We have never talked about Beer


Today was brew day for our cardamom rye witbier (incl. coriander and orange peel). It smelled great when we put the spices in, and the weird gloopy detritus from the rye and wheat seems to be settling out nicely. Given the 25% wheat content, we’re hoping for better head retention than we’ve seen so far. We’re using White Labs WLP400 yeast, which seems to have a reputation for being temperamental and slow-acting, so we’re planning to bottle in three weeks at the earliest.

We added a new bit of automation: a $11 aquarium pump from Amazon to drive the immersion chiller when we’re brewing indoors. It seems to work pretty well. Now we can do a lot of the cleanup while the chiller is doing its thing.

The wort had a weird dishwater color to it at first, but it appears to be settling out and turning a little more golden, like we expected.

Once again, we ended up slightly north of 80% efficiency, although we cheated a bit there by using honey as an adjunct.


So, last year I bought a bottle of Founders’ Canadian Breakfast Stout, one of the big bottles, as I didn’t see it in any other size, and really, this is the only time I’ve ever seen it in the stores around here. A while back I had their Kentucky Breakfast Stout, and while good, it was IMO not worth the price (about $24 for four 12oz bottles). The CBS, though, OMG. Maybe the single best beer I’ve ever had, no kidding. Yeah, the 22oz bottle was also like $24, but worth every penny. Amazing flavor, mouth feel, aroma, color, everything. I had been saving it, and decided to have it to celebrate the end of the semester and my promotion to full professor, and it was definitely the right beer for the occasion.


Fishbreath I forgot if you’ve mentioned, are you guys doing yeast starters? That would settle out the pitching weirdness and ensure it takes off, hopefully.

Super jealous, I’ve never had it. It’s my white whale of beers. North Carolina will probably never be a spot where it lands.


You need to saw off a leg, replace it with a whalebone prosthesis, and stump around a lot, muttering.


Yup, we started as of last recipe, and it does indeed make a huge difference.


From hell’s heart I stab at thee. For hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee. Ye damned whale.

I have loved just about every Founder’s beer I’ve ever tried. That is an amazing accomplishment for a brewery. To have NOT tried that is a huge pain in my heart. I know one day I’ll find it.


Founders is very consistent, and yeah, never had a bad one here, either. Oddly enough, a friend of mine who lives very near their brewery in Michigan says that beer snobs up there turn up their noses at them now because Coors has like a ten percent stake in Founders. That’s entirely for distribution reasons, and it’s why I can get Founders beers here in Vermont. So, yeah, I’m good with that.


Funny, I did not know about the 10% stake by Coors. Craft beer drinkers can be a fickle bunch for sure. For some people it is less about how good the beer is, and more about thumbing their noses at, “big beer.” Fill in whatever acronym you want to call big beer there.

I like good beer. I really do not care who makes it. If AB Inbev made a fantastic IPA, I’d be all over it. And in fact, when they bought our local darling here, Wicked Weed, that very thing happened. I love Wicked Weed’s beers. I don’t care who owns them. But holy hell you should have heard the lashing and negative feedback they took when that was announced.

I mean, I get it. If not for those giant beer makers, perhaps all the older time diversity of good beers wouldn’t have given way to the watery fizz they make now. But that is speculative. And what we know now is that the movement for better tasting beer isn’t to a better tasting adjunct lager. It’s to awesome ales, tasty yeasts from afar and beers that assault your tastebuds. It’s not going away. Once big beer really embraces craft flavors, I can see me probably enjoying the fact that overall, craft beer might be a tad cheaper. Hopefully.


So far, the big beverage companies have been wise, and not screwed around with the actual brewing from the craft breweries they have purchased. And distribution is amazingly enhanced. Every normal grocery store here now has beers that a couple of years ago you could only find in specialty shops.


From what I understand, they have been -mostly- hands off on what the purchased brewery folks make as well, but helping them leverage a larger supply pool along with that distribution. I’m hoping that keeps up.


Not all of us Michigan beer snobs! Not even most, I’d say, just the uncompromising “local-only” beer geeks. Founders is my go-to when I buy beer for home. And they’re always at the beer festivals, with plenty of business. Of course, there’s so many other local brew options that when I go out, I almost never go to Founders.


It only makes business sense that the big boys would invest in the craft beer companies. I heard last weekend that Bud Light sales are down 5.6% over last year. All major beers are down.


I’ve decided that I really, really like Nitro Stouts. Does that make me a hipster?


I don’t even know how people drink stouts. It’s like eating a loaf of beer-flavored bread.




No. I love them too, and I am far, far, far from a hipster.

Every person I’ve either introduced the Milk Stout Nitro by Left Hand to, or told about when he said what beers he likes, has been into it or into the idea of it. It’s a really great beer.*

I had occasion to talk to a dude at a party this weekend who loves some kind of chocolate beer and when I told him about it, saying, “It’s more coffee tasting than what you’re talking about,” he was all…



*This message brought to you by the excellent @Chappers


/bows and says “merci beaucoup!”


We bottled Dry Wit Rye Wit, our rye wheat beer, last night. I haven’t said much about it yet beyond “it’s in progress”, because I was concerned it wouldn’t turn out well. It’s the first recipe I’ve put together from whole cloth. Happily, it isn’t half bad.

It’s our lightest beer yet, displaying some cloudiness from the wheat. The grain bill was four pounds of Belgian pilsener malt, two pounds of rye malt, two pounds of flaked wheat, and a pound and a quarter of orange blossom honey. (I took our post-mash gravity reading and panicked because it was super-low, then I realized we hadn’t put the honey in yet.) Hops aren’t really important; we just did 15 IBU of Hallertau. Spice-wise, we added 1 oz of dried sweet orange peel, .75 oz of cracked coriander, and .25 oz of cracked cardamom. The yeast was White Labs WLP400. Despite its reputation for crankiness, it was perfectly well-behaved for us. We had a blowoff tube on the carboy for a few days, but it didn’t spit anything out. It was done in two weeks.

To my surprise and delight, it’s neither over-citrusy from the coriander and orange peel, nor over-peppery from the rye and cardamom. The flavors balance well, it has a wonderful champagne-like aroma, and the color is lovely. We’re targeting a high-ish level of carbonation, because

To boot, we got these fetching hop-cone bottlecaps.

Next on my list: I’ve lusted after wireless tilt hydrometers for a while, and was thinking about building an iSpindel, but those don’t fit in the neck of a glass carboy. In fact, very little does, so I’m going to have to hack one together myself. Thanks to my buddy’s calipers, I measured the opening at the neck at about 29.75mm, and I figure I don’t want to go much bigger than 27mm for the hydrometer so it’s possible to get it back out. (Probably with some fishing line hot-glued to the bottom of the stopper and trailed out the top of the carboy.)

That imposes some serious constraints on design and hardware, but this is probably getting into Hardware and Technical Stuff territory, so I’ll leave it be for now.


Okay, that iSpindel is cool as hell! I had no idea this was a thing. For what it’s worth, I don’t own a single glass carboy. I have nothing but plastics. I wish I could say that was a decision I made on my own, but the guy who taught me had nothing but glass carboys and suggested it would be easier on me to fill/siphon as well as being lighter to carry because I ferment in a spare room upstairs. Out of those, I don’t have any of the wide-mouth plastics that have been out a few years now. None of mine are cloudy either, so I guess I got some of the better ones on the market. But even the version I have is easier to put things in and get things out of.

And congrats on your first house recipe. It sounds tasty! I’m certainly not great at it, but I have gotten a ton from listening to some of the older Brewing Network podcasts with some of the original crew back then. Some don’t like their style of podcasting and somewhat juvenile humor, but I found it fine. Their is a ton of info I really needed from those that has helped.

Two that stand out are:

Brewing With Style - basically goes through a specific spec style of beer and some of the key ingredients, pitfalls, and processes to get there with them.

Can You Brew It - these are basically challenges where the crew tries to recreate a commercial beer. Sometimes they get knowledge of it, sometimes they don’t. Either way you learn a little bit about what is in those beers, and the success or failures of each brewer and what they think about the recipe.

Please note, these are old shows. I don’t think Can You Brew It has been made in a few years. There may be newer/better things now. But they were super convenient to listen to while on my commute about a week before I attempted a new recipe or style brew.


There’s a commercial version, too, with the same not-tiny-enough problem. The idea of a cloud hydrometer is very appealing to me and my friend, because no matter where we brew, one of us is going to be remote. Fermentation tracking we can both get at from a distance is a cool upgrade, and an excuse for me to get my workshop set up to build random internet-of-things devices.

Thanks for the podcast recommendations. I’m always looking for more to listen to.