MT. Wit – First Impressions

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MT Wit in a GOT glass… I dont think this beer will last until next seasons premier, though. 

Last night I finally got to crack into our Session Wit beer, using Montana grown wheat, known as MontanaWit… or MT Wit…or “Em-Tee” Wit… like Empty Wit… because its a session Wit… get it?

The question probably being asked is: “What wit beer isnt a session anyway?”

Thats a very good question. Most wit ales are between 4.5 and 5.5 ABV. Ours accidentally happens to be about 4.1% ABV after a grain calculation error – which makes ours the most session-ist of an already entirely-session ale catagory. (excepting, of course, the terribly tasting Imperial Wit beers ive been seeing lately).

So, how does it taste? It actually isnt too bad. A tiny bit bubble gummy, lots of citrus notes on the finish and just a bit of a smooth body. Its certainly drinkable and tasty. I’d say on the next one we’ll get the grain ratio correct, and add a bit more grapefruit, lime, lemon and orange. Make it a citrus-extravaganza!

Until next time, Brew on!


The Pils = Brucifer.

Today, despite a real rough start, I was able to actually do the brew that was so brazenly declared “about to start” almost three days ago. Its a very simple grainbill. Sometimes the best things are the simplest, and who doesnt like a IMG_3595good Pilsner style lager?

It consists of:

91% Floor Malted Bohemian Pils
3% Acid Malt
3% Munich I Malt
3% Carafoam

As for Hops? A whole bunch of my favorites: Saaz.

Using a yeast I havent yet before. Wyeast Urquell Yeast. Making a few liters of it for the pitch. Woohoo! Can’t wait to try this in about 6 weeks. Wish it luck!

Brew on!


Critical mash thinking…

Almost exactly two years ago we switched over from using an insulated mash tun to a direct-fire recirculating mash tun. I’ll admit that it has been quite the challenge. The reason for doing so was to have greater control of our finished products without doing infusion mashing, which I, personally, think is terribly inefficient. One of the problems we have encountered though falls into the realm of heat control. This is one of the topics that I have been studying for the better part of a year in an attempt to full understand.

I have noticed over some testing several different beers styles we have made that the finished product turned out a little too sweet. My first thought was perhaps there just were not alpha acids in the hops to balance out the sweet wort. This is a common problem with older hops, and I’ll be honest, sometimes running tests is the best way to clean out old ingredients.

The first batch was a simple pale ale:

5.5 Gal, 5.0% abv, Fg 1.050 – medium body.

American Ale yeast.
10 pounds of Pale Ale Malt
A few ounces of acid malt
1 oz of Mandarina Bavaria hops at 60
1 oz of Mandarina Bavario hops at 2
Fermentation 18 days, with a week in the keg at 12 psi, 44 degree serving temp.

The beer was very sweet, where as all the calculations I programmed in were supposed to lend a mildly bitter and light pale ale.Like the name implies. Carbonation turned out ok.

For the second batch, same as the first, the difference being that this time I upped the hops to 1.5oz for both the bittering and the aroma. Again, the beer was a bit t0o sweet.

IMG_2395This really got me thinking… I backtracked and did discover some areas in my process where it could pay to have a bit more attention to detail.

For starters, I think I had become too dependent on my thermometers. I rely on two Thermoworks models, I use this one for stabbing the mash to get readings: Thermoworks LongStem Probe And I use this one with the waterproof probe for getting a reading at the bottom of the grain bed but on top of the false bottom: Chef Alarm.

The problem that I have with any thermometer is the calibration. The standard method for calibrating to a cold source is to take a cup, fill it comepletely with ice, pour water over it, stir it around then let it sit for 3 minutes. In theory, this will equalize at just around 32-degree F. Regarding the ChefAlarm, I’ve done that. I stuck the probe in the water, then calibrated to 32F. However, I found that if I take that same cold-calibrated probe and stick it in boiling water, it will only read 209F. I live in Los Angeles, so, elevation-wise, my boiling point should be pretty darn close to 212.0F.

My long-stem probe is not able to be calibrated, and thus I don’t really know how accurate it is or isnt. The website says it is calibrated to within 1.8 degrees +/-. Thats fine and dandy for soups but I would like a bit more for my mashes.

So, what is my conclusion here? Well, I don’t exactly know of a method to calibrate at a middle ground, somewhere around 150F. That would be ideal. My thinking is that when I am doing a mash at 150F, which should lend a medium-light body with a somewhat dry finish, I am actually closer to 154F, which might be chopping the sugars into way-too-easy-to-ferment bits, thus sweetening my beer unknowingly and unintentionally.

I’ve yet to calibrate the ChefAlarm based on boiling point mainly for one reason. I have noticed that while water boils at 212, sometimes the bottom of the pot that the probe would lay on can reach 215 degrees. If I dangle the probe just a bit above the bottom of the pot, the probe can read 210…

If i was cooking a turkey these minor variances wouldn’t mean much, but four degrees in a mash can mean the difference between a sweet wet beer and a malty dry beer.

Another problem which I have been trying to iron out since switching to the direct-firee recirculation mash-tun is where to take the temperature reading and when does the enzymatic activity take place. Like stated above, one probe is laying on the false bottom which is where I usually take my reading. This week I purchased a small device which will allow me to take a reading on the outlet valve of the recirculation.

Event though the probe might be reading 148 in the grainbed itself, perhaps the direct fire in the kettle is raising the liquid temp a few degrees before it exits for recirculation? If that is the case, does the water strip the enzyme from the grain and they interact the whole time they are recirculating, thus experiencing this temperature rise near the bottom of the tun? or does all the enzyme activity occur within the direct contact of grain-to-water above the false bottom?

Its a lot to process and I really should figure this out. Thats the experimenting that is going on here. Someone has either told me or i’ve read somewhere that it doesnt matter what the equipment says as long as you make it work for you. If thats the case, maybe I should just make mental notes that a mash at 148F is really 152F, but I don’t like that idea at all. If you start with innaccuracy you really cant blame anyone but yourself when things dont go according to plan.

If you’ve had a chance to check out my book, Decent Home Brewer, Bad Learner, which basically highlights all the problems and solutions we’ve had getting our shop up to speed, you can see why this kind of problem is a somewhat fun problem to have. Especially from an educational point of view.

Anyway, if youve got any input I would love to hear it.

Brew on!



New book.

I’ve been working for months going through all my old notebooks and records and even recreating some situations in said notebooks to verify their validity all so I could publish my book, which I have been writing for an equally long time.

“Decent Home Brewer, Bad Learner” is a chronicalling of my humble beginnings starting with a Mr. Beer kit leading up toDBBL.png the all-grain brewing I am doing now. It’s not a recipe book and it won’t teach you how to brew but it might teach you how to avoid certain situations. Inside are humorous anecdotes and situations that led to certain technical advances in my home brewing. There are a few recipes in there and maybe some tips, but I present mostly as a humorous retelling of all the gallons dumped and the messes made.

I hope you guys enjoy it!

Here is an Amazon link below, where it is currently only available as an E-Book.

Decent Home Brewer, Bad Learner


FWIBF and new brews.

My wife and I were, once again, very lucky to get tickets for the Firestone Walker invitation beer fest. Of course, at nearly $90 a ticket and only a very limited amount of tix, I don’t know why it’s called an invitational. Her theory is maybe it’s an invitational for all the breweries there…

It’s by far our favorite beer expo though. For five hours it’s free food, free booze, free souvenirs everywhere(hats, glasses, chapsticks, stickers, coupons, buttons, photobooths etc). It’s definitely not cheap, but I figure at most festivals we pay $40-50 to get in, and then end up spending another $30 on food trucks anyway. 

There were over 100 different beers there but I only got to try about 60. It was 98F outside, and I learned from last year that you really need to be smart or you’ll end up:

  1. In a stretcher getting hauled out
  2. In a corner puking
  3. Blacked out
  4. Absolutely sick.

Fortunately, none of things happened to us this year, and last year we just ended up really drunk, but we saw all these things happening to other people. This year though, didn’t really get too hammered. If I didn’t like I beer I would dump it in a beer spitting receptacle, as opposed to last year where I would chug it. 

If you get a chance to go, I highly recommend it. The tickets usually got on sale in February and they sell out in about thirty seconds! The event is usually held in May/June. 


In other news, I’m excited to announce that our UK mutt beer is almost done. It’s a brown ale/Scottish 60 shilling mix. I’ve had a few samples of it over the past couple days and it’s pretty spectacular. Only about 4.2% but it had a nice nuttyness to it while still being just a little sweet. I used some grains I’ve never used before which also livened things up for. Specifically, Golden Promise and Special Roast. The grain bill also contained a bit of roasted barley, honey malt, Munich malt and Belgian pale as its backbone. There might have been a touch of acid malt in there, too. For hope we used East Kent Goldings all the way around. Three additions of about an ounce each. Will let you all know how this comes out in a weeks time! 

Jimmy rigged way to measure wort temperature for the circulation pump.
In other news, our Munich Helles(Helles yeah, man!) will be done carbonating in a weeks time. It’s been a very long time in the making(lagering for a month, now). Very excited to try that.