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Homebrewing with Extract January 30 2023, 0 Comments

Have you ever had a homebrew that was made with malt extract that just seemed too dark for the style, had an unanticipated caramel flavor, or just had that "extract tang"? While these things don't have to ruin a beer or your enjoyment of it, it would be nice to avoid these issues. Today we're going to talk about a couple ways you can improve your homebrews made with malt extract.

Shorten the Boil

Since a typical extract boil has a much higher gravity, thus concentration of sugar, than a typical all-grain boil, the wort will darken with an extended boil. So if you shorten the boil to 30 minutes, you can keep the color lighter and reduce the caramelly "extract tang" that can sometimes be found in homebrew.

A 30 minute boil should still be long enough to sanitize the wort, boil out proteins from the wort, and boil off the pre-cursors to DMS. To compensate for the shortened boil time, we recommend adjusting your bittering hop addition upward a little bit. We have transitioned all of the extract kits we sell to 30 minute boils.

Add Some Extract Later in the Boil

If you do want to do a full 60 minute boil, we recommend adding adding about a third of the extract at the beginning of the boil, boil for 50 minutes, turn off the heat, stir in the rest of the extract, bring the wort back to a boil, and finish the 60 minute boil.

Because you are boiling a more dilute wort, you will avoid excessive caramelization (keeping the color lighter and reducing the caramel flavor) and get better utilization from your hops.

Full Boil

Doing a full boil, where you start (for 5 gallon batches) with more like 6.5 or 7 gallons and boil it down to 5.25ish gallons of wort at the end. This mimics what you would be doing in an all-grain batch. Because it is a more diluted wort, it helps avoid caramelization and increases your hop utilization. The downside is that you will need a powerful burner and a wort chiller (since you will not be topping up with cold water).

Heavy Duty Kettle

A tri-clad, stainless steel kettle will disperse heat much more evenly than a thin, more economy-style kettle, which will lead to less scorching and caramelization.

Avoid Excessively Vigorous Boil

You just need a nice easy, rolling boil. It does not have to be a violent, turbulent boil. Keeping your boil in check will not only help avoid caramelization, but will also avoid boiling off some of the aromatics of the malt and hops that you want in your beer.

For more tips and tricks, check out our Knowledge Base 

Carbonating Homebrew January 04 2023, 0 Comments

It's the start of a new year, so let's learn something about the beermaking process. Today let's talk about how to carbonate beer! You can get carbonation into your beer a few different ways. We'll split them up into bottling and kegging.


  • Bottle Priming - If you are bottling directly from your fermenter, siphon your beer into your bottles and then add a small amount of corn sugar to each bottle, we recommend just under 1 teaspoon per 12oz bottle for "standard" carbonation levels. Cap, gently swirl the bottle to help the sugar dissolve, and let sit at room temperature for 10-14 days.
  • Batch Priming - Siphon the beer into a sanitized container. Add 1 cup of corn sugar to a boiled cup of water, gently stir this solution into the beer, siphon the beer into the bottles. Cap and let sit at room temperature for 10-14 days.
  • Natural Carbonation - Sanitize your keg and siphon your beer into it. Add 1/2 cup of corn sugar to a boiled 1/2 cup of water, gently stir this solution into the beer, purge the air from the keg, seal the keg and hook it up to serving pressure, and let sit at room temperature for 10-14 days.
  • Forced Carbonation - Sanitize and fill your keg with beer. Purge the air from it, seal it and do one of the following:
    • Hook it up to serving pressure and store it at refrigeration temps for 2-3 weeks. Drink when ready!
    • Hook it up to 35ish psi and store it at refrigeration temperatures for 24-48 hours. Purge pressure and hook up to serving pressure. Test the carbonation level. If too low, hook back up to CO2 and leave for 8 hours. If too high, disconnect CO2 and release the pressure every 30 minutes for a couple of hours until carbonation levels are ok.
    • Cool the beer to refrigeration temperatures. Crank the pressure up to 45-50 psi. Dose the keg with pressure. Unhook the CO2 and shake the keg vigorously. Repeat the previous 2 sentences 4-5 times. Purge pressure and hook up to serving pressure. Test the carbonation level. If too low, hook back up to CO2 and repeat the shaking process once or twice. If too high, disconnect CO2 and release the pressure every 30 minutes for a couple of hours until carbonation levels are ok.
If you are doing some form of natural carbonation and you are attempting to carbonate a high alcohol beer or a beer that has been in the fermenter for more than a couple months, we recommend adding some Cask and Bottle Conditioning dry yeast. One pack per 5 gallons (or tiny pinch per bottle).

For more tips and tricks, check out our Knowledge Base!

Dip hopping May 27 2021, 0 Comments

With each passing day, it seems that there is another new type of hop to experiment with. And it also seems with each passing day, there's a new way to utilize these hops!

You've probably heard of mash hopping, first wort hopping, adding hops in the boil, dry hopping, double dry hopping, adding hops during active fermentation, whirlpool hopping, etc. But have you heard of "dip hopping?" This is a new one for me.

Dip hopping is a method that helps accentuate pleasant hop aromas while suppressing hop off-flavors. First experimented with by brewers at the Kirin brewery in Japan, dip hopping follows these general steps:

  • Running at least a portion of the wort from the kettle into the fermenter
  • Partially or completely cooling it
  • Adding hops prior to fermentation (but leaving the hops in)

There are may different ways you can experiment with dip hopping, including:

  • Running more or less of the wort into the fermenter
  • Cooling the wort down to different temperatures to attempt to bring out different characteristics
  • Letting the hop tea created by the dip hopping sit for longer or shorter times before adding the rest of the wort
  • Use different hops and hop amounts in the dip hopping stage

Brewers who have experimented with dip hopping have reported beers that are super aromatic, like a west-coast IPA, but without the onion and garlic aromas.

A good place to start perhaps would be to pull about 3/4 of a gallon of wort from your kettle into the fermenter about half way through your boil, cool it down to 170F, and add your dip hops (maybe 30% of the hop bill?). Finish the rest of your boil, add the rest of the wort to the fermenter, and away you go.

Happy hopping!

Gluten-Free Hazy IPA May 19 2021, 0 Comments

I'm out of hoppy beers at home, so it's time to brew another hop bomb. Up next, my first hazy IPA, which I'm calling Sultan of Penryn. Brewed with Sultana (Denali) hops and Verdant IPA yeast (from a brewery in Penryn, Cornwall), it's not my most creative name ever, but I guess it's an improvement from my previous beer, which was affectionately called Munich Dunkel...

I'm trying out a few new things this batch, including:

  • Flaked quinoa - Hoping this will add some body, head retention, haze, and nutty sweetness to the beer.
  • Flaked oats - I've used flaked oats in the past, but it was when I was brewing gluten-full beer. I got some GF rolled oats from the store. I'm hoping to get a little conversion because of the enzymes, but I'm not totally sure how these will contribute to the beer.
  • Sultana hops - I'm really looking for a pineapple character from the hops, and the research pointed to this hop.
  • Verdant IPA - Never tried this yeast, but from what I've heard, this'll make a solid IPA that will stay hazy.
  • Shorter mash - I've been doing 90-120 minute mashes and getting really fermentable worts. I'm going to shorten this to 75 minutes to see if I get a little more body, head retention, and a touch of residual sweetness.

The Recipe

  • 7lb Pale Millet Malt
  • 4lb Pale Rice Malt
  • 2lb Flaked Oats
  • 2lb Flaked Quinoa
  • 1lb Biscuit Rice Malt
  • 2lb Rice Hulls
  • 2oz Azacca Hops (whirlpool) 
  • 3oz Sultana (Denali) (whirlpool)
  • 3oz Azacca Hops (dry hop)
  • 5oz Sultana (Denali) dry hop)
  • 1 pack Verdant IPA dry yeast
  • 1 tsp Wyeast Beer Nutrient (10 min)
  • 20g Ondea Pro brewing enzymes (mash)
  • 15g Ceremix Flex brewing enzymes (mash)
  • Phosphoric Acid (1 tsp mash, 1/2 tsp sparge)
  • 3 gallons reverse osmosis water

The Mash

I added 1 tsp. Phosphoric Acid to the mash to lower the pH a bit.  

This was one of the smoothest mashes I've done. Nailed my target temperature of 162, mashed for 75 minutes, sparged at 170-175, and hit the pre-boil target volume of 7.5 gallons right on the dot.

Pre-boil gravity was 1.053, which should translate into a post-boil gravity in the low 1.06x range, which is exactly what I was going for. Not much else to say, sometimes boring is good!

The Boil

One of the easier boils I'll ever do. The only addition during the boil was yeast nutrient at 10 minutes. I skipped the kettle finings because I want this beer to be hazy anyways.

I added the whirlpool hops right away after turning the heat off and got a good recirculation going. After 10 minutes, I turned off the pump and let everything settle for 10 minutes. Then I put the chiller in and cooled the beer down to 65F.


Post Boil

Fermentation was uneventful, dry-hopped with a ton of hops, cold crashed the beer, and threw it into the keg.

A couple things that stood out at kegging time was how murky the beer was. It really looked like some milk had been added. I think I underestimated the amount of protein in the quinoa. So not the most visibly attractive beer, although I think most hazy IPAs look pretty gross anyways.

Second, the hop burn was very pronounced. I had done a lot of reading about hop burn and hazy IPAs, and I was somewhat confident that I had not overdone the hopping schedule (compared to a lot of other recipes and articles I had read). I'm not so confident about that now :(

Final Verdict

I'll give this beer a little more time in the keg, but it may be my first gluten-free dumper. The hop burn is just not dissipating enough to make this beverage pleasant to drink. I'll check it in another month or so, when I may need an empty keg, but I think I definitely learned my lesson regarding the hop schedule / choice.

Disappointing, but I guess if every batch was perfect, the hobby wouldn't be as fun. Ok, that may not be true, but it's what I'm telling myself right now...

Lessons Learned

  • Time to start really digging into water chemistry! This the next frontier I really would like to add to the brewing process. I have a general understanding of water chemistry, but I would like to take it up a notch or two...
  • I need a new hose. It's basically a coiled up kink. Early birthday present for me!
  • I can get away with a LOT less quinoa. So much protein!
  • The hop schedule was pretty ridiculous and made the beer just about undrinkable. If I try to make a hazy again, probably cut it by a good 30% and concentrate on hops with really high oil content.

Up next is another Sabro Cream Ale!

Gluten-Free Munich Dunkel April 19 2021, 0 Comments

Munich Dunkel was my gateway beer. It's a fun story.

A dear friend of mine and I traveled around Europe after college. In Munich, Germany, we visited a beer garden that was just perfect. There were families sitting around picnic tables, miniature golf for the kids, a jazz band was playing, and was BBQ being smoked.

Anyhow, there was also beer. Up until that point probably the best beer I had ever had was Miller High Life. Yes, I lived a sheltered life. Also, we didn't speak any German. So we went up and ordered two different kinds of beer. They poured them and brought them over to us. One was light, like a pilsner, and one was dark. Both my friend and I looked at the dark beer thinking, "Oh no, I don't want to drink that one." We each took a sip.

I know that a light bulb didn't literally appear over my head, but it sure felt like it. It was delicious! Malty, sweet, I thought to myself "Aha, THIS is why people have been brewing beer for thousands of years!"

I told my buddy, "You can have the lighter one, I'll drink the dark one." Scott replied "That's ok, you can have the light one if you want." "You like it too!" I exclaimed. I later found out that the dark beer was a Munich Dunkel. And the course of my life was forever changed...

The Recipe

  • 11.75lb Goldfinch Millet Malt
  • 4oz Black Pitch Rice Malt
  • 4oz Medium Biscuit Rice Malt
  • 2.5lb Rice Hulls
  • 2oz Hallertau Hops (60min)
    • 1oz Hersbrucker Hops (20min) 
  • 2 packs Saflager w-34/70 dry yeast
  • 1 tsp Wyeast Beer Nutrient (10 min)
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet (10 min)
  • 15g Ondea Pro brewing enzymes (mash)
  • 10g Ceremix Flex brewing enzymes (mash)
  • Dash of Phosphoric Acid in sparge water
  • 9 gallons reverse osmosis water
  • Monstera water treatment
    • 1lb D-90 Belgian Candi Syrup

The Mash

Well, my last few brews went off without a single hitch. Today, it seemed, the universe wanted to balance the accounts.

I got an early start, since I was also smoking a chuck roast in the Weber Smokey Mountain smoker. It was not terribly cold (25F), but we had just gotten a lot of snow, so there were big snow drifts to work around.

I started milling the grain, and about half-way through, I noticed that my drill was having a real hard time. When it started to smoke, I figured it was time to give it a break. I also noticed that that set screw in my mill had come loose, so the rollers were not parallel (probably why the drill was having such a tough time).

After lots of fussing, it became quite apparent that I was going to do no more milling this day. Since a good portion of the grain was not fully cracked, I knew my gravity would be quite low. To compensate, I decided to add a pound of the Belgian Candi sugar (indented above in the recipe). Because my gravity was going to be low, I also decided to remove the Hersbrucker hops (also indented above) to reduce the bitterness / hoppiness a bit.

I was about 7 degrees below my target mash temperature (156F vs 163F) because of the extra time I was wrestling with the mill. Not off to a great start, but could be worse.

One new thing I tried in this batch was the Monstera water treatment. It's a sample from a company that replicates the water chemistry for famous brewing areas of the world. I used a bottle that recreated the water in Goslar, Germany. You use either reverse osmosis water or distilled water, add the bottle that contains salts, minerals, etc., and brew away. Can't wait to taste the results!

The Boil

With the addition of the Belgian Candi Sugar, the gravity was just 3 points lower than target, which was a lot better than I was expecting. The boil went off just fine except for two hitches:

  • As I was recirculating the wort to sanitize the tubing coming out of the kettle, the tubing became dislodged and started spraying wort everywhere but the boil kettle. I was able to shut off the pump pretty quickly, but I did lose some volume. And thankfully did not lose any skin!
  • I've been trying to add a second wort chiller in the kettle to make the cooling more efficient. This has led to pretty crappy whirlpooling action. In the pilsner (last batch), too much of the trub made it into the fermenter. With this batch, I was able to shut off the flow before the trub really started dumping in, but it also meant I lost some more volume in the kettle. 

As mentioned earlier, I skipped the 20 minute Hersbrucker hop addition so as to keep the balance of the beer slightly on the malty side. 

Post Boil

Because of the cold ground water, i was able to cool the wort down to around 50F. The ambient temperature in the basement is F. Fermentation kicked off in about 24 hours and smelled good and yeasty.

After 14 days, fermentation was just about done, so I brought the beer upstairs to where it was about 63F for a diacetyl rest. After 4 days, I cold crashed the beer, kegged it, and lagered it for 6 weeks.

Final Verdict

This is an interesting verdict. On one hand, the beer is a disappointment, while on the other hand, it's not. I'll explain.

First, the disappointment. While it looks like and slightly smells like a Munich Dunkel, this beer doesn't really taste like one. It has a fairly strong cherry notes in it. It's not an ester character, so it's not from fermentation. And it's not a cherry pie character that you may get from an infection. My first thought is it was from the Belgian candi sugar I added. But after an early preview of the Oktoberfest I brewed (a future blog post), it's from the Goldfinch malt.

Now, the "it's not." The beer tastes good. It's just not what I was intending to brew. But this is also a little bit of a lightbulb moment for me. While some styles can be imitated using GF ingredients, I think some flavors are hard to get not using barley. And sure, I used Goldfinch malt rather than Munich malt, but the Munich millet malt I tasted tasted even further away from what I remember barley Munich malt tasting like.

So I think I'll be taking the brewing in a little bit of a different direction. Up until this point, I had basically been trying to make as close to barley beer as possible without using barley beer. I think I've discovered that perhaps the better route to take is to just figure out what flavors you can generate using the ingredients you have, ie, brew less to style and more to flavor.

It'll be challenging, but I think a fun challenge.

Lessons Learned

  • I need a more powerful drill! Either that or I need to build a dedicated mill setup with a different type of motor.
  • I need a clip to hold the hose on my boil kettle for when I'm recirculating. If I wasn't right on it, I could have lost the entire batch in a minute or three.
  • I need to figure out either a better way to whirlpool with both chillers in the kettle or a different way to utilize the second chiller (soak in an ice bath and run water through it on the way to the other chiller in the kettle, for instance).
  • Gluten-free beer can be pretty great, but to maximize potential and flavor, it needs to be its own thing. While some styles / grains match well to barley beers, it can also have the freedom to be its own thing. 

Up next is a hazy IPA, this time loaded down with Sultana (Denali) and Azacca hops!

Gluten-Free German Pilsner February 22 2021, 0 Comments

I never used to like the German Pilsner style until I made a glutenous one years ago for a wedding present. Then when Working Draft Beer Co started making Hindsight German Pilsner, I was hooked for sure. Until my body said "sorry, no more gluten."

So for the past couple years I've been jonesin' for a good pilsner. And now that my basement temperature is close to 55F, I've got the perfect place to ferment one. So it's time to take a stab at a good old fashioned German Pilsner, sans the gluten. Ok, maybe my version is going to be too hoppy to be an old fashioned German Pilsner, but it'll still be tasty. Hopefully...

The Recipe

  • 7.5lb White Pale Millet Malt
  • 2.25lb Pale Rice Malt
  • .2lb Light Biscuit Rice Malt
  • 1.75lb Rice Hulls
  • .5lb Maltodextrin (10min)
  • 1oz Tradition Hops (60min)
  • 3oz Tettnanger Hops (1.5oz @ 25min, 1.5oz dry hop)
  • 2 packs Saflager w-34/70 dry yeast
  • 1 tsp Wyeast Beer Nutrient (10 min)
  • 1 tsp Irish Moss (10 min)
  • 1/4 Campden Tablet (pre-mash)
  • 15g Ondea Pro brewing enzymes (mash)
  • 10g Ceremix Flex brewing enzymes (mash)
  • 4.5 gallons reverse osmosis water

The Mash

I decided to not change anything from the mash process from the Frankenstein Porter. I got a good efficiency and more body with the finished beer, so I wanted to make sure that the extra body was not just from the London ESB dry yeast. 

My mash temperature was 165F for 90 minutes and then went with a batch sparge at 175F. I hit my pre-boil gravity target (1.035) and nailed the volume on the dot (7.5 gallons). Looking hopeful!

The Boil

Boil was uneventful, added my hops at the right time, cooling the wort took 20-25 minutes, and the wort was pretty clear coming out of the boil kettle.

I was a tiny bit short on volume, just about a quart or so, and my gravity was 1.048, slightly above the 1.045 I was shooting for. The only thing I would change is more of the trub (mostly hops) made it into the fermenter than I would have liked. Next batch I'll give a little more time between the time I turn off the recirculating pump (hopefully creating a whirlpool effect) and when I start draining the kettle.

Post Boil

My fermentation temperature started around 57F, which is right at the upper level of this yeast's recommended range. A day or two after brewing, we got a really cold spell, which dropped the temperature downstairs a couple degrees.

Active fermentation started within 24 hours and was a nice steady pace for about 9 days, when it slowed quite a bit. I took a gravity reading, and it was 1.011, which meant time to do the diacetyl rest. So I brought the carboy upstairs and set the beer in a place that was around 64F. I also decided to do the dry hop at this point, to take advantage of the warmer temperatures to extract the hop oils more efficiently.

I was planning on doing a 3 day diacetyl rest, but something came up that made it so I was unable to attend to the beer when I wanted to, so it ended up being more like a 5 day rest (it tasted fantastic at this point). At that point I moved the beer down to the basement and the mid-50s for two days, then into the cooler to cold crash for two days.

Once the hops and other particulates dropped out of the beer, I went ahead and kegged it. Once I was done kegging, I ran a little out of the tap to take a final gravity reading and to sample it. And while the beer tasted great at the diacetyl rest, it definitely did not at this point. There was a fairly intense phenolic, slightly plastic flavor and aroma. Not pleasant at all. 

While I was very frustrated with this development, I figured I had come this far, I may as well let the beer lager for a few weeks, see if the yeast is able to clean up this mess.

Final Verdict

Whew! After two weeks of lagering, I went ahead and tasted the pils. The yeast had mostly cleaned up the phenolic character, and the beer tasted much better. There was still a little more Sulphur aroma than I would like, so I gave it two more weeks of lagering.

After 4 weeks of lagering (6 weeks total), the beer was ready to drink. I still get a touch of the phenolic character from time to time, but it's much, much better than at kegging time. It's really weird, some pours I really taste it, some pours I really have to search for it.

It's not quite as clear as I would like (I'm blaming the dry hops), so next time when I want a brilliantly clear beer, I'll use some clarifier. 

Not my best effort, but still a mostly drinkable, pleasing pilsner.

Lessons Learned

  • Patience! Give enough time between recirculating / whirlpool and draining the boil kettle to give the trub / hop material enough time to settle out.
  • Patience! When I tasted the brew at kegging, I was super disappointed and ready to dump the batch. But the yeast cleaned up (mostly) whatever the funky flavor in there was over a few weeks, so I was definitely glad I waited. Turns out Charlie Papazian was right, just relax and have a homebrew :)

Up next is a Munich Dunkel lager!

Gluten-Free Frankenstein Porter w/ Oak January 21 2021, 0 Comments

I've made 6 batches so far (I think). It's been a ton of fun and I've learned a lot. One thing I haven't tried yet is a dark beer. And since we're going into not just winter but pandemic winter, I better have some dark beer on hand to get me through those short days and long nights.

Another reason I'm making a dark beer is that it makes a good Frankenstein Beer. At some point, most every homebrewer has made one of these. It was a yearly occurrence for me when I was making glutenous brews. You've got a fairly random assortment of ingredients, a few ounces of this, a couple ounces of that, laying around. Not enough to feature in a beer, but too much to toss.

So you make a Frankenstein Beer. With me, it usually ends up being a porter. I was given a bunch of small sample packets of a wide variety of gluten-free malts. And while I didn't throw ALL of them in this brew, I did throw quite a few in. And keeping with the theme, I had just a smidge of whiskey and a smaller smidge left of dark rum, so I soaked a couple of oak staves from an Old Sugar Distillery barrel and will toss them into the secondary fermenter.

The Recipe

  • 8lb White Pale Millet Malt from Grouse Malting Co
  • 1.5lb Crystal Rice Malt
  • 1.3lb Light Biscuit Rice Malt
  • 8oz Munich Millet Malt
  • 8oz Chocolate Millet Malt
  • 7oz Gas Hog Rice Malt
  • 4oz James Brown Rice Malt
  • 4oz Crystal Rice Malt
  • 4oz Biscuit Rice Malt
  • 3oz Dark Rice Malt
  • 2lb Rice Hulls
  • 1lb D-180 Belgian Candi Syrup (Boil)
  • 1/2lb Maltodextrin (10 min)
  • .65oz Magnum Hops Hops (60min)
  • 1oz Wisconsin grown Cascade Hops (flame out)
  • Lallemand London ESB dry yeast
  • 1 tsp Wyeast Beer Nutrient (10 min)
  • 1 tsp Irish Moss (10 min)
  • 1/2 Campden Tablet (pre-mash)
  • 15g Ondea Pro brewing enzymes (mash)
  • 10g Ceremix Flex brewing enzymes (mash)

The Mash

I'm experimenting with my process a bit to see if I can bring out a bit more body without losing efficiency in the process. But I also don't want to change too much at once, so I know which changes are making the difference. So this time I increased my mash temperature to 165 and decreased the amount of enzymes I used by about half. Next time I think I'm going to try a step mash and fly sparge instead of batch sparge. But for this batch, it's a single infusion mash with a batch sparge at 175F.

This will be a theme throughout this post, but the mash went perfectly. Hit the mash temp right on the nose, after 90 minutes everything was converted, hit my volumes just right, and the wort heading into the boil kettle was quite clear.

The Boil

My volume was dead on coming out of the mash, so I didn't have to audible anything on this one. Pretty simple boil, 60 minutes, some hops right at the beginning, some additives at 10 minutes, and some hops at flame out. It went great. Seriously, I don't remember the last time I had a brew day go this smoothly.

After chilling the brew down, I filled my fermenter with exactly 5.5 gallons and had a gravity of 1.064. Since the target was 1.063, I'll take it!

Maybe I just have to smoke some burnt ends every time I brew. Those were delicious too :)

Post Boil

This is the first time I've fermented with the London ESB dry ale yeast. I've read that it is a quick fermenter and leaves a little bit of sweetness and body behind. Both of these turned out to be correct.

After 5 days, fermentation was completely finished, even though the fermentation temperature was a little low, around 65F. And the gravity was 1.023. And the beer tasted really nice. Definitely has a roasty character. And there is a little residual sweetness, but once it's cooled down and carbonated, I think it'll be just right.

After a week, I transferred the beer to a 5 gallon carboy and added 2 oak staves made from Old Sugar Distillery whiskey barrels that had been soaked in whiskey and dark rum. I went ahead and added the booze as well, it was only a couple ounces. I left it in the secondary fermenter for 2 weeks on the oak and then kegged up the batch.

Two days before kegging, I added some Super-Kleer finings. I had read that beer fermented with London ESB dry yeast can end up looking pretty turbid, and after three weeks in the fermenter, it definitely did.

Final Verdict

Even though I'm a hop head through and through, this is a really nice beer. Pours with a solid, thick head, the beer is dark but when held up to the light is a brilliant amber-reddish color, has a nice body, is malty but not cloyingly sweet, pleasant roasty and chocolate characters, some raisiny flavors, a hint of oak and booze, just a good winter brew.

If I would change anything, I think I would want a little more roast / chocolate / coffee / burnt character in there. Just to make it a little more "portery." But a real fine beer overall. 

Lessons Learned

  • Keeping good notes is so important. Each brew session has gone more smoothly than the previous one, and I think a lot of it is really taking note of what works, what doesn't, how much liquid is left in a vessel, etc. Tracking all of this information allows you to keep tweaking your processes and what assumptions you use in your brewing software (I use BeerSmith) and recipes.
  • I need to plan for more time in the fermenter when using oak. While I didn't want this beer to taste like a tree, the two weeks on the oak staves was not enough. Next time I think I'll try and double it.

Up next is either a light lager or yet another IPA, this time loaded down with Sultana (Denali) and Azacca hops!

Gluten-Free Palate Blaster West-Coast IPA December 08 2020, 2 Comments

I've been craving a West-Coast style IPA for a real long time. I wanted to wait until I could cold crash the hops out in my chest freezer to brew one, because I've had issues getting the dry hops to settle out. And I plan to dry hop the heck out of this beer.

I'm looking for a pretty standard West-Coast IPA profile. Dry, some fruit, some floral, lots of dank, lots of pine, eminently drinkable.

The new thing I'm trying out with this beer is a nifty (hopefully) airlock system for when I cold-crash the beer. I would really like to avoid sucking air (and whatever is in the airlock) back into the fermenter as everything cools down and contracts in the fermenter. 

To accomplish this, I built this contraption. And yes, for you naughty people out there (unless you live in Washington, Illinois, Oregon or any of the other lucky states), it does look quite like a bong.


The idea behind it is that it collects CO2 during fermentation, and then when everything goes into the chest freezer, the fermenter will suck CO2 back in instead of air and any liquid. Fingers crossed :)

My brew day ended up being pretty chilly and windy, which added a few challenges, but nothing that couldn't be overcome. Here's how it went down.

The Recipe

  • 11lb White Pale Millet Malt from Colorado Malting Co
  • 1lb Light Munich Millet Malt from Colorado Malting Co
  • 1lb Rice Malt from Grouse Malting Co
  • 2.5lb Rice Hulls
  • 8oz Maltodextrin (10 min)
  • Amarillo Pellet Hops (.25oz 30, .25oz 15, .25oz 5, .25 Whirlpool)
  • Amarillo Cryo-Pellet Hops (1oz Dry Hop)
  • Tenacious Badger Chinook Pellet Hops (.25oz 30, 1.75oz Whirlpool, 2oz Dry Hop)
  • Columbus Pellet Hops (.25oz FWH, .25oz 60, .25oz 50, .25oz Whirlpool, 1oz Dry Hop)
  • Simcoe Pellet Hops (.25oz 30, .75 Whirlpool)
  • Simcoe Cryo-Pellet Hops (1oz Dry Hop)
  • US-05 American Ale dry yeast
  • 1 tsp Gypsum (60 min)
  • 1 tsp Wyeast Beer Nutrient (10 min)
  • 1 tsp Irish Moss (10 min)
  • 2 Gallons Reverse Osmosis Water
  • 1/2 Campden Tablet (pre-mash)
  • 30g Ondea Pro brewing enzymes (mash)
  • 20g Ceremix Flex brewing enzymes (mash)

The Mash

I was shooting for a mash temperature of 164F, with the intention of if I was going to miss, miss high, because it was only 25F at the start of brew day. My mash was 167F once everything was stirred in, so I counted that good enough.

I was surprised that after a 90 minute mash, the temperature had only dropped 4 degrees. Here's to insulation!

At the end of the mash, the wort didn't look as clear as it normally does, so I did a starch test to make sure everything was converted. It was negative, so I went ahead and batch sparged.

I drained the mash tun into an intermediary container before moving the wort over to the boil kettle again, which worked like a charm.

I hit the volume of liquid dead on and my measured efficiency was super high again, so I ended up not adding a pound of rice syrup solids I was planning on adding.

The Boil

This was a fun boil, since I had a lot of hop additions to make. I added some First Wort Hops, then hop at 60 minutes, 30 minutes, 15 minutes, 5 minutes, and as I turned off the heat. And boy did it make the wort smell and taste great!

It was quite windy, so I had a little difficulty keeping a consistent boil, so the boil was a little more vigorous at times than I would have liked, which means I ended up boiling off about a 1/2 gallon more than I was hoping for. I did end up topping up with de-chlorinated tap water to hit my volume.

Once I topped off with the water, my gravity was at 1.062, which is a perfect number for an IPA. Can't wait! 

Post Boil

I added two packs of US-05 dry yeast to see if I can get fermentation to complete within a week or so. Also, it's a little cool where I'm fermenting, around 64F. I would like fermentation to be basically done when I transfer this IPA to a secondary to dry hop. There was a tiny action in the airlock contraption the first night, and it started rolling pretty good by the 24 hour mark.

By day 9, my gravity was down to 1.012, so I decided to move to the secondary and add the dry hops. All 5 ounces of them. I didn't take a gravity reading because I was still seeing action in the airlock.

By day 14, it was time to throw the carboy into the fridge and cold crash. I did see some back-pressure action, but I'm pretty confident that the airlock / bong system worked as intended.

Final Verdict

My first impression was that this beer wasn't very good. I got a weird, earthy character from the hops I wasn't expecting. After some research, I found that sometimes Columbus can perceive that way in certain instances. But as the beer aged, that character mostly mellowed out into a nice West-Coast IPA with a bracing bitterness, exactly what I was hoping for.

The final gravity was 1.010, so it dried out pretty nicely. Overall, I'm really happy with this beer. The only issue after a few days in the keg was that I over-carbonated it, but that's an issue pretty easily fixed in a keg, just unhook it and keep pulling the pressure relief valve.

Lessons Learned

  • Taking post-mash / pre-boil gravity readings is a must. By doing so, I realized that I didn't need to boost the gravity with a pound of rice syrup solids. 
  • The orange cooler did an amazing job of holding heat, even in the cold weather. Which means I'll be doing more winter brewing than I thought I would be able to do this year :)
  • It's a good idea to completely take apart the equipment, including fittings, every few brews, if not more often. I took apart the fittings after this brew and found some stickiness in a place or two where I wouldn't have thought wort would be able to get. Cleanliness is next to godliness!
  • 48 hours at 45psi is too long / too high to carbonate!

Up next is my first gluten-free porter, to which I may add some oak staves!

Gluten-Free Sabro Cream Ale November 13 2020, 2 Comments

I've made a few hoppy beers in a row, so I figured it was time to change it up. Inspired by a cream ale conceived of by Clint Lohman, head brewer at Working Draft Beer Company, I wanted to make a gluten-free cream ale. The beer in question was made with 50% barley base malt, 50% rice, Sabro hops, and Kolsch yeast. The combination gave it a complex, delicious coconut, almost pina colada-esque character (or so I've been told).

I've wanted to try that beer for a long time, so now I'll just make my own gluten-free version :)

The Recipe

  • 5lb White Pale Millet Malt from Colorado Malting Co
  • 1.5lb Rice Hulls
  • 4lb Brown Rice Syrup (Boil)
  • 1lb Maltodextrin (10 min)
  • 1oz Sabro Hops (whirlpool)
  • 2oz Sabro Hops (dry hop)
  • Lallemand Koln Kolsch-style dry yeast
  • 1 tsp Wyeast Beer Nutrient (10 min)
  • 1 tsp Irish Moss (10 min)
  • 3 Gallons Reverse Osmosis Water
  • 1/2 Campden Tablet (pre-mash)
  • 13g Ondea Pro brewing enzymes (mash)
  • 10g Ceremix Flex brewing enzymes (mash)

The Mash

The mash went pretty well. Nailed my mash temperature of 163F, and after 90 minutes, the starches had been converted. The only issue was that because it was such a small, shallow grain bed, more bits of grain got through the false bottom than I would have liked.

To counter this, I drained the mash tun into an intermediary container before moving the wort over to the boil kettle. This worked so well that I think I'll do it with the next batch (and probably the following batches as well).

Measured mash efficiency was around 75%, so still getting solid and consistent mashes.

The Boil

I had to extend the boil a little bit because the initial boil volume was a little higher than I was shooting for. I think this was partially, but not completely, due to me not taking into account the 4lb of rice syrup.

As a quick aside, I tried out the rice syrup instead of using rice malt for a few reasons. First, I had never tried it before and Alt Brewing, Madison's awesome, local gluten-free brewery (which just won a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival, congrats!) has had some great success utilizing this. Second, rice syrup is cheaper than rice malt. And finally, I didn't have any rice malt :)

The boil went almost perfectly. I mis-judged how much longer I should boil the wort to reduce the volume. I increased the boil from 60 minutes to 80 minutes, which was about 10 minutes too long. Which means I went into the fermenter with about 5 gallons instead of 5.5 gallons, give or take.

Not the end of the world by any means, but my starting gravity ended up being 1.058 instead of the 1.044 I was shooting for. Again, not the end of the world, but this beer won't quite be the have two or three pints session beer I was hoping for... 

Post Boil

I was a little worried that the dry Kolsch yeast took almost 30 hours to really take off, but once it got going, it chugged along steadily for about 12 days. On day 12, I took a gravity reading, 1.014. Since I was getting impatient (I mean, come on, I wanted to try out my new kegerator!), I decided to dry hop directly in the primary and added 2oz of Sabro hops to the primary fermenter, purging the oxygen after adding the hops.

And since I was FINALLY able to procure a chest freezer and make a keezer, after 4 days of dry-hopping, I was able to cold crash the batch. And for the first time ever, to aid in clarity, I added isinglass when I cold-crashed the beer. Three days later, I racked the clarified beer into a keg, hooked it up to CO2, cranked the pressure up to 35psi, and patiently waited two days.

Final Verdict

Damn, this beer turned out great. Really smooth mouth-feel, dry but with a slight malty sweetness, and a wonderful, complex coconut character from the Sabro hops. I get a better head on this beer than the other beers I've brewed so far. This beer won't last in the keg too long, because I find myself going back again and again to the tap because it goes down too easy.

Definitely the best GF beer I've brewed. Woot!

Lessons Learned

  • Using the intermediary vessel in-between the mash tun and boil kettle worked great in keeping chunks out of the boil kettle.
  • I didn't really see much difference in clarity with the Isinglass. I think the little hazy I'm seeing in the beer may be due to not cooling the wort down fast enough. A project for the winter!
  • The TapCooler counter pressure bottle filler ROCKS! Super easy to use, super easy to clean, I won't use anything else to bottle beer out of a keg.

Up next is a palate blasting West-Coast IPA hop bomb!

Gluten-Free Mosaic Pale Ale October 19 2020, 0 Comments

It's the summer, so I have to keep on my hop-themed journey with this batch. I've made three different IPAs, so it's time to try something else. How about a pale ale? How about a Mosaic Pale Ale?

I'm really enjoyed the process with and the character from Cryo hops, so most of the hops I'll be using in this batch will be Cryo hops. I'm also going to see what adding a pound of rice syrup solids does for the fermentation.

The Recipe

  • 8.5lb White Pale Millet Malt from Colorado Malting Co
  • .5lb Munich Millet Malt
  • .5lb Crystal 60L Millet Malt
  • .5lb Abbey Millet Malt
  • 1.5lb Rice Hulls
  • 1lb Maltodextrin (10 min)
  • 1lb Rice Syrup Solids (10 min)
  • 1oz Mosaic pellet hops (.1oz FWH, .9oz 10 min)
  • 1oz Mosaic Cryo Hops (whirlpool)
  • 2oz Mosaic Cryo Hops (dry hop)
  • Lallemand Kveik dry yeast
  • 1 Cup Corn Sugar (bottling)
  • 1/2 tsp Wyeast Beer Nutrient (10 min)
  • 1 tsp Irish Moss (10 min)
  • 1 tsp Gypsum (60 min)
  • 3 Gallons Reverse Osmosis Water
  • 1/2 Campden Tablet (pre-mash)
  • 25g Ondea Pro brewing enzymes (mash)
  • 19g Ceremix Flex brewing enzymes (mash)

The Mash

The mash went almost perfectly. Was shooting for 163F, hit 165F, so left that alone, see how it goes. After 90 minutes, starch was definitely converted, so moved onto the vorlauf / lauter stage.  

Due to the find grind, the pump did clog with grain at the beginning of the second runnings. I'm considering using a nylon straining bag inside the mash tun if this happens again.

Measured mash efficiency was above 75%, so again, pretty excited about that.

The Boil

This batch was my first foray (at least in gluten-free brewing) into First Wort Hopping. FWH is when you add hops to your kettle just as you are filling up the boil kettle from the mash tun. It adds bitterness and a distinct flavor. Of course .1oz is not a whole lot, but hopefully this adds another layer of hoppiness to this brew.

I went into the boil kettle with the perfect volume (7.5 gallons). I did a less vigorous boil than with previous batches, hoping to not boil off so much volume. And it worked like a charm! I went into the fermenter with a volume of 5.5 gallons, which is what I was hoping for.

Even though I hit the exact volume I was looking for, my gravity was 10 points higher than I was anticipating, 1.054 vs. 1.044. 

Now we just have to make sure it tastes good :)

Post Boil

Just like the previous batch, the Kveik yeast rocked out like a champ, completing fermentation within 4 days. 

In an effort to enhance clarity and hop character, I tried 2-stage fermentation with this batch. After a week, I transferred the beer to a 5 gallon glass carboy (purging the oxygen with CO2) and dry-hopped with 2oz of Mosaic Cryo hops.

Final Verdict

I think this is my favorite batch as of yet. It cleared up pretty well for a hoppy beer, had a little bit of a head on it which lingered a bit, and still had some body to it, even though it finished around 1.010.

But the most important aspect, I think we all would agree, is the taste. This batch had a real pleasant balance between malty and bitter. Next time I may up the bitterness level a tad in a pale ale, but this is pretty dialed in.

The hop flavor definitely comes through better than in previous batches, even though I used fewer of them, which tells me the extra steps of purging the fermenter with CO2 and transferring into a secondary fermenter really had an effect. Lots of berry and stone fruitiness, some pine and dank, everything you'd want and expect from a Mosaic Pale Ale!

Lessons Learned

  • Adjust overall efficiency up in BeerSmith
  • Shorter mash 90 min vs 120 min did not affect overall efficiency
  • Keep purging fermenter with CO2 when transferring / dry hopping
  • Include malto-dextrin in the recipe, adds a bit of body without affecting too much else.

Up next is a cream ale inspired by Working Draft Beer Co's Rice Cream Treat Ale!

Grapefruit IPA August 26 2020, 0 Comments

Since I'm down to my last few bottles of homebrewed gluten-free IPA, it's time to brew another one. With this one, I'm chasing a lot of grapefruit character. And I know it's not a real common ingredient, I decided I want to try using actual grapefruit in it, not only grapefruit peel or hops with grapefruit character.

I'm also using Cryo hops, which is the concentrated lupulin from hops. It allows you to get a massive amount of hop flavor and aroma without adding too much vegetal character or losing too much volume.

Another new variable with this brew is that I recently got a new mill that is specifically for milling GF grain. It has smaller dimples on the rollers, so the rollers can be set more closely together, allowing for a better crush on millet. We'll see how it goes :)

The Recipe

  • 13lb White Pale Millet Malt from Colorado Malting Co
  • 1lb Vienna Millet Malt
  • 1lb Crystal 60L Millet Malt
  • 1.5lb Rice Hulls
  • 1lb Maltodextrin (15 min)
  • 3lb Grapefruit Puree (fermenter)
  • 1oz Magnum pellet hops (60 min)
  • 2oz Amarillo Cryo Hops (whirlpool, dry hop)
  • 2oz Cascade Cryo Hops (whirlpool, dry hop)
  • 2oz Centennial Cryo Hops (whirlpool, dry hop)
  • Lallemand Kveik dry yeast
  • 1 Cup Corn Sugar (bottling)
  • 1/2 tsp Wyeast Beer Nutrient (10 min)
  • 1 tsp Irish Moss (10 min)
  • 1/2 Campden Tablet (pre-mash)
  • 25g Ondea Pro brewing enzymes (mash)
  • 19g Ceremix Flex brewing enzymes (mash)

The Mash

The mash went really well with this beer. Was a tad bit low on my mash temperature (160 vs 163) so I added a little more water in the mash, which means I sparged with a little less. 

The grind with the new mill was really fine, even finer than I was getting before. This did lead to a tiny bit of channeling during the sparge, so I'll increase rice hulls from 10% to 15% of the mash next time.

Due to the fine crush, more grain chunks worked their way into the boil kettle from the mash tun. Not too many, just a little more than last time. I did get a really good mash efficiency, around 75%, which I'm super happy with.

The Boil

I think I'm going to reduce the level of boil. I've been boiling off more than I'd care to (went into the fermenter with 4.75 gallons, instead of 5.25 to 5.5, which I'm shooting for.

Otherwise, added the 3oz of Cryo hops at flame out, beer smells great at this point!

Post Boil

The dry Kveik yeast is no joke! Within a few hours of pitching the yeast, the fermentation was just roaring. I'd say it definitely got up into the 90 degree F range. After about a week, fermentation slowed quite a bit, but still drifted on through to 14 days, when I bottled the beer. 

Again, the beer came out drier than I was anticipating. I was looking for a final gravity of around 1.020, and this beer finished at 1.010, even with the Maltodextrin. I'd rather have a drier, crisp beer than a thicker, sweet beer, but still working on that aspect. 

Also, at dry hop, when I was going to add the grapefruit puree, the beer already tasted SUPER citrusy, so I decided to skip the grapefruit puree this batch...

Final Verdict

which was a great call.  This beer came out great. There's enough of a malt character to balance out, but the citrus character from the Centennial, Cascade, Amarillo, and Kveik yeast really shows and shows well. Great nose, and it's just like drinking a glass of OJ mixed with some other fruit. 

This beer doesn't have a great head on it when you pour it out, but it has a nice carbonation level. 

Most definitely my best effort so far.

Lessons Learned

  • Reduce boil
  • Kveik yeast rocks, especially in the middle of the summer
  • Start experimenting getting a little more body in the beer (fewer enzymes, higher mash temp, shorter mash, more maltodextrin, etc) 

Brew #3 - Hibiscus Saison August 21 2020, 0 Comments

While my GF brewing is going to be pretty hop heavy (see below for a picture of what my left arm looks like), it's summer, so I wanted to make something that would be refreshing and also take advantage of the higher fermentation temperatures. Hibiscus saison here I come!

The Recipe

  • 9lb White Pale Millet Malt from Colorado Malting Co (the first two batches used Red Millet from Grouse Malting)
  • 1lb Vienna Millet Malt
  • 1.25lb Rice Hulls
  • 1.33lb Corn Sugar
  • 1oz Target pellet hops (60 min)
  • 1oz Nelson Sauvin pellet hops (dry hop)
  • 2.5oz Dried Hibiscus Flowers (1.5oz flameout, 1oz dry hop)
  • Belle Saison dry yeast
  • 1 Cup Corn Sugar (bottling)
  • 1/2 tsp Wyeast Beer Nutrient (10 min)
  • 1 tsp Irish Moss (10 min)
  • 1/2 Campden Tablet (pre-mash)
  • 3 gallons Reverse Osmosis Water
  • 16g Ondea Pro brewing enzymes (mash)
  • 11g Ceremix Flex brewing enzymes (mash)

The Mash

The mash went great. I ended up adding a little extra water to the mash, since it seemed pretty thick. So instead of sparging with 4.75 gallons, I sparged with 3.25 gallons.

After about 90 minutes, I checked on the mash, and it looked a little goopier (more starch) than the last batch. Could be due to the new base malt. i did a starch conversion test, and it said there was no starch present, so just in case I let it go another 30 minutes before batch sparging.

The sparge went great, got fewer chunks into the boil kettle, which is nice.

The Boil

Boil was perfect except for one, ahem, not-so-smart move on my part. When adding the sugar, I turned off the heat, got distracted for a couple minutes, and then opened the bag and started pouring in the sugar. Too fast. Which led to a big foam up / boil over. Lost .5 gallons, which is a bummer, but not the end of the world.

Added 1.5 oz of hibiscus at flame out. Beer going into the fermenter had a slight pinkish hue, hoping for more color with the addition of 1 oz hibiscus in the fermenter.

Post Boil

Because of the boil over, I went into the fermenter with 4.75 gallons. Which means that BeerSmith volumes seems to be dialed in pretty well. Ended up with a 1.054 starting gravity, which is just slightly above the 1.050 target gravity.

After I cooled the beer down (which took a long time due to warm summer ground water), I pitched the Belle Saison yeast and stuck the fermenter in my bedroom closet to take advantage of some 80+ degree fermentation conditions. The Belle Saison went nuts! 

Final Verdict

First thing that jumps out is the beautiful color. A pink / reddish hue, and it cleared up pretty nicely. Has a really inviting floral, berry-like aroma. Definitely some spicy notes from the saison yeast in the nose as well.

This beer is fruity, floral, dry, and refreshing. It ought to be dry, the final gravity was .998! I've never had a beer ferment down that low, crazy! It's really tasty. Because of the acid that the hibiscus is treated with to help it keep its color, there is a tiny bit of a harsh aftertaste. But hopefully that will dissipate with time.

All in all, I'm really happy with this beer. I think I would back off on the bittering hops a bit next time to compensate for the tartness from the hibiscus. Maybe add a little maltodextrin to improve head retention. But other than that, I would definitely make this brew again!

Lessons Learned

  • I think this was a tad bit too much hibiscus, but not by much. Has a nice, acidic, floral character.
  • Still looking for ways to get more body. Next I'll try adding maltodextrin. 
  • But the beer tastes cleaner, so I think the processes are getting better! 

IPA #2 - Final Verdict June 29 2020, 0 Comments

While brewing is a ton of fun, the best part about brewing beer is, well, the beer! So, how did IPA #2 turn out?

Well, it took a little while to get there. This ferment ended up being similar to the first IPA fermentation. The yeasties started off fast and furious and fermented right around 68F for around 6 days. On day 6, the action in the airlock was almost down to nothing, so I took a gravity reading, which was 1.018. Exactly what BeerSmith thought it would end at.

But out of a little caution, I waited until day 8 to dry hop. Another 4 oz dose, which is a lot of dry hops. And just like my first batch, the airlock started going gang-busters as soon as i put in the dry hops. After a few days, I checked the gravity, and it was down to 1.014. Couple days later, down to 1.012. Days 14 and 15 I finally got the same gravity reading, 1.010. 

So while the beer dried out more than I had anticipated, time to go ahead and bottle. It was a bit of a messy bottling day, since none of the dry hops decided to settle out, even though I did gently rock the carboy once a day attempting to dislodge the CO2 that was trapped underneath the floating hop material.

After 10 days, I put a couple beers into the fridge to try one. And my first impression was how clear the beer was! Batch #1 was very cloudy, even described as "muddy." Prior to putting the beer in the fridge, it looked a lot clearer than IPA #1. Definitely some hop particulate matter floating around in there, but not too bad.

The beer had a nice head on it when poured, but it dissipated pretty quickly. 

Pouring into the glass, it looks like there is a some chill haze, but not too bad. Again, the beer does look more appetizing than the first version. And there is definitely more hop nose on this beer. Not nearly what you would expect given the 3oz of hops in the whirlpool and 4oz as dry hops, but an improvement.

When tasting it, there is a bracing but not overpowering bitterness. A nice hop flavor, but again, not what I was hoping for. There is a powerful toffee / vanilla flavor. I think the next batch will have some light crystal, no medium crystal. I probably will remove the Goldfinch malt as well. I also get a tiny bit of a boozy flavor in the finish. Which I guess is not surprising, given that it finished up at 7.2% ABV.

So, while I would call this beer a success, it's still not where I want my hoppy beers to be. Here are some things I'm looking to improve upon moving forward:

  • I really want more hop aroma. To this end, I'll try the following:
    • Add more gypsum
    • Move the beer to a secondary fermenter before dry-hopping
    • Purge secondary / bottling bucket with CO2 to avoid oxidation
    • Eventually keg beer and bottle from the keg
  • Either lower the starting gravity or raise the mash temperature to make the beer a slightly lower ABV. Raising mash temperature should also increase body, perhaps head retention as well. Just need to make sure the enzymes are ok with a higher temperature...
  • Not that it's a flaw, but I do want to try out the Kveik yeast next time instead of the US-05.
  • Use less crystal malt, or at least a lower roast, to help avoid the toffee character.
  • Remove the Goldfinch malt and lower the Munich malt (and maybe switch it over to Vienna malt instead of Munich)
  • Make sure my volumes are right so I don't have to extend the boil (again, hoping to reduce toffee / caramel / vanilla character).

Gluten-Free Brew Day #2 June 25 2020, 0 Comments

So after making a decent but not great IPA, I decided to give the Jonesin' for Buck EyePA another try. I switched up a few things but kept a lot of the process similar (changes highlighted below)

The Recipe

  • 13lb Pale Millet Malt (up from 12lb)
  • 2lb Munich Millet Malt
  • 2lb Goldfinch Millet Malt
  • 1lb Medium Crystal Millet Malt (was 2lb)
  • 1lb Light Crystal Millet Malt
  • 1lb Rice Hulls
  • 2 oz Columbus (1 @ 60, 1 dry hop)
  • 2 oz Azacca (1 whirlpool, 1 dry hop)
  • 2 oz Mosaic (1 whirlpool, 1 dry hop)
  • 2 oz Chinook (1 whirlpool, 1 dry hop)
  • US-05 Dry American Ale Yeast
  • 1 cup corn sugar (bottle conditioning)
  • 1 tsp Irish Moss (@ 10)
  • 1/2 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient (@ 10)
  • 1/2 tsp Gypsum (@ 60)
  • 3 Gallons Reverse Osmosis Water (Rest Tapwater)
  • 1/2 Campden Tablet (20 min before heating water)
  • Brewing enzymes

The big change from batch one to batch two is the usage of brewing enzymes. I am adding some enzymes to help with the efficiency with the mash. The last batch was give or take 50% efficiency, so we're hoping for a bit higher with the enzyme usage. 

One other change is that instead of digging around the internet for a bunch of different free brewing calculators, I'm using Beersmith for the first time (this will be relevant later).

As for the flavor profile of this beer, I'm still looking for a very hop-forward beer, big but not overwhelming bitterness, and lots of fruit, pine, and dank flavors and aromas.

The Mash

The mash went great! Sort of. Here's a quick breakdown of the mash specifics:

  • 90 minute mash
  • Mashed in with 7.75 gallons of H2O at 162, was 158 by the end of the mash
  • Batch sparged with 3.5 gallons of H2O at 170
  • Pre-boil gravity of 1.051 (1.048 anticipated)
  • Pre-boil volume of 7.75 gallons (7.25 anticipated)

The great part of the mash was the enzymes! When I opened up the mash tun, I could just tell that the starches had been converted. The wort looked like the countless of other brews I've done over the years. A definite change in appearance. And the yield was much higher. I think I went from a 50% efficiency to a 70% efficiency, which is great!

The not so great part of the mash is that I can't read. Like I mentioned earlier, this is the first time I was using Beersmith. When determining how much mash water to use, I accidentally looked at the "Mash Volume Needed" field instead of the "Tot Mash Water" field. Which means I had an extra 1.5 gallons of water in there. And since I'm only using an 8 gallon kettle, I just went into the kettle with .5 gallon of extra wort and dumped the rest.

The reading error also meant I overshot my mash temperature a little bit, so I had to add some cold water to compensate.

The Boil

As mentioned, I extended the boil by about 30 minutes to compensate for the extra volume. It was probably about 10-15 minutes too long, because I ended up being about 1/2 gallon short of the volume I was shooting for. 

I added an ounce of Columbus hops and some gypsum when I started the 60 minute timer and added irish moss and yeast nutrient with 10 minutes left in the boil. The boil went smoothly, no surprises, nice rolling boil the whole time.


I whirlpooled for 30 minutes, cooling the wort down to about 185F before starting the whirpool and adding an ounce each of Azacca, Mosaic, and Chinook hops. Went into the fermenter with about 4.8 gallons of wort, an original gravity reading of 1.064, and a temperature of 70F. 

Lessons Learned

  • Learn to read more carefully! If I had just read more carefully, my volumes would have been pretty spot on (I'm guessing)
  • Enzymes are you friend. I'll definitely be utilizing the enzymes moving forward. I think the beer will have more body, flavor, and will definitely be more economical.
  • Volume measure for boil kettle. I need to create a dip-stick that allows me to check the volume in my boil kettle. 

I'll be back in a few weeks to discuss how this batch turned out and what we'll try for brew #3. Happy (gluten-free) homebrewing!

Smoking Side Note

Like I often do when I brew (or have a full day off), I threw some meat on the smoker on brew day #2. I made some beef short ribs. Seasoned them with salt, pepper, and granulated garlic. Smoked them using post oak wood on the Weber Smokey Mountain cooker at ~260F for about 3.5 hours, wrapped them in butcher paper, returned them to the cooker for another 3.5 hours, and then rested them for an hour or so.

They were quite tasty. The fat really rendered down, they had a great bark, but the top layer (away from the bone) was too dry. I should have probably either wrapped earlier or started spritzing with some liquid. But the meat in the middle and by the bone was legit.

Haven't decided what I'll cook on brew day #3, but it'll probably involve some part of a brisket...

Fermentation, Packaging, and Conditioning June 06 2020, 0 Comments

So this ended up being one of my more "interesting" fermentations. It started out great, the US-05 American Ale dry yeast took off after about 18 hours. Fermentation temperature was a steady 66-68F. Fermentation went strong for about four days, slowed down, and the airlock was completely quiet around day six.

Day nine, I added dry hops. A lot of dry hops. 2 oz Centennial, 1 oz Simcoe, and 1 oz Chinook. Gonna be a solid, West Coast-style IPA. 

On day 12, things took the turn for the "interesting." I moved my carboy down to my chest freezer to cold crash the beer. It turned on, started making noise, all of the good signs. Except one, which may be the most important part. It wasn't cooling. At all. 

After a bit of research, it seemed that my chest freezer was kaput. Oh well, not the end of the world, I'll just buy another one. A cost I would rather do without, but definitely necessary at this point. Only one issue. Due to COVID-19 and everyone stocking up on food, everywhere was out of chest freezers, with none to show up for 6-8 weeks at the earliest.

So, on to plan B, with "B" standing for bottling. On day 15, the beer is still looking pretty cloudy, so I decided to use some Dualfine to help clarify the beer a bit. I gently stirred in the clarifier, hoping to wake up the next morning to clarified beer ready to be bottled.

The next morning, the beer had clarified some, but was a little more "interesting." The airlock was giving off a bubble every 30 or so seconds. Perhaps it is just off-gassing post fermentation. Is what I thought, until the next day the same thing was happening. And the next day.

By now the beer has been on the dry hops for over a week. I was shooting for 4-5 days. I considered moving the beer off of the dry hops (to avoid the beer getting overly grassy or vegetal), but I was worried about too much oxidation, so I left the beer where it was. 

On day 18, I had pretty much lost all patience. I mean, I want to drink this brew. Am I wrong? I finally took a gravity reading and got a reading of 1.010, which is a tiny bit below the target final gravity I was shooting for. The beer is still giving off a bubble every 90 seconds or so, but I'm going to risk it. Tasted pretty darn good at bottling...

Two weeks later...

Given all of the firsts that went along with this batch (first brew on the new system, first all-grain gluten-free batch, first brew of the spring), I'm pretty happy with this beer. There isn't nearly as much hop aroma as I was hoping for, and the beer didn't clear up much (Steven called it "muddy"), but I've definitely had worse gluten-full IPAs...

The beer did seem to clarify a little bit the longer it sat in the refrigerator, so hopefully sometime down the road when I can actually purchase a chest freezer, I'll be able to cold crash.

But the beer had a nice but not overwhelming hop bitterness bite, a good amount of fruity hop flavor, a residual dank aroma (from the Columbus), and a balancing malt backbone. I'd rate this batch 3 beers out of six, but it's definitely a 6-pack is half full, rather than half empty :)

Lessons Learned

  • Check your equipment before you want to use it, especially if you haven't used it for a long time!
  • Take a gravity reading BEFORE you dry hop.
  • Just gotta relax, because like Charley K, rock star beersmith at the Wine and Hop Shop says, "It'll be beer," even if everything doesn't go exactly perfectly.
What's Next?

I really was hoping to do a dry hopped lager as batch number two, but without a functioning freezer, I've got to stick to ales for now. I was thinking maybe an Altbier, I really like those, and there is a dry yeast, Safale K-97, that I would like to try with it. But on second thought, I really want another shot at this IPA...

As always, feel free to leave comments, suggestions, critiques, etc. in the comments. Or you can email the Shop as well. Thanks and until the next brew, happy (gluten-free) homebrewing!

Brew Day #1 - American IPA May 18 2020, 0 Comments

I lucked out. Brew day #1 was a beautiful, 60F, sunny day. Not only did I make an IPA, but I had a brisket in the smoker for the first cook of the spring!

Cookin' with the Weber Smokey Mountain!

I knew my first brew would present some challenges. First time brewing in 2020, first time brewing on my new system, and first time making an all-grain gluten-free batch. That's a lot of firsts! And wouldn't you know it, the brew day did in fact live up to the billing by throwing me a few curveballs. But first, let's talk about the recipe.

The Recipe

After some consultation with my buddy Steven, who used to work at the Shop and now brews at Alt Brewing, Madison's dynamite GF brewery, here's what I came up with for a recipe:

  • 10 lb Pale Millet Malt - Looking for a base to add gravity, some body, sweetness, and color
  • 2 lb Munich Millet Malt - Looking for a bready, toasty, malty flavor
  • 2 lb Goldfinch Millet Malt - Looking for a toasty and caramel flavor
  • 1.5 lb Crystal 50L Millet Malt - Looking for some sweetness, body, and mouthfeel
  • 2 lb Rice Hulls - Used to prevent stuck sparge
  • 2 lb Rice Syrup Solids (in boil) - Looking for increased starting gravity
  • 2 oz Chinook pellets (.9 oz @ 60 min, .1 oz in whirlpool, 1 oz dry hop)
  • 1 oz Simcoe pellets (whirlpool)
  • 2 oz Amarillo pellets (1 oz whirlpool, 1 oz dry hop)
  • 1 oz Columbus pellets (whirlpool)
  • 2 oz Centennial (dry hop)
  • US-05 dry yeast
  • 1/2 tsp Wyeast Beer Yeast Nutrient (@ 10 min)
  • 1 tsp Irish Moss (@ 10 min)

Madison has pretty hard water, so i made the following adjustments to my brewing water:

  • 67% tap water, 33% reverse osmosis water
  • Used 1/2 campden tablet to de-chlorinate the tap water
  • Added 1/2 tsp amylase enzyme to mash to increase conversion
  • Added 1/2 tsp gypsum to the boil to help accentuate hop bitterness

The Mash

I was shooting for a 90 minute mash at 161F. I used an online calculator to calculate my strike water temperature. This is where my brew day first started to stray from the plan. Which is funny, because it was pretty much the first part of the brew day :)

After filling up my mash tun with 180F water and then stirring in my grain, my mash temp was a full 10F below what I was shooting for. So I ended up having to put in around 1.5 gallons of hot water to bring the mash up to 160. Which was actually ok, because my mash would have been much too thick otherwise. 

I took a pH reading after mashing for around 10 minutes, and got a reading of 5.1. I was happy with this level, so I did not do any further adjustments (except for the gypsum in the boil). 

So after 90 minutes of mashing, I performed a conversion test with iodine. It showed that the starches had been converted (yea!), so it was time to lauter and sparge. I batch sparged at 170F with 3.25 gallons. I had a real difficult time getting the filter bed to set during the sparge, so more grain chunks got transferred over to the boil than I would have cared for. Also, because I didn't want to reduce the amount of sparge water, I went into the boil kettle with an extra gallon or so of wort.

The Boil

Because the initial boil level was high, I lengthened my boil from 60 minutes to about 110 minutes. I got a little more color and more carmelization that I was shooting for, but I think that is a worthwhile trade-off to achieve the gravity I was looking for.

After about 50 minutes, I added 1 lb Rice Syrup Solids and took a refractometer reading and got a gravity of 1.044, which was my target pre-boil gravity, so I started the 60 minutes timer and added .9 oz of Chinook hops. Because I was at my target gravity, I did not add the second pound of Rice Syrup Solids. The boil went about as smoothly as you could ask for. The only real excitement was the fact that I was running out of propane, and probably had about 2 minutes of cook time left when I shut-off the heat. Thanks homebrewing gods!


I had planned on whirlpooling the hops at 170F for about 25 minutes. However, I was quite surprised how quickly the temperature dropped, especially when I was recirculating. By the time I took a temperature reading, it was down to 155F. So I whirlpooled there for 45 minutes, which means I'll get a little less bitterness, but should retain more of the volatile hops oils.

Once the whirlpool was completed, I cooled the wort down to 70F, filled the fermenter, and added the US-05 dry yeast. I was shooting for going into the fermenter with 5.25 gallons, but only ended up with about 4.5 gallons. My target gravity was 1.056, and the actual gravity was 1.053, so I'm pretty happy with that. 

Lessons Learned

Lots! Ok, perhaps I should be a little more specific:

  • The millet soaked up more water than I was anticipating. I'll definitely have to put more water in the mash to thin out the mash and maybe remove a little bit from the sparge so I don't go into the kettle with too much volume.
  • My temperature calculation for my strike temperature was low, need to get that corrected.
  • I'll give batch sparging another try, but I hope to find a better way to have the grain filter bed re-form. Perhaps just a little patience, as the great Axl Rose would say?
  • Make sure to check the propane tanks before the brew :)
  • I may install a thermometer in the boil kettle to more easily hit the target whirlpool temperature (I plan on making lots of hoppy beer!)
  • Create a "dip stick" with volume markers for the boil kettle so readings can be more accurate.
  • I was pretty impressed with how powerful the burner was. 
  • I can't wait to try this beer, it tasted sweet and hoppy going into the fermenter.
  • The brisket, while good, could probably have used another 45-60 minutes on the pit.
  • My beautiful, sweet, old dog enjoyed her last brew day with her papa. RIP Buck Jones :(

Buck Jones

See you next time with a wrap-up of how fermentation, dry hopping, packaging, and consuming went. And I'll preview brew number two! Until then, happy (gluten-free) homebrewing!

Building the Gluten-Free Brewery (at Home) May 06 2020, 2 Comments

My first homebrew rig was just that - a rig. I build supports out of angle iron, had three different burners on it, an attached pump, and it was capable of producing 15 gallons of beer per batch. My efficiency was consistently in the 80s, brew day was fast, cleanup was easy, it was pretty sweet.

However, it was way more brewery than I need right now. 5 gallon batches fits how I want to brew / drink moving forward much better.

But how to get started? What to include? It was a bit of a daunting task, since there are so many different options out there. But an exciting task as well.

Upon thinking about it, what I wanted was to build a quality setup, but I also wanted to build more of an "every person" home brewery. I wanted to make a system that would, in some ways, mimic what customers coming into the Shop would have at home, rather than a small-scale professional brewery.

My Gluten Free Brewery

So, here's what I went with:

I'm sure I'll change up the system as I go along, but this definitely got me excited to get brewing. First batch, an IPA! Until then, happy (gluten-free) homebrewing!

Gluten-Free Brewing: A New Beginning April 27 2020, 0 Comments

My name is Ben, you may know me. I operate the Wine and Hop Shop and am part of the team at Working Draft Beer Co. Beer and beer brewing has been a huge, in some ways defining, part of my life for 15+ years. 

What you may not have known about me, is that a few years ago, I started developing strange rashes and digestive issues. What became apparent, much to my chagrin, was that I had developed a sensitivity to gluten.

Over the past couple of years, I've tried lots of things to try and heal my guts to a point that perhaps I could, at least occasionally, drink gluten with minimal to no side effects. Unfortunately, at least for now, abstinence seems to be the only answer that works for me.

I had hopes that Clarity Ferm, an enzyme that White Labs sells that breaks down gluten in beer, would allow me to enjoy glutinous beverages, but alas, while it helped a bit, I still didn't feel well after drinking it, so I had to put that on pause as well.

As you may imagine, this was not an easy thing to come to grips with. Owning a homebrew shop and a brewery, being surrounded by great beer and great beer culture, and not being able to take part in it has been a difficult adjustment.

However, there is a positive light at the end of this tunnel (hence this blog). Steven, who's worked at the Shop for about 1.5 years, recently was hired at Alt Brew to brew their delicious gluten-free beer. Talking with Steven about all-grain gluten-free brewing reignited my desire to make beer.

So I built a new home-brewery (I had given my first rig to Working Draft to use as a pilot system), one that is simpler than my original brewery, but still with enough bells and whistles to help make brew-day more efficient. And I've worked with Trevor at Alt Brew to source gluten-free grains (thanks so much Trevor!!!). 

I plan on doing periodic entries in this blog about my new adventures in all-grain gluten-free brewing. I just brewed my first batch, an IPA, the style should not be a surprise for those who've ever seen my left arm, and I'm looking forward to writing about the things that I learn from each batch.

This new project has really reinvigorated my creative juices. I can't wait to make for beer for me (and my mom, who also can't do gluten) and share with you what I've learned!

IPAs not just about hops November 09 2017, 0 Comments

Gearing up to make the next great IPA or Imperial IPA? Trying to figure out which hop characteristics you want? While that's uber important in an IPA (duh!), don't forget about the rest of the ingredients!


Do you want a harsh, bracing bitterness? Soft and in the background? Lots of flavor, mostly aroma, straight bitterness, a good mix of all of them? And for the flavor/aroma, are you looking for lemony, floral, dank, citrus, pineapple, spicy, minty? A mix of characteristics, or one unified flavor?


If you use a base malt that is too light or neutral, your IPA can lack body and backbone, so it sometimes can end up tasting like hoppy fizzy water. If use Munich-style malts or Caramel malts too heavily, your Imperial IPA starts to enter the barley wine zone. 

We recommend using a base malt that has a fairly low protein content. More and more brewers seem to be having great success with hoppy beers using Golden Promise as a base. Try to limit your specialty malt use to a minimum to draw out very specific characteristics. 


Do you want fruity, spicy, or maybe neutral characteristics? Lots of sweetness left behind, or do you want a very dry beer? More or less mouth-feel and body? Clear or hazy? 

There are many factors to consider when selecting your yeast!


Do you have hard water or soft water? This can make a big difference when brewing a hoppy beer. If you have too much hardness, the bitterness can come out harsh and overwhelming on the palate. If your water is too soft, the hops just won't shine like you want them to.

If you do have hard water, you can dilute your tap water using Reverse Osmosis or distilled water, in effect softening your water. If you need to add hardness, gypsum is always a good candidate. 


It can a little overwhelming when considering all of the different variables that can go into preparing for brew day. That's where we come in! You are always more than welcome to stop in the Shop, give us a call (608-257-0099), or e-mail us if you have questions or want advice or a second opinion. Sometimes it takes a village to make great beer!

Look at those yeast fly!!! September 06 2017, 0 Comments

Very often people don't consider the effect that yeast have on their beer, wine, cider, or mead. But there are literally billions of these microscopic organisms at work, converting sugars to alcohol, co2, and flavor compounds. Just look at this video of them feasting on this IPA!




Hop Harvest Time August 25 2017, 0 Comments

Hops are taking over your yard and you may be seeing lots of big hop cones and fantasizing about your next homebrew. Typically hop harvest begins in late August and continues through the beginning of October, but varieties reach maturity at different times.

It is time to harvest your home-grown hops when you see:

1. Hop cones are looser with the leaves of the cone opening and loosening.
2. Bright yellow-orange lupulin is showing at the base of the leaves (this smells strongly and is sticky).
3. When you squeeze a cone, it smells like fresh hops.
4. Cone feels papery and resilient, but not hard.
5. Cone is not entirely bright green, leaves at the base of the stem are dry with browning tips.

Keep monitoring your hops, harvest them when you see the signs listed above, store them properly or use them right away! Let us know if you have any questions or want help with a recipe to use your fresh hops!

Make Tepache at Home August 17 2017, 8 Comments

Do you like pineapple? If so, we've got a fun, delicious trick to make your pineapple go even farther: Tepache!

Tepache is a refreshing fermented beverage, traditionally made in Mexico from the rinds of pineapple. It's super easy to make, tastes great, and is very healthy (contains pro-biotics, like kombucha). Here's some easy instructions for fermenting Tepache:

Equipment needed

  • Large (~1 gallon) glass container
  • Cheesecloth, plastic wrap, or lid with an airlock
  • Strainer
  • Resealable bottle or growler (if you will not consume the Tepache in one sitting)


  • Rinds from pineapple (don't save the leaves)
  • 1 cup brown sugar (or, if you want to keep it uber traditional, 1 cup Piloncillo, which can be found at ethnic grocery stores)
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2-3 cloves (optional)
  • 1 cinnamon stick or a pinch of ground cinnamon (optional)

Ferment Tepache at home using Pineapple


  1. Wash and then carve a pineapple (chop off top and bottom, slice off peel, remove the core of the pineapple).
  2. In a large glass container, add all of your ingredients. We found it useful to stir the brown sugar into the water before adding the pineapple rind and core, cinnamon, and cloves.
  3. Use the cheesecloth, loosely applied plastic wrap, or lid with an airlock to seal the container. You don't want bugs or bacteria to get in, but you don't want the container to be completely airtight.
  4. Let ferment for ~3 days. If it is quite hot (over 80F) where the Tepache is brewing, you may want to only give it 2 days.
  5. After 24-36 hours, check for white foam on the Tepache. If you see it, simply scrape it off.
  6. After 2-3 days, strain out the chunks and either enjoy the Tepache on ice immediately or bottle it in a resealable vessel like a growler or EZ Cap flip-top bottles.
  7. Store in the refrigerator.

It's a crazy easy way to get a delicious, refreshing drink with lots of pro-biotics from ingredients you have laying around the house or you would normally just throw in the compost bin!

Contact us if you have any questions. Happy fermenting!

Pros and Cons of Electric Brewing June 27 2017, 0 Comments

Ever think about turning your gas powered home-brewery into an electric one? There are some factors you will want to consider, including:

  • Depending on the power in your house, you may have to put in a new circuit or at least some new outlets.
  • You will DEFINITELY want a GFCI outlet for safety purposes.
  • Electrical systems are harder to take on the road to brew at a buddy's house
  • You will need a way to deal with all of the moisture created during the brewing process. Setting your mash tun and boil kettle beneath a window into which you can install a fan is an easy way to do this.

There are many positives to brewing electrically, including:

  • You can brew inside, which often decreases setup and cleanup time.
  • You can brew year-round (more beer!).
  • Electric heating elements are much quieter than either natural gas or propane burners.
  • No propane, so especially if you brew in a garage or in a basement, you eliminate the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning.

If you have any questions about turning your gas brewhouse into an electric brewhouse, always feel free to ask us questions!

Using Pectic Enzyme in Wine September 07 2016, 0 Comments

Winemakers, are you using pectic enzyme in your fruit wines? You should be! Even though it's an elective additive, we do recommend that you use it at the start of your wine fermentation. It not only helps your wine appear clear and bright and prevent haze, it also helps break down the fruit pulp, extract more tannins from the skins, and increase juice yield! Use 1/2 tsp. of pectic enzyme per gallon of must at the very beginning of your fermentation, and watch your fruit produce a nice yield of clear, beautiful wine!

Master your water chemistry June 10 2016, 0 Comments

Don't fret water chemistry, master it. Below is one simple way to dive head-first (with floaties, of course) into a topic that can seem overwhelming at times.

The first step is to find out WHAT is in your water. Here's the steps for tracking down what's in your Madison Municipal Well Water:

1) Plug your address in here:

2) When you know your wells, access the PDF of each well from this site:…/water-quality-reports-for-m…

3) On that well report, under the section "Hardness and Other Minerals," click on the hyperlinked "Inorganics Table." That'll have all the good / relevant stuff for brewing.

If you want, John Palmer's spreadsheet is really helpful and fairly intuitive to use. You can download it from his online book's site at the link all the way at the bottom of the page (for the Residual Alkalinity spreadsheet):…/unde…/residual-alkalinity-and-mash-ph

And, as always, let us at The Shop know if you have any questions!

Washing your yeast June 09 2016, 0 Comments

The next time you re-pitch yeast into a new batch, consider doing a quick Yeast Wash / Rinse first. This will help separate and capture all the viable, healthy yeast from the trub and old beer.

Here's a quick how-to:

1) Prior to re-pitching, boil 1 gallon of water for 10-15 minutes, then chill that water.
2) Decant off any beer/liquid from the yeast you plan to re-pitch from the container the yeast has been stored in.
3) Pour your boiled and chilled water into that storage container.
4) Swirl and re-suspend all the solids in that container.
5) Clean and sanitize another container (like a flask in the picture).
6) Pour the contents of the container into the freshly sanitized container. Top up with remaining boiled and chilled water and cover with sanitized stopper and airlock or aluminum foil.
7) Let settle for a couple of hours. You'll notice any remaining beer float to the top and hop particles, dead yeast sells, and other solids float to the bottom. You want to keep everything else.
8) Decant off the beer.
9) very gently swirl the container, not to aggressively to disrupt the darker solids on the bottom.
10) Pour into fermentor, leaving behind the darker solids.

Dry-Hopping January 27 2016, 0 Comments

For that next beer with a big wallop of hops in the aroma, try dry hopping for only 24-36 hours at room temperature. Ryan at the Shop has had great luck with this method recently, especially when attempting to brew over-the-top hopped stuff, like Stone's Go-To IPA.

Dry-Hopping with the Wine and Hop Shop

Highly Acidic Wines September 22 2015, 0 Comments

Here are some tips to dealing with highly acidic wines.

  1. Do nothing and then sweeten near bottling time until balanced.
  2. Blend with a low acid wine.
  3. Ameliorate - Add water, often distilled or reverse osmosis.
  4. Ferment with Lalvin 1122 yeast, which can transform malic acid in wine to lactic acid and Co2.
  5. Malolactic fermentation - Malolactic fermentation (MLF) is an excellent tool to lower the acidity of wine, improve mouthfeel, and remove some unripe, green flavor characteristics. It is used in many red wines and it works very well in some white wines. A malolactic culture is added after primary fermentation.
  6. Cold stabilization – Chill wine in a carboy prior to bottling to precipitate out excess tartaric acid. As cold as you can get it (without freezing it) for a month or so should do it.
  7. Chemical neutralization - Potassium or calcium carbonate can be used to remove wine acids. The addition is typically done prior to fermentation for a couple of reasons. One is because there is less danger of losing aroma compounds. However, you can add it post-fermentation.
  8. Carbonic maceration - Ferment a small percentage of your grapes whole cluster (uncrushed) during primary fermentation.

Make a Beer Engine September 01 2015, 0 Comments

Here's a neat -- and cheap! -- project: Convert a barrel that's past its prime into the ornamental part of a beer engine. It cost less than $50 in parts (RV water pump, 1/4" beverage tubing, swivel nut, MFL disconnect), and he put it together in less than an hour. There is no sparkler tip necessary, just some 3/8" gas line to reach to the bottom of the glass.

You could build and install the engine anywhere, really, but it looks pretty sharp with the barrel.

HopShot Extract August 13 2015, 0 Comments

Try HopShot in your next hop-forward beer. Super easy to use and no hop trub! Try letting the HopShot soak in hot (but not boiling water) before injecting your wort so that it flows nicely out of the syringe. And mind the (SUPER) sticky ring on the kettle when cleaning afterwards. Try rubbing alcohol to remove the sticky film...

Calculate a 5mL Hopshot to contribute 50 IBU in a 1.050 wort.

For Beersmith users, I found that setting the AA% to 75 contributed 50 IBU in a 5 gallon 1.050 wort. The bitterness contribution will change depending on wort density, as with any hop addition, so heads up on that, too!

Hop Harvesting August 08 2015, 0 Comments

Your hops are growing like crazy and taking over your yard, by now you're probably seeing lots of those big bright hop cones and fantasizing about throwing them in to your next homebrew. You know that typically hop harvest begins in late August and continues through the beginning of October, but each variety reaches peak maturity at a different time, so when to harvest those hops in your yard? It is time to harvest your home-grown hops when you see:

1. The hop cones appear less tight, the leaves of the cone are opening and loosening
2. Bright yellow lupulin droplets are showing at the base of the leaves (this smells strongly like hops and is sticky when touched)
3. When you squeeze a cone, it emits a strong fragrant scent that you would expect from fresh hops
4. The hop cone feels papery and resilient, but not hard
5. The cone is no longer entirely bright green, the small leaves at the base of the stem are beginning to dry with the tips turning brown.

Keep monitoring those hops, harvest at the right time when you see the signs listed above, store the harvested hops properly or use them right away and before you know it you'll have a delicious homegrown homebrew! Let us know if you have any questions or want help making a recipe to use your fresh hops!

Purge CO2 from Kegs June 01 2015, 0 Comments

For those of you who keg your beer, it's a good idea to purge your keg with CO2 prior to racking/transferring so that no air comes into contact with the beer.

Here's a couple ways to do this if you're racking from a fermentor to a keg:

1) Simply connect the gas disconnect to your gas-in post and allow the gas to enter the keg for 7-10 seconds. CO2 is heavier than air, so it will settle to the bottom of the keg, displacing the air as you rack your beer in to the bottom of the keg. 

Here's a variant of this step: Fill your keg with Co2 prior to racking, than use a screw driver to press the pop it valve on the liquid side to drive out all the pressure via the liquid dip tube.

2) Try connecting the gas disconnect to your liquid-in post, allowing the gas to enter the keg via the dip tube. Then rack into the bottom of the keg. A word of caution here: The gas disconnect is not designed to fit on a liquid post, so it might take some effort to remove the disconnect from the post.

Blow-Off Tube May 12 2015, 0 Comments

Putting 5.5 gallons in a six gallon carboy? Planning to use a vigorous top-fermenting wheat yeast for your summer Hefeweizen? Adding blood oranges to your next batch of IPA? Then consider using a blow-off tube -- better that then coming home to a popped stopper or krausen gushing from your airlock.

Here's a few option for your blow-off setup, ***all of which have you placing ~1" of the tip of the tube into a bucket/pitcher of water or sanitizer:

  • Use Blow-off tubing, a 1" ID tube that fits neatly in the neck of a glass carboy.
  • Squeeze 1/2" ID over the middle part of a 3-piece airlock (see carboy on right in pic).
  • Jam 3/8" ID (or 5/16 ID) standard siphon tubing into a #6, 6.5, or 7 drilled rubber stopper (see carboy on left in pic). 
  • Fit 3/8" or 1/2" ID siphon tubing over one of the tips of a carboy cap.

Using Fruit in Brewing April 29 2015, 0 Comments

Planning to use fruit in your next brew? A pineapple wheat for lounging on the deck or a cherry smoked imperial stout for winter, perhaps. Well, here's some things to consider:

  • Try freezing the fruit first, then gently smash and add to the secondary fermentor. Freezing bursts the fruit's cell walls, making the sugars more readily accessible to your beer yeasties!
  • Add some unfermentable sugar along with the fruit (or prior to bottling). A sugar like lactose or sweeteners like xylitol or nutri-sweet work. Start with just a bit, then add more to taste if needed. This will bring back some of the sweetness we expect from fruit, sweetness that's no longer present in the finished beer since all that sweet fructose will be eaten up by your beer yeasties!
  • You could also use a fruit flavor extract to supplement the actual fruit. A little goes a long way.
  • Expect any addition of fruit to restart fermentation, so have your blow-off tube or extra head space in the fermentor ready!

Carboy Cleaning Tabs April 27 2015, 0 Comments

A nice, hot soak with a good cleanser works like a charm when getting that caked-on krausen off of the sides of your fermentors after primary fermentation. In addition to PBW and Straight A, we also have Keg & Carboy Cleaning Tablets from Craft Meister. Ryan just tried some out when cleaning a carboy from one of our 102 classes. "They worked like a charm," he said. "Three tabs plus hot water in a carboy was plenty!" he exclaimed. Why are you yelling, we asked. "Goooooo cleaning! That's why!" "...And sanitizing," he whispered.

Trimming Hop Bines April 24 2015, 0 Comments

As your backyard hops get taller, usually above 6 inches, you'll want to pick the strongest bine per rhizome and cut the rest down. This way you'll get more energy poured into producing hop flowers and less on making "structure."

If this is the first year that you planted your hop rhizomes, don't trim them at all, just let them grow, since the first year you just want the plant to take hold, you're not really concerned about hop production.

Happy Hopping!