A Better Way to Think of Sanitation

DSCN0716There are many ways you can improve at brewing. You can learn new ideas and try new techniques, ingredients, or equipment. You can work on perfecting the things you already do on brewday (or when formulating recipes, serving your beer, etc.). And in one case, simply changing how you think about something may lead you to being a better brewer.

You’ll often hear brewers ask if their beer is infected. (I’ll skip, for now, that it is much better to refer to beer that is soured or spoiled by microorganisms as contaminated than as infected.) There is really only one answer to that question. (OK, there’s two, and one is, “no, but it’s contaminated.”) And that answer is “yes . . . to some degree.” [Read more…]

Brewing Liquor For Amber Beers (10–20 SRM)

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One diagram of beer color, from Wikipedia.

Water chemistry is a topic that many homebrewers wait to tackle until they have been brewing for awhile. For those who don’t deal with chemistry on a regular basis, the learning curve can seem pretty steep. For those brewers, here is a quick guide to generating brewing liquor for amber colored beers (SRM 10–20), starting with distilled water. I’m using the word “amber” here fairly loosely, as 10 SRM is really a dark golden color and 20 SRM is almost into the brown range.

This rough guide can help you treat your brewing liquor, and improve your beer — without having to dig into much of the underlying chemistry.

I will put out three other quick water guides — for brown beers (20–30 SRM), black beers (30–40 SRM), and pale beers (0–10 SRM) — soon. [Read more…]

Beer Foam (Part 5: Brewing Considerations)

DSCN2679Most of the time, brewers give comparatively little thought to foam. We brew our beers and foam appears on top of them. There is no single ingredient or procedure that creates foam, it simply emerges when a beer is brewed properly. However, there are things you can do when brewing that affect foam production and stability. It pays to understand these things, especially if your foam isn’t always what it should be. [Read more…]

The Easy Way to Fly Sparge (Part 2 of 3)

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You don’t need a sparge arm for this, although you can use one if you have it.

Fly sparging can be made less complicated, and less wasteful of water, than the way it is presented by some homebrew books, magazines, or websites. This is a description of “my” way of continuous sparging. It’s “my way” in the sense that this is how I do it, not that I was the first or only person to consider it. I call it pulsed sparging, but some commercial breweries do this as their method of continuous sparging and don’t have a special name for it. [Read more…]

Beer Foam (4: Foam Negative Elements)

DSCN2673Just as there are elements that contribute to the formation and stability of beer foam, there are also elements that accelerate the rate at which foam collapses. Brewers tend to think of these foam negative elements as something to be avoided. If they are in excess, they are — of course — undesirable. However, if beer contained no foam negative elements, foam would continue to form as the beer released carbon dioxide bubbles. And if this foam were not collapsable, it would soon be an impediment to drinking the beer. As such, I would argue that foam negative elements are just as important to foam as foam negative elements, when present in the right quantities. [Read more…]

The Easy Way to Fly Sparge (Part 1 of 3)

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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)

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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…]

Beer 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)

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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…]

Beer 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…]