Five Habits of Successful Brewers

gold-number-5Brewing decent, drinkable beer is fairly easy. Brewing the highest quality beer is somewhat more difficult. Previously, I’ve posted a variety of articles with specific suggestions on how to brew the best quality beer at home. Today I’m going to look at a more nebulous aspect of becoming a successful brewer — your mindset.

The successful brewers I’ve met — both homebrewers and commercial brewers — are a diverse lot. However, they share a set of traits related to how they view their beer and their brewing skills. Hopefully, I can do this without venturing too far into phoney-baloney “motivational poster” territory. Personally, I think the “de-motivational posters” are much funnier. So with that in mind, here are the five habits of successful brewers.

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Beer News (May 19–25)


OK, let’s start with a “listicle” (an article that’s basically just a list) that tells us what we want to hear — the health benefits of beer. And here’s a listicle I missed (a missticle?) from April, somebody’s list of the best cities for beer. And dude, I totally agree with you. [Your town] should have made the list. I mean, what were they thinking?

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Different Yeast Strains Yield Different IBUs


Dr. White, speaking at the Dixie Cup in Houston last year.

Late last year, I attended the Dixie Cup in Houston. One of the speakers was Dr. Chris White, the founder of White Labs Yeast. He spoke about several things White Labs was doing, including opening a tasting room, but for me the most interesting part of his talk involved some experiments with yeast strains and IBUs.

White and his staff made up a standard wort, with a known (calculated) level of bitterness, and fermented aliquots of it with each of the White Labs strains. Each beer was then analyzed for its actual level of bitterness (in IBUs). He then compared the measured IBUs to the predicted IBUs for each strain. If the two were equal, the beer was given a score of 1. If the measured IBUs were less than the predicted IBUs, the beer received a score between zero and one. For example, if the beer was expected to have 100 IBUs, but only had 80, the beer would be given a 0.8. (Note: the experiment wasn’t done with 100 IBU beers, I just used that number as an example because it’s easy to see how the proportions worked out.) And if the beer was more bitter than predicted, the beer received a number over 1.

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Beer News (Jan 28–Feb 9)

BWJlogoI’ll start this compilation of beer news with some science. Popular Science published an article describing the differences between a lager  and an ale, complete with a mini-review of the origins of lager yeast.

Are you thinking of starting a brewery? Here is what current brewers wished they knew about opening a brewery. You’d have competition, but according to the website Perfect Pint, not as much as some sources claim.

No week in beer news is complete without some sort of list, so here’s a list of breakfast beers. Think of them as fermented Grape Nuts.

Also, it’s been cold here in the US recently. How cold was it? It was so cold, railroad workers had to work extra hard to ensure trainloads of beer didn’t freeze

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Boost Your Hop Aroma (Part 1 of 3)


Homegrown hops in Bastrop, TX.

Hoppy beers are all the rage these days, and brewers are always looking for ways to get more hop character in their beer. I’d like to discuss maximizing hop aroma, by focusing not only on ways to add hops to beer, but how hop character is removed from beer during the brewing process. I’d also like to propose another method of adding hops to beer. (This isn’t completely new. I’ve mentioned it before, but it isn’t well-known or widely used.)

We all know of a variety of ways to add hops to beer. You can add hops before the boil (first wort hopping). You can add hops during the boil. You can add hops after the boil (in the whirlpool or filter your wort through a hop jack). You can add hops in the fermenter or keg (dry hop). You can push your beer through a Randall. You can even add hops in your mash. But let’s take a look at what happens to the compounds from the hops as the brewing process continues.

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This Week’s Beer News (January 6–11, 2014)


St. Joseph’s Abbey, Spencer, Massachusetts. Home of the Spencer brewery, the first Trappist brewery in the US. (Photo by John Phelan, via Wikipedia, under Creation Commons license.)

The United States is poised to get its first Trappist brewery. The brothers at St. Joseph’s abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts are brewing and Spencer Trappist Ale and is due out this week. Meanwhile, in Iceland, a brewery is coming under fire for releasing a beer brewed with whale meat.

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Measurements to Record: II

This is the second part of a two-part series on measurements to record on brew day


photoOne piece of equipment that almost every homebrewer has is a hydrometer. In addition, many have a pH meter (or at least pH papers). Both of these tools can give you valuable information on brewday.

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Imperial Tripel (Recipe Stage)


What this tripel might look like, if all goes well.

This is a beer I plan to brew for the first time in 2014. I plan to brew it, taste the beer, tweak it and rebrew — and of course document this process on Beer and Wine Journal. The idea behind this beer is to take a Belgian-style Tripel, and crank it up a notch or two. I want to brew a pale beer, with a final gravity low enough not to be too sweet or be overly full-bodied. I plan to use reiterated mashing to generate the wort, because this will minimize the color. I also plan to hop it at a higher rate than a tripel, to compensate for the added strength. I’ll brew the beer in a couple weeks, but for now, here’s the recipe.

By the way, the name is just a Star Wars reference. (They can’t all be winners.)


Palpatine’s Tripel

(imperial tripel)

by Chris Colby



A higher-gravity version of a Belgian tripel or Belgian golden ale, with added hop flavor and aroma. This beer is designed to be as light in color as possible (around 6 SRM), while still being 13% ABV. As with regular tripels, the beer has a low final gravity, given its alcoholic strength.

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Five Steps Towards Being a Better Brewer


. . . being the fifth number.

One of the things that makes homebrewing great is the learning curve. Starting with simple malt extract beers, you can brew decent (even good) beer by simply following a set of instructions. However, for those willing to put in the effort, there are always ways to improve. If you want to become the best brewer possible, follow these five tips.

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Five Tips for Session Beer Brewers

gold-number-5It’s always great to have a real session beer in your lineup of taps. I’m a big fan of dry stouts, which I recently wrote a series on, and British-style bitters. Both are wonderful, flavorful beers and there are times when a lower alcohol (and lower Calorie) beer is just the thing. Brewing session beers at home is straightforward. However — as with any kind of beer — there are special considerations that help make the beer its best. Here are five tips for brewing session beers.

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