Category Archives: Ingredients

Tropical Pale Ale

The Story

Tropical FruitOliver Enns is a lucky boy. He lives in the basement of our ‘brewery’. Given his prized position in the dungeon, he occasionally gets to offer his input into beers. For this beverage, his input was a “fruit salad beer”, with pineapple, grapefruit, orange, and lime. Such a  beer would be perfect for summer if it could be pulled off. Or it could be a fantastic fruity disaster.

So it was up to AJ and Robert to figure out a beer that would adequately compliment the fruit. It was settled it should be a wheat beer, with a neutral yeast to let the fruit flavour come through. Also, there should be some honey malt to add sweetness (as all the fruit we added was fairly acidic). Finally, we wanted a American Pale Ale hoppy citrus taste of Centennial. In all fairness, this beer is a total shot in the dark, because as far as we could tell, this many types of fruit in a beer is unprecedented (our research is remarkably un-thorough). Maybe it will just be an alcoholic Booster Juice. That’s cool too.

The Tasting

Appearance: Golden and slightly cloudy. Very strong and long lasting head despite all the acidic fruit in the beer.
Aroma: Faint pineapple aroma, with a strong, acidic citrus smell as well.
Taste: Quite bitter up front (it is 40 IBUs with really no ‘malt backbone’), but the flavours of pineapple come through right after. Very tart. The bitterness lingers throughout. No specific citrus fruit can be identified; it’s just tart and lemony. Maybe a little bit soapy tasting, but that might be because I associate citrus with lemony fresh soap and laundry detergent. Fairly refreshing beer though.
Overall: This is a rather strange beer. The pineapple isn’t really that noticeable (though it is definitely there). The citrus is strong, but because there are so many different citrus fruit flavours (lime, grapefruit, orange), nothing is really remarkable. It is refreshing, but it is kind of a muddled mess of fruit. We probably should have predicted that, since we added 4 different fruits.

Tropical Pale Ale

The Process

Specifics: 23 litre batch, 67% extraction efficiency, ABV 4.7%, O.G. 1.048, IBU 40, single infusion mash: 45 minutes at 68 Celsius.

Grain Bill
We wanted a fairly typical wheat beer grain bill, with mainly pale malt and wheat malt. However, we added a couple extra grains to make the beer a little more interesting. Not that we needed to do that.

Oliver Doing His Thing(Oliver’s functionality in the brewhouse is sometimes quite limited)

Gambrinus Pale Malt: 5 lb
Gambrinus Wheat Malt: 5 lb
Rye Malt: 1 lb (We thought the spicy qualities of rye malt would nicely compliment the citrus fruit)
Flake Oats: 8 oz
(Oats add a silky smooth mouth feel to the beer. We wanted that. But to be honest, we just wanted to have 4 different grains in the beer: barley, wheat, rye, and oats. We have 4 different fruit, why not four different grains)
Gambrinus Honey Malt: 8 oz (We wanted to add some sweetness because we were concerned that most of the sweetness of the fruit would ferment out, leaving just the acidic qualities of the fruit)

Pineapple and citrus peelsHop and Fruit Schedule

We selected Centennial hops because of their citrus aroma and flavour which we hoped will blend well with the grapefruit, lime and orange. As to why we selected these fruit to add to the beer? Well, that’s what Oliver wanted. Who are we to argue?

60 Minutes: 1 oz Centennial (We wanted the beer to be fairly bitter, as this is supposed to be a summer thirst quencher)
10 Minutes: 0.75 oz Centennial and 1 pineapple cut into 1/2 cubes (This hop addition to to add the grapefruit flavour. We hoped boiling the pineapple for 10 minutes would get some of the flavour out of the pineapple)
5 Minutes: Peel of 2 Oranges, 2 Limes and 1 Grapefruit (This is how long we normally boil orange peel for witbiers, so we figured this would be a good amount of time)

Pineapple, citrus and hops(All the left over hops, pineapple, lime peel, orange peel, and grapefruit peel)

Pineapple Floating in Beer

We just used rinsed Nottingham yeast. Nottingham yeast ferments very clean, and allows hops and fruit to come through clearly without any esters.
Primary Fermentation: 7 days at 18 Celsius
Added 1 pureed pineapple when racking beer to the secondary.
Secondary Fermentation: 14 days at 18 Celsius
Added 1 pound of unpasteurized honey for carbonation


(Blood) Orange Hefeweizen

The Story

OrangesFor Christmas, AJ’s cousin bought him the book Extreme Brewing, by Sam Calagione, the owner of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. It provided interesting information about using spices, fruit, and other unconventional ingredients in beer, but most of the book is targeted towards to extract brewers, so we didn’t pay much attention to the recipes. However, when summer rolled around, two recipes stuck out to us that we simply had to brew: Blood Orange Hefeweizen and Kiwit.

Our recipes are not carbon copies of what is in the book. We needed to changed the recipe to account for our all-grain brewing. Also, we did not have hop varieties required by the recipe, so we used varieties we had in our freezer. Finally, we increased the amount of fruit and lowered the alcohol level to allow fruit flavours to come through more. Our local organic grocery did not have blood oranges, so we used naval oranges. (Though AJ did cut himself grating the peel of the naval oranges).


The Tasting

Orange HefeweizenAppearance: Cloudy and light, as a hefeweizen should be.
Aroma: A noticeable citrusy smell. Plus a little bit of spicy aroma from the Saaz hops, but very minor.
Taste: A slight orange taste, that is tart and refreshing. There is no real aftertaste, adding to its refreshing quality. There is only a slight hop bitterness. The body is rich and sticky, similar to most other wheat beers.
Overall: This beer turned out very well. The orange comes through quite nicely, but doesn’t dominate the beer. It is light and refreshing, and perfect for summer. If we remade the beer, we would not change anything. It is most certainly the best hefeweizen we’ve ever made. In fact, it’s one of the best beers we’ve made. Perhaps this beer will be made again over the summer, because it is bound to run out fast.

The Process

Specifics: 23 litre batch, 71% extraction efficiency, ABV 4.7%, O.G. 1.048, IBU 14, single infusion mash: 90 minutes at 69 Celsius.

Grain Bill

Original Grain Bill

Our Grain Bill

Light liquid wheat extract (55% wheat malt and 45% barley malt): 6.6 lb
Gambrinus Wheat Malt: 6 lb
Gambrinus Pale Malt: 5 lb

Our grain bill is 54.5% wheat malt, and 45.5% barley malt. Very similar to the contents of the extract in the original recipe.

Hop and Fruit Schedule

Original Boil Schedule

Our Boil Schedule

60 minutes: 0.5 oz Hallertau hop pellets
20 minutes: 0.5 oz Saaz hop pellets
10 minutes: 0.5 oz Hallertau hop pellets
60 minutes: 0.25 oz Ultra whole leaf
20 minutes: 0.5 oz Saaz whole leaf
10 minutes: 0.5 oz Ultra whole leaf

Fairly similar, aside from using Ultra instead of Hallertau (we also used less because our Ultra is 9% while Tettnanger is normally around 4%).

We used 6 navel oranges (the recipe called for 4 blood oranges) in the beer. All the oranges were peeled and cut in chunks, then added to a pot. Then the peels from half the oranges were grated/zested and added to the pot as well. We then added 2 litres of water and heated it up 72 Celsius and then turned off the heat and let it cool down. Once it was cool, we added contents of the pot (orange flesh, orange peel and the orangey water) directly to the primary fermenter.

Steeping Oranges

(The oranges and orange peels in the pot)

The recipe offers 4 suggestions for yeast: WL300, WL380, Wyeast 3068, or Wyeast 3638. We used WL380 because we already had it in the brewery.

For length of fermentation, the recipe says about 10 days in the primary fermenter then bottle it. As any good homebrewers, we were busy and got sidetracked, and forgot to bottle it at 10 days.

Primary Fermentation: 20 days at 18 Celsius

Rozay Raspberry Hefeweizen

The Story

RozayRaspberry wheat beers are a fantastic summer beer: fruity, sweet, refreshing, pink. AJ, being a man nervous about close associations with traditionally feminine colours, was not comfortable making a pink beer. But there had been endless requests from friends to make a raspberry beer.

To overcome his fear of emasculation, AJ looked for inspiration from Rick Ro$$.  Normally, AJ only looks to Mr. Ro$$ when it comes to driving Maybachs and dramatizing life, but this was an exception. Look at that picture of Rick Ross. It just oozes masculinity: oversize man-glasses, an oversized man-timepeice, oversized man-fingers, face cloaked in man-beard. Yet Rick is a man of balance. Too much man is never good for a photoshoot. So there he is, holding a bottle of rosé, perhaps not the most manly of wines. The feminine bottle in the delicate yin to Ross’s huge yang. If Rick Ross can proudly drink rosé and go by “Rozay”, AJ could certainly make a pink beer.

Most raspberry beers use a very neutral ale yeast, to let the flavour of the raspberries dominate. While that does make a very refreshing beer, it is also somewhat simple. So we wanted to use a hefeweizen yeast. This will add some banana and spicy flavours to the beer, and make it a little more complex.

We assume the final product should be consumed while listening to this.
However, if your favorite rap song is “Changes” by Tupac, then listen to this instead.


Just Ross looking boss.

The Tasting

Raspbeer HefeAppearance: Dark pink (some might say red). Strong head, fairly cloudy, and strong signs of carbonation
Aroma: A tart, raspberry aroma. There is also a slight hint of hay. Don’t know where that came from, but it’s there.
Taste: It strikes right away with a tart raspberry flavour. Most of the sweetness of the fruit fermented away. Then comes an almost smokey taste. It’s difficult to describe. Somewhat like the smell of walking past wooden crates full of fruit (if you have ever had such an experience).  There is also a very complex taste of spices from the hefeweizen yeast. Most notable is the clove taste, but it is also peppery, with a lemon taste as well. The high alcohol content (7%) is well hidden. The body is very heavy.
Overall: This is not your typical sweet raspberry wheat beer that manages to convince a subset of the population they like beer. This beer is heavy, tart, complex and spicy. This is most certainly not how we expected the beer to turn out, but we like it. It is not a thirst quenching beer, but it would be the perfect beer to enjoy on a summer evening while enjoying the orange and red colours of the sky (and listening to Rick Ross).

The Process

Specifics: 23 litre batch, unknown extraction efficiency, ABV 7%, O.G. 1.058, IBU 11, single infusion mash with 120 minutes at 65 Celsius.

Grain Bill
The grain is very simple. But it also huge: 30 pounds. This is because we did a parti-gyle brew with a wheat wine. The mash was also very long (120 minutes) at a low temperature (65C) mainly to help the yeast ferment the wheat wine.

Gambrinus Pale Malt: 15 lb
Gambrinus Wheat Malt: 15 lb

Full Mash Tun

(AJ stirring mash with 30 pounds of grain in it)

Hop Schedule
Fairly simple hop schedule, designed to let the raspberries come through, but provide a little bit of citrus bitterness as well.

60 minutes: 0.25 oz Columbus (Columbus is a bittering hop that keeps it citrus flavour when boiled for 60 minutes. And we wanted that citrus flavour)
5 minutes: 0.25 oz Columbus (We  just wanted a little extra citrus flavour/aroma, so we did a very small 5 minute addition as well)

Washed WL380 yeast. Third generation.
Primary Fermentation: 5 days at 20C
5 pounds of raspberries added to secondary during racking. From what we read, about a pound of fruit per gallon of beer was recommended. The fruit was frozen when it was added to the secondary.
Secondary Fermentation: 20 days

Left image: 2 days of raspberries in the secondary. Right image: 20 days of raspberries in the secondary.
Notice the change in colour of the berries and beer between the two pictures.

Raspbeer at 2 daysRaspbeer at 20 days

Honey Hefeweizen

The Story

Caribou Honey Lager

Bowen Island Honey

Granville Island Honey Lager

British Columbia is notorious for honey beers. Just check the list of beers brewed in BC. Nearly every brewery attempting to market to the lager drinking crowd has a honey beer. One theory is that honey makes beer sound more sweet, thus more easy drinking. For those who are weary of the bitterness of beer, honey sounds quite appealing. However, since honey is very fermentable, when it is added to beer most of the sweet honey flavour turns into alcohol. So the sweetness people expect from a honey beer generally comes from the malt, not the honey.

Seeing as it is summer, and we have a lot of Gambrinus Honey Malt lying around the brewery (and we want to fit in with other BC breweries), we made a honey hefeweizen. Most of the honey sweetness comes from the Gambrinus Honey Malt. We added 1 pound of Raspberry Blossom Honey after the beer had fermented, and then 1 pound of plain unpasteurized honey to carbonate. Most of the sugar from the honey turns into alcohol, drying out the beer; however, some of that honey flavour and aroma sticks around. Combined with the banana, clove, and sweet flavour from the hefeweizen yeast, this beer could end up being like alcoholic banana cream pie.

The Tasting

Honey HefeweizenAppearance: Slightly darker than a normal hefeweizen, but still very refreshing looking. Very foamy, strong head, with tonnes of lacing.
Aroma: Very floral honey aroma, with a hint of hops.
Taste: Immediate honey and banana flavour, with the bubble gum coming in later. There is malty sweet flavour as well coming from the honey malt and biscuit malt. After swallowing, it becomes very dry and slightly bitter. This is likely from the large amounts of honey (2 pounds) put into the beer. There is a slight grainy taste as well. Very carbonated, making almost soda-like, yet the body is very heavy.
Overall: It is a casual summer beer. Hefeweizens generally seem to be a beer that has a wide appeal, and this beer is no different. It is obviously very sweet because of the honey malt, but it also has a heavier feel because the honey malt and biscuit malt. Thus it is not as refreshing as other hefeweizens, but it is very flavourful. The White Lab 380 does produce a lot of bubble gum, which AJ has become less a fan of. It’s a fine beer, but adding Gambrinus Honey Malt makes a beer less refreshing because it makes the beer heavier and sweeter. Sweet and heavy are two adjectives not normally used to describe refreshing beers. Perhaps less honey malt. Also we should have mashed at a lower temperature

The Process

Specifics: 23 litre batch, 66% extraction efficiency, ABV 5.0%, O.G. 1.050, IBU 16, single infusion mash: 60 minutes at 68 Celsius.

Grain Bill
This is a fairly typical hefeweizen with wheat malt and pale malt making up a majority of grain bill. However, we added nearly a pound of Gambrinus Honey Malt to really bring out the toasty honey flavour.

Gambrinus Pale Malt: 5 lb
Gambrinus Wheat Malt: 5 lb
Gambrinus Honey Malt: 14 oz (8 oz of honey malt provides a slight honey flavour, while anything over a pound of honey malt can become cloyingly sweet. We wanted a noticeable honey flavour, without being cloying, so we settled on 14 oz)
Belgian Biscuit: 4 oz (We tried this in our Honey Nut Brown Ale, and it adds a great toasty, bready flavour that really brings out the flavour of the honey malt. So we added a little bit to our honey hefeweizen as well)

Honey in Honey Malt

(Honey surrounded by Gambrinus Honey Malt)

Hop Schedule

We only did first wort hopping, in order create a smoother bitterness that will hopefully bring out the honey flavour.

First Wort Hops: 1 oz Ultra (We have plenty of ultra remaining from our last order from Hops Direct. It is a noble type hop that works well in wheat beers and lagers. Very clean bitterness, with a slight floral aroma.)

Rinsed White Labs 380 yeast from the Cascade Falls Hefeweizen.
Primary Fermentation: 14 days at 21 Celsius

Adding Honey

(Adding honey to the secondary fermenter. Before the honey is added, this beer is about 4.5%)

Added 1 pound of Raspberry Blossom Honey when racking beer to the secondary.
Secondary Fermentation: 14 days at 18 Celsius
Added 1 pound of unpasteurized honey for carbonation

Fermenting Honey Hefeweizen

(The beer starting to ferment again. After all the honey fermented in the beer, the alcohol increased to 5%)

Cascade Falls Hefeweizen

Map to Cascade Falls from AbbotsfordThe Story

Summer time is coming, and to us, that means wheat beers. Wheat beers are little bit more tart than 100% barely beers, which makes them more thirst quenching in warm weather. Wheat beers are generally around 30% to 70% wheat, with the remaining percentage being barley. Hefeweizens are a German style of wheat beers. What makes them different is the yeast they use. Hefeweizen yeast adds banana, clove, pepper, citrus and sometimes bubblegum flavours to the beer. Also, because the yeast takes a long time to settle out of the beer (flocculation), the beer remains hazy.

Our hefeweizen is inspired by the grapefruit taste of cascade hops, and the Cascade Falls that are close to our brewery. We wanted to make a hefeweizen that was fruity, slightly sweet, and not too bitter. It is Cascadian in its flavour, but not in its bitterness. So we named it after the Cascade Falls that are close to our homebrewery. Also, water falls look pretty.

This is also our first time using White Lab yeast. We’ve never had access to White Lab yeast until a new hombrew store started up in Mission. So thanks to Fraser Valley Hop and Grain, we are able to expand our brewing horizons. Check them out if you are in the Fraser Valley area.

Cascade Falls In Mission

The Tasting

For the tasting, we felt like we should take the beer to Cascade Falls for the first taste. As it so often does in the Cascade region, is started raining, thus our hike up to the falls was quite damp, and cold. Was it worth it? Not really. But the pictures looked nice.

AJ Pouring Cascade Hefe

(AJ, while looking incredibly foolish, pouring the Cascade Falls Hefeweizen in the pouring rain.)

Appearance: It is a dark orange, darker than your average hefeweizen. (the picture makes the beer look much darker than it actually is, as it was a dark and cloudy day)
Aroma: There is a medium citrus hop aroma with some spices and banana as well. But the hop aroma dominates.
Taste: At first, there are flavours you expect from a hefewiezen, such as the banana and cloves, but there are strong citrus notes that come in later. There is a mildly sweet flavour, yet it linger quite sometime. The hop flavour exists, but it is very mild. There is no bitterness at all. If anything, the beer is too sweet, perhaps the CaraHelle malt should not have been added, or some bittering hops should been added.
Overall: This beer is a good combination of the yeast flavour from hefeweizen, and the Cascadian hops. It is easy drinking, yet lingers a while. It is a bit too sweet for our liking, but it is nice beer for summer heat. If we remake this, we will be adding considerably more cascade hops. The WL380 yeast leaves a very strong aroma and flavour, thus we are not concerned about cascade hops overwhelming the yeast flavour/aroma.

Cascade Falls Hefeweizen

The Process

Specifics: 23 litre batch, 66% extraction efficiency, ABV 5.7%, O.G. 1.056, IBU 10, single infusion mash for 100 minutes at 66 Celcius.

Grain Bill
We created a hefeweizen grain bill with a twist. We added a little bit of Munich Light and CaraHell to give the hefeweizen a little more flavour. Also, we mashed the beer for 100 minutes (instead to the normal 60 minutes). This, as well as a lower mash temperature of 66 Celsius, will result in a drier, less sweet beer. This is because the sugars in the beer broken down more, making them more fermentable. We wanted the sweetness of CaraHell malt to balance out the dryness of the beer.

wheatfieldGambrinus Wheat Malt: 7 lb (Obviously we need wheat in our beer. Malted wheat has less ‘wheat flavour’ than flaked wheat, but malted wheat is easier to mash. Wheat makes up 48% of this hefeweizen. Plus as the picture to the right shows, doesn’t wheat just look summery?)
Gambrinus Pale Malt: 6 lb (We need some pale malt to ensure we do not get a stuck sparge)
Gambrinus Munich Light: 1 lb (This malt just adds a little bit of malty depth to the beer. Makes the beer a little more interesting without adding too much colour)
CaraHell: 8 oz (This malt is similar to Carmel 15. We used it to add a little bit of sweetness to the beer)

Hop Schedule
This is where the beer gets a little more interesting. We used no bitter hops, meaning we didn’t boil any of the hops for longer than 30 minutes. Instead, we boiled our hops for less than 20 minutes. Also, instead of using a German hop like Hallertau that would add a delicate floral aroma, we used the classic Pacific Northwest hop Cascade to add a grapefruit flavour. This means the beer will be less bitter, but have more grapefruit flavour and aroma from the Cascade hops. Also, the IBUs of this beer will be low (around 10 IBUs).

Typically, hefeweizens only use very small amounts of Noble (or German) bittering hops, with no aroma and flavour hops. This allows the flavour of the hefeweizen yeast to be more noticeable.


(Dried cascade hops waiting to be added to the beer)

20 minutes: 0.5 oz Cascade (These hops will add grapefruit and citrus flavour to the beer. Also, some of the acid from the hops will add some bitterness to the beer.)
5 minutes: 0.5 oz Cascade (These hops add a strong grapefruit aroma to the hefeweizen. We didn’t want to add too many hops because we wanted some of the aroma hefeweizen yeast to be noticeable.)

Boiling Hops

(Boiling the hops in the beer, with a thermometer floating in the middle)

We used White Labs’ WL380 Hefeweizen yeast. Appearently this yeast will add apricot and citrus flavours. So to us, that sounded fantastic. We don’t really know too much about fermenting hefeweizens. The fermentation of a hefeweizen is very important, because hefeweizens get most of the their flavour from the yeast. We only let the beer ferment for 11 days, because some people say hefeweizens are just enjoyed young, when the yeast is still active.

Primary Fermentation: 11 days at 19 Celcius

French Farmhand Witbier

BC farm sceneThe Story

We are in a saison making mood, mainly because we have saison yeast sitting in jars, waiting to be used. However, we were also in the mood for a witbier, with all its lovely orange zesty flavours. So we combined the two. All the ingredients are similar to a witbier: lots of flaked wheat, orange peel, coriander, and very few hops. But we fermented the beer with a French saison yeast, which should add peppery and citrusy flavours. We are hoping for a citrusy, tart beer and hints of pepper and oak from the yeast. This will be a nice beer to have in the fridge as we get closer to summer. It likely won’t last that long, because AJ is a witbier drinking fiend.

The Tasting

Appearance: A light, hazy beer, with a very strong head. AJ is colour blind, so he claims it has an orange hue. He is clearly has no idea what he is talking about.
Aroma: A punget aroma full of wheat, spice and citrus. It is amazing how much the saison yeast and coriander bring out the orange aroma. A slightly tart and yeasty smell as well.
Taste: Starts off tart, but the orange flavour comes in right after. Hints of lemon and oak as well. There are a lot of flavours, but they all work together very well. Thick body from the wheat, but is still very refreshing.
Overall: This is a fantastic beer, assuming you like witbiers. It has a very traditional witbier flavour, like Hoegaarden, but with a twist. When you really think about the flavour, you notice the lemon, oak and pepper. But they blend in so well with the rest of the flavours you might not even notice them. We don’t often recommend people brew the recipes we create, but this is an exception. If you like witbiers, but want to try something a little different, make this recipe. Or, if you live close to us (or know us personally), ask to try some. We will most certainly be brewing more batches of this.

French Witbier

Also, AJ is proud that this beer was the first beer his near-brother Braydon ever consumed. A ringing endorsement for sure. It was also popular with those at the stag of AJ’s other near-brother Greg; however, this was most certainly not their first beer.

The Process

Specifics: 23 litre batch, 64% extraction efficiency, ABV 5.5%, O.G. 1.045, IBU 14, step mash: 20 minutes at 56 Celsius; 50 minutes at 67 Celsius.

Grain Bill
We just made a fairly simple grain bill. A typical grain bill for a witbier is 50% Pilsen malt, 50% flaked wheat. We tried to follow that model, but made some changes.

Gambrinus Pale Malt: 5 lb (Pilsen malt is generally preferred, but we did not have any)
Gambrinus Wheat Malt: 4 lb (We did not have enough flaked wheat, so we replaced it with wheat malt. Plus this looks like more of a middle ground between a witbier recipe and saison recipe? We convinced ourselves of that.)
Flaked Wheat: 3 lb (This cleared out our supply of flaked wheat. Now we need to head off to Dan’s Homebrew store to buy some more)

Mash Schedule
Normally, we just do a single infusion mash, meaning we keep the temperature of the grain in the mash tun at one temperature (normally for 60 minutes). This is simple, and it works well with today’s malts, which are well modified and don’t need things like protein rests, beta gluten rests, alpha gluten rests (We admit, we don’t really know what those are, but we have read a lot about them in Brewing Better Beer and How to Brew.)

However, something we’ve always noticed is a huge decrease in our efficiency when making wheat beers. Normally we have an extract efficiency around 85% (meaning we get 85% of the sugar out of the grain), but with wheat beers we normally drop to around 65%. We’ve tried crushing the wheat twice; mashing for a really long time; higher temperatures; lower temperatures. For this batch, we tried using a step mash, hoping this would increase our efficiency.

20 minutes at 56C (This is a protein rest, and it is supposed to help break down unmalted grain, like flaked wheat)
50 minutes at 67C
(This is just our regular temperature for a single infusion mash, converting the starch to sugar)

For the record, reaching different temperatures in a mash tun that is not directly heat (aka it isn’t on a burner, thus we cannot just turn up the temperature) is a huge pain. We had to start off with a very thick mash, and then add more water later to increase the temperature.

Mash at 56Mash at 67
(Left: A very thick mash in the mash tun before adding water. Right: A thinner mash after adding water)

Sadly, none of this increased our efficiency, as our extract efficiency was 64%. Maybe it will improve flavour? Let’s hope it was not all for naught. We should probably do some (poorly conducted) experiment to see if there is any noticeable difference in taste between a witbier with a single infusion mash, and a witbier with a multi-step mash.

Hop Schedule
Saaz hops are the classic witbier hop, but we had Ultra hops (similar to Saaz) with higher AA%.

60 minutes: 0.5 oz Ultra (Just a little bit of hops to balance out the sweetness of the malt. We added no flavour or aroma hops, this will allow flavour of the spices and yeast to dominate the beer)
5 minutes: 1 oz Bitter Orange Peel, 1 oz Coriander Seeds Cracked (We just threw the spices in (instead of putting them in a hop bag). So they sat in the beer as it was cooling for 20 minutes. This might result in a very strong spice flavour)

1 litre starter from harvested Wyeast 3711 French Saison yeast. This is the third use (third generation) of this yeast.
Primary Fermentation: 14 days at 20C

French Wit Yeast Starter(The 1 litre yeast starter)

Ginger Spiced Saaz Saison

The Story

gingerThis is another beer in our line of saison experiments. For this beer, we wanted to experiment with spices and hops. In terms of spice, we added ginger and black pepper. In terms of hops, we added 3 oz of Saaz hops (compared to just 1 oz of Saaz hop in our previous saison). Saaz has a delicate spicy and floral aroma, which we hope will be nicely complimented by the saison yeast, ginger and black pepper.

We feel that spices are best used when they compliment other flavours. The idea is not have a clear pepper taste in our beer; in fact, the idea of tasting black pepper in your beer is somewhat repulsive. We want the pepper to bring out the flavour of the ginger, and bring out the flavour of the spicy Saaz hops.

The Tasting

Appearance: Strong, smooth head, dominated by small bubbles. A deep amber colour, with lots of carbonation. Fairly clear.
Aroma: A strong peppery aroma, from the large amounts of Saaz hops and enhanced with the pepper. There are also hints of lemon and ginger.
Taste: A sweet, floral and spicy start with a little bit of banana. The flavour of candied ginger comes in later, and lingering in the mouth. There is quite a bitter bite to the beer despite all the sweetness. There is quite a heavy body to the beer as well. The carbonation makes all the flavours more prominent. This beer is very ‘tangy’.
Overall: This beer is somewhat of an oddity. It is sweet, yet has a bitter edge. The taste of ginger lingers in the background, yet the spiciness of the Saaz hops and pepper and in the foreground. The spice really dances on your tounge, from the ginger, pepper and Saaz hops all acting in unison. Perhaps the beer had too many late addition Saaz hops that dominated the rest of the beer. The inclusion of the malt Special B, which is supposed to add flavours of plums, it pretty much unnoticeable, aside from making the beer a deep amber colour. Nevertheless, the beer is surprisingly easy drinking despite all its complexities. Perhaps this is best as a dessert beer.


The Process

Specifics: 23 litre batch, 76% extraction efficiency, ABV 6.7%, O.G. 1.057, IBU 34, single infusion mash at 68 Celsius for 60 minutes

Grain Bill
The idea was originally to let the hops shine in through in this beer, with a clean bitterness, but our love for malts got the best of us. As you can see from the grain bill below (and a picture of our malt cabinet), there are a lot of different malts in here. This will make it very interesting, and hopefully refreshing. The bitterness likely will not be very noticeable due to the CaraHelle and Honey malt used; however, we still hope the hop aroma and flavour will come through nicely.

(Update: this was a totally wrong assessment. Lots of hops come through this malt bill)

IMG_20130112_152631Gambrinus Pale Malt: 9 lb (We wanted Pilsen malt, but we didn’t have any)
Gambrinus Wheat Malt: 2 lb (Wheat makes it tart and adds body, which we thought would nicely compliment the Saaz hops and the ginger)
Flaked Wheat: 1 lb (Same reason for adding the wheat malt, but flaked wheat has even more of a ‘wheat flavour)
CaraHelle: 12 oz (This is a light coloured carmel malt that will add some sweetness)
Gambrinus Honey Malt: 4 oz (It’s just a nice complement, plus it adds a toastiness)
Special B: 2 oz (There is really no good reason for why we added this malt. It adds a bittersweet toffee, raisin and plum flavours. It is often used in Belgian Dubels. We added it here just because)

Hop Schedule
We wanted the spicy and floral flavour and aroma of Saaz hops, and a lot of them.

60 minutes: 1.25 oz Ultra (9% AA) (We couldn’t waste our delicate Saaz hops for bitter, so we used a different German-esque hop Ultra. The AA content was unusually high so it worked as a bittering hop)
15 minutes: 1 oz Saaz (For that spicy flavour)
5 minutes: 0.2 oz Black Pepper and 0.5 oz Ginger (We didn’t really know how much ginger and pepper to add to compliment the hops and yeast, so we settled on the more conservative side)
1 minute: 2 oz Saaz (To get loads of floral and spicy aroma. After we stopped the boil, we let the hops steep in the wort for 10 minutes, hoping that with would extract extra aroma and flavour out of the hops)

Poured onto a Wyeast 3711 French Saison yeast cake used for the Winter Harvest Saison. This was not overly wise, as it muted the flavour of the yeast (due to over-pitching). In our defense, the OG of the previous beer was lower (1.050) and it was a smaller batch (only 17 or so litres). Nonetheless, we still overpitched.

Primary Fermentation: 14 days at 19C (a little cool for this yeast strain, recommended between 18-25 C)

Winter Harvet Saison

The Story

winter-hay-bales-keith-burgessDespite brewing for over 2 years, we have not experimented much with yeast. We’ve stuck pretty close to yeast that produces English and American style ales. Nottingham dry yeast has been a mainstay in our brewery, while occasionally using liquid yeast such as Wyeast American Ale and Wyeast Irish Ale.

We wanted to experiment with Wyeast 3711 French Saison yeast, so we decided to make a saison (a so-called farmhouse ale because many farmers in Belgium would brew this beer to quench the thirst of the people working on their land). But to better identify the differences between Wyeast French Saison yeast and Nottingham yeast, we made a 34 litre (9 gallon) batch of beer, and fermented half of it with the Wyeast French Saison, the other half with the Nottingham yeast. We expect dramatic differences. Saisons typically have spicy, peppery and citrus taste, which is caused by the yeast. On the other hand, Nottingham yeast ferments very clean, meaning you cannot really taste any flavours from the yeast; this allows the flavours from the malt and hops be more noticeable.

The Tasting

French Saison Yeast

Appearance: Quite clear. Very strong head. Carmely colour.
Aroma: Lemony and tart, with a little bit of pepper.
Taste: Has a tart flavour followed by a lot of citrus and herby favour. Hints of oak and heavy biscuit body. Light hints of carmel and honey sweetness.
Overall: Very good beer. Has a nice tart flavour that makes it refreshing for spring. Since this was our first saison, we were most likely overcome by how different this beer is. Thus we probably did not notice all the smaller flaws. However, we did drink a Driftwood Farmhand Saison to compare with our saison. Our saison was most was considerably more flavourful, with flavours of lemon, oak, pepper, honey. Diftwood’s saison was mainly just peppery and bitter. Likely this is due to using different type of saison yeast. Our saison isn’t necessarily better, it just has more flavours. That being said, we really like this beer.

Screen shot 2013-03-25 at 9.06.06 PM

(Nottingham ale on the left, Saison on the right)

Nottingham Ale Yeast

Appearance: Slightly more hazy than the saison. Oaky colour. Very strong head as well.
Aroma: Slightly hoppier than the saison, with an earthy aroma. Yet also very malty
Taste: Initially quite a bland flavour, yet when swallowed more of the hop and malt flavour comes through. It is almost like a dark beer, with a light colour. It is very heavy and rich with a strong sweet flavour.
Overall: A heavier beer than the saison, as the Nottingham yeast did not eat nearly as much sugar as the saison yeast. It is an ok beer, but it seems very boring next to the saison. The flavours are limited to malty, sweet and light hops. It an interesting comparison to the French Saison yeast, because it shows much of a difference yeast makes in a beer. Furthermore, the French Saison yeast produced a beer that seems best for spring and summer because of its refreshing qualities, while the Nottingham yeast produced a heavier beer that is best suited for fall and winter because of its heavy, malty qualities.

The Process

Specifics: 34 litre batch, 87% extraction efficiency, French Saison Yeast ABV 6.6% Nottingham Ale Yeast ABV 6%, O.G. 1.054, IBU 25, single infusion mash at 66 Celsius for 60 minutes

Grain Bill
We had really no idea what to put in a saison, as we had never made one (to please feel free to leave comments about what grains you like to put in your saison). However, we did want to avoid carmel malts. Our reason was we didn’t want toffee and carmel flavours in our saison; we wanted to yeast to shine. Perhaps this wasn’t the best choice, but we wanted to start fairly basic with our saison.

Gambrinus Pale Malt: 10.5 lb (We have no Pilsen malt, as that seemed to be the suggested base malt for saisons)
Gambrinus Munich Light: 2.25 lb (This only made up 14% of grain bill, as we wanted a little malty characteristic balance the beer. We’ve generally found the beers without a little Munich Light boring)
Gambrinus Wheat Malt: 1.5 lb (It seemed most saison recipes had some wheat in them, so we threw some in just for good measure)
Flaked Barley: 12 oz (We added flaked barley to everything to increase body and head. Saison’s apparently are supposed to be quite light in body, but that didn’t stop us!)
Belgian Biscuit: 12 oz (We’ve never used it before. Plus there was ‘Belgian’ right in the title. We had to use it)
Gambrinus Honey Malt: 6 oz (Honey malt is pure love. It must be added to everything)


(Robert and our brewing compadre, Oliver, grinding grain. When the grain bill gets too large, the drill comes out, because our arms are too weak to grind the grain by hand.)

Hop Schedule
Our incredibly brief and remarkably un-thorough internet research told us that English hops and Saaz were the preferred hops for a saison.

60 minutes: 1.8 oz Willamette (Our Willamette has an AA% of 7.8%, so they worked as bitter hops. Willamette hops are not really English hops, but they were the closest thing we had)
15 minutes: 0.75 oz Saaz (We wanted a little flavour from the Saaz, though 15 minutes is arguably too long to boil Saaz)
2 minutes: 0.75 oz Saaz (We wanted a little spicy/floral Saaz aroma)

IMG_20130112_153134We put 17 litres of the wort into each fermenter. In one the fermenter, we pitched the Nottingham Ale Yeast. In the other fermenter, we pitched Wyeast French Saison Yeast. We did not ferment them at the same temperature (as the saison yeast likes it hot, between 18-25 Celsius).

Nottingham Batch
Primary fermentation: 16 days.
Fermented at 17 Celcius

French Saison Batch
Primary fermentation: 15 days.
Fermented at 20 Celcius (apparently this is a bit cold for the yeast, but it was as warm as we could get the house in the winter without spending tonnes of money on a heating bill)


(Just before bottling: Saison batch on the left, Nottingham batch on the right. The saison batch is actually slightly clearer)

Pitching on a Yeast Cake

Yeast can be expensive. Liquid yeast from Wyeast and White Labs costs between $6 – $20 (depending on your location). As frugal people, we like to reuse our yeast. There are two ways to do this: pitching on the yeast cake or yeast washing. We often prefer pitching on the yeast cake. The yeast cake is all the gunk that is left at the bottom of your primary fermenter. Don’t throw that yeast out; it can be reused.

How to Pitch on a Yeast Cake

The beauty of pitching on a yeast cake is it’s simplicity.

Step 1: Remove (rack) beer from the primary fermenter
Maybe you are bottling the beer, maybe you are transferring it to a secondary. It doesn’t matter. Just remove the beer. Ensure that nothing unsanitized touches the beer, the inside of the fermenter or the yeast cake.  Once the beer is out the primary, the yeast cake is exposed. Put the lid/airlock back into the primary fermenter to seal it. Try to make sure the yeast cake is exposed to the open air as little as possible. This reduces the chance of infection.

primarybeer(A French Witbier waiting to be racked out of the fermenter for bottling)

Optional Step: Remove the remaining the beer
If there is beer still remaining in your fermenter, you can dump it out.

yeastcake(Yeast cake at the bottom of the primary fermenter. Don’t take pictures of your yeast cake; you have more important things to do)

Step 2: Add new beer to the fermenter
Just pour/siphon the new beer onto the yeast cake. The yeast in the yeast cake should be more than happy to start fermenting another beer (unless you’ve abused the yeast in some way, then the yeast will get back at you by making your beer taste awful)

Note: The more air and foreign material the yeast cake is exposed to, the greater the risk of infection. This does not mean an infection is bound to happen, but be aware there is a risk.


  • Save money
    • You can use one yeast packet to ferment multiple beers, saving you the cost of buying new yeast.
  • No need for a starter
    • There is a very high yeast cell count in a yeast cake, which allows it to ferment nearly any beer without stressing the yeast. We often put our high gravity beers (Original Gravity higher than 1.070) on yeast cakes.
  • Less esters/fusels
    • This is related to the previous comment. Since the yeast cell count is so high, the yeast does not have to reproduce as much, producing less yeasty flavours that may be undesirable depending on beer style
  • Simpler than yeast washing
    • Yeast washing is another technique for reusing yeast. It requires you to remove the dead yeast cells from the living yeast cells. It is a very useful techinque. However, it is more time consuming and requires more caution to prevent potential infections. We wash our yeast if we are concerned the previous beer (if it is very dark or hoppy) will impart unwanted flavours t0 our new beer.
  • Ferments very quickly
    • Since there is so much yeast in a yeast cake, there is nearly no lag time. We’ve had beers finish the fermentation stage within 24 hours. It might be necessary to use a blow-off tube because the fermentation is so vigorous


  • Increased risk of infection
    • Anytime you open up your fermenter, you are at risk of infection. However, this is a risk that can be managed. If you have good sanitation practices, this should not be a concern for you. If you have poor sanitation practices, you should probably not pitch on a yeast cake; you probably should not make beer either.
  • Less esters (over-pitching)
    • Repitching on the yeast cake is not recommended if you want flavour from the yeast. It is difficult to know how many yeast cells are in your yeast cake, making over-pitching very likely. Generally, we are not concerned with over-pitching because we rarely want yeasty flavours (we brew so few Belgian/German styles).
  • Off flavours from dead yeast cells
    • The yeast cake contains a lot of dead yeast cells. These cells can start to affect the flavour of your beer if you reuse the yeast too many times or you let the yeast cells sit in the fermenter too long. However, this should not be an issue if you reuse the yeast just a couple times. We’ve never had an issue with this, but we generally do not use a yeast cake more than 2 times. We recommend not keeping the same yeast cake for more than 5 weeks. Also, do not pitch onto a yeast cake that was used to ferment a high alcohol beer. High alcohol stresses the yeast, and can result in off flavours.
  • Time constraints
    • A yeast cake with no beer on top of it should be used as soon as possible. We don’t like to let it sit for more than a day before pouring another beer on to it (some people say it can be kept for several days if it has a thin layer of beer to covering it, but we have never tried this).
  • Flavour from the previous beer
    • There are two factors to keep in mind to prevent this problem: colour and hoppiness
      • Do not ferment a light coloured beer on the yeast cake of a dark beer, or you will have dark flavours in your light coloured beer.
      • Do not ferment a un-hoppy beer on the yeast cake of a hoppy beer, or you will have hoppy flavours in your un-hoppy beer.

Our position is the pros outweigh the cons (as most of the cons can be mitigated). But that is for you to judge. We don’t think this technique necessarily makes better beer (unless you really don’t want esters), but it does make more efficient beer: spending less money on yeast, and fermenting the beer more quickly. These issues may not be of primary concern to you as a homebrewer, but they are things to consider nonetheless.

7 Deadly Sins of Homebrewing

We have gotten a lot of our friends and family into the hobby of homebrewing. It’s fun, creative, and the results are often delightful. However, not all results are delightful. In fact, some beers that we’ve tasted are downright nasty. Learning from our mistakes and our friends’ mistakes, we decided to make a little list about the Seven Deadly (well, potentially deadly if you really really mess up) Sin of Homebrewing. We ranked them in order of importance.


1. Poor Sanitation

The emphasis on sanitation is a delicate line. Obviously, you should make a concerted effort to clean all your fermenting equipment and anything that touches the wort after it has been chilled. This is the best way to prevent infections. However, this should not result in paranoia about infections ruining your beer. We’ve thrown out batches because we thought they were infected, but there were not. In all honesty, your beer is pretty durable and isn’t at serious risk of infection. But why risk it?

We generally just use bleach to sanitize our equipment (I can already see the faces of horror). It works fine on any non-metal surface, and we rinse it with boiled water.


(Let no little bug live)

2. Under-Pitching Yeast


We have had plenty of homebrew that just reeks of esters/fusel, aromas of cider, alcohol, solvents and fruits. Often this is caused by not using enough yeast. When not enough yeast is used, the yeast has to work harder to eat the sugar, reproducing and creating nasty aromas and flavours. Make sure you pitch enough yeast, especially when you are brewing a high gravity beer (higher than O.G. 1.060). This often require making a starter.

Admittedly, some yeast you will not want to over-pitch (adding too much yeast). For example, hefeweizens get their banana, clove flavour from the esters produced by the yeast. Over-pitching will result in little yeast flavour in your beer. Though counter-intuitive, adding less yeast produces more yeast flavour, and adding more yeast produces less yeast flavour.

3. Temperature

Find out the temperature your yeast should be fermented at. Often this information can be found on the yeast package or the internet. If your yeast’s preferred temperature is between 16-22 Celcius, make sure it ferments in between those temperatures. Fermenting too warm seems more common than fermenting too cold.

Generally, we prefer to ferment on the colder side. This results in a cleaner tasting beer. Plus you cannot really harm your beer if the temperature is too cold. The fermentation will just stop. All you need to do is raise the temperature and the yeast will start up again (though this does strain the yeast). However, if you ferment your beer at a warmer temperature, more esters and fusel flavours will be produced, which can result in unpleasant flavours in your beer.

4. Impatiences

When we first started brewing, we could barely wait to try our beer. We would bottle it after 7 days or so, and then drink it 7 days after bottling. This doesn’t ruin the beer, but it does not give the beer enough time to age properly; the yeast has not had enough time to remove the harsh flavours.

As a guideline, We don’t drink any of our beer until 5 weeks after being brewed. That is long, but I believe the time pays off. Here’s a schedule I often follow
1 week in the primary fermenter: After 1 week, most of the primary fermentation is complete, and we transfer the beer into the secondary fermenter. We use a secondary fermenter because we like to pour new beers onto the yeast cake in the primary fermenter. Thus we condition/age the beer in a secondary fermenter while we pour a new beer onto the yeast cake in the primary fermenter.

2 weeks in the secondary fermenter: Depending on the alcohol of the beer, we may let it sit in the secondary fermenter for longer than 2 weeks.
2 weeks in the bottle before drinking: It is tempting to drink your beer as soon as possible, and we often open one bottle a week after it has been bottled, but we are rarely impressed with the beer at this stage. We are just curious how the flavour is developing. The carbonation is often a little weak and the flavours are still harsh; the yeast has not had time to go into dormancy. In our opinion, beer must be in the bottle for at least 2 weeks before it can be properly enjoyed.

5. Using Old Ingredients

It is obvious; fresh ingredients are better. But old ingredients aren’t necessarily bad. If they are stored properly, old ingredients can retain their freshness.

Signs of Age: Damp, not crunchy, flavourless, moldly
Consequence of Adding to Beer: Flavourless, boring beer. Or nasty mold flavours
Solution: Make sure the grain is stored somewhere cool and dry relatively protected from oxygen. You don’t need to vacuum seal all your grain (though this will allow you to keep for much longer)
Shelf Life: Grain doesn’t have a ‘best before’ date, but the older the grain gets, the less flavour it has. Ground grain has a shorter shelf life, around 20 days or so. If the grain is still whole and stored in a cool dry place, it can be stored around 12-18 months.

Signs of Age: No hop smell, or cheesy moldy smells
Consequence of Adding to Beer: The ability for hops to bitter your beer decreases with time. So you could have an under balanced beer with no hop flavour or aroma. Hops that smell moldly and cheesy will add that flavour/aroma to your beer. 
Solution: Vacuum seal your hops and store them in the freezer. This is a somewhat expensive investment (vacuum sealers cost around $70 to $120), but it is worth while if you like hoppy beers.
Shelf Life: If vacuum sealed and stored in the freezer, around 2 years. Remember that hops are only harvested once a year. For example, if you buy hops in April, those hops are already 5 months old (assuming those hops were harvested in September/October). The hops you purchase in the fall will be the freshest, unless your homebrew store is just trying to get rid of old stock. Solution: Find a new homebrew store.

(We store our hops in Foodsaver bags in the freezer)

Signs of Age: The expiration date on the yeast package. Or your beer isn’t fermenting
Consequence of Adding to Beer: Your beer will not ferment, or the yeast will be so badly damaged that it produces harsh tasting beer.
Solution: You have many options. Store your yeast in the fridge. Create a starter. Use your yeast as soon as possible. Pitch on yeast cakes or wash your y
Shelf Life: Dry yeast has a shelf life of about one year. Liquid yeast has a shelf life of about 4 months. But don’t wait that long. Yeast is best fresh.


6. Not Taking Good Notes on Your Batches and Recipes


Notes are important for two reasons. First, it allows you to reproduce good batches. Second and more importantly, it allows you to troubleshoot issues with bad batches.

There are three things we take notes on: ingredients, techniques and results. Ingredients consist of grains, hops, yeast (what generation is the yeast and how old is it), and water (whatever minerals you’ve added to the water).

In terms of techniques, keep track of mash temperatures, length of time of the mash, mash thickness, when hops are added to the boil (or first wort hopped/dry-hopping), length of time of the fermentation, if secondary fermentation was used, and the fermentation temperature.

For results, we keep track of the original gravity, final gravity, IBU, and volume of beer. We generally are not overly concerned with hitting are targeted original gravity. If our beer’s original gravity is higher than expected, that is divine intervention that our beer should be a little more boozy. If our beer’s original gravity is lower than expected, then we will have a slightly more session-able beer. We might adjust the hops the properly balance out the bitterness.

Some homebrewers take very extensive notes, covering everything from the temperature of the mash water to the amount of wort collected after the sparge. This is fine, but we feel this is information that is dependent upon your brewhouse. After you brew many batches with your brewhouse, you will start to instinctively know the temperature loss and wort loss of your brewhouse. That being said, taking notes on these aspects can help you better understand your brewhouse: mash/lauter tun, hot water tank, brew kettle and fermenting buckets/carboys.

7. Using Malt Extract


Yes, you can make fine beer with malt extract. You can even make great beer with malt extract. However, it’s not really making beer. Using Duncan Heinz to make a cake isn’t the same as making a cake from scratch. Malt extract doesn’t give you the same level of control.

There are many types of malt you cannot use, like Munich malt, Vienna malt, barley flakes, wheat flakes and any other grain that needs to be mashed. Plus you can control the body of your wort by what temperature you mash at.

All grain brewing does take more time (about 3-4 hours to make a batch) and more equipment, but this is making beer the same way breweries make beer. If you’re going to put time into making your own beer, why not go all the way? You’re obviously somewhat passionate about brewing seeing you are reading a homebrew website.

(Kevin Spacey does not approve of bad homebrew)