Berliner Weisse #1: No Sparge, Almost No Boil, No Couple’s Shower! (WLP677 Lactobacillus delbrueckii & WLP036 Düsseldorf Alt)

I have always been, and probably always will be, a fan of high gravity beers. After learning to brew, I only wanted to brew the next great dark lord or sucaba. A lot of homebrewers probably go through the same progression as me: learn to brew beer, decide they will brew the biggest most badass beer ever, compromise that their beer was just ok. After a few home brews on a work night while cooking dinner on an empty stomach, I realized I should embrace the delicacy and art of brewing low ABV session beers. I figured that I didn’t need something on tap which is meant for once a week consumption at most. Being able to drink a full pint of something and not start slurring is always a plus!

I’m not really sure how this brew day came about, my wife and I were supposed to be going to a “couple’s shower,” the shower turned into a women only shower as we arrived. Lucky for me the location of the shower was very close to my LHBS, and I was more than happy to waste two hours browsing their selection while enjoying a glass of Bligh’s Barleywine (side note: this year’s Bligh’s is fantastic). Letting me walk around a homebrew store for two hours was probably always going to end with me making beer. Knowing that I wanted to make a beer, a whole brew day was probably out of the question (wife family things), and building my keezer meant I wasn’t setup for another experiment just yet; I settled on a no-boil Berliner Weisse, a style I had no experience making. By chance, the night before, I had read the chapter on historical beers in Stan Hieronymus’s wonderful book Brewing with Wheat: The ‘Wit’ and “Weizen’ of World Wheat Beer Styles  and decided a no-boil, no sparge, Berliner of five gallons could probably be accomplished in about 2.5 hours start to finish. What better session beer than something smaller than most starters? I pulled out my phone and designed a quick recipe for a Berliner that would start at around 1.036, have <5 IBUs, and be fermented first by lactobacillus and then alongside a neutral German yeast. After doing a few searches online regarding no boil I got scared and decided to do a very short boil instead.

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Keezer Build: Simple How to with Pictures

When I started brewing I bottled all of my beer like nearly everyone else, I absolutely hated bottling. Not only is bottling time consuming and annoying, the ending product is highly variable. I switched to kegs fairly quickly and was content to use picnic faucets for quite a while. Recently, I decided that using a freezer for a fermentation chamber was not ideal. Freezers don’t contain a condensation method and I’ve read that this can cause the lines to rust over time. I decided to make the switch to using a fridge to ferment and a freezer to dispense beer. My freezer fits four kegs and using picnic faucets was fine, however, I wanted to add a little flare to my homebrewing. I’ve always been very jealous of the keezer builds people have done online, I think there is something damn cool about having your beer come out of real taps. Here is a quick how to on building a keezer like mine. Note: the design for this was shamelessly taken from the homebrewacademy.com, thanks for all of your great videos!

This keezer is designed to have an inner collar that sits on the freezer with an outer facade that hangs down over the freezer. The shanks will go directly through the collar, no freezers were harmed in the making of this how to! A huge thanks to my neighbor Phil who helped me make this in exchange for beer, and my wife for putting up with my beer crap.

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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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Yeast Experiment: The Yeast Bay Midwestern Ale vs Vermont Ale

Recently The Yeast Bay, a small artisanal yeast company out of San Fran (also headed up by a fellow Badger!), started marketing a strain called Midwestern Ale yeast. Being a lover of all things New Glarus, and, having undergone multiple iterations of trying to clone Spotted Cow, I was extremely excited at the possibility that this could be Dan’s famous kolsch strain. After a few back and forth emails with head yeast expert Nick, in which he gave me no information on the source as expected, I came to the conclusion that this was probably not the New Glarus strain I’ve tried to grow up many times. However, being from the Midwest I was still very intrigued at this new strain and quickly purchased a vail to try.

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