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.


This weekend I had a friend from Albany in town to help me brew. He’s getting ready to upgrade his system so he can do all-grain batches, and wanted to see an all-grain brewday in person. I had Ryan help me brew my favorite recipe, the Amarillo IPA.

The Amarillo IPA is my best house beer, and the only change I had to make to it this time was recalculating the hop additions based on the higher alpha acid content of this year’s Amarillo crop. The only issue during the brewday was that we oversparged a bit, so I tacked on 15 minutes to the boil and we wound up hitting our gravity and volume targets perfectly. It’s currently bubbling away in the fermentor.

Just in time for this weekend, I found a place to get my CO2 cylinder refilled so I could get my chest freezer full of carbonated kegs. The dark mild ale, pale ale, and Munich pale ale are all carbonated and on tap now, finally.

Dark Mild – This current version of the dark mild came out really nice. The increased hop rate helped the hops come through just enough to be noticeable. Adding flaked oats and reducing the crystal malt gave the beer a smoother and less cloying body. All in all this batch really came out well, and tastes significantly bigger than the 3.9% ABV that it contains. I may play with the recipe again at some point, but for now I’ll call it finalized.

Munich Pale Ale – This was just an experiment to see what a beer would be like if it was almost all Munich malt. It’s a very deep amber color with a rich malty sweetness. Galena and Northern Brewer hops give it a slightly sweet citrus aroma and flavor with some nice spiciness in the background. The bitterness is pretty well balanced and the body is fairly full. I’d say it was a successful experiment, and could the base for a really nice amber ale in the future.

Pale Ale – Given how few beers in Cooperstown are remotely hoppy, I made this beer to be strongly bitter up front with lots of hop character. When I tasted it near the end of fermentation I thought I had gone too overboard with the bittering addition. Now that it’s carbonated and chilled, I really like where it is. The aroma is full of citrus, resin, and pine. The body is light, with a dark straw color. Up front, the bitterness is strong and prominent, but smooth and resiny. The bitterness lingers, but not for long. I really like how this turned out. I’m considering brewing it again with a higher gravity to make an IPA out of it. That could turn out really nice. At 5.3% ABV, it’s not gonna last long.

Brewday: An IPA Experiment

January 5, 2011

Yesterday I brewed up a new IPA recipe. The goal this time was to get one that’s a bit more complex than my usual IPAs. This one uses Simcoe hops, with Nugget supporting the up front bitterness, and healthy doses of Citra. Amarillo was supposed to go in the boil, but I couldn’t find any around town, so it’ll have to suffice as a dry hop once fermentation is complete. Basically, I’m going for a resinous, piney flavor with plenty of citrus aroma.

UPDATE: I have no Amarillo source right now, so I decided to just change the dry hops and go with a Simcoe and Chinook blend. They should give this beer a really interesting aroma.


Boil Volume: 8.10 gallons

Batch Volume: 6.90 gallons

Fermentor Volume: 5.40 gallons

Gravity: 1.066

Efficiency: 85%


  • 12.00 lb Pale Malt
  • 2.00 lb Vienna Malt
  • 0.50 CaraMunich 40L


  • 1.00 oz Nugget (First-Wort, 13.00% Alpha Acid)
  • 0.50 oz Simcoe (First-Wort, 12.20% Alpha Acid)
  • 1.00 oz Citra (Boil for 15 minutes, 12.30% Alpha Acid)
  • 2.00 oz Simcoe (Boil for 5 minutes)
  • 1.00 oz Citra (End of boil)
  • 1.00 oz Columbus (End of boil)
  • 2.00 oz Chinook (Dry hops)
  • 2.00 oz Simcoe (Dry hops)


  • Strike with 18 qt at 165F
  • Mash at 150F for 75 minutes
  • Sparge with 6 gallons at 170-180F


Northwest Ale yeast

Water Additions:

  • 3 gm Calcium Chloride
  • 5 gm Gypsum
  • 2 gm Chalk

Time To Tweak Some Recipes

December 7, 2010

Something I’ve rarely done in the past is brew a recipe more than once. I always feel like brewing something new, but I’ve never taken the time to really work a recipe to the point where I’m completely satisfied. Well, given that the only two beers not in kegs in the chest freezer are a Kolsch which will be lagered for a while, and an Imperial IPA which will be bottled, I need to start brewing beers to replace the four that are on tap once they’re done. So why take the opportunity to tweak some recipes?

The recipes I’ve been thinking about changing are listed below. If anyone has had any of these beers and has comments on potential changes that could make them better/interesting/etc, let me know.

  • Amarillo IPA: This is one of two recipes I’ve brewed repeatedly. The last version was very good and won a competition medal. The one change I’ve been thinking about is adding a bit more bitterness up front.
  • Dark Mild: The other recipe I’ve brewed repeatedly. I’d like to bump up the flavor a bit. Thinking of adding a bit more crystal and carafa malt, but I’m not sure yet.
  • Rye IPA: This one is labeled as an IPA made with rye malt, but it really doesn’t fit into the IPA style guidelines. I’m thinking about darkening it and adding some up front bitterness.
  • Foreign Extra Stout: I brewed this one in a hurry to get a stout to drink before the temperatures dropped. It did reasonably well at the competition, but I think it could be the base for a much better beer. Haven’t thought about changes to it yet.

The Imperial IPA will likely go into a secondary fermenter to condition and dry hop within the week, so I’ll have to decide which recipe to start with and make the changes to it soon. I’ll probably start with the Amarillo IPA cause I have the American pale malt available and it would use up my remaining Amarillo hops so I have a free vacuum container so I can open a bag of Simcoe hops.

Last Saturday was the annual Knickerbocker Battle of the Brews at the Albany Pump Station. This is a homebrew competition put on every year by the Saratoga Thoroughbrews, a homebrew club in the Capital District of New York.

I haven’t taken the opportunity in the past to enter any homebrewing competitions, so I threw every beer I had in late October into this one. This competition has drawn over 200 entries the past couple years, so I wasn’t expecting a whole lot other than some good impartial feedback from the judges. Turns out there were 313 entries this year! Stiff competition, indeed.

Given that this was my entry into a competition, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of awards. The feedback from the judges was what I was really looking forward to. Looking at the sheets now, most of the comments the judges made were insightful and helpful, though a couple of judges were obviously several beers in when they got to mine.

The beers I entered:

The barleywine and IPA both got pretty solid scores (36 and 35, respectively) and had a lot of very positive comments from the judges. They also took third place in their respective categories, which was awesome. I had expected the IPA to be the best received beer I submitted, but had no clue what to expect from the others.

The stout won third in its category with a score of 31 (scores are out of 50, with it usually being very difficult to break 40), so the competition was probably pretty thin. I brewed that beer quickly, rushed its fermentation, and didn’t let it condition (I just wanted a stout on tap quickly), so there were definitely some serious flaws in it. I’m thinking my next stout will be a more carefully produced version of this one, taking the judges’ feedback into consideration.

The Rye IPA got a score of 32, as it was being judged as an American IPA brewed with some rye in it, it was a bit outside the IPA style guidelines. The judges’ comments indicated that (as I expected), but they also said they enjoyed it thoroughly despite this. In the end, that all works for me. I loved that beer, and it was a favorite with a lot of my local friends.

In the end, the only feedback I would take exception to would be the comments for the dark mild ale. It got a very respectable score of 33, but the judges all seemed to be looking for hop aromas that weren’t there and, from what I’ve read about the style, shouldn’t be there. Granted, I have no experience drinking mild ales because I don’t live in England, but the official style guidelines seem to contradict a few of the comments I got from the judges. All in all, they all said it was a great session beer, so I can’t complain. I’ll be tweaking it a little bit next time I brew it, and can hopefully decide on a final recipe to use as my house session ale.

Overall, the competition was a fun experience and I got some interesting feedback on my beers. It was a great learning experience all around, and I’ll definitely be entering other competitions whenever I get the chance. It felt good to walk away with a few awards, too. ๐Ÿ™‚

And lest I forget, congrats go out to my brewing friends Bill and Angelos for their black IPA which won first in its category and third Best of Show. It’s an amazing beer.

This past Wednesday I brewed up an American IPA but completely forgot to blog the recipe. This one actually wound up being a modification of my Amarillo IPA. Same grain bill as the Amarillo, but a healthy mix of chinook hops added into the amarillo.

American IPA

Boil Volume: 7.5 gallons

Batch Volume: 6 gallons

Starting Gravity: 1.067

Efficiency: 80%


  • 11.5 lb Pale Malt
  • 2.0 lb Vienna
  • 0.5 lb Crystal 60L
  • 0.25 lb Wheat Malt


  • 1.75 oz Galena (First-Wort, 9.5% Alpha Acid)
  • 1.00 oz Amarillo (20 min, 7.3% Alpha Acid)
  • 1.50 oz Chinook (10 min, 10.9% Alpha Acid)
  • 1.00 oz Amarillo (0 min)
  • 1.00 oz Chinook (0 min)
  • 1.00 oz Amarillo (Dry hop)
  • 1.00 oz Chinook (Dry hop)


  • Strike with 18 qt water at 167F
  • Mash at 150F for 75 minutes
  • Sparge with 6.5 gallons to collect 7.5 gallons


Northwest Ale yeast (Wyeast 1332)

Water Additions:

  • 2 gm Calcium Chloride
  • 5 gm Gypsum
  • 2 gm Chalk

Homebrew Updates

July 11, 2010

Been a while since I updated anything on here. I haven’t brewed anything since the ESB ย on 6/27. The ingredients for more batches have been sitting around, but with the temperatures regularly in the 90s last week I had no intention of adding all the heat from a brewday to my apartment.

As I continue to keep a log of all my recipes on this blog, in hard copy form in a binder, and in my Beer Smith program’s database, I’ve also decided to add my best recipes to an easily accessible database online. Currently on Hopville I have 7 recipes listed. I’ll be adding more as I look back through my notes and find the rest of the recipes I’m most happy with. If anyone decides to brew one of them or use one as a base for a modification, let me know how it turns out.

Currently on tap are the English brown ale, Amarillo IPA and India brown ale. The RyePA I had kegged was finished off last night, which sucks cause it was my favorite of the four on tap. Oh well. Regarding these four beers, they all came out as follows:

English Brown Ale:

This brown, officially categorized as a Southern English Brown Ale, came in at 3.1% ABV but definitely tastes like a stronger beer. It has a moderate, smooth body with equal parts caramel sweetness, chocolate, and a bready backbone. It goes down easy and turned out better than I expected based on early taste tests.

Amarillo IPA:

An adaptation to my recipe from last August, this one came out almost exactly as intended. The recipe needed to be changed to fit my new brewing system and the better efficiency I get from the grain. It still has the light body with Vienna malt sweetness, moderate up front bitterness, and the nice citrusy flavor and aroma of the first batch I brewed. This time, the IPA’s ABV was exactly the same as the original version at 6.5%. Given the light body and citrus character, I’ll likely be brewing it again this summer.

India Brown Ale:

Originally designed to be a black IPA, this recipe turned into more of an India brown ale (a hopped up brown). The body is heavy with a mix of biscuit and chocolate flavors, a bit of dry roasty bitterness, a light alcohol warmth. Definitely not a pounding beer. The hop bitterness is mostly up front with some of the spiciness I was going for. I’ll probably brew it again with more aroma and dry hops to bring that character out more. This one also came in at 6.66% ABV which is good, but I may try to get it over 7% next time.

Rye Pale Ale (RyePA):

My first attempt at a RyePA recipe turned out really nice. It has a crystal clear, dark ruby color, a light body with a dry rye spiciness, and a combo of spicy and citrus flavors/aromas from the hops. I’m really pleased with how the chinook and amarillo hops went with the rye. I may tweak the recipe slightly, but I think I came close to nailing it on the first try. This one was 6.66% ABV.

Unfortunately, the RyePA keg kicked last night. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ