I’m Writing My Second Book

My first book features 101 homebrew recipes, covering all major beer styles. It also makes a great fly swatter.

These days, I’m spending most of my time writing my second book. I’ll have much more to say about this later, but for now I can say that it is a brewing book, but not a recipe compilation like my first book. [Speaking of my first book (pictured here), Amazon has dropped its price to $13.10. I don’t have anything to do with how Amazon prices the book, so I have no idea how long it will remain at that price. But it’s basically half price now, so I thought I’d mention it. It’s also on Amazon’s top 100 list for Beer, so I’m pretty excited about that.]  [Read more…]

Convert Extract Recipes to Partial Mash

Recipe formulation software can do the math for you.

Partial mashing is a great method of wort production, but not a lot of homebrew recipes exist for partial mashers to choose from. (This website has quite a few, though.) However, if you’d like to convert an existing extract-based recipe to partial mash, you’re in luck. The majority of extract recipes can easily be converted in two steps. If you have an extract recipe that uses mostly unhopped light malt extract (liquid or dried) — or something similar such as pale or Pilsner malt extract — for most of the fermentables, just follow these following steps. [Read more…]

Sorghum Syrup Belgian-Style Ale

Sweet and slow, pouring sorghum syrup takes patience

Sweet sorghum syrup is tasty on pancakes, and it’s also a tasty addition to a Belgian-style ale. Its flavor is much like molasses. However, how it’s made is more like maple syrup.

Every fall, participants in the Cane Hill Harvest Festival in Cane Hill, Arkansas, take sorghum cane grown on the grounds of historic Cane Hill College and turn it into dark, sticky deliciousness. The locals just call it “sorghum,” but sorghum cane is different from sorghum grain, which is used to brew gluten-free beers. And although some people call the end product “sorghum molasses,” it’s not really molasses. Molasses is a by-product of turning sugar cane and sugar beets into granulated sugar. [Read more…]

Partial Mashing Positives

Like most homebrewers, I started out using the standard “malt extract with steeping grains” method of homebrewing. I can remember making a “pale ale” with two cans of liquid malt extract, a pound of crystal malt, and 2 oz. (60 g) of Cascade hops.

Later, I switched to all-grain brewing and was a bit of a purist for many years, only brewing all-grain batches. After all, my beers got markedly better when I switched to all-grain, why go back to an inferior method? Years later, I realized that it wasn’t the switch to all-grain that made better beers, it was all the other things I started doing at that same time. For example, I started making yeast starters. I started to evaluate my brewing ingredients and not brewing with stale malt or cheesy hops. And I started learning more about the science of brewing. [Read more…]

Blackberry “Pilsner”

Blackberries give this “Pilsner” a rosy glow.

This past summer, I asked my wife, Susan, what I should brew next. She suggested a blackberry Pilsner. I had never heard of such a thing, but in the interest of keeping her happy and tolerant of my hobby/occupation, I decided to give it a go.

I put “Pilsner” in quotation marks in the title of this recipe for a couple of reasons. First of all, those who abide by the Reinheitsgebot – the beer purity law – would cringe at the thought of adding fruit to this classic German style. Blackberries definitely fall outside the malt, hops, water and yeast list. Second, Pilsners are traditionally lagered to brew a beer of clean profile with no fruity yeast characteristics. It didn’t make sense to me to go to the trouble of fermenting cold to avoid fruity flavors to then add some fruit afterwards. So, I fermented this beer with lager yeast at ale fermentation temperatures. [Read more…]

Tweaking Your Hop Schedule (Part II)

As discussed in the first installment of this article, substituting a lesser weight of higher alpha hops for a higher weight of lower alpha hops is one way to tweak the hop profile of your beer. In that case, you could achieve the same IBU rating, but with less plant material added to your kettle. This decreases the volume of beer lost to trub and hop debris in the bottom of the kettle. And, in the case of very hoppy beers, may lower the amount of astringency contributed by the hops (because hops contain tannins as most plant material does). There are also ways to tweak your late hop profile to get more “bang for your buck” from your hops. [Read more…]

Tweaking Your Hop Schedule

We’ve all been there. You’re all set to brew your favorite IPA, hoppy porter, or other hoppy beer, but you can’t get your hands on the hop varieties you used last time. Or maybe you just want to change things up and examine your hop schedules to see if you make changes. What do you do? Here are some ideas.

In the case of replacing a hop variety, the easiest thing to do would be to find a hop variety that is similar and use that instead. And of course, numerous websites have lists of hop strains and their possible substitutions. The only problem with that is that every hop variety really does have different characteristics, so a one-for-one hop substitution is always going to make the beer taste different. In a beer that isn’t hop forward, and that contains lots of malt (or other) character, the difference may be small, perhaps not even noticeable. However, in a beer in which the focus is on the hops, you will always be able to tell. [Read more…]

Tart Fruity 100% Rye Session Ale

100% Rye and Fruit make for a tasty tart beer.

Along with brewing moderate and higher gravity beers, I’m in search of interesting, drinkable, very low gravity beers to help with cutting calories (and preserving sobriety) while satisfying my beer thirst. Brewing with 100% rye has been one technique I’ve found to give me low alcohol and substantial body. A few months ago, I decided to combine this all-rye approach with wort souring and the addition of fruit.

Process

Let’s begin at the beginning. To six gallons (23 L) of filtered water, I added 5.0 pounds (2.3 kg) crushed malted rye. Using Brew in a Bag, I rested this thin mash at 150˚F (65˚C) for an hour. After removing the grain, I brought the wort up to 180˚F (82˚C) for fifteen minutes to pasteurize. I didn’t want any of the microorganisms on the grain to have any effect on my souring process. [Read more…]

US Homebrewing is in Decline

screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-4-43-36-pm

This is a completely meaningless graph.


A few weeks ago, I attended the Dixie Cup. This is the annual homebrew conference held by the Foam Rangers, one of the clubs in Houston. As always, it was a great time. But, attendance was down. And, the number of entries in the associated homebrew contest was also down. A week or so after that, I went to a movie — the new Rush documentary — with friends, one of whom was in the BJCP and he mentioned that the number of exams he had to grade was down. This gave me the idea to call around to some sources and see if these were just random fluctuations, or if US homebrewing in general was in decline. That would make a good article for Beer and Wine Journal, I thought. As it turns out, Forbes already wrote that article.

[Read more…]

Reddit AMA on Thursday

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-12-50-57-pmI have a Reddit AMA scheduled for 9:00 am Central on Thursday. “AMA” stands for Ask Me Anything and among the things you can ask me are questions about my new book, “Home Brew Recipe Bible” (2016, Page Street), Beer & Wine Journal, anything brewing related, or . . . anything. (I hope that narrows it down.)  [Read more…]