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Down Time


December is a busy month for me.  Im heading to Mexico next week for a wedding, and then after I return we have christmas, hannukah, new car shopping, christmas shiopping, the list goes on and on…

Posting will be a little light for the rest of the month, although if I get a brewday in between the holidays, i’ll be sure to update you.


Merry Happy Everything.



In honor of my upcoming trip to mexico, I decided to brew a mexican Lager.


Recipe Type: All Grain   
Yeast: WPL940 (Mexi Lager)   
Yeast Starter: No   
Batch Size (Gallons): 11   
Original Gravity: 1.053   
Final Gravity: 1.010   
IBU: 15.3   
Boiling Time (Minutes): 60   
Color: 3.3 SRM   
Primary Fermentation (# of Days & Temp): 7 Days 52 Deg   
Additional Fermentation: Lower temp 5 Deg/day till 32 Deg Lager for 6 weeks   
Secondary Fermentation (# of Days & Temp): 6 days 62Deg   

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 11.00 gal 
Boil Size: 14.07 gal
Estimated OG: 1.053 SG
Estimated Color: 3.3 SRM
Estimated IBU: 15.3 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 80.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amount Item Type % or IBU 
7 lbs 12.8 oz Corn, Flaked (1.3 SRM) Grain 39.0 % 
7 lbs 12.8 oz Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 39.0 % 
4 lbs 6.4 oz Pale Malt (6 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 22.0 % 
2.10 oz Liberty [4.30%] (60 min) Hops 15.3 IBU 
1.20 oz Liberty [4.30%] (0 min) (Aroma Hop-Steep)Hops – 
2 Pkgs Mexican Lager (White Labs #WLP940) (I actually used a 1/2 gallon starter that I stepped up from 1 vial)

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Light Body, No Mash Out
Total Grain Weight: 20.00 lb
Name Description Step Temp Step Time 
Mash In Add 7.60 gal of water at 159.3 F 140.0 F 45 min 
Step Bring temp up to 152.0 F 152.0 F 60 min

Primary fermentation: 7 days at 52 degrees 
Diacetyl rest: 6 days at 62 degrees 
Secondary/Lagering: bring temp down 5deg/day until 32 degrees is reached and lager for 6 weeks.

It should be ready to drink right about the time i start itching to go back in the spring!

There are lots of posts on the web about how to fill bottles from a keg of beer.  The most popular gear heady way to do it is to buy a counter pressure bottle filler or use a beer gun.  The beer gun seems a little easy to use.

However, I only bottle the occasional 6-pack or so from the keg and I’d rather spend my money on malt and hops than a beer gun.  What follows is a short step-by-step of how I fill bottles from my keg with stuff I have around the brewery.

Filling from a Keg:

  1. Keg of beer must be chilled and carbonated.  I like to over carbonate by a few tenths (0.2) of a volume of CO2 to compensate for lost CO2.  (some of that lost CO2 is a good thing as I’ll state later)
  2. I use a black Cobra/Picnic tap to dispense the beer from.  I modify the tap into a filler by using a piece of tubing that will stick right over the spout of the tap (usually 3/8 ID tubing).  The length of the tubing need only be long enough to reach the bottle of the bottle.
  3. I chill down the bottles I plan to fill.  This reduces CO2 loss and foaming.
  4. Right before I am ready to bottle (bottles and caps washed and sanitized), I dial down the CO2 on my regulator to zero PSI, then I burp the keg to release all the head pressure.
  5. I put the tap with tubing filler into my first bottle and pull the trigger.  Then I slowly dial up the regulator until I have just enough pressure to get the beer flowing at a decent rate.  But not too fast to get excessive foaming.  This can be a little tricky to manage the regulator and the bottle filler at the same time.  But once you get the pressure set and the beer flowing; that’s it with fussing over the regulator settings.
  6. Fill the rest of my bottles and cap them.  Getting a little foam while filling is a good thing as it helps to purge out the ambient air and O2.  This minimizes oxidation of the beer after bottling.
  7. Once all the bottles are filled I reset the pressure on the regulator to my normal carbonating and dispensing pressure to keep the beer from going flat.

This method works good for all sizes of bottles just as long as your tubing reaches the bottom of the bottle.  And it’s certainly cheaper than purchasing a beer gun.

As my contribution in teaching a friend to homebrew, I invited my friend Lyle over for the Brown Porter brew session.   With some passing flurries in the morning and colder temperatures rolling through, it didn’t look like great homebrewing weather.  In the afternoon, the clouds broke a little bit and the winds were tolerable…so the brew was a go.

I read Chris Colby’s article in BYO about partial mashing dark beers and treating your water with baking soda to keep the pH in check for optimal mashing and brewing.  From what I read, the dark grain make the wort more acidic and it could affect your mash efficiency and mouthfeel.  So, I followed some of the tips in the article. 

I did not mash my dark grains.  I steeped them in my brew kettle while my lighter grains were mashing.

One thing that I am embarrassed to admit,  is the fact that you cannot mash a small amount of grain in a 5 gallon cooler.  I bought a 5 gallon cooler with the notion that I would be all-grain brewing soon enough.  The purchase was a mistake in terms of using it for partial mashes.  There is too much head space in a 5 gallon cooler to maintain mash temperatures.  I insulated my cooler this time with a really big blanket.  I still lost a lot of heat in the hour mash time….so please…learn from me:

  • Use a 2 gallon cooler if you are going to follow a partial mash procedure in your homebrewing endeavors. 

I poured the liquor from my mash tun into my boiling pot.  We did have a bit of a boil over after the first edition of hops, but we pulled the heat down in time before a huge mess was made.  The rest of the boil was fine.  We drank Wachusett Black Shack Porters while we kept an eye on the pot.

The chill went well.  Visible cold break appeared and I was happy with that.

So, I am hoping the brew comes out ok.  Lyle is getting half of it.  I hope it’s worth his time and effort.

Palisade Hops?


Here’s a new hop variety that may be one to try:  Palisade Hops.   I found that there is little official information and varying forum and personal accounts.  Here is a culmination of what I read plus a large employment of my own editorial power.

Origin: USA.  It is bred and trademarked by Yakima Chief Ranches.  From other sources, it appears to have been bred from a version of Tettanger (possibly Swiss?).  I couldn’t find any release date information.

Aroma: Floral.  Subtle Apricot.  Grassy.  ”Pretty”. 

Alpha Acid: 5.5-9.5%

Typical Usage:  Although the alpha acid is pushing double digits on the high end, this is an aroma hop variety.  I think Palisade hops are similar to Glacier hops.  Many of the things I read both online and offline seemed to support a subtle, non-aggressive, smooth hop flavor with a fruity, non-citrusy aroma.   If you are a hop head, I think you will be unimpressed by this variety.  I would bitter with a high alpha acid hop variety and combine Palisade with a citrusy aroma hop variety to make a American pale ale.  This hop variety is better for English style pale ales.

Here are some other newish American hop varieties:

Santiam Hops

Simcoe Hops

Ahtanum Hops

It’s been awhile since I wrote a whinny, “my beer might suck” post, so I thought I was due. But first the good.
I received a concoction from Northern Brewer, a “Hopshot” that was essentially hop syrup that constituted 50 IBU’s. Part of deal for receiving the hopshot was to use it as a bittering agent, so I chose to use all 5 ml (=50 IBUs) in an IPA. In addition to the Hopshot, I used an ounce of Amarillo hops, an ounce of Cascade hops and another ounce of Cascade for dry hopping. I’ve been really happy with the turn out. The hopshot did a decent job bittering, maybe not as bitter as I was expecting, but very nice. The beer pours an orangish- golden color with a thick, two-finger foamy, off-white head. There’s a nice citrusy aroma, especially grapefruit. A little bit of a soapy flavor at the finish, but a nice sweetness and some great citrusy flavors. Overall, I’m very pleased with this IPA and thought the Hopshot gave it a nice backbone.

The Bad: For my annual Nokomis Summer Ale, I chose to brew with rye for the first time. A fairly basic recipe, I used pilsner, rye, crystal 20 and a little bit of wheat malt, in addition to 3 lbs of light malt extract. I used some left over Pacific gem hops, splatter and hallertau hops and used the Kolsch 2 yeast. This was a 3 gallon recipe that I ended up bottling all of it in a 2.5 gallon keg. I have no idea what happened, but the beer tasted like shit! It wasn’t a contamination problem, the off-flavors didn’t indicate that. I’m not sure if it was the combination of grains, the yeast, if I tapped the keg too soon, or what. Whatever the cause, it went down the drain. It was bitter, grainy and just not good. The bad end of experimenting is ending up with a bad beer! Oh well, luckily I brewed enough good beer this summer to make up for it.

Potentially Ugly: A week from today is the big party, and the beer I brewed for it has been in the bottle two weeks. I tried a bottle at 1 week and it wasn’t ready. Tried another yesterday, and while better, it wasn’t great. I know it’s early. I know I always over-analyze and concern myself with the end product too early…
I mention that because the only reason I’m nervous about this one is that there will be a lot of new drinkers of my beer and I want it to be really good.
Luckily I have the majority of the Hopshot keg left, so I can use that instead if the SOC Ale isn’t as I want it. Plus my Inky’s White Ale, will probably be ready as well.
I digress on the whining. As a last note, brewing is going to slow down a bit soon as school starts up again. I brewed another batch of Bangy Tangy and plan on brewing Irie Stout again in the next couple weeks. I found a jar of organic Mango preserve and plan on using a small amount in the Irie, as well as using a bit of roasted barley.