Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Easy Muggle Beer

You've heard me use the term before.  Muggle.   But what the heck is a Muggle?  In the wizarding world of Harry Potter a muggle is a non magical person.   In our brewing world.   A muggle is a person who doesn't care for craft beer.   And they are everywhere.   They show up when you least expect them, and they want to "try" some of your home brew.

You know how the scene plays out.  You pour them an award winning Stout, or an amazing DIPA that you and your wizarding friends know is damn near world class (because let's face it home made beer is amazing when you get it right).   And they politely take a sip or two, and then leave the rest, oping instead for a Miller Lite.

I say put an end to this misanthropy, this afrrontery to all we hold dear.  Put an end the waste of beer before it happens.   Always have some home made muggle beer on hand.   As you know I have an affinity for cream ales.   But not boring cream ales.   I like my cream ales with some body, and some character.   This beer, is not that beer.  This beer is designed to be an American Pub ale.  A basic yellow fizzy beer.   This is the beer for right after you more the lawn.   With just enough hop character to know it is in fact a beer, around 21 IBUs.   A basic beer that will taste far better than the BMC crap they drink.  Good enough that you will enjoy it too.

Here is my basic yellow beer.   BYB.  Now when a muggle asks to try your beer you can say "Be Right Back with some BYB"

The Grist

Water preparation.   I will use 1 tsp of 5.2 stabilizer for this batch.

5.5 # of Pilsner (or pale ale malt, or even two row)
.5 #   of Corn Sugar
.5 #   of Cara Pils
.2 #   of Cara 40

Mash at 150 ish for 60 to 75 minutes.   In truth, I mash in low, then rise to 149-150 then rest for 60 minutes.

The hops.

.5 oz of Cluster at 60  Why cluster?   Why not?
.5 Saaz at 30
.5 Saaz at 5

No dry hops, no randall, no hop back, no whirlpool...  it's just basic beer.

The yeast and other stuff

1 package of US05
1 tsp of irish moss
1 tsp of yeast nutrient

Ferment cool.  lower 60s  Ill probably ferment at 64 F. ish.

Fermentation will take about 10 days.   Then fine with gelatin.  And bottle or keg.   That's it.  Simple good basic beer,  your muggle friends will love it and you just might enjoy it too.  

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Make a starter with no stir plate, Make a lager with no fermentation chamber... What?

This easy to brew beer actually won an NHC
Award in the light American Lager, and
Without a lagering fridge.

Easy Lager with No Fermentation Chamber

Here is a recipe for you all.   A simple down to earth lager recipe for those of you who think you can't make a lager because you don't have a lager fridge.  This is a simple recipe, it is nearly impossible to screw up.   The recipe features California Lager Yeast,  this yeast has been hybridized over a hundred years to perfom just fine at low ale temperatures.  You'll need to use liquid yeast for this, there is no dry equivalent, Wyeast 2112 or WLP 810, both work fine.  You will need multiple packs, or you will need a starter.  My calculator on brewtoad says you'll need 285 to 290 billion cells to ferment this cleanly, and maximize attenuation.  No worries.  Just make a starter...

You can make a starter if you have a 1 gallon fermenter.   You do not have to have a stir plate or an Erlenmeyer Flask.   All you need is a pot, some DME, your yeast, a 1 gallon jug, and an air lock... So how do you do this?   It's easy... and it happens to be step one of making this beer.

A 1 Gallon fermenter is all you need to make big, baddahz
Yeast Starters.  You don't even need a stir plate.
You should make your starter 72-96 hours before brewday.   So Tuesday night, if you're brewing on Saturday.  Wednesday morning at the latest.  Hours before you will begin your starter you need to smack your pack, and remove it from the fridge. If you are using WLP810 just remove it from the fridge.  Put 3 liters of water into a pot and bring it to a boil with 1.5 cups of DME and 1/8th of a teaspoon of yeast nutrient.  Let it chill down to room temperature.  Then chill it to about 60-62 F.   Yes these yeasts do fine at low ale temps, but not high ale temps, not 68 -72 F, so try to get them both under 65... While the yeast is chilling, sanitize your 1 gallon jug and your air lock.  You could get by with out an air lock... but why? Chances are if you have a one gallon jug,  you have an air lock for that jug.   Now that the yeast and the DME solution are both at temperature, pitch the yeast into the DME (wort).  Next, take a piece of sterile saran wrap or aluminum foil and cover the opening.... now shake the bejezus out of it.   Get all that good oxygen down into solution.   Now here is the hard part... every time you walk by your starter, give it a good mix.  Just pick it up and give it a shake, or a good swirl.  You want that oxygen down into the starter.   That's it. Just shake it up when you walk by.  Call your wife when you're at work and have her do it a couple of times too... or train your dog to do it. Stop shaking it the day before brew day,  The night before brewday cold crash your starter.   On brew day you can decant off the"beer" And just save the creamy wonderful yeast that is on the bottom.   I like brewuniteds yeast calculator.... for our batch we may actually build up extra to harvest for future batches.  I'll definitely be saving the yeast when this batch is done.  All of the yeast.  I covered this earlier, but if you didn't see it, woodland brewing research has shown that

This is an all grain recipe.  If you want a partial mash version of it... I'll happily post a link.  If you want an extract version... well... It doesn't work so well. Pilsen liquid extract is kinda dark.  It just doesn't look right when you brew it extract. Pilsner DME might work, but I haven't tried it...

Counterbrew Champagne Lager  
OG  1.040
FG  1.013 (with care early in fermentation you can get this down to 1.008, and that is low enough)
BJCP Category:  1a
IBUs   12 - 15
SRM  1 - 2
ABV 3.77% to 4.3% depending upon how low you can push the FG.

Grain Bill

6.5 # of pilsner malt
.5 #  of carapils
.5 # of corn sugar (dextrose) late boil

Mash at 148-150 for 60 minutes.  I use 3.5-4  gallons of strike water, and then I rinse to volume.  
I adjust the water with 5.2 stabilizer.  Sometimes acid mix, often gypsum.

Hop Bill
.6 ounces of hallertauer at 60 mnutes
.4 ounces of hallertauer at 15 minutes.
.5 ounces of hallertauer dry hop 4 days.

Wyeast 2112 California lager - make a starter as described above or 3 smack packs

1 tsp of Irish Moss Late in the boil
1 tsp of Yeast Nutrient Late in the boil
1 tsp of Fermaid K yeast Nutrient, when High Krausen is subsiding.
Maybe 1 tsp of amylase enzyme if the fermaid K doesn't drop the lager to under 1.010.

Fermentation Schedul
You have to aerate a lager.  I use an aquarium pump.   I will aerate this for 25 to 30 minutes.
Ferment in the low 60s Fahrenheit, (Ill make 3-4 batches in the winter and ferment in my basement). When the Krausen starts to fall, I will add the Fermaid K and give the fermenter a swirl, with out aerating.
After another week Ill check the gravity, if it hasn't fallen enough, I'll add amylase enzyme.

This beer will be brewed soon.  We will follow the beer through the process with reports and photos of the process and the progress.   We will show you that by being aware of your environment and by using time tested common sense approaches and techniques... you too can brew a great light american lager.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Overshooting gravity... is still missing the mark

Early Saturday morning Mark and I set out to brew a clone of Stella Artois, that we were calling Soldier Svejk.  In all honesty it is a warm up for a real Czech Pils we'll be doing soon.  Stella is good beer.  In my world, I judge a beer by how it tastes.  Not by whether or not it was brewed at a factory rather than a brewery.

Anyway, Saturday morning we set to make a stella clone.  Things went well with the mash. We doughed in and hit our target temp.  And aside from the mash getting too hot at the end (which isn't really a problem) the mash was uneventful.

Now this batch was a partial mash.  So we followed my time tested, award winning, ultimately awesome, process for partial mash.   We BIAB mashed in the turkey fryer,  We added 2 gallons of water in which we had dissolved the Pilsen LME,  We sparge rinsed to volume.  And that is when the trouble started.   Our Initial gravity was way high.  When I partial mash, I plan on only getting 70-75% efficiency.  We got 92%.   Freaking 92%.  now a lot of you would be excited by this.   Overshooting is certainly better than undershooting.   I however was not amused.    Overshooting is still a flaw in the process. Overshooting means your beer will not have the bitterness you expected from the hops.
Overshooting mean, your beer will not have the alcohol content you planned.  Overshooting means you will have to baby sit your freaking primary fermentation to help make sure the yeast gets down to where you planned.  (yes there are things you can do to improve attenuation, more to follow)  So, although overshooting by a point or two on a batch is kinda cool, overshooting by 10 points is not cool.

Here is the good news.   It was a really fun brew day.  Even when you goof up, brewing is still a blast.  Even figuring out what to do to fix your screw up is a great time.  In our case, we added additional hops.   Had we not, we would have had a beer that was no where close to what we had wanted.  I had some Nugget in the freezer.  It is powerful ju ju, with a whopping 14.4% alpha acid.  Just barely under .2 ounces of nugget took our IBUs back up to where they belonged.

So how did we know what to do?  Experience.  How did we plan what to do?  Technology.  You have to use brewing software when you brew.  I prefer and continue to promote  It is so easy to use.  And on days like this, the ease of use shines.  Of all the things I promote and talk to you all about on this blog, this is among the most important.   Purchase and use brewing software,  you just have to.   Well you don't have to, but if you don't,  you are a loathsome scallywag and the angels weep for you.   When you are using brewing software you can use the software not only to plan the recipe, but also to make the corrections.   In our case we opened the recipe and began increasing the efficiency until the predicted starting gravity matched our hydrometer test.    This of course showed us that our IBUs would be too low, at the higher gravity.   So we then went to the freezer and looked at my pitifully low selection of hops.  Nugget was the right choice, helped us determine that .17 ounces was just about perfect to keep the IBUs where we wanted them.

Mark had Star Wars tickets for noon, so we made the decision to "No Chill" this batch.   I wont go over no chill again.   Basically you wrap up your pot and let the beer come to pitch temps naturally.   The batch was ready for pitch by noon the next day (today) but my beloved Kansas City Chiefs were on the television.  So the yeast got pitched at 3.   The yeast was another adventure.  I was rehydrating  Fermentis 34/70.  It was in a mason jar on the counter.  Unfortunately one of the hobbits who lives here, chose today as the only day they ever clean the kitchen.  This particular hobbit thought the yeast was milk that had gone bad... down the drain.... rinsed out, and actually set on the rack to dry.... what the what?  You had to pick today to actually clean up something?   Not to worry, I am a full metal brewing geek.  I have plenty of yeast in the garage fridge.   I pitched 2 pints of some Wyeast 2112 yeast slurry.   This is a lager yeast that performs ok at ale temperatures, and very well at low ale temperatures.  So rather than fermenting in the garage, the beer is happily fermenting in the basement.    The only snafu with 2112 is that it doesn't attenuate as well as 34/70.  But attenuation is apparent, and if you know the tricks you can make any beer attenuate out almost completely.   So... more to come on that as I babysit this beer to awesomeness.   I will be writing a couple of posts on this beer, and how to make a beer come out great... even when you goof.

Up coming blogs.

  • How to maximize attenuation - come along on this magical journey where I show you how to get a beer to attenuate out all the way.  Even when the yeast doesn't want to cooperate.
  • How to adjust flavor before bottling.  I will be showing you how to make your own hop potions.  I will be making sure that Soldier Svejk is awesome with a combination of homemade hop shot,  Home made flavor shot, and with dry hops.   Well get this soldier home.
  • New Years Day Lager brew... The brew crew will be continuing our series of lager brews.  Probably a Maibock, and hopefully either a Czech Pils, or a Premium American Lager.    

Thanks as always for reading... happy brewing.  Prost!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

This weekend... Stella Clone

We make lagers in the winter here for consumption in early spring.  We like to take advantage of the cold Kansas winters.  Our basements and garages turn into perfect places for lagering.  In truth  I can lager small batches year round... well to be honest I can lager a full 5 gallon batch but that is another story.   The point of counterbrew is to help new and intermediate brewers grow into some of the more intimidating aspects of home brew.  To help remove the fears associated with all grain brewing, with partial mash and with things like lagering.  If you like me have a spot or two in your home that stays around 52 F all winter long... make some lagers.

For me, on top of the fridge in the garage is the perfect spot.  It stays right at 50-54 all winter long.  it doesn't seem to matter if it is 32 F or -4 F outside.  It stays right around 50.   How do I know?  Simple, I put a thermometer up there.  When I walk out to the garage fridge, I check the temperature.  Last year, it stayed right around 52 all winter long.  I think in part it is from the heat coming off the Refrigerator, and from the kitchen, which is just on the other side of the wall.

So this weekend, MA and I intend to put up some Stella Clone, that we are calling Soldier Svejk.   Soldier Svejk is a Czech legend.   Not a true legend, but still an inspiration to the Czech people.  So why are we naming an American Lager, made in Leuven, packaged in Germany, by a company from Belgium / St Louis, after a Czech Legend?   Simple, originally Stella was Belgium's answer to the growth of Bohemian Lagers.   It is light, and crisp and assertively ( although no aggressively) hopped with Saaz hops.   And Saaz hops are Bohemian, and Bohemia is Czech.  So there.

This beer will be a partial mash.  My favorite way to brew.  Here is the recipe.

If you have never checked out brewtoad.  You should.  It is the easiest brewing software I have ever used.  The tools and calculators continue to improve.  The customer service is fantastic.

Some quick updates for you.

  • My golden bret beer has started bubbling away again.  Not aggressive action but some.  Everytime I drink a sour I pour the dregs in... I know that flies in the face of what you have read... but the choices were pour it out, or pour in the bret... I chose the later.
  • My Champagne Lager has finished primary and is ready for transfer into secondary.  Ill handle that this weekend.  I want it off of the yeast.  Ill save the 2112 yeast one last time.  That makes 4 batches out of that yeast.  I never go more than 5. I dont think I posted about this one.  Think it was just for me.
  • The groups, Belgian Strong Dark ale, with brown sugar, d180, pureed dried plums has finished primary.  It needs also to be racked and aged.   MA and I will probably handle that.  Ill save what I can of the yeast.  Probably give to friends and any one who wants it in KC.  We don't get WLP 500 year round so you make it last. 
  • The 2.25 gallon  light lager is force carbing right now, in 3,  2 liter bottles.  You may recall that was one of the batches made with 34/70 at ale temps.  It takes longer when you force that yeast to perform at 64 F.  But it does ok and eventually cleans up into a great lager.  
That's all for now.... Prost!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Saturday Brew Day... Cream Ale.   John's First Recipe for the team.
John and Jake trying
Pliny the Petulant

Every now and then you need to to a "process control brew".   A brew that reveals any and all of the potential flaws in your process.   A brew that can't hide any of these problems.   For us... that brew is a very light ale.  Cream ale or Blonde Ale.   Today, it was a cream ale.   So what separates a blonde ale from a cream ale?  They are very similar afterall.  And today's batch was mostly Rahr 2 row malt.  Perfect for cream ale.  Rahr 2 row should be a part of your regular brewing regimen. 

The things that separates a blonde ale from a cream ale are two fold.  1.  Cream ales almost always have corn and or rice in them.   And they always have an adjunct grain  of some kind. Blonde Ales only have barley in them, base and crystal.  2.   Cream ales almost always feature noble hops, or the american version of a noble hop.  Blonde ales often feature another type of hop.  i.e. biermunchers centennial blonde.  Cascade, centennial,  even citra are used in blondes some times.  

I'm actually a big fan of cream ales.  Not only do they taste delicious.  They protect your inventory of more esoteric beer from the muggle hoards who want to "try" your home brew.   You know the type,  friends of your wife who think bud is actually the king of beer.    These people are dangerous to your inventory.

forgot the grate we normally
use, had to raid the oven.
So we set out to brew a cream ale.   John wrote a great recipe.   And we started early Saturday morning.   Well early for the millennials, for me... a certified Gen Xer... it felt like noon.

We doughed in at 156.9 hoping to mash at 149.  But we had a tough time maintaining temperatures.  First time with the electric rig at Johns house.  Now that may seem like a cop out, but trust me, it is not.  The power in the older homes is wildly inconsistent.  We eventually figured out that turning off the accent lights in the family room, gave us consistent power, and mash temps.  It was Me, John, and Jake this week.  MA having fallen victim to some dreaded illness... So, other than the temperature fluctuations, the mash was uneventful.  We followed our normal, taste and see mash method.    The mash was done in just under 65 minutes.  Remember, a mash with corn in it is going to take longer.  The enzymes in the barley have to convert the corn as well...

Despite the ups and downs of our mash, we still exceeded our targeted SG.  This time we just barely overshot.  We hit 82.3% efficiency.  Which is a little low for Johns house.  So that tells us the inconsistent mash did have an effect on our efficiency.

The boil was straight forward with on 3 additions, Mt. Hood, Liberty, and Liberty.  We wanted to stick with American hybrids of noble styles.    This beer after all was originally created by American brewers to compete with light lagers.

Here is the cajun injector in action during our boil.  It really does well with the lid on but ajar like that.  It is so rigorous, and vents so well, DMS is never a problem.

At the end of the boil, we used both immersion chillers to cool the batch.  That is parallel 50 linear feet of cooling power.  The chill only took 15 minutes, for a 5.5 gallon batch.  For fun we left the thermometer in the pot,  It was cool to watch the needle sink so fast.

After chill down, we aerated for a good 25 minutes with the aquarium pump, and then we pitched a very healthy Fermentis S04.  Fermentis says you don't have to rehydrate any more.  But we always do.  We actually rehydrate at the beginning of our brew day.  Lots of guys think because you don't have to rehydrate... you shouldn't.  I'm sure Kevin and the gang at Fermentis would still agree it is preferable to rehydrate.   With the billions and billions of cells we get from a dry yeast package there is no reason to make a starter.  By rehydrating 4 or so hours before pitching, we get amazing yeast action.  Our beers are bubbling away with in hours of pitching.

Overall it was a great brew day.  We were shooting for 1.048, we got 1.052.  So we overshot a bit, but not too bad.   This should be an amazing cream ale.  John reports that the active portion of fermentation is largely over.   The S04 was so healthy and in such a healthy environment that it took off like a rocket.  We'll let it sit for a while to clean up before bottling.  But it is really cool to see such a healthy fermentation.

Friday, December 11, 2015

home roasted grains .. lager... continued crazy from the kitchen

So I brew a lot.  I brew a lot with my brew crew, but we also all brew some on our own.   This brew day was on my own.  An all grain standard american lager with home roasted grains.   I have been reading recently on barleypopmaker's blog about roasting your own grains and about making specialty grains right at home.   It is a great read.   I have also been reading on makingbeerthehardway about malting.  But we are experiencing a richness of malt right now due in part to the support of BSG and Rahr.  So malting will have to wait for another day.   I want to encourage you again if you haven't checked out BSG, you should.  They are the premier wholesaler of products to your local home brew store.  But if you know what they carry you can encourage your local homebrew store to order it for you... and they carry everything.

So, back to home roasting grains.   I believe that fresh ingredients make a huge deal...kinda...  here is what I mean.   Fresher hops are always better, fresher specialty grains are always better,  fresher base malt... doesn't matter that much.  After all, kilning, and drying grains were originally methods of preserving grains.  They last for years, when properly stored.   Or so I have heard... I brew so much I wouldn't know.  a 50 lbs sack of grains lasts about 2 months around here.  inspired by barley pop maker I decided to follow his process for making golden roasted malt, I took .5 lbs of two row and paved it on a cookie sheet.  I put it in the oven for 20 minutes at 300 f.  The whole house smelled amazing.

No flavor or aroma can truly describe the snell.  Bread and nuts and roast.  Amazing. 
It should have been a 20 lovibond grain.  I thought it looked like 20.  But i was way off.  It had to be closer to 60 lovibond.    My oven must be a beast.   Because my standatd lager looks like a bock.  But I am undeterred, I will be roasting more grains myself. But I will add them to the mash differently, later in the mash to control color.   And I will be using an oven thermometer when I roast.     Making adjustments and learning is essential to getting better. 

I followed my standard brew in a bag with sparge rinse procedures.    I mashed at 152 for 60 minutes, then sparged to volume.  I then began the boil as normal. Added noble hops 3xs, chilled with 50 l ft of dual coil action. 

The brew came out way darker than anticipated.   So what to call it... it isn't technically high enough to be a bock, but it is clearly way way to dark to call a standard american lager.   So Im open to suggestions.

By the way, I hope you when you chill your stuff, you save as much of your water as you can.   I use the water from chilling to clean my gear.  To sanitize the fermenter,  to clean other brew gear. I'm not exactly a big environmentalist but... one planet, one chance...

Sunday, December 6, 2015

2xs the fun Brewday action for you... first the BSDA...

Yup... Im officially insane... no we're not, we're enthusiastic... No quiet voices in my head!... I will write this post... not you... filthy nasty little hobbitses...   I did it again 2 batches in a weekend.   Saturday morning the brew crew assembled early (well early for us) and we set out to brew a Belgian Strong Dark Ale...  And boy did we brew one.  A monster at 1.082  Pushing the outer limits of the OG for the style.

As you can see we milled our grains fine. Special thanks to MA the malt grist machine for coming early and helping me power through the grains.   We also sampled some amazing beers.   Ill let John make a comment below to tell us all what they were.    One of them was an all bret sour, so naturally the dregs got added to my bret sour.  Which should be ready by summer.

Now this was a partial mash batch.   Hopefully many of you have read my partial mash process by now.  It uses 3 pots.  The electric turkey fryer,  a pot to dissolve the DME/LME, and a sparge pot.  I know it sounds complicated, but it really isn't bad at all.   The set up allows you to brew high og beers in the turkey fryer.

We mashed 8 lbs of grains at 154 for an hour,   We used Rahr 2 row malt.  It is awesome.   Nutty and kinda sweet.   Love this malt.  We also used some biscuit, and some Cara 75.   Yes w used pale ale 2 row not pilsner.  But we did use pilsner LME. Then added the water in which the extract had been dissolved (3.3 pilsner liquid and 2 lbs of light DME, and 1 lbs of wheat malt DME)  Then we sparged to volume.   See?  Simple.  We nailed our gravity.   We were shooting for 1.080 and we came in at 1.082 after boil.     I'd love to tell you that the boil was uneventful but we kinda forgot to add the candi syrup.  So when we were transferring to the fermenter we stole some wort, brought it to 165 added the d180 to dissolve, then added more wort to temper it down to temperature, then into the fermenter.   There is always a solution when you screw up.  You just have to think your way through things.     We also removed a couple of cups of wort and used it to puree 6 oz of dried prunes.... yes prunes.  If you want a super raisin taste in your BDSA try prunes.   But put them in a bag and use them like a hop.   You don't want all that prune fiber in your final wort. I know it sounds crazy, but give it a try.

We chilled the batch using the 2 coil 50' set up.   We went from 212 to pitch temps in about 12 minutes.  Awesome.   But I have to say if the jaded chillers can do better... I still want one.

We pitched 2 different Belgian yeasts.   We pitched Wyeast 1214 Monastery yeast, and a pint of WLP 500 that I had on hand.   As of Sunday morning the batch was bubbling away nicely with a beautiful krausen.   Cant wait to taste this beer.

Bonus photo for you.  Starsan does some cool stuff.  in this photo we are sanitizing the aeration stone and the fermenter.   This weird star san snake just kinda formed itself.

And by sunday morning before church, the Belgian Dark Strong Ale was bubbling away.   Love that air lock action.  I don't ever trust it for determining if a beer is ready to bottle or transfer but it sure is cool to get some tactile confirmation of success.   Right?

This one is fermenting in the kitchen.  It is a Belgian after all.  I want those temperatures up at the high end of the fermentation range.   That is a real key to getting the belgian notes.  The color is spot on.  It is now Monday morning and it is still bubbling away nicely.  It is too dark to see much of the party the yeast is having inside but with the flash light on my cell phone, I can see things moving all over the place.

Thats all for now sports fans.  Prost!

UPDATE: 1/29/16  The BDSA fermented to 1.008.  French oak chips were soaked in bourbon, and then added to a secondary fermenter.  The BDSA was transferred onto the chips.  That was about a month ago.  The beer is ready for bottling.  It is oaky, but not very bourbony.  But it is delicious.

Friday, December 4, 2015

What the heck is Partial Mash?

First of all thank you for all of the questions and comments.  You all keep me on my toes.

Recently there have been a lot of questions about partial mash.   If you read this blog, you know partial mash is my favorite style of brewing.   there are so many advantages to partial mash for the home brewer.

Advantages of PM
  • More fun than extract - you still get to mash grains and sparge and the fun stuff.
    • It feels like brewing. Sometimes when I do an extract batch, it doesn't feel like brewing. I'm just heating up some stuff on the stove and throwing hops into a boil, for me mashing is the difference that feels like real brewing.
  • Better Taste than extract  - Real all grain flavor -
    • I defy anyone to tell the difference between a high percentage grain partial mash and an all grain brew. I think only industry people and BJCP judges might be able to pick out the differences.
  • More recipe options than extract, you can brew anything.
  • Less cost than extract - extract is expensive.
  • More reliable than all grain or BIAB -
    • The extract (DME) is an insurance policy that protects your needed gravity.
  • You don't have to stress over pH levels water chemistry etc…
  • Affordable equipment - electric turkey fryer is about $100.00  All in equipment is about $250.00
  • Decotion and step mashing are available to you.
  • It’s reliability is repeatable you can brew the same beer with the same results more easily.
  • You control the amount and % of grain that you are using.  I have recipes that are 75% grain.   The DME is there as a buffer, an insurance policy if you will.
  • Takes way less time than all grain. It’s about the same as BIAB

But what is partial mash?

There is a lot of confusion over what is partial mash.  Often brewers (especially on the internet)  define partial mashing as extract with grains.   And guys... that isn't partial mash.   

I would define partial mash as a brew where a significant portion of your fermentables come from a grain mash.  What portion?   Well that is up to you.  I have recipes where 75% of my fermentables come from a grain mash, with the rest coming from dry extract.   I always prefer dry, but sometimes you need a variety that isn't readily available as a dry extract, such as Maris Otter, Pilsner, or even Vienna.  

Does Partial Mash take special equipment?

No, not really.  You don't even have to have a brew bag, but it sure makes life easier.  You can use your extract set up for partial mash.   But if you want to make truly excellent beers, you will need to be able to boil full volume batches.  If you can't brew full volume, you will need to increase your hops.  How much?  depends on how much you are boiling. But at this point you need to get a decent brew calculator like,  or

So how do I partial mash?

Well every one does it a little differently.   Basically, you need a way to mash your grains, and a way to boil your wort.  Chris Colby, the editor of beer and wine journal, uses a couple of 2 gallon beverage coolers.   He still does a vorlauf, and a sparge.   This takes him to full volume.   He tends to add his extract late.  With this method, you only need one big pot and one smaller pot for the sparge.

I do things a little differently. I have multiple mash tuns, after 25 years in brewing. But once, I started BIAB small batch, I realized that BIAB and partial mash could be the very best compatible processes.

So I soak my grains in a paint strainer bag in my electric turkey fryer.   After a 60 minute mash I pull the basket and set it on a grate above the turkey fryer to let it drain.   I then add 2 gallons of water in which I have dissolved my DME.   Then I sparge to volume. It is that simple.  

I hit my numbers or barely exceed every time.  I never have issues related to water chemistry.  I can make nearly the exact same beer every time I brew a recipe.   The flavor is as good as all grain (better than when all grain doesn't go very well).   And, most importantly it is a blast.  I still get to do the fun stuff, mashing, full volume boil, chilling, aerating, etc...

Where do I find partial mash recipes?

Here is one for you...

and here is what to avoid when looking for a partial mash

not a partial mash recipe

Partial Mash recipes are readily available on the internet,  but beer and wine journal is a great source.   I have many of them posted on   And, if you'd like, I am happy to convert any recipe for you.   But remember it is much easier to go from all grain to extract than the reverse.   As you search for recipes look for recipes that have a base grain in them.  Look for recipes that require a temperature controlled mash.  If they don't they are probably just an extract with grain recipe.

Give partial mash a try. It is fun... and I think truly a better process for homebrewing great beer.   This technique is fighting to find it's place in the post BIAB era.  Many brewers just jump to BIAB, which is fine.  Heck I brew as much small batch BIAB as any one.  Over 70 batches this year. But I have been brewing a long time.   I know how to adjust my water.  I know (or have a good idea) what is going on in my mash/wort.   So if you want to crank out consistently great beer... give this awesome method a try.

Answering a question... "do any breweries use partial mash? " Yes. Several brewpubs that I am aware of, but they do it because they don't have space for the grains.  But primarily it is a home brew method.

Answering another question... "can I do large volumes of partial mash?"... yes the largest I have done is 1BBL.  But to do 10 gallons of PM on a 5 gallon BIAB set up is easy.  Just adjust your hops to account for the partial boil

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Our Saturday Double Brew Session 8 hours of brewing fun...

8 hours is a long brew day.  If you have ever dreamed of being a professional brewer... try a double batch day.   Not a partigyle.  A true double batch day.   We have been double batching for a while now, in an effort to build up stock.  But with 16 gallons fermenting, I think we're in pretty good shape.  So next weekend a single 5.5 gallon batch of beer, partial mash style.   The team understands all grain.  Now I'm going to teach them a more reliable, and in my honest opinion, better method.

On saturday we were at it again. This time two beers, a standard american lager (just for learning about lagers) and another improv pale ale.   Each week I try to add another element to our brew day. These guys are beer fanatics.  I may have finally found my championship team.  And finally, after weeks of anticipation, Jake joined the team.   It was a welcome addition.   His pallet is excellent.   He can taste a beer and describe accurately what it needs to go to the next level.   With my experience, John's passion, MA's exotic beer knowledge and Jake's pallet I think some medals are in our future.   Who knows, a medal here, a medal there, a small microbrewery... then world domination and the fall of the MBC conglomerate...(insert maniacal laughter here).

We milled our own grains this week.  There was a slight snafu in terms of grain volumes, but fortunately we have plenty of grains, so we were able to adjust.  We grind our grist fine.   We set the mill gap to the size of a credit card.  Yes this creates some flour.  But we use a brew bag so we don't care.  I haven't had a stuck sparge in years.   If you're not using a brew bag, you need to be.   Even if you are a 3 vessel guy.  It completely eliminates the need for vorlauf.
And because you can grind your grain bill smaller, your efficiency will improve. Please don't argue about this point, it is so well established.  Physics is Physics everywhere in the known universe.  More surface are = more starch in contact with more enzymes more quickly...   You can see in the photo just how fine we mill the grains. On this day, in this kitchen... we hit 91.2% efficiency... yes 91.2%.

We were brewing on this day with RAHR 2 row base malt.   If you don't know RAHR they are a major producer of brewing malts.  A lot of guys think of Rahr as the affordable choice, but affordable does not mean lower quality.   I love 2 row base malt for general all purpose brewing.  It is incredibly consistent and extracts like a champion every time.   Special thanks to RAHR and BSG for their advice and support.  If you have any questions about malt, or brewing that you can't get answered locally.   Reach out to the maltsters, and suppliers.  You think you love beer?  These guys really love beer, and they are happy to help.

We followed our normal taste and test procedure for the mash.   Tasting occasionally and testing for conversion with iodine. When it passes the iodine test and tastes right, we're done with the mash.   If we need more melanoidal malty flavors, we remove some of the mash and we decoct... oooh fancy... not really. This is just the old school stuff we used to have to do to get the flavors we wanted.

When the mash was over we drained the bag, and Jake squeezed it like it owed him money.  Then off to the boil.   The hops?  all saaz.   So this will be an americanized version of a czech saaz lager.   (we didn't use pilsner malt).  We chilled, aerated like crazy (30 minutes with an aquarium pump) and we pitched rehydrated Fermentis 34/70, my workhorse lager yeast.

Temperatures are perfect in the garage right now for lagering.  The batch is holding steady at 52 F.   Should be a great clean, american lager.

Then like crazy fools... we did the entire process all over again...

Monday, November 30, 2015

The best way to mill grains. .. for me

It is natural for home brewers to want to put into practice the technology and processes of craft or commercial breweries.  

All too often I hear about some brewer who has created some master piece of brewing technology in his basement or garage.   And usually one of the things I hear is that he was inspired by a brewery he visited.   

I have the same inspirations. I see some complicated system and think,  "jeez I'm a
Contractor I could easily build that. "  but we here at counterbrew and the turkey creek brewing association fight to protect a different approach.  

"The less technology, pumps,  tubes, etc.  You have involved,  the less you have to clean.  Since cleaning and sanitation are the most important ingredients, we fight to keep it simple"

Which isn't too day all of these things are bad.  The brau supply ebiab seems to nearly clean it self,  and I want one.  Santa, Honey, Mom, dad,  are you reading?

To this end I present my approach to milling grains.

I use a corona mill.   I prefer corona mills because the are multi takers.  They can actually make bread flour too.   And I love to bake bread.   My corona mill is mounted to a board that sits on top of a 5 gallon bucket.   That's it. No extra bucket,  no drill (unless the batch is huge).  After milling,  every thing goes back in the bucket.   Too pour the grains,  I lift off the mill. I set the mill to get a very fine crush.  I use the edge of a credit card to set the gap. 

"Don't you want to save time on brew day? "  No,  not really.  Brewing is one of the most fun things I do.  

"Aren't you afraid of a stuck sparge? " no, no I am not.  I use a bag,  or voile cloth even when I use my gravity system. 

Mill the grains how you want,  the point is keeping things simple allows you to focus on the real task... making great beer.  Our hobby has so many aspects which can bring you joy, and a sense of accomplishment.  For me it is all about fighting to simplify, to create a perfect recipe and to be able to repeat it.  For you it may be all about the engineering of brewing.  For others, it may be all about the biology.  But what ever you find your interest focused on I hope you'll do all you can to keep things as simple as possible.   

On another note, my beers we're very well received at Thanksgiving with the family.  I brewed up a centennial blonde for the occasion.  My ciders were enjoyed as well.  Finally, I had beer at a family event that everyone enjoyed.   Guess it's my own fault, in the past I have brought esoteric beers, and looked down my beer snob nose at people who couldn't enjoy a bourbon barrel smoked Russian Imperial Stout.   This year I made something we all could enjoy.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Some days... you're not on your game

So Sunday afternoon brew session.  Shouldn't have thrown us off our game.  But it did some how.  But take heart sports fans... this is not a story of defeat,  but of triumph in the face of mediocrity.  Heck, even the great George Brett struck out some times.  But today, today was not our day to fail, just our day to stumble rounding third but still make it home safe.  (like the baseball analogy? I'm still geeked up about the Royals winning the World Series).

The brew day started  at 4 in the afternoon.  And we were admittedly rushed.  The guys were returning from watching their alma mater advance in the D2 soccer playoffs.  I, as you all know by now, am just kinda an idiot.   So unlike other days, we weren't prepared in advance.  Which I think is a key thing to note.   Our hobby takes some preparation.  But still we mashed in just fine, and used our usual methodology of tasting our mash and testing for conversion.  I think the mash was done in about 43 minutes.  We stop mashing when an iodine test confirms the mash is complete, and when we taste that nutty melanoidal flavor.  

Today, just to teach about it we focused on brewing water calculations and sparging.  Not water chemistry, that may come later.  But honestly the water at John's house rules for hoppy beers, and the water at my house rules for malty beers so... we're very lucky.    We added sparging to the mix this week.  And we learned that the total volume of water is roughly the same.  I think it is fair to say everyone prefers no sparge BIAB.   

The boil was uneventful.    The Sierra Nevada Pale ale clone was first up, and it will be spot on.  We overshot our freaking OG again.  But this time only by 2 points.   I've made that recipe many times, and it is always damn good.    We sampled our Zombie Dust side by side with the real thing... and as you might expect... our tasted better to me.   This happens a lot with super hoppy beers.  

The troubles came when we partigyled off of the main batch.  We added grains to our original grains and mashed in a beer cooler with no valve.   And that is where the fun began.  We ended up using an autosyphon to transfer out, because those things are hard to pour out of, just ask John if you don't believe me.    But after that the remainder of the brew day was just fine.   The second batch was supposed to be a red imperial ale... It ended up kinda orange.   We could adjust color at bottling, but I think we'll just let it go.  It is a partigyle batch after all.    We hit our OG of 1.090 and we pitched onto the US05 yeast cake from the Zombie Dust.  There should be more than enough yeast to handle this beer.   Plus John and MA aerated the bejeezers out of it.   

Finally, Next week the anticipation ends.  Jake will join our crew.   Hopefully, unless he has another trip to somewhere, someplace more fun than brewing... but come on, what is more fun than brewing?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Sunday... double batch Sierra Nevada Pale ale clone... and "the dankness monster"... an extra hoppy Red Ale

Well first of all thank you for all of your kind comments about mankind's email.   He was one of a kind.

Sunday we are brewing again.  It is a day on a weekend... so, yeah we're probably brewing.   On saturday I'll be bottling up the Miller the muggle.   People are starting to break into the good stuff, so I have to shield it with more muggle beer.   If you don't "get" the term muggle, it is from Harry Potter, and it means non magical people.   Miller the Muggle is a beer designed for my non craft beer drinking friends.   But I have to tell you, it is pretty darn good.  Sunday... we brew.   Wonder how we brew so much?   Simple, we brew small batch. 

Image result for sierra nevada pale aleSo here is a question... "what is the beer that got you into craft beer?"  I remember mine like it was yesterday afternoon.  It was a crisp fall day.  I had been doing some work for Dad at his home.  I was maybe 20 or 21, and I was dedicated to Miller Genuine Draft.   That is when it happened.  Dad came back from the store, he had some beer.   Some beer I had never seen before.  He put the beer in the garage fridge (a 1960s beast that was avocado green no less).  He said try one if you want.   The package said Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.  It was green.   It had magical pictures on   Pictures of a stream, and trees, and what I thought were pine cones.  "What the heck" I thought, "I'll try one".

The world changed.  Everything stopped. And that one that one crystalline moment is burned in my memory.  It was bitter, and sweet, and roasty, and citrusy, and flowery...  It was all over.   Standing in that garage with the Kansas City Chiefs on the Radio I was hooked.   Now my tastes have changed and grown over the years.   But I still love SNPA.   We'll be brewing it this weekend.   

One of my favorite things about no sparge BIAB is how easy it is to partigyle.   All you need is another pot.   So we'll be using the grains from the SNPA and some additional grains, and DME, and we'll be making an original recipe we're calling "the dankness monster"  We're basically trying to brew up a red colored citrusy pine forrest.