Another loss

Eleven years ago, when I was researching beers for North American Clone Brews, I was having trouble getting ahold of some of the better brews from the Pacific Northwest and the Big Sky Country. Someone recommended that I call Don Younger in Portland, OR, as he was about the most knowledgeable and friendly beer guy out there. Turned out that Don owned a pub and a bottle shop (The Horse Brass and Belmont Station), and he was indeed a true gentleman, scholar and craft brew expert. We talked beer on the phone for about an hour, and a week later I got a big box of bottles – he had assembled for me what he felt were the best, most representative beers from OR, WA, ID, MT and WY, and sent them along. Some he made me pay for (Don was a businessman) but some, like a 7-year-old Pike Old Bawdy Barleywine, were gifts to someone he had not met but with whom I guess he felt a kinship… I never did get to meet Don face to face, and now he has passed away and I never will. I am indebted to Don, and am raising a glass to him this evening. Slainté, Don, I hope there is indeed good beer in heaven.
Another view…

Brewing Light(ish)

The other day I brewed a light beer. Not a “lite” beer, but a bright golden lager, crisp and semi-sweet, refreshing and thirst-quenching, designed for warm summer evenings to go with whatever comes off the grill. One of a couple of styles I favor in the warmer months, a Munich Helles lager is, to me, what a light beer should look and taste like. Even this beer, though, has a kick to it. When finished, this lager should still be around 6% abv, and will be full-flavored and malty. It just looks light, and doesn’t taste as heavy as the Scotch ales and stouts I’m drinking now during the winter.

There is an excellent book on the subject, part of the AHA Style Series. Written by Horst Dornbusch, “Bavarian Helles”  is an excellent resource on the history, variety and process of brewing this style, which is not as well-known as it should be. If you like the golden lagers brewed by Hacker-Pschorr, Spaten, Wurzburger, Paulaner and Löwenbräu, and if you want to try your hand at making your own, you must read this book.


5 gallons, all grain


  • 9 lbs. Weyermann Bohemian Pilsner malt
  • 1 lb. cara-foam malt
  • 1/2 lb. melanoidin malt
  • 1 oz. Spalter hop pellets
  • 1 oz. Tettnanger hop pellets
  • White Labs Old Bavarian Lager yeast (WLP920)
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar for priming

Procedure: Crush grains. Heat 13 quarts water to 167°F. Mash in grains and hold 60 minutes at 154°F. Heat another 15 quarts water to 170°F, begin runoff and sparge, collecting 25 quarts sweet wort. Bring to a boil, add 1/2 oz. Spalter hops. Boil 15 minutes, add another 1/2 oz. Spalter hops. Boil 30 minutes, add 1/2 oz. Tettnanger hops. Boil another 10 minutes, add remaining 1/2 oz. Tettnanger hops. Boil 5 more minutes (60 total), remove from heat. Chill to 80°F, take a hydrometer reading, pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate.  Pitch yeast, seal and ferment at 60°F for eight to ten days. Rack to secondary, lager at 38 – 40°F for six weeks. Prime with corn sugar, bottle and condition cold (35 – 38°F) for at least six weeks.

OG: 1062

IBU’s: 24

The Big One

Go big or go home, someone recently said to me. He was referring to the hops in the American IPA he was brewing, but I decided it was also applicable to the doppelbock I was planning to brew. So the “doppel” became a “tripel” – instead of a mere 12 lbs. of malt originally in the recipe, this became a gigantic 17 lb. mash. Pushing the limits of my mash tun and brew kettle, I went for it.

Bocks are, of course, rich, slightly stronger than average lagers. They range in color from pale gold to dark brown, in alcoholic strength from 5% to as much as 13 or 14% – Sammichlaus and Eggenberg, two of the strongest beers in the world, are bocks. Because they are lagered (and generally for quite a while) they tend to be very smooth. Emphasis is on the malt and the alcohol, although without substantial hop bitterness they can be cloyingly sweet. This big a brew will probably need help from a wine yeast in the secondary, but I will wait and see how primary fermentation goes.

Triplicator, triple bock
5 gallons, all-grain


  • 10 lbs. Weyermann dark Munich malt
  • 4 lbs. Weyermann Bohemian pilsner malt
  • 1 lb. Cara-red malt
  • 1/2 lb. Cara-amber malt
  • 1/2 lb. melanoidin malt
  • 8 oz. dark wheat malt
  • 4 oz. Carafa I malt
  • 4 oz. 60°L crystal
  • 1 oz. Saphir hop pellets (5.6% aa)
  • 1 oz. Magnum pellets (12% aa)
  • 1 oz. whole Hallertauer hops (2.5% aa)
  • White Labs German Bock yeast (WLP833)
  • 2/3 cup corn sugar (for priming)

Crush grains. Heat 20 quarts water to 164°F. Mash in grains, hold at 152°F for 90 minutes. Heat another 20 quarts water to 170°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collect 28 quarts sweet wort. Bring to boil, add Saphir hops. Boil 75 minutes, add Magnum hops. Boil 13 more minutes, add Hallertauer hops (in mesh bag), boil 2 minutes and turn off heat. Remove Hallertauer hops, chill wort to 80°F, take a hydrometer reading. Pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast, seal and ferment at 55 – 60° for eight to ten days. Rack to secondary and lager for six to eight weeks. Prime with corn sugar, bottle and age four to six weeks. This beer should keep for a year or more.

OG: 1094
IBU’s: 42

Note on boil and hop schedule: I started with a huge amount of wort, well over seven gallons, I really wanted to condense it down to just over five gallons, so I actually boiled it for 105 minutes, adjusting the hops accordingly – the Magnum went in after 75 minutes, so was actually in the boil for 30, bringing the actual IBU total to something more like 55… except that hop utilization rates are lower in a higher gravity wort, so it’s probably a wash… I was originally going to use the Magnum as the bittering hop and the Saphir for flavor but that would have almost tripled the IBU’s. The longer boil did give the beer a nice reddish color, and should help to bring out the maltiness.