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Brew Day

Boca Verde IPA

Just a quick blurb about my most recent brew, again I apologize for not being more of a blogosauras*, but things are crazy busy right now. Boca Verde IPA: Brewed 4/25

  • Expected OG: 1.068
  • Actual OG: 1.072 (my efficiency has been too good lately!)
  • IBU: 90+
  • Expected FG: 1.016
  • Actual FG: 1.015
  • ABV: 7.5%
  • Fermentables: Pale 2-Row, American Wheat, Carapils and Turbinado sugar.
  • Hops: Bittering – Columbus.   Flavor/Aroma – Centennial, Citra, Simcoe. Dry Hop – Citra, Simcoe, Columbus
  • Yeasties: WLP001 California Ale

Suffice it to say I've never used this many hops in an IPA before, the flameout/whirlpool hop additions were insane! That makes it a fairly expensive beer to make, and my expectations are high. Sampled tonight upon kegging and adding the second round of dry hops, and it was good enough for some serious fist pumps by myself in the garage. Could be the best beer I've ever made...we'll have to see.

*one who blogs a lot

6/2/13 Edit: Not the best beer I've ever made. Certainly a good beer, but there was a CO2 issue in my system and the kegs sat flat for a few days, that's what I'm blaming on the change in flavor and aroma from my first tastes.  Will try this beer again though, probably knocking off ~.8%ABV and 20IBU.

Homebrew Tutorial for Dummies and Other Regular People Too

Homebrew Tutorial for Dummies and Other Regular People Too


As I was brewing alone yesterday, I had time to relax and take some photos of my homebrew setup for a tutorial and your viewing pleasure. This will help if you were curious about what my homebrew process is - which is nearly the same as a brewery's process, just scaled way  down and crude as far as technology goes. It all starts with the mash tun + malted barley+ water. My mash tun is a 15 gallon keg with the top cut off. The perforated false bottom you see helps me open that valve after the mash and get clean wort out, leaving the used grains behind.


You fire up the water to ~162F, dump the grains in and stir - then hang out for an hour (great time to enjoy a beer), applying heat as needed to keep the mash temp around 152F. The purpose of the mash is to convert the starches in the grain to sugars, producing the sweet liquid called wort which is the malt base of the beer.


There's a lot going on in the picture above, so bear with me. After the mash is complete, I rinse the grains (process called sparging) from above with 170F water (pot on far right) while I'm pulling wort through the valve on the bottom into that white bucket. For a 10 gallon batch, I collect ~13 gallons of wort,  and I dump that into my boil kettle - which is another keg (on the left) with the top cut off. Heating the wort collected along the way saves loads of time - boiling 13 gallons is not quick.

I bring the wort up to a rolling boil, then start my boil clock - which is usually 60 minutes. Here hops are added for bitterness, flavor and aroma - depending on when during the 60 minute cycle they are added. I use this ghetto contraption to hold the hops during the boil so they don't get in the piping and clog things up.


Commercial hops primarily come in two forms: dried whole-leaf style, and the pelletized version (looks like rabbit food). There are pros and cons to each, but the end product tastes the same. I use both, depending on what's available.


Still with me? So we boiled the wort for an hour, adding hops along the way to get our desired taste profile. At this point, the beers you may or may not have consumed catch up to you and you typically forget something in the last 10 minutes which makes for the only really stressful part of the brewing process. Now we're at the end of what's called the 'Hot' stage, where sanitization gets taken care of by heat. After this, everything gets a little more fragile - and some rouge bacteria or unsanitized equipment can ruin a batch. To take this boiling wort down to room temperature where the yeast can get to work - you have to use a chiller or heat exchanger of some sort, or else the process will take forever and bacteria will likely get to work before your yeast can. I use a counter-flow chiller which runs my cold hose water over a copper coil containing the wort on its way from the kettle to the fermenting vessel (carboy in my case). This takes the wort from boiling temps to ~65F in the time it takes to transfer via gravity to the carboy. It's awesome.


After this you pitch your yeast of choice, and as soon as the yeast starts working, you start having beer instead of wort. This is what my temperature-controlled basement bathroom/laundry looks like now:


The 10 gallons I brewed last night need blow-off tubes for when the yeast gets excited, and there's some dry-hopping of the Pale going on in the background. Start to finish, the process takes me a little under 4 hours - well worth it for 80 pints of beer. I'm looking forward to sophisticated brewery equipment and high levels of consistency...but something tells me I'll sort of miss my homebrew setup someday.

If there's anyone still reading after all that and is still interested in what I brewed, it was a new IPA recipe which still needs a name - after I taste and approve of its existence.

Quick Specs: 1.075 OG, 71 IBUs, 8.3 SRM


  • Malts: Pale 2-Row, Caramel 40 and 60, Carapils and Victory. Victory!
  • Hops: Bittering – Warrior.   Flavor/Aroma – Belma, Citra, Simcoe. Dry Hop – Belma, Simcoe
  • Yeasties: Wyeast 1056 slurry vs. BRY-97 slurry

It may be a little big to fit under the 7.5% abv threshold for IPAs, but it's still winter, and bigger beers rule the streets.

2/20: Finished at 1.016, for 7.7%ABV, dry hopped for 8 days with a second addition for 5 days since I had some centennial and simcoe lying about. Flavor is very fruity, but the alcohol is too forward, needs to mellow out for a week or two. Named it "Father Figure IPA" for the upcoming life change and George Michael's hit.

Red Wednesday Recap

Red Wednesday Recap


Super smooth brew day yesterday - whipped up 10 gallons of our NW Red Ale, which will be one of the staples going forward and needs a name badly. I liked Redemption Red, but it's already taken by these creepers. Any ideas? Specs: 1.065 OG, 65 IBUs, 16 SRM


  • Malts: Pale 2-Row, Munich Dark, Caramel 80 and Caramel 120
  • Hops: Bittering – Centennial.   Flavor/Aroma – Simcoe. Dry Hop - Cascade, Simcoe
  • Yeasties: Wyeast 1056 slurry

It was a busy night too; kegged some of our Christmas beer, transferred the Continuous Pale to secondary and made the chalkwall more awesome: 

Enjoy the turkey, football and family today. Gobble Gobble.

Tuesday Night Recap - Spice Wars

Smooth brewing last night, showed the cold and rain who's boss by shifting all operations into the garage - which is conveniently where the taps are located... Specs on our Wee Heavy Christmas Ale: OG: 1.083, 30IBU, 22 SRM.


  • Malts: Pale 2-Row, Maris Otter Pale, Brown Sugar (shugga), Special B, Caramel 80 and Roasted Barley.
  • Hops: Bittering – UK Goldings.   Flavor – Fuggles
  • Yeasties: WLP028 Edinburgh Scottish Ale
  • Spices in Boil: Cinnamon and Clove
  • Fresh ginger and lemon zest to go in secondary

We missed our target OG by 3 points on the low side, which doesn't matter much with a big beer like this one. Seven weeks from now we'll be sipping this at our Christmas party in high form, making elaborate toasts and debating foreign politics.

We also dry hopped our Imperial IPA and gave it a sample, so far it's delicious and promising - making good beer is so much more fun than not making good beer.


Wee Wish You a Merry Christmas

Wee Wish You a Merry Christmas


It's an off-schedule brew night tonight as we usually try to stick to 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of the month. I'm blaming this one on Dan although I can't prove anything.... We'll be brewing a new style, a Wee Heavy (strong Scotch ale) with a Christmas twist. Big beers like this one, especially ones with spices, need time to mellow out and have the flavors get to know each other - hence we're brewing holiday beer in October.

Grab a friend or spouse and come out tonight if you read this blog - we're pushing to have brew nights be more social and even fun for people who don't care about making beer. We'll be getting started a bit early, but anytime from 6-8 would be a good time to come by.

Imperial Brewing

Dan, Gregory and I held down the brewing fortress last night - whipping up a new recipe of an Imperial (or double) IPA. I'm super excited about this one, and I'm caring for its fermentation conditions like a baby bird. Specs:  OG: 1.082, 116 IBU, 7.2 SRM.


Malts: Pale 2-Row, Maris Otter Pale, Caramel 40L, Carapils and straight Corn Sugar in the boil (stole that from the Pliny the Elder recipe).

Hops: Bittering - Pacific Jade.   Aroma & Flavor - Pacific Jade, Simcoe, Centennial, Amarillo, Columbus

Yeasties: One 5 gallon carboy with WLP090 (San Diego Super Yeast), the other with WLP001 slurry .

Mostly smooth and easy brewing despite another clog/subsequent burns during the chilling process. I slacked on pictures, so I'll give you a video I just took of these guys fermenting away. You must excuse the voiceover, I (probably like everyone?) can't understand why my voice sounds the way it does on video. Don't tell me that's what it actually sounds like, I won't hear it.

If you were ever wondering what homebrew fermentation looks like: this is the fun part, about 16 hours after adding yeast (sorry that I always seem to have my camera sideways? This is 2012, that should get auto-fixed).


Good Beer for Good

Good Beer for Good


Perhaps my favorite brew night of my short homebrew career last night for the Brew-Night Benefit. Good turnout, Great people, *great chili from my wife, lots of beer questions which gave me my chance to impress/embarass myself,and people all showing up to support some folks who are hurting badly.


Pick Hops not Fights: Devin and Mike for pulling in about 20oz of fresh Cascade hops from my neighbor's vine despite protective spiders.

Wingman: Gregory for sticking it out when I had no true brew partner present.

Most-Excited-to-Use-a-Big-Nose-to-Smell-HOPS: ME!

Aeration Station: Ben W. for giving this carboy the business in the name of science.


Art is for Wizards: Mr. Case for leaving me this on the chalkboard.

Thanks for coming out, the word is spreading that Ex Novo will be brewing first and third Wednesdays of the month, rain or light rain. Boys and girls welcome.

Also, you people are awesome and we raised $1000 to help the Piscitellis with their expenses. If you missed it and are still wanting to give - their Paypal is

*except that it had chicken stock which could have been the silent assassin to poultry-allergic Mike. Sorry Mike.

2nd Degree CDA

We at Ex Novo Brewing labored on Labor day, bringing into the world 10 gallons of Cascadian Dark Ale (CDA) and having a mostly enjoyable afternoon in the process. This is a new style for us, and I put this recipe together based on my preferences and staying true to the style as much as possible. ImageGrains: 2-Row, Munich 10 and 20, Midnight Wheat and Chocolate Malts

Hops: Bittering with Warrior, Flavor and Aroma with Amarillo, Cascade, Columbus and Centennial.

Stats: 1.070 OG, 65 IBU, 38 SRM (just about black)

Easing into fall it's time to start asking yourself what you'd like to be drinking when the air crisps up and it gets dark earlier and earlier. Smooth brew day except the last and most sanitation-sensitive step, where we got a hop clog in our counter-flow chiller. I didn't know what the worst thing that could happen was, but turns out that is it. We had 45 minutes of panic and heavy lifting, imparting small 2nd degree burns on Dan's and my shins but I think it all turned out ok (I took pictures of the burns but they are gross and close-up (Tobias Funke style) so I will spare you).


ImageHere's Dan, often referenced yet his first photo debut. It was Dan's idea to start brewing in the first place. Dan is a NICU doctor, and should you unfortunately have your child end up there, you really want Dan to be the guy in charge. Dan doesn't believe everything he reads, and he's smarter than me so I can't argue much when he says things like "there's no way bacteria is going to thrive in such an anaerobic environment" before we pitch our yeast. Dan is an idea guy, one you need around if you are into hatching schemes. Most of our phone calls are about future recipes and the tenacity of the current fermentation, but my wife Sarah and I consider Dan and Jill among our closest friends.

Pale 31 Clone

Pale 31 Clone


I personally do not put all my stock in national or international beer contest award winners, if an IPA wins a gold medal, I'm certainly not prepared to say that it's the best IPA in the world. However, occasionally I a.) Have tried the beer under scrutiny and b.) completely agree that it's the best in that category.


The Firestone Walker Pale 31 has won gold several times at the World Beer Cup, plus countless other awards along the way to their reign at the top. We're trying to make something that will taste close.

Beer nerd specs: 62% 2-row, 24% Maris Otter, Munich and Crystal 40 for the rest. Shot for 1.049 OG, 50 IBUs, 6.5 SRM with Fuggle for bittering (that's a hop AND a strange word) and Cascade, Centennial and Chinook for Aroma and Dry Hopping.

I plan to introduce some characters at a later time - but for now - Dan's daughter Nora, our future marketing manager and event planner or perhaps yeast strain microbiologist?


Silky smooth brew day, through cleanup in 4:30 without breaking a sweat (which we didn't have to do because it was 75 outside and perfect, Northwest in the summer is pristine). We shaved substantial time off by implementing a ghetto-as-the-day-is-long brew tree for the sparge and getting the boil started.Image

OSHA approved for 3-year-olds running around too. In the end, or efficiency was too good (82%+) so we overshot our targets, even after adding water to the boil, getting 1.056 OG and our eventual ABV up ~0.6% and out of the session category. Shame.

Might need to skip the next brew day scheduled in 10-days, I have 20 gallons fermenting at various places all over my house and I'm going to have to figure out what to do with it. Cheers to you, reader.

8/16 UPDATE: Fermentation finished up in 8 days to 1.013, giving this a 5.6% ABV. I'm going to do something slightly different with each 5 gallon split: one got kegged tonight with dry hops in the keg, the other I'm going to dry hop in a carboy along with 1/2 oz french oak chips. I have been disappointed in the aroma we've been getting with dry hops and I'm suspicious that doing it in the keg may be to blame - we'll know the truth. The oak is to grab a little flavor imparted by some commercial breweries (like FW) that ferment in oak - not sure if I'll be able to taste it, but having the comparison helps.

Pils/Saison Sabbath

So I haven't had the chance to brew for a while, which has been a tough pill to swallow as long summer days pass me by. My brew buddy Dan has been working like a mad man and fathering his two toddlers, so needless to say it's been difficult to align schedules, not to his discredit in the least. I on the other hand, have a lot of time to think and daydream (occasionally at work I must admit) leading me to decide that I would try to brew every 10 days, whether I have help or not, but hopefully making it a beverage-sampling, corn-hole tossing event with friends of all levels of brew skill. I also wanted to try to up our brew-equipment arsenal, diy style to make brew nights more efficient and less lame. So that was my last week, gearing up for today's brew - a read on...

This may look like just another black hose curled up to you, but to me it is a precious counter-flow wort chiller, designed to produce better beer and to shave 20+ minutes off a brew night that could be otherwise spent playing yard games, eating potato chips, etc.

I tested it before its maiden voyage, and the beauty takes wort from boiling to 68F as it transfers from keggle to carboy. The middle-man has been eliminated.

I brewed a repeat recipe of a Classic American Pils (pre-prohibition mind you) with 6-row, corn and rice adjunct and Czech Saaz hops. This beer has been delicious in the past, excited to get some more coming.

Who can just brew 5 gallons though, honestly? It was a double-batch day, with the 2nd being a non-conventional Saison with 2-row, wheat malt and corn plus Warrior, Chinook and Amarillo hops. I wanted to try to get close to Boulevard's Tank 7

As it was Sunday and people tend to hunker down, I was brewing alone - and what a brutal day to do so. For various reasons, mid-brew I ended up running for more propane, grinding the lid of a keg for a 2nd kettle, sweating copper for the fittings, etc. About 4.5 hours of relaxation-lessness. I did what I had to do with my manly face on, and settled down for some medieval times toward the end.

See you in 10 days.

UPDATE 8/16: The gravity on the Saison was down to 1.022 today, 2.5 weeks after starting, Saison yeast staying true to form as a slow-worker. The Pils has been baffling in fermentation - the Wyeast 2035 smack-pack did not start fermenting at all, so I grabbed a pack of dry SafLager and it got going...except only down to 1.023 as of today - I have it out for a diacetyl rest right now so I really hope that drops because it is no good at all.

8/21: Kegged and dry hopped the Saison with Amarillo today, F.G. down to 1.014, it took a full 3 weeks to finish fermentation - despite being the 'fast' WLP566 yeast. As I didn't have my hydrometer when I brewed it (thanks Dan), I dub this one Zero-Gravity Saison. It tastes great and is likely around 8.5%, full of flavor.