Category: WILT

With the Munich Helles and Dopplebock under my belt I’ve gotten over the initial trepidation associated with a lager.  In fact, the first beer that I helped my Brother-in-Law brew as he began his homebrewing journey was a Schwarzbier.  I thought I’d get another one going (since it takes about 3 months).  Looking at the time of year it seemed appropriate to make a Maibock. 

So what is a Maibock?  It can be thought of as either a pale version of a traditional bock, or a Munich Helles brewed to bock strength. While quite malty, this beer typically has less dark and rich malt flavors than a traditional bock. May also be drier, hoppier, and more bitter than a traditional bock. The hops compensate for the lower level of melanoidins. There is some dispute whether Helles (“pale”) Bock and Mai (“May”) Bock are synonymous. Most agree that they are identical (as is the consensus for Märzen and Oktoberfest), but some believe that Maibock is a “fest” type beer hitting the upper limits of hopping and color for the range. Any fruitiness is due to Munich and other specialty malts, not yeast-derived esters developed during fermentation.

Here’s how my Maibock stacks up against the guidelines.

  BJCP Guidelines ThreePines Maibock
IBUs 23-35 28
SRM 6-11 7.9
OG 1.064-1.072 1.066
FG 1.011-1.018 1.016 Est.
ABV 6.3-7.4% 6.53% Est.

So, what was special about this brew?  Well, like any other lager it required a larger than normal starter and a ferment at around 47 degrees.  What was different was the fact that I did a triple decoction mash.

Many beers first used a triple decoction as this method provided an easy way to get repeatable results during a mash without the use of a thermometer.  A triple decoction was also almost a requirement with pilsner and/or munich malt historically being less modified than today’s examples.  Higher modification leads to easier sugar extraction during the mash.

Decoction is basically the process of taking a portion of the mash (mostly grain) and bringing it to a boil to then add it back to the mash to bring the temperature of the mash from one rest temperature to the next.  Here’s what I did…

  1. Mash in with about 3 gallons of water at 70 degrees (13lbs of grain). Hold for 15 mins.
  2. Add 2 gallons of 169 degree water to bring mash to 105 degree acid rest.  Hold for 20 mins.
  3. Decoct 1 gallon of mash, bring to boil for 5 mins and add back to mash to bring to 122 degree protein rest for 10 mins.
  4. Decoct 2.25 gallons of mash, bring to boil for 2 mins, add back to mash to bring to 155 degree dextrinization rest for 20 mins
  5. Decoct 1.5 gallons of mash, bring to boil for 5 mins, add back to mash to bring to mash out temp of 170 degrees for 5 mins.

At this point I then carried out my standard batch sparge where I drained the mash tun, collecting about 2.5 gallons of wort and then added about 5.6 gals of 168 degree sparge water to collect an addition 5.5 gallons of wort in preparation for my boil.

At the end of a much longer brew day (added on about 2-3 hours) I had successfully completed my first triple decoction.   Whether I do this again will depend on how well it comes out… looking forward to the end of May.




WILT 13 – 5C: Doppel Bock

After what I’d consider success with my first lager (a Munich Helles I brewed in January) I decided to try another.  This time I opted to attempt a Doppel Bock.  A Doppel Bock is a Bavarian specialty first brewed in Munich by the monks of St. Francis of Paula. Historical versions were less well attenuated than modern interpretations, with consequently higher sweetness and lower alcohol levels (and hence was considered “liquid bread” by the monks). The term “doppel (double) bock” was coined by Munich consumers as they are generally twice the alcohol content than a traditional bock. Many doppelbocks have names ending in “-ator,” either as a tribute to the prototypical Salvator or to take advantage of the beer’s popularity.  A well known example is Spaten Optimator.

A Doppel Bock has strong maltiness and some toasty aromas.  Generally not very hoppy.  Some slight chocolate like aroma may be present in darker versions.

Here’s how my Doppel Bock stacks up against the guidelines.

  BJCP Guidelines Scoville Doppel Bock
IBUs 16-26 19.4
SRM 6-25 16.1
OG 1.072-1.112 1.086
FG 1.016-1.024 1.020 Est.
ABV 7-10% 8.65% Est.


Like the Munich Helles it will take a while for this one to finish – looking at being able to enjoy it in the begginning of July – perhaps I’ll force carb it faster than normal so that I can take it with me to the Lake over the 4th of July weekend!

WILT 12 – 1D: Munich Helles

As I looked back at all the beers I’ve made since I started in May last year (11 prior to this batch) they have all been ales.  Most of that has to do with the fact that I like ales.  An almost equal portion, however, has to do with the fact that making a lager requires some specific temperature control capabilities.  Specifically, the ability to ferment at 50 degrees and below.  That all changed this past weekend.

I’ve made small investments over time and so when I got my freezer off of craig’s list I went with simple single gauge regulator and CO2 tank along with one keg.  I put all of that in the freezer (along with my temperature controller) and called it a day.  Subsequently I have added a second regulator which allows for two different pressures (serving and carbonating), a second faucet and more kegs.  All of this culminated with moving my CO2 tank from the inside of my keezer to the outside of the keezer. 

It wasn’t really all that expensive an operation – it did require some modifications to my existing setup though.  I purchased a simple 3-way distributor which allows me to hook up a single CO2 line to the inlet and have three lines running off of it to three separate kegs.  With that in place I was able to move my CO2 tank out of the freezer and mount it to the side of it (attached to my wooden collar of course).  I drilled two 9/16” holes (same as the OD of the tubing) to pass a hose from each of the regulators through.  One is connected to the distributor and the other is connected to a gas pin lock disconnect. 

By moving the CO2 and the gauges off of the compressor hump I freed up space that fits a 6 gallon carboy quite nicely.  I now have a temperature controlled location for making a lager.  Now, I don’t plan on making a lot of lagers as they aren’t my favorite style, but I thought I should at least give it a try.  That said, I opted to give a Munich Helles a shot.

A Munich Helles is a malt-accentuated lager that is not overly sweet, but rather focuses on the malt flavor with underlying hop bitterness in a supporting role.  It is sort of like a Pilsner, but is a little maltier.

  BJCP Guidelines Scoville Munich Helles
IBUs 16-22 16
SRM 3-5 4.6
OG 1.045-1.051 1.050
FG 1.008-1.012 1.010 Est.
ABV 4.7-5.4% 5.21% Est.


I’m on the lower end of the IBUs, but I’m not a huge hop-head either.  I’m thinking this should work out nicely.  One of my biggest concerns was/is the fermentation.  After some reading and accounting for my setup I decided that I would pitch the yeast at the normal 65 degrees or so that I pitch at and then put the carboy in the keezer.  This seems to have worked out ok.  I don’t have a huge amount of airlock activity, but it is there.  It took about 18 hours for the wort to equalize to the 50 degree temperature of the keezer.  I plan to leave it at 50 for about 3 weeks.  I’ll then remove it from the keezer and leave in the basement and let it rise to 65 for a day or two until activity subsides.  Then I’ll transfer it to another carboy and put it back in the keezer and drop the temp to about 40 degrees.  I’ll leave it there for another 2 weeks and then move it to the keg for carbonation.

Should be ready just in time for March Madness!

WILT 11 – Soda

It’s been about two months since my last post.  So, what are my excuses?  I got incredibly busy with a project at work, I had a couple of holidays, a couple of deaths in the family, two colds and well, I guess that’s enough.

Anyway, what I learned was that it seems to be incredibly easy to make soda.  I was browsing around on the website and came across soda extract.  Basically, you add in some water, yeast, sugar and let it go.  You can get fancy with adding honey and dextrose and such, but on the face of it it’s very simply (compared to beer at least).  What’s neat is that you can keg it like you would beer or put it in 2-liter bottles.

I think when my kids are older (only 3.5 and 1.5 right now) that I’ll add a tap for them to my keezer for ice cold soda.  Could be kind of neat.

I did get some things done over the holiday.  I bottled the two cases of the United Way Saison and brewed a batch of Stone’s Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout.  This was a brew I promised my Brother-In-Law several months ago that we finally got to do.  I’m looking forward to it – smells great.  It’s pretty much done fermenting.  I think I’ll let it sit for a couple months (if my BIL lets me) to age it a bit.  Mmm.

My next batch will be either a Honey Stout or a Munich Helles.  I think I might do the Helles next.  This will be my first lager and I’m looking forward to it.  I just made room in my keezer for a carboy so that I can control the ferm temp.

Perhaps my next WILT will be on Munich Helles…


WILT 10 – Belgian Saison

For our recent United Way Goods and Services auction I put up for auction two cases of beer (same style) that two different people won.  They agreed on a Belgian Saison for the style of beer they wanted.  I warned them that I had never made one before, but they were still game.  So, the research into Belgian beers began. 

Here are the BJCP stats:

  BJCP Guidelines
IBUs 20-35
SRM 5-14
OG 1..048-1.065
FG 1.002-1.012
ABV 5-7%


I’m still working on a recipe, but think I’ve got one that might work well.  It was suggested by a few brewing friends from the Knights of the Mashing Fork.

What is a Saison?  Well, it is described thusly:

A seasonal summer style produced in Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium. Originally brewed at the end of the cool season to last through the warmer months before refrigeration was common. It had to be sturdy enough to last for months but not too strong to be quenching and refreshing in the summer. It is now brewed year-round in tiny, artisanal breweries whose buildings reflect their origins as farmhouses. 

I had an Ommegang Hennpin at Arugula in West Hartford Center a couple months ago and very much enjoyed the style.  The one thing that I’ve read about these types of beers is that I should step up the fermentation temperature into the 80’s.  Not sure how my basement pantry will tolerate that, but we’ll give it a shot.

Hopefully it turns out well.

WILT 9 – My Beer is Very Good

I entered the Southern New England Regional Homebrew Competition (SNERHC) this past weekend with a Russian Imperial Stout I brewed in September.  It was the first competition I’ve entered and I also decided to steward. 

What I learned is that judges are very interested in sharing their knowledge and that judging beer can be a lot of fun.  As a steward I was responsible for fetching the beer from the back room where it was being kept cool when asked for by the judges.  I wasn’t really “assigned” to a table per se.  Rather, I got to choose a table that didn’t have a steward already assigned and help the judges out.

The competition was broken down into two flights, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  In a given flight a pair of judges is assigned one or more panels of beers to judge.  A panel may consist of all the beers in a given category (English Brown Ale’s, for example) or it may consist of just some of the beers in a given category if there are a large number of entries (like IPA’s or Belgian and French Ale).  Regardless, for a given panel(s) I got some or all of the beers and brought them to the table.

Once that task was complete, other than making sure we had water, bread, pencils and scoresheets I didn’t have much work to do.  That meant I got to pretend to judge.  Basically, every single beer got poured into three glasses (one for each judge and one for me) and then I assessed the style information to understand what it should be like and then rated the beer on scratch paper.

I did really well with the English Brown Ale’s as I have some familiarity with those.  The German Wheat and Rye Beer I did OK (in terms of how closely my score matched the consensus of the two judges.  On the Sour Ale category (lambics, Flanders Red, etc.) I was either too high or low.  I think that’s just because I don’t have many of those beers.

Overall, the whole stewarding/judging thing was great.  I look forward to doing it again at some point.  How did my beer do you ask?  It did all right.  It ended up in 4th place in the Stout Category out of what looked to be about 12 entries.  It scored a 31.  While that’s not a great score, it does put the beer into the “Very Good” category which means that it was “Generally within style parameters, but with some minor flaws”.  I haven’t gotten my complete score sheet yet, but I think I probably got dinged on flavor – it had to much of an alcoholic flavor to it – needs to age more than just the 6 weeks I gave it.  I look forward to getting my detailed sheet to see if this is what held it back or if there were other things wrong with it.  I was pretty happy though to see that it got the 31.  I had plenty of beers that day that scored in the low to mid 20s.

I’ll probably brew this RIS again, with some tweaks and enter it again next year, perhaps with some others.



WILT 8 – I am crazy

Several months ago I was having a conversation with someone about brewing and I described for them how I did an extract brew and that I was thinking about making the move to “all-grain”.  Their response was, “Geez, that sounds pretty crazy.”  My response to this was that going “all-grain” isn’t all that crazy, but that there are guys out there that actually get the mineral profiles of their water and then tweak them by adding various additives to model them after water profiles in various regions of Europe (Dublin, Burton on Trent, etc.).

Guess what, only a couple months after that conversation I am now “crazy”.  I just had my water tested.  Here’s what I’ve got:

Mineral Measurement
Calcium 9
Magnesium 1
Sodium 55
Sulfate 3
Chloride 41
Bicarbonate 57


From what I’ve read/learned I have great water.  It has relatively low mineral content which means I can brew a very light beer, like a Pilsner, but can add minerals as required to model other water profiles.  This is a lot easier than need a reverse osmosis system to get rid of minerals and then add them back in.

Am I going to modify the profile of my next beer, probably not.  However, I do know what I’m dealing with now and should I want to make a particular style that can benefit from a different mineral composition I am in good shape to make modifications.

WILT 7 – Hop to it

It’s really kind of interesting how important hops are to beer.  I spent some time this evening reading about different types of hops and their properties. 

There’s a lot of great reference information here:

Of particular interest is the information on AAU and utilization.

There’s also a nice list of hops here:


WILT 6 – Sizing a Mash Tun

While this isn’t something I necessarily learned “today”, it is something that I referenced today in order to help out a member on the site.  So, if you’re in the market for a mash tun (cooler in many cases) it is often useful to know what size you should get based on the type and size of beers you’re going to make. 

There’s a nice writeup here that outlines the size cooler you’d need to make certain gravity beers:

I usually mash with 1.25 quarts of water per pound of grain and have plenty of room for 5 gallon batches, even high gravity, and will be able to mash a 10 gallon batch of a normal gravity beer.

In between the Russian Imperial Stout and the Christmas Ale, I brewed a clone of Harpoon’s Winter Warmer.  I figure I should probably do up the BJCP writeup of the style here to be consistent.

Category 21 is the Spice/Herb/Vegetable Beer category and is pretty open as far as I can tell.  21B is the Christmas/Winter Specialty Spiced Beer sub-category. 

Here are the vital statistics:

  BJCP Guidelines Scoville Christmas Ale
IBUs Varies 31
SRM Usually on the darker side 25.9
OG Varies 1.067
FG Varies 1.023 (estimate)
ABV Generally above 6% 6.5% (estimate)


Generally this category has flavors/aromas indicative of the season (nutmeg, cinnamon, etc.).  I used some Chicory in this along with a hops known for their piney aroma/flavor.  So, we’ll see how it turns out.