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.