May 092014

When I make mead or a beer that I want to sit and age for an extended period I like to keep it in a glass container. Since meads tend to sit in primary for months and the flavors are delicate I prefer glass fermenters.  I also use glass secondary fermenters with both mead and beer.  Big Mouth Bubbler - 6.5

In the past the only real option has been to use a glass carboy.  If you don’t drop it, a glass fermenter will last you a lifetime.  They don’t scratch or absorb tastes and odors.  The problem is that they are really tough to get clean.

A few months ago I found a potential solution. It is the Big Mouth Bubbler. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 8:25 am
Apr 172014

A couple of weeks back I was meeting my friend Phil at a local homebrew store here in Grand Rapids. A friend of his is getting married in June and he thought it would be fun to bring a couple of batches of beer to the wedding. Phil is a new brewer who has made a couple of kits that he’s bought online. He has shown interest in all grain brewing so I thought that it would be fun to help him out with this project.

I was late so I set off wandering through the store looking for Phil. I overheard a conversation between the first few people I ran across that piqued my interest. One of the employees was walking a couple of new brewers through the equipment that they would need. I could tell that the new customers were excited about making their first beer. The store employee was equally excited about sharing what he knew about brewing.

After a few minutes I found Phil wandering through the store. It was his first time there and he was impressed. As we put together recipes I explained what the different ingredients were for and showed him the hop and yeast coolers. Like the participants in the conversation above, I had a great time talking about what we were trying to do and I think that Phil had fun learning.

It’s possible to buy any homebrew equipment or ingredient online and have it delivered to your door.  That is incredibly convenient, especially if you live in an area where there is no homebrew store.  It’s great to have a choice but there are some huge benefits to frequenting your local homebrew store. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 8:07 am
Mar 242014

When it comes to brewing there are several maxims that I have learned to live by.  I’ve decided to call these The Immutable Laws of Brewing because it sounds cool.  I’ll add to this list as I discover more truths.

The Immutable Laws of Homebrewing

  • It’s just beer!
    Yes.  It is just beer.  If you miss a hop addition, your mash temperature is off by a few degrees, or something gets infected, nobody is going to die.  Use your mistakes as a learning experience.  If you don’t know what they issue was, share your beer with some friends, try to figure out what happened, and try not to make the same mistake next time.  A mistake can also help you discover something new and delicious.Boiling Continue reading »
 Posted by at 7:38 am
Feb 132014

If you’re like me, you tend toward certain styles of beer.  When I go to a new brewery or select something at the store I tend toward beers that land in one of three categories.  They are IPA, stout, and beers I would classify as weird.  i.e. “Yes I’ll try your gingerbread, Asian zing, Belgian tripel with a flaming Jolly Rancher floating on top!”  Consequently there are styles that I tend to not touch very often like browns, ambers, and pretty much anything that lands in the lager camp.

I know it's blue but I think I should try another.

I know it’s blue but I think I should try another.

The problem with this is not only that I tend to miss out on good beer but also that my knowledge of those styles is more limited than I’d like.

To pull myself up out of my rut I’ve decided to pick a style to explore in 2014.  Continue reading »

 Posted by at 8:07 am
Jan 052014

Last week I was the lucky recipient of a sinus infection.  Despite that I am a firm believer in the healing power of lupulins I refrained from drinking beer for several days.  Thursday evening I was on the mend so I decided to break the fast and I went to Osgood Brewing in Grandville and ordered a delicious Journey IPA.  I took one sip and…

Journey IPA - My friend Tom made this beer

Journey IPA – My friend Tom made this beer

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 7:40 pm
Dec 182013

Although we’re seeing it in stores more and more, as compared to wine and beer, mead is a little known fermented beverage using honey as the source for fermentable sugars.  Like wine, mead can be sweet or dry.  You can choose to leave it unflavored or doctor it up with fruit or spices.

Is five gallons enough honey?

Is five gallons enough honey?

While mead requires more patience than beer, it is surprisingly easy to make and requires less equipment.  It makes for a shorter brew day as well.  You can put together a batch in a couple of hours.

Here is the procedure that I use to make a five gallon batch of great mead:

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 8:20 am
Dec 032013

Many homebrewers start brewing with extracts.  It provides a great way for new brewers to get their feet wet while keeping the equipment and time investment lower.  I have written more about the benefits of this here.

Recently I’ve spent some time helping out some non-brewer friends that are working on a product offering for beginning homebrewers. I’ll be posting more about that as it becomes reality. As a part of this they wanted to give  brewing a try to make an extract batch of beer.

2013-11-23 13.39.21

After they acquired a basic equipment kit, a Lemon Coriander Weiss Extract Beer Kit, and some StarSan we got together on a Saturday a bit more than a week ago. We wanted to make the recipe with little more than the contents of the beginner’s kit so we decided on a partial wort boil on the kitchen stove.

Following the example of some friends who make some very fine extract beer and given that the beer is supposed to be rather light in color I decided that boiling all the extract for the full sixty minutes was not the thing to do. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 7:19 am
Nov 192013

Like most homebrewers that use propane, I brew outside.  As the days get colder and shorter this gets less comfortable.  November 9, 2013 was a pleasant exception to this.  It was cloudy and breezy but was in the 50s so it was a perfect day to set up some chairs in a garage in Byron Center and make some beer.2013-11-09 11.31.00

I had decided earlier in the week that I wanted to brew my Black Pumpkin Ale.  This is a beer that I try to make once or twice every fall.  You start out by roasting two bowling ball sized pie pumpkins.  I describe how to prepare them in my article Pumpkin Preparation for a Pumpkin Ale.

Here is the rest of the recipe for a five gallon batch: Continue reading »

 Posted by at 8:05 am
Nov 142013

In my earlier post, Putting Jolly Ranchers in a Beer, I mentioned that we brewed a grape Jolly Rancher Belgian tripel for this year’s Iron Brewer in Grand Ledge, MI.  Judging for this competition took place this past Tuesday and our beer won.  All of the beers presented were well done.  Some were delicious beers that lacked a Jolly Rancher character.  Others tasted like delicious desserts or wine coolers.  The idea behind the Red Salamander’s Iron Brewer competition is to make something that showcases the “secret ingredient” while still being a beer.  This year the judges felt that our entry was best at walking that line.

Myself and Karl from The Red Salamander

Myself and Karl from The Red Salamander

Tom Payne Sr. - Jolly Rancher Unwrapper Extraordinaire

Tom Payne Sr. – Jolly Rancher Unwrapper Extraordinaire










Here’s the recipe for 5 Gallons: Continue reading »

 Posted by at 8:15 am
Nov 062013

I published this article last year before I started posting regularly.  Since I’m making my pumpkin ale this Sunday and plan to post the recipe I thought that it would be worth revisiting.  Enjoy!

I was fascinated by the idea of making some kind of a pumpkin ale for a number of years.  Interestingly enough I don’t think I’ve ever had a commercial one that really embodied what I envisioned.  The result of my experimentation was my Black Pumpkin Ale.  This recipe continues to be a favorite among those who frequent my basement pub.  I try to make it at least once a year and I think it’s definitely worth focusing on in a future post.

I try to use fresh ingredients in my beer whenever possible.  I love the flavor from fresh whole leaf hops, fresh spices, and fresh fruits and vegetables.  When I started tailoring my pumpkin ale recipe years ago many of the examples I looked at used canned pumpkin.  I knew that wasn’t what I wanted.  I wanted to add freshly harvested pumpkin to the mash.  So I went to the local farmer’s market, selected two bowling ball sized pie pumpkins and brought them home.  I’ve done this almost every year since. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 10:13 am