Summer Haze Brown Ale

A friend of mine who lives out east experimented with smoking his own malt–in this case, he scrounged up some sassafras root, and used it to smoke a two-row malt. It took me a bit to think about what kind of beer I wanted to make with it, because I’ve already done smoked porters, and a stout wasn’t really appealing either. Why not try a brown ale? It’s not so heavy as to be undrinkable in the summer heat, and the other malt flavors would hopefully meld well with the smoked malt. This recipe is also intended to use up many of my specialty malts, so I freshen up my stockpile with newer malts. Although they seem to keep pretty well, it probably doesn’t hurt to rotate from time to time.


Summer Haze Brown Ale

  • 4.1 lbs. California select 2-row malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
  • 2.5 lbs. Vienna malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
  • 2 lbs. sassafrass smoked 2-row malt
  • 14 oz. 40° crystal malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
  • 8 oz. pale chocolate malt (Crisp Malting Co.), 225° SRM
  • 4.3 oz. chocolate malt (Briess), 350° SRM
  • 1.9 oz. Carafa III malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.6 oz. Carafa Special II malt (Weyermann)
  • 1 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. Safale US-05 dry yeast

Target Parameters

  • 1.052 o.g., 1.011 f.g., 5.4% abv, 26 IBU, 25 SRM
  • Infusion mash to hit target of 152°, 60 minutes, batch sparge.
  • Claremont tap water, treated with Campden tablet


  • I mashed in with 3.5 gallons of tap water at 163°, to hit a mash temperature of 151°. After 60 minutes, I added 1.5 gallons of sparge water at 170°. This rested for 15 minutes, before the vorlauf and then collection of the first runnings.
  • Next, I added 3.5 gallons of water at 170°, before resting for 10 minutes, vorlaufing, and collecting the rest of the runnings.
  • I collected 6.5 gallons of runnings at a gravity of 1.041, for 71% efficiency.
  • Next, I brought the kettle to a boil, adding hops and Whirlfloc per the schedule.
  • After a 60 minute boil, I chilled around 80° before transferring to the fermenter. I then chilled it the rest of the way in the fermentation chamber, down to 68°.
  • I sprinkled the yeast directly into the wort, fermenting at 68°.
  • Starting gravity was 1.046–I notched back the boil intensity a bit on this one (per recent recommendations from various corners of the internet), so I’ll need to start compensating for a change in evaporation rate.
  • I brewed this batch on Wednesday, August 22, and kept it at 68° until Friday, August 31. Then, I pulled it out of the keezer (to make room), finishing up at 75° ambient temperature.
Posted in brown ale, experimental recipe, smoked beer | Tagged , , , ,

MSGC Pale Ale

I’ve been doing a bunch of brewing for my club’s participation at an upcoming homebrew festival, and so have neglected my own taps! In order to avoid the desperate turn of a vacant tap on the keezer, I cranked out another brew in July, just before I left for a two week stint in the field.

It took a bit of thought to settle on a style. I was first leaning towards a lager of some sort, but also wanted something with a slightly quicker turnaround. Then an IPA popped into my head, but after looking through a few recipes I didn’t find anything that terrible inspirational. Finally, I thumbed through Gordon Strong’s Modern Homebrew Recipes, and ran across his Galaxy Pale Ale. I made a few adjustments for ingredients, and brewed the batch!

Strong’s original recipe was Galaxy hops only, and didn’t have any dry hop addition. I didn’t have enough hops on hand to do both a generous addition of Galaxy as well as a generous dry hop, so I modified the hop bill accordingly. For the hot days of late August, I wanted something tropical and fruity on the palate and the nose. I have a good combo of hops in that realm in the freezer, so put together a combination of Mosaic, Simcoe, Galaxy, and Citra (the MSGC combo of the recipe name). These are four of my favorite hops, and I’m hoping will combine nicely.

As I added up the hops, I realized I didn’t need a bittering addition. Everything will get added at flame-out, with a whirlpool to extract bittering, aroma, and flavor. This is an experiment for me–I’ve never done a beer before with all hop additions after flame-out.

The grain bill is 45% pilsner, 45% 2-row, and 10% Vienna malt. The original recipe called for light Munich instead of Vienna–I don’t have any Munich on-hand, so made this substitution. The flavor will be a bit lighter as a consequence, but I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing.

MSGC Pale Ale

  • 4.5 lbs. Barke pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 4.5 lbs. 2-row brewer’s malt, California select (Great Western)
  • 1 lb. Vienna malt (Great Western)
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet (10 minute boil)
  • 1 oz. Citra hop pellets (14.1% alpha), 10 minute whirlpool
  • 1 oz. Galaxy hop pellets (18.1% alpha), 10 minute whirlpool
  • 1 oz. Mosaic hop pellets (10.9% alpha), 10 minute whirlpool
  • 1 oz. Simcoe hop pellets (13.6% alpha), 10 minute whirlpool
  • 1 pkg. US West Coast Yeast (Mangrove Jack’s M44)
  • 1 oz. Citra hop pellets (14.1% alpha), dry hop in keg
  • 1 oz. Galaxy hop pellets (18.1% alpha), dry hop in keg
  • 1 oz. Mosaic hop pellets (10.9% alpha), dry hop in keg
  • 1 oz. Simcoe hop pellets (13.6% alpha), dry hop in keg

Target Parameters

  • Infusion mash to hit target of 142°, 60 minutes, batch sparge.
  • 1.051 o.g., 1.013 f.g., 5.0% abv, 38 IBU, 4 SRM
  • Water built from RO and Claremont tap water to hit final water balance of 80 Ca, 3 Mg, 6 Na, 83 SO4, 68 Cl, 60 HCO3, -9 RA, with 4 mL of 88% lactic acid added to mash to adjust pH.


  • I prepared the mash water with 4 g gypsum and 4 g CaCl added to 3.5 gallons of RO water. I heated it to 161°, and mashed into hit a temperature of 151°. I also added 4 mL of 88% lactic acid to the mash, for pH adjustment. The mash temperature was down to 148° after 30 minutes.
  • I created my sparge water from a blend of 2.25 gallons of tap water (with Campden tablet) and 2.5 gallons of RO water. No further adjustments were made. I started the sparge by adding 1.5 gallons of water to the mash, letting sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufing, and collecting the first runnings. I then added 3.25 gallons of sparge water to the mash tun, let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the rest of the runnings.
  • In total, I collected 7 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.041, for 78% mash efficiency.
  • I brought the kettle to a boil. The only thing to add during the boil was the Whirlfloc tablet!
  • After flame-out, I added a big mesh bag with the hops, and stirred for 10 minutes. Then, I chilled to 85°, transferred with aeration, and chilled the wort overnight. Once I had hit my fermentation temperature of 68°, I pitched yeast.
  • I brewed this batch on 16 July 2018, and left it in the primary until kegging. Starting gravity was 1.049.
  • Final gravity was 1.007. I kegged the beer on 9 August 2018, added the dry hops, chilled to 50°, carbonated (with shaking), and put the beer on tap.




I did a tasting for this beer on 19 August, after 10 days on tap. It’s pretty excellent–one of the best beers I have done in awhile!

  • The Basics
    • 1.049 s.g., 1.007 f.g., 5.5% abv, 38 IBU, 4 SRM
  • Aroma
    • A nice forward tropical fruit aroma, with a bit of mango, peach, and citrus all melded together. Delicious on the nose!
  • Appearance
    • Light gold color with slight haze. Thin white head that is reasonably persistent.
  • Flavor
    • It’s a fruit explosion! The beer has a gentle but firm bitterness, with flavors of pineapple, passion fruit, mango, and citrus (and just a little bit of “dank” character). The malt character is slightly grainy, with a nice bit of complexity behind that.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Medium-light bodied, with an off-dry finish. Carbonation is moderate.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Absolutely! This is one of the best pale ales I’ve made in a long time. The hop aroma and flavor are amazing, and I love the complexity that the four-hop blend brings to this. Although the beer is paler in color than acceptable for the BJCP style, I dig it in this particular recipe. It really is a nice beer!
  • Overall
    • 10/10
Posted in pale ale | Tagged , , ,

Beer Tasting: Cerveza de Jamaica

IMG_20180706_162520I kegged this batch on 12 May 2018. It has been on tap for awhile now, and I’ve really been enjoying it. Better do a tasting before it’s all gone.

Cerveza de Jamaica

  • The Basics
    • 1.048 s.g., 1.011 f.g., 4.8% abv, 11 IBU, 3 SRM
  • Appearance
    • Pours with a tall and dense pink head, which persists wonderfully as the beer is consumed. The beer itself is a purplish pink color and slightly hazy. The beer has cleared up considerably since it first went on tap.
  • Aroma
    • Hibiscus, with a bit of tartness and spice behind that.
  • Flavor
    • Tart, with a slight hibiscus note next to a smooth and subtle maltiness.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Fairly light-bodied and highly carbonated, with a medium dry finish.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Yes! This is a wonderful beer, and perfectly refreshing for the current warm weather. In tasting opinions from other folks, it was suggested to up the hibiscus just a touch (to help it come through more distinctly in the taste) and also to add a bit more citrus character. To this end, I’m going to increase the amount of hibiscus in my next batch, and also up the citrus peel.
  • Overall
    • 9/10
Posted in tastings, witbier | Tagged , , , ,

Thumbspike Saison 2.2

The Lake Arrowhead Brew Festival is around the corner, and I’ve promised to bring some beers for my club’s booth. A nice saison seems in order–it’s the same recipe I brought last year, with only a minor change for the pilsner malt variety (Barke instead of Château Pilsen). I really liked this beer, and it went over well at the festival, too. I guesstimated on the hop alpha acid, following that from last year’s laboratory-verified measurements.


Thumbspike Saison 2.2

  • 9.25 lbs. Barke Pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.75 lbs. Munich I malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.75 lbs. white wheat malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
  • 0.8 oz. Carafa Special II (Weyerman)
  • 1 oz. whole wild hops (est. 5.8% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.5 oz. whole wild hops (est. 5.8% alpha), 10 minute boil
  • 1.5 oz. whole wild hops (est. 5.8% alpha), 2 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. French Saison Ale dry yeast (Mangrove Jack’s M29)

Target Parameters

  • 1.056 o.g., 1.003 f.g., 6.9% abv, 25 IBU, 6 SRM, 5.5 gallons into the fermenter
  • 60 minute mash at 150°, batch sparge, 60 minute boil


  • I mashed in with 1.5 gallons of RO water and 2.2 gallons of Claremont tap water (3.7 gallons total) to hit a mash temperature of 150°. I added 1 tbs. of 5.2 pH stabilizer. The mash was down to 147° after 60 minutes. At this point, I batch sparged with 1.2 gallons of water (10 minute rest after addition, vorlauf, collect runnings) and 3.5 gallons of water (10 minute rest after addition, vorlauf, collect runnings).
  • In total, I collected 6.75 gallons of runnings at a gravity of 1.044, for 74% efficiency.
  • I brought the runnings to a boil, adding hops per the schedule.
  • After cooling, I transferred to the fermenter and pitched the yeast.
  • Starting gravity was 1.055, pretty much right on target.
  • I brewed this beer on 7 July 2018, and am fermenting it at 75°.
Posted in saison | Tagged , ,

Beer Tasting: Try Again Bohemian Pilsner

My recent version of a Bohemian pilsner has been on tap for a few weeks, and is at its peak for enjoyment. Today, I did a head-to-head with the classic flagship for the style, Pilsner Urquell.


Head-to-head Bohemian pilsners! Pilsner Urquell is in the glass on the left, and my homebrew version is at right.

Try Again Bohemian Pilsner

  • The Basics
    • 1.053 s.g., 1.014 f.g., 4.2% abv, 36 IBU, 5 SRM
  • Appearance
    • Pours with a fine white head with excellent persistance. The beer itself is a golden hue, nearly an exact match for Pilsner Urquell but perhaps just a notch lighter. It is very clear, but not quite brilliant (Urquell has a slight edge here). In terms of appearance, mine is equal in color, better in head (and head retention), and needs slight improvement in clarity.
  • Aroma
    • My beer tips a little bit more towards malt prominence; there is a very slight spice note from the Saaz hops, but that’s still not quite where it should be. Urquell has the hop note perfectly, so I give it a slight edge on this count.
  • Flavor
    • Bitterness levels are not quite evenly matched between Urquell and mine; Urquell comes across as a bit more bitter. Mine has a nice malt character, but this is slightly at the expense of the hops. The malt on my homebrew is rich and bready, and the bitterness stands well against that. The finish is balanced well. Relative to Urquell, it tips more towards the malt than bitterness on the finish, and I prefer the hoppier Urquell version a bit more.
  • Mouthfeel
    • My brew has a medium body and moderate carbonation. Urquell is definitely drier than my beer, with a more extended and more bitter finish. The finish on mine is smoother yet I prefer the Urquell “bite” just a touch.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Yes, with a few minor modifications! There is lots I like about my beer, such as the appearance and malt character. I do feel like it could be a bit drier and crisper (relative to Urquell), because the hops are just a tiny bit “flabby”. My main adjustment would be to increase the hopping, and mash at a slightly lower temperature to dry out the beer a bit. I might also try halving the melanoidin contribution; I think it might be contributing some unfermentables that keep the beer from being as dry as it might be. The Barke pilsen malt that I used in this recipe has plenty of character on its own, anyhow!
  • Overall
    • 7.5/10


Posted in lager, pilsner, tastings | Tagged , , , , , ,