Thursday, July 31, 2014


I’ve got this problem where once I buy ingredients I basically am done with that brew.  In my head I’ve moved on to what I want to brew next.  It’s not that I never brew anything , I’m always brewing, but for instance, right now I still have the grains and hops for an IPA which I have yet to brew.  I am planning on brewing it this weekend but I already have my next brews in planning.

Since it’s getting a little cooler (eventually) I wanted something a little better suited for cool weather and the fall.  In the past I brewed up a Sweet Stout that I was really happy with.  I’m going to re-brew this, hone in on some things with the recipe and then do some experiments.  I’m planning on 3 gallons, one to bottle normal, one to have pumpkin spices added to it (I always say I’m never going to do another pumpkin beer yet every year I want to do one) and one with captain crunch.  That’s right, captain crunch.  I was at Ballast Point and they take their Victory at Sea beer and “dry cereal” it with captain crunch and call it Victory at Cereal.  It is delicious and crazy at the same time, so I’m going to have a go at it.

The next beer I’m planning was a suggestion from SWMBO.  She asked if I had ever done a brown before.  I have, and to be honest, find the style pretty boring to brew.  But then she had the genius idea to do an oatmeal cookie beer ala Cigar City.  So that got the wheels turning and I did some research on reddit and homebrewtalk and I think I can pull it off.  I’m going to do 3 gallons of that, bottle one plain, one as an oatmeal cookie (vanilla and cinnamon) and I’m also going to give a PB&J beer another go.  I’m going to use PB2 again, but boil it this time to prevent an infection like last time.  I’ll also add some raspberries and see how it turns out.

That’s what I’m thinking for the next couple of weeks but I’m already looking further into the future.  Oktoberfest, RIS, Saison…

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Wild Yeast Capture

I’m officially off the rails with sour brewing.  Can’t stop, won’t stop.  I have a sour blonde fermenting, a solera souring and bottles of Berliners and gose ready to drink.  Even with that all going on I’m finding new ways to scratch the sour brewing itch.  This time I’m intrigued by wild yeast capture.  I don’t know why it intrigues me but there’s something about using yeast in the air to make beer.  What if my backyard holds the next Cantillon strain that’s going to propel me to fame and fortune!?  (hahahahah)

Anyways, I started reading up on yeast capture via /r/Homebrewing and The Mad Fermentationist’s new sour book and found it to be really easy.  I was brewing soon so I figured I’d give it a shot.  What’s the worst that could happen?

As I was brewing my kolsch, I took a few cups of wort in the middle of the boil that had been hopped a little bit and funneled this off into a sanitized (probably not necessary) glass pie dish, took a hop sack and stretched it over the top and left it while I finished up my boil.  After it cooled and I was done brewing, I took it inside and put it into a 32 oz growler.  I was going to put an airlock on it but couldn’t find any so I just put tin foil on top.  After a few days I saw some white appear on top and it appeared to be fermenting.  I left it untouched and let it go.  The visible fermentation has stopped but there is some solids on the bottom that have collected.  After reading The Mad Fermentationist’s book, I’m going to leave this for a few weeks to let the lacto and other bugs out compete the bad ones and create acid and then I’ll step it up into another starter.  At that point I might try it and I’ll update accordingly!

Update: 7/27/14-Had to dump the starter due to mold.  Before the mold showed up there was a significant amount of stuff settled at the bottom of the growler.  Until next time!


I’ve always been intrigued by sours and their production.  It seems so crazy to me to have the patience to leave a beer for years, not knowing how it is going to turn out.  I like speeding up sours a little bit but I also understanding the need for time in order to let the bugs do their work.  That’s why when I heard of the solera concept I was hooked.  Doing this, you are making a batch of sour beer (in my case, 5 gallons) and periodically taking a portion of finished beer from it and refilling with fresh wort for the bugs to eat away and sour even more.  In theory, there is always going to be beer left from the original batch in your carboy.  As I did in my previous Sour Brown, I can get a good tasting sour beer in ~6 months by souring the mash and pitching active dregs.  So using this Solera method, I can get sour beer in about 6 months and then every few months after that.  To me, this is a no brainer and I can forsee taking a gallon or so out every few months, fruiting it and having a pretty steady stream of sour beer on hand.

I designed this recipe to have lots of complex fermentables for the bugs to eat and to be a little lighter, but I think I messed up and it is a little too dark.  I’ll fix that by adding ligher beers for the initial refills.

5 gallons

4 lb Pilsner
3.5 lb 2 Row
1 lb Munich
1 lb Vienna
1 lb Wheat

0.25 oz Chinook (60 min)


Mashed high at 156F for 60 minutes.  Soured beer using a handful of grain for 3 days, boiled using hops and pitched US-05 to ferment at ambient for initial fermentation then adding dregs from homebrew sour and commercial bottles.

IBU: 11
ABV: 5.3%

7/21/2014: Mashed in at 156F for 60 mins.  Sparged out and collected 6.2 gallons wort.  Let cool to 120F, pitched a handful of grain, put saran wrap over and let sit from 90-110F for 3 days.
7/24/2014: Pitched US-05 at 66F.
7/28/2014: Bumped up to 68F.

Kolsch Re-brew

I got third place in a competition a few years ago with my Kolsch that I brewed.  I wanted an easy drinking beer without making a lager and having to deal with the time and cold temps that that involves.  A kolsch was a great option because it uses an ale yeast but ferments out clean and crisp.  I decided to rebrew that because I wanted to see if I could replicate an award winning beer.  I ferment low (62F) to keep it as clean as possible and slowly raise the temp to let the yeast clean it up.  This was also my first recipe where I really delved into water chemistry and used my tap water along with salt adjustments.

3.5 Gallons

5.5 lb Pilsner
0.5 lb Vienna

0.35 oz Chinook (60 min)

Wyeast 2575

Mashed at 148F, fermented at 62F, raised to 68F to finish.  4 g CaCl2, 1 g CaSO4.

OG: 1.043
FG: 1.008
IBU: 24
ABV 4.6%

7/19/2014: Brew day.  Everything went fine on the brew day.  Mashed in a little high around 149F, but it dropped over the course of the mash.  Went to add my hops and opened a 1 oz package of Chinook instead of 0.5 oz.  Added ~.8 oz instead of 0.35 oz.  Realized the mistake instantly and skimmed off hop particles.  Might be over bittered.  Could only cool to 80F, so put in fermenter and pitched the 1.25L starter the following morning 7/20/2014.
7/22/2014: Checked gravity 1.015. Bumped up ambient temp to 65F.
7/31/2014: Cold crashed to 45F for 2 days.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sour Blonde

My recent love for sour beers has been quickly increasing.  I can’t get enough of tart, funky beers on fruit and other things.  One problem with brewing them is that they take so dang long.  I managed to speed up my Sour Brown with good results, but I need more, and quickly.  I’m going to dedicate my 3 gallon better bottle to quick sour/funky beers.  If breweries like Wicked Weed and others can put out endless sour beers, so can I.  As good as beers that have been aged for 2 years in oak are, I believe I can make good (not necessarily great) beers in 2 or 3 months. 

This is the first test of that theory, a Sour Blonde.  I’m going to take a light blonde ale and sour it using my sour wort method, then pitch The Yeast Bay’s Brussels Brett into it for a 100% fermentation and let it ride.  I hope since this is solely being fermented by Brett that it’ll go quickly, funk it up a little to add to the already sour blonde base.  I might add part of it on a summer fruit (peaches?) and maybe part on oak to get something different out of it.

Sour Blonde
3.5 Gallons

9 lb Pilsner
0.5 lb White Wheat
0.5 lb C10

1.25 oz Saaz (60 min)

OG 1.068
FG 1.013
IBU 32.2

The Yeast Bay Brussels Brett

Mash at 148F.  Sour for 2-3 days at 100F.  Ferment at 66F ambient.

7/7/14: Mashed inwith 3.5 gallons at 162F.  Missed target temperature high around 151F.  Mashed for 60 mins, mashed out with 2.25 gallons.  Collected 4.15 gallons of 1.058 wort.  Put in souring bucket with heating pad on Medium and saran wrap on top.

7/10/14: Boiled, hopped with 1.25 oz Saaz.  3 gallons of OG 1.068 wort.  Pitched 1 vial of The Yeast Bay Brussels Brett yeast.  Fermented at 68F.
7/15/14: Gravity reading 1.050.  Bumped to 70F.
7/20/14: Removed from fridge and put at room temp ~78F.
7/22/14: Gravity reading 1.022  Some brett funk and fruitness coming through.  Sourness is becoming more sharp.

Won Best in Show at 2014 KFB Beer Fest

I'm an Idiot!

I’m all amped up on my brewing right now. I got a ton of cool gear for my birthday in June and I finally have the time and space to brew again.  I guess I got a little too excited and jumped in a little bit too much because I had a bit of a problem that I shouldn’t have.

My Citra Pale Ale had been fermenting along in my new fermentation chamber and I was excitedly tasting, adding dry hops and taking gravity readings along the way.  It was my first time using The Yeast Bay’s Vermont Ale yeast, but I had grown up a huge starter and pitched healthy yeast into the beer.  A week into fermentation I use my brand new refractometer and take a gravity reading.  1.034!  Noooooooooo!  I kept checking day after day and the gravity remained the same. Finally I just decided to dry hop and bottle the beer at 1.034 because it tasted fine.  Right before I was going to, I decided to check my refractometer reading with my hydrometer.  1.010!?  What the heck?  I instantly start googling the difference and lo and behold everywhere on the internet is the answer.  Refractometer readings get messed up by alcohol and you have to do corrections to get accurate readings.  I was fretting for naught, bottled up my pale ale (7.5% ABV, whoops!) and learned a great lesson.  I’m an idiot.