Beer Nerd Book Club: "Extreme Brewing (Deluxe Edition)"

This installment of Beer Nerd Book Club highlights Extreme Brewing (Deluxe Edition) authored by Dogfish Head founder/president and homebrew advocate Sam Calagione. The book is not only a glimpse into the mind and boil kettle of the diabolical genius Sam C., but (more importantly?) includes a bunch of awesome recipes from Sam, Dogfish Head staff, fellow brewers, and collaborators.

Notes on a Brewday: Weyermann® Oak-Smoked Pale Wheat Malt

My observation after 18 years of brewing and judging beer is that folks either hate smoked beers or love smoked beers, and even those that love them often can’t agree on what’s a tolerable amount or source of smoke character.

Personally, I fall into the “love ’em” camp with a tendency towards unconditional. If you are in the “hate ’em” camp, I respect that – you can read this blog entry as an academic exercise or as something to do while soaking the crust out of your primaries and sipping a non-smoked beer. But if you are with me on rocking the Rauch, then I encourage you to try this at home … Read more

Time to Brew: Rye Maibock Un-lager Experiment

Sustainor 2, these are the homebrewers. Homebrewers, Sustainor 2. S2 is a non-traditional rye Maibock (psst … don’t stare at its dry hops and red color, it’s self-conscious), and one of NB’s limited edition beer kits for the first three months of 2012.

This ryed-up reboot of last winter’s limited edition bock recipe is built as a lager, and uses one of my favorite lager yeast strains of all time: Wyeast 2487 Hella-bock, which is only around January through March this year. But even if you don’t have the refrigeration or ambient temps for a proper lager’s cold fermentation, don’t deny yourself the pleasure of brewing this kit and thumbing your nose at the Reinheitsgebot a tiny little bit. Hey, just kidding, Reinheitsgebot, I love you. But I’m still dry-hopping this too-dark rye Maibock.

I set out on a frosty morning to split a 10-gallon extract batch of Sustainor 2 and try out a couple ale-ternative fermentation strategies (pun intended, and I’m not sorry). Standard business of steeping, boiling, and hopping. Wort was chilled to ambient basement temp of 66 F, drained into separate carboys, oxygenated, and then: Read more

Brewing TV – Ep. 51: Home Sweet Homebrew

Brewing TV – Ep. 51 Home Sweet Homebrew

Northern Brewer Minneapolis is more than NB’s third and flagship retail store. We built it to be a forum for demonstration, discussion and documentation of homebrew and pro brewing. It’s an obvious resource for locals, but also a benefit to the worldworld homebrewing community through the POWER OF VIDEO! Come with us through the first few weekends of events at NB Minneapolis including a test-brew for an upcoming beer kit, Q&A with Kristen England and Jerrod Johnson (both homebrewers gone pro) and inside a Home Brew Day celebration! [Original postdate: December 16, 2011] Read more

Brewing TV – Episode 49: Sour Beers

Pucker up, buttercup. This episode is nice and sour! Brewing TV joins a certified cicerone for a quick taste-tour through some of Belgium’s best sour beers. We take what we learn and put it to good use homebrewing and blending more than a half-dozen sour beers. This episode has been aging for a while and it’s at its peak. Don’t wait another moment, watch it right now! [Original postdate: November 18, 2011]

After watching the episode, you’ll probably want to brew up a sour beer. Check out these links!

Homebrewed Sours by Dan Boody and Josh Voeltz
Dawson’s Recipe’s and Blending Notes
Beer Style Guide – Sour Beers
Oud Bruin beer kit: extract / all-grain
Dawson’s Kriek beer kit: extract / all-grain
Wild Brews by Jeff Sparrow
Sour Mashing Techniques (BYO article)

Brewing TV #49: Sour Beers – The Recipes

Here are some of the recipes you saw being brewed, fermented, blended, oaked, bottled, poured, and otherwise made awesome in Brewing TV – Episode 49: Sour Beers.

Included are the Flanders Red, Oud Bruin and Brett Barrel Imperial Porter/Stout. Thanks to Josh Voeltz and Dan Boody. [See this link for Dawson’s recipes and notes from the episode]

Dan Boody’s Flanders Red Ale

OG: 1.052
FG: 1.009
IBU – 18, ABV – 5.5%, SRM – 17
Boil volume – 3.5 gallons
Batch size – 5.5 gallons

– 1 lbs Amber DME
– 5 lbs Light DME

Steeping grains:
– 0.5 lb Belgian CaraMunich
– 0.5 lb Belgian Aromatic
– 0.5 lb Belgian Special B

– 0.75 oz East Kent Goldings (pellets – 5%AA) @ 60 min

– Steep grains for 30 min at 153F
– Remove grains, do not rinse or squeeze bag
– Stir in Amber and Light DME
– Bring to a boil, add 60 min hops
– Cool wort, transfer to carboy, top off with water
– Pitch Wyeast 3763 Roeselare and 2 oz oak cubes into primary
– Let sit 1-2 years, if possible – blend with a younger version of a Flanders Red

Dan Boody’s Oud Bruin

OG: 1.070
FG: 1.014
IBU – 22, ABV – 7.2%, SRM – 23
Boil volume – 3.5 gallons
Batch size – 5.5 gallons

– 1 lb Amber DME
– 7 lbs Light DME

Steeping Grains:
– 1 lb Belgian CaraMunich
– 0.75 lb Belgian Aromatic
– 0.50 lb Belgian Special B
– 0.125 lb British Black Patent

– 1 oz East Kent Goldings (pellets – 5.0%AA) @ 60 min

– Steep grains for 30 min at 153F
– Remove grains, do not rinse or squeeze bag
– Stir in Amber and Light DME
– Bring to a boil, add 60 min hops
– Cool wort, transfer to carboy, top off with water
– Primary: Pitch Wyeast 1056 American Ale yeast, let sit two weeks
– Secondary: Transfer to sanitized fermentor, pitch Wyeast 3763 Roeselare yeast and 1.5 oz oak cubes
– Let sit 6-12 months for a slightly soured beer; let sit two years and blend with younger batch for more complex profile, balancing malt character and sour sensation

Josh Voeltz’ Brett Barrel Imperial Porter/Stout

Josh’s notes:

“Here’s a shot at the recipe. It is calculated for 10 gallons of finished beer, with 13 gallons collected at boil. The original concoction came from combining three malt bills from NB Limited Edition recipes: Twelfth Night Stout, St. James Gate Foreign Extra Stout, and Belgian Poorter. The first time I brewed this I used the hop schedule from the SJGFES, which was 1 oz. Summit @ 60 mins, and 1 oz. Fuggle @ 30 mins. Hops in this recipe are simply meant for some preservation and shouldn’t be present in the finished beer (although, you could certainly change that). I wanted the characteristics of the Brett. C. to take charge. The second batch I used Dawson’s homegrown Centennials and changed the schedule to 1 oz. @ 60 and 1 oz. @ 45. Depending on efficiency, one should hit around 1.090 to 1.093 OG or more, so a healthy strong yeast starter or fresh yeast cake (even better!) will be necessary if you choose to pitch on a California Lager yeast. Once I was down to 1.021 or so, I racked into secondary and pitched one vial of White Labs WLP645 Brett Claussenii and added 2 oz. of Hungarian Medium Plus oak cubes. Common practice is to pasteurize the oak prior to adding it to the beer, and I recommend this even though I didn’t follow suit. Eight months later, the beer was “ready” to drink and ended up at a final gravity of 1.018. The beer was great at that point, but it became even better after 14 months.

The second time around brewing this recipe, I skipped the yeast fermentation and pitched directly on the bacteria cake that was left over from the previous secondary…oak cubes and all. It took less than two weeks to hit a final gravity of 1.018 from 1.090 OG. Once terminal gravity was reached, I added the oak again. This beer is only three months old right now, but will continue to age for another 3-6 months before bottling.”

Grain bill for 10 gallons all-grain:
– 10.50 lbs American Two-row
– 9.50 lbs Maris Otter
– 10.25 lbs Belgian Pale Ale
– 0.50 lb Flaked Oats
– 2.00 lbs Flaked Barley
– 0.75 lb Belgian Aromatic
– 0.75 lb Chocolate Rye
– 0.25 lb English Extra Dark Crystal
– 0.50 lb English Dark Crystal
– 0.50 lb Belgian Special B
– 0.50 lb Debittered Black
– 1.00 lb Roasted Barley

The Haphazard Brewing of Free Kick EPA

*** This blog post was recently uncovered deep from within scattered brewer’s notes. It’s timeliness has been lost, but its moral fortitude has not. We begin in late April 2011. ***

Let me tell you about what may be the best homebrew ever brewed. Or it may be a total disaster. We’ll just have to wait and see.
This beer — Free Kick EPA — was born on the sidelines of a below-freezing outdoor soccer tournament, the wort chilled in a pile of snow, its yeast pitched with an amused sense of panic. Co-brewer Garth Blomberg (one of Northern Brewer’s graphic design ninjas) jokes that this is the Rudy of homebrews: a small beer that had the odds stacked against him. But he fought the good fight and held on tight to his dream – to become a real player.


My name is Chip Walton, video projects producer for Northern Brewer. As part of our jobs at Northern Brewer, we often have the chance of taking part in promotional and/or NB-sponsored events, talking with the public about the joys of homebrewing. More often than not, this means brewing a demonstration batch and serving homebrewed goodness from picnic taps or a jockey box. (I know, I know. It’s a crappy job, but someone has to do it.) Last weekend was just such a weekend.

One of our fearless leaders, Jake Keeler (NB Marketing/Creative Director, Brewing TV co-host, soccer player) asked for a volunteer for the SOB Cup, a day-long soccer tournament being held in St. Paul, MN. Good ol’ Garth volunteered to solo-brew a batch of beer and serve beer. Not one to leave a fellow soldier marching into battle alone, I decided to head out to the soccer field and help Garth with the demonstration. I arrived to find Garth had already added the malt extract to the kettle for a Northern Brewer Extra Pale Ale recipe kit and was about to hit a boil.

The first thing this beer had going against it was the weather. It was a cold day made even more bitter by a strong wind that threatened to kick the flame out on the propane burner. Brewing outside in an area not well-known to you instantly brings up a few questions: Where is our water source? Are there any hoses? How are we going to mix up some sanitizer? (Ha! I brought a 5-gallon bucket with prepared sanitizer — boom goes the dynamite!) Where are the restrooms? All jokes aside, we were a little out out of our element.

Boil achieved. 60-minute addition of two ounces of Cascade pellet hops. Easy enough. Garth and I made sure the boil was under control then returned to the jockey box to serve the soccer players and their friends a Dry-Hopped Amber Ale, a malty German Altbier and a luscious Brown Ale so substantial it could make up for missing breakfast and lunch.

Note: Two dudes serving free beer = awesome heroes.

The only “official” addition left for the recipe kit was a one-ounce addition of Cascade pellet hops at 1-minute. Irish moss at 15-minutes – what Irish moss? Yeast nutrient at 10-minutes – what yeast nutrient? We forgot all that jazz. I laugh and cringe looking back at it. We also had a couple of handfuls of backyard hops from a friendly source. We decided to put them in at flame-out and let them hang out while the wort chilled. Only – we didn’t have a muslin bag. Not a proper one anyway. However, I had one that had the “sealed” end cut off to wrap around an auto-siphon a while back. So… we tied a knot in one end, toss in the hops and tied a know on the other end. The thing looked like it would explode! Like a hop softball. We toss it in dunked it a dozen or so times.

Now, the really tricky part: chilling the wort. We didn’t have an easily accessible hose for the wort chiller that Jake brought. So, we thought we’d be good Upper Midwest boys and chill it in a pile of snow. It snowed that morning (yes, in mid-April!) and the soccer players had shoveled the entire field onto the sideline area. We drop the kettle in the snow and piled and packed snow around it. Sadly, though, this didn’t do much. Over the course of a half-hour, the wort dropped from 200F to 160F. We needed/wanted to get this going a lot quicker. After picking our brains, I had this idea: Let’s pour the wort back-and-forth between two sanitized buckets. This would cool the wort as it passed through the cool air between buckets AND it would aerate the wort.

We did just that. Transferred the wort between buckets about a dozen times. This cooled it down to about 120F. Still very hot, but at this point we were just ready to get the wort in a fermenter. We poured the four gallons of post-boil wort into a six-gallon carboy and topped off with cold water. This brought the temperature down to about 75-80F. What the heck?! We pitched the yeast and gave the carboy one last shake.

Mission accomplished.

I loaded the carboy in my car. We went back to serving beer for a while before turning the table over to another group of volunteers.

Back at home, I took an original gravity reading – 1.034 (8.75 BRIX). Hilarious. We didn’t take into account that we were topping off the beer with almost an extra gallon of water. The wort was a nice color and pleasantly bitter pre-fermentation. Less than 12 hours later, the Free Kick EPA was bubbling away quite nicely. Whew! Not only was it bubbling, it had a very active fermentation that next day so I switched it over to a blow-off tube to help vent some of the foam.

To add to the list of factors that could end up making this the most awesome beer EVER (or making it absolutely dreadful), I added approx. 1.5 lbs. of orange blossom honey into the carboy. My hope is that the honey will not only add some sweetness to the beer, but will also supply extra sugar to boost the alcohol.

Two days later, Free Kick is still kickin’! I’m pretty excited about this beer. It’s a hodge-podge of ideas, a conglomerate of effort and intensity, born out of a random day near the pitch and brewed in sight of curious onlookers and friendly homebrewers who warmed us with words of encouragement.

Updates and tasting notes to follow? Maybe.

*** Fast forward to late May 2011 ***

The Free Kick EPA was kegged and passed back to Jake Keeler for serving at another SOB event. But he was cool enough to hook Garth and I up with a growler for the sake of tasting the end result and giving some tasting notes. First off, I will say this: this was not the worst beer in the world. Awesome!

I lost my notes (Again?! This blog has about as much hope of surviving as this beer!). So check out Garth’s tasting notes and accept them as a joint effort:
“Right away the hops come flying in like Jake Keeler kicked a soccer ball of Cascade hops in my mouth. Boom! Oh yeah, the nose, a big flame out of random homegrown hops from Mr. Dawson transplants you a hop field….PFFFFF. It’s hop stinky with sweet honey and malt aromas. Overall not too syrupy or sticky, it drinks clean. A surprisingly good-tasting beer considering the adversities it faced being made. A true homebrew people!”

Settling Down

I’m the sort of brewer who rarely makes the same thing twice. I’ve been hopping around from style to style, recipe to recipe, technique to technique ever since I started brewing. That’s been great, I feel like I’ve covered a lot of ground, learned a lot of basics, had a good time. I’m also the sort of brewer who often measures things in handfuls, tosses whatever is lying around into the mash or into the boil, and takes a cavalier approach to using wild yeasts. Also fun, and less work.

But my brewing wanderlust is starting to wind down. After a crazy tea beer, a couple dozen 1 gallon experimental mead batches, a coffee porter, and a very lackluster IPA I’ve taken stock of my booze supplies and am somewhat dismayed. Where is the stuff that I actually want to drink a bunch of? My cellar probably has a few hundred bottles of homebrewed beer, wine, and mead and there’s only a handful of stuff that I’d say I’m actually proud of, or that I think is the best it could be.

But rather than despair I’ve decided to buckle down and brew some seriously good beer. I have challenged myself to brew a single recipe for however long it takes until I feel it is the best that it can be. For that recipe I’ve selected a simple one that shouldn’t be too hard to get right and I won’t get tired of drinking: the all-grain version of Dead Ringer Ale. No fiddling with addition times, malt bill, or yeast, just working on technique. Avoiding aeration, pitching ideal yeast cell counts, dialing in mash temperatures, all the good basics of real brewing. I will post with results as I go. To better beer!

What’s in a name?

I’ve read that you should never name your chickens, because it makes it that much harder to boil ’em and pluck ’em when the time comes.

Perhaps in a similar vein, I’ve never named my beers. They are usually referred to as something like, “that one stout with the oak in it that I brewed last fall, or was it in the winter? Whatever, it’s probably that one.” But friends and other recipients of my beer always want to know what a particular beer is called. I once named an all-Fuggle hops bitter “Fug ’em” but in general people don’t know what Fuggle is, so they didn’t really appreciate it.
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Beware the Ides of Märzen

Or don’t beware, that’s cool too. Amber lager is delicious, whether you call it Oktoberfest or Märzen .

Before it became a by-the-liter liquid party fuel this Bavarian beer was called Märzen – the last brew of the pre-industrial, pre-refrigeration brewing season, before the microbially-rich air of the summer months made low-fi wort cooling a risky proposition. March = März in German, hence Märzenbier – “March Beer” – lagered in caves, and busted out as needed during the warm months, and a big kill the keg party at harvest (the same tradition lives in the Bieres de Mars of farmhouse brewers). Read more