Thursday, May 31, 2012

Base Malts Used in "Brewing Classic Styles"

At some point, I decided to build a series of spreadsheets where I could enter my current grain/hops/yeast inventory and the document would output which recipes in Jamil's "Brewing Classic Styles" (BCS) book that I could brew. It is a fun little tool and is useful for assessing the 'what to brew?' question if I wake up one morning with an itch to get something in a fermentor.  BCS is a marvelous resource for learning unfamiliar styles or to be used as a "style-barometer'.  If you do not have a copy of BCS, please don't ask me for the spreadsheet.  Go buy the book - its the best book in both Tom and my collections.

To make the recipe/inventory spreadsheet work, I loaded in all the ingredients for each BCS recipe to act as a look-up table.  In doing so, I kept finding myself look at which ingredients were used most often throughout the 80+ recipes in the book.  As I started analyzing them, I noticed that the use of certain malts or hops was more predominate than others.  By examining this, I was able to uncover several holes in my personal inventory where I did not have some of these popular ingredients.  Eventually, I found the information useful/interesting enough that the light bulb went off to share some of this information on the blog.   

If a brewer were to brew all 80+ recipes in BCS, it would take 1,197 lbs of grains and sugars, 207 ounces (~13 lbs) of hops, and 88 vials of yeast.  With regards to base malt, the chart below illustrates which types of base malt are used in highest quantity.  After putting this bar chart together, I almost immediately made a note to pick up some Maris Otter malt as my inventory is currently void of English Pale Malt

In addition to the above chart, several other charts were generated for other BCS Ingredient.  The links for each chart will be updated as they are published.
This project is a bit open-ended, so please let me know what you think or if there are other ways in which this data can be useful to fellow homebrewers.



"The best way to die is to sit under a tree, eat lots of bologna and salami, drink a case of beer, then blow up."

-Art Donovan

Monday, May 28, 2012

Happy Memorial Day

Jeff and I wish all of our readers a Happy Memorial Day.  We hope that you will pause for a moment on this day and remember those who have sacrificed themselves so that we, as a country, can enjoy the freedoms we currently experience.  Our Father and both of our Grandfathers are veterans of the armed services and we appreciate their service, as well as those they knew who did not return.

Please join us and raise a glass to those we honor on Memorial Day.



Friday, May 25, 2012

RFP – Danish Dark Rye Beer Initial Tasting

I’ve never considered myself to be a very good "technical" beer judge. I can pick out flaws and what my taste buds “like” and “dislike”, but drilling the perception down into the building blocks of what makes a good beer versus a mediocre beer is a skill I have yet to refine. So when it comes time for me to critically evaluate a beer, I’m often inclined to use a “crowd-sourcing” approach and feed it to a lot of other beer aficionados.. This was never more true when it came time to evaluate my Dark Side of Denmark rye beer that was brewed for our Recipe Formulation Project (RFP).

While my beer was originally brewed back in February, it was not until almost two months later that I finally got the beer into a keg and ready for serving. Luckily, that was right around the time that Tom came up to Rhode Island for a visit, so I was not going to miss out on the opportunity.  Only the base beer was available at this time, so the initial tasting was limited just limited to that.

The RFP beer presented with a great ruby brown appearance with a spicy, malty nose to it. The flavor, however, was not enjoyable. While the beer starts off with a fresh pumpernickel sweetness to it, the favor drops off in the mid-palate leaving the beer somewhat lackluster or empty. As the beer finishes out, a spicy finish arised from the rye malt that lasts into the aftertaste which I found unpleasant. The pro's of the bee good appearance and initial flavor. The con's: weak in the middle and the residual spiciness at the end.

Flash forward another two months after the beer has been sitting cold in the keg with time to mature (i.e. I had forgotten about the beer and only recently realized that I need do the dosing). With some luck, a club meeting for my local homebrewing club (RIFT) was almost upon me and it would be another opportunity to collect some valuable feedback from several other experienced palates. For this tasting, I was finally able to get a cardamom extract (purchased from here) on hand. I prepared three beers to evaluate: the base beer, a medium dosed beer (6 drops in 12 oz), and a heavy dosed beer (12 drops in 12 oz). All the bottles were capped, kept cold, and toted off with me to the club meeting.

The base beer had improved considerably since the initial tasting with Tom. The residual spicy flavor that had turned me off had mellowed out considerably. Additionally, while the mid-palate flavor was still a little lacking, because the flavors had time to meld together, it was less noticeable as when the beer was still “green”.

The cardamom flavoring was very enlightening. The savory flavor of the cardamom meshed well with the beers flavors without clashing. It was the intensity of the dosing that got the most comments - the extract was certainly potent, which was apparent once the medium-dosed (i.e. 6 drops) beer was opened. While not overbearing, I was asked if I could edge the cardamom flavor back a bit in the medium-dosed beer. The balance was in need of some tweaking. The heavy dosed beer (i.e. 12 drops) was just that – heavy with cardamom. The strength of the extract made the beer more like a cardamom drink flavored with beer as opposed to the other way around. A few tasters enjoyed this (and later admitted that they were big fans of cardamom), but it was in the wrong direction of what a spiced beer should be in my opinion (i.e. a solid beer with a hint or tease of the spice). The experiment was a great learning experience.

At the end of the tasting flight, I tallied up the suggestions on how I might be able to modify the recipe to improve beer. Below are a few bullet points with the most relevant / useful suggestions that I may consider using when I plan the rebrew.

  • The existing beer would do better with a dosing in the 3-5 drop range per 12 oz
  • The base beer needed a bit more maltiness to hold up to the cardamom flavoring as well as to support the mid-palate.
  • A boost in the gravity and the resulting alcohol presence may help balance the cardamom
  • Tone down the rye flavor a bit in the base beer so it is not so strong.

I’ll plan on rebrewing this beer sometime in the future and report back on whether the changes improved or detracted from the beer concept.  Otherwise, I hope the readers find this project to be interesting and potentially educational.



“"I drink when I have occasion, and sometimes when I have no occasion"
-Miguel de Cervantes

Recipe Formulation Project - Reference Guide
Tom's Recipe:
Jeff's Recipe:

Monday, May 21, 2012

Opening a Beer Bottle - Do Not Try at Home

Life has been very busy of late, so I have not had much time to write about beer and homebrew for Lug Wrench.  But I saw a post of this YouTube video on Hop Talk tonight and I was intrigued.  What other innovative mechanisms have humans developed to access the insides of a sealed beer bottle (I also needed a laugh after a long day at work)?  So, I typed "beer bottle opening" in a YouTube search and was entertained.  I decided I had to share my favorites with the Lug Wrench audience.

Chainsaw used to open beer.  The chainsaw operator has a very steady hand, but I would not recommend this method for serving any special or aged beer samples.

As the title exclaims, this has to be the most expensive beer bottle opener in the world, and one that takes incredible hand-eye coordination.  But, if you have a helicopter and some duct tape, you are all set.

Interesting cultural message here, if you believe what they state - Scandinavians are supposedly taught this trick to open a beer bottle at a young age.  Innovative and does not waste beer like you might think when you first watch him setting it up.

Warning from your dentist - do not try to break this record.  Pretty please.

Piece of paper used to open a beer bottle.  You are much more likely to have one of these handy than a chainsaw, helicopter, other beer bottle, or be willing to pay your dentist a fortune.  Thus, more useful.

What are your favorite beer-related YouTube videos?  Feel free to leave a comment and a link.



Monday, May 14, 2012

American Craft Beer Week

This week, May 14 - 20, has been designated American Craft Beer Week by the Brewers Association.  Given the popularity of the concept of "beer weeks" in recent years, it seems hardly surprising that the Brewers Association would loosely organize events in a week to highlight the American craft beer industry.  Several years ago, select cities in the United States with a strong craft beer industry began to promote their breweries through an organized series of events, spanning a week or more.  Such beer weeks highlighted specific breweries through tastings and food pairings, as well as brewer talks, seminars and other educational opportunities.  Some of the original beer week cities include San Francisco and Philadelphia, and they are still going strong.  These beer weeks, along with many others, have gained popularity until they have grown to such a proportion that one could one even hope to attend even a fraction of the hundreds of events events held during the larger beer weeks (see site for listing of known beer weeks).

If taken as a general indicator of the health of the craft beer industry, I would say the growth of beer weeks is a good thing.  While they seem to becoming a bit over-done, they do present an opportunity to attend events that are normally not available.  If you can make time to attend an American Craft Beer event, I would encourage you to consider one of the rarer events, such as a brewer panel discussion, celebrity beer dinner, or rare beer tasting.  You can find a listing of American Craft Beer events here.

But whatever you choose to attend, supporting your local craft brewery is never a bad thing.



Thursday, May 10, 2012

Local 2012 World Beer Cup Winners

Jay Brooks, of the Brookston Beer Bulletin, recently posted information on 2012 World Beer Cup.  The World Beer Cup, run by the Brewers Association, is an international beer competition that occurs every two years.  The purpose of the competition is to promote the international beer culture and draw attention to the growing craft beer market.  It differs from the Great American Beer Festival competition primarily in that it works hard to pull brewers in from across the globe.  Admittedly, though, the great majority of entering breweries come from the United States.  The World Beer Cup features a panel of internationally renowned beer judges, who evaluate over 90 different categories of beer and award a gold, silver, and bronze medal for each category.

In 2010, the World Beer Cup featured 642 breweries from 44 countries and 47 U.S states.  These breweries entered 3,330 beers in 90 categories.  It also saw Devils Backbone Brewing Company named Champion Brewery and Brewmaster Small Brewpub, which is of particular importance to me because they are one of my local breweries.  It seemed very improbable that a small brewery from rural Virginia would place so highly on the international stage, but they did it and have continued to earn accolades.

This year, as announced by the Brookston Beer Bulletin, the World Beer Cup continued to grow.  The 2012 competition evaluated 3,921 beers in 95 categories from 54 nations.  The 218 judges handed out 284 awards to breweries from 21 countries, representing a 18 percent increase over the 2010 competition.  As in the previous World Beer Cups, the grand majority of the awards were garnered by the United States, with California earning 55 medals and Colorado with 27 medals.  The next closest country was Germany, with 23 medals and then Belgium with 8 medals.  India Pale Ale was the beer style with the most entries, 150, which is hardly surprising.

Local breweries (to Jeff and I) that won medals include:

  • Devils Backbone Brewing Company, Roseland, VA - Gold in Vienna Lager
  • Blue Mountain Brewery, Afton, VA - Silver in American-Belgo-Style Ale
  • Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, Richmond, VA - Bronze in Herb and Spice Beer
  • Rock Bottom, Arlington, VA - Bronze in Coffee Beer
  • Great American Restaurants, Centerville, VA - Silver in Extra Special Bitter
  • Cambridge Brewing Company, Cambridge, MA - Gold in Herb and Spice Beer
  • Boston Beer Company, Boston, MA - Gold in Wood and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer
  • Cisco Brewers, Nantucket, MA - Silver in Belgian-Style Flanders Oud Brewin or Oud Red Ale
  • Wormtown Brewery, Worchester, MA - Silver in Robust Porter
It is a treat to see breweries that we have visited place highly in the World Beer Cup, in some cases with beer we have even tried.  I hope our local breweries do as well in 2014.



Monday, May 7, 2012

Poll: How Many BJCP Styles Have You Brewed?

Like all our prior blog posts, this post takes a moment to memorialize the results we received on the most recent blog poll.  The readers' responses to the question "Of the 80 BJCP Beer Styles, How Many Have You Brewed?" are presented below.

Total Votes: 18

More than a majority of the voters have only tried homebrewing a handful of beer styles.  If we setup another poll that asked which styles people have brewed, the prototypically styles would be the most prevalent (i.e. APA, IPA, ESB, English Brown, etc).  The other question that is bouncing around my mind is whether the voters who voted are relatively new to homebrewing and hence the 1-15 styles brewed, or if they are old hands at homebrewing and prefer only brewing their favorite styles.

On the other side of the coin, I was surprised that the maximum number of styles anyone who voted was 31-45.  I was certain there would be folks in the 46+ range, but we never got a single vote.  It made for a very skewed result.

After rolling up my own "Styles Brewed" list, the idea of expanding my styles has weighed on my brewing plans.  Let us know what styles you may want to try in the near future.



"No soldier can fight unless he is properly fed on beef and beer."
-John Churchill
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