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:


1. Use a Solid Base Recipe

One of the first homebrews I made was a jalapeno blonde ale. I started with an easy extract recipe as a blonde ale base:

7 lbs. Light Malt Extract 
1 oz. Cascade hops at :60
1 oz. Willamette hops at :5
Fermentis Beer Yeast: Safale US-05

By starting with a good beer recipe – one I was familiar with – I knew what to expect from the base beer. From there, I wanted to play with getting the right combination of spice and heat from peppers while also imparting some vegetative pepper flavor. It was all trial and error and an opportunity to play. I sliced and gently roasted the peppers, then “dry-peppered” the beer in secondary.Shop Beer Flavorings

Because I knew what flavor I would get from the base beer, it gave me flexibility to experiment with peppers to adjust the brew to my taste. You can do the same thing using extra ingredients in the secondary fermentation process and pulling tastes from the carboy or bucket to make sure it’s right for you. Try fruits, vegetables, or even herbs and spices when doing a beer brewing experiment!


2. Split Up Batches

When experimenting with  homebrew many homebrewers may start with standard six and five-gallon carboys for fermentation, but if you go a step smaller, you can increase the options for experimentation you have with each batch you brew.

For example, if you split a batch and use two three-gallon fermenters instead of one five-gallon carboy, you increase your options to try out different dry-hopping ingredients and even different yeast strains. Why is this beneficial? It can help you hone your beer recipe and figure out what kind of tastes and aromas you like best, getting two different beers from one brew day.

For example, if you take the same base-level recipe for the blonde ale above, but use a different yeast option, you’ll get a beer with completely different flavors than with Safale US-05. Use a Belgian Wheat 3942, and you’ll end up witShop Steam Freak Kitsh fruity characteristics. Or maybe go a little more out there and try Weihenstephen Weizen 3068 and see if banana and clove flavors shows up in your final product. This is a great way to quickly increase your knowledge of different ingredients by expanding your beer brewing experiments.


3. Tailor to Your Tastes

An important thing to remember when experimenting with homebrew is that you’re simply making beer for you to enjoy. Don’t be afraid to work from tastes or smells you like.

I love watermelon, so a couple years ago I made a watermelon wheat beer by hand-squeezing juice from watermelons sanitized with Star-San and added the juice to the secondary fermentation of an American wheat ale.

My wife loves apples and hard cider, so I’ve also tried combining apples with homebrewing. I started with a pretty simple base beer:

3.3 lbs. Light Malt Extract  
1 lb. honey malt
2 oz. Cluster hops at :60Shop 3 Gallon Carboy

But, instead of topping off the wort with water, I used apple juice. I fermented with Wyeast 1056 for a clean yeast flavor and with some patience, ended up with a “beer” that smelled like a cider, but had a unique sweet and bitter taste combination thanks to the cider and hops.

When homebrewing, it’s important to remember that it’s OK to play around. Many chefs only become great once they move beyond their comfort zones. By experimenting with homebrew based on what you love and by thinking outside the box, you’ll find more ways to enjoy the hobby of homebrewing – and may even stumble on your next favorite beer!
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.

Get Sweet On Your Beers: Start Brewing Beer With Honey!

Man Brewing Beer With HoneyWe put it in tea, we mix it into our lip balm and of course it’s good for baking, but for many homebrewers, honey is also a pivotal ingredient for brewing.

From the “ealu” of Great Britain’s Anglo-Saxons to President Obama’s White House Honey Ale, brewing beer with honey has been an important part of the craft. What makes honey so great is its flexibility for brewers, whether they simply want to use it as a fermentable sugar in their boil, as a source of sweet flavor or even as a priming ingredient.

Honey is great as a medium to connect all the aspects of your homebrew, from the sweet taste of wort to herbal aromas of hops and even yeast esters.

So how can you start brewing beer with honey? Here are three different ways:


Brewing With Honey In The Boil

For many, the high fermentability of honey provides an easy way to add extra gravity to a beer, since the sugar found in honey is almost entirely fermentable. Unless you’re making mead or braggot, you’ll want to make sure honey isn’t more than about 30 percent of all your fermentable sugars in a brew, depending on the level of honey flavor you seek. For best results, the National Honey Board recommends that when brewing with honey, not using more than 2.5 pounds of honey per five gallons.

A key trick is to know when to add honey. If you want to use it in the boil, consider adding it as a late addition. Due to its high fermentability, using honey early on in the boil can dilute the body of a beer and cause a drier finish when drinking your homebrew. Many beer recipes will call for a honey addition at the very end of a boil (in the last five minutes) or at flameout, which is best for retaining the honey’s aromas and flavors.


Brewing With Honey In The Secondary

If you want to avoid using honey on brew day, adding it during secondary fermentation is a good option. It allows you to keep the characteristics of the honey you’ll want to show up in your beer. To eliminate any wild yeasts and bacteria that may be in the honey, it’s important to pasteurize your honey first:Shop Beer Recipe Kits

  1. Preheat an oven to 176°F.
  2. Pour honey into a sanitized, oven-proof saucepan.
  3. As the oven preheats, heat the honey on the stove top to 176°F., stirring occasionally.
  4. Once the honey is 176°F., cover it and put it in the oven for 2.5 hours.
  5. Place the saucepan in an ice bath to lower the honey’s temperature to match that of your beer and pour it into the secondary.

The reason we heat the honey to 176°F. is that this temperature is hot enough to kill off microorganisms, but not so hot that it drives off the honey’s valuable aromas and flavors.


Brewing Beer With Honey: As A Priming Sugar

While substituting honey for your normal priming sugar may not add a lot of unique flavor, priming with honey does have the potential to add a small layer of complexity to your beer. Just be sure you only adding the honey for priming, as combining it with any other priming sugar can have explosive results.

If priming beer with honey, the honey will need to be diluted with water before adding to your homebrew. Different honeys have different densities, so there’s no uniform amount of water that may be ideal. You may need a small digital scale to weigh out the honey. Most formulas suggest four to five cups of water should be sufficient to mix with the honey.Shop Accurate Scales

As a precaution, you can bring the water-honey mix to a boil to kill any potential bacteria, the same as you would when mixing any other priming sugar.

Now that you’re ready to start brewing beer with honey, what to make? If you’re feeling experimental, check out the available beer kits from E. C. Kraus and see which beers you may enjoy with a touch of honey!
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.

Brewing With Chili Peppers For Fun And Torture

Beer With Chili PeppersBeer drinkers are an eclectic bunch. Some are hop-heads and some prefer malt bombs, but mixed in with the plethora of sects is a smaller group – those who like it hot.

You may have noticed commercial breweries experimenting more by brewing with chili with peppers, recently. Stone has the painfully hot Crime and Punishment and Twisted Pine has the infamous Ghost Face Killah. But there’s no need to go to the extreme with your homebrew!

If you’re looking for unique heat or some layered vegetable flavor, there are lots of ways to go about adding chili peppers to your beer – and lots of peppers to use – when brewing with chili peppers.


What Kind of Homebrew?

Before you find the kind of pepper you want to use, it’s important to determine the style of homebrew you’d like to make. The homebrew you use as your base beer will help you pick what kind of chili peppers to use and how much heat you want to feature.

For example, you could brew something light, like a lager, which could help really showcase aspects of a pepper, all the way up to a stout, which can balance the spice and heat with its own sweet maltiness and roasted characteristics. Here’s a chipotle porter recipe as an another example.

The first time I tried brewing with chili peppers I used a blonde ale base because I wanted the pepper to be front and center. It was perfect for my love of hot food, but a little too much heat came through for other drinkers. Find a style that you enjoy and that will allow you to feature the right amount of heat.


Which Peppers to Use?

Once you’ve got a beer style picked out, consider these three popular chili peppers to reach your desired level of intensity:

  • Anaheim: This pepper may be ideal for those who don’t want a ton of spicy heat, as it falls relatively low on the Scoville heat scale. As a mild pepper, it mixes a little bit of sweetness with low-level heat. Anaheim peppers will be good for lighter-bodied brews with a touch of heat.Shop Steam Freak Kits
  • Jalapeño: Chances are you’re familiar with this pepper, which is often found in spicy food dishes. Jalapeños offer stronger heat than Anaheim peppers and fall about midway on the Scoville scale. Chipotle peppers – smoked jalapeños – also make an excellent option when brewing with chili peppers. The smoke adds another layer to the pepper heat and flavor. Consider jalapeños to be good for just about any beer style, depending on your tolerance for heat.
  • Habañero: Among the hotter peppers easily found at grocery stores, habañero peppers aren’t for everyone, thanks to a heat level many times that of a jalapeño. If you love spicy heat, adding this chili pepper to heartier beers like porters or stouts that can withstand the heat.


When to Add Chili Peppers to a Brew

Like other unique ingredients (such as herbs and fruit), you’ve got options for when to add peppers in your homebrew. You can leave them whole if you want to minimize heat or slice them in half to expose seeds and the vegetable’s membrane, which contain capsaicin, the compound that makes a pepper hot.

Other timing options when brewing with chili peppers:

  • Late-boil: This will add heat, but little aroma to your beer. Add peppers at the very end of the boil and let them sit in the wort for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Primary fermentation: If you want a bit more balance, adding peppers during primary fermentation will offer some heat, pepper flavor, and aroma. Just make sure to sanitize or gently blanch peppers them before putting them in your carboy or bucket.
  • Secondary fermentation: To get the most flavor, aroma, and heat from your peppers, try adding them after primary fermentation. This offers the option of starting with a pepper or two, and then you can taste the beer to find out if you want to add more during the secondary process.
  • In the bottle: For pepper enthusiasts only! Adding a pepper straight into a beer bottle will leave no doubt as to what you’re drinking!Shop Home Brew Starter Kit


How Adding Chili Peppers Impact Your Homebrew

When brewing with chili peppers you’ll definitely get a pepper flavor in your beer, but it’s important to know that how you use peppers may also affect the head retention of a beer.

If you’re using seeds and other exposed parts of the chili pepper, oils from the vegetable may seep into your beer, greatly reducing head retention. In my experience with a jalapeño blonde ale, carbonation wasn’t a problem, but little to no foam remained in my glass a few minutes after it was poured.

Think you can stand the heat? A good place to start for first-timers is with selecting a homebrew recipe kit. Find a brew you like and think will support the pepper heat and give it a shot. It’s an easy way to test pepper flavors and discover the kick they can add to your homebrew!
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.

Developing A Clone Beer Recipe

Man Developing A Clone Beer RecipeSome may get into homebrewing for the “do it yourself” challenge, some may start homebrewing to simply have fresh beer around the house, but others may take the step because they’ve fallen in love with a commercial beer and thought: “I could make this.”

I know – I’m one of them.

Peruse through this website or others and you’re bound to come across dozens – if not hundreds – of recipe kits at your disposal, from coffee stouts to hoppy IPAs and everything in between. But what may pique the interest of many is the ability to make “clone” beers using ingredient kits of such iconic brands as New Belgium’s Fat Tire or Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter.

But why clone beer? It’s a good way to put your skills to the test. With that said, here’s my perspective on developing a clone beer recipe.


Developing a clone beer recipe to learn

Using prepared clone beer kits can be a good experiment in the homebrewing process, as you have a “control beer” to test your skills. Sometimes subtle differences in mash temperature, hop utilization, and grain bill can impact the final product. By making a beer and testing it side-by-side with the commercial version, you can get a better idea of what works best during your brew day and what you may need to pay more attention to.

I once made a Bass Pale Ale clone beer kit for the sheer challenge of trying to replicate one of the most famous versions of the style. While it ended up about 1 percent higher in alcohol content than I had hoped, it taught me to pay more attention to temperatures and how I was using my grains. It was a valuable lesson for future brew days.Shop Steam Freak Kits

If you want to clone beers yourself, the key to success is to hone your palate. As you build clone beer recipes, you’ll want to know what kind of ingredients to buy and how each piece impacts the larger puzzle.

One popular way both commercial brewers and homebrewers alike accomplish this is by brewing experimental beers, like single hop pale ales and IPAs as well as SMaSH beer recipes, which stands for “Single Malt and Single Hop.” In both cases, the goal is to hone the use of a specific ingredient so you can better understand it. Breweries like Mikkeller, Flying Dog, and even Sam Adams have produced single-hop beers as a means for consumers to taste the subtle differences between two different hop varieties, like Citra and Sorachi Ace, for example.


Develop a clone beer recipe to replicate your favorites

One of the first cloned beer recipes I made was a watermelon wheat beer based off of 21st Amendment’s famous Hell or High Watermelon Wheat. Sipping the California brewery’s fruit-laced beer from the can, I thought I might like to try this beer, but with more intense watermelon taste.

To make my own personal take on the clone beer, I looked up a clone recipe. Instead of using natural flavoring, I wanted to go for the real thing, so I sanitized two watermelons, cut them up and squeezed juice from them to add to my secondary. The result: a beer that tasted quite like a boozy watermelon. Unique, for sure.

One of the best parts of homebrewing beer is the ability to experiment, and cloning gives you the perfect opportunity to do just that. We all have different palates, and the aromas and tastes we experience may be better served with a tweak or two of our favorite commercial beers.Shop Conical Fermenter

No matter why you choose to develop a clone beer recipe, it’s one more tool in your toolbox (or is it bottle in your six-pack?) to help you become a better homebrewer. If you’re ready to take the plunge, check out “North American Clone Brews,” which offers 150 clone beer recipes for brewing beers from Anchor, Sierra Nevada, Fat Tire, Samuel Adams and more. Each of the clone beer recipes come with an extract, partial mash and all-grain version for homebrewers of any skill set.
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.

Choosing And Using A Homebrew Airlock

Homebrew Airlock Close UpAs homebrewers, we spend lots of time cleaning and sanitizing our home brewing equipment to make sure nothing will ruin our beer. I often joke that our job is essentially that of a glorified janitor.

But for all the effort we put into caring for our beer and the items it touches, it’s important to never overlook the small details that can ensure a well-made beer. Among the finishing touches of our brew days, as we push, pull or gently place our carboys and buckets into a resting spot for fermentation, is popping in that airlock.

It may seem trivial, but how we care for our beer’s ability to “breathe” during its fermentation can be the difference between beer in our glass or down the drain. That is essentially what an airlock does. For that reason here’s some info on choosing the right type of homebrew airlock and using a homebrew airlock.


Choosing the Right Home Brewing Airlock

Whether at your local store or online, you’ve probably noticed the array of airlocks available for brewing. Here at E.C. Kraus, there are six home brewing airlocks to choose from! They all perform the same essential job – acting as a barrier between the air and your beer – but they can also serve different purposes. Just make sure you’re filling your home brewing airlock up with sanitized water or a strong alcohol like vodka to act as a barrier against airborne nasties.

A three-piece airlock can be ideal because it’s easy to clean. Disassembling this type of airlock means rinsing or hand washing is simple. It’s also ideal for primary fermentation because if you’ve got an overly active brew during the first few days and some wort “overflows” into the airlock, you won’t have to worry about buying a new one. Different versions of these brewing airlocks are useful for batches all the way up to 50 gallons.

The s-shape airlock or triple ripple airlock can’t be taken apart to be cleaned, but are still handy for small batches during primary fermentation and are ideal for secondary fermentation because of the decreased risk of heavy fermentation. Both these types of airlocks are also great for tracking slow-moving fermentations, so as your beer nears its final gravity, you’ll have an easy time following the escaping CO2 so you know when to pull a sample to see if your beer is done. For this reason I have both types of brewing airlocks on hand.Shop Airlocks


Protecting Your New Beer

One extra precaution I like to take after filling up my carboy with fresh wort is using a blow off tube for the first few days before using a homebrew airlock. It gives me peace of mind know that there’s very little risk of a strong fermentation causing an airlock to fly off the top of my carboy.

I sanitize my blow off tube just as I would any other airlock and after placing one end in the carboy, put the other end in a container of sanitized water. After the most active first few days of fermentation, I’ll take off the blow off tube and pop on an s-shape airlock until I move my beer to a secondary carboy.


Troubleshooting with Airlocks

One important step to remember when making homebrew is to cool your wort to its specified temperature after boiling. For lagers, that may initially be around 60° F. and around 70° F. for ales. If you don’t get the wort down to its correct temperature and slap a home brew airlock on your carboy, the difference between CO2 trying to escape, volume of liquid and temperature will create a pressure difference and cause reverse suction – meaning the carboy will start sucking liquid from your airlock into the wort.

Always make sure to cool your wort to its suggested temperature. This is one little tip on how to use an airlock that I learned the hard way.Shop Home Brew Starter Kit

Another common issue when using a homebrew airlock is having an airlock or bung fall into a carboy. If this happens, don’t worry. As long things are sanitized correctly, your beer will end up just fine nearly every time. It’s one of those “Relax. Don’t worry. Have a homebrew.” moments which Charlie Papazian’s quote helps us get through.

If properly sanitized, just leave the airlock and/or bung in the carboy and fish it out after you’ve racked your homebrew out of the vessel.

This is the basics of choosing an airlock and the “how-to’s” of using a homebrew airlock. As you can see it’s fairly straight forward. There are different home brewing airlocks to use for different reasons, and keeping them sanitized is a must.
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.

The Difference Between Stouts and Porters

Stout and PorterBeer blogger Bryan Roth explores the subtle differences between two classic beer styles: stouts vs. porters.
Brewing up a variety of beer recipes is one of the reasons why many get into the hobby of homebrewing. While you may be excited about creating something experimental (watermelon wheat, anyone?) honing base beer recipes is important, especially if you want to better understand the beers we love so much.

You may enjoy extra hoppy IPAs, but porters and stouts can offer tons of complex, malt-forward flavors. But what exactly are the differences between the stouts and porters? Sure, they both look dark, but there are plenty of slight differences that go into each beer. But what makes both beer styles different. What is the difference in taste?

Here’s a helpful history lesson: stouts came into existence as a descriptor for a stronger version of a beer style. A “brown stout” in the 1700s was simply a porter with higher alcohol content. Changes to brewing and brewing laws over the next 200 years eventually made way to how we recognize these beers today.

The most important change from the 1700s? The use of roasted barley.

While the BJCP outlines various styles of porters and stouts, here are basic characteristics of what you should aim for when crafting your next version of either, courtesy of Randy Mosher’s Tasting Beer. These are the basic characteristics that define the difference between stouts and porters:


 Porter  Stout
 Flavor Creamy roasty-toasty malt, hoppy or not Always roasty; may have caramel and hops too
 Aroma Roasty maltiness; usually little or no hop aroma Roasty malt; with or without hop aroma
 Balance Malt, hops, roast in various proportions Very dry to very sweet (depending on style)


These are slight differences, but important if you want to nail your next batch.

Shop LIquid Malt ExtractAnother tip to consider when creating your recipe is the success of others. According to Ray Daniels’ book, Designing Great Beers, the key difference between the winning porter and stout recipes from the National Homebrew Competition was – no surprise – the use of malt.

The average grain bill of well-performing homebrewed porter used 80 percent pale ale malt while stout beer recipes used an average of 61 percent. The other big difference was the use of roasted barley, which was twice as much in stouts (8 percent) compared to use in most porters (4 percent).

Generally speaking, pale ale malt would supply a beer with more “toasty” flavors. Roasted barley, of course, would impart flavors closely associated to coffee.

That is important, because roasted grains were widely used in successful competition homebrewed stouts (90+ percent) compared to porters, where roasted grains appeared in 30 to 60 percent of “robust” porters, but not at all in brown porters.

All those numbers are to say, for homebrewers, “roasted” is to stouts as “toasty” is to porters.

Shop Home Brew Starter KitIf you plan to enter a stout or porter into a judged homebrewing competition, these slight differences will be important to your success. But even if you’ll just be enjoying your creation at home, a better understanding of these two beer styles can help improve your palate, make you a better brewer and give you some extra tasty homebrew to drink! And, that is the difference between stouts and porters in a nutshell.
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.

Late Addition Malt Extract & Late Addition Hops

Late Addition Brewing IngredientsThere are plenty of ways to impact the aroma and flavor of your beer: the beer yeast you choose, additives, and especially malt and hops. But one important “ingredient” that can impact how your beer turns out is often overlooked – time.

In recent years, two methods to create the most optimum homebrew have become popular. For homebrewers using extract, the late addition of malt extract can benefit both the taste and color of your beer, regardless if it is dried malt extract or liquid malt extract. Similarly, any homebrewer can utilize a “hop bursting” technique of late addition hops that’s becoming commonplace for many of the most popular IPAs you’ll find in your bottle shop.

So why switch up your brew day schedule? What are the benefits of late additions? Let’s break it down.


Late Addition Malt Extract (DME/LME)

Whether you’re an extract brewer or an all-grain brewer using malt extract to aid with high gravity beers, waiting until the end of your boil to add all the malt extract may help you perfect your brew.

The benefit of add your malt extract late in the process is simple – it’ll provide greater clarity to your beer as well as increase hop utilization. How those steps take place is a bit more complicated.

To make the best use of malt extract, add 15 to 25 percent at the start of your boil, as your beer recipe instructions tell you to do so. However, by saving the remaining amount to add at the end of your boil, you’re able to avoid a Maillard reaction, a caramelization that leads to the darkening of your beer. Essentially, it’s what happens when sugars get stuck in your pot and begin to harden because of heat. This principal is the same whether you are using liquid malt extract (LME) or dried malt extract (DME).Shop Dried Malt Extract

An added benefit of late addition malt extracts is that they also improve the utilization of hops, allowing for more bittering to come through. This may be a good or bad thing, depending on what beer recipe you’re making and how you prefer your beer to taste.

Late malt extract additions should be added anywhere from when you have 15 minutes left in the boil to flameout. Just turn off your heat source and mix everything in thoroughly before turning the heat back on. If you wait until flameout, the wort will still be hot enough to sanitize everything.


Late Addition Hops

One way to increase hop flavor and aroma and avoid excessive hop bitterness is a technique called “hop bursting.”

The premise is simple: use little or no hops at the beginning of your boil, saving nearly all of them for the “flavoring” and “aroma” addition times at the end of the boil. By doing so, you decrease the alpha acid utilization that adds bitterness and increase the use of oils that lead to fruit, citrus and pine flavors and hop aromas you love so much.

This is particularly important, as the characteristics of late addition hops will greatly impact your senses, especially smell. Even though your tongue helps you out when you taste beer, the sense of smell really helps to drive how you perceive flavors.

Shop HopsA proper hop bursting technique consists of adding hops from 15 minutes left in the boil to after flameout. Remember that the later you add hops, the stronger the aroma. Popular American hop varieties like Simcoe, Amarillo, Cascade, Citra or Centennial will give you a great combination of flavors. Think of hop bursting as an ideal complement to dry-hopping your beer, which also provides strong smells.

If you want an idea of how late addition hops can make a beer taste, try picking up brews made by Stone. Most notably, their popular “Enjoy By” series of IPAs uses hop bursting techniques to create some of the strongest, tastiest hop flavors I’ve ever experienced in a beer.

Half the fun of homebrewing is the potential for experimentation, timing is just one more dynamic that can be toyed with and mastered, so try doing some late addition malt extract and late addition hops, and see how they can work best for you. They may be the key to unlocking your next great homebrew, especially if you’re a hop-head like me!
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.

Hops, Malt and Zen: How I Learned to Relax, Not Worry and Enjoy Homebrewing

Zen HomebrewingToday we have a guest post from beer blogger Bryan Roth, who explains why sometimes it’s nice to just sit back, relax, and let the beer brew itself.
Technically, homebrewing is a science. But you’re not defusing an atom bomb – it’s just beer.

While I spent time on my early batches worrying about the intricate details of IBUs and grain bill percentages, I eventually let all that melt away. I’m a homebrewer. It’s fun. We should treat it that way!

No matter how you achieve the end product, the journey that gets you to a cold, frothy brew in a glass should be an enjoyable one. So let’s put away our refractometers, cool our jets in an ice bath, and reflect on the fun meaning of homebrewing.

Here are five lessons I learned to make sure homebrewing is always fun and stress-free:

Beer is flexible
A common adage among homebrewers is how forgiving beer can be. Compared to baking a cake or cooking soup, where small recipe changes can completely change the final product, a few extra ounces of malt isn’t going to make or break your brew.

There is some room for error with homebrewing, especially with styles like stouts or even a hopped-up IPA. It’s amazing what a little yeast, CO2 and alcohol can do to fix a mistake like a fly nose-diving into cooled wort (my SMaSH IPA last summer).

Brew time = play time
I homebrew outside on a small concrete slab in my backyard next to my wife’s garden. Being in close proximity to herbs and flowers constantly makes me second-guess recipe outlines I use for my brews. Half the fun of homebrewing is being able to experiment.

Don’t be afraid to grab something from home or your own garden and think how it could improve your next brew. Last-minute decisions to toss in some rosemary in an IPA I made this spring gave it some extra piney notes and lavender in a saison offered an incredible herbal aroma that paired with fruity Belgian esters.

Don’t sweat the small stuff…
There are just two aspects of homebrewing I pledge complete allegiance to: temperature and sanitation. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no need to get caught up in the nitty-gritty.

Some homebrewers may find good fun in having complete oversight of quality control and the brewing process, but for others, pH levels or water quality are something that may never cross your mind. That’s OK.

… but a little preparation goes a long way
A lot can seem to go wrong on brew day, but I’ve found it’s nearly always my anxiety making me worry. No need to be a helicopter parent to your brewing baby, especially when it’s easy to have an “emergency kit” of supplies just in case.

Instead of making extra trips to your homebrew store, keep some emergency items around the house. I always store two clean-fermenting Safale US-05 dry yeast packets in my fridge as a precaution and love having some extra muslin bags and Star-San sitting around.

Most important – don’t forget to always keep at least one chilled beer at the ready for brew day!

“Relax. Don’t worry. Have a homebrew.”
There’s a reason Charlie Papazian is considered the godfather of modern homebrewing, and that little gem of a quote is part of it. I always think of it as I’m sitting in my backyard with the wort boiling and my cares fading away.

Brew days can be long and tiring, especially when worrying about hitting efficiencies and getting temperatures just right. It’s easy to forget in the middle of mashing in just how exciting it will be to take the first sip of the beer you’re making. It never hurts to reflect on how pleasant an afternoon can be brewing with friends or even by yourself. Even if you think you screwed something up, all will be fine in the end.

From the beginner to the award-winning homebrewer, it’s important for all of us to remember what a great experience homebrewing can be and the people we’ll meet because of it. It’s a hobby that becomes more fun the more comfortable you are with it.

Next time you strain water from your malt or add your hops, keep in mind it’s OK to give yourself leeway. Relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew. Chances are you’ll still get tasty beer in the end.
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 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.

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

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

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

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)

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

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

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!
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.