Pale Ale 2019

Completely uncreative name. I needed a pale ale, this was the first one I brewed in 2019, this is what I got. This batch was a bit of a mutt, with pilsner malt as most of the grist, American hops, and Nottingham yeast. I basically wanted to play around with ingredients, and see what a pale ale outside of the norm might be like.

Pale Ale 2019

  • 5 lb. 14 oz. Barke pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 2 lb. 15 oz. Vienna malt (Great Western)
  • 1 lb. 12 oz. 2-row malt (Rahr)
  • 8 oz. Crystal 40 (Great Western)
  • 2 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha est.), 60 minute boil
  • 2 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha est.), 1 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. Nottingham yeast (Lallemand)
  • 2 oz. Simcoe hop pellets (13.6% alpha), dry hop in keg
  • 1 oz. Centennial hop pellets (9.3% alpha), dry hop in keg

Target Parameters

  • 60 minute infusion mash, 152°, no sparge
  • 1.049 o.g., 1.011 f.g., 4.9% abv, 39 IBU, 6 SRM
  • Claremont tap water, augmented with 5 g of epsom salt and 2 g of calcium chloride.


  • I mashed in with 7.5 gallons of water at 165°, to hit a mash temperature of 158°. It was too hot, so I dropped in a frozen water bottle.
  • The mash was down to 153.6° after 40 minutes. I elected to do a 45 minute mash with this batch.
  • I collected 6.5 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.043, for 69% mash efficiency. This is slightly lower than if I had done a batch sparge, so no surprises here.
  • I brought the runnings to a boil, adding hops and other ingredients per the recipe.
  • After 60 minutes, I chilled to 70°, transferred with aeration, and pitched the yeast. Starting gravity was 1.050.
  • I brewed this beer on 5 January 2019, and fermented at 67°.
  • I kegged the beer on 24 January 2019. Final gravity was 1.015, down from 1.050, for 4.6% abv.


  • Appearance
    • Clear, gold beer, with a persistent white head that continues as an even blanket over the surface of the beer.
  • Aroma
    • Hop-forward aroma, with citrus and piney notes.
  • Flavor
    • Moderately bitter, with a flavor tipped towards the hoppy side. The tropical and citrus aspects of the hops come through, although there isn’t much in the way of malt flavor.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Mouthfeel is a bit on the thin side for my preference. Carbonation is appropriate for the style, and the finish is nicely rounded.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Probably not, at least in its current form. Pilsner malt just doesn’t make for a pale ale in my flavor wheelhouse, so I might swap that for 2-row. The hop profile is dead-on perfect, especially for a good springtime pale ale. This beer has improved greatly as it matured–I didn’t care for it at all when first kegged, and now it is a pretty drinkable brew.
  • Overall:
    • 6.5/10

Cerveza de Jamaica

I’m feeling experimental, and I’m feeling summer-y, and I need some good homebrew to sip on the porch on a warm Saturday afternoon. I discovered agua de Jamaica (a hibiscus tea often just sold as Jamaica) when I moved to California, and finally made my own last summer. This hibiscus-based tea is tart, tasty, and refreshing…which is a perfect accompaniment for a witbier! [For those who aren’t familiar, it’s pronounced roughly as “huh-MY-kuh”, not “juh-MAY-kuh”.]

My base recipe is a pretty standard witbier, with a grist of 50% pilsner malt and 50% flaked wheat. I’m using WLP400 as the yeast, and a small dose of Hallertauer Mittelfrueh for the bittering hops. Because I want to highlight the hibiscus flavor and avoid any clash with coriander, I’m just using some fresh navel orange peel for steeping. I decided to add the dried hibiscus flowers at flameout, basically the same as if I were making tea. I kept hopping levels towards the lower end of the witbier style, because I expect that the flameout additions may add some bitterness.

Dried hibiscus flowers

Cerveza de Jamaica

  • 5 lbs. pilsen malt (Briess)
  • 5 lbs. flaked wheat
  • 4 oz. rice hulls
  • 0.75 oz. Hallertauer Mittelfrueh hop pellets (4.0% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
  • Peel of two medium navel oranges, 10 minute steep after flameout
  • 3 oz. dried hibiscus flowers, 10 minute steep after flameout
  • 1 pkg. Belgian Wit Ale yeast (WLP400), prepared in 1L vitality starter

Target Parameters

  • Infusion mash to hit target of 152°, 60 minutes, batch sparge.
  • 1.050 o.g., 1.011 f.g., 5.1% abv, 11 IBU, 3 SRM
  • Water built from RO to hit target of 48 ppm Ca, 85 ppm Cl, -34 ppm RA.


  • I built my mash water with 3.5 gallons of reverse osmosis water and 6 g of CaCl. I mashed in at 164°, adding 7.5 mL of 88% lactic acid, and hit a mash temperature of 150°.
  • After a 60 minute mash, I added 1.5 gallons of RO water at 185°, let sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings. I then added 3.5 gallons of water at 185°, let it wait for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the second runnings.
  • In total, I collected 6.8 gallons of runnings, with a gravity of 1.039, for 73% efficiency. I’ve learned that adding an extra half gallon of sparge or mash water is important for these beers that have lots of flaked grains, both to keep up volume under the extra absorption and to ensure I get better efficiency.
  • I boiled for 60 minutes, adding the various ingredients per the schedule.
  • At flame-out, I added the fresh orange peel and dried hibiscus, and let them steep for 10 minutes. They stayed in while I chilled the wort, to extend the flavor extraction.
  • The wort is really awesome in appearance and flavor; it has a deep purple hue, a slightly tart flavor, and an aroma that mixes all of the additions in a tasty way. I can’t wait to try this after fermentation!
  • While mashing, I made a 1L vitality starter for the yeast. It ran on the stir plate for about 3 hours, and it showed signs of fermentation by then. After I pitched the yeast, solid signs of fermentation were visible within 18 hours.
  • I brewed this on 28 April 2018, and starting gravity was 1.048. Initial fermentation is happening at 68°; I’ll let it free-rise after 3 or 4 days.

Festbier Head-to-Head

I’ve been wanting to do a head-to-head comparison of my festbier versus commercial examples, and finally got the chance to do so tonight. My buddy Steve stopped by, and I poured out three sampler glasses for each of us. Steve didn’t know which was which, other than that one was homebrew and two were commercial beers.

For my commercial comparison, I chose Ayinger’s October Fest-Märzen and Sierra Nevada’s Oktoberfest. Both were available at local stores, and are reasonably well regarded. I sampled the beers before and after brewing, to give me a bit of an idea what to expect in a festbier.


Three festbiers (from left): Ayinger’s October Fest-Märzen, my Festivus Simplex, and Sierra Nevada’s Oktoberfest.

Steve and I tasted simultaneously, but I tried to avoid giving him any leading comments or critiques that might sway his opinion. Our observations are below; I transcribed his comments, but wrote down my personal observations without telling him, so as to avoid that avenue of bias.

  • We noticed that my beer has an ever so slightly lighter color, as well as a taller and more persistent head. All of the beers are quite clear.
  • Steve noted that the Ayinger version had a more prominent malty aroma. We both perceived malty sweetness and a hint of ginger in the flavor (the latter likely from the hops). I think that the maltiness is potentially from mild oxidation, which wouldn’t be a huge surprise for a beer that might have sat on a store shelf for some time after import. The malty character had that slightly cloying aspect from oxidized beers, as I experienced in an excellent seminar at the 2017 Homebrew Con.
  • The Sierra Nevada version came across as a little less carbonated to me, and Steve remarked that the flavor was a little flatter on the tongue. We both noted that the taste was less complex, and its head was not very persistent relative to the other two beers.
  • Steve described my homebrew as having a more complex taste than the Sierra Nevada version, and he preferred that mine had a less distinct after taste than the other two beers. For me, the hop aroma on mine was a touch more pronounced than in the Sierra Nevada and maybe a shade more than in the Ayinger, which I liked.
  • When asked to guess which was the homebrew, Steve guessed mine, based on the slight color difference and some intangibles in flavor. When asked which he preferred, he ranked my homebrew and the Ayinger pretty closely, with the Sierra Nevada in third place. I am biased, but I preferred my homebrew by a slight margin (although perhaps a fresh example of Ayinger would perform better), and agreed that the Sierra Nevada came in third place.

Overall, I think my festbier is definitely a contender against the two commercial varieties I sampled. It captures the style quite well, and in some ways (especially appearance, via head and head retention) exceeds the commercial examples. As I noted in my earlier tasting, I could up the maltiness just a shade. But overall, I’m pretty thrilled with how my version of a fall favorite turned out! This exercise in comparison was really educational–I’ll be trying it again for selected beers.

A good use for extra fruit puree

I had about 2 cups of raspberry puree left over from the can I added into my in-progress Raspberry Belgian, and was at a bit of a loss as to what to do with it. I didn’t want to let it go to waste, but it’s also not really the sort of thing you can use that readily (outside of a smoothie, I suppose, but I think fresh fruit is way tastier for a smoothie).

Suddenly…inspiration! With grilling season well at hand here in southern California, I decided to roll the leftover puree into a nice marinade. My intention was to make something slightly smoky/sweet/spicy, and the end result definitely succeeded!

This was somewhat thrown together, so the recipe below is just general proportions. So, you should probably modify to taste. You could probably substitute any reasonably “hot” pepper into this–we just happened to have some jalapeños in the freezer.

Raspberry Jalapeño Marinade

  • 2 cups raspberry puree (Vintner’s Harvest brand)
  • 1/2 grilled and seeded jalapeño pepper
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 tbs. lime juice
  • 1 tbs. minced garlic
  • salt to taste
  • a dash of paprika


  • Combine all ingredients, and thoroughly blend using an immersion blender.
  • This produces enough marinade for around 4 large chicken breasts. I cubed the breasts into pieces around 1 or 2 inches across, and let them marinate in the fridge for a few hours. Then, I put the chicken on skewers and grilled over a medium heat. I drizzled extra marinade over the skewers around midway through cooking.
  • The result was really tasty! Interestingly, the raspberry flavor itself didn’t come through that strongly–it was more as a tart accompaniment to the mild heat of the grilled pepper.


I had a bit of uncontaminated marinade set aside, perhaps a quarter cup total. I mixed this with about a cup and a half of non-fat yogurt, a teaspoon of garlic, a dash of paprika, and a teaspoon of lime juice, for a really tasty yogurt sauce. This made a nice accompaniment for dipping the grilled chicken (as well as the vegetables I also grilled). We have a bit left over, so I think it will be going onto some fish tacos later this week.

Beer Tasting: Palaeotis Pils

20170128_124227My Palaeotis Pils, falling within the German pils style, has been on tap for a few weeks now, and seems to be reaching a peak in quality. Time for a tasting!

  • The Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.048, final gravity = 1.011, abv = 5.0%, estimated IBU = 34
  • Appearance
    • Pale straw appearance, brilliantly clear, with a tall, fine, white head that settles to a persistent blanket across the top of the beer.
  • Aroma
    • A very gentle malty sweetness with a spicy hop note behind that.
  • Flavor
    • Bready malt profile, with a firm bitterness that lingers after each sip. It’s definitely a bitter beer, but not out of balance for what I wanted.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Carbonation is appropriately high for the style, and it has a crisp, medium-dry finish.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Absolutely! This is an exceptionally nice beer; it nails pretty much every point of the style, and is easy drinking, too. German pils is probably a little hoppier than I would always want in a pale lager, but that’s more of a stylistic thing than a flaw in this particular recipe. The other night, I ordered a glass of Bitburger, often considered a “classic” German pils. Although I didn’t taste them side-by-side, I can say that mine hits many of the same notes as this commercial example. I have my pils entered in an upcoming competition, so we’ll see how my assessment compares to that of the BJCP judges.
  • Overall
    • 10/10