The Mad Fermentationist at Bitter & Esters

April 6, 2015

Michael Tonsmeire

If you’ve ever read the blog The Mad Fermentationist (and I know you have) you know how knowledgeable and concise Michael Tonsmeire is. He is open and honest and I trust what he says. On Saturday March 28th we had the privilege of hosting Michael at Bitter & Esters to sign copies of his new book American Sour Beers. What started as a talk and book signing quickly became a sour beer swap!

Despite Saturday being the first round of judging for the National Homebrew Competition*, we had a great turnout with the coolest part being that just about everyone brought some sour or brett beer. It was a great selection and Michael tried them all! He really liked my business partner Doug’s sour cider. I shot him saying so on video! Michael brought some of his own delicious beers that he generously shared with everyone. A lemon Berliner Weisse, a Flemish Red made with red wine yeast, and a cider that was dry hopped with galaxy hops. All were incredibly delicious. Michael knows his stuff!

Michael has a wealth of knowledge about sour beers and was more than willing to share. We spoke about how Brettanomyces will scavenge oxygen in your beer as all beers will oxidize when hops inevitably break down. Bottle with brett and your beers stay will stay fresher longer, although you will still lose hop aroma. He mentioned that there is more than one type of lactic acid (apparently they are isomers) when I asked him about the difference between lactobacillus and pediococcus (pedio produces both kinds). We spoke about research he is working on involving glycosides (non aromatic compounds in hops and other plants that create aroma when enzymatically cleaved by yeast) and which bretts and yeast have those enzymes to cleave them (they’re still working on finding that out). He prefers oak cubes to barrels (easier and more predictable) and likes to pitch all of his bugs at once. He doesn’t like to mash or kettle sour (too unpredictable) and his favorite concoction for a sour beer is US-05, lactobacillus brevis and a brett. He answered everyone’s questions with good humor and grace, and it felt like he was just one of the gang. It was a geeky, nerdy, beery fun time!

Michael does have a day job as an economist. He gets some income from being “Mad” but he does this mostly for the love of it and it is pretty obvious he loves what he does. After about 4 hours of talking and signing I introduced him to Roma Pizzeria’s grandma pie (which if you haven’t had it, you should) which he totally dug. Afterwards, a few of us went to Covenhoven to continue the beer drinking. Molly of Covenhoven graciously brought us some more food (I told Mike, stick with me and you’ll have all of the beer, bread and cheese you want!). We hung out trying all of the great local beers they have there and talked about, you guessed it, beer!

It was a real honor having Mike at the store and getting to hang out and chat with him. Until we meet again Mad Fermentationist!

Not so mad fermentationist.

John LaPolla Headshot

John

*I know that more than a few people wish they could have been there. Thank you judges and stewards who couldn’t make it for doing an awesome job of taking care of NHC NYC!

Ryes of the Brewminaries at Rockaway Brewing Company

March 20, 2015

This past Wednesday Bitter & Esters had the good fortune to brew five barrels of Rye Pale Ale with the fine folks at Rockaway Brewing Company along with the members of the brand new homebrew club, the Brewminaries. How did a brand new homebrew club get to collaborate with one of Queens’ finest breweries?

It all started back in February of this year when I was a guest on Jimmy Carbone’s Beer Sessions Radio along with Chris Cuzme of Cuzett Libations, Kyle Hurst of Big Alice Brewing, and Marcus Burnett of Rockaway Brewing Company. We were discussing the upcoming Brewer’s Choice event where many of the breweries were pouring beer made from New York malts and hops. After the show Marcus asked me if Bitter & Esters would be interested in doing a collaboration brew with them on their five barrel system. They had an open fermenter available in March and since they started off as homebrewers, they wanted to do more events with homebrewers. I said of course, what a great opportunity!

Later that week, Bitter & Esters regular Beer Swap attendees were represented at the great homebrew gathering Brewnity under the name the S.W.A.P Team (Swapping Wonderful Ales Periodically). We even had t-shirts made up, and we all had an amazing time. Afterwards the swappers realized they could combine their efforts and form an actual club. Thus the Brewminaries were born! They took their name from our employee Bobby, who called them our luminaries. The Brewminaries are dedicated to education, experiments and getting together to taste each other’s homebrews. They plan to bring samples of their experiments to our monthly swaps and share them with the community at large. Anyone can become a Brewminary, regardless of your brewing experience. All it takes is dedication and a strong liver. As of this writing they are 30 members strong, have a website and a twitter account. All in just over a month!

As we were deciding how to go about our brew day with Rockaway we realized it would an awesome first project for the Brewminaries! And in what is turning out to be typical Brewminary fashion, they jumped right in with gusto. We decided that they should come up with the recipe and after some wrangling and horse trading, they came up with a rye pale ale hopped with Galaxy and Mosaic hops. Ryes of the Brewminaries was born! I expect that puns will be a running theme with the Brewminaries.

Wednesday March 18th was decided as brew day. All of the Brewminaries wanted to participate but space was limited. So besides myself and Doug, Sheri Jewhurst (President, officially listed as Dictator!), Robert Sherrill (events co-chair), and Barry Wasser (Treasurer) represented the Brewminaries.

We brewed with owner and head brewer Ethan Long. Ethan is a super nice guy, totally chill and brews awesome beers. He put us to work. We did everything from milling the grain, stirring the mash, setting up hoses, cleaning the mash tun and boil kettle and pitching the yeast. It was a lot of work and a great learning experience. You think you clean a lot as a homebrewer? Try what these guys do every day on a five barrel system, it seems like the cleaning never ends!

After brewing we shared some of our homebrews with everyone and they let us taste the eight delicious beers they have on tap. Barry even brought stout brownies!

The beer will be ready by the beginning of May, just in time for nice spring weather. Our plan is to organize a bicycle trip from Brooklyn to Long Island City for the release. That way we can do a bike tour of the awesome breweries in LIC. Ryes of the Brewminaries will be available at some of our favorite local beer bars including Covenhoven. Stay tuned for more info.

Thanks so much to Ethan, Marcus, Ray, Justine, John and everyone at Rockaway, it was a blast! Can’t wait to try the beer. Keep an eye out for more great things from the Brewminaries.

John
John LaPolla Headshot

Edible Magazine’s Good Cider Event

It was a privilege to attend the first ever Edible Magazine’s Good Cider Event this past Wednesday at Tribeca Three Sixty. Similar to Edible’s annual Good Beer event, Good Cider highlighted over 30 cideries, most of them from the New York area. Good Cider was also a fundraiser for the New York Cider Association who produce Cider Week every year. There were some great food pairings from local restaurants as well.

Hard cider is really taking off nowadays for its fresh taste and local flavor. The place was packed and it was nice to see interest from New Yorkers in a drink that is currently enjoying a healthy revival. Good Cider was a great way to try many of the different flavors and styles of hard cider available. I was able to try a majority of the ciders being poured and as a beer guy I found myself gravitating towards the hopped ciders which were, dry, delicious, and aromatic. I also tried my very first ice cider which is a thick sweet apple dessert wine, balanced and not at all cloying.

I was delighted to see so many people chasing their dreams and starting small businesses, dedicated to bringing different varieties of apples back for cider consumption. Every cider producer was passionate and knowledgeable about their product.

More and more restaurants are offering high quality hard ciders along with their wine lists, holding food and cider pairings along with serving ciders on tap. Perhaps we’ll even start to see dedicated cider bars. Apples, they’re not just for eating anymore!

John

John LaPolla Headshot

P.S. Hopefully we’ll be doing another pressing next fall – check out our previous post on cider here!

Re-pitching Yeast

March 13, 2015

You’ve fermented your beer, it’s tasting great, and now it is time to bottle or keg. At the bottom of your fermenter is a whole lot of goop called trub (pronounced “Troob”). The trub consists of protein, hop material and fats, but roughly 40 to 60% of trub in a healthy fermentation are leftover yeast cells that did their job. Can you reuse this yeast? Yes you can! With just a few extra steps you can save money and pitch a healthy second generation of yeast into your next batch of wort.

During fermentation the yeast will split 4 to 6 times, meaning if you pitched 200 billion cells you will now have 3-4 trillion cells of yeast in your trub. If you were to just pour your new wort right onto the trub you’d over pitching by a significant margin. The general guidelines for fresh yeast pitch rate is 750,000 cells per ml per °plato of wort for ales, and double that number for lagers. (To find degrees plato just divide your gravity points by 4, 1.060 = 15°plato). For repitching the general rule is 1-2 million cells/ml/°P.

So, how do you know how much trub you should pitch? The short answer that I got from Wyeast’s scientists was that a cup to a cup and a half of trub is a good pitch rate for 1.060 wort or lower. But this is very general and there are ways to hone in this number and pitch mainly yeast and none of the other trub material.

If you want to get down and dirty, the first thing you need to determine is how much of your trub is yeast. 40 to 60% yeast cells will provide a healthy fermentation. If you find that you have less than 30% you may not want to use that yeast to repitch. The way to determine your yeast percentage (without using a microscope) is to take a small sample of trub using a sanitized spoon and fill an empty nutrient vial.

Put this sample in the fridge and allow the yeast to settle out. Generally 40-60% yeast solids (the stuff at the bottom) will correlate to 1.2 billion cells per ml.

Yeast as percentage of trub

Yeast as a percentage of trub

Now lets go back to our math. Let’s say we want to pitch 1.5 million cells of harvested yeast/ml/°P.

1.5 million x 18927ml (which is 5 gallons) x 15°P = approx 426 billion cells.

426 divided by 1.2 (our estimated cell count per ml of trub at 40-60% yeast) = 355 ml. or 12 oz or a cup and a half of trub.

What I like do is take about two-thirds of a cup of trub (around 210 billion cells in this example) and pitch that into a 2000ml starter. This allows my yeast to propagate once and get healthy and ready to ferment.

If you’re not making a starter you can pitch the proper amount of trub directly into your next batch or store it up to two weeks in a sanitized jar in the fridge. The yeast will reproduce during fermentation and the other material from the trub will just drop out. But you can also separate the yeast from the trub by rinsing it. (Often I hear people refer to this as washing the yeast. Washing the yeast is a different process that requires using phosphoric acid to help kill of any bacteria. I am not going to get into that, homebrewers rarely need to do it). In order to rinse your yeast take your determined amount of trub and add it to a jar of boiled and cooled (i.e. sterilized) water. Refrigerate and allow it to settle. The yeast is lighter than the fats and proteins and will separate from them. After a few hours you will have three layers. The top layer will be mostly water, while the middle layer is yeast which you can decant into boiled and cooled water if you want to rinse it again. You can also decant the middle layer into a sanitized jar to refrigerate for later use, or you can pitch right into your wort. The bottom layer is all of the fat and proteins and stuff that you can just toss.

When collecting yeast from your fermenter it is good practice to clear away the top part of the trub and harvest from the middle layer. These will be the medium flocculant yeast. If you want a higher flocculant yeast you can harvest from lower in the fermenter as these are the cells that dropped out first. By doing this you are selecting the yeast that you want to perform a certain way (flocculant vs non-flocculant). It is much easier to harvest from a bucket or conical fermenter than a carboy. I do know of people who harvest from carboys collecting the yeast that blow off during the initial primary phase. I have never tried it so I am not sure about the health or characteristics of the yeast you harvest that way.

Yeast can be used up to 10 generations as long as you are careful with your sanitation.
It’s important to remember when harvesting your yeast to make sure everything is very clean and sanitary and that you work in a draft free environment (good advice for any kind of cold-side operations). Additionally, if your beer had a very high gravity you shouldn’t harvest from it as there are too many chances for mutations. And of course if your beer tastes bad, don’t use that yeast, they don’t deserve another chance!

Have a great harvest!
John

John LaPolla Headshot

Splitting your batches

February 6, 2015

Johnathan Hagen is the resident Certified Cicerone® at Bitter & Esters. He originally hails from a small town outside of Milwaukee (Algonquin for “the good land”) and will be doing a series of posts on expanding your yeast repertoire. He’s a firm believer that decoctions just aren’t worth it.

I haven’t been able to brew nearly as much as I would like to these past few months (hello fatherhood!) but what I’ve lost in volume I try to make up for in experimentation. I recently started splitting my 5 gallon batches and fermenting in two 3 gallon better bottles (3 gallon glass carboys work just as well) for comparison purposes and to try yeasts that I haven’t used before. I stole this idea from our yeast class here at Bitter & Esters* where we brew the same beer with eight different yeasts to show just how much impact yeast has on the flavor of each beer. While I’m not able to brew 8 beers at a time at home, splitting my batches has helped me hone in on what aspects of each yeast I like best and how I might use them in the future.

One of the big advantages of splitting my batches in this way is that I’m also ensuring healthy cell counts. Homebrewers chronically under pitch their yeast (i.e. not adding enough yeast) and splitting your batches is a great way to ensure that you’re pitching enough yeast. If we’re using a pitching rate calculator (I like Mr. Malty’s) we can see that for a starting gravity of 1.050 we want roughly 175 billion yeast cells which translates into almost 2 (1.9) yeast packs if we’re not making a starter.

Mr. Malty Ale

With this beer, I was actually over pitching a little as I was using two 11 gram-dry yeast packets for what are essentially two 2.5 gallons batches but I planned on fermenting at the low end of ale temperatures (60 degrees). If we adjust the fermentation type to Lager (to account for temperature) we can see that we’d want closer to two (1.7) packets of dry yeast.

Mr. Malty Lager

A quick rule of thumb to follow is that it is easy to under pitch yeast, but difficult to over pitch. If you’re concerned that you’re not pitching enough, consider a second yeast pack or making a starter. (Here are some quick instructions on a starter, but we won’t be covering that in this post).

I recently brewed a very simple pale ale and decided to split the batch between Nottingham and S-05. I tend to gravitate towards liquid yeast merely because there are more options to choose from, but dry yeasts are often a little bit cheaper, have higher cell counts (producing healthier fermentations) and can produce beers that are just as good as those made with liquid yeasts. For this beer, I wasn’t looking for anything particularly complicated and wanted two relatively neutral yeasts that would highlight the malt and hops but otherwise get out of the way (i.e. no esters, no phenolics). Based on my past experience with these yeasts, Nottingham should give more English character with an emphasis on malt character with a pleasant hop bitterness, while S-05 should offer more emphasis on hop flavor and aroma with a serviceable malt backbone.

Nottingham tasting notes:

Aroma: Caramel, Grapefruit, Pine
Appearance: Golden, Slightly Hazy
Flavor: Cereal/Biscuit, Honey
Mouthfeel: Dry, Clean, Smooth, Creamy

S-05 tasting notes:

Aroma: Grapefruit, Pine
Appearance: Golden
Flavor: White bread
Mouthfeel: Dry, Clean, Astringent

Both of these yeasts fell in line with my expectations but overall I found that I preferred the Nottingham. The mouthfeel was creamier/fuller with more complex malt flavoring that was nicely balanced with the hops. The S-05 was thinner, more astringent and hop focused in a way that detracted from the overall balance of the beer. This isn’t to say that I wouldn’t use S-05 again, but I’d probably use it in an IPA that would benefit more from its focus on hop character.

Next up I’ll be doing a Robust Coffee Porter that will be split between 1469 West Yorkshire and 1028 London Ale.

Hagen-Head-Shot

Johnathan Hagen
Certified Cicerone® (aka “Tastemaster General”)

*This month’s class has already sold out, but you can always sign up for the April 12th class. Don’t forget about our Hops class on March 8th either. We brew the same beer with 8 different hops! Both classes are fantastic sensory experiences, especially for folks who are looking to expand their palates.

pH meters and Automatic Temperature Compensating

January 16, 2015

hanna ph checkerRecently I have been doing a lot of research for my upcoming water chemistry class with the goal of making a comprehensive, practical class for the home brewer to improve the quality of their beers with water adjustments.

Measuring pH is a large part of my research. In a nutshell, pH is the measurement of acidity or basicity of a solution. As home brewers we are mostly interested in measuring pH for proper mashing techniques and flavors. The best way to measure pH is by using a pH meter. A properly maintained and calibrated pH meter will give you fast and accurate readings.

The one piece of misinformation I keep running into during my research has been about pH Meters with ATC (automatic temperature compensating). The pH of a solution will be lower (more acidic) at higher temperatures. This is because the energy of the liquid makes it easier to split hydrogen protons from acidic molecules in the mash. At mash temperature (140 to 160˚F) the pH can be .2 to .3 lower than at room temperature (68 to 75˚F).(1)

Another reason for lower pH readings at higher temperatures is the meter itself. Warm temperatures change the electrical response of the probe and will create an error in the reading. This is where the ATC function of the meter comes in. It will compensate for its own error when measuring at higher temperatures. It does not compensate for the change in pH from mash temperature to room temperature.

Just like hydrometer readings which assume you have adjusted the reading for 59˚F, the brewing pH that is referenced always assumes that you are measuring at room temperature. The confusion that I have seen during my research is the assumption that if you use a pH meter with ATC that it is compensating for the temperature that you are taking the reading at, and then adjusting the reading for room temperature. This is not true. The ATC function is only adjusting for its own error. Take your reading at room temperature as it’s the best way to assure a proper reading. It’s easy, just take a very small sample and put it in the fridge for a minute or so. Take a temperature reading and then your pH reading. This way you don’t have to worry about error compensation from the meter and you will get the proper target pH reading. An ATC pH meter is not necessary for homebrewing.

Remember to always calibrate your pH meter with fresh calibration solutions, clean the probe with the proper pH meter cleaner and store the probe in pH meter storage solution. You will have accurate readings and your meter will last much longer.

In the future I will discuss more about pH, how and why to adjust it and more about meter maintenance.

John

John LaPolla Headshot

(1) https://sites.google.com/site/brunwater/water-knowledge

Low Life: The Night Train of Beers

January 9, 2015

Miller High Life

A dubious comparison to say the least . . .

For those who haven’t heard I have been challenged to brew a clone of Miller High Life. You may ask why I would agree to such a task, which would be a stone cold logical response to that statement. Well… the gauntlet was laid out by Derek, a fellow homebrewer and the owner of 706. In a moment of post workday alcohol fueled braggadocio, I said something to the tune of “I can brew this.” If that doesn’t sound like me to ya’ll, then add the mildest of southern drawls and pepper in some expletives and that should tick off the rest of the boxes on your mental checklist.

So yeah… this is a thing that is happening now. We will be serving it at 706 on the evening of January 31st, and when you accept the High Life challenge, you will receive the one and only champagne of beers and a complimentary pour of my attempt to play God. You must then select which is the original so that Derrick and I can complete our side bet. So, if you have that evening free, we would love for you to come by and revel in my assured failure.

While I cannot promise you a clone of High Life, what I can promise is the closest thing that your average home brewer can muster. Steps are being taken to mimic Big 3 practices at every turn. This beer has been produced from the finest ingredients we carry at the shop that are similar to the genetically modified organisms found in High Life. It has been triple cold boiled, quadruple filtered and pentuple distilled. It was then rehydrated with water from the ice found in the core of the glacier where the old gods are said to slumber. They say the miners who bring us said water hear voices as they dig and eventually go mad. Furthermore this beer will be served from a vortex keg which magically gets cold when you put it ice and then passed through a randalizer of creamed corn. This is just the beginning of the pains I have gone through for you people, because I love you.

So come out and have a glass of what I have lovingly named, Low Life: The Night Train of Beers, and feel free to ridicule me for my failed attempt and just the overall concept of my participation in this exercise in awesomeness.

Bobby

Bobby Bendily

A look back at 2014

January 3, 2015

Happy New Year everyone! I thought it would be a nice to post a wrap up of the events at Bitter & Esters. As I went over everything that we did I started to realize that 2014 was a helluva year! Filled with special guests, awesome events and of course, lots of great beers.

It was a great year for meeting beer celebrities. I met Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Brewery at the World Science festival where he used one of our fermenting beers for a demonstration. For National Homebrew day in May we hosted John Palmer, the author of How to Brew. I got to brew a beer with him that he wrote for the store! I also spent the next three days touring around our great city and introducing John to New York’s homebrewers and professional brewers (he hadn’t been to New York since he was 19!). A super nice, smart guy that I am still in touch with. An incredible treat.

B&E_073_Palmer

In October, pretty much out of nowhere, Charlie Papazian, the guy who taught us all to “relax, don’t worry and have a homebrew” came to the store for one of our Bottle Swaps. The store was packed with people and it was an awesome madhouse. It was such an honor for us as homebrewers to have him visit. He had a great time and loved all of you. It was a night to remember.

Other cool events happened this year too. Pouring lager in the old lager caves of Nassau Brewery right around the corner from the store, courtesy of Josh Bernstein. Appearing on Bric Arts television with Cassy Solof for Pride of Brooklyn, plus pouring beer at P.O.B. the next day. Speaking of television, I got to be all nerdy on CUNY Science TV this year talking about the science of beer.

Our very own Pro Am Brewer’s P.I.T. was the event of the Summer . Hosted by our friends at Covenhoven, it was a beautiful day of homebrewers and pro brewers coming together. The winner of Brewer’s P.I.T., Frank Lockwood, got to brew with Chris Cuzme at 508. The release night for that beer was epic.

Cuzme, LaPolla, Sherrill

For New York City Cider week our friends Joy and Jeremy of Proper Cider brought their crusher and presses and we had people bring their apples to get fresh juice to make hard cider. So much fun, thanks guys. This year I hope to taste the ciders that were made that day.

Tara Whitsitt and Fermentation on Wheels visited us the next day. We had free fermentation workshops, featuring Eric Childs of Kombucha Brooklyn and Mary Izett of Fuhmentaboudit! Speaking of Fuhmentaboudit!, I was fortunate to be guest host for a few episodes this year.

Besides being a homebrew shop we are also New York State’s only brew on premises. We had a lot of fun brewing beer with people for birthdays, bachelor parties, even some people doing test batches for their breweries.. Nomad restaurant brewed for their holiday party, Union beer brewed for their cicerone class, Kombucha brooklyn brewed for the hell of it and my favorite one was Rina and Elliot Choi brewing 60 gallons of beer for their wedding. Congratulations!

Cool classes this year too. In addition to our Brewshop 101, all grain, hops and yeast classes, Tamara Connoly of We Are How had one on the business of branding your brew (very important to all you aspiring brewery owners). We also had our intensive three day Brewprenticeship class. We had a couple of popular free demos on kegging and brew in a bag as well.

Lucien John HagenOur friend and employee Sam left for bicycle trips to the unknown and was replaced with Bobby from New Orleans who has hit it off big with our community. Our former employee Ovieh is now back and picking up where he left off and our Certified Tastemaster General ® (aka John Hagen) had a beautiful baby boy.

Speaking of community, our free monthly bottle swaps on the first Wednesday are getting bigger and bigger. The beers pouring are amazing and the community of brewers is fantastic. Congratulations to all of the coveted cup winners. You all rock!

Like I said it’s been a helluva year. It started with Brew for Autism on Staten Island and will start with it again on January 24th.

We have even bigger plans this year. New classes, new recipes, exciting guests, cool events. Stay tuned.

We owe all of this to you. When Doug and I came up with the idea for the store four years ago, we knew we would work hard, have fun and drink a lot of good beer. Your contribution to the homebrewing community has been outstanding. It has been your support and awesomeness that has made each year better than the last.

Thank you.

John LaPolla Headshot

John

Recipe Formulation

December 5, 2014

George Washington's Small Beer Recipe

If George Washington can write his own beer recipes, so can you.

I have been brewing beer since 1992. At first I brewed other peoples recipes, giving me confidence and knowledge about the ingredients and brewing process. But after a while everyone wants to try their hand at writing a recipe on their own.
I write 99% of all the recipes at Bitter & Esters, both the ones in our recipe books and everything for the Brew on Premises. Quite often I am asked how do I go about coming up with a recipe.

My first step of course is to determine what kind of beer do I want to write a recipe for? If I am brewing for myself I take the season into account. Not just what styles taste good for the season but what temperature I have for fermentation. There are ways to manipulate fermentation temperature but if your closet is at a steady 60˚F during the winter, it’s a good time to make a Kolsch. If it is at 95˚F during the summer it is a good time to make a Saison. I don’t necessarily let that determine the beer I am making as I drink all beer all the time. If I want to make a Saison in the winter, I will make it work. Sometimes it is easier to work with what you have.

Next I will think,what do I want to drink in the next 4 to 8 weeks? That’s pretty easy because again I like to drink everything. I usually like to make something new every time I brew or at least a variation of a style that I have brewed before. Once I know what style I want to make I will then do some research on the style, especially if I have never brewed it before. This is particularly important for the beers I write for the store, because you all are brewing it and I want you to love what you make. The very best way to research a beer is to drink other brewers versions of it. I will go to a beer bar or bottle shop and try the beer style I am attempting and try to determine the different aromas and flavors and take notes on what I like and what I would change. Our monthly beer swap is great for this because I can try other homebrewers takes on beer styles, adjunct/spice additions etc. Brewers are constantly asking each other about the ingredients in each others beer to gain and share knowledge. Research is a great excuse to try lots of beer!

If I am trying to clone a specific brewery’s beer I will look that brewery and beer up on the internet. Many of the craft breweries today will list their ingredients and numbers in the beer description on their site. I have even wrote breweries and had them send me their recipe! Not all breweries will do this but it’s worth a shot. Zymurgy magazine also publishes brewery recipes both in the magazine and online. You can only access this if you are a member of the American Homebrewers Association, so join today!
Sometimes I will look up the style in the BJCP guidelines. This will give me an idea of the parameters that are considered right for the style. OG, FG, alcohol content, beer color, aroma, flavor, and mouthfeel. They also give you history of the beer and what ingredients are traditionally used. If I still need some inspiration I will search forums like Homebrewtalk and see what other people have tried. And last but certainly not least I will refer to Brewing Classic Styles by John Palmer and Jamil Zainasheff. This book has tips and recipes for over 80 styles. They seem to have deliberately wrote these recipes for modification, it is an incredibly handy tool when formulating your recipe.

Once I have a good idea of what I am making, I personally use Brewtoad, which is a free online recipe formulation calculator. You can choose the style you are creating and they will let you know if your recipe falls within BJCP parameters. If you are not brewing for competition it is okay to go outside the box as it were. They are guidelines and it is your beer, but it is nice to see if you are hitting the marks. I will enter my grain bill, my hop additions and my yeast strain. Yeast choice is very important and kind of fun. Sometimes I will split my wort into two fermenters and pitch two different yeasts, or maybe try a blend. Wyeast’s website is great for giving you yeast properties and flavors and what styles work best with what strains.

I will tweak around with my recipe until I get something that looks like the beer I am envisioning. I’ll do the mash calculations and I will also run my water numbers through John Palmer’s water calculator and adjust my mash and/or boil with salts according to style. New York City water is great because it gives you a pretty blank canvas to start from. Once I am happy with the recipe there is only one more thing to do, and that is brew the beer.

Brewing the beer is the only way to know exactly how that beer will come out. This is why taking notes during brewing is so important. There are so many variables that can affect your beer and if you are completely happy with how it came out you will want to do it again. Or maybe you want to change something but at least you now have a place to start from. That is the beauty of being a homebrewer, we can do whatever we want and then do it again or do something completely different. The more you research and the more you brew the easier it will be to formulate recipes according to your desires.

Good luck and keep brewing!
John

LaPolla Headshot

Bitter & Esters 2014 Holiday Gift Guide

November 28, 2014

Hey there homebrewer/beer lovers! Here is our annual guide to all the things you or your zythophile friends might need to satisfy Santa’s relentless desire to make everyone happy. We’ve got a few new options this year, with fun and useful gifts in every price range.

Under $20 – Socks + Candy + Soap + Hop Candles + Beer Journal

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Keep your brewer warm, sweet and clean! High quality socks with images of hops and beer (a true fashion statement), sweet candies made from hops (childproof yet still delicious!) and soap made from beer that smells fantastic. These make great stocking stuffers. Bonus points if you can use all of these things at the same time!

Does your home not smell enough like delicious beer? Do you want your friends homes to smell more pleasant and beery whenever you come over? Beer Candles are the answer to your problem! Coming in aromas like Apricot Wheat, Hoppy IPA and Vanilla Porter these candles are a wonderful gift that smell fantastic.

They say necessity is the mother of invention, but alcohol helps, too. Born from attending a few too many beer festivals, 33 Beers is a beer journal that provides an easy way to record tasting notes in a small, convenient notebook format. It’s designed for beer geeks, by beer geeks. A teeny, tiny amount of real beer is added to the ink in each new edition, which is cryptically noted on the back.

Under $50 – Digital Scale + Kombucha Kit + Books + Wooden Sixpack Holder + Vinator

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Recipes are never written in just one measurement system and a digital scale helps with the pound/ounce conversions and helps ensure that you don’t make bottle bombs when bottling. This is a piece of equipment that every brewer (and cook!) needs but rarely buys for themselves.

Kombucha making kit. From our friends at Kombucha Brooklyn, this kit has everything you need to make delicious, healthy Kombucha.

Brewing books. We carry a full line of books from How to Brew to Advanced Techniques. Plus we carry books on mead making, cider making and kombucha making. A great combo is John Palmer’s Water book with a ph meter or Jamil Zainasheff and Chris White’s Yeast book with a stir plate and an Erlenmeyer flask.

Wooden Six Pack Holder. A classier way to carry your homebrew around town. This laser cut six-pack holder is a marvel of technology that will last far longer than the paper six-pack holders you’ve been using to cart your beer around.

If you find the process of sanitizing bottles slightly tedious (as we all do) then we would suggest that you purchase a Vinator! It uses less sanitizer overall, you can kick out a larger amount of sanitized bottles in a shorter period of time and lastly, makes the process a little more fun. They’re a cheap investment and speed up your brew day a lot.

$50-$100 – The Bräuler + Wort Chiller + All in One Essentials Kit + 101 Class + Fast Ferment

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Bräuler stainless steel growler. This wide mouthed stainless steel growler with insulated jacket will keep your beer cold and fresh for a long time. Add the fresh cap co2 system and keep that beer fresh and carbonated as long as you want!

Wort Chiller. The fastest way to cool your wort down. Our 25 foot immersion chiller is American made and will save you lots of time on your brew day. This is the often the first thing we recommend for folks who are really getting serious about brewing.

All in one essentials kit. Our all in one brew kit has everything you need to start brewing 2-1/2 gallons of beer at home. Perfect for tiny NYC apartments, it includes the brewing equipment and ingredients plus instructions to get you on your way to your first delicious beer.

Brewshop 101 Class. Interested in learning to brew but not sure how to start? Got a friend who keeps mooching off your limited homebrew supply? Give a man a beer and you satisfy him for an hour, teach a man to brew and you satisfy him for a lifetime. Our Brewshop 101 class is the answer to your problems. Our 2.5 hour class will guide them through the process with hands on brewing instruction. They’ll learn everything they need to know to brew delicious beer right, the first time.

If you’re looking to upgrade your fermentation space, think about the Fast Ferment from the same guys who brought you the awesome FastRack (which must be said fast). The Fast Ferment is a 7 Gallon Conical fermenting chamber than can be mounted on a wall (or placed in a special stand) for out of the way storage and can be used with an optional yeast collection vessel that can help you re-use your yeast from batch to batch. The conical shape also helps funnel trub out of your beer which means clearer beer!

$100+ Complete Kegging System + Brew on Premises + Gift Certificates

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Complete kegging system. Tired of bottling? Want to have fresh beer on tap? Our complete kegging system comes with everything you need to keg and serve your beer. Once you start kegging your beer, you’ll never go back to bottles. This is the perfect gift for the homebrewer who thought they had everything.

Brew on Premises. Our Brew on Premises is a unique and fun way to brew your own beer, without having to do it at home and there is no experience necessary!. We provide an experienced brewmaster to guide you through the process of brewing 6 cases of delicious beer that you take home after four weeks. Great for parties and events.

Gift certificates are also available in any denomination and can be applied towards equipment, ingredients, classes or our Brew on Premises. If you just can’t decide what to get (or aren’t sure what to get), go with a gift certificate as we’re sure it will be appreciated.

If you really want to make yourself (or the brewer in your life) really happy – get the redesigned Blichmann Boilermaker G2. This beauty is made of heavy gauge steel, includes cool-touch silicone handle grips, has an open lip on the top of the kettle that won’t trap water when cleaning and drip leaving water stains. It also includes a new linear flow valve which allows you to easily fine tune your flow rate for sparging, lautering and chilling, increasing the repeatability of your system. This kettle comes in both 7.5 and 10 gallon versions and we carry false bottoms for both sizes.

If you’re still searching for ideas – just come into the shop and we’ll be more than happy to try and find the right gift for that special someone.

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