Vote for Beer

By Stella • October 26, 2012

In keeping with President Obama’s motto of “Forward” we here at Beer Church have decided to do our patriotic duty and look for ways to improve the recently released recipe for the White House’s homebrew. There are several different recipes, all of which look very promising. However, they are formulated for a beginning level brewer. This is the beer that the POTUS drinks with Medal of Honor recipients. Nothing — and I do mean nothing — is too good for them, so I want to do my bit to help. This post will help you create an all-grain version of the existing recipe.

The White House showed their brewing setup and process with this video:

Looks like they are really on the right track! Here’s my response. In addition to translating the generic extract ingredients into a recipe hardcore homebrewers can get excited about, I’ve also noted a few points of technique that can help the White House staff in their quest for the perfect ale.

A few more notes:

  • The White House ales are not actually beers; they are braggots. That’s B-r-a-g-g-o-t, as in an ale brewed with a mixture of malt and honey, not B-r-a-g-g-a-r-t, as in somebody who spouts off obscure trivia about beer.
  • Additives like gypsum should not be included by default. If you have good local water, you shouldn’t need to alter the chemical composition of your beer. I’m lucky to have spectacular California water, which makes great beer. If you want to become a diehard, consider getting a kit that can do a chemical analysis of your tap water so that you can find out if anything needs to be added or removed for ideal fermentation.
  • They are so super lucky to have that nice clean, dry, stable temperature cupboard off the kitchen. That will make for a fantastically smooth fermentation.
  • I don’t think racking the beer after 3-4 days is necessary. Racking into secondary is a giant pain, produces no discernible improvement in quality, creates a window of opportunity for contamination, and means you have to wash twice as many carboys. No thanks.
  • The White House video said that they steep their grains at 170 degrees. That is WAY too hot! Don’t ever exceed 160. 150-155 is more ideal, and the grain bag should never be dunked vigorously.
  • It’s a crime to boil honey! In this case, a federal crime! With such a fresh source of honey, the White House ales can really shine if they add honey at the last possible moment to avoid boiling out unique and subtle flavors.

Now that I’ve stood on my soapbox, I’m ready to give you the recipe. I’ve included links to the items from my local brewshop if you want to get exactly the same ingredients.

White House Honey Ale – the Second Term

Grains:

Mash grain at 155 degrees F for 45 minutes. Sparge at 155 degrees. Bring to a boil. Add 1 1/2 ounces Kent Goldings. Add 2 teaspoons gypsum if necessary.

45 minutes later add 1/2 ounce Fuggles. Boil for five more minutes then remove from heat and chill. Add the wort to a 5 gallon carboy and bring up to not-quite-full volume with water.

Wake up one vial of London Ale Yeast with a little warm water mixed with 1 pound of high-quality wildflower honey. A locally sourced honey would be in keeping with the spirit of this recipe, as the White House beehives produced the honey for their version. Pitch the honey and yeast mixture into the wort after the yeast is visibly working. Seal up the carboy with an airlock containing vodka or water with a few drops of an iodophor solution.

Ferment for three to six weeks at 70 degrees. Do not rack for secondary fermentation. If you are going to bottle the beer, use 3/4 cup of corn sugar for priming, or for a more pronounced honey flavor, use 1/2 cup of the same type of honey you used in the recipe. For kegging, do not add priming sugar.

Buzzy Bee

By Stella • May 6, 2010

Now that horrible, evil, bad, awful, terrible winter is over it’s time to think about summer barbecues and which beer I’d like to have in hand whilst laying in a hammock. I think I would like an orange blossom Belgian witbier, yesplease. This beer is very much a seasonal, as the fresh orange blossoms give it a very different taste than what you would get with dried flowers. If you’re really crazy about the flavor, tinker with the recipe by eliminating the bitter orange peel and going crazy with orange blossoms at the end of the boil.

Shopping list:

  • 4 lb 2-row pilsner
  • 8 oz Belgian carapils
  • 8 oz Belgian special malt
  • 1 lb flaked wheat
  • 2 lb dry wheat malt extract
  • 1/2 oz East Kent Goldings
  • 1/4 oz Simcoe
  • 1 oz bitter orange peel
  • 1 lb unpasteurized orange blossom honey
  • 1 cup freshly picked orange blossoms
  • White Labs 500 Trappist Ale Yeast

Buzzy Bee

An Orange Blossom Belgian Witbier

Mash at 155 degrees:

  • 4 lbs two row pilsner
  • 8 oz Belgian carapils
  • 8 oz Belgian special malt
  • 1 lb flaked wheat

At the beginning of the boil, get your yeast (White Labs 500 Trappist Ale) out of the refrigerator and shake it up. Put a cup of water in a one quart Pyrex pitcher and boil it in the microwave. Let it cool for a minute and then add 1 lb (1 1/3 cups) unpasteurized orange blossom honey. Stir in the honey until it is dissolved, cover the mixture, and set it aside. Once the wort has reached a rolling boil, add to the brewpot:

  • 2 lbs dry wheat malt extract

Get your boyfriend to pour the wheat malt gradually for you while you stir vigorously or you’re going to end up with a giant lump of wheat goo at the bottom of your pot that has the consistency of concrete. Test the honey and water mixture to make sure it is warm, not hot, and then pour the yeast in. Cover your yeast starter. Now put on an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to watch during the boil:

  • 1/4 oz East Kent Goldings 60 minutes
  • 1/4 oz Simcoe 30 minutes
  • 1/4 oz East Kent Goldings 15 minutes
  • 1/2 oz bitter orange peel 15 minutes

As soon as Buffy is over and you’ve added the last of the hops and the first bit of the bitter orange peel, it’s time to go to work. When the 60 minute boil is up, remove the bag of hops and bitter orange peel from the pot. Toss in 1 cup freshly picked orange blossoms and 1/2 ounce bitter orange peel. Cover the pot and let it sit for ten minutes. When the ten minutes is up, give your yeast vial a good shake. Strain the orange blossoms and bitter orange peel from your brewpot. Bring the wort up to six gallons and pitch your yeast starter.

This beer may need a good month to ferment. I plan on serving it with a slice of lemon or orange in a frosty mug.

Cream Ale

By Stella • June 13, 2009

I have no idea if the beer I’m making will be anywhere close to the mark, but this recipe was inspired by Wexford Irish Cream Ale, which oddly enough is not from Wexford. It isn’t even Irish, but is brewed by Greene King Brewing Co. in Suffolk and comes in a British-style pint can with a nitrogen widget inside. The flavor is essentially albino Guinness. Creamy, satisfying, and light as a sunny afternoon. A perfect summer beer. I have no idea if the beer I make will come out similarly, but it was a fun excuse to use my first homegrown herbs in a beer. Let’s see how it does!

Chamomile Cream Ale

  1. Bring water to 150 degrees. Steep 2 lbs. rolled oats and 1 cup untoasted buckwheat groats for one hour.
  2. Add 6 lbs. ultralight extract, 1 lb. dry rice extract and 1 oz. Willamette. Boil 60 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat. Add 1/2 c. chamomile flowers. Let sit 5 minutes.
  4. Strain, cool and put into a 6 gallon carboy. Fill ‘er up.
  5. Pitch with WLP 004 (Irish Ale)

Pigskin Porter

By Stella • January 2, 2009

Dark roasty porter
Perfect for sipping during football games, pairs well with Dalmore Cigar Malt
Original Gravity 1.058

Grain Bill:
6 lbs. Ultralight malt extract
1/4 lb chocolate malt
.13 lb black barley
.25 lb crystal malt 120L
.25 lb crystal malt 15L

Hop Schedule:
1 1/2 oz. Cascade 60 minutes
1/2 oz. Willamette for 5 minutes

Yeast:
White Labs WLP013 London Ale Yeast

Priming Sugar:
1/2 cup wildflower honey

Steep grains at 150 degrees for 45 minutes. Add hops and boil. Chill wort, pitch yeast and bring up to 5 gallons. Leave in fermenter 2-4 weeks and bottle condition at least 2 weeks.

Frankenstein

By Stella • January 1, 2009

This recipe is the result of cobbling together substitutions for ingredients when I went to the brewshop and literally everything I needed was not available. It’s one of the tastiest beers I’ve ever made.

Specialty grains, steeped at 155 degrees for 45 minutes:

  • 1 lb. Crystal 15L
  • 8 oz. Crystal 60L
  • 8 oz. Victory
  • 8 oz. Victory

Add 8 lbs. Pilsner malt exctract and turn up the heat. Hop schedule:

  • 2 oz. Vanguard 60 minutes
  • 1 oz. Cascade 30 minutes
  • 1 oz. Cascade 0 minutes

Chill wort, pitch White Labs WLP862 Cry Havoc, and bring up to 6 gallons. On bottling day prime with 1/2 cup corn sugar. Hopoholics love this one.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

By Stella • November 18, 2008

Brown Ale with oatmeal and nutmeg. Inspired by breakfast and a good movie.
Original Gravity 1.095
Broke my hydrometer again so don’t know/care the Finishing Gravity.

Take 1

Grain Bill:
7 lbs. ultra light malt extract
1 lb. flaked oats
.38 lb Victory 25L
.63 lb Special Roast (50L Breiss)
.38 lb Crystal 40L
.13 lb Pale Chocolate

Adjuncts:
1 1/2 tsp. Nutmeg

Hop Schedule:
1/2 oz. Kent Goldings 60 minutes
1/2 oz. Kent Goldings 30 minutes

Yeast:
Any British Ale Yeast

Priming Sugar:
1/2 cup wildflower honey

Steep grains for 45 minutes beginning at 155 degrees. Add nutmeg and first hop edition at beginning of boil. Chill and strain wort. Bring up to 5 gallons and pitch yeast. Leave in the fermenter for 2-4 weeks and allow the ale to bottle condition for at least 4 weeks.

Take 2

Grain Bill:
7 lbs. ultra light malt extract
1 lb. flaked oats
.38 lb Victory 25L
.63 lb Special Roast (50L Breiss)
.38 lb Crystal 40L
.13 lb Pale Chocolate

Adjuncts:
2 tsp. nutmeg 60 minutes

Hop Schedule:
1/2 oz. Cascade 60 minutes
1/2 oz. Kent Goldings 30 minutes

Yeast: White Labs London Ale Yeast

Priming Sugar: 1/2 cup wildflower honey

Steep grains for 45 minutes beginning at 155 degrees. Add nutmeg and first hop edition at beginning of boil. Chill and strain wort. Bring up to 5 gallons and pitch yeast. Leave in the carboy for 2-4 weeks and allow the ale to bottle condition for at least 4 weeks. It gets really good the longer you wait.

Small Beer

By Stella • October 9, 2008

For a while I’ve been wanting to try my hand at a small beer. Beer is largely misunderstood by modern drinkers; it’s only in the last 100 years or so that it made its transition from nutritional staple to purely recreational beverage. When we watch the History Channel and they mention that the Pilgrims drank a quart of beer per day (even kids) we gasp and tut-tut at such poor dietary decision-making. But most people don’t know the difference between ale and lager, let alone strong beer and small beer.

For hundreds, if not thousands of years, small beer was a mainstay of the European diet and the product of the innovative frugality that is the backbone of any traditional culture. It’s lower in sugar and less alcoholic than what we think of as beer. Back in the day the wort extracted from the first rinse of freshly malted, roasted, and ground grain would have been saved for the ale-house, parties, feasts, and boozing it up. What people drank, sometimes three meals a day, was beer brewed from the second rinse of the grains, which carried away enough sugar to make it tasty and just barely boozy enough for it not to spoil (typically 1-2% abv), but still with loads of the protein, amino acids, and hydrating water that the hard working peasant needed after a day in the potato fields.

Re-using grains to make small beer used to be absolutely essential. Today it’s just good economics and nutrition. I don’t like to waste anything if I can help it. The grains left over from my mash are always baked into bread or used to mulch the garden. I knew of Small Beer from my college studies, but didn’t really understand the process. As is common with me, I assumed it was more complicated than it really is. All I had to do was draw a second wort off of grain that I used for a bigger brew. Easy peasy!

I can’t find any other homebrewers online who make this style of beer, so I’m kind of forging out on my own. I used the grains left over from my recipe for Jolly Red Nose to make one gallon of brew. I have no idea if that’s too strong or too weak, as it’s the first time I’ve done an all-grain and don’t yet understand the mechanics. However, I’m thinking that making small beers off of the one or two more extract brews I do before truly moving to all-grain might help me make the transition.

It’s my hope that it will come out flavorful and drinkable, and that my small beers can serve their traditional function as a “table beer” — something that adds nutrition and variety to the dinner table but doesn’t require a commitment of 200 calories and a buzz. So we’ll see how it does, but in the meantime my little brown jug is bubbling quietly away.

And here’s an experiment using leftovers from a pale ale:

Grain bill:

  • 1 lb Crystal 15L
  • 8 oz. Crystal 60L
  • 8 oz. Victory

Steep used grains at 150 degrees for 45 minutes. Begin boil with:

  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 oz cascade>

Boil sixty minutes, chill, and bring water up to 1 gallon. Pitch White Labs WLP862 Cry Havoc.

Sorghum-Chai Braggot

By Stella • October 9, 2008

Gluten-free Braggot
Original Gravity 1.010

Boil with water for 30 minutes:

  • 3 pounds white sorghum extract
  • 1.5 pounds Dark Belgian candi sugar
  • 1 oz. Cascade hops

Immediately after the boil add:

  • 3 pounds orange blossom honey
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 cloves
  • tea from two teabags of 2 Mighty Leaf “Bombay Chai” teabags

Chill the wort and do not strain. Then pitch Safale S-04 dry yeast and add water to bring it up to five gallons. I did not use liquid yeast as sometimes the included nutrient can include wheat or other ingredients with gluten. Unfortunately liquid yeasts don’t come with ingredient lists, so it’s safest to stick with dry yeast to make sure there’s no gluten. Allow to ferment for at least 3 weeks and to bottle condition for at least 3 weeks.

On bottling day I found it was not puckery enough and added 5 more cups’ worth of tea. I also should have split the vanilla bean and next time will add gluten-free oats for more creaminess in the flavor. I used 1/2 cup wildflower honey for priming sugar, and as time has gone on this beer has become violently overcarbonated. If I make this again I’ll need to treat it more like a mead. That means more time in the secondary fermentation and definitely no need for priming sugar!

Jolly Red Nose

By Stella • October 9, 2008

I’ve been planning this beer for some time. It’s inspired by an old folk song I’m fond of and my desire to make something special for my friends this Christmas. The following is an old drinking song that describes the spices English brewers used to use before “the wicked German weed” (hops) started being used in their ales about 200 years ago.


“Jolly Red Nose” — Traditional

Of all the birds that ever I see the Owl is the fairest in her degree
For all the day long she sits in a tree and when the night comes away flys she.
To whit, to woo, to whom drinks thou? Sir Knave, to thee!
This song is well sung; I make you a vow and he is a knave that drinketh now

Nose, nose, jolly red nose! And who gave thee that jolly red nose?
Cinamin, ginger, nutmeg and cloves; and that gave me my jolly red nose

I care for no fool whose purse is not full but he that hath money I never find dull
And if he still have it when hence he doth go I’ll trample my tankard and never drink mo’
A rat, a roo, to whom drinks thou? Sir knave, to thee!
This song is well sung; I make you a vow and he is a knave that drinketh now

Nose, nose, jolly red nose! And who gave thee that jolly red nose?
Cinamin, ginger, nutmeg and cloves; and that gave me my jolly red nose

I’ll not have a maiden that’s never been tried but give me a wanton to lie by my side
And this have I used as the rule of my life; that wanton is best that’s another man’s wife
Coockoo, coockoo to whom drinks thou? Sir knave, to thee!
This song is well sung; I make you a vow and he is a knave that drinketh now

Nose, nose, jolly red nose! And who gave thee that jolly red nose?
Cinamin, ginger, nutmeg and cloves; and that gave me my jolly red nose

The idea in making up this recipe was something rich, warmly but not unpleasantly alcoholic, with a spicy, piney finish and complex layers of flavor. So of course that means Belgian. A dark brown Belgian that has the strength of barleywine and the happy of sitting by the fire. The final recipe:

8 lbs Ultralight Malt Extract
5 lbs Pilsner Malt Extract
Dark Belgian Candi Syrup
.76 lbs Victory
1.26 lbs Belgian Carapils
.76 lbs Crystal 40L
.26 Pale Chocolate
2 lbs flaked oats
1 oz Mt. Hood
1 oz. Willamette
1 1/4 tsp. Cinnamon
3/4 tsp. Ginger
1/2 tsp. Nutmeg
1/2 tsp. Cloves

All ingredients were thrown in together for a 60 minute boil, and it smelled like Christmas in the house, so I was hopeful that I’d done right. The wort made 11 gallons that I put into two carboys and allowed to sit for a full month.

Bottling day went well. The contents of the two carboys were mixed in the bottling bucket to encourage consistency of flavor, and one cup of honey primed the ale for bottling. A sample of the half-finished product showed it was going right where I wanted it to be. Allowing a month for fermentation really allowed a healthy mellowing and mixing of flavor, and once some nice frothy carbonation gets put into the mix I think we’ll have a winner. I hope 100 12-ounce bottles is enough . . .

Eye Patch Ale

By Stella • April 21, 2008

The My First Barbie of beers. A not-too-complicated British Style IPA.

Grain Bill:
6 lbs pale malt extract
mystery bag of specialty grains acquired from brewshop

Hop schedule:
1 oz. Challenger 60 minutes
1/2 oz. Kent Goldings 30 minutes
1/2 oz. Kent Goldings 15 minutes
1/2 oz. Kent Goldings 0 minutes

Yeast:
Danstar Nottingham Ale

Priming Sugar:
3/4 cup corn sugar

Steep specialty grains for 30 minutes, starting at 153 degrees. Bring to 200 degrees and add malt extract and first hop addition. Bring to a boil and then add hops according to recipe. After boil add last hops and chill wort in an ice bath for 40 minutes. Bring up to 5 gallons and pitch yeast. The recipe was overcarbonated but it also fermented too warm, sometimes above 75 degrees.