Tuesday, December 10, 2013

“Polar Vortex" Saison [secondary]

Racking date: Dec. 8, 2013

The full batch sat for two weeks in my furnace room alternating between high temps of 73 'F (when I was heating it with my carboy wrap) and lows of 63 'F at night. After initially sitting the first night at 64 'F, I heated the batch to 78 'F before letting it cool back down. That really kicked off fermentation. After that, I tried to get the temps up to the low 70's every evening.

I split the 6 gallon batch between two 3-gallon carboys. The first will simply continue to sit, clarify, and age. The second was racked on top of black caps from my parents property. I will let both sit for about a month before bottling.


OG: 1.009. MUCH better attenuation than expected. WOW.

Appearance: Dark brown color with an almost a watery chocolate milk opaqueness. It sounds worse than it looks, but doesn't have much clarity.

Aroma: Belgian fruitiness, faint chocolate or toffee.

Taste: Tons of complexity. Very slight sour taste at first, flavors of prune or plums. This quickly gives way to sweet toffee. Almost a faint bready aftertaste. Nice. Definitely has that Belgian character I was hoping for.


  • 28 oz frozen wild black caps

  • Very slowly heated frozen black caps in sauce pan with a little water to ~160 'F. Chilled and then added to carboy. Racked 3 gallons of beer on top.

“Hackett" Irish Red [secondary]

Racking date: Dec. 3, 2013

Racked to secondary after about 10 days fermenting at about 64 'F. Stored in our downstairs guest room to maintain a cooler temperature. Will give this another 7+ days to site in my furnace room at ~66'F before bottling. 


OG: 1.019

Appearance: Amazing clarity! Looks almost like a lager in this respect. Bright red color, almost ruby with a very slight orange-ish hue.

Aroma: Light breadiness, some faint caramel.

Taste: Definitely tastes like an Irish red. Finishes clean. Slight oat flavor at end.

“Hackett" Irish Red

Brew date: Nov. 23, 2013
#22 - 6 gal

My second beer of the afternoon. Note to self: Never attempt two brews in one day unless you start REALLY early in the morning, or having nothing going at night. It was definitely biting off more than I could chew. I missed my mash in temps and had to settle for a higher protein rest.

After tasting Karben4's Lady Luck Irish Red, I was inspired. Initially I was looking at doing a similar big red in the hopes of landing somewhere near their recipe, but decided on a smaller grain bill and lighter alcohol alternative at the last minute. Looked to recipes on AHA (Joe Gillian's Red) and NorthernBrewer.com (Irish Red Ale and Irish Draught Ale) for inspiration.

  • 9.75 lb Maris Otter malt
  • 0.75 lb Victory malt
  • 1.25 lb Caramel 60L
  • 0.5 lb Caramel 80L
  • 0.25 lb Special B malt
  • 0.25 lb Oat flakes
  • 0.10 lb Roast barley
  • 0.15 lb Chocolate malt
  • 0.5 oz East Kent Goldings (6.6% A, leaf) (60 min)
  • 0.5 oz Fuggles (5.3% A, pellet) (60 min) 
  • 0.5 oz Styrian Goldings (3.8% A, pellet) (15 min)
  • 0.25 oz Fuggles (5.3% A, pellet) (5 min)
  • 1.5 t Gypsum (mash)
  • 1.5 t Irish moss (15 min)
  • Wyeast 1335 British Ale II
Target OG: 1.058
Target FG: 1.014
Target ABV: 5.6%
Target IBU: 22.6

  • Mash in 6 gal. water @ 140 'F*
  • Protein rest @ 130 'F (20 min)*
  • Sac rest @ 160 -> 152 (60 min)
  • Boil 60 min
  • Chill and ferment @ 65 'F
*Intended to protein rest @ 122 'F but missed my target temp.

  • First runnings: 3.5 gal. @ 1.068
  • Sparge: 4 gal
  • Pre-boil: 7 gal. @ 1.047
  • Collected 5.15 gal. @ 1.054

“Polar Vortex" Saison

Brew date: Nov. 23, 2013
#21 - 6.25 gal

With temps hovering in the low 20's and the wife away, it was time to brew all afternoon. Make that two beers. It may have been biting off more than I could chew, but it was fun, even in my cold garage.

I had decided on a dark saison long ago after seeing the AHA's Saison d'Hiver recipe. My intention is to split the batch into two 3-gallon carboys to secondary for about a month. One will be left to its self, while the other is added to about one pound of wild black cap berries picked from my parents property earlier this summer and frozen.

Brewing went smoothly enough, especially after adding a large piece of steel pegboard to the top of my brew stand to act as a table top. It sits between burners and finally provides a place to rest utensils and other tools during the brew day. I also hooked up a 1/4 horsepower utility pump to my wort chiller and recycled cold water from a tub containing frozen water jugs. It definitely sped up the chilling process, but I need to get some fasteners for my tubing and steelhead pump to recycle the wort while chilling to get a true whirlpool effect.

In the future, I should prepare 2-3 tubs of cold water for the chilling process. The first helps to reduce the temperature of the wort to about 160 'F, while the other one or two can be used to bring it down to pitching temp.

The only thing I think I would change about the recipe and schedule would be to add some Irish moss to the end of the boil to better clarify the wort. Even now two weeks later, it still has a milk chocolate opaqueness. Also, since I was a little short of my target gravity, I decided to spike the end of the boil with another quarter pound of brown sugar.

  • 12 lb Belgian Pale Ale Malt (Dingemans)
  • 1 lb Caramel 120L
  • 1.25 Munich Malt
  • 0.75 lb Vienna Malt
  • 0.5 lb Red Wheat Malt
  • 0.3 lb Debittered Black Malt
  • 0.2 lb Dark Chocolate Malt (Briess)
  • 0.5 oz Brewers Gold (10.5% A, pellet) (60 min)
  • 0.5 oz Willamette (5.7% A, leaf) (60 min)
  • 0.5 oz Saaz (3% A, pellet) (15 min)
  • 1 lb Dark Belgian Candi (5 min)
  • 0.5 lb Dark Brown Sugar (5 min)
  • Wyeast 3711 French Saison yeast starter (11/21)
Target OG: 1.077
Target FG: 1.019
Target ABV: 7.6 %
Target IBU: 26.5

  • Mash in 6 gal. water @ 160 'F
  • Sac rest @ 149 'F (60 min)
  • Mash out @ 168 'F (10 min)
  • Sparge 4 gal. water @ 168 'F
  • Boil 60 min
  • Chill and ferment @ 70-76 'F
  • First runnings: 3.3 gal. @ 1.070
  • Sparge: 4 gal. @ 1.030
  • Pre-boil: 1.046
  • End-boil: 1.070
  • Added 4 oz brown sugar to spike gravity to near 1.077

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Bottling Winter Ale and Cider

Bottle date: Nov. 3, 2013

Winter Ale:
  • 93 g corn sugar
  • 1.5 c water
Desired CO2: 2.2 vol (4.75 gal @ 64 'F)

Beer appeared to still be off-gassing CO2. Not sure if this was because I had cold crashed the beer for several days outside in 40-50 'F temps, and then allowed the beer to warm to room temp for two days before bottling.

Tried corker on the cider. Had to push cork all the way into bottle for corker to release.

Cider - Montrachet:
  • 14 g corn sugar
  • 4 oz water
Desired CO2: 2.3 vol (0.75 gal @ 64 'F)

Cider - Irish Ale:
  • 14 g corn sugar
  • 4 oz water
Desired CO2: 2.3 vol (0.75 gal @ 64 'F)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

“Peter Peter Porter Eater" #2 [bottled]

Bottle date: Oct. 15, 2013
  • 72 g corn sugar
  • 1.5 c water
Desired CO2: 2.1 vol. (4 gal @ 64 'F)

Bring corn sugar and water to boil. Cool for 10 min and add to beer. Stir slowly. Let settle 10 min. Bottle.

Cold crashed beer for two consecutive nights by leaving the carboy wrapped up outside. Temps probably got down into the low 40s 'F. Allowed to warm to low 60s 'F before bottling.

FG: 1.010
Appearance: Nice clarity, black with garnet red hue at angle.
Aroma: Faintly burned chocolate, all spice comes through afterwards, perhaps some floral hoppiness.
Taste: Much hoppier than last year, also MUCH more bitter. This may come from too much black malt. Bitter chocolate flavors, not as sweet. This beer may actually border on a black IPA's bitterness. Very dry. Perhaps ferment warmer next year, or do a multi-step mash to enhance mouthfeel and maltiness.

Next year: Scale back on cascade hop addition, perhaps by 0.5 oz. Increase caramel malt for more residual sweetness. Consider fermenting warmer or a step-mash to accentuate maltiness, mouthfeel.

“TBD" Winter Ale [secondary]

Transfer date: Oct. 19, 2013

Racked beer to secondary. Appearance is very cloudy, opaque. But flavor is amazing! Really nice bready, biscuit malt flavors balanced against a spicy hop bitterness.

Gravity: 1.022

“TBD" Winter Ale

Brew date: Oct. 13, 2013
#20 - 5 gal

  • 11.5 lb Maris Otter
  • 1 lb Caramel 60L
  • 0.5 lb Victory malt
  • 0.25 lb Chocolate malt
  • 0.25 lb Special B malt
  • 1 oz Willamette (60 min) (5.7% A leaf)
  • 0.5 oz Tettnanger (60 min) (6.3% A leaf)
  • 1 oz Fuggle (10 min) (4.9% A leaf)
  • 0.5 oz Tettnanger (1 min) (6.3% A leaf)
  • 2 t Irish moss (10 min)
  • Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale yeast starter (3rd gen)

  • Mash-in 6 gal water @ 164 'F (1.78 qt/lb)
  • Stabilize at 154 'F and rest 60 min
  • Mash out for 10 min @ 168'F
  • Vorlauf. First runnings.
  • Batch sparge with 3 gal water @ 168'F. Rest 10 min.
  • Collect runnings. Bring to boil and hop at designated times. Chill to 76 'F and pitch yeast. Let sit two hours. Chill to 64 'F and ferment.

Target gravity: 1.061
Target final gravity: 1.015
Target ABV: 6%
Target IBU: 37
First runnings: Collect 3.5 gal wort @ 1.065
Sparge: Collect 3 gal wort @ 1.035
Pre-boil wort: 6.5 gal wort @ 1.050
OG: 1.061

With lid half-on, boil evaporates approx 1 gal per hr.
Post-boil: Collect 4 gal without tipping boil kettle.
Collected 5.5 gal wort total.
Dead space in megapot = 1 gal.
Attempted to recirculate cold water for chilling wort using my steel head pump. VERY slow going. Need to purchase sump pump for this, while using my steel head pump to recirculate the wort, creating a whirlpool chiller effect.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Cider Three Ways

Date: Oct. 4, 2013

I've been wanting to make a hard cider since I first started brewing beer. I am finally getting the opportunity this fall. The wife and I get our apples from Door Creek Orchard just outside Madison and, as it happens, they sell unpasteurized apple cider. So I picked up a couple of gallons.

Using a couple of 1 gallon glass jugs as carboys, I decided to try splitting the cider into three different batches: One intended to be sweeter fermented with an ale yeast and brown sugar, one dryer fermented with wine yeast, and one left alone to ferment on its own wild yeast.

Since the cider is unpasteurized and I didn't pick up any campden tablets to kill bacteria or suppress the wild yeast already in the juice, I decided to heat the cider to a simmer for about 10 minutes to pasteurize -- but hopefully not set the pectin and get cloudy cider. We'll see how it turns out. As for the wild yeast cider, I'm just crossing my fingers that I get something even remotely drinkable, or at least apple cider vinegar.

I did a preliminary gravity reading on the raw apple cider: OG 1.044.

Cider #1:
OG: 1.065
  • 1 gal unpasteurized apple cider
  • 5 oz light brown sugar
  • 1/2 t yeast nutrient
  • Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale starter
Add brown sugar and nutrient to cider and heat to simmer for 10 min. Chill to 80 'F and pitch yeast. Ferment at 65 'F.

Cider #2:
OG: 1.050
  • 1 gal unpasteurized apple cider
  • 1/2 t yeast nutrient
  • 1 packet dry Red Star Montrachet wine yeast
Add nutrient to cider and heat to simmer for 10 min. Chill to 80 'F and pitch yeast. Ferment at 65 'F.

Cider #3:
OG: 1.044
  • 32 oz unpasteurized apple cider
Transfer cider to sanitized growler, cover with tin foil, ferment at 65 'F.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

“Peter Peter Porter Eater" #2

Brew date: Sept. 21, 2013
#19 - 5 gal

My first brew attempted on the new stand! While it was great getting outside on a beautiful day to brew (and even meet some of the neighbors who were wondering what the hell I was doing), it was a rather stressful session as I was constantly attempting to tweak what I was doing. Over the next two or three brew days, there will be lots of refining to do.

First and foremost: Figure out how best to chill the wort without using so much water. It felt like I was running the hose for 20-30 min trying to get the wort down to pitching temperature. This wouldn't be so bad, but my street has no curbs or gutters, which means the water ends up making a swamp out of my yard. Possible solution: Put 2-3 frozen gallon jugs in a tub of water, and pump this through the chiller using my steel head pump. I'll need to get some hose connections for the pump.

I definitely need a cheap 5 gallon kettle for heating sparge water. My old 3 gallon pot just wont cut it on a full five gallon batch. Until I get this, I will need to heat the sparge water in my second 10 gallon kettle, then empty it into two other pots before collecting my initial wort run off.

I need a table or workspace to rest utensils. A simple solution would be to attach sheet metal to the center of the brew stand to act as a table top.

Additionally, I should attach sheet metal around each burner to act as a wind guard and to focus the heat on to each kettle. Hopefully this will also improve heating consistency. It felt like I was constantly adjusting the flame to stabilize my temps.

Love the beautiful pumpkin color against the mash!
Finally, I need a large tub in which to do my cleaning and sanitizing. A large Rubbermade should do the trick.

It may have been biting off more than I could chew for this first go around, but I decided to brew my pumpkin porter from last year converted from a partial mash to an all-grain. That meant some educated guesses about the grain bill and efficiency on the new stand. In the end, my efficiency was way low -- maybe 69% -- and I was working hard to wring enough runoff from my grain for an appropriate 5 gallon batch. I'll need to do a much better job calculating grain absorption, dead space, and evaporation need time around. I really need to calibrate my Beer Tools Pro software to my new set up.

  • 8.75 lb 2-row
  • 1.5 lb 6-row
  • 0.5 lb Caramel 40L
  • 1 lb black malt
  • 0.5 lb chocolate malt
  • 1 lb Vienna malt
  • 1 lb Victory malt
  • 0.25 lb debittered black malt
  • 30 oz pumpkin (canned)
  • 1 oz Hallertau (60 min) (4.1% A)
  • 0.75 oz Cascade (30 min) (7.7% A)
  • 1 oz Cascade (20 min) (7.1% A)
  • 0.5 oz Hallertau (10 min) 4.1% A)
  • 2 t Irish moss (20 min)
  • 1 t Allspice (5 min)
  • 1 t Cinnamon (5 min)
  • 1 t Nutmeg (5 min)
  • Wyeast 1056 American Ale starter (4th gen)
  • Mash with 3.5 gal water @ 156 'F for 1 hr
  • Mashout @ 168 'F for 10 min
  • Vorlauf and strain into boil kettle
  • Sparge grain with 3 gal water @ 170 'F for 5-10 min
  • Vorlauf and strain into boil kettle
  • Bring to boil, add hops at designated times, boil for 1 hour, chill, pitch yeast @ 70 'F
  • Ferment at 65 'F 
OG: 1.064
Added 0.5 gal water to fermenter to increase batch size to just under 5 gallons.
Beer has more bitterness than I was hoping for. Cut back amount of cascade at 30 min?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Brew Stand Construction, Part 2 - Propane and Propane Accessories

Sorry to leave you hanging on the construction progress, but the propane connections proved to be the most confusing aspect of the brew stand. After purchasing and returning several parts, I finally have everything connected now, and even fired the thing up without explosion.

Here are the remaining parts I used for the propane connections and what each connects to:
Finding the right propane hoses was the hardest part. The Banjo burners each come with a brass orifice that screws into the air shutter plate. This orifice requires a 3/8" female flare connection from the propane hose. However, most of the hoses I could actually find in stores were for a female pipe connection - not a tight seal. After going through a slew of adapters with minor propane leaks - and learning the difference between multiple connections - I opted to just return everything and buy the hoses from Amazon. Received them quickly, hooked them up, checked for leaks, and once I confirmed that I wasn't about to touch-off an explosion, fired the stand up. FLAME ON!

Everything worked like a charm.

A few future adaptations I may make to the stand:

Depending on how often I brew out in the open - as opposed to the garage with the door open - I may attach wind guards around each burned to help prevent the flame from being blown out and to help focus the heat on the kettle.

I will probably cover the top center of the stand with some sheet metal to act as a table top for utensils.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Brew Stand Construction

A new house, a new brew stand! After weeks spent moving and settling into the new house, I finally had some time to work on my new brew stand. Based on the single-tier, weldless "Wallace" design, I spent probably about eight to twelve hours over the last week cutting and piecing it together.

Ain't she a beaut?!

The stand measures 56" long, 16" deep, and 24" high (30" high with the casters).

I picked up the majority of the materials at Menards. All parts included below:
I cut all of the steel using a basic hacksaw and bolted everything together with a ratchet and wrench.

As for the burners, I picked up 2 Cast Iron Banjo Burners from Northern Brewer. I'm still working out how to connect both burners to a single propane tank. Ideally, I'll be able to run one line to two hoses.

I also connected a Steelhead Pump to the stand and hooked up a Shockbuster GFCI Outlet Adapter. Probably a good idea to stop lifting several pounds of boiling hot wort.

The size of the stand should allow plenty of room to expand to a third burner and larger brew kettles should the time come when the time comes. In the meantime, the ability to simultaneously direct fire my mash tun and sparge water is a giant leap forward for Kraemer Brew-kind.

Can't wait to fire this baby up!

More photos below:

Sunday, July 7, 2013

“House Hunter" Imperial IPA [bottled]

Bottle date: June 29, 2013


  • 93 g corn sugar
  • 1.5 c water


Desired CO2: 2.4 vol
FG: 1.012

Saturday, June 15, 2013

“House Hunter" Imperial IPA [dry hop]

Date: June 11, 2013

Racked the double IPA to secondary to dry hop on a bed of cascade and simcoe.


  • 0.5 oz Cascade (7.7%) (leaf)
  • 0.5 oz Simcoe (14.1%) (leaf)

Gravity: 1.018
Appearance: Opaque, marigold color
Aroma: Light citrus, some breadiness, slightly sweet nose
Taste: Some piney hop at beginning, slightly sweet, not overly bitter, medium body, fairly dry, citrus hop end

I think this beer will experience a bit more fermentation over the next two weeks, maybe two or three more points. The basement has warmed with the summer weather and now is sitting firmly at 64 'F. The racking also kicked up a little more of the yeast cake at the bottom. All in all, I'll probably come out a little better than my target gravity of 1.018.

The beer already has a very nice mouth feel and body, and the dry hopping should flesh out the piney, citrus flavors and aromas nicely.

Lot of excitement for this beer. Can't wait to bottle and share!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

“House Hunter" Imperial IPA

Brew date: June 2, 2013
#18 - 4.5 BIAB

With the wife and I still anxiously searching for our first home, sometimes it feels like brewing and beer is the only thing keeping me sane. As the weather continues to warm, I find I have a taste for hoppy beers once again. Here, then, is my first crack at an Imperial IPA.

The recipe takes inspiration from the "Hopfather Double IPA" by Russian River Brewing found in Extreme Brewing by Sam Calagione. I wanted something with big flavor, lots of citrus and piney hoppiness, but with a bitterness balanced by the malt bill. I hope the first wort and dry hopping accomplish this feat -- but without blowing out my taste buds.

I added some caramel 40L malt for a little more color and residual sweetness. The flaked wheat is there for body and head retention (hopefully without giving it a heavy mouth-feel), while the added protein and enzymes from the 6-row malt will hopefully help with the extraction, conversion, and fermentability of the wort.

Thus far, fermentation has taken place in my basement at roughly 63 'F. This is a little cooler than I was originally intending -- closer to 65 'F. But, all appears to be going strong and steady, and I won't rack to secondary and dry hop for a few more days.

  • 11.5 lb 2-row Pale Malt (Briess)
  • 1 lb Caramel Malt 40L (Briess)
  • 0.5 lb 6-row (Briess)
  • 0.5 lb Flaked Red Wheat
  • 0.75 oz Chinook (FWH) (13%) (leaf)
  • 0.5 oz Cascade (FWH) (6.2%) 
  • 0.5 oz Magnum (60 min) (14.7%)
  • 0.5 oz Columbus (60 min) (13%) (leaf)
  • 0.25 oz Columbus (5 min) (13%) (leaf)
  • 0.5 oz Willamette (knockout) (5.7%) (leaf)
  • 0.25 oz Columbus (knockout) (13%) (leaf)
  • 0.5 oz Cascade (dry hop) (7.7%) (leaf)
  • 0.5 oz Simcoe (dry hop) (14.1%) (leaf)
  • 0.5 t Irish Moss (20 min)
  • Wyeast 1056 American Ale (3rd gen.)*
*1000 mL yeast starter on 5/31. Pitched from washed yeast.


  • Mash with 6 gal water
  • Dough in @ 109 'F
  • Rest @ 104 'F for 30 min (hydration)
  • Heat to 155 'F and rest 60 min
  • Mash out @ 168 'F for 10 min
  • Boil 60 min
  • Add 0.5 gal water to fermenter
  • Chill to 65 'F and pitch decanted yeast
  • Ferment at 63-65 'F for 10 days
  • Rack to secondary and dry hop for two weeks

OG: 1.072
Pre-boil gravity: 1.070
Post boil gravity: 1.085
Target gravity: 1.075
Target ABV: 7.12%
Target IBU: 112
Target FG: 1.018

Grain absorption was roughly 0.1 gal per 1 lb grain.

Monday, May 27, 2013

“Sharpe's Rifles" Biere de Garde [bottled]

Bottle date: May 27, 2013

  • 94 g corn sugar
  • 1.5 c water
Desired CO2: 3.0 vol
Appearance: Bright orange, very clear
Aroma: Alcohol, apple, fruit
Taste: Grain, bready, slightly fruity, slight fenol alcohol burn at end

Thursday, May 2, 2013

“Sharpe's Rifles" Biere de Garde [secondary]

Racking date: April 28, 2013

After a week of fermenting at roughly 66 'F (with a high temp reaching near 73 'F the first 24-hrs and 68 'F the next day), I racked the beer to secondary and removed it to our basement to condition at ~57 'F for at least two weeks.


Gravity: 1.016-1.018
Appearance: Marigold to straw-like color, opaque
Aroma: Faintly spicy, fruity
Taste: Effervescent, spicy, some apple fruit, some fusel alcohol that cuts through, fairly clean finish, some residual sweetness.

“Sharpe's Rifles" Biere de Garde

Brew date: April 21, 2013
#17 - 4 gal BIAB

It's been a busy few weeks. My wife and I are preparing to buy our first house, and so everything else has taken a backseat -- even brewing. I'm only now catching up on my blog. Sorry to keep y'all hanging!

With plans to move by the end of July, I made the decision to brew one last beer before packing. Something that could take advantage of the cool spring we are having and sit for awhile before bottling. A Biere de Garde seemed the natural choice. I love a good Belgian saison, and this is a similar style I've been meaning to try. Plus, I just finished watching the Sharpe's Rifles series, and so was inspired to brew something French. (Note: I realize it would have made more sense to brew an English bitter to salute Sean Bean's characterization of Richard Sharpe (badass) and his compatriots in the South Essex regiment, but I wanted something more "continental" with that cellar-y flavor. Sharpe's Bitter will have to wait.)

The recipe comes from the AHA's Beer Recipe of the Week: Grain d'Orge.
2nd gen yeast. Still active upon opening, carbonation.

  • 6.25 lb 6-Row Brewers Malt
  • 0.33 lb Vienna Malt
  • 0.33 lb Caramel 20
  • 0.33 lb Caramel 40
  • 3.25 lb Flaked Corn
  • 0.5 lb Candi Sugar (white) (60 min)
  • 0.25 oz Hallertau (leaf) (4.1%) (60 min)
  • 0.25 oz Brewers Gold (10.5%) (60 min)
  • 0.25 oz Brewers Gold (10.5%) (20 min)
  • 0.25 oz Styrian Goldings (3.8%) 10 min)
  • 0.5 t Irish Moss (20 min)
  • Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale (2nd gen)*
*1600 mL starter made on 4/19 from washed yeast.

Grist before mashing.
  • 5 gal water
  • Dough in @ 128 'F
  • Rest @ 122 'F for 30 min
  • Heat to 155 'F, rest for 60 min
  • Mash out @ 168 'F for 10 min
  • Boil 60 min
  • Add 0.5 gal cold water to bring to ~4 gal
  • Chill to 66 'F and pitch decanted yeast.
  • Ferment 68-72 'F for 4-6 days
  • Chill to 60 'F for 2-3 weeks

OG: 1.075
Gravity readings: 1.060 after 60 min rest, 1.068 after mash out, 1.085 after boil.
Taste: Sweet, bready
Aroma: Malt, biscuit, some spicy hop
Appearance: Bright gold, yellow

  • Leave mash water out overnight to evaporate chlorine, bring to room temperature.
  • Keep carboy in cooler environment when fermenting a higher gravity wort. The fermentation temp was up around 73 'F when I checked it the next morning. Leave carboy unwrapped during the first day or two. Not sure how the high temps for the first day or so will affect the finished beer. The fermentor cooled quickly by leaving it uncovered.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Stout Homebrewing Competition

Competition date: March 23, 2013

My first homebrewing competition. Exciting, nerve-wrecking, delicious. Although I didn't come away with a win (or placing for that matter) in the Dry Stout sub-category, it was a great overall experience.

Accompanied by my buddy Jeff (a fellow beer-lover and sometime homebrewer), we sampled 36 examples of dry, sweet, imperial, and other types of stout, chatted with the other homebrewers at our table, and did our best to score the competition - mostly "this one is better than the last one, but not as good as the first one." Very scientific.

The mood of the event was less a competition, more a general fun sampling. You could tell when people liked a beer ("I'll take seconds") and when they didn't (sour faces). You could also see it coming as those ahead of you tried each offering.

The other gentlemen at our table turned out to be relative newcomers to homebrewing. Two had been at it for eight or nine months, while for another, the competition was his first beer. Comically, that made me the old hat. And while everyone was friendly enough and I got some great tips about joining a local homebrewing club, I was a bit disappointed that I missed out on some "shop talk" from a "veteran." Next time, I guess.

In many ways the experience was both gratifying and challenging. Of the beers there, I never felt that I was tasting anything I couldn't make myself. And yet, after trying a number of the imperial offerings (those which blew away the competition in my humble opinion) I was moved and inspired to work harder and learn more in order to brew beer on that level. I swear, one was a dead ringer for Great Divide's Yeti Imperial Stout. That's damn good!

There were also two or three beers that sucked. Glad they weren't mine.

Of the comments I received, the most helpful follow:

  • Chocolate malt predominates. Lacks roast barely for style. No hop aroma. Perhaps some diacetyl, buttery. Good color, very clean, okay head. Nice malty stout, good middle and nice hop balance, but then astringency comes in and dominates finish - Were your dark malts crushed too fine or left in to a high temp? Remove before 170 'F if using steeping bag. This starts great but grain astringency is too much in finish. Watch temps and crush. Total points: 31 (of 50 possible).
  • Some chocolate. Clean. Lingering astringency. Nice roast. Total points: 27 (of 50 possible).
  • Smells a little astringent, almost solvent-y. Head disapates quickly. Astringent, solvent-y, plastic. Dry and astringent. Total points: 26 (of 50 possible).
I didn't take any pictures of the event, but here are a few from the Wine and Hop Shops Facebook page.

“Fat Mac" Scotch Ale [bottled]

Bottle date: Mar. 27, 2013


3 gal scotch ale
  • 59 g corn sugar
  • 8 oz water
1.5 gal scotch ale
  • 30 g brown sugar
  • 6 oz water
Desired CO2: 2.2 vol
Appearance: Very clean, bright orange color
Aroma: Not much, faint maltiness
Taste: Malty, medium-bodied

Sunday, March 24, 2013

New Look, Same Great Taste

Finally got around to updating the look of my blog. Hopefully you dig! I got rid of the cheesy "beer" background and replaced it with something cleaner and a bit more personal.

The new banner image shows a stack of drink coasters from my wife and I's wedding. We modeled the fun "Have a drink on the Kraemers" design on an old coaster we found when cleaning out my grandparents' house. Sadly, I don't know the history of the coasters -- Were they made up for a specific occasion? How old are they? If I had to guess, I'd say 40 or 50 years -- but having them at our wedding seemed like something my grandpa would have liked.

Our wedding coaster (left) based on the design from my grandparents. It seemed like the perfect banner for this blog.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

“Wisconsin Winter Pale" Ale [bottled] and “Fat Mac" Scotch Ale [secondary]

Bottled Mar. 13, 2013

Another night working with two beers. Bottled the "Wisconsin Winter Pale" Ale and racked the "Fat Mac" Scotch Ale to secondary. Wound up with about a case and a half of the pale and 4 gallons of the scotch ale.

Overall impression of the pale ale: Good. Lighter bodied than expected but the dry hopping has imparted  some of the citrus hop flavor that I felt the beer was lacking after initial fermentation. It definitely comes across more balanced than before. This balance is abundantly clear when comparing it to the 1 gallon batch that I didn't dry hop. That one is very blase.

Scotch ale will sit in secondary for 1-2 weeks. Appearance was a great, deep copper color. Flavor was malty, but I expected more sweetness. It's just not there. Also, a touch of sour on the back end? Hard to tell at this stage. Could be the roasted barley coming through.

Tried my Pout's Revenge Stout for the first time. Very nice. A classic dry stout composition. Extremely pleased with how it turned out. The flavor is balanced, roasty, slightly dry but not astringent, medium bodied, smooth, with an almost velvety mouth feel. Nice roasty aroma. Deep black to brown color with a deep red hue. Bring on the competition!


  • 68 g corn sugar
  • 1.5 c water
FG: 1.010
Desired CO2: 2.4 vol
Aroma: Superb citrus, grapefruit, slight bready undertone
Appearance: Very clear, only very slightly opaque, light gold color
Taste: Moderate bitterness, some citrus grapefruit, some breadiness, refreshing, light to medium body
  • 22 g corn sugar
  • 4 oz water
Desired CO2: 2.4 vol

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

“Fat Mac" Scotch Ale

Brew date: Mar. 5, 2013
#16 - 4 gal BIAB

With spring right hopefully around the corner (my office closed early due to a snow storm that day), I wanted to brew a sweeter, maltier beer for the season. And because I still don't have the setup to lager a big bock -- I'd love to brew a maibock -- a rich scotch ale seemed like a good alternative. This batch takes inspiration from the AHA's blog posts, "Brown-eyed Women" and "McZainasheff's Wee," with some great historical and style pointers from Ray Daniels's chapter on Scotch ales in Designing Great Beers.

Calling this one "Fat Mac" Scotch Ale. Because I love "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." And Mac is, like, Scottish-sounding. That is all.

A few key insights from the brew day:
  • Measure out the mash water the day before brewing whenever possible. Saves time adding the water to the kettle and it takes less time to heat up since it begins at room temperature. I also hear that any chlorine in the water dissipates if left out for a few hours.
  • Reduce any water-to-grist estimates by 0.5 gal. I'm simply not seeing THAT much absorption from the grist. Also, my evaporation during the boil is nowhere near 0.25-0.5 gal per hour. Because I have to keep the brew kettle lid mostly on to get a rolling boil, I'm not losing much volume overall.
  • 6.5 lb Golden Promise Pale malt
  • 0.25 lb Munich 10L
  • 0.25 lb Caramel 20L
  • 0.25 lb Caramel 40L
  • 0.25 lb Caramel 120L
  • 0.25 lb Roasted Barley
  • 0.25 lb Wheat malt
  • 0.75 oz East Kent Goldings (6.6%) (60 min)
  • 0.25 oz East Kent Goldings (6.6%) (20 min)
  • 0.25 oz East Kent Goldings (6.6%) (10 min)
  • 1 t Irish moss (20 min)
  • Gypsum
Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale [Starter made 3/4/13.]

  • 6.5 gal water (~3 qt/lb)
  • Dough in @ 110 'F
  • Heat to 122 'F (protein rest) (30 min)
  • Heat to 154 'F (mash) (60 min)
  • Heat to 168 'F (mash-out) (10 min)
  • Boil 90 min
  • Chill to 64 'F and pitch decanted yeast
  • Ferment at 64-68 'F

Category: Scottish Export 80
Pre-boil gravity: 1.042
OG: 1.055
Efficiency: 82%

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

“Pout's Revenge" [bottled] and “Wisconsin Winter Pale" [secondary]

Feb. 26, 2013

What does a great evening involve? Why, two beers, of course! 

The stout is bottled and the pale ale transferred. After a few weeks in the secondary, the stout has conditioned very nicely. The flaked barley that was a little too prominent has mellowed and warmed. A moderate dryness rounds out the flavor. Not much hoppiness apparent. As for the coffee version, the bitterness borders on astringent. The coffee is DEFINITELY in the forefront. Hopefully it mellows with age.

Racking the pale ale to secondary, I was surprised with its light golden color and body. I had hoped for more body. Additionally, while the hop bitterness is decent and the beer has a nice citrus aroma, the flavor isn't quite there yet. I plan to dry hop with a combination of Amarillo and Centennial hops.

The wife's cap design for the coffee stout

Pout's Revenge Dry Stout

  • 59 g corn sugar
  • 1.5 c water
FG: 1.018
Desired CO2: 2.2 vol
Aroma: Roasty, grain, barley
Appearance: Nice clarity, deep red-brown color
Taste: Warm, dry, roasty, barley

Coffee Stout

  • 10 g corn sugar
  • 4 oz water
Desired CO2: 2.2 vol
Aroma: Coffee, slighty roastiness comes through
Appearance: Much darker than the plain stout, deep brown
Taste: Bitter coffee, Kraemer-style coffee, fairly astringent at the end

Dry hopping the pale ale

Wisconsin Winter Pale (Ale)

3 gal carboy

  • 0.25 oz Amarillo hops
  • 0.5 oz Cascade hops (added 3/2/13)
1 gal jug

FG: 1.011
Aroma: Citrus, bready
Appearance: Light gold, slightly cloudy
Taste: Light-to-medium body, bready, moderate bitterness

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

“Wisconsin Winter Pale" Ale

Feb. 17, 2013
#15 - 4.5 gal BIAB

I am excited, people! I tried my first "Sexual Chocolate" Porter two days ago, and it is everything I was hoping for. Really great. (Do I sound turned on?) Given that I was fist pumping the air after my first few sips, I decided to keep the good feelings rolling and brew this weekend -- even though I didn't have a recipe planned and am still waiting on my dry stout in secondary.

Scanning recipes, I came across the AHA blog for Amarillo Pale Ale. Perfect. I've been wanting to use Amarillo hops for some time and like the idea of a golden pale ale. My recipe definitely draws inspiration. Looking at the hop bill, I wasn't sure I wanted mine to have quite the same level of IBUs, so I scaled it back a bit while emphasizing a citrus note from first wort hopping with centennial and cascade. The Amarillo comes in during the boil and at knockout.

I also ramped up to sparge again, and mashed using a 2.2 qt/lb ratio. I'm hoping this helps improve and stabilize my extraction rate, which has been all over the map since I haven't really settled on a mash method and schedule yet. Thank God for that refractometer!

The wife dubbed it Wisconsin winter pale ale, since it has about as much color as we do at this time of the year. Sigh, German-Irish-Russian heritage. We may not be known for our tanning abilities, but we can drink!

Brewing tunes: The Beatles "Help" and "Beatles for Sale." I don't know why, but these albums have always evoked feelings of "winter" for me. Given the season and name of this brew, it seems right.

  • 3.75 lb 2-row Brewers Malt
  • 3 lb 6-row Brewers Malt
  • 0.5 lb Vienna Malt
  • 0.5 lb Munich Malt
  • 0.5 lb Maris Otter Malt
  • 0.5 lb Red Wheat Malt
  • 0.5 oz Centennial (9.7% AA) (First wort hop) (leave in boil)
  • 0.25 oz Cascade (6.2% AA) (First wort hop) (leave in boil)
  • 0.5 oz Amarillo (10.7% AA) (60 min)
  • 0.25 oz Amarillo (10.7% AA) (1 min)
  • 1 t Irish Moss (20 min)
  • 1 t Gypsum (½ in mash, ½ in sparge)
Wyeast 1056 American Ale (2nd generation)*

*1000 mL yeast starter made 2/16. Used the 10-to-1 ratio described by Mr. Malty's Proper Yeast Pitching Rate. Add 100 g DME and 1000 mL water to Erlenmeyer flask. Mix well. Gently boil for 10 min. Chill and pitch. Swirl occasionally to oxygenate. Hours before brewing, put flask in fridge to settle out yeast, brought back up to temp hour before pitching. Decanted. This yeast is a second generation from the 1056 I pitched into the Sexual Chocolate Porter.


Add 0.5 t gypsum to mash and 0.5 t to sparge water. Heat 5 gal water to 110 'F. Add grains. Stabilize temp at 104 'F. Rest 20 min. Heat mash to 153 'F. Rest 60 min. 10 before end of mash add first wort hops. Mash out at 168 'F for 10 min. Remove grain bags and add them to separate pot with 2 gal sparge water at 168 'F. Sparge 15 min. Lauter. Bring approx 5.25 gal wort to boil. Add Amarillo hops. Add Irish moss 20 min before end of boil. Add Amarillo hop 1 min before end of boil. Knockout and let sit for 10 min. Chill wort to 66 'F. Add approx 4.5 gal wort to fermentor and pitch yeast. Ferment at 64-66 'F.


OG: 1.054
Target gravity: 1.051
Pre-boil gravity (first runnings): 1.056
Pre-boil gravity (second runnings): 1.020

Appears very pale yellow. General bitterness, but not overly so. Do detect some of that citrus note on the nose.