How Patience Makes for Better Homebrew

Man watching home brewing timeline and fermentation times It was a rookie mistake.

I was excited for my latest batch of homebrew – a saison – and paid more attention to the timeline and fermentation times than the beer itself. After two weeks in primary and two more in secondary, I figured it was ready to carbonate, so into bottles it went.

Then I opened a bottle a week later and noticed a lot of foam. I waited another week, and half the beer was gone by the time I poured it into my glass. It was a gusher, forcing ounce upon ounce of white foam up the neck of the bottle and into my sink.

That’s when it really hit home: patience is a virtue for everyone, but for homebrewers, it’s a necessity.

In most cases – especially this one – it’s a matter of paying attention to the beer instead of any preset home brewing timelines. Forget about fermentation times; focus on the beer. Yes, you can have expectations for the length of a brew day, but sometimes it’s important to take a step back and take stock of how time – or lack thereof – can impact your beer.

 

Time is more than the calendar

In the case of my saison, it was important for me to set aside my own expectations. The lesson? Ignore human timeframes when it comes to home brewing.

Even if you’re making a batch for a special event or occasion, build in extra time for unforeseen problems, or just to allow the beer to do its own thing. The best way to confirm that a beer is finished is to take your hydrometer and check its final gravity. Taste the sample to add another layer to your test.

To be extra thorough, give it another day or two after it has reached final gravity just to be safe.

 

Slow working yeast

Another aspect to consider is the yeast doing the work inside your carboy. While some yeasts offer fast attenuation like Safale S-04 or Lallemand’s Nottingham, several need more time to offer the depth of flavors you seek from your brew.

If you’re making a porter or bitter, Wyeast 1028 (London Ale) is a great option. It’s even flexible enough to build up a beer to as much as 11 percent ABV, but requires plenty of time to get there. Other slow-moving options include Wyeast 1728 (Scottish Ale) and Wyeast 1099 (Whitbread Ale). All these strains can enhance the layer of flavors in your beer, but let them take their time in doing so. The fermentation times will typically be longer.

 

Wait on your bottles

While I suffered the impact of bottle bombs with my saison, one hidden truth I’ve found with many of my batches is that the best tasting beer usually comes when I’ve almost run out.

Even when I’m lucky to have a fully carbonated homebrew after one week in the bottle, I’ve started a habit of setting aside at least a six-pack to drink later than I normally would. Drinking an IPA as fresh as possible is a good idea, but a porter or honey-basil ale probably won’t get hurt by resting for a few more weeks. Remember to consider the temperature of your storage area and ingredients you’ve used in the beer, including yeast, when setting aside bottles to age longer than the rest of your batch.

There are many lessons to learn when it comes to home brewing, but one of the most important I’ve taken away is to not get hung up on having a beer ready in an absolute set timeframe. Don’t focus on whether or not your home brewing timeline is what was expected. Don’t worry if your fermentation times are longer than they should be. The beer will be ready when it’s ready.

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Bryan Roth is a beer nerd and homebrewer living in Durham, North Carolina. You can read his thoughts on beer and the beer industry on his award-winning blog, This Is Why I’m Drunk, and send him suggestions on how to get his wife to drink craft beer via Twitter at @bryandroth.

Brewing Beer With Herbs: Workin’ Your Green-Thumb!

Beer With HerbsWhen focusing on flavors in beer, hops and malt usually get the most attention, often followed by fruit, chocolate, vanilla, and wood. But creating delicate layers of taste and aroma can be as easy as brandishing your green thumb. Try brewing beer with herbs!

For me, I’ve found success with two herbs I’m able to grow in my backyard: rosemary and basil. Summers are hot here in North Carolina, but with a little daily attention, it’s been easy for me to grow more than enough of these herbs to use as late additions to the boil. Remember: the key to unlocking the highest quality flavors from these ingredients is to use them as fresh as possible, so brewing beer with herbs you’ve grown yourself just makes sense.

Here are a couple ways to utilize these easy-to-grow herbs for a new beer recipe.

 

Homebrewing with Rosemary

There are many varieties of rosemary to choose from, but the easiest for homebrewing purposes may be the “common” varietal, which does well in many climates and is sun-tolerant. If you’ve ever used rosemary for cooking, you’ll recognize it’s piney characteristic. That makes it a good complement to certain kinds of hops, especially ones with spicy or piney characteristics.

If you want to enhance piney flavors of your hop bill, consider using some rosemary with Chinook or Columbus hops. Alternatively, the piney aspect of rosemary can supplement citrus characteristics – think of how well rosemary works with lemon when preparing food dishes. In that case, rosemary can work well with Cascade, Citra, and Simcoe hops. About half an ounce of freshly cut rosemary will do the trick. You don’ t want to over-do-it. Balance is a big part of brewing beer with herbs.

I’ve only used rosemary with IPAs, but pale ales or even saisons might be a good recipe option. Here’s an IPA extract beer recipe to try with rosemary:

 

Recipe: Piney the Elder IPA
(5-gallon batch, extract with specialty grains)Shop Beer Flavorings

Specs
OG: 1.065
FG: 1.016
ABV: 6.4%
IBUs: 55
SRM: 10

Ingredients
1 lb. Caramel 40 malt
9 lbs. Golden light liquid extract
1 oz. Columbus hops at :60
1 oz. Chinook hops at :15
1 oz. Columbus hops at :5

0.5 oz. freshly cut rosemary at knockout
1 oz. Chinook dry hop (optional)
Wyeast 1056: American Ale yeast

Directions
Steep the grains in 2.5 gallons of water at 150˚F for 30 minutes. Remove the grains, mix in liquid malt extract, and bring wort to a boil. Add hops and rosemary according to schedule. At end of boil, cool wort to 70˚F or below and transfer to a clean, sanitized fermenter. Add enough clean water to make 5 gallons of wort. Stir vigorously for 1-2 minutes and pitch yeast. Ferment at 70˚F.

 

Homebrewing with Basil

The basil you grow at home or find in the store offers a delicate sweetness and a twinge of spice, a flavor combination that often pairs well with wheat beers. I’ve found great success mixing the flavor of basil with honey.

Shop HopsOnce again, when brewing beer with this herb think of using it in terms of cooking in the kitchen. Its sweetness mixes well with Italian dishes, cuts some of the heat of Indian food, and enhances the pleasant, savory feeling of meat. Similarly, using basil in home brewing should enhance the beer rather than dominate it.

The trick with basil is to focus on using it at the knockout/flameout stage of the boil or as a dry-“herbing” option. If it’s boiled too long, it will bring unwanted bitterness to your beer.

I’ve had success with this beer recipe adapted from the July/August 2011 issue of Brew Your Own magazine, which balances some of the basil flavor with medium-range alpha acid of Cascade hops.

 

Recipe: Honey Basil Ale (Bison Organic Beer Honey Basil clone)
(5-gallon batch, partial mash recipe)

Specs
OG: 1.052
FG: 1.010
ABV: 5.5%
IBUs: 19
SRM: 6

Ingredients
3.3 lbs. Briess light, unhopped, liquid malt extract
2 lbs. light dried malt extract
1 lbs. two row pale malt
0.75 lbs. Crystal malt 20 L
0.7 lbs. Carapils malt
1 oz. Cascade hops at :60
0.6 oz. basil leaves at :10
0.5 to 1 lb. honey at :5
0.6 oz. basil leaves at :0
Wyeast 1056: American Ale yeast

Directions
Steep the grains in 2 gallons of water at 148˚F for 30 minutes. Remove grains from wort. Stir in liquid and dry malt extracts and begin boil. Add hops, basil, and honey as detailed above. After boil, add the wort to two gallons of cold water in the fermenter and top off to make five gallons. Stir well to aerate and pitch yeast. Ferment at 70˚F.

Interested in brewing beer with herbs? Check out Brew Your Own Herb Beers!
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Bryan Roth is a beer nerd and homebrewer living in Durham, North Carolina. You can read his thoughts on beer and the beer industry on his blog, This Is Why I’m Drunk, and send him suggestions on how to get his wife to drink craft beer via Twitter at @bryandroth.

Secondary Fermentation: 3 Ways Your Beer Will Thank You For It!

Beer Going Into Secondary FermentationThere’s an old adage when it comes to making your own beer:

Ask ten homebrewers one question and you’ll get eleven different answers.

For such a unique, do-it-yourself hobby, there are all sorts of ways to approach homebrewing with just as many opinions and processes to consider. But for me, one area stands out as clear as a golden pilsner. I always rack my beer into a secondary fermentation.

It’s a step that may not be completely necessary for every beer you brew, but between habit and success, I’ve made a secondary fermentation a regular part of my brewing process. I believe it’s an effort worth the minimal investment in time – about an hour to transfer and clean up – especially since you just need a second fermentation vessel to pull it off.

So what is a secondary fermentation, anyway? It’s very simple. A secondary fermentation is done by moving your beer to a another fermenter towards the end of fermentation. This could be anywhere from the 3rd to 7th day. Ideally, leave your beer in secondary fermentation for at least one week, but feel free to add more time if additional ingredients are added for flavor.

 

So why should you consider putting your beer in a secondary fermentation?Shop Carboys

Here are three good reasons to put your beer through a secondary fermentation:

  1. Manipulate the flavor of your beer
    Because primary fermentation can be rather vigorous and even violent, it’s not worth adding additives/adjuncts to your beer right away. A secondary fermentation offers the perfect time to add fruit, wood, or other flavorings to provide layers of complex flavor to your beer. You’ll be able to maximize taste and aroma without the threat of losing anything. Of course, this is the right time to dry hop, too, which allows all the oils of the hops to be transferred directly into your beer instead of getting boiled off in the wort on brew day. Get all the hoppy characteristics you look for without adding bitterness.
  1. Improve the taste
    Leaving beer on a collection of trub for too long can start to negatively impact the taste of your beer, maybe even creating off-flavors from autolysis. Racking your beer to a secondary fermenter can prevent this. On the flip side, moving a secondary fermentation will give the yeast one more chance to chew up the intricate sugars floating around in your beer, to clean up potential off-flavors (like diacetyl), and help flavors meld together.Shop Steam Freak Kits
  1. Get a clearer beer
    You can use Irish moss or Whirfloc tablets in the boil, but post-brew day, another easy way to clarify your homebrew is to get it off remaining yeast and trub from primary fermentation and allow it to condition a little longer in a new carboy. It also means less sediment to deal with once you’re ready to bottle your homebrew. If you make lots of darker beers, including porters or stouts, doing the two-stage fermentation may not be as necessary. But since I make many lighter beers like IPAs, wheat ales and even a blonde now and then, it matters a lot.

 

The Bottom Line…
Putting your beer through a secondary fermentation does mean you have to spend a little more time with it (about an hour), and if you’re not thorough in sanitation there is chance for infection. However, in the grand scheme of things, your beer will more often than not look and taste better in the end.Shop Irish Moss

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Bryan Roth is a beer nerd and homebrewer living in Durham, North Carolina. You can read his thoughts on beer and the beer industry on his award-winning blog, This Is Why I’m Drunk, and send him suggestions on how to get his wife to drink craft beer via Twitter at @bryandroth.

Use Alternative Priming Sugars For A New Twist

Brewer Using Alternative Priming SugarsAfter fermentation is done, but before the beer hits my glass, my brew sits away in a corner of a small closet – dozens of sudsy brothers and sisters conditioning away.

Depending on the style of beer I’ve brewed and its ABV, the wait time for all those bottles to fully prime can vary. So can your method for adding priming sugar to your brews.

The sugar you use for priming your beer is not chiseled in stone. For homebrewers like me, priming a batch of beer before bottling offers some variation in what to use if you want to step away from regular, old corn sugar or DME. Here are a few alternative priming sugars to consider for your next bottled batch:

 

Carbonation Tabs

For sake of ease, these small, pill-like drops are my go-to option for bottling my homebrew. I love carbonation tabs because they are as easy as placing one drop into each bottle right before I transfer my finished beer to its final vessel. The best part: it takes the worry out of the conditioning process as I’ve never had a problem with an under or over-carbonated beer when I’ve used these. That makes these one of the better alternative priming sugars.Shop Bottling Bucket

Some brands of carbonation tablets will have small drops the size of an aspirin and others will be oblong like a tiny football. They all work the same, but some brands may simply require one drop for ideal carbonation levels while you can use multiple small pills to adjust carbonation with other brands.

 

Honey

Some alternative priming sugars, like honey, offer the chance to add a little extra layer of flavor to your beer. Curious to see what it may offer your next brew? Try it with a wheat beer, which might work nice if you’ve added fruit during fermentation, too.

To add a little extra sweetness to your homebrew at bottling time, use 1 cup of honey per 5 gallons. Mix the honey with a little warm water to thin it out to make sure it blends in with your beer.

 

Maple Syrup Shop Bottle Washer

Making a brown ale? Consider experimenting with maple syrup for your priming sugar to mash up flavors perfect for a cold fall or winter night. Whether it’s grade A or B, use 1 1/4 cup for a 5-gallon batch and again, mix it with some water to dilute the syrup. As with any of these alternative priming sugars, it’s easy to over-carbonate if you add too much. Also check out this Maple Scotch Ale homebrew recipe.

 

Brown Sugar/Molasses

When talking about alternative priming sugars, one cannot leave these two out. Both of these options would work great for a porter or stout. Imagine that little extra bit of deep, earthy sweetness mixing with the roasted and chocolate flavors of those styles – a great mix for a holiday beer!

Shop Bottle CappersThe benefit of brown sugar as a priming sugar is it can be used in the same fashion as cane sugar – boil 2/3 of a cup with two cups of water for a 5-gallon batch, then mix it in before bottling.

If you’re using molasses, use 1 cup with boiled water per 5 gallons and make sure this super-thick liquid breaks down a bit. You don’t want a mess on your hands.

 

Priming Sugar Calculator

If you’re ready to change up your priming routine, one great resource is this priming sugar calculator from HomebrewDad.com. It has a variety of sugars listed that you can choose when using alternative priming sugars . This calculator will offer up specific amounts depending on your exact volume of beer, desired carbonation levels, and more.Shop Fridge Monkey

Happy Brewing!
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Bryan Roth is a beer nerd and homebrewer living in Durham, North Carolina. You can read his thoughts on beer and the beer industry on his award-winning blog, This Is Why I’m Drunk, and send him suggestions on how to get his wife to drink craft beer via Twitter at @bryandroth.

Short Boil Brewing: Put Time Back Into Your Day!

Short Boil Brewing Being Done By HomebrewerFor many, brew day is all about taking it easy. Setting up a chair and kicking back as the wort boils away can be as therapeutic as laying on the beach, listening to the tide come in.

But for me, when I’m home brewing I like to strike a balance between relaxing and being efficient with my day, even if that means rushing around like a mad cheetah at times. That’s where short boil brewing comes in…

One of the easiest ways I’m able to cut down on my brew day is focusing on the boil, especially since I brew extract batches. Instead of a normal 60-minute boil time, cutting down to 30 or even 20 minutes not only produces homebrew that’s still great to drink, but puts a little more time back in my day.

While not every beer style lends itself to short boil brewing (bocks, for example), it is easy to shave off minutes for lots of other kinds of beers, from stouts to IPAs. The key is using extract and some specialty grains for steeping, which can be placed in the water as it heats up. Since malt extract doesn’t need to be boiled for a specific amount of time, you’re simply mixing it in the hot water to sanitize the liquid as you create your wort.

My favorite use of short boil brewing is with IPAs because it forces me to use my favorite technique for the style: hop bursting. This process is exactly what it sounds like – you add a ton of hops, but boil them for a short period of time. This provides an intense burst of hop flavor and aroma.Shop Liquid Malt Extract

Hop bursting is perfect for short boil brewing because you’ll extract little bitterness from the isomerization of hops, but get left with all the flavor. The biggest catch for a shortened boil is that you’ll want to use a lot of hops to make sure you still get some hop bitterness to balance the sweet malt, but that can be a good thing, too.

Here’s an IPA recipe I call “Little Hop Monster” that I’ve developed through short boil home brewing. Try it out to get you started on your next (shortened) brew day. Feel free to substitute hops for whatever you like, but I enjoy the intense tropical fruits of these American hop varieties:

 

Little Hop Monster IPA
(five-gallon batch, extract with specialty grains)

Specs Shop Brew Kettles
OG: 1.050
FG: 1.010
ABV: 5.2%
IBUs: 48
SRM: 8

Ingredients
0.5 lb. Crystal 60
0.5 lb. Crystal 40
6 lb. light DME
2 oz. Amarillo hops at 10 minutes left in the boil
2 oz. Simcoe at 10 minutes
1 oz. Amarillo at 5 minutes Shop Hops
1 oz. Simcoe at 0 minutes
1 oz. Amarillo – dry hop
1 oz. Simcoe – dry hop
1 pack of Safale US-05 

 

Directions
In this short boil recipe the boil time can last from 20 to 30 minutes. Steep the grains as you bring the water up to boil, removing your grain bag once the water hits 170°F. to 175°F. Add the malt extract, bring the wort to a rolling boil, then add hops according to schedule above. Proceed with the rest of the brew as usual.

Shop Accurate ScalesShort boil brewing may not be a home brewing method for everyone, but it certainly has its place. With having time saved as its reward it may be something you’ll want to give a try.
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Bryan Roth is a beer nerd and homebrewer living in Durham, North Carolina. You can read his thoughts on beer and the beer industry on his award-winning blog, This Is Why I’m Drunk, and send him suggestions on how to get his wife to drink craft beer via Twitter at @bryandroth.

The Trick To Avoiding Oxidation In Homebrew

Oxidation In HomebrewOne of several problems that can happen in beer brewing is oxidation. Blogger Bryan Roth explores oxidation, its effects, what causes it, and how to avoid it.
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The process of oxidation is detrimental to your beer, but it’s something that can be difficult to avoid. To some degree, oxidation in homebrew will occur whether you keg or bottle your beer.

Oxidation in homebrew is a chemical process that can destabilize it and cause stale, off-flavors. Most commonly, people describe the taste of oxidized beers as having flavors of wet cardboard, sherry, or fruit, but that’s not the only issue. Along with altering the taste of your beer, oxidation can also affect the quality of your beer. Having oxidation in your homebrew can cause it to be less stable, meaning it will not stay as fresh as long.

 

When Oxygen Is Good For Homebrew?

A tricky part of the oxidation concept is that oxygen is actually beneficial early in the brewing process, so there is a time when oxidation in the homebrew is good. Properly aerating your wort on brew day can be pivotal to a successful homebrew, as oxygen is critical for yeast health.

Shop Wort AeratorAfter you’ve boiled and cooled your wort and moved it into your primary fermenter, take a few minutes to rapidly stir or shake and rock your wort. At this early stage, building a frothy head on your wort is good, as pitched yeast will need the air for healthy growth and will remove the oxygen during the fermentation process. You can even purchase aeration devices to help this process.

After you’ve pitched your yeast and fermentation has begun, you’ll want to avoid shaking and agitating your beer as much as possible.

 

When Oxidation May Occur In Your Homebrew

Oxidation can take place at many points throughout the brewing process, from creating a large froth while stirring your mash to the moment you move your beer into a keg or bottle. For most homebrewers, their beer is at greatest risk of oxidation while racking from one carboy to another or into their final vessel of choice, whether it be bottle or keg.

In all these instances, it’s important to try and avoid splashing of your beer. You’ll be able to tell when you’re at risk whenever you see a growing froth on top of your wort or beer. If you’re racking, pay attention to your tubing: if you see a lot of bubbles moving through, check the fitting of your tubing Shop Chugger Pumpand siphon connections to make sure they’re tight. While moving beer from one carboy to another, allow your siphon tubing to rest on the bottom of the secondary fermenter or as close to the rising beer as possible. This will dramatically reduce the oxidation in your homebrew.

 

How to Avoid Oxidation In Homebrew When Kegging or Bottling

Homebrewers who keg their beer may have an easier time avoiding the effects of oxidation so long as they’ve been careful in other steps of the brewing process. Purging a keg with CO2 before and after filling it with homebrew will help keep the beer fresh.

Those who bottle, however, will still want to make sure to avoid unnecessary splashing or air bubbles while racking into bottles. Moving a homebrew from a carboy to a bottling bucket can help, as a spigot and properly fitted tubing will move the beer safely from one vessel to your bottle. Luckily, the yeast that will carbonate your beer will consume some of the oxygen that may make it into the bottles.

Shop Oxygen Absorbing CapsMany homebrewers also prefer to use oxygen absorbing bottle caps that will help mitigate oxidation. Be sure to also store your beer in a place where temperatures are controlled and preferably cool. Warm storage can promote oxidation in homebrew.

Bottled beers can’t help but become oxidized over time, so know that some beers styles may be impacted greater than others. Your IPA, for example, may have a shift in its hop flavor compared to a barleywine or imperial stout, which may actually find pleasant tastes from sitting in cool storage for a little longer than normal.

The important thing to remember when it comes to oxidation in homebrew is that once properly carbonated, many beer styles are meant to be consumed fresh. Don’t be afraid to pop your cap and enjoy it!
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Bryan Roth is a beer nerd and homebrewer living in Durham, North Carolina. You can read his thoughts on beer and the beer industry on his blog, This Is Why I’m Drunk, and send him suggestions on how to get his wife to drink craft beer via Twitter at @bryandroth.

How to Make a Full-Bodied Beer

Example Of How To Make A Full-Bodied BeerAnyone who’s had a Guinness knows the unique texture that beer provides – a creaminess that flows over your tongue thanks to the use of nitrogen and carbon dioxide. But how can you get a similar characteristic in your homebrew beer without going that extra gas-based step?

Here’s how to make a full-bodied beer. It’s easier than you think.

What making a full-bodied homebrew beer comes down to is mouthfeel. You can brew a stout black as midnight in the dead of winter, but sometimes it’s best to complement that with a little more heft in the body of the beer – and that doesn’t mean it has to be a high-ABV brew, either.

To achieve a full-bodied homebrew beer with a more substantial mouthfeel, all it takes is a little modification on brew day. Here’s how to make a full-bodied beer:

 

1. Use specialty malts
Once you dump your yeast into the cooled wort, they’ll start chewing up fermentable sugars that allows them to produce carbon dioxide and alcohol. But with unfermentable sugars in your wort, yeast will stay away from those and allow your beer to become thicker.

These unfermentable sugars are called dextrins and can be infused into your homebrew beer through the use of malt. “Cara” malts like Carapils are excellent for adding extra body with lots of unfermentable sugars during mashing. Dark and roasted malts like Crystal, Roasted Barley or Special B also offer high levels of unfermentable sugars. As a bonus, the use of specialty malts can also add color and flavor to your beer.Shop Barley Grains

 

2. Increase mash temperature  
While steeping malts like Carapils in an extract brew can help add some body, it’s more noticeable when doing a partial or all-grain mash. In this case, adjusting the temperature of your mash can greatly influence the body of your homebrew beer. By keeping your water temperature at a high level, say 158° to 165° degrees Fahrenheit, the reaction of malt with the water will produce more unfermentable sugars, giving your beer potential for lower ABV and a fuller body, thanks to sugars your yeast won’t eat up and convert to alcohol.

 

3. Add oats or wheat
One of the most popular ingredients used in stouts to add extra thickness are flaked oats. By using flaked oats as up to 10 percent of your malt bill, you can add greater viscosity.

Shop Steam Freak KitsFor ease of using oats, choose rolled or flaked oats. To convert starches from the oats into unfermentable sugars, you’ll need to mash the oats with barley malt, which allows for the chemical conversion necessary.

Usually a ratio of one pound oats to one pound barley will do the trick. All this makes the use of oats more ideal for partial or all-grain brewers, but not impossible for extract brewers who steep malt for their beer recipe. Extract brewers just may not get the same kind of body other brewers may find.

 

4. Use lactose sugar 
All is not lost for extract brewers, however. One easy way to add creaminess to mouthfeel and some extra body to a homebrew is with lactose sugar, which will also provide some sweetness to your beer. It’s a common ingredient in sweet stouts. Lactose isn’t fermentable and can be added during the boiling process – usually with 10 to 15 minutes to go.

Shop Home Brew Starter KitSome homebrewers also add it at bottling to increase its flavor. About a pound per five gallons will do just fine.

 

That’s the basics of how to make a full-bodied beer, but adding increased body to all your homebrews isn’t ideal – you wouldn’t want a thick, heavy Pilsner – but knowing how to make a full-bodied homebrew beer anytime you like is a great thing to have in your arsenal of homebrewing knowledge.
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Bryan Roth is a beer nerd and homebrewer living in Durham, North Carolina. You can read his thoughts on beer and the beer industry on his blog, This Is Why I’m Drunk, and send him suggestions on how to get his wife to drink craft beer via Twitter at @bryandroth.

Start Homebrewing Beer: There’s Never Been A Better Time Than Now!

A Homebrewer Homebrewing Beer KitAt a time when there are more than 3,000 breweries across the country, the options of finding a unique, tasty brew are easier than ever.

But it may be just as easy to find something novel in our own backyards – literally.

While breweries get plenty of worthy attention, there are now about 1.2 million Americans homebrewing beer scattered across the U.S., the most ever identified by the American Homebrewers Association. As the hobby has grown, it’s clear that there’s never been a better time to start homebrewing beer, and the AHA’s annual homebrew supply shop survey proves it.

“Now it is relatively easy to consistently brew beers that are just as good – if not better – than what you find on the store shelf or at the brew pub down the road,” said Ed Kraus, owner of E.C. Kraus Home Wine and Beer Making Supplies.

Here are three reasons why it’s a good time to start homebrewing beer:

 

1. It’s more accessible than ever
Many individuals began homebrewing beer because they’ve got a friend or family member who has been actively brewing. With over a million homebrewers now, there are more people to learn from.

Even better, gaining experience and learning about the homebrewing hobby is simple. Along with helpful websites like HomeBrew Talk, magazines like Brew Your Own or blogs like this one, people have access to answers to just about any question on homebrewing beer.

Some of this shows up in their purchases, too. Over the last three years, homebrew store owners have noticed a decrease in purchases for extract batches with an increase in all-grain. What used to be a big plunge for the beginner is now a first step when the they start homebrewing beer.All-Grain Homebrewer

“All-grain is so much more fun than extract because you really get to dial in to every variable,” said Ashley Bower, a Columbia, South Carolina-based homebrewer who started with extract in 2010 and has made all-grain batches since November 2013. “Extract is a fantastic way to start homebrewing beer and you can make great beer as long as you have fresh extract.  But if you want to dive a little deeper into the hobby, all-grain is the way to go.”

 

2. All ages are getting involved
According to the survey, last year saw a 24 percent increase in beginner homebrewing beer kit sales, but it’s who’s buying them that stands out. Homebrewers under the age of 30 have begun to decrease, while those 40 years old and up have seen a 5 percent increase in the last three years. The largest age range is still 30 to 39, which makes up just over half of all homebrewers, but that’s also changing.

Older Homebrewer“The hobby has become more mature,” Ed said. “I feel that it is only natural for the age range to become wider over time. We are to a point where many of the home brewers in their 50s were in their 20s or 30s when they started or tried homebrewing beer for the first time.”

Ed noted that’s made an interesting challenge for shop owners, as the range of ages and experiences between individuals homebrewing beer means homebrew shops need to be flexible in what kind of ingredients they carry. He said younger brewers have a fun time creating all sorts of experimental homebrews these days, while older homebrewers may hone in on more “classic” styles like a Russian imperial stout or English bitter to keep it simple.

 

3. We’re pushed by peersHomebrewers At Homebrewer Club
Want to get better at homebrewing beer? You can get great feedback by entering local or national competitions, which homebrewers are now doing in droves. The most recent National Homebrew Competition was one of the most competitive fields of entries ever, with 8,172 homebrews judged in 2014 – a 45 percent increase in the number of competitors.

With more than 1,700 registered homebrew clubs in the U.S., more people are getting into the hobby and becoming more creative with the homebrews, meaning everyone has the potential to learn and become better at homebrewing beer.

“Meeting with other homebrewers who are homebrewing beer to taste and discuss your brews is a catalyst for competition participation,” Ed said. “Because of the clubs, homebrew competitions are easier to know about and easier to participate in than before, and the quality of ingredients and the availability of better brewing equipment has lent itself to the production of some outstanding homebrews.”Shop Home Brew Starter Kit

 

Now “is” a great time to start homebrewing beer, so why not celebrate? Find a new beer recipe, call a friend or two and raise a glass to the hobby of homebrewing!
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Bryan Roth is a beer nerd and homebrewer living in Durham, North Carolina. You can read his thoughts on beer and the beer industry on his blog, This Is Why I’m Drunk, and send him suggestions on how to get his wife to drink craft beer via Twitter at @bryandroth.

Some Hot Info For Brewing Beer With Coffee

Coffee Beans For BrewingGuest blogger Bryan Roth shares some tips for brewing beer with coffee.
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I used to drink coffee, but haven’t had the stuff in years. I loved the aroma and flavor, but hated depending on it to function in the morning.

These days, the only time I drink coffee is when it’s in my beer.

Coffee porter, coffee stout … I’ve even had a coffee IPA. For fans of both beer and the caffeinated drink, there are lots of great options. So how can you mix the two for homebrewing? It’s easier than you think.

 

Choose a Style

The first step for brewing a beer with coffee is determining what kind of base style you’d like to use. These days, brewers are all over the map with what kind of beer they’ll add coffee to, but classic examples include Founder’s Breakfast Stout, brewed with Sumatra and Kona coffee, and Kona’s Pipeline Porter, which uses Kona coffee as well.

You’ll often see coffee beers use a malt-forward base, as coffee flavors match the profile of roasted barley and chocolate malt very nicely. There are a lot of great stout and porter kits you can use as your base, but consider an imperial stout or robust porter for ideal pairings.

That said, experimentation is the beauty of homebrewing, so maybe an American pale ale with coffee is more up your alley. When it comes to brewing beer with coffee everything is open to one’s own interpretation.

 

Pick a Coffee

Once you know the style of homebrew you’d like to use, you’ll want to pick a coffee that matches nicely. Not all coffee beans are the same.

Coffee Stout Beer Ingredient KitTechnically speaking, any style of coffee will work, but you may have specific tastes or even strength you prefer. Espresso will be much stronger in perceived coffee flavor than a “cinnamon roast” coffee bean, which might offer more nut-like flavor. The National Coffee Association has a great list of roasts – from light to dark – that may help you find the kind you want.

One thing to be aware of when brewing beer with coffee is the oil content of beans, as it may impact head retention and mouthfeel of your homebrew. Depending on the beer style you’re using, that may or may not be an issue. An imperial stout, for example, isn’t as reliant on a big stack of foam as a pale ale.

 

Adding Coffee To Beer

Depending on the intensity of coffee flavor you seek, you may be interested in adding coffee to your boil, but the best way to get that roasted taste is in secondary fermentation. To maximize flavor without too much astringency, try cold brewing coffee.

Making a cold brew coffee is easy. Take a cup of ground beans and mix with four cups of cold or room temperature water. Let it sit for 12 to 24 hours, strain the coffee grounds from the water and you’re set. You’re left with less acidic, more flavorful coffee.

Shop FermentersKeep in mind the risk for infection is fairly low as long as you properly sanitize whatever the cold brewed coffee touches.

As an alternative, you could also place ground coffee beans into a muslin bag and steep them like a tea for up to seven days in your secondary. Just make sure to sample your beer as the ground beans steep to make sure you achieve the right amount of flavor you’re looking for.

Ready to start brewing beer with coffee? Check out the Captain Cogsworth Coffee Stout, which has all the ingredients prepared for you.
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Bryan Roth is a beer nerd and homebrewer living in Durham, North Carolina. You can read his thoughts on beer and the beer industry on his blog, 
This Is Why I’m Drunk, and send him suggestions on how to get his wife to drink craft beer via Twitter at @bryandroth.

Express Your Mad Scientist: Experimenting With Homebrew

Man Experimenting With HomebrewTo the chagrin of some, I like to experiment in the kitchen. Rather than follow set recipes or guidelines, I like to let the whimsy of the moment guide me, allowing sauces, herbs, and spices to point me in the direction of a dish, not necessarily knowing if the destination of my journey will end up good or bad.

It may be an undisciplined way to cook, but it is fun. Occasionally, it also turns out to be the way I want to brew. I like to go off the beaten path and experimenting with homebrew. While it’s important to hone your skills with the basics, what great chef – or brewer – wouldn’t want to venture off the commonly taken path from time to time?

The best part? Experimenting with homebrew is not hard. Here are a few tips for doing your own beer brewing experiments and creating beers that are specific to your unique tastes: Continue reading