Blackberry “Pilsner”

Blackberries give this “Pilsner” a rosy glow.

This past summer, I asked my wife, Susan, what I should brew next. She suggested a blackberry Pilsner. I had never heard of such a thing, but in the interest of keeping her happy and tolerant of my hobby/occupation, I decided to give it a go.

I put “Pilsner” in quotation marks in the title of this recipe for a couple of reasons. First of all, those who abide by the Reinheitsgebot – the beer purity law – would cringe at the thought of adding fruit to this classic German style. Blackberries definitely fall outside the malt, hops, water and yeast list. Second, Pilsners are traditionally lagered to brew a beer of clean profile with no fruity yeast characteristics. It didn’t make sense to me to go to the trouble of fermenting cold to avoid fruity flavors to then add some fruit afterwards. So, I fermented this beer with lager yeast at ale fermentation temperatures. [Read more…]

Tweaking Your Hop Schedule (Part II)

As discussed in the first installment of this article, substituting a lesser weight of higher alpha hops for a higher weight of lower alpha hops is one way to tweak the hop profile of your beer. In that case, you could achieve the same IBU rating, but with less plant material added to your kettle. This decreases the volume of beer lost to trub and hop debris in the bottom of the kettle. And, in the case of very hoppy beers, may lower the amount of astringency contributed by the hops (because hops contain tannins as most plant material does). There are also ways to tweak your late hop profile to get more “bang for your buck” from your hops. [Read more…]

Tweaking Your Hop Schedule

We’ve all been there. You’re all set to brew your favorite IPA, hoppy porter, or other hoppy beer, but you can’t get your hands on the hop varieties you used last time. Or maybe you just want to change things up and examine your hop schedules to see if you make changes. What do you do? Here are some ideas.

In the case of replacing a hop variety, the easiest thing to do would be to find a hop variety that is similar and use that instead. And of course, numerous websites have lists of hop strains and their possible substitutions. The only problem with that is that every hop variety really does have different characteristics, so a one-for-one hop substitution is always going to make the beer taste different. In a beer that isn’t hop forward, and that contains lots of malt (or other) character, the difference may be small, perhaps not even noticeable. However, in a beer in which the focus is on the hops, you will always be able to tell. [Read more…]

Fruit IPAs (II: How to Brew a Fruit IPA)

DSCN3793Brewing a fruit IPA is no more difficult than brewing any fruit beer. The most popular fruit IPAs use fruits that either accentuate the citrus character of their hops (grapefruit IPA, blood orange IPA) or the tropical character in hops (mango IPA, pineapple IPA). See below for a list of hops with these characters. The best examples of fruit IPAs have enough fruit character that you can tell it’s not an ordinary IPA, but not so much that the underlying beer is totally obscured. As such, you really don’t need to alter your IPA recipe to accommodate the fruit — just decide how intense you want the fruit flavor and add that to the recipe. [Read more…]

Fruit IPAs: The Bitter Fruit (I: General) 

DSCN3793In the beginning, there was IPA. And it was good. It even had a cool story to go along with it. It was brewed extra hoppy to survive the long sea voyage to reach British troops in India. And beer geeks looked on their extra hoppy (and slightly stronger) pale ale, and their fun story that went with it, and they were pleased. You could enjoy a nice hoppy beer now and then, and there were other styles of beer on the shelf when you were in the mood for something else. Then came . . . you know, everything that followed.  [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…]

Easy Water Treatment Guide

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 3.51.03 PMRecently, I posted four simple water guides. They described a simple way to make up your brewing water (brewing liquor) for pale, amber, brown, and black beers. Each gave a recipe for adding minerals to 5.0 gallons (19 L) of distilled water to make water suitable for beers in the appropriate color range. Three of the four guides were based on starting with 100 ppm calcium ions (Ca2+) in your water; the fourth started with a base of 75 ppm.

There’s nothing magical about 100 ppm Ca2+, however. It is a middle value in the range of useful calcium levels in beer, often given as 50–200 ppm. Calcium has a variety of benefits in the mash, and brewing liquor in this range should supply a sufficient amount. If you are making your brewing liquor from distilled water, the more calcium you add, the more carbonates you need to add. Calcium causes a reaction in the mash that releases acids and lowers pH. Carbonates neutralize acid and oppose mash acidification. So, to hit your proper mash pH, you need these two to be (at least somewhat) in balance. With that in mind, I’ve made a five-step guide to making your brewing liquor that allows you to start with 50, 75, 100, or 150 ppm calcium ions. Beers brewed from water containing more overall minerals may taste “minerally” while beers brewed with water containing lower levels of minerals may taste “softer” or “more rounded.”  [Read more…]

Brewing Liquor For Pale Beers (0–10 SRM)

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 3.51.03 PMFor brewers who want to start treating their water appropriately, but don’t want to wade through the requisite chemistry, here’s the final installment in my series of simple water guides. Today’s post is a straightforward guide to generating brewing liquor for pale beers from 0 to 10 SRM. In practice, of course, it would hard to brew an all-malt beer below 3 SRM. But, I’ll cover the whole range. This includes some pale ales, most wheat ales, Kölsch, Pilsners and other light lagers. You begin with 5.0 gallons (19 L) of distilled water and add minerals to create your brewing liquor. [Read more…]

Brewing Liquor For Dark Beers (30–40 SRM) 

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 3.51.03 PMFor brewers who want to start treating their water appropriately, but don’t want to wade through the requisite chemistry, here’s the second in my series of simple water guides. Today’s post is a quick guide to generating brewing liquor for dark beers, starting with distilled water as the base. I’ll discuss beers ranging in color from 30 to 40 SRM — porters, stouts, and the like.

I will post the remaining two water guides — for brown beers (20–30 SRM) and pale beers (0–10 SRM) — soon. I’ve skipped to dark beers because of an interesting quirk to making brewing liquor for dark beers. [Read more…]

Brewing Liquor For Amber Beers (10–20 SRM)

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 3.51.03 PM

One diagram of beer color, from Wikipedia.

Water chemistry is a topic that many homebrewers wait to tackle until they have been brewing for awhile. For those who don’t deal with chemistry on a regular basis, the learning curve can seem pretty steep. For those brewers, here is a quick guide to generating brewing liquor for amber colored beers (SRM 10–20), starting with distilled water. I’m using the word “amber” here fairly loosely, as 10 SRM is really a dark golden color and 20 SRM is almost into the brown range.

This rough guide can help you treat your brewing liquor, and improve your beer — without having to dig into much of the underlying chemistry.

I will put out three other quick water guides — for brown beers (20–30 SRM), black beers (30–40 SRM), and pale beers (0–10 SRM) — soon. [Read more…]