Anyone wanna make Sake?

November 10th, 2014

Making Sake

Author:  Bob Taylor Issue: November 2008

Grains, water, yeast . . . and koji? Learn the secrets of making sake (Japanese rice wine) and get your moto rising.


When making sake, the first ingredient to consider is water, which is something we’re all familiar with. The water used for making sake should meet the same requirements that hold for beer: clean, good tasting and chlorine-free. If the water used for sake meets those requirements, minimal mineral adjustment will be necessary (more on that later). 

Rice, of course, is the staple food grain for all of Asia. Japan does not, under any circumstances, export their rice, so getting genuine Yamada Nishiki sake rice is out of the question for even the largest of North America’s sake producers. Fortunately, the US grows some excellent quality, hybrid, medium-grain rice. My personal favorite is Kokuho Rose sushi rice, which is grown in California, but any medium-short grain rice you can get your hands on will produce very respectable homemade sake.

Rice for making sake must be milled (polished) in order to remove the husk, germ and bran material. This causes a couple of problems when it comes to making a fermented beverage out of the grain. First, without these parts rice can’t be malted, so how can the yeast get the simple sugars they need to ferment our sake?

The answer is koji. A small portion of the rice used to make sake is incubated with the spores of a very specific strain of mold called Aspergillus oryzae. This mold is known for its ability to create a lot of amylase enzymes — the very enzymes we need to break down our rice starches and make them available for the yeast. Koji will very likely prove to be the most difficult product to find. Asian grocery stores in your area may stock Cold Mountain Rice Koji next to the miso in their refrigerator. If you can’t find that product, you can order koji-kin (koji spores) from Vision Brewing ( and produce your own koji.

The second problem is that polished rice is very poor in the nutrients that yeast need for a healthy fermentation — particularly magnesium and potassium. For this reason, the recipe on page 55 calls for some salts and brewer’s yeast nutrient, which are available at your local homebrew supply store or your local grocery store. These ingredients aren’t required — you can make sake without them — but they’re not expensive and omitting them will slow your fermentation down and alter the flavor of the finished sake.

Then there is the final ingredient: yeast. Wyeast WY3134 Sake #9 is my choice. In fact, it’s the second most commonly used yeast strain by professional sake brewers worldwide. White Labs also produces WLP705 Sake Yeast, which is available each year in September and October. Any neutral white wine yeast is also an acceptable substitute.

Gear Good to Go?

The list of required equipment is surprisingly short, and most of it is probably already in the average homebrewer’s equipment kit. You will need a racking cane, vinyl tubing, airlocks, one-hole stoppers and a plastic bucket fermenter, which are probably already in your inventory. Besides basic homebrewing equipment, you’ll also need a few pieces of very inexpensive specialized equipment:

• A steamer. Multi-tier bamboo steamer baskets are commonly available and dirt cheap. They need to be lined with a layer of cheesecloth to steam rice with them. For even cooking, don’t try to steam more than two tiers of rice at a time.

• One-gallon glass jugs. These will serve as secondary fermenters and clarifying vessels. I suggest having at least four of them to make rotating through them easier.

• A small fruit press. This device, while not required, will make pressing sake from the rice lees later on much easier. If you own one, use it. If you don’t own one, you can get away with using your hands to press the lees in a nylon paint straining bag.

How Sake is Made

The process itself is where homebrewers are tempted to take shortcuts. At first glance it appears very complex, labor intensive, and intimidating. It’s really not that bad! It helps to think of it as all-grain brewing, but with the mash and fermentation happening at the same time over a longer period of time. Like any other complex task, it helps to break things down into steps, and sake has three main steps with only one having a series of sub-steps:

1. Moto. This is a yeast starter. The traditional yamahai moto technique relies on using Lactobacillus bacteria to acidify the mash at this point, which is why pasteurization is important later on. The low pH helps to protect the fermenting sake from spoilage.

2. Moromi The primary fermentation, but to get a complete fermentation the mash needs to be built up in stages, with each stage doubling the total amount of the mash:

a. Hatsuzoe. First addition of koji, water, and rice.
b. Nakazoe. Second addition.
c. Tomezoe. Final addition.

3. Yodan The stabilization step where the nigorizake (cloudy sake) is separated from what’s left of the rice after fermentation is nearly complete. Water can be added to dilute the alcohol content, and the sake can be fined or filtered to clarify.

One final point of sake brewing that needs to be addressed is temperature control. The Japanese have a long tradition of only brewing sake in the winter months, much the same way German brewers used to brew. This is the “kan-zukuri” or “cold brewing” method. With modern refrigeration equipment, keeping to that traditional timetable isn’t strictly necessary, but for the homebrewer on a budget it can help.

Making sake requires frequent stirring, which means an open fermenter, so keeping the fermentation temperature as close to 50 ºF (10 °C) as you can get it during primary fermentation is necessary to keep the sake from becoming too sour from runaway Lactobacillus activity.

Steamed Rice

Rice needs to be cooked to gelatinize its starch before it can be used to make sake. When dealing with large volumes of rice, steaming is the preferred method of cooking. There are a few reasons for this, but it all boils down to ease of handling. It’s a lot easier to steam a large volume of rice than to simmer it, and the resulting cooked rice kernel is much firmer and less sticky than simmered rice, resulting in clumps that are much easier to break up. Steaming also volatizes and removes a lot of the fats that are still present on the outside of the rice kernel, resulting in a more delicately flavored sake.

The process for steaming rice is fairly straightforward.

1. Wash the rice thoroughly in cold water until the runoff is no longer cloudy.

2. Place the rinsed rice in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover by about three inches. Place this in the refrigerator to soak for 8 to 12 hours, overnight is fine. During this time the rice will soak up the water that will actually cook it during steaming, so it’s important to get the right amount of water into the grain. Properly soaked rice is just slightly less than crunchy and breaks up easily, but is not squishy.

3. After soaking, allow the rice to drain in a colander for half an hour while you prepare the rest of your steaming equipment.

4. Place the drained rice in a bamboo steamer lined with cheesecloth (or whatever kind of steamer you own), cover, and steam for 45 minutes. Keep an eye on the water level in the steamer during this long steaming time and add water as required.

How to Make Sake
Starting with the moto, a basic batch of sake takes about six weeks to complete. There are many steps in the process, so it helps to keep a checklist and a calendar. Here are the basic steps, broken down, for making sake according to the recipe
on page 55.


1. Prepare 2.5 cups (591 mL) of cold
water by adding 0.75 teaspoon of yeast nutrient and a pinch of epsom salt. Stir until dissolved, then add 0.5 cup of koji. Cover the container and store it in the refrigerator overnight.

2. Meanwhile, rinse 1.5 cups of rice and cover with 2 to 3 inches of water. Place this next to the koji in your refrigerator and allow to soak overnight as well.

3. The following morning, drain and steam the soaked rice. After steaming, de-pan and mix the hot rice with the chilled koji and water mixture in your sanitized fermenter, using your clean hands (yes, your hands are the best tool for the job here) to mix and make sure all the rice clumps are broken up. The temperature of the mixture will fall to the 75–80 ºF
(24–27 °C) range.
Allow this mixture to remain at an ambient room temperature of around
70 ºF (21 °C) for two days, stirring twice a day with a sanitized spoon. Over the next 48 hours the koji will work its magic and the rice will almost completely liquefy.

4. After the two days have gone by, cool the rice and koji mash down to as close to 50 ºF (10 °C) as you can get it, then pitch the sake yeast. Hold the mash at this cool temperature for the next 12 hours.

5. Once the 12 hours have gone by, it’s time to allow the temperature to come back up to the 70 ºF (21 °C) range so the starter’s fermentation can carry out as quickly as possible. Stir the mash with a sanitized spoon twice a day for the next three days, then once a day for three days after that.

6. The basic fermentation of the moto is completed after nine days. The temperature should again be lowered to 50 ºF
(10 °C) and the moto allowed to rest for another five days. After those five days pass, the moto becomes ready for the moromi build up.


In order to ensure a complete fermentation, it’s best not to add all of the rice and koji at once. Just like syruping a wine, gradually adding the fermentables coaxes the yeast into going above and beyond their usual alcohol tolerance. Rice, koji, and water are added three times over a period of four days.


1. The first addition of rice will be
2.5 cups, which needs to be rinsed and covered with water to soak twelve hours before you plan to steam it. While you’re rinsing the rice, stir 1 cup of koji into
the moto.

2. The next morning, steam the rice for this addition. While steaming, dissolve 1.25 teaspoon of Morton salt substitute in a little warm water (this is the only time you will need to do this), then add enough cold water to make a total of 2.75 cups (651 mL). Place this in the refrigerator to chill until the rice is done.

3. After the rice is finished steaming, de-pan it and mix with the chilled water from step two. Use your clean hands to break up all the clumps and then, when the temperature of the rice drops below 85 ºF
(29 °C), mix it into the moto. The temperature of the moromi mash should settle somewhere in the 70–74 ºF (21–23 °C) range. Keep the mash at room temperature and stir every 2 hours for the next
12 hours, then twice a day for the next
36 hours.


1. On the evening of the day after you started the hatsuzoe step, prepare 6 cups of rice for steaming. At the same time, stir 1.5 cups of koji into the moromi mash.

2. Steam the rice the next morning as usual, then de-pan and add 8.75 cups of well-chilled water. Mix well and, as before, add it to the moromi when the rice is sufficiently cool.


1. Immediately following step two of nakazoe, allow the moromi to rest at room temperture for twelve hours, then stir in all of the remaining koji (20 ounces). Afterward, wash and soak all of the remaining 5 pounds of rice for the final addition.

2. The following morning, drain and steam the soaked rice. Work in batches if necessary, this is a lot of rice for even the most ambitious of steamers. The freshly steamed rice will need to be mixed with 1 gallon plus 1 cup (237 mL) of cold water before being added into the moromi.

3. Let the moromi, now at nearly 4 gallons (15 L) volume, rest overnight at room temperature. You can observe the odori or “dancing ferment,” which is sake’s version of the high kräusen that homebrewers are familiar with.

Now that the moromi is built up and fermentation is well underway, it’s time to get the temperature down. Move the fermenter to a location that will maintain it at as close to 50 ºF (10 °C) as possible and allow it to ferment undisturbed for the next three weeks.


As the fermentation nears its close, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to keep an eye on the specific gravity. Once the gravity has dropped below 1.000, it is time to separate the sake from the rice lees (called kasu). Use a racking cane to siphon the cloudy nigorizake out from under the floating cap of kasu and into sanitized one gallon glass jugs until you can’t draw off any more liquid. Things will tend to clog up here, and that’s okay, you can just pour the remaining liquid and kasu into a nylon straining bag and use either your hands or a small fruit press to extract as much sake from it as you can. Aeration isn’t a huge concern here because there is still a little bit of active fermentation going on to help clean things up, but do try to keep things sanitary and splashing to a minimum.

Secondary, Clarifying, Maturing and Packaging

You should now have about three gallons of milky white nigorizake with an alcohol content somewhere between 18% and 22% by volume. Put stoppers and airlocks on the secondary fermenters and keep them at 50 °F (10 °C) so they can finish fermenting. In a couple weeks the cloudy rice particles will settle into a fluffy white layer of sediment on the bottom of each jug and you can just siphon the clear sake off into another sanitized vessel.

At this point in the process, you will have pale yellow sake that is no longer milky, but can’t quite be called clear. To render it brilliantly clear (and largely colorless), commercial sake producers use activated charcoal filters. For homebrewers, take a page from the winemaking book instead: bentonite. Used in a ratio of 1⁄2 teaspoon per gallon (3.8 L), bentonite finings will remove most of the haze from homebrewed sake in a matter of days.

To use bentonite, start with 8 fluid ounces (237 mL) of very hot water and slowly whisk in 1.5 teaspoons of granular bentonite. Once it has become a smooth slurry, divide it evenly between your containers of hazy sake, cap, and gently shake to distribute. In about three days, all of the bentonite will have settled out, taking almost all of the haze particles with it.

While you’re at it, there’s no reason why you can’t stabilize the sake by pasteurizing it immediately after adding the finings. It’s very easy to do. Place your jug of sake in a pot large enough to hold it plus a water bath, then add enough tepid (to avoid shocking the glass) water to come up to the shoulder of the jug (or the pot if the jug is much taller than the pot). Place a thermometer down the neck of the vessel and apply heat. Watch the thermometer carefully, and when it reaches 140 ºF (60 °C), remove the sake from the water bath, take out the thermometer, and cap the sake tightly. Allow the pasteurized sake to cool completely before refrigerating.

Once pasteurized, you can bulk age sake like this for up to six months before siphoning into smaller bottles and re-pasteurizing. Clarified, double-pasteurized sake has a shelf life of up to a year at room temperature, and considerably longer if kept refrigerated and away from light.


Once you know the technique, where to find the ingredients and have a few pieces of inexpensive equipment, making a batch of sake can be rewarding. For more information, visit my Web site http://www.

Bob Taylor is a homebrewer from Anchorage, Alaska. This is his first feature story for BYO.


Steam Beer explained

November 5th, 2014

BeerSmith on brewing Steam Beer and California Common

Steam Beer brings to mind visions of the California gold rush, the Sierra Nevada mountains, and San Francisco. Today we’ll look at the history of California common beer (aka Steam Beer) and how to design steam beer recipes and present a collection of Steam Beer recipes you can brew at home.

History of Steam Beer

Steam beer was originally made by dozens of breweries in the California from 1850-1920, particularly around San Francisco. After prohibition, Anchor Steam Brewing Company continued to brew steam beer and eventually trademarked the term “Steam Beer” for use with its famous brew. Since “steam beer” was trademarked by Anchor Brewing Company, brewers adopted the name “California Common” to refer to this unique beer style.

The key distinguishing feature of steam beer is that it is a lager beer fermented at high temperatures (between 60-65F) and often well hopped. The precise origins of California Steam Beer is somewhat ambiguous. Daniels notes that “One Hundred Years of Brewing” provides conflicting information on precisely where the first steam beer was made (Los Angeles and San Francisco being candidates), but says that at least 25 California breweries made steam beer in the period from 1850-1903. The origins of the term “steam beer” are also shrouded in mystery, but one source cites the escaping gas when a keg of steam beer was tapped.

Anchor Brewing started making steam beer in 1894 and was the sole producer of the beer through the 1960’s after prohibition closed its competitors. The original steam beer was cask fermented and conditioned, and often delivered to the saloon in a “young” state.

A historic beer may or may not have used adjuncts, was hopped between 28 and 40 IBUs, and was run through a “clarifier” after a very short fermentation directly into the keg. Krausen was used to carbonate the kegs, often to very high levels of carbonation (as high as 40-70 psi before tapping!). (Ref: Daniels)

Designing a California Common Recipe

The modern California Common beer remains remarkably true to the steam beer heritage. California Common has an original gravity between 1.048 and 1.054, and a moderate hopping level of 30-45 IBUs according to the BJCP Style Guide.

It is brewed with a medium body, and the distinct flavor of Northern Brewer hops. It is typically amber to light copper in color, between 10 and 14 SRM. The modern beer is more highly attenuated than its predecessor, and has a mix of ale and lager character. This leaves a clean finish with low fruitiness, ester and diacytl.

California Common uses a pale malt (usually 2 row or pale extract) base for the bulk of the malt bill. Crystal malt in the 40-80L color range makes up an average of 10% of the remaining malt bill and is selected to achieve the desired beer color. Additional ingredients such as Munich/Vienna, Cara Pils, Chocolate and Special malts are occasionally added to homebrew versions, usually in quantities of 5% or less.

The mash schedule should target 152-156F to produce a medium body beer. Hop aroma and bitterness are desirable for this style, so multiple hop additions are the norm. Northern Brewer hops is traditionally used for bittering with an aroma hops such as Cascade added near the end of the boil for flavor/aroma. Dry hopping is often used. The water used historically for this beer is soft in character.

A distinguishing feature of California Common is clearly its fermentation and yeast strain. California Common lager yeast is most often used, though many brewers have had great success with high attenuation lager yeasts or even high attenuation ale yeast. Steam beer should be fermented between 60-68 F (16-20C). Conditioning homebrew at 50F for 3-4 weeks after fermentation will aid in clearing the beer. (Ref: Daniels)


Hop additions explained

October 28th, 2014

BeerSmith on the Best Hop Techniques for Homebrewing

This week we take a look at the best hop techniques for homebrew beer – our hop technique roundup.  A good understanding of various hop techniques is critical for successful brewing.  Yet the wide array of hopping techniques with terms such as mash hopping, first wort hops, dry hops, boil hops, and late hop additions can be confusing to first time and experienced brewers alike.

Beginners and intermediate brewers alike often apply the wrong technique to a given beer style.  Knowing which technique to use for a particular style or desired flavor profile is part art form, but it all starts with a firm understanding of the techniques themselves.

We’ll present the most common hop methods in something of a chronological order, starting with the mash and ending with finished beer:

Mash Hopping

Mash hopping is simply the addition of hops directly to the mash tun itself.  The hops is often placed on top of the grain bed and left to sit as the mash is sparged.  Mash hopping is reported to provide a better overall balance and character to the beer, though it adds almost no bitterness.

Mash hopping is seldom used today because it requires a fairly large amount of hops and adds very little in direct flavor.  Since the hops are never boiled, no bitterness is released and most of the flavorful oils from the hop flower are lost in the boil that follows.

Brewers today theorize that most of the reported benefits from mash hopping are a byproduct of lower pH from mash hopping and not the hops itself.  Given the relatively high cost of hops, as well as many cheaper methods exist for controlling the pH of your wort, I’m not sure why a homebrewer would choose to mash hop.

First Wort Hops

First wort hops are hops added to the boil pot at the very start of the lautering process.  Unlike mash hops, first wort hops remain in the boiler during the boil and therefore do contribute bitterness to the wort.  I covered this method in detail in an earlier article on First Wort Hopping.

First wort hopping is an old German method that has enjoyed a home brewing resurgence.  In blind taste tests, beers brewed with this method are perceived as smoother, better blended and have less of a bitter edge and aftertaste.   I have personally used this method with great success on a variety of beers where a smooth well balanced bitterness is desirable.  I’ve even used it on lightly hopped styles as it helps to reduce the perceived bitterness without upsetting the malt-bitterness balance of the beer.

Bittering Hops

Bittering hops or boil hops are just that – hops added for the bulk of the boil to add bitterness to the beer.  Boiling hops releases the alpha acids that provide bitterness in your beer.  The longer you boil your hops, the more bitterness you will add.

Beer software, such as BeerSmith can help you estimate the bitterness for a given hop additions.  In general, your bittering additions should be boiled for full length of your boil (typically 60-90 minutes) to extract as much bitterness per ounce of hops as possible.  I will usually add my bittering hop addition at the beginning of the boil.

Late Hop Additions

Hops added in the last 5-15 minutes of the boil are called late hop additions.  These hops are usually not added for bittering, though they do contribute a small amount of bitterness to the beer.  The main purpose for late hop additions is to add aroma and aromatic hop oils to your beer.

In addition to bittering compounds, hop cones from “aromatic” hop varieties contain volatile hop oils that provide the strong flowery aromatic flavor and scent desirable in many hoppy beer styles.  Unfortunately most of these compounds boil off within 10-20 minutes of adding the hops.

Late hop additions should always use “aromatic” hop varieties, and should be done within the last 10 minutes of the boil to preserve as many aromatic oils as possible.  In addition, late hop additions are most appropriate for beer styles where a hoppy flavor and aroma is needed.  You would not add late hop additions to a malty or low hop beer style.

The Hop Back

A hop back is a device containing hops used inline between the boiler and chiller to infuse fragile hop oils and aroma directly into the hot wort before it is cooled and transferred to the fermenter.  While a hop back does not add any significant bitterness to the beer, it can add great aroma to your finished beer.  For more information see our article on the hop back.

Dry Hopping

Dry hopping is the addition of hops after the beer has fermented.  Hops are typically added in the secondary fermenter or keg and left for a period of several days to several weeks.  Dry hopping is used to add a hoppy aroma to the beer, as no bitterness is added with this method.  Dry hopping is also used in many commercial beers for a hoppy burst of aroma.

I’ve covered this method extensively in a previous article on dry hopping, but the basic method is to add a few ounces of hops to the secondary before bottling.  If kegging, use about half as much hops.  Again you should use only aromatic hop varieties, and you should only use this method with hoppy beer styles where a strong hop aroma is desired.

Combining Hop Methods

Advanced brewers often use a combination of hop additions to achieve a burst of hop aroma and flavor, particularly for hoppy styles like India Pale Ale.  In fact, many true hopheads will add substantial first wort and boil hops, followed by multiple late hop additions and a final dose of dry hops.

Personally, I try to keep things simple, so I will typically add a single boil or first wort addition for bitterness, followed by a single late hop addition in the last 5-10 minutes of the boil to preserve aromatics and dry hopping if appropriate.  To save money, I’ll also try to use higher alpha bittering hops for the main boil hops and save my precious aromatics for the late addition and for dry hopping.

On non-hoppy styles, I’ll often choose to add a single bittering addition, often as first wort hops since I like the smooth blending perception this method produces.

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.

Keg Coupler Listing

October 17th, 2014

A pretty expansive keg listing for selecting the correct coupler (by Kegworks)

Abbot Ale G
Abby White U
Abita Amber D
Abita Golden D
Abita Light D
Abita Purple Haze D
Abita Turbodog D
ACME Brown Ale D
ACME Pale Ale D
Alaskan Amber D
Alaskan ESB D
Alaskan Pale Ale D
Alaskan Smoked Porter D
Alaskan Stout D
Alaskan Winter Ale D
Alexander Keith D
Amstel S
Amstel Light S
Anchor Liberty Ale G
Anchor Porter G
Anchor Steam G
Anderson Valley Belks Bitter D
Anderson Valley Boont Amber D
Anderson Valley Hop Ottin IPA D
Anderson Valley Poleeko Gold D
Aventinus M
Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel A
Ayinger Bräu-Hell A
Ayinger Bräu-Weisse A
Ayinger Celebrator A
Ayinger Frühlingsbier (Springtime Beer) A
Ayinger Jahrhundert-Bier A
Ayinger Kirta-Halbe (Pint of Country Fair) A
Ayinger Liebhard’s Kellerbier A
Ayinger Premium-Pils A
Ayinger Ur-Weisse (Traditional Wheat) A
Ayinger Winter-Bock (Winter “Buck”Beer) A
Bad Frog – BAD Light D
Bad Frog Golden- Amber Lager D
Bad Frog Micro-Malt D
Bass Pale Ale D
Bay Hawk Chocolate Porter D
BayHawk Amber Ale D
BayHawk California Pale Ale (CPA) D
BayHawk Hefeweizen D
BayHawk Honey Blonde D
BayHawk OC Lager D
BBC Long Beach Crude D
BBC Marathon D
BBC Strawberry Blonde D
BBC Top Sail D
Beck’s S
Beck’s Premier Light S
Belhaven 80 Shilling S
Belhaven Best S
Belhaven Best Extra Cold S
Belhaven St. Andrews Ale S
Belle-Vue S
Bemish S
Bitburger Pilsner A
Black Dog D
Blackthorne Cider G
Blanche de Chambly D
Blue Moon D
Boddingtons Pub Ale G
Breckenridge D
Brooklyn Brown Ale D
Brooklyn East India Pale Ale D
Brooklyn Lager D
Brooklyn Pennant Ale 55 D
Brooklyn Pilsner D
Brooklyn Post Road Pumpkin Ale D
Brooklyn Weisse D
Bruin Pale Ale D
Bud Dry D
Bud Ice D
Bud Ice Light D
Bud Light D
Budweiser D
Budweiser Select D
Busch D
Caffrey’s G
Cantillon Rose (Belgium) S
Carlsberg S
Carlton and United Breweries (CUB) D
Castle Maine D
Celis D
Cider Jack D
Columbia Brewing D
Coors D
Coors Light D
Corona D
Custom Brewcrafters D
De Koninck Ale (Belgium) S
Delirium Tremens (Belgium) S
Deschutes Black Butte D
Devil Mountain D
Dortmunder Union S
Dos Equis Amber D
Dos Equis Lager D
Double Diamond S
El River Brewing D
Einbecker M
Ellicottville D
Erdinger Hefetrub Weisse S
Fat Tire D
Firehouse D
Firestone Double Barrel Ale D
Firestone Lager D
Firestone Pale Ale D
Firestone Walker’s Ale D
Fischer A
Flying Dog D
Foster’s D
Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse A
Full Sail Amber Ale D
Full Sail Pale Ale D
Fuller’s ESB G
Fuller’s London Pride G
Genesee D
George Killian’s Irish Red D
Goose Island D
Gordon Biersch Hefeweizen D
Gordon Biersch Marzen D
Grant’s D
Green Mountain Cidery D
Grolsch G
Guinness Stout U
Hacker-Pschorr Weisse A
Hahn S
Hamms D
Hard Core Cider D
Harp U
Heineken S
Henry Weinhard’s D
High Falls D
Hoegaarden White A
Holy Cow Red D
Hornsby’s D
Hudson Valley D
Humboldt Hemp Ale D
Humboldt IPA D
Humboldt Pale Ale D
Humboldt Red Nectar Ale D
Ice House D
Isenbeck A
John Courage S
Kilkenny U
Killarneyv D
Killian’s Irish Red D
Kirin Ichiban D
Kokaneev D
Krombacher A
Kronenbourg 1664 A
Labatt Blue D
Leffe S
Leinenkugel D
Lindeman’s Framboise S
Lindeman’s Peche S
Lion Nathan S
Little Kings D
Lost Coast Alleycat Amber D
Lost Coast Apricot Wheat D
Lost Coast Downtown Brown D
Lost Coast Great White D
Lost Coast Raspberry Brown D
Lowenbrau (Import) S
Lowenbrau (US) D
Mad River Jamalca Red Ale D
Mad River Steelhead Pale D
Magners U
Maredsous Abbey Ale (Belgium) S
Marston’s Pedigree S
Maudite D
McEwan’s S
Miami Trail Brewing D
Michael Shea’s D
Michelob D
Michelob Amber Bock D
Michelob Light D
Michelob Speciality D
Michelob Ultra D
Mickey’s D
Middle Ages D
Miller D
Miller Genuine Draft D
Miller Lite D
Milwaukee’s Best D
Modelo D
Molson Canadian D
Moosehead D
Moretti Italian Pilsner S
Murphy’s Irish Red S
Murphy’s Irish Stout S
Natural Ice D
Natural Light D
New Amsterdam D
New Zeland Steinlager D
Newcastle S
Nor’Wester D
North Coast Old Rasputin Stout D
North Coast Pranqster Belgian D
North Coast Red Seal Ale D
North Coast Scrimshaw D
O’Doul’s D
Old Milwaukee D
Old Speckeled Hen G
Old Vienna D
Paulaner Hefeweizen A
Paulaner Lager A
Paulaner Pilsner A
Paulaner Salvator A
Pete’s Seasonals D
Pete’s Wicked Ale D
Pilsner Urquell S
Piraat Ale S
Porter & Summerfest D
Portland Mactarnahan’s Amber D
Portland Oregon Honey D
Pyramid Hefeweizen D
Pyramid Seasonal D
Razors Edge D
Red Ale D
Red Dog D
Red Hook Blonde D
Red Hook ESB D
Red Hook IPA D
Red Hook Seasonal D
Red Wolf D
Rogue Dead Guy Ale D
Rogue Hazelnut Brown D
Rogue Red D
Rolling Rock D
Rouge G
Rouge-Mogal D
Sam Adams Boston Lager D
Sam Adams Seasonal D
Saranac D
Saxer Brewing D
Schmitt’s D
Schneider M
Scottish & Newcastle S
Scottish Tennents G
Shiner Bock D
Ship Inn D
Shipyard D
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale D
Sierra Nevada Seasonal D
Sir Perry William’s G
Sleemans D
Smithwicks Ale U
Southpaw D
Spanish Peaks Black Dog D
Spaten Lager A
Spaten Oktoberfest A
Spaten Optimator A
Spaten Pils A
St. Pauli Girl S
Staropramen A
Starr Hill Brewery D
Steinlager D
Stella Artois S
Strohs D
Strongbow Cider S
Tecate D
Tetley’s S
Thomas Kemper D
Tooheys S
Trois Pistoles D
Tucher S
Unibroue D
Van Steenberge S
Veltins M
Victoria Bitter A
Warsteiner Dunkel A
Warsteiner Pils A
Wasatch D
Watney’s G
Weinhard’s D
Whitbread Ale D
Widmer Hefeweizen D
Widmer Seasonal D
Woodchuck Dark & Dry Cider D
Woodpecker Cider S
Wyder’s Apple Cider D
Wyder’s Peach Cider D
Wyder’s Pear Cider D
Wyder’s Raspberry Cider D
Young’s S
Young’s Chocolate Stout S
Young’s Oatmeal Stout S
Young’s Ram Rod Bitter S
Young’s Special London Ale S
Yuengling D
Zebra D
Zywiec M

BeerSmith Software info

October 16th, 2014



We rely on BeerSmith software both here at the shop & at home.  We use it for every brewing project, whether it be a new scratch built recipe, referencing a clone for inspiration, working up a custom kit for customers or just as a database to keep track of ingredients & recipes to duplicate or tweak in the future.  We highly suggest purchasing the mobile version of BeerSmith from the App or Play Stores’ first, as it wont be long until you’ll fall in love with its ease of use & surprising level of features for the little cash outlay.  For sure, you’ll have your phone or tablet at your side every brew day for sure.  The Desktop version is laid out a little differently, and of course much more feature rich & allows you to generally dig a little deeper into the details.  You can also keep physical ingredient inventory, scale batches & print reference sheets fairly easily.  The ability to create & store your recipes both locally and in the integrated cloud service, makes BeerSmith a fantastic, useful tool.  For more information check out their website at or check the vieo out here: Video link or take a free 21 day test drive here.
-Beer Guys

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.



Stuck Sparge?

October 6th, 2014

BeerSmith on Avoiding a Stuck Sparge

A stuck sparge can be a painful experience when brewing all grain beers. New all grain brewers often find their sparge has come to a complete halt when brewing their favorite beer, so this week we look at how to avoid this common home brewing problem.

The cause of a stuck sparge is quite simple – a stuck sparge occurs when your grain bed and filter mesh at the bottom of your lauter tun get completely clogged with bits of grain and no longer allow wort to flow. The flow of wort from the lauter tun into the brewing pot will slow to a trickle and then stop completely. While this problem occurs more often when using high protein adjuncts such as wheat malt, it can occur with almost any brew.

Avoiding the Stuck Sparge

The best thing to do about your stuck sparge is avoid it in the first place. Here are some strategies for doing this:

Properly Mill your Grains: The crush of your grains has a significant impact on your sparge as the grains form the filter bed needed for proper sparging. You can control the milling of your grains using an adjustable dual roller grain mill such as the Barley Crusher. An ideal milling with break the internal bits of grain into a coarse powder while still leaving the bulk of the husks intact. The husks then form the filter bed for your sparge. In general dual roller mills do the best job overall. Adjust the gap on your mill to achieve as fine a crush as possible without destroying the hull integrity.
Use a Well Designed Mash Tun: There are many systems home brewers use to act as a filter such as false bottoms, stainless steel braid, and cut copper tubing. In general the filter area should be as broad as possible with the width and height of the filter area approximately equal to the depth of the grain bed. Cylindrical Gott or Igloo water coolers with a false bottom work very well. Whatever system you use, be sure you have a large area covered by the filter, and the filter elements evenly spaced across the bed. Poorly designed filters are more prone to clogging.
Sparge Slowly – Most first time all grain brewers attempt to lauter their mash much too quickly. A full sparge of a 5 gallon batch should take 20 minutes or more. Use a clamp on your sparge line to slow the flow of the wort. Rushing your sparge not only reduces your extraction efficiency, it also can lead to a stuck sparge.
Mash Out – A mash out step raises the temperature of the mash to approximately 168F, and halts the active enzymes used during the mash. More importantly, a mash out step raises the mash temperature making the sticky sugars in the wort more soluble, resulting in a slightly thinner and less sticky wort. The less sticky wort helps reduce the chance of a stuck mash.
Keep the Grain Bed Afloat – If fly sparging or batch sparging, it is important to keep the grain bed afloat with a small layer of water above the grain bed. If you let the sparge water run too low, the top of the grain bed will dry out, compressing the entire grain bed and increasing the chance of a stuck mash. Adjust the flow of water into your lauter tun to keep a layer of water over the grain bed so the top of the grain bed is floating and not compressed.
Add Rice Hulls – Rice hulls, available from most brewing stores, add no flavor or sugars to the beer but can significantly reduce the chance of a stuck mash by providing a proper grain bed that filters the wort. Rice hulls are particularly useful for recipes using high protein additives such as large amounts of wheat or flaked barley.
Dealing with a Stuck Mash

What should you do if you already have a stuck mash? Here are a few steps you can take if you are faced with this difficult situation already:

Float the Grains – Unless you are at the very end of the sparge, add water to float the grains which will help to expand the grain bed and free your stuck sparge.
Add Hot Sparge Water – If the temperature of the grain bed is below 168F, you can add hot water to the grain bed to raise the overall temperature to 168F. This will help reduce the viscosity of your wort and aid in breaking the stuck sparge. However, make sure you don’t raise the temperature above 170F, as this could result in extraction of unwanted tannins from the grains.
Stir the Grain Bed – Though in general you always want to avoid disturbing the grain bed once it is set, you can stir up the grain bed as a last resort. This will almost always break the stuck sparge, but it also will result in some grain material being released into the wort and also hurt your overall efficiency. You can help mitigate both of these by drawing a few quarts of wort off the grain bed after stirring and recycling these back into the top of your lauter tun until the wort runs clear again.

Using Steeping Grains

September 26th, 2014

BeerSmith Home Brewing News

Steeping Grains for Extract Brewing

Steeped grains enhance the flavor and color of home brewed beer. Award winning extract beers all use some kind of steeped grains. Steeped grains add body, color, and fresh flavor to your homebrewed beer.

In our earlier series on beginner brewing, we covered the basic process for making extract beer at home. This week we’ll take a look at brewing extract beer with steeped grains. Steeped grains add authentic flavor, body and color to your beer.

Steeping grains is a remarkably simple method. The grains are added to 1.5 or 2 gallons of plain water before the extracts are added. Heat the water to between 150 and 170 degrees F, and then add the grains. The grains should be crushed to expose the sugars within the grain. It is usually best to put the grains in a grain bag to make them easy to remove, however you can remove the grains by running the hot mixture through a strainer if necessary.

The grain bag will float at the top of the mixture. Leave it in and attempt to hold a constant temperature for 20-30 minutes. If you leave it in too long or steep at temperatures above 170F you will extract excessive tannins which will result in a dry astringent flavor in the finished beer.

Steeped grains will not add many fermentables to your beer (i.e. your original gravity will not increase much). Steeping grains, unlike mashing, does not convert the complex starches in the sugar into fermentable sugars, so only a small percentage of the steeped grain (< 10%) will ferment. However, since unfermentable proteins are added by steeping, the body of the beer will be increased.

Whenever possible, use freshly ground grains as crushed grains will slowly oxidize over time. If you leave your crushed grain exposed to air for more than a few weeks you may add off flavors to your beer. Storing your crushed grains in an airtight package in a refrigerator or freezer will help them to last longer, as hot temperature and moisture spoils the crushed grain more quickly.

Specialty grains are usually used for steeping. Caramel malt is often used to add body and color. Darker malts such as chocolate and black patent are also commonly used primarily for flavor and color. Other popular additions include carafoam and carapils for body and roasted barley for a deep coffee flavor.

Not all grains are appropriate for steeping however. Pale malt, for example, adds very little flavor and should be mashed. Flaked and torrified ingredients such as flaked barley, wheats, munich malt and oats also need to be mashed. To get a complete list of grains that may be mashed, visit our grain listing. Grains marked as “Must mash” should, in general, be mashed and not steeped.

Steeping these “must mash” ingredients will rarely produce the desired flavor or body and in some cases may generate off-flavors. In order to properly use these ingredients, you need to switch to a partial mash or all-grain brewing method that will mash the ingredients to take full advantage of them.

To add freshness and complexity to your extract beer, try steeping some freshly crushed grains in your next batch of all extract beer.


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.

Diastatic Power and Mashing Your Beer

September 8th, 2014

This week we cover the technical topic of the diastatic power for mashing your all grain beer. While rarely covered, this topic is an important one, especially for home brewers making beers with high percentages of non-barley or specialty grains. This is an important topic for partial mash brewers as well, since they are often mashing with a high percentage of specialty grains.

The Malting Process

The story of diastatic power starts as part of the malting process. As we covered a few weeks ago in the article on Malting at Home, the malting process consists of placing raw barley grains in water and germinating (sprouting or growing) them until the acrospire (the little leaf growing inside the husk) reaches a length close to that of the grain itself. The malt is then kiln dried, and the tiny sproutlets fall off, leaving malted barley. For darker and specialty grains the malt is roasted at varying degrees of time and temperature to achieve everything from caramel malt to stout roast.

The purpose of the malting process is primarily to break down the protein structure of the hard grains and make them friable for mashing. In fact, you may often hear the term “modification” of the malt. Highly modified malt has almost all of its protein structure broken down, while undermodified malt still contains a significant portion of unfermentable proteins and complex starches. A secondary effect of malting, however, is to develop the enzymes (notably beta amylase) needed for mashing.

Diastatic Power

Diastatic power refers to the enzymatic power of the malt itself – its ability to break down starches into even simpler fermentable sugars during the mashing process. The term “diastatic” refers to “diastase” enzymes. There are two “diastese” enzymes, the first is alpha amylase and the second is beta amylase. These enzymes might be familiar to many of you who have been brewing all grain for a while, as they are the primary enzymes active when you mash your grains in the normal temperature range of 148-158F.

So why should an average homebrewer care? If you don’t have sufficient diastatic enzymes in your mash, you simply will not be able to properly convert sugars during the mash. This will leave you with a partially fermented very sweet beer, with very low alcohol content.

Diastatic Power is measured in degrees lintner (often denoted with a big °L), though in Europe a secondary measure of Windisch-Kolbach units (degrees °WK) is often used. You can convert from one to the other using Lintner=(WK+16)/3.5 or going the other way as WK=3.5*Lintner – 16. A malt needs a diastatic power of approximately 35 °L to be considered “self converting”. Some of the newest American 6-row malts can have a diastatic power as high as 160 °L. (Ref: Wikipedia)

You can get the lintner values for many common malts from the malt supplier’s specification sheet, or from our BeerSmith database. Lets look at sample lintner values for a few commonly used grains:

American 2 Row Pale Malt: 140 °L
American 6 Row Pale Malt: 160 °L
British Pale Malts: 40-70 °L
Maris Otter Pale Malt: 120 °L
Belgian Pale Malt (2 row): 60 °L
German Pilsner Malt: 110 °L
Munich Malt (10 SRM): 70 °L
Munich Malt (20 SRM): 25 °L
Vienna Malt: 50 °L
Wheat Malt, German: 60-90 °L
Wheat, Unmalted (flaked, Torrified): 0 °L
Crystal Malt (all): 0 °L
Chocolate Malt: 0°L
Black Patent Malts: 0 °L
A few things become obvious looking at the above examples. With the possible exception of the very lightest specialty base malts such as Vienna or Munich, few specialty malts provide very much enzymatic power. Almost all of the enzymes needed to convert your mash are contained in your base malt, so the selection of a good base malt is important. Wheat provides diastatic power nearly equal to barley so it can be used in large proportions to make wheat beer.

Diastatic Power for All Grain and Partial Mash Brewers

How does this affect your all grain brewing? Clearly if you are brewing an all grain batch with a high power base malt like American six row, you will have plenty of enzymes available to convert your mash, and it will also convert at a faster pace than it might otherwise. However, if you are using a low power 2-row British malt with a large number of specialty malts, the sugars will still convert but might take substantially longer to do so.

A few specific styles can also cause problems for the all grain brewer. Lets take the example of Belgian Wit, which typically is made from 60% pale malt and 40% unmalted wheat (often flaked or torrified). If you select a Belgian Pale Malt base malt with low diastatic power, you may be in for a very long mash as the unmalted wheat contributes no enzymes to the process. The grains will likely still convert (little of the unmalted wheat will convert in any case) but it may take a long time to reach full conversion.

Diastatic power plays an even more important role for partial mash brewers. Many beginning partial mash brewers tend to take several pounds of specialty malts and try to mash them without a pale base malt. This can cause very poor conversion, as the fermentable portion of the specialty malts lack the enzymes to convert. It is important that you mash with sufficient base malt to provide the enzymes needed in the mashing process.

Estimating Diastatic Power for your Mash

To get a quick idea of whether you have sufficient diastatic power in your all grain or partial mash brew, I recommend you simply average the weighted diastatic power of your ingredients and see whether the final number is greater than the 30 Lintner minimum needed to convert. The overall diastatic power for your mash would be the sum of the diastatic power for each ingredient times its weight divided by the total grain weight. To get this number, just multiply the diastatic power for each grain times the weight of that grain, add the numbers up for all of your grains, and divide by the total grain weight.

Lintner_for_batch = Σ(lintner_for_grain * weight_of_grain) / (total_batch_grain_weight)

Lets look at a quick example: a partial mash using 2 lb of Caramel Malt, 1 pound of chocolate malt, and 1 pound of British Pale malt, with a diastatic power of 50 Lintner. The Caramel and Chocolate malts both have a diastatic power of zero, so they each contribute (0L x 1lbs) and (0L x 2lbs) for a total contribution of zero lintner-pounds. The pale malt is (50L x 1 lb) for a total contribution of 50 L-lbs. Now we add the contributions for all three up (which is 0+0+50) or 50 L-lbs. Now we divide by the total grain weight in the mash which is simply 4 lbs, which leaves an overall average diastatic power of 50/4 or 12.5 Lintner. Since this number is smaller than 30 L needed to convert the overall mash, another few pounds of pale malt or a grain with higher diastatic power might be warranted.

I will note that the above calculation is a rough approximation, as the specialty grains are only partially fermentable and contain many non-convertible starches, but I usually prefer to err on the side of more enzymes rather than end up short in the mash. Also, I don’t like to wait forever for my mash to complete, so I will often shoot for a number higher than the 30 L limit shown above. Note that this calculation is really only needed for mashes with high percentages of specialty malts, as most modern base malts have very high diastatic power.

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.

BeerSmith on extract brewing

July 30th, 2014

Malt Extract and Beer Brewing

Brewing with malt extract (liquid or dry) is the starting point for every new brewer. Today many homebrewers use malt extract as the dominant base for their beer.

I bought my first malt extract, a Muntuns and Fison’s Irish Stout kit in 1987 when I started brewing, and continued brewing exclusively with extracts for the next 10 years. Brewing with extract offers many advantages over all-grain brewing. Less time and equipment is required.

While some purists point out that all-grain brewing gives you more control over certain ingredients in beer, the parade of award winning extract recipes in both local and national competition indicates that extract brewers are more than capable of going toe-to-toe with all grain brewers with regards to beer quality.To design a great beer recipe with malt extract it is important to understand its characteristics and limitations.

Malt extract is made by mashing grains using the traditional process to produce wort, a hot sweet sugary liquid. The wort is then concentrated from its original gravity of perhaps 1.080 to a thick syrup with gravity of between 1.400 and 1.450. The wort is concentrated by evaporation under heat.

To reduce the heat required, the entire process is typically done under vacuum. Heating the wort to concentrate it also produces meanoidins, a color pigment that darkens the extract. This darkening process continues when boiling your extract. That is why wort made with even the palest malt extracts is significantly darker that corresponding all grain wort.

Liquid malt extract also contains water, an element that allows the coloring reaction to continue at a slow rate as the malt extract ages. Thus liquid malt extracts will continue to get darker as they age. Dry malt extract is not susceptible to this effect.

Beers made with malt extract will tend to ferment slower and finish at a higher gravity than corresponding all-grain beers. This is due to a variety of factors including the presence of unfermentable dextrins from the concentrating process, the lack of free nitrogen in extract malt needed for yeasts, and the potential for oxidization of the malt for malts stored for an extended period.

The last point is worth mentioning, as both dry malt and liquid malt are prone to oxidizing when exposed to air or moisture for an extended period of time. All of these factors point to the critical importance of getting fresh malt extract whenever possible, and storing malt extracts in an airtight container in the refrigerator to minimize moisture and slow the effects of aging.

As long as proper care is taken in selecting and storing your extract, brewing with malt extract can be a real pleasure. To enhance your malt extract recipes I recommend the following tips:

Use pale malt extract as your base for the beer.
To add color to your beer, steep dark grains rather than adding dark extract – this will enhance the body and flavor profile of your beer.
Avoid using sugar in proportions larger than 10%. Sugar adds a cider-like flavor to the beer without contributing body.
For bitterness, boil with separate fresh hops (pellets, plugs or leaf). Many hop oils and bittering agents break down during storage in pre-hopped malt extracts. Its always better to go with fresh hops.
Use steeped grains to enhance the color, body and flavor of your beer. From 2-5 pounds of steeped grains in a 5 gallon batch will produce better beer than extract alone. Remember that some malts (munich, wheats, flaked and terrified malts) require mashing, and can’t be steeped.
As you boil malt extract, it will get darker. Consider using a late malt extract addition if you are targeting a light to medium color beer.
If you are brewing a wheat beer, use wheat based extract. Similarly if brewing an Octoberfest or Marzen beer, use Munich based extract.
Use a spreadsheet or brewing program such as BeerSmith to estimate your color, bitterness and original gravity and match it against your target style. This will avoid many bad batches of beer.
Be aware of the effect of the size of your boil pot on the bitterness of your beer. Small boil, high gravity malt extract batches will achieve significantly lower hops utilization than full size boils. Use a good spreadsheet or brewing program to estimate your bitterness before brewing.
When converting an all-grain recipe to extract, take into account bitterness and color change as well as the base malt conversion. Extract recipes will generally need more hops and less colored additions than all-grain. See my article on converting all grain recipes to extract for more information.
Use high attenuation yeasts with extract brews. Remember that extract beers generally ferment slower and leave a higher final gravity than expected.
Store your malt extract in airtight containers, away from light sources, and ideally in a refrigerator to minimize oxidization and aging effects.
Malt extract brewers produce fantastic beer. Every year, even at the national level, malt extract brewers consistently finish in the winner’s circle. I hope this article helps you maximize the potential of malt extract brewing and helps you reach the winner’s circle as well.


July Sampling: Meet the Boh Man!

July 24th, 2014

July Sampling Thursday July 24 from 5-7.  Come out & meet the Boh Man, take home a free sample of National Bohemian & sample Starr Hill’s line up…Next up Troegs & P.B.R. Thursday August 28th from 5-7- mark your calendar!


BeerSmith on Saison

July 22nd, 2014

Saison Beer – Belgian Farmhouse Ale Recipes

Saison is a light, refreshing ale originally brewed in farmhouses in the French speaking regions of Belgium for field workers. Now the beer is brewed in many locations around the world. Its a complex style with a mix of fruity aroma and flavor, some spiciness and even a hint of tartness. Today I’ll take a look at the history of Saison, how to brew it and some Saison recipes.

The History of Saison

Saison originated in Wallonia, the French speaking southern half of Belgium. It was traditionally brewed for the fall season to refresh farm workers during the harvest. “Saison” is the French word for season, as Saisons were most frequently brewed in the fall/winter seasons and then stored for the following fall’s harvest. It shares some characteristics with its cousin, Biere de Garde. Saison was also moderate to highly hopped to survive the long storage period.

While modern Saison’s range from 5-8% ABV, traditional Saison had a much lower alcohol content of 3-4% ABV. The lower alcohol content made the beer refreshing during a hard work day and kept the workers relatively sober, as some farmhouses had daily allotments of 4-5 liters per worker.

Saison’s were usually brewed locally in the farmhouse for the workers, and was bottle conditioned. Many Saisons in Belgium are still bottle conditioned. Some Saisons were even blended with Belgian Lambic to increase the acidity and add complexity to the finished beer.

The Saison Beer Style

There is a fair amount of variation with Saison – with light to darker variants, some Saisons using spices, and some blended or soured slightly. The BJCP style guide describes Saison as highly fruity with a fruity-ester aroma reminiscent of citrus fruit such as oranges or lemons. It may have a moderate hop aroma and some spice aroma but only from the addition of spices.

A low to moderate sour-acidity may be present. It may have a light malty flavor with no diaceytls.

The color is golden to amber in color (4-14 SRM). Alcohol content ranges from the traditional 3.5% to a more modern 6.5%. Original gravity runs from 1.055-1.080 (14-19.5 plato). Hop bitternes is moderate to moderately assertive (20-40 IBUS) and should balance the maltiness of the beer for both the lighter and heavier versions of the style.

Saison is usually bottle conditioned, and may have a slight chill or yeast haze and is highly carbonated.

Brewing Saison

The bulk of a Saison’s grain bill is based on Pilsner malt. Vienna and Munich malts are most often added (up to 10%) to contribute color and complexity to the beer. Wheat malt is used in some Saisons but is not always included. Darker Saisons also sometimes include darker Crystal malt for color. Candi sugar or honey are sometimes used to add flavor and alcohol without increasing the body of the beer.

Some Saisons are soured or acidified using acid malt, sour mashing techniques, Lactobacillus bacteria or by blending the finished beer with Lambic.

Noble hops, East Kent Goldings and Styrian hops are most often used in Saisons. The hops should balance the malt, but not dominate the flavor of the beer. Some Saisons are dry hopped. Also some stronger versions of Saison do use spices of various kinds to add additional complexity. Most brewers recommend starting without spices, but corriander and bitter orange peel are popular additions for stronger Saisons.

The use of hard water (or gypsum), which is common in Wallonia, can accentuate the dry finish and bitterness of the finished beer.

Unique Saison or Belgian yeast strains are an important ingredient for true Saison as they generates a large portion of the fruity esters and complex flavor that defines Saisons.

Body for saisons varies from light to medium, so a mash profile in the range of 148F-154F is most appropriate.

Saison Recipes

Here are a few Saison/Farmhouse Ale recipes from the BeerSmith Recipe site:


BeerSmith Amber Ale Recipes

June 30th, 2014
BeerSmith Home Brewing News


American Amber Ale Recipes

American Amber Ale, also known in the Pacific Northwest as Red Ale is a uniquely American beer that is robust, rich and enjoyable.  A fairly recent style, Ambers have become very popular with mainstream beer drinkers in the US.  This week we take a look at the American Amber style, how to brew it at home and some examples of American Amber recipes.

American Amber became popular in the Pacific Northwest before spreading nationwide, primarily through microbreweries and small regional brewers.  These beers are also called Red Ales or West Coast Ales in some regions, and the style itself overlaps somewhat with American Pale Ale.  However Amber ales have a stronger caramel flavor, more body, are darker and color and have a balance between bitterness and maltiness, where Pale Ales tend to have a stronger hop flavor.  Amber ale is also popular in Australia, with the most popular being from Malt Shovel Brewery (James Squire Amber).

The American Amber Ale Style

The Amber style is considered somewhat richer than pale ale, and is recognized by the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) as its own style (10-B).  Ambers can have moderate to high hop flavor, but the hops should not be dominant.  American hops are most often use which can result in a somewhat citrusy flavor.  Malt sweetness and a caramel flavor are desirable, but Amber should not have the roasted character of a brown ale.  Few esters and no dicetyl is desirable.

Stronger versions may have some alcohol warmth, but the finish should be smooth.  Medium to full body for the beer is normal, with moderate to high carbonation.  The BJCP specifies an original gravity of 1.045-1.060 and final gravity of 1.010-1.015 giving 4.5-6.2% alcohol by volume.

Bitterness is between 25-40 IBUs, giving an average bitterness ratio of 0.619 BU/GU which places amber ales slightly on the malty side as far as overall balance.  Color is amber to copper brown, with an SRM of 10-17, though some mass produced ambers run at the low end of the color range.

Ambers are moderate to highly carbonated – and typically have good head retention.

Brewing an Amber Ale

Amber Ale is traditionally made with American two row pale malt as the base, making up 60-85% of the grain bill.  Medium to dark crystal malts are used to provide color and caramel flavor, typically making up 10-20% of the grain bill.  Small amounts of other specialty grains such as a tiny amount of roast malt (for red color versions), aromatic malt, carafoam, munich or victory malts may be used to add unique character to the brew.

There is no fixed water profile associated with Amber ale, so a variety of waters can be used.  However, as the water does not add significantly to the flavor for this style, a moderate water profile (not too high in sulfates or carbonates) is desirable.

American hops are traditionally used, with citrus varieties such as centennial being popular.  Like pale ale, it is not unusual to use multiple hop additions during the boil as well as a moderate amount of fresh dry hops to provide some hoppy aroma, though overall the beer should be well balanced, with the balance slightly to the malty side.

As a full body Amber is desirable, one generally uses a full bodied single step infusion mash with the conversion step at 156-158F for approximately 45 minutes to an hour.  Since the beer is generally 100% barley malt, no special techniques are needed.

Most amber ales are fermented with American ale yeast, which provides a fairly clean finish with high attenuation.  Some of the more robust and rich Ambers may also feature use of lighter English ale yeasts that can contribute low to moderate esters and complexity to the beer without unbalancing it.  Ambers are fermented and aged at normal ale temperatures (64-68F), and should be bottled or kegged with moderate to medium-high carbonation.

So you need a new Brew Pot?

June 18th, 2014

BeerSmith Home Brewing News

Aluminum vs Stainless Brewing Pots

A perpetual debate among home brewers and on various discussion forums is the merits of aluminum vs stainless steel pots for brewing beer. This week we look at the pros and cons of each to help you make your own educated decision on your next beer brewing pot.

Aluminum Pot Pros and Cons

Aluminum pots are widely available and inexpensive because aluminum cookware is widely used for preparing foods. Inexpensive Turkey pots in the 36 quart range can be found at your local Walmart, particularly right after Thanksgiving at great prices. Aluminum pots cost considerably less than stainless steel – often half as much. Aluminum is a better conductor of heat than steel, so your pot will come to a boil faster and also cool down faster after you are done boiling.

The only major disadvantage of aluminum is that it will oxidize, so you can’t use oxygen-based or caustic cleaners such as Oxyclean. This is the major reason why professional brewing equipment is made of stainless steel and not aluminum – the stainless steel is easier to clean with caustic cleaning agents. Also, over time aluminum will get an oxide layer over it which can discolor the aluminum and give it a grey tone. This is not a cause for concern – the layer of aluminum oxide actually protects the pot, but it is not as pretty as stainless steel.

I feel it is important to address a number of myths about aluminum. First, aluminum pots are not linked to Alzheimer’s disease. A number of medical studies since the 1970’s have found zero link between Alzheimer’s and the use of aluminum. Keep in mind that every day you drink soda from aluminum cans (though most are lined) and eat food prepared in aluminum cookware – it is safe.

A second myth is that aluminum will react with acidic content of the wort and either add off flavors or eat away at your pot. This is also untrue – water has a pH of7.0, your wort has a pH of around 5.2, while spaghetti sauce can run as low as 4.6 and the most acidic diet sodas you drink run as low as 2.5. For comparison, battery acid has a pH of 1.0. Your wort is simply not acidic enough to react with your aluminum pot.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel pots are the “Cadillac” of brewing pots, with designer pots running into the many hundreds of dollars in price. They are more expensive than comparable aluminum pots, but are a favorite of serious brewers. Stainless steel will remain shiny, as the passive oxide layer is not visible – so its easy to tell when your stainless pot is truly clean.

An advantage of stainless steel is that you can use oxygenated cleaners on it, which makes it a favorite with professional brewers who need to clean large vats. You should avoid long term exposure to bleach based cleaners as these can pit your stainless steel pots and vessels.

Stainless steel is stronger than the softer aluminum metal, so it is less prone to denting and scratching for a comparable wall thickness. However, you are unlikely to outlive a well made stainless or aluminum pot in either case. Stainless has a strongly bonded oxide layer, so it is less susceptible to attack by acids, though again the acidity of wort is not a concern for either metal.

The major disadvantage of stainless steel is that it does not conduct heat as well as aluminum, which means a longer time to reach boil and also longer cooling times after the boil.

Which to Choose?

If you select a well made heavy-duty pot, large enough for a full boils that is heavy and conducts heat well, you can’t go wrong with either stainless or aluminum. I look for a heavy pot with thick walls as it will conduct heat better and also hold up well to the occasional nicks and dings. An ideal pot has a diameter approximately equal to its height. A well made aluminum or stainless steel pot will likely last a lifetime.

If you are a brewer on a budget, you can’t ignore the large price advantage of aluminum – often it costs half as much for a comparable pot. Stainless steel has a “cool factor”, but it also has a price associated with being cool. Now I personally use stainless steel, but I’ve also been brewing for 25 years and started out using a cheap kitchen pot.

* If you would like to check out some options, feel free to visit out site or stop by, we carry a a variety of Stainless Brew Pots that start at $27.99

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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June 6th, 2014

Troegs Tales Newsletter
In This Issue
Anthology Summer
Tröegs Loves Philly
Beer Fest Season
The Return of Naked Elf
Gettysburg Festival
Tröegs Events
Anthology Summer
Learn More
To prepare ourselves for what is certain to be a sticky, sweltering hot and humid summer, we’ve assembled all our refreshing, thirst-quenching beers together in one convenient package. Anthology Summer features a sublime assortment of some of our most popular year-round beers including DreamWeaver Wheat, HopBack Amber and Tröegs Pale Ale, as well as our current seasonal, the crisp yet hoppy Sunshine Pils. Anthology Summer is currently available throughout our entire distribution footprint.


Tröegs Loves Philly
Learn More
…and Philly loves Tröegs! The city recently bestowed its collective brotherly love upon us with a wealth of honors from two prestigious awards ceremonies. We’re pleased to announce that we’ve accumulated a total of four “Best of the Philly Beer Scene” awards for 2014, including:

1. Pale Ale of the Year: Perpetual IPA
2. Fruit/Spice Beer of the Year: Mad Elf
3. Wheat Beer of the Year: DreamWeaver Wheat
4. Philly Tap Finder Award (most searched local beer): Mad Elf

Additionally, we also captured one of the top honors in the “Best New Beer” category for LaGrave at the 2014 Philadelphia Inquirer Brew-Vitational competition, which we received during the Opening Tap event to kick off this year’s Philly Beer Week. Don’t forget to look for us during Philly Beer Week, which runs through Sunday, June 8. For a complete list of Tröegs-related PBW events, please click HERE.


Beer Fest Season Learn More
Beer festival season is upon us now that the warmer weather is here, and our reps will be out and about spreading the word about Tröegs all summer long. Beer festivals present a perfect opportunity for us to enjoy some quality face-to-face time with our loyal customers as well as turn on craft beer newbies to our beers. Stop by the Tröegs tent and say “hi” to our reps at these great Beer Festivals throughout the summer:

• Lower Hudson Valley Craft Beer Festival – Saturday, June 7 – Nanuet NY
• Pennsylvania Microbrewers Fest – Saturday, June 7 – Pittsburgh, PA
• Kappy’s Falmouth Gateway to Summer Fest – Saturday, June 7 – Falmouth, MA
• Hop Blossom Festival – Saturday, June 7 – Winchester, VA
• Luke’s Rockland Summer Grand Beer Fest – Saturday, June 7 – Rockland, MA
• Taste of the Vineyard – Thursday, June 12 – Edgartown, MA
• Beer, Bourbon & Bacon – Saturday, June 21 – Rhinebeck, NY
• Harrisburg Brewers Fest – Saturday, June 21 – Harrisburg, PA
• The Worthy Craft Beer Showcase – Saturday, June 21 – Springfield, MA
• Northern Virginia Beer Festival – Saturday, June 21 & Sunday, June 22nd – Leesburg, VA
• Red, White & Brew Festival – Saturday, June 28 – Washington DC
• York Heritage Trust Brew Fest – Saturday, June 28 – York, PA
• Green River Brew Festival – Saturday, June 28 – Greenfield, MA
• Lansdale Beerfest – Saturday, June 28 – Lansdale, PA
• Dauphin County Brew Fest – Saturday, July 19 – Harrisburg, PA
• Hops, Vines & Wines Festival – Saturday, July 19 – Selinsgrove, PA
• Beer on the Bay – Saturday, July 26 – Erie, PA
• Drink the District Festival – Saturday, July 26 – Washington DC
• Microfestivus – Saturday, August 9 – Roanoke, VA
• State CollegeBrew Expo – Saturday, August 16 – State College, PA


The Return of Naked Elf
It’s time to put on your birthday suit because Naked Elf is back! An exercise in deconstruction and minimalism, Naked Elf has distinct roots in The Mad Elf Ale minus a few key components. With the cherries, honey, and chocolate malt out of the equation, this unfiltered strong ale displays the same pronounced yeast flavor that made Mad Elf famous as well as a touch of alcohol and some mellow malt flavors. Naked Elf recently hit the tap lines in our Tasting Room on May 29. Cases, six-packs and single bottles are also currently available in our General Store. This is an extremely limited brewery-only release, so get it while you can… because soon the Naked Elf will become bashful and go into hiding until next year!
Gettysburg Festival Learn More
Don’t forget to check out the 2014 Gettysburg Festival from Thursday, June 12 through Saturday, June 14. This multi-day festival will feature a convergence of performing, visual, and culinary arts from the Mid-Atlantic region and beyond. Stop by the Tröegs Independent Stage for a diverse roster of live entertainment handpicked by us. The stage will be located in the “Stine Lake” area, which is the large grassy lot between Plank Gym and Musselman Library on the campus of Gettysburg College. While you’re there, be sure to grab some cans of Sunshine Pils, Perpetual IPA and Troegenator before you sit back, relax and enjoy a wide variety of great independent music from right here in Pennsylvania! Be sure to check out Starsan, Up Pops the Devil, and herbie, all consisting of Tröegs Brewery employees, as well as the other great local bands throughout the weekend. For more information on the 2014 Gettysburg Festival including a complete schedule of live music and entertainment, please visit



Tröegs Events Learn More
From dinners and tastings to tap takeovers and festivals, our brewery reps are constantly pounding the pavement and bringing our beer to the masses! With summer quickly approaching, be on the lookout for our reps at these events during the month of June. Don’t forget… Philly Beer Week runs through June 8th.

Thu. 6/5 – Summer Tap Takeover @ Brasserie 292, 292 Main St, Poughkeepsie, NY – 6 to 9pm – Scratch beer!
Fri. 6/6 – Tröegs Tap Tussel @ Kloby’s Smokehouse, 7500 Montpelier Rd, Laurel, MD – 5 to 8pm
Mon. 6/9 – Tröegs Tasting @ Beer Table, Grand Central Station, NYC, NY – 5 to 7pm
Tue. 6/10 – Tap Takeover @ White Rose, 48 N. Beaver St, York, PA – 7 to 9pm – Featuring 3 Scratch beers!
Tue. 6/10 – Tröegs Pint Night @ White Oak Tavern, 10030 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City, MD
Thu. 6/12 – Taste of the Vineyard @ Dr. Daniel Fisher House Lawn, Edgartown, MA – 6:30 to 10pm
Thu. 6/12 – Sat. 6/14 – Gettysburg Festival @ Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, PA – 4 to 10pm – Enjoy music handpicked by us for the Tröegs Independent Stage, plus cans of Sunshine Pils and Perpetual IPA!
Fri. 6/13 – Full Moon Firkin @ Tröegs Brewery, 200 E. Hersheypark Dr, Hershey, PA – 11am
Sun. 6/15 – Quips is 30 @ Quips Pub, 457 New Holland Ave, Lancaster, PA – Noon to 4pm – Backyard BBQ w/ Scratch beers & more!
Thu. 6/19 – Tröegs Summer Lunch @ The Basin Pub, 637 Pittsford Victor Rd, Pittsford, NY – 11am to 2pm
Sun. 6/22 – After Hours Beer Fest @ Joe Canal’s, 3375 Rt. 1 South (Mercer Mall), Lawrence Twp, NJ – 7:30 to 9:30pm
Wed. 6/25 – Christmas in June @ Warwick Hotel, 12 W. Main St, Hummelstown, PA – 5 to 7pm – Lots of Scratch beers & other special presents!
Wed. 6/25 – Tröegs Beer Dinner @ Brasserie 28, 2 Elm Square, Andover, MA – 7pm – 4 courses paired with 4 beers!
Sun. 6/29 – After Hours Beer Fest @ Joe Canal’s, 489 Rt. 1 South, Iselin (Woodbridge), NJ – 7:30 to 9:30pm
Mon. 6/30 – Tap Takeover @ Jasper’s Taphouse + Kitchen, 761 9th Ave, NYC, NY – 6 to 8pm

For a complete listing of Tröegs events, please click HERE.

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Tröegs Brewing Company
200 East Hershey Park Dr. Hershey, PA 17033 | 717.534.1297

Malting your own grain…Taking home brewing to the next level!

June 4th, 2014

BeerSmith Home Brewing News

Malting Barley Grain at Home

For the adventurous home brewer who wants to take all grain beer brewing to yet another level, you can malt your own grains at home. While most micro and home brewers start with malted grain, it is possible to purchase unmalted grains and go through the malting process at home. The equipment required is modest, and bulk unmalted grains can be purchased at a fraction of the cost of malted ones.

Unmalted barley is widely used for animal feed, so a good place to purchase unmalted grains in bulk is likely a local feed store. Usually it is sold in large quantities – typically 50lb to 100lb bags. Smaller quantities can be purchased from some brew stores, pet stores or equestrian specialty shops.

There is a lot of variation in unmalted barley quality. If possible, you want to choose a barley that is low in protein as high protein will result in cloudy beer. Inspect the grains if possible before buying to look for minimum broken grains, absence of mold or bugs, consistent color and general overall quality.

Steeping the Raw Barley

The first step in home malting is to steep the barley in water to begin the germination process. Start with a large bucket that can handle the grains plus enough water to float all of the grains. Add water until all of the grains are floating, and let the grains sit in the water for 2 hours.

Remove the grains from the water (a strainer is good for this) and let the grains air out and dry for about 8 hours. This step is important as if you leave the grains in the water they will drown and eventually die.

After the grains have dried for about 8 hours, steep them again in a clean batch of water for another two hours, and dry them again for 8 hours. You will likely have to continue this for a third cycle. Within 24 hours of starting, you should see small roots start to grow from the base of the kernel (called chits). Stop your cycles of steeping and drying once you have 95% of the grains germinated.

You should have added approximately 40-45% moisture (water) at this point. Assuming you started the dry grains with ~9-10% moisture content, adding 35% moisture will result in a weight gain as follows: 1 kg of grain has ~100 g of water before steeping. Adding 350g of water (45% water content) results in a total of 1.35kg. So if you started with a given weight of grains, you can stop steeping when the grains weigh 30-35% more than when you started.

Germinating the Grains

The grains must now be germinated in a cool, slightly moist, but well ventilated area to grow the small leaflet inside the grain called an acrospire. This generally takes 2-5 days. The ideal temperature for germination is 64F, or about 18C.

You want to keep the seeds cool, spread them out well and moisten them periodically with a little spray mist. The germination process generates heat, which can lead to bacteria or mold growth so its important to aerate the grains and turn them every few hours in a cool location to avoid infction. Many early malters actually spread the grains on a concrete “malting floor” to keep them cool and make it easy to turn them periodically.

You continue malting until the small leaf (acrospires) within the grain is approximately 80-100% of the length of the grain. Note that the acrospires is inside the grain, so you need to actually split the grain open with a knife or razor blade and look for the white leaf that is part of the endosperm and attached to the rootlets. Typically the external portion of the rootlet will be about 2x the length of the grain when it is finished, but checking the actual acrospire length is the best method to determine when to stop.

Drying the Malt

Drying the malt can be difficult as it requires a steady temperature of between 90-125F (31-50C). Drying at a higher temperature will destroy the enzymes needed for mashing. If you are fortunate enough to have an oven with temperature control that can go this low, then leaving it in the oven for ~24 hours is an excellent way to go. In some cases, even the oven light is sufficient to reach the 90F temperature needed, though it may take some time to finish.

If you live in a sunny dry climate, sun drying is also an option. Some care is needed to keep birds and other small scavengers away, but you can leave it out in the sun for 2 days which should be sufficient to dry the malt.

A third option is to use an actual food dehydrator. Inexpensive home food dehydrators are available for as little as $30-40 and work quite well.

You are targeting a finished moisture content of approximately 10%. Assuming you have not lost much material in the first two steps, this would mean the finished weight of the grains with their rootlets attached should be close to the total weight of the unmalted grains before you started the steeping process. Recall that we started with about 10% moisture content in the original unmalted grains. Therefore you can stop drying when the grains plus rootlets weight are back to approximately their original unmalted weight.

Finishing the Malt

The last step is to separate the dried, malted grains from the rootlets growing out of them. After the grains are sufficiently dry, the rootlets will simply fall off them with a little agitation. You can use a colander or some screen to shake the grains around and separate the dried rootlets. Note this is a bit of a messy process, as the rootlets tend to get on everything, so you might want to do this outside.

At this point you have pale, malted barley equivalent to that which you would normally purchase from your brew supply store. You can crush it and use it just as you would any pale barley base malt.

If you wish to make specialty malts from your pale barley, you can toast the malts in the oven to make varying shades of crystal, toasted, brown malts. For the lightest of crystal type malts, try toasting at 275F for one hour. For a medium crystal, try toasting at 350F for 15-30 minutes. If you toast at 350F for an hour you will come close to a commercial brown malt. You can also get different variants by toasting wet vs dry malts. A wet toasted malt will impart a slightly sweeter toasted flavor.

For more on home malting, her is an article on Bodensatz by Dan Carol which I used when malting on my own for the first time. Geoff Cooper also has a short article on roasting malts.

Thank you again for your continued support!

Brad Smith
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