Archive for the ‘General beer related ramblings’ Category

Hmm, now what hop should I use?

February 10th, 2016

If you’re formulating a recipe & get stumped on what hop variety to try, click here & check out YCH Hops’ list for a little inspiration & a general overview of all the common varieties available today.  Another favorite tool is from Hopunion, which is our supplier the packaged hops we sell here at In & Out.  Their Aroma Wheel here will help you even further by narrowing down the list by specific flavor/aroma characteristic that will be imparted to your beer.  Feel free to shoot us an email as well, for an opinion on what to use- we’re happy to help!  Also if you’d like feel free to email in your grist, we can pull the necessary grain bill & mill it for you, as well as get your hops, yeast & any thing else you need, boxed up & ready for you to pick up, saving you time on brew day!

Whats a sweet stout all about?

March 26th, 2015

Sweet Stout and Milk Stout Recipes

Sweet stout and milk stouts are increasingly popular beers that form a counterpoint to Dry Irish Stouts.  This week we take a look at the history of Sweet Stout, how to brew it and recipes for making it.

History of Sweet and Milk Stout

Milk Stout (also called Cream or Sweet Stout) traces its origins back to Porters.  Strong Porters which were widely popular in the 1700’s were often labeled as Stout Porter.  Eventually the Porter name was dropped in the 1800’s to become simply Stout.  A number of variations of stout emerged.  Dry Irish stouts (like Guinness) pushed the limits of using heavily roasted malts to create a dry coffee-like flavor.  Other stout variations such as Russian Imperial Stout pushed the limits on the malty or sweet end.  Still others, like Oatmeal stout pushed in other directions.

Milk stout and Sweet stouts push the sweet end of the spectrum by using lactose – which is unfermentable.  The iconic example of milk stout, Makeson’s stout, was first brewed in 1801 in the Southern United Kingdom.  Milk stouts were widely marketed in the 1800’s as nutritious – even to nursing mothers.  After World War II, the UK outlawed the use of the word and imagery for milk in association with beer, so many modern examples are labeled as Sweet stouts.

The Sweet Stout Style

Sweet stouts use dark roasted malts to create the dominant flavor which is a malty, dark, roasted chocolate character.  Like Dry Irish Stout, they may have roast coffee-like flavors.  Unlike Dry Stout, Sweet stouts have a medium to high sweetness (malt or lactose) that provides a counterpoint to the bitterness of hops and roast malt.  Some (though not all) sweet stouts include lactose, an unfermentable sugar that enhances sweetness and body.

These stouts are full bodied and creamy, and have low levels of carbonation.  Original gravity starts at 1.044-1.060 and finishes at 1.012-1.024 for a 4-6% alcohol by volume.  Many English examples use a relatively low starting gravity, while US examples tend to be brewed at a higher starting gravity.  They have low to medium esters and little to no diacytl.

They are moderatly hopped at 20-40 IBUs for a bitterness ratio of around 0.6.  The hops should balance the malt, but hops is not a major flavor in this style.  The color should be dark brown to black (30-40 SRM).

Brewing a Sweet Stout

Sweet stouts start with an English Pale Malt base which makes up 60-80% of the grain bill.  To that, we add a mix of crystal/caramel malts (roughly 10-15%), and chocolate, black and roasted malts (10% or more in total) to provide color and flavor.  Corn, treacle, wheat or other off-beat malts are sometimes (though rarely) used.

For a true milk stout, lactose is often added.  Since Lactose is unfermentable it provides a distinctive sweetness as well as body for the finished beer.

Sweet stouts traditionally use Southern English ale yeast as this is where the beer was originally brewed.  A relatively low attenuation English ale yeast with moderate esters  such as White Labs WLP002 or Wyeast 1092 would be appropriate.

English hop varieties such as Fuggles, East Kent Goldings, or Columbia  are appropriate, though many US variations also use popular American hops.  The hops should primarily be added as bitterness hops since hop aroma and flavor is not dominant.  Hops should balance the sweetness of the beer.

Mashing an all grain sweet stout should be done at the higher end of the temperature range to enhance body and residual sweetness.  I will typically mash this style in the 153-156 F range.  Fermentation is done at normal ale temperatures and the beer is conditioned as any other English Porter or Stout.

 Sweet Stout and Milk Stout Recipes

Here are some recipes from the BeerSmith recipe archive:

BeerSmith on Baltic Porter

February 23rd, 2015

BeerSmith Home Brewing News

Baltic Porter Recipes – Beer Styles

Baltic Porter is a very strong, robust Porter brewed to fight off the harsh winters of thriving 18th and 19th Century Baltic trade routes.  Though the style originated in England, it was subsequently brewed throughout Northern Europe.  This week we take a look at the Baltic Porter beer history, style, recipes and how to brew it at home.

History of Baltic Porter

Baltic Porter owes its origins to the rise of wildly popular English Porter in the 1700’s.  Though Porters of the time were already much stronger than today’s beers (many exceeding 7% ABV), an even more robust version of Porter was made for export across the North Sea to support Baltic trade.   As the style grew in popularity it was also brewed in virtually all of the Northern European and Baltic states including Germany, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Denmark and Sweden. (Ref: Wikipedia)

Like English Porter, the character of the beer has changed over time.  The earliest Baltic Porters were made from wood kilned brown malts that had a smoky roasted brown somewhat bitter flavor.  They also were brewed with top fermenting ale yeasts.  They were often highly hopped to preserve the beer and also offset the heavy flavor of malts (over 7% ABV for many early porters).

Some authors also claim Baltic Porter owes some of its heritage to Russian Imperial Stout, another export beer brewed in England for export to the Russian imperial court in the 1700’s.  Like Baltic Porter, Russian Imperial Stout is a stronger, sweeter more robust version of the stouts made domestically in England at the time.

In the mid 1800’s as the beer was brewed more widely and continental influences drove production, most Baltic Porter brewers switched to bottom fermenting lager yeasts in a tradition that continues today.  Also as industrialization occurred, coke fired kilns eliminated the smoke flavor from brown malts, and gradually the Porter base of mostly brown malt was replaced by a combination of modern pale malt, Munich, Vienna and roasted malt.  While taxes and supply shortages during the Napoleonic wars drove the alcohol content of other Porter’s down to modern levels, Baltic Porter remained a strong beer at a robust 7-10% alcohol content.

The Baltic Porter Style

Baltic Porter has a complex flavor profile combining a rich malty sweetness with caramel, toffee, nutty, toasted and sometimes licorice flavors.  A warm alcohol profile is present, as the moderate fruity ester profile common to many English beers.  Some variations have a smoky or dark roasted profile similar to Schwarzbier though the flavor should not be burnt.

Since lager yeast is used the finish should be relatively clean.  Hop flavor should be moderately spicy (often from Lublin or Saaz hops).  The overall impression should be a full bodied, smooth Porter with a well aged alcohol warmth.  The beer is generally well carbonated to enhance mouth feel.  The beer should be rich and robust, but not as strong or robust as a Stout or Imperial Stout.

Baltic Porters start with a high gravity of 1.060 to 1.090 for an alcohol by volume content of 5.5-9.5%  Most Baltic Porters are in the traditional 7.5-9.5% ABV range.  Hop rates of 20-40 IBUs are needed to balance the roasted malt flavor (0.46 BU:GU bitterness ratio).  They are dark brown to black in color (17-30 SRM).

Brewing a Baltic Porter

Modern Baltic Porters start with a combination of Pale Malt and Munich/Vienna base malts that make up about 70-80% of the grain bill.  If using a Pale-Munich or Pale-Vienna mix often 50-50 is used.  However, it is not uncommon for some continental versions to use a base of all Munich or all Vienna malt.

Debittered Chocolate or Black malt provide the bulk of the color and roasted flavor (up to 10% of the malt bill).  A variety of other specialty malts are often added (5-10% total) for complexity and body including Crystal/Caramel malts, brown malt, amber malt, caramunich, carafoam, etc…

Historical versions often make heavy use of brown and amber malts and may even include a small amount of smoked malt in an attempt to recreate the slightly smoky brown malt base of the 1700’s.  Spices are sometimes added for complexity in small quantities including anise or black licorice.

Baltic Porter is typically mashed at a moderate conversion temperature to generate both body and alcohol content.  Continental noble or spicy hops are used including Saaz and Lublin.  Continental lager yeast is now widely used, with fermentation at lager temperatures.  Some historical variants still use ale yeast, but these are fermented at low (near lager) temperature.

Water profiles are not a major feature of the style – so use of a moderate profile is sufficient.  The style is highly carbonated to enhance mouthfeel.

Baltic Porter Recipe

Here is a sample recipe for a Baltic Porter that makes heavy use of Munich malt and some brown malt to provide the malty, complex base.

Makes 5 Gallons, All Grain, No spices used

  • 8 lbs Pale Malt (2 row Belgian or German)
  • 4 lbs Munich Malt (9 SRM)
  • 8 oz Chocolate Malt (450 SRM)
  • 4 oz Black Patent Malt
  • 2.25 oz Saaz hops (boil 60 min)
  • 1 pkg Belgian Lager Yeast (White Labs WLP815)

Counting Calories?

February 3rd, 2015

BeerSmith Home Brewing News

Counting Calories in your Homebrewed Beer

This week, I take a look at calories in your home brewed beer, how to calculate them and where they come from.

Calorie Counting

I’ll start with the good news first – an average 12oz commercial beer has slightly less calories than a comparable soda or even a glass of juice.  An average American lager (say Budweiser at 5% ABV) has about 145 calories for 12 oz.  A Coke classic runs about 155 calories for a 12 oz can and orange juice is about 184 calories.

If you drink light beer, they generally run from 100-112 calories per 12 oz and have slightly less alcohol (average of about 4.2% alcohol), placing them well below regular sodas or juice.  Premium beers run a bit heavier – a Sam Adams Lager or Boston Ale has about 160 calories and high alcohol beers like New Belgium Trippel (7.8% alcohol) contain 215 calories in a single 12oz serving.

Where Do The Calories Come From?

Not surprisingly the calories in beer comes from alcohol and carbohydrates – both from the malted barley (or other grains) used to brew beer.  During fermentation, yeast breaks down the simple carbohydrates and converts them into ethanol (ethyl alcohol).  The longer chains of carbohydrates that the yeast cannot break down remain in the finished beer, contributing additional calories.  Full bodied and all malt beers tend to have more residual carbohydrates.  Roughly 60% of the calories in an average beer come from alcohol and 40% from residual carbohydrates.

Despite the term “beer belly”, very little of the alcohol you consume is converted into fat.  In fact, your liver converts most of the alcohol into acetate which is then released into your bloodstream and consumed directly to produce energy.  The bad part is that when your body is burning alcohol/acetate, it is not burning fat, so you will tend to retain the fat you already have, plus your body may convert some of the residual carbs from the beer into fat.

Adding to the effect is the fact that alcohol tends to be an appetite enhancer – so if you drink a lot you will likely eat more than you would with water or even other carbohydrate drinks.  Not that all news is bad – in fact several studies have found that drinking in moderation (1-2 drinks a day) can actually have a positive effect on overall health if combined with a healthy diet and exercise.  However, clearly moderation is the key.

Calculating Calories

Calorie conscious brewers can estimate the number of calories in 12oz of homebrewed beer from the starting (OG) and ending (FG) gravities.  BeerSmith also will show you the calories if you use the Alcohol/Attenuation tool.

  • Calorie_from_alcohol = 1881.22 * FG * (OG-FG)/(1.775-OG)
  • Calories_from_carbs = 3550.0 * FG * ((0.1808 * OG) + (0.8192 * FG) – 1.0004)
  • Total calories – just add the Calories_from_alcohol to Calories_from_carbs

So lets look at a sample beer with a OG of 1.048 and a FG of 1.010 which has 4.9% alcohol by volume.  Running the numbers above, we get 99 calories from alcohol and 59 calories from carbohydrates, for a total of 158 calories.  Most beers have calorie counts in this range – with the bulk of calories coming from alcohol and not carbohydrates.

Light and low-carb beers tend to be made at lower alcohol levels, and also have less malt and more adjuncts (corn, rice, etc) to reduce residual carbohydrates.  Essentially light beer makers attack the problem on both sides – by cutting the alcohol levels and also cutting the residual carbs.  Corn, rice and other non-barley adjuncts tent to ferment more fully leaving less residual carbs.  The tradeoff is that the body of the beer comes from the residual carbs, so light beers made with more rice will generally have less body than barley malt beers.  However, in very light bodied styles like American Pilsner, the effect is less noticed than it would be in a low-cal Porter or Pale Ale.

Brew notes & ramblings…

October 22nd, 2014

Heres a couple handy brew notes for reference…

* extract conversion:

DME has 45 points per pound per gallon (ppg)

[(1 pound) * (45ppg)] / (5 gallons) =  9 specific gravity points on hydrometer (1.009), per pound of malt in a typical 5g batch

LME has 38 gravity points per pound per gallon (ppg)

[(1 pound) * (38ppg)] / (5 gallons) = 7.6 specific gravity points on hydrometer (1.0076), per pound of malt in a typical 5g batch

* Yeast Rehydration (recommended for dry yeast before pitching)

Rehydrate yeast per instructions on pack- sprinkle yeast into 10 times yeast weight (11g of yeast in 110 ml of water = approx 4 oz)  of boiled water, cooled to 70-80 degrees F, cover with foil & let stand for 15 mins then lightly stir, then let rest again for 5 mins before pitching.

* Yeast Starter (always recommended to ensure healthy yeast)

Prepare a wort of a gravity of 1.045 using 4 oz DME per 32 oz water.   Bring wort to boil to sterilize & cool to 70-80 degrees F. Pour your pitch-able yeast slurry, or direct sprinkle dry yeast into wort & let rest for 24 hrs in a sterilized container with airlock, The use of a stir plate will dramatically increase yeast growth.

* Priming fermented beer with corn sugar

For standard 2.5 volumes of carbonation use .8 oz (.7 oz for lower 2.3V English Bitters  & .9 oz for 2.6V Pils, Belgians ) of priming sugar / gallon of finished beer, fully dissolved in 2cups of water, stir into bottling bucket, then fill & crown bottles
If individually dosing each bottle, measure your sugar solution in ml (if 2 cups = 473 ml) & divide by the number of bottles (if 5g in secondary, accounting for trub & tubing loss take 4.75g x 128 for total oz / the size of bottle giving us 27 for 22’s or 50 for 12’s) then using a sterile syringe, draw up 17.5 ml of sugar solution for each 22 or 9.5 ml per bottle for 12 oz bottles then crown.
If bottle conditioning a bright, clear beer that was fermented with a high flocculating yeast & has had an extended period in the secondary, you may want to rehydrate & blend in some CBC-1 conditioning yeast to ensure full carbonation, this will leave sediment to the bottom of your bottle.

* Conversion factors:
1 liter of water = 1 kilogram in weight
1 ml of water = 1 gram in weight
1 cc = 1 ml
29.5 ml in 1 oz

* All grain water to grist ratios
Mash to water ratios range from 1.25-2 quarts to lb of grain in mash tun.  Thinner mashes can be more efficient & reduce  the chances of the mash sticking when lautering (sparging) but can impact strike temperature as well as the grain will “take” less heat from the strike water, as there is more hot water.  This can create a beer with less fermentability, giving the end result more body & less alcohol.  Lower initial mash temps can increase fermentability, and allow for multiple “rests” or steps of temperature by decoction or simply adding small amounts of boiling water to gradually raise the temp of the mash, while thinning it as well.  Rims & herms recirculation systems should have rather a thin mash as there are hoses, pumps, etc that take volume from the mash tun, if too little strike water is used it may run the grain bed dry & pack against the false bottom.  All things to concider for each all grain recipe & adjust.  Be sure to take & compare notes as well and use BeerSmith as a way to help calculate and organize notes & recipes.

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 Oktoberfest

September 16th, 2014
Marzen and Oktoberfest RecipesThe German Marzen and Oktoberfest beer styles are seasonal favorites of beer drinkers worldwide.   This week we take a look at the traditional Marzen and Oktoberfest beer recipes and how to brew them at home.

Marzen has a mixed origin.  Some sources note the extremely close relationship between Marzen and Vienna beers.  Ray Daniels notes that the term Marzen was first used for beers brewed in Vienna in the 1700’s.  Marzen is also close in relation to brown beers brewed in Bavaria as early as the 16th century, though the term Marzen was not originally  applied to this style.  Most modern authors attribute the origin of the name “Marzen” to Vienna, as no references can be found of Munich Marzen’s prior to the late 19th century (Ref: Daniels), though simillar styles were being brewed in Bavaria much earlier.

Marzen, the German word for the month of March, refers to the month when these beers were originally brewed.  Summer was too hot to brew and ferment beers properly, so by a 1539 ordinance in Bavaria, beer could only be brewed between the days of St Michael and Saint George (29 Sept-23 April).

As beer was not brewed in the summer, the last beers of Spring were made with a higher alcohol content and stored in cellars, often refrigerated with ice to last the summer.  This higher gravity beer was named after the month when most were brewed – March or Marzen.

The modern Marzen and Oktoberfest styles may bear little resemblence to the early Marzen of Vienna or even Munich.  The early Marzen was described as dark, brown and full bodied.  In fact, the turmoil of the wars of the early 20th century Europe nearly brought an end to both Marzen and Vienna style beers, though the modern Marzen enjoyed a resurgence in popularity when the Munich Oktoberfest started up again after World War II.  The Oktoberfest style, a slightly stronger version of Marzen, is brewed specifically for the world famous Munich festival each year.

The Marzen Beer Style

The BJCP style guide describes Marzen as as a rich, slightly malty beer with a slight hint of toasted character from Vienna malt.  No roasted or caramel flavors are present, and the beer has a fairly dry finish.  Noble hops are present though should be only lightly perceived in the finished beer which is decidedly malty.

The original gravity of a Marzen is in the 1.050-1.057 range, lightly bittered with noble hops providing 20-28 IBUs of bitterness.  Some “fest” beers are brewed at a slightly higher starting gravity.  The beer is well attenuated, with a finishing gravity of 1.012-1.016.  Color should be golden to orange-amber with a color range of 7-14 SRM.  The alcohol by volume is 4.8%-5.7% and Marzen’s are usually fairly well carbonated.

Brewing a Marzen Recipe

Marzen is generally made from a combination of Munich, 2-row Pale Malt, Pilsner and Vienna malts.  Generally, the malty Munich malts makes up as much as half of the grain bill, with either Pilser or Pale Malt making the balance of the grain bill.  For extract recipes, a Munich based extract made from Munich and Pale malt is generally best to use as a base.  Vienna may be added to substitute for 10-15% of the Munich malt to add a slightly more toasted flavor.  A small number of homebrew recipes also add 5-10% Crystal or 5% Cara-pils malt to add body and head retention.

Hops for Marzen/Oktoberfest beers is typically of the Noble German or Bohemian variety,  and the bitterness ratio (BU:GU) is generally around 0.5-0.6.  Popular hops selections include Saaz, Tettnanger, and Hallertauer though occasionally American hops are used by homebrewers.  Generally these are added only for bittering, and aroma or dry hops are rarely used.

The mash is almost always a single infusion mash for homebrewers in the middle range of around 152-154F for the conversion step.  Purists can try a traditional German decoction mash, though in most cases it is unnecessary given modern highly modified malts.

Bavarian lager yeast or Marzen/Oktoberfest yeast is the prime choice for Marzens, with Bohemian Pilsner yeast providing a reasonable backup.  Ferment ar around 50F (depending on yeast choice) and lager near freezing (33-37F) for at least 5 weeks.

Water treatments are rarely needed, but you might want to consider alternative water sources if your water is exceptionally hard.

BeerSmith on Head Retention

June 10th, 2014

BeerSmith Home Brewing News

Enhancing Beer Head Retention

An important characteristic in homebrewed beers is the ability of the beer to retain a nice foamy head for a long period of time. Commercial brewers go to great lengths to improve head retention by a variety of additives. However homebrewers also have access to ingredients and additives that can help your foam last until the last drop.

Note that enhancing head retention is closely related to enhancing the body of the beer. Foam is the result of CO2 bubbles rising through the beer. These bubbles attach themselves to substances in the beer and form a skin around the bubble. Obviously the more CO2, the more bubbles, but the goal of the brewer is not bubbles but stability of the head. As foam collapeses, evaporating bubbles tend to solidify the beer near the surface, allowing more beer to be poured with less foaming after a few minutes have passed.

Head stability depends on the presence of substances with low surface tension in the beer which can form stable elastic bubbles. The two primary contributors to head retention are certain high molecular weight proteins and isohumulones (alpha acids from hops). Therefore beers with more proteins that are highly hopped will have higher head retention.

Methods for Improving Head Retention

We will explore the following possibilities:

The use of body and head enhancing malts such as crystal, wheat, or carafoam
The altering of the mash schedule to enhance head retaining proteins
The use of heading agents – additives that enhance head retention
Addition of high alpha hops – which will increase bitterness, but also increas isohumulones that enhance head retention
Limiting the use of household soaps on drinking glasses and homebrew equipment
The use of a nitrogen and CO2 mix for carbonation and serving
The shape of the glass used to serve the beer
Head Enhancing Malts

The inclusion of proteins and dextrines enhance the body and head retention of finished beer. Unfortunately when used to excess, proteins and dextrines can interact with tannins and reduce clarity and promote cloudiness, so a proper balance must be struck. Crystal malts to include the light Carapils and Carafoam, and caramel malts.

These are the most common body and foam enhancing additives that enhance head retention primarily by adding dextrines and other complex proteins. The overuse of such malts can result in proteins reacting with tannins to create a chill haze. Similarly, other grains high in protein such as flaked barley and wheat can be used to enhance head retention, though again at the cost of clarity.

Mashing Schedule

Since head retention depends on the level of high molecular weight proteins, any step in the mash that breaks down proteins is undesirable. For example, a protein rest in the 50-60 C (122-140 F) range would not be desirable. To improve head retention you would generally favor a full bodied, higher temperature mash, with main conversion in the 158 F (70 C) range, and avoid intermediate protein rests.

Heading Agents

Homebrew shops sell a variety of additives, usually under the generic title heading agent. Some are intended to be added at bottling time, while others need to be added at the end of the boil. Follow the instructions included with the agent to determine what is required. Many heading agents are derived from an enzyme called pepsin that is derived from pork.

Other popular heading agents include iron salts, gums, and alginates. All heading agents will alter the flavor of the beer, in general making the character softer. In general, heading agents are not necessary for homebrews that are made from 100% malted barley and wheat. Heading agents are more commonly used in commercial beers that have high rice and corn content, lacking the necessary proteins of an all-malt beer.


As mentioned in the introduction, isohumulones which are a form of alpha acid also will enhance the head retention of beer. Alpha acid is the primary bittering agent in hops. Therefore highly hopped beers will have better head retention. Obviously overall malt-bitterness balance is still required, but one can use higher levels of hops, particularly in darker full bodied beers to enhance head retention.

Limit the Use of Household Soaps

Household soaps such as common dish soap and dishwashing soap have a significant detrimental effect on head retention in beer. You should not use household soaps on either your brewing equipment or your main bar drinkware. Detergent washed glasses in particular will quickly reduce the head on even a well constructed beer. Instead use a beer-friendly cleaning agent from your local homebrew supplier.

A Nitrogen Mix

Some beers, most notably Guiness Irish Stout, are carbonated and poured with a mix of nitrogen and carbon dioxide. CO2 is relatively soluable in beer, and therefore does not promote the formation of gas bubbles as well as non-soluable gasses. Nitrogen dissolves less easily in beer, and provides a better base for forming a stable head. However, nitrogen alters the perceived character of the beer, and use of pure nitrogen would result in an unacceptable mouthfeel and carbonation.

A mix, therefore, is always used. The mix varies depending on the style of beer – a low carbonation stout might be served with a mix of 25% carbon dioxide and 75% nitrogen, while ales and lagers might include more CO2 – perhaps 60% CO2 and 40% nitrogen. Low carbon dioxide mixes (25/75) can be applied by mixing the gases in the cylinder, but higher mixes generally require two separate tanks – one of CO2 and one of nitrogen. A high precision blending device either at the tap (i.e. a stout tap) or inline are needed to blend the two gasses for dispensing.

Shape of Serving Glass

The shape of the glass is also a determining factor in both head formation and head retention. A tall narrow glass enhances the formation and retention of the head, while short wide glasses do not. This is the reason many Bavarian wheat beers and Pilsners are served in tall narrow glasses. Use the proper glass for the style of beer you are pouring to enhance the overall presentation.

As a reminder I post new articles and podcasts every week to the BeerSmith Blog if you want to catch up on the latest in homebrewing.

Thank you again for your continued support!

Brad Smith
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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!

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

Hop Freaks!

January 31st, 2013

Wow not even Feb yet & already over half way through Hop Freak season.  Now is revered as the time of year when all of the good stuff hits the shelves.  HopSlam!, Nugget Nectar & Founders Double Trouble, all three so anticipated its like there’s copious doses of gasoline involved with their launch every year.   Were hoping for a second small shipment of Nectar after the draft rolls in (any day now) and HopSlam was pretty much all done before it even showed up- gotta get on the list early, as some “ahead of the curve” were too late to get any of the mothers of all hop bombs (at a fair price) this year.  Keep an eye out for Double T (any time now), as it could bode as the best of the bunch, as it has in a few of the past years’ & don’t forget about Fegley’s Hopsolutely, with is every bit as good, and much more than most big IPA’s out there… were talkin’ 11.5 ABV & 100+ IBU’s & available for the most part, year ’round… 

Liquor Privitazation

January 31st, 2013

P.C. or not, my personal thoughts on all of the Privatization noise…
Oh you only get half truths from the media. From the eyes of the consumer, I get it, there’s no “dog in the fight” so all of this seems reasonable. forget the billion dollars…that’s BS & not the reason, its about politicians using the “public interest card” to advance their agendas. If it was about the added revenue they could raise the price a dollar, and no one the wiser, bang! they would have the revenue. If it was the convenience, then open a few more stores in every market & actually make them ALL modern & fully staffed/stocked like in the bigger market stores. Its truly about politics & making their place in history & taking care of billionaires friends & allies- period. Here’s an excerpt of how it affects Beer Distributors for REAL…the family owned businesses that employ thousands of people & are only “restrictive & antiquated” because of the rules that these bureaucrats themselves have written & hold them to. Keep this about the privatization of Liquor/wine & leave beer out of it for now. Sell the liquor stores if they want- fine. The lottery sale didn’t involve a re-write of gambling laws or any of the casinos or whether your local fire dept could have small games of chance, right? Why is this different, privitize LIQUOR- BEER ALREADY IS!!!
Below is copied from a fact sheet from the MBDA…

– Beer and wine licenses for others, (grocery, convenience, drug and big box stores such as Wal-Mart) are as low as $17,500 to $35,000 each, while the cost of a new ‘enhanced license’ for a beer distributor would be $150,000 a year with an annual renewal of $10,000. Beer distributors – who are all family owned small businesses – are expected to pay 400% more to get wine and six-pack sales when other industry segments get both beer and wine at a nominal price? Every beer distributor has already paid a market price for their distributorship and the right to sell beer – now we are being required to ‘repurchase’ this right at a price that is higher than our proposed competition’s.

– A wine and spirits auctioned license, just for the right to sell wine and liquor, will run about $200,000. For a beer distributor to have beer sales down to a six-pack, wine and liquor, the total cost will be about $350,000.

– If the proposed legislation passes as is, many of Pennsylvania’s beer distributors will be out of business within a few years. Consumers may have more locations to buy beer, but the prices will be much higher and the selection far more limited.

Post-Apocalyptic Beer

January 14th, 2013

Ok so the title suggests a reality of of an actual apocalypse…not really going into all of that, but- hypothetically, what if there were some event that turned the Craft Beer scene on its ear & all the good beer just dried up? The global giants gobble everyone up, a world-wide hop shortage due to infection or all of the 2-Row just fell over or some other such, nonsense?  
And, only you could pick 1 craft brewery to survive…well?  
Man whatta’ conundrum…arrgh I can’t do it!  It’s the same as “what’s your favorite beer?”  “Heck I don’t know…it’s like who’s your favorite kid?”
And it seems to change all the time, for whatever reason…usually with whatever “liquid love” is in my hand at the moment.  For instance last night I was swearing to myself the Stone IPA has returned to all of its former glory (whether or not it actually diverted is debatable-but in my small lil mind it did) and was the most beautiful, hopped up, wonderfully drinkable, bright citrusy IPA ever made.  
Were talking Brewery here, not just any single beer…  So whats it gonna be?
#1 has to be….um, well, hmmm…since just had a few oz. sample of Nectar, which is so fresh & perfect, taking into account all of the other solid brews they do year round as well as the fun scratch series & other specialties…my winner is Troegs.  Stone you can be runner up!  So what do you think?

Spoiled…and cuttin’ daisies

January 12th, 2013

So in today’s world of great beer, I was talking with with some friends just the other night about how different the landscape of craft beer is today verses just a few years ago, not to mention a decade ago. It used to be that most rural areas didn’t stock many craft & import options and you had to really travel to find a few good choices. Not anymore and “we’re a little spoiled because of it!(in a good way)” Was the eventual conclusion to a half hour chat. Really just think about it, remember what… Sierra Pale was like….”man thats really really hoppy”, Weyerbacher’s original Ipa was barely palate-able (at least for my young taste buds- funny how ya never forget the first one!) Dead Guy & Sam Smith was a real treat & a flavorful step up from everyday brew that consisted of Yuengling Lager or a maybe a Heineken? Not that any of this is totally off base today but in every aspect there is tons more choice. So many styles & sub-styles, subtle variations and so on… It really is cool.
Almost always going for a well hopped copper ale of some sort, now a days I can take the “when all else fails-grab a Dales” approach, mix it up with a Two Hearted, Centennial, Torpedo, or now the best bang for the buck- in my opinion Perpetual…but even then we look forward to Nugget Nectar (next week by the way- call, or message to reserve- it’ll go fast!) & here comes the mothers of hop bombs- Hop Slam & Double Trouble (ditto), and the list goes on… Choice is awesome isn’t it?
So as this here tall can of Half Acres’s Daisy Cutter is tasting as if its heaven sent (lil pricey- but hey?) it really amazing how far the craft beer scene has come in the last decade. But for tonight, this sweaty, silver tall can of Daisy Cutter is fitting the bill nicely, with a nice smooth malt character, with a little hint of caramel, bright citrusy hop accents, and just enough spicy snap to balance it all out…I’m thinking life is good and I’m good with being a lil bit of a spoiled beer snob:)!

Return to Weyerbacher

January 7th, 2013

While I have to admit, its been awhile, perhaps 2 years since my last Weyerbacher brew. Since they redesigned their packaging & released a pair of new brews, Verboten & Last Chance IPA, I got intrigued.  Verboten gets the first nod & is a simple, clean belgian-esque Pale (Gold) Ale.  5.9% ABV is perfect for the style & smooth, soft palate is complemented by a mild, peppery hop snap & light fruity, yeasty undertones.   While admitting this is not my absolute favorite style (bit light on citrusy hop notes) this one is very well done and has reversed my mindset of Weyerbacher taking focus away from everyday beer styles.  Weyerbacher has been making some fantastic extreme (and pricey) brews for years, and with those they are mostly recognized, but its the smaller styles that bring a brewery volume, and it seems they “get it” again.  I look forward to giving Last Chance IPA another chance very soon.

Win this Kayak!

August 12th, 2010
Come on in & enter to win this Kayak!
*and no ladies…Dev is not included.

Troegs in Hershey…

June 30th, 2010
Thought this was great news, that needed to be shared…should mean more beer for us!  Maybe even more Nectar & Elf next year?

*Thanks Dave & Wes for the clip.

Guinnss Barbeque Shrimp

June 24th, 2010

Sounded too good not to share…

Servings: Serves 2-4


10 fresh jumbo shrimp
2 jalapeno peppers
2 garlic cloves
1 shallot
12 ounces Guinness Extra Stout
1 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons honey
1 bunch cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh chili powder
salt to taste


•Set shrimp aside and blend remaining ingredients together in a blender to create a marinade.
•Coat shrimp in marinade
•Cook shrimp on a barbecue on medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until cooked