Archives for March 2014

BWJ Q and A (Root Beer Beer)


Once again, a Q and A cat pic.


I liked your recipes using Mt. Dew and other sodas in beer and I was wondering if the same thing would be possible with commercial root beer? I was thinking of making a stout/porter type ale and fermenting with root beer to get some of those flavors in the beer. My question is would you run into the problem of bottle bombs like you can with home made root beer?



— Russ Albright

Keizer, Oregon

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All-Grain Brew Day Walkthrough (I: Strike Water)

IMG_2938Starting this week, I’ll post a series of articles walking readers through an all-grain brew day. Hopefully this will give beginning all-grain brewers — especially those who don’t have access to a homebrew club or a friend who brews — a guide to their first all-grain brew day. For intermediate all-grain brewers, it will hopefully provide a list of options to explore. I’ll focus mostly on the process itself, only mentioning theory when it explains the motivation for a step or provides some interesting information that is not well-known.

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What To Do On St. Patrick’s Day


St. Patrick (photo by Andreas F. Borchert, via Wikipedia, used under Creative Common license).

One of the years I lived in Boston, we all went to Matt Murphy’s, a pub in Brookline, for St. Patrick’s Day. At the time, in the mid 1990s, this traditional Irish pub was consistently ranked as one of the best places for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. We got there early, dined on stew and shepherd’s pie, and drank Guinness until quite late. We celebrated an “Irish” holiday in a very Irish city and had a great time.

For most of our other Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations, we went to a dive bar called Fathers Too (which later changed it’s name to PJ Kilroys). It was near Boston University, where we worked, and we went there most nights. As graduate students, we drank whatever the cheapest pitcher special was — usually Budweiser — and ate at Taco Bell, or some other fast food restaurant, before heading over there. The pub was decked out with strings of green plastic shamrocks, and the table cards that hawked Bud all had an “Irish” theme (probably a red-headed girl in a green bikini). So, we all knew it was St. Patrick’s day, but we didn’t care . . . and we had a great time.

So, I think you can see where this is going. Enjoy your St. Patrick’s Day with friends or family and you’ll likely have a good time. You can get caught up in all the hoopla, if you want, but you can also avoid it and have a perfectly nice St. Patrick’s Day.

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Dry Stout (Repost)

[This is a repost of our dry stout article for St. Patrick’s Day. Recipes are in the list at the bottom of this post]

[This is the first in a three-part series on dry stout. Part 2 will be posted June 20th and part 3 will be posted June 21st.]


As a homebrewer and beer drinker, I hope that the current resurgence of interest in session beers follows through to a full-fledged renaissance. My favorite session beer is Irish dry stout, exemplified on the commercial side by Guinness, Murphy’s and Beamish. Although low in alcohol and body, it is full of roasty goodness. Dry stout is a great style of beer for those who want lots of flavor, but also want to enjoy several beers before calling it a night.

Dry stout lacks the strength of a foreign export (or imperial) stout, the chewy body of an oatmeal stout and the sweetness of a sweet or milk stout. (In alcoholic beverages, “dry” means not sweet.) But dry stout is not about what is missing — it’s about the wonderful character from the darkly roasted grains, which give the beer a coffee-like flavor and aroma. Without the sweetness, body and alcohol of other stouts, the roasted grain character takes center stage. The key to brewing a great dry stout is to focus on getting the best dark grain flavor, with enough support from the other elements of the beer to round things out.

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Beer News (March 10-March 16)

BWJlogoOK, I usually start the beer news roundup with a listicle, and — as you might expect — this week there were plenty of them. Every media outlet in the world seemingly wanted to publish a St. Patrick’s Day beer list. I decided to skip them, because you can just search for “St. Patrick’s Day” and check the endless news results. Also, I suspect that homebrewers more than anyone know what beers they’d like to drink on this holiday.

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Copper Ale (3-Gallon All-Grain Recipe)

IMG_2105This is a 3-gallon (11-L) all-grain recipe for my copper ale. This beer was formulated without reference to an existing beer style, and was meant to simply be an “everyday” beer. (If you need to attach a style too it, I guess you can call it an alt.) The beer is malty, I balanced with a solid hop bitterness.

I have previously posted the 5-gallon (19 L) version of this recipe. Other 3-gallon (11-L) all-grain recipes I have posted include a porter, pale ale, dry stout and an amber ale. This can be brewed with a simple  3-gallon (11-L) all-grain brewery.


Copper Ale

by Chris Colby

All-grain; English units



A copper-colored ale with a nice, “Fuggly” hop aroma and malty flavor. Designed as an “everyday” beer.

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A “Trick” to Boost Your Pitching Rate

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Use your favorite liquid yeast strain for flavor and aroma, then use a neutral yeast strain to shore up your pitching rate.

Pitching rate, the number of yeast cells used to inoculate a given volume of wort, influences several things in the brewing process. Higher pitching rates lead to faster fermentations — they start faster and finish faster. Higher pitching rates also lead to finishing gravities closer to what is predicted by a forced fermentation test. In other words, the yeast utilize all the carbohydrates that they can. In contrast, in severely underpitched beers, the yeast may quit early and leave fermentable carbohydrates behind, resulting in a higher final gravity (FG). Low pitching rates are frequently the cause of stalled or stuck fermentations.

For “characterful” yeast strains that produce plenty of fermentation byproducts, higher pitching rates are associated with “cleaner” beers. Some Belgian ale strains produce an estery, “spicy” aroma when slightly underpitched, but produce a cleaner beer when pitched at a higher rate (to a well-aerated wort). Temperature also plays a major role, with higher temperatures leading to more fermentation byproducts.

This is true of White Labs WLP530 (Abbey Ale) and Wyeast 3787 (Trappist High Gravity) yeast — larger than optimal pitches, thorough aeration, and low temperatures (within the usual ale fermentation range) lead to clean fermentations. It is also true that the “banana ester” level in German hefe-weizens can be manipulated this way.

Homebrewers who are concerned about their pitching rate generally consult a pitching rate calculator, then make a yeast starter of the suggested volume. However, if your brewday arrives and you haven’t made a starter, there is a way to “cheat” that may come in handy occasionally.

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Blending A Gueuze

IMG_3111When it comes time to blend their gueuze, traditional lambic producers have a brewery full of barrels to select from. They can sample from their barrels, select those to contribute to their gueuze, dedicate others to fruit beers, and tag others for continued aging (or the drain). You, in contrast, will have three buckets (if you follow the plan in the accompanying article). Still, if your three beers turned out well, you can still blend of very fine gueuze at home.

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Basic Homebrewed Lambic Recipe


Bottled gueuze aging at Brouwerij Cantillon in Brussels, Belgium.

If you ask 10 sour beer brewers how to brew a sour beer, you’ll get 11 answers. Here is mine. This is a basic lambic beer. It can be used as the base for a fruit lambic, like a kriek or framboise. It can be used as a blender in a gueuze. (See my article on brewing a gueuze for more information.) Or, it can be enjoyed on its own. Over the years, I have adapted traditional lambic brewing techniques into something that can be done on a normal homebrew system. The main recipe is given in a stovetop extract formulation (countertop partial mash), but I also give an all-grain version.

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Go For The Gueuze


A chart of the plan to brew sour beers each year and blend a gueuze in the fourth year. An extra bucket of lambic each year will allow you to make a kriek or framboise. (Click on the chart to enlarge it.)

Traditional lambic makers brew during the cooler months of the year, and take the hot summer off. Spring is a great time for homebrewers to begin a sour beer. The main fermentation can complete at normal ale temperatures, and then the beer can sour over the summer. During this time, the temperature of the fermenter can rise (within reason). The added heat will help the souring bacteria do their work more quickly.

One type of traditional lambic is gueuze — a blend of young and old lambics. “Young,” in this case, means one year old and “old” means either 2 or 3 years old. Today I’ll lay out a plan for a homebrewer to brew lambic-style ales for three years, then blend a gueuze from 1, 2 and 3 year old lambic in the fourth year. If you’re wondering who would ever do such a thing, I know one homebrewer who did it — me. (And, my resulting gueuze won Best of Show at the Austin ZEALOTS Inquisition that year.)

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