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Adventures in Homebrewing and All Things Hoppy

Using a Wort Chiller

I just bought my friend’s immersion chiller and put it to use for chilling the wort of a porter that’s currentlyfermenting.  It’s a nice, fast method compared to the ice-gallon-block method I was using.  Below are a few tips and tricks I picked up:

  1. Immersion Chiller

    Immersion Chiller

    Hook up your chiller first and ensure it’s in working order before brewing.  Make sure your connected chiller can reach where the hot wort will to be located at brew time.

  2. Blast a bunch of water through your chiller just before running your chill water through it to purge the air from the lines.  Air in the line can manifest in pockets (bubbles) in which no water is contacting the copper tubing wall, thus reducing your chilling efficiency.  (Though I hadn’t thought about this at the time [even though it makes total sense!], I did this by accident.  My friend who sold me the chiller told me about this afterward.)
  3. Gently move the chiller around and use your thermometer to stir the wort as it cools for better efficiency, faster cooling, and a more accurate reading of your wort temperature.
  4. Calculate your wort chill target temperature (to quickly and cleanly get to a nice finished pitching temp) by following these steps:
    1. Before brewing, run cold water from your make-up source (sink tap or whatever) until the water stream gets to steady-state temperature.  Measure this Make-up Temperature (MT).
    2. Determine the target Pitching Temp (PT) per the requirements of the yeast strain.
    3. As your wort is about to finish, estimate the Volume of Wort (WV) in your pot.  All you can really do is estimate if you’ve got no volumetric marks in your pot – but try to be as accurate as you can. Remember, your chiller takes up a little volume.
    4. Find the target temperature of the undiluted (pre-make-up) wort using this formula         

  WT = (PT* TV – MT*VM) / VW

   (derived from formula below)

 The Formula:


WT = the final temp you want to chill the undiluted wort to (°F)

PT = Pitching Temp (°F)

MT = Make-up Water Temp (°F)

VW = Volume of wort in kettle at end of boil (gallons)

VM = Volume of make-up water you’ll need to use (gallons)

TV = Total volume of your beer (VW+ VM)

Note: °C can be used, and other volumetric units can be used, but of course you must use consistent units across the whole equation!

Example of chill temp calculation in use:

  1. My cold faucet tap water measures about 53 °F.
  2. I have yeast that should pitch at 70-75 °F, so I’ll set MT to 72 °F to give some leeway in either direction (say, if my VW estimate was a little off).
  3. My final volume of wort in the pot after 60 minutes (accounting for volume taken up by the wort chiller) appears to be about 2.75 gallons.
  4. I’m making a 5 gallon batch, so make-up water will be 2.25 gallons.  Thus:

WT = (72* 5 – 53*2.25) / 2.75 = 87.5 °F

So I want to stop chilling and add make-up water when the wort reaches 87.5 °F.


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.

North American Scum

Oh I don’t know, I don’t know, oh, where to begin…

This winter I thought it would be nice to have a stout on hand. With our dark, cold, rainy Oregon winter in full swing, I was really in the mood for a nice, heavy one. I started looking through American Stout recipes, as American stouts are known to be a bit more robust: fatter, more aggressive, and more in your face—you know, more American.

This is the first full-on stout I’ve brewed.  It’s based on the BYO ‘American Stout‘ extract recipe. Modifications included replacing the Centennial Hops with my homegrown Saaz (equivalent AAU’s), and doing some other odd damage-control hop adjustments to make up for some wacky stuff that happened early in the boil.

We are North American Scum

And for those of you who still think I’m from England…
I’m not, no.

Yeast: WLP001 (one vial in a 1.3L starter)

Gravity Schedule:
1.062 at pitch, 11-11-12
1.022 at racking to secondary, 11-19-12
1.021 at bottling, 12-3-12

Bottling Notes:
4.25 oz corn sugar for ~2.5 volumes.

Hillsboro Hops IPA

As I mentioned, we got another good load of hops this year.  I’m excited to have brewed my first fresh-hop beer and the first beer made exclusively from our own backyard hops. As mentioned previously, this beer is based on a Lagunitas IPA clone but with hop modifications galore.

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Style: Fresh-Hop American IPA

Brew Date: Sunday, 9-23-12

Base Malt: 7.8 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 154-163°F)

Yeast: White Labs WLP002 English Ale (pitched at 83°F [thought it was cooler], started nights before [Friday at 10:30pm], conditioned on stir plate)


  • Nugget at 12% α (estimated)
  • Saaz at 4% α (estimated)

Hop Schedule:

  • 0.75 oz. Nugget (dried) at 60 min
  • 11.25 oz. Saaz (wet) at 30 min
  • 7.2 oz. Saaz (wet) at 0 min
  • 4 oz. Saaz (dried): secondary fermentation stage dry hop (duration of secondary)

Gravity Schedule:

  • 1.052 at pitch 9-23-12, 6:30pm

Bottling Notes: ¾ cup corn sugar.

Other Notes:

This beer definitely has the “fresh hop” zing.  It is bit light on body, though, which I suspect may be due to a too-small grain sack (crammed pretty full and thus not as efficient for steeping and releasing sugars).

Nice hop aroma from the dry hop, but not as much as I expected given that I used, like, a gazillion pounds of hops in the fermenter. I think it would have been much more pronounced if I could have found a good way to sink a sack full of them to the bottom.  Wasn’t happening though when I tried that — stupid carboy neck was too small and I didn’t want to mess around with it too much.

Bring on the minor leagues.

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.

No Pity Porter

I brewed a porter this time, based on a “Basic Porter” recipe from one of the local homebrew supply stores.  I think it turned out pretty good.  Off flavors do not seem to be a noticeable issue.  However, the beer has a slightly light-ish quality (color and mouthfeel and/or taste) for a porter.  I don’t know if it’s real or if it’s just me.  It could be that the recipe is for a brown porter instead of the black porters I’m more used to (recipe description does not specify).

The name is thanks to a cool label design a friend sent my way (thanks, Chris). PTFC!! Check it out:

Type: “Porter”

Brew Date: 4-7-12

Base Malt (Extract): 7.6 lbs. light malt extract

Steeping Grains: 1 lb Crystal 10L, 0.25 lbs. Chocolate, 0.25 lbs. Black Malt

Yeast: White Labs WLP011 European Ale

Hops: Willamette at 5.6 alpha

Hop Schedule:

  • 0.5 oz. for all 60 min
  • 0.5 oz. for last 10 min
  • 0.75 oz. at 0 min

Additional Additives: 3/4 tsp. Irish Moss for last 45 min of boil

Gravity Schedule:

  • 1.053 at pitch 4-7-12, noon-ish (matched recipe)
  • Unknown at secondary racking (hydromicide), 4-14-12
  • 1.015 on 4-29-12 (recipe estimated 1.012)

Estimated ABV: 4.98%

Bottling Notes: 1 cup corn sugar


  • That’s right, I broke another hydrometer somehow.  I’m three for three.  I bought another replacement, this time a better one from a different place.  It looks a lot thicker at the bottom, where my other ones inevitably cracked.

Other Notes:

  • Recipe called for all Goldings hops, but these were unavailable.  Instead, I used Willamette as it’s a recommended substitute (and the standby on my list that had the closest alpha acid value). I added the hops at the same schedule as the recipe, but the 0 minute addition called for 0.5 oz. instead of 0.75 oz.  I had more hops than I needed, and my sense of smell isn’t so keen sometimes, so I thought I’d kick up the hop aroma a bit.  Though I’m trying not to overhop any styles (yet), I feel an extra kick of aroma hops won’t sully the purity of the style.
  • I forgot to write down the alpha acid number for the Willamette hops I used, but it was in the 5-6% range (I’m pretty sure it was 5.6%).
  • It was a beautiful and warm day for (see my previous post about this), but this made for a slow cool-down time to reach pitching temp.  Next time I should stick the bucket in an ice bath in my sink (or invest in a wort chiller?).
  • With ice and cold make-up water, I ended up right at 5 gallons, but I added a liquid yeast starter of about 1 liter.  I came  in a little high on the liquid mark – even though it was a simple “beer” of a sort, I wonder if it contributed to the lighter nature of the mouthfeel.
  • If the Timbers had kept up on their crappy streak and didn’t win last weekend I was going to have a hard time sticking with the name.  Might’ve had to consider something like ‘Pity-Ful Porter’.  As it is, at least we can say we’re ahead of the Galaxy.

Stir Plate: Up and Running

I bought a 1.5″ stir bar and threw it in my 2000ml flask to test my new stir plate out.  Works great!  At some frequencies the water excitations can throw the stir bar off to the side of the flask but it’s pretty easy to adjust away from any odd behavior.  It’s been test run for long periods without derailing. Here’s a video of it running.

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