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

Molé IPA

The inspiration for this beer came from a short bought of insanity. Having recently been enjoying New Belgium’s Lips of Faith specialty series offering, Cocoa Molé and having an uninspiring IPA brew kit lying around, I decided to invent a new beer: the Molé IPA. It’s just like regular IPA, but with all the add-ins that go into a molé. It may just be the most awful beer ever made.

If you’re not familiar with a molé beer, think of Mexican hot chocolate – which is hot chocolate with cinnamon and chile peppers and other spices added. Sometimes these molé brews are lumped into the broader category of chile beers – but molés are quite distinct from what would otherwise a be blonde ale with jalapeno added. So, consider molé beers as a sub category within the chile beer category.



Thick! It’s so thick from all the stuff floating around in there. Going forward, I would extracts where possible for substitutions – and brewed coffee instead of coffee grains. This would help to clarify the beer. But, I will never make this beer again – because it’s terrible.


Just scroll down to the recipe below to see all the good stuff I threw in there:

•  vanilla extract
•  ground coffee
•  cocoa powder
•  cinnamon
•  jalapeno


Check out the photo above. You can see the bit of the jalapeno floating towards the top of the fermenter. Down towards the bottom of the glass carboy, you can see everything else – everything that will contribute it’s flavor to making our molé IPA.


final gravity of our mole IPA, for homebrewing using brew in bag

The Verdict

The nose is floral. However, you can tell that there are lots of other things going on there. The heat is subtle, but lingers all the way down your esophagus. And then it stays there for a long time. It’s almost like getting heartburn. The other flavors are there too: cinnamon, coffee. The coffee is most subtle.


It’s not nearly as terrible as I thought it would be, but it’s still pretty bad. I poured myself a 12 oz bottle and I won’t be finishing it. All that said,I don’t think the mole IPA is a bad idea. It’s just the execution was a failure. Will I make a further iteration – testing the validity of the mole IPA idea? Maybe. But it probably won’t be anytime soon.

The Recipe

Molé Brown #1

The inspiration for this brew came from a couple different beers – but mostly from New Belgium’s Lips of Faith specialty series offering, Cocoa Molé. If you’re not familiar with a molé beer, think of Mexican hot chocolate – which is hot chocolate with cinnamon and chile peppers and other spices added. Sometimes these molé brews are lumped into the broader category of chile beers – but molés are quite distinct from what would otherwise a be blonde ale with jalapeno added. So, consider molé beers as a sub category within the chile beer category.



Another simply fantastic molé beer is made by San Diego brewery Stone Brewing Co. Their Xocoveza has come out the last two holiday seasons – with the more recent release being even better than the first. It’s a combination of peppers, chocolate, vanilla, coffee and other spices. The beer is very flavorful, but not overly heavy.

The Malt

Our clone brew for the New Belgium Lips of Faith Cocoa Molé clone starts with the malt. As with all dark brews, we used a combination or light and dark malts. This includes rye, in addition to the usual barely. The grain was finely milled, once. We fined milled the grain to help us better achieve our target original gravity. Fine milling, over coarse milling, helps to further open up the malt, exposing their sugars that will be captured by the boiling water.

mole chile beer homebrew brew all grain in a bag - small

The Add-Ins

For our own attempt at a mole beer, we’ve limited our add-ins to just three very special ingredients:

•   whole cinnamon sticks

•   retail chile powder

•   100% pure cacao

All of the ingredients we used are available at your local retail grocery market. Though the add-ins are unusual for a beer, they are easy to obtain – as opposed to some of the more special hops we’ve used in our brews.

Original Gravity

As with our previous brews, the original gravity of the wort clocked in at 1.045 – which was short of our recipe’s calculation of 1.051. As a side note, we measured the original gravity with both an inexpensive hydrometer as well as more expensive refractometer. We’ve been experimenting with the repetition and level of milling. Even with milling the grain finely (as opposed to coarsely), we still fell short of our target gravity.

measuring original gravity of the homebrew mole chile beer using brew in a bag (BIAB) - small

The Wort

Sampling the wort, the add-ins were barely distiniguishable. Perhaps only the chili powder made itself known. However, there were ample hops in the brew that stood out in the wort sample. Will this beer be molé-y? We can only know that six weeks in. It will, however, definitely be bitter from the hops.

The Verdict

It’s not bad, if not a little underwhelming. The base of the brew is good with some chocolaty notes present. Then there is also a small to moderate kick coming from the chili and cinnamon powders. It’s not bad. But I want more – more of everything: more chocolate, more cinnamon, more peppers – and I want coffee and vanilla and nut meg too. In short, I would consider this a sort of mole-light. It’s a good introductory beer for those who are just ever so slightly adventurous.

our homebrew version of a mole beer using brew in a bag, a sort of a stone xocoveza clone

What’s more, the character of (some of) the add-ins persevered over the course of a few weeks. This is different from some of the other brews we’ve concocted – where the character contributed by the add-ins fades exponentially with age. Two and half weeks after the “drink” date (the drink date is usually two weeks after bottling), the presence of the add-ins were still there. Yay!

Iteration #2

As mentioned, I’d like to try additional add-ins, especially vanilla and coffee – closer to the style that Stone Brewing puts out in their Xocoveza. I’d also like to see what adding more cacao does – or what happens when introducing these add-ins at different parts of the brewing process. For example, instead of going into the primary fermenter – these add-ins could go into the boil. They may – or may not – help to impart more flavor of the add-in into the final brew. A final option for tweaking the add-ins could involve changing the granularity of the add-ins. Specifically, using a whole chile pepper instead of just chile power, or grading/shredding the cinnamon sticks and bit of cacao.

The Recipe

Coconut Chocolate Stout #1

The Inspiration

I can’t say definitely that any particular beer inspired this homebrew. However, this is one coconut beer in particular is absolutely fantastic: Oskar Blue Brewery “Death By Coconut.” It’s a very sweet, very smooth and all coconut.

The Malt

For a dark beer, we used dark malt. The details are covered in the recipe section.

The Add-Ins

For coconut, we used unsweetened coconut flakes. For this particular batch, we selected a premium brand, which advertised the lack of sulfides. (Sulfur is commonly used as a preservative – in both food and beer. Some brewers even opine that sulfur added as a preservative in beer is what causes hangovers.) Whole coconut flakes, as opposed to a more finely minced bits of coconut, may impart less flavor to the ultimate brew because of less surface area.

coconut chocolate stout homebrew in the primary using brew in a bag BIAB

100% cacao bar was used to impart the chocolate flavor. One disadvantage of this is that much of the cacao was left in the boil pot – never getting into the primary fermenter.

Both add-ins were put in at the end of the boil. Putting the add-ins into the boil gets rid of any contamination issues. An alternative could be putting the add-ins into the primary – but that risks contamination. The add-ins could be sanitized themselves, but is a cumbersome process. For example, I once soaked fresh mint leaves in iodaphor before adding them to the secondary fermenter.


I missed the boat on the OG for this recipe. However, it was a good learning experience. The lesson: pour some of the wort into your device for measuring  original gravity first – and then into the fermentation vessel. If you go in the opposite order, you’ll be left with wort full of hops and/or other add-ins. In the case of this recipe, I was left with a batch of chocolate sludge.

The Wort

The hops are immediately apparent. For a beer that’s centered around coconut and chocolate, the hops seem out of place. Six weeks of fermentation will change the balance of flavors. A lot of the cacao did not make it out of the boiling pot and into the primary. This is a function of using processed cacao and not nibs. Using nibs would be ideal – but are not always available (as was the case w/ this brew).

wort of coconut chocolate stout homebrew for brew in a bag

The Verdict

What happened!? On bottling day, the beer was all coconut. Two weeks, it was a regular chocolate stout. The coconut flavor died over the course of two weeks. What a bummer!

Iteration #2

We’ve already created a second recipe. This second attempt will use twice the coconut. Maybe this change will convince the coconut to stick around. As a further alternative, there’s always coconut extract.

The Recipe

Jalapeno Blond #1

The inspiration for this brew came from the absolute best chile beer I’ve had in my life – at a restaurant in Fort Collins, Colorado. Normally, when I am out on a beer tasting adventure I drink as little of each beer as possible – so that I can try a lot of different beers. However, this beer was so good that I had to order seconds. The brew had lots of chile flavor, with very mild heat. It was incredibly well balanced, light, crisp and refreshing – and this from a guy who isn’t a fan of blond ales. But the malt wasn’t the key; it was the add-in, that made this beer special.

The add-ins

In an attempt to mimic this chile beer we opted for fresh jalapenos – not knowing what the original brewers used in their “Hot Blonde.” Jalapenos are a natural choice because they are inexpensive and easily available at your local retailer.

cutting jalapenos

The jalapeno was initially cut into slices as per the photos. This, however, did not make it through the funnel into the primary carboy. In a successive brew, we actually minced the jalapeno with a Cuisanart. The minced jalapeno was added at the end of the boil. The tasting notes at the end of this post, however, refer to the former experiment.

The Wort

Given the addition of jalapeno to the wort, the wort faintly smelled and tasted of jalapeno when we sampled. We ended up adding the same thinly sliced jalapenos into the primary carboy. Best practice dictates cutting the jalapenos into smaller pieces – as per using the Cuisinart. To get even more out of the jalapenos, one could puree them. For this batch, we’re reporting on the results we got with coarsely cut jalapeno chunks.

home brew jalapeno blonde boiling wort

The Difference in Original Gravity

The difference in original gravity was just -0.002. Of our batches brewed for the day, this was some of the smallest differences we saw. The difference should be negligible. In this instance, the efficiency calculation of just 60% was spot on. This is despite milling the grain only use.

The Verdict

After two weeks in the primary, two weeks in the secondary, and a final two weeks of bottle-conditioning the brew was ready to enjoy. When sampling the brew, it was easy to identify the jalapeno notes on the nose. (It smelled like jalapeno.) It was not entirely subtle. Multiple folks who sampled the beer reported getting a whiff of pepper before ever drinking the beer. The nose is just plain fun, but misleading because the nose is more prominent than the flavor or heat existent in the actual beer. But perhaps it’s a good balance for white people. That is to say that the heat was also present, but mildly so. In total, the beer itself is good.

additional-peppers-for-the-jalapeno-blonde-hombrew-using-brew-in-a-bag-BIAB.jpg January 6, 2016 247 kB

Thought, while it is good, but I want a lot more pepper flavor and a bit more heat. It’s the pepper flavor that I recall from Colorado that was my inspiration for this beer. I want more of it! However, adding more jalapenos to get more flavor would also result in more heat. So what’s the solution? Adding peppers without heat – like the sweet red peppers in the photo above.

Jalapeno Blond #2?

Going forward, it would be interesting to try some tweaks on this same recipe. Some ideas include:

•   Adding more sweet peppers

•   Adding sweet peppers at multiple stages of the process

•   Before the boil

•   At the end of the boil

•   In the primary fermenter

•   In the secondary fermenter

•   In the bottle!?

•   Pureeing the jalapeno (previously mentioned)

•   Experimenting with other chiles, instead of just adding sweet peppers to the jalapeno chiles

•   Adding capsaicin extract

The Recipe