Posts Tagged With: Home Brew

Vice Picks Episode #1. !!!

Sorry I have not posted in a while!!!! Lots of Crazy stuff going on!!!! going to start doing these video posts for a while !


Vice Picks at Havana House episode 1

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What is an IPA? Infographic

The Story behind IPA is an interesting one.  To understand IPA we first have to understand the hop, the rest will fall into place after we discuss the preservative nature of hops.  Hops are composed of two major acids.  Alpha Acid, and Beta Acid.  Alpha acid is slightly responsible for preventing bacterial growth in the beer, such as bacteria that comes from lactic acid.   Alpha acid is also responsible for adding the bitter component to beer.  The beta acid does not add initial bitterness but does aid in the fermentation and aging of the beer adding the bitter components slowly over time.  What does Alpha acid in hops have to do with IPA? Alcohol and hops(becuase of the alpha acid) preserve beer.  Alcohol provides an unfavorable environment for microbial action, and the isohumulone content of the hops inhibits the growth of bacteria such as Lactobacillus. Thus, high alcohol content, in German export beers, for example, and high hopping rate, as in India pale ale, could protect beer from the souring associated with long storage times.

This brings forth another question, why do we need to preserve the beer anyway?  The answer is simple. In the early 17th century there was beer, and a lot of it.  A  lot was in the form of Pale Ale, a term coined by the use of pale malt and back then a lot less bitter then the pale ales of today.  The actual story is quite long so I’ll simplify it for you. George Hodgson of the Bow Brewery, on the Middlesex-Essex border, was the go-to guy for the East India Trading company for all their beer needs, be it exporting or consumption for British troops stationed in India.  The East India Trading company noticed that Hodgson’s liberally hopped pale ale seemed to make the trip down around Africa a little bit better than the less hopped lower alcohol version of Pale Ale at the time.  The trading company noticed this and asked him to up the ante, he did, and the well-preserved India Pale Ale was born.  This is the most common story, however, doing a little digging I found that there may have been a little more politics in this history that we think.  It turns out that the EITC chose the Bow brewery because of its location as well as his liberal credit terms, and that his October beer and Porter were also Highly in demand in India as well, which both seemed to survive the trip, according to record, quite well.  So whats the real story? Who knows? What we do know is that hops add a lot of bitterness and help preserve the beer.  I know I like the romance of it all, additionally I love the beer and I really love making it.

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Hops, IBU formulas, and Alpha Acid, Infograph style

This is a greeeat Infographic poster for those that are getting into homebrew, as well as for those that have been at it for a while.  You can print it and put it in your la-bor-a-tory for reference while making your recipes and deciding what hops to use as well as were they stand on the bitterness scale.  It also gives you origin and some notes on each varietal.  Enjoy

Courtesy of  Zeke Shore and Cork and Kegs

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The Different Styles Of Beer, Infographic

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Heavy Seas and Dogfish Head Brewery Tours, Makin a Firkin, and other nonsense

Over the weekend I had the incredible opportunity to visit some amazing craft breweries in Balitmore and Milton.  Dogfish Head, and Heavy Seas. In my opinion they make some of the best craft beer on the market, and this trip was really special and very informative, I got to dry hop a firkin at heavy seas, and learn about the whole firkin process, and its history as well as taste some special brew pub exclusives at Dogfish as well as tour their facility.

Heavy Seas was the Initial stop on my whirlwind tour of the East Coast.  A small but very capable brewing company, that appreciates the old world styles of making and aging beer, they are very concerned about small production, barrel aging and new firkin program.  They are very involved in CAMRA or the campaign for real ale.  As taken from their website

“CAMRA campaigns for real ale, real pubs and consumer rights. We are an independent, voluntary organisation with over 100,000 members and have been described as the most successful consumer group in Europe. CAMRA promotes good-quality real ale and pubs, as well as acting as the consumer’s champion in relation to the UK and European beer and drinks industry. We aim to:

  1. Protect and improve consumer rights
  2. Promote quality, choice and value for money
  3. Support the public house as a focus of community life
  4. Campaign for greater appreciation of traditional beers, ciders and perries as part of our national heritage and culture
  5. Seek improvements in all licensed premises and throughout the brewing industry

CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, is an independent, voluntary, consumer organisation which campaigns for real ale, real pubs and consumer rights.

Membership is open to all individuals although corporate entities such as breweries and pubs are not members; we currently have over 120,000 individual members.CAMRA is governed by a voluntary unpaid national executive, elected by the membership. We have a branch structure which means that all members can join a local CAMRA branch and campaign and socialise locally. There are around 200 branches covering the UK and many of the branches run local beer festivals, publish local newsletters and run social events to pubs and breweries.Although we are a volunteer-led organisation there is also a small professional staff of twenty five responsible for central campaigning, research, membership services, publishing, marketing and administration.CAMRA is financed through membership subscriptions, sales of products such as books and sweatshirts, and from the proceeds of beer festivals. We are a not-for-profit company, limited by guarantee and our accounts are lodged annually with Companies House.”

You can visit them at I suggest you do !!!
Upon arrival we were welcomed by the owner with seasonal brew pub exclusives, including the Heavy Seas Golden Ale, and Davy Jones Lager

The Gold Ale was one of my favorites !Nice, rich, complex and refreshingApprox 4.5% ABVDeep gold in color with floral and spicy hop aromas. Brewed with pale, carmel, and Munich malts balanced with Cascade, Centennial and Hersbrucker hops. Well rounded, fruity and complex. Pairs well with salads, mild cheeses and pulled pork BBQ.   2010 GABF Medal Winner  ~  2010 Gold Award, World Beer Cup

The Davy Jones Lager is a very interesting interpretation of a Lager. Spicy  Its an imperial Lager, and moreover techincally a Cream Ale….Where you at Genny!!!!

Approx. 7% ABV

Fermented using lager yeast at ‘ale’ temperatures then slowly lowered down to ‘lager’, taking the yeast from the top down to the depths of Davy Jones’ locker.

After those great brews We took the tour with a glass of Marzen in hand.  The Marzen was a traditional amber lager brewed with German spirit with toasty malt and a sweeter finish, with some horseradish cheese this was definitly a winner.

After the tour we had a great East Coast lunch, and were delightfully informed that we would be learning the history of the firkin, and then dry hopping and filling our own firkins !!!

So, What the Firk is a Firkin?

Firkin : definition:

firkin is an old English unit of volume. The name is derived from the Middle Dutch word vierdekijn, which means fourth, i.e. a quarter of a full-size barrel.

Nor need you mind the serial ordeal
Of being watched from forty cellar holes
As if by eye pairs out of forty firkins.
— Robert Frost, “Directive”

For beer and ale a firkin is equal to nine imperial gallons, seventy-two pints, or a quarter of a barrel (40.91481 litres). Casks in this size (themselves called firkins) are the most common container for cask ale. A firkin is equal to half a kilderkin.

For wine the firkin had a larger size, namely a third of a tun. A tun being 210 gallons in the UK and 252 fluid gallons in the US, thus a wine firkin is about 318 l (318.226 or 317.975). It is also called tertian or, preferably, puncheon (in the US also shortened to pon).

Butter and soap used to be sold by the firkin, too. In these cases it was a measure of weight, instead of volume: e.g., 56 lb(25.4 kg) and 64 lb (29.0 kg) respectively.

The term firkin is currently used to refer to antique wooden buckets, usually with wood handle and lid, about 10 inches (250 mm) high and 10 inches in diameter (about 10l or 2-3 dry gallons in capacity), formerly used to store sugar and other items.

The firkin (a firkin of water) is the base unit of mass in the humorous FFF System.

Basically a Firkin is a 9 gallon keg used to age beer, and also cask condition it.  Cask condition meaning secondary fermentation takes place in the keg itself, and additionally it is desgined to pour and serve beer, without the use of additional Co2.  This is part of the “campaign for real ale”, as this is the most ancient and first way of making beer prior to modern kegs.

Here is what we used…

10.5 gallons Heavy Seas Loose Cannon IPAB

3oz. Maryland Citra Hops

3oz. Maryland Pallisade Hops

2oz. Simcoe

a pinch of dried lemon, lime, and orange peel

2 stems of eucalyptus wood

a bushel of lemon basil

…. This Post will continue soon!!! check back for the conclusion!!!!!

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Another Good Craft Beer Infograph

Please visit and order a copy of this awesome Home Brewer poster !!!! Also, stay tuned for my trip to some great East Coast Breweries!!!

Here is a preview courtesy of Scott  K James, creator of the poster

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Homebrew Cheat Sheet

I decided to start doing weekly infographs as i find them.  This is a really good one on how to make beer Cheers ! -Tony

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Aging Pumpkin Beer and beer in general

Still Recovering after my now famous “pumpkin day”, the day that I get all the Pumpkin Beers in my store, and then proceed to drink all of them in a row .  I decided I’d write about this while it was fresh in my brain.  Starting with the Woodchuck Fall cider I was very impressed, and in comparison to the pumpkin cider I say the Fall cider is a clear winner.  The fall cider is spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon and aged in white American Oak.  The pumpkin however was not that impressive it lacked flavor and as we know, pumpkin really doesn’t taste like anything, its the spices that make the pumpkin pie not the actual  pumpkin itself .  After the Ciders,


I Moved on to this years Dogfish Punk, Ill let Sam tell you about this one.  And I must say, again this year they have outdone themselves once again .  The spices were very well integrated , and the beer is very balanced and approachable.

Now Lets talk about the monsters, the biggest most pumpkiny beer on the market .  The Southern Tier imperial Pumking is an impressive almost feast of a beer with huge pumpkin pie spices and aromas reminiscent of thanksgiving dinner, with some perceived sweetness from the spices i think.  The beer would go perfect with some spicy cheeses, turkey dinners, and as a stand alone dessert or maybe poured over vanilla ice cream. As taken from the website “Pumking is an ode to Púca, a creature of Celtic folklore, who is both feared and respected by those who believe in it. Púca is said to waylay travelers throughout the night, tossing them on its back, and providing them the ride of their lives, from whichthey return forever changed! Brewed in the spirit of All Hallows Eve, a time of year when spirits can make contact with the physical world and when magic is most potent. Pour Pumking into a goblet and allow it’s alluring spirit to overflow. As spicy aromas present themselves, let its deep copper color entrance you as your journey into this mystical brew has just begun. As the first drops touch your tongue a magical spell will bewitch your taste buds making it difficult to escape. This beer is brewed with pagan spirit yet should be enjoyed responsibly.”

8.6% abv • 12.7ºL • Imperial Pumpkin Ale • 22 oz

Tasting them both side by side presented some interesting things.  One, which is clear by the picture is color difference last years had lost some color over the past year (beer on left), and surprising enough last years beer was 9.0% abv where this years in 8.6%abv.  Slight oxidation notes and some developed nutty and maraschino on the year old version, in addition brandy and port like aromas had developed.  If you get a chance this is a must do. Lets talk about why you should age beer

Start with a high ABV (8% minimum) that is on the malty/sweet side (just like Pumking). The higher alcohol and lower hops content makes these beers less susceptible to funky smells and taste. Another thing that helps elude the curse is storing the beer at the proper temperature.You to keep the beer in the dark at constant cellar temperatures, 50° – 60° F.  Spiking and dropping temperatures will spoil your beer, as does exposure to light, which breaks down a chemical in the hops into a chemical found in skunk spray. If you’ve ever had “skunky” beer, chances are it was exposed to light for too long or “lightstruck.” If you have a cellar or basement that maintains a fairly constant temperature, you’ve got it made. Otherwise, you’ll need to invest in a cellaring refrigerator or convert a fridge to operate at cellar temperatures. Which we had stored the pumpkin in a wine fridge at 55 degrees in the dark for the whole year.  trust me aging your beer is worth it

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Our Brown Ale, Converting Alpha Acid’s to IBU’s, and a some great hops infographics

It seemed as if all the pieces came together for us and exactly the right times.  I had just finished a brown ale brewed at Jan’s and now was ready to go on my own but i needed equipment and I needed it built.  My good friend Justin and I were talking and he already had a bunch of materials that were ready for us to brew as he previously made wine. The only ting we really needed in terms of big things to start was a brew kettle and a wort chiller amongst other things that add up, Like Co2 , and Pepsi kegs.  I wont even begin to talk about the adventure of the gauges just yet.  Anyway we found an old Labbatt 15.5 gallon keg and Justin knew some hillbilly welders that build hotrods and trailers that knew how to weld.  The price, free beer when we finish making it, now thats America!! The top of the Keg was plasma cut out and we put a j-valve near the bottom with a screen to filter out the hops.

In another streak of good luck, Justin, who works for a developing company got word that an apartment needed new kitchen fixtures and the old, steel, ones that were in perfect condition were just going to be thrown away, so….we volunteered to take them off of there hands for no cost.

For our first beer on our own  I grabbed a good crew of guys, Bryan Infante ( ) and a good friend of mine, Justin Cassagrande, who is our brewery designer and builder and, he really likes beer.  I decided that I would try and redo the brown ale that won us the award.  The reason why its an issue to duplicate is because the first one we did was on-the-fly as Jan was brewing a milk stout at the same time.  I decided mid-brew that I wanted to use some of the lactose and some of the malt color from the milk stout to deepen the SRM and also to add the creamy sweetness of the lactose used in the Milk Stout, The only issue was i used about a gallon or less of the milk stout and I had no real idea how much more malt and how much lactose to actually add.  When I designed the recipe for this one, in all honesty i “wung” it again but this time i wrote it down. The Recipe is as follows

Brown Ale PDF

Until Recently, I didn’t understand the concept of Alpha Acid and IBU’s and when they needed to be put in the beer and for how long but there is a pretty simple explanation and formula.

Looks Complicated doesn’t it ? Well it really isn’t, here we go

The AAU/HBU measurement of a hop addition is determined by multiplying the amount of hops by the hops’ alpha acid. While AAU/HBU formulas are quite simple and are still used in homebrewing, they have limited value in determining overall bitterness because they don’t factor in length of boil and other important parameters.

IBU calculations are just as simple, much more accurate, and are adaptable to a wider range of brewing situations. However, to be able to meaningfully incorporate IBU figures into brewing, you need to know and understand the basic IBU formula: IBU = Hops x AA% xutilization / volume x 1.34

  • Hops = the weight of hops in ounces
  • AA% = alpha acid percent
  • Utilization = the utilization percent
  • Volume = the volume of the final batch in gallons
  • 1.34 = a constant to convert measurement into US standards

Now for the utilization

23@60 min

18@45 min

15@30 min

7@15 min

Technically speaking, utilization is

The final variable in the IBU formula is utilization percentage. In a perfect world it would be nice to assume that all of the potential bitterness available from the hops is extracted into the finished beer, but unfortunately that is not the case. Many factors affect the amount of bitterness actually liberated, or isomerized, into the finished product. Some of the more common factors:

Length of Boil: The longer the hops are boiled, the more bitterness is extracted into the finished beer. This is generally good up to about 90 minutes, at which point the law of diminishing returns takes effect and less bitterness is extracted per unit of time. Conversely, late hop additions for flavor or aroma will contribute considerably less bitterness due to the reduced amount of boil time.

Intensity of Boil: Homebrewers using a mega-BTU outdoor cooker can virtually blast the enamel off a steel pot and will have a much more vigorous or intense boil than the homebrewer using an electric range. The more intense and turbulent the boil, the more hop bitterness is extracted.

Volume of Boil: The greater the volume of wort being boiled, the more effective the extraction of hop bitterness will be. Don’t confuse this with final wort volume in the IBU formula. For brewers with smaller brewpots who can only do a partial wort boil, it is important to realize that the reduced volume of the boil will reduce the extraction of the hops.

Specific Gravity of Wort: Dense, high-gravity worts with lots of dissolved sugars will reduce the ability of the wort to extract alpha acids in the boil. The purchase of a large-volume brewpot (seven gallons or greater) and the attendant accessories such as a high-output burner is even more appealing when you consider that a reduced wort volume combined with the increased gravity associated with only boiling a portion of the batch and then later topping off to final volume is a double whammy against effective hop bitterness extraction.

Quality of Hops: Old or stale hops will lose some of their alpha acid value. Also, pellet hops usually provide a slightly greater degree of utilization in the boil than their whole leaf counterparts of equal alpha acid value.

Fermentation: The use of a small-volume fermenter and a blow-off tube for the early stages of fermentation will result in a portion of the hop resins being “blown off” with the foam from the kraeusen. In addition, as the yeast flocculates out it will carry with it some of the isomerized bittering compounds.

While there are many published sources that provide specific figures for each of these factors along with involved calculations, utilization percentage can be estimated fairly well. When doing a full-wort boil of moderate gravity (1.045 to 1.055), with hops boiled for 60 minutes or more, assume a utilization of 30 percent.

You can make a pretty good estimate of how your own brewing conditions will affect utilization and modify the numbers accordingly. For example if you are unable to do a full-wort boil or the beer you are making is of a relatively strong gravity, then it would probably be safe to assume that the estimate can be factored down by 2 percent to 3 percent.

I say forget all that and stick with my earlier estimations of utilization for the Home brewer they seem to be pretty spot on , and I have not ran into problems yet.  

For Example using the Brown Ale recipe we used .5 oz of cascade at 30 minutes boil time at 6.6% AA lets figure out the IBUS (IBU = Hops x AA% x utilization/ volume x 1.34) IBU=(.5 x 6.6 x 23 /10 x 1.34)  = ( 3.3 x 23 / 13.4) = (75.9/13.4 ) = 5.66 IBU’s @ 30 minutes boil time. 

Using this formula is very useful in planning when and what to put into your brew according to BJCP guidelines.

This infographic is courtesy of Zeke Shore and Thanks guys for the wonderful work. This can be used as a guide to figuring out what hops and what AA you want in your next brew !!!

Categories: Beer, Beer Infographs, Breweries, Home Brewing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Home Brew

For a couple of years now, I have had the great pleasure of having the opportunity to brew with Jan.  Jan has been home brewing ever since he fell in love with beer in Germany, when he went with his father some 20 odd years ago.  He explained to me after tasting beer in Europe  the only way he would ever be able to taste true beer again at home he would have to make it himself. So, he started and that thought led him on a quest that earned him a well respected BJCP beer judge certfication, and more than a handful of trophies and medals from across the country.  He is also a great friend and a great mentor and the past years of brewing with him and learning the vast VAST amount of knowledge that he has imparted on me is irreplaceable. With that being said I recently started brewing on my own.  Trust me its a lot different than buying a Mr. Beer and having a go. Beer is an art and its very intricate and the only way to learn it is to truly dive deep in.  So I did.  With an already intense knowledge of wine and winemaking I have taken to the terms and process pretty easily and I have assembled a top notch crew of guys to help me on my journey to create the best beer.ever. What Follows are my chronicles

My Friends From and I (click pic for link)


Jan On Left In Photo

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