Category Archives: German

Pineapple Kolsch

Another beer for my father-in-law’s kegerator! We thought that a Kolsch would be fitting for summer but also wanted to add a fruit. We tossed around the idea of lime, but that’d be too cliche. We landed on pineapple, thinking the acidic nature of the fruit would be a nice compliment to the gentle Kolsch base beer.

I did some reading on pineapple in beer, and there seem to be polarizing opinions on the best way to use it. Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromlain, which has the detrimental effect of digesting proteins the beer, making it thin and lacking body. I’ve also experienced this with meat – one time i made a shredded pork dish with pineapple – the next day the meat had turned into a pasty mush. There are lots of suggestions on how to prepare the pineapple to avoid this, but I figured what the heck, lets give it a try and see how severe the effect is. A thin kolsch wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world anyway.

  • 5.25 lb US Pale 2-row
  • 5.25 lb German Pils
  • 0.25 lb Honey malt
  • 0.18 lb Acid malt
  • 0.5 oz Magnum 60 min
  • 0.25 oz Styrian bobek 10 min
  • 1 pkg Saflager-189

// Mash-in w/ 4.5 gal at 150F for 60 minutes. Raise to 168F, sparge to collect ~6.75 gallons 1046 wort. Boil 75 minutes. Collect 5.25 gal 1052 wort. Wort wasn’t as cool as expected, maybe 72F. Oxygenate, sprinkle yeast on top. Left to ferment at 62F. Brewed 5/6/17. //

// Sparge got stuck initially. Let it sit for a little, then turn pump on with throttle about 1/2 way, then eventually allow full flow once mash liquefied. Mash ran fine at full speed (very clear wort) by the end //

5/13/17   Base beer turned out well – good lager quality and malt flavor. Chopped up two pineapples and pureed gently with an immersion blender, then added directly to primary. Total pineapple slush was 4.5 lb.

5/15/17  Mild pineapple flavor, much more in the aroma. Body does seem slightly thinner. Put in the fridge to crash cool.

5/16/17  Kegged. The pineapple flavor is appropriate but could afford to be bigger. One more pineapple should do it. Also, the pulp was super annoying while kegging. It kept clogging my racking tube every few minutes, and even still there was a lot that transferred to the keg. Next time I’ll probably just juice the whole pineapple slice by slice and not any pulp to the primary.  Fun experiment, and I’ll definitely make this again!



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Filed under All-grain, German

American Pils

One of my favorite beer tasting experiences was going to the tasting room at Steam Whistle Brewing in Toronto. The beer was so fresh, crisp, and delicious that I still have dreams about that pilsner. I’ve been wanting to make something that comes close, and, given that it’s tough to find Steam Whistle in bottles near me, I did some research online to see if people know what was in it. This recipe is a representation of those findings.

  • 11 lb US 2-row Pale malt
  • 0.17 lb Melanoidin malt
  • 1 oz Perle 60 min
  • 0.4 oz Saaz @ 5 min
  • 0.4 oz Spalt @ 4 min
  • 0.5 oz Spalt @ 2 min
  • 1 pkg Saflager-189

// Mash-in w/ 4.5 gal at 150 for 60 minutes. 2.5 tsp CaCl2 to mash. Mash-out,  sparge to collect around 6.6 gal 1046 wort. Boil 75 minutes. Chill to 55F, collect 5 gallons 1053 wort. Oxygenate 60s, sprinkle yeast on top. Brewed 1/13/17. Left to ferment between 55F and 60F in the basement. //

1/20/17:  Gravity at 1020, great malt flavor and subtle hop profile. Letting it finish out.

1/27/17:  Gravity at 1012. Moved to fridge.

1/30/17: Doesn’t taste nearly as “fresh” as the first tasting, wondering if i let it sit a little too long. Added gelatin finings.

2/1/17: Kegged. Fairly clear, still some hazy beer left near the bottom of the carboy. Tasting notes.

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Filed under All-grain, Almost SMASH, Blonde, German, Lager, Malty, Pilsner


img_1562I’ve been in lager-mode recently, so I started looking around for a recipe of something that I’ve never brewed before: schwarzbier. I came across a good looking recipe on Brulosophy’s website, so I brewed it almost exactly as-is, except I used Perle instead of Saaz (just what I had laying around).

  • 7.5 lb Pils
  • 2 lb Dark Munich (10L)
  • 0.5 lb Carafa II
  • 0.38 lb Crystal 60
  • 0.25 lb Chocolate (Briess)
  • 0.4 oz Magnum hops (60 min)
  • 0.5 oz Perle hops (15 min)
  • WLP029 (Kolsch/German Ale) 1L starter

// Mash-in 1.6 qt/lb at 152 for 60 minutes, sparge to collect around 6.6 gallons 1044 wort. Boil 90 minutes, collect around 6 gallons of 1052 wort. Chill to 64F, oxygenate, pitch decanted starter. Let to ferment around 62F. Brewed 12/3/16 on grainfather. //

1.25 tsp CaCl2 to mash.

Having not brewed in a little while, I had a bunch of flubs during this batch. First, I didn’t remember to add the mash salts until I was about 40 minutes in. Hopefully late is better than never. Then, right at the end, as I’m almost done chilling the wort, I saw that my temp probe wasn’t fully inserted into the thermowell throughout the whole brew session. Awesome! Hopefully my mash temp wasn’t too far off from what it read.

12/6/16:  Tons of blow off, but finally subsided and yeast seems to have dropped out. Gravity at 1018, slightly sweet but respectable flavor. More roast than I anticipated, and also fairly clean. Moved upstairs to around 68F.

12/10/16:  Gravity at 1014. Really liking how this is tasting. Moved to fridge at 40F. Tasting notes.

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Filed under Balanced, German, Lager

Festbier – review of the new Grainfather system!


My brewing setup consists of converted kegs/keggles, two propane burners, and a chugger pump — a pretty standard RIMS setup which has done me well for the past four years. It definitely comes with its challenges, though. Brewing outdoors exposes you to the elements, so any extreme hot or cold makes things difficult, i.e. hoses freezing up, ground water not cold enough to chill the wort, etc. Any slight breeze or gust of wind diminishes the flame heating the kettle (which is already an inefficient heat source) so keeping a constant mash temp without a temp controller is spotty, and maintaining a steady rolling boil is tricky although manageable. My efficiency is naturally low (usually 65%-68%) because I batch sparge, and my total wort loss from mash/lauter tun and boil kettle combined is around a gallon and a half due to dead spaces, so I lose a good bit of perfectly good wort on every batch.

Sounds like I’m complaining, but it’s a solid system that has produced really good beer (which placed several times in comps). It’s a piecemeal system that wasn’t expensive to put together, but all of its drawbacks have led me to look into overhauling my setup and switching to an all-electric system. I’m not so much worried about the consistency of the beer as much as maintenance and making the brew day easier. Start to finish, a 5-gallon batch on my propane system takes around 6 hours – it’s a long time, and although I’ve accepted that it will take up a good portion of my Saturday, that is a FULL 6 hours of work – constantly checking the strike temp, mash temp, boil level, assembling and disassembling parts for storage… you get the point. Having some automation in the system will allow me to get other stuff done during the day while brewing. The idea of brewing indoors all year round is attractive, and to do so would require ditching the gas burners. There are a lot of electric options for retro-fitting kettles with heating elements, but I came across the Grainfather system and was immediately attracted to its design and compactness. I did some research on what it would cost to build something similar from scratch. It would cost well over $2000, and the Grainfather is competitively priced at $890. So I made easily the biggest brewing purchase I’ve ever made and gave the Grainfather a shot.

The first recipe is a Festbier for Oktoberfest. It’s a simple recipe, and I’ve made this with good results the past few years.

  • 6 lb Pilsner malt
  • 3 lb Dark munich
  • 0.3 lb Caramunich I
  • 1.5 oz Hallertauer (2.5 % a.a.) at 60 and 30 minutes
  • White Labs Munich Lager (2L starter)

// Mash-in 1.5 qt/lb at 152 for 60 minutes, mash out at 168 for 5 minutes. Collect around 7.5 gallons pre-boil wort, boil 90 minutes. Collected around 6.75 gallons of 1037 wort. Chilled down to 82 with ground water, put in the fridge overnight to chill. Pitched decanted starter the next morning with wort at 62F and put in fridge at 48F. Brewed 8/30/16. //

Before I get into my notes of first impressions of the Grainfather, let me say that it’s not surprising to have some hiccups and unexpected issues when completely overhauling your existing brewing setup with an entirely different system. That being said, here are my main notes from first use of the Grainfather. Overall I enjoyed using the Grainfather. The components are extremely well designed and thought-out. You can tell someone who brews a lot made this. The size is awesome and really appealing for someone who doesn’t have a lot of space. Looking forward to continuing to brew on it and make some good beer!


The mashing method for the Grainfather is like a metal brew-in-a-bag. They wisely have the metal basket raised off the bottom of the kettle where the heating element is (to prevent scorching), but there’s probably around a gallon of water that sits below the basket. I used my standard mash-in ratio of 1.5 qt/lb. Before you start the recirculation pump, the mash is THICK. I mean really thick. Once the pump has some time to move the liquid around it’s OK. I later learned that the brewing calculator on their website helps you choose the right ratio for their system based on your grainbill. Highly recommend this.


If you’re like me and switching from a propane system, be forewarned that the boil on the Grainfather is not strong. It’s puny. Barely even what I would call “rolling”.  After doing some research online, several people in forums have noted the same issue. Some say that using an extension cord can drop the power slightly and weaken the boil. I tried both ways – not much difference. After talking with my LHBS expert (who has used the Grainfather extensively), he said that this “weak” boil is both typical for the Grainfather and most commercial breweries. He said that the crazy boils that homebrewers get aren’t common in a commercial brewery simply because its not necessary. I still have qualms about whether you’ll getting a good hot break, though. Regardless, using the Grainfather calculator will help you get your volumes right to account for the true boil-off rates.


This was probably the most seamless part that worked especially well the first time. The inline chiller was able to get the wort down to the temperature of my ground water (85F) and go directly into the fermentor. The hop filter did a good job of keeping back nearly all of the hops from going through the pump. Beats having to stand over the kettle with a copper immersion chiller, stirring constantly for about 20 minutes. The hoses and adaptors for the cold-in hot-out feel a little cheap, but they work.


I should have done more research beforehand, but I totally over estimated the losses. First, the boil-off rate is low (i would guess 6%) compared to the propane setup. Second, there’s much less dead space in the vessel so I only lose about 1/2 gallon to trub/hops. So I wound up with way too much wort (probably 7 gallons or so instead of 5) after the boil so this first batch is a little thin. At the time I didn’t realize that their online calculator accounts for all those parameters to figure out what volumes you need.


The electric controls are easy to use – one switch to activate the pump, the other to toggle between mash mode (temp regulated) and boil mode (full heat). There’s another switch on the bottom of the unit away from the control panel, however, which can be set to “Normal” or “Mash”.  Apparently this switches between using the full electric power or a lower power unit, respectively. Not sure why this type of switching logic wasn’t built into the temperature control electronics, but they provide instructions on when you should use the different modes. It’s not super inconvenient, but it just provides a thing you can potentially forget to set before you use it.


8/31/16:  Lots of activity, no yeast on top yet. Fridge at 48F. Rotten egg smell in the morning, but by night smells clean.

9/7/16: Gravity at 1020. Fridge at 50F.

9/14/16: Turned the fridge off to let it rise up to about 60F.

9/16/16: Gravity down to 1014. Still fruity and cloudy, but with a pleasant bread flavor. Lots of airlock activity still.

9/22/16: Gravity at 1012. Slightly off aroma (sulfur) but flavor is wonderful. Set temp to 36F, will let this sit for a week and then keg!


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Filed under All-grain, Amber, Equipment, German, Lager, Malty

Kettle Soured Berliner Weiss


Omega Yeast Labs makes a Lactobacillus blend that can sour beer at room temperature rather than requiring an elevated temperatures in the 90F-110F range. This is a quick 3 gallon batch sour using the kettle sour method to see what kind of results this blend can produce.

  • 4 lb Pils malt
  • 2.5 lb White wheat
  • 0.5 oz Saaz 60 min
  • 0.5 oz Hallertau 5 min
  • Omega Labs Lactobacillus blend
  • White Labs German Ale / Kolsch

// Mash-in 1.5 qt/lb at 150 for 60 min. Mash out and sparge to collect 3.5 gal 1050 wort. Sour for 72 hours with Omega blend. Boil 60 minutes, cool to room temp, pitch yeast. Collected around 3.25 gallons of 1048 wort. Pitch yeast with no starter. Brewed 3/6/16. //

Fermented down to around 1011 in about 1 week. Excellent malt character with just a touch of sourness. Kegged and carbonated to medium/high level.

Tasting Notes:

Appearance: Light yellow, slight haze. Wispy white head that lasts for a while and leaves moderate lacing on the glass.

Aroma: Bright lemon and lime citrus up front supported by light breaded malts.

Mouthfeel: Extremely light bodied and bubbly.

Flavor: Medium amount of tartness and acidity up front, with lemon/pear. Light pils malts linger in the finish with a touch of citrus, which is almost like a Kolsch with a healthy squeeze of lemon juice.

Overall:  A clean, spritzy, refreshing beverage with some great Berliner Weiss / Gose-like qualities.  I’m not a Berliner Weiss expert but this beer was exceptional for my tastes. It could maybe be just a touch more acidic – using ice to chill the wort definitely cut the sourness down, but there was still an appropriate level that made it very enjoyable.

I highly recommend the Omega lacto blend for kettle souring. It’s very clean and quick which, in my mind, is ideal for this style since it’s not an overly complex sour beer like a gueuze. Personally I’m not a fan Brett character in this style – I think citrus works better than funk here, but that’s just me.

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Filed under All-grain, Blonde, Experimental, Funky / Sour, German, Small Batch, Sour, Wheat beers

Pils-ish Ale

IMG_0925I’m always looking for new techniques, especially when they save you a little time and still allow you to produce delicious beer.  I did a Marzen lager once and tried just fermenting it like an ale. It produced beer, but didn’t come out so well. I was treating the lager yeast poorly by fermenting too warm and got subpar results, so that shortcut didn’t work.  I’m craving a good pilsner but don’t have the fridge space to lager at the moment. So I decided to build the recipe as a standard pilsner and pitch a big dose of clean ale yeast and see how things turn out after cold conditioning it for maybe 2 weeks or so.  Sure, it most definitely won’t be exactly like using a lager yeast, but maybe it can get me 90% of the way there in 3 weeks instead of 3 months if the yeast character is clean enough. Also I did this as a 5 gallon BIAB, which is sort of in between my normal 10 gallon outdoor setup and 3 gallon indoor stovetop BIAB setup.

  • 11 lb Avengard Pilsner malt
  • 1 oz Perle (8.5% aa) FWH
  • 1 oz Tettenager (2.4% aa)
  • 1 oz Spalt (2.4% aa) 10 min
  • 1 oz Spalt (2.5% aa) 5 min
  • 2 packets Safale S-05

Brew in a bag, 5 gallons outdoor on the propane burner. Pulled the bag out and dunked in a pot of sparge water. used a smaller pot to transfer the sparged wort bag into the boil kettle.

// Mash-in 1.5 qt/lb at 132 for 10 minutes, 154 for 60 minutes. Dunk in 5 gallons of sparge water at 180F (settled at 165F) for 5 minutes. Collect 8 gallons of 1.037 wort. Boil 90 minutes. Chill to 85, collected around 4.5 gallons of 1.050 wort. Brewed 7/2/15. //

// Water:  2 tsp CaCl2, 1/2 tsp gypsum to mash, 2.5 tsp CaCl 3/4 tsp gypsum to sparge. //

Brew in a bag left a TON of sediment in both the mash and sparge. This, plus all the hops left around 1.5 gallons of trub in the boil kettle.

Good fermentation by the next morning.

7/6/15   Airlock slowed to a bubble every minute or so. Opened up the carboy and saw a 1/4″ layer of frothy yeast on top of the beer, and it’s still real cloudy but appears to be done fermenting. Gravity at 1013.  Great malt flavor – grainy, bready, just what I was hoping for. Little hop finish as well. Hopefully the yeast settles out nicely, otherwise i might add some finings to help clear it up. Went ahead and moved the carboy to the fridge at 28F.


I was up and down about this batch but in the end I enjoyed how it turned out. It wasn’t very  close to a true pils lager, but it was good in its own way.

Visual: Pale yellow, slightly cloudy but not nearly clear enough for any standard of a pils. Medium density pure white head that lingers for about 30 seconds after pouring.

Smell: Bread, pils malt, and just a hint of noble hops. Some apple/fruity notes that almost remind me of an English pale beer, but not quite that much.

Taste:  Clean breaded malts with a touch of hops. Fair amount of sweetness which I think may be due to the yeast not fully finishing out on this one. There’s some yeast character, but it’s not off putting.

Mouthfeel: Prickly carbonation helps to bring out some of the bitterness, which does linger on the palate for a few seconds after swallowing.

Overall: I think this recipe could be really good with the right treatment of the yeast and proper fermentation. I really like beers that showcase a clean pilsener profile, especially ones like Steam Whistle from Toronto.

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Filed under All-grain, Experimental, German, Pilsner

Quick and Easy Berliner Weisse

IMG_0705I’ve started reading American Sour Beers by Michael Tonsmeire to learn more about how to produce more funky and sour beers. So far I really like the book – very well-structured and geared towards brewers who are already into all-grain brewing but new to sour and wild fermentations. The basis for this recipe was inspired by the book, adjusted for 3 gallons at about 60% efficiency. I did the BIAB method, and since this was a no-boil batch, I brewed this up in about 2 hours flat on a week night. Not bad!

  • 4.75 lb German Pils malt
  • 2.25 lb Wheat malt
  • 0.5 oz Czech Saaz (2.4% a.a.)
  • White Labs Brett Lambicaus
  • White Labs Lactobacillus Brevus
  • White Labs California Ale

// Mash-in 1.45 qt/lb at 125 for 10 min, 145 for 30 min, 158 for 5 min. Add the hops to the mash at the start of the 145 rest. Add ice, 0.75 qt cold water to chill to around 100F. Brought outside at 25F to chill for an hour, got down to 80F. Oxygenate for 30s, pitch all the yeast and bacteria. Brewed 2/12/15. //

UPDATE (2/18/15):  Fermentation has basically stopped, beer is starting to clarify in the carboy. Gravity at 1.009. Incredibly light color – such a light yellow it looks like lemonade.  Smell is awesome – straw, hay, some Brett funk, a little cherry/smoke, with a slightly off smell (urinal cake?). Surprisingly very smooth, dough-y, delicate bread flavor – a little sweet up front with some lemon highlights and just a hint of horsey funk, followed by a little acidic tartness. This is definitely on its way to becoming an awesome beer, but it just needs to get a little more sour!

UPDATE (3/17/15): A small pellicle has formed on the surface, so I took another sample. Nose is similar to before – funky with a little lemon and soft bread. More sourness developed, great tartness that makes me pucker a little bit but not much. The flavors are so subtle that they’re pretty much masked by the tartness of the beer, but come through a little in the finish. As soon as some space in my kegerator frees up, this one will be ready to go on tap.

UPDATE (4/13/15): Lots of tiny little pellicles now on the surface, but i went ahead and kegged because I’ve been dying to have this on tap (and, it’s been in the primary now for 2 months).  Slightly off-aroma has developed, kind of a stinky feet thing, but a good funky aroma as well. The taste is much more forgiving. Tartness upfront, followed by the same malt flavors as before. Sourness has gotten much more pronounced, with a little bit of funk and dryness in the finish. Really excited to see how this tastes chilled and will some carbonation! If that off-aroma persists, I might consider adding some fruit juice to the keg.


It was amazing to see right out of the gate how much the carbonation and cold temperature enhanced the tartness of this beer. Just a few days on CO2 and this thing tasted amazing, and pretty darn sour – by far the sourest thing I’ve brewed to date. It’s light, tart, and fairly complex for such a light malt and hop bill. The sacc, brett, and lacto did some interesting things together, but I think the brett really isn’t that noticeable in the mix. My kegerator pressure is kind of in flux, so I noticed that as the carbonation decreased, the implied sour/tartness did also. I think this beer could go really well blended with some fruit, preferably something bright and citrusy – orange, grapefruit, peach, maybe even apple.

Two months in the primary had me a little nervous since there were almost no hops, and very little alcohol in this beer to help protect from any kind of spoilage. But, given the nice flavor and active pellicles on the surface at the time I kegged it, I think this thing would’ve kept souring for even longer. It’s cool to see a decent sour beer can be created in a turnaround of just over 2 months. That may be a feature of the lacto-brevus that apparently sours faster than the debrukki strain. I guess you’d say this is very “young” in terms of sours; not much complexity with a very plain straightforward sourness, but it’s really nice to sip on a hot day. I combined 4 oz of this beer with just a splash of the Mosaic Belgian Pale ale, and that tasted really, really good. It added a little fruitiness and body without taking too much away from the sourness. Highly recommend this recipe for anyone looking to try making a sour beer for the first time!


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Filed under All-grain, Experimental, German, Small Batch, Sour, Summer