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.


Last month I brewed a batch of a mocha porter that was a combination of two recipes I made last year, a chocolate porter and a coffee porter, after mixing the two beers together and finding it to be awesome. The recipe didn’t come out exactly as I’d hoped, so there were several issues I needed to deal with the next time I brewed it.

The main issue with the beer is that it had a bitterness that too strong and overwhelming to the rest of the flavors. It’s kind of a sharp, lingering bitterness on the back of the tongue that makes the beer less drinkable. To combat this I actually looked at a number of solutions. First up was reducing the bittering hop addition. I dropped the bittering addition from 30 IBUs, which was way too high, to 21 this time. Coupling a strong hop bitterness with lots of acidic roasted malts and coffee beans and cocoa powder means it’s easy to go overboard.

The next thing I looked at was the roasted grain in the recipe. I used a combo of chocolate malt and carafa II special. Carafa II special is a German malt that is roasted to the level of chocolate malt and dehusked. Removing the husk reduces the level of astringency you can extract from a roasted grain, so it lends a smoother roasted character than a chocolate malt or a roasted barley would. For today’s batch I dumped the chocolate malt entirely and went with a mix of carafa II special and carafa III special. That should help raise the mash pH and kill any astringency from the grain.

The last change I made for the sake of reducing bitterness was small, but important. Last time I added the cocoa powder with 15 minutes left in the boil. In all of the chocolate beers I’ve ever made, I’ve NEVER added the cocoa powder before the end of the boil. I honestly have no idea why I moved it back by 15 minutes, but it was silly. I’ve corrected that mistake today.

In addition to above, the other major concern was that the coffee flavor and aroma were overpowering all the other aspects of the beer. This time I’m planning to reduce my coffee addition to one ounce in the secondary so, hopefully, it’ll come out more subtle than last time.

Mocha Porter



Boil Volume: 8.40 gallons

Batch Volume: 6.78 gallons

Fermenter Volume: 5.00 gallons

Starting Gravity: 1.069

Efficiency: 81%


  • 10.50 lb Pal Malt
  •   2.00 lb Munich Malt
  •   1.50 lb Flaked Oats
  • 18.00 oz Carafa II Special
  •   6.00 oz Carafa III Special
  • 1.00 oz N Brewer (60 minutes, 9.8% Alpha Acid)
  • 2.00 oz N Brewer (5 minutes)
  • 2.00 oz Challenger (End of Boil, 5.6% Alpha Acid)
Water Additions
  • 4 gm Calcium Carbonate
  • 4 gm Calcium Sulfate
  • 8 gm Calcium Chloride
Wyeast 1098 British Ale yeast cake
  • Strike with 4.75 gallons at 170F
  • Mash at 156F for 60 minutes
  • Sparge with 6 gallons at 180F



Yesterday I finally got around to brewing my first attempt at combining the coffee porter and chocolate porter recipes that blended really well last year. Because the mix that was so good was a 50-50 blend, I started with halving the ingredients of each recipe and putting them together. After some modifications to clean up the recipe, I think I have the beginning of a really good winter beer.

Chocolate Coffee Porter
Boil Volume:                 8.06 Gallons

Batch Volume:             6.90 Gallons

Fermenter Volume:   5.00 Gallons

Starting Gravity:       1.066

Efficiency:                     75%


  • 11.75 lb Maris Otter
  •   1.25 lb Chocolate Malt
  •   1.25 lb Munich
  •   1.25 lb Flaked Oats
  •   0.75 lb Carafa II Special



  • 1.50 oz Northern Brewer (60 minutes, 9.8% Alpha Acid)
  • 1.00 oz Northern Brewer (15 minutes)
  • 1.00 oz Northern Brewer (End of Boil)

Additional Ingredients

  • 5 oz Unsweetened Baker’s Cocoa Powder (15 minutes before end of boil)
  • 2 oz Nicaraguan Segovia Coffee Beans (lightly ground, added to secondary)

  • Strike with 5 gallons at 174F
  • Mash at 152F for 60 minutes
  • Sparge with 5.75 gallons at 180F


1098 British Ale Yeast


Water Additions

  • 2 gm Calcium Carbonate
  • 4 gm Calcium Sulfate
  • 8 gm Calcium Chloride



Seasonal Beer Thoughts

September 5, 2011

It’s the unofficial end of Summer here in upstate New York, as the Labor Day weekend slowly comes to a close. The temperature has been fairly cool last night and today, while dark clouds and periods of rain have helped make it feel like Autumn is finally rolling in. Along with the patterns of changing weather and nature’s slow retreat into hibernation, we get to turn our minds to the seasonal beers that finally get interesting.

Summer seasonal beers tend to be focused on lighter beers for warmer days, such as wheat beers and citrus spiced white beers that are refreshing. Those are great for the weather, but the beers start to get really interesting for me when we start seeing the darker, stronger, and more flavorful and robust beers like oktoberfests, various types of brown ales, rich bock beers, harvest ales using the beginning of the new hop harvest for wonderful fresh hop character, and so on. I look forward to this all year.

On this nice, cool, overcast, rainy day waiting for the holiday weekend to finish and getting ready to get back to the grind, I have the pleasure of starting my Autumn seasonal beer drinking with a Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale. The beginning of September is the earliest I’ll go searching for these types of beers, as most of the historically seasonal beers were never available before early-mid September (i.e. when last season’s heavier beers were pulled out of storage for the harvest).

[I would insert a rant in here on why I’m bothered to have seen Fall seasonal beers as early as the beginning of August this year, but it’s not hurting anyone other than silly traditionalists like me who obsess over that crap]

The point of all of this is that it’s time to start thinking about brewing up some seasonal beers for later in Autumn and Winter (November-December time period). Last year I had a chocolate porter and a coffee porter on tap as Winter rolled in. I don’t know how many of you got to taste either of these beers, but I thought the chocolate porter turned out pretty awesome and the coffee porter needed to have the coffee toned back a bit. To cut the overbearing coffee bitterness, I started pouring them as a 50-50 mix of the two beers in a pint glass and it turned out wonderful. My current thought is that I’d like to experiment with making a recipe that comes as close to recreating that mix without needing to make both individual beers and blend them.

I’m gonna think about this and post a first design of a recipe soon.