Cheers to spontaneity!

The other morning at the Brew Shop, I was chatting with a customer who was looking over the yeast selection. He didn’t seem to have a specific yeast in mind so I asked what he was planning to brew.

“It would be good if I had a plan,” was his reply.

Which is what it all comes back to, for many of us – plans and changing plans. I don’t know how many times, in the 26 years I have been brewing, I have started out to make one beer but ended up changing something about it mid-brew. It’s that “Oh, hmm, maybe if I just added this… or changed that…” moment.  I’d bet I’m close to 50/50 over the years. It’s not always a dramatic change, sometimes it’s because I forgot to get something and have to make a substitution (hops, most commonly), sometimes because something catches my eye and woops, in it goes…

So I was brewing this morning. My plan was to make a dark ale, all German ingredients – sort of a dark Kölsch, except hoppier. I wanted to play with a couple of the newer German hops, and they seemed to call for a little smoke and a little Carafa. As I set up the wort chiller in anticipation of kettle flame-out, I went to pour a cup of coffee (you know where this is going, right?) but alas, the pot was empty. I had some cold brew in the pantry so I poured a mug of that – just needed some caffeine. My eyes darted back and forth between the coffee and the brew kettle – same color! Change of plans – into the kettle, as I turned it off, went a pint of cold brew coffee. And the rest is history.

Black Forest Ale – 3 gallons, all-grain


  • 6 lbs. Schill Kölsch malt
  • 1/2 lb. Vienna malt
  • 1/2 lb. melanoidin malt
  • 1/2 lb. Carafa III
  • 1/8 lb. rauch malt
  • 1 oz. German Blanc hop pellets (7.2% aa)
  • 1 oz. Polaris hop pellets (18.4% aa)
  • 1 oz. Mandarina Bavaria hop pellets (7.3% aa)
  • 1 pt. cold brew coffee
  • Imperial Organic G03 “Dieter” yeast
  • 1/3 cup corn sugar for priming


Crush grains. Mash in 18 quarts water at 155°F for 45 minutes. Runoff sweet wort (no sparge required). Bring to boil, boil 25 minutes. Add Blanc pellets, boil 15 minutes. Add Polaris pellets, boil 5 minutes and turn off heat (total boil of 45 minutes). Add cold brew and Mandarina pellets, begin chilling. Chill to 75°F, pour into primary fermenter splashing well to oxygenate. Pitch “Dieter” yeast. Ferment 10 days at 65°F, rack to secondary. Condition cooler (55°F) for ten to fifteen days. Prime with corn sugar, bottle and age three weeks.

OG: 1062

Is this a Spring beer?

Ideas for beer sometimes kick around in the back of my mind for months, even years.  This one dates back to at least 2010 – a co-worker, whom we called Sushi, brewed a pale ale with chaga (a fungus with alleged tonic properties, usually used for a sort of herbal tea…) – the mild earthy taste and fragrance the chaga added to the beer was pleasant, and I wondered what a more rich mushroom flavor might add. I sort of forgot my intended experiment  until recently when I began to receive a catalog from a French food importer, Joie De Vivre.  Among the delicacies available were real French chanterelles and cèpes (porcini mushrooms) and a dried woodland mushroom blend. Flash back to the chaga pale ale, and I knew what I had to do.

As I began to plan the brew, I looked online to see what others might have done with mushrooms – and came across, naturally some thoughts from the ever-creative and experimental Denny Conn – and my beer was off and running!  I decided to play with words, as I often do, and combined the idea of mushroom beer with mushroom sauce – Sauce Chasseur, it would be called in French cuisine – and ended up with an echo from the late beer writer Michael Jackson – in the French press he is known as “le Chasseur de Bière” – the Beer Hunter… Serendipity.  This is a bière de garde style beer, normally an earthy, rich style anyway, the umami factor from the mushrooms enhances that side of the beer.

Bière de Chasseur,

3 gallons, all-grain

Dedicated to Michael Jackson, le Chasseur de Bière


  • 5-1/2 lbs. Chateau Belgian Pilsner malt
  • 1-3/4 lbs. Weyermanns Munich type 1
  • 1/3 lb. toasted Belgian Pilsner malt*
  • 1/3 lb. Belgian biscuit malt
  • 1/8 lb.  20°L crystal malt
  • 1/2 oz. roasted barley
  • 1 oz. Galena hop pellets (16.0% aa)
  • 3 oz. mixed dried woodland mushrooms**
  • White Labs French Ale yeast (WLP072)
  • 1/3 cup corn sugar for priming


Crush grains. Mash 60 minutes in 18 quarts water at 148°F. No sparge required, runoff all liquid. Bring to boiling, boil 15 minutes. Add 3/4 oz. Galena pellets. Boil 45 minutes. Add 1/4 oz. Galena and 1.5 oz. ground mushroom blend.  Chill to 75°, pitch yeast. Ferment at 65°F for ten days. Rack to secondary and add 1 oz. mushroom blend (in pieces, not ground). Condition cooler (50°F) for three weeks. Prime with corn sugar and add at bottling 1/2 cup tea made from steeping 1/2 oz. mushroom blend at 175°F for 30 minutes.  Bottle condition three weeks – will probably be at its best after six to eight weeks.

OG: 1074


*Toast the malt at home, on a cookie sheet, for 15 minutes at 375°F. Cool before crushing.

**My blend consisted of 1.4 oz cèpes (porcini), 1.4 oz. dried forest mushrooms (JdV’s blend of cèpes, bolets, oysters and black trumpet), and 1/4 oz. of my own dried morels, handpicked and processed last spring. I ground the first mushroom addition in mortar and pestle to increase the intensity of the flavor. The other additions remain unground as they will be steeped/soaked longer.


Racking reminds me…

Just racked my most recent brew to secondary and that reminded me that I had put off posting the recipe and tips. So here I am to correct that lack.

Our homebrew club sets a style calendar a year at a time, giving everyone a schedule for brewing anything we plan to bring to a meeting in the future. For our June meeting we are all supposed to brew a clone of a commercial beer and bring in both our clone and the original, to be tasted side-by-side. Looking around the brewing closet, I remembered a jar full of oak cubes soaking in dark rum. This was back in January, around the time of our annual Burns Night party. I had laid in a stock of good Scottish beers for the evening, one of which was Innis & Gunn’s Rum Aged Ale.  That was easy!

Innis & Gunn Rum Aged Clone – 3 gallons, all grain


  • 6-1/4 lbs. Simpson’s Golden Promise malt
  • 1/2 lb. 60°L crystal malt
  • 1/4 lb. Simpson’s Brown malt
  • 1 cup, dark brown sugar
  • 2 oz. Fuggles hop pellets (3.7% aa)
  • Imperial Organic Tartan yeast
  • 4 oz. oak cubes, soaked in dark rum


Crush grains. Mash in 18 quarts of water at 154°F for 60 minutes. No sparge required, runoff all liquid. Bring to a boil and add Fuggles pellets. Boil 60 minutes. Chill, pitch Tartan yeast. Ferment at 62 – 65°F for ten days. Rack to secondary with the oak cubes (leave out any remaining rum). Condition cool (50°F) for three weeks. Prime with 1/2 cup brown sugar and bottle condition for three to four weeks.

OG: 1064

The day before brewing this at home, I had staged a brewing demonstration at the Lebanon Brew Shop to show Ben, our General Manager, how an all-grain brew worked. We also wanted to test-drive a new piece of equipment, the Catalyst Fermenter from Craft-A-Brew. Ben wanted to do an Imperial Stout, so we worked out a nice big dark recipe and met at the Shop on Saturday morning.  The brew went fine, the Catalyst was easy to set up and sanitize, and so far has been everything we had hoped – an all-in-one conical system, making unnecessary racking to secondary or to bottling bucket – you remove the trub and the yeast and bottle directly from the bottom of the fermenter! Ben wanted to add oak to this, so he soaked oak chips in rum and added some natural hazelnut flavoring. That will be added to the batch later this week, by attaching the jar of oak chips to the bottom where the trub/yeast trap are at the moment…

The Catalyst Fermenter by Craft-A-Brew. Photo courtesy of Ben Mayes.



Obi-Wan’s Imperial – 5 gallons, all-grain


  • 10 lbs. Malting Co. of Ireland Stout Malt
  • 1 lb. 150°L crystal malt
  • 1/2 lb. Chocolate malt
  • 1/2 lb. roasted barley
  • 1/2 lb. Brown malt
  • 1 lb. flaked barley
  • 2 lbs. corn sugar
  • 1 oz. Horizon hop pellets (12.5% aa)
  • 1 oz. Challenger hop pellets (9.6% aa)
  • 1 oz. Cluster hop pellets (7.0% aa)
  • Imperial Organic Darkness yeast
  • 4 oz. light toast oak chips soaked in rum with Brewer’s Best Natural Hazelnut flavoring essence (2 oz.)
  • 2 oz. Brewer’s Best Natural Hazelnut flavoring essence
  • Mangrove Jack’s Carbonation drops for priming (1 per bottle)


Crush grains. Mash for 45 minutes in 18 quarts at 154°F. Begin runoff and sparge with 12 quarts at 170°F. Bring to a boil, add corn sugar to kettle. Add Horizon hop pellets, boil 30 minutes. Add Challenger and Cluster pellets, boil another 15 minutes. Chill, pour into Catalyst. Let settle 20 minutes and remove trub from the bottom (see Craft-A-Brew’s website and various YouTube videos to see this procedure!), then pitch yeast with a new clean jar attached and the valve open.  Remove yeast after 12 days, add oak chips and the rest of the hazelnut flavoring (swap jars). Bottle after 3 weeks of aging, priming with one carbonation drop per bottle.

OG: 1080