Helpful Diagrams

There’s a lof information about beer out there, and for a lot of that data, what’s more interesting than the absolute info is the relationship between things. We all have our points of reference, so being able to calibrate diagrams with a known source makes it more useful.

relationship of beers

Types of Beer

Beer relationship map


Hop Profiles

Information relating various hop characteristics

Review: Stone/Bear Republic/Fat Head’s TBA

We’ve made a few crazy beers in our brief time as brewers. They’re big, loud, different and fun. There’s that period of apprehension when you’re not sure if maybe you added too many habeñeros, or the oil from the peanut butter will make your beer feel slick, or the cocoa powder will make the beer chalky. So far we’ve been fortunate enough to always make at the very least quaffable beer. Most of the time, it’s beer we’ve really enjoyed drinking.

This was how I started out. I was making beers that I’d never seen before (although certainly many have made similar beers before I did). Then, last summer I made a Rye Saison that was largely a classic saison with just a small twist. The malt spiciness from the added rye worked to enhance the pepperiness from the yeast (Wyeast 3711). It wasn’t some crazy, out there beer. It was a classic, almost to style beer with a small twist that served to enhance what would expect from the beer.

What I’ve realized is that this is often times much more difficult than doing something crazy. It requires a deep knowledge of the ingredients, their flavor profiles and how these flavors work in concert and affect one another. I think this is the challenge taken on by the brewers in the TBA Brown Ale.

TBA is a brown ale brewed with brown sugar and molasses, two flavors that really serve to enhance the malty backbone of a good brown ale. In the description, written by Bear Republic’s Richard Norgrove Jr., it states:

The unifying goal was to create a new variation on an old style. Brown ales are often misunderstood, hard to brew, and even harder name

It’s a worthy goal. Brown ales are often overlooked by beer enthusiasts. They often lie far from any extremes. I think even their status as a great entry to the world of craft beer may be held against them. It’s good to see brewers often known for their hop heavy beers take a crack at elevating a subtle, middle of the road ale.

Tasting Notes

Bear Republic / Fat Head's / Stone TBA Brown Ale

Bear Republic / Fat Head’s / Stone TBA Brown Ale

Appearance: The head formed so quickly as I poured this beer that I almost made a mess. Once it settled down, the beer was a cloudy rust color with a two finger tan head that is still receding down the glass.

Aroma: The beer has a strong hop note in the nose. It isn’t overwhelming, and it’s completely balanced by the sweetness in the malt and molasses. A nicely balanced aroma.

Taste: A beer brewed with brown sugar and molasses has a good chance of being too sweet, but this beer is nice and dry. There’s the flavor from the dark sugars, but not much residual sweetness. The hops keep it dry without trending toward black IPA.

Mouthfeel: There’s a lively carbonation that keeps this beer bright and lively. It feels a bit sharp, but not necessarily in a bad way.

Overall: Unlike some of the other Stone Collaborations, this one seemed to be less adventuresome. Maybe it’s difficult to make a crazy brown ale, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a good beer. They made something tasty, if not incredibly interesting.

Review: Stone Smoked Porter w/ Vanilla Bean

This beer isn’t a collaboration, but it follows the idea of combining disparate ideas to make something new, different and exciting. Vanilla porters are somewhat common. Smoke beers are less rare than they have been. The combination still intrigued me enough to pick up a 12oz bottle.

This beer evokes to me the phrase that has lead to many innovations in brewing and elsewhere, “Why the hell not?” Stone had a perfectly successful beer in their Smoked Porter. Then… according to Stone:

Stone brewer Laura Ulrich had a stroke of brilliance… what if she introduced whole Madagascar vanilla beans into a small batch?

If I see Laura (unlikely), I’m going to buy here a drink, because this is exactly what I love about personally about homebrewing and as a consumer about  craft brewing. Take a risk, go out on a limb, don’t be afraid to fail. Stone has been doing that for a long time.

Stone Smoked Porter w/ Vanilla Bean

Stone Smoked Porter w/ Vanilla Bean 5.9%


Appearance: The beer pours a translucent copper with a creamy tan head that recedes quickly to a thin film on top of the beer. There are hints of dark ruby where the light hits the glass.

Aroma: The aroma is incredibly rich with notes rough, smoky chocolate with a heavy, smooth vanilla note taking over at the end. A classic, rauchbier style smoke aroma isn’t there. It’s more a acrid, kilned malt smokiness.

Taste: The taste starts off with a somewhat thin, very dark porter. Lots of dark, kilned malts giving an acrid, burnt flavor. There’s a hint of bitterness as well, but nothing close to overpowering the malt. The flavor ends with a very well rounded, lush vanilla flavor the helps to clear the acridity from the palate. There is a lingering maltiness, but that dissipates after a few seconds.

Mouthfeel: It starts off feeling a little thin, but I’m not sure if it’s a unfermentable sugar in the beer or just an effect of the vanilla flavor, but the end of the sip feel rich and smooth.There’s a light carbonation, the keeps the beer lively without overwhelming any of the flavors.

Overall: I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect here. I know I’ve had the Stone Smoked Porter before. It seemed more like a standard, dark, acrid porter than a rauchbier. This seems more along the lines of Breckenridge Vanilla Porter, but much, much drier. It’s an enjoyable beer, and the flavors work quite well together. I’m interested in trying the smoked porter with chipotle, but I doubt it will be as aggressive as our Pepper Porter or the 440 Pepper Smoker from Original Gravity.

Going Wild

I’ve mentioned a lot of times that one of my favorite things about brewing is trying to new things and trying to create something I haven’t tasted before. One of our first beers was a Peanut Butter Porter. One of our favorite beers that we made was our Chili Pepper Porter.There’s something exciting about doing something you’ve done before to make something you’ve never tasted before.

Jordan and I brewed another batch of our Rye Saison a few weeks ago. As we were brewing, we threw out a few different ideas. We thought about doing jalapeños, black peppercorns, sage and few a others. Eventually we landed on funky-ing up our beer with some Brettanomyces.


Brettanomyces Cells

Brett is in the same family as almost all brewing yeasts, but it attacks sugar in a somewhat different way. We used Wyeast 3711 (French Saison) in primary. This yeast eats most of the simple sugars and outputs most of the booze. The first batch this was all we used. We pitched the Brett in secondary, after the Saison yeast did most of its work. During this phase, this yeast attacks the more complicated sugars in the wort and produces slightly more booze but also acetic acid and esters that give it that barnyard or horse blanket smell.

There are a few different varieties to choose from, but we ended up choosing Wyeast 5526 (Brettanomyces Lambicus™) . The description from Wyeast is:

This is a wild yeast strain isolated from Belgian lambic beers. It produces a pie cherry-like flavor and sourness along with distinct “Brett” character.

I’m thinking the tartness and fruitiness will work well with the yeasty, dry flavors of the Saison. We won’t know what the end result will be for a few months, but I’m already excited.

We have half of the Saison in secondary without any doctoring. We might even be able to mix at the end. There’s a decent chance that this won’t work out, but it’s almost always worth the risk for the chance of creating something new.


Recipe: Rye Saison

The first time I made this recipe was last summer during our, uh, unplanned hiatus. It was getting to be warm out, and we wanted a good summer beer after making some heavier fare. We were tossing around different styles, and eventually settled on a Saison.

A  classic Saison is very simple: pils malt, sugar, light hops, and the yeast. The most important ingredient by far is the yeast. We used Wyeast 3711, and I would recommend holding off on brewing this until you can get your hands on that yeast. It is a workhorse that has great attenuation and provides great flavor when fermented in the mid 70s. Some people may balk at using sugar instead of all malt in a beer, but this is the method used by Trappist and other abbey brewers in Belgium to get beers with higher alcohol but still a light, “digestible” body.

When we brewed it last year, it was the first time we had a chance to use our wort chiller. I don’t want to sound like I’m exaggerating, but the combination of doing a full all-grain, full boil and crash cooling it made this the best to style beer I’ve ever made. It ended up with just a little cloudiness from the yeast, light, crisp with great yeast aromas and tastes.


  • 8.68lbs Belgian Pils
  • 3.12lbs Rye Malt

We did a single step mash at about 155º F for 60 minutes with about 1.25qt of water for every pound of grain. We fly sparged to get up 6.25 gallons for the boil.


  • 2oz Styrian Goldings (5.4% AA) at 60 minutes
  • 1lb dark candi sugar1 at 15 minutes


  • Wyeast 3711 French Saison Yeast
  • 3 weeks in primary in a basement during the summer, so around 72-75 F
  • 5 weeks in secondary at the same rough temp
  • 2 weeks of bottle conditioning


  1. The first time we used the standard dark rock sugar that you find at most homebrew shops. I’ve read that this is basically only used in the US by homebrewers. For the second iteration we’re using this 90L candi syrup which more approximates what’s used in Europe.

Recipe: Impromptu Black IPA

Tim, Nathan and I have been in different states since the Fall of 2010. Predictably, we haven’t had a ton of opportunities to get together and brew. One week in May, I was working remotely, Tim’s significant was out of town studying and Tim could take a day off to work from home. So a brew day was born.

We met up in Ann Arbor at Ashley’s after I drove in from Chicago. After we left the bar, we decided to go to Adventures in Homebrewing’s new Ann Arbor location. I had a recipe for a Belgian Strong Golden Ale that I put together a little bit ago that we put together. Then we decided, why not make two beers? So we did a sort of off the cuff Black IPA1.

It was fun exploring the new store and putting together an ingredients kit just like the old days. It actually turned out to be a pretty solid recipe despite the fact we were going on feel more than math.


  • 6 lbs American 2-row
  • 1.5 lbs Victory
  • 1 lb Flaked Rice
  • 0.5 lbs Blackprinz

Single step mash at 150ºF for 60 minutes. Fly sparge to get up to 6.5 gal


  • .5 oz Cascade (5.8% AA) at 60 minutes
  • .5 oz Cascade (5.8% AA) at 15 minutes
  • 1 oz Citra (12.0% AA) at 15 minutes
  • 1 oz Cascade (5.8% AA) at flameout


  • Wyeast 1272 American Ale II

Grand Rapids Breweries Collaborate on Beer City Pale Ale


Recently, Grand Rapids, MI (our home town) joined Asheville, NC to win Beer City, USA. The competition was run by Charlie Papazian. Grand Rapids brewers are planning to commemorate the award with a special brew:

Ten area breweries have teamed to create Beer City Pale Ale, a new craft beer produced in celebration of both the city’s newest title and Craft Beer Month beginning July 1…

Participating breweries include Harmony Brewing Company, The Hideout Brewing Company, White Flame Brewing Company, Jaden James Brewing Company, Michigan Beer Cellar, Pike 51, The BOB, HopCat, Founders, and Schmohz.

Full Release →

Recipe: Rauchbier

Is this the triumphant return of YBD? We shall see. One of our triumvirate has resumed – and re-suspended – his brewing activities with moves from Ann Arbor to Vail to New York. One has hardly slowed down his drinking or brewing the entire time he’s lived in Chicago – it’s the “blogging” part of our mission statement that has given him so much trouble. The final member – that would be me – inherited NAte’s brewing equipment, and just might be back in the game.

I will warn you straight off the top: this was my first time brewing in well over a year, and one of just a few times (the only one that comes to mind, but there may have been others) that I’ve brewed solo.

What I’m trying to say is that it’s just about guaranteed I messed many things up. On with the show.

Classic Rauchbier

6.5 gallon boil, 5.5 gallon batch

6 pounds smoked Briess malt
4 pounds American 2-row malt
2 pounds 80L crystal malt

1 oz. German Saphir (3.8% AA) – 65 mins.
1 oz. German Hersbrucker (3.1% AA) – 35 mins.

White Labs WLP 820 Oktoberfest/Marzen yeast

I mashed for the first time in my newly-acquired 10-gal mash tun at 170º for just over an hour. I crushed the non-smoked grains in the store, but didn’t realize until I got home that the smoked malt was not ground. Fortunately, a hand-operated grain mill was among the hand-me-downs from Nate. Unfortunately, I think I didn’t crush the grains finely enough.

My expected OG was 1.055 – my observed value was 1.032. As you may note, that’s a huge difference. I’m hoping that maybe the hydrometer was improperly calibrated (it was the first time I’d used it, after all, and I sure as hell didn’t check).

We shall see upon my return from work if the magic of fermentation has begun.