Thursday, January 18, 2018


I've been doing some research in order to do some new things in my brewing, and wanted to document a good bit of the notes I'd been keeping, sharing them in hopes of getting input, insight, feedback, etc.

I brewed a brown ale a bit ago that turned out rather well, and I've been considering making another move in my brewing adventures.  I'm going to extend the recipe a bit with some changes to the grains, but I also wanted to see about adding something of an "aged in oak barrels" flavor to the beer.  I started looking around online for a bit and decided to talk to the folks at the local home brew supply store, and that really ended up being the way to go!  I got some great input into how to go about the whole process, as well as a recommendation for using French oak chips, based on the flavor they'd impart on the beer.

In addition, during my research, I'd run across a great site that discussed using oak chips, which turned out to be very helpful.

The idea I had for the brown ale was to recreate my first brown ale recipe (again, with a few mods to the ingredients), and make use of oak chips soaked in American Honey.

I'm also working up a recipe similar to the Hex Dark Sour Ale, using French oak chips soaked in Maker's Mark, rather than the red wine recommended for the Hex Sour.  That would be one way to go; another would be to replicate the Hex Sour recipe, soaking the oak chips in a nice cab.

As a bit of a side note, a bit more than 2 years ago, I brewed an IPA that I ended up naming "LCpl's Tears".  It's a name I like for a beer (given my military background; just thinking about the name makes me laugh), and I'm thinking that a dark sour ale, aged on French oak chips (the use of French oak chips paying homage to Belleau Wood) soaked in bourbon, and fermented with a Belgian-style yeast.

I've brewed a couple of beers where I've added fruit, or more accurately, the juice of some fruit.  The first was the Everlong (yes, a Foo Fighter's reference) IPS, a collaboration brew I made with Mr. Rufus.  The raspberry juice was pasteurized (heat to 160 deg F and hold it there for about 10 NOT boil), and that turned out really well.  Then there was the sour saison I made where I had a combination of pineapple and watermelon juice, and I sanitized it by freezing it, and then warming it back to room temp before adding it to the beer.  In each case, I've learned just a little bit more, and the next step for me is to add fruit juice or zest during bottling, in order to preserve/impart some flavors that may not hold out as well through the fermentation process.

I recently ran across this blog post at GreatFermentations that describes the process that a brewer uses to create a dreamsicle cream ale.  The article goes into some great detail regarding the ratio of fruit used, when it was added during the brewing process.  There is also mention of the use of the zest, and the specific use of zest that was frozen prior to use in order to "burst the cell walls".  There are also some really good notes in the article that describe how to prepare vanilla beans (not extract) for use in making beer.

Something I've been looking at recently is changing when I make certain additions to the beer, and seeing what effect that has on the results.  For example, in my last ginger saison, I made a "tea" by boiling the fresh ginger, and I added the priming sugar to that as part of the bottling process, rather than adding the ginger to the last 10 min of the boil.  I'm taking a similar approach with the juniper berries and black tea in my next sah'tea.  The plan is to boil the crushed berries and tea bags for a few minutes, and then add the priming sugar to that as part of the bottling process.

My thinking/hope is that more of the flavors I'm looking for will be preserved, as they're not subject to the fermentation process.  We did a side-by-side taste test with the ginger saisons, and my wife's comments centered around the fact that the older beer had a good deal more maturity in the carbonation; in particular, the head was much more pillowy.  There was not a great deal of difference in the flavor, particularly what stood out as the ginger.  I'll see how things fare with the sah'tea, even though I don't have anything available to do a comparison.

Speaking of additions, Medusa IPA is one of my favorites, and for my most recent brew of the recipe, I'm doing a two-stage dry hop.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Brewer's Gold IPA

It's been a while since I've used Brewer's Gold hops, and the first time I tried them, the IPA turned out REALLY well.  The hop is said to impart berry and dark currant flavors and I really got a lot of berry from that first batch.  This time around, I'm going to take the opportunity to see if I can get a good combination of malts to get more of a red color in the malt, something I'm testing out for future brews.

This is another brew day where we had a good bit of snow, enough that I was able to use snow right off of my deck for the ice bath for cooling the wort.

Brew Day: 17 Jan 2018

Partial Mash:
1 lb 2-row
2 oz flaked wheat
2 oz Caramunich
14 g chocolate malt

Boil (20 min):
1 lb Pilsen DME
4 oz table sugar

14 oz Brewer's Gold (FWH)
1 oz Brewer's Gold (@ flame out, 10 min whirlpool)

The hops are BrewCraft US Brewer's Gold, Alpha: 10.5%, Beta: 5.1%

Yeast: US-05

Followed all of my usual procedures.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Medusa IPA

Medusa hops are one of my favorite hops for straight New England style IPAs, and I've still got some hops available, enough in fact to do a 2-stage dry hop IPA.  I had a couple of ounces of different malts available, and thought that this would be a good opportunity to use 'em up.

This is a couple of the things I really love about home brewing...not only can I try new things and discovery things I like that aren't commercially available, but I can also make and enjoy them whenever I like!

Brew Day: 6 Jan 2018

Partial Mash:
8.5 oz 2-row malt
7.5 oz Munich malt
2.5 oz Victory
2 oz flaked wheat

*Heat 3 qts water to 160 deg F, put in thermos container and add above grains in a bag.  Let sit for 75 min.  Heat 2.5 qt water in a stove-top kettle to about 170 deg F, and at the end of the 75 min, remove the bag of grain from the thermos container, draining it, and move it to the kettle.  Let it sit for about 10 min, remove it, add the wort from the thermos, and begin heating the wort to boiling.

Boil (20 min):
1 lb Pilsen DME
4 oz table sugar

13  g Medusa hops (AA 3.0%, FWH)
1 oz Medusa Hops (AA 3.0%, 10 min @ flameout)

Yeast: Safale US-05

Given the recent temperatures around our parts, I opted to use snow off our deck instead of running out for a 10 lb bag of ice in order to cool the wort.  Worked great.

Addendum, 18 Jan: Dry hop #1, racked the beer on to 14 g of Medusa hops

Monday, January 1, 2018


It's been a while since I made a sah'tea, and I was feeling a bit like I wanted to make another one, and this is a good beer to make for the first beer of 2018.  I also wanted to take something of a different approach to the juniper and tea additions, boiling them separately to produce a tea, and then adding that tea to the beer just prior to bottling.  This is something I tried with the most recent ginger saison I made.  My hope is that by not adding the juniper and tea during the boil, that a good bit of the flavors won't be reduced by the yeast during fermentation.

Brew Day: 1 Jan 2018

Partial Mash:
8 oz Munich
6 oz rye
2 oz Carapils
4 oz Victory
2 oz CaraMunich
*I'm sure folks are going to have questions about the specific choices I made regarding the malts, but as with several other of the beers I've made, it was more about what I had on-hand.  The same is true with the hops additions (below).

Boil (20 min):
1 lb Pilsen DME
4 oz table sugar

4 g Styrian Golding hops (5.7% AA, @ 20 min)
4 g German Perle hops (8.2 % AA, @ 20 min)

Yeast: K97

Addendum, 2 Jan: After what happened with my last beer, and given the fact that I had to put some of my brewing stuff back on the shelves, I checked on the beer.  The yeast seems quite happy, and there were no spontaneous, explosive events this time.  I'll let the fermentation run for about 10 days or so, then rack this into secondary for a bit.

Addendum, 11 Jan: Racked the beer to secondary.

Addendum, 18 Jan: Bottling - Bring 1 cup of water to a boil, with 14 g of crushed juniper berries and two black tea bags.  Boil gently, let steep for a few min, then pass through a strainer to remove the chunks of crushed berries to get 1/2 c. of hot 'tea'. Dissolve 2 1/2 T (1 oz) of table sugar in the tea.  This is the priming solution.  Got six good regular bottles, one flip-top, and 1 1/2 soda bottles; I'll be trying the soda bottles (in particular the partial fill) in two weeks. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Red Sour Beer

My first shot at a red sour beer turned out pretty well, I really enjoy drinking it.  I wanted to see if I could perhaps get a little more "mouth-feel" out of the beer, and maybe a bit of sweetness.  In my military service, when we went to the range and were zero'ing our weapons, we were told to make "bold dope changes"; in that tradition, I've really ratcheted up the amount of Special B I'm using, using up what I have left.

Brew Day: 5 Dec 2017

Partial Mash:
4 oz Vienna
4 oz Victory
4 oz CaraMunich
8 oz Special B
2 oz CaraPils

Boil #1 (20 min):
1 lb Pilsen DME
4 oz table sugar

After cooling the wort to about 90 deg F, transfer to a sanitized fermenter, racking it on to 2 Good
Belly Straight Shots.  Place on a warming plate for at least 48 hrs.

Boil #2 (20 min): 8 Dec 2017

Hops: 7 g Centennial hops (@ 20 min)

Yeast: T-58

A couple of hours after pitching the yeast, I was down in the basement taking care of some things, and I detected a yeast odor coming from the bathroom where I keep the fermenters.  That was odd, because I usually catch a bit of the air freshener my wife has in the bathroom, so I checked it out.  It turned out that at some point the yeast reaction blew the blow-off tube out of the fermenter cap with enough force that there was beer all over the walls and curtain of the shower, including on the ceiling.  My first reaction was to place the blow-off tube back into the cap, and as I began cleaning up, I could hear bubbles coming from the blow-off bottle.  I'd lost what looks to about 20% of the beer, and I'll see this one through...I'd like to see how this one turns out.  The bubbles are pretty consistent, and will likely peter out over time, of course, but for now the reaction seems to be going well.

Addendum, 17 Dec: Racked the beer to secondary today; just from the aroma, it appears I was able to rescue the beer before any major damage was done.  I'm looking forward to bottling and trying this beer, and it's not going to be around for long.  As such, I'm going to bottle into repurposed soda bottles.

Addendum, 24 Dec: I'll probably end up referring to this one as "Attrition Brown Sour".  I bottled today, racking the beer on to 1 oz of table sugar dissolved in 1/2 c boiling water.  I got 2 big flip top bottles and 3 repurposed soda bottles, but one of the flip top bottles slipped out of my hands and shattered on the floor. I put the one remaining flip top bottle on a shelf below the downstairs sink, to let it age with a couple of other bottles I have down there, and put the soda bottles in the storage bin I use for letting bottles rest.  I'll give them about 3 weeks before I try them, but I'm going to let the flip top bottle age for a while beyond that.

Addendum, 7 Jan: Chilled one of the repurposed soda bottles this weekend, and tried the beer tonight.  Very good.  I'm considering going with something a bit "heavier", by letting the beer rest on oak chips soaked in red wine or bourbon, such as the Hex Dark Sour Ale.  This is definitely going to take some research, particularly around preparing and soaking the oak chips, how long to rest the beer on the oak, etc.  Like everything else on the Internet, there are a lot of opinions on the topic, some of them in direct contradiction to others.  I am leaning toward the bourbon, though, for some hints of vanilla...we'll see, though. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

More Sour...

The last sour beer I made is still really good, and I wanted to try something other than Medusa hops.  So, I settled on German Hull Melon hops, in hopes that the melon and strawberry notes will make it through or accent the tartness of the beer a bit.

Brew Day: 23 Oct 2017

Partial Mash:
1 lb Munich
4 oz Vienna
2 oz flaked wheat

Boil #1 (20 min):
1 lb Pilsen DME
4 oz table sugar

No hops or yeast at this time; once the wort is cooled to ~ 90 deg F, transfer to a sanitized fermenter and add two Good Belly Straight Shots.  Wrap in a towel and place on a warming plate.

Boil #2 (20 min): 26 Oct 2017
Returned the soured wort to the kettle, definite 'apple juice' aroma while I was pouring it.  Heated the wort to a boil for 20 min to kill the bugs, then cooled the wort and pitched the yeast.

14 g German Hull Melon hops (FWH)
1 oz German Hull Melon hops (10 min rest @ flameout)
14 g German Hull Melon hops (dry hop)

Yeast: Safale US-05

Addendum, 5 Nov: Racked to secondary.

Addendum, 13 Nov: Dry-hopped with 14 g of Melon hops.

Addendum, 17 Nov: Bottled with 1 oz table sugar dissolved in 1/2 c boiling water.  Got 6 good bottles, one 22 oz flip-top bottle, and one 16 oz re-purposed soda bottle out of it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Ginger Saison, re-deux

Yes, I know...I do make a good bit of "ginger saison" but this has to do with part of what I really like about homebrewing, and that's being able to try different things.  This time around, I wanted to try something a little different, and try adding a "tea" of ginger to the clean fermenter just prior to bottling.  In essence, the idea would be to boil some water with thinly sliced fresh ginger in it, add 1 oz of table sugar to the "tea" for priming, and then add this to the fermenter before the beer is racked onto it, to rest for about 15-20 min before bottling.

Brew Day: 24 Oct 2017

Partial Mash:
8 oz 2-row
4.5 oz rye
4 oz Carared
2 oz flaked wheat

Boil (20 min):
1 lb Pilsen DME
4 oz table sugar
7 g Centennial hops (@ 20 min)

Yeast: DanStar Belle Saison

Addendum, 5 Nov: Racked to secondary

Addendum, 15 Nov: Bottled tonight, with 1 oz of table sugar dissolved in boiling water.  I added several slices of fresh ginger to the water prior to boiling, making a tea from the fresh ginger, and used that for the bottling.  Got 10 bottles.  I need to keep one of my previous ginger saisons and do a side-by-side comparison.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Eureka IPA

I purchased some Eureka hops not long ago, because it sounded like a really interesting variety, and

Eureka is a high AA (~ 18%) hop, so it makes for a pretty good bittering hop.  However, I wanted to continue using the same process I'd used for IPAs before, which is to put in a good bit of hops at FWH, do a huge amount at the end of the boil, and use what was left as the dry hop.

Brew Day: 16 Oct 2017

Partial Mash:
1 lb Munich malt
2 oz flaked wheat

Boil (20 min):
1 lb Pilsen DME
4 oz table sugar

14 g Eureka hops (@20 min)
1 oz Eureka hops (10 min rest, at flameout)
14 g Eureka hops (dry hop)

Yeast: Safbrew US-05 + 1/2 vial ClarityFirm

Addendum, 17 Oct: About 9 hrs after pitching the yeast, I checked on the fermenter; there is a good bit of activity and the beer has a nice white foamy head on it.  There is significant bubbling action going on in the blow-off bottle, but there is not much in the way of krausen material in the blow-off tube.

Addendum, 26 Oct: Racked to secondary today, but did not dry hop.  I only want to dry hop it for 3 days prior to bottling and over the next week, I won't have that time so I thought what I'd do is go ahead and rack to secondary to get it off the old yeast and let it age a bit, and then in a bit dry hop for the 3 days, then bottle.

Addendum, 13 Nov: Dry hopped tonight with 14 g of Eureka hops.

Addendum, 17 Nov: Bottled with 1 oz table sugar dissolved in 1/2 c. boiling water.  Got 8 good bottles and a 16 oz re-purposed soda bottle out of it.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Mad Scientist Time

I had some thoughts on modifications to the brewing process, based on somethings I'd read and heard recently, and I thought I'd document them here for later review, and to just put them out there...

I was reading one of the local magazines that talks about brewing and breweries in VA, and read about a beer where the brewer "added blue agave nectar in secondary".  I thought this was a fascinating would be a great way to add a bit of flavor, and yes, it would also be something of  sugar source for the yeast.  Now, I have added fruit in secondary (with the EverLong IPS Collaboration brew) and honestly, that turned out really nice.  So, fruit or blue agave nectar, either way, right?

From that, another idea I had was that the next time I make my Ginger Saison, I'll add some fresh ginger to the water that I add the priming sugar to, before I boil it.  I'll boil the ginger right along with the water and make a "tea", of sorts.  I'll have to test this out but if I do this and add the priming sugar to the resulting brew, it'll be interesting to see how it affects the overall flavor of the beer.  I do like Left Hand Brewing's Good JuJu (I think every home brewer strives to have their malt "copulate" with the hops, to one degree or another...) and tweaking my own recipes is always fun.

Oh, and I recently had an opportunity to visit the Crooked Run Sterling location.  I was in Herndon for work, and I had done a search on my phone for local brew pubs, and most of locations near me (it was right after work and I didn't want to spend a lot of time in traffic) were closed that evening.  My wife and I had been going to the Leesburg location since we (quite literally) stumbled across it, and after I began my own homebrewing journey, Jake shared with me a method for creating my own sour beers, which I've already used...a lot!

That evening, I had Blackberry Vibes with a couple of Senor Ramon was a great way to end the day!  Not only is the color of Vibes interesting, but the taste is even more so...a sour beer with blackberries and vanilla makes for a fascinating tapestry of flavors.

I was looking around our pantry recently and ran across a couple of cans of crushed pineapple in 100% juice...hhmm...that got me to thinking...

Infusing Beer
What else can you do if you're a mad beer scientist?  What wild and crazy things can you come up with?  Let's say that you want to infuse beer with different flavors but you don't have a can build one, or you can use other alternative methods.

Something I read about when I first got started in home brewing (but haven't tried) is to get some fairly neutral beer, like maybe a 6 pack.  Set aside some hops, either different hops or different quantities, add them to the beer, and then seal the beers back up.  Let them sit for a bit, then chill them, and it's a great way to have a tasting party!

Another alternative, particularly if you want to infuse your beer with something other than hops (works for hops, too, though...) is to use a french press.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Ginger Saison

It's about time I did another ginger saison, because that's what my lovely bride enjoys.

Brew Day: 8 Sept 2017

Partial Mash:
8 oz Munich malt
4 oz rye
4 oz CaraRed
2 oz flaked wheat

Boil (20 min):
1 lb Pilsen DME
4 oz table sugar
7 g German Perle (@ 20 min)
1 oz fresh ginger, thinly sliced (@ 10 min)

Yeast: DanStar Belle Saison

Addendum, 22 Sept: Racked to secondary.

Addendum, 6 Oct: Bottled tonight with 3 T of table sugar dissolved in 1/2 cup of boiling water; got 9 good bottles out of it.  During the bottling, I caught little whiffs of the beer, and it smelled great...something I may try next time is to steep some fresh ginger in the boiling water so that I get a bit of the ginger added at the very end, rather than just using a straight simple sugar.