Archives for July 2015

Brew Safely, Everyone

Clostridium_botulinum_01Recently, a group of people went to a church potluck dinner in Ohio. Of the 77 people who dined, one died, 11 had to be put on a ventilator to breathe, and another 17 fell ill. What happened? Well, the normal food safety rules that apply to restaurants and other places that serve food to the public don’t apply to church functions. As such, one of the cooks used the boiling water method to can (preserve) some potatoes. (Potatoes, a low-acid food,  should be canned using a pressure cooker.) Those potatoes then got used to make potato salad for the gathering.  Unfortunately, the potatoes were tainted with spores of the soil bacterium Clostridium botulinum and the pot luck attendees were poisoned by the botulinum toxin.

Why am I bringing this up? Because — as I’ve written about earlier — some homebrewers do something similar when storing their wort. Homebrewers who use the boiling water bath method of canning yeast starter wort, or use the no-chill method of cooling and then store the wort for extended periods of time, are running a similar risk of botulism.

I’m not going to rehash everything from the first two articles I’ve posted on this topic. I’m just adding the information above as further evidence that botulism is real and it can be lethal.

[Read more…]

Blending Beer for Black IPA

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 3.50.19 PMLast week, I posted an article on making extra dark beers with the intention of blending them into lighter beers for added color and perhaps flavor. This way, you could enjoy both the pale beer and a darkened version of it. In this post, I’ll give a specific example of brewing a dark beer that, when blended into an IPA, makes a black IPA.

The recipes given here are for 5.0 gallons (19 L) of the dark blending beer, but you can scale them to any volume desired. Frequently, you will only need 1 or 2 gallons (4–8 L) of the dark beer per 5.0 gallon (19-L) batch of the lighter beer. To scale these 5.0-gallon (19-L) recipes, multiply all the ingredients by your intended volume of dark beer (in gallons) divided by five (gallons). [Or divide your intended volume of dark beer (in liters) by 19 (L).] [Read more…]

Extra Dark Blending Beers

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 6.59.33 PMOne of the great things about homebrewing is the ability to have a variety of beers on tap at once. If you enjoy having more types of beer at your disposal, one option is to make beers that are meant to be blended. In the best cases, you can have two beers that taste great on their own, and additionally make a tasty blend.

Another alternative is to brew a beer you like, then brew another beer that darkens it. There are a variety of beers that are basically darkened versions of an existing beer style. For example, schwarzbier is basically a darkened Pilsner, dunkelweizen is a darkened hefeweizen, and black IPA is a darkened IPA. If you can brew a very dark beer, you can use it to blend into lighter beers to make the darker variation. [Read more…]

Beer News (April 2–July 21)

BWJlogoOK, I haven’t posted an installment of Beer News in awhile, although I did comment on two big beer stories — a brewers yeast strain capable of producing morphine and IPA giving you man boobs  individually. So let’s start, as we frequently start, with a listicle — the best craft brewery in every state, according to Thrillist.

[Read more…]

Uses For Black Malt


Black malt works well in blends with other darkly-roasted grains.

Black malt is a misunderstood grain. Written off by many early homebrew authors as yielding burnt, sometimes ashy flavors, and an acrid aroma, it’s actually a fairly mildly-flavored malt, given its extreme color. Because a large amount of the aromatic compounds developed during kilning are vented from the kiln, black malt has a subdued aroma compared to other darkly-roasted grains — something a simple sniff test will show you. Because our sense of taste is highly influenced by our sense of smell, the relative lack of aroma to black malt means that it tastes milder than one might expect. Once you understand the actual properties of black malt, you will have an edge over homebrewers who refuse to use it, or don’t understand what it really adds to a beer.  [Read more…]

The Truth About Black Malt

darkMaltHomebrew malt myths die hard. This is especially true for myths that may have a grain of truth to them. (Get it, a grain of truth?) Likewise, myths that seem to be confirmed by casual observation can be hard to debunk. Case in point — black malt (sometimes called black patent malt). This very dark malt has been described as lending an aggressively burnt taste to beers that contain it. Sometimes the adjectives “sharp” and “acrid” are used, and less commonly you will even see it described as ashy. Sources that describe black malt in that manner frequently urge brewers to minimize its use, or to use debittered (or dehisked) black malt in its place. Debittered black malt is black malt that has had the husks removed. As the name implies, it adds less roast “bitterness” to beers brewed with it.

This description of black malt is a mishmash of truths and falsehoods, and perhaps for this reason many homebrewers still cling to this poor description. Let’s start with what’s wrong and then describe the malt as it really is.

[Read more…]

Sparging Options for Session Beers


If you undersparge, you leave usable sugars behind in the grain bed. If you oversparge, you extract an excessive amount of tannins. When brewing a session beer, collecting the proper volume of wort allows you to get a reasonable extract efficiency and brew a beer that isn’t astringent.

Session beers allow beer drinkers to enjoy “a few” without becoming overly intoxicated. They are low-gravity, low-alcohol beers for extended drinking sessions. Brewers can  — and, of course, have — differed over exactly how low in alcohol a beer needs to be in order to qualify as a session beer. For the sake of this article, let’s say session beers are those under 4.5% ABV. (And outside of this article, feel free to apply your own definition.)

Just because these are “little” beers, however, doesn’t mean that they don’t require our full attention. One of the biggest potential problems when brewing a session beer is oversparging. With a smaller malt bill, collecting your full pre-boil wort volume may mean you’ve sparged past the point that tannins become much more soluble. Oversparging in this manner results in beer with an astringent mouthfeel. This is frequently described as the puckering, bitter-like feeling one experiences when drinking tea. [Read more…]

None More Black Dry Stout (Partial Mash)

NoneMoreBlackLast month, I posted the all-grain recipe for my “other” dry stout. When I make dry stout, I usually brew my Murphy’s clone. However, occasionally I’ll brew this one, which is closer to Guinness (although not an attempt to be a clone). This is a partial mash formulation of that recipe. As partial mash recipes go, the grain to malt extract ratio is high because of its low original gravity and the fact that the pale grains are mashed and the dark grains are steeped separately. The mash actually uses a starchy adjunct — flaked barley — so you can’t do a true “extract and steeped grains” version of this. 

[Read more…]