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Are you interested in a share of nearly $3200 worth of brewing prizes? Check out the 2015 BrewUnited Challenge! is Dead! Long Live!

Posted by homebrewdad on 7/07/2015 at 10:41:48 AM

Three and a half years ago, I was a clueless newbie homebrewer who decided to start a blog to chronicle his new hobby. Looking back on those first few posts is truly cringe-inducing, such as when I suspected that I was some sort of brewing wizard, as I had coaxed a very high OG out of my extract (aside for newbie brewers reading this: extract yields a set amount of sugar, you can't screw it up. If your OG is high or low, it's because you didn't get a great mix of wort and your top off water). Or when I decided to change my original fermentation schedule and reduce the amount of time in secondary (I have long since abandoned secondaries altogether).

Along the way, I gained some wisdom - admittedly, most often through screwing things up - and my posts became a bit more coherent. I started applying my love of creating things with my interest in programming, and I wrote the first of my brewing utilities.

And so it went for some time. I got active on some homebrewing forums, eventually on the reddit homebrewing sub, and all was well with the world.

And then, one of my favorite hangouts seemed to get a lot less friendly. The forum seemed to shift its focus, and some of the decisions there felt designed to encourage certain major contributors to find other places to go. Everywhere I went, it seemed that there was some degree of related issues - a big one being that, on the internet, it seems acceptable to treat people like crap, to talk to them in ways you would never do in a face to face conversation.

And so, last year, I started wondering why this had to be the accepted norm. Why couldn't there be a friendly place where knowledgeable brewers hung out? A place that "had it all" - a great database of tried and true recipes, a place with the useful brewing tools, a place that one could consider their brewing one on the internet?

Well... I had a somewhat popular site at the time. So, why couldn't I create such a place around my existing site?

The idea kept bouncing around my head, and would not leave me alone. So, I contacted a great group of brewers (and great people) and got them on board with the idea.

There were bumps along the way, but we put together a great starting base for a site. We have a recipe database that allows anyone to add to it - either via web browser, or simply by uploading beerXML - and our recipes allow you to rate them (only if you have brewed or drank the recipe), as well as notate those that have won awards. We added to the utilities - priming sugar calculator, yeast starter calculator, alcohol by volume calculator, and more - each of them checked and rechecked until we feel that each is as good (or better than) any comparable tool on the internet. We have a web forum, where brewers of all experience levels can share, collaborate, or just shoot the breeze. Anyone who wants to share more in depth content may blog here without having to bother with setting up their own domain.

But most importantly, we have one huge founding principle - everyone agrees to follow Wheaton's Law (aka "don’t be a dick").

There was, however, one big obstacle in the way. You see, no matter what, the name "" just wasn't particularly inclusive. It suggested a certain membership; it felt exclusionary to women (which I'm on record as being opposed to), it felt exclusionary to younger brewers. My charter members kept lobbying for me to consider a change, and a sampling of site visitors reflected that, by and large, people thought it was a fine name for one guy's blog... but not so much for a community.

So, we had a discussions, we had a vote, and I reluctantly gave in.

It was a scary thing for me. I had invested a LOT of time and energy into this website. Giving up my website name, the look and feel, felt like giving up a little part of myself. What if people hated the change? And on and on.

But as time went on, I became more and more certain that this was the right choice. It took some time for me to put together the new look and feel (please let me give a HUGE shout out to Matthew Chrispen for his great work on the look and feel, and to Lori Krell for about a thousand logo revisions, and to Dan Paris for his own hours into the logo and mobile friendliness of the site), and I wanted to be absolutely sure that any visitors to the old would not be left out in the cold. But things are finally 100%; is now a reality!

I admit it, I was a bit wistful when the change first went 100% live, and my ego grumbled just a bit. But I am more excited than ever about the change. This is no longer about me. This is about us. A community. Togetherness. Strength. Brew United.

It has a nice ring to it.

So, welcome to the new Don't just look around, though - get involved! Together, we are more than the sum of our parts. Come hang out with us at the forums... ask questions, or share your own knowledge and wisdom. Tell us about your beers, your projects. Share your recipes.

On the technical end, you'll want to eventually update your bookmarks. Don't worry; your links will silently redirect you to the identical page on, and I plan to keep the old domain active for a good long while - but eventually, it will go dark.  If you are of the mind to support the site via Amazon affiliate links, please note that these have not changed - and your help is VERY much appreciated!  

Keep an eye out for new features. For one, we are almost done beta testing a great new way to interact - namely, the ability to post to (and read from) the forums via email. Soon, we will have an event calendar, and a new interface for swapping yeast with one another. And much more is one the way!

Finally, if you were not already aware of it, we are running a pretty amazing competition - the 2015 BrewUnited Challenge. This is not your normal comp; this one requires you to be flexible and creative while working within some pretty significnt ingredient constraints. However, it has some fantastic prizes - to the tune of more than $3000 worth of loot is available!

Again, welcome to the new BrewUnited. We look forward to you helping us to become one of the absolute best homebrewing communities anywhere on the internet.

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posted by nzo on 7/07/2015 at 10:56:28 AM

Tags for this post: homebrewdad, BrewUnited, homebrew, dad, brew, united, community

2015 BrewUnited Challenge Prize Information

Posted by homebrewdad on 6/28/2015 at 11:26:23 PM

It's almost time for the official opening of registration for the 2015 BrewUnited Challenge (incidentally - we are now sanctioned by the BJCP [comp #204116] and sponsored by the AHA). If you missed the original announcement (and are wondering what exactly makes this competition any different from the typical garden variety brewing comp), you might want to check out that original announcement post. Of course, you should definitely keep your eyes open - when we open registration on July 1st, we will also post the full official rules, as well as other supplemental information about the competition.

Check out our logo!

In the meantime, though, I thought that it would be fun to talk prizes. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that we have some of the best prize packages you'll see at almost any brewing competition around - particularly in a first year comp like ours!

For starters, we will be awarding some really nice medals to at least the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners for each of the three divisions. We will also give ribbons (if not medals) to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd for each style, as well. And, of course, the overall winner will receive a special medal.

That being said, medals are nice... but real brewing swag is something else, no? So, check it out.

One disclaimer: all prizes are subject to full participation from the sponsor in question. While...
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Tags for this post: prizes, prize, competition, brewing, comp, brew, winner, sponsor

I Welcome Baby Number Seven, and I Plan a Special Beer

Posted by homebrewdad on 6/24/2015 at 01:42:30 AM

First off, I'd like to deviate from my typical ramblings about beer and brewing to celebrate the fact that my family has grown yet again. Since my blog is, in fact, titled "Homebrew Dad", I feel like it's okay for me to brag about that family just a bit.

At 11:17 AM on June the 22nd, 2015, Elowyn Fae - our seventh child - was born. She weighed six pounds, eleven ounces, and was nineteen and a half inches long. I like to say that she was an expedited* C-section, due to the fact that my wife was fairly sick, and the baby was showing some classic signs of distress (elevated fetal heart rate, decreased movement). She wasn't yet thirty-eight weeks of gestational age, and ended up with some minor complications; she had some breathing issues (namely, breathing way too fast), and had to go to the transition nursery for a few hours. In fact, she was a half hour from getting admitted to the NICU, but she finally settled down, and since then, has done quite well.

* - expedited C-section: not a full "emergency" section, as they did the normal prep, gave my wife an epidural, etc. However, they did bump the scheduled C-sections back, and went ahead and took my daughter first, as they were worried that she needed to be born sooner rather than later.

Once we got settled into a normal room, my wife presented me with an absolutely killer gift... check it out.

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Tags for this post: baby, seven, children, born, princesses, beer, noble, hops

It's Dumping time - I Have my First Infected Batch of Beer

Posted by homebrewdad on 6/22/2015 at 01:28:10 AM

Today marks a sad day for me in my brewing career - today is that day that I have decided to dump a full batch of beer without packaging a single drop of it. This is a first for me in better than three and a half years of brewing; while I had had my well-documented challenges with bottle infections, I've never experienced a traditional "infected" beer of the type where one has visible bacterial growth in a fermentor. As of June 21st, 2015 (better known in the US as Father's Day), this has officially changed.

Way back at the end of November, I brewed a beer that I had really high hopes for. Sure, I tend to have high hopes for all of my beers, but this one had a special place in my heart - it was an attempt to replicate a truly world class beer (namely, Hofbrau's Oktoberfest).

This brewday involved a simple wort - nothing but pilsner and Munich malts with Hallertaur hops - but also featured a complex, tradition-driven process. I did a full triple decoction for this beer in an effort to extract the full range of melanoiden-powered flavors that the grains were capable of providing. I then performed a traditional "low and slow" lager, dropping the beer to 33 degrees F once fermentation and the diacetyl rest had been completed, where I then would leave it for months.

However, my brewday was set against the backdrop of...
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Tags for this post: dump, dumper, batch, beer, brewing, ruined, infection, infected

Let There Be Hops: Brewing a Beer With Continuous Hop Additions

Posted by Buxman14 on 6/19/2015 at 12:48:21 AM

When it comes to the world of home brewing, hop selection and use tends to rank among the biggest decisions for any batch of beer. Questions such as: "Am I using enough?" or the even more rare "Am I using too much?" seem to run through our minds while we formulate our perfect recipes.

When I got into homebrewing two years ago, I was the typical new brewer. I wanted to make beer that tasted like my favorite beer off the shelf. Terms like hop utilization, mash efficiencies, and wort were all a foreign language to me. I also tended to shy away from the more hop loaded IPAs which have become a lot more popular and available to the general consumer. In those first few tenuous batches, I was trying my hardest not to screw anything up and make drinkable beer.

Two years and several paychecks later, I am brewing with an all-grain system. I have read and enjoyed many brewing books (John Palmer's How to Brew, Brewing Classic Styles by Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer, and The Brew Masters Bible by Stephen Synder). I have spent hours deconstructing my process to fine-tune every aspect to ensure quality outcomes.

Earlier this year I decided to try something a little different. I wanted to brew a different style of beer every brew day; not just the tried and true recipes, but also ones I formulated using BJCP guidelines, a little creativity, and what...
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Tags for this post: IPA, continuously, hopped, continuous, hops, beer, brewing

Brew in 90 Minutes - Modified Parti-gyle

Posted by TheBrewBag on 6/15/2015 at 12:26:14 AM


The parti-gyle, (the decision (parti) to split the brew (gyle) ) was/is literally used to make two or three beers of different strength from a single mash in different vessels, and was common practice until about 1725 when a new method of brewing was developed. It was called "entire" and meant that all the sugars from the mash were collected in a single vessel and boiled to create a beer of one strength. Most home brewers rely on "entire" brewing to create their beer and do not parti-gyle.

Sparge method brewers collect wort until they reach kettle / recipe / gravity volume, or the lowest accepted gravity, which is 1.010. The SOG (specific original gravity) is taken pre-boil - post-sparge and is the result of mixing what, in the days of yore, would have been the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd runnings, or the actual total sugar concentration in any given mash volume. Brew in a bag brewer's simply lift the bag and let the wort drain back into the kettle with the same result. 

Out of one mash there could be three separate strengths of wort. The 1st runnings contain the highest percentage of sugars and a resultant higher ABV. To create the...
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Tags for this post: parti-gyle,brew in a bag,mash tun,first runnings,mash beer,make beer,home brewing

Traditional Lambic Using a Turbid Mash

Posted by wildscientist on 6/11/2015 at 12:40:51 AM

Most homebrewers spend a lot of time and energy keeping their beers clean and clear from what I love to put in them. Wild saccharomyces, brettanomyces, pediococcus, and/or lactobacillus can turn great beer into absolute swill, but they can also turn the simplest of worts into some of the most complex and delicious beers out there.

The perfect example of this is a traditional lambic. It starts life out as raw wheat, pilsner malt, and old hops (or fresh extremely, but low alpha acid hops like hallertauer). On its own, that wort wouldn't wow the most bland taste buds in the world, but give it time - and a myriad of eclectic microorganisms - and you'll get a beer that looks unassuming but tastes and smells otherworldly.

While the initial ingredient list is simple, the traditional turbid mashing technique for lambics comes across as complicated and involved. However, if you’ve ever done a decoction mash, you'll have no trouble doing this. "But I've never done a decoction mash!" you say. "They seem complicated, involved, and a bit scary."

I hear what you're saying, and you’re in luck; I've never done a decoction mash, either, and I breezed through the turbid mash process with no problem. All I did was make sure that I had a solid flow chart with easy to follow steps that I went over a few times in my head before beginning the day.

So what exactly is a turbid mash? It's a mashing technique used...
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Tags for this post: turbid, mash, lambic, sour, brett, beer

Announcing the 2015 BrewUnited Challenge!

Posted by homebrewdad on 6/09/2015 at 10:37:46 AM

If you've been paying attention, you may be aware that will have a new name (and new look) soon - as a reflection of the change from "one guy's site" to "full fledged brewing community", the site is becoming The dream is to create a unique place where brewers of all experience levels, backgrounds, and areas of interest can meet and discuss brewing in a positive, welcoming, cooperative environment.

Check out the new logo.

To celebrate this momentous occasion for a unique community, BrewUnited is excited to announce a unique brewing competition - the 2015 BrewUnited Challenge.

While this event will be officially sanctioned by the BJCP, it will likely be a bit different than the typical brewing competition. To succeed, you will need to brew specifically for the competition. You will be given a list of four grains (or extract equivalents, as appropriate); you MUST use each of these grains, but no others (although exact ratios are up to you). Likewise, you must choose exactly two hop varieties from six approved types. Finally, the choice of yeast will be up to you. Fining elements and water treatment are allowed, but no other ingredients or adjuncts may be used.

You will then employ your creativity (and perhaps some brewing techniques above and beyond the norm) to create the best beer that you possibly can!

The competition - to be held October 25th, 2015 - will consist...
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Tags for this post: brewing, competition, challenge, BrewUnited, bjcp, beer

Fermentation Temperature Comparison in My Irish Red Ale

Posted by homebrewdad on 6/05/2015 at 12:53:34 AM


A couple of months ago, I decided to conduct a very scientific experiment to measure the effects of fermentation temperature on a beer.  Brulosopher, eat your heart out!

Of course, I am completely lying about the "very scientific" portion of my claim above.  As I have documented before, I am not employing anything close to the level of scientific controls that Marshall uses - on the contrary, I am, in fact, a hack.

Just to recap, I decided to brew an extra large (seven gallon) batch of my Enchantress (a big Irish red ale).  Marshall's findings that kolsch yeast really didn't seem to care about fermentation temperatures just didn't feel to me like they were super applicable to a lot of homebrewing - largely since that particular yeast is so clean and versatile.  I, on the other hand, would be using WLP004 (Irish ale yeast), which - while it isn't known for being a super expressive strain - will certainly get a little fruitier than the kolsch yeast.

So, I brewed as normal, splitting five and a half gallons of wort into my normal 6.5 gallon glass carboy, then dumping the remaining gallon and a half into a two gallon plastic bucket.  I did take great pains to continually stir my wort so as to ensure the most consistent mix of kettle trub possible, I carefully measured my yeast in an effort to hit roughly the same pitching rate, and I did...
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Tags for this post: temperature, control, Irish, red, ale, experiment

Fast Ferment Testing

Posted by mchrispen on 5/23/2015 at 10:12:40 AM

Fast Ferment Tests (FFT), sometimes called Forced Ferment Tests, have lost some favor in homebrewing. FFT can be used to measure the maximum fermentability of wort giving you an idea of where your beer's FG will land, and more specific information about the yeast's attenuation.

With the availability of very fresh and viable yeast in both liquid and dry forms, FFT  has been largely replaced by the best practice of creating a starter. FFT’s still have a role in brewing, and many breweries continue to run these tests when getting a fresh pitch of yeast or brewing a new recipe. Most sources cite Prof. Dr. agr. Ludwig Narziss for documenting this test and proving its usefulness.

The Procedure

Gather a small portion of your beer’s wort after chilling and aeration. You can use your hydrometer sample plus a few additional ounces, or a separate sample collected in a clean and sanitary vessel. Note your OG. Reserve some of your starter (or prepare extra cells in your starter) and pitch the yeast into the FFT. Usually, you will be over-pitching the cell counts which is fine for this test. Place the vessel, covered with foil or with an airlock at room temperature and let it ferment out. Note the FG and determine the apparent attenuation. This is more or less the level of attenuation and FG you can expect with the larger batch of beer. Generally, the yeast will attenuate further than it will under a cooler ferment in the larger batch, but give...
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Tags for this post: yeast, attenuation, forced ferment test, fast ferment test, starter, harvest yeast

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