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

Recipe: Impromptu Cream Ale

Stove Substitute: Not So Useful

Stove Substitute: Not So Useful

I’ve been back to Ann Arbor several times since moving to Chicago. When I make it back, Tim and I try to do some sort of fermentable exercise. The only problem: Tim has been without a stove for the past 5 months or so. That certainly hasn’t stopped us. We have just had to be a bit more creative. This spawned our mead and cider, both of which can be made without any sort of heating element.

Well, this time was different. The landlord had installed a new stove, and we were ready to rock and roll, except for one problem: we couldn’t think of a beer to make. Looking back at what we’ve made, we’ve done mostly heavier, bigger beers. We decided it was time for something different. After bouncing around a bunch ideas, we landed on a Cream Ale.

Cream ales are light in color, with subtle malt and hop characters. Most of the interesting notes come from esters the yeast makes during fermentation. This is also our first time using a lager yeast (WLP810 San Francisco Lager Yeast). We’re hoping this beer will serve as a versatile canvas for different flavor additions from fruits, to chiles, to spices. Like we did with the mead, we’ll probably split this up after primary and try a few different things.

Grain Bill

  • 6 lbs 6-row barley
  • 1 lb flaked maize
  • .5 lb carapils

We mashed at about 155º for an hour in trusty water cooler mash tun with 2.5 gallons of water. We sparged with about 4.5 gallons and but as much as we could into our 5 gallon brew pot for the boil.


  • .25 oz  Willamette (4.6%) at 60 minutes
  • .5 oz Ahtanum* (4.5%) at 30 minutes
  • .75 oz Willamette at 15 minutes
  • .5 oz Ahtanum at flame out

We cooled it and pitched one vial of WLP810 lager yeast. The beer ended up pretty low gravity (about 1.024-6), so hopefully we’ll get pretty good attenuation. It should be sessionable, but it doesn’t need to be NA.

*75% certain this is the hop we used. It fits the profile of what were looking for, so even if we didn’t use it in this batch, we’d probably want to use it if we do it again.

Recipe: S’More Stout

Believe it or not, this is not our first time making a s’more beer. Last year, Tim’s girlfriend requested it, and, always up for a challenge, we gave it a go. It turned amazingly well considering our experience and the all the flavorings we introduced.

When thinking about s’mores, we tried to abstract the elements away to their essential flavors. For the chocolate, we used baking cocoa powder mixed with lactose. For the graham cracker, we used some biscuit malt for a breadiness and cinnamon. Finally, the marshmallow is kind of tough. We just figured most marshmallow’s have a vanilla flavor, so we used extract. We decided on the base of a stout because that malt profile can stand up to those flavors and keep it a beer as well as the acrid flavors being appropriate for a s’more made over a campfire.

Like I mentioned, the biggest problem was a grittiness from the cocoa powder. This year we tried to fix that. We made a tea out of the cocoa, lactose and cinnamon stick. We brought this up to a boil, stirring almost constantly. We tasted it on the way through, and by the end, most of the grittiness was gone. Hopefully, it will stay that way through fermentation. One final change is that we had some honey left over from our mead, and we used about half a pound added in at the tail end of our boil to add into that graham cracker profile.


  • 6lbs Maris Otter
  • 1.5lbs Biscuit Malt
  • 1lb 60L Crystal
  • 1lb CarafaII
  • 1/2lb Special B
  • 1/2lb Flaked Oats

We mashed at a higher temperature (between about 156-160ºF). It mashed for quite a while as we took the free time to head out for a run.


  • 1oz Fuggles (60 minutes)
  • 1oz Fuggles (30 minutes)
  • 1/2lb Honey (15 minutes)
  • Irish Moss (15 minutes)

In a second pot we mixed a bit of wort, half a pound of lactose,  cocoa to taste and a cinnamon stick. We let that boil down as our main boil went. Original gravity: 1.058.


We used Wyeast 1335 (British Ale Yeast II). We don’t want it to ferment too low, so it will stay a sweeter, desert stout. We’re looking for a Final Gravity between 1.017-1.020. We’ll let it set in secondary for a few weeks before we keg.

Belgian Sour Ale, brah.

The original plan for our latest beer was to make a Kriek Lambic, but the circumstances… they didn’t work out so well. First off, I found a good deal on some sweet cherries at a farmer’s market, not the sour Kriek cherries that are intended for the style. Then, our local homebrew shop was all out of lambic yeasts (must be a popular style this time of year – who knew?). So, we’re going to end up with some hybrid style, with a belgian style and cherry adjuncts, but probably not anything like we thought we were going to get when we started.


  • 10lb Belgian Pils
  • 1.5lb Flaked Wheat
  • .5lb Caravienna

We mashed for a little over an hour at our standard temperatures (water temp around 170, about 150 by the time it actually mixes in with the grain) with about 4 gallons. We sparged with 165 degree water, with enough to get us up to 4.5ish total gallons. We let the water keep running out for extra wort, or a second running beer.



We had about 5 gallons of wort that we put into our carboy with a vial of WLP550 Belgian Ale Yeast. The extra wort (about 1 gallon) went into an Ale Pail with a bit more of the yeast  We threw  it in our brew closet for about a week and half. It developed quite a bit of trub down on the bottom. After about 10 days, we washed and microwaved or cherries to get the sterilized and tossed them into the Ale Pail. We mashed them up as best we could with our paddle, and racked the beer from the carboy to the pail. About a week later we bottled them.

Tasting Notes

The first thing we noticed when pouring this beer was a very nice, red color, even the head was a nice pinkish cream. There was a little bit of cherry in the nose with some of the ester notes you’d expect from a belgian. The taste is actually a little thin. There isn’t that much cherry flavor or belgian flavor. It is a solid tasting beer with an awesome color that finishes with a hint of the flavors we were going for. This was our first beer using fresh fruit, and, like usual, we learned some stuff. Mainly, you need to really macerate the fruit. Cherries, being a stone fruit, prevented us from using a blender or food processor, so we had to do it with a paddle. A lot of the cherries were completely whole, so didn’t contribute that much flavor to the beer.

Flying-By-The-Seat-Of-Our-Pants Dry Brown Ale

While often we try to produce a certain type of beer, immitating a certain style, or build a beer with a particular concept in mind, sometimes, raw experimentation and whimsy can lead to a decent brew. Making sure your beer fits the style guide, having just the right amount of CO2, final gravity, etc., is fun and a challenge (artists learn to immitate the greats before they go off and do their own thing), but the most important thing about brewing beer, that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle is this: Beer is for drinking. You don’t need to stress about having just the right grain bill, or just the right length of boil, etc. Just go out there and brew something.

That’s the methodology in this beer. With no idea for what to brew, I happened to be driving by Adventures in Homebrewing, where we generally buy our supplies, and, since it’s normally 45 minutes away from where we live, I thought that I should swing by and pick something up. While many of our beers have had a focus on unique or interesting flavor profiles, I set out on this beer with more of a focus on the aroma, and this is what I threw together.


  • 6lbs 2 Row Malt
  • 2lb Belgian Aromatic Malt
  • 1lb Flaked Rye
  • 1lb Victory Malt
  • .5lb 40L Crystal

75 minute, mash at about 165ºF


  • 2/3oz Kent Goldings at 60 minutes


  • White Labs WLPoo8 East Coast Ale Yeast
  • 4/3 oz Kent Goldings Dry Hop

Fermentation really took off on this beer. While the spewing CO2 wasn’t quite to the level of the Barley Wine, the WLP008 rapidly took the beer down from an OG of ~1.052 to our FG of 1.002, which was pretty impressive, considering the attentuation should be around 70-75%

The East Coast Ale yeast has a neutral character that wouldn’t get in the way of the other ingredients allowing us to get a better sense of how each part of the grain bill came out in the nose.

Tasting Notes

This beer is kind of weird, but certainly not in a bad way. When I think of a brown ale, a malty sweetness along with a full body usually comes to mind. With this beer, almost all the sweetness is in the aroma, where it is very forceful. The taste of the beer itself is quite dry with a decent malt backbone. There are some hops, but those too come out mainly in the nose. At about 5.4% ABV, this is, for us, a nice session ale that can provide a bit of refreshment after a couple pints of our chili pepper beer.

Chili Pepper Beer Recipe

We have certainly tried a few a chili pepper beers before. The first I can remember is the Kuhnhenn Ring of Fire that jumped off the menu at The Hopcat. Since then there’s been the Original Gravity Pepper Smoker, New Holland Mole Ocho and a few others. There’s something really different about drinking a cold beer and feeling the capsaicin heat all throughout your body.

A few weeks ago, the Michigan Brewers Guild held their Summer Beer Festival, and among the all the bourbon barrel aged stouts and double IPAs, the beer that stood out the most to us was the Mango/Chipotle Ale from The BOB Brewery. The smokiness and heat from the chipotle really complimented the sweetness from the malt and mango. It was surprising and refreshing; it also definitely cleared your palate from all the heavier beers.

Shortly after that, we were trying to figure out what to brew. I was thinking a chili pepper beer, but I wasn’t sure what the reaction would be. I threw it out there, and we were all immediately excited and hopped online to try to find out how exactly they worked. Most chili beers are rather pale with a light, simple malt base that lets the chili flavor shine through. Our plan was to go a little different. We wanted those roasty, smoky flavors in the malt that would play off the smokiness of the chipotle and give the feeling of a BBQ. Tasting notes are after the recipe.


  • 8lbs 2 Row Malt
  • 1lb CaraFa II
  • 1lb 40L Crystal
  • .5lb Special Blend
  • .25lb Roasted Barley (400L)

70 minute, single infusion mash at about 155ºF


  • 1oz EKG at 60 minutes
  • 3 Jalapeño Peppers washed and halved at 15 minutes
  • 1tsp Irish Moss at 15 Minutes

The Jalapeños were removed after the boil, which we thought was a mistake at the time; although, the beer certainly tastes good.


We used Wyeast 1056 with no started in our 6.5gal glass carboy. We added 3 halved chipotles into the carboy as well (we washed and microwaved them to kill any microbes). Our original gravity was 1.054

After about 6 days, we racked it to secondary and added 4 more chipotles and 3 washed and halved habañeros. We tasted it multiple times a day. After 5-6 days we kegged and force carbed it.

Tasting Notes


Now that that’s out of the way… It’s very dark with a thick, tan head which takes its time melting away. The smell is a ton of that beautiful, smoky chipotle aroma with a bit of a heat from the habañero. The flavor is well balanced with a good, dark malt base mixing with the smoky heat of the chipotle. It finishes with a tingling heat on the back and side of your tongue. At about 4.5% it’s a fairly low ABV beer for us, which is good, because I foresee myself drinking a lot of it.

Oak’d Wee Heavy Recipe

One of our early bar experiences was the Thursday and Friday happy hours at the Heidelburg. There was either a free taco bar or hot wings, but more glorious was the $2.50 bottles of Arcadia Ales. I like a lot of what Arcadia does, but their Scotch Ale will forever have a place in my liver after that summer.  We wanted to created a beer that had that great malt backbone, a decent sweetness and a good kick of alcohol.  To try something new, we also wanted to do some faux bourbon barrel aging. Tasting notes are below the recipe.


  • 8lbs Golden Promise
  • .5lb 40L Crystal
  • .25 Aromatic Malt
  • .25 Munich
  • .25 Biscuit Malt
  • .1lb Roasted Barley
  • .1lb Black Patent Malt

We did a 60 minute, single infusion mash at about 155ºF. We sparged with about 5 gallons of water to end up with about 6g of runnings.


  • 2lbs Light Malt Extract
  • 1lb Brown Sugar or Golden Syrup
  • 1.5oz EKG at 60 minutes
  • .25oz Fuggles and .5oz EKG at 15 minutes
  • .75oz Fuggles dry hopped


We used Wyeast 1728 without a starter. After about 10 days of primary fermentation, we moved it to secondary with French Roasted Oak chips that had been soaking in Jack Daniels for at least two hours*. We pulled a little out to taste it every so often, and when the flavor seemed balanced, we racked it into a keg and force carbed it.

*We pulled the wood chips out and strained the whiskey into a glass on the rocks. You get some very nice added smokiness and vanilla in the Jack Daniels from the chips.

Tasting Notes

This is one  of my favorite beers that we’ve ever made. This along with our Peanut Butter Porter are the only beers we have made twice. The first time we made this it was also our first successful kegging attempt, and the keg was empty in a little over a week. This time, we decided to try to savor it more; although, it still didn’t last very long.

The ale pours a dark, reddish brown with a generally thick, cream colored head. You instantly smell the bourbon but there is also very nice malt sweetness along with it. The beer has a rich, velvety mouthfeel that is very smooth. The flavor from the oak and bourbon is mainly caramels and vanillas that add a depth to the malt flavor of the basic scotch ale. If you enjoy malty beers, definitely give this one a go.