt (sometimes called black patent malt). This very dark malt has been described as lending an aggressively burnt taste to beers that contain it. Sometimes the adjectives “sharp” and “acrid” are used, and less commonly you will even see it described as ashy. Sources that describe black malt in that manner frequently urge brewers to minimize its use, or to use debittered (or dehisked) black malt in its place. Debittered black malt is black malt that has had the husks removed. As the name implies, it adds less roast “bitterness” to beers brewed with it.

This description of black malt is a mishmash of truths and falsehoods, and perhaps for this reason many homebrewers still cling to this poor description. Let’s start with what’s wrong and then describe the malt as it really is.

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Sparging Options for Session Beers


If you undersparge, you leave usable sugars behind in the grain bed. If you oversparge, you extract an excessive amount of tannins. When brewing a session beer, collecting the proper volume of wort allows you to get a reasonable extract efficiency and brew a beer that isn’t astringent.

Session beers allow beer drinkers to enjoy “a few” without becoming overly intoxicated. They are low-gravity, low-alcohol beers for extended drinking sessions. Brewers can  — and, of course, have — differed over exactly how low in alcohol a beer needs to be in order to qualify as a session beer. For the sake of this article, let’s say session beers are those under 4.5% ABV. (And outside of this article, feel free to apply your own definition.)

Just because these are “little” beers, however, doesn’t mean that they don’t require our full attention. One of the biggest potential problems when brewing a session beer is oversparging. With a smaller malt bill, collecting your full pre-boil wort volume may mean you’ve sparged past the point that tannins become much more soluble. Oversparging in this manner results in beer with an astringent mouthfeel. This is frequently described as the puckering, bitter-like feeling one experiences when drinking tea. [Read more…]

None More Black Dry Stout (Partial Mash)

NoneMoreBlackLast month, I posted the all-grain recipe for my “other” dry stout. When I make dry stout, I usually brew my Murphy’s clone. However, occasionally I’ll brew this one, which is closer to Guinness (although not an attempt to be a clone). This is a partial mash formulation of that recipe. As partial mash recipes go, the grain to malt extract ratio is high because of its low original gravity and the fact that the pale grains are mashed and the dark grains are steeped separately. The mash actually uses a starchy adjunct — flaked barley — so you can’t do a true “extract and steeped grains” version of this. 

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Second Anniversary!


I have a beard now, because all the cool brewers have one. I still have, however, the same stupid facial expression.

Today is the second anniversary of Beer and Wine Journal (BWJ). Archived articles go back to June 17, 2013, when the site was being built, but James Spencer and I (Chris Colby) didn’t announce that the site existed until a week later. Over this time, we’ve posted more than 480 articles, mostly related to beer and brewing.

The “Wine” in our site name reflects the fact what we had a “wine guy” on board at the start, but he dropped out shortly before we launched. Consequentially, I’m thinking of renaming the site to make if reflect the content better — Beer and Brewing Journal, maybe? — sometime down the road.

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All Grain Pale Ale 30-Minute Boil Experiments

“You must boil all grain wort for at least an hour, and sometimes for ninety minutes in some cases.” – Guy you know who taught you all grain brewing

A 30-minute boil makes for a shorter brew day.

A 30-minute boil makes for a shorter brew day.

One of the things that homebrewers hear when they first get into brewing all grain is that the full length boil is very important. The boil achieves several objectives:

– Sanitization of the wort
– Coagulation of proteins
– Isomerization of hops
– Volatilization of DMS
– Evaporation of water

All of these are important goals. But is sixty minutes a magic time? Will boiling wort for, say, half that time result in a beer that is sub-standard?

On a recent episode of Basic Brewing Radio, Marshall Schott, who goes by the title “Brülosopher,” shared an experiment attempting to answer this very question. Steve Wilkes and I sampled the same recipe that had been boiled for thirty minutes and sixty minutes, and we had a very hard time telling the difference between the two. Read Marshall’s blog post. [Read more…]

IPAs Are Not Giving You Man Boobs

Lupulin - yellow gold

Lupulin – yellow gold

There’s no evidence that IPAs are giving you man boobs. A provocatively titled article claiming the exact opposite made the rounds on social media a few days ago, but there is no evidence to back up this claim. Here are the facts. [Read more…]

It’s Time To Stop Using The Term “Craft Beer” (Part III of III)

tombstone1In the first two parts of this article, I argued that the term “craft beer” no longer had a worthwhile definition for most homebrewers and beer lovers. There was a time when the beer we liked was produced by breweries that were small, independent, and traditional. They were also frequently local. But all that has changed. So what can an average homebrewer do? [Read more…]