Beer (Cider) 32: Beautiful Sparkling Cider from the Basement

I ‘brewed’ this several months ago and stashed several bottles in the basement. Last night, my wife wanted a cider, so I went to the basement and cracked open a bottle. I had to appreciate the clarity, the sparkle, and the fizz of a simple cider fermented with champagne yeast.


It was delicious. You get a big whiff of champagne, high carbonation, a crisp refreshing bite, and a tiny hint of apple sweetness. This proves that you can make a good cider with the simplest ingredients: I literally added 6 gallons of regular apple juice on sale, from the grocery store, nothing fancy. I dumped the juice into a bottling bucket, added champagne yeast, and bottled about a week later.

For my next cider, I want to dry hop with about 4 ounces of Citra or Centential. I think that would add a nice complexity.

Beer 31: Buttery, Shitty, Black IPA

I was in the Taco Bell drive-thru with my brewing buddy Rob, after drinking some of his tasty East Coast style IPA. I was so full. For the first time in my adult life, I didn’t order anything from Taco Bell. Not a crunch wrap, not a Nachos Bel Grande, not even a Chipotle Griller for God’s sake. My belly was just too full, unusually so. I should have known something was up.

This beer suffers from diacetyl, a buttered popcorn aroma and flavor. The first day it was pretty good actually, but a day or two later: totally shit. With a little research, I found that diacetyl not only tastes like popcorn, it actually makes you full, which explains the first 3 days of drinking it and the Taco Bell nightmare. For commercial brewers, it’s not profitable to have diacetyl in the beer for this very reason – people won’t drink enough of your shitty beer.

Black IPAs fall into three camps. First, IPAs that happen to be black in color. Not my cup of tea. What’s the point? – it sets an expectation and then fails. Second, Stouts that are bitter but have no aroma. These are not bad, but not really IPAs. Third, a good Black IPA needs to be roasty and hoppy at the same time, malty and dark with a bright citrus or tropical aroma. I love Stouts. I love IPAs. It’s a good match.

I’ve made about 3 Black IPAs over the years, one of which I remember being quite good. It was roasty and hoppy. This beer, on paper, looking at the hops, would be a kick ass black session IPA. I was excited. Until I tasted the butter.


What Caused the Butter?
After my last butter lager, you think I would have learned my lesson. All beers create diacetyl during fermentation – it happens every time, no matter what. However, after fermentation, if you let the yeast “clean up” the diacetyl, by resting the beer at 72F or 75F for a few days, then you control it. This is called a “diacetyl rest.” I didn’t do it for my buttery lager, and I didn’t do it for this Black IPA. What the fuck am I doing? With brewdays under 2 hours, you would think I had the patience to let the beer sit. I’ll be more careful in the future to make sure (a) fermentation is complete and (b) the beer rests at 75 for a couple days.

The good news is that the One Pot Method probably isn’t the cause, at least I don’t think so. 30 minute boils don’t cause diacetyl, from what I understand (they cause DMS).

For what’s it’s worth, the recipe:

Black IPA
5 lb 2-row
3.3 lb Munich
.8 lb Roasted Barley
.6 lb. Carm/Crystal 80
1 oz Magnum (FW, 30 minute boil)
2 oz Glacier (FO)
Equinox DH 3 days
Centenial DH
Citra DH
Simcoe DH
Mosaic DH
US-05 yeast

started with 9 gallons water. added 2 tsp Gypsum / 1 tsp Calcium Cloride
mash 30 minutes, boil 30 minutes
chilled with wort chiller for 5 minutes, finished in ferm chamber

Beer 30: 7 Day Double IPA

This is why people keg. Eight days ago I brewed this Double IPA, and today I will be trying it for the first time. That’s 8 days from ‘grain to glass,’ as they say. Admittedly, I rushed the beer for hunting camp, and normally would give it a few more days to sit at  70F, but I’m pretty sure it’s good to go. Day 1: brew the beer in under two hours. Day 2: notice fermentation. Days 3 and 4: heavy fermentation. Day 5: hydrometer says 1.010, it’s either done or pretty darn close. Day 6: drop the temperature to 31F (cold crash). Day 7: transfer beer to keg, add gelatin to keg, and set the pressure to 50 psi for 10 hours (this was a 6 gallon batch). Day 8, today: drink. Is it carbonated? One way to find out. It’s 6:00am right now, time to take a sample:


The first thing I notice is haze, a product of rushing it, which I noticed while transferring the beer to the keg. I prefer crystal clear beer but this is acceptable, and it will probably clear itself out more, as the gelatin works its magic. Secondly, I notice a strong hop flavor. This is a a nice little IPA. Third, is it carbonated? Not sure. The head is nice, but I don’t see bubbles coming from the bottom of the glass. I’m very new to kegging so I don’t really know. I think it’s very close.

Looking at the hop profile, I’m very excited to drink this beer. On paper it’s awesome. On paper it should have a big aroma too.

update: Hunting camp is over. And while I didn’t shoot any deer, I had plenty of this absolutely delicious IPA. The keg was gone in two days. This is the best IPA I’ve ever made. Impressive and intense tropical aroma, nice malt balance, hidden alcohol. And it was “juicey,”as they say, perhaps because of the magical thing that happens when you dry hop during fermentation. After traveling with the keg, it took about 24 hours for the beer to clear up.

Damn this was good.

Hunting Camp IPA (6 gal)
Brewed Friday, Nov. 4th

5.5 lb 2-row
6.5 lb Maris Otter
3.5 lb Munich
1 lb Cane Sugar (added end of boil)
1 oz Magnum (FW, 30 m. boil)
1 oz Centenial (F0)
1 oz Amarillo (FO)
2 oz Equinox (DH, 3 days)
1 oz Citra (DH)
1 oz Centenial (DH)
2 oz Simcoe (DH)
1 oz Amarillo (DH)
US-05 dry yeast

1 tsp Calcium Cloride, 2 tsp Gypsum (heaping, added to mash water)
mashed @ 149 for 30 minutes, boiled 30 minutes

Beer 29: My First Good Lager (oh wait…Diacetyl)

Not only did I copy the recipe from, but the process too. This is a nice, clean, bready German lager. It’s almost black, with a brownish hue, but color can be deceiving. This is not a big, chewy, roasty beer. It’s a sluggable, low-alcohol beer with a hint of chocolate flavor and a nice malty aroma.


Oh crap!

A week after I wrote the above paragraph I began noticing a slight “buttered popcorn” aroma. Still drinkable, but Diacetyl was obviously present. I brought it to my local homebrewers meeting for feedback: yes, diacetyl indeed. Common causes can be a weak pitch of yeast (not enough) or not letting the beer “clean up” (sit on the yeast long enough). I cut corners on both, but my money is on the latter – I clearly rushed this beer through the process, even faster than the accelerated ‘brulosophy’ method. In other words, I should have gave it a couple more days to ferment at 58F, and a few more days to rest at 72F (to clean up). That’s what I’ll try next time.

And the stakes couldn’t be higher. This beer was actually judged by the owner of Territorial Brewing in Battle Creek, Michigan. On camera! With me right there! This is part of a new homebrewing web series I’ve been helping out on with a buddy of mine. So picture me, sitting across from an experienced professional brewer, swirling around my diacetyl black beer, waiting for him to hate it. Assuming he was telling the truth, he actually enjoyed the beer, but he also noticed the diacetyl. I lost the competition to a delicious Kolsh IPA.

Diacetyl, turns out, can slowly express itself and become stronger. This explains why it took about a week before I noticed it.

Beer 28: Excellent Belgian Tripel made with American Barley

Books will tell you to use a quality Belgian Pilsner malt for a Belgian Tripel. Until now, I have heeded that advice. It’s probably essential, right?


This is the best Belgian Tripel I’ve made to date, and it’s made with 100% Briess 2-row malt, the workhorse of brewing, with a little Belgian aromatic malt. Banana, clove, huge yeast flavor, some body, nice color, very drinkable. It’s still young, but this is delicious. I’m happy to put it alongside my commercial favorites, like Sapient Tripel from Dark Horse. I really like how the 2-row seems to compliment the yeast. The aromatic malt, I think, adds a nice maltiness to the mix. Not a lot, just enough. I’ve always been confused as to what exactly aromatic malt does (supposedly it adds malt aroma). The slight sweetness from the Aromatic malt is also nice, although I would dial that back a few ounces maybe. Also I wouldn’t mind just a little more clean bitterness from Magnum hops, using Saaz only for the flame out hops. Other than that, I wouldn’t change anything. I believe the vitality starter and fermentation might have played a factor in how delicious this is (more on that below).


Astonishingly, I cranked this big beer out in 1 week and was drinking it in 16 days. And I don’t keg. Hot temperature = fast fermentation.

2-Row Tripel
12 lb 2-row
.5 lb Aromatic malt (Dingemans)
2 lb Cane Sugar (added end of boil)
2 oz Saaz (30 minute boil)
1 oz Saaz FO
Monestary Ale Yeast (vitality starter)

Sat. Sept 17th: brewday, began vitality starter 4 hours prior to brewing
Sunday morning: pitched yeast @ 67F
Monday morning: noticed krusen, rose temp to 72F
Tuesday morning: rose temp to 80F
Tuesday night: noticed krusen had dropped already, rose temp to 85F
Wed. morning: rose to 90F; Wed night, hydrometer says 1.006, probably done fermenting: back down to 72F for ‘diacetyl rest’
Thurs 5pm: cold crashed to 30F
Saturday (a week after brewday): bottled 29 22oz beers
Monday, Oct 3: carbonated, tastes great. 16 days from grain to glass

Vitality Starter and Fermentation
I’m still tinkering around with how to ferment the best Belgian Tripel, and obviously I’m sold on the gradual, hot fermentation method: that’s how the Belgians do it. For this beer, I  really cranked up the heat, reaching 90 degrees at one point. I will probably continue with this sort of schedule. My vitality starter, as I explain elsewhere, is a matter of squeezing the liquid yeast into a jar of pre-made wort and letting it wake up for a few hours. Did it help? Who knows. But this is the problem with introducing new techniques to your brewing. You make a good beer, assume it’s because of the new technique, and consequently doomed to reproduce the new technique for the rest of your life. That happens all the time with homebrewing.

Beer 27: DIPA with a lasting aroma

Aroma is the Big Foot of brewing: hard to find. And when you find it, it’s gone fast.  It’s no surprise that the best IPAs have the best aromas, and the flavors follow the aroma. I had a Pliny the Elder last night, for example, and the aroma was intense, followed by an intense, citrusy flavor.

In terms of aroma, this Double IPA rocks. It’s got a nice, strong, grapefruit nose, thanks to the 7 ounces of citrisy hops added with the Shark Tank (patent pending, not really…my thoughts here):


Was the Shark Tank the reason for the aroma? Probably not. The amount of dry hopping? Maybe so. Was it because I used gypsum and calcium in my water? Maybe so (who knows? I’m pretty much guessing when it comes to water chemistry). Was it because I kegged this IPA for the first time in my brewing career? Probably. My new brew friend allowed me to use one of his kegs. Kegging has been touted as being essential for a great, fresh IPA. That makes sense. With kegging you (a) purge oxygen from the headspace, making the hops fresher longer and (b) get to drink it faster and fresher. Three weeks later, the aroma is hanging on.

And the flavor is pretty damn good too. This is crisp, citrusy, slightly resinous, slighty pine, and enough complex malts to back it up. The alcohol is completely undetected, and the water profile seems crisp and clean. US-05 is a winner in my book; it humbly steps aside and lets the malt and hops shine through – and it requires no starter.


This is a tasty IPA. That’s my final answer.

This beer, as usual, took 1 hour 30 minutes to make, thanks to the heretical methods that I’ve been employing for a while now: 30 minute mash and boil, no sparge, short chill, and quick transitions due to BIAB and keeping the lid on. That’s pretty impressive if I say so myself.

West Side IPA  5 gal.
10.7 lb 2-row
3.5 lb Munich
.5 lb Caramel Crystal 60
(mashed for 30 minutes at 149F)
1 oz Magnum FW (30 minute mash)
2 oz Cascade (whole cone) DH (all dry hopped for 3 days)
1 oz Centenial DH
1 oz Simcoe DH (whole cone)
1 oz Mosaic DH
1 oz Citra DH
1 oz Equinox DH
water: added 2 teaspoons Calcium Cloride and 1 teaspoon Gypsum to the mash water
after chilling down to about 120F or so, I placed into my cold fermentation chamber to bring down to pitching temp. A few hours later, before bed, I pitched the beer a little hot – at 82F- just because I don’t give a fuck, and that’s okay. The next morning (Saturday) it was at my target fermentation temp (68F), but no krusen was seen yet.
Sunday morning, 2 days after brewday, a nice krusen, which hung around until Wednesday.
Thursday night, 5 days after brewday, I dry hopped with 7 ounzes of hops in the Shark Tank, pissed off that it floated to the top.
When fermentation was complete, I cold crashed, fined with gelatin, and kegged for the first time.


Beer 26: Hoppy Grapefruit Pale Ale

For this beer I wanted to have a lot of beer on hand. One Pot Brewing does just fine with 5 gallons, but what about 8? For this beer, instead of making an IPA, I made an IPA wort, diluted it with tons of water at the end of brewing, and instead made an 8 gallon Pale Ale. I wanted a huge grapefruit character, so I peeled 4 large grapefruits and threw them in at the end of the boil, along with large amounts of citrusy and tropical hops, all of which were placed in my brew bag for a few days during fermentation. The result was pretty tasty.


The grapefruit makes this a very interesting beer. I like it, but in full disclosure my wife and two other people didn’t like it. Another of my homebrew friends did like it. So…there you go. My wife said it was ‘grassy’ and, for all I know, she’s probably right. It’s very interesting to taste a beer that you brewed yourself; you know exactly what to look for, what to expect, and what you’re tasting. I get a large grapefruit peel effect, which might come off as harsh, but not to me; I get an odd pithy bitterness, which is backed up by slightly sweet malt character, and the zingy orange flavor of Simcoe hops. To me, it tastes like the ingredients that were put into it- especially the 4 grapefruit peels. So I’m happy with it.

If I brewed this again, I would try zesting the grapefruits, as opposed to peeling with a knife. Peeling is said to impart harsh bitterness from the pith, which I intentionally wanted because I like it. Adding lemon zest is also a good idea.

This beer carbonated in 5 days. What’s up with that? The mysteries of bottle conditioning continue to baffle me.

Grapefruit Pale Ale  8 gallons
10 lb 2 -row
5.4 lb Munich
.8 lb Caramel Crystal 40
2 oz Magnum FW (30 minute boil)
2 oz Simcoe FO
1.5 oz Centenial FO
2 oz Equinox FO
4 grapefuits, peeled FO
US-05 dry yeast

Another interesting technique I employed for this beer was to collect some wort for later, to use as a “vitality starter” for future beers. First, I sanitized some salsa jars. Then, after the mash, I poured some wort into the salsa jars, let them cool, and popped them in the fridge. That’s pretty easy, actually. I talk about how easy they are to use in a different post. I would only do this for very big special beers, like a Belgian Tripel. I don’t think starters are necessary, but it can speed the process up. It’s really the Belgian Tripel that I want to try this on.

Beer 25: Belgian Golden Strong, 25 m boil, with Vitality Starter

This was a clone recipe from Avery Brewing’s “Salvation”, a Golden Strong Ale. My first attempt at the style, and my first attempt at a new technique (more on that later) – and this beer appears to be really good. At least, that’s what several of my homebrewing friends have told me, and I trust their palates much more than mine. I should note that I’m still very knew at brewing and at tasting different styles, so I refer to my local homebrew club for advice. So, not knowing what a Golden Strong is supposed to taste like, I thought I had detected a little corn, which is considered an off-flavor. However, all my homebrew friends said it was on point, on style, and tasted good, which made me happy. I also tried a a commercial example, and it tasted exactly like mine. This is a simple, highly drinkable, high alcohol beer. You get a little banana and clove from the yeast, but not much; you get the ‘graininess’ from the malt, and it’s shockingly smooth going down. This is a dangerous beer to drink, my friends. I’m not sure what the crystal malts actually did to the beer; it’s certainly not sweet.

IMG_20160824_200032388 (1)

Belgian Golden Strong Ale (5 gal.)
12.6 lb. 2-Row
3 lb. Pilsen (BE)
.6 lb. Caramel/Crystal 20L
.6 lb. Caramel/Crystal 10L
1.2 lb. Corn Sugar (@ flame out)
2 oz. Sterling (@ flame out)
2 oz. Fuggle (@ flame out)
Abbey Ale Yeast (liquid, with vitality starter)

So the process with this beer was pretty standard. I started with 8 gallons of water, heated the water quickly to 149.5F mash temperature. I soaked the barley for 30 minutes, stirring several times during the mash. I crushed the barley fine for greater efficiency. After 30 minutes of soaking, I went ahead and squeezed the bag of barley, discarded it, and quickly got to a boil. Because of the low bitterness, I only boiled for 25 minutes. I also decided to only add hops at flame out, which gave me a pleasantly low amount of bitterness. I used a wort chiller for about 7-8 minutes, which lowered the temperature to about 120 degrees, and then put the hot, unfermented beer in a freezing cold upright freezer to finish off. One hour, 30 minutes exactly. After about 4 hours of passively chilling, the beer was at 73F – close enough for me to pitch the yeast and let the temperature ride to my desired fermentation temp of 70F. With Belgian beers, I like to ramp the temperature up during fermentation, so two days after brewing I ramped up to 75F, and two days after that, 80F. As usual, when fermentation was complete, I cold crashed, added gelatin, and bottled. As usual, I never had to move the pot of beer throughout the entire process.

Oh wait. I forgot to talk about the yeast.

‘Vitality’ starter is a concept I got from, where admittedly all my ideas come from (except for One Pot Brewing, that’s mine). Instead of making a traditional starter two or three days in advance, which involves planning, equipment, and time; with a vitality starter, the goal is to wake up the yeast up on the same day you are brewing. It gets the yeast horny and ready to go. Right up my alley. Here’s my interpretation. After mashing, I filled up a few sanitized glass jars with hot wort. Then, after cooling to around 70F, I put the yeast (in this case, Abbey liquid) into one of those jars, saving the others for future batches. I simply let the yeast sit in the jar full of wort until it was time to pitch, about 5 hours later. Did it work? I think so. The next morning I noticed a nice foamy krusen starting, something I am not used to with liquid yeast. Liquid yeast, having far fewer cells than dry yeast, is the only reason I would use this method, especially using liquid yeast with high alcohol beers.


Beer 24: Dry Hopped Belgian Tripel

Another solid beer from my silly little system. Honesty, after 24 drinkable, decent beers – some better than others, but all just fine – I don’t consider this an ‘experiment’ anymore. One Pot Brewing is a way to make good beers fast and easy. Anyway, the idea for this particular beer was really simple: a nice Beglian Tripel with a little Centenial dry hop character. And that’s pretty much it. It’s not the best beer I’ve had, and improvements could be made, but I enjoyed drinking it. And yes, it’s gone, so I have to remember what it tasted like. At first I thought it had a touch of cider, possibly due to stressing the yeast, and there might be some truth to that, but I think I was confusing that with a slight tinge from the hops – something I’m not used to tasting in a Tripel.


When it comes to the yeast, I took advice from Gordon Strong’s Modern Homebrew Recipes, a book I’ve been getting a lot of recipes from lately. He says to use a Beglian Strong Ale yeast, as opposed to the traditional Monastery or Abbey yeast for a Tripel. Based on this beer I would have to disagree. The yeast is too subdued.

This recipe is purely from memory. I went into my garage today and realized I had erased the recipe from my white board. Yeah, I’m getting sloppy, but that’s my style, so whatever. I’m two batches ahead right now, so this beer is dead to me.

Dry Hopped Belgian Tripel
10 Ib. 2-Row
3.5 lb. Pilsen (BE)
.5 lb Belgian Aromatic
1.5 lb. Corn Sugar (FO)
2 oz Sterling (FO) 30 minute boil
2 oz Fuggles (FO)
Abbey Ale Yeast (liquid)

I’m pretty sure I did a 30 minute mash, 30 minute boil (or less), no aeration before pitching, no starter, and the partial chill method (using a wort chiller to get to about 110 degrees or so).

My next beer with showcase a new method for me: the ‘vitality’ starter method. Stay tuned.


Beer 23: Almost Flawless IPA

Huge hop aroma notwithstanding, this is a near perfect IPA (in my humble opinion). It compares with New Belgium’s Rampant IPA, one of my favorites. The key, I think, is a slightly complex malt profile, a hint of sweetness in the nose, and a soft bitterness which makes it very drinkable, and a big double layered hop flavor. The flavor is excellent, owing to large amounts of Centenial backed by Cascade (one of my favorite combos).

Another difference is yeast. As I look through my brewing notes, I realize that every time I used San Diego Super yeast I made an incredible IPA. Coincidence? Probably not. Damn you! I do think the San Diego Super yeast makes a difference, but I can’t explain what exactly that is. I hate to say it, actually, because it’s drastically more expensive than the cheap pink packets of Safale-05 yeast. I think Marshall Scott from is right when he says that San Diego makes the IPA more interesting, complex, and malty; as opposed to the ‘punch in the face’ hop forward beer produced by the typical California Ale yeast (or US-05). However, I do wonder if hop aroma is effected negatively by San Diego. With 7 ounces of dry hops, I would like to think this beer would have a giant hop aroma. It doesn’t. Instead, it’s pleasant with a slight sweetness that makes you think of the malt and alcohol.


IPA (6 gal.)
Sat. June 11, 2016
10.3 lb. 2-row
4 lb. Maris Otter
3 lb Munich
(40 minute mash at 147)
2 oz. Centenial FWH (30 minute boil)
1 oz Centenial FO (used a Wort Chiller)
5 oz Centenial DH (3 days)
2 oz Cascade DH (3 days)
San Diego Super Yeast and Safale 05

6/11: started with 8 gal. water, used culligan filter attached to potable hose, added gypsum to water, 40 m mash, 30 m boil, had 7 gallons of water at beginning of boil, put 2 gallons cold water in freezer to add later, used wort chiller for this beer
By 8:24 pm the chilled wort was in freezer. under 2 hour brewday. The new upright freezer is a beast. it gets cold fast. after 6 minutes it was at 36 C. fell asleep and forget to pitch yeast, pitched the next morning.
6/13: noticed fermentation in the morning, white foamy.
6/20: a week later, hydrometer reading says 1.010. added 7 oz dry hops
6/23: three days later, cold crashed. added gelatin the next day
6/27: spigot is clogged with hop junk and sediment. this has happened before. I put the pot at a steeper angle and add more gelatin.
6/28: still clogged a bit. had to suck on the spigot a few times, like a baby sucking a bottle. that worked. bottled 29 22 oz beers.
7/1: almost carbed. tastes great.

My IPA philosophy has come along way. In the beginning, I kept it very simple: 2-row, sugar, and dry hopping with Centenial only. Now I find myself adding a bunch of Munich, some Vienna, Maris Otter, and a little Honey Malt from time to time. Again, I like both methods. Depends what you’re in the mood for.

Procedure wise, I changed things up a bit. First, I used my friend’s wort chiller, which works very nicely with my system. Chilling lasted only 8 minutes or so, followed by using a cold fermentation chamber to complete the job. The brewday was under 2 hours so I’m not complaining. And wort chillers, I noticed, are incredible easy to clean: just spray them off with a hose. Second, I did a ‘diluted’ or ‘concentrated’ wort. I’ve done this many times before a la Charlie Papazian and it makes practical sense. I made about 5 gallons of wort and added about 2 gallons of cold water while chilling. Basically, I turned the beer from a smaller batch DIPA to a larger batch IPA – which is what I was going for. Third, I didn’t use sugar for this one. I wanted it more malty and less dry. It is. Fourth, I did a 40 minute mash, instead of my traditional 30. Not sure that made a difference. Lastly, I used my new upright freezer/fermentation chamber. It was amazing. Not only does it get to freezing temperatures fast (in the summer); not only does it chill the beer fast; not only is it energy efficient. But, most importantly, the shelves are customizable, which allows me to place the beer at the exact height that is perfect for bottling. In other words, the beer never has to move throughout the entire beer making process (chill, ferment, dry hop, bottle).