Paloma Beer

>> Saturday, November 06, 2021

Today's brew is a group collab, kettle-soured Imperial Gose that will be aged in my newly acquired Desert Door Texas Sotol barrel. This is a 12 gallon batch that will need to be brewed at least twice in order to fill the Sotol barrel (~25 gallons). The inspiration for this beer is a Paloma cocktail. I haven't played around much with grapefruit zest, so I may need to add more and/or add some grapefruit juice to get the level of grapefruit that I'm after. 

For those not familiar, Sotol is similar to Tequila but to me it comes across as a bit more fruity, floral, and slightly herbal. Kind of like a combo between tequila and gin with a little extra fruitiness thrown in. I'm hoping it'll work really well with the fruity character in the base beer. 

I really liked the results of the recent Catharina Sour, so this recipe is kind of based on that one; here's the recipe as we're brewing it today:

Target OG 1.074
14.4# Root Shoot Pilsner
14.4# Best Malz Spelt
Rice Hulls as needed
2.4ml Hopshot (60 min)
26.4g Pickling Salt (5 min)
33.6g Indian Coriander (5 min)
(3) Yakult Probiotic Drinks
Safale US-05
12oz Grapfruit peel ("Dry-hop" after fermenation slows)

Step Mash
122F for 5 min
153F for 70 min

Water Profile
0.31g/gallon Gypsum
0.36g/gallon Calcium Chloride

Brew Day 1 
Collect 13.75-14 gallons and raise to 170F for about 5-10 minutes to pasteurize. Chill to 100F then pitch Yakult to kettle sour for a couple days.

Brew Day 2

Update 11/14/2021
I went to proceed with the boil today. As soon as I started loosening the tri-clamp fitting, it was apparent that something was wrong; a ton of pressure had built up in the souring keg and it started in with a high pitch whistle. Sadly, the only cause is the wort must have been contaminated with yeast because this particular strain of lactobacillus does not produce CO2 during fermentation. I checked the pH (reading 3.19) then the gravity, and it had dropped significantly. Again, this is not characteristic of a 100% pure lactobacillus fermentation, so definitely a bad sign. Aroma-wise, it smelled “meaty”. Long story short, things didn’t go as planned and I decided to dump the unknown beer. I’ll start with a replacement batch shortly.

Update 11/17/2021
Today is batch #1 re-brew session. I’ve cleaned and sanitized the crap out of my souring keg, even running it through a steam session. Here are today’s readings:

Session 1 Re-brew Readings
Beginning mash pH 5.48
Ending mash pH 5.43
1st running gravity 25.6 (1.105)
Pre-sour gravity 14.9 (1.059)
Pre-sour pH 4.90
Pre-boil gravity (post-sour) 14.5 (1.057)
Pre-boil pH (post-sour) 3.34
Post-boil gravity 15 (1.068)
Post-boil pH 3.40

Update 11/20/2021
I pulled a sample to check pH and it was about 3.51, so I decided to let it ride a little longer. Thankfully this time there was no pressure on the keg, so no unintentionally introduced yeast.

Update 11/26/2021
I started round 2 yesterday. I threw in a little more Pilsner malt this time since gravity was a little lower than target on round 1. Also forgot to mention, I’ve been using a pound of rice hulls to prevent compacting the grain bed while recirculating. Here are the readings from the second session.

Session 2 Readings
Beginning mash pH 5.44
Ending mash pH 5.34
1st running gravity 25.6 (1.105)
Pre-sour gravity 16.2 (1.064)
Pre-sour pH 4.80
Pre-boil gravity (post-sour) 16.0 (1.064)
Pre-boil pH (post-sour) 3.36
Post-boil gravity 17.9 (1.072)
Post-boil pH 3.39

Update 11/30/2021
I checked the pH tonight and it's sitting at 3.41, so it will probably be ready for the boil in 24-48 hours max.

Update 12/3/2021
I did the boil today for session #2. No issues in this session.

Update 12/23/2021
I started round 3 today after work. The brew evening (after work) started off a little rough; my wireless bridge to my BCS-460 seemed to have died. Fortunately I was able to run an ethernet cable to it so that I could continue with the brew session. At the end of the sparge, it seemed like my pump (mash tun to boil kettle) had run out of wort and was pulling air. I shut it down and only collected a touch shy of 10 gallons. As a result, the pre-sour gravity was quite a bit higher compared to the two previous batches. I also got myself a new pH meter, so this was the first time trying it out. One other thing, I decided not to pre-acidify the wort before pitching the lactobacillus this time. Details below:

Session 3 Readings
Beginning mash pH5.34
Ending mash pH5.38
1st running gravity25.8 (1.106)
Pre-sour gravity19.6 (1.079)
Pre-sour pH5.38
Pre-boil gravity (post-sour)19.5 (1.078)
Pre-boil pH (post-sour)3.70
Post-boil gravity20.2 (1.081)
Post-boil pH3.73

Update 12/26/2021
I checked the pH of batch #3 today and it was down to 3.91. I won't have any time next weekend, so I plan on proceed with the boil tomorrow after work. Long story short, the pH probably won't get quite as low on this batch, but it'll still be decently sour; especially after blending with batch 1 and 2.

Update 12/27/2021
I finished up the boil tonight. No major issues. I’m planning on filling the barrel in a couple weeks.

Update 6/15/2022
This beer went into the barrel on 1/17/2022. Beer was kegged tonight.

Update 7/6/2022
I'm really digging this beer. It's super drinkable, kind of dangerously drinkable. I wouldn't mind a bit more grapefruit character, but it's definitely there. Sotol character also comes through really well in both flavor and some. Salt level is just about perfect, minerally but not salty. All said and done, I think it's a really good interpretation of a Paloma cocktail and I'm pretty excited how well it turned out. My buddies got to try it for the first time over 4th of July weekend and they all really liked it too. My buddy Nate said this was probably in his top 5 favorites of all the beers I've ever brewed.

Update 10/19/2022
This beer won Silver for Smoked and Wood-aged Beer at the 2022 Beehive Brew-off. This beer was really well-received by the judges and I think the only reason it didn't take gold was because Mike J (also from ZZHOPS homebrew club) entered an amazing barrel aged RIS. Mike's beer not only took Gold for the category, it took Gold for Best of Show, so overall a pretty good showing for our club in this category.


Catharina Sour 2021

>> Sunday, October 03, 2021

Today I'm brewing a style I've never brewed before, a Catharina Sour. This is a style that originated in Brazil and is along the lines of a heavily fruited Imperial Berliner Weisse. I haven't come across an actual Brazilian Catharina Sour at any bars or bottle shops, but I've definitely had lots of very fruit-forward sours, so I feel like I have a decent understanding of what the style is supposed to be. The BJCP guidelines describe the style as follows:
A light and refreshing wheat ale with a clean lactic sourness that is balanced by a fresh fruit addition. The low bitterness, light body, moderate alcohol content, and moderately high carbonation allow the flavor and aroma of the fruit to be the primary focus of the beer. The fruit is often, but not always, tropical in nature.
If a Berliner weisse type beer was made with fruit, it should be entered as a Fruit Beer. This beer is stronger and typically features fresh fruit. The kettle souring method allows for fast production of the beer, so this is typically a present-use style. It may be bottled or canned, but it should be consumed while fresh.
This is a kettle sour beer, and as a general rule kettle sours tend to have less complexity compared to traditional sours (e.g. post-boil mixed fermentations). Sometimes kettle sours result in one dimensional lactic sourness, but in this case the heavy fruiting contributes complexity. The version I'm brewing will feature pink guava and passionfruit at a rate of close to 2 lbs per gallon. I've had mixed experiences with guava in commercial sours, so I’m rolling the dice on this beer. For example, the first guava beer I had from The Bruery had a character that I would describe as baby-poop...not super pleasant. Later on I tried a different guava beer from them and it was absolutely amazing, so I'm guessing (hoping) maybe that first one had some over ripe fruit or was a different variety (fingers crossed). Passionfruit is a favorite of mine in sour beers and tiki cocktails. It can add a fair amount of acidity, so you have to be careful that it doesn't result in an acid bomb beer. I'm brewing this as we're heading into Fall, so this beer will kind of extend summer a bit as the weather starts to cool.

This recipe is based on the BYO recipe, here. Here it is as I'm brewing it today:

4.6875# Root Shoot Pilsner
2.375# Best Malz Spelt
1ml Hop Shot (60 min)
4.4# Pink Guava aseptic puree (Secondary)
4.4# Passionfruit (Secondary)
(3) Yakult Probiotic Drink
Safale toUS-05

Water Profile - To RO water, add:
  • 0.31g/gallon Gypsum (CaSO4)
  • 0.36g/gallon Calcium Chloride (CaCl2)

Brew Day 1
This recipe incorporates a step mash consisting of the following steps:
  • Mash in at 122F for 5 min.
  • 153F for 70 min.
  • Mash out at 169F for 10 min.
Collect about 6.5 gallons of wort and bring to 175F for 15 minutes to pasteurize. Chill to 98F to 109F and adjust pH to 4.5 before pitching Yakult Probiotic Drink. Hold at warmish temps until desired pH is reached; for me that's in the neighborhood of 3.2-3.3. Note: Most lactobacillus cultures will sour just fine at room temp, it just may take a few days. If you have the ability to apply gentle heat, shoot for a constant temp around 109F. If you don't have the ability to heat, let it ride in the warmest room in your house.

Brew Day 2
Transfer soured wort to boil kettle and proceed with boil. Chill to 65F before pitching yeast.

Fruiting in Secondary
I prefer to go with fresh fruit whenever possible, but there are some really good aseptic purees nowadays, so that's what I'm using for the guava. For the passionfruit, I went with frozen 100% passionfruit pulp that I found at a local Asian grocery store. 

I usually rack onto fruit towards the end of fermentation to get the beer off the trub. Since fermentation isn't as active, there's less risk of blowing off fruit aromatics. I'm going to rack onto fruit in a keg and that's been set up to use the pickup tube screen I outlined in Minimizing Loss post. I'm going to use my spunding valve to regulate pressure during the fruiting stage, and will probably force carbonate and bottle right off the same keg when this beer is "done".

Brew Day 1 Notes
I ended up collecting a little over 7 gallons in the boil kettle so my pre-boil gravity was a little more diluted than planned. Other than that, no issues. 

Beginning mash pH 5.28
Ending mash pH 5.46
1st running gravity 18.3 (1.073)
Pre-sour gravity 6.5 (1.025)
Pre-sour pH 4.54
Pre-boil gravity (post-sour) 7.0 (1.027)
Pre-boil pH (post-sour) 3.20
Post-boil gravity 11 (1.043)
Post-boil pH 3.20

Update 10/5/2021
I pulled a small sample today to check on the souring process and the pH reading was 3.37. I didn't have time tonight, but I'll probably finish up boiling tomorrow night.

Update 10/7/2021
I didn't have time to do the boil yesterday either, so I'm doing it today. Notice in the table above I took another gravity reading and it's actually higher than the Day 1 reading. This is most likely due to temp differences and/or the wort not being uniformly mixed on the Day 1 measurement. pH has dropped to a surprising 3.20; that's great but I wasn't expecting it to get quite that low. The soured wort has been transferred to the BK so I'm starting Brew Day 2.

Brew Day 2 Notes
No issues. I boiled an extra 20 minutes to get the gravity to 11 (1.043) so the total volume is about 4.4 gallons which should be great once the fruit is added.

Update 10/8/2021
Yeast was pitched about 7:30pm yesterday. This morning I'm seeing a glug out the blow-off assembly about once every 10 seconds. Oh, I really doubt I'll have any blow-off due to the lower volume, they just work really well so that's what I usually use until I'm ready to come crash a beer.

Update 10/11/2021
Gravity was down to 1.010 today so I started prepping the fruit. The guava puree is aseptic and the fruit has been pasteurized, so I didn't have any worries there. On the other hand, the passionfruit didn't have anything on the packaging indicating it had been pasteurized so I added 1/4t potassium metabisulfite dissolved in 1/4c of RO water to sanitize. This will be left overnight to offgas the sulfur. Tomorrow I'll rack onto the fruit in the keg. I also treated the fruit with 1ml of pectinase hopefully avoid any chill haze in the finished beer.

Update 10/13/2021
I racked the beer onto the fruit in the keg last night. It basically filled the keg to the brim, so I had to draw off about a 10oz to make sure secondary krausen doesn't push up through the gas post where the spunding valve is attached. The sample tasted amazing. The spunding valve is currently set to about 2.5 PSI and the beer will sit on the fruit for at least a couple weeks to ensure all fruit sugars have fermented out. Also, no baby poop character from the guava!


Flanders Red 2021

>> Sunday, September 19, 2021

Today I'm brewing up 10 gallons of base beer that will go into my 30 gallon Red Solera (Aging Barrel #04). I previously filled it with recipes based on the Rare Barrel's Red base, but this round it's closer to my original Flanders Red base. This means I'm also getting ready to do the first pull off the Solera, so this is replace the amount pulled off (plus a little extra for an occasional top off. Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it today:

6.5# Root Shoot Pilsner Malt
4.0# Best Malz Chit Malt
10.5# Avangard Vienna
2.00# Weyermann Munich II
1.0# Best Malz Spelt
1.0# Monastique Aromatic
1.0# Weyermann Caramunich III
1.0# Castle Special B
Yeast Nutrient
56g Aged hops (60 mins)
Inland Island Brett Barrel III

Mash at 158F, 90 minute boil, ferment at room temp.  

Water Profile
I don't go too crazy on my sour beer water profiles. For today, I used about a 50/50 blend of RO water and carbon-filtered tap water.  

Brewing Notes
No issues. Since this was a larger batch, I used my 20 gallon Blichmann Mash Tun. Starting mash temp was a little low at 152F, but I was able to raise it to the desired 158F fairly quickly. I ended up with a little under 10 gallons total.

Beginning mash pH 5.29
Ending mash pH 5.26
1st running gravity 25 (1.102)
Pre-boil gravity 16.2 (1.064)
Post-boil gravity 19 (1.076)

Update 9/25/2021
I'd grown up a super healthy pitch of the Brett Barrel III yeast and had a blow-off the morning after pitching. Fast forward to today and I'm swapping out the blow-off for an airlock. I haven't taken a gravity reading yet, but there's still an occasional glug out the airlock.


NZ Pils 2021 with NZH-107

>> Saturday, September 11, 2021

Today I'm brewing a variant of my New Zealand Pilsner. The primary difference this round is I'm trying out some new hops, NZH-107. As stated on the BSG website:

NZH-107 is a proprietary experimental hop blend developed jointly between New Zealand Hops, Ltd. and Brewers Supply Group and showcases intense tropical fruit and citrus character.
Intense tropical fruit (guava/passion fruit) and citrus (grapefruit/lime) aroma characteristics.
Brewing Application:
NZH-107 is an excellent hop solution for many applications from first kettle to dry hop additions. Given the big character of NZH-107, early trials are focused on intensely hop-forward styles like IPAs, pale ales, and dry-hopped pale lagers.
I figured my hop-forward NZ Pils would be a good candidate to showcase this hop blend. I'm also dialing the amount of hops back a bit; just an experiment.

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

6.75# Root Shoot Pilsner Malt
0.75# Avangard Pale Malt
0.3125# Weyermann Cara Red
0.25# Weyermann Pale Wheat Malt
1.0g BrewTan B
3ml Hopshot (60 min)
4.66g BCAA
35g NZH-107 (1 min)
2g Loral Cryohops (1 min)
63g NZH-107 (Whirlpool @170F)
4g Loral Cryohops (Whirlpool @170F)
(2) Saflager S-189
Yeast Nutrient
56g NZH-107 (Dry-hop
7g Loral Cryohops (Dry-hop)

Mash at 150F, 90 minute boil, start fermentation at 47F then ramp up to 52F over a few days.

Water Profile - To 10 gallons of distilled water, add:
4.0g Gypsum
2.8g Epsom Salt
4.8g Calcium Chloride

Brewing Notes
Usually I set up my brew system the night before. I didn't do that this time, so I'm a little later starting my brew day than normal. 

No real issues during this brew session. I didn’t have quite as much boil-off so the gravity is a little lower than normal. I chilled down to 72F and decided to use the ferm chamber to finish the chilling. I’ll pitch once it’s chilled to 47F.

Beginning mash pH 5.20
Ending mash pH 5.33
1st running gravity 13.2 (1.052)
Pre-boil gravity 8.6 (1.033)
Post-boil gravity 11.1 (1.043)

Update 9/12/2021
I left this batch to cool overnight. Wort was aerated and yeast pitched this morning.

Update 9/13/2021
Slight gravity change and an occasional glug this morning.

Update 9/14/2021
Gravity is down to 1.036 this morning, so fermentation is moving right along.

Update 9/16/2021
Gravity is down to about 1.020 this morning. I'll probably start ramping up the temp tonight for a diacetyl rest.

Update 9/18/2021
Gravity is reading 1.006 this morning. Dry hops added.

Update 9/25/2021
I swapped out the blow-off for my CO2 reservoir and started cold crashing this morning.

Update 10/5/2021
I kegged this beer tonight.

Update 10/13/2021
I haven't put this beer on tap yet, but I forced carbed it in one of the fermentation chambers. I pulled a sample using a picnic tap and there's some really nice hop flavor and aroma. I'm kind of thinking I'll be fine dialing the hop rates back so that I'm not wasting hops on this style.


First Attempt at Hop Water

>> Sunday, August 01, 2021

Experimentation time! One of my taps on my keezer is reserved for carbonated water. It's really nice for cocktails or just when you want a refreshing fizzy drink without any calories. I think it was a little over a year ago that I discovered Lagunitas Hop Water which is essentially carbonated water with hops. I usually buy it by the case and I've turned a bunch of my friends onto it too. Like carbonated water, it's also great for cocktails (I recommend making Ranch Water with Desert Door Texas Sotol) or just when you want something hoppy but can't have or don't want a beer.

This is my first attempt at making hop water, so this recipe will likely change as a refine it. Anyway, here's attempt #1:

5 gallons Walmart brand Spring Water
Phosphoric acid to adjust water to 4.5pH
1t Nutritional Yeast
6g Waimea (whirlpool)
6g BRU-1 (whirlpool)
6g Rakua (whirlpool)
6g Waimea (added to keg)
6g BRU-1 (added to keg)
10g Motueka (added to keg)

Water was heated to 170F while whirlpooling to sanitize everything.

Add nutritional yeast and whirlpool hops.

Chill then transfer to keg with dry hops. In this case, I used a stainless mesh tube for dry hopping in the keg.

Force carb for a few days and (hopefully) enjoy.

Brewing Notes
You couldn't ask for an easier brew session. Your basically just heating the water then chilling it back down and transferring to keg. Stay tuned for tasting notes.

Update 8/2/2021
It's still not carb'd yet, but I pulled a sample today. Appearance-wise, it has a slight greenish tint similar to Lagunitas. Aroma is definitely more intense than Lagunitas. Flavor...well it's kind of like chewing on a hop pellet; I may have overdone it on the dry hops. I've seen other folks comment that the first few pints were too intense on hop character, including bitterness, and that it got better the further into the keg they went. So, I'm not giving up on this batch quite yet, but I definitely may need to dial things back a bit.

Update 8/3/2021
Ok, the flavor is much improved today. A lot of the raw pellet character is fading. I left my sample glass on my desk for about 45 minutes and noticed a bunch of hop debris had settled out, so I think that most of the harsh bitterness and tannic character is coming from hop debris in suspension. This seems to be consistent with the experiences reported by others (e.g. Brulosophy). Yesterday I was thinking this might be a dumper, but today I'm very optimistic. Carbonation is still a little low, but I filled this keg to the brim so I was expecting it might take a little longer to carb due to reduced headspace and the fact that it took a while to chill down to serving temp.


Becoming a BJCP Judge

>> Wednesday, June 30, 2021

I took the BJCP Tasting Exam at the end of 2019, just a couple months before COVID shut down everything including homebrew competitions. I've been judging comps since 2013 and homebrewing since 2000 (or thereabouts...I always forget exactly when). My homebrew club is pretty competition-focused and within the club we have numerous BJCP judges. For anyone that sticks with the hobby there tends to be a natural progression towards becoming a certified judge. I kept planning on taking the exam but other things would always come up.  In the Fall of 2019, I finally decided I'd put it off long enough. I’m hoping this post might help motivate those that have been sitting on the fence about getting certified.

First off, if you're not familiar with the BJCP, it's the Beer Judge Certification Program. The purpose of the BJCP is:

  • Encourage knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the world's diverse beer, mead, and cider styles;
  • Promote, recognize, and advance beer, mead, and cider tasting, evaluation, and communication skills; and
  • Develop standardized tools, methods, and processes for the structured evaluation, ranking and feedback of beer, mead, and cider.
  • Style guidelines are one of the important contributions of the BJCP from a competition perspective because they serve to define characteristics for recognized beer styles. The BJCP also focuses on developing a common beer vocabulary which is important for being able to describe virtually everything about a particular beer, including its appearance, aroma, flavor, and mouthfeel. This is important because it doesn’t matter how great your palate is if you can’t describe what you’re tasting.

    So, let’s say you’re to the point that you’re hooked on the hobby and you want to dive a little deeper and learn about the various beer styles around the world. Or let’s say you’re a seasoned homebrewer that’s stewarded or even judged in a competition and wants to dive deeper into the brewing hobby. If either of these statements describe you, then you’re probably a good candidate for taking the exam. 

    Step 1 - Entrance Exam

    The overall process for becoming a certified judge starts with the entrance exam which is a timed online exam. The BJCP’s site has plenty of details about the exam, so I won’t get too detailed here. The only thing I’ll say is it’s open book, but I wouldn’t recommend taking it without studying. It consists of 180 questions in 60 minutes. That’s 20 seconds per question. There are some questions that everyone gets, then other questions that are pulled from a pool of available questions. Long story short, you won’t get the same test as your buddy. Some people I know have passed without studying, but for the majority of us it would be a waste of money to take the exam without prepping. 

    Numerous questions will focus on style comparisons and typically involve popular/common classic styles. One funny note, I had multiple questions re 19B California Common (Steam Beer) and 10A Weissbier, two styles I rarely drink because they just aren’t favorites of mine. I'd spent a lot of time studying American Pale Ale, Porters, and Stouts...but definitely not California Common or Weissbier. One nice thing, you immediately find out at the end of the hour whether you passed.

    Step 2 - Tasting Exam

    After passing the entrance exam, the next step is to take the Tasting Exam. Although this may seem intimidating, it's really not too bad, especially if you’ve judged in a competition before. Personally, I was much more nervous about the Entrance Exam due to the time limitation than the Tasting Exam. Although the Tasting Exam also has a time component. The Tasting Exam is similar to judging a competition, so if you've done that before, you should be familiar with the process. A few tips:
    • Make sure you’re familiar with the BJCP scoresheets.
    • Practice judging at home with various styles and time yourself. You’re shooting for a 100% completed scoresheet in no more than 15 minutes. That seems like a lot of time but it goes by quick.
    • If you can pair with an experienced judge for some practice sessions, do it. They’ll help you validate and describe what your tasting.
    • Re the scoresheets, focus on completeness. Whitespace is bad. Use all available lines for each section.
    • Get familiar with common terminology/vocabulary to describe malt, hops, and yeast-derived characters. For example, bready, floral, fruity, phenolic, estery, etc.
    • Use quantifying descriptions with your malt, hop, and yeast descriptors. For example, low fruity hop aroma.
    • If you get hung up on something, skip it and come back to it after a minute or two.
    • Practice writing legibly. My penmanship used to be incredible. Years of working on computers and tablets have definitely had a negative impact. Write clearly so the exam graders can easily read your comments.
    The Tasting Exam is not open book, in fact no phones or reference materials of any kind are allowed. It’s just you, your pencil, and the beers you’re judging. You’re not allowed to discuss the beers with anyone until after the exam concludes. For the Tasting Exam itself, you’ll be judging side by side with about a dozen other examinees. There will also be a couple proctor judges as well, but they won’t be seated with the examinees. You get 15 minutes per beer, 6 beers overall, so a total of 90 minutes. 15 minutes flies by, so make sure you’re timing yourself during your practice judging sessions. At the end of the exam after everyone’s scoresheets had been collected by the administrator, we talked about each beer with the proctors. This will give you an idea of how well you did by how close your scores and comments matched up with the proctors.


    Ok, so now you’ve made it through the Entrance Exam and the Tasting Exam. Here’s the hardest part…waiting for your exam results. The tasting exams are individually graded by volunteers, experienced judges who are also graders that will evaluate your feedback compared to the proctor judges. Timelines vary a little, but I wouldn’t expect to get your results any sooner than 3 months from the exam date. That seems like a long time but try to remember it’s a volunteer organization and the graders are literally reading through all comments from all examinees. Mine ended up taking about five months if I remember correctly but that seems to be longer than most.

    That’s about it. If you don’t score well the first time, try not to beat yourself up over it. I mean, it’s just beer after all. You can always retake the exam, plus you do earn points for judging which will help you advance if you struggled with the exam. Cheers and happy brewing and judging.

    Resources - Below are some resources I found helpful in studying for both the Online Entrance Exam and the Tasting Exam:
    • Barleypopmaker's free BJCP prep course videos. I found these videos very helpful. They give you a great overview of the process and help you focus on key points. Take notes, especially for things he tells you will be on the test. Edit: This website seems to no longer be available, but the videos are still on YouTube.
    • Beer Style Compare-O-Matic from - I didn't see this one until after I'd already passed the Entrance Exam, but it would have been very helpful during the open book exam. This tool really makes it easy to compare styles on the fly. You will be comparing styles during the test...the only question is which styles will you be comparing? 
    • - The BJCP has published numerous materials that will help you pass both the Entrance and Tasting exams.


    Fruit Beers - Minimizing Loss

    >> Tuesday, June 01, 2021

    Today's write-up today is about minimizing loss on heavily fruited beers.

    Well done fruit beers are some of my favorites, especially when using a sour beer as the base beer. That said, they can be a complete pain to deal with. I like my fruit beers to be very fruit forward, modeling them after my favorite commercial sours from breweries such as Casey Brewing and Bruery Terreux. To do this, I often use two or more pounds of fruit per gallon of beer. These high fruiting rates can be a pain when it comes time to transfer for packaging. The problem is fruit begins to break down during the aging process; even if you start out with large chunks of fruit, you eventually get a mess of fruity sludge in your aging vessel. This usually isn't as big of a concern if you use pureed fruit, but I prefer the character derived from whole unpasteurized fruit, so that's what I usually use in my fruit beers.  

    In my experience, even if you cold crash, the fruit rarely settles out completely or very compactly. When it comes time to transfer, all the little fruit bits can clog your racking cane causing you to lose siphon. If you pressure transfer, (my preferred method) there's a really good chance your keg posts will get clogged with fruit bits.  I recently ran into this issue with my Sour Dubbel on plums. I'd estimate I lost 1.5 to 2-ish gallons out of about 13 gallons because the fruit sludge kept clogging the pickup tube on my Kegmenter. 

    After that frustrating experience, I remembered reading about Scott Jannish's method for dry hopping loose in a keg and thought it might work well for fruit beers.

    I tried this method out recently with the first 10-ish gallon pull (it was probably closer to 12 gallons) off a sour solera that went on 21 pounds of raspberries and it worked amazingly well. I used it in my 15 gallon Kegmenter, but as long as you have enough volume for the fruit, it should work for any size keg. My setup consist of:
    • Kegmentermenter fitted with a straight 22" pickup tube
    • Auto-siphon filter from Utah Biodiesel
    • #6 drilled stopper
    I set it up the same as Scott Jannish describes in his write-up here; stopper goes in the top of the filter then the diptube is inserted into the drilled stopper. This is really easy on a Kegmenter since the gas and liquid posts are installed in the removable tri-clamp lid. 

    When it's time to transfer off the fruit, I pressure transfer to a serving keg and the filter keeps the fruit pulp from clogging the pickup tube. It's important not to rush things so as to give the beer time to drain out of the fruit mass; I only used about 5 PSI to transfer. 

    As the Kegmenter empties, you'll get to a point where you'll start pushing CO2 through the line. When/if this happens, stop the transfer and let the Kegmenter sit for a while so that more of the beer can drain out of the fruit. Repeat this a few times and you'll find you'll have minimal losses. In my case, I stopped twice after pushing CO2, and let it sit for 30 minutes each time. The first time, I probably pulled out about 20 oz. The second time, it was probably closer to 12oz. After dumping the fruit, I'd be surprised if there was more than 8oz of "beer" left trapped in the fruit, so this process was much more efficient compared to the several gallons I lost with the plums.

    Bonus content: Another thing that I used for the first time is a spunding valve to help regulate the pressure in the keg as the mixed cultures were working their way through the fruit sugars. The Sour Dubbel on Plums had so much fruit and a very active secondary, so much so that bits of fruit were clogging the PRV when trying to vent pressure. The spunding valve works much better than the built-in PRV because it's able to bleed off excess pressure in a very controlled and constant manner. In the case of the raspberries, I didn't have any fruit push up into the spunding valve due to sudden venting. One thing to keep in mind, the spunding valve's PRV is not a super precise piece of equipment, I mean it's less than $15. You can expect to see occasional fluctuations of a couple PSI, so nothing too extreme. That said, it's still a good idea to check the pressure daily to make sure there aren't any pressure spikes.


    American Lager 2021

    >> Monday, May 31, 2021

    Today I'm brewing 10 gallons of my easy drinking American Lager base. Just a couple minor tweaks this go around; single infusion mash, 2-row instead of 6-row, and no late hop addition. No late hop addition because some buddies and I are going to do some experiments with hop extracts in this batch. Also, I'm splitting the batch and fermenting with two different lager yeasts.

    10 gallon recipe
    15.12# Root Shoot Pilsner
    0.5# Briess Crystal 10L
    1.0# Rice Syrup Solids (5 min)
    1.0# Corn Sugar (5 min)
    2.0g BrewTan B (dissolved in warm water, mash)
    3.0ml Hopshot (60 min)
    Wyeast Nutrient
    9.32g BCAA (Dissolved in warm water, 5 min)
    1 Whirlfloc
    Saflager 34/70
    Imperial L09 Que Bueno

    Single infusion mash at 151F. 90 minute boil.

    • 34/70 half - Start at 52F, ramp up to 54F over 2 days.
    • L09 half - Start at 46F, ramp up to 50F over 4 days.

    Water Profile to RO or Distilled Water add:
    0.38g/gal Gypsum
    0.32g/gal Epsom Salts
    0.49g/gal Calcium Chloride

    Brewing Notes
    No issues during this session. OG came out to 1.054, so a little higher than I was shooting for. I had a little higher boil-off rate than normal so this is likely the reason for the higher gravity. 

    Update 6/16/2021
    I started cold crashing tonight.


    Weldwerks Achromatic Stout

    >> Friday, May 14, 2021

    Friday evening brew session! Today I'm brewing an Imperial Stout based on Weldwerks' Achromatic recipe. I was planning on brewing this beer back on Big Brew Day, but we ended up working on finishing up some yard projects...but I digress.

    A few buddies and I recently traveled to Colorado to drop off entries for the AHA's National Homebrew Competition. Long story short, I talked them into a 500+ mile road trip to hand deliver competition entries, after which we'd visit a few tasting rooms; it really didn't take a lot of convincing. I was a little worried because we were set to arrive in Louisville, CO on the last day for drop-offs; if we ran into unexpected traffic, got a flat tire, whatever, we risked missing the 4:30pm deadline. 

    We ended up leaving my house a little before 6AM, made incredible time, and arrived at the drop-off location at 1pm. Turns out that a car full of dudes needs fewer bathroom stops compared to family road trips. 

    I'd also arranged to pick up a sack of Root Shoot Pilsner Malt, but that wasn't supposed to happen until closer to 4pm, so we had no other choice than to grab a bite to eat while visiting some tap rooms. On Friday we went to Odd13, Left Hand, Purpose, and Maxline. On Saturday, we hit Odell, Wiley Roots, and Weldwerks. It was a great trip especially after a year of COVID isolation.

    As you can probably guess, I got to try some of Weldwerks Achromatic Stouts (which were amazing...especially the Coconut Achromatic) and after realizing I hadn't brewed an Imperial Stout for some time, I decided to brew this one one today. This recipe is based on the one published in Beer & Brewing which comes directly from Weldwerks head brewer, Neil Fisher. I've adjusted the grain amounts to account for my system efficiency and what was available locally. 

    Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it today. I was planning on brewing this as a 5 gallon batch, then decided to scale it up to 10. The original recipe called for WLP001/A07, but I decided to do a split batch with half going on A07 and the other half on A01. Deviating from the published recipe, I'm cold steeping the dark malts; this can help ensure a smooth roast character in the finished beer rather than a harsher acrid roast character.

    10 gallon batch
    OG: 1.105
    FG: 1.030
    IBUs: 45
    ABV 10%

    27.25# Mecca Grade Lamonta
    1.75# Simpsons Chocolate Malt (*cold steeped)
    1.75# Weyermanns Chocolate Rye Malt (*cold steeped)
    1.75# Crisp Pale Chocolate Malt (*cold steeped)
    1.75# Simpsons DRC
    1.375# Simpsons Light Crystal
    1.375# Flaked Oats
    0.375# Simpsons Roasted Barley (*cold steeped)
    Imperial A07 Flagship (5 gallons)
    Imperial A01 House (5 gallons)
    84g Magnum (FWH)
    Yeast Nutrient

    Mash at 153F, collect ~12.33 gallons pre-boil volume (assuming boil-off rate of ~1.16 gallons/hour), 120 minute boil. Start fermentation at 60F, ramping up to 65F over 5 days.

    Note: This recipe is based on the Chocolate Achromatic Stout, but I'm considering doing a Coconut variant. For the Chocolate version (5 gallons), add 8oz of roasted cacao nibs and one vanilla bean after fermentation is complete. Leave cacao in for 1-3 days (taste daily) and remove when desired character is achieved. Leave the vanilla bean in for 2-3 weeks then transfer for packaging.

    Brewing Notes
    No issues. The gravity came in right between 1.101 and 1.102, so only a couple points short of target. Mash pH started out about 5.4 and I used about 4.5ml of phosphoric acid to drop it closer to 5.2. I ended up with about 4.75 gallons in each fermenter. I aerated for 2 minutes at 0.5l/m before pitching yeast. If I'm not seeing active signs of fermentation in the morning, I'll probably hit it with another dose of oxygen. The wort tasted amazing. 

    Update 5/15/2021 7:50AM
    Both fermenters are showing active signs of fermentation with a glug about once every 5-14 seconds, so I'm going to skip additional oxygen this morning.

    Update 5/16/2021 1:45PM
    Fermentation seems to be rolling right along. The A01 half was actually blowing yeast off this morning.

    Update 5/17/2021 10:00AM
    As of this morning, I've had to dump my blowoff reservoir three times on the A01 half due to a very active fermentation. I actually held off on ramping up the temperature because it was so active, but I'm ramping up to 63F today on both fermenters.

    Update 6/7/2021
    I kegged both versions a little over a week ago. There are definitely noticeable differences between the two. The A01 House is a little smoother with a rounder roast character. The A07 Flagship definitely accentuates the roast character more. I didn't expect the yeast to have any impact on the roast, so this was interesting. Both versions have some residual sweetness, but neither is cloying. I decided to dose the A01 half with chocolate and Tahitian vanilla beans (2) and I ended up doing it as a tincture since I've had really good results in my Golden Milk Stout with tinctures.

    Update 11/21/2021
    I entered both the Cacao/Vanilla and TX Bourbon versions in a local comp (Utah Brew Fest Homebrew Competition). The TX Bourbon version took a silver medal for American Imperial Stout and the Cacao/Vanilla version took Bronze for Spice, Herb, Vegetable Beer.


    "Red" Sour Pale Ale

    >> Monday, April 12, 2021

    I brewed this beer back on March 7th for a "Red Beer" Competion. Since my blog is public and I didn't want to risk prejudicing any judges, I decided to hold off on posting details for this recipe. The competition is being put on by Bewilder Brewing in association with Jamie Burnham. Jamie is a cancer survivor and a huge part of both the homebrew and commercial beer scenes here in Utah. 100% of the entry fees for this comp go to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Beers are judged on creativity and the use of red ingredients.
    This is a varient of my Sour Pale Ale that I brewed a few months back. The primary red color contribution is from hibiscus tea and rooibos tea. Both of these teas are said to have a delicate berry flavor and aroma. I changed the hop additions up a little bit this time to reduce bitterness and hopefully get a little more fruity berry character that should compliment the character of both teas. Here's the recipe as I brewed it:

    6.0# Root Shoot Pilsner
    2.0# Mecca grade La Monta
    0.5# Castle Chateau Munich Malt
    6oz Weyermann Carared
    1g BrewTan B (mash)
    0.75# Corn Sugar (Boil)
    7g Ekuanot Cryo (5 min)
    14g Ariana (5 min)
    1.0g Loral Cryo (5 min)
    6.0g Mosaic Cryo (5 min)
    4.66g BCAA (5 min)
    7g Ariana (0 min)
    7g Amarillo Cryo (0 min)
    1g Loral Cryo (0 min)
    8g Ariana (Whirlpool 170F)
    3.5g Mosaic Cryo (Whirlpool 170F)
    3.5g Amarillo Cryo (Whirlpool 170F)
    3.5g Ekuanot Cryo (Whirlpool 170F)
    1g Loral Cryo (Whirlpool 170F)
    28g Ariana (dry hop 8 days)
    28g Citra Cryo (dry hop 8 days)
    14g Mosaic Cryo (dry hop 8 days)
    13.49g Philly Sour (based on 1.057 OG)
    Wyeast Nutrient
    Tea added at kegging (3 cups hot RO water combined with 1.5 oz hibiscus and 1.5oz Rooibos, steeped overnight in a French Press)
    EDIT: I ended up adding an additional 1oz of each tea, for a total of 2.5oz of each (5oz grand total)

    Mash at 152F. Ferment at 70F

    Brewing Notes
    No issues other than I was a little hungover from too many tiki drinks the night before. I did chill the wort more than I'd planned, down to the low 60s (F). I pitched the yeast after it had warmed up to mid-60s and I continued to warm the wort. O.G. came in at 1.057.

    Update 3/10/2021
    I'm not going to lie, I was starting to get a little worried with this batch after I saw zero gravity change 48 hours after pitching. I suspect this is directly related to the cooler pitch temperature. I'm glad to say this morning the gravity has dropped three points to 1.054. I have the fermentation temp set to 72F rather than the planned 70F, and I'll probably hold it there due to the sluggish start.

    Update 3/11/2021
    Gravity is down to 1.047 this morning. I probably won't take a pH reading until I'm ready to keg this beer.

    Update 3/12/2021
    Gravity is reading 1.031 this morning. I'm not convinced this is 100% accurate because the more active the fermentation, the more the Tilt tends to wobble. Regardless, things are looking pretty good.

    Update 3/13/2021
    Gravity is reading 1.024 this morning.

    Update 3/14/2021
    Gravity is reading 1.011 today. Fermentation is still fairly active today with a fairly regular "glug" about every 20-ish seconds. I went ahead and added the dry hops today.

    Update 3/19/2021
    I pulled a sample this morning and I really like the reduced bitterness from changing up the hop schedule. I didn't take a pH reading, but the perceived sourness doesn't seem to be as intense as the first time using this yeast. That could be related to the cooler pitching temps as the bulk of the lactic acid production happens at the beginning of fermentation. It's definitely still sour though, and it will also pick up some acidity from the rooibos tea. Corrected gravity reading is 1.006 and it tastes and smells great, so I'm going to start cold crashing today.

    Update 3/23/2021
    I'm preparing the tea today with plans to keg tomorrow. I'm going with 3 cups of hot RO water over 1.5oz of each (rooibos and hibiscus) in a French press. This will be added to the keg with finings, then the beer transferred in top of it. If I need more color, I'll dose as needed with additional tea.

    Update 3/24/2021
    I decided the color was a little on the light side, so I mixed up another batch of tea using 1oz each of hibiscus and rooibos with 2 cups of hot RO water.

    Update 3/28/2021
    Competition entries were bottled today. I thought it turned out well, but I'd probably tweak a few things if I were to do it again. First, I'd pitch at 70F or even a little warmer to try to maximize lactic acid production. Second, I think I'd try pairing this with some fruit (blueberries perhaps?) to bring out more berry character
    . That said, I think it turned out well enough to enter it in NHC. I doubt it'll medal, but I think it's interesting and worth submitting. It carbed up and cleared nicely. It's not quite the blood red color I was hoping for, but it's definitely red. Hop flavor and aroma are really nice. Sourness is much more restrained compared to most of my sours, so I'm interested to see how it does in competition. The hops aren't quite as berry-like as I'd hoped, but I think the acidity, hops, plus mild berry character of the teas work well together. Overall it's a very approachable sour and an easy to drinking beer that fits in with the warmer Spring weather.

    Update 4/12/2021
    I'm publishing this post today. This beer didn't end up medaling in the Red Beer Competition. I'm not sure whether or not we'll get the regular AHA/BJCP scoresheets since it wasn't a typical homebrew comp...I hope so because I'd love to get some feedback and see if my thoughts align with the judges'.


    Golden Sour Solera 2021

    >> Monday, February 15, 2021

    Today I'm brewing 10 more gallons of base beer for one of my Soleras, barrel #03 to be exact. I pulled a sample off the barrel not to far back and I think we're about ready for our first pull so that also means I needed to brew this batch to refill the barrel. 

    This batch is very similar to the first 30 gallons, with the biggest difference being I'm doing a 100% Brett primary, and I'm also bumping up the grain bill by 10%. Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it today:

    11.55# Great Western Pure Idaho Pilsner Malt (*I was running low on PIPM, so I had to use a blend that also included Viking Pilsner and Root Shoot Pilsner)
    2.86# Spelt Malt
    56g Aged Hops (60 min)
    Yeast Nutrient
    Propagate 710 Brett Stave

    Mash at 160F. Collect  ~9.0 gallons, then top up to ~12 gallons. 90 minute boil, ferment at room temp.

    Water Profile
    50/50 blend of carbon filtered tap water and RO water.

    Brewing Notes
    No issues with the brew itself, but late last night when I was setting up for the brew day, one of my GFCI outlets broke. It was too late to pick up a new one last night, so I used the HEX to heat my strike water then started the mash.  While that was going, I ran to Lowe's and picked up a new outlet and installed it in time to heat my sparge water.

    pH was 5.4 about 20 minutes after adding phosphoric acid. I added a little more and it read 5.27 at the end of the mash.

    First runnings were 16.3 Brix (1.065), pre-boil was 9.9 (1.038), post-boil was 11.2 (1.044).

    Update 2/16/2020
    Fermentation is pretty active this morning. I forgot to mention, the yeast for this batch was dated April 2019 and it's one that I completely forgot I'd purchased. It's been sitting in my fridge since I bought it on a trip to Colorado, but it looked healthy; mostly a light creamy color rather than brownish. For the starter, I stepped it up in gravity and volume starting with about 1.020 wort, then 1.030, then 1.040. About 3 days before brew day I hit it again with some 1.020 wort just because we'd been out of town for two weeks and I wanted to make sure it was good to go.