The Evolution of a HomeBrewer

When I began homebrewing I started pretty basic. I had a 3 gallon stockpot, a kitchen stove and one 5 gallon glass carboy. I think I had a racking cane and some pvc tubing as well. My first batch was an extract pale ale kit from my local homebrew shop. I followed the instructions and the beer turned out pretty good. Since then I’ve had a few batches that were less than stellar, and at least one that I had to dump down the toilet. I’ve also upgraded my equipment and my process a bit since that first batch. My first upgrade was to a larger boil kettle, it was a 7 gallon turkey fryer that could barely contain a full 6-6.5 gallon boil without boiling over. I quickly realized how much I needed a wort chiller at that point and purchased a copper immersion chiller soon after. I have also acquired an outdoor propane burner, Erlenmyer flask, stir plate, another carboy, a chest freezer for fermentation, built a mash tun out of an igloo cooler, kegerator out of a mini fridge, and most recently upgraded to a converted keg for my boil kettle.

This journey has been great and, for the most part, I love the beer I make now. Unfortunately, I have terrible palate memory, and my palate wasn’t nearly as developed several years ago when I was making a lot of these changes to my brewing process. I want to know if these “upgrades” are truly worth the extra money and time. To learn this I will be brewing the the same extract recipe many many times making one “upgrade” to my process at every brew session. Each one of these beers will, of course, be tasted and evaluated by me, but I will also send each batch to at least one brewing competition in order to receive unbiased feedback from trained judges about the beers.

I will start as basic as I can. I will brew a partial boil extract batch on my stove top, top it up with cold water in the fermenter, pitch rehydrated dry yeast and ferment it using no temperature control on my counter top or in a closet somewhere in my house.

My tentative schedule of “upgrades”:
1. Partial boil using late extract addition
2. Do a full boil outside on the propane burner
3. Use an immersion chiller
4. Use liquid yeast instead of dry yeast
5. Make a yeast starter
6. Ferment the beer in a temperature controlled environment

One part of the process I will not be testing are the effects of cleaning and sanitation. Everybody should know how important it is to keep equipment clean and sanitized, and I don’t want to brew five gallons of infected beer in order to prove it. Please make suggestions about any process upgrades I have forgotten or that you would like to see tested in the comments below.

-Beer Crab


Apres Ski

300 Suns is a new local brewery in my area and they are hosting homebrew competitions throughout the year.  The winner of each competition gets their beer brewed on their commercial system and served in the brewery tasting room.  The current competition theme is winter, and I had been struggling to figure out what I wanted to brew.  That is until the other day when I was thinking about my college drinking days.  My favorite beer to drink during the long Bozeman Montana winters was a strong scotch ale from Kettlehouse Brewing Co. called Cold Smoke.  The brewery graciously shared the commercial recipe with a homebrewer who posted it  here.  I plugged that recipe into BeerSmith and this is the recipe I brewed up.

Expected Specs
Volume: 5 gal
OG: 1.066
FG: 1.019
ABV: 6.2%
IBU: 13
SRM: 20.5
Boil Time: 120 min

Grain Bill
11.67 lbs American 2-row
5.1 oz Crystal 120
3.2 oz Black Malt
1.4 oz Roasted Barley

.2 oz German Magnum @110 min
.28 oz East Kent Goldings @ Flameout

3.4 oz Dark Brown Sugar added in boil @ 30 min
.5 tsp Irish Moss @ 15 min

WLP 028 Edinburgh Ale

Tap Water-Longmont, CO

Single Infusion @ 155 for 1 hour


9/14/2014 Brewed by myself

Collected as much wort as my brewpot could handle, 7+ gallons, so I could boil for 2 hours and end up with 5 gallons or so.  This, combined with some brewday drinking, caused a nice little boilover.  I topped up again with cold water from the hose, a little more than a gallon I think, and continued with the boil.

Due to the topping up with hose water my OG before heading to the fermenter was 1.052.  14 points lower than what I was shooting for.  Oh well, it should still taste good.

I chilled down to 64 F and pitched the 3L yeast starter I had made three days prior.  I set the chest freezer to 66 F to let the fermentation free rise and get started.

9/15/2014 I checked the fermenter before heading to work this morning and it was already bubbling way very strongly 10 hours after pitching.

9/16/2014 I checked on the fermenter this morning and found this mess.IMG_0452
The yeast was a bit more vigorous than anticipated and blew the airlock.  I refilled the airlock with star san and hoped for the best.

9/29/2014  I bottled today.  The final gravity ended up being about 1.006, for a final alcohol content of 6% ABV.  It tasted good coming out of the fermentor.  Hopefully it carbonates in time for the 300 Suns collabeeration competition.

Finally Brewing Again

Hi All,
It was a busy Summer. Between an engagement, an unexpected move across town, and a few other surprises I haven’t had a chance to brew since late May. And, since I plan for this blog to be about brewing and beer in general, it has been difficult to find subjects to write about. Last weekend (Finally!) I was able to get out into the garage and make some beer. I haven’t been able to get enough of these session IPAs this summer, notably: Stone Go To, Firestone Walker Easy Jack, Lagunitas Daytime, and Boulevard Pop-up. So I decided to brew one. I have the recipe with notes here.
Soon I’ll be starting a series of posts that will attempt to chronicle a homebrewer’s typical progression and advancement through the hobby. I plane to brew the same brewing kit from the same supplier every time and change one or two things in my process to document exactly what affect they have on the beer. If anybody has a suggestion for a kit that performs well and they enjoy drinking a lot of please let me know.


Session IPA 1

I have been buying way too much session IPA this summer and decided to brew one for myself. This is a light beer, in alcohol and body, but with a huge hop character from the insane amount of hops used to hopburst in the final 10 minutes of the boil.  Here is the recipe I used, originally found at, Stone Go To IPA Clone.

Expected Specs
Volume: 5 Gal
OG: 1.049
FG: 1.012
IBU: 106.6
SRM: 4.4
ABV: 4.9%
Boil Time: 60 min

Grain Bill
9 lbs Pale 2-Row
6.0 oz Crystal 15
2.0 oz Flaked Wheat

0.5 oz Magnum (14.0% AA) @ First Wort Hopped
1.0 oz El Dorado (15.7% AA) @ 10 min
1.0 oz Citra (12.0% AA) @ 5 min
1.0 oz Crystal (3.5% AA) @ 5 min
1.0 oz Mosaic (11.6% AA) @ 5 min
1.0 oz Sterling (7.5% AA) @ 5 min
0.5 oz Ahtanum (6.0% AA) @ 5 min
0.5 oz Cascade (5.5% AA) @ 5 min
0.5 oz El Dorado (15.7% AA)  @ flameout w/ 30 min steep
0.5 oz Mosaic (11.6% AA) @ flameout w/ 30 min steep
0.5 oz Citra (12.0% AA) Dry Hop for 5 days
0.5 oz El Dorado (15.7% AA) Dry Hop for 5 days
0.5 oz Mosaic (11.6% AA) Dry Hop for 5 days
0.5 oz Sterling (7.5% AA) Dry Hop for 5 days

0.5 tsp Irish Moss @ 15 min

WLP001 California Ale

Tap Water from Longmont, CO

Single Infusion, 155 F

8/31/2014 Brewed by myself

Collected 6.5-7 gallons of wort at a gravity of about 1.037

OG was about 1.043

Chilled to about 80 F or so, transferred to 6.5 gallon carboy, and placed in chest freezer set at 62  to chill over night

My apologies for all the estimates.  It was my first brew day in 3.5 months and the first one in my new house.  I wasn’t too worried about taking good notes, just making sure I did everything correctly and hit numbers that were ballpark to the estimates BeerSmith gave me.

9/1/2014 Oxygenated for 30-45 seconds and pitched 1L starter and increased fermentor temp to 64F to allow free rise in fermentor.  Strong fermentation the next day.

9/9/2014 Primary fermentation is complete.  Dry hopped with 1 oz Citra 1/2 oz Mosaic and 1/2 oz El Dorado.  Lost track of hops at the homebrew shop and forgot to buy one more ounce of Sterling for the dry hop.  So I just added a full ounce of Citra instead.  Hope to be bottling in 5 days on sunday 9/14

9/15/2014 I kegged this yesterday and boy is it tasty.  It still needs a few days to carbonate up fully.  Since this was my first time brewing in several months I didn’t do a great job taking measurements and keeping records, so I don’t know what the final ABV is.  It does, however taste similar to other session IPA’s I’ve had.  It isn’t a clone of Go To but it’s full of tropical mango hop flavor and and aroma.  I don’t think this keg is going to last very long!IMG_0451

My Backyard

It’s the best place to be.  Period.  Depending on the day, I can watch city league softball or little league baseball games from the deck.  I can, almost literally, watch my hops climb their trellis in the corner of the yard. And it smells fantastic, the smell of boiling wort and a freshly opened bag of hops means it must be brew day.

I am a homebrewer and I love it.  Everything about it is awesome.  The brewing process, from the simplest stove top system to the most complex tiered systems, appeals to the Chemical Engineer in me.  The fact that a skilled brewer on either of those systems, and anything else in between, has the ability to make world class examples beer amazes me. Plus, having tasty brews to share with friends and family at the end of it all is the best part of all.

This is my first blog post… ever.  I started this blog as way to help myself learn more about my favorite hobby and beer in general, and my goal is that the information I provide makes you as passionate about homebrewing as I am.

If there are any topics you would like me to cover let me know in the comments below, or you can contact me at, and you can also follow me on twitter @beer_crab.

-Beer Crab