Archives for February 2014

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 (Feb. 10–17)


Graphic by John Weerts. (I taught him how to homebrew. So if you ever meet him at a homebrew event, that’s my fault.)

I’ll start this week’s news wrap up with a reminder that there are dangers to brewing. In Houston, a fermenter ruptured during a tour of Franconia Brewing. (Note: there is NSFW language on embedded video.) Homebrewers should keep an eye on airlocks and blowoff tubes to ensure they don’t get blocked. Many a homebrewer has had to mop their ceiling when a fermentation bucket lid has blown off after the airlock got plugged. Worse things can result if this happens in a glass carboy. Brew safely.

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Complexity (Guest Commentary)

This is an opinion piece sent in by a reader. If you have a topic you’d like to discuss, send your idea to I am most interested in reader stories in which the author explains his or her “thing.” Is there a beer you’ve brewed over and over and perfected? If there a technique you’ve mastered or adapted from commercial brewing to the homebrew scale? Is there a handy gadget you’ve made or adapted from it’s original use for use in homebrewing? Is there an unusual ingredient that you use often? If you’d like to share your experience with other Beer and Wine Journal readers, send a short (500–750 words optimally) article, and a helpful picture or two. Include a picture of yourself. (Also, we haven’t had much wine content, if you enjoy home winemaking and would like to write something, please let me know.) 



Guest commenter Marco Aguado.

“Complex” is a Useless Beer Descriptor

by Marco Aguado


I’d like to discuss what I think is the most overused and unnecessary word in the world of craft brewing. The word I love to hate is “complex.”

Beer is not complex. You know what is complex? A suspension bridge, brain surgery, a commercial jet air liner — these things are complex. [Read more…]

Making Malty Beers (II: Process)


Munich malt

In the first half of this article, I discussed specific malts that confer an abundance of base-malt-type malt character to a beer. Choosing the right grain bill for a malty beer is most of the battle. However, how you brew your beer will determine if you get the most from your malts.

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Belgian IPA

This is the second article in a series on IPA variants, that started with darkish IPAs.


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The beers of Belgium have inspired many US brewers. In turn, the hoppy ales of the United States have likewise inspired some Belgian brewers to formulate hoppier beers. Urthel Hop-It and Houblon Chouffe were two of earliest and best-known Belgian IPAs. These brewers took their Belgian beers and added significantly more hops to them. American brewers also took their IPAs and started fermenting them with Belgian ale yeasts. Stone’s Cali-Belgique is one of the best-known examples of this.

If you’re interested in brewing a beer that is a hybrid between an American IPA and a Belgian beer, there are a couple things I can tell you to get you started. However, the interface between these two kinds of beer has only begun to be explored — there’s more to be learned than is certain now.

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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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Making Malty Beers (I: The Malts)


Light Munich malt.

My introduction to craft beers came in the early ‘90s in Boston, Massachusetts. I was a graduate student at Boston University. For a few years I lived near the Sunset Grill, a beer bar with literally hundreds of types of beer in bottles and a huge tap list. I used to go there as often as I could and try different beers. With so many beers that were new, I always ordered something different each time.

One night, I ordered a beer called Hexenbräu — a dark lager that was a total malt bomb. It had a rich, malty flavor — accentuated by some sweetness — and I resolved that next time I went to Sunset, I was going to break my “rule” and order that beer again because it was so damn good. Unfortunately, the next time I went, it wasn’t on the menu and I never saw if it offered anywhere again. I’ve later learned that it was brewed by Hürlimann, the same brewery that originally brewed Samichlaus, and it is no longer produced.

One of my first goals as a homebrewer was to recreate this beer, but I didn’t know where to start. When I tried to make a malty beer, it would turn out decent — but without the big malt character found in that beer (or a good German doppelbock). It was only recently that I figured out how to get the type of malt character.

In this article, I’ll explain how to brew a malty beer. This will include beers with a moderate malt intensity through total malt bombs. Whether you want to brew an intensely malty beer, or simply to accentuate the malt character in one of your existing brews, the information here should allow you to do that.

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Tannins in the Boil


Tannic acid, a polyphenolic molecule used for tanning hides.

As I mentioned in the article on tannins in the mash, most of the tannins in your beer come from malt and are extracted during the mash. The major procedural thing you can do to avoid extracting excessive amounts of tannins is not to oversparge — do not continue collecting wort when the pH rises above 5.8. (This assumes your mash is at 170 °F (77 °C) at the end of wort collection.) If you don’t have a pH meter, the cutoff point for wort collection usually coincides with the specific gravity of the final runnings dropping to 2–3 °Plato (SG 1.008–1.012). You can also cool down a sample of your final runnings and taste them. You will feel the astringency increasing near the end of wort collection. (Astringency is a mouthfeel, not a taste.)

Hops also contribute tannins to your beer. However, if your sweet wort — the wort you collected from your lauter tun, not yet hopped — is OK, you really don’t have to worry further much about tannins. And this is good, since your only real way of controlling hop-derived tannins is to change the amount of hops you use.

Before we go on, recall that tannins are water soluble. Anytime tannic plant material is in an aqueous environment, tannins are dissolving into the liquid. Heat, pH and time are the major variables in tannin extraction. In the mash, the combination of temperatures 170 °F (77 °C) and over, coupled with a pH of 5.8 or greater, leads to tannins being very soluble. However, those conditions are not an “off and on” switch. In a mash at 160 °F (71 °C) at a pH of 5.6, tannins would dissolving into the wort, only at a much lower rate. Finally, recall that tannins are always present in beer — they are only a problem if their concentration is high enough to cause astringency.

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Tannins in the Mash


Too much tannin your beer can give it an iced-tea like puckering character.

Tannins are polyphenols found in a wide variety of plants, distributed among various tissues. In a later article, I’ll discuss the basic chemistry of the tannins relevant to brewing. (The types of tannins that end up in beer from the malt are different from those that originate in the hops.) In this article, however, we’ll treat them as a group because they are all related chemically, the factors that affect them are the same, and the consequences if they get in your beer are the same. I’ll discuss tannins extracted in the mash today, and cover tannins in the boil over the weekend.

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BWJ Q and A (Recipe Formulation)


A dumb, stinky animal . . . and his kitten. His name is Robert Paulson.

OK, here’s one that’s kinda zen. What is the thought process you go through when you begin formulating a new recipe? Do you work backwards from the end result, build it in your mind as you envision it, or something in between?

— Denny Conn

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