>Brew-Thai and the Beast

>Hello, Brewthers and Sisters!

This weekend was a great one — one to top most of the homebrew sessions in which I’ve ever partaken.  Justin came up with the genius idea to develop a Thai-themed brew, an idea he’d been batting around since we sampled The Bruery’s Tradewinds with its rice and Thai basil adjuncts and extras (excellent beer — I highly recommend it).

With this taste of inspiration, Justin aimed for much more savory elements and a stout heart (milk stout, that is) to carry the flavors through while still keeping the final product a beer, not just a carbonated soup.

So, on to the brewing!  We decided to go blond and remove anything from the grain bill that would take this past a deep gold.  From there we scaled a traditional Thai recipe to what we thought would be the right proportions become a well-balanced layer in our “blond milk stout” base.

Being that we’re still experimenting with this recipe, I won’t bother to share it yet.  When we give it a taste after a couple weeks, a “Part 2” will be posted.  I will say, though, that the wort itself showed a lot of potential.  Both elements, the brew and the Thai, seemed to play off one another very well.


So, while we were brewing, and we brew outdoors since I’m using a propane double-burner to heat everything, we had a little woodland creature join us.  She became sort of a mascot for the evening events.  Take a look:


But then as night fell, our mascot transformed from a cute, feathery friend into a blood-thirsty killing machine!


You can see her eerie, glowing red eyes up at the top of the haunted old Queen Palm tree.  Sinister… several times through the night I was extremely glad to not have been born a mouse or roach or whatever this owl hunts because there is absolutely no warning when this stealth bomber swoops down on you!  Not a flap of the wing, not a screeching battle cry like the eagle or hawk, just death.  Or grazed ankles.

So, she was harmless to us and I’m very glad she didn’t end up landing in our brew, or adding any of her own spices, especially when I came up with idea to cool the wort by floating it in the pool. I’ll leave you with this final image of our Thai brew just chillin’ in the pool and bid you all abrew.


Iron Brewer: Battle COCONUT!

Oh, man…Christmas comes twice this year!

Bx Beer Depot is hosting an Iron Chef-like “Iron Brewer” homebrew challenge where the ingredient all contestants must use is coconut.  If there was ever a sign from God that I am in the right business, it’s this.  I love coconut and I love beer.

The contest rules state that all you have to do is incorporate coconut as a flavor — use any style of beer you wish!

Check out the details below:

  Iron Brew Home Brew Competition 1:00 pm

Please bring (4 )22ounce bottles to the competition.

There is a $5.00 entrance fee for this event, winner takes all!  The winner also gets to choose the next special ingredient!
To judge without an entry, the fee is $15.00
Event is limited to 40 people, so RSVP by Feb 3rd

BX Beer Depot
2964 Second Avenue North
Lake Worth, FL 33461
Phone: 561-965-9494
Tues: 11-7 (EST) Wed: 11-7 (EST) Thu: 11-7 (EST) Fri: 11-10 (EST) Sat: 11-5(EST) Sun: 12-5 (EST) Mon: Closed
Email: sales@bxbeerdepot.com

A Year of Beer: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Hola, brewfans!  It’s been a great year so far… here’s my personal homebrew roundup.

  • Hopscotch ESB
  • Imperial Stout
  • Vanilla Saison
  • Chipotle Ale
  • Mango IPA
  • Earl Grey Bitter

With each of these, I’ve had my yeas, nays, and bitter disappointments that I’ll share with you here.

Hopscotch ESB
     Wow, this was my entry into the Samuel Adams Longshot 2010 Contest.  It’s based on last year’s Independence ESB which seemed to pair so well with sushi and grilled beef.  This year’s batch held onto warmer fermentation temperatures which coaxed a bit of butterscotch out of the yeast and formed a cushion against the bite of hops that sat in the carboy while the brew ate up as much fermentable sugar as I could allow.

  • The Good:  Again, wow… the butterscotch flavor definitely developed and held up like a champ with the heavy IPA-like hoppiness that we have grown to adore on this side of the Atlantic.
  • The Bad:  Only time will tell.  As with the heritage of ESBs you can expect a certain level of bitterness that I have seen diminish with age.  I’m holding onto a gallon jug, or “growler” for my imbibers familiar with the lingo, in expectation of a beautifully clean and harmonized mug of love.
  • The Ugly:  Didn’t win the contest.

Imperial Stout
     Again, wow.  This was the brainchild of Justin Thrasher, your next favorite gastronomical genius, which was based on an affinity for Imperial Stouts.  As his first homebrew, he ambitiously sought to challenge the niche palate for a strong and seriously sumptuous stout.  Long story short — friggin’ success.  This is my favorite stout of all time.

  • The Good:  At 11.5% ABV, the stout is extremely smooth and drinkable.  It’s versatile as both an appertif, companion to a meal, dessert ingredient, or nightcap.  The double-chocolate of “Block Jaysus Imperial Stout” is a pendulum from dark and bitter to sweet and milky.  We’re keeping the details of the grain and hop bill under wraps as this is the most sought-after homebrew we’ve seen this year.
  • The Bad:  Only five gallons were made for this breakthrough brew.
  • The Ugly:  Only five gallons were made for this breakthrough brew.  And the natives are getting restless.

Vanilla Saison
     Serendipity, baby!  Thanks to a wonderfully hot summer, this attempt at a bohemian pilsner became a golden ale, and with the right tempering and conditioning, thus was born the first Saison of the season.

  • The Good:  Thank God for small miracles.  The pilsner malts lend themselves to the best flavors we can get out of our yeast and hops.  Think of teamwork at its finest.
  • The Bad:  Well, let’s just say that we aimed for Germany and ended up all over the Belgian countryside.  This particular Florida Summer beat out the lagering fridge and made the yeast have to deal with much warmer temperatures than desired to form a cool and clean pilsner.
  • The Ugly:  Whoa… talk about patience as a virtue.  With a complicated batch of beer, such as this tempermental brew, we need to wait until the marriage of the vanilla sugar primer with the funky, hoppy “pilsner” base is complete.  Carbonation is good, timing is bad, thirst is ugly.

Chipotle Ale
     Thank you, Rogue, for such an inspiring idea.  Here we are, in the budding Summer months looking at what we should brew next.  Justin approached me with the idea and as we reviewed the grain and hop bill (basically the gateway to a recipe) on the side of Rogue’s Chipotle Ale.  I found the potential recipe to be a little young or at least a bit too dry for my taste.  So, we tweaked the recipe a bit and wound up with this:

  1. Grains:  Pale Malt (2-row), Victory Malt, Crystal Malt (45L), Munich Malt, More Crystal Malt (British 120L), and finally Chocolate Malt (American)
  2. Hops:  Cascade (bitterness) and Willamette (flavor and aroma)
  • The Good:  Oh, mama… this was a keg-carbonated batch.  We started the brew with sweeter Ancho Peppers and then added a Chipotle Pepper syrup.  The ruby/amber ale coasted across with a cornbread-like sweetness and body.  Then, in a flash, the Chipotle hits the back of your throat with a pleasant hint of heat.  Drunk at a 40-degree Fahrenheit or lower temperature, this is an unassuming thirst-quencher and an inimitably welcome addition to any Summery barbecue, Autumnal stew, or fireside Winter Warmer.
  • The Bad:  Didn’t brew enough to make it to Springtime.
  • The Ugly:  We really didn’t know how much pepper to throw in the brew, but we luckily reserved the heat for the final priming syrup.  The Chipotles were brewed in sugar-water to add to the fermented ale and could be tested for potency before we threw them heat into the batch.

Mango IPA
     South Florida, you know.  Late Summer into early Fall, the Mango trees hang low with the most fragrant, succulent, and intoxicating fruits this latitudinal zone has ever known.  So, being the good ol’ boys of the new South, Justin and I brewed an IPA with the copious crop of mangoes this season had to offer.

  • The Good:  Oh, what pickin’s we had.  There was no end to the amount of fruit we could cram into this next batch of beer.  We ended up boiling about ten pounds of pureed mango in with the grains.
  • The Bad:  Not a lot of mango came through on the end product.  We did, however, find a lot of marshmallow sweetness and just a hint of tropical tartness.  We could say “less is more” but we would have loved to see more mango.
  • The Ugly:  Fiber, anyone?  This was a cloudy beer loaded with leftover fibers from the boiled mango.  Pretty color, but shady texture.

Earl Grey Bitter (a.k.a. Earl Grey Bit’er Biscuits)
     Inspired by British bitters, the subtle, bready, highly drinkable (or “session”) beers, I decided to brew a tea and biscuits batch made with real Earl Grey tea and a high level of biscuity malts to create this anytime treat.

  • The Good:  Lack of time.  I didn’t allow myself to bottle soon enough after brewing to capture the desired tea and biscuits flavor, so I let it sit.  Had I bottled after about a week, we would have seen a different product — something right on target, I presume.  But, in all ways American, I procrastinated and created a lame-duck lucky strike in what I consider to be the first Imperial Bitter.  At almost 9% ABV, the Earl Grey Bitter blows away any of its would-be compatriots in namesake.  The yeast folded over on itself and created noticeable banana and spice aromas that transform the biscuits into a cake of sorts.  The heat of the alcohol produced makes this brew a real Winter treat with warm and lingering flavors.
  • The Bad:  Way off target.  I should have bottle much earlier.  I’m going to have to repeat this (repeat this) and bottle much earlier than the four weeks I allowed on this inaugural attempt.  But I know I’ll reserve a few gallons for my next batch of Winter Warmers and let them to take their time and ferment into a much higher alcohol by volume (ABV) percentage.
  • The Ugly:  British Royalty.  Hahaha… oh, I just mean the ones that have no real power (tongue in cheek joke).  Long live Queen!

So, I hope you’ve enjoyed this Year of Beer in Review as much as I’ve enjoyed being there for all the good, the bad, and the ugly of it.  If you have any questions, you’re always free to write me at AskAHomebrewer@gmail.com, or follow me on Twitter @askahomebrewer.  Most recipes and advice are available on all the listed brews for this year.

Starbucks Selling Beer and Wine

Du-uh!!!  As if they wouldn’t be able to make it work!

Oh, hey, friends… How’ve you been?  I’m good, thanks.  Now back to the great brew news!

I wrote about Starbucks’ foray into another adult market offering tasty premium beverages with their launch of two secret beer and wine bars in a Pacific Northwest test roll-out.  Just as they kicked the market in the beans with their ubiquitous coffee shops, they brought people more of what they want:
A great environment to sit back and relax with carefully crafted brews.

But the secret’s out — Starbucks won’t have to disguise any of the new beer and wine bars with a phony mustache and glasses like the two test joints which were named after the cross-streets at which they were located.  You’ll now start to see these rustic, somewhat industrial lounges under the flowing locks of the lady in the green circle, Starbucks be thy name.

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=brewandtheyea-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=B0018ZR7FC&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrI’m looking forward to getting confused when I go out for coffee but end up in line for beer and wine (one’s for me, one’s for the lady over there with the awesome shark socks).

To commemorate this debut, here’s a recipe for a great homebrew beer, black as freshly brewed Venti cup of Joe, but crisp and rich with roasted malt off the top, and finished with grassy, spicy hop notes.  Add a bit more “wildflower nectar” notes (I realize how much I sound like Martha Stewart here) with an aroma addition of Willamette, the best hop in the world*.

As always, if you have any questions from what you see here or anything about beer and brewing, drop a line to AskAHomebrewer@gmail.com.  — top question for the month of June gets a $10 gift certificate to Midwest Homebrewing Supplies.

Café Vienna Lager
(5 gallons, partial mash)


    * 1 lb. Vienna malt
    * 0.5 lb. dark Munich malt, 10° to 12° Lovibond
    * 0.25 lb. malted wheat
    * 1 lb. lager malt
    * 4 lbs. unhopped amber malt extract syrup
    * 1 oz. Perle hop pellets, for 60 min.
    * 0.5 oz. Hallertauer hop pellets, for 20 min.
    * 0.5 oz. Spalt pellets, for 20 min.
    * 0.5 oz. Willamette hop pellets, for 10 min. (Brewty and the Yeast suggested addition)
    * 0.125 lb. coarsely cracked (not ground) light-roast coffee beans
    * 1 broken cinnamon stick
    * 14 g. dry lager yeast or liquid culture (Brewty and the Yeast suggests Wyeast Budvar ACT2000)
    * 3/4 cup corn syrup

Step by Step:
Heat 1.5 gals. of water to 132° F, crack and mix in malts and malted wheat. The mash should settle at 121° F. Hold 30 minutes, then remove 3 qts. of liquid from the mash and boil it 15 minutes. Stir heated mash back into the mash tun. This should raise the whole mash to 137° F or so. Hold another 30 minutes, then remove 3 qts. again and bring to a boil. Boil this 15 minutes, add it back to the mash tun, raising the whole to about 152° F. Hold here for 60 minutes, then lauter and sparge with 2 gals. of 168° F water. To this runoff (about 3 gals.) add extract syrup and bring to a boil. Add Perle hop pellets, boil 40 minutes. Add Hallertauer and Spalt pellets, boil 20 minutes.  Brewty and the Yeast option hop addition — Willamette pellets, boil 10 minutes.

Remove from heat, set in ice water to cool, and add coffee beans and cinnamon stick. Steep at least 15 minutes, then chill and top off to 5.25 gals. with pre-boiled chilled water. At 75° F pitch dry lager yeast or a liquid culture (I’ve had great luck in this recipe with Wyeast 2308 Munich, Brewty and the Yeast suggests Wyeast Budvar ACT2000 “Smack-pack” yeast — pulls out a little more flavor with higher flocculation). Seal and ferment for two days at 65° to 70° F, then place in a cooler (50° to 55° F) for a week. Rack to secondary and, if possible, place in a cold place (40° F or below) for three to six more weeks. (Otherwise, maintain at 50° F for three or four weeks.) Prime with corn sugar and bottle. Age cold (40° to 50° F) six to eight weeks, space permitting.

Experienced decoction mashers will probably laugh at this primitive partial-decoction-mash recipe. I know it is not quite a usual triple decoction, but it seems to work for this recipe. If you have a better all-grain Vienna recipe, go with it. If you are going to mash at all for this recipe, I strongly encourage you to try it as a decoction, if only for the lovely color you can produce by boiling the mash.

Extract brewers who can’t even partial mash, don’t worry; an additional pound of amber dry malt extract will give you enough body and fermentables to make this work. I would suggest steeping some cracked Munich (see mash recipe) in your brewing water before you add the extracts, for color and grain aroma.

Dark-roasted coffee should be avoided, because it will darken the beer. You want to give a hint of coffee and cinnamon, not make them the dominant flavors, so don’t steep them in the cooling wort too long, but just long enough to give some brownish color and coffee-cinnamon aroma.

From “Brew Your Own” Magazine’s website, Recipe published 2009:  Café Vienna Lager


* Yup.  Willamette hops are the best in the world.

Bottling your Homebrewed Beer: Team Effort

Oh, what a beautiful Sunday morning here in South Florida.  The birds were chirping, the eggs were frying, and I was boiling priming sugar and bottlecaps to rack up our latest brew.  My usual bottling buddy was on the road, so I had intended to fly this one solo. 

But here’s a little secret — Bottling sucks.  By yourself, bottling is a nightmare and you end up tracking around sticky footprints from spilled beer, you sweat your butt off making sure that everything stays relatively sanitized, and it’s going to take you HOURS… ugh.  The last time I bottled a 5-gallon batch, I was working with my friend Justin.  Let me tell you, one extra person on the job makes it so much easier.  I think that day we saved about an hour and a half compared to how long it takes me by myself.  Maybe I’m inefficient, or maybe I’m frigging right.  Get a buddy when you bottle.  Or be that buddy.  The world will be a better place.

So, this morning, besides being another great moment to interact with a finely crafted homebrew, I thought, “Well, I just so happen to have my family all here with me, so that means I have slaves… I mean “assistants” that can help me cap this last batch!”  My parents were more than happy to help and just then my brother showed up… of course, ready to lend a hand.

With my mom rinsing the bottles, my dad filling them, my brother capping, and me checking and racking, we bottled every beer in less than a half hour.  In total, I spent 20 minutes prepping the priming solution, 30 minutes bottling, and 10 minutes cleaning up, so I just shaved another 30 minutes off a job that used to break my back for 3, sometimes 4 hours.

I can say that having somebody there to help you is a valuable time-saver for sure, but I’ll also offer that sharing what could be a very uninteresting and painstaking job with your friends and family can turn all you hated about bottling into something you’d look forward to the next time you’re ready to do it.

Exbeeriment: Got Gas?

A little while ago, my friend Justin called me with an out-of-the-blue question:  what beer do I drink most?  Well, for the ones I can remember, it’s the relatively easy-to-find Samuel Adams Boston Lager.  He then asked me to compare it to Guinness. “What’s the difference between the two of them?”

Immediately, I started rolling out words like “mouth-feel,” “head-retention,” and “body.”  I like the bite it has versus the softer, chewiness of a draft-style Guinness.

“Right, the crisp versus the velvet,” he agreed. 

That’s when the room went dark and the Mad Scientist adjusted his half-cocked spectacles, his gigantic, sinister shadow projected against the wall as lightning tore through the sky… “So, what if you could swap their bodies?”

After the lights came back on, I thought that what Justin was asking wasn’t too far off from where modern brewing production and last century’s kegging innovations have left us today.  Carbon dioxide charges up the local draft at your favorite watering hole.  Macro-brewed bottles and cans leave the production line with carefully measured atmospheres inside.  Guinness (and other pub favorites) rolled out with nitrogen-charged “widgets” to capture that just-poured creamy perfection right from the six-pack.

So if the air we drink comes from something other than a colony of flatulent yeast, that is, from pressurized tanks and widgets, what’s stopping us from swapping bodies and seeing how the flavors stand up against the gas that makes them fizz.

After a few beers and a little more brainstorming, we came up with a great idea — drink more beers.  Then we put together a little experiment (or “exbeeriment” if you will… and if you won’t, we’ll find someone who will). Can you switch the bodies and still get an enjoyable potable?  Only science can help us now.  Read on, MacDuff!

STEP ONE:  Sam Goes Flat

We took a bottle of Sam Adams Boston Lager and put it under vacuum in a Foodsaver canister and ran the pump three times.

STEP TWO:  Pump It Up

Once the Sam was flat, we poured the limp imbibable into whipped cream dispensers, one with an NO2 (nitrous oxide) cartridge, and one with a CO2 (carbon dioxide) cartridge.  Then we poured a couple beers into ourselves.  Following the directions for the whipped cream dispenser, we twisted on the gas for each canister to let the liquid inside dissolve the gas from the cartridges.

STEP THREE:  Put out the Fire

Our burning curiosity (and thirst for science experiment beer) was ready to be extinguished, so we lined up our Frankenlagers along with a control (Sam right out of the bottle) to see which one would rise to the top.


We had five samples of the Boston Lager.

  1. Control
  2. NO2 fully charged in the canister
  3. NO2 with excess gas released from the canister
  4. CO2 fully charged in the canister
  5. CO2 with excess gas released from the canister

We found that the control (sample #1) stayed true with a medium body and typical crisp flavor and mouthfeel.  The head was dense and slowly disappearing. Our second sample tasted a lot like a beer from a mostly dead keg.  It seemed to pick up a metallic taste and the body was thin.  The head was nice and lacy, though.  Third on the list was the decompressed nitrous oxide lager.  It had a nice flavor carried by a creamy body.  The sample glass was left with a light and even lacing of head.  The fourth sample really delivered a stronger caramel flavor.  However, the body was quickly dying.  Before it went completely flat, the fully-charged CO2 sample #4 had a very even and clean head, almost like the sheet of suds on top of a sinkful of water and dish soap.  Sample 5, seemed to be as close to the original as we would get from the other 3 recharged beers.


Yeah, you can mess with the bodies of your favorite beer by modifying the type and concentration of gas dissolved in the brew, but would it taste any good?  Our favorite turned out to be the 3rd sample.  The excess gas was released from the canister, allowing the beer to dispense as it would under its own dissolved gas power.  The head stayed put and out of all the samples more carbonation remained visible after 10 minutes.  The flavors carried very well over a blanket of velvety bubbles which seemed to mellow out any of the residual bitterness.

So, there you have it — science has served up another way to enjoy our favorite beers.  I hope this will inspire a new world of renovated ales and face-lifted lagers in the years to come, and if not, I just hope you all learned something today.  If you did, please email me at AskAHomebrewer@gmail.com, because I think I can get a government grant for this kind of thing.

Do You Believe in Magic?

Have you ever seen a sign over your local bar saying “Free Beer Tomorrow?” HAHAHA… very funny, barkeep. I’ll come in tomorrow and the same sign will be there. The jokes on me.

This time, nobody’s laughing — Bx Beer Depot is hosting a Magic Hat Brewing Company tasting with free samples of beers you’ve probably never tried. The Magic Hat #9 you may have seen at a few taps around town (Bru’s Room in downtown Delray gets a shout-out). Yes, #9, great from the first peachy/hoppy sip down to the last finger-licking ring of head you wipe off the inside of your pint glass.

Come check out the Magic show… details below. I’m heading to Bru’s Room now for another pint or 12. Yes, I know it’s 10:49 in the morning — I guess I’m running a little late.

Lauren from Magic Hat Brewing Company

Free Beer Tasting! Magic Hat’s Spring 2010 collection likely to be on the menu.

February 12th from 6:00 until 7:30pm

Bx Beer Depot
2964 Second Avenue North
Lake Worth, FL 33461
Phone: 561-965-9494
Email: sales@bxbeerdepot.com

Uh, maybe you didn’t see “Free Beer” written above.

Any way you can.

Merchandise Links?
Nostalgic Humor Tin Sign : Free Beer! Tomorrow