Thursday, October 31, 2013


Sometimes the inspiration of a beer name comes from the recipe, like OH SO HOSSA, and sometimes the name of the beer just comes out of the process like... PUMPIN NUTS!

I had set out a goal to make two pumpkin beers, a sweet and a savory. Sweet being "pecan pumpkin pie porter" and a savory being "Sweet-potato pumpkin curry ale." This is the story of my pecan pumpkin beer or what I like to refer to as... PUMPIN NUTS!

A pumpkin pie with pecan crust topping that my sister made a few years ago. I wanted to see if I could translate this flavor combination into a brew.

Lessons Learned:

Breaking away from kits.
This is one of the first beers that I brewed where I completely broke away from kits (but still used extracts). Christian at Brewcamp, helped me formulate my recipe by suggesting which grains would go best with the beer style, which was awesome, but it was on the fly. I had originally wanted this beer to be a porter and it turned out more like a brown ale. I picked out grains like biscuit and caramel which flavor wise really complemented the beer, but it didn't give it the dark rich color that I had in my head. I loosely based the quantity of the ingredients off a generic pumpkin beer recipe that I had with me. I wouldn't suggest this. The beer still turned out good considering, but it wasn't the color or robust flavor profile I wanted, it was more subtle in taste and a lighter brown color, hence why I now call it a brown ale instead of a porter.

Brewing with nuts... is nuts.
Nuts produce oil. Oil is not good in your beer. I mean, who wants to drink an oily beer? Oil is also not a fermentable, meaning it doesn't contain sugars, so yeast won't eat it... and if yeast won't eat it, then it won't produce alcohol. Oil also fights head retention. So, if you choose to brew with nuts, against all recommendations from fellow brewers. You're going to have to extract the oil from the beer. I unfortunately did this using a gravy strainer and I literally pumped oil out of my brew for 3 hours... hence the name "Pumpin Nuts!"

Next time I brew with nuts, I'll approach it a different way. I'll still puree the nuts, but roast them in the oven a few days before brewing to let the heat force the oil to the surface and then remove the oil to use for another purpose. Pecans don't produce as much oil as a peanut, but as soon as the pecan puree hit the brew the oil just started separating almost immediately and I began to panic. Another approach would be to just give it time and let the oil surface at the top of the bucket and then siphon it, which is probably what I should have done, and did do when I racked it, but this didn't occur to me at 2am after brewing for 6 hours on a Wednesday... my brain was not thinking properly. I also wasn't sure if this would trap the yeast and not allow them to have efficient air. I was doing everything I could think of to "save" this beer.

An after thought on brewing with nuts is using a nut powder/dust rather than actual nuts. I have heard other brewers use this for the peanut, since that's an especially oily nut. I may also attempt this in the future as well, but as far as I know there is no powder for pecans.   
  • Extract: Porter
  • Malts: Biscuit, Rye, & Caramel Malt 90L
  • Hops: Chinook & Willamette
  • Yeast: Safale S-04 Dry Ale Yeast
  • (2) pounds of pecans, I pureed the nuts in my Cuisinart
  • (1) 29oz can of puree pure pumpkin (do not use pumpkin pie mix)
  • Various spices to enhance the pumpkin pie flavor

Final Brew notes: Subtle buttery nutty notes and slight creamy pumpkin tones make this ale smooth and light on your tongue. It's the kind of beer that isn't too sweet and you can pour yourself another. 

Pumpin Nuts!  |  Pecan Pumpkin Pie Brown Ale  | ABV 4.5%

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Appri Ever After

Appri Ever After, is my fifth home brew. It is an Apricot Belgian IPA. This beer was inspired by a play on words from "Happy" to... "Appri." I selected a Belgian IPA style to incorporate the apricot flavor, this was the first beer style I had brewed so I knew what to expect and I thought it would go best with an Apricot flavor, a bit sweet and tart with a bite.

Just as I had brewed the raspberry and the marionberry beers, I used a puree specific for brewing with the Apricot.

I think one of the hardest part about brewing is waiting, case in point, this beer took almost 8 weeks from brewing to tasting and I'm not a very patient person. Right after the second beer I started brewing more frequently so that I always have several going at one time in different stages I want to keep learning and move the process forward.

Lessons learned:
This also happens to be my first beer that I brewed in a carboy. Prior to this batch I had been using 5 gallon buckets. I was a bit intimidated to use the glass jug at first, it's heavy, breakable, and I thought it would be hard to clean, but after I got comfortable with the buckets I decided to give it a try and it worked great... accept the air lock system couldn't handle the carbonation from the yeast, because there wasn't enough space for air so it kept up-chucking into it.

Final Brew notes:
Bottled on Sept. 17 and tasted on Oct. 10, this beer is strong, flavorful and it will knock you off your block coming in at 9% ABV, it's the strongest beer I've made to date. It makes me so appri...

Appri Ever After  |  Apricot Belgian IPA  | ABV 9 %

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


"I'm so sick of bottling little 12oz bottles! I only want to bottle bombers (22 oz bottles)." I said this at one of my home-brew club happy hours back in August and a friend replied, "Oh, did you just bottle your forth brew?" I replied, "Ha, yes. I just did!" Apparently it's common for those who quickly become avid home-brewers, to rid the little bottles by their forth brew. It seems agonizingly pointless to bottle 50 of these each week, it's so time consuming, takes up too much space, washing them over and over and removing labels seems daunting, and somehow you always end up sharing them with friends, so bombers just make way more sense. Other home-brewers also keg, but I have not gotten there yet. Also being a graphic designer by trade, I really love designing the labels almost as much as designing the beer.

Ginger Aw-Snap! is my forth brew. It's an organic pink grapefruit-ginger Belgian Wit. I was inspired by a beer that I had back in May during Chicago Craft Beer week at Owen&Engine. It was the most juicy citrus wit beer, I ever had, it was called Clementine by Clownshoes. I also love fresh ginger. I juice with it at home in various fruit and veggies combinations. I put ginger in drinks and dishes, it's so tasty and gives an extra fresh kick to your taste-buds. I knew I wanted to make a beer that was juicy sweet/tart citrus, but with spicy ginger twist. I love spice and interesting flavor combinations, so I was really excited about this brew.

Lessons learned:
  • Fresh is best! I recommend using fresh produce when flavoring a beer, and organic if you can. I had bought dried grapefruit and ginger as backup, but luckily I never had to use it. Fresh is the way to go. The flavors just pop!
  • I did two rounds of flavoring. First was at the kill of the boil and the second was a dry hop in the second fermentation. I wasn't initially loving the flavor after only using it in the brew, (it's OK, to taste your brew along the process, just remember to sanitize your utensils!), so I knew I wanted to introduce the grapefruit and ginger a second time.  
  • When you introduce something foreign to your beer during a second fermentation, you want to make sure you sterilize whatever your introducing into the brew. I steeped the grapefruit and ginger peels in the muslin sack in hot water, to sterilize the contents, before introducing it into the fermentation bucket. 
  • On bottling day: remember to stir your brew/beer as you are bottling after you add the priming sugar. Sugar tends to fall to the bottom of the bucket and if you don't stir the brew your bottles will have uneven sugar distributions. This is a problem because, the first two beers I went to open (which were the last two bottled) volcanically exploded, because they contained too much sugar.
  • Brewers Best Belgian Wit kit
  • (4) Organic Pink Grapefruits (zest and surface peels only, no rinds they do not carry the flavor of the fruit and will bitter your beer) Use only 2 at the kill of the boil and another 2 in Second Fermentation.
  • (2) large Organic Ginger Roots (approx. 10 oz total, sliced and peeled, after removing bark) Use only half at the kill of the boil and the remaining 5 oz. in Second Fermentation.
  • 1oz of coriander (added to the brew after the boil kill)
  • Upgraded/swapped out yeast from kit to: Wyeast 3944 Belgian Wit (Totally recommend assessing your kit yeast and upgrading, especially if your adding or altering the original ingredients.)
Final Brew notes:
This beer will bite you back. If you love ginger, then you'll love this beer. If your not a fan, then this isn't the brew for you, the snap will get ya. I would definitely make this beer again. It is so, crisp, juicy, and tingly from the ginger, just yum!

Special thanks to my sister Mary, for helping zest the grapefruit and ginger for the second fermentation. She happened to be visiting me that day, so I put her to work!

Ginger Aw-Snap  |  Organic Pink Grapefruit and Ginger Belgian Wit  | ABV 5.5%

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Oh So Marionberry!

I first tasted this berry almost 20 years ago when visiting my sister, Theresa, who lived in Portland, OR. She was an amazingly creative, fun-loving woman who ignited a room with her smile and laugh. She had single-handedly introduced me to the art of wine tasting, craft beer pubs, organic foods, and taught me how to make homemade pesto, pasta... and if that wasn't enough, she also encouraged my creative talents. Wow. Needless to say her homemade pies were also off-the-chart. Her Marionberry pie, was so wicked good, that I wanted one every-time I came to visit... she had me hooked. Like all tasty things that I encounter, once I discover something new that I really love, I covet it and become immersed in it. If you're not familiar with marionberries, may I suggest that you get acquainted soon and treat your taste-buds to this remarkable berry. Marionberries, only grown in the Pacific Northwest, are best described as a hybrid between a raspberry and a blackberry. They are about the size, shape, and color of a blackberry, but sweeter and subtly tart like a raspberry, simply berry perfection. I couldn't wait to get this berry in a beer.

So this leads me to my third homebrew... Paying homage to my amazing sister, while also giving nod to a favorite hockey player of mine, Marian Hossa... I set out to create a beer with his namesake and my beloved berry. My homebrew store, BrewCamp, carrys lots of different fruit purees, but didn't specifically sell this rare berry in their shop. Luckily I found an online store, Adventures in Homebrewing, which sold marionberry puree specifically for wine and beer making. Perfect. Now, I needed to decide what beer style was going to go best with this sweet, juicy, plump fruit, I also wanted to continue to explore Belgian style beers so I settled on a Belgian Tripel. It's rich depth of flavor would be a perfect paring to compliment this complex berry and triples "hat-tricks" are a bit of good luck in hockey too.

I was warned by my friend Jesse, from Ale Syndicate not to do to many fruit beers cause they can really goo up your tanks/hose/equipment. I didn't really know what he had meant until this beer. The puree for this fruit was not as smooth as the raspberry, it had whole chunks and partial chucks of berries, and most likely was really meant for wine making rather than beer. Berry bits got stuck in the siphoning equipment, mucked it up, slowed it down, and added another layer of stickiness to the process. I brewed the Belgian Tripel as directed by the kit, but then introduced the marionberry puree in the second fermentation. It turned out pretty tasty and strong. And I must say I'm a fan of this Hossa too. Cheers!

Oh So Hossa  |  Marionberry Belgian Tripel  | ABV 8.5%