Short post today, as the wife and I are off to Europe for the next couple weeks. We're going to Amsterdam, Brussels, Ghent, Brugges, Cologne, and Dusseldorf, and would love to see if any of you guys have any beer-related advice (breweries, bars, or beers to try).

We've already checked out the European Beer Guide (great reference), as well as looked into going to Westvleteren (too far), but I was wondering if anyone had personal recommendations from their experiences.

Anyway, that's all for now. I'm sure I'll have some pictures and stories in a couple weeks when we get home.

Of all the beers I made last year, one of my absolute favorites was my American Amber Ale. It wasn't the biggest, it wasn't the hoppiest, and it might not have been the most exciting, but I really enjoyed having it on tap. So it was long over due that I made another batch of this.

I like to tweak my recipes. I'm not sure why; it's just one of those urges that is hard to fight. So for this beer, I really tried to do my best to resist that urge. I kept the malt bill identical, and only slightly tweaked the hops due to availability, and what I felt like using up in my freezer.

To be perfectly honest, I'm a few batches behind in regards to updating this blog. Unfortunately, that also means my memory is getting a little fuzzy as to the particulars of the brew day. Nothing really stood out as good or bad, so I can really relay is my notes. I mashed for 60 minutes, and boiled for 60 as well. I whirlpooled the wort for 15 minutes after flameout before chilling down to 62F. Due to convenience, I've been using US05 as of late. It doesn't ferment or flocculate as quickly as WLP090 does, but when you don't have time to make a start, it gets the job done.

Brewed: 01-19-14
Dry Hopped: 01-26-14
Kegged: 01-30-14
OG: 1.058
FG: 1.014
ABV: 5.8%
IBU: ~50
6 Gallons

10lbs 2-row
1.25lb Munich
14oz English Crystal
7oz Crystal 120

2.5oz Chocolate Malt
Mash @ 154*
.85oz Apollo @ 60
1oz  Cascade @ 15
1oz ea Centennial/Amarillo @ 0
US05 - Cali Ale Yeast

Dry Hop - 1oz Citra & .5oz CTZ

Fermentation moved along a little slow, as US05 tends to do. After about 7 days, it was wrapping up, and I racked to secondary for dry hops. The beer sat on those for another 5 days, before I racked to keg for fining and carbonation.

After a good 10-12 days under CO2, this beer really started to wake up. The aroma was a touch dull at first, but once the carb levels come up, it really comes alive. The beer itself is a beautiful dark red with a nice white sticky head. The aroma is mainly fruity hops, with a nice big resiny note. There's a fair mix of malt in the aroma as well. The flavor is pretty similar, but the malt hits you first. The mouthfeel is full, but the beer isn't cloying in any way, with a nice fruity/citrusy hop character in the finish. Overall it's just a really fantastic beer that I can't get enough of.

Every time I brew this beer I tell myself: "I should really keep this on tap more often", but I somehow never manage to follow through with that. So considering this keg is running dry, I'm going to pencil another batch of this in shortly. My hophead friends love it, as well as those that are a little less lupulin-inclined. Anyway, thanks for all the comments and support. Cheers!

So, confession time: I've never brewed a Russian Imperial Stout. I had planned on brewing one a few years ago, but for whatever reason, I pushed out the brew day. Then for some other reason, I never got around to brewing it. With winter approaching, I figured it was finally time to get around to making a big, massive, roasty stout.

I pieced this recipe together between looking at some of the NHC winning recipes, and looking at my 6-7% ABV stouts that I've liked. I added a nice healthy amount of Munich for some maltiness, and spread the roasted grains out between a couple different types. The idea was that Chocolate malt and Carafa would give a more chocolate-like character than Roasted Barley alone. There's a little Crystal for some sweetness, and I a big healthy dose of Apollo hops to bitter with. In the end, I'd like to think I ended up with a relatively uncomplicated RIS recipe.

Brew day went really well. It was a pretty thick mash, but I didn't have any issues. I boiled this for 90 minutes, and started to chill it immediately after flameout. I ended up with a shade under 5.5 gallons in the fermenter at 1.102. I hit this with 90 seconds of O2, and pitched a 3-4L starter of WLP090.

Lesson time: Don't brew a 1.100+ RIS before leaving town for three days. I brewed this on Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. Kristen and I then took off to California to spend Turkey-day with her family. Despite keeping the fermentation temps low and using a blow-off tube....ya.... I came home to a bucket that was on the verge of exploding, and a couple cups of blow off on the bottom of my fridge. Thankfully the lid never blew, and after a little clean-up, everything was fine.

Brewed: 11-27-13
Kegged: 12-07-13
OG: 1.102
FG: 1.022
ABV:  10.5%
IBU: ~70
6 gallons

21.5lbs 2-Row
2lb Munich
10oz Roasted Barley

10oz Chocolate Malt
8oz Carafa III
8oz English Medium Crystal
8oz C120

Mash @ 152
1.75oz Apollo @ 90
.75oz Apollo @ 15

WLP090 - Super San Diego

Fermentation wrapped up after roughly 6-7 days, and I left this in the primary for another few days to finish up before racking it in a keg to rest in. It spent another 2 weeks in a keg before I finally dropped it in the kegerator to carbonate.

So I actually still have this beer on tap, and I have to say, it turned out really, really nice. It was very good after a couple weeks, but it's excellent now after a few months. The aroma is deep rich roasted malts with lots of chocolate and raisin aromas, and no real hop aroma to note. The appearance is a thick viscous jet-black with a thick tan head. The flavor definitely follows the aroma with a smooth roast character, lots of chocolate flavors, and a full finish. Fermentation character is super clean, which is something I was worried about considering the big blow-off. I wouldn't call the beer sweet, but rather full, for lack of a better word.

Anyway, ya. This turned out to be a damn good RIS. I'd like to play around with this recipe in the future with some vanilla, chocolate, or coffee, but for now I'm happy to say I have a nice stock RIS recipe.

So in keeping up with the beers brewed last year, it's time for a post on the Southern Hemisphere Pale Ale. This beer was basically an attempt to brew something like Stone's Enjoy By IPA in a 5.5% ABV Pale Ale. Obviously the beers would be different, but my hope was to hold onto the core flavor profile, in a beer that's much more drinkable.

The major component of Enjoy By is the dry hop, which consists of a 50/50 blend of Nelson Sauvin and Galaxy. I started the recipe there and worked backwards. I simplified the 15min and flameout additions a little bit, but I tried to keep the overall theme the same. The hopping quantities were cut back significantly as well. The grist is where I really had to make some changes. Straight 2-row in a beer like this would come off a little too blah, so I really upped the specialty malts to try to replace that big ABV character. Lots of carapils for body, some carastan for sweetness, and some munich for maltiness.

This was another batch I split with my friend Kiernan, so everything is doubled compared to a 6gal batch. I got a starter of WLP090 ready, and brew day went smooth. 60min mash, 60min boil, and a 10min whirlpool before knockout. This fermented out clean and quick, and I tossed half the dry hop into the primary near the end. After a few more days, I racked both fermenters to secondary, and added the second half of the dry hop. Finally after 8-9 days later I racked this one to keg.

Brewed: 11-10-13
Dry Hopped: 11-16-13
Kegged: 11-25-13
OG: 1.056
FG: 1.013
ABV: 5.6%
IBU: 43
12 Gallons

19lbs 2-row
24oz Carapils
24oz Munich
20oz Carastan
Mash at 152*
1oz Apollo @ 60
1oz ea. Simcoe, Cascade, and Amarillo @ 15
2oz ea Citra & Centennial @ Flameout
Whirlpool for 20min
WLP090 - Super San Diego Yeast
Dry Hop 1: 1.5oz ea Nelson Sauvin & Galaxy
(Dry hops are for each fermenter)

This beer didn't exactly turn out how I intended. There was a little bit of diacetyl early on, but that faded. The big issue seemed to be this year's crop of Nelson I received. I really can't put my finger on the flavor, but whatever it is, I don't like it. Overall the beer wasn't bad. I like the malt character, but the hop aroma just really detracted from the beer. It very much reminded me of the HBC342 beer I made a couple years ago. Not bad, but not great.

I ended up getting through about 3-4 gallons of the keg before I drain-poured the last bit to make room for other beers. Life is too short to worry about a couple gallons of so-so beer. I ended up brewing nearly the same recipe a couple weeks later with Citra and Amarillo as the dry hops. It was a much better beer, but we'll get to that in another post. Cheers!

Whew, I'm back from a short writing hiatus. Between the holidays, getting a new puppy, work, and just not making the time, it's been a little while. On the bright side, I have been brewing in the meantime, so I'll have a bunch of new content up shortly. For the sake of keeping thing chronological, let's start with this Scottish I brewed to have on tap for Thanksgiving and Xmas.

I've said it a few times before, but I really like having a low-gravity session beer on tap most of the time. It's nice to be able to have a pint or two and still be a productive afterwards. This is nearly the same recipe I brewed last time, with only a couple changes. I went with C60 rather than carastan for a little more caramel flavor, and I switched out 2-row for some Marris Otter. Other than that, nothing terribly new.

As for the brew day, it wasn't too interesting. I am noticing that my mash tun isn't terribly well suited towards super-low gravity beers due to the wide diameter (17.5 or 18", i forget). I really have up the strike water volume to near 2qts/lb to have enough liquid to recirculate. Anyway, aside from that, it was smooth. 60min mash, 60min boil, and I chilled down to 64F. We had a beautiful fall here in AZ, and the temps made chilling wort much easier.

Brewed: 10-26-13
Kegged: 11-02-13
OG: 1.037
FG: 1.011
ABV: 3.4%
IBU: 16
6 Gallons

5.5lbs Marris Otter
1lb Carastan
8oz Munich
8oz Honey Malt
4oz C120
3oz Chocolate Malt
Mash @ 158*
9g Apollo @ 60
WLP090 - Super San Diego Yeast

Thanks to how quickly Super San Diego ferments, this was done in like 3-4 days, and in the keg on day 7. The picture up top was after about 10 days in the keg, and it continued to clear up to a brilliantly clear deep red hue after about a month.

As for how it turned out? Pretty damn good. The Marris Otter definitely gave the beer some extra needed depth of flavor it was missing. The aroma is all malt, literally zero hop. The flavor pretty much follows. Sweet caramel and toasty malt flavors, no hop flavors to speak of, and a clean finish. I won't say this recipe is finished, as I still would like to see what a few changes would make, but overall this was a really nice low ABV beer for fall, and went over really well with the fam for the holidays.

Anyway, stay tuned, as I have like 3-4 beers to write about in the next week or two. Oh, and Jacob Dennis, shoot me an email, you never responded, and I owe you 8oz of Amarillo.


UPDATE: Alright, thanks for the wait guys; we have two winners!

Amarillo - Jacob Dennis
Citra - Steve Greco

Drop me an email at with your shipping addresses, and I'll get the hops in the mail. Thanks again to all who entered. Hopefully we'll do something like this again in the near future!

I've mentioned it a few times, but I buy 98% of my yearly supply of hops in bulk after the harvest. I love the flexibility this yields, as I always have what I need on hand to brew what I want. I'm usually pretty good at accurately estimating how much I need, but this past year I bought a little too much.

So with that said, I'm happy to announce that we're doing our first ever giveaway! I have 8oz ea of 2012 crop year Amarillo and Citra taking up space in the freezer, and I won't use it before the 2013 crop shows up. They've been vacuum sealed in my freezer since harvest last year, so they are as fresh as year-old hops can possibly be. You guys have really helped make this blog what it is with all the suggestions, questions, comments, and support, so I wanted to say thanks.

Here's how it'll work: If you wish to enter, please leave a comment on this post with either the word 'Citra' or 'Amarillo'. You can only enter your name in for one or the other; I'll delete both entries for duplicate posts.

Entries will be accepted through December 9th, and two winners will be selected on December 10th. We'll get in contact after that, and the hops will ship out later that week.

As much as I love all you International readers, I regret to say this giveaway will be for US residents only. Sorry guys.

Finally, I wanted to say that I've received a ton of great suggestions and requests for the blog, both via email and in comments, recently. You guys have some great ideas, but it's often hard for me to either remember them, or keep them organized. So I'm going to create an additional page at the top of the site for suggestions and requests. That will help keep me organized, and hopefully I can dedicate some more time to those posts. Keep an eye out for it in the next few days. I can't promise that I'll get around to all of them, but I'll certainly try.

Thanks again for the support everyone! Cheers!

Between brewing a lot of clone IPAs, and then beers for the wedding, it's been awhile since I've brewed an IPA of my own. The timing is good, as now is also a good time to finish using up the remainder of my 2012 hops before the new 2013 ones come in. Also, we're going to be camping this Thanksgiving with the in-laws, so I'm going to make this a 10 gallon batch, and bring a keg out for the weekend.

I decided early on I wanted this beer to be decidedly west-coast. Light on the crystal, fairly light in color, north of 7% ABV, and tons of hops. I like some Munich and Victory in my IPAs to give the malt a little backbone, and I'm a big fan of English crystal malts. I look for every excuse to use English crystal over domestic these days. Choosing what hop profile I want is the harder part for me; I'm like a kid in a candy store with too many options.

I finally settled in on making Centennial and Simcoe the feature hops for this beer, with the goal of getting a really big citrus aroma. From there I decided on some Mosaic for the fruitiness, and CTZ and Amarillo for complexity. I didn't overload the kettle with hops, but I'm piling them on pretty heavy in the dry hops (4.25oz per 6gal.)

I had a nice brew day outside. Our gorgeous fall continues, and I'm enjoying my brew days more and more. I mashed in at 152* for 60 minutes, sparged, and boiled for 60 minutes. This beer got a 15 minute hot whirlpool before I kicked on the chilling water, and brought the beer down to 62-64F (It was one of the two, I really don't remember.) I split a big starter of WLP090 in two, and pitched it along with a healthy dose of O2 before buttoning up the fermenters.  

Brewed: 10-19-13
Dry Hopped: 10-26-13
Kegged: 11-2-13
OG: 1.065
FG: 1.011
ABV: 7.1%
IBU: 75
12 Gallons

25lbs 2-row
2lb Munich
20oz Carastan
8oz Victory
Mash @ 152*
2oz Apollo @ 90
2oz Centennial @ 30
2oz ea Centennial/Simcoe @ 15
2oz ea Centennial/Simcoe & 1oz ea Mosaic/CTZ @ 0
Dry Hops (per fermenter):

DH1: .5oz ea Centennial/Simcoe & .75oz CTZ
DH2: .5oz ea Centennial/Simcoe & .75oz ea Amarillo/Mosaic

WLP090 - Super San Diego Yeast

I started these beers where I start all my WLP090 fermentations, at 17.2C. A quick word on my fermentation temps. I say I set the fridge at 17.2C (63F), but there's a 0.8C temp differential. The fridge will climb to 18C (64.4F) before kicking on and cooling to 17.2C. So basically, I start these beers right at 64F, and go up from there. Anyway, these fermented pretty quickly, as 090 always does. After a week, I racked before fermenters to CO2-purged kegs, and tossed in the dry hops for another week. Finally, I crashed them both, and racked to clean kegs with some gelatin.

Surprising, this beer took a little longer to 'come together' than I thought it would. It was pretty tasty right off the bat, but it wasn't until around 10 days in the keg did the hop flavors 'clean up' (for lack of a better term). The appearance is exactly what I was shooting for. A very clear pale orange color with a big white head. It could be a little clearer, but nothing I'm stressing over. The aroma is huge citrusy hops. Orange and grapefruit. It's a fairly complex hop aroma, but the citrus is really what hits you in the face. Flavor is pretty close to the same. Lots of heavy citrus flavors, some crackery malt character, and a clean bitterness at the end.

Overall, it's an excellent IPA, and there isn't much I'd change. Next time around I'll probably toss a little Cascade in the dry hop to add some floral qualities, but that's about it. This is definitely a recipe I'm going to keep working on tweaking. I'm sending this beer along with the Milk Chocolate Stout to a couple competitions, so we'll see what some judges have to say. I want an IPA that is brewed to my taste, and one I'm happy to call my own. We're pretty damn close with this one though!

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