Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Brewing Water

               I think I’m somewhat in the minority with respect to the homebrewing community, but I believe that water chemistry is criminally under talked about.  After fermentation temperature control and yeast, I think it’s next in line to make killer beer.  And it’s gotten such a rap online that people are terrified of it.  This is partially because it’s an extremely  complex topic that very few people fully understand, but if you can get a few basic concepts down and don’t get bogged down in the technical and complicated side of it, it’s pretty simple to improve your beer.

                This isn’t meant to be an in depth analysis and explanation of water chemistry in brewing.  If you want that, I highly, highly recommend Water from John Palmer and Colin Kaminski, and a variety of forums including /r/homebrewing and HomeBrewTalk.  Brewing water is a topic that you can spend hours and days and weeks on and still not fully understand it.  I find it’s best to not get too bogged down in the science behind it and know just enough to get by.  This is more meant to be a quick reference guide for myself and a way to wrap my head around this complicated subject and hopefully other people will benefit as well.

                To me, water chemistry is about mash pH and a select few minerals which can accent crispness, hop character, malt character and overall quality.

                First things first you need the content of your water.  I asked my city for a water report and received mine back.  It looks like this:

                After a lot of reading, I found that all I need to know from this is calcium, magnesium, alkalinity, pH, sodium, chlorine and sulfate.  I don’t have some of those, so I assumed 0 when entering into my spreadsheet.  I use BrewCipher, which VikeMan on Beer Advocate made. It draws from a few other places to make a spreadsheet that I find easier and cleaner to use than anything else.  I’ve checked the water numbers against Bru’n Water and they are always essentially the same.

The things my spreadsheet needs to be inputted are Ca, Mg, Na, Cl, SO4, HCO3 and pH.  These are the things I worry about when I’m brewing and here’s a quick rundown of why.

Calcium (Brewing range 50-200 ppm)
Lowers pH, promotes clarity, flavor and stability.  Needed for alkaline water to drop pH.  Too much can inhibit yeast performance.  Flavor neutral, can reduce sour perception of magnesium.  Works in conjunction with magnesium to define your hardness (temporary can be boiled off, permanent cannot, this is a more in-depth subject than what I’m going into here)

Magnesium (Brewing range 0-40 ppm)
Similar to calcium, less effective in lowering pH.  Yeast nutrient.  Laxative in higher amounts (>125 ppm).

Sodium (Brewing range 0-100 ppm)
Lower levels generates a cleaner flavor in beer.  70-150 ppm rounds out flavors and accentuates sweetness of the malt, especially in conjunction with chloride.  High sodium and high sulfate can be harsh/sour/bitter.

Chloride (Brewing range 0-200 ppm)
Accentuates malt sweetness and fullness.  >250 ppm can be salty, >300 ppm can affect yeast health/fermentation.  Can be minerally or salty when combined with sulfate or sodium in high amounts.

Sulfate (Brewing range 0-400 ppm)
Accentuates hop bitterness (drier and more crisp).  >400 ppm can make the bitterness astringent and unpleasant.  Can be added but not readily removed.

Bicarbonate sort of aka alkalinity (Brewing range 0-?? ppm)
Has the biggest impact on mash pH.  Basically, higher alkalinity means you have to add more stuff to lower the pH into range.  You could read for hours on this subject (and you should), but for now, I’ll stop.

                One of the main reasons we care about these ions is because of mash pH.  Why do we care about mash pH?  Let’s let explain
“A commonly accepted optimal range for mash pH is 5.2 - 5.7 with 5.5 being optimal for starch conversion activity but many authors report wort and beer quality benefits if the pH is lowered into the 5.2 - 5.4 range [Kunze, 2007][Narziss, 2005]. Kunze in particular lists the following benefits for a mash pH as low as 5.2. Since it is a good and fairly comprehensive list I cited it here. Some of these benefits listed will be explained in the following sections [Kunze, 2007]:
  •   The enzymatic activity in the mash is increased as all important enzymes get activated. (except for alpha amylase which starts to suffer at a pH below 5.6)
  •   The extract yield (efficiency) is improved
  •   The protein coagulation and precipitation is improved (improved break formation)
  •   The run-off speed is improved
  •   The color increase during the wort boil is reduced
  •   Better trub precipitation and faster pH drop lead to faster fermentation and greater attenuation of the beer.
  •   The taste of the beer is more rounded, fuller and softer. The beer is crisper, more fresh and shows more character.
  •   The hop bitterness is more pleasant and doesn't linger
  •   The foam is more stable and denser
  •   The color of the beer is lighter
  •   Mash oxidation is reduced since the main culprit, the lipoxigenase enzyme, doesn't work well at low mash pH conditions
  •   Haze stability is improved
  •   Susceptibility to microbial spoilage is reduced through lower beer pH beer spoilage organism don't grow below a pH of 4.4
  •   Higher attenuation

                Convinced yet that brewing water/mineral additions needs to be focused on more?  Since I’ve paid attention to my mash pH and gotten it into the 5.3 range, my beer has been lighter in color and crisper than ever before.  It seems like a lot of information but it’s been made so much easier due to the wide availability of spreadsheets you can find online.  In case it’s still not 100% clear, I’ll walk you through how I set up my water.

My water doesn’t have much to it and a low alkalinity so when I’m formulating my water profile the first place I stop is Water.  I look up my style, then the acceptable range for Ca, Cl, SO4 and alkalinity (HCO3).  That’s it!  Then I hop into my BrewCipher excel sheet and play around adding gypsum (CaSO4, lowers pH, adds Ca and SO4 ions), calcium chloride (CaCl2, lowers pH, adds Ca and Cl ions) and baking soda (NaHCO3, raises pH, adds Na and HCO3 ions).  I’ll try to get my Ca, Cl, SO4, Na and HCO3 levels into the ranges given from Water all while keeping the pH around 5.3 (remember that study that said to get as close to 5.2 as possible without going below?  I aim for 5.3 so I have some leeway).

                If I can’t get the pH into range and the ions into range, I’ll add some lactic acid (liquid form, buy it from any homebrew site/shop) and add that to get it into range.  Like I mentioned before, my water has low alkalinity so I don’t have to worry about my sparge water but if I did, I’d add lactic acid to get it to ~5.5 before sparging.  You can also add more salts to the sparge or split your brewing salts evenly between mash and sparge to get your pH in line.

                Voila.  That’s it.  On brew day I measure all of the minerals out, dump it in with the grain, give it a stir then let it sit for about 10-15 minutes before taking a sample, letting it cool and taking the pH.  If my pH is in range, great!  If it’s high, I add lactic acid, if it’s low I add baking soda, in 1 mL/1 g increments.

                I have many thoughts and experiments planned on how to make my hoppy beers even better and some theories on the proper water needed to brew kick ass saisons ala Hill Farmstead (I wish), but that’s for another day.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Scrappy Hound House Pale Ale #1

My first attempt at a house saison is in the bottles and it's now time to start working on my hoppy beers.  I'm going to be looking at hopping rates and techniques as well as water chemistry to really make them pop.  First up is a very simple/classic pale ale.  I tweaked the water a bit, but other than that, it's really just for a baseline to work on.

Pale Ale #1

3 gallons
72% efficiency
60 min boil

5 lb 2 row (87%)
0.25 lb C60 (4%)
0.25 lb Munich (4%)
0.25 lb White Wheat (4%)

0.25 oz Chinook (60 min)
0.25 oz Centennial (15 min)
0.25 oz Willamette (15 min)
0.5 oz Centennial (Flameout)
0.5 oz Willamette (Flameout)
0.25 oz Centennial (Dry Hop)
0.25 oz Willamette (Dry Hop)

Wyeast 1056 @ 65F ambient.  Mashed at 154F.

OG 1.050 | FG 1.011 | ABV 5.2% | IBU 43

Ca 148 | Mg 1 | Na 29 | Cl 51 | SO4 264 | HCO3 112

12/20/14: Brewday.  I've been getting insane efficiency the last few batches so I had to add water to get my gravity down into range.  OG 1.053.  Mash pH 5.4.  Made 1 L starter 24 hours before.  Decanted and saved some slurry for future, pitched into wort the next day.  Activity within hours.  Hit with 50 sec of oxygenation.
12/28/14: Current gravity 1.006.  Taste is nice and clean.  Fruity hops.  
1/6/14: Bottled

Friday, December 19, 2014

My thoughts on beer releases

It seems like every month there is a brewery getting lambasted online about how they handled releasing a limited beer.  Hunahpu’s Day, Kane’s ANTEAD release, NoDa’s Monstro and most recently Fifty Fifty’s Masterpiece have all had problems in the past year.  Hype for craft beer and more specifically, limited release craft beers are at an all time high.  If you’re a popular brewery with any sort of following, people will be camped outside your brewery at 2 AM, weather be damned, the day of the release.  

                Since no brewery owner is also an event planner (that I’m aware of), I’ve put together some some fool proof ways to release a beer while keeping beer geeks everywhere as happy as possible.

                Probably the fairest way to release a beer is to do a silent release with a limit.  Unannounced, just put the beer in the cooler and let word of mouth do the rest.  Locals and frequent visitors to the taproom will benefit (rewarding your biggest customers) and there won’t be out of towners coming in and taking the beer before someone who comes to the brewery 5 days a week.  I’m not saying that once news gets out on twitter/Beer Advocate/Rate Beer there will be a crush to the taproom, but at least you give locals a shot.

                The hands down easiest way to release a beer and also give everyone a fair chance to get the next M is to sell it online.  Doing so makes sure that anyone with a computer (read: everyone) gets a chance to buy.  Bonus points if you make sure the sale is at a time when people on both coasts are out of work, but let’s be honest, beer geeks will call in sick and risk their jobs to get the next waelz, bro.  The key part of this plan is to use a website that can handle 5,000 people hitting F5 at once.  You’d think they would have learned but breweries like Cigar City and The Bruery put together websites themselves and they inevitably crashed during the first online sale.  AleSmith and Modern Times have done countless releases for their delicious BA Speedway Stouts and use Brown Paper Tickets and have yet to have a problem.

                The problem with online sales is that you’re not driving traffic to your tasting room where you can make the most money (remember that breweries are businesses first and foremost, no matter what they say, and pint sales in the taproom equal the greatest revenue).  I get that, so why not have a release party where everyone can pick up the beers they bought online?  Blow it out and have the beer on tap with other variants and other limited beers.  Win win, right?  Doing a release party makes sure you don’t have lines, everyone knows who is getting the beer and people who missed out still get to drink awesome beer. 

                Online sales certainly make the most sense but I still understand that they’re not making breweries the most money and to some extent, they’re not driving hype for your brewery, which I suspect, is why some opt for brewery only releases.  If a brewery insists on releasing beer on site at a predetermined time, they have to be aware that people will camp out.  Wristbands prevent people from cutting in line, saving spots or generally being an asshole.  Once the time comes to release the beer, count the people in line, look at how many bottles you have, then announce a limit.  That’s right, no pre-announced bottle limits.  You gain nothing by allowing people to take home a case when there are only 2000 bottles made and 500 people in line.  Someone will get upset and it will turn into a shitshow.  Instead, allow people to get back in line if they want more.  Basically, this will allow everyone who arrived on time to get a bottle if they want (unless the crowd is larger than the bottle count, in which case, you’re going to sell out anyways so it doesn’t matter even if the limit is 1).  Then if people aren’t on time, you can keep cycling through the line until it’s sold out.

                The thing that brewery owners seem to forget sometimes is that craft beer is big.  Bigger than that actually, it’s enormous.  Hype is at an all time high and you have to assume that if you have a limited release beer, there will be more demand than supply.  Quit saying that you didn’t expect such a big crowd.  Imagine the most people you think will show up.  Now double it and expect all of those people to be in line at 6 am.  You’re ready to plan your release party.  Being taken off guard isn’t acceptable anymore and any brewery that tries to claim that risks a black eye which might hurt them in the ever more competitive craft beer market.  If you want to have a non-ticketed release party, with a case limit, be my guest.  Just know the people who drove 6 hours and got in line at 5 am and didn't get beer are going to raise hell.  Hell hath no fury like a beer geek scorned.

Solera Pull #1 Bottling

About 2 months ago I took my first pull from my "solera" and blended it with my Belgian golden in different ratios to make up 2 total gallons.  Today I bottled them up and now it's time to wait for them to hopefully carb up (I didn't pitch any other yeast) and then think of my next pull.


Blend of 2/3 solera with 1/3 Belgian golden.  Aged on 2 cans of tart cherries packed in water.  This was significantly tart, almost too much so.  The solera is so tart I need to blend it even more.


Blend of 1/3 solera and 2/3 Belgian golden.  Much better balance.  A nice sweetness to compliment the tart.  Golden in color. 

Can't wait to see these carbed up!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Scrappy Hound House Saison #1

First up in my recently dubbed Scrappy Hound House Beer quest is a Saison.  My ultimate goal would be something similar to a Hill Farmstead beer, but he seems to be in a unique situation to produce such amazing beers.  I would be ecstatic if I could get something like Wicked Weed.

My perfect saison: big, billowy head.  Estery nose.  A little funk if possible.  Taste is light, complex, moderate high carbonation, medium to big bubble feel (weird descriptor, I know).  Tastes lightly, threshold spiced, but it’s not.  Not belgiany.  Clean, dry finish.  Abv ranges from 5-6%.  Versions include dry hopped, fruited.  Can sour mash it.

With that being said, I’ve put together a simple saison recipe.  Looking back I might need to add munich or Vienna but I’ll do that if needed in iteration 2.  I chose Wyeast 3711 because it’s a beast from what I can her and produces excellent dry saisons.  I might blend with another strain in the future.  I know Saaz is the classic hop used, I’ll look into changing from Tettnang in the future.

Scrappy Hound Saison #1

3 gallons
70% efficiency
60 min boil

5 lb Belgian Pils (91%)
0.5 lb White Wheat (9%)

0.5 oz Tettnang (60 min)
0.5 oz Tettnang (15 min)

Wyeast 3711 @ 64F ambient.  Mash at 152F.

OG 1.047 | FG 1.006 | ABV 5.5% | IBU 24

Ca 79 | Mg 1 | Na 46 | Cl 54 | SO4 94 | HCO3 132

12/11/14: Brewday.  I somehow hit 90% efficiency so had to add water to get my gravity down.  ~1 gallon total.  OG: 1.048.  Mash pH hit on the nose 5.4 with 3 mL addition of lactic acid (spreadsheet said to add 4).  Made 1L starter, decanted, made another 1L starter, cold crashed, decanted and pitched at 9PM after saving some.  8 AM the beer was actively fermenting.
12/16/14: Gravity down to 1.004.  This yeast is awesome.  Big flavor already developed.  Might look to bottle soon.
12/21/14: Gravity down to 1.001.  Bottled.
12/29/14: First tasting.  Gorgeous murky yellow.  White head that recedes quickly.  Nose is fruity.  Taste follows the nose.  Very fruity/estery with some spice.  I'm not sure I'm in love with the taste.  Goes down dangerously easy, it's good, but not exactly the funky/sharper taste I want.

2015 Goals/Scrappy Hound House Beers

I’ve finally reached another turning point in my homebrewing career.  So far I’ve graduated from extract brewing to all grain to upgrading equipment to make good beer to experimenting with different styles and methods.  I’ve now got my process down and I can make tasty beer, but more importantly, I’m over trying to brew a gimmicky imperial, session, double hopped vanilla brett dark saison (or whatever).  I’m at the point where I want to make phenomenal beer.  To do so, I think I have to narrow down my brewing and that’s my goal for 2015 and the near future, to nail a few different beers.  I’m not saying I’m done experimenting, if anything this process will only increase my experimenting with hops, yeast strains, blends, etc.  However, I am done with the weird beers.  I can buy them at the store, because we all know Rogue is only a month away from releasing a Peanut butter and fluff beer or something. 

My process will be to start with a base recipe that’s proven or researched online, brew it, then make one or maybe two changes, then brew it again.  Most importantly though, I am going to only do this for a few different types of beer that are my favorite and I won’t mind drinking over and over (especially if they’re good).  They are: hoppy (pale ale/IPA/maybe DIPA), saison, sour/tart (Berliner/Gose/fruited versions), and then a fourth which will probably be a rotation, but mainly a dark, roasty beer (milk stout/porter/American stout).  That’s it.  Those are the only beers I’m going to brew for the foreseeable future and I’m going to detail it completely here.  (Note: I am still doing my sour beers, but since so many of them are set it and forget it, I don’t include them here.)

I’m starting with a straightforward saison, then a Pale ale.  They’ll be brewed in the next week or two!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Classic RIS

I’ve got it in my head to make a run at NHC gold medals in the next few years.  I’ve reworked a few recipes, have some processes down pat which score well in competitions and therefore I want to see how they do on the national level.  Looking at my NHC Gold Medal Winning spreadsheet, I drew inspiration for a classic RIS.  The winning recipes in the past few years have had ~80% Maris Otter as the base malt.  Roasted grains tended to be a blend of chocolate, roast barley, black and dark crystal malts.  To incorporate all of these I added all 5 roast/specialty grains to my grain bill to hopefully develop some complexity.  I leaned slightly more on the crystal grains than the roast malts hopefully to stay away from an ashy taste.

Classic RIS

2.5 Gallons

8 lb Maris Otter (84%)
0.4 lb C60 (4%)
0.4 lb C120 (4%)
0.25 lb Chocolate (3%)
0.25 lb Roasted Barley (3%)
0.25 lb Black Malt (3%)

0.5 oz Chinook (60 min)
0.25 EKG (45 min)
0.25 EKG (30 min)
0.25 EKG (15 min)
0.25 EKG (5 min)

Mashed at 152F for 60 minutes.  Sparged hot at 168F.  Boiled for 90 minutes. 

OG: 1.097
FG: 1.027
ABV: 9.2%
IBU: 55

Florence, SC water with additions

Ca: 72 ppm
Mg: 1 ppm
Na: 61 ppm
Cl: 79 ppm
SO4: 84 ppm
HCO3: 145 ppm

Mash pH: 5.46

Thames Valley yeast.  2 L starter then 1.5 L starter.  Wort aerated for 70 seconds.

11/8/14: Brew day.  Preboil OG high at 1.074.  Post boil high at 1.103.  Mash pH low at 5.2.
12/13/14:  Tasted the first bottle.  Still a little muddled.  Some fruit.  I"m hoping time will help meld this together.  It is clean and the alcohol is a background note.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Solera Blending/Golden Brett

I brewed my Solera about 3 months ago and I’m now going to start moving towards packaging it.  I did some test blending with my Golden base wort and found that 2/3 golden with 1/3 sour was very nice.  This will be put in a 1 gallon carboy and left for a little to blend together and mellow and eat up anything that is left.

I wanted to blend some more and add some fruit so I’m going to do another gallon carboy with 1/3 Golden base beer with 2/3 sour to up the sourness.  I bought 2 cans of tart cherries packaged in water to add also.  This will sit for up to a month before packaging.

The solera will be replaced with the Golden base beer up to 5 gallons in order to push out excess O2 and give the bugs more to chew on.  This evolving beer will be revisited again in a few months for more sour beer.

The remaining Golden base beer which should be around 3 gallons will be put in my 3 gallon better bottle sour fermenter.  Along with the beer I’m adding ~15 oak cubes which have been boiled to remove the tannins.  I’m pitching a vial of saved Yeast Bay Brussels Brett and I’m leaving this in the closet for a few months.  Walt from Wicked Weed gave me this advice after asking him how to get a beer as awesome as Serenity.  I also talked to the Mad Fermentationist about getting the most funk out of a beer and he recommended giving the brett a lot of phenols to play with and that’s why I open fermented my Golden base beer with a Belgian strain.

All in all, this blending should take place today 10/28/14 and I’ll have another 5 gallons of sour beer working away.  That’s 5 gallons in the solera, 3 for the funky brett beer, 1 which is just a straight blend of 1/3 solera and 2/3 golden and the other which is blend of 2/3 solera, 1/3 golden and tart cherries.  Hopefully they’ll be packaged in a few months!

Golden Wort for Sours

The Rare Barrel was on The Brewing Network recently and talked about their sour production.  Their program is basically based around 3 base beers which they then pitch bugs into and experiment with.  The base beers are a golden, an amber and a dark sour.  The recipes are very similar and they shared each.  I want to do an aggressively funky brett beer and also needed a beer to blend with my very sour Solera, so I brewed their golden wort to funkify and blend.  I open fermented it with Wyeast Abbey Ale after talking to The Mad Fermentationist to get a lot of phenols for the brett (Yeast Bay Brussels Brett) to hopefully turn into delicious barnyard funk.

5 Gallons

5.5 lb 2 Row
2.25 lb Wheat
0.5 lb Aromatic
0.5 lb Flaked Oats

0.5 oz Tettnang (60 min)
0.5 oz Tettnang (30 min)

Mashed at 148F for 60 minutes and boiled for 60 minutes.  3 g CaCl2, 2 g CaSO4 and 4 mL lactic acid got the pH to 5.35.  3.27 gallons was heated to 161F for the mash and 3.97 gallons was heated to 179F for the sparge (168F).

2L starter of Wyeast Abbey Ale

IBU: 16
ABV: 4.7%

10/11/14: Brew day.  Got an absurd 83% efficiency so OG was 1.054.  Opened the lid of the fermenter once krausen was observed after ~1 day.  Left it open with just foil over it for 3 days, then closed.

10/20/14: FG 1.008.

????: Pitched The Yeast Bay Brussels Brett blend and dregs from Hill Farmstead Anna.

????: Tasting notes


SWMBO’s father loves hoppy reds.  So do I as a matter of fact, fresh Tocobaga from Cigar City is one of my all time favorite beers.  We’re heading down to Tampa for Thanksgiving, so I put a Red IPA on the list of things to brew.  It’s a mixture of Tocobaga and just some classic IPA notes.  We’ll see how it turns out.

3 Gallons

6.5 lb 2 Row
0.5 lb Munich
0.5 lb Vienna
0.75 lb C60
0.1 lb Carafa II

0.5 oz Chinook (60 min)
0.5 Cascade (15 min)
0.5 Amarillo (15 min)
0.5 Centennial (15 min)
0.5 Cascade (0 min)
0.5 Amarillo (0 min)
0.5 Centennial (0 min)

Mash at 150F for 60 minutes.  Boil for 60 minutes.  2 g CaCl2, 7g CaSO4, 1g NaHCO3, 1 mL lactic acid for a mash pH of 5.34.  3.12 gallons at 163F (150F) to mash and 2.13 gal @ 185F (168F) to sparge.

Wyeast Thames Valley Yeast

OG: 1.069
FG: 1.016
IBU: 69
ABV: 7.3%

10/27/2014: Brewday.  OG 1.069.  Cooled overnight, pitched on 10/28.  Aerated wort for 60 seconds and pitched 1.5 L starter of Thames Valley (after taking off a vial to save).  Wort was a little darker/roastier than expected.  Plan is to dry hop 0.5 oz of Amarillo, Cascade and Centennial in a few days before fermentation ends and then a second dry hop 3-4 days after, then bottle.
11/2/14: Dry hopped with 0.5 oz of Amarillo, Centennial and Cascade
11/5/14: Dry hopped with 0.5 oz of Amarillo, Centennial and Cascade and crashed to 50F.
11/26/14: Tasted the first bottle.  This turned out more like a brown than a red.  I'll lay off the munich/vienna/crystal/roasted grains next time.  Good hop flavor but the malt makes backbone is too strong and upsets the balance.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


I'm very much into clean, easy drinking lager type beers these days.  With the Fall approaching, I wanted something similar, but also something that fit the cooler weather.  That's where Oktoberfest style beers come in.  Malt forward, but very clean and easy drinking.  I don't have the ability to lager, unless I want to tie up my Ale brewing (I don't), so I need another solution.  Scouring the forums, it appears people in my situation have taken to brewing these clean lager beers with ale yeasts and fermenting cold to mimic the flavor.  A lot of people say you don't get the same flavor, which makes sense, but I just want to get close enough.  I love my own Kolsch, so if I can brew a malty version of that, I'm going to be happy.


3 Gallons

2.5 lb Vienna

2 lb Pilsner
2 lb Munich

0.5 oz Tettnanger (60 min)

0.5 oz Tettnanger (15 min)

Mash at 148F for 60 minutes.  Boil for 90 minutes.  3 g CaCl2, 2g CaSO4, 1g NaHCO3 in mash.  0.45 mL lactic acid in sparge water.  2.43 gallons at 161F for mash.  2.82 gallons at 179F for sparge.

Wyeast 2565 Kolsch Ale

OG: 1.055

FG: 1.012
IBU: 23
ABV: 5.7%

9/27/14: Brewday.  OG 1.068 due to over boiling and getting ~78% efficiency.

9/28/14: Visible fermentation.
11/15/14: Tasting notes.  The malt backbone is right on, but there's something to Kolsch ale yeast that turns me off.  There's this weird fruitiness/smartie taste.  I got it in White Labs and now I get it in Wyeast's version.  


I attended the Keep Florence Beautiful beerfest this past weekend.  It's a combination beer fest and homebrew competition.  I entered 3 beers on a whim, my Sour Blonde, my Strawberry Rhubarb Berliner and my most recent IPA.  They announced the winners midway through and much to my surprise they called my name as Best in Show runner up for my Strawberry Rhubarb Berliner!  I got an awesome ribbon and walked back to my girlfriend.  Then they announced the Best in Show winner and they called me again for my Sour Blonde!  I was totally shocked, and got another ribbon and an awesome Das Boot.  Next up, NHC medals!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

NHC Gold Medal Recipes 2000-2014

I posted this on and it well received so I thought I'd also post it here for posterity

I spent the past few weeks compiling all of the gold medal winning recipes that are posted on the AHA website from 2000-2014. I put them in a spreadsheet and calculated the recipes based on percentage of grains, hops used, OG, FG, mash temp and yeast used.
I'm not sure why I did this to begin with, but I certainly did learn some things from doing it.
There are some proven gold medal winning recipes that you can see from some people copying the exact recipe from the year before and winning gold. It was interesting to watch a category such as Pale ale or IPA progress in the last 10 years.

Some things I noticed for success in competitions:
--In hoppy beers, complex hop bills were almost exclusively used (No single hop beers won)
--Also in hoppy beers, Simcoe and Amarillo are almost always in the winning beer. Centennial and Cascade a close second. A lot had all 4.
--For big ABV beers, a complex malt bill was frequently used (>6 grains)
--Almost every Fruit beer that won used extract at bottling and not real fruit
--There are certainly categories that seem to win more often. You have a better chance of getting gold with a RIS than an American Stout (6 wins vs 1)
--Ingredients matter. For example, british style beers almost exclusively had british malts, yeast and hops.
--Don't even try to win gold with an IPA/DIPA because this guy Kelsey McNair or something has won the last 3-4 years with virtually the same recipe. (Kelsey, you out there? Want to trade? ;))

Anyways, those are things I noticed. I don't brew a lot of the categories so the subtleties of some are lost on me. Take a look if you want and I think this could be valuable if people can use this to determine how to be successful brewing different styles.

Sweet Stout v2.0

I was very happy with this beer last time I brewed it.  This is almost the same recipe with some more crystal malts and a little more Maris Otter.  I plan on splitting this 3 ways.  One gallon straight, 1 gallon with pumpkin spices and 1 gallon onto captain crunch!

Sweet Stout

3.5 gallons

6.5 lb Maris Otter
0.5 lb Chocolate
0.5 lb Carafa II
0.5 lb C80
0.5 lb C20
0.25 lb C120
0.25 lb C40
0.5 lb Lactose

0.75 lb Chinook (60 mins)

Mash high at 156F.  2 g CaCl2, 4 g CaSO4, 3 g NaHCO3.  Fermented with Thames Valley yeast around 64F.

OG: 1.071
FG: 1.025

9/7/14: Brew day.  Bad crush from the homebrew shop, so OG was low, 1.054.  

Brown Ale

I wanted a beer to split and do some flavorings to.  I chose a brown ale so I could do a PB&J beer and a oatmeal cookie beer.  The grain bill incorporated a lot of crystal malt to provide a sweeter note and I boiled for 90 minutes to try to develop some more caramel flavors.

3.5 Gallons

6 lb Maris Otter
0.5 lb C20
0.5 lb C60
0.5 lb Flaked Oats
0.25 lb Chocolate
0.25 lb Munich

0.5 oz Chinook (60 min)

Mash at 152F for 60 minutes.  90 minute boil.  2 g CaCl, 1 g NaHCO3, 4 g CaSO4, 0.54 mL lactic acid in sparge.

OG: 1.059
FG: 1.017
IBU: 30
ABV: 5.7%

8/16/2014: Brewed.  Actual OG 1.053.

9/6/2014: Bottled 1 gallon straight.  Bottled 1 gallon with cinnamon and vanilla.  Racked on gallon onto ¾ c dried peanut butter and 8 oz frozen raspberries.
9/20/14: Base brown is solid.  A little fruity.  I need to pick up a typical example of the style and see how it compares.  1 gallon with cinnamon and vanilla "Cookie Monster" is nice.  Could be more forward with a higher quality vanilla and cinnamon as well.  Added an extra 1/4 c. of dried PB when bottling.  Tasting it and the taste is completely nailed.  This is Funky Buddha's "No Crusts".  If the base brown was a little bigger and smoother, it would be a perfect clone.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

IPA v. 4.0

IPA Version 4.0

I have a problem. I love hoppy beers. I think there’s not much better than a really well-brewed IPA or pale ale. My problem? I can’t brew hoppy beers to save my life. The Citra Pale Ale I recently brewed was great in theory (citra hops, what could go wrong) but turned out pretty bad. All of my past attempts at this IPA recipe have been sub par. I’m hoping this is the time things click and I get a bangin IPA. All I want is a clean, unobtrusive malt bill and a huge hop aroma and character.

Scrappy IPA v4.0

3 gallons

8 lb 2 row
0.5 lb Carapils

1 oz Chinook (60 mins)
0.5 oz Amarillo (Flameout, hop stand for 10 mins)
0.5 oz Centennial (Flameout, hop stand for 10 mins)
1 oz Amarillo (Whirlpool)
1 oz Centennial (Whirlpool)
0.5 oz Amarillo (Dry hop)
0.5 oz Centennial (Dry hop)

Mash in at 150F.

The Yeast Bay Vermont ale yeast fermented at 66F.

OG: 1.060
FG: 1.012
IBU: 69 using modified tinseth
ABV: 6.6%

Florence, SC tap water used

Add 10 g gypsum, 1 g sodium bicarbonate and 1 mL lactic acid to mash for pH 5.47. 0.45 mL lactic acid
to sparge water.

Ca: 111 ppm
Mg: 1 ppm
Na: 12 ppm
Cl: 0 ppm
SO4: 245 ppm
HCO3: 67 ppm

8/15/2014: Bottled
8/21/2014: Tasting. Light, I wish it was a little lighter.  Nice fruity aroma.  Very bright, but restrained aroma.  Taste is a little fruitier than I like, but overall a very solid effort.  Finally a hoppy beer I'm content with.