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 to be named later…

After a confusing and draining weekend, I finally get around to writing up the latest brew.  I had it in mind to make a rye beer, and wanted to use up some of my 2009 crop of homegrown whole hops. Then I was given a sample of some whole Nugget hops by Freshhops (from whom I ordered hop rhizomes for the Market) and decided to use them as well – so many hops, so little time… I ended up designing what I thought would be an IPA, with rye malt. So a Rye-P-A, right? Then I found I still had some chocolate rye malt… throw that in too, for color, sure, OK… but then… it ended up almost Porter-like in color, not at all an IPA profile anymore… a Rye Porter? Maybe… In the end I decided not to call it anything yet, but to wait and see how it comes out, what it tastes like when finished, etc. Maybe I’ll let the readers of this blog suggest names…

“Dark Rye Hoppy Ale”, for lack of a better name…
5 gallons, all grain


  • 7 lbs. pale malt
  • 1-1/2 lbs. rye malt
  • 1 lb. chocolate rye malt
  • 1-1/2 lbs. 20°L crystal malt
  • 1 oz. HG Cluster hops (90)
  • 1 oz. HG Chinook hops (45)
  • 1 oz. Nugget hops at 12.5% aa (ko)
  • White Labs California Ale Yeast (WLP001)
  • 2/3 cup corn sugar (for priming)

Crush grains. Heat 14 quarts water to 165°F.  Add grains to mash liquor, hold at 154°F for 90 minutes. Heat 15 quarts water to 170°F, begin runoff and sparge grains, collecting 6.5 gallons of sweet wort. Bring to boil, add Cluster hops, boil 45 minutes, Add Chinook hops, boil another 45 minutes (90 total), turn off heat. Remove Cluster and Chinook, add Nugget hops. After 5 minutes, remove Nugget hops and chill to 80°F. Take a hydrometer reading and pour the wort into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast, seal and ferment at 65°F for 7 – 10 days. Rack to secondary, age cooler (50 – 55°F) for 10 – 14 days. Prime and bottle, age 10 – 14 days cool.

OG: 1066
IBU’s: as always, with my homegrown hops, I have no idea…

Notes on style:
Rye is tricky to brew with, for a couple of reasons. It doesn’t have enough of the right enzymes to be used as the sole grain in a mash, or at least not easily, so it generally needs to be used with barley and/or wheat. It also is a smaller grain, so needs to be cracked/crushed more carefully – too much flour or too many uncracked grains will both affect the consistency of the mash, thereby changing the way the whole thing either sets or doesn’t…
There are couple of traditional rye beers, one in Germany (Roggenbier) and one in the Baltic states (Finland and Estonia notably) called Sahti – which is brewed with Juniper berries and filtered/lautered through Juniper branches…