Old Muckety Muck’s Ale

Back in olden times, there were generally two kinds of beer in a given area. A low alcohol brown beer meant for quick consumption, and a higher alcohol brown beer meant for special occasions and blending. Do to lack of modern sanitation techniques, this “old” or  “stale” ale was generally sour. The word stale used without the modern connotations that come to mind, simply meaning aged. If the beer was for blending it was a stock ale. The the ale that a bar or blender had in stock to blend with young ale to give it a bit more character. The advantage of blending it at the bar is that the customer could dictate the ratio. A winter warmer was a strong ale that was aged and unblended, meant for warming you up by the fire on a cold winters night.

CEOs, managers, directors, any of the guys in charge could all be considered Muckety Mucks. Throw in a bit of arrogance and you get the idea. An old ale is the beer in charge. Generally aged for months and even years, to develop a very complex character, it is not your every day drinking beer. With an alcohol approaching 10%, it is not taken lightly.

Unlike my American Pale Ale Fearless John’s Order of the Hop, which had massive amounts of hops added with only 15 minutes to go, this Old Ale has very minimal hop character. It only has one small edition added at the 60 minute mark.

As you might imagine, such a big beer requires a but load of malt. That is  11 lb 3.2 oz of extra light DME.

I tried to get 3/4 lb of Crystal 80L. Unfortunately, my local homebrew shop was fresh out, so on their suggestion, I used TF and S Dark Crystal 1, which the label claimed ranged from about 83L – 90L. It tasted good. It is always important to taste all your raw ingredients to get an idea what it adds. Then it is important to taste your wort and beer at every step so that you learn what each step does. In the end, we decided it was a good substitute. Experimentation, voluntarily and not so much, is a big advantage of the homebrewing.

The targeted original gravity was 1.093, and I measured 1.094 at the end.

In the US, bakers tend to reach for Corn Syrup for various pie fillings. This is not as common across the Pond. There they are more likely to reach for an invert sugar. To create invert sugar, you basically take a fructose, and split it into sucrose and glucose using citric acid. I use the lighter stuff called Golden Syrup in my world-famous pecan pie I bring to everything thanksgiving. To make Old Ale, I reach for the darker version called Black Treacle. Treacle has a distinctly strong, slightly bitter flavor, that adds an interesting layer of complexity to the beer. Both of these are a pain in the ass to find. I know two stores which I can find the Golden Syrup, but I had to search the internet to find the Black Treacle.

I pitched the very larger starter, and will ferment it until complete. I will then bottle and try a few this winter. Most of the bottles will be cellared until next winter to get the depth and complexity that an Old Ale can achieve


Fearless John’s Order of the Hop Take Two

April 20th, 2013,  the day I brewed up this delicious American Pale Ale with Citra Hops. It was highly sought after. Unfortunately, there was only one gallon in the whole world.

Not enough for a yeast starter.

This has changed. I have now scaled it up to a full 5 gallon batch. I used Beersmith to scale it, and this is what it came up with.

6 lbs 6.6 oz of Extra Light DME

The grain is in there, you just can’t see it.

1 lb 1.8oz of Crystal 60L Malt

I don’t know if that Whirflock tablet actually does anything.

And most importantly, the Citra hops:

2.25 oz at 15 minutes
2.00 oz at 5 minutes
2.75 oz at flame out

Easiest way to sanitize the wort chiller.

What makes this beer so great is that the longest you need to boil hops is 15 minutes, with no traditional 60 minute bittering addition. This better preserves the flavor and aroma. It also makes the brew day shorter, since there is no reason to boil the wort longer than 15 minutes.

Brew Dog is never satisfied with the cooling operation.

One thing that you have to use more hops, and this does make the beer more expensive since you have to use more hops. On a commercial-scale, the extra price may put the beer out of reach of the craft brewer, but on the homebrew level a few extra bucks hardly matters. This is one of the reasons that the homebrewer has the very real potential of brewing better beer than a commercial craft brewer.

Ferment at 67 degrees Fahrenheit.

5 Vulture por 5 Rabbit Cervecería

The Aheiateteo are the 5 Aztec Gods of excess and pleasure. 5 Rabbit, or Macuiltochtli, is the God of drunkeness, and is the God that the founders named this Chicago Cervecería after. An interesting name for a brewery, and one I kind of doubt the “Man” understood when they approved the license for this brewery. The history of the first Latin-themed brewery in the United States is mired in drama, with one of the founding members suing the other one. Maybe some of that famous Latin fire and passion? The beers are still flowing though, with Randy Mosher, the Radical Brewer himself writing the recipes.

5 Vulture, or Macuilcozcacuauhtli, is the God of gluttony. The scavenging nature of the vulture represents the stripping off of deeply rooted lustful and envious impulses from our being. The god is associated with wisdom and longevity.

This beer is a uniquely North American creation. An Amber Ale, one of the only true American Styles of beer, that has a small amount of roasted Ancho Chiles, a new world fruit. It smells like an earthy chili. I love chili. I probably end up eating chili in some form every single day of my life. This smell is very inviting to someone like me.

One of the founders of this brewery is from Costa Rica. When I was there, there was this light American-style lager brewed locally in  San José called Imperial everywhere. Now someone is bringing a little Costa Rican flair to the booming craft beer scene in the states, and with this brewery, you end up with some pretty descent beers.

It has a dark brown color, with an off-white head. The head is small, and does not last long. I think that could be because of the oils from the chilies.

Chili beers in my experience are hit and miss. Sometimes they taste like taking a swig from a Tabasco bottle, and sometimes, like this time, they taste delicious. This one kind of tastes like an interesting mole sauce. I love mole sauce. It tastes darker than the description would lead you to expect. It has subtle spices and subtle bitterness, but luckily not much hoppiness.

I was eating it with buffalo flavored tacos, and it kind of clashed. A more traditional flavored taco probably would have tasted better. Maybe a nice flat-iron steak with your favorite mole sauce.

Brother Thelonious

The great jazz musician Thelonious Sphere Monk. Known for his dissonant harmonies and angular melodic twists. His  unorthodoxies on the piano remind me of the unorthodoxies of his namesake beer. But as his piano work influenced jazz for decades to come, this beer just reminds you where differences can go wrong.

You see, North Coast’s Brother Thelonious is nominally a Belgian Strong Dark. It definitely smells like the dark fruits and malts you are expecting from a strong dark, but when you taste it, there is something… missing. Usually a strong dark is attacking the senses from every direction, and you have this feeling that it is everything that beer can be. This falls flat. There is a bit of spice, and a bit more brown sugar. There is malt. There is fermented fruit. There is plenty of tartness, and just a memory of bitterness. Don’t get me wrong, it is still smooth and tasty, just compared to “everything a beer can be,” it doesn’t hold up.

There is Something in Cider

What is this you ask, Helper Monkey Ciders? I thought this site was supposed to be about the brewskies, the cold ones, the beer?  What?  You don’t like cider? Have you ever had cider? Was it Wood Chuck? It was Wood Chuck wasn’t it? You can admit it. I’ve had Wood Chuck too, but it’s time to try something better. There are plenty of great commercial examples, but it is so easy to make compared to beer, why don’t you just make some yourself.

To make apple cider, take some apple juice and introduce it to yeast. It is as simple as that.


Wait one minute Mr Helper Monkey,  that bottle already says Apple Cider.  Aren’t you cheating?

Cider is basically fermented Apple Juice, but the interesting thing about the word Cider is that in the US it is synonymous with Apple Cider. I suspect that it is because the US has had a love-hate relationship with alcohol. I would bet that it became synonymous during alcohol prohibition. Google would probably tell you, but I will leave that to you, my loyal reader. So, what I have here is non-alcoholic, non-fermented Apple Juice.

Don’t let Flanders fool you, there is no standard difference between what manufacturers call Cider and Juice in the US no matter what Apple Juice
Manufacturer websites claim. I have also seen websites claim that one is filtered and one is not filtered. Hard cider always designates the alcoholic version. Except for Canada, the rest of the world calls Alcoholic Apple Juice Cider, and non-alcoholic apple juice, apple juice.


The flavors and aromas of beer are almost completely determined by the processing of the ingredients after picking.  This is not true with cider.  Like wine, cider is made in the fields, and the end flavor is predominately determined by the apples you use. There are books and books out there about how to choose apples to make the cider you want, but it really comes down to experimentation. Every region has different varieties of apples and the same variety of apples grown in different conditions are going to taste different. Your best bet is to go to your local Apple Orchard and try out different blends of apples. Or do what I did, and just try the house blend.


It is very important to get Apple Juice that has no chemical preservatives, because that will just kill your yeast dead. If you have managed to get your hands on a non-pasteurized Apple Juice, you could just let it sit and it will ferment by itself, but you never quit know what you will get. If you want some insurance or you have pasteurized Apple Juice, Wyeast does make a specific cider yeast, but Wine Yeasts are also commonly used and they are significantly cheaper. Cote Des Blancs by Red Star (yes the same people that make your bread yeast) is one that is commonly recommended for cider. It was also praised by the employee at my Local Homebrew Shop.

Don’t just take your yeast and toss it into the must (fancy name for Apple Juice). Take your yeast and bloom it in some warm water. This means, pour it in water that is about 100 deg F. You don’t even need a thermometer. Your body is 98.6 on average. So use water that is a bit warm to the touch. Let it sit for about 10 minutes and it should bubble a bit and become creamy.


Put your Apple Juice in a clean and sanitized container (or leave it in the bottle if you want), and pitch the yeast slurry. If you want to assure a drier cider, throw in some yeast nutrient. Then put it in a cold place, around 35-45 deg. F. Wait a couple of months and you got Cider. I’ll let you know how it turns out.


Red Eye Coffee Porter

The nuptials are over, and do you know what means? Time for beer! A special beer from Two Brothers, part of their Retro Series. As part of two Brother’s 15th Anniversary in 2012 they re-released 15 of their earlier beers. The Red Eye Coffee Porter was first brewed in the Spring of 2009 and due to popular acclaim was temporarily brought back in the fall of 2009. Now it is back as part of this special offering. It is a great example of American Beer recipe ingenuity. Take some rye, which is popular in German Brews, take a Porter from England, Americanize it, and throw in some coffee beans, not technically traditional in Porter, but we don’t take kindly to tradition in these parts.


The days of summer are ending and that means no more ice cream shops, but fear not, take a sniff of this beer and you will be taken right back there. Take a sip. Yes I know. You still think that you are in the ice cream shop. I had to bring you back to reality, but you aren’t. Your probably sitting at home, but you are drinking Red Eye Coffee Porter and that is good.

You would kind of expect more bitterness from so dark a beer, but it is a big beer and the hops are downplayed, but as the beer warms up, the bitterness along with the spiciness from the rye really comes forward and rounds it out nicely.

The carbonation is very low, which is immediately noticeable as soon as you start pouring. The off-white head is small and does not last long. The lacing does not last on the glass. On the other hand, the body is big, real big. All of this contributes to the milk-shake like consistency of the beer. The color is of very dark brown, virtually black, and no light can make it through. This beer is thoroughly enjoyable, and I’m wishing that the beer wasn’t a limited release.

What should you pair this with you might ask? I paired it with the Great Gatsby movie, but your morning Wheaties (assuming you don’t have anywhere else to go after a 9.2% ABV beer)  would be an equally appropriate for this Coffee Porter.

International Beer Day- Stone Ruination IPA

International Beer Day (first Friday in August) is a global celebration of beer, taking place in pubs, breweries, and back yards all over the world — It’s a day for beer lovers everywhere to raise a toast to our brewers and bartenders, and rejoice in the greatness of beer!

I actually wasn’t going to drink any beer today, but since I learned that it was International Beer Day I decided that I had to drink one of my bombers I’ve kept around. Stone Brewery Ruination is. It’s a hop forward beer, and I probably shouldn’t have been kept around for as long as it has, but it takes a special occasion to break out a semi-high alcohol bomber all by myself, and international Beery day is just the time to do it.

It pours a pale golden straw color, with a nice off white head, and a cloudy, homebrew-like appearance.

The aroma comes off as a wonderful citrus and pine.  It seems subdued from what it could be, but that is probably what happens when you keep a hop forward beer around for a few months.

The taste follows right along from the aroma. Citrus, pine, wood right up front. Not as sweet/mango/fruit that you would get from something like Citra, but very traditional American hop. Toasty malt coming up behind. The bitterness is very assertive, but despite the name, and the long warning on the bottle, it is not harsh. In fact, I think the word smooth would be very appropriate. It is not too sweet, but definitely not dry. There is also a nice warming alcohol feel, without any hot burning.

It is a great, refreshing ale for hot summer days. It goes great with a spicy stir-fry and smashed Chipotle sweet potatoes. In fact, you really need  to pair this with food that has very strong flavors, otherwise this beer will ruin all other flavors for you and you will just taste beer.


The Little Imp’s Pale Ale

Take a look at this picture. I’m really moving up in the world of brewing, at least in terms of equipment. Santa Claus and the birthday version of Santa Claus (every once in a while being a Christmas Baby pays off) got me a fancy smancy Blichman Propane Burner. CostCo gave me a propane tank (after I gave them money). And I became a registered Professional Engineer in the state of Illinois, and I used part of the company bonus to buy a Spike Brewing 15 gallon stainless steel brew kettle (the rest goes to the Wedding).

Last weekend I brewed my first full-scale partial mash batch. If I get a big enough mesh bag, next time I will brew my first BIAB all grain batch. One day I might even do the complete traditional all grain.

It has been a little while since my last brew, and I’ve been having the itch, so I hit the local homebrew shop on Saturday to get the ingredients for my first Belgian Pale Ale (so many firsts).

There are a few differences between Belgian Pale Ales and the English and American Versions. I used Pilsner Malt extract instead of extract made from regular 2-row. I used Czech Saaz for the aroma additions instead of a British or an American Hop. These differences are important, but the real star of the show is the Belgian yeast used. If you used your regular brew pub yeast, all you are making is an ale version of a Pilsner. The Wyeast 1214 Belgian Abbey Ale supposedly comes from the Chimay Brewery, monk makers of world glass Chimay line of Beers. It will produce cloves and other esters, and have a delicious spicy note.

7 lbs of Pilsner Based Extra Light DME
1/2 lb of Munich Malt
3/4 lb of CaraMunich Malt
0.8 oz East Kent Golding at 60 Minutes
0.5 oz Saaz at 40 Minutes
0.5 oz Saaz at 15 Minutes

I also used my electrical skills to wire up a my old college fridge to use as a temperature fermentation chamber. I bought an STC-1000 temperature controller. It is about 100 bucks cheaper than a Johnson Controls temperature controller. Of course, those 100 bucks do buy you a plug and play ability and a display in Fahrenheit. That is nothing that some wires, electrical tape, and Google’s ability to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius can’t fix. After the first test batch I’ll solder the connection and throw some heat shrink on it to make a more solid commercial.

The Wedding Beer

My wedding is coming up in a handful of months, so it’s time to pick the beer. The wedding package comes with the usual Bud and Miller on tap, but there is no way I’d let my wedding have only the yellow fizz. I have a reputation to maintain of course. Good thing the venue promised that they can bring in cases of any beer that they can get through a distributor.


With over 2000 breweries in the country, I have quite a decision to make. To help narrow it down, I am limiting it to Midwest beers. I would probably limit it to Chicago itself, but there is no way I’m going to take 3 Floyds out of the running. I think I will go for two types of beer, a hoppy lighter beer and more maltier darker beer, but I haven’t decided specifically on the styles. Even though I will ultimately only choose 2, I need a bigger list since my choices will ultimately also depend both on the price and the availability.

This is my list so far:

3 Floyds Gumball Head
Two Brothers Side Kick Extra PA
3 Floyds Zombie Dust APA
Pipeworks Brewery Unicorn Vs Ninja American Double
Pipeworks Brewery Cash for Gold Belgian Strong
Revolution Brewery Repo Man Rye Stout

I want to include some Half Acre, but most of their beer are seasonal, so that may cause a problem with the slow-moving purchasing apparatus of the venue. It also looks like I am heavy on the hoppy beers. I need to keep looking, and sampling (I know, so tough). Any ideas?