Pink Beer batches 4&5

Spring has arrived and it is time to make more pink beer.  I am further refining the technique and materials.  I like doing this as a double size batch (10 gal) due to the extra time and steps involved. Plus I want to try adding marshmallow flavoring to half

Kettle sour

5 gal water

12 lbs Bavarian Wheat Liquid Malt Extract

6lbs Breiss Pilsen Light Dry Malt Extract

Starting pH = 6.05

4 grams (approx) Llalamand Sour Pitch lactobacillus. Reconstitute in 50% wort and water mix for ~ 1 hour   .   Start this before putting the wort on to boil (above).    The remainder of the 10g package was sealed and placed in the freezer.

Rest 36 hours at 85F – heater wrap on the brew kettle

Final pH = 3.14   – I could probably have reduced the amount of the sour pitch


Stir the wort to get the bacteria off the bottom. You dont want them to scorch

Add 3 lbs Pale Dry malt extract (could double this if you like).

Add 2 oz Tettnanger hops

Boil for 60 min

Rapidly chill to ~75F with wort chiller and then mix with cold water for final temp of 62F.

Primary fermentation

Reconstitute 2 packs of T-58 yeast in 1.5 l wort and place on stir plate.  I did this for about 2 hours  but overnight (as a proper starter)  would probably be better.

OG ~ 1.060

Ferment at basement floor temp (62F ) for 3 days and then slowly raise 1F per day to 69F

Secondary Fermentation

Transfer to secondary – at 10.020 SG

10 lbs frozen mixed berries – 3.5lb blackberries, 4lb blueberries, 1.5 lb raspberries, 1lb strawberries.   I am sticking with the ratio of 1lb of fruit per gallon of beer. These were allowed to thaw in a large stainless bowl overnight and then the stick blender was used to break them up .

These were added to the beer in the secondary fermenters. It came to about 2.8l each.

Lower temp to 65F for 3 days then raise to 75 at 1 degree per day to finish off.


The stick blender turned out to be a horrible mistake for filtering (may have helped flavor, but was an unbearable PITA for filtering and kegging ). The fermented fruit pulp  matted up the various filters almost immediately.   I tried multiple methods to filter and not simultaneously oxygenate the beer. No clear winner here but the stainless filter, drawing from the bottom fermenter valve with very careful non-disturbance of the trub seemed to work best. Using a pump siphon just stirred everything up and led to a lot of mess and frustration as the filters (bag or stainless), had to be cleaned multiple times.

Here is the result posted by my daughter, Jessie.


Spent grain sourdough

Spent grain sourdough fresh from the oven

I have been experimenting more with sourdough breads and have made a few more variants of the spent grain sourdough.  I think this is a bit simpler.  I have been baking every week or every other so the 2 step starter feeding is not necessary.

When choosing your grains for the sourdough, consider that the bread will get baked and brown further. I tried one with the steeping grains from an Imperial Stout and that was too dark. Edible, but almost burnt tasting when toasted.

Today, I am using Briess Caramel 40 malt. This was from a Dead Ringer IPA extract kit (one of my favorites).


~3/4c of saved unfed starter

2c Bread flour – King Arthur

1 1/2 c – 1 3/4 c warm water.

Mix and set aside,  covered for 24 hours.   The starter should be a bit wetter than bread dough, but not runny. It will loosen up as it ferments as well. After 24 hours it is “gloopy”. Think of your kid / grand-kid’s container of Slime but stickier.

Bread dough

Fed starter – 1/2c which goes back in the crock in the fridge

2 -2.5c spent grains – well drained

1c bread flour – start with 3/4 c and see what the consistency is like

1/2 tsp baking yeast

Mix for 2 min

Rest for 15 min

Mix for 5 min

Add 1 tsp salt

Add 5 tsp cooking oil

Mix at medium speed until the oil is incorporated. Then slow down 2 2nd lowest setting on the Kitchenaid mixer and mix for another 10 min. Add flour as necessary to have a slack dough that pulls away form the sides of the bowl while mixing.

Cover with damp towel and let rise for 1 hour. Then fold several times adding flour if necessary.  Let rise for another hour. Fold several times and work into a ball.  This dough needs support from a pan. So, place in an oiled dutch oven. Cover and let rise for 2 hours.


Preheat the oven to 425F . Place a sheet pan in the bottom.

When the oven is hot, heat 1 c water in the microwave until boiling.

Working quickly, uncover the bread, slash the top and place the bread int he oven . Then pour the hot water on the sheet pan and close  the oven.   This bread completely filled the dutch oven with no room to rise (I may have let it rise a bit extra long while working inthe shop). Set timer for 15 min.   At 15 min insert thermometer probe and cook until the internal temp is 195-205F  depending on how brown you like the top.

A view inside

We have started taking the spent steeping grains and placing 2-2.5 c measured portions in the freezer so that the spent grains are available between brew days as I bake a lot more often than I brew.  1lb of grain will yield about 6-7c of well drained spent grains.

Sour beer success – Sour Cherry Sour

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts: Down the rabbit hole of sour beer , I have begun experimenting with sour beers and alternate fermentation methods. The first was the Backyard Berry Sour (Pink Beer) which will now be a staple of the beer selections. It is a kettle soured beer with lots of fruit added in secondary.   We have made 3 batches so far. It is delicious, but I still need to work on perfecting the filtering technique as the raspberries crumble and plug up the kegs and beer lines.

The second was a mixed fermentation with BE-134 and “All the Bretts”. This was based on the NB Dead Ringer with added Acidulated malt, flaked oats (for body)  and more DME and the bret yeast. It was a moderate success.  Very drinkable and  smooth but had too of a much “hoppy edge” in combination with the sourness of the Brett yeast. It was a “Good – but I’ll only have one” sort of beer.

The third was trying some brett yeast as a 3rd fermentation on a batch of chocolate milk stout that was too sweet for my liking (stuck fermentation?) . To make room for new beers the remains of hte chcoloate milk stout was placed in 3l jugs with 100ml of brett starter and left to sit in a dark corner for 3 months.  Interesting, sort of like a very dark chocolate in bitterness but not quite what I hoped for.

While doing yet more reading, I was intrigued with the idea of something closer to Russian River’s Supplication.  Plus, NB had a great special on Scottish Wee Heavy kits which would become the basis of the brew.

Being that this would be a high gravity brew I needed to make a starter.  I used Lallemand Nottingham yeast in 1.5l of water and 3/4 c DME on a stir plate for 24 hrs at about 63F. Omega “All the Bretts” OYL-218 was already bulging in the package, so I figured it was going fine as -is (warm shipping temps in October and no ice in the shipment).


Steeping grains

8 oz Acidulated malt

8 oz Flaked oats

8 oz Carapils crystal malt

6 oz biscuit malt

2 oz  Roasted Barley

Place the above ingredients in a couple of bags and steep for 30 min at 150F. Raise temp at the end to 170F and drain well (don’t be afraid to squeeze).

Now add

6 lb  Gold Malt extract (4.0 SRM)

1 oz Northern Brewer hop pellets

Boil for 60 min

15 min before the end, add

6 lbs Gold Malt extract

1 oz Willamette hop pellets

Chill quickly and add water to get 5 gal at about 63-65F. With my well water at about 50F, I need to have the wort down to about 75F before diluting.

To the chilled wort, add the starters. OG was approx 1.090.  Use a blow off tube, in case the fermentation is a bit rambunctious.  My basement ambient temp at this time, was 63-65F and the fermenter was placed directly on the concrete floor. Monitor the temperature and add heat as needed to hold temp.

Add 3/4 tsp Fermax yeast nutrient at day 3 (68F).   Do not let the temp  go down after it has risen.  I  started raising the temp 1F per day soon after so that at day 14 it was at 78F.

Transfer to secondary

With the beer in the secondary fermenter, the next ingredients were added:

21 oz dried Sweetened Montmorency Cherries

12 oz Zante Currants (small raisins)

The labels on both of the fruits indicated that there were no added oils (which would adversely impact head retention -but I am not so sure there were not).  The fruit had been heated to 160F for 30 min in a bit of water (enough to cover).  This was to get rid of any competing bacteria or yeast. However, the temp was low enough not to add a “cooked” flavor to the fruit.

Start ramping the temp 1F per day to 85F and hold there.

On the second or 3rd day, the fruit will float to the top as the fermentation restarts. Now it is a waiting game. Shake the fermenter vigorously every day to wet out the surface of the fruit. If the top layer of the fruit starts to dry out, you risk mold growth (likely bad)  .

At 4 weeks add 4 oz used toasted oak cubes. I had saved these from a previous batch of beer. I am not fond of the burnt character of the fresh oak cubes.  I rinsed the cubes briefly in Star San to avoid contamination rather than soaking in Bourbon or Rum. I wanted just the light oak character to come through

After 6-8 weeks the fruit will sink to the bottom. This is your indication that the secondary fermentation is complete.   Throughout the secondary fermentation the SG never really moved as measured with a hydrometer (I needed taste samples anyway). The floating fruit threw the Tilt Hydrometer way off. It ended up at 1.016

At the time of writing it is still only partially force carbonated and head is basically non-existent (dried fruit processing oils?).

Dates / times

Start – 11/3/19

Transfer to secondary  11/17/19

Keg 1/25/20

This seems to be a success. I need a few others to taste it. I am getting ready to do another batch, maybe shifting more towards the currants  or trying frozen cherries instead of dried. It almost begs for a hint of cinnamon as well. I will try some experiments in the meantime before committing to a whole batch.


Spent Grain Sourdough

With a little planning ahead a brewing day can also be a baking day.   I  am doing extract brewing and the spent specialty grains are perfect for baking.   The cooked grains are rich in fiber, have lower carbs and add great texture (yes, even with the husks present).

Given that many of my beers are high gravity I need to make a starter for the beer. The sourdough also requires a starter. So why not do both in parallel?

Spent grain sourdough bread

Day T-2   Pull your sourdough starter from the fridge and mix with 1 cup all purpose flour and 3/4 c water.   Mix well, cover and allow to rise at room temp.

Day T-1  Make the starter for the beer. I typically use 1.5 l water and 3/4 c DME. Bring to a boil in an erlenmeyer flask, including the stir bar, with a foil cover .   Remove from heat and quickly cool in a snowbank or ice water (brewing in the winter does have some advantages for cooling). Rehydrate the yeast per the mfr instructions if using dry yeast, add to the flask and then put on the stir plate.

Add to the sourdough starter. Add another 1 1/4 c flour and 3/4-1 c water to have  a heavy sticky dough.  Cover and let rise at room temp.    Make sure you keep the sourdough work well away from the beer starter or you will risk contamination. Doing the additions in 2 stages, seems to yield more consistent results.

Sourdough starter a few hours after 2nd addition


Brew and baking day

Steep the specialty grains per the beer recipe drain well and cool.   For the bread pictured above,  this was Caramunich III.       By the time you are done brewing,  the grains will be cool enough for baking.


Place the sourdough starter in the mixer bowl reserving 2/3 cup to save for the next batch.

Add 2.5 cups of the spent grains – they should be just damp at this point. Wring out if too moist

Add 2 c bread flour (King Arthur)

1 tsp dry yeast (SAF Instant)

Mix lightly and then rest for 10-15 min.

Continue mixing for 3 min. This should be a very sticky ball, mostly pulling away from the sides of the mixer .  You may have to adjust with more flour or water but do not be tempted to make it too firm.

Add 1tsp fine sea salt. Mix for another 2 min.   The salt firms up the dough, so don’t add too early or the texture will not be as nice.

Cover the bowl with a very damp warm kitchen towel and place in the oven to proof. Ours has a bread proofing (100F) setting.  Let rise for 1.5 hours.

Take the dough our and place on a floured counter. Pull and fold 5-8 times.  It will still be very sticky but this evens out the texture.

Place in a large pan or dutch oven and oil the inside well (olive oil or butter).  Cover and rise again for another 1-1.5 hours at 100F. The dough should have risen about 2.5 times.

Preheat oven to 425 F

Place bread covered in the oven for 15-20 min.

Remove the lid, set for convection baking. Insert temperature probe and bake until the internal temp is 195F (15-30 min).   Itis best to go by temp rather than time.   The Thermoworks Chefalarm with the Pro Series Needle Probe is perfect. I also use this for brewing as the probe is waterproof.

Remove and turn onto a rack to cool and serve (unless your spouse beats you to it for the first slice (as mine did in the photo above).  Serve with a glass from a previous batch of your beer.

While you may be tempted to interleave the baking and brewing work during the boil, I would recommend against it. The sourdough has a variety of yeasts and bacteria in it that would definitely not be beneficial to your beer.   I have learned the hard way not to taste the raw sourdough!

Note that previously I had tried adding brewing grains (dry) as part of the flour for the bread and the texture was not that good. The steeping of the grains for brewing makes a huge difference in the bread. I will also try increasing the proportion of spent grain in the future as well as mixing with other flours.  I am really intrigued with trying rye and oats as the spent grains.  There is much room for experimentation, based on this successful base recipe.

Down the rabbit hole of sour beer

Over time I have had a few sour beers,  but I had not done much exploration of the genre. After the success of the Backyard Berry Sour a.k.a. Pink Beer, I wanted to explore them more broadly. Unfortunately, Wisconsin is seemingly  not on the sour beer  distribution web  (if one exists). A few trips out East and careful scrounging for sour beers locally additionally piqued my interest.   However, the prices ($13-23 / 4 pack) were at the upper end of my price range.

I did however decide that based on my tastings that I wanted to try my hand at “brett beers”. That is, those that are fermented with the aid of Brettanomyces cultures rather than just sticking with the safer kettle soured (Lactobacillus culture) beers.  To most brewers and vintners, having Brett in the brew is a sign of contamination and when not intentionally added, leads to off flavors, gushers (beers that spray forth when opened) and bottle bombs (don’t wait for a human to open them).

More research was in order, so I could make my own. Hopefully with some controls so I could brew conventional beers and keep the brett monster in its place.  The first purchase was  “American Sour Beers” which provides a great overview of the processes, methods and recipes.   The second was “Yeast” which covers the use of yeast in brewing as well as the necessary scientific methods (proper culturing / propagation, cell counting, viability testing, etc). Both of these appealed to my inner engineer.  I was especially impressed with the writing style in Yeast, where one of the authors (Chris White of White Labs ) does not make this a pedestal to promote his own products but rather uses them as infrequent examples – great restraint.

Next was the need for a bit more equipment.  There is the fear and potential problem of accidental cross contamination.  So it is best to keep all plastic parts separate between the regular and Brett beers. That means fermenters, hoses, stoppers, siphon, wine thief, lids, Tilt hydrometer, etc.   I also purchased a microscope and hemocytometer to do some cell counting (OK this was just for the inner geek but fun anyway).   I do also practice double sanitization (once after washing everything after brewing and once before brewing) both as a good general practice and to avoid accidental cross contamination.

So more or less prepared, I ordered the ingredients along with both kinds of yeast needed.   I am not yet ready to jump into brett only fermentations so I followed the recommendations and stated with a Belgian style ale yeast – SafAle BE-134 for primary fermentation and Omega Yeast – All the Bretts  for the brett culture. I have used BE-134 in a number of beers and like it but the All the Bretts was the only Brett yeast in stock locally in late summer.

Next- on to the brewing.

Backyard Berry Sour a.k.a Pink Beer

My first experiment with sour beers was a kettle soured beer with fruit. It proved to be very popular and resulted in another 2 batches being made this past summer.

Kettle souring is a “safe” technique in that it uses cultured lactic acid bacteria in the wort before the boil. The boil  kills the bacteria and there is no worry about them running away (making an excessively sour beer) or contaminating the rest of your brewing gear.

This beer is based on the Northern Brewer Funktional Fruit Sour.   Without repeating the recipe, here are the highlights from Batch 1

Day 1  (friday night) Boil the malt only wort for 5 min and then cool to 80-85F.   Leave it in the brew kettle.  Add the lactobacillus culture and cover.  Heat must be applied. My Spike 10 gal Brew Kettle can be set up with a side mount thermo well into which the thermo probe is inserted and the heater wrapped around.  Initial pH was 6.5

Day 2 make up the starter.  1.3 l water, 3/4 DME boil and cover the flask with aluminum foil. Chill to 68f. Add the yeast. So far,  there have been 3 batches  T-58, BE-134 and EC1138   I like the T58 the best for this one.

Day 3 (Monday eve) The pH has dropped to 3.53 – nice and tart.  Now We continue with the brew. Do this per the recipe  including primary fermentation.  2/3 tsp Fermax was added per batch .

10-14 days later transfer to secondary  SG 1.017

Add the fruit. All of the fruit had been frozen, then heated to a boil, and mashed with a “motor boat” style stick mixer to break it up. Each 5 gal batch required :

  • 2lbs frozen Blueberries,
  • 1lb mixed frozen fruit (Raspberries, strawberries and blackberries),
  • 12 oz frozen blackberries
  •  1lb frozen cranberries

The blueberries all came from my garden. While I grow the others, including high bush cranberries, I do not get enough for brewing so I have to resort to store bought frozen.

I still do not have the perfect technique for managing the berry pulp in the fermenter. The first batch I just dumped it in.  This required twice filtering to keep the keg from plugging with bits of pulp.  The second and 3rd batches I placed in fine mesh bags and then in the fermenter but they were too “floaty” trapping the C02. I tried venting them with 1/2″ pvc pipe but this was not great either. They still floated.   I shook the fermenter daily to attempt to keep things mixed up and prevent mold growth (if the fruit on top dries out it is susceptible to mold).

Batch 1  5 days primary, 14 days secondary  OG 1.054, FG1.02

Batches 2&3  Additional 1.5 lbs golden light DME per batch above the kit fermentables.

10 days primary, 35 days secondary     Added EC1118 yeast i batch 3 in secondary    Batch 2 OG 1.070 FG 1.007, Batch 3 OG1.073  FG 1.009

Transferring the first batch to the keg. 2 more filtering passes were required.

As you can see the beer is a brilliant PINK.

The FG ranged form 1.007 to 1.009  across the batches.   This is a family favorite. All of the ladies love it, especially those that don’t care for the IPAs and Imperial Stouts that I do otherwise.  The girls have requested that I keep it on hand for all family gatherings and summer boating.

Note that some articles suggest removing the precipitate from the kettle souring step. The lactobacillus layer on the bottom of the kettle can scorch and create a burnt rubber flavor.  Tip for my next batch.



Pliny Plus IIPA

Like many of my brews this started with a kit – Northern Brewer Plinian Legacy. This is a “clone” of the impossible to find in Wisconsin, Russian River Pliny The Elder .

I wanted a very strong Imperial IPA so I also added to the kit an additional pound of golden DME at the start of the 90 minute boil.

Prior to brewing, I made a starter with 1.5 liters of water, 1 cup DME this was brought to a boil in the erlenmeyer flask with an aluminum foil cap and then chilled in an ice water bath. Once it was cool enough – 68F I added the BE134 yeast.  This went on the stir plate for 24 hours. This is a highly attenuating Belgian style yeast that also withstands high alcohol content.

Prior to chilling I added 2 tsp of Fermax yeast nutrient.

The cooled wort was oxygenated for 3 minute.

As I have learned in subsequent brews,  you need a cool start (63-65F) to prevent this yeast from getting going too vigorously and the temperature rocketing up. In this case, I started at 68-69F which was the same as the basement temp and it rose after a few days to 74F.  This batch also required a large blow off tube.

Initially, I had a  1/2″ ID blow off tube  and the lid blew off the Big Mouth Bubbler making a bit of a mess.  I have latches to prevent the lids from simply walking out the top.  So I switched to the big blow off tube (1″ ID).  Another option I discovered later, is to add the yeast nutrient at day 3  to level the fermentation rate out a bit.   In the photo above, besides the Pliny Plus with the top blown off,  you can see also 2 batches of the “Pink Beer” in secondary fermentation and the “Brett Ringer” in primary (another post yet to come).


date SG temp
09/01/19 1.084 69
09/02/19 1.067 71
09/03/19 1.0344 74
09/04/19 1.0267 72
09/05/19 1.0233 73
09/06/19 1.02 73
09/20/19 1.01 75
10/02/19 1.078 68

As you can see, imperfect temperature control , both in starting a bit warm and then when it hit peak, not holding that temp.    I do not have anything to cool the fermenting beer other than the cement floor and ambient air temp (no chiller – yet).  I did ramp the temp back up after the first week a bit to help keep the fermentation going. The fermenter was vigorously shaken 1-2 times per day to help keep the yeast from settling out too early

This beer has a high amount of hops and hop extract in it.  The fermenter was sticky with hop extractives when I transferred to the secondary .

Calculated ABV was 9.7%.

When transferring from primary to secondary (9/19/19) when the first of the dry hop additions was done it had a harsh flavor and a “burn” in the throat. This greatly smoothed out later.

Taste was great when kegged and served.


Basement sink area remodel

When we built the house I had a utility sink put in the basement shop. It has served well over the years but the lack of a counter-top and ugly old file cabinets for tool storage coupled with being a cold area in the winter due to the walls being half exposed, it was time for a remodel.   This area is under our dinette. The space is also used for paint / finish storage, metal lathe and some lumber storage.

The new area had to have a large sink – big enough for brew kettles, fermenters and kegs.  Dual faucets – one high reach for cleaning and a second with garden hose connection for an immersion cooler for brewing.  Solid surface counter top and storage that looks nice were also required.

First step was to pull the sink, remove the old file cabinets and storage shelves. Next the two walls were covered with plastic vapor barrier, framed in, electrical roughed in, plumbing roughed in with the valves installed (needed to have the water back on), insulation installed and the dry wall done.  Pretty basic stuff.

Now the fun began. The starting point was the sink, a 36″ Ruvati farm house stainless was ordered. A high arch Kohler faucet was found on sale and the Kohly utility sink faucet was ordered. FOr utility faucets, you need to check that they are NSF approved for drinking water – many are not.    A trip to the Baraboo Habitat for Humanity Restore provided the quartz counter top pieces.  Birch plywood was procured for the cabinetry and I had some maple lumber already on hand for the face frame and the edges of the planned shaker style doors and drawer faces.

Cabinet walls are 3/4 ” birch plywood. These were screwed and shimmed to the end walls and the intermediate pieces were placed to allow for a 5-6″ counter lip to the left of the sink and approximately equal sized ranks of drawers to the right of the sink.

Using pocket screws the assembly goes quickly. I just have the Kreg mini jig and their clamp (which is very nice). A few of the pocket holes had to be done with the jig held by hand. Using double stick carpet tape on the back of the jig helps tremendously.

First test with the sink.   The braces need to be moved so that the sink ends up 1/4″ or so under the counter top to allow the top to be installed and pieces epoxied together. The braces are held up by blocks screwed to the cabinet sides. This allows for easy adjustment and is very secure without the need for fancy joinery. The braces rest on the blocks and have a couple of pocket screws to prevent twisting under load

The day I had to cut and polish the top and edges was miserable: 35 dropping to 31 degrees, drizzle turned to rain and then snow as I was outside wet sawing and wet grinding and polishing the edges. I came afterwards in a soaked and frozen popsicle.  Paul came and helped lift the larger piece into place.  The faucet and soap dispenser holes were cut in the back piece prior to installation.  The 3 pieces were glued with thick 30 minute epoxy.  Below you can see the counter top installed, glued in place. Next the top joints were ground and polished flush.

Next the sink was inserted (I could have left a bit more room). Clear silicone was applied to the top lip of the sink and then it was wedged upwards into position. The backsplash is made of marble mosaic tiles (another close out special). Marble has the advantage of having finished edges unlike many mosaic tiles.

The drawers are simple plywood boxes with drawer lock joints. This is a fast, strong and easy way to make the drawers and all you need is a table saw.  Below is a close up of one of the joints.  

The drawers are mounted to full extension K&V slides. I added spacer blocks on the inside of the cabinet so the slides would clear the face frame. This was far less expensive than the special face frame brackets for the slides would have been, plus I did not have a plywood back on the cabinets which is needed for the rear brackets if they are used.  Drawers are  8, 10 and 11″ tall allowing room for power tool storage.

Shaker style doors are easy to make on the table saw. All of the pieces get a 3/8″ deep dado and the rails get 3/8″ tenons on the ends. The plywood panels are also glued in place in a few spots adding to the rigidity. 

Finish is 3 coats of satin water based polyurethane that was brushed on.   Tools are in the drawers and the space is ready for the next batch of beer.