Tag Archives: Wyeast 1056

March Beer Thoughts

When I returned from Kauai, two, two batches of beer were waiting to be poured out of bottles.

Rye Ale and Stout

Rye is a trend in the drinks world.  You cannot take a spin in a liquor store without hitting a bottle of rye whiskey and rye is taking hold in the beer world as well.  In the past, I have tried my hand at rye beer recipes.  I found the resulting beers to be more of a rye novelty—not a lot of rye character—than a rye beer—lots of rye character.  For a late winter/early spring beer I decided to amp up the rye quotient to produce a more rye forward beer:

Rye Ale

What’s the story?  I started off with the Northern Brewer American Rye Ale recipe using Wyeast 1056 American Ale yeast. This is a recipe that I have made before with good results.

However, I added 1 pound of Weyermann Chocolate Rye Malt as a steeping grain to increase the rye flavor to something more noticeable.  Otherwise, the recipe is as called for from Northern Brewer.  The result is an aggressively rye flavored beer.  As it stands now the taste is teetering between aggressive novelty and something that can be worked with to produce a really standout beer.

Northern Brewer also has a Rye Stout recipe that has been getting some pretty rave reviews.  So, I brewed a batch with some modifications:

Rye Stout

Primarily, I reduced the boil time of the hops to reduce the bittering from a predicted ~55 IBU to something more like ~40 IBU.  I prefer my stouts to be less bitter and the 40 IBU mark seems about perfect to me.

Unlike past beers, I waited an additional week to uncork the first bottles giving them at least three weeks of bottle conditioning.

The result?  This may be the best beer that I have brewed in over a year of doing this.  The flavors are balanced very well, not too bitter and not too much alcohol.  The rye flavors are peppery enough to shine through the heavy malt flavor of the stout.

As a known fan of Surly’s Coffee Bender, I cannot help but think that this beer could really be sent to the moon by the addition of coffee in some way.  I think I have found my next recipe.

Australian Sparkling Ale

Sometimes, when you get a catalog from Northern Brewer or another homebrew shop there are recipe kits that just grab your imagination for some reason.  The Australian Sparkling Ale did that for me.

The beer is described as a descendant of a descendant of a Burton ale.  A little research—okay, I used Google—led me to several descriptions of a Burton as an antiquated British ale style.  That did not really help me and I have not had the time or inclination to spend any more effort to figure out what a Burton ale really is.  Why?  Because my batch of Australian Sparkling Ale is in the carboy, fully krausened, and about a week away from bottles.

As I was pouring in the specified Pride of Ringwood hops I could not help think that I was making a Lord of the Rings inspired beer.  Something about the word Ringwood that makes me think of wizards or druids or mysticism.  Come to think of it, there is something mystical about putting all these ingredients into a container and ending up with beer.  Heck, it’s downright magical.  Maybe I am a wizard.

Post Super Bowl Beer Thoughts

For the first time in a few years I actually watched the Super Bowl in its entirety.  With no skin in the game—either team could have won and I would have cared not the slightest bit more either way—the game needs to be entertaining.  Well, we got that in droves on Sunday evening.  It helped that I was pint deep in beer, both of the homebrew variety and commercially produced.

Northwest Ale

Styles of beer are getting to be so muddied.  Is it an amber ale or an IPA or an oak-aged monkey ale?  I don’t know.  One style of beer that is associated with the craft beer renaissance in the United States is amber ale.  I associate this style mostly with New Belgium’s Fat Tire Amber Ale, but there are countless varieties.

Homebrewers often cut their teeth on a variation of an amber ale.  Commonly, Wyeast 1056 “American Ale” or 1272 “American Ale II” are used to ferment the beer.  However, those yeasts are known for producing a platform for hops to be showcased in the place of a heavier malt profile.  I wanted to see what would happen if I let the hops take a backseat:

Northwest Ale

So, I started with an American Ale recipe, but instead of the traditional yeasts I chose Wyeast 1332 “Northwest Ale.”  The description, per Northern Brewer, is that the yeast “Produces a malty and mildly fruity ale with good depth and complexity.”  The malty part is what I was going for.  What is the verdict?

Pretty good.  I would be interested to see how two beers brewed the same time using the same recipe, but using different yeasts, would turn out because it is so hard to compare a beer that I brewed in January with one that I brewed in August or February of the prior year.  I lack the palate memory.  The beer is definitely malty.  I would not say that it has a fruity profile in any significant way, which is good because I was afraid of some banana flavors leaking in.  Everyone knows how I hate bananas.

Rye Ale and Rye Stout

I am on a little bit of a rye kick this month.  I have just put a batch of rye ale into bottles and I have a batch of rye stout that is fully krausened right now in a carboy downstairs.

Rye makes an interesting addition to a beer because it is supposed to add a peppery or spicy note to the beer that you just cannot get with malted barley.  I am sure that there are purists who will quote Germanic rules of brewing that say rye cannot be part of a true beer recipe, but I say hokum in my best Sheldon Cooper voice.

Does Fracking Threaten America’s Small Brewers?

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing if you want to get all technical, to unleash natural gas in shale formations is booming all over the United States.  It’s part of the U.S. rise to prominence as an energy producer after spending the better part of the past few decades hearing about our dependence on everyone but ourselves for energy.  However, there is a dark side and that dark side is primarily about the impact of the process on the water supply.

It’s one thing to affect my drinking water, but affect my beer and those are fighting words.

Bitterly Cold Beer Thoughts

The mercury or whatever they use in thermometers these days was showing an ambient air temperature below zero for much of the morning here in eastern Iowa.  It’s the kind of cold that feels like someone has just pinched your spine when you walk outside or, rather, run between buildings in an effort to avoid exposure.

It’s on days like these that I wish I could stay home wrapped in blankets drinking a beer.  Instead, my thoughts wander to beer while I look at spreadsheets all day long at work.

Brickwarmer Holiday Red

It’s been about a week since I cracked open the first 22 ounce bottle of the Brickwarmer Holiday Red:

Brickwarmer Holiday Red

The beer turned out okay, but it really lacks some of the flavors in the description.  In particular, the description noted that it would have pronounced citrus flavors but none of that came through in the final product.

However, the beer does seem to hit a lot of the right notes for these cold days.  It is hearty in terms of malt profile and the hops do come through strong without turning into a gut punch.  Or a smack to the teeth depending upon your perception of hop bombs.

I think that next year I will try a recipe similar to this but add some fruit or spices to make a unique holiday ale.  A Christmas present for the beer drinker in my life…me!

Like my second batch of The Innkeeper [insert link] the carbonation of different bottles has been highly inconsistent.  Some bottles are carbonated perfectly while others are quite flat.  It is a problem that is pushing me closer and closer to going the keg route.  I just want to build a keezer.

My Rye Ale

This weekend I brewed up a batch of rye ale that started with the American Rye Ale extract kit offered by the good folks at Northern Brewer.  I have made this exact recipe before, so I wanted to do something a little different.

I felt that the beer really lacked a defining rye characteristic, something that my rye whiskey drinking friend agreed with wholeheartedly.  In an attempt to up the rye quotient without upsetting the balance of the beer I steeped one pound of Weyermann Chocolate Rye Malt for twenty minutes as a specialty grain to add some depth to the beer in general.  It will darken up the beer and add those roasted notes that can really make a beer shine.

When the weather turns warmer and, depending upon the success of this batch, I am eager to try substituting the dark chocolate malt for a lighter Weyermann Rye Malt or Fawcett Crystal Rye Malt.  The other change I am looking to try is moving away from the ubiquitous Wyeast 1056 American Ale yeast or the slightly less ubiquitous Wyeast 1272 American Ale II.  This weekend I bottled a batch of American Amber Ale that used Wyeast 1332 Northwest Ale.

The “problem” I am having right now is that I can spend hours on my iPad with iBrewMaster crafting new recipes to try come springtime.

What is Craft Beer?

There is a debate raging in the beer world over the term “craft” and what it means.  In December the Brewers Association, a Colorado-based member association comprised of self-identified craft brewers, released a statement entitled “Craft vs. Crafty: A Statement from the Brewers Association.”  While I will not qualify the resulting conversation as a firestorm, it has been a heated debate within the world of beer.

The “traditional” criteria of a craft brewer is one whose production is less than 6 million barrels a year and has an ownership structure where less than 25% is owned by a parent company who is not themselves a craft brewer.  Therefore, a brand like Shock Top would not qualify because it is wholly owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev.

I feel that some of this argument is reminiscent of the whole debate surrounding organic when the federal government put into place standards that were used to define organic.  While there was general applause over there being standards by which to qualify organic, a lot of people felt that there was a departure away from the spirit of what it means to be organic.  In the debate over craft there is the same tenor.  Is being a craft brewer purely a numbers game, as the Brewers Association’s definition would suggest, or is it about approach?

I would argue that what defines “craft” is approach.  If a brewery is independent of a large parent, but brewing watered down schwag lager to be consumed via beer bongs no one is going to label that a craft brewer.  Sorry, whether it’s 10 million barrels or 2,000 barrels crap beer is crap beer not craft beer.  That is, in essence, the problem with simple thresholds.

BTW, why 6 million barrels as the threshold?  The Boston Beer Company, which brews Sam Adams, is the largest craft brewery in the United States.  In 2011, the company brewed 2.5 million barrels itself and another 13 thousand under contract according to its annual report.  If the largest craft brewer is not even halfway to that number why is it even considered a threshold?

Ironically, included among the list of members for the Brewers Association is AC Golden—a division of the gigantic Molson Coors Brewing Co and part of the Miller Coors Brewing Co joint venture, Goose Island Beer Co—owned by the megasized Anheuser-Busch InBev monstrosity, and others I am too lazy to track down the true ownership structure.  The Brewers Association is going to produce a list in the first quarter of 2013 of the breweries that meet the “traditional” criteria of a craft brewery and that remain independent of a larger parent company.

I am just going to stick to my homebrew.  It’s as craft as you can get.

First December Beer Thoughts

The Christmas songs are out in full force wherever you go, people are carrying those red cups from Starbucks, and suddenly people think it is appropriate to put strange looking reindeer decorations in their cubicles at work.  The holidays always turn my thoughts to…beer.  Big surprise.

Dry Irish Stout

The latest beer is done bottle condition and is ready to drink.  It’s a Dry Irish Stout recipe:

Dry Irish Stout

The original recipe, as it came from Northern Brewer, called for a more bitter beer than I wanted.  So, I reduced the boil time for the hops to reduce the bitterness down to approximately 40 IBU which is where a lot of people place the popular Guinness Draught stout.

Unlike Guinness Draught from a tap or can, my stout does not get the benefit of a nitrogen dispensing system or whatever that little widget is in the can that rattles around when empty.  The result is that the homebrew version lacks some of the creaminess that I associate with stout.  Not a deal breaker, per se, but it is a little bit disappointing in some ways.

However, the bitterness profile is spot on and this is a great beer for colder nights.  One way to really take things up a notch would be to introduce some cold pressed coffee extract.  Like, I don’t know, Surly’s Coffee Bender…

Innkeeper, Brickwarmer Red, and American Amber Ale

A batch of the Innkeeper extract ale kit from Northern Brewer is set to be bottled sometime on Sunday or Monday evening.  I brewed this same recipe earlier in the year and was very pleased with the results.  For some reason I felt compelled to return to the recipe.  It revolves around my interest in brewing styles of beer that are harder to define than India Pale Ale or porter or whatever.  It’s also about a search for finding beer styles that can have bold flavors, both in terms of malt and hops, without becoming hop bombs.

Next up after the Innkeeper are two recipe kits: Brickwarmer Red and American Amber Ale.  The Brickwarmer seems like the perfect beer for January and February when the weather is the coldest and you just want to snuggle under a blanket.  Not the right time of year for a light wheat beer or saison, but perfect for a heavier beer with spice.  Maybe an ugly sweater will complement the beer perfectly.

The American Amber Ale kit is going to be a little bit of a departure from the recipe as specified by the good folks from Northern Brewer.  Originally, the recipe called out Wyeast 1056 American Ale yeast.  Honestly, I am very bored with both strains of American Ale yeast (1056 and 1272).  The yeasts produce fine beer, but like the description points out these are yeasts that are meant to produce a beer that takes a backseat to bold hop flavors.

I chose to take the recipe kit and combine with the Wyeast 1332 Northwest Ale.  My hope is that this yeast will produce a beer with a distinct flavor profile versus a somewhat blank canvas like 1056 and 1272.  Only time in the carboy will tell.

How to Identify the Hops in Your Beer

The more I delve into the manufacturing of beer and the vast array of ingredients available the more I think the entire community is getting a little Sideways at time with the hops.  I am half expecting to go into Benz Beverage Depot and see a couple of guys looking at a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon while wondering about the variety of hops it uses.

Nonetheless, some hops have very different flavors and aromas.  If you are brewing your own beer or spending $12 a six pack for beer it is important to know what you like and what you do not.  Here is a handy guide for starting to identify the hops in your beer.

Beer Mythbusting

Apparently, there is some truth to the oft told tale that the pilgrims ended up landing in present day Massachusetts because the supply of beer was running low.  Huh, who would have thought?

There are some other interesting beer mythbusting going on in the same article.

Weekend Beer Thoughts

Another weekend, another weekend of beer.  Tough life.  I know…

New Organic Recipe

My latest attempt at a base recipe for beer experimentation has turned out well:

A little hoppy, but I was kind of going for that kind of flavor profile because I found the previous homebrews a little “light” on the aftertaste.  I felt that upping the hops would take care of the falling off flavor profile.  It did the trick.  The bitterness is about right, but I do not know that the aroma is quite there yet.  I guess that I will have to brew some more beer.  Damn!

Another batch is due to be ready for drinking on Friday.  The difference between the new batch and the prior batch is the hops and yeast used.  I will be very interested to see if I can tell any difference between Wyeast 1056 American Ale versus Wyeast 1272 American Ale II.

Going a Different Route

This spring I decided to try a few different styles via Northern Brewer extract kits: California Common with Wyeast 2112 California Lager, Irish Red Ale with Wyeast 1272 American Ale II, and the Innkeeper with Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire Ale.

I am really excited to try all three, but the California Common has me most jazzed.  It taked me back to my days as a graduate student in history at the University of Iowa where a friend introduced me to the charms of Anchor Steam. Simpler times.

The Innkeeper is already in the carboy and it is krausened!  The reviews across the Internet are nothing but complimentary for what is produced by this recipe.  Oh yeah!

Auroch’s Horn

Near the town where I went to high school and college Olvalde Farm and Brewing Company is starting to put out some unique beers.  Auroch’s Horn, some brewed with sweet rhubarb, is the mainstay of their production right now:

The hop profile is near perfect.  However, the beer is potent.  How potent?  Approximately 10% ABV, which is a little sporty for me.  I like a beer that I can repeat drink over the course of the evening.  Spend too much time drinking these and you will end up in a ditch like that guy in the DirecTV ad.  I like eyepatches.

I know some of the people involved in this operation, so I am hoping to schedule a visit to get a first hand look at how things come together.

A Lot to Try

My next trip to the Twin Cities is shaping up to be a metro wide beer hunt.  My brother is working up a list of establishments that will allow us to sample the best of Fulton Beer, Lift Bridge Beer Company, Harriet Brewing, Boom Island Brewing Company, and Steel Toe Brewing.  Good times.

Post-Weekend Beer Musings

My brother and his family were down from Minneapolis this weekend, which means only one thing…we tried to drink all of the beer that was in the house.  Unfortunately, unlike previous visits, my homebrewing hobby means that there are literally bottles hiding all over the kitchen and pantry.  There are a couple of bottles of wit here, a few bottles of ale there, and maybe something lurking in the dark recesses of that cupboard no one really cleans out regularly.


I need to apologize to my wit beer.  It was not the fault of the yeast that I did not like the beer.  It was coriander.  I opened the latest version of my American Ale using 1056 yeast with bitter orange and coriander as flavorings.  The taste in my mouth that really put me off has to be coriander because it is the only consistent ingredient between the two whose flavor I cannot place, but that I do not like.

This is not the most scientific diagnosis of the problem, but it is going to suffice.  Prior, I thought that coriander was a flavor in beers that I liked but it must have been masked by the heavier hopping of beers I enjoyed.  Since my homebrews are relatively lightly hopped the flavor of the coriander can really show through.  Ugh!

More Organic Beer

A second organic beer recipe went into the carboy on Sunday.  This recipe differs slightly from the prior recipe that was put into bottle son Sunday.  This beer uses the same extract and grain (6 lbs organic light malt extract and 1 lbs organic C-60L steeping grain) with Wyeast 1056 American Ale as a yeast.  I switched the Cascade hop to an aroma hop and went with Ahtanum as the bittering hop.  It is so easy to get lost and play around with these things.

Guilty Pleasures

I like Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy. There I said it.  Normally, it is a total summer brew–light, sweet, and forgettable.  Like so many songs on the radio in the summer or movies made by Michael Bay.  When Summer Shandy left the shelves I knew it was time for fall and everything that meant–cooler temperatures, football, and the perfect weather for hearty ales.

Now, for some reason, Summer Shandy is in my grocery store in Iowa in February.  I was walking the aisles, shopping for the weekend’s adventure, when the loudspeaker announced that samples were available in the liquor section.  Huh?  Like a mindless lemming I steered my cart every closer and witnessed the bizarre miracle that is Summer Shandy in the winter.  Now available in 16 and 12 ounce cans.  A twelve pack of 12 ounce cans jumped into my cart.

Why am I so weak?

15 Pack?

The walk-in beer cooler at the grocery store is always a mystery to me.  Why?  Because of the endless variety of ways that tasteless, industrial lager from major breweries is packaged.  Would you like cans, glass bottles, or plastic bottles?  Perhaps you would like a mini-keg?  Half-barrel or quarter-barrel?

The truly baffling element of this endless display of marketing muscle is the variety of package quantities of cans.  Disregarding for a moment the possibility of alternate volumes (e.g. 12 ounce versus 16 ounce versus 24 ounce versus whatever those Foster’s cans are called), there are so many options.  In just one variety (Miller Lite) there were 4 packs, 6 packs, 12 packs, 15 packs, 18 packs, 24 packs, and 30 packs of cans.  15 packs?  WTF?

I know that part of this is the “wall of beer” or “billboard in a cooler” theory of marketing whereby a major manufacturer creates a billboard of their product by occupying so much shelf space.  However, I think part of it is the madness and lack of creativity of marketing MBAs to figure out new ways to sell awful beer.  Swedish bikini teams, talking lizards, and past their prime sports celebrities do not make for a good performance review.

Fermenting Revolution

A friend suggested that I read Fermenting Revolution: How to Drink Beer and Save the World by Christopher O’Brien because the title seemed to speak to a philosophy of mine: the world would be a better place is people would just sit down for a nice beer once and a while.

O’Brien feels the same way and we agree on a lot of the same points.  Where I find fault with the book is that it reads at times like a treatise from an undergraduate course in the gender history of world beverage.  That is to say, everything wrong in our beer culture is the result of greedy male brewers taking power away from small scale female brewers thus industrializing the product and stealing its soul.  Did this happen?  To some degree, but to make it the central part of a narrative on the beneficial power of beer is to mistake this travesty as a defining characteristic of the craft beer movement in the modern age.

Too much time is spent on the sins of the past and not enough on the promise of the future.  Furthermore, the book really fails to capture the breadth of the good stuff going on with craft brewers across the country, not to mention homebrewers.  Sure, it’s easy to talk about New Belgium or Dogfish or Great Lakes because those guys are the heavyweights of the craft brew scene but missing a lot of more locally important brewers pushing the limits is selling the movement short.

In the end, I was disappointed with Fermenting Revolution because it failed to live up to the promise of its title.

Deep Winter Beer Musings

Belgian Wit

The first Belgian wit has been poured:

Not a fan is all that I can say.  I think it comes down to the strong banana and clove notes.  Apparently, Wyeast 3944 Belgian Witbier is notorious for producing esters (isoamyl acetate) that contribute to the banana flavor.  If there is one flavor that I despise it is banana.  I do not like the taste, texture, or smell of bananas.  Ugh!

From my research (read: Google) the warmer you ferment wort with 3944 and similar yeasts the more banana flavor you will get.  Some people claim to have never gotten the banana notes with 3944, but I have a bottle that will smack you in the face with Chiquita goodness.  The production of the offending flavors are supposed to be enhanced in warmer brewing environments, but the brewing room in my basement is a consistent 60-62 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s not a total loss as people who have sampled the Belgin wit are fans.  I guess it becomes my visitors’ beer.

New American Wheat Recipe

My new American wheat recipe is in bottles.  After the failure of my honey kolsch, I was keeping two growlers around to age but the beer was noticeably filled with suspended solids.  So, down the drain went the last remnants of my first major failure and in went my new hope for a basic “house” recipe.  In two weeks I should know if there has been a success or a failure.

The big difference with this beer from my previous wheat recipes is that I am using Wyeast 1272 American Ale II.  Between this and Wyeast 1056 there is a battle for American ale supremacy.  We shall see who dominates.

I will also be curious to see how clear this beer emerges because I worked hard to cool the wort down quickly—using an ice bath and cold ambient temps outside—and added a Whirlfloc tablet to coagulate some of the proteins.  A few bottles in each of my batches have had a lot of suspended solids.  It’s no real taste breaker, but it is kind of gross when serving to friends and family.  Granted, if they are getting free beer who should complain?

Golden Light Recipe

For this recipe, I am using the same hops as my previous American wheat that just went into bottles but using a different yeast and malt extract.  This recipe is using the reliable Wyeast 1056 American Ale to compare and contrast with 1272.  I am hoping that I can really see if there is a difference in the way the beer finishes.  If not, I may be “forced” to make duplicate recipes where only the yeast is different.

I chose to change the malt extract because I had not worked with the golden light malt extract before.  Just a change of pace type of moment.

Seven Resolutions for Homebrewers

Peter Reed at Serious Eats has 7 Resolutions for Homebrewers.  I am definitely down for all of these things, but I do not think I have to make a resolution.  Drink less beer, maybe…okay, maybe not.

Boom Times for the Minneapolis Beer Scene

Beer is booming in Minnesota and the Star Tribune finally noticed.  Not only is the Minneapolis beer scene seeing a surge, but there are people doing some excellent stuff outside of the metro. I realize that for anyone in the Twin Cities it is hard to believe that there is something worthwhile outside of the 494 loop.

In fairness to Liquid Assets, I do think there are some great new Minneapolis beer makers.  I look forward to sampling what Lucid is putting on tap during my next trip. Hopefully I won’t have to move someone to make a trip.