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  • 8 Tips for Taking First Place in a Homebrew Competition

    Posted on December 22, 2014 by David Ackley

    Judges in a homebrew competition.Those homebrewers with a competitive mindset will naturally be drawn to participating in homebrew competitions. Those that aren’t should still consider participating. Not only is it a great way to get feedback on your beers, it’s a fun way to interact with other beer lovers and an opportunity to have some pride in your hard work.


    If you’re ready to compete with other homebrewers, consider these tips for winning in a homebrew competition. Use these 8 pieces of advice to improve your chances at winning top prize.


    Know Your Competition


    1. First, keep in mind that there are generally two kinds of homebrew competitions: Those that are judged by the BJCP Style Guidelines, and those that aren’t. Your approach may vary depending on what kind of competition your participating in.


    Tips for BJCP Homebrew Competitions


    1. Brew to style – This is one of the most important tips for a homebrew competition I can give you. Judges will likely be reading directly from the style guidelines as they’re judging your beer. To be successful in these types of competitions, it’s crucial that your beer is an exceptional example of a given style. Designing Great Beers is a good starting point for developing recipes according to style guidelines. If you have a beer that just kind of fits in a category, you’re better off submitting it in the Specialty Beer


    1. Plan ahead – Ideally, you’ll have plenty of time before the competition to formulate a recipe based on the style guidelines. Better yet, brew the beer more than once so you can really dial it in.


    1. Watch out for the 2014 Style BJCP Guidelines – The BJCP recently announced changes to the BJCP Style Guidelines, which should go into effect in 2015. Some competitions may be quicker than others to transition to the new guidelines, so be sure to check with your competition organizer. Review the changes at


    1. Become a BJCP Judge – Learning to become a beer judge will help you become very familiar with how these competitions work. It will also expose you to a wide range of styles and improve your sensory skills.


    Tips for Festival Style Homebrew CompetitionsShop Beer Growlers


    1. Be creative – For non-BJCP homebrew competitions, you can throw the style guidelines out the window. Sometimes the competitions will have other qualities they’re looking for: best beer with local ingredients, best beer name, best IPA, best Belgian beer. The goal here is to simply make the best beer you can make. Many of these types of competitions will also have a People’s Choice Award or a Best In Show decided by celebrity judges. In this case, it often helps to showcase an unusual technique or ingredient that will make your beer stand out from the crowd. So, the number one tip in these types of homebrew competitions is to be creative.


    1. Market your beer – Colorful, easy to read signs are eye catching and let people know what you’re pouring. Creative, tongue-in-cheek names will often get people’s attention.


    1. Market yourself – Smile and invite people to come taste your beer – the more people try your beer, the better your chances at a People’s Choice Award. Above all else, have fun!


    For many, homebrew competitions are one of the most enjoyable aspects of homebrewing. Hopefully, these tips for winning a homebrew competition will make it even more fun. Have you participated in homebrew competitions before? What tips would you add to the list?
    David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described "craft beer crusader." He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

    This post was posted in Beer Brewing Blog

  • Should I Age My Wine In A Carboy Or Age In Bottles?

    Posted on December 20, 2014 by Ed Kraus

    Bulk Aging or Bottle Aging WineOne of the long, ongoing discussions in the world of home wine making is, "should I bulk age my wine in a carboy or in bottles?"

    What Exactly Is Bulk Aging?

    Bulk aging refers to storing the wine in something similar to a glass water bottle. Home wine makers refer to them as carboys. It's important to have a container with a neck of some sort so that the head-space, or air gap, can be mitigated as the bottle becomes full. It is usually sealed airtight with either a rubber stopper or cork stopper while the wine is aging.

    Many home wine makers elect to bulk age their newly made wines in these carboys for months or even longer before moving the wine into bottles. The reasoning behind this could be anything from, "that's how the wineries do it" to "I was waiting to get more empty wine bottles."

    Why Do Professional Wineries Bulk Age Their Wines?

    In reality, the commercial wineries bulk age, or maturate, in bulk because it is a safer and more controllable than aging in wine bottles. It's safer because air, light and heat can all be kept in check more evenly--these are the elements that can come together to produce oxidation in a wine. It's more controlled because the maturation process is slowed down when oxygen contact is reduced. Wine in bottles have more air contact per gallon then wine in bulk.

    Why Slower Is Better

    It's common knowledge in the wine industry that slower aging produces a better tasting wine, one that is more in balance. Oxygen is what drives the rate of some maturation processes, but not all of these processes respond equally to oxygen. As a result, a wine can become out of balance, as some aging process outpace others when aged too fast.

    In addition, some aging activities in a wine are triggered in sequence--sort of a domino effect. One cannot happen until the other one occurs. These falling dominos are set off by the oxygen, but again, if too much oxygen is given, some of the maturation processes fall behind in the chain, again, putting the wine's qualities out of whack.

    For these reasons all wineries age in bulk before bottling. "How long?", depends on the wine at hand and how the flavor and bouquet of the wine are developing. These elements are monitored to determine when it is time to bottle.

    Bulk Aging Homemade Wines In Carboysshop_carboys

    The home winemaker can use either glass or food-grade plastic carboys to do the aging. While you can use an actual cork stopper to seal up the carboy, I prefer using a rubber stopper. I also recommend using baling wire or similar to hold the stopper in place, otherwise changes in temperature or barometric pressure can cause the stopper to pop loose.

    The wine should also be treated with a dose of potasssium metabisulfite before sealing it up to be aged. This is to eliminate any chance of spoilage and to help keep the wine's color stable.

    When bulk aging a wine in a carboy, be sure to monitor the flavor of the wine as time goes on, just don't monitor it too much. About once ever 2 or 3 month you can take 1 or 2 ounces out to see how things are progressing. A wine thief will help you in this regard to get the wine from the carboys or any other glass jugs with a narrow neck.

    Once it's time to bottle, you bottle the wine from the carboys just like you normal would have without aging the wine.

    Whether or not you bulk age your wine in a carboy or in bottles, your wines will age none the less. Just remember that air exposure to the wine is a premier factor.
    Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

    This post was posted in Wine Making Blog

  • Cloning Ithaca Beer Co.’s Flower Power – Pt. 3: Brew Day

    Posted on December 19, 2014 by David Ackley

    Brewing Flower Power Clone Beer RecipeAfter developing a recipe and experimented with brewing water adjustments for this beer, the actual brewing of the Ithaca Beer Co. Flower Power clone beer recipe was put on hold for a couple weeks while I was out of town. I finally got around to brewing the IPA last weekend and boy am I excited about this beer! Brew day didn’t exactly go off without a hitch, but there weren’t any major issues that should cause major problems down the line. Here’s how brew day went last weekend.

    Preparing the Yeast Starter

    The night before brewing I made a yeast starter with light DME and one pack of California ale yeast. I don’t have a stir plate or flask yet (they’re on the list!), so I just used a growler and gave the starter a swirl every few hours or so.

    The Set Up

    I usually try to get all my ingredients and gear together before I actually start brewing. This helps eliminate the multitasking that can often result in a mistake.

    First I assembled the ingredients: malt, hops, yeast starter, and water amendments. Then I get all the equipment set up, plus a stack of towels at the ready. I’ll usually turn on some music and have a snack on hand just in case. At least a few days in advance, I’ll check the propane tank to make sure there’s enough fuel for the brew. Did you know you can weigh the tank to estimate how much fuel you have left? I’ll share how to do that in a separate post.

    Clean and Sanitize 

    The next step before brewing the Flower Power clone recipe– and in many ways the most important – is to clean and sanitize the brewing equipment. I won’t go over this in detail, but if you need a refresher you can check out this post for tips.

    The Mash

    I mashed my crushed grains in about 4.75 gallons of water. One thing I’ve been trying to dial in over the past few brews in my strike temperature – that is, the temperature of the water before it goes into the mash. Since the grain and the mash tun are often room temperature, you have to compensate by adding water that’s at least 10-15˚F hotter than your target mash temperature. Given that things are even colder in the winter, I aimed high. With a strike temperature of 180˚F, I was able to get the mash temperature right where I wanted it, in the mid-150s. You can use a calculator such as this one to estimate your strike temperature.

    Here’s where I ran into a little problem – despite my efforts to get organized before brewing, after 60 minutes I realized I’d forgotten to add the honey malt! Doh! Luckily it’s not a big mistake. The honey malt is in the clone recipe mostly for flavor and color, and in theory the sugars should only take 30 minutes to convert. So I just mixed in the honey malt and added 30 minutes to the mash time. With the extra time added to the mash, I probably ended up with even better efficiency than I would have otherwise!

    The Sparge  Shop Barley Crusher

    I find I’m consistently low on the amount of sparge water I need. My calculations said 4-4.5 gallons would do the trick, but between grain absorption and volume loss in the mash tun, I was about a gallon short of my pre-boil volume. I just quickly heated up another gallon of water and made a note to adjust my calculations for next time.

    At the end of the sparge I found I had six gallons of wort with a preboil gravity of 1.068 – right on target!

    The Boil 

    I think of the boil as the start of the home stretch. All it takes is watching the clock to make sure the hops get in on time. The four hop additions for this Flower Power clone beer recipe smelled amazing – Simcoe at :60, Chinook at :20, Citra at :10, and Ahtanum and Centennial at :0. And we haven’t even touched the dry hops yet!

    My post-boil gravity was 1.075 – just a point shy of the estimated OG – but well within the margin of error. This beer should easily surpass 7% ABV.

    The Chill & the Pitch

    The colder ground water temperatures this time of year really help with cooling the wort quickly. My immersion wort chiller got the wort to pitching temperature in about 20 minutes. I pitched the yeast starter and now the beer is fermenting happily in the fermentation chamber!

    Stay tuned to see how this Flower Power clone beer recipe turns out!
    David Ackley is a beer writer, homebrewer, and self-described "craft beer crusader." He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

    This post was posted in Beer Brewing Blog, Beer Brewing Recipes

  • Leigh Erwin: A Vineyard Daydream

    Posted on December 18, 2014 by Leigh Erwin

    Growing Grapes For WineHi guys!  Leigh here!

    While I’m sitting here looking at potential homes to buy, I got to thinking---is there enough space in these yards to grow enough of my own grapes for making my own wine?  How much space and how many vines do I actually need?

    After doing some reading, turns out the answer kind of depends on how much quality I want to get out of my wine.  If I don’t care about quality, I can just pack a bunch in together and see what happens.  If I do care about quality, I need to pay a lot closer attention to the types of grapes I choose, how far apart they are from one another, and how many I need to plant. All of theses factors come into play when growing grapes for wine.

    One of the biggest considerations I need to make is related to the type of grape I should plant.  Do I plant Vitis vinifera?  Or do I plant native varieties?  This really all depends on the climate (including temperature and humidity) as well as the soil.  Not all grapes grow well under the same conditions, so depending upon where I live could make a huge difference in what I plant.

    There is a great little “post” regarding growing grapes for wine that I read on, which confirms this idea of picking the right grapes for where you live.  This post also mentions what to expect once you actually plant the grapes, and how many vines you should plant if you’re sticking with small batch winemaking.

    Once you plant the vines, you can’t expect to be making wine immediately.  In fact, it takes a good 3-4 years before you end up with a decent crop for winemaking.  So, if you’re in a hurry to make wine with grapes, obviously you’ll need to buy someone else’s grapes for a few years while you’re waiting for yours to grow and mature.  All the while you need to make sure you set up trellises for when the grapes start putting out their long, dangly vines, and you need to regularly prune them. Shop Wine Presses

    It is recommended that the vines be planted in a very sunny area, with good soil drainage and nutrient-poor soils.  When growing grapes for wine, stressing out the plant a bit is actually good for wines, as the plant will put all of its energy into reproduction (i.e. the grapes!!) resulting in super concentrated, higher quality fruit.

    So, if I wish to continue making super-small batch wine like I am currently (i.e. using the 6 gallon fermenters and carboys), how much should I plant?  According to what I’ve read, it takes about 10 pounds of grapes to make a gallon of wine.  Therefore, in order to make a small batch of wine, you’d need to plant about 10-20 vines. I should probably keep that in mind when I’m looking for a new home, and hope the yard is big enough to squeeze 10-20 vines in!

    Anyone else out there growing grapes for wine?

    leigh_erwin_bioMy name is Leigh Erwin, and I am a brand-spankin’ new home winemaker! E. C. Kraus has asked me to share with you my journey from a first-time dabbler to an accomplished home winemaker. From time to time I'll be checking in with this blog and reporting my experience with you: the good, bad — and the ugly.

    This post was posted in Wine Making Blog

  • Brew & Review: Tasting Steam Freak Coffee Stout

    Posted on December 17, 2014 by David Ackley

    Glass Of Coffee Stout From A Steam Freak Partial Mash Recipe KitOver the past several weeks, I’ve been making a coffee stout partial mash recipe kit: Captain Cogsworth Coffee Stout. First, I reviewed the ingredients and made a plan about how to add the coffee to the beer. I then brewed the beer, guided it through fermentation, and bottled it with the coffee. Now we can taste the coffee stout and see what changes might be made next time around.

    Here are the notes from my taste test of the Steam Freak's Coffee Stout recipe kit.
    Tasting Notes: Steam Freak Captain Cogsworth Coffee Stout

    Final Stats:

    OG: 1.059
    FG: 1.020
    ABV: 5.1%
    IBUs: ~44
    SRM: ~35

    • Aroma – Soft malt aroma, primarily roasted malt, with just a touch of caramel sweetness. Some notes of chocolate and coffee, but not too bitter or astringent. Some subtle esters from the American ale yeast, which combined with the malts come across as dark fruit.
    • Appearance – Dense, tan head that holds fairly well. Very dark brown color, nearly opaque. Some light brown highlights around the edges.
    • Flavor – Primarily roasted malt and coffee flavors, supported by subtle malty sweetness. The beer is bitter without being over the top or astringent. Hop flavor is minimal. Some ester character is present. The beer tastes a little young, so it will be interesting to see how it changes over the coming weeks.
    • Mouthfeel – Medium bodied. Slight astringency from roasted malts.
    • Overall – This beer’s pretty good! It’s a flavorful dark beer with subtle coffee flavors, but not as heavy as something like Guinness. I look forward to sharing it with family and friends!

    So would I make any changes to this partial mash recipe kit? Two things come to mind:

    1. This is more of a personal preference than anything else. I wouldn’t mind a little American hop character in the aroma. Maybe just dry hopping for a few days with a half-ounce or so of Cascade or Nugget hops would do the trickshop_beer_recipe_kits.
    2. I’d also like to explore how to get a more assertive coffee aroma. Would brewing the coffee hot make a difference? Several brewers recommend the cold-brew method, so I’m not sure whether that would be an improvement. Maybe increasing the roasted malt from 8 ounces to 12 would help. Another option would be to increase the amount of coffee added to the coffee stout, or even try aging the beer directly on the ground or whole beans.

    All told, I think this coffee stout partial mash recipe kit turned out great! Luckily I have these comments in my homebrewing notes, so the next time I brew a coffee stout, I’ll know exactly what to do to make it even better.

    Which Steam Freak homebrew recipe kit would you like to try?
    David Ackley is a beer writer, homebrewer, and self-described "craft beer crusader." He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

    This post was posted in Beer Brewing Blog, Beer Brewing Kits

  • The Role Oxygen Plays In Aging Wine

    Posted on December 16, 2014 by Ed Kraus

    Wine Preservation SystemYou can't read very long on the subject of wine making without running across the warnings of excessive air exposure and how oxygen can turn a great wine into a brown, caramelized mess through a process of oxidation. Books, websites and even this blog have expressed these cautions.

    The reality is without some oxygen being available, the progression of a wine's aging process can be brought to a near standstill. Wine needs oxygen to age. Without it a wine will not fully reach its aging potential. It's just a matter of finely controlling the amounts.

    Once the wine is bottled, it begins a series of changes. Tannins become less harsh, aromas tend to develop a richness, etc., but all of this can not take place without a slow--very slow--infusion of oxygen. Oxygen is the catalyst for all these changes.

    But this oxygen needs to be given slowly. If too much oxygen is made available to the wine too quickly, it will develop symptoms of bottle sickness. This basically means the aging process is out of balance. The wine will taste flabby and lifeless with little bouquet, and worse yet, it could start to show signs of browning. So, while the wine need oxygen to age, it needs it in very small doses of long periods of time.

    A wine bottle and its cork can be considered a wine preservation system. It's job is to preserve the wine and allow it to develop steadily and evenly. How well the cork seals or how well it allows air to permeate through it controls the rate of aging.

    While it may be your instinct to try to age the wine as quickly as the wine will bare, you don't want the wine to age-out too fast. This is because the wine will begin to slowly start to degrade after doing so. A bottle of wine has a beginning and an end — an aging life-cycle. There is a peak in flavor along this aging life-cycle. You don't want the wine to take too long because you'll end up drinking your wine when it has not yet reached its best.

    Shop Wine CorksFor example, our Superior Grade Straight Corks work well for wines that you intend to consume in about 3 years time. Our Extra-First Grade Straight Corks are for wines you intend to consume over a 5 or 6 year period. Extra-First Grade is denser than the Superior Grade so less air gets through, slowing the aging process.

    Then there's Synthetic Corks. These corks allow next to no air pass through. They are ideal for wines that you intend to age for many years. They also work well for early aging wines such as Zinfandel where little oxygen is needed for the wine to come into fruition.

    For these reasons, when you buy corks their density should be taken into consideration. By selecting the right grade of cork you can control the wine's rate of aging to one that is appropriate for the needs of that particular style and to the needs of your consumption.

    Wine needs oxygen to age, but it's all about controlling how much. The key is to not let the wine get too much too fast. Keep it slow any steady.
    Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

    This post was posted in Wine Making Blog

  • Bottling Homebrew with Flavored Liqueur

    Posted on December 15, 2014 by David Ackley

    Assorted LiqueursDid you know that you can bottle your homebrew beer with flavored liqueur?

    Adding liqueur at bottling time is one way of adding flavors to your homebrew, especially when making a fruit beer. Liqueurs are lower-alcohol spirits flavored with fruit, herbs, spices, or nuts, and then sweetened. These concoctions are normally used for flavoring cocktails or coffee, but they can be used for homebrewing, too.

    To help get your creative juices flowing, here are some of the common flavored liqueurs:

    • Amaro (herbal)
    • Amaretto (almond)
    • Chambord (raspberry)
    • Cointreau (orange)
    • Crème de cacao (chocolate)
    • Crème de menthe (mint)
    • Crème de mûre (blackberry)
    • Crème de cassis (black currant)
    • Curaçao/Triple Sec (bitter orange)
    • Fernet (herbal)
    • Frangelico (hazelnuts and herbs)
    • Grand Marnier (orange)

    Try doing a taste test to see which flavors might work with different beer styles. In his book, Radical Brewing, Randy Mosher mentions having success with Triple Sec, crème de cacao, and Frangelico, among others.
    Tips for Adding Liqueur to Homebrew

    In Radical Brewing, Randy Mosher offers a number of tips for adding liqueur to homebrew:

    • Avoid creamy liqueurs – These will not have a good affect on your beer.
    • Add spices if desired – Optionally, add additional spice flavor by soaking the spices in the liqueur before mixing into the beer.
    • Do a taste test first – Measure out a small sample of beer and add the liqueur in .1 mL increments. Keep in mind that most of the sweetness in the liqueur will ferment out. Scale up when you find the right ratio. For example, if .1 mL liqueur per 1 ounce beer is the magic number, multiply by 128 (ounces in a gallon) then by 5 (gallons in a batch) to arrive at 64 mL of liqueur.
    • Plan for an increase in alcohol content – Two cups of a typical liqueur will add about 1% ABV to your five-gallon batch of homebrew. Plan your recipe accordingly.

    How to Bottle Your Homebrew with Liqueur

    shop_liqueur_flavoringsSince liqueurs are sweetened, we need to account for the added sugar. Mosher offers the following instructions for bottling homebrew with liqueur:

    1. Measure the specific gravity of the liqueur with your hydrometer and convert to degrees Plato (% sugar).
    2. Compensate for the specific gravity of the alcohol present, which is less than 1.000. Multiply the proof by .106 and add this to the specific gravity of the liqueur. This number will give the total percentage of sugar in the liqueur.
    3. Take the weight of the liqueur being added and multiply it by the sugar percentage from above. This will give you the weight in sugar being contributed by the liqueur.

    Alternatively, you can take the weight needed for priming and divide by the sugar percentage (as a decimal) to arrive at how much liqueur to use for bottling. Just keep in mind that depending on the flavor of the liqueur, you may or may not want to use that much.

    Let’s work through an example:

    Say you’re brewing Captain Cogsworth Coffee Stout, but instead of priming with coffee and sugar, you use eight ounces (by weight) of a 40 proof coffee liqueur.

    1. Measuring the specific gravity of the liqueur, you get 20˚ Plato.
    2. Multiply the proof (40) by .106 = 4.24˚P
    3. 20 + 4.24 = 24.24˚P
    4. 8 (weight of liqueur in ounces) * .2424 (percent sugar in liqueur) = 1.94 oz. sugar

    In this example, the 8 ounces (by weight) of coffee liqueur contributes the equivalent of 1.94 oz. of priming sugar. Adjust your priming sugar addition accordingly.

    Alternatively, if you want to prime with just liqueur, take the total amount of priming sugar and divide by the total sugar percentage from above:

    5 oz. priming sugar / .2424 = 20.63 oz. liqueur (by weight)

    Add 20.63 ounces (by weight, not volume) of the liqueur at bottling time.

    You can also experiment with soda pop flavorings if you don’t want to worry about a change in alcohol content or calculating sugar content. These extracts don’t contain sugar, so either add them during secondary fermentation or mix with your priming sugar solution at bottling time to contribute unique flavors to your homebrew.

    Interested in making your own homemade liqueurs? Check out our selection of liqueur making ingredients.
    David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described "craft beer crusader." He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

    This post was posted in Beer Brewing Blog

  • Is There Something To Add To Stop A Fermentation?

    Posted on December 13, 2014 by Ed Kraus

    Mad Scientist With Something To Add To Stop A Wine FermentationHello,

    At times my plum wine will appear to have stopped fermentation, and then after bottling it will start up again causing a big mess. Is there something I can add to the wine that will ensure that fermentation has stopped?

    Albert W.

    Dear Albert,

    It sounds like you are experiencing a stuck fermentation. There are several wine making books that cover this topic in fair detail. One that I might suggest is First Steps In Winemaking.

    A stuck fermentation is when the yeast stop consuming the sugars before the sugars are all gone. There are several reasons why this could be happening: lack of nutrient, lack of oxygen, too cool of temperature... For more information about these reasons you can read the following article, Top 10 Reasons For Fermentation Failure.

    A stuck fermentation can start up again if the conditions change. In your case, just the simple exposure to air that inadvertently happens during the bottling process could be enough to start the wine fermenting again.

    Unfortunately, there are no wine making products that guarantee a complete stop of a fermentation or a re-fermentation. What has to happen, is the fermentation needs to fully complete before bottling. The big question is, "How do you know when the wine's done fermenting"?

    Shop HydrometersOne simple way is to take a reading with a wine hydrometer. The hydrometer is a simple glass instrument that can instantly tell you how much sugar, if any, is in your wine or must. Using the hydrometer is simple. You take a reading by observing how high or low the hydrometer floats in the wine. By taking a reading before bottling and confirming no sugars are present, you can bottle your wine knowing that it will not ferment later on in the wine bottles.

    As a side note, once you have verified that the fermentation has completed and the wine has had plenty of time for the yeast to settle out, you can add sugar for sweetening, but you must also add potassium sorbate at the same time. Potassium sorbate can keep a fermentation in check, but only if all of the yeast as been settled and removed from the wine first, and the wine looks visibly clear.

    Happy Wine Making,
    Ed Kraus
    Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

    This post was posted in Q&A, Wine Making Blog

  • Introducing 8 Steam Freak Clone Beer Recipe Kits!

    Posted on December 12, 2014 by David Ackley

    Steam Freak Beer Recipe KItsOne of the best ways to improve your homebrewing abilities is to replicate commercial brews and compare them against the original. Did you get the color right? The flavor? How about the head retention? Can you detect any fermentation faults or off-flavors? There’s nothing quite like the feeling of when you nail the perfect clone beer recipe.

    The Steam Freak series from E. C. Kraus lets you dive into the world of brewing clones beer with eight classic clone recipe kits:

    1. Sahara Nevada Pale Ale (Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Clone)
      Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is one of the original craft beers. When Ken Grossman launched Sierra Nevada back in 1980, little did he know that his Pale Ale would come to define the American pale ale. This clone beer recipe kit features just enough caramel malt and Carapils to give the beer enough a malty-sweet body to back up the generous dose of Cascade hops. 5.5% ABV, 44-48 IBUs.

    2. Blue Noon Belgian Wit (Blue Moon Clone) 
      Blue Moon represents what many would call their entry into drinking craft beer. Blue Noon is a refreshing Blue Moon clone recipe brewed with wheat, oats, and spices. It offers a full body combined with a complex citrus/wheat flavor that is worlds apart from other mass-market beers. Coriander and orange peel add a tart and spicy complexity. 5.4% ABV, 20-24 IBUs.

    3. S. Tadcaster Porter (Samuel Smith Taddy Porter Clone) 
      Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter is a classic English Porter. Brewed with water from a 250+ year old well, Taddy Porter features roasted malt flavors with hints of dark fruit and molasses. This clone beer recipe kit uses classic English hop varieties to provide a moderate bitterness in balance to the malt. 4.6% ABV, 55 IBUs.

    4. Petey’s Evil Ale (Pete’s Wicked Ale Clone) 
      Pete’s Brewing Company was founded in 1986, and Pete’s Wicked was the brewery’s flagship beer, an American Brown Ale with nutty malt flavor and a fruity combination of English and American aroma hops. Though Pete’s was discontinued in 2011, Pete’s Wicked Ale will live forever as one of the original American craft beers. Resurrect Pete’s Wicked Ale with this easy clone beer recipe! 5.25% ABV, 40-44 IBUs.

    5. Fat Liar Amber Ale (Fat Tire Clone) 
      It’s hard to imagine the American craft beer movement without New Belgium’s Fat Tire. With its nutty and biscuity malt flavor, floral hop flavor, and exceptional balance, this Belgian-American amber ale is agreeable to a wide variety of palates. Have a friend that doesn’t like craft beer? A nice cold Fat Liar may bring them over to the other side. 5.8% ABV, 45 IBUs.

    6. Bazz Pale Ale (Bass Pale Ale Clone) 
      Bass is the English pale ale that defines the Burton-style English pale ale. It’s a fantastic session beer with an intriguing English hop aroma. An English yeast strain adds a subtle fruity aroma that’s characteristic of English Ales. 4% ABV, 33 IBUs.

    7. Buddy Light (Bud Light Clone) 
      Everyone needs a lawnmower beer! Though Bud Light may not be as complex as some other craft beers, you have to be impressed by its consistency – a Bud Light in LA tastes exactly like one in New York. Can you brew a clone that tastes just like what’s in the can? 3.3% ABV, 10 IBUs.

    8. Pilsner Urkel (Pilsner Urquell Clone) 
      Pilsner Urquell is the classic Czech pilsner. Bright gold in color, this clone of the iconic pilsner features the familiar flavor of Czech Saaz hops, which give this beer a relatively assertive hop bitterness. Ferment cool for best results. 5.25% ABV, 43 IBUs.

    Do you have a favorite clone beer recipe? Which of these clone beer recipe kits would you like to try first?
    David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described "craft beer crusader." He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

    This post was posted in Beer Brewing Blog, Beer Brewing Kits

  • Why Do I Have To Rack My Wine Into A Secondary Fermenter?

    Posted on December 11, 2014 by Ed Kraus

    Man Yelling, "Why Rack Wine To Secondary."Hi,

    I'm making a batch of your European Select Merlot using your wine making products. I have the wine brewing in a plastic fermenter and it should be reaching a specific gravity of 1.010 tomorrow according to my gravity hydrometer. It's still bubbling actively after 7 days. According to the directions that came with the kit I should be siphoning the wine into another fermenter at this point. Why do I have to rack my wine into a secondary for the rest of the fermentation. Can't I just leave it fermenting for another 12 days in the same container....don't understand why the transfer is necessary at this point.

    Tony F.
    Dear Tony,

    This is a question we get from time to time, and you're right, it doesn't seem to make sense, particularly when you are dealing with concentrated homemade wine kits. Why would you rack (siphon) a wine to a secondary fermenter when is seems to be fermenting perfectly fine?

    When you make wine from fresh fruits, the juice is fermented with the skins and pulp for the first few days so that the juice can extract body, flavor and color. This is a process call maceration. Siphoning the wine after a few days seems logical in this situation. You need to get the skins and pulp out of the way; racking the juice to a clean container seems like a good way to do it.

    But there's another reason for racking the wine into a secondary fermenter besides just getting skins and pulp out of the way, and it's why you need to rack the wine even though it's from concentrate with no skins or pulp involved. It's called sediment.

    Whether or not there's skin or pulp, a heavy layer of sediment will develop in the bottom of your plastic fermenter. It's primarily made up of yeast cells that were produced during the fermentation Having excessive amounts of this sediment in contact with the wine over extended periods of time can cause off-flavors to become noticeable in the resulting wine.Shop Carboys! They Make A Great Secondary Fermenter.

    Most of the off-flavors stem from the fact that some of the active yeast cells will try to consume the dead yeast cells the lie at the bottom as the sugar starts to run out. This is a process known as autolysis. So for a clean tasting wine you need to get the wine off the bulk of this sediment. This is why you need to rack the wine into a secondary fermenter.

    Just as the homemade wine instructions that came with your European Select wine kit implie, it's usually around the 7th day that almost all of the fermentation has completed, and the activity begins to slow down. This makes it an opportune time to get the bulk of the sediment out of the way. There will be more sediment to follow as the wine clears up, but not nearly as much as the fermentation will have at this point in the process.

    Happy Winemaking,
    Ed Kraus
    Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

    This post was posted in Q&A, Wine Making Blog

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