The American Homebrewers Association (AHA) is a not-for-profit organization based in Boulder, Co., dedicated to promoting the community of homebrewers and empowering homebrewers to make the best beer in the world.
Mash all grains at 152° F (67° C) for one hour. Lauter and sparge with enough 168° F (76° C) water to achieve a pre-boil volume of approximately 7 gallons (26.5 L). Bring wort to a boil and continue to boil for one hour, adding hops as indicated. When 10 minutes remain add Irish moss. After a total wort boil of 60 minutes, turn off the heat, strain out hops, and chill wort to room temperature.
Direct the cooled wort into a sanitized fermenter, and add additional cold water to achieve a 6-gallon (23 L) batch size if necessary. Add a starter culture of yeast when temperature of wort is about 70 °F (21 °C). Preferably ferment at 65–72° F (18–22° C) for about 7–12 days or until fermentation is complete and the beer appears to clear and darken. For best results, “cellar” or age at 50° F (10° C) for 2–3 days to help drop yeast out of suspension, but this is not at all crucial to the quality. Bottle with corn sugar. Age and carbonate/condition at temperatures between 60° and 70° F (15.5–21° C) until clear (about one week).
Dusty Mud will quench the thirst and revive the spirit of simplicity and quality brewing. Teach a friend the way you first learned to brew—after all you’re still brewing and enjoying it!
A step infusion mash is employed to mash the grains. Add 6 quarts (5.7 L) of 140° F (60° C) water to the crushed grain, stir, stabilize, and hold the temperature at 132° F (56° C) for 30 minutes. Add 3 quarts (3 L) of boiling water and add heat to bring temperature up to 155° F (68° C) and hold for about 30 minutes. Then raise temperature to 167° F (75° C), lauter, and sparge with 3.5 gallons (13.5 L) of 170° F (77° C) water. Collect about 5.5 gallons (21 L) of runoff. Add 60-minute hops and bring to a full and vigorous boil.
The total boil time will be 60 minutes. When 10 minutes remain, add the Irish moss. After a total wort boil of 60 minutes, turn off the heat, stir in the honey, and place the pot (with cover on) in a running cold-water bath for 30 minutes, or use other methods to chill wort. Then strain and sparge the wort into a sanitized fermenter. Bring the total volume to 5 gallons (19 L) with additional cold water if necessary. Aerate the wort very well.
Pitch the yeast when temperature of wort is about 70° F (21° C). Once visible signs of fermentation are evident, ferment at a temperature around 55° F (12.5° C) for about one week, or until fermentation shows signs of calm and stopping. Rack from primary to secondary and add the hop pellets and optional Jasmine flowers for dry hopping. If you have the capability, “lager” the beer at temperatures between 35 and 45° F (1.5–7° C) for 3 to 6 weeks.
Here are some tips for understanding your scoresheets and using the feedback to improve as a homebrewer.
Get the Big Picture
Before diving into the details of your scoresheet, take a look at the big picture. If entering a BJCP-sanctioned competition, your entry will have scoresheets from two individual beer judges along with their final “consensus” score.
Start with the consensus score. Entries are evaluated on a 50-point scale, with points awarded for aroma, appearance, flavor, mouthfeel, and overall impression. Scores can be generalized in the following ranges:
45–50: Word-class example of style
38–44: Exemplifies style well and requires minor fine tuning
30–37: Generally within style parameters but has some minor flaws
21–29: Misses the mark on style, and/or minor flaws are present
14–20: Off flavors and aromas or major style deficiencies
0–13: Major off flavors and aromas dominate
Now, take a look at the individual scoresheets. Did the judges score similarly, or did one judge seem to favor it more than the other? The judges’ total scores should be within 7 points of each other, but they may vary on how they allocated those points. For example, one judge may have detected an off flavor and deducted points in the flavor category, while the other might not have detected anything and given a higher score for that section.
This first pass of the scoresheet will help you notice areas where you excelled and areas that need improvement.
Tip: all BJCP judges are required to put their email address on scoresheets so that entrants can follow up with questions on their results.
Dig Into the Comments
Maybe you never noticed oxidation in your beer, but having the descriptor “cardboard” or “papery” helps you recognize oxidation in your beer now. Judges shouldn’t assume your brewing process, so they shouldn’t attempt to guess the exact cause of a flaw. However, with the feedback, you now have the ability to figure out the cause yourself, especially if you keep brewing notes.
If the judges said your beer missed the style, look at the BJCP style guidelines for a commercial example. Tasting a commercial example of the style next to your beer can show you the differences more clearly than words.
Contact Judges with Questions
If you still don’t agree with the comments or have questions, remember that you might not be as sensitive to particular characteristics as the judges, and you weren’t present at the table when they judged your beer. This is blind, unbiased judging, and the judges may have stricter expectations for the style. It’s also possible they were given a bad bottle.
Give them the benefit of the doubt and look at their recommendations next time you brew. Their contact information is on each scoresheet for a reason. Send them an email with some of your questions and, more likely than not, they’ll be able to clarify. They are here to help you!
Plan for Action
Did the judges suggest something on the amount of specialty malt used or mashing temperatures? Were there suggestions on fermentation and yeast health? These things are worth trying. Remember nobody’s trying to hurt your feelings—they just want to help you make better beer!
Keeping notes of your brew day will help you decide what judge feedback to consider incorporating into your next brew day. Don’t feel like you need to incorporate all the ideas into your next brew. In fact, it’s typically better to try things one at a time to truly get an idea of its effect on your beer.
Enter More Competitions
After analyzing and implementing the suggestions from your scoresheets, re-enter your homebrew into another competition for further feedback. It takes time and effort to dial in a recipe and process, so don’t get discouraged if it takes a few competitions to see noticeable improvement.
Brewing, getting unbiased feedback, and using that feedback to improve are the best ways to become a brewer of great beer at home!
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John Moorhead is the American Homebrewers Association Competition Coordinator and National Homebrew Competition Director. If John isn’t tasting, brewing, or talking beer, you might find him traveling, biking, fishing, skiing, or hiking – or cooking Thai food while listening to his records.
This homebrew experiment was originally published as “Brew in a Bag: The Impact Squeezing the Bag has on Beer Character” on Brulosophy.com.
I recently switched from the batch sparge brewing method where I used a converted cooler MLT with a stainless braided hose to an electric Brew In A Bag (eBIAB) setup, which caused me for the first time to consider a curiously oft debated issue– whether or not squeezing the grain bag following the mash impacted the quality of the finished beer. Initially, the thought of squeezing a full bag of sopping grains suspended over my kettle wasn’t very appealing to me, largely because I prefer cleanliness and precision when brewing, and bag squeezing seemed like a good way to make a mess while simultaneously being less than predictable.
As I dug deeper into the methods, I learned one of the more common reasons advocated for squeezing the bag is that it improves efficiency by extracting more sweet wort from the grains. In fact, BeerSmith’s standard sparge and BIAB methods have grain absorption rates set to 0.96 and 0.586 fluid ounces per ounce of grain, respectively, as it assumes some squeezing when utilizing the BIAB method.
On the other side of aisle, opponents of the practice claim squeezing the bag increases the risk for extracting tannins that could lead to undesirable astringency in the finished beer. With numerous successful BIAB batches under my belt where the bag was left untouched, most achieving adequate efficiency, it was time to see for myself what the impact of squeezing really is!
To evaluate the differences between two beers made using the BIAB method where one was squeezed post-mash while the other was allowed to drain.
In keeping with my commitment to develop my ideal English Bitter this year, I made some minor adjustments to a prior recipe I enjoyed, tweaking the absorption rates for each batch in BeerSmith to ensure both achieved the same pre-boil volume.
The Bitter Squeeze
Pale Malt (2 Row) US
Pale Malt, Maris Otter
Caramel/Crystal Malt – 60L
Water Profile: Ca 87 | Mg 0 | Na 8 | SO4 104 | Cl 81 | pH 5.3
I prepared a single large starter of WLP002 English Ale yeast a few days before brewing.
I enlisted the help of my friend, Dave, who arrived early brew day morning as the RO filtered strike water was heating up. While waiting, we milled both sets of pre-measured grain.
Once the water for each batch had reached the appropriate strike temperature, the grains were mixed in before we checked to ensure the target mash temperature was hit.
I recirculated for the duration of both 60 minute mash rests. Having staggered the start of each batch by a few minutes, I gently hoisted the bag out of the first one that was done mashing, allowing it to slowly drip into the kettle as the wort was being heated to a boil. Similarly, I hoisted the second bag of grains out of the kettle at which point Dave and I took turns squeezing it with as much force as we could until the same pre-boil volume was reached.
After our morning workout, the worts were boiled with hops added per the recipe.
After each batch had boiled for 60 minutes, they were quickly chilled to slightly warmer than my groundwater temperature.
Hydrometer measurements showed both batches had achieved the same OG, indicating similar efficiencies, which at the very least supports the accuracy of the grain absorption rates in BeerSmith.
Left: non-squeezed | Right: squeezed
I filled separate glass carboys with equal volumes of wort from either batch then placed them next to each other in my fermentation chamber to continue chilling. Once both were at 64°F/18°C, I evenly split the decanted starter between them before hitting each with 90 seconds of pure O2. I observed activity in both 12 hours later.
Left: non-squeezed | Right: squeezed
Fermentation appeared to be slowing at 3 days in, which wasn’t unexpected given the lower OG, so I began nudging the temperature in the chamber up in order to encourage complete attenuation and clean-up of any off-flavors.
With activity all but absent a couple days later, I took an initial hydrometer measurement that showed FG had indeed been reached; another reading a couple days later showed no change, confirming fermentation was indeed finished.
Left: non-squeezed 1.0115 | Right: squeezed 1.011
I proceeded with cold crashing, fining with gelatin, and kegging.
The filled kegs were placed in my keezer where they received a brief period of burst carbonation before the gas was reduced to serving pressure. Interestingly, the non-squeezed beer was crystal clear just days after being kegged while the squeezed beer maintained a noticeable haze.
Left: non-squeezed | Right: squeezed
Cheers to The Brew Hut for hosting an awesome Big Brew Day where most of the data for this xBmt was collected!
A total of 27 people of varying levels of experience participated in this xBmt. Each participant was served 1 sample of the beer made without squeezing the bag and 2 samples of the squeezed bag beer then asked to identify the sample that was unique. While 14 tasters would have had to correctly identify the unique sample in order to reach statistical significance, only 8 picked the odd-beer-out (p<0.05; p=0.72), indicating participants in this xBmt were not able to reliably distinguish a beer produced using the BIAB where the bag was squeezed from a beer made without squeezing the bag.
My Impressions: I simply could not tell these beers apart and was forced to guess in the multiple triangle tests I attempted, failing more than succeeding. To me, these beers were exactly the same in terms of aroma, flavor, and mouthfeel, the only place they were different was in appearance, which didn’t seem to have any impact on other characteristics. Of all the Bitters I’ve made this year, this was easily my favorite! I really enjoyed the dialed down Crystal malt character and the flavor contribution of Pekko hops, despite it being less than traditional for the style.
Concerns about astringency in beer make sense because it really is quite unpleasant, and hence avoiding practices that might potentially lead to astringency also makes sense. Of the various ways brewers have posited as to how this off-flavor is created, the non-significant results of this xBmt seem to demonstrate that squeezing wort out of a BIAB bag after the mash isn’t one of them and, in fact, supports that claims of bag squeezers that it has no perceptible impact on beer character.
One area it did seem to have an impact is on appearance with the squeezed batch maintaining a slight haze while the non-squeezed beer dropped bright almost immediately after being kegged. This seemed a bit odd to me, as I wasn’t expecting squeezing the bag to have any impact on appearance, so I brewed another batch where I squeezed the bag just to see if that result could be replicated. Lo and behold, the resultant beer had a similar haze that never dropped out. As much as I prefer clear beer, the fact the clarity difference wasn’t enough to make them reliably distinguishable by participants is pretty interesting.
For me, the effort and mess of squeezing the bag combined with the hit to clarity leaves me less than enthusiastic to continue using this method, even if it has no impact on beer character. For those who do prefer squeezing, these results suggest your method is probably a-ok and won’t lead to the mouth-puckering astringency some fear.
Do you want to create your own homebrew recipes but don’t know where to get started? Here’s a short course in how to research, design, and brew your very first beer recipe.
Start with What You Already Know
The first step in creating a new beer recipe is to decide what kind of beer you want to brew. If you want to save time on this, start with a beer style you already know–one that you have brewed before. You can use the style and recipe from a kit as a starting point.
I also recommend looking at other recipes for your target beer style. There are huge repositories of beer recipes online you can search, as well as beer recipe books. For reference, I’ll usually pull the 10 best-rated or award-winning recipes for my target style off a recipe site like the HomebrewersAssociation.org beer recipe database or BeerSmithRecipes.com. This gives me a great starting point for my beer.
Evaluating Existing Beer Recipes
Once I have a few sample recipes, I’ll sit down and compare them against each other to evaluate the ingredients used. Start with the grain or extract bill and take a look at which grains or extracts the various brewers used, and how much of each ingredient. Converting the grain weights into percentages makes it easier to compare different recipes. You can use a simple spreadsheet to list the fermentables used and percent of each. This will give you a good list of extracts and grains you can use and rough percentages to get the right balance, flavor, and color.
I next do the same with hops. What hop varieties did various brewers choose? How bitter did they make the beer? Did they use hops in the whirlpool or dry hop? Again, by looking at several recipes, I can get a good list of hop candidates to use as well as how those hops are appropriately used in the target style.
You can do the same with yeasts to get some potential varieties to use. Many yeast manufacturers such as White Labs and Wyeast publish yeast charts that list which strains are appropriate for a given beer style. This can really help you narrow down which one to use.
Finally, you want to try to identify the “key” ingredients that define your beer style. For example you need a good Bavarian wheat yeast to make a Bavarian weissbier, as the flavor of that style comes primarily from yeast. Unmalted wheat is a defining ingredient in a Belgian wit. The BJCP style guidelines list typical ingredients for many beer styles. Know which ingredients are critical so you can include these first.
Build Your Homebrew Recipe
At this point you should have a good list of ingredients and a pretty good idea of the proportions to use. The next step is to build your recipe using recipe software or an online calculator. While you can estimate recipe parameters by hand, it is far easier to do fine adjustments using software that updates estimated parameters as you work.
When building the recipe, compare it to the BJCP style guide and take a close look at
Original gravity: The original gravity range gives a good indication of how much total malt is needed to brew the recipe.
Bitterness: Bitterness is expressed in International Bitterness Units (IBUs). You typically will adjust the quantity of hops used and hop boil times to reach the target bitterness level.
Color: Color is typically given in Standard Reference Method (SRM) units. Adding more dark malt to the malt bill will drive the color estimate for the beer.
Adjust the grain bill and hop schedule until the parameters above fit within the limits provided by the BJCP style guide for your beer style.
When building your first recipe from scratch, here are some other key concepts and common mistakes to consider:
Aim for simplicity: Many inexperienced brewers take a “kitchen sink” approach and try to use too many varieties of grains and hops. This only muddies the recipe. Keep your recipe as simple as possible, and make sure each ingredient you add serves a specific purpose.
Don’t overuse caramel & specialty malts: A typical grain bill should consist of 85 to 100 percent base malt or base extract. Specialty malts can easily overwhelm a recipe’s flavor and hurt fermentability. Also, don’t overuse caramel malts, particularly those darker than 60 L, as doing so can impart harsh flavors to the beer.
Use hops efficiently: Consider a single boil addition to achieve the target bitterness (IBU) level, and use steeped/whirlpool hops or dry hopping to add aroma for hoppy beer styles. This is usually the most efficient use of hops, as most aroma oils are volatile and boil off quickly.
Don’t overdo techniques: While there are a number of advanced techniques you can apply, I recommend keeping your first few recipes simple. Use brewing techniques with which you are familiar to make a beer style you already understand. This will maximize your chance of success.
Researching and building your first recipe from scratch can seem like a daunting task, but the results can be rewarding. If you start with familiar styles and techniques and research the target style well, your scratch-built beer will probably be as good as, if not better than, any beer kit. As your knowledge of styles and ingredients grows, recipe development will become much easier, and you’ll enjoy sharing unique beers you created yourself.
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Dr. Brad Smith is the creator of BeerSmith brewing software and hosts the popular BeerSmith podcast. Learn more on BeerSmith.com.
2018 marks the 85th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition, which banned the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcohol in America for more than a decade. The Prohibition era is commonly associated with cocktails, moonshine, and speakeasies. But how did Prohibition intersect with histories of beer, the brewing industry, and homebrewing?
Theresa McCulla is historian of the American Brewing History Initiative at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Previously, she worked for Harvard University Library, Harvard University Dining Services, and the Central Intelligence Agency. McCulla earned a PhD in American Studies and an MA in History from Harvard University. Her scholarship explores the history of 19th- and 20th-century American food and drink, especially as they intersect with race and ethnicity.
Meadmaking and medieval history are two passions of mine. They might seem worlds apart, but I’ve found they go hand in hand! Exploring medieval mead recipes and experimenting with the techniques have taught me some interesting tips that I can use for naturally making mead at my homestead in the rolling hills of New York’s Fingerlakes.
Living in an orchard area, I have a soft spot for cysers (mead made with cider) and came across two medieval mead recipes that caught my eye because of their mention of apples. The recipes appear in chapter 5 of Curye on Inglysch, a collection of some of the earliest known culinary recipes found in English, and it seems to include an early cyser recipe. I purchased the 14th-century English manuscript to try my hand at making my own medieval-style apple mead. To my surprise, the recipes as written did not work as suspected.
I double checked the editors’ translations of the recipes and found that the amounts did not add up, and the literal interpretation did not make sense either. But what really bothered me is that while the apple mead I created tasted OK, it was really difficult to keep from spoiling. Something was not right. Instead of changing the original recipes to fit my modern needs, I wondered if the recipes had been wrongly interpreted…
For reference, here are the two recipes from the original manuscript:
9 To make mede.
Take hony combis & put hem into a greet vessel & ley thereynne grete stickis, & ley the weight theron til it be runne out as myche as it wole; & this is called liif hony. & thanne take that forseid combis & sethe hem in clene water, & boile hem wel. After presse out thereof as myche as though may & caste it into another vessel into hoot water, & sethe it wel & scome it wel, & do therto a quarte of liif hony. & thanne lete it stone a fewe dayes wel stoppid, & tis is good drinke.
10 To make fyn meade & poynaunt.
Take xx galouns of the forseid pomys soden in iii galouns of fyn wort, & i galoun of liif hony & sethe hem wel & scome hem wel til thei be cleer enowgh; & put therto iii penyworth of poudir of peper & i penyworth of poudir of clowis & lete it boile wel togydere. & whanne it is coold put it into the vessel into the tunnynge up of the forseid mede; put it therto, & close it wel as it is aboue said.
Lost in Translation
The first clue that something wasn’t right was that the translations had two mead recipes, and the second one—one with the possible apples—referred back to “cooked apples” used in the first recipe. But the first recipe did not use apples at all; it listed how to make plain mead. So what could that pesky word mean instead?
The questionable word was pomys, which looks a lot like pomace, the solid leftovers from making apple cider. So, at first, the editors’ translation of pomys as apples made perfect sense. Except the recipe does not work using apples! So what else could it have been?
Looking a little deeper into the meaning of the word, I found pomace means fruit pressings in general. The previous recipe did not use any other fruit either, but it did have something that was pressed: honeycomb.
The instructions of the first mead recipe are to boil and simmer the honeycomb to make a must, the term for unfermented mead. At the end of all that boiling, it instructs one to press out the remaining comb. The problem is there won’t be any honeycomb left because the wax will melt during the boil, and cooling down the must does not make it reappear. After doing several iterations of this recipe, the only way I could make sense of it was by not translating the words “boyling” and “seething” literally, but as the process of heating.
If the must is heated enough for the honey to dissolve, but not so much that the wax would melt, the resulting wet comb could be pressed to get the last bits of liquid out. This fit the description sodden pomys quite perfectly. This technique of heating below boiling so as not to hurt the skin, then using your hands to work the comb, break it up and get it all to dissolve well, is straight from a medieval beekeeping manual and a very functional way to process loose (and old, crystallized) honeycomb.
Boiling the wax comb and honey to make the must. From the 4 scraped frames of honey comb only about an inch worth of black gunk (called slumgum) was recovered. Most of the bright yellow wax disappeared during the boil and stayed in solution, with the odd effect of the fermented mead having a rather peculiar lipbalm effect when sipping!
And, interestingly enough, if the must is never heated above the melting point of wax, the ambient osmophilic honey yeast survives. As it has slightly higher temperature tolerances than traditional beer/wine yeasts (154°F instead of 120°F) it now has a nice competition-free start in a sugar-rich must.
The second mead recipe lists a number of ingredients in odd proportions, including malt, honey, pomys, and spices. It instructs one to put all the ingredients in a vessel in the barrel of the “forseid” mead. At first I thought of a scribal error—did the scribe really mention the barrel twice?—and then it hit me: the recipe says to make a sweetened flavoring to add back to the mead made in the previous recipe! The “pomys” is not there to add to the sugars; it is there to add to the flavor profile. I learned from making many “hive” meads that wax—especially broodwax, which is used to store pollen and bits of propolis—adds a significant earthy spiciness to the brew. Combined with the pepper and cloves also mentioned in the recipe, this makes for a very nice, rather complex flavor profile.
Medieval Mead Recipes Reinterpreted
So after setting out to recreate a medieval cyser recipe, I ended up emulating a medieval braggot while also learning to work with parts of the hive that I might otherwise have scrapped. But then again, being frugal is both a homesteading and medieval kind of thing!
The following are my interpretations of the recipes.
Recipe 9: To make mead.
Take honeycombs, and put them into a big vessel & lay in there big sticks, & lay the weight on it [of the combs] until it runs out as much as it would; & this is called life honey. & then take those mentioned combs & simmer [heat] them in clean water [not hotter than your hands can take], & boil [cook] it well. After press out of it [the combs] as much as you can & cast it [the liquid] into another vessel into hot water, & heat it well, & scum it well, & do thereto a quart of life honey. & then let it stand a few days well closed up, & this is a good drink.
Recipe 10: To make fine mead, and poignant.
Take 20 gallons of the previously mentioned pomys [the squeezed combs of recipe 9] cooked in 3 gallons of fine wort, & take 1 gallon of life honey & heat it well [below 154 ºF, and the ambient yeast will survive] & scum it well until it is clear enough; & add to it 3 pennyworth powder of pepper & 1 pennyworth powder of cloves & let it cook well together. & when it is cold put it into the vessel of the barreled up previously mentioned mead [add it back into the barrel the 20 gallons came out off]; add it to it, & close it well as it is said before.
As a homesteader and medieval reenactor, Susan Verberg enjoys researching alternative ingredients and old fashioned techniques. Verberg primarily brews mead and keeps bees when possible, but also occasionally dabbles in historic—especially herbed—beers. For more on Verberg’s mead brewing, check out her collection of medieval recipes and techniques.
The original transcriptions, and the suggestions for interpretation, can be found in the Early English Text Society publication by Constance Hieatt & Sharon Butler (ed). Curye on Inglysch, English culinary manuscripts of the 14th century (including the Forme of Cury). London: Oxford University Press, 1985.
Susan Verberg. Of Honey, a Collection of Mediaeval Brewing Recipes. 2017.
Butler, Charles. The Feminine Monarchie. 1609. Oxford: 1623.
Hyll, Thomas. A Profitable Instruction of the Perfite Ordering of Bees. London: by Henrie Bynneman, 1579.
Lawson, William. A New Orchard and Garden. London: by Nicholas Okes at the Golden Vnicorne, 1631.
Platt, Hugh. Jewell House of Art and Nature. London: Peter Short, 1594.
Registration opens on March 1st, 2018 at 10a MT, and it is conducted on a first-come-first-served basis so act fast!
About Homebrew Con
Homebrew Con is the ultimate experience for anyone interested in homebrewing and exploring beer, mead and cider.
With dozens of sessions for every interest, a homebrew expo to rule them all, and the legendary Club Night, Homebrew Con is sure to become your annual pilgrimage along with all of your new best friends.