About

Homebrewer, tourist, raker of mash tuns and cleaner of kegs, grower of hops, dilettante, the one who rolls the casks, owner of too much glassware, certified beer judge, snob, indiscriminate guzzler, geek dork nerd, scrivener of blogs.

Disclaimer: I work for Wyeast Labs. The views and opinions expressed herein are strictly my own. Nothing posted here should be considered an official statement on the part of my present or past employers, or any organization with which I am affiliated.

Copyright © 2013, The Beer Engine Blog. All rights reserved.

359 thoughts on “About

  1. Hey Mike,
    Do you have any tips for dealing with stuck ferments. I brewed a 1.095 Baltic Porter six weeks ago using proper pitching rates and procedures. After being at 1.050 after 4 weeks I upped the temp and roused to an eventual 1.032 at 6 weeks. Should I throw in some 1056 at full krausen or try to ramp up temps even more? The hydro sample tasted great but a little chewy.

    • What was the original yeast, what’s the ferm temp, and was there anything about the grist or mash that would promote a high FG no matter what? Assuming the first strain isn’t already maxed out on its typical aa% and/or alc tolerance, I’d definitely try further warming/rousing/O2 first. Another pitch of a more alc-tolerant or higher attenuating strain is usually my second line of defense, but depending on wort composition, adding additional yeast may be a case of diminishing returns.

      • The original yeast was the white labs Zurich strain pitched at about 800 billion cells for 5.5 gallons. Mash temp was 150 and fermented started at 50f with a natural rise and hold to 53f. My aa is currently at 66% and the yeast is supposed to be around 70% or higher. The grist had a fair amount of unfermentables with some roast and crystal as well as about a pound of dme used to bump up the OG.

        • Well … given all that, I’d still try rousing & warming first. Normally if that didn’t produce results, I’d consider wort composition to be the limiting factor, but since the original pitch is now 6 weeks in and probably pretty depleted, a second pitch of a different strain might not be a bad plan.

          • Hey MD,
            I ended up pitching some Cal Ale yeast at high krausen and let it sit for about 48 hours and then crash cooled. After kegging, it tastes like extreme acetaldehyde. Is there any way to fix this after it’s been racked off the yeast?

            • The acetaldehyde flavor was not there prior to adding the ale yeast – am I understanding that correctly? Was there any further drop in SG?

              That acetaldehyde could be a normal intermediate compound or byproduct of a high-gravity fermentation that will eventually condition out, or it could be indicative of stressed or unhealthy cells. If it’s already off the yeast, I guess I’d continue with lagering/conditioning and wait and see. Good luck!

  2. Dawson –
    Loved watching you on BTV and love reading your blogs. I recently returned from a trip to Dublin and immediately convinced myself to buy a nitro tap upon returning home. I’ve struggled a bit trying to get the process down and was wondering if you could give me a brief rundown of your process? I carbed with C02 to around 3 vols (its a sweet stout). When hooked to nitro, I got no head at all. I finally carbed it up to who knows how high with C02 (hooked at 30 psi and shook for 2 minutes, sat for a day). Now I get a head, its too much but its something.

    One other thing, ever tried priming in the keg and hooking to nitro?

    Slainte!

    • I usually carb to a low vol. with CO2, then dispense at a pretty high pressure (30-35 psi or so) using beer gas pushed through a diffusion stone inside the keg, then pour through a stout faucet. I’m guessing this is an issue of either dispense pressure or not getting enough N into solution.

      ever tried priming in the keg and hooking to nitro?

      No – I’ve found that the restrictor plate in the stout faucet can get clogged by yeast floccs and other solids, so I generally take pains to keep kegged beer for nitro dispense as bright as possible.

      Good luck!

  3. MD,
    I’m dominating your page; apologies. The Baltic Porter mentioned above did not have the acetaldehyde flavor present when gravity was initially tested. Only after the secondary strain was added did I notice it. The secondary strain brought the gravity down from 1.030 to 1.025 which I thought was acceptable as I’d started at 1.095. I’ll take the advice and lager it and see if it goes away. I’m also going to try degassing it every so often in the hopes that will carry some of it away.

    • The gravity drop is a useful clue, and hopefully a good sign that it’s a result of ale yeast going to work in a high-alcohol wort. And if we assume that it’s a byproduct of an ale yeast, it might not be a bad idea to store the keg at ale temps for several days to try and speed up its processing.

  4. MD,
    I read your most recent article in the Growler about Schwartzbier and I had a few questions. Living in Rogers our water is horrible for brewing so I have recently been using doctored up RO water. What would the water profile be for the region in Germany where Kostritzer is made. Also as a big fan of Kostritzer it looks like your recipe is close to its clone, is that a reasonable deduction?
    Thanks for the help, been following you since the beginning of BTV, thanks for making me the brewer I am today. You, cobra and John Palmer were my mentors.
    Na zdrowie

    • Palmer and the Cobra – lofty company! Thanks, Jon.

      Bad Kostritz is closer to Pilsen than it is to any of the other stylistically-major German brewing cities (Dortmund, Munich, etc.) so if you were after Kostritzer specifically, and if we assume the brewery isn’t tinkering significantly with the source water, I think I’d err on the side of lower mineral content. However, for a dark lager like this I also think it’s hard to go wrong with a good old Munich-style water profile.

  5. Hey Mike,
    I am planning on my first Decoction Mash in the next couple of weeks.
    I was thinking of a Rye IPA that I LOVE, however I don’t want to waste the Decoction. excluding lagers, since I live in Houston and don’t really have lagering capabilities, what would be a good beer to try it with?

    Thanks,
    Chuck Page

  6. Dawson,

    I have about a dozen pounds of frozen Pinot Noir grapes in my freezer left over from last fall’s harvest at my family’s vineyard.  Any suggestions on what kind of a beer you think would work best with some Pinot grapes/juice added to it?  I’m not looking to stick to any style guidelines obviously, so I’m down to get crazy with this recipe.  My dad and I have brewed Pinot Porters the past two years with about 10lbs of crushed grapes added to the end of the boil, but the results have been pretty mediocre (the grapes really dry and thin the beer out and tend to make it pretty harsh too, even with a year of aging).  So I guess I also would like to know what your opinion is on the best way to add the grapes to the beer (during the boil, in the fermenter, thawed or frozen, crushed or whole, etc.). I appreciate any insight/suggestions you might have for a recipe to use these grapes in! Thanks!

    -Ryan

    • Something already kind of innately wine-like seems logical: Flemish red, lambic, Belgian strong dark. A lot of meadmakers would probably say melomel here … it seems to me like the best way to add them would be to either macerate the crushed fruit along with the wort in the primary or secondary, or else ferment the grapes out separately as a wine and then blend with the finished beer to taste. Let us know how it goes!

      • Cool, thank you! I like the idea of making a wine and blending… I might test that out by buying a few commercial beers of different styles (Saisons, Belgians, Sours, etc) and seeing which style works best with a little Pinot wine added. If I were to do a Belgian (something like your recipe from Chop and Brew), would I just use the grapes in place of the sugar, or should I just decrease the amount of sugar and remove a little of the base malt? Also, are there any other adjustments you would make to the process (upping the mash temp, adding dextrine malt, etc.) to compensate for the increase in more fermentable sugars? Thanks again for the help, I really appreciate it!

        • I would definitely replace sugar and not malt … depending on the Brix of the fruit and ratio of grapes/must to malt and all that jazz, the net effect will be to thin out the body, so planning to compensate with increased body/dextrins might be a good idea too.

  7. Mike,
    Finally was lucky enough to stumble upon this blog that you have going on here. Just wanted to express my thanks to everything that you do and wanted to tell you that you, Jake and Chip are the number one reason why I finally started homebrewing for the first time ever this year. Keep doing what you’re doing man and spread the love of beer and all things brewing. Like I said earlier; this blog is great. When I found out you were not with BTV anymore there was about 24 hours of sadness.

  8. Hey MD,

    I just moved to Hawaii and I am getting my future brewing ready and I’m wondering about the challenges of sitting on something that will need cellering. I won’t always have below 75f ambient so would this mean I can’t make a batch of red wine (as a example) if my storage is in the 80s for most of the year? This would be a great question for us newbs to ask before we’ve made a 5 gal batch of wine. I usually brew in a temp controlled chest freezer which is fine for short term ferm. but not for 6-18 month cellering.

    Any thoughts?

    • Generally speaking – if we consider the sensory changes (both positive and negative) to beer or wine that occur over the course of bottle-aging in a cellar as a continuation of the biochemical reactions of fermentation, a lot of the same rules apply: those reactions tend to happen slower at cooler temps and faster at warmer temps. Some beer styles like foreign stouts and 19th century IPAs were built to combat those effects without the benefit of refrigerated storage, but barring that it seems like quick turnover of finished beer would be the best counter to 80 F storage temps.

      As far as wine, here’s what one kit manufacturer says about bottle aging:

      In general, you should store wine in a consistently cool, dark room, lying on its side or upside down. If you keep the cork moist, and keep the bottle away from direct light or variations in heat, your wine’s aging process won’t accelerate. The best temperature for storage is from 7-18C/45-65F.

      Hope that helps!

  9. Hi Mike,
    Brewed my first batch of beer about 5 weeks ago “The Slobber” extract kit. 1 week primary
    2 weeks secondary
    2 weeks bottle
    Not getting much of a head yet and can smell and taste a lot of alcohol it seems. Almost reminds me of wine. I did a full volume boil ,
    used safale s-04, primed with just one cup water. Any idea what I may have done wrong or do I just need to be patient and let bottles sit longer.Enjoyed BTV!!! hop all is well cheers!!

    • Cheers, Frank!

      Unfortunately it’s tough to diagnose a flavor/aroma aspect over the internet … if you have a homebrew club near you, or know an experienced brewer, give them a bottle to taste and see what they say. My best guess based on what you described is some yeast byproduct, possibly from a warm fermentation temp; further aging may help smooth it out. Good luck!

  10. Holy attenuation Dawson!

    I made a 1.095 Barleywine on Jan 18th, inspired by your recipe from couple of years back. I racked it to secondary last night, for a cold crash before bottling and my F.G. is 1.014! I’m pretty confident my hydro readings are correct (within a couple of points at least), but is 90+% apparent attenuation possible from 1056? I used all of your tricks to increase attenuation and apparently they worked too well!
    I don’t believe I’ve ever come across the problem of needing to increase FG post fermentation. I don’t think lactose is appropriate here (right?). Would something like a boiled-down dextrin malt tea addition do anything to help? Or should I just cut my losses and call this thing a DIPA (yeah, I know how this sounds, wah-wah)?

    • I totally believe 90% is possible – the ranges given are typical and reasonable to expect, but it’s certainly possible to coax a strain to exceed typical performance.

      Numbers don’t always correlate to perception – how is the body/mouthfeel/flavor?

      Since the FG is really just a couple points off the low end of the style, the least-intrusive thing to do might be to leave it be but take steps at packaging to play up malt and mouthfeel: low CO2, warmer serving temps … a handpump would be killer.

      A boiled-down specialty malt tea may help, but it may also introduce some alien flavors and increase the pH – I’d try a bench trial with a small sample of the batch first. A more involved but thorough correction would be blending with a lower-attenuated, but fully fermented wort … higher mash temp with some specialty/dextrin malts (to the same color as the original batch) and a compatible but lower aa% strain (I was thinking specifically of 1332 with 1056). Good pitch rate and O2, etc, for clean flavor and healthy fermentation, just aiming for a high FG for blending. Hope that helps – good luck with whichever route you take!

  11. Hey MD,
    How do you store most of your beer? I brew 2-3 times a month (5-10) gallons at a time and mostly brew for competitions. I like to age my beers in corny kegs but have found it gets hard to store 7-10 different beers at once. Do you bottle and store that way after kegging? Worry about cold storage? For reference, about half my beers are a lager. Anyway to get around buying more chest freezers with temp control?

    • Hey Adam,

      These days I brew 1-2 times a month, 3-10 gallons at a time, and never for competitions … I don’t think I have quite the inventory that you do at any given time! ; )

      I do bottle a minority of the output (usually strong Belgian ales and sour beers), and those get stored in the dark at ambient basement temps; otherwise everything else goes in kegs and stays in a temp-controlled chest freezer until it goes in the serving fridge.

  12. I really enjoy your work. I have been brewing for about a year. I discovered brewing tv. You guys taught me a lot about beer. I check your blog once a week and chips chop and brew. I also discovered Don Osborn through you guys. It really feels like I’m hanging out in your bak yards and basements. Thank for giving us your world of beer according to Dawson.

    I have a question about o2. I bought o2 set up like yours. You always say o2 but never how much or air flow. Could you give us some insight on your method?

    • Cheers, wfoard!

      O2 – lacking a DO meter, it’s pretty unscientific (intuitive would be a more positive word, I guess). I subscribe to the notion that if you’re not seeing flavor or fermentation issues consistent with too little or too much O2 (high diacetyl and/or esters in the finished beer, low attenuation, H2S during fermentation, etc), then you’re doing it right.

      I use disposable O2 tanks from the hardware store, run through a diffusion stone for approximately 30-45 seconds for a low OG ale wort up to 90-120 seconds for lager or high OG wort. That has worked splendidly for me for many years, but a guy I work with swears by filling the headspace above the cooled wort with pure O2 and then shaking the carboy for a few minutes … so as always, YMMV.

  13. Dawson,

    Quick question(s) about the shelf life of liquid yeast. Being the beer dude that you are, plus being a brand manager for Wyeast, makes you the ideal person to ask… Two part question:

    My local homebrew shop used to carry both White Labs and Wyeast but, the last few stops have led me to believe that they are no longer carrying Wyeast. Personally, I am partial to Wyeast and would prefer to use their product. I also like the idea of having a choice over a wide variety of strains and not really being limited to what a shop may have in stock on a certain day and having to call an audible when it comes time to get supplies.

    I brew once, occasionally twice, a month and make a yeast starter for every brew day.

    So, if I were to order a stockpile of yeast, say 6 to 8 slap packs, online, how long could I expect them to be viable?

    The second question is about hefeweizen; given that suspended yeast is such an integral part of a Bavarian hefeweizen, do you feel that bottle conditioning would be a better option than kegging?

    • Hey Clint,

      Easy one first:

      2. Bottle conditioning Hefeweizen – not necessarily, IMO. Most Weissbier strains are powdery enough that, given a brief-enough primary and no finings, the beer will be cloudy when fresh no matter the packaging. Over time, and especially in cold storage, the yeast will settle out and leave the beer bright – a bottle is just easier to agitate and get it back into suspension, but as one commenter on this post mentions, agitating a keg periodically will help keep a Hefe pouring cloudy while on tap: https://thebeerengineblog.com/2013/07/20/tmbr-weise-4-1/#comments

      1. Life span – I’ll give two answers, but from the sounds of your timeframe you should be fine either way:

      Officially, they’re best when used within 6 months of the manufacture date (that’s pretty standard for most liquid yeast labs). The fresher the better, since there will be some loss of viability over that time – greatly dependent on storage, shipping, and the strain itself – so a starter is always good.

      Unofficially, if stored cold and not exposed to harsh shipping conditions, there will probably still be live cells well beyond that point, but definitely plan on gradually propping up the culture in a series of starters, beginning with a small volume and working up.

  14. Mike,

    I was wondering if you have ever done a side-by-side comparison of a split-batch where one half was force carbonated and the other was naturally carbonated? I was just planning out a saison recipe and got to thinking about this. I have always done natural carbonation in the past for saisons, but was considering kegging this one. I didn’t know if I would be “robbing” the beer of flavor by force carbonating it or if the difference would be negligible.

    Cheers!

  15. Mike,

    I am wondering if you know how to calculate IBUs from hopstands/whirlpools. On Brewtoad.com ‘s recipe calculation software the whirlpool setting calculates the IBUs the same as boil time e.g. a 30 min whirlpool is calculated to have the same IBU as a 30 min boil. Also, how does this compare to a hopstand where you just let the hops sit in hot wort for an extended amount of time before cooling?

    • From what I read & hear, 10% utilization is ballpark for homebrew systems. Factors like agitation and temp regulate it – active whirlpooling of the wort will tend to increase post-boil utilization, while heat loss (via the small thermal mass of a 5-10 gal batch size) will decrease it.

  16. Mike,

    Even though I have been brewing for years, I have never made a high gravity beer. I am thinking about making a 2.5-3 gallon batch of a Belgian Tripel as something to experiment with. I would bottle it and then have access to a nice, strong Belgian ale without occupying precious keg space, plus it will be easier to carbonate properly. My questions are both about yeast.
    1. Any suggestions as to which Wyeast Belgian strain you like for a Tripel?
    2. If it is in the 8.5% range, what kind of fermentation timeline would you use and would I need to repitch yeast to bottle?
    Thank you as always!

    Joe

    • Hey Joe,

      1. I am very partial to 3787 Trappist b/c it’s classic, and also very manipulatable in terms of flavor depending on temp. I have found fermentations at the low end to give really nice dark fruit esters (maybe better for a Dubbel or BDSA) and warmer temps foster more tropical fruit esters and spicy, peppery, roselike alcohols and high notes (probably better for Tripel).
      2. If you plan to bottle condition, something along the lines of a 2-week primary and a couple weeks in a secondary to clarify should be fine (guidelines – listen to your beer, follow gravity readings, etc etc). 8.5% abv isn’t too much for most Trappist-style yeasts, so in the absence of a long secondary (and assuming a couple months of bottle conditioning before drinking) supplementary yeast at bottling probably isn’t necessary (but it is relatively cheap insurance).

      Hope that helps – let us know how it goes!

  17. Hey Michael,

    I brewed up the Boat Bitter this Wednesday (10 gallons into 2 6 gallon carboys). I pitched a healthy dose of 1099 and it’s fermenting away. Although this undoubtedly could go grain to glass in a week or so, should I be patient and wait a while? If so, how long?

    Thanks!

    Greg

    • I’d use gravity and clarity/flocculation as the primary guide – there’s probably not much point in keeping the beer in the carboys after TG is reached and it’s dropped bright (1099 is pretty flocculent), but leaving it a bit longer after it’s packaged certainly shouldn’t hurt. My half of last summer’s batch really started hitting its stride about 3 weeks after brew day.

      https://thebeerengineblog.com/2013/08/28/tasting-notes-boat-bitter/

      YMMV, as I always like to say. Cheers!

  18. Hey Dawson!

    Loved watching you on BTV and now really enjoy reading this blog. Any address or contact info if I ever wanted to send ya or drop off some brews for some review and feedback?

    P.S., 5.2 stabilizer, thought, feelings, comments? I’ve been using it for all my brews but yesterday I finally got some ph test strips and after adding the 5.2 stabilizer to my strike water and testing the ph it read at least 6.2. Maybe I misunderstood the product and tested at the wrong time and after mashing the ph would naturally drop to 5.2 because of the possible acidity of the grain bill? This was just a pretty simple pale ale with Pilsner, Maris otter and c20 so nothing super acidic. Stupidly, I forgot to test the ph again after the mash or during the boil. Was the 5.2 buffer working as it should or should I look more into my water profile and figure out why my ph was so high?

    Thanks in advance!
    John

    • Cheers, John!

      Re: thoughts, feelings, comments on 5.2 stabilizer – I used it for years, it worked pretty well for me, I have since replaced it with plain old CaCl in my mashes. I know folks who use it and like it, but I don’t think it’s a magic bullet. I think it’d be well worth it to look at the water profile in any case … also, just in case the pH strips were of the $3.00 variety, maybe take the 6.2 measurement with a big grain of salt. If mash yield and preboil OG seemed OK, then it probably wasn’t an issue. Hope that helps!

      • Thanks Mike!

        The ph strips were fairly cheap, something like $6 for about 100 strips probably, so I won’t put too much trust into those readings. Yields and gravity readings have been good so I won’t worry a ton as long as the beers continue to turn out well!

  19. Hey Mike,
    I have a question if you have the time and don’t mind. I’ve been AG brewing for about 9 months now. I seem to be (fairly) consistently getting around two points below my target gravity (pre-boil and ultimately original too). It tends to get worse with lighter beers so I’m leaning towards mash ph but not sure. My borough only tests for the federal requirements so I have ph (7.3) but no bi-carbinate level info. I use a charcoal filter for all water. I’m using a 10 gal Polarware kettle w/ false bottom for a mash tun. My strike and sparge calculations always give me my target boil volume so I don’t know if that’s an issue or not. I have three thermometers (Brew-mometer [nearly worthless for me, it seems], glass and digital) and they don’t agree at all so I’m never certain if I’m losing temps during Sacch rest or not. I don’t have a ph meter and I’m sure you’ll recommend one but I wouldn’t know how to necessarily offset my water to compensate. Any advice?

    • Hey Josh,

      Thanks for the question. Seems like this is kind of a two-headed problem: getting a handle on actual efficiency % and perhaps also improving the efficiency %, right? Occam’s razor time!

      1. Calibrate the thermometers: put the digital in a glass of ice water (should read 32F), then use that to calibrate the other two -the Brewmometer should have a hex nut on the back of the dial for calibration; and you’ll know by how much (if at all) the glass is over or under. Even if they’re still off a degree or two, at least there’ll be internal consistency within your system.
      2. If you haven’t already, calibrate the boiler and primary with a marking at the target volumes to make sure that vol. isn’t skewing gravity readings.
      3. Adjust the expected efficiency % in your calculator/software – since the gravity is pretty consistently under by a pretty consistent amount, factoring that into the formulation phase (building in an additional ~4-8 oz of base malt per batch) would help with hitting the target numbers on brew day.
      4. Try adjusting mash pH – that 7.3 pH could be holding things back (especially given what you noted about pale worts). There are lots of ways to skin this cat: salt additions, acids, acid malt … depending on personal preference and the rest of the water profile. (Personally I get a lot of mileage out of CaCl – making sure the calcium level is 50-100 ppm will boost enzyme performance, but YMMV based on water).
      5. Examine other factors – in terms of mash performance, pH doesn’t operate in a vacuum: mill settings, mash duration, use of a mashout, aforementioned Ca levels …

      Also, re: pH meters – they’re very nice, and possibly something you’ll want the longer you brew AG; but they have additional upkeep costs (buffer solutions, the periodic replacement bulb). High-quality (e.g., ColorpHast) test papers are reliable and less expensive than a good digital meter.

      Hope this helps – good luck!

      • Sweet, thanks for the tips! Someone suggested Burton salts. Wouldn’t that have the opposite affect of what I’m looking for? Or is there a style (generally speaking) that would benefit from Burton as opposed to CaCl?

        • Possibly … its CO3 content probably wouldn’t help with the pH, in any case. Burton salts (usually CaCO3 & MgSO4) can be a good addition for hoppy, pale English ales, but I am not an advocate of adding salts without first knowing the mineral content of the base water …

  20. Hey Mike,

    I’ve been a big fan since the Brewing-TV days. Anyways, I had a killer barleywine at Heartland Brewery in NYC and it really made me want to brew one–which I have never done before. I remember the big-beer episode you did way back when and I wondered if you had a current staple all-grain barleywine recipe that you brew yourself? Before I go digging around in books and the web I wanted to ask you first.

    Thanks!
    Ryan

  21. Hi Mike,

    Got a yeast related question if you don’t mind. I recently made a Munich Helles (the reason I asked about efficiency as that came out 4 points under target OG). I used the 2206 Bavarian Lager and started ferment at 53 F. That was 9 days ago and that bad boy has still got VIGOROUS airlock activity. I raised the temp for a D rest 4 days ago thinking it was close to done and it ramped up more. My gut tells me I have bugs now but there shouldn’t have been that much sugar in there for bugs to consume! Is this “normal” behavior for this strain or did I REALLY screw this one up? I’m racking the Schwarzbier I made 2 days later today since it appears to be done. Very confused.

    Thanks (again),
    Josh

    • Airlocks are treacherous as fermentation indicators, especially for lagers, because cold liquid can hold more dissolved gas (CO2 from fermentation) and release it as it warms up (like for a D rest), which can make it look like actual fermentation is happening. Because lager yeast can ferment sugars that ale yeast cannot, plus the slower metabolism at lower temps, longer fermentation times aren’t that unusual for any lager strain (allowing for variances in pitch rate, O2, wort composition, etc etc). Hydrometer readings and tasting the gravity samples are much more reliable than airlock activity – your Helles fermentation doesn’t sound too beyond the pale (no pun intended).

  22. Hello Mr. Dawson
    I’m brewing a RIS this May the 3rd and I’m going to pitch a White labs WLP007 Dry English Ale and a Wyeast 1028 London Ale.
    What are the Pro’s and Cons of having a Starter for one to pitch on brew day and then another starter for the other and pitch on day 2 or have 1 Big starter of both of them?

    your humble follower,
    Chuck

    • Thanks for the question, Chuck.

      single, combined starter:
      pros: simpler, fewer avenues for potential contaminants
      cons: results may be tough to predict & repeat

      separate starters w/ staggered pitches:
      pros: easier to target flavors & attenuation
      cons: more involved, more avenues for potential contaminants

      I have found separate cultures to give a little more control over outcomes, but having said that – I am a fan of the Thunderdome-style approach to blended cultures … the pitch-it-and-forget-it aspect is pretty nice for weekend brewer with little kids.

  23. Hey Mike
    I am a fairly new extract brewer and was curious about your knowledge of yeasties. I have started making my own recipes with small alterations and I made an imperial Cascadian dark ale with 1056 and it was awesome. my LHBS only had a couple options last time I went in and I picked up a smackpack of 1007 and pitched it on top of the same ICDA recipe.
    I did a 1.5L starter and it looked like all the pictures and videos of started I have found online, smelled pretty yeasty, etc. But my SG is 1078. I have zero activity in the fermenter now about 48 hours after pitching and was just curious if it is just really slow to start and I should use patience or if I should pitch something else in on top of it.
    other stuff it was pitched at 66 and the basement where it resides is still sitting in the 60-61 range. Should I move it to a warmer room, shake the carboy and wait or just assume its dead?

  24. Hey Mike!

    I’m going to host a German Smoked Kransky fest at my house in the next couple of months (Australian winter) and i’m going to be casking some beers in corny kegs for the occasion. I really like the look of the “Schloss Dawson Zwei Hundchen Zweimaschverfahren Dunkel-Kellerbier”, i think i’m going to try brew it, my first decoction ever.

    First of all, my LHBS doesn’t have that strain of White Labs yeast, so which Wyeast would you recommend? 2206 Bavarian Lager? I also can’t find German Tradition hops, would Hallertau Mittelfruh be fine?

    How would you go about casking it? Rack to secondary and lager then transfer to the keg with priming solution? I’m also keen on serving it at ambient temperatures, which should be pretty cold, will this style be alright for that?

    Really looking forward to this brew day, i will be doing a blogpost about it for sure, so i’ll let you know how it goes.

    Cheers!
    Oscar

      • Oh and one last question, i’m using a cooler mash tun setup, how would i do the first 35C to protein rest without being able to have it on the heat? Is it necessary?

    • Hey Oscar –

      1. Re: yeast & hops – 2487 would be ideal; barring that, I’d try 2633 (the O-fest Blend) or 2206. Any of the Hallertau variants would be a good sub for Tradition.

      2. Re: casking & serving – it’ll be very good for this method. I’d do a long primary (D reduction & letting yeast flocc out), then rack straight into your serving vessel and carb it w/o lagering. I do forced carb in a corny keg to a low volume; if it’s casked, you’d need a priming solution of some stripe.

      3. Re: mash temps in a cooler setup – if hot water infusions or decoctions aren’t an option, just do a single-temp infusion in the low 150s.

      4. Re: May the fourth be with you – and also with you!

      MD

      • Hey MD, Thanks for the reply!

        Can’t get 2487, so 2633 would work?

        How long a primary would you think? Will be priming with dextrose in the keg, i believe and then serving it at ambient winter temps.

        I can do decoctions, i am a bit worried about scorching, but what the hell. Is the dough in at 35*C necessary? Probably will just do a two step decoction starting at protein rest.

        I asked Chip if you guys ever did a tasting of this, and he said you might have, but i can’t seem to find it anywhere. How did it turn out? Would you change anything?

        Cheers!

  25. Hey Michael,

    I was planning on brewing up a belgian pale using 3655 Belgian Schelde PC yeast. I like the clean almost lager like flavor and slight ester it provides. I cannot find any, however. Do you have an recommendations on a similar substitute?

    Thanks!

    Greg

    • Hey Greg,

      That’s a tough one … personally, I’d try either 3522 fermented cool (low to mid 60s, with a large starter and plenty of O2, to keep esters & phenols low & balanced); or else 1335 fermented a bit warmer (70-ish or so, for some mild esters and that cleaner flavor profile). Good luck!

  26. Hey MD,

    Can you school us on how you nitrogenate your beer? I am upgrading soon, and would love to have some pro-homebrewer insight.

    Thanks!

    Joe

  27. MD, What is your take on summer pale ales with Ginger. I want to brew a low gravity, 27ish IBU pale ale and wanted some aroma/crispness using ginger. Put it in as a late addition or secondary?

    • Either or – I’ve used crystallized/candied ginger that way. Another, more science-y option would be to make a ginger tea and dose samples of the bright beer at varying ratios to figure out what works best for your vision. Hope this helps – let us know how it turns out.

  28. Hey dude, have you ever tried doing a schwarzbier, but with doppelbock style ABV? Is there such a thing? My schwarzbier’s have always been on the dry and light-bodied side. Do you think adding oats to a grain bill for a possible schwarz-doppel-oat-bock would help give it some body? I’ll be using a healthy yeast cake with Munich 2308 from this year’s Oktoberfest.

    Cheers, Marc

    PS: If I brew this concoction this weekend, I’ll follow up with results. Could be a few months in the lagering fridge though.

    • Hey dude,

      Back from a long week at the NHC and checking in, hope I didn’t miss brew day – oats + dark beers is generally delicious in my book, if not quintessentially Bavarian. I have never had a Doppelschwartz that I can recall, but it seems like it should be a thing. I hope you made it so!

  29. Hey Dawson

    Any thoughts about this new Wyeast 3203 “quick sour” culture? I love my well aged sour beers but sometimes (like right after I move, no inventory) I want a quick sour beer (grain to glass in less than 2 months). It’d be cool to get your thoughts on this Wyeast strain if you’ve had any experience with it and quick sour beers in general.

    Thanks

    Sam

    • Hey Sam,

      With the disclaimer that I don’t intend for this blog to be a Wyeast advertisement – I have yet to brew with 3203 personally (I hope to fix that as soon as LHBS gets smack packs!) but it’s been trialed for quite a while and the dudes in the lab are geeked about it. It’s not meant for a traditional lambic schedule (extensive aging, barreling, etc), and I’m told that it has performed best with periodic O2 starting on about day 2 or 3 of fermentation, but none prior to pitching. I have definitely experienced quick souring effects when reusing cakes (again, not a traditional regimen!) – this is along the same lines, but with better repeatability and consistency, since the population of bugs and yeast change so significantly in a recycled sour cake.

      Let’s compare notes when we try it after your move …

  30. Start off with the obligatory fan-dom portion: huge fan of yours; your brew session videos got me brewing and continue to inspire (I religiously watch your decoction mash brew session and big beer video the night before every brew day (sub-parens: would love to see more brew day walkthroughs like those even as a semi-experienced AG brewer now)).

    On to the question: I’ve been all-grain brewing for a year and a half and have always used the all-grain kits, or used the grain bills from said kits for recipes; how does one learn the differences between malt flavors to be able to formulate original recipes? Does the dry grain taste match its fermented flavor? Same question for yeast flavor impact.

    I’d love to know the recipe side as much as I know the technique and sciency-goodness side, but don’t have the time or money to do single-variable brewing experiments.

    Thanks!
    Scott

    • Cheers, Scott! I’ll try to answer point by point:

      How does one learn the differences between malt flavors to be able to formulate original recipes?

      Practice, experimentation, and taking notes! I know you mentioned constraints of time and money, but this is an area where little one-gallon trial batches and/or joining a homebrew club are very beneficial for doing test batches. Taking notes on commercial beers for which some or all of the grain/hop bill is known is also a good way to learn about and identify those various flavor contributors.

      Does the dry grain taste match its fermented flavor?

      There are so many biochemical changes that happen on the way from kernels of malt to glass of beer, I don’t think it’s really accurate to say the flavors line up perfectly, or come through 100% intact, although facets definitely remain. But …

      Same question for yeast flavor impact.

      … so many aroma and flavor compounds in beer are created or affected by yeast, so yeast strain (and all of the other things that touch it, like ferm temp, pitch rate, etc.) will definitely regulate what you will perceive of the other ingredients. I love little trial batches or splitting up larger volumes of wort with a brew club and trying a different strain in each carboy … there’s no substitute for firsthand brewing and tasting experience.

      Hope this helps – cheers!

  31. M.D. I need your help. I just got my keggles made and I’m itching to do some experimenting. I would like to do 3 different yeasts for a 12-13 gallon batch done in 3 carobys. Is there a style of beer you would recommend for an experiment of this nature and or a recipe. My gut is telling me to do something belgian with T-33 3787 and another style of yeast that is similar and do it SMASH style so I can get a better grasp of what grain/hop I like best.
    As an FYI I am on a bitter kick as of late and the boat bitter is one of my favorites, but I can’t keep temps below maybe 66 ambient at this point right now and I would like to keep it fairly simple without assuming I hate a yeast because I fermented too hot etc…
    Anywho, any help you have would be awesome and I am a huge fan of the nerd-bombs you drop when chip (chap) and you get together.
    Dave.

  32. To: M. Dawson,

    Just a quick question about decoction mashing, can it be done with a cooler mash tun and can it be done by making Belgian style Ales?

    Thank you much,
    Don M Perry II

    P.S. Love the videos and I’ve gained a ton of knowledge. Keep up the work.

      • Hey, Oscar,
        Thank you for the reply, guess I don’t really need a ss mash tun after all. I’m looking forward to a very long brew day.

        Thanks Bro.

        • No problem dude! The one thing I will say is to take more mash than you think you need when decocting, you don’t have to put it all back in and you’ll be more likely to hit those temps!

          Cheers!

          • Thank you again, Oscar. Now, can you do a double decoction? I have been told it is harder to control the temperatures in a cooler mash tun, what is your opinion?

            Thanks again and Cheers!

            • You could do triple if you wanted!

              I think the one problem I had was that my copper tubing manifold made it hard to stir in the boiled mash in because it would get caught, meaning that I had less heat dispersion, but if you were using a false bottom you wouldn’t have that problem at all!

              I think as long as you put the lid on in between decoctions you shouldn’t have to worry too much about controlling temperatures.

              Cheers!

  33. Dawson,

    I’ve been thinking about giving sour beers a try and I recall from the BTV sour beer episode that it’s recommended to dedicate a second piece of any plastic equipment, specifically to sours, as imperfection in the plastic can harbor bacteria.

    I can only assume that “sour only” glass and stainless wouldn’t be necessary but I wanted to get your thoughts, first, to find out what additional equipment I may need.

    Your opinion is very much appreciated.

    • Hey Clint,

      I think you’ve got it – non-porous materials (e.g., glass & stainless, as you mention) can be cleaned thoroughly and used interchangeably for sours & non-sours; it’s easier for bugs to hide in porous materials (plastic buckets & racking tubes, siphon & tapline tubing, keg O-rings, etc) so I think it’s safer to have a dedicated version of those pieces of equipment. Some may debate the need to have a second set of bottling gear since the contact time is relatively short, but I’m of the ounce-of-prevention school …

      • I typically am, as well. I’m glad that you mentioned the O rings and draft lines, too; I hadn’t even thought of them.

        Thanks a lot, for the help!

  34. Hey Dawson! I brewed a Grand Cru from a NB kit that has been in secondary for 2 years. I am ready to bottle but am concerned about getting it to carbonate correctly. Would you recommend pitching additional yeast in the bottling bucket along with the priming sugar? After this long I want to make sure I get it right!

    Thanks for all you do. I enjoy reading the blog and you guys basically taught me how to brew brew and improve my game via BTV and NB videos. Cheers!

    • Cheers, Jon!

      After a two year secondary, I would definitely add a bit of fresh yeast at bottling – it’s just for generating CO2, not flavor, so whatever ale/lager strain is cheap and/or on hand should work fine.

  35. Hi Mike,

    I recently tried your double decoction mash regimen from your BTV episode from years before. I’ve done my share of lagers and I’ve usually seen fermentations that look pretty similar to ales and take off well under 24 hours. Unfortunately, the last two beers that I’ve double decocted, the lagers seemed to experience considerable lag time. The krausen is abnormally thin, too. I’m wondering if the protein rest that I did (30-40 minutes at 122 degrees F) might have damaged the head retention and I’m just witnessing more head retention during formation. This has happened with Best Malz Pilsner Malt and with an unknown brand of Munich Dunkel (9 L).

    My only other conclusion might be that I’m underpitching. While I’m usually dead on with my infusion mashes, I’m getting ridiculously high conversions with decoctions (95%+ vs. 80%). If I’ve grown enough yeast to do 1.045 lager, but I end up with a 1.052 lager before pitching would it out of the ordinary to expect a 2.5 day lag? I’m shooting my wort with 30-60 seconds of oxygen before innoculation, too.

    Thoughts? Do you experience a lag time with beers that go through decoction mashing?

    • Hi Diggs,

      Thanks for the chewy questions!

      Personally I have not noted a difference in lag times between decoction-mashed and non-decocted lagers. The mash schedule/technique obviously impacts the fermentation, but in terms of lag time it would definitely be secondary to factors like pitch rate, wort temp, and O2. You noted a big bump in efficiency with decocted vs. infusion-mashed batches on your system; in the example you gave, an actual 1.052 OG is 16% above a planned 1.045 OG, so if the starter was prepped for 1.045 it’d be underpitched by a fair bit, which would lead one to expect a longer lag phase.

      Re: protein rest – maybe? For the last several years I’ve used a combo protease/beta amylase rest in the low 130sF to favor HMW proteins, mainly with Best or Weyermann. Having said that, I think it’s important to compare apples to apples – the selection of yeast strain governs a lot of how the krausen looks and behaves. FWIW, I can’t recall a lager fermentation at my house with a krausen that resembled that of a Hefeweizen strain or a top-cropping British or Trappist ale yeast – anecdotal, but I’m not ready to attribute it to the mash.

      Different strains will make different krausens (although, having said *that*, all strains of lager yeast are more closely related to each other than any strain of ale yeast is to another strain of ale yeast, so the differences from lager krausen to lager krausen are likely to be less dramatic) and it isn’t necessarily a good indication of body/mouthfeel or head retention in the finished beer. How have the decocted beers fared since primary?

  36. Hi Mike,
    Probably irrelevant but i am planning on a smoked barley wine brew day (in the neighborhood of 1.090ish with manuka smoked malt) in the next few days and am considering parti-gyling the brew and i was wondering if you had a calculator to sort of approximate the small beer runnings and if there was any other advice to be had on brewing a big beer.
    Cheers mate

  37. Hey Mike –

    With the state fair bringing an end to summer and apple season around the corner I want to try my hand at some cider and since you’ve never steered me wrong with beer or wine (you’re BTV episode was great help) I was wondering if you have any advice? Like a basic beginner method/recipe; I’m planning to get fresh pressed from an orchard, is there an apple variety you recommend?

    Thanks for the help.
    Carl

    • Hey Carl,

      As far as local varieties, I like Cortland and McIntosh, personally, but I know many orchards in the area have good juice.

      As far as other advice – I am a nontraditionalist and like ale yeasts like 3068, 3711, and 1968. They don’t dry the cider out to a champagne-like degree (which I prefer), and add some interesting esters to the finished profile. That’s just me, though.

      Good luck, and let us know how it comes out!

      • The two local orchards I stopped at (Afton and Aamodts) did not have preservative free juice and I had plans to stop out at Pine Tree orchard because I knew theirs was, but before making it there I found some at Costco (not the Kirkland juice, they had a fresh pressed cider from I think Midwest Orchards; I wrote it down in my brew day notes).

        I picked up 3 gallons and used the French Saison yeast (3711); no additional sugars. Since I don’t have my notes on me I’m not sure of the exact OG and FG but I’m pretty sure it was around 1.036 and 0.998. It sat in the secondary for a couple months before I bottled it (bottle conditioning).

        The cider is dry and crisp with a slight tartness but is a bit lacking in body and flavor. I plan to get a kegging system sometime this year so for next fall’s cider I will try back-sweetening it and bottling from the keg.

        Thanks for your suggestion on the yeast, I’m already looking forward to trying cider again and doing a side by side with the 3711 and 1968.

  38. M-Deazy,

    Tonight will be my first double-decoction marzen with a beard; inquiring minds want to know: how does the epicness of a brewer’s beard influence the maillard reactions in each decoction? One could surmise the resulting ABV with a beard is at least doubled, but I’m coming up short on google results for “manly beards and their effect on the maillard reactions in German lagers whilst decocting.”

    Please advise.

    Cheers,
    Scott

    • Well Scott … beards are great for blending in with the crowd at a brewers conference, and they look hella metal with snotsicles/icicles while carrying a double-bitted axe through a dark pine forest (or, you know, cross-country skiing on a golf course), but I am not totally convinced of a linear correlation to Maillard reactions in a decoction mash since Dan Carey (New Glarus, mustache only) and Ashleigh Carter (Prosit, no facial hair) – to name a couple off the top of my head – turn out fearsome lagers. In any case, have fun with your brew session and please drink a stein of Marzen for me when it’s ready!

  39. Man, super excited to have found your blog today (as if it were a secret?!) Used to catch you every week on BTV. Always used to push me to try something new and even pushed me to go all grain. Brewing tapered off a bit when BTV ended because I just didn’t have time or inspiration to find something new.

    Now that I’ve found this, brewing’s going to pick back up. I can foresee it. Thanks, man.

  40. Mr Dawson,
    What adjustments to your Boat Bitter recipe might you make for a slightly more bodyish Autumn/Early Winter version?
    Thank you, sir.

  41. Hi Michael,

    I just got done kegging an English pale. It started at 1.055 and ended at 1.006, well below my anticipated calculations. I made a 2 liter starter of British ale ii and added yeast nutrient. Oxygenation was done by rocking the Carboy. Have you experienced this level of attenuation with British ale ii?

  42. Hi, Michael! Always enjoy your commentary and like your straight to the point recipes that don’t rely on over-sweetening the beer with non-traditional grists or high single infusion mash temperatures for rubes who don’t like beer. Can’t stand seeing Pilsner and Helles recipes that are anything but 100% Pilsner malt and don’t involve a step mash to dry it out (and I’m also of the camp that believes cara* specialty malts could never substitute the flavor and color adjustment from a proper decoction mash).

    I will start with a disclaimer that I have always been averse to man-made chemicals.

    I noticed in one of your old BrewingTV episodes you like to keep a keg filled with sanitizer solution handy for coating everything with commercial acid wash. Was curious what your opinion would be on the following topic: “non-mainstream” traditional sanitation.

    I have been homebrewing for two years (43 batches) but have a lot of fermentation experience from years of making wild-fermented sauerkraut and sour milk, and my wife, originally from Romania, brought a lot of knowledge from her father who was a wine maker and distilled his own plum brandy from prunes in their garden.

    For sanitation (kettle, bottles, siphon – everything) I have never used anything other than sodium carbonate (washing soda) and rinsing with boiling water.

    I have never ever had any sign of infection. Maybe I am [and my kitchen are] very clean? Who knows. My empirical evidence shows you do not need to use a commercial sanitizer, which were designed to get into hard-to-reach places of large-scale brewing equipment that really doesn’t apply to the home brewer in my experience. Or maybe I just have a really short lag time because I use Jamil’s yeast pitch formula.

    Convenience? Of course my method could be seen as requiring more due-diligence (such as I thoroughly clean my equipment right after use and before I sanitize with the washing soda, maybe some skip this?) but I never felt comfortable when I read the suggestion that you can “just leave the sanitizer bubbles in your equipment before use” no, thank you. One of the reasons I started homebrewing was to know exactly what was in the beer, which is my case is water and all its local industrial contamination and agricultural runoff, malt, hops, pork gelatin and probably traces of sodium carbonate!

    Have you ever brewed a batch without using a harsh sanitizer chemical, and if so, what was your experience like?

    I have a belief that people who get infections in their beer who use sanitizer solutions are wiping out any helpful bacteria who might otherwise overwhelm superbugs immune to the sanitizer lurking about.

    [stepping off soapbox now]

    Best regards,
    Kenneth

  43. Hi Michael

    Always been a fan of your work – like the blend of ‘traditional’ brewing styles with whitty commentary.

    I’ve started my own blog (you have been an inspiration in a way https://gardenofedenbrewing.wordpress.com/) and enjoying brewing classic styles (I consider my self a malt man more than a hop guy) with (local) New Zealand ingredients. As a fellow fan of Saisons I highly suggest the use of Nelson Sauvin as a dry hop with a classic Saison – the ‘wine’ of the hop complements the spice well.

    Anywho, keep up the great work, will follow with interest,

    Cheers
    Sam

  44. Michael,

    I would like to know more about the assertive toffee aroma and flavor in Samuel Smith’s beers reportedly from the yeast. If I were to use the 1469 strain (correct me if this may not be a similar yeast used by their brewery) and I also made the assumption that the toffee effect was created by above-average residual diacetyl mixed with crystal maltiness (again, feel free to contradict me here) – could I achieve [a pleasant] toffee, not a toffee-bomb, by simply using the right yeast, or do I need to stay well below “diacetyl rest” temperatures and even consider an open fermentation? If it’s just the yeast with no other variables, does this strain simply refuse to clean up diacetyl? I would be very interested to hear about your experience with this yeast. Square-shaped fermenter made of stone not required I hope.

    (I apologize for my dependent-clause style, read too much Joyce and Kafka in college which made me believe there’s no such thing as a run-on sentence so long as I can keep my constant detours within the same thought.)

    Regards,
    Kenneth

    • Hey Kenneth,

      Joyce and Kafka reader here too. I think 1469 plus around 10% (give or take) English crystal malt in the 50L-80L range would be a great starting point; if you have the option to do an open (or open-ish) fermentation that will also help increase some desirable esters. I’ve had good results with that general scheme using English pale malts and a mash temp in the lower 150sF. 1469 is pretty good at throwing diacetyl – I would still advise a d-rest, or at least a slightly protracted primary) to reduce it a bit; it probably won’t take it all the way down below flavor threshold.

      • Thank you! The [quasi] open fermentation really made a significant improvement, I am very pleased with the results. I went with the conservative approach of affixing an empty airlock for the first three days of active fermentation, then filling the airlock with water once the (very lovely and rocky like none I’ve ever produced before) krausen subsides.

        I decided to brew my trusty Fuller’s ESB (5.5% draught) clone this time around since I have made it so many times the same way with closed fermentation in the past and had the overall impression of that beer in recent memory to compare it to.

        95% Fawcett Optic
        5% Simpsons Dark Crystal
        33.4% UK Northdown 60′
        33.3% UK Northdown 15′
        33.3% UK Kent Goldings 5′
        equal amount UK Goldings for “dry hop” at wort chill

        60′ single infusion at 149F, 10′ at 170F. Ferment between 65-68F for two fortnights, gelatin for four days.

  45. I have searched the lands far and wide to find Wyeast shirts and hats, is there anyplace that i can buy these rare artifacts?

  46. Hey Dawson,

    Sorry to bug you again. I wanted to piggyback on Meyers question about stuck ferments. You answered a lot of my questions, in response to their questions, but I’m curious about the grist composition end of it, If you have a second. I would really appreciate some insight.

    I brewed a stout that’s stalled on me at 1.036 (OG 1.083). The test samples taste great, but I was shooting for a FG in the neighborhood of the mid 1.020’s.

    I did a 3 gallon BIAB batch and the grist contained what I’m thinking, now, may have been a fairly high percentage of unmalted grain (roasted barley @ 1.25lbs + flaked barley @ 1lbs + carapils @ 025lbs = around 18-19%). Between that and over shooting my mash temp at the beginning of the mash (started at 158-159 for the first 10 minutes or so before ambient garage temps brought it down to my target 155), I’m a little concerned that this might be my fault and not the yeast.

    I wanted to get your take on it, though.

    if the fault is mine, what tips would you suggest for a jet black, super roasty stout with a moderate FG?

    I really appreciate the help, yet again.

    • Clint and Mike, a friend of mine and I have both had this happen to multiple stouts and porters of ours on separate occasions and have calculated that it is the gravity points contributed by the roasted barley. I once kept a stout in primary for six weeks, roused the yeast and pitched additional fresh yeast after four weeks then moved the fermenter to a room that is 80F for two weeks and only went from 63 to 66% attenuation after all that effort. Mike, as a person who I imagine has brewed lots of stouts in your many years of experience and given your heritage, what tips could you offer to fully attenuate when brewing with very highly kilned malts like chocolate malt and roasted barley?

      • Also wanted to mention that it is a good idea to wait it out because I had two batches that over-carbonated in the bottle as the yeast finally consumed those harder to metabolize points. Not sure if it was a result of the biological change in the yeast to consume the priming sugar making the remaining sugars accessible or just the rousing of the bottling, but either way if you plan to bottle condition an under-attenuated batch you need to monitor the fill line in the neck for the first two days to observe if there is a mini krausen collar forming (active fermentation) – the best action is to “vent” the caps quickly within a day or two if you decide to be brave and not dump it.

    • Hey Clint,

      The % of flaked barley and Carapils plus higher-ish mash temp may favor a fairly high FG, but even so, I am not sure that those factors could cause a sub 60% attenuation on their own. Was the base malt enzymatically strong and freshly milled? Any other roasted grain, malted or otherwise? It would be helpful to know more about the fermentation to get a complete picture: expected aa% range of the chosen yeast, pitch rate, O2, temp, etc; as well as any irregularities with things like lag phase or fermentation aromas.

      • thanks for getting back to me so quickly. As for the base malt, my local place seems to move a fair amount of product so I wouldn’t think that the base malt would have been old or anything. I used Maris Otter for the base and it was milled the day before brew day.

        I’ll give you as much info as I can without going overboard.

        The grist; 10 lbs, Maris Otter, 0.75 lbs crystal 60, 0.25lbs crystal 120, 0.25 chocolate, 1.25lbs roasted barley 1 lbs flaked barley, and 0.25lbs carapils.

        the mash; we are on well water with a water softener and I recall reading in John Palmer’s book not to used water softener water, because of the sodium. So I usually buy gallon jugs of water, typically distilled water. I mashed the aforementioned grist with 7.5 gallons with 1tsp of gypsum. added. target mash temp was 155, which was initially over shot, but did come down. at the suggestion of someone on homebrew talk, I have been using a probe style thermometer on a wire like you would use for a roast in the oven. it’s hand that I can monitor temps while keeping the kettle closed but it can be frustrating too since the probe moves around and I get some inconsistent readings. I have a feeling that may be partly to blame. mashed out at 170 for 10 min then lautered/pulled the BIAB.

        60 minute boil with 1oz Chinook at 60′, 0.5 oz ea of Chinook, centennial, and cascade at 15′ and then another 0.5oz of each at flameout.

        chilled to 65-68, hit it with some pure 02, and pitched a 1 liter starter of white labs cali ale (001). fermented at 62 degrees for 9 days then gave it a 5 day rest at room temp before racking to secondary.

        had pretty vigorous fermentation, the first three days and continued to see activity in the airlock until day 8. so I was a little surprised when the gravity ready was so high.

        I didn’t notice any off aromas during fermentation or in any of the samples I’ve taken. They’ve all tasted very good, too, aside from being a little sweet, obviously.

        I’m wondering if I didn’t overshoot the mash by even more than I thought. I might switch back to my fryer-style clip-on thermometer for a while until I get a kettle with one built in.

        Thanks again, Mike.

          • Clint, I don’t mean to keep polluting this blog with my silly points of view but I couldn’t help but notice we had the same target mash temperature for our single infusion mash (155F) and had the same issue of low attenuation and, again, as I mentioned above, we both had a lot of roasted barley in our recipe.

            I’m starting to question this “clone” recipe I took from the BYO 250 magazine (actually, I question a lot of them in there) and I am now thinking I will try a mash temperature of 150F for recipes with a lot of roasted barley or chocolate malt because these types of highly kilned malts seem particularly sensitive to creation of unfermentable sugars in the wort I feel in my experience brewing very dark beers, so reducing the mash temperature should avoid this issue.

        • Well, Clint, given all that – not sure I have a clear answer, but a few more things to consider:

          Calcium level in mash may have been too low, which could have inhibited amylase activity. Back of napkin math: 1 tsp CaSO4 in 7.5 gal distilled water would give about 40 ppm Ca, which is a bit below the recommended minimum of 50 ppm for optimal mash activity.

          Mash pH too high? I guess we didn’t talk about this before, but if the roast grain + CaSO4 wasn’t enough to drop the (presumably neutral) pH of the mash water down into the 5.2 neighborhood, that may have hampered the enzymes as well.

          Pitch rate may have been low. Depending on exactly what the culture was starting out at, 1 liter of starter wort may not have been enough volume to create enough growth for a big wort.

          You could do a forced-ferment test – pull off 8-10 oz from the fermentor, inoculate it with a good pinch of dry yeast in a pint glass/graduated cylinder/whatever, cover with foil, let it ferment at a warm temp for a couple days, and re-measure the gravity. If the SG drops, then the problem was likely with the pitching culture, and could possibly be corrected by pitching fresh yeast into the main batch; if it doesn’t drop, then the issue was likely with wort composition and/or mash.

          Not sure I subscribe to the high FG due to high % of roasted grain theory – I think some of the other factors are more likely, and if anything, the acidity of ~10% roasted grain would have helped the mash pH. It hasn’t been my experience that dark worts are inherently more difficult to attenuate.

          If you think the mash temp may have been off, due to the thermometer or overshooting or both, that would probably still be the first thing to rule out/correct for the next batch.

          • thanks for the guidance, again, Mike (and that you for the input, too, Kenneth).

            I am going to ditch the probe thermometer on my next batch, regardless. The inconsistent readings are nerve-wracking, if nothing else.

            I had meant to question ph in my original question as that had been a concern, prior to brew day. shame on me for not researching it, more. It sounds like that could definitely be an issue that I need to correct.

            I still consider myself somewhat of a beginner. So determining a cell count on yeast and calculating water composition for minerals is still a bit advanced for me.

            what would you suggest as far as salt additions for a batch like this? I would like to try this recipe again.

            also, is there a good formula for calculating cell count in a yeast starter?

            thanks again.

            • While my roasted grain theory might just be a superstition because I’ve never had a pale beer under-attenuate on me, I stand by my statement that 155F is a high mash temperature to use as a single infusion temp without a lower beta sacch rest preceeding it. 155F is already considered within the alpha sacch rest zone favoring creation of unfermentable sugars. If a sweet beer is desired and a homebrewer is a little unsure of their ability to stay below their target mash temperature, I would recommend a lower target of 152 or even 150F, which is still in the upper range of beta saccharification considering most target 140’s for favoring beta sacch. The chosen yeast strain has some influence too on what remains after fermentation is over.

              I’m also one to have my nose in spreadsheets before breaking out my brewing equipment so I can say at least in my case it was unlikely due to improper mash pH as I measure every gypsum, baking soda and salt addition to the tenth of a gram based on current municipal water profile information (I call in periodically to the Dept. of Environmental Protection to get an update on seasonal pH and other parameters to compare against the averages they report annually) which happens to be soft surface water that is easy to treat using Palmer’s great RA spreadsheet. (Yes, it takes a lot of baking soda to make dark beers here.)

              As for enzyme activity, though I always use an iodine test for presence (or absence I should say) of starch, I find this impossible with opaque worts like stout and porter – it just looks black no matter what the starch content so I can’t say if I had a full conversion after 60′ or not for stouts. Mike, how do you suggest I measure this with dark worts?

              My yeast calculations are based off of a slightly modified mrmalty.com (Jamil Z.) the only real difference is I believe the production date of dry yeast is two years prior to the printed expiration date and not one year as he states, I otherwise take his calculations as the final word on cell counts required so I might even be over-pitching a bit based on that compensation formula of viability loss in addition to the fact that I rehydrate carefully, adjust based on measured OG and volume and I’m using a laboratory thermometer.

              To throw in yet another set of variables and muddy the waters, my friend who has had attenuation issues with dark beers is brewing partial mash with extract and he will only use liquid yeast from Wyeast… there’s a plug for you. My recipes have been all grain however and I favor dry yeast from Fermentis because I can’t always brew when I want and I’m mostly forced to mail order ingredients because my closest homebrew store is way out in Brooklyn and I’m in Queens with no car (for environmental conservation reasons, not because I don’t like cars – I think it would be pretty neat to have a concentrated solar dish powering a charger for an electric car like a Tesla, but I digress).

  47. MD,

    I recently decided to take the plunge into lager brewing. Which may be a huge mistake seeing as I have no temp control or previous lager experience. I do have Early spring in Chicago on my side as my garage has been sitting at 52 degrees for the past two weeks and I can get it to lager temps with a couple bags of ice. So who did I turn to for a recipe? Michael Dawson himself by way of a 2013 Growler Magazine article “Maibock: Welcome the Spring”. Which brings me to my question. In the article you call for a 60 minute boil. All of my research, specifically when using pilsner malt (I am using 85% Wyermann Floor Malted Bohemian Pilsner Malt) calls for a 90 minute boil to avoid/reduce DMS. So I am wondering if this is something I should be concerned with, or if it is something that is not as large of a problem on a homebrew scale? To refresh your memory the recipe is 85% pils, 7.5% CaraHell & 7.5% Munich with Sterling hops at 60 & 15 minutes and fermented with Wyeast 2206.

    Thank you Sir!

    Lucas

    • Hey Lucas,

      Many folks whose opinions I respect immensely advocate a 90 minute boil for worts with a high proportion of Pils malt; so maybe don’t listen to me. I have personally not seen DMS problems from Pils worts with a vigorous 60 minute boil, although that could have something to do with my wider-than-deep boil kettle and high boiloff rate and may not be applicable to most systems. I don’t think it would hurt to add to your boil time, just keep the hop additions at their appointed times/lengths.

  48. Miss seeing you on BTV. Just watched an episode where you said something was like “reading the rosetta stone on the Millennium Falcon” (in regards to working on a pro series kit of one of Surly’s beers) and I knew exactly what you meant. I appreciated your blending of historical and sic fi analogies. Ive learned a lot from your videos and you are awesome to listen to. thanks!

  49. MD!

    Let me begin by stating that I’m a huge fan of your work, both in video and blog formats. I’ve learned a great deal from you and have gotten a lot of entertainment along the way.

    I’m having an issue in my homebrewery that I really want to nail down. Many of the pale, hoppy beers that I brew end up tasting the same, despite significant variations in recipe, hopping schedule and variety, and yeast strain. Every one smells great in the primary when dry hops first go in, but by the time I pull my hydro sample to check FG, they have a strong, distinct aroma and flavor to them that completely dominates the hops, even when heavily late-and dry-hopped. I have no BJCP cred, but I know I’ve never tasted a commercial beer with this character. It comes across to me as harshly woodsy, earthy, musty, herbal, or vegetal, depending on the day or the mood I’m in, and not in a pleasant way. I recently submitted an IPA to a competition and both judges detected diacetyl, although it’s never come across buttery or butterscotchy to me.

    I really don’t think this is a sanitation issue, as I’m rather obsessive about that, my FGs are stable, and I don’t detect any sourness. My system isn’t entirely closed after the boil, but I’m pretty rigorous and careful about the way I handle yeast and equipment. I’m also pretty careful about pitching rates, yeast health, and wort oxygenation. I have recently been focusing on pitching and fermenting for the first few days at 62-64F, then ramping up to 66-68F once thing slow, as I thought this could get me a cleaner beer. Could that cool pitching temp possibly be stressing my ale yeasts (this has happened with 1272, 1056, 1099, and 1764 Pacman) and causing them to produce more diacetyl than they normally would? I’ve also been trying to turn beers over in the 2-week range from brew day to serving, so I suppose I may not be giving them adequate time to clean up after themselves.

    Sorry for the long post. I’d appreciate any insight you can offer.
    Matt

    • Hey Matt – sorry for the late reply.

      Are all affected batches dry-hopped? Does the character change or age out? I’m thinking this may be a combo of too-short conditioning times and dry hop protocol. I could see 1099 leaving a little diacetyl present, but generally those pitch and ferm temps should not be a problem given adequate time allowed for the slower metabolism … 2 week turnarounds are definitely possible, but the beers will be different at 4-6 weeks. How bright do you let the beer drop prior to dry hopping? At what temp & for how long do dry hops stay in contact?

      • Hey, thanks for getting back to me!

        Every one of these batches was dry-hopped except for one, which was your own Boat Bitter with 1099. I have tried a couple batches since writing this question to test things out. I brewed a low-hopped blonde ale to allow any off-flavors to show through and it was nice and clean. I also brewed a pretty heavily hopped rye IPA and noted the same character when it was very fresh, then left the country for 2 weeks of cold conditioning and when I came back it was amazing. So this is not a universal problem in my brewery, and it does appear to age out. But the odd thing is that it’s not consistent; I’ve had some batches taste great right out of the primary, and others have this harsh woodsy/grassiness.

        I also have suspected that my dry-hopping technique could be the culprit. I’ve gotten away from secondaries because they seem like a good opportunity for oxidation and contamination without any real benefit if the beer is only on the yeast for one more week. So I’ll usually just chuck my dry hops right into the primary around day 5 to 7 after I’ve ramped the temp up to the high 60s, let them sit for another 5 to 7 days, then cold crash the primary, add gelatin, and rack nice clear beer into the keg.

        It just crossed my mind that this may be from dry-hopping too warm. I’ve decided to test this theory by dropping the double IPA I have in primary down to ~63F before adding the dry hops, and I’m going to do two smaller additions rather than one big dump. No results from that theory yet.

        Love to hear any further thoughts on this. Thanks man!

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