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