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Mead – it’s what medieval knights and ripped Norsemen drink in every super-edgy warrior film. It’s what they serve at your local Renaissance fair. But it’s got a whole lot more character and room for variability than the super-sweet-and-boozy persona for which it is known.

Sure, mead is fermented honey & water (that has occasionally got some fruit, grains, hops, or spices in it) but this does not mean you can always expect a cloyingly sweet mead. Sweet meads are admittedly common, but, like wine, mead can range from sweet to bone-dry. Mead can also be served hot or cold, weak or strong, still or sparkling. Mead’s alcoholic content can range from 3.5% ABV all the way up to 22%.

Mead’s Long History

Chemical signatures and residual samples taken from early ceramics link mead consumption to northern China in 7000 BC and Europe in 2800-1800 BC. Early texts have also linked mead to the ancient Greek, African, and Indian cultures. Mead is likely best known for its importance in Norse mythology, where legend tells of a beverage with magical powers known as “poetic mead.” It was written that the Norse gods created an incredibly wise man named Norseman Kvasir who could answer any question. Once dead, his blood was mixed with honey, allowing anyone who drank the honey-blood mead to take on Kvasir’s intelligence.

Mead has, in fact, been featured in many folktales, including Beowulf, in addition to the works of Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, T.H. White, and Neil Geiman.

The Process of Making Mead

Store-bought honey is too dense to allow for fermentation, which is why honey is mixed with water to create a more yeast-friendly environment.

Before adding their yeast, many meadmakers will heat the water-and-honey mixture, now known as “must,” to eliminate any unwanted bacteria or yeast that could lead to off flavors or spoilage.

To make a mead with fruit or spices, those ingredients are added after diluting the honey but before the fermentation starts. Remember, adding fruit or fruit juice can replace some or all of the water used to dilute the honey, so you’ll need to take this into consideration when you add water for your recipe.

Mead is frequently made with wine yeast, especially white wine yeast. This means mead will ferment at the same temperatures required for white wine fermentation.

Into the yeast, honey, and water meadmakers will add oxygen and powdered nutrient blends to assist yeast in fermenting the mead.

Measuring gravity is often crucial to the mead-making process to reach the intended ABV. Using a hydrometer or refractometer, mead makers can watch the proportion of alcohol by volume, and even take note if fermentation seems to be stopping unintentionally.

Throughout the fermentation process, many meadmakers continue to feed the yeast nutrients and do whatever they can to ensure that the fermentation is a healthy and efficient one.

After primary fermentation, mead is racked to a second container. Secondary fermentation allows the mead to finish fermenting off of the dead yeast cells which could cause off flavors. Also, the mead will have time to clarify. At this point, mead makers can backsweeten the mead using potassium metabisulfite and potassium sorbate. Once the mead is clear and properly sweetened, it can be bottled.

Once fermentation is over, mead can age for a few months to several years, depending upon the drinker’s preference, as aging allows the mead’s flavor to mellow and mature.

Types of Mead

Mead is believed to be the world’s oldest alcoholic beverage, and it has roots in cultures on nearly every continent. Therefore, mead goes by a number of different names and has many different varieties. For the sake of brevity, we’re listing the varieties we believe will best help you navigate the mead selection at your favorite bottle shop.

  • Braggot (a.k.a. bracket or bracket) Mead made with malt
  • Capsicumel: Mead made with chilli peppers
  • Cyser: Mead made with apples (type of melomel)
  • Melomel: Mead made with fruit
  • Metheglin: Mead made with herbs and/or spices (Common: ginger, tea, orange peel, nutmeg, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla)
  • Pyment: Mead made with grapes (type of melomel)
  • Rhodomel: Mead made with rose, either in the form of rose hips, rose petals, rose water or rose attar
  • Rubamel: Mead made with raspberries (type of melomel)

Experiment, and do not be afraid to make a whole new kind of mead. Although, admittedly, that would be a hard task since it’s likely the oldest form of booze in the world.

The post Mead: A Definition, Brief History, and Explanation of the Process appeared first on Mr Beer Buzz.

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Long before hops were ever used, many different spices were used in beer brewing for bittering and flavor. In fact, the history of beer produced without hops is approximately 8,000 years older than the history of beer produced with hops. For those 8,000 years, beer was mostly flavored and preserved using a mixture of spices, herbs, and/or fruits. These types of beers are commonly known as “gruits”.

Spiced Beer Styles

Nowadays, hops are recognized as a key ingredient in beer, while spices are instead a supplementary ingredient used in a variety of styles to enhance the beer’s flavor. Beer styles where spices are frequently used to enhance flavor include: Belgian-style beers, particularly witbiers and saisons; holiday ales, such as some winter warmers and pumpkin beers; porters and stouts; Scandinavian ales, such as sahti; and Norwegian farmhouse ales. While these are the more common styles that are spiced, you can add spices to any beer style.

How Much Spice to Add

Regardless of style, spices should be used sparingly so they don’t overwhelm the rest of the beer. You want your beer to still taste otherwise to style. Some spices can easily be overdone if the brewer’s not careful.

Some beers might focus on a single spice, while others might use a blend of spices.

Testing Your Spices

Before adding spices to your beer, it can help to test them by preparing a “tea” with the spices first. You can experiment with different blends in the tea to get the right balance of flavors and aromas for your beer. This can save you from over-spicing your beer, rendering it unpalatable.

When to Add Spices

Spices can be added in different parts of the brewing process depending on what you are using and what results you are trying to achieve. Some spices contribute the most flavor in the boil. This is also the best time to place root-based spices since they are dense and may need the boil for proper flavor extraction. Lighter herbs, such as flowers and leaves, can be added to secondary fermentation 1-2 weeks before bottling/kegging.

Sanitizing Spices

When adding to the boil, sanitizing the spices is not required. But when adding to secondary, they may need to be covered in vodka or another grain alcohol (such as Everclear) to sanitize them. Adding just enough to cover them works. The alcohol will also help extract some flavor from the spices. This works really great with citrus zests, cacao nibs, or seeds, such as coriander.

The following table, taken from Beer and Brewing Magazine, is an excellent resource for choosing which spices you would like to experiment with.

Spices and Their Uses in Beer

Common name Scientific name Part used Comment Use (examples)
Allspice Pimenta dioica Seed Bitterness, significant aroma, healthy, beer preservative Christmas beers, medieval medicinal beers
Anise Pimpinella anisum Seed Adds a spicy and anise-like bitterness during the boil Historical beer bittering
Bay leaf Laurus nobilis Leaf Bitterness, significant aroma, healthy, beer preservative Recent experimental brewing
Caraway Carum carvi Seed Adds a spicy and anise-like bitterness during the boil Historical beer bittering
Cardamom Elettaria cardamomum Seed Powerfully aromatic, ginger family Christmas beers, medieval medicinal beers
Chili pepper Capsicum spp. Fruit Both vegetal flavor and capsaicin heat Original porter, experimental brewing
Cinnamon Cinnamomum verum Bark Popular, but often is actually cassia bark Pumpkin ales and Christmas beers, medieval medicinal beers
Citrus Citrus spp. Peel Lemon peel; sweet, canned orange peel; Curaçao Belgian-style ales, particularly witbier
Clove Syzygium aromaticum Flower bud Very powerful, best used sparingly Pumpkin ales and Christmas beers
Coriander Coriandrum sativum Seed Widely used Medieval medicinal beers Belgium wit
Dill Anethum graveolens Seed Adds a spicy and anise-like bitterness during the boil Historical beer bittering
Fennel Foeniculum vulgare Seed Adds a spicy and anise-like bitterness during the boil Historical beer bittering
Ginger Zingiber officinale Root Highly aromatic Original porter, medieval medicinal beers
Grains of paradise Aframomum melegueta Seed Pepper-like spice with notes of citrus and pine; once believed to be an aphrodisiac Old English ales, abandoned in the 17th century by law, experimental brewing
Juniper Juniperus communis Berry Used in the mash or boil Historical Scandinavian brewing, such as Finnish Sahti, for which boughs, too, are used in the mash
Licorice Glycyrrhiza glabra Root Bitter, medicinal Original porter and stout
Mace Myristica fragrans Fruit/aril A sophisticated and delicious alternative to nutmeg Holiday beers
Nutmeg Myristica fragrans Fruit/nut Christmas beers, medieval medicinal beers, experimental brewing
Parsley Petroselinum crispum Seed Adds a spicy and anise- like bitterness during the boil Historical beer bittering
Pepper Piper nigrum Seed Highly fragrant, adds heat if concentrated Experimental brewing, medieval medicinal beers
Quassia Quassia amara Wood Quinine-like Historical beer bittering
Saffron Crocus sativus Style/stigma Very expensive, strong savory flavor Experimental brewing
Star anise Illicium verum Seed Adds a spicy and anise- like bitterness during the boil Experimental brewing, Christmas beers
Vanilla Vanilla planifolia Fruit Widely used Holiday beers, porters

The post Brewing Beer with Spices appeared first on Mr Beer Buzz.

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For new brewers, the fermentation process can look quite alien at times, especially when different batches of beer may behave differently due to different ingredients, fermentation temps, etc. Some people will dump perfectly good beer thinking it may be infected, when it actually isn’t. So before you decide whether your beer is a dumper, you will want to visually inspect and possibly even taste it to make sure it’s still worth keeping or not.

Foamy bubbles on top of the beer is called “krausen” and is NOT a sign of infection. It is completely normal and may either be a high krausen (very foamy) or a low krausen (just a thin layer of foam). Some beers may not even exhibit much of a krausen. As long as the gravity of the beer is dropping, it is fermenting. It all depends on the yeast, malt, hops, etc. So keep in mind that not all beer fermentations will look the same.

An oily sheen on top of your beer that may look kind of like thin white ice sheets with jagged edges is a sign of the beginning of an infection. This infection is usually caused by wild yeast such as Brettanomyces or wild bacteria such as lactobacillus. In some cases, it could be a combination of these or other bacteria/wild yeast. In more advanced infections, this layer of biofilm, called a “pellicle” may look very wavy, sort of like ramen noodles. Or it may look like bubbles with webbing coming off it. These are different types of infections, but cause by similar bacteria/yeast strains.

A pellicle is only formed in the presence of oxygen and is a way for the wild yeast/bacteria top protect itself from oxygen because they prefer an anaerobic environment. So you can still have an infection even without the pellicle formation if your beer was free of oxygen exposure during fermentation. In this case, the only way to know whether it is infected or not is to taste it. Don’t worry about getting sick because none of these wild bacteria, yeast or mold can harm you. If the beer tastes bad or rancid, you might wanna dump it. But in some cases, an infection can result in a pretty good tasting beer, albeit a sour one. Keep in mind that sour beers, which are all the rage right now, are brewed with these wild yeasts and bacteria.

If your beer was infected and you were using plastic equipment, such as our LBK or Brewmax fermenter, you may need to replace them with new equipment. Scratches inside the fermenters can harbor bacteria that is VERY difficult to sanitize. So when making sour beers with these wild yeasts/bacteria, it’s always recommended that you use glass, or at least dedicate your plastic to making sour beers only.

If your beer is infected with mold, which will be fuzzy and discolored (usually green but can be white or brownish – but always fuzzy), this can typically be skimmed off the beer. Mold only grows on the surface and will not penetrate the beer itself. Mold cannot survive the alcohol in beer. Fortunately, mold usually takes a long time to grow on beer so as long as you’re not leaving it in the fermenter for too long, you shouldn’t have this issue.

Proper cleaning/sanitizing, and the proper care of your plastic equipment (only soft cloths for cleaning, nothing that can scratch the plastic) will help prevent these types of infection. But always keep in mind that even with the best cleaning and sanitizing procedures in place, you can still get infections from time to time. Don’t let this discourage you. Learn from it and keep brewing.

The post Is My Beer Infected? appeared first on Mr Beer Buzz.

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Hard Cider is one of the fastest growing markets in the beverage industry. Domestic cider production rose by 264% between 2005 and 2012.

Industry revenue has grown by the hundreds of millions, and Americans, who were once skeptical of cider, are now drinking it up by the gallons.

How to “Hack” Your Mr. Beer Cider Kit

Our Hard Cider Kit makes crisp, dry cider that is incredibly tasty, but if it’s time for a change, there are many ways to modify your cider brew to keep things interesting.

Things you can add to your Mr. Beer Cider Kit/Refill:
  • Brown sugar
  • Vanilla
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup
  • Fruit
  • Spices
  • Malt extract (though this is not gluten free). Called a “graf” when brewed as a beer/cider hybrid.
  • MORE APPLES!! You can experiment with using different apple juices in place of your water.
Yeast Selection

Yeast can be chosen for the attributes it brings to the finished cider, just as we do for beer. A clean American ale yeast will give the cider a clean apple flavor. A British yeast will add some bready/yeasty notes. A Belgian ale yeast will impart some fruit and bubble-gum like notes to the cider. And a wine yeast can be used to make it very dry and effervescent.

You can also do mixed culture fermentations to make sour ciders and brett ciders brewed with brettanomyces. These have been growing in popularity the past few years, as have barrel-aged ciders.

You Can Also Make Quality Cider From Scratch

To make the best hard cider, you need apples with a lot of sugar to encourage fermentation and specific levels of acid and tannins. No single apple variety has all of these attributes so you may need to blend different apples to get the best results.

Apple varieties are usually broken down into 3 categories, Sweet, Sharp, and Bitter.

SWEET

These apples have a high sugar content to make your cider sweet, but they’ll need partners from the other groups:

Golden Delicious

Fuji

Gala

Red Delicious

Jonagold

SHARP

Tartness comes with higher acid levels:

Gravenstein

McIntosh

Northern Spy

Winesap

Liberty

BITTER including BITTER-SWEET and BITTER-SHARP/BITTER-TART

Bitter-sweets are high in the tannins that add complex flavor to ciders, and high in sugar. Bitter-sharp and bitter-tart are two names for the group of apples that are high in tannins, with plenty of acid.

Dolgo Crabapple

Cortland

Newtown

Foxwhelp

Porter’s Perfection

A good blending starting point for new cider makers is 50% sweet, 35% sharp, and 15% bitter.

You won’t typically find all of these apples in many grocery stores, or even your local farmers market. But if you grow your own apples, know someone who does, or you’re willing to pay a premium for true cider apples such as the distinctly flavored Kingston Black, Yarlington Mill, and Porters Perfection, then you have a shot at creating a hard cider that is truly unique.

In the meantime, baking apples tend to work the best due to their sugar content and acid blend. Experiment and research to find the best apples for your cider.

Making apples from scratch requires an apple crusher, a press, and a LOT of labor. It can be a very difficult, but rewarding process. Our concentrates are already made with a blend of NW apples that make a great cider base, but don’t let that deter you from experimenting with different juices to supplement our apple concentrate.

Making Sweet Hard Cider

Our cider kits make a dry English-style cider. Unfortunately, the sweeter American style ciders can be more difficult to make due to the yeast wanting to consume all that sugar.

Kegging the cider is the best way to make sweet cider. This way, you don’t have to rely on the yeast to consume the sugar you are adding for sweetness (called back-sweetening). Instead, you can simply add the desired amount of sugar (you can also use apple juice, honey, etc) and force carbonate the beer with your Co2 tank. Because this is done while cold, the yeast are dormant and will not consume the sugar you added (which can cause bottle bombs).

If you decide to bottle this from the keg or store the keg at room temps for aging, you will need to add potassium sorbate to kill the yeast and prevent refermentation.

The post Brewing Hard Cider appeared first on Mr Beer Buzz.

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Well actually, we aim to teach you all about wood chips, cubes, spirals, staves, and barrels when it comes to beer brewing. If you are the type who hunts out the barrel-aged brews at your local beer spot, but aren’t sure how to implement wood into your homebrewing, this blog is for you.

Forms of Wood

To start, there are different forms that wood comes in for brewing:

  • Chips: These are the most common and least expensive. Best for short-term aging, but can be used in smaller amounts for long-term aging.
  • Cubes: Best for long-term aging or adding subtle oak notes after short-term aging.
  • Spirals: The most expensive, but best option for oak infusion.
  • Staves: Not very common, but can be used for long-term aging. Less surface area than spirals.
  • Barrels: The least common for homebrewers.
Types of Wood Toast

Oak products will come in a variety of “toasts.” You will want to select the toast according to the notes you mean to add to your beer:

  • Untoasted: For gentle oaking without any burnt flavors.
  • Light Toast: Notes of coconut and woody tannins.
  • Medium Toast: Vanilla and butterscotch notes.
  • Heavy Toast: Smoky notes with some burnt wood flavors.
Origin of the Oak

The oak’s origin will also play a role in the aroma and flavor it brings to the base beer. Oak comes from 3 major regions:

Finally, oak can be soaked in wine, whiskey, rum, tequila, gin, whatever is your taste. Typically, soaking the oak for at least a few weeks is best. Be sure to soak it in an airtight container so that the alcohol doesn’t evaporate. Add only enough booze as is needed to cover the wood.

As always – EXPERIMENT! Our kits are perfect for early experimentation since they brew such small batches.

The post Using Wood Chips in Your Beer appeared first on Mr Beer Buzz.

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In the mid-2000s, those who wanted to distinguish their beer taste from that of the masses requested “microbrews” (made by “microbreweries”) when they were in search of tastier beer. Microbreweries represented an alternative attitude toward beer. They didn’t apply the aggressive marketing strategies that macrobreweries did, and seemed to stand for a quality and diversity that their opponents did not.

Though much can be implied, the term “microbrewery” only refers to the size of the brewery itself. Microbreweries are those that produce no more than 15,000 barrels of beer per year. While some may assume smaller is always better, the term itself gives no further detail about the beer’s production or quality.

As the drive for smaller, local breweries and their rotating small batches grew, microbrew and microbrewery fell out of popular use. They were simply not descriptive enough for patrons who bellied up to the bar looking for a quality beer. However, the emergence of these terms into popular use meant the emergence of an us-vs.-them attitude in the beer industry, which is still very much present.

Additional terms:

Nanobrewery
As in, a brewery even smaller than a microbrewery, often run by one entrepreneur, which produces small beer batches.

Brewpub

Brewery plus pub or public-house. This is a pub/restaurant that brews beer on the premises.

The Time of Craft

“Craft Beer” emerged thereafter as a more useful descriptor for quality beer. By the standards of the Brewers Association, “craft beer” means small, independent, and traditional beer. Though size, ownership, and allegiance to traditional practices still do not necessarily promise a particular quality or flavor, they are a step in the right direction. The BA site defines each of the adjectives as well:

Small – Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less (approximately 3 percent of U.S. annual sales). Beer production is attributed to a brewer according to the rules of alternating proprietorships.

Independent – Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by a beverage alcohol industry member which is not itself a craft brewer.

Traditional – A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavors derive from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored Malt Beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers.”

The BA’s definition allows brewers and consumers alike to clearly distinguish which beers qualify as craft and which did not. As was true before, these semantics reinforce the big vs. little guy, quality vs. volume dynamic in the beer world.

When large conglomerates began buying up breweries that had previously fit the craft beer definition, it became clear that terms needed to adapt once again. This change in ownership muddled the power of the term. How could a craft beer brewery still be craft if it was owned by the enemy, by a mammoth like ABInBev that certainly didn’t share the craft beer ideals?

A Seal of Distinction

In the summer of 2017, the Brewers Association launched their new seal for Independent Craft Breweries. This was their opportunity to underscore the “independent” part of their craft beer definition, which continues to be under attack by buy-outs.

The seal, with an upside-down beer bottle at its center, is meant to symbolize how craft beer has turned the beer market on its head. In a more practical sense, the seal is meant to mark beers made by a small and independent brewer.

The post Microbrew vs. Craft vs. Independent Craft appeared first on Mr Beer Buzz.

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Cream ales are silky, drinkable, and perfect for warmer weather. But let’s get one thing straight – they do not contain milk products. Cream simply refers to the smooth mouthfeel of this cold-fermented ale.

In the late 19th century, the stream of German immigrants to the United States increased the popularity of lager and pilsner beer styles. Though brewers in the Northeast were brewing mostly ales at the time, they decided to strategize to keep up with the trend.

The resulting beer was a cold-fermented ale, then referred to as a “present-use ale” – as in the beer was meant to be enjoyed rapidly and not meant to sit on the shelf. Like the German Kölsch beer style, the present-use ale was light bodied, balanced, and had fewer fruity esters.

Now known as a “cream ale”, this style is often fermented like an ale, then stored at colder temperatures like a lager. Some brewers use both ale and lager yeasts to brew their cream ale.

This hybrid is crisp like a light pale lager, with the aromatic characteristics of an ale. They are light in color, heavily carbonated, and tend to be more hopped than a light lager. Unlike Kölsch beer, cream ales contain rice and/or corn adjuncts to achieve that light body and smooth mouthfeel.

More than anything, cream ales are known for being light, refreshing, and drinkable.

Aroma:

Low malt notes, low hop aroma, sweet & corn-like, some fruity esters

Appearance:

Pale straw to moderate gold color. High carbonation with a low to medium head. Sparkling Clarity.

Flavor:

Low hop bitterness, moderate maltiness and sweetness, light corny flavor. Neither malt nor hops dominates. Dry and faintly sweet.

IBUs:

8 – 20

SRM:

2.5 – 5

ABV:

4.2 – 5.6%

The post What is a Cream Ale? appeared first on Mr Beer Buzz.

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Mr Beer | Craft Beer Blog by Renae Bowen - 2M ago

In your pursuit of beer knowledge, collected to ensure you enjoy every tall glass of rich suds you drink, you are sure to deal with the ales vs. lagers split. If you’re here to figure out what the difference is, and where the two types diverge, that’s a different blog. Find the Ales vs. Lagers blog here.

If you just want to know what all qualifies as an ale, you’ve come to the right blog. Folks tend to assume all ales must share a common color, or all be lower in alcohol or have a certain body characteristic. None of these are true. The only difference is in the yeast and the temperatures that yeast requires for fermentation. That’s it.

Ales come in different colors (SRMs), ABVs, IBUs, and can have a completely different mouthfeel.

Four Main Types of Ales:
  1. Wheat Beers
  2. Stouts
  3. Porters
  4. Ales 
Wheat Beers

Wheat beers can be clustered into a) those with pure yeasts, b) those made with lactic fermentation, and c) those made using spontaneous fermentation.

Pure Yeast Wheat Beers are Witbiers, Weissbiers/Weizen, Hefeweizen, Dunkelweizen, and Weizenbocks.

Berliner Weisse is the singular wheat beer made with lactic fermentation.

Lambic, Gueuze, Faro, Kriek, and Framboise beers, along with other Fruit Beers, are the spontaneously fermented wheat beers.

Stouts/Porters

Stouts and Porters tend to be vastly similar, and were only split categorically in the late 18th century because of perceived “strength.” While Stouts can be clumped into Oatmeal, Dry, Imperial, Milk, Nitro varieties, and Porters tend to be a simply category without a multitude of varieties.

Ales

The Ale category couldn’t be more diverse. There are light and carbonated American Ales, hoppy American IPAs, fragrant Belgian Ales, like Saisons, and bold, rich Scotch Ales. Ales can be a light straw color or a deep black, they might be session or imperial, and might be incredibly bitter or very drinkable. The point is, their only common attribute is the type of yeast used to ferment them.

The post Know Your Ales appeared first on Mr Beer Buzz.

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Carbonation is more than just adding fizz to your beer; carbonation also carries volatile aroma compounds in your beer up to your nose, giving beers a discernable smell. Carbonation also activates the trigeminal nerve in your mouth, and different levels of carbonation feel differently when they hit this nerve.

There are two main ways you can go about carbonating your homebrew: priming sugar and force carbonation. For more detail on force carbonation, be sure to visit our force carbonation blog, as this blog is focused on carbonation using priming sugar.

Conditioning

  1. the process that follows primary fermentation, and allows the beer to reach the right level of carbonation (done in an airtight vessel, where the necessary pressure can be achieved)
  2. aging

With our extracts kits, built to keep the brewing process simple, we refer to two separate phases – carbonation and conditioning, while some brewers refer to everything after fermentation as conditioning. We provide separate time windows for each on our recipe pages. Our intention was to underscore the unique processes of beer carbonation and beer aging for folks just getting introduced to the hobby.

Homebrewers frequently refer to the process of aging as conditioning, while commercial brewers use the term for all processes after primary fermentation.

The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

Another key reason why our instructions and recipe pages make the distinction between carbonation and aging is that each process deserves its own focused time window. Conditioning (as in aging) windows vary depending upon beer style. Some beers aren’t meant to be aged at all.

Making brewers mindful of the two actions should lead them to respect the time each step needs, but this isn’t always the case. Many will rush through carbonation, accepting halfway fizzy beer, or rush through aging and lament that the beer could’ve been smoother.

Moral of the story? Give each brewing phase its due time, and the proper conditions.

Bottle Conditioning, as in Carbonation

(The homebrewer and small brewery approach)

This approach, though costlier, is an excellent way to keep oxygen out of bottles. The yeast in the bottle help scavenge oxygen. Beer exposed to oxygen can undergo oxidation, giving it a stale, cardboard flavor/aroma. Homebrewers and small breweries can have a hard time keeping oxygen out of their bottles, making bottle conditioning a smart choice.

The only real downside with this approach is that many consumers dislike the appearance of yeast in their bottle. See our cold crashing blog if yeast in the bottle isn’t your taste.

Also known as: refermentation, bottle fermentation, secondary fermentation, final fermentation

Why: Helps prevent oxidation, allows for proper carbonation followed by aging.

How: Yeast consume the sugar, then produce the intended amount of carbonation. Though many homebrewers and breweries add in additional yeast and sugar for bottle conditioning, our kits leave more than enough yeast in suspension. Instead, our brewers simply add in sugar to carbonate their beer.

Best for: Maturing beers or beers meant to have a longer shelf life.

With what: Bottles (preferably glass or oxygen barrier bottles), kegs, casks, etc.

Conditions are key: If bottles are stored too cold, the yeast will not metabolize sugar and create CO2, if stored too warm, the yeast can die before creating CO2.

Priming Sugar Carbonation in Bottles

In our post “Homebrewing Guide for Beginners,” we discussed how yeast placed in your wort eats away at the sugar in your beer, therefore creating CO2 and alcohol. When you carbonate in bottles, you add your fermented beer to bottles (which should taste like flat beer) and add an additional amount of sugar to begin a secondary fermentation that creates carbonation.

This secondary fermentation in the bottles releases CO2, and that CO2 is then reabsorbed into your beer to create carbonation. The amount of sugar used in the process will determine the final amount of carbonation in your beer.

While carbonating your beer in bottles, you should store your bottles in a dark area within the temperature range labeled for your recipe/refill for around 3 weeks. If you are using the plastic bottles in a Mr.Beer kit, your bottles should be rock hard before you place them in the fridge for drinking. You want to make sure you keep your leftover yeast happy until it has finished eating all the sugar, and placing them in the cold will make them sleep.

You can use several different types of sugar to prime your bottles for carbonation: table sugar, corn sugar, or DME. Mr.Beer has carbonation drops which are simply sugar tablets pre-measured to carbonate the bottle sizes provided in our kits, which makes for a mess-free, simple carbonation process. If you are looking for how much sugar you should use in your specific bottle sizes, check out our priming sugar conversion chart.

When Aging, or Conditioning, Your Beer After Carbonation
  • Different beer styles will require different aging times, as mentioned above. Just because one brew developed incredible flavor through a long period of conditioning, doesn’t mean every single brew after that will need to be conditioned the same.
  • Don’t rush the process because you’re eager for beer, many beer styles benefit from a long bottle conditioning period. Some dark beers can take MONTHS to arrive at their best flavor profile.
  • The longer a beer conditions, the more at risk it is for oxidation. So, if you tend to enjoy beer styles that call for a longer conditioning window, oxygen barrier bottles are a smart purchase.
  • Diacetyl is a buttery/butterscotch flavor found in beer. It develops during early fermentation, but decreases as beers mature. Healthy yeast will reabsorb diacetyl. Conditioning beer with remaining yeast in the bottles (bottle conditioning) will better allow you to eliminate buttery smells/flavors from your finished beer.

The post Carbonating Your Beer with Priming Sugar appeared first on Mr Beer Buzz.

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When you’re considering ways to get creative with your own beer recipe, yeast choice is important for fine-tuning flavor, aroma, and body.

Style is a great place to start.

Many yeasts are pedigreed for certain beer styles, so simply knowing which style you are brewing will help you easily choose the yeast you will need. With that said, don’t be afraid to experiment. Some brewers even blend yeasts to get the qualities of more than 1 strain.

There are many yeast companies that brew the same strains (for example, Safale US-05 dry yeast is the same as White Labs WLP001, Wyeast 1056, or Imperial Flagship) and many of them will also have exclusive strains that only they sell. Shop around and read the reviews until you find the right strain for your beer.

Here are some popular yeasts for particular styles:

American, English, Irish, & Scottish Ales
  • Safale US-05 is an American strain from Sierra Nevada Brewing, also known as the “Chico” strain
  • Safale S-33 is a general-purpose yeast that can be used for almost any low-to-moderate ABV beer
  • Safale S-04 is an English strain, but is also good for Irish/Scottish ales
German Ales
  • Kolsch yeast
  • Wheat yeast, such as the white packet under the lid of our Bavarian Weissbier
  • Safbrew WB-06 – a Weihenstephan strain
Belgian Ales
  • Safbrew T-58
Lagers
  • Saflager S-23 & Saflager W-34/70 are both German strains, but W-34/70 (a Weinhenstephan strain) has a cleaner flavor profile with less fruity esters
Cider

Hard ciders can use any ale, lager, or wine yeast. It all depends on what flavor you are trying to get.

  • Safale S-04 will make an English-style cider with some bready notes
  • Safale US-05 will be more neutral, bringing out more apple flavor, but it will be drier
  • Safale S-33 is a good yeast if you want some residual sweetness
  • Wine yeasts are referred for ciders above 10% ABV
Champagne/Wine

Red Star and Lalvin are the 2 primary wine yeast companies. They both have a very large variety of strains for wines, meads, and sparkling wines.

On ale vs. lager…
Ale yeasts (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) are always fermented at moderate temperatures (65-75 degrees Fahrenheit, typically), but can go as high as 90 degrees for some strains (Saison & wheat strains).

Lager yeasts (Saccharomyces uvarum) are always fermented at lower temperatures (45-55 degrees Fahrenheit typically, but can go up to 70 degrees for California Commons, aka “Steam beers”).

Ale yeast is usually referred to as a “top-fermenting” yeast, while lager yeast is referred to as a “bottom-fermenting” yeast. This distinction is a misnomer originating from the observation that ales tend to have a large fluffy krausen (or foam) during fermentation while lagers do not. Yeast activity is always distributed throughout the liquid regardless of strain.

Consider yeast’s role in flavor.

Some yeasts can create esters with aromas/flavors similar to bread, fruit, or spice, such as banana, clove, and apple. Other yeasts can be more neutral and flavorless to allow the flavor of the malts and/or hops to dominate the beer.

Attenuation will affect finish.

Attenuation refers to the percentage of sugars that have been fermented by the yeast. A yeast with 70% attenuation will finish the beer much sweeter than a yeast with 90% attenuation, which leaves the beer much drier.

Flocculation will play a role in body and haze.

Flocculation is the process by which particles clump together in a “floc” or small lumps that will settle into the trub. A low flocculating yeast will leave the beer hazy and the trub will be loose. A high flocculating yeast will leave the beer clear with a compact, tight trub.

Dry or Liquid?
  • Dry yeasts have a much longer shelf life than liquid yeasts (up to 3 years vs 6 months)
  • Because only certain dry strains can handle the freeze-drying process, variety is limited compared to liquid yeast.
  • Dry yeast can be stored at room temperatures, but it is best to refrigerate it.
  • Liquid yeast must always be refrigerated.

While we’re hoping all these tips guide your yeast selection process – creativity is encouraged! Test and experiment!

The post Choosing Yeast for Brewing appeared first on Mr Beer Buzz.

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