Mar 092013

Bottle trees grow best indoors

Bottle-conditioning is the most common way for homebrewers to carbonate their beer.  Even for those of us who keg, we bottle-condition beers meant for competition and ageing (more on this later).

The concept behind bottle-conditioning is to take your fully-fermented beer, add priming sugar to it, and then bottle.  Yeast consumes the priming sugar, and converts it into alcohol (trace amounts when bottle-conditioning), as well as creating CO2.  The only difference between bottle-conditioning and the primary fermentation of your beer is that the CO2 has nowhere to go, and so it dissolves into the bottled beer. Carbonation is measured in volumes – 1 volume is 1 liter of CO2 at 20°C at 1 atmosphere in 1 liter of liquid (beer).  Depending on beer style, the volume of CO2 can vary greatly (eg. British Ales often have ~1 volume of CO2 while a German Hefeweizen will often have ~4.5 volumes of CO2).

How To Bottle-Condition:

1) Once your beer has reached terminal gravity, (check with a hydrometer for three consecutive days that the gravity is stable) you are ready to bottle.  We usually won’t touch our beer for the first 10 days so as to limit the risk of infection.

2) Sanitize clean bottles (not a typo — you can only sanitize clean bottles.  Sanitizers, like Star San, will not sanitize residue, and, therefore, you risk infection).  Sanitize all other equipment (hoses, siphon, bottling bucket, caps — even your bottle-capper).


Don’t be a sucker! Use an auto-siphon!

3) Rack (transfer) your beer into another (sanitized) vessel.  This is to get your beer off the trub (pronounced “troob” —  also referred to as a “yeast cake” — it is the muddy substance on the bottom of your fermenter, consisting of live yeast, dead yeast, hops, protein, and other things you don’t want in your beer).  You want to leave the trub in the original fermenter to ensure that it doesn’t end up in your bottles.  An auto-siphon is the best way to transfer beer, at this level of homebrewing.  While transferring, try to not let your beer splash.  Introducing oxygen after the onset of fermentation is bad.  While yeast uses oxygen to bottle-condition your beer, there is always such a thing as too much O2.







Weighing priming sugar is more accurate than visually measuring it.

4) Measure fermentable sugar for desired carbonation.  Boil sugar in a small amount of water.  Cool.  Add to beer.  Stir thoroughly while ensuring that you do not splash.  Some brewers will add the sugar to the bottling bucket before adding the beer on top. This is a great way to distribute the sugar in the beer, but by no means is it necessary.  A mash paddle will work just as well.  A spoon will do in a pinch.  Just remember –avoid aerating the beer.








Bottle wands are a virtual necessity. They do, however, get stuck “open” occasionally. Cover your floor.

5) Transfer beer into bottles (using a bottling-wand at the end of the hose).  Cap the bottles.  Leave bottles in room temperature for ~three weeks before chilling.

While the process is relatively simple, homebrewers often encounter problems.  The two biggest problems are infection and “bottle bombs”.

INFECTION: Infection of beer occurs when wild yeast or bacteria invade the beer, thus spoiling it.  This most often happens during bottling because homebrewers “suck-start” their siphon tube.  Our mouths are the most bacteria-laden parts of our bodies, packed with bugs that would love to spoil your precious beer.  Some homebrewers will first gargle with liquor such as vodka, but this is the flawed method of amateurs.  While taking a shot of vodka will likely reduce your chance of infection, your beer is still at risk.  Besides, think about it, you went through all the trouble to brew and ferment your beer, nurturing it for weeks — do you really want to be a “sucker” and risk it all?  Do it right — have that shot of liquor after to celebrate a properly conducted bottling process.  The best way to safely siphon your beer is to use an auto-siphon.  This simple device is as easy to sanitize as it is to use.  A few pumps and your beer is transferring.


Bottle Bombs! Image source here

BOTTLE BOMBS: Bottle bombs are caused by over-priming your beer with sugar before bottling.  Yeast produces so much CO2 that the bottles actually explode.  Not only do you lose all your beer, you end up with a big mess, and risk injury.  The biggest mistake that homebrewers make is to add priming sugar to each bottle, rather than adding all the required sugar to the entire batch before bottling.  The problem is that it is far more difficult to weigh out an exact teaspoon of dextrose 50+ times, than it is to weigh out 4 ounces of dextrose once.  Even if you are slightly off in weighing out the dextrose before adding it to the batch, the amount you’d be off by for each bottle, hopefully, will be less.  Of course, there are always rookie homebrewers who think that if a little bit of priming sugar is good, than a lot is better.  Brewing beer is about craft perfection, not crap projection.  Check out our REFERENCES page for an online reference to calculate the amount of priming sugar that you’ll require.


Dextrose AKA Corn Sugar:  The most popular sugar source to bottle-condition with.  Easy to use, and imparts no flavour.  This is what we use.

Table Sugar: There is a long-standing taboo surrounding the use of table sugar when it come to bottle-conditioning.  The believe is that using table sugar will impart a cidery taste to the beer.  Some new-age thought is that the cidery taste is actually caused by other factors, and that table sugar works just fine without imparting flavour.  We, currently, believe that too.

Honey: Yeast love honey.  One trick that homebrewers use is to bottle-condition with honey in attempts to seal in honey aroma that is usually either boiled off or off-gassed during primary fermentation.

Molasses: Works well too.  We haven’t used this sugar source for priming, but have read that molasses will contribute flavours to your beer.

Note that the amount of priming sugar required to hit your desired carbonation varies between each sugar source.



  • Minimal, relatively cheap equipment (bucket, hose, auto-siphon (don’t be a sucker!), priming sugar)
  • Easy to calculate sugar required to carbonate (see our REFERENCES page for a great link)
  • Helps to keep beer from spoiling.  Yeast consumes oxygen, thus reducing oxidation.  We bottle-condition beers that we plan to age.


  • Cosmetic “flaw” of yeast layer upon the bottom of the bottle.  There’s no way to avoid it in the bottle.  If you are careful, you can avoid the yeast ending up in your glass.  Still, you won’t get the professional “look” of a beer that has been force-carbonated in a keg.  Some beer-styles, such as German Hefeweizen and Belgian Wit, demand a yeasty opacity for both look and taste.  Other beer-styles, such as a pilsner, would be ruined were they poured cloudy.
  • Infection & “bottle bombs” — both are problems of the homebrewer, and not problems of the bottle-conditioning process.
  • Conditioning time —  As opposed to bottling from a keg, bottle-conditioning beer takes about three weeks to properly carbonate your beer.  Unless you have a well-planned pipeline, you may find yourself oft without beer, waiting for your next batch to carbonate — reduced to drinking partially-carbonated beer in a failed test of patience. Bad.


When bottle-conditioning high alcohol beers, many brewers feel that a small addition of viable yeast (typically a packet of re-hydrated dry yeast) is good practice.  The belief is that the high alcohol will have killed and mutated many of the original yeast cells, and so adding new yeast will ensure a “healthy secondary bottle-fermentation”.  Another practice is to add some yeast from an actively-fermenting beer (during “high krausen”).  This is done by opening the primary fermenter of the actively-fermenting beer, scooping away the outer-layer of the krausen with a sterilized spoon (it contains undesirables such as hops), and removing a small amount of the inner-krausen.  The inner-krausen is where the very healthy yeast can be found.


Cap that glass


If using bottle caps, it’s best to find ones that can be used on both “twist-off” and “pop-off” style bottles.  This will mean that you don’t have to only buy (typically) premium, European “pop-off” style bottles. You can also find “oxygen-eating” bottle caps that will help reduce the oxygen in your beer, thus further reducing oxidation.  When using caps, it is best to store your beer standing-up to reduce the amount of surface area (will also help to reduce oxidation).


Belgian beers were, traditionally, the only ones that you’d find corked.  These days, many breweries and homebrewers are corking their beers.  Corks require special bottles, and you must use wire cages (think champagne bottles) to keep the cork from popping out.  When using corks, it is best to store beer on its side (up to debate).  While there is more surface area, corks should be , we believe, kept wet to keep them from drying out which will increase oxidation.


Dipping bottle-necks in wax is a very old, awesome, practice.  Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, it also serves as a barrier between your beer and the outside world.  Bottle caps (like corks) are not perfect barriers.  There is research that many hop volatiles escape rather quickly from capped beer.  Wax will help to keep bad things out while keeping good things in.

Brew your beer.  Bottle your beer.  Love your beer.  Just do it the way that you will appreciate it most.


Mar 092013

Blichmann BeerGun

We like to keg our beer.  It has proven to be a great time-saver.  We also like to bottle some beers from each keg to see how it ages, and to submit into competitions.  When bottling from a keg, we use the Blichmann BeerGun, and we (mostly) love it.

Blichmann created the BeerGun as an alternative to using a counter-pressure filler.  The BeerGun is a relatively simple device that has some great options.  Here’s how it works:




Chill bottles before filling to reduce foaming

Chill bottles before filling to reduce foaming

1) Sanitize and place empty bottles in the fridge or freezer (this will reduce foaming).  Placing the BeerGun and hose in the fridge or freezer for a while will also reduce foaming.  Ensure kegged beer is also cold.








Left regulator set to 20PSI for BeerGun. Right regulator set to 3PSI for keg.

2) Attach Blichmann BeerGun to the keg and the CO2 regulator.  Adjust regulator for each.  We find that setting the regulator to 20PSI for the BeerGun is good for purging bottles of any size with CO2.  Setting the regulator to as low as possible is good for pushing the beer out of the keg without creating too much foam.  If you have a single regulator, the beer gun might not be for you.  Dual regulators are the way to go.








One should always bottle in pajamas

One should always bottle in pajamas

3) Purge bottle with CO2.  Begin filling with the BeerGun nozzle kept at the bottom of the bottle.  Once the beer reaches the bottle’s brim, remove the nozzle.  This, ideally, will create the ideal amount of head space in your bottle.








4) Purge headspace with CO2 before capping.

Blichmann BeerGunMarch 9 2013

The plate stating “Blichmann” has a bad habit of popping off

For us, the Blichmann BeerGun works nearly perfectly.  We find that bottles still foam, and that we have to fill them 3/4 of the way, leave them for a few minutes, and then fill the rest.  I’m sure that this could be improved by using a longer tube from the keg to the BeerGun, so that quibble is not necessary the BeerGun’s fault, except that we are are using the tubing that came with it.  Another quibble is that the plate with Blichmann’s name on it pops off easily.  This is not a big deal, as it’s easy to put back on, but it’s annoying.  We’re guessing the reason why it was engineered that way is to make for quick and easy disassembly to clean, but when it disassembles itself while you’re bottling, it is a pain.



Use caution when aiming the BeerGun

Always use caution when aiming BeerGun. Do not drink directly from nozzle while under observation

One final note to point out is that you will lose some carbonation in your beer when using the BeerGun.  Because of this, we carbonate our beer slightly higher than if we were to serve directly from the keg.  We’re still working out exactly how much we lose, but our guess would be around .25 – .5 volumes.

Mar 082013

hogsback vintage lagerBrewery: Hogsback Brewing Company (Ottawa, Ontario)
Style: Lager
ABV: 5.2%








“Our inaugural and flagship style is a European-inspired lager with superior flavour derived from using only premium ingredients combining three malt types (2-Row, Munich and Vienna), unique Saaz hops and German lager yeast. The result is a crisp, flavourful lager experience.”

Hogsback brewing company is one of Ontario’s newest contract breweries.  ”Hogsback Vintage Lager” was originally Ottawa-centric, but it is now available at the LCBO in Toronto, being brewed under contract at Cool Beer.  Their website proudly states that in the 2012 Ontario Brewing Awards, Hogsback Vintage Lager won both gold and the Peoples Choice award in the North American Lager category.  The brewery also scooped up the Newcomer of the Year award to boot.

While Hogsback Brewing, according to their website, offers a humble selection of other labels (“Kilty Bastard Scotch Ale”, “Sunofa Beach Kristal Wheat”, “Full Monty Brown Ale”, and the oft-mentioned “Aporkalypse Now Oatmeal Bacon Stout”), Hogsback Vintage Lager is, currently, the only beer from them that we could find at the flagship Summerhill LCBO.

We hope this brewery does, indeed, find a good home in Ottawa to get their brewery going, as it seems like there’s a lot of potential and — in lieu of offerings such as bacon-infused beer — innovation and open-mindedness, which is exactly what we like to see!


APPEARANCE: Light gold colour with a wispy head that diminishes a little too quickly.  More lacing would be visually pleasing.  Nearly transparent with just a hint of cloudiness.  Moderately high amount of carbonation (to style).

SMELL: Pleasing notes of apple and pear.  Subtle breadiness.  Subtle hop spiciness.

TASTE: Balanced lager that is a little on the sweet side.  Apple-graininess mixed with subtle hop flavour and bitterness (18 IBUs).  More malt that hop finish.

MOUTHFEEL: Subtle slickness that is somewhat scrubbed away by the carbonation and hops.

OVERALL: A good representation of a lager.  This is a session beer that will not tire out your palate, as it is not super-charged in any way.  It seems Hogsback is going for a craft beer that drinkers of macros will hopefully try and convert to, which is always a good thing.

Mar 062013
Golden & Delicious

Golden & Delicious

Brew Date: Fall 2012 (~4 months prior to writing this article)

Apfelwein – Honey Cider

Difficulty to Brew: Very Easy

Ingredients: Cider, Honey, Water, Yeast, Yeast Nutrient
ABV: 10%





Brewing beer takes a long time.  There’s the long hours of heating your strike water, mashing, sparging, drinking, boiling, cooling, drinking, cleaning, drinking, etc.  That’s why, on occasion, we make cider!

We are not expert cider-makers.  We, by no means, are as serious about our methodology when making cider as we are when making beer.  In fact, we don’t exactly know when we made this article’s featured batch.  For us, making cider is fun and easy — a break from brewing beer — and we want to share with you how we do it!

Cider can be “brewed” in half and hour, and can produce incredible results.  First, let’s introduce the process:

1. Sanitize everything.  We use Star San.
2. Fill fermenter with cider.  We buy “President’s Choice Fresh-Pressed Sweet Apple Cider” (ingredient list reads: “apples”, and that makes us happy)
3. Pitch yeast (if you really want to, add sodium/potassium metabisulphite (campden tablets) to your cider and let it sit overnight to kill any wild yeast before pitching…we don’t)

Our Cider of Choice.  "Ingredients: Apples"

Our Cider of Choice.
“Ingredients: Apples”

The above three steps will yield a cider at the 5%-7% ABV range.  If you want to be even more of a purist, leave a jug of that cider in ambient temperature for a few days…it will “self”-ferment.  Ideally, however, you will want to use a proper cider or wine yeast for fermentation.  We’ve heard that one of the best yeasts to use is Red Star Montrachet.  It will produce a dry cider (under 1.000 F.G.), which can be back-sweetened later, if that suits your palate.  We pitch generic dry champagne yeast (re-hydrated in pre-boiled, lukewarm water first), and it does a great job.

If you want to bump up the ABV, there are multiple ways to do so.  Methods we’ve used include:

1. Add DME (Dry Malt Extract) to boiling water to sanitize.  Cool, then pitch into your cider.  This method produced a 10% ABV cider that was very dry, and slightly “beery” due to the DME.  While the DME, due to it’s protein content, produced a cider with a “beery” head, the “beery” taste, while delicious, detracted from the “core” apple flavour, and so we likely won’t use this method again.

2. Add honey to boiling water to reduce viscosity (honey, like hops, is naturally anti-bacterial, but it’s always good to sanitize).  Cool, then pitch into your cider.  This method produced an amazing 10% ABV cider (tasting notes at the bottom of this article).


ACID BALANCE: Just like when making wine, acid balance is important when making cider.  We simply go by taste, as it’s fun and easy to do.  Pour some of your fermented cider into small cups, and add acid (we use malic acid — think green apples) to taste.

BACK-SWEETEN:  Once fermentation is complete (we wait at least a month), add sodium/potassium metabisulphite (campden tablets) to kill any yeast still alive in the cider.  Then, after at least 12 hours, add a dissolved sugar source into the cider.  Ensure that the sugar source has been boiled to kill of rogue yeasts.  Once again, add to taste.

PECTIN: Pectin, according to the Internet, is “a soluble gelatinous polysaccharide that is present in ripe fruits and is extracted for use as a setting agent in jams and jellies”.  All you need to be concerned about (if you make cider like we do) is that apples have lots of it, and it can make your cider hazy.  Luckily, you can buy pectic enzyme at any homebrew store.  Pectic enzyme is best added the day before you pitch the yeast, but adding it later will still help clarification.

CIDER INGREDIENTS: ”Pasteurized” is just fine.  However, watch out for ingredients such as “Potassium Sorbate”, as this is there to circumvent spontaneous fermention via wild yeast.  Ingredients such as these will kill yeast (including yours).  Often, Vitamin C is added to cider, which is not a problem.  In fact, Vitamin C is an anti-oxidant, and will actually help your cider from becoming oxidized.

YEAST NUTRIENT: Cider, unlike beer, does not have all the optimal nutrients for yeast to ferment happily.  This is one reason why many people feel that cider needs to age longer than it really does.  The truth is that, while grains used in brewing beer are chocked full of the nutrients that yeast require to be healthy (zinc, magnesium, niacin, etc.), cider is, essentially, a  wasteland for the yeast.  A little yeast nutrient can make great cider in months, rather than in years.

OXYGEN:  Yeast need oxygen to reproduce before beginning fermentation.  Shaking your carboy is always the cheap-and-easy way to add a minimal amount of oxygen to your cider or wort.  However, using an oxygen tank with a sintered stone is really the best way to go if you want to get serious.  Either way, get some more oxygen into the cider before pitching that yeast.  They’ll thank you by making a better cider in less time.  While the cider won’t be too oxygen deficient if it hasn’t been boiled, we find that boosting the levels helps fermentation.  Not as necessary a step as when making beer where you have boiled out a lot of the O2.

Our Handheld CO2 dispenser keeping O2 out

CO2 good. O2 bad.

OXIDATION: When making any fermented beverage, oxygen is only your friend at the beginning of the yeast’s growth phase before fermentation (typically the first 12 hours after pitching the yeast).  After that, we ensure that we minimize oxygen contact as best we can.  One way to keep O2 out is by keeping a healthy cloud of CO2 atop your cider.  While we have CO2 tanks, used to carbonate our kegs, we also bought a relatively cheap hand-held CO2 dispenser that uses paintball gun CO2 gas cartridges (see photo).  We simply sanitize the nozzle, and then blast any of our batches to push out the O2 before replacing the airlock.  CO2 will eventually dissipate, so a good shot once and a while is standard practice at SB.  If you don’t want to take that extra step, be really careful about thieving samples, transferring, etc., because concoctions like ciders really do age beautifully, and it’s very sad when you wait months or years to find that carelessness left you with five gallons of wet cardboard (oxidation).

Apfelwein Tasting Notes:

Age: 4 months
ABV: 10%
Pectic Enzyme? No
Additional acid? No
Yeast nutrient? Yes
Oxygenated? Yes
Back-Sweetened? No

Appearance: Light straw colour.  Very clear (you could read a book through it, but it is not crystal-clear).  No head retention (predictable, due to lack of protein and hops).  Highly carbonated.

Smell: Delicate apple & honey aroma.  Very subtle, pleasant yeast aroma.  No hint of alcohol.

Taste: Crisp, refreshing apple essence that rides upon the carbonation.  Very refreshing.  Astonishingly quaffable (definitely a potential trouble-maker).  Notes similar to a champagne or young chardonnay.

Mouthfeel: Light-bodied, effervescent, prickling mouthfeel, tartness due to low final gravity.  Pleasant tart, refreshing finish.

Overall Impression: Very very good.  Slight mustiness from apples is a very nice addition (gives the impression of further ageing).  Can’t wait to see how this cider develops.

Brew Again? Yes
Change anything? Add pectic enzyme next time to aid clarification.  Add a more aromatic honey.








Mar 062013
Beer Flavour Wheel


Mar 062013

Note: While this chart is good for showing what hops are typically related in style, each hop is unique, and therefor this chart will only steer you in the direction of general substitutions and not exact clones.  For example, substituting Amarillo Gold for Cascade or Centennial will give you vastly different beers in terms of flavour and aroma, but will give you a beer that tends to fall under the same catagory (i.e. West Coast Pale Ale).

Hop Variety Substitute Varieties
Admiral Target, Northdown, Challenger
Ahtanum Amarillo, Centennial, Cascade
Amarillo Gold Cascade, Centennial
Bramling Cross EK Goldings, Progress
Brewer’s Gold Chinook, Galena, Nugget
Cascade Amarillo, Centennial, Columbus
Centennial Amarillo, Cascade, Columbus
Challenger Perle, Admiral
Chinook Brewers Gold, Columbus, Nugget, Northern Brewer, Target
Cluster Galena
Columbus (Tomahawk) Chinook, Northern Brewer, Warrior
Crystal Mt. Hood, Liberty, Hallertauer, Tettnanger
First Gold East Kent Goldings
Fuggles Willamette, Styrian Golding, Tettnanger
Galena Chinook, Nugget, Pride of Ringwood
Goldings, East Kent Progress, WGV
Green Bullet Styrian Goldings
Hallertauer Hersbrucker Mt. Hood
Hallertauer Mittelfrueh Liberty, Other German Hallertauer
Hallertauer, New Zealand Perle
Horizon Magnum, Warrior
Liberty Hallertau, Tettnanger, Mt. Hood
Magnum Nugget, Galena
Mt. Hood Hallertauer, Liberty, Crystal
Northdown Admiral, Challenger
Northern Brewer Chinook
Nugget Cluster, Galena, Brewers Gold, Target
Pacific Gem Magnum
Perle Challenger, Northern Brewer
Phoenix Challenger, EK Golding
Pilgrim Pioneer, Target
Pioneer EK Golding
Pride of Ringwood Cluster, Galena, Brewers Gold
Progress Fuggles, E.K. Goldings
Saaz Very difficult to substitute, maybe Tettnanger
Santiam Tettnanger, Spalt, Hallertau
Spalt Santiam, Tettnanger, Hallertau
Simcoe Northern Brewer Maybe
Sterling Saaz
Styrian Goldings Fuggle, Willamette
Target Nugget, Fuggle, WIllamette, Admiral
Tettnanger Hallertau, Liberty, Fuggle, Spalt
Vanguard Saaz, Hallertauer
Warrior Saaz, Hallertauer
Willamette Styrian Golding, Target, Fuggle, Tettnanger


Mar 062013




Mar 052013

Grains and Adjuncts Chart

Key: L = Degrees Lovibond, G = Gravity

Malt L G Decription
American Grains      
Crystal Malt 10° 1.033-35 Sweet, mild caramel flavor and a golden color. Use in light lagers and light ales.
Crystal Malt 20° 1.033-35 Sweet, mild caramel flavor and a golden color. Use in light lagers and light ales.
Crystal Malt 30° 1.033-35 Sweet, mild caramel flavor and a golden color. Use in light lagers and light ales.
Crystal Malt 40° 1.033-35 Sweet, mild caramel flavor and a golden color. Use in light lagers and light ales.
Crystal Malt 60° 1.033-35 Sweet caramel flavor, deep golden to red color. For dark amber and brown ales.
Crystal Malt 80° 1.033-35 Sweet, smooth caramel flavor and a red to deep red color. For porters, old ales.
Crystal Malt 90° 1.033-35 Pronounced caramel flavor and a red color. For stouts, porters and black beers.
Crystal Malt 120° 1.033-35 Pronounced caramel flavor and a red color. For stouts, porters and black beers.
Black Patent Malt 500° 1.026 Provides color and sharp flavor in stouts and porters.
Roasted Barley 300° 1.025 Sweet, grainy, coffee flavor and a red to deep brown color. For porters and stouts.
Black Barley 525° 1.023-27 Imparts dryness. Unmalted; use in porters and dry stouts.
Chocolate Malt 350° 1.034 Use in all types to adjust color and add nutty, toasted flavor. Chocolate flavor.
Dextrin Malt (carapils) 1.5° 1.033 Balances body and flavor without adding color, aids in head retention. For any beer.
Pale Malt (Brewers 2-row) 1.8° 1.037-38 Smooth, less grainy, moderate malt flavor. Basic malt for all beer styles.
Pale Malt (Brewers 6-row) 1.8° 1.035 Moderate malt flavor. Basic malt for all beer styles.
Munich Malt 10° 1.034 Sweet, toasted flavor and aroma. For Oktoberfests and malty styles.
Special Roast 50° 1.035 Provides a deep golden to brown color for ales. Use in all darker ales.
Vienna Malt 3.5-4° 1.035 Increases malty flavor, provides balance. Use in Vienna, Märzen and Oktoberfest.
Victory Malt 25° 1.034 Provides a deep golden to brown color. Use in nut brown ales, IPAs and Scottish ales.
Wheat Malt 1.038 Light flavor and creamy head. For American weizenbier, weissbier and dunkelweiss.
White Wheat Malt 1.037 Imparts a malty flavor. For American wheat beers, wheat bock and doppel bock.
Malt L G Decription
Belgian Grains
Aromatic Malt 20-26° 1.036 Imparts a big malt aroma. Use in brown ales, Belgian dubbels and tripels.
Biscuit Malt 23-25° 1.035 Warm baked biscuit flavor and aroma. Increases body. Use in Belgian beers.
Caramunich Malt 56° 1.033 Caramel, full flavor, copper color. For Belgian ales, German smoked and bocks.
Caravienne Malt 21-22° 1.034 Belgian light crystal malt. Used in lighter Abbey or Trappist style ales.
Pale Ale Malt 2.7-3.8° 1.038 Use as a base malt for any Belgian style beer with full body.
Pilsen Malt 1.5° 1.037 Light color, malty flavor. For pilsners, dubbels, tripels, whites and specialty ales.
Special B Malt 130-220° 1.030 Extreme caramel aroma and flavor. For dark Abbey beers and other dark beers.
Other Malts, Grains and Flaked Grains and Additions      
Scotmalt Golden Promise 2.4° 1.038 Scottish pale ale malt; base malt for all Scottish beers.
Flaked Barley 1.5° 1.032 Helps head retention, imparts creamy smoothness. For porters and stouts.
Flaked Maize 1.037 Lightens body and color. For light American pilsners and ales.
Flaked Oats 1.033 Adds body and creamy head. For stouts and oat ales.
Flaked Rye 1.036 Imparts a dry, crisp character. Use in rye beers.
Flaked Wheat 1.036 Imparts a wheat flavor, hazy color. For wheat and Belgian white beers.
Gambrinus Honey Malt 25° 1.034 Nutty honey flavor. For brown ales, Belgian wheats, bocks and many other styles.
Grits 1-1.5° 1.037 Imparts a corn/grain taste. Use in American lagers.
Irish Moss NA NA Prevents chill haze. Use in all beers except cloudy wheat and white beers.
Malto Dextrin NA 1.043 Adds body and mouthfeel. For all extract beers. Does not ferment.
Oak Chips NA NA Creates cask-conditioned flavor and aroma. Use in IPAs, Belgian ales and Scottish ales. Steam for 15 minutes to sanitize.
Malt L G Decription
British Grains
Amber Malt 35° 1.032 Roasted malt used in British milds, old ales, brown ales, nut brown ales.
Brown Malt 65° 1.032 Imparts a dry, biscuit flavor. Use in porters, brown, nut brown and Belgian ales.
Maris Otter Pale Malt 1.038 Premium base malt for any beer. Good for pale ales.
Pale Ale 2.2° 1.038 Moderate malt flavor. Used to produce traditional English and Scottish style ales.
Lager Malt 1.6° 1.038 Used to make light colored and flavored lagers.
Crystal Malt 55-60° 1.033-35 Sweet caramel flavor, adds mouthfeel and head retention. For pale or amber ales.
Dark Crystal Malt 145-188° 1.033-35 Sweet caramel flavor, mouthfeel. For porters, stouts, old ales and any dark ale.
Mild Ale Malt 2.3-2.7° 1.037 Dry, nutty malty flavor. Promotes body. Use in English mild ales.
Cara-Pils Dextrin 10-14° 1.033 Adds body; aids head retention. For porters, stouts and heavier bodied beers.
Chocolate Malt 395-475° 1.034 Nutty, toasted flavor, brown color. Use in brown ales, porters, stouts and bocks.
Black Patent Malt 500-600° 1.026 Dry, burnt, chalky character. Use in porters, stouts, brown ales and dark lagers.
Peat Smoked Malt 2.8° 1.034 Imparts a robust smoky flavor and aroma. For Scottish ales and wee heavies.
Roasted Barley 500° 1.025 Dry, roasted flavor, amber color. For stouts, porters and Scottish ales.
Toasted Pale Malt 25° 1.038 Imparts nutty flavor and aroma. Use in IPAs and Scottish ales.
Wheat Malt 1.038 Light flavor, creamy head. For wheat beers, stouts, doppelbocks and alt beers.
Torrified Wheat 1-1.5° 1.036 Puffed wheat created by high heat. Use in pale ales, bitters and milds.
Malt L G Decription
German Grains
Acidulated (Sauer) Malt 1.7-2.8° 1.033 High lactic acid. For lambics, sour mash beers, Irish stout, pilsners and wheats.
Carafa I 300-340° 1.038 Gives deep aroma and color to dark beers, bocks, stout, alt and schwarzbier.
Carafa II 375-450° 1.038 Carafa I, II and III also are available de-husked. Adds aroma, color and body.
Carafa III 490-560°    
Chocolate Wheat Malt 375-450° 1.038 Intensifies aroma; improves color. For dark ales, alt, dark wheat, stout and porter.
Chocolate Rye Malt 190-300° 1.030 Enhances aroma of dark ales and improves color. For dunkel rye wheat and ale.
CaraHell Malt (light crystal) 8-12° 1.033-35 For light colored beer for body; hefeweizen, pale ale, golden ale, Oktoberfest.
CaraMunich Malt I 30-38° 1.033-35 Provides body. For Oktoberfest, bock, porter, stout, red, amber and brown ales.
CaraMunich Malt II 42-50° 1.033-35 CaraMunich Malt III is dark crystal.
CaraMunich Malt III 53-60° 1.033-35  
Light Munich Malt 5-6° 1.034 For a desired malty, nutty flavor. Lagers, Oktoberfests and bock beer.
Dark Munich Malt 8-10° 1.034 Enhances body and aroma. Stout, schwarzbier, brown ale, dark and amber ales.
Melanoidin Malt 23-31° 1.033 For amber lagers and ales, dark lagers and ales, Scottish & red ales.
Rauch Smoked Malt 2-4° 1.037 For rauchbier, kellerbier, smoked porters, Scottish ales and barleywines.
Rye Malt 2.8-4.3° 1.029 Dry character. Can use as a base malt. For seasonal beers, roggenbier and ales.
Wheat Malt Light 1.5-2° 1.039 Typical top fermented aroma, produces superb wheat beers.
Wheat Malt Dark 6-8° 1.039  
Caramel Wheat Malt 38-53° 1.035 For dark ales, hefeweizen, dunkelweizen, wheat bocks and double bocks.
Malt L G Decription
Belgian Candi Sugar (clear) 0.5° 1.036 Smooth taste, good head retention, sweet aroma and high gravity without being apparent. Use in Belgian and holiday ales. Use clear for tripels, amber for dubbels, and dark is used in brown beer and strong golden ales.
Candi Sugar (amber) 75° 1.036
Candi Sugar (dark) 275&edg; 1.036
Brown Sugar 40° 1.046 Imparts rich, sweet flavor. Use in Scottish ales, old ales and holiday beers.
Dark Brown Sugar 60° 1.046 Imparts rich, sweet flavor. Use in Scottish ales, old ales and holiday beers.
Corn Sugar 1.037 Use in priming beer or in extract recipes where flaked maize would be used in a mash.
Demerara Sugar 1.041-42 Imparts mellow, sweet flavor. Use in English ales.
Dextrose (glucose) 1.037 Imparts a mild sweet taste and smoothness. Use in English beers.
Dry Malt Extract Varies 1.044 Extra light (2.5°), Light (3.5°), Amber (10°), Dark (30°), Wheat (3°)
Honey Varies 1.032 Imparts sweet and dry taste. For honey and brown ales. Also: specialty ales.
Invert Sugar NA 1.046 Increases alcohol. Use in some Belgian or English ales. Use as an adjunct for priming. Made from sucrose. No dextrins. Use 1 cup for priming.
Lactose NA 1.043 Adds sweetness and body. Use in sweet or milk stouts.
Licorice Stick NA NA Adds a smooth flavor to stouts, porters, holiday ales and flavored beers.
Lyle’s Golden Syrup 1.036 Increases alcohol without flavor. Liquid Invert Sugar. Use in English and Belgian (Chimay) ales.
Maple Syrup 35° 1.030 Imparts a dry, woodsy flavor if used in the boil. If beer is bottled with it, it gives it a smooth sweet, maple taste. Use in maple ales, pale ales, brown ales and porters.
Maple Sap 1.009 Crisp dry, earthy flavor. Use in pale ales, porters and maple ales.
Molasses 80° 1.036 Imparts strong sweet flavor. Use in stouts and porters.
Rice Solids 0.01° 1.040 Lightens flavor without taste. Use in American and Asian lagers.
Sucrose (white table sugar) NA 1.046 Increases alcohol. Use in Australian lagers and English bitters.
Syrup Malt Extract Varies 1.033-1.037 Extra Light (3.5°), Light (3.5 -5°), Amber (10°), Dark (30°), Wheat (2°).
Treacle 100° 1.036 Imparts intense, sweet flavor. A British mixture of molasses, invert sugar and golden syrup (corn syrup). Use in dark English ales.

Original page from:

Mar 052013

All-grain brewing — the easy way!

Often a hot topic for debate, the Brew-In-A-Bag (BIAB) technique is one that claims roots in Australian homebrewing, and is gaining a lot of ground worldwide.  We often use this technique while brewing indoors, and feel that it’s a great way for homebrewers to transition to all-grain brewing.  All it takes to get started is a brew pot and a few BIAB bags!  No cooler, no sparging, and far less mess!

THE CONCEPT: BIAB technique is one where the brewer uses crushed grain in a porous bag that allows permeability of liquids within the brew kettle without the transfer of grain from within the bag to the wort.  Most brewing steps are the same.  What changes, and what we consider highly advantageous are the following points:

1) NO NEED TO SPARGE!  The most common method of BIAB is to begin with all the water you’ll need in your pot from start to finish (water-grist ratio explained later).  This means that if we are planning on a five gallon batch in the fermenter, we will add all the water we need into our pot, treat the water, add the grain, mash, mashout (we find it helps raise our OG by ~5 points), remove the grain, boil, cool, transfer to fermenter, done!  While some brewers do in fact sparge while using the BIAB technique, it seems rather counter-intuitive to the ease of the technique, not to mention that we’ve tried sparging and found our efficiency did not really improve, but also made for a longer brew day, more potential for mess and injury, and a pain when treating water with salts for either removing chlorine/chloramine or adjusting PH and hardness.  This also reduces your brewing footprint, as you do not require extra equipment (such as a mash-tun cooler), and you don’t need to worry about performing a “vorlauf”.  Furthermore, you need not to worry about grain ending up in your boil.  One technique we’ve adopted is to stir and press the grain bags with our mash paddle to really infuse the grain with the hot liquor (hot water).

Doughing in!

Doughing in!

2) EASIER CLEAN-UP! Never have I met a homebrewer who really loves to clean after making a batch of beer, but if you want to be a serious brewer, you must be serious about cleaning.  A great thing about the BIAB technique is that when your mash (and optional mashout) is complete, you can simply remove the grain bags, squeeze them (more on this hot topic below), and drop them into a bucket or sink to cool before simply opening them and transferring your grain into your organic waste bin (also great for baking with or feeding your livestock if you have any).  Anyone who has used a cooler to batch or fly sparge will know that it’s a moderate pain to clean (especially when brewing indoors), and so this is just another attribute to the minimalist brewing system that BIAB affords.

3) FASTER BREW DAY!  Brew-In-A-Bag really does streamline your brew day, thus shortening it.  Filling and tying-off the bags is quick, emptying/cleaning the bags is quick, no cooler to clean, and no sparging.  We find this shaves at least an hour off our brew day!

BIAB EFFICIENCY: We have found that efficiency does decrease to some extent when using this technique.  This is due to the grains not being rinsed after the mash is complete.  Usually we end up at around 70% efficiency, rather than 75%-80% when batch or fly sparging.  The reduction of gravity points is certainly a point of contention when brewers consider the BIAB technique, but here’s our response:  BIAB is really only a technique used on a homebrewing scale, and a minimal loss of efficiency can be compensated by the addition of a relatively minimal amount of extra grain.  Here is a breakdown of the cost of extra grain to match the efficiency of batch/fly sparge:

Schönwetter Brewing Efficiency Stats:

Efficiency loss of BIAB vs Batch/Fly Sparge: 5%-10%
Gravity points lost with a 5%-10% efficiency loss: 3-6 (eg. 1.047 BIAB vs 1.050 Batch sparge vs 1.053 fly sparge)
Gravity points 1lb of base malt adds: 3 (eg. to raise 1.047 to 1.050)
Cost of 1lb of base malt grain where we live: ~$1.50

As you can see, on a homebrewing scale, it costs us an extra $1.50 to match the efficiency of batch sparging per batch of beer. If a ~5 gallon (~19 litre) batch of beer gives us ~55 x 341ml bottles of beer.  Spread that extra cost of the 1lb of base malt grain, you are looking at an extra cost of ~$0.03 per bottle of beer.  An extra 3 cents per bottle in exchange for less equipment, less cleaning, and equally good beer.  That’s our $0.02 worth.

SQUEEZING THE BAG:  If you have an hour to burn, do a Google search on whether one should squeeze the bag with the BIAB technique.  We spent well over an hour researching this, and then we brewed a bunch of batches alternating between squeezing the bag and not squeezing the bag.  Cause of concern: Extracting tannins from the grain by squeezing.  Final verdict: Squeeze the bag!  Not only are the grain bags filled with wort goodness, it seems that the amount of required force to extract tannins from the grain is beyond the heroics of even the mightiest homebrewer.  We have seen zero negative effects by squeezing the bag, and, rather, end up having more wort to boil down, which is a good thing.  We find the best way to get the most squeeze out of you bag (most bag for your buck?), is to lay your mash paddle horizontally over the rim of your pot, and start wrapping the bag around the handle of the paddle (think of winding rope on a well shaft to raise a bucket).  Some people will pipe up that this will create HSA (Hot Side Aeration) — First, we don’t believe in it yet (have never seen any negative effects from a little splashing).  Second, if you are so concerned about HSA, put the grain bags into a bowl, one at a time, and squeeze the wort in there before transferring that wort (ever so gently) back into your pot.

Dividing grains into multiple bags.

Dividing grains into multiple bags.

WATER-GRIST RATIO:  Some feel that the concept of a proper Water-Grist (grain) ratio is important for enzymes to properly convert grain starch into grain sugar.  When using the BIAB technique, one way to maintain the typical 1.0-1.5 quarts of water per pound of grain ratio (~1L-1.5L of water per pound of grain) is to perform your mash with the amount of water to produce this ratio, followed by adding the remaining water after the mash is complete.  Currently we brew without paying attention to this ratio, starting with total water at the start of the mash.  This is for ease of operation, but will be a technique we will experiment with shortly.  Quite likely a proper water-grist ratio will be incorporated into our brew day, but we do not see any ill-affects thus far from not incorporated it.  Software such as BeerSmith has tools to calculate water additions for this purpose.

HOW TO SAVE EVEN MORE MONEY:  Homebrew shops mark up their inventory so that they can stay in business and continue to provide us homebrewers the products that we demand.  Upon saying that, these BIAB bags tend to be overpriced.  What we found is that these bags are just paint strainer bags, and so we just go to a paint store to purchase them.  In comparison, one of these BIAB/Paint Strainer bags at a Homebrew shop costs ~$8.00, and ~$1.50 at a paint store.  Sometimes you might even find a paint store attached to a homebrew store which makes for a very convenient brewing supply trip in the car.


Milling directly into the bag.

HOW TO BREW IN A BAG:  Either purchase your pre-milled grain or mill the grain yourself.  If you are milling the grain yourself, a trick we learned is to stretch the grain bag over the opening of a plastic brewing pail and then mill directly into the bag (less mess).  Because the grain is being held in bags, you can mill more finely, thus increasing efficiency without risk of a stuck sparge…because there is no sparge!  Depending on the size of the BIAB bags you are using, you want to fill them loosely.  If you pack the bags too densely, you will encounter poor utilization/efficiency.  When we brew a typical 5 gallon/5% abv. batch, we are using three or four grain bags in our pot.  This keeps the grain loose which enables greater surface area between grain and hot liquor (water).  Dough-in at your desired temperature, and compensate for the temperature loss caused by adding the grain (should be the same as when brewing via other techniques).  Ensure that when doughing-in, you stir thoroughly to diffuse the grain to avoid dough-balls (just like a regular mash).  Mash as usual.  Mashout as usual.  Squeeze the bags, remove the bags, bring wort to a boil and continue your brewing process as usual.

CONCLUSION:  Since we incorporated the BIAB technique into our brewing arsenal, we have found that we are brewing a lot more.  Not only is there the ease of spent grain handling, clean-up is easier, there is less equipment required, and the loss of efficiency is rectified by adding $1.50 worth of grain for a 5 gallon batch of beer.  If you are looking to get into all-grain brewing, we HIGHLY recommend starting with this process.  The only thing we noticed is that when doing a step-temperature infusion (mashing at different temps) is that the bags can scorch on the bottom of the pot when turning the element on HIGH to raise the temperature.  This can be combated by placing an aluminum or stainless steel colander upside-down inside your pot to keep the bags off the bottom of the pot (we just use a false bottom in our pot).  Alternatively, first raise your liquor (water) to your desired mash temp, turn down the heat (we find that our stove will maintain mash temp indefinitely at between 2-3 on our stove dial), and dough-in at that point.

The disadvantage of using a large single bag -- it weighs a tonne!

The disadvantage of using a large single bag — it weighs a tonne!

Some pots will allow a grain bag to be stretched over the rim.  There are some over-sized bags on the market, permitting all the grain to be stirred within the bag.  The problem is that not only are they pricey, but lifting a single bag filled with all your wet grain is very heavy, messy, and potentially dangerous.  Also, you can squeeze a lot more wort out of smaller bags than attempting to do so with one large bag.  Squeezing the bags after they have been sitting in mash temperatures for 1+ hours makes them very hot.  The best way to combat this is to pull out the bags, let them cool for a while, and then squeeze them.  We are impatient, so we put on two sets of Blichmann brewing gloves and squeeze the bags right after pulling them. Remember: Safety first, sanitation second, and great beer third!


Mar 022013

Howe Sound Pothole FillerBrewery: Howe Sound (Squamish, British Columbia)
Style: Russian Imperial Stout
ABV: 9%









“A dark rich black stout utilizing humongous amounts of roasted barley, black malt, flatted barley and Warrior, Green Bullet and Willamette hops. Thick enough to fill potholes!”

Howe Sound is a brewery the LCBO seems to have taken up as one of their new wunderkind artisinal breweries.  It seems the LCBO is finally listening to the demands of its consumers (to a small degree), exemplified by the reaction to its limited release of Westvletern 12 in December 2012.

Pothole Filler, after we purchased it, loomed in our fridge for a long time…This hefty 1L swing-top bottle of 9% Russian Imperial Stout spent weeks bullying all our other beers, booting them out of the fridge, one by one, into our sympathetic glasses.  Finally came time to take a shot in the dark.

As stated on the label, Pothole Filler is “…a strong, thick, black imperial stout brewed with six varieties of roasted malt, wheat, blackstrap molasses, five varieties of hops, yeast and Coast Range water.”  What’s interesting is that the bottle also states an allergen alert of “barley & fish”.  First, there is no mention that the beer contains wheat.  Secondly, warning that the beer contains fish is terribly misleading.  Assuming this means that Isinglass (the float bladder of the sturgeon fish) was used as a fining (a specific beer clarifying agent used mainly to clarify “cask” or “real” ales”), Isinglass is a fining that precipitates out of the beer along with the haze-producing proteins that it bonds to.  Never have we seen this on a label before.  British Columbia label laws?  Rather doubtful is it that the people of Squamish are squeamish to fish.


APPEARANCE – Opaque black with a clear copper edge.  Lasting deep tan head with sticking lacing.  Small crisp bubbles.

SMELL – Coffee, molasses, caramel, dried fruit, no harsh or overly roasted smells.  Hops are faint and somewhat grassy.  Subdued alcohol notes.  Dubiously inviting.

TASTE – Big smooth chocolate note.  Present hop bitterness that is well balanced. Long smooth roasted finish.  Pleasingly dry finish that cleans its fullness up quickly, leaving an assertive roasted/oily/bitter coating on the tongue that begs for another sip.  Alcohol is smooth and complimentary to this beer.

MOUTHFEEL – Thick but not chewy.  Mouth-coating.  Slight carbonic bite on the tongue.  Any thicker and it’d knock itself out of balance.

OVERALL – Incredibly balanced for the alcohol percentage.  Where many-a-RIS (Russian Imperial Stout) attempt to thrash out into the abyss, Pothole Filler gives you the impressive that it stands confidently balanced a foot before the edge.  Thick but not cloying, and particularly enjoyable is its subdued roasted taste and fulfilling roasted finish.  Molasses is prevalent in a complementary way. A very accessible Russian Imperial Stout.  This beer is a smooth operator.