Indiana On Tap Tasting Society Recap – An Outpouring of Love

On Friday July 21, Circle City Zymurgy participated in the July gathering of the Indiana On Tap Tasting Society. The goal of these events is to showcase our state’s fine breweries and/or the beers available throughout the state by bringing something special and different to each event. In fact, no two monthly events are the same. The events are intimate–think more of a swanky party instead of a beer festival. What’s cool about this is attendees had plenty of opportunities to talk to the brewery staff and the brewers themselves. As a bonus, these tasting society events are also Indiana’s premier venue for trading rare and hard-to-find beers from all over the state and the nation.

CCZ members including myself, Nick Boling, Jonathan Marting, and Matt and Lauren Wolford had a great time pouring our beer and representing the club. Joining us were Rhinegeist Brewery from Cincinnati and Creatures of Habit from Anderson, IN. For this event, Indiana on Tap partnered with Bottom’s Up, which meant we got to serve our beer on their awesome draft system. Thank you to Bottom’s Up for providing pouring enjoyment for our crew! As the indoor temperature rose to meet that of the outside, the event space filled with throngs of thirsty beer geeks. Having the premier pouring space, most guests queued up in front of the Circle City Zymurgy booth. We started the night with a broad spectrum of brewing styles for the tasters; Russ Der Cogburn Lemon Shandy, A Southerner in London (A hazelnut praline English mild), Meeb’s Milk Stout and Grapefruit Baby Doll (An American pale ale enhanced with Amoretti Ruby Red Grapefruit artisanal flavoring). The CCZ line quickly became THE place to be with lines surpassing all other pouring stations for a majority of the night. As the night progressed so did our lineup of tasty malt beverages, such as Mr. Mild Mannered (English Mild), Juicy Lucy New England IPA, 124 Conch Street (Pineapple Wheat) and Tears of a Wookiee American pale ale). All told, the CCZ crew floated 8 kegs in less than 3 hours, while Rhinegeist and Creatures of Habit had a sufficient supply of brews on tap. The ambiance was a hip and cool with party tunes provided by DJ 3pm, beer flavored cupcakes by Tipsy Turvey of Anderson, handcrafted pirogi from The Pirogi Truck and craft hard sodas from Garden Party Botanicals.

Overall this was a very successful night of pouring for CCZ and the club members who participated. With this being a monthly event, there will be plenty of opportunities for other members of the club to participate, however, be prepared to meet the high expectations set by the inaugural crew and remember to bring PLENTY of beer!

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Thank you to CCZ member Rob Ecker for this recap. This blog post has been edited and condensed for clarity.

10 Step Strawberry Rhubarb Melomel Tutorial

I recently came into possession of 5lbs of fresh garden grown green rhubarb and wanted make a special batch of mead this summer. I’ve been trying to hone in my mead making abilities and thought that a strawberry rhubarb melomel may be the best way to use all of this fresh rhubarb. Now all I needed were a few extra ingredients. I picked up a case of fresh picked organic strawberries and some fresh spring harvest honey from the Canby berry farms South of Portland at the local farmer’s market. The honey was light and had a slight brightness to it that I think will pair perfectly with the fruit.


Step 1: Wash the fruit, chop, vacuum seal, and freeze.  I filled the kitchen sink with a mixture of distilled white vinegar and water to wash the fruit (1 cup of distilled white vinegar to 8 cups water) using a brush to gently scrub everything. Some people include dish soap into these washes, however I do not do this. Fruit washes in a vinegar solution are a great way to extend the life of your fruit as it kills off native yeast, mold, and bacteria on the fruit. Once washed, I rinsed the fruit and started cutting it into smaller pieces. I cut the strawberries into halves and chopped the rhubarb into 2 inch pieces and weighed them. I used 3lbs of strawberries and just under 4lbs of rhubarb (which approximated to the same ratio I found in a strawberry rhubarb pie recipe online). I then threw them into vacuum sealed bags and froze them. Looking up pie recipes inspired me so much that I plan on making my next batch of mead using whole fresh baked fruit pies (cherry pie, huckleberry cobbler, or possibly even blueberry pie).

Step 2: Thaw fruit and refreeze This step is something I’ve only recently started doing. By freezing, you burst the cell walls of your fruit which makes juice more available. By freezing twice you further break up the fruit. Once it has thawed a second time, the fresh fruit now has a consistency of canned peaches.

Step 3: Thaw fruit and prep for brewday. Measure out yeast energizer, yeast nutrient, and pectic enzyme for 3 gallons of finished melomel and place them into a small bowl. I use half the recommended amount of yeast energizer and nutrient so that I can add more a few days into fermentation. Prep a rinse bucket and sanitizer bucket for your brew station. Set up brewing kettle and burner, measure out 5 gallons of filtered water, and set up your cooling workflow (I run a chugger pump into a counterflow wort chiller to quickly zapp the boiling liquid down to fermenting temperature and push it directly into my primary). Because I’m working with honey, I placed these beautiful jars of fresh honey in the sun to heat up and become less viscous (100°F outside today in Portland, OR. Ouch…).

Step 4: Test the system with boiling water to sanitize and work out any kinks. Once your water is boiling, cut the propane on your burner and connect your chiller setup to the ball valve on your kettle. Open the valve and let it flow into your chiller.  I power on the chugger pump for a few seconds to help start the siphoning process into my chiller before turning it off and letting gravity drain the water level down to 3 gallons. Once it’s reached 3 gallons close the ball valve on your kettle. Running boiling water through your chilling setup ensures that you are killing any yeast, bacteria, or mold that may be housed in your equipment.

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Step 5: Pour in your honey and stir to dissolve it into your heated water. My preheated honey pours just like warm motor oil. Make sure your heat is off while stirring in your honey to prevent scorching the sugar. I used a ratio of 2.5lbs of honey per gallon of water for a total of 7.5lbs of honey that will finish out at around 10.6% ABV (If I were to do this again I would have used 1.5lbs of honey per gallon to bring the ABV down to around 6-6.5% ABV).

Step 6: Chill your mead down to fermenting temperature and clean. I kick on the hose pushing water through my counterflow wort chiller, open up the valve on my kettle, and then power on my chugger pump. This draws my mead into my chiller and out of the system after passing through my Blichmann Thrumometer. I can adjust the temperature of my cooling mead by adjusting the kettle valve on my pot or the additional valve installed after the pump just before the chiller. This slows the flow of the mead while in the chiller which increases the contact time with the copper cooled by the water in system. I pumped my mead into my primary at 70°F.

Now that the brew day is over it’s time to clean. Make sure to scrub down your equipment, rinse, and dry everything. I also run additional boiling water through my chiller one last time to clean the inside of the chiller and heat up the copper to stave off bacteria before closing off the system. As you can see, I have Pedro’s approval that all is clean and ready to be packed away.

Step 7: Add your fruit and pitch your yeast. Now that you’ve transferred all of your mead into your cleaned and sanitized fermenter, add your fruit. Give the mixture a stir and take a gravity reading. The mead I made today was 1.080. Pitch your yeast on top of your fruit along with your nutrients and pectic enzyme. I use half the recommended amount of yeast energizer and nutrient, and add the other half after about 4-5 days. This helps provide the yeast with nutrients that it needs to continue powering through all that sugar. You can add the whole recommendation of pectic enzyme though. You want as much pectin to settle out as possible during the fermentation process to improve the clarity of your finished mead. There are a lot of different yeasts you can use for mead. Red Star Pasteur and Lalvin EC-1118 are both champagne yeasts and will ferment out dry without too much characteristics from the yeast itself. Wyeast Sweet Mead or Dry Mead are two liquid options that I’ve had a lot of luck with in the past. Today I’m using Mangrove Jack’s MO5 Mead yeast.

Step 8: FermentWhen I make beer/cider/wine I like to make sure I give the yeast plenty of time to do its thing. Don’t rush your mead through the system. The more times you open your fermenter, the more you expose it to Oxygen which will oxidize your finished product. That said, your mead is actively fermenting in the first 3-5 days. That’s a perfect time to throw in the rest of your yeast nutrient. Once you’ve done that, leave it alone for at least a couple of weeks at the proper fermenting temperature and then take a gravity reading. If the mead still has a way to go give it another week. Your final gravity should be 1.005 or lower. This will ensure it is not too sweet and ensures that the yeast has finished fermenting. If you are higher than 1.005 that is ok, it will just be a little on the sweet side.

Step 9: Rack your mead off the fruit and store in glass carboy for aging. Unfortunately this step can get a little messy. Above is a picture of a nectarine mead I recently racked into a 3 gallon glass carboy. The nectarines were so mushy they were easily pulled up into my racking cane and over to the secondary. It’s not the end of the world, but I’ll likely rack over to another carboy to remove the rest of the fruit and sediment. When racking your mead off of the fermented fruit, use extreme care. Your fermenter will likely have fruit still floating on top, and yeast accumulating at the bottom. You want the good stuff in the middle. Before you start transferring your mead over to a sanitized carboy I would recommend using a sanitized spoon to remove the floating fruit. Use care to not stir up the yeast at the bottom of the fermenter while removing the fruit. Transfer the mead over to glass with an autosiphon and age in glass. Over time you will notice that your mead will start clarifying, and yeast/fruit particles that will start settling out. If you are a stickler like I am you will likely rack your mead over to another carboy to further clarify your mead. Another thing to note is that I purge out the Oxygen in my fermentors when I open them up with CO2 from my kegging system. It’s a great way to decrease oxidation from taking root.


Step 10: Keg or bottle your mead. I prefer kegging my ferments as I can bottle directly from the keg using my Blichmann Beer Gun. This allows me to purge CO2 from my bottles before corking/capping my bottles. There is nothing wrong with bottle conditioning, however I prefer to force carbonate over conditioning in a bottle. You have officially made yourself some delicious mead! Chill and serve in your favorite glassware or in my case a fancy 2L drinking horn.

Mead has been made for thousands of years. Don’t feel like you have to buy a bunch of equipment to make it. I’m literally using equipment that I have accumulated over 10+ years homebrewing. Make sure you are using the freshest ingredients you can find. Use good sanitation practices. I would suggest using a glass carboy to age the mead in. Tuck your mead away and forget about it for a year (although make sure to keep the airlock filled) so that it can mature. I’ve found that cider and mead that have been aged for one year are much better than “hot” mead that was rushed into a bottle.  Consider aging some of your mead with liquor soaked oak cubes or maybe even adding some other microbes to the mix to create new and exciting flavor combinations. You can even blend finished meads together with cider or fruit wine!

Meeb’s Milk Stout Tapping


Come out to the Noble Order taproom in Zionsville on June 29 as they officially tap the second of our collaboration beers with Noble Order Brewing Company! CCZ member Nick Boling and Noble Order Brewmaster Mike Miller have collaborated to bring you Meeb’s Milk Stout. Based on Nick’s National Homebrew Competition-finalist recipe, this is a smooth, balanced, excellent stout. A portion of the sales from this beer go to support club activities; so you get to sample an excellent beer and help out Circle City Zymurgy. Meeb’s Milk Stout will be available until the keg runs out, so make sure you get it while you can!

Brew-Ha-Ha 2017 in the Books!

The Phoenix Theatre’s 22nd annual Brew-Ha-Ha was this past Saturday. Every CCZ member who poured and attended had so much fun at Indiana’s oldest beer festival. We ended up floating four kegs and several bottles of sours during our special VIP-tapping (everyone seemed to love our sours). Even a malfunctioning Randall and a mid-festival rain shower couldn’t put a damper on our spirits. It’ll be interesting to see how the festival changes if and when they move it to the new site of the Phoenix theatre. But as long as it maintains its intimate size, quirkiness, and residential charm, it should remain one of the best beer festivals in the city.

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Death and Taxes Experience

Death and Taxes Day was a fantastic event that I was happy to be a part of, so I first want to thank them (Taxman Brewing Co.) for putting on this event and hosting us, as well as thank Steve Kent for getting us the opportunity to pour there. As many of you know, we were able to come up with a variety of beers to serve at the event that all seemed to be a smash hit, as we served 20 gallons of beer in under 2 hours! Many thanks go to Matt and Lauren Wolford as well as Jeremy Railey for the contributions to the event. CCZ brew recognition is growing whether we look at Untappd or on the spot reviews! As for the event, we had some wind, but it turned out to be a beautiful day. Everything from the glasses to the Evasion bottle release were fantastic! Well, except for those who broke their commemorative glasses. I had the opportunity to sample all of the variants except the coconut Evasion variant. They were all delicious, especially the blueberry variant they sampled the last hour. As a club, we completely filled our email list form with people excited about our beers as well! That is probably the best way of quantifying our success, so way to go everyone! There were countless breweries there serving as well. I even tried one out of Columbus called Powerhouse for the first time. Their aged Tart Cherry was something of dreams! So to wrap it up, it was a phenomenal event, looking forward to next year, and I’ll see you all at History on Tap June 2nd! Cheers!

Thank you, Jeremiah for sharing your Death and Taxes experience! 

Cincy Beerfest Review

Cincy Winter BeerFest: On February 17th and 18th , Cincinnati held its 10th annual Winter Beerfest. This beerfest is unlike any that I have ever been to. There were over 500 beers from over 150 breweries, there was live music for entertainment, food trucks with anything from mac and cheese to barbeque to Asian small plates to a donut burger. If you could imagine it in either beer or food it was more than likely in the Duke Energy Center, including a silent disco. Unlike the Indy Winterfest, it was not nearly as cold nor did people have to stand out in freezing temperatures to get in and enjoy the fruits of so many brewers labor. The convention center was set up so that pre-banding occurred within the same building as the event, literally just upstairs from the main entrance. There was a plethora of security guards to check your ID’s and once you were proven to be worth (21+ yrs. of age), there were around 15 or so lines to let you through to the beer if you hadn’t been pre-banded. Overall the layout of the event and flow of people was astronomically better than Indy Winterfest and there was no need for discounted tickets to another event.

With this being my first beerfest outside of the state of Indiana I was shocked to learn that other states have odd and sometimes confusing alcohol laws and that we aren’t the only crazy state in the Union with some random blue laws. In Ohio, there has to be an exchange occur for alcohol to be served. For this event, everyone was given 25 little blue tickets to exchange for their beer. Interestingly enough, I still had a majority of my 25 tickets left at the end of the night and I didn’t skimp on drinking. If the pourers were from the brewery they really didn’t care about the tickets, they just wanted you to try their beer. The volunteers who were pouring for breweries on the other hand were more in tune with the law and kept asking for the tickets. But enough about how it was different from Winterfest and random state’s blue laws and on to the important stuff, specifically the people, the beer, and the event.

The people, what can I say, the people were awesome. First, Lauren, Vicki, Mickey and myself were in attendance from CCZ (sorry if we missed anyone), and we had a great time hanging out and drinking beer. For a majority of the event it was a free-for-all and we dispersed like a rabid pack of dogs on the event. I went one direction, Lauren followed but headed to a separate table and Mickey and Vicki were off on their own escapades. As all of us had purchased VIP entrance tickets, we were given the 25 tickets and an 8oz glass. Needless to say, I do not need 200oz of beer let alone in a 5-hour period, so Lauren and I were able to split drinks and enjoy more samples without becoming so intoxicated that a small spark would have ignited us. We took the more casual approach to maneuvering the 500 beers and 150 breweries and set out to try beers we hadn’t ever had or breweries we hadn’t heard of. This allowed us to pick and choose the lines we wanted to wait in (not too many) and also spend time talking to the brewers who were more than gracious to talk to a couple of homebrewers who enjoyed their beer (thanks Wooden Cask). Vicki on the other hand had her lineup set with the have to have 30+ beers, the want to haves (another 20+) and then the ‘if I am still standing and want more’ beer list. This plan worked out quite well for Vicki as she was able to check off her entire must have list.

The Beer. Where do I even begin with the beer. Let’s start with the Beer List. There were breweries that were local to Cincinnati, there were regionally located breweries and then you had the giants of the craft beer industry. All of them were more than happy to provide a tasty beverage and some even produced some out of this world samples. My favorite sample was from the already mentioned Wooden Cask who is a recently opened brewery from nearby Newport. They had some spot on British beers with an English Brown Ale that was the perfect balance of malt and hops and an English Porter. I also found that Figleaf, a brewery out of Middleton, OH also produces a great English Special Bitter (ESB). I went into this event really excited to see that a lot of breweries were bringing their Kolsch’s to the event. However, in the end I only got to sample one as the rest of the breweries did not have it. The one I had was just OK, there were some off flavors not normally present in a kolsch. Overall, the beer provided was overall on the up and up and whatever type of beer suits your fancy, you could find it and then some.


The Event. This is an event that I will definitely go back and we are already making plans and trying to get a bigger group to go down and enjoy with us. The people who are volunteering are wonderful, the breweries provided great beer, the venue is set up great for an event and the people of Cincinnati are wonderful and were great hosts. At any point, you were likely to bump into someone, but everyone continuously was saying excuse me and apologizing for bumping into each other. This was a refreshing atmosphere when compared to many events where people get to intoxicated and manners go out the window. Overall this event is one that is a top recommendation for anyone wanting to go to a beerfest outside of Indiana and provides for a nice easy drive and weekend away. Also, see Jungle Jim’s, Ikea, and Bass Pro Shops but that is not beer related, except Jungle Jim’s. While there weren’t any homebrewers and homebrew clubs pouring at this event, we all enjoyed the fruits of many brew master’s labor and will likely be attending the 11th annual Cincy Beerfest.


Matt Wolford – Cincy Beerfest Review

Wait For It… (Winterfest Recap)

‘Twas a blustery day in early February, when the Brewers of Indiana Guild chose to hold their 9th Annual Winterfest at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.  Who am I kidding?  It was FREAKING COLD, thus the aptly named Winterfest.  This year sported a selection of more than 100 Indiana micros and guest breweries from the Midwest, all pouring between two and six different styles to a sellout crowd of 6,000 thirsty Hoosiers and HooYaWannaBees!  I overheard various guests mention their travel from nearby Chicago, Cincinnati, Louisville, and even as far away as Honolulu, Hawaii!  I myself Uber’ed from the Residence Inn on the Canal in downtown Indy.  That in and of itself should have been a sign of foreboding as the driver and I neared the intersection of 38th and Fall Creek PARKway.  The parkway was a parking lot!  The fairground was a spectacle of Biblical proportion.  Like Pharaoh’s army chasing the Israelites through the desert, the swarm of humanity was exhausting.

Now, leave it to fairground management to schedule 5 of the largest events to hit Indy on the same bitterly cold Saturday in February, plus a minor-minor league Hockey game.  All told, there was the beer festival, a Lumberjack wood working gala, Boy Scout Memorabilia auction, The Great Train Show and the Purdue Ag Alumni Fish Fry!  I heard that there was also a D-List Porn Convention being held in the Barns, but I cannot confirm nor deny its existence.

Back to beer, or at least lines for beer.  With an advertised sellout crowd, the festival planners failed miserably to execute the ingress of all 6,000 attendees in a timely manner.  Many in attendance waited more than an hour to enter the West Pavilion to sample the carbonated concoctions from around the state.  Much like the Israelites in the desert, it was a long, long walk.  Except it was colder, much colder, and like the Israelites, the flock only had bread to eat.  Okay, they had leavened bread in the form of pretzels hung around their necks with assorted jerky’s and beef sticks.  Upon final entry into the pavilion, many of the adornments had already been consumed to fuel their warmth generating bellies while in queue.  Back to this later, let’s get to the beer.

Once inside the hall, this year’s layout of the event was much easier to navigate than in years past, where the brewers were spread between two buildings.  Having recently returned from GABF where the brewers are alphabetized by region, the haphazard positioning of Winterfest had no rhyme or reason.  Now, don’t get me wrong here thinking that everything about this event was negative, it was a lot of fun and I tasted some crazy good brews!  But let’s talk about the event from our perspective as homebrewers.

Setting up for the big event

As a homebrewer, I enjoyed the experience of watching guests taste the fruits of my hard labor and hours upon hours of cleaning and sanitizing everything in sight.  As a club, we were well represented by Tanner Andrew, Jarrod Otter, Nick Boling and myself.  We shared our booth space with Wes and Bryan from Great Fermentations and together we represented homebrewers in a bright and shining spotlight!  The first question after people tasted their beer for the first time was, “Where are you guys located?”  My standard response was “Garages, barns, dark basements and spare bedrooms in our mom’s house around Indianapolis.”  When people ask where they can get more of what you are offering, you must be doing something right!

From a style perspective, we poured a Milk Stout on nitro (Meeb’s Milk Stout by Nick Boling), a peppermint chocolate porter (Dark Mint Lord by Tanner Andrew and Jarrod Otter) and an East Coast IPA (Juicy Lucy by Robert Ecker).  All three offerings were well received and fulfilled the needs of the thirsty public.  Dark Mint Lord enticed those who kept swiping the leftover Andes mints in front of the table and asking, “Why the mints?”  Tanner and Jarrod ran their beer through a Randall that contained a butt load of Andes Mints!  What a brilliant idea and a perfect balance of the sweet chocolate mint flavor against the roasti-ness of the robust porter.  Nick’s milk stout stood up against any number of stout offerings from other breweries.  The creamy mouth-feel of the beer gas nestled among the residual lactose sweetness was tempered with just the right amount of acidic acrid roast we love in our dark beer.  In an effort to introduce the New England IPA craze to Indiana, I created a simple yet extremely flavorful and aromatic IPA that was full of haze and flavor.  Using flaked wheat and oats, as well as dry hopping during primary fermentation, and again four days later, this cloudy tang colored brew was loaded with Citra, El Dorado and Mosaic hops, but not the tongue turning bitterness that turn off many non-IPA drinkers.

Proudly supported by our CCZ brethren and sisters, adorned in their CCZ shirts, our club was loud and proud and could have poured much longer and pleased many, many more drinkers.

If you suffered through the long, long wait to get into the hall, the Brewers Guild has offered a gracious discount on upcoming events such as the Microbrewers Festival at Military Park or next year for Winterfest, where they pledge to have a more streamlined process in place to allow fest goers to enter in a more efficient and timely manner.

Until then, Cheers!

Rob Ecker, Winterfest 2017 Review

Rob’s emptied Juicy Lucy keg after a successful pouring with CCZ at Winterfest 2017


The Brewers Workshop: Extract Brewing Tips.

Each and every homebrew supply store offers a bevy of options when it comes to extract beer kits. They make claims that extract is capable of making great beer, but oftentimes; the beer can fall a bit short of expectations. However there are some things you can do to brew award winning beers with extract? Here are some tips from the workshop:

Attack of the “ZING”. First, and most importantly: Do full volume boils. The most frequently heard complaint about extract brews is “extract zing”. One of the best ways to help avoid the dreaded “zing” is to boil the full volume of liquid you plan on using. Full volume boils will also help ensure proper hop utilization; speaking of hop utilization…

Hop Utilization. One of the great things about brewing with extract is that, if you need to, you can make a big batch of beer in a small pot. Once your wort is cooled down, simply add enough bottled water to reach your final volume. While I recommend doing full volume boils on everything, a partial boil for wheat beers, porters, stouts and other “malt-forward” beers is a major convenience. However, partial boils can be a major hindrance when it comes to producing a top-quality IPA. To get the most out of your IPA or any other hop-heavy beer, a full boil is your best option. The more malt sugar that is in your boil, the less hop extraction you get from each hop addition. So you end up requiring more hops to reach an equivalent IBU. So, if you can, go with a full boil for that big, gnarly IPA.

Steeping Grains. Put no more than 2 lbs of steeping grains in a muslin bag. Ever. If you’ve ever dumped grain into water, you’ll notice that it has a tendency to clump up. So what happens when you dunk a muslin bag with 4 lbs of grain in to your kettle? The outside grains clump together to form a nice waterproof barrier for the other 1.5 lbs of grain in the middle. So how can we remedy this? Easy! Use another muslin bag!

A “Brew in a Bag” bag is an excellent way to steep a lot of grains.

Nylon Bags. To get the most out of your steeping grains, you could borrow (or buy) nylon bag from a “Brew in a Bag” brewer and dump the grains in your kettle and give them a gentle stir. These bags are much larger than the muslin bags that typically come in beer kits; so your grains come in greater contact with the water. When you remove the nylon bag, all of the grains come with it. This method will add 30-40 dollars to your equipment cost, but the bag is reusable and it’s a great way to venture into partial mash and all-grain brewing.

Fresh is best. Use fresh ingredients! Extract can get stale and over time it will affect flavor. Old extract can be a major contributor to “extract zing”. Hops are also affected, so store them in the fridge or freezer. Lastly, don’t forget about the freshness of the other ingredients. I.E. When brewing a Belgian wit, use fresh coriander and fresh orange zest. The difference will be obvious in the finished beer.

Stir it! Add extract SLOWLY after you remove your steeping grains and stir, stir, stir, stir with the heat source OFF! This is especially important if you’re using liquid extract. Nothing ruins a batch faster than liquid extract being scorched on the bottom of the kettle. Note: Some brewers add extract at the end of the boil to help keep the color light. I only recommend doing a late addition if you are using dry extract. It’s super easy to scorch liquid extract while the boil is going and dry extract is also lighter in color vs. liquid extract.

So there you go! Hopefully these tips will help your brew day go a bit smoother and aid in crafting a great beer. Extract brewing is fun, easy and can make AMAZING beers. And just like anything else, it takes a bit of practice and patience. Utilize these tips to help you on your brewing journey. Prost!

Anatomy of a Recipe: German Pilsener

Sleek.  Sexy. Flawless production. The perfect blend of elegance and utility with nothing out of place.  The same oft used descriptors for precision-engineered German automobiles also apply to the most popular style of beer within Germany—the German Pilsener.pilspic

All German Pilseners share four characteristics 1) A grist composed almost exclusively of European pale malt with minimal (if any) specialty grains and NO adjuncts, 2) Assertive hopping with Tettnang, Hallertau, Spalt, Saaz and related noble varieties, 3) Cool fermentation with a clean, highly attenuative lager yeast, and most importantly, 4) Stringent brewing process and quality control.  They’re German beers, after all.

For a good introduction to German-brewed Pilseners, start with my personal favorite, the 40 IBU herbaceous hop-forward Jever, pronounced “Yay-ver”, then move on to the bready and soft Weihenstephaner Pils from Bavaria, the zingy Bitburger, then conclude your whirlwind tour with one of the many perfectly balanced Pilseners brewed by Warsteiner, Bamberger, Kulmbacher, or Koenig.  To avoid the light-struck skunk flavor, look for these exports in cans or covered packaging.  Not to be outdone, many American breweries produce a fine German Pilsener as well.  Victory’s Prima Pils, Firestone Walker’s Pivo, and Trumer Pils are three well-crafted examples of the style and stand up to any of their continental brethren.

Now that your thirst has been quenched, let’s talk about filling your refrigerator with a delicious home brewed German Pilsener.  First, let’s address fears and misconceptions about brewing pale lagers:

Lagers are not forgiving of off flavors – This is certainly true.  Like your first solo acoustic open mic gig, you cannot hide behind distortion and flavor pyrotechnics.  However, if you can manage process-related factors such as mash temperature, yeast cell count, oxygenation and wort temperature at time of pitching and sanitization to brew a delicious ale, you can also brew a fine German Pilsener in your kitchen or garage.  Don’t believe me?  Try it once and see.  I double-dog dare you!

I need a temperature controlled fermentation chamber – While temperature control is important, the winter and early spring months in the Midwest provide a window of opportunity for primary fermentation at the ideal range of 45-55⁰F.  If you have an unheated shed, garage, or mud room, keep an eye on your local forecast for a 7-10 span where the midpoint between the daily high and low temperature is 38⁰F to 48⁰F.  Yeasts like Safale 34/70, WY2007 and WY2124 are fairly forgiving of modest temperature swings.  Remember that a five gallon fermenter represents a lot of thermal mass and will not be immediately impacted by ambient temperature swings.  During winter months where more hours lean towards the daily low temperature, your five gallon fermenter will generally stay a several degrees above the midpoint temperature.  After the first 10 days or so of cool fermentation, simply move the fermenter to a slightly warmer (but cool) part of your home for a few days for a diacetyl rest.

Who wants to wait three months for a lager to be ready? – In my opinion, a 5% abv German Pilsener peaks around Day 60.  That’s two months.  By this point, in my house, usually the keg has been half-enjoyed and/or sent off for competitions.  Your patience will be rewarded.

A complicated and lengthy mash procedure scares the bejeezus out of me – It is possible to brew a delicious German Pilsener without a direct fired mash tun and/or decoction mash.  However, in my opinion, to truly replicate a commercial example of the style, a decoction mash is absolutely necessary.  Don’t change the channel now, because there’s more on this later.

Recipe Formulation

At this point in a home brewing article, the author usually provides extract and all grain recipes for the style, then with a pithy ‘goodbye’ encourages the reader to get busy brewing.  However, this author believes the relationship between ingredients and process in European pale lagers is much, much more critical, in general, than in the average ale recipe.  Remember, we’re brewing a Mercedes C-Class, not an F-150 pickup.  To that end, I think that you, the fearless home brewer will be best served with a range of grists and their ideal mash schedule.

I did a meta-analysis of over 60 German Pilsener recipes — 36 from personal experience brewed over the last decade and the rest from brewing publications.  My results are summarized below.  Note the relationship between Munich and Melanoidin malts and mash schedule.  Each one of these recipes and mash schedules will produce a delicious German Pilsener.  Pardon the esoteric road trip, but in my experience there is something magical about a 130/146/154/168 rest schedule.  A 130⁰ protein rest is not absolutely necessary, but I have found it results in the beer pouring clearer, earlier from the keg.


Extract brewers should consider adding half of the extract in the last 20 minutes of the boil to improve bittering hops utilization and keep the wort from darkening too much.  A full wort boil is highly recommended.

A typical decoction step is listed below:

  1. Remove about 25-30% of the grains with a strainer and place into a side kettle. In a 5 gallon batch with approximately 10 lbs of grain, this will equate to about 1 gallon of grain.  In double and triple decoctions, the last decoction is usually thin, meaning the decoction is mostly wort.
  2. Heat the decoction to 168⁰ and rest for 5-10 minutes, stirring while heat is applied.
  3. Heat the decoction to a boil and continue boiling for 15-30 minutes, stirring at least once every minute.
  4. Pour decoction back into the main mash, stir, and briefly heat (if necessary) to the next rest temperature.

Water profiles range in commercial German Pilseners from soft to moderately sulfated.  My go-to water profile, which results in a slightly hop-forward and crisp German Pilsener is [Ca (58) Mg (8) Na (10) Cl (77) SO4 (86)].  Per 5 gallons of brewing water, this equates to 0.5 tsp gypsum, 0.35 tsp epsom, 0.1 tsp NaCl, and 0.6 tsp CaCl.  Avoid iodized table salt for the NaCl addition.

Not being one to shirk homebrewing convention, here’s my standard German Pilsener recipe which has won its share of hardware.  Now that you have all my secrets, get brewing!

97% Best Malz Pilsner Malt

3% Munich Light

3 oz Acidulated Malt

Double Decoction per the above table

75 minute hard boil to drive off DMS precursors

30 IBU’s Magnum Hops @ 60 minutes

10 IBU’s Hallertau Hops @ 15 minutes

1 oz Hallertau when kettle cools to 150⁰

Safale 34/70: 350-400B cells per 5 gallons pitched when wort reaches 48⁰

Fermentation: 10 days-48⁰, 5 days-58⁰, 5-7 days-38⁰, rack to keg w/ gelatin around Day 22

Meadful Things and Outciders Festival Recap

Last Saturday, Indianapolis got to experience the first of its kind: a festival devoted entirely to cider and mead. The Meadful Things and Outciders Festival was sponsored by Indianapolis’ own New Day Craft. Co-owner Tia Agnew and everyone at New Day Craft deserve a big congratulations for hosting an entertaining, well-run festival (no small feat when it’s the first year running a festival). Hundreds of craft cider and mead lovers descended on the Circle City Industrial Complex to sample the wares from over thirty artisan cider and mead makers from the Midwest as well as such far-flung places as Galicia, Spain, Northern California, and South Africa.

Having a chat with fellow club member Rami Lazarus
Having a chat with fellow club member Rami Lazarus

The last decade has seen a boom in the popularity of hard cider. And, yes, most of this is thanks to sugary, artificial-tasting alco-pops like Angry Orchard and Woodchuck (not to name names). But let’s focus on the positives: people who learned about cider through these avenues are now exploring and discovering smaller craft cideries and meaderies. In turn, these craft cideries and meaderies are challenging their customers and themselves to produce unique, top-quality product. When my wife and I vacationed in Traverse City this past July, I was shocked to see a bar devote more than a quarter of its 46 tap draft list to ciders and meads. Indiana still has a ways to go to catch up to its neighbors in Michigan, but if this past Saturday is any indication this may soon be the rule here and not the exception.

Scotch barrel-aged mead? Yes, please!
Scotch barrel-aged mead? Yes, please!

The creativity on display this past Saturday rivals what is going on in the American craft beer scene. Do you want to try a mead aged in a scotch barrel? What about a mead that tastes like a gin and tonic or a mojito? Maybe you prefer something a little simpler and want to stick with a dry cider. In that case, do you prefer American, French, or Spanish-style? Hell, there are even ciders and meads for the hophead in us all. New Day Craft came out with guns blazing, providing eight different ciders and meads, including a full keg of their Imperial Breakfast Magpie. I’m not ashamed to say I went back for seconds…and thirds…and fourths.

Two of my New Day faves
Two of my New Day faves.

There were plenty of other standouts as well. Michigan’s B. Nektar, which besides having some strange and aggressively-named (and delicious) meads, also had a Cherry Limeade for VIP customers that was very refreshing and tasted like the genuine article. Indiana’s top cidery, McClure’s Orchard, brought a wide variety of their most popular and tasty ciders. But the stealth MVP of the day would have to be Crafted Artisan Meadery in Northeast Ohio. They weren’t even on my radar before that day, but they showed a lot of creativity with their meads and everything I had of theirs was uniformly great. Thanks to this festival, I also learned that I love French Cider. Dry, fruity, slightly tart, and heavily carbonated like champagne, it was the perfect libation for a warm September afternoon outdoors.

Shot during VIP hour.
Shot during VIP hour.

There was plenty of open air seating and three food trucks were on hand to make sure the slowly-drunken masses were well fed. And the smaller audience lent a friendly, laid-back vibe (and short lines). And did I mention there were puppies and kittens?! Since this was a charitable festival supporting the FACE Low Cost Spay and Neuter Clinic, they had several cute kittens and puppies to play with and hopefully adopt. I am going on record saying every beer and wine festival should have puppies and kittens. Make it happen. Having said that, there were some minor hiccups during the festival. Much of the venue was roped off due to ongoing construction. This meant that vendors were placed too close together, making for a bit of a crunch at the front of each line. Also many vendors seemed to run out of samples well before the 5 PM end time. But these are all things that can easily be fixed, and in fact, the construction will probably allow more vendors and a better venue in subsequent years. Lastly, with everyone pouring and drinking right next door to several art galleries, I would love to see that component integrated in subsequent years. Maybe have some of the galleries inside open for guests to browse, or have some resident artists display their pieces at the festival proper.

Overall, New Day Craft and everyone who volunteered put on an excellent festival. I would rank this just below Upland’s Sour+Wild+Funk Fest and Sun King’s Canvitational, which is an amazing feat for a first-year festival. As they continue to work out the kinks and attract more vendors, this could easily become Indianapolis’ top drinking festival.

Imperial Breakfast Magpie. I drank a lot of these.
Imperial Breakfast Magpie. I drank a lot of these.