Archive for the ‘Homebrewing’ Category

Grow Your Own

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Apparently this is a series I’m starting. Remember though most of what I’m tossing out is theory that I’ve gained through research, and not first hand experience.

hopsHop Cultivars

As I stated in the first postof this series not all hops are created equal. Each hop cultivar has a unique set of properties depending on its chemical makeup. Cascade for example is a hop with citrus characters where as Northern Brewer has a pine like character. Also as I pointed out previously different cultivars produce different levels of bitterness due to alpha and beta acids. This can make choosing a cultivar a tough choice when weighing these options. To help I’ve taken the most common cultivars available to home growers and written a short description on each.

A quick google search on hop rhizomes produces some fairly consistent results in terms of availability, so while the list is far from complete It will give a basic rundown of varieties readily available.


Probably the most popular hop for homegrowers and extremely common in homebrew recipes. This variety is a dual purpose hop and usually produces a high yield of cones with alpha acids ranging from 5%-7%. Cascade is fairly disease resistant but is prone to pests such as mites and aphids. The aroma is floral and citrus and the flavor is generally described as citrus. It is used primarily in heavily hopped American ales. Cones stored below freezing will generally degrade by half over a six month time period.


Doesn’t grow well in moist climate. Chinook is a bittering hop with a alpha acid value between 11%-13%. Chinooks are fairly sturdy plants, but can be susceptible to spider mites. It is a sturdy cultivar and can produce abundant hops. It is generally described as having a spicy, piney aroma. Hops store well with only 15% degradation over 6 months at below freezing temps.


Fuggles grows well in damp climates, but excessively hot and dry ones can cause issues. An aroma hop with a moderate yield and alpha acids ranging 3%-5%. Often described as woody and fruity. This cultivar holds up well and isn’t especially susceptible to mildew or insects. A hop typically found in English ales.


Another English ale hop. Goldings usually are 4%-5% alpha acid and grow well in most climates. Strong resiny character and floral. Goldings are an aroma hop and produce a delicate cone that requires some care when handling. This cultivar is very sensitive to mildew and hop mosaic virus. Goldings can store well at below freezing temperatures.


A very sensitive German variety that is susceptible to a host of maladies. Hallertau is an aroma hop commonly found in traditional German lagers. It grows well in moister climates, and the difficulty it can have is offset by the availability of the hop commercially. Low to moderate yields. degrades about %50 in cold storage over 6 months

Mt Hood

Described as the American cousin of Hallertau. Mt Hood produces a higher yield and is less susceptible to health issues then Hallertau. This is offset by it being more pungent and a dual purpose hop with moderate alpha acids typically in the 5%-8% range. Experiences similar storeablility as the Hallertau. Use is similar to Hallertau.


A bittering hop with a 12%-14% alpha acid range. Nugget is fairly robust, but is sensitive to spider mites. The aroma is described as very strong herbal. Yield is high and the hops store extremely well.


Can be susceptible to virus under certain conditions, but grows well in cooler conditions. A noble hop with spicy aroma and an earthy flavor. Alpha acid range is 3%-4% and storability can be poor. Yield is also low to moderate. Great traditional hop for lagers.


Another great hop for lagers. Tettnang is similar in yield and storability to other German aroma hops. Tettnang is very susceptible to insects. It is herbal with some slight spicyness. Alpha acids are between 4%-5%.


Very similar to Fuggle, but more susceptible to Verticillium wilt and powdery mildew. Moderate to high yields, moderate storability, and 4%-6% alpha acid. Willamette works well in English and American ales. It is often described as having a floral fruity aroma.

Grow Your Own

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

from theweeklybrew

I’ve received some questions both in the comments, and during the course of homebrewing discussions lately about growing hops. All this seems to stem from the fact I picked, dried, and used homegrown hops this year. First off let me say I have no experience in growing hops. While I do garden, and use my own homegrown herbs, vegetables, and fruits for brewing, the herb Humulus lupulus (hops) has never been seen in my garden. So most of what I’m tossing out is theory that I’ve gained through research, and not first hand experience.

Picking A Variety

Picture borrowed from KalamaBrew

Picture borrowed from KalamaBrew

When growing hops the first thing to consider is variety. I can’t count the times I’ve come across a forum where some guy used a variety of hops once, liked it, planted 3 vines, and is now trying to sell 90% of his crop because he has more then he can use and doesn’t brew with that cultivar often. Considerations that need to be made are space available, what you brew most often, availability of certain hops, and how often you brew. Soil conditions and climate play a big part in hop growing as well, and while soil conditions can be improved climate can’t.

If someone is new to homebrewing the first thing they need to realize is that not all hops are created equal. Different hops have not only different flavors, but also different amounts of alpha acids. Alpha acids are generally used to determine the bittering properties of a hop. All hops however can be used for bittering, it’s just a simple matter of volume. The lower the alpha acids the more hops are needed. If you only plan on planting one or two varieties of hops then this needs to come under consideration. Hops for brewing tend to be grouped in three basic categories. While these categories are outdated and tell you minimal information they help get a basic idea of what you may be looking for.

Bittering Hops – High bittering properties

Aroma Hops – Low bittering properties but highly desirable aroma properties

Dual Purpose – Moderate bittering properties and some desirable aroma properties

For people growing few vines a dual purpose hop may be best since it will provide aroma, flavor, and bitterness. For people who want to maintain a good variety of hops used, but also plan on growing few vines then growing bittering hops and purchasing aroma might be a way to go. Also, if you happen to enjoy brewing with a particularly difficult to obtain variety then you may want to consider growing that particular variety. More important then the hops alpha acids though is the beer your brewing. If your brewing European style lagers, then Noble varieties would be better suited then a hop such as Cascade or Amarillo.

Another consideration is growability. Just like with all plants certain cultivars of hops behave differently. Northdown (a dual purpose hop from the 70’s)  for example is resistant to downy mildew, but a variety like Cluster is extremely susceptible to it. Hops that are less disease resistant require more care then more resistant varieties. Also hops are a climbing vine and need somewhere to go. While they can be trained on a lattice and therefore don’t have to have lot’s of room to grow upwards. However, vine harvesting is easier with the system used commercially, and that method requires lot of height for the wire and string method. If height is going to be an issue when growing, then you may want to look into dwarf varieties that only grow 10-12 ft.

Sometime this week I’ll try to get a post on hop profiles up.

Keeping Your Fermentor Cool

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

from theweeklybrew


Note to Oregon homebrewers. Tomorrow is your last day to turn in entries for the Oregon State Fair Homebrew Compitition.

Temperature is something many begining homebrewers don’t think to worry about, yet it is perhaps the most powerful beer destroying force out there. Many brewers who have been meticulous about things such as sanitation have found their beers end with a funky bubbel gum, butter, or other nasty off flavors. The sad thing about this is that fermentation temperatures aren’t that hard to control. With the hot August nights upon us though it seems appropriate to cover basic strategies. The first thing to keep in mind when considering your options however is that the fermentation temperature of your primary will be slightly higher then the ambient temperature of the room.

AC – One of the easiest and most expensive methods of controlling fermentation temperatures is to drop the AC to a temp of around 65° F. For most people this is a little silly. Most of us can not afford to keep our homes this cold throughout the summer. Some people however have a separate fermentation room with it’s own separate AC unit so that they don’t have to keep the whole house cold. If you have a spare room with a window and a window mounted AC unit then this option is much more affordable. Even with the separate room though this can be an expensive option.

Water Bucket– I can’t think of the actual name of this method. What it consists of is a large bucket that your primary will fit in, an old tshirt, and a floating thermometer. There’s not much to making this one. You just place your fermentor in the bucket and fill with enough water to reach halfway up the side of the fermentor. Then dress your fermentor with your tshirt or wrap in a towl. The towel or tshirt will wick water from the bucket to the top of the fermentor. Just place the thermometer in the water and use small amounts of ice to maintain a cool constant temperature in the bucket.

Refrigerator– If you happen to have a spare fridge then you can always stash your fermentor in there. Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature inside the fridge and adjust as needed.

Son of Fermentation – This is perhaps the most infamous of the DIY fermentation chambers, and the most cost effective of all the options. Here is a video from brewyourown4life where he guides you through his setup and mods he’s made.

Wax Dipping

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

from theweeklybrew

So yesterday I decided to seal up the beers I have cellaring with a nice coating of wax. Sealing bottles with wax is just an added precaution to help preserve the beer in case the seals on the caps fail (which they do eventually). Also it can be an easy way to keep track of what year the beers were cellared. This time I used brown. With next years batches I’ll use a different color. By doing this I’ll know what year I put the bottles up.

Judging by the curiosity of the family though I guess sealing stuff in wax just isn’t done much nowadays. Sad thing too considering how much fun it can be. I even made a little instructional video for anyone interested.

Wax Dipping Beer from 72mm Blogs on Vimeo.

Honey Wheat Pale Ale

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

beerWell I’ve never tried a wheat pale ale. Come to think of it I haven’t even heard of one with honey either. But it’s what you guys voted for, and it’s what I brewed. Right now it’s bubbling away in the primary. It turned out far darker then I intended though. So here is the recipe I used

7 lbs wheat dry extract
3 lbs honey
6 oz 40L crystal malt
2 oz 80L crystal malt
4 oz carapils malt
.5 oz chinook hops at 60 min
.5 oz amarillo hops at 20 min
.5 oz amarillo hops at 3 min
.5 oz cascade hops at 3 min

The alcohol for this is in the Imperial IPA range with the hops down in the American Pale Ale range. The reason I have it this way is that I’m worried the hops flavor may be to strong for the blank pallet of the wheat malt.

Modifying A Recipe

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

beer-kitToday Davo left a comment wondering how you would downsize a recipe for a Mr. Beer kit. This really isn’t a hugely difficult thing to do, and if your having trouble because you haven’t done fractions since highschool then that’s what you have children for right? For those of us who try to avoid math whenever possible though I figured I should explain how to modify a 5 gal partial mash recipe (that means an extract recipe with some grains). Also some tips for spicing up your kits.

Changing Batch Size

Let’s take the “Uncle Fuggles Slightly Rye” I’m brewing right now, as we speak. The 5 gal recipe is as follows

1 lb Rye malt
.5 lb Biscuit malt
.25 British Crystal malt
3 lb Dry Light Malt Extract
3 lb Dry Amber Malt Extract
1 oz Fuggles for 60 min
1.5 oz Fuggles for 20 min
1 oz  Fuggles for dry hopping
Predicted OG 1.058, IBUs 37

Now we use 2/5 the ingredients for a 2 gal Mr Beer fermentor

7 oz Rye malt
3 oz Biscuit malt
2 oz British Crystal Malt
1.25 lb Light Dry Malt Extract
1.25 lb Amber Dry Malt Extract
.4 oz Fuggles at 60 min
.6 oz Fuggles at 20 min
.4 oz Fuggles for dry hopping
Predicted OG 1.055, IBUs 35

As you can see the math is easy, just multiply everything by 0.4 to get your weight, then convert it into an easier measurement ( lbs become oz). Also some creative rounding is needed to make the numbers easier. The rounding causes the OG and IBUs to not match up, but they are still close.

Spicing It Up

One thing I’m a big advocate for both in brewing and in cooking is making the recipe your own. With kits this may seem difficult, but in reality it isn’t. In fact kits are a great starting point for even experienced partial mash brewers (they don’t quite fit for all grain though). My Rose Red is a good example of a kit mod recipe. I started with a Coopers Wheat Beer kit and modified it with specialty grains, wheat malt extract, and spices.

One thing to always consider with kit brewing is hops. Many kits go lighter on the hops in order to appeal to a broader range of brewers. Adding a small amount of hops in at your boil and extending the boil to a full hour can give your beer a nice bitterness, or flavor if added near the end. Also dry hopping (adding hops to sit in the beer after fermentation) is another great way to give your beer that great hop aroma and take things up a notch. Just remember, most kits are prehopped, so don’t be heavy handed when adding them. Another great way to spice up beers or to raise your OG to a more acceptable range is with grains and malt extract.

Hope these tips were helpful. It’s time for me to go stir in my flavoring hops though, so I need to stop writing.

Washing Yeast

Friday, April 17th, 2009

One thing I’ve wanted to do for awhile is wash and use my own yeast. Sure it would only save me a few bucks every time I brew, but there’s something about it that seems fun. The problem was I felt like an idiot asking people how to wash yeast after having brewed for going on two years. Well after some research I’ve figured out how, and thought I might post a tutorial for anyone interested in knowing. In fact when I finish this batch of beer it might be cool to do another video.

So why wash and reuse yeast? Well for a lot of people the reasons are different. If you’re going to make another batch of beer the same day then you won’t have any lag time while the yeast start multiplying as there will already be a high concentration of yeast. Reducing lag time supposedly reduces off flavors and makes a better beer. Another reason is if you’re into recycling and self sufficiency then you’re eliminating the need to buy new yeast every time. Also I’ve heard some brewers say that over time the yeast will adapt to your specific brewing environment and help produce more consistent results. So if those reasons sound good to you then next time you siphon off your beer then take a bit of time to reuse your yeast.

When you siphon off your beer you’re left with what’s called a yeast cake in the bottom of your fermentor. Some people will just pitch straight on this. One of the issues though is that’s not just yeast in that yeast cake. There’s also something called trub that’s basically dead yeast, waste, and all sorts of gross stuff that’s settled out of your last batch. Personally the thought of pitching a different style of beer on the trub from a previous batch just doesn’t seem kosher. Maybe it is, but it doesn’t seem that way to me.

So once you’ve siphoned off your beer then you swirl the yeast cake to bring everything into suspension. If you don’t have enough liquid for this add 1/2 a cup or so of pre boiled water to help. Next pour the slurry into a mason jar and rubber band some plastic wrap over the top and stick in the fridge. After awhile it will break down into two layers. The bottom layer is the trub, the top is yeast. There will probably be a thin line in the middle made up of both also. Just carefully pour the yeast off into another container. If you want then repeat the process, then put an airlock on the container and stick it in the fridge. You can store yeast for up to a year, just be sure to make a starter if you plan on storing it.


Bombay CPB Stout

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

peanut_singleNormally I don’t like sharing recipes until after I have tested them. But since I have a video up about it, I figured I’d get the recipe for the CPB up before tasting. Just realize I have no idea if this will turn out.



Bombay CPB Stout

.25 lbs. Black Roasted Barley
.5 lbs. Chocolate Malt
.25 lbs. Black Patent 
7 lbs. Light Malt Extract
.75 lbs. Lactose
.75 oz. Chinook Pellets
5 oz DeOiled Peanut Butter
3 oz Coco Powder
Nottingham Ale Yeast

Steep the grains as normal. Add malt to wort, and bring to a boil. Next add the hops at let boil for an hour. At flame out add the peanut butter, coco powder, and lactose. Cook till dissolved. Cool the wort, put in fermentor, oxegenate your wort, and pitch yeast.

Singles Awareness Day

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

The Ingrediants for Rose Red

Valentine’s is coming, and what better way to celebrate your relationship status then with a homebrew? Beer is perfect for toasting the day with a loved one, or sipping a few too many alone. Currently I’m enjoying the smell coming off my first wheat ale, and it’s a Valentine’s themed one to boot. This ale is brewed using coriander, rosebuds, rose hips, orange peel, and wildflower honey.  The house smells amazing, and as soon as this wort cools off I’m gonna have to try a sample. So here is what’s in it.

Rose Red Ale

  • 1 Coopers Wheat Beer kit(this is a pre hopped extract, and includes a packet of yeast.)
  • 2 oz Black Patent Malt
  • 4 oz 120° Crystal Malt
  • 4 oz Melanoidin Malt
  • 2 1lb bags of Weisen dry malt
  • 40  oz of wildflower honey
  • 1 oz rose hips
  • 2 oz rose buds
  • orange peel (I just tossed in the dried peel of one orange in case the rose hips weren’t enough)
  • 1.5 oz of whole Coriander seed, cracked

Bring 3 gallons of water up too 140° F and add the milled grains. If your homebrew store doesn’t mill them, or you don’t have a grain mill then put them in a bag and crack them with a rolling pin. Once the grains are added cover the pot, remove from heat, and let steep for 30 min. Once the 30 min are up remove your grain bag, or sparge your grain and rinse with hot water. Save the rinse water and add it to the pot. Bring the contents to a boil and add the extract from the beer kit, the weisen malt, and wildflower honey.  Boil the wort for 60 min, then add the coriander, rose hips, orange peel, and half the rose buds. Boil for 10 more minutes, add the rest of the buds and remove from the heat. After the wort has sat for another 5-10 minutes, sparge, and put in the fermentor. Top your fermentor off too 5 gal, and cool to 70° F, then pitch your yeast. I decided after the fact that I wanted to add a handful of Willamette hops and a handful of rose hips to the secondary for dry hopping. I know that it’s a sin to not measure things when you add them, but I was late for work, so the handful measurement it was.

OG = 1.092   That’s right, this baby is strong