Finding extract beer recipes

Sometimes it can be hard for the new brewer to find extract beer recipes. When you search for beer recipes online you are mostly sent to forums, and most of the brewers that take the time to post extensively on forums and experiment with new recipes are brewing at least partial mash recipes, probably all grain recipes.

I recently came across this Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA extract recipe and I am thinking about going down to the local home brewing store to pic up the necessary ingredients to try it out. Reading different forums it seems that a beer this strong can only be properly brewed using partial mayor extract methods, but this extract recipe sounds like it worked out ok.
Where do you go to find extract home brewing recipes? Is there a favorite extract beer that you have brewed?

Yeast Viability

I have been brewing for years and I did not realize until just recently that liquid yeast packs (or vials) become increasingly ineffective as they grow older.

I was reading some articles the other day and one of them mentioned that if you buy a yeast pack that was produced on that very day you can only expect about 97% of the yeast cells in the pack to be viable. If the yeast is a month old it is only about 75% viable. If you are brewing a strong beer with old yeast (or even a somewhat strong beer) you are probably going to need either a second packet of yeast or you will need to make a yeast starter to build up a sufficient count of yeast cells to tackle the strong sugars in a high-gravity wort.

When I stopped at the home brewing supply store last night to pick up yeast for my next batch I paid attention to the production date on the yeast. I was a little bit annoyed that the newest packet in the style that i needed was a month and a half old. There were some packets that were almost 3 months old. It was a strain that was somewhat less common that other brewing yeasts, but still…

I have experienced under-attenuated batches of beer in the past, and this might be why.

In any case, there is a pretty handy calculator at that helps you determine how many packets of yeast you need under different conditions.

Have you ever experienced any problems with brewing yeast?



Save on Home Brewing Kits At the End of the Season

The other day I stopped in to the local home brewing store to pick up a beer kit. My wife made it clear that we would be brewing a porter, and since she hasn’t had any beer in the last nine months while pregnant I thought it wise to listen.

It is getting late in the season to brew a porter – this one won’t be done until the end of March so it could be spring time by then but it probably will not be very warm outside yet so a porter will be fine. When you get into the extreme heat and humidity of summer the dark, heavy beers like porters and stouts become a little less appetizing and lighter, fruitier beers sound better.
Next to the check out counter there was a shelf of beer kits that were on clearance. There was a pumpkin ale, which I have never found appetizing, so that was passed on. There was also a winter warmer that was twenty percent off. Yes! It is essentially a Scottish ale that is very alcoholic. I do not have any problem drinking Scottish ales in the warmer weather, so that worked out well. I will not be able to brew it until mid-march and we will not get to drink it until about memorial day given the fermentation vessels being tied up with a strong ipa and a strong porter, but that is ok. I think a winter warmer will be a great way to celebrate the start of the summer season!
Honestly, stouts and porters and Scottish ales are my favorite styles anyway so I would much prefer to have a stockpile of those over lighter beers.
Have you ever gotten a great deal on a beer kit at the end of a season?

Why Stout Is the Easiest Beer to Brew

Home brewing stores often say that stout is the easiest style of beer to brew because it is the hardest style to get wrong. Why is that?

First of all, stout is a nice rich, dark color. If you do not cool the beer quickly enough it will often develop “chill haze” from extra proteins in the beer, which is a cosmetic issue. The dark color of the stout hides this flaw.
Stout is also a nice full flavored beer. If you make any mistakes that lead to an off-flavor in the beer it is more easy to disguise in a stout than in a lighter beer.
In general, basic stouts are fairly low in alcohol. There are certainly exceptions, such as imperial stouts, but overall they are lower on the abv scale. This makes life easier for the yeast, which do not have to work quite so hard to ferment the beer. You will not have to worry about a yeast starter for most stouts, and you won’t have to worry about the yeast becoming overwhelmed by the beer.
I my opinion stout is one of the easiest beers to love. The flavor is great and the beer itself just looks great! In cold weather especially, you just can not beat a good stout!

Where Do You Home Brew?

Home brewing is a great thing – making beer at home where you want to, when you want to. There are several popular places to make beer at home.

The place most people start home brewing is in the kitchen. Get a brew kettle, throw it on the stove, and go! This is pretty convenient to start, and the start up cost is pretty low, but it does have its draw backs. It will heat up your house quite a bit, and the house will smell like wort for a couple of days (although I have grown to really like this smell!). It also take the stove out of commission for a couple of hours, and if you have a boil-over it can be difficult to clean up. Also, if you have an electric stove the brew will take a long, long time because it will take so long to heat and boil the wort.
The basement or the garage are also popular places to brew. They often have some open and unuused space, and if you brew there most of the house will not smell like wort for a long time. To get this going, though, you will need to run down to the local home brewing supply store and pick up a burner to heat the wort. You will also need a water source nearby for the brewing.
The final place to brew is outside. This is better for ventilation if you are using a burner, and it can be pleasant if the weather is nice, but you are dependent on the weather if you brew outside.
Where do you brew?

Why brewing beer in the winter is great!

Home brewing beer this time of year is pretty ideal. When the weather is cold and dry there are many perks to home brewing in your house.

The first perk is the most practical one – brewing in cold weather means that the beer is fermenting in cold weather so you probably will not have to worry about the fermentation temperature getting too warm, like you do in the summer. When I have tried to brew in the summer in my un-air conditioned house the fermentation temperature has gotten too high and the beer has had a buttery flavor from bad compounds that form in that situation. There is an ideal fermentation temperature for yeast, and it is different for each strain of yeast, but usually that range is something like 60 to 72 degrees fahrenheit. It is easy to keep the temperature in this range during the winter.
The second perk to brewing in the winter is the humidity! If you live somewhere that gets really cold and dry during the winter, like the northern plains of the united states, you will appreciate all of that water boiling into the air in your house.
Finally, the third reason it is great to brew in the winter is the free time. If it is frigid cold outside you will not want to be outside throwing a ball around or going for a walk or bike ride, or even doing yard work. You’ll be indoors. Instead of watching tv all winter like everybody else, brew some great beer!
What is your favorite thing about brewing beer in the winter?

Wort Chillers

One of the easiest ways to improve your home brewing supply arsenal is to buy a wort chiller. This allows you to skip the ice bath for some equipment that will cool your wort faster and with lower chance of infecting the beer.

There are three types of wort chillers:

1. Immersion Wort Chiller

Immersion chillers are copper tubing wound into a cylindrical shape. You place the tubing in the wort and run cold water through it, which pulls the heat out of the wort.

2. Counterflow Wort Chiller

Counterflow wort chillers have two sets of tubing, one inside the other. Wort runs through the inside copper tubing and cold water runs through the outside tubing in the opposite direction. This means that the wort it always running past ever-colder water as it passes through the chiller.
These chillers are more difficult to clean than immersion chillers but they are more efficient, so you can cool a larger batch of beer with them in a reasonable amount of time.

3. Plate Wort Chiller

Plate chillers Are probably the most efficient style of chiller. They function like a counterflow chiller, but instead of tubing the chiller is composed of a box with a bunch of little plates inside. Cold water passes by one side of each plate and hot wort passes by the other side. These are the most compact wort chillers and they are every efficient but they are the most difficult to clean.

Do some research about wort chillers. If in doubt, stop by your local home brewing supply store and they will be able to help you find the chiller that is right for you.

The Basic Equipment Needed to Home Brew Beer

If you are interested in starting up a home beer brewing hobby then you will need to invest in some basic equipment. This equipment can be found at almost any home brewing supply store or online.

Basic Home Brewing Equipment

The basics of beer brewing equipment, specifically extract brewing, include a large kettle for boiling the beer, a large spoon, a method for cooling the beer, and a fermentation vessel with an air lock. This video will give you and overview of the necessary equipment:

The Brew Kettle

The brewing kettle can be as small as three gallons, but it works best if the kettle is five or six gallons. This allows space to boil plenty of water for the brew, allowing for some to boil off and providing a buffer in case the wort starts to boil over. The difficulty with larger brewing kettles is that they take up a lot of space on a stove top and they will take longer to bring to a boil if full.
 brew kettle3

Brewing Spoon

The spoon should be metal or plastic and at least a couple of feet long. Wood does not work as well because it will absorb some of the wort. You want a sturdy spoon that will be easy to clean so as not to contaminate the beer.

Cooling the Wort

The beer can be cooled many different ways. The most common way to cool the wort for beginning home brewers is to use an ice bath. The brew kettle is set in a tub or sink full of cold water to let it cool down. It is ideal to use a more efficient method of cooling the wort for a few reasons, but the ice bath will suffice for most beginner brewers.

The Fermentation Vessel

The fermentation vessel is usually a plastic bucket called an Ale Pail, but glass and plastic carboys are also popular because they allow the brewer to assess the condition of the fermenting beer visually during the fermentation. The Ale Pail is less expensive and will be easier to carry around – carboys require that you buy a strap system or handle in order to easily carry them around.

Air Locks

Finally, the air lock is a simple device that can be purchased at most home brewing stores. They will slide right in to a built-in hold in the cover of an ale pail, but a rubber stopper will be needed to use an air lock with a carboy.

Home Brewing Supply Stores

For a listing of home brewing supply stores near you check out There you can find home brewing supply stores in each state and also learn more about home brewing equipment.