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.


Brewing Weekend

November 7, 2011

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve put anything up on here. I’ll try to change that, but I’ve been a combo of busy and lazy recently. My schedule this week will be throwing me off as we’re in a week long production shutdown this week due to an inventory backlog. Without brewing anything for a week, most of the brewers are on vacation, but I’m working with Scott on swing shift (2pm-10pm) all week to do the filtration and cleaning for this week’s packaging schedule. Blarg, I’m not excited about this.

Anyway, as this season’s hop harvest continues to get processed, the hop farmers are beginning to release the new crops to the public for sale. With that, I replenished a large part of my hop stockpile. New bags of Amarillo, Cascade, Citra and Centennial have me nicely stocked. I’m planning on getting me Amarillo IPA brewed again soon, but this weekend I put together my newest version of my rye pale ale, as I continue to work on getting that recipe to where I want it. I also made another, slightly tweaked, version of my dark mild ale last night to replace the previous one that’s almost gone. Double brew weekends are always rewarding 🙂

The two recipes from the weekend are below:

Rye Pale Ale

Boil Volume:  8 gallons

Batch Volume: 6.5 gallons

Fermenter Volume: 5 gallons

Starting Gravity: 1.053

Efficiency: 75%


  •  11.00 lb Pale Malt
  •   1.50 lb Rye Malt
  •   0.50 lb Munich
  • 1.00 oz Cascade (60 min, 5.5% AA)
  • 0.50 oz Simcoe (60 min, 12.2% AA)
  • 1.00 oz Cascade (20 min)
  • 0.50 oz Simcoe (10 min)
  • 0.50 oz Cascade (10 min)
  • 0.50 oz Simcoe (End of Boil)
  • 0.50 oz Cascade (End of Boil)
  • 0.75 oz Simcoe (dry hop)
  • 0.75 oz Cascade (dry hop)
Water Additions
  • 4 gm Calcium Chloride
  • 10 gm Calcium Sulfate
1332 Northwest Ale
  • Mash with 4 gallons 152F for 60 minutes
  • Sparge with 6.50 gallons at 180F
Dark Mild Ale

Boil Volume: 7.80 gallons

Batch Volume: 6.20 gallons

Fermenter Volume: 5 gallons

Starting Gravity: 1.046

Efficiency: 85%

  • 7.50 lb Maris Otter
  • 10 oz Crystal 60L
  •   8 oz Carafa II Special
  •   6 oz Chocolate Malt
  • 0.50 N Brewer (60 min, 9.8% AA)
  • 0.50 N Brewer (10 min)
  • 0.50 N Brewer (End of Boil)
Water Additions
  • 2 gm Calcium Carbonate
  • 4 gm Calcium Sulfate
  • 8 gm Calcium Chloride
1098 British Ale
  • Mash with 4.5 gallons at 156F for 60 minutes
  • Sparge with 5 gallons at 180F

Homebrew Competition Time

September 20, 2011

After years of homebrewing, I had always been interested in entering a competition to get some feedback on my brewing and maybe actually compete for an award. On the other hand, given how subjective beer tasting can be and how widely different palates can be, I had always been hesitant.

Last year I entered the Knickerbocker Battle of the Brews at the Albany Pump Station to see how the whole experience would be. I wound up entering six beers in the competition, and though I wound up getting a few awards, it’s the feedback that was most important. Of the judges that reviewed my beers, several were professional brewers from brewpubs in the region, some worked at homebrew shops, and a bunch were homebrewers that were certified judges. The experience levels of these people varied drastically from novice judges up to the very experienced ones.

When I read through all of the comments, there definitely seemed to be a divide between the judges that work in the field professionally and the judges that were homebrewers that were staying involved in their hobby by being judges. The homebrewer judges seemed to be a bit more strict and narrow in interpretation of styles, while the judges that were pro brewers tended to be more accepting of the outer edges of the guidelines. That’s just an observation, and I’m not complaining. The differences in the viewpoints and perspectives in the comments were interesting and lead to some ideas on how to alter the recipes if I wanted certain beers to do better in the competition.

The fact that three different judges review each beer is nice in that you get three different levels of experience, three different viewpoints, and three different sets of preferences from which your beers are judged. Given the different perspectives, you kind of have to give the subjective comments on flavor and aroma a wide berth, the comments on technical flaws all seem to be pretty accurate. As I’m not overly experienced at detecting off-flavors (at Siebel I found there are some off-flavors I can’t detect very well even in significant quantity), that’s the aspect of the judging that I really look for, and where competitions can be really helpful to me as a brewer.

All in all, going to the Pump Station in November last year with a couple homebrewing friends to hang out during the competition was an absolute blast. This competition is coming up again this November, and now I’m living much closer so it’s even easier to get out there for it. I have yeast en route that I ordered so I can finally start brewing in my apartment here in Cooperstown (I would use yeast from the brewery, but I don’t plan on making any Belgian styles anytime soon), and hope to have some beers ready to submit to the Battle of the Brews at the end of October.

My goal as a brewer right now, other than continuing to research opening a brewery myself, is to seriously work on tweaking some recipes and getting them to the point where I’m happy with them and can call them finished products. For the competition I’m hoping to be able to submit the next iteration of my Dark Mild Ale, a combined version of last year’s chocolate porter and coffee porter, and a new version of all the Rye Pale Ales I’ve been making. Hopefully I get my yeast in a couple days and can start brewing again this weekend. I’m working on getting all of these recipes finalized, and will post them as I brew them.

Today I was able to finally fit in my first brewday since getting back from Siebel. Since summer is on the way, I wanted to make a beer that would be appropriate for warmer weather. The rye pale ale and rye IPA I made last year were both pretty good, so I sort of took bits and pieces from those two recipes and put together a new rye pale ale.

Everything went pretty smoothly during the brew. I managed ~90% efficiency once again, which is awesome. The only worry I have is the yeast. The yeast pack I got was three months old and was slow to start in the starter I made. It managed to ferment the starter fine, but I’m going to keep a close eye on this one.

Rye Pale Ale

Boil Volume: 8.20 Gallons

Batch Volume: 6.80 Gallons

Fermenter Volume: 5.30 Gallons

Gravity: 1.060

Efficiency: 90%


  • 10.00 lb UK Pale Malt
  • 3.00 lb Rye Malt
  • 0.50 lb Munich Malt
  • 0.75 oz Columbus (First Wort, 13.2% Alpha Acid)
  • 0.50 oz Cascade (Boil for 20 minutes, 5.4% Alpha Acid)
  • 0.50 oz Simcoe (Boil for 20 minutes, 12.2% Alpha Acid)
  • 1.00 oz Simcoe (Boil for 10 minutes)
  • 0.50 oz Cascade (End of Boil)
  • 0.50 oz Simcoe (End of Boil)
  • 0.50 oz Cascade (Dry Hop for 7 days)
  • 0.50 oz Simcoe (Dry Hop for 7 days)
  • 1.00 oz Simcoe (Dry Hop for 3 days)
  • Mash-in with 4.25 gallons at 161F
  • Mash for 75 minutes at 150F
  • Sparge with 6.35 gallons at 170F
  • Northwest Ale Yeast (1332)
Water Additions:
  • 10 gm Gypsum
  • 4 gm Calcium Chloride

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. 🙂

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.

Homebrew Updates

July 11, 2010

Been a while since I updated anything on here. I haven’t brewed anything since the ESB  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. 😦