An All-Grain Brewer’s Worst Nightmare — How To Fix A Stuck Mash

Stuck MashA stuck mash can really throw a wrench into your brew day. Things are going great: you planned your beer recipe, purchased all your homebrewing ingredients, mashed in, and pH and temperature are right where you want them. Then you start the sparge and collecting the wort from your mash tun, and all you get it a trickle – then it stops completely. What’s supposed to take an hour extends into two hours or more as you try to figure out how to separate the wort from the grain… what to do!

The best thing to do, of course, is everything in your power to avoid a stuck mash. No one wants a sparge that takes too long. In the event a stuck mash occurs, however, more drastic action is required. With that said, here are tips for preventing a stuck mash and tips to fix a stuck mash.


Tips for Preventing a Stuck Mash

  • Clean your mash tun between each use. This goes beyond just a soak in One-Step. Take apart the various components of your mash tun and get in there to scrub ‘em out well.
  • Don’t over-crush. When crushing the malted grains, make sure they aren’t crushed too finely. If there’s a lot of flour in the grist, it can really gunk up the wort outlets.
  • Some grains tend to get sticky, especially wheat, rye, and oats. Add rice hulls to your mash to make sure that wort can flow without getting clogged. The hulls won’t affect the flavor, color, or gravity of your beer.Shop One Step Cleanser
  • Watch you water-to-grain ratio. The recommended ratio is 1-1.5 quarts of water per pound of grain. Some all-grain beer recipes call for a thinner or thicker mash. If your equipment tends to give you a stuck mash, lean towards the higher end of the range. Take good notes so you can build upon your previous experiences!
  • Take your time. When your mash is complete, draw off the first runnings slowly, allowing the grain bed to set. Draw off too fast and the grain bed can compact on itself, creating a stuck mash.


How to Fix a Stuck Mash

  • Stir it up. If you’re lucky, a quick, vigorous stir will be all it takes to fix your stuck mash. You’ll have to reset the grain bed, so draw off the wort slowly, gradually increasing the rate of flow.
  • Clear that clog. Shop FermentersIt the stir didn’t fix things, chances are good that there’s a clog in your mash tun. Dump the mash into a spare fermenting bucket. Since you will eventually boil the wort, the bucket doesn’t have to be sanitized, but it should be clean. Take apart your equipment, clear the clog if there is one, return the mash to the mash tun and start over.
  • Use a colander. If you still can’t get your wort to flow, you probably need a new mash tun! To save your brew, pour the mash through a clean strainer and into your brew pot. The wort in the brew pot can be run through the strainer and the collected grains multiple times to improve clarity. This process is called a vorlauf.


To be sure, having a stuck mash can be a real pain. But don’t let them stop you from making great beer! If the sparge is taking too long you now know what to do to fix the stuck mash. Once it’s fixed, relax, have a homebrew, and take steps to prevent having stuck mashes in the future.

Do you have a stuck mash horror story? Share in the comments!
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

What’s The Difference Between Ale And Lager Beers?

Assorted Beers In GlassesHow many times have you heard the question, “What’s the difference between ale and lager beers?” In fact, on a recent brewery tour, I overheard someone ask “What’s the difference between a lager and a pilsner?” A harmless question, but when the tour guide didn’t know the answer, it was all I could do not to smack myself in the forehead with the nearest five-gallon keg!

Now, naming conventions have changed over the years, so it’s easy to get confused. Let’s see if we can shed some light on the topic of ales vs lagers.


Ales vs. Lagers: What’s the Difference?

Let’s start top level. It’s generally agreed that there are two kinds of beer lagers and ales. (There are some hybrid styles that fall somewhere in the middle, but for now, let’s stick to the two main ones.) Within each broad category, there are dozens of different types of ales and lager beer styles. For example, pilsner is simply a style of lager, which can be further broken down into Czech-style or Bohemian pilsner, American-style pilsner, etc. One good way to get a sense of ale and lager beer styles is to look at a chart like this one.

When it comes to brewing, the difference between ale and lager beers becomes apparent. The two primary factors that make the difference are brewing yeast and fermentation practice.

Lagers are typically made using a bottom-fermenting beer yeast, which prefers cooler fermentation temperatures. As a result, lagers take more time to ferment and require homebrewers to have firm control over fermentation temperatures. Lager beer styles generally ferment at around 40°-50°F, which usually requires a dedicated room or refrigerator. For these reasons, most beginning homebrewers start with ales because they will ferment at room temperature.

Shop Steam Freak KitsAles are typically brewed using top-fermenting beer yeasts and slightly warmer temperatures. As a result ales ferment faster and are much easier to manage in terms of fermentation temperature.

Both ale and lager beer styles can run the gamut of color, gravity, and bitterness. Sometimes people think that ales are dark and heavy, while lagers are light in color and body. Don’t let the macro brand cheap lagers fool you! Lagers can be dark, hoppy, and high-gravity.

Here are some traditional lager beer styles that you may want to try to get a sense of the depth in the lager category:

  • Czech/Bohemian Pilsner – Compared to American light lagers, Czech pilsners have a much more assertive hop presence achieved through the use of noble hops. Steam Freak Pilsner Urkel is a clone of the classic Czech pilsner, Pilsner Urquell.
  • German Bock – A bock is a high-gravity lager (6-7% ABV) with a prominent malty character that’s both sweet and complex. Dopplebocks range from about 7-10% alcohol by volume. The Steam Freak Spring Loaded Bock features deep, rich malty flavors with subtle hop aroma.
  • SchwarzbierShop Home Brew Starter Kit – One of my all-time favorite beer styles, black lagers are chocolatey, roasty, and smooth. Here some more details on brewing a Schwarzbier.
  • Oktoberfest/Märzen – An Oktoberfest is an amber lager also known as Märzen. Read these tips to brew your own Oktoberfest beer!

As the craft beer movement continues to grow, many of the style guidelines get increasingly blurry. It could even get to the point where the difference ale and lager beer no longer even matters. Imperial pilsners and triple bocks may not fit perfectly into the BJCP guidelines, but they’re all the more reason to love lagers!

What are your favorite lager beer styles?
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

How to Calculate IBUs When Brewing Beer

Hops To Be CalculatedIf you are brewing a specific style of beer or recreating one of your previous batches, calculating your IBUs, or International Bittering Units, that are provided by the hops is one way to dial in the accuracy of your homebrew. There are plenty of free online calculators that will do this for you, but by understanding how to calculate IBUs, you can take your brewing skills to the next level.

Note: IBUs only measure the hop bitterness, or isomerized alpha acids in a beer. Aromas are derived from hops oils, not alpha acids.


How To Calculate IBUs

You can use this calculation before your brew using estimated values, or afterwards to get a more accurate figure.

Before we can calculate the IBUs of a beer, these are the factors we need to know:

  • W – The weight of the hops in the homebrew recipe (usually in ounces in the US).
  • AA – The alpha-acids of the hops in your recipe, expressed as AA%.
  • U – Hops utilization rates (see chart at the bottom). You will need to know the length of time (in minutes) that each of the hops will be boiled in to the wort, as well as the gravity of wort at the end of the boil (in gallons).
  • V – Volume of wort (in gallons) at the end of the boil.

This is the formula for calculating IBUs:

IBUs = (AA% x U x W x 7489)/V

But where does the 7489 come from? This is a correction value that helps us complete the formula in US units (to compute in metric units, calculate weight in grams, volume in liters, and change the correction value to 1000).shop_hops

So, what you will do is calculate the IBUs for each hop addition in your homebrew recipe, then add them all together to calculate the total IBUs in a beer.

As an example, this past weekend I brewed a 10 gallon batch of American Brown Ale with a starting gravity of 1.060 and the following hop schedule:

  • 2 oz. East Kent Goldings hops (5.2 AA%) at 60 minutes left in boil
  • 1 oz. Willamette (4.7 AA%) at :30
  • 2 oz. East Kent Goldings (5.2 AA%) at :10

Let’s plug in some number to see how to calculate the IBUs. Starting with the first hop addition, we input the alpha acids as a decimal. (Remember to shift the decimal two places to change it from a percentage to a decimal number.) Then, we need to look at the hops utilization rate when boiled for a 60 minute boil in 1.060 gravity wort. Looking at the chart below, that number is 0.211. The weight is 2 and the volume is 10:

IBUs of first addition = (.052 x .211 x 2 x 7489)/10 = 16.43 IBUs

Then we do it again for each of the next two additions:

IBUs of second addition = (.047 x .162 x 1 x 7489)/10 = 5.7 IBUs

IBUs of third addition = (.052 x .076 x 2 x 7489)/10 = 5.92 IBUs 

Add them all together, and the total IBUs for this beer is about 28 IBUs.

Shop Steam Freak KitsThat’s how to calculate IBUs. As with many things in homebrewing, IBUs are an approximation. There are a lot of factors in play, but knowing how to calculate IBUs gives you a lot more control over your brew. Plus, if you want to recreate a beer recipe that you’ve brewed before, but with hops that have different alpha acid percentages, you can use the formula to adjust the weight of each hops addition needed to arrive at the same IBUs.

Do you calculate the IBUs of your homebrew? Do you use an online calculator or do you go the old fashioned route?


Hops Utilization Chart

Hops Utilization Chart

Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

Liquid Beer Yeast vs Dry Beer Yeast For Homebrewing

Liquid Beer Yeast and Dry Beer YeastGuest beer blogger, Heather Erickson, shares some of her tips and insights about liquid and dry beer yeast.

When I first got into homebrewing, I was introduced to the Wyeast Smack Pack. This is a pouch of liquid yeast that has within it another pouch of activator that can be busted open by smacking it.

I can’t lie, it was kind of fun smacking that direct beer yeast activator and watching those little yeasties start working. Over the years, I have experimented with dry beer yeast and well, I’m torn between the results. Below are some of the pros and cons of liquid beer yeast vs dry beer yeast.

  • Pro: Liquid beer yeast offers variety
    With Wyeast offering over 50 different beer yeast strains for homebrewing, variety is quite possibly the spice of life with liquid yeasts. From a Belgian Strong Ale to a good ole American Ale, the variety of liquid beer yeast strains seem pretty endless. Besides the everyday ale/lager yeasts, liquid yeast varieties also include seasonal offerings.
  • Pro: Dry beer yeast keeps longer
    As a once a month home brewer, I find myself in two scenarios: either I am scrambling for brewing ingredients the day of, or I am crossing my fingers that my beer yeast is still healthy. The dry yeast alternative negates that second worry. Staying fresh for up to two years in the refrigerator, a dry yeast option like Fermentis Safale US-05 is a high-performing alternative to my usual go-to liquid beer yeast smack pack.
  • Con: Liquid yeast is more expensive
    If we are just looking at the numbers, on average, a liquid beer yeast pouch is about twice as much, if not more, than a packet of dry beer yeast. While cost might not be a concern if you prefer a certain type of flavor that a beer yeast provides, the economics are still worth noting.Shop Stir Plate
  • Con: You won’t know if your dry beer yeast is healthy unless you rehydrate
    Rehydrating dry beer yeast prior to pitching seems to be a point of contention among homebrewers. While some believe this step is necessary to ensure healthy yeast cells, others feel that it isn’t. Even dry yeast manufacturers are torn on the topic. A dry beer yeast packet boasts anywhere from 200-300 billion yeast cells, compared to 100 billion in liquid yeast. Pitching the dry yeast straight into your fermenter without rehydration could end up killing some of those cells, up to 50% or so. Taking that into account, the number of cells in both liquid beer yeast and dry beer yeast would end up being just about equal.

Besides water, yeast is arguably the most important ingredient in beer. Without it, you just have sugar water. That’s why there has always been such a big debate about using liquid beer yeast vs dry beer yeast for homebrewing your beer. It’s an important piece of the brewing puzzle.

My advice? Test out your tried and true Pale Ale recipe with a Wyeast 1056 and a Fermentis Safale US-05. Whichever pint you prefer is the yeast you should use.

Happy brewing!
Heather Erickson is a homebrewer with three years experience and has competed in the GABF Pro-Am Competition. She writes the blog This Girl Brews and is a regular contributor to homebrewing sites. Find her on Twitter at @thisgirlbrews.

Mash pH: Controlling And Adjusting

Mash pH StripsAll-grain brewers need to mash their grains in order to extract fermentable sugars. This process, called conversion, takes place in water under certain conditions of volume, temperature, pH, and time. Today, we’ll talk about mash pH: ideal mash pH range, effects of being too high or too low, and how to use pH strips or digital meter to take pH readings and make corrective adjustments.


About Mash pH

pH is simply a measurement of how acidic or alkaline something is. On a scale of 0 to 14, a pH of 0.0 is highly acidic, 7.0 is neutral, and 14.0 is highly alkaline.

The ideal mash pH range of 5.0 to 5.5. A pH of 5.4 is considered “optimal” for most applications, and it’s a good target for brewers new to homebrew mashing.


Measuring Mash pH

Whether mashing for the first time or brewing your 100th batch, it’s important to measure your mash pH. No one wants to find out after the fact that their mash was ineffective and their target original gravity much too low.

The least expensive option for measuring mash pH is the pH test strip. For just a few dollars, brewers can take dozens of readings. All you do is dip the colored end of the strip into the mash for a second or two, remove it, and then read the color. The trade-off of the low price tag is that it’s kind of difficult to get an super, accurate reading from the test strips. Personally, the best I can do is approximate within about 0.2 how close I am to the target pH. This method might work fine for partial mash brewing and beginning all-grain brewers, but before long, they may want an upgrade.Shop Digital pH Meter

The solution is a digital pH meter. Though it may be a little more expensive than a pack of test strips, the digital meter is significantly more accurate, and well worth the investment in my opinion.


Mash pH Adjustments

So now that you can measure your mash pH, how can you adjust it if it’s too high or too low?

To lower your mash pH (increase the acidity of the mash), add half a teaspoon of gypsum to a 5 or 6 gallon mash and stir well. To increase mash pH, add half a teaspoon of calcium carbonate to a 5 or 6 gallon mash and stir. Take pH readings and keep making adjustments until you are within the ideal mash pH range of 5.0 to 5.5, but do not add more than two teaspoons of either ingredient. If you choose to test the pH of your water prior to mashing in, keep in mind that adding grains to the water will cause the pH to drop.Shop Gypsum

Dealing with a mash pH, taking reading, making adjustments, etc., may sound challenging and technical, but once you get the hang of it, it will become second-nature, and you’ll be well on your way to exercising more control over your craft and brewing the beer that you ultimately want to drink.
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He is a graduate of the Oskar Blues Brew School in Brevard, NC, and founder of the Local Beer Blog.

Simple Style Guide: Brewing Irish Stout

Irish Stout With Clovers An Irish stout is a dark, robust ale, technically considered a dry stout. (Other types of stout include sweet stout, oatmeal stout, American stout, and Russian Imperial stout.)

We can’t talk about Irish stouts without mentioning Guinness. Since the late 1700s, Guinness has been brewing dark, flavorful ales in Dublin. They now distribute their famous stouts all over the world. Murphy’s is another example of Irish stout. It’s somewhat less bitter than Guinness. Try both, as well as a stout from your local brewery, to get a sense of the flavor characteristics that you enjoy in an Irish stout.


Brewing Irish Stout

The easiest way to go about brewing an Irish stout is to use a beer recipe kit. Brewers Best has an excellent Irish Stout Recipe Kit, as does Brewcraft.

For the more adventurous brewers, follow these guidelines to build your own beer recipe.


Grain Bill and Fermentables

An Irish stout gets its dark color and dry, bitter flavor from roasted barley. When brewing Irish stout roasted barley is a “must”. Roasted barley is not malted. Instead, it is steeped in water and then kilned at a high temperature, giving the grain a very dark brown, nearly black, color. This will affect the color of the beer, and can also give the head on the beer a nice tan color. Roasted barley also imparts the dry, bitter flavor of coffee that stouts are known for. It doesn’t take much – Briess recommends using roasted barley for just 3-7% of the total grain bill.Shop Steam Freak Kits

Replace a portion of the roasted barley with black malt or chocolate malt to reduce to dry bitterness. Try Murphy’s, Guinness, and other Irish Stouts to judge how much bitterness you would like.

These ingredients can be combined with mild ale malt or light malt extract to form the majority of your grain bill. Your original specific gravity shouldn’t exceed 1.050.

One defining characteristic of Irish stouts is their creamy mouthfeel. Sometimes this is achieved through the use of flaked barley (Guinness uses about 25% flaked barley in their Guinness draft). Sometimes these Irish stouts are given an extra creamy mouthfeel by using nitrogen instead of CO2 to “carbonate” the beer. Nitrogen forms smaller bubbles than CO2, so they’re less prickly on the tongue. It can be difficult to accomplish this as a homebrewer, though if you’re set up to serve your beer on draft, it can be done with sanitary nitrogen instead of CO2.



English hops work best when brewing Irish stout. The majority of hops in Guinness is Kent Goldings, while Murphy’s uses mostly Target. Shoot for 30-45 IBUs. Since hop aroma is low to none, emphasize the early additions.Shop Home Brew Starter Kit



Irish stouts typically have some mild fruity aromas, which come from esters produced by the yeast. Wyeast 1084: Irish Ale is the best option here. Prepare a yeast starter to achieve a complete fermentation and the dry finish you’re looking for.

With these basics, you’ll brewing Irish stout fit for the pub in no time. What tips do you have for brewing a stout?
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

Special Interview: Dan Bies Of Briess Malt

Dan Bies 4Today we have an extra special guest! In this exclusive interview, Dan Bies of Briess Malt & Ingredients Co. shares his tips for brewing with Briess malts and malt extracts, as well as some insights into the Briess product development process. This is great information for brewers of all levels! We hope you enjoy!

Dan works in the technical service department at Briess. He is their pilot brewer which essentially means he gets to have a lot of fun doing test batches of beer with vast array of products that Briess has to offer.


1. Hi Dan, thanks for taking the time to share your expertise with us today. For starters, can you tell us how you came to work with Briess, how long you’ve been with the company, and what you do there?

The day I started working in the Briess malt analysis lab is the day I became determined to start home brewing. I’ve been at Briess for six years now and my current position is as a Pilot Brewer, Technical Services Representative, and QA Chemist. I help to commercialize new extract products and assist customers with application-related questions on our existing products. I also do recipe and finished product development on a variety of beverages including beer, Malta, and Flavored Malt beverages.


2. Part of the fun of home brewing is developing your own recipes. Can you share with us some of things you think about in terms of malt and malt extract when developing a new beer recipe?

Dan Bies 5When formulating with malt and extract my first consideration is a target style. Once I have this I try to think of what is traditionally used in its formulation and what attributes the ingredients bring to the character of the beer. Next I consider possible substitutions; this usually results in chewing on malts and making malt teas. Lastly, I brew. I typically use extract and grain interchangeably, but I almost always find myself steeping additional grain into extract brews.


3. What are some of the main differences between wort made from extract and wort made from grain? How do these products differ in the their effects on the final beer? Are there any additives in malt extract?

There’s almost no difference when using extracts Briess makes. We brew all of our malt extracts from the same Briess malts used by breweries and home brewers, using traditional brewing techniques in a 500-barrel brewery. By the way, it’s the second largest brewhouse in Wisconsin. Malt and water, that’s all that goes into our extracts. Absolutely no additives are used. Plus, all of our extracts are made using specialty malts to achieve full color and flavor. Some malt extract producers use the boil to develop color and flavor.Dan Bies 2

Extract brewers who use Briess extracts can achieve the same results as an all grain brewer, however they must take care in choosing their ingredients. Liquid malt extracts will develop color and some flavor if they’re not stored properly and exposed to heat. Time can do the same thing, but heat is the worst offender. So it’s really important that malt extracts are properly stored from the time they leave the Briess warehouse. Using the freshest possible liquid malt extract from a reliable distributor is key. You can tell the date a Briess malt extract was produced by reading the lot code. For example, 130521 would be May 21, 2013. The first two digits indicate the year, the middle two the month and the last two the date of production.

If you’re not sure of the freshness we recommend that you use dry extracts. These do not darken or develop flavor defects over time because the products are simply too dry for the negative reactions to occur.


4.  Have you found a ratio of malt extract to grain that works well for you?

Depends on style and desired character. Not all Briess malts are showcased in the CBW® [Brewers Grade Malt Extracts] line. If I ever want to go heavy on specialty malts, but don’t have time for all-grain, I will formulate with specialty malts to match a flavor and color target, steep the malt, then add the remaining fermentables with a light malt extract. I feel that almost any style can be made with a large inclusion of light malt extract and steeped grains. A small amount of Munich 10 or Bonlander® Munich Malt steeped with Pilsen Light extract is a great substitute for Pale Ale Malt.Shop Malted Grains


5. OK, now let’s switch gears and talk a little about product development. I’ve noticed that Briess releases a new variety of malt from time to time. How does Briess go about developing a new malt or malt extract product? What is that process like?

When we determine a new malt or malt extract we would like to add to our standard product list, the first thing we do is bring in all competitor products of the same or similar style. Then we conduct blind sensory, analyze the results and decide the target flavor, color and other attributes it should have. Then we produce pilot batches until the target product is met. Some of the recent introductions only took one try. Then a second blind sensory is held to see how our new malt fits into the category. That process is repeated, if necessary, until we are entirely happy with the results. Then we make several productions, use the new malt or extract in our pilot brewery, develop recipes that showcase it, and then brew at a number of breweries before officially releasing it. Our sensory panel includes our maltsters, brewers, experienced GABF judges, food scientists trained in sensory analysis, and other staff members.


shop_home_brew_starter_kit6. Are there any new products in the pipeline you’d like to share with us?

We recently started producing a high maltose yellow corn syrup for use in gluten-free beers and food. Produced from corn grits, this product is the equivalent of the wort brewers would get if they used corn in their brews; however, it is in a convenient liquid form. This makes brewing with this popular grain easy and avoids the needs for long separate grain cooking and boiling cycles. Because it’s made from grain and unrefined, this type of corn syrup has a pleasing corn flavor, yellow color and some of the vitamins and nutrients needed for yeast nutrition. We made this syrup using Organic Corn so it is all-natural and non-GMO.

Did you enjoy this post? Please take a moment to share it on your favorite social network! Thanks and cheers!
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He is a graduate of the Oskar Blues Brew School in Brevard, NC, and founder of the Local Beer Blog.

The Anatomy Of A Hop Cone

Look at anatomy of hop conePrized by brewers far and wide for its bittering, flavor, and aroma qualities, the hop is an integral part of beer. But what is a hop? What’s inside the hops? What’s the anatomy of a hop cone?

Hops come from a perennial plant called Humulus lupulus (lupulus as in wolf, so named for the voraciousness of the plant’s growth), which sends vines up from a rhizome in the ground. These vines (a.k.a. bines) have been known to climb to 20 feet or higher in a commercial hop field. Hops, the part of the plant used in brewing, are the flowers of the plant. It is the hop flowers’ essential oils and resins that make it so valuable as a beer brewing ingredient.

A hop flower looks like a miniature green pine cone. The resins, commonly referred to as alpha acids, are contained at the base of the hop cone in the lupulin glands. When boiled, these alpha acids are isomerized, a quick shift in molecular structure that makes them soluble in wort.

The alpha acids are what make beer bitter. A simple calculation allows brewers to figure out the IBUs (international bittering units) of their beer and compare their beer to others using a universally accepted scale. The two primary chemicals within the alpha acids are called humulone and cohumulone.

But also within the anatomy of a hop cone are other components that contribute to flavor and aroma. These characteristics are derived from hop oils. Because they’re more delicate than the alpha acids, the hop oils will evaporate if they’re boiled for too long. For this reason, they’re added to the wort late in the boil or afterwards. Commercial brewers may use a hop back, but homebrewers will usually put the hops directly in the secondary fermenter (this practice is called dry hopping).

There are several different types of essential oils within the hop cone, each contributing different flavor and aroma characteristics:

  • Myrcene – floral, citrus, and piney
  • Humulene – spicy, herbal, European
  • Caryophyllene – herbal, European
  • Farnesene & other oils

(If you’re interested, Ray Daniels’ book, Designing Great Beers, is a great source for more info on the different hop oils.)Shop Hops

After being harvested from the hop plant, hop cones are usually processed into pellets. Specialized machinery removes the extraneous vegetative material, preserving the resins and oils. The processing results in higher hops utilization (a measure of how many alpha acids are dissolved in the wort) and makes for easier storage. Some brewers, like Sierra Nevada, still use whole hops, but hop pellets have become the industry standard.

When buying hops for home brewing, fresher is always better (unless brewing a lambic, which is made with aged hops). It’s best to purchase your hops right before you use them. If you will be using the hops within a few days, store them sealed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Otherwise, keep them in the freezer, preferably vacuum-sealed, until you’re ready to brew.

This is the basic anatomy of a hop cone and why it is used in beer. Here’s where you can find more information about hops: (Nearly) Everything You Need To Know About Hops.
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He is a graduate of the Oskar Blues Brew School in Brevard, NC and founder of the Local Beer Blog.

Style Guide For Brewing Brown Ales

Home Brewed Brown AleGenerally speaking, brown ales are relatively mild and malt-forward beers that pair well with many different foods. Sometimes brown ales are nutty. This is from the character of the malted barley being used. Whether you prefer the classic, English version or the slightly more hoppy and robust American-style, brown ales make for good drinking. And without a doubt, brewing brown ales is well worth the effort.

You could try brewing an English brown ale from a kit, or follow a brown ale beer recipe, but sometimes it’s fun to develop your own beer recipe. Here are some guidelines and suggestions for brewing your own brown ale:


Style Guidelines For Brewing Brown Ales

  • ABV: Brown ales tend to be fairly sessionable, usually 4.2 – 5.4% alcohol by volume. American brown ales go as high as 6.2% ABV.
  • IBUs: English brown ales range from 20-30 IBUs. Again, American versions tend to push the envelope a bit, reaching 40 IBUs or higher.
  • Color: Northern English versions are copper to light brown in color, 12-22 degrees on the SRM color scale. Southern English and American brown ales reach as high as 35 SRM.


Water Treatment For Brewing Brown Ales

If brewing English brown Ale, try to recreate the hard water of the UK. To simulate a beer from Burton-on-Trent, use some gypsum and calcium carbonate, or Burton water salts. A brew from London will be high in sodium (100 ppm) and fairly high in carbonate (160 ppm). Note: You should know the mineral content of the water you’re brewing with before you start amending it.


Typical Grain Bill For Brewing Brown Ales

  • All-Grain: As with many beers, a standard 2-row malt will be the foundation (70% or more) of your brew’s grain bill. A US 2-Row Malt will work, or try using Maris Otter for an English Brown. Chocolate Malt is the next most important component of the grain bill and will lend the beer a somewhat roasty, slightly bitter chocolate flavor. You don’t need a lot: 4-8 oz. for a 5 gallon batch should be sufficient (less if using other kilned malts). You may also wish to use up to 1 lb. of Crystal Malt, and maybe a pinch (2 oz. or less) of Roasted Barley if you’d like a more roasty beer.Shop Steam Freak Kits
  • Extract: If brewing with extract, use a combination of light and dark malt extracts or 100% Amber Extract. Definitely consider steeping a little chocolate malt with some lightly kilned crystal malt. Note: Steeping even a little chocolate malt will add a lot of color. To keep your beer brown and not black, steep at most about 4 oz. of chocolate malt.


Adjuncts For Brewing Brown Ales

You may want to consider using a pound or so of brown sugar or a ½ pound of molasses for color and complexity.


Hops For Brewing Brown Ales

If brewing an English brown ale, stick with the classics: East Kent Goldings or Fuggles. For American brown ales, use primarily US-grown varieties. Consider finishing with Cascade, America’s most popular hop.


Yeast For Brewing Brown AlesShop Liquid Malt Extract

For an English Brown Ale, consider using Wyeast’s #1098 British Ale or #1028 London Ale. Nottingham is a good dry beer yeast. If brewing an American brown ale, try Safale US-05 or Wyeast’s #1056 American Ale. Or, if you want to get really creative, use a Belgian Ale Yeast to make it a Belgian brown ale!

So do you have a good Brown Ale recipe? What flavors do you look for when brewing brown ales?
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

3 Ways To Become An All-Grain Brewer!

Brewing Using One Ot The All Grain Brewing MethodsIf you’re new to all-grain brewing, you may have heard about infusion mashing, step mashing, and decoction mashing techniques and wondered what all the fuss is about. Don’t let the jargon confuse you. These are just 3 all grain brewing methods you can use to mash your malted grains to extract fermentable sugar. (If you’re not ready for brewing all-grain yet, you may want to check out our Introduction to Partial Mash Brewing.)

Let’s see if we can shed some light on the three mashing processes:

Single Step Infusion Mash

A single step mash is the most basic style of all grain mashing. It simply involves soaking the crushed grains in water at a steady temperature for a specified period of time. Most homebrewers mash for about 60 minutes, though in theory 30 minutes should do the trick.

This process, called conversion, allows naturally occurring enzymes in the grains to break down the starches into fermentable sugar. One of the cool things about mashing is that by controlling the temperature of the mash, you can change the fermentability of the wort. By mashing in the lower end of the temperature range (around 148°-152°F), you achieve a more fermentable wort, and ultimately a drier beer. Mashing your grains in the upper end of the spectrum (152°-158°F) creates a less fermentable wort and a sweeter beer. Since I don’t have a very advanced brewing system, I’m usually happy just keep the mash in the 150°-154°F ballpark.

Brewers have the option of raising the mash at the end for the mash out. Bringing the mash up to about 170°F will stop enzymatic activity and make it easier to run off the wort.

Multiple Step Infusion Mash

Shop Brew KettelsThis all grain brewing method is often used when brewers need to break down proteins in the malt. This is only necessary when using under-modified lager malts. Because under-modified haven’t germinated as much during the malting process, a protein rest is used to allow enzymes to break down proteins in the grain. In a protein rest, the mash is usually held at around 122°F for 15-30 minutes, and then the mash is raised to conversion temperature (the temperature at which starches are broken down into fermentable sugars). The protein rest generally improves head retention and reduces haze when brewing with under-modified malts and unmalted adjunct grains.

Once again, brewers may want to raise temperature for mash out at the end of the multiple step mash.

Decoction Mash

Of the 3 all grain brewing methods mentioned here, decoction mashing is the most traditional brewing technique. It was developed by brewers who had a lack of temperature control. Brewers would remove a portion of the mash, boil it, and add it back into the mash. They might repeat this up to three times. These brewers found that the decoction process allowed them to bring the mash through each of the various rests and end up with a fermentable wort.Shop All Grain System

Today, since we have thermometers and other methods of temperature control, decoction mashing isn’t really necessary, though some brewing still use decoction mashing for brewing certain traditional styles.

So there you have it: Ales use single step mashing, lagers use multiple steps, and decoction mashing is an option for brewing certain traditional styles.

Which of these all grain brewing methods do you prefer?

David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.