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Brewing Topics with Gordon Strong – BeerSmith Podcast #156

Brewing Topics with Gordon Strong – BeerSmith Podcast #156

Gordon Strong, Grandmaster beer judge, joins me this week to discuss brewing in New Zealand Pilsner, Brazil and his new Blichmann home brewing equipment setup.

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Topics in This Week’s Episode (55:18)

  • Today my guest is Gordon Strong, who is a Grandmaster BJCP beer judge and author of the books Brewing Better Beer and Modern Homebrew Recipes (Amazon affiliate links).
  • We discuss some of Gordon’s recent travels as he’s sampled home brewing around the world.
  • Gordon tells us about his trip to New Zealand including exploring some of the hop growing and processing areas there.
  • He tells us about New Zealand Pilsner which is a unique local style of beer he enjoyed.
  • We talk about his new brewing system from Blichmann and his experiences brewing on it.
  • Gordon shares some of the things he learned on a recent trip to Brazil and some of the interesting brewing ingredients there.
  • He tells a story of a brewer in Brazil using some of Gordon’s recipes.
  • Gordon shares some of his closing thoughts.

Sponsors

Thanks to Gordon Strong for appearing on the show and also to you for listening!

see url 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.

Subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes or BeerSmith Radio

You can listen to all of my podcast episodes streaming live around the clock on our BeerSmith Radio online radio station! You can also subscribe to the audio or video using the iTunes links below, or the feed address

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and my newsletter (or use the links in the sidebar) – to get free weekly articles on home brewing.

Craft beer adds $68 billion to economy

Craft beer adds $68 billion to economy

Economic impact of craft beer

The craft brewing industry contributed $67.8 billion to the U.S. economy in 2016, providing 456,000 jobs.

“With a strong presence across the 50 states and the District of Columbia, craft breweries are a vibrant and flourishing economic force at the local, state and national level,” said Brewers Association economist Bart Watson. “As consumers continue to demand a wide range of high quality, full-flavored beers, small and independent craft brewers are meeting this growing demand with innovative offerings, creating high levels of economic value in the process.”

The BA used two national surveys and other government and market data measure the econmic impact. The methodology is available here.

California, which has more than 850 breweries had the greatest economic impact, $7.8 billion, followed by Pennsylvania, Texas, New York and Florida. Colorado breweries had the highest per capita impact, generating $764 for every legal drinking age consumer, followed by Vermont and Oregon.

More information.

PH Meters for Beer Brewing – Selection, Calibration and Use

PH Meters for Beer Brewing – Selection, Calibration and Use

The pH meter has become a critical piece of equipment for all grain beer brewers as well as for cider, wine and mead making. This week I take a look at selecting, calibrating, and using a pH meter to brew beer.

Uses for a pH Meter

In the last 10 years or so, our understanding of the important role mash pH plays in brewing beer has driven commercial and home brewers to increasingly work to monitor and adjust their mash pH. I’ve previously covered the importance of mash pH, as well as incorporated tools for estimating and adjusting mash pH into BeerSmith. Unfortunately mash pH predictions only go so far, so most serious all grain brewers choose to purchase a pH meter to monitor their pH during the mash and sparge and make real-time adjustments if needed.

In addition, pH meters can be used in cider, wine and mead making. For example if the pH of mead or wine drops too low during active fermentation it can inhibit fermentation and result in off flavors. So I use my meter to monitor pH levels daily during active fermentation for my meads and wines.

Selecting a pH Meter for Brewing

Meters come with a wide array of features and also across a large price range. Cheap meters start at $13 online, but may have poor accuracy and quality. A good quality pH meter will generally run you from $50-150 (or more). Lab quality meters are generally over $100. Also you need to be aware that the probes on pH meters will degrade over time (they become non-linear) and you generally need to replace the probes every 2-3 years. That’s why high end lab pH meters come with probes that you can disconnect and replace. Some features to consider:

  • Accuracy – The best meters will be accurate to +/- 0.01 pH accuracy. Units with only +/- 0.1 accuracy are not as desirable for brewing as even a 0.1 point change can be significant when measuring mash pH.
  • Automatic Temperature Compensation (ATC) – This system measures the temperature of the sample and applies a correction factor to it to adjust the pH measurement for temperature. While useful, it is not always accurate as the solution itself may chemically change pH with temperature (not matching the ATC adjustment). If possible, it is best to draw a mash pH sample, cool it first, and then measure the pH.
  • Calibration – All pH meters need to be calibrated using known solutions. Generally two systems are used. A manual calibration forces you to adjust some knobs for high/low calibration values, while the automatic calibration system simply asks you to put the meter in various pH solutions and adjusts an internal table to digitally calibrate your meter. The digital system is certainly easier to use.
  • Probe Connection – As I mentioned above, the probes should be replaced every 2-3 years. Higher priced pH meters have removable probes (usually a BNC connection) so you can purchase and install new probes without having to replace the entire meter.

Calibrating and Storing Your pH Meter

All pH meters require calibration using known pH solutions – usually three solutions at pH 4, 7 and 10. In addition, your probes should be stored in a pH storage solution to preserve their lifespan. So to even use your pH meter you need to purchase a pH buffer/calibration kit which has the three solutions with pH 4,7, and 10 and I recommend also getting the pH meter storage solution as well. For example I’ve been using this calibration/storage kit from Amazon (affiliate link) for my pH meter.

For an automatic (digital) pH meter, you generally push a button to calibrate the meter and will be prompted to put the meter into the pH 4, 7, and 10 solutions. A manual meter may require some additional steps – read your pH meter manual to determine how to calibrate it. I generally calibrate my meter every time before brewing as it only takes a few minutes.

For storage, I immerse my probes in a small amount of storage solution. This can help extend the lifespan of the probes and also helps maintain calibration if I am doing something like measuring the daily fermentation pH of a mead.

Using the pH Meter

Using a pH meter is a simple affair. I generally draw a small sample of the wort or beverage I’m measuring and then dip the probes into it to get a pH reading.

As I mentioned previously there is one issue to consider when measuring hot wort in the mash, which is temperature. While the ATC system on many modern probes will measure the pH at temperature, this number may still not be 100% accurate because the solution itself will chemically change when cooled.

By convention pH should be measured near room temperature (i.e. under standard conditions). So from an accuracy perspective, the best thing to do is to draw a small sample of mash and quickly cool and de-aerate it with some rapid stirring before measuring the pH as shown in the picture above.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s article on pH meters. 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.

Citra-Galaxy NEIPA: Bioconversion

Citra-Galaxy NEIPA: Bioconversion

There has been passionate discussion about hop bioconversion, especially in relation to NEIPA. Studies have shown geraniol in hops like Citra is converted during fermentation into citronellol when there is excess linalool present. But what does this mean for your beer? I talked to Stan Hieronymus when planning an experiment based on his suggestion to use other linalool and geraniol rich hops to mimic Citra. He directed me to a more recent study from the same team that suggested the thiol 4-MSP (aka 4-MMP) has a synergistic effect with these terpenes. Some hops (e.g., Citra, Centennial) contain linalool, geraniol, and 4-MSP and thus can be used as a single hop to create a fantastic IPA.

Chinook and Nugget hops.The question I set out to answer was whether the same flavors can be achieved piecemeal by adding individual hops to fill in the background flavors and then dry hop with fancy hops to lend varietal character. It is a practical consideration because hops like Citra and Galaxy are in short supply, and often cost four times the price of less-sexy varieties. If we can only get our hands on a couple boxes of Citra for Sapwood Cellars‘ first year, how do we maximize the amount of Citra-forward IPA brewed?

The problem with blindly relying on the science regarding individual compounds is that you can miss the IPA through the hops. I selected Chinook (geraniol), Nugget (linalool), and Eureka (4-MSP). However, each contributes a variety of other aromatics, how would these come through?

Citra and Galaxy Hops.Most of the bioconversion happens to terpenes extracted on the hot side, so how important is a mid-fermentation dose of dry hops? At the end of the combined boil I added Chinook, Nugget, and Eureka for the whirlpool. On day two, I dry hopped one fermentor with more Chinook and Nugget and the other with Citra and Galaxy. I then keg-hopped both with Citra/Galaxy in stainless steel hop filters (rather than the nylon knee-highs I’d been using).

I hooked the two kegs up in the kegerator without paying attention to which beer was on which tap. I was able to identify them almost immediately with my first carbonated sample a week later. I thought that was enough to skip the triangle test and go straight to preference. I brought a growler of each to the DC Homebrewer’s August meeting. There were lots of strong opinions (I didn’t tell the homebrewers what I was testing, but asked them to focus on the hop character). With 11 votes to 8, the beer with Citra and Galaxy as the first dry hop addition won, but not by as much as I would have guessed. Here are select comments that each elicited:

Cheaper Hops – Nugget/Chinook: West Coast, spicy, subtle, vegetal, fruitier, aromatic (several), “Galaxy/Mosaic,” more bitter (several), minerally, crisper.

Cheater Hops – Citra/Galaxy: Piney, fruity, juicy, berry, fresh orange, hoppier, sweeter, restrained, rounder, more dry hop, more aromatic.

These results were of the beers after less than two weeks in the keg. While freshness is essential for NEIPA given their sensitivity to oxygen, a little extra time post-fermentation can be beneficial. I’ve gotten a few emails from brewers disappointed with the “juiciness” of their beer a few days after kegging. It often takes time for the yeast (which is coated in hop compounds) and lupulin to settle out and clear the way for those juicy flavors. In this case I also found the extraction of the keg hops took a couple weeks, with the Cheaper Hop half tasting more like Citra and Galaxy now a month after kegging.

Milled barley and flaked oats.I think this experiment contradicts the old adage that dry hopping only effects aroma. Flavor and aroma are inextricably linked. Dry hopping can even decrease IBUs, or it can add bitterness depending on how much iso-alpha is in the beer already. There are few simple rules in brewing!

For my tastes too much maltiness distracts from the hops in NEIPAs. I don’t care for the full Maris Otter crackery flavor that some examples have. For this batch I started with a similar malt bill to my previous NEIPA, but subbed in Golden Promise for about 2/3 of the base malt. Golden Promise is softer than some of the other British base malts, and I thought it worked well here to increase the perception of maltiness without distracting.

Cheaper Hops

Smell – Nice mix of bright citrus juice (orange) and more classic Pacific-Northwest hop-bag resin. Has some of that bold Citra/Galaxy tropical, but it is a component rather than a feature. Toasty notes, nice depth addition from the Golden Promise.

Appearance – Maximum haze without muddiness. Slightly darker than some of my previous batches, which likely increases the appearance of haze. Nice head, but retention isn’t remarkable.

Taste – Falls a little short of full-on NEIPA, lacking that wonderful saturated juicy hop flavor. Although the fullness of the hop character has increased while sitting on the keg hops. Pineapple, orange candy, and dank. Slightly sharp bitterness, a bit lupulin bite in the throat.

Mouthfeel – Smooth, but a little chalky in the finish.

Drinkability & Notes – A nice solid NEIPA with some character that might appeal to the cross-over West Coast drinker. Certainly nice to be able to get that good an IPA from 2/3 inexpensive hops, but it isn’t fooling anyone.

Cheater hops on the right, Cheaper hops on the left.

Cheater Hops

Smell – Similar notes of pineapple and orange, but without an undercurrent of resin. Not an especially amped nose compared recent batches with London III, lacking the oomph of my favorite NEIPAs. Perhaps the malt getting in the way?

Appearance – Identical.

Taste – It has that saturated fancy hop (4-MSP) flavor. Bright, fruity, really juicy. Nice toasty-malty note in the finish, lingering with just a touch of resin. Firm bitterness. The aftertaste is where I really get the Citra-Galaxy rounded tropical fruit compared to the Cheaper hops.

Mouthfeel – Seems slightly crisper, less chalky.

Drinkability & Notes – I’m a sucker for that full fruity flavor with a slight weirdness from the hops. Drinkable and wonderfully hoppy. The hot-side additions of less expensive hops really worked in this batch!

Changes for Next Time – Clearly that early dry hop addition isn’t all about bio-conversion. I’ll be focusing my linalool and geraniol additions at the end of the boil and 4-SMP hops at that early dry hop.

Running the wort into a BrewBucket.Recipe

Batch Size: 5.50 gal
SRM: 3.8
IBU: 78.1
OG: 1.060
FG: 1.016
ABV: 5.8%
Final pH: 4.52
Brewhouse Efficiency: 68%
Boil Time: 60 mins

Fermentables
—————–
37.6% – 5 lbs Simpsons Golden Promise
22.5% – 3 lbs Rahr 2-row Brewer’s Malt
21.1% – 2.8 lbs Quaker Quick Oats
18.8% – 2.5 lbs Weyermann Carafoam

Mash
——-
Mash In – 60 min @ 154F

Hops
——-
1.00 oz Nugget (Pellets, 13.00% AA) @ 15 min
2.00 oz Chinook (Pellets, 13.00% AA) @ Whirlpool 30 min
2.00 oz Nugget (Pellets, 13.00% AA) @ Whirlpool 30 min
1.00 oz Eureka (Pellets, 18.00% AA) @ Whirlpool 30 min

Cheaper Hops Option:
3.00 oz Chinook (Pellets, 13.00% AA) @ Dry Hop Day 2
3.00 oz Nugget (Pellets, 13.00% AA) @ Dry Hop Day 2

Cheater Hops Option:
3.00 oz Galaxy (Pellets, 14.00% AA) @ Dry Hop Day 2
3.00 oz Citra (Pellets, 12.00% AA) @ Dry Hop Day 2

Both
1.50 oz Citra (Pellets, 12.00% AA) @ Keg Hop
1.50 oz Galaxy (Pellets, 14.00% AA) @ Keg Hop

Water
——-
5 g Calcium Chloride @ Mash
4 g Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) @ Mash
.5 tsp Lactic Acid @ Mash

Calcium
Chloride
Sulfate
Sodium
Magnesium
Carbonate
90
90
90
10
5
45
Yeast
——-
SafAle S-04 English Ale

Notes
——-
Scaled to be brewed as either half of the batch.

Brewed 8/6/17 with Collin

Mash pH initially 5.55 pre-acid. Acid brought it down to 5.26. Around 5.4 if it had been cooled.

Whirlpool hops added right at flame-out.

Used ice to get it down to 70F. 5 gallons into each fermentor. Shook to aerate and pitched S-04 directly. Left at 64F to ferment.

Up to ~68F internal by 24 hours.

After two days down to 1.024 (60% AA) added 3 oz Nugget/Chinook to FV1, and 3 oz each Galaxy/Citra to FV2. Fermentation slowing down. Increased ambient temperature to 68F.

8/16/17 Kegged both. ~4 gallons of FV1, 4.5 of FV2. Quad-flushed. 1.5 oz each of Citra and Galaxy in the new screens, weighted with marbles.

I get a commission if you buy something after clicking the links to MoreBeer/Amazon/Adventures in Homebrewing!

Session Beers with Jennifer Talley – BeerSmith Podcast #155

Session Beers with Jennifer Talley – BeerSmith Podcast #155

Jennifer Talley joins me to discuss her new book “Session Beers: Brewing for Flavor and Balance”. Jennifer is a professional brewer with over 20 GABF and World Beer Cup awards.

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 (36:23)

  • Today my guest is Jennifer Talley, author of the new book Session Beers: Brewing for Flavor and Balance (Amazon affiliate link) from Brewers Publications. Jennifer is a professional brewer who worked at Squatters Pub, Red Hook, Russian River and now Auburn Alehouse. She has more than 20 awards from the GABF and World Beer Cup.
  • We start with a bit about Jennifer’s new book on Session Beers.
  • Jennifer explains what a session beer really is and how it is defined.
  • We talk about the history of session beers, which are many hundreds of years old and certainly predate the use of the term “Session Beers” which only started in about 1980.
  • She explains the important role Europe played in the development of many session styles including the UK, Germany, and Belgium.
  • We talk about some of the challenges in trying to develop a light refreshing session beer that is also balanced and flavorful.
  • Jennifer shares a few tips from the book on formulating and brewing session beers.
  • We talk about modern interpretations of the session beer.
  • Jennifer shares some thoughts on sensory analysis of session beers.
  • We talk about the second half of her book which includes recipes from a significant number of commercial breweries.
  • She also shares how she scaled down commercial recipes to homebrew size for the book.
  • We talk about how she decided which recipes to include and also her experience as a commercial brewer.
  • Jennifer provides some closing thoughts on brewing session beers.

Sponsors

Thanks to Jennifer Talley 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.

Subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes or BeerSmith Radio

You can listen to all of my podcast episodes streaming live around the clock on our BeerSmith Radio online radio station! You can also subscribe to the audio or video using the iTunes links below, or the feed address

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and my newsletter (or use the links in the sidebar) – to get free weekly articles on home brewing.

Backyard Gruit: Alehoof and Yarrow

Backyard Gruit: Alehoof and Yarrow

What my "lawn" looks like, there's some grass!Why brew a light, refreshing “lawnmower” ale to be enjoyed after yard work when you can brew a batch flavored with lawnmower clippings? Well not literally, but this is a batch of sour beer flavored with ingredients foraged from what would otherwise be clipped. A beer that captures the aroma of summertime in my backyard!

In April, when I posted a photo of my North-Eastern Australian IPA sitting on my lawn, Caleb Levar (I tried to send him bottle dregs to culture in 2011) pointed out that the ground cover with vibrant purples flowers was a brewing herb:

I met Carlos, my brewing partner for the day, back in February when Blane invited us to brew (with juniper, smoke, and kveik). Carlos is an enthusiastic forager, and talked about a variety of exciting projects like malting his own quinoa for a 100% quinoa beer! We’d been looking for an excuse to brew together again since, so this was perfect!

Alehoof, ground ivy, creeping charlie...I hadn’t heard of ground ivy beer previously, but in addition to being an invasive species, it is a historic English/saxon brewing herb (often called alehoof). Brewing herbs growing wild is a great argument for lawn as a meadow in addition to avoiding the use of fertilizer and herbicide! Crushed, alehoof smells a bit like parsley crossed with arugula, green but not grassy, a little peppery. That flavor is rich in terpenes, phenols, and vitamin C. The list of volatiles in this study for Glechoma hederacea is so long that it is difficult to pick out what compounds are responsible for it’s flavor. However, it contains many of the terpenes in hops including important aroma molecules: humulene, caryophyllene, linalool, and traces of myrcene and geraniol.

Yarrow growing on Cape Cod.When I visited my parents a couple months later, my father showed off the yarrow in his garden on Cape Cod (a few feet from where my mead is buried). Another classic brewing herb! I had read that yarrow loses its most interesting aromatics during drying, so this was a rare opportunity to try it fresh. β-pinene, linalool, and β-caryophyllene are found in yarrow and hops, so another chance of a beer with flavors reminiscent of a wet hopped ale? I actually have a keg on wine-barrel solera still sitting in my basement with fresh yarrow from Spruce on Tap that I purchased when I brewed my India Pale Gruit… I should probably pull a sample.

For the alehoof  usage-rate I referenced Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers (3 oz dried/12 quarts per roughly three gallons), and Growler Magazine (6–8 quarts per 5 gallons). Both sounded like a lot of an herb I’d never tasted in a beer, so I went easy with two quarts in 11 gallons at the start of the boil. We split the yarrow adding the leaves with the alehoof, and the flower heads and stems in the whirlpool treating it like aroma hops. Again though, 2 oz in 11 gallons is less than most recipes I could find.

Carlos brought a bag of pink salt from Maras, an Incan salt production facility still in use today. A stream of subterranean brine in diverted into shallow pools and allowed to evaporate. The light reddish color comes from traces of iron. Iron isn’t a positive beer additive, but using ancient salt is romantic with traditional herbs. Salt is a classic part of gose, and can help meld bitterness and acidity (as in a salad).

We planned to split the batch, but Carlos had a flight to Peru a week after brewing to cover between head brewers at a small brewery. I revived Right Proper‘s House Lacto culture (which did good work in my lone qunioa beer) and pitched the other half with GigaYeast’s Sour Cherry Funk. I didn’t have a plan for that pack, so this seemed like a good test. It is still in the fermentor, this tasting is of the Right Proper half.

Backyard Gruit-Gose

Smell – Slight spicy and herbaceous aroma. There are some green notes that with the knowledge of what is in there reminds me of mowing. Luckily it doesn’t remind me of boiled greens. Not an overpowering or aggressive gruit/herbal character, allowing room for grainy maltiness to come through.

The finished gruit-gose with ground ivy!Appearance – Glowing yellow, cloudy. Dense white head. Better head retention than my previous efforts with this culture. Still not fantastic, but enough to snap a few pictures in the backyard. Good lacing.

Taste – Big lactic acidity, tangy. Minimal sweetness and bitterness. There are herbal notes, but also a citrusy (orange and lemon) character I usually associate with lightly dry-hopped sours.

Mouthfeel – Light and bright. This is the second sour in a row on tap that doesn’t seem to be getting as carbonated as the other taps despite the same pressure. Could be a little bubblier.

Drinkability & Notes – The sourness is at the high end of what I’m looking for. The pH reading was 3.03, but it doesn’t taste quite that sour. Otherwise refreshing, just not the sort of beer I naturally gravitate to for a second pour.

Changes for Next Time – I’m satisfied with the experiment. The fresh herbs do lend a fresher flavor than dried herbs, less concentrated and distinct. Doubling the herbs would create a more “obvious” flavor, but as a beer on tap subtlety is a virtue. I’ll wait for the other half to see how it compares with age before making final proclamations on the process.

Yarrow leaves and flower-head.Recipe

Batch Size: 11.00 gal
SRM: 3.2
IBU: 0.0
OG: 1.047
FG: 1.009
ABV: 4.9%
Final pH: 3.03
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Mins

Fermentables
—————–
90.0% – 18 lbs Rahr 2-Row Brewer’s Malt
10.0% – 2 lbs Briess Red Wheat Malt


Mash
——-
Mash In – 60 min @ 153F

Hops
——-
None

Other
——-
3.50 oz Ground Ivy @ 60 mins
1.00 oz Yarrow Leaves @ 60 mins
0.50 oz Peruvian Salt (Mines of Maras) @ 15 min
1.00 oz Yarrow Flowers/Stems @ Whirlpool

Water
——-

Calcium
Chloride
Sulfate
Sodium
Magnesium
Carbonate
50
30
50
15
10
90
Yeast
——-
Right Proper House Lacto Blend

Notes
——-
Brewed 7/8/17 with Carlos

Made a 3.5L starter with the Right Proper House Lacto culture that had been sitting in my fridge for… six months. Seemed to start up well.

Ground ivy harvested from the backyard that morning. Yarrow harvested three days prior on Cape Cod.

Chilled to 80F and pitched RP Lacto (left at 80F). Other half left at 65F for 6 hours to drop a bit cooler before pitching Cherry Funk (left at 65F).

7/22/17 Racked the Giga half to secondary (1.012, mildly tart).

7/26/17 Kegged the Right Proper half with 3 oz of table sugar to carbonate (1.009, firm acidity). Seal was not good, didn’t hold pressure.

8/6/17 Moved the Right Proper half to the keggerator, fixed the lid, and attached to gas. Final pH 3.03… not confident in that reading.

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Boiling greens in wort.