Time to IPA it up again! I’ve been doing a lot of either “fruity” hops (Citra/Mosaic) or single hop IPA experiments, so for this recipe I wanted to do an American hop blend focusing on Centennial and Amarillo (hence the name “CA IPA”). I’m also going to switch up techniques a bit–rather than dry-hopping in the keg, I’m going to dry-hop in the fermenter towards the end of the main fermentation cycle, followed by cold crashing prior to kegging.


  • 11 lbs. 2-row malt (Rahr)
  • 2 lbs. 4.8 oz. Vienna malt (Weyermann)
  • 8 oz. crystal 20° malt (Briess)
  • 5 oz. crystal 10° malt (Briess)
  • 0.75 oz. Warrior hop pellets (15.8% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Amarillo hop pellets (7% alpha), 15 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Centennial hop pellets (7.6% alpha), 15 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Amarillo hop pellets (7% alpha), 5 minute whirlpool
  • 1 oz. Centennial hop pellets (7.6% alpha), 5 minute whirlpool
  • 1 pkg. Burton Ale yeast (WLP023, White Labs), prepared in 1.25L starter
  • 1 oz. Amarillo hop pellets (7% alpha), 5 day dry-hop in primary fermenter
  • 1 oz. Centennial hop pellets (7.6% alpha), 5 day dry-hop in primary fermenter

Target Parameters

  • 150° mash, 60 minutes
  • 1.065 o.g., 1.015 f.g., 6.6% abv, 63 IBU, 6 SRM, 6 gallons into the fermenter


  • The morning of my brew day, I prepared the yeast in a 1.25L starter. I don’t plan on setting any aside, so I did not bother with overbuilding the starter.
  • I prepared my mash water by adding a quarter Campden tablet, 8g gypsum, and 5g epsom salt to 4.75 gallons tap water. The 4.5 gallons of sparge water will be plain RO.
  • I heated the mash water to 170°, added it to the fermenter, and then let the temperature settle to 161.5° before adding the grains. This hit my mash temperature right at 150.2°, pretty much exactly where I wanted it.
  • Mash temperature was down to 148.5° after 30 minutes. I was visiting with some friends, so the mash ended up sitting a total of 90 minutes before I got back to it. At this point, I vorlaufed and then collected the first runnings.
  • Next, I added the sparge water (at around 155°, to hit a mash bed temperature of 152°), let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the remainder of the wort.
  • In total, I collected 8.1 gallons of wort at a gravity of 1.050 and 78% efficiency. This is a larger volume than expected–I think this is likely because I had assumed my RO jug had 4.5 gallon exactly, and it was probably a touch more than this. I’ll measure more carefully next time! For this particular batch, I boiled a bit harder than usual to bring the volume down and the gravity up.
  • Once I had the wort at a hard boil, I added the hops per the schedule, boiling for 60 minutes total. At the end of the boil, I added the whirlpool hops (in a mesh bag) and let them sit for 5 minutes before chilling the wort.
  • Once the beer was down to ~75°, I transferred to the fermenter and pitched the yeast. I put approximately 5.75 gallons into the primary. I pitched the yeast, and will be fermenting at 67°. I plan to add the dry hops in 5 days.
  • Starting gravity was 1.060, a bit below my target (but not surprising given the extra boil volume).
  • I brewed this beer on 25 March 2017. Visible yeast activity was evident in under 24 hours.
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Beer Tasting: First Amendment Blonde Ale

20170320_170026After a month conditioning in the keg, my latest blonde ale seems to be at its peak!

  • The Basics
    • O.g. = 1.051; f.g. = 1.011; 5.2% abv; 5 SRM; 24 estimated IBU
  • Aroma
    • Malty sweet aroma, with a very slight fruitiness behind that.
  • Appearance
    • Light gold and clear, with a low and persistent white head.
  •  Flavor
    • The flavor on this one really highlights the malt, which has a rounded maltiness. The hop level is moderate, maybe a touch stronger than I care for, with a slightly earthy and woody finish.
  • Mouthfeel
    • The beer has a moderately light body, moderate carbonation, and off-dry finish.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Overall, this is a tasty and easy-drinking blonde ale. I think my moderate water adjustments helped a lot in this recipe versus some previous ones, in that the hop character avoids the flabbiness that I’ve had in some previous batches without adjustments. I could probably dial the overall hops back a tiny bit for my taste, but in general I’m pretty happy with this recipe!
  • Overall
    • 8/10
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Competition Results: Palaeotis Pils and Take Two Vienna Lager

I submitted my recent Vienna lager and German pils for the 2017 Romancing the Beer Competition, hosted by Thousand Oaked Homebrewers. I was pretty happy with these beers, and was pleased to see that the judges agreed! Take Two Vienna Lager earned an honorable mention in the Amber and Dark Euro Lagers category (out of 15 entries), and Palaeotis Pils placed third in the Euro Lagers category (out of 18 entries).

Let’s take a look at the overall results, and see how they stack up against my own tastings!


Take Two Vienna Lager

This beer averaged 37.5 (from scores of 37 and 38), falling at the upper end of the “very good” range by the BJCP guidelines.

Overall, the judges thought it hit most of the notes for the style. Hops were noted as nicely balanced against the malt. I was curious to see that the judges were split on mouthfeel–one thought it was pretty much perfect for the style, and the other scored it as slightly thin and watery. Similarly, the judges were split on the maltiness–one thought it was right on point, and the other thought it a bit lacking.

One judge picked up slight estery notes (or possible acetaldehyde). I suspect that this corresponds with a brief period in early fermentation when I lost temperature control due to a power outage.

Based on my tasting, it’s interesting that the recipe doesn’t terribly fit what I like in a Vienna lager (in terms of just a little bit too malty and roasty) compared with what the judges liked in a Vienna lager. I won’t likely brew this recipe again, but I am tempted now to brew something for competition more in line with my preference and see what happens!

Palaeotis Pils

I’m really proud of how this beer turned out. It came across really well on my personal tasting, and was absolutely enjoyable when it was on tap. It may not have won top tier in the category, but the judges comments make me feel like I’m on the right track. The beer averaged 38 (individual scores of 37 and 39), right at the base of the “excellent” score range.

Aroma scored well, although both judges said they were looking for a little more malt character. In terms of the hop aroma, both seemed okay with it (but one noted their perception of a tiny hint of vegetal character and that the overall hop aroma was a bit heavy). Appearance was nailed, and flavor was also pretty solid, with a balance between hops and malt. Interestingly, one judge noted perfect carbonation and the other thought it was a bit low. One thought the finish could be a touch more crisp.

So, if I brew this again, what should I change? I might add a touch of melanoidin malt, or else I might perhaps lengthen the overall decoctions. Another option might be to use a different base malt–perhaps one of the “standard” offerings from Weyermann rather than the Bohemian floor-malted version. I would probably also reduce my late hop just a touch, to about 2/3 or 3/4 of what it was originally. And, I suppose I would reduce the bitterness a tiny bit, too–maybe down to 28 or 30 IBU rather than 34. This would let the malt shine through a bit more. Another alternative (and something I might try) would be to up the overall malt bill and initial gravity a tad. I suppose I could carbonate more strongly or package more carefully, too, but given the split judging assessment, I’m not too worried about it yet.

I’ll be trying a slightly modified version of recipe again soon!

Posted in competitions, German pils, pilsner, Vienna Lager | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Raspberry Belgian

Our brew club is focusing on fruit beers for the April meeting, so I wanted to have something ready to go. Thumbing through the recently published Brew Your Own book, I saw a tasty-looking recipe for a clone of Funkwerks Raspberry Provincial.

One interesting thing about the BYO recipe is that it uses acidulated malt rather than kettle souring to achieve the sourness. I vacillated on which approach I would take, but in the end went for acidulated malt for simplicity.

I modified the recipe slightly for the hop bill, and also scaled it down from 5 gallons to 3 gallons. I figured I didn’t really want 5 gallons of a raspberry beer, tasty though it might be. I also will be using a home-made puree from frozen raspberries, rather than canned raspberry puree. The cans are huge, more than twice the volume I need for this recipe, and a bit expensive, so it didn’t make sense to waste the money buying a whole ton of extra raspberry. Per recommendations on the fruit puree company website, I upped the quantity of fruit by 12 percent a bit to account for all of the stuff that doesn’t make it into a typical puree can (seeds, etc.). The final modification was to go with a full-volume mash, to save a bit of time.

Raspberry Belgian

  • 2.5 lb. floor-malted Bohemian pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 1.25 lb. white wheat malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
  • 0.75 lb. acidulated malt (Weyermann), added to last 20 minutes of mash
  • 0.3 lb. flaked oats
  • 0.3 lb. flaked wheat
  • 0.25 lb. Carapils malt
  • 0.16 lb. rice hulls
  • 0.12 oz. Warrior hops (15.8% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.20 oz. Willamette hops (5.1% alpha), 15 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. Belgian Wit Ale yeast (WLP400, White Labs), prepared in 0.5L starter
  • 17 oz. raspberry puree, added after 4 days of fermentation

Target Parameters

  • 155° mash, 60 minutes
  • 1.043 o.g., 1.011 f.g., 4.1% abv, 15 IBU, 3 SRM, 3 gallons into the fermenter


  • I added 5.25 gallons of water at 170°, and let it cool down until it hit a temperature of 159.5°. Then, I mashed in with my grains (except for the acidulated malt) and hit a temperature of 155.4°.
  • After 40 minutes, the mash temperature was down to 150.4°. At this piont, I added the acidulated malt.
  • At the end of the 60 minute mash, the temperature was down to 148.7°. I vorlaufed and collected 4.2 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.030. This equated to 64% efficiency. That is a fair bit below my normal efficiency in the upper 70s, but I figure that was probably due to the full volume mash, no sparge technique, as well as the high number of adjuncts.
  • I added hops per the schedule, over the course of a 60 minute boil.
  • After 60 minutes, I chilled to 70°, transferred to the fermenter while aerating, and pitched the yeast.
  • Starting gravity was 1.039, a bit below target. I think I’m okay with that, given how new this brew is to my experience. I find it interesting that, at least in a casual tasting, the flavor isn’t that prominently sour or tart. I wonder how that will come through in the finished beer?
  • I brewed this on 10 March 2017, and will be fermenting at 71°. On March 14, I will add the raspberry puree.
Posted in Belgian sour, fruit beer, sour beer | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Dinosaur in My Beer: March 8 at Claremont Craft Ales

Beer and science are a natural fit…even more so than beer and pretzels, in my opinion. As a homebrewer, I absolutely love geeking out over the scientific facets of the hobby. The usual history of beer starts a few thousand years ago with the rise of agriculture. But, there is so much more to the story. Every brewing ingredient–water, barley, yeast, and hops–has its own tale to tell. In many cases, the narrative extends back to the time of the dinosaurs!

So, if you are in Claremont, California, on Wednesday, March 8, swing by Claremont Craft Ales and catch my talk on the prehistory of brewing ingredients! The event starts at 6:30 pm, but you can swing by before or hang around after for some great beer and also a chance to chat with me about anything you like.


The basic talk will be a preview of my seminar for HomebrewCon in June. I’ll be posting more about that in the upcoming months, too.

If you haven’t been to Claremont Craft Ales (CCA) before, it’s a really great venue. A few things you can look forward to:

  • Their beer is great! I highly recommend the Jacaranda IPA as well as the Raspberry Gose (both are also available in cans).
  • CCA has plenty of options for non-beer-drinkers. In addition to a nice selection of canned dry sodas (the tasty fancy stuff, not just a bunch of Coke products), various food trucks are also there most afternoons and evenings.
  • It’s a very friendly space — kids and dogs are quite welcome. (note relevant to my talk: although dinosaurs have a reputation as a “kids topic”, my talk isn’t really geared for kids. That’s not to say it’s “adult content”–just that the presentation will be at a level where the typical 12 year old might get a little bored, because the combined topic of beer and paleontology probably isn’t in their wheelhouse, or at least it shouldn’t be.)

Interested in having me talk for your event? Drop a line via the contact form!

Image credit: Dinosaur skeleton from Iguanodon rendering by Gustave Lavalette in the public domain.

Posted in miscellaneous, paleontology, presentation, science | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment