What’s Brewing? January 2021 Edition

The past month has seen some pretty steady brewing, as I push forward with recipes both new and familiar. So, here is a quick update in the waning days of January…

Beer Batch Updates

  • I brewed a Belgian IPA, intended as a clone(ish) of Houblon Chouffe, on 12 December 2020. This was a fun and challenging beer, both for its high gravity as well as managing a Belgian fermentation. It’s now kegged and conditioning; initial impressions are that it’s a really good beer, and hit my mark pretty much dead on.
  • On 28 December, I brewed a German pils with 100% Viking pilsner malt, a mix of Perle, Sterling, and Mt. Hood hops, and Imperial’s Global lager yeast. It is now cold crashing, and should be kegged this week sometime.
  • On New Year’s Day, I brewed a second version of Alstadt Alt, which was pretty tasty the first time around. The malt bill is pretty much the same, although I’ve switched up the hops and yeast slightly for what I’ve got on-hand. I should be kegging that this week, also.
  • I brewed a traditional London-style porter on 8 January 2021, modified from a Gordon Strong recipe. I kegged it on 24 January 2021, adding 3 oz. of corn sugar for priming. Interestingly, the gravity was stalled out at 1.025. I’m not sure if this is due to a high percentage of unfermentable sugars (brown malt?), or the yeast stalling.
  • Following the really tasty English IPA I made two years ago, I rebrewed the recipe on 16 January 2021. It’s pretty much identical to the last version, because it didn’t seem wise to mess with success.

What’s On Tap?

  • I’m nearly at the end of my session stout keg; it still drinks beautifully!
  • The new batch of Tremonia Lager went on tap recently, and it continues to condition a bit in the keg. It’s just now hitting the peak. I’ll sit down for a tasting with this one and write up a full report in the next week or two.
  • Aspiration Ale, patterned after a clone recipe for 90 Shilling Ale by Odell Brewing Company, is on tap and tastes so good. It has a little ways to go to clear up, but it’s pretty squarely filling the “malty but not overly alcoholic amber-ish ale” category.
  • Although my keezer only has three faucets, I’ve been running Mahajanga IPA off of a picnic tap. There’s only a little bit left, but it still is a super nice beer! Because it’s pretty high alcohol (8.5% abv), I enjoy this as an occasional one-off, so it doesn’t make sense to put it on the main serving line.

What’s Coming Up?

  • I’ve got a lot of beer in the pipeline already, so the next few weeks will focus on lagers. I’m going to repitch the yeast from the pilsner, to make a schwarzbier as well as a Munich dunkel.
  • On the lighter side, it has been a long time since I last did my orange wheat ale. I’m getting ingredients together now, and will brew this in the next few weeks.

Other Notes

  • I feel like my process with the Anvil Foundry is pretty dialed in now, and I’m consistently hitting 67 to 68% mash efficiency. I wouldn’t complain if it was a bit higher, so I might tighten the mill up just a touch. Right now I have a mill gap of 0.037″ (it was set at 0.041″ for the old mash tun), and might take it down to 0.034″ or so.
  • The cooling fan in the base of my Anvil has started acting up, with an extra bit of noise. After a bit of troubleshooting, it seems that the fan is going bad, so Anvil tech support is sending a replacement fan. I’ll note that the 18 volt, 60 mm fan type is a pretty hard one to track down otherwise!
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Mahajanga IPA

Although my tastes tilt towards lower alcohol (<5.5% abv) beers, I like something a bit stronger as a treat now and then. I’ve previously enjoyed Avery Brewing Brewing Company’s Maharaja, a 10% abv double (triple?) IPA, and found a clone recipe in Craft Beer for the Homebrewer. I modified the hops in my version, with Chinook in place of Columbus and Centennial on the boil. On the dry hop end of things, I was much closer to the original recipe.

The name is a play on Avery’s brew, honoring a city in northwestern Madagascar where I spent a bit of time during my fieldwork in that country.

Mahajanga IPA

  • 10.5 pounds 2-row malt (Great Western)
  • 7 oz. biscuit malt (Dingemans)
  • 6 oz. crystal 120 (Great Western)
  • 1 oz. Chinook whole hops (13.1% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Chinook whole hops (13.1% alpha), 30 minute boil
  • 1 lb. pilsen light dry malt extract, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 5 minute boil
  • 2 oz. Centennial hop pellets (8.1% alpha), 10 minute whirlpool
  • 1 pkg. Safale American Ale yeast (US-05)
  • 1 oz. Centennial hop pellets (8.1% alpha), dry hop in keg
  • 1 oz. Chinook whole hops (13.1% alpha), dry hop in keg
  • 1 oz. Simcoe hop pellets (13.6% alpha), dry hop in keg

Target Parameters

  • 1.088 o.g., 1.013 f.g., 10% abv, 113 IBU, 13 SRM
  • Claremont tap water, with 2 g of gypsum added at end of boil
  • Full volume mash, 90 minutes at 147°, mash out to 168°, ferment at 65°


  • I mashed in full volume with ~5 gallons of water at 156°, to hit a mash temperature of 147°. I added ~4 mL of 88% lactic acid to adjust the mash pH.
  • After a 90 minute mash, I brought it up to 168° and held for 10 minutes before removing the grains.
  • I hit around 57% mash efficiency, with ~1.058 gravity for 4 gallons of runnings. This is pretty low, so I knew I would have to add a pound of DME.
  • I brought the runnings to a boil, adding hops, DME, and kettle finings per the recipe.
  • I added 2 g of gypsum at the end of the boil.
  • Approximately 3.4 gallons of wort went into the fermenter. I gave this 30 seconds of pure O2, and then pitched the yeast. It fermented at ambient (~64°).
  • I brewed the beer on 25 November 2020, and it had a starting gravity of 1.077.
  • I kegged the beer on 19 December 2020, adding the dry hops at that time. Final gravity was 1.014, for 8.5% abv. I’m thrilled that the beer attenuated fairly well!
  • I removed the dry hops on 27 December 2020, to avoid overhopping or harshness.


  • Appearance
    • The beer has an orangish, burnished gold color; it’s slightly hazy, but not overly so. It pours with a persistent ivory head with really nice lacing.
  • Aroma
    • Slight caramel malt quality, and a prominent hop character of citrus rind and pine resin. There is no yeast character or hot alcohol character, which is awesome!
  • Flavor
    • The beer is quite bitter, with a grapefruit rind and pine resin character to the bitterness. The malt flavor is somewhat grainy, and relatively moderate compared to the hops. Yeast character is very clean. This is a hop-forward beer!
  • Mouthfeel
    • Medium-light body, with an off-dry finish and moderate carbonation.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Overall, this is a great recipe that just requires some hop adjustment. The hop character is a bit one-dimensional, with the Chinook dominating everything else. If I rebrew this, I’ll go closer to the original recipe, and ditch Chinook for all but a small dry hop addition. The malt character is about perfect, with enough body to stand up to the hops. The yeast management was perfect on this one–it attenuated well, and the yeast character was clean rather than boozy or fusel-ridden.
  • Overall
    • 6/10
Posted in clone, double IPA, IPA, tastings | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pfriem Pilsner

I recently bought a Foundry brewing system, and chose a German pils as my first brew. First off, I really like this style. Importantly for a first spin on the Foundry, it gave me a chance to try out a step mash. The recipe is from Dave Carpenter’s Lager book, modified slightly for hop varieties. Otherwise, it’s pretty much as advertised.

Pfriem Pilsner

  • 9.5 lb. Pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 7 oz. Carafoam malt (Weyermann)
  • 3 oz. acidulated malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.6 oz. Perle hop pellets (7.1% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Crystal hop pellets (4.5% alpha), 10 minute boil
  • 0.5 oz. Spalt Spalter hop pellets (3.0% alpha), 10 minute boil
  • 0.5 oz. Vanguard hop pellets (6.5% alpha), 10 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Crystal hop pellets (4.5% alpha), 10 minute whirlpool
  • 0.5 oz. Spalt Spalter hop pellets (3.0% alpha), 10 minute whirlpool
  • 0.5 oz. Vanguard hop pellets (6.5% alpha), 10 minute whirlpool
  • 2 pkg. Saflager Lager Yeast (W34/070)

Target Parameters

  • 1.046 s.g., 1.006 f.g., 5.2% abv, 3 SRM, 35 IBU, 5.25 gallon batch
  • Full volume step mash, with 40 minutes at 142°, 40 minutes at 156°, and 10 minutes at 168°; 70 minute boil
  • Claremont water with carbonates knocked out via lactic acid and Campden tablet to remove chloramines.


  • While the 7.25 gallons of water were heating, I added 6 mL of 88% lactic acid to neutralize the carbonate load, in addition to adding a Campden tablet. No other minerals were added.
  • It took 29 minutes to heat up from tap water temperature (~115°) to 146° for the mash-in temperature. I also added 5 mL of 88% lactic acid (but realized I had the wrong settings, and this was probably too much). I hit an initial mash temperature of 142°, and held it there for 40 minutes. 10 minutes into the mash, I started recirculating. Then, I raised the temperature to 158°, which took around 20 minutes (I started at 75% power, and then upped it to 100% power for the last 10 minutes). To raise to 168° for mash-out, it took ~7 minutes at 100% power. To get boiling temperatures, it took around 50 minutes. I noted that it was boiling (bubbling) before the panel actually showed 212° (~207°).
  • The post-mash volume was 6.4 gallons, with a gravity of 1.043, for 72% mash efficiency.
  • I boiled for 70 minutes, adding hops and finings per the recipe.
  • After the boil, I chilled and transferred to the fermenter. In the fermenter, I continued the chill, down to 52°. Then, I pitched the yeast.
  • I brewed this beer on 17 October 2020, and it had a starting gravity of 1.049.
  • I raised the beer to 60° on 30 October 2020.
  • I lowered the beer to 55° on 1 November 2020, and down to 33° on 6 November 2020.
  • I kegged using semi-closed transfer on 30 November 2020.
  • Final gravity was 1.013, for 4.7% abv.


  • Appearance
    • The beer pours with a persistent, thick, and white head–absolutely gorgeous! This is a true slow-pour beer. I am so pleased with the heading I’ve been getting from my pilsners. In the glass, the beer has a light gold color, with a very slight haze.
  • Aroma
    • Light grainy malt note, with a low level of spicy hop character. Very clean yeast character.
  • Flavor
    • Moderately low grainy-sweet malt character. The hops are more prominent, with a slight herbal character and clean bitterness that is pretty strong, almost approaching a level of harshness. Yeast flavor is very clean.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Moderate/moderate-low level of carbonation, due to the high head on the pour that drives off some of the CO2. The finish is off-dry, with a light and crisp body.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Yes? I really need to take a look at my hopping levels, and perhaps consider going with American hops rather than European ones to get a better aroma. The persistent haze is annoying, but I also misjudged the lactic acid addition, which I suspect might be a factor, as well as the whirlpool. I’ll dial back the hops in my next batch and avoid the whirlpool, because this is more bitter than I really like for a pils. Once I’m buying RO water again, I’ll definitely be building up my water profile, rather than augmenting the rather over-mineralized tap water. So, there are things I like about the recipe, but I think I can continue to adjust for improvements.
  • Overall
    • 6/10

Posted in German pils, lager, pilsner, tastings | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Brew Year’s Resolutions 2021

New Year, New Beer! I did fairly well in hitting most of my 2020 brewing resolutions, and I pushed my homebrew experience in some enjoyable new directions. This year is primarily about refinement–taking things I’ve done already, and working to perfect them or explore them in more detail.

  • Kveik.
    • I want to brew more with kveik. I had lots of fun exploring Hornindal from Omega, and will try out a few others this year, especially as the summer months hit. I’m particularly intrigued by Lutra and the concept of pseudo-lagers.
  • Pilsner.
    • I want to perfect my German pils recipes, especially with the local water. I’m feeling pretty good about the basics, but need to dial things down a bit in terms of bitterness and amp up the aroma and flavor aspects of hop character.
  • Big Beers in Small Batches.
    • I sometimes like sampling bigger beers, but I almost never want five gallons of them. As a result, I’ve done little brewing of many higher gravity styles, or more unusual styles. I aim to change this in 2021, with more 2.5 gallon batches. I’ve started a bit of this already (as mentioned in the December 2020 brew update)
  • Belgian Beers.
    • I like many Belgian beer styles, but I don’t love most of them enough to brew five gallons. As a corollary to the above resolution, I’m going to do some smaller batches of Belgian styles to explore that universe.

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Blast from the Past: Gingerbread Winter Warmer 2016

Way, way, way back in the innocent days of September 2016, I brewed a winter warmer. At the time, it was okay, but nothing great. I drank much of it right from the keg, and the rest got bottled. I sampled some back in January 2018, and it was aging nicely. After that, I forgot about the beer for awhile, and only just ran across my stash in the basement while putting away Christmas decorations. Being New Year’s Eve and all, I thought it would be fun to pull out a bottle and give it a taste!

Although I was tempted to review my recipe and brewing notes prior to opening the bottle, I decided to go into the tasting with minimal expectations. I vaguely recalled that there was some ginger in there, but that’s about it. My spouse shared the bottle (it was 22 ounces of beer, and I didn’t need to drink all of it myself!), and we talked over the beer as watched the southern California sunset from our yard.


  • Appearance
    • Very clear, deep amber beer, which pours with a moderately persistent cream-colored head.
  • Aroma
    • Raisins, light hint of leather, ginger, dried figs…very rich! No hop aroma noticeable.
  • Flavor
    • Malty, with moderate bitterness. Lots of pleasant notes from aging, including dried figs, raisins, and a touch of spice (ginger). Yeast character was surprisingly clean, with no unpleasant aspects that I was afraid might seep in after a few years.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Big body, very smooth, moderate carbonation.
  • Would I Age This Again?
    • YES. Although I don’t recall this being an exceptional beer four years ago, it sure is something special now. Everything has just come together in a rich, flavorful way, and I can’t think of a better beer to enjoy as we close out 2020. I’ll brew this again soon, to have at least a little aging under its belt before next New Year’s Eve.
  • Overall
    • 10/10
Here’s to cellared beer, and 2021!

Posted in aging, experimental recipe, tastings, winter warmer | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment