French Toast

>> Sunday, October 15, 2017

Time for a food post.  This is my favorite French toast recipe and it's based on Alton Brown's French Toast Recipe. I like to use Harmon's Challah bread or their White Chocolate Pecan bread.  Challah is probably closer to traditional French toast, but the White Chocolate Pecan is really good too.

1 cup half-and-half
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons honey, warmed in microwave for 20 seconds
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
A pinch of nutmeg
Bread, about 8 slices
4 tablespoons butter 

Preheat oven to 375F. Combine half-and-half, eggs, honey, salt, cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. The cinnamon has a tendency to float on top...don't worry if this happens, just mix it enough that there isn't any huge clumps. 

Dip slices into mixture and let it soak for up to 30 seconds per side (I usually do about 10 seconds). Place bread on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet and allow them to "drip dry" for about a minute. Melt 1T of butter over medium to medium-low heat and cook toast 2-3 minutes per side, until golden brown. Transfer to the oven and bake for an additional five minutes, then serve with butter and maple syrup. Repeat until all slices are cooked.


Big Bad Barrel #4

>> Monday, August 07, 2017

I brewed a beer for our club barrel yesterday. This is intended to be a clone of Hill Farmstead's Mimosa. This is a 10 gallon recipe with a target OG of 1.077. I'll do the primary at home then it will go into the barrel for extended aging/souring.

16.0# 14oz Avangard Pilsner
7.0# 12oz Flaked Wheat (or equivalent raw wheat)
1.0# 4.8oz Vienna Malt
56g Aged hops (60 min)
Wyeast Nutrient
Brettanomyces Claussenii
TBD dry hop with Citra and Galaxy - before packaging
18g Fresh tangerine zest - before packaging

Mash at 160F, 90 minute boil, ferment at room temp

Water: Nothing fancy, carbon filtered tap water diluted with distilled at a ratio of 4.5:1.

Brewing Notes
Gravity came in a bit low at 1.070. No other issues

Update 8/8/2017
I got started on the yeast starter a little late, so I didn't pitch the yeast until about 24 hours after filling the fermenters (so last night). There seemed to be some acetic character in the starter which isn't unheard of when brett is exposed to lots of oxygen. I decanted as much starter liquid as possible then split the remainder between the two fermenters. Some people report longer lag times with brett, but I've also seen some of it take off like crazy (e.g. Inland Island Brett Barrel Yeast III). This morning I'm seeing positive pressure in the airlock so hopefully I'll see more active signs of fermentation by tonight.

Update 8/9/2017
Things didn't look much different last night when I got home from work; just positive pressure in the airlock. However, this morning there's a nice 3/8" if krausen in both fermenters.


Luptastic DIPA

>> Sunday, July 23, 2017

DIPA time again. This is the second beer in my back to back brew sessions today, and as such, it's a shorter post. Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it.

6# 5 oz Great Western California Select 2-row
3 oz Crisp Crystal 60
2 oz Gambrinus Honey Malt
0.33# Corn sugar (10 min)
16g Hop Hash (mash hops)
1.5ml Hop extract (60 min)
20g Hop blend (20 minutes) - The hop blend consists of 5g of each of the following: Amarillo, Citra, Mosaic, and Galaxy pellets)
20g Galaxy (10 min)
Yeast Nutrient
30g Lupulin powder blend (0 min) -10g each of Citra, Mosaic, and Simcoe
30g Galaxy (Dry hop)
15g Amarillo (Dry hop)
15g Mosaic (Dry hop)
15g Simcoe (Dry hop)

Mash at 150F, 90 min boil, ferment at 64F.

Water Profile - Tasty's

Brew Notes
So...I had some issues here. I pulled a bonehead move and left the ball valve open on my BK while I was running off the mash. I ended up losing about 2.25 quarts on the garage floor. I debated doing another mash, but ended up adding some DME and RO water to bring the pre-boil gravity up where I needed it to be. The beer should still turn out ok, but no question it won't be exactly as it would have been without the mishap.

Update 8/12/2017
Dry hops were added today.

Update 8/19/2017
This beer got kegged today. It also got an experimental treatment with a new piece of equipment, a Blichmann QuickCarb. I added 1.3g of Citra, Mosaic, and Simcoe CryoHops while carbing.


Pale Ale 2017

One of the really cool things about homebrewing is experimentation. I recently did an experimental IPA using hop hash in the mash. I liked the results enough to incorporate it into today's beer as well. Today I'm going to try an American Pale Ale based on Joshua Veronee's NHC gold medal winning recipe, Rainy Day American Pale Ale. Besides adding the hop hash, I'm experimenting with Cryo Hops Lupulin Powder. The ultimate goal is to infuse some bright hop character into this beer. I'm also making some minor tweaks to the grain bill, so it's not exactly the same as Joshua's. The recipe as I'm brewing it today is as follows. This is a small batch recipe, so approx 2.5 gallons will go into the fermenter.

1# 14oz Rahr US 6-row
1# 14oz Great Western California Select 2-row
6.5oz Briess Victory Malt
6.5oz Crisp Caramalt
6.5oz Crisp Torrefied Wheat
0.5oz Hop hash (mash hop)
0.5ml Hop extract (60 min)
7.0g Mosaic (20 min)
7.0g Centennial (20 min)
14.0g Mosaic (10 min)
14.0g Centennial (10 min)
Wyeast nutrient
7.0g Mosaic Lupulin Powder (0 min)
7.0g Citra Lupulin Powder (0 min)
7.0g Mosaic (Dry hop, 7 days before packaging)
7.0g Citra  (Dry hop, 7 days before packaging)
7.0g Mosaic (Dry hop, 3 days before packaging)
7.0g Citra  (Dry hop, 3 days before packaging)

Mash at 153F, 90 minute boil, ferment at 65F

Water = Tasty Water

Brewing Notes
No real issues. My folter almost clogged during the whirlpool. I'd put the lupulin powder right in the kettle as opposed to going in the hop spider. Gravity came on a few points low at 1.052, but still well within style guidelines.

Update 8/12/2017
Dry hops were added today.


Rob's Smoke & Wood III

>> Sunday, July 09, 2017

Another quick post today, because I haven't had the time to write lengthier posts lately. Today I'm brewing up the third version of Rob's Smoke & Wood, the Imperial Porter inspired by the Smoking Wood beers from The Bruery. Like last year, this is a 3-ish gallon recipe. The biggest change is I went with Munich II (9L) and the smoked malts consist of a 50/50 blend of Briess Cherry and Mesquite smoked malts. Previously, the smoked malt consisted of 50/50 blends of either Mesquite/Rauchmalt or Cherry/Rauchmalt. Both cherry and mesquite smoked malts are more intense than Rauchmalt, so hopefully this change doesn't throw things off too much. The previous two versions both won gold medals in competition, so I'll be crossing my fingers for this one.

4.80# Crisp Maris Otter
1.20# Weyermann Munich II
0.75# Crisp Brown Malt
0.75# Briess Cherry-wood Smoked Malt
0.75# Briess Mesquite Smoked Malt
0.75# Crisp Crystal 77L
0.45# Crisp Pale Chocolate (sparge)
3ml Hopshot (60 min)
8.4g EKG (10 min)
0.25 Whirlfloc
0.25t Yeast nutrient
1" per gallon HoneyComb Barrel Alternative (Secondary)

Mash at 154F for 60 minutes, 90 minute boil, ferment at 60F

Same water profile as last time, Beersmith London.

Brewing Notes
No major issues. The boil-off seemed a little higher than normal. As a result, my volume is a tad under 3 gallons and my OG is 21.6 (1.088). I tasted a small sample and I think the smoke level is still going to be ok, not overpowering.

Update 7/11/2017
I was seeing signs of fermentation yesterday morning and by last night there was a full inch of krausen. So things seem to be moving right along.

Update 7/20/2017
I decided to try aging this version on sassafras wood. This one has the potential to be quite different, so I'm hoping in meshes well and doesn't clash. Black Swan describes it as Vanilla, Sage/Spice, Root Beer, Mint. Smelling the sassafras, I'm getting a nutty toasty aroma. I'm hoping for more vanilla character than mint...only time will tell. As usual, I'mbeer steaming the HoneyComb Barrel Alternative to sanitize. I'll give it a few days before I start pulling daily samples to taste.

Update 7/24/2017
I talked with a buddy of mine at work that's really into whiskey about the sassafras wood. He'd experimented with leaves and said he got a lot of mint from it. Wood and leaves may be different, but it made me nervous so I added some oak cubes to this beer. I pulled a sample yesterday and it's a pretty good beer. Like previous versions, the smoke is there but not overpowering. The wood character is still very subtle.

Update 8/20/2017
So I kegged this up but hadn't tried it since carbing it. I dropped it off today as one of my entries for Beehive Brew-off, but didn't taste it carb'd until after I'd dropped it off. Unfortunately the sassafras is coming through big time after carbing. The taste isn't too bad, but the aroma combined with the smokey phenolics is just bad in my opinion. Lesson learned, I doubt I'll ever try to incorporate this into a beer again.


Solera #5

>> Sunday, July 02, 2017

Just a quick entry today. I brewed another contribution for my sanke-based solera. Today's version was very similar to the last and is as follows:

8.0# 11oz Pilsner Malt
1.0# Special Aromatic Malt
2.0# 3oz Spelt Malt
28g Aged Hops (60 min)
Brett Barrel III INISBC913

Mash at 160F, 90 min boil, ferment at room temp


Czech Premium Pale Lager 2017

>> Sunday, June 11, 2017

Today I'm brewing a Czech Premium Pale Lager. I brewed one a couple years ago that went on to win a gold medal at Beehive Brew-off. This recipe is slightly different and will be a 2.5 gallon batch size. Regarding process differences, I'm planning on doing a triple decoction mash. This isn't necessarily required with the well modified malts we have nowadays, but you definitely get a different and hard to replicate malty profile from doing a decoction mash. This is a bit more of an advanced technique, just an FYI in case you stumbled across this post looking for a quick easy Bo Pils recipe. I'm also using a Imperial Yeast's L28 Urkel which is described as follows:
A traditional Czech lager strain, Urkel allows for a nice balance between hops and malt. This strain can be slightly sulphery during fermentation, but it cleans up during lagering. Fermentation at the higher end of the range will produce a beer with minimal sulfur and a light ester profile.
Temp: 52-58F, 11-14C // Flocculation: Medium  // Attenuation: 71-75%
For process differences, I'm trying the fast lager method as outlined on This method can result in grain to glass times as short as 2 weeks.

4.5 # Avangard German Pilsner
1.0 oz Crisp Crystal 77
15g Saaz (FWH)
22g Saaz (30 min)
13g Saaz (10 min)
12g Saaz (0 min)
Imperial Yeast Urkel L28 in 1L starter
0.25 Whirlfloc
Wyeast Nutrient

Infusion mash resulting in rest at 100.4F for 30 min. Pull 1st decoction (1/3 of mash, as little mash liquid as possible) and raise in steps as follows:

First decoction
  • 10 min @149F
  • 10 min @ 161.6F
  • 10 min @ boiling
Return to mash to raise mash temp to 149F. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Pull 2nd decoction and raise the temps in steps as follows:

Second Decoction
  • 10 min @ 161.6F
  • 10 min @ boiling
Return to mash to raise mash temp to 161.6F for 10 minutes. Pull 3rd decoction as follows:

Third Decoction
  • 5 min @ boiling
Return to mash to raise temp to 170.6F. Sparge and collect boil volume.

90 minute boil, chill to 48F then raise temp to 50F over 24 hours. When gravity is around 1.034, raise temps by 5F every 24 hours until temps reach 65F. Maintain temps at 65F until fermentation is complete, then reduce temps by 5-8F every 12 hours until it's at 30-32F.

Water Profile - to 7 gallons of distilled/RO water
0.38g Epsom Salt
0.23g Calcium Chloride
0.31g Baking Soda
0.31g Chalk

Brewing Notes
No issues during the decoction mash. This definitely adds time to the brew day although it's faster when doing it on a smaller sized batch.

No issues with the remainder of the brew session. OG came in at 13.8 (1.055). I'm currently chilling down to 48F before pitching yeast.

Update 6/12/2017
Yeast pitched this morning.

Update 6/22/2017
Pulled a sample today. I don't detect any acetaldehyde or diacetyl. I'm not getting sulfur either. The refractometer measured 6.4P, so the corrected gravity is around 1.007. That's lower than I expected, but the body doesn't seem thin at all. The hop bitterness seems a little high to me, but that will mellow after a few weeks. Malt character is very nice and bready. There's definitely something a little richer than the last time that I would attribute to the triple decoction. Clarity is surprisingly good considering I haven't cold crashed yet (still at 65F). Yeast profile is very clean, definitely a lager. I was a little worried because I was out of town when it was time to start ramping up the temperature, so I showed my daughter how to do it and she ended up starting it a little early (brulosophy prescribes at 4-7 days for a <= 1.060 beer with liquid yeast). I told her to start ramping on day 5, and I believe she started on day 3, so I'm relieved that it seems to have worked well.


Pork Belly Burnt Ends

>> Sunday, May 28, 2017

I thought I'd post about a dish I made back on Mother's Day that everyone liked so much, I decided to make it again for a Memorial Day BBQ we're going to. If you're a fan of BBQ, you've probably had burnt ends, which comes from the fattier cut from the brisket point. Usually they're made by separating the point from the flat when the flats are cooked and good to go. The point is returned to the smoker and continues to cook to render more fat and to continue to break down the collagen. The bark continues to develop as well and you end up with a delicious cut of meat that is definitely different from the leaner flat of the brisket. This recipe is essentially a take on burnt ends style but using pork belly instead of brisket.

I stumbled across this recipe on Instagram. It was one of those "you may like" videos. Like I said, we gave it a try on Mother's Day along with some smoked chicken and ribs and this was by far the crowd favorite...we definitely liked. And as far as smoking meats go, it was a pretty easy process. Because of the high fat content, this is a forgiving meat to smoke. I want to point out, this stuff contains a lot of fat...a lot! It's probably something you should only make every once in awhile, and you should probably pair it with something healthier like a salad. As most people know, pork belly is where bacon comes from, so eating a half pound of this is essentially the same as eating a half pound of bacon. Ok, enough on the warnings.  

I found a couple recipes out there, but the one I followed was from Vindulge. It's documented very well with easy step-by-step instructions and it's worth checking out. The first time I made it, I used half a pork belly because I'm always cautious when trying out new recipes and I figured my health-conscious wife would rather eat the smoked chicken I made along with the pork belly. This time there's a larger group so I'm making a full belly. The first time I made it, I went with Weber's Chicken 'N Rib Seasoning. This rub used to be sold under the Durkee brand as Chicken 'N Rib Rub and is one of my favorite dry rubs. For this second batch, I decided to try Rufus Teague Spicy Meat Rub; not because I didn't like the Weber rub, just because I wanted to try a different rub. For the sauce I went with Famous Dave's Sweet and Zesty as it's always been a favorite of my wife. For smoking wood, I used a blend of hickory and apple wood.

Recipe and Process
  1. If your belly comes with skin on, trim it off along with any excess fat from the skin side. 
  2. Cut your pork belly up into 1.5-2" sized cubes.
  3. Season each piece with your rub making sure to coat all sides.
  4. Bring your smoker up to 230F.
  5. Lightly oil your smoker's grates to prevent sticking and arrange the cubes leaving space between them for the smoke to circulate (make sure they aren't touching).
  6. Smoke for about three hours at 230F.
  7. Transfer cubes to disposable aluminum pan.
  8. Add about 1 cup BBQ sauce, 2T honey and stir to mix and coat cubes.
  9. Add about half a stick of butter cut into squares.
  10. Cover with foil and return to smoker for another 60-90 minutes.
  11. Remove foil and cook another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the cubes are evenly coated.
  12. The sauce should have thickened a bit at this point, so remove from smoker and serve.
Before adding sauce


Russian River Consecration Kit from MoreBeer

>> Sunday, April 23, 2017

While I do brew a fair amount of beers based on commercial examples, I don't do kit beers all that often. Well, that's changing today, at least for this brew session. MoreBeer recently had a sale on their clone of Russian River's Consecration, one I've definitely been wanting to try. The recipe is out there and if you go through my posts you can see that we did a version in my brew club's barrel a while back. The recipe for today's version is slightly different than the one my club used, but it's not too far off. One cool thing about this kit, it includes barrel chunks from Russian River. Here are instructions from MoreBeer's site:
Vinnie recommends fermenting down to around a 1.016-1.018 with Abbey Ale yeast. He recommends the temperature to be 72°F during the first few days of fermentation, and then lets it free rise to 76°F until the target gravity of 1.016 is reached.
After hitting this target gravity, he'll transfer to barrels to start the aging and souring process (a secondary fermenter will be necessary - a barrel would be preferred!) Currants and Brettanomyces are added at this point.
After approximately 7-8 weeks, you'll want to add your Lactobacillus and Pediococcus. To kill two birds with one stone, we recommend pitching Roeselare (WY3763) which contains both bacterium.
The souring process can take anywhere from four to twelve months. Once the desired sourness level is achieved, you'll want to add the Consecration barrel oak chunk(s) until desired oak character is achieved.
Vinnie uses Belgian bottles when bottling Consecration, and bottle conditions using wine yeast. He mentions that he'll never bottle if the gravity is over 1.008.
 I made some minor changes compared to the recipe sheet from MoreBeer, but it's pretty much the same. Here's the recipe as I made it today.

11.0 # Rahr 2-row
0,5 # Weyermann Acidulated Malt
0,25 # Castle Special B
0,25 # Weyermann Carafa Special II
1.0 # Corn Sugar
1.0 # D-90 Candi Syrup - I'll be adding this in secondary rather than during the boil
14g Styrian Goldings (90 min)
28g Sterling (30 min)
28g Sterling (1 min)
Yeast Nutrient
WLP530 Abbey Ale - Primary fermentation
Wyeast 3763 Roeselare - Secondary fermentation
Russian River barrel chunks - Secondary
2.0 # Bob's Red Mill brand Black Currants - Secondary

Mash at 160F, 90 boil, ferment at room temp.

Brewing Notes
No issues with this batch. OG minus the Candi Syrup came in at 1.069.

Update 4/25/2017
Fermentation was very active yesterday morning and by late afternoon I had to hook up a blowoff tube.

Update 6/8/2017
I racked to secondary on top of black currants and the Candi Syrup then pitched Roeselare. I have a bottle of Consecration in the fridge, so the dregs will go in here at some point.


Gose 2017

>> Saturday, April 22, 2017

Today I'm brewing a Gose, basically the same recipe I brewed a couple yeas ago. The biggest difference this round is I'm kettle-souring rather than souring post-boil. The souring culture and process is basically the same as my recent Sour IPA. Here's the recipe as I brewed it today:

3.0# Avangard Pilsner Malt
4.5# Weyermann Pale Wheat Malt
0.5# Weyermann Acidulated Malt
0.5# Rice Hulls
1.3ml Hop shot (60 min)
28g Coriander (whirlpool)
21g Trader Joes Himalayan Sea Salt (whirlpool)
Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
GoodBelly SuperShot
WLP029 German Ale/ K├Âlsch Yeast

Mash at 149F for 60 minutes, collect 6.75-7 gallons and heat to 170F for 10 minutes.  Chill to 100F, pitch lactobacillus culture and sour until desired pH is reached. On boil day, 90 minute boil. Ferment at 67F.

Brewing Notes
No issues. Pre-sour gravity was 9P (1.035).

Update 4/30/2017
I finished the boil on this beer yesterday. Everything went smoothly. pH was down to about 3.48.


Experimental IPA 2017

>> Sunday, April 09, 2017

Today I'm doing a little bit of an experimental IPA. I got some hop hash a while back from Yakima Valley hops and I also picked up a used Blichmann HopRocket off the local classifieds.

For anyone that don't know, hop hash comes from what is essentially residue that builds up on the hammer mills during pelletization. It has a high concentration of lupulin glands and contains very low concentrations of vegetal matter. There isn't a ton of information out there regarding brewing with hop hash, but it seems most are using it for late additions and for dry hopping. I've read that some have had better results creating a tincture which was added at bottling time. I decided I'm going to try mash hopping with it and see how that goes (more on that below). I should mention, the hop variety wasn't specified when I ordered the hop hash, but allegedly it's Centennial.

In a recent The Session podcast featuring Julian Shrago of Beachwood Brewing, Julian talks about how for their IPAs, they add hops just about every chance they get during the brewing process. He talked a bit about mash hopping and how (due to the environmental conditions in the mash) it tends to lock in hop flavor that survives through the boil without adding hop bitterness. In other words, the acids from mash hopping are not isomerized during the boil and somehow they are bound in a way that volatile flavor compounds are retained. I decided this sounded like a good experiment for the hop hash. Assuming this works, I think the Centennial character will work well with the hop blend I'm using in this beer.

As I indicated above, the next part of the experiment involves using the Blichmann hop rocket. If you can't tell, I'm shooting for a very hop-focused American IPA. I had a hopback from Morebeer and while I liked the results I got from using it, I didn't use it very often. It wasn't a fully sealed hopback like the HopRocket, so you had to be very careful matching the inflow with the outflow so that you didn't overflow and lose wort out of the hopback. It required a lot of monitoring so it was kind of a pain to use. The HopRocket is fully sealed so matching flows isn't a concern. It is another piece of equipment to clean and sanitize, so I probably won't use it all the time. I'm going to use it inline between my pump and plate chiller. I'm also doing a smaller sized batch, approx 3 gallons and I'm still planning on whirlpooling. Some may say that whilpooling kind of defeats the purpose of using a hopback because you're returning the cooled wort to a hot boil kettle. With a small batch size, I'm able to drop the temps below isomerization temps very fast (hop stand range) so I'm thinking I won't lose much volatile flavor and aroma compounds before the temps drop.

Today's recipe is as follows:

This is for a 3 gallon batch
6# 5 oz Rahr 2-row
3 oz Crisp Crystal 60
2 oz Gambrinus Honey Malt
15.3g Hop Hash (mash hops)
1ml Hop extract (60 min) - I'm keeping this low in case the mash hops contribute bitterness.
30.8g Hop blend (15 minutes) - The hop blend consists of 7.7g of each of the following: Amarillo, Citra, Mosaic, and Simcoe pellets)
Yeast Nutrient
69.2g Hop blend (HopRocket, 0 minutes) - Same hop blend but in cone/leaf form, 17.3g of each
WLP001 California Ale
69.2g Hop blend (Dry hopping after primary) 17.3g of each

Mash at 150F, 90 min boil, ferment at 64F.

Water Profile - Tasty's

Brewing Notes
Just getting started but the mash smells amazing.
No real problems with this brew. My hop/trub filter got a little bit clogged with hop debris. Normally I would use my hop spider but I figured the hop rocket would filter out all the hop debris; I was wrong. Next time I'll use the hop spider to contain the pellet hop debris. The aroma coming off the wort is pretty nice. I really hope this carries through to the finished beer.

Hop Hash for Mash Hops
Update 4/30/2017
This beer was kegged yesterday and is currently conditioning.

Update 5/7/2017
I,m still evaluating this beer. I think it needs a bit more carbonation but I am liking it. Hop bitterness is about right, firm but not overpowering. I'd like a bit more aroma and flavor, but that might be aided by more carbonation.


BJRR Golden Sour with Coffee

>> Saturday, March 25, 2017

There's a lot of NHC judging happening this weekend. As usual, I sent a few entries off including the Bourbon Barrel-aged Imperial Stout that I brewed with several friends last year. It's a big tasty beer and hopefully we'll see some good scores when it gets judged. That was the first beer that we ran through the Sugar House Distillery Bourbon barrel and right now it's housing an Imperial Porter we brewed last year based on Lost Abbey's La Cruda. "We" are Brandon, Jeff, Ryan, and Rob, thus these are the BJRR series of barrel beers. The first two beers were clean beers, but our little collaboration group was anxious to do something a little more wild.

Ryan texted me a while back when he was still living in Denver about a sour coffee beer from Black Project. He said it was an amazing beer and I needed to look into brewing a sour coffee beer myself. To be honest, I thought it sounded horrible, but he swore it was worth looking into. My concerns were whether the coffee character would clash with the acidity produced by the lactic acid bacteria. I started doing a little research and stumbled across a New Belgium blog post about their sour beer with coffee, Oscar Worthy Coffee. Reading through this post definitely peaked my interest. Not long after that, I got my hands on a couple bottles of Derde Golf, a sour beer with coffee from The Bruery. I really enjoyed this beer and it opened my eyes as to how coffee and acidity from lactic acid bacteria can work together to make an incredibly complex sour. Lastly, I picked up a bottle of Libertine's Coffeetine earlier this year. I opened this bottle a few weeks back and it pretty much sealed the deal for me. So the beer we're brewing today is based on Libertine's Coffeetine.

I did a little research and found out that Libertine uses their golden ale for the base. A little more research turned up a recipe for their golden ale on which the following recipe is based. A couple things I changed, German pilsner instead of Belgian, and I sub'd half the wheat malt for spelt malt, an heirloom variety of wheat. Another change is the use of aged hops; this keeps the lactobacillus happy by keeping the IBUs low (theoretically close to 0.0). We'll be mashing high and use a lower attenuating yeast for primary. This will help ensure long term food supply for the brett and bugs. Then it'll go into the barrel along with some Roeselare for aging. When ready, we'll dry bean with a yet to be determined variety of coffee.

We'll be brewing 15 gallons total. The following recipe is for 5 gallons, or 1/3 of our total batch.

7.0 # Avangard German Pilsner
1.75 # White Wheat Malt
1.75 # Spelt Malt
0.5 # Flaked Rye
0.5 # Flaked Oats
28g Aged Hops (60 min)
Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
White Labs WLP002 (Primary)
Wyeast Roeselare (Secondary in the barrel)

Mash at 158F for 60 min, 90 min boil, ferment at room temp.

Water Profile
Nothing fancy here, we're cutting carbon filtered tap water with RO/distilled at a rate of 1 gallon RO to 4.5 gallons tap water.


Texas Style Smoked Sausage #1

>> Sunday, March 12, 2017

We recently went to visit our friends in Houston, Texas and as part of that trip, we did a quick little getaway to Austin. We visited Jester King which was a lot of fun although I have to admit there was a couple of their beers that had a bit too much sweat sock/smelly high school locker room character for my liking...and this is from a guy that is a huge sour and wild beer nerd.

We also stopped into The Salt Lick BBQ for a late lunch/early dinner before we went to Jester King. As you can also probably tell from my food-related posts, I really like good BBQ, smoked foods, and smoked beer. We tried the brisket, pulled pork, ribs, and smoked sausage at The Salt Lick and everything was awesome. The sausage was seasoned perfectly, not too much that the spices overpowered the meat and smoke; it inspired me to try to make something similar at home.

My disclaimer, definitely read up on sausage making before you try it for the first time. You don't want to accidentally poison anyone with botulism.

The recipe I'm basing mine off of is apparently from Smitty at Kruez Market in Lockhart, Texas and was published in the book "Texas on the Half Shell”. Another recipe I plan to try is this one based on The Salt Lick's sausage. Here's the recipe I used today and some details on process:

9.0 # Beef Chuck
1.0 # Pork Shoulder
62.4g Kosher Salt
42g Black Pepper, coarsely ground
1.77g Cayenne Pepper
11g Cure #1 (not used in the original recipe, but needed since we're smoking at low temps)
136g Powdered Milk mixed with 12oz Ice cold water (the original called for cereal binder)

Cut the meat up into grinder-sized pieces and sprinkle kosher salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and cure #1. Run them through your 5/8" (coarse) grinding plate. I should mention, when grinding meat, you want it cold...not frozen, but very cold. If needed, return meat to the freezer to make sure things stay nice and chilled. Run the meat through the coarse plate a second time then add water and powdered milk and mix well. Stuff into medium hog casings.

Allow sausages to dry for a bit then smoke at 130F for 4-ish hours. Poach the sausages in 165F water until they reach an internal temp of 154F. Chill in an ice water bath then allow them to bloom at room temp for an hour or two. To serve, you grill over indirect heat until heated through and the casing is cooked to your liking. I'm planning on throwing mine in my kamado for a little extra smoke character.


Hopefully Horchata Imperial Porter

>> Sunday, March 05, 2017

So my brew club is doing a "weird ingredient" competition. This is meant to be kind of a fun and not too serious competition. A couple months ago we all drew a random weird ingredient from a hat that you have to incorporate into a beer. The not too strict rules basically say your weird ingredient needs to comprise 20% of your ingredients. That said, there is a caveat and that is that you can use your own discretion if 20% would result in an undrinkable beer. Basically, make a good faith effort to incorporate your ingredient. At our April meeting, we'll sample all the entries and select the top three out of the bunch

For my ingredient I drew Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal. I figured this might work in a horchata-inspired Imperial I'm not trying to recreate the flavors of CTC in a beer, I'm using CTC as an adjunct in a (hopefully) Horchata-themed beer. I have no idea if this is going to be any good but it should be fun. Just in case it's horrible, I'm only doing a 2.5 gallon batch. Anyone that stumbles across this recipe, definitely check below for updates in case this beer turns out horrible.

I'll be incorporating the cereal right into the mash. With all the fermentables including lots of simple sugars I expect to get from the cereal, I think the best plan is to mash a little on the high end. Here's the recipe as I'm planning to make it:

3.0# Maris Otter
1.0#  6oz Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal
9oz Crisp C77 Malt
6oz Dingmanns Aromatic Malt
4oz Crisp Pale Chocolate
3oz Crisp Roasted Barley
11oz Flaked Barley
7oz Lactose
6.5g Northern Brewer (60 min)
6.5g Chinook (7 mins)

Mash at 156F, 90 min boil, ferment at 60F, cross fingers it's drinkable

I'm also considering making cinnamon and vanilla tinctures. If I do, I'll dose as needed to help emphasize the cinnamon character and to add a little vanilla character.

"Cereal" mash
Brewing Notes
No real issues with this batch. The mash smelled really good with all the cinnamon. As you can see in the picture of the mash, I threw the cereal in whole. It might have been a better idea to crush it up first, but I knew I didn't want to run it through my mill. It seemed that it had completely broken down after 15 minutes or so. I also tossed in a handful of rice hulls to make sure I didn't get a stuck sparge.

As I usualy do when brewing with darker kilned grains, I waited until the sparge to add the dark grains to the mash. At the beginning of the mash, the wort was an odd yellow-ish orange color. About halfway through the mash, the clarity improved drastically and it looked like more of a copper color. The first runnings were rusty colored, but it turned dark brown after adding the pale chocolate and roasted barley.

Update 3/6/2017
Fermentation has kicked off, but there isn't much krausen. It might be oils from the cereal (see the pre-boil sheen pic). Hopefully there's nothing there that will go rancid.

Update 3/12/2017
There's still a fair amount of krausen on this beer but I decided to pull a sample. Good news is there isn't anything way off. There's definitely residual sweetness but there's only a hint of cinnamon. I think I'll definitely do a tincture as I'd like a bit more cinnamon character. I can't tell if it's yeast in suspension, but the sample was incredibly cloudy.

Update 4/2/2017
I decided to go ahead and keg this beer today. I dosed it with a bit of cinnamon-vanilla tincture (cinnamon stick and vanilla bean in about 5oz of vodka). I'd say it's definitely reminiscent of both the cereal and horchata. It's a pretty cloudy brew, so I'm treating it with gelatin in hopes that it'll help clear the beer a bit.
Midway through the mash

First runnings look like rusty water

There's definitely a sheen on the wort


Sour IPA Attempt #3

>> Sunday, February 26, 2017

Today I'm doing a re-brew of sorts based on the Super Juice Solution recipe I got from Jason Yester of Trinity Brewing fame. Here's the link to the original post. This version will deviate slightly from Trinity's recipe, so it's not intended to be an exact clone, but it should be in the ballpark.

To recap, I tried brewing a sour IPA based on Trinity's Red Swingline a while back. The beer turned out pretty good but was definitely not very sour. Jason Yester stumbled across my blog post and emailed me offering some assistance along with the recipe for Super Juice Solution. I brewed that beer and while the results were better than the Swingline attempt, it still was not on par with Trinity's beers. I suspect the method I used to keep the wort warm during the kettle souring phase may have actually gotten too warm and cooked the lacto reducing the cell count to a level that it had a really hard time souring the wort. This time I'm doing a few things differently, details are below:

  • I acquired a 1/4 barrel sanke keg last year and I'll be using it for kettle souring. There are a few benefits with this vessel including it's more or less airtight, it's easy to sanitize, and with a volume of 7.75 gallons it has minimal headspace with 7 gallons of wort. Keep in mind, too much O2 exposure with lacto can result in less than desirable flavors and aromas. The spear has been removed and the open neck will be sealed using a #11 drilled stopper.
  • The first time I tried to brew this beer I didn't have a pH meter. Without a pH meter, it's definitely challenging to accurately gauge the sourness of un-fermented wort. The sugars in the wort can completely mask the acidity. If you've ever had a Berliner Weiss served with Woodruff or raspberry syrup, you know what I'm talking about.
  • I'm using a GoodBelly SuperShot for the souring rather than WLP677 Lactobacillus delbrueckii. I've never used this product before, but there are lots of positive comments about this product in various brewing forums. This product contains a whole bunch of L. planetarium 299V cells, 50 billion per the packaging. According to some of the documentation I’ve read, this strain is capable of both homofermentation and heterofermentation. I have some biology and chemistry education in my past, but I admit I’m no expert.  If I understand correctly, this strain tends to be homofermentative in anaerobic environments, and heterofermentative in aerobic environments.  Homofermentation produces lactic acid only, while heterofermentation produces lactic acid, ethanol, and under some conditions acetic acid. Some acetic acid can add complexity, but I’m really after lactic acid production here.
  • I'm using Co-Brew brett blend for primary. I really liked the character I got from this blend in my recent brett IPA experiment. The CO-Brew Blend tends to ferment fairly quickly, so the fermentation period should be closer to a typical ale.
  • I'm changing up the hop varieties a bit compared to the original. I have some Citra and Simcoe that I need to use up, so this is probably the biggest deviation from the original recipe.
  • Grain proportions and amounts are slightly different than the original recipe, but not a huge change.
  • I’m keeping the IBUs fairly low in this beer. The reason is too much bitterness can really clash with sourness. Also, sourness coupled with bitterness is usually something humans instinctually avoid because those characteristics can be associated with poison. Finally, it will mean I won’t have to wait three months for some of the hop bitterness to drop out before enjoying this beer. 

Preparation – Normally when using Wyeast or White Labs cultures, I would create a lacto starter about a week before brew day. Per the comments I’ve read, most people are allowing the SuperShot to come to room temp then pitching directly from the container. At 50 billon, the cell count should be high enough that a starter isn’t needed, so that means there really isn’t much preparation involved.

Mash Day - Mash as indicated in the recipe below and collect about 6.75 - 7 gallons of wort. Either bring to a boil and hold for about 5 minutes or raise temps to 170F and hold for 10 minutes before chilling to room temp. This will ensure the wort is pasteurized and no other little critters have hitch-hiked into the wort. Transfer to 1/4 barrel keg, purge headspace with CO2, pitch culture, then seal with a #11 drilled stopper and an airlock and wait until the pH drops to 3.2 - 3.4.

Boil Day - Once the pH has dropped to 3.2 - 3.4 (it will probably take at least 48 hours at room temp), boil following the hop schedule in the recipe below. Chill and transfer to fermenter. Since we've killed the lacto culture during the boil, we can aerate as normal before pitching the CO-Brew brett blend.

6.0# Avangard Pilsner Malt
1.0# 9oz Best Malz Chit Malt
13oz Avangard Vienna Malt
13oz Weyermann Acidulated Malt
6oz Crisp C77
6oz Rice Hulls
1 – GoodBelly Lemon Ginger SuperShot
Appropriate sized starter of CO-Brew Brett Blend
3ml Hopshot (60 min)
6g Corriander (15 min)
33g each of Amarillo, Citra, Mosaic, and Simcoe (10 min)
30g each of Amarillo, Citra, Mosaic, and Simcoe (Dry hop)
20g Willamette (Dry hop)
10g EK Goldings (Dry hop)

Mash at 145.4 for 35 minutes. Collect 6.75-7 gallons and boil for 5 minutes. Chill to room temp or not warmer than 114F. Check the pH and if it’s greater than 4.5, adjust as necessary with Lactic Acid then pitch lactobacillus. Once pH reaches 3.2 - 3.4, proceed with 90 minute boil following hop schedule above. I also did a hop stand with the 10 minute hop addition after chilling to sub-isomerization temperatures. With my whirlpool setup, it doesn’t take more than a couple minutes to drop the temp. Start fermentation at 66F, then ramp up to 72F over the course of a week. Dry hop after primary fermentation subsides.

Water Profile
I decided to try Tasty’s profile that I’ve used before on my IPAs. I really like the hop character I get with this profile, so I’m crossing my fingers that it works well with a sour.
To 10 gallons of RO or Distilled Water, add:

16g Gypsum (CASO4)
7g Epsom Salt (MgSO4)
2g Canning Salt (NaCl)
1g Calcium Chloride (CaCl2)

Brewing Notes
No issues other than I got started later than I'd planned. Since I'm splitting the brew day for the kettle souring part, I still finished with plenty of daylight left.  I actually used two GoodBelly shots; probably not necessary, but since this is my third attempt at a sour IPA, I figured I'd pitch a little extra.
1/4 barrel was cleaned and sanitized

First runnings into boil kettle
After 10 minutes at 170F, wort was chilled to 80F
Update 2/28/2017
I'm not declaring success yet, but things seem to be headed in the right direction. 48 hours in (at room temp) and the pH has dropped to 3.63 and is noticeably more sour than the samples I tasted from attempts #1 and #2. I'm thinking I'll probably be boiling tomorrow or Thursday.

Update 3/1/2017
pH is down to 3.52 tonight.

Update 3/4/2027
pH is down to 3.49 and appears to be stable. This seems consistent with most of the reports on Milk the Funk. One interesting note, even at room temp it more or less finished souring in four days (the fourth day pH was 3.50). Other observations, I saw zero airlock activity during the souring process. I also didn't detect any acetic character in the samples. I'm proceeding with the boil today.

Update 3/5/2017
I checked this morning and I'm not seeing any signs of active fermentation yet. This brett blend took a little while to get going in my MicroBurst IPA a while back. The lower pH from the kettle souring may also be contributing to a increased lag time. Bottom line, I'm not to concerned yet.

Update 3/6/2017
I started seeing hints of fermentation last night,and more this morning. When I got home from work there was an inch or so of krausen. The aroma coming off the airlock is really nice.

Update 3/12/2017
Pulled a sample today and I'm really digging this beer. I can't wait for what's to come after a large dry hop addition. Gravity is down to 8.1 (1.018) today, which correlates to about 4.9%. Trinity's SJS is around 4.1% and I upped my grain bill a tad, so this is right about where I wanted to be.

Update 4/16/2017
I racked this beer to secondary on top of the dry hops today.

Update 4/30/2017
This beer was kegged yesterday and is currently conditioning.

Update 5/7/2017
I'm really liking this beer, so I'm calling it a success. I think hop bitterness could be just a tad lower, but the sourness is right about where I want it.


Russian Imperial Stout - 2017

>> Sunday, January 15, 2017

For my first brew of 2017, I'm brewing an ever so slightly modified version of the whiskey barrel stout that I brewed with a couple buddies last year. If it turns out as planned, this will be the first of my NHC entries this year. I won't be putting this version in a whiskey barrel, which will allow me to avoid the way too crowded Specialty Beer category. Edit 2/20/2017: The AHA finally adopted the 2015 BJCP Guidelines, so the groupings should result in a much less crowded Specialty Category this year. I'll be kegging this beer and I'm considering putting half on nitro. This recipe uses almost all Crisp malts. I'd strongly suggest sticking with the malts below as domestic malts just don't have the same character as Crisp malts. Here's the recipe as I'm making it today:

8.0 # Crisp Maris Otter
6.0 # Crisp Organic Pale
1.0 # Crisp Roasted Barley
12 oz Simpsons Double Roasted Crystal
5 oz Crisp Chocolate Malt
5 oz Crisp Pale Chocolate Malt
0.75 # Extra light DME
28g Warrior (60 min)
(1) 3ml Hopshot (60 min)
42g EKG (10 min)
42g EKG (0 min)
Yeast Nutrient
(2) US-05

Mash at 152F, 90 min boil, start fermentation at 63F and raise to 68F over a few days. Nothing fancy on the water as West Jordan, Utah water has worked really well for stouts.

Brewing Notes
No issues with this brew session other than I was having a hard time getting a super accurate gravity reading on my refractometer. Original gravity is somewhere between 1.105 and 1.110 which means this is going to be a pretty big beer. I made sure I aerated well with pure O2; I dosed it right before pitching, then again about five hours later.


Really Good and Easy Semi-Homemade Ramen Soup

>> Monday, January 02, 2017

Time for a food post. I've been craving ramen lately. No, not the cheap cup o' noodles or the ones with the little packet of seasoning (that all seem to taste exactly the same regardless of their flavor). No, I wanted something with a little more complexity than standard grocery store ramen.

As with most really good soups, the key to good ramen is the broth and most authentic recipes involve preparing it at least a day in advance. While tasty, most of us don't have that kind of time on our hands and/or don't manage to plan far enough ahead to have authentic broth ready when the ramen-hankering hits.

I decided to search out some "quick" ramen recipes that were a level above the cheap packaged ramen that many college students have survived on for years. This recipe is my favorite so far; very tasty while still quick and easy. Here's the original source for the recipe, however I noticed some questionable activity on this domain if you stay on the page too long (e.g. spoofed Google Chrome updates). I'm wary of any site that exhibits that kind of behavior and because recipes that I really like tend to vanish from other sites, I'm documenting it here for my own sake.

Yield: 4 servings
Total prep time: 30-45 minutes

8 Slices bacon, chopped - I recommend the savory Asian bacon that I made here.
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
6 Garlic cloves, just crush them with the side of a knife
2 T Lemongrass, chopped
2 T White miso paste - I used Miso & Easy because that's what my local grocery store carried
1 t Red pepper flakes - this provides a fair amount of heat...noticeable, but not over the top.
64 oz Low-sodium chicken broth
4 T Low-sodium soy sauce
1 T Balsamic vinegar
1 T Rice wine vinegar
4 t Toasted sesame oil
Dried ramen noodles - I used Hime Ramen Noodles (pic below)
1-2 Shallots, thinly sliced
4 Soft-boiled eggs, peeled and halved
1 c Green onions or scallions, chopped

Prepare the Broth
  1. Cook bacon in a pot over medium heat until crispy. If using the Asian bacon recipe, definitely do not cook any higher than medium heat or it will burn. Flip it about once per minute until crispy.
  2. Remove half the bacon and place on paper towel. Reserve the rest of the bacon and the drippings in the pot.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the ginger, garlic, and lemongrass to the reserved bacon and drippings. Cook for 1 minute.
  4. Add miso paste, red pepper, and chicken broth.  Cover, bring to a simmer, and hold it at a simmer for 30 min.
  5. After 30 minutes, strain out and discard the solids (bacon, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, and ree pepper flakes). 
  6. Add soy sauce, vinegars, and toasted sesame oil.
  7. Keep warm until ready to serve
Prepare the Eggs
  1. Fill saucepan with enough water to cover eggs but don't add eggs yet.
  2. Bring water to a boil and add eggs straight from the fridge.
  3. Boil/simmer for about 7.5 to 8.5 minutes. At my altitude in West Jordan, Utah, I let them go for about 8.5 minutes which yields a barely set yolk.
  4. Transfer eggs to a bowl of ice water to halt the cooking process.
  5. Peel, halve, and set aside.
Prepare Noodles
Follow package directions, but generally speaking you'll want to boil the noodles in water for about 3 minutes.

Final Assembly
  1. Add cooked noodles to bowl. 
  2. Ladle broth over noodles.
  3. Add shallots, green onions, bacon, and halved eggs.
  4. Serve immediately.
This is the miso I used

These are the noodles I used

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