Extract Experiment 1: Does Late Addition of Extract Make a Difference?

When I first began brewing, I brewed steeped grain/extract beers that never quite tasted like I thought beer should taste. Many online forums attribute this to the “extract twang.” While I don’t necessarily prescribe to this school of thought, given the fact that Ray Daniels book gives many examples of award winning extract beer, I quickly made the switch to all grain. I can unequivocally state that my beer has improved immensely since those early brews. However, was this due to the all-grain switch, or, could this have been because I started pitching an “appropriate” amount of yeast, oxygenating the wort, better temperature control, etc?

A simple search of late extract addition yields various claims of “no extract twang” to “better hop utilization” and everything in between. While i’m somewhat skeptical of these claims, I think a comparison experiment will help to provide more solid information in this debate.

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Yeast Experiment: The Yeast Bay Midwestern Ale Yeast vs WLP002 English Ale Yeast

Having been to both England and the Midwest of America one can’t help but notice many striking similarities between the two. Outside of London, most of England feels fairly blue collar. They love their footbal teams, and enjoy a great pint after work. I also tend to think that beer culture in both countries is actually much more similar than we as Americans like to admit. In England, beer drinkers are passionate about telling you which beers are worth drinking, and what is garbage. You could almost call them beer snobs. Of course, anyone who’s browsed beeradvocate or any of the homebrew forums will note that Americans are quite adept in that skill as well. Americans and Britians are both ale drinkers, and, seem to prefer the pale ale above most beer. Given our country’s heritage, when I imagine early home brewing in the US, I think that it was probably something of a rudimentary understanding of British brewing practices in the 70s and 80s due mainly to availability. I also believe that many of the original house styles and strains from craft breweries during that time would have descended from British styles (with the exception of alt, wheat, and lagers) for reasons of availability of source ingredients, as well as push back to macro breweries, most of which emulate German brewing practices.

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Yeast Experiment: WLP300 Hefeweizen vs WLP029 German Ale

When I first started brewing I made overly complex grain bills and hopping schedules. I would find myself regularly perusing forums for tips on how to make the perfect grain bill and which hops would go best with that. Though this may be something that was unique to me, I am guessing that quite a few home brewers start out this way. The thinking is probably “well great beer has so many favors so a complex malt and hop bill must drive this.” To beginning Brewers the concept of beer flavor being significantly driven from yeast doesn’t quite register. I learned this when I was lucky enough to take a trip to the Czech Republic and Germany with my wife’s family. Up until this trip I would regularly deride German beers with friends as being behind the times and having nothing to them, no complexity, they all tasted the same. When in Europe I tasted Pilseners and Helles with more complex flavor than a great IPA. Hefeweizens suddenly tasted as complex as an imperial stout. Certainly some of this can be chalked up to the surrounding and experience I was having on the trip. However, since that trip something has always stuck with me: complexity of ingredients does not make a complex beer. Since this trip I’ve sought to simplify my recipes and focus more and more on my process (hence the name of this blog), and to me yeast is much more of a part of the process of brewing than the fourth ingredient in beer, yeast are your billions of cells of brewing friends that help you make a beer, just like someone helps you lift a HLT to mash in.

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Spotted Cow (Wannabe) Clone

As I’m sure most people are sick of hearing, growing up in Wisconsin I LOVE New Glarus. To me Dan Carey is the best, most innovative, brewer in the country. Moving to Colorado was one of the best decisions of my life, however, it left me without consistent access to my favorite beer (prior to discovering Prost!). Once I learned to homebrew it was a forgone conclusion that I would spend every waking minute trying to replicate this beer.

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