Recipes, techniques and tasting notes
After listening to a Brulosophy podcast episode on efficiency, I felt compelled to do something I actually haven't ever done. I decided it was time to calibrate my brew system. Every system I've owned has had a profile in my brewing software, but I'm a data nerd and I thought it would be fun to get some cold, hard data on my actual brewhouse efficiency and my mash efficiency.
About a year ago I brewed a batch of my wife’s favorite beer – “La Jefa” Weizen – a traditional Bavarian hefeweizen. I typically brew 3 – 5 gallon batches, but I wanted a little extra wort to “play around” with.
We threw an awesome engagement / Oktoberfest party in 2018 and had this beer on tap – along with our Party Pilsner and our Märzen. This recipe is a classic 50/50 two row and wheat malt recipe. I fermented “warm” – at room temperature (75ºF) with WLP300 and took off the airlock for most of the primary fermentation.
Lagers are known for their clean, crisp character with little to no esthers. For hundreds of years, brewers have been fermenting these lager yeasts at lower temperatures than their ale counterparts. But lately, both commercial and home brewers have been questioning this “long and cold” lager fermentation dogma. I recently brewed a split batch of a simple Munich Helles recipe for the guys over at Experimental Brewing. The brew days were staggered and every aspect of both brew days were matched; except for one variable: the fermentation schedule.
The shipping window for NHC has come and gone, but don’t worry! There will always be a need to ship your beer. When it comes to shipping, there are some important things to keep in mind – even before your start wrapping up your bottles to put in a box for shipping.
The shipping deadline for the competition you’re entering is getting closer and, if you’re a kegger, it’s time to put that beer into bottles. If you’re a bottle conditioner then you get to skip this step.
Some of us are motivated by the hardware and some of us are motivated by the judge’s feedback. Applying that honest and unbiased feedback to your brewing process or recipe is what will eventually lead to more consistent (and higher) scores. But there are some things we needs to think about when sitting down with our scoresheets.
Since the 2018 homebrew competition season is in full swing, and since the NHC first round shipping deadline is just around the corner, I’ve decided to write a series of posts with competition tips a tricks.
There’s a ton of hype surrounding the “New England IPA” style, and I decided to try my hand at brewing one with CRYO hops (something else I have no experience with). Now that I think of it – this is my first IPA…period. The breweries in my area haven’t really gotten into the style. I’m not sure if there’s resistance from the brewers, or if they just don’t think the Texas / Houston market is ready for the “haze craze”.
I’ve been brewing for about a year and a year and a half and I think it’s time to send a few beers to the National Homebrew Competition. This competition is held every year and people from all over the world submit their homebrewed beer, cider and mead to be evaluated in multiple rounds of competition. Ultimately, if your beer makes it through the pre-judging rounds, your beer will be judged at HomebrewCon.
Session beers are a big part of my homebrewing repertoire. While the Kölsch is a simple recipe it can be very difficult to brew. Like any “light yellow” beer, there is nowhere to hide flaws. A clean fermentation is critical in order to avoid ester production. My number one goal for my brewing currently is to pay close attention to my yeast health and fermentation temperatures.
I love gadgets. I love tech. And I love homebrewing. That said, I’m especially excited when I come across a product that marries all of those things together. I recently acquired a TILT Hydrometer, a device that floats in your fermenting homebrew and uses bluetooth low energy technology to wirelessly transmit temperature and specific gravity data to a bluetooth tablet, smartphone or Raspberry Pi.
It’s that time of year…spiced beer season! I’ve been seeing a lot of cereal beers lately. Count Chocula Stouts, Corn Flake Cream Ales, Fruity Pebble IPAs. I figured I would try something in line with the breakfast food theme that seems to be trending currently.
If you’ve read How to Brew by John Palmer, or if you’ve ever listened to the man speak, then you know that fermentation temperature control falls second (sanitation being number one) on his list of priorities when it comes to brewing great beer.
As soon as I finished my fermentation chamber, I knew that I HAD to brew a lager. My WiFi temperature controller project is also up and running! I’ve kept away from lagers simply because I haven’t had a place to ferment them cool. And with my job I’m not really around enough to babysit the temperature controller when it’s time for the diacetyl rest and the cold crash.
Fall is just around the corner and it’s time to start thinking about that fall beer that we all love. Well, actually, by the time this article posts we should already be drinking that fall beer that we all love. We’re talking Oktoberfest.
The Cream Ale has turned into quite an obsession of mine, as you can probably tell. This is my third time brewing a Cream Ale in three months. And it’s also the third iteration of my recipe.
Let’s face it – sometimes we just don’t have the time to brew. Between work, kids, school, and life in general, there’s just no time to squeeze in a 5 hour brew day. I made it my goal at the beginning of the year to brew at least one batch per month. Whether that is one gallon or ten gallons, I want to keep my skills honed.
Summer 2017 is coming to an end and so shall my summer beer styles. Since the last Berliner Weisse was such a hit amongst my household, I decided to brew another 5 gallon batch o the same style. My first Berliner Weisse was kettle soured by keeping it outside in the hot Houston sun on my balcony, but the temps were not consistent and it didn’t get quite as sour as I wanted it. Now that I have the Robobrew, I was able to hold this batch at a solid 100 degrees for about 3 days until I got it down to a pH of about 3.2. A beautiful pellicle also formed during the souring process.
The Brewer’s Association recommends cleaning your draft lines every two weeks if they are used “regularly”. Since it’s coming from the Brewer’s Association, I’m pretty sure regular use of a draft line would constitute a tap room or bar pulling hundreds of pints a day. As homebrewers, I think we would probably abandon the kegerator and go back to cleaning bottles if we needed to clean our lines every two weeks. My current routine is to clean my draft lines every time I kick a keg and plug in a new one. For me this is every four to six weeks. If you’d like to clean your lines every two weeks, then I respect your tenacity.
In May of 2017 my girlfriend and I decided to take a sporadic weekend trip to Rotterdam. As with all of our last minute travel plans, we had no idea what we would be doing when we got there. We typically like to play things by ear, walk around the city, and enjoy the food and local beer scene.
I first discovered the Cream Ale style at Houston’s 8th Wonder Brewery in early 2016.
So there it is. That carboy or bucket full of beer. It’s finished attenuating, the yeast beasties have all settled down for their long nap, and you’re sooooo close to being able to drink the delicious brew you’ve put so much time into. You just got home from work or it’s the weekend and you have so many other projects you need to finish. It sounds like you need to start kegging that beer!
I recently wrote a blog post reviewing the BrewCipher brewing calculator spreadsheet. As much as I enjoy using BrewCipher, I am always looking for new software. Whether that’s for brew day water calculations, recipe formulations, or even just for my own personal use for finances and keeping my life organized. I was browsing Twitter not too long ago and I came across a tweet from the handle @kegninja. One thing led to another and I discovered Keg.Ninja, the web-based recipe formulator, brewday calculator and keg ‘minder.
I waited months to decide whether or not I wanted to replace my cooler-style brewing system with an all-in-one system. I read reviews, compared prices and finally made a decision. As soon as I was about to add a $1,040 all-in-one brewing system to my cart at Williams Brewing, there it was – the Robobrew had finally made its way to the US and Williams Brewing had them in stock. Better yet, it was half the price of the system I was about to purchase. So I went back to online reviews and reddit posts for a few weeks to see if anyone out there had used the Robobrew.
After reading Michael Tonsmeire’s excerpt about soleras in Home Brew All Stars , I decided to start a solera of my own. Since I don’t currently have a any barrels in my possession, I guess you could call my current program a “pseudo-psolera”.
Cool brewing has come out with a product that takes up less space than a swamp cooler bucket when not in use, and just looks better than a bucket of ice water sitting in your kitchen or living room.
When I got into this hobby about a year ago, I thought that I would be exclusively brewing one gallon batches. After a few of those I decided that the work involved to produce seven bottles of beer just wasn’t worth it. I moved onto three gallon batches, which was perfect. I got to upgrade my brewing system to an igloo mash tun, and I would have three times as much beer! Then came the brew day for my first sour. I asked myself, “Why would I put three gallons away to age for a year when I could just as easily put away five?” And so my first five gallon batch was born.
I pulled a sample from the Honey Wheat Farmhouse Saison this past weekend which marks 4 months of being in storage. The hydrometer reads 1.000, which puts this beer around 7 % ABV. The sample was very clear and a dark golden color – very similar to apple juice.
I’ve been looking forward to this brew day for a while. After researching different souring method and recipes I finally decided on a 50/50 grain bill of German Pale Wheat and German Pilsner; kettle soured and fermented with S-05. I almost decided to ferment with a WLP565 Saison 1 since it was readily available in my fridge, but a clean ale yeast is better suited for this style. This will also be my first recipe that will have temperature control using my new Cool Brewing fermentation bag.
Sour beers are just recently coming into the craft beer and home brewing spotlight. For those who have never tried a “sour” beer, Berliner Weisse is the perfect starting point. A Berliner Weisse isn’t extremely tart, nor is it considered overly “funky”. Berliners offer a reserved lactic sourness and crisp dryness. The slight tartness, crispness, low alcohol, and high carbonation levels make them one of the most refreshing beer styles.
BrewCipher is a free excel spreadsheet that acts as a recipe builder and brew day calculator. The download includes the main excel file (or open office spreadsheet), as well as instructions on how to get the most out of the spreadsheet. There are multiple tabs within the file that allow for different brew system parameters, recipe inputs, water chemistry, a brew day printout and a tab to add additional ingredients that aren’t included in the initial download.
I finally got around to bottling the Saaz Saison that my friends and I brewed a few weeks ago. The Saison started a little lower and finished a little higher than predicted, but it tastes great and was enjoyed by all on game night.
I typically brew during the day while my girlfriend is at work, but this past brew day we had some friends in town and decided to have a how-to-brew day.
Stouts and porters are by far my favorite style; both to drink and to brew. Since I’m a coffee lover, I love the rich, roasty and chocolate flavors found in these styles. Rumor also has it that brewing darker beers is “easier”, since these complex flavors and dark malts can cover up some off-flavors that could be present in lighter beers.
While skimming through Michael Tonsmeire’s recipe page, I noticed that this recipe was one of his favorite sours. This was actually my first attempt at a mixed fermentation beer. It ended up turning out amazing!
St. Arnold Weedwacker is one of my girlfriend Liz's favorite beers, so I decided to brew up a three gallon batch that we can enjoy together. The St. Arnold Brewery is Houston's oldest craft brewery and its Weedwacker is their only unfiltered year-round beer.
Since I don’t currently have any way of controlling my fermentation temperatures, I tend to lean toward using Saison yeast for it’s higher temperature range. I keep my thermostat around 75 degrees at home and that usually gives me a fermentation temperature of around 78 degrees. Since the holidays and cooler temperatures are approaching I decided to try my hand at a dark Saison; something with cinnamon, vanilla and spice flavors that we can enjoy on a cold night on the balcony. This will also be my first time brewing with my igloo mash tun, as well as my first batch over 1 gallon.