Category Archives: Homebrewing

Posts related to homebrewing

Fellowship of the funk

Early in March I assembled the fellowship of funk and ventured forth to the dark summit of Mt. Doom and cast  “clean” and “safe” brewing practices into its fiery chasm.  I was lucky enough to secure a couple of vials of East Coast Yeast’s ( BugFarm or for short, ECY01.  East Coast Yeast is a fairly small producer of yeast and generally Al, the owner/yeast wrangler, doesn’t have the time or facilities to keep up with the demand from homebrewers.  I’ve had success getting some ECY01 by joining and e-mail list and waiting to see when there is yeast available and then trying to be one of the first few people to respond with what they want.  ECY01 and some of the other sour/wild blends that Al puts out have the reputation of creating some of the most complex and delicious sour ales achievable on a homebrewing scale.

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The blend contains a handful of different species of Brettanomyces, lactobaccilus and pediococcus.  Brettanomyces is commonly referred to as wild yeast because it is often found naturally on the skins of fruit.  Brettanomyces aka brett can create a wide range of flavors some of the favorable and many of them not. In the wine world brett can be a real problem because of the off flavors it produces in wine and its ability to survive normal cleaning and sanitizing procedures.  Lactobaccilus and pediococcus are both two different strains of bacteria that produce lactic acid. Lacto and pedio are responsible for the majority of the sourness produced in sour ales.  Additionally lacto and pedio both can take a long time to really develop acidity and are some of the reasons that sour beers take much longer than normal beer to produce.

I was shooting for crafting a traditional lambic with hopes of aging a portion on some yet undetermined fruit and continue aging  another portion for use in blending with another sour beer in the future.  There are a lot of literature online and published on what your grain bill should be and how you should mash your grains to get the best wort for lambic production.  Through it all most people agree that you wan a simple grist composed of pilsner malt and wheat.  Also you want a fairly dextrinous (wort full of complex long chain sugars) so your brett and bacteria have things to work on after most of the simple sugars are used up in the first few weeks of fermentation.  I decided to keep things simple for my first attempt, my grain bill was:

  • 58% French Pilsner
  • 37% white wheat malt
  • 5% acid malt

I mashed high at 158 degrees Fahrenheit to help create a dextrinous and generally had a pretty uneventful brew day.  Traditionally aged hops are used as they still provide some preservative effects and flavor contribution to the beer but not so much so as to inhibit the beneficial bacteria.  I didn’t have any aged hops but I had some crystal hops that were hanging out in the back of my freezer that are very low alpha acid hops so I used two ounces of crystal hops in the beginning of the 90 minute boil for 14 theoretical IBUs.

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After the 90 min boil I cooled and transferred close to 7 gallons of wort to my fermenter.  If I was a more daring soul I would rig up some sort of coolship to transfer the hot wort to and let it cool overnight and expose it to the natural microflora of my back yard but maybe next time!

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Overall the day went really well and I hit my original gravity of 1.048.  My plan for this beer going forward is to pretty much leave it be for the next year or so and then I would like to transfer a portion to age on some yet to be determined fruit, bottle some straight and continue aging another portion for blending with another batch I hope to get going soon as I was able to procure 2 more vials of ECY01!

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Hop philosophy

I recently(ish) brewed a beer to be ready by Christmas as part of a present to my Dad.  The rest of his present was a two tap kegerator that is setup to take 1 ball lock corney keg (homebrew keg) and one 1/6 bbl commercial keg.  My Dad is a fan of hoppy beers so I took a stab at brewing an Indian Red Ale.  I was striving for something with loads of hoppy flavor and aroma but balanced by a clean malty backbone.



The beer encompasses a lot of my philosophy on how to use hops in beer so I thought I’d share with everyone else!  I really like IPAs and other similarly hoppy beers, because of this people often assume I like bitter beers but I don’t! Well they still might be more bitter than many would like but I don’t like enamel strippingly bitter IPAs so I aim to craft beers in a similar fashion.

A lot of the maltiness comes from using Maris Otter as a base malt (~78%).  Maris Otter is an English base malt that is a little darker and has a little bit more “character” than normal 2 row pale malt.  In addition to the Maris Otter I used two different crystal malts (~10%), Munich Malt (~10%) and some dark kilned malts that make up less than 2% of the total malt bill.  The dark malts are added primarily for color in an attempt to get that really nice red/ruby color.

For all this malty goodness I wanted to balance it with lots and lots of hop flavor and goodness.  I started by First Wort Hopping (FWH) with 1/2oz of homegrown Columbus hops.  Traditional brewing techniques call for the first hop addition to be added when the wort starts to boil and FWH calls for the hops to be added to the boil kettle the hot wort is being transferred from the mash tun.  Almost all the beers I brew I use FWH because in my own process it lends a smoother bitterness with some flavor contributions.  The somewhat debatable “science” behind FWH is that some of the volatile organic compounds isomerize at lower temperatures and transformed into compounds that aren’t blown off by the vigorous boiling that happens later.  After the first addition all of the rest of the hops are added with 20mins or less in the boil.  Late addition hopping or hop bursting is a technique used to really saturate the wort with hop flavor and aroma. One of the drawbacks of hop bursting is that you have to use a lot more hops to achieve the same IBU level of a more traditionally hopped beer.

In total I used 7 1/2 oz of hops on the brew day. 3 oz of hops were added after the boil.  In a larger scale operation this addition is called a whirlpool  addition because the wort is whirlpooled for a length of time to help the wort clear before being cooled and transferred to the fermenter.  To simulate this I add hops at flame out and let them stand for ~20mins before cooling the wort and transferring to the fermenter.  After fermentation I like to keep cramming in the hoppiness so I used a short two stage dry hopping schedule.  Recent research shows that dry hop aroma is imparted very quickly and dry hopping for long periods of time isn’t more effective at imparting hop aroma to beer.  I chose to do two, two day dry hop additions with 5oz of hops.  In retrospect I think I would increase it to 3 days or 6 days total when using loose leaf hops because I don’t think there was enough time to fully saturate the dry hops.  In total I used 12.50oz of hops and 12oz of which were used with 20mins or less in the boil.  For hops, I used Columbus, Citra, Mosaic, Pacific Jade and Simcoe.  This also reflects my belief to use highly aromatic/flavorful hops to produce unique and flavorful beers.