Shorter "Top 10 Steps to Better Beer"

From Chris Colby’s September 2005 article Top 10 Steps to Better Beer, annotated with my own notes:

  1. Cleaning (PBW)
  2. Sanitation (Star San)
  3. Quality Ingredients (Vacuum-packed hop pellets stored in the freezer, DME)
  4. Pitch Enough Healthy Yeast (Liquid yeast with starters)
  5. Proper and Stable Fermentation Temperature (Son of fermentation chiller, fermwrap, stopper thermowell, and a digital thermostat)
  6. Wort Aeration (Rock for 5 minutes)
  7. Avoid Excess Tannins (steep in 1–3 quarts per pound, rinse with the same volume or less, stay under 170°F)
  8. Keep Oxygen Away (move beer gently)
  9. Vigorous, Full-Wort Boil (A 10-gallon Blichmann BoilerMaker™ Brew Pot on a Camp Chef Explorer. Woo hoo!)
  10. Proper pH (Hmmm…)


p>What about proper wort chilling? What would another be? Maybe pitching at your fermentation temperature, though that might be part of proper wort chilling.

Brush Valley Brewer’s Northwest Golden Cascade Extract IPA

I brewed this beer back in April after seeing the “Six-pack IPA” episode of the Basic Brewing Video podcast.

Makes four 22-ounce bottles

OG: 1.060 SG
FG: 1.018 SG
ABV: 5.6%
IBU: 66
SRM: 4.7 (Dark Straw)


  • 1 pound Briess Golden Light DME (end of boil)
  • 0.3 ounces Cascade pellets (60 minutes)
  • 0.1 ounces Cascade pellets (15 minutes)
  • 0.1 ounces Cascade pellets (5 minutes)
  • 0.25 ounces Cascade whole (in primary)
  • Wyeast Northwest Ale yeast propagator pack (1332)


  1. Make a 1-quart starter several days in advance.
  2. Put 5 quarts of water into a 12 quart pot. Cover. Bring to a boil. Remove cover.
  3. Add 0.3 ounces Cascade pellets. Continue boil for 45 minutes.
  4. Add 0.1 ounces Cascade pellets. Continue boil for 10 minutes.
  5. Add 0.1 ounces Cascade pellets. Remove from heat and add 1 pound of dry malt extract. Stir to dissolve. Return to heat. Boil for 5 minutes.
  6. Turn off heat. Cover. Place pot in a sink of cold water. Stir wort with a sanitized spoon. Be careful to not aerate the wort while hot. Change the water occasionally as it warms up. Continue until wort reaches 70°F.
  7. Pour wort into a sanitized 1-gallon jug through a sanitized funnel with a screen to remove the sediment.
  8. Swirl the starter to suspend the yeast. Measure out 0.5 cups into a sanitized measuring cup. Pitch. Cap the jug with a sanitized stopper and shake to aerate. Affix a sanitized 3-piece airlock and drilled stopper. Place in a 65–75°F dark place for 1 week.
  9. Place 0.25 ounces whole Cascade hops in enough warm (less than 167°F) water to just cover. Steep covered for 20 minutes. Add the hop tea and hops to a sanitized 1-gallon jug.
  10. Using a sanitized siphon, racking cane, and siphon hose, transfer the beer from the primary fermenter to the secondary onto the hop tea. Affix a sanitized 1-piece airlock and drilled stopper. Place in a 65–75°F dark place for 1 week.
  11. Combine 0.7 ounces DME with 12 fluid ounces of water. Bring to a boil for several minutes. Cool to 70°F. Add to a sanitized bottling bucket.
  12. Using a sanitized racking cane and siphon hose, transfer the beer from the secondary to the bottling bucket.
  13. Using a sanitized siphon hose and bottling wand, fill four 22-ounce bottles. Cap and store in a 65–75°F dark place for 2 weeks before sampling.



Good clarity. Color of dark straw — not quite amber. Well carbonated. Good citrus aroma. Slightly “green” taste — could age longer. Served a bit too cold. Citrus flavor. Good bitterness. Not thin. Success! This was my first brew after a 14 year break. While it is not terribly complex, it was quite good and a good confidence builder.

Wort Chilling Time

I used my immersion chiller for the first time over Thanksgiving. I hear there are a couple of important temperatures to be concerned with, so I measured how long it took to get from one to the next. This is using MoreBeer’s Efficient Wort Chiller, 55°F ground water, and whirlpooling with a big ass stainless steel spoon, for 6 gallons of wort in a 10-gallon Blichmann BoilerMaker™ Brew Pot.

Seconds °F
0 212
153 140
380 100
594 80
845 68


p>The upsot is that I got down to pitching temperature in just over 14 minutes.

Also, I drained the cooling water into a 5-gallon bucket. I had to empty it 6 times. So, it took about 30 gallons of water to do the cooling.

Brush Valley Brewer’s 2008 Red Cap Cider

Gretchen and I have been growing our own apples for years now. We bought a cider press a few years back and have been making ourselves sweet cider every fall. As I get back into home brewing, after a fourteen year hiatus, I thought I would try a hard cider. I decided to go for a medium-dry, petillant English cider. This is my first attempt at a hard cider.

Here is my recipe:


  • 2 bushels Apples from several varieties
  • White Labs English Cider Yeast (WL775)
  • ½ teaspoon plus a pinch Wyeast Nutrient Blend
  • 5 Campden Tablets
  • 2 pounds Lactose (Milk Sugar)
  • 0.75 ounces Malic Acid
  • 0.25 ounces Wine Tannins
  • 5 ounces Corn Sugar (for priming)


  1. Pick the apples and allow them to sit at cellar temperature for one week.
  2. Press the apples. You should end with something in excess of 5 gallons of juice. Measure the Brix and Gravity of the juice. Mine turned out to be 13.6/1.054 this year.
  3. Make a starter by mixing 1 quart of juice with a pinch of yeast nutrient and bring to a boil for several minutes. Cool to 72°F. Place in a suitable container. I used a half-gallon growler. Shake to aerate. Pitch yeast. Affix an airlock. Ferment at 72°F for 2 days.
  4. After pressing, place the juice in a bucket. Add 5 crushed Campden Tablets (one per gallon). Affix an airlock. Allow to sit at cellar temperature for 2 days.
  5. Vigorously stir the juice to disperse any remaining Sulfur Dioxide gas resulting from the Campden tablets. Transfer the juice to a 6½-gallon glass carboy. Add ½-teaspoon of yeast nutrient. Rock to aerate. Pitch the yeast starter. Affix an airlock. Ferment at 72°F for 4 weeks.
  6. Measure the Brix and Gravity of the cider. Mine turned out to be 5.3/1.001 (7% ABV) this year. Rack the cider to a 5-gallon glass carboy and allow to mature at 72°F for 8 weeks.
  7. Mix the lactose, malic acid, tannin, and corn sugar in 5 pints of water and bring to a boil for several minutes. Cool to 72°F.
  8. Add the mixture to the bottling bucket. Rack the cider to the bottling bucket. Bottle. Allow the cider to bottle condition at 72°F for 3 weeks before sampling.

Just for fun I measured the gravity after back-sweetening with the lactose. It brought it back to 1.014, which would be about as sweet as a typical finished ale.

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

This is actually a copy of my first post over at beerporn (completely SFW).

This is a review of Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale from the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico, California.

Though it is only available seasonally, and marketed “especially for the holidays,” this beer is used by the Beer Judge Certification Program as an example of an American IPA and not a spiced or specialty beer. At 6.8% alcohol by volume this beer will give you a nice warm feeling of cheer on a cold winter’s night.

Sierra Nevada lists the ingredients as two-row pale and english caramel malts with chinook hops for bittering, cascade and centennial to finish and dry hop. They just say they use a “top-fermenting ale yeast,” but it’s probably the Chico yeast. If you look at some of the more popular clone recipes, you’ll see that’s really all there is to it.

The beer pours a clear copper color with a thick, creamy off-white head. The aroma is hoppy with hints of flowers, spice, citrus, and pine with a faint malt sweetness. The beer feels smooth on the tongue with the right carbonation for an American IPA and a crisp finish that leaves you wanting another. It has a good hop bitterness with a nice malt backbone, with hints of unsweetened chocolate and cherry, like biting into a Godiva cherry cordial.

Overall I really like this beer. The wife an I stock up on it every year between Thanksgiving and New Years.

Making a Beer Yeast Starter

Follow these steps to make a beer yeast starter:

  1. Calculate the beer yeast starter volume required to achieve the number of cells required for the desired pitching rate.

  2. For each quart of beer yeast starter required, add 3.5 ounces (1 cup) of DME and 1/40 teaspoon yeast nutrient to a quart of potable water.

  3. Boil for 20 minutes to sterilize.

  4. Cool to 70°F.

  5. Pour into a sanitized container with a stopper and airlock.

  6. Shake well.

  7. Add yeast culture.

  8. Let the starter ferment at or near your target fermentation temperature for 24–36 hours.

  9. Periodically agitate the beer yeast starter to resuspend the yeast, aerate, and remove CO₂.

  10. Chill the beer yeast starter for 24 hours to flocculate all of the yeast.

  11. Decant the beer from the yeast cake.

  12. Allow the yeast cake to warm to fermentation temperature.

  13. Swirl the container to suspend the yeast in a slurry.

  14. Inoculate the target wort using the slurry.

(10) Thanksgiving 2008 Brew Day

I brewed a milk stout on Thanksgiving this year. It was the Triple-X recipe from Brewing Classic Styles. Jamil talks about it at length in the Sweet Stout episodeof his podcast. Things went really well.

It was my first full-boil. My first use of my wort chiller. Gretchen made me a really great meat pie for lunch. I had one of my Irresponsible Blonde Ale’s while I brewed. Everything seemed to go well.
Almost everything, that is. I forgot to crush my steeping grains. It was funny. When I finished the brew — Yes, I got all the way through without noticing — my wife said, “So, the grain mill worked all right then?” Eh? Grain mill. Right. Grain mill. OH SNAP!
Also, after the steeping I tried to rush the boil by starting the flame while I was topping up. Unfortunately, when I added the liquid malt extract, the bottom was already hot and some of it burned before I could get it all dissolved.
Finally, I forgot to measure my boil volumes. I think I boiled off one gallon in an hour, but I’ll have to be more careful next time.
I did manage to nail the target gravity and the brew is happily fermenting at 67°F at the moment. I plan to let it continue to do that and bottle it on the 17th.