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Michael Dawson joins me to discuss his new book “Mashmaker” as well as the emergence of some unique craft beer malts.

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Mashmaker and Craft Malts with Michael Dawson - BeerSmith Podcast #165 - YouTube

Topics in This Week’s Episode (45:30)
  • Today my guest is Michael Dawson from BSG. Michael is the author of the new book Mashmaker, and founding member of the original “Brewing TV”. Michael is an editor for BYO magazine, BJCP certified beer judge and writes for the “Growler Magazine”. He just published his new book “Mashmaker – a Citizen-Brewer’s Guide to Making Great Beer at Home”.
  • We start with a brief discussion of what Michael has been up to since last appearing on the podcast.
  • Michael gives us a brief overview of his new book “Mashmaker”
  • We discuss the main topic for this weeks’ show: malts and craft malting. Michael starts with a description of the basic groups of malts and how they are used.
  • He explains the malting process and how the four major groups of malts are malted and then kilned.
  • We talk about barley varieties and how a few major barley varieties dominated the US market for many years.
  • Michael explains heritage malts, many of which disappeared over the last 100 years, and how some growers and malsters are trying to introduce long lost malts to the craft beer industry.
  • We discuss a few specific heritage varieties that are now available to home brewers: Crisp Plumage/Archer and Crisp Chevalier.
  • Michael tells us about his experience brewing with heritage malts.
  • We discuss the concept of “terroir” and how the flavor of a malt reflects the region it is grown in. Michael shares one malt specifically grown in Northern Italy as an example: Weyermann Eraclea Pilsner.
  • Michael gives us his thoughts on craft malting as well as small barley farms that are driving a “buy local” trend in beer ingredients.
  • We spend a few minutes at the end talking about his book “Mashmaker” and Michael shares a few of the stories in the book that go with his many beer recipes.
  • Michael shares his closing thoughts on completing his first brewing book.
Sponsors

Thanks to Michael Dawson for appearing on the show and also to you for listening!

iTunes Announcements: I launched a new video channel for the BeerSmith podcast on iTunes, so subscribe now! At the moment it will only feature the new widescreen episodes (#75 and up). Older episodes are available on my revamped Youtube channel. Also all of my audio episodes are on iTunes now – so grab the older episodes if you missed any.

Thoughts on the Podcast?

Leave me a comment below or visit our discussion forum to leave a comment in the podcast section there.

Subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes or BeerSmith Radio

You can listen to all of my podcast episodes streaming live around the clock on our BeerSmith Radio online radio station! You can also subscribe to the audio or video using the iTunes links below, or the feed address

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and my newsletter (or use the links in the sidebar) – to get free weekly articles on home brewing.

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This week I take a look at the often overlooked topic of blending two beers either to correct a flawed beer or make a more complex finished beer.

Why Blend Your Beers

The vast majority of beers are made in a straightforward way – you brew a recipe, ferment, age and enjoy it. While this is great when everything in your recipe works perfectly, life is not always perfect.

Many wine makers, by contrast, are master blenders. The “Bordeaux” style, for instance, is crafted from a number of different wines blended after fermentation. Blending the wines produces high quality but also consistency in flavor from year to year.

Blending beer lets you correct minor and even major flaws in a brew, and in some cases also lets you produce a beer that would otherwise be very difficult or time consuming to create using traditional methods. So rather than dumping a brew that did not turn out just right, I encourage you to think outside the box and blend your way to a better beer.

Blending to Correct a Flawed Beer

One of the first applications of blending is to correct a flawed beer. You can do this either by blending in a beer you already have on hand or brewing a beer to specifically address the flaw in your first beer.

Lets look at brewing a beer specifically to blend with a flawed beer. This is easiest to do when the beer has an obvious imbalance such as too much or two little bitterness, a thin or overly heavy body, or an obvious flavor issue such as too much roast flavor. In this case the antidote is obvious – brew a beer that will correct the flaw. If the original is over-hopped, then you under-hop the second beer. If too thin, then make another with the same recipe but too much body. The goal is to generate a beer that, blended with the original, produces a balanced finish.

A second strategy is to brew a “cover-up” beer. This approach can be used to “cover up” flaws in the original beer, and can be used to correct more extreme off-flavors. Usually this means brewing a dark, heavy beer who’s flavors will mask any flaws in the original beer. For example a pale ale with an obvious flaw like DMS (a cooked corn flavor) could easily be corrected if I blend it with a heavy stout to produce a blended porter. You could take a light lager with flaws and make a dark bock beer to produce a dark lager. A light beer that has some souring from an infection could be blended with a heavier sour beer to make an intentionally soured beer to make a sour style.

Blending to Create a Particular Flavor

A third strategy I use for blending beer is joining two beers to create a specific desired flavor. Here we may not be correcting a flaw but instead simply adding a flavor to make an otherwise dull beer interesting. You can blend two beers you already have on hand – such as an Imperial Stout and a Sour, or brew a beer to blend. This can also be done with fruits, flavorings, sours, hop extracts and spices.

For example you could blend a sour beer or directly add lactic acid into an otherwise normal ale to create a sour ale. Add fruit flavoring, or fermented fruits to taste to make your own fruit beer. Add a spiced tea with your favorite spices to taste to spice your beer to the exact level you like. You can use isomerized hop extracts to add hop flavor after your beer is completely done to get a different finish or bitterness level. Add liquors or bourbon to the finished beer to give it a fruit, spiced or even bourbon barrel aged finish without the barrel. Add mead to a beer to create a braggot.

For this approach I find it best to start with a fixed amount of beer, say 100 ml, and then add a measured amount of the flavoring (or flavored beer) until I get the precise flavor balance I want. Once you have the right mixing proportions simply scale it up to the size of the batch you’ve made to get the right balance up front.

So the next time you brew a beer that did not come out perfect, don’t dump it – blend it! Thanks for joining me on the BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter or my podcast (also on itunes…and youtube…and streaming radio station) for more great tips on homebrewing. Also check out the How to Brew Video series I shot with John Palmer if you want to learn more about all grain brewing.

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Dr Charlie Bamforth joins me this week to discuss how brewing yeast and yeast health affects flavors in beer.

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Yeast and Beer Flavors with Dr Charlie Bamforth - BeerSmith Podcast #164 - YouTube

Topics in This Week’s Episode (53:15)
  • Today my guest is Dr Charles Bamforth, Professor of Malting and Brewing Science at the University of California at Davis. Charlie specializes in the study of wholesomeness in beer including beer perception, polyphenols, foam stability, oxidation and flavor stability. Charlie is the author of over 20 books on beer including the ASBC Practical Guide to Flavor (Amazon affiliate link) mentioned in this episode.
    • I do apologize for the video quality this week – we were unable to get a solid video connection.
  • We discuss Charlie’s pending retirement as well as some upcoming courses he is teaching through the University of California at Davis and also in Nottingham.
  • We talk about how yeast is the primary cause of some 10 of the 16 commonly referenced “off flavors” in beer according to the Beer Judge Certification Program score sheet.
  • Charlie starts with some off flavors from his book on “Flavors” (linked above) starting with sourness – which he ties closely to beer acidity.
  • We discuss the current trends in “sour beers” as well as ways to introduce sourness and manage it.
  • He next moves on to talk about diacetyl and VDKs including pentainedione, as well as their cause and how to reduce them.
  • Charlie and I discuss esters and how they come from “esterfied” alcohol especially higher order alcohols. We also talk about ways to manage and reduce them.
  • Next we move on to alcohol itself which can be an off flavor or “feature” in certain high gravity beers.
  • We discuss acids – in particular excessive fatty acids that can build up in a wort that has not been properly aerated before pitching your yeast.
  • We finish with a discussion on sulfur and a few other off flavors.
  • Charlie provides his summary on how to reduce off flavors that are caused by yeast.
Sponsors

Thanks to Chris White and John Blichmann for appearing on the show and also to you for listening!

iTunes Announcements: I launched a new video channel for the BeerSmith podcast on iTunes, so subscribe now! At the moment it will only feature the new widescreen episodes (#75 and up). Older episodes are available on my revamped Youtube channel. Also all of my audio episodes are on iTunes now – so grab the older episodes if you missed any.

Thoughts on the Podcast?

Leave me a comment below or visit our discussion forum to leave a comment in the podcast section there.

Subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes or BeerSmith Radio

You can listen to all of my podcast episodes streaming live around the clock on our BeerSmith Radio online radio station! You can also subscribe to the audio or video using the iTunes links below, or the feed address

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and my newsletter (or use the links in the sidebar) – to get free weekly articles on home brewing.

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Chris White and John Blichmann join me to discuss their experiments in pressurized fermentation of beer in a quest to produce lager-like beers at room temperature.

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Pressure Fermentation with Chris White & John Blichmann- BeerSmith Podcast #163 - YouTube

Topics in This Week’s Episode (52:36)
  • Today my guests are John Blichmann and Chris White. John is CEO of Blichmann Engineering, a premier inventor and producer of home and professional brewing equipment. Dr Chris White is CEO of White Labs, one of the largest US producers of beer brewing yeast and also is co-author of the “Yeast” book (Amazon affiliate link) and 2013 winner of the AHA governing committee award.
  • Today they join me to discuss the results of a joint experiment they did on fermenting beer with lager yeast under pressure in an attempt to produce lager-like beer at room temperature.
  • John discusses his “Cornicle” fermenter which is a combination keg/fermenter that allowed him to ferment beer under elevated pressure.
  • Chris explains the different between ale and lager yeasts as well as how temperature has a significant effect on the flavor profile the yeasts produce.
  • He also tells us how esters play a major role in developing lager and ale flavor profiles.
  • John explains his research which indicated that commercial breweries using very tall fermenters ran into issues with flavor changes on their lagers.
  • Chris shares some of the changes that go on within the yeast cell when you ferment beer under pressure.
  • John tells us about the experiment they designed to split a batch into four parts and ferment one portion at lager temperature, and the other three at room temperatures but with varying pressures of zero, one and two bars (technically at standard pressure, then one bar which is 14.7 psi or 10 kilopascals above standard pressure, and two bars above which is 29.6 psi or 20 kilo pascals).
  • Chris explains some of the laboratory analysis they did and how the ester levels were indeed lower on the pressure fermented beers.
  • We discuss which pressure worked best overall – about 1 bar (14.7 psi or 10 kilopascals) above standard pressure.
  • Chris explains that the analysis indicated no significant ill effects from the pressure fermented beer.
  • John and Chris share their “qualitative” analysis both from a personal perspective and small group experience.
  • John tells us about judging the beer at the Indiana State fair and what experienced beer judges found there.
  • Chris and John share their final thoughts on whether this is a viable (and faster) method to brew a “lager-like” beer at room temperature.
Sponsors

Thanks to Chris White and John Blichmann for appearing on the show and also to you for listening!

iTunes Announcements: I launched a new video channel for the BeerSmith podcast on iTunes, so subscribe now! At the moment it will only feature the new widescreen episodes (#75 and up). Older episodes are available on my revamped Youtube channel. Also all of my audio episodes are on iTunes now – so grab the older episodes if you missed any.

Thoughts on the Podcast?

Leave me a comment below or visit our discussion forum to leave a comment in the podcast section there.

Subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes or BeerSmith Radio

You can listen to all of my podcast episodes streaming live around the clock on our BeerSmith Radio online radio station! You can also subscribe to the audio or video using the iTunes links below, or the feed address

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and my newsletter (or use the links in the sidebar) – to get free weekly articles on home brewing.

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Today I take a look at how to handle RIMS and HERMS brewing systems in BeerSmith brewing software. I’ve had quite a few people ask me how to incorporate these systems into BeerSmith, so below is a quick overview.

What Makes RIMS and HERMS Systems Different?

Lets start with what makes a RIMS or HERMS brewing system different than a traditional home brewing system. Both of these are recirculating mash systems which means that they incorporate a recirculating pump and some type of heating element to cycle warm water through the mash tun during the mash stage.

RIMS stands for Recirculating Infusion Mash System (RIMS) and these systems incorporate the heating element into the recirculating line. So basically as water is recirculated by a pump from the bottom to the top of the mash tun, the water can be heated using a heating element in the recirculating line. The temperature of the wort is controlled by cycling the heating element on and off.

HERMS stands for Heat Exchange Recirculating Mash System which incorporate some form of heat exchanger or coil. The most common HERMS design has a hot liquor tun with hot water in it that is heated directly for use in the later lauter stage. In the hot liquor tun is an immersion coil that acts as a heat exchanger. The wort is circulated from the bottom of the mash tun, through the coil and back to the top of the mash tun. In this case, the pump’s flow rate is regulated to manage the temperature of the wort, or alternately the pump is cycled on and off. You can find additional info on RIMS and HERMS here.

When comparing RIMS or HERMS to a traditional home brew system, the main difference is the use of a recirculating pump and heat source during the mash phase. The rest of the brewing process is the same – so RIMS or HERMS do not handle the boil or fermentation any differently, though a pump is available to make it easier to transfer wort around. So when we talk about using a RIMS or HERMS system for brewing with BeerSmith, we’re really talking about changes only to the mash phase.

Finally, I will note that most RIMS or HERMS systems use a simple water infusion for the first mash step. Typically the water needed for mashing is added to the mash tun and then recirculated and heated until the mash in (infusion) temperature is reached. Then the grain is added just as you would with a conventional brewing system.

The key difference comes in second and later mash steps. Here instead of adding additional hot water, a RIMS or HERMS system will heat the wort directly as it is recirculating. So really the only difference for RIMS or HERMS is that the later mash steps are direct heat steps instead of infusion steps.

Setting Up a RIMS/HERMS Equipment Profile

Since we’ve established that the only major difference between RIMS/HERMS and a traditional infusion mash system is how the wort is heated, you will probably not be surprised that you set up your RIMS/HERMS equipment profile in exactly the same way you would for a regular brewing system in BeerSmith.

I won’t rehash how to build an equipment profile in BeerSmith here, but you can read the following article which walks step by step through the process, or watch the video here. The key is knowing your equipment volumes. Also because the RIMS/HERMS system preheats the water and mash tun, you don’t need to adjust temperatures for the mash tun being hold so you can actually uncheck the “Adjust Temp for Equip” box next to the mash profile name in your recipe.

Modifying Your Mash Profiles for RIMS/HERMS

If you are using a single step mash with no mash out, you can simply use any of the the “Single Infusion, No Mash Out” mash profiles that come with BeerSmith and don’t need to change anything. Since the first step in a RIMS/HERMS system is an infusion step, using this mash profile will let you calculate the infusion temperature for the mash-in and will work just fine. Again you want to uncheck the “Adjust temp for equip” box since your mash tun is already pre-heated.

If you want to use a multi-step mash profile or profile with a mash-out step, then you do need to alter the stock BeerSmith mash profiles slightly. The best way to do this is go to Profiles->Mash and make a copy (copy then paste) of the one you want to modify. I recommend starting with any of the infusion mash profiles as these provide a good basis for RIMS/HERMS systems. Then double click on the profile to edit it.

Once the profile is open, rename it by adding “RIMS” or “HERMS” to the name so you can differentiate it from the stock profile. Next you want to double click on the later mash steps. Leave the first mash step alone, as it will remain an infusion mash step, but you want to edit the second and later mash steps by double clicking on them.

For each of these second and later steps, you want to change the Type of the step from “infusion” to “temperature”. A temperature mash step setting means that direct heat from the RIMS/HERMS system is used instead of a hot water addition to raise the temperature. You also want to change the Water to Add to zero, as you won’t be adding more water after the initial infusion. Do this for the second and later steps, since all of these steps will be done by direct heat from your RIMS/HERMS system. When you are done editing the name and mash steps, click Ok to save your mash profile.

Finally, once you have the mash profile edited you can go back and create a recipe using this profile. On the Design page for your recipe be sure to pick your equipment profile, the new RIMS or HERMS mash profile you just created and again uncheck the “Adjust temp for equip” box next to the mash profile name since your mash tun will already be preheated.

That’s it – now you can brew your recipe on your RIMS/HERMS system by first adding the water, bringing it up to the first mash step infusion temperature, then mixing in the grains. Later mash steps can be reached by directly dialing the various step temperatures into your RIMS/HERMS temperature controller.

I hope this article helps brewers who use RIMS/HERMS systems with BeerSmith. Thanks for joining me on the BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter or my podcast (also on itunes…and youtube…and streaming radio station) for more great tips on homebrewing. Also check out the How to Brew Video series I shot with John Palmer if you want to learn more about all grain brewing.

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Brewing high gravity beers like barley wines, tripels, and imperial stouts present some challenges unique to high gravity brewing. This week I provide a few tips and considerations that come into play when brewing high gravity beers.

Big Beer Challenges

High gravity beers which start at around 1.080 original gravity and can go as high as 1.120 present serious challenges that may surprise the average homebrewer. You need to consider the fact that you may get much lower mash and brewhouse efficiency, may overflow your mash tun with the grains needed, and also need to take several factors into effect when selecting yeast. I’ll cover the major items below.

Mash Considerations for Large Beers

First, you need to understand that you will almost certainly get lower mash and brewhouse efficiency for a high gravity beer than you would get from your system for an average beer. The reason for this is quite simple. You will be using a lot less water per unit of grain when mashing and sparging. Consider a typical 5 gallon (19 l) batch where you may have 10 lbs (4 kg) of grain. To make this beer you are running about 11-12 gal (23-27 l) of water through the grain bed between the mash and sparge or a bit over 1 gal of water per lb of grain.

A high gravity beer may have 15 lbs (6 kg) of grain for the same 5 gal (19 l) batch which means only about 0.73 gal of water for a pound of grain. As a result fewer sugars will be extracted per pound of grain, and you will get lower brewhouse and mash efficiency. So when you brew a large beer you probably need to lower your brewhouse efficiency by 10% or more to compensate for this.

A second item to consider is how much grain and water you can fit into your mash tun. A 5 gal (19 l) Gott style cooler, for instance, will only hold about 13 lbs (5.9 kg) of grain, which is not enough for a very high gravity beer. I highly recommend you calculate the space needed for grain and water (BeerSmith does this on the mash tab) so you know if your mash tun is large enough. If its not you may need to either split your mash into two vessels or add malt extract during the boil to raise the gravity up to your target.

Yeast Considerations for High Gravity Beers

I made a series of very high gravity meads this year, some starting as high as 1.160, and I learned a tremendous amount about high gravity fermentation.

High gravity worts can put significant stresses on your yeast. When selecting a yeast, for example, you need to consider the alcohol tolerance level of the yeast strain. Many typical beer yeasts have tolerance levels only in the 8-10% range, which means they will stop fermenting if the alcohol level gets higher than 8-10%. If you are brewing a 14% alcohol barley wine with regular beer yeast it will stop fermenting around 10%, and you’ll end up with a very high finishing gravity and a very sweet barley wine. Make sure you select a yeast strain that can tolerate the alcohol level you are targeting, and use wine or champagne yeast if brewing a very high gravity beer.

Another consideration for very high gravity beers is called osmotic shock. This is primarily an issue for dry yeast, though most of the high alcohol wine and champagne yeasts used in high gravity beers come in a dry form. The basic problem is that dry yeast cells are not able to properly regulate their cell wall until they have been hydrated. Also high gravity yeasts have a very high sugar concentration. So if you add dry yeast directly to a high gravity wort or must, the osmotic pressure from the sugar can breach the cell wall membrane before the yeast cell wall is in a state to regulate its flow, resulting in a high fatality rate. While its unlikely to kill all your yeast in a beer, it can result in a less than optimal pitch rate.

To avoid osmotic shock with dry yeast it is important that you properly hydrate the yeast before adding it to your wort. The method I recommend is to add lukewarm water at about 104 F to some GoFerm first. When the GoFerm is mixed in then add your yeast and allow the mixture to sit. Slowly add small amounts of wort until the mixture is down to within 10 degrees (5 C) of your wort temperature. You want to take time when doing this as you don’t want to alter the temperature of the mixture more than about 10 degrees in 10 minutes to avoid shocking the yeast. The combination of hydrating the yeast and slowly adding some wort will minimize the effects of osmotic shock and give you a healthy fermentation going forward.

Fermentation and Aging Considerations

Not surprisingly, big beers take longer to ferment out and age. Most big beers take several months, and some like barley wine can take a year or more. Though fermentation may be extremely rapid at first, often it will slow to a crawl as the alcohol level rises and the beer nears completion. As a result, patience is needed when fermenting a big beer. I generally allow extra time both for the primary and secondary fermentation and, even then, give it a bit more time before I consider bottling a big beer.

Even after fermentation is complete, it can take some time for the higher alcohols (fusels), yeast and other flavors to age and mellow out. Some beers like barley wines and big braggots take a year or more to reach peak flavor.

Hopefully these tips will help you as you plan your next high gravity beer. Thanks for joining me on the BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter or my podcast (also on itunes…and youtube…and streaming radio station) for more great tips on homebrewing. Also check out the How to Brew Video series I shot with John Palmer if you want to learn more about all grain brewing.

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This week I take a look at the proper method for hydrating dry yeast for beer brewing to maximize your viability and produce a healthy fermentation.

Dry Yeast for Home Brewing

While dry yeast does not offer quite the selection of liquid yeast, it does have some significant advantages as it is much easier to store, can be stored much longer, and is easier to prepare. I like to keep several packets in my fridge for the times when my schedule changes to let me brew, but I may not have several days in advance to prepare a yeast starter.

Though you don’t usually need a starter when working with dry yeast, proper hydration is important and there is a process I use every time to get the best results from my dry beer yeast.

Hydrating Dry Yeast

When hydrating dry yeast, I like to use GoFerm, which is a yeast nutrient from Scott Laboratories specifically designed to aid in the hydration of dry yeast. GoFerm has micronutrients that the yeast cells soak up that will aid in re-hydration and also the viability of the cells.

Scott Labs recommends adding GoFerm at the rate of 1.25 parts GoFerm per 1.0 part of yeast. This works out to 14.4 grams of GoFerm for a 11.5 g brewing yeast packet or 6.25 g of GoFerm for the smaller 5 g packets often used for wine. They recommend using 20x by weight of water to hydrate the GoFerm. If you do the math this is about 280 ml (9.5 oz) of water for the 11.5 g packet of yeast or 125 ml (4.2 oz) of water for the smaller 5 g yeast packets.

The process I use is as follow with all amounts scaled to fit a typical 11.5 g yeast packet. If you are using smaller packets or a multiple packets you may need to scale the numbers as outlined above.

  • Add 280 ml (9.5 oz) of luke-warm water (for 11.5 g yeast packet) at 104 F (40C) to a sanitized bowl or beaker. Mix in the 11.5 g of GoFerm until it is well blended.
  • Next add the dry yeast packet and mix well.
  • Let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes, then add small amounts of wort to slowly bring the temperature down.
  • I will repeat this process every 5-10 minutes or so – mixing in small amounts of wort to being the temperature of the mixture down. However you want to avoid changing the temperature by more than 10 degrees F within a single 5 minute period.
  • During these breaks, I will aerate my wort thoroughly with an oxygen wand.
  • Once the temperature is within 10 degrees F (5 C) of the temperature of the wort, you can pitch the yeast-GoFerm mixture and begin fermentation.

The above process will give you the best results when working with liquid yeast. Thanks for joining me on the BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter or my podcast (also on itunes…and youtube…and streaming radio station) for more great tips on homebrewing. Also check out the How to Brew Video series I shot with John Palmer if you want to learn more about all grain brewing.

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Curt Stock joins me this week to discuss brewing the perfect Cream Ale and a little bit about fruit meads.

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Cream Ale with Curt Stock- BeerSmith Podcast #162 - YouTube

Topics in This Week’s Episode (34:12)
  • Today my guest is Curt Stock. Curt is a former American Homebrewer’s Association Governing Committee member and was also the 2005 mead maker of the year. Curt is a member of the St Paul Homebrewer’s Club and last appeared way back in episode #20.
  • Curt begins with a description of the Cream Ale beer style – it is a very drinkable light ale similar in some ways to a Koelsch.
  • We talk about Genessee Cream Ale from Rochester as well as a few other commercial examples like Spotted Cow.
  • Curt shares his thoughts on the history of Cream Ale and how it evolved as a pre-prohibition response to the rise of light lagers. It was once called “present use” ale and also has some roots back to Koelsch.
  • We talk about the grain bill extensively which includes typically pale ale and as much as 20% corn or rice adjuncts.
  • The corn/rice really don’t add much of a creamy finish (which comes from the yeast) but instead will lighten the beer and add alcohol but not much flavor.
  • Curt tells us his own formula for cream ale which is about 80% pilsner malt and 20% flaked corn.
  • We discuss the best mash schedule. Curt prefers a low temperature mash while I suggest a “lager” mash where you have steps both at low and high temps to maximize fermentability.
  • We talk about hop schedules and the low IBU level (usually around 15 IBUs) for a cream ale, as well as why whirlpool and dry hopping may not be appropriate for this style.
  • We discuss the importance of yeast. Curt recommends Wyeast 1056, while I explain my experiments with White labs Cream Ale yeast in cider.
  • Curt shares his thoughts on fermenting out and finishing a cream ale including a fairly high carbonation level. Curt also likes to filter his cream ales.
  • We talk about bottling/aging a cream ale though it is intended to be consumed quickly after finishing.
  • Curt shares his final thoughts on cream ale.
  • We spend a few minutes talking about big fruit meads as well as how those lessons may be applied to making fruit beers.
Sponsors

Thanks to Curt Stock for appearing on the show and also to you for listening!

iTunes Announcements: I launched a new video channel for the BeerSmith podcast on iTunes, so subscribe now! At the moment it will only feature the new widescreen episodes (#75 and up). Older episodes are available on my revamped Youtube channel. Also all of my audio episodes are on iTunes now – so grab the older episodes if you missed any.

Thoughts on the Podcast?

Leave me a comment below or visit our discussion forum to leave a comment in the podcast section there.

Subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes or BeerSmith Radio

You can listen to all of my podcast episodes streaming live around the clock on our BeerSmith Radio online radio station! You can also subscribe to the audio or video using the iTunes links below, or the feed address

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and my newsletter (or use the links in the sidebar) – to get free weekly articles on home brewing.

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Owen Lingley and Jess Caudill from Imperial Yeast join me this week to discuss brewing yeast, yeast starters, pitch rates, and caring for your beer yeast.

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Imperial Yeast and Starters with Owen Lingley, Jess Caudill - BeerSmith Podcast #161 - YouTube

Topics in This Week’s Episode (43:36)
  • Today my guests are Owen Lingley and Jess Caudill from Imperial Yeast. Owen is co-owner at Imperial yeast and worked at Wyeast and also runs Craft Canning and Bottling company. He started Imperial Yeast about 2-1/2 years ago. Jess is head of the technical services department and has been in the beer industry for 22 years including Wyeast and also “Everybody’s Brewing” head of production.
  • We start with a discussion about the importance of high quality yeast in making great beer.
  • Jess explains how many yeast cells are needed for a typical 5 gal (19 l) batch.
  • We talk about starting gravities and the importance of matching your yeast pitch rate to the batch size and gravity.
  • Owen explains the concept of viable cells and how viability (living cells) decrease as a package of yeast is stored.
  • We discuss dry yeast and why it has a longer shelf life.
  • Jess tells us how to ideally store and preserve yeast to extend its viability over time.
  • We discuss yeast packaging and Owen tells us about his future packaging plans for Imperial yeast.
  • Jess explains why you need more yeast cells when working with a lager.
  • Owen talks about yeast starters and why they are important for many beers.
  • Jess tells us what size a typical homebrew starter might be.
  • We talk about how to make a yeast starter, typical sizes and why you might want to use a stir plate with a starter.
  • Jess explains the limits of starter size growth (typically 2-3x).
  • We discuss multi-stage starters and how to use them.
  • Owen and Jess explain how yeast is grown commercially.
  • Owen talks about Imperial yeast, some of their future plans and also Homebrewcon which is coming to his home town.
Sponsors

Thanks to Owen Lingley and Jess Caudill for appearing on the show and also to you for listening!

iTunes Announcements: I launched a new video channel for the BeerSmith podcast on iTunes, so subscribe now! At the moment it will only feature the new widescreen episodes (#75 and up). Older episodes are available on my revamped Youtube channel. Also all of my audio episodes are on iTunes now – so grab the older episodes if you missed any.

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This week I take a look at digital thermometer options to use with your beer brewing system. Digital thermometers currently on the market have a wide temperature range, are inexpensive, very accurate and easy to use.

Types of Brewing Thermometers

In this article I want to focus on digital thermometer options, but first I’ll describe the most popular analog options which include the floating glass thermometer and the kettle thermometer.

Most brewers are familiar with the ubiquitous floating glass thermometer which comes with the vast majority of homebrew starter kits. These glass thermometers typically have a temperature range of 0-100 C (32-212 F) and can simply be dropped in the pot or mash tun and left to float. They are fairly reliable though some have questionable accuracy in some cases (usually within a few degrees) and also they are quite fragile. I’ve broken a bunch of these.

The next most common thermometer in brewing is the common kettle thermometer (brumometer, brew thermometer) which typically has a dial face that is adjustable so you can calibrate it. These are inserted in a hole drilled in the kettle, and if calibrated properly before use are typically accurate within perhaps two degrees. These are analog thermometers that are often sold with higher end brew kettles or systems, and are great for brewing.

More recent innovations include digital thermometers both of the cooking (metal tip) kind and the infrared kind. Finally, Blichmann has introduced a bluetooth kettle thermometer called the BrewVision thermometer that is also digital but communicates directly with your phone. I’m going to cover these three models in this article as each has its advantages over the two more common types.

The Infrared Digital Thermometer

First up is the infrared digital thermometer. I bought this model from TackLife (Amazon affiliate link) as it was inexpensive and had roughly a one percent +/-1F (0.5 C) accuracy.

An infrared thermometer shines a low power laser at an object and measures the temperature based on the infrared reflection. So basically to use it you just point and shoot it at the surface of the water and it will give you the surface temperature reading. I found it to be quick and accurate for measuring water, the temperature of the pot itself, and external temperatures of fermenters.

Unfortunately the laser fell short when working with an all grain mash tun. I believe the foaming and grain on top of the mash tun interfered with the laser and I found it often gave inaccurate results when compared to my kettle thermometer or other digital thermometers. So I could use this device while heating my water, but not when measuring the mash temperature after adding grains. So unfortunately this is not a great option for all grain brewers who require accurate mash step temperatures.

The Digital Cooking Thermometer

Next up, I tried a simple digital cooking thermometer. This is the inexpensive model I purchased – an RTS digital waterproof thermometer (Amazon affiliate link). Again the unit claimed a +/- 1 F (0.5 C) accuracy level.

To use this thermometer you simply dip it in the water, mash or beer, and it very rapidly will give you a temperature reading. At high temperature, I found it worked very quickly – usually settling on a temperature within a second or two. At room temperature it took a bit longer to reach a final temperature, but still gave accurate readings within a few seconds.

This unit also did not have any trouble reading mash temperatures or the temperature of any liquid – just dip it in the liquid and you get an accurate temperature reading. I also like the fact that it is waterproof and came with a nice cover and wrist strap so you can keep it handy while brewing.

Blichmann Brewvision Bluetooth Thermometer

The final digital thermometer I got to play with was the Blichmann Brewvision thermometer. While I don’t own one of these yet, I have been able to see them in action both at Homebrewcon and also another BYO event, as well as play with it as a standalone device. The Brewvision is a kettle thermometer intended to be mounted through a hole in your brew kettles as a direct replacement for the popular dial thermometers used on most kettles and mash tuns. The accuracy of the device is +/- 0.5F (0.25 C).

The Brewvision does have a unique feature set in that its bluetooth transceiver connects directly to your iPhone or iPad which lets you monitor and record temperatures (within about 30 feet/10 m if no obstructions). While certainly more expensive (around $99) than a handheld thermometer, I like the flexibility it offers, particularly for monitoring and recording mash temperatures.

As every all grain brewer knows, there are considerable waiting periods when mashing – either waiting to achieve your strike temperature or waiting for the mash to complete. Being able to monitor the kettle from across the room on my phone frees me up for other tasks like cleaning, sanitizing or relaxing.

Since the Brewvision software also lets you import your BeerSmith recipes directly from the BeerSmith cloud, you can easily record and track progress of the mash or boil remotely. Overall a pretty neat solution to ease what could be a long all grain brew day.

Summary

So what do I recommend? Having broken more than my fair share of glass thermometers, I’ve basically given up on them. My current brewing setup has a set of conventional (analog) kettle thermometers on it which are accurate enough for basic brewing work, and I also have an electric controller (Tower of Power) that monitors temperature on my system when recirculating.

I supplement my analog thermometers with a digital cooking thermometer (Amazon link). The reason I do this is that the analog scale is only accurate to a degree or two F, and also you need a reference point to calibrate the kettle thermometers against. The digital thermometer provides that steady reference point so I can make sure the thermometers on the kettle are giving me the right answer. This style of thermometer would also be suitable for those brewing without kettle thermometers, as it is fast and accurate to use.

I am seriously considering a BrewVision thermometer for my mash kettle. That would let me monitor the temperatures on my iPhone from nearby work areas and give me more flexibility during brew day instead of worrying about watching the kettle thermometer while I brew.

If you have thoughts on brewing thermometers leave a comment below! Thanks for joining me on the BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter or my podcast (also on itunes…and youtube…and streaming radio station) for more great tips on homebrewing. Also check out the How to Brew Video series I shot with John Palmer if you want to learn more about all grain brewing.

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