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Caramel/Vanilla/Hazelnut Old Ale, or, Some Really Unique Beer Feedback

Posted by homebrewdad on 7/18/2016 at 12:19:07 AM

Last year, I brewed a caramel malt heavy old ale for a Christmas beer exchange. The idea was to just blow up the caramel aspect of this beer - over twenty percent of my grain bill (nearly four total pounds) came from British crystal malt, and I reduced about six quarts of my first runnings to about a quart of syrup.

Sadly, it didn't turn out quite like I had imagined, largely because my yeast (WLP037 that I had re-harvested several times over) drifted on me quite a bit. Rather than acting like a dry English yeast, it presented more as a phenolic-heavy Belgian strain (albeit still super dry - my FG was 1.009, from an OG of 1.076). The beer wasn't bad, just not what I had in mind.

The exchange went well, my beer was received reasonably well (missed target or not); all in all, it was a fairly unremarkable story. However, this beer did spawn a couple of experiments, once of which promoted today's blog post.

You see, as I was planning this beer, my non-beer drinking wife decided to get involved. She was thumbing through a homebrewing catalog, and discovered the various flavoring extracts one could buy. She has steadfastly refused to ever even sample my beers, but she decided that day that a caramel/vanilla/hazelnut beer might be delicious. As is the case with many homebrewers, I keep hoping to share my passion with my spouse... so if she was interested in what seemed to me to be an outrageous flavor combination, who was I to argue? I was more than happy to give it a shot.

I split a gallon of this beer off, to which I had added some homemade vanilla extract (vodka plus fresh vanilla beans - it smelled like Heaven and the kids loved helping with it). I then split off a second gallon to which I added the above vanilla,...
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Tags for this post: old ale, vanilla, hazelnut, beer, ale, homebrew

2016 BrewUnited Challenge Prize Information

Posted by homebrewdad on 7/12/2016 at 12:29:06 PM

As you are likely aware by now, the 2016 BrewUnited Challenge is now open for entries. As of this posting, we've been open for about a week. Last year, we filled our 300 entry cap in 27 days. This year, we raised that cap to 500 entries - and are already halfway there.

Of course, a huge reason for that is due to the amazing freaking prizes that we give away in this competition. Last year, we gave away nearly $4700 worth of prizes, as we continued to recruit sponsors right up until judging in October. This year, we already have nearly $6900 worth of prizes donated, and have multiple other sponsors that have agreed to join (but haven't said exactly what they plan to donate). Suffice it to say that we will certainly surpass last year's prize totals - if not blow them away entirely.

For starters, we will once again be awarding some outstanding custom medals to various winners. We're not talking about cheapo medallions with some little coin inserted on them - we're talking about die cast, designed especially for this competition, with the winner's name, category, and place engraved on the back. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place for every single style category will take home a medal. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd for each Division will take home a medal. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd for the SMaSH category will take home a medal. And of course, the overall Best of Show winner will...
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Tags for this post: prize, prizes, competition, sponsor, sponsors, medals, winner, challenge

Announcing the 2016 BrewUnited Challenge!

Posted by homebrewdad on 6/22/2016 at 12:44:33 AM

After teasing this a bit, the time has come to officially announce the 2016 BrewUnited Challenge. Yes, we are holding our BJCP certified competition again this year, and plan for it to be bigger and better! Right now, it looks like Divisional judging will be October 14th - 16th, with the overall Best of Show on the 28th or 29th. These dates will be firm by the time we start accepting entries on July 1st.

EDIT: the 2016 BrewUnited Challenge is now open for entries!!!

Our basic format will remain the same - there will be three Divisions, each of which will be judged in a different city. Each Division will consist of several BJCP style categories; each category will award first, second, and third place. The winner of each category (and, potentially, the second place beer for each) will advance to the Division Best of Show. The top three beers for the Division will receive fabulous prizes, and the top beer for each will advance to the overall Best of Show to compete for our grand prize package.

As of the writing of this post, we have eleven sponsors who have already agreed to return for this year's Challenge; I fully expect that number to grow drastically before judging happens.

Without a doubt, the ultra-popular Homebrew Hero awards are returning for 2016. This is a lifetime achievement type award - if you won a cape in last year's Challenge, you will not be eligible to
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Tags for this post: 2016, BrewUnited, Challenge, competition, brewing, homebrewing

White Labs Tasting - (Indian) Pale Ales

Posted by zVulture on 6/09/2016 at 08:58:09 PM


With these beers being heavy on the hop and non-yeast derived flavor side, I will be doing a lot more comparisons against each of the beers. Unfortunately they were out of WLP001 so I didn't have as much a baseline. Random note, I avoid reading the description of the yeasts before I write the review down so there can be repeated recommendations (ex: WLP041).

Indian Pale Ale

WLP008 East Coast Ale Yeast

White Labs Description - Our "Brewer Patriot" strain can be used to reproduce many of the American versions of classic beer styles. Similar neutral character of WLP001, but less attenuation, less accentuation of hop bitterness, slightly less flocculation, and a little tartness. Very clean and low esters. Great yeast for golden, blonde, honey, pales and German alt style ales.
Aroma: Clean crisp aroma of the hops bringing out that acidic citrus scent really well
Taste: On the dryer side but not enough to really bite though that might be from any crystal malts or higher mash temps to keep it less fermentable. Definitely fits the 'Juicy' ideal that east coast beers have while west coast is a lot dryer and more dank. The bitterness sticks out though because of it as it stands out from the smoother mouthfeel and very light sweetness.
Personal Ideas: I would use this in a 30 minute IPA that doesn't add any bittering hops. Just keep it all to really fruity and flavorful ones with 30-20-10 additions. This beer...
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Tags for this post: IPA, Indian Pale Ale, Pale Ale, White Labs, Yeast

An Appeal for Awesomeness From the Community

Posted by homebrewdad on 6/09/2016 at 10:52:33 AM

Today, I'm going to shift gears a bit from my normal beer-related musings, and turn for a bit to a more serious topic.

I admit it. I tend to get caught up in the day to day struggles of life, find myself mired down in my latest set of problems big and small, and sometimes lose sight of the forest for the trees. Yes, my workload is heavy. Yes, my life can be stressful. Yes, life can sometimes be harder than I would like for it to be.

But all in all, I have a good life. I have a wonderful, big family. I get to brew beer (and ramble on in internet posts about doing so), coach little league baseball, play various online games. By and large, I have my health, as does everyone in my family. All too often, I take that for granted.

My wife has a friend who has just been rudely informed that not everyone is that lucky. This lady has an eight year old son named Andrew that just had his entire life turned upside down. One day, he was a normal kid - a kid of the exact same age as one of my sons - and the next, he was in the hospital, facing an unimaginably scary diagnosis.

Andrew had a fairly large, aggressive tumor in his brain. At first, doctors felt it was benign - though still in need of immediate attention, because brain tumor - but the long term...
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Tags for this post: Andrew, Fambrough, cancer, well wishes, brain, tumor

Brewing an IPA with Twenty-Five Strains of Yeast

Posted by homebrewdad on 6/01/2016 at 11:05:51 AM

A few weeks ago, a gentleman from Southern Hills Homebrew Supply in Roanoke, Virginia made an interesting post on /r/homebrewing about how he had taken a large number of expired yeast vials (twenty-five strains, to be exact) and had made combined them into a gigantic five gallon "starter". All told, he had combined fifty-nine vials of yeast (most of them English or American in origin, with a couple from Germany), and was planning to simply give away the resulting blend to anyone who wanted to drop by his shop and pick up a sample.

This immediately piqued my interest, but Virginia isn't exactly a quick drive from me here in Alabama, so I shot him a message to ask if he would consider sending any via mail. He was up for it, and before long, I was the proud owner of a recycled White Labs vial now filled with this blend he had naturally dubbed "Frankenyeast".

It should come as no shock that a potential Frankenyeast brew shot to the top of my "to brew" list... though I needed to figure out what, exactly, I planned to brew. At first, I had thought I would focus on something malt forward, something maybe lower in gravity, something to let the yeast shine. My thoughts turned to pale ales, maybe my first shot at a British Golden Ale... but before long, the brewing muse grabbed me with the idea of a super fruity IPA to play well with what I...
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Tags for this post: yeast, strain, variety, frankenyeast, ipa, beer, hops, homebrew, el dorado, au summer, Australian, summer

White Labs Tasting - Maibock, Barleywine and Belgian Strong

Posted by zVulture on 5/05/2016 at 11:05:15 PM


Making up a bit for last week and making sure to hit these more limited released beers, I am covering some of the heavier hitters as these are all high ABV. Tack on the drinking at the company social before forgive any more creative wording as I go on in this review.


WLP833 German Bock Lager Yeast

White Labs Description - From the Alps of southern Bavaria, this yeast produces a beer that is well balanced between malt and hop character. The excellent malt profile makes it well suited for Bocks, Doppelbocks, and Oktoberfest style beers. Very versatile lager yeast, it is so well balanced that it has gained tremendous popularity for use in Classic American style Pilsners. Also good for Helles style lager beer.
Aroma: A little bit of sweet maltiness tied with some pear-like ester.
Taste: The aroma seems to follow along with the taste, I get the expected maltiness, sweet and thicker finish to this beer. There is that bit of esters that slips right into a little bitter harshness that adds almost a little too much bite to the beer, at least for me.
Personal Ideas: I could see this being smoothed out a little more with aging, using some oak (no bourbon/etc, just plain), or some more malt complexity to really showcase the yeast at this high ABV.

WLP920 Old Bavarian Lager Yeast

White Labs Description - From Southern Germany,...
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Tags for this post: White Labs, Yeast, Belgian Strong, Barleywine, Maibock

Odd Beer #3: Dunkelweizenbock

Posted by zVulture on 4/14/2016 at 09:38:23 PM


This is partly a continuation of the Odd Beer series and an experiment on putting my yeast blend to the test. There isn't really a style anymore for this beer as there are elements from the different yeasts and far more roast in it than normal for even the blasphemy version of this style I make and so I could only call it a Dunkelweizenbock. Mostly because a Heavy Dark Belgian Wheat just didn't sound sophisticated enough for all that was going into the beer.


Type: All Grain, No-Sparge
Style: 15b Dunkelweizen (haha who am I kidding)
Alcohol: ~8.5%
IBU: ~17
Batch Vol: 5.50 gal
Final Vol: 5.00 gal

Amount Name Type Addition %Bill/IBU
7 lb White Wheat Malt Grain Mash 38%
4 lbs Dark Munuch Malt Grain Mash 22%
4 lbs Pilsner (German) Grain Mash 22%
2 lb Flaked Wheat Grain Mash 11%
1 lb Caramunich III Malt Grain Mash 5%
0.25 lb (4 oz) Carafa Special III Grain Mash 1%
0.5 lb (8 oz) Rice Hulls Grain Mash N/A
1 oz Hallertau [4%] Hop Boil 60.0 min 12
1 oz Hallertau [4%] Hop Boil 10.0 min 5
0.5 Packet (75m-100m cells) Hefeweizen Ale Yeast (White Labs WLP300) Yeast Pitch Temp -
0.5 Packet (75m-100m cells) Bastogne
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Tags for this post: Odd Beer, Dunkelweizen, Weizenbock, Dark Wheat

In Pursuit of History: Brewing a Kentucky Common

Posted by homebrewdad on 4/14/2016 at 01:03:36 AM

Just after Valentine's Day, one of the awesome guys on my brewing email list sent out an link to's "Trending American Retro Beers" article, and mentioned how he thought that the Kentucky Common would be my sort of beer. Now, I had heard of the style before, but after reading about the beer (they describe the commercial example as "caramel-forward, with low hop bitterness and a lightly mineral finish to keep it refreshing"), it woke the beer recipe muse in my head.

We discussed various ideas, argued on whether or not sour mashing was an appropriate measure to take, and kicked around the idea of various extra steps (such as boiling down first runnings). I found myself looking at a fair number of recipes online, reading through the BJCP guidelines for the style, and seeking out what historical notes I could find for this beer (Wikipedia's entry was a great starting place for research)... and soon enough, I was sold on trying to brew a Kentucky Common.

First off, I decided to *not* incorporate a sour mash. From what I could tell, all ideas about sour mashing came from the notion that, hey, bourbon from the area obviously incorporated sour mashing, so beer brewing had to do the same, right? However, I could not find a single historical source that suggested a sour mash was ever employed. Instead, it appeared that this beer was produced and packaged quickly, with an emphasis on making an...
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Tags for this post: Kentucky, common, historical, beer, homebrew

On Crushing Grains - a Beginner's Guide

Posted by toklas on 4/02/2016 at 11:53:35 AM


This may seem like a really silly post to some of you seasoned vets out there, but this is for the folks who are just a bit afraid of starting all grain. There were two major things that really held me back for a while from switching to all-grain:

  1. The myth that everything is really heavy, especially the BIAB grain bag.

Ok, everybody: this is not true for normal 5 gallon batches. The grain bag is not any heavier than a few shopping bags full of groceries. The filled carboy/bucket is heavier than the wet grain bag, and if you’re already making kit beer you’re already lifting the filled carboy. Ergo, you are strong enough to lift the wet grain bag. End myth.

  1. Crushing grain is scary, and using a grain mill is scary.

This part actually really scared me. I was afraid of using it wrong, I am not comfortable using a drill, there are so many pieces and bits and it’s just really intimidating if you never use

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Tags for this post: homebrewing, grains, crush

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