Category Archives: Homebrew

I am a passionate homebrewer and not much of a drinker…go figure. But it’s not about drinking, for me. It’s about the art. The creativity I get to pour (pun intended) into every glass means I’ve created something. Crafted something from basic components. It’s almost a Willy Wonka type happiness, in a way. I get to share my imagination with the world, and that’s exciting!

Mmmmm! Humulus lupulus. Hops. I love them. They grow easily, they smell great, they are attractive without being showy, and they are great additions to beer! Not just beer, actually, but they can also be used for other things, but we won’t talk about that today. I just wanted to share this picture…Bag of Hops

This is a bag of Glacier hops from the 2013 harvest season.

Glacier is one of my favorite hops of all time, right next to Saaz, Mt. Hood, and Fuggle. I enjoy Glacier most in clean lagers, blond to amber ales and also nut-browns. But they are so versatile that I don’t think there’s a brew I wouldn’t use them in. Which is why I decided I needed to plant them in my yard. The original rhizome will be in my dirt for the past 4 years next month and I haven’t been happier about a single plant on the property. It has consistently given me about a pound and a half of hop cones (dried) and they have, respectably, kept well! This last year I had used a food dehydrator, otherwise I had been using my oven at a low temp, for only a few minutes, with the door propped open to allow for air flow, then allowed to cool before bagging and freezing. I would agree with the commercial information available regarding the stats and descriptions of the flavor and aroma. Most of all, though, this is my first hop plant and will always remain my first hop plant, so I am a little biased towards it. Even so, you can’t argue with a full bag of hops…

~B

40 original recipes, 47 batches total

Today I record my brewing experience with the 47th batch of beer. It is the 40th recipe and only my 2nd extract based recipe. It is a sorghum based, gluten free beer. I had hoped to make this to share with my friends and family who deal with Celiac disease so that they may have craft beer without worrying about symptoms. The brew day went as a typical brew day goes, but shorter due to the elimination of the mashing step. My friend Kody helped and got to learn more about the brewing process today. So with two guys brewing there should be no reason I can’t make a successful batch of beer today!

Recipe Creation

Aside from the obvious sorghum selection, I needed to decide on a style, water chemistry, yeast strain, and then hops. After about 45 minutes I had everything set. It would be an American Premium Lager (BJCP 1C) so I would be looking for the following numbers:

og: 1.046 – 1.056
fg: 1.008 – 1.012
ibu: 15 – 25
srm: 2 – 6
abv: 4.6 – 6.0

As far as water chemistry would go I would look for the following numbers:

calcium: 225
sulfate: 120
sodium: 60
chloride: 60
magnesium: 40

I got my water chemistry pretty close, just a little low on calcium and sodium, but I accepted and moved on. Then would be hops. Typically, for the style, there is a very low to medium-low aroma from the hops but floral or spicy. Hop flavor wouldn’t account for much, either: none to low. Bitterness gave me a little more room to play with: low to medium. So I read up a little more on hop profiles and alpha to beta acid ratios and decided on two hops. I would use Sterling for bitterness and also for a small amount of aroma, and also Saaz for a small amount of aroma. I know it would possibly end up with too much hop aroma, but it seems as though the rules on hop aroma are slightly bending to the favor of the hops being more acceptable, even in larger amounts. During the boil sanitized the fermenter and brought the yeast (smack pack from Wyeast) up to room temperature. Even though this was a lager, I had decided I wanted it to start fermenting warm and then I would cool it down so that I could build up a healthy yeast cake before fermenting at cooler temps which would slow the yeast down. This temperature schedule would also provide the healthy cells I needed to make sure there was no diacetyl before lagering. Everything went as planned, infact the numbers were really good:

og: 1.044
fg: ?
ibu: 17.9
srm: 4.7
abv: ?

I had assumed a yeast attenuation of about 80%, which is typical for my beers, so that would mean the finished gravity would sit at about 1.010, which would mean the assumed alcohol by volume would be 4.5%.
Perfect. My numbers were right on the mark, thanks to my spreadsheet full of calculations, formulas and data. My time building that beautiful piece of work had been paying off. Now it was up to the yeast to do it’s job, which I had full confidence it would do. had. That sentence doesn’t even deserve the proper capital “H” because I’m so annoyed with the yeast that never started!!!!

Well, let’s review: made the recipe, brewed the recipe, sanitized the fermenter, the yeast smack pack expanded, pitched the yeast at the correct temperature, but still no activity, 5 days after pitching.

*sigh….

Days like this just make me want to throw the towel in and forget the whole endeavor. Why keep trying when miscellaneous occurrences of evil brewing gnomes hijacking my yeast produces a flat, non-alcoholic, somewhat pungent mixture of water, hops, sorghum, and yeast? I could could choose Red Dog or Hamms if I had preferred swill. Why push myself to make more if it would fail, costing me my time and money, and the obvious discredit to my brewing experience.

Then I’m reminded of a quote from one of my favorite movies, “Why do we fall? So as to learn to get back up.” Getting back up sometimes feels good; a return to the situation that originally caused the grief which sought us to our end can provide the possibility to become the victor over our failures and shortcomings and become triumphant in both body and mind. So even though there sits on my counter, a carboy full of wort that will not ferment to beer and continues to remind me daily that somewhere along the process I failed, I am reminded to get back up, dust myself off, and keep on keeping on.

~B

 

Homebrewing eBook on the way!

Lately I’ve been writing an eBook on the subject of homebrewing. I decided a few years ago that I needed to write my own spreadsheet (as I do for a lot of things because I love Excel….) that would act as a recipe generator/formulator. Knowing full well that others have written a few beautiful programs like BeerSmith, ProMash and others like them, I decided that I needed to do my own calculations because I wanted my beer to be calculated at my own hand. I did so with success, but it took years to get it to the point of actually being very usable. Years. I will spend more time perfecting it, I’m sure, but what I like about it is the amount of data that is collected in the spreadsheet. Based off the information I have available through various books, internet pages that I’ve favorited, magazine articles, and of course colleagues who have provided their experience over the years, I was able to compile an immense amount of calculations and formulas regarding every aspect of making beer at home. And then a little extra for good measure. What a spreadsheet! What an accomplishment! My magnum opus. My creme de la creme. I had finally done it. Something to be proud of, something I made with my own experiences and something I could share with everyone. 

Then it hit me, “What if someone else would like and all this data for their own calculations?” So I set out to write the biggest collection of brewing data, formulas and set of calculations I could imagine. I didn’t want to weigh it down with too much personal opinion, except where necessary, of course. Also, I’d want all that data sorted out by process step, so a chapter for mashing, one for boiling, another for fermenting, etc. And of course it would need a title. Something slightly tongue in cheek…

This is my shameless proclamation of the forthcoming title “The Grimoire of Homebrewing”. 

I’ve been writing it in my spare time and hope to have it finished before May 4th, National Homebrew Day. So please favorite this blog to keep up to date on it’s release. I guarantee you will be pleased with the amount of data, formulae, and calculations available.

~B

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Brewing eBook, with pictures!

Lately I’ve been working on writing an eBook for the first time homebrewer, something I am hoping will provide clear, concise instructions with plenty of pictures. A picture says a thousand words and I intend to say a lot!…through pictures, of course. Like, for instance, the basics about brewing all-grain beer with the tools you may have sitting at home with you now and, also, common mistakes to avoid. It will be a simple minded compendium and will have the reader in mind, but, with pictures! Maybe I will explain how to write your very first, original, all grain recipe. Maybe I will explain the issues I’ve run into when making my own beer. In fact, I will explain the issues I’ve run into when making my own beer and how I’ve improvised in the situation. And yes, there will be plenty of full page, full color, detailed pictures.

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Like this one…oh boy, was that ever exciting!

In this situation I wasn’t sure if I should boil the entire thing or just pull the stock-pot-formed ice cube. Learn how it happened and what I did by reading the eBook and what consequences, good and bad, resulted from my actions.

Of course an eBook about brewing beer doesn’t have much interest to someone who is not interested in brewing their own beer. Fair enough. But what if I told you it’s not just about brewing beer?

It’s not?!?

No friend, it’s not! In fact it’s about all sorts of goodies associated with beer such as food pairings and even a recipe for a hair wash, among other things that I will hint towards closer to the release. In the mean time, here’s a picture of one of my last brews, poured and ready to be enjoyed!

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Mmmm! Tasty!

Again, an original, all grain recipe. My friends really love this stuff. This is a….well, that’ll be in the book. I can’t tell you too much yet.

I guess I should start writing it now.

~B