Monthly Archives: October 2015

Brew Day: Alan’s Stepchild (American IPA)

When conducting research for the Geary’s Summer Ale clone, I learned about the profound influence Alan Puglsey, and by extension Peter Austin, had on many early East Coast craft breweries. Leaning heavily on English brewing traditions, “Ringwood Breweries” like D.L. Geary, Gritty McDuff’s, and Shipyard share a few common characteristics: the use of mostly English malts and hops, open primary fermentation, and the distinctive Ringwood yeast.

The IPAs produced by these breweries are English IPAs, or malty, old-school, East Coast American IPAs. When I brewed Fort Dummer it was in the style of a contemporary New England pale ale/IPA. To surmise these contemporary beers are characterized by: juicy hop flavor, soft mouthfeel, low bitterness, and a hazy straw to gold appearance.

The idea behind this beer is to marry the old and the new. My thought was what would I do if I brewed at one of these older craft breweries, and attempted to design a new IPA that people could get excited about. What I would do is make a contemporary New England IPA, but one that wasn’t a complete departure from what these breweries have been doing for 20-30 years. If I poured this beer at Geary’s or Shipyard I would want to to still taste like a Geary’s or Shipyard beer while still being contemporary.

Open-fermenting with Ringwood yeast seemed like a must. My only concern is losing some of the hop aroma and flavor during open fermentation. To compensate I will add a second dry hop in a closed vessel to contain the aromatics from the hops. If the hop flavor is lacking, I can always brew this or a similar beer again employing closed fermentation.

This beer was my first one gallon batch I have brewed since I have started to scale back the amount I brew. That is the beauty of small-batch brewing.  If I have only 8-10 bottles of less than awesome beer it’s not the end of the world. I open-fermented in the above state-of-the-art fermentation vessel that also works great for serving iced coffee.

In lieu of caramel malt this recipe calls for a healthy amount of un-malted flaked wheat to add body. In a nod to tradition the base malt is Halcyon. I bought it awhile ago just to try it. Upon researching a bit more Halcyon doesn’t finish as sweet as some British barley varieties, but it does have some of the characteristic nutty flavors British malts are known for. I do want the beer to have some malt flavor, so I think this might work out perfectly. I also toasted a small amount of malt for color, body, and flavor as well.

The hop additions are a first wort hop before the boil starts, a steep at the end of the boil, and two dry hop additions. The idea is to have a juicy hop flavor and aroma with minimal bitterness. The hops I chose are a blend of Britain and America. Challenger is an English dual-purpose hop with a spice and citrus flavor that works well in classic English ales. Mosaic has such a complex flavor it should blend nicely. I blended it with three or four other hops of varying terroir in my Hot Stove Porter.

This one-gallon recipe uses 2 ounces of hops, which is probably the highest hopping rate I have ever employed for a recipe I developed myself.

I boiled off much more water than I had expected. I also had more trub loss at the bottom of my kettle than I was expecting. I ended up with less than half a gallon in my open fermentation vessel. Hopefully this won’t effect the bitterness of the beer or lead to cause my beer to caramelize. Either could make the beer overly sweet.

I topped off with filtered water to get to a full gallon. About 12 hours later active fermentation had begun and I added my first dose of dry hops. With all of the hops in this batch they will probably absorb a fair bit of the beer. I’ll probably finish with less than a gallon.

Going forward I’ll dial in my process with these small batches. I have two more in the pipeline.

Click here for full recipe and brewer’s notes.

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Ales for ALS Homebrew Competition – Essex

On October 24 I finally tapped the kegs of Fort Dummer and Shareholder’s Saison at Ales for ALS in Essex. I also brought two 12-packs of bottles from the last batch of Curly’s Milk Stout. I’ll have more detailed tasting notes on all three of those brews down the line. For now I will say that I was happy with all three.

I still bottle almost all of my beers. Last year I purchased four 3-gallon kegs and a CO2 tank. I haven’t used them that much because I still don’t have a kegerator at home to keep the kegs cold. For this event I purchased a “jockey box” while Northern Brewer was offering 20% off of a single item.

The device is relatively simple. There is an 18′ coil inside the metal plate at the bottom of the cooler. The plate is covered with ice which cools the beer as it passes through the plate, and the cooler makes sure the ice doesn’t melt too quickly. The day of the event everything worked perfectly. My kegs were probably room temperature, but the beer was ice cold as it came out of the taps.

Not having a kegerator makes it hard to force carbonate beers with a CO2 tank. At colder temperatures the beer will absorb more CO2. Not wanting to use up a bunch of gas to carbonate at room temperature, I kegged conditioned with corn sugar 12 days before the event. The carbonation of the beers was a little lighter than I would have liked, but was sufficient. As long as I didn’t show up with infected beer, I wasn’t overly concerned.

There were two prizes at the event. There were a panel of judges, and a people’s choice award. Both of the beers that won were excellent. Jake Rogers’ Flanders Red that won the people’s choice award was excellent. He is an excellent brewer we will be hearing more from in the months and years ahead. I have four empty glass carboys at home. I need to get into sour beer brewing and put those to use.

I submitted Curly’s Milk Stout as my competition beer. I knew it was good so I was more comfortable entering it in a competition like this as opposed to two first-time brews. I glanced at the voting during the event. Although my beer didn’t win, it did have a respectable showing. One attendee who is a brewer compared the beer to a Grateful Dead song in that there was a lot going on in the beer, but it all works.

The food was excellent. I am trying to limit my intake of grains to the liquid form, but I did cave and have some of the Iggy’s bread. The people were really nice. Pete Frates’ uncle thanked us and appreciated that I was wearing my Team Frate Train “Strike Out ALS” shirt. The attendees ran the gamut from brewers and beer geeks to people who had no idea what a milk stout or a saison was. The responses to our beers was almost universally positive.

We helped raise money for a great cause. The new beers came out excellent. We didn’t run out of any beer which was my other worry. It was a great time and I look forward to participating again next year.

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Tasting and festival fun!

Note: Newburyport Brewing asked if I would like to write some posts for their blog on the brewery website. This is a post about my experiences working events for the brewery. 

My name is Jason Chalifour. I am a homebrewer, blogger, Recognized Beer Judge Certification Program judge, craft beer fan, and have been working on the Event Team at Newburyport Brewing Company since May. As a side job there are worse things I could be doing than meeting people and talking about beer.

The first event I attended was at a bottle shop in Hingham. My first day I learned a very important lesson, never drive through Boston. Ever. It is never safe. Even at 1:00 p.m. on a Saturday there can and probably will be traffic.

My second event was at O’Neils in Salem. They usually have at least one Newburyport beer on tap. At the time they had both Green Head IPA and Plum Island Belgian White on tap. We were pouring samples and giving away t-shirts to customers who bought pints at the bar. I even had two bands ask if and how they could play at the brewery.

Folks always ask if we do tours and tastings at the brewery. When I tell people that we do, how Metzy’s is at the brewery every Thursday, and that there is live music with our 5PM Sessions they always light up. Not being from Newburyport, I hope I have been giving clear directions to the brewery.

Some of the events I’ve worked haven’t been your typical beer geek crowd. On Fathers Day I was pouring at Jewell Towne Vineyards. People who aren’t beer drinkers, or are light beer drinkers really enjoy Plum Island Belgian White. It’s not overly hoppy or bitter. Wine drinkers enjoy the fruitiness from the orange peel in the beer.

Craft beer drinkers that try Green Head for the first time really enjoy it. Most traditional East-Coast IPAs are fairly malty and by current standards, lightly hopped. Traditional West-Coast IPAs are hoppier but the hops dominate, making the beers a bit one-note.  Green Head more than any beer I have tasted melds both traditions by combining a nice malt flavor with a potent hop flavor and aroma. The IPA fans I encounter feel the same way when they try it.

The Pale Ale is my personal favorite. I always talk to customers about how the English Maris Otter base malt gives the beer a perfect balance. With Melt Away, some customers are not familiar with session beer. I usually describe it as a beer you can have a six-pack of on Tuesday, and still make it to work on Wednesday. The Citra and Amarillo hops in Melt Away also give the beer a different flavor from Green Head.

Going to tastings and festivals really is a lot of fun. Maybe I will see you there!

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Tasting Notes: Rounders Brown Ale, the importance of fermentation temperature

In home brewing, brewers will spend time researching ingredients, crafting recipes, pondering things like whether the last hop addition should be with five or ten minutes left in the boil. What many don’t pay adequate attention to is what happens after brew day. Often after brew day the fermenter is plopped in a closet, basement, or under the stairs and forgotten about until racking or packaging.

Managing fermentation temperature is as important as recipe formulation, if not more. Commercial breweries have professional equipment to precisely set the temperature of their tanks. Advanced home brewers will equip a refrigerator or chest freezer with a temperature controller to control their fermentation temperature. A would-be like myself working within the limitations of brewing in an apartment has limited control over the temperature my beer ferments at.

Every yeast strain has a suggested fermentation temperature range from the manufacturer. The flavor the yeast provides can vary greatly depending on where exactly within the temperature range you ferment at. Guinness was able to brew a crisp and clean lager with their house ale strain at a low enough of a temperature. At a higher temperature would have been more fruity esters found typically produced by ale yeast. Where within the range the beer is fermented is one of the tools at the disposal of a skilled brewer. Brewing outside of the recommend range can lead to off-flavors that ruin your beer.

Rounders Brown Ale pours a beautiful mahogany color. When decanted carefully the clarity is brilliant. The beer has a foamy white head, average in size and retention. The beer is gorgeous. That part of the beer I nailed.

If only the beer tasted as good as it looks.

Something is off in the aroma. There is some caramel malt aroma, especially as the beer warms, but there is a medicinal aroma that muddles everything.

The flavor similarly has a light but noticeable solvent quality. There is a harshness that lingers in the palate as the beer finishes with a faint burn.

The beer is drinkable, but it is not good. If I was a broke student I could probably drink an entire batch of it. As an adult with plenty of other beers in the house that I would rather drink, I will dump the batch and move on.

The culprit is almost certainly my fermentation temperature. The suggested temperature range for the yeast I chose, WL007 Dry English Ale is 65-70F. Brewing the beer in late-August I was confident that I could keep the beer in that range. I asked Jennie if I could place the carboy in the coolest room in out apartment to be safe, the bedroom, and she refused. I thought I could still keep the beer cool enough in our kitchen with a swamp bucket and evaporative cooling. Evidently I could not. The unseasonably warm August and September we had didn’t do me any favors.


I used a similar set up to this, except I covered my fermenter in a t-shirt to facilitate evaporative cooling. It wasn’t enough.

Sadly this beer is a loser. I feel like Teddy KGB just took every dime I own. Maybe I don’t feel that bad, but I am disappointed. If I had fermented cooler or used a more forgiving yeast like Safale S-04 I could have had an excellent beer. Since this was an extract batch my ingredient costs were higher than normal.

Brown Ale is an easy style to brew. It is dark enough to hide minor flaws.  Kettle carmelization from the use of extract is less of a concern in a style that has some underlying sweetness to it. Only an idiot like me can screw up two of them in a row after my last brown ale ended up becoming a porter.

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Big beer is getting bigger and I don’t care

The two largest beer companies in the world, AB InBev and SABMiller have agreed to a takeover of SABMiller by ABInBev. Freelance writer Jason Notte wrote a reaction piece 5 ways the A-B InBev-SABMiller deal will ruin your beer. I thought it was an interesting, if alarmist take on the situation and tweeted the link.

Notte replied to my tweet and them mention tweeted:


I corrected Notte and told him that I never said what he accused me of saying. Will any “good” come of this proposed merger for craft beer? Probably not. Will it change my drinking habits? No. Do I think it will change the options available to me at local bars and bottle shops? No.

I can’t imagine big beer doing anything to make the barrier for craft beer higher than it was in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Back then there was no concept of craft beer or microbrewed beer. A beer darker than Budweiser was almost foreign. Is the growing segment of the population that consumes craft beer going to all-of-a-sudden go back?

Craft beer drinkers will vote with their wallets. I choose which restaurants to go to based in large part on their beer selection. If The Indo copied Buffalo Wild Wings beer menu (which is still passable) I would stop going and would find another bar. Regardless of how this deal may affect beer distribution, I can still buy great beer direct from the brewery at Newburyport, Riverwalk, Cape Ann, Jack’s Abby, Trillium, and The Tap all within driving distance. I can’t imagine local bottle shops like Bogie’s, Depot Liquors, and Steve’s Quality Liquors all of a sudden abandoning craft beer.

Perhaps to Notte’s point, in areas not blessed with as much great local beer and food this will have a tangible effect. Outside of New England there are places where Domino’s is the best pizza in town, Olive Garden is considered Italian cuisine, Red Lobster is considered food, and the only place you can buy beer is at a supermarket. Maybe in those areas there will be a squeeze.

Some are concerned that a new brewing behemoth could corner the market on ingredients and supplies like hops and aluminum cans. There is already a shortage of cans. I guess it is possible, but it would be a publicity nightmare.

I don’t see much of what big beer does affecting my life. I also don’t think of big beer as some malevolent force of evil. If I am at The Outback with my dad, I will thoroughly enjoy a Budweiser. If Goose IPA is the best beer I can find at Gillette Stadium I will enjoy circling back to a beer that I don’t drink that often.

The ultimate hedge is that I can brew almost any kind of beer I want.

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Brew Day: Geary’s Summer Ale Clone

As a homebrewer it is possible to brew hard to find beers like an Australian Sparkling Ale. It is also possible to attempt to clone specific commercial beers. Homebrew shops and websites sell tons of commercial clone kits, occasionally they have hilarious names that thinly veil the beer the kit is attempting to clone. A year ago I attempted my own clone of The Substance by Bissell Brothers Brewing in Portland, Maine. At the time it was the hot, new IPA on the market. One year later people still line up outside the brewery. This time around I am cloning a beer from New England’s oldest craft brewery.

Traditional brick boil kettle designed by Alan Pugsley.

Mash tun at the DL Geary brewery.

DL Geary Brewing was incorporated in 1983, one year before Samuel Adams, and started producing beer in 1986. David Geary spent three years in Britain learning his trade.  He spent time at the Ringwood Brewery owned by influential English craft-beer pioneer Peter Austin. Another disciple of Peter Austin named Alan Pugsley, who would later become head brewer and partner at Shipyard Brewing, helped set up the brewery.

Geary’s produces mostly British-style ales. As the market has become dominated super-hoppy American ales and IPAs, Geary’s traditional English ales are sometimes lost in the shuffle. My cousin/brewing partner Andy, his brother, and now his wife are huge fans of Geary’s. My favorite Geary’s brew is the Hampshire Special Ale (HSA), which under the 2015 Beer Judge Certification Guidelines I’d classify as a British Strong Ale. We tried brewing a clone of HSA two years ago. We didn’t pitch enough yeast, drank a lot during that brew day, and from what I was told the beer was probably infected. Determined to get it right we purchased this clone kit and will try again.

Geary’s Summer Ale might be Andy’s favorite summer beer. During a recent visit to the brewery we brought back an extra 12-pack for Andy. Geary’s Summer Ale is an interesting “summer ale”. It’s darker and sweeter than most summer beers, with a dry finish. While drinking the beer I was curious if there was a clone kit, or if anyone had attempted a clone recipe. Unfortunately after several minutes of thorough and rigorous research I wasn’t able to find anything online. I checked the Geary’s website for clues. Here are the brewer’s notes:

The style of this ale is traditionally European, similar to a German kolsch: full bodied with a spicy hop tang and a rich, crystal clear golden color. Alcohol content is approximately 6% by volume.

Looking at and tasting the beer it is clearly not a kölsch in the . My guess is “similar to a German kolsch” means the beer is an Altbier, a malty and bitter German amber ale. Long Trail Ale would be the most prominent example that’s locally available. Altbiers typically use mostly base malts, with small percentages of caramel/Cara Munich malts to add body and malt flavor, and roasted malts can be used for color and to dry out the finish.

The ingredients were also listed on the website as: Two row English malt (clarity, wheat and caramalt); Magnum, Tettnang and Saaz hops. I played around with the amounts of English base malt, light English Crystal malt, and chocolate malt in BeerSmith until I matched the color. I initially thought the dry finish was the result of a small amount of chocolate malt. I also couldn’t match the color without it. In the end I added a very small amount of chocolate malt as something of a compromise even though it is not listed on the website. The rest of the malts are all very light in color and flavor.

Holding a Geary’s Summer Ale up to the light to try and match the color.

The Alstom brothers on Beer Advocate made note of the distinctive esters from the Ringwood Ale yeast. German ale yeasts typically used in altbiers have a much cleaner flavor and have a higher attenuation than Ringwood ale yeast. To compensate I will mash at a lower temperature to make sure the beer finishes as dry as possible. The somewhat high starting gravity, wheat, and caramalt will still give the beer the “full body” touted in the description.

Compared to other breweries that use Ringwood yeast like Shipyard, the esters and buttery diacetyl flavor in Geary’s Summer Ale are much more restrained. We pitched more yeast to help the beer attenuate and finish with as clean of a flavor as possible. I gave the beer a burst of pure oxygen from my tank and diffusion stone to help ensure a complete fermentation.

I adjusted the water for each beer as well. This is an area where even when brewing a kit the brewer has some additional latitude within a recipe. Some brewers will copy the water of certain brewing regions depending on what he/she is brewing. For example, if brewing a stout a brewer may try to copy the mineral content of the water in Dublin. For the Summer Ale I attempted to match the water of Dusseldorf where altbier is prominent. With the HSA clone I attempted to match the water in Edinburgh which is ideal for rich, malty ales.

Like Geary’s we will be open fermenting the beers. We carried our fermentation buckets down to Andy’s basement and left the lids off. There is an element of danger that the beers could be infected. Any wild yeast or bacteria that tries to find it’s way into the beer will have to deal with several hundred billion cells of yeast that we pitched. Once active fermentation is done after a few days we will put the lids back on.

Geary’s IPA in an open fermenter. The layer of yeast at the top protects the wort from the elements.

After our first experience, an HSA clone was our white whale so to speak. I have been waiting to brew the Summer Ale clone since we visited the brewery this past summer. This is my first time brewing with Ringwood yeast and open fermenting. I am anxious to see how these beers turn out!

Click here for the Geary’s Summer Ale Clone recipe. 

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Brew Day: Shareholder’s Saison

Brewing for me started as something my girlfriend and I could do together. In the early days we would brew, rack, and bottle together. After our first batch we started developing our own recipies. If I came up with one on my own, she would come up with one of her own. Slowly the hobby sucked me in more than it did her. She liked brewing, but maybe not enough to want to do it every other weekend.

In the early days she found out about the Ales for ALS event in Essex and wanted to participate. When I volunteered for this year’s event and realized we would have to brew a couple of batches to bring to the event, she was as excited about brewing as she had been in a long time. I took this as an opportunity to make her more involved again and suggested she choose the style of one of the beers and develop a recipe.

I suggested several styles where we could go from grain to glass in a four week window. I was throwing out ideas, and when I suggested a saison her eyes lit up. Over the next few days she researched different recipes for ideas. When she was trying to fine tune how much to add of certain ingredients, I gave her a crash course in how to use the Beer Smith Mobile application on my iPad. Full credit to her for putting the recipe together. The only help I gave was that when she thought the beer might be too light in color, I suggested adding a little bit of Munich malt to darken the beer ever-so-slightly.

For ingredients she went more out of the box than I have in recent batches. In a traditional saison the spiciness and unique “funky” flavors come from the yeast and high fermentation temperatures. The finish is quite dry thanks to the liberal use of sugars. She wanted her beer to be different and elected to add additional spices to her beer. When I asked what type of flavor she was going for, she shrugged and said the beers and breweries she enjoys are a bit non-traditional like Dogfish Head, and that was what she wanted to do with her beer.

The yeast she selected, WLP760 American Farmhouse Blend contains a mix of saison yeast and brettanomyces or brett. Brett is a yeast that is a cousin of your typical brewers yeast, saccharomyces. When blended with saccharomyces, brett will give a beer funky, fruity, or barnyard type flavors. Brett works more slowly than brewers yeast and can ferment sugars in a wort that regular yeast cannot. This can cause a brett beer to change in character over the course of months or even years.

I haven’t brewed with brett before. My only concern is that given our short window that the brett will not be done fermenting before we package the beer. The plan is to keg three gallons to bring to Ales for ALS, and bottle the rest. I hope we don’t end up with gushers or bottle bombs as the brett continues to ferment the beer and release CO2. What I may do is fill the keg, and rack the remaining beer to smaller growlers to allow the rest of the beer more time to ferment and mature.

The yeast and spice additions were all her choices for her beer. My girlfriend really took ownership of the recipe. When 2 oz of Chocolate Malt meant for the Geary’s Summer Ale ended up mixed in with her grain she spend over an hour removing the Chocolate Malt kernel by kernel. The only area where she did slack was when it came to brewing the beer. After attending Bogie’s Oktoberfest she left that to me!

Click here for the full recipe.

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Brew Day: Fort Dummer (American Pale Ale)

For years aggressively hopped IPAs have been marketed as “West Coast” IPAs. These were IPAs where the malt and yeast exist mostly as a canvas for the hops. The best examples from the West Coast widely available in the Boston area are from Stone and Ballast Point. Local brewers like Ipswich Ale and Newburyport Brewing have released IPAs that they market as West Coast. The proximity of major hop-growing regions in the Pacific Northwest helped the West Coast IPA as it came to be known evolve.

East Coast IPA traditionally resembled an English IPA with American hops. It has more malt flavor and often yeast esters than West Coast IPAs. Ipswich’s original IPA, Fisherman’s IPA, and Shipyard Monkey Fist are a few examples that come to mind. East coast pale ales generally followed a similar pattern.

In the past several years New England brewers have started producing juicy, hoppy ales and IPAs. The mouthfeel is soft, malt flavor understated, and hop flavor massive. Several examples are available in Vermont, at Trillium Brewing in Boston, and in Portland, Maine. The mouthfeel and cloudy appearance comes from un-malted adjuncts liked flaked barley, oats, or rye.

In a post on his blog, Michael Tonsmeire also indicates that several of these new-school New England pale ales and IPAs have a bit more yeast character than beers that use the ubiquitous Chico yeast strain. In his recipe, Tonsmeire used one of my personal favorite strains London Ale III 1318.

I had been planning to brew my own New England IPA before I decided to cut back on my beer production. Then last week I received an email that there was a spot available at Ales for ALS in Essex. I volunteered immediately, then realized I would need to brew some beer! While my house is overwhelmed with beer, I didn’t want to bring in a kit beer or bring in a 12-pack of eight different brews.

I needed to brew two batches to bring to the event, and I needed to go from grain-to-glass in four weeks. Given the short window I scaled down my original IPA recipe to a pale ale to make sure the beer had enough time to ferment. I also adjusted my ingredients based on the ingredients that Beer & Wine Hobby carries as I didn’t have time to have all of my ideal ingredients shipped in. The ability to buy all of my malt by the ounce was a huge help and made sure I had exactly what I needed.

The grist was simple: Munton’s Maris Otter malt and malt extract, flaked barley, and flaked oats. I loved how Irish Ale 1084 worked in a hoppy beer like Summer Somewhere. It’s low to medium attenuation will give the beer a bit more body and will hopefully provide my desired soft mouthfeel. I chose two new, fruity hop varities Equinox and Azacca. The second dry hop will be leaf Ahtanum hops.

The other issue I had was that I already had plans to attend Bogie’s Oktobeerfest on brew day. We ended up buying ingredients in the morning, going to the festival, and brewing at night. I was brewing until 2:00 a.m. I couldn’t tell you if I held my target mash temperature or if my starting gravity is on target.

The unseasonably warm weather caused the beer to ferment in the low to mid 70s, outside of the yeast’s target range. After 36 hours active fermentation was over. I am scared that the beer will be too light and/or will have all kinds of off-flavors due to my failure to control my fermentation temperature. The beer will be double dry-hopped. With any luck that can mask any imperfections.

We will be pouring this beer, Curly’s Milk Stout, as well as a saison my girlfriend developed at Ales for ALS on October 24. It is a great event and you should come!

Click here for the recipe.
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