Thursday, May 11, 2006

Making Beer the Easy Way

I found this tutorial at It doesn't get any easier than this except for maybe buying a commercially made beer. This is really for the true beginner and uses a lot of techinques that I have used and still use for making beer. One thing to be careful about is using the plastic water jug. Most companies will not take them back if you use them for making beer or wine. Also, I never use a bottle brush on my plastic jugs instead I use Oxi-Clean. Oxi-Clean will take out and clean the plastic jug almost 100% of the time and if you do need to clean inside the neck, you a soft cloth.

So, you've considered brewing your own beer but you're not yet willing to drop the cash for the entry level kit just yet. With a few simple pieces of equipment and ingredients here's how you can brew your own mini batch. In just a couple of weeks you can taste for yourself if homebrewing is a hobby you want to take to the next level.

Don't get me wrong, I think the entry level brew kits are a good value. They include some special equipment not used here that will make things easier. But, will you enjoy the beer or find the brewing process rewarding? I think so. This project will allow you to find out for yourself.

* Brew pot - any large kitchen pot that will hold a couple of gallons of water with room to spare to avoid boiling over.
* Kitchen strainer - to strain grains and hops before going to the fermenter
* Kitchen thermometer
* Large funnel
* Rolling pin - for crushing the grain
* 3 gallon container of bottled water - this will provide you with the water to make your beer and serve as your fermentation container
* Bottling container - An empty container of at least 3 gallons...could be another empty water bottle or a clean, scratch-free, food grade plastic bucket.
* 3 feet of 3/8" clear poly-vinyl tubing - for siphoning and fermentation air lock
* Bottles - there are a lot of options here and I'll cover some of them in the bottling step later

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Monday, May 08, 2006

Brewer's Malt

This is an interesting article on 2 row and 6 row malt that I found at

Brewers call malt "the soul of beer" but they might also add that malt contributes mightily to the different personalities we expect from beer. It's a big subject, so this week we'll discuss barley malt only and stick to the paler varieties.

Of all the barley grown, only one-quarter or less is used for malting. The rest is used to feed animals. Barley is well-suited for malting because it has the right components for yeast nutrition, it tastes good (homebrewers already know this -- if you aren't one, then ask to try some malt next time you visit a brewpub or tour a microbrewery), and it has a solid husk (protecting it at harvest, then later aiding the brewing process).

Barley is first of all divided by how many rows of grain there are in each ear -- either six or two.

Two-row is plumper and responsible for a softer, sweeter flavor. It is regarded as higher quality and long has been the standard in the traditional brewing nations (all of Europe and Great Britain).

Six-row barley is found more often in the United States and hotter Mediterranean lands. Europeans brewers are not alone in calling it less refined, and a beer made only with six-row is more likely to taste grainy and will probably show chill-haze because of excess proteins. In moderation, it lends a firmness and husky character to beer, which some ale brewers prefer.

Six-row is less efficient (yielding less extract from a mash) but because of higher levels of diastic enzymes and protein it is better suited for mashing adjuncts, such as corn or rice, that lack those materials. Thus it was (and is) a perfect barley malt for the style (light lager, with adjuncts) beer that came to dominate the U.S. beer landscape in the 20th century.

Within two-row there are the continental and maritime varieties. The continental barleys, such as those grown in the Czech Republic, are generally sweeter, nuttier and maybe oilier. The maritime barleys of Denmark and the United Kingdom are a bit cleaner and more delicate.

Then there are winter barleys and spring barleys, sown in the fall and later winter respectively. Winter barleys tend to be huskier, spring varieties softer and sweeter.

We'll spare you the details of the different manners in which barley may be malted, and just tell you that is another important variable. Sound confusing enough?

Over much of time, brewers have used the barley grown closest to home, often even malting it themselves. It's fairly recently, and mostly in the United States, that a brewer could order malt from halfway around the world so he or she could make a true-to-style Czech pilsner (with Moravian malt) or a Belgian dubbel (with two-row Belgian pale malt made from winter barley).

A quick summary of these pale options:

- Pilsner malt (2-row) from Europe. This is the palest two-row malt available, and is used in pilsners and other lagers.

- Lager malt (2-row) from the United States. Used in lagers of all colors, as wells as ales and steam beers.

- Lager malt (6-row) from North America. Excellent to use with a high percentage of adjuncts, but generally considered inferior in taste to 2-row.

- Pale ale malt (2-row) from Europe. This malt is what British-style ales are all about (70-90% of a stout is actually pale malt; more next week). The top British and Belgian pale malts are generally considered the best you can buy, and their flavors at quite similar, imparting a maltiness without being sulfury.

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Priming Chart

Priming Chart for a 5 gallon batch

I found this chart in Charlie Papazian's book called The Home Brewer's Companion and thought I would replicate it for you. One of the reasons I am posting it is that I am going to try an experiment with "mini-kegging" my beer in a two gallon plastic container with a spigot. Plans are to see how long it can keep in the fridge and stay fresh and carbonated. I'm thinking that it will stay good for about 2 weeks max after tapping it. I'll let you know how it turns out.

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Homebrew Term of the Day

Hot Water Extract - The international unit for the total soluble extract of a malt, based on specific gravity. HWE is measured as liter*degrees per kilogram, and is equivalent to points/pound/gallon (PPG) when you apply metric conversion factors for volume and weight. The combined conversion factor is 8.3454 X PPG = HWE.

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Beer Articles

A couple of nice articles about making beer. I'm sure some of the info pertains to making wine too.
Bottle of Beer
By Michael Machosky
Thursday, May 4, 2006

If there's anything more satisfying in this world than sitting down with friends and a frosty mug of beer -- it might be sitting down and sharing a frosty mug of beer that you made yourself.

But that's just the payoff. There are almost as many reasons people get into home-brewing as there are bottles of beer on the wall. For some, it's the science that attracts them -- a grown-up version of childhood chemistry sets, with easily measurable results. For some, it's the art, the style, daring and detail that goes into each brew. Some want something very specific, like those who prefer hop-laden bitter beers, old-fashioned beers, or darker stouts and porters. Some just want a brew you can't get at the local pub.

To its most fervent adherents, home-brewing is more than a hobby. It's more like a personal quest for the Holy Grail of beer -- that magic elixir that will make all other stouts, porters, lagers and ales pale in comparison.

Read More at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

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Here's suds in your eye

Brew pubs bring exploration of beer to a head

By Lane Page

Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy," according to Benjamin Franklin or some other sage. In truth, there is question whether the wittiest of our Founding Fathers was indeed the originator of this quotation, but as some wags have responded, if Franklin didn't say it, he should have.

Obviously, someone did. And although it was neither Matt Hahn nor Frank Helderman, no doubt they concur. Hahn and Helderman are brewmasters at Howard County's own brew pubs, Rocky Run Tap & Grill in Columbia and the Ellicott Mills Brewing Co. in Ellicott City, respectively.

They also agree that freshness is the reason such happiness is to be achieved more readily from a pub-produced microbrew than a six- pack from the package goods store.

"Bottling is tough on a beer," says Helderman. "Without getting all technical, you have the possibility of introducing staling agents such as oxygen, getting light struck, sitting on a truck or getting filtered to the extent of stripping out the long chain protein molecules that contribute to the head and the mouth feel."

Read More at the Howard County Times

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Monday, May 01, 2006

Dos Equis Clone Recipe

I tried a Dos Equis Special Lager on Saturday and thought that it would make a nice recipe for a homebrewer to try. The Special Lager is a Pilsner style beer where the Amber is a Vienna Lager style. I usually refer to them as either Dos Equis Yellow (pilsner) or Dos Equis Amber.The recipe below was found at the Oklahoma Homebrew Club.

Ingredients for 6 gallons:

8 lbs American 6 Row (Mash)
2 lbs Crystal 40L (Mash)
3.5 lbs Rice
1 lb Corn

1 oz Saaz (3.7%) Boil 60 minutes (we used 1.5 oz with 2.29%)
1 oz Cluster (6.8%) Boil 60 minutes (we used 1 oz 5.98%)
1.5 oz Hallertauer (3.4%) Boil 15 minutes (we used 2 oz 2.25%)

Other Ingredients:
1 tsp. Irish Moss
5 tsp Gypsum
1 pkg XLWyeast 2007 Pilsen Lager (no starter)

Prepare: 12 gallons of water and added 5 teaspoon of gypsum
(2 grams of gypsum per gallon w/ 1 teaspoon = 5 grams)

Mashing Procedure:
Mash Efficiency: 70%
Add 3.63 gallons of water at 181F to heat mash to 158F
Add 1.29 gallons of boiling water to heat mash to 170F.
Sparge with 3.86 gallons of water to yield 6.00 gallons to primary.
Water Absorbed by Grain: 1.45 gallons
Water Evaporated during boil: 1.00 gallons

With a kitchen pot, mash (cereal mash) corn-rice and 20.5 oz (5 oz of malt per pound of rice-corn) with 16 pints (1.5 qt. of water per pound of corn and 2 qt. for rice) of water at 153F for 20 minutes.

Bring the cereal mash to a boil in ten minutes and boil for 35 minutes.

Bring main mash (10 pounds of 6 row and crystal malt) into another pot with 10 to 15 qt. (20-30 pints) of water at 104F for 20 minutes (we added 26 pints).

Bring main mash to 145F for 30 minutes.

Add cereal mash to the main mash, adjust temperture to 158F for 30 minutes.

Go to 170F for 10 minutes then sparge-lauter.

Mash between 148F - 157F.

As soon as kettle bottom is covered add first wort hops and maintain wort temperature at approx. 170F during lautering.

Collect enough wort to yield 6 gallons of finished wort.

Boil uncovered at least 60 min.; longer to reduce DMS

Chill to 48F, areate well, pitch yeast from large starter.

Ferment at 48F until fermentation nearly stops, about 10 to 14 days, rack to secondary and reduce temperature by 4F per day to 32F. Lager six to seven weeks. (which we did and then bottled with 1 cup of priming sugar, stored at 65F for two weeks before returning to 32F freezer)

O.G. 1.061
T.G. 1.015
Alc% 5.9
IBU 44.4
SRM 15.8

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Homebrewing Term of The Day

Hopback - A vessel that is filled with hops to act as a filter for removing the break material from the finished wort.

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