Small furry creatures.

I've been considering delving into the crazy world of sour beers.  The small fury creatures that eat away at your sweet wort are something that can turn a simple beer into a complex masterpiece.  I've heard that you have to be very careful as to not infect your entire brew house though, and not sure if I'm willing to take the risk.  I'm sure there are many homebrewers out there that have taken this step, and have never been able to brew a non-funky batch again due to contamination.  This dude, The Mad Fermentationist, is a  funky freak and lately it seems like I'm always on his blog.  I've noticed that he brews normal beers as well as sours, so maybe I'll  have to reach out to him and get some ideas on how to make this happen.

Here are a few types of bacteria strains used mainly by funky Belgian brewers...
Brettanomyces Lambicus
Brettanomyces Bruxellensis 
Brettanomyces Claussenii

Just thinking about this today reminded me of riding in my boy Kenny's car back in highschool...the surround sound effect when on high volume, supplemented with a little schwag was something to behold, and will change you just a little bit forever...just as the bugs to brew sour beers can change your brewhouse more then a little bit....forever!


Dank Doggie Beer Biscuits..

My little beer drinking dog Nala is soon to be the luckiest dog on the block.  Not only does she get to drink my carefully crafted ales on occasion, chew on some hot spent grains on brew days, hang by my keggerator patiently waiting to lick up any drippings from the tap, and jump up on tables and counters when a beer spills to "help" us clean it up.  Now,  she'll have some wonderfully grainy, fibrous, peanut-buttery spent grain beer biscuits.

In my attempt to figure out a decent use for my spent grains, I decide to do a little google searching and came up with a great idea and an easy recipe.   I doubled a recipe I found online, and cut out a bit of flour.  Here is the recipe as I did it.

8 cups Spent Grain from brew day (this batch has barley, oats, and wheat)
6 cups Flour
2 cups Peanut Butter
2 eggs

Spread out on a cookie sheet and score the sheet into the shape that your dog prefers.  My dog is traditional so she likes rectangular shapes.   Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Once cooked....apparently your supposed to break them up into their little cookie shape and put them back in the over at 200 for 3-4 hours or more.  Doing this ensures that they don't get moldy in storage.  I suppose you could also just freeze them.  I know little Nala likes ice cubes, and I'm sure she wouldn't mind cold beer treats.



Brother Levonian Saison Ale

With the high temperatures in my upstairs fermentation chamber....IT'S BELGIAN SAISON BREWING SEASON! As many of you know, Belgian Farmhouse Ales are one of my favorite type of beers... to brew, to drink, to talk about, to think about. They are so simple, yet sooo complex. Many brewers love this style because of the unique yeast character that you can express from stressing it at high temperatures, and the complexity you can create with simple ingredients. In my quest for knowledge of what makes a great Saison, I came across some information that really touched me. The story I came across is about a man in San Diego who lost a short battle with cancer a couple years back. Apparently Dave Levonian was a Saison brewing master, and had a philosophy not so different then mine about Saison's. He believed that a well brewed Saison is complex and spicy from the Yeast you use, and the spices you add, but you must add them conservatively, and you must have enough Vienna malt to give it a nice orangish hue. You don't want the drinker to be able to taste one specific spice or flavor, you just want all the flavors to blend nicely together to create a satisfying complexity to a simple beer!

This recipe came from Dave's very own brewing journal and has been passed down for everyone to share, and now I share it with you!

Dave Levonian - Saison Du Mont

For a 5.5 gallon (21 L) yield:

O.G.: 1.056
F.G.: 1.008 (1.004 actual!)
IBU: 21

7.25 lb (3.3 kg) 2-Row Pale Malt
2.0 lb (0.91 kg) Vienna Malt
8 oz (227 g) Flaked Wheat
8 oz (227 g) Flaked Oats
8 oz (227 g) Honey, added after boil

1.0 oz (28 g) Golding, (4.75% AA), 90 minutes (If Golding is unavailable, substitute Willamette hops for 17 IBU.)
0.5 oz (14 g) Hallertauer, (4.0% AA), 15 minutes
0.5 oz (14 g) Hallertauer, (4.0% AA), at 0 minutes
¾ tsp (3 g) Irish moss, added at 15 minutes

0.5 oz (14 g) crushed coriander, 0 minutes
0.5 tsp (2 g) grains of paradise, 0 minutes
0.25 oz (7 g) Curacao (sweet) orange peel, 0 minutes
0.25 oz (7 g) Valencia (bitter) orange peel, 0 minutes

Two (2) packages Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison Yeast, or two (2) White Labs WLP550 Belgian Ale Yeast, or an appropriate yeast starter
NOTE: Saison should be a dry beer. If your attenuation is not enough, you may need to add a secondary yeast such as Champagne yeast (White Labs WPL 715, or Wyeast 4021) or an attenuative ale yeast (White Labs WLP 001, or Wyeast 1056) to achieve the correct attenuation.

Directions for All-Grain Recipe
Mash grains at 156°F (69°C) to 150°F (65.5°C) and hold for 60 minutes. Mash out at 160°F (71°C) and sparge with 173°F (78°C) water. Collect enough runoff to end up with 5.5 gallons (21 L) after a 90-minute boil (approximately 7.1 gallons, or 27 L). Bring to a boil and add the first hops. Boil for 75 minutes before adding the second hops and the Irish moss. Boil 15 minutes more, and then turn off the heat and add the honey, the finishing hops and the four spices. Next chill to 73-76°F (22-25.5°C), transfer to a fermenter, pitch the yeast and aerate well. Continue fermenting at 76°F (25.5°C) for a total of one week. Rack to secondary for another week. Rack to keg, or if you are bottling rather than kegging, add the bottling sugar and then bottle as you normally would.

Force carbonate at 3.0 – 3.5 volumes of CO2.
Bottle condition using 5.4 – 6.6 oz weight (153-187 g) corn sugar

The all-grain recipes assume 75% efficiency unless otherwise stated. Adjust the grain bill to match your system.

This is basically what I brewed last night with the help of Assistant Brewer, Steve Mittelstaedt, and Assistant to the Assistant Brewer, Adam Luckeroth. We didn't have any Bitter orange peel so I just left that ingredient out. I also added a pound of 2-row because my mash efficiency is lower then what Dave's was. I also decided to use the Wyeast  fermented much like they may have fermented in the olden days at high temperatures, upwards to 85 degrees at some points. My upstairs would probably fluctuate between 74 and 80+ degrees from day to night. My initial tasting was extremely flavorful with peppery, orangey notes in the finish and a little sweetness from the honey, and the FG was at 1.004. It's extremely balanced as is, and it definitely is complex to the point where not one ingredient is distinguishable.I dry hopped  with 1 oz. Amarillo for 10 days to add complexity to the citrus notes since I didn't have bitter orange peel.

Cheers and remember....Live Every Day!

Bottled 8.11.10 - Smelled of honey and spices.  Nothing overpowering at all!  We shall see.  Will condition it for 4 weeks in 75 degree fermentation chamber to maximize the yeast as does Dupont.
Sampled last Bottle 5.30.11 - 9 months after bottling and I'm sampling the last bottle that I had hiding in my cellar.   It's mellowed quite a bit but is extremely fruity in the nose and in the flavor.   This yeast has been working and working for 9 months and it's absolutely beautiful right now!  I wish I would have aged it all until right now actually.   Pours a brilliant apricot color.  Flavors are extremely fruity and sweet, but not too sweet.   Medium carbonation, could have gone higher in the carbonation.  Amazing beer!  I will brew this again and again and again!

Rant: ***Not everyone in the brewing industry agrees with Dave and I about this philosophy about taking simple beers and making them taste complex. Some brewers seem to be over doing it in an effort to be extreme, and to get noticed in the muffled din through the deep waters that craft brewing is becoming. Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that breweries are pushing the boundaries and am eager to sample these efforts whenever I get a chance. I encourage you to make up your own mind on what tastes good to you.


Rogue Pacman Yeast is a frickin BEAST!

Holy crap...so I'm using Wyeast's Rogue Pacman Yeast for the first time and holy shit this yeast is a frickin beast! Pitched one smack pack (no starter) into a 5.75 gallon batch of 1.065 wort at 65 degrees in my basement and not even three days later it was already down to 1.012! This beast just won't quit, it's still munchin away at all those nasty sugars and burpin out alcohol and CO2! I've heard it is a nice and clean yeast too. Look out 1056 cause a new dog is in town.

Learnings: If you want a super clean fully fermented yeast that doesn't care what the temperature is...go with the Pacman (IF YOU CAN FIND IT)! Pacman Yeast from Rogue - Wyeast 1764


Steal Your Dead Guy Ale

Brewed up a batch of beer last night for a company party that I'll keg in about 4 weeks.  I should have about a gallon left over for bottles though for personal consumption!  Brew day went nice and smooth.  I'm trying to increase my mash effeciency so I did a few things to hopefully increase that!  Mashed in pretty high at about 155 and held that for an hour.  The temp in the mash came down a bit at the 40 minute mark so I added a little bit of boiling water to bring the temp back up to where I wanted.   Attention to detail baby!  Mashed out and sparged at 168.  Should have a nice thick mouth feel!  I messed with the Rouge Dead Guy Ale clone recipe from Northern Brewer and hopped it a little more then the actual recipe.  I did a First Wort Hop addition to hopefully smooth out the hops in this one.  It was my first time with this technique and I'm really excited to see the results.   It's not that important in this beer where the malt will be the biggest player, but a fun experiment anyway.   Hopefully it will be a nice strong drinkable company picnic beer!  I did dilute it a little bit and ended up with about 5.75 gallons which I thought was necessary when I remembered that it was for a work party.  Not that bringing it down from 7% to 6% is going to make that much of a difference, but at least I get to bottle a bit for myself!   It will most likely be a little bit lighter in color because of this, but smelling it this morning when I checked for airlock activity, it had an amazingly malty smell which I hoped for, and was expecting!  Yes!... this shit is going to be tasty!

Learnings:  Taste your grains!  While putting together the grain bill for this beer last night at Northern Brewer in St. Paul, I did something that I haven't done in the past and I'd highly recommend doing this.  Before I grabbed an individual grain to weigh out, I'd take a little bit and taste it, chew it up and really try and get a feel for it.   The Munich malt had an amazingly sweet taste that I wasn't expecting!   Oh the joy of brewing, and learning! 


Malt or Fermentable
American Two-row Pale
Munich Malt
Caramalt (Thomas Fawcett)
Caramel/Crystal Malt - 80L 


Original Gravity 1.065
Color 12° SRM / 20° EBC
(Gold to Copper)


first wort
60+ mins
60 mins
1 min
1 min
Czech Saaz
55 IBU


Wyeast PacMan
ale yeast in liquid form with medium flocculation
Alcohol  6.1% ABV

7.7.10 - Transferred to keg after cold conditioning for a week.  Perfectly clear, fantastic smelling, malty beer.  It smelled very similar to Dead Guy Ale!  Can't wait to carbonate this one up and give it a sample!
7.14.10 - Sampled this with my buddy Kevin.   The appearance is a brilliant copper color and crystal clear with a nice fluffy off white three finger head.  The clarity had much to do with the PacMan yeast but also I cold conditioned it for a week before kegging.  The aroma is mainly of the bready Munich malt.  It's a fantastic smelling malty beer, almost like a bier de garde.   The taste is once again very grainy and malty, with a medium thickness to the mouthfeel.  The bitterness is very nicely balanced, and extremely mellow, yet ever present.  I'm assuming this balance comes from the first wort hop addition.   My overall impression is that this is a fantastic recipe that produces an amazingly balanced malty mock Maibock.  I could easily drink 5 or 6 of these in a row as it so smooth.  My co-workers are really going to enjoy this on Sunday!
7.18.10 - Keg went down pretty quick at the company party, it only took about 2 hours.  Everyone was going back for more so they must have liked it.  It was a perfect beer for a beautiful grill out picnic party!  Thanks for drinking it everyone!


Surly Furious Clone WARS!

Here's a little tid bit of an update on a little tasting I did with my boy Kev.  We had both done the Surly Furious Clone recipe from Midwest Brew Supply.  Kevin did this as his first ever extract homebrew which is a pretty tough one with all of the hop additions.  I must say, for a first brew, it is a tasty beverage!  Mine was the all-grain version and I pretty much hit my temps, and everything from start to finish.  The results although similar to Furious, in no way are an exact clone.   I'd say that if you're going to try to brew this clone, use this one that Kristen England came up with that probably is more close to the actual one.  The Midwest Brew Supply kit comes close, but definitely falls short in about every catagory.   Here are the results as I remember them.  I got pretty hammered though cause Kevin had a growler of Angry Minnow's DIPA that kept my brain lubricated properly!

***Update....you can now get the recipe direct from the Brewer and from Northern Brewer.  Tastes and smells extremely similar to the real thing.  As close as you'll ever get!  

Surly Furious (actual)
  • Dank pungent hops of citrus and pine.  
  • Thick chalky mouthfeel upfront that makes you feel like your chewing on hop cones.
  • Very dark reddish hue.
  • Extremely bitter.

Extract Version
  • Not quite as pungent of hops, but definitely there.  It's close.  Very close.  Almost smells like Juicy Fruit to me, which is either the hops, or possibly the Yeast at higher temps(?)
  • The mouthfeel isn't really comparable, maybe due to the water source(NE MPLS), or the extract, or both.
  • Dark reddish hue, but not as dark as the actual Furious which is surprising.  I expected it to be darker.
  • Still pretty bitter.  Not as bitter as Furious though.
  • A valiant effort for a first brew!  

All Grain Version
  • Very pungent hops on the front end, similar to the actual furious.  Getting a little bit of the Juicy fruit that we tasted in the extract version.  
  • The mouthfeel is a bit thinner then the actual Furious.  I mashed at around 152.  I can't imagine that Surly mash's higher then that for an IPA, but maybe that's the trick.  I'll probably try to mash thicker next time at around 156 or so.  Definitely thinner mouthfeel then the real deal though.  May be the water source which for me is (NE MPLS), and Surly is Brooklyn Center (chalky water).
  • Dark orangish hue.  Much lighter then Furious.  This may be because my mash efficiency is lower then Surly's system.  Or it may be the clone recipe's isn't exactly spot on.
  • Pretty Bitter, but not even close to the actual Furious. 
Learnings:  If your not a super hop head bitter freak, then you'd probably like The Midwest clone a little better then the actual Furious.  For the crazy bitter freaks though...the real deal is where it's at!  Or, up the bittering hops significantly if you buy the clone.

Fun times, and good brews!


Maybe the best beer I've ever had! ...Updated...

Oh man.   So I'm celebrating that I have a baby BOY on the way in about 20 more weeks!!!  Yes, we just found out from our 19 week ultrasound the sex of our first child is a BOY.   A hockey playing, worm digging, mud slinging, poop stain having, snot flicking, bmx bike riding, wakeboarding, BOY!  So, I decided to bust out something from the cellar to celebrate.   I've been wanting to try this belgian beer for some time now.  It's the Belgian Triple/DIPA from Brasserie d' achouffe .

It's called Houblon Chouffe, but I refer to it as the Hop Goblin Monster!   It's so frickin tasty that I can't even put it into words.  It's not like anything you'll find from an american brewer. It's yeasty and the hops are earthy, and floral. Not citrusy and grapefruity like so many IPA's and DIPA's being produced in the US. I'm a big fan of Belgians, but triples can sometimes get too hot, and yeasty for me. Balancing the flavors out with the hops in this beer really take it to another level for me. It's such a treat. Please try this beer. If you want, check out what other people say about it at www.beeradvocate.com.

Town Hall flight night!

Oh yeah. Also had the 'seasonal' flight at Town Hall right after our appointment. The 1800 EPA was nice out of the cask. DIPA wasn't as complex as I was hopping for on the hops. Triple was tasty, Hefe was forgettable, the Porter infused with coffee was damn tasty, and the Coconut RIS was a little overpowering on the coconut, almost like licking suntan lotion. Overall, I was super happy in general, and when the average ABV in a flight is 8% for $9. You can't go wrong with that shit!
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