Homebrewing Project Progress

I’ve got a couple of “projects” in the pipeline and got a chance to work on each of them tonight.

The Hefeweizen I made a couple months ago was nearly gone and I don’t have enough corny’s or a big enough chest freezer/keggerator to inventory more than a couple batches.  So dumped out the last few quarts remaining to free up that keg.   It was just “OK” anyway and I got a bit bored of it, frankly.  It gets to be a bit of a chore to power though 5 gallons of mediocre beer when you’ve got other things to work on.  This is another argument for bottling I suppose.

Into that keg I transferred the Dopplebock that had been laggering for the last nearly 3 months and turned the temp controller to 24F.  Yup, its going to be an Eisbock. I’ll check it every 12 hours or so and when tipping the keg back and forth reveals that it is getting “slushy” I’ll use CO2 to push out the remaining liquid.  Shooting for about a 20-30% reduction on each of the two steps I pan to do.  Looking forward the that.

The Belgian Tripel finally got racked from Primary into the other 5gal corny I have but since the 24F keggerator was too cold, I just set it in my garage which is in the mid 30s after this cold weather that has come though this week.  Hooked the CO2 up to it and after a few days I’ll see how it’s doing and draw off the yeast that will undoubtedly settle out by then.

I’ve still got the second half of the Berliner-Weisse souring in a 3G carboy.  Haven’t tasted it in a while but I’ll probably bottle that this weekend and see how it turned out.  It is the half that I used the WYeast 5335 as opposed to the spontaneous Lacto I used for the other half.  A bottle of the latter I had the other day and it was great.  Light, tart, exactly the high carbonation I was shooting for and very refreshing especially after a hard workout on the bike trainer.

UPDATE 12-12-13


After a few days the Dopplebock didn’t sound like it was very frozen so I bumped down the temp to 21F and then it started to freeze.  A few days of checking it each night,I guessed that it was about half frozen, and hooked up a “jumper” from the out fitting to another corny’s out fitting and pressurized the source keg about 5psi and just vented the target keg every minute or two.  I filled the target keg, a 2.5G and wasn’t pulling any air yet from the other so there is probably 2.5-3G of mostly beer flavored “sno-cone” left in the other corny.  I’ll probably thaw it and take a gravity reading so I can figure out my ABV of the remaining Eisebock.

The Tripel out in the garaged has been on 25psi at about 35F for the last 5-6 days so I vented it a bit and hooked up a picnic faucet and after running it for a few ounces to pull up the sediment, poured a small glass for myself.  Nice light orange amber and nearly the carbonation level I want.   Still very cloudy, murky even.  Big fruity esters and the classic Belgian yeast aroma. Pretty earthy and muddy flavor, again I think a lot of sludge was stirred up.  I may even transfer it to another keg to help clear it up.   Pretty big alcohol burn, as I think I calc’d it at 10.3%.  So, It’l do the trick.

I’ll likely bring a little of each to an early Christmas work party to share, and in a week is the homebrewers club meeting where I will be able to get some feedback and suggestions.  So I got that going for me.


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There is a group of beer enthusiasts in the Boise area that get together a few times a year for the sole purpose of sharing high end craft beer that, under the rules of engagement, are not available in the Boise area.  Guests, (by invite only) typically bring a bottle or 3 of something they’ve gotten in a trade, or brought back from a recent trip. Part of the fun is to try to wow the other attenders by what you set on the sharing table.

I was somehow able to secure an invitation to the latest “Ungettables” gathering last weekend and it was a bit of a whose who there that afternoon.  Head brewers of local beer establishments were there, several were home-brewers and other beer aficionados lined up their offerings on the table that we commandeered in the back room at 10Barrel Brewing.

I had been to one of these before, but that must have been in the infancy of this movement as there were only 5 or so of us that time.  My contribution of a 2008 Dogfish Head World Wide Stout went over pretty well. You don’t want to be “that guy” at these things, whose beer gets pulled out at the very end with a “well..there is this too….anyone want some” ?

This time there were 15 official invites, but a few more were also there and the beer lineup was exceptional.  Included in the attendance was our host, Shawn Kelso, head brewer at 10 Barrel Boise, Kerry Caldwell, brewer of the about to open Edge Brewing, and the facilitator of these gatherings, the @beerpoet himself, Chad Brusse

There were Saisons by Crooked Stave, Stillwater, New Glarus Strawbeery-Ruhbarb and their classic “Belgian Red”, Lost Abey’s “Gift of the Magi”, a Barrel Aged “B.O.R.I.S” by Hoppin’ Frog, and an”OatGoop” by Three Floyd’s.  Lots of others, most of which, if not all were in fact…ungettable to us here in Boise, ID save for this meet-up.

Thanks to those who made it happen, and for the invite.  Here’s looking towards the next one.





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Double B@stard Vertical

Downtown Boise’s popular beer bar, BitterCreek Alehouse hosted another special beer night the other day.  I posted last week about their Abyss release party, special but this was Stone’s Double Bastard night.  For 15$ you get a decent sample of the 2011, 2012, and 2013 editions of this in-your-face, obnoxiously offensive beer that you are probably not worthy of, according to popular Stone propaganda. Plus, they throw in the 2012 version that has been aged in red wine barrels.  So a 4 beer line-up that, at over 10% ABV each, you had probably not plan anything  for a while after.   Including driving home from work.  But we’re not talking about that right now.

Stone, refers to this popular american strong ale as “Lacerative”..which I had to look up…

1 : to tear or rend roughly 2 : to cause sharp mental or emotional pain to”  It is the evil big brother of their other very popular ASA Arrogant Bastard .  The “Double” has half again the alcohol, and double the arrogant attitude.  I don’t think Stone would mind if I said, this beer with rip your face off…and then you will order another one.

2013-11-25 15.30.47

The samples I had were interesting in that the older ones faded a bit into more of a sweet fruit, almost melon kind of flavor as the hot IBUs definitely diminished over time, as they are want to do in general  Particularly noticeable was the drop off in this area from the ’12 to the ’11.  The wine barrel aged version had significant vinous slightly sour qualities that I thought were more than subtle.  An interesting effect, though, and it calmed down the overall effect of this brash brew to the point were I genuinely felt somewhat less violated, drinking this particular variant.

And on top of all this, BitterCreek thew in a commemorative glass.  For keeps !

Gotta love these beer, promotional, nerdfest….things.



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Tripel Your Pleasure

I’ve been homebrewing for several years including a few years in the middle when I was on some kind of hiatus…but now that I have started upo again in this summer/fall I have been wanting to  try a few styles that are somewhat more adventurous for me.

Historically Ive done a lot of Hefeweizens, Pales, IPAs and a few Stouts and Porters.  A few years ago when hops got real expensive, that was party what got me out of it since most of what I made required quite a bit of them.  When I spec’d out an IPA recipe that was going to cost me as much for hops as it did for malt and yeast, my enthusiasm waned a bit.

Now, hops aren’t that much cheaper but I have gotten interested in a few other styles that are not hoppy, or also quite low gravity. The Berliner-Weisse I made last month, probably the least expensive 5G batch I’ve ever done, the Belgian that I am working on currently has a pretty big grain bill but hardly any spendy hops, and even the Dopplebock I did last month was kind of the same way.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love a good IPA, and I may get around to one of those before long, but these times have forced me into looking at styles that before now seemed a bit too risky or complicated.

This next one will be a Belgian Tripel.  A lot of advice I found online stressed a very simple grain bill.  Pilsener mostly, and  little Munich and Cara-Vienne for color, character and body.  This will be the first time I’ve used sugar, and I’ll go with the traditional Belgian Candy sugar.  That will make up about %10 of the fermentation.

It took me a long time to come around to Belgian beers in general, which might seem a bit strange since that seems to be where most beer nerds go eventually.  Either that or they become hop-heads.  I am more the later but my appreciation for the beers of the lowlands has gained some traction lately.  Maybe it was the Operation Market Garden episode of Band of Brothers that I recently re-watched that did it…   OK, fine, that was the Netherlands technically but Antwerp is only about 70 miles from Eindhoven.

14# Pilsener and a pound each of Light Munich, Cara-Vienne, and Wheat plus 2# of light candi sugar I’ll add to the boil.  Miscalculated my strike temp and had to add more hot water to the mash trying to get up to 150F.   A 1 qt starter of WLP500 which supposedly is the same strain that is used at Chimay for their Grand Reserve (Blue)  Of the Belgian strains, this one has a little more of that fruity ester notes and less of the spicy peppery character.

I pitched the starter at ab 72F and let it do it’s thing and figured it would free-rise a few more degrees.  Which it did.  At full roiling activity it was at about 74.  A little warm, but that’s OK.  Also, the color is quite a bit darker than I was hoping for.  It was nearly a 90 minute boil so that may have added a little color via some caramelization from being “cooked” so long.

Still, interested to see how this turns out.  Looking forward to something a bit different from my brewhouse.  On to Berlin !


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Staring into the Abyss

Abyss_VertThe Abyss is Deschutes Brewing annual Imperial Stout that they have been making since 2006.  This past Monday, BitterCreek Ale House had a party celebrating the release of this years edition.  To make it interesting, they had it on tap.  To make it more interesting they also had the last 3 editions on tap as well.  So, for the $12 fee they set you up with a 5oz glass of each vintage ’10 – ’13 so you can taste them side by side. But wait…that’s not all, you also get a nifty Deschutes snifter…to HAVE !

     Abyss is a top notch beer, rated near the very top at both major online beer rating databases.  When it was new back in 2006, I managed to pick up a case off that and the following years vintage and have been cracking one open at the rate of 1 or two every several months.  I would say the earliest ones are not necessarily getting any better and are likely past their prime, but it is fun to blow the dust off of a 7 year old bottle and impress a few friends sometimes.

     Interestingly, the 2009 batch had “infection” issues that were well publicized in the beer “nerdiverse” and a few years ago a gathering that I attended had a ’06-’11 vertical and it was a consensus that the ’09 edition had issues.  Deschutes’ own blog talked about this problem and it was also reported and noticed by many that that years Mirror Mirror barley-wine also shared some of that same misfortune cross contamination with some wild yeast being used in the brewery. Well, when you try to experiment and go cutting edge and make interesting trail-blazing beer, sometimes…yeast happens.

     At BitterCreek, the flight was brought out in some long stem glasses, and I must say that my greatest fear at that point was when I saw my server come out with 2 glasses in each hand, wondering if he may have lost track for a moment and incorrectly told me which glass had which vintage in it.

Abyss 2013-2010

Abyss 2013-2010

        It also occurred to me a really mean joke would have been to bring them all out to a real beer snob and line them up and say “I’m pretty sure this is the oldest one…or no wait..maybe this one.”  It was all I could do to try to wait a few minutes to let them warm up a tad.  I thought the 2010, the oldest of the 4 was head and shoulders above the rest of them.  11-13 all were sharp, fairly hot and had a strong bite.  The 10 was soft, mellow, muted and silky smooth.  That effect on the older one was what I sort of expected, but I was very surprised how it dramatically dropped off, or increased, how ever you want to look at it, between ’11 and ’10.

I was also encouraged at the substantial turnout that was there.  It was 1:30 when I started and the tables were more than half full and most of them had the Abyss line up on them.  In attendance for this late lunch soiree were such local beer nerd notables as @beerpoet and @chillman2 among others.  Certainly as evening approached, that place would pack out full of folks wanting to get a side by side taste of how one of the countries better accessible Imperial Stouts ages over a few years.   BitterCreek has already blurted out on their facebook page that they are now planning a 5 year vertical next year.

My calendar is marked.


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Laughing Dog Pint Night

“Pint Night” is what they call it at “Bier Thirty” Bottle & Bistro at Bown Crossing in SE Boise.  Every couple weeks or so a brewer (usually regional or local) is featured and takes over several of their taps.  Typically a rep from the brewery is there that night for hob-knobbing and chatting and generally glomming on to the visiting beer big wigs.   Make no mistake, there are craft beer “groupies” out there.

This past Thursday night, the featured brewer is Laughing DogLaughing Dog and the beers that have populated the taps are their 8th anniversary “De Achtste Hond” Belgian-style Sour Ale, 2-1-9’er a pilsener, which recently was made available in cans, the  2012 version of  “Cold Nose” their winter English strong ale and also “Purebred”  Citra APA their first is a planned series of beers showcasing a single hop variety.

The atmosphere of these things is usually quite electric.  Kind of a party.  Especially considering that they are often held on a week night.  It was already pretty crowded when I got there and I even had to sit outside with my snifter of the sour ale for a few minutes while I waited for a table to open up.

De Achtste Hond, translated to “The 8th dog” (referring to their 8th anniversary as a brewery), was a nice clear deep golden color with classic sour aroma, green apples, grapefruit with a little wild funk as well. Not a fruit based sour, and I didn’t see on their website what method they used to sour it up, but they are calling it a Belgian, which is detectable and also the oak flavors are just about right after 1 month in new oak barrels.  Its a balanced, not over-the-top sour that is a good beer to get into the style.  Its their first of the style at Laughing Dog and I hope we see a few more from them in the future.

These “Pint Nights” are a fun way to try a few beers from a particular brewer and maybe even meet them in person.




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Cider Rules

I have to admit, one of the things I like the most about making hard cider is how easy it is.

I’t’s not much cheaper than beer though.  Off the shelf grocery store apple juice is still 3-6$/gal and local fresh stuff can be even more. Getting my hands on 5-6 gallons of fresh pressed juice from a local orchard is the goal, since if I am going to the trouble, I want to at least start with something a bit better than “Tree-Top” or “Langers”.  Even though those would work.

My hope is that showing up at the local orchard with a 6 Gal carboy might get me something right off the line.  This would be good for two reasons:  One, you cant it get it any fresher than that,  and two, if you can catch it before they pasteurize, you have to option of letting the naturally occurring yeasts on the apples go to work.  It’s a bit of a gamble though.

I’ve done cider a few times before.  A couple of them I have “iced” into a Apple Jet-fuel product typically called “Apple Jack” and it was pretty popular when I brought it to a couple beer nerd gatherings I’ve attended over the last few years.  Fractional freezing is technically the process and I’ve posted about it before.

Here is a forum thread clearly documenting the many processes and options as far as yeast, whether to pasteurize or not etc.  I’ll be making some cider this winter and trying a few methods


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An Imperial Discovery

Lately I’ve been trying to streamline my old bottles of beer that I have made and found that I wish I’d been more organized in labeling them.

I have several bottles amongst my collection of something labeled 6007 which my naming scheme suggests that it is the 6th batch I brewed in 2007.  Holding the bottle up to the light showed that it was VERY dark.  Likely a stout.  Probably the 1.130 OG Imperial Stout that I could not fit even 1 more pound of grain in to my 55 qt cooler/mash tun. I think I used 30# of grain and my first runnings when I lautered were 1.085

As I recall, the final gravity on that one was about 1.04 which put it at around 12.5% ABV.   Also, that was my first attempt at something so big and I overpowered the yeast on it so it had carbonation problems when I tried to bottle condition.  I think that is why after a sampling bottles over the first few months showed that the carbonation was not coming up like I had hoed, I relegated the remaining bottles to the back of my shelf in the basement.

The other day, after 6 years, I pulled one out and shared it with a few friends, notifying them with a big disclaimer about how I don’t know if this is any good, not ever sure what it is..etc..etc..  I was pleasantly surprised by the carbonation.  It was a little soft, but for the style, it worked out OK.  Black with deep redish mahogany on the edges and highlights.  Nice warming aroma of dark roast and raisins.  Flavor was a bit oxidized, as I kind of suspected, but it was definitely drinkable and I’ll be going back through all my bottles and rounding up any remaining from that “vintage”.  They wont be getting any better.

I plan on cranking up production this year and this kind of lack of documentation and organization is not good.  Just lucked out on this one a bit.



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From Boeing to Beer

Tonight, Mike Francis of Payette Brewing talked to the small crown gathered at the public library on Collister about his transition from Boeing engineer to running a brewery that has become one of the rising stars in the Boise area the past couple of years.


As part of the recent and ongoing Boise craftbeer explosion, Payette is setting itself apart with a full on canning line and a lineup of clean professional brews that are really starting to populate an take over cold boxes all over the treasure valley.  Their modest but tidy and modern tap room seats a couple dozen and nearly every seat is in full view of the glorious fermenters lined up in the back like North Dakota missile silos.

It was a 7PM event so I figured I’d start the night off right, hitting Meridian’s Slanted Rock for their red ale and then since Kilted Dragon was on the way to the library…kind of… I stopped by there and tried their new IPA “MoSeMoDo”  Have to keep up on new Boise beer as I have a responsibility to both of my readers.


We packed out the Sycamore room in the back of the library with 30-40 beer enthusiasts and listened as Mike told us his story of how he was and is a Idaho guy, but moved to the Seattle area to attend UW for his Industrial Engineering degree.  This got him a job at Boeing right away but he soon tired of watching 737s roll out of the Boeing plant day after day, and finally gave in to his calling of brewing.

The Chicago based Siebel Institute learned him up on this new field and he brought it back to Boise where he finally set up shop in Garden City after a lengthy search for the right space.  Stories about landlords going into foreclosure, main sewer lines in the wrong place, brewing equipment suppliers flaking out, and the advantages of sloped floors were shared, and the importance of a good business plan was also brought up.

As a brewer that has gotten in early and pretty much kicked off the areas transformation, as a significant and relevant beer town, Payette has taken the role of supplier of restaurants and grocery stores with their higher capacity and canning line.  Not really a
“BrewPub”, other places in town will produce more one-offs and experimental esoteric beers.  Mike and his crew seem fine heading in the direction of filling coolers and shelves in the region with their Outlaw IPA, North Fork Lager, Mutton Buster Brown, Payette Pale and possibly others in the future. Distribution is state wide and also as far as Pendleton, OR currently with a growing territory I’m sure on the horizon.

After an hour or so we all moved next door to a new cafe’ and coffee house called Salt Tears, where Mike fielded some more questions and poured tasters of some of Payette’s beer.  I got a chance to ask him if his business/marketing model allowed for enough experimental brewing to satisfy the creativity that most brewers feel the need to exercise.  His monthly “Ales of no Return” series rotation of seem to fill this for him.

It was fun to get to know Mike a little and gain some insight on his early trials getting this thing to fly.  He is still having fun, even though he confesses he doesn’t get to brew much these days and business seems to be going well.  Just a little get-to-know-you and making a connection with the man behind the beer.



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Berliner-Weisse – pt 2

After a little research I decided to split this batch into to 3 gal carboys.  Both got a Lactobacillius head start.

2013-09-26 16.50.29In one, I went with the Wyeast 5335 lacto culture and in the other I tried a spontaneous variant (pictured at left) that I grew by taking a cup of raw uncrushed 2-row right from the bag, added about a cup of 120F water and sealed it in a pint mason jar for a week.  The fact that I took it from a sack of 2-row that has been sitting for several months probably helped, if anything. It took off really well and a nice sour apple aroma was coming off of it after the first day or so.  It was actually pretty strange how much like granny smith apples it smelled.  Evidently, that is a sign that the correct microorganisms are at work.

So I added a little more water to this homegrown culture and pitched all the liquid I could pour off of it, into 1 carboy and the Wyeast lacto in the other.  After a little over 24 hrs I was getting a thin white haze on the home grown one and barely visible activity on the Wyeast one.

2013-10-04 22.11.47

After 3-4 days the wild side was going nuts.  Big puffy pillowy powdery marshmallowy stuff going on.  The commercial version was a bit behind but showing some a little white fuzz.  I took a guess and after 3 days, I pitched re-hydrated Safale US- 05 into both.  Shortly after that a more typical fermentation took place.

When the airlock activity had nearly stopped, I racked each into a clean 3G carboy and let them set.   After a few days, I started to get a white pellicle again.  Basically that meant that the Lacto was still doing its thing.  The sourness was not quite enough at that point so I let it ride for another week.

From what I had read, the souring will continue in the bottle so I primed with enough corn sugar for about 3.6 volumes of carbonation and bottled the “wild” half into 12 22s and 8 12s.  This has been a week now and i’ll give it another week or two before I open one of the little ones and check on carbonation and sourness levels.

-Update   Opened one of the little bottles and it was nearly a gusher.  It was still at room temp so this helped.  The flavor was just about right on.  Very dry, tart, and lemony.  Put a big bottle of it on ice for a few hours and shared it that night with the HomeBrew club at our monthly meeting and, chilled, it was very nice.  Got several good comments on it.  I will move some of that bottled half batch to the cool garage to see how the sourness comes along, and refrigerate the rest.

Very encouraged with this recipe and I will be making it again sometimes soon, possibly adding rasberries or pie cherries to some of it.  Also, Will be looking to enter a couple bottles in a HB competition if there is one coming up that I can send them off to.

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