Archives for July 2013

American Hoppy Ales: Two Quick Water Guides


Space-filling diagram of several water molecules. (Photo courtesy Wikipedia.)

Here are a few more details about general water treatment, to go along with the first article in the hoppy beer series. I also present two quick guides to preparing water for a pale, hoppy  ale — the first from tap water and the second starting with distilled water.

Alternate Routes to Acceptable Water

In yesterday’s post, I suggested using water that was low in carbonates (under 25 ppm) and relatively high in calcium (around 50 ppm) to brew these light-colored ales. And, I suggested diluting the water with distilled water to lower the carbonate level, if needed, then adding back calcium, if needed, via gypsum (calcium sulfate) and calcium chloride. This works well, but it isn’t the only possibility.

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American Hoppy Ales: Chloride and Sulfate and Ratios, Oh My!



The mineral content of your water effects it’s flavor. (Photo courtesy Wikipedia.)

This is the second part in a series on American-style hoppy ales. The first part dealt with general water issues.

American pale ales, IPAs and double IPAs (dIPAs) exhibit more hop bitterness, flavor and aroma than most other beer styles. And, the mineral content of your water can influence how that hop character is perceived.


Accentuating Hop Character

A second consideration, after water treatment to influence the mash pH, when brewing a hoppy beer is the effect of certain ions on beer flavor. In particular, chloride ions (Cl) are said to enhance the malty aspect of beer as well as giving it a fuller mouthfeel, especially when levels exceed 200 ppm. In contrast, sulfate ions are said to have a drying effect, which accentuates the hop character of the beer. Sulfate levels of 200–400 ppm have been cited as appropriate for hoppy beers.

Somewhat recently, however, many homebrewers have come to believe that the chloride to sulfate ratio is actually more important than the overall concentration of either of these ions. Others believe that this hasn’t been proven sufficiently. I’m in the “it looks promising, but more research is needed” camp, but I’ll go ahead and explain the idea here. Then, you can decide if it’s something you want to try. [Read more…]

American Hoppy Ales: Introduction



Pale in color, bitter in flavor — examples of hoppy, American-style ales.

Pale, hoppy ales — especially American pale ales (APAs), American IPAs and double IPAs (dIPAs) — are a favorite of American homebrewers. They are all brewed in a similar manner, with the common thread of showcasing American hops. However, there are some differences, too, beyond the fact that they get bigger and hoppier as you progress from APA to IPA to dIPA. Knowing the similarities and differences will give you the confidence to formulate and brew your own pale, hoppy beer recipe.


Other Pale, Hoppy Beers

Of course, the English have a series of pale, hoppy beers, too. These range from ordinary bitter, best bitter, extra special bitter and on up to English IPA. And American pale beers have spun off or hybridized with other styles to form amber ales, rye pale ales, Belgian IPAs, rye IPAs, black IPAs, white IPAs, etc. However, for this series of articles, I’ll focus on “typical” American pale ales, IPAs and double IPAs.

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Schell’s Firebrick Clone


Schell’s Firebrick is one of August Schell’s current year-round offerings. It is a well-balanced Vienna-style lager.

The August Schell Brewing Company, of New Ulm, Minnesota, has been around since 1860, surviving Prohibition and remaining in the hands of descendants of August Schell ever since. In the 1990s, they began producing craft beers alongside their Deer Brand American-style Pilsner. Firebrick, a Vienna-style lager, is one of their year-round offerings. It is named after the bricks surrounding the old boilers at the brewery. It won a bronze medal at the 2002 GABF.

We present both all-grain and extract versions of the homebrew clone recipe, in both English and metric units. For homebrewers, the biggest hurdle to producing a good clone will be the fermentation. Build a large yeast starter — at least a gallon (4 L), but 5.5 qts. (~5.5 L) would be better — to raise a big pitch of healthy yeast. Also, keep the fermentation temperature steady at the correct temperature and afterwards give the yeast time to absorb any residual diacetyl.

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Two Summertime Brews



The sun is 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) away. Keep it there by brewing tasty summer brews.

Here are two summer brews that are not only thirst-quenching, but can be brewed when your control over your fermentation temperatures might be less than optimal. One is a crisp American wheat beer with a touch of honey and a hint of orange zest. The second is well-balanced, copper-colored brew (similar to an alt), designed to be both thirst quenching and flavorful — an enjoyable “everyday” brew. Both recipes are presented in extract and all-grain, in both English and metric units. In addition, several options are given for brewing these beers above the optimal fermentation temperatures. So if the sun is beating down on you, fight back by brewing these beers to cool you down.

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Water Treatment for Extract Brewers


Most beers are over 94% water. What do you need to know about water chemistry to brew great extract beer? (Photo courtesy Wikipedia.)

Many all-grain brewers take pains to adjust the mineral content of their water when brewing different beers. Brewing a stout calls for water with a healthy dose of carbonates to counteract the acidity of the dark grains. For a light Pilsner, little or no carbonates, but plenty of calcium to help the mash pH drop into the right range.

In the past, advice on water treatment for extract brewers has been all over the board. Some sources claimed your best bet was to mimic the water profile of the city the beer style originated in — and to this day you can still buy “Burton salts” in many homebrew shops. Other sources claimed that the mineral content of the water was irrelevant. Still others claimed that most water types were OK, but distilled or reverse osmosis (RO) should be avoided because yeast require minerals to thrive.

In reality, the water treatment plan for an extract brewer is very simple in most cases. You can understand this best by understanding what malt extract is. Brewery grade malt extract is post-boil wort that has been condensed or dried. The extract manufacturer has mashed malted grains, ran off the wort and boiled it. Then, the wort is processed to remove water, leaving either liquid malt extract syrup or dried malt extract powder.

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High Temperature Yeast Strains


Belgian goblet

With the right yeast strain, many Belgian-style beers can be brewed at temperatures above normal ale fermentation temperatures.

Story by Forrest Whitesides.

If there’s one thing that brewers of all stripes are nearly militant about, it’s fermentation temperature. The classic rule of thumb for the vast majority of ales is 68 °F (20 °C), with many preferring the low-to-mid 60s °F (around 17 °C) to help create a clean yeast flavor profile. This is sage advice for the typical brew project. But sometimes you can disregard the old paradigm and embrace warmer fermentation temperatures. Don’t fear the 70s °F (around 24 °C). . . or maybe even the low 80s °F (around 28 °C). I’ve brewed some excellent beer that completed most of its fermentation in the 76–82 °F (24–28 °C) range, and a few have even gone as high as 85 °F (29 °C). The tricks to making good beer at high temperatures basically boil down to three things: yeast strain selection, extended primary fermentation time, and bulk cold aging.

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Split Batches: One Brewday, Two Beers


10 gallons of wort split into 3-gallon carboys. Each beer was pitched at a different rate. Just one of the endless possibilities for split batch brewing.

What’s better than enjoying a nice brewday and ending up with a carboy of fermenting beer? How about enjoying a nice brewday and ending up with two or more carboys of fermenting beer? There are many ways you can split a batch and increase the diversity of your brewing output.

Last week, I posted a story about the logistics of entering homebrew competitions. I interviewed Mark Schoppe for the story and splitting batches of beer was his main method for generating multiple entries to enter in contests. Whether or not you brew for contests, the lure of getting 2 for 1 is sometimes hard to ignore. Here are some ideas — from Mark and from other sources, including my own experience — for split-batched beer combinations.

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Smoking Malt at Home


Kevin smokes 100 lbs. of malt at a time in this rotating 55-gallon drum.

Smoked beers are another style of beer that homebrewers either love or hate. Brewers are either enraptured by the smoky character, reminiscent of barbecue, or say the beer tastes like an ashtray. If you like smoky beers, there are commercially-smoked malts available, including Weyermann’s Rauchmalz (smoked with beechwood), Briess’ Cherrywood Smoked Malt and peat-smoked malts from various maltsters. However, if you’d like smoked malt from the hardwood of your choice, smoking your own malt at home is very straightforward.

I’ve smoked malt at my house on my Weber grill before. However, before writing this article, I spoke to Kevin Glenn, who not only brews professionally at Bastrop Brewhouse, but smokes small lots of malt for various breweries. Kevin’s birchwood-smoked malt went into Jester King’s Gotlandsdricka.

Kevin’s malt smoking setup is based around a 55-gallon drum (that formerly held liquid malt extract). The drum sits on four wheels that rotate the drum to stir the malt. There is a hole cut in the side of the drum, that seals with a Corny keg lid, so malt can be poured (through a funnel) into the drum. To the side, a hot box holds the heat source and hardwood.

Kevin cold smokes his grain, so the malt is only exposed to a little heat. He smokes two sacks of malt (100 lbs./45 kg) at a time, but only burns 3 or 4 charcoal briquettes to do so. The briquettes sit in a cast iron pan and heat the hardwood chunks, which are soaked in water so they will smoke. Before pouring the malt into the drum, he pours 4 cups of water over it and mixes it to even out the moisture. This moisture helps the smoke stick to the grain. Kevin runs his malt smoker for 3 to 4 hours, by which time the moisture has evaporated.

You can smoke malt on a smaller scale with just a grill or BBQ smoker. Here’s how.

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Cherry Berry Wine


The fruits I used in my wine. (I also used frozen grape concentrate.) They look tasty, huh?

Walking through my supermarket produce aisle, I frequently think, “I could ferment that” about various fruits and vegetables. This weekend, my supermarket was having a sale on strawberries, cherries and blueberries and I changed my thinking from “I could ferment that” to “I will ferment that.”

Recently, I posted an article on why most wines are made from grapes. The gist of the article was that grapes have everything you need to make good wine. However, you can make wine from other fruits if you just make up for any deficiencies. So, upon seeing the fruit sale, I loaded up on strawberries, cherries and blueberries, but also got some raspberries and a can of frozen white grape concentrate to round things out. When I got home, I looked around at country wine recipes and decided on the proportions of the fruit and last night, I made the wine.

I’m posting the recipe now and will give updates as the wine ages. (I actually used tartaric acid instead of a wine acid blend, but I put the latter in the ingredient list because I think it’s a better choice.)

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