Beers for People Who Don’t Like IPAs

Malty BeerDespite the fact that IPAs are the best-selling craft beer in the US these days, not everyone is into hoppy beer. Some would prefer a malty beer style. In many cases, people who are new to craft beer may prefer to start with something more approachable before moving on to things like Heady Topper. Heck, I like IPAs and sometimes I’m just in the mood for something different.

One of the reasons people homebrew is so they can drink beers they can’t get at the store. With so many IPAs on the shelves, it’s nice to brew a malty beer or … to mix things up.

If for whatever reason you’re not into IPAs – you don’t like the bitterness, or you’re just ready for a change – consider one of these malty beer styles for your next homebrew:

The Malt Bomb
Well, the opposite of a hop bomb is a malt bomb. These beers feature – you guessed it – malt as the main flavor ingredients. You could try a caramel-rich Irish Red Ale, a bready, toasty German Bock, or a clone of Sierra Nevada and Ninkasi’s Double Latte Coffee Stout.

Belgian Ale
Belgian beers offers a level of complexity you don’t always get from IPAs, mainly due to the use of Belgian ale yeast. If you’re into dry, complex white wines, you might like to try a Hennepin Clone or an Abbey Single. This rich and fruity Rochefort 8 clone is a near perfect copy of one of the most highly regarded beers in the world.

Wheat Beer
This is not necessarily a malty beer style, but the effect is the same. Wheat tends to give beer a sweet, bready flavor and a smooth mouthfeel. On a hot day they sure go down easy! In my mind, Paulaner Hefeweizen is the quintessential German wheat beer. You could also try an American wheat or a Blue Moon clone if you’d like something more citrusy.

Fruit Beer Shop Steam Freak Kits
Adding fruit is a great way to bring some complexity to beer, and may be just the thing a new craft beer enthusiast needs in order to make the jump. Try the chocolate-berry combination of a Blackberry Porter, the tropical fruit flavors of a Hibiscus Mango Blonde Ale, or the tartness of a Cranberry “Lambic”.

Lawnmower Beer 
If you’re looking for something a step or two above macro lager, consider brewing your own American Cream Ale or Honey Blonde Ale. If tailgate quaffability is what you’re after, try brewing this Buddy Light Clone.

Drink up and brew a malty beer style! As they say, variety is the spice of life!

What’s your favorite malty beer style?
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David Ackley is a writer, brewer, and craft beer marketing consultant. He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

“Copperhead” Hoppy Red Ale Beer Recipe

Hoppy Red Ale BeerThis beer started out as many good beers do: attempting to copy, or “clone”, someone else’s good beer. One of my favorite local nano-breweries produces a very hoppy red ale that I have fallen in love with. They list the grains and hops used on their menu, but neither the amounts nor the process.

It wasn’t very difficult to determine the grain bill amounts and the hops to use for the hoppy red ale beer recipe, but the hop schedule was pretty much a guess. I was able to match the IBUs they listed, but like I said, I wasn’t really sure of the hop schedule.

My clone beer tasted fairly similar, although not exactly the same; more copper than red, which is why I call it Copperhead. But it turns out that I started to like this beer better than the one I had been trying to copy. I assume that’s because there is a bit of pride in developing this beer, but also, it’s a fair bit lighter than the professional counterpart, and therefore I can drink more of it and not get as full.

This is the tweaked recipe from the third batch I brewed of this beer. This is absolutely the best beer I’ve ever brewed, and it’s a beer I love to drink. It can even be made into a session beer. This recipe makes a 5-gallon batch. Enjoy!

 

“Copperhead” Hoppy Red Ale Beer Recipe
(5 Gallons, All-Grains)

Specs 
OG: 1.069
FG: 1.017
ABV: 6.8%
IBUs: 80+
SRM: 12

Ingredients

Grain Bill:
11 LB     Pale Two Row
14 OZ    Crystal 20L
8 OZ      Special B Shop Barley Crusher
4 OZ      CaraRed 

Hops:
.5 OZ     Warrior (60 minutes)
1 OZ      Simcoe (20 minutes)
1 OZ      Columbus (10 minutes)
1 OZ      Citra (Flame Out)
2 OZ      Citra (Dry hop – 7 days)

Yeast:
Wyeast 1272 American Ale II (use two packs or make a starter)

Directions
The process is fairly straightforward. Mash all grains at 154°F for 60 minutes, using 1.25 quarts of water per pound of grain. Sparge to about 5.5 gallons and then boil for 60 minutes using the hop schedule above, cool, and add to fermenter. Ferment at 68°F. After 4 to 7 days, when fermentation has slowed substantially, add the final Citra hops and let sit for a week. After two weeks total in the fermenter, I like to clear with gelatin, and then package and enjoy.

If your mash reaches a good efficiency, your starting gravity should be about 1.069. I generally come in a little less than that. If you have room in your fermenter, and want to make this a session beer, you can simply add enough water to bring the OG down to 1.050. This beer is flavorful enough that it can handle that much dilution. It does change the beer, but the result is still a VERY drinkable somewhat-red-to-copper hoppy ale.

Hope you enjoy this hoppy red ale beer recipe! Cheers!
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John Torrance is a database developer, gadget lover, and avid home brewer living in Lafayette, Colorado. When he’s not actively brewing, he’s generally daydreaming about what he’s going to brew for his next batch.

Rinsing Beer Yeast For Reuse

Rinsing Beer YeastWhile it’s possible to pitch wort directly onto an old yeast cake, a better method of reusing yeast is called yeast rinsing. It’s a simple technique that can help make the most of your raw ingredients and keep your yeast cost down. And if you ever decide to take your homebrewing hobby to the pro level, rinsing your beer yeast will become part of your fermentation and yeast handling routine.

 

What is yeast rinsing?

Yeast rinsing is a method of taking a yeast slurry from a fermenting beer and separating the healthy, viable yeast from the dead yeast cells and trub. It’s always best to pitch as pure a yeast culture as possible, and rinsing removes much of the other particulate from the yeast slurry. This yeast can then be reused in another batch of beer. It’s best to reuse yeast from a low to moderate gravity beer after fermentation has started to slow. Yeast used in a high-gravity beer is more likely to be stressed and to produce off-flavors.

 

Directions For Rinsing Beer Yeast

  1. At the end of primary fermentation, boil 2-3 cups of water and chill it to room temperature.
  1. After transferring the beer into secondary, pour the pre-boiled, pre-chilled water into the primary fermenter. Swirl the fermenter to stir up the yeast at the bottom.
  1. Pour the slurry into a sanitized quart-size or larger glass container. A mason jar works well for this. **Remember – everything that touches the yeast at this point should be thoroughly clean and sanitized: the glass jar, the lid, and funnel (if used).
  1. Place the jar in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
  1. The slurry will stratify into three layers: a liquid beer layer on top, a dark layer of trub on the bottom, and a whitish layer of healthy yeast in the middle. That middle layer is what we’re after.
  1. Prepare another sanitized container. Pour off (decant) most of the top layer and discard, then transfer the white yeast layer into the container, leaving behind the darker trub.
  1. Keep refrigerated and use within a week (the sooner the better).Shop Beer Yeast Culturing

 

That’s it! Now you can try rinsing your own beer yeast. Then you’ll be able to reuse it in a new batch of beer! I recommend using a yeast pitch calculator to estimate how much of the yeast slurry to use in your next batch.

 

Some pointers:

  • Though professional brewers may reuse yeast for ten or more generations, I wouldn’t recommend reusing the same yeast more than 2-3 times. You can aim for more if your sanitation practices are spot on, but as soon as you notice fermentation problems, start with a fresh batch of beer yeast.
  • Reusing yeast will take some foresight and planning. Chances are you won’t want to brew the exact same beer back to back, so keep the beers at least similar stylistically. That said, rinsing your beer yeast can open up some interesting cross-over experiments. For example, reuse your English ale yeast in an American IPA, or reuse your Kölsch yeast for an American cream ale.


Have you ever tried rinsing beer yeast? Why or why not?

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David Ackley is a writer, brewer, and craft beer marketing consultant. He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

How Do I Increase the Alcohol Content of Homebrew?

High Gravity Beer Over FlowingWhen making beer at home, yeast turns fermentable sugar into alcohol and CO2. Increase the fermentable sugar, and you increase the potential alcohol content. These higher-alcohol brews are often referred to as “high gravity”.

 

Why increase the alcohol content of a beer?

You may be interested in “upgrading” a beer recipe to a double or imperial version. Say you have a great stout recipe, but want to bump it up to an imperial stout. Add more fermentable sugar, and the potential alcohol goes up.

You may also want to increase the alcohol content of a beer to make it better for aging. Higher alcohol content helps prevent contamination and encourages flavors to develop over time. “Winter warmers” – higher gravity beer, often brewed with spices and other flavorings – make great holiday gifts. Brew a high-gravity spiced ale for New Year’s Eve, and let it age so you can pull it out for future New Year’s Eves and see how the “vintage” changes over time. (Hint: these 1-Liter amber bottles can give your beer an elegant look.)

 

By how much can you increase the content of a homebrew?

Most beer yeast will stall out at 12-15% alcohol by volume, some even way before that, depending on the strain. Some are more alcohol tolerant than others. Beyond a certain point, adding more fermentable sugar than the beer yeast can handle will only make the beer sweeter, not increase its alcohol.

 

Sources of fermentable sugar

There are several ways to add more fermentable sugars to your beer. This increases the original gravity of the beer, which is measured with a hydrometer.

  • Malt – If brewing all-grain or partial mash, adding more malt will increase the gravity. Most of your gravity will come from an increase in base malt, but you may also increase the specialty malts to keep the flavors in balance.
  • Malt extractShop Liquid Malt Extract – Adding malt extract to your recipe is an easy way to add more fermentables for both all-grain and extract brewers. Just mix it right in the kettle as usual.
  • Sugar – Adjunct sugars offer yet another way to raise the gravity of a beer, but don’t limit yourself to plain old white table sugar. There are several types of sugar, from cane sugar and brown sugar to more exotic sugars like candi sugar and panela. Maple syrup and honey are also interesting sugar sources. Keep in mind that nearly 100% of the sugar will be fermented into alcohol. Generally speaking, the darker the sugar, the more color and flavor will be contributed to the beer.

 

Another option: add alcohol directly to the beer

If you want to make something along the lines of a bourbon barrel stout or a wine barrel saison, you can add liquor directly to the beer after fermentation. Flavored liqueurs can also be used to add fruit, chocolate, or coffee flavor to beer. This is a great option if you want to take a five-gallon batch and divide it into different experiments after fermentation.

Though there’s a time and a place for lower-alcohol, session beers, there are times when raising the alcohol content of a homebrew gives it an added level of sophistication. What are some of your favorite high-gravity beers?

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David Ackley is a writer, brewer, and craft beer marketing consultant. He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

Fall Homebrew Recipe: Pumpkin Porter (Extract)

Pumpkin Porter RecipeWith fall approaching, it’s time to get to work on some seasonal brews! And no other beer screams fall like a good pumpkin porter! Below you will find a pumpkin port recipe that’s simple and delicious!

Pumpkin beers are popular this time of year, but brewing one involves figuring out the answers to several questions:

  • What kind of pumpkin, fresh or canned?
  • How to prepare the pumpkin?
  • Should I mash the pumpkin?
  • What kind of spices to use?

As the brewer, it’s up to you to figure out the method that works for you, and it may just come down to how much time you have available. Fresh pumpkin can be used, but it takes time to peel the pumpkin, remove the seeds, chop it up, and bake. Some homebrewers recommend roasting the pumpkin for an hour at about 350˚F for flavor development. In terms of when to add the pumpkin, I suggest mashing it with the rest of the grains. Just be sure to use plenty of rice hulls to avoid a stuck mash.

As for spices, you’re certainly welcome to come up with your own spice blend, but a premixed pumpkin pie spice blend will already have a good balance between the different flavors. Whatever you do, use a light hand on the spices. Cinnamon is usually pretty safe, but it’s easy to go overboard with spices like cardamom, nutmeg, and clove. Start with just a pinch in a five-gallon batch, added at the very end of the boil. If using a pre-mixed spice blend, use half an ounce at the most.

For the pumpkin porter recipe below, I’ve gone with some of the easier methods. Canned pumpkin instead of fresh saves a lot of time and energy, and a premixed pumpkin pie spice blend takes some of the guesswork out of getting the balance right.

 

Pumpkin Porter Recipe (Extract)

Specs 
OG: 1.061
FG: 1.013
ABV: 6.3%
IBUs: 21
SRM: 22

Ingredients
2 lbs. canned organic pumpkin
0.25 lb rice hulls
6.6 lbs. Munich malt extract
1 lb. Caramel 40L malt
Shop Steam Freak Kits0.5 lb. Victory malt
0.5 lb. Chocolate malt
1 oz. Willamette hops at :60
1 oz. Willamette hops at :30
1 tsp. Irish moss at :10
0.25 oz. pumpkin pie spice (ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg) at :0
Wyeast 1056: American ale yeast

 

Directions
Put the canned pumpkin on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and bake at 350˚F for 60 minutes, then mash with the specialty grains and about 1.5 gallons water at 152˚F for one hour. Use a strainer to strain wort into the brew kettle, rinsing the grains and pumpkin with about 1/2 gallon of water at 170˚F. Add the liquid malt extract and enough water to make 3.5 gallons. Bring wort to a boil, then add hops, Irish moss, and spices according to schedule above. Whirlpool, chill, and transfer to a clean, sanitized fermenter. Top off with enough clean, chlorine-free water to make 5.5 gallons. Pitch yeast at 70˚F.

Ferment at 68-70˚F for one week, then transfer to secondary for two. Prime with corn sugar, then bottle.

Do you have a favorite pumpkin porter recipe? What’s your secret?
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David Ackley is a writer, brewer, and craft beer marketing consultant. He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

10 Beer Recipes for Fall Brewing

Beer For FallSomething about the change of weather has a big impact on our taste buds. The pro brewers know this – seasonal beers are beginning to outpace IPAs as the most popular craft beer option. To brew your own fall seasonal beer, consider one (or more!) of these ten beer recipes for fall brewing.

Keep in mind some of these homebrew recipes take time – if you want them ready in time for a special occasion be sure to give yourself at least a month or two head start. Among the ten beers are some fall classics, some winter warmers, and of course, no such list would be complete without at least one IPA.

 

Classic Fall Beer Styles

  • Oktoberfest –Oktoberfest is traditionally brewed in the spring, but frankly it’s a tasty beer any time of year. This amber lager is malty, smooth, and refreshing. If time is an issue, you can always brew it as an ale to have it ready faster.
  • Amber Ale – Maybe it’s the color, but amber ale always strikes me as a good fall beer. This one features caramel malt flavors, medium hop bitterness, and 5% ABV.
  • Brown Ale – Brown ales showcase darker malt flavors, and are often describes as nutty with notes of chocolate. They’re smooth, easy drinking, and work great with grilled meat!
  • Pumpkin Ale – The quintessential beer recipe for fall, a good pumpkin ale tastes just like pumpkin pie! Be sure to brew it by mid-October to have it ready in time for Thanksgiving!

 

Fall Brewing for Winter Drinking

Fall’s a great time to get started on some of the higher gravity beers for the winter. Each of these tasty brews can be aged for several months or longer. Just for fun, save some for next winter to see how the flavor develops over time.

  • BarleywineBarleywine is like the port of the beer world, high alcohol with a complex range of rich caramel malt flavors. At about 10% ABV, this one’s a sipper!
  • Russian Imperial StoutSimilar to barleywine with a higher alcohol content, Russian Imperial Stout features darker malts, giving the beer deep flavors of dark fruity, chocolate, and coffee. This kit comes in at around 8% ABV.Shop Steam Freak Kits
  • Maple Scotch AleA good Scotch ale is rich, malty, and smooth. This one uses 1 lb. of maple syrup for an extra layer of deliciousness! What could be better in the fall.
  • Bock – German bock is a malt-forward lager with a somewhat higher than average alcohol content. Traditional bock is typically 6-7.5% ABV whereas dopplebock may get as high as 12%. This beer recipe kit makes a brown lager at around 7% ABV.
  • Winter Spiced Beer – Spiced beers offer a great opportunity to exercise some creativity, but sometimes it’s best to start with an established homebrew recipe to develop a sense of different spices and their flavor contribution. This recipe is an award winner, brewed with honey, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger, and orange peel.

 

IPAs Are Always in Season

One of the few IPAs made specifically for the winter also happens to be one of my favorites:


What are some of your favorite beer recipes for fall brewing?

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David Ackley is a writer, brewer, and craft beer marketing consultant. He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

Tracking Your Homebrew Fermentation

Hydrometer In Homebrew FermentationDuring fermentation, yeast consumes sugar and turns it into alcohol and carbon dioxide. But yeast also produces a range of byproducts that have a huge effect on the flavor of beer. Doing some simple tracking of your homebrew fermentation is one thing you can do to analyze how the beer yeast is performing.

 

Why Track Your Homebrew Fermentation?

The more information you have, the easier it will be to address potential problems. The more you can learn about managing a fermentation, the better your beer will be!

Fermentation tracking helps you identify potential trouble areas. With just some basic notes on temperature and gravity, you can use this information to evaluate yeast performance. Maybe you’ll discover that fermentation temperature tends to peak on the second or third day. Now you can do something about it.

Towards the end of fermentation, it will be especially important to take gravity readings, as this is the best way to determine when fermentation is complete. Two to three days of consecutive readings indicate that fermentation is done. If you can more accurately predict when fermentation will complete, then you might be able to shave a few days off primary fermentation and have beer ready to drink that much sooner!

Tracking a homebrew fermentation becomes even more important if you are reusing yeast. You may find that when using a fresh yeast pitch, the fermentation goes relatively quickly. But with each successive reuse of yeast, the speed of fermentation may start to lag. When the fermentation deviates from the standard fermentation curve, it may be time for a fresh pitch.

 

Basic Note-Taking When Tracking a Homebrew Fermentation

To track your homebrew fermentation, take some readings at around the same time each day during fermentation:

  1. Make note of the fermentation temperature.
  2. Take a sanitary sample with a thief.
  3. Shop RefractometersTake a gravity reading with a hydrometer. You can also use a refractometer. It requires a smaller sample size, but values will need to be adjusted due to the presence of alcohol. There are various tools online that can be used to adjust the reading.
  4. Optional: take a pH reading (pH should drop during fermentation). You can use a digital pH meter or pH papers to do this.
  5. Plot the values onto a graph.
  6. Evaluate the curve.

Gravity values for a normal fermentation should resemble something of an S-curve – a slow decline to start with (day one, lag phase, while yeast are reproducing), followed by a sharper decline for the bulk of fermentation, followed by a slow down as most of the sugars are consumed and the yeast starts to settle out.

Though it’s not imperative that you track your homebrew fermentation, it can be a helpful tool when trying to optimize your procedures. And if you’re a big brewing geek like me, it’s just one more reason to distract yourself from whatever you’re supposed to be doing and do beer stuff instead!

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David Ackley is a writer, brewer, and craft beer marketing consultant. He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

Grapefruit IPA Recipe (Partial Mash)

Beer And Grapefruit ZestGrapefruit can be a divisive flavor – you either love it or you don’t. Some people – maybe you grew up eating grapefruit for breakfast – can’t get enough of its bitter, sour, pungent citrus flavor. In fact, some hops varieties are known for their grapefruit flavor.

California’s Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits capitalized on grapefruit’s affinity for pairing with hops with their Grapefruit Sculpin. It’s a spinoff on their highly-rated Sculpin IPA, using the grapefruit to enhance the citrus notes in the hops.

The recipe below, while not an exact clone of Grapefruit Sculpin, uses the same principle to craft a delightful summer IPA. It has a pale malt base enhanced with some caramel malt and rye malt for a little sweetness, some extra complexity, and mouthfeel. Amarillo hops throughout the second half of the boil provide a citrusy platform enhanced by grapefruit peel. And as a final touch, this brew is bottled with honey to provide just a little sweet note in the background.

Enjoy this one in the sun!

 

Grapefruit IPA Recipe (Partial Mash)

Specs 
OG: 1.061
FG: 1.015
ABV: 6%
IBUs: 49
SRM: 8-9

Ingredients 
5 lbs. light dry malt extract
1.5 lbs. Maris Otter malt
1 lb. Caramel 20L malt
0.5 lb. Victory malt
0.5 lb. rye malt
0.5 oz. Bravo hops at :60
1 oz. Amarillo hops at: 30
1 oz. Amarillo hops at :15
1 oz. Amarillo hops at :5
1 oz. grapefruit peel at :5
1 pack Wyeast 1056: American Ale yeast, pitched into a 2L starterShop Beer Flavorings
1 cup honey for bottling

Directions 
The day before brewing, prepare a 2L yeast starter. On brew day, take all of the malted grains and mash in 1.25 gallons water at 152˚F for 60 minutes. Strain wort into the brew kettle, sparge grains with about half a gallon of water at 170˚F, and add enough clean water to the kettle to make three gallons. Begin to heat the wort, mixing in the dry malt extract. Bring wort to a boil, then add Bravo hops. After thirty minutes, add one ounce of Amarillo hops. After 15 minutes, add one ounce Amarillo hops. After ten minutes, add the remaining Amarillo hops and the grapefruit zest. Boil for five minutes, then chill wort and strain into a clean, sanitized fermenting bucket. Top off with enough cool, chlorine-free water to make five gallons and mix well to aerate. When wort is about 70˚F, pitch yeast starter. Ferment at 68˚F until complete. On bottling day, use one cup of honey as the priming sugar. Bottle condition for 2-3 weeks and enjoy!

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David Ackley is a writer, brewer, and craft beer marketing consultant. He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

6 Ways To Avoid A Homebrew Hangover

HangoverOne homebrewing topic that doesn’t get enough attention is over-consumption. Sure, we like to savor our beer, but having five gallons worth of it on hand makes it pretty tempting to imbibe more than we should. If for no other reason, avoiding a toxic hangover is reason enough to moderate how much beer we drink.

Without getting preachy, if you’re someone who wants to reduce your alcohol intake – and avoid the homebrew hangover that comes with it – you might consider some of these options:

 

  1. Brew lower gravity beers – “Session” beers – those with 4.5-5% or less alcohol by volume – are all the rage these days. It seems that consumers are more interested in enjoying a refreshing beverage over the course of a few hours, as opposed to getting the most ABV bang for your buck. You might consider keeping at least one session beer in the rotation on a regular basis. Some good options include a mild, summer ale, or English bitter.
  1. Drink from a keg – One of the advantages of a draft system is that you can pour as much or as little as you’d like. Want more than one beer but less than two? Easy! Draft systems are great for limiting your daily consumption (but it’s just as tempting to overdo it, so be careful!).
  1. Mix a shandy – Planning a long drinking session? Stretch your beer out further by blending it with something non-alcoholic, like ginger beer or soda. It sounds weird, I know, but they can actually be really refreshing and be an enjoyable way to avoid the homebrew hangover. Check out Shandy is Dandy for some shandy mixing recommendations.
  1. Avoid fusel alcohols – This point has more to do with the quality of the alcohol than the quantity. Fusel alcohols, or higher alcohols as they’re sometimes called, are often responsible for splitting headaches. By keeping your fermentation temperature under control, you can limit fusel alcohol production and at least some of the headache that comes with a hangover. Reducing fusel alcohols will have the adding benefit of reducing solvent-like off-flavors in your beer.Shop Draft Systems
  1. Drink with food and water – Keeping hydrated is key to avoiding a homebrew hangover. If drinking at a hot homebrew festival or similar event, aim for a 1:1 ratio of beer to water (for every beer you try, drink an equal amount of water). And be sure to get some food in your stomach – just the break from drinking can be enough to keep things under control.
  1. Eat yogurt and dry yeast? You might have seen a recent news article about Jim Koch of Boston Beer Co. having a “secret remedy” that allows him to drink all day without getting drunk. I’m not sure about the validity of this method, but it’s worth a try, right?

 

What strategies do you use to keep from avoiding a homebrew hangover? Share in the comments below…
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David Ackley is a writer, brewer, and craft beer marketing consultant. He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

Controlling Esters in Your Homebrew

Ester coming from beerEsters are one of many byproducts of fermentation and they’re an important flavor element of many beer styles that are produced by the beer yeast. When things go well, the esters lend a subtle complexity to beer with aromas usually described as fruity, sometimes banana. But when yeast is stressed, ester production may go overboard, and in addition to a number of other compounds, may contribute to some unpleasant, solvent-like off-flavors. This is the double-edged sword of homebrew yeast esters.

The key to getting good ester production from your yeast is keeping them happy and healthy. This means pitching an appropriate number of yeast cells and maintaining a fermentation temperature that is within a target range. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to achieving the right level of ester production. The right fit will be determined by the yeast strain, the beer style, and the gravity of the beer. For example, what’s appropriate in a Belgian tripel would be out of place in an Irish stout – though it could make for an interesting Belgian stout!

But regardless of the style of beer you’re brewing, you’ll want to make sure that homebrew ester production is balanced. It really comes down to yeast strain selection, temperature control, and pitch rate.

 

Yeast Strain Selection

First, pick a yeast strain that is typical for the style of beer you’re brewing. If you aren’t brewing to style, then select a strain that embodies the flavor and aroma characteristics you’re going for. American ale strains tend to have relatively low ester production and so are often described as “clean.” English ales often exhibit some mild fruity character, so English ale yeast strains produce slightly more fruity esters. Belgian yeasts and other expressive strains, like German hefeweizen yeast, are known for higher levels of ester and phenol production. Lagers, in general, tend to have very little ester production.

 

Using Temperature to Manage Flavor and Aroma

After you’ve picked your yeast strain, decide how estery you want the beer to be. Higher fermentation temperatures tend to increase ester production. Many brewers who consider esters a key flavor component of their Belgian ales deliberately ferment their beers in excess of 75˚F. I’ve even heard of a brewer who won’t ferment a saison below 90˚F!Shop Liquid Beer Yeast

On the other hand, if you want to brew a clean ale that lets the malt and the hops shine through, you won’t want to ferment at such extreme temperatures. You will want to do what you can to keep homebrew ester production low. All beer yeast is packaged with temperature guidelines. If you want to avoid excessive esters, stay away from the high end of that range. This may mean getting a fermentation chamber or at the very least setting up a swamp cooler for your fermenter.

 

Pitch Rate

A key to keeping homebrew esters in check is pitching an adequate amount of yeast. Underpitching tends to drive fruity ester production, so use a yeast pitch calculator to make sure your yeast starter is big enough. On the other hand, underpitching may work to your benefit. Some brewers deliberately underpitch hefeweizen yeast to increase the banana esters the style is known for.

Learning how to best control homebrew esters will largely come from experience, but there is a decent amount of information online about the characteristics of different beer yeast strains. Next time you brew a beer, do a little research on other brewers’ experience with your yeast strain of choice. With the right yeast selection, fermentation temperature, and starter size, you’ll be well on your way to brewing a well-balanced beer with the perfect level of esters!

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David Ackley is a writer, brewer, and craft beer marketing consultant. He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.