2018 Update

It’s been a long time.  It will probably be a long time again, I’m very busy and will likely not be back updating the blog regularly any time soon, but I do want to give an update on where I am at with my brewing.

Last year, in the same week in May 2017, I started the Brewing Science program at Harrisburg Area Community college and took on a part time job as assistant brewer at Bube’s Brewery here in Mount Joy, Pa.

In October, I took over as head brewer at Bube’s.  As of December 8, I am responsible for all the house beers coming out of Bube’s.  We have five taps dedicated to house beer, being served from a three barrel brewhouse and ten barrel fermenters.  I have freedom to brew whatever I want and hope to balance the output between classic German style beers, honoring the history of Alois Bube and other early German brewer immigrants to America, and more modern styles that reflect the diverse range of events and customers at Bube’s today.

In January I won the marketing presentation competition in my brewing class.  The class beer, which we’ll be brewing this week at ZeroDay Brewing in Harrisburg, will use my name, Hoppily YOURS.  Look for it in cans and on draft in mid March.

I am still at the same day job, but I hope to leave it once I finish school and brew full time.

Of course, I have and will continue to homebrew.  Yesterday, I brewed a fresh batch of Amy Ni-Kölsch and I recently got a bunch of cherries from the beer’s namesake’s parents that I’m planning some brews around for the near future.

As I said, I have no plans to get back to posting with the regularity that I once did, but maybe I can check in occasionally.  If you are in the area, please stop by Bube’s and give the beers a try.  If you can’t make it to Mount Joy, look for ZeroDay and HACC’s Hoppily YOURS in cans.  Let me know what you think.


Lancaster Craft Beerfest

Saturday! Tickets still available here: http://lancastercraftbeerfest.com/tickets
I will be there with the Lancaster County Brewers. We will be pouring around ten different beers, including a special batch of my Table Cat.

Table Cat is my annual Children’s Strength Saison, aka Belgian Table Beer, aka Super Session Hoppy Rye Crushable Belgish Ale. The grain bill is 50% rye malt and it is hopped exclusively with Nelson Sauvin hops from Australia. You can find the full recipe at the link above, but for this, my second batch of the summer, I did make a couple small changes.
I wanted to brew this beer for the event because I think it is a good showcase of what you can do with an extremely low ABV beer. I was a little afraid it could get lost in the palate fatigue associated with a beer fest, though. To fight that, I added an extra ounce and a half of hops at flame out, taking it up to a full three ounces of whirlpool hops. In a beer this size, that it a lot.

The other change I made was skipping my usual Irish Moss addition. I had to turn this beer around very quickly and I figured it wouldn’t be clear even with the Irish Moss, I was also curious to see how much of a difference it actually made since this is a recipe I’m very familiar with. It made a huge difference. This stuff is super cloudy. It definitely doesn’t look as pretty as normal, but I think it also changed the mouthfeel. It is a little fuller bodied, despite the extremely dry finish. I’ve only sampled one bottle as I have to save it for the event, but I think the spicy rye comes through a bit more, as well.

There is definitely noticeably more bitterness, despite most homebrewing software’s assurance that no IBU’s are achieved post boil. The hop flavor seems a bit more citrusy. I was surprised how well I matched last year’s Table Cat with my first batch of the Summer and I’m surprised again with how different this one is.

In addition to Table Cat, the club will be sharing a ton of other great beers. A couple are left from our recent coconut competition, including Mike D’s Mounds of Joy stout, which rightfully won. Scott’s Cleared Headed Oat Pale Ale is an excellent example of some of trends I talked about in my last post. I haven’t tried Jon’s Grapefruit Berliner, but I haven’t yet been disappointed by one of his many twists on Berliner Weisse.

Oh yeah, there will also be some stuff there from Deschutes, New Belgium, Dogfish Head, Tröegs, Victory, Sam Adams, Fly Fish and sixty or so other breweries, if you like commercial beer.

IPA Day and the New East Coast IPA

I don’t think I can start this post without acknowledging the fact that I haven’t posted in a long time. I don’t want to get into making excuses or promising a change because I am probably not going to get back onto any kind of regular schedule anytime soon, but I do apologize for the lack of posts lately. There are a whole lot of half written posts on my laptop and I want to finish them but it became daunting so I think the best thing right now is just move on to new things that are more easily attainable. Which brings us to the topic at hand…
Today is IPA Day. I don’t know the origin of this supposed holiday and as far as I can tell from some very brief research, there is, at least locally, very little going on to celebrate it. If not for Dogfish Head’s Instagram account, I would have forgotten about it all together. Is this a sign of the end of the IPA’s long reign as the king of the craft beer world? I mean, I was at Bube’s Brewery for trivia the last two Tuesdays and was shocked to see that there were absolutely no IPA’s on their fifteen or so taps. Clearly the IPA is dead, right?


Obviously not. Which is good, because we all know that IPA’s are great. They aren’t the only the game in town as they seemed to be for a while, though. This is the Summer of Gose.

Forget that, though. This is supposed to be a homebrew blog (though I do have a gose in a carboy right now) and this is a post about IPAs (though I haven’t brewed an IPA since last summer). It is not for lack of thinking and planning that I haven’t brewed any IPA. I’ve been thinking about my next IPA for months. There are a lot of factors to consider.

For a while, the main variable for a new IPA was, obviously, which hops you would pick. Then came the trend of adding more hops to other existing styles and calling them IPA. That seems to have calmed down and the current trend, as far as I can tell, is to experiment closer to traditional IPA territory with additional ingredients to differentiate from the crowded IPA field.

In a surprising twist, the nexus of this experimentation seems to be the White IPA. Black IPA was, to my knowledge the first major off shoot from more traditional IPA recipes. They seem to be fading a bit and I think it is for good reason. White IPA makes a lot more sense, not just from a grammatical stance (white pale ale is more logical than black pale ale) but from an ingredient standpoint as well.

Belgian IPA is another big off shoot and traditionally it seems to lean more towards Abbey yeast, but there is obviously some wiggle room in Belgian beer and I think most Belgian IPAs could pretty easily be moved over to the White IPA category or vice versa. Most Belgian yeasts add some level of fruit character to the beer and the wide range of fruit flavors and aromas brought on from new hop varieties mean that mixing these elements together is an obvious point for experimentation.

Aside from the yeast, the use of wheat is the next most obvious change between “traditional” American IPA and White IPA. As the trend to eliminate malt flavor and make more room for hops continues, though, the move to include some wheat seems pretty obvious. Substituting wheat for a large portion of the pale malt in an IPA adds some complexity and graininess without any sweetness or really much flavor. Just a layer of, to most drinkers, inexplicable uniqueness. The option to use roasted, crystal and other wheat malts for specialty grains also adds to a brewers bag of tricks.
I recently brewed what I thought of as a “hoppy American wheat ale.” What I thought when I popped the first bottle, though was that I basically made a wheat IPA. (Look for a post about Whoasaic at some indeterminate point in the future.)

The next element of a White IPA that isn’t part of a regular IPA is the spicing. Most spices don’t seem likely to work well in IPA, but the traditional combo of coriander and orange peel used in Witbier are fruity and do work with hops. They may be out of place in super bitter interpretations, but as far as actual flavor and aroma, they fit right in. Extreme bitterness is a trademark of West Coast IPAs. Here on the East Coast, lead by the aforementioned Dogfish Head and their Continuous Hopping technique, we go for more balance.

I’ve been enjoying new head brewer, Brad Moyer’s Speakeasy Pale Ale Version 2.0 at Bube’s Brewery on all those trivia nights. When I got to meet him at one of his regular Sunday afternoon brew sessions, I asked him if there were any special ingredients in the beer because there was some x factor that I couldn’t place. He lit up and immediately identified the “extra juiciness” being the result of steeping orange peels in the whirlpool.
The last ingredient I want to touch on is oats. Obviously an important element in the silky mouthfeel of Witbier, they also work well in IPA. The only conceivable problem is that they will ruin a beer’s clarity. Sparkling, clear IPA has become the norm in America but new breweries like Tired Hands and their phenomenal HopHands have bucked that trend adding oats to a lot of their beers, adding to the rustic, handmade feel and smooth, luscious mouthfeel.

As far as I can tell, this trend is spreading among homebrewers but hasn’t made the leap to a whole lot of commercial breweries… yet. If the past is any indication, it is only a matter of time. If you want to stay ahead of those commercial brewers, add some oats to your grist. I really think that they will become hallmark of the new East Coast IPA as we continue to differentiate regional IPA specialties.
Taking all of this into consideration, the IPA that I’m hoping to brew in the coming months will use my go to Belgian-y yeast, White Labs WLP566 – Saison II. This stuff gets beer super dry, super quick and gives a nice fruity flavor with just a hint of peppery spice. The dryness gives the hops room to shine above the malt and fermentation character gives a new dimension without getting in the way.

I will be skipping the wheat, as I’ve already been doing a lot of brewing with wheat lately (again, I’ll cover that stuff… eventually), but will definitely be using a whole lot of oats. I’ve used oats in their more traditional place in stouts, but never in lighter colored beers other than Wits and even then, not the high percentage of the grist that can be found in beers like HopHands.

Along with all the hops in a nice, long whirlpool addition, I’ll add some orange peel to give that extra juiciness. I’ll let that all sit for a long rest before chilling. This all sounds like a good plan. I think this is going to be a great IPA, it just seems like I’m forgetting something.

Oh yeah. Hops.

I guess I still have some more planning to do.

Keller Heller


I’ve spent a lot of time the last few weeks planning my brew schedule for the next few months.  Then, last Friday at work, I had this idea and decided that I had to do it and threw the whole schedule out of whack.  But this is homebrewing, so that’s okay.

The idea really started a couple days earlier when Iron Hill Lancaster sent out a Tweet asking a couple local beer writers and some of the people who placed in their recent Iron Brewer Competition what their favorite styles for the Spring were.  Lew Bryson replied that Maibock was obvious answer and I agreed.  Then I missed my N.E. Maibock from last year and lamented the fact that I didn’t have time to make one before this Spring.

I was thinking about that and then remembered Kellerbier.  I drank a few Kellerbier’s while on vacation in Germany a few years ago without knowing what the term meant.  After getting home, I looked into it.  It turns out that Kellerbier isn’t really a style unto itself, but more of a process that can be applied to any lager style.  From what I gather, a Kellerbier is basically an un-lagered lager. 

It is a beer fermented with lager yeast, at the appropriate temperature for that yeast, but then instead of racking it off the yeast and dropping the temperature down to around freezing and aging it for a few weeks or months, you package it.  Basically, like an ale fermented with lager yeast.

According to a few unknown sources on the internet, this process is most often applied to the Märzen, or Oktoberfest style.  My experience is mainly with Helles style Kellerbiers, though.  Oktoberfest is in between, but both are lower in gravity than the bock beer I’m planning.  I don’t know if this is a good idea.  Will the 7ish% ABV be more noticeable and harsh without the mellowing lager period?  I would think at least to some extent, but I’m hoping it isn’t too harsh.

In addition to the fermentation related experiment, I’m also going to be testing out a hopping technique.  It is actually one that I’ve done a few times before, but this batch will serve more as a control group to the ongoing experiment.  I’m going to first wort hop this beer with all Tettnang hops and then not add anymore hops.

I’ve used first wort hopping before, but it has always been on hoppy beers, normally IPAs, that have a whole lot more hops added later in the process.  Supposedly, adding hops as you collect wort from the mash, before boiling, will result in all the bitterness of adding the same hops when you reach boil, but will also maintain some of the flavor and aroma, somewhere along the lines of adding those hops fifteen or twenty minutes before the end of the boil.

Maibock is not a terribly hoppy style, though it is more hopped than any other bock beer.  I would normally go closer to the lower end of the bitterness scale and the higher end of the flavor/aroma hop range for the BJCP style guide for this beer.  To test this hopping technique, though, I’m going to aim for the upper end of the bitterness chart for the style and hope that that will translate to more flavor and aroma as well.

Since this is a last minute addition to my brewing schedule, I’m going all out on the science experiments.  Fermentation and hopping are not enough.  This beer’s grain bill is very similar to N.E. Maibock’s from last year, but the mash is totally different.  N.E. Maibock was my second, and first successful, attempt at a decoction mash.  I hedged my bets and included some Melanoidin malt in the grist.  Melanoidin malt is basically intended to imitate the character achieved by conducting the somewhat archaic and laborious (that is not to say invalid) technique of decoction mashing.

This time, I’m going to do my standard, English style single temperature infusion mash and include the Melanoidin malt to see if I can still achieve that complex maltiness associated with German lagers.  The percentages are slightly different because I rounded the grains to full pounds, but this is basically the same grain bill as last year’s beer just scaled down slightly to make up for the better efficiency I’ve been getting.

I will be brewing this beer on Saturday and putting it on top of the cake from one of the two carboys of Elkland Lager after I rack them together into my new giant plastic fermenter.  I will ferment it in the basement for about two weeks, depending on how long it looks active.  When it seems to have wrapped up, I’ll move the carboy upstairs to warm up for a few days and see if anymore activity is apparent, if not, I’ll bottle it.

I’ve seen some recommendations to bottle lagers at this stage anyway and then keep the bottles cold for the lagering stage so that enough yeast stays in suspension to carbonate the beer.  I’ve never had an issue with my lagers carbonating, even after extended lagering.  Anyway, I may still end up with part of the batch achieving full lagering, but I plan to start drinking the beer two weeks after bottling, not in time for the beginning of May, but well before the month comes to an end.

My recipe is below.  For reference, here is my original post, including recipe for last year’s N.E. Maibock.  That was a favorite beer for me and I’m sorry that there is none left to compare to this year’s rendition of the Maibock style.

Keller Heller

Style: Maibock/Helles Bock

OG: 1.074

FG: 1.02

ABV: 7 %

IBU’s: 42

Fermentation Steps

Name Days / Temp

Primary 12 days @ 54.0°F

Rest 2 days @ 70.0°F

Bottle/Keg 14 days @ 74.0°F


Amount Percentage Name

10.00 lbs 62.50 % Pilsner (2 Row) Ger

5.00 lbs 31.25 % German Light Munich Malt

1.00 lbs 6.25 % Melanoiden Malt


Amount IBU’s Name Time AA %

3.00 ozs 39.02 Tettnang First Wort 4.50


Amount Name Laboratory / ID

1.0 pkg Saflager W-34/70 Fermentis W-34/70

Mash Profile

Full Body Infusion In 45 min @ 158.0°F

Add 20.00 qt ( 1.25 qt/lb ) water @ 170.0°F


Sparge 13.64 qt of 170.0°F water over 60 mins

Elkland Lager (2015)

IMG_0425I brewed this beer on March 18.  I’m not keeping up with my goal of posting before brew day, but I did write most of this before brewing and tried to finish off the post without acknowledging anything that happened on brew day.  I will say now that overall, everything pretty much went as planned.

In 2013 I brewed Elkland Adjunct Lager.  Last year I brewed Elkland Golden Lager and Elkland Amber Lager, then re-brewed the latter as Elkland Amber Ale.  So this year, the Golden version is just Elkland Lager.

This is my attempt at the Light American Lager.  Not Lite Lager.  Light as in pale, it is actually a Premium American Lager because the alcohol content will be north of 5%.  I got into all that last year, though.  Let’s get down to this specific beer.

There are several changes from last year.  The biggest one probably being that I’m switching back from rice to corn.  My original, 2013, batch was brewed with corn, then in 2014 I decided to try rice and use corn in the amber version.  I’ve preferred the corn, though.  This beer’s grist will be made up of a whopping 28% flaked corn.  My other recent corn beers, Sheriff Cluster’s Salvation at 16% and Elkland Amber Ale at 21%, were both much lower.  I’ve heard stories of some commercial lagers going as high as 40% corn, but breaking the one quarter barrier seems like pushing it far enough to me.

The base malt is also changing this year.  Previously I’ve used six row pale malt.  My experiment in using Pilsner malt with an adjunct on Sheriff Cluster worked out, so I decided to go with Pilsner this time, too.  Briess, the maltster responsible for this malt, discontinued their production of 6-row Pale Malt this year.  My homebrew shop still sells 6-row and I’m not sure if it is leftover Briess product or if they got it from a different producer.

Anyway, the Pilsner malt seems to do fine in helping convert the corn’s starches to sugar and it is much lighter in color and crisper in flavor.  In a move that may seem to be going against everything I just said, I again included some light Munich Malt to help give the beer some degree of body and bready malt flavor.  I upped the corn quite a bit this year, so I also upped the Munich. 

Again, this might seem like I’m working in different directions at the same time, but I think it is going to work out great.  The two pounds of Munich in this ten gallon batch will not be enough to make up for all that corn, this will still be a very light bodied and colored beer.  It should give it a little twist and at the very least, set it apart from other beers in this style.  This is not going to be a super complex beer, but hopefully it will have enough character to be not be too boring to drink in large quantities on hot days.

I feel like I should address a somewhat related topic here.  This is NOT a session beer.  I have written about my love of session beers before and I feel like saying that this beer will be consumed in large quantities is enough for some people to think that I’m making a session beer.  This stuff should be between 5 and 5.5% ABV while still maintaining drinkability.  Session beer is lower (4.5% or less) ABV and I believe that they should have more complexity than this.  The idea is for session beer to be interesting and conducive to conversation without leaving you too inebriated after a few pints.  The idea for this beer is to not get in the way of conversation.  To be drinkable in large quantities and not worry about inebriation because you’re at the cabin, or at home working in the yard or watching a parade during a cook out.

IMG_0426This may seem subtle to some people, but they are worlds apart for me.  I love that session beer is getting more attention in craft beer circles, but I’m extremely frustrated with the push by some people to count beers up to and over 5% ABV in the category.

Anyway, I haven’t mentioned the hops yet.  This beer is not highly hopped, but again, as with the Munich addition, it should have more character than the industrial versions.  It is hopped to about 25 IBUs in the kettle, which is right on the edge of the BJCP’s acceptable limit for the style, the alcohol is right there too, though so I think that keeps things balanced.

In addition to raw bitterness, the flavoring hop additions are much higher than macro lager, albeit still much lower than your average craft beer.  As with previous years, all hopping in this beer is done with Cluster.  An ounce of which is added twenty minutes before the end of the boil along with another ounce in the last five minutes.  Along with the bittering charge, that means that only three ounces are used in the full ten gallon batch, however those last two additions should still leave a bit of flavor and aroma behind.  This is up from last year’s batch, which only had half an ounce at twenty and no later hopping.  The new additions are a little closer to being inline with Elkland Amber Ale, which seems to be generally better liked.

I am skipping the extra Champagne yeast step I have done in previous years.  I don’t think it helped get last year’s batch get any drier and I think it more than likely just exposed the almost completed beer to more of the elements and possible spoiling bacteria or just oxidation.  I’m pitching a more appropriate amount of yeast this year and I will try to keep after the temperature better.  We have recently placed a thermometer in the basement.  As simple and possibly stupid as that may sound to mention, I think it will make a big difference.  If it is as easy as checking the thermometer, I will be much more likely to keep an eye on the temperature and take steps to keep it in line.


I debated also skipping the high gravity brewing, but ultimately I ended up sticking with it.  Despite having success with Sheriff Cluster, I was still nervous that all that corn might not convert without any six row malt.  Since I’m finishing this post after brew day, I can confirm that it did convert just fine, though.  Had my efficiency taken a hit, I could have just bottled this without added water, as it is though, the ABV will be too high.  I’m not exactly sure how much water I’ll be adding yet, but I recently acquired fifteen gallon plastic container that originally held liquid malt extract from my local homebrew store and I plan to figure it out and add that much water to the container before racking the two six gallon carboys I’m doing primary in on top of the water and lagering in there.

That pretty much covers my brewing plans for this beer. Beyond that, I’m planning to enter it into the Mount Hope Brewfest homebrew competition again.  I got second place in the Light Lager category last year and I was honestly a bit disappointed with that beer.  I’m hoping to do better this year, at least as far as score.  Bottles are due on April 25, but judging isn’t until May 9.  That doesn’t give me a lot of time for lagering, but that is normal for this style.  Since the judging is a couple weeks after collection of bottles, I should be okay as long as I get it bottled before the due date and I plan to push it fairly close.

My full recipe is below, however the original gravity and final ABV and IBUs are not adjusted for the water that I plan to add after primary fermentation.


Elkland Lager (2015)

Style: Premium American Lager

OG: 1.054

FG: 1.01

ABV: 5.80 %

IBU’s: 23.46

Grains & Adjuncts


13.00 lbs 61.90 % Pilsner (2 Row) US

6.00 lbs 28.57 % Maize, Flaked

2.00 lbs 9.52 % Munich Malt – 10L


Amount IBU’s Name Time AA %

1.00 ozs 11.92 Cluster 60 mins 7.00

1.00 ozs 9.16 Cluster 20 mins 7.00

1.00 ozs 2.38 Cluster 5 mins 7.00


Amount Name Laboratory / ID

4.00 pkg Saflager W-34/70 Fermentis W-34/70

Single Hop #5: Calypso and Lancaster Brewers SMASH Experiment

IMG_0295My next batch is going be part of my homebrew club’s next experiment.  I’m also going to go ahead and count it as number five in my single hop series.  The club bought a bunch of newer varieties of hops and came up with a recipe.  Everyone was given the opportunity to pick one of the varieties of hops and brew the recipe with them.  I ended up with Calypso hops.

The recipe is a SMASH beer, with a single type of malt and one variety of hop.  The malt is Briess 2 Row Pale Malt.  This is a pretty basic base malt.  It is definitely not without character and flavor, but it isn’t something that is normally given center stage.  Despite being the only malt here, that is still the case.  While we’re calling this a SMASH experiment, the real goal is to test out these different hops and the single malt is just an attempt give them as much room as possible to shine.

As with seemingly all new American beers, I’d call this beer, by default, an IPA.  It is on the lower end of the gravity scale for that style, but otherwise it fits in pretty neatly.  The hop schedule is the same for each version, which makes me nervous for mine.

These Calypso hops are listed at 15.4% Alpha Acid.  With the schedule called for in the recipe, that calculates to a crushing 114 IBUs.  While realistically, I won’t get nearly that much efficiency, this is still going to be a very bitter beer for the approximately 5% ABV provided by the malts.

These hops are described online as having aroma similar to pears and apples.  It was bred through some other experimental hops and Nugget.  I will admit to not knowing much about the hop breeding process, but yes, Nugget.  That is about all I got out of reading a few paragraphs about the breeding of this hop.  Nugget was in there somewhere.  Nugget is definitely not known for fruity, pear and apple like flavors and aromas, so those other, unreleased hops must have contributed most of the final character.

I am planning to brew this beer tomorrow, March 4.  The club will be sampling all of the different versions at our meeting on April 29.  I don’t have much else to say about this beer until then.  Once my version is ready, I’ll try to post tasting notes for it before the meeting, before I am influenced by the other versions.  Then, of course I’ll have a big post about all the different versions.  The recipe, in the form of a phone pic of the handout, is below.


NOT Ebony and Ivory and Whiskey Porter… Brown Ale

IMG_0163To start with, I haven’t kept up with my plan for the blog this year so far. I brewed this beer on Saturday, February 7 and Sunday, February 8. I will catch up before my next batch, but I am writing this after brew day. This brew has been unconventional since the start, though so it seems appropriate that the blog is unconventional.

The start of this recipe was in an aborted plan to brew a traditional Irish Red Ale as a companion to Day of the Red. The plan was to use the same grain bill with a more standard hopping rate and no oak. When I went to buy the grains, the British crystal malt from that recipe was sold out. I realized this after already measuring out the Maris Otter and roasted barley.

As I waited for the opportunity to buy the rest of the ingredients, I had second thoughts about the beer. I like Day of the Red a lot, but I don’t think a less hopped version was necessary, with Elkland Amber Ale and Mount Hoodie already in the works. Red ales and amber ales (and lagers) aren’t the same, but they’re similar enough that I don’t need four variations on the theme this close together. What could I do with a whole lot of Maris Otter and a little bit of roasted barley, though?

How about a porter?

But that would require a lot more specialty malts. And I have a self imposed ban on strong beers since I brewed a barley wine, a tripel, a quad and PROOF in fairly quick succession and still have quite a bit of each of them.

How about a double batch of porter?

But I didn’t want ten gallons of the same beer. I needed to come up with an idea to differentiate the two five gallon carboys. With Day of the Red still on my mind, my favorite previous batch of porter, CVP (Cherry Vanilla Porter) also came into the thought process.

How about a bourbon barrel vanilla porter?

Maybe that would be too much, especially with my requirement for a lower gravity beer. Oh well, it sounded like a challenge. Could I make a 6% ABV or lower porter with bourbon, oak and vanilla beans that maintained some balance and drinkability mainly from a complex grain bill?

IMG_0168Turns out, maybe not. Not because the beer is turning out bad, though. Not at all (as far as I can tell so far). Just because this beer turned out much lighter in color than I intended.

It has, based on my sample when I racked it and added the bourbon, oak and vanilla beans, a lot of character and complexity, it just looks much more like a brown ale than a porter. The problem is that I overestimated the color contribution of the roasted barley. I think I forgot to take into account the switch from a five gallon batch to ten.

I normally try to avoid roasted barley in my porter recipes because I think that it is one of the vague distinctions between stout and porter. I have most often used Chocolate malt for the majority of the color. Munich and Crystal malts are my other go to choices to fill out a porter grain bill. I kept them this time, but I knew I’d need more color and I wanted additional depth of character to compliment the bourbon, oak and vanilla.

Brown malt was the direction I decided to go. In my limited experience with the grain, I’ve found it contributes a strong, coffee like aroma with hints of smoke and a dry, biscuity graininess. There is a lot going on and it can be overpowering. I’ve heard that given time, the flavors will blend more with the rest of the malt, though I still found it to be the dominant character in my Old Old Man Old Ale, which aged for several months before bottling.

With the relatively low alcohol content and all of the additional flavors, I needed something to kick back. I also thought the subtle smokiness would work well with the oak and bourbon. So I was liberal with my brown malt.

To add these flavors, I started soaking a medium toast American oak spiral in 8 ounces Old Gran Dad 100 Proof Bonded Whiskey in my extra hydrometer flask a week before brew day. I let it continue to soak until a week after brew day, when I dumped it into a carboy before racking the beer on top of it for secondary. I also sanitized two vanilla beans, chopped them up and added them to the carboy. That was two weeks ago.

I just took another sample and both of these beers are turning out great. The plain batch is about ready to bottle. The bourbon, oak and vanilla version is going to sit for another couple weeks. In my small samples, the regular one really tastes like a standard brown ale. There is lots of coffee aroma without the bitter roasted character in the flavor. The special version shows a ton of vanilla character with some smooth whiskey aroma but no burn and just a subtle hint of oak.

I could not be happier with that version. The other version, I have to be honest, I’m a bit surprised about. I’m excited to try the finished product, but I haven’t been this surprised by a batch in a long time. Had I planned this to be a brown ale, it would be perfect. Considering that my plan was for a porter, it is a little disconcerting. My original plan was to call the oaked version Ebony and Ivory and Whiskey. Since the beer didn’t turn out to be ebony, I had to come up with something else. My new idea is to call the regular version Busybodies and the other version Idle Minds. Here is the recipe.

IMG_0228Ebony and Ivory and Whiskey Busybodies, Idle Minds
Style: Robust Porter Brown Ale
OG: 1.060
Type: FG: 1.015
ABV: 6%
IBU’s: 32
Batch Size: 10 Gal
Boil Time: 60 minutes

Grains & Adjuncts
Amount Percentage Name
14.00 lbs 60.42 % Pale Malt, Maris Otter
5.00 lbs 21.58 % Munich Malt – 20L
3.00 lbs 12.95 % Brown Malt
1.00 lbs 4.32 % Crisp Crystal Dark 77L
0.17 lbs 0.73 % Roasted Barley

Amount IBU’s Name Time AA %
2.00 ozs 28.13 Cascade 60 mins 6.90
1.00 ozs 3.70 Goldings, East Kent 10 mins 5.00

Amount Name Laboratory / ID
1.0 pkg Safale US-05 Fermentis US-05

Additions (to half)
Amount Name Time Stage
4.00 oz Bourbon 3 weeks Secondary
2.00 each Vanilla 3 weeks Secondary
1.00 oz Oak “Beer Stick” 3 weeks Secondary