Archives for June 2014

Vienna Lager Recipe

IMG_2105Here is my recipe for Vienna lager. It employs a single decoction mash for wort production and uses kräusening to produce a crisp lager beer without that “homebrew lager” flavor. It takes a little extra effort to make, but results in an excellent “all-around” beer.


Wiener Blut

Vienna Lager

by Chris Colby

All-grain; English units



An all-around, well-balanced amber lager. Malty, from Vienna malt and a single decoction mash, but also hopped enough to provide balance. Moderate body and carbonation.

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Brewing Science Articles from Year One

birthday-party-suppliesYesterday, Beer and Wine Journal turned one year old. All this week, I’ll be publishing some lists that collect some of our content for those who have just discovered us. Yesterday, I started with the obvious top 10 list — our reader favorite articles. Today I’m going to collect our best brewing science articles.

I learned how to brew while in graduate school (Boston University, Dept. of Biology) and am interested in the science of beer production as well as the craft. So, from time to time, I’ll publish some fairly nerdy stuff. Here’s the best of that so far. (And keep an eye out for a series on what scientifically-inclined brewers should know about carbohydrates, including starch, simple sugars, and “dextrins.” I’ll have that out sometime this summer.)

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Can You Cut Corners? (I: Cleaning and Sanitation)

DSCN0716The reason I brew is to have fun and make the highest quality beer possible. I believe that, in order to brew the best beer possible, you need to pay attention to each and every step in the process. The highest quality beer comes from an extreme attention to detail. Still, I am also aware that brewing can be very forgiving. (And also, I’ll admit that there are times I just throw a batch together, because I’m running low on beer.)

Fairly often, in response to articles I write, a brewer will respond with a faster or simpler method of a technique I’m describing. (“Why go through the hassle of injecting oxygen in your wort when you can just use a whisk to aerate”) In this series of articles, I am going to describe what happens when you cut corners in various stages of brewing. My intent is to argue that doing things “the right way” is your best option. However, I’m aware that some brewers — for reasons to do with time, space, or money — may use this as a guide to where to cut corners. That’s fine with me. I’m not trying to force everyone to brew exactly as I do. (And just so you know, I think there are many valid paths within the boundaries of “the right way” to brew. I’m also aware that some brewers may have time, space, money, or other constraints that limit their options when it comes to brewing.) I’m just hoping to point out the likely outcomes that may accompany rushing steps, skipping steps, or generally cutting corners.

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We’re One Year Old Today!


Chris Colby, with Mike Simmons in the background.

On June 24, 2013, James Spencer and I launched Beer and Wine Journal, a website covering home beer brewing and . . . something else. I forget. It’ll come to me soon. That makes us one year old today. In the 365 days since then, we’ve managed to post 384 articles, an average of slightly more than 7 per week. We’ve taken a “just the facts” approach to explaining the nuts and bolts of homebrewing, with opinion pieces few and far between (and hopefully with enough humor to justify publishing them). We’ve garnered a lot of readers, and are having fun doing it.

In the fall, we are going to make a couple changes. For one thing, by then we should have a makeover — or at least a logo. We’re homebrewers making a website, not website folks or graphic designers doing a homebrew site, and we know the site looks a bit “plain Jane” right now. More importantly, we’re going to start adding video segments occasionally. But don’t worry, the full text of every article will be posted along with any of these segments. So, you won’t have to sit through a video to get the information if you’d rather just read (or skim) the article.


James Spencer (left) and Steve Wilkes (right).

As we begin to plan for “brewing season” in the fall, we’re curious to hear what you’d like to see covered. Write to me or James and let us know if there’s some topic that you’re curious about. Also, what do you want to see more of in general? (Recipes? Brewing techniques? Ingredient profiles? Equipment? Brewing science? Beer styles? Experiments? Adventurous brews? Reader questions? Uranus jokes?)

And finally, if you enjoy reading Beer and Wine Journal and would like to help us out, here are some things you can do. First and foremost, keep reading! The more traffic the site gets, the better. Secondly, if you think one of our articles might be of interest to any of your brewing friends, share it on social media and help us get the word out. [You can also “like” our page on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter (@BeerWineJournal). We average one post/tweet a day, so you don’t have to worry about us clogging up your feed.] Thirdly, if you’re shopping online, start at our site and (if possible) navigate to the website of your choice by clicking on one of the ads on our pages. And finally, you can support us directly, if you’d like. In the right column of our website, there are buttons that let you donate or subscribe (for as low as a buck a month – far less than the cost of a pint these days). Every little bit helps and will contribute to bringing you bigger, better website. (And a huge thanks to everyone who is already supporting us. James and I raise our glasses to you!)

Now, let our second year begin!


Related articles

Welcome to Beer and Wine Journal


Top 10 Articles From Our First Year

birthday-party-suppliesTo celebrate our first year of existence, I’m pulling together some lists of articles we’ve published and I’ll post them throughout the week. I’ll have lists of articles for extract brewers. all-grain brewers, hop lovers, and more. Today, I’ll start with the obvious list. Here’s our most-read articles from our first year of publication.

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Open Fermentation and Top Cropping at Arcadia Brewing

Arcadia Brewing Manager Vaughn Stewart next to an open fermenter

Arcadia Brewing Manager Vaughn Stewart next to an open fermenter

Steve Wilkes, Andy Sparks, and I headed north to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to attend the National Homebrewers Conference. On the Wednesday before the conference, we took a side trip to Kalamazoo for a bit of beer exploration.

The Kalamazoo location of Arcadia Brewing has only been open since early May. The parent brewery is in Battle Creek and has been in operation for 18 years. In addition to the tasty English-style-based beers, the dining area features a meat counter, where the similarly intoxicating aromas of smoked meat filled the room.

As we were sampling a flight (or two) of ales, Brewing Manager Vaughn Stewart joined us and then treated us to a tour of his facility. [Read more…]

Russian Imperial Stout (IX: Conditioning and Aging)

This is the ninth article in my series on Russian imperial stouts

RISphotoOnce primary fermentation has finished, it’s time to condition — and possibly age — the beer. For the purposes of this article, I’ll define conditioning as the process of aging the beer so it loses its green character and becomes drinkable. I’ll define aging as storing the beer beyond that point, in the hopes of developing characters that can only be acquired over time. Before I discuss conditioning and aging, however, I want to describe one important test that should be done whenever you make a big ale.

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Russian Imperial Stout (VIII: Fermentation: Aeration, Nutrients, and Temperature)


This is the eighth article in my series on Russian imperial stouts

If your wort has been chilled, and your yeast starter is ready, it’s time to get the fermentation started. The first thing you need to do is aerate the wort. Aeration helps build stronger yeast cell walls and allows the yeast to multiply faster. As with any big beer, the yeast have a tough job ahead of them. Be sure to give them all the help they need with regards to aeration. (See also my article, “Aeration Tips.”) 

Most of the time, you will want to give the wort one shot of oxygen prior to pitching, as with most beers. For the biggest examples of this style (in the 11–12% ABV range), however, you may want to give the wort a second shot of oxygen just prior to high kräusen.

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Cream Ale/American Pilsner Recipe


It can be a great post-gardening beer. That’s a watermelon vine, in case you’re wondering.

It’s summer. It can get hot as hell at times, especially after some yard work or exercising. Even the most dedicated homebrewer or craft beer aficionado can occasionally appreciate a “fizzy yellow lager” — or the ale equivalent — under these circumstances. They’re crisp, they’re light, they’re effervescent — and sometimes, they’re just the thing to slake your thirst. If you’d like to brew a cream ale or American Pilsner style beer, here’s a countertop partial mash recipe for 5.0 gallons (19 L) that will show you how. (And if you’re an unbearable craft beer purist who is absolutely compelled to turn up his nose at this style of beer, go check out my series on Russian imperial stouts.)

The biggest keys to success here are using the freshest possible ingredients, not scorching the extract, and running a good fermentation. If you use old liquid malt extract, the color of your beer will be too dark, and you’ll probably taste a little oxidation. You’ll add more unwanted color to the beer of you scorch the malt extract. (So, dissolve it in wort first.) Running a good fermentation will keep the beer crisp and free from excessive yeast-derived aromas (esp. esters, which you want to minimize in this type of beer). If you’re brewing the lager version, consider kräusening it.

And finally, if you want to brew this in the traditional manner, brew the beer initially as a fairly strong beer (around OG 1.064), then dilute it to working strength with deaerated water in the keg. (The recipe gives the straightforward method of brewing the beer — no kräusening or high-gravity brewing. But those techniques aren’t too hard to add, if you’d like.)

If you’ve never brewed a beer using a countertop partial mash before, review the technique before you start. You’ll need a 2-gallon beverage cooler with a spigot, and a large steeping bag in addition to your usual extract brewing equipment.


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Russian Imperial Stout (VII: Fermentation: Yeast Strain and Pitching Rates)

RISphotoIn most cases, the thing that separates a good Russian imperial stout from a bad one is a well-run fermentation. In order to conduct a good fermentation, you need to select the right yeast strain, pitch an adequate amount of it, and create a healthy environment for the cells.

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