Brewing with Imperial Organic Yeast

Last month my wife and I, along with a group of friends threw our 3rd annual Halloween party. Each member of the group is in charge of a different area of the party which makes for an interesting event. For all 3 parties, in addition to decorating the beer garden, I provided the beer. This year I made 3 beers; a pale ale, a red ale and a double IPA. One of the fun parts about brewing this year was utilizing a new yeast on the market: Imperial Organic Yeast. I had never heard of them and opted to give it a shot after being introduced to them by the folks at F.H. Steinbart.

For the pale ale, my original plan was to brew a small beer like an English bitter to grow up a pitch for a pale ale, then subsequently an IPA. Then I learned that Imperial yeast has a cell count of 200 billion cells per little black can of yeast. That’s about 2 times the cell count of White Labs and Wyeast, alleviating the need for a starter in an average gravity beer. My laziness took over and I decided to give it a try.

For the pale ale I made a very simple beer comprised of 100% Marris Otter malt and Falconer’s Flight for hops. I used A09 Pub strain for the yeast. It is said to be similar to Wyeast’s ESB strain. The beer turned out well. The yeast tore through the beer quickly; about 4 days to terminal gravity. The resulting beer had a nice bread and biscuit-like flavor with tree fruit esters (apricot and peach) that worked nicely together. The hops were present but not over bearing leaving a nice, drinkable beer. It also flocculated well so it left a really clear beer in very little time.

red1The red ale I made was Jamil Zanachef’s Evil Twin recipe found on his site, I like the grain bill in that recipe and have brewed it a number of times. In addition to using Imperial Organic Yeast’s A15 Independent strain, I deviated from the recipe by substituting Centennial and Amarillo hops for Columbus and Citra. Imperial claims this yeast works well in hop forward beers and gives slightly more fruity esters than their A07 Flagship strain (which is akin to Wyeast 1056). I agree with their assessment. The yeast seemed to play up that tropical fruity touch that Citra hops have. The fruity esters are apparent but it still maintains enough cleanliness to be American. I really liked the beer and will probably make it again. I’d like to try A15 in an American pale ale or IPA. I washed and saved it so I’ll need to get brewing soon.

As the name implies, Imperial Organic Yeast differentiates themselves by being the first and only liquid yeast company to offer certified organic yeast. To be honest, the concept was initially lost on me. I mean its yeast so isn’t already organic?  The answer to that is yes, however, in order to maintain a legal status of organic, Imperial must use all organic products to grow their yeast. Makes sense. Sort of like the difference between a cow raised ranging free and eating organic grass vs. a GMO corn fed cow. So if you’ve been making organic beer, you were technically unable to do so until these guys opened up.

Imperial offers a wide variety of ale and lager yeast for brewing (27 according to their website). The best feature for home brewers of course is the cell count per can. Many home brewers (myself included) don’t always want to or have time to make a starter for every beer. As long as you aren’t making beers above 1.060 gravity or 5 gallons, you are fine to pitch 1 can, without a starter. This is absolutely fantastic for an impromptu brew day.

Imperial Organic Yeast is a little more expensive than some of the other liquid yeasts on the market, but you don’t have to buy malt extract for your yeast starter so it works out. Additionally without a yeast starter you save quite a bit of time.

Overall, I feel that Imperial Organic Yeast is a great product. Make sure to look for them at your local home brew shop and give them a try.

Homebrew Competition: Why bother?

competition picAs this blog would suggest, I like making, drinking and discussing beer. I brew fairly regularly, although not as frequently as I’d like.  I’ve gotten to a point where I feel the beers I make are fairly high quality. Unfortunately I suffer the classic homebrewer dilemma. You pour your friends a beer and they either absolutely love it, hate it or smile and drink it without offering useful feedback. Whichever situation you come across, it leaves you without a road map to better your beer. So what is a homebrewer to do? Enter a competition!

Firstly I have to say I am hardly a competition brewer. In fact, last week, the 2 beers I sent to the National Homebrew Competition constitute my first submission to any competition. So why the sudden interest in competitive brewing? Well it’s not due to some innate competitive nature. It’s my desire to get professional feedback on my beer. I can’t think of any other way to receive professional and anonymous feedback.

There is no pressure on the judge to be nice and no overly simplified critique like, “Yeah that tastes pretty good.” In addition, beers are judged according to the BJCP guidelines so it is not about whether or not they love the beer, but how well it was brewed to a particular style. Thus the feedback you get is better than what you can expect after saying, “Hey bro, whatcha think of this beer I made?”

I look forward to getting the results from the beers I submitted to NHC. I plan to submit beers to a few local competitions as well, Slurp and Burp, Oregon Hombrew Festival, COHO Spring Fling Homebrew Competition to name a few. I would encourage any homebrewer to enter competitions as a means to gain feedback and professional insight into their craft. You can find information on any number of competitions throughout the country by searching the National Homebrewers Association website. Good luck and happy brewing!

Citra Mosaic Pale Ale

I have been trying to find a good pale ale recipe for a while and finally wheeled out theimage beer gear a couple of weeks ago for the latest attempt. I must say, I like this beer quite a bit. The impetus for this beer came from Deschutes Brewery. I really like their Fresh Squeezed IPA and wanted something with a similar hop profile. I did some research on their website and found they use a combination of Nugget, Mosaic and Citra. On their “homebrew” page they recommend an American yeast strain. I had a pitch of Pacman from Wyeast from a previous batch, so I thought I’d put that to use.

Citra Mosaic MashFor the grain bill I searched a ton of pale ale recipes online and in books. I settled on a gold medal winning recipe from Eileen Haynes published on the AHA website. I scaled it up a little for my system and substituted one of the crystal malts because I wanted a little more color.

The brew day was good. No real issues. I sparged pretty slowly on this batch which yielded a higher efficiency than I usually get, so my gravity was higher than I expected. I decided to just go with it and not top up with water. That is my one mistake with this beer. I ended up with an original gravity of 1.060. Pretty big for a pale ale. After fermentation finished, I calculated 6.43% abv. The higher gravity and bitterness lead me to initially name it , Accidental IPA.  After about a week however, the bitterness subsided. It now tastes like an American pale ale despite the 6.43% ABV.

All in all, the beer came out nicely. I wanted those tropical fruit flavors and aromas found in Fresh Squeezed, but with a littler lower alcohol. I failed miserably on the lower alcohol, but there is a lot of that bright, fruity hop character from the Citra and Mosaic. The grain bill provides a nice soft, bready back drop for the hops. I can absolutely see why Eileen won gold for her recipe at NHC.

I will definitely rebrew this one again. Its a great  beer as is, but it would be nice to have the abv below 6%. Also I think instead of the first wort hop addition, I’ll keep all the hops to the last 20 minutes of the boil to reduce the bitterness just slightly.image

Check out the recipe. If you brew it please let me know how it turned out for you.



Batch Size: 6 gallons

SRM: 8.1

OG: 1.060

IBU: 40

Efficiency: 82%

Yeast: Wyeast Packman 2nd generation with 1800 ml starter


10.5 lbs Two Row Pale Ale (Great Western)

12.5 oz Light Crystal 20-30 L (Bairds)

8.5 oz Wheat (Weryerman)

6 oz Crystal Vienna  (Briess)

6 oz Crystal 80 (Great Western)


First Wort Hop addition: 1 oz Nugget pellet hops (13.3% AA)

15 minute addition: .5 oz Citra pellet hops (14.5% AA)

15 minute addition: .5 oz Mosaic pellet hops (11.7% AA)

5 minute addition: .5 oz Citra pellet hops (14.5%AA)

5 minute addition: .5 oz Mosaic (11.7%AA)

Hop back (Blichmann Hop Rocket) for approximately 5 minutes after flame out: 1 oz Citra whole leaf hops (11% AA) + 1 oz Mosaic whole leaf hops (12% AA)

Fermented for 5 days at 65 F. Raised temperature to 70 F for 3 more days. Transferred to keg after gravity read the same for 3 consecutive days. It finished out at 1.011.


Wet Hop Bust

This summer I grew a good amount of herbs and vegetables in my small backyard. I had broccoli, cauliflower, kale, basil, tomatoes, lettuce and more. There is nothing like making a meal (or at least supplementing one) with food grown in your own garden. I was particularly excited to get home grown hops from a Centennial hop rhizome I planted. Its also why I was so disappointed my sad little hop bine produced zero hops for me. So much for the wet hop IPA I was planning.


This was the 3rd year for this plant. You can see it in the background of the picture. It looked pretty good right? The first year I got enough hops to throw into a pale ale. I thought I would get even more the following year. Unfortunately year 2 produced only a hand full of hops. I thought for sure 2014 was the year for this plant. Maybe I should have actually read the copy of “Homegrown Hops” by David R. Beach that my wife got me a while back…

Due to my complete and utter hop failure, I’m forced to find my wet hop fix commercially. Each year there seems to be renewed confusion around the terms wet hops, fresh hops, and harvest ales. It seems there are 2 schools of thought. Some say they are all interchangeable terms describing the same thing. Others say there is a distinction. Personally I like what Sierra Nevada has to say their website: “Wet Hops are un-dried hops, picked and shipped from the growing fields within 24 hours. Fresh Hops are the freshest dried hops to come from the fields, typically within seven days of harvest.”

That makes sense to me. I think of herbs in cooking. You can make the same dish with equally tasty results using dried or fresh cut herbs from the garden. If you did a side by side comparison, you would notice a slightly different flavor. Both might be delicious, but just a little different. That being said, I understand that not all breweries market their beer the same way which perpetuates the debate. Really the only thing we need to know as consumers is when you see the words, fresh, wet or harvest on a bottle between August and October, chances are it contains hops picked within 24 hours.
Luckily there are plenty of options and there is still time to find these beers.  As mentioned earlier, Sierra Nevada released its Harvest Wet Hop IPA in bottles. I recently went to Deschutes in Portland and tried their wet hop Mirror Pond Pale Ale as well as Hop Trip. It was nice to compare the wet hop Mirror Pond and the standard version side by side. There is a distinct green, herbal, mown grassiness to the wet hop version that I really like. It adds a freshness that is not in the standard Mirror Pond.

Wet Hop Mirror PondThis time of year almost any brewpub or brewery you go to around here has a wet hop beer. Sasquatch Brewing Company has Perles Before Swine Fresh Hopped IPA, McMenamins has their Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale, Laurelwood does a fresh hop version of Free Range Red. The list is long, as it should be. Yakima Valley alone provides 75% of the hops to US breweries. We have easy access to the freshest hops in the country so it should be no surprise we so many of these beers.

I’m already planning next year’s garden to insure a decent hop harvest. I’m looking forward to making my own wet hop beer from home grown hops. Now I just need to find and read that book…


India Red Ale: Rich Malt, Big Hops. What’s not to love?


It seems breweries everywhere are releasing their version of an India Red Ale (IRA). Why limit big hop flavor and aroma to pale malt combinations? We all love amber/red ales, so increase the hops a bit; it really just makes sense. So when I came across this IRA recipe from TimBrewz on I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did because its delicious!

I believe it’s a variation of a Randy Mosher recipe found in “Radical Brewing.” This beer gives a nice hop punch but the blow is softened by the richness of the malt character. The flavors meld beautifully. Its similar to dipping a chunk of fluffy French bread into a bit of balsamic vinegar. By themselves, the bread might be bland and the vinegar too acidic but together they are an appetizing duo.

I’ve made this recipe a few times now with a few variations. Its a recipe that is wide open for hop experimentation. I’ve changed the hops a little each time with equally satisfying results. I’ve also used different yeast strains for this recipe as well. The clean American strains (i.e. WLP001, Whyeast 1056, SafealeUS 05) work well. I have also had success with English strains like WLP 007.   My last attempt was made with Wyeast’s 1332 NW Ale Yeast and I enjoyed the results. You’ll want to be certain to treat your yeast well for this one to insure proper attenuation. It could end up a bit “sticky” if your beer doesn’t finish low enough. My last attempt ended up at 1.014 and was just right.

This beer is a deep dark orange-red with a near white head that endures for almost the whole pint.  The aromas are of mixed berries and bready malt. The bitterness on the palette is firm. It has dank, herbal and resinous character with a sweet graham cracker flavor. There is a slight prickly carbonation but a creamy mouth feel and it fades to a clean dry finish. All in all a very enjoyable pint.  You can see a lot of feedback in the recipe link above. Its become pretty popular  with good reason. You’ll see my version is a little different based upon what was available at the time. If you brew it, (and you should), let me know what you think.

Yeast: Wyeast 1332 (WLP 001, US05 or 1056)
Batch Size: 6 gal
Original Gravity: 1.060
Final Gravity: 1.014
IBU: 70-75
Boil: 90 min
Color: 17 srm
Fermentation: 10 days @ 66f
The Grains:

Thomas Fawcett Marris Otter 7.5 lbs
Great Western Munich  5.75 lbs.
Great Western Crystal 40L: 14 oz

Great Western Crystal 80L: 7 oz

Great Wester Crystal 120L: 2 oz

Simcoe(13.2% aa) 1 oz 60 min
Amarillo(8.8% aa)1 oz 30 min
Cascade (6% aa)1 oz 5 min

Simcoe .5 oz dry hops
Amarillo 1 oz dry hops
Centennial .5 oz dry hops








Bye Bye Bohemian Pilsner

PilsnerIts hard to describe the feeling I get when I pour a pint of a particular tasty beer that I brewed myself. There is also a keen sadness felt the moment you realize the keg is nearing its inevitable end. The keg of Bohemian style Pilsner I brewed back in February has gone the way of the Do-Do. It was really good! The one complaint I had about it was the clarity. Of course the very last pint was brilliantly clear. Figures. My lack of patience got the better of me. I should have waited longer. My lack of fermentation space was also an issue. If I had made 10 gallons I would still have some left and it would be nice and clear. Next project: bigger fermentation chamber.

This Boh Pils has definitely put me on a lager kick. It seems craft beer aficionados (myself included), often forget about lagers in favor of the bold flavors of ales. I love the British, Belgian and of course American style ales but lagers offer a smooth, crisp elegance that should not be overlooked. I know its just the pendulum swinging for many new beer lovers. We all get started drinking mass market lagers. Then one day some saintly person hands you a craft beer (usually an ale) and the heavens open, the angels sing and the difference blows your mind. Thus begins a lifelong quest to discover more of those incredibly bold flavors. Unfortunately in the wake of our excitement over ales, we forget there is much more to lager than the stuff available in the jumbo 24 packs. What makes it difficult is that many lagers are imported and variety is limited. I encourage you to do a little research. Find out what is available. You may be surprised by the various styles:  German and Czech pilser, mai bock, Munich Dunkel, Dortmunder export, Vienna Lager, rauchbier, schwarzbier, bock…The list is long and might include your next favorite style of beer so get started!lagers

A Dark Ray of Sunshine

imageConsidering its Portland, this winter hasn’t been as dreary as it could be. I brewed a robust porter with the expectation of cold weather and grey rainy days. One might think you would want a bright, sunshiny beer to counter winter’s melancholy days. For me though, this black elixir serves as a way to embrace the cold and grey. It’s like a warm coat you can wrap yourself into. It helps shield you from the elements, giving you an appreciation for the otherwise drab and dismal days of winter.

This porter ended up a tasty pint. I was not initially a fan of this beer though. Once it was carbonated, there was a harsh bitterness that surprised me. The hop bitterness combined with the astringency of the dark malts left the beer with a rough mouth feel. I was worried at first but decided to leave it alone. Then I tried it a few weeks later and was pleased to discover a delicious beer loaded with chocolate and maple flavors. While I would still say the bitterness is firm, it faded substantially and left a pleasant herbal character. This beer is definitely suitable for more than one pint. The alcohol came out to 5.8% so it’s not a session beer by any means, but the chocolaty, sweet flavor combined with a dry finish makes it an easy drinking beer.

I’m not really a competition brewer but I’m considering entering it if I can find one coming up. It will have to be soon though. This keg won’t last long.

Waiting for Pilsner

pilsI love and hate Bohemian pilsner. Crisp, hoppy, and refreshing with that rich bready, cracker character. Yum!  So what is there to hate? They take too long!

I brewed a Bohemian Pilsner on February 12. After about 2 and half weeks I increased the temperature from 50 F to 68 F (using my STC-1000 and a heating pad. Love that thing!)  It was looking good when I transfered it to a keg for cold storage after about 3 weeks. The yeast had significantly dropped out showing a sunny pale yellow color. The sample I tried was tasty. Perfect amount of noble hoppy bitterness from the Saaz hops.  I can’t wait to get this on gas and pull a pint but alas I’ll have to wait until the end of April.  I’m now regretting that I only brewed 6 gallons!

Like the porter I brewed a while ago, this recipe came from Brewing Classic styles. Pilsner, although tough to do well, is a pretty simple recipe. You can use all pilsner malt and adjust for your desired gravity. You’ll want to keep the gravity somewhere between 1.044 and 1.056. Add a little something for head retention if you want like the Carapils in this recipe. Use Saaz hops and keep your bitterness between 35 and 45. Those are the basics of the recipe.

Mine came out with a slightly higher gravity than I wanted. It started at 1.055. I did a double decoction mash and the efficiency came out a good deal higher than I anticipated. It finished at 1.012. I would have prefered a lower alchol but as long as the alcohol is not detectable I’ll be happy. Next time I’ll anticipate a higher efficiency when conducting a decoction. The gravity was acutally higher than 1.055 but I added some water shortly before flame out when I saw the gravity was higher than I wanted. Hooray for refractometers!

Anyway it was a fun brew day. Now its in the fridge. And I am forced to wait…Sigh…




Porter in the Making

IMG_1350I have been hibernating for a bit but finally managed to brew up some beer a couple of weeks ago. Winter seems to have finally arrived  so a rich, dark beer in anticipation of the rain is in order. I put together what I hope will be a nice robust porter. It’s a recipe based on Jamil Zainashef’s Black Widow Porter found in “Brewing Classic Styles.” The difference is I used Willamette hops instead of Goldings and threw in a little more crystal malt than his recipe calls for. Check out the recipe below. Hopefully the results are tasty.

I finally got a chance to use my Blichman Hop Rocket too. Worked beautifully! I really want to use it for something a bit more hop forward, but it was nice to see it used effectively as a filter. I used pellet hops throughout the boil and then put an ounce of Fuggle hops in the Hop Rocket. The resulting wort was clear and clean. I’m pretty happy with the results. I can’t wait to try it out tomorrow on the Czech Pils I’ll be brewing.  I’ll be sure to post the result and recipes for both beers. Cheers!

No Name Porter Recipe

6 Gallons, OG: 1.062-1.066, IBU: 38


15.75 lbs Golden Promise

1.5 lbs Munich

1.5 lbs Crystal 40

.75 lbs Chocolate malt

.5 lbs Black Patent


2 oz Willamette pellets 4.7% AA  60 min

0.625 oz Willamette pellets 4.7% AA 15 min

1 oz Fuggle whole leaf 4.1% AA 0 min (hop back/whirlpool)


Wyeast 1056 American Ale

fermented at 66 degrees F.




New Christmas Toy: The Blichmann Hop Rocket

I must have been really good this year. I got a beautiful Christmas gift from the Mrs.: A Blichmann Hop Rocket. I felt pretty childish and giddy upon opening the box. Oooh so shiny! Anyway, I can’t wait to put this into use! I plan on brewing something hoppy, an IPA or pale ale. Maybe an India Red Ale type beer. I look forward to tasting the hop character in the finished beer.
I have wanted a Hop Rocket for a while for a few different reasons. It goes without saying I want to get more hop flavor and aroma into my beers. Beside the obvious, I look forward to the filtration aspect of the Hop Rocket. I brew with whole leaf hops and use hop spider type device. I make decent beers this way but I actually prefer pellets. I would use them if not for the mess I end up with in the carboy. I have a flat bottom kettle. Even though I whirlpool at flameout, lots of particulate matter ends up in my wort when using pellets. I also bought a plate chiller a few batches ago, and solids in my chiller is something I don’t want. I plan on using hop pellets during the boil then pumping through the Hop Rocket on the way to the fermenter. I hope to get the increased utilization with the pellets, and the fresh hop aroma and flavor from the whole leaf hops in the the Hop Rocket. Best of both worlds! I’ll post the results and review after my first trial run. It should be fun!