Friday, December 2, 2011


Last winter I went to a MABCAB (Milwaukee Area Brewers & Chicago Area Brewers) get together in Shorewood, WI. The guy who hosted it served a really good Kolsch. I've been wanting to brew one all year. Having not brewed any sort of lager or hybrid in awhile, the time finally arrived. I used his recipe, scaled up to 6 gallons so excuse the odd grain amounts, except that he used the same IBUs worth of Perle hops rather than Hallertauer. I've seen many recipes with Hallertauer though, and it's what I had on hand. (I need to start brewing some hoppier beers to get last year's hops used up!)


brewed on: 12/2/11
OG: 1.047
IBUs: 46.6 IBUs
SRM:  5
mash temp: 149F

6 gallon batch
90 minute boil
75% efficiency assumed

5.38 lbs red Kolsch malt
4 lbs Pilsner malt
0.67 lbs Wheat malt

18.5 gm Hallertauer @ 3.9% - first wort (90 minutes)
39.5 gm Hallertauer @ 3.9% - 60 minutes

WY Kolsch strain - 2 liter starter

I overboiled by a bit and had to boil/top up with some water. Not a big deal. Back to 6 gallons. I'm hoping it didn't get too dark though.

primary: ~58F- raised to 62. Back down to 58-59.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Anglo-American Pale Ale

My friend Jim pointed out to me the other day that I hadn't brewed a hoppy beer in over 2 years. I hadn't felt like that long, but in checking back, he was right. And that one was an attempt at an all-brett IPA. It was time to break open the package of Amarillo hops I've bought a month or 2 ago! I call this an "Anglo-American" Pale Ale because I'm using English yeast (Fuller's strain) and Burtonized the water with a 10 gm gypsum addition to the mash.

Anglo-American Pale Ale

brewed on: 11/28/11
OG: 1.058
IBUs: 46.6
SRM:  7
mash temp: 152F

6 gallon batch
60 minute boil
assumed 75% efficiency


11 lbs US 2-row
1 lb Munich malt
0.7 lbs Carastan

10 gm Gypsum - mash

Hops (all loose pellets):
22 gm Yakima Magnum @ 14.4% - 60 minutes
14 gm Cascade @ 5.5% - 10 minutes
14 gm Amarillo @ 8.5% - 10 minutes
14 gm Chinook (homegrown whole-cone) - 10 minutes
14 gm Cascade @ 5.5% - flameout
14 gm Amarillo @ 8.5% - flameout
14 gm Chinook (homegrown, whole-cone) - flameout

16.5 gm Amarillo - dry hop, 5 days
16.5 gm Cascade - dry hop, 5 days

WY 1968 - London ESB (Fuller's strain) - repitched slurry from Golden Ale)

ECY Scottish Heavy - 2L starter

primary: started at 64F. Raised to 68F slowly over 3 days, then lowered back to 64F.

12/5/11 - Added dry hops - 16.5g each of Cascade & Amarillo loose pellets.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Brandy Barrel Golden Ale

We recently removed our Wheat Wine from the Apple Brandy Barrel it was aging in. It tastes amazing! I can't wait to bottle it. (This is definitely aging-worthy, and I'm hoping to bottle condition it toward that purpose.)

We brewed a Golden Ale recipe I came up with as an experiment for the second barrel beer. I don't mean a Belgian Golden Strong. This didn't really fit a style. I knew I wanted to try a mid-gravity, malt forward light colored ale in the barrel. We've done lots of sours, dark beers, and big beers so far. This is probably with good reason. I have a hunch that something like this lower gravity, lighter colored ale will not take to the oxidation in the barrel well. We'll see. I can imagine it going in a good direction though as well, picking up the apple-clove notes from the wood. We didn't rinse the barrel before immediately refilling, so there should be residual wheat wine notes to it as well. While I'm not expecting the wonderful beer that the Wheat Wine was, I'm hoping for the best!

We went with MO and some Vienna to get nice maltiness, and the Wyeast Fuller's strain to accentuate the malt as well. (I love the Fuller's strain, WY1968, for malty beers! It is a favorite of mine in general.)

Brandy Barrel Aged Golden Ale

brewed on: 11/11/11
OG: 1.059
IBUs: 28.5 IBUs
SRM:  7.5
mash temp: 152F


9 lbs Marris Otter
3 lbs Vienna
0.6 lbs Cara-Pils
0.6 Crystal 40L

Hops (all loose pellets):
22 gm Nugget @ 13% - 60 minutes
28.3 gm Challenger @ 7.5% - flameout

WY 1968 London ESB - 2 liter starter

11/25/11 - Barrel filled with Bob, Jim, Dan S., John, and myself.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Old Ale

Old Ale is one of my favorite types of beer. There are so many good Old Ales and English Barleywines out there and I've enjoyed exploring them over the last few years. I only wish we could get more here in Wisconsin. I found a clone recipe for Fuller's 1845, one of my favorites, and did some slight tweaking. My changes were the addition of 1% chocolate malt, and using East Coast Yeast's Scottish Heavy yeast instead of the obvious WY1968 Fuller's strain, as much as I love that yeast.

I got the idea to brew an Old Ale with the ECY strain a year ago when they first started selling it. Their description sounded perfect. Unfortunately, due to a mislabeled shipping address, it arrived after I had brewed and I never got to use the starter I made. So, when it recently arrived again this year, I put it right to work (after building up a 2L starter, of course!)

Old Ale

brewed on: 11/7/11
OG: 1.064
IBUs: 40.5 IBUs
SRM:  17
mash temp: 156F


11.75 lbs Marris Otter
1.5 lbs Amber Malt
1.5 lbs Crystal 65L (Fawcett)
3 oz Pale Chocolate malt
1 tsp gypsum

Hops (all loose pellets):
60 gm Fuggles @ 5.1% - 60 minutes
50 gm Fuggles @ 5.1% - 15 minutes

ECY Scottish Heavy - 2L starter

I'm debating adding some oak chips I received from Aeppeltreow owner Charles McGonegal that he soaked in his Pommeaux fortified pear dessert wine.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Choco-Coffee Imperial Stout

A few years back my friend Jim did a great Founders Breakfast Stout clone. I still remember it fondly and decided to brew one myself. I pretty much stuck to Jim's recipe. I brewed this last a week ago, but just got around to posting. It was racked to secondary this afternoon and is tasting great even before the additional coffee and chocolate additions were made!

Choco-Coffee Imperial Stout (Founder's Breakfast Stout clone)

brewed on: 10/30/11
OG: 1.080
IBUs: 34 IBUs
SRM:  47
mash temp: 155F


10 lbs US 2-row
7 lbs Marris Otter
1.5 lbs Flaked Oats (Quaker quick oats)
1 lb Chocolate Malt
12 oz Roasted Barley (300 SRM)
8 oz Special B
4 oz Black Patent
4 oz Carafa II

3 gm chalk

Hops (all loose pellets):
33 gm Nugget @ 13% AA - 60 minutes
14.17 gm Williamette @ 5.1% - 5 minutes
14.17 gm Williamette @ 5.1% - flameout

3 oz Bittersweet Chocolate - boil, 5 minutes
2 oz roughly ground coffee beans (medium roast) - flameout
2 oz Bitter baking chocolate - secondary (14 days)
1 oz roughly ground coffee beans (medium roast) - secondary (14 days)

2 packs US-05, rehydrated

Monday, October 17, 2011

Apple Brandy Barrel Aged Wheat Wine

I recently acquired an apple brandy barrel from Aeppeltreow cidery & distillery. This is some of the best brandy I've tried, with beautiful spice and fruit notes to it! The barrel echoes these, with an even more intense savory spiced aroma than the brandy itself. The barrel is around 26 gallons, which is more than I want to brew myself, so I recruited some friends from the B.O.M.B. (Barrel of Monkeys Brewers) group I started last year for group barrel projects. My friend Bob has a delicious Wheat Wine he brewed, based mostly off of one of the recipes in Stan Hieronymous's Brewing With Wheat. We decided it would be a great beer to age in the barrel. Along with Bob, Jim, Dan, and John, I brewed a batch of the wheat wine and we filled the barrel a week ago, along with a hefty amount of sampling of homebrew & commercial beers! A good time was had by all.

Barrel Aged Wheat Wine

brewed on: 9/16/11
OG: 1.110
IBUs: 75 IBUs
SRM:  11
mash temp: 156F


17.25 lbs Marris Otter
7.42 lbs White Wheat malt
1.36 lbs Aromatic malt
0.7 lbs Carapils
0.7 lbs Flaked Wheat

Hops (all loose pellets):
83.7 gm Centennial @ 8.7% - 90 minutes
25.6 gm Amarillo @ 7.5% - 30 minutes
43.66 gm Cascade @ 5.4% - 10 minutes
41.45 gm Cascade @ 5.4% - flameout

US-05 - 1 pack, rehydrated
Munich dry yeast - 1 pack, rehydrated

11/4/11 - Sample is showing nice clove and apple notes from the brandy barrel. Oak complexity is at a great level. We're shooting to empty asap, which is still 3 weeks off since we're brewing this week. Hopefully it doesn't get over-oaked. I'm really looking forward to this beer!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Second Runnings Beer - Thomas Hardy barleywine

For the second runnings beer from my Thomas Hardy inspired barleywine, I capped the mash with a bit more grain. Unfortunately, it ended up picking up an infection from the dry hops (I don't know why I bothered using a bag on this one when I usually don't for pellets.) I'm 100% sure it came from the nylon hop bag. It was a bland beer anyway, so no huge loss. I've got a Brett Blend #9 pitch from East Coast Yeast on its way, which I may pitch to see what happens, but I'm not expecting much. By the time the bugs are done I'll have a beer that had little malt character, old hops (by that time) and a bunch of brett. Doesn't soundvery good, or balanced, to me. Anyway, for the sake of recording recipes, I capped the mash with the following:

12 oz Crystal 60L
6 oz Crystal 120L
6 oz Pale Chocolate malt

0.9 oz Nugget @ 13% - 60 minutes
0.5 oz Challenger @ 5.3% - 15 minutes
0.5 oz Challenger @ 5.3% - flameout

WY London ESB - half slurry from English Mild

Thomas Hardy inspired Barleywine

Although I didn't brew much over the summer, as usual, I've brewed a few beers since my last post and really slacked about recording them! I've intended to do an all-base grain barleywine, inspired by the delicious Thomas Hardy's Ale. A few friends and I each picked up a sack of Marris Otter in preparation. I was considering using a Bavarian Lager yeast for awhile, after reading a report that that's what Eldridge Pope brewery used to use, but went with a combination of Wyeast London ESB yeast (the Fuller's strain) and Nottingham. I love the character of the Fuller's yeast, and added the Notty since I know it can handle high gravity well.

I made this brew using first-runnings only, and had a tough time hitting my mid-1.120s OG I was shooting for. In the end I topped it off with 3 lbs of DME. I used the yeast slurry from my English Mild, split it in 2, and used half for the second runnings beer. The pack of Notty was pitched into the primary along with the slurry.


brewed on: 8/28/11
OG: 1.127
IBUs: 64
SRM: 10
mash temp: 150F


35 lbs Marris Otter
Hops (all loose pellets):
2.5 oz Nugget @ 13% - 60 minutes
1 oz Fuggles - 10 minutes

WY 1968 London ESB- 1/2 yeast cake from English Mild
1 pack Nottingham

5/2/12 - I tasted a sample of this the other day out of the secondary and it is tasting amazing! The malt character is just what I'd hoped for with a sweetness level right around the actual Thomas Hardy beers I've tried! I'm thinking about bottling it soon!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

English Mild

I haven't brewed very many English inspired beers, and the majority of those have been along the lines of an Old ale here and Barleywine there. There was a bretted brown porter awhile back that is coming along nicely, and there was a pretty bad attempt at an ESB-esque creation with whatever I had on hand at one point. With that in mind, I picked up a pack of WY 1968 ESB yeast. This is the Fuller's strain and I love Fuller's. I plan to use it along with a pitch of stronger yeast to do a strong barleywine along the lines of Thomas Hardy next week. To get a big enough pitch of yeast ready, I brewed a dark Mild today. Here is my recipe:

English Mild

brewed on: 8/21/11
OG: 1.036
IBUs: 21.8 IBUs
SRM:  supposedly 16.7, but I think mine looks a little darker than that. We'll have to wait and see.
mash temp: 156F


6 lbs Marris Otter
1 lb Carastan (30-35L)
8 oz Pale Chocolate malt (200L)
6 oz Brown malt
4 oz Crystal 120L

Hops (all loose pellets):
0.9 oz Fuggles @ 5.1%  - 60 minutes
1 oz Fuggles @ 5.1% - 10 minutes

WY 1968 ESB - 1.6 liter starter, decanted.

Rum Barrel Aged Black Currant Melomel

My first attempt at an oak aged mead turned out great when I put it in my peach brandy barrel this past spring. On the heels of that tasty batch, I decided to try another melomel in the 5 gallon rum barrel I recently acquired. I've been curious about black currants in mead since watching the Brew TV episode where Curt Stock is interviewed. Apparently that is a favorite fruit addition of his. Here is my recipe:

Rum Barrel Aged Black Currant Melomel

brewed on: 8/6/11
Batch size: 5 gallons

15 lbs Wildflower honey

96oz. black currant juice (Vintner's Harvest)

25g - 71B Narbonne dry yeast, rehydrated and fed using the Minnesota Speed Mead method.

11/28/11 - bottled

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lambic barrels!

I've posted before about the group barrel projects I've been taking part in since last fall. It is finally time to drain our initial barrel of its contents, a sour Belgian Imperial Stout. We'll also be emptying our Rye Porter from the Zinfandel barrel it has been aging in.

In place of these beers the plan is to ferment a lambic-like beer in the barrels. Barrel #1 already has more than enough yeast and bugs from the 5 gallons of starter I inoculated it with last year. It was fermented half on Roselare and half on Bugfarm from East Coast Yeast. Barrel #2, which we've dubbed 'Rosie' probably doesn't have enough living in it to do the job of primary fermentation though. It has a mild brett strain living in it, but doesn't exhibit enough brett character (or any sourness) to make me think that there is enough population or variety of bugs for lambic fermentation. That being the case, I brewed a 10 gallon starter batch into which I pitched Wyeast Lambic Blend. I also mixed together dregs from bottles of Hansen's, Cantillon, and Boon Gueuze which some friends and I polished off while I was brewing.

For the starter batch I used the following recipe:

Lambic Solera Bug Starter

batch size: 10 gallons

brewed on: 7/3/11
OG: 1.047
IBUs: 0 IBUs (?)
mash temp: 158F
expected color: 3.6 SRM
90 minute mash

90 minute boil


10 lbs German pils malt
5 lbs German wheat malt
2 lbs flaked oats

4 oz debittered Crystal & Willamette whole leaf

WY Lambic blend, dregs from Cantillon Gueuze, Boon Gueuze, Hansen's Gueuze, and Lindeman's Cuvee Rene

We'll be filling the barrels each half-way with wort brewed on 7-17-11. Six of us will provide wort that day. One week later, the rest of the group will be brewing the rest and topping the barrels up. We'll then rack off 5 gallons from each barrel to allow for headspace during primary fermentation. Once that has calmed down, the beer will be racked back to the barrels to top them up.

I've ordered debittered, aged hops for use in this project. Since they aren't here yet though, I experimented with quickly oven-aging them. I started at 170F, the lowest my oven will go, and slowly raised the temp up to around 190F over the course of 4 hours. The house smelled really cheesy and stale by the time I was done. It took a couple days to air out.

For the rest of the batches, we'll be using the following grist:

12 lbs pils
3 lbs wheat malt
2 lbs unmalted wheat
2 lbs flaked oats

Rather than doing a ridiculously long, but traditional turbid mash, we're mashing at 158F to provide some more complex sugars for the secondary fermentation, along with everything the unmalted wheat and oats will be adding. I amended the recipe after brewing my batch with 10 lbs of pils to help raise the gravity a bit. I realized it was a bit on the low side!

The plan is to use these 2 barrels 'solera' style, and draw off half every 8 or 12 months, replacing that with 5 gallons per brewer of fresh wort. This will keep the batch going and simulate the blending of older beer with younger in traditional gueuze. While not as refined as the traditional blending process, it seems like a fun starting place for our further exploration of sour barrel aged beers by the Barrel Of Monkeys Brewers!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Munich Dunkel

I brewed my first lager a few months ago. It was a Munich Helles and it is delicious. I used to think I mainly had a taste for ales, but after trying some recent fresh lagers from both homebrewers and local commercial breweries, I did a 180 on that one. The key word in the last sentence is 'fresh'! The main reason I wasn't impressed by most supposedly world-class lagers in the past was that they are almost always stale by the time they reach the average drinker here.

Take Spaten as an example.They are an absolutely classic German brewery. In this case, they pretty much invented the Helles style when trying to imitate early Czech Pilsners in an attempt to capitalize on the growing light lager drinking trend that swept through Europe at the time. The average bottle of Spaten Premium Lager purchased here in the Midwest will have traveled for weeks or longer on a boat in a poorly temperature controlled environment, then waited months or more in a distributor's warehouse (again, sadly, often with complete lack of temperature control,) and finally waited on a store shelf or bar fridge, in some cases for weeks or months, before it reaches you. The beer you drink could easily be over 6 months old. For a light, delicate beer packaged in a green bottle, this means you will most likely find not-so-subtle notes of cardboard and skunk.

Enter homebrew and commercial craft beer. The first time I tried a Victory Prima Pils (a US brewed take on German Pilsner,) my initial thought was something like, "This is way too hoppy! It tastes like a pale ale!" Then it hit me. I'd never had an actual fresh German pilsner before. Aha! This is what these beers are supposed to taste like! I've had similar experiences with many homebrewed lagers in the last year or two as well.

 The fact of the matter is most Americans will never taste a fresh lager in their entire lives, even if they are avid commercial beer drinkers. Now that I have, I want more! When I started homebrewing I never thought it would lead me to lagering. As a matter of fact, that was probably my area of least interest. Yesterday I brewed my second one and there will definitely be more to come. After my initial Munich Helles, I brewed a Dunkel this time. I've judged some great ones at local competitions, and this brown lager with it's toasted breadcrumb flavors gets high marks in my book. I stuck with a pretty simple recipe.

Munich Dunkel

brewed on: 5/9/11
OG: 1.053
IBUs: 24 IBUs
mash temp: 153F (I overshot a bit and then brought it down.)
expected color: 18.5 SRM

5 lbs Munich malt (10 L)

5 lbs Vienna malt
6 oz Carafa II

Hops (all loose pellets):
1.8 oz Hallertauer @ 3.9% - 60 minutes

0.25 oz Hallertauer @ 3.9% - 20 minutes

WY 2206 Bavarian Lager yeast. - 2 liter starter, decanted, followed by another 2.5 liter starter, decanted and pitched at 52F.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Flanders Red - ECY Flemish Blend

There are few beers I've brewed repeatedly on a regular basis. One of the joys of homebrewing is the freedom of not being locked into producing the same few styles, as consistently as possible, over and over like a commercial brewery often does. That said, there are a few styles I've taken to re-brewing because I like them, and in some cases I find them very open to variations. Saison is a prime example. It is a very open ended style to begin with, and it's got examples all over the map with variants based on season, locally available ingredients, and pure creative brewing artistry.

On the other end of the spectrum, I find Flanders Reds to be something where I really appreciate a small percentage of the limited commercial examples out there. Rodenbach Grand Cru, Rodenbach's Vintage releases, and La Folie are my definite favorites and there are certain distinct similarities I find in them. They are 3 of the most sour, acidic beers I've tried, the fruity flavors of each fall into similar realms, and the oak aging brings out similar flavors and tannic mouthfeel.

In an attempt to get an eventual good Flanders sour ale brewed at home, I've done 3 batches in the past, all using various slurries of East Coast Yeast's Bugfarm releases. While meant for lambic fermentation, as well as general intense souring, they were my best option available since I find Roselare to be very lacking in the sour department until it is several generations old.

Recently, Al of ECY also released a Flemish blend. It contains a similar blend of yeast and bacteria, although not nearly as many and the balance of them is a bit different to hopefully get closer to a Flanders sour. I'm excited to try it! Since the vial of yeast/bugs sat around waiting patiently in the fridge for longer than I would have liked, I put half of the slurry through a stir-plated starter and saved half to pitch directly into the secondary. The logic behind this is that pediococcus, one of the players in this blend, is not a happy camper when introduced to large amounts of oxygen. I grew half on the stirplate to encourage the Saccharomyces strains in the blend to get healthy for a good initial fermentation. The pedio- is hardy enough to survive well enough in the vial, so I'll pitch the second half of the slurry later to encourage it to go to work once the fermented beer is transferred to a carboy to age and sour for a year or two.

Now that I've got 4 different batches of Flanders Red brewed, all with different yeast/bacteria blends, I'm looking forward to blending some into what I hope will be a passable, and quite acidic, batch of Flanders sour ale later this year! Here is the recipe I used, based on the information in Jeff Sparrows' Wild Brews. It is the same recipe, bug blend aside, that I've used in the past batches.

Flanders Red - #4

brewed on: 5/1/11
OG: 1.053
IBUs: 12 IBUs
mash temp: 150F
expected color: 13.1 SRM

5.5 lbs. Vienna malt
2.25 lbs. Flaked Corn
1 lb. German Carahell
1 lb. Belgian Caravienna
1 lb. Belgian Aromatic malt
6oz. Belgian Special B

Hops (all loose pellets):
0.6 oz Styrian Goldings @ 5.2% - 60 minutes

ECY Flemish Blend - 1/2 grown on stirplate & pitched into primary. 1/2 pitched directly from vial into secondary.

Brandy Barrel Imperial Stout

As I posted awhile back, I recently acquired a 10 gallon Peach Brandy barrel from the owner of Aeppeltreow Winery & Distillery. While aging a Rhubarb-Berry Melomel, I wanted to plan ahead for the next batch to barrel age. Upon the suggestion of a few friends, and with their offers to help, I decided on an Imperial Stout.

Last year I helped start BOMB (Barrel of Monkeys Brewers), a group of friends, all wonderfully talented homebrewers/vintners on their own. We have 2 large barrels that we collectively brew for, with each person contributing 5 or 10 gallons. So far we have a 23 year old brandy barrel, and a Door County Zinfandel barrel from Stone's Throw Winery. The brandy barrel has a sour stout aging in it. The wine barrel had a batch of relatively low strength English Barleywine and now is holding a Rye Porter. Unfortunately, the barleywine, now kegged, is exhibiting signs of brettanomyces. The upside is that I find the flavors complementary so far, and if nothing else, it exhibits Old Ale-like qualities. My hope is that both barrels will soon be used for lambic fermentation. We're meeting this weekend, so ideas for what to do with them will be discussed.

The best thing to come out of the BOMB group is not the beer, but the friendship and camaraderie. It has been a blast getting together with the guys and sharing homebrew as well as great commercial beer. I'm amazed by the things some of the guys pull out of their cellars for our get-togethers. When we did the barleywine filling, we had flights of beer such as J.W. Lees barleywine, aged in Calvados, Sherry, and Port barrels going back to 2004, just as an example.

So, now with a smaller 10 gallon barrel of my own, I definitely want to get a few friends to brew batches with me here and there. With 5 gallons being my standard brew size, it'll be nice to share the brewing load and the results with friends.

For now, my friend Jim and I decided do use one of the Imperial Stout recipes from Zainasheff & Palmer's Brewing Classic Styles book. I intend to start brewing certain "beers to be aged" annually including an Imperial Stout, Old Ale, and barleywine. Thus, this recipe seemed like a good starting place with options to vary the recipe in years to come, whether or not it is oak aged. Here is what we ended up with:

Brandy Barrel Imperial Stout

brewed on: 4/25/2011
efficiency: 75%

expected OG: 1.100

Expected IBUs: 50.3 IBUs
mash temp: 150F


19 lbs Marris Otter
1.5 lbs Roasted Barley (300 SRM)
1 lb Special B
8 oz Caramunich
8 oz Chocolate malt
8 oz Pale Chocolate malt

1.5 oz Magnum @ 14.1% - 60 minutes
2 oz Willamette @ 4.8% - 10 minutes
2 oz Willamette @ 4.8% - 1 minute

US-05 (2 packets)

5/17/11 FG 1.032. (Jim's batch @ 1.031) Filling barrel tonight.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Rhubarb-Berry Melomel

I've yet to try an oaked mead, but it's something I've been curious about since I first read Ken Schramm's Compleat Meadmaker. He raves about the character oak can add to an already good mead. Now that I've got my 10-gallon Peach Brandy barrel this is my chance to find out!

I looked at some of the St. Paul homebrew club's info on staggered nutrient additions, pH adjustment, etc for meadmaking. Kristen England has a powerpoint online from a mead presentation he gave, and there is a good interview (w/ 2 recipes) from Curt Stock on Brew TV as well. With info in hand, I got some KOH from one of the guys in the Milwaukee Beer Barons club while taking my BJCP exam earlier this month and set out to make a big Stock-inspired melomel.

We have around 20 lbs of rhubarb in the chest freezer from my grandma's garden last year. I saved the really thick stalks for mead/beer since they are too big and stringy to work well in pies. (My grandma makes the best rhubarb pie ever, just for the record!) I also went out and bought a bunch of strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and 2 containers of Blueberry-Pomegranate juice concentrate. Along with 40 lbs of honey from 3 different sources, I split this all up into 2 buckets and did my thang. . .

Peach Brandy Barrel Aged Rhubarb-Berry Melomel

brewed on: 3/30/11
OG: 1.120
FG (bucket 1): 1.033
FG (bucket 2): 1.012

18 lbs - Wildflower (Sean's dad's apiary, Fall '10 harvest)
6 lbs - Wildflower (DP. Wigley, funky/earthy smelling & crystallized)
16 lbs - Wildflower (Jim Payne, older honey, crystallized, but very clean tasting)

8 lbs - rhubarb
7.5 lbs - strawberries
5 lbs - blueberries
3.5 lbs - blackberries
2 cans - blueberry-pomegranate juice concentrate

25g Lalvin Narbonne 71B (split 12.5g/bucket)

Nutrients & pH adjustment schedule:
Day 1 (per 5 gallon bucket)
4.5g Wine yeast Nutrient
12.5g 71B yeast, rehydrated
28g GoFerm
2g DAP

Days 1, 3, 5, 7
stir to degas

Days 2, 4, 6 (per 5 gallon bucket)
stir to degas
4.5g Fermaid K
2g DAP
50ppm KOH (10 ml, 2M solution) 

Fermented at 63F ambient temp

Added to Peach brandy barrel after 2 weeks. Average FG of 1.022.

5/17/11 - blended FG in barrel 1.017. Picked up just a hint of the oak & brandy barrel character. Also deepened the color to a deep orange. Cleared Nicely. Bottling tonight. Refilling barrel with RIS.

Monday, March 28, 2011

New 10 gallon Peach Brandy Barrel!

I was happy to receive an email the other day from the owner of Aeppeltreow Winery where I occasionally help out with bottling. Charles turns out some very good ciders and recently started releasing brandies as a distillery as well.

I had asked awhile back about the availability of any barrels when Charles was done with them. He just got done using a 10 gallon Minnesota oak barrel that had been filled with his first, small batch of Peach Brandy. I was happy to give it a new home. Now my dilemma is what to fill it with! I'd really like to go with an oak aged mead of some sort, but I'd like to fill it sooner than it will take to turn out a mead from the primary. My preference would be to do a mead and/or cider prior to any beer, but it may have to be a beer. Eventually, I hope to turn it into a 10 gallon sour beer solera with a Flanders or something similar. Charles thought the first batch or 2 to go through the barrel would pick up some of the brandy character, and future batches would just pick up oak. Maybe a big beer is best to soak up the brandy character first anyway. Time will tell.

(Photos will be added soon!)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

'Historic Influenced' Porter w/ Brett

In an effort to use up the last few packs of yeast waiting for attention in the fridge, I was debating what to do with a smackpack of Wyeast Old Ale blend, a special release from last year. A few friends had been doing historic, or historic influenced porters of late, and I figured something along those lines would be fun with this brew. I was considering a Whitbread Porter recipe from Whitbread in 1811. However, the more I played around with the recipe, the more I was convinced that the brown malt I have is nowhere near the malt they referred to as "brown malt" in this article. Mine is too light, so I adapted and went with something closer to a modern porter recipe. I added some crystal (Carastan, in this case) and some pale chocolate malt. Both ramped up the color into the dark range, rather than mid-brownish 18SRMs I was getting before. They should add more complexity too.

Porter (w/ Brett)

brewed on: 3/20/2011
expected OG: 1.048

Expected IBUs: 27 IBUs
mash temp: 154F


6.5 lbs Marris Otter
2 lb Brown Malt
1 lb Carastan
12 oz Pale Chocolate

1.2 oz Fuggle @ 5.1% - 60 minutes
0.5 oz Fuggle @ 5.1% - 10 minutes

Decanted 1 liter starter of Wyeast Old Ale blend

Added 0.3 oz House Toast French Oak cubes to primary.

3/28/11 - SG - 1.015. Chocolate notes, slightly roasted flavor. Body is on the thin side, but ok for a brown porter. Besides, the brett will chew the body up when it kicks in anyway.

Wine Barrel Rye Porter

Awhile back, our local barrel group filled a Zinfandel barrel with English barleywine. At last tasting (which I could not attend) it was pronounced to be pretty oaky, so it's time to refill with our next beer, a Rye Porter recipe from fellow homebrewer Eric Wolf. He did a non-oaked 5 gallon batch of this, along with several other rye beers, that we all liked and thought would take on the oak well. This was my first time brewing with rye. I've heard it is very gummy and can lead to stuck mashes easily. I added 1+ lb of rice hulls to my mash and it was one of the easiest I've ever had to run off.

Wine Barrel Rye Porter

brewed on: 3/18/2011
expected OG: 1.065

Expected IBUs: 59.9 IBUs (I had to tweak my recipe a bit, so was a tad over the planned 58.4 for the group)
mash temp: 154F


4 lbs US 2-row
4 lbs Rye Malt
3.5 lbs Munich Malt
1.25 Caramunich 
8 oz Chocolate Malt
8 oz Special Roast
0.4 lbs Pale Chocolate Malt

1.25 oz Mt. Hood @ 5.5% - First Wort (calculated as 20 minute addition)
0.9 oz Columbus @ 14.4% - 60 minutes
1 oz Mt. Hood - flameout
1.5 oz Columbus - dry hops (we will each do this on our own after barrel aging)


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Saison for Beer Fests

I recently volunteered to brew up a keg of saison for the upcoming Kenosha Beer & Cheese Fest going on next month, as well as a keg for the Milwaukee Firkin a few months later. I figured I might as well get it all out of the way now and just brewed up a 10 gallon batch. I stuck with my base recipe for this one. With Spring in the near future, I'll be back to brewing more saison variations this year soon enough though! This was a good kick off. I've gotta say it's really nice having a few hundred lbs of grain on hand, and 9 lbs of hops! The only thing I had to pick up for this batch was yeast! I don't have a lot to say about this one. It went smoothly and I cooked some good Thai papaya salad while mashing & boiling. The only changes I made from past batches was that I ran out of Franco-Belgian pils malt after the first 4.5 lbs, so I made up the difference in MFB Pale malt. Also, I had a spare ounce of Crystal hop pellets in the freezer, so I added those at flameout. I was shooting for 11 gallons, but boiled down a tad too far and ended up with 10. Not a big deal. My normal OG for this recipe is below the minimum BJCP guideline, not that I follow those for everything. There was definitely room for higher gravity though. The IBUs were toward the low-middle range. They are still within the suggested range.

In other news, my pomegranate mead got the thumbs up from Annie today and will be bottled soon! 

Saaz Saison

brewed on: 3/6/2011
expected OG: 1.044

Expected IBUs: 32 IBUs
mash temp: 150F
10 gallon batch
90 minute boil


12 lbs Belgian Pils (subbed Belgian Pale malt for 7.5#)
3.5 lbs German wheat malt
8 oz acidulated malt

2oz Saaz @ 5.5% - 60 minutes

2 oz Saaz @ 5.5% - 15 minutes
3 oz Saaz @ 5.5% - flameout
1 oz Crystal - flameout

3711 French Saison - 1 pack per 5 gallon bucket

3/28/11 - OG 1.002. Dry hopped each 5 gallon batch with 1 oz Crystal (3.2%) whole leaf.

Monday, February 28, 2011

American Stout 2

With a lot of carboys of sours aging, 2 more planned in the near future (to make use of Bugfarm 5 and Flemish Ale blend from ECY,) I've been on a bit of a clean beer kick lately. I just brewed a Munich Helles awhile ago, and now it was time to revisit my American Stout recipe. Last time I brewed this the keg was tapped out faster than any other beer I've brewed. It turned out really well, and was quite delicious! So, it was time to revisit the recipe. I made a few basic changes, just due to what I had on hand. I was happy enough otherwise that I didn't want to make more changes than necessary. Awhile back I ordered some ECY Old Newark lager yeast strain, but received the ale strain instead. Ah well. I figured I'd use it for something anyway, so kept it. So I had some Old Newark Ale yeast on hand, so I pitched that along with one pack of US-05 yeast, vs just 2 US-05 packs last time. Although I listed Chocolate Malt in the last recipe, I've had this nagging feeling that I used half Pale Chocolate since I have a lot of that on hand. I split up the chocolate malt into 2 halves to do that (again?) this time. My LHBS was out of Yakima Magnum, so I subbed in Columbus at the same exact AA% for bittering. Also, I didn't have black barley on hand, but I had a bunch of Roasted Barley, so I swapped in the roasted stuff. 300L vs 500L wasn't a big deal for a few ounces since the recipe was already darker than BJCP guidelines for a stout (which I find funny because either way it's BLACK), but seeing as I don't really care what the BJCP tells me a stout needs to be anyway, that's not a big deal. The 2 grains definitely have different character to them, but I think it'll still be complimentary. Here's the recipe!:

American Stout

brewed on: 2/27/2011
expected OG: 1.069 (I ended up with 1.074. Still getting used to Beer Smith rather than Beer Alchemy, so I was a bit off on the efficiency.)

FG: 1.022
Expected IBUs: 54.1 IBUs
mash temp: 155F
6 gallon batch

15 lbs US 2-row
0.5 lb Black malt
0.5 lb Roasted barley
12 oz Crystal 40L
12 oz Coffee malt
6 oz Chocolate malt
6 oz Pale Chocolate malt 

1.5 oz Columbus @ 14.4% (60 minutes)
1 oz Centennial @ 9% (5 minutes)
~ 1 oz homegrown Cascade (flameout)

 1 pack - Safale US-05
 1 vial - ECY Old Newark Ale

3/6/11 - FG 1.022, kegged

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Munich Helles

In today's news: I finally went out and got my chest freezer for lagering! I've been procrastinating since this fall. Lagers are something I've wanted to brew for awhile though. Back when I bought my chest freezer for kegerator purposes I was going to get a really big one to hold four-ish kegs plus room for a carboy. It turned out that a medium and a small chest freezer together were maybe $10 more total than buying one big one. So, I got my wife to agree that I'd just get a medium (7 cu. ft.) for the kegs with the understanding that I'd be getting another small one (5 cu. ft.) in the future to use as a lagering chamber. Somehow I managed to keep putting that off until now.

A few weeks ago I went over to my friend Jim's house to hang out and brew while he did his first decocted lager. He recently racked it and was nice enough to save half of the yeast slurry for me. He even gave me 10 lbs of spare Best Pils malt on top of it. With both of these in hand today, I set out to brew my first lager. I've been wanting to try brewing a Helles. Jim gave me Czech lager yeast, but I went ahead with the Helles recipe anyway. I'm not sure if it's appropriate or not (I haven't read up on lager yeast nearly as much as ales/bugs) but I figured even if it wasn't a spot on Helles, it'd hopefully at least be a nice drinkable light lager of some sort and that's good enough for me for now! Here's the recipe:

Munich Helles
brewed on: 2/13/11
OG: 1.045
IBUs: 18.5 IBUs
mash temp: 150F
expected color: 3.8 SRM
7 gallons


10 lbs. German pils malt
1 lb Cara-pils
6 oz Vienna malt

Hops (loose pellets):
1 oz Hallertauer @ 3.9% - 60 minutes

0.5 oz Hallertauer @ 3.9% - 20 minutes
0.28 oz Hallertauer @ 3.8% - 20 minutes
0.5 oz Hallertauer @ 3.9% - 5 minutes* (see below)

Czech Lager slurry from Jim's German Pilsner

Ferment at 52F.
 Mashed in at 1.1 qts / lb.
Protein rest 130F - 15 minutes
Decoction - 40% weight (15.8 lbs)
Sacch rest - 60 minutes
90 minute boil

I forgot to add he 5 minute hop addition. No huge loss in IBUs, but I do like Helles with a bit more floral hop nose than is probably traditional. 

Also, I planned on a 6 gallon batch, but didn't realize until after the fact that I'd get better efficiency from decocting. Thus, I ended up at 1.052 and diluted the wort with a gallon of distilled water while chilling.

More little mistakes on this one than usual, but I expected some since I wasn't used to the step-mash, decoction process.

2/21/11 - SG: 1.010. Raising to diacetyl rest. Clean malty taste w/ very slight floral background.
2/23/11 - Lowering to lager temp.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dark Strong Funky Belgian Ale with Spices

I've been intrigued by the Dark Funky Saison recipes that Mike over at The Mad Fermentationist has posted annually over the past few years. With a couple sour beer buckets free, I decided spur of the moment to try making one of them on Sunday. My friend Jim just happened to be brewing a decocted German pils, so I headed over to his place with my brewing gear and set up shop to brew together.

Mike's post was for a 15 gallon batch done as a group brew, so I scaled everything down a bit. I also made a few other changes. I got rid of the light extract, but I added 1# of D2 dark candi syrup. I also didn't have a spare bottle of red wine handy, so after chopping up my dates and caramelizing them in a tiny bit of wort, I deglazed them with more wort, then added the entire mixture into the boil. Since the recipe used under an ounce of hops, I just transferred everything, dates and all, into the primary. I figure it'll just be a bit of extra food for the bugs. I did up the hops a bit, but not terribly much. Since Mike mentioned the black cardamom he used was a bit strong, I didn't lower the spice amount, but I did increase the hops to balance it a bit more. We'll see how that works out. It's only a few IBUs difference anyway.

I also used different yeast. Mike used WY 3711 French Saison (one of my favorite strains.) Our LHBS has a tendency to have some pretty old yeast sometimes, and the newest saison strain of any type that they had in was almost a year old, with several from '09 even. . . I don't like using old yeast like that even in a starter in most cases, but especially since I was brewing on short notice, I wasn't about to pitch an old pack. Nor did I have time to drive up to Northern Brewer for fresh yeast. Luckily, they had a pack of T-58 dry yeast left, so I picked that up in place of the 3711. While it isn't a saison yeast per se, I've been curious to try T-58 for awhile and this seemed like a good opportunity. With sour dregs and spices getting added, the base yeast should be less exposed anyway.

I also subbed a couple specialty malts for things I had on hand.

The recipe I used was as follows:

Dark Strong Funky Belgian with Spices
brewed on: 1/16/11
OG: 1.098
IBUs: 20 IBUs
mash temp: 154F
expected color: 31.5 SRM

13 lb Belgian Pils Malt

11 oz CaraMunich II
6.5 oz Carastan
6.5 oz Special B
5.5 oz Pale Chocolate
4.5 Coffee Malt
4.5 US Crystal 90L
2.25 oz Carapils
2.25 oz Carafa II
2.25 oz Flaked Wheat


1 lb D2 Dark Belgian Candi Syrup - 60 minutes
7oz chopped Dates, caramelized in a pan, deglazed with wort - 60 minutes
1g Black Cardamom seeds, ground - 2 minutes

Hops (loose pellets):
0.7 oz Amarillo @ 9.1% - 60 minutes


Dregs (in primary):
Drei Fonteinen Oude Gueuze
De Dolle Oerbier
Jolly Pumpkin Bam

I was expecting about 1.088 OG, but that was without taking the dates into account. They upped the gravity significantly! This is apparently a winter of strong beer brewing for me with a strong old ale, English barleywine, and this Dark Strong Belgian. I may even do one more barleywine yet this winter since the one I brewed is destined for our group red wine barrel.

2/21/11 - SG @ 1.022 Dark brown and very opaque. Not much sourness yet. Cardamom is present but not too overpowering. A bit boozy, but more warming than distracting. Very mild raisiny background. Should be interesting with age.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Flanders Red - New Years 2011

My friend Bob decided to start a yearly tradition of brewing a barleywine every New Years Day. I like it! Not only is it sort of a cool way to ring in the New Year, but it's also starting the year off enjoying the day with friends. Our group brew sessions are always a lot of fun.

However, having brewed a Strong Old Ale *and* an English Barleywine for our barrel project already, I didn't brew a barleywine. I had some Bugfarm4 from East Coast Yeast in the fridge and it was getting past time to put it to use. I grew it up a bit in a 1 liter starter for a week to get it healthy again, and then brewed a Flanders Red. I brewed my first Flanders almost exactly a year ago, at another group brew with other friends, at the end of December 2009. So, in lieu of a third huge abv beer in the fermentor, I figured I can either stick with brewing a Flanders once a year, or just start doing the yearly barleywine next year. Either way, we had a great time.

We were also joined by other friends, Tony C and Tony B. Tony C was brewing his barrel barleywine and Tony B brewed an ESB (yeast starter beer for his barrel brew.) Our friend Jim and his son, a Marine in town for the holidays, stopped by as well. Jim's son recently brewed his first extract-kit IPA and was getting in some quality all-grain observation time while on leave at home.

Both Tonys also grilled venison from their recent deer hunting trip. I've gotta say the venison was some of the best meat I've had in a long, long time. Thanks guys!!!

After a string of 2 unseasonably warm days/nights, Mother Nature decided to lower the thermostat on us for New Years Day and we got to brew outside in 19F weather! We at least took shelter in a detached garage and there were 4 burners running much of the time which provided some "heat" although heat may be an overstatement! Still, it was much better than brewing in 90F+ humid summer weather! (Next time, I vote we at least do this in my attached garage where we can run out to check things from time to time. . .)

Aside from the grilling & brewing, we also had many delicious beers. I broke out a bottle of de Struise's Black Albert, one of my last 3 bottles of award winning all-brett C beer, as well as all-brett L w/ wine & cherries, a bottle of one of The Bruery's Christmas beers (we all agreed this one was way too sweet,) and one of my Archaic beers using cultured up Pannepot 2007 dregs. Others brought many of their homebrews and some interesting commercial beers as well.

To end the day, another friend, Jesse, stopped by my place just after we finished brewing and the two of us tried several Baltic Porters we'd been waiting to sample side-by-side. And then I went to bed at 6pm for several hours. . .

This year's Flanders Red recipe is almost the same as last year's, the recipe from Wild Brews, but last year I decided to add some raw sugar for whatever (dumb) reason. In retrospect, I think I just didn't have much sour brewing experience a year ago. Maybe I did it to combat the terrible efficiency I was getting still, prior to fixing my mash tun. Regardless, I got rid of the sugar addition and brewed it this year. Last year's batch used Bugfarm3 and is getting really good as of the last sample I took. This year's is the newer Bugfarm4. I'm anxious to try Al's Flemish Ale blend whenever he releases that via East Coast Yeast as well. Here's the Flanders recipe:

Flanders Red - #2

brewed on: 1/1/11
OG: 1.053
IBUs: 12 IBUs
mash temp: 150F
expected color:13.1 SRM

5.5 lbs. Vienna malt
2.25 lbs. Flaked Corn
1 lb. German Carahell
1 lb. Belgian Caravienna
1 lb. Belgian Aromatic malt
6oz. Belgian Special B

Hops (all loose pellets):
0.6 oz Styrian Goldings @ 5.2% - 60 minutes

slurry from 1 liter starter of ECY Bugfarm4

2/21/11 - SG @ 1.006. Nice tartness. Acidity reminiscent of green apple, but more intense. (Not green apple flavor though.) Moved to basement.

BOMB barrel #2

Here are a few photos of our latest BOMB (Barrel of Monkeys Brewers) barrel. It is a French oak barrel that help California Zinfandel. This is the info about it, according to the barrel maker's website:

Your Barrel Description:
Buttery and fatty.


The Tronçais cask:

Made from oak from the forest of the same name, where some trees are over 300 years old, and the environment is rich with 85 natural springs.

The Tronçais cask will provide your wine with a generous and opulent character, and a natural buttery and fatty expression.

The natural slight potential of vanillin in the wood provides light vanilla notes.

Performance : Opulent and generous

This last photo features Kevin, whose basement will house this barrel, when the barrel arrived.

Old Stone Thrower English Barleywine

As I mentioned in my last post, we're brewing an English Barleywine for our latest BOMB barrel brew. We went with the Timothy Taylor strain of yeast (although I'd have preferred something more attenuative personally.) This beer is destined for a French oak red Zinfandel barrel in a couple weeks and I can't wait. We got the barrel from Stone's Throw winery in Door COunty, WI, so we've dubbed the first beer to go into it Old Stone Thrower in honor of the winery.

Since I've neglected my posting duties a bit lately, this beer has already been in the primary for a week. This yeast strain is definitely an English top-cropping variety, as it crawls up the bucket almost every time I rouse it, and has come out/filled up the airlock twice this week already! Others in our group have had similar experiences with it. I don't know how this yeast strain will turn out with a barleywine, but it'll be fun regardless. I know it definitely isn't normally used for such big beers though. The Timothy Taylor website lists their strongest beers as clocking in at 4.3%
abv. I should also mention that while the recipe was written for 65% efficiency, lower than mine even for big beers, I neglected to scale it down mostly on purpose since we had a few other batches come in on the low side for OG. Here is our barleywine recipe:

Old Stone Thrower English Barleywine

brewed on: 12/27/10
OG: 1.095
IBUs: 57 IBUs
mash temp: 150F
color:13.7 SRM

19 lbs Marris Otter
1 lb UK Dark Crystal (one of my favorite movies comes to mind whenever I use this grain!)

Hops (all loose pellets):
1.4 oz Nugget @ 11% - 60 minutes
2 oz. WIllamette @ 3.7% - 25 minutes
1 oz. Fuggle @ 5.1% - 25 minutes

Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire yeast cake from this sort-of ESB starter batch

90 minute boil


Once again I've neglected my posting duties for longer than I'd prefer. We recently picked up our second barrel for the BOMB (Barrel of Monkeys Brewers) barrel group I helped start. The plan (hope) with this one is to do at least a couple clean beers before the barrel sours, intentionally or not. This barrel is a red wine barrel, Zin specifically. We bought it from Stone's Throw winery in Door County, WI and it is a thing of beauty. I will have to dig out some photos and post them after this as I don't have them immediately handy.

We decided on an English style barleywine for the first batch in this barrel using 1496 West Yorkshire yeast, a special limited release from Wyeast which is supposedly the Timothy Taylor strain. Several friends have used it for smaller beers with good results. I would have preferred something a bit more attenuative, but most of the guys wanted to try this strain so I don't mind.

As a starter beer to build up some yeast, I brewed an ESB. This is one of the first mid-gravity English style beers I've brewed since I was on a mostly belgian/wild ale kick for quite awhile. (I'm still mixing in plenty of sours and I have no doubt the saisons will flow again come Spring.) Since I've neglected posting for awhile, this beer is already on tap. I'm not super fond of it as an ESB, as it has a small amount of banana going on which really doesn't fit, but overall it is a fine everyday drinking beer for at home and I'm enjoying it well enough in that capacity. In the end, it was something I threw together with the malt & hops I had on hand, so I'd change a lot next time. For example, I didn't even use Marris Otter. I used Belgian Pale malt and some biscuit to add maltiness instead, since I have some of the Pale from a bulk order handy still. Anyway, here is the recipe:

Jay's sort-of ESB

brewed on: 12/20/10
OG: 1.054
IBUs: 40 IBUs
mash temp: 152F

9 lbs. Belgian Pale malt
1 lb. UK Carastan
1 lb. Biscuit malt
3 oz. Special B

Hops (all loose pellets):
1 oz Northern Brewer @ 9.4% - 60 minutes
1 oz UK Fuggle @ 4.2% - 10 minutes
1 oz US Willamette @ 3.7% - flameout

1 liter starter - Wyeast 1496 West Yorkshire strain

12/27/10 - kegged. FG - 1.012.

This yeast is a true top-cropping strain. After the main fermentation finished, it still had a huge mat of floating, krausen-like yeast on top of the beer. It may have knocked another point or 2 off the beer yet, but I needed the yeast for my barrel barleywine, so I kegged it since it was already on the low end of the ESB FG range.