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.

Grand Junction Brewing Special Release Party

grandjunction02Grand Junction Brewing will be releasing Dorado Falls, Seconds to Midnight, and Weezie’s Happy Wheat this Wednesday. Dorado Falls is a double IPA weighing in at 8.5% abv with 120 IBU. It’s continuously hopped with El Dorado hops. Seconds to Midnight is a Black IPA at 7% abv with 70 IBU, and Weezie’s Happy Wheat is 5% abv with 29 IBU. The tapping is this Wednesday (8/31/16), and should be a fun event. If you are a part of Grand Junction’s brew club there is a special tapping on 8/30/16.

Anatomy of a Recipe – Classic Rauchbier

Anatomy of a recipe is a new feature where Circle City Zymurgy members walk you through the process of developing and perfecting either an award-winning recipe, or a recipe they are just very proud of. Our first entry is by me, Steve Kent. My classic Rauchbier, Bamberger Helper, won silver at the Hammerdown Brewcup in April, made it to mini-best of show at the UpCup, and just last month finished third in the smoke and wood-aged category at the Indiana Brewers Cup. It is a very good beer.

Centuries ago all malts were kilned on wood fires, lending them a smoky-sweet flavor. But with the onset of the industrial revolution, these beers quickly fell out of favor and were replaced with beers brewed with the clean, neutral malt produced using steam power. But the small town of Bamberg in Northern

Doesn’t that look tasty!

Bavaria made sure that smoked beers wouldn’t go extinct. Their rauchbier (literally “smoke beer” in German) is brewed like a maltier, higher-alcohol Marzen with an unmistakable smokey flavor and aroma. Far and away the most popular exemplar of the style is Aecht Schlenkerla; and for good reason. It is an excellent beer, and if you can find it fresh (not always an easy task) it is delightful. Rauchbier was one of those styles that I knew I would love, even before I ever tried one. And when I had my first Aecht Schlenkerla at the Rathskeller, my hunch was confirmed. If you’re still on the fence, you just have to trust me. A good rauchbier is not like drinking a fire pit. When done right the smokiness is mild and serves to heighten and accentuate the clean, rich, malty flavor of the base beer. For me, rauchbier is the perfect beer for when you’re sitting in front of a fire on a March or April night; when it’s probably too cold to have a fire, but you’re too sick of winter to care. It is no coincidence that Bamberg is also the home of the Weyermann Malting Company. Their Rauchmalt, which is smoked over beechwood and is my preferred base malt for rauchbier. It clocks in at about 2.1-3.6 Lovibond and has enough diastatic power to self convert.

This puts the rauch in rauchbier

Attempting to brew a clone of Aecht Schlenkerla is a quixotic endeavor because, depending on who you believe, they either smoke their own malt or get their smoked malt specialty made by Weyermann. So the best I could do was make the best version of a rauchbier using the ingredients available to me. Based on everything I read, a beer brewed with 100% rauchmalt has too overpowering a smoke flavor. I wanted an assertive but not overpowering smoke flavor in my rauchbier, so I settled on 65% rauchmalt. Luckily that ended up providing just the right level of smoke. This style should be light amber to dark copper in color, moderately strong, and have a rich, sweet and toasty malt character. Given this information, the instinct is to incorporate crystal malt in the recipe, but I prefer not to use crystal malts in my continental lagers; instead I prefer to achieve a malty beer using richer base malts and multi-step mash schedule. I rounded out the grain bill with 30% dark Munich malt which provides an orange color, a pleasant breadiness, and a rich, malty sweetness, 3% melanoidin for even more maltiness, and 2% Carafa III to give it that deep copper color I wanted.

Even though this is a malt-forward style, I knew I was dealing with a very malty grain bill, so I couldn’t be shy with the hops. I went with about 23 IBU of Magnum for bittering. Usually a single bittering addition is enough, but I opted to add ½ oz of Tettnang hops with 15 minutes left in the boil. My reasoning was that the subtle hop flavor would help balance the maltiness better and it would allow the beer to be drinkable for a longer time. This particular beer won its two awards nearly three months apart, so I feel like that strategy worked perfectly.  

I perform a Hochkurz mash on all my continental lagers. This involves a beta rest at 145 degrees F and an alpha rest at 158 degrees F. Doughing in at a lower temperature allows me to better control the fermentability of their wort, and the higher alpha rest helps improve maltiness and head retention. Beers brewed with a Hochkurz mash will be well attenuated and still have a nice, malty finish, characteristic of the best German lagers. A 30 minute rest at each step followed by a mashout was sufficient. If I am not feeling lazy, I will perform a double decoction with this mash. The small differences between rest temperatures makes decocting easy. If you plan on performing a decoction, feel free to omit the melanoidin.

Water is very important when making rauchbier. You 100% can not use spring water or tap water. Chlorine and smoke don’t mix. Since I didn’t want my rauchbier to taste like rubber bands, I started with a base of 100% distilled water. Beyond that, I just kept my minerals low. I used a small amount of gypsum and a moderate amount of calcium chloride; enough to get my calcium levels close to 50 ppm.

Saflager 34/70 (the Weihenstephaner strain) has been my go-to yeast for most lagers. It has never done me wrong, so I figured why switch things up. I always pitch an insane amount of yeast and keep it as cold as it can possibly handle–46-48 degrees with a diacetyl rest after seven days. I wanted this beer to be clean, clean, clean.

The power of the homebrewer is being able to take a beer brewed solely in a German city of 70,000 people and say, “I can do that”. There is nothing quite like a fresh homebrewed rauchbier done right. And now that you know how to do it, go out and brew it. Prost!


Indiana Microbrewers Festival Recap – Never too Late to Celebrate!

Thank you to CCZ member Matt Wolford for writing this recap and for repping our club! If you have any ideas on how to contribute to our website, email [email protected]

microbrewers fest

Sorry this post came a week late, but in my opinion it’s never too late to talk about beer.  It was a great weekend for a beer fest, but let’s be honest, what weekend isn’t great for a beer fest? Big shout out to Indiana Brewer’s Guild for putting together a great event for everyone to come out and enjoy great craft beer from Indiana.  The weather cooperated and there was a lovely breeze that allowed participants to remain cool.  Circle City Zymurgy was well represented at the event; not only pouring for the first hour (and then some) but also as supporters of Indiana craft beer.

Setting Up
Getting set to pour.

CCZ was granted the opportunity to pour during the VIP portion of the event.  Vickie Meehan and Mickey Bovin provided a zombie dust clone called Aim for the Head and a Dry Cherry Cider that was a huge hit.  My wife Lauren and I brought a SMaSH IPA called Hulk Smash and a Hefeweizen called The Noble of Hefe.  While the crowds for VIP session were a little sparse at our stand, we were able to keep the Cherry Cider and the SMaSH on tap during the first portion of general admission thanks to Great Fermentations.  The overall re

Lauren and Vickie Pouring
We made the Indianapolis Star!

sponse to CCZ beers was outstanding as there were many compliments given and referrals sent to the booth asking for our beers.  We also received great feedback from some of the other brewers who stopped by and congratulated us on our wonderful beers and were kind enough to talk shop and share brewing knowledge.


We had fun.

Once again CCZ is leading the way in producing great homebrew. We are always trying to deliver the best, most unique beer at festivals.  We were able to reach out to several members of the homebrewing community, and we will hopefully see our numbers grow as a result. Our participation also garnered Lauren a photo in the Indianapolis Star! (though the caption was attributed to Great Fermentations).  Awesome work by everyone involved, and onward and upward to greater zymurgy!

Tap Takeovers in Town – 7/29 – 8/6

Burn ‘Em Brewing Tap Takeover at Twenty Tap – 7/29
Rhinegeist Tap Takeover at La Margarita – 7/29

Rhinegeist Tap Takeover at Twenty Tap – 7/30

Byway Brewing at BoomBozz Pizza in Carmel – 7/29

18th St. Tapping at The Pint Room in Carmel featuring Hunter Vanilla – 8/2

Upland Crab Boil at the Carmel Tap Room – $25 at the door. You get 4 crabs, unlimited sides, and $1 drafts $3 snifters. 8/6

TwoDeep TWOYear anniversary. Barrel and cask-aged beers, food trucks, music, and games – 8/6