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…]

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…]

Rockville Gordon Biersch Collaborative Flemish Red

Mike Tonsmeire, The Mad Fermentationist, is collaborating with the Gordon Biersch Rockville, Maryland, location to produce a blended, barrel-aged Flemish Red, and we got the chance to get a preview sampling.

Mike Tonsmeire and Christian Layke with their barrels

Mike Tonsmeire and Christian Layke with their barrels

One of the best parts of being the producer of Basic Brewing Radio is attending the National Homebrew Conference (Homebrew Con) every year. We typically arrive a day early to take in some of the local beer culture wherever the conference takes us. This year, the get-together landed in Baltimore, and we were thrilled to have Mike show us around his neck of the woods, as he lives in the D.C. area.

Our first stop was a visit to the Gordon Biersch Rockville restaurant and its head brewer, Christian Layke. Christian is a former homebrewer and has been with Gordon Biersch for around eight years. He left a job with a non-profit environmental think tank to work with stainless steel tanks instead. [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 Brown Beers (20–30 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 third in my series of simple water guides. Today’s post is a quick guide to generating brewing liquor for brown beers, from 20 to 30 SRM. This includes brown ales, some porters, many dark lagers, etc. You begin with 5.0 gallons (19 L) of distilled water and add minerals to create your brewing liquor.

I will post the remaining guide — for pale beers (0–10 SRM) — soon. [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…]

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…]

Brewing Liquor For Amber Beers (10–20 SRM)

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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…]