Thursday, September 29, 2016

Brew Day: Pugnacious Pete’s Porter (Pre-Prohibition Porter)

One of my favorite presentations from Homebrew Con week was Peter Jones and Michael Stein‘s presentation about Pre-Prohibition Porter at the Beer Judge Certification Program’s (BJCP) judges reception. In contrast to modern craft porter or English-style porter, Pre-Prohibition Porter refers to American-made porter from, you guessed it before Prohibition. In 2016 there are only two commercial examples of the style that survive, Stegmaier Porter and Yuengleing Porter.

Like any classic beer style, Pre-Prohibition Porter was a style that was designed to make use of locally available ingredients. In the late 18th and early 19th century, American brewers were trying to make beers similar to London porter. Domestic barley and hop harvests were unreliable at best. Most of the barley grown in the US was 6-row barley which is higher in protein and enzymes than 2-row barley. To compensate for the type of malt and it’s relative scarcity, early American brewers used adjuncts like corn, sugar, molasses, or anything fermentable that could be found. Generally speaking Pre-Prohibition Porter is lighter in body, has a less assertive malt and hop flavor than a modern American Porter, while the fermentation character is cleaner than an English porter.

As the style evolved there were two processes commonly used for making Pre-Prohibition Porter. Some porters were brewed porters that were essentially made the way most beers are typically made. Dark malts were added to the grist which imparted the color and any roasted character. Stegmaier Porter is a brewed porter. Borrowing from the English tradition Stegmaier Porter is fermented with an ale yeast.

The other porters were what is called rack and brew porters. Brewers would make a pale beer which was often a pale ale, cream ale, or lager, and then rack the beer onto a darkening agent. The most common agent used was porterine. Porterine is frequently made with corn syrup which is boiled down until it’s black in color. If you have ever tasted a dark beer, likely made by a macro brewer, with no discernible roasted or dark malt character, it may well have been darkened with a similar coloring agent. This gave rack and brew beers like something of a bad reputation. However, some brewers used porterine made from barley malt.

While early American Porters were ales like their English cousins, the style was so popular that as German immigrants brought lager yeasts to America in the mid 1800s, many German brewers brewed porters with lager yeasts. Jones and Stein served a porter they made with a barley-based porterine recipe they developed, and fermented with a lager yeast at the reception . Yuengling Porter is reportedly also a rack and brewed porter fermented with lager yeast.

I enjoyed the beer Jones and Stein served at the reception. If I was going to brew this style of beer, I wanted to make a rack and brew porter to have the experience of making the porterine and blending it in. Larrupin Lou’s XXX Ale with it’s historic malt bill is a perfect base to blend with porterine to make a Pre-Prohibition porter. By splitting the batch of Larrupin Lou’s I could brew both beers at the same time!

I made my porterine at home a couple of days before brew day. I followed Jones and Stein’s recipe from the reception, except I substituted their roasted barley for chocolate malt. I typically associate porter with a more chocolate flavor than a roasted flavor in a stout. I want any flavor contribution from the porterine to reflect that.
IMG_0624 IMG_0625

The process of making the porterine was steeping the grain like one would do for an extract batch, then boiling it down for two hours. I added my recipe to BeerSmith so I could get an estimate of the color of the porterine, and figure out how much I would need to add to the beer to suitably darken it. I think I started with too much water, because I ended up with more than the two pints they suggested. Now I have some extra for future batches or to just play with by adding to other beers.

To split the batch, I couldn’t split the batch after the boil because Larrupin Lou’s is too hoppy to be made into a porter. The modern HBC – 438 hop would also be out of place in a historic beer. What I ended up doing was preparing a mash for a six gallon batch, splitting the wort after the mash, and conducted two separate boils. This way each beer could be hopped differently.


I brought my burner and kettle to Andy’s and we boiled both batches at the same time. I blended the porterine into the wort before the boil on the off chance that it would make the beer darker. My burner and kettle boiled off more wort than Andy’s converted keggle and burner. I’ll top off the wort with bottled water when I package both beers.


While I am serving both Pugnacious Pete’s and Larrupin Lou’s at Ales for ALS, I can only enter one beer into the competition. I still haven’t decided which way I am going to go. I am leaning more toward Pugnacious Pete’s because the BJCP added a description of Pre-Prohibition Porter to the 2015 guidelines. With the historic-inspired malt bill, Larrupin Lou’s might not taste quite like a modern pale ale; I can picture the judges knocking it down for that. With any luck I can sample both on packaging day before I have to decide.

See the full recipe here.
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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Brew Day: Larrupin Lou’s XXX Ale (American Pale Ale)

In 2015 I was sort of a last minute fill-in at the Ales for ALS Homebrew Competition in Essex. Jennie and I each hastily put together recipes for Fort Dummer and Shareholder’s Saison, to bring along with some bottles of Curly’s Milk Stout which was the beer I entered into the competition.

I was quite happy with both beers we brewed for the competition. I have already re-brewed a batch of Fort Dummer. That batch was okay, but after packaging I found two packages of hops that were supposed to go in as the second dry hop. We have been cellaring several bottles of Shareholder’s Saison. We opened a bomber at Jamboree and found that while still subtle, the brettanomyces flavor is a bit more pronounced while the hop character has faded.

As pleased as I was with both of those beers, shortly after the event last year I started thinking about what I would want to brew for the 2016 event. While looking for some beer inspiration, I found the experimental HBC – 438 hop online. New, experimental hop varieties are given numbers instead of names until they are ready to be sold on a commercial scale. There are two features about HBC – 438 is that make it perfect to bring to an event like this. Firstly the hop is currently only available to homebrewers. Nobody attending the event in Essex would have likely ever tasted a beer with this hop. More pertinently, all of the proceeds from this hop go to ALS research. It is too perfect not to use.

Northern Brewer sells a Luckiest Man Pale Ale kit featuring HBC – 438 where a portion of the proceeds benefit Ales for ALS, but I felt like I had to develop my own recipe. I thought about Lou Gehrig and the Yankees. Then I remembered the connection the Yankees had with the old Ballantine Brewery from when I brewed a one gallon Ballantine IPA clone.

The other recipe I found at that time was for a pale ale, Ballantine XXX Ale. My idea was to brew a version of the old XXX Ale, but with HBC – 438. It would be too perfect. There is a connection with Lou Gehrig. The hop in the beer directly benefits the same charity as the event itself. I bought the hops months in advance just to make sure I would have them for when it was time to brew.


I kept the grist exactly the same as the clone recipe that I found. I made sure to use all American malts as that felt like what Ballantine would have used. I did find East Coast Yeast’s Old Newark Ale strain in stock. This is almost certainly the old Ballantine strain, and the description on the website says it is NOT the Chico (Sierra Nevada) strain as is widely rumored. However, I couldn’t bring myself to spend $15 to ship an $8 vial of yeast. A fellow club member in the North Shore brewers has a culture of the strain, but I didn’t have time to build up his culture to make sure I had enough cells. I compromised and used one of my favorite strains, Wyeast 1272. The profile seems similar enough to Old Newark Ale.



This was my first brew day at Andy’s in quite awhile. We are going to try to get one last brew day in before winter. I enjoy brewing outside on a nice day so much more than making a mess inside my kitchen. I think it would be fun and interesting to brew with different people and see their process first-hand.

See the full recipe here.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tasting Notes: The United States of IPA

I am terrible when it comes to posting tasting notes for my beers. I’m lucky if I get around to writing up my impressions on half of my batches. In the future I think I’ll do some catch-up pieces where I write some quick impressions of several beers.

The US of IPA is the perfect time for me to test out this concept. I brought the beers to Jamboree, and with all that goes on at Jambo I didn’t exactly have time to hold each beer up to the light to note the appearance, and then swirl the beer around to rouse the head and make a detailed description of the aroma.


Broken First IPA (West Coast IPA): I think I nailed the recipe. The extra Citra that I didn’t have for batch one gave the beer a much more prominent hop flavor. I ran into a coworker who was attending Jambo for the first time. He tasted all four of the beers and enjoyed this one the best.

Dave Rowland from SoMe Brewing said he got a very low level of oxidation from it. Oxidation may be an off-flavor he is more sensitive to than others, especially as a commercial brewer. Broken Fist was the only beer of the group that I racked to a secondary fermenter which could explain the oxidation Since the beer was double dry-hopped, I didn’t want the beer sitting on the first dry hop for too long. Broken Fist was also the first of the four that I brewed making it the least fresh.

To improve the beer going forward is more about improving my process than the recipe. Dave said when I think I purged my keg with CO2 enough, to go ahead and purge some more. If I rack to a secondary fermenter, that should be purged also. Next time I would need to brew more wort to account for the huge amount of hop absorption.

Ideally I would cold crash the beer and use a fining agent like gelatin to help with clarity.

Age of Sail

Age of Sail IPA (East Coast IPA): This beer proves that an IPA can showcase a rich and complex malt profile. I learned at Jamboree that Stone Path Malt while based in New England that the malt is actually malted in Germany at a family-owned malthouse in Bavaria. Even if the malt doesn’t have a New England terrior, the traditionally produced malts were perfect for this traditional IPA. Michael Scroth, co-founder of Stone Path really enjoyed the beer.  I look forward to using their products more in the future. The Ringwood Ale yeast with its medium attenuation accentuated the malt flavor perfectly.

Hop bitterness was sufficient, while the hop flavor was perhaps a touch low. If I brewed this again I would probably substitute the Mt. Hood hops for Crystal or Cascade, increase the hops late in the boil and dry hops slightly. For a first brew I was quite happy with it. The 3 gallon keg kicked at Jamboree. It is comforting to know I am not the only person who still appreciates a more traditional, balanced IPA.


Flyover IPA (Midwest IPA): Not only was this the last recipe I finished putting together, it was the last name I came up with. I wish I did a little more research on the name as there are several commercial beers with the same or similar names.

The beer itself is rock solid and felt like a quality representation of Midwest IPAs. It was hoppier than Age of Sail, and maltier than Broken Fist. The underlying malt flavor was clean and slightly sweet. It was also not too sweet that the mash clashed with the citrusy hop flavor. I think the hop profile was perfect for this beer. Flyover was the only keg not to kick at Jambo. I look forward to revisiting it again and seeing if I enjoy it as much as I did at Jamboree.


Haze for Daze IPA (New England IPA): I couldn’t have been happier with this brew. It had the characteristic “juicy” hop flavor and soft mouthfeel. I think increasing my flaked adjuncts really enhanced the latter.

I got similar fruit esters from the Giga Yeast Vermont Ale yeast as I’ve gotten from Heady Topper and beers I’ve made with The Yeast Bay’s Vermont Ale. That really complimented the fruity hops used in the beer. The Pearl malt gave the beer a light sweetness which added further complexity.

This beer is another keeper. I would love to brew exactly the same recipe, but with three different hops varieties.

In all I would say the project was a success. I was able to brew with a wide variety of different ingredients, combine different flavors, and make four unique beers that all fall within the same style.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Jamboree 2016! Beer people are the best people

Last year Jennie and I were only able to make it up to the New England Homebrewers Jamboree, or Jambo for Saturday afternoon. The event starts on Friday night, goes all day Saturday, and most attendees camp Saturday night and pack up on Sunday morning.

I enjoyed lots of great beer. But over a course of two days they did kind of run together. For next year I might bring a notepad to take down some quick tasting notes. At least then I can go back and have a chance to have a better recollection.

Friday night featured an authentic, German-style dinner. Think sausages, sauerkraut, dilled carrots, strudel. The food was excellent. I love how Oktoberfest has become almost like a German St. Patrick’s Day where everyone, even people who aren’t German, can celebrate German culture, especially German beer!

Jambo organizers encouraged everyone to bring German-style beers for Friday night. I didn’t have time to brew another beer, but I did have some bottles of a bock that I brewed over two years ago. At the time it was one of the best beers that I had brewed, and it really has held up nicely. The feedback the beer received was positive. The 12 bottles I brought didn’t last the night. This is a recipe I would love to revisit in the future when I have the equipment to make lagers again.

Jennie and I parked our cars and set up our tent right across from where the Metro South Homebrew League were set up. I met those guys at other events, including Homebrew Con. As the night wound down we hung out with those guys, shared some beers and grilled cheese sandwiches. On Saturday I beat club member Vinny in the worst game of Beirut in the history of the sport to win a club-branded glass.

I set up my beer at the North Shore Brewers tent on Friday night, and on Saturday morning we iced everything down. Shortly after setting up, Michael Scroth co-founder of Stone Path Malts walked up to our club’s tent to talk about his malt. I pulled him over to show him the beer I made with his malt. He was excited to try it and really enjoyed the beer. The passion he has for his malt was obvious. I look forward to brewing with Stone Path Malts again. 

Jamboree was my first time to try three of the US of IPA beers. The idea was to have a vertical where attendees tried all of them and noted the regional differences. Jambo is too crazy to conduct anything that orderly. I was able to pull a couple of people aside, including Dave Rowland co-owner of SoMe Brewing.

SoMe is run by a father and son team. When Jennie and I visited SoMe during Portsmouth Beer Week 2015 we met Dave’s father David at the brewery. I also told him how we rented the Granite State Growler Tour bus for a bachelor party, and how it got out of hand. Evidently our group earned something of a reputation as he remembered hearing about our antics. He introduced me to Butch Heilshorn the owner of Earth Eagle Brewings. I was able to apologize for some things I said online that I probably should not have. Butch couldn’t have been more cool or understanding.

What is great is that two professional brewers went out of their way to attend a homebrew event. Dave was there with his club. I also met some awesome brewers while judging in the competition. When I say that beer people are the best people, in my experience beer people are the most engaging, irreverent, and approachable group of people I have come across. 

Next time I’m at Jamboree I’ll make more of an effort to find some beer inspiration. At its core beer is often more about the people than the liquid (as long as the interaction isn’t forced). Events like Jamboree are a reminder of that. 

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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Brew Day: Salted Caramel Brown Ale

With Jamboree approaching, I had already decided I wanted to brew my IPAs for my Untied States of IPA project, but Jennie had decided she wanted to brew her own beer to bring. I would periodically ask her over the course of several weeks if she had started on her recipe or had any ideas. By the end of July time was no longer on our side.

I wanted to be helpful and make suggestions without her beer becoming my beer. After she designed her Shareholder’s Saison I knew she was more of a “recipe innovator” in contrast to myself who is more of an “old-school master”. I scanned through the archive’s of Jennie’s cooking blog to try and find some culinary inspiration. When I scrolled down to her Salted Caramel Cookie Cups (amazing!! BTW) I suggested a salted caramel beer. Jennie loved the idea and was all-in.

We went back and forth trying to figure out what should a salted caramel beer should taste like and how to design the recipe. I started with a Southern English/London Brown Ale as the base style as it is sweeter and more caramelly. I designed my recipe to use rich, dark caramel malts. From there I added some light brown sugar to boost the gravity and alcohol of the beer while still providing a lighter underlying sweetness. The idea was to then blend in the salted caramel.

The recipe was a five gallon extract batch with some steeping grains. After four separate all-grain IPA batches in short succession, a quick and easy extract batch was just what the doctor ordered.


Somehow the Caramel 120 malt that I purchased for the Flyover IPA ended up in this beer. I ended up steeping three different caramel malts, all 80L and darker. To add a more lighter sweetness and boost the gravity I also added a pound of brown sugar.

In the end we never ended up having time to blend in actual salted caramel. When I kegged the beer I blended in caramel syrup and salt to taste. My fear is that the underlying beer is going to be too dark and will dominate the caramel and salt.

I kegged the beer and hoped for the best. Jennie really wanted to make a salted caramel beer. I’m afraid she is going to be disappointed with how it comes out. I am already thinking about how to completely re-imagine this beer if it is a dud at Jamboree.

See the full recipe here.

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