The Easy Way to Fly Sparge (Part 1 of 2)

IMG_2955.JPG

A sparge arm

When I started brewing, continuous sparging (sometimes called fly sparging) was the only method for sparging a grain bed described on the homebrewing literature. Later, some homebrewers adopted batch sparging as their method of choice, and still later some homebrewers started using brew-in-a-bag methods.

A variety of criticisms have been lodged against fly sparging. I have an easy method of fly sparging that answers some of these criticisms — and the remaining ones are minor, in my opinion. (I’m convinced fly sparging is the best of the homebrew lautering methods, and I’ll explain why in a separate article. But for today, here’s the start of a “how to” article.) [Read more…]

NHC Round One Judging (2016, Austin)

IMG_3184

Judging Pilsners with Corey Martin.

On Friday and Saturday of last week, the Austin NHC site held its first round judging. I, along with many other Austin ZEALOTS and other Austin area homebrewers, descended upon 4th Tap Brewing and judged over 700 beers, finishing the task a day ahead of schedule.

Every year I judge, I try to think of the bigger picture afterwards and see if I can identify any trends or find anything worth writing about from the experience. Then I write about it anyway.

Judging at a large competition, you get to sample a lot of beers. This year, I judged 6 flights over the two days, ranging from 5 to 12 beers in a flight, with 7 or 8 being the median number (IIRC). Plus, there’s always the “holy crap, you have got to try this” moments when another judge finds a particularly spectacular beer and shares it. And of course, there’s the groans when judges encounter a real stinker. So, each judge gets to sample a fair amount of beer and gets some idea of what the other judges are encountering. On the other hand, one judge’s experience can’t be taken as a statistically valid sample, so these are just my observations.  [Read more…]

Foam (Part 3: Foam Positive Elements)

DSCN2673Now that we have an idea about what foam is and how it forms in general, let’s look at some of the specifics of beer foam. A great place to start would be to analyze beer foam to see what it is composed of, and this is something brewing scientists did long ago. They skimmed beer foam, collapsed all the bubbles until it was a liquid again, and determined and ran tests to determine its composition. [Read more…]

Getting Your Beer Critiqued (II)

IMG_2833

Looks like beer to me.

There are ways to to get a helpful critique of your beer, but — as with anything in life — what you get out of the process depends on what you put it in. In addition, being able to accept criticism is a skill some brewers need to learn. 

[Read more…]

Foam (Part 2: Collapse)

DSCN2679Foam forms in a carbonated beverage when bubbles rising through the liquid begin stacking up on the surface. After awhile, however, the foam will begin to recede. There are three main processes involved in foam collapse.

[Read more…]

Getting Your Beer Critiqued

DSCN0144

The best damn beer in the world — mine. (Not everyone agrees.)

You like your beer. Your friends like your beer. But, is it really any good . . . and how would you find out if you wanted to? For many beginning to intermediate homebrewers, the path to better homebrew is unclear because they have no way to assess their beer as it is currently brewed. Here is a quick guide to getting that done.

There are lots of places you can get feedback on your homebrew, and they vary greatly in how helpful they are. If you are a brewer who wishes to become serious about his or her craft, being able to judge your beer is an important part of the cycle of improvement. You can’t fix problems you don’t know about.

[Read more…]

New Zealand Brew Day

IMG_3152

A sack of malts and a brewing machine.

While in New Zealand, I brewed a batch of beer. The conference organizers wanted the speakers to each brew a beer at Marchfest (the yearly Nelson, New Zealand craft beer celebration). The beers will be judged in a contest later. We were each given a Grainfather (a combination mash tun/lauter tun/kettle for all-grain brewing) to use, and someone familiar with the machine to help us. (Thanks for the help, Cameron!) [Read more…]

Foam (Part 1: General)

At the 2016 New Zealand Homebrew Conference, I gave a talk on beer foam. Here’s that material, reworked into an article.

IMG_1633

Foam in a dry stout.

Why would anyone give a talk (or write about) beer foam? Besides the fact that I find foam interesting, there are a couple reasons. When we are served a beer, our first impression is visual — we notice the color, clarity, and the character of the foam in the glass. Secondly, and more importantly, good foam is a partial indicator of beer quality. As we will see, a number of things need to go correctly to get a nice foam stand. So, the presence of nice foam indicates the brewer has (at a minimum) taken sufficient care with his or her process to produce that foam.

[Read more…]

Upcoming Articles on BWJ

SetHeight130-logo-transparent-400There’s been a bit of a lull in Beer and Wine Journal (BWJ) recently, but that’s turning around starting now. In the past couple months, I have put the final touches on my book manuscript, assisted the photographer for a week in shooting pictures for the book, and — just last week — went to New Zealand for the first New Zealand Homebrew Conference (NZHC). Now I’m back home and have a bunch of articles planned for BWJ. Here’s what’s coming up in the next few weeks.

[Read more…]

BrewDog Releases Its Recipes

IMG_1955

Not a dog.

The Scottish brewery BrewDog has released a .pdf file containing all of its recipes in 5.0-gallon (19-L) homebrew recipe form. (Scroll down the page to the link in the middle to download the file.)

Many breweries have been helpful to homebrewers over the years, giving out their recipes to brewing magazines, homebrew clubs, and individual brewers. But, I can only think of a couple breweries that self-published their beer recipes as homebrew recipes. Jester King published some of theirs awhile ago and . . . help me out. If you know of a commercial brewery website with homebrew recipes posted on it, drop me a line at chris at beerandwinejournal dot com and send me the link. I’ll compile them and post the list. (Don’t bother with clone recipes posted on other sites for now, just homebrew recipes posted on the brewery’s own website.)

[Update: Stone published its recipe for Stone Pale Ale, when it discontinued that brand. They’ve also published a book with many of their recipes and even gave this website a clone recipe (see below).]

[Read more…]