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Adventures in Homebrewing and All Things Hoppy

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Pretty in Black

This is an interpretation of BYO’s Deschutes Obsidian Stout Clone recipe.  I like it, but it turned out way too hoppy — CDA (or whatever you want to call it) territory.  The main reason for this is the fact that I have been using a crappy plastic-and-spring kitchen scale, which is terrible for measuring small quantities of light, fluffy hops.  This beer made me finally break down and buy a digital kitchen scale. 

I couldn’t find the hops called for at the homebrew supply store, so I played around a bit.  I kept the same AAU’s but used Northern Brewer for all the mid- and late-hops.  Willing to sacrifice some subtle hop austerity (the more proper stout hop character), I opted instead for a little bit of odd interest.  I wanted to get a sense of that somewhat unusual “rough-hewn” NB character (and I think I did!).

An interesting observation: right out of the kegerator it’s quite hoppy, but let it warm to a more appropriate American Stout serving temperature, and this beer comes across as more balanced (malts seem to express themselves better).

I have no photos pertaining to beer for this post, so here’s one of the Raveonettes:

Style: American Stout

Brew Date: Sunday, 1-5-14

Transfer to Secondary: Saturday, 1-11-14

Kegged: Saturday, 1-25-14

Base Malt: 6.8 lb. light liquid malt extract (LME) 2 °L

Steeping Grains:

  • 1.3 lb. black malt 530 °L
  • 1.0 lb. crystal malt 80 °L
  • 9.5 oz. Carapils 2 °L
  • 9.5 oz. Western Munich malt 10 °L
  • 9.5 oz. Western wheat malt 2 °L
  • 1.4 0z. roasted barley 575 °L

Yeast: White Labs WLP002 English Ale (pitched at 68°F, started 2 nights before [Friday night], conditioned on stir plate)


  • “Tomahawk/Warrior/Columbus” @13.8 alpha – pellets
  • Northern Brewer @ 9.7 alpha – whole cone

Hop Schedule:

  • 0.85 oz. Columbus at 90 min
  • 0.5 oz. Northern Brewer at 30 min
  • 0.8 oz. Northern Brewer 5 min

Gravity Schedule:

  • 1.055 at pitch 1-5-14
  • 1.018 at kegging 1-25-14

Process Notes:

  • First attempt at full-volume boil.  Probably due to the time took to steep grains and bring water to temp in the cold weather, I got only 3.3 gallons (before make-up water) from a 6 gallon start!
  • Instead of the following the directions (time and extra steps) for steeping grains at 170° for 35 minutes in 1.5 gallons, I just put the grains in cold, brought it up to 170° and held grains at 166-175 (best I could do for controlling temp) for 10 minutes.  Water started at 11: 15.  90 minute boil started at 12:12.
  • OG came in way low.  Should have been 1.068.  I suspect this, in part, to be due to my steeping method above.  Why else though?  I had all the necessary LME, which should have provided most of the sugars.

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.


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.

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.

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!

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