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IPA : Griz Tears IPA V3

Having recently come up with an IPA that I was happy with, and then proceding to burn through my supply, I decided to circle back again.  I’d hate to brew the same recipe twice… not sure that I ever have, so I added in some variables.  I know I’m happy with my base, so I wanted to try out some different hops.  On top of that, I had some yeast left over from the Mint Chocolate Stout I’d just made, and figured that should get a second round of action too.


Picked up a couple hops I’d been wanting to try.

El Dorado is a dual purpose hop with intense flavors and aromas. This hop has bright tropical fruit flavors and aromas of pear, watermelon candy, and stone fruit.

Galaxy is an Australian hop variety with gentle citrus with passion fruit notes.  Similar to Citra, but with the tropical fruit toned down and a bit more grassy flavor.

The Wyeast London Ale 1028 is described as having a rich mineral profile that is bold and crisp with some fruitiness.

THEN, if new hops and yeast weren’t enough, I decided I wanted to age half this batch on tart cherries and pineapple…  Fruit all around.

All-Grain Recipe: Griz Tears IPA V3



  • 11 lb. – Golden Promise Pale
  • .25 lb. – American Munich
  • .25 lb. – Crystal 40L – Great Western
  • .50 lb. – Crystal 15L – Great Western

Hop Additions / Boil Additions:

  • .5 oz. – Citra (14.1%) – added during boil, boiled 60 min
  • .5 oz. – Citra (14.1%) – added during boil, boiled 30 min
  • 1 – Whirlfloc Tablet & Wort Chiller – added during boil, boiled 15 min
  • .5 oz. – Australian Galaxy (15%) – added during boil, boiled 10 min
  • .5 oz. – El Dorado (15.3%) – added during boil, boiled 10 min
  • .5 oz. – Australian Galaxy (15%) – added at flame out
  • .5 oz. – El Dorado (15.3%) – added at flame out



  • Wyeast 1028 London Ale

Additional Ingredients:

  • Aged half of the batch on 1 can of Tart Cherries and 1 can of Pineapple

Additional Details / Notes

  • Style based on 14B – American IPA
  • OG 1.056 / TG 1.008
  • 6.4% ABV | Color: 7.7 SRM | ~68 IBU’s
  • Brewed: 03/29/2014, Secondary: 04/26/14, Kegged: 4/26/2014 & Bottled:
  • Mash Temp: ~151°, Thickness: 1.35 qt/g, Efficiency 66%, Attenuation 86%

Brewing the Griz Tears IPA V3

The Mash. Mash temp was 151°, and ended at 150ish; very little temp loss.   Stirred mash really well after, then 3 gallon vorlauf.

The Boil. griz-tears-IPA-V3-02bGave it a good half hour or so preboil before adding hops.  Smooth day.  Started 6.5g, ended less than 5.  Weird evaporation during rain…  nice cold break, easy cool, though.  Added 45s of oxygen, but can was dying, but forgot yeast nutrient.

Fermenting. Yeast starter fired up on 3 days before boil.  1/2 DME to 2 cups water.  Lots of liquid from 1x washed yeast.  Foamed a bit the next day.  Turned off morning of brew day to let settle out a little.  61° ambient in fermenter,  bubbling away the next day.

Racking to Secondary & Bottling. Kegged half on 4/26, other half below.

Secondary Fermenter.  After kegging half the batch, I went wild and racked the other half on to canned pineapple and tart cherries.  I left that to sit for a week until bottling.


Drinking the Grizzly Tears IPA V3

I know better than to introduce several new variables and expect a decent result, but I just can’t help myself.  In the end, the IPA was… fine.  It certainly wasn’t great, if anything it was a little weird. All the fruity hops and even the yeast that lent itself to fruit gave me an IPA that just tasted a little too fruity.  It was almost a canned fruit coctail beer, but not in a good way.   That’s not even the half that I aged ON FRUIT.

The cherries and pineapple were a bad idea.  In hindsight, I don’t know how I thought those two flavors were going to play nice.  In reality they took the flavors I didn’t love about the base and pushed them further.  Tart, tangy, and fruity.  Again, it wasn’t horrible to drink, but it wasn’t good either.

Overall, I wouldn’t personally use these hops in an IPA again unless I was introducing other hops to balance out the fruit.  Just too much in the same direction without any balance.



Batch 42 : “What The Fruit” Pale Ale

I moved to a new city in May of 2012.  This really put a kink in my brewing schedule for the better part of 6 months.  I wasn’t able to have anything in the fermenter or secondary when I left town, and it took some time before I was settled in to the new city before I was ready to try a new batch.  Once I was finally ready, I opted to make a batch using supplies on hand and some basic grains.  It’s fairly random, but I had some honey I wanted to use, some crystal grains, and various hop leftovers.

When it was all said and done, I had a boring batch of beer, but a good one to get me back in to the swing of brewing.  The brew day and batch of beer turned out just fine, but I still felt like I needed to play with things.  I’d come across a bottle of Apricot extract at a homebrew shop.  The use of homegrown hops meant that this Pale had fallen a little flat, and it wasn’t an interesting beer.  When it came time to keg, I decided to make things interesting, adding in some Apricot flavoring…. and “What the Fruit” was born.

Ingredients: What the Fruit?


All-Grain Recipe

  • 10 lbs. – American 2-row
  • 16 oz. – Carapils
  • 8 oz. – Crystal Malt 60°L
  • 4 oz. – Crystal Malt 80°L
  • 33 oz. – Honey
  • Whirlfloc Tablet – added during boil, boiled 15 min

Hop Additions


  • .9 oz. – Cluster (6.8%) – added during boil, boiled 60 min
  • 1 oz. – Cascade (6.4%) – added during boil, boiled 30 min
  • what-the-fruit-02.5 oz. – Cluster (6.8%) – added during boil, boiled 15 min
  • .5 oz. – Cascade (6.4%) – added during boil, boiled 10 min
  • .7 oz. – Centennial (10%) – added during boil, boiled 10 min
  • .5 oz. – Cascade (6.4%) – added end of boil


  • Safale S-05 Dry Yeast

Additional Details / Notes

  • OG 1.061 / TG 1.006
  • 7.22% ABV | Color: 11.23 °SRM | 62 IBU’s
  • Brewed 06/03/12, Secondary 06/16/12, Kegged 06/30/12
  • Mash Temp: ~152°, Thickness: 1.35 qt/g, Efficiency 62%

Brewing “What the Fruit” Pale Ale


My first batch in a new city.  Fortunately, the water in PDX is said to be great for brewing, so I’m done goofing with water (at least for a while).  The first time brewing in a new location is an undertaking of it’s own.  It was a challenge to find everything, and another challenge to figure out how to use everything in the confines of my new space, but things went well enough.

The Mash.  Used about 3.5 gallons of stike water at 164°.  It ended up a little warm, so stirred until it was 151°.  1 hour Mash, then recirculate 3 gallons of wort and Sparge with 5 gallons of water at 170° for ~1 hour.  Drain off about 6 gallons in to the boil pot.  Generally do more, but didn’t have enough hot sparge water to pull 6.5 gallons.


The Boil.  Nothing too exciting here.  I used a mix of store bought hops, and some that I had grown myself.  The Cascade and Centennial additions are mostly from my garden.  Tossed in Whirlfloc and the Wort Chillers with 15 minutes to go.

Cooling.  Summertime ground water is warm.  This took about an hour.


Fermenting.  Straining the wort in to the fermenter went poorly.  Too many whole cone hops, which held on to a lot of the liquid.  I ended up having to top off with about 1/2 gallon of water.

what-the-fruit-01Racking to Secondary & Kegging.  Upon racking to the secondary, I was unexcited about this batch.  Combine that with my inability to ever leave well enough alone, and I decided to add some fruit flavor to the batch.  I had picked up lemon extract and some Apricot flavoring.  I used about a cap of the lemon and about 2.5 oz of the Apricot stuff (half the bottle).  More on this decision below…  After a couple of weeks in the secondary, I kegged this whole batch.  One less step to worry about.

Drinking the Fruit Pale Ale

Fruit might have been a cute idea, but I went way too far with it.  The apricot dominated, while the lemon wasn’t really a factor.  I don’t know that the batch would have been very good to begin with, but it wasn’t great with the added flavor, either.  The fruit was pretty obnoxious.   The base beer was smooth and easy drinking, so in the end all 5 gallons were consumed.

Though not a winner, this was the second batch in a row without any contamination (with many successes to follow), so at least there is that!



All-Grain Honey Ale

A homebrewing friend recently made a variation of the “Honey Steamer” recipe found on BYO’s website. It turned out great, and I wanted to see if I could pull off a similar all-grain version of the same thing. I’d purchased Beer Tools just before deciding to make this batch, so it was the first I really got to run through that program (which I love, btw).

I made quite a few changes from the original recipe, but kept it fairly in line with a California Common using Honey as an adjunct. I used Northern Brewer hops, which would be common for a Common, but I opted not to use the traditional lager yeast used, so I don’t even refer to mine as a beer of that style. It’s a light beer that is hopped with Northern Brewer, but that’s about where the similarities end.

This batch reuses the yeast from my Blonde Ale. My goal so far this year has been to get multiple batches out of each packet of yeast. The Blonde Ale was the first of many batches to use Safale S-05, which this Honey Ale and the upcoming “Leftover Ale” will reuse. I like to play with variables in my brewing, so I’d decided to use the same yeast for a while as a way to limit the changing effects of the yeast on each batch.

Ingredients: All-Grain Honey Ale


  • 7.5 lb American 2-Row
  • .5 lb Caramel Malt 40L
  • 1.8 lb Honey – added at end of boil, (0 min)

Hop Additions

  • 1 oz Northern Brewer (8%) – added during boil, boiled 40 min
  • 1 oz Northern Brewer (8%) – added during boil, boiled 10 min


  • 1 ea Safale US-05 (dry yeast) – reused from Blonde Ale

Additional Details / Notes

  • SG 1.056 / FG 1.006
  • 6.46% ABV
  • Brewed: 01/15/2011, Secondary: 1/29/2011, Kegged & Bottled: 2/12/2011
  • Efficiency 82% – Attenuation 89% (from Beer Tools)
  • Fermentation temps: ~60° in Primary, ~64° Secondary

Mash & Boil

As with my Blonde Ale, I diluted my tap water with filtered water to remove some of the hardness. Overall, I kept the water ratio about 3 gal jug to 2 gal tap. I call the RO water “jug”, as I have been refilling 5 gallon jugs at the grocery store. With the use of Honey in this recipe, the amount of grains is the smallest I’ve used on a batch to this point. I managed to use my mash calculator incorrectly on this batch, so I used 3.5 gal of strike water at 166°. I’d measured for 9 lbs of grain instead of 8, so I had extra water, and it came in a little hot. Hot was easily fixed with ice. I was originally concerned with the extra water, but I don’t think the extra .8 gallons was a major disaster. Once things leveled out, my mash temp came in at 153°. After an hour in the mash, I ran the first gallon of drained wort back over the grains, then started the sparge at 170° for about an hour.

The weather was okay on brew day, so I was able to use my turkey fryer setup outside for the boil. The wort originally takes about 30 minutes to get to a rolling boil, which I let run for about 20 minutes before starting 60min boil clock. This batch had an EASY boil, with just 40 & 20 minute Northern Brewer additions. I dropped in the Wort Chiller with 10 minutes to go, then stirred in the Honey at flame out. Forgot to add Whirlfloc, but would have added that with the chiller if I’d remembered.

I was able to brew outside for this one, but it was too cold for hose water. I was forced to use the Wort Chiller in the kitchen sink. This isn’t the fastest option, so it took about 45 min to get down to 70°.

Fermentation & Reused Yeast

Here’s where this batch gets kind of fun. For just the second time, I wanted to try reusing yeast from a previous batch of beer. In this case, I planned my Honey Ale brew day to coincide with the day I racked my Blonde Ale to the secondary. While I was cooling the Honey Ale, I was also racking over the Blonde. This times out perfect to reduce the amount of time the yeast is left exposed to air. I decided to go ahead and pour my Honey Ale wort right on top of the old yeast cake, and not transfer both to a new fermentation vessel. The Blonde had left behind a krausen ring, though, so I wiped it away with a sanitized cloth. I also left behind a bit of the Blonde Ale, which I swirled and poured off to get rid of some of the hop chunks from the top of the yeast cake. Maybe not the safest practice, but it worked.

Now that the Primary is ready for action, I put my strainer on top and strained the cooled wort in to the bucket. This removes a good portion of the hops from the wort, as well as doing a little to aerate the wort. Once the wort is poured over, I gave it a good stir to get the yeast mixed in, then I capped the fermenter. In addition to the existing yeast cake, I’d added more than 5 gallons of wort, so there wasn’t a great amount of head space in the fermenter. I decided to use a blow off tube instead of an airlock, just in case things got overly active. Turns out this was a VERY good decision. The fermentation on this batch was really aggressive. I’d used a small container filled with sanitizer as an air lock, and things were so active that that container filled with bubbles and eventually overflowed. I have a feeling I would have had a pretty sweet explosion if I had used a normal bubbler.

I gave this batch 2 weeks in the primary at ~60°, another 2 weeks in the Secondary about 64°, then bottled half & kegged the rest. Same as the Blonde Ale, I used 3/4 c. of priming sugar for all. Again, no problems with settled crud in the keg from this process.

Drinking the Honey Ale

I had really high hopes for this batch, but it didn’t really live up to the hype. Side by side with my Blonde Ale, this one is nowhere near as good. There’s nothing especially bad about it. Once again, the use of filtered water made for a really smooth beer, and I think my process was perfect again on this one, too. My recipe here is to blame for any displeasure I have. While the Honey doesn’t provide a sweetness that you might associate with Honey, there is a specific flavor that it contributes. As a dominant flavor in the beer, the honey flavor isn’t really that impressive. I’d like to see it backed off a bit and supplemented with something a little better as a beer flavor – Carapils or Honey Malt, maybe. If the honey wasn’t to blame, the conservative hop additions would be. I kept it at 2 oz so I wouldn’t have to spend the additional money, but I think another ounce or more would have been better. I’d like more bittering and more flavor from the hops.

Complaints aside, I’m damn proud that I pulled off a second light all-grain beer. I’m not in love with this one, but it’s still one I’m glad to serve to people. It stands up as a decent homebrew, just not a keeper. Next batch up is my “Leftover Ale”, which used this yeast for a third time!


The Great Cider Experiment of 2010

I have a co-worker who also brews beer.  He’s even guest blogged on this site.  He had a ton of apples collected from a tree in his yard, so we decided to try our hand at creating a hard cider.  I had already made a Mr. Beer Cider, but for real apples, we had no idea where to start. After a lot of Googling, we figured out most of the basics and set out to our local homebrew shop.  The guy there was a wealth of information, and sent us in a pretty different direction.  The processes we eventually used were mostly done by his advice.

A lot of websites we had been reading had advised cooking the apple juice to kill off the natural yeasts.  Our LBHS suggested the use of Campden tablets to do roughly the same thing without boiling the juice, which can change the flavors.  We decided on an ale yeast, and NOT to add any additional malts or sugars.  The natural sugars from straight apple juice are good for about 5% ABV on their own.


  • 3 Types of Apples – 90% tree apples, 5% Granny Smith, 5% Red Delicious
  • Safale S-04 Dry Ale Yeast
  • Campden Tablets
  • 5oz. Priming Sugar

Misc. Details

  • Brewed September 20, 2010  –  O.G.: 1.042
  • Secondary: September 30, 2010
  • Bottled November 02, 2010  –  F.G.: 1.008
  • 4.5% ABV

How Do You Make Hard Cider??

At it’s essence, hard cider can be made from separating juice from apples, then fermenting.  That’s REALLY all there is to it.  To make a consistent batch of Cider, there’s a little more process involved.  The major trick with cider is controlling the wild yeasts.  You could kill them off with a good boil, or you can use campden tablets like we did.  The boil is the quickest way to go, but I was told you can lose some of the natural goodness of the apples.  We were told to let the tablets work their magic overnight after juicing, so an extra day was involved for cider making.  After juicing, you could add additional fermentables, like malt or brown sugar, but we opted not to raise the alcohol levels.  As you’ve killed off the natural yeasts, you’ll need to add some of your own back to the juice.  By using beer yeasts you have more control over the final flavor, and there’s less risk of wild yeasts gone wrong.  We chose a pretty standard ale yeast (Safale S-04).  After fermentation, you can let it set for a while, rack to a secondary, or just bottle when you’re ready.

Juicing the Apples

I don’t know the ‘best’ way to juice apples, but I happened to have a Power Juicer that worked just fine.  We didn’t know how far our tree apples would go, so I had a couple bags of store bought apples on hand, as well.  The store bought apples gave up a lot more juice than the tree apples, and using them would have been much faster, though quite a bit more expensive.

Before juicing, I dissolved the campden tablets in a couple cups of water.  A little of this solution was added to the juice collection cup before juicing.  This was said to reduce the browning of the liquid as it came in contact with air.  General info found online said to add about one tablet per gallon of juice.  The tablets need time to do their work, so the extracted juice sat overnight before yeast was pitched.  My Mr. Beer kegs worked perfectly to hold the juice.  A fermenting bucket would have worked, as well, but the Mr. Beer kegs left less air in contact with the juice.

The juicing of the apples was WAY more work than I’d signed on for.  The juicer needed to be cleaned a lot, and it took a lot of dang apples to make enough juice.  The first evening only yielded 2 gallons of juice, so a second night of juicing followed.  After two nights I had 4.5 gallons of juice to work with.

On the third evening, I pitched the yeast.  Fermentation took off pretty quickly.

Settling and the Secondary

I racked the cider to the secondary after about 10 days.  I was surprised to see how much crud was in the primary.  As you can see in the pictures, there was a pretty thick layer of crud floating on top of the juice.  I tried to be careful not to transfer much of the heavier gunk to the secondary.  I was also surprised to see how cloudy the cider was at this point.  The major crud had separated out, but the juice remained very cloudy.  I just hoped that the time in the secondary would take care of quite a bit of that… it didn’t.

Due to a lack of time, and a lack of decent settling, it was a month later that I finally got time to bottle the cider.  Even after all of this time, the juice was as cloudy as the day it moved to the secondary.  I can live with it, but I’d like to find a way to improve that for next time.

Consistent information on priming for cider is hard to find.  I did some research, then picked a middle ground.  I dissolved 5oz. of priming sugar in about a cup of water.  This dissolved sugar was added to my bottling bucket as the cider was being siphoned over.  I happened to have sugar left over from one of my brewers best kits that was already measured out, and that worked great.

Drinking & Evaluating

I cracked open the first cider after just about a week in the bottle.  First thing to note, the cider is clear now!  For whatever reason, the settling that didn’t happen in the secondary happened very quickly as the cider carbonated in the bottles.  Gotta be careful pouring, though, as it’s all settled at the bottom of the bottle now.

So how’d it taste?  Well… that’s a matter of opinion.  This cider is TART and DRY.  It’s more like champagne.  As would make sense, using mostly tart backyard tree apples makes for really tart cider.  The juice was great as we were juicing, but once the sugars were fermented out, the tartness busted through in a big way.  All that said, I like it.  My co-brewer thinks it’s awful, though he’s found that adding cinnamon or other sweeteners or spices makes it a little more quaffable.

Overall, the cider experiment went pretty well.  We found out that it’s a ton of work, and that the mixture of apples and inclusion of some non-fermentable sugars would be key improvements.  I’d also like to find out the trick for clearing better before the cider is bottled.

This was a cool process, but the Mr. Beer Cider kit is actually a much easier, and better tasting, alternative.  Worth checking out if you want to make cider.

Random Facts & Details

Safale S-04 – A well-known, commercial English ale yeast, selected for its fast fermentation character and its ability to form a very compact sediment at the end of the fermentation

Campden tablets (potassium or sodium metabisulfite) are a sulfur-based product that is used primarily in wine, cider and beer making to kill certain bacteria and to inhibit the growth of most wild yeast

Clearing the Cider

It’s just a matter of time.  Once the cider contains alcohol, it will eventually clear.  This can take a month, or 2, or more.

Sweetening the Cider

There are a few ways this can be done.  One site I found suggests using sugar alcohol.  These can be natural, like sorbitol or xylitol, or chemical, like splenda.  The same site suggests using flavor concentrate, too, to give some extra apple flavor.

More on sweetening

  • For still brew.
    Wait until fermentation is complete, as confirmed with consistent hydrometer readings over a week or so. Stabilize the cider with k-metabisulphite and sorbate. This will prevent any renewed fermentation. Now just adding any sweetener you like, turbinado, table, corn sugar, honey, maple syrup, juice concentrate, fruit juice, whatever. When you have it at your preferred sweetness (I suggest going till it is almost sweet enough, as it blends with age) just bottle as you normally would, no need for priming sugar.  TIPS FOUND HERE
  • For sweet brew.
    Let it ferment completely, then add a nonfermentable sugar to your bottling bucket. This could be stevia, splenda, lactose, etc. Be wary of how much you add, because these tend to vary greatly in sweetness from real sugar. Then go ahead and add your priming sugar to the bottling bucket, and rack your cider into there allowing the sugars to mix. Bottle as per normal.
  • Backsweetening – Add potassium sorbate to stop further fermentation. Wait 2 days, then add 1 can of frozen concentrate (NO WATER) and 1/2 cup of Splenda.

Mr. Beer Archer’s Orchard Hard Cider

When I made the decision to purchase a Hard Cider kit, I figured I was rolling the dice.  At the very least I’d have something interesting to blog about.  It seemed hard to believe that a person could make a decent batch of cider from a “Mr. Beer” kit.  Having now official brewed, bottled, and tasted my first batch, I can honestly say I was pleasantly surprised!

After brewing from several Brewer’s Best kits, it really does feel like cheating to make anything from Mr. Beer.  It so quick, so easy, and so painless that it almost doesn’t feel fair that you should end up with something that’s even decent to drink, much less enjoyable.  Luckily this isn’t true!

Making the Mr. Beer Hard Cider

March 13: Brewing the Hard Cider is REALLY easy.  You start off by sanitizing your fermenting barrel and any tools you’ll be using to brew.  That would include your spatula, mixing spoon, etc.  With sanitizing solution in your barrel, give it a few good swirls and allow it to sit while you’re getting your beer started.

First step is boiling ? cups of water.  Once you’re up to a boil, remove the pot from heat and stir in the can of Hard Cider mix.  At about the same time, you’ll need to empty the sanitizer from the Fermenter and fill it to about the 4qt. mark with cool water.  You’ll want cooler water in the fermenter to even out the recently boiled mixture.  All you need to do here is add in the cider mix and fill the fermenter the rest of the way.

Make sure your cider wort has cooled enough, and you’re ready to add the yeast.  They say to let this set a few minutes, then stir, so that’s what I did.  Time to put the cap on and stick in the brewing closet!

The entire process was started and finished in under 45 minutes.  Who says you don’t have time to brew beer?

Bottling the Hard Cider

April 4th: Bottling with a Mr. Beer kit feels wrong.  How can table sugar be okay??  Isn’t that rule #1 when brewing?  Not to use table sugar?  Well, I’m a direction follower, so I did it how they said.   The cider kit I purchased came with a handy sugar measuring spoon, and I was using the screw top plastic bottles (which also came with the kit) for bottling.   I measured sugar into each of the 8 bottles, then filled them using the handy tap at the front of the Mr. Beer keg.  Piece of cake.

I neglected to measure original gravity or final gravity for this batch of cider, but I did taste a sample out of the keg. It was actually pretty tasty.  With the cider, sweetness isn’t so bad, and carbonation isn’t necessary, so it was decent.  If it was chilled, I would have been glad to sip on one.

I gotta say one more thing about these bottles.  I LOVE them.  I started out really skeptical of plastic bottles for brewing, I’ve totally changed my thinking on that one.  The screw top caps are a piece of cake compared to having to put the cap on each glass bottle, you don’t have to worry about explosions with glass, and best of all, they’re portable as hell later on.  They are an awesome way to take your brew with you to share.

Drinking the Mr. Beer Hard Cider

So how does it taste?  Pretty dang good.  It’s pretty similar to a lot of the store bought ciders you can find.  I would say the main difference is a harsher carbonation, and a lot less body.  It seems like everything from Mr. Beer has a bubblier carbonation than usual beers or ciders.  That could be from the table sugar for priming, but that’s just my guess.   The lack of body is probably just due to a lack of fermentables.  This was one can of the cider mix and that was it.  I think adding a little DME to the batch might make for a more interesting cider.

Another thing to note about the taste of the cider is how it has changed over time.  When it was a few weeks old it was fairly sweet, with a nice apple finish.  As it has aged, it’s almost turned to a campaign.  It’s a lot more bitter, and much less sweet or apple flavored.  This is the first thing I’ve brewed that doesn’t get better with age.

The kit I purchased came with the stuff to make 2 batches of cider.  The next kit has added blackberries.  I’m pretty excited to see how that works out.

Yeast floating atop unstirred cider.



Brewer’s Best Holiday Ale

The Holidays are a fun time of year. The weather turns cold, and it’s a great time for relaxing and over indulgence. Why shouldn’t your beer relfect the spirit and flavors of the Holidays? I figured December was a great time to brew a Holiday Ale!

First thing’s first… December is WAY too late to brew a Holiday Ale. It might be fun and festive to create this Ale during the Holidays, but your desire to drink a heavy, spiced beer in Feb./Mar. might be less than expected. That said, a Holiday Ale is a fun way to try some new brewing methods, and the result is a very unusual beer that shows people you can brew more interesting than a beer they might get at the grocery store.

What is a Holiday Ale?

I’ve done a fair amount of looking, and I really haven’t come up with an answer. From what I can tell, the “Holiday Ale” is more of a concept, than an item that follows any real rules or guidelines. Holiday Ales are often representative of the season that they are brewed for – which is generally Thanksgiving or Christmas. Spices seem to be a trademark of Holiday Ales. Things like orange peel, cinnamon, ginger, etc. I suppose it’s safe to say that an “Ale” would be the base of a Holiday Ale, too, right?

Brewing the Holiday Ale

December 15, 2010. I chose to try out the Brewer’s Best Holiday Ale kit. One of the best parts of this kit is that it comes with a lot of stuff! Not only do you have your usual LME (Muntons Light) and DME, but also a pound of Corn Sugar. The amount of grains is a lot higher than usual, too. You’ve got Crystal 80L, Chocolate, and Black Patent grains. Then, the spice pack is the real kicker. You get a pre-measured spice pack with Sweet Orange Peel, Cinnamon, Cardamom Seed, and Ginger Root. While I’m at it… the kit also came with Palisade Bittering Hops & Willamette Flavoring Hops.

As my pot of water came heated up, I added my bag of grains to steep at about 135°.  Then I let the water heat to about 165°, and I let the grains steep for about 15 minutes more.

Next, I removed the grain bag and turned up the heat, to get the wort boiling.  I’m just on a normal stove, so this can take a while.  As I’m waiting, I’ll usually put on a second pot of warm water for soaking my LME cans.  They pour easier if they’re warm.  You can also fill a sink with warm water and let them soak.  I’ve had pretty good luck both ways.

Finally my pot boils, and I add both cans of LME, the 1lb of DME, and the 1lb of Corn Sugar, stirring as I add them to reduce clumps and sticking to the bottom of the pot.  Once this returns to a boil, I added the bittering hops and let it roll for 40 minutes.

Next up is the fun part, you add the flavoring hops and the spice pack!  Honestly, the spice pack is cool, and smells pretty good, but it makes the wort look pretty nasty.  The floating orange pieces don’t make it look all that tasty…

Cool Wort & Transfer

After the boil time had completed, I placed my brewpot in my ice filled kitchen sink to start the cooling.  I did my usual process of spinning the pot in my sink while spraying the outside with my kitchen sprayer.  This works fairly well.  My ice melted down, but I wasn’t happy with my temp. yet, so I decided to take advantage of the snowy MT weather.  I took my pot outside and let it sit in a snowbank for another 10 or 15 minutes.  Snow is a great way to cool beer, if you have the option!


The wort was finally cool enough to add to my fermenting bucket with an additional 3 gallons of cool water.  Straining was a pretty important on this batch of brew, since the spice pack had left quite a bit of debris behind.  I set up my strainer atop the bucket, as usual, and I began to pour.  Well… the debris from the spice pack was heavier than I’d guessed, and the heavy strainer dropped in my wort!  How’s that for sanitary??  As quickly as I could, I fished out the strainer and saved as much of it’s contents as I could.  When it was all said and done, a fair amount of orange peel had gotten by me, but it wasn’t the end of the world.


Wrapped fermenter in a coat to hold in the heat.

Before adding the yeast, I took a quick sample of the wort to test the Starting Gravity – which was 1.070.  I’ve had BAD luck with yeast lately, so I opted not to do a starter this time.  I simply sprinkled the yeast on top of the wort, then gave it a good stir.   After that, put on the lid and air lock, and started the waiting game.  My house isn’t warm enough to ferment beer, so I put the fermenting bucket next to a heat pipe and wrapped it in a coat.  Hey, it worked…

January 5, 2010. Moved the Holiday Ale from the Fermenting Bucket to the Secondary.

Bottling & Tasting

January 21, 2010. It was finally time to bottle this brew!  Before anything else, I took a quick sample to measure the final gravity.  My measurement came to 1.016.  With an O.G of 1.070, this makes the alcohol content on this bad boy to be about 7.1%.

Siphoning my beer from the carboy to the bottling bucket was a challenge.  As I mentioned before, I let some orange pieces slip through the cracks.  The next challenge was keeping them out of the siphon… a challenge I pretty continually failed.   I had to restart the siphon 3 times to get all of the beer transferred.  Darn orange pieces…

Bottling went well.  Added my dissolved sugar, and got everything bottled fairly quickly.  I bottled this batch in mostly flip-top (Grolsch) style bottles, to give them a little extra character!

Taste, and the Final Verdict

This batch took a while before it was ready to drink.  With all the spices and different flavors, it really needed time in the bottle to mellow out and come together.  It was well over a month after bottling before the beer was something you’d want to drink.  That said, it’s pretty decent.  It almost has flavors of a peach cobbler.  It’s a little fruity and little spicy.  This isn’t the kind of beer you’re going to sit down and drink one after another, but it’s a great special occasion (a.k.a. Holiday ) beer.

One thing to note.  A Holiday Ale tastes better during the HOLIDAYS.  Plan ahead.  This is a beer to brew in August or September.  You might not be in the Holiday mood when you brew it, but at least you will be when you drink it ( also a great xmas present beer ).  It’s now the start of Spring, when you’re looking for lighter, crisper fare, and I’ve got a LOT of Holiday Ale to drink.  ( A guy could have bigger problems, right? )

Overall, this is a decent beer.  I’m not usually a fan of Holiday Ale’s, so it stands to reason this wouldn’t be my favorite.  It’s a little bit like a Holiday Ale you’d buy at the store, but the orange and cinnamon flavors are a little more dominant.  If you’re looking for a unique beer to brew for the Holidays, this one is a good way to go.

Coming Soon – Hopnog IPA 2009 – Mr. Beer Lager – Mr. Beer Cider
Previous batch – Dunkelweizen

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