Speedy Homebrewing

Brew a six-pack in less than an hour? Why not?

Brew a six-pack in less than an hour? Why not?

I’m a big fan of small batch brewing. It allows experimentation with less risk, provides a less expensive entry point for first-time brewers, and enables brewing in small spaces where a “full size” brewing setup is impractical.

One of the objections I hear the most about small batch brewing goes something like this: “Why would I spend the same amount of time brewing a six pack of beer that I spend in brewing two cases.” That objection stems from a misconception. Sure, mash rest times and boil times remain the same, but the time it takes to heat up water or wort and cool it down can be radically different. [Read more…]

Tasting Notes: Fruitcake Barleywine

This barleywine will definitely take the chill off.

This barleywine will definitely take the chill off.

Read about how this beer was brewed along with the recipe here.

If you’re looking for subtlety, look elsewhere. This barleywine with ingredients typically found in a fruitcake is big and full of flavors. The first sip tastes like . . . well . . . fruitcake – or maybe a spiced cake that would be at home at Grandma’s house. It’s hard for me to pick out the individual spices because they blend together well. But, there’s a lot of them.

Following up closely behind the spice attack is subtle pineapple from the candied fruit added close to the end of the boil. It is well balanced with the rest of the beer. As the beer warms – and weighing in at nearly 12% alcohol by volume, it should have plenty of time to warm – darker flavor notes come from the brown sugar and molasses undertones.

The beer finished at a gravity of 1.013, so the mouthfeel is fairly substantial. There is no alcohol hotness. Unfortunately, the carbonation is nearly nonexistent. I probably should have added some fresh dry yeast at bottling time to provide reinforcements for the Safale US 05.

If this beer performs as a previous batch, it should age well. Time should mellow the spice character as the malt and dark sugar flavors deepen. I’m looking forward to next holiday season . . . if I can save a few bottles until then.

Easy Lager Chilling

A pond pump and some ice water can really help speed wort chilling.

A pond pump and some ice water can really help speed wort chilling.

When I noticed the thermometer in my basement read 50˚F (10˚C), one thought popped into my head: Lager Time. Finding (or creating) a space to ferment beers at lager temperatures is a challenge. Bringing wort down to lager pitching temperature quickly and easily can be a bigger challenge. I’ve found a way to deal with that challenge in a fairly inexpensive and low-tech way.

My immersion chiller does a good job of knocking most of the initial heat out of near-boiling wort. But, at a certain time, the temperature reaches a plateau where the chilling slows down. The level of that plateau varies, depending on the season and the temperature of the ground water.

The trick to the method that I use is to circulate ice water through the immersion chiller using a cheap immersible pond pump from the local hardware store. This is even more effective than adding a second pre-chiller that is immersed in ice water, which I have tried as well. [Read more…]

Brewing Disaster Lessons

Listener Ryan from Massachusetts learned not to pull the chiller hose that extra five feet.

Listener Ryan from Massachusetts learned not to pull the chiller hose that extra five feet.

This year, as in years past, Steve Wilkes and I gathered around a microphone to share stories about brewing disasters sent in by listeners of Basic Brewing Radio. All were sent in with a spirit of fun, even though some of them end in ruined beer, property damage, or even personal injury. After reading dozens of letters, certain themes emerge – themes that we can all learn from in our brewing efforts. Here are my top five. [Read more…]

Pineapple Saison

Frozen pineapple juice may not look pretty, but it's pretty tasty.

Frozen pineapple juice may not look pretty, but it’s pretty tasty.

This is yet another one of my beers that may drive style sticklers a bit crazy. I know saisons aren’t traditionally fruity, other than the flavors that the saison yeast may add to the beer. However, I took inspiration from two recent episodes of Basic Brewing Radio (BBR) and combined them into something new, at least for me.

On the October 17, 2013, episode of BBR, homebrewers Brook Baber and David Bauter shared their version of graf, which is a fictitious apple-based beer from the brain of author Stephen King, introduced in the Dark Tower series. In addition to apple juice, Brook and David used pineapple juice in their “graf” and added it in frozen form at the end of the boil.

On the December 5, 2013, episode of the podcast, homebrewer Bryan Gold shared tips on brewing saisons with fruit, including prickly pear, raspberry, and blackberry.

All of the above were delicious and showed how fruit can be introduced into beer in a way that achieves tasty synergy – greater than the sum of their parts. In each case, the fruit played well with the beer elements. [Read more…]

Fruitcake Barleywine

Brown sugar, molasses, candied fruit, and spices bring the holidays into this beer.

Brown sugar, molasses, candied fruit, and spices bring the holidays into this beer.

No, the name of this beer doesn’t refer to a psychedelic band from the 1960s, although that would be awesome. This beer was born out of an annual tradition on Basic Brewing Video. In December of 2007, I brewed a small batch barleywine for Steve Wilkes to use in making a fruitcake and a wassail – a traditional holiday beverage. The barleywine from the next year went into a bread pudding. All of the above were delicious.

In 2009, I decided to turn the tables. Instead of using barleywine as an ingredient in fruitcake, I decided to see what would happen if I used traditional fruitcake ingredients in the beer. (See recipe and video below.) The beer was based on one brewed with American two-row, 90L crystal, and a bit of aromatic malt with Fuggles for bittering. [Read more…]

Mole Stout Recipe

Vanilla, cinnamon, cacao nibs, and ancho chili bring a lot of flavor.

Vanilla, cinnamon, cacao nibs, and ancho chili bring a lot of flavor.

When looking at the name of this beer, don’t think of the nearsighted underground mammal prone to crisscrossing your yard with annoying tunnels. Think of mole (MO-lay) sauce from traditional Mexican cuisine. According to Wikipedia, mole comes in many forms with different ingredients. This beer was inspired by a beer from Andy Coates when he was brewing at West Mountain Brewing in Fayetteville, Arkansas. (Andy now owns Ozark Beer Company in Rogers, Arkansas.) Andy added ingredients to a keg of his stout to bring chocolate, spice, and a bit of heat to the beer. It was delicious.

My first attempt at the beer was on an episode of Basic Brewing Video. Steve Wilkes and I brewed a one-gallon batch as part of a series on small batch all grain beers. On Andy’s advice, we added roasted cacao nibs, a vanilla bean, a cinnamon stick, and an ancho chili pepper to secondary fermentation in a Mr. Beer fermenter for one week. [Read more…]

Tasting Notes: Rye-Based Session Beers

Those of you who have been following BWJ for a while know that I’ve been playing with rye as a way to lower the gravity and alcohol of homebrews while maintaining a satisfying level of mouthfeel. In this week’s Basic Brewing Video episode, Steve Wilkes and I sample two of them. Both have been featured here: 100% Rye Pale Ale – Take Two and “Rye Wit.”

In the episode, we walk viewers through the brewing process of each. Brew in a Bag (BIAB) is essential because of the gumminess of the rye wort.

Tasting Notes: “Rye Wit” Session Beer

The Rye Wit is light, hoppy and refreshing.

The Rye Wit is light, hoppy and refreshing.

I thought I’d better write a post about this beer before it’s gone. It appears my goal of coming up with a very low gravity hoppy beer and to be able to brew it repeatedly has been achieved. (Arm severely straining from the awkward position of patting myself on the back.)

As seen in the article detailing its brewing, the “Rye Wit” had a shockingly low starting gravity of 1.018. My hydrometer says it finished at 1.008, giving it an alcohol by volume of 1.3%. According to the BrewMath iPhone app, the calorie count for this lightweight is 76.

Thanks to the magical properties of rye, the body of the beer is satisfying. It would in no way be mistaken for a high gravity beer, but at the same time, it’s not watery.

I hopped the beer in the keg with an ounce (28 grams) of Cascade pellets. This, combined with the ounce of Mosaic pellets at flameout, gives the Rye Wit a very nice hoppy aroma. It’s a little grassy around the edges, but as a hop lover, that suits me just fine.

The flavor is all about the hops. Again, it’s not an IPA, but it’s not trying to be. The hops are a bit lemony and piney with a bit of resin in there, too. The beer is very thirst quenching, which is one reason it’s not going to last very long.

I’d call the color a cloudy straw with a voluminous white head. It’s something you’d expect from a beer that’s nothing but wheat and rye.

I’d love to brew this again with Citra hops. Or, maybe with Amarillo. Both.

 

 

Brew in a Bag Basics

Brewing? It's in the . . . well, you know.

Brewing? It’s in the . . . well, you know.

If you went through corporate training in the 1990s or saw the demonstration reel for the Video Toaster, you’re familiar with the term “paradigm shift.” Brew in a bag (BIAB) is a paradigm shift for all-grain homebrewing — a new way of thinking that is a break from the past.

Traditional thinking for all-grain brewing says you need three vessels: one to use as a hot liquor tank for heating water, another to use as a mash tun where wort (unfermented beer) is created, and a third where the wort is boiled and hops are added. BIAB calls for just one vessel – your brew kettle, where all of the above functions will happen. [Read more…]