Archives for July 2014

Brewing Bitter Extract-Based Beers


Malt extract is convenient and great for many beers. To brew very hoppy beers, however, you may need toalter your usual brewing techniques a bit

IPAs are all the rage these days. And stovetop extract brewers, of course, want to brew them and other hoppy beers. Although you can brew a fine extract IPA, there are some challenges that you must first overcome.

The standard practice for brewing stovetop extract beers — in the US, at least — is too steep some specialty grains, then boil a thick wort of dissolved malt extract in a stovetop brew pot. After the wort is boiled, it is cooled and diluted to working strength in the fermenter. Often, for a 5.0-gallon (19-L) batch of homebrew, around 2–3 gallons (8–11 L) of wort is boiled. This practice works well for many types of beers, but can cause problems if you are trying to brew a very hoppy ale.

[Read more…]

Articles on Brewing Big Beers From Our First Year

birthday-party-suppliesBeer and Wine Journal turned one year old about a month ago. During that time, I’ve posted a couple compilations of articles that ran in our first year, including brewing science stories and articles about all-grain brewing (and, of course, the requisite top 10 list).  Here’s a list of our best articles on brewing strong beers.

[Read more…]

Mitch Steele on Stone’s Plans for Their Berlin Brewery


Mitch Steele, Brewmaster at Stone Brewing Co.

Stone Brewing Co. recently announced plans to establish a brewery in Berlin, making them the first American craft brewery to independently open up shop in Europe.  (Earlier this year, Brooklyn Brewery and Carlsberg partnered and opened a brewery in Stockholm, Sweden.) I asked Mitch Steele, Brewmaster at Stone, about their plans for their Berlin brewery. Although all the details have not been ironed out, he was able to share some information.

[Read more…]

Lose Weight Without Giving Up Beer (II: Conclusion)

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 9.43.30 AM

My weight over the past 5 months.

Last Friday, I outlined the basic idea behind my weight-loss plan. The overarching idea was to expend more Calories than you take in. This idea is, of course, not original to me. Everybody knows it. It’s easy to understand. Still, in the United States, we are surrounded by bad food options and ridiculously large portion sizes. So, it’s easy to put on weight without even trying.

The second part of my plan isn’t original either — eat enough so that you have sufficient energy for all your activities, which you’ll want to increase, but end up slightly below the amount of Calories it would take to maintain your weight. In other words, lose weight slowly by eating less and being more active, but not eating so much less that you lack energy or are constantly hungry. That’s not hard to understand academically, but it is sometimes hard to put into practice. Here’s how I have been doing it.

[Read more…]

Wort Boils Above 212 °F (100 °C) (I: Theory)


Wort being boiled in a modified (legally obtained) Sanke keg.

We all know that water boils at 212 °F (100 °C). Chemists would clarify that this refers to pure water at standard pressure (100 kPa). Many brewers assume, given that wort is mostly water, that it also boils at 212 °F (100 °C). This isn’t the case, however. Wort boils above 212 °F (100 °C) — the exact temperature depends on the gravity of the wort.

This article has quite a bit of chemistry in it. Don’t feel like you need to follow every little bit. I’ll explain the take home message in the concluding paragraphs.

[Read more…]

What Separates The Best Homebrews From from Rest? (II: Suggestions)

Yesterday, I posted an article about my recent judging experience. In it, I wondering what separated the very best homebrews from the rest, especially those that were fair to good, but not great. This is the conclusion to that article. 


IMG_2410In order to fix a problem, you have to properly identify it, and diagnose what is causing it. So, what separated the middling beers from the best in terms in the judging? Usually, it was a series of small things, rather than one factor that could be easily identified. In general, the middle of the pack beers tended to pour with a slight to moderate haze. The best ones were very clear. (Not filtered, crystal clear, but “I can read the words on a pencil through this” clear.) The best examples had a nice foam stand, with small bubbles, and foam that persisted and clung to the glass. Lesser examples had less foam and it disappeared more quickly. The best beers had fresh, enticing malt and hop aromas. For many beers in the middle, the overall intensity of aroma was low and what there was was not as appealing as that found in the best beers. They weren’t bad, they were just lackluster compared to the better examples. (Also, I will admit that judges can get their noses “blown out” when smelling beer after beer after beer. However, in the flights I judged, both of the judges went back to the beers we ranked the best to confirm our initial observations.) Likewise, the best examples had a great, fresh malt and hop flavor. In general, most beers had fairly decent body. Most showed levels of carbonation that were in the right ballpark and most showed no sign of (serious) fermentation faults or contamination to the degree of causing obvious off flavors.

As I mentioned before, I felt that any of the “decent” homebrews I judged could have been great if a few key pieces of the puzzle had fell into place. Although they sometimes had an array of minor problems, I’m betting that a few underlying causes lead to all (or at least most) of them. Here are my suggestions for moving from brewing good beers to brewing great beers.

[Read more…]

What Separates The Best Homebrew From The Rest? (I: Intro)


The flight of hoppy beers I judged at the 2014 Austin ZEALOTS Inquisition.

On Saturday, I judged at the 2014 Austin ZEALOTS Homebrew Inquisition. This is the annual homebrew contest of the Austin ZEALOTS, the homebrew club in Austin, Texas. Our contest is a little different from most. Instead of following the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) guidelines, we divide beers into 10 broad categories — malty beers, hoppy beers, dark beers, etc. We also have a special category that changes every year. As this was our 11th annual contest, we went with a Spinal Tap theme for the special category (Category 11) — Smell the Glove. For this category, 80 points were awarded for aroma and 20 for flavor. (Our other idea for the category was None More Black, and we would have done serial dilutions to see which beer was actually the darkest. I think we made the right choice going with Smell the Glove.)

One thing I have been noticing in my recent years of beer judging is that, for the most part, terrible beers don’t get entered into homebrew contests anymore. In the “good old days,” there used to be a healthy amount of contaminated or otherwise flawed beers at most contests — a gusher or two, some (unintentionally) sour entries, beers with phenolic off flavors and aromas, diacetyl bombs, overly estery ales or beers with “hot” fusel oils, etc. Ten or 15 years ago, most flights at most homebrew contests contained at least one problematic beer. These days, it seems as if the bottom has come up. I didn’t taste one undrinakable beer this year, and none of the other judges reported encountering one either. (I did encounter a couple with oxidized hops, and I think that there was a slight uptick in the amount of astringency this year, but that could have been a fluke. On the other hand, as I’ll explain, there might be a reason.)

[Read more…]

Lose Weight Without Giving Up Beer (I: Intro)

Beer and Wine Journal focuses mainly on brewing beer, and secondarily with making mead, wine, and other fermented beverages. Occasionally, however, we will also cover some related topics that may interest some homebrewers. For example, we have run several cooking with beer articles. In this article, I tackle a health-related issue that I think many of us can relate to — trying to lose weight without giving up beer.


Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 9.43.30 AM

“Help me, I’m melting!” My weight since mid February 2014.

Beer is great. The only thing that’s not so great about it is that it contains quite a few Calories. [Note: The type of calories used as a measure of food energy are 1,000 times larger than (lowercase “c”) calories — the unit of energy required to raise 1 g of water by one degree Celsius — so I’ll be capitalizing “Calories” in this article to indicate that.] Recently, for health reasons, I decided that I needed to lose weight, and so far I have been successful at it. I have lost over 25 pounds in 22 weeks. During this time, I have still enjoyed beer. Here’s how I did it.

[Read more…]

Beer News (June 16–July 15)

BWJlogoOK, news has been slow recently and I haven’t compiled a Beer News post in awhile. So, let’s start off with a listicle of summer seasonal beers, from Thrillist. And here’s Uproxx’s opinion on the five best beer festivals, or perhaps the only five fests the author has attended. And, while you’re drinking summer beer, you can pour it in your own UV protecting beer glass.

If you think the IPA craze has run its course, think again. Now, there’s an IPA smoked with sheep dung. Who knows, it might taste good paired with some insects.


Sour Beer News

Fans of sour beer all know that Cantillon is the bomb. And now, appropriately, it is going to be aged in a bomb shelter. And, New Glarus has some new sours aged in its own special cave.

[Read more…]

BJCP Comparison Spreadsheet

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 4.05.11 PM

Mark Schoppe’s spreadsheet. You can download a copy by clicking the last link in the article.

The proposed new BJCP Guidelines have been released for comment and they contain many changes from the 2008 guidelines. The BJCP site has a spreadsheet mapping the new category numbers to the old, but Mark Schoppe, of the Austin ZEALOTS, has taken that a step further. He has made a spreadsheet that details all the additions and deletions of styles, plus changes in numeric parameters. (You may remember Mark as the 2012 NInkasi winner. I also interviewed him for the “Competitive Brewing Logistics” article.)

[Read more…]