Sunday, October 14, 2012

BeerTools, SPAM, and Marketing Assholes

I got an email from BeerTools about my login problem. Seems nice enough at a casual glance, but it seems a little odd, since I didn't have a login problem: Login Trouble

October 13, 2012
Dear Bob,

We would like to apologize for any trouble you experienced logging in at Technical details aside, it involved some trouble with files on the web server that hosts and we believe the issue is resolved. If you were inconvenienced by the inaccessibility of your recipes please accept our sincere apologies. We value you as a visitor to and hope to see you there again soon!

BeerTools Staff

Then I started looking at the content. All the graphics in it are tracking beacons that point back to some website called The links that say "" actually go to[queryString] The queryString part of each web address is a long string of seemingly nonsense characters that identify exactly who I am, and why I clicked on it.

It seems odd that the links to BeerTools in my email from BeerTools don't actually go to BeerTools. they go to instead. So, who the hell is There is an Internet service called "whois" and it will tell you:

Administrative Contact:
    Domain Administrator
    Constant Contact, Inc.
    1601 Trapelo Road Suite 329
    Waltham MA 02451

"The domain is used by the email marketing provider Constant Contact as the root domain for certain links embedded in email campaigns sent on behalf of our customers." Well, that's interesting. Constant Contact is a click-through sort of like tinyURL, but it's for designed for tracking those click-throughs rather than just redirecting you.

How does this all work? Let's say you get a 'helpful' email from BeerTools (really Constant Contact), you open your email and your email client is set to display the graphics. A call is made back to, and they track the fact that you were interested enough to open the email. After that info goes into their database, they send your graphics back to be displayed in the 'helpful' email. They probably get paid some small amount by BeerTools at this point. As a bonus, you might be a candidate for some targeted marketing some time soon.

If you click on the link in the 'helpful' email that says "" your request goes to and they read the queryString. Again part of that info goes into their database, and the rest is used to redirect you to They probably get paid some larger amount by BeerTools at this point and you're probably a great candidate for some targeted marketing.

Nice. Not as bad as a pedophile with a "lost puppy" on the playground, but not an actual solution for my non-existent login problem either. Oh look! Every other bit of brewing software in the world suddenly got more appealing when compared to BeerTools, and the chance of me ever buying anything from BeerTools is approaching zero.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Olde Fortran Malt Liquor

Malt liquor is a North American term referring to high alcohol beer. Legally, it usually means not lower than 5% ABV and made with some malted barley. Sugar, corn or other adjuncts are added to the malted barley to boost the total amount of fermentable sugars in the wort. "High Gravity" or "HG" malt liquor may have high levels of fusel alcohols, which give off solventy or fuel-like aromas and flavors. Examples of malt liquors sold in forty ounce bottles include Olde English 800, Colt 45, Mickey's, Camo, Country Club, Steel Reserve 211 an a host of others.

Despite all this I was inspired by my friend Ben to brew a Malt Liquor...
"Olde Fortran" was the malt liquor in Futurama, and I like Futurama. So there you go. First problem: Malt Liquor is not a recognized BJCP style, so not many malt liquor homebrew recipes seem to exist. I decided to sort of riff on the Classic American Pilsner (CAP) theme, and build an "Imperial" version.

The basic ingredients for a CAP are base malt, adjunct (corn or rice), hops, water and yeast. I was planning on an authentic mix of six-row and two-row malt, but supply limitations lead me to two-row only. Six-row pale malt has more diastatic power (DP) than domestic two-row malts, and I was initially looking for the "extra" enzymatic power to convert to starches from the adjuncts, so I'm going a little "light" on the adjuncts to compensate.

Barley malt occupies around 60–70% of the total grain bill of a Classic American Pilsner, with the remaining 30–40% being corn or rice adjuncts. I decided to use a bit of both, since both yield very little color, their flavor is nearly neutral and are low in protein compared to malt. I decided to go with flaked corn since it is cheaper than the grits I have used in the past for a CAP. Flaked corn is "pre-gelatinized" so it can simply be stirred into the mash. For the rice I will need to do a cereal mash.

The hopping rate for Classic American Pilsners is very low, with IBU levels generally around 10–14. I'm going to double the hops along with the fermentables Cluster was popular among American brewers, so I'll include a bit of that. Classic American Pilsners are brewed with lager yeasts and most lager strains will do a decent job. The ideal is probably Wyeast 2007 (Pilsen Lager) or White Labs WLP840 (American Lager), but I'm going with Saflager S-23 Dry Yeast, just to see what the hell happens. I somewhat distrust the FG number from my calculations. I'm betting it finishes in the high teens.

I was planning to hit 8% alcohol, but I ran off a bit too much during the sparge and a cold, rainy day kept the the evaporation level lower than expected. I ended up with six gallons at 7.2 rather than 5.5 at 8. Oh well.

Batch size
6.0 gallons
Original Gravity
1.075/ 18.2° Plato
(1.0798 to 1.089)
Final Gravity
1.021 / 5.3° Plato
(1.018 to 1.023)
25.7 IBU / 10 HBU
ƒ: Tinseth
3° SRM/ 6° EBC
Mash Efficiency
7.2% ABV / 6% ABW
258 per 12 oz.


% LB OZ Type ppg °L
72% 12 0 Two-row Pale 37 2
18% 3 0 Flaked Corn 40 1
9% 1 8 Rice 40 1
0% 0 4 Rice Hulls 0 0


Use Time oz Variety Form aa
boil 60 mins 1.25 Crystal pellet 7.7


Primary: Saflager S-23, medium flocculation and 73% attenuation

Monday, October 8, 2012

Experimental Flanders Red

Flanders Red is one of my favorite beer styles: La Folie, Rodenbach Grand Cru, and Duchesse de Bourgogne are all worthy of clone attempts. The problem is that a good Flanders Red takes a long time to brew, at least the way I did it last time. I went with the Cal Ale yeast in the primary, followed by Roselaire blend in the secondary. After about eight months it was rather nice. This probably isn't far from the commercial formula of ale yeast fermentation in the primary for one week, lacto secondary for four weeks, and Brett tertiary conditioning for months or years.

There seems to be an almost standard malt bill that involves varying quantities of Munich, Vienna, Aromatic, CaraMunich, Special B and Wheat along with base malt, so this part of the recipe isn't so experimental. Hops don't play a significant part because this is a sour, malty beer. My ideal Flanders Red has a combination of the soft lactic sourness and touch of the sharper acetic sourness, but several of the homebrews I've tried by some pretty good brewers have come up a bit short on any sort of sourness. Hence the experimental part...

This time I'm going to mix the ferment and souring up a bit differently. I'll start off with a four-day sour mash using about half of the Pilsner malt, then do the normal mash on brew day, with a one week ale yeast primary and a tertiary with Lambic Blend. The contents of the sour mash won't be added to the regular mash until it is more than half done, so I don't throw off the mash pH. I would prefer to go with Roselaire Blend to finish it off, but it won't be available right now, so the substitute will have to do.

My hope is that I get the tartness without having to wait forever, and I get some complexity in the sourness to match the malt bill. We shall see.

Batch size
5.5 gallons
Original Gravity
1.053/ 13.1° Plato
(1.048 to 1.056)
Final Gravity
1.013 / 3.3° Plato
(1.012 to 1.015)
13.18 IBU / 4 HBU
ƒ: Tinseth
31° SRM/ 16° EBC
(Light Brown to Medium Brown)
Mash Efficiency
5.3% ABV / 4% ABW
173 per 12 oz.


% LB OZ Type ppg °L
32% 3 8 Vienna 36 3
28% 3 0 Weyermann Pilsner 37 2
23% 2 8 Munich 36 10
5% 0 8 Wheat 39 2
5% 0 8 Aromatic 34 23
5% 0 8 CaraMunich 33 75
3% 0 6 Special B 33 220
11 10


Use Time oz Variety Form aa
boil 60 mins 0.75 Goldings pellet 5.0


Primary: Safale US-05, low to medium flocculation and 73% attenuation
Secondary: Belgian Lambic Blend (3278), 75% attenuation


Use Amount Ingredient
Secondary fermenter 3 ounces Oak Chips

Saturday, August 25, 2012

AHA/NHC Gold Medal Recipes 2004-2011

The AHA Wiki is great for some stuff. In the good news section, they have the last eight years worth of first place, Gold Medal homebrew recipes for each of the BJCP categories.

In the not-so-good news section, they make it unneccessarily hard to find the gold medal recipes on their website, and after you've finally found them you need to weed through all eight years to find the one and only Belgian Dubbel recipe that medaled. Or you may end up sifting through all eight years only to find out that that a Brown Porter never got the gold in the Porter category because the Robust Porters and Baltic Porters always win; so you need to keep looking for that superb Brown Porter recipe elsewhere. You'll find that there are 12 sub-categories that haven't struck gold.

I decided to help them get organized, so here you go. The following list has the Gold Medal-winning recipe in each category of the AHA National Homebrew Competition (NHC) for the last eight years. The list of BJCP categories changed in 2005, so I've tried to fit the earlier entries where they make sense in the current categories.)

The AHA Gold Medal-winning recipes for 2012 has been announced, but the recipes have not been posted on the AHA website as of yet. I'll update my list when they become available.

BJCP 1A Lite American Lager
2009 O'Bama-Lot
2008 Billy Bob Mississippi Lager
2006 Champagne Lager

BJCP 1B Standard American Lager
2005 Standard American Lager
2004 Dougweiser

BJCP 1C Premium American Lager
(No gold medal winners in this category in the last eight years.)

BJCP 1D Munich Helles
2011 Viking Gold
2007 Munich Helles

BJCP 1E Dortmunder Export
2010 461 Dortmunder Export

BJCP 2A German Pilsner
2006 Drei Liebchen Deutsche Pils
2004 Edmontoner

BJCP 2B Bohemian Pilsner
2011 Stop Looking For Malt Complexity In Pilsners
2010 BoPils
2008 Liquid Sunshine

BJCP 2C Classic American Pilsner
2009 Classic American Pilsner
2007 Classic American Pilsner
2005 Golden Era Lager

BJCP 3A Vienna Lager
2011 Vienna Lager
2008 Vienna Lager
2005 Little Vienna
2004 Vienna Eh? III

BJCP 3B Oktoberfest/Märzen
2010 Maerzen
2009 Oktoberfest Hallertau
2007 GB Märzen
2006 Oface Ofest

BJCP 4A Dark American Lager
2009 Danny's Bock
2006 Dark American Lager

BJCP 4B Munich Dunkel
2010 Tara's Slam Dunkel
2008 Munich Dunkel

BJCP 4C Schwarzbier
2011 Black Saxon
2007 Schwarzbier
2005 Let the Schwarz Be With You (recipe not available)
2004 Dark Helmet Schwarzbier

BJCP 5A Maibock/Helles Bock
2008 Helles Bock
2005 Heilige Helles

BJCP 5B M Traditional Bock
(No gold medal winners in this category in the last eight years.)

BJCP 5C Doppelbock
2007 Doppelbock

BJCP 5D Eisbock
2011 Tri-Paul-Bock
2010 Isebock
2009 Eisbock
2006 Dominator
2004 EKU

BJCP 6A Cream Ale
2008 Kari's Cream Ale
2006 Cream Ale
2011 $12 Cream Ale

BJCP 6B Blonde Ale
2004 Sweetheart Blonde

BJCP 6C Kölsch
2010 Helios Kölsch
2007 Kölsch
2005 Summer Kölsch
2004 Köelschde Toro

BJCP 6D American Wheat Or Rye Beer
2009 Bye, Bye, Miss American Rye

BJCP 7A North German Altbier
2006 Strike Team Chanukah Altbier
2005 Northern German Altbier

BJCP 7B California Common Beer
2010 NJ Steam 143

BJCP 7C Düsseldorf Altbier
2011 Daily Bread German Ale
2009 Dusseldorf Alt
2008 SummersALT
2007 JZ Alt

BJCP 8A Standard/Ordinary Bitter
2008 Standard/Ordinary Bitter
2004 Ordinary Bitter

BJCP 8B Special/Best/Premium Bitter
2011 ESB
2006 Bob's Bitter
2005 True Brit

BJCP 8C Extra Special/Strong Bitter (English Pale Ale)
2009 Guvnah
2009 ESB
2007 Bears Bitter

BJCP 9A Scottish Light 60/-
2007 Scottish Light 60/-
2005 Scottish 60/-

BJCP 9B Scottish Heavy 70/-
2011 Brown Eyed Woman
2009 Scottish Heavy 70/-
2006 Sand Hill Scottie

BJCP 9C Scottish Export 80/-
2004 Export 80/-

BJCP 9D Irish Red Ale
(No gold medal winners in this category in the last eight years.)

BJCP 9E Strong Scotch Ale
2010 Scotch Bingerson's Rehydration Fluid
2008 If It Ain't Scottish, It's Crap Scotch Ale
2004 Fat Bastard Wee Heavy

BJCP 10A American Pale Ale
2010 Opening Day Pale Ale
2009 Lara Pale Ale
2008 Lara Pale Ale
2007 Amarillo Pale Ale
2006 Drunk Monk Pale Ale
2005 Screaming Viking Pale Ale

BJCP 10B American Amber Ale
2011 Amber Waves Of Grain
2004 Drunk Monk Amber Ale

BJCP 10C American Brown Ale
2004 Janet's Brown Ale

BJCP 11A Mild
2010 Thomas Toes Mild
2009 Modest Mild

BJCP 11B Southern English Brown Ale
2007 Southern English Brown Ale
2005 English Brown Ale

BJCP 11C Northern English Brown Ale
2011 Northern English Brown Ale
2008 Nutty Professor Ale
2006 Nut Brown

BJCP 12A Brown Porter
(No gold medal winners in this category in the last eight years.)

BJCP 12B Robust Porter
2011 Dreaded Robust Porter
2009 Robust Porter
2008 Robust Porter
2007 Robust Porter
2005 Black Hills Porter
2004 Rocket Rod Romanaks Positively Porter

BJCP 12C Baltic Porter
2010 Three Kings Baltic Porter
2006 Baltic Porter

BJCP 13A Dry Stout
(No gold medal winners in this category in the last eight years.)

BJCP 13B Sweet Stout
(No gold medal winners in this category in the last eight years.)

BJCP 13C Oatmeal Stout
2010 Oatmeal Stout

BJCP 13D Foreign Extra Stout
2009 Redridge Stout
2004 West Indian Viagra

BJCP 13E American Stout
2008 Fostag Stout

BJCP 13F Russian Imperial Stout
2011 Badenov Russian Imperial Stout
2007 Leap Second Imperial Stout
2006 Russian Imperial Stout
2005 Veronica's Imperial Stout

BJCP 14A English IPA
2009 Blitzkrieg Hops
2005 13 Mile IPA

BJCP 14B American IPA
2011 Tsunami IPA
2007 Longbrook IPA
2006 Chicken Creek IPA
2004 Inaugural IPA

BJCP 14C Imperial IPA
2010 Hop-Fu
2008 Pliny The Elder Clone

BJCP 15A Weizen Weissbier
2009 El Hefe
2008 England-Weizen
2005 Hefeweizen

BJCP 15B Dunkelweizen
(No gold medal winners in this category in the last eight years.)

BJCP 15C Weizenbock
2007 Bitezen Bock

BJCP 15D Roggenbier (German Rye Beer)
2011 Roggen
2010 Roggen
2006 Peter Nelson's RoggenBier

BJCP 16A Witbier
2011 Witbier
2006 Witbier
2005 Witbier

BJCP 16B Belgian Pale Ale
(No gold medal winners in this category in the last eight years.)

BJCP 16C Saison
2010 Saison Lite 139
2007 Saison d'Ete

BJCP 16D Biere de Garde
(No gold medal winners in this category in the last eight years.)

BJCP 16E Belgian Specialty Ale
2009 Belgian Specialty Ale
2008 100% Brettanomyces
2004 Sorval

BJCP 17A Berliner Weisse
2008 Berliner Weisse
2004 Will Othe Wisp Weisse

BJCP 17B Flanders Red Ale
2010 Zed's Dead Red
2007 Flanders Red Ale
2004 Flanders Red Ale

BJCP 17D Flanders Brown Ale (Oud Bruin)
(No gold medal winners in this category in the last eight years.)

BJCP 17D Straight (Unblended) Lambic
2006 Throwing The Dice Again
2005 Oh to Daisy

BJCP 17E Gueuze
2011 You Snooze You Gueuze

BJCP 17F Fruit Lambic
2009 Ms. Helen's Peche Passion

BJCP 18A Belgian Blonde
2010 Sully's Belgian Blonde

BJCP 18B Belgian Dubbel
2009 Belgian Dubbel

BJCP 18C Belgian Tripel
2008 Have A Nice Tripel
2004 hmmm...Tripel IV

BJCP 18D Belgian Golden Strong Ale
(No gold medal winners in this category in the last eight years.)

BJCP 18E Belgian Dark Strong Ale
2011 Chimayo Azul
2007 Belgian Dark Strong
2006 Belgian Strong Dark Ale
2005 Blunt Trauma

BJCP 19A Old Ale
2006 Old Ale
2004 Big Mo

BJCP 19B English Barleywine
2010 JJs Barleywine
2004 English Style Barley Wine

BJCP 19C American Barleywine
2011 Neural Rust Barleywine
2009 Creative Destruction Barleywine
2008 Cheap Leather Jacket Barley Wine
2007 Old Blood & Guts - California
2005 Arrogant Barrister

BJCP 20 Fruit Beer
2011 Hop Fruity
2010 Peaches-n-Cream Hefe
2009 Thanks, Curt (Blackberry Baltic Porter)
2008 It's All Mine So Keep Back (Berliner Weisse With Sour Cherries)
2007 Summer Breeze (American Wheat Beer with Apricot)
2006 Blackberry & Cream (Cream Ale with Blackberry)
2005 Kölsch Abuse
2004 Raspberry Wheat

BJCP 21A Spice Herb Vegetable Beer
2011 Stefs Olive Beer
2010 Zingibier (Belgian Strong Wheat Ale with Ginger and Spices)
2009 Mashing Pumpkins Spiced Saison
2008 American Wheat Ale With Lemon Verbena
2007 Mild Jalapeño Pepper Beer
2006 Vanilla Cream Stout (Sweet Stout with Vanilla Bean)
2005 Hot Chihuahua
2004 Peppered Honey Wheat

BJCP 21B Christmas Winter Specialty Spiced Beer
(No gold medal winners in this category in the last eight years.)

BJCP 22A Classic Rauchbier
2011 Smoke Screen (Classic Rauchbier)
2009 Brisket In A Bottle
2006 Classic Rauchbier
2004 Rolling Rauch

BJCP 22B Other Smoked Beer
2008 Burnin' Down The House Smoked Weizenbock
2007 Dare to Roeselare (Flanders Red Ale Aged in Oak)
2005 Love Potion #9

BJCP 22C Wood Aged Beer
2010 Spanish Cedar IPA

BJCP 23 Specialty Beer
2011 Urban UFO
2010 Old Ale With Grapes And Honey
2009 Janet’s Brown Ale (Imperial American Brown Ale)
2008 Ben Franklin's Ale Colonial Stock Ale With Molasses And Spruce Tips
2007 Chipotle Pepper Alder Smoked Bock
2006 Garden Gruit
2005 Bellringer
2004 Eye Opener Stout

Here are the AHA Wiki pages for each year:

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Making the Brew Day Shorter

I don't brew beer to save money. Let's get that out of the way up front. I've brewed enough beer that my brewing equipment has paid for itself, but from a budgetary standpoint I'd be way better off to pick up some work on the side and use the money to buy beer, rather than taking the same amount of time to brew my own. I brew because I enjoy the hobby and the beer. Even though brewing is a great hobby, the brew day can get long, so I look for ways to do things quicker, easier.

I've noticed that if I'm not actively heating or cooling water during that process, not much progress is being made. I need to heat up my strike water just to get the day started, so I've been thinking about getting a higher capacity burner to be able to heat my water faster. But I found that I was able to cut my "getting ready to mash" time in half with my existing equipment.

Some people heat water in their mash tun, and add the grain directly. Others heat water in a a hot liquor tank and run it off into the mash. I liked the second way because it let me be more precise about mash temperatures.

When I was thinking about the best way to heat a large amount of water for a double batch of RIS, I finally realized that I could do both at once. The key is that you need two burners, which I've had for quite a while. I just heated half of the water in the mash tun, the other half in the hot liquor tank at the same time.

Having a lot of water to start in the mash before I add my grist makes the process of doughing in easier than it used to be, and I can still fine-tune my mash temps by controlling the amount of water I run in from the HLT. It's enough of a speed gain that I now have to scramble to get my malt measured and ground by the time the strike water is ready.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Leftovers Russian Imperial Stout

This isn't a recipe that I thoughtfully prepared in hopes of creating the ulimate RIS. It's more like spring cleaning: I finally decided it was time to clean up the old malt and hops that had been laying around for too long. The problem is that I had been working in Oregon for almost a year, and as a result fell way behind on my brewing schedule.

I decided to brew a massive Russian Imperial Stout to get rid of the old ingredients that have just been gathering dust in my garage. Fortunately, the garage is part of "downstairs" in my house so it's a cool, dry environment. I had plenty of dark malts to use up so the resulting RIS is "blacker than a pimp's heart." And just in case you're wondering, 42 pounds of malt is way too much to mash in a 15 gallon keggle. The photo has only the first 38 pounds... there is more to come.

Just to make things a little more interesting I decided to to do a 'late addition' of most of the dark malts. The last four pounds went it with five minutes left in the mash. The idea is that most of the convertible starches in these malts have already been converted, and since I have more than enough dark malt, maybe I'll pull off more of the chocolately bits and less of the coffee/charcoal ones. We'll see.

The bad news is that I ended up with a stuck mash. The mash was too thick and too deep because there was just too much malt. The bottom got so compacted that I had to stir it up halfway through the mashing process. Now I've got a lot of trub to get rid of in the primary, but I did end up with decent efficiency.

Batch size
10 gallons
Original Gravity
1.056/ 26.6° Plato
(1.113) measured
Final Gravity
1.030 / 7.6° Plato
(1.026 to 1.032) estimated
67.7 IBU / 36 HBU
ƒ: Tinseth
77° SRM/ 152° EBC
Mash Efficiency
10.8% ABV / 8% ABW
367 per 12 oz.


% LB OZ Type ppg °L
43% 18 0 American Two-row Pale 37 1
19% 8 0 Gambrinus ESB Pale 37 3
9% 4 0 Special B Malt 30 180
5% 2 4 Chocolate Malt 34 475
5% 2 0 Victory Malt 34 25
5% 2 0 Aromatic Malt 36 26
4% 1 8 Dark Chocolate Malt 24 525
3% 1 4 Brown Malt 32 65
2% 1 0 Flaked Barley 30 2
2% 1 0 Roasted Barley 25 300
2% 0 12 Extra Special Malt 32 130
2% 0 12 Melanoidin Malt 37 20
42 4


Use Time oz Variety Form aa
boil 60 mins 4.0 Northern Brewer pellet 9.0
boil 30 mins 2.0 Northern Brewer pellet 9.0
boil 15 mins 2.0 Northern Brewer pellet 9.0


Safale US-05 Dry Yeast with low to medium flocculation and 73% attenuation

Ten gallons of stout bubbling along nicely in two 6-gallon carboys. After this ferments a good long while, I'll barrel-age it, then bottle. This is too big a beer for me to keg. I'm guessing it may be drinkable in a year or two.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Brewing Software Review:

Free-to-use website located at
Overall Grade: D

I wanted to love Brewtoad, I really, really did. The logo is great, and I liked the devs I talked to when I met them at NHC. Parts of Brewtoad are very good, but the website is full of ups and downs. Lots of parts are missing, and some of what is there is pretty marginal. Overall, they're off to a good start, but not entirely ready for prime time yet.

Starting a recipe is easy. I like the list of styles is organized to match the BJCP styles, but this might turn out to be a detriment for people who could easily find "Dunkelwizen" alphabetically, but don't know that it's part of BJCP Category 15 — German Wheat and Rye Beer, and thus about halfway down the list rather than being near the top.

The steps you need to go through to "Add fermentables" are downright painful. To get started click on the "Add fermentables" link, which brings up an ingredients window as a modal dialog. The first page gets only halfway through the "B" ingredients, so you'll need to scroll to the bottom of the page to get to the "Next" button. After four more "scroll and next" combos I realize that "Crystal 40" doesn't even appear as an ingredient. I also realize that the only way to add Rye Malt and maintain my sanity is to use the search feature, but fortunately the search works well. It would be handy to be able to click on page 8 or 12 or whatever, rather than just next, next, next.

Adding an ingredient with an amount turns out to be a multi-step process. First you need to click the "Add fermentables" link, then search for the malt you want. Next click on the "Add" button, the click on the "Add and Close" link which doesn't really add anything, but it does close the ingredients dialog. Now that you're back on your recipe page, locate the new ingredient, and add the quantity. Whew! I'm not sure why they didn't give me a way to enter the amount right next to the Add button.

You'll need to go though similar processes to add hops and yeast, but the hops and yeast lists are thankfully much shorter. I was disappointed to see that I couldn't search for "1056", I had to search for "American Ale" instead. I also found that if I go to the last page for yeast, close the dialog and reopen it, I'm still on the last page but the "Previous" button no longer appears, so I'm stuck.

Adding hops was 'interesting.' Brewtoad doesn't identify the calculation (Tinseth, Rager, Garetz, other?) used for determining bitterness, so I'm not sure how relate that to calculations from other brewing software. The bitterness level also turned out to be inconsistent with one recipe showing 38 IBU on the recipe edit page but only 23 IBU on the saved recipe. It took several rounds of adding and removing hops to get them to agree with each other.

It's easy to add your own custom ingredients, but there are a bunch of extra values to enter that don't seem to be used anywhere. You can import BeerXML, sort of. I had "Hallertauer" and "Hallertau" hops on a recipe, both with AA values of 4.6. One got imported as 7.2, the other at 4.5. Not surprisingly, the resulting recipe was "Not to style." It would be great if they could preserve recipe fidelity.

Brewing calculation features such as strike temperatures, hydrometer correction, converting Brix to OG are MIA. Almost every existing feature of BrewToad works well except for the myriad of problems associated with every existing feature. Unfortunately, I can't recommend it at this time. I wish them well but the BrewToad devs have a long road ahead of them.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Brown Brothers Brewing Recipes

These recipes include beers being served at the 34th Annual National Homebrewers Conference:

  • Father Time
  • Smoked Eisbock
  • Merry New Year
  • Death by Hops
  • Bacca
  • Lord Helmet
  • Black Barley (Stout)
  • Call Guiness!!!
  • Strong Scotch Ale
  • American Brown Ale
  • Pilsner
  • American Ale

Click the Download Link to go to the BeerSmith recipe file. I wish I could make this easier, but Blogger doesn't seem to give me a way to host files in the blog.

Kriek (Cherry Lambic)

The Kriek turned out great. It got surprisingly sour in six months, possibly due to extended 'barrel aging'? For the last three months I put a dowel into the carboy, passing it through the hole in the cork designed for the fermentation lock. I also added 8 ounces of cherry concentrate just before kegging.


% LB OZ Type ppg °L
48% 6 0 American 2-row Malt 37 1
16% 2 0 Montmorency Cherry Concentrate 42 20
16% 0 10 German Pilsner Malt 37 2
16% 0 10 Wheat Malt 38 2
3% 0 10 Melanoidin Malt 37 20
11 10


Use Time oz Variety Form aa
boil 60 mins 0.5 Aged Goldings leaf 5.5


Wyeast Belgian Lambic Blend

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Dandelion Blossom Saison Labels

Completely out of the blue, someone on Ratebeer offered to make labels for a couple of my beers. The first one he produced was done for a dandelion saison, and I think that the results are fabulous. They make Finn Hill Brewing look legit, which is probably the wrong impression. Patrick also did a nice job of noting that this was a collaboration brew with The Fraternal Order of Wayward Brewers, or L'Ordre Fraternel des Brasseurs Retif.

This looks so good I wish I could cork and cage the beer.

The 'fhb' chop is a nice touch.

If you want to contact Patrick for design, graphics, photography work, just scan the QR code. It works. Or contact him at

Friday, June 8, 2012

Brewing (At Least a Little) Smarter

Sometimes it's the little things. On brew day, there's not much going on if you're not heating or cooling something liquid. Whether you're using an immersion chiller or a counter-flow chiller, there will be cold water running into it, and hot water running out. Why waste hot water?

As you're chilling the wort, capture the hot water running off, and use it for cleanup. This works especially well with an efficient counter-flow chiller that produces higher temperature runoff. I also got a pump not too long ago, and that lets me run CIP (Clean In Place) Cycles with PBW. The PBW needs hot water to dissolve, and the extra time needed to heat the water has long been a disincentive for me to clean thoroughly on brew day.

Instead, I've usually started cleaning most of the system at the start of brew day. I heat the strike water, and once the mash is started I heat the cleaning water, and then the sparge water. It all fits in the hour used for mashing, but makes for a busy time at the start of things. Now that I started capturing hot water at the end of the brew day it does make the day a bit longer, but I have the hot water, and I feel better about putting away clean gear rather than mostly clean gear.

Waste not, want not. It's better than watching steaming-hot water run down the driveway, which I've been doing for too long.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Dandelion Blossom Saison
(Saison des Boutons de Fleurs de Pissenlits)

A dandelion Saison sounded like a good idea on paper, and I figured I needed to brew it now or wait another year for the really thick crop of new dandelions, and suddenly the Dandelion Blossom Saison project was off and running. Ben Bottoms had the same idea at about the same time so we did a collaboration brew at the home of The Fraternal Order of Wayward Brewers. We completely maxed out the mash tun for a 15 gallon batch.

The first challenge was the dandelion harvest. My first attempt to gather dandelions was after sundown on a cold and rainy night. Don't try this - the results will not be good because the flowers open up in the sun, and close with cooler temperatures. My second harvest attempt was a warm, sunny afternoon. Along with being more pleasant conditions, it was easier to identify good flowers. I harvested just the flower tops, so I didn't even get the base of the flowers. As you can see from the photo, I'm getting mostly flowery yellow goodness.

Going into the project I know that adding dandelions will have an unpredictable effect on the overall color and bitterness, but I also figured I could make some good guesses. I had several ways I could go with the dandelions, but ultimately decided to add dandelion blossom tea to the secondary. I found that I could add the dandelion tea incrementally as a new 'crop' of dandelions appeared every couple of days. The primary is bubbling along nicely now, I'll have to see how this all progresses.

Batch size
5.5 gallons
Original Gravity
1.056/ 13.8° Plato
(1.050 to 1.058)
Final Gravity
1.017 / 4.3° Plato
(1.015 to 1.018)
25.8 IBU / 4 HBU
ƒ: Tinseth
5° SRM/ 9° EBC
(Yellow to Gold)
Mash Efficiency
5.2% ABV / 4% ABW
186 per 12 oz.


% LB OZ Type ppg °L
77% 9 0 Weyermann Pilsner 37 2
17% 2 0 Wheat, Red 29 2
5% 0 10 Munich Malt 37 10
11 10


Use Time oz Variety Form aa
boil 60 mins 1.0 Perle pellet 6.5
boil 30 mins 0.5 Saaz pellet 3.5


Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison, low flocculation and 78% attenuation


Use Amount Ingredient
Secondary fermenter 6 ounces Dandelion Blossoms

Friday, January 13, 2012

Gumballhead: It's Triple-Hopped!

You probably heard some time ago that Miller Lite is "triple hopped." Triple-Hopped sounds pretty good if you don't consider that Miller isn't even halfway to the max on hop addition possibilities. Aside from dancing around the kettle and randomly throwing in hop flowers, I can think of at least seven possible hop additions, but that's a blog for another day.

I haven't confirmed this the folks at SAB Miller, but it sounds like their lite beer has the standard three hop additions; the first for bittering, the second for flavor and the third for aroma. Last time I heard, Miller was using hop extract rather than "real" hops, so it's probably more correct to say that Miller Lite is "triple hop-extract dosed." All in all it looks like they're brewing a pale lager more or less the way large breweries brew pale lagers. And in their spare time they're making adds that really outshine the completion on the annoyance factor.

All that being said, the subject of hop additions can be interesting, and thoughtful use of hops can add great character to beer. One great example is Gumballhead, brewed by Three Floyds Brewing Company in Munster, Indiana. According to the brewer, Gumballhead is...
"An American Wheat Ale, Gumballhead is named in honor of the underground comic book cat created by Rob Syers. Initially a seasonal summer beer, now brewed year round due to demand. This beer helped redefine American Wheat Beers. Brewed with Amarillo Hops and a generous portion of American red wheat, Gumballhead has a complex hop aroma with notes of grapefruit, lemon zest, marmalade and peach. These flavors combined with low bitterness make Gumballhead a refreshing American Wheat Beer that doesn’t suck."
For me, American Wheat is one of the gateway beverages like lite lagers. Not much in the way of hops, or beer character in general. To make their beer non-sucky, Three Floyds is doing something interesting with the hops, while staying inside the style guidelines. Just barely...

BCP American Wheat Vital Statistics: IBUs: 15 – 30 ABV: 4 – 5.5%
Gumballhead Vital Statistics: IBUs: 28 5.5%

Let's go back to the idea of the standard three hop additions for bittering, flavor and aroma. No hop addition does only one thing - the results vary according to when the addition is done. There is some flavor and a little aroma in the bittering addition. There is some bittering and aroma in the flavor addition. Finally, there is s touch of bittering and some flavor in the aroma addition. The trick in Gumballhead is that there is so much in the aroma addition that it has significant impact on the flavor and some good impact on the bittering. The results are pretty fabulous.

Gumballhead Clone Recipe

Batch Size:5.0 gallons
Original Gravity:1.055 / 13.6° Plato
Final Gravity:1.015 / 3.8° Plato
Color: 4° SRM / 8° EBC   (Yellow)
Mash Efficiency:74% used for O.G. estimate
Bitterness: 27.4 IBU / 5 HBU ƒ: Tinseth
BU:GU Ratio:0.50
Alcohol:5.3% ABV / 4% ABW
Calories:182 per 12 oz.

Malt & Fermentables
% Lbs. Oz. Malt/Fermentable PPG °L
45% 4 8 Pilsner (Germany) 37 2
45% 4 8 Wheat Malt 37 2
10% 1 0 Vienna Malt 36 3

Use Time Oz. Variety Form AA
Boil 60 mins 0.5 Amarillo pellet 10.7
Boil 0 mins 4.0 Amarillo pellet 10.7
Dry Hop 7 Days 1.5 Amarillo pellet 10.7

Type Strain Description
Safale US-05 Dry Ale Yeast in dry form with low to medium flocculation and 73% attenuation

NOTE: Add the four ounces of Amarillo at flameout. Whirlpool, and let it stand for ten minutes. This will probably push the IBUs into the high twenties, which is still fine for the style. Back the recipe off half a pound on both the Pilsner and Wheat malts if you want to brew a 'lighter' version.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Grain Mill Costs vs. Payback Time

When I started all-grain brewing I thought of a grain mill as a bit of a luxury item but I found out that it's almost a necessity. For years, I looked at the fact that the local homebrew store was kind enough to crush the grains in their mill for me, and I thought that was great. Then I started doing price comparisons. I found that by buying just enough for the current brew I was paying roughly double what I might pay if I was buying my malt by the bag.

Then I started doing the math. Let's say that on an average IPA or APA you're using 10 pounds or more of American 2-row as base malt. And let's say you brew five batches of beer per year. Yeah, you may do more but let's start here. Buying my base malt by the bag, I can get 50 or 55 pounds for about $35, depending on the maltster. Buying the same quantity per recipe (by the ounce) I'm looking at about $70. Using Maris Otter as a base those numbers roughly double. So I'm looking at a minimum of a $35 savings per year, more if I brew over five batches, and even more if I brew a barleywine or other big beer. I think most homebrewers could count on saving $50 or more per year.

Now let's look at the equipment costs. You can go with various manufacturers, but the Barley Crusher 7lb model sells for $130 with free shipping and 15lb model goes for a bit more. I went with the 7lb model partly because I'm cheap, partly because it's easier to store. I also bought a large plastic garbage can with a lid for grain storage. I already hand the electric drill I would need to power it. Given the savings of $50 or more per year, I'm looking at a three year payback, max. Give the formula a bit more time if you also need to buy a drill; or you can easily crush all your grain just using the hand crank while the mash water is heating.

The Barley Crusher is a dual roller mill, and I find that it will crush the inside of the grain and leave the outside hull largely intact. The finely crushed grains will give you great efficiency while the intact hulls will help prevent a stuck mash. It has a hand crank, or it can be driven by a 3/8″ drill motor. It comes pre-assembled on an MDF base that has little knobs on the bottom fit a standard 5 gallon plastic pail. All you have to do is put on the handle or drill and start cranking. MDF is a reasonably sturdy wood product, but not particularly moisture resistant, so I put a couple of coats of varnish on mine. The mill itself is a machined-aluminum housing built around cold-rolled steel rollers. There is an adjustment knob for the gap on the unit. BC Products offers a free lifetime warranty on the mill.

"OK", you say, "But what if the grain goes bad? You're better off buying fresh malt every time." Au contraire, mon frère. That would be true if I crushed it in advance, but I'm storing un-crushed malt in a bag inside in a plastic container. It all comes from the same harvest as the malt in the store, so buying malt from the store for each batch is no different than getting it from my storage. In fact, the temperature in my garage is typically cooler than the homebrew store, so I'm probably keeping my malt fresher. I still have to buy some malts by the ounce, but my beer got a lot cheaper by taking the base malt out of that equation.