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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Sometimes, Aging sucks

Shortly after I published my post about doing a grain experiment, I realized I had forgotten to mention that I'm doing a short series about recipe formulation.

I'm not sure how much I'll have to say (I never do.), but I'm guessing I'll probably take about 3 or four weeks to cover everything I want to.

Listen Up! It Ain't Hard!

Over the last several weeks, I've seen a number of posts, in several forums, by folks who would like to move beyond kits. The actual words vary, but the message is always the same. "What do I do? What do I do?"

Things are not as mysterious as you might believe. As I've said for years, you simply make the beer you want to drink. To get there, all you have to do is learn where your flavors come from. Here's a little experiment to find that out.

Make a series of 1-gallon beers, and change the specialty grain each time, to see how that affects the beer.

First, the base recipe, in both extract and all-grain versions.

Extract Version
1 lb Light Liquid Extract
.5 oz Generic Hops (3.5% AA)

All_Grain Version
1.5 lb American Two-Row
.5 oz Generic Hops (3.5% AA)

So, The first thing to do is brew up the base version, so you have something to compare the others to. Then, all you do is make a different beer, and add 1/2 pound of your desired specialty grain to see what effect it has.

In fact, I would view this as an experiment with no end point. Once you make the base beer, and have a point to compare from, you can make a quick beer to judge the effect of almost anything you find.

As an added bonus, think of all the extra beer you'll have on hand!

Saturday, May 18, 2013


Which would be more appropriate for a brewing session? Wizard robe or mad scientist lab coat?_

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Breakfast Porter

I got a message today from someone who was interested in my recipe for beer with breakfast cereal. Here it is:

For a 1 gallon batch (If you want to ramp up the size, you could do this as a partialmash, and just use extract for the balance of the fermentables. Just be sure to increase the amount of cereal.  and hops, too)

2 lb 2-row barley malt
8 oz crystal malt (120L)
8 oz chocolate malt
4 cups breakfast cereal (your choice)
1 oz Willamette hops
1 pkt ale yeast

In a food processor, grind the cereal to powder. Then, in 1/2 gal of water, boil for about 10 minutes. Add to your mash vessel.

Mash the grains and cereal for 90 minutes at about 154 degrees, F. Remove the grain, and sparge, if desired.

Add 1/2 oz of the hops, and boil for 1 hour. Remove from heat, and cool in an ice water bath to 100 degrees.

Add the other 1/2 oz hops to your fermenter, and pour in your wort. top off to 1 gallon, and ferment for 2 weeks.

Bottle or keg, prime, and age for about 2 weeks.

As far as what cereal to use, it really is completely up to you. I would recommend, however, that you try to pick flavors that might work well with beer, like cinnamon, honey, or molasses. I would definitely stay away from stuff like Trix or Froot Loops.

If you try this, I'd really love to find out if it worked for you, and if you liked the result.

It's My Beer, Dammit!

One of the things I've always enjoyed about homebrewing is that I don't have to answer to anyone's preconceived notions about what my beer should be like.

I just ordered ingredients for my next few batches. I order malts to produce the last two beers in my breakfast cereal experiment, a chocolate milk stout for a beer tasting, and a non-standard standard bitters.

For the bitters, I decided to try something off the wall.  English bitters traditionally use Fuggles or other very British hops for aroma. American varieties, I think, use Willamette, and sometimes Cascade. I'm using Saaz, because I can.

I've said many times on my podcast, and often here, you make the beer you want to drink. I see no reason why I can't try to produce a nice, easy-drinking ale with a Czech aroma hop.

I can't wait to have a sip.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

An Anniversary I Won't Celebrate

It was 37 years ago, yesterday, May 6, 1976. My best friend at the time was about to go on a cruise to the Virgin Islands. We decided to have a drink to see him off at the local college watering hole. The place was packed, and we literally couldn't get in. As we crossed the street towards our cars, to find another spot, my life took a sudden turn.

I don't remember the fight, at all. I was told we were attacked by about 15 local high schoolers (There were 5 of us.). I remember waking up for a moment in the ambulance, feeling cold. I remember them taking x-rays of my head. I apologized, because I kept bleeding on the table.

When they told me my injuries, I think I took it pretty well. After all, what could I do? I had a skull fracture, a broken cheekbone, and a shattered eyesocket. They put me in intensive care, as a precaution, because of the head injury.

Due to the facial injuries, I needed reconstructive surgery, too put my face back together. The one thing that has always stood out about the surgery was the visit I got from my ex-girlfriend, while I was in recovery. I know that your time in recovery is always kinda foggy, but I remember very clearly that she was crying, and I told her not to.

After the surgery, it was just a matter of waiting for everything to heal, with one more surprise.

When I went to to consulting eye doctor, he gave me the bad news that I had lost most of the vision in my right eye. He was so apologetic, I don't think he expected it, at all. He also told me I would be prone to sinus troubles for life (Boy, did he get that right!)

I remember the date, and time (11:33 PM) every year. Sometimes, it's just a thought in passing. Other years, like this one, I have a more difficult time, and a night of bad dreams.

There were friends who stuck by me, who showed love and friendship, which I will never forget. I'm so happy and lucky to still be here. I've always felt that night could have been the end.

I'm going to turn 60 this year, and I nearly didn't make 23. I'm thankful for all who have helped and given over the years. I'll never forget any of you.