Archive for the 'Homebrew' Category

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MadelIPA brew day recap

I brewed a re-modified version of MadelIPA on Saturday and had to make some on the fly changes. My last brew day had 95-100% humidity, so the amount of evaporation was nearly nothing, leaving me with a slightly more dilute beer than I’d planned. This time I wasn’t going to be caught off guard, so I lautered a larger volume than the 6 gallons called for, and since the gravity of the sweet wort was still in range, I figured no harm would be done. But after mixing the sweet wort, I took a gravity reading and found it to be near 1.040, lower than I was expecting, even with evaporation.

What to do? Turn the recipe in to a 90 minute boil, add some corn sugar and add more hops of course. Adding hops was a no brainer, but the corn sugar? Well, I had 3/4 lbs of it on hand, and a Pliny clone I found called for it, so I figured it was a safe way to up the OG without changing the body or flavor (hopefully). All said and done, the brew went well. I hit my strike tempurature just right so my mash temperature was spot on 152F.

Now the beer is sitting in primary bubbling, though krausen came on slowly. Not to get all finger-pointy, but I was using my first activator pack, and fermentation didn’t start until nearly 12 hours after pitching. That’s the price I pay for not having a starter on hand. I probably should have just dropped the dry yeast in.

Oh, and the extra hops were a good idea, at least for aroma’s sake. My basement smells delicious.

MadelIPA #1

As baby 2’s due date approaches, I need to get a suitable IPA on tap for my lovely and dedicated wife to enjoy post-delivery. I modified the successful Michella IPA #2 to get MadeIPA #1. (Link goes to BeerXML file.) Madeline is the nom du jour.

Hop Inventory for 2009

My “inside guy” has again procured a bundle of hops for me as a Christmas present. This year’s bundle includes some varieties I’ve not used before as well, so I’ll be doing some reading to figure out what each is suited for. Here’s the haul, and a few notes from both the Hop Union Variety Databook, and for my own use.

Believe it or not, I will refer to this post over and over for alpha acid and variety notes throughout the year. It’s not just to gloat.

Whole hops:

  • Newport 11.2% alpha – Bittering hop similar to Galena and Nugget. Good base for ales.
  • Nugget 14.4% alpha – High-alpha bittering hop with grassy, herbal aroma. Good base for ales.


  • US Perle 7.5% – Dual purpose aromatic and bittering. Used in German-style brews, both ales and lagers.
  • Crystal 4.3% – Very aromatic Hallertau relative. Wonderful smells. Great for Continental brews.
  • Brewers Gold 9.3% – a spicy bittering hop.
  • Vanguard 5.0% – Similar to Hallertau, good for German beers, both ales and lagers.
  • Cascade 7.8% – Duh…Citrusy and floral aromatic. Taste of the NW.
  • Palisades 8.0% – Still undecided. Seem to be more of a bittering hop than an aroma. Not the most pleasant aroma, so don’t use for single hopped beers.
  • US Goldings 4.9% – US relative of Kent Golding, a versatile aromatic hop used in everything from bitters to stouts.
  • Millennium 15.9% – high alpha relative of Nugget with similar aroma.

December's Fermentation Friday

Yeast and I have had a tenuous relationship. It can be a bit of a prima donna, knowing how essential it is to process of brewing, and probably knowing that I spend too much time focusing on the hops. It all started with my first solo batch of beer, with the canned extract that came with a packet of dried yeast. The beer was abysmal due to a wicked bacterial infection, and I started using pitchable yeast exclusively for years. I switched between White Labs and Wyeast, though I had a strong preference for WLP0001.

For me, pitchable yeast was the single most expensive part of my brew day, so a few years ago I started looking for ways to reduce that cost (I know… who’s ever heard of a frugal brewer?). I tried both yeast washing and reusing yeast cakes, both of which were successful but I haven’t stuck with. I have stuck with using yeast starters though, and that continues to be one of the defining parts of my process. I’ve even simplified the process of making a yeast starter to ensure that I pitch a healthy population of yeast.

The last 2 years I’ve switch completely to dry yeasts from Safale and I’ve been very happy with the results. Granted, I’m making a starter with the packets, but the process is cheap, simple, and has proven easier than washing. I haven’t been able to convince my brewing pals to switch yet, each for their own reasons, but I’ve been very happy with all three varieties I’ve tried, and expect to continue using them unless I try some style that requires a different strain.

December's Fermentation Friday Topic

I’m pinch hitting for this month’s Fermentation Friday.

It’s time to start thinking about the new year, and I’d like to take the opportunity to reflect on starting a new beer. Specifically, the yeast. There are dozens of ways to inoculate your beer, and I’m sure everyone has some story behind their method. Are you a smack-packer, a pitchable vial user, a dry yeast re-hydrator, or do you let nature take it’s course? Do you make a starter, or do you pitch from the package? Do you cultivate your own strain of yeast that you salvaged from some special bottle smuggled from some distant land? Is there any dogma attached to your methods, or do you go where the wind carries you?

Please share by the last Friday of the month, December 26th. Don’t let November happen to you – post early and post often!

The Science of Brewing

Everyone and their mom (well, my mom) let me know that last week’s Science Friday included a segment on The Science of Brewing. Nothing new or surprising, but yet another wonderful merger of nerd and brewing.


If I worked at the National Hurricane Center and my Belgian Dubbel was a tropical storm, I’d have to downgrade it to a 1. A tasty 1.

I bottled 6x22oz and 7x12oz then kegged the remaining 3ish gallons. It’ll be ready for thanksgiving, but it won’t be the complex delight I was hoping for. Stupid 100% humidity. This whole brewing experience was full of lessons that I didn’t know I needed to learn.

Make it a dubbel

I was about to post an update on my dubbel when I discovered I’d never actually posted anything about said beer. Anyway, back on November 1st, as a promise to my equipment, I brewed an all grain Belgian-style dubbel. I used this recipe from Barley Dog Brewery as a template and changed it a tad based on my desire to not include wheat, and to use hops I had on hand.

As an aside, Barley Dog Brewery is probably one of the coolest homebrew sites I’ve ever seen. The nerd in me loves the BeerXML exports, the DIYer in me loves the project lists, and the wannabe web designer loves the systematic integration of it all.

Anyway, here’s the recipe for a 6 gallon batch:

grain bill

  • 1lbs domestic Munich
  • 13lbs American two-row
  • 0.50lbs Belgian Special “B”
  • 0.50lbs Belgian biscuitGrain, Mashed
  • 1lbs Belgian candi sugar, amber
  • 0.50lbs Crystal 60L
  • 0.25lbs Chocolate malt


  • 0.5 oz Galena @ 60 minutes
  • 1oz Galena @ 10 minutes
  • 1oz Galena @ 5 minutes


  • Safbrew S-33 Belgian Ale yeast
  • Irish Moss

The original gravity is actually quite low because someone didn’t account for how little water would boil off when the humidity is @ 100%. I ended up with closer to 7 gallons at 1.058, which is now closer to 6 gallons at 1.014 as of transferring to secondary on Saturday.

BTW, my jaw still hurts from the candi sugar. Apparently the cartilage is damaged and I’m not supposed to move it much. My doctor father suggested a liquid diet of beer, and my attorney wife suggested slim-fast.

Making Belgian Candi Sugar

Last night I made candy, er, candi for the first time. I don’t have a candy, er, candi thermometer so I pulled out Michelle’s old school Better Homes & Gardens red check cookbook and found their cold water method, which involves dropping some of the hot sugar in to cold water then seeing how it reacts to touch. It wasn’t too important since I just boiled until it started to turn amber and let a little smoke billow from the splash-up on the sides. After it cooled, I poured it on to a foil covered tray and let it cool.

Note to self: Don’t eat the little bit you’ve dropped in to the cold water as it acts like epoxy on your teeth. I thought I lost a filling trying to get my jaws apart, and this morning I woke up with a sore face. All in the name of brewing.

Here’s a little gallery of the process.

Raw Sugar > Water/Sugar slurry (1lbs sugar, 1/2 cup h20, pinch of citric acid) > boiling sugar > amber sugar > cooling candi > broken pieces. Total cost? $2.

Second note to self: Next time make a syrup. The hunks of candi created a monster blob in the bottom of the kettle. They eventually returned to solution, but the syrup would be easier to manage.

Inverting sugar: cheap candi sugar

I’m going to be brewing a Belgian-style Dubbel this weekend, and the recipe calls for Belgian candi sugar. (I don’t know why they insist on the i) A pound of the rock candy costs around $8, which is rather expensive. I’ve spent most of the last few years trying to figure out how to reduce the cost of brewing( free hops, dry yeast, all grain, etc), so I’m just not willing to spend the additional $8 per batch for glorified sugar.

Luckily, the internet wants me to save money, so I was able to find what other cheap bastards brewers are doing in place of candied sugar or syrup. Discussion over what type of sugar to use varied, and some folks felt that plain white cane or beet sugar gave the beer a cidery finish, which is something I try to avoid. Candied sugar, or inverted sugar has been partially transformed from just sucrose to a mix of glucose and fructose, and if you cook it long enough, you get some carmalization, which adds color and flavor. Several different forums pointed to this collection of instructions on inverting my own sugar. And another. For $8, I’ll give it a shot.

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