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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Making the Best Yeast Starter (I: Theory)


What happens if you pitch one package of liquid yeast (~100 billion cells) to ale worts of various volumes and “gravity points?” Gravity points are the last two digits in the three digits following the decimal point in specific gravity. For example, a wort of SG 1.048 is said to have 48 gravity points.

Brewing the best beer possible requires the brewer to pay attention to each step during wort production and fermentation, and to execute each well. There are no “silver bullets” when it comes to making beer. In other words, there are no “do this one thing and your beer will turn out great every time” tricks to brewing — you need to do everything well to brew the best beer.

There are, however, practices that consistently lead to better homebrew, when all other things are held constant. I would argue the most important of these is raising enough yeast for an adequate pitch. For most homebrewers, this means making a yeast starter. As with most techniques in homebrewing, there are acceptable ways to make a yeast starter and the best ways.

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Five Habits of Successful Brewers

gold-number-5Brewing decent, drinkable beer is fairly easy. Brewing the highest quality beer is somewhat more difficult. Previously, I’ve posted a variety of articles with specific suggestions on how to brew the best quality beer at home. Today I’m going to look at a more nebulous aspect of becoming a successful brewer — your mindset.

The successful brewers I’ve met — both homebrewers and commercial brewers — are a diverse lot. However, they share a set of traits related to how they view their beer and their brewing skills. Hopefully, I can do this without venturing too far into phoney-baloney “motivational poster” territory. Personally, I think the “de-motivational posters” are much funnier. So with that in mind, here are the five habits of successful brewers.

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Beer News (July 16–August 4)

BWJlogoOnce again, let’s start with a “listicle” (an article in the form of a list). Here, Deadspin ranks the beers of the Beer Camp 12-pack

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Brewing Bitter Extract-Based Beers


Malt extract is convenient and great for many beers. To brew very hoppy beers, however, you may need toalter your usual brewing techniques a bit

IPAs are all the rage these days. And stovetop extract brewers, of course, want to brew them and other hoppy beers. Although you can brew a fine extract IPA, there are some challenges that you must first overcome.

The standard practice for brewing stovetop extract beers — in the US, at least — is too steep some specialty grains, then boil a thick wort of dissolved malt extract in a stovetop brew pot. After the wort is boiled, it is cooled and diluted to working strength in the fermenter. Often, for a 5.0-gallon (19-L) batch of homebrew, around 2–3 gallons (8–11 L) of wort is boiled. This practice works well for many types of beers, but can cause problems if you are trying to brew a very hoppy ale.

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Articles on Brewing Big Beers From Our First Year

birthday-party-suppliesBeer and Wine Journal turned one year old about a month ago. During that time, I’ve posted a couple compilations of articles that ran in our first year, including brewing science stories and articles about all-grain brewing (and, of course, the requisite top 10 list).  Here’s a list of our best articles on brewing strong beers.

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Mitch Steele on Stone’s Plans for Their Berlin Brewery


Mitch Steele, Brewmaster at Stone Brewing Co.

Stone Brewing Co. recently announced plans to establish a brewery in Berlin, making them the first American craft brewery to independently open up shop in Europe.  (Earlier this year, Brooklyn Brewery and Carlsberg partnered and opened a brewery in Stockholm, Sweden.) I asked Mitch Steele, Brewmaster at Stone, about their plans for their Berlin brewery. Although all the details have not been ironed out, he was able to share some information.

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Lose Weight Without Giving Up Beer (II: Conclusion)

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My weight over the past 5 months.

Last Friday, I outlined the basic idea behind my weight-loss plan. The overarching idea was to expend more Calories than you take in. This idea is, of course, not original to me. Everybody knows it. It’s easy to understand. Still, in the United States, we are surrounded by bad food options and ridiculously large portion sizes. So, it’s easy to put on weight without even trying.

The second part of my plan isn’t original either — eat enough so that you have sufficient energy for all your activities, which you’ll want to increase, but end up slightly below the amount of Calories it would take to maintain your weight. In other words, lose weight slowly by eating less and being more active, but not eating so much less that you lack energy or are constantly hungry. That’s not hard to understand academically, but it is sometimes hard to put into practice. Here’s how I have been doing it.

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Wort Boils Above 212 °F (100 °C) (I: Theory)


Wort being boiled in a modified (legally obtained) Sanke keg.

We all know that water boils at 212 °F (100 °C). Chemists would clarify that this refers to pure water at standard pressure (100 kPa). Many brewers assume, given that wort is mostly water, that it also boils at 212 °F (100 °C). This isn’t the case, however. Wort boils above 212 °F (100 °C) — the exact temperature depends on the gravity of the wort.

This article has quite a bit of chemistry in it. Don’t feel like you need to follow every little bit. I’ll explain the take home message in the concluding paragraphs.

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