Beer 22: Another Summer Jalapeno Beer

What we have here is a nice, light, crisp, jalapeno ale. Jalapeno dominates the aroma and flavor, but it’s very drinkable, a balanced bitterness, and the barley has enough complexity to add depth and flavor. The hops are not present. Bell peppers give it a garden-like quality that I don’t think you would get with the jalapenos alone. A good beer.


If my memory serves, this is the fourth beer I brewed using some combination of peppers, two of which are on this website. Most similar to this one, beer #6 was a summer Jalapeno Beer. It had a big jalapeno aroma and flavor, an earthy garden quality, and a light, crisp malt profile with a hint of sweetness (using Caramel Crystal malt for the sweetness). I noted that two jalapenos didn’t give the subtle burn I was looking for, and that three might be perfect. I was right. The three peppers in this batch gives a nice, subtle, lingering heat that coats your mouth. I also tweaked the barley a bit. I like using Munich and/or Vienna malt for complexity, depth of malt flavor, and a touch of sweetness, rather than using Caramel Crystal altogether. That seems to be a trend right now. But I also threw in a pinch of Honey Malt, just for shits – not sure what that did.

Chipotle makes an excellent beer too. Beer #10 was a Chipotle Golden Ale, which was also delicious, had a great chipotle flavor, but lacked heat as well. My notes say “add jalapenos.” So of course, now we come full circle, and I’m saying to myself: why didn’t I put chipotles in this beer! I think that would be the best combination.

Other possible improvements: a large flame out addition of  citrus or orange hops, like Simcoe. That might be good. Or a more ‘piney’ hop, like cascade or centenial.

As you can tell by my notes below, this was another victory for shitty brewing practices. I mashed only 30 minutes, and boiled for only 35 minutes. No off flavors that I can tell. I also diluted the beer, by adding 1.5 gallons of cold water after the boil. No apparent drawbacks: the bitterness seems spot on to me. Worse, I chilled this beer slowly for apparently two days before pitching the yeast. I remember waking up the following morning: Oh, shit, I forgot the pitch the yeast last night! US 05 did the job, just like it always does (oh, and don’t forget, no yeast starter or agitating the wort before pitching). Life is pretty good.

Pepper Pale (6 gal)
Mon, May 23, 2016 5pm
5.1 lb 2-row (30 min. mash)
4 lb Munich
3.8 lb Vienna
.3 lb Honey Malt
.5 oz Magnum (35 min. boil)
2 oz. Sterling (flame out, no chill method)
1 oz. Anthium (flame out)
3 jalapenos, sliced (flame out)
2 green bell peppers, sliced (flame out)
Safale US-05
Monday, May 23: 30 minute mash, 35 minutes boil
no chill: after boil, added 1.5 gallons of cold water, then let sit outside for 10 minutes, then placed in cold fermentation chamber very hot (69C)
Wed., May 25, morning: beer at 26C (still hot), pitched yeast anyway
Monday June 1st: hydrometer 1.010, cold crashed, sample has nice heat
next day: added gelatin
Thurs, June 2: bottled 38 22 oz bottles (that’s a lot)

Beer 21: a tasty Bell’s ‘Best Brown’ Clone

I don’t make Brown Ale’s often. It’s not that I don’t like them – I like them just fine – it’s more that I don’t want to invest the time to make one. I mean, I can only make so many beers in one year; I could be making something epic like an IPA, Belgian Tripel, Barley Wine, or Scotch Ale. However, we are hosting a retirement party for my father-in-law, and this is the perfect beer. When I think of an excellent Brown Ale, I look no further than the largest craft brewery in my state: Bell’s Best Brown Ale (which, by the way, is located about 2 miles from my house). Brown in color, crisp, malty, slight sweetness, clean water profile, burnt caramel notes, toffee, hints of raisin (I made most of that shit up but I think that’s what I’m supposed to say when talking about a Brown Ale). I cannot remember where I got this recipe from – probably a book at the library – but I do remember it was a credible source.

This beer has a phenomenal aroma. The caramel nose is very impressive, actually. The flavor seems spot on. This beer checks all the boxes: malty, slight sweetness, caramel, raisin, toffee, etc. I like it. I think the water profile could be cleaner and crisper but, other than that, I’m not sure how to improve this beer. It’s a nice Brown. I would like to swap out the 2-row with Maris Otter, and see how that tastes. I also wonder what Safale US-04 would taste like, instead of US-05.


Best Brown Ale Clone
8.5 lb. 2-row
14 oz. Caramel 60L
16 oz. Special Roast
14 oz. Victory
3 oz. Chocolate malt
.5 oz. Magnum (30 m, 30 minute boil)
1 oz. Fuggle (flame out, no chill)
Safale US-05 yeast

May 6th, 2016: brewed 4:00pm
started with 7 gallons of water
mashed for 1.5 hours (picked up Immanuel from day care)
boiled 30 minutues
Let sit on deck for 40 minutes to cool down, then added ice cubes, put in cold freezer/fermentation chamber at 2 degrees C.
6/7: 2:00pm, beer at 75F. 3:00: pitched yeast
6/11: bumped up temperature from 67F to 72F
6/12: hydrometer reading says 1.010
6/15: bottled 26 22 ounce bottles, placed in 70F closet to carbonate for a week.

Beer 20: Dry, Bitter Belgian IPA

The concept for this beer was a hybrid of my two favorite beers: IPA and Belgian Tripel. The recipe can from Gordon Strong’s new recipe book. This is a good beer, and it came at the perfect time, as I was craving an IPA and Belgian Tripel, all at the same time. However, the beer’s not exactly what I expected, especially looking at the recipe. Clearly this is due to method, which I’ll talk about. What I really wanted and expected was a nice, dry, Belgian Tripel with a huge hop aroma and flavor. What I got is basically a Belgian Strong Ale with some bitterness and lemony hop flavor. Definitely not bad, and very drinkable, as any Belgian should be.


Belgian Tripel IPA
8.5 lb. Pilsner malt (Belgian)
2.8 lb. Vienna malt
2 lb. Cane Sugar
2 oz. Denali hops (FW, 30 min.)
3 oz. Denali (FO, no chill)
3 oz. Denali DH (3 days)
WLP 545 Belgian Strong Ale Yeast
4/16: brewed, took about 2 hours, no chill
4/17: 1:00 pitched at 75F
4/23: hydrometer reading 1.010 (sample tasted very bitter)
4/24: 1.008 (tasted less bitter) noticed slight sulfur smell, decided to let clean up for a couple days
4/26: Dry hopped 3 oz Denali
4/30: bottled 30 22 oz. beers

Why is this so bitter? Probably because of the ‘no chill’ method. The combination of high-alpha hops added at the end of the boil (flame out) with the no chill method added more bitterness than I wanted. With no chill, you have to be careful with the flame out hops; they continue to extract bitterness as they sit. The bigger mystery is why this beer doesn’t have a hop aroma. With three ounces of Denali dry hops, there should be a better aroma. Or, perhaps Denali isn’t good for aroma? I’m not sure. In hindsight, I would probably go with Simcoe instead.


Beer 19: Dry, Crisp, Equinox Double IPA

I had really big expectations for this one. It’s a fine IPA, don’t get me wrong, but my expectations that were not met. With seven ounces of dry hops, all ‘Equinox,’ I was hoping for a huge tangerine hop aroma, which surprisingly doesn’t come through on this beer. Equinox is a new hop variety that is supposed to smell strongly of tangerines (I know because I’ve tried it). This beer is a dry, crisp, clear, simple Double IPA with a slight hop aroma and medium hop flavor. Even though Centenial is barley present in the recipe, I can taste it. But I’m afraid the alcohol masks the hops a little bit. It’s not hot, or warm, but you can tell the ABV is pretty high, which is not surprising if you consider the malt bill is 2-row + sugar (both highly fermentable). I also think that, after crushing finer, my efficiency is much better. My older recipes need to be rethought based on that fact. Before I would get residual sweetness from 2-row + sugar. Not anymore – bone dry. Good to know for next time. I’ll probably add some Munich or Vienna malt to the party next time, to add depth and flavor. It’s also quite bitter, but the aroma and flavor should balance that out. I don’t mind a bitter DIPA. I should also note that I dry hopped with a bag, rather than simply dumping the pellets into the fermenter. Normally I don’t do that. Perhaps that explains the lack of aroma? perhaps not.


Equinox DIPA
14.5 2-row
1 lb. Cane Sugar (end of boil)
1.8 oz. Centenial and Equinox mixture (FWH, 40 minute boil)
7 oz. Equinox (DH 3 days)
1 oz. Centenial (DH 3 days)
US-05 dry yeast

3/14 started with 8 gallons water, mashed at 152F for 40 minutes
after 33 minutes, mash dropped to 147.7F
2 hour brewday total
no chill method, added 1 gallon cold water after boil, put in cold ferm. chamber for 24 hours, pitched yeast
3/17: krusen forming
3/20: hydrometer reading 1.010 dry hopped
3/23: still 1.010, cold crash
3/26: bottled 27 22 oz. bottles

Just for the heck of it, I did a 40 minute mash and boil (instead of 30), but I still managed to have a 2 hour brewday. Gypsum was added to the mash water.

I guess that’s it. Next up: Belgian IPA.

Beer 18: Peach and Tangerine IPA


If you want an IPA that smells and tastes straight-up like peach and tangerine, try Galaxy hops. It’s a very different experience from traditional IPA flavor and aroma. It’s different than the flavors from Centenial and Cascade, for example. The smell is incredible. It’s bright, light on the palate, doesn’t have that velvety feel on your tongue, and, as I said, smells and tastes mostly like peach and tangerine. It’s singular, specific, not much depth. It’s not resinous or ‘dank’ (whatever that means). I do like this IPA but, rather than pairing with Citra, I would probably pair with Centenial instead. I feel it needs that traditional backbone hop flavor. This IPA, in fact, is very reminiscent of an IPA from New Belgium, especially the new ‘Citradelic’ IPA (which isn’t my favorite). Also, if I’m making changes to this recipe, I would increase the bitterness a little bit. Chilling in the snow, as my notes say, is a little unpredictable and hard for calculating IBUs. In fact, I wonder if lack of bitterness is my biggest complaint with this beer; after all, I only did a 30 minute boil.


Galaxy IPA
10.7 lb 2-Row
2.8 lb Munich
1 lb Cane Sugar (end of boil)
1 oz Magnum (FWH, 30 minute boil)
1 oz Galaxy (FO, chilled in snow afterwards)
1 oz Citra (FO)
3 oz Galaxy (DH, 2 days)
1 oz Citra (DH, 2 days)
Safale 05 yeast


Beer 17: Delicious, Underpitched Belgian Tripel

Alongside IPA, the Belgian Tripel is one of my favorite beers. I’ve been trying to brew a perfect one since I began brewing. I made a pretty good Belgian Tripel not too long ago, but I wasn’t fully satisfied with the aroma. No complaints with this one. It’s the best Tripel I’ve made to date, and I’m hoping to get some honest feedback at my next beer snob meeting (homebrewer’s club). Huge Belgian yeast aroma from the White Laps Monestary yeast (formerly called Trappist), with a ton of yeast flavor as well. It’s dry, the pilsner malt provides a simple base, the cane sugar makes the beer dry, and the alcohol is apparent but not harsh. Like all good Tripels, it’s dangerously drinkable.


I’ve already talked about the secret to making a good Tripel (raising the fermentation temperature to 80F). But for this beer I used another secret: underpitching the yeast (read more here). My previous Tripel was overpitched and didn’t have a great aroma. This batch was underpitched and has a great aroma. Rather than using a huge slurry from a previous batch, which I normally do to save money, I used one packet of White Labs yeast goo (‘pure pitch’ its called). Technically, according to White Labs, that’s considered underpitching for such a high alcohol beer. Either way, it might be the difference between good and great. I also got more serious with the brand of base malt. I wanted to use 100% Belgian pilsner malt (which of course makes a ton of sense for a Belgian beer). I came close (the homebrew shop only had 10 pounds). Anyway, I’m very happy with the result.

Berkeley Belgian Tripel 5 gal
10 lb Pilsner malt (Belgian: Dingemans)
5 lb Pilsner malt (German: Weyerman)
3 lb Cane Sugar (adding at flame out)
1 oz Magnum (FW, 30 minute boil)
2 oz Czech Saaz (flame out, no chill)
Monastery Ale Yeast

brewed 1/31/16
mashed 146F – 150 for 30 minutes
boiled 30 minutes
no chill, put in cold ferm. chamber for 24 hours, pitched at 70F but the temperature was set at 65F, no stirring or O2
signs of fermentation within 24 hours
2 days later, ramped temperature from 65F to 70, not yet high krusen, noticed that garage smells like bananas
1 day later, ramped temperature from 70 to 75
2 days later, hydrometer says 1.004
4 days later, bottled

Beer 16: Wee Heavy Scotch Ale and Spigot Issues

Also called a Scotch Ale, or Strong Scotch Ale, this is one of my favorite styles (alongside IPA and Belgian Tripel). That’s interesting. My three favorite styles all take one ingredient to the extreme: IPA with hops; Belgian Tripel with yeast; and Wee Heavy with barley. If you’ve tried Dirty Bastard (Founders), Lock Down (Arcadia) or Scottie Karate (Dark Horse), you know what I’m talking about. Light brown to reddish brown in color, they are very tasty and very unique: malty (i.e. barley flavored), intense, high in alcohol. Sometimes they taste a little smokey or ‘peat’ flavored. They are not bitter or hoppy, and the yeast plays no big role.  It’s all about the barley with this one.

IMG_20160210_184730025 (2)

Wee Heavy
25 lb. Maris Otter
8 oz. Roasted Barley (UK)
~5 oz. Peated Malt
~5 oz. single malt Scotch Whiskey (dumped in at bottling)
2 oz East Kent Goldings FW (30 m. boil)
1 oz East Kent Goldings FO (while chilling in a snow bank)
Edinburgh Scottish Ale yeast

This one lives up to the expectations: very malty, rich, a ton of ‘mouthfeel’, caramel, toffee, and a little smokey peat flavor. You can taste some residual sweetness, probably due to high mash temps (soaking the barley at a higher temperature than I should have). Maybe the sweetness will fade in a week or two, it still has some carbonating left. I would lower the mash temp to 150 (as I planned on) for the next batch. I also don’t like the peated malt; I think it gets in the way (the original recipe didn’t have it, I should’ve listened). I like Dirty Bastard better, but I do like this beer.

update: I do not like this beer, still. Age didn’t help. Too sweet. Stop reading. Continue reading

Beer 15: Delicious Double IPA brewed in 1 hour 30 minutes

So I think beer tasting, much like wine tasting, is kind of a farce. According to hop descriptions alone, I should be smelling and tasting all of the following: passionfruit, pine, citrus, earth, floral, tropical, lemon, orange, grapefruit,  melon, lime, gooseberry, and….lychee (what the fuck is that?). Not that I have a golden palate or anything (most people don’t), but if I’m honest, I can pick out citrus and grapefruit (okay maybe pine, but nothing like gin). What I really taste is the American hops associated with American IPAs, which is something you become familiar with after drinking a bunch of American IPAs; they have a particular flavor and aroma. I taste a really good, super smooth, heavily dry hopped Double IPA. The aroma is very nice, and the flavor is nice too. The malt gives it just enough body and foundation and a touch of sweetness so that it’s not watery or thin or too dry. The malt has a backbone and flavor of its own. The San Diego yeast may vary well accentuate the fruity hop flavors. I’ve used San Diego twice, and both times the IPA came out good. This is dangerously drinkable. If I made this again, I might leave out the Honey malt altogether. Update: I think I should have let this beer carbonate a little longer. The carbonation is sufficient, but I’m missing a little bite, which I assume is lack of carbonation. Hopefully the case in my basement will be fully carbed.

Double IPA  5 gal
10 lb 2 Row
1.9 lb Munich malt
.6 lb Honey malt (Gambr.)
.7 lb Cane Sugar (end of boil)
1.5 oz. Warrior (FW, 30 minute boil)
1. oz Simcoe FO (before no chill method)
1 oz Amarillo FO
2. oz Simcoe DH 2 days
1 oz Centenial DH 2 days
1 oz Citra DH 2 days
1 oz Amarillo DH 2 days
San Diego Super Yeast (fresh ‘pure pitch’ packet)


Yes, 1 hour 30 minutes brewday, for an all grain, full volume, 5 gallon batch – a personal record of mine (that includes cleaning, setting up, everything). The 30 minute mash and boil saves the most time, but I’m getting better at the transitions too (quickly going from mash to boil). I did the lazy, no chill method, and it worked beautifully. After the boil, I added the flame out hops, put the beer in my cold fermentation chamber, and kicked back. Pitched yeast the next day (no starter, no aeration, no agitation of the wort…just pitched). I was worried the beer would be too bitter, actually, because of the Warrior and the flame out hops; after all, with the no chill method they stay hot for a while. Turns out the bitterness is right on. I will probably use 1.5 ounces Warrior in all my IPAs from now on. I will also continue flame out additions, treating them as 10 minute additions or whatever.


Beer 14: Epic Russian Imperial Stout and Finer Crush

Surprisingly taking only 5 days to carbonate, this beer is everything I want in a big Russian Imperial Stout (by the way, I’m pretty sure ‘Russian’ simply means high alcohol, like an Imperial Stout). Big, dark, malty, dry, bitter, roasty, with a lot of hidden alcohol. I really, really like this beer.


For this beer I started very differently. Normally I crush my grains at the beer store, which has been great. However, I wanted to have a much finer crush to increase efficiency. Also, I wanted to have the huge convenience of buying my grains ahead of time. Crush on demand; it doesn’t get any fresher. So I splurged on Cyber Monday and brought the Cereal Killer Grain Mill for 80 bucks. I adjusted the mill to credit card size and went at it. For this beer, I also increased my mash time by 10 minutes to a 40 minute mash, just in case (after all, this is 12% ABV). Everything else was normal: 30 minute boil and a slow 24 hour chill method in my fermentation chamber. Conventional wisdom says that, for high alcohol beers, you must use a starter and must aerate the wort before pitching the yeast. I said fuck no to both. This beer fermented well and it’s not sweet by any means. Which means it’s close to 12%. I honestly wouldn’t change a thing and can’t wait to brew it again. I don’t know if the finer crush or the 40 minute mash helped (I’m guessing the finer crush did), but I would stick to the same method.

As I said in my last post, recipe matters. I got this recipe from a trusted internet source:, which I read religiously. Thank you Matt Waldron.

Russian Imperial Stout, 5 gal, 12%ish
16 lb. Maris Otter
1 lb Crystal 60L
1.5 lb Roasted Barley
1 lb Special B
.5 lb Chocolate malt
~2.5 oz Warrior hops FW (30 minute boil)
2 packets of Safale 05

Slow chilled for 18 hours, fermented at 65F for 7 days, cold crashed, added gelatin next day, bottled 9 days after brewday. In fact, the grain to glass time was 14 days only. Damn.

Beer 13: Belgian Dubbel

Although it took over a month to carbonate (more on that later), this beer came out very nice. Malty, rich, caramel, raisin, roast, chocolate. A complex beer. You get a slight sense of the alcohol. The dry Abbey yeast works well, it’s subtle. It’s not my favorite style (I prefer Belgian Tripels), but I like it. This could easily be served at any brewpub. I wouldn’t change the recipe and I will brew this again.


I’m beginning to realize that recipe creation is very important. A good recipe, with solid brewing practices, makes great beer. Searching the internet for recipes is not a good idea; you need a source that you can trust. This is a clone recipe from a Wisconsin brewery, if I remember correctly, called “Scarlet 7 Belgian Dubbel”; I got it from a book I checked out at the library.

Belgian Dubbel, 5 gal, 9.1%
9.4 Ibs 2-row
1.7 lbs Ding. Aromatic malt
1.4 lbs Munich
.9 lbs Special B
10 oz Crystal 40
2 oz Crystal 120
.5 oz Willamette FW (30 minute boil?…I can’t remember, probably)
1. oz Willamette 30 min.
Safbrew Abbey Dry Yeast

I’m pretty sure I mashed and boiled for 30 minutes, as is my usual process nowadays. I also slow chilled this beer, which took about 24 hours before pitching the yeast. Another win for the simple, lazy One Pot Brewing.

Why did this take so long to carbonate?
I have a pretty good guess. I have noticed that cold crashing, gelatin, and bottling have consequences. Bottling a chunky beer will carbonate in 5 days, but bottling a clear beer will carbonate in 2, 3, or 4 weeks. Makes sense. This one took over a month. For this beer I cold crashed the shit out of it, probably for 2 weeks. I was busy up north hunting. I also used gelatin. Thus, the beer was super fined and crystal clear when I bottled it, which means less yeast in the beer for the sugar to carbonate with. On top of that, it’s high alcohol, which takes longer. In the future, I’m going to experiment with not cold crashing but still using gelatin. I think this will be a nice compromise between clear beer and quick carbonation. The yeast will be nice and warm, ready to go; rather than having to ‘wake up’ first.