Tart Fruity 100% Rye Session Ale

100% Rye and Fruit make for a tasty tart beer.

Along with brewing moderate and higher gravity beers, I’m in search of interesting, drinkable, very low gravity beers to help with cutting calories (and preserving sobriety) while satisfying my beer thirst. Brewing with 100% rye has been one technique I’ve found to give me low alcohol and substantial body. A few months ago, I decided to combine this all-rye approach with wort souring and the addition of fruit.

Process

Let’s begin at the beginning. To six gallons (23 L) of filtered water, I added 5.0 pounds (2.3 kg) crushed malted rye. Using Brew in a Bag, I rested this thin mash at 150˚F (65˚C) for an hour. After removing the grain, I brought the wort up to 180˚F (82˚C) for fifteen minutes to pasteurize. I didn’t want any of the microorganisms on the grain to have any effect on my souring process. [Read more…]

US Homebrewing is in Decline

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This is a completely meaningless graph.


A few weeks ago, I attended the Dixie Cup. This is the annual homebrew conference held by the Foam Rangers, one of the clubs in Houston. As always, it was a great time. But, attendance was down. And, the number of entries in the associated homebrew contest was also down. A week or so after that, I went to a movie — the new Rush documentary — with friends, one of whom was in the BJCP and he mentioned that the number of exams he had to grade was down. This gave me the idea to call around to some sources and see if these were just random fluctuations, or if US homebrewing in general was in decline. That would make a good article for Beer and Wine Journal, I thought. As it turns out, Forbes already wrote that article.

[Read more…]

Contest Cream Ales

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-3-49-46-pmOn Tuesday, I judged a flight of beers for the Dixie Cup, the annual competition held by Houston’s Foam Rangers homebrew club. The style of beer was cream ale. Judging cream ale, and tasting several different twists on it, gave me a few insights into brewing the style — especially if you are brewing it to enter into a BJCP homebrew competition. [Read more…]

Session Rye ESB and Porter

My name is James, my favorite color is green, and my quest is to create tasty, satisfying, low gravity beers using rye as a base ingredient. The latest stops on my quest included the British styles of Extra Special Bitter (ESB) and Porter.

Brew in a Bag is a must for recipes heavy in rye.

Brew in a Bag is a must for recipes heavy in rye.

Let me start with this disclaimer: If you are offended by deviating from traditional style guidelines, read no further. However, if you enjoy hacking recipes and charting undiscovered territory, clop your coconut shells and come along. (No more Monty Python references.  I promise.)

As I have discussed in previous recipes, such as my “Rye Wit” and “100% Rye Pale Ale,” we can take advantage of the gloppiness of rye wort to create tasty low gravity beers that maintain substantial mouthfeel. Too much rye can give you a beer with the consistency of Vick’s Formula 44D, but if you pull back on the reins (notice my restraint in not adding a “Patsy” reference here) and add half as much, you get a more “normal” tasting beer with half the alcohol. [Read more…]

Thoughts on Cleaning and Sanitation (I: Airborne Contamination) 

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Wort being chilled with an immersion chiller. The kettle is covered loosely with a lid. Steam from the boil sanitized the lid. I also drape clean T-shirts over the kettle while chilling to prevent airborne microorganisms moving vertically through the crack in the kettle lid.

Recently, I posted an article advocating that brewers think about cleaning and sanitation as a matter of degree rather than a “good enough”/“not good enough” dichoctomy. In this article, I’ll share some ideas to move your cleaning and sanitation practices from “good enough” to just a bit better than that. For the sake of completeness, I’ll cover some familiar ground, but I think there are a couple ideas in here that are not well appreciated in the homebrewing community.  [Read more…]

A Better Way to Think of Sanitation

DSCN0716There are many ways you can improve at brewing. You can learn new ideas and try new techniques, ingredients, or equipment. You can work on perfecting the things you already do on brewday (or when formulating recipes, serving your beer, etc.). And in one case, simply changing how you think about something may lead you to being a better brewer.

You’ll often hear brewers ask if their beer is infected. (I’ll skip, for now, that it is much better to refer to beer that is soured or spoiled by microorganisms as contaminated than as infected.) There is really only one answer to that question. (OK, there’s two, and one is, “no, but it’s contaminated.”) And that answer is “yes . . . to some degree.” [Read more…]

NHC Round One Judging (2016, Austin)

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Judging Pilsners with Corey Martin.

On Friday and Saturday of last week, the Austin NHC site held its first round judging. I, along with many other Austin ZEALOTS and other Austin area homebrewers, descended upon 4th Tap Brewing and judged over 700 beers, finishing the task a day ahead of schedule.

Every year I judge, I try to think of the bigger picture afterwards and see if I can identify any trends or find anything worth writing about from the experience. Then I write about it anyway.

Judging at a large competition, you get to sample a lot of beers. This year, I judged 6 flights over the two days, ranging from 5 to 12 beers in a flight, with 7 or 8 being the median number (IIRC). Plus, there’s always the “holy crap, you have got to try this” moments when another judge finds a particularly spectacular beer and shares it. And of course, there’s the groans when judges encounter a real stinker. So, each judge gets to sample a fair amount of beer and gets some idea of what the other judges are encountering. On the other hand, one judge’s experience can’t be taken as a statistically valid sample, so these are just my observations.  [Read more…]

Beer Foam (Part 3: Foam Positive Elements)

DSCN2673Now that we have an idea about what foam is and how it forms in general, let’s look at some of the specifics of beer foam. A great place to start would be to analyze beer foam to see what it is composed of, and this is something brewing scientists did long ago. They skimmed beer foam, collapsed all the bubbles until it was a liquid again, and determined and ran tests to determine its composition. [Read more…]

Getting Your Beer Critiqued (II)

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Looks like beer to me.

There are ways to to get a helpful critique of your beer, but — as with anything in life — what you get out of the process depends on what you put it in. In addition, being able to accept criticism is a skill some brewers need to learn. 

[Read more…]

Beer Foam (Part 2: Collapse)

DSCN2679Foam forms in a carbonated beverage when bubbles rising through the liquid begin stacking up on the surface. After awhile, however, the foam will begin to recede. There are three main processes involved in foam collapse.

[Read more…]