Brew Safely, Everyone

Clostridium_botulinum_01Recently, a group of people went to a church potluck dinner in Ohio. Of the 77 people who dined, one died, 11 had to be put on a ventilator to breathe, and another 17 fell ill. What happened? Well, the normal food safety rules that apply to restaurants and other places that serve food to the public don’t apply to church functions. As such, one of the cooks used the boiling water method to can (preserve) some potatoes. (Potatoes, a low-acid food,  should be canned using a pressure cooker.) Those potatoes then got used to make potato salad for the gathering.  Unfortunately, the potatoes were tainted with spores of the soil bacterium Clostridium botulinum and the pot luck attendees were poisoned by the botulinum toxin.

Why am I bringing this up? Because — as I’ve written about earlier — some homebrewers do something similar when storing their wort. Homebrewers who use the boiling water bath method of canning yeast starter wort, or use the no-chill method of cooling and then store the wort for extended periods of time, are running a similar risk of botulism.

I’m not going to rehash everything from the first two articles I’ve posted on this topic. I’m just adding the information above as further evidence that botulism is real and it can be lethal.

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Extra Dark Blending Beers

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 6.59.33 PMOne of the great things about homebrewing is the ability to have a variety of beers on tap at once. If you enjoy having more types of beer at your disposal, one option is to make beers that are meant to be blended. In the best cases, you can have two beers that taste great on their own, and additionally make a tasty blend.

Another alternative is to brew a beer you like, then brew another beer that darkens it. There are a variety of beers that are basically darkened versions of an existing beer style. For example, schwarzbier is basically a darkened Pilsner, dunkelweizen is a darkened hefeweizen, and black IPA is a darkened IPA. If you can brew a very dark beer, you can use it to blend into lighter beers to make the darker variation. [Read more…]

IPAs Are Not Giving You Man Boobs

Lupulin - yellow gold

Lupulin – yellow gold

There’s no evidence that IPAs are giving you man boobs. A provocatively titled article claiming the exact opposite made the rounds on social media a few days ago, but there is no evidence to back up this claim. Here are the facts. [Read more…]

It’s Time To Stop Using The Term “Craft Beer” (Part III of III)

tombstone1In the first two parts of this article, I argued that the term “craft beer” no longer had a worthwhile definition for most homebrewers and beer lovers. There was a time when the beer we liked was produced by breweries that were small, independent, and traditional. They were also frequently local. But all that has changed. So what can an average homebrewer do? [Read more…]

It’s Time To Stop Using The Term “Craft Beer” (Part II of III)

tombstone1In the first part of this article, I offered the opinion that the term “craft beer” should be abandoned. Its internal logic has been so mangled by repeated redefinition that it is no longer useful. Small doesn’t mean small anymore. Independent doesn’t mean independent, and traditional can apparently mean anything (except brewed the North American lager brewing tradition of the 19th and 20th Centuries).

In this part of the article, I want to offer the opinion that the components of the term — small, independent, and traditional — are mostly just historical holdovers, and not the sort of things that most beer drinkers care about when they choose a beer. [Read more…]

It’s Time To Stop Using The Term “Craft Beer” (Part I of III)

[Disclaimer I: Most of the stuff I post on Beer and Wine Journal is factual information about brewing beer. Occasionally, I’ll post an opinion piece. This is one of those occasions.] 

[Disclaimer II (Because It’s 2015 And This Is The Internet): This is my opinion. You may disagree with it, and that’s fine. I do hope you notice, though, that I’m arguing against an idea, not people. I’m not calling anyone names. I have tried my best to fairly characterize the opposing idea rather than attack a straw man. This is not meant to be a rant; it’s meant to be an argument. I hope it causes some brewers to think and starts a discussion. But I’m also hoping that any discussion is a rational discussion among people who understand that we all like beer. And our similarities, in this case, are more important than our differences.] 

tombstone1It’s time to ditch the term “craft beer.” There was a time when it had a semi-useful meaning, but that time is gone. The ever-changing definition of craft beer has led to a current definition that has little or no value to homebrewers or beer enthusiasts. It has internal inconsistencies, it is composed of disparate elements, and frequently spawns absurdities. It is also silent on what matters most to the majority of beer enthusiasts — beer quality.

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Will Drug-Producing Yeast Strains Negatively Impact Homebrewing?

220px-Morphin_-_Morphine.svgYesterday, I posted a brief description of how, very soon, there will be a yeast strain capable of producing morphine from glucose. The usual substrates for morphine production, compounds isolated from opium poppies, will not be required. The simplicity of how morphine could potentially be produced has already caused nearly every article in the popular press (and many in the scientific press) to claim that producing morphine could be as easy as brewing beer at home. Some articles even unequivocally link the two. This should cause some concern among homebrewers. [Read more…]

Brewers Yeast Will Soon Be Able to Produce Morphine


“Well it just goes to show/ Things are not what they seem/ Please, Sister Morphine/ Turn my nightmares into dreams.” — Rolling Stones

On May 18th, the journal Nature Chemical Biology published an article entitled, “An enzyme-coupled biosensor enables (S)-reticuline production in yeast from glucose.” It’s a title that would generate little interest outside of a handful of biochemists had the authors not spelled out its implications elsewhere.

(S)-reticuline is an intermediate in the biochemical pathway to morphine in opium poppies. And previously, two other yeast strains have been engineered to produce morphine from (R)-reticuline, and (R)-reticuline from (S)-reticuline. In others words, there are now three yeast strains that — working together — could produce morphine starting with glucose — no opium poppies required. They did this by splicing genes from poppies and other organisms into these strains. It is, of course, only a short matter of time until all the genes necessary are brought together into single strain. [Read more…]

Five Tips for Newbies


The number of tips given in the article, expressed in an Arabic numeral.

 Today I’d like to give five tips for new brewers. However, these tips also apply to brewers who are switching to all-grain or trying out anything new within brewing (brewing sour beers, decoction mashing, etc.).

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Should You Dump It? (Part 2 of 2)

This is the second half of the article I posted on Friday



Don’t pour your beer here, unless you are sure it’s bad.

In the first half of this article, I said that home brewers should not preemptively dump a batch of beer because something looked or smelled amiss during fermentation. This is especially true if you have little experience with a particular yeast strain. There are numerous ways you could be fooled into thinking that something has gone wrong, when in fact everything is fine. But what if the beer tastes bad?

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