Brew Dudes

Homebrewing blog and resource

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PicoBrew Elysian Dragonstooth Stout Clone Review

We have that Pico Pro from PicoBrew, which is fun and interesting to brew with. As a part of the initial delivery, we got two PicoPaks. The first was a Pliny the Elder clone and the other was this one that we tasted this week.

If you are into big stouts or just want to know about the quality of beer brewed on this system, this brew review is for you. Check out our Elysian Dragonstooth Stout Clone tasting video!

Can’t Get That Beer Here

As beer lovers from the East Coast of the USA, and beer distribution in this country being the way it is, we don’t get the chance to taste many beers from the West Coast unless we get on a plane and fly 3,000+ miles. For example, we have never had any of the beers brewed by the Elysian Brewing Company (based out of Seattle, Washington) because they are not available in our local craft beer store.

With clone homebrew recipes and certainly brewing a pak on the Pico Brew, it gives us a chance to experience these beers that we don’t have exposure to due to our home location. The only real issue for a review like the one we’re posting here is that we can’t really compare what we homebrewed to the commercially available beer. Of course, small issues like this one never stopped in the past so we’ll discuss this clone based on its own merits.

Dragonstooth Stout Tasting Notes

Appearance: Rocky, brown head. Opaque. No highlights at all.
Aroma: Warm baked bread with strong notes of cocoa. No hop presence. No strong roast character. Lots of sweet malt and chocolate.
Flavor: Molten baking chocolate! Great malt backbone, with nice bready and biscuit taste. Not overly roasty. Coffee and dark roast in the aftertaste.
Mouthfeel: Really chewy and full.
Overall Impression: What a great stout. Super smooth and one to emulate in your own homebrew recipes.

We were very happy about this beer. It was easy to drink and we were happy with the performance of the PicoBrew on this beer.

Brew On!

BeerSmith 2 Hack – Calculate Mash Efficiency From Brewhouse Efficiency

Mash efficiency is a crucial metric when calculating a homebrew beer recipe. Using the software BeerSmith 2, it’s a bit of a challenge to modify your mash efficiency percentage because the tool uses brewhouse efficiency instead. In this post, Mike shows you what he does to work around this feature to dial in his mash efficiency with a few changes to the inputs of his equipment profile. Watch this video to learn more about how you can set an accurate mash efficiency in BeerSmith 2 as well.

Using Software to Calculate Your Recipes

When you are developing a recipe, you need to know your mash efficiency to correlate how much grain you need to attain a target original gravity. If you don’t know what your mash efficiency is, then you can’t know how much grain you need to hit the original gravity that you want for your recipe.

Because mash efficiency is a calculation, there is a chance that the gravity numbers you see in the software do not match what you see in real life after taking a hydrometer reading. Mike had experiences with this issue and saw on forums that others did too.

The small issue that Mike found, that is specific to BeerSmith, is that the software calculates mash efficiency from brewhouse efficiency. The mash efficiency percentage cannot be edited – it’s “grayed out”. Because the BeerSmith software has many features so that it can be used by homebrewers and professional brewers alike, you need to work with it so that it gives you the output you need. In this particular case, the tool is set up more for a larger scale brewery but Mike figured out what to change to make it work for his homebrewing needs.

Beer Smith 2 Software Hack

Brewhouse efficiency is calculated using measures that account for wort loss throughout your whole brewing process such as:

  • Loss based on using a chiller
  • Loss from wort that can’t be extracted from trub
  • Top off water
  • Fermenter loss

If you zero these inputs, then the brewhouse efficiency becomes your mash efficiency. Since you can input a percentage into the text field next to the BH Efficiency heading, you can quickly make changes to your recipe by just inputting different percentage numbers into that box in BeerSmith 2.

Mike has had this topic on his mind for a while. He wanted to post something that would help other homebrewers figure out why software sometimes says one thing and their homebrew day measurements are different.


Calculate Hop Amounts For Homebrew Recipes

Since we posted information about working with percentages to calculate malt amounts in homebrew recipes, we thought we would follow up with a post about how to best calculate hop amount for homebrew recipes. Figuring out hop amounts for a recipe is similar to calculating malt amounts, as they based off of a calculation of how much bitterness they will bring to your beer. There’s a few ways of doing it so watch this video as we discuss it in more detail.

We’re Trying To Figure Out Bittering Units

When it comes to hops, the measurement brewers are looking for is around how much bitterness the hop is going to bring to the final beer. Knowing this flavor component in beer is the purpose of any unit of measure like an International Bitterness Unit (IBU). As Mike points out, this measurement is flawed since it is based on a model. He goes on to share the saying, “All models are wrong, but some are useful.” That’s some science pragmatism right there. The best thing with using any of the scale for hop bitterness is to stick to one since it will help you to tweak recipes later.

But Does Bitterness Matter For All Styles

Now as craft beer and homebrewed beer has evolved, our sensibilities around bitterness in beer has changed. If you think about the New England IPA style, that beer showcases aroma and flavor of hops more than the bitterness they impart. If bitterness is not a focus anymore, then how do you best communicate hop?

Let’s go all the way back to The Joy of Homebrewing and see how Charlie used Alpha Acid units as an easy way to calculate how much hops he was putting into a recipe. His method is a quick measurement of Alpha Acid percentage multiplied by ounces with a note of when it was added to the boil. Using this method gives enough information for the person who is following your recipe to mimic what you are adding to your beer.

Give it a try for you next recipe formulation and see how it goes with someone trying to brew the same beer as you.


Brew Dudes Homebrew Swap – Exchange #26

The beer swaps keep rolling in and we get an American Brown ale from a guy named Chris in our own home state of Massachusetts. He wanted us to try his take on this American take on an English classic. Let’s see what we thought of his beer.

Chris’ American Brown Ale Recipe

Here’s what Chris sent us along with his beer.

Lake Boon Brewery – American Brown Ale

Batch Size: 5 gallons
Original Gravity: 1.046
Final Gravity: 1.012
ABV: 4.5%


9 pounds of American 2 row Malt
8 ounces 60 °L Caramel Malt
8 ounces Honey Malt
4 ounces of Chocolate Malt

1 ounce of Northern Brewer hops (7.3% AA) – 60 minutes to go in the boil
2 ounces of Cascade hops (6.3% AA) – 10 minutes to go in the boil
1 ounce of Cascade (4.7% AA) – 1 minute to go in the boil

Safale US-05 Ale Dry Yeast

Other Notes
Brewed this beer on November 27, 2017.

Water was bought from The Basket

The mash was for 60 minutes at 152°F
The fermentation lasted two weeks at 68°F
At bottling, he carbonated using 3.9 ounces of corn sugar, looking for 2.2 volumes of CO2.

American Brown Ale Tasting Notes

Appearance: It’s a beautiful looking brown ale. Mike thought it was a spot on color. It was brown!

Aroma: Mike dug the Cascade coming right off the top. Classic American hop aroma, which is a sweet grapefruit character that meshes well with the aroma from the malts.

Flavor: The description that Mike gave was “a distinctive Brown ale flavor”. He didn’t think any one of the malts stuck out but they all played well together.

Mouthfeel: Mike felt it was a little thin with the first few sips but then he said he appreciated the drinkability of the beer as he continued to drink it.

Overall Impression: This was a great balanced American Brown ale with a nice Cascade notes in the aroma and flavor. In terms for improvements, we felt that taking measures to bring more body to the beer would make it even better. We discussed a few different ways of doing that including a higher mash temp, using a dextrine malt, and changing the base malt from 2-row to English pale malt.

Thanks for the beer, Chris – Brew ON!

Working With Percentages – Homebrew Beer Recipes

Homebrewing is a great community and one way we share ideas is through recipes. For this post, we thought it would be good to discuss expressing recipes in a way that helps another brewer translate your formulation as closely as possible to what you brewed on your system. Let’s learn about how to present homebrew beer recipe grain bill amounts as percentages of the entire bill rather than measured weights, along with what may be some hang ups brewers have with recipe creation software.

How To Work With Percentages To Define Your Recipe’s Grain Bill

When I started out as a homebrewer, I was content to find recipes that were formulated for 5 gallon batches with some understanding of mashing efficiency being a factor. I never paid it too much attention since I was able to hit original gravity numbers as presented in the recipe. As time has gone on, that way of creating and following recipes doesn’t seem like the best way. Maybe the hobby has gotten more sophisticated, or maybe I have, but either way, I’d like to use this method of recipe formulation more often.
One reason for expressing grain bills in recipe as percentages is the ability to scale the batch size to whatever volume you are looking to brew. It comes in handy with scaling down craft beer recipes to your own homebrew amounts.

To start formulating your recipes, you need to know your mash efficiency. If you don’t know that, start with 75% efficiency as Mike uses in the video. You can use this percentage to plug into homebrewing software to calculate the amount of grains you need to use to get to the starting gravity of the beer you are trying to brew. If you have done some research on styles, you know that certain beers should have starting gravities in a certain range. With your mash efficiency, you can calculate the amount of grain you need to hit your starting gravity. With the amount of grain, you can use that to calculate the percentages of different types of grains to brew your beer.

Know The Math – Brew Better

With these percentages, you can then multiply these numbers to figure out how much (in weight) the grains you
need. In general, it’s good to know how to calculate these numbers on paper. Don’t get too dependent on brewing software. Remember that your reality may not match up with what the software is doing. Make sure you can work the number in case you need to tweak the recipe.

Brew On!

If you want, you can learn more about working with PPG and Specific Gravity here.

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