Archive for the ‘Beer resources & mythbusting’ Category

Pilsner history & info

October 16th, 2014

Pilsner beer is remarkable not only for its modern dominance, but also its relatively recent origins. The popularity of Pilsner is truly worldwide, so much so that Pilsner recipes still dominates the US and many other beer markets. It is simply the most popular beer style in the world.

Pilsner’s origins can be traced to a single date and location. On November 11th, 1842, in the town of Pilsen the first keg of Pilsner Urquell was tapped. (Ref: Daniels) This makes Pilsner one of the youngest beer styles, even among lager beer styles which were brewed in nearby Bavaria at least back to the 1500’s.

Pilsen in Bohemia (modern day Czech Republic) had a unique combination of ingredients and circumstance to create the Pilsner style. First, the surrounding country produced light 2-row Moravian barley, considered the finest light malt for brewing beer. Second, the country produced a hops originally known as Zatac red, now called Saaz. Saaz hops is a noble hop prized for its aroma.

Third, Pilsen had extremely soft water that is desirable for making very pale beers, and also enhances the bitterness from the hops. Finally, Bohemian Pilsen shared many brewing techniques with nearby Bavaria. The first Pilsner was created with a combination of these four elements and the important fifth element of Bavarian lager yeast. The result was the palest of lagers with a refreshing aromatic hop finish that we now know as Pilsner.

The Pilsner Style

The defining example of Pilsner is the original Pilsner Urquell from the Pilsner Urquell brewery in Pilsen, Czech republic. In fact the word Pilsner is reserved in Bohemia exclusively for brewers in Pilsen.

Pilsners have an original gravity between 1.044 and 1.056, very light color of 4-6 SRM and hop rate of 35-45 IBUs. They have light to medium body, a clean flavor and finish with low diaceytls. They are hoppy and slightly malty with no aftertaste. They are typically well carbonated, and often served in a tall Pilsner glass to enhance the perception of carbonation.

Brewing Pilsner Beer

The unusually pale color of Pilsner derives from the use of Moravian Pilsner malt that is malted at the brewery at the low temperature of 100-122F versus 170-180F for an average lager malt. The lower temperature develops less melodin and a far lighter color than conventional lager malt. It also leaves some residual moisture that will spoil Pilsner malt if not used quickly.

Moravian Pilsner malt is most desirable for brewing Pilsners, though it can be difficult to find here in the US. Pilsner malt from other sources is an acceptable alternative, and lager malt can be used in a pinch, though it will result in a darker beer than true Pilsner malt.

Brewing light colored Pilsner from extract can be a challenge as extracts are inherently darker than corresponding grain malts due to the extraction process. The best course of action is to choose the lightest possible pilsner or lager malt extract if you want an authentic light pilsner color.

Pilsner Urquell uses 100% pilsner malt, with no other additions. Some home brewers will use a small amount (<10%) CaraPils or very light Crystal malt to add body and head retention.p>

Pilsners use a Bavarian style of three step decoction, though Pilsners typically are mashed with unusually thin decoctions, and then boiled for an extremely long time (often 2-3 hours) to boil off the excess water added. However, many modern commercial and home brewers use a single step infusion mash at 153 F (67 C) with equally good results. Some do add a protein rest.

Saaz hops is used exclusively on traditional Bohemian Pilsners, with hops added at the start of boil and the last hop addition about 30 minutes before the end of the boil.

Soft water is a key ingredient in Pilsner. Pilsen water has extremely soft water containing only 50 parts per million of hardness. For homebrewers, you can often start with distilled water and add the minimal water minerals needed to approximate Pilsen water.

Bohemian Lager yeast is the ideal yeast to use for a full bodied Bohemian style, though in a pinch Bavarian or another continental lager yeast can be used for a lighter, drier taste. Your lager should be fermented at 50F and lagered at low temperature of 35-40F for three to five weeks before serving.



BeerSmith on IPA

August 27th, 2014

BeerSmith Home Brewing News

India Pale Ale

India Pale Ale (or IPA) is a popular staple of homebrewers, microbrewers and hopheads who enjoy brewing some of the hoppiest beers on the planet. This week we look at India Pale Ale beer recipes, how to brew an IPA recipe and its history.


According to Wikipedia, India Pale Ale traces its origins to the 17th century in England with the earliest pale ales. In fact, new malting techniques developed at the start of the 17th century using coke-fired as opposed to wood-fired kilns enabled production of the first pale malts, and subsequently paler beers. One of the popular pale styles was a beer called October beer, which was highly hopped and designed to be stored for an extended period. Note that this October beer bears no relation to German Oktoberfest beer.

George Hodgson, owner of Bow Brewery brewed a version of October beer that was popular among the traders of the East India Trading Company in the late 1700’s. East India traders subsequently started trading many of Hodgson’s beers including his October beer. The highly hopped, high gravity, highly attenuated pale ale actually benefitted from the long trip to India and became popular with consumers there.

Other brewers, including several large Burton breweries like Bass, Alsop and Salt lost their European export market in Russia due to new high tarrifs on beer. They quickly emulated the October beer of Bow Brewery and also started exporting to India. The style, which now was now commonly called “India Pale Ale” became popular in England as well around 1840.

The IPA Beer Style

IPA is a hoppy, fairly strong pale ale traditionally brewed with English malt, hops and yeast. The American version has a slightly more pronounced malt flavor and uses American ingredients. The BJCP style guide for 2008 places original gravity at between 1.050 and 1.075, and highly attenuating yeasts are used to drive a final gravity between 1.010 and 1.018 for 5-7.5% alcohol by volume.

Multiple hop additions dominate the flavor profile in IPAs. English IPA’s typically have 40-60 IBUs, though the slightly stronger imperial IPA versions can have hop rates as high as 120 IBUs.

Color is similar to many pale ales – golden to deep copper color – varying between 8-14 SRM for the finished beer. Moderate carbonation is often used, though some English IPAs are lightly carbonated.

Brewing an IPA

Hops dominate the flavor of an IPA, so careful selection of the hop additions is critical to success. Traditional English IPAs use popular English hops such as Fuggles, Goldings, Northdown, Target, though sometimes noble hops are also used in finishing. Higher alpha English hops are also popular for bittering. American IPAs use the rough American equivalents such as Cascade, Centennial, Williamette, though again higher alpha hops are often used in bittering.

Multiple hop additions are almost always used for IPAs including bittering hops at the beginning of the boil, often several additions of finishing hops in the last 5-15 minutes of the boil, and dry hops to provide a hoppy aroma. In general, higher alpha hops are used for the base boil addition while aromatic lower alpha hops are used in finishing and dry hopping, though some traditional IPAs use lower alpha English hops throughout.

Traditional English 2-row pale malt makes up the bulk of the grain bill (or two row American malt for the American IPA), usually around 85-90% of the total. Crystal and caramel malts are traditionally used to add color and body to achieve the desired overall color both in extract and all-grain recipes.

Chocolate and black malts are not often used in commercial examples though they occasionally make their way into home-brewed recipes. Personally I prefer moderately colored caramel/crystal malt. Occasionally you will see wheat, flaked barley or carapils malt added to enhance body, though these are rarely used and only in small quantities.

As many IPAs were first brewed in the English city of Burton, they share much with their English Pale Ale cousins, including the unusual Burton water profile which accentuates the hoppy profile. The Burton water profile has extremely high concentrations of calcium carbonate and bicarbonate. Depending on your local water source, a small addition of Gypsum (CaSO4) can sometimes help to simulate the hop-enhancing high carbonate Burton waters.

IPAs are most often made with traditional English ale yeasts, though care must be taken to choose a highly attenuating yeast and avoid some of the lower attenuating, fruity British ale yeasts. Many brewers bypass the problem entirely by choosing a highly attenuating American or California ale yeast for a cleaner finish.

All grain IPAs should be mashed at a lower temperature than pale ales to achieve the high attenuation desired. A mash temperature around 150F for 90 minutes will aid in breaking down more complex sugars for a clean finish that accentuates the hops.

IPAs are fermented and stored at the traditional ale temperatures, usually around the mid 60’s F. Long storage periods are sometimes required to achieve the proper hop-malt balance.

Whats with the goat?

February 21st, 2014

This is Bock season, along with Yuengling, many American brewers used to commercially brew Bock in vast quantities this time of year.  This is attributed to borrowed German traditions of drinking this style in preparation of the Lenten fast as monistic monks did & continue to do.  The rich, malty sweet lager was considered “liquid bread” & helped make a person feel full while still getting necessary nutrition from a safe to consume liquid before the days of sanitation & pasteurization.   The first of these beers were made near the city of Einbeck, and with the dialect or slang of the Munchen brewers that adopted this style, were commonly referred to as ein-bock, witch happens to also be the word for a billy goat, hence the pun that continues to this day in packaging references.   There are many sub-styles that have derived from the bock bier over the years, heller or maibock (May) a blonde style still of substantial gravity but with less caramel malt, doppelbock a double gravity or strength version, usually with copious amounts of specialty malt giving a dark brown hue.  A few brewers would create the eisbock, a taking cold aging to the extreme & intentionally let the beer freeze, then by removing the ice, would concentrate the beer, increasing alcohol, a tradition that continues mostly with our large domestic breweries while making ice beer.  So there you have it, a brief overview of ein-bocks.

Food pairing info

January 8th, 2014

Here is a site we found that’s all about food pairing.   Have a look & try a few experiments we think you’ll find that beer can pair with food every bit as good as any wine.  More on this later, in next post I’ll share some of our experiments & personal experiences in cooking with beer.


Beersmith Radio now streaming 24/7

December 21st, 2013

Simply go to to stream a wealth of brewing knowledge for free…then fire that kettle & get brewing!


September 5th, 2013

carbonation chart

With the attached carbonation chart you can find the ideal setting for your typical short draw draft system.  Temperature is key, so be sure to have a good thermometer in the cabinet for a few hours, preferably in a cup of water before making any adjustments.  Make slow adjustments & keep in mind its a balancing act, if the beer is over-carbonated,  you may have to dial back the regulator & pull the release (or drink!) to drop the pressure in the head space of the keg.  the liquid will out gas always trying to find equilibrium & as the needle climbs on the gauge you can release again & so on.  Then dial in the correct setting fro the chart, keeping in mind your beer style & preference.  A European pils or a Belgain ale would typically call for more “volumes of carbonation” then say an English ale, with most domestic beers, pale ales & porters somewhere in the middle.

Mythbusting…the real enemies of beer pt 1

August 21st, 2013

Sorting out some of the misconceptions of beer can be a bit tricky, we tend to believe what we believe & can be pretty passionate about it.  Trying to convince someone that there’s more to what they’ve heard all of their adult life about storing beer,  is like trying to argue that the Giants are the best team in the NFC East to an Eagles fan…(sorry I had to)

So lets try to sort all of this out starting with “if it doesn’t all fit in the fridge it’ll get skunky, right?”
Well, the real answer is NO & NO.   The real enemies of beer are Oxygen & UV Light.  Where this seems to have stemmed from is leaving beer in a cooler after the ice has melted away.  Coolers turn in to little saunas after the ice is gone, literally baking your beer.  Heat is an oxidizer, and quickly eats away at the flavor of your beer.  MillerCoor’s formula is 3/30/300, or 3 days at 90 degrees, 30 days at 71 & 300 at 33 degrees.  From this, you can see the same amount of “damage” done to your beer in a 150 degree cooler that you left in the back of your truck last weekend.  The next enemy is time, no matter how much effort & how hi tech you get the canning & bottling process there will always be at least a few parts per million of good ol O2 in there, this time slowly oxidizing your favorite beer, again, every minute you store a beer cold (with an exception, more on this later) & dark you’re preserving its flavor, in fact its recommended by a major player to rotate warm displays (that were delivered cold) back to cold storage after just 14 days, in a perfect world.

The second part of this is the matter of what “skunky” beer is.
The term skunked refers to the trace sulfur compounds in all beers spiced with hops reacting to UV light, witch is technically called “Light Struck”.  This is most commonly prevented by using cans, or coated bottle,  as well as reduced by using brown bottles vs. clear or green bottles.  For the remaining few beers utilizing green or clear glass, special preisomerized hop extracts and perhaps, other flavor stabilizers need to be used to prevent UV light from reacting to  the liquid.   Fact:  This is why back in the day Miller & Rolling Rock came in extra tall 6 pack carriers & the pony bottles came “wrapped” in their carriers.

That pretty much sums it up.  Most all commercially brewed beer has a legible “Bottled on” or “Best by” date.  This is marking the worst case scenario, in a hot summer warehouse or rail car, etc.  In most cases the beer has been stored at least cool for a large portion of their life.  So ideally for perfect brewery fresh taste, beer should at least be consumed by the freshness date, canned beer or bottles protected from UV light, stowed away at cool or cold temperatures beer holds up considerably well.  While there’s no magic or do-dad that will break down your Bud on the 111th day, as the “Age” oxidation is a slower process, there’s no harm in demanding fresh, well kept product when spending your hard earned dough either…I do.


Next up:  Keg beer myths & mysteries, as well as bacteria spoilage

Beer good for the bones? This is a new one…from msnbc

February 8th, 2010

Beer may be good for your bones
A cold brew has high levels of dietary silicon, analysis shows

Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP file
While researchers don’t recommend gulping beer to meet your silicon intake needs, a new study shows the potential health benefits of a cold brew.
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By Jeanna Bryner

updated 11:30 a.m. ET, Mon., Feb. 8, 2010
If you downed one too many while watching the Super Bowl, here’s at least one reason to hold your head high: Drinking beer can be good for your health.

But seriously, a new analysis of 100 commercial beers shows the hoppy beverage is a significant source of dietary silicon, a key ingredient for bone health.

Though past research has suggested beer is chockfull of silicon, little was known about how silicon levels varied with the type of beer and malting process used. So a pair of researchers took one for the team and ran chemical analyses on beer’s raw ingredients. They also picked up 100 commercial beers from the grocery store and measured the silicon content.

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The silicon content of the beers ranged from 6.4 mg/L to 56.5 mg/L, with an average of 30 mg/L. Two beers are the equivalent of just under a half liter, so a person could get 30 mg of the nutrient from two beers. And while there is no official recommendation for daily silicon uptake, the researchers say, in the United States, individuals consume between 20 and 50 mg of silicon each day.

However, other studies show that consuming more than one or two alcoholic beverages a day may be, overall, bad for health.

The take-home message for the casual drinker: “Choose the beer you enjoy. Drink it in moderation,” lead researcher Charles Bamforth of the University of California, Davis, told LiveScience. “It is contributing silicon (and more) to your good health.”

Bamforth and his colleague Troy Casey, both of the university’s Department of Food Science and Technology, detail their findings in the February issue of the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.

The silicon levels of beer types, on average:

Indian Pale Ale (IPA): 41.2 mg/L
Ales: 32.8 mg/L
Pale Ale: 36.5 mg/L
Sorghum: 27.3 mg/L
Lagers: 23.7 mg/L
Wheat: 18.9 mg/L
Light lagers: 17.2 mg/L
Non Alcoholic: 16.3 mg/L
Their research showed the malting process didn’t affect barley’s silicon content, which is mostly in the grain’s husk. However, pale-colored malts had more silicon than the darker products, such as the chocolate, roasted barley and black malt, which all have substantial roasting. The scientists aren’t sure why these darker malts have less silicon than other malts.

Hops were the stars of the beer ingredients, showing as much as four times more silicon than was found in malt. The downside: Hops make up a much smaller portion of beer compared with grain. Some beers, such as IPAs are hoppier, while wheat beers tend to have fewer hops than other brews, the researchers say.

“Beers containing high levels of malted barley and hops are richest in silicon,” Bamforth said. “Wheat contains less silicon than barley because it is the husk of the barley that is rich in this element. While most of the silicon remains in the husk during brewing, significant quantities of silicon nonetheless are extracted into wort and much of this survives into beer.”

(Wort is the sweet liquid that comes from mashing the grains and eventually becomes beer.)

Got beer?
While the researchers are not recommending gulping beer to meet your silicon intake needs, their study does add to others on the potential health benefits of this cold beverage.

The type of silicon in beer, called orthosilicic acid, has a 50 percent bioavailability, meaning that much is available for use in the body. Some foods, like bananas are rich in silicon but only 5 percent is bioavailable. This soluble form of silica found in beer could be important for the growth and development of bone and connective tissue, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Past research has suggested that moderate beer consumption may help fight osteoporosis, a disease characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue.

Another past study involving nearly 1,700 women reported last year in the journal Nutrition showed participants who were light to moderate beer drinkers had much better bone density than non-drinkers. The researchers suggested the beer’s plant hormones, not the alcohol, could be responsible for the bone boost.


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