Beer News (Nov 22–Dec 16)

BWJlogo‘Tis the season . . . for endless listicles (articles in the form of a list). Here are a few in the endless parade of listicles recommending holiday, winter, Hanukkah, or Christmas beers. From NewsTalk, the Minneapolis Star/Tribune, USA Today, Londonist, and . . . you know what. just Google “Christmas beers” or “winter beers” and click the news button and you’ll find plenty. And speaking of Christmas beers, Anchor is releasing its 40th anniversary Our Special Ale this year. And in non-holiday lists, Thrillist assembled a panel of experts to give their top 10 IPAs.

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Sour Wort Berliner Weisse

Wort ready to sour

Souring wort alone can add control to your pre-boil souring process

Brewing sour beers can be a risky proposition that requires a lot of patience. The “wild” yeast and bacteria that create the sour, funky flavors we like can invade other non-funky beers if we’re not careful, and it can take time for complex flavors to evolve in the fermenter. However, there is one shortcut to a tart beer that we can take advantage of: pre-boil souring.

I’ve written previously about sour mashing, which is the technique of inoculating a mash with Lactobacillus – a bacteria responsible for souring beers – and allowing the mash to turn tart over a period of time. This method has its drawbacks. It is tricky to keep air away from the mash in the kettle. Oxygen can encourage growth of unwanted microorganisms that can contribute a “dumpster” character to the souring mash and perhaps to the final beer. [Read more...]

Choosing a Mash Method III (Simple Heated Step Mash, Part Two)

This is the second half of an article that was posted yesterday



A step mash for a reasonably dry beer — drier than could be made with a single infusion mash.

After the beta amylase rest (140–145 °F/60–63 °C), and the temperature ramp up into the saccharification range (148–162 °F/64–72 °C), the rest of wort production is almost identical to a single infusion mash. One difference is that you can choose a slightly higher temperature for your main mash rest. If you were brewing a dry beer and using a single infusion mash, you would likely rest in the 148–151 °F (64–66 °C) range. If you were brewing a somewhat drier beer, you could in the 152–154 °F (67–68 °C) range after the beta amylase rest. Because you’ve already rested at lower temperatures (favoring beta amylase), your main rest can be slightly higher, favoring alpha amylase a bit more, comparatively.

Both alpha and beta amylase will be active at both rests, just to varying degrees. In the beta amylase range, the activity of alpha amylase is still substantial (albeit less than it will be at the higher temperature of the saccharification rest). In the saccharification rest, beta amylase activity continues, although it will decline fairly quickly over time. Still — since it has already been working for a period of time at the lower rest — there is less substrate for it to deal with.  [Read more...]

Choosing a Mash Method III (Simple Heated Step Mash)


A step mash for brewing a dry beer. A 15-minute rest at 140 °F (60 °C) is followed by heating the mash to a roughly 45-minute rest at 152 °F (64 °C). Finally, the mash is heated to 170 °F (77 °C) for a mash out. (Click to Enlarge.)

Sometimes the simplest approach is the best. When brewing with fully-modified malts — as most malts are these days — a single infusion mash is almost always your best bet. The maltster has taken care of many of the issues (gums, proteins) that would have required a step mash. In most cases, performing a step mash is at best a waste of time. At worst, it can decrease the quality of your foam. And, by varying the mash temperature of your single infusion mash, you can make wort with varying degrees of fermentability. For most styles of beer, this range of fermentability is adequate.

However, there are some times when a step mash is just the thing. If you are brewing with undermodified malt, a step mash is highly recommended. (If you single infusion mash, you may end up with too many proteins in your wort and gums (glucans) may make lautering difficult.) I’ll cover this approach in a later article on decoction mashing (a type of step mashing). [Read more...]

Rauchbier (And Winter Lagering Tips)


The frost giant Surtur.

Winter is great time for many homebrewers to try brewing a lager. The fundamentals of brewing lager beer do not vary with the seasons. However, for homebrewers without an actively-cooled fermentation chamber, colder outside temperatures may provide a seasonal opportunity.

If you look around your house, you may find places — such as a basement or attic — that are significantly cooler than the rest of the house. Depending on where you live, an unheated garage or outdoor shed may also fall within a usable temperature range for a period of time.  [Read more...]

Beer News (Oct 27–Nov. 21)

BWJlogoOK, let’s start with some listicles (articles in the form of a list). Thrillist gives their 15 beers to drink this winter and Paste lists their 15 best Christmas beers. And, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel gives their 9 beers to put you in the holiday spirit


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Thanksgiving Recipes


Mmmm . . . turkey.

Beer and Wine Journal is mostly about brewing, with a little winemaking and mead making content thrown in. But we also run the occasional story about food. Last year, I posted one Thanksgiving beer recipe (Cranberry Zinger) and one beer recipe that uses a typical Thanksgiving ingredient (Sweet Potato ESB). We also have a Pumpkin Beer recipe, if that’s your thing. I also posted a variety of Thanksgiving food recipes, which I summarize here.

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Cranberry Zinger (All-grain)


It”s that time of year again.

Thanksgiving is two weeks away and so today I’m posting the all-grain version of my Cranberry Zinger — a great beer to serve on Thanksgiving day. Quick and easy to brew, and virtually foolproof, this is a great seasonal beer.

The all-grain version differs slightly from the extract version. Basically, the OG is little lower, but don’t worry — it’s not brain surgery. Almost any wheat beer base from 10–13 °Plato (1.040–1.052), all-grain or extract, will work fine. This recipe actually makes a nice American wheat beer, so you could brew 10 gallons (38 L) and split half into a straight up American wheat beer and add fruit to the second half.

Cranberries are tart, and they are also a bit tannic. The orange pith in the recipe (part of the whole orange) gives some added bitterness beyond the hopping (which is low). The dry, tart, slightly puckering flavor (and mouthfeel) of the beer is accentuated by the high level of carbonation.

This beer ferments quickly (3–4 days) and, after the beer has contacted the fruit for about a week, you can keg it and it will be ready to go. If you keg your beer, you can brew the base this weekend and have it ready for Thanksgiving.

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The Steps in a Step Mash (II)

This is the continuation of a previous post


brewpotThe lower temperature rests in a step mash deal with hydration, mash pH, proteins, and beta glucans. They are not needed with most fully-modified malts, but work well with undermodified malts or home malted barley. Two of the three remaining rests deal with the degradation of carbohydrates — how starch is broken down into a mixture of fermentable sugars and unfermentable carbohydrates. These rests can be performed regardless of the type of malt you are mashing.

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The Steps in a Step Mash (I)

This a follow up to my recent post on single infusion mashes. Reviewing how enzymes work will make some parts of this article make more sense. 


brewpotSingle infusion mashes work well when brewing with fully-modified malts. However, there are times when a step mash is more appropriate. In a step mash, the mash is initially rested at a temperature below the usual saccharification range, then raised through one or more rests at progressively higher temperatures. To raise the temperature, the mash may be directly heated, infused with hot water, or decoctions may be pulled, heated, and returned to the main mash. (Additionally, in a cereal mash, a mash that was initiated separately from the main mash may be stirred in to raise the overall temperature of the combined mash.)

Performing a step mash is beneficial when using undermodified malt or home malted grains. In home malted grains — for which the degree of modification is likely to be uneven, compared to commercial standards — a decoction mash is likely your best bet.

There are historically relevant step mashes, such as the “standard” triple decoction mash, in which a specific set of rests is called for. On the other hand, any brewer can come up with his or her own step mash by choosing to rest or not at various temperatures. Here’s a quick rundown on the common steps found in a step mash, with some final thoughts on the overall mash program.

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