Homebrewing blogs

Skunky Beer – Light-Struck Off Flavors in Home Brewing

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 1:03pm

A common off flavor in both commercial and home brewed beers is a skunky “light-struck” flavor and aroma. It can give your beer a strong skunky aroma and make it most unpleasant to drink.

The Cause of Skunky Beer

Skunky beer occurs when beer is exposed to light. Some of the compounds in hops remain photosensitive after brewing. Specifically isohumulones, which are a primary bittering compound in the finished beer will turn into MBT (shorthand for methyl butane thiol) if exposed to light. MBT is remarkably similar in chemical composition to the spray of a skunk and humans can detect it at aroma thresholds in the single parts per billion.

MBT is common in some commercial brands including those in imported in light colored bottles like Corona. This is due to primarily to packaging but also longer transit and storage times that tend to run the risk of exposure to ultraviolet light.

Clear bottles are the worst possible packaging, as exposure to direct sunlight can start the process of creating MBT in a matter of minutes. Dark or opaque bottles work best for protecting your beer as they reduce the beer’s exposure to light. The best prevention is to store your beer in a completely opaque container such as a stainless steel keg.

The next line of defense is of course to store your beer properly – preferably in a dark box and well away from any sunlight. When serving beer, don’t leave exposed to sunlight of any kind. Better to keep it in a closed cooler than leave it exposed to light even for a few minutes. Don’t serve your bottles in a bucket full of ice, for instance, as it will expose it to sunlight.

Those are some quick tips for avoiding skunky beer! Thanks for joining me on the BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter or my podcast (also on itunes…and youtube…and streaming radio station) for more great tips on homebrewing. Also check out the How to Brew Video series I shot with John Palmer if you want to learn more about all grain brewing.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Milkshake IPA: Mango Vanilla Hopsicle

The Mad Fermentationist - Wed, 03/15/2017 - 3:13pm
Despite the excessive amount of homebrew I have on tap and in bottles, I still drink commercial beer. It’s been years since I lined up at for a bottle release or bought a case of anything, but I buy singles and flights frequently. Rarely do I go out of my way for a hyped bourbon barrel Russian imperial stout or a classic double IPA. The code has largely been cracked for both of these. Made well they are delicious, but it is rare that I have one that is better than any I have had before. Not saying there aren't similar beers like a Spanish brandy barrel RIS or honey DIPA that aren't deliciously unique! What gets me excited is the interesting takes, surprising ingredient combinations, and passionate focus on a neglected style or process. If the results aren’t to my tastes, nothing lost, but sometimes I get to enjoy something that I wouldn't have brewed.

The “milkshake” IPA concept pioneered by Omnipollo and Tired Hands is just such an idea. NEIPA taken to the logical extreme with fruit and vanilla. The water treatment, hop varieties, yeast strains, and resulting biotransformation used for NEIPAs often produces a flavor and appearance reminiscent of juice. Occasionally a hint of vanilla from the yeast too (RVA 132 Manchester especially). That said, the concept seemed silly, luckily a sample of Tired Hands Mango Double Milkshake IPA at a tasting suggested otherwise. The fruit and hops worked together beautifully with a lingering tail of vanilla.

For the base beer I didn’t stray too far from my usual NEIPA routine, but I thought this would be a good opportunity to add honey malt. It was featured in an IPA recipe from Tree House head brewer Nate Lanie, and in this case the added sweetness and malty-oomph seemed like a match. I went up higher than I ever have on chloride (~200 PPM) to push body.

For hops I opted for Experimental Stone Fruit, which were hanging out in my freezer courtesy of Yakima Valley Hops. They didn’t provide a spec sheet, but the name and aroma both suggested peach and apricot (without that aspirin thing that often comes with Amarillo). I repitched Omega HotHead (from Summer Kveik) for orange aromatics, but tried to temper it by lowering the fermentation temperature. Fruit was frozen mango, the selection owing to my split batch on fresh and frozen. Finally half of a split vanilla bean three days before kegging. I debated adding a whole bean but I didn't want to overwhelm the other flavors.

I skipped flour and green apple puree in the boil. I have no issue with haze when it is created as part of the brewing process in the search for aroma/flavor/mouthfeel, but I didn't want to go out of my way to create murk. The original Milkshake was a tongue-in-cheek response to this review by Jason Alström.

Lactose is a common addition to this emerging style for mild sweetness and creamy body, but I wanted to share my creation with a couple vegan friends. I’d also been scared off by the intense sweetness of Aslin Mind the Hop with Passionfruit and Vanilla, one of the best aromas of any beer I've tried, but the flavor was too saccharine for me. If you want lactose, save it to add to taste at kegging. To replace the lost creaminess I’m pouring it on beer gas! Here's a homebrewed Orange Milkshake IPA with a pound of lactose from the fantastic Meek Brewing Co. blog.

The other half of this batch fell off a cliff, so I won't subject you to a full write-up/tasting. It was identical through run-off, but received WLP007 and three 2 oz dose BRU-1 for dry hops. The color darkened compared to this one and tasted stale two weeks after brewing. It was the first batch fermented in my SS Brew Bucket. I glazed over the fact that the “periodic” passivation was supposed to include before the first use... "[I]ron ions can catalytically promote oxidative reactions.Brulosophy had a positive assessment of BRU-1, so I'm not totally writing the variety off! I have my second batch fermenting in the fermentor now with loads of Galaxy and Vic Secret after performing their prescribed acid treatment and air drying.

Mango Hopsicle

Smell – Mango and hops are balanced, more a hoppy fruit beer than a fruited IPA. Mango creamsicle nose. The fruit and citrus from the hops and yeast keep it from being mango alone. Glad I didn’t add a third dose of dry hops in the keg, it doesn’t need the final hit of raw/green hop aroma.

Appearance – Of course it turned out nearly clear. This is the first pale beer I’ve served on beer gas with the stout faucet. The cascading bubbles don't pop like they do against a dark background, sort of goes from hazy to clear. Nice dense white head.

Taste – Plenty of mango, with the vanilla giving it an almost sherbet flavor. Hops and yeast are somewhat tame, peach and orange. Lingering bitterness, might be better balanced if there were lactose. The vanilla adds some perceived sweetness, but it still comes across as a pretty dry beer.

Mouthfeel – A bit light after the creamy head disappears, not the rich-full body that some other examples of the style have. Light carbonation, no surprise. Happy with carbonating and serving on beer gas alone at 20 PSI.

Drinkability & Notes – It’s a fun beer. Despite skipping the lactose the vanilla plays surprisingly well with the fruity character. I’ll be revisiting something like this again eventually!

Changes for Next Time – Add lactose, up the vanilla bean (time or amount), and reduce or eliminate the bittering hop addition.


Batch Size: 5.5 gal
SRM: 5.4
IBU: 74
OG: 1.060
FG: 1.012
ABV: 6.3%
Brewhouse Efficiency: 71%
Boil Time: 100 Mins

79.2% - 10 lbs Rahr 2-Row Brewer's Malt
13.9% - 1.75 lbs Briess Red Wheat Malt
4.0% - .50 lbs Gambrinus Honey Malt
2.0 % - .25 lbs Bairds Carastan
1.0 % - .125 lbs Weyermann Acidulated

Sacch Rest - 45 min @ 157F

.50 oz - Columbus (Pellets, 13.00% AA) @ 60 min.
.50 oz - Galena (Pellets, 11.00% AA) @ 60 min.
1.00 oz - BRU-1 (Pellets, 16.00% AA) @ Whirlpool (30 min)
1.00 oz  - Experimental Stone Fruit (Pellets, 13.3% AA) @ Whirlpool (30 min)
2.00 oz  - Experimental Stone Fruit (Pellets, 13.3% AA) @ Dry Hop (Brew Day)
2.00 oz  - Experimental Stone Fruit (Pellets, 13.3% AA) @ Dry Hop (Day 3)

5 lbs Frozen Mangoes @ Primary (Day 6)
.50 Vanilla Bean @ Primary (Day 17)

OYL-057 Omega HotHead

Brewed 1/21/17

Extended boil because my gravity was a bit lower than expected.

Chilled to 63F

1.5 L decanted starter of Omega Hothead pitched into half with 2 oz of Experimental Stone Fruit hops. Left at 67F ambient to ferment.

1/24/17 Added second dose of dry hops.

1/27/17 Added 5 lbs of frozen 365 non-organic frozen mangoes to the Hothead half.

2/7/17 Added half of a vanilla bean, split lengthwise.

2/10/17 Kegged the Milkshake half.
Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Aeration Wands (Pure Oxygen) for Beer Brewing

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 3:39pm

This week I take a look at the Anvil Oxygenation Kit (aka Aeration wand) which lets you aerate your wort using pure oxygen without spending a ton of money. The oxygen wand is actually my favorite new brewing toy and I’ve used it on beer, meads, wines and cider with great results.

The Importance of Aeration

I’ve written extensively on how important aerating your wort before pitching your yeast is to for proper fermentation. Boiling removes most of the oxygen from the wort, and yeast cells need oxygen during the early “lag” phase when they are rapidly reproducing. Ideally you want to get 8-12 part per million (ppm) of oxygen in the wort before pitching your yeast. Having the proper oxygen level leads to faster startup, more robust yeast cell walls and less stress on the yeast.

While you can aerate your wort by shaking or injecting air using a small aquarium pump, neither of these methods will get you all the way up to the 8 ppm minimum needed. For that you need pure oxygen.

The Anvil Aeration Kit

For many years I put off purchasing an oxygen aeration system due to the high expense of buying an oxygen tank, regulator and aerator. However now many companies are producing “aeration wands” which are usually stainless steel tubes with a very fine (typically 0.5-1 micron) aerators at one end. These are immersed directly in the fermenter right before you pitch your yeast. In a relatively short time of 60-90 seconds you can reach the ideal 9-12 ppm for most worts, though a very high gravity wort (1.080 or higher) might take a little longer.

With the wand you purchase either with a standard oxygen regulator to use with a large oxygen tank, or a small oxygen regulator suitable for use with disposable oxygen tanks used in small welding kits. The disposable bottles sell for about $10 at Home Depot or Lowes. Note that these small bottles are not technically “food grade” oxygen so you may want to consider a small inline filter if you go with the small bottles. Also the small bottles only work for a few batches so if you brew a lot you may want to consider a commercial size oxygen tank.

Many vendors sell similar kits, but I went with the Anvil aeration kit from Blichmann (affiliate link) which is a very simple regulator, tubing and aeration wand. It is 100% stainless so you can immerse it in star-san or even boil it to sanitize if you like.

Using an Aeration Wand

I aerate my wort or must right before I pitch my yeast. All you need to do is attach the oxygen tank to the regulator, remembering that the small disposable tanks use a reverse thread so you need to turn them counterclockwise to tighten. Sanitize the wand so you don’t bring along any infections. Next immerse the want in the wort and slowly turn it up until you see light bubbling on the surface. I prefer to run mine at about this flow rate as most of the oxygen is going into the wort and not being blown out the top surface.

Unfortunately you don’t have a flow gauge on these simple systems so you need to guess a bit. John Blichmann recommended aerating for 60-90 seconds to get to 9-10 ppm unless I’m brewing a very large beer (or wine or mead) above 1.080 in which case I might run it 2 minutes. High gravity worts absorb the oxygen slower and also require more oxygen. I’ve also found references saying very high gravity worts/musts such as mead or wine might also benefit from a second oxygen addition within 12 hours.

And that’s it – just remove the wand, pitch your yeast and enjoy a healthy fermentation. Don’t forget to clean the wand thoroughly or even blow a little oxygen into your cleaning solution to make sure it hasn’t picked up any wort or must.

What About an Inline Aerator?

I did take a look at the various inline aerators that many vendors sell and are used in many commercial systems. These are typically fittings inserted into your wort transfer line that essentially aerate the wort as you are transferring it from the boiler to fermenter. To a large degree these have many of the same problems as the aeration wand as they typically don’t have a flow meter, and unless you know the flow rate for both your wort and oxygen tanks (like a commercial brewer might) its difficult to tell how much oxygen you are really adding. You also have the added complexity in assuring the aerator has been properly cleaned after use.

To me the oxygen wand seemed like a simpler solution for the average home brewer, and honestly I love this thing having used it on beer, mead, cider and wine up to 10 gal batches (38 liters) with good results! I can aerate wort in as little as 60-90 seconds and since I started using it my fermentations have started quickly and finished strong. For more challenging fermentations like high gravity beers, wines and meads proper aeration is critical for getting a good strong start.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s post. Thanks for joining me on the BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter or my podcast (also on itunes…and youtube…and streaming radio station) for more great tips on homebrewing.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Starting a Small Malt House with Dark Cloud Malting – BeerSmith Podcast #144

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Fri, 03/10/2017 - 12:26pm

Jesse Kaiss and Danny Buswell from Dark Cloud Malt House join me this week to discuss their experiences starting up a small local malt house. Jesse and Danny are malting their own barley and selling it locally in central Maryland.

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Topics in This Week’s Episode (58:42)
  • Today my guests are Jesse Kaiss and Danny Buswell from Dark Cloud Malthouse. Jesse and Danny have started their own very small malting house in central Maryland with a focus on selling to local breweries and distilleries.
  • Jesse explains how they both got started trying to build their own malt house.
  • Danny tells us some of the research involved including developing a plan.
  • We discuss where they set up the malt house and how they funded it.
  • Danny explains the challenges of finding locally grown barley as very little brewing barley is grown on the East Coast.
  • Jesse walks us through the basic malting process and how you turn raw barley into malt.
  • We discuss pneumatic malting, floor malting and turning the grains by hand.
  • Jesse tells us about how they dry out the grains after malting (commonly called kilning)
  • Danny shares the types of malt they created last season.
  • We discuss quantifying the quality of the finished malt as well as how the malts were received by local breweries.
  • Jesse explains their plans to expand production next year.
  • Danny shares some of the challenges they have faced in growing and scaling the business.
  • Jesse tells us about long term plans to grow their own barley to truly have a locally grown/produced malt.
  • We discuss future plans and closing thoughts.

Thanks to Jesse Kaiss and Danny Buswell for appearing on the show and also to you for listening!

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Categories: Homebrewing blogs

How to Backsweeten Beer, Cider and Mead

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Tue, 03/07/2017 - 5:40pm

This week we take a look at backsweetening – a technique commonly used in mead and cider making but not well known by beer brewers. In certain cases, backsweetening can enhance the flavor of many beers, ciders and meads.

Why Backsweeten?

Backsweetening is a technique used in hard soda, meads and ciders, particularly those containing fruits. Unless you start your mead or cider at a very high gravity, they will tend to ferment very dry. Since most fruits are a balance of fruit flavor and sweetness, post fermentation they can be faint and lifeless. Even fruits that come through well in fermentation like berries and currants will taste strange as they tend to be tart, acidic, and tannic. Some residual sweetness is needed to balance the acidity and tannins in the fruit.

While the need to backsweeten beer is rare, it can be a useful technique when making certain fruit/dessert beers. Fruit sugars are highly fermentable and will ferment almost completely into alcohol. Again you may find either little to no fruit flavor in the finished beer, or else excessive acidity and tannins depending on the fruit used. I find that fruits like blackberries, tart cherries, raspberries, red and black currants, and boysenberries come through best in a fruit beer because they are high in acidity and tannins. However if you don’t balance that with some sweetness the fruit beer will be out of balance and either too acidic or lifeless.

The Backsweetening Process

Backsweetening is remarkably easy to do. First, allow your beer, mead or cider to fully ferment to completion. Most often I will also let it age out because balancing the flavor is important and you can’t really judge the finished flavor until your beverage has aged and is ready to drink. Then you add two additives (below) to stabilize the drink, wait a few days and then add whatever sugars, concentrates or sweeteners you want to balance the taste of your beverage.

Next we’re going to include two additives. The first one is sulfites in the form of Potassium Metabisulfite. You can purchase and crush up Campden tablets, which are made from this chemical, but I prefer the powedered form as it is easier to measure accurately. Potassium Metabisulfite is used extensively in wine and mead making to preserve and protect wines by adding free sulfites (SO2) to the finished wines. Contrary to popular belief it does not kill yeast cells or stop fermentation, though when used in combination with sorbates (below) it can inhibit future fermentation. It also suppresses bacteria and other beasts and as a side benefit provides some protection against oxidation. The proper dose for a 5 gal batch (19 l) is around 1/4 tsp (1.9 g) of Potassium Metabisulfite which is enough to add 50 ppm of SO2.

After adding the sulfites, you should wait 12 hours before adding the second additive which is Potassium Sorbate. Potassium Sorbate, used in combination with the sulfites will prevent yeast cells from reproducing. If you add the sorbates before the sulfites you run the risk of creating a “geranium” like off flavor that can’t be removed which is why I recommend adding the sulfites first, wait 12 hours and then add the sorbate. The recommended dose for Potassium Sorbate is 1/2 tsp per gallon or 2.5 tsp (8.2 g) of potassium sorbate for a 5 gal (19 liter) batch.

While the sulfites and sorbates work quickly I recommend waiting a day or two before adding in your sweeteners just to make sure the chemistry has stabilized. Also I should note that you do not want to try to add sulfites/sorbates while active fermentation is still ongoing as it won’t stop an ongoing active fermentation. If you then try to backsweeten you will probably find that your fermentation is still going, and could consume all of the sugar you just added.

Finding the Right Sugar Balance

After you have stabilized your beverage using sulfites and sorbates you need to backsweeten it “to taste”. For this reason I usually will age the beer/mead/cider out first so I have a clear idea of what it tastes like. Next I will pour some of the beverage into a measuring cup and start with a known quantity like 500 ml. Now I will measure out my sugars, whether it be honey, cane sugar or some other sweetener, and slowly add measured quantities to the cup. When I get to the right balance of sweetness, I will then note the amount of sugar and beverage used and scale it up for the entire batch.

Alternately you can also make small samplers of 100ml each and add varying quantities of sugar to each. Then do a comparison between all of the cups to find which you like the best and then scale up to your batch size. For the final blend, transfer my batch to a bottling bucket where you can measure the final volumes accurately and get an even mix before kegging.

Keg – Don’t Bottle a Backsweetened Beverage!

This may be an obvious point, but backsweetening really only works for kegged beers. The problem is that once you backsweeten the beer it has a bunch of sugar in it so there is no way to naturally carbonate it in the bottle without kicking off fermentation again and potentially creating a bottle bomb. So if you want sparkling cider, mead or carbonated beer you are basically locked into kegging it and then force carbonating it. Now you could potentially bottle from the keg using a counter-pressure filler or Beer Gun, but again some caution is requires for long term storage as there is the potential for referementation and bottle bombs.

Many still meads and ciders are backsweetened and bottled. I would personally cap these using a cork as a cork offers some pressure relief since it will be pushed back out of the bottle well before the bottle itself fails. It may still create a mess if fermentation starts again but at least it won’t create an exploding bottle.

Hopefully you enjoyed this week’s tip. Thanks for joining me on the BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter or my podcast (also on itunes…and youtube…and streaming radio station) for more great tips on homebrewing.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

HotHead, Juniper, and Right Proper Hyperborea

The Mad Fermentationist - Mon, 03/06/2017 - 4:06pm
I hope that people get something from my talks at homebrew festivals around the world, because I certainly benefit from the arrangement! My trip to Norway for the 2016 Homebrewers Weekend in Drammen was enlightening on many fronts, but it was the introduction to kveik that has proved the most valuable. Kveik is true farmhouse yeast, with the now commercially available strains passed between local brewers up until only a few years ago. While I enjoyed the test batch with the cultures I brought back, I wanted to try the traditional combination of kveik with juniper and smoke. With the light acidity of those test batches, I decided to buy a fresh pitch of the orange-scented heat-loving Voss culture from Omega Labs, HotHead.

Traditionally (as Lars Garshol extensively documented) juniper branches, not just the berries, were an indispensable and underappreciated component of traditional brewing across Europe. This is annoying as berries are easy to buy and store, while branches are not. As fate would have it the Eastern Red Cedar in my backyard is in actuality Juniperus virginiana, Virginia juniper! Not the first time I've turned to one of the four trees on our property (mulberry, the others are oak and sour cherry).

I loosely based the amount of Eastern Red Cedar tips on the Sahti recipe in Homebrewer's Almanac (written by the brewers and foragers of Scratch Brewing). It is one of the most inspiring brewing books I've read in years! I enjoyed samples of their beers at GABF a few years ago enough that I'm considering making the four hour drive down to Ava, Illinois when I visit Indianapolis for the next BYO Boot Camp in November 2017. I backed down on their flame-out addition to leave room for the yeast and smoke.

Anytime you forage for brewing ingredients (or anything) make a positive identification of what you are harvesting. I contacted a local arborist to confirm what I had growing. Given the pictures and ranges I saw online I was pretty sure, but pretty sure isn't something to risk your health on!

I'd been looking for an excuse to hang out with Blane, who is opening Sinistral Brewing in Manassas, Virginia. We brewed on the 15 gallon electric system in his garage. He was into the weird idea despite not loving smoked beers, and luckily enjoyed the results. We'll see if it was enough for him to ever brew something like it commercially! We were joined by his friend Carlos, who had foraged for local juniper before to brew sahti (not to mention malted quinoa, and had strong opinions on brewing with corn and chiles - someone I need to brew with again!).

Summer Kveik

Smell – When it was young, orange from the yeast was the primary aroma. Over the last couple months stonefruit has overtaken with the citrus. "Peach gummy rings" as a couple friends described it. Fresh juniper has a less singular more green aroma than the berries, a little more spruce than gin. Smoke is smooth and woody, not phenolic or sharp.

Appearance – I’ve been jokingly calling this one New England Kveik given the glowing cloudy orange-juice body. Head retention is decent, not great. Given some experiments with juniper teas I was expecting more color, but the lower ratio of tree to liquid prevented that.

Taste – Zesty orange, apricot, and fresher herbaceous juniper. I was going for a winter beer… clearly I missed on that! The smoke is firm but fleeting, which works well with the bright fruity flavors. Balanced, smooth, minimal bitterness, but enough to keep it from tasting candied (like my Spruce-Grapefruit India Pale Gruit). I don’t pick anything distinctly rye, but it has a rounded malt flavor likely contributing. Mellow sweetness in the finish.

Mouthfeel – Lighter body than I intended, partly because we undershot the gravity by .010. Medium carbonation keeps things moving.

Drinkability & Notes – It is weird for a smoked tree-flavored beer to be quenching and crushable, but it is! One of the strangest and most intriguing beers I’ve brewed. Authentic? Likely not, but I enjoy adapting flavors and ingredients rather than slavishly recreating.

Changes for Next Time – For a more authentic result I’d move all of the juniper to the HLT and do a longer infusion. I’d opt for a Bohemian Dark (or Munich) for the entire base in place of the Golden Promise. I would also go darker on the Carared maybe CaraMunich II, and add a touch of Carafa as I was originally planning. Not that it would be a better beer, just more in line with my original target. Also makes an interesting blend is the citrusy gose with smoked sea salt on tap next to it.

I brewed Kodachrome Dream(ing) with my friend Nathan at the Right Proper brewpub in Shaw a couple years ago. For our second collaboration (and the first at the Brookland production house) we wanted to brew something in the same vane, although more inspired by Alu by Norse (a small amount makes it to the US). Jacob McKean the founder of Modern Times was planning a trip to DC, so we roped him into the plan.

After tasting my batch, Nathan wanted to tone down the assertive fruit flavors from the yeast. As a result he blended the HotHead (harvested from my batch - strangely trusting) with US-05 and lowered the fermentation temperature to 70F. In search of increased maltiness and color, he added CaraAroma and Carafa. He also wanted a more traditional juniper flavor, so we added juniper berries near the end of the boil in addition to 15 lbs of juniper branches at 190F in the HLT overnight for 24 bbls.

Nathan named the resulting beer after a mythical people of the article circle, the Hyperborea. Kegs will be available in DC, Virginia, Maryland, and New York! If you try it, let me know what you think! Sunday March 12 Nathan will be brewing a Nordic IPA with Stone, Pen Druid, and metal band Sunn O))), feel free to stop by the brewery around 1 PM and say hello! Both beers should be on tap through CBC next month!

Right Proper Hyperborea

Smell – Brighter than you’d expect for a dark/smoked beer. Mild generic citrus and green-herbal. Light phenolic smoke, the Briess Cherrywood Smoked gives it some sharpness. Touch of toast. Not distinctly juniper from the berries.

Appearance – Fantastic head retention, at least partly thanks to the flaked oats. Really dense, off-white. The body is reddish-brown, and pretty cloudy… likely again partly thanks to the oats.

Taste – Balanced depth between the combination of toasty-smoke and yeasty-juniper fruit. The Munich and dark malts serve as a malty bridge between the smoke and the fruit in a way that my beer is missing. Minimal hop bitterness. Nice lingering herbal-smoke melding.

Mouthfeel – Medium body, light tannic drying. Carbonation seemed a bit higher in the growler than it was on tap at the brewery.

Drinkability & Notes – For a beer with so many components it really falls into place. Doesn’t quite hit the oomph and richness of Alu, but not far off! Nathan was right to temper the Hothead with US-05 to prevent it from crushing the malt and juniper.

Summer Kveik Recipe

Batch Size: 16.00 gallons
SRM: 5.6
IBU: 14.5
OG: 1.053
FG: 1.012
ABV: 5.3%
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75%
Boil Time: 60 mins

32.3% - 10 lbs Simpsons Golden Promise
16.1% - 5 lbs Weyermann Floor Malted Bohemian Dark
16.1% - 5 lbs Weyermann Oak Smoked Wheat
16.1% - 5 lbs Weyermann Rye Malt
16.1% - 5 lbs Weyermann Beech Smoked Barley Malt
3.2% - 1 lbs Weyermann Carared

Sacch Rest - 50 min @ 156F

60 g Juniper Tips @ Hot Liquor Tank
60 g Juniper Tips @ Mash
60 g Juniper Tips @ 60 min
2.25 oz Mixture (Pellets, ~4.50% AA) @ 60 min
60 g Juniper Tips @ 30 min
1.00 oz Hallertau (Pellets, 4.50% AA) @ 15 min
90 g Juniper Tips @ 0 min


OYL-057 Omega HotHead

12/14/16 4 L stir-plate starter with 3 month old HotHead.

12/16/16 Crashed starter. Harvested Eastern Red Cedar from the tree in my backyard.

12/17/16 Brewed with Blane on his electric system. Dosed 60 g (three 12" twigs) into the HLT and then again into the mash, 60 min, and 30 min. 50% extra at flameout. Hops @ 60 min were a variety (Hallertau Tradition, EKG, Tett, Hallertau).

Chilled to ~95F and pitched half of the decanted starter into 5 gallons (my share). 5 gallons additional for Carlos, 5 gallons with the Voss culture from Norway (slightly lactic) for Blane.

Fermentation by 6 hours on the radiator insulated in a sweatshirt.

1/3/17 Kegged with 3.5 oz of table sugar into flushed keg.

Blane's version tested at 5.68% ABV.

I get a commission if you click the links to MoreBeer/Amazon/Love2Brew and buy something!

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Extract Beer Brewing Tip – Don’t Steep Grains with Too Much Water

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Tue, 02/28/2017 - 1:31pm

This week I offer a tip for extract brewers about steeping grains and why its important not to steep your grains with too much water. Many extract brewers start by steeping their grains with their entire boil volume, which can lead to excessive tannin extraction.

Steeping Grains in Extract Brewing and Tannins

Tannins are a form of polyphenol in grains that has a harsh, bitter, “sucking on a tea bag” flavor to it. Tannins naturally occur in grain husks and some are extracted when you either steep or mash grains for brewing beer. Most all grain brewers are aware of the risks of oversparging grains which can lead to too much tannin extraction.

Most brewers are not aware of the fact that you can get excessive tannins by steeping grains in an extract batch of beer as well. Some extract brewers have heard that steeping your grains too hot, for instance, can result in excessive tannins. Recent research indicates that temperature is not a big risk compared to pH.

Tannins tend to leach out of the grains when we raise the the pH level above 6.0, which can happen at the very end of a long sparge for all grain brewers. So you want to avoid raising the pH of your grains/water above 6.0 or you can get harsh tannins in your finished beer.

Managing pH When Steeping Grains

The average brewing water used by home brewers is slightly alkaline which means it has a pH above 7. If you recall from high school chemistry, pure water has a pH of about 7, but drinking water comes from surface or underground sources where it picks up some minerals which raises the pH to roughly 7.5-8.5 for a typical home.

Fortunately grains are slightly acidic, which means they will lower the pH of the water when you steep them in water. However if you use too much water for a small amount of steeped grains, you can end up with a final pH above 6.0 which will put you at risk for excessive tannins. Darker grains are more acidic so they will reduce the pH more.

So the question is – how much steeping water is “too much”? Well I ran a series of pH estimates based on some “worst case” alkaline drinking water and typical steeped grains such as crystal malt. Keep in mind these are numbers estimated using the water to grain ratio in quarts/lb (a liter/kg is roughly twice these values), and your actual numbers may vary depending on your actual water profile and grains used:

  • Water/grain of 2:1 qts/lb – gives 5.58 pH
  • Water/grain of 4:1 – gives 5.8 pH
  • Water/grain of 5:1 – gives 5.89 pH
  • Water/grain of 6:1 – gives 6.0 pH

Obviously those numbers are highly dependent on your water and grain bill, but I would probably stay under 4 quarts/lb which is 1 gal/lb (roughly 8 liters/kg) to be safe. So that means if I’m steeping 2.2 lbs of grains (1 kg) I would recommend steeping with no more than 8.8 quarts (2.2 gal or 8 liters) of water to avoid raising the pH too high and extracting tannins.

If we look at an extract recipe with a small amount of grain – say 2lbs (just under 1 kg) of grains steeped in the full boil volume of 3.5 gal (13.25 liters) of grain you can see that the water/grain ratio is 14 qts/2 lb = 7 quarts/lb (14 l/kg) which is too high.

A Good Rule of Thumb

When steeping grains for an extract brew, use no more than 1 gallon of water per pound of grain (8 liters/kg)

Hopefully you enjoyed this week’s tip. Thanks for joining me on the BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter or my podcast (also on itunes…and youtube…and streaming radio station) for more great tips on homebrewing.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Bootleg Biology: Mad Fermentationist Saison Blend

The Mad Fermentationist - Mon, 02/27/2017 - 4:38am
I love my House Brett-Saison culture, and for $10 now you can try Bootleg Biology's The Mad Fermentationist Saison Blend at your house (or brewery)! It's a good deal for me as I get a small cut, and the knowledge that if I kill my mother I have off-site backup: Order

I met Jeff Mello (Bootleg Biology's founder) while he was living in the Arlington, VA. Shortly after, he moved to Nashville where he moved his small yeast lab to a commercial space. Jeff sent me a few isolates to grow for the Modern Times souring program. In 2014 he floated the idea of isolating and packaging a blend for me, but at the time I didn't have any microbes that I thought of as mine. We could have pulled something out of a solera barrel, but honestly I never loved the fermentation character of either of them. After running a cobbled together saison blend through my sour gear 10 times over two years, sometimes harvesting from kicked-kegs, I don't know which yeast and bacteria thrived or mutated, but it makes great beer!

It has been interesting to have Bootleg Biology pull out the component microbes and put them back together. I've brewed a couple test batches with pre-release cultures with promising results (see below), that were good enough to release it and see what other brewers think! If you do buy a pack, please leave a comment here to let me know what you brewed, fermentation temperature, and the results!

You can use the blend in any saison recipe, but here are my three of my favorite batches to get you started:

Saison 'Merican
Nu Zuland
Alsatian Saison


Bootleg Biology is proud to announce: The First Official Mad Fermentationist Culture!

Fine tuned over two years, this blend morphed over time to become an elegant powerhouse of classic Saison spice, stone-fruit Brett, lactic tartness and a dry but well-rounded body. The final master blend consists of Saison yeast, wild Saccharomyces, rare Brettanomyces and an opportunistic Lactobacillus culture.

At temperatures as low as 68F (20C) The Mad Fermentationist Saison Blend exhibits a relatively clean primary fermentation profile and high attenuation. Traditional saison temperatures (around 80F/27C) bring out citrus and elevated phenols (pepper and clove). The Brett character shifts depending on wort composition, as maltier beers emphasize cherry and stone fruit qualities.

This blend integrates beautifully with fruity and tropical hops, with the unique Brett culture keeping hop aromatics crisp and bright for an extended time. For best results use a highly fermentable wort, dry hopping during the tail of active fermentation, and carbonating naturally.


Here are the tasting notes and recipe from the batch I brewed with the second test-pitch from Bootleg Biology. I bottled it more than three months ago, just three weeks after brewing. One of my favorite things about this blend is that it dries out beers quickly, leaving little for the low-attenuating Brett to ferment. The result is a beer that you can bottle young and enjoy as it morphs from bright saison into wild ale!

This batch was actually Audrey's first on the big system after a couple 2.5 gallon batches. I acted as assistant brewer. She was aiming for, "a dark Belgian wheat, with maltiness between a dunkelweiss and an English dark mild." She used an experimental hop supplied by Yakima Valley, ADHA-527, which they describe as: "floral, citrus, huge mint, herbal, mellow spice, thyme, Saaz-like, cucumber, sage, touch of lemon." Seemed like some good and bad, a nice pairing with funk!

Europa Lander

Smell – Fermentation leads with toasty malt following. Still has some underlying Belgian spice and pear, but Brett is beginning to takeover. It is a really approachable leather-cherry funk though. Nothing over-the-top or too animalistic. Maybe a hint of anise and a little clay, hard to place the source.

Appearance – Clear, perfectly not a hint of haze. Pretty light-brown beer-bottle color. White head exhibits solid retention.

Taste – The caramel malt plays with the funk. Chocolate rye provides more toasted bready than harsh roast. Still a fresh maltiness despite the layer of leather and cherry from the Brett. No acidity thanks to the hint of hop bitterness. Dry, but with enough left to support the malt. Subdued hop bitterness.

Mouthfeel – Firm carbonation, nothing excessive. Glad this blend retained the ability to dry out a beer quickly and stabilize. Doesn’t taste as thin as the FG would suggest, but it’s no milkshake!

Drinkability & Notes – I can’t think of a beer to compare this to. Really balanced between malt, hops, and fermentation in a Belgian sort-of-way, but not in a combination I’ve tasted from a Belgian or Belgian-style beer.

Changes for Next Time – Not a blow-you-away beer, but I can’t think of a tweak to suggest that wouldn’t changing what it is: a unique malty, funky, subtle, drinkable beer!


Batch Size: 11.00 gal
SRM: 16.5
IBU: 25.4
OG: 1.054
FG: 1.002
ABV: 6.8%
Brewhouse Efficiency: 72%
Boil Time: 65 Mins

46.0% - 10 lbs Briess White Wheat Malt
32.2% - 7 lbs Dingemans Pilsen
13.8% - 3 lbs Weyermann Bohemian Pilsner
4.6% - 1 lbs Briess Caramel Malt - 60L
3.4% - .75 lbs Weyermann Chocolate Rye

Sacch Rest - 45 min @ 148F

0.5 oz ADHA-527 (Pellets, 15.80% AA) @ 30 min
2.0 oz ADHA-527 (Pellets, 15.80% AA) @ 20 min Hop-Stand

1 Whirlfloc Tablet @ 5 min
1 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 5 min

Bootleg Biology The Mad Fermentationist Saison Blend

Brewed 10/23/16

Filtered DC tap water, no other treatments. 3 gallon cold sparge.

Chilled to 70F with IC.

Half fermented with WLP510, four month old pack, no starter.

Half fermented with Bootleg Biology Mad Blend #2, super-fresh, no starter.

11/12/16 Kegged the WLP510 half. Down to 1.011.

Bottled the "Mad Blend" half (4.25 gallons at 1.003) with 3 5/8 oz of table sugar. Looking for 2.6 volumes of CO2.
Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Solera Project Update 2 – The Latest

Brew Dudes - Thu, 02/23/2017 - 7:52am

Hey there – Because a guy named Jonathan asked us on YouTube to provide an update on Mike’s Solera project, we give you this video and post. Here’s a spoiler alert. The update is not what you think it will be. Solera Update Details So the Solera project has taken a bit of a change […]

Read the original article Solera Project Update 2 – The Latest and other Brew Dudes posts.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Mead Making and Melomels with Ken Schramm – BeerSmith Podcast #143

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Wed, 02/22/2017 - 12:45pm

This week Ken Schramm from Schramm’s Meadery joins me to discuss big sweet fruity meads and melomels. Ken is a founder of the Mazer Cup, author of the book The Compleat Meadmaker, nationally award winning mead maker, and founder of Schramm’s Meadery near Detroit.

Subscribe on iTunes to Audio version or Video version or on Google Play

Download the MP3 File – Right Click and Save As to download this mp3 file

Topics in This Week’s Episode (58:42)
  • Today my guest is Ken Schramm from Schramm’s Meadery. Ken has been making mead since 1987 and is a founder of the Mazer Cup who has won many awards for his meads at the national level. Ken is also author of the book The Compleat Meadmaker (Amazon affiliate link) and now runs a meadery that arguably makes some of the finest meads in the world from fresh honey and whole fruits.
  • Ken shares a bit about his involvement in the resurgence of mead making in the US after it was again legalized, as well as the founding of the Mazer Cup international mead competition.
  • He talks about his book on mead making called “The Compleat Meadmaker”
  • Finally Ken shares his journey from television production to professional meadmaking and the launch of Schramm’s Meadery which happened about three years ago.
  • We discuss the meads Ken specializes in which are primarily big sweet melomels (fruit meads) starting in the 1.140 or even much higher range of gravity.
  • Ken shares how he manages to get really tart fruits like black currants to counterpoint the residual sweetness in honey to make some of his amazing meads.
  • We discuss his headline mead “Heart of Darkness” which is a unique combination of tart cherries, black currants and raspberries.
  • Some of his other unique tart-sweet meads include his blackberry and black and red currant meads which are very difficult to properly balance.
  • We talk about working with almost equal quantities of fruit and honey as well as some of the special challenges that come with making mead using whole fruits.
  • Ken provides some tips for home brewers working with real fruit, including its use in the primary or secondary.
  • We discuss nutrient schedules which play a critical role in modern mead making, and Ken’s preference for the older DAP nutrients over modern additives like Fermaid-K and Fermaid-O.
  • Ken shares his thoughts on degassing which also play an important role during mead fermentation
  • He shares his closing thoughts and advice for home mead makers.

Thanks to Ken Schramm for appearing on the show and also to you for listening!

iTunes Announcements: I launched a new video channel for the BeerSmith podcast on iTunes, so subscribe now! At the moment it will only feature the new widescreen episodes (#75 and up). Older episodes are available on my revamped Youtube channel. Also all of my audio episodes are on iTunes now – so grab the older episodes if you missed any.

Thoughts on the Podcast?

Leave me a comment below or visit our discussion forum to leave a comment in the podcast section there.

Subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes or BeerSmith Radio

You can listen to all of my podcast episodes streaming live around the clock on our BeerSmith Radio online radio station! You can also subscribe to the audio or video using the iTunes links below, or the feed address

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and my newsletter (or use the links in the sidebar) – to get free weekly articles on home brewing.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

2017 Vienna Lager Brew Session Notes

Brew Dudes - Wed, 02/15/2017 - 7:55pm

Hey Brew Dudes readers! Here is another post about a brew day. This time, it’s the 2017 edition of the Vienna Lager. Let’s take a look at the great brew day footage and learn from me on how I do my batch sparging, deal with cold propane tanks, and some tips on aerating wort. The […]

Read the original article 2017 Vienna Lager Brew Session Notes and other Brew Dudes posts.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Making Wine from Kits for Beer Brewers

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Tue, 02/14/2017 - 12:38pm

High End and Low End Kits

This week I take a look at what’s needed for the average beer brewers to make wine from a kit. Making wine is actually an order of magnitude easier than brewing beer, though it requires more time to age. The good news is that the average beer brewer already has the equipment needed to make wine from a kit.

Wine Making for the Beer Drinking Crowd

I’m not a wine guy. We have a dozen or more bottles of wine people have brought to the house as gifts when we have a party, and they basically sit unopened until the next time we have a party. My preferences are beer, mead and home made cider, though I’ll occasionally have wine with a nice meal.

Nevertheless I started to dabble in wine making to develop a basic understanding of it for future additions to BeerSmith as well as a supplement to mead making, and was surprised how easy it is. Here are some of the things I’ve learned:

  • Making wine from a kit is very easy – you’ll spend more time cleaning and bottling than actually making the wine
  • You can keg your wine – no need to mess with bottles if you already have a keg system – just run the keg at very low pressure to avoid carbonating the wine. If you want to bottle there are also corking options (Zorks) that don’t require a corking machine.
  • It can take anywhere from 3 months to a year or two to reach peak flavor, so patience is required.
  • The average beer brewer has all of the equipment already to make wine from a kit.
Making Wine

If you can mix ingredients with water in a bucket you can probably make wine from a kit. Sanitize everything just like you would for beer making. Primary fermentation can be done in large plastic fermentation pail, and all you have to do is follow the instructions and mix the grape juice with some water, yeast and sometimes finings. After little more than a week, you transfer from the primary to a secondary (usually a glass carboy) and let it sit for another week or two. Then you transfer again, stabilize the wine by adding some sulfites/sorbates and add finings to clear it. Wait a few more weeks for the wine to completely clear and then add the flavor pack (if there is one) and bottle or keg it. Some higher end kits require an additional racking and time before bottling. Finally the waiting game begins as it often takes anywhere from a few months to a year or more to reach peak flavor.

The only equipment the average beer brewer might not have is some kind of “degasser” (Amazon Aff Link – this is the one I use) which is a paint stirring or whisk device that is used with a drill to remove the CO2 from the wine, usually before clearing. Also if you want to bottle your wine you may need to get bottles and a corker, though I’ve had success using Zorks (a press-in plastic cork) (Amazon link) and a rubber mallet instead. Since standard wine kits are 6 gallons (23 liters) you may also need a larger carboy for aging.

Brad’s Guide to Selecting Wine Kits

It takes about 15-18 pounds of grapes to make a single gallon (4 liters) of wine which works out to as much as 108 pounds of grapes for a 6 gal (23 l) batch. These are wine grapes – not the grapes you get from your local supermarket.

You will probably not be shocked to hear that a sub-$50 wine kit that makes 6 gallons (23 l) of wine does not actually have 108 pounds of concentrated high quality hand picked designer vinyard grape juice in it! To make the $40-50 kit a lot of corners are cut, only a few liters of juice is included, fruits and sugars are added, and you will actually get something closer to a wine cooler in terms of body and flavor.

The more you pay for a wine kit, the more you get in terms of not only the amount of juice, but also the quality of the ingredients. However, the more expensive kits also get closer to the real ingredients wine makers use, which means they require more aging – as in years of aging. Also red wines require more time to age than whites because red wines are made with the grape skins included in the must, which means they have more bitter tannins that take longer to break down and mellow.

To summarize: Higher priced kits have higher quality ingredients, more quality grape juice, and take longer to age. Reds take longer to age than whites.

The Wine Cooler Quality Kit ($40-60, 4-6 weeks total time)

Many people start making wine with these “fruity” kits, which (as of this writing) are in the $50-70 range. They generally include only 5-7 liters of actual grape juice for a 6 gallon kit, but also include a flavor pack (often called the F-pack) that you add just before bottling to give it some body and fruity flavors. If you follow the instructions you will get a low gravity, low alcohol, low body wine perhaps in the 5-7% alcohol range. Many home wine makers boost the alcohol up to 9-12% by adding 3-4 pounds of sugar, though this does nothing to increase the body.

These kits often compensate for the low body and lower quality juice by adding either artificial or natural fruit flavors in the flavor pack. They can be quite enjoyable and drinkable if you pick a fruit you enjoy, and are often served chilled and even carbonated. They are also ready fast – often drinkable within 4 weeks though they will get better if you can give them another month or two.

Kits in the “wine cooler” group: Summer Breeze series from Mosti Mondiale, Orchard Breezin’ from RJ Spangols and Island Mist from Winexpert (Amazon Aff Link)

Mid Grade 10-12 Liter Kits ($70-110, 3-12 months total time)

These kits include roughly 10-12 liters (2.5 gal) of a blended grape juice, and you add water to make a 6 gal (23 l) wine. This means they have medium body and also a higher alcohol content. Most ferment out in the 10-13% range which is average for a wine. You will get better aroma, and better body from the wine. While they can be ready to bottle in as little as four weeks, they generally must be aged a minimum of 2 months and will likely improve with time up to a year or more.

Some red wines include grape skins which will improve the body and flavor, but these kits also take more time to age due to the tannins added. If you are patient, you will generally get a pretty decent quality table wine (or better) from a mid-grade kit.

Kits in the mid-grade group: World Vineyard from Winexpert, Vintner’s Reserve from Winexpert (Amazon Aff Link) Cellar Craft Sterling, Grand Cru International from RJ Spangols, Grand Cru from RJ Spangols and Vinifera Noble from Mosti-Mondaile

High Quality Kit (Juice in Box)

High Quality Kits ($120-190, 6-18 months total time)

These kits include 15-18 liters (4-5 gallons) of high quality wine grape juice and only require 1-2 gallons (4-8 l) of additional water. The kit itself weighs 45 lbs (20 kg) or more! They generally ferment out in the 12.5-14% alcohol range, while still retaining strong body, flavors and aroma. The juice used is often from specific wine growing regions and is made from specific grape varieties instead of being mixed of blended. Red wine kits in this group often include grape skins or rasins which add flavor, body and aroma but also increase required aging time, and oak powder or chips are often used.

They look expensive, but even a $200 super premium kit translates to a per-bottle price of $6.89 for the finished wine (not including bottles/corks) which is cheaper than the average $10-12 table wine here in the US.

While they can make exceptional quality wine, the downside for these kits is the aging time required. Generally they can be bottled in 6-12 weeks but will require anywhere from 9-18 months to reach peak flavor, and may continue to improve for years. As with other kits, white wines will reach peak flavor well before reds. Its best to bottle these kits and then set them aside, then mark your calendar in 6-9 months to give them a sample tasting. Also be sure to use high quality corks (or Zorks) as lower quality “aggregate” corks are generally good for less than two years.

Kits in the high-grade group: Eclipse from Winexpert(Amazon Aff Link) Selection Series from Winexpert, Showcase Collection from Cellar Craft, En Primeur from RJ Spangols(Amazon Aff Link) Cru Select from RJ Spangols, Rennaissance from Mosti Mondiale, and Cellar Classic from RJ Spangols

Specialty, Dessert and Limited Release Wine Kits (Generally expensive, 6-18 months time)

This is a “catch all” group which includes very high quality “23 liter” kits, limited release kits that manufacturers release only for a short time, dessert wines, and also specialty wines like ports.

The “23 liter” kits require no water addition and are basically prepared wine must that you ferment at home. They are expensive, but also use high quality ingredients that should yield exceptional quality wine. They can be bottled in four months, and require 9 months to 18 months to age.

Dessert wines usually make smaller batches of 11.5 liters (about 3 gallons) and do not require water additions, but are sometimes fortified with sugar to increase alcohol content. They can be ready to drink in as little as three months, but will improve if you can wait a year or more.

The seasonal “limited release” kits are often released each year starting in August and ending in November. They usually include wine styles and regions that are not in the regular line of kits and can in some cases sell out very quickly.

If you have the patience, wine making can be a rewarding adjunct to your traditional beer offerings that can be fun to play with. Thanks for joining me on the BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter or my podcast (also on itunes…and youtube…and streaming radio station) for more great tips on homebrewing.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Extract Lambic Tasting (Plus Peaches)

The Mad Fermentationist - Mon, 02/13/2017 - 3:19pm
Over my first 10 years of brewing "lambic-inspired" pale sours, I found that the more authentic my process became, the more authentic the flavors produced. The balance and aromatics improved as I turbid mashedaged hops, introduced local wild microbes with gueuze bottle dregs, etc. I wondered what the beer would be like if I stripped back the sugar-extraction to the basics? I'd brewed sour beers from malt extact before (but with beach plums, blackberries, and dark malts). This lambic recipe was nothing but dry malt extract (Pils and wheat) and maltodextrin to provide carbohydrates brewer's yeast is unable to ferment.

Brewed the day of Super Bowl 49, I opened the last bottle of the base lambic right before kickoff of Super Bowl 51. Didn't look like it had much luck in it for Tom Brady until a couple hours later... I served most of the batch at the BYO Burlington Boot Camp, the folks at the Santa Rosa edition in two weeks will be tasting and blending homebrewed  dark sours. Not sure what beers we'll be using in Indianapolis this fall!

Golden Boy Lambic

Smell – Overripe fruit, mild Brett funk comes across as hay (or is that the aged hops?). Overall mellow, but nothing off (e.g., vinegar, nail polish). At two-years-old it is still bright and vibrant.

Appearance – Crystal clear gold. Towards the darker end of gueuze, but not outside the range. White head stays around for a couple minutes, before falling completely.

Taste – Nice little lemon brightness. Mellow lactic acidity. Brett is similar to the nose, hay, mineral, and fresh soil. Relatively clean and approachable. Not much depth.

Mouthfeel – Medium carbonation, mouthfeel is fuller than usual, maybe the lack of oak tannins.

Drinkability & Notes – A lambic with training wheels both in terms of production and flavor. Not convinced those two are convinced.

Changes for Next Time – One of the nicer straight lambic blends I’ve used. Closest to Lindemans Gueuze Cuvée René, very approachable. Like many other blends Yeast Bay Mélange would benefit from some dregs from whatever “fresh” lambic you enjoy.

I love splitting batches, so when the above was ready to bottle summer 2016, I racked 2.5 gallons onto peaches... lots of local white peaches from the farmer's market. They were "ugly," so I was able to get 8 lbs for $8. There is something about peaches that translates so perfectly to sour beer (as I've found previously). While the aroma is delicate compared to most berries, peaches doesn't require nearly the rate I used to shine through.

White Peach Lambic

Smell – White peaches, unsurprisingly. Bold, fresh, juicy. Little hits of lemon and hay underneath, but stonefruit is first, second, and third.

Appearance – Similar color to the base beer, but not as clear. A few particles of peach flesh in the glass. Head is low and doesn’t last long, a sign of lacking carbonation in this case.

Taste – Snappier acidity than the base, thanks to the acids and nutritive sugars contributed by the fruit. Has a malic acidity, brighter and sharper than lactic. Lingering in the finish are the clearest signs of lambic, earthy, citrus, mild yeastiness, and maybe a hint of vanilla.

Mouthfeel – Light body, carbonation is low even for my preferences. It allows the peach to linger though. Glad it's gotten here, I was considering reyeasting the bottles a few months ago.

Drinkability & Notes – It is amazing that peaches purchased last summer and allowed a controlled rot rather than preserved (canned or frozen) can still taste so fresh! Fantastic true-peach flavor and aroma, but the base beer wasn’t up to the challenge in assertiveness. Delicious as a peach beer, a letdown as a peach lambic. Still a good fruit choice over cherry or raspberry that would have completely dominated the delicate Brett character.

Changes for Next Time – This one didn't carbonate as quickly as I would have liked, my fault for reyeasting with ale yeast rather than wine yeast. Similar to the notes on the base beer, a more assertive culture would create potent flavors to poke through the peaches.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Brewing a Vanilla Coffee Stout With Lanna Coffee

Brew Dudes - Sat, 02/11/2017 - 7:03pm

Hello again. Since we last posted, I brewed a beer and we are tasting this Vanilla Coffee Stout in the video below. Although it sounds like a well planned out and complicated beer, it started simply. I was only trying to brew a beer with coffee from the Lanna Coffee Company. What happened along the […]

Read the original article Brewing a Vanilla Coffee Stout With Lanna Coffee and other Brew Dudes posts.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Clarity and Haze in Beer with Dr Charlie Bamforth – BeerSmith Podcast #142

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Thu, 02/09/2017 - 9:24am

Dr Charlie Bamforth joins me this week to discuss clarity and haze in beer as well as steps you can take to improve clarity through finings, conditioning and brewing techniques.

Subscribe on iTunes to Audio version or Video version or on Google Play

Download the MP3 File – Right Click and Save As to download this mp3 file

Topics in This Week’s Episode (55:42)
  • Today my guest is Dr Charlie Bamforth from the University of California at Davis. He is Professor of Malting and Brewing Science where he specializes in the study of wholsomeness of beer including beer perception, polyphenols, foam stability, oxidation and flavor stability. This is Charlie’s 8th appearance on the show.
  • Dr Bamforth tells us some of the new projects he’s been working on along with his new books. He also mentions the short courses in brewing now offered by the University.
  • We talk about the definition of clarity and why it matters for beer brewing.
  • Charlie explains how to measure clarity and haze including direct measurement and observation.
  • We discuss some of the many potential causes of haze in beer.
  • He tells us about chill haze, and how chill haze often develops into a permanent haze.
  • We start on to of the main culprits that cloud beer – polyphenols and proteins.
  • Charlie discusses the selection of malts, malt protein and how to minimize it.
  • We discuss polyphenols which come from both hops and grains.
  • Charlie shares some techniques for reducing haze starting with a good strong boil.
  • We discuss cold crashing a beer and how important that is for improving clarity.
  • Charlie explains some finings commonly used as well as how they work.
  • He shares his closing thoughts

Thanks to Dr Charlie Bamforth for appearing on the show and also to you for listening!

iTunes Announcements: I launched a new video channel for the BeerSmith podcast on iTunes, so subscribe now! At the moment it will only feature the new widescreen episodes (#75 and up). Older episodes are available on my revamped Youtube channel. Also all of my audio episodes are on iTunes now – so grab the older episodes if you missed any.

Thoughts on the Podcast?

Leave me a comment below or visit our discussion forum to leave a comment in the podcast section there.

Subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes or BeerSmith Radio

You can listen to all of my podcast episodes streaming live around the clock on our BeerSmith Radio online radio station! You can also subscribe to the audio or video using the iTunes links below, or the feed address

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and my newsletter (or use the links in the sidebar) – to get free weekly articles on home brewing.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

SS Brewtech Brewmaster Chronicle 14 gal Conical Fermenter Review – Part 2: Fermenting Beer

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Tue, 02/07/2017 - 11:20am

Fermenting Beer

Last week I covered the basic features and setup of the Brewmaster Chronical from SS Brewtech. This week I ferment a few batches of beer to see how well the fermenter performs. [Note – I included some affiliate links in this post – use them if you want to support the blog]

The SS Brewtech Conical Fermenters

I covered the detailed features of the “Chronical” fermenter in part 1 of this article. It comes in two versions (standard and “Brewmaster” series) and four different sizes (7 gal, 14 gal, half barrel, and full barrel). I purchased the 14 gallon (53 l) Brewmaster series chronical to brew 10 gal (38 l) beer batches on my Blichmann BrewEasy system. The brewmaster series includes a number of “extra” features including a stainless steel chilling coil, butterfly valves, and sampling valve.

Brew Day and Transfer

Filling Fermenter on Brew Day

To fully use the Brewtech Chronicals you do need a few accessories – which I’ve covered later in this article.

To sanitize the conical I filled it with Starsan after first soaking the various fittings, valves and clamps in Starsan and assembling them. Near the end of my brew day I emptied it out and prepared for transfer. I filled the fermenter directly from my kettle by pumping it through the Therminator wort chiller and into the bottom of the conical. The conical has volume markings on the inside of the fermenter which make it easy to manage your target volume.

I aerated the wort using a Blichmann oxygen wand and pure oxygen (which I’ll cover in a separate review) and pitched the yeast in the top. The 3″ tri-clamp on the top of the fermenter makes it easy to add spices or dry hops, and the entire lid is removable if you really need to get in and remove a large additive like a bag of fruit. The last step was sealing the top tri-clamp and fitting a 1/2″ hose running down to a small container of water acting as an air lock.

The FTSS Temperature Control System

FTSS – Power Supply, Controller and Pump

The optional FTSS system for the Brewmaster series consists of just a submersible pump and a temperature control unit with a thermcouple, plus a short length of vinyl hose. You need a separate picnic or igloo (Gott) cooler with ice in it to provide a cold water source. I used my old Igloo (Gott) cooler that was once a mash tun. You also need to change the ice out every 12-24 hours.

There is also an optional unit with a heating pad if you need both heating and chilling. I did not test the heating pad as my basement remains warm year round.

In operation, the control unit monitors temperature of the fermenter using a thermocouple in the thermowell. When the temperature rises more than a degree above the temperature you set it starts the pump up which recirculates cold water from the cooler through the coil in the fermenter and chills it.

In practice the system worked very well keeping my fermentation temperature within a degree (F) of my set point. The only problem is that you need to change the ice frequently, particularly during active fermentation. I had to add about a 2 liters of ice every 12 hours to keep a 65 F (18 C) fermentation temperature with a 72 F (22 C) room temperature. I simply rotated half-liter bottles of water/ice through my freezer.

The other limitation is that you really can’t use the system to ferment at lager temperatures or cold crash your beer unless you have a much stronger chill source such as a glycol chiller or perhaps refrigerator that you can rotate chilled water through. Some people have bought glycol chilling units or aquarium chillers and made them work, but in practice this is probably more expensive than just buying a traditional freezer/keezer and fermenting in it. Alternately you can try fermenting your lagers around 64 F or 65 F which many homebrewers have had succcess with.

Fermentation, Yeast/Trub Collection and Sampling

Racking and Dump Valves

Other than keeping my cooler fed with ice for the FTSS system, the fermenter is basically maintenance free. I did choose to dump trub from the lower valve every three days or so during active fermentation. You don’t want to allow too much trub to build up as it can actually block the large valve. The sight glass helped as I could dump trub once the sight glass filled up. The butterfly valve worked perfectly for dumping trub as it provdes a large opening. I sanitized it with some star-san in a spray bottle and dumped the trub into a bucket until liquid started coming out.

On my second batch I collected some yeast from the early fermentation by dumping into a sanitized container and then transferring to a flask. Later I washed the yeast and put it in my fridge to use as a starter for a future batch of beer.

One feature I really liked was the sampling port. Its a small 3/8″ valve on the side of the unit that lets you draw out a small sample of beer to monitor specific gravity or taste/view a small sample. Using a refractometer and small beer sample I could easily track finishing gravity and also taste the beer as it progressed.

By monitoring the gravity, clarity and also the amount of trub being produced every three days it was very easy to decide when the beer was largely done clearing and ready to be kegged.

Pressurized Transfer and Racking

Pressurized Transfer to Keg

In preparation for transfer I dumped the trub once more to make sure the racking arm was sitting in clean beer. Since the 14 gal units sits low to the floor and weighs well over 100 lbs (43+ kilos) when full, I purchased some fittings to do a pressurized transfer using the CO2 tank from my kegerator. The Chronical is only rated to about 5 psi (34 kPa) so you need to apply very low pressure with your regulator and be a little patient during the transfer.

The basic configuration attaches the CO2 tank to a hose that goes to the 3″ tri-clamp fitting on the top of the fermenter. Another hose connects the 1.5″ tri-clamp racking valve to the “out” port on my ball kegs. That way the beer flows down the output tube in the keg and fills the keg from the bottom up. You can also purge the keg with some CO2 to provide a blanket of CO2 in the keg when filling it.

To transfer you first set your CO2 regulator to zero pressure, then open the racking valve and very slowly apply pressure until beer flows into the keg. Even though the adapter on top of the Chronical has a pressure relief valve, I kept pressure low during transfer while filling the keg.

It took me less than 15 minutes to fill two ball kegs and almost no sediment was transferred. I was also surprised to find there was almost no beer remaining in the fermenter after transfer as the conical is quite narrow below the racking valve.

Gunk Sprayed Right Off

Cleanup and Reset

Cleaning the fermenter after brewing turned out to be incredibly easy. The top comes off the fermenter so you can get in and clean out any sediment. Honestly a quick spray with a hose removed almost all of the sediment – most of which was at the top of the fermenter near the fill line. To make sure it was fully clean I filled it with hot water and PBW and let it sit before rinsing clean. I then removed and cleaned up the valves and various fittings.

It probably took longer to fill the fermenter with PBW fully and rinse it than it did to actually scrub out any debris.



To make full use of the Brewtech Chronical you do need a few extra fittings and accessories. In addition I purchased a few “extras” to go with the system. Accessories are available from the SS Brewtech website as well as many larger stores that carry SS Brewtech equipment. In addition you can buy Tri-clamp fittings and parts from many other brewing sources as the system uses 1.5″ and 3″ standard tri-clamp fittings.

Here are some of the items I added and my quick thoughts:

  • FTSS Temperature Control System – This comes in several versions. One set is for the Brewmaster series and another is for the standard series. The standard series version includes a new cover with the chilling coil. In addition there are variants that include heating pads if you need both heating and chilling. I purchased the chilling version.
  • Leg Extensions and Shelf – The leg extensions are about 10″ long and raise the unit well off the floor. They also provide room for additional accessories like a sight glass. Mine were a bit of a disappointment because they did not fit well (not straight after being screwed in) and also not tall enough to permit racking directly to a keg by gravity. The shelf (a separate purchase) does provide a lot more stability to the otherwise poorly fitting legs. I’m honestly not sure the system would support itself well if you purchase the leg extensions without the extra shelf. If you are going to extend the legs, get the shelf too.
  • Casters – These screw into the bottom of the legs so you can roll the fermenter around. These were nice additions as I can move the full fermenter easier and also move it around for cleaning.
  • Sight Glass – I purchased a small 1.5″ tri-clamp sight glass on a sale, but it is handy for viewing fermentation activity and also knowing when to dump the trub.
  • Tri-Clamp Filling Fittings – I got a few 1/2″ barb to tri-clamp fittings so I could fill the fermenter from my therminator wort chiller, and dump trub easily.
  • Pressure Transfer Fittings – This involved a few pieces to be able to apply low pressure from my CO2 tank. Basically you need an adapter to take the smaller 5/16″ gas hose up to the 1/2″ hose that fits into the tri-clamp fitting on top of the fermenter.
Final Impression

Despite a few minor negatives involved in first time cleaning, leg extensions and setup (covered in part 1), I found the Chronical fermenter a joy to brew with. Cleaning and sanitation was very simple. Filling and sealing the fermenter was easy. The FTSS temperature control system worked well, maintaining fermentation temperatures within a degree (F) for ales, as long as I kept the cooler fed with ice.

Fermentation itself went very well – with both batches fermenting out quickly, stopping suddenly when they reached their final gravity. Being able to collect yeast and remove sediment meant no need to transfer to a secondary or tertiary fermenter. Since I could monitor gravity and clarity from the sampling port and also monitor trub production from the dump valve it was easy to decide when to keg the beer.

The pressurized transfer system also worked well as I could rack the beer directly into the keg without exposing it to air. Cleanup after brewing was very simple – most of it was done by rinsing with a hose, though of course I did properly clean and sanitize before reusing.

All of this convenience comes at a price of course. At the time of this writing the 14 gal Brewmaster Chronical is priced at $775 and the standard 14 gal version is $495. After adding the cooling system and accessories you probably approach $800-1000+ for the complete system. The smaller 7 gal systems come in at $395 and $650 for the standard and Brewtech editions. Also the FTSS system really is only applicable at ale temperatures unless you get a separate refrigerator or glycol chiller, though Marshall at Brulosophy has done some interesting experiments with fermenting lagers at low ale temperatures (mid 60’s F), which this unit can certainly reach.

All of that being said, there is no comparative stainless steel home brew fermenters in this price range with the same features at this time. The Chronical, being all stainless, will likely provide a lifetime of service for most brewers. I’ve been seriously considering purchasing a second one to use for my meads and ciders.

If you want to purchase a Chronical, I recommend you shop for yours at Great Fermenations – as they are supporters of the BeerSmith sites. Thanks for joining me on the BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter or my podcast (also on itunes…and youtube…and streaming radio station) for more great tips on homebrewing.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Gose: NEIPA Principles for Coriander

The Mad Fermentationist - Mon, 02/06/2017 - 4:55pm
Hot-dog-water, celery, hammy… these are all descriptors I’ve heard for coriander-flavored beers. Nearly essential for wits, sometimes an accent in other Belgian beers (like those from Rochefort). Coriander, the seeds of cilantro, sometimes seem more at home in a taco than a beer, but there are two things brewers can do to ensure it imparts more pleasant aromatics like lemon, lime, and floral.

First is one I’ve touched on in previous gose recipes, use Indian coriander. It has a slightly oblong (i.e., more football than basketball) shape than the typical supermarket variety and a much fruitier aroma – Fruity Pebbles. Indian markets are also inexpensive compared to supermarkets and specialty spice stores, a 7 oz bag set me back $1.99 (compared to Amazon for $10).

Second allow coriander-yeast interaction. Glycosides and biotransformation are hot topics in hoppy beers, but they may be even more interesting for beers with fruit and spice. Coriander contains linalool and geraniol, compounds also found in hops. While unexciting in its standard form (floral and rose), yeast activity converts geraniol to B-citronellol which provides a flavor similar to lemon or lime.

"From the screening of various hop cultivars, Citra hop was selected as a geraniol-rich cultivar. In addition, it was observed that coriander seed, which can be used in beer production as a flavourant, contained not only linalool but also geraniol at high levels." The Contribution of Geraniol Metabolism to the Citrus Flavour of Beer

In the past I’ve added crushed coriander near the end of the boil or to the whirlpool, allowing it to infuse into the hot wort. That is also what was done in the study linked above. However, for this batch I drew off wort for this beer pre-boil, adding the coriander directly to the fermentor at the same time as the yeast. The rest of this batch became Loral-Hopped Funky Saison. I've found that dry hopping during fermentation is essential to the "NEIPA" character. I was hoping the same might apply to coriander!

I pitched the Right Proper house lactic culture harvested from my Quinoa Grapefruit Hoppy Sour. I didn’t have access to the high temperatures (October vs. July), and as a result sourness didn’t kick in until keg conditioning. I was recently at Right Proper brewing a collaborative smoked, juniper-infused, Norwegian farmhouse ale with Modern Times! More on that batch later...

Sodium chloride is sodium chloride, but there is nothing wrong with a story. I grew up spending summers on Cape Cod (where I still have a crate of Cranberry-Orange mead buried). Originally I’d planned to make the trip to collect bay water to dose in for salinity… but the timing didn’t work out. I had a jar of smoked sea salt from Wellfleet from my mother, close enough! Between the low dosage and low smoke-intensity I wasn’t expecting a perceptible smoke character in the beer, but sub-threshold complexity can’t hurt.

Golden Gose

Smell – Bright zesty citrus aroma. Mild graininess. Slight sulfur. I don't detect anything I would identify as coriander.

Appearance – Cloudy golden yellow. White head disperses rapidly. Not intentional, but it could pass for a NEIPA (other than the poor head retention).

Taste – Zippy lactic acidity, without the funkiness of Brett. Lots of bright fresh citrus, especially lemon (without being artificial or furniture polish). The finish has a little no-boil grainy-wortiness that I don’t mind, but it may not be for everyone. Maltiness from the Munich isn't as pronounced as I expected.

Mouthfeel – Slightly fuller than the classic versions thanks to the oats.

Drinkability & Notes – The best gose I've brewed! Refreshing and unique. The citrus from the coriander is outstanding! Sulfur aroma is the only detractor.

Changes for Next Time – Seems like this mixed culture really benefits the warmer fermentation temperature. The acidity hit its mark with extra time, but the fermentation wasn't vigorous enough to blow-off the sulfur. With the maltier grist the no-boil flavor was more assertive when young than similar all Pils/wheat beers that I've brewed - I might go for a 60 minute boil.


Batch Size: 6.00 gal
SRM: 5.3
IBU: 0
OG: 1.041
FG: 1.005
ABV: 4.7%
Brewhouse Efficiency: 74%
Boil Time: 0 Mins

65.9 % - 7.5 lbs Dingemans Pilsen
27.5 % - 3.12 lbs Weyermann Munich I
6.6 % - .75 lbs Simpsons Golden Naked Oats

Sacch Rest - 30 min @ 152 F


0.5 oz Indian Coriander Seed - Fermenter

Right Proper House Lacto Blend

Recipe adjusted so this can be brewed as a single batch.

Brewed 10/10/16

Water was all filtered DC tap with 2 g of CaCl and 1.5 g of gypsum. Added 1 tsp of lactic acid. Mash pH measured at 5.12.

Ran off 5.5 gallons of 1.041 wort once the wort hit 180F. No hops or whirlfloc. Chilled to 95F with the plate chiller. Added .5 oz of crushed Indian coriander to the wort. Pitched Right Proper house culture, woken up with 1 L of wort 24 hours prior. Added 2 tsp of lactic acid to lower pH to 4.5. Left at 70F to ferment.

10/23/16 Kegged (still no salt) with 3.25 oz of table sugar.

1/7/17 Dissolved .5 oz of Wellfleet smoked sea salt and added to the keg.
Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Brew Dudes Homebrew Swap – Exchange 15

Brew Dudes - Wed, 02/01/2017 - 6:13pm

Hi there – it’s time for another homebrew swap with your buddies, these Brew Dudes. This week, we are tasting beers from a guy named Jaime from CT, USA. He sent us a couple of beers – an American IPA and an American Dark Lager. As homebrew beers go, these were pretty tasty. Watch this […]

Read the original article Brew Dudes Homebrew Swap – Exchange 15 and other Brew Dudes posts.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

LODO Festbier: Split Batch Experiment

The Mad Fermentationist - Mon, 01/30/2017 - 4:40pm
My first attempt at low dissolved oxygen (LODO) brewing was lackluster... generously (I dumped the last gallon of that Pilsner). I wanted to try the intensive process again, replicating both wort production and fermentation as close as I could to what is prescribed in the second version of On Brewing Bavarian Helles. Rather than brew ten gallons of LODO festbier, I split the batch pre-boil aerating half of the wort as a control. I boiled this "HighDO" wort harder and with a copper immersion chiller. The LODO half I gently simmered and then chilled through a stainless-steel Blichmann plate chiller (although it was brazed with copper). Post-chilling I treated the beers identically from cold fermentation through spunding.

At the start of the January meeting I roped 20 members of DC Homebrewers into a blind triangle tasting of these two beers (poured from growlers I had counter-pressure filled 90 minutes prior). Only 7 of 20 (P=.52) correctly selected the odd (LODO) beer out of the three samples. That is a number perfectly consistent with random chance, suggesting that my LODO and HighDO beers were indistinguishable to the average beer nerd. Of the seven who correctly identified the aberrant sample, only one preferred it (four preferred the HighDO, and two had no preference).

After a month of drinking the two beers, I was able to select and identify the beers in my single attempted triangle test. They are similar, but the LODO does have an ever-so-slightly maltier aroma to my nose. Flavors are nearly identical.

As a disclaimer, I intended this test to explore whether my kluged-process LODO made an incremental improvement to this pale lager. I'll say "yes" if you know what to look for, but in the barest of terms. What I’d love to see is someone with a dialed-in system try the same experiment!

A single experiment can’t prove or disprove anything. That's why replication is an essential (if unsexy) part of science. Even under rigorously controlled conditions statistics like this only provide a confidence interval that suggests that the results are not due to chance. Compound this with variability introduced by brewer, brew house, tasters, conditions etc. and you sometimes produce false positive and negatives. That said, blind taste tests are the best way to insulate results from expectation and bias. Triangle tests are a pain to conduct, and put a target on you from people who can swear they can taste the difference. I have a lot of respect for what the Brulosophy folks put themselves through for data (especially after participating a couple times)! Looking forward to hanging out with Marshall in New Zealand in a couple months between talks at NZHC 2017!

As a side note, Audrey got me this tube wringer for toothpaste, but it works perfectly to extract the last few billion cells from PurePitch packages. White Labs should probably license it and sell an official version!

LODO Festbier

Smell – Clean bready malt aroma. Pleasant waft of sulfur, although a few tasters felt it considerably stronger than I do. Faint grassiness of noble hops.

Appearance – Slightly-hazy deep yellow. Dense white head sticks around until the bottom leaving patches of lacing down the sides of the glass.

Taste – Malt flavor is well rounded. Crisp, but the 5% crystal malt adds a mild honey-like sweetness. Pleasant herbal hop flavor in the finish. Clean balancing bitterness. Retro-nasal brings the appropriate lager-light-egginess back. It had a flavor that reminded me of the doughiness of a no-boil Berliner weisse when it was young, but that has faded.

Mouthfeel – Medium body with moderately prickly carbonation.

Drinkability & Notes – One of the better lagers I’ve brewed. Malty without being heavy. The sulfur is at the top of the my range, likely a result of the cold fermentation and spunding rather than the sulfite.

Changes for Next Time – Unlike my first attempt where the primary issue was double-dosing metabisulfite, this is a pleasant beer! Next time I’d reduce or eliminate the Carahell, and save the effort and brew it with the standard wort production (and warm up the fermentation towards the end)!

Festbier Recipe

Batch Size: 10.00 gal
SRM: 5.3 SRM
IBU: 17.5 IBUs
OG: 1.055
FG: 1.013
ABV: 5.5%
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65%
Boil Time: 65 Mins

75.5 % - 17.1 lbs Weyermann Pilsner
17.5 % - 4 lbs Weyermann Vienna
5.4 % - 1.2 lbs Weyermann Carahell
1.7 % - .4 lbs Weyermann Acidulated

Sacch Rest - 30 min @ 152F

4.40 oz Hallertauer Mittelfrueh (Pellets, 2.00 % AA) @ 60 min
1.60 oz Hallertauer Mittelfrueh (Pellets, 2.00 % AA) @ 10 min

White Labs WLP833 German Bock Lager

Brewed 11/14/16

Recipe above is the ingredients for the entire 10 gallon batch.

Made a 5L stir-plate starter. Fermented at room temperature for 36 hours, then crash chilled.

Boiled 18 gallons of water (8 distilled, 10 filtered DC) added 12 g of CaCl. Preboiled water, then added 7 crushed sodium campden tablets. Underlet mash after purging with CO2.

Mash pH 5.28.

Collected 7.5 gallons of wort as is, 4.5 aerated and left in an aluminum pot until the remainder came to a boil.

Adjusted 2.4% AA hop pellets down to 2%. Bagged.

LODO, 2.75 oz @ 60 min. 1 oz @ 10 min. Plate chiller. 1.056. Slightly sweeter, maybe could pass for maltier. A shade lighter.

Aerated, 1.65 oz @ 60 min. .6 oz @ 10 min. Immersion chiller. 1.054.

Chilled both to 46F, shook to aerate, pitched the decanted starter. Left at 48F to ferment.

11/20/16 Down to 1.032 (43% AA).

11/21/16 Started dropping 1F per day. Until it reached 43F.

11/24/16 1.024, still pretty yeasty with a small krausen.

11/27/16 1.019 (66% AA). Kegged into quadruple-purged kegs. Purged and pressurized head space. Left at 48F to carbonate. Both have some sweetness, so hopefully drops below 1.015 (73% AA).

12/3/16 Good pressure on both, 15 PSI. Removed spunding valve and began dropping 2F per day.

12/18/16 Attached to gas and dumped yeast from both. FG 1.013 (76.8% attenuation) on the LODO, 1.012 (77.8%) on the HighDO.

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Categories: Homebrewing blogs

SS Brewtech Brewmaster Chronicle 14 gal Conical Fermenter Review – Part 1: First Impressions

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Mon, 01/30/2017 - 2:49pm

This week I take a look at the Brewmaster 14 gal (52 l) Chronical from SS BrewTech. In this first part I’ll cover my initial impressions after unboxing, assembling and cleaning the fermenter. In part 2, I’ll cover brewing and fermenting with the unit.

Do You Really Need a Stainless Conical for Home Brewing?

Lets start by admitting the facts here – you probably don’t need a shiny stainless conical fermenter to brew great homebrewed beer. The old glass or plastic carboy can get the job done. You also don’t need a $600 putter, or a shiny new car to get to work. But if you are a passionate brewer, conicals do have some advantages including more control over the process, temperature control, making collecting sediment and yeast easier, avoiding the need for a secondary transfer, and of course the ease of cleaning/maintaining stainless steel.

SS BrewTech Chronical Series Features

The SS Brewtech Chronical series is a set of stainless steel conical fermenters targeted for the home brewing and pilot brewing market. They come in four sizes: 7 gal (26.5 l), 14 gal (53 l), 1/2 barrel (17 gal/64 l) and 1 barrel (41 gal/155 l). That volume includes headspace, so you would buy a 7 gal fermenter for a 5 gal finished batch size, 14 gal for a 10 gal batch and so on. I bought a 14 gal/53 l setup from Great Fermentations (affiliate link) to go with my new 10 gal (38 l) Blichmann BrewEasy electric.

For each fermenter size, SS Brewtech offers two variants: a standard unit and a more expensive “Brewmaster” series. The fermenter itself is identical in both options, but the “Brewmaster” series includes additional features listed below as part of the base unit. SS Brewtech and many retailers also carry an array of accessories and fittings to go with the fermenters.

Basic Chronical Fermenter Features
  • Full 60 degree conical made from 304 stainless steel (food safe), etched volume lines on inside
  • Two welded 1.5″ Triclover sanitary fittings for yeast dump and racking. Ball valves on the basic unit.
  • 90 degree elbow and two 3-piece ball valves, one with an adjustable racking arm
  • Weldless 1/4″ ID thermowell for measuring temperatures (digital thermometer is a separate purchase)
  • Custom seal cover with 1.5″ triclover adapter for venting or pressurized transfer (to 5 psi)
The “BrewMaster Series” adds the following:
  • Integrated 304 stainless steel coil for temperature control (temp control system sold separately)
  • Sanitary 1.5″ triclover butterfly valves (upgrade from ball valves on basic version)
  • 3/8″ Sampling valve for drawing small samples
  • Neoprene insulation jacket to aid in temperature control
  • Larger 3″ Triclover port in the cover to make dry hopping/fermentation additions easier

Chilling Coil – Brewmaster Edition

Temperature Control

One of the key features that led to me purchasing a SS Brewtech over another unit was their innovative temperature control system. The same limited space that led me to select a Blichmann BrewEasy electric, also meant that I really did not want to install a separate fermentation refrigerator. To be fair, a small used freezer and some carboys would have been cheaper.

The system requires a separate chill water source – such as a cooler with some ice water in it. It works by monitoring the temperature in the fermenter and running a small submersible pump when needed to pump cold water through the chilling coil. I used my old mash tun with some bottles of ice in it to provide the chilled water source. A separate heating pad is also available if you need both heating and chilling.

I plan to do a full review of the temperature control system later, but basically it works well for controlling ale fermentation temperatures within a degree or so if you remember to change the bottles of ice out in the cooler every 12-24 hours. Unfortunately it does not work well at lager temperatures unless you have a glycol chiller or serious source of chilled water like a separate refrigerator – the system simply absorbs too much heat for lagering with ice alone. However I’ve been able to operate mine at 65F (18 C) in my basement which is sufficient for many lager strains.

Racking from Stainless Fermenter

Pressurized Transfer

Another neat feature of having a sealed conical is that you can perform a CO2 pressurized transfer from the conical to a keg. So if you have a CO2 tank and keg system you can apply low pressure to the fermenter to force the beer into a CO2 purged keg, with the potential to complete the entire transfer without letting your beer contact air (or oxygen).

The BrewTech conicals are only rated to about 5 psi, so you need to keep the pressures very low during transfer, and the separate racking port on the conical lets you transfer beer without getting much (if any) sediment into the keg. Its not quite as simple as something like the new Blichmann Cornical which converts directly to a serving keg, but the Chronical’s pressurized transfer works fine in practice.

Unpacking, Setup and First Impressions

I purchased the Brewmaster Series 14 gal (50 l) conical from Great Fermentations (Affiliate link) to pair up with my Blichmann BrewEasy 10 gal (38 l) system. In practice I start with about 11 gallons of beer, so I can fill two 5 gallon kegs to the very top after losses from fermentation. The unit arrived very quickly, and appears to have been drop shipped from SS Brewtech.

The box was about 40″ tall and contained the complete fermenter and accessories. The legs are already attached, as was the stainless chiller coil. A box near the bottom of the package had the valves, accessories and hardware in it. Initial setup consisted of screwing in the four feet, installing the weldless thermowell and sampling valve. After cleaning (see below) I also added the butterfly valves, elbow and racking tube.

I was very happy to see welded sanitary tri-clover fittings on the conical as well as high quality butterfly valves. These were all stainless and should provide a sanitary connection for pulling trub and yeast or racking. The butterfly valves are simply beautiful – solid and well made.

I was not as thrilled with the four weldless connections – two for the cooling coil, one for the thermowell and one for the sampling valve. Each had a thin 1/16″ (1 mm) by 16mm (approx) rubber O-ring on it, which provides the seal. Initially I tried putting the O-ring on the inside for each, but that failed for the sampling valve as the nut pushed it out of place. The O-ring will seal but only if you have it at just the right tension level. Even after I sorted it all out, I later had a leak around one of the coil fittings and had to quickly torque it down as wort spilled out on the floor. I would prefer a better system for sealing these up – perhaps a larger O-ring or rubber flat washer.


The weldless O-ring fittings I did eventually get properly seated and they worked well. Obviously if you are going to brew sour beers with this system you would want to change out the O-rings and also the tri-clover silicone seals to avoid contaminating any future batches via the seals. Also since the system is weldless you can remove and clean these seals periodically if needed.

The fermenter itself was very nice. It has a polished stainless finish to it, has welded legs, and is laser etched on the inside with volume markings for easy reference while filling. The chilling coil is 100% stainless steel as well and located at the center of the fermenter close to the thermowell. The cover has a pressure gasket all the way around to provide a solid seal, but is fully removable which makes cleaning up after fermenting a breeze. The Brewmaster edition has a large 3″ triclamp fitting on the top which you can cover with an included 1/2″ hose adapter to allow blowoff during fermentation, but is also large enough to add ingredients or dry hop as needed. You can also fit it with a separate gas fitting for pressurized transfer.

As expected the dump valve is at the bottom of the conical, and a 90 degree elbow and fittings are included to make it easy to collect yeast or trub. The upper racking valve has a separate racking arm on the inside of the fermenter which lets you collect wort easily during racking while minimizing sediment.

The thermowell is well positioned near the center of the fermenter, so you can monitor and control the temperature within the fermenter, which can be several degrees higher than the surface of the fermenter. The sampling valve (brewmaster edition) is also well positioned on the front of the fermenter and is very handy for taking small samples to check gravity or flavor during fermentation.

Racking and Dump Valves

The stainless steel chilling coil is right near the center of the fermenter, though its lowest point is a bit above the top of the conical. This is ideal for 10 gal (38 l) batches, but is probably situated too high to provide much temperature control if you want to do a 5 gallon (19 l) half batch. The Brewmaster edition also comes with a neoprene jacket which is about the same weight as a medium wetsuit (if you scuba dive) and fits very tightly over the fermenter. The jacket provides some basic insulation though obviously the top and fittings are not insulated at all.

The unit does sit very low to the ground with the standard legs, with the bottom dump valve only inches above the ground. You can purchase 10″ leg extensions separately, but even with the extensions the unit is not really tall enough to siphon directly into an average homebrew keg. Fortunately you can do a pressurized transfer though it requires purchase of a few extra fittings. It also has handles welded to the side, but the prospect of lifting the unit full of wort (at 100+ lbs) is probably a two man job.

Cleaning and Passivating

If you do research on the SS Brewtech units, you may find references to people who had flavor problems because they did not clean the unit properly before using it. The unit is imported from China and since it is polished stainless, there is quite a bit of residue left over from manufacturing and polishing. Honestly it is a bit of a pain and it took several hours to get it cleaned and passivated properly before brewing.

Passivating – Embrace the Foam!

My favorite method for quick cleaning/passivating stainless equipment is to use Bar Keeper’s Friend. Unfortunately this particular fermenter has laser etching on it, which Bar Keeper’s Friend is very good at removing – so that approach was a no-go!

The manufacturer recommended method is to use TSP (tri-sodium-phosphate) to clean it thoroughly followed by a super concentration of 1 oz/gallon of Starsan acid sanitizer. The Starsan is acidic and will remove the oxidation layer on the stainless. You then air-dry it after finishing with the Starsan and the oxygen from the air reacts with the chromium in the stainless steel to form a protective oxide layer over your newly cleaned equipment.

So that is exactly what I did – purchased a box of TSP, mixed it to the recommended concentration and then thoroughly (and aggressively) cleaned every inch of the fermenter and fittings. Then I mixed up a super concentration of Starsan (1 oz per gallon, which was a lot of Starsan for a 14 gallon fermenter!), and gave everything a good long soak followed by air-dry. After drying everything overnight I gave it all another extensive rinse to remove any residual acid.

Fortunately the regular cleaning routing after brewing is a lot less – I just use PBW for cleaning and honestly most of the fermentation debris rinses right off. I disassemble and clean the various valves and triclamp fittings also. Obviously you need to stanitize it before use – and the standard concentration of Starsan works fine for that.

Overall Impressions

Filling Fermenter

Once I got over the cleaning/passivating pain and somewhat finicky weldless O-ring seals, my impression of the Brewtech Chronical (Affilliate link) has been very positive. I did purchase some additional accessories and brew several batches with the system – and had a great experience which I’ll cover in part 2 of this review.

While the Chronical does not quite have the fit or finish of my Blichmann stainless brewing equipment (arguably the gold standard) it does provide a nice balance of low price point and features and is easy to operate. The tri-clover welded fittings and butterfly valves are great. The temperature monitoring and control system worked well in practice, at least for ales. The all-stainless conical, chiller, and fittings should last an average home brewer a lifetime. Other features including the dump valve, racking arm, pressurized transfer, thermowell and even the sampling port all add value to the system.

Fermenting Beer – with Chiller

Note that I purchased the “Brewmaster” edition (aff link) which has the integrated chilling coil, more expensive butterfly (vs ball) valves, sampling port, insulation jacket and larger 3″ triclover port in the top. The standard edition (which costs quite a bit less) does not include these features, though you can still purchase a chilling system for it that is basically a replacement cover with the chilling coil installed. If you plan to use the chilling system and butterfly valves (which are more sanitary), the Brewmaster edition is probably a better buy.

Also some additional parts must be purchased separately – for example the actual chilling controller and pump is a separate purchase. Additional fittings to do a pressurized transfer are separate purchases, as are options like leg extensions, a sight glass, and others. Fortunately the standard tri-clover fittings can be bought from many suppliers.

Next week in part 2 of this review, I’ll brew some beer up and give you my thoughts after fermenting a few batches using the SS Brewtech Chronical. Thanks for joining me on the BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter or my podcast (also on itunes…and youtube…and streaming radio station) for more great tips on homebrewing.

[Note: Affiliate links were used in this post. Use them if you want to support the BeerSmith web sites]


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