Tagged ‘homebrew‘

Strawberry Belgian Blonde Tasting

Strawberry Belgian Blonde

The first keg of 11 gallons of strawberry Belgian Blonde ale is drinking quite nicely after only a week in the keg. Since I cold-infused the fruit at 34 degrees, I went ahead and boost-carbed the batch. 30 hours at 30psi made for a quickly-drinkable beer, and it’s gained just a slight bit of dryness on the tonge as the carbonation has leveled off this week. The opaque haze isn’t surprising given the beer was fermented with Wyeast 3944 (Belgian Witbier), though I am surprised how little it’s cleared given how cold the beer was for over a week. Side effect of the fruit? This brewer can’t say. The beer picked up just the slightest hint of red from the strawberries, which left it a pleasant pale orange.

Appearance – Pours with a pearl-white, single finger head that recedes slowly to a white ring around the glass. Body is a thick haze of orange and gold.

Aroma – Light notes of strawberries backed with a touch of spice. Smells sweet initially, but leaves you with enough yeast notes to know it’s a belgian underneath.

Taste –  Strawberry flavor is present, but not overwhelming, and gives way to some of the belgian spice typically present with this yeast. The balance between the strawberry flavor and the underlying beer style is as nice as I could’ve hoped. At first sip, it seems on the sweet size, but the finish is dryer on the back of the tongue, and gives the beer a more balanced feel.

Mouthfeel – Really soft carbonation. I may just be a bit early in tapping this keg, but I think the added sweetness from the strawberries covers up what would have been a lighter body.

Overall Impression & Notes – I entered this in the Award of Brewing program (read about it here) at my club meeting Wednesday and received a 33. I was dinged for slightly low cabonation & haze (both expected), and it was suggested to use more fruit overall. I’d argue that would mess up the balance, but I’m not a BCJP judge either.

Personally, this is probably one of the better homebrews I’ve made to date, or certainly one of the more approachable. It’s a bit sweet to be an everyday drinker, but  very refreshing, and I was aiming for something tasty, but light as summer wanes. I may let the second keg warm to room temp for a week or two and see if the added sweetness from the strawberries ferments out, but leaves some strawberry aroma and flavor behind, but I’m very happy with this first keg.


Brewed – Dead Ringer

Rebel Mill

As far as IPA recipes go, Northern Brewer’s Dead Ringer kit is as straightforward as they come. NB has been sold out of Centennial hops for some time now, so I was sent 5 ounces of “Centennial-Type” hops from Hop Union. There’s a brief writeup found on the NB blog explaining that these are 70% Cascade, 30% Columbus. Substitutions notwithstanding, this was a pretty relaxed brewday for me.

With groundwater temps in the low 70s, I was again forced to knock out around 85° and throw the sealed fermenter in the fridge to cool before pitching. Actually, it’s still in the fridge on it’s way to 64°; I’ll most likely pitch in the morning, so I’m calling this Two-Parted on account of my brewday and pitch being non-contiguous.

The grist for this batch is 11# two-row, 1# crystal 40L. I love the color of this wort:

Dead Ringer Wort Sample

Sometime in the future I’d like to do a split batch of this grain bill and brew half with all Centennial (actual Centennial) hops, and half with all Columbus. Right now, I’m intent on building up my pipeline a bit again and getting my kegorator filled with beer I want to drink for the next few months. Fall is always a busy time at our house, and I spend most of my weekends chasing pheasants with my dog.


  • Batch Size: 5.5 gallons
  • Total Grist: 12 pounds
  • O.G: 1.060
  • F.G:
  • Brewhouse Efficiency: 75%
  • Boil Time: 60 minutes


  • 11# US Two-row
  • 1# Crystal 40L


  • .75oz Hop Union Centennial-type @ 60m
  • 1oz Hop Union Centennial-type @ 20 m
  • 2oz Hop Union Centennial-type @ 5 m


  • Irish Moss – 1tsp @ 15 minutes remaining


2012/08/05 – Brewed late-afternoon. Knocked out 5.5 gallons at 85°.  Fermenter went into the fridge about 8pm to chill to pitching temps. Was still at 77° at 11:30pm, so I left it to chill to 64° overnight.

2012/08/06 – Wort given 60 seconds of oxygen; Decanted and pitched a 1600mL starter.

SP-10 Keggle Supports

When I started putting gear together to make the leap to all-grain brewing back in early Spring 2010, I was able to snag a Bayou Classic SP-10 on sale for a cool $35 (free shipping) from Amazon. There are countless threads on debating the SP-10 vs SQ-14. The usual tradeoff is that the SP-10 offers a higher BTU rating (185K vs 55K), but the SQ-14 has a square stand, so you could use it to direct-fire a keggle.

Since my acquiring a keg shell seemed like an impossibility, the round stand on the SP-10 didn’t seem like an issue, and I knew it was large enough to boil a 10-gallon batch. However, when I found a keg shell destined for a scrap heap for only $30, I couldn’t pass that up, and so I needed to find a solution to the round stand without buying a second burner. There are a few variations of this, but I thought it worthwhile to offer up my $15 solution.

SP-10 Keggle Supports

For $12 worth of 1.5″ angle iron, some time with a hacksaw and a drill, and a few dollars worth of bolts, I ended up with a damn sturdy base. While it’s not the most well-crafted metalwork I’ve ever done, the angle iron transfers all of the weight to the load-bearing parts of the existing stand, rather than putting torque on the circular steel that forms the outer ring, as I’ve seen on some other mods. The whole setup might put this toward the overkill end of the spectrum, but when there’s 12 gallons of boiling wort perched on top of an 8″ flame, I’m inclined to eliminate as many instabilities as possible.

Bayou Classic SP-10 mod

By far, the worst part of this project was the fact that the stand isn’t perfectly round. I ended up tracing the top on a piece of cardboard, and using that to measure and lay out my cuts, but as you can see, it wasn’t perfect. It took a lot of cursing and fighting with c-clamps to keep the 4 pieces together enough to get holes drilled in the corners for the bolts. It fit almost snug enough to hold itself to the stock stand, I decided to put bolts thru 2 of the sides to lock it together as one solid piece for a little extra piece of mind.


Rebel Mill Unboxing & Review

Since these are still pretty rare compared to the ubiquitous Barley Crusher, I wanted to do a quick write up with a bunch of photos showing my new Rebel Mill from Rebel Brewer. Tom, the founder, has been offering the first several rounds of mills for $180 and has been reserving the initial shipments for members of Homebrew Talk as they become available.

Because of my close proximity to the Twin Cities, I order nearly all my homebrew supplies from either Northern Brewer or Midwest Supplies, which usually means overnight shipping. This was my first order from Rebel Brewer, which is based out of Goodlettsville, Tennessee. You can imagine my surprise when the mill made it’s way over 1000 miles to my doorstep less 48 hours after placing the order.

Rebel Mill Packaging

Read more →

Brewhouse Efficiency Primer

Having about 15 all-grain batches under my belt, I have a pretty solid grasp of my equipment and I’ve done well at hitting my brew-day numbers with one nagging exception: original gravity.

In all-grain brewing, OG is a product of brewhouse efficiency, a simple calculation using the amount and type of grains and volume of wort produced. It essentially describes how well brewers are able to extract sugars from a grain bill, measured against the theoretical maximum gravity that might be obtained from said grains.  A oft-used rule used by homebrewers is to aim for 75% if you’re unsure what to expect. As an example, if we apply that to a grain bill like the following…

  • 8# Marris Otter
  • 1# Crystal 40L
  • 8oz Carapils
…we can expect our OG to be 1.053 for 5 gallons of wort. If your pre-boil gravity is 6.5 gallons, you should expect that wort to be 1.041 before it’s boiled down. So having glossed over the math entirely, the point I’m really getting at is this:

Brewer’s Axiom #17: In order to craft recipes and make an informed expectation about the kind of beer a given grain bill will produce, a brewer must know his expected brewhouse efficiency

I made that up just now, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

At the homebrew scale, grain crush is a primary driving factor in one’s brewhouse efficiency, and it’s the first thing to look at if you’re getting consistently low or sporadic numbers (people mess with the mill gap at homebrew shops constantly).  I started to realize just how big of a problem this has been for me while cleaning up from my New Years Day brew, which was Northern Brewer’s Extra Pale Ale kit. They list an expected OG of 1.045, which is about 70% efficiency based on a final volume of 5 gallons and the grain bill they list. I hit that volume dead on, but my gravity was a paltry 1.038, or 61% efficiency. The beer is drinkable, but only just. It tastes overly sweet  given the low alcohol level in the final beer (3.68% vs 4.59% expected). I dubbed it the Extra Mild Ale.

Just before mash-in, I looked at the crushed grains and thought, “That is waaay too course”, but there was little I could do at that point but brew, so brew I did. I thought this was an isolated incident, but after the brew was in the fermenter, I pulled out my brew sheets and found my efficiency has ranged anywhere from 59% to 78%, which is too wide a gap to base any recipes on. It’d be better to be be consistently at 60% than all over the board, so I set about to solving the issue the best way that I could: buying a mill.

I wanted something that would last me, made by a company that would stand behind their product if it didn’t. I settled on the mill that Rebel Brewer is having manufactured under their name. It arrived a couple weeks ago, and I was able to use it for the latest round of my India Rye Ale.

I’ll have a full writeup coming this week covering the unboxing and crush in-depth, along with some numbers to go along with it, but my initial impressions are nothing but good. This thing is built to last, and I’m excited to put it through it’s paces this spring with some more batches.

Stay tuned!

Rebel Mill

Friday Photo – India Brown Ale

India Brown Sample, day 6

Pretty stoked with how this beer is coming along. Even with the lower-than-expected OG (brown sugar didn’t dissolve as planned in the boil), it’s going to be a well-balanced beer, and will definitely merit a second attempt, perhaps early this fall.