Ten-Gallon BIAB Cream Ale Brew Day

Pouring in 20 pounds of grain to get the process started.

Pouring in 20 pounds of grain to get the process started.

I’ve long been a champion of small batches, but every now and then I find a recipe that I want to brew a lot of. My Cream Ale recipe is one of those. Thanks to demand from friends (and myself), a batch of this stuff tends to go pretty quickly.

To brew 10-gallon (38-L) batches, I don’t have an elaborate brewing “sculpture,” but I do have a stainless steel keg that has been converted into a kettle.* Using the Brew in a Bag (BIAB) technique, that “keggle” can double as a mash tun and kettle, all in one. [Read more…]

Open Fermentation and Top Cropping at Arcadia Brewing

Arcadia Brewing Manager Vaughn Stewart next to an open fermenter

Arcadia Brewing Manager Vaughn Stewart next to an open fermenter

Steve Wilkes, Andy Sparks, and I headed north to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to attend the National Homebrewers Conference. On the Wednesday before the conference, we took a side trip to Kalamazoo for a bit of beer exploration.

The Kalamazoo location of Arcadia Brewing has only been open since early May. The parent brewery is in Battle Creek and has been in operation for 18 years. In addition to the tasty English-style-based beers, the dining area features a meat counter, where the similarly intoxicating aromas of smoked meat filled the room.

As we were sampling a flight (or two) of ales, Brewing Manager Vaughn Stewart joined us and then treated us to a tour of his facility. [Read more…]

Patrick Henry Pale Ale (3-gallon/11-L All-Grain Recipe)


“Give me liberty or give me . . . you know, what, liberty will great. I’ll stick with liberty.”

With small batch brewing taking off in popularity and readers of this site enjoying the article about my simple 3-gallon (11-L) all-grain brewery, I decided to post a series of all-grain recipes scaled to 3 gallons (11 L). I’ve already posted my porter, and here’s my pale ale. (For reference, see the 5-gallon (19-L) recipe, or countertop partial mash formulation, if you’d like.)

For 3 gallons (11 L) of beer at this original gravity (13 °Plato, OG 1.052) , you do not need to make a yeast starter when using a tube or XL smack pack of liquid yeast.


Patrick Henry Pale Ale

by Chris Colby

All-grain; English units



This is my basic American-style pale ale. I’ve brewed this recipe — slightly tweaking it every time — over 30 times and it’s a great “go-to” beer. I really like the combination of Centennial, Cascade and Amarillo late hops and I use this combo in most of my other pale-ale-like beers, including my sweet potato ESB. The only non-standard part of this recipe is the tiny amount of chocolate malt added. This changes the hue of the beer slightly, and can be omitted if you want.

[Read more…]

3-Gallon All-Grain Recipe Series (I: Porter)


Mmmm . . . porter.

Back in August of last year, I posted an article about my 3-gallon (11-L) all-grain brewing setup. I have a fancy schmancy 10-gallon (38-L) all-grain rig, composed of three 15-gallon (57 L) pots on a frame . . . and a nice 5-gallon (19 L) brewery, composed of two 10-gallon (19-L) pots and a (legally) converted half-barrel for the HLT . . . and in a pinch I have a 20-gallon (76 L) pot and a propane burner stand that will hold it. But I digress.

Nonetheless, with my simple 3.0-gallon (11-L) all-grain brewing setup, I can brew in my kitchen and escape the heat of summer. And there are several fringe benefits to brewing at this scale. The biggest is that you don’t need to make a yeast starter when using liquid yeast at specific gravities around 13 ° Plato (roughly 1.052) or less. One fresh White Labs tube or Wyeast XL smack pack, at 100 billion cells, is sufficient. Also, if you don’t have a fermentation chamber, the wet T-shirt method works well at this scale (as the surface area to volume ratio is higher in smaller batches). Plus, your heating and cooling times can be very quick, making for a somewhat shorter brew day. In addition, you don’t need to use a wort chiller — cooling the brewpot in your kitchen sink works fine if you have the time to change the cooling water several times and 5–10 lbs. (~2.5–5 kg) of ice for the final leg of cooling. In retrospect, I really wish I had thought of this when I was living in an apartment in Boston. The only downside is that you yield 3 gallons (11 L) of beer rather than 5 gallons (19 L). [Read more…]

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…]

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.


[Read more…]

Malt Sieves — Assess Your Mill Output


A stainless steel malt sieve at the (512) Brewery in Austin, TX. (Photo by Ed Peters.)

Most homebrewers learn how to achieve a workable crush by trial and error. They may start by reading descriptions of how crushed malt should look like. (For example, it should contain X% big pieces of husk, Y% small pieces of endosperm (coarse grits) and Z% fine grits and flour. About a third of each is one standard description.) They may look at pictures in a book or magazine of properly crushed malt and then proceed to experiment on their own, crushing progressively more finely to get better extract efficiency and stopping when they encounter lautering problems. While the trial and error methods works in practice —  at least eventually — there is an objectively way measure your mill output before mashing. This would allow you to fine tune your crush before mashing the grains, including when you switch mills or mill grains that require a mill gap adjustment. The method involves sifting the mill output through a series of sieves and weighing the amount of material retained on each sieve.

[Read more…]

Pumpkin Fermenters


Two roughly 5-gallon (19-L) batches of old ale fermenting inside two pumpkins.

A couple years ago, I brewed a pumpkin ale. The beer was an old ale — an Old Peculiar clone — spiced with traditional pumpkin pie spice. But I decided to take things one step further and ferment the beer inside a pumpkin. That year, I was growing some large pumpkin varieties in my garden. Two of the pumpkins were large enough that I estimated they would hold about 5.0 gallons (19 L) of beer apiece. On brewday, I made 10 gallons (38 L) of wort and cooled it down. While the wort was chilling, I cut the pumpkins open (with a sanitized knife) and scooped out the “guts” (with a large, sanitized spoon). You always want your fermentation vessels to be food grade and pumpkins are not only food grade, they’re actually food. Likewise, you always want your fermenters to be sanitized. And, unless it was diseased, the inside of a pumpkin should not be infected with microorganisms.

[Read more…]

Stuck Fermentations: I


Measuring a beer’s specific gravity can help you determine if a fermentation is stuck or finished.

Homebrewing has changed a lot since I first started, but some things never change. One problem that homebrewers seem to constantly face is stuck fermentations. A stuck fermentation is when the fermentation stops prematurely, leaving the beer at a higher-than-desired final gravity (FG). This can happen to any beer, but occurs more often in big beers.


Avoiding This Situation

Before addressing how to remedy a stuck fermentation, know that the best way to fix a stuck fermentation is to prevent it from happening in the first place. If you pitch enough yeast, aerate your wort well and keep the fermentation temperature in right range, you will likely never encounter a stuck fermentation. For homebrewers, a big part of this is making a yeast starter, when needed, to achieve the right pitching rate; since I began making yeast starters, I have never encountered a single stuck fermentation.


Is It Really Stuck?

But let’s say that you suspect you have a stuck fermentation. What do you do? First off, don’t panic. Instead, determine if your fermentation is really stuck . . . and don’t even think about pouring the batch down the drain until you are sure there is a problem, and if it is fixable.

[Read more…]

Simple 3-Gallon All-Grain Brewing


Here’s all you need to make 3 gallons (11 L) of all-grain wort — a 3-gallon (11-L) beverage cooler with a large steeping bag, a measuring cup and a 5-gallon (19-L) brewpot.

It was 103 °F (39 °C) yesterday, but I went ahead and brewed anyway. Did I sweat my way through a brewday on my porch, with my brewing rig, making 10 gallons (38 L) of wort while swatting mosquitoes and fighting to stay hydrated? No, I brewed inside, in air-conditioned comfort, watching Shark Week during my breaks. I did it by making 3-gallons (11 L) of all-grain beer using a 3.0-gallon (11-L) beverage cooler as a lauter tun and my normal extract brewing stuff. Here’s what I did.

Last week, I decided to brew my porter. However, I knew it was going to be hot out, and at first I thought I’d make a 5.0-gallon (19-L), partial mash batch in my kitchen. I had a 2.0-gallon (~8-L) beverage cooler that held 4.0 lbs. (1.8 kg) of grain and have made many 5-gallon (19-L) stovetop partial mash batches using it as a mash/lauter tun. Then, when looking around at what equipment I had — especially my 3-gallon beverage cooler (I like cold beverages, sue me) — I figured out an easy way to make an all-grain, 3-gallon (11-L) batch.

[Read more…]