Rood BugCounty 2016

>> Friday, December 23, 2016

Today I'm brewing another version of my red sour ale based on The Rare Barrel's red base recipe. The first version was fermented with The Yeast Bay's Melange. The second was fermented with East Coast Yeast's ECY01 BugFarm. The first two batches are still aging in my basement. This, the third version, will be fermented with another highly sought-after East Coast Yeast blend, ECY20 BugCounty. ECY's site describes this blend as follows:
ECY20 BugCounty : SEASONAL (OCT-DEC). With over 20 different isolates combined for fermentation to overwhelm the senses, this blend is the mother-bugger for wild ales. Like the BugFarm, Brettanomyces dominants the overall population, however, other wild yeast seen in spontaneous fermentations are also included (such as Pichia  and Kloeckera ).  Several strains of Saccharomyces, Lactobacillus and Pediococcus round out this large and complex culture. 
To say the least, this is a pretty diverse blend. I think this blend contains the largest variety of strains of any I've used so far. The recipe as I'm brewing today is as follows:

6.0# 13 oz Avangard German Pilsner Malt
1.0# 3 oz Weyermann Pale Wheat Malt
7 oz Crisp Light Crystal Malt 60L
7 oz Flaked Oats (lauter)
7 oz Special Aromatic Malt
7 oz Spelt Malt
1.5-ish oz Carafa III (lauter, for color adjustment)
14.0g Aged Debittered Hops (60 min)
0.5 Whirlfloc
Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
ECY20 BugCounty

Mash at 160F for 60 mins, 90 min boil, ferment at room temp. Because of the lactobacillus in the blend, no aeration.

Brewing Notes
No issues with this brew. The gravity came in at 13.8 (1.055), just a bit higher than the previous two (13.7/1.054 and 13.3/1.053 respectively).

Update 3/12/2017
Pulled a sample today. I would describe it as having a mild Belgian saison character. Sourness is still very subdued.


Microburst DIPA With Citra, El Dorado, and Azacca

>> Sunday, November 27, 2016

I've really been enjoying my Microburst IPAs which are inspired by Noble Ale Works' IPAs. I recently got my hands on some 2016 harvest El Dorado and Azacca hops so I'm doing another variant with these hops plus some 2015 Citra. I'm also planning on splitting the batch and fermenting half with US-05 and half with a special brett blend that I got from Co-Brew, an absolutely awesome homebrew shop located in downtown Denver. Co-Brew had Inland Island grow up this custom blend to their specs, so I figured I better give it a try. I picked up a vial when we were in Denver visiting friends and this was one of the coolest homebrew shops I've ever seen. Besides having all the latest homebrew gadgets, they also have setups for brew on premises, their own beers on tap to purchase by the glass, and they have their own barrel program in-store...pretty freaking sweet! Besides all that, the owners are really nice people and they love to talk beer. It's worth stopping in if you're in the area.

I also have a new piece of equipment I'm going to try out, a corny keg dry hop filter from NorCal Brewing Solutions. I'll be using this to dry hop one of the kegs from this batch and see how it does containing hop debris while hopefully infusing some hoppy goodness in the beer. I imagine this filter will be a regular item on their site, but as of the date of this post, it was only available as a pre-order item.

Here's the recipe as I'm making it today.

Expected OG 1.076
~51 IBUs
Est ABV 8.9%

5# 11oz Rahr 2-row
3.5# Avangard Pilsner Malt
1.5# Simpsons Golden Promise Malt
25 grams Carafa III (added before sparge to adjust color)
1.0 # 3oz Corn Sugar (boil)
6ml Hop extract (60 min) ~ 49 IBUs
Wyeast Nutrient
112g Hop blend (1 min) ~ 2 IBUs (52g El Dorado, 52g Azacca, 28g Citra)
Co-Brew Brett Blend
132g Hop blend (dry hop) (48g El Dorado, 48g Azacca, 48g Citra)

Mash at 150F, 90 minute boil, 60 minute hop stand at 160F, ferment at 64F, dry hop after primary fermentation slows down.

For water profile I'm going with Tasty's water again. To 10 gallons of distilled water I added:

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

Brewing Notes
No real issues except that my gravity was lower than I expected (1.070). Then it dawned on me...I forgot to add the corn sugar. I'll let this beer ferment most of the way through primary, then I'll boil the corn sugar with a little bit of water and dose each fermenter.

Update 11/30/2016
The US-05 half of the batch took off fairly quickly while the Co-brew half lagged behind showing no signs of active fermemtation. I decided 64F was probably a little too cool for the brett blends and brought the fermenter into the house the afternoon of 11/28 to ferment at room temp (about 69-70F this time of year). Within 24 hours it started showing signs of active fermemtation with thin a trace of foam on top and some positive pressure in the airlock. Fermentation is super active this morning.

Update 12/23/2016
The Co-Brew Brett half was kegged yesterday with dry hops in the corny keg dry hop filter. The clean half will go on dry hops today.

Update 1/10/2018
I kegged the clean half of this beer before going on a little trip. I tasted the Brett half before I left and there was quite a bit of hop debris in suspension, but the flavor and aroma where great. I pulled another sample last night and aroma was still great, but the flavor and bitterness seemed to have dropped off a bit. There was also a noticable alcohol flavor. I'm going to put the clean half on tap this week and do some comparisons to see if some of the character is related to the brettanomyces.


Barrel Aged Imperial Porter

>> Sunday, November 13, 2016

This is a late post. This beer was actually brewed back in September.

Back in May some buddies and I did a collaboration beer, a clone of KBS. That beer spent some time in the 15 gallon bourbon barrel acquired from Sugar House Distillery. It was recently kegged and the barrel was re-filled with an Imperial Porter based on La Cruda from The Lost Abbey. Like the KBS, this will spend a few months chilling in the barrel. Below is the recipe we used for the Imperial Porter. The following grain bill is for five gallons.

13.0# 9oz Rahr 2-row
1.0# 6oz Crisp Extra Dark Crystal (120)
14oz Crisp Chocolate (630)
11oz Crisp Dark Crystal (77)
3oz Crisp Roasted Barley
17g Cascade (90 min)
19g Mt Hood (30 min)
31g Tettnang (1 min)
WLP028 Edinburgh

Mash at 152F, start fermentation at 65F, raise to 68F over a couple days.

No major issues but this beer did get mashed on three different systems (5 gallons each) so there is some variance in the mash efficiencies. Fermentation was really quick. I suspect there will be a fair amount of residual sugars with this yeast.


American Wild Barrel-Aged Brown - Solera

A while back I brewed an American Wild Barrel-Aged Brown based on The Rare Barrel's base recipe. This beer has soured very nicely and I used a portion to blend with two other Flanders Reds for my Flanders Red entry in this years Beehive Brew-off. This was my first foray into blending and I was a little nervous about how it would be recieved by the judges, but I was very happy when it earned me my third gold in a row for European Sours. It got me to thinking, maybe I should turn the Queen Jennie barrel into a Solera of sorts. So today I'm brewing up a fresh 6 gallons of brown base that will go into the barrel. I'm going with 6 gallons so that I'll be sure to have enough to top off the barrel.

6 gallon batch
9.5# Weyermann Pilsner
1..0# 10 oz Rahr White Wheat Malt
8 oz Crisp Crystal 60
8 oz Briess Chocolate 350L
8  oz Flaked Oats
8 oz Special Aromatic
8 oz Spelt Malt
2 oz Carafa III (During sparge)
17g Aged Hops (60 mins)
INISBC-913 Brett Barrel III
Yeast Nutrient

Mash at 157F for 60 mins, 90 min boil, ferment at room temp.

Water Profile:
Nothing fancy here. I filled my HLT with 3 gallons of RO water and 8 gallons of carbon filtered tap water.

Brewing Notes:
No issues today. I hadn't brewed for a while, so no issues is a good thing. Hoping to see a pretty active fermentation in the morning.

Update 11/14/2016
Wish granted, I woke up to an explosive fermentation this morning. Krausen had pushed up through the airlock and the hissing from off-gassing CO2 was loud enough that it sounded like my stirplate was running. Blowoff connected.

Update 11/15/2016
Came home from work last night to find my blowoff needed a blowoff. Yeasty foam was erupting from the blowoff growler and making quite a mess. Things seemed to have calmed down this morning to the point that I can reinstall an airlock. This yeast is a beast.


Homemade Smoked Snack Sticks

>> Sunday, November 06, 2016

I recently got my hands on a Cabela's 5 pound sausage stuffer and for my maiden voyage into the world of sausage-making, I'm making smoked snack sticks. I'm following the recipe from Chop and Brew episode 42, the biggest difference being I'm using pre-ground meat (since I don't have a grinder).

A couple comments...the original recipe called for sheep casings or 17-19mm casings. I used smoked collagen casings, but the smallest I could find locally were 20-22mm. Keep the meat cold until you put it in your smoker. Here's the recipe as I made it.

6 Pound Recipe

4.5 # Walmart All Natural Ground Beef ~ 70/30
1.5 # Walmart Fresh Ground Pork ~ 80/20
6g Pink instacure
57g Kosher salt
4g Black pepper, freshly ground
4g Homemade chipolte powder
15g Garlic salt
11g Accent Flavor Enhancer
11g Table sugar
3g Cayenne pepper (add more for additional heat)
1.5g Smoked paprika
4.4g Crushed red pepper (run it through a mill/grinder)
2 tsp. Plus a little more hot sauce
12 oz Cold water
1 Tbls. Encapsulated citric acid (optional)

I blended the beef and pork by hand until it seemed mixed well. Add salt, sugar, spices etc. (except encapsulated citric acid) to water, then add to meat and mix well. If you're using citric acid, add it right before stuffing. The citric acid will give the snack sticks a slight tang similar to dry cured meats like salami.

Cook in smoker at 130F for about 30 min.
Smoke at 150F for 2 hours. I used hickory in my Pro Q cold smoke generator
Bump the temp up to 172F until internal temp hits 154F
Cool in an ice bath to halt cooking process. Leave out on counter for a couple hours to "bloom". Package and store in freezer until ready to eat.

I was planning on adding Sriracha for my hot sauce, but I forgot entirely. I skipped the encapsulated citric acid because I couldn't find it locally. The snack sticks turned out really well. I was a little worried the Walmart meat might have been ground too fine, but it seems to have worked well. I might cut back on the salt a little next time. Heat-wise, there's some spiciness there, but it's not super spicy, so everyone can enjoy them. Given the right equipment (sausage stuffer), this was a pretty fun and easy process.

Update 12/4/2016
I made another batch today. I remembered the Sriracha sauce this time. I also used smaller casings, increased the cayenne pepper to 5g, reduced the garlic salt to 10g, added 5g of garlic powder, and used the encapsulated citric acid. I also found my digital Maverick thermometer, so I was able to more tightly control my temps this time. The first time the temps were on the high side, so the snacks cooked faster than they should have and didn't spend as much time on smoke compared to this time.


Triple Microburst DIPA

>> Sunday, July 17, 2016

I loved this beer the first time I brewed it as Galaxy Microburst. I'm re-brewing this beer with some slight modifications.

I'm planning on entering this beer in competition, so the first modification is I'm adding a dash of Carafa III to adjust the color to be more inline with the 2015 guidelines. Without adjusting color, this beer is a little too light for both the American and Double IPA styles. Also, there is a little overlap between American and Double IPA styles. I'm calling this beer a DIPA, but I'm considering entering it as an American IPA (even though it's pushing the limits ABV-wise). The Carafa III that I'm using is such a small amount that it won't really impact flavor at all; it'll just add a couple SRM points. Additionally, it'll be added to the mash at the beginning of the sparge.

The next modification, I'm using hop extract for the bittering addition. The purpose for this is I want to minimize hop debris before adding my late additions. This means less total debris so when I'm doing my whirlpool, there's less debris in the kettle and I'm hoping this means better extraction of hoppy goodness during the whirlpool. More info on the whirlpool, I'm taking the temps down to 160F - 170F as quickly as possible. These are sub-isomerization temps, so I won't be adding bitterness while I'm trying to extract hop flavor and aroma.

The last modification is I'm adding multiple hops in this version. It's not that I didn't like the version I did with Galaxy, but I'm thinking a multiple hop beer has a better chance of being positively accepted by the judges. Also, I haven't brewed as many hoppy beers this year as I was I have quite a few really nice hop varieties in my freezer.

Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it today:

Expected OG 1.076
~51 IBUs
Est ABV 8.9%

5# 11oz Rahr 2-row
3.5# Avangard Pilsner Malt
1.5# Simpsons Golden Promise Malt
21 grams Carafa III (added before sparge to adjust color)
1.0 # 3oz Corn Sugar (boil)y
6ml Hop extract (60 min) ~ 49 IBUs
Wyeast Nutrient
112g Hop blend (1 min) ~ 2 IBUs (28g Amarillo, 28g Mosaic, 28g Simcoe, 28g Citra)
168g Hop blend (dry hop) (28g Amarillo, 46.6g Mosaic, 46.6g Simcoe, 46.6g Citra)

Mash at 149F, 90 minute boil, 60 minute hop stand at 160F, ferment at 64F, dry hop after primary fermentation slows down.

For water profile I'm going with Tasty's water again. To 10 gallons of RO water I added:

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

Brewing Notes
No issues with brewday other than my garage is a mess right now. I'm in the process of replacing some particle board cabinets with some very sturdy custom shelves. Unfortunately this means all the stuff from the cabinets plus a whole bunch of materials were spread out all over the place.  I managed to carve out enough room to brew.

I collected a bit more volume than I planned, and didn't have quite as much boil-off to account for the additional volume, so OG came in a few points low at 1.070

Update 7/26/2016
This beer smells amazing. There is still quite a bit of krausen floating on top. I'm going to pull this out of the ferm chamber today and let it finish at room temps in my basement before dry hopping.

Update 8/4/2016
This beer was racked to secondary today on top of the dry hops.

Update 8/8/2016
This beer was kegged tonight with gelatin and placed on 20PSI OF CO2.  


Golden Java Milk Stout - Round 4

>> Sunday, June 26, 2016

Da Bomb Tincture
Another variation on the GJMS today. The last version was very popular at the Mountain Brewers Beer Fest (MBBF). I decided I needed a better name for this beer at MBBF since Golden Java Milk Stout is really just more of a description than a name, so it was served as Udder Chaos. After we got back from the fest, my buddy Brandon tossed out what I think is an even better name, albeit a long name...My Milk Stout Brings All the Boys To The Yard. Here's the latest variant as I'm brewing it today.

8.75# Crisp Maris Otter
1.00# Flaked Oats
1.00# Gambrinus Honey Malt
1.00 # Lactose (10 min)
12g Magnum (60 min)
14g EKG (10 min)
28g EKG (0 min)
Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
0.5 Whirlfloc
Coffee Toddy (at kegging)
The Bomb Tincture (at kegging)

Mash at 154F for 80 minutes, 90 minute boil, ferment at 60F, raising temps to 65F over the course of a week.

Brewing Notes
No issues. OG came in at 1.074, just a little higher than last time. That was expected since I increased both the honey malt and flaked oats but didn't decrease the base malt. I forgot to mention, I'm trying out Clarity Ferm from White Labs. I've never used it before, but I've been wanting to try it out. It's supposed to help reduce chill haze, increase shelf life, and reportedly also reduces gluten. All this without impacting flavor, aroma, or head retention.

Update 7/11/2016
Things are moving along on this beer. I ran out of my TCHO cacao nibs, but I was able to pick more up at Whole Foods in their baking section. I also decided to go with Jack Mormon Coffee's Halo Bariti which is an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee. I started on the cacao tincture with the vanilla bean last Friday (7/8). After 7 days I'll add the cacao nibs for another 4 days.

Update 8/5/2016
This beer was kegged today along with The Bomb and Coffee Toddy.

Update 9/6/2016
This beer took bronze for SHV beer at 2016 Beehive Brew-off.  Pretty stoked especially since golden milk stout is an imaginary style.


Rob's Smoke & Wood II - Smoked Imperial Porter

>> Saturday, June 25, 2016

Today I'm brewing the second edition of my Smoked Imperial Porter. Last year this beer won a gold medal, so I'm hoping this version does as well. I made some minor changes to the grain bill including Crisp Maris Otter, Briess Cherry Wood Smoked Malt, and Crisp Pale Chocolate Malt. I'll also be using a different wood (maybe cherry) for aging. This is a 3 gallon batch today.

Here's the recipe as I'm making it today:

4.8# Crisp Maris Otter
1.2# Crisp Dark Munich (20L)
0.75# Crisp Brown Malt
0.75# Briess Cherry Wood Smoked Malt
0.75# Weyermann Rauch Malt
0.75# Crisp Crystal 77L
0.45# Crisp Pale Chocolate Malt (350L)
16.8g Magnum (60 min)
8.4g EKG (10 min)
0.25 Whirlfloc
0.25t Yeast nutrient
1" per gallon HoneyComb Barrel Alternative

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

Same water profile as last time, Beersmith London.

Brewing Notes
No issues.  Gravity came in at 1.077 with a bit over 3 gallons.

Update 7/11/2016
I decided to go with hard maple for the wood on this beer. Per Black Swan's description, hard maple has the following characteristics:
Maple candy, light spice-nutmeg, cinnamon, syrup, bread/bakery, cream hint of cocoa
Update 7/26/2016
I pulled a sample two days ago and I think it's close, but still needs a little more time on the wood. Smoke character is nice but subtle; definitely does not dominate.  I'm going to check it again tomorrow and see how it's doing.

Update 8/4/2016
This beer went into the keg today.

Update 9/6/2016
This beer took gold for the second year in a row for Smoked and Wood-aged beer at 2016 Beehive Brew-off. In fact, my homebrew club ZZHOPS, swept the category. Dallas Barlow and Mike Johnson took second with their Barrel Project and Jerry McPhie took third with his Belgian Gold Oak.


Lone Starr Schwarzbier

>> Sunday, May 22, 2016

Pretty schwarz during the mash
Today I'm brewing a Schwarzbier. As I've indicated in previous posts, I don't brew lagers very often, but I do enjoy a good Schwarzbier. I find that the bit of roast makes them much more interesting than other European pilsners, but they're still a very crisp and refreshing beer. I figured it's time to give it a shot. The 2015 BJCP guidelines describe the style as follows:

History: A regional specialty from Thuringia, Saxony and Franconia in Germany. History is a bit sketchy, but is suspected of being originally a top-fermented beer. Popularity grew after German reunification. Served as the inspiration for black lagers brewed in Japan. 
Overall Impression: A dark German lager that balances roasted yet smooth malt flavors with moderate hop bitterness. The lighter body, dryness, and lack of a harsh, burnt, or heavy aftertaste helps make this beer quite drinkable. 
Comments: Literally means “black beer” in German. While sometimes called a “black Pils,” the beer is rarely as dark as black or as bitter as a Pils; don’t expect strongly roasted, porter-like flavors.

Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it today:

Target OG 1.050
IBU 23.1
SRM 25
6.0 # Avangard German Pilsner
2.0 # Avangard Dark Munich
0.5 # Weyermann Melanoidin Malt
0.5 # Weyermann CaraRed
0.5 # Weyermann Carafa II (Dehusked) - half added to the mash, the other half ground fine and added at the beginning of the sparge
0.25 # Briess Roasted Barley - half added to the mash, the other half added at the beginning of the sparge
17g Northern Brewer (60 min)
14g Hallertau (20 min)
14g Hallertau (1 min)
Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Saflager W-34/70 Dry Lager Yeast (2 packets, 1L starter for each)

Mash at 153F, 90 min boil, pitch at 45F, ferment at 48F, diacetyl rest at 65F when 80% attenuated.

Water adjustments:
To 10 gallons of distilled water, I added the following:
1.7g Epsom salt
2.6g Calcium Chloride
3.8g Baking Soda
5.9g Chalk

Brewing Notes
No issues with this session. Gravity came in a couple point's high at 1.052.

Update 5/31/2016
Gravity was down to about 1.020 (reading ~8.2 on the refractometer) so I'm starting the diacetyl rest. I'm letting the fermenter free-rise to about 63F.


Big Brew Day 2016 - KBS Style

>> Saturday, May 07, 2016

Today is Big Brew Day and we're brewing up what's intended to be a clone of Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS). Three of my buddies and I recently acquired a 15 gallon bourbon barrel from Sugar House Distillery. After primary fermentation is complete, this beer will spend a little time in the barrel where it'll pick up some of the bourbon and oak character.

This recipe is based off one that has appeared in both BYO and Zymurgy magazines, and was written with the help of Founders Head Brewer, Jeremy Kosmicki. We're doing three separate mashes. Two of the mashes will be combined into a single boil, and the third will be boiled separately. We're deviating slightly on some of the recipe details. For example, we're making a tincture with the nibs rather than adding them to the boil. This is to help avoid extracting tannins from the nibs. Here's the recipe as we're making it today. The following is for a five gallon size batch.

13.25# Maris Otter
1.5# Flaked Oats
0.75# Crisp Chocolate Malt 340-450L
0.75# Crisp Roasted Barely
0.5# Crisp Crystal 77L
0.5# Carafa III (De-husked)
28g Nugget (60 min)
35g Willamette (25 min)
71g Ghirardelli Bitter Sweet Chocolate (15 min)
49g Willamette (10 min)
57g Jack Mormon Takengon Mandheling, ground (Flameout)
57g TBD Kona coffee toddy, secondary
Yeast Nutrient

Mash at 155F, 90 minute boil, ferment at 65F. Target OG 1.092

Note: I did not adjust the grain bill for my normal system efficiency. Since we're brewing on three different systems, I figured it might be better to risk having a higher OG and adding water to dilute things rather than being too low and needing to add some DME.

Update 5/13/2016
I forgot to post a brewing notes update on this session. Brew day went fairly well although we did run into a few hiccups. First, one third of the batch was done on a keggle BIAB setup, and was the first time it had been used. The gravity came in quite a bit lower than anticipated, so our oveeall gravity post-boil was low (1.077 for 2/3, 1.090 for 1/3). The bad also let a lot of grain bits through. During our whirlpool on the first 10 gallons, the grain bits and bitter-sweet chocolate clogged the filter, so we weren't able to chill as fast as we wanted. We were concerned the hop bitterness may be too high due to the delayed chilling, so we adjusted the hops a little in the last 5 gallons. We also eliminated the bitter-sweet chocolate in favor of increasing the nib tincture. Fermentation kicked off without too much delay and this beer has had a thick krausen all week. This batch got a double dose of O2 before it showed signs of fermentation.

Update 6/15/2016
This beer went into the bourbon barrel tonight. Before filling the barrel, I rehydrated using the French method which consisted of standing the barrel on end, then filling the heads with near boiling water. Next I filled the barrel with about 8 gallons of near boiling water. The barrel was then drained and seasoned with about 2/3 cup of SHD bourbon.


Golden Java Chocolate Milk Stout - Round 3

>> Friday, April 29, 2016

Today I'm brewing the third and slightly modified version of my Golden Java Chocolate Milk Stout. This version will be donated and poured at the Mountain Brewers Festival in Idaho Falls this June. For details on the previous versions of this recipe, see the original post. This round I'm going a tad higher with the gravity with a target O.G. of 1.065. I'm using Full Pint malt in place of the Fawcett Pearl Malt, and Honey Malt in place of the Crystal 45. I'm also changing the hops a bit as well as the coffee in the coffee toddy. As with the previous attempts, this beer pays homage to Noble Ale Works' Naughty Sauce. Here's the recipe as I'm making it today:

8.75# Great Western Full Pint Malt
0.75# Flaked Oats
0.68 # Gambrinus Honey Malt
1.0 # Lactose (10 min)
12g Magnum (60 min)
14g EKG (10 min)
28g EKG (0 min)
Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
0.5 Whirlfloc
Coffee Toddy (at kegging)
The Bomb Tincture (at kegging)

Mash at 154F for 80 minutes, 90 minute boil, ferment at 65F.

Brew Water
Nothing fancy here. I filled the HLT with 8 gallons of carbon filtered tap water and diluted it with 3 gallons of RO water.

Brewing Notes
No issues during the brew session. I hit the target O.G. exactly at 1.065. Yeast was re-hydrated and pitched at 61F then gradually warmed to 65F.

Drew Way - The Bomb Cacao Nib & Vanilla Tincture
6 oz Vodka (I use Tito's)
1 Vanilla Bean, split and scraped and chopped into 3/4" lengths
3 oz TCHO Roasted Cacao Nibs
Mix the vodka and vanilla bean (and parts) in a tight sealing jar. Shake every day, several times, for 7 days.
After seven days, add the nibs for another 4 days, continue to shake
Strain out ad discard the nibs and vanilla bean bits.
Place the extract in the freezer overnight.
In the morning, carefully scrape out the fat cap of cocoa butter and discard. I've never really had any fat cap with the TCHO nibs. I'm not sure if the roasting renders out most of the fat or what.

Coffee Toddy
3 oz fresh ground Ethiopian Yirgacheffe
3 cups chilled RO water
Cold brew for 24 hours in the fridge with a French Press. Add at kegging/bottling.

Update 5/24/2016
I started on the coffee toddy last night. The plans are to get it kegged tonight and start carbing things up. This coffee smells amazing; tons of chocolate character. Thanks to my buddy Jeff who suggested and provided the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans for this batch. I went with 3oz in 3c of water this time. I'll probably dose it with 2/3 of the toddy and go from there. The Bomb tincture is also done and is chilling in the freezer. I used a stainless pour over coffee filter to strain out the nibs. My hope was that it would leave behind all the sediment. It did, but it also clogged quite a bit. Seems like a mesh somewhere between the super fine coffee filter and the not so fine kitchen strainer would work better.

Update 5/25/2016
I kegged this beer last night and it's currently chilling under pressure in my keezer.

Update 6/6/2016
This beer turned out really well and was a pretty big hit at the beer fest. It ended up being the first keg to kick, I think with 2 hours left in the fest. I wouldn't mind a little more coffee character. To me, this coffee had a lot of chocolate character, so paired with The Bomb tincture, chocolate was more prominent than coffee.


Rye Saison - Red Wine Barrel Round 2

>> Sunday, April 17, 2016

Today I'm brewing a Rye Saison for Dallas' Red Wine Barrel Project. This is a recipe the Dallas has brewed many times and I think it's a fantastic candidate for a sour barrel. Below is the recipe adjusted for my system's efficiency.

9.0# 2.0oz Avangard German Pilsner
2.0# 4.0oz Briess Rye Malt
7.0oz Avangard Munich I Malt
4.0oz Castle Aromatic Malt
28g Sterling (60 min)
56g Sterling (Whirlpool 30 min)
28g Saaz (Whirlpool 30 min)
0.5 Whirlfloc
Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Wyeast 3711 (1L starter)

Mash at 152F, 90 minute boil, chill to 65F, allow to free-rise up to 77F

Water Profile
To 10 gallons of distilled water, I added:
6.3g Epsom salt
3.2g Calcium chloride
2.4g Baking soda
0.8g Chalk

Update 4/19/2016
No major issues during this brew session. I tried out a stainless steel hop spider I bought from a buddy of mine before he moved. It's larger than the one I bought from Utah Biodiesel, but the mesh isn't as fine. It let more debris through which meant my pre-chiller filter had to deal with more debris and the flow was much lower than normal. I let the temp stabilize overnight then pitched the yeast yesterday morning and it was showing active signs of fermentation by the time I got home.

Update 5/23/2016
This beer went into a keg yesterday. It'll be going,into the barrel next weekend which means I'll be getting 5-ish gallons of soured Baltic porter next weekend too.


Rood BugFarm 2016

>> Saturday, April 02, 2016

Today I'm brewing up another take on The Rare Barrel's red base beer, so essentially the same recipe as my Rood Mélange 2016 a few months back. The main differences on this version is I'm mashing higher at 160F and for the yeast, I got my hands on some ECY01 Bug Farm. I've been wanting to try this yeast as well as ECY20 BugCounty, but they are difficult to come by. Whenever this blend pops up for sale, it usually sells out in a matter of hours. This time I didn't hesitate and managed to order a bottle from before they ran out.

6.0# 13 oz Dingemans Pilsner Malt
1.0# 3 oz Weyermann Pale Wheat Malt
7 oz Crisp Light Crystal Malt 60L
7 oz Flaked Oats (lauter)
7 oz Special Aromatic Malt
7 oz Spelt Malt
1.5-ish oz Carafa III (lauter, for color adjustment)
14.0g Aged Debittered Hops (60 min)
0.5 Whirlfloc
Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
ECY01 BugFarm

Mash at 160F for 60 mins, 90 min boil, ferment at room temp. Because of the lactobacillus in the blend, no aeration.

Brewing Notes
One issue the end of the sparge, I emptied the little bit of unused sparge water into a bucket. I also disconnected what I thought was the hose from the mash, when in fact it was the hose for pumping the wort from the mash into the boil kettle. This siphoned a couple gallons of wort into the bucket with the water. So...I added that to the contents of the bucket back into the BK (along with the extra water). I ended up boiling much harder than normal in order to evaporate the extra gallon of water. I still ended up with a bit more volume than I was planning on (about 5.5.) but it got me in the ballpark. No other issues to speak of. I chilled to about 64F and pitched the BugFarm. I'll let it free-rise to room temp which should be right about 70F.

Update 4/3/2016
Pitched yeast yesterday afternoon at about 3:30PM and this morning fermentation is taking off with about an inch of krausen.

Update 7/18/2017
Pulled a sample tonight and the pH on this beer is down to 3.38. The acidity is a little different compared to some of my other sour reds...definitely seems more lemon-like than pie cherry. Flavor profile isn't quite as complex either...not bad, but I was hoping for something more. I think this one would definitely benefit from some blending.


Big Bad Barrel #3

>> Sunday, March 20, 2016

Today I brewed a 10 gallon batch for my club's barrel project. This is batch #3 going into the barrel, and it's based on Atrial Rubicite from Jester King. Same as the previous Big Bad Barrels, each participant will brew their portion at home, doing a clean primary, then we'll combine them in the barrel and let the barrel bugs do their souring thing. When sufficiently soured, we'll empty the barrel and each participant will add the fruit of their choosing. 

The grain bill is pretty simple and is as follows. I'm actually using spelt malt instead of wheat malt. Spelt is an heirloom variety of wheat and I have a ton on hand.

Target OG 1.040
80% Pilsner
20% Wheat Malt
10 IBUs max - US Goldings or Aged Hops or a blend of US Goldings and Aged Hops (60 mins)
Yeast Nutrient
Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison or 1028/London Ale
2-3 # per gallon Raspberries in secondary - This will add ~ 0.008 gravity points, bringing the gravity up to ~ 1.048
Mash at 160F

Brewing Notes
No issues. My gravity came in at 1.041, so just a point higher than planned. I used a blend of aged hops, some well over a year old, some within the last year. I also bought both Wyeast strains and pitched a blend of the two. I'm starting fermentation at 68F.

Update 12/3/2017
I got around to putting this beer on fruit. I did three variants for this beer.
  1. Raspberry - Keeping with the spirit of the base beer, the first variant got 1.5# per gallon of red raspberries (4 gallons).
  2. Passion Fruit - This variant got 1# per gallon of passion fruit (3 gallons).
  3. Blood Orange - This variant got 1# per gallon Blood Orange, 14g each of El Dorado and Mosaic, plus 50g of hibiscus in 425ml, and a little bit of orange zest from my homegrown Mandarin oranges (3 gallons).


Solera #4

>> Sunday, March 13, 2016

I'm about ready to pull 5 gallons off my Solera, so today I'm brewing a batch to replace the 5 gallons I'm pulling out. I'm calling this Solera #4 as it's the fourth five gallon batch going into the 15 gallon Solera. This is a pretty basic grain bill, just pilsner and spelt malts. I'm mashing high on this batch, ensuring there's some long-term food supply for the critters. Here's the recipe as I'm making it today.

Target O.G. 1.065
8# 11oz Pilsner Malt
2# 3oz Spelt Malt
28g Aged Hops (60 min)
Brett Barrel III INISBC913

Mash at 160F, 90 min boil

Nothing fancy on the water chemistry today. I filled my HLT with 4 gallons of RO and 7 gallons of carbon-filtered tap water. I won't need that much water, but I just use leftover water during cleanup.

Brewing Notes
No issues during this session. Gravity came in a couple points lower than target at 1.061.

Update 3/23/2016
I pulled a sample last night. It has some really nice fruity notes going on, and mild funk. I was a little worried because I used the Brett Barrel III yeast that I'd saved from the CS Brett Experiment. It had been sitting in the fridge for a while, so a lot of the cells had definitely died off. I made a starter to try to revive the surviving yeast and get it going. It seemed to work, but there was a noticeable lag before there were visible signs of fermentation. Also, the starter had a fairly strong berry aroma. Even with the starter, I believe it was under-pitched. So long story short, I'm glad that I wasn't able to pick up on any obvious off-flavors.


Plethora Rye IPA

>> Sunday, February 21, 2016

I've been trying to get around to brewing this beer for a few weeks now. Things just kept getting in the way...then caught the flu. I'm still not 100%, but I'm feeling a lot better so I decided to brew this up today.

Today's recipe is based on Wytchmaker Farmhouse Rye IPA from Jester King and utilizes The Yeast Bay's Amalgamation blend. Based on the description, I think this yeast blend will perform very well in a hop-focused beer like an IPA. This blend is described as follows:

Amalgamation is the union of our six favorite Brettanomyces isolates from our microbe library. Each isolate produces a unique bouquet of bright and fruity flavors and aromas, and the combination of all of them into one blend results in the coalescence of these unique flavors and aromas into something truly special.

Expect this blend to create a dry beer with a bright and complex fruit-forward flavor and aroma, accompanied by some funk on the palate.

Temperature: 70 - 80 ºF
Attenuation: 85%+
Flocculation: Low

This recipe comes straight from Jester King. In addition to fantastic beer, Jester King has some of the coolest label art with Wytchmaker being one of my favorites. I got to try this beer a while back and it was pretty tasty. Seems like it should be a great pairing with the Amalgamation Brett blend from TYB.

Lately I've been using some dextrose in my IPAs to ensure they finish dry and drinkable. I won't be doing that with this recipe; instead I'll be relying on the plethora of brett strains in the yeast blend to dry out the beer. The recipe as I'm brewing it:

8 # 13 oz Great Western Full Pint Malt
1 # 9 oz Weyermann Rye
28g US Goldings (60 min)
56g Chinook (10 min)
28g Falconer's Flight (Whirlpool)
28g Zythos (Whirlpool)
0.5 Whirlfloc
0.5 t Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
The Yeast Bay Amalgamation - Brett Blend
56g Citra (Dry hop)
56g Falconer's Flight (Dry hop)
56g Simco (Dry hop)

Mash at 151F, 90 min boil, chill to 66F then allow to free-rise to room temp.

Water Profile
Tasty Water - To 10 gallons of RO water:
  • 16g Gypsum (CASO4)
  • 7g Epsom salt (MgSO4)
  • 2g Canning salt (NaCl)
  • 1g  Calcium Chloride (CaCl2)
Brewing Notes
No issues with this session. Gravity came in a bit higher than I was shooting for 1.059 and came in at 1.066.

Update 2/23/2016
This beer is starting to worry me a little bit. Usually I see activity fairly quickly, but this one still isn't showing visible signs of fermentation. I did a 1.5l starter for about a week, cold crashed it to decant, then pitched Sunday evening. Couldmbe  characteriscrap....ktic of theses brett strains, but that's a pretty long lag time. I moved the fermentercrash this to a warmer area of the house to try to jump start things. 

Update 2/24/2016
Finally seeing signs of fermentation today. Definitely the longest lag I think I've ever seen. I probably chilled it a bit lower than I should have.

Update 2/29/2016
This one is still plugging along. Krausen is hanging around 1/2" thick with tons of yeast in suspension. I'll let it ride for at least another week or so, then see where things are at. The aroma coming off the airlock is very nice; fairly clean, very hoppy.

Update 3/11/2016
Fermentation is more or less done. I realize this is a blend with low flocculation, but holy crap...this stuff does not drop out! I'll probably have to cold crash this batch because it's downright milky looking right now.

Update 3/20/2016
Pulled a sample today. Aroma is mild brett funk with big fruity notes. Flavor is very similar but fruit character is bigger. There's tons of peach, apricot, plum, and tangerine character. This should be pretty amazing once it's dry-hopped. There's still tons of yeast in suspension and the gravity is still around 1.020. There are still visible signs that fermentation is chugging along, so I'm going to let this ride for a while

Update 5/14/2016
Definitely digging this beer. I pulled a sample tonight and it seems noticeably drier. I'm going to rack this over onto the dry hops very soon, hopefully this weekend if I have time.

Update 5/16/2016
I transferred this beer to secondary tonight on top of a whole bunch of dry hops. I saved the yeast cake and am planning on using it in future brett beers.

Update 5/27/2016
Kegged this beer and started force carbing today. I definitely love the hop combination in this beer.


Beer Line Cleaning Upgrade

>> Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Brew Hardware has some really innovative gadgets for homebrewers. He may have not been the very first to use them, but Bobby M was the first homebrewer I ever saw using stainless cam-locks on their brew rig and he's the reason I use them on mine. I recently ordered a stainless racking cane with a male cam-lock fitting soldered onto one end. I use it as a carboy filler. It ensures none of my precious brew ends up on the garage floor while I gently manipulate the boil kettle so that I don't leave any sweet wort behind. Other items I've ordered from Bobby include my stainless steel elements in my HLT and HEX, and the sight glass on my keggle.

One of the newer products from Brew Hardware is the ball lock disconnect jumpers. Judging by how quickly they sold out after their introduction, they seem to be very popular. I saw they were back in stock, so I pulled the trigger on a set about a week ago.

The basic idea with these is they let you connect two ball lock QD's together. This is useful when cleaning lines, transferring between kegs, etc. I decided to use these so I could clean all my draft lines at the same time. I'd built one of the DIY Beer Line Cleaners in the past and it works fairly well, but from what I've read, beer line cleaning solutions do a better job when they're recirculated. That plus cleaning multiple lines at the same time is pretty appealing.

I'd planned on using a small fountain pump that I bought years ago. I know I have this pump somewhere in the house...I just don't know where. After about 45 minutes of looking and failing it I went to my spare parts bin to see what else I could use to somehow connect this to my portable brew pump. I found a type B stainless cam-lock fitting and scavenged the post fitting off my DIY Beer Line Cleaner. I then used a LFA-177 brass fitting from Lowes to join the two stainless fittings together. What I ended up with was a fitting that converts from cam-lock to a ball lock post so I can connect the keezer lines directly to the pump.

To use the cleaner, I attach the converter fitting to the pump output then connect the taps as follows:
  • Pump pulls liquid from reservoir
  • QD #1 connected to adapter on pump
  • Tap #1 jumpered to Tap #2 with silicone hose
  • QD #2 jumpered to QD #3 with ball lock jumper
  • Tap #3 jumpered to Tap #4 with silicone hose
  • QD #4 jumpered to QD #5 with ball lock jumper
  • Tap #5 returns to reservoir
I recently used this setup for the first time and it worked great. I was picking up some oxidized character on one of my lines. When bypassing the tap, I wasn't picking up anything odd, and the beer actually took first place in a club comp. So it seemed the issue was definitely with the line itself. I did a hot flush, followed by a recirc of hot Oxyclean, hot rinse again, hot recirc with Liquid Line cleaner, hot rinse and recirc, and lastly a sanitizer recirc. Beer lines are now running clean and absent of any off flavors. Here are a couple pictures of the components.
Brew Hardware Jumper
Cam-lock to ball-lock adapter


Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

>> Saturday, February 06, 2016

I likes me some Buffalo chicken wings. This recipe for Buffalo chicken meatballs as every bit as good, especially if you know someone that shies away from eating meat off the bone. I made these last year for Super Bowl Sunday and they were a huge hit. Ground chicken isn't the easiest meat to work with; it's a sticky mess when forming the meatballs. The final result is worth the mess if you ask me. Here's the recipe as I made them.

2.0 # Ground Chicken
4 Cloves Minced Garlic
2 Eggs
1 C Italian Bread Crumbs
2 T Ranch Dip Mix
0.5 C Blue Cheese
4 T Butter
2 C Buffalo Wing Sauce (your favorite)


  1. Pre-heat oven to 400F.
  2. Form blue cheese into marble-sized pieces.
  3. Combine chicken, garlic, eggs, bread crumbs, and dip mix. It will be sticky and messy.
  4. Use a scoop or your hands to measure out the meatballs.
  5. Press a blue cheese ball into the center and form the meatball around it.
  6. Bake meatballs on a non-stick cookie sheet for 16 minutes, or until cooked through.
  7. Transfer cooked meatballs to a slow cooker and add wing sauce and butter. Set to high for 20 minutes, then switch to warm.
Tip: I've found that latex gloves help a lot. The ground chicken doesn't seem to stick to the latex nearly as much as it does to your hands. The blue cheese marbles were also much easier to form with gloves. 


Al Pastor

There's a local Mexican restaurant named El Morelense that makes amazing Al Pastor tacos. It's so amazing that I figured I needed to figure out a way to try to make them at home. I made this recipe a couple weeks ago for my family and some of my kids' friends. It went over really well (zero leftovers) and was requested for Super Bowl Sunday.

This recipe and process comes from Serious Eats. It's not an exact clone of El Morelense, but it's close. The recipe isn't difficult, but it requires some prep in you can't just decide to have it for dinner and whip things up in an hour. Just a tip, some of these ingredients will be easier to find at a Latino grocery store. Here's the recipe as I made it.

2 Disposable foil loaf pans
Corn Tortillas
4.0 # Thin cut pork sirloin roast (~ 1/4" thick)
1.0 # Bacon
4 Dried Ancho Chilies, seeds and stems removed
4 Dried Pasilla Chilies, seeds and stems removed
1 c Chicken Stock
4 t Vegetable oil
2 t Dried Mexican Oregano
2 t Ground Cumin
2 T Ground Achiote
2 Chipotle Chilies in Adobo Sauce, + 4 t Adobo Sauce
1/2 c White Vinegar
5 t Kosher Salt
4 t Sugar
9 - Cloves Garlic, Minced

  1. Place chilies in a medium saucepan over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir regularly to avoid burning.
  2. Add chicken stock then kill heat and transfer chilies and chicken stock to a small bowl. Cover and set aside. 
  3. Add oil to pan and heat over medium/medium high heat.
  4. Add oregano, cumin, and achiote, stirring for 30 seconds.
  5. Add chipotle, adobo sauce, vinegar, salt, and sugar. Stir until mixed then remove from heat.
  6. Transfer contents of pan plus chilies, and chicken stock to a blender. Add garlic and blend until marinade is smooth.
  7. Combine pork and marinade in a bag or bowl. Coat pork thoroughly.
  8. Layer the loaf pans with alternating layers of bacon and pork. Cover and refrigerate overnight. 
  9. Pre-heat oven to 250F and bake on a foil-lined cookie sheet for 4 hours.
  10. Allow to cool, then refrigerate for at least a few hours.
To serve:
  1. Remove meat from loaf pans, reserving fat and some of the drippings.
  2. Slice loaves as thin as possible and transfer to bowl.
  3. Add 2T rendered fat to cast iron skillet, and heat over medium high heat. 
  4. Add sliced pork. Stir occasionally and cook until it browns and crisps a bit.
  5. Add drippings to create a glaze. 
  6. Remove from heat.
  7. Serve in corn tortillas with chopped onions, cilantro, and your favorite hot sauce.


2016 Munich Helles - Small Batch

>> Friday, February 05, 2016

For the second half of my double-header brew day I'm brewing a Munich Helles. This is also a 2.5 gallon batch. Per the 2015 BJCP Guidelines, here are some of the vital stats for the style:

History: Created in Munich in 1894 at the Spaten brewery to compete with pale Pilsner-type beers. Currently the most a popular style in Southern Germany.
Overall Impression: A clean, malty, gold-colored German lager with a smooth grainy-sweet malty flavor and a soft, dry finish. Subtle spicy, floral, or herbal hops and restrained bitterness help keep the balance malty but not sweet, which helps make this beer a refreshing, everyday drink.
Comments: A fully-attenuated Pils malt showcase, Helles is a malt-accentuated beer that is not overly sweet, but rather focuses on malt flavor with underlying hop bitterness in a supporting role. Export examples can quickly lose some of the rich malt character that often suggests sweetness. Helles in Munich tends to be lighter in all aspects than those outside the city, which can be more assertive with more body, flavor, and hop character.
And the recipe as I'm brewing it today:

5.0# German Pilsner
6.0 oz German Munich
2.0 oz Melanoiden
1.0 oz Carapils
4.53g Hallertauer (FWH)
9.07g Hallertauer (45 min)
0.25 Whirlfloc
0.25t Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
WLP838 Southern German Lager

To 6 gallons RO water:
2.9g Gypsum
4.4g Calcium Chloride
2.4g Chalk

Mash at 145F for 10 min, 150F for 50 min, 168F for 10 min, 90 min boil, chill to 50F, raise to 55F over 5 days

Update 2/29/2016
I took this beer up to 65F for a diacetyl rest for a couple days and have been ramping it down to lagering temps over the past week. Quite a bit of the yeast has dropped out and it's pretty bright right now. I'm going to try to get it kegged and fined this week. That should give it almost a month to condition before I have to drop it off for Lagerpalooza 2.

Update 2/29/2016
I managed to get this beer kegged after work tonight. Fined in the keg with gelatin, it'll sit cold and under CO2 pressure until I'm ready to bottle my entries.

Update 3/11/2016
I pulled a sample today. It has dropped crystal clear and is a really nice beer. This is a beer I'd probably brew again, at least for the warmer summer months.


2016 German Pils -Small Batch

I think I've brewed more lagers in the past year than I have in all my previous years of homebrewing combined. Today is a double batch brew day with a couple of small batch lagers (2.5 gallon).  First up is a German Pils. Per the 2015 BJCP Guidelines, here are some of the vital stats for the style:

History: Adapted from Czech Pilsner to suit brewing conditions in Germany, particularly water with higher mineral content and domestic hop varieties. First brewed in Germany in the early 1870s. Became more popular after WWII as German brewing schools emphasized modern techniques. Along with its sister beer, Czech Pilsner, is the ancestor of the most widely produced beer styles today. Average IBUs of many well-regarded commercial examples have dropped over time.
Overall Impression: A light-bodied, highly-attenuated, gold-colored, bottom-fermented bitter German beer showing excellent head retention and an elegant, floral hop aroma. Crisp, clean, and refreshing, a German Pils showcases the finest quality German malt and hops.
Comments: Modern examples of Pils tend to become paler in color, drier in finish, and more bitter as you move from South to North in Germany, often mirroring the increase in sulfate in the water. The Pils found in Bavaria tend to be a bit softer in bitterness with more malt flavor and late hop character, yet still with sufficient hops and crispness of finish to differentiate itself from a Helles. The use of the term ‘Pils’ is more common in Germany than ‘Pilsner’ to differentiate it from the Czech style, and (some say) to show respect.
And the recipe as I'm brewing it today:

4.25# German Pilsner
14g Perle (60 min)
7g Hersbrucker (15 min)
7g Hersbrucker (1 min)
.25 Whirlfloc
.25t Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
WLP830 German Lager

To 6.0 gallons of RO water:
2.4g Gypsum
1.7g Epsom Salts
2.9g Calcium Chloride

Mash at 147F, 90 minute boil, chill to 50F, raise ferm temp to 55F over 5 days

Update 2/29/2016
I took this beer up to 65F for a diacetyl rest for a couple days and have been ramping it down to lagering temps over the past week. Quite a bit of the yeast has dropped out and it's pretty bright right now. I'm going to try to get it kegged and fined this week. That should give it almost a month to condition before I have to drop it off for Lagerpalooza 2.

Update 2/29/2016
I managed to get this beer kegged after work tonight. Fined in the keg with gelatin, it'll sit cold and under CO2 pressure until I'm ready to bottle my entries.

Update 3/11/2016
I pulled a sample today. It has dropped very clear. Compared to the Munich Helles, it's definitely more hop focused than the more malt focused Helles. Very nice beer, but I'm glad I only made a small batch.


Pre-Prohibition Lager

>> Sunday, January 10, 2016

Today I'm doing a small batch (2.5 gallon) Pre-Prohibition Lager. The recipe is pretty basic and while bold compared to modern Light American Lagers, it's still a very delicate beer with no place to hide flaws or off-flavors. If you haven't thoroughly cleaned your equipment in a while (run a brush through your tubing, disassemble ball valves, etc.), it's not a bad idea to do it before brewing this type of beer.

I've mentioned before, I'm not a big fan of most lagers, but sometimes it is nice to have an easy drinking beer on hand, especially if you have some friends that prefer the cleaner character associated with lagers. Here's the history and description for the style from the 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines:
History: A version of Pilsner brewed in the USA by immigrant German brewers who brought the process and yeast with them, but who had to adapt their recipes to work with native hops and malt. This style died out after Prohibition but was resurrected by homebrewers in the 1990s. Few commercial versions are made, so the style still remains mostly a homebrew phenomenon.
Overall Impression: A clean, refreshing, but bitter pale lager, often showcasing a grainy-sweet corn flavor. All malt or rice-based versions have a crisper, more neutral character. The higher bitterness level is the largest differentiator between this style and most modern mass-market pale lagers, but the more robust flavor profile also sets it apart.
Here's the recipe as I'm making it today.
3 # 10 oz Pale 6-Row
14 oz Flaked Corn
2 oz Cara-Pils
0.61 oz Cluster (60 min)
0.20 oz Cluster (10 min)
1/4 Whirlfloc
1/4 t Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Wyeast 2007 Pilsen Lager

Step mash: 30 min at 122F, 45 min at 158F, mashout at 168F for 10 min. Chill to 48F then ramp up to 52F over 48 hours. Perform a diacetyl rest when fermentation is nearly complete. Cold condition in the keg near freezing for a month or so.

Water Profile
To 6 gallons of RO water
  • 0.48g Gypsum
  • 0.12g Pickling Salt
  • 1.32g Epsom Salt
  • 0.48g Calcium Chloriden
  • 0.48g Baking Soda
  • 0.24g Chalk
*I decided to add 7.4 oz of Chit malt to this recipe even though it didn't call for it. This is due to the slightly reduced efficiency I saw on my fist run with my new small batch setup. I also bumped up my total water from 5 to 6 gallons as I was a little low on water during the first run.

Brewing Notes
It seems that I can expect about 73% mash efficiency with my mini-mash tun. Not bad, but quite a bit less than my full-size.  I did a couple things different on the second run with my mini-mash tun/small batch setup. I bumped up the total water from 5 gallons to 6 gallons. This ensured I had enough water left in the HLT that I was able to fire the HLT element during the mash to maintain sparge temps. This also ensured I had plenty of sparge water on hand. I used my lid from my full size mash tun to recirculate the mash liquid to the top of the grain bed this time. It worked better than laying the hose across the grain bed.

A couple really nice things with this setup, I'm able to bring the small volume up to a boil very quickly.  Post-boil, I'm able to chill down to pitching temps very fast.

Very bright wort pre-boil
Update 1/26/2016
I did a diacetyl rest at 60F for a few days. On 1/24 I started ramping the temp down. I'll drop it to around 38F then rack it to a keg for fining and lagering.

Update 9/6/2016
This beer ended up taking a gold medal at 2016 Beehive Brew-off and is probably the highest score I've ever received on an entry (47). The funny thing is the same beer did not do well at all at Lagerpalooza earlier this year (scored 24). Not to sound like a poor loser, but I felt like the judges at Lagerpalooza really didn't understand the style guidelines (or the difference between corn flavor from the use of corn and DMS). The same beer scored 34 at NHC right after Lagerpalooza, with no mention of the "issues" identified by the Lagerpalooza judges. It just goes to show, judging is subjective and mistakes are made, so don't get let one person's (or set of judges') opinion bring you down.


Classic Rauchbier

>> Friday, January 08, 2016

Today I'm doing my first small batch (2.5 gallon) on my mini-mash tun. The recipe for today is a Classic Rauchbier. I haven't brewed a Rauchbier in quite a while. I still think the first one I made years ago was the best and the batches since then have been mediocre at best. One of them even had a horrible chlorophenol problem. I'm hoping this one turns out as good as the first batch did.

The recipe today consists of equal parts Munich and Rauchmalt with a little bit of Melanoidin tossed in to add some malty complexity. A touch of Carafa III adds a bit of color. One thing I've learned about yeast is pitch big with lagers. This will help ensure a healthy fermentation and a nice clean finished beer. For thus recipe, I used one smack pack in a 1L starter on my stir plate. Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it today.

2.25 # Avangard Dark Munich II
2.25 # Weyermann Rauchmalt
7.0 oz  Weyermann Melanoidin Malt
0.5 oz Carafa III Dehusked (lauter)
0.62 oz Hallertau (60 min)
0.21 oz Hallertau (5 min)
1/4 Whirlfloc
1/4 t Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Wyeast 2206 Bavarian Lager

Mash at 154F for 60 min. Chill to 46F then ramp up to 52F over 48 hours. Perform a diacetyl rest when fermentation is nearly complete. Cold condition in the keg near freezing for a month or so.

Water Profile
To 5 gallons of RO water:
  • 1.0g Gypsum
  • 1.2g Epsom Salt
  • 2.6g Calcium Chloride
  • 1.0g  Baking Soda
First runnings into boil kettle
Brewing Notes
Things went fairly well with this brew session. The silicone hose returning to the top of the mash worked ok, but tended to sink into the grain rather than lay on top. I'll try to figure out something that will work better.

One other thing, my HLT heating element was exposed once I transferred mash water, so I couldn't fire the element to maintain temps for the water that would be used in the sparge. It's not a huge deal because I ran it through the HEX while sparging and it kept the temp right at 168F.

One last issue, the amount of deadspace under the false bottom is a much greater proportion when brewing 2.5 gallons verses 5 or 10 gallons. My efficiency dropped to a hair under 77% and I think it was partly due to the deadspace.

A couple things that went better than expected...a 2.5 gallon batch gets to boiling and chills much faster than 5 and 10 gallon batches. I started the whirlpool and within what seemed like a couple minutes, the temp was down to 67F. A little bit longer and it was 50F. This will sit overnight in the fermenter in my ferm chamber, then I'll pitch the yeast in the morning.
Probably one of the smallest grain additions,
14g of Carafa III

Update 1/26/2016
I did a diacetyl rest at 60F for a few days. On 1/24 I started ramping the temp down. I'll drop it to around 38F then rack it to a keg for fining and lagering.

Update 2/16/2016
I put this on tap over the weekend. Smokiness definitely comes through, but you still get the malt characteristic pf the style. It's more subtle than Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier, but there's no mistaking that it's chock full of smoked malt.


Rood Mélange 2016

>> Sunday, January 03, 2016

It seems like I'm brewing sour beers half the time lately. I have some non-sour lagers queued up in the not too distant future, but my first batch for 2016 is yet another sour. Today I'm brewing a sour red ale based on the red base recipe from The Rare Barrel. This one will be fermented with Mélange - Sour Blend from The Yeast Bay. This is a blend I've never used before, but I'm excited to try it out. Per TYB:
Mélange is our most varied mix of fermentative organisms, intended for use in the production of sour beers in which a balance of funk and sourness is desired. This blend contains two Saccharomyces cerevisiae isolates, Saccharomyces fermentati, five Brettanomyces isolates, Lactobacillus brevis, Lactobacillus delbreuckii and Pediococcus damnosus.
For most of my sours I use aged hops. This time I'm going with a small addition of US Goldings. I'm interested in seeing how much this inhibits the lacto early on. Nothing too fancy with the water profile today, just cutting 8 gallons of carbon-filtered tap water with about three gallons of RO water. The recipe as I'm making it today:

6.0# 13 oz Dingemans Pilsner Malt
1.0# 3 oz Weyermann Pale Wheat Malt
7 oz Crisp Light Crystal Malt 60L
7 oz Flaked Oats (lauter)
7 oz Special Aromatic Malt
7 oz Spelt Malt
3-ish oz Carafa II (lauter, for color adjustment)
2.5g US Goldings (60 min)
5.0g Aged Debittered Hops (60 min)
0.5 Whirlfloc
Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
The Yeast Bay Melange Sour Blend
Mash at 130F for 15 mins, 158F for 45 mins, 90 min boil, ferment at room temp. Because of the lactobacillus, no aeration.

Brewing Notes
No real issues although my gravity came in a couple points low; target was 14P (1.057), measured was 13.7P (1.054).

Update 1/4/2016
I wasn't seeing any activity last night (24 hours after pitching) and I was getting a little worried. I had the fermenter in my basement which tends to be a little cooler than the rest of the house this time of year. I moved it upstairs last night and this morning I'm seeing active fermentation.

Update 1/6/2016
Fermentation is still plugging along. Krausen is at most one inch high, so no need for a blowoff hose as of yet. Aroma out of the airlock is a bit sour, but hard to say for sure.

Update 1/26/2016
Krausen has completely dropped and so far there are no signs of a pellicle. I'll probably let this go until at least April before pulling a sample.

Update 2/21/2016
I pulled a sample the other day. Tartness is fairly low, as would be expected with a young sour beer. One thing did surprise me a little bit, and that was an almost saison-like spiciness character. I hope this subsides over time because that isn't what I'm shooting for.

Update 5/14/2016
I pulled a sample of this beer last night. Still not digging the saison-like character, although it does seem to be mellowing. Sourness is still very low.

Update 7/18/2017
I pulled a sample tonight and I'm really happy with the direction this beer has taken. The saison-like character has essentially disappeared. There's a real nice acidity that has developed and the pH is coming in at 3.43. The acidity coupled with the fruity esters is really nice. There's some brett character there as well but it doesn't dominate. I'll be pulling samples from a few more reds soon and will probably be doing some blending.


Mini-Mash Tun

>> Saturday, January 02, 2016

Today I'm doing a little write-up on a new piece of equipment. a mini-mash tun. This isn't to be confused with mini mash or partial mash brewing; I'll still be doing 100% all-grain, just on a smaller scale.

There really isn't anything new or groundbreaking here, but I'm still excited about it. I've been toying with the idea of doing some smaller batch brewing for a while. Most of the time I brew 5 gallon batches and occasionally I'll mix in a 10 gallon batch, especially when I'm doing sours. Sometimes even five gallons of a particular beer can be too much. For example. pumpkin spiced beers...I enjoy them but they're hard to drink pint after pint so they tend to hang around for a while. I don't brew many lagers, mainly because I prefer the bolder flavors usually associated with ales. However, I'll probably brew lagers more often if I have the option of brewing smaller batches. Another candidate, beers that should be drunk fresh, like IPAs. Half batches will ensure tasty IPAs are finished off before the hops have a chance to fade.

So why a new piece of equipment rather than just making a smaller batch with my existing mash tun? Well, my normal mash tun is simply too large in diameter for batch sizes less than 5 gallons. It measures roughly 16" in diameter and the volume is about 12 gallons at the rim. This size vessel would have too shallow of a grain bed for 2.5 - 3 gallon batches. The new mini-mash tun is 12" in diameter and has a total volume of about five gallons, so the grain bed and liquid depths will be comparable to that of my larger tun. On the plus side, the 12" false bottom that I use in my larger tun will also work in the mini tun.

Weldless Assembly
Like my other brewing vessels, I'm going with weldless fittings on this tun. All the weldless fittings are based on Blichmann-style weldless fittings as documented on The Electric Brewery site. You can take a look at this diagram on The Electric Brewery for more details, but weldless fittings are assembled as follows (from inner to outer):
Hose barb nipple > full coupler > close nipple (through hole in kettle wall) > silicone o-ring > washer > nut > ball valve. 
As on my other vessels, I used my 13/16" Greenlee punch to make the holes for the weldless assemblies. These punches work awesome and give you a perfectly sized and perfectly round hole for mounting your assemblies. The false bottom connects to the nipple with a short section of 1/2" silicone tubing. The return from the heat exchanger is basically the same assembly and uses a short section of 3/8" silicone tubing to return the mash liquor to the top of the grain bed when recirculating.

That's about it for the mini-mash tun. I'm pulling my old 8 gallon boil pot out of storage for these smaller batches. I've outfitted it with a whirlpool port just like my keggle. I'm planning on the inaugural batch with this tun in the next week or so.
Return from HEX 

Full-size vs. Mini 

With False Bottom