Pale Ale

I made this Pale Ale to provide some parting gifts for my colleagues at Middlebury College as I officially set off on a new adventure to become a professional brewer. As such, I chose a beer recipe that used simple additions of pale ale malt and flaked oats, along with boatloads of hops, since that’s what’s hot today. Five grams of gypsum added to give the hops a bit of pop, apt since the latest Champlain Water District Report indicates low alkalinity and mineral content. That’ll be something I pay close attention to on subsequent pilot brewing days.

The mash temperature successfully settled at 151 degrees Fahrenheit, and my after-boil gravity was right on target. Heavy whirlpool hop additions gave the usual trouble with transferring into the glass carboys. Two packets of re-hydrated Safale-05 fermented the beer out nicely.

Even after over a month, a slight haze remains from the oat addition, though oxidation flavors are coming through. Drink hoppy stuff ASAP, as they say. Herbal Remedy #3 has been bottled and will be ready in a few weeks, the Farmer’s Daughter clone still has a few days of fermentation left, while a heavy scotch ale aged on scotch whisky-soaked oak chips is up next for the now-free fermenter.

Herbal Remedy #1

One of my most prized brewing books is Stephen Harrod Buhner’s Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers, an incredibly detailed read documenting ancient and indigenous uses of medicinal plants in fermentation. I was bitten by the bug of attempting to use plants other than hops in brewing, and this attempt was my first effort.

My 36th batch was simply crafted in late January with 4 lbs of liquid malt extract, 1 lb of raw honey, 0.5 oz of wormwood, 0.5 oz of St. Johns Wort, and 3 ounces of yarrow. The herbs were sourced from Free Verse Farm in Chelsea, VT, and the ale was fermented with Safale-05 yeast.

The product resulted in a pleasant gold, crystal clear, effervescent ale. When drunk super fresh, the drinker would perceive a blindingly bitter flavor from the wormwood additive, nearly undrinkable for most normal normal palates. Though as the bottles aged, the bitter flavor dissolved into a less bitter grapefruit-like taste, without any of the fruit sweetness.

I’ve already iterated on the formula, the second one made without wormwood and using Crisp Pale Ale malt as it’s backbone. Tomorrow’s iteration will reduce the wormwood additive by 50%, and use much more pale ale malt to boost the alcohol into the 7.5-8% range. Some orange and grapefruit zest might find its way into the brew as well.


Wheat contains higher levels of beta-glucans than barley, compounds that can “gum up” the filtering process. Rice hulls are an additive that can help lautering when the heavier-than-usual mash utilizing wheat (or rye, or oats) that might cause trouble with filtering.

For overall batch #37, I wanted to experiment with a mash using wheat malt and rice hulls, and so this was purchased as a pre-built kit from, Grain bill:

  • Pale Wheat
  • Pilsner
  • Dark Munich
  • Caramunich (Type 3)
  • Melanoiden
  • Special B
  • Carafa Special (Type 1)
  • Rice Hulls

Mashed at a temperature of 153 degrees Fahrenheit at a 2.5:1 ratio for 60 min. Hopped with 1.75 oz of Hallertau for the full 60 min boil. The beer finished at 5.78% ABV. Fermented with a combination of 2 packets of Safbrew WB-06 dry yeast and 1 vial of WPL300 Hefewizen Ale liquid yeast.

I was a bit disappointed at the final outcome of this weizenbock, due to its heavier mouthfiel with some off-tasting stuff I couldn’t really identify. Still, some positive takeaways are a consistent clarity, meaning my rudimentary processes seem to filter out particulates well on its own. Definitely complex, I should adjust the fermentation temperature, perhaps raise it up a bit more for increased yeast activity.

Brewing a northeast style pale ale tomorrow in my new garage on the new propane powered Ss Brewtech boiling kettle, splitting the results between two 5 gallon glass carboys for fermentation. Wish me luck.

Irish Red Ale

What a boring style, yet super common and popular among homebrewers. Admittedly, I made a version of one with my first ever brewing effort. Eeech. Equipped with better.. equipment, increased knowledge, and a Quiet Man viewing party to plan for, I made this beer again!

The fermentables were similar, but all-grain this time (and freshly calculated):

  • Crisp Pale Ale – 75%
  • Cara-Red – 8%
  • Crystal 120 degrees L – 8%
  • Roasted Barley – 5%

Mashed at a 3:1 ratio @ 149 degrees Fahrenheit for 60 minutes, I added Fuggles pre-boil, and more Fuggles and some EKG during a 90 minute boil. It was a little colder in the spring, so the Irish Ale yeast under-performed a bit. The real winning difference was two teaspoons of gypsum added to the mash and boil; seems like the Vergennes-Panton Water District has some soft water.

With certainty, this beer was 1000% better than the first one. Clarity is impeccable, and it has a pleasant dry flavor (149 degrees was well within the optimum operating temperature of the beta-amylase enzyme). Low amount of foam, but after a few weeks the roasted flavors subside and meld, producing a nice touch of caramel sweetness on the finish.

British Braggot/Bees and Trees: Competition Beer

For the 3rd annual Make the Cut Homebrew competition of Vermont, I was able to scramble against the time crunch and produce two entries. One was a Strong British Ale, re-worked recipe from last year’s submission of a beer brewed with honey and fermented with French Saison yeast, and the other was an experimental beer using honey and a tree element.

British Braggot

British Braggot

I replaced the Saison yeast with London Ale yeast, used UK malts and stuck with the same hop profile of Northern Brewer, Fuggles, and EKG. Thus follows the list of fermentable ingredients:

  • UK Pale 2-row
  • UK Amber
  • UK Crystal 60L
  • Golden Promise
  • Roasted Barley
  • Chocolate
  • Raw Honey

My extract was not great, coming in 0.013 gravity points below the target, resulting in beer that finished with a final ABV of 4.73% and a bunch of residual sugars and dextrins. This was probably a good thing for my pitch rate, which was a mere smack pack. Despite these procedural flaws, I thought the final product was the second best beer I’ve brewed so far, behind my third Belgian effort. It’s quite roast-y, thick on the mouthfeel, and the addition of Golden Promise made a positive impact. However, to be called a braggot, the judges really wanted flavors of honey to shine through, so a reduction (or elimination) of roast and a lower mash temp to increase fermentability would greatly improve this beer.

Bees and Trees

Bees and Trees

In this beer, I exceeded the original gravity with a more finely ground grist, and a successful ~155 degree mash temperature. Primary fermentables consisted of:

  • UK Pale 2-row
  • American 2-row
  • Crystal 90L
  • Honey malt
  • Victory
  • Maple syrup
  • Honey

I added a teaspoon of gypsum to the mash and sparge water, intensely hopped and dry-hopped the beer with CTZ, Warrior, Simcoe, Chinook, and Mosaic hops, and fermented it with two packets of Safale-05 dry yeast.

I wanted Bees and Trees to be a Maple Honey Imperial IPA, but it ended up being too dark, sweet, and caramel-y for IPA. I should have labeled it as an American style hoppy Barley-wine, but its 7.6% ABV rating is too low for the ideal range. With some aging, I’d be curious to watch the hop bitterness fade to support the complex remaining sugars, and see if any beta acids persist over time.

I was thankful to receive great, useful feedback on the submissions, but unfortunately neither made it to the second round. Proper categorization of types + an increased level of wonderful competition really made it tough to move on, which ultimately is a great thing for the ever-evolving Vermont beer culture.