Jun 16 2016

No Apologies

Since blogging is not a real job but rather a labor of love for 99% of us who do it, it is not unusual for blogs to stop and start again at unexpected moments, or to just fade away. Usually when that happens, the blogger inserts a few sentences in the beginning of their next post to apologize for not blogging in a while. That’s a kind thing to do, and very mature.

Not me. Screw you guys.

I might start blogging again. We will see if the muse takes me, and if I have the time to give to it that it deserves.

But if anything goes wrong, I blame you.

Yeah, you, buddy.

I do what I want

Keep Calm


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



Dec 27 2012

How to Remove Labels from Beer Bottles

Let me be honest here: no matter how good of a homebrewer you are, if you hand me a bottle of your beer and it still has the original, commercial label on it, I am not going to be excited to try it. If you were too lazy to bother to get the label off, I have no idea what kind of sanitation is happening on the inside of the bottle.

Once upon a time the hardest part of bottling was getting the labels off the bottles, but years ago I came across a trick and product that made my life easy: OxiClean

Bottle De-Labeling - OxiClean No, I have not been compensated by Church & Dwight for this post in any way. I know. I’m disappointed, too. 

You can spend hours scrubbing your bottles and trying to make them beautiful with brute force, or you can let them soak in hot water and OxiClean.

Bottle De-Labeling: Sunken Bottles

Marvel at my amazing photography for a moment here…..

Bottle De- Labeling: Floating Labels

About an hour later you will see the labels slowly begin to float off the bottles.

There’s no scrubbing and no peeling with most of these bottles, although I do keep steel wool handy in case a few minor patches of glue remain on the glass. The key is to make sure that the bottles remain submerged during the steeping times, which is an added bonus in that the OxiClean will clean the inside of your bottles, as well.

OxiClean is cheap and safe to use, and I usually do my de-labeling in my standard-sized kitchen sink where I can clean about 12 bottles at a time, but you can do it in larger or smaller batches. I prefer the dye, perfume and chlorine free version of OxiClean for obvious reasons, and you will still need to sanitize the bottles before putting beer in them.

No, this is not rocket science, but I’m always surprised by how many homebrewers don’t know about this little trick.

Make your life easier and, at the same time, don’t give the people you are sharing your homebrew with a terrible first impression.


Apr 25 2012

What are the Latest Trends in Brewing?

In the coming months, I’m planning to do a mini-presentation for my homebrew club about what is hot and trendy in brewing. This seems a natural fit for me, as I have restlessly yet to brew the same beer twice, and homebrewers are on the cutting edge of brewing. Sure, the majority of beer drinkers might find out about the latest trend from a commercial example, but it was likely that a homebrewer did it first since he or she can afford to pour out 5 gallons of beer if the elements and process go horribly and undrinkably wrong.

So I’m crowd sourcing now. Leave a comment at the end of this post and tell me what you are seeing as the latest trend in brewing. Are Black IPAs still a hot trend, or have they faded? We all talk about session beers becoming the next big thing, but they haven’t yet. At least not like sours or oak aging have. Using rye in beers became popular for a time, but is that a trend? Using New Zealand and Australian hops has been a fun experiment for many brewers, too, lately.

And I am straying from the word “new” in this post because I’m not sure there is truly anything “new” in the brewing world.  The Gose has made a comeback, but it probably would be better described as a rediscovery than anything new. But I definitely encourage the return of older, or simply forgotten, styles to popularity.

Frankly, brewing has become very easy with our highly modified grains, and high alpha hops, and highly efficient brewing equipment.  Perhaps the latest trend is making beer difficult to make again. Decoctions and turbid mashes don’t make your brew days any easier or shorter. We are bringing back the bacteria and wild yeasts that brewers worked so hard to eliminate over the years with a vengeance, too.

What say you? What are the current trends in beer? What will they be tomorrow? Leave a comment please, and thanks.