2017, so far…

As of this writing, I have brewed 3 batches in 2017 – a Roasted Red Pepper Porter, a Franconian Rauchbier, and this morning, a peaty Irish Red Ale. (Recipes will follow at the end of the article.) More significantly, I have made 5 important changes to my brewing routine over the last few months.
Let me state right at the beginning that I am not being paid by any of these manufacturers to use or endorse their products. I did not get them free. I simply have found some upgrades to what I had been using for a very long time.
First, I am finally using Five Star Star San as my regular sanitizer. For 25+ years I used chlorine bleach, longer soak times and hot water rinsing. I can’t believe how much time I am saving with the air-dry, no rinse acid-based sanitizer instead.
Secondly, I got myself a Fermtech Auto-siphon. I used to joke about having an excuse to sanitize my mouth with a shot of Scotch before starting the siphon. Then I started seeing much more consistent results and less of an issue with sanitation by using the auto-siphon to transfer from primary to secondary, and from secondary to bottling bucket. Again, how did I not get on this bandwagon a few years ago?
The third change was made because of our process at the Lebanon Brew Shop – when we do demos and classes, we don’t really have room for bottle trees and buckets full of sanitized bottles in the Brew Lab, so to save space we use the Fast Rack system – again, sanitizing bottles is quicker and can be done a few at a time, the bottles are left to air-dry upside down in the Fast Rack – and we never have a bottle tree prong making contact with the inside of the bottle. Another “what was I thinking” moment…
Additionally, I’ve started using Imperial Organic Yeasts – 200 billion cells in a small, super-sanitary, aluminum can – not quite the range of styles as White Labs, my usual “go to” yeast brand, but so far, extremely reliable and easy to pitch. I’ve had start-ups in 3 to 4 hours at most in my last several brews using Imperial.
The final change in my brewery routine is perhaps the most interesting – my cellar and back room have become embarrassing. Too much beer. Some of it old and probably stale. But I have to keep brewing, right? So as of this past fall, most of my brews are now 3-gallon recipes. This also shortens my brew day – no sparge! And it takes significantly less time to bring the wort to a boil.
So to the recipes. None of these have been bottled yet so I have not yet recorded their TGs or abvs.
Roasted Red Pepper Porter
3 gallons, all-grain

5 lbs. Maris Otter pale malt
6 oz. Carafa III
6 oz. Cara-Munich III
1 oz. St. Celeia hop pellets
1 oz. Spalter Select hop pellets
3/4 lb. freshly roasted red Bell peppers (burnt skins and all)
Saflager W34/70 yeast (dry)

45 minute mash with the crushed grains and 1/4 lb of the peppers, in 17 quarts water at 155°F.

60 minute boil, adding another 1/4 lb. peppers and hopping with the St. Celeia for 60 minutes and the Spalter Select for 20.

Fermentation at 60°F, add the remaining peppers in the secondary.

OG 1058
Franconian Rauchbier
3 gallons, all-grain

3 lbs. Munich Type I
3 lbs. beechwood-smoked Rauch malt
1/2 lb. Carafa I
1/2 lb. Melanoidin malt
1/2 lb. CaraMunich II
1 oz. Spalter hop pellets
1 oz. Hallertauer Mittelfrüh hop pellets
Yeast Bay Franconian Dark yeast

60 minute mash, in 17 quarts at 154°F, no sparge.

60 minute boil – the Spalt for 60, 1/2 the Hallertauer for 30 and the rest for 5.

Ferment initially at 65, chill to 40 after 7 – 10 days.

OG 1065
Irish Red Ale
3 gallons, all-grain

5 lbs. Irish Malting Company Ale Malt
1/2 lb. peated malt
1/8 lb. roasted barley
1/4 lb. 90°L crystal malt
2 oz. Target hop pellets
Imperial Organic “Darkness” yeast.

45 minute mash in 17 quarts at 152F. No sparge.

60 minute boil. 1 oz. Target for 60, 1/2 oz for 15, 1/2 oz added to primary.

Ferment at 65 – 68°F.

I will add 4 oz. light toast oak chips soaked in Jameson Caskmates Stout edition whiskey to the secondary and plan to age it on the oak for at least 3 weeks.

OG 1060

Smokin’ with the Boys

The other day was my friend Rick’s birthday. His wife was out of town on business, so I thought it would be a nice way to keep him from getting lonely if I invited him to come up and brew with me. While I was at it, I also invited our friends Chris, who has some professional brewing experience, and Peter, who is about to move up to all-grain brewing. I wanted Chris’s input on improving my brewing system, and wanted Peter to see first-hand how relatively easy an all-grain brew can be. They all showed up at 8:30 and we brewed this semi-traditional German Rauchbier, while sipping a Hill Farmstead porter, “Twilight of the Idols”, that Chris had brought along (yes, a big Porter at 9:30 a.m. – surely a breakfast beer!). Peter had a lot of questions, the rest of us tried to answer them as best we could, and the Rauchbier got brewed.

The thing about this brew that makes it only “semi”-traditional is the fact that the smoked malt I used was my own. I was playing around last week with a way to smoke grains at home, over various local woods. Five pounds of the grain in this recipe was smoked on my grill over birch chips, giving it a wonderful sort of wintergreen aroma… The mash smelled really cool, and the wort in the kettle smelled even more amazing.


5 gallons, all-grain


  • 5 lbs. Bohemian Pilsner malt
  • 1 lb. melanoidin malt
  • 2 lbs. birch-smoked Pilsner malt
  • 2 lbs. birch-smoked Vienna malt
  • 1 lb. birch-smoked 30°L crystal malt
  • 1/2 lb. honey malt
  • 1 oz. Sterling hop pellets (@5.7% aa)
  • 1 oz. Liberty hop pellets (@5.2% aa)
  • White Labs Old Bavarian Lager yeast (WLP920)
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar or 1 cup light DME (for priming)

Procedure: Crush malts. Heat 15 quarts water to 163°F. Dough in and hold mash at 152°F for 60 minutes. Heat another 13 quarts water to 170°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 26 quarts sweet smoky wort. Bring to boiling, add Sterling hops. Boil 45 minutes, add Liberty hops. Boil 15 more minutes (60 total), remove from heat and chill to 75°F. Take a hydrometer reading, pitch yeast, seal and ferment at 60°F for eight to ten days. Rack to secondary, lager cooler (45°F) for three weeks. Prime with corn sugar (or DME), bottle and age cold (38 – 40°F) for six weeks.

OG: 1058

IBU’s: 31

Note on smoked malt: Not everyone will be able to smoke their own malts, obviously. You can substitute 3 lbs. German Rauchmalt (beechwood-smoked) and 1 lb. each Vienna and 30°L crystal. The Rauchmalt is more intensely smoky than my own home-smoked malts, thus you need to use less for the smoke level of this brew. More smoked malt will mean more smoky flavor, and it is easy to overdo it.

Home-smoking grains:I built a 12” by 12” box, 3” deep, out of hardware cloth, then lined it with aluminum window screen. The hardware cloth is sturdy as a frame, the screen is a much finer mesh. My gas grill has a tray you can set in on top of the flames to use wood or charcoal for grilling.

Birch chunks on the left, pilsner malt on the right...

I built a small pile of wood chips at the far left end and placed my screen box on a grill at the far right. I placed 2 lbs. of grain, dry, in the screen box, sprayed it with water to moisten it, and lit the gas under the wood only. Because it was not actually touching the wood but only the metal tray, the wood never actually caught fire but smoldered, nice and smoky, for over an hour.The draft pulled the smoke from the wood across and through the grains, which I stirred and re-misted every 15 minutes. After an hour of smoke, I spread the grain out on a large cookie sheet to dry then packed it away in 1-lb. units in zip-lock bags. I did a total of about 20 lbs. in different combinations – some pilsner malt, some crystal, some Vienna, some wheat, etc… over birch and then oak and then maple. Four or five of my next several brews will include a smoked component.

Splish Splash

Got an email from a reader with a question about aeration and yeast. Any further reader input would be welcome…

Hey Scott,
Just found your blog,  while searching for the origins of the dark IPA.  I’m going to attribute it  to Greg Noonan just like every Vermonter should.  I’ve been trying to get  better with homebrewing and have been a little concerned with aeration of the  wort going into primary.  I’m a PhD student in biobehavioral neuroscience  so I get a bit anal about things, bear with me.  As a scientist I want a  specific value for dissolved oxygen necessary for a good fermentation, I find  that nowhere.  Some suggest a vigorous shaking of the wort, I’ve read of  aeration systems (access to medical 95%02, 5%CO2 so I’m tempted), and I’ve also  read many that like you suggested transferring the wort so that it is a bit  splashy and aerates “enough” (the scariest option for me as a scientist, I need  control!).  Is a good pour typically enough to provide enough oxygen for a  healthy ferment?

Enjoying the reading material you provide.  Thanks!

Hey Brendan, thanks for checking out the blog! Glad you’re enjoying it.

As you probably can figure out from my posts, I am NOT much of a scientist – I have no idea what kind of dissolved oxygen ratio would be ideal for optimum start-up. I have, for my entire brewing career (20 years) observed that pouring the wort into the fermenter and allowing it to splash well has been more than adequate. For a short while I used a counterflow wort chiller, siphoning the wort through copper into the bucket, and I am absolutely certain that there was not enough aeration occurring then – I had several batches that took days to start, and ultimately had off-flavors that one would associate with lag spoilage bacteria… Using the “pour and splash method” I usually get active fermentation within 4 – 6 hours, even quicker if I have built up a starter slurry…I don’t have my copy handy right now but I’d bet if anyone has quantified the oxygen content question it would be found in Greg’s “New Brewing Lager Beers“…
best of luck,