Homebrewing blogs

Is American Homebrewing Dying?

The Mad Fermentationist - Wed, 01/30/2019 - 7:00am
Brewing beer at home changed the course of my life. At first it was merely a fun way to explore my drink of choice, and an excuse to hang out with friends. As time passed it became a larger part of my life, a side-hustle, a reason to travel, altered who I am. I always hated public speaking… until I figured out that I’m engaging when I care about the material. I was never passionate about reading, researching, and writing, until they meant I could learn to brew better beer and share my passion. I met many of my friends at homebrew club meetings, through this blog, and homebrewing forums. I worked a boring government desk job for 12 years, until brewing allowed me to open a business!


That’s why I'm sad that homebrewing is on the decline in America. I see it at DC Homebrewer’s meetings, where there aren’t nearly as many fresh faces as there were five years ago. The closures of retailers, like the recent announcement from Love2Brew. The surveys from the American Homebrewer’s Association gives hard numbers: from 1.2 million homebrewers in 2013, to 1.1 million in 2017.

Anecdotally over the last 30 years, American homebrewing has experienced three similar dips. Roughly the early-1990s, early-2000s, and the last few years. These coincide with three pivotal moments in commercial beer availability.

By the early 1990s most parts of the country had a selection of bottled craft beer from the likes of Sierra Nevada, Boston Beer, not to mention a few local breweries. No longer were beer drinkers limited to macro lagers and stale impotrs, because hoppy pale ales, malty browns, and roasty stouts were available coast-to-coast. I've met a few former homebrewers who thought that was enough selection to make homebrewing superfluous. There were still plenty of people who wanted to drink a wider range of styles though, and that still meant brewing their own.

A decade later with the opening and expansion of breweries like Allagash, Dogfish Head, New Belgium and hundreds more, the selection and availability of craft beer had exploded. You could find wit, kolsch, imperial stouts, apricot pale, IPA and a multitude more everywhere. Most cities had stores where you could pick from hundreds if not thousands of bottles. Again, some homebrewers didn’t see the need to keep brewing when they could drink a solid example of pretty much any style. Still though, many homebrewers wanted greater variety, unique flavors, and ultra-fresh beer.

Now we’re in another slide. With more than 6,000 breweries spread across the country, most Americans can take a short drive to visit a different brewery tasting rooms every week for a few months without repeating. Not only that, but the old model of four core beers, four seasonals, and a couple special releases is  gone. Many breweries are producing 50 or more beers each year. The variety is staggering, and again many former homebrewers are happy to reduce their risk/effort and sample as many new beers as they desire. Not only is homebrewing suffering, but so are many of the breweries from those previous waves… Smuttynose, Green Flash etc.

In the chart below, the red line represents Google searches for "Brewery" the blue is "Homebrewing." December 2008 is the closest they have been (29 to 13), while July 2018 was the furthest (100 to 5). That's to say that while search interest in breweries has more than tripled over the last ten years, during the same time interest in homebrewing has dropped in half.

Where does homebrewing go from here?

There have always been different types of homebrewers, different reasons they brew. There will always be homebrewers. Those who brew not to save money, or drink the “best” beer, but who love the process. Those who are passionate about recipe design, microbiology, botany, community. engineering, culinary techniques, and experimentation. For them craft beer is a source of inspiration, but not a replacement for the hobby!

I don't view automated homebrewing systems as a threat to traditional homebrewing or a big boon for the hobby. If I hear one more new product that bills itself as the “Keurig” of beer… I’m going to lose it! It isn’t even like Keurig is synonymous with high quality coffee. I just don’t see any product that makes brewing that easy gaining a strong foothold because brewing beer involves more care than coffee and to-the-minute freshness isn't as important. You can buy a six pack at the store for less than it takes to brew these, and enjoy a bottle each night. The automated systems will always make beer that isn't as good as commercial, at a higher price-point. Not that automated wort production isn't appealing (and useful) for homebrewers looking to devote less time to the process.

If this time is like the previous two lulls, homebrewing is due for another bounce. Maybe the continual push for novelty in craft brewing, extra-bold flavors, and lack of true originality turns people off. Lack of quality, high prices, poor quality control, beer that sits too long before being sold… honestly now that I know how good IPA tastes within a month of brewing, I rarely buy a six-pack off the shelf. Hopefully as more consumers become accustomed to really fresh beer at tasting rooms, they get interested in brewing it for themselves! Maybe the greater number of people drinking craft beer simply gets more people interested in brewing.

The second option is decline. As quality beer becomes more accessible the price will be pushed down, making it an even more attractive option for marginal-homebrewers. Homebrewing becomes an even more specialized/nerdy hobby, and we lose out on the vibrancy that new hobbyists bring.

My best guess is that we're reaching stasis. There won't be a return the levels of excitement and engagement we saw ten years ago. There will still be plenty of people who drink craft beer, and try their hand at homebrewing, but only enough to replace all of the homebrewers who stop to drink craft beer or join the industry.

Homebrewing Matters

Drinking beer wouldn't have done the same thing for my life as homebrewing. An active engagement with brewing is the best way to really understand and appreciate beer. It caused me to learn and grow in areas that aren't really connected to beer or brewing. I understand that drinking a beer and checking in on Untappd is no-risk (I wrote a couple hundred reviews on BeerAdvocate), but it doesn't really lead to anything. Drinking beer is a diversion, brewing beer can change your life!

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Sharing Beer Brewing Data Using BSMX Files in BeerSmith

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Sun, 01/27/2019 - 12:16pm

While the cloud features in BeerSmith are great for sharing data, there are times when you want to send some recipes, ingredients or profiles to a person via email or on a thumb drive. The BSMX file format in BeerSmith makes this easy to do.

Some web sites also provide BSMX files as downloads for their recipes, ingredients and profiles and the below tutorial will explain how to work with these.

Creating a BeerSmith BSMX File

Fortunately it is very easy to export recipes, ingredients or profiles in BeerSmith. I’ll start with a recipe. From My Recipes view, simply select the recipe, folders or recipes you want to export. You can hold down the Control (Cmd on Mac) key while clicking to select multiple items, or if you hold down the shift key you can select a range of items. You can also go to Edit->Select All to select everything.

Once you have the recipes selected, go to File->Export Selected which will bring up the familiar save dialog so you can give the BSMX file a name and save it to a location on your drive. This BSMX file is the one you want to mail or put on a thumb drive to share or import the data on another computer. You can also select the File->Export All command if you want to save evertying in the current view.

While I used the My Recipes view as an example above, you can actually export ingredients and profiles as BSMX files as well. The process is the same, except you need to start from one of the Ingredients or Profile views and select the ingredients or profiles you want exported. These also get saved as BSMX files and can be imported into the respective Ingredient or Profile view on another computer.

Importing a BSMX file in BeerSmith

After you’ve transferred the BSMX file you exported above to another computer either via email, a thumb drive or network, you need to open it in BeerSmith and save the data for further use.

To open a BSMX file in BeerSmith, go to File->Open File and navigate to the file you want to import. When you open the file, it will open in a separate tab within BeerSmith with the name of the file shown on the tab. Within that open file tab you can view and edit the data, but if you save changes they will only affect the BSMX file.

In most cases you want to copy the recipe or other data into BeerSmith for later use. To do this, navigate to the open tab with the name of the file on it. Next select the folders or recipes you want to copy from that tab and use the Copy button to copy the data to the clipboard.

Next navigate to your own personal My Recipes view and Paste the data. This will create a permanent copy of the recipes you just imported. Once you have copied the data over you can close the BSMX file tab. BeerSmith will ask if you want to save the data back to the BSMX file, which you rarely need to do unless you are trying to edit the BSMX file itself.

The same process works for importing Profiles and Ingredient BSMX files. Simply open the file, select the data you want to retain, and copy it to the appropriate Ingredient or Profile view for that data type. So if I was importing a BSMX file containing hops data, I would want to open the file, select the hops I want to keep in that file tab, and then Copy/Paste the data to my Ingredients->Hops view which would store it permanently for future use.

Directly Editing a BSMX file

Though rarely needed, you can actually open a BSMX file in a separate tab and start editing items in that tab. So, for example, I could open a BSMX file (using File->Open) and then copy/paste another recipe I forgot into it. Keep in mind that changes made in an open file tab will only be saved to that BSMX file. Also when you close the file tab you do need to tell BeerSmith to save the data back to the BSMX file (it will prompt you) or it will be lost.

I hope the above tutorial gives you additional options for sharing your BeerSmith data. I also encourage you to read this article on cloud sharing which is a simpler way to share data with other BeerSmith users via the BeerSmith cloud.

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

The Craft Maltster’s Guild with Jamie Sherman and Jen Blair – BeerSmith Podcast #186

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Thu, 01/24/2019 - 6:36pm

Dr Jamie Sherman and Jen Blair join me to discuss the Craft Malster’s Guild, their upcoming conference and the craft malt industry in general.

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 (47:47)
  • Today my guests are Dr Jamie Sherman and Jen Blair. Jamie Sherman is a barley breeder at Montana State University since 2014 where she oversees the newly created malt quality lab. Jen Blair is executive director of the North American Craft Malster’s Guild, and also a member of the AHA governing committee. She is also an advanced Cicerone and certified BJCP beer judge.
  • We start with a discussion of the definition of Craft Malting and what makes it different from traditional large malsters.
  • Jen, who is Executive Director of the Craft Malting Guild, explains what the Craft Maltster’s Guild is and what it does for its members.
  • Jamie discusses craft malting in Montana as well as the work ongoing between Montana State University and both barley growers and malsters.
  • Jen explores how growth in craft malting is following the craft beer industry’s needs for unique products and focus on locally grown ingredients.
  • Jamie tells us what features craft brewers are looking for in new malts.
  • Jen explains how the craft malting guild works to connect small barley growers with craft malsters.
  • Jamie tells us about the research efforts ongoing at Montana state in barley breeding to product new barley breeds with unique characteristics and flavor.
  • Jen tells us about some of the challenges that craft malsters face when trying to compete with large malt houses.
  • Jamie tells us a bit about her presentation with Hanna Turner at the Craft Malting conference next month.
  • Jen tells us a bit more about the craft malting conference to be held in February as well as the guild.
  • Both guests share their closing thoughts on where craft malting is going in the future. We also briefly discuss how home brewers can get craft malts.
Sponsors

Thanks to Jen Blair and Dr Jamie Sherman 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

Yet Another NEIPA – We’re Sorry

Brew Dudes - Thu, 01/24/2019 - 12:44pm

When in New England, you get many requests to brew NEIPAs or New England style India Pale Ales. This area of the USA is where this style was born and the people seem to love it. From the explosion of new breweries touting their special version of the brew to the devotees standing in line […]

The post Yet Another NEIPA – We’re Sorry appeared first on Brew Dudes.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Foraged Staghorn Sumac Beer

The Mad Fermentationist - Wed, 01/23/2019 - 4:26pm
My homebrewing frequency has taken a nosedive recently (surprise), but I still try to find time to brew a weird batch when I can. In August, when Scott and I drove to pick-up our first hop order in western Maryland, I noticed that Staghorn Sumac was in full bloom along I-270 . I’d read about flavoring beer with it in The Homebrewer’s Almanac, but never actually tasted a beer brewed with it. Sumac is tart and fruity, traditionally used in a tart lemonade-like beverage.


I pulled over and harvested about a pound. The range I’d read was 1-5 lbs per 5 gallon batch. Without a beer ready for them, I took the clusters of dusty berries off of the central twig, vacuum sealed them, and froze. That was enough of an excuse to brew a batch of Berliner weisse (fermented with US-05 and Omega Lacto Blend). After primary fermentation I racked 1 gallon onto the resulting .75 lbs of sumac, and another onto .5 oz of dried Turkish sumac from Penzeys. Obviously if the dried version is just as good, it certainly would be easier!


Dried Turkish Sumac Berliner

Smell – Aroma is light, doughy-grain, lightly citrus and roasted pear. An odd note of cinnamon as well.

Appearance – Clear pale yellow. It’s almost so pale that yellow isn’t the right word, it looks washed out, faded. Retention isn’t great, but the tight, white head sticks around for much longer than the other half of the batch.

Taste – Bright acid without being obnoxious. The finish has an odd fall-spice note as in the nose that I suspect is from the sumac. Dry without being a desert.

Mouthfeel – Classic Berliner, light and spritzy.

Drinkability & Notes – The not-entirely-pleasant musty-herbal flavor the dried sumac provided when the beer was young seems to have mostly faded to a light spiciness. I’m not sure I’d even pick it out if I didn’t know it was in there.

Changes for Next Time – Maybe a different/fresher source of dried sumac would provide a better flavor and aroma?

Staghorn Sumac Berliner

Smell – Aroma has the generic fruitiness of Hawaiian Punch, or Hi-C, but with an herbal hint of a Ricola cough drop. I don’t get any of the base beer, at this elevated rate it is all sumac. Certainly in the same sort of flavor-family as hibiscus.

Appearance – To go along with the aroma, it has the color of Hawaiian Punch. Similar head retention too…

Taste – The same fruit flavor from the nose, but more pronounced cherry candy. It’s a really fun flavor, that doesn’t stray into cloying. Acidity is snappy, sort of Vitamin-C, quick and punchy. No sweetness, finally breaks the comparison to "fruit" beverages.

Mouthfeel – Light, medium+ carbonation, but not excessively thin or harsh.

Drinkability & Notes – Staghorn sumac is a foraged ingredient that has a real chance for broader appeal. The flavor is fun, quenching, and somewhat familiar. The color certainly doesn’t hurt either. With how much it took, a mild base beer like this makes the most sense.

Changes for Next Time – I was sort of hoping this one wouldn’t be delicious so that I didn’t have to source a couple hundred pounds to put into a beer next summer. Likely could drop down closer to .5 lbs/gallon for a more balanced beer, but it is delicious as is!

I’m hopeful I can get this formula approved by the TTB for Sapwood, as there are already a few commercial beers from the likes Sumac Sour from Four Quarters, Backroads from Suarez Family, and of course several sours and saisons from Scratch. That said, it seems like they are clamping down as I had both acorns and Eastern Red Cedar rejected already. I’ve had several brewers tell me that the step isn’t necessary unless you are getting label approval (not true) or that it is better to ask forgiveness than permission…

I'll be making the trip down to Asheville, NC March 22-23 for another round of BYO Boot Camps! As usual I'll be talking about Wood/Barrels one day and Sour Beers the other. I said it before, but this really is looking like the last one of these for me given how much time running a brewery takes!
Categories: Homebrewing blogs

All Grain Brüt IPA Recipe And Tasting

Brew Dudes - Sun, 01/20/2019 - 5:26am

The newest of new IPA styles, at least at this point in time, is the Brüt IPA. Brewed with added enzymes that makes the wort extremely fermentable so that it finishes dry, this beer presents a new challenge for home brewers of all experience levels. My first attempt using an extract recipe resulted in a […]

The post All Grain Brüt IPA Recipe And Tasting appeared first on Brew Dudes.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Off Flavors in Homebrewed Beer – Troubleshooting Off Flavors

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Thu, 01/17/2019 - 2:31pm

This week I take a look at the 17 off flavors in home brewed beer found on the BJCP beer judging score sheet.  These are the major off flavors you will encounter when home brewing beer, and I’ve also provided links to my more detailed summaries of the causes and correcting each flavor.

Off Flavors in Beer

For those of you unfamiliar with the Beer Judge Certification Program at BJCP.org, it is the worlds largest program for certifying beer judges who evaluate beers for most of the beer competitions here in the US.  They also publish a style guide of standard beer styles along with a number of other references on judging and tasting beer.  Even for those who are not into competing, their standards are a great reference.

Along with judging materials they also publish the BJCP score sheet which is a scoring sheet used by beer judges.  I don’t compete with my beer, but I have used the score sheet on many occasions to evaluate my beers.

On the score sheet is a short summary of 17 off flavors found in beer, and it is a useful guide.  While it won’t cover other problems like imbalances in your beer, it is very useful to know the off-flavors as well as how to troubleshoot them.

I’ve written articles on all of the major off flavors, so I’ve provided a link below to the major article on each off flavor so you can bookmark this page and use it if you are trying to troubleshoot an off flavor in your beer:

As I mentioned this is a summary article – so if you are interested in learning more about any of the off flavors above and getting to root cause, just click on the links above.

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

Watch Out Stout Recipe And Tasting Notes

Brew Dudes - Thu, 01/10/2019 - 4:08am

At the end of 2018, Mike took inventory of his odds and ends grain collection that he had and decided to make an Imperial stout. All of the ingredients, including the different base malts, were left over from other brews. A “Kitchen Sink” beer for sure, this stout has everything. Check out the recipe below […]

The post Watch Out Stout Recipe And Tasting Notes appeared first on Brew Dudes.

Categories: Homebrewing blogs

Growing Wet Hops Year-Round with Kyle and Greg Stelzer – BeerSmith Podcast #185

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Mon, 01/07/2019 - 12:31pm

Kyle and Greg Stelzer join me from 24 Hour Hops where they are growing hops year-round in greenhouses in Arizona and providing wet hops to home brewers!

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 (43:19)
  • Today my guests are Kyle and Greg Stelzer from 24 Hour Hops. Kyle and Greg have started a unique business growing hops year-round in greenhouses with the goal of providing fresh wet hops throughout the year to home brewers.
  • We discuss how they decided to start a hop business in the desert of Arizona – an area not often associated with hops.
  • Kyle tells us about their decision to focus on the homebrew market and delivering fresh wet hops directly to homebrewers right after they are picked.
  • We talk about the challenges of growing hops in a greenhouse versus a more traditional outdoor location as well as the flexibility it provides. For example they can produce several crops from a bine in a single year.
  • Kyle tells us how large the operation is and the varieties of hops they are focused on.
  • Greg explains the use of hydroponics rather than traditional soil for growing hops, and the advantages of having complete control over the nutrients provided.
  • Kyle shares the hop cycle and how they are able to simulate winter to get multiple hop cycles from a single plant in a year.
  • We discuss brewing with fresh wet hops and some of the challenges it provides. Kyle also explains how they pick and ship fresh wet hops directly to homebrewers within a day or two.
  • Greg shares some of the things they have learned diving into hop growing over the last few years.
  • They share their web site 24HourHops.com where you can order hops or learn more about working with wet hops.
  • Both provide their closing thoughts.
Sponsors

Thanks to Greg and Kyle Stelzer 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

BeerSmith Cloud Recipe Privacy and Sharing Explained

Homebrewing from Beersmith - Sun, 01/06/2019 - 12:33pm

This week I present a short overview of the cloud sharing, privacy and folder features available in BeerSmith 3 home brewing software. The cloud features in BeerSmith let you share recipes between your computers and phone, share with other users or just use as an online private backup for your recipes.

The BeerSmith cloud is an online server located at BeerSmithRecipes.com which currently has some 850,000 beer, mead, wine, and cider recipes. Access to the cloud is integrated into the desktop and mobile versions of BeerSmith software as a “cloud folder”, which reach back to the server to access recipes stored there. In BeerSmith 3 a secure connection (SSL/Https) is used.

Some potential uses for the cloud folder:

  • Sharing recipes privately between your computers and mobile devices. All recipes are private by default.
  • Sharing recipes with others (if you mark them as shared)
  • Storing recipes offline in the cloud for backup purposes
BeerSmith Cloud Privacy Options

You can add items to your cloud folder by either moving/copy/pasting new items to the folder or by creating a new recipe in the cloud folder area. On both the desktop and mobile version the cloud folder is a separate selection to differentiate it from the locally stored “My Recipes” folder.

You can add items to your cloud folder by either moving/copy/pasting new items to the folder or by creating a new recipe in the cloud folder area. On both the desktop and mobile version the cloud folder is a separate selection to differentiate it from the locally stored “My Recipes” folder.

On the desktop you click on the large “Share” icon (looks like a large lock) from Cloud view to change the privacy settings for the selected recipe. On the mobile version, there is a selection on the menu that lets you alter privacy. On the mobile if you open a cloud recipe there is a “Sharing State” button just under the section with the recipe name that lets you adjust privacy.

Private: By default, anything you add to your cloud folder is marked as private which means that only people logged in with your cloud login can access them. They are not publicly listed or accessible unless you take action to share them. Private recipes can be reached from your other mobile or desktop devices, but only if you are logged into your account.

Shared: On both the mobile and desktop version there is a button that allows you to share a selected recipe. If you opt to share the recipe, it will now be accessible from both the BeerSmithRecipes.com search page as well as the cloud search functions within BeerSmith desktop and mobile. Shared recipes can be found and downloaded by any other BeerSmith user.

Unlisted: If you mark a recipe as “unlisted” it will not show up in general search results, but it can be accessed using the sharing ID shown. The idea behind an unlisted recipe is that you can give the sharing id to a friend so they can access the recipe without having it listed in search results for something you may not want shared with the whole world.

It is important to note that each recipe has its own privacy setting, so you can choose to either keep all your recipes private, or select just a few recipes to share or mark unlisted.

That is a quick overview of the recipe sharing options available in BeerSmith and the BeerSmith cloud. 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

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