Archives for April 2014

Sweet Potato ESB (3-gallon/11-L All-Grain Recipe)

NCI5_POTATOLast week, I posted an article on brewing with tubers. I used my sweet potato ESB recipe as an example. Here is that recipe formulated to be brewed with a simple 3-gallon (11-L) all-grain brewing setup. With this 3.0-gallon (11-L) all-grain brewing setup, you can brew all-grain beers in your kitchen and have everything fit on your countertop. There are also some fringe benefits to brewing at this scale — you don’t need to make a yeast starter for this beer, the wet T-shirt method works well for cooling fermenters at this scale, and your heating and cooling times can be very quick. (See our post on small batch brewing for more.) This is a great way for apartment dwellers to brew all-grain batches. The only downside is that you yield 3.0 gallons (11 L) of beer rather than 5.0 gallons (19 L).

There is also a 5.0-gallon all-grain version of this recipe. For other 3.0-gallon all-grain recipes, see the links at the bottom of this post.


Sweet Potato ESB

by Chris Colby

All-grain with starchy adjunct, English units



This is an ESB (Extra Special Bitter) with an interesting orange color due to using sweet potatoes as an adjunct. The sweet potatoes do not add any flavor or aroma, just the color (and some fermentable sugars when they are mashed).

[Read more…]

Easy Peasy Pilsner

100% German Pilsner malt is all you need in the mash tun.

100% German Pilsner malt is all you need in the mash tun.

This is a detailed description of the recipe I posted in my story on Easy Lager Chilling in January. Simple to brew, but very tasty.

Lager brewing can be intimidating for the brewer who has only brewed ales – at least that’s the way it was with me. Ales are fairly forgiving; ale fermentation temperatures are easier to maintain than their colder lager cousins, and there is a fear that the lager yeast either won’t get started or won’t get finished when it’s pitched. [Read more…]

Beer News (April 21–28)

BWJlogoSo there’s a craft brew festival for nudists scheduled. Oh good, an opportunity to see a bunch of fat, bearded dudes naked. Can I wear a blindfold?

A company has announced that is is releasing “powdered alcohol,” and bunch of people flipped out. First of all, it’s not powdered alcohol. Alcohol is only a solid at very cold temperatures or crushing pressures. At room temperature, it’s a liquid. And if you “dehydrate it,” it turns into acetaldehyde, which is a gas at “room temperature.”  [Read more…]

Brewing with Special Ingredients (IV: Tubers)


A variety of potato cultivars. (USDA photo in the public domain.)

Potatoes are a common, inexpensive vegetable. And those starchy tubers can be put to use in brewing. Potatoes can be used in any recipe that calls for a relatively flavorless starchy adjunct, such as flaked barley, flaked maize, or flaked rice, or when sugar additions to the kettle are called for. They are easy to use in the brewhouse, and are a fun experience for home gardeners or adventurous brewers to try.

[Read more…]

Should I Be Worried?


“Hmmm, I went to the barleywine festival yesterday and today I’m naked and sitting on a rock. Should I be worried?

A lot of unexpected things can crop up on brew day. After the fact, a brewer may wonder what the consequences will be. In some ways, brewing can be very forgiving. On the other hand, there are lines that can’t be crossed without yielding substandard beer. Brewers just learning the ropes may not know if their small mistake will have little consequence, or if it will will ruin their batch. In addition, a brewer who is just learning may not know which sights and smells are normal and which are indicators of a problem. Here are some common occurrences that lead brewers to wonder if they need to worry.


I brewed with old malt/malt extract/hops/yeast. Should I be worried?

Yes. In order to brew quality beer, you need to use fresh ingredients. If your malt is old (over 8 months), it may taste stale. If it is very old (years), it may not have the diastatic power required to convert the starches and sugars. Likewise, malt extract will go stale and darken. This is especially true for liquid malt extract, which should be used within a few months of manufacture. Old hops will have lost some of their alpha acids and may turn cheesy if they are stored improperly. Expired yeast packages may have very low viability. (If the yeast is only slightly out of date, you can usually make a yeast starter and revive it. For a tube or smack pack of liquid yeast, take a small volume of wort initially — around 250 mL — to revive the yeast. Then pitch that to a larger volume of starter wort as soon as any fermentation activity is seen.)

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Enzymes for Brewers (II: Function)

This is the second article in a series called Enzymes for Brewers. The first article covered catalysts and protein structure. This article — on enzyme function — is mostly background material, needed to understand the more brewing-relevant information to come. 



Beta amylase from barley.

In this post, I’ll explain the basics of how proteins work. But first, since much of this may be new to some readers, let’s quickly review the information in the first installment of this series.

A catalyst is a molecule that speeds the rate of a chemical reaction, but is not used up in that reaction. Enzymes are catalysts that are biological molecules. Most enzymes are proteins, but a few RNA enzymes exist. Proteins are long strands of amino acids, joined end to end by peptide bonds. These molecules are “built” on a cellular organelle called a ribosome. [Read more…]

Rube’s Ramped Roggenbier (Surefire Extract Recipe)


A diagram of the temperature ramp the steeped grains (really a small mash) undergo. This should make for a more clove-y beer.

Here’s another surefire extract recipe — a roggenbier. Roggenbiers are like dunkelweizens, but made with rye instead of wheat. The distinctive “pumpernickel” flavor of rye blended with the banana and clove aroma of a hefeweizen make this a flavorful and interesting beer. The “spicy” notes of Tettnang hops round out the aroma.

This recipe adds one twist on the usual extract brewing method — a temperature ramp from 109 °f (43 °C) through 150 °F (66 °C) for the steeped grains. (Really, it’s a small mash, so follow the temperatures and liquid amounts as closely as possible.) The initial low temperature helps accentuate the clove character in the beer. For a explanation of this, see our series on brewing hefeweizens. (This step can be omitted, if you’d like to simplify the brewing; you’ll just end up with a more banana-focused roggenbier.)

The brew-in-a-bag-like (BIAB-like) grain steeping allows you to use a lot of rye malt, but not have to worry about lautering, as an all-grain brewer would. (See James’ 100% Rye  Pale Ale for more on the difficulties of brewing all-grain beer with high percentages of rye. While you’re at it, see Denny Conn’s take on brewing with rye and his Rye IPA recipe.)

You’ll either need to make a small (1-qt./1-L) yeast starter, or add some neutral dried ale yeast to boost your pitching rate, to best brew this beer. Hopefully these two little twists don’t make brewing this beer Rube Goldbergian, because this beer is flavorful and fun to brew.


Rube’s Ramped Roggenbier


Malt extract: English units



A copper/amber ale with the “snap” of rye and banana/clove aroma of a hefeweizen.

[Read more…]

All-Grain Brew Day Walkthrough (X: Pitching)

This is the tenth, and final, installment in the All-Grain Brew Day Walkthrough, which started with a post on strike water preparation.



A yeast starter can be used to raise the number of yeast cells to the proper amount for pitching.

Once the wort is chilled, aerated, and in your fermenter, your last task is to pitch the yeast. (This ignores the cleaning that you’ll need to do after you wrap up.) Homebrewers may use dried yeast, liquid yeast, or repitched yeast to pitch their worts. To determine how much yeast you will need, consult a pitching rate calculator several days before your brewday and determine how much yeast to purchase, how large of a yeast starter to make, or how much yeast slurry to harvest from another fermentation.

[Read more…]

Beer News (April 14–20)

BWJlogoOnce again, we’ll start with a listicle ‚ 23 things homebrewers are tired of hearing, from Buzzfeed. And here are the NHC first round winners. (I was lucky enough to judge some of these beers at the Austin regionals.) And speaking of beer contests, here’s a behind the scenes look at judging for the World Beer Cup.

[Read more…]

Your First All-Grain Beer

I was going to post the last installment of the all-grain brew day walkthrough today, but decided to call an audible. Instead, I’m going to post this article, “Your First All-Grain Beer,” as a prequel to that series. It can fall between the “Should You Go All-Grain?” article, presuming you’ve answered yes, and the “All-Grain Brew Day Walkthrough” series. I’ll wrap up the walkthrough series on Monday. (I will also return to the series on “Enzymes for Brewers” early next week.) 


IMG_2935You always remember your first. That’s a statement that applies to a lot of things, but it will certainly apply to your first all-grain brew day. Ask any all-grain brewer about his first time, and you will likely hear a funny story. Lots of things can go wrong on your first brew day. And the way brewers try to fix the problems often make things worse. However, ask the brewer how his beer turned out and you’ll likely hear that it was great. Brewing can be very forgiving. This article is going to be half advice and half pep talk — a letter to all new brewers taking the plunge into all-grain.

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