Archives for March 2015

First Round NHC Judging (Austin, 2015)


Mark Schoppe judging spice, herb, and vegetable beers with me (not pictured) at the 2015 NHC first rounds in Austin, TX.,

This past weekend, I judged at the NHC first rounds in Austin, TX. For me, there was a certain amount of déjà vu. The Austin regionals were again organized by Neil Spake. It was held at a brewery again, although this time it was Independence Brewing. And, weirdly enough, I judged the same flights as last year.

Last year I showed up for the final day of judging (same as this year) and judged the mini-BOS of spice, herb, and vegetable (SHV) beers; and smoked and wood aged beers. This year, I judged those two categories, and additionally the mini-BOS for sours. (Note to self: Get off your butt next year and make it out for every day of judging.)  [Read more…]

Should You Dump It? (Part 2 of 2)

This is the second half of the article I posted on Friday



Don’t pour your beer here, unless you are sure it’s bad.

In the first half of this article, I said that home brewers should not preemptively dump a batch of beer because something looked or smelled amiss during fermentation. This is especially true if you have little experience with a particular yeast strain. There are numerous ways you could be fooled into thinking that something has gone wrong, when in fact everything is fine. But what if the beer tastes bad?

[Read more…]

Should You Dump It? (Part 1 of 2)

IMG_2667Sometimes something might not seem right. Maybe you pitched your yeast yesterday and now there’s a funny smell coming from your airlock. Maybe there’s something floating on top of your wort after the yeast have flocculated. At some point, most homebrewers have worried that something is amiss with one of their beers. The question then becomes — should I dump it?

In most cases, the best answer is no, wait and see. There are many reasons why something may seem unusual to you, but not be an actual problem. Let’s take a look at some common things that frequently lead brewers — and especially beginning brewers — to suspect something is wrong and see what their response should be.

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Link Fixed (Your Homebrew Doesn’t Suck Article)

The article I posted earlier today did not have a working link to the article I was criticizing. My apologies for the mistake. The original article has been fixed so that the link works. You can also read the article I was criticizing here.


Five Reasons Your Homebrew Doesn’t Suck


I brewed this!

Recently, Esquire published an online article titled, “Why Nobody Wants to Drink Your Home-Brewed Beer.” In it, the author — a chef named Chris Dudley — gave five reasons that (according to him) your beer sucks. What the article exuded in in-your-face attitude, it lacked in understanding of how beer is brewed or knowledge of the actual problems most commonly detected in homebrews.

Dudley’s article is so dumb, I’m not even going to bother to go through it point by point and demolish it. If you’re reading this website, you likely don’t need my help understanding what a steaming pile of dung his article is. But I would like to issue this rebuttal.

One of the overarching mistakes Dudley makes is to paint all homebrew with a single brush stroke. I’ll begin my article by making the same mistake — albeit by assuming all homebrew is wonderful. (I’ll fix that at the end.) My point will be that I can write a far superior (and technically sound) article praising homebrew than he can write damning it. With that in mind, here are my five reasons your homebrew doesn’t suck.

[Read more…]

Beer News (Feb 25–Mar 11)

BWJlogoOK, let’s start with a listicle (an article in the form of a list). gives what they feel are the top 5 beer releases of 2015. How they arrived at these 5 beers isn’t explained. 


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Partial Mash Option (and ESB Recipe)

British_Sherman_Firefly_NamurPartial mashing is a method of wort production in which the brewer produces some of his wort from a mash — as an all-grain brewer would do — but supplements it with malt extract. In practice, it is usually used in conjunction with a partial wort boil, so that it is similar to the common malt-extract-plus-steeping-grains method. For extract brewers who don’t have the space for a full all-grain set-up, or outdoor all-grain brewers who occasionally wish to come in from the heat or cold, it is method of brewing that is more flexible — and I would argue produces higher quality beer — than the normal malt-extract-plus-steeping-grains methods.  [Read more…]

Firefly ESB

British_Sherman_Firefly_NamurSometimes it’s good to revisit your former homebrewing interests. My interest in types of beer has bounced around a bit throughout the years. Like many homebrewers, I’ve gone through some phases — big beer phases, session beer phases, hoppy beer phases, sour beer phases, etc.

Around the time I started homebrewing — back in Boston in 1991 — I was interested in “regular” English ales, and especially pale ales. The full impact of the craft beer revolution hadn’t hit yet, and English ales such as Bass and Fuller’s ESB were still new, flavorful, and interesting. Plus, there was a brewpub there called Commonwealth Brewing that brewed excellent English-style ales. And additionally, the ingredients and information needed to brew decent renditions of English pale ales were available. So, it wasn’t really surprising that I brewed quite a few English pale ales, ESBs, and the like early on — to me they were “just plain beer” and I enjoyed them alongside the newer, hoppier American pale ales that were emerging. [Read more…]