Liquid Bread

I believe it was Trappist monks who first referred to beer as liquid bread – as a drinkable nutritious substitute for baked loaves when some kind of fasting was in order. The theory also has been put forward that the first loaves of bread, way back at the dawn of civilization, were merely beer starters, holding yeast and fermentables in a dry form. In both cases, the underlying idea is that there is much in common between beer and bread – similar ingredients (grains, sugars, yeast), similar process (fermentation happens to a certain degree in rising bread dough), similar artisan/craftsman approach (in the best cases), and of course a large body of people making their own at home.

Like making bread, sometimes you use a recipe and sometimes you throw together whatever you have on hand. Today I sort of cleaned out the grain cupboard, looking to use up some leftover malts before they went stale. Only a few more brews before I take a couple weeks off from beer to concentrate on cyder. Based on immediate results, I might do this one again – what a beautiful deep golden color, and the aroma is amazing. I got to use up some of my 2010 hops as well, making room in the freezer for the 2011 crop which promises to be pretty good.

Amber Waves IPA
5 gallons, all-grain


  • 5 lbs. 2-row pale malt
  • 2 lbs. malted rye
  • 3 lbs. malted wheat
  • 1 lb. flaked oats
  • 1/2 lb. 30°L crystal malt
  • 1/2 oz. whole Cascade hops (home-grown)
  • 1/2 oz. whole Cluster hops (home-grown)
  • 1-1/2 oz. whole Chinook hops (home-grown)
  • 1 oz. Centennial hop pellets (@8.7% aa)
  • 1/2 oz. whole Nugget hops (home-grown)
  • White Labs American Ale Yeast blend (WLP060)
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar (for priming)

Procedure: Crush grains. Heat 15 quarts water to 164°F. Mash in grains, hold 90 minutes at 152°F. Heat another 14 quarts water to 170°F. Place Cascade, Cluster and Chinook hops in a muslin bag in the kettle. Begin runoff onto the hops, and sparge, collect 27 quarts sweet wort. Remove hops and bring wort to boiling. Add Centennial hops, boil 60 minutes. Add Nugget hops (in a muslin bag), remove kettle from heat and steep 15 minutes. Remove Nugget hops, chill to 80°F. Take a hydrometer reading and pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast, seal and ferment eight to ten days at 70°F. Rack to secondary, condition cooler (55 – 60°F) for three to four weeks. Prime with corn sugar and bottle. Age cool (45 – 50°F) for three to four weeks.

OG: 1061
IBU’s: because most of the hops used were my own home-grown (untested), and because the majority were either “first wort” hops or dry hops, It’s virtually impossible to estimate the IBU’s of this beer. At a guess, I would say it’s probably around 85 – 90…

Note on grains: Nothing says “bread” like a mixture of wheat, barley, rye and oats. The rye is hard to mill, and the oats need to be added at the top of the mash to avoid a badly gummed-up runoff. I was tempted to use a baker’s yeast to ferment this, but couldn’t bring myself to go that far…

A Beer On A (Secret) Mission

A few weeks back, one of my fellow home brew club members asked me what was probably intended to be a quick casual question.

“Ever tried first wort hopping?”, Ben asked me.

Umm, no. Sort of familiar with the concept, but never done it, not even sure of all the technical aspects. Half an hour of online searches, blog readings, and forum discussions later, I had a recipe.

Now, the idea of FWH is primarily reserved for beers like Pilsners, apparently, but more and more brewers, home- and otherwise, are finding that it adds to many different beer styles. In a nutshell, you add a certain percentage of your hops (usually the late-addition flavoring hops) to the wort as it comes out of the mash-tun, well before the boil. Instead of boiling the hops and extracting bitterness and flavor that way, you let it soak at a lower temperature, creating different isomers and (in theory) preserving flavors and aromas that would otherwise be broken down and boiled away.

Well, if we’re talking bitterness, hop flavor and aroma, that says to me: IPA. So instead of trying for a late-season Pilsner, I opted for an English IPA. No idea if I did it right, but we’ll find out down the road. Here’s how it went.

Her Majesty’s Secretly Served Ale
5 gallons, all-grain


  • 9 lbs. Maris Otter pale malt
  • 1 lb. 30°L crystal malt
  • 1 oz. whole East Kent Goldings hops (@5% aa)
  • 1 oz. whole Fuggles hops (@4% aa)
  • 1 oz. UK Challenger hop pellets (@7.8% aa)
  • White Labs Dry English Ale yeast (WLP007)
  • 1 oz. whole Bramling Cross hops
  • 2 oz. “heavy toast” oak chips
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar (for priming)

Crush grains. Heat 14 quarts water to 168°F. Mash in crushed grains, hold 75 minutes at 155°F. Heat another 14 quarts water to 172°F. Place Goldings and Fuggles hops (in mesh bags) in kettle. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 26 quarts sweet wort. Heat to boiling, removing hops at about 180° (but at least before boil begins). Boil 30 minutes, add Challenger hops. Boil 30 minutes (60 total), remove from heat. Chill to 80°F, pour into a sanitized fermenter. Take a hydrometer reading, pitch yeast, seal and ferment warm (70°F) for 8 to 10 days. Steam oak chips for ten minutes (in a vegetable steamer), bake on a cookie sheet at 350°F for ten minutes, then place in the bottom of a sanitized fermenter. Add Bramling Cross hops. Rack beer onto oak and dry hops. Age warm (75 – 80°F) for three to four weeks. Prime with corn sugar and bottle. Condition cool (45 – 50°F) for four to six weeks.

OG: 1062
IBU’s: 58 (est. based on 10% less utilisation for FWH addition… but I don’t know effectively how to calculate this!)

Notes on style: This is an English IPA. It is light golden in color, not amber like an American IPA. It will finish at about 6% abv, comparatively lower in alcohol than its American cousin. The hops are English, the yeast is English. Not an extreme beer, but a balanced, mellow, kinder, gentler beer. Shaken, not stirred… Dry-hopped and oaked to (hopefully) duplicate the legendary flavor of those beers shipped to India through the tropics and the antipodes…

Alternate brew: Partial mash brewers can do the exact same procedure, of course, but extract brewers may find it a bit more challenging. Here’s what I would do. Assuming you add your extracts to the kettle after bringing the water to a boil, I would let the wort cool back down to 150°F or so after adding the extracts, placing the first wort hops in the kettle and steeping them (with no additional heat) for about 30 minutes. Remove the hops and proceed to boil as usual.

Hoppy New Year!

{Originally posted on January 6 – somehow erased/removed from the website! Technical difficulties or gremlins? You decide…}

A year ago, I began writing this blog to share my brewing experiences, advice, recipes, etc. Among other things, the blog has led to the formation of a loose-knit group of local brewers who swap beers, recipes, advice, and that group has even begun to compete against each other, arranging informal tasting and judging events. In the fall we held our Black IPA Challenge, and in March we will gather again to compare American IPA’s. I know of at least eight brewers who have brewed or are about to brew their entry, basing their efforts on clone recipes of IPA’s by the Pike Brewing Co., the Oregon Brewing Co, Rogue, Stone…

I decided to take a different tack. After a little research, I finally came to understand what one brewery meant by “continuously hopped”. It seems that the brewers at Dogfish Head actually do add hops, a little at a time, at short intervals, throughout the entire boil. They make three (at this point) different IPA’s, of differing strengths and bitterness, each identified by how long they boil it and how long they continue to add hops. You may be familiar with their 60 Minute, 90 Minute and perhaps even the 120 Minute version.

I hope they have an automatic, programmed hop-feeder, because even the 60 Minute version which I did was labor-intensive.

This brew is smooth, hoppy, fragrant, complex… all the things a good IPA should be. Lighter in color than many, barely a deep gold, bold at about 6% abv, pleasantly bitter without being overwhelming… I didn’t bother to calculate my IBU’s because there were literally more than 45 different hop additions (Dogfish claims 60 IBU’s, thus reinforcing the 60 Minute name)…

For authenticity, I used only North American malted barley (from MaltEurop, in western Canada) and US-grown hops (indeed, the whole hops were all home-grown!).

Fishhead 60, American IPA
5.5 gallons, all-grain


  • 9 lbs. MaltEurop 2-row pale malt
  • 1 lb. toasted MaltEurop 2-row pale malt
  • 1 lb. 30°L crystal malt
  • 1 oz. Pallisades hop pellets (8.3% aa)
  • 1 oz. Amarillo hop pellets (9.1% aa)
  • 1 oz. Simcoe hop pellets (12.2% aa)
  • 1/2 oz. home-grown whole Nugget hops
  • 1/2 oz. home-grown whole Cascade hops
  • 1/2 oz. home-grown whole Willamette hops
  • White Labs East Coast Ale yeast (WLP008)
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar (for priming)

Toast 1 lb. pale malt (375°F for ten minutes on a cookie sheet). Grind pale, toasted and crystal malts. Heat 13 quarts water to 164°F. Mash in grains, hold at 152°F for 60 minutes. Heat another 15 quarts water to 170°F, runoff and sparge. Collect 25 quarts of sweet wort. Bring to boil, begin adding hops over the whole 60 minute boil: start with the Pallisades, adding a few pellets at a time over the course of the first 30 minutes. Start adding the Amarillo as well at the 15 minute mark and continue to the end of the boil. Add the Simcoe over the last 20 minutes. Chill wort to 80°F, take a hydrometer reading, pour into a sanitized primary fermenter. Add the whole hops (in a mesh bag), pitch yeast, seal and ferment 10 days at 60 – 65°F. Rack to secondary, removing dry hops, and age ten days to two weeks at 45 – 50°F. Prime with corn sugar, bottle and age three weeks at 40 – 45°F.

OG: 1058

Note on hops: Dogfish uses Warrior, Amarillo, and Mystery Hop X – Simcoe is a guess, Pallisades replaced Warrior which was unavailable to me. I will be adding a few pellets of whatever aroma hop I have on hand to the bottling sugar mix, to add one more dose of fresh hop aroma. I opted to dry hop this beer in the primary rather than the secondary, purely out of convenience. If you can get the hops in and out of your secondary fermenter, feel free to dry hop then instead.