Forging mighty beers one batch at a time.

Wedding Stout Brew

I finished the brew for the wedding stout last week but I haven’t had the time to write it up until now. At this point I’ve actually already bottled it, but I’ll post pictures from that later.

The entire brew process took me about 3.5 hours this time around, which is pretty good. I’m definitely getting more efficient at this, although my mash efficiency isn’t very good.

I decided to use the peated malt and the alder smoked Munich specialty grains in addition to the black roasted barley to make it a stout.

The final grain bill looks like this:

  • 7lb 2 row malt
  • 0.75lb black roasted barley
  • 0.5lb alder smoked munich
  • 0.5lb peated malt

Mash out

I weighed out the grains and dumped them into my mash tun.

Then I added 3 gallons of strike water at 170 degrees Fahrenheit.

The starting temperature was 146 degrees. The cooler held the temperature pretty well as the temp only dropped 6 degrees over 30 minutes until the second infusion.

I used another 3 gallons of 170 degree water for the second infusion. Final mash temperature after 60 minutes was 148 degrees.


I did a simple batch sparge over the course of maybe 30 minutes (short, I know, this is one of the reasons my efficiency is only in the 50% range). The gravity after mash out was 1.044.

I tasted a little bit of the wort after the mash and the black roasted barley wasn’t standing out as much as I hoped. However I held off on adding any more since I really didn’t want to go too overboard for this beer.


I started out with about 4 gallons of wort in the boil. I added 1/2 ounce of Cascade hops at the start of the boil and 1/2 ounce with 10 minutes to go. I did a 60 minute boil, which left me with about 2.5 gallons at the end with a starting gravity of somewhere around 1.055. I didn’t get a very good reading since the wort was still hot and I dumped it accidentally before I got a chance to take a room temperature reading.

The beer looks pretty dark, which is what I was going for. Not totally black, but then I didn’t put any black patent or anything in there for color. I’m just going for pure taste and I wanted that black barley to stand out (mission accomplished I think).

The wort tasted a little bit too hoppy after the boil. At first I thought I really messed up by using an additional 1/2 ounce at the end of the boil, but then I remembered how the hop character of my last stout really mellowed out during fermentation so I figured I was probably just about righ.


After cooling the wort down in a water bath, I pitched a single packet of Fermentis Safbrew S-33 yeast at 85 degrees Fahrenheit.


I’m definitely getting better at the brew process. I should probably get a little more scientific about planning the recipes and getting better mash efficiencies, but for now grain is relatively cheap compared to the time it takes to do this stuff, so I’m just as happy to use more grain and deal with the efficiency. In terms of the recipes, things have been coming out pretty well just on my creative dead reckoning, so I’ll proabably continue this way until I kind of hit a plateau and I need to break out the spreadsheets in order to take it to the next level.

A Tale of Three Malts

I’m creating a new stout recipe right now for my brother’s wedding. He liked my previous stouts so I’m trying to get another killer stout put together here.

I’ve decided to give things a little twist here by using a smoked malt, but I wasn’t sure which ones to use. I have 3 different grains from the homebrew place now ready to go:

  • Peated
  • Oak smoked white wheat
  • Alder smoked Munich

So I’m trying to figure out how much of each of these to use. The oak really smells and tastes like beef jerky, so I think I’m not going to use this one at all. It might be an interesting beer but I’m a little apprehensive at taking that risk for this beer.

Every recipe online that I’ve found uses tiny amounts of peated malt. For example, Scotch ales and some black ales. I’m getting the hint that a little goes a long way. Tasting this stuff again I think I can see where they are coming from. It is a lot stronger than the smoked Munich that I’ve got here.

Some rauchbiers use 100% smoked malts. I think that it is probably safe to use more of the smoked Munich than the peated malt, but still probably looking at 1/2 lb each at the most. Perhaps 1lb smoked Munich and 1/2lb peated.

Yeah I’m thinking 1/2lb of each of the black roasted barley, alder smoked Munich and peated.

That should be plenty of smokiness in a beer. 1lb total between the Peated and Munich with 1/2lb of the black barley for black bitterness.

California Ale - Tasting Notes

California Ale - tasting notes

I finally cracked open one of my latest creations for tasting - the California Ale.

This sucker has some carbonation. More than I had planned on. Pour has a vigorous head that dissipates very quickly. However the carbonation stays on the toungue throughout.

The nose is a bit of apples, and indeed there is a bit of cider flavor to it. Not quite what I was going for, but I think I just may have gone overboard with the yeast selection. Apparently this can happen when yeasts are pitched at a temperature that is too high, which is what I intentionally did for this beer. There does seem to be another zing present that is kind of what I was going for, so maybe I’ll call it a draw. It is certainly drinkable. The hop character is well balanced, although it is a little bit on the malty side.

For the next batch I think I’ll reduce the amount of Crystal and see if that helps. I don’t think there is much that I can do about the cider flavor.

California Pale Ale Bottling

I bottled the California Ale last weekend. I didn’t have many plastic bottles so the final result was a motley crew of assorted bottles including a growler from the local brew pub.

Final gravity ended up at 0.014 and the color was quite a bit darker than I anticipated. So perhaps I should be calling this a California Amber or Bock. I primed the bottles with 2.5 oz of corn sugar. I didn’t want too much carbonation in this beer, just enough to liven it up.

I tasted some of the beer before it went into the bottles, and I’m still just as excited about this one as I was when I tasted it directly after brewing. It is a bit sweet on the palette though, so I’m thinking about using 1/2 as much Crystal next time and more hops. I didn’t intend it to be so dark either, so the reduced Crystal should help out there also. Hopefully the final gravity will be a little lower next time too.

The verdict will come down later today when I taste the final product.

California Pale Ale bottling

Brew Day: California Pale Ale

Brew day: California Pale Ale

I finally brewed the California Commons style beer that I have been planning. I wanted a slightly hoppier “pale ale” style accompanied by the lager yeast character of a traditional steam beer.

The final recipe was:

6 lb 2-row malt

1 lb Crystal 75L

1/2 oz Cascade hops at start of boil

1/2 oz Cascade at end of boil

1 pkg Fermentis Saflager S-23 Dry Lager Yeast

Mash out:

2.5 gal strike @ 160 deg F

starting mash temp: 150 deg F

2.5 gal strike @ 155 deg F at 30 min

mash hold temp 140 deg F

total mash time 60 min.

Sparge time 20 min (a little too fast)

Boil time: 60 min

OG: 1.052


Overall a really simple recipe. Two kinds of grain, one kind of hops added at the start and finish of the boil.

This was my first brew at my new place, which has an electric stove. All of my brews in the past were done on a gas stove. I think that the electric burner has more power overall, as my initial boil happened a lot faster. I’m thinking that I might be able to get a bigger boil kettle and do slightly bigger batches of beer.

I ended up with a bit less beer than I had anticipated. The final volume was just over 1.5 gallons. I didn’t think I’d have to use much more water in the mash tun for 7 lb of grain, but I guess it really soaked the water up. I contemplated adding a bit of water at the end of the boil, but when I started playing with the numbers I decided that I’d just have a bit less beer. I want to keep the ABV in the 5% range, so I don’t really have much wiggle room here. Initially I thought my starting gravity was low also, but adjusted for temperature it should be about 1.052, which I’m hoping will yield about 5.3% ABV when all is said and done.

I tasted a little wort after it cooled down, and I’m really excited about this one. As it is it has a killer hop balance. I don’t know how this will turn out after fermentation is finished, but it seems promising. I just hope it doesn’t mellow out too much. Of course there will be a lot less sugar too, so hopefully the hops and malt track each other as things progress.

Updates to follow.

New Beer Plans: California Ale

To commemorate my moving to California recently, and after tasting the some California Commons style beers from Brad of Bigler Brewing Co., I thought I’d take a crack at the style. My initial thoughts are to do something IPA-ish with a high starting gravity and dry hopped but using lager yeast. This should give things that steam beer funk along with some crisp hoppiness of the West Coast ales.

I have no idea how this one is going to turn out, but I’ve got ingredients on order now to do two variations. My initial ideas are to do things modestly for the first batch and then kick out all the stops for the second one. Well maybe not all the stops, but a few more in any case.

Plan for the first batch is roughly to do a 8lb grain bill for a 2.5 gal batch of beer. 1/2 oz of Cascade hops at the beginning of the boil. 1/2 oz in the primary, then 1oz in the secondary. I’m going to use some 75L crystal malt to make the malt character a little more interesting. This should give it a little color and maybe a little of a carmel/raisin flavor.

Second batch I’ll use more Crystal and 2oz of hops in the secondary.

Stay tuned.

Beer Notes: Köstritzer Schwarzbier

Beer notes: Köstritzer Schwarzbier

I got a bottle of this unexpectedly today. I poured some into my beer glass and gave it a taste. 

The beer poured a deep reddish black. There was a small head that dissipated almost immediately.

The nose is a bit sour with some hints of dry chocolate. First sip is enormously malty. This is one malty brew - not much hop to balance things out. It actually tastes a bit like the dunkel that I brewed last year. 

Overall I’m just not a huge fan of this style. I’m glad to have found a commercial beer that is similar to something that I’ve brewed though.

Beer Tasting: New Belgium Ranger IPA

Beer Tasting: New Belgium Ranger IPAI have only been on the West Coast for less than a week but already I have had a chance to find a few nice West o’ the Mississippi beers. This one hails from Fort Collins, Colorado. I have had the New Belgium Fat Tire before, but I had not heard of this one. I bought a bottle of it at the store around the corner from my new apartment for about three bucks and tried it out.

This beer is pretty big at 6.5% ABV, and comes in a 1 Pint, 9 Ounce bottle.

I poured a bit into a coffee mug since I don’t have any beer tasting glasses yet, so it will have to do for now. A loose one-finger head was produced and quickly dissipated into a thin lacy carbonation along the beer’s surface. I caught a whiff of damp moss or maybe straw. I didn’t catch the floral or citrus flavors of something like a Dogfish Head IPA.

The taste was a huge load of hops up front with a lingering bitter aftertaste. It wasn’t a bad bitterness at all but it did seem to stick with me for a while afterward. There wasn’t a lot of that grapefruit hoppiness that you get with a lot of West Coast IPAs, but it was an interesting raw power nonetheless. I don’t quite have the beer vocabulary to put my finger on which hops are here but it seems a bit different than what I’m used to.

This was a nice find, especially since it was down at a local shop where I’m living now, but I still prefer the Dogfish Head style 60 minute IPA over this. I might come around to it yet though.

Beer Tasting: New Belgium 2 Degrees Below

Beer Tasting: New Belgium 2 Degrees BelowThis is the second New Belgium brew that I’ve tried since I have been living in California. I didn’t see this stuff on the East Coast at all, but I have had some of their beers when I was in Colorado in years past. I picked this one up mostly since it was a winter seasonal and ironically it didn’t feel much like Winter to me since it was twenty degrees Fahrenheit when I left Washington, DC a few days ago.

I poured the beer into a red party cup since I don’t have any glassware yet. In retrospect I should have splurged for a pint glass when I was buying a few coffee mugs but I didn’t think of it at the time. Just squint a little and pretend that it is a red-tinted glass or maybe just pretend that I was at a keg party.

I could pick up the hop smell almost immediately after the pour. The beer sported a thick white head that went down to a millimeter or so but didn’t dissipate. I could pick up a little bit of a clover smell actually.

The taste was that of winter spices and the finish was dry. Very dry. And somewhat nutty. A very bright beer. However it had somewhat of a ice beer or ice pilsner taste that reminded me a little too much of some unsavory things that I once drank in college. Mouthfeel was a bit thin and coupled with the very cutting character on top it made for a slightly unpleasant experience for me.

I can see the appeal of this beer for some, but I just don’t think it was for me.

Beer Tasting: Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Wild Ale

Beer Tasting: Lagunitas Little Sumpin' Wild AleI had just gotten to my new apartment in California when I went to the store to pick up groceries. I have a feeling I’m going to be spoiled here being able to buy beer in the grocery store! Everywhere else that I’ve lived you had to go to a special store to buy beer. Anyway, to celebrate our arrival I looked around for something special to toast with. I figured it would be nice to start with a beer that was brewed right here in my new home state, so I picked up this Lagunitas.

This is a big beer at over 8% ABV but I was going to share the bottle in a toast so I figured it would be fine even though I was exhausted from the trip.

The beer poured a hazy amber with a thin head that dissipated quickly. I could detect a bit of grapefruit in the nose. To get to the point, this one knocked my socks off. It was a huge punch of slightly sweet citrusy hoppiness akin to a Dogfish Head 90 minute IPA. There is something going on with the yeast here too that gives it a bit of a complex phenol flavor that is hard to put your finger on but spices up the experience considerably. This bottle set me back maybe four bucks, which was one of the best beer buys I’ve made recently. I’ll certainly pick this up again later on. It seems to be a limited edition so I’m not sure how long it will stick around in the stores.