2014 Cider Making

Autumn brings the harvest and for me, at least for the past few years, cider making.

Like anything, it took me a few tries to make a cider that I really liked.

The New England version I like, but it can be boozy. I made a cran-cider that was ok but it got very tart over time in the bottle.

The ciders that I have liked the most have been the ones that were fortified a bit with some simple sugar and fermented with a neutral English ale yeast.

This year, the recipe was simplified. No blends of different sugars (white, brown, molasses, etc.) and no special ingredients like raisins or oak conditioning.

I went back to Cider Hill Farms in Amesbury, MA to buy the pressed apple juice. It’s very good even before fermentation so I bought 5 gallons – one for drinking now.

The rest of the juice went into the recipe:

4 gallons of pressed apple juice
1.5 pounds of local honey
2 teaspoons of pectic enzyme
2 teaspoons of tannin
1 tablespoon of acid blend
2 teaspoons of yeast nutrient
1 packet of Danstar Nottingham yeast

The pressed apple juice I bought was not pasteurized and had no preservatives. It was stored in a refrigerator at the farm store (naturally) so I had to let it warm up to around 60 degrees F before I started the process. While the juice was sitting there on my basement floor, I heated up some water and put the honey containers into the pot.

While the juice and honey were getting warmer, I proofed the one packet of yeast. By the time the yeast was ready, the other main ingredients were at temperature.

I mixed the apple juice, honey, and the other ingredients together. I have used the pectic enzyme before and it has helped with clarification. The tannin and acid blend additions were experimental. I wasn’t sure of the quantities but I thought they were good starting points.

The yeast nutrient is crucial in cider as it is in mead to get a good fermentation going. I will be adding a little to the cider over the next two days to keep it going.

The ale yeast will leave the cider a little less dry than a champagne yeast, which I am counting on. In two weeks, the primary fermentation should be done then the conditioning phase will start. Here are some photos from the cider making day:

Belgian Easter Beer Recipe

Easter Beer?

Are you asking yourself what an Easter beer is? I asked myself the same question.

Now stop talking to yourself and read this post.

Ok – thanks for continuing to read. The journey I took to get to a place where I can create this recipe is interesting so I hope you will indulge me while I type out the tale.

Wrong Yeast Strain

My quest to brew a great witbier continued this year. Instead of formulating another recipe or re-brewing one that I tried in the past, I just bought a kit.

Buying the kit was simple and quick but it did leave the chance for me to buy a yeast strain that I didn’t think was good for the style.

I bought the Wyeast strain 3942 rather than 3944. The 3942 stain is a Belgian Wheat strain and not a witbier strain.

I didn’t used the 3942 but rather I cultivated yeast from commercial witbier, brewed a great example of the style, and felt happy that I achieved a goal.

That was great and all but I still had a smack pack in my fridge and I didn’t want to waste it.

What Is This Yeast and Where Did It Come From?

Thanks to Mr. Malty yeast page, I got a source of the Wyeast 3942 strain. The page claims it comes from a small brewery in Esen, Belgium called Brouwerij De Dolle Brouwers

The Wyeast site stated that this strain would be good to use in a Belgian Pale Ale, which is interesting since it’s labeled as a wheat strain.

Looking for a pale ale from the offerings of the De Dolle Brewery brought me to discovering their Paasbier or Easter Beer.

Based on the ingredients that they listed on this site and some reviews on others, this recipe is what I plan to brew to use the mistaken yeast strain.


12 lbs Belgian Pale Malt
.5 lbs Belgian Cara-Pils Malt
1 lbs White Table Sugar
1.5 oz Goldings Hops (5.00 %AA) boiled 60 mins.
Yeast: Wyeast 3942 Belgian Wheat


Mash grains for 60 minutes at 152 degrees F. Collect enough wort for a 7 gallon starting volume and boil for an hour, adding hops at the start of the boil.

With 15 minutes left to go in the boil, add the sugar. Chill wort to 70 degrees F and pitch yeast. Ferment for 2 weeks then bottle or keg.


Original Gravity: 1.065
Terminal Gravity: 1.013
Color: 7.69 °SRM
Bitterness: 33.5 IBU
Alcohol % by volume: 6.9%

Ok, that’s my Easter beer recipe based on their recipe. Of course, now I have to get a bottle or two of their Paasbier to see how this compares. Beyond the comparison, I hope the yeast strain is pleased with my work.

Brew on.

Harvest Lager Recipe

What do you do when you have nearly a pound of fresh, homegrown whole hop cones in your possession?  Well, you try to figure out how to brew with them.

These photos are of one of the bags at weigh in. I have three more just like it and more on the way:


I have brewed several beers with the hops I have grown in my back yard, both ales and lagers.  This year, I am going to try to brew a well hopped lager with a simple grain bill.

I am trying to showcase the hops this time around.  Since my harvest consists of German-like varieties (with a USA twist!), the idea of a Sam Adams Boston Lager clone came to mind. If this beer turns out the way I think it will, it should be hoppier than what you can get in stores.  A good portion of the cones will be used in a dry hopping, which I hope will bring out the aroma in the lager.


10 lbs Pale Ale Malt
1 lbs 2-Row Caramel Malt 60°L
1 oz Magnum hops (%AA unknown)  boiled 60 mins.
1 oz Mt. Hood hops (%AA unknown)boiled 30 mins.
1 oz Mt. Hood hops (%AA unknown) boiled 10 mins.
1 oz Mt. Hood hops (%AA unknown) boiled 1 mins.
3 oz Mt. Hood hops (%AA unknown) dry hopped
Yeast :White Labs WLP830 German Lager


Original Gravity: 1.054
Terminal Gravity: 1.013
Color: 13.68 °SRM
Bitterness: No idea
Alcohol % by volume: 5.4%


Mash grains at 150°F for 60 minutes. Sparge and collect enough wort for a starting volume of 7.5 gallons. Those whole hop cones are going to absorb a lot of wort as the boil goes on so you will need to get as much as you kettle can handle. Watch for boilovers, naturally. Add the hops according to the schedule. Chill to 44°F and pitch your mighty yeast starter. Let the fermenter rise in temperature to 50° F and hold the beer there for at least two weeks. During that time, you will want to check on the fermentation activity. Once it is about to slow, add your hops for dry hopping. When fermentation activity appears to be done, take a gravity reading to ensure terminal gravity has been reached. Once that happens, rack to a clean carboy for some cold conditioning at refrigerator temperatures for a least a month. Bottle or keg as usual after the conditioning phase is over.

I will be brewing this soon since I want it to be done before Thanksgiving. Watch for updates and brew on.

Black IPA Recipe

Did everybody decide we were going to start calling these beers black IPAs?  I know there were a few different names for the India pale ale with the dark roast backbones.  Cascadian Dark Ale and India Black Ale were the other names that I know.  There may be a few more.  Anyway, the BJCP is, or at least close to, naming these beers as black IPAs officially.  If they say so, then we all should fall in line, right?

To be honest, I am not in love with the style.  If you follow us on Twitter, we got into a discussion about how dark roasted malts and strong hops don’t really mesh all that well.  Just because that’s true, it doesn’t mean that the style needs to be avoided.  Rather, I think you can pull off a good example of the style with some grains to get the color but are restrained in their roastiness.

The way I see it – a Black IPA should have more to do with a black lager than a stout.  If you catch my drift, follow my recipe and I think you will be able to crack the case of how to make this style right.

Try this Black IPA Recipe:

Boil size: 7.0 gallons
Final batch size: 5.5 gallons
Volume for fermentation: 5.25 gallons


12.0 lbs. American 2 Row Malt
1.5 lbs Caramel Malt 60°L
1 lbs Blackprinz Malt from Briess or some kind of debittered black malt 500°L
1 oz Nugget hops 13% AA – boiled for 60 minutes
0.5 oz Centennial hops 10% AA – boiled 15 minutes
0.5 oz Amarillo hops 8.5 %AA – boiled 1 minutes
0.5 oz Amarillo hops 8.5 %AA – dry hopping
Yeast: White Labs WLP001 California Ale


Mash your grains for 60 minutes at 150°F. Run off enough wort for a 7 gallon boil and boil it for 60 minutes. Add the hops when you are supposed to add them. See the times above. Cool to room temperature and rack the wort to a fermentation vessel and pitch your yeast. Ferment at 72°F for at least two weeks. Rack to a secondary vessel and add your last half ounce of hops. Bottle or rack after 3 days.


Original Gravity: 1.068
Final Gravity: 1.014
Color: 28.97 °SRM
Bitterness: 63.5 IBUs
Alcohol % of volume: 7.1 %

The key is to ferment it cleanly enough so the resiny, dank hops come through and the roastiness in the background. I think with some refined malt flavor, this style can break through the specialty label and become more common.

Brew on!

Belgian IPA Recipe

International India Pale Ale Day up in a few days.  This year, it’s on August 7th.  It seems to move around from year to year, but in 2014 – it’s this coming Thursday.

Though we could wait for the powers that be to pick a date for IPA Day and stick with it every year, let’s turn our attention to the present and think about Belgian IPA.

A true international style, taking the roots of a British beer with the American take of hoppiness and fermented using a classic Belgian beer yeast strain, this recipe will take you on a world tour in a pint glass.

Some notes on this type of IPA: It’s going to be a challenge to keep all the flavors in balance. To accomplish your goal, you will need to keep the malts light and use hops that have citrusy- floral notes.  With these two guidelines in mind, you can make an IPA that flavors will be balanced with what the Belgian yeast brings to the party.

Here is my recipe for a Belgian IPA recipe:

Boil size: 7.5 gallons
Final batch size: 5.5 gallons
Volume for fermentation: 5 gallons


12.0 lbs. Belgian Pilsner Malt
2.0 lbs. Belgian Pale Malt
.5 lbs Caramel Malt 60°L
0.75 oz Warrior Hops (16% AA) boiled 60 minutes
.5 oz Ahtanum Hops (6% AA) boiled 10 minutes
.5 oz Willamette Hops (5% AA) boiled 5 minutes
.5 oz Ahtanum Hops (6% AA) boiled 0 minutes
.5 oz Willamette Hops (5% AA) boiled 5 minutes

Yeast: White Labs WLP530 Abbey Ale


You want to make as fermentable a wort as you can so mash your grains at 149°F for 90 minutes. Go ahead, add that extra half hour to your mash to ensure you’re getting all those starches converted.  After that is over, collect 7.5 gallons of wort and and boil for 90 minutes.  Yes, this beer will take a bit longer to brew but that’s ok.  Use a timer and toss the hops in following the times in the recipe.  At the end of the 90 minutes, turn off your burner and chill the wort to 66° F and aerate. Pitch a large amount of yeast and ferment between 66° and 72° F for three weeks. Check to make sure you have met your target final or terminal gravity. Bottle or rack as usual.


Original Gravity: 1.066
Terminal Gravity: 1.013
Color: 10.81 °SRM
Bitterness: 54.5 IBUs
Alcohol % of volume: 6.9 %

You’re looking for balance in this beer so it should be a bit tamer than the other IPAs that you have come across.  The yeast flavor will bring an interesting twist to the hop fest you are used to enjoying.