Jan 16 2013

Barlow Brewing 2012 Homebrew Year in Review

At the end of each year (2009, 2010, and 2011), I go through the stats of my homebrewing adventures and try to identify some trends and larger takeaways.

I used to set a goal of brewing 60 gallons a year, which only equates to brewing a 5 gallon batch each month. I don’t know what I shoot for anymore. I try to brew once a month, but when I brew more than once a month if gives me an excuse to skip other months. This year I brewed 91.5 gallons so, somehow, it all worked out.

Looking back at 2012, the three trends that defined that brewing year were: the return of sours, 100% brett beers, and barrel fills.


The Return of Sours

I never really ran out of sours, but I was surprised to do the math and figure out that I only brewed 5 gallons of sour beer in 2011. Given how long it takes for sours to age into awesomeness, I did not set myself up for a good 2012.

So I immediately went to work on sours and brewed 23 gallons before the year was done. I did a Berliner Weisse and a Flanders Red for a barrel fill, but sour I most enjoyed making was for a friend’s wedding. I got less than 10 months notice to brew it, so I had to do a little voodoo and blending to make that one come together. But I was happy with the uniqueness of that soured porter on cherries and pinot noir oak.

 Old Lambic Hops

Old Lambic Hops


100% Brettanomyces Beers

I’d been wanting to make a 100% brettanomyces beer for quite a while and, inspired by Crooked Stave’s beers,  I finally around to it last year. In fact, I made three of them. I brewed an American IPA with Brettanomyces Bruxellensis, and then I brewed a saison and a dubbel with Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Trois, which is supposed to be the strain from Drie Fonteinen.

Brett strikes fear into the hearts of many homebrewers, but it is relatively easy to work with if your sanitation habits are strong and have separate tubing and racking equipment from your normal batches. Brett ferments just as quickly and cleanly as saccharomyces cerevisiae and finishes around the same place in terms of final gravity. You just need to pitch your yeast at lager rates and to tweak your recipes to favor more proteins for a fuller mouthfeel in the final beer.

I’ll be posting the recipes and stories about those brett beers in the coming months (as I catch up on my blog). I don’t know how many 100% brett beers I will do this year, but I loved the interplay between brett and hops in the experiments, and I feel like I know much, much more about these mysterious wild strains that I did before. But there is still much more to learn.

You Bretta, You Bretta, You Brett

100% Brett AIPA 


Barrel Fills

My homebrew club acquired a bourbon barrel last year and we planned to fill the barrel once, and then we would drain in sometime in 2013.

We ended up filling the barrel almost three times in 2012.

The first fill of the barrel was with an imperial porter and we let that go for a few months. That was getting smoother and picking up nice vanilla notes….until it turned sour. We never figured out if we didn’t prep the barrel well enough, or if one of the club member’s portions gave the barrel an aggressive lactobacillus culture. (My conscience is clear because I bottled some of the surplus beer from my batch, that didn’t go into the barrel, and it earned a silver medal in a BJCP competition for a robust porter.)

We drained that barrel and then decided to go with a sour beer, not that the barrel had given us much choice. We filled it up with a Flanders Red and beefed up the bugs with Roeselare and ECY Flemish blends. We were storing the barrel at one of the local homebrew stores and a few months after racking the beer into the barrel, the store had to do some renovations and we had to drain the barrel in December.

So we filled the barrel again, but not until early January of 2013, with a Batch 001 Beatification clone inspired by The Mad Fermentationist. I look forward to seeing how this beer evolves.

And hopefully we don’t have to drain this beer before 2014.

 Bourbon Barrel - Filling Crew

The CAMRA Homebrew Club Barrel Filling Crew 


What’s on Tap for 2013?

I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions, and I’m not going to do any here.

Having gone so far into the dark/sour/brett side in 2012, I can see myself making some more mainstream beers in 2013. I’d like to do a maibock and perhaps a dark lager. Maybe a kölsch.

But I’ll continue to play with whatever new ingredients I can get my hands on. My second batch of beer for 2013 was an American pale ale that I hopped with the hot, new Mosaic hop. (HBC369 – A descendent of Simoce and Nugget that brings pine, tropical fruit and blueberries to table).

I’ll keep playing with fruit, as well, as I’ve already added cranberries to part of the Flanders red batch that was temporarily aged in the barrel, and I’ve got 10 pounds of Gewürztraminer grapes to put on a batch, likely a Belgian pale ale, too.

Maybe this is the year I’ll act upon my crazy idea to make a Hendricks beer. And a Kvass.

I’d like to not get shut out in the National Homebrew Competition like I did last year, as well. (Just kidding.) (Actually no. No, I’m not.)


If you are into stats:

Weights and Measures
Gallons of Beer: 91.5
Gallons of Cider: 12
Pounds of Grain: 230
Pounds of Hops: 2.7

Average Batch Size: 6.1
Average ABV: 5.74%
Average OG: 1.057
Average FG: 1.013
Average Pounds of Grain per Batch: 12.37
Average Ounces of Hops per Batch: 2.69

By Category
Ales: 11
Lagers: 3

Brett Only: 3
Ciders: 2
Sours: 4

Medals and Ribbons
BJCP Competitions Entered: 3 (NHC, Dominion Cup, CASK Beer Blitz)
Medals Earned: 8 (4 Gold, 1 Silver, 3 Bronze)
National Homebrew Competition Ribbons: 0
National Homebrew Competition Medals: 0

Favorite Brew – 100% Brett IPA – You Bretta, You Bretta, You Brett
Favorite Brew (Runner Up) – Berliner Weisse – Waterloo
Worst Brew – Southern English Brown
Favorite Name – You Bretta, You Bretta, You Brett
Favorite Name (Runner Up) – Panty Lock Brakes
Biggest Trend – 100% Brett Beers



Jan 3 2013

(Not Quite) White IPA – Iron Brewer Championship Round – Wahoogaarden

I was lucky enough to win the Iron Brewer Championship last year (2011) with my black rye IPA, and that gave me a free pass to the championship round this year (2012). That is quite a boon, because some great and creative brewers enter the competition and it is difficult to win a qualifying round, let alone win the championship round.

The final round ingredients were announced as: Honey Malt, Lime Peel and Cascade Hops.

That’s an interesting but mixed bag and, with Iron Brewer, there’s is always an ingredient that throws a monkey wrench into recipe formulation. The lime peel and cascade hops were easy to wrap my head around as they impart a similar kind of citrus character.

It was the honey malt that was the problem. I had used that grain before in a Belgian beer years ago, but I didn’t remember much about it. In doing some research, it’s a lot like crystal malt, but without the caramel and roast. It only imparts color and sweetness.

In the end, I decided to do something silly (again) and figured I’d take a shot at a White IPA. Yes, White IPAs are yet another “new” (also read as: “made up”) IPA style, but there was something interesting about them. I had tried a Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA during one of my trips to Oregon, and I thought it was nice. Cut to the chase, it is basically a hoppy wit beer. The Deschutes version used orange peel and cascade hops, and was frankly close enough for me to take a shot.

Deschutes is kind enough to supply homebrew recipes of their beers, but they don’t exactly hand over the keys to the kingdom. The Chainbreaker clone recipe was helpful enough to get me on the right path of pilsner and wheat malt, centennial and cascade hops, and coriander and orange peel. I followed that basic structure and then threw in some honey malt. I knew that the honey malt would have a big impact to the color of the beer (which couldn’t be helped) and that it had to be used in moderation in order to have the malt come through the final beer, but not make it too sweet. I decided, in the end, to use 0.5 of a pound of honey malt.



Honey Malt

Honey Malt


Honey Malt Close-Up

Honey Malt Close-Up


In terms of the lime peel, I decided to be fancy and use key limes. In retrospect, I wasn’t fancy at all because all of the other Iron Brewers used key limes, too.



Key Lime Peels

I ended the boil with the typical wit beer ingredient of coriander and, my secret wit weapon, chamomile.

Chamomile, Coriander & Key Lime Peel

Chamomile, Coriander and Key Lime Peel

The brew day went as planned, which was surprising since I hadn’t brewed in two months and I’m prone to screw-ups when I’m rusty.

I fermented it for seven days at 68º F and let it roll up to 72º F before the end of the week. I dry-hopped it with cascade in primary on the 7th day, and let it go for another week. I bottled it without secondary since I was pressed for time and clarity isn’t a necessity for the style.

 (Not So) White IPA - In the Glass

A (Not So) White IPA (This is a bad pic. It isn’t quite that dark)

I liked how this beer turned out, but it’s certainly not a white IPA in most regards. The color is off, the lime is too bright in the flavor and aroma, and it is a bit sweet in a way that hides the spices. But that is how the Iron Brewer competition should go. The three required ingredients need to shine above all other components, and you can’t judge it by style.

All that being said, I was happy with the way that beer this turned out.

As it has aged, the lime aroma and flavor was been the first thing to drop out and the coriander has come to the forefront. I’d like to try to make a proper white IPA one day, and I think this recipe is a good foundation once you strip out the Iron Brewer pieces.

It did well in the Iron Brewer competition, but not well enough. I came in 2nd to a superior beer from Robert (a great and seasoned homebrewer), who delivered a fantastic cream ale with the same ingredients. Congratulations to him and, with that, another fun Iron Brewer year comes to a close.

I look forward to 2013 for…REVENGE.


Wahoogaarden (Iron Brewer 2012) – (White IPA) – 6g
Starting Gravity: 1.050 (11/4/12)
Final Gravity:  1.010 (11/18/12) 14 Days
5.3% alcohol (by volume)
Apparent Attenuation: 79.3%
Real Attenuation:65.0%

Mash (60 minutes 154º)
6 lb Pilsner Malt
5 lb Wheat Malt
0.5 lb Honey Malt  

Boil (95 min)
1.0 oz Magnum (14.7% AA) Pellet (60 min)
0.50 oz Cascade (6.2% AA) Pellet (10 min) 
0.50 oz Centennial-Type (9.7% AA) Pellet (10 min)
2.2 grams Wyeast Nutrient (10 min)
1.5 oz Key Lime Peel (5 min)
0.1 oz Ground Coriander (5 min)
0.25 oz Chamomile (~5 tea bags) (5 min)
0.50 oz Cascade (6.2% AA) Pellet (0 min) 
0.50 oz Centennial-Type (9.7% AA) Pellet (0 min)

Primary (68º F)
1 smack pack Wyeast 3944 – Belgian Witbier – Starter made
2 oz Cascade (6.2% AA) Pellet (Dry Hop)  (from Day 7 to Day 14)