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Harsh Zone Crystal and Colored Malts in Beer Brewing

Harsh Zone Crystal and Colored Malts in Beer Brewing

This week I take a look at “harsh zone” malts in the roughly 70-200L color range and how they can upset the balance of an otherwise perfect beer.

A while back I did a review of Randy Mosher’s Mastering Homebrew book. The book, which I highly recommend, introduces a number of new concepts in balance and flavor of beer recipes. One of the most important concepts he talks about is the observation that relatively few malts are produced in the 70-200 L range.

The reason for this is very simple: many of the malts in that color range can produce “off flavors” or harsh notes in the finished beer. So let’s take a look at the “Harsh zone” malts and how to properly use them in your beer.

Malt Colors – credit Randy Mosher

The Harsh Zone Malts

As illustrated in the graphic to the right (click to make it larger), the harsh zone is defined as malts having colors between roughly 70-200L. The most commonly used malts in this range are dark Crystal/Caramel malts including Crystal 80L, Crystal 100L and Crystal 120L. In addition, “Special B” is a very dark Crystal malt roasted to about 140-150L.

Some dark Brown malts from the “Colored malt” group also fall into this group, as does the roasted malt “Pale Chocolate”. If used in large amounts these harsh zone malts lead to acrid, bitter, burnt-toast, burnt marshmallow and other undesirable flavors.

A common beginner mistake, for example, is to add some Crystal 80L (or darker) malts to something like an English brown ale to darken the color. The result is often a harsh finish to the beer that can make it quite unpleasant. This is particularly common for extract brewers who tend to use dark crystal malts and light roasted malts interchangeably.

If we look at these malts critically:

  • 2700 mg neurontin Brown Malt – A kilned malt that was once the primary ingredient in Porter, but is now rarely used. While not as harsh as dark crystal malts it does take on a mocha-coffee, deep toast or chocolate overtones and can also have some campfire character.
  • buy provigil forum Caramel/Crystal 70-80L – These have an intense toasted character similar to burnt sugar or toasted marshmallow, as well as some caramel character. Used in appropriate amounts they can also bring forward a dried fruit (raisin, fig or prune) character, but unfortunately they are often overused leading to harsher toasted flavors.
  • http://globalarchaeology.ca/2017/05/how-much-cost-valtrex-500-mg-generic-sales-and-free-pills-with-every-order-fast-delivery/ Caramel/Crystal 100-120L – These have an intense roast sugar flavor, and can be bitter with a Turkish coffee finish. In small amounts you can get a toasted raisin finish, but overuse will lead to acrid bitterness and burnt flavors.
  • Special B – Technically a very dark Belgian crystal malt of around 120-140L, it can have character and flavors similar to both very dark caramel/crystal malts or alternately the light chocolate malt. Like dark crystal you will get strong burnt sugar flavors, and acrid bitterness from overuse. Used sparingly you can get toasted raisin, or even a cherry or plum note from it.
  • avodart uk buy Light Chocolate Malt – Many brewers are surprised to find out that chocolate malt gives a piercing coffee like roast flavor to beer that is actually sharper than black patent malt. Light chocolate malt, with its position on the edge of the harsh zone, is even sharper and more piercing that normal chocolate malt.

Using Harsh Zone Malts

While harsh zone malts can easily overwhelm a beer recipe, used in the right quantities for the right style of beer, they can actually add depth and complexity to an otherwise boring beer. For example, I’ve often used combinations of small amounts of harsh zone malts for a Robust Porter to add depth.

So how much is enough? Unless you are going for something really over the top in terms of flavor, I would suggest limiting most harsh malt additions to 2-5% of the total grist bill, and probably no more than 10-12% of total harsh malts. My personal preference is to use only one harsh zone malt and combine it with other malts from outside the harsh zone to get flavor complexity. Too many harsh zone malts in a single beer can have a multiplicative effect, resulting in an unbalanced beer. By limiting the harsh malts used you can add plums, mocha, cherry, dark fruit and raisin notes without the bitter burnt coffee/toast/marshmallow flavors coming through.

The style you are brewing is also critical. While harsh zone malts might be appropriate in a robust porter, stout or dark Belgian beer, they would certainly be out of place in many other beer styles. Consider the flavors you hope to add with the harsh malts and select other roast or colored malts that will complement that flavor.

Hopefully you enjoyed this week’s article on harsh malts and can use them to add depth to your beer. Thanks for joining me on the BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter or my podcast (also on itunes…and youtube…and streaming radio station) for more great tips on homebrewing. Also check out the How to Brew Video series I shot with John Palmer if you want to learn more about all grain brewing.

Tropical Stout with Muscovado

Tropical Stout with Muscovado

Getting ready to add the muscavado sugar.When I tell people I brewed a Tropical Stout, most of them assume that means I added tropical fruit and/or hops to a standard stout. On the contrary, this is a style originating in the tropics (specifically the Caribbean and Southeast Asia). The most widely available examples are Lion Stout, Dragon Stout, and Guinness Foreign Extra Stout from Jamaica. Prior to the release of the 2015 BJCP Guidelines the style was rolled into Foreign Export Stout with the drier/bitterer stouts brewed in England and Ireland.

When my friend Scott (this Scott, not that Scott) noticed Topical Stout wasn’t on my list of styles brewed he suggested that we split a batch. Like daiquiris, sweetness and rummy flavors can go with warm weather, so it seemed like a version on the lower-gravity-end might be a good beer for the end of summer!

Ashton Lewis, Gordon Strong, and Me at the BYO Boot Camp panel.We started with Gordon Strong’s recipe from his BYO Style Profile (referencing the similar recipe in his Modern Homebrew Recipes). We used Irish Ale yeast because I had a slurry on hand harvested from my Guinness Anachronism Draught. Warm-fermented lager is classic for authentic Tropical Stouts because most of the breweries primarily brew lagers. We replaced the rather subtle turbinado sugar the recipe called for with more characterful dark muscovado. Increased proportion of simple sugars causes yeast to produce more esters so that may add to some of the traditional fruitiness of the style.

I’ve found that I get the best pours from the stout tap when carbonating and serving with ~20 PSI of beer gas. However, it can take a few weeks to really get that great creamy head given the low partial-pressure of carbon dioxide. To speed this up I attached a .5 micron carbonation stone with a foot of tubing to the gas side of this keg. A carb stone releases tiny gas bubbles which rise up through the beer, increasing surface area and boosting absorption. The key is to start the pressure low, increasing it by a few PSI a couple times a day. That ensures that the bubbles keep coming slowly, speeding up carbonation. There are other methods for using a stone, but this is easy and doesn’t waste gas. The only drawback is that you can’t purge the head space easily, so I just pushed in through the stone and vented a few times. To get around this you can also make (or buy) a carbonating keg lid that doesn’t occupy the gas post. The result was a creamy head in about 10 days rather than three weeks!

Carb stone, before filling the keg.
Caribbean Stout

That cascade...Smell – The classic problem with beer gas, the nose is closed without much CO2 in solution to rise up carrying aromatics. What is there is nice, freshly milled roasted barley and coffee ice cream with Hershey’s syrup. No big fruitiness or rum/molasses notes.

Appearance – Head is stupendous! Creamy, off-white, and super-long-lasting. Black body, with a red underline at the bottom of the glass.

Taste – Flavor is similar but bigger than the aroma. Fresh roasted malt, mocha with a finish of date-sugar. Even a little vanilla or brownie batter. Sweet without being too cloying. Just enough bitterness to reset the palate in the finish.

Mouthfeel – Coating, rounded, smooth. Perfect!

Drinkability & Notes – Despite the provenance, this one hasn’t been drinking quickly this summer. The sweetness and richness just don’t call out for a second pour when the weather is this hot.

Changes for Next Time – I’m glad the gravity ended up a little low, but for a version closer to the guidelines it’d require better efficiency and a lower mash temperature for higher attenuation.

Recipe

Batch Size: 12.00 gal
SRM: 43.7
IBU: 33.8
OG: 1.064
FG: 1.023
ABV: 5.4%
Final pH: 4.53
Brewhouse Efficiency: 74%
Boil Time: 90 Mins

Fermentables
—————-
75.5% – 20 lbs Crisp Floor-Malted Maris Otter
3.8% – 1.0 lbs Weyermann Carafa Special III
3.8% – 1.0 lbs Muntons Roasted Barley
1.9% – 0.5 lbs Crisp Black
1.9% – 0.5 lbs Briess Crystal 120L
1.9% – 0.5 lbs Chateau Special B
1.9% – 0.5 lbs Bairds Chocolate Malt
9.4% – 2.5 lbs India Tree Dark Muscovado

Mash
——-
Mash In – 45 min @ 158F

Hops
——
4.00 oz East Kent Goldings (Pellets, 6.00% AA) @ 60 min

Water
——-
6.00 g Calcium Chloride
5.00 g Chalk

Calcium
Chloride
Sulfate
Sodium
Magnesium
Carbonate
100
75
50
16
10
140
Other
——-
1 Whirlfloc Tablet @ 5 mins

Yeast
——-
WY1084 Wyeast Irish Ale

Notes
——-
Brewed 5/28/17 with Scott.

CaCl added to the mash tun before the malt. 1 cup of super-saturated chalk water (~5 g of chalk) added to the mash tun to try to raise the mash pH, didn’t get much higher than it started, 5.25.

2.5 lbs of India Tree Dark Muscovado Sugar added at the start of the boil. ~14% by extract (Gordon’s recipe is ~18% turbinado).

Undershot gravity a bit, was aiming for 1.070.

Hop pellets in 400 micron screen.

Chilled to 70, placed in fridge set to 64F for a couple hours before pitching a cup of thick slurry from low OG Guinness.

Maintained 64F beer temperature for 3 days, then up to 66F.

6/2/17 Moved out of fridge and allowed to warm to 70F to ensure fermentation finishes up. Currently: 1.028 (56% AA, 4.7% ABV)

6/7/17 Still 1.028… pitched a rehydrated pack of US-05.

6/10/17 Down to 1.023 (64% AA, 5.4% ABV), hopefully still dropping.

6/16/17 Nope, finished. Kegged.

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Never settle...

Liquor, Barrel, and Wood-Aged Brown Ale

Liquor, Barrel, and Wood-Aged Brown Ale

Removing the head from a barrel.Most of the events I do are 30-60 minutes, perfect for talking (ideally including questions from the audience). A few years ago I taught intro-to-homebrewing classes for LivingSocial, I quickly learned that 150 minutes was too long for a lecture alone. I added an extract brewing pantomime to demonstrate the key steps in wort production, brought ingredients to taste and smell, and loaded up with slides with photos to hold the audience’s attention.

When Brew Your Own asked me to present on sour beers and barrels for their Boot Camp series, I knew I had to come up with ways to make it interactive to fill six hours! Obviously some of the time is me talking and flipping through slides and answering questions, but I wanted to mix in drinking and action. I’ve honed the sessions in Burlington and Santa Rosa, and I’m looking forward to the next two November in Indianapolis and February in San Diego!

Sour Beer Techniques
   Overview of wort production for sour beers
   Microbe selection, propagation, harvesting
   Capturing wild microbes
   Tasting and blending teas, tinctures, juices, wines, meads etc. into sours
   Tasting and blending three of my homebrewed sours
   Working with me on a custom sour beer recipe

Barrel and Wood Aging
   Discussion of barrel-aging and wood-aging techniques
   Tasting and blending wood teas with commercial beer
   Evaluating and inspecting a barrel from a local brewery (thanks FOAM and Rare Barrel)
   Hands-on leak repair tools and techniques
   Installing a stainless steel sample nail
   Removing and reseating the barrel’s head
   Tasting a batch split between barrel – liquor – wood

Speaking of which, I thought I’d post a mini-tasting of that split batch for those of you who can’t make it to the Boot Camps. This batch is a somewhat extra-hefty 15 gallon batch of English brown: infused with malt whiskey from Balcones Distilling, aged in a 5 gallon Balcones malt whiskey barrel, and aged on a medium toast American oak honeycomb from Black Swan Cooperage!

Big Brown Barrel-Off

From left to right: Barrel, Liquor, OakAppearance, all three look nearly identical. Deep dark brown with a three finger tan head. Beautiful lacing, although it appears too quickly as the head drops in just five minutes.

Balcones Malt Whiskey Barrel (pH 4.38)

Integrated slightly spicy oak and spirit. Brighter than the liquor, less dark fruit and sugar. Notes of toast and light roast coffee come through from the malt much better. Fresh plums. Drier than the liquor infused thanks to the oak tannins. A more balanced beer that I could consider drinking more than 6 ounces of in a sitting. Likely could have sat in the barrel longer if I knew I was going to sit on it for a year.

Balcones Malt Whiskey Infused (pH 4.32)

When this beer was young it was really raw and boozy. Both classes had sizable contingents that guessed this was from the whiskey barrel. It is still potent with a mild ethanol warming, but it has rounded out with dark sugar and caramelized plum joining the rich malt. Still a little dry, but age has really brought the flavors together. Nice vanilla as it warms, almost bourbon-soaked chocolate brownies.

Medium Toast American White Oak HoneycombBlack Swan Honeycomb Oak Aged (pH 4.42)

Had and continues to have an off-putting phenolic character that reminds me of cheap wood. On the edge of plastic. The flavor is bland and the oak again dominates. I’ve had some wonderful results from oak aging beer with cubes, staves, and spheres… I’m not adding honeycomb to that list. It didn’t appear to be well toasted (in fact none of the sample from their mixed pack appeared well toasted).

An interesting comparison to see what stays the same and what is different. I’ve had good luck with barrel-alternatives, but I’ve gone back to cubes after the results from the honeycomb.

The first two were kegged when the third half went into the barrel.Recipe

Batch Size: 15.00 gal
SRM: 22.1
IBU: 38.3
OG: 1.065
FG: 1.010
ABV: 7.2%
Final pH: Above
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75%
Boil Time: 65 min

Fermentables
—————–
65.2% – 23 lbs Rahr 2-Row Brewer’s Malt
22.7% – 8 lbs Weyermann Floor Malted Bohemian Dark
3.5% – 1.25 lbs – Briess Flaked Soft Red Wheat
2.8% – 1 lbs Simpsons Dark Crystal
2.1% – .75 lbs Weyermann Caramunich II
2.1% – .75 lbs Weyermann Chocolate Wheat
1.4% – .50 lbs Dingemans Mroost 1400 MD (De-Bittered Black)

Mash
——-
Mash In – 30 min @ 156F

Hops
——-
2.75 oz Columbus (Pellets, 13.00% AA) @ 60 min

Water
——-
14 g Calcium Chloride

Calcium
Chloride
Sulfate
Sodium
Magnesium
Carbonate
110
140
50
15
10
90
Other
——
1 Whirlfloc Tablet @ 5 mins
1 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 5 mins

Yeast
——-
WLP023 White Labs Burton Ale

Notes
——-
Yeast harvested from 2 gallon batch Audrey brewed three weeks prior.

9/10/16 Brewed

All filtered DC tap water with 14 g of CaCl. Minimal sparge with about 4 gallons of cold water.

Chilled to 80F with ground water, left at 65F for 12 hours to chill the rest of the way before pitching.

9/27/16 Kegged 4 gallons plain with 4 oz of Balcones Malt Whiskey, 4 gallons with one medium toast Black Swan White Oak Honeycomb (brief boil, decanted), and into a fresh Balcones Malt Whisky barrel (stopper had come off during shipping – smelled great still).

10/21/16 Kegged the barrel-aged version, nice strong spirit character.

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Burlington Boot Camp, not Santa Rosa obviously.

Tasting Cider with Erin James – BeerSmith Podcast #154

Tasting Cider with Erin James – BeerSmith Podcast #154

Erin James joins me this week to discuss her new book “Tasting Cider”, the recent surge in craft cider making, styles of cider as well as cider cocktails and food pairings.

Subscribe on iTunes to Audio version or Video version or on Google Play

Download the MP3 File – Right Click and Save As to download this mp3 file

Topics in This Week’s Episode (39:31)

  • Today my guest is Erin James, author of the new book Tasting Cider (Amazon affiliate link). Erin is also an editor at CiderCraft Magazine and Sip Northwest Magazine.
  • We start with a short overview of Erin’s new book called “Tasting Cider”
  • She gives her perspective on the explosion in craft cider making that has happened over the past few years.
  • We discuss a bit about the history of cider, including the fact that apples are not native to America (except crab-apples) and discuss how apples were brought over on the Mayflower by the Pilgrims.
  • Erin tells us a bit about how prohibition and also the expanding availability of lagers almost made commercial ciders extinct for some 80-90 years.
  • We talk about basic definitions for ciders including dry to sweet ciders.
  • Erin shares a bit about the cider making process.
  • We discuss how the apples themselves drive the flavor of the finished cider including the use of fairly rare “cider apple” varieties that are high in tannins and acidity.
  • Erin talks about various cider styles including hopped, spiced, single variety, and barrel aged ciders.
  • We briefly discuss Perry which is an alcoholic beverage made from pears.
  • She describes the section in her book on cider cocktails, how cider goes very well with whisky and provides some examples.
  • We discuss food pairing and which food flavors go best with cider.
  • Erin shares her thoughts on what an average beer brewer can learn from sampling or making cider.
  • We discuss where the cider industry is headed as well as briefly talk about the Cider Craft magazine which she is an editor for.

Sponsors

Thanks to Erin James for appearing on the show and also to you for listening!

iTunes Announcements: I launched a new video channel for the BeerSmith podcast on iTunes, so subscribe now! At the moment it will only feature the new widescreen episodes (#75 and up). Older episodes are available on my revamped Youtube channel. Also all of my audio episodes are on iTunes now – so grab the older episodes if you missed any.

Thoughts on the Podcast?

Leave me a comment below or visit our discussion forum to leave a comment in the podcast section there.

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Azacca Brett Saison – Keg Transfers

Azacca Brett Saison – Keg Transfers

As I continue to work on opening Sapwood Cellars (lease negotiation ongoing!!), Audrey has started to pick up the homebrewing slack. After her Dark Belgian Wheat she brewed Wit Lightning inspired by Belgian wit, but with citrusy hops (Azacca) replacing the spices. I took half of the batch and pitched Omega Labs C2C American Farmhouse and dry hopped with more Azacca to make a lightly funky saison… Saison Lightning.

Despite some fancier primary fermentors with spigots (Ss Brew Bucket and Speidel), my post-fermentation-transfer game is basic. I do most of my racking via gravity and auto-siphon. It gives me control, and I haven’t had issues with oxidation on NEIPAs and other oxygen-sensitive styles as long as I purge the keg. Open transfers aren’t really an option for carbonated beer though.

I wanted to combine Brett fermentation under-pressure and dry hopping. I did the first dose in primary to allow time for bioflavoring, but I wanted the Brett to have time to work before the final dose of hops to create developed Brett and fresh hops aromatics. My solution was to naturally keg-condition for six weeks and then jump the carbonated beer to a purged serving keg containing bagged and weighted hops.

When transfering carbonated beer between kegs, the goal is to have slightly more pressure on the filled keg than the receiving keg so that the beer is gently pushed from one keg to the other without the beer foaming. This is essentially the same method as counter-pressure filling a growler or bottle only on a larger scale.

Jumping from the carbonating keg (right) to the serving keg (left).

Process:
Step 1: Purge and then pressurize the receiving keg to the same pressure as the filled and chilled keg (15 PSI in this case).

Step 2: Connect the filled keg to a tap and dump the first pint to remove most of the sediment.

Step 3: Connect the two kegs from out-to-out post via a jumper line (a short length of tubing connecting two liquid quick disconnects).

Step 4: Connect the gas line to the filled keg to and increase the pressure slightly (17 PSI in this case).

Step 5: Connect a spunding valve to the receiving keg and set it to the same pressure as you pressurized the keg earlier (15 PSI).

Step 6: Wait for the transfer to complete (approximately five minutes).

Step 7: Disconnect the jumper line, gas line, and spunding valve.

Step 8: Connect the serving keg to the gas and serving line and enjoy reduced sediment beer!

This is also a great technique if you travel with kegs and want sediment free beer so yeast isn’t knocked into suspension during transit.

A glass of Brett saison dry hopped with Azacca.Saison Lightning

Smell – Varied aromatics of herbal lemongrass, apples, and pepper. Brett is subtle, behind the hops. Hops aren’t grassy or vegetal despite extended contact with the pellets in the keg.

Appearance – Slight haze, but overall it is a bright beer. Yellow gold. The white head is thick, but drops after a few minutes.

Taste – Similar to the nose with bright-integrated citrus notes on a peppery saison backdrop. The finish has a hint of earthy Brettiness. Deceptively complex because it is easy to drink. Mellow hop bitterness. Slight perceived sweetness thanks to the citrus character and slightly higher than expected final gravity.

Mouthfeel – Thin and crisp without harshness and tannic bite. Carbonation is a little low for a saison.

Drinkability & Notes – Crushable hoppy saison, has been a perfect beer to have on tap for summer. The hops cut through the Brett and everything works together.
Held up well in the keg so far (kicked the next day), which I assume means I didn’t introduce much oxygen when I jumped it over.

Changes for Next Time – Not much to change for this, although I’d lower the mash temperature if I was planning on the same timeline again. Could have given it another couple of months in the keg to condition before going onto the keg hops for a little more Brett character.

Recipe

Batch Size: 5.75 gal
SRM: 3.4
IBU: 16.1
OG: 1.049
FG: 1.007
ABV: 5.5%
Final pH: 4.35
Brewhouse Efficiency: 78%
Boil Time: 90 Mins

Fermentables
—————-
65.0% – 6.5 lbs Dingemans Pilsen
25.0 % – 2.5 lbs Flaked Wheat
7.5 % – .75 lbs Dingemans Cara 8
2.5 % – .25 lbs Weyermann Acidulated

Mash
——-
Mash In – 45 min @ 154F

Hops
——-
1.00 oz Saaz (Pellet, 2.75% AA) @ 10 min
1.50 oz Azacca (Pellet, 15.00% AA) @ Whirlpool 15 min
2.00 oz Azacca (Pellet, 15.00% AA) @ Brew Day Dry Hop
3.00 oz Azacca (Pellet, 15.00% AA) @ Keg Hop

Water
——-
5.50 g Calcium Chloride

Calcium
Chloride
Sulfate
Sodium
Magnesium
Carbonate
90
110
50
15
10
90
Yeast
——-
OYL-217 Omega C2C American Farmhouse

Notes
——-
4/22/17 Brewed by Audrey

No sparge. Mash pH measured at 5.24. Collected 7 gallons of 1.039 runnings. A bit lower gravity than expected, extended boil to 90 minutes.

Chilled to 69F. No starter, pack less than a month old. 2 oz of brew day Azacca.

Left at 70F to ferment. Warmed up to nearly 80 for days 4-7. Then the weather cooled off.

5/6/17 Kegged with 3.75 oz of table sugar and was left to condition (no extra dry hops yet). A bit less attenuation than expected.

6/13/17 Moved the keg to the fridge.

6/16/17 Jumped to a freshly purged keg with more Azacca weighted with marbles and bagged in a knee high.

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Strategies for Beer Recipe Design – Part 2

Strategies for Beer Recipe Design – Part 2

This week I take a look at the “building block” approach for designing beer recipes. This method, introduced by Gordon Strong, is a great design strategy for more experienced brewers.

Last week in Part 1, I covered the decidedly technical (vs artistic) bent in beer brewing as well as the traditional approach many brewers use for beer recipe design. This week I’m going to cover the building block approach, which I’ve found to be a useful model as my brewing has evolved.

The Building Block Approach to Recipe Design

Gordon Strong (BJCP President and author) introduced me to the concept of using “building blocks” as a basis for beer recipe design. He made the observation that you rarely start a new recipe with a blank sheet of paper, but instead base a new recipe on groups of ingredients that you already know work together.

As Steve Jobs once said:

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.”

I like to explain the approach using a simple example I came up with at breakfast one morning. I was making some pancakes using “Bisquick” and observed that I could easily make a lot of cool things using just a few ingredients and the recipes on the box. Dumplings, shortcakes, pancakes, waffles, and even bread are all made from a combination of flour, sugar, butter, milk and a few other ingredients.

The building block approach is similar – you may know that a certain combination of dark grains makes a great Porter with some great flavor depth to it. With just a few modifications you can make a killer stout or brown ale by making minor adjustments to the same set of ingredients.

For example, I recently made a robust porter with a combination of equal parts Crystal-60L, Special B and Chocolate Malt (1/2 lb of each in a 5 gal batch) with a touch (4.5 oz) of Black Patent and the rest Pale Malt. I really liked the combination as using some of the “harsh zone malts” gave the Porter some depth of flavor missing in many Porters. With just a bit more of this combo I could make a very nice robust stout, or conversely ease off on this building block to make a deep brown.

Ingredient Knowledge

The key to using the building block approach is, of course, having a good solid base of ingredient knowledge as well as a solid base of experience and library of recipes that worked for you in the past. That is why this building block approach is more popular with experienced brewers.

You can build your base of recipes by brewing of course, but just as important is growing your expert knowledge in brewing ingredients. Cooks are able to create new food combinations because they already have an innate knowledge of what various base ingredients like butter, milk and flour taste like as well as expert knowledge in spices and how flavors combine to create certain effects in food. An expert brewer needs similar expertise.

So how do you gain the ingredient knowledge to become a better brewer? There are several options including:

  • SMASH Brewing – By brewing single malt, single hop beers you gain a real understanding of what base malts and single varieties of hops bring to a beer.
  • Sampling Hops – Most professional brewers use a dry rub to evaluate hops, but getting several different varieties together to sample can be a very powerful experience.
  • Sensory Evaluation of Malts – The new ASBC method takes some effort, but can be a great project for your brewing club or with a few other brewers to get a feel for what various malts bring to the table.
  • Brew, Judge and Iterate – The best brewers don’t brew a recipe just once – they meticulously judge, take notes and make improvements to a recipe and then brew it again until the recipe is perfect.

The building block approach is a great method for experienced brewers to create new, unique recipes based on their existing knowledge base. I hope you enjoyed this short series on recipe design strategies. If you have your own suggestions please leave a comment below.

Thanks for joining me on the BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter or my podcast (also on itunes…and youtube…and streaming radio station) for more great tips on homebrewing. Also check out the How to Brew Video series I shot with John Palmer if you want to learn more about all grain brewing.

BlackMan Yeast vs. Bottle Dregs

BlackMan Yeast vs. Bottle Dregs

Barret and me.It feels like every other blog post or BYO Advanced Brewing article starts with me in some exotic location meeting an interesting person or drinking a mind-blowing beer that sparks an idea for a batch… this one starts October 2014 when I spoke at the Dixie Cup in Houston, Texas. It is the final competition in the Lone Star Circuit, and the banquet marks the end of the local homebrewing competition season. Among the highlights were a visit to St. Arnold’s Brewing, listening to a fantastic presentation about hops, the rowdiest awards banquets of my life, judging a specialty category of “Best Beer to Chase a Hurricane,” and a “barleywine breakfast” that was heavy on the vintage barleywine, light on the breakfast.

BlackMan Yeast samples and homebrew.One of the people I chatted with was Barrett Tillman, who was just getting Blackman Yeast running. Apparently I made a good impression because a few weeks later a box of samples showed up: both his first-and-still-only dried souring cultures, and a couple of homebrews (not to mention a note on what appeared to be on a surplus thank-you card from his wedding). Barrett’s cultures are just brewer’s yeast and bacteria (Lactobacillus and/or Pediococcus), bring your own Brettanomyces. It is a unique and interesting approach because Brett can come from so many sources and  provide such a range of flavors. As a power-user it is nice to have acid-production and funk as two separate dials (the same way I like my spice-rubs to be salt-free so I can add more without over-salting). To be as fair as possible, not wanting to judge his B4 Belgian Sour Mix on someone else’s Brett, I added the bottle dregs from Barrett’s delicious homebrewed Lambic for funk and to clean-up after the Pedio.

Mike and Anna.My friend Matt had been considering starting to homebrew, to entice him I invited him over to split a batch of pale sour beer. A few weeks earlier I’d been over to his house for a tasting and he’d selected a few choice bottles of De Garde, Cantillon, and Modern Times for dregs for the other half of the batch. I must have left the culture in the pressure-canned mason jar of wort with a loose lid for a few days too long before transferring to a bottle with an airlock, because by the time we gave it a smell it was pure malt vinegar. Since then I received a free sample of reCap mason-jar lids and water-less airlocks that are have hold up for two weeks without issue.

Luckily I’d also grabbed some dregs from more than a couple bottles of Hill Farmstead Anna that my friend Mike had stockpiled (including an especially good batch dubbed “magic” Anna). Hill Farmstead bottles their saisons with wine yeast, but the other microbes are likely doing most of the heavy lifting after long aging to this point.

When the two batches were ready Matt and I tasted them and made a few sample blends. It made sense, the BlackMan was more acidic, while the saison culture had better depth of funk and fruit flavors. However, when we blended them they each lost what was special. The combination didn’t have the snappy acidity or the depth of funk-character. They were better left to stand on their own!

First pour of the two batches. M&M var. Black Man (Left)

Smell – Lemon and pineapple, has gotten much more interesting since bottling. Even a little farmyard.

Appearance – Similar appearance, clear gold on the initial pour, a little haze on the top-up. White head with poor retention.

Taste – Firm lip-smacking lactic acidity. Slight grain-cereal-yeastiness in the finish. Horse blanket as it warms, distant smoky phenolic.

Mouthfeel – Crisp without being watery. The acid is a bit grippy. Medium-plus carbonation.

Drinkability & Notes – A more assertive beer in terms of acidity and aroma.

Changes for Next Time – Not much.

After topping-off, and with HDR.M&M var. Anna (Right)

Smell – Bright and restrained. Hay, old citrus. Slight honeyed malt oxidation.

Appearance – Similar, although with slightly better retention.

Taste – Soft lemon, lots of hay. Really mellow, like my favorite gueuzes. Lactic acid is tame in comparison, more tart-saison than American sour side-by-side, but it was quite acidic on the first sip. A little Orval in the finish.

Mouthfeel – Feels a little softer thanks to the lower acidity. Similar medium-plus carbonation.

Drinkability & Notes – This is about it for me when it comes to an unblended mixed-fermentation sour beer. A range of fruity and funk, some bright acidity,

Changes for Next Time – Not a wow beer that would show well at a tasting or festival, but the sort of beer I’d get a second pour of… if this wasn’t my second to last bottle.

Matt and Mike Sour

Batch Size: 12.50 gal
SRM: 4.0
IBU: 4.0
OG: 1.054
FG: 1.012/1.011
ABV: 5.5%/5.6%
pH: 3.04/3.30
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75 %
Wort Boil Time: 90 mins

Fermentables
——————
77.1% – 18.50 lbs. Weyermann Pilsner
8.3% – 2.00 lbs. Weyermann Munich Malt
6.3% – 1.50 lbs. Rahr 2-row Brewer’s Malt
4.2% – 1.00 lbs. Weyermann Carafoam
2.1% – 0.50 lbs. Weyermann Acidulated
2.1% – 0.50 lbs. Gold Medal AP Flour

Hops
——-
0.63 oz. Crystal (Pellet, 3.25% AA) @ 60 min.

Yeast
——-
1: Black Man Belgian B4
2: Starter of Hill Farmstead Anna dregs

Water Profile
—————–
6 g Calcium Chloride

Calcium
Chloride
Sulfate
Sodium
Magnesium
Carbonate
70
70
50
20
10
90
Other
——–
1.00 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient @ 15 Mins
1 Whirlfloc @ 5 Mins

Mash Schedule
——————–
Sacch Rest – 30 mins @ 158F

Notes
——–
Brewed 8/2/15 with Matt and Chris.

Collected 15 gallons of 1.045 wort with 3 gallon cold sparge.

Bagged hops. Chilled to 85 F with ground water, then 75F with ice.

Pitched 1 L of HF Anna starter. The other half got Black Man Belgian B4, and dregs from a bottle of Barrett’s 2013 Lambic. Left at 64 F to ferment.

Racked at some point.

1/2/16 BM is sharply acidic, a bit sulfury. HF is mellower, tart, fruity, sweet.

7/17/16 Bottled both. HF had a bit more than 5 gallons with 130 g of table sugar. BM had a bit less than 5 gallons with 125 g. Both got a splash of Right Proper’s house Lacto/Sacch culture for carbonation.

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Ancient Brews with Dr Patrick McGovern – BeerSmith Podcast #153

Ancient Brews with Dr Patrick McGovern – BeerSmith Podcast #153

Dr Patrick McGovern, Director of Biomolecular Archeology at the University of Pennsylvania Museum joins me this week to discuss research into ancient fermented beverages.

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Topics in This Week’s Episode (48:58)

  • Today my guest is Dr Patrick McGovern. Dr McGovern is Director of Biomolecular Archeology at the University of Pennsylvania Museum and also an adjunct Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of the new book Ancient Brews: Re-discovered and Re-created (Amazon affiliate link) and an expert in ancient fermented beverages. His web site is here.
  • We start with a short overview of Dr McGovern’s new book ‘Ancient Brews’.
  • Dr McGovern argues that fermented beverages may be as old as the human species as we are “wired” to enjoy consuming fermented beverages.
  • We discuss “The Midas Site” found at Gordian in Turkey where an ancient tomb was found with traces of ancient beverages.
  • Patrick introduces the concept of an “Extreme Fermented Beverage” which was a combination of honey, grains, fruits and likely spices – similar perhaps to a combination of beer, mead, fruits and spices.
  • We next move to China where he was able to examine shards containing some of the oldest fermented beverages which again turned out to be “extreme fermented beverages”.
  • Dr McGovern shares some details on his book including how it incorporates many recipes meant to simulate the ancient beverages as well as recommendations for foods to enjoy with the drink.
  • We next move to Africa as well as Egypt where there is a very long history of fermented beverages though of a slightly different type. Egypt in particular had well developed brewing methods.
  • We discuss European beverages which were split between a variety of Northern “grogs” (and Nordic grogs) and wines which became more popular in the Mediterranean region and Southern Europe.
  • He shares his findings on native American beverages which were often made by chewing corn to break down the starches instead of mashing.
  • We discuss some of the lessons a modern brewer can take away from the study of ancient fermented beverages.

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Thanks to Patric McGovern for appearing on the show and also to you for listening!

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