Brew Dudes

Homebrewing blog and resource

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Saving Sour Beers With Fruit

In the course of aging sour beers, things can go awry. These brew dudes don’t think that should ruin everything. When you put that much time into a beer, it would be a big letdown to pour it down the sink. The beer that was known to us as the “2 year old” was a little off. Watch this video to learn more about how I added fruit to this beer and saved it from a death down the drain.

Why This Beer Needed Saving

In 2017, I had 15 gallons of beer to blend into one gueuze. These volume was attained by brewing one the same day of the year for three years.

After evaluating the beers, we felt like the beer that was two years old at the time was not great. The majority of the blend came from the other beers.

The two year old was put back into the dark corner of my basement until I had an idea of what to do with it.

To save this beer, I had to add fruit to it. I debated what kind of fruit to use – raspberries were in the running – but in the end, I decided to use cherries.

Cherries and Everything Else I Added To This Beer

I typically use frozen fruit as the additions to my beers and this time around was no exception. I bought a thre pound bag of frozen cherries – a blend of sour and black cherries. Then, I added the contents of a couple of 32 ounce bottles of 100% “Just Tart” cherry juice from the R.W. Knudsen Family company.

Then, because I was getting creative or bored or both, I added 8 ounces of French oak cubes (medium toast) and two split-down-the-middle vanilla beans.

After all these additions were made, the beer sat for 9 months before I made plans to bottle it up.

When I tasted the beer, it wasn’t “cherry” enough so I added half of a bottle of pure cherry extract to push that flavor note forward.

Tasting Notes

At bottling, I added 230 grams of corn sugar boiled in 2 cups of water for 15 minutes. I then added one packet of CBC-1 Cask & Bottle Conditioning Yeast properly re-hydrated.

Here’s what Mike thought about this beer.

Lots of acidic notes on the notes. The C02 was pushing a lot of sour notes.

Cherry/berry notes on the nose with caramel and woody notes.

The taste was full of deep, mahogany fruity taste with some sour cherry notes. He got some subtle wheat cracker taste.

I am glad I was able to save this beer. It made for a great Kriek beer.


Rakau Hops – SMaSH Beer Tasting Notes

By request, we brewed this SMaSH beer to learn more about Rakau hops. Somebody somewhere asked for us to brew with this hop, so we did.

This variety is from New Zealand and it has a lot to provide to the palette. Check out our review of this Rakau hops SMaSH beer with these tasting notes.

I am sure I am mispronouncing the hop name in the video because that’s what I do. I wish I didn’t.

If you know how to pronounce the name of the hop, please add it in the comment below and enlighten everyone who reads this post.

Brewing Notes

With the flavorful hops, I tend to add the majority of my pellets at the end of the boil. If you add them at the beginning, different flavor notes come through. You get a better sense of the bittering properties of the hop but these new varieties, in my opinion, aren’t to be used early in the boil.

With the Rakau hops, they are listed as dual purpose, which means they could be used for bittering or for flavor, but my brewing method was to provide as much flavor in the final beer as possible.

Tasting Notes

I put Mike to the test and I thought he nailed it. He presented these notes for the hop flavor:

  • Raspberry flavor without the acid bite
  • Muted sweet cherry note
  • Blackberry
  • Soft, mixed berry thing – Red wine grape like character

The commercial descriptors were in line with what he said. I quoted something I read:
“Once described as the whole orchard”

It certainly reminded Mike of the mixed berry salad that his wife made last night.

The other items were stone fruit and a fig character.

Mike theorized that maybe the seedy berry taste he was getting could be in line with an earthy figgy flavor.

I though the beer has a strong strawberry note.

Final Thoughts

I think this hop could shine on its own in a hop forward beer. My thoughts were a pairing with Melba hops in an IPA.

My other thought was that this hop would work in a sour beer like a Berliner Weiss or a kettle soured beer.

Mike thought it would worked in a fruited wheat beer (50% wheat malt in the grain bill, America ale strain, some berry added during fermentation) because it would marry well with this hop’s flavor profile.

Thanks for reading – hope you give this hop a try.


First Catalyst Fermentation System Beer – Tasting Notes

This is the moment we have all waited for – the first taste of the beer that Mike brewed in the Catalyst Fermentation System.

We did the unboxing to see all the parts and get a sense of what this thing looks like.

We did the brew session to show off the system in action.

We even showed off how to dump trub from the fermentation chamber.

Now, it’s time to taste the beer that was fermented in the Catalyst. It’s a witbier and (spoiler alert) it’s a good one. Check out this video to see what we mean.

WitBier Notes

If you want the majority of the recipe, you can find it on the brew session page, but here is the list of hops and the yeast strain that Mike used as he said in the video.

1 ounce East Kent Goldings at 60 minutes to go in the boil
1 ounce Amarillo at 10 minutes to go in the boil

The yeast that he used was WYeast 3944 Belgian Wit. He used this instead of the White Labs Witbier yeast.

I thought this witbier was really, really good. It really was a Hoegaarden plus. The beer had that glowing yellow hazy look.

We thought that the yeast strain brought a phenol note that the White Labs strain does not but it could have been the high fermentation temperatures.

The starting gravity was 1.040, which made the one Wyeast smack pack a perfect amount.

He fermented in his basement and the temps started at 65 degrees Fahrenheit which rose to 80 degrees Fahrenheit as it finished. There was a big rocky head during the fermentation – a real top cropper!

Mike didn’t have a a chance to add orange peels to his beer in the fermentation stage. He had different ideas to get it into the beer at different points, but didn’t get the time.

He did however provide orange slices at the tasting, which I didn’t think it needed. Mike loves Harpoon’s UFO beer so he digs the orange.

Catalyst Notes

Mike liked the system and it was fun to use to brew his beer. He found the transfer from the Catalyst to his keg was tremendous using the tube that connected to the bottom of the system. Collecting the yeast was a little bit of an adventure since it was a bit messy. He said that he would need to brew a few more times to get the hang of it and get more comfortable with the process.

If he keep brewing beers like this one, I’d say it’s a worthy investment for any one.

Brew on!

Why Low ABV Beers Are Great

Everybody loves strong in alcohol beers or, at the very least, a large number of people rate them very highly on beer evaluation sites across the internet. But what if you’re brewing for a party-sized crowd? What if you’re looking to enjoy more than two beers? That’s when low ABV beers are needed. We discuss Mike’s table amber beer and why full flavored, full bodied, low alcohol by volume (ABV) beers are great.

Mike’s Table Amber Beer Recipe

For a 6 US gallon batch.

Grain Bill
4 pounds of German Pilsner Malt
4 pounds American 2-Row from Briess
1 pound of Munich 2 Malt (10°L)
0.25 pounds Crystal 120°L Malt
2 ounces of Roasted Barley

Distilled water, treated with:

2.5 grams of calcium sulfate (gypsum)

4 grams of calcium chloride

Trying to push the malty quality of this beer with more chloride than sulfate.


1 ounce of Nugget hops at 60 minutes to go in the boil
1 ounce of Falconer’s Flight hops at 10 minutes to go in the boil
2 ounces of Amarillo hops – dry hop (left them in the keg)


White Labs WLP007 – Yeast Dry English Yeast


Mashed at 158°F
Fermented for 2 weeks
Original Gravity: 1.040
Final Gravity: 1.015
ABV: 3.5%

Tasting Notes and Musings

Appearance: The beer had an amber color. The head was off-white with a pretty persistent head with tight bubbles. The beer was a bit hazy which could have been from chill haze or hops in the keg.

Aroma: The aroma had a strong hop presence which were clearly American or Cascadian.

Flavor: Lots of malty goodness with a good amount of hop presence to balance it out. It reminded me of the amber ales we drank in the 1990s.

Mouthfeel: Medium full.

Overall impression: Very easy to drink. Very tasty. I think Mike hit his mark with brewing a nice beer for the Fourth of July crowd.

For next time, Mike said he would up the Caramel malt and the roasted barley amounts and then maybe mash a little bit lower.

After drinking this beer, I got to thinking that low ABV beers may not get the credit that they deserve. There’s got to be a five star quality beer that has less than 5% alcohol by volume, don’t you think? Is there a flavor complexity that comes from high alcohol beers than cannot be matched by the low ABV ones? I still think there’s quality and transcendence that can happen with a table beer. I am not sure why the internet rating public isn’t in line with that opinion.

Something to think about the next tip you take a sip.

Brew On!

The Great Pilsener Redemption

Hi there, fair reader. Thanks for checking out this post. With homebrewing beer, like life, rewards are achieved with the simple act of getting up and trying again. When I brewed that Czech Pilsner earlier this year and wasn’t happy with the results, I knew I had to learn from my mistakes and try it again. That’s why this post isn’t just about the reward of homemade beer but of redemption, of making the best of a second chance. Watch this video about the German Pilsener that I brewed using the yeast cake of the Czech Pils and came out with a feeling of accomplishment.

The Great Taste of Redemption

I had Mike taste this beer and he said something funny like, “Sometimes your beer is as unpretentious as you are.” I think what he was getting at was that this beer tasted like how you expect beer to taste without any fancy gimmick or intense taste. If I was hearing him right, that’s a compliment.

This German Pilsener is clean, crisp, clear, and tasty. I really enjoyed this beer and was happy that it turned out the way it did. The yeast cake was the key. Having a large pitch really changed the game for me. It was so large, I have a bit of a mess on my hands on day 3 of fermentation. It was the first lager where the yeast activity was so robust that it blew the stopper right out of the carboy. Maybe a lesson is to use Fermcap more often, but I don’t want to overload everyone with lessons in this post.

The Lesson We Should All Learn

Make a yeast starter. There you go. That’s it. That’s the lesson. No, that’s not the lesson I am thinking about right now. It’s broader than that. The real lesson that I learned and hope we all can learn is that having time and taking time is necessary for making really great beer. TIhe issue I had was not about not knowing that a yeast starter would be good to make a good lager but not blocking off enough time to give myself a chance to make an excellent beer.

That’s what I want to pass along. Don’t rush it. Don’t take shortcuts. Make a plan and find the time. If your plan can’t be followed precisely, postpone and do it when you can.

Now that’s it. Hope that lesson finds you well.

Brew on!

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