No IPA sticker in my iMac
No IPA sticker in my iMac
Last night I cracked open my iMac to add a new hard drive. One of the first things I noticed (other than how nice the industrial design is) was a sticker stating “NO IPA.” I’m not sure if this means I shouldn’t drink while working on computers, or shouldn’t give my computer bitter ale, or if it is an acronym for something else, but I didn’t much care for the tone. I’ll be the one who decides when there is No IPA.

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!

Non-Alcoholic Decaf Coffee Beer

Your options for non-alcoholic beer are very limited. You either get a lager that tastes like nothing, a lager that has oxidized and is skunked, or you get one of two pseudo ales. First is Kaliber. It is wretched. Moving on, you have O’Douls Amber, my wife’s choice (and mine) among NA beers. But after a while, even the best NA beer really gets old. The “maltiness” is too sweet so you desperately try to make it a little more balanced by adding hop oil. However, this is easy to overdo, and sometime you need a non-hoppy malternative. Enter Coffee Brew.

Take roughly 1/2 to 1 oz of cooled decaf coffee and add to 6 oz of O’Douls Amber. You may need to adjust the ratio to your taste, but it’s a decent option for dark, cold winter nights when a skunked lager won’t cut it.

Full disclosure: Michelle doesn’t actually like this mixture, and since she’s the one stuck drinking it, her opinion is probably more important than mine. Still, I think it’s a passable alternative, and the “malt” flavor of O’Douls and the coffee aroma and taste almost make you believe you’re having a delightful coffee stout. Almost…