My progress with beer

My progress with beer

I’ve been having a lot of fun with beer lately. This blog chronicles some of what I’ve been up to.

I’ve now been brewing for about 18 months, and learned a lot, the hard way. That said, only one brew had to become ‘beer vinegar’. Some have been great, and others simply OK. A few I have really loved.

Beer making has followed my usual cooking M.O: it starts with a scientific question: “What would happen if….?” Sometimes it has been more of a design question: “Can I clone??”

The images are all from beersmith. It really doesn’t add anything to show pictures, nor would it add anything to make this a “here’s how you do it’ blog. If you want to make beer, download Beersmith to both your desktop and cell phone. Take time to read a lot, and especially set up your equipment profiles. Then you will be all set.

Without further ado, here are a few reflections on the brews I’ve been doing.

Sour Beer

Sourbeer is a particular style of beer. Wikipedia describes it this way: “At one time, all beers were sour to some degree. As pure yeast cultures were not available, the starter used from one batch to another usually contained some wild yeast and bacteria.[1] Unlike modern brewing, which is done in a sterile environment to guard against the intrusion of wild yeast,[2] sour beers are made by intentionally allowing wild yeast strains or bacteria into the brew. Traditionally, Belgian brewers allowed wild yeast to enter the brew naturally through the barrels or during the cooling of the wort in a coolship open to the outside air [3] – an unpredictable process that many modern brewers avoid.[4]

I also found a sour beer blog! which in turn led me to the ‘Milk the Funk” facebook group which is dedicated to using wild yeasts in beer making.

My current interest has been in using sourdough starter to pitch into my beer. Working through Yeast I calculated that if I take 20g. of vigorous sourdough starter and refresh it in 200g of.1.035 wort first thing in the morning (or late at night before) of a brew day, it will have sufficiently fermented to pitch into a gallon (3.5 L) of beer.

I’ve tried this a couple of ways now: with pilsner malt as the base, and also with a more ale based base. I’ve heard that hops can kill the lactic acid bacteria – we will see: the ale version was fairly heavily hopped. I’ve begun to drink the pilsner version and so far I am really pleased with the results.

(Note: if you want to see the recipes in more detail, I would suggest clicking on the picture to either open it in a new tab and then expanding it, or saving it as  an image then enlarging it)


Above is the recipe used for the pilsner version, and below, the ale version.

The next recipe is one I named ‘June Ale. I was trying to use up grains and hops purchased over the course of last winter – no more and no less. Sometimes one gets surprisingly great results. This one turned out quite wonderfully, as a straight up ale. Great mouth feel, great head, very smooth after taste. I’m definitely going to do this again.

The final recipe is one where I wanted to explore Citra hops, and found this one in beersmith. The citrus is very pronounced, a very bright beer. Apparently this is the kind of thing that is all the rage these days. I’m quite delighted with it myself, though I would not want to make this the only beer on hand.

Not quite sure where to take this next, but here are a few random thoughts:

  • Continue with the small brews, but make 2 gallon batches the norm. This way I get about 12 500ml bottles for my efforts. I’m finding that getting only 6 for all that work is getting a little much. I will still do one gallon batches for experimental efforts.
  • Up to now my goal has been to make a decent ale. I’ve now achieved that. Next I want to have a small variety on hand that includes an ale, a sour beer, a lightly hopped pilsner type ale, and a stout not to mention the odd experiment as well.
  • I want to do more experiments with capturing wild yeasts – but more about that in later blogs.

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