Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Homebrew for the Holidays

It truly is the best time of year, for homebrewers that is.  I'm sure many brewers out there will take some time this holiday season to brew up something new, but hopefully not something blue (I hate blueberry in beer).  Personally, I hope to complete my first partigyle mash (i.e. multiple beers from the same mash).  The first beer is a rather ambitious project that I am hopeful will stand up to the test of time.  I'm aiming to brew a big english barleywine for my nephew's first birthday this April.  The idea is that this is a beer that his parent's could enjoy every year on his birthday until his 21st birthday ( called the "21 year itch ale").  I'm sure this beer will be great for the next couple of years, but I'm not sure if it will hold up for over two decades.  The recipe is based on Gordon Strong's 7 year itch ale from his Brewing Better Beer.  The second beer will be an English Strong ale that I plan to age in my new Christmas gift (from Mrs. HolzBrew):

In addition to this beauty, I also received a gorgeous set of pint glasses designed by my brother-in-law and sister-in-law:

What a fantastic gift!

Happy Holidays,


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cleansing Waters

I spent little time yesterday thoroughly cleansing several fermenters that were badly in need.  No brew this weekend, but next weekend I'm planning a partigyle brew day.  The first beer will be a high gravity English barleywine that I hope ages well for many years to come.  The second brew is going to be a strong ale aged in a whiskey barrel.  This is my first foray into partigyle brewing.  Hopefully all goes well.

Keep it clean,


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Hoosier Red Ale

It's been a busy month or two and I haven't had much time for brewing (or blogging).  That being said, I managed to carve out a few hours this morning to brew up a red ale that I have had the ingredients for some time.  I wanted something with a reasonable ABV that would be great on draft.  Lately, most of the commercial red ales I've tried have been really hop-forward, which is great.  Because I can buy great hoppy red ales, I decided to go in the other direction and shoot for a malt focused red.  I snapped a couple of photos when I was setting up the mash this morning.

Mrs. HolzBrew and I got out yesterday afternoon for a hike in Brown County State Park.  It's been a great fall weekend here in Southern Indiana. 

Hoosier Red Ale

Style: American Amber Ale
Type:Calories: 178
Rating: 0.0Boil Size: 5.85 Gal
IBU's: 27.77Batch Size: 5.00 Gal
Color:   15.6 SRM  Boil Time: 75 minutes
Preboil OG: 1.052

Brew Date:-11/11/2012
ABV:5.90 %5.89 %
Efficiency:70 %70 %
Serve Date:12/07/2012/ /

Fermentation Steps
NameDays / TempEstimatedActual
Primary7 days @ 68.0°F11/11/201211/11/2012
Secondary19 days @ 72.0°F11/18/2012-
Grains & Adjuncts
8.00 lbs68.09 %Crisp Maris Otter60 mins1.038
1.00 lbs8.51 %Fawcett Torrified Wheat60 mins1.035
1.50 lbs12.77 %Briess Mild Malt, Ashburne60 mins1.036
0.50 lbs4.26 %Crisp Crystal Dark 77L60 mins1.035
0.50 lbs4.26 %Caramel/Crystal Malt - 40L60 mins1.034
0.25 lbs2.13 %Fawcett Pale Chocolate60 mins1.030
AmountIBU'sNameTimeAA %
1.00 ozs21.04Brewers Gold60 mins6.20
1.00 ozs6.74Styrian Goldings15 mins4.00
AmountNameLaboratory / ID
1.0 pkgSafale S-04Fermentis S-04
1.00 ozOrange Peel01 minsBoil

Mash Profile

Medium Body Infusion In60 min @ 152.0°F
 Add 14.69 qt ( 1.25 qt/lb ) water @ 166.0°F

 Sparge 16.84 qt of 170.0°F water over 60 mins

The Redder the Better,


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Trappist Cider

A few weeks ago I picked up a a few gallons of organic cider here in town at Bloomingfoods.  I racked this cider on to a yeast cake left over from the primary fermentation of the sour dubbel I brewed a bout a month ago.  I like the idea of a cider fermented with Trappist ale yeast, something along the lines of The Saint by Crispin.  Last night I back-sweetened and kegged it.  One thing that I always forget to do when making cider is to add pectin enzyme to help clear up the pectin haze.  Oh well, we'll just have to enjoy it in its natural murky brown state.

I had just finished cleaning some wood cubes and chips that I used in the bourbon stout I brewed a few months ago and decided to toss them into the keg for some added complexity.  While I usually wouldn't recommend wood aging beer prior to serving, it just felt right.



Sunday, September 16, 2012

Dubbel the fun

I managed to find some time this morning to brew a Trappist-style Dubbel.  Pictured above is the belgian candi rock sugar that the Trappist beers are well known for using.  As you might expect, I plan to do something a little different with this brew.  In a few weeks after the primary fermentation is complete, I intend to spike this holy brew with some wild yeast (and bacteria) and sour it.  That being said, I may bottle a few beers before pitching the wild bugs, because a nice clean belgian dubbel would be welcomed around the house.

Sour Dubbel

Style: Belgian Dubbel
Type: All GrainCalories: 197
Rating: 4.0Boil Size: 5.88 Gal
IBU's: 24.38Batch Size: 5.00 Gal
Color:   35.9 SRM  Boil Time: 90 minutes
Preboil OG: 1.056

Brew Date:-09/16/2012
ABV:5.76 %6.0 %
Efficiency:70 %70 %
Serve Date:11/04/2012/ /

Fermentation Steps
NameDays / TempEstimatedActual
Primary14 days @ 73.0°F09/16/201209/16/2012
Secondary21 days @ 72.0°F09/30/2012-
Bottle/Keg14 days @ 74.0°F10/21/2012-
Grains & Adjuncts
10.00 lbs81.63 %Pale Malt (2 Row) Bel60 mins1.037
0.50 lbs4.08 %Caramunich Malt60 mins1.033
0.25 lbs2.04 %Special B Malt60 mins1.030
1.50 lbs12.24 %Candi Sugar, Dark15 mins1.036
AmountIBU'sNameTimeAA %
1.00 ozs19.63Tradition60 mins6.00
1.00 ozs4.75Hallertauer Hersbrucker10 mins4.00
AmountNameLaboratory / ID
1.0 pkgBelgian AleWyeast Labs 1214
Mash Profile

Sacch' Rest60 min @ 154.0°F
 Add 16.12 qt ( 1.50 qt/lb ) water @ 168.7°F

Mashout10 min @ 170.0°F
 Heat to 170.0°F over 2 mins

 Sparge 14.98 qt of 170.0°F water over 60 mins

Dubbel your fun,

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Saaz Monster Rehash

I'll admit it, I've never been good about systematically rehashing recipes after I've brewed them here on the blog.  I love how The Mad Fermentationist revisits his brews religiously, so that you the viewer learn about the beer over its entire life cycle.  Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't.  I'm trying to get better.

A few weeks ago I kegged the Saaz Monster clone (renamed "Doctor Dayton's Magic Mustache Ale")  that I discussed a few months ago here and it was not good.  Neither Mrs. HolzBrew or myself have been able to put a finger on what exactly isn't great about it but we both know its not great.  I can only describe the flavor as "muddled."  A strange description I realize, but I think if you tried it you would agree that it lacks direction.  It has a decent biscuity flavor with some hop earthiness from all the saaz, but in order to throw it closer to a fresh hop flavor I decided to dry hop the keg with 2oz. of cascade hop leafs.  While not the direction I originally expected to go with this brew I think it can only help.  Citrus hop flavor is always welcome in the HolzBrew household.

I'll let you how my curve ball turns out.  Hopefully it will break in my direction, but if not its out of here.

Also, I plan to brew a dubbel this weekend that I eventually hope to sour.  Lastly, I think I'll try my hand at another hard cider this fall, so be on the look out for more ...

Viva el mustachio,  


Monday, September 10, 2012

What is craft beer?

A question you see in every beer magazine and scattered across the interwebs is, "What is craft beer?"  Often times this discussion is framed by the Brewer's Association ("BA") as it struggles with who is allowed to call themselves "Craft Brewers."  In January of last year the BA amended its previous definition of craft brewer, in what I refer to as the "Sam Adams compromise", to include all small independent breweries producing 6 million barrel of beer a year or less.  To a guy who brews maybe 60 gallons of beer a year, 6 million barrels sounds pretty darn large, but I am not a for-profit entity so I digress.  I understand that the BA is an industry group who derives much of its funding from its members, so it doesn't make sense to kick out your biggest due-paying members because of some arbitrary size qualification.  I mean its basic economics, folks.

There are lots of definitions of craft beer, so I won't pretend this is a unique post, but I thought I'd give it a whirl.  I think that we can easily agree on the second word, beer.  Beer has been defined for hundreds of years, as a fermented malt beverage consisting of malted cereal grains, water, hops, and yeast.  Additionally, I'd add that beer also may contain other food products such as fruit or spices for flavoring.  I doubt that definition would rouse much debate.  Therefore, the controversial part of the definition is the word "craft."

To me, "craft" connotes a passion for the product produced.  Sure a brewery has to make money to keep the lights on and pay the bills, and the brewers and owners like money just as much as any red-blooded capitalist.  My American heart appreciates this fact.  That being said, when a decision has to be made regarding how to use the limited resources controlled by that brewery, a craft-oriented passionate brewer will invest in the quality of the product above other expenditures like marketing or distribution.  The thing that frustrates beer geeks like myself the most about macro brewers like Anheuser Busch is that they spend millions of dollars on marketing when they could instead spend that money on making the actual beer taste better.

Support your local breweries,

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The fruit of our labor

While not particularly beer related, I thought the picture below succinctly summarized the summer we experienced here in southern Indiana:

The only tomato grown this summer on our budding tomato plant

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Move over Olympics, here comes Shark Week!!!

It's that time again.  The most wonderful week of television viewing of the year, Shark Week!  While typically in July, Shark Week got deferred due to those pesky Olympics.  Michael Phelps, who??? The 25th anniversary of Shark Week stops for no man.  It would definitely be an appropriate week to buy a few dogfish head ales and kick back and watch the sharks fly.  In honor of this most cherished week, I brewed a bourbon stout.  Anyone got an idea for a name?  Big Bite Bourbon Stout?  Sounds Ok, but I need something better.  When naming a beer always remember, people love alliterations.  It's fool proof.

Bourbon Stout

Style: American Stout

Type: All Grain
Calories: 181
Boil Size: 5.83 Gal
IBU's: 54.18
Batch Size: 5.00 Gal
Color: 43.3 SRM
Boil Time: 60 minutes

Brew Date:-08/11/2012

Estimated   Actual

OG:1.056   1.053

FG:1.010    ???
ABV:6.03 %
Efficiency:70 %  66 %

Serve Date:10/17/2012

Fermentation Steps

NameDays / TempEstimatedActual

Primary7 days @ 72.0°F

Secondary60 days @ 72.0°F

Grains & Adjuncts

10.00 lbs Pale Malt, Maris Otter60 mins1.038

1.00 lbs   Chocolate Malt60 mins1.034

0.50 lbs    Black (Patent) Malt60 mins1.025

3.00 ozs    Briess 2-Row Caramel 120L60 mins1.032

5.00 ozs    Briess 2-Row Caramel 80L60 mins1.033


1.00 ozs Chinook 60 mins

1.00 ozs  Fuggles 15 mins

1.00 ozs  Fuggles 5 mins


AmountNameLaboratory / ID

1.0 pkgSafale S-04Fermentis S-04



2.00 ozOak Chips60 daysSecondary

8.00 ozBourbon60 daysSecondary

Mash Profile

Medium Body Infusion In60 min @ 152.0°F

Add 15.00 qt ( 1.25 qt/lb ) water @ 166.0°F

Medium Body Infusion Out10 min @ 168.0°F

Add 7.80 qt ( 0.65 qt/lb ) water @ 196.0°F


Sparge 8.76 qt of 170.0°F water over 60 mins

Get bitten,

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The End of Summer 2012

Well its over folks, I hope you enjoyed it.  Summer 2012 is officially done.  As you all know the end of summer has been successfully identified by this blog going on five years strong.  This year you were robbed almost three weeks of the summer season in comparison to last year.  Blame it on the Obama administration, an election year, or global warming, regardless its just science.  Interestingly enough this is not the earliest end of summer in recent memory, Summer 2009 ended on August 7th, check the records.

For the unacquainted, the summer officially ends when I enjoy my first Oktoberfest.  Tonight around 7pm, I was informed by the waitress at Nick's Pub in downtown Bloomington that they now had Sam Adams Okfest on draft as a seasonal offering.  Mrs. HolzBrew and I promptly ordered two 'fests and toasted the beginning of fall.  Sam Okfest as always was solid, no surprises, but always refreshing.

With summer over, we can now roll into the best season of the year, Hokie Football season.  The leaves will be changing colors and the boys in maroon and orange are hard at work trying to figure out how we will get points on the board this year.  Personally, I'm a bit nervous about our offensive prospects, but there is always reliable 'ole St. Bud (Foster) to help pull us up by our bootstraps and put a whooping on opposing offenses.  You have to believe (and respect the Sandman)!

Let's Go Hokies,

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Such Great Heights

Standing on top of Independence Pass (12,095 ft)
 My torrid love affair with the state of Colorado resumed last week as Mrs. HolzBrew and I visited Boulder and Vail on vacation.  The trip was largely made possible by my fun loving in-laws, for which I am eternally grateful.  The trip involved plenty of hiking, cycling, and eating and of course plentiful consumption of Colorado craft beer.

A highlight of the trip involved a visit to the Avery Brewing Co taproom for beer and dinner.  While we tasted several beers at the taproom, the most remarkable beers I tried were the Lilikoi Kepolo and the Columbus/Chinook IPA.  The Lilikoi Kepolo as described by Avery is, "... slightly sour and on the palate is very fruity, with plenty of wheat, a hint of citrus and generous taste of yeast. The mouth feel is dry, yet refreshing, which makes for the perfect early summer drink."  I couldn't agree more!  This is definitely the king (or should I say Queen?) of summer beers.  As mentioned, the Columbus/Chinook IPA was really good as well.  I was skeptical at first as many Chinook beers to me taste overly earthy, but this IPA had more to offer.  Maybe I should reconsider brewing with Chinook (for those who are unfamiliar, Chinook is a type of American hop).

In other news, I should be bottling my first brew in Bloomington, Hoosier Daddy IPA, this week.  Also, as I mentioned in my previous post, upon my return from Colorado I was greeted by approximately 15 lbs. of wheat from a friend in Kansas.  I need to learn how to clean and malt wheat.  Does anyone know how?  If so, please drop me a line.  I'm thinking of brewing a Trappist fermented wheat wine with it.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

'Tis the season for ... wheat

To deal with the 100 degree heat, Mrs. HolzBrew and I have recently been on a wheat brew kick.  Wheat beers are brewed with a large quantity of ... wheat (no surprises there), but they may also contain malted barley.  Wheat beers are typically "top-fermented", meaning they are brewed with an ale yeast strain.  Additionally, they are usually low IBU beers (read: not hoppy), however, some American wheat ales do not keep in line with that sweeping generalization.

While there are many beers that contain wheat, generally speaking there are two major categories of wheat ale, the Belgian Witbiers and the German Weizen (Western and Northern Germany) or Weiss (Bavaria) beers.  On the German side of the ledger, most people are familiar with the hefeweizen.  The style is particularly noted for its high carbonation and low hop bitterness.  Further, another defining characteristic of the hefeweizen beer is its distinctive phenolic character.  This flavor is oftentimes described as "clove."  Other distinctive flavors include "banana" and "bubblegum" and Mrs. HolzBrew's least favorite "band-aid." 

We recently picked up seven German Hefes at Big Red here in town for comparison (Weihenstephaner not pictured above).  We drank them two at a time (except the Weihenstephaner, which we drank seperately) and this how the match ups turned out:

Hofbrau v. Paulaner:  Winner --> Paulaner

Erdinger v. Hacker-Pschorr:  Winner --> Hacker-Pschorr

Ayinger vs. Scheiderweisse:  Winner --> Scheiderweisse
On another note, a really nice guy we met on a flight out to Colorado a few months back, just happened to be a wheat farmer from Kansas.  After finding out that I was a homebrewer he offered to send us some wheat that I could use to brew with.  I just recieved an email from him this week saying that his wheat harvest was all done and that our wheat was in the mail.  I'm excited to see how much is coming our way.  And I'm a little intimidated about trying to malt a significant quantity of harvested wheat.  I've never malted grain before, I usually just buy it malted.  Regardless, it should be an adventure.  If we are sent a decent amount (15 lbs+), I'm thinking about brewing a wheat wine with it.  Here is a picture from Jason of our wheat being harvested:

Drink your wheat!


Sunday, July 1, 2012

It didn't take long ...

So I've been in Indiana since Monday and it just felt like it was time to brew.  This afternoon in 100 degree heat, I brewed a recipe that I conceived several months ago, an Indiana Pale Ale (Hoosier Daddy IPA).  I haven't brewed a good old American IPA in years and it just felt like the right first brew here in the Hoosier state.  For my birthday I received a Blichmann Propane Burner, thanks Mom!  Needless to say I was excited to give it a spin.  This was also the first time I have ever brewed outside, which was great (minus the heat).  Cleaning mash tuns and brew pots is ten times easier with a hose versus your kitchen sink.  The burner also came with leg extensions which I completely forgot to install until after the brew was complete.

The only major problem I ran into was during chilling.  As you would imagine the ground water is pretty warm right now.  My immersion chiller was only able to get me down to around 90 degrees.  I had to implement alternative measures to drop down to 68 degrees for yeast pitching.  I decided to fill a number of freezer bags with ice and dunk them in the cooling wort.  I put the ice in the freezer bag since it had not been boiled and I also didn't want to water down my wort.  The risk is that the freezer bags weren't completely sterile and they introduced some sort of contaminant to the cooling wort.  That being said I have used this technique before without any serious repercussions, but it always makes me uneasy.  I managed to hit my target OG of 1.070 almost exactly, however, I wound up with about 4 gallons of wort when everything was said and done.  I must have had more evaporation and loss due to the significant hop schedule than I had expected.

I must say that I really like the Blichmann Burner.  I got the pot heated in half the time as before.  Having never brewed with propane before (previously stove top) I wasn't aware just how must propane is used during a brew day.  I doubt I could get two complete brew days out of a full tank of propane.  Maybe I'll become more efficient with time.

Praying for the end of the heat wave,


Monday, June 18, 2012

HolzBrew is Moving!

Sadly the brewery has been packed up, but brewing will resume upon arrival in Bloomington, Indiana in a few weeks.  Stay tuned.

Lets go Hokies and Hoosiers!


Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Church Brew Works

A few weeks ago, Meg and I were up in Pittsburgh for a wedding and we had a little time before the service started. As you'd probably expect, my brain started thinking of a cool beer related thing to do. Several years ago I remembered reading an article in Beer Advocate magazine about a church that was converted into a brewery. Through the modern magic of the iPhone (Meg's not mine. I've got a BB, frowny face.) I was able to find the address and operating hours of the Church Brew Works. Upon entering, we were blown away by the shear sight of this fantastic establishment. The picture above is an accurate depiction of what the inside of this place looks like. Just stunning! They actually brew where the altar used to be.

We promptly got seated in an old converted pew and ordered lunch and brew (rhyme intended). We both order a Pittsburgh buffalo chicken salad which included French fries in the salad (people in the ‘burgh will put fries on freaking everything). The salads were tasty, but the brew was even better. I got the opportunity to try the Saaz Monster and the Dunkel. Both brews were incredible, but the Saaz Monster really stood out in my head, because it never occurred to me to highly hop a brew with Saaz hops before. I love using Saaz as aroma hops in Belgian ale, but I’ve never experimented with them in other beers.

A few days later I emailed the brewery and inquired about the recipe. Steve Sloan, the brewery manager, was kind enough to get back to me with some solid parameters to attempt a homebrew clone of this beer. If you are in Pittsburgh and have a couple of extra hours, find this place. You will not regret it! Below is my first shot at a Saaz Monster clone recipe. I hope to brew it sometime this fall.

Saaz Monster Clone

Style: Unassigned    
OG: 1.064
Type: All Grain    
FG: 1.016
ABV: 6.29 %
Calories: 209
IBU's: 42.86
Efficiency: 70 %
Boil Size: 5.83 Gal
Color: 6.8 SRM
Batch Size: 5.00 Gal

Boil Time: 60 minutes

Fermentation Steps

NameDays / Temp

Primary 7 days @ 62.0°F

Secondary 21 days @ 70.0°F

Grains & Adjuncts

Amount Percentage Name Time Gravity

13.00 lbs  92.86 % Pale Malt (2 Row) US60 mins 1.036

1.00 lbs  7.14 % Melanoiden Malt60 mins 1.037


Amount IBU's Name Time AA %

2.00 ozs 25.13 Saaz First Wort 4.00

2.00 ozs 15.22 Saaz 20 mins 4.00

2.00 ozs 0.00 Saaz 0 mins 4.00

2.00 ozs Saaz 7 days4.00


AmountNameLaboratory / ID

1.0 pkgKolsch YeastWyeast Labs 2565

Mash Profile

Medium Body Infusion In60 min @ 154.0°F

Add 17.50 qt ( 1.25 qt/lb ) water @ 170.9°F


Sparge 15.10 qt of 170.0°F water over 60 mins

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Social Networking for Beer Geeks

I discovered an app a couple of weeks ago that is pretty cool, Untappd.  I unfortunately do not have an iPhone or Droid device (sad to say that I am still a Blackberry user, ughh).  Currently I am using this app on my iPad.

Essentially its an app that lets you log in the brews you are drinking and give them a simple 1-5 rating and jot down some notes if you'd like.  Those "reviews" are then available to other friends also using Untappd.  It also links up with twitter, foursquare, and facebook fairly seamlessly.

Give it a try, it's free so why not?  If you end up using it, make sure to "friend" your boy.  My screen name is, you guessed it, HolzBrew.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Interview with a Brewery Owner: Port City Brewing

Several years ago, Bill Butcher recognized that there was a growing thirst for high quality beer in the DC area.  Further, upon assessing the landscape at the time he realized there was little in the way of local competition.  The result was the birth of Port City Brewing in Alexandria, VA.  You may consider him a savvy business man, but I say he's a local craft beer hero! Fortunately, Bill was kind enough to spend some time answering some of my questions.  Enjoy!

Holz: How did you guys get your start in professional brewing?

Bill: Jonathan Reeves is our Head Brewer. He has been brewing professionally for about 17 years, and has brewed up and down the East Coast. He has successfully managed startups in his career and has won 5 medals at the Great American Beer Festivals as well as dozens of regional awards. He is self taught, and got his start as an apprentice at a brewpub in Arlington, BARDO Rodeo, where many local brewers have begun their careers. 

Holz: Were you all homebrewers before going pro?  If so, how did you get started homebrewing?

Bill: Jonathan was a homebrewer before going pro. He found the flavors in craft beer fascinating and wanted to explore where they come from on his own.

Holz: So you all have been open for over a year now, what’s been the most pleasant surprise of running Port City to date?

Bill: We have had such a great response to the project from all across the DC metro region and the support of the local craft beer drinkers has been great. We have such great customers who advocate for our product and our brand, and it is truly humbling. We get calls from restaurants and retailers in DC, Maryland and Virginia who have told us that their customers have demanded that they bring in our beer. We are truly grateful for this support, and we are 100% committed to satisfying our customers.

Holz: What’s been the most significant challenge to date?

Bill: The financing of the project. Breweries are expensive to build and maintain, and the list of equipment that we need to continue to produce world class quality beer continues to grow. We planned this brewery in the midst of the credit crisis of 2008-2009, and it was very difficult even to get a bank to talk to us.

Holz: How did you go about deciding on Alexandria as the location for the brewery?

Bill: Before we opened, DC was the only major metro area in the country that did not have a packaging microbrewery. People find that hard to believe, but it’s true. I knew the business needed to be close in to DC, and inside the Beltway so that we can speak directly to DC area beer drinkers. We needed a location that was easily accessible to DC, Maryland and Northern Va., so that it was accessible to people across the region. Alexandria has significant brewing history as well, and pre-prohibition it was home to the largest brewery in the southern United States. I thought that it would be cool to revive, celebrate and continue this brewing tradition.

These are the business reasons, but I had personal reasons as well. Alexandria is my hometown, and my family has been here for over 100 years. My ancestors would probably roll over in their graves if I located the business anywhere else!

Holz: You guys currently brew four beers year-round, Optimal Wit, Essential Pale Ale, Monumental IPA, and the Porter, which beer has sold the best to date?

Bill: Optimal Wit is our best selling beer. The Porter overtook the top spot in January and February, but we sell more Optimal Wit than the others. Monumental IPA is a consistent close second.

Holz: My personal favorite is the Porter, have you considered changing the brewery’s name to “Porter City Brewing”?

Bill: Ha! I’ll take that under consideration…

Holz: When did you guys first conceive of the idea to open Port City and how long did it take, start to finish, to get the brewery up and running?

Bill: I first came up with the idea in 2008. My wife, Karen, and I have always enjoyed great beer. We try to purchase our produce from local growers and our meats from local farmers. It dawned on us that all of the beer we were buying was coming from the West Coast, and it seemed like we should explore more local options. As we looked up and down the East Coast, it seemed like the area could use more great local options. With more research we found that DC was the only top 25 metro area in the U.S. that did not have a packaging brewery selling to the local market. It took about 3 years to plan, finance, and build our state of the art brewery.

Holz: Do you all give tours of the brewery and are customers welcome to visit?

Bill: We love to entertain our customers! We conduct educational grain-to-glass brewery tours on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The tours are extremely popular, and we get over  500 visitors per week to tour the brewery and taste our beers. We were named in the Washingtonian Magazine’s “Best of” Issue as the Best Brewery Tour! We are proud to show off our facility and encourage people to come visit. Reservations are not needed, and the schedule is on our website.

Get Port City'd!


Monday, April 23, 2012

Wild Things

About two years ago I brewed a saison, La Tarte, that was a real hit. I personally enjoy saisons that are somewhat tart and funky. That being said there are clean non-funked saisons that are exceptional as well. At the time I was too impatient to spike my saison with brett and bugs and wait in order to bring out that lovely funkiness. So I ended up adding a small amount of lactic acid to the beer during secondary and managed to create some of that twang that I was looking for. But I always thought it could get better with a little time and some assistance from brettanomyces.

This time I went with a similar recipe and added the Wyeast 5526 Brettanomyces Lambicus strain in secondary. Arguably I could have waited longer to bottle this (secondary was approximately 150 days), but I thought it would make a proper spring time offering and the sourness and twang is starting to develop nicely. Further, these beers will continue to transform in the bottle over time.  In a couple of weeks, once these beers have settled in the bottle, I will try to remember to post proper tasting notes.

Additionally, I really like to use the Wyeast Belgian Saison strain in primary to do the heavy lifting.  I prefer the Belgian variety to the French variety, mainly because I think it naturally produces some slight sourness which I like.  The French Saison strain imparts more floral notes.  Additionally, I prefer the use of Saaz and Hallertaur hops versus a french variety like Strisselspalt.
La Sauvage

Style: Saison

Type: All Grain Calories: 160

Rating: 0.0 Efficiency: 70 %

IBU's: 40.60 Boil Size: 5.83 Gal

Color: 6.7 SRM Batch Size: 5.00 Gal

Boil Time: 60 minutes


Estimated Actual

Brew Date: - 11/11/2011

OG: 1.049 1.050

FG: 1.011 1.005

ABV: 4.98 % 5.89 %

Serve Date: 04/23/2012 / /


Fermentation Steps

Name Days / Temp Estimated Actual

Primary 14 days @ 72.0°F 11/11/2011 11/11/2011

Secondary 150 days @ 72.0°F 11/25/2011 -

Grains & Adjuncts

Amount Percentage Name Time Gravity

3.50 lbs 33.33 % Munich Malt 60 mins 1.037

6.00 lbs 57.14 % Pilsner (2 Row) Bel 60 mins 1.036

1.00 lbs 9.52 % Dingemans Pale Wheat 60 mins 1.038


Amount IBU's Name Time AA %

2.00 ozs 28.65 Saaz 60 mins 4.00

1.00 ozs 8.53 Hallertauer 15 mins 4.80

1.00 ozs 3.43 Hallertauer 5 mins 4.80


Amount Name Laboratory / ID

1.0 pkg Belgian Saison Wyeast Labs (null)


Amount Name Time Stage

1.00 oz Coriander Seed 15 mins Boil

2.00 each Lime zest 15 mins Boil

0.75 tsp Black Pepper 15 mins Boil

Mash Profile


Medium Body Infusion In 60 min @ 155.0°F

Add 13.12 qt ( 1.25 qt/lb ) water @ 166.0°F



Sparge 17.65 qt of 170.0°F water over 60 mins

Get funked,


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Interview with The Mad Fermentationist

If you like sour ales and are into homebrewing, chances are that you've come across The Mad Fermentationist.  The blogger and brewer-in-chief of this fantastic resource is DC's own  Mike Tonsmeire.  Mike was kind enough to participate in an interview with yours truly.  Mike has a real talent for brewing creative ales and he's a pretty darn good writer as well.  I find myself checking out his blog several times a week and you should too.

Holz: Welcome Mike.  How long ago did you start brewing and what got you started? 

Mike:  I started brewing my senior year of college at Carnegie Mellon, about seven years ago. I had  gotten into craft beer a year earlier, and brewing seemed like a natural next step since I already loved cooking. I took a student taught course called Beer Brewing and Appreciation, where our midterm was to brew a brown ale.

            Holz: How did you become interested in blogging about your adventures in beer as ‘The Mad    

Mike: The blog started as an easy way to record recipes online so I could link to them on forum posts. I also started putting up tasting notes on my beers because I was sick of seeing hundreds of beer recipes online that had no indication of how good the results were. I started right after moving down to Washington, DC to start a new job, so it was a good outlet.
            Holz: Much of your brewing explores the realm of sour/wild ales.  Was there a particular commercial    
            beer or beers that originally piqued your interest in brewing these types of ales?

           Mike: Cantillon Kriek was the first really sour beer I tried, but it was too acidic for me at the time. I  
            came to sour beers over a year or two, but the one that really launched my obsession was the first batch 
            of Russian River Beatification. Unlike subsequent spontaneously fermented batches, this one was 
            Redemption (their Belgian single) aged for 23 months in barrels that previously held New Belgium’s La 
            Folie. It had a depth of flavor I had never experienced, lavender, lemon, vanilla, sour cherry etc. all 
            from the microbes and wood.         
            Holz: What is it about sour/wild ales that you love?

Mike: The variety of flavors from the base beer as well the microbes, wood, and fruit, is hard to compete with. Playing that guessing game of where a flavor came from. I also enjoy aging beers and seeing how they change. I also really like hoppy beers, for example, but they have a very short span when they are at their peak. 

            Holz: Have you brewed anything recently that you are particularly excited about?

Mike: My first truly wild beer, that is made with microbes I captured in my backyard, is just about ready to bottle. As soon as the fruit on my mulberry tree is ripe I’ll be adding a few pounds of it to half of the batch when I bottle the rest. I’m writing an article about the process for Brew Your Own magazine which will be in the July issue.

            Holz: So you are working on a homebrewing book, correct? What is the book about and what inspired 
            you to start writing?

Mike: Not a big surprise, but the book is about sour beer. I’m especially focused on American brewers. Their equipment and techniques seem much more applicable to homebrewers. After more than 500 posts on the blog it seemed like it was time to distill out what I have learned over the last six years into a more useful form. It also motivated me to talk to brewers I admire.  After talking to more than 20 (not to mention the people who run yeast labs, and award winning homebrewers), the biggest issue I have is too much content (I’m over 125,000 words at the moment).

My goal is to write something like John Palmer’s seminal How to Brew, but for sour beer. While I think Wild Brews is a terrific book, it is more focused on the culture and science of Belgian sour beers. I want to answer all of those practical questions that I get emailed to me every week (Which microbes should I pitch? What sort of airlock should I use? How do I prepare a barrel for filling? Etc.)

            Holz: Have you found a publisher yet?  If so, do you have an idea of the publication date?

Mike: I’m still waiting to hear the final word from Brewers Publications, but the more I think about it the more I am leaning towards self-publishing. As a blogger I like the idea of having complete control over the end product. After a year of working on the first draft I’d rather be able to just edit/format it and be done. 

Whereas Brewers Publications might take as long as three more years to get it out. Periodic revisions to the book, especially the insights I gain helping Modern Times Beer start their barrel program, would also be much simpler if I self-publish.

                      Holz: You’ve done quite a bit of experimenting with barrel-aging.  How do you go about selecting a   
Mike: The character of the barrel needs to suit the beer. For example a light pale sour beer would not be a good match for the bold coconut and vanilla flavors of a new bourbon barrel. It is also about accessibility, I’d rather get a barrel locally so I can get it and fill it as quickly as possible after it is emptied. Leaving a barrel empty for an extended period is asking for issues with leaks, mold, and Acetobacter.

            Holz: On ‘The Mad Fermentationist’ you frequently discuss different yeast strains and bacteria that 
            you  are currently using in your brews.  Where do you usually get your yeast and bacteria?  And how 
            do you go about selecting them?

Mike: That is a big question. I get my microbes from a huge number of places. Wyeast and White Labs make some terrific strains, and that is the easiest place to start. The yeast sediment (dregs) of unpasteurized sour beers are also a great place for microbes. I also get microbes isolated by microbiologist friends (I just bottled a tripel that had been aging on calvados soaked oak with a culture of Brett my friend Matt isolated from Russian River Temptation). Re-pitching yeast from previous batch is also good in a pinch.

            Selecting the right microbes takes experience. You can read descriptions, but without tasting the result it 
            difficult. It would be like reading descriptions of spices and trying to pick several to combine in 
            something you are cooking. That is one of the reasons I like bottle dregs, you can taste the beer that   
            those microbes helped produce. However, your results will not be exactly the same unless you mimic 
            that brewery’s production (pitching rate, aging time, wort production etc.), a nearly impossible task. 
            Holz: You just posted about an opportunity you have to do some brewery consulting.  Is it ultimately   
            your goal to become a professional brewer or are you happy to remain an (exceptional) amateur?

Mike: For the time being I’m happy to get my feet wet helping get Modern Times off the ground. I worry about ruining the hobby I love by turning it into a job. Depending on how consulting goes, how much I enjoy it, and the success of Modern Times, I’ll certainly be considering doing it full time. If I can turn the hobby I love into a job I love, that really is the goal.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Odyssey of Sierra Nevada in Virginia

Great article from the Roanoke Times on southwest Virginia's efforts to lure Sierra Nevada:

Apparently $13 million in incentives didn't cut it.  I'm sure someone will realize how great an area the Roanoke Valley would make for a significant brewing operation. 

Hopeful Hokie,

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mother's Little Helper

In expectation of the birth of my first niece or nephew, I brewed a batch of sweet stout for the expecting mother, my sister-in-law.  She is a huge fan of stouts and I could think of nothing more suiting for a woman who had to endure 9 months without beer.  I don't know how she did it.   


Baby Juice

Style: Sweet Stout

Type: All GrainCalories: 203

Rating: 0.0Efficiency: 70 %

IBU's: 36.39Boil Size: 5.85 Gal

Color:   31.2 SRM  Batch Size: 5.00 Gal

Boil Time: 75 minutes


Brew Date:-02/26/2012



ABV:6.03 %5.11 %

Serve Date:04/08/2012/ /

Fermentation Steps
NameDays / TempEstimatedActual
Primary7 days @ 68.0°F02/26/201202/26/2012
Secondary21 days @ 72.0°F03/04/2012-
Bottle/Keg14 days @ 74.0°F03/25/2012-
Grains & Adjuncts
9.00 lbs72.00 %
Pale Malt (2 Row) US60 mins1.036
0.75 lbs6.00 %
Fawcett Pale Chocolate60 mins1.030
0.75 lbs6.00 %
Caramel/Crystal Malt -120L60 mins1.033
0.50 lbs4.00 %
Roasted Barley60 mins1.025
0.50 lbs4.00 %
Oats, Flaked60 mins1.037
1.00 lbs8.00 %
Lactose60 mins1.030
NameTimeAA %
1.50 ozs22.66
Fuggles60 mins4.50
1.50 ozs13.73
Fuggles20 mins4.50
AmountNameLaboratory / ID
1.0 pkgSafale us-05(null)
1.00 ozWhirlfloc Tablet15 minsBoil
Mash Profile

Full Body Infusion In45 min @ 158.0°F
 Add 14.38 qt ( 1.25 qt/lb ) water @ 170.0°F

Full Body Infusion Out10 min @ 168.0°F
 Add 5.75 qt ( 0.50 qt/lb ) water @ 196.0°F

 Sparge 11.27 qt of 170.0°F water over 60 mins