News

Pros and Cons of Electric Brewing June 27 2017

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!


Washing your yeast June 09 2016

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

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


HopShot Extract August 13 2015

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!


Blow-Off Tube May 12 2015

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

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!

Yeast Pitching Rate March 17 2015

Hey Home-Brewers! Have you ever thought about your yeast pitching rate? If not, now is a great time to start! Basically, pitching rate is the number of yeast cells in billions that you add to a given volume of wort (usually in gallons). Pitching rate is extremely important for yeast health to help provide an active, healthy, complete fermentation. In general, the higher gravity your beer, the higher pitching rate you will need. Additionally, lagers need an even higher pitching rate than ales. To calculate your pitching rate, try a free online calculator tool like the Mr. Malty yeast calculator.

In cases where you need a higher pitching rate, you can either buy multiple packages of yeast or you can make a starter. Check out how to make a yeast starter on our website under our knowledge base.

If you're interested in learning more about yeast pitching rates, sign up for one of our intermediate or all-grain beer classes!


Ferment Fast with S-04 January 14 2015

Need to get a beer ready in time for the Packer's final game of the season (aka the Super Bowl)? Consider making an ale using Safale S-04 from Fermentis. This British ESB yeast is a fast and vigorous fermenter that drops out quickly and leaves a very clear beer in as little as a week. This dry yeast also leaves a malty sweetness that is great in everything from pale ales to stouts. Several of our kits use S-04 yeast including our Zombie Sue Pale Ale, Badger Dark Ale, and the super quick Boogiepop Session Ale, which is great for all-day-game-day enjoyment. Check out this great yeast today and GO PACK!


Brew Fast, Ferment Fast December 20 2014

We recently added a new kit to our lineup: What the Fuggle Session Scotch Ale. This malt-forward beer exclusively features the Fuggle hop and only requires a 30 minute boil. It's definitively delicious. We recently whipped up a batch for the shop, and from brew day to packaging, it only took 7 days! It will be on tap at the Shop soon...


Bonus Tip/Trick: We also pitched the Clarity Ferm additive with the yeast. Clarity Ferm acts as a fining/clarifying agent as well as reduces the gluten levels in the finished product, a bonus for those of you trying to avoid gluten but still craving beer!


Cooling Your Wort December 17 2014

When brewing in the winter, you might be tempted to cool your boiling wort in a bank of snow (a la Jack in The Shining). But beware! Yes, that snow will chill the kettle for a short time, but quickly it will start to act as an insulator and have the opposite effect you intended.

A more productive way to use snow would be in your ice bath as you chill. You can also add a copper wort chiller to the equation for optimal cooling.


Utilize the Cold, Make a Lager December 16 2014

Get winter to work for you in your brewing: make a lager! If you have a space in your house that is a constant 45 - 58F, then you're all set to ferment at the cool temps lager yeasts requires. We have a great selection of lager kits and yeasts, so give one a try. We promise you that they're worth the cold and the time.

Maybe even try our newest lager kit: Helles Hath No Fury Munich Helles! This beer is the malty, crisp, and refreshing lager that you always see poured in 1 liters in biergartens. Channel Bavaria in your own home!


Yeast Lag Time December 15 2014

Ever notice how your yeast sometimes take a day or two to start fermentation? It can be concerning, for sure, and you might think that you got a bum yeast packet. But what might actually be going on inside your fermentor is the preliminary step of fermentation, a growth phase for the yeast. During this stage, the yeast cells are splitting, increasing vastly in number, getting ready to eat all those sugars in the wort. Once the yeast has grown up its colony, then begins that active fermentation that creates CO2 (we see in our fermentation lock) and krausen (the foamy head on the fermenting beer), two of the most visible signs of fermentation.
So, next time your beer doesn't kickoff to a vigorous fermentation within a day of pitching your yeast, you may want to wait just a bit longer before pitching more yeast.


Wash and Reuse Yeast November 12 2014

Do you need to save a couple dollars but NEED to brew? Try washing your yeast! It's a simple way to reuse viable yeast and save money. You'll do this washing immediately after transferring your beer off of the primary yeast cake.
  1. Boil one gallon of water for 15 minutes, while your waiting sanitize one large container (like a 1 gallon jug), a few large mason jars and lids and a funnel. Ideally, you'd boil the jars and lids, too.
  2. When your timer is up, chill the kettle of water in an ice bath (like you would wort). 
  3. Siphon your beer off the yeast into a secondary fermentor, bottles or a keg. Sanitize and return the airlock to the fermentor. 
  4. After your water has chilled, make sure it is at room temperature and pour it into the primary fermentor (that contains the yeast cake). Shake it up!
  5. Place carboy on its side and let it settle for 30 minutes. There should be definable layers. The yeast is the milky layer. 
  6. Carefully pour that milky, yeast layer into the sanitized 1 gallon jug , leaving as much of the dead yeast and hop particles behind as possible. Place an airlock on this container, and let settle for another 30 minutes.
  7. After it has settled, pour into sanitized jars, seal them up and place in refrigerator. 
  8. Use within 3 months or so -- as always with yeast, the fresher, the better!

Backup Yeast October 28 2014

A simple yet important tip. Whether you are a homebrewer or a winemaker, always keep a backup pack of dry yeast on hand. They keep for a few years, especially if you keep them in the refrigerator. Montrachet yeast is a great all-purpose choice for wine and Safale US-05 works for pretty much any ale. You never know when you'll have to save that precious batch with a backup yeast...


Change One Variable October 22 2014

A great way to experiment with your homebrew is by splitting a batch into multiple fermenters and changing one variable. For instance, pitch WLP001 California Ale into one fermenter and Wyeast 1450 Denny's Favorite 50 into the other. Or, us e the same yeast but dry-hop with Mosaic in one and Nelson Sauvin in the other. Because everything else is the same, it really allows you to notice and enjoy (or not) the differences between yeasts and hops.

This can be a great way to figure out which yeasts and hops you prefer in different beer styles.


Gluten-Free Brewing August 26 2014

Got a friend or family member who wants to try your homebrew but is going gluten-free? There's a couple of great ways to make a tasty brew without the gluten. Instead of using malt extract or brewing from malted barley, you can use sorghum extract, Belgian candi sugar, brown sugar, molasses, rice syrup solids, or corn sugar to make up your fermentables. Maltodextrin can be used to add body and mouthfeel to your beer and you can roast your own naturally gluten-free grains like wild rice, millet, quinoa, or gluten-free oats to add flavor and body as well. You can easily make everything from an IPA to a stout with these ingredients.

Above and beyond that, you can make a normal beer recipe into a almost-gluten-free beer by adding Clarity Ferm at the same time as your yeast. This wonderful clarifier will reduce the ppm of gluten below 20, the current international standard for gluten-free.

Using these tips, gluten-free doesn't have to be flavor free!


Softening Hard Water August 15 2014

Hello fermentation specialists! Here's a tip for the homebrewers out there. Because Madison has very hard water, which can lead to mineral or chalky flavors in finished beer, it's not a bad idea to dilute your brewing water with Reverse Osmosis or distilled water. When I brew malty beers or Pilseners or the like, I use between 50% to 75% RO water. If I'm brewing hoppy beers (which I usually am), I use 25%-50% RO water and add a little gypsum.

Extract brewers can use all RO or distilled water, because the extract has enough of the micro-nutrients that your yeast want. For more information on your tap water, contact your local municipality and ask for a water report for your area. And as always, if you have any questions about water treatment or anything else, stop on in.


Easy Sparging August 11 2014

Homebrewing Tip About Rinsing Steeping Grains / "Sparging": When you're rinsing your grains (aka "sparging"), it's helpful to use a strainer or colander that can seat inside your kettle and hold the muslin bag and steeping grains, which will allow you to safely pour the hot sparge water over/through the grains and into the boil kettle. 

Keep this step in mind when calculating the volume in your boil kettle BEFORE you start your brew. And also note that this sparge step is not an essential one on your brew day, but it helps rinse more of the sugars and "character" from your steeping grains.


Use a Sparging Bag August 09 2014

Consider a sparging bag for those indoor brews. These bags make steeping or partial-mashing (or even full mashing) a breeze because they're coarse enough to allow water exposure to all the grain, fine enough to prevent any grain from sneaking into the wort, and equipped with a drawstring for easy rinsing/sparging. You can also clip it to your kettle with binder clips and avoid any hassle of it sinking into the wort!


Extract Beers Too Dark? August 01 2014

Are your extract beers coming out a little darker than you would like? One trick is to add half of the extract before you begin your boil and then add the rest with about ten minutes left in the boil. It's quite easy, with about ten minutes left in the boil, turn off the heat, stir in your extract, bring back to a boil, then finish the boil. This will help lighten the color, reduce caramel flavors, and increase your hop utilization.


Adjusting Brewing Gravities July 31 2014

Gravity too low on brew day? There's an easy fix: Always keep a bag of Dry Malt Extract (DME) on hand just in case! Here's a handy link from John Palmer's How to Brew that walks you through how to calculate the amount of DME to add: http://www.howtobrew.com/section1/chapter3-4.html.

If your gravity is too high -- just add water.


Adding Fruit to Beer July 25 2014

Brewing up a fruit beer this summer? It's awesome to use real strawberries or peaches, but you can also supplement those natural fruit flavors with some of our fruit flavors and extracts. Just a little goes a long way in creating that summertime flavor and feeling!

If you are adding actual fruit, our two favorite times to add the fruit are:

  1. Right when you turn off the heat of your boil and start to cool down the wort. This pasteurizes the fruit so you don't get an infection without cooking off too much of the fruit character.
  2. In the secondary fermenter. If you do this and you're using fruit you picked or bought, we recommend either pasteurizing, blanching, or using metabisulfites to kill off any bacteria that may be in the fruit. If you use a canned puree or fruit base, you can just add it directly to the secondary, it's already been pasteurized.

If you are adding the fruit flavorings or extracts, you can add them at any point, we recommend doing it right at bottling or kegging, so you can nail the amount perfectly.

A great way to get a fantastic fruit character in your beer, cider, or mead, is to start with actual fruit and then supplement the character with the fruit flavorings at bottling time if necessary.


Cool Your Wort Down Faster July 23 2014

When it's really hot out, it can be tough to get your wort cooled down quickly, since it's so hot and the ground water is quite warm. Here's a tip or two if you're brave enough to brew on hot days.

If you're an extract brewer, put your top-up water in the fridge a few hours before you brew to cool it down. If you're an all-grain brewer and use an immersion chiller, while chilling, either stir the wort with a spoon or use the chiller to get a whirlpool going. This will cool your wort down more quickly and efficiently.


Fermenting Lagers July 21 2014

For lager fermentation, try following this fermentation schedule:

  1. Pitch into cold wort, around 45F.
  2. Allow the beer to free-rise up to your primary lager fermentation temp, 52-55F, and ferment at that temp for the duration of primary.
  3. Once primary fermentation is complete, preform a diacetyl rest, which entails raising the temperature to around 68F and holding it at that temp for 2-3 days.
A temperature controller (in conjunction with a fridge or freezer) makes lager fermentation much easier. Otherwise, consider using Wyeast 2112 California Lager which retains a clean fermentation character without a refrigerator between 58 - 68F.

Carbonating Lagers July 18 2014

Brewing Tip: Want a crisp Octoberfest for the fall? It's not too early to get to brewing it. Crisp lagers benefit from long cold-conditioning, which means brewing it sooner rather than later to get that authentic German lager character. 

If you bulk-lager in the fermentor before bottling, you'll want to add some yeast back at bottling time. Try the CBC-1 dry yeast. It's in-part designed for bottle conditioning, so it'll carbonate the beer and drop out fast and fully, allowing your friends to marvel at your crystal-clear Octoberfest!

Also, try brewing up our Gemutlichkeit Octoberfest kit or our brand new Prost! OctoberFAST kit (a faster fermenting, yet clean, malty ale).


Get Hoppy with Hop Stands July 14 2014

Want to get better hop flavor and aroma in your beer? Try whirlpool hopping, also known as hop stand hopping. After turning off your burner, either slightly cool your wort using your normal method (to 180-190F) and add the hops you'd like to use, or immediately toss them in. Using a sanitized spoon, give your wort a good stir to create a "whirlpool" effect. No need to continuously stir; just get the whirlpool going every once in awhile. You can steep these hops for anywhere from 5 to 60 minutes. If your wort reaches ~170F, it's a good idea to stop the process and to finish cooling your wort down to yeast pitching temperature.

Whirlpool hopping will add a little bit of extra bitterness to your beer, so it's a good idea to account for that when you are making your recipe. However, you'll gain big on hop flavor and aroma! Once you've perfected the technique and brewed the perfect hoppy beer, be sure to enter it into our Hoptoberfest IPA contest that we hold every fall.

 


Saison Season is Here July 05 2014

Hey everybody. Saison Season is on us. 

Clever puns aside, now is the time to make this Belgian/French style. Notable for its estery flavor and high ABV, saisons are fermented in the 70-90 degree range, depending on yeast strain.

There is a lot of room for creativity here. I fondly remember a customer brewing a hibiscus Saison a while back and bringing in a bottle to receive some feedback. It was unlike anything I had tasted. Aromatic, silky on the palette at the same time robust with a distinct Belgian character.

There is a good amount of overlap sometimes with the Franco/Belg frontiere styles but Saisons are a class by themselves.


Partigyle for More Beer July 02 2014

Party PARTI-GYLE style on your next big brew day!

"Parti-" = to divide; "gyle" = product of a brew 

A parti-gyle brew is when you run off/lauter the first volume of your mash for a strong beer, like a barleywine or imperial stout, and then collect a second volume of runnings from the same grain for a low-gravity beer. You want to calculate a much lower efficiency for the low-gravity wort, somewhere between 35-15%, depending on your system. 

So this grain may look spent, but sugars still abound! Run some more water through it, and BOOM! you've doubled your brew day output!