Day 3 of Homebrew Con

This was the big day! I started off the morning with my seminar, “The Dinosaur in Your Homebrew.” For being at 9 am on the morning after club night, I had a fairly decent crowd–around 50 to 75 people. Martin Brungard introduced me, augmented by a special guest appearance from T. rex. (quite a surprise!) Then, I rolled into the content of the talk. Overall, I felt like it went pretty well. There are a few things I would tweak (I forget to mention some of the technical updates on names for formations contributing to the Burton aquifer), but I am always my own worst critic! I was pleased to see a few “big names” in the audience, and equally pleased to chat with a few folks afterwards on topics related to my presentation.


The speaker gift was pretty cool–a custom tap handle with the conference logo! The construction is nice and solid, and it will have an honored place in my tap room. Overall, my experience as a speaker was pretty positive, and I would absolutely do it again. AHA had good communication prior to the event, and made sure to have one or two people from the organization at my talk to touch base before and after the event. I particularly should acknowledge Dave Carpenter for encouraging me to submit a proposal…I did it somewhat on a whim and just before the deadline, without really any expectation of it flying, so this was a nice bonus experience!

20170617_182454Later that morning, I hit Annie Johnson’s seminar on Czech pilsners. She had lots of great content, and is a tremendously engaging and entertaining speaker. It was cool to see how “casual” the big breweries are about things like sanitation (at least for their “reference batches”), and it was a good reminder that excellent results can come from even what we homebrewers might consider appallingly primitive technique. It was also nice treat to sample some of her homebrewed Czech pilsner…it’s not often I get to try beer from well-known elite homebrewers!

I grabbed some food at the convention center, and then headed over to the scheduled online forum meetup. This was probably the only real aspect of the conference I found a bit disappointing. There wasn’t really any signage for particular forums, and so I wandered around and met one or two people, but there was never really a big group of folks like I’ve usually seen at similar events elsewhere. Ah well! Hopefully this will get changed in future years (I mentioned it in my conference feedback survey).

One of my fellow members of the Horse Thief Brewers Association (Steve J.) had an entry in the final round for the National Homebrew Competition, so I joined him at the award ceremony. I have to say I was dreading it slightly–there were a lot of awards to go through, and I was expecting an unending slog of announcements and marches to the stage. What a pleasant surprise! They kept things moving smoothly and efficiently, while still allowing each winner who was present to have their moment in the spotlight. The whole thing was finished in barely an hour–not bad at all! Although my fellow club member didn’t win, I did know the winner for the Double IPA category (Randy Sauter of Rapid City, South Dakota). It was pretty darned cool to hear his name announced, and to congratulate him afterwards. I was lucky enough to be able to sample the beer, and it was truly gold medal worthy!

The “Knockout Party” was immediately afterward, with ample homebrew available (including all of the extra bottles left over from the competition). I was interested to taste these…and surprised as to how many showed signs of aging or other flaws. This is a strong argument for rebrewing and/or careful handling prior to the competition! One fellow I met via Twitter was kind enough to share some fun sours from his collection; yet another connection I wouldn’t have made without social media.

Overall, this was a fun and educational conference. I enjoyed meeting lots of other homebrewers, learning some new techniques and tricks, and having the opportunity to present on some topics important to me. Another Homebrew Con is definitely in the cards for the future!

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Day 2 of Homebrew Con

I intended to write up something after Club Night, but got back late and wanted to practice my talk one last time, so this is only getting written two days late!

In any case, Day 2 of Homebrew Con piled on some more informative seminars and product demos as well as more tasty beer.

The seminar highlight for me was on oxidation, presented by Robert Hall and Andy Mitchell. They even had samples of fresh and oxidized Fat Tire to compare, which was a really nice demo. They had tips on how to expand your oxidation vocabulary (it’s not just old cardboard or sherry; it also can manifest as honey or applesauce, among others), which was pretty useful. For those who want to experience oxidation directly, a simple demo is to take two bottles of a commercial beer (lighter beer, such as light lager or amber ale preferable), and then uncap one and leave it open for a few seconds before recapping. Leave the uncapped one at room temperature for a few days, and then compare! You should be able to pick up oxidation notes fairly easily. Finally, Andy presented some really cool data on oxidation in home bottling. He works at Fat Tire, and so has access to some sweet dissolved oxygen measuring equipment. He filled bottles from the tap using a hose without CO2 purge (like filling a growler) and a beer gun with CO2 purge, and compared their DO levels to those coming off the commercial bottle line. Surprisingly (to me), the “home-filled” bottles (even those using a tap hose!) often (but not always) had less dissolved oxygen than those from the commercial beer line! Capping on foam is probably critical. The bottle-line beers had more consistent DO levels, though, whereas the “home-filled” ones had a more variable spread of data points. Lots to think about!


Briess Malt Steeping Demo

I also saw a nice demo of the ASBC hot steep malt sensory method at the Briess booth (see picture above). I had read about this recently, and it seems like a nice way to quickly, cheaply, and easily compare malt flavor and aroma in a homebrewing environment. A PDF of their handout is available here.

In the social club, one of the local homebrewers (from the Primary Fermenters club) had a really tasty lemongrass ginger wit–it was wonderfully balanced in flavor and quite refreshing! It ranked among the more interesting and enjoyable homebrews I sampled at the conference.

For lunch, a few of us made our way out to the Utepils Brewery. It’s a really pretty space, with gorgeous tilework below the fermenters, and even more gorgeous beer on tap. I had another glass of their delightful Czech pilsner, as well as their weizen. A food truck had pasties in several delicious varieties, which complimented the beers nicely.


Inside the Utepils brewery and tap room

The day culminated with the world-famous Club Night! Numerous local and regional clubs had their best stuff on tap, with some really fun themes. I enjoyed a Big Lebowski-themed booth, as well as the Game of Thrones booth–featuring taps run through an ice wall! This being the Upper Midwest, many excellent meads were available.

Back to the room, and one more run-through of my talk to close out the day…

Tomorrow I’ll post a summary of the conferences final day!

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Quick Takes from Day 1 of Homebrew Con 2017

I’m here in the Twin Cities! I’ve got my swag bag, got my conference beers, and got my taster glass. I sat through three seminars, wandered the exhibit hall, and enjoyed the kick-off night.

Highlights of the day…

  • The best presentation/seminar of the day was from Axel Jany of Weyermann Malting…he talked about some of their specialty malts, and gave a very interesting and entertaining presentation on some of the recent developments from Weyermann. The talk nicely addressed philosophies behind recipe development, as well as providing some good technical info on their malts. As a bonus, I managed to snag a (free) 10 lb. bag of their new Barke Pilsner Malt, made from a “rare” barley variety. This will definitely be going into a future beer!
  • I got to sing along with Denny Conn (and a gazillion other homebrewers) as Denny played the ukelele. Fun!
  • Lots of free stuff–including some experimental hops from Yakima’s 2014 crop. They’re a bit old, I suppose, but look to be nicely packed and good candidates for a future pale ale.
  • Omar Ansari of Surly Brewing gave a fun keynote on his history with brewing.
  • There were a ton of great beers at the kickoff event tonight. I of course enjoyed sampling beers from Funkwerks (including the original Raspberry Provincial, which I had only sampled in my own cloned form–following my session, I realized that I gotta up the acid in this, and thus go with a dedicated kettle sour rather than trying to use acid malt as in the clone recipe).
  • Bald Man Brewing had a great logo that looked kinda like me (bald men unite!)…and some interesting beers!
  • For me, the absolute highlight of beers this evening were those from Utepils. They had an altbier and kolsch that were absolutely on point. And their Bohemian pilsner…divine! I will be dreaming about this beer. The malt, hops, water, and yeast combined into perhaps the most perfect example of this beer that I have ever sampled in my life!

The Bohemian Pilsner from Utepils…wow, what a beer!

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Beer Update: Palaeotis Pils & Gondwana Pale Ale

Gondwana Pale Ale 1.5

I kegged the latest iteration of my Gondwana Pale Ale on 7 June 2017, adding two ounces of dry hops in a baggie at that time. Final gravity was 1.012, down from 1.053, for 5.4% abv.

Initial tastings show that this should be a pretty decent beer. It has a bit to mature yet, in that the yeast haven’t totally settled out and that seems to impart a harshness to the bitterness. I expect this should be much improved by the time I get back from Homebrew Con.

20170611_131001Palaeotis Pils 1.1

After brewing this beer on 20 May 2017, I started it at 50° and then let it ferment at 54° after a few days. I raised the temperature to 64° on 1 June, and then cold-crashed to 33° on 7 June 2017.

I kegged this beer today (11 June 2017). It has a final gravity of 1.011, down from 1.048, for 4.7% abv. At the time of kegging, I also added 1 tsp. of gelatin dissolved in 3/4 cup of water and heated to 152°, as a fining agent.

This beer tastes and smells amazing–I anticipate that it’s going to be a fine brew once it is clear and carbonated! Everything is on-point, and it’s a nice change after the disappointment on my Bohemian pilsner.

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Lemondrop Wheat Ale

Summer means wheat beers! My intention with this batch is to have something light and refreshing that won’t take too long to turn around, either. I also wanted to experiment with Lemondrop hops, and this seemed like the perfect style in which to do so.

In terms of recipe design, the grist (52% pilsner malt, 46% white wheat malt) is fairly standard. I vacillated on whether or not to include flaked wheat as a way to increase body and prolong haze in the keg, but in the end neither factor is terribly important to me on this batch. The other decision I had to make was whether or not to dope the beer with some homemade lemon extract. My first version of the recipe had this, but after discussion with some other homebrewers at the AHA forum, I decided not to use it. My main purpose with this batch is to explore the hops, and I don’t want those to be overwhelmed by citrus extract. Depending on how this turns out, I may add some extract towards the end of the keg, but we’ll see. Discussion on the forum also led me to use pilsner rather than 2-row, for a slightly lighter malt profile against the hops.

When testing the hops before I threw them into the kettle, I noted that they had some citrus (not nearly as prominent as I expected, given the name and the hype) along with a hay note (not necessarily grassy in the way I often think of grassy–it was dried hay, not freshly cut lawn). My suspicion based on these findings is that I’ll likely use the extract before the keg is finished!

Lemondrop Wheat Ale

  • 4.5 lbs. floor-malted Bohemian pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 4 lbs. white wheat malt (Great Western)
  • 2.7 oz. rice hulls
  • 0.3 oz. Warrior hop pellets (15.5% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.5 tsp. Fermax, 10 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Lemondrop hop pellets (6.2% alpha), 15 minute steep/whirlpool
  • 1 oz. Lemondrop hop pellets (6.2% alpha), dry hop in keg
  • 1 pkg. American Hefeweizen Ale yeast, WLP320 (White Labs)

Target Parameters

  • Infusion mash to hit target of 152°. Batch sparge.
  • Claremont tap water with RO and salt additions to hit targets of 82 Ca, 8 Mg, 9 Na, 89 SO4, 73 Cl, 78 HCO3, 64 ppm alkalinity, 1 ppm RA.
  • 1.045 o.g., 1.012 f.g., 4.4% abv, 20 IBU, 4 SRM, 5 gallons into fermenter


  • The day before brewing, I made a 1L starter for my yeast and set it going on the stir plate.
  • I mashed in with 3 gallons of Claremont tap water treated with a quarter of a Campden tablet. The water had a target temperature of 162.2°, which hit my target mash temperature of 152°.
  • For my sparge water, I added 3 g gypsum, 1.2 g epsom salt, and 4 g calcium chloride to 5 gallons of RO water. Added with the strike water, I should hit my target.
  • The mash was down to 148 or 149° after 60 minutes. I added 1.6 gallons of water at 160 degrees, to raise the mash temperature to 152°. Then, I let the mash rest for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings.
  • I added 3.4 gallons of sparge water at 183°, to raise the mash temperature to 164. I let this sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the remainder of the runnings.
  • In total, I collected 6.75 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.038, for 78% efficiency.
  • I brought the wort to a boil and added the hops and other items per the schedule.
  • After a 60 minute boil, I turned off the flame, added the last hop charge in a mesh bag, and let it sit for a few minutes before cooling. I started cooling, which brought the wort down to 165°. I paused the cooling, let it sit for another 10 minutes, and continued chilling down to 75°.
  • I transferred the wort to the fermenter and pitched the yeast.
  • I brewed this beer on 9 June 2017. Starting gravity was 1.047, just a bit more than predicted (0.02 above target). I’m fermenting this at 66°.
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