my first saison...

This was THREE MONTHS in the primary!!

But now I know where that apricot flavor in Magic Hat 9 comes from

  • 5# Rye Malt
  • 5# Red Wheat
  • 5# Golden Promise
  • 0.5 oz Simcoe, first wort
  • Wyeast 3724

  • OG 1.067 
  • FG  1.010
  • 7.6% ABV

Started in June, finished in November... I kept reading that this yeast would stall but to just be patient...

It never actually stalled...just slowed incredibly to where it was dropping 1 gravity point a week or so.

First month or so of fermentation was between 80 and 82 F

But it's really nice.  Has that full apricot nose and flavor that you get from Magic Hat...

When I do it again, I might change out the rye...that's the one oddity...rye...apricot...hmmm.

On the other hand, you can taste each of the flavors distinctly...apricot and rye...


BrewDay - 2013 - get started!

23 Feb 2013 -> next BrewDay.

This years game -> Calypso Hops.
Make a recipe using

  • Single base malt, your choice.
  • Calypso hops (only)
  • Yeast, your choice
  • No more than 2 specialty grains

Bring it to BrewDay to share and sample.

See you there.

Head Demagnitizer - a session mead

A very nice session mead.  Dry hopped with cinnamon bark and orange zest.

I was originally going to call it "grandpa's love potion"....seemed like a nice I went to start the label.

I thought I'd find myself a nice not-quite-naked grandpa centerfold picture and use it as the backdrop for the label.  Kind of like that old Burt Reynolds centerfold (for those of you old enough or pop culturally aware enough to remember that) a nice gray haired, pot bellied Grandpa....towel carefully draped over any offense parts...

Seemed like a gag kind of label for a nice summer session mead...something at the summer day, cold sparkling mead, laughing and fishing...that kind of thing.

So I put "naked grandpa" into google's image search.

Don't do that.

If there's one takeaway here, it's that you never, ever, ever want to put 'naked grandpa' into a safe-search-off image search.

Before the images could even finish loading on the first screen, the only thing I could think of was that i could never un-see some of these things...I needed a head demagnitizer for what's between my ears.

So there you have it.  A nice mead, I would make the mead again any time...but I will never, ever, ever go searching for images of naked grandpas.

Burning Mead

A nice session mead. 

Really, really bare bones recipe, honey, water, energizer, yeast (D47)....but then dry hopped with two LARGE roasted jalapenos.

All the heat is in the back of your throat, the roasted jalapeno taste is very subdued.

But there's enough heat that you want to take another sip, right quick.  Not burning hot...just a nice smooth back-of-the-throat heat.

Just enough priming sugar to make it sparkling, no aging required.

I would do this again.

Its not beer

Its not even alcoholic.

But it IS fermented.  Hoosier vegetarian rootcrop kimchi.

Napa Cabbage, radishes, turnips, onions, ginger.  Naturally fermented for a week and then canned.  No fish, no. no. 

I DO usually cheat, just a bit, and add some vinegar near the end of fermentation....but just a tiny splash.


Some things are just uncalled for...

They're so wrong, so misguided, that you don't even know where to start.

There I was, minding my own business, and I clicked a link to read a beer review of Upland's Double IPA.

 (image lifted from Upland's website and used without permission!)

And I got slammed with a virus.  Internet Security 2012.

Now I'm a trained professional....I did all those things you have to do and the virus is gone and the pc is intact, etc. etc.

But a virus?  On a beer review?  Of an Indiana beer?  A GOOD beer? That's just wrong.

What type of scurvy b*st*rd would load a virus on a beer review page?


Spruce beer - a revolutionary brew

Looks good, doesn't it?

Well let me tell you about it.

First, a bit of history...or, maybe, a bit of myth.  We could use a history buff here...where's Ken McCluskey when you need him?

Anyway, as I heard it, back in the day, before things started getting hinchy with England, american barley was considered inferior...and American hops were pretty much considered weeds.  So there was no brewing infrastructure here...if you wanted beer, like tea, it came from England...and if you wanted malted barley or hops, those came from England too.

Well...the time came when we weren't doing that any more...not bringing stuff in from England...and we had no malting and kilning facilities here....but we needed BEER!

What we did have, in great supply, was molasses from the sugar cane fields down south and we had a king's ransom in pine trees.  So Americans did what they've always done...they improvised.  Spruce beer with molasses as the fermentable and spruce or pine tips as the bittering agent.

So I decided to make some.

Molasses and spruce tips and bread yeast.  And it fermented out.  And it was nasty.  Incredibly nasty.  Like going out an gnawing on a pine tree, but with a big, big kick.

So I refined my recipe.  Less pine and a decent yeast (Nottingham).  Batch 2. 

Still nasty.  Undrinkable.  I've seen grown men that drink after shave (don't ask, it was a long time ago) that wouldn't have touched this stuff.

I told myself it was a novelty brew....  didn't work.  still nasty.

I gave it a year to bottle condition.  didn't work.  still nasty.

So it's been three years now and I thought that surely it had mellowed so I cracked a bottle over the weekend.

It hasn't mellowed.  Not a bit.

Its easy to believe that this, truly, is the beer that won the Revolutionary War.  Not only will swilling it put you in an ill humor and go looking for someone who needs an ass whuppin...but if that ass whuppin means that there might, possibly, conceivably, be some decent beer coming to town...well anyone worth their salt is going to take up arms.

The only, and I mean ONLY, redeeming feature is that this beer makes outstanding bread.

No.  I don't know why.  Don't have a clue.  You can't drink it, but the bread is legendary.

Vortex! A DIY stirplate

The advantages of being a packrat!

Here's a previously unused 120mm 12v pc fan...two rare earth magnets mounted to the hub...and the whole thing mounted in an old plastic terrarium from when the kids were small.

The stir bar is a couple of small magnets, a couple bits of 1/4 inch dowel, all surrounded with some sugru.

As you can see, above, it works.

Here's a picture without the can see the magnets and the cool sugru bar.
I used an old 12v supply from something or other that's long, long gone, a potentiometer to control the fan speed and a couple of pc connectors.
I have no idea what this stuff cost originally...but I know it didn't cost me a dime today!

stop. now. go here.

No, really.  Stop what you're doing and go here:

Just go.  Now.  Bookmark it.

Then, if you get your kicks from history, do the same with this:

Good stuff.  You can thank me later.

Brewers Friend - software evaluation

I think I'm fairly typical in my recipe design / brewday in that I create recipes using one of the standard software packages...print or scribble some notes on paper, then use my phone and various timers while brewing. These folks at Brewers Friend have a nice package that lets you integrate the whole process.

Go to brewers friend and sign up.  Its free, but you need to register to take advantage of most of the cool features.

The recipe page, shown above, needs no real explanation.  It's drop dead simple to use.  Just design your beer like you would using any software and save the recipe. 

Now's when it gets cool.

First off, click the "my recipes" tab and then pick "edit" for your recipe.  Click the "share" tab.  You get a link you can send your friends and they can use your recipe, too!

Here's mine for a Pliny style thing I brewed over BrewDay

Ok...not cool enough for you?  Try this:  click on the "my brewing" tab.

There's your beer, with all the "stuff" you'd normally scribble for a brewing it....mash schedules, hop additions, etc.  Even some tips / checkoff items for the stuff that I, anyway, have screwed up too often (close the spigots on the mash tun, stuff like that).

Still not cool enough?  Ok...I can understand can do all that with your pencil and paper...get a checkoff sheet, add in your own timings and hop let's go for really mondo cool -> click the "brew timer" tab.

There's your recipe, converted into a brewsession, with the checkoff sheet, AND the timers for the mash, etc built in.

Work through your schedule, check things off, start the timers when you come to them...all on your phone.

Truly...I'm impressed.  The recipe formulation is solid, the share recipe is nice, the check off sheets, the built in sessions with timers....  Your whole brewing day in one, integrated piece of software.  Very nice.  Kudos to the programmers and kudos to thinking through the process.

I urge you to try it.  It's free, so you've got nothing to lose.

(also...a given, but just to be clear, there's no renumeration, etc passing hands here...I just wandered across these folks and really like the package).


A nice brew.

Mash @ 154
  • 1 T Gypsum
  • 4 # Golden Promise
  • 5 # 2 Row Pale
  • .5 # Wheat
  • 2 # Rye

  • 1.0 oz Northern Brewer - first wort
  • 1.0 # cane sugar - 30 min
  • 0.5 oz Northern Brewer - 15 min
  • 1 T Black Peppercorns - 5 min

Cool and pitch 1 sachet hydrated SafAle S-05
Rack to secondary and dry hop w/ 1 oz Willamette

OG 1.064
FG 1.009

appearance is a bit cloudy, tastes great...will try again with more rye

Spent Grains

Spent grains are outstanding for baking. 

I can't give you a hard and fast recipe because I'm not that kind of breadmaker...but what I can do is to give you some guidelines.

I start with about 1 part spent grains to 2 parts bread flour, salt and yeast as usual, and then add a little more flour or water to get the "normal" consistency.

Mix or knead as you would any bread.  Let rise, punch down, form loaves, yadda, yadda, yadda as you would any bread...bake at 375 for 50 minutes or so.

Works great for pizza dough, too.

Same ratios, same concepts, etc.  But before you put on toppings, slip it into a 475 degree oven for a couple minutes...just long enough so the top firms up and won't soak up so much tomato sauce.

Pull out of the oven...tomato sauce, cheese, toppings, etc....then 475 until it's perfect.

Even Rox likes barley grain pizza.

BrewDay 2012

BrewDay 2012 has come and gone.

As Grant shows, above, there's always time to take your eye off your HLT and pour a cold one.

Grant's mashing BIAB Honey Brown lager.  Greg went with Three Hearted Ale, also BIAB.  Jed, a RyePA, all grain batch sparge and I did a kind of a pliny thing, batch sparge.

I demonstrated, conclusively (again!), no matter what you do, 9 ounces of hops in the boil does not go well with a plate chiller.  Hopblocker, whirlpool, whatever....9 ounces of pellets and a plate chiller are not going to get along.

We sampled the Dragon Milk (all three styles), Summer Ale, Bitter Bastards, a Choco-Porter, a breakfast stout, a Golden Nugget, a Pumpkin Ale, 3 different Ciders, a Strawberry wine and a Maple Nut Brown.

The carnivores attending had pulled pork, they seemed to like it and that's probably enough said about that.

Good times.

Squeak Mead

Slammed into the primary when my granddaughter was born...bottled a year later....put back until she turns 21.

  • 10 pounds of honey
  • 6 gallons of filtered water
  • 1 teaspoon yeast energizer
  • 1 sachet Lalvin D47

Original Gravity 1.060
Final Gravity 0.995

Racked to secondary after 3 months and dry hopped with 2 ounces of mulling spices from the Spice House in Chicago.

1/4 cup of cane sugar during bottling for a lighly sparkling end product.

Taste, while bottling was good but pretty darn intense.  I can only assume 20 years in the bottle will mellow it some.

So check back in 20 years and we'll see!

Carboy cleaning

I think we all use the same tricks to clean carboys.  A little soapy water, a dishrag stuffed down the bung and agitate the hell out of it.  Take a carboy brush to the more stubborn parts, swirl and curse, swirl and curse...

Some krausen just seems to stick to the top of the carboy, no matter what you do.

Now's the time for power tools.

You assemble your parts...a steel rod, a green scrubby pad and a hunk of sugru.

Sugru the scrubby pad to the steel rod and wait 24 hours for the whole thing to cure.

1 scrubby pad, sugrued to a 1/4 inch steel rod and rolled up will just fit in the mouthpiece of a carboy.

Chuck the other end into your cordless drill and watch that krausen disappear.

Now look at that shiny clean carboy! 

Power tools!  Sugru!  What's not to love about that?

Prosperity - all in how you measure it.

No, I don't have a yacht or a plane.

But I DO have 4 full carboys going.

From left to right:

  • 6 gallons of Squeak Mead, made when my granddaughter was born, to be put away until she's 21.
  • 4.5 gallons of APA, currently dry hopping with an ounce of Willamette.
  • 6 gallons of straight mead, will break into 2 - 3 gallon batches, one a roasted jalapeno mead, the other to be determined.
  • 6 gallons of a big cider.

Yep.  It's good to be rich!

101 - Digital Thermometer Calibration

First off, let me say that I don't care for digital thermometer calibration.  Or maybe I just don't care to calibrate mine.  And, truly, you don't have to calibrate these digitals very often...they work well.

I have a CDN DTQ450...which I believe is a pretty common model.  The problem, though, is that they don't calibrate at boiling.  You have to calibrate them at freezing.

And, while it's not really obvious, a couple minutes thought and you'll realize that's damned hard to do.  If you have a drink filled with 32F ice cubes, the fluid is a mix of the 32 degree ice cubes and the ambient air's hard to get a real, solid (pun?) 32F reference source.

The best you can do is to fill something with crushed ice and the minimal amount of water.  Crushed ice...little water.

See below....mostly crushed ice and you can see that the temperature appears to be just a bit off.  I think it's safe to assume that my reference source (the bowl of crushed ice water) isn't below freezing or it'd be solid, right?

So, anyway, use your crushed ice and a little fluid and try to get as near to 32F as you can...then hold the CAL button for a couple seconds.  The thermometer will display 'CAL' and then show 32F, like below.

And, as in the previous write up, I like to test it against the other end....boiling.

So get a pot of water with a good boil, insert the thermometer, don't touch the sides or bottom.  Give it a few seconds to calm down and it should show 212F.

Anyway, on brew day I like to have an analog and a digital both calibrated and ready to go.  I'm not sure why.  It just comforts me.  That's all I need to know about it.

101 - thermometer calibration

Prior to Brew Day I like to calibrate my gear.

You don't want to tell the guy that can BIAB 20 pounds of dry grain, and get it soaking wet, out of the pot, without a block and tackle, that you might have been a wee bit off on the mash temp.

(lets see...20 pounds dry grain...I usually get about 2/3 qt water loss per pound...40/3rds....13 quarts...thats 3+ gallons, that's 25 the original 20 for the grain....hmmm...yeah...the guy that can hold 45 pounds of steaming grain at arms length, draining over a pot of 150 degree water....yeah....that's the guy we want to get the temp right for...)

And it's easy.

So this'll be one of a couple calibration posts....this time, analog thermometers.

Get a fairly large pot of water and bring it to a roiling boil.

Put your thermometer in...get it as deep as you can without actually touching the sides or bottom of the pot.  Check the temp.  As you can see, below, this one was reading about 215F.

Now look on the back of the thermometer...there'll be a little adjustment nut.  See it?

Put a wrench on it and turn it just a little.  Just a little means, really, a 1/16th of a turn or less...maybe 1/32nd.

Put the thermometer back in the boiling water...same as before, deep, not touching the bottom or sides...wait a full 30 seconds...check the temp...

Repeat, as necessary, until the thermometer is dead below...212F is what I read.

You can do this same adjustment with ice water and 32F...but it always seemed to me that 212 was closer to mash temperatures than I'll usually check the thing in some ice water, but not really pay much attention.

Anyway, that's it....after the water's boiling you've got 2-3 minutes, start to finish.

Simple Stovetop Mead

This is to show just how easy it is to make mead...truly, the simplest of the fermentable beverages.  No huge pot required, no special burner...this is stovetop stuff.

1)  heat 2 gallons or so of water on the stove.  warm, so the honey dissolves, but no need to make it anywhere near boiling.

2)  stir in 10 pounds of honey.  if you have it, you can add a teaspoon of yeast energizer or yeast nutrient...get it the same place you get your or at your favorite local homebrew store

3)  put 2 gallons of cool water in your sanitized carboy or bucket.

4)  pour in the warm honey water.  shake vigorously, you want to get lots of air into it.

5)  top off to 5 gallons with cool water.

6)  check the temperature.  you want it less than 90F when you add the yeast.

7)  take a gravity reading if you have a hydrometer (you should have a hydrometer...they're cheap and they're pretty basic to brewing anything).

8)  pour in 1 sachet of rehydrated Lalvin D-47 (there are other yeasts, but this is my favorite for mead)

9)  put on your airlock and you're done.  last night it was about 60 minutes, start to finish.

Check your gravity over the next few weeks and, when you get down in the 1.000 to 1.010 range, rack to secondary. 

Now's when you get to make it special.  This is when you add whatever special, secret mix of herbs, spices, fruits or whatever is going to make it your unique, signature concoction.

Vanilla?  Lemon?  Orange? Roasted Jalapenos?  Ginger? This one is going to have 2 ounces of mulling spices from the Spice House in Chicago added.

Let it sit on the flavor anywhere from a month to a year.

For my own tastes, I like the meads I make to be very lightly carbonated, almost like a sparkling wine.  So not too much bottling sugar...maybe 1/4 cup for a 5 gallon batch.

Anyway, there you have it.  You can't get much simpler, easier or faster.

And remember, whatever you do, no matter how tasty, hide a couple bottles away...mead just gets better and better the longer you wait.

SOPA - just say no.

While I try to stay pretty apolitical in this is, after all, a blog for beginning homebrewing, not a soapbox for my hoosier values, this is a little different.

If you create content you should be concerned.

If you use content you should be concerned.

Sign up.

A nice op-ed on why technological ignorance of our elected representatives is no longer cute.