Friday, June 26, 2015

We interrupt this broadcast...

Yes, I know I still owe the third part of my series on partigyle, but I just had an interesting conversation that makes me want to write about something else for a moment: Kegging and carbonation.

Two friends of mine called me earlier with a question. One of them kegs his beers, and he had an odd problem: He can keep a sealed keg around for quite a while, but once he taps it, he only has about three days to finish it, or it will go bad. This happens consistently and regardless of the type of beer he kegs. I asked him what does it mean that the beer "goes bad", and he says that it becomes sweeter, heavier, and looses carbonation. I asked him to describe his process:

"I usually naturally carbonate my beer. That is, I put in the corn sugar the way I'd do with bottles, seal it, and put it a away for a bit. If I'm in a hurry I'd force carbonate. I'd put the keg on 30psi for a day and shake it, then 20, then 10. When it's carbonated I put it on tap at serving pressure of 6psi and serve it*."

"Well, there's you're problem" I responded. "In both methods in which you carbonate, you utilize higher pressure for carbonation than for serving. When you put beer on 6psi, the volume of gas dissolved in the beer will eventually equalize to the volume dissolved under that pressure, and the beer will become less carbonated"

Let me explain:
William Henry (source: wikipedia)
The physical relationship between pressure and carbonation is governed by something called "Henry's Law" **, which states:

 "At a constant temperature, the amount of a given gas that dissolves in a given type and volume of liquid is directly proportional to the partial pressure of that gas in equilibrium with that liquid."

In laymen's terms this basically means that the more pressure of a gas you have over the liquid, the more of that gas will be dissolved inside the liquid and vice verse. Or to put it in even simpler terms: when you put beer under 20psi of CO2 it will be more carbonated (eventually) than beer that's under 10psi (at the same temperature). The two key phrases in that statement are "eventually" and "same temperature"

The easiest way to think about carbonation is to think of it as a finite amount of CO2 gas in a volume of beer. Think of beer before you carbonate it. It's completely "flat", but that doesn't mean it doesn't have any gas in it.  Rather, it has an amount of gas in it proportional to the amount of gas outside it. Doesn't really matter how much gas that actually is, just that this is our "baseline" amount of gas, so we'll call that 1 volume of gas.

Now if we want the beer to be carbonated, we want the volume of gas IN the beer to be more that the volume of gas OUTSIDE of the beer. We'll talk about how to do that in a second, but first let's just define our goal here. We want an amount X of gas in the beer that is bigger than 1 volume as we described above. For purpose of discussion let's say we want 2 volumes of gas***. That is we want twice as much gas in the beer as it had if it were not carbonated at all. So how do we get it?

Well, remember what I said were the important parts of Henry's law? "Eventually" and "Temperature". As it turns out, if you put the beer under a given amount of pressure at a given temprature for a given amount of time, it will reach the carbonation level you want. How do you know what pressure and temprature? Well, there's formulas for that. Or you could just use this handy chart from  This chart gives you a handy reference to what pressure to put your beer under at what temperature to get the results you want.***

So why did my friend's beer "go bad" after three days? Well, it didn't. What happened was that when my friend carbonated his beer, he carbonated it to his desired carbonation level, about 2.4 volumes. He then put it in a refrigerator that's probably about 40F at 6psi. A quick glance at the handy chart shows that under those conditions the beer would only dissolve 1.92 volumes. This didn't happen immediately, but eventually (remember "eventually"?) the amount of gas dissolved in the beer dropped from 2.4 down to 1.92. At that carbonation level, the beer appeared flat, and (because carbonation effect perceived body and flavor) sweeter/heavier. Putting the beer under the correct pressure for the carbonation level would solve his problem, and let him enjoy his beer for a lot longer.

* Actually, the man said he puts it on 6 bar, which rather amazed me. 1 bar is equal to 14.7 psi, and at 6 bar, he would have been exposing his beer to upwards of 88psi. considering that most corny kegs are only rated to 50psi, I felt that truly trying to use 6 bar would end up in quite a bang.

** People tend to be confused on this, and claim it's because of Boyle's law. It's not. It's Henry's law, which is a useful thing to know next time you hear some pompous putz give a lecture on keg carbonation ;)

*** This is not quite accurate. By convention, when we talk about carbonating beer we talk about ADDITIONAL volume. So in fact, when we carbonate something to 2 volumes it actually has THREE times the amount of gas. The original one volume, plus two volumes' worth of carbonation. This is why the chart has measurements below one, because you'd actually end up with just a little more than the volume of gas you already head.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

It's my party and I'll gyle if I want to (part 2)

(Wow.. Two posts in the same year, not to mention the same month... )

OK, so last time we talked about partigyle and the myth of free beer. I discussed how to figure out roughly what you can expect from second-runnings beer and ways you can improve it. I also mentioned (at least, I think I did) that the big problem with this is that it's very hard to plan ahead and brew a second beer of your choosing. While this is not necessarily a huge problem for some people (the "hey, it's beer, I'll drink it" crowed. You know who you are.. ) some of us like to have the beer we LIKE on tap, not just the beer we ended up with...

So, how do you make a deliberate  second-runnings beer? Or possibly a better question: How do you make two beers out of the same mash?

Let's say that you want to make two beers, a porter, and an IPA, and being a complete lush, you want a full keg of each (That'll just about tie you over for the weekend, wouldn't it? Yeah, I thought so...) Full keg is about 18L (we're talking cornys here), so you need about 36L of beer at the end of the process. Call it 40 with losses and trub. How do you make it?

Let's start by taking a look at the two beers that you want to make and look for any commonalities, I deliberately chose two beers that seem very different for this example (cause I don't believe in coddling). So...

For the IPA
OG: 1.065. FG: 1.012 IBU: 64 
85% Two row, 5% Munich, 8.5%, Crystal 15, 2.5% Crystal 40

On my system I get about 72% efficiency, so that means I need about
 4.75kg Two row, 300g Munich, 450g C15, and 100g C40. (For a 20L batch)

For the Porter:
OG: 1.052 FG: 1.013 IBU:27
74% Two row, 10% Brown Malt, 10% Crystal 40, 6% chocolate malt or 
3.4kg Pale, 450g brown, 450g C40, 285g Chocolate.

We'll start with the malt. More precisely, we'll start with the base malt, because the steeping grains don't require mashing and can be, well, steeped. Going through the calculation we've learned in part 1 backwards, we can say that 20*65=1300 + 20*52=1040 == 2340 total point that we are going to need for these beers.

Of that, the percent that comes from the base malt can be calculated per-beer, so for the IPA 85% of 1300 = 1100, and for the Porter 72% of 1040 =750. Together, that means that if we wanted to do a mash of Two Row only, we would need a mash that can provide 1850 points.

Now that we have that number, we can decide how we want to achieve this amount of sugar.  Basically, we have two choices: We can increase the gravity, or we can increase the volume.

Increasing the volume goes like this: We need 20L of 1.055 wort for the IPA, and another 13.5L for the Porter. This is because 1.055 is the relative part of the base malt in the IPA (with another 1.010 coming from the steeping malt.) For the porter, we will dilute the 13.5L with 6.5L of water to achieve 20L of 1.037, which is 72% of 1.052 - the relative part of the base malt there. To double check that figure we can calculate back: 55*33.5=1842.5. Close enough.

Increasing the volume has advantages: A lower wort gravity means better hop utilization, for example. But the biggest disadvantage of this idea is that you have a lot of wort to boil. For a 33.5L final batch size you'd probably have to bring something in the neighborhood of 40-42L to a rolling boil. Most of us who do 20L batches don't necessarily have the capability to boil that much liquid, both in terms of kettle size or heat, and trying to brew that size batch on a system that's dialed in for half of it is just asking to screw things up.
The other option is to increase the gravity: We know we need a total of 1850 points in our kettle. For a regular 20L batch size that makes 1.0925 OG (1850/20), which is the size of a good size DIPA or RIS, but not out of reach for most homebrew systems. Of course, as with high gravity brewing you have to take into account lower efficiency and utilization, but to my mind this is still the better option. Especially if you've brewed "big beer" before and are familiar with how your system functions under those conditions.

So that's those are the basics. So far I've only talked about the base malt, and there're still the questions of the steeping grains and the hops, but this post is already getting long, so I'll talk about those things in part three of this series...

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

It's my party and I'll gyle if I want to (part 1)

(Yeah, I know I have only written one post in the past two years. Been busy...)

So, let's talk about partigyle, second runnings, and the myth of free beer. For anyone who doesn't know, partigyle is the practice of making two (or more) beers out of the same mash by using the second (or more) runnings to brew an additional batch. It is a combination of the two terms "partial" and "gyle", which is an old term for mash runnings. Fuller does it with their London Porter to do their London Pride beer, for example.

The theory is that you can brew a batch of beer, especially a big one where the efficiency tends to drop, and after you've hit your volume and numbers for that batch, you can continue sparging and collect more wort to make a second batch. One mash, two beers, and best yet, since you were going to make the first batch anyway, the second one is kind of a bonus. Free beer!

How does it work? Well, let's say you brewed a big beer, like a 1.080OG Double IPA kinda thing, and you used about 8Kg of grain to do it. Typically, the more grain you mash (above a certain point), your efficiency drops, so whereas on your 1.050 APA you might be getting 75% efficiency, here you'd only get 66%.

Now, for simplicity lets assume you are using strictly 2-Row grist. 2-Row has a potential yield of 37 points per gallon (PPG). This means that, theoretically, if you extracted ALL the sugar from ONE pound of grain, into ONE gallon of water, you will have a gallon of 1.037 wort. From that number you can derive the amount of sugar you can expect in your mash. We'll look at the calculation in metric:

1 kg is 2.2 pounds, so 37*2.2=81.4 Points Per Kilo.

3.74 Liters to the gallon, so 81.4*3.74 =  304.5 Points Per Kilo Per Liter

In our case, we have 8 kilos, so that's 8*304.5  = 2436 total points in our batch

2435 divided by 20L (batch size) = 121.8. Convert to S.g. that's 1.122 wort

Now of course, that's a maximum potential yield. We are expecting an efficiency of 66% so 121.8 * .66 = 80.388. or 20 Liters of 1.0838 wort. We'll take that :)

Now lets look at what's left behind. We had 2436 total points in the grain to extract. We actually extracted 80.38*20= 1607 pf them. That means that we still have 828 points in there. Divided by 20L we get 40.4, or 20L of 1.040 wort. That's plenty good for another beer. Right?

Well... no. Or at least, not quite.
First of all, you don't ever sparge your grain to depletion, the general recommendation is to stop sparging at 1.010 in order to avoid tannin extraction. Second, that's figure of 828 is maximum potential theoretical yield. Your results WILL vary.

So how much can you get? Well.... We said that your typical efficiency on your system was 75%, and in this big batch you got 66%. Let say that because of all the extra sparging your total efficiency (both beers combined) will be 81%. So you get 15% of the original maximum yield. 2435*,15 = 365
or 20L of 1.018 wort. That's a much more reasonable number. In general I think your runnings after you got your first full batch will be between 12 to 18 percent of your initial maximum theoretical yield. YMMV.

1.018 is not exactly a  DIPA strength. In fact, if  you consider that even a Mild, probably the lowest alcohol beer on the BJCP guideline, starts at about 1.030, it's pretty useless. So no free beer for you with those numbers.

 What CAN you do with it? Several options:

  1. Make a half batch - Instead of 20L of 1.018 you can have 10L of 1.036. That'll get you in the range of some English beers or maybe even a blond ale. Remember that you still need to boil, hop, cool, pitch yeast and ferment this though. Not sure everyone would think it's worth the work for 10L
  2. Cap it - Add more grain to the mash and let it mash while you're brewing your first batch. Remember that a kilo of grain will add a theoretical 304 points to your batch. And since these weren't mashed in the first batch, we can calculate about 75% from them, so about 11.5 increase in a 20L batch (304/20*.075). Or in other words: chuck another 2 kilos of grain on top of your mash and you'll get 20L of about 1.041 wort. Respectable, but you need a pretty big mashtun.
  3. Add extract - Same concept as capping, but you don't need the a bigger mashtun, and you have a known quantity because you know exactly how much extract you're adding and what its yield. Extract is generally more expensive than grain though, and sometimes you can run into freshness issues. 
  4. Add specialty grain - Remember in the beginning when I said you're using 8KG of two row? Well who said you have to stay there? A typical "Crystal" or Roast malt will give you about 20PPG when steeped in water (see so steeping about a kilo of specialty grain will give you about an 8.2 point bump in SG for a 20L batch. (20*2.2 = 44 * 3.74 = 164.5/20=8.228) This is not enough to bring your 1.018 wort into respectability, but combined with capping or extract it will allow you to make a completely different beer style. For example, a mild, a brown porter, dry stout, or an American Amber are all fairly small beers with a high percentage of specialty malts. 
My favorite approach is to combine methods 3 and 4 and to try to have a specific goal in mind in terms of the second beer. I can then brew my first, see what kind of extra runnings I get, and adjust accordingly with steeped grain and extract. 

In this part I've walked you through the basic calculation of parti-gyle, and how to approach the recipe development. In part 2 I'll go into two other types of 2-for-1 brewing: Split batch and high gravity brewing. Hopefully, it wont take another year to write... :)


Saturday, February 8, 2014

Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave (unless you're English...)

I'm a big fan of history. I'm always curious about the way people lived and operated in generations past. I'm also (surprise!) a beer lover. So it's only natural that I would be fascinated by historical beer, brewing methods, and beer recipes.

As far as beer is concerned, I'm partial to the English and to English beer. Which is fortuitous, because there is no other country as obsessed with its own beer history as the English (seriously, Germans are just amateurs by comparison.) So it was with great delight that I learned of the International Homebrew Project organized every year by This is a unique opportunity to bring back some old recipes from breweries long gone, brew them up together, compare notes, and see how tastes have changed over the course of time. Plus, you get beer out of it :)

This year's recipe is a 1834 Porter recipe supplied by Ron Pattinson and Kristin England from the historical brewing blog "Shut up about Barcley Perkins". This porter recipe starts out at 1.066, but under attenuates to to FG of 1.022, and only 5.9% abv (nowadays, a beer with OG of 1.066 would be about 7%). What's more, it has a whopping 82 IBUs. I know many IPAs that don't go that high.

Point is, this is going to be a very different beer than what we're use to calling Porter nowadays. When I try to put this into beersmith it breaks the style definitions for any of the modern porter styles, and rightfully so, since it's not a modern style. Notice, for example, the description of the beer as having a lot of tannins - something that would be considered a flaw in a modern beer, but was accepted and expected in a beer of the time. Indeed, it is possible that without all the tannins this beer would be too cloying to drink, but the tannins dry the palate and get you ready for more. So it's so-long cold-steeping the dark grain. This time they're going in the mash.

This year's IHP is scheduled for Feb 15th. I'll be brewing it a few days later. I'd like to extend a formal invitation to any and all who wish to, to join me. If there's enough people who do this, I might even host a tasting party in my house to compare notes. The recipe, again, is here:

Oh, and if anyone if curious about the title. Google it. ;)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Winter Beer

It is officially winter, and I'm sitting here drinking Saison Dupont.

Ok, technically it isn't winter until December 23rd, and anyway I hate Belgian beer. But it is raining hard, it's cold and nasty, and I just missed a Lambic tasting because the roads were closed due to the rain. So under these circumstances it seems that the obvious reaction is to sit somewhere very close to the heater, and drink something.

But what to drink? It's F-ing 3 degrees outsides, so a light summery "lawnmower beer" is not going to cut it. No, you need something heavy and warming. Something with lots of alcohol to keep you nice and warm through the cold winter snows (or at least hail). I do hate Belgian beers, but I have to admit that a nice warming Quadruple does sound kind of nice right about now...

Of course, in the "oh my G-D, that's a lot of alcohol" category, the Belgians have nothing on the British. Whereas the myriad of Belgian beers all use the same yeasts (causing all their beers to smell the same, and pretty much taste the same), the Brits brought us no less than three distinct 10%+ beer styles: Scotch ale, Barley wine, and the queen of them all, the Russian Imperial Stout. (Yes I know it's called Russian, but it's still originally an English style). And that's before you consider things like Robust Porter and Old Ale. which are no "light beers".

There are many people who like Belgian beers. Some like the smell. Some like the taste. Some like the alcohol content. Whatever the reason, the popularity of Belgian beers has done two things that, in my mind, are detrimental:

1. They've branded Belgium as a beer nation, and Brussels as a sore of "Mecca" of beerdome, with places like the Delirium Cafe as its focal.

2. They've marginalized other worthy high-alcohol (and lower alcohol) styles.

Well, I've been to Brussels, and I wouldn't wish living there on my worse enemy. (Ok, maybe I would, there are some people I REALLY don't like). But if that's what rocks your world be my guest. Brussels is home to both one of the most over-rated tourist attractions and one of the most hideously over-architectured squares in the world. Just for that, it's worth spending a day (and only a day) in. The thing that bothers me is item number 2. The fact that high-alcohol Belgian beers have become so hugely popular means that you can get a Duval, a Le Trappe, or g-d help you, a Leffe just about anywhere, but it's hard to find a place that sells a decent Barley Wine, or Scotch Ale, let alone an Imperial Stout.

And that's sad to me. Because beers that are not drunk tend to disappear. Read Randy Mosher's "Radical Brewing" ( It's chock-full of beers styles that were, and are no more.

In this country it is very hard to find Barley Wine or Scotch Ale (and as far as I know impossible to find Imperial Stout, other that Brooklyn's Chocolate Stout, if you happen to find some) But if you happen upon them here or abroad, I urge you to try them. Slowly, gently, on a cold night like tonight. And they will reveal to you a whole new world of flavors and smells. And hopefully, one more lover of good beer will be born.


For those wondering why, given all that I just wrote, I'm drinking Saison: Last night I drank a Russian Imperial. Night Before that, a Scotch Ale. Now I'm sitting at my computer and waiting for my wife to finish putting the kid to bed so we can share a bottle of Barley wine. Basically, I'm drinking the Saison while waiting for real beer...

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The time of the season

"30 degrees?! Where the hell did this heat come from?" - I've been hearing this same exclamation, in various forms, for the past three days since a heat wave has engulfed Israel. People are sweating and looking forward to Friday, when the heat spell will be over and temperatures will finally drop.

The thing that most people kind of overlook is that when temperatures drop again they will only go down  to the mid 20s, instead of the teens we've been enjoying thus far. Indeed, little by little, without us noticing, spring is coming. And spring means warmer spring weather.

Of course, after a long cold winter some warmth would be welcome. Especially if you live in the colder, snowier, parts of the world. But to brewers, especially lager brewers before the advent of refrigeration, spring also meant the end of the brewing season. Brewers in Germany, who have used the cold German winters to brew excellent clear lagers throughout the cold months knew that soon their fermentation rooms will be too warm to brew, and only the cellars and the deep caves in the hillsides will maintain a semblance of chill.

As Brewing season draw to an end each year, brewers at the time brewed one last beer. It wasn't for drinking right away, but rather for keeping throughout the summer. In order to make it last the months they brewed it stronger and a little hoppier than their traditional brews, and put it barrels that can be de-bunged when the weather got warmer. Then they put those barrels in the caves in the hills, and waited.

Spring passed, summer came, and the caves got warmer. Though they were still quite cool, the temperature had reached a level where lager yeast wakes up and starts to ferment again. There wasn't much sugar left in those barrels in the hills, but there may had been some, and the German brewers weren't taking any chances with their precious brew. So they would go down to the caves and de-bung the barrels, and relive the pressure that built up from the renewed fermentation, and waited.

Until finally, fall came, and with it the drop in temperatures and the new brewing season. The brewers went down to their caves and got the barrels out to make room for the new lagers they were going to brew. There wasn't as much of it left as they had originally put down, since a lot was drank during the summer, but it was still enough for a nice little party. The beer, called Marzen (because it was brewed in March) was served in carnivals, horse races, and fairs to celebrate the harvest and the new brewing year.

Later, in 1810, Price Ludwig and Princes Therese decided to marry right around the time of the celebrations. They bought up basically all the stock of beer that was in Bavaria for the wedding, and then invited the citizens to drink it all with them. The citizens loved this idea so much that they did it again the next year, and the next, and the next. And thus the Oktoberfast was born.

Nowadays, we have refrigeration and temperature control. We can brew lagers in the summer and light wheat beers in the dead of winter. Marzan, Oktoberfest, and Vienna beers have become nothing special. They've lost that sense of renewal of drinking that last beer from the past season and looking forward to the next new batch. The sense of time and season.

 Still, sometimes,  as the weather gets warmer and the thermometer starts climbing. There's a primordial brewer in all of us that looks up at the sky, and then starts wishing for a deep, cool, hillside cave...

Monday, March 4, 2013

Survival of the fitest

I haven't written on this blog for a while, and in fact have been taking a bit of a break from the Israeli beer scene. Not beer, just the scene. :) And by the looks of it, I'm not the only one.

The one beer event that I did go to in these past three months was "Beers 2013" - the yearly showcase of Israeli craft brewing held, like the Oscars, at the beginning of the following year. So while the name said "2013", the event was all about 2012, and one name kept coming up over and over "Mosko" brewery.

Mosko is a new brewery opened in Moshav Zanuach by a couple of childhood friends, a hippie and a ba'al tshuva, who started home brewing together and then went pro. It's a great personal story, and the beer itself, while nothing special, isn't bad. But this is not what attracted people to the Mosko stand. What attracted them is that Mosko was the only new brewery to open in Israel in 2012.

That's right. After three years of breweries spawning in this country like mushrooms after the rain, in 2012 we had just one.

On the other hand, several breweries went the opposite direction. Starting with Butterfly brewery in Dalton which closed (thankfully), Libira and Salara who merged their brewing opperations, and several other breweries that have been seriously re-thinking their business plan. It wasn't all bad in 2012: Dancing Camel opened a second location, and a couple of 50+ tap bars opened in Rishon. But the overall trend this past year seemed to be one direction - downwards.

The obvious question is why? I'm sure that many people (especially the kind of people who read this blog) will be quick to blame the draconian doubling of the excise tax for this trend, and certainly that had in impact, but I feel that's just a small part of the story. Looking around the Israeli beer scene it seems to me that it is over-crowded, over-saturated, and not self-sustaining. At the end of the day, it's not enough to be a nice guy with a story and a dream. You have to be able to do one thing: Sell Beer.

You don't even have to make good beer. It helps, of course, and it's easier to sell a quality product. But it doesn't matter how good your beer is if you can't get it to people with decent ease and a decent price. Oh, in the long run quality will make or break you, but lack of distribution will kill you much faster. This is why it took Butterfly beer so long to die: It was shitty from day one, but they signed up with the Scottish Company and had good advertising. They were available in lots of places, and they got people to buy the beer. (Once they bought it once, they never made the mistake again, but that's a different story)

The point I'm getting at is that this is a natural process. Right now the Israeli craft beer market is not big enough to support all the breweries in it. There's a minimum amount of money that a brewery needs to survive, and there's not enough to go around so that every brewery will make that. This means some will fail. The excise tax will serve to make this process quicker, but it would have happened anyway. In the next two or three years we will see a string of brewery closings, mergers, and production shifts. Mark my words: if you are looking for good deals on brewing equipment, you'll be able to get a lot of good second-hand stuff soon.

Who'll survive? Those who can adapt, as always. Darwin pointed this out a long time ago: It's not the strongest, most powerful, or quickest that survive. It's those who can change quickest and adapt to a new circumstance. The Libira and Salara merger is exactly that kind of adaptation: lowering costs by sharing production capability, and building on respective strengths. Another example of this is the booming business over at Mivshelet Ha'am - small breweries using contract brewing to avoid equipment and regulatory costs. Ultimately, a brewery is a business, and a business works by lowering costs and maximizing profit. Nothing else.

My hope is that this will lead to better beer, since breweries that don't make good beer wont survive, and the breweries that do survive will recognize that they must invest in quality in order to remain competitive. It can easily go the other way too: Breweries trying to appeal to the broadest consumer base will start tailoring their beer to the lowest common denominator, and we'll end up with a bunch of pale lager makes. But I hope that personal integrity will bring those brewers that are truly passionate about the craft part of craft brewing to keep brewing exceptional beer, to keep innovating, and to keep a real craft industry in this country alive. If for no other reason, than that I hate drinking Goldstar...