Mount Hoodie 2014

When I brewed it last Winter, Mount Hoodie was my first lager. It turned out great and I decided to make it again this year. The first batch was a brew in a bag partial mash and everything went smoothly. This year’s recipe was adapted for all grain, but there was an issue. I’m not sure what happened, but my efficiency was terrible. I already normally don’t have great efficiency, but this time, I was planning for about 1.054 OG and only got 1.040.

I decided to add some extract, but I didn’t have any on hand, so it had to wait a few days. I began fermentation normally, then three days later, I dissolved two pounds of DME in as little water as I could and then boiled it for about fifteen minutes. After it cooled to room temperature, I added it to the fermentor. I have never done this before and I’m not sure if it was the best way to go about it. By my calculations, it should have added about .015 to the gravity of the beer, putting it right around where I wanted it, I just hope it doesn’t throw off the hop aroma too much or negatively change the malt flavor. I used a blend of Vienna and Pale Malt for the base and used light DME to top it up. It leaned slightly more toward Vienna originally, I’m guessing the light DME is basically just Pale Malt.

Now, with that out of the way, a little about the what the beer is supposed to be. I call it an American Amber Lager, or a hoppy amber lager. I love Mount Hood hops and wanted to showcase them. The hop schedule is somewhat similar to a what you would find in a German Pilsner while the grain bill is kind of like a Vienna Lager. I’m not sure what made me decide to make this combination originally, but it turned out great and I decided very quickly that it would be an annual repeat brew.

Mount Hood hops were bred from Hallertau Mittelfruh and an experimental US hop in the late 1980’s in an attempt to create a Noble style hop that would grow in America. Hallertau, Tettnanger, Spalt and Saaz are the tradition European Noble hops. They are all named for the regions where they originated. They were wild hops in those regions, not specifically bred for brewing, but have become legendary for fine aromatic qualities. They generally have low alpha acid, but high humulene content, which means, in short that they are great aroma hops, not really to be used for bittering.

A lot of the Noble hops have been grown in regions other than where they originated, but the results are never really the same. Different soil and climate leads not only to poor yields, but also to changes in the hops’ character. Mount Hood was one of several attempts to bring Noble hop aroma to a hop cultivated for growth in America.

It has a lot of the spicy, earthy aroma of the Noble hops, but I find it to also have a mild citrus aroma, like a restrained version of other American hops. I think it is a great, complex combination that isn’t often found in a single hop variety.

I was looking to bitter this beer to around Pilsner levels, and Mount Hood retains the Noble hops’ low alpha acids, so I decided to bitter with Cascade. A single addition of the classic American hop at the beginning of the boil doesn’t leave much of it’s hallmark aroma but gives a clean bitterness and gets out of the way for Mount Hood. I upped the level of the late hops in this year’s batch. I was kind of nervous to do this, as I already liked last year’s, but I wanted to really show off the aroma this year. With the extra water and DME added, I’m thinking it’s probably good I added the hops.

This year’s grain bill is substantially different from last year’s version. Last year I mashed with the brew in a bag method and added three pounds of DME in the boil. Since I ended up adding two pounds this year, the main difference was that I added a lot more Vienna malt. Last year, I only used one pound along five pounds of Pale malt. I loved last year’s batch, but it was on the light side for an amber lager. Since I added more finishing hops and thought the beer could be slightly darker, this change seemed to make sense for balance.

My full recipe is below. I will do a post with last year’s recipe around the time that this batch is ready to drink along with tasting notes and pictures for both.


Style: American Amber Lager (Pilsner hopped Vienna lager?)
Brew Date: 2/5/2014
Expected Serve Date: April, 2014
OG: 1.040 pre-DME, approximately 1.055 with DME
Expected FG: 1.012
Estimated ABV: 5.6%
IBUs: 40ish

55% Vienna Malt
36% Pale Malt
4.5% Aromatic Malt
2.3% Crystal 10L
2.3% Crystal 60L
plus 2 lb of Light DME during primary fermentation

60 min 27 IBU Cascade 1 oz
20 min 12 IBU Mount Hood 1 oz
10 min 4 IBU Mount Hood .5 oz
0 min 0 IBU Mount Hood 1.5 oz
7 days 0 IBU Mount Hood 1 oz (dry hop)

Saflager W-34/70

16 quarts of water at 163º added to grain to achieve a temperature of 152º and held for one hour.
Sparged with 170º water to get six gallons over one hour.
One hour boil and then cool to room temperature as quickly as possible.

Fermented cold in the basement in a six gallon carboy. Two pounds of DME added three days into fermentation.
Will rack to a five gallon carboy after signs of active fermentation of stopped and then continue to condition for four to six weeks, with an ounce of Mount Hood hops added in the last week, before bottling.


Old Ale

Old Ale is a very loosely defined style, as far as I can tell.  This seems to be the case with a lot of old English styles.  I think of Old Ale as Barleywine’s little brother, but they were originally just strong, aged beers that were meant to be blended with Milds, which at the time were weaker young beers.  Mixing two or more different beers to satisfy customers’ tastes was standard for London barkeepers until porter was created in 1700’s.  Some porters still mention “Entire” in their packaging, which was meant to encourage people to drink porter without having to mix multiple beers to achieve good balance.

Mild ale at the time was very fresh, with fruity yeast flavors and was possibly not even finished fermenting, making it too sweet.  Old ale, on the other hand was aged for long periods in wooden barrels, which were often not completely air tight.  The beer was exposed to oxygen and wild yeast, making it sour and harsh.  In small quantities, these attributes could give favorable complexity, but the processes which lead to these flavors were not understood and they ran out of control, requiring blending to make the beer palatable.

Another version of old ale later made for home consumption was actually already blended by the brewer.  In this interpretation, a stock ale, which is basically the same as the old ale I described above, was blended with newer batch of the same or a similar beer and then packaged as old ale.

More recently, old ales are often referred to as Winter Warmer and are Winter seasonal beers in many breweries portfolios.  Many brewers use old ale as a base beer which they add spices to for their Christmas Ale.

All of this history is interesting (I hope), but what is an old ale?  Well, as I mentioned, it’s pretty loosely defined.  Basically, it is a strong, dark (but not opaque) ale with big malt flavor that is aged.  Often, it’s aged in oak, but it doesn’t have to be.  Mine is not.  Mine is aged in a plastic carboy.  Winter warmers (which is not any better defined) have become the standard for old ales, at least in America.  I’ve decided to prepare mine for the Summer.  It will, of course, be a good candidate to continue aging in the bottle, and I do plan to save quite a few for next Winter, but a nice, big, malty, dark ale sounds like it will fit in pretty well in grilling season.

When I make German beers, I tend to try to stick to German ingredients.  I don’t always do that with English styles.  Since most “American” styles are repurposed English styles, I figure this is a tradition in it’s own right.  For this beer, I used American hops, that famous American pale ale yeast from Chico and American base malt with an international blend of specialty grains.  I used a lot of Crisp Brown malt from England, which may not have a whole lot in common with the original smoky brown malt from those early porters, but it does give a nice coffee flavor and aroma.  I debated for a while about what dark crystal malt to use, then decided to just split it between the darkest American crystal malt and the darkest Belgian one.  120L is often cited as adding a burnt sugar flavor and Special B is raisiny.  And I still think this all sounds like a good beer to go with a steak fresh off the grill on an early Summer evening in the backyard.

I plan to age the beer for about five months and then bottle it to begin enjoying in June.  If it is as good as I hope, I’m thinking about brewing another batch as soon as the first one is ready, but adding some spices and keeping that for this year’s Christmas beer.  My recipe is below.

Style: 19A. Old Ale
Brew Date: 1/26/2014
Expected Serve Date: June, 2014
OG: 1.074
Expected FG: 1.015
Estimated ABV: 7.7%
IBUs: 61

82.4% Pale Malt
11.8% Brown Malt
2.9% Crystal 120L
2.9% Special B

60 min 32 IBU Chinook
20 min 18 IBU Brewer’s Gold
10 min 11 IBU Brewer’s Gold

25 quarts of water at 167º added to malt to get a temperature of 155º and held for one hour.
Sparged with 170º water to get six gallons over one hour.
One hour boil and then cool to room temperature as quickly as possible.

ImageFermented at room temperature in a six gallon carboy until visible activity stopped, about two weeks.  Then racked to a five gallon carboy and given another week at room temperature to watch for renewed activity.  After that, the carboy was moved to the cold basement to age for another few months.

Maggie Moo’s Cocoa Cream Stout

I’ve been planning this beer for a long time.  I was originally going to brew it for a homebrew fest in March, but was overwhelmed with the desire to do a Berliner Weisse instead at the last minute.  As a result, I pushed this one on my schedule a month, in time for another homebrew fest in April.  I will post more about both of these fests later.

Though it’s an English style originally, where I’m from, milk stout, also known as cream or sweet stout, is pretty much defined by Lancaster Brewing Company’s interpretation.  The LBC Milk Stout is a roasty, delicious brew, but I think it’s on the drier end of the sweet stout spectrum.

These beers have a fairly high terminal gravity, resulting not just from the normal methods of mashing at a higher temperature and yeast selection, but also from the special ingredient that gives milk stouts their name, lactose.  Lactose is a sugar found in milk that is added, normally during the boil, to stouts to give them a fuller body.

Unlike other sugars used in brewing to dry beers out and raise alcohol content, lactose is not fermentable by normal beer yeast.  It is not normally added at a high enough rate to make the beer’s flavor much sweeter, but it can balance the bitterness of roasted grains found in stouts.  I added one pound at the beginning of the boil.

As you can guess from the name, I’m not just making a milk stout, though, I’m also adding chocolate.  If you’ve glanced below at the grain bill, you know that I’m also using oats.  All I’m missing is coffee to make this a “breakfast stout.”  I considered adding it, but I want the chocolate to be a little bit more prominent than I think coffee would allow for.  I’ve never used chocolate before, so for the method, I’m going low and early.  I’ve opted for five ounces of a local dark chocolate, five minutes before the end of the boil.  Five ounce is on the low side of what I’ve seen recommended, but adding it in the boil still leaves the option of adding more during conditioning.
The chocolate I’m using is from Wilbur in the form of their Dark Chocolate Buds.  I took a small portion, a couple cups or so, of the boiling wort in a glass bowl and added the chocolate to it.  I stirred it up as the chocolate melted and then added it back into the boil.
I have used oats in several beers, but the pound and a half I used this time was the most I’ve used so far.  They are added right into the mash with the rest of the grains.  This is a three grain beer, as I decided to try out some chocolate wheat malt.  I recently used pale chocolate and regular chocolate malts combined in a mild and found that it added a new layer of complexity to one of my favorite styles to brew.  As this is a stout, I already had plenty of roasted barley to give color, and since I was adding lactose, I didn’t think I’d need much crystal malt for sweetness, so I decided to load up on a combination of chocolate wheat and pale chocolate malts and see what kind of flavors they would add.  Two pounds of chocolate wheat may be excessive, but I wanted to make sure it was enough to make a discernible difference for me to form an opinion on the grain.

My recipe and brew day procedure are below, but I reserve the option to add more chocolate to secondary…

Style: 13B. Sweet Stout
Brew Date: 2/25/2014
Expected Serve Date: 4/13/2014
OG: 1.076
Expected FG: 1.023
Estimated ABV: 6.9%
IBUs: 24

58.8% 10 lb. Maris Otter
11.7% 2 lb. Chocolate Wheat
5.8% 1 lb. Pale Chocolate
5.8% 1 lb. Roasted Barley
2.9% .5 lb. 80L Crystal
8.8% 1.5 lb. Oats
5.88% 1 lb. Lactose

60 min 15 IBU 1 oz. Willamette 5.5% AA
20 min 9 IBU 1 oz. Willamette 5.5% AA

White Labs 005 British Ale Yeast

5 oz. Dark Chocolate with 5 minutes left in the boil

Add 20 quarts of water at 166º to the grains to achieve a temperature of 154º and hold the temperature for one hour.
Sparge with 15 quarts of water at 170º until six gallons of wort is collected.
One hour boil.
Ferment at room temperature in six gallon carboy until signs of active fermentation cease (about a week), then rack to secondary in five gallon carboy.
Check gravity and taste a sample to decide if more chocolate is needed then proceed as necessary…

Wyld Cyser

I bought way too much apple cider when it was on sale. I made Yellow Cat Mulled Cider (which was batch066 and I will eventually get around to posting about) with some of it and figured I’d decide what to do with the rest of it later. Some of it started spontaneously fermenting and I had to act quick. The first couple half gallons that started bubbling, I just opened to drink. After a few days, they tasted fantastic. After another week, they got a bit too sour. So as a couple more started fermenting I jumped into action. I mixed ten pounds of Wildflower Honey along with two half gallons of spontaneously fermenting cider and another four gallons of unaffected cider.

I let it ferment for three days and then gave it some campden tablets to kill the wild yeast. I gave them a couple days to be sure the camp den tablets did their work and then I racked to a different carboy and added a packet of champagne yeast.

I checked the gravity a couple months later and found that it had completely dried out, down to 1.000, so I put the carboy in the basement, where it is very cold to let it mellow until I can pull together enough wine bottles to package it. I drank the sample and it tasted pretty good. A bit harsh (it’s around 15% ABV) but lots of apple flavor with only a hint of sourness. I plan to hit it with some potassium sorbate and back sweeten with some more wildflower honey before bottling.

I’m not sure when that will all take place, as I’d like to at least put most of it in wine bottles and I don’t have more than a few on hand at the moment and don’t want to buy more, but being very strong and made from apple cider and honey, this should only get better with time, despite my poor planning and inadequate note taking. I think this batch will turn out well, but it could have been a disaster. Look forward to some more complete tasting notes in Fall 2014 and hopefully more beyond as this should age gracefully as long as I let it.

Style: Cyser (apple cider with honey)
Brew Date: 11/5/2013
OG: 1.115
FG: 1.000
5 gallons of Apple Cider (1.040)
10 pounds of Wildflower Honey

Wild Yeast from Apple Cider
Champagne Yeast

N.E. Maibock

Last year, I made a Czech Pilsner and decided to just call it N.E. Pilsner.  When I was planning what lagers I wanted to make this year, I decided  a Helles and a Maibock would be among my projects and I would keep up the naming theme with these classic continental styles.

Maibock is a style that I’ve always enjoyed, but really came to appreciate on a trip to Munich in May 2012.  My first beer of the trip was in the legendary Hofbräuhaus and it was their Maibock, called Urbock (original bock).  Everywhere we went, I tried other Maibocks and every one was delicious.

If you’re not familiar with the style, it is a pale lager that disproves the bafflingly persistent misconception that a beer’s strength can be assumed based on it’s color.  Maibock’s strength are usually in the 7% ABV range.  Their strength is evident, as their lean, mostly pilsner malt bills and low hopping rates do little to mask it, but long aging times at low temperatures allow them to mature into dangerously easy drinking beers.  They are lighter in color than standard bocks, showcasing pilsner malt and are the traditional choice for the beginning of biergarten season.

My Maibock contains more Munich malt than is standard for the style, making it sort a bridge between standard Bocks and Maibocks.  Otherwise, it is a pretty standard, classic interpretation.  It was my second decoction mash.  I have included the decoction schedule I used below, along with the rest of the recipe.  The beer is currently in secondary fermentation.

Style: 5A. Maibock/Helles Bock
Brew Date: 1/8/2014
Expected Serve Date: 5/1/2014
OG: 1.074
Expected FG: 1.016
Estimated ABV: 7%
IBUs: 28

61.1% 11 lb. German Pilsner
33.3% 6 lb. Light Munich
5.6% 1 lb. Melanoidin

75 min 22 IBU 1 oz. German Northern Brewer 9% AA
15 min 6 IBU 1 oz. German Hersbucker 5% AA

White Labs 833 German Bock Lager Yeast

Dough in 3.5 gallons at 105º for acid rest.
Add 2 gallons of boiling water to raise temperature to raise mash to 120º for protein rest.
Pull thickest 1/3 of mash for the first decoction, boil for five minutes, stirring constantly.
Add back to mash to raise temperature, then pull another decoction.
Add back to mash to raise temperature to 155º and rest for 30 minutes.
Pull 1/3 of THIN mash, boil and add back to raise temperature to 170º.
Begin sparging with 170º water and pull 6.5 gallons over one hour.

75 minute boil.
1/8 – Begin fermentation at room temperature.
1/9 – Drop to cellar temperature when active fermentation began.
1/26 – Racked to secondary once active fermentation ceased.
Mid April – Bottle to ready to serve on May 1.ImageImageImage


My name is Mitch and I like to make beer and sometimes soda, cider, mead and wine.  I have been homebrewing since May 2011.  I started with extract and specialty grains, moved on to partial mash (brew in a bag) after about a year and then on to all grain brewing another few months later.

I’ve decided to keep a blog chronicling my adventures in brewing.  It is mostly for myself, to force me to take better notes and keep a better record of what I’m doing.  I’m striving for more consistency in my beer and want to keep honing and improving my process.

After brewing a few kits, I began creating my own recipes and this became one of my favorite parts of the process.  I also enjoy making labels for my beer and obsessively photographing it in the glass.  I’ll be posting all of that stuff along with logs of brew day, racking, dry hopping, gravity readings, packaging and whatever else I’m doing.

I’m going to be posting a lot over the next few months to get caught up with everything I have in process right now as well as all of my old batches.  I’m also going to post labels, brief descriptions and (where possible) photos of all of my previous batches.  I’m going to make a tag for each batch so any posts about them can be separated and you can watch them go from recipe to beer after the fact.

Once I get caught up on all that stuff, I’d expect updates about once a week with beer in the glass pictures in between.  I am going to be posting at least five days a week for the next few months, going through the backlog.  This week, I’ll be posting about everything I have fermenting as well as a batch I’m planning to brew on Tuesday and then start with older batches next week.

As a preview, here are the batches I’ll be writing about this week:
N.E. Maibock (currently lagering)
Old Ale (currently in secondary fermentation)
Amy and Mitch’s 2nd Anniversary Mead (currently aging with strawberries)
Wyld Cyser (currently in secondary fermentation)
Mount Hoodie 2013 (currently in primary fermentation)
Maggie Moo’s Cocoa Cream Stout (which I plan to brew Tuesday)

I think that covers it for now.