Yesterday I brewed my 100th batch of homebrew. As it was a little bit of a milestone, I wanted to make something different than I normally do. With the disgusting heat of spring and summer moving in, I thought a saison would be perfect.

The saison I brew at work is lightly spiced and hopped, and isn’t nearly dry enough for me to enjoy very much. For my saison, I said “fuck yooouuuuu, Ommegang!” and went for a spicier and drier version of the style. I used Wyeast 3724 Saison yeast, and am planning to ratchet the temperature up after a couple days of fermentation to get as much attenuation as possible (and some extra spicy phenols/esters).

The grain bill was pretty simple, and geared toward attenuation with the addition of honey and a mash profile around 150F:

  • 10 lbs Pils malt
  • 1.5 lbs Wildflower Honey

For the water, I had to bump up the gypsum to make sure the pH didn’t stay too high. It wound up at 5.62, which is on the high end, but it’s still acceptable. The gypsum will also help accentuate the hop bitterness and the dryness of the beer.

  • 7 gm Gypsum (in the mash)
  • 2 gm Calcium Chloride (in the mash)
  • 2 gm Gypsum (beginning of the boil)

The hops and spices are the core of this batch. I was going for a spicy beer with some fruit undertones, so a combination of challenger (spicy) and centennial (fruity) hops seemed like a good idea. For the actual spices, a mix of coriander, grains of paradise, and green and black peppercorns rounds out the flavors and aromas I’m looking for.

  • 0.60 oz Galena (60 minutes, 11% Alpha Acid)
  • 0.75 oz Challenger (15 minutes, 5.6% Alpha Acid)
  • 10 gm Coriander (15 minutes)
  • 4 gm Grains of Paradise (15 minutes)
  • 10 Black Peppercorns (15 minutes)
  • 4 Green Peppercorns (15 minutes)
  • 0.50 oz Challenger (End of Boil)
  • 0.50 oz Centennial (End of Boil, 10.9% Alpha Acid)

All my numbers were good. Mash pH was 5.62, boil volume was 7.8 gallons, end of boil volume was 6.5 gallons, carboy volume was 5 gallons, gravity was 1.053, efficiency was 80%, wort pH was 5.32, and pitching temperature was 70F (74F as of right now, 18 hours later). That should just about cover everything. I’m really hoping I didn’t overdo anything in this one.


A bar in downtown Troy called The Ruck is holding their first annual Extreme Homebrewing Competition in June. It’s focused on six different brews:

  • Rye: grist has to contain 30% rye at least
  • “Funky”: a significant amount of non-grain adjuncts
  • A beer with both fruit and spice
  • Platiunum: a Bud Light Platinum kind of beer with high alcohol and low body (ironically, everyone will likely have the most difficult time with this beer)
  • Black IPA
  • Ahtanum: a single-hop beer using only Ahtanum hops

The competition allows teams of up to three brewers to make the six different beers, so I’ll be working with a couple homebrewing friends in the Capital Region, Bill and Angelos. Those guys have a lot of experience experimenting with all sorts of adjuncts, fruits, and spices, so they’re taking care of the two beers requiring them (the Imperial Honey Amber from a few years ago was absolutely top notch). I’ll be doing the rye beer, given my recent heavy experimentation with those kinds of beers. The other three beers we’ll be collaborating on and brewing together.

As I like to brew four batches successively to fill my four kegs, I’m in the process of putting together the brewing schedule for these next bunch of batches. I have two yeast strains in house that I’m going to use: a Belgian saison yeast, and my standard American yeast.

The first batch with the yeast I have will be a saison with honey and rose hips, and will be my one hundredth batch of homebrew. After that, I’m thinking of doing the other three beers as different rye-based experiments as potential entries for the competition. For the second batch using the saison yeast, I’m highly tempted to my witbier recipe, replace a bunch of the wheat with rye, add peppercorn (not sure which just yet), ferment a bit warmer, and switch to some spicier hops.

With the American yeast my first thought is to go with a rye pale ale and a rye IPA, as per normal. I haven’t had anything hoppy on tap in a while, and I’ve been pretty damn happy with most of the rye pale ales I’ve made. Part of me wants to try an American rye ale, which would be a very light, dry, spicy session beer.

Those are preliminary thoughts. I’m hoping to get the saison brewed sometime this week, then I can start trying to finalize all my other recipes.

Brewday: American Amber

October 2, 2011

Today was the day I was going to brew a pale ale to get my Northwest Ale yeast propagated for next week’s Imperial IPA. When I got the mash water in the kettle heating up, I decided to change the recipe for some strange reason. Instead I put together an American amber ale recipe. Going into the cooler months of the year, it seemed smarter to make a sessionable beer that was darker and heavier than a pale ale.

Amber Ale

Boil Volume: 8.00 gallons

Batch Volume: 6.97 gallons

Fermenter Volume: 5.00 gallons

Starting Gravity: 1.046

Efficiency: 80%


  • 7.00 lb Pale
  • 2.50 lb Munich
  • 0.50 lb CaraAmber
  • 3.00 oz Kiln Coffee
  • 3.00 oz Special B


  • 0.70 oz Columbus (60 minutes, 13.2% Alpha Acid)
  • 0.50 oz Simcoe (10 minutes, 12.2% Alpha Acid)
  • 0.50 oz Columbus (10 minutes)
  • 0.50 oz Simcoe (End of Boil)
  • 0.50 oz Columbus (End of Boil)
  • Strike with 3.25 gallons at 172F
  • Mash at 154F for 60 minutes
  • Sparge with 6.75 gallons at 180F
Northwest Ale yeast
Water Additions

  • 3 gm Calcium Carbonate
  • 8 gm Calcium Chloride
  • 8 gm Calcium Sulfate

Barleywine Update

May 4, 2010

After 18 days of fermentation, I have moved my barleywine to a secondary fermenter. Fermentation activity was pretty much done, so I decided to make the transfer and add the four ounces of dry hops. 🙂 I was pretty surprised to see the fermentation went more nuts than I expected. The original gravity of 1.100 dropped to 1.016, so an 84% attenuation rate, which is higher than I’ve ever achieved with this standard American ale yeast (US-56). That means that A) this beer will be just over 11% alcohol by volume, and B) it will be lighter bodied and thus easier to drink, which could be dangerous for a beer this strong.

The sample I tasted had a very raw flavor, but also tons of potential. The alcohol was very noticeable with a solid warming effect. The body was heavy, but not nearly as heavy as some other barleywines I’ve tried. There was a moderate citrus/grapefruit hop presence in the flavor and aroma (as I intended), with two ounces of Amarillo hops and two ounces of Cascade hops being thrown in today to enhance the hop experience. The intention now is to let it sit in the secondary fermenter for a couple of months in the basement then either keg it or bottle it and seet it aside for some large amount of time. I’ll probably bottle it and put it away so I can try it over the course of multiple years as it ages.

Brewday: Barleywine

April 23, 2010

Finally, I have a barleywine fermenting. I’ve wanted to make one for a long time, but always had the lame excuses about it taking too much time and costing too much and blah blah blah… Well, that’s all in the past. 🙂

The current plan is to ferment this one for a month then transfer to secondary. I’ll be adding 4 ounces of dry hops in secondary, this is an American barleywine so it needs to maintain some hop character. It’s been in the primary fermenter since 15 April (yes, I brewed on tax day 🙂 ), and the yeast are still going crazy.

American Barleywine


  • 02.00 lb Extra Light Dry Malt Extract
  • 15.00 lb American Pale Malt
  • 01.00 lb Munich Malt
  • 01.00 lb Turbinado Sugar
  • 02.00 lb Vienna Malt
  • 00.25 lb Carafa III Special Malt


  • 2.00 oz Chinook Hop Pellets (Boiled for 60 min, 11.5% Alpha Acid Content)
  • 2.00 oz Amarillo Hop Pellets (Boiled for 30 min, 7.5% Alpha Acid Content)
  • 2.00 oz Cascade Hop Pellets (Boiled for 15 min, 5.4% Alpha Acid Content)
  • 1.00 oz Amarillo Hop Pellets (Added at end of boil)
  • 1.00 oz Cascade Hop Pellets (Added at end of boil)
  • 2.00 oz Amarillo Hop Pellets (Dry hops added to secondary)
  • 2.00 oz Cascade Hop Pellets (Dry hops added to secondary)

The grain was mashed with 22 quarts of water at 150 degrees for 75 minutes. It was sparged with 21 quarts of water. The yeast was the yeast (Wyeast 1056 yeast) leftover from the previous American pale ale that I brewed. That one got trasnferred to a keg that day and should be ready to be tapped soon.

The original gravity of this batch came in at 1.100, so my efficiency was 65% which is fine given how efficiency typically drops for higher gravity beers. Hopefully I have enough yeast in there to ferment this to around 10-11% ABV. It’s heavily hopped, especially with aroma hops and dry hops, because it’ll be at least 9-10 months before I start sampling the finished product, and hops character diminishes over long aging times.

I’m very much looking forward to this beer. 🙂


March 2, 2010

First, the Irish stout that I had tapped on 27 December finally kicked tonight. Most of what remained in the keg yesterday was consumed over at a coworker’s place while watching a pretty interesting USA vs Canada hockey game (I’m not a hockey fan, but that was pretty exciting to watch. And yes, Canada, you still suck). This batch, being my first attempt at the style, was decent but nothing special.  The beer is black as night, has a earthy (yay Fuggles hops!) and roasty aroma, and has a smooth, roasty and bitter taste. There is a lot of flavor there while only weighing in at 3.8% ABV, which is pretty much what I was going for. It’s not Guinness, but it’s a respectable first attempt. I also realize through this beer that I really need a nitrogen tank in addition to my CO2. This stout would have been far superior than it is if I had “carbonated” it with nitrogen. I’m adding that to the list of stuff I need to invest in later this year.

Second update: the amber ale I brewed at the beginning of February is being kegged tonight. It went from 1.056 as a starting gravity down to 1.018 which should put it right around 5% ABV. This keg will immediately take up the slot recently vacated by the Irish stout (perfectly timed), and will carbonated to 20 psi, as it’s an American amber style so should tend toward higher carbonation levels (the British styles tend to be around 10 psi for me). This should be good, though we’ll find out in a week or two. The amber is hopped entirely with Galena hops, which smelled delicious when I opened the package, so it’ll be a delicious experiment. 🙂

Still thinking about what beer to make next. I should post about that tomorrow. With the new automated grain mill shortening my brew days, I should be able to brew after work, so I want to get the next batch brewed this week.

Decisions, decisions…

February 25, 2010

At some point this week, I’ll be getting around to kegging the two beers sitting in my fermenters. The chocolate stout has been in secondary for almost a month, so it’s time to get that guy in a keg and start conditioning it in the basement until sometime in late Fall or early Winter. It had a lot of promise the last time I took a sample. The amber ale I brewed a few weeks ago will also be getting kegged shortly. The fermentation has been over for a while now, and the gravity seems to have stabilized around 1.018, giving it ~5% ABV, which is around what I was aiming for. Since I had a cold the last time I sampled it, I can’t make any statement on how it tastes :p

This will give me a tap list of

  • Irish Stout (3.75% ABV, about 1/4 of a  keg left)
  • Imperial IPA (8.5% ABV, about 1/3 of a keg left)
  • Porter (5.25% ABV, not tapped yet)
  • Amber Ale (5% ABV, full backup keg)

That’s a solid tap list, but I’m gonna need aother backup keg soon! 🙂 So, that begs the questions: what to brew next? I’ve got the last bit of Maris Otter malt from my last bulk purchase, though I haven’t weighed it. I have a fresh 50lb sack of American pale malt, and a pack of Wyeast 1028 London Ale yeast. Hops in the freezer are:

  • Amarillo
  • Cascade
  • Chinook
  • First Gold
  • Fuggles
  • Galena
  • Northern Brewer
  • there might be another one that I can’t remember right now

Typically when I want to work on a new recipe, I get stuck deciding between three or four different styles. This time there’s no particular style that jumps out at me.