Does this headline make me look ironic? In search of a good session IPA

I have become interested, nay, some would say obsessed, in that oxymoron of beers, the “session” IPA(1).

Our ribbon-winning House Pale Ale.

I like drinking a lower alcohol beer that isn’t like sex in a canoe, you know, “f**king close to water.” And you know the beers. The ones that taste slightly…umm…yellow. Besides being low in alcohol they are low in flavor and aroma. They are just a small step up from sparkling water, only with less taste.

The trend in microbreweries had been to brew bigger. Why make an IPA, when you can make a Double IPA? According to the American Homebrewers Association, Russian River’s Pliny the Elder is the best beer in America. I have had Pliny at Russian River Brewing. It tastes terrific but at 8.0% ABV, one pint is all I can drink. Driving is out of the question. Walking to Peet’s Coffee across the street and staring at my hands is all I can manage after a pint of Pliny.

So if you want to drink more than a thimble’s worth of tasty brew and be able to operate machinery, such as a lawnmower, you need something with less alcohol. To meet that need, some breweries have started making hoppy beers with lower alcohol. Examples include Squatters’ Full Suspension Pale Ale (4.0% ABV), Stone’s Go To IPA (4.5% ABV), and New Belgium’s Slow Ride Session IPA (4.5% ABV).

The best session IPA (perhaps the best session beer) around, in my opinion, is Ballast Point’s Even Keel. It packs a whole lot of flavor into a beer with 3.8% ABV (1). Ballast Point says Even Keel is “A full-flavored beer with a silky malt backbone and a bright hop profile of herbs and citrus, it packs all the taste of an IPA in a sessionable alcohol content.” It is just a damn good beer. RateBeer gives it a 92. Beer Advocate gives it an 86. Those are  respectable scores for a beer with less alcohol than Bud Light.

Once I knew that a great session IPA could be made, I had to try my hand at making one.

Session IPAs are not regular IPAs with water added. The goal is to make a beer with all the taste, mouthfeel, and aroma as a big beer but with less alcohol.

Change the base. To keep that flavor and mouthfeel, cut down on the base malt but not the specialty grains, and consider using more flavorful malt such as Maris Otter or Vienna instead of pale malt. The goal is to reduce the fermentable sugars the malted grain produces during the mash process.

Cut back on the hops. Every beer has a BU:GU ratio, that is, bitterness units to gravity units. If you lower the gravity, you will need to lower the bitterness to keep the same perception of bitterness. As a professor of mine used to say, “It’s all relative.” For example, if your favorite IPA has a BU:GU ratio of one and it’s OG (original gravity) is 1.070 with 80 IBUs and you decide to lower your OG to 1.040 then your new IBU target should be 45 IBUs (40/70 x 80). The 45 IBUs will keep the same bitterness to maltiness as the bigger beer. Also consider hop bursting and and hop stands to give the flavor and aroma punch without the added bitterness that comes from boiling.

Consider poorer attenuating yeast (that is one that finishes at a higher specific gravity). Also, consider under-pitching the beer. You want to leave sweetness and maltiness in the background so the beer doesn’t taste watery. Instead of California Ale yeast try Ringwood or an English Ale yeast. You want the fruity ester compounds.

Smooth Sailing Session IPA

Recipe

Batch Size: 5.50 gal
Boil Size: 7.00 gal
Boil Time: 60 min
End of Boil Vol: 6 gal
Final Bottling Vol: 5.00 gal
Est Original Gravity: 1.044
Est Final Gravity: 1.014
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 4.0 %
Bitterness: 36.4 IBUs
Est Color: 6.9 SRM
Efficiency: 70%

Grain Bill

2.174 kg    Vienna Malt (Great Western) (3.5 SRM)      50.6 %
1.087 kg    Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)     25.3 %
0.353 kg    Caramel/Crystal Malt – 20L (20.0 SRM)    8.2 %
0.353 kg    Caravienne Malt (22.0 SRM)      8.2 %
0.163 kg    White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM)      3.8 %
0.163 kg    White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM)       3.8 %

Hop Schedule

9.00 g    Galaxy [14.80 %] – First Wort 60.0 min
7.00 g    Cascade [5.50 %] – Boil 20.0 min
7.00 g    Chinook [13.00 %] – Boil 20.0 min
7.07 g    Chinook [13.00 %] – Boil 5.0 min
7.00 g    Cascade [5.50 %] – Boil 5.0 min
16.00 g   Amarillo [9.20 %] – Steep/Whirlpool 0.0 min
8.00 g    Chinook [13.00 %] – Steep/Whirlpool 0.0 min
16.00 g  Simcoe [13.00 %] – Dry Hop
16.00 g Cascade [5.50 %] – Dry Hop
32.00 g Grapefruit peel – Dry Hop

Yeast

2.0 pkg    American West Coast Ale Dry Yeast (Danstar #BRY-97)

Mash Steps

Name    Description    Step Temperature    Step Time
Mash In    Add 11.20 l of water at 168.2 F    156.0 F    15 min
Mash Out    Add 4.48 l of water at 202.4 F    168.0 F    10 min

Boil for 60 minutes.

I will let you know how it turned out in a few weeks. In the meantime, have you brewed a session beer? How did it turn out?

For more information see: “Five Tips for Session Beer Brewers” and “Session Beers: Techniques

Footnotes

  1. According to the Beer Judge Certification Program, an American IPA is:
    “A decidedly hoppy and bitter, moderately strong American pale ale, showcasing modern American or New World hop varieties. The balance is hop-forward, with a clean fermentation profile, dryish finish, and clean, supporting malt allowing a creative range of hop character to shine through.” pg 37, 2015 BJCP Guidelines (PDF)
  2. For comparison, Bud Light, Miller Lite, and Coors Light each have 4.2% ABV.

Hop Characteristics Wheel

I check in on Twitter nearly daily. Here is a graphic that looked helpful to me and my fellow homebrewers. It’s a graphic, based on John Palmer’s Hop Wheel (found on page 30 in this PDF), and redesigned and updated by Tim Kreitz, that gives the primary characteristics of hops: spicy, citrusy, fruity, floral, piney (evergreen), herbal, earthy.

What’s in a name? California Common – An Uncommon Beer


It has happened to all of us: the need to improvise, to use different ingredients than what was called for in the recipe or have the equipment or conditions be, shall we say, less than ideal. We might have had both of those conditions happen at the same time. That is when we  brewers repeat Charlie Papazian’s mantra: “Relax, have a homebrew.”

When these less-than-optimal-conditions happen to me, I add, “At the end of the brew day, it will be beer.” These “Brewzasters” have happened at the professional level and produced some great beers; Lagunitas’s “Brown Shugga” was created when they added brown sugar to a batch of their Olde Gnarly Wine that was failing. These beers that come about from ‘making do’ may not fall into a class under the Beer Judge Certification Program guidelines but they can taste pretty darn good.

The beer that would become to be known as “steam beer” originated east of Sacramento on the American River in 1848. That is where and when John Marshall discovered gold. When the news leaked, immigrants flooded into California. Between 1848 and 1850, California’s population increased tenfold from around 8,000 (non-native) to nearly 90,000, and the hamlet of San Francisco swelled from 1,000 to 20,000.

The newcomers wanted beer. These Forty-Niners, needed something to slake their thirst. The water was not safe to drink.  They wanted lager.

Lager beer was the new big thing, having been introduced by German immigrants to the east coast of the United States less than ten years earlier. However, the cost of shipping beer from the east coast to California was astronomical.

In those days shipping to San Francisco meant a 15,000-mile boat trip around the southern tip of South America. Or it meant an 8,000 mile journey to the Caribbean side of the Isthmus of Panama, going by canoe and then by mule through 80 miles of jungle to Panama City where steamships anchored infrequently, and reloading the cargo, and continuing on to San Francisco.

Obviously, brewers had to make the beer close by to be affordable, even by the inflated prices of stuff during the Gold Rush. However, California brewers had two problems: First, lager beers were fermented at 45–55 °F (7–13 °C), and second, they needed near-freezing temperatures to store (lager) the beer. California had neither of those.

On the east coast and midwest, breweries started by German immigrants located themselves near lakes that froze in the winter. That meant they had a ready supply of ice. In California, except for the Sierra Nevada in winter, there was nothing comparable. Plus, lagering took several weeks—too long and too expensive for impatient and thirsty miners.

When conventional does not work, it is time to get unconventional.

The brewers decided to try making lagers under warmer conditions. San Francisco has a cool climate, averaging in the high 50s during the winter to the low 70s during the summer. And for the brewers, that was close enough. They used cold-loving lager yeasts at temperatures that were more appropriate for brewing ales (60-68 °F or 16–20 °C) and a hybrid, “steam beer,” was born.

Improvising came with the job of brewer in the 19th century. According to one account, a starting brewer near Sacramento, made a mash tun “by joining wooden planks roughly together” and his boil kettle had “a tin bottom and a wood box on the top.”

Someone got the idea of putting the beer in shallow troughs, giving more surface area in order to cool the wort. Most contemporary sources say this was done while the wort was near boiling and well before the adding of the lager yeast. However, Wahl and Heinus’s American Handy Book of Malting and Brewing, published in 1902, say it was after the fermentation had begun—to clarify the beer rather than cool it. The beer would be “run into long, wide shallow vats called clarifiers, which are made of wood, about 12 inches high.”

Wahl and Heinus warned that brewers needed to take “precautions” to make sure that the clarifiers were not “too cold, so as to give the wort running out of the tubs a sudden setback which may check fermentation.” A brewer would not concern himself with a clarifier being too cold if the purpose was to cool the liquid, where “the cooler, the better,” would be the rule.

Wahl and Heinus warned that brewers needed to take “precautions” to make sure that the clarifiers were not “too cold, so as to give the wort running out of the tubs a sudden setback which may check fermentation.”

It is possible that these clarifiers did double-duty as coolers; Wahl and Heinus say that if no cooling apparatus was available, then “the wort is exposed overnight, or until it is cooled to about the above temperature.”

Steam beer tasted fruitier than lager due to esters being produced by fermenting at a slightly warmer temperature, but less so than ales. The warmer temperatures also meant the yeast finished fermentation faster, which was just fine with the brewers who were looking only to make something that tasted okay to the miners.

Make no mistake, the California brewers of the gold-rush era weren’t trying to be revolutionary; they were trying to meet a demand.

According to Wahl & Heinus, after a few days in the clarifiers, the brewers would ensure carbonation by adding “about five gallons” of Kräusen, rapidly fermenting beer from a recent batch, “per one general trade package called one-half barrel or 15 gallons.” This added rapidly fermenting beer would occupy “about 33 to 40 per cent” of the keg. To say this method ensured the beer would be carbonated understates the result. Wahl & Heinus reported pressure ranges from “40 to 70 pounds” per square inch “in each trade package.” Besides super- carbonating the cask, this method probably kept unwanted spoilers from ruining the beer.

The added rapidly fermenting beer would be “about 33 to 40 per cent” of the keg. To say this method ensured the beer would be carbonated understates the result. Wahl & Heinus reported pressure ranges from “40 to 70 pounds” per square inch “in each trade package.”

The brewers were not worried about handcrafting artisanal beverages; they were making beer—as fast as they could, “usually brewed and consumed within a month or three weeks.” Steam beer was also cheap and drunk by the “laboring classes,” people without a lot of money. ‘Good enough’ was good enough for them. As an 1893 Western Brewer magazine article waggishly put it, steam beer was “not a connoisseur’s drink.”

As an 1893 Western Brewer magazine article waggishly put it, steam beer was “not a connoisseur’s drink.”

No one knows why or how this unique beer style came to be known as steam beer. The stories do agree that many breweries sprouted in the west during the Gold Rush days (San Francisco had twenty-seven breweries in 1860) and they all made a beer called “steam beer.” It is possible that the beer, fermenting in the shallow open vats on rooftops, wafted clouds of steam in the cool morning air.

Perhaps steam beer was named after Dampfbier (literally: steam beer) brewed for centuries in southeastern Bavaria near the Czech border, and called steam beer because it produced “steam” during fermentation.

Perhaps it was called steam beer because it acted like steam. In 1849, to say something was steam powered meant it was fast and good. Steam meant new and exciting in those days; similar to the way “atomic” was used in the 1950s. “Steam” brimmed with revolutionary changes. Steam powered locomotives were faster than anything else around. Steam meant fast, hip, cool, new, and exciting—no boundaries existed for steam.

While I like the last possibility and think it had much to do with the beer’s name being used across the west coast of the United States, Wahl and Heinus say it was due to the “high effervescent properties and the amount of pressure (‘steam’) it has in the packages.” A cask would vent “steam,” as though it was a locomotive, when tapped.

The term Steam Beer dates back to the Gold Rush, the Anchor Brewing Company trademarked the term in 1981, after all, they were the only brewer left producing a product they called “Anchor Steam Beer.” Beer historian, Martin Lodahl wrote of this event, “[It] could be argued that the term [steam beer] has passed out of the general usage and into the specific, and further, that anyone else using the term for a commercial product could expect to benefit by Anchor’s prior use of the name.” That is if you made a steam beer, you were getting a boost from Anchor Brewing’s hard work, besides, Anchor had really changed the recipe over the years.

After Anchor trademarked a term that had been around for 130 years to describe a distinctly west coast-style beer, a new name was needed. Contemporary brewers have selected “California Common” to describe a beer that uses lager yeast fermenting at ale temperatures.

Anyone who has sampled a California Common beer would agree it is anything but common. It is unique. How about Atomic Beer?

If you want to be authentic and brew to style, Wahl and Heinus say your grain bill could be, “malt alone, malts and grits, or raw cereals of any kind, and sugars, especially glucose, employed in the kettle to the extent of 33 1⁄3%,” and “roasted malt or sugar coloring” added “to give the favorite amber color of Munich beer.” Mashing temperatures should be, “as a rule…taken about 140° to 145°F. Then to 149° to 154°F., mashed 10 to 15 min., and then raised to 158°F. as final temperature….The mash is allowed to rest about 45 min., and the same precautions taken in running off wort and sparging as in other mashes, the sparging water to be about 167°F.” Target gravities ranged from 11 to 12 1⁄2 percent Plato (1.044-1.050). Add “three-fourths of a pound” of hops per barrel (about two ounces for a five gallon batch) “in the usual way.” After a one-hour to two-hour boil, the wort should be cooled quickly to 60° to 62°F. It is up to you whether to use a clarifier and leave the wort exposed overnight.

As for carbonation, for safety’s sake, stick with three or four ounces of corn sugar per five gallons or one cup of malt extract. Stay away from adding 30-40 percent Kräusen to bottles—the bottles could easily explode to cause serious injury or death.

If Wahl & Heinus’s recipe is too general, Horst Dornbusch provided some good ones in December 2004 Brew Your Own. I like that he recommends Cluster hops rather than Northern Brewer. Cluster hops were grown extensively in the U.S. until just after 1910. He also recommends using malt extract or wort for priming, in keeping with the German brewers who started the style.

Recipes

California Common (5 gallons/19 L, all-grain)

OG = 1.052
FG=1.012
IBU = 35
SRM = 16
ABV = 5.2%

Ingredients
8.5 lbs. (3.8 kg) American 2-row pale ale malt (approx. 2.5 °L) 1.3 lb. (0.58 kg) Munich malt (10-20 °L)
1.0 lb. (0.45 kg) crystal malt (60 °L)
1.6 oz. (45 g) Cluster hops 6% alpha acid 9.5 AAU (bittering) 1.0 oz. (28 g) Cluster hops (aroma)
1 tsp. Irish moss
Wyeast 2112 (California Lager) or White Labs WLP0810 (San Francisco Lager) yeast
1 cup dry malt extract (for priming)

Step by Step
Start your mash at 130 °F (54 °C) for a 30-minute rest and increase the mash temperature, using a combination of hot-water infusion and direct heat, to 152 °F (67 °C) for a 60-minute saccharification rest, then to 168 °F (76 °C) for the mash-out. Recirculate your wort until it runs clear (about 15 minutes) and sparge with 170 °F (77 °C) water until you reach a kettle gravity of about 1.047 (11.8 °P) to account for evaporation losses during the boil. Boil for 75 minutes. Add the bittering hops after 15 minutes and the aroma hops and Irish moss after 70 minutes. After shutdown, let the brew rest for about 15 minutes. Pitch yeast at between 58 °F (14 °C) and 72 °F (22 °C).
Ferment for 10 days and rack. Allow an additional week for secondary fermentation. Rack again and prime for packaging. Let the brew condition in bottles or in a keg for another two to three weeks.

California Common (5 gallons/19 L, extract with grains)
OG = 1.052
FG = 1.012
IBU = 35
SRM = 16
ABV = 5.2%

Ingredients
6.25 lbs. (2.8 kg) pale ale liquid malt extract
1.3 lb. (0.58 kg) Munich malt (10-20 °L)
0.8 lb. (0.28 kg) crystal malt (60 °L)
1.6 oz. (45 g) Cluster hops 6% alpha acid 9.5 AAU (bittering) 1.0 oz. (28 g) Cluster hops (aroma)
1 tsp. Irish moss
Wyeast 2112 (California Lager) or White Labs WLP0810 (San Francisco Lager) yeast 1 cup dry malt extract (for priming)

Step by Step
Coarsely mill the 2.1 lbs. of specialty grains and place them into a muslin bag. Immerse the bag in cold water and heat slowly, for about 30 minutes to 170–190 °F (77–88 °C). Discard the bag without squeezing it and mix the liquid with about 4 gallons (15 L) of brewing liquor. Heat the liquor and stir in the liquid malt extract. Bring the dissolved malt extract to a boil. Boil for 75 minutes. Add the bittering hops after 15 minutes and the aroma hops and Irish moss after 70 minutes. After shutdown, let the brew rest for about 15 minutes. Pitch yeast at between 58 °F (14 °C) and 72 °F (22 °C).

Ferment for 10 days and rack. Allow an additional week for secondary fermentation. Rack again and prime for packaging. Let the brew condition in bottles or in a keg for another two to three weeks.

California Common (5 gallons/19 L, extract only)
OG = 1.052
FG = 1.012
IBU = 35
SRM = 16
ABV = 5.2%

Ingredients
6.25 lbs. (2.8 kg) pale ale liquid malt extract
1.66 lb. (0.75 kg) dark ale liquid malt extract
1.6 oz. (45 g) Cluster hops 6% alpha acid 9.5 AAU (bittering)
1.0 oz. (28 g) Cluster hops (aroma)
1 tsp. Irish moss
Wyeast 2112 (California Lager) or White Labs WLP0810 (San Francisco
Lager) yeast 1 cup dry malt extract (for priming)

Step by Step
Mix the malt extracts with your hot brewing liquor in the kettle. Bring the wort to a boil, and boil for 75 minutes. Add the bittering hops after 15 minutes and the aroma hops and Irish moss after 70 minutes. After shutdown, let the brew rest for about 15 minutes. Pitch yeast at between 58 °F (14 °C) and 72 °F (22 °C).

Ferment for 10 days and rack. Allow an additional week for secondary fermentation. Rack again and prime for packaging. Let the brew condition in bottles or in a keg for another two to three weeks.

References
Bergen, R. (n.d.). California Steaming. Retrieved September 1, 2012, from MoreBeer: http://morebeer.com/brewingtechniques/library/styles/2_1style.html

Dornbusch, H. D. (2004, December). California Common: An American Brew for the Common Man. Retrieved January 28, 2013, from Brew Your Own: http://www.byo.com/stories/beer- styles/article/indices/11-beer-styles/416-california-common-style-profile

Harvard University Library Open Collections Program. (n.d.). California Gold Rush (1848– 1858). Retrieved October 5, 2012, from Immigration to the United States, 1789-1930: http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/immigration/goldrush.html

Lodahl, M. (1996, February). Steam Beer. Retrieved October 2012, from BrewYourOwn.com: http://byo.com/stories/beer-styles/article/indices/11-beer-styles/1442-steam-beer

Malloy, B. (n.d.). San Francisco Weather and Climate. Retrieved October 3, 2012, from About.com: http://gocalifornia.about.com/cs/sanfrancisco/l/bl_sf_temp.htm

Palmer, J. (n.d.). How to Brew by John Palmer. Retrieved October 8, 2012, from Chapter 10 – What is Different for Brewing Lager Beer?: http://www.howtobrew.com/section1/chapter10- 5.html

Pierce, B. (2006, March/April). The Lowdown on Lagering: Advanced Brewing. Retrieved JANUARY 28, 2013, from Brew Your Own: http://byo.com/component/resource/article/1520

Smith, G. (1995). Beer: A History of Suds and Civilization From Mesopotamia to Microbreweries. New York, New York: Avon Books.

Wahl, R., & Heinus, M. (1902). American Handy Book of the Brewing, Malting and Auxiliary Trades: A Book of Ready Reference for Persons Connected with the Brewing, Malting and Auxiliary Trades, Together with Tables, Formulas, Calculations, Bibliography and Dictionary of Technical Terms. http://archive.org/details/americanhandybo00wahlgoog

White, S. E. (n.d.). Chapter 7. The Way By Panama. Retrieved October 1, 2012, from The Forty-Niners: http://www.readbookonline.net/read/38907/77201/

If yeast ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy

I came across a 2012 article posted by the American Academy of Microbiology. It is an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) on yeast titled, If the Yeast ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. And, far from being written in obfuscating sciency prose, it is written down-to-earth language even I can understand. This is not to say that it is not science-based.

FAQ reports [by the American Academy of Microbiology] are based on the deliberations of 15-20 expert scientists who gather for a day to develop science-based answers to questions the public might have about topics in microbiology. The reports are reviewed by all participants, and by outside experts, and every effort is made to ensure that the information is accurate and complete.

It is chockablock full of good information on brewers yeast, party because the Pope of Foam, Charles Bamforth, Ph.D., D.Sc. of University of California Davis Department of Food Science and Technology; Chris White, Ph.D., of White Labs; and Katherine Smart, Ph.D. of SABMiller are on the steering committee.

Here is the link to the PDF: http://academy.asm.org/images/stories/documents/ColloquiaDoc/faq_beer.pdf

Enhanced by Zemanta

This Week in BrewZasters: MyBrewCo and the Accidental IPA (on purpose)

This past week I have had some good exchanges with Michael, the designer of the MyBrewCo.com website. Being a typical male, after reading in Brew Your Own (BYO) magazine that MyBrewCo existed, I jumped in and set up my own “Batch-22 Brewery (tagline: There’s Always a Batch). After I set up the Batch-22 Brewery, I posted my observations on this site (here) and Michael had responded to those (see the comments).

An Unexpected IPA. It was supposed to be an American Pale Ale.

An Unexpected IPA. It was supposed to be an American Pale Ale.

Thinking there was no time like the present to start tracking my brewing online, I tried uploading an XML file for the Accidental IPA that was exported from my BeerSmith program. This led to an error message that the recipe didn’t meet the database’s needs.  Databases are notoriously literal and don’t handle human inconsistencies well. (Michael says the standard procedure for standards is to deviate slightly from the standard.) In the end, I created the recipe on the website by picking ingredients from its drop-down menus. (Note: now when you upload a recipe the site tells you that your “File has been uploaded. We’ll process the file and let you know if the recipes need repairing. You can navigate away from this page.”)

Brewing the Accidental IPA on purpose

As you may recall, the first version Accidental IPA was supposed to be an an American pale ale from the book, “Brewing Classic Styles: 80 Winning Recipes Anyone Can Brew” by Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer. However the original gravity was higher than normal due to some alignment of things* that weren’t there before in my brewing that affected the efficiency of the brew session (apologies for the awkwardness of the sentence).  More sugars in the wort means more food for the yeast which gives the beer more alcohol in the end.

Yesterday, the plan was to brew the Accidental IPA on purpose. As always, I got out the trusty Brewer’s Logbook from BasicBrewing.com for my notes–paper and pencil really help capture stuff as it’s happening. I hit the numbers that the beer needed: 12.5 gallons of 1.057 wort pre-boil and 9.5 (I wanted 10) gallons of 1.072 wort into the fermenters.

One reason for notes is that I follow Tasty McDole’s method of mashing, in that I don’t sweat trying to calculate the exact strike water amount (at 1.25 quart/1 pound of grain), but simply put in 10 gallons and then fly sparge (rinse) the grains. Keeping track of the strike water temps for different size grain bills for 10 gallons of water becomes important to put in your notes, if you want to replicate the results.

I also went to MyBrewCo.com and set up a “Brew Job.” (You may set up a Brew Job only if you are registered as a “Brewery.”) I picked my recipe, named it On Purpose IPA, picked the mash schedule from the Mash Template (Infusion, Mash Out, Fly Spare, Medium [body])**, the Brewing Method (all-grain), and a few other details and told the program to “Create” the Brew Job. The program then gives you an overview of the job, including the beer’s profile (tachometer-style dials indicate the IBUs, the predicted original gravity, final gravity, ABV, and color***).  Above the dials are tabs relating to the batch: Job, Brew Day, Mashing*, Schedule, equipment, Fermentable, Hop, Miscellaneous, Yeast, Actuals (actual volumes of wort produced), Readings, Notes, Carbonation, and Batch Split.

After the instructions, the “Readings” tab is probably the most beneficial/important. It is here you add a “Reading Type” (Gravity or Temperature). Within the drop-down menu of the Temperature choice you will find: “Ambient, Grain, Mash-In, Rest, Mash-Out, Boil, Into Fermenter, Pitch, Primary, Secondary, Container, Serving.” What was missing, for me, was Strike Water temperature****.  I track the strike water temperature so that I can duplicate (or, more often, tweak it up or down because the mash temp was off) the result next time. I would like to see the strike water temperature in there (maybe it is and I missed it). I would also like to see the mash temperature listed in the recipe–mash temp controls the body of the beer. (for more on mash temperature and the body of the beer, see Brad Smith’s write-up here.)

Brewing is a craft–a mixture of art and science. You may think of brewing as I do, a simple process of making a porridge, saving the liquid and tossing out the grainy bits, boiling, cooling, and fermenting. But as you get better and acquire more knowledge, you consider more and more steps/requirements–and there are lots of those. MyBrewCo tries to help you track and manage the stuff involved in making consistently good beer, while trying to be different/better than other online brewing sites such as BrewToad.com. I wish Michael luck in this and will continue to help in dialing in the process.

About MyBrewCo.com

The MyBrewCo website says it is designed to, “Manage your brewing online.” You can:

  • “Create and upload Recipes”.
  • “Convert Recipes between brewing methods, unit of measures and automatically scale to equipment”.
  • “Let the system manage your efficiency and automatically scale recipes”.
  • “Manage recipe versions, copy and modify any recipe in the database”.
  • Create “An online shopping list, add custom items or let the system populate when a job is created”.
  • “Use our calendar or plug your brewing schedule into your favorite application using the internet calendar”.
  • “Use our online shopping list, add custom items or let the system populate when Use our online shopping list, add custom items or let the system populate when” you are ready to do so.
  • “Manage Brew Jobs, view recipe and instructions”.
  • “Record brew day statistics for analysis.”
  • “Track efficiencies between equipment profiles”.
  • “Record gravity readings and track your beer’s fermentation”.

*Perhaps my grain grinder has the perfect alignment of its teeth so it gives the perfect crush or switching from brewing in a bag (BiAB) to fly sparging or something else made the mash efficiency go up.

**The choice of the Mash Template is quite important. On my first attempt I wasn’t paying close attention and missed this selection and the first choice in the queue was chosen by default. This would normally not be a big deal, you would go to where you could edit the mash schedule and change it. The only change allowed after the program creates the Brew Job is to change the name of the mash; the temperatures, times, and steps cannot be altered. You will need to delete the Brew Job and reenter the data.

***The color that the program gives is a 10 SRM and the beer is probably a 4.0-5.5 SRM.

****The rule of thumb is to heat the strike water 10F more than the mash temperature desired due to the cooling provided by the grain (at 1.25 quarts of water per 1 pound of grain).

Online Brewing Software – MyBrewCo.com

Over time, I will be copying recipes over to https://mybrewco.com/. MyBrewCo is, according to the site, a “free online brewing system to manage your brewing, share recipes and connect with friends.”

It looks to have promise, but I found some drawbacks as well. I have entered the Accidental IPA recipe onto the site (see that here). I could not enter my outputs from that recent brewing session. Apparently, only “Brew Jobs” can be entered and those occur on a date in the future (or that day). Also, the notes features and mashing information–for all-grain batches–is limited or missing. The xml file upload did not not work for the BeerSmith generated xml (which according to the beer xml site is xml compatible); I had to pick out the ingredients off the site’s system.

MyBrewCo.com is working on more features (see here). I am not seeing the brewing management tools such as the ability to take notes during brewing sessions that every brewer needs and there is no forum, which would seem to be necessary to “connect with friends.”

Despite these drawbacks, MyBrewCo.com does have some good features. The ingredients lists were extensive when I was posting the recipe.

Beer and Civilization—Who Knew?

I hope you have had a happy Earth Day. It happened, thanks to beer. (Please, celebrate responsibly)

Fermentation First

Evidence mounts almost daily that beer started humans on the path to civilization even before the invention of agriculture some twelve thousand years ago. A recent paper in Evolutionary Anthropology says that, based on tests of artifacts, cereal grains were collected (sometimes from areas as far as sixty miles away) “for the purposes of brewing beer” to be used in feasts, which then “led to domestication…” That is, brewing led to the collecting of seeds for cultivation. And, feasts in prehistoric times were given for much the same reasons as they are today: to mark religious events or to impress others and also to make social, political, and commercial connections.

Edited copy of Image:The Brewer designed and e...

Edited copy of Image:The Brewer designed and engraved in the Sixteenth. Century by J Amman.png (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In “Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages,” Dr. Pat McGovern says, “Wherever we look…we see that the principal way to communicate with the gods or the ancestors involves an alcoholic beverage…” As examples, he mentions “the wine of the Eucharist” and “the beer presented to the Sumerian goddess Ninkasi…”

Fermenting Agriculture

Eventually, people decided planting and tending was easier than going long distances to get the needed grain. Agriculture raised the density of the desired plants in an area and the people as well. Farmers stayed in one place for a while and had an affinity for places that had settlements since they could sell or trade their surplus grain there. In the settlements, people specialized at particular jobs and purchased or traded for goods and services they wanted. (See: “How Ancient Trade Changed the World“)

Grain (and beer) had the advantage of being storable: it would last for relatively long periods, and as a result, could be transported. That meant farmers could bring their grain to market and make a profit, and others could profit from shipping it abroad. In many ways, globalization occurred during the Bronze Age and probably earlier in Neolithic times.

Bar Tabs, Invoices, And The Tax Man

Because people were now living in greater concentrations, the amount of stuff around became more than what one person might be able to remember—it had to be written down. Pictures of goods soon became stylized symbols, which could be made faster and got the point across. Sumerians (in what is present-day Iraq) started making notations for bookkeeping about 5,000 years ago. “The first examples of writing,” Heather Whipps says in an article on LiveScience.com, “were pictograms used by temple officials to keep track of the inflows and outflows of the city’s grain and animal stores which, in the bigger Sumerian urban centers such as Ur, were big enough to make counting by memory unreliable.”

Then, just as in today, taxes on alcohol provided revenue to the ruler, so reports had to be submitted. One of our oldest examples of writing is a receipt for beer. In 2050 BCE, a scribe named Ur-Amma accepted about four and a half quarts of the “best beer” from a brewer named Alulu.

The Rest, As They Say, Is History

The advent of farming was both helpful and harmful depending on where you looked. Farming massively disrupts the landscape (often through deforestation) to grow food or fiber. Yet, compared to a nomadic or hunter-gatherer lifestyle, farming used much less land, freeing the rest to revert to a more natural state. “The remarkable thing about farming, when it was invented 10,000 years ago,” says science writer Matt Ridley, “was how much smaller its footprint was.” According to Ridley, the first farmers needed about one percent as much land as the hunter-gatherers needed.

Civilization Is An Enormous Improvement On The Lack Thereof. – P. J. O’Rourke

So, to recap, civilization came about because of agriculture, and agriculture happened because humans chased a beer buzz. As poet John Ciardi said, “Fermentation and civilization are inseparable.”

Civilization, and its improving living standards, means we have time to do something besides just toiling to stay alive. Civilization, and its specialization of labor, allows us the time to set aside a day to remember the world on which we depend: Earth Day.

Cheers! Prost! Salud!