Brewday Thursday – Witbier

A few months back my friend Conrad made a trip back to his family farm in Montana to get something for us to brew with. Fresh Unmalted Red Wheat. IMG_3267

And he brought a bunch of it, too! Being that Conrad and myself are tinkerers and would prefer to do everything from scratch our original intention was to malt it ourselves.

I’ll make bread and pizza and ice cream from scratch. I’ve even made ramen noodles from scratch. Belgian style fries that I’ve cultivated the potatoes to make. But, the more I read about malting, I decided this might not be something that was actually feasible to do in my small area and with the limited time and attention I was willing to devote to this.

So, what else can you do with raw wheat?

Belgian Witbier is one such thing you can make with it. So, I purchased a few additional ingredients to supplement what I already had and I did some research to develop a recipe that would fit our system, timeline, and ingredients on hand.

I opted to use up some Belgian Pale 2-Row Malt I had sitting around instead of using the more common Pilsner Malt. That was 65% of the grain bill. I then ground up the raw wheat pretty finely and used 32 perfect of wheat. And, for good measure we put in 3% acid malt to assist with mash ph.

Our hop schedule was pretty standard for this type of beer. Low AA hops. We used a combinaton of Saaz and Tettnangs, both at 2.6AA. We put half the amount of both at 45mins and half at 5 minutes, hoping to end up with 16 IBU’s. Our additions were interesting. We put in 3/4oz of Coriander, 1-oz of Orange zest and 1-oz of Grapefruit zest at 10 minutes. When the boil finished, we gravity fed the beer through the plate chiller, which cooled it to about 68 degrees.
IMG_3246 2

For the yeast, I had made a 1.8L Starter of Wyeast 3944, Belgian Witbier yeast. I was going to decant my yeast beer off the slurry, but i decided to just add it in there, as our yield wasn’t as good this time around. Most likely because the unmalted wheat absorbed more water than anticipated.  In 20 days this beer should be done.


Our OG was 1.046 Hoping to get it down to 1.010…

Crossing fingers, only time will tell.



Weekly Update. 5/16/16


I’ve done a couple things this week. Some more memorable than others. I dumped two batches of beer because I didn’t find them ultimately going according to plan. Thats the problem with experimentation. While the learning is incredible useful, its also frustrating.

I dumped the all-wheat beer. After my brewing partner(Leigh from Mop Top Brewing) finally got to try some we decided that while the experiment was successful in that we did indeed make an all wheat beer, we didnt end up liking it at all. Perhaps it was a tannin leach or something, who knows.

Two clean and newly passivated fermenters after a double-dumping. RIP: “100% Wheat” and “Hefe Ver. 7”

I also dumped a much younger beer, a Bavarian Hefe. I tried some new grains in it as well as a different percentage of wheat to pilsner malt. I gave it two weeks in the fermenter and when I racked and tried it I just wasn’t feeling it. The clove or banana flavor wasn’t there, the body was a little too light for what I was shooting for. I also suspect I may have extracted too many tannins with my sparge process.

I need to do a recalibration. Maybe this wednesday before thursday’s brew. I did recently re-passivated my vessels 2 days ago, but its good to check and make sure PH Meters are calibrated, as well as thermometers especially.

One GOOD thing that happened is that my Munich Helles got kegged. After spending

Munich Helles Kegged!


about 17 days in Primary it was time to put in a Keg to purge of oxygen and lager for 30 days. That should be ready to drink on June 14th. It tasted awesome on first taste. Came out a bit strong – closer to 5.6%, but I think it will be a great summer beer.


I also visited  a couple breweries this week.

My wife and I went to The Bruery in Placentia, CA yesterday. Great time. I tell ya, for how expensive their bottles are, they sure have a great AFFORDABLE tasting room. Each sample of 50-some odd number of beers is only $1. So, for example, a 5-flight sampler is $5. Its great!

I also went with Leigh to San Diego where we enjoyed Rip Tide, which was pretty great and we also hit up Belching Beaver Taproom. Then we went to the great 7bbl room just a bit north of downtown San Diego known as Pure Project. They were amazing! thier brewmaster, Winston, has concocted some of the best beers I’ve had in a long time. Wow!

We also went next door to Amplified Brewing. Not nearly as good, but they show potential. They have the ‘look’ down, just need the product(beer) to get a bit better. Everything had a smokey tinge.

Until next update!


Measurements, Measurements…

Its probably no surprise that one element that contributes to the successful act of repeatability is proper measurement techniques. I recently came across one such issue with incorrect measurements while creating a yeast starter.

9 of 10 of the beer we make are ales. And, being that a lot of these are 5-10 gallon batches we can usually use a 2-Liter starter.

However, this last brew of ours, a Munich Helles, required a much bigger starter. almost 3.5 liters. The 5-Liter flask normally used for such a thing unfortunately had a crack running down the side of it. As such, I quickly broke a new one out of the box, cleaned it,  and filled it up to the 4L Mark and poured that into our pot. Something just seemed…off. I grabbed the 2 Liter flask, which has been quality scrutinized by myself in the past. I filled it up once to the 2L Mark, and poured it into the 5L Flask. I then repeated it again. I should have been just about filled up to the 4L tick mark on the 5L flask. Instead, I noticed that the water was hovering just below the halfway mark of 3 and 4L. It was closer to about 3.4L.

IMG_2759“Hmm, thats strange.” I thought. I went back and performed the same test. Same result. I then placed the 5L flask on the scale, and filled it up with 35oz of water – about 1 Liter of water. Sure enough, it was off the mark by almost half a liter. The same was true for 2 and 3 Liters.

Is this the Flasks fault? Sure, to some extent it is. But, it is also my fault for being hasty and not double checking my own equipment before using it. I’m usually really good at that stuff, but in a pinch I for-went the rules. Luckily, was able to catch this before I pitched wrong amount of yeast into the beer, which depending on the style can have bad styles. Especially if its under pitching.

But, think about these things when it comes to other important measured additions. Like hops, or mineral additions. I guess the moral of the story here is: double and triple check your measurements. It will play a big part to repeatability on other systems or when scaling up/down your own recipes.


Happy Brewing!

Tuesday Brewday: Hefe-O-Rama


Clockwise from top left: White Wheat, Melanoidin, Red Wheat, Pilsner. 

Today was a good day to brew. There was nice cloud cover, the termperature was nice, and the beer ingredients were fresh.

In my ongoing quest to create the best Bavarian-style Hefe I can I did a few new things here. I had read somewhere that sometimes the different wheats(white and red) are mixed to ‘fill in gaps’ in the flavor profile that might be missed by one. I also believe personally that head retension is better with red wheat.

Second, I added Melanoidin to simulate a decoction mash. I feel like this quest of mine is going to end with my just breaking down and doing a triple decoction mash. Which will take 3 times longer I’m sure.

My quantities were pretty standard for these grains and this style. Over all, 60% of the grain bill was wheats, 36 percent was pilsner, and an even 4 percent was the Melanoidin malt. As far as hops, I had a few choices of what to use, but I decided to use Hallertau Mittelfruh hops for both bittering and aroma – remember, with traditional hefes, you don’t really much of either of those. These weak 3.2 AAU hops should do the trick.


The grain milling and mash went ok. I did mill just a touch bit coarser as to hopefully help with the sparging and preventing it from getting stuck. My mash schedule consisted of this:
Ferulic Acid Rest – 110F, 40 minutes
Protein Rest – 122F, 30 mins
Saccharification rest – 152F, 60 mins.
Mash Out – 170F, 10 mins

I havent done a Ferulic Acid rest before, and I wonder if it was the reason for these wierd globby mounds that seemed to sneak past my false bottom as seen here:
IMG_3112Any ideas? I havent seen this before – remember, this was BELOW the false bottom in the mash tun. My fear is that it got caked onto the bottom and the direct fire may have charred it and that would affect color, flavor, etc… I’ll find out in 3 weeks.

The boil was great and vigorous. My efficiency was a bit lower than the 80% I’ve been getting. I blame it on the milling. I got closer to 76% this time. I’m fine with that.

I’ll post a photo when its good and done. I dont use fining agents, so I am expecting a haze-monster, but, its a hefe..

Happy brewing!



SMaSH Beer 1: “100% Wheat”


Project Codename: “Ale Force One”,  is finally done. It is now called simply and appropriately, “100% Wheat”, because that is what it is.

It also has a generous amount of Elderado hops on top of a strange funky Forbidden Fruit yeast. Our water profile follows Orvals water, which means it has a crazy amount of bicarbonates. Our PH was within range, but the high end. There were no fining agents in this beer either.

BREW DATE: 3/25/2016
KEG DATE: 4/16/2016
DRINK DATE: 5/02/2016

So, what does it taste like?

LOOK: Color is a nice pale hue. SRM 5, or thereabouts. Its hazy as all get-up. The head was foamy and frothy and died down after a minute to a bubbly spittle looking head.
AROMA: The aroma is typical belgian phenolic and somewhat medicinal and also very citrus hoppy. Its the product of strong hops in a funky style with all wheat. That said, its not really too bothersome.
TASTE: The taste is also very hop forward and really lemony tart. Again, a product of the yeast and wheat, methinks.
MOUTHFEEL: Medium body. Drinks well enough.
FINISH: The finish is like a lemon spritz at the back of the throat and some hop bitterness.
OVERALL: I think for a first run Beta-Beer I would rate it a success in that what we ended up with is not something I WOULD not expect from the ingredients involved. I would ask for a sample of this at the pub but I would not order it.

FINAL VERDICT: 4/10. I will keep this on tap for another month and give it another whirl. If it hasnt improved after that, and I do not expect it to, I will be submitting this one to the great below…down the sink.



Alright, time to make this hefe…






NHC and wedding results.

Two things happened over the course of the weekend.

1st, on Friday the 29th, I received our National Homebrew Competition San Diego results.

2nd, that wedding that I brewed two beers for officially came and went.

I’ll start with the competition, as it was the least important of the two. I entered three beers: Basic Kolsch, Laurale Pale Ale, and The Creamator.

Two of those beers had problems that I could see before entry, but you have to enter what you have; if anything for the critiquing.

Creamator got a Bronze Certificate, with a score of 29.5 – that’s better than I thought honestly, and I still feel bad those guys had to drink it.

Laurale Pale Ale(version 2 of 3, I might add) got a Silver Certificate with 30.5. That, too, is better than I thought, as this beer was brew-day to bottle in 10 days. About a week quicker than I  would have liked.

Basic Kolsch, however, is something I’ve been working on for a while. My first Kolsch was many years back when I was young and adventurous and stupid. I decided I was going to brew a “chocolate Kolsch”. My more knowledgable self knows that within the specific guidelines of Kolsch Style beer one cannot change what makes it what it is. It’s like saying: “I’m going to make this a chocolate flavored vanilla!” To which you reply, “no, you will make a chocolate or a vanilla but one cannot be the other.” There are other beer styles suited for that kind of tampering.

So, several lessons learned and batches later, I did improve my Kolsch.

At NHC, it scored 38.5, rendering it Gold Certificate and a Mini-best of show placing. While still not a medal, I am happy with the overall results. Ive never entered NHC before, and I hear San Diego is a really tough market.

The Wedding went off without a hitch(as far as spectating is concerned).

I brought in my donated beer and it went fast. I got a lot of compliments as well. I am still skeptical that it went fast because bottles were being hoarded away for sentimental value – I’m pointing the finger at you, brides family!

As you can see in the first image, the beers were quickly consumed and left for dead.

Great wedding though. Congratulations, Brother and Wife!

This Hoppily-Ever-After beer seen here is actually repackaged Laurale Pale Ale(ver 3). If NHC could have tried this one, which had a proper creation cycle, it would have done much better I feel. Oh well, next time.

I’ve got a Helles, Hefe, and Stout to make…till next time!