Falling Sky Shop Blog

Fermentation Supply Shop

  • KLCC Brewfest Winners 2013

    Table 1 - Lager (10 Entries)
    Scorby Randy Baker City,OR Manny's Maibock 5A Maibock 1
    Herb Nation Springfield,OR 5B Traditional Bock 2
    Peter/Kevin Schrey/Spence Eugene,OR Bohemian Lager 1C Premium American 3
    Table 2 - Hybrids (9 Entries)
    Evan Burns Junction City,OR 6A Cream Ale 1
    Evan Burns Junction City,OR AG #5 6B Blond Ale 2
    Studach Kirk Lyons,OR Cream Corn 6A Cream Ale 3
    Herb Nation Springfield,OR 7B California Common Beer HM
    Table 3 - British Isles Ales (6 Entries)
    Stephen Diercouff Eugene,Or 80/ 9C Scottish 80/- 1
    Thomas Kaufmann Roseburg,OR 8A Ordinary Bitter 2
    Dan Irvin Creswell,OR The Queens Bitter 8C Extra Special/Strong Bitter (EPA) 2
    Table 4 - American Pale Ale (11 Entries)
    Kevin Campbell Eugene,OR Willamette Valley Pale Ale 10A American Pale 1
    Ryan Gibson Tualitin,OR Nelson Sauvin Pale Ale 10A American Pale 2
    Dan Irvin Creswell,OR The Pale Rider Hoppsalong 10A American Pale 3
    Table 5 - American Ales (6 Entries)
    Patric Currans Philomath,OR Jon G RIP 10C American Brown 1
    Jeremiah Marsden Eugene,OR Left Out Brown 10C American Brown 2
    Dave Downing Eugene,OR Old Red Eye NW Red Ale 10B American Amber 3
    Greg Ferrari Eugene,OR 10B American Amber HM
    Table 6 - Strong Ales (7 Entries)
    Jeremiah Marsden Eugene,OR Bitch's Brother 19C American Barleywine 1
    Chris West Eugene,OR Gilded Dragon 19B English Barleywine 2
    Steve Middleton Eugene,OR Wee Heavy 9E Strong Scotch Ale 3
    Table 7 - Porter (13 Entries)
    Sasha Feoktistov Donald st,OR Black eyes porter 12C Baltic Porter 1
    Scorby Randy Baker City,OR Baltic Butt Kicker 12C Baltic Porter 2
    Garth Stacey Roseburg,OR Dogs Life Porter 12B Robust Porter 3
    Table 8 - Stout (14 Entries)
    Jeremiah Marsden Eugene,OR Dark Days Stout 13F Russian Imperial Stout 1
    Travis VanDevanter Eugene,OR Tsar Nickolai RIS 13F Russian Imperial Stout 2
    Peter/Kevin Schrey/Spence Eugene,OR Irish Stout 13D Foreign Extra Stout 3
    Table 9 - India Pale Ale (12 Entries)
    Jim Treanor-Weaver Winston,OR CPA IPA 14A English IPA 1
    Donald Calhoun Eugene,OR Hopacratic Oath 14C Imperial IPA 2
    Spencer Waldon Corvallis,OR Hop Glop 14B American IPA 3
    Table 10 - Wheat Beer (5 Entries)
    Steve Middleton Eugene,OR American Wheat 6D American Wheat or Rye Beer 1
    John Ross Eugene,OR American Wheat 6D American Wheat or Rye Beer 2
    Steve Middleton Eugene,OR Berliner Weisse 17A Berliner Weisse 3
    Table 11 - Saison (7 Entries)
    Tyrone Reitman Eugene,OR Trebuchet! 16C Saison 1
    Thomas Kaufmann Roseburg,OR Saison-Farmhouse Funk 16C Saison 2
    Keith Karoglanian Madras,or French Lick 16C Saison 3
    Table 12 - Belgian Strong Ale (9 Entries)
    Joseph Wilson Eugene,Or Doppelbock turned Belgian Strong Ale 18E Belgian Dark Strong Ale 1
    Brent Watson Corvalis,OR Rowdy Rascal 18D Belgian Golden Strong Ale 2
    Steve Middleton Eugene,OR Golden Strong 18D Belgian Golden Strong Ale 3
    Table 13 - Belgian Ale (10 Entries)
    Steve Anderson Eugene,OR Blond Bomber 18A Belgian Blond Ale 1
    Matt Kuecker Springfield,OR Brett Rye Saison 16E Belgian Specialty 2
    Patric Currans Philomath,OR Belgian Blonde 18A Belgian Blond Ale 3
    Table 14 - Fruit Beer & Fruit Lambics (6 Entries)
    Thomas Kaufmann Roseburg,OR Framboise 17F Fruit Lambic 1
    Steve Middleton Eugene,OR Raspberry Lambic 17F Fruit Lambic 2
    Hess Whitney Eugene,OR Cordial Cherry Choco Stout 20A Fruit Beer 3
    Table 15 - Smoked & Wood-Aged Beer (7 Entries)
    Scorby Randy Baker City,OR Smoke Screen 22A Classic Rauchbier 1
    Tyrone Reitman Eugene,OR SWB 22C Wood-Aged Beer 2
    Steve Anderson Eugene,OR Smoke em if you got em 22B Other Smoked Beer 3
    Jeremiah Marsden Eugene,OR Daddy's Whiskey Brown 22C Wood-Aged Beer HM
    Table 16 - Spice, Herb, Vegetable, & Winter/Christmas Beer (7 Entries)
    Dan Dixon Eugene,Or Unruly Jack 21A Spice, Herb, Vegetable Beer 1
    Joe Buppert Eugene,OR Hellapeno 21A Spice, Herb, Vegetable Beer 2
    Grant 'Scrumpy' Taylor Bend,OR 3 Hour Tour 21A Spice, Herb, Vegetable Beer 3
    Travis VanDevanter Eugene,OR Pumpalump Pi 21A Spice, Herb, Vegetable Beer HM
    Table 17 - Specialty Beer (19 Entries)
    Donald Calhoun Eugene,OR Midnight "Rye"der 23A Specialty Beer 1
    Don&Daniel Sellers Eugene,OR Big Damn Stout 23A Specialty Beer 2
    Michael Fitzpatrick Springfield,Or American Dark Ale 23A Specialty Beer 3
    Travis VanDevanter Eugene,OR Chalkbreaker 23A Specialty Beer HM
    Table 18 - Meads (13 Entries)
    Johan Keller Longview,WA Pure Grandpa Wally Mead 24A Dry Mead 1
    Chris West Eugene,OR Berry Warmer 26C Open Category Mead 2
    Tiffany Johnson Junction City,OR 25C Other Fruit Melomel 3
    Table 19 - Ciders (6 Entries)
    Grant 'Scrumpy' Taylor Bend,OR Grey Butte Cider 27B English Cider 1
    Michael Gwyn Sprngfield,Or Dr. Perry Cox 27D Common Perry 2
    Cort Heroy Eugene,OR Appled Ordnance 27A Common Cider 3
    Scorby Randy Baker City,OR Manny's Maibock 5A Maibock 1
    Stephen Diercouff Eugene,Or 80/ 9C Scottish 80/- 2
  • Jazz it up with a Saison!

    Life, with a capital L, is returning to Eugene. Flowers and leaves have appeared in startling numbers, creating wafts of aroma that, as you bike past a blooming daphne, cocoon you for just a few seconds. I feel this way about a particular beer style; when a bottle is popped, anybody within a yard will stop talking and sniff the air. Imagine a bouquet of flowers, fruit blossoms, and herbs following the cork as it rockets into the ceiling.

    Saison originated in the French part of Belgium, Wallonia, as a beer brewed for farm workers (hence its synonym: Farmhouse). The yeast, which takes a leading role in this style, was originally a wine yeast, which explains the high levels of attenuation found in most commercial examples. Often, herbs and spices found on the particular farm were used in conjunction with hops. The malt is simple: Pilsener. These days, Saisons are 5-7% abv, though original examples were likely around 3.5%, perfect for long harvesting days.

    Like some beer styles (Porter and Berliner Weisse, for example) that originated as “working class” beers, Saison has seen a resurgence in popularity. Nowadays, it’s fairly highbrow, or rather, it’s been rediscovered as an excellent version of our favorite beverage. I’d replace a bottle of fine wine with Dupont Saison any day; I brought it to a dinner event with dishes from all over India, and each course was perfectly complimented with a sip of Saison. Don’t get me wrong: wrapping my muddy hands around a mug of Saison in the middle of the garden is worth every drop of sweat.

    So now you want to brew it, right? Right. Your grist should be mostly Pilsener malt (or extract) with maybe some wheat malt and some light specialty grain for body and a hint of flavor. Biscuit, CaraHell, or a very light crystal malt should do the trick, no more than 5% of your sugars. You may even add table sugar to the boil or at high krausen to boost attenuation and add what the Belgians call “digestibility.” After that, Saison is largely your own adventure; hop it any way you like, keeping in mind that your yeast is going to contribute a lot of fruitiness in the realm of citrus, and you don’t want to overpower that with excessive bitterness. Styrian hops are classic. I’ve used Crystal and Saaz in combination. If you do a “Saison IPA,” keep it away from me.

    If you want to add herbs, and you probably should, feel free to consult Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers. You could make a hopless Saison, substituting yarrow for your bittering addition. I like Indian spices: cumin, coriander (classic in many Belgian beers), and mustard seed added just before flame-out. You can add fruit to the secondary if you want it that way; Draper Brewing’s Blueberry Saison is delightful.

    When it comes time to ferment, I have one go-to yeast: Wyeast’s 3711 French Saison. It’s actually the only one I’ve used, and I love it. I plan on using the Biere de Garde PC strain this year for a change of pace. Temperature is key; the highly German method of temperature control should NOT be used here. I start my fermentation in the mid 60s, wrap a towel around the carboy, and let it ride. A healthy fermentation can reach 80F in a couple days, especially if you feed it a bit of boiled sugar syrup at high krausen (optional, but fun). Depending on your original gravity, the beer could be done within a week. It should be bone dry– I had one finish at 1.002 from 1.076. Bring it to a barbecue and weird out your friends until they try it.


  • Chew on This! (Get to Know Your Malts)

    “So I need some 2-row.” We hear this all the time– but we don’t mind because it opens the door to a question that every homebrewer needs to ask: Where Do Malts Come From?

    Most homebrewers are familiar with the basic steps involved in malting barley, and are acquainted with the concepts of modification, stewing (crystallization), and various kilning techniques (if you’re not, check out How to Brew). But when it comes time to build a recipe and decide what is going to comprise the second largest portion of your beer (water being the largest), how do you decide between U.S. Pale and U.K Pale, or between Crystal 40 and Caramel Munich 40? Don’t trust a random recipe you found on the internet. Use your senses!

    “They” say first impressions are the most important, no matter how many romantic comedies try to prove the opposite (or do they?). I think it’s quite true for malts. Think about a stalk of barley grass, growing flaxen-gold in the field. Pluck the head off, and peel off the grain. Is it plump, fat with starches; or is it dull, misshapen like a potato grown in clay? Perform the same visual exam in the grain room. Take a grain, check it out, and take it apart, revealing its sweet insides.

    Although we’re selling a food product, we’re not a giant grocery store– like local natural food stores, you’re welcome to taste before you buy. Open up the bins, shake them up, take a whiff!

    Regardless of what style you’re brewing, the aroma of malt is of critical importance. You’ll learn pretty fast not to add rich melanoidin malt to your cream ale, and you’ll instantly distinguish the difference between that Crystal 40 and Caramel Munich 40. Sniffing various base malts is a swift indicator of its specific maltiness. Now on to the big top…

    Put it in your mouth. Use your teeth. Close your eyes, and imagine yourself drinking a beer with this as a featured ingredient. Now imagine it in combination with other malts. Try it in combination with other malts. Is it bready? Is it caramelly? Is it acidic? Is it burnt? Keep chewing it, the way you do until saltines turn sweet. There. You just mashed in your mouth. Those carefully mapped out sections of your tongue have created what should be a lasting impression– a flavor profile.

    The more you do this, the better your recipes will be. It will become a plague at times, when you can identify a lower quality malt in a favorite beer, or identify your favorite IPA by its grainy-sweet maltiness rather than its floral hop aroma (or both, that’s great). I once had to confer with a competition director to confirm there was in fact cherry wood smoked malt in a beer, that I wasn’t just crazy.

    So, do I have any 2-row? Of course! Most of the malts out there are 2-row. 6-row, the other type of malting barley, is high in enzymes and husk material, and is great for high-adjunct beverages, but unnecessary for brewing most beer. You probably mean base malts– do you want American, British, German, Belgian…?

    I swear I can do this without bias (because I have favorites). Generally, the origin of the base malt is great for brewing beer from that region. Pilsener: duh (but try it in an IPA!). Munich malt is great as the primary base malt in dunkels, doppelbocks, and altbiers, to name a few. Maris Otter, a U.K. variety, lends its particular bready sweetness to porters, bitters, and other beers with Anglo roots. Malts from the U.S. today are great at playing second fiddle to excessive hopping. It all depends on what you like. I always put a percentage of a pale German malt into my pale ales with Maris Otter because I enjoy the complementing bready- and grainy- sweet malt flavors. But you should know: hoping for a characterful enough malt profile from cheap 2-row in a SMASH (single-malt and single-hop) beer will get you something that tastes like Hamm’s. Believe me, I did it.

    Many recipes overlook some of the more esoteric malts in favor of the classics, hoping for popular appeal. If you’re looking to add different malt character to your beer, here’s a couple to get you started:

    –Weyermann CaraBohemian: Cocoa and toffee notes and a deep red-brown color. Excellent addition for character in Old Ales or English Porters, less than 10% of grain bill.

    –Simpson’s Crystal Rye: Rye is an acquired taste, but I think this is a gateway malt. Excellent in ambers, browns, and fall-type beers (I first used it in a pumpkin lager…). Like rye bread crust with some brown sugar. I chew on this malt most often.

    Hopefully that’s enough of a tease to encourage a couple finger-fulls of malts you’ve never tried. Be sure to keep us appraised of your future experiences!


  • Build Your Own Launch Pad

    This makes me a really bad Oregonian: I’m not a hophead (I’m from Maryland, where I thought I was a hophead until I got here). But lots of my friends are hopheads. You very well may be a hophead. And if you were to come over to my house, I’d want to have something hoppy to serve you that I enjoy as well. So a year ago I wrote up a recipe for a beer with a simple yet solid malt base to which I could add enough hops to satisfy both myself and my lupulin-loving pals. I’ve brewed the beer three times now, each time altering the hop bill and/or yeast to test out new varieties (like my most recent, which will be dry-hopped with Meridian, fermented with Thames Valley II) and to really get a grasp on the nuances of classics like Crystal and Simcoe, British II and Scottish Ale (from Wyeast).

    So what’s your launchpad? As homebrewers, I think we’re naturally investigative, constantly changing, and highly critical of our beers. I found that creating a great malt base as a control has increased my awareness of different hops and yeast. And by the same token, you can do the same with hops, yeast, and even your water.

    My recipe is no secret: 75% Maris Otter, 15% Koln (or sub pale Munich), 5% Crystal 10L, 2.5% malted wheat, and 2.5% CaraFoam. Mashed at low temps (the first batch was between 140-145F!), this produces a pale gold, dry beer with great head and a malt flavor that bridges the grainy-sweet palette (of course, this is yeast dependent). I can make it as bitter as I want, late-hop the crap out of it, mash it at 155F, or put it on Belgian yeast if I want, but I’ll always have the malt bill as a reference point. The second brewing utilized one bittering addition and 2 pounds of fresh Simcoe at the end. It was shocking to taste the beer change over the course of a few weeks; at first it literally tasted and smelled like cat pee. A couple weeks later, it took first place in a Club Only Competition for fresh-hop and “harvest” beers.

    I encourage all brewers to experiment using controls like this. The malt bill is an obvious starting point (or it was for me). But if you know you like a certain hop or combination of hops, there is a pantheon of delicious specialty grains that don’t regularly show up in many recipes. For example: I love Magnum for bittering, and a combination of Crystal and Cascade for flavor and aroma. Now, if I wanted to test out the new Crisp CaraMalt or the Simpson’s Dark Crystal, you just plug that in with a simple malt base and your hop bill and let ‘er rip, right? It’s like a “choose your own adventure” novel!

    The same can be said for yeast. This may be a little trickier if you’re brewing one carboy at a time, but taking careful notes of your brewing process (gravity readings!) and giving your finished product a thorough sensory evaluation (invite friends!) will give you a pretty clear idea of how your recipe and yeast play together. Keep in mind that your cell count may never be the same twice, nor will your fermentation temperature; this is where it helps to talk to other brewing friends or come to the shop and pick our brains about different yeast experiences, and you really start feeling like a brew geek!

    As with any experiment, take notes and share your findings. Make sure your control doesn’t become a dominant trait; let your innovation shine through and you’ll appreciate the familiarity of the flavors you choose as a backdrop. And as always, take care of your yeast; it will return the favor.


  • KLCC Homebrew Contest Results 2012

    KLCC Results

    February 10 2012
    Sponsored by Falling Sky Brewing

    154 Entries Starting with 1st place to 3rd place in each category

    Thank you to all home brewers who participated.

    Table 1 – Lagers (9 Entries)
    Randy Scorby Baker City,OR What the Helles..Bock 5A Maibock 1st
    Daniel Harada Portland,OR none 4C Schwarzbier 2nd
    Herb Nation Springfield,OR 1E Dortmunder Export 3rd
    Table 2 – Light Hybrid Beer (6 Entries)
    Trevor Ross Eugene,OR gilfester kolsch 6C Kolsch 1st
    Doug Jordan Springfield,OR Hay Bail Bond 6B Blond Ale 2nd
    Drew Erickson Roseburg,OR Creme of rice 6A Cream Ale 3rd
    Table 3 – Wheat or Rye Beer (9 Entries)
    Steve Middleton Eugene,OR Witbier 16A Witbier 1st
    Josh Ripley Eugene,OR CitraHeff 6D American Wheat or Rye Beer 2nd
    Stephen Wells Layton,UT Wheat Jimmy 15A Weizen 3rd
    Table 4 – Amber Hybrid Beer (5 Entries)
    Randy Scorby Baker City,OR Dussey 7A Northern German Altbier 1st
    Daniel Harada Portland,OR none 7A Northern German Altbier 2nd
    Herb Nation Springfield,OR 7B California Common Beer 3rd
    Table 5 – British Isles Ales (8 Entries)
    Dirk Beaulieu Eugene,OR Frenchie’s Scottish 9E Strong Scotch Ale 1st
    Diane Griffin Roseburg,OR Ilkley”s Best 8B Special/Best/Premium Bitter 2nd
    Drew Erickson Roseburg,OR Reservoir Bitter 8A Ordinary Bitter 3rd
    Table 6 – American Pale Ale (6 Entries)
    Kevin Campbell Eugene,OR Lunch Snack 10A American Pale 1st
    Trevor Ross Eugene,OR Back Yard ESB 10A American Pale 2nd
    Doug Jordan Springfield,OR Rusty nail Red 10A American Pale 3rd
    Table 7 – Amber or Brown Ales (7 Entries)
    Tyrone Reitman Eugene,OR Get Down 11C Northern English Brown 1st
    Kelley Hook Eugene,OR American Amber 10B American Amber 2nd
    Andy Lash Veneta,OR Lash out Brown Ale 10C American Brown 3rd
    Table 8 – Porter (6 Entries)
    Diane Griffin Roseburg,OR Tip the Porter 12B Robust Porter 1st
    Dirk Beaulieu Eugene,OR Beau’s Baltic 12C Baltic Porter 2nd
    Peter Reed Eugene,OR Oil Spill 12C Baltic Porter 3rd
    Table 9 – Stouts (15 Entries)
    Tyrone Reitman Eugene,OR Top O The Morning 13C Oatmeal Stout 1st
    Trevor Ross Eugene,OR Dark Father 13F Russian Imperial Stout 2nd
    Kevin Williams Eugene,OR Dry Stout 13A Dry Stout 3rd
    Table 10 – India Pale Ales (17 Entries)
    Dan Irvin Creswell,OR Virgil 14B American IPA 1st
    Carl HAll Portland,OR Packman IPA 14B American IPA 2nd
    Carl HAll Portland,OR Organic Optic IPA 14B American IPA 3rd
    Table 11 – Imperial IPAs (7 Entries)
    Sasha Feoktistov Eugene,OR Luckey #13rd 14C Imperial IPA 1st
    Travis Vandevanter Eugene,OR Big Nick IPA 14C Imperial IPA 2nd
    Leroy Spoden Springfield,OR Two time Betty 14C Imperial IPA 3rd
    Table 12 – Belgian and French Ales (10 Entries)
    Jeremiah Marsden Eugene,OR Can I come out of the Barrel now 16E Belgian Specialty 1st
    Justin Bruce Eugene,OR La Ferme Du Funk 16C Saison 2nd
    Jeremiah Marsden Eugene,OR Bretter Beer 16E Belgian Specialty 3rd
    Table 13 – Sour Beers (3 Entries)
    Jeremiah Marsden Eugene,OR Barrel of Funk 17B Flanders Red 1st
    Tyrone Reitman Eugene,OR Rennie James R.I.P 17B Flanders Red 2nd
    Kevin Williams Eugene,OR Matts Wife likes IT 17A Berliner Weisse 3rd
    Table 14 – Belgian Strong Ales (9 Entries)
    Tyrone Reitman Eugene,OR Tres Brujas 18C Belgian Tripel 1st
    Keith Johnson Eugene,OR Aupres De Ma Blonde 18A Belgian Blond Ale 2nd
    Tyrone Reitman Eugene,OR V-Key Gold 18D Belgian Golden Strong Ale 3rd
    Table 15 – Fruit, Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer (6 Entries)
    Steven Babkirk Cottage Grove,OR Yamata Harvest Ale 21A Spice, Herb, Vegetable Beer 1st
    Steve Middleton Eugene,OR Hot Pepper Beer 21A Spice, Herb, Vegetable Beer 2nd
    Shayne Tennis Corvallis,OR Pumpkin Ale 21A Spice, Herb, Vegetable Beer 3rd
    Table 16 – Christmas/Winter Specialty Beer (5 Entries)
    Doug Ballou Vancouver,WA Winter Ale 21B Christmas/Winter Specialty Spiced Beer 1st
    Allen Phil Corvalis,OR Ginger, cinnamon, orange peels 21B Christmas/Winter Specialty Spiced Beer 2nd
    Dan Dixon Eugene,OR Santa’s Sack 21B Christmas/Winter Specialty Spiced Beer 3rd
    Table 17 – Smoked or Wodd-Aged Beers (6 Entries)
    Randy Scorby Baker City,OR Smoke Screen 22A Classic Rauchbier 1st
    Aaron Oakley Eugene,OR oaks daked porter 22C Wood-Aged Beer 2nd
    Trevor Ross Eugene,OR Old Scriveners Ale 22C Wood-Aged Beer 3rd
    Table 18 – Specialty Beers (10 Entries)
    Randy High Staton,OR Cascadia Quake 23A Specialty Beer 1st
    Steve Middleton Eugene,OR Berliner Weisse w/peaches 23A Specialty Beer 2nd
    Jim Tranor-Weaver Winston,OR Sleig4ed 23A Specialty Beer 3rd
    Table 19 – Meads and Ciders (4 Entries)
    Terry Bucher Salem,OR 10 Ton Hard Cider 27A Common Cider 1st
    Peter Reed Eugene,OR Cascade Cide Show 2010 27A Common Cider 2nd
    Randy Gordan Eugene,OR Spank Mead Dry 24A Dry Mead 3rd
    Best Of Show Runner-Up
    Trevor Ross Eugene,OR gilfester kolsch 6C Kolsch
    Best Of Show Runner-Up
    Terry Bucher Salem,OR 10 Ton Hard Cider 27A Common Cider
    Best Of Show Winner
    Tyrone Reitman Eugene,OR Get Down 11C Northern English Brown
  • So you want to win a Homebrew Competition ?

    There are two major homebrew competitions in Eugene: KLCC and Sasquatch. You’ve probably heard of them. You may have judged beer for them. Hopefully you’ve entered your beer. If you haven’t, or if you have and would like to know how to maximize your scoring potential, there are a few things you can do.

    1) Know your styles, and enter accordingly. If you wrote a recipe for an American IPA, but it turned out with earth hop aroma and a medium amber color, rather than the citrus aroma and gold color you expected, you’re likely to score higher entering it as an English IPA and/or an American Amber Ale. This leads to:

    2) You can enter the same beer in multiple categories. This may seem like an ethical gray area, and certainly saps your own stash of beer by requiring at least three more bottles, but if you have a beer that you think fits more than one category, feel free to maximize your scoring potential (and judge feedback (here’s what a score sheet looks like)). Additionally, if you have two of the same style, enter both (I sure will)!

    3) Get opinions! We here at the brew shop will gladly sample your beer and give you on-the-spot feedback, and I’m sure your friends will, too. The only drawback with this is that we would then be excluded from judging a category with that style of beer due to prior knowledge of an entry.

    4) Follow the rules. It may seem paltry, but entering flip-top, embossed, or otherwise inappropriate bottles can earn you a frown from the judges at least, or a disqualification at most. Pay attention to the entry forms; if a recipe is required for your spice/herb/vegetable beer, don’t skimp on the details. For example, I was judging a flight of odd beers, and had I not asked the steward for additional information on a particular porter, I would have attributed the smoky flavor to poor brewing practices rather than the smoked malt the entrant declared (it was a tasty beer, by the way).

    Finally, if you’re brewing specifically for a competition, get a head start. Rushed beer is no good. Bottle conditioned beer, especially in the darker and stronger styles, is often best a month from bottling, if not more. Beers brewed to the upper end of the specific gravity range for style will give greater flavor perception, which can be an advantage in scenarios where judges’ palates are fatigued. That said, your English Brown Ale should not be “hot” with alcohol vapors.

    And if you’re really set on getting a leg up in competitions, JUDGE. Learning how to taste beer, how other people score beer, and getting intimate with a range of flavors within a particular style is the best way to improve your own beer. As always, we here at the shop have over three decades of combined brewing knowledge, so feel free to pick our brains.

  • Kolsch: Mysteriously Pale

    Just before summer, on the first warm days of June when it may still be humid, as the swamp in your backyard reverts to lawn, as the sun once again paints your skin, you may find yourself craving a Kolsch. You may not even know it yet. Kolsch is, literally, a hybrid; halfway between ale and lager. The grain bill is simple, hopping and alcohol are toned down– what makes Kolsch is the yeast. Fermented between 55 and 60F and then lagered, the classic Kolsch yeast is clean and dry, but leaves enough malt flavor and just a hint of fruity ester to give you pause: “Is this an ale?”

    Kolsch is a lighter counterpart to Altbier (another hybrid beer), hailing from the same region of northwestern Germany. Its base is Pilsener malt, sometimes 100%. Since I haven’t been brewing as long as the Germans, I choose to add some malts to aid body and head retention. Using 10-20% Global Koln or light Munich malt adds bright malt flavor and a nice light golden color. Adding CaraFoam or CaraHell ups the body. Malted wheat can be used for head retention and an extra roundness of flavor, but is not necessary. Traditionally, German hops are used. Hitting the IBUs around 30 is key, and I like to play around with aroma hops; a combination of Saaz and Crystal or a big dose of Hallertauer Mittelfruh tastes great, though it may fall out of the official style guidelines.

    The last time I brewed Kolsch I split 10 gallons onto two different yeasts: a pack of Wyeast 1007 German Ale and a 1-liter starter of Wyeast 2565 Kolsch. Fermentation temperature was about 60F. The results are quite different; the first is light bodied with dry bitterness and a hint of lemony tartness, while the second is smooth and malty with floral hop characteristics and no tartness (my favorite of the two). One explanation of the tartness, which I don’t find appropriate, is that the yeast was a bit stressed by the low fermentation temperature. Another challenge with this style is clarity. Personally, I don’t mind a hazy Kolsch, but if you want it crystal clear, that sucker will have to lager for several weeks. Irish moss is a must!

    Here at the shop we’ve got two recipes: one extract, one all-grain. The extract recipe,Kolsch fur Mich, uses malted wheat, pilsener, and CaraHell to keep it light and malty, with only Crystal hops. The all-grainer, Nackte Kolsch, is 99% Pilsener malt with a handful of acid malt to help lower the pH of your mash; without any dark grains or water treatments, your efficiency will be lower without a little acid added.

    Few commercial examples of Kolsch exist, but Flat Tail in Corvallis brews a mighty good one. Reissdorf is the only German model this side of the Mississippi, and while I’ve heard a German exclaim that it is “not Kolsch!” I still like it. While brewing it is a piece of cake (single infusion mash at 145-149F), be mindful of your yeast count and fermentation temperatures, as they will make the difference between a fruity ester-driven beer and one that confuses and enlightens you at the same time! The next time you reach for your favorite lager to clear the sweat from your eyebrows, check out our friend Kolsch.


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