Winter Ales


The inevitable is happening in Alaska, the dark times are on their way. Winters in Alaska can downright suck, and the cold winds are already starting to blow and its only a matter of time before the real snow arrives as well. When Old Man Winter rears his ugly head, it’s nice to have some high alcohol winter ales to help get you through it!
I really enjoy winter ales, especially because of their variety. Some are hoppy, some are malty, some are roasty, some are spiced. It’s great to have a style that is so wide open for interpretation.
The three beers I recently picked up are perfect examples of this variety.
Summit’s Winter Ale not only takes the cake on these beers, but is also my favorite Summit offering. This winter ale is dark and roasty, malty and warming. The perfect beer when your face is frozen and you can’t feel your fingers and toes. It pours a dark chocolate brown with some nice ruby red hues and a foamy finger of a light tan head. There are wonderful caramel/roasty aromas. Smooth, creamy mouthfeel with some roasty and burnt flavors, as well as some caramel and chocolate notes. There’s no hop flavors, but some nice lingering sweetness and the creamy texture makes it smooth drink, even at 7% alchohol. Just a great beer in my opinion.

Flying Dog K-9 Cruiser Winter Ale:
I really enjoy most of the beers I’ve had from Flying Dog, and this one is no exception. Quite different than the Summit Winter Ale, this winter offering pours a deep amber with redish and brown hues and a finger of foamy white head. Malty and spicy aromas followed by a very malty taste. There’s some graininess, as well as a bit of alcohol presence. Its sweet, but also a little bitter. Hardly any hop presence, this beer is smooth and well balanced. It finishes clean, almost like a bock. A nice winter ale.

New Belgium’s 2 Below:
This beer is a beer I actually reviewed last year, but wanted to review it again because I was excited that it is now available in the cities. It pours a copper color with a foamy white head. Biscuity aromas, along with some bready, with some spicy hoppiness. Wonderful biscuit flavors and some malty sweetness. There’s some floral and slightly citrus hop notes as well. This is quite different than the other two beers I reviewed. It’s got a hint of spruce and is kind of a hoppier, spicier version of Fat Tire.

Of the three, Summit’s Winter Ale is the one I will probably find myself drinking a lot of this coming winter. I tend to drink darker beers during the winter, and it fits the bill. I also am going to be making a second attempt at Frozen Beard Winter Ale. Last year’s version would have been a lot better had I not added the spruce extract. In the coming week I will brewing a new version, without the spruce, and with some more hops.

More to come.


My First Dubbel


This one is pretty much straight outa Brewing Classic Styles, with appropriate hop substitutions (JZ uses Tettnang, I used Tradition), and I substituted 1 pound of wheat for pilsner.  I’m still trying to work my way through that damn bag of wheat malt that has the occasional kernel of roasted malt in it, so this was a good chance.

The brewday was totally smooth, I ended up 2 points high on the gravity and that’s fine with me. 
Recipe is for 6 gallons AG, post boil.  5.25 in the fermenter.
O.G. 1.066 IBU’s 23
8 lb. Durst Pils malt
1 lb. Munich malt
1 lb. wheat malt
.5 lb aromatic malt
.5 lb. caramunich 60L
.5 lb. Special B
.75 lb. Belgian dark candi syrup (D1)
.5 lb. corn sugar
8 gr. Perle pellets 5.7% 60 min
21 gr. Hallertauer Tradition pellets 5.7% 60 min
Mash in 3.75 gallons of water at 149 for 85 minutes, 
Raised to 170 over 15 minutes
Sparged with 5 gallons at 170
Collected 7 gallons at 1.050 (before sugar) = 81% efficiency.
Boil: 90 minutes, hops as noted
whirlfloc at 15, 1/2 tsp. Wyeast nutrient at 10 min.
Chilled to 68, racked to a carboy, and pitched a 1 liter starter of White Labs 530 Abbey yeast (made on a stirplate).
Aerated for 8 minutes by hand.
Fermentation has stayed around 68 degrees, occasionally creeping up to 70 before I knock it back down. I really can’t wait to drink this one, and I’ll probably keg it and just bottle a little for competitons.

I really have wanted to do this for a while. I went out and found a real generic APA recipe, and then broke it down into one gallon increments. I did 3 one gallons batchs, identical in every way except for the hops. I want to taste the difference is different hops under identical conditions. Now, I did not vary the hops amounts even though the numbers were different on each. The recipe off the top of my head was 1.36 lbs of extra light DME, about .36 lbs of 40L crystal steeped, and then the hops, .36 oz @60min and .20 oz @ 30, 15 5 and 0. So just a hair over an oz of hops for this one gallon batch. They are almost ready to be bottled. At this point, the only thing I noticed, and it was very noticeable, was the difference in fermentation between the 3. Oh, i used 2.3 grams of US-05 Safale dry yeast per gallon. 

Now, the first batch, I used Amarillo for the hops. It fermented well, and had a small krausen. The next batch, I used centennial. The fermentation in this one was much more vigorous then that of the amarillo, the krausen even larger. The last one, I used Columbus (Tomahawk) hops and the fermentation was so great the foam was coming out of the airlock. Ill post more, when theres more to post. Adios

I was itching to make a beer. It had been a few weeks. I couldn’t find a recipe that suited me, so i modified one that had worked pretty good for me so far. It was a Pliny the Elder clone, modded for hops. Its pretty darn good so I thought, I wonder what would happen if you replaced all these different hops with just one and went on a nut. I have 5 or 6 pounds of cascade, so I thought muahahaha. the OG was 1.079 so its going to be fairly sparky. But it sure looked good going together. I will add a recipe page sometime in the near future for some of these bizarre creations. 

I did a 90 minute boil and had to use 9 gallons of water to get just 5 gallons right on the line. The evaporation loss up here surprises me.I was using whole hops and it was almost a half pound through the boil. More in dry hop. Ill have to run 10 gallons next time. I have to run 15 or more for a 10 gallon batch. Im working hard to come up with 2 or 3 recipes that would warrant 10 gallon batches, as moving everything indoors for the upcoming winter will surely cramp the style. 

But a case of 90 minute fish heads have gone up to 70 bucks. I cant deal with that much longer, so Im looking for a good hoppy recipe to replace the store-bought 90. I made a batch that was a cheap 90 clone and its pretty lame. So I have a stone ruination and a pliny bastard called lupus savatorious or some such rot. The stone is good but its still young and needs to age, the same for the lupus. I have some decent chinook porter i made in my hops taste test so I may have to switch back to that here soon just so save a buck. But hey, its home-brew……

I am 34, and due to diligence and dumb luck, Ive still got an intact backbone. So, every time I lug a 5 gallon + carbouy from point A to B, I worry about my back, about disturbing the beer, about the glass shrapnel grenade if I drop it, etc. It was these concerns, plus my obsesssion with making the best beer I can, that led me into dropping half a grand on a stainless conical fermentor. I got a Fermenator, which is a name brand quality unit. I got the 14.5 gallon model so i could do both 5 and 10 gallon batches. Since it has a dump and a racking arm, no more secondary, no more moving the carbouy. But alas, the temperatures in interior Alaska, even in summer, fluxuate so much, that I decided to go with a  temperature controlled setup. Thanks to that  useful tool craigslist, I found a $150.00 refridgerator that was perfect. First thing I did was pull the door shelving, so that I could get another 5 inches of room on the inside. I bought a sheet of plastic and cut a replacement panel to cover the insulation.

The main reason to replace the panel as opposed to leaving the insulation exposed, is that the panel holds the door seal in place, so you dont have toglue it in which is NOT how it is meant to be installed. I saved the original panel, as well as all the shelves and drawers, in case I need to turn it back into a dedicated fridge. 

 Once I got the fermenator installed, the next thing to do was deal with the blow tube. A 1 inch ID tube is required for the blowoff. Since this thing can be a sealed bomb if your not careful, they recomend using a blow off tube. I got the optional tri lock blow off tube/ co2 pressurizer to replace the stopper and bubbler. But, in using that, the fridge would have to be vented to keep the co2 from blowing the door open. So……

I drilled a 1 1/4 inch hole in the side of the fridge for the blowoff tube to exit. I also took the time to glue 2 magnets to the back of the temperature control device, so I could stick it to the fridge as opposed to mounting it permanently via screws. 

Extract Era


 I started brewing right around new years even 2007. The Coopers kit I used turned out pretty good. Tasted like corona.  I immediately started to want to tinker, so I drove 400 miles to Anchorage to the only real homebrew store in the state. ( I buy my supplies from local liquer stores that stock them) He armed me with auto siphons, and other i gotta have goodies and well as started me on my hop addiction. He turned me on to adding spalt and tettnanger to the kits to tweak them a bit. I immediately realized that I needed recipes and to go scratch. From then on till the end of april. I had a close relationship with dry and liquid malt extracts. Ive made some sad beers, to a couple killer porters. But, the bug was too deep. I was starting to dream of all grain. 

And Ive now reached that point. Ive done 3 all grain batches and the first will be ready to taste this coming up weekend. But, thats another day in the life. 


Growing up in Idahoin the 80’s, the one gift I asked for every year, (and still do just to irritate my mother) and never got, was, a chemistry set. My folks had already decided that I would more then likely blow the house up, or something to that effect, if I was given a bunch of things to mix up and see what happened.  Since I was the type that built bombs out of black powder and such, they may have been right. 

    Fast forward some 40 odd years to the present. I now have my laboratory. In the winter its my kitchen, in the summer my shop. I have my experiments, a.k.a recipes, that i fiddle with and tweak about. I have my successes and my failures. But most of the time, I have damn good beer. Porters are my niche at this point. Considering that for all intents and purposes I havent had beer more then 5 times a year from 1980 till 2007, it is some time in the coming, and the last thing I thought I would ever be involved with. 2 things changed it all. One, my mistaken belief that I didnt like beer. Turns out I just didnt like beer that had no malt flavor or hops, ie. BudMillerCoors.

Anyway,  Some of you may know me from my alzheimers blog, which I have decided to stop maintaining. Writing about my dads gradual decline sucks. Its time to write about something happier.

 Thats it for the bio. You may now, if you wish, share with me my brewing adventures up here in the interior of Alaska, the last frontier.