Harvest Lager Dry Hopping

Every year John plans a new brew to use up his homegrown hops. This year he chose to brew a lager beer to put some of his hops into. We’ve discussed the success he has had in competition brewing beer and using homegrown hops despite not knowing the exact alpha acid content of his hops. And he has done quite well. This year is no exception as he brewed up this year’s harvest offering and now he’s focused on dry hopping.

The approach to dry hopping is nothing new. Adding hops to the beer after fermentation is what dry hopping is all about. Attempting to capture the essential oils in your hops, these critical oils are what contribute to the hoppy aroma in our beers. When using home grown hops people get a little concerned over the alpha acid content. When dry hopping the alpha acid content is less critical because its the essential oils that we are after.

You can get a good idea about essential profile by rubbing hops in your hands to generate a little heat and to displace some of those oils out of the hop cone. You can get a sense as you whether the hops will be spicy, floral, herbal or fruity.

John applies his dry hops when he sees that the primary ferment is starting to slow down. The reasoning is that post the bulk of fermentation the pH has dropped in the beer and the yeast have also produced alcohol. That combination is relatively microbial static. Meaning that what ever microbes (yeast, bacteria or molds) are caught up in the hops they won’t really have a chance to flourish in the fermented beer.

Another reason to add your dry hops to the beer before fermentation is complete has to do with oxidation. Whole hop cones have a lot of airspace within them. That void space can lead to some oxidation in the beer post packaging. If you add the dry hops to fermenting beer yes, some of the essential oils get scrubbed out by the CO2, but more importantly the active yeast take up the oxygen for their own metabolism protecting the beer in the process. (And if you think the scrubbing effect is a big deal, then add more hops to compensate!)

John’s last word of advice for dry hopping with homegrown hops is to not be afraid to over do it. In the end, be bold and add more than you think you need. You can’t really have too much aroma can you? But you certainly can have too little!

Stay tuned to future smash beer, BIAB, dry hopping experiments in the near future.


Mead Wedding Favor

If you are looking to give away a great favor at your wedding, consider mead.

You could buy a large number of bottles from a commercial meadery, which is a option I support. Another choice is to make or have someone make a mead for you – a unique gift for you special day.

I was contracted to be a mead maker for a wedding. For those of you keeping score at home, here is a recap.

The Request

I brought a bottle of mead that I made into work one day and it sparked the imagination of a coworker of mine. He asked me if I would make a mead for his wedding. Thankfully there was enough lead time to do it right without rushing anything.

See the thoughts I had putting together the ingredients for this mead.

Read more about the making of this mead.

The Outcome

The lovely couple came over to my house and helped me bottle their mead. They had bought the bottles and had labels created for the favors. With me on sanitation duties and the two of them switching off between the filling and capping, we were finished with bottling almost ten gallons of mead in less than an hour.

I was happy with the outcome of the mead. It had cleared up very well and the oak conditioning left a nice complexity.

The venue for their reception required them to put a tag on cap that told their patrons not to open the bottle until they left the premises. I guess they thought the mead would take away from their bar sales or maybe the elixir would spin the crowd into a frenzy. Either way, it was good that the favors were positioned as gifts and not something to be gulped down.

Here’s a photo of the final product:

Mead Wedding Favor

If you’re looking for a great traditional wedding favor, mead makes a wonderful gift. Homemade mead makes a nice touch since it is as unique as your union. Find a home brewer or home mead maker to fulfill your wish and of course these brew dudes can consult if you want.

Brew On!

And if not – certainly Mead On!

American Cream Ale Recipe Changes

American Cream Ale is a favorite beer style of mine. Its the only American style I brew that competes with the English styles I brew most of the time. American Cream Ale is a great beer for the craft beer uninitiated. And for craft beer lovers, American Cream Ale is still a great everyday any occasion beer to drink. Because of its lighter flavor profile it still offers some challenge to brew well. Making it dry enough and clean enough is a good skill that can be applied to all your brews. Despite the simple grain bill you can still make some changes to the recipe and explore some different avenues.

If have largely stuck to a basic split of American 2-row and Pilsner malt with a pound of flaked corn and a pound of table sugar. I like to use Liberty hops throughout the boil. And classic California Ale yeast has been my staple yeast of choice.

I felt however that I could make some changes to better understand the flavor options available in the style. This time around I went for a grist that was almost all Pilsner Malt (continental pilsner) with only a pound of Vienna Malt…just because. I also bumped up the corn to two pounds and dropped the sugar addition. Instead relying on a low mash temp (147F) to get a good dry beer.

This time I supplemented the hop schedule with tettnang hops. I basically did an equal pairing by wait at 60minutes and 20minutes; one ounce of each at the two time points.

My last change to the recipe was the use of the White Labs Cream Ale blend (WLP080). This blend is supposedly a combination of an ale strain and a lager strain. I suspect the ale strain is kolsch yeast because I detect a soft malt edge very characteristic of that yeast. I fermented this beer at 62F to start and after 2 days rose it up to 65F. The beer fermented fine. Threw a fair amount of sulfur which I suspect to be the lager strain in there. I got good attenuation going from 1052 OG to 1011 FG. Interestingly, this yeast strain hasn’t settled out yet. The flocculation is pretty poor. Normally my cream ale would have dropped clear after a month in the keg. This batch is still pretty cloudy, albeit its getting better.

Overall the beer is just as drinkable as my original recipe. John however feels that the new hop bill lingers on the palate more than it should. The original with just Liberty is a bit crisper. I think I agree with the crisper part.

I may make a couple more adjustments next time I brew it. I like the grain bill on this one. But next time I’ll go back to predominantly Liberty Hops and ferment with just the American Ale yeast like US05. In the short term though I think I’ll keep enjoying this beer just as it is.

Dry Hopping and the Diacetyl Rest

It’s the name of my new novel – Dry Hopping and the Diacetyl Rest. Do you think it will sell?

Probably not as well as The Joy of Homebrewing.

The title of this post is more of a mashup of what I did with my harvest lager last week and this past weekend.

In lager brewing, diacetyl rests are a way to get your yeast to clean up buttery flavors that can be present due to the production of diacetyl by the yeast earlier in the fermentation process. These rests are a period of time where the beer is allowed to warm up so the yeast can become more active.

I didn’t detect any buttery or butterscotch flavors in the lager but it doesn’t harm your beer to raise the temperature towards the end of fermentation.

Following a hot tip (said in a breathy voice – hhhhhot tip) I read in Brew Your Own magazine about dry hopping, I decided to add nearly 3 ounces of home grown hop cones to my fermentor during primary fermentation, which just so happened to coincide with the diacetyl rest.

The tip was to add the hops while the yeast were still active so that there was enough carbon dioxide to keep any yucky microbes from infecting the beer. With home grown hop cones, I thought it was a good idea. They were stored in my freezer but not vacuum sealed and still in contact with air.

With a few days to go in the fermentation, I moved the carboy out of my fridge and let it come up to room temperature which was about 65 degree F in my basement.

Boiling The Mesh Bag

While that was happening, I boiled the mesh bag I planned to use to hold the hops during the dry hopping time. It was boiled on my stove top for fifteen minutes along with some marbles. The marbles were my plan to keep the bag submerged in the bag. If you want to hear something annoying, boil some marbles in a stainless steel pot.

Once the boil was done, I put the hops and the marbles in the bag. I then put the bag in the carboy, which was a fun challenge. It took some effort to shove the whole bag through the carboy’s small opening.

The lager was moved to sit next to the cider I have fermenting.

Fermentation Buddies

After three days, I cold crashed the lager for 24 hours and then I racked it to a new carboy. The lager smelled wonderfully hoppy and tasted okay. Once the lagering period is over and it carbonates, we’ll see how well my hopping did.

Racking the Dry Hopped Lager

Brew On!

Mr. Beer Kit

Before you dive into this weeks video lets make one thing clear, brewing should be fun. In the end if you enjoy the beer you make, then you’ve won. Plain and simple. These Brew Dudes make no qualms about how people make their beer. Brew and let brew. That said, we take a fun somewhat tongue and cheek look at the infamous Mr. Beer Kit this week. As lovers of homebrewing we should all be good stewards and embrace the many ways people can get into this hobby. Role film!

I got this kit because my brother in law didn’t want it. I think he got it through a christmas swap or something. He likes some craft beer but its not really his thing. Besides when he’s in town he likes to get his beer from me! (I hope.)

I know there are a lot of haters on the web regarding Mr. Beer. Really its nothing more than a better marketed and glitzy version of most of our first extract kits. They set themselves apart from the mainstream further by going to a 3 gallon batch size as well. I think this must cut down on shipping costs for the small extract cans they sell.

The basic boxed kit comes with 8 bottles and caps, a can of prehopped extract, a packet of dry yeast and a barrel shaped fermentor with a large lid and a spigot. Interesting the plastic fermentor is brown but somewhat transparent. So unlike the classic white pails most of us start with you are likely to see the fermentation (maybe you’d need a flashlight to be sure though). This kit came with an American Style Light Lager extract. I suppose its nothing more than some 2-row extract maybe some mashed rice or corn in the original grist hopped with something neutral.

I am excited to have a small fermentor in my arsenal of toys. Been thinking of some small batches and paying $25 dollars for a 3 gallon better bottle when a full size one is $28 just doesn’t seem right.

Anyway, I don’t bottle beer much anymore but the plastic bottles seem interesting. I might use these for some soda or something.

Have you ever used a Mr. Beer Kit? Did you get your start with a Mr. Beer Kit? Drop us a note and tell us your review.

BREW ON! (Anyway you can!)