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Ensuring Success With Your First Lagers

Friday, March 20th, 2020

By Old Standby Brewing

You’ve been homebrewing for a while now and have pumped out some pretty tasty ales, impressing the hell out of friends and family; probably some IPAs, stouts, maybe even a porter or an ESB. Now you’re thinking you might want to try your skills at a crispy lager since you’ve been seeing them pop up more and more at breweries lately. Well, here are the most important things to consider before you take on the challenge of producing a tasty lager. The 3 most important things to remember when crafting a quality lager: Yeast, Temperature, and Patience! Let’s discuss further.

Your First Lager Recipe

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

As far as recipe development goes, it’s best to keep it simple in the beginning. Start with a basic malt bill that uses high-quality Pilsner malt and only small percentages of 1 or 2 specialty malts. Don’t worry about step mashing for this recipe. Pick a single infusion temperature (around 150°F) and mash in just as you would with all the ales you’ve brewed. Next, collect all that sweet wort into your kettle and once again, keep your hop schedule pretty simple. Refer to the BJCP guidelines for the lager style you’re brewing and keep the IBU in the suggested range. Perhaps you’ll want to use a noble hop variety or two here to really capture those traditional aromas and flavors. Once your boil is complete, which you may want to increase to 75 or 90 minutes to help reduce some off-flavors associated with high levels of pilsner malt, try to chill as quickly as possible and transfer to your sanitized fermenter. This was the easy part! If you’re looking for a great go-to lager recipe check out the Oktoberfest recipe created by Daily_Brewer. You can also check out the recipe section for more lager recipe inspiration.

Yeast Strains For Lagers

Here’s where your lager really needs some tender love and guidance to reach its full potential. Since lager yeast moves slower & does its best work at cooler fermentation temperatures, you’re going to want to pitch at least double (or maybe triple) the amount you normally pitch into your ales. This yeast also needs to be fresh so check the packaging dates. I try to use yeast that is dated within 1-2 months of my brew date. If you can’t get super fresh yeast, you’ll either want to purchase more or make a starter to get your yeast ready to tackle your lager. Remember, the yeast is doing all the work here, so make sure you’re adding enough to make your first lager attempt successful. I find that the pitch rate calculator on Brewer’s Friend is an excellent resource to determine how much yeast I actually need to use. It’s better to pitch more viable, healthy cells than not enough!

Lagers And Temperature Control

Now that you’ve brewed the beer and pitched plenty of fresh lager yeast, it’s time to create the optimum fermentation environment for your lager yeast to do the important work it needs to do. In order to create a choice lager, you have to be able to keep your fermenter at consistent lager temperatures for a long period of time. This means in the range of 48-52°F for 2 weeks and then down to almost freezing temps for a month or more. Each variety of yeast that you use will have an optimum fermentation range so use this information as your guide. If you don’t have the ability to control your fermentation temperature yet, you may want to consider not brewing a lager at this point in your homebrewing career. Sorry for the brutal honesty here, but I’m just trying to save you the heartache of your lager not turning out very good!

Stay Patient With Your Lagers

Sticking with the theme of keeping it simple, hold this temperature for at least 7-14 days before you do anything. Now, you’re going to be used to the activity that you’ve seen from your ale fermentations; you’ve possibly even blown a few airlocks off the top of your carboy, right? Well, lager fermentation happens much slower. Picture the sloth DMV scene in Zootopia or maybe even your last service call with your utility company! I digress. There are a few very well-known techniques for attempting to speed up your lager fermentation by some very well respected brewers, but I would urge you to keep it simple for your first lager and stick to a basic fermentation schedule which takes a few more days, but is less complex and doesn’t require you to take a bunch of gravity readings. Once your lager activity starts to really slow down after 7-14 days, raise the temperature of your fermentation vessel a few degrees, to the upper end of the range that we talked about earlier from the yeast manufacturer, and hold at this temp for at least another 3-4 days. This warming at the end of the fermentation will give your yeast a chance to clean up any off-flavors that have been produced. This is also known as a diacetyl rest. Diacetyl is a buttery flavor that you don’t want in your finished lager so be patient and give the yeast a chance to tidy things up. If you’re still seeing some activity in your blow-off, take a gravity reading to see if your lager is getting close to being finished. If not, give the beer a few more days to wrap things up.

Packaging Your Lagers

lagers in keezer

Photo by Adam Barhan via Flickr

When all activity in your fermenter has stopped and you’ve hit your final gravity, it’s time to start cooling your beer down to start the lagering process. The word lager, or lagern in German, means “to store” or “to keep,” so really you’re just beginning to create the amazing flavors that you’ve come to love from a crispy lager. Lower the temperature of your fermenter about 2-3 degrees per day (patience, remember?) until you get down to 32-35°F and hold at this temp for as long as you can possibly stand it! Usually, 3-4 weeks is a good lagering time, but some of the more powdery yeast strains will need longer to drop out of suspension completely and some higher alcohol lager varieties will need even more time to fully mature. It is best to do this lagering phase with all of your yeast still in the fermenter, so don’t worry about racking into a secondary fermenter at this time. This allows your lager yeast to continue working its magic and creating the delicate flavors that you’ll want in your finished beer.

Now that you’ve completed your lagering stage you’re probably really thirsty and hopefully, you brewed enough ales before this lager to get you through the last couple of months! If you have the ability to keg and force carbonate your lager, you could be enjoying pints in just a few days. If you bottle condition your beer, then you’re going to have to wait a couple more weeks for your lager to fully carbonate. Bottle carbonation happens when the remaining yeast in your beer consumes the priming dextrose that you add at bottling, but since you’ve just finished a month-long lagering phase, there isn’t too much yeast left in your beer. So once again be patient because carbonation will take longer than usual. I probably don’t have to remind you, but I will anyway since you’ve come this far, sanitation is so important when making quality beer after your boil is complete. When you make a lager there is nowhere for off-flavors to hide, so make sure you’re cleaning and sanitizing everything that will come in contact with your beer once it leaves your boil kettle.

When it comes time to pour the first pint of lager that you crafted and cared for over the last couple of months, you’re going to have a new appreciation for lager brewing. Pay close attention to the delicate and subtle flavors of the pilsner malt and the traditional aromas of the German hops. Planning your next lager is a great thing to do while you enjoy your first few pints of the brew you just completed! Prost!

6 Hops That Can Make an Impact Next Brew Day

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020

By: Ryan Celia

Hops are 1 of 4 ingredients required to brew beer according to traditional German Reinheitsgebot. They impart bitterness, flavor, and aroma to beer when used during specific times before, during, and after the boil. Hops come in several forms, the most common being whole leaf hops, pellet hops, cryo hops, and hop extract. Here are 6 hops that can make an impact on your beer on your next brew day.

Everyday Hophead Hops

Photo by Missy Fant on Unsplash

These are the hops that every hophead uses on a regular basis. These hops are readily available online and at your Local Homebrew Store. You’ll also be able to find them in a variety of forms, not just standard pellets.

Simcoe Hops

Simcoe hops are very popular among professional and home brewers due to them being very well rounded and predictable. Simcoe hops usually range from 12% – 14% alpha acid and work well for a bittering addition as well as a flavor and an aroma addition, making them a triple purpose hop. Not all high alpha acid hops work well as a bittering hop. Some high alpha hops don’t have the clean or desired bittering profile needed to add them early in the boil. Simcoe hops work well in a SMASH beer due to their high alpha acid content that works well for bittering and their exceptional ability to provide their flavor and aroma as advertised. A SMASH beer is a beer brewed with a Single Malt And Single Hop. Simcoe hops are known to impart flavors and aromas of grapefruit, pine, and citrus. Simcoe hops can be found in a wide variety of beer styles but are typically found in IPAs, Double IPAs, American Pale Ales, Wheat beers and Amber Ales.

Citra Hops

Citra hops are in high demand among professional and home brewers due to their incredible ability to add highly desirable flavor and aroma. Citra hops are known for imparting aromas of grapefruit, citrus, and tropical fruit. Citra hops typically have an alpha acid range of 10% – 15%, however, they are one of those hops that the higher alpha acid doesn’t necessarily translate into being a great bittering hop. The bitterness they produce tends to be a bit harsh for some people’s likings. Citra hops make their magic happen when added towards the end of the boil, the whirlpool, and as a dry hop addition. I’ve had and enjoyed several all Citra hopped beers, but the common thread was that the bitterness of these beers was quite restrained. Citra hops can typically be fund in IPAs, Double IPAs, American Ales in general, and New England IPAs.

Mosaic Hops

Mosaic hops are another high demand hop that can be considered a triple purpose hop. They continue to grow in popularity. Their alpha acid range is typically 11% – 14%. Mosaic hops typically impart flavor and aromas of tropical fruit, pine, citrus, and blueberry. Mosaic hops can be found in New England IPAs, American Pale Ales, IPAs, and Double IPAs. I’ve had a few beers that were dominated by Mosaic hops and the blueberry flavor really shined through. This made these beers and this hop very enjoyable.

Sought After Hophead Hops

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

These hops may not always be hard to find online but they may cost quite a bit more than what you’re used to spending, they may only be available certain times of the year, and they may not be readily available at your local homebrew store. They are hops that all homebrewers need to try at least once to see the impact they make on their finished product.

Galaxy Hops

Galaxy hops are one of the most in-demand hops on the market today. The demand has driven the price up to anywhere between $30 and $40 per pound, one of the highest-priced hops on the market. Galaxy hops are a triple purpose hop coming in between 11% and 16% alpha acid. Galaxy hops have flavors and aromas of peach, passionfruit, pineapple, citrus, and a lovely generic tropical fruit flavor that is close to being unmatched by any other hop. Galaxy hops are best used late in the boil, post-boil, or as a dry hopping addition. Galaxy hops are a desired addition to any hop-forward beer.

Amarillo Hops

Amarillo hops are primarily used as a flavor and aroma hop. Amarillo has some uniqueness in that it’s grown in both the United States and Germany and the hops you get from each country are noticeably different from one another. They typically range from 7% – 12% alpha acid, which can be fairly high for a hop that is primarily used for floor and aroma. The higher alpha acid version of this hop are usually the ones from Germany. The American Amarillo hop will have flavor and aroma characteristics of citrus, orange, floral, and tropical fruit. The German version will have a few distinct variations to include a tropical / fruit punch version, a lemon/citrus version, and a stone fruit version. These are one of my favorite hops to use at the end of the boil, in the whirlpool, or hop stand when making a hop-forward beer. Give them a try, I assure you they won’t disappoint.

Sorachi Ace Hops

Sorachi Ace hops maintain their popularity and demand due to their unique flavor characteristics even though they are grown in limited quantities. Sorachi Ace hops contribute flavors and aromas of lemon, dill, and citrus. Their lemon and dill flavors are the most noticeable, with the lemon being in the forefront. They range in alpha acid from 11% – 16% and have been used successfully as a bittering, flavor, and aroma hop. Some commercial breweries have even used Sorachi Ace as the only hop in certain beers that they’ve brewed. I’ve used them in IPAs, American Pale Ales, American Barleywines, and Saisons. This is definitely a hop you must try once either on its own or combined with another fruit-forward or citrus-forward hop.

Brewer’s Friend Is Looking For Writers!

Thursday, December 5th, 2019

Brewer’s Friend is looking for passionate homebrewers who are interested in sharing their knowledge with the community in the form of articles for our blog section. The topics we’re looking to cover span a wide range of skill levels and subject matter. They will be technical in nature. Writers will be able to choose from a list of available topics or even pitch their own ideas

If this seems interesting to you, but you don’t have much experience with writing, don’t hesitate to reach out as well. You can email the editor directly via email at [email protected] or fill out the survey in the link below for more information.

» Start Here «

We’re excited to offer brewers a chance to share their love and passion for brewing with the community. 

Cheers and happy brewing,

Check out our New Features on our Changelog!

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019

April 2019 brings updates, new features, and support for more wireless hydrometers.


  • Fermentation chart BPM for Plaato.

  • Additional API stream fields for MyBrewBot and Fermentrack.


  • Recipe Builder pH prediction showing with no water profile selected.

  • Recipe Builder, Inventory & Shopping custom brands now showing up prior to being approved.

  • Recipe View can now show fermentation chart from multiple brew sessions.

  • Recipe Builder water calc sometimes missing acid additions from the recipe.

  • Inventory & Shopping can now enter yeast temp in °F or °C.


Check it out today, and let us know what you think!

Pre-Order Your Brewer’s Friend T-Shirt – First T-Shirt Ever!

Thursday, January 24th, 2019

For the first time ever we will be offering a run of t-shirts!

Pre-order now!

We will accept pre-orders until March 31st, 2019, then print the t-shirts and ship in the weeks after that.

These shirts are awesome! Next Level brand, 60% cotton/40% polyester.
They are incredibly comfortable and very soft with a solid amount of stretch to them.
We have gotten these brand t-shirts from other companies in the industry and they are our absolute favorite.
The photo above is a general mock-up. The logo/design will be the same but the t-shirt color might be a bit lighter.

Pre-Order Now:


CUSTOMERS IN THE UNITED STATES ONLY!We will refund any orders outside the US. If you are interested in a t-shirt outside the US please e-mail us for pricing at [email protected].

Import your Brewtoad files into Brewer’s Friend- Quickly and Easily!

Tuesday, January 8th, 2019

Exporting recipes from Brewtoad, or any type of *.xml file, and into Brewer’s Friend is simple and straightforward.   When you are on the Brewtoad website, you can export the recipes one at a time easily.   However, that could be very tedious,  so you could try using this technique for exporting all of them found on here:

Please be advised that we did not write that script, so please be cautious in trying it.

Brewer’s Friend accepts both *.bsmx (Beersmith) and the *.xml file formats, so you can import ANY .xml files into Brewer’s Friend from other software programs or from recipes on the internet that have an .xml or *bsmx file type.   Once you export your recipes,  save to your computer or in a dropbox if you have a very large number of recipes.  It’s a good idea to save it to your desktop, for ease in finding it again.

Then, to import your recipes into Brewer’s Friend, just open your internet browser, and go to 

Log into your account, and choose “Tools” in the orange tool bar.

Then choose “Import Recipes” in the dropdown.


A screen will appear, telling you to choose a file, or to drag it into the box.

You also have a choice about what to do with ingredients in the recipe that may not have an exact match in Brewer’s Friend.   When importing from Beersmith or Brewtoad (or many other programs), the bottom box should be checked, as this will allow those unmatched items to be listed in your recipe:


When you have made your selection here, scroll back up a little and once you have chosen the file(s) to import, click “import”.

When the import is finished, the new recipes will be listed in your dashboard under “My Recipes”.

You’ll see that a notice will say:  “! Recipe just imported, Edit and Save to fill in stats.



Click on the title of the first recipe you wish to save in Brewer’s Friend.   Then, click “edit” on the right side near the top of the screen.


That will bring up the full recipe and here you can save it.   You can also choose whether to make this recipe public (shared) or private by moving the slider (see below).


Once you click save, this recipe will be in “My Recipes” in Brewer’s Friend as one of your regular recipes.


That’s all there is to it!  It’s quick, easy, and enables you to keep your entire collection of recipe files on our cloud.  Cheers!

Migrating Your Recipes from Beersmith To Brewer’s Friend

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018

Exporting recipes from Beersmith and into Brewer’s Friend is simple and straightforward.   When you are in the Beersmith program, you will have two options for exporting your recipe files.    The “Export All” command exports all of the items in the current view or folder to a file which you can save to your computer or email to other brewers.

The “Export Selected Items” choice exports only the items you have selected in the current view.  You can select multiple items by holding the Ctrl key while you click on the items you are choosing.  The blue highlights in the view above show the chosen recipes.

Beersmith files have a *bsmx file extension which can be directly imported into Brewer’s Friend, or you can import those files as BeerXML files (with a .xml extension) as well.   Brewer’s Friend accepts either one of those file formats, so you can also import ANY .xml files into Brewer’s Friend from other software programs or from recipes on the internet that have an .xml file type.

After you choose the “export all” or “export selected”, the following screen will appear: 


Choose the file type that you would like to use for importing.   Either *.bsmx or *.xml will work in Brewer’s Friend.   Save to your computer or the cloud as in a dropbox if you have a very large number of recipes.  In this case, this file was saved to the desktop for ease in finding it again.


Open your internet browser, and go to 

Log into your account, and choose “Tools” in the orange tool bar.

Then choose “Import Recipes” in the dropdown.



A screen will appear, telling you to choose a file, or to drag it into the box.

You also have a choice about what to do with ingredients in the recipe that may not have an exact match in Brewer’s Friend.   When importing from Beersmith, the bottom box should be checked, as this will allow those unmatched items to be listed in your recipe:


When you have made your selection here, scroll back up a little and once you have chosen the file(s) to import, click “import”.

When the import is finished, the new recipes will be listed in your dashboard under “My Recipes”.

You’ll see that a notice will say:  “! Recipe just imported, Edit and Save to fill in stats.



Click on the title of the first recipe you wish to save in Brewer’s Friend.   Then, click “edit” on the right side near the top of the screen.


That will bring up the full recipe and here you can save it.   You can also choose whether to make this recipe public (shared) or private by moving the slider (see below).


Once you click save, this recipe will be in “My Recipes” in Brewer’s Friend as one of your regular recipes.


That’s all there is to it!  It’s quick, easy, and enables you to keep your entire Beersmith recipe files on our cloud.  Cheers!

New Brewing for Beginners Tutorial Available Now!

Tuesday, December 4th, 2018

Have you wanted to homebrew, but never knew where to start?  Or have a friend who does?

Designed for beginners, this illustrated article can help you, from choosing the equipment you will need as well as give you step-by-step directions through the brewing and fermenting process.

Check it out now!

A Brief History and Look at Future Trends in US Craft Beer

Saturday, February 17th, 2018

craft beer anchor steam

“Beer is more important than armies when it comes to understanding people.” – Alexei Vranich

An Early History of Craft Beer

Early American beer started with ales from the British settlers; porters, stouts, and pale ales (once kilning took hold as general practice in 1703). It is common knowledge that most of the founding fathers were homebrewers, with George Washington being one of the most famous of them. One thing that many people don’t talk much about is the role of women in early American brewing. These brewing maidens many times managed their own operations, brought communities together, and many were also typically bakers as well. They kept cats as house pets, and hung their brooms outside their houses to signify that beer was flowing. Recognize anything familiar? These women were demonized by Puritan settlers to promote staunch temperance, and thus the “witch” was born.

Once German settlers started arriving in the later 1700s and 1800s, lager beers came into the forefront. What we saw after that was a hybridization of style—basically a blend of the lager and pale ale (especially in the warmer climates)—this is where the California and Kentucky common came from, as well as the cream ale. These were the standard beer menu items almost any domestic brewery carried. Locality had a lot to do with it. Just as it always has been in brewing, you use what’s fresh and what you can get your hands on. This is the reason the American adjunct lager became the popular method for brewing lager in the US, because local American 6-row Barley didn’t have the same gravity potential as European 2-row, so corn and rice were added to increase the available sugar content in the beer without changing the flavor too much. There are various research papers from the time that praised this innovation, which allowed everyone to continue drinking their favorite bubbly beverage. Around this time also (pre-18th amendment America), there were just a couple hundred breweries less than there are today. You could say it was in its own hey-day. Macro breweries had been at a disadvantage during this period, as the local brew pubs were the ones with the freshest selection and lower price that the larger players couldn’t compete with. Prohibition is what allowed for the large breweries to take over, they were the ones that invested in canning lines, distribution (trucks, etc.), and large facilities. They also brewed low alcohol/zero alcohol beers to stay afloat during that time or did things like selling malted milk to candy companies. I don’t really need to spend much time on what happened after that. One thing that is quite notable, however, is that even through this time, there were pub and brewery owners truly honoring the craft. This helped to create an underground community that eventually assembled the American Brewer’s Association which helped establish specific protections for independent breweries, and today is the driving force in beating back the macros of the world, creating a niche for these brands that are truly “craft.”

There really was a shift when the Cold War ended. The early 1990s saw people like the pioneers from Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head come along and helped to truly reshape what American beer is, basically by saying, “this can’t be all there is…” They doubled down on their beliefs, and decided that the way to make it was not to do a better version of the American Light Lager, but to do something completely different. They followed the Henry Ford methodology, giving people something that they had no real expectation for nor basis of judgement- “If I had asked the customer what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse”. In today’s market, these same companies are working tirelessly to stay relevant and compete with the up-and-comers, who seem to have a strong pulse on the changing palate of the American beer drinker. Because of this innovation, the US is now the best place to try and taste new beers, according to Randy Mosher. Between 2015 and 2017, almost 1,000 breweries were opened, and in 2017 craft beer surpassed 10% of overall US beer market share (BeverageDynamics). People have come to demand new and local, something that Big Beer has been tapping into with their Shock Top/Blue Moons and Goose Island/Kona brands- falsely representing brands as craft when they are just as “big” as Budweiser itself. Certain large craft brands have also been seen adding products to the shelves to compete in the smaller craft brew space, e.g. Tropical Torpedo (Sierra Nevada), Voodoo Ranger/Citradelic (New Belgium), Rebel IPA and now a New England IPA (Sam Adams) to name a few. This is the one thing that makes me excited about the future of beer, as if these pioneers are basically a step behind now, where can this industry really go? Authenticity and taste will always seem to trump craft no matter how you define the word. We’re basically seeing history repeat itself- just with different flavors and style trends- and way larger marketing budgets.

There’s a lot of speculation of what’s to come. If 2018 is anything like 2015 or 2017, we’ll likely see another huge acquisition that blows everyone’s minds and makes the buy-outs of yester-year feel like a drop in the bucket. The one refreshing aspect of all of this is how gracious the beer drinking community is. Yes there are people who have had their egos get far too overinflated, but the fact remains that this culture is one based on trust and comradery. For every 10 new breweries, there is at least one homebrew store opening, and soon local malt houses will start to be a staple in the industry as up-and-comers look to distinguish their malt taste, reminiscent of what the French have coined “terroir”. One of the most interesting pieces I got my hands on was a research paper talking about the role that wasps will play in the future of beer taste, as wild yeasts can breed and mutate within the stomachs of wasps. Some larger craft breweries have been experimenting with “brewing history into the glass,” and I’m fascinated to see what type of concoctions brewers will continue to bring to the table in this “ancient” vein. Heck, I heard of a beer that was brewed from a yeast isolated from the brew master’s beard! Now that the science is more specifically understood, there will be some amazing flavors hitting the market that might make our hoppy berliners of today look like finger paintings next to these flavor Picassos. I just saw a well-produced social media ad for sour beers claiming they’re incredible for digestive health. I can see the marketing campaigns already… “So you like Kombucha… Then you’ll love this beer”- they’re already selling 7% abv Kombucha… so why not?

2017 in Craft Beer

Some Big trends that 2017 saw: sour beers, dry hopped wild beers, fruity/juicy IPAs, New England IPAs, and milk in everything. Even though people have loved to hate some of these trends, they’ve come about from brewers responding to feedback from their customers, by just giving the fans what they want. A very stark advantage that these up and coming breweries have is not being chained to successful brands, which frees up tap space for more seasonal brewing, and allows the brewers to pay more attention to their customers. Some tap houses have gained market share by never carrying the same keg twice.

gluten free craft beer

One trend that seems to be gaining momentum is the alternative grains movement. In 2015, Business Insider listed gluten-free beer FIRST on its list of 4 trends to look out for in the coming years. I’m making no large, overarching comments here, but that could be the reason I was chosen to write this article (being a glutard myself). Certain breweries like Ghostfish and Glutenberg have gotten their flavors profiles down so well that we might see a day when gluten-free is no longer just for those with sensitive stomachs, or who are health conscious, and is lumped in with the rest as just down right good beer. It’s still made with water, malted grains, hops, and yeast. Speaking of the Reinheitsgebot, many countries, like Germany, are drinking 30% less beer per capita, and “health reasons” is the main driving force. Take this into account. The same year that the USA was rated the fattest country in the world (2007), Germany was rated as the fattest country in Europe. Gluten is an inflammatory protein. There’s not really any way around that, and gluten-reduced beer just carries chopped up gluten protein pieces, from which I personally still experience inflammation in the form of brain fog, sore joints, and worse hang-overs (think hangover turned flu-like), so there is a chance that gluten-reduced might not be a long-lived trend in beer. Lacking those inflammatory proteins, the path forward may include a growing number of gluten-free breweries, where grains that have typically been on the periphery will now take center stage, like millet, buckwheat, rice, sorghum, quinoa, oats (that are certified gf), corn, amaranth, sweet potatoes, beets, dates, and various of other malt-able grains and sugars. By no means has barley seen it’s day, but there is a massive potential for this industry to take flight considering that according to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, as many as 18 million Americans may have non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).

Other Trends to Watch For

I’m very excited to see that barrel aging has gained so much popularity in beer. The next few years will likely see every commercial barrel used for any spirit being used to beer aging- Tequila and Rum barrels especially- the bourbon barrel/taste is starting to play itself out. Also, I’m starting to see less shaker pint glasses serving my favorite golden elixirs- which means that the education about what beer can be is getting out to the masses.

barrel aged craft beer

The public has spoken, as one-bottle wonders are typically a one-time sell. Some craft beer enthusiasts may be willing to pay extra for a beer that they’ve decided they’re going to try and check off their beer bucket list, but they’re not going to come back and buy your 18% ABV mother of all IPAs night after night. Session beers are making a strong comeback, especially as this local movement takes hold and breweries become communal gathering places again and not just destination visits for beer pilgrims. I also keep hearing about pilsners making the list at just about every brewery, so much so that even Robert Mondavi’s kid is opening a brewery that will specialize in just pilsners. Who would have thought? Either way, expect to start hearing from more Utah brewers to be leaders in this space (*throat clear* Jennifer Talley is a genius).

One thing that seems safe to say is that IPA’s are here to stay. Breweries will continue to have IPAs, and in some cases, have more than 4 IPA styles on their tap list (some are all IPA breweries and are not ready to admit it). In today’s climate, it’s almost expected. The number of new breweries being launched with an IPA as their flagship beer is almost staggering. To keep up with this demand, hop cultivars will continue to experiment and breed strains together to get the right chemical mixes and really make those flavors pop. We’ll be seeing some hop breeding relationships that will most likely blow people’s minds- think mixing two “not-as-popular” hops to create something far more desirable- this could change the taste styles we see.

Craft Beer Style Crossover

Speaking of breeding, beer styles have been getting it on so to speak; so much so that they don’t really have their own style category for judging. In fact, we’ll likely see so much style-creep that naming beers might become purely marketing. Cans are already starting to look like professional works of art with the labeling designs, and it’s working. Somehow asking for the bartender for a pint of the “Tropical Imperial Hazy Kolsch” just doesn’t seem like it’ll work in the long run. What do we really know anyway? Could the pilsner’s day actually be in its twilight of popularity? Whatever the case, quality will always win in the craft game.

“Tod Zum Reinheitsgebot” (Gluten Free India Dunkel Bock)

Grains Hop Schedule Yeast
  • 5 lbs. Pale Millet Malt
  • 5 lbs Vienna Millet Malt
  • 2 lbs Munich Millet Malt
  • 2 lbs Buckwheat Malt
  • .5 lb gas hog rice malt (you can mash or just add to the top of your mashed grains and sparge with this for color)- I personally preferred the smoky/astringent taste that transferred over in the mash- very Rauch-like!
  • 1.5 lbs rice hulls
  • 3.3 lbs. of sorghum syrup (towards the end of the boil- 15 minutes)
  • 0.5 lb. Maltodextrin (10 minutes) (stir in a 1 cup glass of warm water before pouring- the same way you do with cornstarch)
  • .5 oz. Hallertau Blanc (60 minutes)
  • .5 oz. Hallertau Blanc + 1 oz Calypso + .5 oz Simcoe (15 minutes)
  • 1 oz. Hallertau Blanc + 1 oz Calypso + 2.5 oz Simcoe (Whirlpool)
WLP 833 German Bock Lager Yeast
By the Numbers:
OG:1.070 | FG:1.005 | ABV:8.5%

Treat water with 2 tsp calcium chloride, 1 tsp gypsum. Mix all grains dry in bucket before pouring in, Stir in grains into 5 gal of strike water and add ½ tsp of amylase enzyme. Mash at 154⁰F for 1 hour, raise to 163 for 30 minutes, sparge out with 2.5 to 3 gallons of 170⁰F water with same ratio of calcium chloride and gypsum (In this instance you would use 3/5 of your original measurements- since we’re sparging with 3 gallons). You should have a pre-boil gravity of about 1.03-1.045.
Ferment 2 weeks at 55⁰F. I transferred to the lager fridge when gravity was 1.010. Dry hop three days before pulling the beer out. I let it lager for just about a month between 36-38⁰F.


Anchor steam photo by James Cridland
Gluten free beer photo by Mike Mozart
Barrel Aged beer photo by Bernt Rostad

Brewing Water Basics – Putting it All Together

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

brewing water minerals

We’ve covered some of the basics of water chemistry in the last two articles, and now we are ready to put it all together.

The first step is to start with chlorine-free water of suitable quality for brewing and reducing the alkalinity if needed.

Once you have an understanding of targeting an optimum range for the mash pH and taken steps to use non-alkaline water for sparging, the next step is to consider using brewing salts in the water to further enhance the flavor of your beer.

Just as in cooking certain spices go well with certain foods, certain brewing salts can enhance certain styles of beers. Looking back at the list of our brewing salts, we can see what each of them brings to the table:

Calcium (in Gypsum and Calcium Chloride): Calcium is the primary ion that determines hardness of the water. It helps with lowering the pH during mashing, helps with precipitations of proteins in the boil (hot break), enhances yeast flocculation, and assists in preventing beerstone. Many lagers are made with very low levels of calcium, so it is not required but can be helpful in the amounts 50-100 ppm.

Magnesium (Epsom Salt or MgSO4): Also responsible for providing hardness to the water, it can provide a sour/bitter flavor to the beer in amounts of 30 ppm or more. It has a laxative effect in much larger amounts. Malt provides all of the magnesium required for yeast health, so it is not required as an addition unless adding sulfate in the presence of a high calcium level (using epsom salts, or MgSO4).

Sulfate: Sulfate is the ion that is used to accentuate hop bitterness by enhancing the dryness of the finish. Additions are normally avoided in continental lagers or only used in small amounts, often 30 ppm or less, and in most ales the ideal amount is 30-70 ppm. For highly hopped beers, the desired sulfate level may be much higher: 150-300 ppm for IPAs or west coast APAs. That will make the finish seem more crisp and dry. If using 150 ppm or higher, the chloride level should be under 50 ppm to avoid a minerally finish to the beer.

Chloride: Chloride accentuates a fullness or “roundness” of flavor in the beer, enhancing the malt sweetness. It is generally used in the 40-100 ppm range in many beers, but in the New England IPA style, the chloride is often over 100 ppm, up to 150 ppm.

Sodium (Non-iodized table salt or NaCl): Sodium rounds out the malt flavors, and can be used in modest amounts (under 150 ppm). A higher concentration can make the beer taste salty, and having a high sodium combined with a high sulfate level can create a harsh bitterness. It is generally recognized that keeping the sodium at 0-60 is a safe bet, and using brewing water sourced from a water softener is to be avoided.

Baking Soda (NaHCO3 or sodium bicarbonate): This is used if alkalinity is needed to raise mash PH, and also provides sodium.

Many of us can remember the older guy at the bar with a tap beer in front of him using a salt shaker to sprinkle salt in his beer. Looking at the list, we can see that the table salt consists of NaCl- both sodium and chloride. The sodium rounds out the malt flavor, and the chloride accentuates the fullness of the malt sweetness. We can do the same thing via these salt additions to the mash and/or preboiled wort.

Determining Brewing Water Additions

brewers friend brewing water calc
Check out the Brewer’s Friend Brewing Water Calculator

Adding the salts is done in very small amounts, typically grams. While it can be converted to other measurements (a teaspoon of calcium chloride is close to 5 grams), the amounts are generally very small so a scale that weighs to grams and/or tenths of a gram is very helpful. While it is easiest to just add a teaspoon or a half of a teaspoon of something to the mashing water, it’s best to look at a brewing spreadsheet showing the additions so you can see the results of adding the salts. There are also nomographs available and of course an enterprising brewer can calculate it by hand. The amounts are usually expressed in parts per million (PPM) and the spreadsheets themselves have guidelines on how much to add to avoid overuse. The salts are typically added to the mash, but can be added to the boil kettle in some cases. Make sure to never add baking soda or other alkalinity to the sparging water. In the rare case where you need to raise the mash pH, add the baking soda to the mash.

When deciding what additions are suitable for each batch of beer, consider what you want to bring out in the beer’s flavor. Also, keep in mind that “less is more” generally applies, until you know what you like in a certain beer recipe or style. For example, if you are making an American IPA you may want to use some gypsum (calcium sulfate), as the sulfate will help to provide a dry finish and a crisper mouthfeel to enhance the hops bittering. While some brewers will go up to 300 ppm of sulfate in these beer styles, you may want to start smaller at first to avoid perceptions of harshness. Since the easiest way to add sulfate to the beer is via gypsum which also adds calcium, this is commonly done. The other way to add sulfate is via magnesium sulfate (epsom salt), but it’s important to keep the magnesium level below about 30 ppm to avoid a bitter/sour flavor. Some brewers eschew the addition of epsom salts totally, feeling that the gypsum does the job without any issue.

For a beginning profile for something like an American pale ale or IPA, a modest addition of gypsum is may give great results. As an example, using 7 gallons of RO to begin the brewday for a 5 gallon batch, adding 7 grams of gypsum will provide 63 ppm of calcium and 148 ppm of sulfate. Looking at the list above, you can see that it is in a desirable range for both calcium and sulfate for a hoppy beer. Using a brewing spreadsheet, you can see that using this amount of gypsum in the mash is also likely to give an optimum mash pH as well, depending on the grainbill, so this is a great place to start. After the brew is finished and taste testing, a decision can be made for next time. You can even add a touch of gypsum to the glass, to see if you prefer the beer with more sulfate for next time. Starting with less than the maximum recommended generally gives satisfaction to the brewer.

For beers that have a lovely malt flavor, calcium chloride is a common addition. Looking at the list again, you can see that calcium chloride will provide calcium to the mash as well as the chloride. Since chloride enhances the fullness or “roundness” of malt flavor, and gives a perception of sweetness to the malt, adding it to a beer recipe can bring the flavor to the next level. If you’re making an Octoberfest or brown ale, adding some calcium chloride would be a great move. Adding 3 grams to a 5 gallon batch of brown ale maybe be just the ticket to making a very good beer great.

For brewing lagers, especially European style lagers, less sulfate is desirable and often it is completely left out. It wouldn’t be unusual to brew a German pilsner without any additions to RO water at all, so keep in mind that adding brewing salts is not necessary and is a matter of the style of the beer as well as the brewer’s taste.

For a good basic “all purpose” water profile to start, consider something like this:

Calcium: 75 ppm
Magnesium: 10 ppm (more or less, but under 25 ppm)
Sodium: 0-50 ppm
Sulfate: 50-70
Chloride 50-70
Mash pH of 5.3-5.5

There are a couple of cautions when adding brewing salts to your water adjustments. Many brewers will refer to the sulfate:chloride ratio because that’s been discussed in older brewing texts. The theory is that keeping a ratio of sulfate to chloride will make a beer more “hoppy” or more “malty”- but this is not so. When discussing a ratio, remember that 80 ppm of sulfate and 40 ppm of chloride is a 2:1 ratio, and according to a brewing water spreadsheet available online (EZ Water) the text says “may enhance bitterness”. That’s great- but 800 ppm sulfate and 400 ppm of chloride is ALSO a 2:1 ratio- and it also says “may enhance bitterness”. Common sense dictates that one beer will be far different than the other, while the ratio is exactly the same. The first should be just fine, although not with a particularly dry finish, but the second will be “minerally” and undrinkable. When you are cooking and add too much salt to your spaghetti sauce ,you cannot erase that by adding more pepper. When brewing, you also can’t “erase” too much gypsum by adding more calcium chloride. Instead of targeting a sulfate:chloride ratio, look at the actual numbers in ppm and the recommended limits of each ion, and make the decision based on that.

Another pitfall is to be so consumed with the numbers of the ions is to forget that the mash pH is the most important aspect of delving into water chemistry. An appropriate mash pH will provide the most benefit to your beer, while the flavor ions are the “seasonings” in your beer. Starting with a good recipe and using good water and targeting an optimum mash pH will make a very good beer. Tweaking the recipe by adding some gypsum and calcium chloride (as examples) may take that very good beer to very, very good or even excellent beer. To compare brewing to cooking again, adding the perfect amount of salt and pepper to your spaghetti sauce can make your very good sauce something memorable, and adding a bit of rosemary may make it exceptional. So it goes with brewing- starting with a great base and adding your brewing salts in the right amounts can take it to the next level. Adding too much is more of a danger than too little, so be aware of that in your additions as you start adjusting your water.

Entire books have been written about brewing water and water chemistry for brewers, as the subject is complex. Further reading is highly recommended. Some good sources are listed below:

Here are a few links to additional reading, as well as some of the sources of this article:
John Palmer, How To Brew
Martin Brungard, Bru’nwater,_alkalinity_and_mash_pH
Kai Troester
Brewer’s Friend, water calculator

Water- A Comprehensive Book for Brewers John Palmer & Colin Kaminsky