Saison – Summer 2015

I haven’t been blogging much. But I have been brewing! I wish I had more time to do both. Anyway, here’s my latest brew. It’s a pretty straightforward saison.


It pours a bit murky with a billowing fluffy white head that lasts quite long. The clarity is definitely my fault as I racked it into the keg I was distracted when the doorbell rang and accidentally shifted my racking cane and picked up a bunch of yeast. Not to mention that I didn’t fine it with anything. Adding some finings for clarification is something I should of done and will do in the future.


The nose has a familiar Belgian-like ale yeast aroma to it with some subtle barnyard and earthy notes. The 3711 strain aroma doesn’t have the same aroma like the more finicky Dupont strain. I do prefer the Dupont strain, but 3711 is very respectable. I was also hoping for it to be more hop forward since I used the Galaxy hops for the first time. According to my hop schedule it should have came in around 40 IBUs but they are lost in translation. There are hops present but nothing distinguishable or unique from the aroma or the taste other than some light citrus.  But sadly no passion fruit or peach that the Galaxy hop is known for.


It has a smooth beginning and then finishes crisp and dry. But not overly dry. It also has an interesting minerally spicy finish on the tongue which might be attributed to the freshly cracked pepper addition 5 minutes before flame-out. Speaking of the pepper, it has hints of both pepper and lemon, a very good combination. The grain bill was pretty simple but I did add 3 lbs of rye and 2 lbs of white wheat to accompany the 10 lbs of 2  row. I’m uncertain if the late spiciness I detect is attributable to the rye or the freshly cracked pepper. It is truly a summer beer that is easy to drink and thirst quenching as the hot days require.


I would categorize it as a good representation of a saison. Undoubtedly it will be enjoyed. I have a bottle of Dupont saison which I intend on harvesting the dregs and creating a yeast starter with. It’ll be interesting to do another saison with the Dupont yeast to compare and contrast.


Recipe Specifications

Boil Size: 6.22 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.72 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.25 gal
Estimated OG: 1.069 SG
Estimated Color: 5.7 SRM
Estimated IBU: 42.2 IBUs
Boil Time: 60 Minutes


Amt Name Type # %/IBU
3 lbs Rye Malt (4.7 SRM) Grain 2 20.0 %
10 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 66.7 %
2 lbs White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM) Grain 3 13.3 %
0.50 oz Galaxy [14.00 %] – Boil 10.0 min Hop 7 7.9 IBUs
0.50 oz Galaxy [14.00 %] – Boil 30.0 min Hop 4 16.7 IBUs
1.0 pkg French Saison (Wyeast Labs #3711) [50.28 Yeast
0.50 oz Galaxy [14.00 %] – Boil 20.0 min Hop 5 13.2 IBUs
0.50 oz Galaxy [14.00 %] – Boil 5.0 min Hop 8 4.3 IBUs
1.00 Items Irish Moss (Boil 10.0 mins) Fining
1 1/2 teaspoons Freshly Cracked Pepper (Boil 5.0 mins) Spices

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Medium Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 15 lbs
Name Description Step Temperat Step Time
Mash In Add 24.00 qt of water at 161.1 F 152.0 F 60 min

Sparge: Drain mash tun, Batch sparge with 1 steps (2.52gal) of 168.0F

hard cider

First Attempt at Hard Apple Cider

After enjoying several offerings from local California cideries I thought it was time to make my own. was an invaluable resource in learning about making good homebrewed cider. As I researched further I learned how ridiculously simple it is. Making a delicious cider is literally a fraction of the ceremony involved when brewing a beer.

If you’re already brewing beer you probably already have 2 of the 3 basic things!

  • Clean and sanitized carboy
  • Yeast
  • 100% preservative free apple juice

The most important part is sourcing your apple juice and making sure it does not contain any preservatives.  Avoid the juices that contain sulfites as these types of preservatives will inhibit fermentation. It is pretty easy to find preservative free 100% apple juice from any grocer. Trying your local farmers market is also a great option but it’ll be much more expensive.  Or if you’re lucky and live close enough to an apple orchard you can often times buy juice directly from the orchard or if you’re really feeling ambitious buy the apples and press them yourself. The truth is you can make a delicious cider from any of these options.

So I bought 4 gallons of apple juice for about $25. I had a yeast cake ready to go from a Belgian Tripel that had just finished fermenting so I opted to use that.  The Belgian yeast I used was WLP503. The cool thing about cider is that you can use wine yeast or beer yeast. Wine yeast will most often finish much drier and may require some back sweetened whereas beer yeast might not finish as dry. Lastly I made sure to wipe down the bottles of apple juice with some StarSan and basically dumped them into my carboy with a sanitized funnel and slapped on a fresh airlock. Done! Super low ceremony indeed.

The visual aspects of the fermentation were different from what I am used to seeing with a beer. One thing that I noticed was the lack of krausen. There was some krausen,  but it was pretty light. I also didn’t notice any visual signs of fermentation until about day 3.

I let it sit at room temperature which was about 68F for 3 weeks and bottled it up with some leftover carbonation tablets I had sitting around.

I let the cider condition in the bottle for about a week and I must say I was pleasantly surprised with how well it turned out. Given the results I felt like I didn’t have to try really hard. It is sort of an odd feeling since when brewing beer there is a lot of preparation and planning that I do. Maybe it was beginners luck or could it be that making hard cider is really this easy? As I expected it didn’t require any back sweetening, it was light, slightly tart,  very refreshing, and perfectly carbonated.

Tonight I’ll be sharing some of this cider at a New Year’s Eve party. Cheers to a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

Oktoberfest 2014

Oktoberfest 2014

I made an Oktoberfest back in the August timeframe. The beer was kegged and tapped the weekend of Halloween. I’ve been enjoying it since. It is clean, clear, crisp, and slightly malty. I’d like the Oktoberfest to be a bit more malty especially since I went out of my way and painstakingly performed a triple decoction mash. The decoction mash easily adds an 1.5 hours to my brew day. Everyone knows decoctions are a major PITA but I keep doing them for German styles. Anyway as I compare it to my attempt at the style last year I recall enjoying last year’s more. I believe this has to do with two components. For starters I used a different yeast strain. Last year I used Wyeast 2633 and this year I used a WLP833. Wyeast 2633 is specifically labeled as an Oktoberfest lager blend whereas the WLP833 is advertised as a German bock yeast. The yeast choice was an improvisation at the homebrew store since they didn’t have 2633 in stock. I can’t say WLP833 is a bad yeast, but in my opinion it just doesn’t work as well for the style. I look forward to experimenting with WLP833 when I finally get around to making another batch of Doppelbock. The second component that differs from last year are the hops. For some crazy reason my local homebrew store was out of Hallertau and so I opted for German Tradition hops. Oktoberfest’s are pretty low on the IBU scale traditionally in the 20-28 IBU range, but I taste a difference. I definitely prefer Hallertau over the German Tradition hops. The conclusion here is to stick with a recipe if you really like it and don’t improvise on ingredients but instead plan far enough in advance so that you get exactly what you want. Cheers!


Keezer Build

I finally finished converting my chest freezer into a “keezer”. It’s actually been more of an iterative build rather than a one time weekend project. I bought a “Holiday” 5 cubic foot chest freezer more than a year ago from a big box home improvement store. I sought out one of the most economical chest freezers I could find, but also one that had a lot of good reviews and this one fit the bill. Once it was delivered I began using it almost immediately with a Johnson temperature controller and a couple picnic cobra style taps. It was functional but temporary. A couple months later I bought some nice Perlick 525SS faucets when they were on sale. The Perlick faucets sat around for 6 or 7 months before I got around to buying the stainless shanks. Finally I got around the buying some cheap lumber to create the collar. I looked at some oak or maple as a outer face for the collar but decided not to since I was thinking about painting the collar with chalkboard paint. I also picked up some really excellent hand made oak tap handles from glsDesign on Etsy that I highly recommend! So I saved on some things but splurged on the stuff I felt mattered. The Perlick faucets are great, the tap handles look very nice, and the Johnson temperature controller works perfectly. The only thing that I am a bit dissatisfied with is the amount of room I have in the keezer itself. I can fit two 5 gallon ball lock kegs in there with a dual gauge regulator and the CO2 tank but it is pretty tight. It sure would have been nice to have bought a large chest freezer for expansion and a little more wiggle room. But honestly I really don’t need more than 10 gallons of beer on tap.

English IPA

Summertime Sipping – English IPA

Summer is in full swing and the demand for thirst quenching quaffable beers is in high demand. Here is an English IPA I brewed back in March just in time for the early summer months. The beer didn’t turn out remarkable by any stretch of the imagination, but it certainly wasn’t bad. My gripe is that I would have preferred less earthy hop character and more intense floral and citrus characteristics. I attribute the earthiness to the early hop additions I did that included 2 oz. of Columbus. Live and learn. To my surprise S04 yeast is a beast. It did a heck of a job comparatively speaking, it involved little to no ceremony, and finished attenuating in record time. I recall ripping open the humble packet of S04, dumping the contents, and wishing it luck. In less than 6 hours it was at work. Not bad, especially given all the time I spend delicately handling and preparing my yeast starters with more finicky and expensive liquid yeasts. The S04 imparted a pretty neutral finish with just a few esters just as I’d expect from a English yeast strain. I think I’ll be calling on S04 more often.

doppelbock close up

Traditional Doppelbock

It is well known that beer and the shifting of the seasons are closely linked. As the seasons change my palette inevitable shifts with them. Brewing for the seasons is difficult to say the least. The tricky part is staying ahead of the curve so you have the beer you crave in hand rather than your mash paddle. Ideally I would have brewed this doppelbock so it was ready and tapped for the Christmas season to pair with all those deliciously rich foods and sweet treats. That of course would have meant that I brewed the doppelbock in September. But naturally everyone is thinking Oktoberfest in September including me. As it turns out I ended up brewing this doppelbock in late November and it was just a few days ago that I enjoyed the last sip of this wintry delight.

This doppelbock turned out just as I hoped. One of my favorite doppelbocks is Weihenstephaner Korbinian. Korbinian is unapologetically malty with just a hint of roast and I wanted to model my doppelbock to be similar. Not a clone by any means, but similar.

So how did my doppelbock turn out?

The appearance had a beautiful dark ruby reddish hue when the light struck the glass and staring down the barrel of glass it was a rich dark brown.

The aroma was of dried figs and raisins which I attribute to the Special ‘B’ malt addition.

In the front the mouth the taste was malty with plenty of raisiny flavor. As it lingered a bit longer a very subtle roasted coffee flavor came through. I must admit it was on the sweeter side initially and while it continued to age in the keg it attenuated further pointing to the fact that I probably should of lagered it longer. As my tastes go, I don’t mind a sweeter beer especially doppelbock.

It was a medium bodied beer with decent head retention.

Here is the recipe that I followed.

Recipe Specs
Boil Size: 7.00 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.75 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 6.00 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.75 gal
Estimated OG: 1.083 SG
Estimated Color: 26.1 SRM
Estimated IBU: 18.4 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 72.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 72.0 %
Boil Time: 75 Minutes

8 lbs Munich Malt (9.0 SRM)
9 lbs Pilsner (2 Row) Ger (2.0 SRM)
1 lbs Special B Malt (180.0 SRM)
1.00 oz Hallertauer Hersbrucker
1.00 oz Hallertauer Hersbrucker
1 lbs Caramel/Crystal Malt -120L (120.0 SRM)
8.0 oz Rice Hulls (0.0 SRM)
1.00 Items Campden Tablet (Boil 0.0 mins)
2.50 tsp Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) (Mash 60.0 mins
1.0 pkg Wyeast Labs #2206

Mash Schedule:
Name Description
Protein Rest Add 26.40 qt of water and heat 130.0 F 30 min
Saccharification Decoct thick mash 6.74 qt heat & hold 147.0 F 30 min
Saccharification Decoct thick mash 6.74 qt boil it 147.0 F 60 min
Saccharification Decoct thick mash 4.50 qt boil it 156.0 F 30 min
Mash Out Heat to 168.0 F over 10 min 168.0 F 10 min

Sparge: Fly sparge with 3.49 gal water at 168.0 F

Belgian Pumpkin Ale

Belgian Pumpkin Ale

To start I really wasn’t planning on doing a pumpkin beer last fall. Somehow pumpkin beer made it to the special request list for Thanksgiving dinner and naturally I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. On the other hand, every year autumn arrives and the market becomes more inundated with mediocre pumpkin beers. Not only that but so many commercial brewers take advantage of the seasonality of the pumpkin craze and unnecessarily crank up the prices. Quite sad. If I had to do a pumpkin based beer I didn’t want this to be an atypical pumpkin pie spiced beer. Mediocrity was not an option. It wasn’t until I stumbled on this Chop & Brew episode featuring Mr. Dawson’s Belgian Dark. I was quite curious about the strain since I hadn’t heard much about it before. I suppose that’s due to the fact that 3822 is a seasonal yeast. I figured that it would be fun to experiment in the context of a pumpkin beer. I am glad I did.

Wyeast 3822 “Dutch Castle” lives up to it’s promise of being slightly tart and dry with a beautiful aroma of freshly cut green apples and subtle spiciness. Combined with the freshly roasted organic pumpkin and the spices I added, this beer was well received and didn’t last long.

bytes and brews