Autumnal Squash Ale

As an alternative to brewing a pumpkin beer I brewed a fall seasonal beer with a medley of squash (acorn, buttercup, and delicata) and barely any spices (1/4 tsp). This beer was brewed for Thanksgiving Day to pair with a pumpkin cheesecake. The dessert itself had all the traditional pumpkin spice flavors, so it was nice to have a refreshing gourd flavored ale to pair with the dessert that wasn't overly spiced.

With this batch I also tried a new technique for the squash (pumpkin, etc.) addition. In the past, I've always added the cooked pumpkin meat to the mash. This time I added the cooked squash with five minutes left in boil. As I'm drinking this beer right now I'm happy with the results. The squash flavor is more present in the aroma and flavor with an aftertaste of honeydew melon. Great clarity with orange, copper color. Pairs well with the pumpkin cheesecake.

The grist bill was fairly simple with three malts. Pale malt, Munich malt, and Aromatic mashed warm at 152*f for a malty balance for the squash. Six pounds of assorted winter squash (three pounds cooked) added with five minutes left in boil. Bittered with super galena hops and spiced with Chinese Five spice at end of boil. Fermented with US-05.

Strawberry Sour

Brewing with my favorite childhood fruit is always fun, but I wanted to try this fruit in a sour style beer such as Upland Brewing Co.'s Strawberry Lambic and I believe Mr. Barlow brewed a strawberry sour that is currently ageing. While many home brewing texts state that it is difficult to attain a pleasant strawberry flavor or that it changes into something like apricot I have not had this problem. By using fresh fruit and adding it to primary fermentation the flavors of the fresh fruit have been woven into the beers aroma and flavor in ways that surprised me.

With this beer I added two pounds of strawberries to two and a half gallons of amber wort (12.6*p) and pitched wyeast roeselare yeast blend. I'm really enjoying the flavors that are developing in my aging flanders inspired red, framboise, and oud bruin that featured this yeast blend. I brewed this batch a couple weeks ago and the aroma is already fantastic. I'm looking forward to drinking this sometime next year. I may or may not add more strawberries next spring when strawberries are in season once again depending on flavor development until then.

Recipe: Pale malt, Munich malt, Melanoidin malt, Flaked Barley, Briess Crystal 120. Fermented with Roeselare yeast blend and two pounds of strawberries.

Pomegranate Wild Ale

My first experience with this brand of Pomegranate juice was while I was working at my first brewery job at Olde Saratoga Brewing Co. in Saratoga Springs, NY where we poured hundreds of bottles just like the one pictured into fermentors to create Origin by He'brew.

Olde Saratoga Brewing Co. is a contract brewery that is owned by the UB Group which owns a plethora of different distilled brands, malt beverage brands, a chemical and fertilzer co., an airline co., and an Engineering co.. That's why Kingfisher brand beers are brewed at Olde Saratoga. I didn't realize who owned the company until after I saw my first pay check and didn't recognize who was paying me. So, I took the time to look up the company. For me, it rubbed me the wrong way, this isn't what craft beer means to me. I felt like all of a sudden I was a number that worked for huge multi-national company that probably didn't care about a lowly factory worker. I don't have a problem with contract brewing I have a problem with profits going to a far off land away from the American economy in which I live.

In this world in which we live in I believe one of the only ways we have left to vote is with our wallets and pocketbooks. Every time we buy something we're making a political, social, and philosophical act. Do you want to support this or that? Who do you want to give your hard earned money too? I prefer to support the community in which I live. For example; independently owned restaurants, not chains. Now, I'm not trying to be all high and mighty as not everything I buy is a responsible purchase (upcoming iphone release for example) but I try hard to choose the more responsible purchase than not, even if it costs more. I'm shocked that even many retailers sometimes don't even know where the beer their selling and stories their regurgitating come from. For example I had to explain to a retailer that cans of 21st Amendment are not brewed in San Fransisco (Bitter American by 21A is one of the best new beers around, go try it) but are contract brewed in Minnesota. He wouldn't believe me until I showed him on the side of the can exactly where it was brewed. Also, I find many self proclaimed beer geeks hold beer stories near and dear to their hearts without actually looking into the origins or whether the story (marketing) is actually true. Even after I've told people truths I know about the process of how beers are produced they still don't want to believe it. I've even over heard them tell the same false story to somebody else after knowing the truth. Why is this? Why do so many people prefer (and even knowingly choose) romance over reality? As you probably figured out I'm a purist that's become a little jaded from what I've seen (and had to do). When brewing my beers I hold myself to the highest possible standards. We're here (on earth) for such a short period of time, what's the point of pulling the wool over peoples eyes or allowing ourselves to be blind. Be honest, buy local, and take the time to investigate. Ignorance isn't bliss it's just ignorant, rant over.

I've been wanting to brew with pomegranate juice for awhile and I felt the cranberry like tannins and tartness of pomegranate juice would be great in a sour beer. I pitched a Lambic yeast blend and 32 fl. oz. of juice into the primary fermentor. Time will tell how it turns out as this will age for up to a year.

Recipe: Pale malt, Munich malt, Melanoidin malt, Flaked Barley, Briess Crystal 120. Lambic yeast blend and Pomegranate juice.


As I discussed in the Pineapple Wild Ale post a great way to stretch a brew day is to brew a batch of lower gravity wort and split the batch between different fermentors and add a twist to each fermentor whether being yeast, fruit, spices or keep one as a control. As part of a double brew day this batch of Amber wort started at 12.6*P (1.050 SG) and was hopped to 10 IBU's but then had different juice added directly to each fermentor. In this one I added dark cherry juice and pitched roeselare yeast blend to try and re-create the flavors of classic Kriek.

Recipe: Pale malt, Munich malt, Melanoidin malt, Flaked Barley, Briess Crystal 120. Aging with Roeselare yeast blend. Black cherry juice (32 fl. oz) added to primary fermentor.

Carrot pLambic

As the title suggests I brewed a carrot beer. A couple months ago I made a small one gallon test batch (50/50 wort/carrot juice by volume) and fermented it with American ale (dry) yeast to see what a carrot beer would even taste like first. The finished beer was very earthy, slightly tart, and orange. At a rate of 50/50 by volume of wort and carrot juice it was a little absurd but it allowed me to fully understand the impact of carrot sugars in a fermented beverage. I could see carrots working in many styles such as saison, Belgian white, Gose, and Berliner Weiss. Or even something malty with many carrot wine recipes having a rum raisin or even pumpkin pie like spice blend why not try other orange vegetables such as butternut squash, carrots, sweet potatoes and yams in fall seasonal beers and not just pumpkins.

The direction I'm taking with this batch though is a bit more wild, pitching Wyeast 3278 Belgian Lambic Blend. Accentuating the earthy and tart flavors the carrot juice provided. This was the third part of a split batch of golden wort that also produced pineapple wild ale and a tropical wild ale.

Recipe: Pale malt, Flaked Oats, Wheat malt, Flaked Barley, Flaked Maize, and CaraPils. Bittered with whole leaf centennial. Fermenting with Wyeast 3278 Belgian Lambic Blend. 80/20 wort/carrot juice by volume.

Tropical Wild Ale

As part of the split batch discussed in the pineapple wild ale post this fermentor had a tropical juice blend added to primary and was dosed with brettanomyces lambicus and brettanomyces bruxellensis. The juice "Morning Blend" consisted of pineapple, apple, orange, pear, peach, papaya, and grape. When using juices for brewing I prefer to use natural and/or organic juices that are free from growth inhibitors (chemicals added to any food to prevent/ward off spoiling) that may kill the yeast and not allow the wort to ferment.

Recipe: Pale malt, Flaked Oats, Wheat malt, Flaked Barley, Flaked Maize, and CaraPils. Bittered with whole leaf centennial. Fermented with a blend of brettanomyces strains.

Pineapple Wild Ale

One way to stretch a brew day is to brew a big batch of lower gravity wort and split the batch between smaller fermentors and add a different twist to each fermentor (or keep one for a control). Whether it's using different yeast strains or adding different ingredients such as spices or fruit to the different fermentors it's a great way to experiment.

For this batch I brewed a large volume of golden wort with a starting gravity of 12.6*P (1.051sg) and split the batch three ways. One fermentor with pineapple juice, another with carrot juice, and a third with a tropical fruit juice blend. Pitching different blends of wild yeast strains into each fermentor. This pineapple wild ale is fermented with brettanomyces lambicus and brettanomyces bruxellensis.

Brewing alternative yeast beers has been a lot of fun. The only drawback is the much longer learning period per batch. More traditional yeast fermentations have much quicker turnarounds allowing the brewer to evaluate the beer much sooner. Thus learning more rapidly about brewing. No matter what the size of a batch a brewer learns something from every batch to make the next one even better.

Currently I now have sixty five gallons (would only fill one oak barrel) of beer in eighteen fermentors at different stages of souring with the oldest being one at the time of this post. Tasting along the way as the flavors have developed and matured has been fascinating. Beginning to understand when flavors start developing and the impact of different ingredients and what they contribute to the overall impression of each batch. All while being amazed at the visual seemingly big bang theory like primordial growth of a pellicle reminds me of the deeply interwoven history of humans and fermentation as food preservation for survival.

Recipe: Pale Malt, Flaked Oats, Wheat Malt, Flaked Barley, Flaked Maize, CaraPils. Bittered with whole leaf centennial. Fermented with a blend of brettanomyces strains.

Best in Show Brown Porter

Whenever someone asks me what my favorite style of beer is my response is always, "a brown ale". Quite simply the toasted and lightly roasted malt flavors balanced with a light hop flavor is what I crave to drink everyday. Looking back at my blog over the last (almost) three years I've brewed eight different brown ales using everything from buckwheat and wild rice to ancho chilies and chicory.  The first batch of home brew I ever brewed (September 8th 2006) was an English Brown Ale kit, five years later this post represents my 163rd batch of home brew on my journey to understanding the art and science of brewing. This brown ale sits at the intersection of brown and porter.

For the Tap Vermont tasting I presented this beer as, "An English inspired brown ale brewed with an array of specialty malts creates a garnet, russet colored ale with a biscuit, toffee, and chocolate flavor and aroma. Brewed with a new hop variety, Delta, an American grown descendant of traditional English hop varieties that lends an earthy backdrop for this toasty, malty, Mild."

Briess Pale Malt
TF Brown Malt
Aromatic Malt
Flaked Barley
TF Crystal 45
TF Pale Chocolate

mash 154*f

Super Galena    :60   pellet   
Delta                :10   pellet

12.7*P (1.051sg)
Safale US-05

#1- Roast and toasted malts up front. A little over the top. No hop aroma. No DMS. No diacetyl. Low fruity esters. No alcohol.
#2- Heavy roasted malts with toasted malts. No hop aroma.

#1- Dark amber. Clear. Dense tan head with good retention.
#2- Good color with persistent head. Off white to tan in color.

#1- Chocolate malt. No hop flavor. Low bitterness leaves a malty barely sweet finish, well balanced for a Brown Porter. Some caramel, bit of toast. No DMS. No diacetyl.
#2- Chocolate malt appears to dominate with caramel malts balancing out the chocolate. Medium to low bitterness with low hop flavor.

#1- Medium body and mouthfeel
#2- Appropriate body to style with no alcohol. No astringency. Carbonation is great.

Overall Impression
#1- Very drinkable well made example of a Brown Porter. Roast/toasted malts a bit high in aroma otherwise no problems. Just a hint of added bitterness and some hop flavor would add to depth of character.
#2- A well made brown porter. Balanced nicely with the malts. Drinkable, maybe increase hop flavor a tad but otherwise well made.

#1- Grand Master IV  39/50
#2- Non-BJCP           37/50

Overall 38/50---Excellent (38-44)

1st Place in category winning Best in Style also
Winning Best in Show at the Delaware State Fair Home Brew Competition

Needless to say I was ecstatic, elated and down right excited with the results. Next batch I'll up the ten minute hop addition to bring more "depth of character" as one judge said. The two hundred and fifty dollar prize is nice but the real joy is in my creation being blind tasted and judged to be the most delicious beer on that particular day (over 200+ beers entered). A priceless pat on the back for the work I've put in over the last five years burning the candle on both ends brewing ridiculous amounts of research and development batches at home while brewing professionally by day. 

The judges thought my Saison was...meh

The previous post in the To Style Series I discuss how I entered an Oatmeal Stout in two similar categories (dry stout and oatmeal stout) with surprising results. Well, I did the same thing with this next batch of beer. I brewed a 'Saison' and entered it as such in category 16c but I also entered it as a Belgian Pale Ale into category 16b. It's been an educational experience thus far doing this To Style Series of batches/posts, outlining recipes, posting feedback from judges, and critically thinking about how to improve subsequent batch's of beer.

This beer was also served at the first tasting for my brewery in planning as "Vernal Equinox: A farmhouse inspired ale traditionally brewed in the Francophone region of Belgium This style is quickly becoming a favorite of American Craft beer drinkers and brewers. This beer is brewed with barley, rye. wheat, and oats creating a bready background. With whole leaf east kent golding hops providing balanced bitterness and flavor, rounded out with whole leaf Czech saaz hops for aroma. The unique saison yeast lends a peppery, fruity, almost tropical fruit aroma and flavor. A complex, aromatic, thirst quencher."

Best Malz Pilsner      47%
Rye Malt                  20%
Wheat Malt              14%
Flaked Oats              8%
Munich Malt              7%
Cara Pils                   3%
Acidulated Malt         1%

mash 154*f

EKG     1 oz.     first wort   whole leaf
EKG     1 oz.      :60           whole leaf
Saaz      2 oz.    whirlpool   whole leaf

13.2*P (1.053sg)
Wyeast 3711 French Saison

Entered in Category 16c Saison
#1- Orange peel? Feel like maybe a wit crossover.
#2- Fruity - lemon and spicy phenols and and citrus

#1- Great color, clarity appropriate for style
#2- Straw color with slightly hazy clarity. Nice small bubbles. White head on side of glass.

#1- Slight astringent hop flavor
#2- Soft malt with hoppy and slight sour, astringent finish. Bitterness is high.

#1- Carbonation high but works
#2- Light to medium body, with good carbonation. Crisp.

Overall Impression
#1- Balance could have been better between malt/phenol/spice.
#2- Good drinkable beer with no perceived faults except bitter hops make the finish astringent.

#1- Professional Brewer  27/50
#2- Certified                   27/50

Overall 27/50---Good (21-29)

Same beer entered as a Belgian Pale Ale in category 16b with same judges
#1- Nice aroma - spicy undertones with a malt background.
#2- Malty, fruity with spicy background. More malt/biscuit as it warms.

#1- Color is too light for style. Wish it was a little more copper to red to golden.
#2- Pale straw color. Hazy. Nice Head

#1- Malt is enjoyable but bitterness is strong on finish.
#2- Fruity and spicy. Light malt flavor with a spicy/phenolic finish. High hop bitterness.

#1- Could be maltier
#2- Medium to light body

Overall Impression
#1- Not too bad a beer. A little darker next time with higher mash temp?
#2- Good drinkable beer. Like a mix/blend of wit and pale. Soft, drinkable beer - just not fully to style. 

#1- Professional Brewer   30/50
#2- Certified                    28/50

Overall 29/50---Good (21-29)

The hop rate is calculated to only 30 ibu's so I'm a little surprised the judges reacted to the "noble hop" bitterness that way. This beer went over very well at the tasting with some naming it as their favorite of the nine featured. I've really fallen in love with creating Saison inspired beers brewing thirteen different Saison's over the last two and a half years. Using spices, fruit, and hops to put interesting twists on the classic Saison. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed with how this beer performed. Guess I'll dial back the first wort and sixty minute hop additions to lower the bitterness. The yeast character is continuing to develop in the bottle and the bitterness is mellowing with time as I enjoyed a bottle last night.

Still trying to crack this Oatmeal Stout egg?

Stouts, especially Oatmeal stout are mysterious, full bodied, roasty, deliciousness. With this next batch for the To Style Series I brewed an Oatmeal Stout that I entered into two stout sub categories, Oatmeal Stout 13c and Dry Stout 13a. The results were a bit surprising.

Oatmeal Stout
Briess Two Row         53%
Flaked Oats               14%
Oat Malt                     7%
TF Roasted Barley      7%
TF Chocolate Malt      7%
TF Crystal 45              7%
Melanoidin Malt           5%

mash 152*f

Super Galena  :60    .5 oz.
Delta              :10      1 oz.

15.4*P (1.061sg)
Safale US-05

Entered in category 13 c Oatmeal Stout
#1-Some coffee. Mild Roast character. Low hop aroma. Mild fruity ester. No diacetyl. Clean
#2-Roasty, Coffee, Sweet Malt.

#1-Black color, ruby highlights, clear. Light brown head with moderate retention.
#2-Dark Brown/Black color. Good head/carb

#1-A high level of roast character. Finish is dry from high roast level. Some malt sweetness in background. Moderate hop bitterness. Balance is toward roast but malty sweetness is not far behind.
#2-Roasty but to the point of being burnt, astringent. Don't get too much oat, silky, smooth flavor per the style

#1-Medium body. Light astringency from roast malt.
#2-Medium body. Sweet but not too creamy.

Overall Impression
#1-A very roasty yet sweet example of an Oatmeal Stout. Clean fermentation character. Try reducing roast malt addition and increasing body to bring this beer more in style. Needs more creaminess.
#2-ok, drinkable beer. A bit too much roast which leaves more of a burnt flavor vs. a silky chocolate coffee sweetness. Watch use of black malt, try de-husked dark malts instead. Mash at 152-154*f

#1-Certified  29/50
#2-Certified  25/50

Overall 27/50---Good (21-29)

Same beer entered as a Dry Stout in category 13a with the same judges.
#1-Some roasty coffee aroma, light malt sweetness, slight fruity esters. No diacetyl. No hop aroma.
#2-Big roasty, coffee rich nose. Slightly burnt.

#1-Black color, clear with garnet highlights. Low tan head with with low retention.
#2-Black color, opaque, tight bubble tan head with medium retention.

#1-Moderate to high roasted malt character. Slightly burnt but not astringent. Dry, unsweetened chocolate. Clean fermentation quality. Some light fruit esters. Finished somewhat sweet with a roasty balance.
#2-Roasty malty but not as strong as the aroma was. Slightly bitter with chocolate aftertaste. Hop/malt background noticed. Smooth

#1-Medium to light body with low carbonation. Slight roast malt astringency but not overwhelming.
#2-Medium to light body. Dry finish but not too harsh.

Overall Impression
#1-A roasty, sweet, light bodied example of a dry stout. Could use a little more body. Try mashing higher. Clean well attenuated. Good job.
#2-Nice, drinkable beer. Big aroma with smooth balance with roast and malt. Might benefit from more roasty, coffee flavor.

#1-Certified 33/50
#2-Certified 33/50

Overall 33/50---Very Good (30-37)

Clearly if I want this recipe to be an oatmeal stout I must create more body. First step for next batch will be to raise the mash temperature up to 154-156*f from 152*f. I've been experimenting with Oatmeal stouts at home the last couple of years with some success but still missing the elusive full body character present in some of the best examples. At this point I think it's more than just a higher finishing gravity and it's not necessarily just oats in any form (flaked, malted, steel cut) that gives the necessary body. My next batch of Oatmeal stout will also contain some flaked barley and bumping up the melanoidin malt addition to help give the tongue something to hold onto. It also appears the roast character needs to be dialed back a little bit and/or I need to look into making water adjustments. I find it interesting that this beer scored higher as a dry stout than the oatmeal stout style I was aiming for. I think this illustrates the subtle differences in processes and ingredients that can separate styles.

Strawberry Cream Ale

Continuing the "To Style Series" with an entry for category 20 Fruit Beer. Last summer I brewed a "Farm Fresh Series" featuring locally grown and procured fruits and vegetables from my local farmers market. It was a lot of fun not knowing what I would find each weekend to brew with at the farmers market. Strolling through the season I ended up brewing a Strawberry Cream ale in May. A Tart Cherry Porter and a Blueberry Belgian ale in June and a Mixed Berry Saison in July. As summer was coming to close I brewed a Smoked Pumpkin Porter (with smoked pumpkins and not smoked malt) at the end of August. I really enjoyed coming up with the recipes for each batch based upon accentuating the farm fresh ingredients. I was also experimenting with adding fruit into primary fermentor, where most brewing text recommends adding the fruit to secondary or at bottling. For me, I enjoy my sugars fermented and adding fruit into secondary or later in the process just creates a fruit beer that is too sweet. Adding the fruit to primary fermentor didn't drive off all the delicate fruit flavors. I felt the yeast being in contact with the fruit during fermentation helped to marry the flavors of the fruit and the base beer style and created a properly attenuated beer.

For the Tap Vermont tasting I presented this Strawberry Cream ale as follows, "Strawberry Split: An experimental batch using farm fresh strawberries from my local farmer's market. A traditional style Cream ale brewed with barley malt, flaked maize, and honey malt. The beer is barely hopped allowing the flavor and aroma of fresh strawberries to shine through, and it has fruit in it, so, it's good for you". This beer of course went over very well with the women in attendance but even the guys liked it because it's still a crisp, dry beer with out being overpowered by fruit flavor. 

Strawberry Cream Ale
Briess Two Row    
Flaked Maize       14%
Honey Malt           4%

mash 154*f

Celeia   first wort    .3 oz.

13.2*P (1.053sg)
7 lbs. of Fresh Strawberries
3 sliced Bananas
White Labs WLP009 Australian Ale Yeast

#1-Strawberries up front with some banana on the back note. Quite sweet smelling
#2-Initial aroma of strawberry and banana. Light hay, straw, and meal malt. No hops or fruity esters. Clean
#3-Strawberry is the dominant aroma but banana does emerge. Very light malt character, to be expected from a cream ale.

#1-Crystal clear amber orange, not much head.
#2-Clear. Orange with light ruby notes. Small, fizzy head. Short to no retention
#3-Brilliantly clear. Pours low head fades fast. Light copper with reddish hue

#1-Slightly tart banana like malt followed quickly by a wave of strawberry. Slight dryness and tartness in the finish.
#2-Hay, straw, and meal malt with lightly tart strawberries. Faint banana flavor. Light to no hop flavor or bitterness. Fully fermented with no residual sugar. Dry finish
#3-Clean, crisp with a dry finish. Nice strawberry fruit flavor balancing light malt and low hop character. Banana is very subtle and if not cited may not have noticed.

#1-Medium bodied, medium carbonation
#2-Light body. Medium-low carbonation. No warmth. Medium Creaminess.
#3-Light body with medium carbonation and overall crisp.

Overall Impression
#1-I enjoyed this. Needs a bit more maltiness from the beer to really bring some complexity. Strawberry and banana were well balanced but needs a little more to bring it together.
#2-Nice beer. This could be better with more mouthfeel, and a persistent head.
#3-Very refreshing. Fruity & crisp a nice balance between strawberry and a light cream ale. Unfortunately banana got lost. Still, a well made beer.

#1-Recognized 32/50
#2-Certified     31/50
#3-Certified     32/50

Overall 31.6/50---Very Good (30-37)

3rd Place in Category

After brewing the same seasonal beer twice in a row I really feel I'm starting to dial in this seasonal one off. The head retention issue is most likely from the pectins present in the fruit. I could use a pectic enzyme to breakdown the pectins that destroy the head but I'll probably try adding Weyermann Carafoam next time. Also, I add the bananas not for flavor per say but as a strawberry flavor enhancer and to add a creaminess to the body. This is a trick I learned from a friend, former co-worker and master mead maker Jon Talkington of Brimming Horn Meadery where the banana adds body and boosts other fruity flavors present in the liquid whether it be mead, wine, beer, melomel , or cyser's. Thus I didn't mention bananas at the Tap Vermont tasting. I've found if something is in a batch and it's not a dominate flavor then it's better to just not mention it's presence.  Keep it as a your brewer secret ingredient adding complexity and a depth to a batch. One judges comment in flavor section sums it up as, "Banana is very subtle and if not cited may not have noticed". Next up in the To Style Series is an Oatmeal Stout that I entered as a Dry Stout and an Oatmeal Stout with interesting feedback.

Robust Smoked Porter

Next up in the to style series was a beer brewed for the other smoked beer style category 22b. With this category you can basically brew any base style and add smoked malt. Judges are looking for a balance of smoke in the base style and how the smoke blends into the balance of the style. Now I enjoy the smokiest of beers ie: Schlenkerla where many of the beers have nearly one hundred percent smoked malt but many people don't enjoy drinking liquid bacon cooked in a campfire. This robust porter was brewed with only a modest amount of smoked malt accounting for 25% of the overall grist bill.

For the Tap Vermont tasting I presented this robust smoked porter as, "Test Batch #161- This robust porter brewed with traditional German smoked malt creates a background of, bacon. Before the advent of in-direct fire malting techniques all beer had a smokey character. Brewed with English barley malt, pale chocolate malt, crystal malt, and flaked barley this 19th century London inspired ale transports you to another time." People enjoyed this beer but didn't love it. Many had never had a smoked ale before and enjoyed the barbecue flavors blending with the roastiness of the robust porter.

     Robust Smoked Porter
Briess Two Row
Best Smoked Malt      25%
TF Roasted Barley      8%
TF Pale Chocolate       8%
TF Crystal 45              7%
Flaked Barley              7%

mash 152*f

Super Galena  :75   .7oz pellet
Delta              :5      1 oz pellet

15.2*P (1.061sg)
Safale US-05

#1-Very Roasty - coffee, dark chocolate followed by a noticeable but not excessive smokyness
#2-Heavy chocolate & roasted malt; smoke is present, layers in nose, no diacetyl

#1-Black nearly opaque, mahogany hues, thick tan head with good retention, legs, and lace work
#2-Black, opaque beer with nice clingy brown tan head

#1-Lots of roast malt flavor, coffee, and dark chocolate. Lingering hop flavor in finish and aftertaste.
#2-Very rich chocolate initially, then complemented by smokyness; hops hard to distinguish from overwhelming chocolate flavor. Heavily malt flavored with little yeast character; no diacetyl

#1-thin body, moderate carbonation level. Some warming from alcohol
#2-Creamy and full bodied beer with no astringency. Slight alcohol warmth.

Overall Impression
#1-Well made beer, the smoke is not excessive. The roast malt is a tad strong for me maybe reduce roast slightly or replace with chocolate or de-bittered black malt. Raise mash temp.
#2-Interesting beer, I enjoyed it. Beer would benefit from less extreme chocolate slant, unless you were looking to develop a chocolate porter. Probably needs a cooler mash temp to loosen that body some.

#1-Professional Brewer  31/50
#2-Recognized               31/50

Overall 31/50---Very Good (30-37)

2nd Place in Category 22

Blonde Ale

This is going to be the first post in a series about brewing "to style" beers that were entered into the Delaware State Fair's inaugural home brew competition. The purpose of this was to challenge myself, my recipes, and my understanding of flavor development contributed from the myriad of yeast, barley, and hop choices available to the contemporary brewer to re-create classic beer styles.

First off, I have mixed feelings about brewing "to style". A large part of me honors the past, the unique circumstances in which all beer styles were created. Whether being ingredients available, water profiles, gruit taxes (increasing hops popularity in brewing), or yeast strains present (ales in England, lagers in Germany, phenolic Belgian strains for example) all styles are steeped in history, tradition, and dogma. Ultimately though people were generally just trying to create a delicious libation with what was available and what we have available today is global by comparison, but back to brewing to style.

For this brewing exercise I relied more than usual on the BJCP style guidelines since it was a sanctioned event. The guidelines are cliff notes for styles, with ingredient lists, stats (og, ibu, etc) and commercial examples listed. Also, most of the beers in this to style series we're also poured at my first brewery in planning (Tap Vermont) tasting party that I hosted in July in Vermont so I'll include those descriptions as well as the judges comments and scores.

Blonde Ale
Briess Two Row
Wheat Malt     22%
Flaked Barley   8%
Cara Pils           6%

mash 151*f

Willamette :60   1 oz. whole leaf
Willamette :0     1 oz. whole leaf
Centennial :0     .2 oz pellet

13.4*P (1.053sg)
Safale US-05

It was left in primary two weeks longer than I'm comfortable (total 4 weeks) is my only concession going in.

#1-fruity, green apple, hop aroma low, malt aroma subtle, no diacetyl, phenolic, plastic
#2-fruitiness (cherry, bubblegum) seems to overpower whatever malt character is present. Strong green apple. Smells like a fruit roll up, no hops.

#1-light burnt/rusty range, hazy, thin white head, good retention
#2-light copper with thin white head that sticks around. Decent clarity

#1-grainy malt, a little caramel, hops are low. Both bitterness and flavors are low, balance is toward malt, finish is very dry, fruity aftertaste, light fruit esters present, green apple and plastic phenolic signs of under attenuation
#2-Malt sweetness, with orange citrus followed by a sweet finish with a low level of hop bitterness. Green apple not nearly as present in aroma. Very fruity.

#1-medium body, medium attenuation, low warming, low to medium creaminess, medium astringency, drying
#2-medium body, medium carbonation, no alcohol warmth or astringency

Overall Impression
#1-Seems underattenuated - yeast derived acetaldehyde present and phenolic - could lower fermentation temperature. Also make sure to use a starter and make sure more yeast is healthy. Get a quickly starting fermentation and make sure to complete before bottling. Just to be sure check sanitation procedure. Good try
#2-Too sweet to be an "easy drinking" beer. Be sure to pitch plenty of healthy/viable yeast, watch fermentation temperature and if all grain adjust mash temp. Up hop bitterness/dryness and lower sweetness to increase drinkability.

#1-Recognized-  25/50
#2-Certified-      29/50
Overall 27/50---Good (21-29)

Alright, so what's to learn from this entry to make the next batch better. First changes will be to lower the mash temperature to 149*f to create a more fermentable wort. Next the fermentation temperature needs to be kept lower, if someone says it "smells like a fruit roll up" it's too warm a ferment and not a to style character in a Blonde ale. I do suspect that the green apple and plastic phenolics one judge kept picking up is from leaving the beer in primary for too long causing flavors from yeast autolysis to enter the beer. It also appears I need to increase the hop presence in the finish. The color was also a little darker than it should be for a Blonde ale, the carapils malt I used is 10*Lovibond, so that's the culprit. This was my first shot at a blonde ale. I think a few minor adjustments will get this beer to score over 30, whatever that means.

This beer went over well at the tasting party. Some people scored it as their favorite of the nine that were served. I called it Dirty Blonde and the description was as follows: "Refreshingly crisp golden ale, brewed with barley & wheat malt. Lightly hopped with whole leaf Willamette for bittering and flavor with a touch of Centennial for aroma. Flavors of toasted bread and floral hop aroma create a balance for this easy drinking ale." 
An inspiration for this series was Peter Kennedy's post More Homebrew Lessons Learned.. Where his beer entries performed less than favorable and I think it took some cajones to post about it. One sentence struck me as positive critical thinking when he said, "Maybe it is time to go back to basics and reset".

Berliner Weisse (Lactobacillus)

A couple of weeks after brewing a no-boil Berliner Weisse using White Labs Berliner Blend WLP630 I brewed another no boil batch this time giving an isolated Lactobacillus strain a head start and then finishing with a clean ale strain a couple weeks later. These are my first couple batches of Berliner Weisse and I'm trying to understand how I can create the flavors I've found in the great commercial and home brewed Berliner Weisse's I've been able to sample. 

So far each batch is very different. To my surprise the White Labs blend is outperforming the isolated Lactobacillus batch in terms of lactic acid production (tartness). The Lactobacillus head start batch tastes more like a very low alcohol wheat beer with a light tang, while the white labs blend batch is puckering and smells like baby diapers. Blended 50/50 they balance each other out. Which I may do at bottling depending how these age. Aged only five months at this point I'll check back in another.

Brewed with Wheat Malt, Torrified Wheat, Unmalted Wheat, Pale Two Row. First wort hopped with Delta. 

Rose Water Wit

A Belgian style White ale brewed with rose water. Belgian style White beer is a refreshing summer beer that is perfect in the kitchen for cooking with and outside to drink by the grill. Traditionally brewed with a large proportion of Wheat in the grist bill and spiced with Orange peel and Coriander. The twist for this batch will the be the addition of rose water.

To make the rose water I steeped roses in warm water overnight.  This "rose water" was then used as the strike water. The bouquet of aromatics from the water the next morning was intense and tasted of perfume, grass, and just plain floral. I felt the White beer style would complement these flavors much the way Hibiscus flowers flavor Dieu du Ciel!'s White beer Rosee de Hibiscus.

Grist bill of N. American two row malt, Wheat Malt, Torrified Wheat, Unmalted Wheat, and Flaked Oats. First wort hopped with locally grown whole leaf Cascade (which are nothing like traditional Cascade) by Chesapeake Hop Co.  Fermented with Wyeast 3463 Forbidden Fruit.

Berliner Weisse (no boil)

Berliner style Weisse beer is from a by gone era, nearly a style forgotten by time. The BJCP style guidelines talks about the history of the style as, "A regional specialty of Berlin; referred to by Napoleon's troops in 1809 as the Champagne of the North due to its lively an elegant character. Only two traditional breweries still produce the product." Thankfully this refreshing, tart, session beer is making a comeback.

In 2008 at the La Fete Bieres & Saveurs in Quebec and I had the privilege of sampling my first Berliner Weisse that happened to be brewed by Hopfenstark. Weighing in at 3% I was amazed at the complexity in such a "small" beer. The grainy, malty background held up with a lactic tang was a shock to my palette. I had recently been indulging in the new, to me, world of sours and this was a wonderful surprise. Up until that point I had only read about this style of sour beer and after a couple of bottles were greatly enjoyed I knew one day I would attempt creating my own Berliner Style Weiss beer.  I've had a few more examples of this style since 2008 but two of the best have been home brewed. One by Jamey Barlow which was spot on and the other by Nate Zeender of DesJardin Brewing which was technically a Kvass style beer, it could have easily passed for it's wheat based cousin.

Since the grist bill is 48% un-malted wheat, 38% base six row malt, and 14% flaked oats I performed a step mash (122*f, 149*f, and mashed out hotter than normal to 185*f, for run off purposes) to break down and convert the un-malted wheat. The high diastatic power of six row malt compared with two row malt will also help to convert the un-malted wheat. I'm using the un-malted wheat instead of wheat malt for a softer mouth feel and I'm trying to get closer to the original grains flavor as possible in the finished beer, very wheaty. Also mash hopped this beer with some locally grown Willamette whole leaf hops. Run off was slow but only had to reset the bed once. After collecting the wort I brought it up to a boil then turned the heat off. Added a little crushed coriander, cooled the wort, knocked out into a carboy,and pitched the yeast blend. The yeast blend was White Labs WLP630 Berliner Weisse Blend. Looking forward to the results many months from now.

Loco Roja IPA

This beer was brewed for a unique home brew competition created by Peter Kennedy of Simply Beer called Iron Brewer. Iron Brewer brings together home brewers from across the country to create a beer from secret ingredients. Like Iron Chef which has one secret ingredient to showcase in all the dishes, Iron Brewer presents three secret ingredients for each brewer to showcase in one beer. After winning the third round with a Bourbon Infused Vanilla Bean Robust Smoked Brown Porter featuring Vanilla, Smoked Malt, and Centennial hops I was invited to compete against the winners of all six rounds for the Iron Brewer championship. In the Championship Round we had to feature Chili Pepper, Crystal 120, and Horizon hops.

When I first heard the ingredients I was surprised by the choice of chili peppers but the challenge of brewing a beer that also featured a strong hop character seemed like a difficult pairing. Then I decided I would just roll the dice and go for it and brew a vibrant red IPA (the red representing the heat of the chili peppers, and the color achieved from crystal 120) with chili peppers.  I didn't know how the hops would meld with the chili peppers flavor and heat. Having never used the Horizon hop variety before I wasn't sure of there flavor either. From what I read they were spicy and earthy. So that was encouraging. Nothing to crazy about the brewing process except I added three quarters of an ounce of re-hydrated and pureed chipotle chili peppers at end of boil to lay a foundation of chili flavor and what I thought would be enough heat. Here's the recipe.

After fermenting with an American Ale strain (Safale US-05) and racked to secondary I realized the heat wasn't where I wanted it to be so I created a red chili pepper tincture in vodka to boost the heat. The beer was dry hopped with two ounces of Horizon hops and keg'd. At which point I added the chili pepper tincture adding the heat to this hoppy red ale. After force carbonating I used a blichmann beer gun to bottle.

You can listen to the tasting of the championship round here, but long story short, I won! The Championship round had some really excellent beers, especially Jim Lavin with a chocolatey chili pepper ale and Jonathan Moxey with a delicious Red Chili IPA. After winning all I could say was "my jaw is dropped". It felt great to be recognized by my peers to have brewed the best beer that day. Looking forward to defending my title in the Championship Round of Batch #2.

8/28/11 Update: With the prize winning money from winning batch #1 of Iron Brewer I built a five tap home brew draft setup.  Nice to be done with cobra party taps at home and pour a pint from a stainless steel faucet. There were a few bottles leftover of this batch so I decided to enter this beer into the Delaware State Fair Home Brew Competition. There was a little age on the batch (5 months) but I thought why not, it fits into category 21a Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer.

#1- Fresh herbal American hop nose. Pepper is a secondary aroma. Malt as well in the background with some caramel malt to support.
#2- Great classic amber ale aroma with hints of pepper hanging out.

#1- Dark reddish-amber color. Creamy off white head with good retention.
#2- Color is deep amber. Great head retention.

#1- Malt up front followed by hops and a bit of chili pepper at the finish. Some berry like fruity esters add a layer of complexity. Balance swings from malt to pepper spicy to hoppy.
#2- Sweet malt up front that fades as you wait for the slow creep of heat. 

#1- Medium body and carbonation. Carbonation adds fullness to mouthfeel. No alcohol warmth, but capsaicin warms the finish. Some creaminess. No astringency
#2- Carbonation is great. Hot on the finish.

Overall Impression
#1- A nicely balanced and well made spice beer. The base style comes through nicely and chili peppers are not overdone. A bit more of a malt balance would push underlying beer closer to the style.
#2- I like the blend of malt and chili peppers. I just can't help but wish it had more hop character.

#1- Grand Master III        36/50
#2- Professional Brewer   37/50   

Overall 37/50---Very Good (30-37)

First place in category winning Best in Style

Chateau Federal Saison

After living together for almost two years my house mate, Josh Tierney, is moving to Portland, Maine to brew for Allagash. Congratulation man! This batch of beer will be our last collaboration at the federal (our house). For this one off batch we pulled out all the stops. Using spices, fruit juice, and a unique yeast choice (for style). Our goal was to brew something that would age well and we could enjoy together for years to come. Taking stock of what was available at the federal we decided to push Wyeast 9097 English Old Ale blend (an attenuative ale strain and a Brettanomyces strain) into Belgian territory by fermenting warm and allowing the Brettanomyces yeast strain to develop (age min. 6 months) a sour and funky character. We also wanted to increase the tropical fruit flavors in the finished beverage so we kicked around the idea of using mangoes, coconuts, pineapples, papaya, and guava. To finally decide on using pineapple juice (best option at store). We then decided to add Coriander, Red Peppercorns, and Saffron to really promote the development of traditional 'Saison' flavors while it ages and melds together. With a starting gravity of 21*Plato (SG 1.084) and potential abv over 9% this is not a shy Saison and anticipation is the only word that comes to mind when thinking about this colloid aging in a glass carboy upstairs. Cheers Josh, looking forward to sharing one in Portland when it's "ready".

Recipe: American Two Row, Honey Malt, Belgian Aromatic Malt, and Acidulated Malt. First wort hopped with UK Golding. Bittered with Super Galena hops. With Cascade and Delta hops added near end of boil.  Ground Coriander, Red Peppercorns, and Saffron at end of boil. Fermented with Wyeast 9097 Old Ale blend.

100% Brettanomyces Brux. Pale Ale

An American style Pale ale 100% fermented with an isolated wild yeast called Brettanomyces Bruxellensis, instead of traditional brewers yeast Saccharomyces Cerevisiae. A hop bill like an American Pale Ale using Amarillo, Chinook, and Centennial hops for a classic grapefruit, pine, citrus flavor hop bite but with a yeast that will impart unique flavors.  Classified under the broad banner of American Wild Ales, one of the most exciting styles being brewed across the country.  This pale ale of sorts is meant to be dry, refreshing, and hoppy, but with a yeast character to add complexity, not overpower the beer.  Planning to keg this beer fairly young so it only has a light funk character that's (hopefully) leaning toward tropical fruit flavors from the yeast to interact with the citrus hop notes.

Grist bill of American Two Row, Munich malt, Flaked Barley, and Belgian Aromatic. Bittered with Chinook hops. Aroma addition at end of boil with Chinook and Amarillo. Dry hopped with Centennial. Fermented with Wyeast 5112 Brettanomyces Bruxellensis.

Raspberry Chocolate Stout

A dessert beer in one of the most obvious forms.  A full bodied stout recipe turned into a beer to make even St. Valentine happy. With the addition of a little raspberry concentrate at the end of boil you can twist an ordinary stout into a beer with a pleasant, but not overpowering fruit flavor (cloyingly sweet). The cocoa powder addition helps to accentuate the chocolate flavors already present from the specialty malts in the recipe. Stouts with fruit are brewed both seasonally and year round at brewpubs across the country since the 1980's.  The flavors of raspberry, cherry, and other fruits are obvious pairings for chocolate forward stout recipes to try this with. Last summer I brewed a Tart Cherry Porter with fresh fruit from my local farmers market that turned out very well, but the concentrate is very easy to work with and tastes great.

Simple grist bill of American two row, flaked barley, crystal 45, pale chocolate malt, and roasted barley. Bittered to balance with super galena. One and a half cups of cocoa powder and twelve fluid ounce of raspberry concentrate added at end of boil. Fermented with Safale US-05.

8/28/11 Update: This batch of beer was entered in the Delaware State Fair competition into the Fruit Beer category 20. As well as featured at my brewery in plannings first tasting event where I described it as follows: "Lava Cake Stout, brewed with organic cocoa powder and raspberries this, dessert in a glass has an aroma bursting of fresh raspberries and chocolate. The complex flavors of dark chocolate are layered with crystal malt, pale chocolate malt, and a touch of roasted barley with just enough raspberries in the finish."

#1- Raspberry right off the bat, some chocolate sweetness, very slight roastiness.
#2- Raspberry and chocolate aroma initially. Toasted and caramel malt. No hops or fruity esters. Clean.
#3- Raspberry and dark chocolate evident right away. Underlying dark grain and low hop aroma as well.

#1- Dark brown bordering on black. Tan head.
#2- Near opaque black. Medium, fizzy tan head, medium to short retention.
#3- Pours low beige head. Falls fast. Color is black.

#1- Tart raspberries up front with some chocolate dryness. Low bitterness leading to additional fruitiness and cocoa powder. Raspberry prominent. Low roast with more chocolate as it warms.
#2- Tart raspberry to start. Chocolate supports with caramel malt. Earth hops. Well fermented, low residual sugar. Balanced beer with dry finish and subdued chocolate.
#3- Tart raspberry fruit with low level of chocolate. Moderate level of roasted grain. Not sure if chocolate is from powder or grain. Medium hop bitterness to balance.

#1- Medium body with medium carbonation.
#2- Medium body and carbonation. Low creaminess. Slightly warming.
#3- Medium carbonation. Medium to light body. Carbonation is soft and creamy.

Overall Impression
#1- Pretty good. Raspberry was spot on but overshadowed chocolate. A bit of roast from roasted barley would also help this beer tremendously. Also needs more body. Not bad.
#2- Nice beer. A longer lasting head with some residual sugars cold make this even better.
#3- First, a blend of fruit and spice (chocolate) better entered in cat. 23. That said, well made. Good use of raspberry but chocolate gets a bit lost in the dark grain flavors. Still, well done!

#1- Recognized    30/50
#2- Certified        35/50
#3- Certified        30/50

Overall 31.6/50---Very Good (30-37)

One thing I've learned from this To Style Series is how subjective judges can be. In hind sight if I had entered this beer into category 20 fruit beer with a base style of Porter instead of Stout and called it a Raspberry Porter with no mention of cocoa powder the beer may have fared better. Picking the best base style is important in many categories. Also, picking the right category is important. I think this is a fruit beer, but one judge mentioned it should have been entered in category 23 spice/herb/vegetable category because of the cocoa powder. I disagree, but this illustrates how important category placement can be and that if you say an ingredient is used in a batch, even just to play a supporting role, since you mentioned it it then becomes a major player in the minds of the drinker.

Entering your beers into competitions helps you get insight into your beer you otherwise wouldn't have. Most times judges offer constructive feedback about your beer and this will always help you to become a better brewer. 

Oud Bruin with Figs & Raspberries

My FunkHouse (beers with wild yeast and/or bacteria) is growing rapidly as of late last year and into two thousand eleven. I now have over thirty gallons of beer getting "funky". It's been an exciting new realm of brewing that's pushing my understanding of malt, hops, water, and Yeast (especially fermenter's besides Saccharomyces Cerevisiae). Watching pellicle's grow on the top of some, while smelling and tasting what's happening along the way.  It's amazing the flavor development taking place from the use of Brettanomyces Bruxellensis, Brettanomyces Lambicus, Lactobiccullus, and Pediococcus.

My next foray into the world of sours is an Oud Bruin brewed with Figs & Raspberries. Knocked out January 16th and pitched Wyeast Roeselare Yeast Blend 3763. I used this yeast blend in my Flemish style Red brewed November 2010 and the flavors are developing in the same direction I would like this Oud Bruin to go.

A layered grist bill of Munich Malt, US Two Row, Belgian Aromatic, Honey Malt, Belgian Cara 60, Briess Chocolate Wheat, and Thomas Fawcett Chocolate Malt. Target color is 15*SRM, a dark ruby edged color that fades to chocolate in the middle of the glass. A ninety minute boil for extra kettle caramelization and a more dextrinous wort.  At the end of boil four liquid ounces of Fig concentrate and Raspberry concentrate each was added at start of cool down and stirred in.  This is to boost the abv some and add a layer of complexity to this Bruin (may add fresh fruit from farmers market this summer when racked to 2nd). With a starting gravity of 18*Plato (1.072SG) this is no lightweight Oud Bruin. Looking for this one to be ready sometime early in two thousand twelve, tasting along the way to see how it develops. Did I mention, this is fun!

Saison d'Brettanomyces Bruxellensis

Fermented with a Saison yeast strain then inoculated with Brettanomyces Bruxellensis. Over the last few years this has become a very popular style across the country.  A great example of this reinvigorated style is brewed by Boulevard Brewing Co.'s Saison-Brett, which I've had the chance of trying and was quite impressed.  The use of Brettanomyces also helps to dry out the Saison, a problem in many American brewed Saison's. For me the Saison style should have a final gravity below 2.5*Plato (1.010SG), many of my Saison style beers I've brewed finished around said gravity but they still don't seem dry enough to compare to Saison Dupont, the definitive Saison. Fellow home brewer Jamey Barlow just kicked ass with his at Batch 300 the Bruery competition (I've had it, it rocked!).

Knocked out into primary January 16th. After fermenting in primary with a Saison yeast strain I racked to secondary where I inoculated the beer with Brettanomyces Bruxellensis (BB). I'll allow to age in secondary for 2-3 months at which point I'll begin tasting the beer to see how much BB character is present. Also, thinking about dry hopping at some point closer to bottling depending on how the flavors develop.

Recipe: American Pale Malt, Gambrinus Honey Malt, and Belgian Aromatic. First wort hopped with Citra, bittered with Super Galena, and finished with more Citra. Starting gravity of 17.8*Plato (1.071SG)