Grapefruit Juice Pale Ale

Grapefruit juice adds some tasty citrus character

One thing that attracts me to “West Coast” pale ales and IPAs is the citrus character of their hops. I remember brewing my first pale ale with Amarillo back in the day, and I was amazed by the amount of grapefruit flavor and aroma coming out of my pint glass. In order to chase that fruit character, I decided to play with some juice.

As Chris noted in an earlier story on brewing fruit beers, you can use peel, flesh, juice or extract from fruit to achieve a fruity flavor. Back in 2014, I brewed a pineapple saison using a quart of frozen pineapple juice added at the end of the boil. This was inspired by an interview with homebrewers Brook Baber and David Bauter on Basic Brewing Radio about their method of brewing graf, a fictional beverage envisioned by Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” series. Brook and David froze fruit juice in plastic bags and added it to the end of the boil to help jump start the chilling process. The technique worked well for my saison, so I decided to adopt it for my grapefruit pale ale. [Read more…]

Sorghum Syrup Belgian-Style Ale

Sweet and slow, pouring sorghum syrup takes patience

Sweet sorghum syrup is tasty on pancakes, and it’s also a tasty addition to a Belgian-style ale. Its flavor is much like molasses. However, how it’s made is more like maple syrup.

Every fall, participants in the Cane Hill Harvest Festival in Cane Hill, Arkansas, take sorghum cane grown on the grounds of historic Cane Hill College and turn it into dark, sticky deliciousness. The locals just call it “sorghum,” but sorghum cane is different from sorghum grain, which is used to brew gluten-free beers. And although some people call the end product “sorghum molasses,” it’s not really molasses. Molasses is a by-product of turning sugar cane and sugar beets into granulated sugar. [Read more…]

Blackberry “Pilsner”

Blackberries give this “Pilsner” a rosy glow.

This past summer, I asked my wife, Susan, what I should brew next. She suggested a blackberry Pilsner. I had never heard of such a thing, but in the interest of keeping her happy and tolerant of my hobby/occupation, I decided to give it a go.

I put “Pilsner” in quotation marks in the title of this recipe for a couple of reasons. First of all, those who abide by the Reinheitsgebot – the beer purity law – would cringe at the thought of adding fruit to this classic German style. Blackberries definitely fall outside the malt, hops, water and yeast list. Second, Pilsners are traditionally lagered to brew a beer of clean profile with no fruity yeast characteristics. It didn’t make sense to me to go to the trouble of fermenting cold to avoid fruity flavors to then add some fruit afterwards. So, I fermented this beer with lager yeast at ale fermentation temperatures. [Read more…]

Tart Fruity 100% Rye Session Ale

100% Rye and Fruit make for a tasty tart beer.

Along with brewing moderate and higher gravity beers, I’m in search of interesting, drinkable, very low gravity beers to help with cutting calories (and preserving sobriety) while satisfying my beer thirst. Brewing with 100% rye has been one technique I’ve found to give me low alcohol and substantial body. A few months ago, I decided to combine this all-rye approach with wort souring and the addition of fruit.


Let’s begin at the beginning. To six gallons (23 L) of filtered water, I added 5.0 pounds (2.3 kg) crushed malted rye. Using Brew in a Bag, I rested this thin mash at 150˚F (65˚C) for an hour. After removing the grain, I brought the wort up to 180˚F (82˚C) for fifteen minutes to pasteurize. I didn’t want any of the microorganisms on the grain to have any effect on my souring process. [Read more…]

Session Rye ESB and Porter

My name is James, my favorite color is green, and my quest is to create tasty, satisfying, low gravity beers using rye as a base ingredient. The latest stops on my quest included the British styles of Extra Special Bitter (ESB) and Porter.

Brew in a Bag is a must for recipes heavy in rye.

Brew in a Bag is a must for recipes heavy in rye.

Let me start with this disclaimer: If you are offended by deviating from traditional style guidelines, read no further. However, if you enjoy hacking recipes and charting undiscovered territory, clop your coconut shells and come along. (No more Monty Python references.  I promise.)

As I have discussed in previous recipes, such as my “Rye Wit” and “100% Rye Pale Ale,” we can take advantage of the gloppiness of rye wort to create tasty low gravity beers that maintain substantial mouthfeel. Too much rye can give you a beer with the consistency of Vick’s Formula 44D, but if you pull back on the reins (notice my restraint in not adding a “Patsy” reference here) and add half as much, you get a more “normal” tasting beer with half the alcohol. [Read more…]

Rockville Gordon Biersch Collaborative Flemish Red

Mike Tonsmeire, The Mad Fermentationist, is collaborating with the Gordon Biersch Rockville, Maryland, location to produce a blended, barrel-aged Flemish Red, and we got the chance to get a preview sampling.

Mike Tonsmeire and Christian Layke with their barrels

Mike Tonsmeire and Christian Layke with their barrels

One of the best parts of being the producer of Basic Brewing Radio is attending the National Homebrew Conference (Homebrew Con) every year. We typically arrive a day early to take in some of the local beer culture wherever the conference takes us. This year, the get-together landed in Baltimore, and we were thrilled to have Mike show us around his neck of the woods, as he lives in the D.C. area.

Our first stop was a visit to the Gordon Biersch Rockville restaurant and its head brewer, Christian Layke. Christian is a former homebrewer and has been with Gordon Biersch for around eight years. He left a job with a non-profit environmental think tank to work with stainless steel tanks instead. [Read more…]

All Grain Pale Ale 30-Minute Boil Experiments

“You must boil all grain wort for at least an hour, and sometimes for ninety minutes in some cases.” – Guy you know who taught you all grain brewing

A 30-minute boil makes for a shorter brew day.

A 30-minute boil makes for a shorter brew day.

One of the things that homebrewers hear when they first get into brewing all grain is that the full length boil is very important. The boil achieves several objectives:

– Sanitization of the wort
– Coagulation of proteins
– Isomerization of hops
– Volatilization of DMS
– Evaporation of water

All of these are important goals. But is sixty minutes a magic time? Will boiling wort for, say, half that time result in a beer that is sub-standard?

On a recent episode of Basic Brewing Radio, Marshall Schott, who goes by the title “Brülosopher,” shared an experiment attempting to answer this very question. Steve Wilkes and I sampled the same recipe that had been boiled for thirty minutes and sixty minutes, and we had a very hard time telling the difference between the two. Read Marshall’s blog post. [Read more…]

Ten-Gallon BIAB Cream Ale Brew Day

Pouring in 20 pounds of grain to get the process started.

Pouring in 20 pounds of grain to get the process started.

I’ve long been a champion of small batches, but every now and then I find a recipe that I want to brew a lot of. My Cream Ale recipe is one of those. Thanks to demand from friends (and myself), a batch of this stuff tends to go pretty quickly.

To brew 10-gallon (38-L) batches, I don’t have an elaborate brewing “sculpture,” but I do have a stainless steel keg that has been converted into a kettle.* Using the Brew in a Bag (BIAB) technique, that “keggle” can double as a mash tun and kettle, all in one. [Read more…]

Sour Wort Berliner Weisse

Wort ready to sour

Souring wort alone can add control to your pre-boil souring process

Brewing sour beers can be a risky proposition that requires a lot of patience. The “wild” yeast and bacteria that create the sour, funky flavors we like can invade other non-funky beers if we’re not careful, and it can take time for complex flavors to evolve in the fermenter. However, there is one shortcut to a tart beer that we can take advantage of: pre-boil souring.

I’ve written previously about sour mashing, which is the technique of inoculating a mash with Lactobacillus – a bacteria responsible for souring beers – and allowing the mash to turn tart over a period of time. This method has its drawbacks. It is tricky to keep air away from the mash in the kettle. Oxygen can encourage growth of unwanted microorganisms that can contribute a “dumpster” character to the souring mash and perhaps to the final beer. [Read more…]

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…]