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.

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.

Fearless John’s Order of the Hop

A 15 Minute American Ale.

Fearless John’s Order of the Hop was a Chivalic Order or Knights. It seems he basically created it to have a drinking club for his friends. No better person to create a drinking club.  John the Fearless Duke of Burgundy is supposedly the  man who invented hopped beer. I created this beer for three reasons. I wanted to try the 15 minute APA that the guys at Basic Brewing Video came up with, I wanted to do a 1 gallon “6 pack” batch, and I wanted to try the relatively new (2007) Citra Hop.

15 Minute Pale Ale

It is a very straight forward process.  You basically throw the specialty grains in the water and take them out when the water reaches 170 deg. F. Then add the DME. Once the water is boiling, throw twice as many hops in as you would with a regular boil. This is because, as the name implies, you are only going to boil 15 minutes.  Twice as many hops you ask? 15 minutes isn’t half of 60 minutes. You are correct, but alpha acid isomerization isn’t linear. Approximately half the isomirization occurs in the first 15 minutes.

1 gallon batch

The most common batch is a 5 gallon batch. Sometimes a smaller batch is useful. It takes less time to boil 1 gallon of water. You can easily do a full boil. You can experiment, and if the experiment fails, you only waste a gallon of beer instead of 5.

Citra Hop

The Citra Hop is a relatively new variety of hop. It was released in 2007, and at an Alpha Acid of around 12-14% you can consider it as both an aroma hop and a bittering hop. It has an interesting aroma and flavor of citrus and tropical fruits.

Here is my particular recipe:

Target OG: 1.054
Measure OG: 1.055
Target IBU:

1 lb 2.5 Extra Light DME
3.2 oz Crystal Malt 60L
0.50 oz Citra Hop at 15 Minutes
0.40 oz Citra Hop at 5 Minutes
0.50 oz Citra Hop at Flame Out

I underestimated the boil off you can get with only a 15 minute boil, so I ended with an original gravity of 1.068. I used Beersmith to figure out how much water to add, and diluted it down to 1.055. I threw it in a 1 gallon jug and put it in my closet. The hops should really showcase in this beer, and I hope it lives up to its namesake.

I should have used a blow off tube.

An Ordinary Bitter Brew

Something you immediately find out when you have your first good ordinary bitter is that it is neither ordinary nor particularly bitter. In a world with double imperial IPAs, it doesn’t take somebody baptized in the Church of Hopheadism to drink this beer. It might be one of the best examples of traditional English beer styles and the American styles based on them.  American beers are more brash, are more extreme, and maybe even more exciting. On the other hand, British beers are about balance, they are more comforting, but they are still complex.

I decided a few months ago that I should switch between a bigger beer and more of a session beer each time I brew. My last beer was my robust porter, clocking in at over 6% alcohol, so this time I figured I should go in the complete opposite direction. A beer that is under 4% alcohol and one balanced towards bitter. This is what the word bitter in the style really means, balanced towards bitter.

A lot of help this brew dog is going to be.

We sit in a wonderful world where you can get almost any beer you have ever wanted. Last weekend I had a Finnish style Sahti made by one of the Goose Island Brewpubs (very good). It is a style of beer traditionally flavored and filtered through juniper berries and twigs. This beer styles essentially died out decades ago, yet I just had it at a local brewpub in a location thousands of miles from its origin. The world that original bitter came out of was very different. In the early 19th century, the beer world was very different. Pale malt had just come on the scene, and England basically had 3 types of beer. A brown Mild, a darker Porter, and then a new pale ale generally hopped at a higher level than the mild or Porter. Later on brewers who bottled tended to call their beers pale ales, while brewers called beers in casks bitters.  Strangely, any of the beers, either cask or bottle, from Burton-on-Trent where still called pale ales. I can’t figure out the reasoning, but it’s strange how names appear.

The word ordinary comes from the amount of alcohol. The lower alcohol beer would be the everyday ordinary beer you drank all night at the pub. The Special Bitter used better ingredients and more of them. They saved the Extra Special Bitter for celebrations and extra special occasions.

Once again I took this recipe from the Jamils Show’s Ordinary Bitter Episode.

Grain Bill (Calculated OG is 1039)
4.35lbs Munton’s Extra Light Pale DME
0.5 lb 120L Crystal
0.25lb Special Roast

Measured OG was 1036

Hops (Estimated IBUs using the Regar formula is 31.4) 
0.65 oz East Kent Goldings (at 7.20% AA) at 60 minutes
0.40 oz East Kent Goldings (at 7.20% AA) at 40 minutes
0.25 oz East Kent Goldings (at 7.20% AA) at 1 minutes
0.20 oz East Kent Goldings (at 5.60% AA) at 1 minute

1 Smack Pack of Wyeast 1968 London ESB (no starter)

The other day I measured the gravity at about 1014. That’s probably as low as this yeast is going to get. I just need to find a few hours to remove labels and then bottle. I did use whirflock, which should clear the beer, but it looks very cloudy. Maybe it needs some time to settle, it has only been a week.

Look at who decided to show up right at the end.

Right to Brew

The Bible Belt Brouhaha over Beer

This is the insanity that still exists in the world. Alabama and Mississippi still outlaw homebrewing. If you are a homebrewer,  you absolutely need to be a member of the American Homebrewers Association (AHA). They are the group that leads the path to legalization. In the meantime you have to respect the courage of those who brew in those states despite the silly law. As a member you also get deals at bars, restaurants,  and maybe even your local homebrew shop.

The Pale Rider Porter

Because death needs something robust to get him through the end times.


The winter is in full force, and my second beer of the season will be a bit bigger than my earlier Christmas Mild. I really like porters, and since I have never brewed one before, I figured that it was time. Porter was probably the first industrialized beer in the world. In 18th century England, patrons used to ask the bartender to mix the various beers they had in certain proportions to get the taste they want, sort of like a Black and Tan today. Legend had it that Porter (or originally called entire) was first brewed as an equivalent to a popular combination called “three threads”.

At least that is the legend I originally learned  from the Brewmaster Table, but according to Wikipedia, that story arose due to some misinterpretation of brewing terms in a famous history of porter written by John Feltham. It actually started out as a more aged version of the earlier brown beer. The first style of beer aged at the brewery itself, ready to drink out the door, and the first beer produced on an industrial scale. It was very popular with the street and river porters and the name stuck. Eventually porter fell out of favor, and all but the stout porter, or simply Stout died out. Even breweries like Guiness, now famous for its Stout, eventually dropped the beer it started with. It wasn’t until 1978, when craft beer was emerging again in the  UK, that the style started to come back.

What exactly makes a robust porter robust? It is more Robust than a brown porter of course. It has more alcohol, has more hops, and  has some black  patent malt. It also generally seems like it could be an American version of the porter. A glance at the list of commercial examples on the BJCP style guidelines basically lists American breweries making Robust Porter and English breweries making Brown.

I took my recipe from the Robust Porter episode of the The Brewing Network’s: The Jamil Show. You can find the recipes over at beerdujour.com, a site which only lists award-winning recipes. These recipes are probably similar,  or even the same as the ones in his book Brewing Classic Styles.

I adjusted the recipe, as I used dry malt extract, and his extract recipe calls for liquid malt. Let’s hit the main points:

SRM: 32.4
IBU: 34.1
OG: 1.064

I did a partial mash with the following ingredients:

1 lb 6 oz Crystal 60L
1 lb 6 oz  Munich Malt
10 oz Chocolate Malt
7.3 oz Black Patent Malt

This didn’t work out well. I tried to do brew in a bag. I used the recommended amount of water that Beersmith told me, but with the bag I had and the width of my pot, the water didn’t really cover the grain completely. This made it hard for the water to regulate the temp and different parts of the grain had widely different temperatures. I will have to change the method next time, probably with a bag that doesn’t keep the grain so tight.

After the “fun” of mashing, I brought the water up to boil, and threw in half of the 6 pounds of extra light Dry Malt Extract, and 1.7 oz of East Kent Goldings at 5.6% Alpha Acids. At 15 minutes I threw in a Whirflock tablet. This is the first time I have ever used a fining agent. A fining agent binds to the proteins and help make the beer nice and clear. Whirflock is essentially Irish Moss – a red Algae – in a convenient tablet form.

Then I threw the rest of the extra light DME in, and threw the last 0.75 oz of East Kent Goldings in at flame out. I chilled it down to about 65 degrees topped it off to 5.5 gallons and realized my original gravity was under by over 13 points. To fix this I threw in more extra light DME until it hit 1.063, and am hoping for the best.

I have been listening to the Jamil Show a lot, and he  is constantly stressing that proper  fermentation is the key to good beer. Therefore, I made a yeast starter for the first time. To make a yeast starter, you essentially take your liquid yeast and put it in some water with light extract (i.e. you make a low gravity wort) and let it start to ferment. During the first stage of fermentation, the yeast eats all the oxygen in the liquid and multiplies. Then you take your multiplying yeast and throw them in your beer to get a healthy fermentation. Unfortunately, to get the recommended amount of yeast with out a mechanical means to constantly introduce oxgen you need about 3.5 liters of yeast starter. Good thing I have a gallon jug and an extra 12 ounces of DME lying around. Every time I passed it, I gave it a shake help it along.

I pitched the yeast, aerated the wort, and took the bucket to the basement, where there has been a surprising lack of bubbles lately, The krausen did form, so something must be happening.

Homebrewer’s First Labels

This is not actually the first time that I have labeled my beer. The first time really was the beer I made for my Family Reunion. However, my cousin designed the labels then, and had them professionally printed on die-cast vinyl stickers. This time I didn’t tell him about this beer early enough, so I quickly made the labels up myself with an online label maker called beerlabelizer. I also added an extra line of text on the bottom using adobe acrobat.

I printed the labels out on a laser printer, and put them on the bottles using the milk method. You simply use milk as glue. It works pretty well, they supposedly are not hard to get off, and they don’t stink when they dry.



The Enhancement of Heat Miser’s Mild Christmas Ale

What is the helper monkey doing with syringes and a strange looking liquid? Is he doctoring his beer with nefarious substances like the brewers of old? Will this beer grant an experience beyond what Alcohol normally grants?

Of course! It will give you Christmas Cheer.  If you read my post about the brewing of Heat Miser’s Mild Christmas Ale, you know I threw a bunch of spices in at the last 5 minutes of the boil. I did not know exactly how much to put in, so I erred on the side of too little, since you can always add spice. Taking it out is another story.

I tasted it last week and got some orange and a tiny amount of vanilla, but nothing of the other spices. There are several ways to add spice after fermentation. One popular method is to make an extract by throwing some spices in a bottle of cheap vodka and letting it sit for a while. This is essentially how you would make vanilla extract. Then you filter out the spices and pout out a measured amount into the beer. I did not have awhile, so my options were basically to throw some crushed up spices into the bottling bucket and hope it was the right amount, or to brew a spice “tea” and pour in a measured amount.

What do I mean by a measured amount? I took a cue from Randy Mosher’s “Radical Brewing” and the Spiced Beer episode of the Jamil Show on The Brewing Network. Both had similar methods for determining the correct amount of the vodka extract. I figured something similar could work for my tea, which doesn’t seem nearly as popular a method, even though Gordon Strong mentioned it for adding more spice to his Christmas Beer if it needed it. Of course he did not mention the specifics, so I (re)invented that myself.

Since in my original recipe, I only used half the spices, I took the other half of the spices and brewed it in 2 cups of boiling water for 5 minutes. Then I filtered out the spices into a measurement cup. I took a sample of my beer, and divided it into several 1 ounce samples. One sample remained undoctored. The other samples received between 0.5 and 3 ml of the “tea” dosed out by small syringes I bought for 25 cents a pop at American Science and Surplus the day before.

The Sous Helper Monkey Amy and I both smelled and tasted each sample and determined that 2 ml tasted the best. There was a good amount of spicy aroma and taste, especially cinnamon and nutmeg, without being overpowering. We then made several samples with 2ml of the “tea” spice addition for the purposes of determining how much vanilla extract. The first sample had 1 cl in it, the smallest measurement the syringe could handle, and it was far too much. Therefore, we scratched the idea of adding more vanilla and the proper amount of spice “tea” was calculated. Since there are 640 ounces in five gallons, this means the beer requires 1280 ml of spice “tea”. That is 5.4 bloody cups. Time to brew more tea I guess.

I got worried that with so much extra liquid we were going to thin out the beer. We didn’t think the samples tasted too thinned out. To make sure, I calculated it out, and the gravity would drop less than 0.7 of a point. Plus, I decided to use two cups as the water for the priming solution. We’ll see if that affects anything.

I poured the tea/priming solution in the bottling bucket, racked off the primary and bottled as usual. This is probably the lowest carbonated beer I have ever had. Jamil (from the Jamil Show mentioned above) suggested carbonating to 1.5 volumes, and my little table in the chapter on priming and bottling of my “How to Brew” book claimed I only needed about 1.5 ounces of corn sugar for the temperature the room is at for this amount of carbonation. This is much less than any other beer I have made. Now it’s time to design the label.