December 30, 2010


"Simple isn't the same as easy," someone once wrote about Luther Perkins' guitar playing. In any art where the craft of production is vital to the outcome - music, brewing, cooking ... - the prospect of stripping things down and going minimalist is exhilarating and risky. Uncluttered sparseness is kinda scary in an era of big, bombastic, over the top beers.

December 23, 2010

Pump it!

William Armstrong was born in Newcastle upon Tyne and grew up to be the father of hydraulics. He designed an engine that was powered by water, but nobody cared at the time. Armstrong was all about renewable energy. Back in 1863, he predicted that England would stop producing coal by 2063. He pushed for the use of solar power and hydroelectricity. He lived from 1810-1900. He has nothing to do with beer, but he is one of my personal heroes.

December 21, 2010

It's Winter, So Eis-Something

So, I feel somewhat limited because I can't make certain beverages at home (home distillation is illegal here in the US). I don't worry too much about this, though; I can easily rely on Milwaukee's own Great Lakes Distillery to do all that artisan distilling for me. Their products are beyond outstanding:

December 15, 2010

Rye Wine (a parti-gyle experiment)

I stumbled across the idea of making a rye wine in early 2010. I imagined the next winter would be much better with a silky, dark, garnet beer full of booze and character in my mittened hand.

December 13, 2010

Mid Winter Homebrew Competition

It's time for you to start thinking about entering into competition with some of those beers you and your friends love to brew so much. I suggest you consider the Mid Winter Homebrew Competition.

Here's a handful of reasons why:

December 9, 2010

Bring Me A Beer

Some of the greatest human beings in the world are beer delivery truck drivers.

December 7, 2010

Brewday Diversions

Much of home brewing is waiting: we wait for the mash, wait for the boil, wait for wort to chill, and so on. So I frequently find myself filling those periods of waiting in a brewday with various diversions. I'm all for sitting in a chair and watching steam rise while having a beer, but these days, the weekends are less filled with watching steam, and more with getting things done.

December 2, 2010

Soar with Sorghum!

There's a product that we carry at Northern Brewer which occasionally gets some attention from customers. Usually, this attention is a begrudging acknowledgment of anticipated frustration, and it is directed towards White Sorghum syrup. This is a high maltose, gluten-free extract syrup made from sorghum by Briess Malt in Chilton, WI.

November 30, 2010

About A Beer - Winter Ale

Fall has only a few fleeting days when the outdoors actually smells like the season. Raking leaves, pressing cider, roasting pumpkin seeds, walking about a damp cold wooded path ... Spring's got Autumn beat for aromas, in my opinion. Even the beers of fall are the brews we've held on to from another season's brew sessions: Oktoberfests, Saisons, Biere De Garde.

November 24, 2010

Call for submissions/Yeast Experiment Round Two

Well, I was pretty excited about the mead yeast experiment, but unfortunately the results were not very illuminating, with one startling exception:

November 22, 2010

Eis is Nice

I wanted to post a blog about a process that I often try to do with my homebrews. The process of eis'ing or freezing beer to separate water (in the form of ice) from the beer, thus making it slightly more concentrated in not only alcohol, but in flavor.

NB MKE is 7 Dog Years old!

It was a Saturday in November and about 3,614 degrees warm at Northern Brewer Milwaukee...

November 19, 2010

Notes on a Brewday: Hopbursted Clustercream

Does everything happen for a reason? Does every batch of homemade beer have something to teach us, as brewers and as people? Must every accident be an unhappy one? Must every forgotten hop addition be ... oh, nevermind.

Now let's meditate on these mysteries and watch some yeast floccs swirl in that video up there.

November 17, 2010

Beer and Losing in Las Vegas

People get a certain look about them on about their third day in Las Vegas. Me, I looked awesome like this:

November 3, 2010

Product Review: Cellarmanship

I was glad to put my hands on a copy of Patrick O'Neill's Cellarmanship. It's distributed by CAMRA. I've been trying to get a copy for some time but it's been difficult to find any where in the US for some reason. Until now! NB now has them in stock.

November 2, 2010

Brewer's Log: My Comeback

First thing: clean all these!
Now two months after my wedding, my wallet has restored its modest dripping of funds, enough to get brew back into both fermenters & kegs.

I came into the wedding plans with the fervor to supply all my reception's beer intake. But, thanks to MN liquor statutes, I am left with a complete glass carboy & plastic bucket army. As I get back onto my feet, here's a rundown of my exploits in stocking our home with the gift of grain:

October 21, 2010

Brewing to the occasion

Every year since we were our in our twenties, some good friends and I spend a few days each fall and spring to fish the runs of Lake Superior trout as they migrate up their home rivers. Every fall and spring I brew a batch or two of beer for the trip.

October 13, 2010

The Worst Beer I Ever Made

...was also the first beer I ever made. A terrible first batch of beer can be pretty discouraging, and I almost didn't give it a second try. Thankfully, by the time of my second batch, I had just moved mere miles from Northern Brewer. Had it not been for living near a quality, local, home brew store, I may not have gotten back on the horse. Here's what not to do:

October 7, 2010

Have beer, want wine

Got a few batches of homebrew under your belt ... feel like trying your hand at wine? An easy thing, and soon done, as you can see in this video.

September 30, 2010

Yeast Experiment Round One Results

First round results are in for the yeast experiment! On a Friday afternoon several of us Northern Brewer folks sat down for a unique wine tasting. Some of you folks probably took a look at my previous post, The Grand Yeast Experiment, in which I described the set-up.

September 21, 2010

Apologia for a TopTier

(Fellow homebrewers, please feel free to cite, paraphrase, or cut and paste for your own birthday lists)

September 16, 2010

The Season for Beer

You say it's January and I'm dressed for summer?
I frequently find myself drinking beer styles out of season. Oh, the scandal. Perhaps we homebrewers prefer to break with preconceived notions.

September 9, 2010

Invigorate your boil

As a lazy homebrewer, I take a few shortcuts when brewing at home. One of these shortcuts is brewing on an otherwise entirely unsuitable, flat glass electric stove.

Notes on a brew day: Old Golden and DSB (Dawson's Special Bitter)

What's better than ten gallons of homebrew? Not much.

Ah, but what if there were some way to  achieve two different kinds of beer from one batch? Pitch two different yeasts, you say? True. But I was thinking of parti-gyle.

September 7, 2010

NeoBritannia rocks the wort

Estery, British, and fruity: that's how I like 'em. And Northern Brewer's new yeast is right up my alley.

September 3, 2010

The Grand Yeast Experiment

Fourteen batches of wine and mead. A bevvy, nay a slew, of yeast. Which will take home the gold? Only time, and a lot of drinking, will tell.

August 30, 2010

Take it outside!

Somewhere inside my body dwells the homebrewer I previously could afford (in degrees of mental attention) to be. The brewer inside has had wedding plans budge into my queue for prime brain activity.

August 23, 2010

Ways to Extreme-ify Your Brewing

In honor of this year's shark week: I bring you the first (and probably the last) in ways to extreme-ify your brewing®: Isinglass. That's right, isinglass is made from the swim bladders of fish. What's a swim bladder? Well according to friggin' Wikipedia it's:

August 20, 2010

Boadicea ESB - welcome NB 1945 to the party!

So, as many home brewers may now be aware, Northern Brewer now has its own yeast strain furnished by the fine folks at Wyeast.

August 17, 2010

Towards a new homebrewing lexicon

In just the span of time that I've been brewing (a drop in the bucket of humanity's fermented history), homebrewing as a leisure pursuit has advanced by leaps and bounds, the scope of which are astonishing: from canned, hopped malt extract and about six Wyeast strains (1028, 1056, 1084, 1728, 2124, 2206), to today's abundant selections of ingredients and specialized gear.

It's time our vocabulary was brought up to speed. Some of my suggested additions are below; please chime in with your own.

August 13, 2010

August 6, 2010

Chip's Vlog: Coolin' Out with Chizzer Wizzer

[editor's note: this piece originally appeared in the Brewing TV blog]

Recently, I asked Dawson to concoct a recipe for me that would use some miscellaneous ingredients that I had sitting around the brewroom, freezer, and fridge. They included: Wyeast Leuven Pale smack pack, 1 oz Cluster whole leaf hops, 4 oz Centennial whole leaf hops (from Dawson's 2009 backyard crop), and some Carafa III.

August 3, 2010

When life gives you lemons and some Hefeweizen

Apocryphally invented at need by a Bavarian innkeeper suddenly beset by a horde of thirsty cyclists while beer levels im Keller were at low tide, this mixture is variously known as Radler, Russ'n, or Alsterwasser ... or "shandy" if you're Anglo.

July 30, 2010

Tragic News, Everyone

I regret to inform you that the Brick used to prop open the back service door at Northern Brewer St. Paul passed away earlier this week.

July 27, 2010

Ingredient Showcase: Biscuit Malt

Biscuit malt, come on down! It's your turn to be smashed, steeped, and then drunk!

Let's look at biscuit malt today. This is a favorite of mine. I have met people who hate biscuit malt, people who love biscuit malt, and people who use it to the point of excess. Perhaps the latter tend to create the former. With moderation, it does add a unique component to a recipe.

July 23, 2010

Mid-Winter Homebrew Competition Winner's Release Party

Dan's French Saison took "Best Of Show" at the Mid-Winter Homebrew competition in February. Dan got to brew it with the pros at the Milwaukee Brewing Company, and it was debuted to the public this  week.

July 21, 2010

How to plan a re-brew

So as a home brewer develops his or her brewing skills, the natural tendency is to start developing recipes. This task can be a little more nebulous than cooking, where results can be measured instantaneously. I decided to try my hand at creating a recipe for a stout that was somewhere in between a breakfast stout and an oatmeal stout, two of my favorite beer styles.

July 15, 2010

Chip's Vlog: Saison Noire brewday

[editor's note: this piece originally appeared in the Brewing TV blog]

Hello, brewguys and brewgals. BTV videoman Chip Walton here with a quick video from a recent brewday... actually it was hot & steamy brewnight. After getting burned out on the debate and drinking way too much of all three Cascadian Dark Ale, Black IPA and American-Style India Black Ale... I needed something something DARK, but not hoppy at all. The cure for this hop-burnout-itis? A Saison Noire! Something spicy for this hot summer in the city.

Video here!

July 12, 2010

Mild Ale

A mere hour into Saint Paul's Summer Beer Fest & I'm lost among pale ales of Extra, Imperial & lesser grades. The Midwest's ale scene in 2010 continues to pour copper colours of beer infused with green knowledge. Get out of the sun & into a shady Lyndale Ave. pub for a pitcher of bitter elixir, every drinker is on your side!


July 9, 2010

Session Beers

Some factors have been merging recently, bringing me to write this blog post on session beers, and I'll talk about each of them in turn: brewing a run of 4-5 batches in a row of above-6% ABV beer, drinking some truly amazing low-gravity beers, checking out The Session Beer Project blog, and listening to Mark Stutrud's keynote address at the NHC this year.

July 7, 2010

Update: Around the Style Guidelines in 365 days

By the druidic calendar as well as the Gregorian, the time allotted for my beer style marathon is a little over halfway used-up. I haven't been counting, and this seems an appropriate time to stop, reflect, and take inventory. So how'm I doin'?

July 5, 2010

Chip's Open/Closed Patersbier

[editor's note: this piece was originally published on the Brewing TV blog]

Hello everyone. Chip Walton, the guy behind the camera, here.

When Michael Dawson (or Jake Keeler) says JUMP - I say HOW HIGH?! In Episode 6, Dawson issued our first Brewing TV Challenge. He suggested viewers brew a five-gallon batch of Patersbier, split it into two 2.5-gallon batches, ferment one closed, ferment one open. I took this challenge to heart.

Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em

AKA don't over-crush your grain...please.

July 1, 2010


I had my first Gose beer the other day, and I knew from the first sip that I'd have to brew some.

June 29, 2010

Notes on a Brewday: Saison Regalitarian

Distressing over the fact that most of my beers are either Belgian-inspired or IPAs, I decided to purchase a sack of Castle Pilsner malt. I should declare an aside here - this is currently my favorite malt, in part because it makes a great base for any pale Belgian-style recipe, and in part because it always yields perfect runoff at the proper crush - no vorlaufing needed.

June 25, 2010

Staycation with Jeremy

My vacation went like this: 2 beer festivals, 6 breweries, 1 distillery, 1 brew day, and a ton of grilling n' chilling.

June 21, 2010

Brewing Rigs I Have Known

Have you ever stopped to track, or at least consider, how your brewing rig has changed over time? And what it means for your beer? What it says about your relationship to homebrewing?