Second Batch Lambic Session

Hard to believe that it was a year ago that John brewed his first batch of sour beer, (a lambic styled beer), but 365 days have passed and now he’s got a bucket full of dregs and it’s time to brew again!

It was a pretty straightforward brew day; creating a wort using wheat dry malt extract and pilsner dry malt extract is a simple as it gets.

John used a dose of maltodextrin powder to ensure a little something extra for the microbes to chew on over the next several months. Using extracts in this manner is a great way to start exploring souring microbes without larger investments in brewing time. Making good sours is about managing that mixed fermentation schedule so why not make it a little easier on yourself. Besides, worts using extracts themselves often have higher finishing gravitie with even more dextrins for the microbes to munch on.

John went with a very mild hopping rate, using less than an ounce of Hallertau at 60 minutes. Most of the souring microbes tend to not like IBUs much plus sour beers don’t call for a lot of hoppiness so keeping your bittering in check is key to a good fermentation.

I predict that this one will sour much faster than his first attempt. From the first batch, he would have an impressive amount of microbes in the bucket from the last batch. Once they all wake up to the new wort, I am sure souring will proceed in far less time. I think 3-6 months or so… maybe sooner. The wild card is the addition of Safale 05. He added that to “help it” along, but I think there’s going to be plenty of activity already.

Time will tell. What say you? Let us know in the comments below or on the YouTube channel!


Craft Meister Cleaning Tabs

Sometimes we are fortunate enough that a vendor or supply to our great hobby wants to give us some samples to test and try out. This week, we talk about Craft Meister Cleaning Tabs.

It is a pretty simple concept: Craft Meister has taken the guess work out of measuring cleaning chemicals by compressing a familiar cleaning agent into tablet form. Craft Meister Cleaning Tabs come in a couple different formats. They graciously sent us tabs for 5 gallon volumes and a 1 gallon carboy tablet.

John gave the product a whirl on some cleaning chores. Unsurprisingly, he found them just as good as other cleaning products we have used. He dissolved the tablet in some water and let a fermentor soak.

The next day, it was nice and clean.

I think the one gallon tabs are a cool idea. Not sure I would necessarily clean growlers all the time that way, but a one gallon tablet makes sense if you just needed to clean a couple small brewing items (airlocks, stoppers, tubing). You could also use a couple to do two or three gallons I suppose and that way you aren’t trying to figure out how to break up a 5 gallon tablet to save money.

Overall, I can see these things actually saving me some money in the long run. I usually use a different cleaner in a powdered format. I have gotten used to measuring it by eye, but who knows. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes less. These tabs ensure accuracy and minimize waste.

You can get these tabs at most homebrew shops.
For more info check out: Craft Meister Web Site

Check out these photos:

Dirty Carboy

Cleaning The Carboy

Cheers and happy brewing!


First Year Lambic Tasting

About a year ago, I brewed my first sour beer – a simple lambic – so I could get the practice of brewing this style category of beer. Seeing that there are a good number of sour beer styles, picking one and trying out the process would put me in a good position to brew other sour styles in the future.

In this video, Mike and I take a taste of lambic to see if it is ready to bottle or if it needs more time to age.

Lambic Recap

Here’s some information to get you up to speed: I got tips from a few famous homebrewers (Jamil and Piatz) to get my lambic recipe together. I used extract and finally found a use of the 4 or 5 year old Cascade hops that sat in my fridge, taking up space.

The original bucket that I bought back in 2005 served as my fermentation vessel. Even though I read in so many place that plastic was not good for sour beers because they let in too much oxygen, I decided to ignore that advice and fermented in it anyway.

To ferment, I used a packet of Safale-05 and WYeast Roeselare blend. I added them at the same time. Again, maybe I should have added the clean yeast first and then added the sour blend a week later. For my first time, I guess I was looking to cut corners keep it simple.

I found a nice little corner in my basement to store it for a year and tried to forget about it. I didn’t open it up until the six month mark. At that time, I took a sample and knew that it wasn’t done yet but it was on target.

Happy Birthday, Lambic!

In my basement, the bucket sat and fermented pretty much undisturbed. For that part of the process, I give myself high marks. I have learned in (almost) ten years of homebrewing that patience can be learned. Because the bucket was left untouched, it wasn’t moved to anywhere warmer in the basement. During the winter months, that corner of the cellar could get a little cold. On the coldest of days, it could get down to 48 degrees Fahrenheit. Tasting it near the 1 year anniversary and deeming it not quite done, I wonder if the colder months slowed down the process.

Moving Forward

On the weekend before Fourth of July, I plan to brew another lambic and rack the one that is in the bucket to a glass carboy for it to age for longer. In about three months, I will sample it again and see if it is ready for bottling. If it’s not ready, I will add the dregs of a commercial lambic to get the sourness up. The newly brewed lambic wort will be added to the bucket, right on top of the remnants, to start the process again. I bought another packet of the sour blend from Wyeast to hedge my bets and supplement the year old bugs. This time next year, we should be talking about blending the lambics and hopefully experimenting with some secondary fermentation on fruits like cherries or raspberries.

That’s the update. Hope you enjoyed it. Sour beers are the next frontier for these Brew Dudes.

If you have questions/comments, please leave them below.

Brew On!


Hydrometer Corrections

I’ve been experiencing and lamenting beer that seemed to finish with a higher specific gravity than I wanted or anticipated. On my most recent batch of Hefe, I got the same result. This seemed really weird because like most of my beers that I have had this issue with, it didn’t taste like a higher finishing SG beer. Who knows why the light goes off when it does, but it did and I found the culprit to my problem.

We have talked about calibrating equipment before. And to be technical and anal about it… you can calibrate an hydrometer. Calibration implies the ability to reset an instrument to a set point. Whereas every reading made there after is correct. You can’t change the calibration on a hydrometer with any true precision. (Now don’t get me start on people you either add or remove weight to a hydrometer by either painting nail polish on it or lightly sanding away some of the glass. Highly difficult to dial in and be reliable.)

Nope with a hydrometer all you can do is devise a correction factor. A correction factor is a constant, or an equation or some sort of algorithm that you apply to the measurement after the test if completed by the otherwise offendingly off kilter measurement tool. In this case we are still talking hydrometers. To set an correction factor you would need to make a series of solutions of known concentration make the measurements and record in that range what the correction needs to be. Its not hard but you need to be able to make accurate test solutions of known value. In case you are wondering specific gravity is in grams/millileter.

End my diatribe about calibration and corrections.
There is another way! Wait for it…. Buy a new hydrometer!
So when I was getting perplexed I remembered that I had bought a back up hydrometer years ago. I dug it out, still wrapped in bubble wrap from shipping. Dropped it in the beer sample.. BOOM!!! sure enough I was on target with what I thought was more reasonable for the beer.

The moral of the story is to be sure you know what your tools are telling you. I had been scratching my head each brew wondering about ingredients, mash temps and process issues. Trying to solve the SG issues. Only to realize that my hydrometer was failing me. A quick replacement and I was back in business.

BREW ON! Hopefully more accurately.


German Style Hefe Tasting

Finally – beer brewed by Mike in 2015!!! I was craving a German styled Hefeweizen not too long ago. As a beer drinker, I am not a huge fan of this style all the time. However as a brewer, I love the simplicity of the basic recipe, the complexity that the yeast strain gives you, and the flexibility you can take to sort of make it your own by bending a few style rules.

I have made very simple versions of this style by following this basic hefeweizen recipe Most times, I brew following a grain bill of 50% wheat malt and 50% US 2-row. German pilsner may be more appropriate but that’s the first bending of the rules to make it something that suits my tastes and desires. I have used hops like Hallertau, Sterling, Liberty, and Willamette. This time, I had several ounces of whole leaf Tettnang to use up so that’s what went in.

I used 2 ounces of Tettnang for 60 minutes and I put in one final ounce at 20 minutes left in the boil. Overall, my calculated IBUs for this come in around 40-44 (using Tinseth). I think the BJCP guidelines has the style maxing out around 15 IBUs!!!


I guess that’s the second bending of the rules in my German Style Hefe.

I use always use the simple and classic WLP300 German Hefe yeast here. This yeast can give you plenty of clove or banana or a combo of the two depending on things like ferulic acid rests and fermentation temps. I normally don’t mess with my mash temps, shoot for a single 149 degrees F infusion. From there, a simple fermentation period starting low, around 62-65 degrees F, helps keep the clove and the banana in check for my palate. I let it rise as it starts chugging, but this time based on ambient temps it sort of held at 68 degrees F for a few days. After about 8-10 days, I threw the heating belt on it and let it ride to 72 degrees F to be sure it finished out as dry as it could go. The total yeast character for this beer is fairly limited compared to what it could be. I guess that’s my third and final departure from the rules that define the truest interpretation of the Hefe Style.

This brew came out with a pleasant mild spiciness, minimal clove but there was some clove-y taste. The fruity esters are really restrained and largely hidden by the hops. The hops are over the top for the style but not for the beer in general. This one is pretty nicely balanced and the mild yeast character is playing real nice against the noble hop character I put to it.

Can’t wait for things to warm up a little bit again here. Once it does, I think this beer will really start to quench my thirst. Just like I was craving a month ago when I first thought it was time to brew a German Style Hefe.