Arts and Crafts

kettle etchingIts been pretty cold in Portland as of late and since I brew outside, I haven’t felt much like brewing. I know, I’m a baby. Whatever. Anyway, since I haven’t been up to braving the cold, I opted to tinker with my brew equipment instead.

 It’s difficult to find a project that will dramatically improve your brewery without costing any money. I had been looking online for a sight glass prior to reading the article Matt Bates wrote in the July/August edition of Brew Your Own. I already had everything I needed for this project: vinegar, salt, a 9 volt battery, some wire, q-tips, tape and stencils. Even if you don’t aleady have everything, none of the necessary items will set you back more than a few bucks.

kettle taped

I’m not going to give detailed how to instructions for this. You can hit the link above and check it out from the source. I do want to be sure to stress preplanning your design. You will be permanently marking/drawing on your precious kettle so make sure you are going to put something aesthetically pleasing to you. I like my results, but I think if I were to do it over again, I would have used a different stencil. The stencil I used was from my kids’ craft drawer and more of a whimsical font, so the results look a bit like I free hand drew it. I would recommend using something with cleaner lines.

The good news is that I can finally retire the cpvc pipe I used to dip into the boiling wort to find out what my volume is.

If you are considering buying a sight glass, you might consider this as an alternative and fun project.


The Beer in Bend

I knew Bend had a vibrant beer scene with a bunch of breweries, but somehow I failed to comprehend the scale of it until my wife and I went there last month for our anniversary. The population is just about 80,000 but there are 19 breweries. It gives Bend the highest number of breweries in Oregon per capita. If you live in Oregon and are a beer lover, you have no excuse not to go to Bend. Its an amazing beer locale. If you are going to Bend, make sure to check out the Visitor Bureau’s website. It has a ton of info on things to do. I recommend the Bend Ale Trail. It has an app you can download. I admit I thought it sounded a bit hokey at first but it served as a nice pub crawl guide right on my phone with directions to each brewery.

We stayed only for the weekend but we were able visit a number of breweries. The first place we went was actually not in Bend, but in Sisters. We had stopped in Sister for gas but when we saw Three Creeks Brewing, we had to stop in. Its a nice pub with a fun, old west theme. The bar area has a pool table, comfy seats and a cozy bar. The beers are really enjoyable. Their fresh hop red ale and imperial IPA were amazing. A few of their beers, like Knotty Blonde, and Hoodoo Voodoo IPA can be found in and around Portland, but if you have the chance, the pub is definitely worth checking out.

Our full brewery tour did not begin until the following day. One of the best things about Bend is that all the breweries are close to one another. It makes going to several places in an afternoon an achievable goal. We lucked out with a  beautiful sunny day. What better way to tour the town and breweries than on bike?

CruxOur fist stop was Crux Fermentation Project. I love this place! The bar is in the brewery so you get a peek into where the action takes place. They have a large outdoor patio with picnic tables to enjoy an afternoon pint in the sun.  We didn’t eat there so I can’t comment on the food, however the beer is fantastic! They brew a LOT of beer. It would probably take an entire weekend to sample all their beers…Or at least a full day and designated driver. If you are a beer geek interested in tasting the effect a different yeast, hops, wood aging or other variables can have on the same wort, then you need to stop by Crux.

Next on our tour was Rat Hole Brewing. Rat Hole in contrast to Crux, is a very small brew pub. It has a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere and the staff were friendly. We arrived hungry and were happy to try their beers and some food. We had lunch.The food was decent. The beer… As a homebrewer I compare my beer to commercial beers. There were two different beers that tasted flawed and reminded me of what I made before I had temperature control. They had banana and butter flavors. I spoke with the owner and asked about their brewery. He said the brewery is in a converted barn on his property (hence the name). I asked how they control their temperatures. He said I should speak with the brewer. The brewer was present but entertaining some visitors. I never had the chance to speak with him. They have some interesting beers, a hoppy red, lemon wheat, a couple different porters, IPA and a big pale ale . I feel like we’re going to have to return to give them another try. They have good reviews so I hope it was just a fluke.

Brew WerksWe left Rat Hole feeling our exceptations for Bend beer may have been too high. Then we happened upon Old Mill Brew Werks. First of all, the location is fantastic! Their bar and dining room has a wall of windows to take advantage of a beautiful river view. It has a comfortable, contemporary style and felt very new. Upon inquiry about the newness of the place the bar tender informed us they had recently relocated there. Ironically their previous location was where Rat Hole Brew Pub currently resides. The beer at Old Mill Brew Werks is really tasty. They didn’t have anything particularly different. No barrel aged, sours, or odd ingredients. Just some really well fermented, clean and delicious beers. My favorite of their beers was their Rabble- Rouser Red. It instantly became my new favorite red ale. So good! There is a unique malt flavor I haven’t encountered in any other red/amber ale on the market. It had a sweet toffee and lightly toasted character with an herbal, dry finish. Its 8.1% ABV but you would never guess it. I could drink that beer by the gallon! So good. I wish I could get it in Portland. I e-mailed the brewer hoping to get some tips on making it or something similar at home. Haven’t heard back yet but my fingers are crossed.

Silver MoonIt was a little late when we left Old Mill Brew Werks so we opted to make our way to our hotel. Of course Silver Moon Brewing was sort of on the way. We decided we could drop in and make it our final stop for the day. Silver Moon distributes a few different beers (Snake Bite Porter, Hob Nob IPA and a few others) so I have tried them in and around Portland. The few beers they distribute feel like a drop in the bucket compared to the variety they offer at the pub. I believe it was around 15 taps with various styles to include a few different IPAs, and pale ales, a pumpkin ale, stout, porter, a fresh hop ale and even a couple of lagers, (pilsner and schwarzbier). All the beers at Silver Moon were well made. My wife said it was her favorite brewery of the day and in particular really like their Get Sum Pale Ale. Nice place to end the day.

Sadly we had limited time in Bend. We were however able to check out Good Life Brewing before leaving the following day. I think we were pretty beered out when we got there but its a cool place. You can sip a beer and look into their 30 barrel brewery. These guys definitely make some good beers. Look for Decender IPA, Sweet As Pacific Ale and Mountain Rescue Pale Ale in cans. Really solid beers.

Bend. Lots of good beer. Go there. Nuff said.


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








Happy Beer

happy beerTonight I was shown the soul of beer. Beer is naturally happy. And why shouldn’t it be? Beer has arrived. By becoming beer it has reached the culmination of its efforts. Beer has grown up from barley, and undergoes the malting process. It is mashed, boiled and married to hops. Then its fermented, carbonated, and conditioned. Finally after all its toils and troubles it is enjoyed. If beer were a person it would have every right to be proud of its accomplishments. It would have every right to smile like this one.

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

Hopworks Urban Brewery IPX: Chinook is Tasty!

2014_0225_hopworks-72-200x300[1]I love living in the NW. So many good beers. One of the beers I tried recently is from Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB). They have 2 locations, one on SE Powell as well as their Bikebar on North Williams. If you are ever  in Portland you have to check them out. If you live here, well there is no excuse for you not to have gone yet. HUB does a fantastic job keeping my attention with their IPX single hop series. They feature a new hop variety with each new beer. The latest in the series I tried featured Chinook hops.

Albeit a good hop, I had always thought of Chinook as strictly a bittering hop. In my experience it provides a firm bitterness with lots of pine and resin flavors. In HUB’s Chinook  IPX, I encountered the aforementioned flavors but in addition I found a bit of citrus and a slight apricot type flavor. Its a delicious beer! If you find it on store shelves give it a try and tell me what you think.

I know I will continue to pick up the IPX series beers. Outside of conducting your own single hop experiments, its a great way to get a sense of what a particular hop can do for a beer. I have done only a handful of single hop beers (Bohemian Pilsner, stouts, bitters) but never in a very hop forward style like an American IPA. After trying a couple of the HUB beers (Amarillo Armadillo was fantastic as well), I’m ready to brew one up myself. Too many beers to brew, so little time…

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.