Paul's Brewing Page


Paul's Brewing Home Page

Illustrated Brewing Primer

Simple All Grain Brewing

German Pilsner Ingredients

Equipment List

Partial Mash Brewing Procedure

Fermenting

Corny Keg Rebuild

Racking

Reusing Yeast

Transferring Beer

Carbonation

All Grain Decoction

El Cheapo Mash Tun

Favorite Websites

Making Beer at Home

Welcome to my brewing page. I am an intermediate homebrewer who is trying to learn to brew top quality beer. I started brewing beer thinking that I could homebrew beer a lot cheaper than if I bought it in the store. Soon I got caught in the vortex of wanting to learn to make the best beer I could, and this continues to be an obsession.

I have tried to learn to brew well with relatively simple equipment and procedures. Choosing good beer recipes and following good brewing procedure can give you top quality beer even with basic equipment. I still NEED more and better equipment (like a kegerator) but in the meantime I keep making awesome batches of beer with what I have.

This page is intended to document how I brew beer and is a reference for me as much as a how-to for new brewers. I don't claim to be an expert, I am just showing the way I make beer, and if you see anything I can do to improve, let me know, I am still learning.

Beer Brewing Goals

I like German beer. I focus on pilsner and altbier, with pilsner being my favorite. I do not have a refrigerator for lagering, so my pilsner beers are actually "kolsch-style" ales brewed at cellar temperatures with pilsner malt and hops. Kolsch beer is a type that is only brewed in Cologne, Germany, and is pretty mildly hopped. I am located in Michigan, and use hops more fitting to a pilsner, so I call them pilsners, even though they are brewed with an ale yeast, not a lager yeast. I am trying to improve on my pilsner recipes and procedures by repeating the recipe with minor changes, and documenting the success or lack of success.

My quest is to find the perfect combination of hops that make the ultimate pilsner. I remember a pilsner I had in a mountain restaurant in the Black Forest of Germany, light, foamy, with an intense aromatic blend of hops...(as he drifts back in time). I used to live in Germany so that is the focus of my favorite beer types.

As I develop recipes for pilsner and altbier, I will try to work on recipes that replicate traditional flavors of the beer types. Occasionally I will want to try other special beers to bring to parties and share with friends.

I also enjoy American Pale Ales, and am trying some recipes out. APA's have a lot of hops, and I hope to learn how to formulate recipes with the typically strong flavored American hops.

Brewing Low Cost Beer

I want to brew low cost beer. I soon learned that the amount of time you spend on brewing beer makes the small difference in cost between "just OK" ingredients and top quality ingredients a minor point. Either way, the cost of brewing a 5 gallon batch is much cheaper than buying a couple of cases of beer in the store.

I do like to work out how much the beer costs and push it to the minimum. But I would not compromise flavor and character to save a few bucks. For example, I don't waste my time with ingredients that are not fresh, or are not absolutely the top quality ingredient I can get. Beer is made of cheap ingredients, so it doesn't hurt to buy the best. I also like a moderately strong beer, say about 5 or 6%, stronger than what you typically get with store bought beer. So I don't mind paying a bit more to add fermentables and get a richer flavor.

Surprisingly, the cheapest way to brew beer gives you the best results: all grain brewing is the cheapest way to brew when grain is bought in bulk. You do need a grain mill and a mash tun, so there is a small investment in equipment needed. But you should be able to brew excellent quality beer for less than $2 per gallon, and you could brew a mild ale for as little as $1 per gallon, or less than 10 cents per bottle (one gallon is about 10-1/2 12oz bottles). Most of my pilsners are about $1.50 a gallon brews.

Other ways to reduce the cost of your beer are by growing your own hops and reusing yeast from the fermenter. I often pour one batch on top of the yeastcake left from the previous batch, and also pump the yeastcake out of the primary fermenter into bottles and save it in the fridge. Easy to do, and it means that I don't have to buy yeast more than once every half year or so. I haven't grown hops yet, but a friend has some hops that I will help harvest and get a few bags from. The hops should last me through most of the winter brews. So all I need is grain, which is about $0.70 per pound in a bulk purchase (much of the cost is in shipping). I usually use between 8 and 10 pounds of grain per 5 gallon batch. So brewing does not have to be expensive.

Beer Brewing Methods

I use all grain and partial mash extract brewing methods. I prefer to brew all grain with simple infusion mashes. I used to exclusively use decoction mashing, however it took up a lot of time, and the results are not that much different from simple infusion. In the past I have used a partial mash method with liquid extract as a timesaver, using a grain bag to steep a pound or two of grain before starting the boil. I don't typically use dry malt. I don't have anything against it but I like the liquid extract method and would use grains in a partial mash rather than dry malt to strengthen the brew, if necessary.

Beer Brewing Equipment

I like simple equipment. Basic, simple, cheap equipment that gets the job done. Sometimes it adds to the challenge. I like to cut through the mystique of brewing and remember that illiterate alewives brewed for centuries using tried and true recipes and procedures before the dawn of kegerators, ph meters or hydrometers.

Bulk Purchase of Grain and Hops

I purchased about 300lbs of grain and 5lbs of hops from North Country Malt. I have two bags of pilsner, two of Munich, one of pale ale and one carapils. This should cover my base malt needs for a year. I can make my house favorite recipes (pilsner, altbier, pale ale) with the ingredients I have on stock. I hope to work through this supply in about a year, which is the shelf life. I will also order specialty malts and hops as special recipes require.

Beer Keg Brewing

After using bottles for years, I finally made the jump to the corny keg (Cornelius keg). This is an important step because it makes brewing so much easier. I still bottle, but just a few bottles per batch, and I use a corny keg to fill the bottles. I use corny kegs as secondary fermenting vessels. I am trying out a method where I leave the beer in the primary for about two weeks until it clears nicely, and then I carefully siphon it over to a corny, avoiding transferring any trub. I prime with 1/4 cup dextrose sugar and then serve directly from the corny secondary.

I used to use the corny kegs for tertiary fermenting and clarification by moving the beer from one corny keg to the other using a jumper, leaving sediment behind. It helps clarify the beer and only costs a little bit of CO2. But with proper siphoning techniques, and aging of the beer, I find I can get clear beer out of the secondary.

I serve beer at cellar temperature, usually between 65F in summer and 55F in winter. I would like a beer fridge, but the beer tastes good at these temps too.

Beer Drinking Philosophy

Beer is good food. Beer is healthy when used in moderation. Beer is a great beverage. If I drink beer, I usually drink just a beer or two a day. OK, maybe three large glasses at the most. Sometimes 4 if I feel like it.

Always More to Learn

I am using this site to document my brewing techniques, and to learn from it by getting a reminder of how I brewed a certain batch. Usually you don't taste a beer until about 40 days after you boil it, so it is hard to remember your exact procedure over a month later. By documenting the procedure, I hope to be able to improve the procedure and learn what works and what doesn't. This site may change over time as I try new things. Feel free to steal ideas or let me know if I screwed up at "admin at cruisenews dot net".

Prost!

Illustrated Beer Brewing Primer