Archives for July 2013

Jester King Gotlandsdricka clone


This is a beer similar to what the Vikings brewed.

The Jester King Craft Brewery is located just west of Austin, Texas in the Hill Country. The brewery produces six year-round beers, five of which are certified USDA Organic, and a range of limited release beers. Recently, the brewery has been experimenting with brewing beers soured by naturally-occurring bacteria they have isolated and cultured.

Gotlandsdricka is an attempt to recreate the farmhouse ale of Gotland, Sweden — a drink believed to have been drunk by the Vikings. Gotlandsdricka is malty and smoky, with some gin-like character from the juniper berries. The homebrew clone recipe is scaled down from owner/brewer Jeffrey Stuffing’s 30-barrel recipe and presented in both English and metric units. (Because this recipe uses loads of smoked malt, an extract adaptation is not feasible.)

The brewery’s Viking Metal beer (see recipe at bottom) is Gotlandsdricka aged in Old Tom gin barrels.



Jester King Craft Brewery homebrew clone

All-grain (English units)

recipe from owner/brewer Jeffrey Stuffings



Gotland is an island off the coast of Sweden in the Baltic Sea. The traditional farmhouse ale brewed there, Gotlandsdricka, is believed to be descended from and still very similar to the beer the Vikings drank in the Viking Age (800–1100 AD). Viking age beer would not have contained hops, however.

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Potassium and pH in Mead


Most light honey varieties do not have enough potassium to support a healthy fermentation. Darker honeys might. Musts made from either may benefit from having their pH adjusted to 3.6 to 3.9.

There has been an increase in the interest in meadmaking among homebrewers in the past decade. This is due in large part to Ken Schramm’s book, “The Compleat Meadmaker” (2003, Brewers Publications), which introduced the “dump and stir” method of making mead without heating the must (the unfermented honey mixture). Not too long after the publication of his book, meadmakers discovered that you could get a more ordered fermentation if you staggered the yeast nutrient additions. This allows the meadmaker to dole out the nutrients as the yeast need them rather than adding all the nutrients at the beginning of the fermentation, and this leads to faster, more ordered fermentations.

Recently, I spoke to Schramm about two other things that have come to light in recent years that are required for optimal mead fermentations — the need to give the yeast sufficient potassium during fermentation, and the need to control the pH of a mead fermentation. By happy coincidence, you can do both of those by adding potassium carbonate (K2CO3).

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Belgian IPA, by Joelle and Dan Dewberry


The Austin ZEALOTS at the 2007 NHC in Denver. Joelle Dewberry is wearing blond braids and has her hands on Dan’s shoulder.

Belgian IPA is slowly catching on as a variant of IPA. Two homebrewers who loved the style from the start are Joelle and Dan Dewberry of Austin, TX. Longtime fans of Belgian beers, they have visited Belgium several times to seek out their favorite Belgian brews. They have also brewed many award-winning Belgian-styled homebrews. Here is their recipe for Belgian IPA, presented both in the original all-grain form and with an extract adaptation. Both English and metric versions are provided.


Belgian IPA

All-grain (English units)

by Joelle and Dan Dewberry



The popularity of this new beer “style” has been fascinating to us. Once we embraced quality beer in our early 20s, Belgain beers soon became our favorites. Pale ales and IPAs were simply too aggressive for us at the time, although not many were available in Texas in the early 90s. Over time, we did experience a lupulin shift. Go figure. Once we tried Houblon Chouffe and Urthel Hop-It, we knew we had to brew this unique style. Stone’s Cali-Belgique certainly has advanced the style over the past few years. One of our favorite Austin, TX brewpubs, Uncle Billy’s Brew-n-Que, started brewing something similar using Westmalle yeast. They have gone on to make several of their base styles by simply switching out American ale yeast with Westmalle yeast. We decided to take our IPA recipe with the same hop schedule, and add that same yeast. It turns out delicious.  Next time we brew it, we will use the Chouffe (Ardennes yeast) to see how that adds to the flavors. Cheers!

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A Simple Sour Beer


Bottles of sour beer aging at Brouwerij Cantillon in Brussels, Belgium.

I’m a fan of sour beers. Last week, I posted an article addressing the biggest fear of most homebrewers contemplating brewing sour beers. However, I know that some potential sour beer brewers may also have second thoughts because of the perceived complexity of the process. They may have read that a large amount of aged hops are required, or that they must culture microbes from bottles of sour beer. They might have read that unusual or impractical fermentation vessels (carboys with table legs stuck in them or 55-gallon/210-L barrels) are required. This is not true.

While some sour beer brewers go to extreme lengths to mimic traditional methods or perfect their sour creations, it is possible to brew a very nice sour beer with just a bucket, some patience and ordinary homebrewing ingredients and techniques. With that in mind, here’s my recipe for a “simple sour” — a straight lambic-esque beer that tastes great on it’s own, or can be used as a base for a fruit lambic or as a blender with other sours beers.

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Worst. Article. Ever.


Here’s what happens when someone who knows nothing about beer or brewing (or science or writing well) “investigates” breweries.

As a homebrewer, if you read beer stories on the web, you’ve probably read some doozies. However, one of the worst articles ever is making the rounds on Facebook right now.

I won’t spoil this poorly-researched bit of drivel for you, but I will say that you’ll probably enjoy the part about brewers adding “fish bladders” to Guinness. (They fine with isinglass.) You probably don’t drink the other beers mentioned, so you can ignore most of the rest.

Good thing the author doesn’t know that some brewers add seaweed (Irish moss) to their kettles.

Sometimes a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Sioux Falls Beer Scene


Monk’s House of Ale Repute. A great beer bar in Sioux Falls, SD.

I visited Sioux Falls, South Dakota last week and checked out their beer scene. I grew up in Sioux Falls and went to college there, during a time when it was a beer desert. Nowadays, for homebrewers and craft beer lovers there, things are looking up.

The best beer drinking part of Sioux Falls, in my opinion, is Monk’s House of Ale Repute, on 8th Street. This is a great little beer bar that has recently expanded. (They made Draft magazine’s list of best 100 beer bars in 2012.) As the name implies, Monk’s has a variety of Belgian beers, but they also have plenty of German beer and American craft ales. Since Sioux Falls is full of Scandinavian-Americans, there are Scandinavian brews such as Nøgne Ø and Haandbryggeriet as well. They have 29 beers on tap and over 200 in bottles. Monk’s also a favorite hangout for the Big Sioux Brewing Society, the local homebrew club.

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Competitive Brewing Logistics


An award ribbon from the Austin ZEALOTS Homebrew Inquisition

Homebrew competitions appeal to the competitive nature of many homebrewers. And for brewers who really enjoy homebrew contests, there are plenty of challenges out there. Brewers can aim for a best of show ribbon, the most points in an individual competition or compete in contest circuits. And of course, there’s always getting past the first round and winning a medal at the National Homebrew Competition.

If you want to be a competitive brewer, you have many decisions to make. At a minimum, you should understand the logistics of your undertaking. For help understanding what it takes to become a competitive homebrewer, I spoke with Mark Schoppe — winner of the 2012 Ninkasi Award and Individual Winner of the Lone Star Circuit in 2011 and 2012 . . . and a whole bunch of other stuff.

Many homebrew competitions give an award for the overall points leader. And Mark’s first word of advice is to brew a lot of beer. To do this, he advises not only brewing often, but splitting batches to make two or more beers.

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Five Tips for Extract Brewers


Five times the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.

Most homebrewers start by brewing beers in which malt extract supplies the bulk of the fermentable sugars in the wort. For beginning brewers, and for brewers who stay with extract brewing for the convenience or for space reasons, here are five tips to improving your extract beers.


1. Fresh Ingredients

All of your ingredients should be as fresh as possible. Malt extract is a food product and will go stale over time. Liquid malt extract (LME) begins to go stale, and pick up color, in a matter of a few months. Because more water has been removed from it, dried malt extract has a longer shelf life — up to about 8 months if stored in a cool, dry place. If you can get fresh LME, that is your best bet. Dried malt extract is slightly more processed (more water is removed), but is a better choice if you will be storing it for more than a couple months before use.

If you don’t have access to a malt mill, be aware that specialty grains that have been crushed go stale faster than those that haven’t. Avoid baggies of crushed malt that may have been sitting on the shelf for more than a few weeks. Optimally, get the grains crushed at your homebrew shop when you buy them and brew as soon as possible. It is easy to detect stale grain by smell and taste. Get in the habit of chewing a few grains of your specialty malts before brewing to assess their freshness.

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Summer Brewing Tips


Climbing temperatures may affect your brewing. In most cases, there is a straightforward way to beat the heat.

This summer is shaping up to be another scorcher, but that doesn’t need to deter homebrewers. Here are a few tips to guide you through the hottest months.



Your initial mash temperature is determined by the temperature of your strike water, the temperature of your malt and the temperature of your mash vessel. If you brew outside — and especially if your brewing rig is stored on a porch or in a (non-air-conditioned) garage — your mash tun will be a little hotter than usual and may lead to high mash-in temperatures. The same is true if your malt is stored in a garage or shed — or even if it sits outside for awhile before you mill it. Keep some cool water on hand in case you need to bring your mash temperature down a few degrees.

On the plus side, the hotter it is outside, the less heat you will lose during mashing, compared to brewing outside in winter.

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Fossil Cove Sour Mash Experiment

Ben Mills, owner and brewer of Fossil Cove Brewing in Fayetteville, Arkansas, is shooting for a first in his region: a commercially-brewed sour beer that is designed to be sour from the beginning. There has been at least one sour beer sold locally that was the result of unintentional introduction of souring organisms. That’s not the case here. Ben’s beer is literally tart from the start.

Ben Mills checks the boil of his sour beer.

Ben Mills checks the boil of his sour beer.

If you’ve read Chris Colby’s article on sour brewing and sanitization, you’ll know that letting beers sour in the fermenter is seen as a risky proposition. If you don’t remove the souring “bugs” completely from the fermentation vessel and everything that has been in contact with the sour beer, you run the risk of souring any beer that the equipment touches afterwards.

The approach Ben has taken with his sour beer is designed to avoid that risk. Instead of souring after the boil, Ben has soured his beer before the boil — in the mash tun. The beer is based on one of my recipes seen on Basic Brewing Video. Following an interview with homebrewer Sean Coates on Basic Brewing Radio, I decided to inoculate a mash with Lactobacillus and let it sour over a few days. Then, boiling the wort taken from the sour mash would kill the souring bacteria before putting the wort into the fermenter. [Read more…]