Posts Tagged recipe

New Ingredients to try

When I got into doing mashes, first doing partial mash, then doing all-grain, I kept it pretty close to the vest on my base grains, using Pilsner, UK 2-row and American 2- or 6-row, depending on what I was making.  Those are probably the big 4, with Pilsner for German-style beers, UK 2-row for fuller-flavored ales and US pale malts for ales that need a cleaner flavor.

With my next couple of beers, I’m going to break out of that rut and try a couple new base malts, and I’m excited about them.  I’m going to make a Whisky Ale with Maris Otter, which is very traditional for cask-style ales.  (By the way, tomorrow’s Beginner’s Tuesday post is about how to make a cask ale.)  Maris Otter has a distinctive nutty/biscuity aroma.  I’m intrigued to see how it goes.  I can envision it becoming my go-to base malt for less-hoppy British style ales.

With that whisky ale, I’m also going to try New Zealand-grown Pacific Gem hops, which are reported to have an earthy flavor with a dark berry note.  I think that will match nicely with the peat-smoked malt and the oak tannins.

I’m really very excited about this Whisky Ale!

I’m also looking at doing version 3 of my Oatmeal Java Stout in the foreseeable future. I don’t feel like ‘m getting the right profile from the UK 2-row with that beer, so I’m going to use Mild Malt, which is a traditional base for stouts and dark porters.  I also need to adjust my specialty grains because the batch is too chocolately.  I need some more aggressive darkness to make it work, so maybe roasted barley….  We shall see.


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A colossal failure

People talk a lot about the recipes that work, but little about the ones that are colossal failures.  There’s a lot to be learned from those failures, though. So, let me share one of mine.

A few years ago, my friend and I decided to make a pineapple pale ale.  The details of the recipe are lost to the sands of time, but the gist of it was an extract “pale” ale (it was a bit darker than it should have been) with a boatload of hops, and some pineapple.

We didn’t realize that the sugar in the pineapple was basically going to ferment out completely.  While we were expecting this tropical pale ale kind of taste, what we got was an intense sourness.  Really, really intense sourness.

We also didn’t hop the beer very well.  I wish I could remember details, but we put almost all the hops in the boil, without enough aroma hopping.  Then we dry hopped it, and we did that waaaaaaaaay too long. That left a hop profile that was bitter to the point of being angry, then very, very, very green.

Between the sourness and the bitterness, the thing drank like it was sucking the moisture off your tongue.

Yeesh.  Lessons learned.

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Beginners’ Tuesday—Extract Lager recipes

I apologize for the long delay in posting this. Things have been very busy with non-beer things.

I had intended to finish up lager week with a couple of extract lager recipes for you to enjoy. Here are three: Pilsner, Oktoberfest and Doppelbock.

Classic Czech Pilsner

Czech Pilsners are one of the simplest beers going. The classic version has only four ingredients—pilsner malt, Saaz hops, yeast and water. This is one of the hoppiest lager styles, so it’s popular among American craft beer enthusiasts. For best results, brew with distilled water.

7 pounds Liquid Pilsner Extract (or 5.75 lbs. dry pilsner extract)

4 ounces Saaz hops for bittering (60 minute boil)

2 ounces Saaz hops for aroma (5 minute boil)

White Labs Pilsner Lager Yeast

Set your fermenter to 52 F for primary and secondary.

Oktoberfest Lager

Oktoberfests are sweeter, maltier, darker and heavier than pilsners. This is the classic amber German lager beer, and it’s my personal favorite style. Here is an extract recipe based on my award-winning Oberbräu Festbier. Use moderately hard water for best results.

8 pounds liquid pilsner extract (or 6.5 pounds dry pilsner extract)

2 lbs. 40L Crystal Malt (steeping grains)

3.5 ounces Hallertau hops for bittering (60 minute boil)

1 ounce Hallertau hops for flavor (15 minute boil)

1 ounce Hallertau hops for aroma (5 minute boil)

White Labs Oktoberfest yeast

Ferment at 55 F.


Doppelbocks are malty beers, and the hops should be in the background. This recipe uses boiling hops only for that reason. This one is punchy. You’ll get 9% abv or so.

13 pounds of liquid pilsner extract (or 10.5 lbs. dry pilsner extract)

1.25 lbs. 40L Crystal steeping grain

1.25 lbs. 120 L Crystal steeping grain

4 oz. Styrian Goldings for bittering (60 min boil)

White Labs German Lager X Yeast (or German Bock Lager, which will be less creamy)

Ferment at 52 F with Lager X or 50 F with Bock Lager


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Beginners’ Tuesday: Getting Started Homebrewing

This is the first in a series of Tuesday posts specifically geared towards folks just getting started in homebrewing. Today, we’re going to start at the very beginning—how does one get started?


So you want to make your own beer at home? Awesome! You don’t know where to start? No problem! I’ve got you covered.

I’m pretty lousy in the kitchen. How hard is it to make beer?

Good news, it’s pretty easy. If you can make spaghetti, you can brew a batch of beer in your own kitchen in an afternoon. You’re going to heat up some water, steep some grain in it, kind of like you were making tea, then boil it, then cool it down, add some yeast and wait a couple weeks.

Sounds good! What kind of beers can I make?

Eventually, the sky’s the limit. While we’re getting started, we’ll keep it simple. Lagers take special equipment, so we’re going to start with an ale. Since I know you’re going to want to drink this thing quickly, we’ll start with something that doesn’t need much aging. Irish Reds, English Brown Ales and IPAs are all good starting points. Most good homebrew stores have lots of recipes for beginners, and I’ve included a good first-timer’s IPA recipe at the end of this post.

How much beer will I get?

Homebrewers typically work in 5-gallon batches, which makes 50 twelve-ounce bottles or 39 half liters. Start saving bottles now so you won’t have to buy them. You can use anything that’s a pop top with a big rim. You can’t use screwcaps.

This is a good bottle, note that the rim at the top of the bottle is about half an inch below the cap.

This is a bad bottle (though a decent beer). Note that the rim at the top of the bottle is right under the cap.

Cool, what do I need?

Let’s break this down. You’re going to need some brewing equipment and some ingredients.

What equipment do I need?

Most homebrew stores sell a starter kit, and those kits never have everything you need.

You need:

  • A big pot (3-5 gallons). One that fits in your sink is a good idea. I got started with a 3.5-gallon pot, which works fine for simple beers. You’ll need a bigger one if you want to get more advanced later. (I use a 10-gallon pot now.)
  • A spoon you can use to stir your pot when it is full without burning your hand
  • A primary fermenter (a 7-8 gallon food grade plastic bucket with an airtight lid)
  • An airlock for your primary fermenter.
  • An analog thermometer that reads from room temperature to boiling (you’ll cook the display on a digital one)
  • A hydrometer
  • A medium mesh “Grain bag”
  • A small mesh “hop bag” (One will do, but three will make your life easier)
  • An autosiphon and 6-8 feet of hose
  • A five-gallon carboy
  • A stopper and airlock for the carboy
  • A bottling bucket
  • A capper
  • 50 caps + a few spares
  • 50 bottles
  • A bottling wand
  • Brewer’s detergent
  • Sanitizer

All of this available through any homebrew store. If you don’t have one near you, you can order this, plus a few pieces of equipment. All tolled, you’re looking at about $110 if you already have the pot. Most of that expense is for equipment you’re going to reuse for future batches.

What ingredients go in beer?

There are four basic ingredients to a beer—grain, hops, yeast and water. For now, just grab the stuff that’s in your recipe. If your tap water tastes good, brew with it. If it doesn’t, buy 7 gallons of water. Don’t worry about whether it’s distilled or spring or whatever. (Many homebrew sites tell you not to use distilled water. Someday I’ll do a post explaining why distilled water is not a problem.)

The grain is the source of sugar, which the yeast is going to eat to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. Grain doesn’t have much sugar in it to start with; it’s mostly starch instead. For now, we’re going to let someone else do the hard work of converting the starch to sugar, and we’re going to use malt extract. We’re also going to use some steeping grains to add a little flavor and color.

Hops add bitterness to beer; without them, beer would be cloyingly sweet. We’re going to add them three times for reasons that will be covered in a future post. You can get them as whole hops, or processed into pellets. For now, it doesn’t matter which you use.

Yeast comes as either dry yeast packets or as liquid yeast. White Labs’ California Ale Yeast is a good one to use for a first batch. Its ideal temperature range is 68-72 F, and it’s the most tolerant yeast of temperatures higher than that. If you keep your house colder than 68, ask your home brew store employee for help selecting a yeast.

Ok, Great! I’m ready to brew! Walk me through this.

No sweat. The day before you brew, double check that you have all the stuff you need. If you can, put four gallons of water in the fridge.

When you’re ready to start, get 30 pounds of ice and put them in a cooler. Just trust me.

Clean your brewpot with the brewer’s detergent, then put 2-3 gallons of water in it. (Go big if you can, but don’t put in so much that it’ll make a mess when you boil.) Heat the water to about 150 F, and put your steeping grains in the grain bag. Plunk the grain bag in the water and try to keep the temperature between 150 and 160 for 15 minutes. (If you mess up, don’t worry. You haven’t ruined anything.) Remove the grain bag after 15 minutes.

Turn the heat up to high, and stir in your malt extract. Stir well, you don’t want to scorch the sugar before it dissolves! Congratulations, you have wort! (Baby beer)

Bring the wort to a boil, and put your bittering hops in the mesh hop bag. Add these hops to the boiling water and set a timer for 45 minutes.

Add the flavor hops to the hop bag. Add them when the timer goes off, and set the timer for 10 more minutes. (Don’t take the bittering hops out yet.) This is a good time to fill your sink with ice.

Add the aroma hops to the hop bag. Add them when the timer goes off, and set the timer for 5 more minutes. (All three hops should be in your wort now.)

When the timer goes off the third time, take the pot off the stove, remove the hop bags, and place the pot on the ice in the sink.

Stir the hot wort occasionally to mix as it cools. If you have four gallons of water in the fridge, cool the pot to 150 degrees. If you have only room temperature water, cool the pot to 105.

While the pot is cooling, clean the primary bucket with brewer’s detergent and sanitize according to your sanitizer’s instructions. Do the same with the hydrometer, fermenter lid, and airlock. Then drain the fermenter.

Poor the warm wort into your empty, sanitized fermenter. Top it up to five gallons with your cold water and stir well. Check that your wort temperature is 85 F or less, and add the yeast. Fill the airlock with water, and insert it in the lid BEFORE you put the lid on the bucket, in case the grommet on the lid pops out. Fit the lid on snugly, and let your beer do its thing for a week!

It’s ready to drink in a week?!

No, the whole process takes four, but you’ve done the hard part. The next post will take us through the rest of the process.  Update: Here is part 2.

Beginner’s IPA Recipe

Steeping Grains:

1 lb. 40L Crystal malt (If your store doesn’t carry 40L, get a pound of whatever is closest)


7 lbs. Amber Dry Malt Extract (you can substitute8.5 lbs. Light Liquid Malt Extract)


Bittering: 4 oz. Challenger

Flavor: 1 oz. Fuggles

Aroma: 1 oz. Fuggles


California Ale

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