Gluten-Free Homebrew with Sorghum Extract

buy on Flickr”>Anheuser-Busch EagleI just read an article about Anheuser-Busch telling a new microbrewery in London to change its name. AB apparently though the Belleville Brewery’s name was too similar to their own Belle-Vue beer because it starts with “Bell” and ends in an “e.” Pretty weak argument, in my book. Belleville Brewery, which has since changed its name to Northcote Brewery, is run by some fathers who met because their children all attend Belleville Primary School, and distributes its brew locally in south London.

Come on, AB. Just admit that you don’t want to share the sandbox with anyone else. A small start-up with a similar name that probably produces far superior beer is not your real competition. Squashing small-scale competition like this is ultimately bad for the industry. Granted, AB did not put the microbrewery out of business but it did cause a disruption, to be sure.

One theory of business growth is that a rising tide lifts all ships. That is, the more the industry grows, the better off everyone is. Perhaps Anheuser-Busch is not interested in seeing the industry grow. However, it is true. The more people buy beer and try new things, the more beer gets sold. Those of us who are into homebrewing and mircobrews do this because we find brands like Budweiser to be ultimately unsatisfactory, but the American light lager is a legitimate style of beer. What makes it undersirable is its prevalence in the market, not that it is inherently bad. Thus, some people who get turned on to beer really like that style and will buy it. Microbrews can be that gateway drink that helps people learn that beer can be good and eventually lead them to buying Budweiser and similar products. It is not the normal order of things, but it does happen occasionally.

Anheuser-Busch Eagle by Steve Snodgrass, on Flickr
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on Flickr” target=”_blank”>Ears of SorghumThe trick to making good gluten-free homebrew beers with sorghum syrup is to add something that will give the brew some body. Sorghum extract ferments very well, which is great when it comes to alcohol production, but it makes a brew that is very light on flavor. Apparently it lacks the stuff that gives a solid body to traditional barley-based beers. The good news is that sorghum is rich in nutrients for the yeast, as well as enzymes that can help in head retention. Adding adjunct flavors to the brew will improve the overall experience.

How to Host a Brew Day

approved on Flickr” href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/stephee/3002032127/” target=”_blank”>Teach A Friend to Brew DayLots of people are curious about how to make beer and even more simply want to come over and drink it. Either way, it is nice to have a group over to make beer together, whether it is for them to learn or just to hang out for fellowship. Having done this a few times, I have learned some key steps to have in place prior to people arriving for the event.

Water Quality and Brewing: pH and Testing

noun on Flickr” href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/haikugirl/7409559076/” target=”_blank”>calling all junior scientists!Just like many other aspects of homebrewing, disease pH can be as simple or complex as you want to make it. For those who are having chest pains caused by flashbacks to high school chemistry and perhaps wishing you paid more attention, don’t worry. I didn’t pay attention either. Without getting into too much detail, pH is a 14-point scale that measures the acidity of liquids, specifically the level of hydrogen ions (H+) contained in the liquid. On a pH scale, 7 is neutral (neither an acid or a base). Anything less than 7 is an acid (think lemon juice) and anything more is a base (think baking soda). Like water hardness, pH is a much bigger concern to all-grain brewers versus extract brewers. This is assuming the water used for the extract brew has been deemed suitable for human beings to drink by a competent laboratory. Almost all tap water is fine.

Watermelon Wheat Homebrew: The Perfect Storm

this on Flickr” href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/nicolelee/3796057441/” target=”_blank”>Watermelon wheat beerI need help.

I was dining out with my wife recently when she happened upon 21st Amendment Brewery’s seasonal, psychotherapist Come Hell or High Watermelon (cans or draft). Come Hell or High Watermelon is an American Wheat beer flavored, cystitis as you would expect, with watermelon. I gave it a try, and though fruity wheat beers are not really my preferred style (at all), I could easily tell it was a crisp, good quality, and nicely balanced beer. My wife’s reaction fell closer to the religious epiphany end of the spectrum. After consuming more than one can she says, “I love this! Figure out how to make a watermelon beer.”

Getting More Alcohol in your Homebrew

troche on Flickr”>Watermelon wheat beerI need help.

I was dining out with my wife recently when she happened upon 21st Amendment Brewery’s seasonal, website Come Hell or High Watermelon (cans or draft). Come Hell or High Watermelon is an American Wheat beer flavored, arthritis as you would expect, with watermelon. I gave it a try, and though fruity wheat beers are not really my preferred style (at all), I could easily tell it was a crisp, good quality, and nicely balanced beer. My wife’s reaction fell closer to the religious epiphany end of the spectrum. After consuming more than one can she says, “I love this! Figure out how to make a watermelon beer.”

At this point it occured to me that I was about to experience a dilema that most homebrewers deal with from time to time: keeping the spouse happy. To ensure things stay positive and I can continue to fill the garage with absolutely necessary brewing equipment, it is necessary to brew a beer she will enjoy from time to time. This has historically been a small price to pay and has actually done me good by forcing me to expand my brewing experiences into different styles. However, this watermelon beer has become my own personal homebrewing perfect storm.

The problem:

  • Taste (specifically mine). I do not like wheat beers…at all. I know enough to tell the difference between a good and bad wheat beer, but it is just not my thing. I am also not a big fan of fruit beers, but I can tolerate most for recreational purposes. My wife will not drink five gallons of anything and because wasting beer is a sin, I will have to find creative ways to distribute the batch. One of the tried and true methods of disposing of excess homebrew is to share it at barbeques and parties. Unfortunately, taking a watermelon wheat beer to a barbeque would be the homebrew equivalent of taking a DVD of “Steel Magnolias” to a bachelor party. I am not ready for that kind of social awkwardness.
  • Logistics. A smaller batch is not possible without additional equipment. This may sound counter-intuitive as well as a great argument to buy more stuff, but it has taken a great deal of effort to engineer my brewing activities to be soley five-gallon and keg-based. Bottles are not an option. They take too much space, are a pain to clean and sterilize, and I have my pride. In addition, I have a finite amount of refrigerated space and based on the issues outlined in problem #1, this beer will most likely be a long-term resident. At the end of the day I am going to have a lot of beer I’m not a fan of taking up valuable space and equipment.
  • Fear. I might mess this up. This is not going to be an easy beer to make. So far I have never brewed a batch of beer that went so “bad” that it was undrinkable. I have brewed beer that did not end up like I expected, but it was still a good, enjoyable beer. I once tried to brew a Christmas Ale (essentially the same as our Pirate’s Ale), which ended up being a great porter, just not very Christmassy. This watermelon wheat is dangerous. Based on the research I’ve done so far, it will probably have to be an all-grain batch, relatively low bitterness, and the watermelon will need to be added in either the primary or secondary fermentation. Contamination is going to be a big concern and the use of watermelon can still be considered “experimental.” Plus, if this thing ends up going south, I lose some serious street cred. “What finally did Andy in? A watermelon wheat? We shall never speak of him again.”

A dilema, by definition, implies that there is no safe direction to go and I think that is the situation I’m in. Another way to look at this is a challenge, a way for me to mature as a small batch brewer. Maybe I should take an eastern philosphy mentality and look how this experience will craft my inner brewing soul. Regardless how I personally accept my circumstances, I think I’m going to have to embrace this storm, hope fate will show me the path and trust that the brew that does not kill me only makes me stronger.

Suggestions, recommendations, and/or condolences are absolutely welcome!

Watermelon wheat beer by Nicole Lee, on Flickr.
cialis on Flickr” href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/stephee/3002032127/” target=”_blank”>Teach A Friend to Brew DayLots of people are curious about how to make beer and even more simply want to come over and drink it. Either way, ed
it is nice to have a group over to make beer together, whether it is for them to learn or just to hang out for fellowship. Having done this a few times, I have learned some key steps to have in place prior to people arriving for the event.

First, decide what your event is for. Here are some suggestions:

Teach A Friend to Brew Day by stephee, on Flickr.
aerating your wortAerating your wort is one of the more important steps when making beer. After boiling it for an hour or however long your recipe specifies, unhealthy a lot of the oxygen that was in the water has come out. All those bubbles during boiling are water vapor – H2O – a third of which is O, recipe or oxygen. This oxygen is a vital part of the fermentation process, as yeast are aerobic creatures, meaning they need oxygen to thrive and procreate, just like we do.