First Annual Westchester Farmhouse Ale Competition

First Annual Westchester Farmhouse Ale Competition - October 11th in Dobb's Ferry

First Annual Westchester Farmhouse Ale Competition – October 11th in Dobb’s Ferry

Join me on Sunday, October 11th, for the first annual Westchester Farmhouse Ale competition at Harper’s Restaurant in Dobbs Ferry. 20+ homebrewers (including myself) will be pouring ‘farmhouse’ style homebrewed beers. Thirty dollars gives you access to 5 hours of drinking, food, and live music. The grand prize winner will have their beer brewed commercially at Yonkers Brewing Company with additional winners for people’s choice, brewer’s choice, and Harper’s choice.

If you like saison, and the many creative and interesting permutations of the style, this will be a fun event to check out.

Oast House Saison

My entry for this competition is a new take on the prototypical Saison DuPont-esque saison. I’ve taken a base of pilsner malt, added a bit of rye to round the mouthfeel and accentuate the spicy phenolic yeast character, and then added some oats to give what is typically a very dry beer a soft roundness on the palate. I then took the beer and fermented it with a house-mixed culture that originally consisted of harvested Saison Dupont dregs, The Yeast Bay’s Brett Amalgamation blend, and a touch of White Labs’ Lacto Brevis.

I’ve run this culture through a number of trial fermentations and it tends to be very fruit forward with lots of melon and minimal brett funk. There is some tartness that likes to come out in low-IBU beers such as this one, but is pretty much non-existent in beers over 15 IBUs.

Post fermentation, the beer was dry-hopped with a blend of New World citrus-forward hops that play very nicely with the fermentation character and tartness in the beer. The resulting bright and juicy fruit character is amazing — a perfect blend of yeast and hops.

If you come out, please stop by and say hi. I’m very curious to hear your feedback on the beer!

Mixed-Culture Dry-Hopped Saison Recipe:

Size: 5.5 gal
Efficiency: 66%
Attenuation: 88%

Original Gravity: 1.052 (measured)
Terminal Gravity: 1.006 (measured)
Color: 4.88 SRM
Alcohol: 6% ABV (calculated)
Bitterness: 10.1 IBUs

9 lb (69.2%) Weyermann Pilsner Malt
2 lb (15.4%) Oats Flaked – added during mash
2 lb (15.4%) Rye Malt – added during mash

Mash Regiment:
147 °F – 40m
152.0 °F – 20m
158 °F – 10m

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
6g Gypsum (to mash)

8 g Centennial (10.5% AA) – 90 m
1 oz Citra™ (12.5% AA) – dry hopped 3 days
1 oz Azacca (10.3% AA) – dry hopped 3 days

Kettle Additions:
0.5 ea Whirlfloc Tablets – 15 m
0.5 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – 10 m

1L House Saison Mixed Culture



Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Clone – 2.0

Another blog post, another Sierra Nevada Pale Ale clone. The Verdict: Not Cloned.


Commercial beer on the left, homebrew on the right.

That said, we’re getting close.To start, here is the recipe that I brewed.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Cone 2.0 (Not Cloned)


Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 68%
Attenuation: 80% (measured)

Original Gravity: 1.051
Terminal Gravity: 1.010 (measured)
Color: 10.86 SRM
Alcohol: 5.4% ABV (calculated)
Bitterness: 37.7 IBU (calculated)


6.75 lb (94.7%) Briess 2-Row Brewers Malt
6 oz (5.3%) Briess Caramel 60L

Mash Regiment:

152 °F – Sacc Rest – 60min

Water Treatment:

Extremely Soft NYC Water
4g Gypsum (to mash)
2g Calcium Chloride (to mash)


9 g Magnum (12.6% AA) – 60 m
8 g Perle (8.7% AA) – 30 m
8 g Cascade (6.9% AA) – 10 m
72 g Cascade (6.9% AA) – Whirlpool 15m

Kettle Additions:

0.5 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – 15 m
0.5 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – 10 mYeast:


WYeast 1056 American Ale™ Starter on stirplate to achieve 1 million cells per milliliter of wort per degree Plato. Use Mr. Malty to determine proper starter sized based on age of yeast package. Pitch into 60°F wort and allow to free rise to 64°F. As fermentation begins to slow, raise temperature to 70°F.

The Results

While there are some recipe changes in store for the next iteration, this beer primarily misses the mark on technical merits. Most noticeably my beer has a touch of honeyed oxidized malt character with perhaps a faint hint of diacetyl that is not present in the commercial beer.

I am typically very careful to limit O2 exposure, especially in fermented beer. In some ways, the oxidation of this beer is welcome as it is making me look critically at my process and think of ways I can limit O2 pickup. The biggest risk for oxidation in my process comes at two locations: the cold crash and packaging.

When I cold crash my beer, there is usually some suck-back of air into the fermenter due to a vacuum being pulled as the liquid’s volume decreases as it cools. I typically put a little CO2 head pressure on my beers as I cold crash in order to prevent this. With this beer, I got lazy and skipped this step. Nevermore!

The second biggest opportunity for O2 pickup is when I rack finished beer to my keg. I always purge the keg, but perhaps I am not always as careful as I should be in gently racking the beer and purging the racking cane or fermenter head space once it is opened up. In a perfect world, I would be doing a completely closed transfer — this is something I’m looking into and hope to implement in the future.

In terms of recipe, I believe the malt bill I am using is nearly perfect. There is a slight color difference between my beer and the commercial example, but I believe this has more to do with some yeast being suspended in the homebrew, and not a dramatic miss with the malt bill. I may bump up the crystal malt ever so slightly in the next round — perhaps only by a couple ounces.

The biggest recipe difference that I need to implement for the next round is in regard to flavor and aroma hops. The commercial beer has a substantial grapefruit pith and slightly spicy / herbal hop character. While this character is present in the homebrew, it is not nearly as intense. The homebrew’s bitterness level is spot on, but the aroma and flavor needs to be dramatically increased. For the next iteration of my recipe, I intend to boost the amount of late hopping at least by an order of 2 or 3 in order to get closer to the commercial beer.

Circa ’96 Redux IPA – Homebrew Recipe & Review

ipaThe new proprietary hops currently being developed by the likes of HBC and others in the Yakima valley are wonderful, interesting varieties. Citra, Amarillo, Mosaic, Nelson, and Galaxy with their intense flavors of tropical fruits and citrus are both novel and delicious. They’re also, very much in demand by today’s craft brewers. Over the past couple of years I’ve been playing around with the idea of someday, in the not-too-distant future starting a craft brewery. With the competition  for these hops coming from established brewers with deep pockets, it can be be very difficult for a new brewery to establish contracts for these new varieties. With this reality in mind, it would be an interesting proposition to see if there is a combination of readily available hops (like those popular in 1996) coupled with contemporary techniques (dryness, massive whirlpool, massive dry hop) that can be utilized to create the bright juicy hop character seen in today’s most popular IPAs. This is my first attempt at a recipe that strives to do just that.

American IPA Recipe

Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 62% (measured)
Attenuation: 83.3% (measured)

Original Gravity: 1.066
Terminal Gravity: 1.011 (measured)
Color: 10.78 SRM
Alcohol: 7.2% ABV (calculated)
Bitterness: 42.9 IBU (does not account for IBUs created by whirlpool hop addition)

Malt Bill:
7 lb (75.7%) Briess Pale Ale Malt
0.25 lb (2.7%) Briess Victory® Malt
1 lb (10.8%) Great Western White Wheat Malt
1 lb (10.8%) Corn Sugar – added to boil

Mash Profile:
149°F – 60m

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
4g Gypsum (to mash)

0.5 oz Centennial (10.5% AA) – 60 m
1 oz Cascade (5.5% AA) – 10 m

1 oz Columbus (15.0% AA) – Whirlpool 25m
1 oz Chinook (13.0% AA) – Whirlpool 25m
2.5 oz Centennial (10.5% AA) – Whirlpool 25m

1 oz Centennial (10.5% AA) – Dry Hop 3 Days
1 oz Columbus (15.0% AA) – Dry Hop 3 Days

Kettle Additions:
0.5 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – added during boil, boiled 15 m
0.5 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – added during boil, boiled 10 m

Safale US-05 – American Ale Yeast

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP 14B. American IPA

Aroma (5/12):
There is a substantial hop fruitiness that is almost lemony on the nose. The upfront fruitiness is supported by some pine and an earthy, almost musty hop character with spicy undertones. Some grassy dry hops notes are present. The malt is very neutral. In general the hop character on the nose is very muddled.

Appearance (3/3):
The beer is deep gold, almost copper, and surprisingly clear. This is astonishing considering that the beer is bottle conditioned and dry hopped. A nice tight white head persists.

Flavor (8/20):
The hops are upfront and dominated by a lemony citrus quality muddled by some resinous notes of pine and spice. The bitterness is quite sharp and coarse. The malt present is slightly toasty and dry. There is some boozy alcohol on the finish as well as a touch of honey-like oxidation.

Mouthfeel (3/5):
Medium-low bodied with a prickly effervescence. A bit over-carbonated. The hop bitterness borders on astringent.

Overall Impression (4/10):
This beer is a long way from being a great. In particular, I think the hops choices are somewhat poor, creating a muddled and at times conflicting hop character. In the next iteration, I plan to use fewer varieties that are more synergistic than the combination of citrus and pine that I employed in this recipe. The malt character is great — lean and dry — right where I like my IPAs to be. I made the mistake of bottle conditioning this beer which seems to have imparted some oxidization, making it tough to truly judge the merits of this recipe.

Good (23/50)

Developing House Sour Cultures – A Bioreactor Approach

Previously I've been keeping my house sour culture refreshed with frequent feedings of starter wort.

I have typically been keeping my house sour culture refreshed with frequent feedings of starter wort.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve cultured and grown up bottle dregs from a variety of commercial sour beers to complete several different projects. These dregs are a great way to add biodiversity to the commercial blends (like Roeselare) that I typically start a sour beer with and tend to produce a more interesting final product. As I acquired these cultures, I began combining them with the intent of developing a variety of house-mixed cultures of bacteria and yeast that I can maintain and use to completely ferment out sour beers. The intent is to continue shaping these mixed cultures until they get to the point where they can consistently produce quality sour beer in a predictable time frame. I fully expect the blend of microbes within the culture to drift, but hope an eventual homeostasis will take hold within the culture. Currently, I have built three different mixed cultures around a spectrum of cultured microbes harvested from commercial beers.

One of the biggest tasks in maintaining a culture like this is the frequent feedings required to keep a culture viable. The idea of maintaining my cultures through periodic feedings of fresh wort that would eventually provide the steady byproduct of sour beer seemed like a great idea. And so, the idea of a sour culture bio-reactor was born. The idea is pretty basic. I’ve put together a schedule of brew days that in theory will consistently provide nutrition for the culture as well as produce a steady stream of sour beer for evaluation. Every four months I brew a different 3-gallon batch of moderate gravity wort that gets split three ways to feed one gallon of fresh wort to each of my three mixed cultures. On brew day I transfer the previous batches of now fermented beer off the culture to a clean glass aging vessel where it will continue to develop for another 8 months (1-year total fermentation time) before packaging. The cultures are then transferred to the freshly brewed wort for a new round of fermentation. After the initial one-year cycle, the bioreactor will consistently output three, 1-gallon batches of sour beer every four months. The beauty of running three cultures in parallel with the same wort is that I’ll be able to compare side-by-side the impact each different culture has on the finished product. My hope is to experiment with different grain bills to better understand the interrelationship between grain bills, mash temperatures, and mixed culture fermentation.

I initially started this project using a single mixed culture. To date, this culture has been through 3 generations of wort. I’ve tasted the first two generations (currently 4-months and 8-months old) and the results have been pretty outstanding; and consistent within the limited sample thus far. I’m optimistic that with some luck and diligence I’ll be able to shape these cultures to the point that they produce sour beer that is both delicious and unique to my brewery.The first round in the bioreactor is complete. The initial recipe was 90% pilsner, 10% carapils with a starting gravity of 1.054.

The first round in the bioreactor ready for fermentation. The initial recipe was 90% Pilsner, 10% Carapils, and had a starting gravity of 1.054.

Citra Hop / Vienna Malt SMaSH Homebrew

This SMaSH beer featured insane amounts of whole-lead Citra hops.

This SMaSH beer featured insane amounts of whole-leaf Citra hops.

SMaSH (Single Malt and Single Hop) beers are a great way to gain an understanding of the specific qualities possessed by distinct malts and hops. Admittedly, I haven’t brewed a whole lot of SMaSH beers, but it is something I hope to do more of in the future; especially as I try to further my sensory knowledge of various ingredients and processes. This iteration featured Citra hops and Vienna malt in an IPA format. The focus of this beer was creating massive hop flavor and aroma without the use of dry hops. The beer uses a number of atypical hopping techniques including mash hops, a large whirlpool addition, and hop backing.

Citra Hop / Vienna Malt SMaSH Recipe:


Original Gravity: 1.070 (measured)
Terminal Gravity: 1.020 (measured)
Color: 9.86 SRM
Alcohol: 6.6 ABV (calculated)
Bitterness: 13.2 IBU (does not account for significant whirlpool hop additions)


12.5 lb (100.0%) Vienna Malt (Weyermann)

Mash Regiment:

152 °F – Sacc Rest – 60 min

Water Treatment:

Extremely Soft NYC Water
6g Gypsum (to mash)
3g Calcium Chloride (to mash)


4 oz Citra™ (12.7% AA) – Mash Hopping
0.25 oz Citra™ (12.7% AA) – 60 m
6.0 oz Citra™ (12.7% AA) – Whirlpool 20m
3 oz Citra™ (12.7% AA) – Hopback (Blichmann Hop Rocket)

Kettle Additions:

0.5 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – 15 m
0.5 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – 10 m


Fermentis Safale US-05 – (1) re-hydrated pack. Ferment at 66 °F.

Citra / Vienna SMaSH Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP Category 14b. American IPA.

Citra Vienna SMaSHAroma (10/12):
Dominate high hop aroma reminiscent of lychee, mango, pineapple, and guava. A veritable explosion of tropical fruits burst from the glass. The malt character is low and hidden behind the hops. The little malt that expresses itself is lightly toasty with perhaps a hint of sweet toffee.

Appearance (2/3):
Deep gold with a very light hop haze. The head is persistent and consists of tight bubbles that are sticky and cling to the side of the glass.

Flavor (16/20):
Huge hop flavors fill the palate. This is a fruit bomb with flavors reminiscent of tropical punch – mango, pineapple, guava, passion fruit, and tangerine. The hops have none of the pithy bitterness common in grapefruity American varietals like Cascade, Centennial, or Amarillo. Bitterness is medium-low and leaves the beer with a slightly sweet finish. The malt is soft and round with a hint of toasted cereal. There is a low minerally finish — perhaps too much so. The shear amount of fruity hops furthers the impression of sweetness.

Mouthfeel (4/5):
Medium bodied with moderate carbonation. The beer has none of the astringency or harshness that is often present in dry hopped IPAs.

Overall Impression (8/10):
This is an extremely interesting and educational beer. Firstly, the beer is profoundly bright and does not feature any of the grassy harshness / flavors of plant material that are often present in dryhopped beers. I find this very enjoyable, although it could be a bit disappointing to those that expect a bit of hop ‘bite’ in American IPAs. Additionally, I am extremely surprised by the low malt character. My initial understanding of Vienna Malt was that it was much closer to a melanoidin heavy Munich malt. In this beer, it presents much more like a slightly more toasty Maris Otter or other slightly darker base malt.

Excellent (40/50)