Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Fifty Shades of Grain?

Friday, September 21st, 2012

I am a big fan of irony. I had this idea to brew a batch with a cornucopia of different varieties and forms of grains, as my Autumnal Equinox brew. A harvest ale that would reflect the richness and diversity of the season. So I looked online to see what other people had brewed with, to get some ideas. First result returned by my search engine? My own BYO article from several years ago! I didn’t even remember having written it until that moment. Can I say that it was a very helpful article, without seeming smug?

This recipe contains twelve different grains, in seventeen different packages. Six malts, five flaked grains and six different whole grains needing to be pre-cooked. I can’t tell you specifically what each component adds to the mix, but the resulting wort tastes nutty, bready and sweet. I expect it will be a semi-cloudy beer in the end, just because of all the unmalted flaked grains. I opted for two German hops and an English yeast, seeking noble flavors and malt-forward sweetness, and rounded out the kettle with some invert sugar (golden syrup) just in case my mash was inefficient.

I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly and efficiently my lauter and sparge went – normally with this much flaked grain material, the whole thing can glue together and make a very slow runoff. I credit the malted oats, as their grain hulls stayed relatively whole after milling, creating a nice filter bed.

Green Man Mabon Ale

5 gallons, all-grain


  • 2 lbs. malted oats
  • 1-1/2 lbs. malted rye
  • 1-1/2 lbs. malted spelt
  • 1 lb. malted red wheat
  • 2 lbs. 2-row pale malt
  • 1/2 lb. carapils malt
  • 1/2 lb. flaked wheat
  • 1/2 lb. flaked barley
  • 1 lb. flaked oats
  • 1 lb. flaked rye
  • 1 lb. flaked maize
  • 1/2 cup brown rice
  • 1/4 cup amaranth
  • 1/2 cup millet
  • 1/4 cup black quinoa
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat
  • 1/2 cup emmer
  • 1 tin (454 g) Lyle’s Golden Syrup
  • 1 oz. German Tradition hop pellets
  • 1 oz. whole Sterling hops
  • White Labs English Ale Yeast (WLP002)
  • 2/3 cup corn sugar (for priming)


Brew Day Eve: Cook the rice, amaranth, millet, quinoa, buckwheat and emmer in about 4 cups water for 30 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed and the grains are chewy. Leave covered overnight.

Brew Day: Crush the malts. Heat 17 quarts water to 165°F. Dough in malts, stir well. Add flaked grains, stir again. Add cooked grains, mix into malts and flakes. Cover and hold at 154°F for 75 minutes. Heat 15 quarts water to 169°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 28 quarts sweet wort. Add Golden Syrup to kettle, bring to a boil. Add Tradition hops, boil 60 minutes. Add Sterling hops (in mesh bag), turn off heat. Steep for ten minutes then remove bag of hops. Chill to 80°F, take a hydrometer reading. Pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast, seal and ferment 10 days at 68°F. Rack to secondary, condition cooler (58 – 60°F) for two weeks. Prime with corn sugar and bottle, condition three weeks at 60°F.

OG: 1060

IBUs: 34

Note on grains: As was the case for an ancient Egyptian-style clone I brewed a few months ago, I had to malt the spelt myself, as I could not obtain malted spelt from any of my usual sources. I placed the spelt in a quart mason jar with a perforated sprouting top on it and soaked the grains for 24 hours, drained the liquid and allowed the grains to sprout over the course of several days, rinsing and draining once a day. When I began to see small sprouts at the ends of the majority of the grains, I spread them on a baking sheet and dried them in the oven set at 170°, with the door open. It took about 4 hours to dry, then I left them in the closed oven for 24 hours. I thought about trying to do the same with the rice, amaranth, quinoa, etc. but decided it was too much work. Those interested in growing or malting their own grains may want to check out the chapter in Joe & Dennis Fisher’s book “The Homebrewer’s Garden”.

Where’s there’s smoke…

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

It began as a casual comment and mini-discussion between my friend Aaron and me. We were judging wheat beers at a recent homebrew club meeting and we had before us a Belgian Witbier (it turned out to be Aaron’s, I found out later) and I noted a faint smokiness to the beer (there was no smoked malt used in the brew)… A dreamy look must have come over my face as I remarked, “Hmm, wonder what a smoked witbier would be like…” We agreed it was worth a try, and left it at that.

The idea fermented for a while and then I got access to some oak-smoked wheat malt, which sounded to me like the perfect ingredient and the perfect excuse to try that smoked witbier I had put on the back burner, so to speak.

I wanted the smoke to be subtle, but also wanted it to be the only thing different about the beer, so I went in search of a classic Witbier recipe. I ended up with a combination of Pierre Rajotte’s Silk Lady and Sierra Blanc (from the AHA Style Series book “Belgian Ales”) and my own clone of Celis White (from “North American Clone Brews”), and then tweaked it to its actual form.


Fumée Blanche (Belgian style Witbier)

5 gallons, all-grain


  • 5 lbs. Belgian pilsner malt
  • 1.5 lbs. light wheat malt
  • 1 lb. oak-smoked wheat malt
  • 1 lb. unmalted wheat berries
  • 1 lb. honey malt
  • 1 lb. flaked wheat
  • 1 oz. Saaz hop pellets (@ 4.0% aa)
  • coriander, cardamom, dried ginger root, bitter orange peel, ground coarsely
  • White Labs Wit II yeast (WLP 410)
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar (for priming)

Procedure: Crush grains (except the flaked wheat). Heat 13 quarts water to 165°F. Dough in grains and hold 60 minutes at 154°F. Heat 12 quarts water to 167°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 23 quarts sweet wort. Bring to a boil, add Saaz pellets, boil 60 minutes. At kettle knockout, add spices and steep 5 minutes. Chill to 80°F and take a hydrometer reading. Pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast, seal and ferment at 65 – 68°F for ten days. Rack to secondary, condition 3 to 4 weeks. Prime with corn sugar, bottle and age 2 to 3 weeks.

OG: 1054

IBU’s: 17

Note on grains and style: The classic witbiers (Hoegaarden, Celis, Cheval Blanc) are all vaguely cloudy. This is due to the use of a certain amount of unmalted (i.e. starchy) wheat. I used unmalted wheat berries and flaked wheat, both, in this brew, and in the past I have even used a little whole wheat flour.

Notes on spices: I neglected to actually measure the spices used – which almost guarantees that this will end up with the perfect balance, and I will be unable to duplicate it… I would guess it was about 1 tbsp. of orange peel, 1/2 a tbsp. of ginger, 10 or 12 cardmom seeds and 20 or 25 coriander seeds…

Note on smoked grains: Here I go again… always with the smoked grains! I guess it’s becoming my house signature flavor…


A Wild and Crazy Brew

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

Generally, every summer I brew a batch of some kind of Belgian-style sour beer; while not always a Lambic per se, it’s always a chance to play around with wild yeast and/or bacteria. I have one fermenter which I only use for these brews, I don’t dare brew a “normal” beer in a vessel that has been inoculated with any variety of Brettanomyces or the like… no matter how well I clean it and sanitize it, I just don’t trust it henceforth. Same with tubing and bottling spigots – I have a set of racking canes and a second bottling bucket that I only use for the “wild” brews…

This summer I am opting to intensify my sour experience. Today I brewed the base beer for what will be a Kriek, a sour cherry-flavored ale; it is fermenting with White Labs “Belgian Sour Blend” (which contains a Brettanomyces strain, a wild Saccharomyces strain and some Lactobacillus just for fun) and an expired Wyeast Lambic Blend as well (a similar mix). In a couple months I will rack it onto a winemaker’s cherry puree and add some black cherry juice concentrate. Then I will exhibit a Belgian Monk’s patience and age it for a year before bottling it and another  couple of months before tasting it. So check back with me in about May of 2014 for the first results…

Additionally, I am planning to brew a true (well, almost) spontaneously-fermented ale in October. Talks with a few friends and a great article in the September 2012 issue of Brew Your Own convinced me that it was worth trying to see what I might be able to do with the ambient micro-flora and -fauna of my Tunbridge hilltop… so I reserved a small portion of the wort for this Kriek and set it out in a couple places to collect wild yeast etc. I will carefully select anything that seems to be fermenting on its own (and seems palatable!), build up a slurry and brew another similar beer in a couple months.  If nothing develops, well, I’ve wasted about a quart of wort. If, however, as I hope, I get a nice wild yeast sample, I may end up with a really interesting beer. Again, I won’t really know anything for a year and a half at best. Patience, grasshopper!

Smoky Creek Sour Ale – Belgian-style pseudo-lambic with fruit

5 gallons, all-grain


  • 5 lbs. Chateau Belgian Pilsner malt
  • 1 lb. Rahr white wheat malt
  • 1 lb. Rahr floor-malted wheat
  • 1 lb. Weyermann’s light wheat malt
  • 12 0z. Weyermann’s Oak-smoked wheat malt
  • 4 oz. Briess Cherrywood smoked malt
  • 1 lb. flaked wheat
  • 2 oz. 3-year old homegrown Chinook hops
  • White Labs Belgian Sour blend (WLP655)
  • Wyeast Lambic Blend (3278)
  • 8 oz. Knudsen’s Black Cherry juice concentrate
  • 3 lbs. Vintner’s Harvest Cherry Puree
  • 2/3 cup corn sugar (for priming)
  • 7 g dry ale yeast (any) for bottle conditioning


Crush grains. Heat 15 quarts water to 164°F. Dough in grains (including the flaked wheat), hold 60 minutes at 152°F. Heat another 13 quarts water to 170°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 26 quarts of sweet wort. Bring to a boil, add 2 oz. old hops, boil 60 minutes. Chill to 80°F, pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Take a hydrometer reading, pitch yeasts and seal. Ferment 6 – 8 weeks at 65 – 70°F. Put cherries and juice in a sanitized secondary fermenter (glass carboy, preferably) and rack beer onto the fruit. Age one year (yes, one year) – check airlock regularly to be sure it does not dry out. A week before bottling time, rack to a third fermenter to get beer off the fruit solids (to allow better clarification). To bottle, add corn sugar (boiled in a cup of water) and bottling yeast, bottle and cap. Condition cool (50°F) for 6 to 8 weeks.

OG: 1054

IBU’s: irrelevant

Notes on yeast, etc.: In the past I have always done similar beers by doing the primary fermentation with a Belgian ale yeast and added the Lambic cultures with the fruit in the secondary. This is a departure for me, intended to make a much more sour and funky beer. If you don’t like the really dry/sour classic Lambic style, you can substitute almost any Belgian ale yeast in the primary…

Note on hops: This is not a hop-flavored beer. The hops are present merely for their pH and preservative values. Old stale hops, 3 or 4 years old or more, are used and the variety really doesn’t matter.

Note on smoke: Curious about the presence of 2 lbs. of smoked malts? This comes from conversations, a couple of years ago, with my friend James, a blacksmith/sculptor/artist who enjoyed smoking his own meats and vegetables. We considered trying to cold-smoke some fruit for brewing, but never got around to it before he and his wife moved to Alabama. Not being adept at cold-smoking stuff, I decided to use the smoked malts in this beer to get an idea of what might have been…