Novembeerfest Results

November 14, 2012

So it looks like Rigid Rotor did pretty well in the latest competition, placing in the top three of every category entered. I ended up submitting five beers: Dephaser Amber (American Amber, 1st place), Red-Shifted Amber (American Amber, 2nd place), The Alpha Imperial IPA (Imperial IPA, 3rd place), Conduction Stout (American Stout, 2nd place), and Old Insulator (Old Ale, 2nd place). I think I’ve placed every time I’ve entered Dephaser and the Alpha now. All of the other recipes are new to competitions and have only been brewed once or twice before, so having them place was a pleasant surprise. Now onto holiday brewing…


Brewing for Novembeerfest

October 4, 2012

Novembeerfest is quickly approaching. This is one of the longest running homebrew competitions in Washington, and is being held on Nov. 5th. Each brewer is allowed up to 10 entries. I won’t get 10 beers done by then, but hopefully I’ll have 6 or so. I’ve already brewed my Amber, Old Ale, and a slightly modified version of the White House Honey Porter using fresh homegrown Chinook hops. Hopefully I’ll get to make the American Stout, Imperial IPA, Blonde, and American Brown in a marathon brewing session this weekend.

The time for brewing this years holiday beers has come and gone, it’s all been packaged and sent out, and the kegs have all been emptied. I had quite the spread this year with everything listed on the fact sheet below:

I brought a bunch of these to the holiday party at my office and the favorites were Total Internal Reflection along with the imperial golden ale that I’ve named Modulation. This is the imperial cream ale I wrote about in my last post. I’ve changed the name of my own hypothetical style to reflect this beer’s awesome golden color and delicious flavor. I’m really surprised how good it was and how much everyone enjoyed it. I will definitely add this one to the rotation. It took a few weeks for the flavors to really meld together but once they did it was incredible. The aroma is quite pleasantly fruity from the British ale yeast (Wyeast 1098) and you get a low to moderate corn aroma as well that just says, “Drink me.” The flavor is a gentle, sweet maltiness with moderate hop flavor provided by simcoe. There is a clean, soft bitterness that rides under the malt. This is very easy to drink, and at ~8% ABV it’s dangerous!

I also attended the North Seattle Homebrew club’s holiday meeting, held at Fremont Brewing. I brought a bottle of 2011 Abyss for the Wit Elephant (sic) and ended up with “Extreme Brewing” by Sam Calagione. I had a bomber of Heretic Brewing Company’s Evil Cousin IIPA, but that was stolen. Lots of incredible homebrew was poured and a good time was had by all. I had a pumpkin beer that actually tasted like roasted pumpkin, not spices. I had a barrel aged quad, a brett saison, some Evil Cousin, English IPA, Wit, all-Citra IIPA, several imperial stouts, and some amber. Got to geek out with some great folks as well. Looking forward to the next meeting.

I am brewing this week and next in anticipation for the GEBL IPA bracket contest. So far I have two new brews in primaries, the Gradient American IPA, and Black Hole Cascadian Dark Ale. I’ll post the recipes later. Black Hole was interesting. I used a pound of Carafa II mixed into the mash just before lautering. The first bit of wort I pulled off was just like a dark red pale ale from the 1/4 lb. of chocolate malt, but as the sparge continued the wort got progressively darker and I finally ended up with a black wort. Hopefully I’ll get a nice hop flavor and aroma without much roastiness. The chocolate was added so that if you really want to look for some roast it’s there, but you won’t get it unless you’re looking for it.

I don’t like to haphazardly throw things together, whether it be beer, science, backpacking equipment, or building a new bike. But I’ll be the first to admit sometimes a little experimentation goes a long way. To this end the last couple of brews have been experiments indeed. The first is Modulation, an imperial cream ale I brewed last weekend. Kind of an oxymoron, but that’s also what makes it so intriguing. Take two seemingly disparate ideas and meld them together. I took my cream ale recipe, jacked up the base malt and flaked corn, added a little caramel malt to round out the flavor, and added a bunch more awesome NW hops. I also fermented with some yeast harvested from the last batch of Omega (Wyeast 1098), which turned out to be a bit more like a porter, but more on that later. Here’s the recipe:



Imperial Cream Ale



All Grain

Date: 11/16/2011

Batch Size:

5.25 gal


Chemical Craig

Boil Size: 6.90 gal

Asst Brewer:

Boil Time: 90 min

Equipment: Rigid Rotor

Taste Rating(out of 50): 35.0

Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00
Taste Notes:


Amount Item Type % or IBU
7.50 lb Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 44.12 %
7.50 lb Pilsner (2 Row) Ger (2.0 SRM) Grain 44.12 %
1.50 lb Corn, Flaked (1.3 SRM) Grain 8.82 %
0.50 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt – 20L (20.0 SRM) Grain 2.94 %
0.50 oz Chinook (2009) [11.50 %] (60 min) Hops 15.8 IBU
1.00 oz Simcoe (2010) [12.70 %] (20 min) Hops 19.1 IBU
0.50 oz Citra (2010) [14.00 %] (10 min) Hops 7.0 IBU
0.50 oz Amarillo (2011) [10.10 %] (0 min) Hops
1.10 items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10.0 min) Misc
5.50 gal Seattle, WA Water
1 Pkgs British Ale (Wyeast Labs #1098) Yeast-Ale

Beer Profile

Est Original


1.083 SG

Measured Original Gravity:

1.083 SG

Est Final Gravity: 1.020 SG

Measured Final Gravity: 1.010 SG

Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 8.23 %

Actual Alcohol by Vol: 9.56 %

Bitterness: 41.9 IBU

Calories: 376 cal/pint

Est Color: 6.2 SRM


Mash Profile

Mash Name:

Single Infusion, Medium Body, No Mash Out

Total Grain Weight:

17.00 lb

Sparge Water:

3.67 gal

Grain Temperature:

15.0 C

Sparge Temperature:

75.6 C


15.0 C

Adjust Temp for Equipment:


Mash PH:

5.4 PH


Single Infusion, Medium Body, No Mash Out
Step Time Name Description Step Temp
90 min Mash In Add 5.27 gal of water at 74.2 C 65.0 C
Mash Notes: Simple single infusion mash for use with most modern well modified grains (about 95% of the time).


Ferment cool.

Created with





It’s still fermenting so ignore the measured final gravity and abv numbers. I’m really anxious to see how this turned out.

Aside from the imperial cream ale I also brewed my house amber and IPA last weekend. The IPA was dry hopped in the primary today with 1 oz. cascade, 0.5 oz. Simcoe, 1.25 oz. Amarillo, and 1 oz. centennial. I rarely take beer out of the primary if it’s not going directly into a keg. Beer needs a good two weeks or so contact time with the yeast to really clean up and for the yeast to do their job properly. Autolysis isn’t really a problem unless you have a seriously high gravity beer sitting in the primary for a month or two, furthermore the extra contact time will clean up a lot of off flavors. I like to dry hop in the primary. It doesn’t get much easier, I’ve never had a problem with infection or off flavors (probably more of a chance of both of these when dry hopping in a secondary), and adding the fresh hops while there is still a little active fermentation will scrub a lot of the oxygen in the hops. It should be ready in about a week or so.

Homebrew Club Meeting

November 17, 2011

Went to a meeting of the North Seattle Homebrew Club tonight and had a great time geeking out and trying some great homemade beers. Seems like a really nice group of folks who love good beer, my kind of people. The experience level ranged from nearly first-time extract brewers to burgeoning pro brewers. Everyone brought something to sample and when it was their turn they passed the bottle around, letting each person take their 1 oz. pour while the brewer talked about the beer in question giving the recipes and any other tidbits about it. There was quite a variety and everything was of high quality. There were several Saison’s, one was 4% abv and was brewed to grow up some Wyeast 3724, one was a prime example of the style and included some acidulated malt for extra sharpness, and one was more of a spice beer that used a saison base. It had fenugreek, coriander, and caramelized sugar and was absolutely delicious. I wonder how it would be with a touch of Rauch malt.

There was a mild SMASH (single malt, single hop) brewed with Crystal hops and a highly kilned Greek base grain (Ashburne Mild Malt, 5.3L), fermented with (I think) either Scottish or Irish ale yeast. It was delicious with a wonderful heavily toasted biscuty aroma and a nice clean, light malt flavor. One could definitely enjoy a lot of this. There was a round of pumpkin beers, all of which used pumpkins and spices in a different way, and all of which were really good.

All in all it was a great night of beer geekery with some really nice, like-minded people. If you have a homebrew club in your area you should definitely check it out.

Omega Oatmeal Stout

November 9, 2011

The weather is getting colder, the leaves have nearly all fallen down, and daylight savings is gone for the year. That means it’s time for a batch of Omega. I left out the black malt this year to reduce the ashiness and bumped up the roasted barley and Maris Otter for a bit more malty sweetness and roastiness. The original gravity is 1.057 and it’s now happily fermenting away at 66F with Wyeast 1098 British Ale yeast. Here’s part of a brew day video, in HD no less:

Old Insulator Imperial ESB

November 7, 2011

Kegged the latest batch of Insulator tonight. I originally formulated this recipe as an olde ale, and the last time I brewed it, it fit the style nicely. This time around, though, I lowered the original gravity (from 1.092 to 1.081) and fermented a few degrees warmer to kick up the ester production. The result is a beer that is lower in alcohol (8.9% vs 7.4%), a bit drier, and a much more lively presence.

The aroma is of fruit, leather, and tobacco, while the flavor is distinctly English with a solid malt backbone and a strong bitterness that lingers just long enough. I’m thinking this is more of an Imperial ESB rather than an olde ale. What’s the difference you may ask? I don’t think this newest version would cellar as long as an olde ale due to its lower alcohol content, and it is decidedly more fruity and drinkable. It’s really not like any beer I’ve had before, straddling the line between ESB/olde ale/IPA/IIPA. This is a great beer for the lover of Americanized ales who wants to try an English beer, but with an American kick.

Hop Harvest

November 3, 2011

The 2011 hop harvest is done and the breweries have gotten their share, leaving the rest for the little guys. I just got my orders from hops direct and fresh hops. I still have quite a bit of high alpha hops from last year including calypso, bravo, and super galena, though I think I’ve done a good job of depleting the super galena after brewing the last single-hop IIPA. This latest order is a lot of flavor/aroma hops, American in variety, and still pretty high alpha. I got a pound each of:

Here is the unboxing if you’re interested in that sort of thing:

As a theoretical scientist I do my fair share of programming, including some work on commercial software, so I’m no stranger to writing programs. Most of my programming is algorithmic in nature and is fairly low-level, not requiring any sort of SDK or interfacing with anyone else’s code. I write the lion’s share of my code myself starting from scratch. Given my experience I thought creating a simple android application would be a breeze. I don’t think I could’ve been more wrong.
First, I had to learn JAVA. My language of choice is C++ so it wasn’t too much of a stretch, but the syntax, structure, and complete lack of useful documentation was a big pain. Then I had to learn SQL and worry about layouts etc… Writing scientific programs is a much more fundamental undertaking. I started trying to write a beer recipe creator app but quickly found myself in over my head. I then backtracked and started with a much more simple app to keep track of the beer in my cellar. This is a much more manageable task to learn the ropes. It’s still in the works and needs to be polished, and I have a few more things I’d like to implement, but as of now it’s fully functional. It doesn’t do much more than keep a database of the beers you have in your collection, but it works.
Here are some screenshots. This is the main screen with a few beers in the list, showing the brewery, the particular beer, year, and how many you have:

A long click will delete the particular beer, while a simple click will bring up more info on that particular beer as shown here:

As you can see you also have the option of attaching a picture of the bottle from your phone’s gallery. You can edit the information from this screen by hitting the menu button, and then the “edit beer” icon. The following screen opens for the beer shown above:

This screen is the same one used to add new beers to your list from the main screen.

That’s about it at the moment, but I have a few more things to put in. I’d like to enable multiple lists, tasting notes, ratings, etc… If you’d like to test it out for me, you can download it here.

Long overdue update…

November 1, 2011

Wow, it’s been way too long. I’m going to try to keep this thing updated regularly. In the last year and a half a lot of beer has been made and consumed, awards have been won, and a good time was had by all. Among some of the more notable events was my wedding last September. I was lucky enough to have Pinelands brewing from NJ ship their 1 BBL. kettle and some equipment out here to brew an extract pale ale for the event, some of which was aged on oak chips. Here’s a video of the brew session:

I also brewed 5 gal. batches of my imperial IPA, and a porter:

Much to my surprise the IIPA was the first to go, by a wide margin. I thought it would just be me and my groomsmen drinking this stuff, but this is the NW after all. We love our hops here.

Following my wedding I nailed down some of my flagship recipes including the Omega Oatmeal Stout, Supercritical Saison, Gamma Ray IPA, Revival Double Red, and Dephaser Amber. I brewed some new concoctions including Evaporation (a Smoked Imperial Brown) Total Internal Reflection (Oak-barrel-aged Imperial Stout, aged in a 5 gal. oak barrel with dried licorice root), and a coffee-infused version of Heavy Deavy Skull Crusher barleywine. Surprisingly one of my favorite new recipes is a cream ale, the Superradiant summer ale. It is an incredibly crisp, refreshing, drinkable, crafted version of shitty American macro beer. It’s what everyone should drink on the trail, river, or backyard in the summer.

In addition to my own I brewed for Steve and Jocelyn’s wedding, friends of mine who enjoy good beer. A few months prior to the wedding I set up a tasting panel with 8 or so beers to choose from. They ended up going with an Amber, Cream, Imperial IPA, and a Saison. I was really excited about serving the Saison, but wasn’t sure how it would be received since it can conceived as a more difficult style to appreciate. Boy was I wrong. People absolutely loved it. It was the crowd favorite, followed closely by the IIPA and then the amber. I would have predicted the exact opposite preferences, but this gives me hope in people’s beer drinking habits. Maybe some people have just never been exposed to good beer and don’t know what it can be. Hopefully I’ve created at least one beer fan from this. I couldn’t believe people were opting for the more flavorful options of the Saison and IIPA over the cream and amber, but I can’t say I’m completely surprised as I consider them to be better beers. I guess people are more willing to take risks when they don’t have to pay for it!

As of now, I’ve got a keg of Simple Pole Pumpkin ale and a fermenter each of Old Insular Winter Warmer, and a new single hop IIPA, SSH. I had a bunch of Super Galena hops (13.3%) left over from last year that needed to be used up before I get this year’s harvest in the mail, so I figured a nice big IIPA would burn through most of them. I ended up with an OG of 1.082 and 5 oz. of hops for about 90 IBU’s. I’m calling it SSH (Super galena Single Hop), with an oblique reference to the linux command.

Stay tuned for results and let me know if you’re in the Seattle area and would like to try any of my beers.