November 15, 2011

October 6, 2011

The Ballad of El Centennial

Short post today - El Goodo is this year's fall-run batch, and I gotta get on cpf'ing this guy cause the trip is hours away. Let's just chat briefly about hop combos, shall we?

Centennial (homegrown) + Citra (not homegrown) = magic.

September 27, 2011

Makin' Cidah

Apples are coming in and the cider is flowing. I happened to get a gallon of fresh squeezed cider from a friend of mine whose mother in law has a few trees up north, or "up nort" as some say in these parts.

September 22, 2011

Notes on a Brewday: Harvest Season

We are in the midst of harvest season. In Minnesota, it comes earlier than elsewhere. Hop cones are flourishing, grapes are ripening. For us homebrewers, it means one last big warm-weather brew day.

September 20, 2011

Notes on a Brewday: Northwoods Double Porter

Seven grain mash, roasted grains ground in coffee grinder
Black ales are the adopted bane of homebrewers. It seems like from one's inception into homebrewing, the popular camp means to get us started on the campaign to disassociate dark ales from the idiom that these black liquids are 'thick and highly alcoholic'. Each of us is given that old Guinness recipe for Dry Irish Stout, with it's high percentage of flaked barley, and made to adhere to the gospel fermentation time frame that produces an opaque black refreshment that never fails either adjective.

September 14, 2011

Beer-braised beans

Last night I made another beer-related dish that I thought I'd share with everyone. It is extremely easy, but preserves the flavor of the beer quite well!

This recipe for braised pinto beans is ridiculously simple, which really allows the beer to come through in the final product. I made the beans using my pressure cooker, but canned would do fine as well.

September 1, 2011

Notes on a Brewday: St. Edhar 8

Ah, the middle ages.

What is it about monastic beers that's so evocative of older times? The time capsule-like nature of Old World breweries in cloistered communities? The romance of a religious order living outside the flow of secular time, preserving the traditions of brewing, manuscript illumination, healing, and so on and so forth, intact through the centuries?


August 25, 2011

Rye Malt Syrup

Rye malt syrup: sweet.
My fellow beer nerds,

I speak to you today as a fellow citizen-homebrewer, as an unreformed and unrepentant extract brewer, and as an enthusiastic user of all kinds of cereal grains:

Rye malt syrup is pretty sweet.

August 23, 2011

Smoke Your Beer, Not Your Butt!

In my efforts to keep up with the amount of beer I produce in comparison to the amount of beer I actually drink, often times a good amount of my home brew ends up in the food I cook. Some of my favorite food in the whole world is smoked pork and BBQ. Since my charcoal fired outdoor smoker has taken up residence in my parents garage, I decided to try and take a shortcut or two to produce some pulled pork sandwiches.

August 12, 2011

Brewing TV - Episode 42: King's Coolship

The King is in the building! NB soldier and determined yeast junkie Jeremy King (you remember him from Episode 4, right?) is back with yet another twisted yeast experiment. This time he's trying wrangle wild yeast from his environs in Milwaukee, WI for eventual commercial use. He's got a very interesting way of going about it - utilizing a coolship. Wild yeast, microscopes, fire, and fermented fish. You never know what you're going to get when you're hanging out with J-King. Prepare to be - KING'D!

Related Blog Posts by J-King:
2 Things Literature Says You Shouldn't Do That You Shouldn't
Better Brewing Through Chemistry
Beer and Your Body: The Alcohol Hangover
Eat Your Beer Like a King

August 9, 2011

Tasting Showdown: Cider vs. An Apple

Oedipus and Laius. Ken Griffy, Junior and Ken Griffy, Senior. Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. And now, hard cider and apple.

Both have very good records. Hard cider, the boon of American pioneers, mainstay of farmers from New England to regular England, not quite as crazy as applejack, but just crazy enough to get the job done. Apples, the original temptation, Granny Smith to Honeycrisp, ward against doctors, the basis of some of our nation's most iconic pies. Who would win in a taste test? To find out I sat down with a classic food pairing - an apple and a glass of cider - and evaluated each.

August 4, 2011

Thunderbolt Pale Ale: Hop Substitution Experiment - UPDATE

Thunderbolt, the pale ale
Tasting notes for my Thunderbolt Pale Ale, using a blend of hops to approximate the profile of Simcoe: 

7/11: 1.5 weeks in primary - 1.009 gravity. Hop bitterness is nearly the same as the original recipe. Centennial & Mt. Hood flavor totally unabridged. Hop aroma seems to be leaning toward pine, though at this early in fermentation it's not all that different from the aroma profile of the original recipe. Secondary transfer 7/12.

July 31, 2011

Notes on a Brew Day for Someone Else's Wedding, Pt. 2: Marie avec Visage-Sale

Rub some dirt in it
and get back out there.
Sometimes, when you wake up with the flu but you've already measured out and acidified the strike water and weighed the grain the night before, and you're now at zero hour for bashing out a biere de garde commissioned for your cousin's wedding reception, well sir ... sometimes you just gotta start heating the water, go puke, wipe your mouth on the brew sheet, and then mash in.

July 28, 2011

Notes on a Brewday: Eye of the Sun Winter Ale

I'd like to toast homebrewers in the southern United States. I have too much skin to haul full liquor kettles across my backyard or stand over a 200,000+ BTU propane stove when the summer swelter gets angry. My desire to brew suffers under an oppressive 86 degree dewpoint & 116 degree heat index. Such afternoons signal it's too late to brew any lawnmower beer that isn't already sweating in hand; it's time to get a winter ale brewing.

July 26, 2011

Dazed & Infused

If there’s anything I’ve learned in my time of being a homebrewer, it’s that our DIY interests rarely end at beer. Many folks also make wine, mead, cider and more culinary or health-based fermentables like kombucha or kimchi. I like to make infused liquors. Obviously, I don’t MAKE the liquor - I buy it at the liquor store (makes sense, right?). But I like to have fun affecting and infusing those liquors with different things.

July 21, 2011

Flavor through a prism

When it comes to the chemistry of flavor, our foods and drinks are much more connected than you'd think. Any experienced beer taster can pick out the banana notes in some Belgian beers and hefeweizens. What about when a beer reminds you of chocolate, grapefruit, or toasted bread? Well, sometimes that's because it actually is that. When you strip a complicated flavor down to its prominent elements, you'll find that many of them are identical to those found in other foods.

July 14, 2011

Notes on a Brewday: John Ireland Blvd. Bitter

I was brewing on a Wednesday. It was the third batch outside on the Banjo Burner, a wind screen fashioned with Aluminum foil. It seems like a bitter northwest wind swept around St. Paul on that otherwise fair summer day. I woke up to that wind spreading word of the newest tent in the ongoing Minnesota state government shutdown circus: media outlets were warning Joe Six-pack that MillerCoors' MN state seller's license couldn't be renewed & their M-C brands were to be pulled from liquor store shelves.

In any other year, the expiration of a state license would set into motion the process of a renewal. This year, the civil servants that process state license renewals at the commerce department were laid off along with thousands of other state employees when elected officials couldn't come together & draft a state budget.

July 13, 2011

The Most Under Appreciated Tool in my Brew House:

My flashlight.

This isn't something we think of as a brew house tool, but I can't say how often in a brew day I'll need to randomly retrieve old Flashy for one reason or another. If this was a Western, Flashy would be my horse. I don't know if I could brew without him.

July 8, 2011

Notes on a Brewday: Intergalactic Brain Rescue Pale Ale

Gotta propagate some WLP029 for an upcoming biere de garde brew session. Gotta try out some new hops. Want a hoppy beer on tap. Busy, busy weekend - no time for an AG brew session. How about this: session-strength extract batch brewed with said new hops, ferment with 029 and then wash the yeast cake for next weekend's biere de garde. Excelsior!

July 7, 2011

Induction Brewing

Brewing all grain, in a sub-600 Sq Ft apartment, without the use of a stove?

Yes, it is possible, as I found out the other night.

I have a rather small apartment, and as such, I try to do all of my brewing outdoors on a propane burner. That leaves me limited to brewing on nice days, or watching wistfully from inside as my wort boils all alone in the elements.

Being the nerd that I am, I looked into getting an induction cooker. Induction cooking is an electromagnetic process which transfers heat energy directly to a ferromagnetic kettle, like Northern Brewer's Megapot kettles.

July 5, 2011

The Haphazard Brewing of Free Kick EPA

*** This blog post was recently uncovered deep from within scattered brewer's notes. It's timeliness has been lost, but its moral fortitude has not. We begin in late April 2011. ***

Let me tell you about what may be the best homebrew ever brewed. Or it may be a total disaster. We’ll just have to wait and see.

June 30, 2011

The Joy of Extract Brewing

I recently took what some might consider to be a step backwards in my brewing. I put away my mash tun and my large(ish) kettle and I brewed a batch of extract beer. When I first started brewing, "all-grain" seemed like a peak to surmount: the pinnacle of the art of brewing and the black belt in homebrewing Karate and after making the leap to all grain brewing several years ago, I had not looked back. 

June 28, 2011

Mash Tun Time Machine

All that's old is new, and I for one welcome our Victorian throwback overlords. There seems to be a developing trend in the world of IPA: a hearkening back to the days of yore with ultra-traditionalist rebrews of 19th century export ales from the days of the Raj.

June 23, 2011

Spring Wine

Brewing beer is an art where the effort is packed into a short period. The vast majority of decisions take placing on brewing day, when you've got to multi-task, hit all your expected numbers, and get all the temps, sanitation, and additions right. Wine and mead making are much more drawn out. And amazingly, much of the skill is in paying attention to your fermented wine or mead and reacting to it. Instead of exerting control over all factors, as one constantly tries to in beer, you've got to let the wine control you.

June 21, 2011

Thunderbolt Pale Ale: Hop Substitution Experiment

So far, it's been a hot summer and a short summer. And that's to say summer hasn't officially yet begun. As manic as winter had been, summer crept around the Twin Cities like a lurking radioactive monster. From windy to above average hot, that was only after the tornado season began in north Minneapolis.

June 14, 2011

Panadería Norteña

When life gives you lemons... make a shandy! When life gives you undercarbonated beer? Bake with it!

June 9, 2011

Hops You're Not Using But Should Be, pt 2

From the lofty vantage point of my office chair (Ikea), I can see which hop varieties are the current Shiny Object, and which deserving little pellets and cones get unfairly passed over - the ugly ducklings and Cinderellas of the Humulus lupulus world, if you will. And from the lofty (ha! well, I'll call it that and maybe it'll stick) vantage of this blog I can exhort my fellow homebrewers to quit missing out.

Today's sermon: Horizon.

June 6, 2011

Illegal: Homebrewing in Alabama

If you haven't seen it already, you have to watch this video that Northern Brewer and Brewing TV put together on the defeat of the Alabama homebrewing bill. It will change your mind on the state of homebrewing in the US.

Seen it? Ok, good.

June 1, 2011

Settling Down

I'm the sort of brewer who rarely makes the same thing twice. I've been hopping around from style to style, recipe to recipe, technique to technique ever since I started brewing. That's been great, I feel like I've covered a lot of ground, learned a lot of basics, had a good time. I'm also the sort of brewer who often measures things in handfuls, tosses whatever is lying around into the mash or into the boil, and takes a cavalier approach to using wild yeasts. Also fun, and less work.

May 26, 2011

Update: Emma (and Emma's Ale)

Thanks to you, the homebrewing community, together we have raised $8,000 in donations to the Children's Hospital of MN - 100% of the profit from sales of our Emma's Ale recipe kit go to pediatric cancer research. 

And via her father, our friend and colleague Chris German of Brewers Supply Group, here's an update on Emma herself:

May 24, 2011

Amarillo Slim

In case you haven't heard, there is a bit of a hop shortage going on for some of the most popular American varieties. Some of the newer varieties that craft breweries and homebrewers love so much, like Amarillo, Simcoe, Ahtanum, and Citra, simply didn't have enough acreage to meet demand this year. Here at Northern Brewer we decided to look into an alternate source of hoppy goodness: Amarillo HopShots.

May 19, 2011

Warmer Days Call For Ice

These are the days where us folks from temperately chaotic climates start declaring "Warmer weather has finally arrived!!" to either the rolled eyes or dismissive guffaws of those lucky enough to live where freezing is something that happens in appliances & cryobanks. My appreciation for the seasonal change aside, these months do call attention to one of the few caveats of buying live yeast cultures via the internet: shipping & outside temperature.

May 17, 2011

Notes on a brewday: Warminster Standard

Technically, it was a brewnight.
Waxing moon over boiler.
My wife likes English bitters, her birthday is coming up, and she wants to throw a party with lots of beer. She also owns a rhinestone-encrusted switchblade with which she makes sure I understand the things she says. Fortunately I happened to have the last 10 pounds from a sack of Maris Otter laying around and a raging propagation of Wyeast's Thames Valley II with no place else to be. I also had the urge ... the urge to sparge. To the backyard!

May 11, 2011

Brew like a Homebrewer

This is a concept that has been expanded upon by the likes of Jamil Zainasheff in Brewing Classic Styles, page 244 - suffice it to say, it is very easy to get carried away when you've got some 80 types of grain to choose from. Different maltsters, base malts, "specialty malts," even malted oats. Sometimes you really just have to brew like a homebrewer.

May 7, 2011

Why I am an AHA Member (and you should be too)

this AHA  member and union suit enthusiast
has an important message for us all.
Happy National Homebrew Day, everybody. I'll be celebrating in an appropriate manner, as I'm sure will many of you. On this happy occasion, let's take a moment to reflect on just how awesome it is to have the ability to brew, enjoy, and share your own handmade beer, and then sip a thoughtful sip in gratitude for the largely unseen, perhaps even unappreciated, work of some folks who have helped get us where we are today, fermentatively speaking.

And honestly, they deserve more than a grateful sip. Everyone who likes to make their own beer should join the American Homebrewers Association.

May 4, 2011

Best Place to Have a Beer

I remember the first time someone explained the concept of a "beer shower" to me. I was like, "Wait, you can drink beer in the shower??!" And, it turns out, you can. And it's awesome.

April 28, 2011

April 26, 2011

Yeast Experiment Round 3

A while back I posted about a yeast experiment that used 6 different ale yeast strains to make mead. Preliminary tasting results from five Northern Brewer employees are in, I've summarized them below.
Some things I've taken away from this experiment: phenolic yeast strains really don't do well at all in mead, just changing yeast strains can create unbelievably different mead, and lager strains may be a better match for meads than ale strains. Three of the five people enjoyed the Wyeast 1272 the best, and two of the five liked the Wyeast 2112.

April 21, 2011

What's in a name?

I've read that you should never name your chickens, because it makes it that much harder to boil 'em and pluck 'em when the time comes.

Perhaps in a similar vein, I've never named my beers. They are usually referred to as something like, "that one stout with the oak in it that I brewed last fall, or was it in the winter? Whatever, it's probably that one." But friends and other recipients of my beer always want to know what a particular beer is called. I once named an all-Fuggle hops bitter "Fug 'em" but in general people don't know what Fuggle is, so they didn't really appreciate it.

April 19, 2011

The scent of a carboy

I have an olfactory compulsion which you may find weird. Perhaps deviant. Here goes:

April 14, 2011

Brewer's Log: Kansas City Lager

Occasionally, I find myself & the wife in a type of restaurant that repeats itself across the country. These aren't the eateries that entirely play off some combination of fries and fried-meat-patty-on-bun as an excuse for wining & dining; rather, these are the places that have a signature appetizer, followed up by gastric proportions of steak, salad with shrimp, & the like. And it's often the case that the best pour these same chains offer is Sam Adams' Boston Lager.

April 12, 2011

Coffee Beer Collaboration

Coffee beer: it just sounds right. Like when you hear "oatmeal stout", you know that it will be good, even if you've never tried one before. Deep down inside, every brewer wants to be eating oatmeal and drinking coffee and stout at the same time. It is a fantasy that largely goes unspoken, but search within yourself and see if it isn't true.

April 7, 2011

Beer Planet: Chicago

In the cocked-eyebrow, mischievous corner of my brain lives a dream scenario wherein I leave the Twin Cities on the edge of a whim, ready to ride the winds of the world. The past two years have seen my midwinter vacation as nearly the opposite: calculated travels by train to well-researched places for R&R, and of

April 6, 2011

Jake's Craft Brewers Conference 2011 Recap

CBC Symposium Beer
A special perk of working for Northern Brewer is being able to attend some of the best beer-related events in the country.  We travel throughout the year to attend everything and anything that has do with homebrewing and craft beer.  For the past couple of years, we have been going to the Craft Brewers Conference, which is kind of like the National Homebrewers Conference for the craft beer industry. This year's CBC was held March 23-26 in San Francisco, and I wanted to share my impressions.

April 4, 2011

Notes on a Brewday: Scum and Villainy IPA

S&V IPA: Sorachi Ace, homegrown Centennial, staggered dry hopping with Glacier and Columbus, blah blah blah. That's actually not what I want to talk about.

Do you like to brew? Do you brew ... frequently? Do you often find that there's still a beer actively fermenting even while you're boiling a new wort?

March 31, 2011

Primo Bottling III: Belgian Bottles

A bottle of beer is only as good as its contents. However, sharp packaging can make every bottle opening a bit more like Christmas.

Here is a simple option that I used for my Righteousness Rye Wine, fermented with Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale Yeast.

March 24, 2011

Primo Bottling II: Champagne Bottles

A bottle of beer is only as good as its contents. However, sharp packaging can make every bottle opening a bit more like Christmas.

Here is a simple option that I used for my Righteousness Rye Wine, fermented with Wyeast 4347 Eau de Vie.

March 23, 2011

NB & Bell's: Let's All Relax, Don't Worry, Enjoy a Homebrew

The basic outline is pretty well known by now: Bell's Brewing served us, and not in a tall frosty way. NB has been legally asked to rename our Three Hearted Ale American IPA, our five-gallon tribute to a Bell's brew of a similar moniker.

Vlaai met witbier

Cooking with beer can be a real challenge, due to the fact that beer is often one of the only sources of bitterness in a person's diet. Bitterness is a taste that is rarely considered desirable in cooking, as it tends to invoke a negative response on the palate. Part of the reason may come from the primal association of bitterness with poison. Conversely, many animals seek out sweetness, because sweetness often indicates fat, sugar, and protein - all the things we find desirable in our diets.

March 21, 2011

Primo Bottling I: EZ-Cap

A bottle of beer is only as good as its contents. However, sharp packaging can make every bottle opening a bit more like Christmas.

Here is a simple and easy option I used for my 140 Schilling Ale.

Notes on a Brew Day for Somebody Else's Wedding, Pt. 1: Selection International Argentine Malbec

Image from
Yup. I brewed a wine. A double batch, actually. On a weeknight. In between putting the kid to bed and washing the dishes and amidst racking a Dortmunder. Gotta love wine kits!

But let's begin at the beginning: this post is going to be the first in an ongoing series about brewing (or vinting, if you must [get it?]) for an occasion. I have undertaken to provide the adult beverages for my cousin's wedding this fall. To date I've brewed (and vinted, if I must) for three other weddings, including my own, and this time I thought it'd be interesting to document the process and compare notes with others who've done the same.

March 14, 2011

A Guide to Cleaners and Sanitizers

No rinse? Sanitizer? Cleanser? What's the difference?

Stop the insanity! There has to be an easier way, right? Well you're in luck because below is a quick reference guide to confusingly named cleansers and sanitizers.

March 9, 2011