Archives for November 2013

Pharming Polly Scottish Heavy (Easy, Surefire Recipe #3)


Polly want a session beer?

This is the third recipe in our Easy, Surefire Recipe series. The idea behind the series is to present malt extract recipes that play to the strengths of malt extract and can be brewed using stovetop brewing practices with a high probability of success. The recipes are also designed to be simple — mostly meaning that you don’t have to make a yeast starter — but still produce great beer that is a good representation of the style.

Pharming Polly is a Scottish seventy shilling ale, a beer one notch lower in gravity than Scottish export ales. It is a well-balanced, session ale with a complex malt flavor that comes in part from the use of amber malt.

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Should You Go All-Grain?


Going all-grain trades the convenience of extract brewing for the flexibility of mashing your own grains.

Homebrewing is a growing hobby. New homebrewers discover the thrill of brewing their own beer everyday. Most start by brewing malt-extract-based beers on their stovetop. At some point, however, most extract brewers consider switching to all-grain brewing.

In extract brewing, your wort is made by adding water to malt extract to reconstitute the wort made at the malt extract plant. In all-grain brewing, you make your wort by mashing malted grains and collecting the wort from them. This can be a big step, but is it the right one for you? Here is a series of questions to help extract brewers decide if switching to all-grain brewing is the right move.

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PET Bottles in Homebrewing


Once you drain the high-fructose corn syrup solution from the bottle, is it of any use?

If you drink soda — pop, Coke, or whatever you call fizzy sugar water in your neck of the woods — you know what PET bottles are. These plastic bottles are used in the soda industry because they are lightweight and retain carbon dioxide (CO2) in carbonated beverages. Many homebrewers wonder if these would make suitable beer containers. There certainly would be a variety of benefits to using them.


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Assess Your Ingredients (II:Hops and Yeast)

This article is the continuation of this article. (They can be read in either order.)

Brewing ingredients are evaluated in a variety of ways before they reach the brewer. Malt is analyzed for it’s potential extract and protein content (and many other things). Hops are analyzed for their alpha acid and oil content (among other things). Yeast packages frequently give an estimate of the cell count and when the yeast were packaged (or will expire). Not all of this information reaches the average homebrewer, but it is out there if you’re willing to search for it.

Arkansas Cascades ready to pick

Arkansas Cascades ready to pick

Although this information is useful, brewers should additionally assess the aroma and flavor of their brewing ingredients before using them. The numbers (alpha acid percentages, etc.) are highly useful pieces of information, but we don’t taste numbers when we drink beer. Determining whether or not ingredients are fresh or stale is something a brewer can easily do on his own, and has a big impact on the quality of the finished beer. It doesn’t take long to chew a few grains, sniff some hops and evaluate some starter beer. Focusing on your ingredient quality, as well as your process variables, will make you a better brewer.

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Assess Your Ingredients (I: Malt and Water)


Test your ingredients for freshness.

To brew great beer, you need to pay attention to your process. Hitting the correct mash temperatures, boiling sufficiently vigorously, pitching an adequate amount of yeast and many other variables are important to the outcome of your beer. However, your ingredients are also important. No amount of skill as a brewer can turn substandard ingredients into quality beer. In order to brew the highest quality beer — but also to potentially understand where off aromas or flavors come from when they do arise — it pays to assess the quality of your ingredients by smell and taste.

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Cold Weather Fermentation Tips


It’s winter time again. (Photo by Joe Colby.)

Winter is here (in the Northern Hemisphere), and homebrewers living in colder climes may encounter situations in which cold weather affects their fermentations. When most homebrewers think of controlling fermentation temperature, they think of modified chest freezers or fridges to cool their brews. (Lacking that, the wet t-shirt method may be employed.) However, in cold-weather locations, fermentations may cool down to the point where they become sluggish or even stop. Here are some tips for keeping your fermentation temperatures up (and somewhat level) during cold weather.

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Stringbag Mild Ale (Easy, Surefire Recipe #2)


A restored Fairey Swordfish in flight.
(Photo by Tony Hisgett, via Wikipedia, under Creative Commons license.)

Stringbag Mild Ale is the second in our easy, surefire recipe series. In this series of extract recipes, we present brews that are easy to make (no yeast starter, manageable amount of grains), yet great tasting and representative of their beer style.

This is a mild ale — a malty, somewhat dark, session ale. This recipe uses mild ale malt and English pale ale malt, along with crystal malts and dark malts, to give the beer the aroma and flavor of a type of ale that was once one of the most popular beer styles in England.

The name Stringbag is a nickname for the Fairey Swordfish, a biplane used by the British Royal Air Force (RAF) in World War II. Although biplanes were already obsolete by the beginning of the war, the Fairey Swordfish remained in service throughout the conflict as a Naval dive bomber. A Fairey Swordfish damaged the propellers of the German battleship Bismark, which allowed the British Navy to sink the vessel 13 hours later.

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Gluten and Brewing


This is an article containing information on gluten in the brewing process. This is offered as information only. I am not a medical doctor, nor do I know anything about your medical condition. I am not offering you medical advice, nor should you take this as medical advice. If you have celiacs disease or some form of gluten intolerance, follow the advice of your doctor. 



Bread. Nutritious, delicious bread. Made possible by gluten. (Photo by Fastily, via Wikipedia, under GNU free license.)


Gluten is a term for a collection of proteins found in wheat (including spelt), barley and rye. Triticale — a hybrid of wheat and rye — also contains gluten. All grains contain proteins similar to gluten, even “gluten-free” grains. However, the proteins from these grains do not seem to affect people with gluten intolerance. Grains commonly listed as gluten-free include rice, corn, sorghum, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, teff and amaranth. Oats are gluten-free, but are frequently processed in facilities (silos, mills) that also handle barley or wheat, so they are frequently cross-contaminated with gluten.

Glutenin, Hordein and Gliadins

In wheat, gluten is composed of glutenin and gliadins. Glutenin is responsible for 47% of the protein content of wheat, which is usually around 14% of the dry weight. In barley, gluten is composed of hordein and gliadins. Total protein in most malting barley varieties is 12% or less. (The protein content is higher in feed barlies.) Gliadens are a class of proteins, of which there are three major types. Gliadins are soluble in water, while glutenin and hordein are not. (Hordein is soluble in strongly alkaline solutions.) In wheat, the amount and elasticity of gluten allows rising breads to be made from it. These breads cannot be made from the other gluten-containing grains, barley and rye, nor gluten-free grains.

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Amber Socks Red Ale (Easy, Surefire Recipe #1)


An amber ale 

This is the first recipe in our Easy, Surefire Recipe series. 


Amber Socks Red Ale

by Chris Colby

Malt extract; English units



An amber ale with caramel malt flavor and lots of hop flavor and aroma.

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Easy, Surefire Extract Recipes


Sometimes a quick, easy brewday is just what a brewer needs.

Brewing with malt extract is very convenient. And, if you boil a thick wort, then dilute it to working strength in your fermenter, you can brew beer on your stovetop.

There are, however, a few drawbacks to malt extract and the way it is usually used. Because malt extract picks up a bit of color as it is concentrated, the lightest colored beers are out of reach to extract brewers. Likewise, the fermentability of malt extract worts is usually a bit less than comparable worts made strictly from grains. So, brewing very dry beers is not possible. In addition, as wort is condensed into malt extract, some of the malt-derived volatiles are lost and malt extract worts generally have less aroma than comparable worts made with all-grain methods. And finally, given that most extract beers are made by boiling a thick wort, then diluting it, brewing beers at the top end of the bitterness scale is out of reach.

Of course, the limitations to brewing with malt extract can be counteracted by supplementing the extract wort with a partial mash. And, if a brewer can perform a full-wort boil, he (or she) can brew beer as bitter as he likes.

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