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

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