The Homebrewers Thread

So, I first helped make a homebrew back in 1980 at UC Davis with a couple enology majors that had figured out they could make great beer… Brewed a fair bit in the 1990’s in Japan and Hong Kong. Brewed some more in the 2000’s in Shanghai. Stopped for about 8 years (but still have the equipment and a couple of cans of malt from about 8 years ago:eek: ).

So, finally got off my ass and started brewing again on 15 July. Got good advice from the Dope. I’m made 8 batches since then and decided that we need a homebrew thread.

So, first a few observations.

  1. Homebrewing used to be only about making something drinkable back in the 80’s Since there were virtually no craft brewers, it wasn’t hard to out do the majors
  2. Broad styles were fine. A “porter” meant that you used a fair amount of black patent malt. That was about the only criteria
  3. Papazian and the Joy of Homebrewing was THE bible
  4. No one cared about making an award winning beer until well into the 1990’s.
  5. Adjuncts were not very quantified. As in, I’m a cheap fucker so haven’t tried maple syrup but it should be fermentable so knock yourself out.
  6. I lived in Hong Kong, Japan or China, so could only get to a homebrew supply shop about 2x a year, and had to make do with whatever supplies I had picked up versus the local malts (often with adjuncts) and the odd specialty grain. Forcing one to substitute freely versus running over to the homebrew supply store because you only have Crystal 10L and not Crystal 20L in the pantry as required to meet the standards for a Czech Pilsner.

Now that I live within the radius of 2 well stocked homebrew supply shops in the US, I have observed:

  • big emphasis on making an exact recipe. Honestly, why not? If you can go to a shop and get 1.5# 120L crystal, .5 dark chocolate malt, .25 pound light chocolate malt, .75 pound rye, 1.2 oz tettenanger, flameout with .06 oz Mt Hood and dry hop with .27 oz Saaz, fill in the blank specialty yeast, then why wouldn’t one shoot for an exact recipe?
  • over emphasis on “I brewed an award winning beer”*
    • turns out to be the “best” ward was for the best in show double bock stout with peach IPA brewed on a Thursday using English lager in a Houston summer + coconut category
  • homebrew shops now have about 50 grain choices, almost as many hops and half as many yeast selections. It’s an amazing smorgasbord compared with 30 years ago.

Since I restarted homebrewing, I got some great tips from the Dope and some of my own learnings.

  1. Starsan and Saniclean (or their equivalents) are incredible time saving devices. I used to use bleach, and then rinse like crazy. It’s awesome to pitch yeast into a bubbly starsan rinsed fermenter and not worry about it
  2. Swing top 1 liter bottles. So much easier than capping, and probably kegging (although I have no experience with kegging. Huge pain point gone.
  3. Sanitize bottles by running them through the dishwasher without soap. Not sure who on the Dope pointed this out, but you are a saint. Huge pain point removed
  4. Spiedel fermenter. There look to be a bunch of good ones out there. Big mouth, holds a lot, has a spigot to fill bottles (vs a siphon). The 8.9 gallon Speidel has been very good to me. I’ve got a 4 gallon and a 5 gallon plastic carboy, both very useful, but a pain in the ass compared with the Spiedel.
  5. Yeast seems to be quite pricey compared with when I started. Anyhoo, I’ve tried yeast rinsing and reusing year, and it has worked well.

My focus is on small beers. I want a drinkable beer in the ~3% alcohol range. I want to drink two or three beers and still be able to legally drive. God bless if you like big beers, it’s just what I’m into at this time.

Orfy, who is prolific at, is one of my brewing gods. They guy tweaks pretty amazing English beer recipes. Here is his dark brown mild recipe, and homepage is here. His recipes are traditional English milds, ESB’s, porters and generally low octane. And all of his recipes look to be battled tested and tasty. His Boddington’s is next on my list.

Anyhoo, I digress. This is a SDMB homebrewers thread open to anything. Me, I am most interested in small beers, but that is just what I’m into.

Thoughts, feedback, recipes, whatever are all welcome. I care most about “small” beers but interested in all topics. So jump in if you home brew and are on the Dope.

I spent most of yesterday making beer. I started at about 7 AM mashing a hefeweizen; at about the time that I started cooling it after the boil I started a mash of a pale ale. Everything was in the fermenters by about 2 PM, but I doubt I’ll try to make two all-grain batches in one day again.

I wanted the pale ale to be a simple all-Colorado brew, using 2-row barley grown in the state and hops grown on my back deck, but I discovered that my hops flowers are a little beyond what I’d be comfortable relying on for effective bittering. I had plenty of Mosaic hops pellets lying around, so that’s what I used instead. It’s one of the things I like about homebrewing: plans can change, not everything can go according to plan, and you still wind up with something enjoyable.

I’ve only been brewing for about six years. I started out with extracts and 12-oz bottles, and started all-grain brewing about a year later (although probably half my batches are still extracts). I’ve had a three-keg kegerator for two years and haven’t bottled anything since, although I’ve kept some bottles around in case I ever make a barleywine or something else that I don’t necessarily want taking up a keg.

It’s my understanding that brewing with extracts results in much better beer than it used to (to the point where it’s really not possible to tell the difference between batches made with all-grain processes vs. extracts). I think the industry has tried to make homebrewing as easy to begin as possible while still making making great beer – the existence of Maris Otter extract and other high-quality ingredients points to that.

Probably 90 percent of what I make are ales (mostly British styles like bitters, pales, stouts and porters); we have a refrigerator in our garage that we bought primarily as a beer fridge/lagering unit, but I’ve only made a few lagers (Oktoberfests and a couple of bocks) in the last few years.

I too find the emphasis on awards very offputting; the ever-expanding BJCP styles and the clamor to win awards for those styles just seems not very … homebrewerish … in the sense of a laid-back, enjoy-some-beer-that-you-made, maybe with your friends, kind of way.

I’ve been brewing since 1991, and echo your impressions of the early days. Like many newbies, I started with the crazy styles for the first year because I could, then settled into more standard styles because my bottles of ginger porter with kumquats just sat on the shelf.

I do find it a little more difficult to motivate myself to brew these days. Back then, I could make beer better than 99% of what I could buy. These days, I can’t compare to the amazing stuff on the market. I especially like a good dIPA, and getting the right hoppiness is a challenge.

Yeah, the dishwasher bottle sanitizing works like a charm. Toss in some citric acid and they come out clean as new.

Can home brew equipment be used to brew hard cider?

I have a few apple trees on the property and I’m dying to brew up some hard cider, but it’ll have to be next season as the trees have been double-whammied this year, as it’s an off season, and we’re suffering from a pretty heavy drought in New England, the trees are producing a very small batch of tiny lumpy apples

Hopefully next year will be a better season, as apples produce better in alternate years, last year was amazing

The apple varieties for cidering are;
Red Delicious (heirloom old style)
Mystery apple (could be Tolman Sweet, or something unique to our property) greenish yellow apples with rose wash, dry, crisp flesh, and jaw droppingly sweet, like biting into a honeycomb
Mystery 2.0 (a cross between Mystery and Baldwin, probably, looks like Mystery, but has the spicy tang of the Baldwin and the sweetness of the Mystery, with a faint bitter aftertaste

If the mystery tree is a Tolman Sweet, it’ll make some very strong cider, it has 14.6% sugar, which ferments down to around 7%, apparently

Beer-making equipment gives you a good start. You’ll just be missing a grinder/crusher and press. Those are two separate parts and are both very important. I tried cider once with just a press - I figured if I chopped up the apples small enough, the press would squeeze out the juice, but I got nowhere. You need something to mash up the apples first.

Otherwise, your carboys, air-locks, and bottling/kegging equipment will all work fine. You’ll need some additives not typically used in beer making, like potassium metabisulfite to kill any nasties in the juice after pressing, pectic enzyme, and maybe some yeast nutrient (I’ve made one batch that didn’t need any extra nutrients, but most of my batches need a little to ferment to completion).

Carbonation can be tough to manage if you want the cider to have residual sugar. If you ferment to completion, then you can carbonate bottles the same way as with beer - just add a little sugar at bottling. If you want it sweet, it’s a little tougher. You can bottle it, then chill it as soon as it reaches the right level, but you might have overcarbonation issues (including exploding bottles) if you store it too long or it warms up. You can also pasteurize the bottles in 160F water once the right carbonation level is reached, but I haven’t tried this myself. I’d worry about bottles exploding at that temperature if the carbonation was already high, and I can’t imagine it does good things to the flavor.

As for the apples, just about any apple variety can make a decent cider, but it depends on what style of cider you want. Some are definitely better for certain cider styles than others. McIntosh, Baldwin, and Cortland are all sharp-sweets, so you’ll have decent acids along with the sugars. Ideally you’d have some plain sharps as well to blend, but go with what you have. I’m sure you can make something delicious.

Based on that linked article (very helpful, BTW :slight_smile: )it actually looks like Mystery 2.0 would be a great cider apple, my best guess, based on flavor, is that it’s a cross between Mystery 1.0 and the Baldwin, the flower that grew that seed was probably pollinated by a bee that had just visited the Baldwin.

It’s got a sweet start (mystery 1.0), with a very sharp bite (Baldwin) and a very faint bitter/tannic aftertaste

And even better, the youngest trees (McIntosh, Red Delicious, Cortland) are almost 50 years old, (Mystery 2.0 is around 25-30 years old, come to think of it) the Mystery tree and Baldwin are as old as the property itself (230+ years) the Baldwins show their age and need to be cloned/grafted soon, the Mystery tree is an amazing tree, hardy, robust and gorgeous, it must be cloned as many times as possible, I want this tree to live on and spread widely throughout New England

…especially if it’s an unnamed varietal unique to our property, if that’s the case, I get to name it, and find some way of selling grafted copies.

Ideally, I’d like to graft onto standard rootstock, perhaps some I grow from its own apples so I know it’s hardy vigorous rootstock, only drawback? It gets huge, although a selection would be fun too, full dwarf (Patio Mystery), semi-dwarf (Backyard mystery, and full size (Mystery)

Truly an antique heirloom organic apple tree, amazingly productive on alternate years, late bearing (October) and incredibly drought tolerant, it’s producing a small amount of small apples, and they aren’t misshapen lumps (mostly) like the McIntosh/Cortland drought apples

I’ve had good luck with making rye beers, both ale and lager, in terms of having people who are not me actually like them. One of my big wins was an ale with about 10% rye and 5% molasses in the mix. Made for a nice hefty beer with big flavour.

Anyone ever make a spruce beer? I took some new growth in the spring and have it in my freezer to add to a beer that I’ll be making in a month or two. How much do you typically add (I’ll probably make a half batch, 3 gal)?

I made it once in a porter. I used about 2 ounces of spruce tips for 5 gallons; I think I added them in the last 10 minutes of the boil. It was a mild spruce taste and aroma, but even still I found myself thinking it would have been a better beer with no spruce. It did get better after a few months when it faded into more a hint of spruce. I guess I’m not really a spruce guy.

The usual recommendation is 1-4 oz/5 gallons, depending on how much spruce you like and how dark the beer is behind it. The spruce taste will be much more pronounced at first than after a few weeks or months.

Do you have a low alcohol rye ale recipe?

I just bottled Rye Wit by James Spencer. Hope it turns out.

Second, I used spruce extract once about 20 years ago. Tasted like tar and the batch was undrinkable. I don’t recommend the extract…

Today I smoked some hops I just picked, and added them to a kolsch that just went into the secondary.

Yes, a smoked hop kolsch. That makes absolutely no sense at all.

I also made an ale, and added 18 ounces of the wet hops.

Ya know, I really wish I could remember what variety of hops I planted…

Ha ha. I bought some rhyzomes from Northern Brewer at the end of the season and they sent me dead twigs. Two weeks later, my local HBS helped me pick thru their end of year batch and gave me 6 that might grow. I got 2 cascades, 1 Northern Brewer and something else (gardener stepped on it - bastard) to go. J planted in late June. The two cascades are about 12 feet tall, have small little cones, and of course Autumn arrived in the PNW this week, so don’t know if I’ll get a harvest or not this year. I hope I get some. The N Brewer has grown very slowly but is about 2 feet tall, and should sprout out next year. I think growing your own (and in your case smoking your own) is pretty cool and hope I get at least a wet hop batch out of this.

Please come back to brag on how the smoked hops worked out.

Mine tend to be in the 5-6% ABV range, I’m afraid. I’ve been thinking about a session for a future beer - a rye one might be a good idea now that you mention it.

Here’s a hint from an award-winning old cider maker (me): After letting your cider ferment out to the nth degree, toss in a can of frozen apple juice before bottling (5 gallon batch). It gives the cider a bit of carbonation and an unbelievable aroma and up-front apple taste.

Where do folks buy their hops? I got tired of paying about $50/pound at the HBS, and ordered a couple of pounds of pellets. They were closing out a couple of 2015 so I got 5 pounds combined of First Gold, Sonnet Golding and Cluster for under $35 including shipping. First batch isn’t bottled yet but seem like normal hop pellets. Two of the pounds were a couple of ounces heavy. I’m opening these one at a time, divide into 2 ounce baggies, and store them in the freezer.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for when they close out 2015 leaf hops, and maybe do a group buy with a couple of buddies.

Yeast is the other one that seems overpriced as well. I’ve rinsed and reused a couple of batches so far and that’s worked well. After thinking about it, suspect one could brew a 1-2 gallon batch just for the purpose of maximizing the yeast, then washing that out into 4-8 batches stored in canning jars in the fridge. That would really stretch 1 order of say a preferred English or German yeast for a lot of batches. Any thoughts?

I like hoppy IPAs, especially dry-hopped, so using old hops on closeout price would be the absolute last place I’d look to save money. But if you like lightly-hopped beers without a lot of finishing hops, it might be OK. Rebagging and freezing will not be good for them, though. You’re bound to get some moisture in there and it won’t do good things in the freezer. You really need to vacuum-pack it, and even then, they will continue to degrade over time.

I like whole-leaf hops a lot more - I find them easier to remove, and I think the flavor is better. But they don’t last as long as pellets. Leaf vs pellets is one of those arguments you’ll find very passionate people on both sides. Try both and see what you like best.

Yeast is pretty easy to reuse. It will change a little over time so the beer you make this year might be different than what you made two years ago, but given the variability of homebrew anyway, I don’t think it’s usually a problem. I’ve made plenty of batches just by pouring the dregs of the last bottle of my previous batch into a starter. If you want to save multiple starters in jars for an extended time, I’d feed them every few months to keep them healthy.

Anyone with a good recipe for a wet hop brew aka harvest ale? My 2 late planted Cascade hop rhizomes are sprouting some rapidly maturing cones. I’ll harvest sometime this month. I want to make a 4-5 gallon batch and then dry the remainder for later use as aroma hops. I’m sure the “harvest” will end up being pretty small but it’s fun and next year should produce even more.

I just finished cleaning up after doing a BIAB for Orfy’s Mild Mannered Ale. I did an extract version before that was nice and this time went for all grain and my first Maris Otter. Looking forward to it!

On my quest for tasty small beers, I’ve tried several rye variants. And, I have decided, I don’t like rye beer very much. Even the Red Hook Summer Rye is a taste I don’t particularly care for. Oats, on the other hand, show some promise to add some fullness to a small beer.

A few years ago we had an apple tree that produced hundreds of apples, so I dusted off my old brewing equipment from the early 90s and made 2 5-gallon batches of hard cider. It turned out pretty good! Here’s what I did:

I used a juicer on the apples- pushed the limits of the juicer but managed to juice 5 gallons twice.

The sugar content in my apples didn’t provide for very high specific gravity-- the cider would have been like 3-4% alcohol, so I added brown sugar to bring it up to around 6%. This worked well- it had a nice kick, a bit of extra flavor from the brown sugar, and wasn’t very sweet- the brow sugar seemed to convert well to alcohol.

I didn’t add potassium metabisulfite as TroutMan recommended- I read that you can either take your chances with natural yeast already present on the apples, or nuke everything alive and add yeast specifically for cider making. I took a middle path- I did not sterilize, but I did add cider yeast. The result was tasty and everybody who tried it said it was good, but it did have a slightly off aftertaste. It may have just been the taste of the cider yeast, but if I did it again I think I would try the potassium metabisulfite.

I added fermenting sugar for secondary fermentation in the bottle just as I did when I made beer, and it worked perfectly- I had sparkling cider and I didn’t lose a single bottle.

Sadly, that apple tree died the winter before last :frowning:

Good luck if you try it! I just checked your post again and see it’s from a couple weeks ago. So maybe you already have a batch fermenting.

So, I finally harvested my two Cascade hop plants today. My local HBS gave me some of their end of season couldn’t sell in good faith rhyzomes in June, and surprise surprise two took off. The rains have come early to the Pacific Northwest, and while there are some nice big looking cones, they are only mildly hop smelling and the lupin sacks are small. Regardless, I got close to a pound of wet cones. Made a harvest ale and tossed about half into the fermenter to see what might happen.

The other half is drying in the garage with a fan and I’ll use those for aroma on another batch in the future

Does anyone have experience and/or a recipe for a traditional Scottish 60 Schilling? Or just a traditional Schilling? The 60 is lowest alcohol, which I prefer.

I know that traditionally, one boils down part of the wort (first run?) until it is very thick and caramelized. This is then added back to the wort. But that’s about the only level of detail I’ve been able to find.

There are recipes for a “hacked” versions that use crystal malts to replicate caramelized taste, such as this one:

Anyhoo, would appreciate any tips and tricks from anyone with experience in this style. Thanks!