Gluten Free Wit, attempt the first.

So, being as how I was making an order for supplies anyhow..I went ahead and ordered things for a GF beer. I've tried making a beer-like drink from cider before and it's still kinda meh to me, so, I decided I better just go with the grains. In order to have a starting point I decided to go with this recipe from Homebrewtalk-

Driftlessbrewer's Gluten Free Wit Beer
0.5 lb Flaked corn
6.0 lb White Sorghum Syrup
0.25 lb Dark candi sugar
1.00 oz Brewer's Gold (7.4%) (60 min)
1.00 oz Spalter (4.0%) (15 min)
0.25 tsp Irish moss (10 min)
8.00 oz Malto-dextrin (5 min)
0.75 oz Coriander seeds (5 min)
0.75 oz Orange peel bitter (5 min)
15 Black pepper corns (0 min)
1 pkg SafBrew Specialty Ale (T-58)

For the flaked corn: Steep in 1.5 gallons of water (in brew pot) at 158 F for 30 minutes. Sparge with 0.5 gallons of 180 F water.

OG: 1.048
FG: 1.015 (4.3% alcohol)

Additional coriander and pepper corns were added to the secondary.


People are saying it's not quite a wit, but that it is beer. Woohoo! So, I figure I will make this and use it as a comparison, along with commercial GF brews I have tried (Redbridge, New Grist, havent tried Bard's Tale yet but I would if I could find a store that sold it!). Apparently Driftless's beer has a couple issues, it's not much on being foamy and has some of that sorghum-y aftertaste that the bitter orange peel may or may not be's by all accounts been described as pretty good.

The Acerglyn yeast is in the mail too :) I await round 2!

Mmm, Maple!

So, mead normally takes a while to get tasty. The general rule of thumb is to age as long as you can stand even though after a year it tends to be mighty tasty. When I first visited my LHBS, Sue (a very, very knowledgeable brewer especially in the area of wine) told me that the hardest part of making mead is waiting the second year.
Having drank 1.5 of my brews prematurely at this point, I think I am inclined to agree. Still, this maple mead (Acerglyn or Acerglen) might prove the hardest brew to ignore yet. In fact, this is the first of my brews that my signifigant other (who is rather finicky, not about trying things but in what he will actually drink) has taken a shine to. "This is something I could see getting into trouble with" he said, before taking another sip of the glass I poured for testing. "I think I'd buy this from a store." he said, quaffing the rest.

Ah, but it is only...four months old. Egads! It should continue to improve, but it may be in danger of imminent consumption come Christmas, and being as I only made one gallon which through racking and such is now more like 3/4 of a gallon.. I think I need to make more. The problem? I never wrote down a recipie. So here's what I -think- I did.

Thornback Acerglyn- 1st version
2.5 oz amber maple syrup
1 tsp Watkins maple extract
3/4 cup maple sugar (mine came in the form of maple candies I had bought in Olean, NY from Sprague's)
3lbs clover honey
water to top off
Yeast nutrient
Safale s-04 ale yeast..though I might have used Cuvee, but I remember a lot of krausen and there was a thick sludge on the bottom, which was indicative of the s-04. I didnt heat anything, just shook. As a result I had a hell of a time with separation, but in the end there was only a little honey left that the yeast didnt get to. As my hydrometer was broken, I have no idea what this fermented out to but I would guess that the s-04 just worked itself out to its max of 10%.

The mead starts out with an alcohol hotness note that I dont much notice myself but have been told exists, which is nearly immediately replaced with a maple-y tang, which then evolves into a nice sweet smooth and just a little buttery maple syrup note that lingers on the tounge and breath. The mouthfeel is interesting and I think that's because of the ale yeast, it's got more body than I am used to from mead. I'm not entirely positive if I like the body it or not but Saire said he wouldent change a thing. Well, neat. As it ages I imagine the notes will harmonize more and its possible the body will as well, we shall see.

I think I want to start a new one after I bottle this mead. Here's my idea

Thornback Acerglyn v2
32 oz Clover honey, though if cost was no issue, I'd make it with Meadowfoam honey.
24 oz Maple Syrup, preferably a dark grade for better flavor transfer
1/2 cup maple sugar, possibly dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract -or- 1 madagascar vanilla bean added at secondary or in the boil
Yeast nutrient
maybe wine tannin, but only a minimal amount.
water to top off

I think I will heat the water and make simple syrup from the dry sugar and the vanilla. I'd like to heat the honey and syrup enough to get everything mixed well but I dont want to damage the honey. Gotta think on that. The wine tannin I think might be good to give it just a little something to balance out the sweet but that might defeat the purpose of the drink, I'll have to think. I've been reading a lot of recipies swearing by white wine and champagne yeasts. I can see it. It would be awesome to come by enough ingrediants to do two batches at the same time, one with s-04 and the other with champagne or white wine yeast and then compare. Mm, hey I bet this would be amazing if served sparkling...

Apparently though, maple mead is starting to have a fan following. I can see why.

the Basics; Part five

Ah yes, so, you have a brew that's been doing its thing for a few weeks, the yeast are all developing hangovers and dropping to the bottom of the carboy, and things are smelling less like honey/juice/whatever in water, and more like rocket fuel. The rocket fuel bit will mellow out with time, that's why you age alcohols, but in some brews the leavings on the bottom should be cleaned off. Mead is probably the most forgiving of sitting on its leavings ('lees'), but wine will grow more bitter as more tannins are leached into the brew. It is best to 'rack' the brews once every two or three weeks at first, then once a month, than once every two months until it is ready to bottle. Here's how you do it.

Take your siphon hose (covered in part two) and sanitize it (covered in part one). Next, sanitize a bucket or carboy big enough to hold all your brew. Then put your carboy of brew on a table or counter, and place your empty vessel on the floor. Drop one end of your siphon into your brew and put it an inch above the level of the lees. You want to get as much of the liquid and as little of the lees as possible. Start the siphon either by sucking on the other end (try not to let your tounge touch the siphon, use the outer part of your lips and be careful and quick), using an autosiphon, or whatever way you know best, and then put the other end of the siphon into the empty vessel. Try to control the splatter inside the vessel, you want the incoming liquid to be smooth and soundless, with as little air as possible getting into the brew. Think more like a calm creek and less like a waterfall. After you've gotten as much of the clear liquid off as you can, remove the siphon and sanitize the old carboy. If you have racked into a new carboy of around the same size, you can just move the airlock and stopper over to the new vessel, otherwise you will need to repeat the siphoning process to get the brew back into its place. If you made note of when you started the brew, also make note of the date of each racking. If you are using a hydrometer or interested in tasting a sample, now is the time to do it- just remember to sanitize everything before and after you use it. Also, if you decide your brew could use a fruity zing, you can add frozen, canned, or sanitized fruit to the brew during racking but after fermentation and the flavors will begen to blend..just take out the fruit after a month or so and make sure that the fruit stay submerged and that the alcohol percentage is 12-14% or higher.

Now, lets say your brew has reached its completion. It's done, there are little or no lees on the bottom, it tastes good and it's ready to drink. maybe you've allready poured yourself a celebratory glass sraight from the carboy. Good for you, you deserve it! But, what now to do about bottling? You could choose to leave it in the carboy, if so, grab a stopper without a hole and seal it well. You can also get 'Growlers' which are like smaller carboys and use them to split up a larger batch.

but what if you want bottles? Homebrew stores carry all kinds of bottles that you can buy, also you can reuse bottles you get from the store. In any case you will need a capper or a corker, and caps or corks. Personally I got my 20 oz brown glass bottles from my locak homebrew shop by asking for used bottles, which needed to be sanitized and soaked but were cheap. My capper cost me about 30$ but it is a one-time investment and it works great. I have more crown caps than I can use. Bottling doesnt really need its own instruction because it's basicly the same as racking, with even more emphasis on sanitation. Leave at least part of the neck of the bottle free for the gasses that will build up unless you want exploding bottles. I suggest using beer or champagne bottles because they hold pressure very well, wine bottles havea tendancy to be fragile that way. Not everything I make is carbonated, but, it's better to have a resistancy to explosions and not need it than, oh, well, you get it :)

So there you go! You know how to brew! From here on out it's all fun and games and exploration! If any of you reading this follow the guide and make something, fill me in with your progress, questions and so on! Untill then, happy brewing!

The Basics, Part Four

So! We've thought about germs, equipment and yeast. We've touched on water, and now it is time to talk ingredients and the part you've all been waiting for, putting all of it together.

The fun bit about the rest of the ingredients is the sheer, mind-boggling variety you have access to. In all seriousness, you could ferment, say, grass. In at least one medieval recipie, chicken is an ingredient for beer (we wont be making this here, but if you google 'cock ale' you will find plenty of recipies and innuendos). So..for the sake of my sanity as I write this, I'm going to use a simple recipie that will explain to you the basics of brewing, which you can then use to a; understand brewing so that future recipies make sense to you and b; so that you understand recipies and are able to make your own.

It should be noted at this point that in the equiptment section, I left out a few less basic items that could become usefull to you later. Most notable of these is the Hydrometer, which can be used to measure the amount of sugar in a liquid sample. By contrasting the reading you take just before you add yeast to later readings you can figure out the alcohol content of your drink. I must confess that I generally do not use a hydrometer, for two reasons. Reason number one is that hydrometers are fragile things made of glass tubes, and it seems that they break and need to be replaced more often than I use them. Reason number two is that I tend to let things ferment out to their maximum alcohol potential, and being that I brew mostly mead, the amount of alcohol in the end is nearly always more than enough to preserve the drink.

So! here is our first recipie!

You will need all of the basic equiptment listed before in step two, sanitized like I wrote about in step one, and your yeast of choice. You will also need about three pounds of honey per gallon of water ( I reccomend orange blossom, or someting local, or any other type of honey so long as you are excited about it. Just about any honey and indeed agave nectar and such will do.), spring water, a sanitized pot big enough to hold everything, a sanitized stirring spoon and a funnel or a very steady hand.

First, figure out roughly how much water you need to use. You want there to be a couple inches of air to float above the surface of your brew inside the carboy. If you are using a glass one gallon carboy, I suggest making your target amount of liquid enough so that it is a bit more than 3/4 of the way full, leaving the neck and an inch or so of space below that free.

Once you have that, pour the water you'll use and the honey into the pot, and put it on low heat. You want to heat the honey just enough to blend it easily with the water, but not so much that it bubbles or froths. Stir contstantly. skipping this step often means the honey settles on the bottom and might not be integrated with the rest of the brew. some separation is natural, but it's good to get the best initial mix that you can. This mix, wether it is wine, cider or mead, is called the 'must'. Unfermented beer is called 'wort'.

Once everything in your pot is feeling all groovy and one with itself, switch off the heat and let it cool. It's best to cool it quickly so as to limit the number of chances bacteria has to invade your brew. Most brewers either fill a sink with ice and set the pan on the ice, or they cover the pot and stick it into the fridge. Either way, when the temperature is around 80 degrees, you're ready for the next step.

Pour your must into the carboy. Whether you use a funnel or are good at pouring the contents of an ungainly pot into a bottle neck does not matter, just try not to spill. Once you get it in there, pour in a packet of yeast. Shake or stir your must vigorously, try to get the yeast swirling around really good and also try to get as much air into the must as you can. This is the first and last time you should encourage air to mix with your must.

After aerating and mixing in the yeast, fill your airlock, secure it to your carboy via a rubber bung/plug with a hole of the appropriate size drilled into it, set it in a cool, dark place, and let it be. I also grab a piece of masking take or sticker paper and label and date the carboy at this point. Your brew should be a-ok for the next few weeks, but do check in on it from time to time to watch the party your yeast are having. They'll be waking up and re-energizing soon, usually between a couple hours and a day. Depending on whether your strain of yeast is top or bottom fermenting, you may notice a foam called Krausen formng on the top of your must as it ferments. This will usually go away on its own, but if it invades the airlock you'll want to clean out the airlock and replace it, and you might want to put the carboy in a slightly cooler place and check in on it more frequently untill that stops happening.

Other than that though, we've entered the waiting game untill the next part- racking! Untill then, happy brewing!

Part Three; yeasts

First off, apologies for the lack of posts. College started up again and I've barely had time to rack my brews, let alone post. Actually I dont have time to post now except for that in a stroke of genius, this particular guide is applicable to my homework. Score! so without further mumbling..

The Brewguide! Part Three, in which a landscape of glass and juice are colonized by a tiny fungal empire..and it's a good thing!


First, a look at Yeast. I actually didnt mean to capitalize it there, but you see it's just so important that the mind lends it a certain amount of honor. You see, yeast has everything to do with this process, from the carbonation and taste to how much alcohol is in it. Yeast is a tiny fungal organism that can be seen forming on the outside of grapes, berries and grains in what appears to be a thin dusty film. Yeasts have evolved over the years with the plants they hang out on to digest and make use of that plant's sugars should the skin of the plant become breached. It's certainly not implausible to imagine that some grapes left on the vine too long or punctured by some bumbling animal might actually ferment out into wine all on their own due to the yeast on the skin of the wouldent want to eat or drink this as it would be lacking in age and might possibly be a host to other mold and bacteria.

A word about bacteria- bacteria is in fact not always a bad thing. Certain german styles of beer called Lambics (and many other non-alcoholic goods like Sourdough and so on) depend on free floating bacteria to gve them their style's characteristics. Bacteria is like a wild card, and sometimes you win big, but most of the time and in most geographic regions, you lose out. 'lose out' in this sense involves throwing out your whole batch of brew. That sucks. So be carefull, and follow the sanitation guidelines I laid out earlier in the guide.

Now. Yeast needs three things. Sugar, water and oxygen. All three of these things must be measured and controlled to ensure proper fermenation, and a variation in one of them can make a difference between the quality and style of the finish. In general, you want to introduce oxygen into the mix only once; in the begenning at the same time that you add your yeast. Sugar is generally supplied by the starches and natural sugars in your ingrediants, or added to the juice in the form of dextrose (corn sugar), honey, molasses or any number of the exotic sugars available though the 'net and your local homebrew store. As for water, I reccomend buying and using spring water as it is good quality and free of contaminates. If you use your own tap water, make sure it is good tasting and clean. If your water tastes funky, it will be magnified and carry out in your brew. It's also a good idea to boil your water if you are using tap, just in case.

Yeast is generally referred to by the style of brew it makes. Here's a list of a few types. There are of course many, many more strains, but these are the yeasts I will be using in this guide later on.

Dry wine yeast/champagne yeast; This yeast is very tolerant of alcohol and will survive long enough to eat more of the sugar in the brew, thus making for a higher alchohol, 'dry' tasting drink with high carbonation.

Coates de blancs ; this yeast is good at fermenting non-grape wines, and tends to leave behind a fruity or floral aroma. Ferments out to a 12 or 14% alcohol by volume (abv) if left to its own devices.

Ale/cider yeast; This yeast works fast and ferments out to a lower alcohol percentage. Nottingham is traditional and popular

Mead yeasts; Honestly I usually use a wine yeast, like Lalvin ec-1118. There are several companies making sweet and dry mead yeasts that I havent experimented too much with yet.

So. I reccomend buying a few packs of yeast for different things to just have on hand. Yeast in packs are relatively cheap and keep well in the fridge/freezer, and if you have yeast on hand you can be as spontaneous as you like with your brew. That desert island yeast is Lalvin ec-1118.

The Basics; Part Two

Part Two of the brewguide focuses on equipment. Mmmm, equipment.

In general, the minimum of gear that you need to brew something is as follows-

1. An Airlock; when filled with water or cheap grain alcohol, this keeps oxygen (and bacteria, insects, dust, etc) out of your brew while allowing the carbon dioxide to escape during the active fermentation stage of your brew. Without this, your brew may literally explode as pressure inside the bottle mounts...pretty terrible thing to have happen between the loss of brew, the loss of your bottle and the sticky mess! These invaluable little buggers are quite cheap- usually around 2$. They are quite easily mounted to your vessel by way of the next item on the list.

2. Rubber Stoppers; For most of the containers I use, from my 1-gallons to my 7 gallon, a no.6 to a no.8 has fit everything. They come in two variants- drilled and whole. Drilled stoppers are used to install airlocks, simply push the pointy end of the airlock into the stopper and then push the stopper into the mouth of the bottle. Whole stoppers are useful after fermentation is complete and you no longer need an airlock- be careful though! If the yeast isn't done making gas, the stopper will rocket out at high velocity and/or your vessel will explode!

3. A fermentation vessel. Fermentation vessels come in all shapes and sizes and materials. Most commonly used are Carboys/Demijohns, 5 gallon brew buckets and kegs. Less commonly used are barrels and spiffy new gadgets with high prices and lower human interaction ..oh so spiffy. Generally it's a good idea to have a second empty vessel capable of containing at least as much liquid as you are fermenting so that you can transfer into it for the secondary fermentation and any other transfers after that. Basicly, the vessel needs to be a couple things-
  • Food safe; like stainless steel, glass, or food safe plastic.
  • Sturdy; the contents may become pressurized, and you dont want any explosions
  • Have a mouth that fits your stopper/airlock of choice
  • Have an exact measurement, preferably in gallons/liters
4. A siphon hose; such as aquarium tubing. You'll use this to transfer the delicious brew from the sediments (dead yeast, etc) later on. You cant rely on pouring off the good stuff, as it will more than likley only mix the sediments back into the drink as you pour.

And that's it.

Of course there is more you could use depending on what you are making, like co2 carbonators, keggeraters, cappers, corkers, bottles, labels, fruit crushers and so on, but for the basics you only really need the above. If you really want to try out brewing I reccomend doing it right and spending the 15$ it'll cost you for a small 1g glass carboy, siphon, airlock and stopper, but if for some reason you are not able to do that, well, my first ever brew was a wine made in an empty spring water container with a empty yogurt cup, ziplock bag, and copious amounts of duct tape. It wasnt bad either, even when I had a wine officianado taste it!

Chances are there is a homebrew shop near you that google can find, but if you want to shop online here are some links to my favorite online places to shop, and tips for things you can get at the grocery store

  • 365 Organic Apple Juice Ok so this stuff is about 7$ at my whole foods, but goes on sale fairly regularly for 5$ and 6$ instead. In addittion to being tasty, it comes in a 1 gallon glass carboy perfect for small brews, and costs 3$ cheaper than buying the empty carboy at my local homebrew store. I have quite a few, and I have to say my other carboys and 2 barrels are collecting dust. They may be small, but they hold about 4 bottles of wine and are great for brewing on a budget...being that I'm a college student in a bad economy, that's a serious plus.
  • On the note of carboys, the Better Bottle is growing in popularity. If my local shop carried them, I'd own one!
  • Austin Homebrew, Northern Brewer, as well as local homebrew shops are where most folk seem to order from online. I've ordered from both of these places and both were great, though Northern Brewer got my goods to me much faster. There is also Midwest
  • Try pet shops for aquarium hose/siphon hose. It's pretty cheap, just clean it well.
And that's it folks! I'll touch on the other parts of specific gear when it becomes nessessary, but for now, brew happy! As for me, I'll be scooping up couch change untill I can afford one of those awesome v-vessels :)

Next part in the Brewguide- Yeast!

The Basics; Part One

This is my brewing guide. There are many like it, but this one is mine.. *cough*

Ladies and Gentleman, The Brewguide, Part one.

Let's start with the most important part. Can you guess what it is? It's not the ingredients. Nope, not the yeast either, or the temperature or the equipment either.


Now, before you skip this part, let me clarify what sanitation means in this context. If you merely cleanse or wash something, it's not sanitized. The water you get out of your tap probably isn't sanitized in a brewing sense. To achieve true sanitation, you have to ensure that all the bacteria that might try to infest your brew is dead, along with having all residues and oils and other things that might contribute off flavors to a drink clear and gone from every instrument that touches your brew. Since the water you are using may in itself contain some of these nasty buggers, whatever you use needs to be 'rinse free' as well.

Here are some things I use or have used.

1. Campden Tablets
So, these are easy to find and are often used in the actual brewing process as well. They're basically potassium powder compressed into pill form, and they function as a rinse-free bacteria killer. In wine it's not uncommon to add a tablet or two to the unfermented wine (called "must") to kill off all the baddies that might have been hanging out on the grape skins or the feet of the crushing team or what have you. Since they kill yeast too, you need to wait a bit before you add yeast to any batch you brew with campden tablets but as a sanitiser the dissolved tablets act pretty much like everything else. I dont like using them too much, mainly because they take a while to dissolve and I like the option of spontaneity.

2. Dilluted Bleach
This is one of those that you can use, but maybe shouldent. Just a capfull or two in a sink of water is enough, but you risk contaminating your final product. I sometimes use this to clean my siphon hose and transfering bucket after I'm done with them though.

3. Powdered cleaners
Ok so this is hands down my favorite. I use Ultimate Brewery Cleaner , and everything it says in the product description is true. Not only does it do a fantastic job cleaning up gunk and nasty bacteria, it lets you know it's doing it. Something in the reaction causes the dead organic material to turn a cloudy grey-green. It's pretty scary when you take a apparently clean bottle and pour in some water, powder, shake it around, and then pour out green tinted water that contained bugs that might have ruined a batch! I actually use this stuff around the house sometimes too, like if I bake ribs and get that cement-hard pork fat crust stuck to my baking pan- UBC takes it right off. Cheaper than Dawn too!

So, now you've got your options set before you, let's talk about the rules of sanitation.

Rule no.1- Everything, and I mean everything, that touches your brew must be sanitized.
It should be a no-brainer that all your equiptment needs to be sanitized, but remembering that the environment and you yourself need to be clean is just as important. Sanitize the counters! You know the term, "so clean you could eat off it"? That, but moreso. As you work, you'll inevitably have to scratch yourself, take a pee, pet the cat, touch something you forget to sanitize etc, so I have a routine I follow for hand sanitization;

If you touch your face, wash your hands. If you touch something you didnt sanitize a right before you started, wash your hands. If you take a break, wash your hands when you get back. If you're waiting on something to boil, wash your hands before you go back to it. If it's been ten minutes, wash your hands. since it's pretty easy to get your gear cleaned before you start, your hands are most likley where any bacteria that find their way into your drink will come from. Even if you are wearing gloves, it's best to wash any time you think of it.

With this first step out of the way, you are ensuring you dont lose a batch to what is probably the #1 cause of brews gone bad. Tune in next time for The Basics; Part Two- Gear!