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Bonus! (Fun with Byproducts)

I hate just throwing away all that good spent grain after I’m done brewing.  Luckily, there are some great things you can do with spent grain so that you only have to get rid of most of it!

Spent Grain Cookies

Spent Grain Cookies

Yesterday, once I got everything going in the fermenter, I pulled up this great recipe from Omnomicon for spent grain chocolate chip cookies.  These things are delicious, with the grains adding a kind of rustic hardiness — manly cookies that chew back!

Let’s call it… I don’t know, a Black Splash.

The beer I made was an American Stout (extract with a lot of flavoring grains), so my leftover grains had a bit of thick, black liquid pooling in the bowl beneath them.  I took a taste: an oily dark/burnt grain character with a mild sweetness (as you might expect from a bunch of black, crystal, and Munich malts).  A bit tannic, but very interesting and overall fairly pleasant.  I had to try doing something with it, so I thought it might be good as a whiskey mixer.  So I tried a 1: 1 ratio of this stuff with Bourbon whiskey, mixed on the rocks.  It was okay, but missing something.  My wife was thinking as I was: some kind of citrus character would be good.  I cut a slice of orange and gave it a good squeeze.  Better — pretty good in fact!  It was sort of similar to an Old Fashioned, with the black slurry standing in for both the sugar and the bitters.  I think it could stand a bit of tweaking (maybe a tad more sugar, for one), but it was a pretty good drink for saying it was done on the fly.


I have yet to make spent grain dog treats (which are often not that far off from the human versions) but these are another popular use for brewing leftovers.  Here is one recipe from BYO.  My dogs would be so pissed if they knew this was an option.

So these are a few ideas for brewing byproducts, anyway.  I really hate wasting things, and I mentioned how I still have to get rid of most of my spent grains (none of these projects use up much of the brewing quantity).  However, even disposing of my leftovers won’t be bad from now on, as my friend wants to take it all for composting (which is another good use for spent grains).  Great!


Debris Slide Fresh Hop IPA

We hit our hop harvest season again here in the Willamette Valley last month, so I did the proper thing and made another fresh hop IPA.  This one is based on last year’s model, but with a little more LME, a different yeast selection, and a different hop profile.  I tried to make it Saaz-forward again, but this year I didn’t get quite enough Saaz to use that hop exclusively in the mid- and late-boil additions.  So my [Golden] Nugget hops made up the difference where needed.  Still, I had a ton of bright green hops rolling around in the sticky, hop-oil-infused wort – a pretty sight!

Compared with last year’s version, this one has more of a heft to it (a good thing).  On the downside, there is a harsher bitterness to this one, especially at the finish – not to the degree that it’s bad, but I wish the edge wasn’t there quite so much; it seems to somewhat mask the fresh-hopiness of the flavor.  This sharpness could be due to the slightly longer boil time, but I suspect it has a lot to do with the weird “Golden Nugget” hops taking on more of the hop duties in lieu of the softer Saaz.  (I did keep the overall alpha addition schedule the same from last year, however.)

I’ve got no photos to share for this time around, so please enjoy the below link to the the namesake for this beer (note that this is, syntactically, a command and not a request):

Style: Fresh-Hop American IPA

Brew Date: Sunday, 9-22-13

Base Malt: 8.0 lbs. light LME

Steeping Grains: 1.0 lbs. Carapils, 1.0 lbs. Centennial-10, 0.75 lbs. Munich Light, 0.75 lbs Wheat, 0.5 lbs. Centennial-60 (all steeped for 35 minutes between 152-160°F)

Yeast: White Labs WLP001 English Ale (pitched at 73°F, started 3 nights before [Thursday night], conditioned on stir plate)


  • [Golden] Nugget* at 11% α (estimated)
  • Saaz at 4% α (estimated)

Hop Schedule:

  • 1 oz. Nugget (dried) at 70 min
  • 12 oz. Saaz (wet) at 35 min
  • 3.5 oz. Saaz (wet) and 2.0 oz Golden Nugget (wet) at 0 min
  • 2.25 oz. Golden Nugget (dried): secondary fermentation stage dry hop (duration of secondary)

Gravity Schedule:

  • 1.054 at pitch 9-22-12, 3:00pm
  • 1.013 final (at kegging 10-14-13)

*We got this breed of hop (2 of our 3 hop plants) prior to my getting into brewing, just because we liked hops. This is an unfortunate hop to have as a brewer, as it seems to not have been bred especially for brewing, and the online homebrew community is peppered with not-so-definitive Q&A threads about this hop and what exactly it is, even.  Nonetheless, it has worked fine for me (as a bittering hop) so far.

Beer in China: Part Two

Craft Beer in China and My Accidental Adventure

In my last post, I referenced a great article about beer in China.  I found this article in an issue of HOPS Magazine, and I found HOPS magazine by (almost literally) stumbling into it.

HOPS is a publication (I got a copy of both their Chinese and English versions) dedicated to Chinese beer culture, with an emphasis on craft and high-quality beers.  It should come as no surprise, therefore, that they were at a pretty significant Shanghai beer event known as Sinan Mansions Beer Festival.  What did surprise me, as I walked down Chongqing South Road in Shanghai at about 2:00 on a Sunday afternoon, is that I was heading right for a beer festival!  In China!  Where I hadn’t had any Chinese beer stronger than about 4% abv in over two weeks!

I had a couple of hours to kill, so it popped into my head to check if Untappd worked and see if I was close to any good beers.  Untapped does work in China, and I was fairly close to Boxing Cat Brewery, which I had read about stateside.  So I headed that way.

Just roll with it, OK?

Just roll with it, OK?

When I arrived, a big banner on Boxing Cat’s block announced that the Sinan Beer Fest was going on right there on that block.  I went straight for the tents and started navigating the crowds (which were significant but not on the scale of the Oregon Brewers Festival). In my excitement to find good, strong beer, I bought a Chimay on the spot, which, in retrospect, was a mistake, as I only had limited cash on me and there ended up being a lot of Chinese craft beer options, toward which I should have devoted all of my resources (I was in China, after all!).

I was also able to try a number of the Chinese beers, though.  I had East City Porter by the superbly named Great Leap Brewing, Buckwheat Ale by Le Ble dÓr’s Suzhou facility, TKO IPA by Boxing Cat Brewery, as well as a few other samples here and there. To get a good, quick overview of craft beer in China, I, again, recommend the HOPS article, but here are a few of my own observations about craft beer in China:

Sainan Beer Festival

Happy Drunk People

  • The mix at the brew fest was about 60%-70% white expats, and most brewers and brewery booth staff were expats as well (though this wasn’t necessarily the case for distributor/retail/publications booths).  Craft beer seems to be very expat-driven; however, the article notes that “now Chinese now outnumber expats in the Beijing Homebrewing Society”, and I agree with the author that this is a good sign for the future of the Chinese beer scene.
  • I hate to be a critic in matters like this, but the beers I was able to try were, overall, pretty good but not great, and not to the level of what we’re used to in, say, Oregon.  As the article notes, brewing (including access to supplies) is a tougher go in China, and it this may play a part in many a finished product.
  • Like craft beer scene in America, the scene in China seems to be fun, dynamic, and energetic.
  • It would be very exciting to be associated with one of the craft brewers in China right now. From what I’ve seen and read, I think it could be argued that the industry has developed enough steam to move past being characterized as “nascent” and is now better described as “burgeoning”.  Further to this, the growth of incomes, interests, and Western tastes among China’s local citizens (urban ones, at least) bodes well for places like Boxing Cat Brewery.

Boxing Cat

Beer in China: Part One

General Observations

I recently returned from a trip to China, and while it was very interesting in many ways, this is a beer blog, so I’m going to talk about the beer of China over the next few posts.

Actually, I’m going to first refer you to this great HOPS article on the current status of beer in China – both mainstream and the emerging craft beer movement. My experience in China almost completely falls in line with what the author details in terms of typical super-light, watery, adjunct-style lagers being the only option in most run-of-the mill restaurants and bars (though some bars [even non-Expat] offer some pretty good Western beers by the bottle if you’re willing to pay for them).

Hot fish, hot tea, hot room, and slightly cool Snow Beer.  Actually, a really good experience.

Hot fish, hot tea, hot room, and slightly cool Snow Beer. Actually, a really good experience.

Really, if you can’t read the beers on a Chinese menu and the server doesn’t speak English, your best bet is to just say “Tsingtao”, because it’ll most likely (though not always) be the most robust thing you can get (in Suzhou-Shanghai, at least). Oh, and though this kind of beer is obviously best served cold, it often comes to your table just semi-cold (more like a proper ale temperature at first, only to warm in the hot air if you dally). But hey, this beer does go great with a lot of Chinese food!

Sinkiang Black Beer at a Muslim Restaurant in Suzhou

Sinkiang Black Beer at a Muslim Restaurant in Suzhou

Every once in a while, though, there will be an oddball Chinese beer that holds some interest. Sinkiang Black Beer was a nice change of pace. It was a dark beer – the only dark Chinese beer I found outside of the craft scene – yet still a bit on the weak/mild side for a dark beer (tasted maybe like a dark lager with some strange backflavors?) It’s from the Xinjiang (heavily Islamic/Uyghur) region of China, so look for it in Muslim restaurants.

I also liked the above-mentioned article because it does a good job of laying out the history of the industry and reflects so much of China’s business and economic culture at the moment. I was in China as part of an MBA “China Studies” program, and I’ve spent a lot of time lately learning about Chinese history, culture, and business. The beer scene in China could make an interesting case study, as it is in many ways a microcosm of what’s happening in China in general: changing consumer tastes, Western influence in an increasingly open China, the emergence of new industries, the governmental and infrastructure challenges of the existing system, etc. Cool stuff, and very exciting times for beer enthusiasts in China!


Unbeknownst to me at the time, the last porter recipe I picked out ended up being a “Brown Porter” (based on OG and other traits), which is not really the standard porter we craft-beer-drinking Americans are used to. I liked it fine for what it was, but I had wanted a deeper, more flavorful porter and thought I had screwed it up. So anyway, I’ve brewed another porter, ensuring this one is a “Robust Porter” per BJCP’s style guidelines. This one is based on BYO’s Jolly Roger Double Mocha Porter (found in Jan-Feb 2012 issue), with the only real changes being in the bittering hop variety and yeast type.

My New Kegerator!

It turned out to be pretty good! Dark and robust as I hoped, and balanced. I missed my final OG target of 1.016(?), which may contribute to the richness of the mouthfeel. At the end there’s bitter-roasty finish, which my wife and I like, though there might be a touch of astringency associated with it. Not sure if such a finish would get me docked in a BJCP evaluation or not, but it seems nice to me.

I kegged this in my brand new kegerator system: a Nostalgia kegerator kit which I modified (with way too much trouble) for a Cornelius keg. Nice to have a good beer on tap at home! Just in time for the April skies…

Darklands Robust Porter


Grain Bill:
8.0 lbs. light LME
0.25 lbs. Crystal 120
0.25 lbs. Crystal 150
0.25 lbs. Carafa Type II
0.25 lbs. 2-row black patent
0.5 lbs. kiln coffee malt
0.5 lbs. chocolate malt

Yeast: WLP001 California Ale (one vial in a 1.0L starter)

Hop Schedule (60 min boil per recipe*):
0.6 oz Chinook hops (17.6% alpha) for last 45 min.
1 oz. Willamette hops (5.6% alpha) for last 20 min.
1 oz. Willamette hops (5.6% alpha) for last 5 min.
*Why a 60 minute boil on an extract beer with a 45 min. hop duration?!

Gravity Schedule:
1.056 at pitch, 2-23-13
1.020 at kegging, 3-17-12

•Yeast started about 17 hours before pitch.
•This was my first extract brew with a wort chiller (immersion). Much better than the ice block thing.
•More on the Nostalgia kegerator thing later. It was a good deal but there are a few things to watch out for if you want to modify it.

Dawg Grog

courtesy http://pinterest.com/pin/210191507579891962/

Bull Dog Beer Ad

I’m a fan of Oregon’s reputation for being both pro-beer and pro-dog, because I’m… well, pro-beer and pro-dog. I often love anything that brings the two worlds together. For example, I sometimes get in arguments with my wife because I think bars should be able to let patrons bring their dogs in with them. I know there are a lot of good reasons to keep dogs out of bars, but I WANT TO GO TO BARS WITH DOGS IN THEM! And I want to bring my dogs into my favorite boozy establishments.

That said, I’m not so sure about the latest dog-beer intersection in Oregon. Somebody (incidentally associated with the [very good] Boneyard Beer Company) decided to make Dawg Grog – a beer for dogs. Now, for health reasons, many argue that dogs should not be given actual beer* (ok, maybe I let my pups have a sip every once in a great while). However, Dawg Grog isn’t actually beer and is designed to be fine for dogs to drink.

OK, so far we have a dog-safe “beer” that you can give to your beloved pooch. This sounds great, right? Maybe, but your dog had better LOVE it, because it costs $36 for a six pack! In addition to costing more than many a damn fine ‘human beer’, it has no alcohol, making this quite possibly the world’s most expensive N/A beer.

So to my dogs I’ll continue to say, “Sorry pups, no beer for you!  …OK, maybe a sip of mine if I can ever sneak you into the Horse Brass.”

*Look this up for yourself.  I’m not going to get into this debate.

Hillsboro Hops

The management of the new Hillsboro minor league baseball team announced their official team name last week: Hillsboro Hops.  Reception of the name has been varied.  I had mixed feelings myself.  Naturally I liked the beer theme, but (among other minor reservations I had) I agreed with critics who said that hops aren’t grown in Hillsboro commercially.  Sure, they’re grown near here, but the commercial farms are all clearly a little ways south in the Willamette valley.

The team’s management concede that hops aren’t a Hillsboro agricultural product, but they contend that they were going for originality.  They also claim that the name “Hops” ties to baseball terminology (and I’ll just have to take their word for that).  Furthermore, Hops management point out that they were thinking not only of Hillsboro itself, but giving a nod to an important and characteristic industry in the state of Oregon, and this is where their argument started to get to me.  After all, I love the whole concept of the Portland “Timbers”, but they’ve got the same thing going: there’s no tree-chopping industry within Portland’s city limits, but people all over the nation have this notion of the state of Oregon and it’s historically important—and even mystical and romantic in some ways—timber industry.

So yeah, I say let’s celebrate the Hillsboro Hops and the significant and very interesting hop agriculture industry that I’m proud to have in my state.  And for anybody who flatly claims hops don’t grow in Hillsboro, they probably haven’t talked to many Hillsboro homebrewers .

(Wait! The Hillsboro Homebrewers… now there’s a team name! But I digress.)

Anyway, just in time for the new team name, I’ve got a whole batch of fresh hop IPA’s about one week from being ready to drink, and they’re chock full of hop goodness from right in my back yard in—where else?—Hillsboro!

So in solidarity, I will soon raise my first glass of Hillsboro Hops IPA.  Stay tuned.

My First Wet Hop Adventure

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As this is the first Autumn that I’m growing hops and brewing, I decided to go for a fresh (a.k.a. “wet”) hop beer.  And what better candidate for a fresh hop beer is there than the trusty IPA?

I love hoppy beers, but my wife doesn’t like them super hoppy, and as the two of us will be drinking most of this stuff, I thought I’d go for a nice even-keel IPA as a base design.  I therefore found a recipe for a clone of Lagunitas IPA — a beer we both enjoy.  I’ve found that there’s a lot of shooting from the hip when it comes to using fresh hops, which is another reason I started with a fairly mellow, balanced specimen of American IPA.  This will allow me more latitude for erring on the side of too many hops rather than not enough.

Because fresh hops (hops that are used straight off the vine and have not been dried) weigh more than dry ones due to water content in the hop cone, more hops are needed by weight to make up for this (and still get the same alpha acid contribution for your beer).  Opinions vary in the brewing community, but five times the wet hops by weight seems to be a safe middle ground for this correction factor.

Also, I’m not using the same hops that Lagunitas uses.  I have Nugget and Saaz.  Saaz, a more delicate noble hop known for excellent aroma and flavor, is what I’ll use primarily.  I like the idea of using Saaz because of its sought-after characteristics.  Low-acid hops like Saaz aren’t often used so exclusively in beer, partly because more of them are required, and the beer therefore costs more to produce.  However, I have way more hops than I’ll be able to take advantage of, even with vacuum-sealing and storing some of them.  I’ll use the (higher alpha) Nugget for my full-boil bittering hops only, mostly because they were harvested earlier and have had a chance to be dried, and fresh (wet) hops are not good for full-boil utilization (long boils of fresh hops result in grassy, planty flavors).

So, I have to account for 1) different hops and 2) wet hops as opposed to dry.  Thus, I have to make two corrections.  What I did was convert all hop quantities in the recipe to their equivalent AAU units.  Then, estimating the alpha acids of my hops (based on average ranges), I determined how much of that hop (dry) would be needed instead.  Then I multiplied by five to determine wet hop quantity.

My recipe is converted and ready to go, and so are my fresh Saaz hops.  The unfortunate thing is that it’s looking like it might rain, which will complicate my wet hop weight situation.  I’ve got to pull these hops and brew in the next couple of days, so hopefully things dry up soon.

Tarnished Angel

This was the first beer where I tried doing some customization.  I wanted a nice summer beer, and my wife suggested a hef.  Always a nice light-ish, refreshing brew, that hefeweizen.  I’ve really been enjoying rye stuff lately, though, so I started with a local homebrew supplier’s American Hefeweizen recipe and worked some rye character into it.  The rye grain varieties available were a few forms of crystal rye, all generally darker than the color of a typical hefeweizen.  The sales person was looking for a lighter alternative, noting that the rye we found was going to cast a dark shadow on the golden innocence of my brew.  But I was already corrupting the style, so I figured ‘what the hell’.

Style: Muttweizen

Starter Date: 6-8-12

Brew Date: 6-10-12

Base Malt: 6.5 lbs. Wheat LME

Steeping Grains: 0.5 lbs. flaked wheat, 0.5 lbs. unmalted wheat, 0.5 lbs. crystal rye (all steeped from cold up to 180°F)

Yeast: White Labs WLP320 American Hefeweizen (pitched at 68°F, started two days prior, conditioned on stir plate)

Hops: Liberty at 5.3% α

Hop Schedule:

  • 0.6 oz. at 60 min
  • 0.6 oz. at 0 min

Additional Additives: None.  (Wanted it cloudy, hef-style.  Also, I’ve learned that my Irish moss is a bad idea with extract brewing.  Thanks, John Palmer.)

Gravity Schedule:

  • 1.042 at pitch 6-10-12, noon-ish (low?)
  • Unknown at secondary racking (forgetful me), 6-17-12
  • 1.012 at bottling 6-30-12

Estimated ABV: 4.0%

Bottling Notes: 7 oz. corn sugar.  See more details below.


  • Forgot to prepare a block of ice. Instead had to cool stock pot of beer in ice bath in the sink.  This is supposedly better anyway (you’re not supposed to aerate hot wort, and dumping a pot full of hot wort on a block of ice is sure to introduce some oxygen),  though it did take longer to cool to pitching temp.  The longer time might contribute to chill haze, but who cares with a hef, right?  Still, this might also decrease the shelf life of the beer somewhat, according to Palmer.  The time was not excessive, but more than I’m comfortable with.
  • Due to above concerns, I’m more seriously considering making a wort chiller.  (I know I’ll end up doing it eventually anyway.)

Other Notes:

The crystal rye was used to replace some of the wheat steeping grains (flaked and unmalted).  As the crystal malt has its own sugars, however (and the wheat does not have this characteristic), we (the sales person—a homebrewer himself—and I) decided to  deduct some of the liquid malt extract (the recipe called for a small amount of golden LME in addition to the majority wheat LME – we cut out the golden).

There was also a German Hefeweizen recipe at the store.  The American version is similar but with hefeweizen’s characteristic phenolic/ester notes (banana/clove/bubblegum/etc.) toned down.  I figured this is the way to go, since I do want to notice the rye character and don’t want to have too many flavors fighting with each other.

Hefeweizens like lots of fizziness, so I also researched carbonation.  I wanted to shoot for about 4 volumes of CO2 (which is about mid-range, though this varies depending on your source).  To be safe, I cut it do 3.8 volumes of CO2, but this was about 8 oz. of corn sugar. This was 1 2/3 cup! Made me nervous, so I did roughly 3.45 volumes at 7 oz instead.  A low-ish carbonation for a hef, but I bottled this right before leaving town.   While away, I kept the bottled beer in the tub in case of bottle explosions.  Four weeks later, no pops!

Backyard Hops

Here are some photos, taken yesterday, of my hops.  We started growing them a few years ago, before I started brewing.  I’ve given them out to brewers before, but this will be the first year I get to use them to brew myself.  The outer ones (on the left fence and on the right) are nugget.  The center one is Saaz.

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