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.

Review: Alba Scots Pine Ale

Williams Brothers make some interesting beers. I’ve written about their elderberry beer earlier, and I haven’t quite had the cajones to give their seaweed beer Kelpie a go.

Pine needles actually have a long history in brewing. In colonial American, many homebrewers would just use pine needles or spruce tips as a bittering agent since they were plentiful and much easier to cultivate initially than hops.

Alba Scots Pine Ale

Alba Scots Pine Ale – 7.5% ABV

Appearance: The beer poured a dark, coppery amber with a finger or two of creamy head that has dissipated quickly. There are some bubbles floating up from the bottom.

Aroma: The beer smells very sweet with a hint of the pine. There’s some floral notes in there too, but I’m not sure where they’re from.

Taste: Very sweet. Fruit, molasses and brown sugar come to the front. Not much bitterness at all. I’m searching for that resinous, piney flavor, but it’s just not there. The taste is almost all malts and yeast.

Mouthfeel: The carbonation could actually be a bit higher. The beer is a bit cloying as it is. The extra bubbles could help brighten it up a little. Overall, it’s a bit heavy and sweet.

Overall: I was honestly hoping for more aromatics from the pine. If it wasn’t on the bottle, I honestly never would have guessed that there was any pine in this beer.

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

Brooklyn Waterfront Beer Festival

A little bit ago, Nate and I attended the Brooklyn Waterfront Beer Festival. Nate had moved to Manhattan about a month ago, and I had never been. He found out about the festival somehow, and I found a reasonable flight. We bought our tickets and, in no time at all, a plan was hatched.

There was an afternoon session and an evening session available (each 2.5 hours long). We opted for later session to give us more time during the day to do the standard touristy stuff, and ending at 9:30p, the later session transitioned nicely into Bar O’Clock. This festival had some pros and cons, so lets start off on the happy notes.

What they did right

View from the festival

Looking out onto Manhattan

The location of the festival was amazing. It was where 11th Ave ended into the river in Brooklyn and it featured some great views of the sun setting behind Manhattan. Also, the neighborhood around the festival had tons of cool bars. Most notably, Brooklyn Brewery was about 2 blocks away. We didn’t make it there, but it looked like plenty of people decided to stop by.

Like I said earlier, the timing of the festival was really nice. It ended early enough that we weren’t too exhausted to head out for a few drinks afterward. Initially, we were a little worried that it was only 2.5 hours, but that proved to be more than enough time for us. The crowd and lines really weren’t bad at all. We were able to get to the beer we wanted very quickly.

They did actually have a lot of good beer there. There were a lot of breweries from the Northeast and mid-Atlantic that I never see in Chicago. They also had some places I really didn’t expect to see, including a meadery from Colorado that had a delicious, dry hopped mead. Unfortunately, a lot of the beer notes are going in the next section…

What Went Wrong

First, and very quickly, when you’re hosting an event with well over 500 people and the equivalent of an open bar, you need more than 2 port-a-johns. It was gross. I don’t really know how the women there were physically able to use the facilities.

Let’s go back to the beer. There were a few local breweries that had their taps manned by people from their brewery. 508 Restaurant and Bar had their brewer there to answer questions, and providing a nice Black IPA and Saison. Most tables, however, were put together by distributors, with the tenders knowing either the rehearsed sales pitch for the brewery or even less.

I was excited to see some of the bigger, more national craft brewers there as well. Lagunitas, Sierra Nevada, Ommegang, Allagash and Goose Island all had tables, but the beers that were being poured were al the standards. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by Michigan Brewers Guild festivals, but the beer choices all seemed uninspired. I think this is largely due to the event being put on by an events company working with distributors, rather than brewers working together with an event company coordinating. Beyond that, I really don’t think Blue Moon and Negro Modelo belong at a craft beer festival, but that could just be snobbery.

Finally, since the beers were being put together by the distributors, you’d think they could put together a list that had some variety instead of half of the booths having at least one Black IPA, IPA, DIPA or IIPA. There were very few malty beers, very few belgian style beers, and virtually no contrast.

The Best Beers There

Like I said, I enjoyed the two beers from 508. Firestone Walker Double Jack is always a winner in my book even among a sea of hop heavy beers. The dry hopped mead was delicious as well. The best beer we had though, was the Innis and Gunn Rum Cask Oak Aged Beer. I think it won out for two main reasons. First, it was a contrast from all the hop heavy beers at the festival. It was malty, sweet (but not cloying) and delicious. Secondly, it was a flavor profile I hadn’t had before. I’ve had scotch ales before, and I’ve had beers aged in rum barrels before, but the combination was something new and exciting. Those moments of discovery is why I enjoy going to beer festivals and tastings and events. Those are the moments that event coordinators should try to create.

Happy Hour: Dark Horse Will Not Look At That Photograph

Darkhorse And Nickleback?

Chad Kroeger


So… a couple years ago Nickleback or some representative approached Dark Horse Brewery about some sort of promotional agreement. Apparently, Nickleback’s sixth studio albums (srlsy? they have six?!) is called Dark Horse. Some marketing intern probably got a synergy stiffy and sent off an email. Dark Horse’s marketing director asked what they should do in the blog post linked above. The owner of Dark Horse, Alan Morse, stepped in and made the executive decision to decline the offer because Nickleback is “shit rock.”

This story got posted up on Reddit on Wednesday and blew up Twitter. As Michigan Brewing Company has taught us, hitching your wagon to mediocre musicians is not a good long term solution. That and you should probably pay your bills every once in a while…

(h/t @BeerAdvocate)

Zymurgy’s Best Beers in America

Pliny the Elder


Zymurgy, the magazine run by the American Homebrewers Association, released the results of its 2012 Best Beers in America survey. Pliny the Elder gets the four-peat. I got to taste about 2oz of Pliny at a tailgate this past fall. It was very, very good, but I think the relative difficulty of acquiring it has raised its profile higher than the beer itself. Two Hearted is the first runner up. I’ve written about this previously,  but Two Hearted is a damn good beer that I always overlook because I can always get it. The reverse Pliny, if you will.

Eight of the top ten are some form of IPA1. Thirty-two of the top fifty are between pale ales and hop-bombs. Tim and Nate make fun of me for always getting hoppy beers, but I’m not even this focused. Four Michigan beers made the list, Two Hearted, Hopslam (4th), Founders Breakfast Stout (23rd) and KBS (T37th lolwut?). Bell’s and Founders both rank in the top ten breweries at 5th and 10th respectively.
This may eventually be a full post in the future, but I’m not sure I quite agree with these choice.

Dogfish head Is officially everywhere