The Vorlauf Effect – Pt. 2: Testing The Extreme | exBEERiment Results!

Author: Ray Found

When I started brewing, I learned one does not drain the wort from the grains without performing a vorlauf, that is, recirculating sweet wort until it runs clear. It was deemed a requirement that contributes to the full extraction of sugar from the grains, help set the grainbed for effective lautering, and prevent astringency producing grain husks from making their way into the boil kettle. I initially learned about the horror of husks while reading comments about the now infamous Good Eats episode where Alton Brown boiled his steeping grains with extract and hops. Tannins!

It makes sense to me that grain husks might impart some flavor that is different than the endosperm it encases, after all, whole grain bread does taste different than white bread. However, the results from our first vorlauf xBmt showed that tasters could not reliably distinguish between a beer that had undergone a vorlauf from one that hadn’t, making me wonder if perhaps the amount of grain making it to the boil played a role.

We tend to focus our xBmts on the practical, but occasionally a time comes where testing extremes could potentially yield more meaningful information. That time is now. (more…)

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Ss Brewtech Brewmaster Edition Chronical Fermentor | Product Review

Author: Malcolm Frazer

I have seen them in the magazines, at friends houses, and sitting on display at homebrew conventions beckoning me with their shiny stainless siren calls. Conical fermentors appeal to many brewers’ desire for a glimmering miniature mock-up of a professional brewery, allowing us to feel like a pro from the comfort of our own garages. Unfortunately, they tend to be pretty expensive, certainly more so than a typical fermentation bucket or carboy, and hence deemed out of reach by many, myself included. But let’s face it, conicals are like the supermodels of the homebrewing world, verbally beat up for being too expensive, heavy, and awkward by many of the same people who secretly wish they had one. Sure, this is a bit of a rash generalization stemming from my own experience, but I have to believe at least a slight majority of homebrewers have flirted with the idea of integrating a conical into their brewing routine.

Awhile back, the folks at Ss Brewtech contacted us saying they had something up their sleeves, explaining they would soon be releasing a new version of their popular Chronical fermentor packed with professional grade features but with the homebrewer in mind. Seeking honest feedback on this new product, I agreed to put the Brewmaster Edition Chronical through the paces, here’s what I think.


Kettle Hops: Loose vs. Bagged | exBEERiment Results!

Author: Marshall Schott

Homebrewers have knack for worrying about seemingly petty details with arguments for or against a certain practice often based on reasonable, albeit naive, self-invented theories. A few months back, I was chatting with a dude about an IPA he’d recently made and shared with me, while discussing his process he mentioned using a fine mesh bag to filter his kettles hops. Having just met this guy, I presumed this step was employed in order to avoid clogging a counterflow chiller, but then he mentioned chilling his wort using an immersion chiller. When I asked him why he filtered his hops, he informed me a sense of certainty that not doing so results in more hop matter making it to the fermentor, which ultimately leads to grassy off-flavors in the finished beer.

I used to filter my hops too, the main reason being it’s what the directions on the kits I bought said to do. There must be some good reason, right? As I began brewing more often, the ritualistic cleaning of the bags became annoying, so I hit the web in search of justification for this practice and found, well, not very much, either presumptive statements of fact based on anecdotal evidence, usually with the intent of selling an idea or product, or allusions to the potential impact filtering hops might have on utilization. Even today, I could find nothing demonstrating a legitimate effect of sacking one’s hops during the boil.

I began tossing loose hops directly into the kettle about 4 years ago and never looked back, as this change seemed to have absolutely zero impact on the quality of my beers. However, I remained curious if hop filtration created an appreciable difference and decided to test it out for myself. (more…)

Short & Shoddy – Pt. 2 | A 5 Gallon Batch In Under 2 Hours

Author: Marshall Schott

Startled by the outcome of my first Short & Shoddy brew, I knew I’d have to try it again on a normal batch size. While unable to determine precisely why so many of the xBmt variables we test produce non-significant results, I often find myself wondering if it has to do with the discrepancy in scale between commercial brewing, where much of we claim to “know” comes from, and homebrewing. Perhaps the fact the first Short & Shoddy batch was less than half the volume of a more typical 5 gallon batch had some impact that mitigated the negative effects of the shitty way I treated it. Or maybe shorter mash and boil lengths, malt and hop freshness, and fining with a bunch of gelatin really don’t matter as much I thought.

Similar to before, the idea to brew Short & Shoddy 2.0 abruptly came to me one recent Saturday afternoon as my wife was heading out “for a couple hours.” Having brewed a 10 gallon xBmt batch the day prior, I wasn’t interested in pulling everything out for another normal brew day, though it was hard to ignore the cries of my recently emptied second chamber. Within minutes, I used BeerSmith to throw together a 5 gallon BIAB SMaSH recipe with a few slight differences from the first. As my wife was backing out of the garage, I set the timer and got to brewing! (more…)

Belgian Candi Syrup: Homemade vs. Commercial | exBEERiment Results!

Author: Greg Foster

Belgian beers are known for a few things such as possessing unique esters and phenols compared to styles from other regions, as well as being higher in ABV while maintaining the quintessential dryness expected in styles like Golden Strong and Tripel. In order to accomplish this wonderful melding of drinkability and buzz-building strength, brewers of Belgian ale often employ the use of sugar, usually added to the boiling wort in amounts of up 10% to 20% of the fermentables.

Briefly, I want to discuss some differences in the types of sugars commonly used in brewing. Pure sucrose sourced from sugar cane or beets, also known as table sugar, is made of a glucose molecule bonded with a fructose molecule and is the building block of many Belgian candi sugars and syrups. While completely capable of being used in beer, some smart people discovered yeast more readily digests sugar that has been inverted, a process that splits the fructose and glucose apart, producing a moderately viscous syrup that’s perceptibly sweeter than sucrose alone. Dextrose, on the other hand, which is commonly known as priming sugar to homebrewers, is a simple sugar derived from corn that consists of a single molecule of glucose, meaning it does not require any inversion. When it comes to Belgian candi,  there are two main options, a crystalline rock or syrup. While researching the topic revealed some terminological confusion, it seems candi sugar is commonly reserved for the type that comes in non-inverted rock form, while candi syrup refers to the inverted liquid form. Regardless of the veracity of these claims, this xBmt concerns the latter.

99_candisugar1_blamStan Hieronymous, in his fantastic literary tribute to Belgian beer, Brew Like A Monktells of how a friend who began making his own candi sugars recognized that given the Belgian spirit to “make a great beer with what we have,” spending upwards of $2 per pound was “anti-spirit.” A homebrewer’s mentality, indeed! Sharing this spirit, I hit the web in search of recipes for my preferred form of sugar, candi syrup, eventually settling on a simple method that produced beers I was largely pleased with. However, due to the veil under which makers of candi syrup tend to keep their processes, I began to wonder how close my hack was to popular commercial varieties. An xBmt born! (more…)

What’s Brewing At Brülosophy? | Collaborations, Conferences, Contests, & More!

Author: Marshall Schott

I say fairly often that as much as I love brewing and beer, the community is what really drives my passion for this hobby. Over the last couple of years, the unexpected opportunities that have arisen out of my work on Brülosophy have been quite incredible and really opened my eyes to whole new perspective on this amazing community. From local brewers going out of their way to participate in an xBmt to those emailing me encouraging words from the other side of the globe, and even the critics who ceaselessly give me stuff to think about. Today I’ll be sharing some rad developments that have come out of this badass community.

Collaboration With House Of Pendragon Brewing Co.

A few years ago, my buddy Tommy Caprelian made a decision to change careers from banking to brewing. He did it right by getting an education at Siebel Institute and learning the tricks of the trade at a local established brewery before peeling away to start House Of Pendragon Brewing Company, a nano pushing out 1 BBL batches. With a vision for growth, a kickass work ethic, and beers of supreme quality, Tommy recently transitioned to a beautiful 15 BBL brewery. What an accomplishment!

As an experimentation loving supporter of Brülosophy who now has a little more wiggle room in his brewing schedule, I’m thrilled to announce House Of Pendragon Brewing Company as a collaborative member of the Brülosophy crew! This has been something we’ve been working toward for the last couple months and has finally come to fruition, I am very excited to see how this progresses. There are a few primary benefits to this setup in addition to fostering community: we’ll be able to test variables previously out of reach due to scale, such as the impact of fermentation temperature on larger volumes, but it will also increase the participant pool since data collection will occur in the HOP taproom. With that said… (more…)

Bittering Hops: High vs. Low Cohumulone | exBEERiment Results!

Author: Marshall Schott

About 3 years ago, I designed an American-style Red Ale with a simple grist, bittered to 30 BU with Magnum, and finished with a moderate amount of Centennial and Cascade. When it came time to brew this beer, I realized my Magnum stock was depleted and reached for the most similar AA% hops I had available, which happened to be Chinook (Shh-nook). Despite recently learning Chinook possessed relatively high cohumulone (CoH) levels, purported to produce a harsher bitterness, my skepticism prevailed and I tossed a charge in at 60 minutes. The finished beer was good, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t experience it has possessing an unpleasantly sharp bitterness.

99_bitterCoH1_HopsBookI’m certainly no chemist and claim no expertise on the matter, hence my deference to those much smarter than me. In For The Love of Hops: The Practical Guide to Aroma, Bitterness and the Culture of Hops, Stan Hieronymus discusses how research in the 1950’s (Rigby et al.) suggesting higher CoH levels produce harsher bitterness drastically influenced the brewing world by increasing demand for low CoH varieties, which ultimately impacted research and breeding. However, as Stan points out, later studies performed by our friends at Oregon State University demonstrated experienced tasters were unable to distinguish between beers containing differing CoH levels to a significant degree. Some have gone as far as to conclude CoH’s erroneously bad reputation is leading to some not-so-positive repercussions given findings from newer studies.

And yet, many remain concerned. Whether in the form of anecdote like my own or advice given by industry authorities, the belief that higher CoH hops produce harsher bitterness persists. As does my curiosity. (more…)

Brü’s Views w/ Vinnie Cilurzo| On Going Pro

From my very first batch back in 2003 to even the shittiest shit I make today, based on the comments from many of the folks I share my beer with, I’d be rolling in the dough if only I’d start my own brewery. As I’m sure many would agree, the thought of being one’s own boss in an industry focused on everyone’s favorite beverage is supremely enticing! Who wouldn’t love to make, sell, and drink delicious beer every single day?

As I progressed in the hobby and immersed myself more in the insanely popular world of craft (indie?) beer, I learned more about what running a brewery actually entails, that it’s not as romantic as I assumed, and that my version of Brewmaster was far more fantasy than reality.

For this Brü’s Views, we give our unabashedly honest thoughts on a topic that runs deep inRussian-River-Brewing-logo homebrewing circles. Please understand we’ve absolutely no collective interest in encouraging or discouraging people from following their dreams and we appreciate the fact many of the best commercial beers today are being made by those who cut their chops homebrewing. Folks just like our guest contributor who is known for making one of the world’s most popular beers, Pliny the Elder Double IPA. A huge thanks to Russian River Brewing Company’s Vinnie Cilurzo for sharing his perspectives on turning a hobby into a profession!

On Going Pro


Hop Stand vs. Dry Hop | exBEERiment Results!

Author: Greg Foster

The last hop stand xBmt comparing the impact of different temperatures was intriguing in that no statistical significance was found, though I have to admit I was a little disappointed, not because the results failed to uphold my assumptions, but since it did little to inform me how to go about making better IPA.

Woeful is the plight of the hophead!

Thirsting to learn more about how to get as much hop aroma into my beer as possible, I decided to compare techniques commonly known for maximizing hoppiness– the hop stand and the dry hop. I won’t go into full detail about the typically discussed ways a hop stand differs from a dry hop, that information is readily available on web. Briefly, hop stands are typically performed in wort warm enough to  volatize some hop oils, while the dry hop occurs in cooler fermented beer where volitization isn’t a concern. Sounds good, but does really make all the big of a difference? Let’s find out! (more…)

The Hop Chronicles | Denali, aka 06277 & Nuggetzilla

Author: Marshall Schott

I’ve often wondered what it’s like, after years of breeding and testing, to discover a truly unique and delectable hop. As someone whose farming experience amounts to having one time been asked to feed a neighbor’s chickens, I really have no clue the amount of work that goes into this process. And I can only imagine the satisfaction and excitement experienced by growers when a hop they’ve been working on so long produces a gorgeous aromatic bouquet, something I’ve accepted I’ll never get to fully experience.

But I recently came close… sorta.

Hop breeder and all-around badass, Bill Elkins, from Hopsteiner reached out to me awhile back saying he had an experimental hop he wanted me to run through The Hop Chronicles, a variety they’d recently green-lighted for contracting with breweries that had yet to be given a proper name at the time, though will soon be released commercially as “Denali.”