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What I Learned About Brewing in 2021

Last year, I brewed 20 batches of adult beverages (primarily beer and test mashes). In no particular order, here are things I learned during the year: The COVID-19 pandemic left me with more time at home to brew, but at the same time made doing so a bit less enjoyable.  Why?  Because I could not share my homebrew with family and friends as easily as I could pre-pandemic.  Without feedback from my friends about what they did (and didn't) like in my beer, I was less motivated to brew and less able to improve my beer than in prior years. The pump on The Grainfather has a life span (in my experience) of around 200 brews before it dies, and the "official" replacement is way too expensive to suit me (like $190).  I was able to replace it with a pump from Amazon for about $70 that seems to flow much better and stronger than the official pump.  It took some redneck-looking jerry-rigging to fix it, but the system flows better now and I can continue brewing. On a personal note, I h
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2022 Batch 02 - Pecan Brandy Mead

I watched an episode of Moonshiners: Master Distiller   late in 2020 where one of the contestants made a Pecan Brandy that he (and the judges) described as being very tasty, like drinking a pecan pie.  I thought that sounded good, and although distilling it into brandy would not be a legal option for me, turning it into a mead would be quite possible and might be good. The recipe as described on the show was pretty simple... honey, water, yeast, and pecans. Ingredients 12 pounds of Wildflower Honey 2 pounds of Pecans, crushed and ground 4 gallons of water, treated with some gypsum 1 tsp. yeast nutrient 1 package of Premier Des Cotes champagne yeast Batch Size: 5.0 gallons (actual and estimated) Original Gravity:  1.090 (actual and estimated) Final Gravity:   0.984 (estimated) Brewing Instructions Bring water to a boil and sterilize wort chiller. Add half the pecans in a muslin bag.  Add the other half, in a different muslin bag, to the fermenter. Gradually add honey while stirring the

2022 Batch 01 - St. Gambrinus Spiced Holiday Ale (Kit)

I purchased a St. Gambrinus Spiced Holiday Ale Kit from Great Fermentations in Indianapolis a few weeks ago and decided to get it made today... a tad late for the holidays, but it will give me a good idea if I like the recipe for next Christmas. The kit basically comes as a bag of crushed grain with a packet of Northern Brewer hops.  You supply your own spices and order yeast separately. Ingredients 8.5 pounds Two-Row Brewer's Malt 2 pounds Munich Dark Malt 1 pound Honey Malt 8 ounces Simpsons Dark Crystal Malt 0.5 ounces Northern Brewer hops (60 min.) 0.5 ounces Northern Brewer hops (30 min.) 1 package White Labs Edinburgh Scottish Ale yeast 1 tsp. Irish Moss (15 min.) 0.5 oz. Bitter Orange Peel (10 min.) 2 cinnamon sticks (I used 3) (10 min.) 0.5 tsp. Ground Ginger (10 min.) 0.25 tsp. Allspice (secondary) 0.25 oz. Ground Cardamom (secondary) 0.25 oz. Ground Cinnamon (secondary) 1 Tbsp. pH 5.2 Stabilizer added to mash after grain 6.8 gallons of RO water, treated with: 3 grams Gyps

2021 Batch 16/17 - Horseman's Pumpkin Ale Kit from Great Fermentations

Although there are a few pumpkin spice ales on the market that I enjoy (Hoppin' Frog's Double Pumpkin, Samuel Adams Fat Jack, and Heavy Seas Great'r Pumpkin come to mind first), I've yet to brew a pumpkin spice ale that I have been happy with.  Either I didn't feel like the base beer was quite right, or the spice mix was too "something" (insert random pie spice there) forward, it was too hop-forward, or it was wrong in some other way.  This year, I decided to try the kit from Great Fermentations in Indiana to see if I liked that any better than previous brews. Ingredients 9 pounds 2-row Brewer's Malt 1 pound Munich Malt 8 ounces Crystal 40L Malt 15 ounces Canned Pumpkin (not included in kit) 1/4 tsp. Brewtan B (my addition to kit) 1 ounce Glacier Hops 1/2 tsp. Brewtan B (my addition to kit) 1 tsp. Irish Moss (15 min.) 0.5 tsp. Ground Cinnamon (not included in kit) 0.5 tsp. Vanilla extract (not included in kit) 0.5 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice (not included i

2021 Batch 15 - English Dark Mild Ale

From the first time I tried one at The Winking Lizard Tavern many years ago, I've been a fan of the English Dark Mild Ale style. It's a nice mix of roasty malt flavors without the heaviness of a porter or stout, which makes it easy to drink year-round. The recipe below is adapted from the Hey Man Dark Mild recipe by Nic Pestel of Missoula, MT.  Nic won a gold at the 2018 NHC in Portland, OR, with the original version.  This variant changes the original recipe in the following ways: Swapped Maris Otter for the original's Montana 2-row Pale Malt Swapped Munich DME for the original's Munich 10L Malt Replaced the original's Dextrin Malt with some Pilsner (since I had no Dextrin or similar on hand) Swapped Lallemand CBC-1 dry ale yeast for the original's Wyeast 2112 California Lager Yeast, mostly because I didn't want to deal with a lager and the CBC-1 should be fairly neutral yeast Adjusted IBUs based on my hops' Alpha Acid levels Changed the first hops add

2021 Batch 14 Corn Tripel

The American Homebrewer's Association web site lists a recipe for a " Corn Tripel " (a Belgian style Tripel Ale brewed with corn as part of the grist).  I decided to brew that beer today, tweaked a little for my system and preferences. Ingredients 8.25 pounds Belgian Pilsen malt 1.25 pounds Flaked Corn (Maize) 10 ounces Clear Candi Sugar Rocks 0.25 ounces Hallertau Magnum hops 11.6%AA (FWH) 0.50 ounces Styrian Goldings hops 1.3% AA (30 min.) 0.50 ounces Hallertau Mittelfruh hops 3.8% AA (15 min.) 0.50 tsp. Irish Moss (15 min.) 0.50 tsp. Yeast Nutrient (15 min.) 0.125 tsp. Brewtan B (mash) 0.25 tsp. Brewtan B (boil, 20 min.) 1 package Wyeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity 5 gallons RO water, treated with: 1 gram Calcium Chloride 1 gram Table Salt 0.5 grams Epsom Salt 3 grams Gypsum 1 gram Magnesium Chloride 1 ml. Lactic Acid 88% solution Use 3.75 gallons for mash, 1.25 gallons for sparge Note: If I was brewing this again, I'd do 3.75 gallons mash, 1.75 sparge, for 5.5 tot

2021 Batch 13 - Belgian Dark Strong

If you've followed this blog for any length of time, you're probably aware that I'm really fond of Belgian ales, especially the Belgian Dark Strong Ale.  A few weeks back, I purchased a large container of Briess Sparkling Amber liquid malt extract (LME) at a discount.  I wondered if this extract could be used to produce a reasonable Belgian Dark Strong Ale with a relatively short brew day.  This batch is my attempt to prove or disprove that theory. Ingredients 6 pounds of Breiss CBW Sparkling Amber LME 16 ounces Crystal 80L malt 2 ounces Special B malt 12 ounces Brun Fonce candi sugar 0.5 ounces Hallertau Magnum @ 11.6%AA (FWH) 1.0 ounces Hallertau Mittelfruh @ 3.8% AA (5 min.) 1.0 ounces Czech Saaz @ 3.8% AA (5 min.) 1/2 tsp. Brewtan B (boil) 3/4 tsp. Irish Moss 1/2 tsp. Yeast Nutrients Dublin Ohio tap water According to Brewfather, the beer will have the following qualities: Batch Size:   3.0 gallons Original Gravity:   1.095 SG estimated (1.095 SG actual) Final Gravity: