A Surefire Way to Improve Your Beers . . . And Why You Will Ignore This Advice

I once met a fellow brewer who had built his own RIMS system. He had two temperature probes in his mash vessel and had fiddled with the engineering of the heating loop and wort return. He had also tweaked his process, varying how the wort was heated, his pump speed, etc., and finally arrived at a point that he was proud of. He could hold his mash temperatures steady, within only 0.5 °F (~0.25 °C) over time or between different places in the mash (except for inside the heating loop, obviously). He could program virtually any step mash into his controller and the rig would carry it out. He was very proud of his accomplishment (as he should have been) and he offered me one of his beers. It was contaminated. [Read more…]

The Sad Path to Happiness

The grist of this batch included around 10 lb. (4.5 kg) of malt and roughy 8 lb. (3.6 kg) of beer bread (bappir) made from crushed malt and honey. 3.0 lb. (1.4 kg) of honey was also added to the boil.

For my Ancient Sumerian Happy Juice brewday, I was all set have a relaxed brew day where I just winged everything. After all, I’ve brewed before. I could deal with things on the fly, right?  And, the beer I was brewing was my interpretation of the English translation of a poem written by ancient Sumerians. So, no living person — including me — would ever know if my recipe and approach was right or wrong. As it turns out, I rediscovered why I normally never wing things on brew day. [Read more…]

Beer is Bread. Bread is Beer.

Cookies! Actually, “logs” of bappir (beer bread).

The first step in making Ancient Sumerian Happy Juice is making the wine. I’ve done that, it’s bubbling away, and it smells like wine. I also added some beer yeast to the mix, just to cover all the bases. The second step in brewing “the juice” is baking the beer bread, called bappir.  [Read more…]

Time to Get Happy

Grapes rotting — er, I mean turning into wine — in a pot.

OK, it’s time for me to get happy. And to do so, I’m going to brew another version of one of my favorite beers — Ancient Sumerian Happy Juice. Several years ago, I read the English translation of the poem Hymn to Ninkasi. This poem praises the goddess Ninkasi, who the ancient Sumerians believed watched over beer production. From the poem, I came up with a “beer” recipe. The beverage contains honey and fruits, as well as grains, so it’s really a hybrid beer, wine, and mead. The basic idea was that dates were crushed and made into wine. Barley was milled and mixed with honey and baked into bread, which the poem called bappir. Malted grains were then mashed along with the bread. The wort from this was boiled and then cooled and the fermenting date wine was added to it. I used some smoked malt in the recipe as I figured that ancient malting techniques may have yielded malt tainted with smoke.  [Read more…]

Cry Censorship and Let Slip the Flying Dogs of War

Four beers good. Two beers better. Don’t believe it.

Free speech and beer are two topics that are near and dear to my heart. So, I wanted to depart from Beer and Wine Journal’s usual homebrewing— but mysteriously not winemaking — content and write an opinion piece.

To start things off, and just so everyone is clear, the current kerfuffle between Flying Dog and the Brewer’s Association (BA) is not a First Amendment issue. The government isn’t trying (or succeeding) to censor anyone, so nobody’s Constitutional rights are being abridged. Secondly, the BA is a private group. As such, they can make whatever rules they want (within the bounds of legality). Thirdly — and this will be the main theme of this article — all groups that give themselves the power to make rules will continue to make rules until they run into opposition. Any group that has the ability to tell others what to do will attract people who like telling others what to do. And those who really like making rules will likely rise to a position of leadership. In turn, the people who like bucking rules will resist them. As Kurt Vonnegut would say, “And so it goes.” [Read more…]

20 Brewing Answers

Here are the answers to the quiz I posted on Tuesday.

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20 Brewing Questions

So you think you know brewing, huh? Well step up to the plate and try to answer these 20 brewing questions. If you can pick the right answers from the wrong answers, the doubly wrong answers, and the answers that are so wrong that they just might be right, you will have our undying respect. This quiz is meant to be challenging, but also fun. And, given that you’ll score it yourself, you can still score 100% no matter what you answer (you know, like most online quizzes). If you’re brave, post your answers — that you gave without Googling — in the comments section. I’ll post the answer key with explanations of everything — and hopefully better jokes — on Thursday. So, grab your #2 pencil, then set it back down because you shouldn’t draw on your computer screen and . . . begin the quiz! [Read more…]

Grapefruit Juice Pale Ale

Grapefruit juice adds some tasty citrus character

One thing that attracts me to “West Coast” pale ales and IPAs is the citrus character of their hops. I remember brewing my first pale ale with Amarillo back in the day, and I was amazed by the amount of grapefruit flavor and aroma coming out of my pint glass. In order to chase that fruit character, I decided to play with some juice.

As Chris noted in an earlier story on brewing fruit beers, you can use peel, flesh, juice or extract from fruit to achieve a fruity flavor. Back in 2014, I brewed a pineapple saison using a quart of frozen pineapple juice added at the end of the boil. This was inspired by an interview with homebrewers Brook Baber and David Bauter on Basic Brewing Radio about their method of brewing graf, a fictional beverage envisioned by Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” series. Brook and David froze fruit juice in plastic bags and added it to the end of the boil to help jump start the chilling process. The technique worked well for my saison, so I decided to adopt it for my grapefruit pale ale. [Read more…]

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…]