Cascade Session

The inspiration for this recipe comes from the Sierra Nevada brewery, who during my colleges days, made some of the best beer around. Sierra Nevada hops of choice is cascade hops, imparting a grapefruit flavor to many of its beer. While Sierra Neveda’s beer are indeed hoppy (and perhaps some of the hoppiest beers around in my college days), they are also malty. Sometimes though, you just want the bite of hops, without the malt. Enter the brainchild of this recipe: the Cascade Session. The goal is get everything we can that is Cascade – to create a beer that embodies the grapefruitness of cascade without too much accompany malt.

Continue reading “Cascade Session”

Thai Basil Rye IPA w/o Basil Extract

This is our second attempt at a India Pale Ale complimented by the notes of basil. Our first go on this recipe – although slightly different – left us with some basil notes that quickly faded over time. So, to create a basil IPA with some basil flavor to stick around just a little bit longer, we’re trying something new: adding basil extract to the beer at bottling. Continue reading “Thai Basil Rye IPA w/o Basil Extract”

Mint Coffee Brown Ale #1

The inspiration for this recipe came from a whim – dropping a tea bag into a cup of coffee. The peppermint tea changed what was an ordinary cup of coffee into something special. So – why not make a beer out of it? Plus, Amy likes brown ales. It’s a double win!

The Malt

A mix of chocolate and lightly roasted malts were used for this recipe. A touch of rye increases the body of the beer – important for a dark beer. This is especially the case since a previous home brew project (a chocolate mint stout) left Frank wanting something more substantial.

mint and malt for the mint coffee brown homebrew.jpg

The Hops

For this recipe, we’re using a very special variety of hops: Mintras. The hops imparts both an herbal and a minty quality. The mint notes should compliment the real mint used in this recipe. The particular hops used are whole cone hops. This is unlike the hops used in most brewing – which uses hop pellets. (The includes commercial production. It is a special event when a brewery uses whole cone hops.). Hop pellets still do the job – contributing their floral notes and bitter flavors. However, using whole cone hops is always something fun to do.

The Add-Ins

True to the recipe’s name, we used ground coffee and a  fresh mint. The mint was the same kind as what is available at your local market. We opted for fresh mint – as opposed to mint extract in the primary.

Since the mint goes in at the end of the boil, we’re able to kill any of the particular foreign bacteria that could ruin the fermentation process. Using mint extract for the secondary fermenter helps keep out some of the various bacteria that could spoil a beer.


As with our other brewing attempts, we fell a bit short of the target original gravity: 1.050 vs. 1058. The result will be a beer with a smaller alcohol content than intended. The final gravity clocked in at 1.010.

final gravity of coffee mint brown ale for homebrewing using brew in a bag BIAB

The Verdict

Six weeks later, the brew is ready to enjoy. Sampling it, the mint comes off the nose and the coolness is felt on the tongue. The flavor contributed by the mint is almost indistinguishable, but that’s OK because it still works. The body is balanced by the carbonation.  The coffee notes however are lacking.


Mint Coffee Brown #2

Of course, the amount of the the add-ins used, and their timing are always a variable. Another way to experiment with this recipe is to tweak the amount of rye used. This will make a small difference in the alcohol content, but a larger difference in the body of the beer. In a future iteration, let’s add more coffee.

mint leaves in the secondary for the coffee mint brown ale for homebrewing using brew in a bag (BIAB) and fresh mint


The Recipe

American Wheat #1

The inspiration for this take on a white ale comes from Saint Archer Brewery – for their white ale. This is one of my favorite white ales – because of the way the brew is generously spiced with add-ins. In fact, I liked Saint Archer’s white ale so much, that we had it served at our wedding! For our following recipe, we mimicked the add-ins used by Saint Archer uses, but went our own way with the choice of malts.

What is a White Ale?

If you’re not familiar with what makes a wheat beer, a wheat beer – it’s the use of WHEAT. Wheat, however, is not the only grain used to brew a Hefeweizen or white ale – other names by which a wheat beer goes by. Barely is commonly used as well.


barely for wheat ale homebrewing

According to, the term white ale is derived from the color of a beer brewed with wheat. There may be several reasons for this. Firstly, the wheat malt is never roasted to the extent that barely can be roasted to – such as in a stout. Less roasting time means (in part) a lighter-colored beer. Also, wheat beers are traditionally unfiltered – unlike other beers. This means more wheat and yeast particles floating around in your beverage – producing an opaque but white coloration. (Homebrew is also commonly unfiltered.)

The Malt

Our particular recipe called for equal parts wheat and barely – with a moderate amount of each. The result is a product with a conventional ABV for a wheat ale: almost 5%. This assumes a 60% efficiency – which is what we are assuming using the brew in a bag (BIAB) technique.


We used 0.1 oz. of Vons private label powdered coriander. Fun fact:

Coriander is the seed of the cilantro plant.

However, the seed is distinct from the leafy part of the plant. Coriander has a lemony aroma – something that just begs to be added to taco seasoning. I wanted to use it for taco seasoning, but Frank wouldn’t let me.

wheat while ale add-ins for homebrew clone

We used 1 oz. of freshly zested orange peel. Both went in at the end of the boil. Putting both add-ins (or any add-ins) just at the end of the boil should help with any contamination issues. With the wort still hot, any foreign bacteria should be killed by the temperature which is just shy of boiling.

The Wort

While both the elements of the add-ins came through in the wort the final product is a different story. The addition of these add-ins were impacted by the flavors imparted by the yeast – as well as the subtle bite of alcohol from fermentation. So, as with our other brews, sampling the wort can give you an idea of how the final product may turn out – but the wort itself is by no means a replica of the final product. This is especially the case as the add-ins’s impact to the beer changes over time.

white ale hefe wort homebrew saint archer clone

The Verdict

When sampling the final product, the coriander notes come out to play. The coriander is there – and it is welcome. It certainly works with the beer. Unfortunately, the beer needs more orange. The contribution made by the orange add-in is bordering on non-existent. Maybe it’s the orange, but the beer definitely feels like it’s missing something. A final touch would be some late stage hops for floral notes. I imagine that just a smidgen could add a little something extra to the brew.

American Wheat #2

Let’s consider doubling the orange contribution – and doing it at a later stage in the game. One possible idea is to keep the recipe as, but add a little bit of Citra hops and orange extract at day 14. This will contribute those notes that I found lacking in the final product.

The Recipe

Marzipan Chocolate Stout #1

The inspiration for our Marzipan Chocolate Stout home brew came from the brainchild of yours truly – and the lack of available ingredients. I initially dreamed up a chocolate hazelnut beer – and Frank put the recipe together. By the time brew day came around, we had not yet sourced hazelnut extract – or any other medium for getting hazelnuts in there. But, I did find almond extract – which smells exactly like marzipan! In the future, we’ll be trying a hazelnut chocolate stout. But for this recipe, it’ll be chocolate and almonds.

If you’re looking for inspiration from a chocolate stout, might I suggest Boatswain Chocolate Stout. I think that the Boatswain beer is very well balanced, and that the chocolate flavor comes out quite well. Moreover, in a world of expensive craft brews, the price is extremely reasonable.

The Malt

One fun thing about this recipe is the wide variety of grains used. The were light and dark roasted malts included, as well as oats. When photographed (below), the diversity of grains is apparent.

malt grain Marzipan chocolate stout home brew
The oats being added to the light and dark roasted malts for our marzipan chocolate stout home brew.

Fun fact from Brewmaster Frank: the difference between a sweet stout and your traditional stout is the choice of malts. And, what makes a milk stout is the addition of milk sugar to the brew. Since this brew is not a milk stout, we are not using milk sugar.

The add-ins

For our recipe, we used the Kroger (Vons private label) brand extract almond extract. The cacao nibs are from Navitas Naturals. Frank observed that they make a nice snack. They taste like dark chocolate on the end, although are very bitter.

Cacao nibs and almond are the add-ins our Marzipan Chocolate Stout home brew.
Cacao nibs and almond are the add-ins our Marzipan Chocolate Stout home brew.

One oz. of cacao nibs are put in the end of the boil. One oz. is also added to the secondary fermenter. Two oz. of almond extract went at the end of the boil. Adding raw, unsanitized ingredients to the secondary fermenter may have been the culprit of our fermentation issues – discussed in the gravity section.

The Wort

The wort was simply overpowered by the almond extract. Frank suggested that the wort reminded him of Amaretto. How wort changed into beer over the course of the process was surprising. As for the color – it’s a stout: the wort was black as night.

Marzipan chocolate stout home brew going into the primary carboy fermenter
Marzipan chocolate stout home brew going into the primary carboy fermenter

Original Gravity & Final Gravity

Perhaps it was the heavily roasted malt – but for our homebrew session for the weekend, we missed the greatest mark on our stout. Our goal was 1.066, with an actual of 1.058, for a difference of 0.008. Maybe the dark roast was in impediment to squeezing the bag of grain. The lesson remains the same: squeeze the bag harder. Alternatively, we can twice mill the malt or sparge via pouring hot water over the grains after soaking in the mash tun.

The final gravity also fell short of our target. Fermentation was incomplete – because of either one or two reasons. Firstly, there is the dastardly temperature control. Secondly is any contamination from from the cacao nibs into the secondary. While the latter is possible, the former is more likely.

The Verdict

After the cacao nibs and almond extract danced with our dark brew for six weeks we had our results! The resultant product was a smooth delicious chocolatey stout. Unfortunately, the marzipan was nowhere to be seen. This was quite distinct from the wort – which was over powered by the almond extract. This would appear that just like the floral notes added by hops to a brew, the contribution made by almond extract is ephemeral; it fades over time – and relatively quickly at that.

Chocolate Marzipan Stout #2?

The only possible solution – or the only solution that I can think of – is putting more almond extract, or at a different time. Instead of adding the extract to the wort, it will be added just prior to bottling, alongside the priming sugar.

The Recipe

Mint Chocolate Stout #2

This is Frank’s second attempt at a mint chocolate stout. This version has a small tweak compared to his last attempt. What’s the tweak? It’s not more or less mint and cacao. It’s not a different ABV. It’s a modification to what’s called the “body” of the beer. You know you’re a beer geek when you’re using such articulate language to describe a beer. And onto the recipe!

The Malt

As with all chocolate stouts, there is blend of lightly and darkly roasted malts. Check out the below. It is a prototype of what could arrive at your door for our all-grain mint chocolate stout homebrew recipe. Note the variety of grains used.

all grain mint chocolate stout homebrew

The Add-Ins

As with our other mint recipes, we’ll be using fresh mint (put in at the end of the boil), and mint extract (put into the secondary fermenter). There are contamination benefits of using an extract in the secondary – in that the extract is already pasteurized so there’s no risk of contamination from foreign organisms.  For our own test, we used fresh mint in the secondary carboy as well. To stave off bacterial infection, I soaked the mint in iodophor before it went into the secondary.


mint in the secondary for the mint chocolate stout homebrew made from all grain


To add a chocolate flavor to the brew, we’re using cacao nibs – which are delicious in beer as well as for a snack. To keep foreign germs at bay, the cacao can be added at the end of the boil instead of going straight into the primary fermenter.

The Wort

The wort was rich and sweet – as is to be expected. The mint was there – noticeable, but not overpowering. In my experience, add-ins present in the wort can disappear over the six weeks it takes for wort to change into beer. This is why sampling the wort with add-ins can be misleading.

Original Gravity

We off the mark a good deal withthis stout. Frank noticed a pattern on the short-comings for achieving original gravity: higher alcohol beers are the ones that come in most distant from the target. Perhaps this has to do with the smaller surface when the grain is in the pot. As we continue to brew, we’re refining our list of best practices. This will not only get us closer to our target ABV and final gravity, but allow us to share with you the best way to brew. (Yeah! That rhymes!)


The Verdict

Living in the micro brew capital of the world, our mutual friend Kyle Kiesel knows a thing or two about beer. He approves of our second iteration of the mint chocolate stout, noting:

It’s easy to drink.

The brew is indeed a crowd pleaser. The dark roast suggests a hint of coffee of the nose. The body is rich and thick – with the mint character adding yet another level to the beverage. And for that, I’m inclined to agree with old Kyle, the beer is good! I look forward to this beer being one of our first offerings.

Mint Chocolate Stout #3?

We may not necessarily need to do a third iteration of this beer. The only possible change is the amount of malt added. Otherwise, as a sweet, chocolaty, minty

The Recipe

Belgian Spice #1

Frank’s inspiration for this brew came from the Stone Brewing, and their Vertical Epic series. The beer in particular is the 11.11.11 variation. You can find more info on the beer here, and here.

In this brew, the Belgian yeast does its thing – imparting the usual fruity banana and clove notes. The fun part about this particular beer is the add-ins, and how the add-ins work with the yeast to create something special. I must add that if the beer stood out for Frank, it must indeed be something special. (Frank has been known to enjoy some very fine beer.) For this brew, we’ll be mimicking the Belgian yeast, as well as throwing in some very interesting add-ins.

The Add-Ins

The beer calls for two special add-ins:

•   hatch chiles, sourced from New Mexico

•   cinnamon

We used both of these wild and crazy ingredients in our own home brew attempt. For the primary fermenter, the hatch chilies were sourced from Amazon, where they came cooked and peeled – pasteurized in a can. We put in just 1 oz. for our recipe. (Frank attests to success when using the excess chiles on pizza.) Not that a lot weight comes from water, so how just how much flavor is actually going into the wort at this time may be slight.

hatch chiles to clone brew the stone epic 11.11.11
The elusive dried and crushed hatch chiles!

Ideally, crushed and dried hatch chiles would be used. In a pinch, we made a substation to the canned product. As such, we’ll be reporting on this recipe as it was executed. For the secondary carboy, one oz. of dried and crushed hatch chiles are used. Again, the dried and crushed chiles are the most ideal form when utilizing the add-in.

The Wort

The color of the wort is your standard for a Belgian, if slightly darker. The attractive copper color hints at the American – Caramel / Crystal 120L malt used. For you beer geeks, “L” in the American – Caramel / Crystal 120L refers to a metric that accounts for the degree to which the barely is roasted. (Greater roasting means a darker beer). Consider that Caramel / Crystal 10L is available – with this recipe calling for 120  – and thus the relatively darker copper-colored beer, at least relative to a larger, such as Coors, Miller, etc.

belgian wort
Home brewed wort ready for the sampling.

When sampling the wort, the add-ins were indistinguishable. Given time (six weeks out), and the existing chiles already in the wort, and the additional chiles added to the secondary fermenter, chiles and cinnamon do ultimately impact the final product.

The Original Gravity (OG)

We missed the target original gravity by 0.004, with our actual result being 1.077. This occurred even with a 60% efficiency target. (We are using the brew in a bag technique for our homebrewing.) As we continue to refine the brewing process, we’ll come to create our own efficiency metric (perhaps 55%?) that we can use in crafting future recipes. Best practices dictate that in the future, achieving our target gravity can mean squeezing the bag of malts more aggressively following their 150 degree bath. Alternatively, the malt can be “sparged” via boiling water over the grains and into the brew kettle below. In the end, 0.004 is a small difference.


Brewmaster Frank checking the original gravity our Stone Vertical Epic home brew clone.

As the homebrewing forums assured us, this difference was inconsequential – with our final ABV being perhaps half a percent (0.5%) short of our target. I imagine that such a small difference would also be unnoticeable to the palate.

The Verdict

As is standard in our home brewing process, the wort ferments in the primary fermenter for two weeks. The beer is then transferred to the secondary fermenter. Additional add-ins are then added in. Another two weeks later, the beer is bottled. After another final two weeks, the beer is enjoyed. It is at that time that the yeasty Belgian flavors present themselves, with a little bit of heat and spice thrown into the mix. The add-ins are very subtle.

Belgian Spice #2

Moar! It may be worth increasing the add-ins in a successive round. For me, I’m looking for something that knocks you on your butt, to say:

Hello. My name is Hatch Chile. You killed my father. Prepare to die!

For me, I didn’t quite get that from this brew. But that’s just one man’s opinion. For a successive iteration of this twist on a Stone clone of a Belgian brew, I’d like to double (if not triple) the amount of add-ins. Pureeing the fresh hatch chiles may be an additional option to imparting more flavor to the beer.

The Recipe

Lemon Session Rye IPA #1

Can I interest you in light-bodied, hoppy brew with a dash of earthy notes? Enter our first attempt at a session – with a bit of an interesting twist. The inspiration for this fun recipe came from a variety of places:

•   access to a unique variety of whole cone hops

•   Frank’s desire for a bright, refreshing fruity beer

•   my very own lemon tree

The Malt

As with our other interesting add-in IPA (where we used basil), we’ve included the specialty grain rye. The amount of rye used in this recipe was relatively small. Therefore, the spicy character of the rye was not noticeable wort. Also, the red color offered by rye was also not present. Our beer showed up as an opaque yellow.

Lemon session Rye IPA homebrew malt for brew in a bag BIAB

The Hops

As with our other mint-inspired recipes, we used whole-cone mintras hops. The zesty character of the hops will compliment the zesty flavor of the lemon zest add-in. The contribution of the hops in the final product is unmistakable.

whole cone hops - edit

The Add-Ins

Besides the hops, home-grown lemons are the special ingredients for this brew. One fifth of an ounce of lemon zest was used for the primary carboy. This went in at the boil. Twice that amount went into the secondary fermenter. It takes about one small-medium lemon to get 0.1 oz. of lemon zest. So, be sure to have enough lemons on hand for this recipe. To stave off contamination, both the lemons and the zesting tool were soaked in sanitizing solution. Lemon zest was collected into a sanitized bowl before going into the secondary carboy.

hops floatila - small

Using whole cone hops in the primary worked fine. There was not an issue from either the size and/or the volume of the whole cone hops used. The hops are able to be be wholly submerged in a boiling pot of wort. However, putting a large volume of whole cones hops into the secondary was an issue. This is because the hops floated on top of the now beer. (It’s no longer wort since the we are already two weeks into fermentation.) In short, a lot of the hops, I believe, were wasted. This is because the hops never had a chance to to physically contact the beer. The extra hops simply floated on top of the other hops. Check out the photo above. Obviously not all of the hops are in contact with the beer.

The Wort

When sampling the wort, the lemon notes were present. The flavor imparted by the lemon zest was most definitely subtle. Even when adding more lemon zest to the secondary fermenter, the final beer is only somewhat lemony. (There are timing issues to add-ins, discussed later.)


The target original gravity was almost spot on for this batch. The difference was so small, that it could be considered negligible: 0.002. The difference in final gravity is more substantial, with the final gravity for the beverage clocking in at 1.020. This is short of the goal of 1.010. The result is an alcohol content short of our target – resulting in a very, very sessionable session ale – because the final ABV will be very low: 3.81%


The Verdict

The hops in this beer are absolutely incredible.  The impart a grassy, earthy flavor. And because there’s lots of hops in there, it’s hard to not notice. I can’t quite tell what the lemon is doing in there – or if it’s even there. But at the very least, it is contributing a pretty, bright opaque yellow hue.

Lemon Session Rye IPA #2

The natural modification on this recipe going forward would be to play with the timing and amount of lemon zest additions. An alternative is to add lemon extract at bottling because it’s:

  • •   simple
  • •   sanitary
  • •   cheap
  • •   gives the extract less time to fade (w/ only two weeks to go before enjoying)

The challenge with re-creating this recipe is that the special hops used may not be available going forward. Any further tweaks to the recipes with respect to the lemons will be an apples-to-oranges comparison because of the change in hops. As a final note, one could also play with the amount of rye used in the malt. Of course, we would not use whole cone hops in the secondary – instead opting for hop pellets, preventing waste.

The Recipe

Oyster Stout #1

The inspiration for this recipe came from leafing through the beer resource, “Designing Great Beers,” by Ray Daniels. In the stouts section, the book described the “Oyster Stout.” Traditionally, either the oyster meat, brine, or even the shell were added to the list of ingredients to create the final beer. That sounded like an interesting idea – so we decided to give it a go for our next homebrew recipe!

The Add-Ins

The goal here is for the oyster to impart its flavor to the beer – in all its salty goodness. Whole, fresh oysters were sourced from the local seafood market. The meat of the oyster was added 15 minutes before the end of the boil. The oysters were left in the primary fermenter. Going forward, the oyster may be taken out of the wort before going into the carboy.


Since the oysters were put into the wort with a whole fifteen minutes left to boil, any and all germs were killed off – with fifteen minutes of boiling being sufficient to kill anything, oyster germs included. If you’re reluctant to put oyster meat into your brew, there are alternatives. Consider the oyster shells themselves, oyster brine, or simply salt. Even a small amount of the latter should make the biggest impact.

Original Gravity

For our brewing for the weekend, we milled the grains twice in an attempt to hit our target gravity. Our previous weekend of brewing landed us short of this mark. Running the grains through the mill a second time only takes a few more minutes but gets us closer to our target brew.

measuring the original gravity on the oyster stout homebrew

Our target original gravity for this recipe was 1.050. We struck 1.053. Naturally, milling the grain twice did the trick. Alternatively or additionally, the grains could be “sparged” by pouring additional boiling over the grains (when the grains are in a strainer atop the brew kettle).

The Wort

When we sampled the wort it came across as a regular wort stout. The addition of the oysters were indistinguishable. Since fermentation had not yet begun, the wort was sweet.  Were the oyster meat to make an impact to the beer, it would do so over the four weeks that the oyster meat was left to hang out in the fermentation vessel.

The Verdict

Six weeks from brew day, the oyster stout was ready to enjoy. And my only response is:

where’s my oyster at?

Unfortunately, this brew tastes just like any old stout. It’s a good stout – but there is nothing crazy about this one. There is most certainly nothing oyster-ery about it.

an oyster stout on the market that tastes just like a stout - which may happen if you do your own homebrewing for an oyster stout using brew in a bag BIAB

However, the lack of any oyster flavor seems to be the consensus among all the oyster stouts I’ve ever enjoyed. One example being “Marooned on Hog Island” by 21st Amendment Brewery. Like our own oyster stout attempt, the brew proudly states the use of oyster ingredients front and center (the label is above). Yet, any oyster flavor is indistinguishable.

Oyster Stout #2

Tweaking the amount of the oyster added – and how long it stays in there – would be the number one variable for this recipe. For the next recipe, we could add more oysters towards the end of the boil. Alternatively, we could take oyster meat out of the wort before putting everything into the primary fermenter. However, given the lack of any strong oyster flavor in the brew, this latter suggestion is less likely.

Another idea would be to add salt to the recipe. This could be done in addition to the oysters, or as an alternative to.  Using salt alone would make the logistics of the recipe much simpler. Salt could also be added to the secondary fermenter – two weeks after fermentation has begun.

The Recipe