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Whether you are a homebrewer or a craft brewer, things don't always go as expected or something breaks. If you aren't ready, it could cost you a batch or delay a brew. In the worst case scenario a company can go out of business, making a replacement part difficult and expensive to procure. More than once we haven't had a (seemingly) small inexpensive thing and it caused issues. Learn from us (and chime in with your own suggestions)!

Yeast

If you use liquid cultures, there is always a chance that your starter won't start or your brink will run dry. We always keep a couple bricks of dried yeast on hand. On a commercial scale, SafAle is ridiculously inexpensive ($50-75 for 500 g). We always have a brick of US-05 and S-04 in the cooler. The strains you keep will depend on what strains you use. If nothing else, we'll use them for primary fermentation on sour beers when we don't have enough liquid yeast harvested.

Being friendly with a few other local brewers could be handy as well, but there usually isn't a guarantee they'll have yeast to spare at the last minute.

Yeast/beer fridge.

Fermentables

I find it helpful to have both dextrose and maltodextrin on hand. We had a DIPA dry out a few points too far, easy enough to boil a pot of maltodextrin, keg it and shoot it into the brite tank to add .004/1P. Dextrose is handy if your gravity is lower by a few points, although in most cases we'll just leave the beer alone. Dried pale malt extract is another option, especially if your efficiency is inconsistent (or you often brew really strong beers).

It never hurts to order a few extra bags of a favorite malts either, especially for things like Golden Naked Oats that often seem to be out of stock. Extra base malt is nice too, especially early on when you're ordering ingredients for a few batches and still feeling out system efficiency.

Sacks of dextrose and maltodextrin.

Hops

Buying on the spot market means sometimes you get a bag that isn't all it should be. Better to have a few back-up options to swap in for dry hopping. Mediocre hops are usually fine in the boil, so if we open a bag of Simcoe that is so-so, we'll open another and save the first for a boil/whirlpool addition.

Fittings/Gaskets

We try to have at least one "extra" gasket in each size. This is especially true for things like manways that aren't generic. Unluckily we didn't think of this before the gasket on our 15 bbl DME fermentor stretched out... now they're out of business and we're still working to find a replacement. The one we have still works, but likely won't forever. If we order anything new, we get replacement seals and parts for it at the same time.

Same goes for having extra valves and other fittings that might leak or stop working. Delicate instruments like hydrometers, thermometers, refractometers never hurt to have redundancy either.

Gaskets of various shapes and sizes.

Controllers

Nothing is worse that electronics that don't want to work properly. Our MidCo burner for the kettle has a small control board that shorts if a few drops of water fall onto it. The first time was a complete surprise after washing down the kettle, but we ordered two replacements. That saved a batch of beer a few months later after a boil-over (our new gas meter really increased the heat output). No problems since adding a water-proof cover...

I've been meaning to buy a few extra solinoids for the glycol/tanks too as they are notorious for going bad.

Our MidCo burner.

Enzymes

When our most recent batch of saison stalled out we were ready for it, we added amyloglucosidase and the gravity dropped quickly to 1.001. There are other enzymes that you might consider as well that help with conversion, run-off, and clarity as well.

Enzyme

Gasses

While we have a bulk CO2 tank, we also have a few smaller tanks. They're necessary to pour at events, but they're also nice to have if the bulk tank runs empty and we need to keep pouring beer! Same story with nitrogen. We have two tanks so we have one in use and one filled (or waiting to be swapped).

20 lb CO2 cylinder compared to 750 lb bulk tank.

Your Suggestions

Rather than waiting for more things to go wrong to learn what else we should have, post a comment and let me know what to buy!

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Since 2008 my friend Alex and I have been brewing dark funky saisons. Each year we come up with a new concept, usually involving dried fruit and/or spices. We've been a bit lax the last couple years, the ninth iteration was brewed a year ago, and neither of us has bottled our share yet.

For my birthday a couple weeks ago, Alex came over to the brewery and we opened bottles of all the versions (including a few variants). I shot a video of our discussion, enjoy!




2009 Funky Dark Saison with Black Cardamom

2010 Fig Honey Anise Dark Saison

2011 American Farmhouse Currant Dark Saison

2012 Dark Saison with Quince Paste

2013 Cranberry Dark Saison

2014 Dark Saison Etrog

2016 Dark Saison Date and Pomegranate


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The excitement over hazy/NE IPA is the best thing that has happened for local breweries in a long time. They are expensive to brew, difficult to package, a nightmare to distribute long distances, and get beer drinkers excited! When we put a juicy Double IPA on tap it flies. Our recent 7-barrel-yield of Snip Snap lasted less than three days, while an IPA might last three weeks, and a pale ale five. Having a beer that draws increases growler sales, and helps sell all of our other beers as people end up trying other similar beers when they come in.

Snip Snap DIPA

Here is a graph of the scores of 13 of our hoppy beers (pale ales, IPAs, and DIPAs) showing the Untappd score compared to the ABV. The formula for the trend line is y = 3.2008+.1392*x. That suggests if we brewed a 0% ABV hoppy beer it would score a 3.20 and to get a score of 5 would require 14.31% ABV. The R-squared value of the correlation is .71, so the most important factor in the consumer's opinion of our hoppy beers is strength (granted that typically comes with a higher dry hopping rate, sweetness etc.).

Impact of ABV vs. Untappd Score.

Driving business to your tasting room is job #1 for a small brewery because that is where the profit is highest. When you buy a beer at a bar or restaurant, most of the money goes to them rather than the brewery. While a ½ bbl keg of a pale ale might sell to a bar for $150-175 (a portion of which might go to a distributor), at even $5 pint the bar makes $620 in revenue. At our scale, it is almost impossible to make a profit only  selling beer at wholesale. It requires a tight reign on expenses with a premium price point, not to mention low overhead.

It is no coincidence that local brewery booms seem to follow when a state or city allows production breweries to serve/retail their own beer. In the case of Maryland this has created backlash from distributors, and a lesser extent bars and liquor stores who see more consumers cutting them out.

Sapwood Cellars Holiday Party

Ingredient Cost

We aren’t doing a great job controlling ingredient costs. We don’t reuse our yeast nearly as much as we "should" (3-4 batches per pitch), we pay as much as $35/lb for hops that are difficult to get on the spot market, we buy our malt pre-milled by the bag, we use expensive “real” ingredients for our variants (and usually don’t up-charge over the base beers) etc. That said, having a tasting room that is busy covers all of those sins.

Great Western Full Pint Malt

10 bbls – Pillowfort
$484 – 2-row
$137 – Malted Oats
$40 – Chit Malt
$50 – Milling Fee
$11 – Glucose
$.80 - Whirlfloc
$.06 - Zinc Sulfate Heptahydrate
$1 – Calcium Chloride
$1 – Gypsum
$.25 – Epsom Salt
$2.00 – 350 ml 75% Phosphoric Acid
$125 – Liquid yeast
$150 – Dry yeast
$77 – Columbus
$99 – Centennial
$396 – Citra
$264 – Azacca
~$100 – CO2/Gas/Electric/Chemicals
 ($1950/batch - $1.11/pour)

Let’s say we put more effort into yeast management and that gives us confidence to reuse the yeast for 20 batches. Bringing the proportional cost down from $125 to $25 per batch. The net savings to us would be $.05 per pour. What if we moved to a silo for 2-row, and cut our base malt cost down to a third and added a mill? $.14 per pour. That would make Pillowfort ~$.92/pour. Granted these recurring costs add up over the course of a year and both might yield improvements to the consistency and quality of our beer. But selling just one 1/2 bbl keg to a bar, even charging $250, loses us more money per batch then we’d save from making those moves. It also speaks to how important yield on these heavily dry-hopped beers is.

Most of our IPAs and DIPAs work out to $100-150 per ½ bbl keg. Self-distributing these beers for $200-250 there would be no way to make enough to cover rent, pay ourselves, and fund expansion. However, being a retailer of our own beers means we get $800-900 for that same keg sold by the glass and growler. It makes sense for us to charge a reasonable price ($7-8 for a 14 oz pour in a 17 oz glass) and have consumers return rather than charge a dollar or two more and end up having to self-distribute kegs (with the added effort).

When we do send kegs out, we try to get as much of a push out of it as we can (fests, tap-takeovers, beer dinners etc.). We don't pay for any traditional advertising, but we view the "losses" from self-distributing as a form of marketing. That also means not always sending beer to the same bars, as we want people to feel like they have to come to us to try our beers regularly.

Beer Festival

Most bars use a flat percentage markup to price their draft. If a beer costs twice as much for them to purchase, they’ll charge twice as much to the consumer. That means that they’ll make a much larger dollar-per-ounce profit on more expensive beers. The same isn’t true at most breweries, an IPA with Nelson Sauvin or Galaxy is easily twice as expensive as a session wheat beer (especially considering the lower yield with high dry-hop rates), but we don’t double the price. Still, charging $7 for IPA and $6 for the session wheat makes the IPA more profitable per pour. When you visit a brewery and buy beer, you’re allowing them to spend more money on the ingredients and make better beer. Not to mention that the brewery will care more about their beer and have better control over the product.

Overhead

After ingredient cost, our next biggest expense is rent. Scott and I debated where to open and toured spaces with a wide range of looks and costs. While a beautiful rustic plot with room for outdoor events and a small orchard was appealing… either running on a septic or paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for a municipal sewer connection was not. Conversely, opening in a vibrant downtown with plenty of foot traffic would have meant easier retail sales, but would have tripled our rent. Brewing is a space-intensive manufacturing business (especially with barrel aging), it is difficult for me to justify paying $30+ sq ft for the parts of the business that aren’t customer facing.

Lease Signing Day

If we are able to brew enough to outstrip tasting room demand, we’ll look into opening a small taproom someplace other than an industrial park. For the time being, our location is close enough to residential for the tasting room and inexpensive enough for 4,000 sq ft of production. Luckily the power of Google Maps, Untappd, and social media has been enough for us to draw people in.

In addition to the ability to sell beer by the glass, a tasting room opens up the way for merchandise sales, private events, packaged beer, and even food sales (working on that now). It has been essential for us to have a space and offerings that attract customers, even those who aren’t beer nerds. A fantastic staff, and enough of them working for short waits also improves the customer experience.

Salaries are the third big expense. Scott and I have done 100% of the brewing, tank cleaning, kegging, and keg washing up to this point. Financially speaking, our labor has been free, but we certainly could have kept our day jobs and paid less-per hour than our lost wages to hire brewers and cellar-people. That said, it didn’t seem right to trust something we’d worked so hard for to other people. As I learned from consulting, the people who are physically there have the biggest effect on the results. We’ll be looking to hire someone in the brewhouse soon, but we’re still trying to figure out what the role will be (cleaning and cellar duties, or someone who already has the skill-set to be a lead brewer eventually). We were willing to pay for front-of-house, as that is where we didn’t have experience (or the time to learn).

Other Income Streams

I posted about Brewery Clubs a few months ago. As a brewery that didn’t take on outside loans or investors, the extra money we brought in from club sales was essential. It gave us the breathing room to buy more expensive equipment, ingredients, not to mentions barrels for beers we won’t sell for months or years, and dump most of a batch that we didn’t love. Padding in the bank account helped with our sleep those first couple months too.

We’re now “paying” some of that money back. We made it through the club holiday events, for which we created 16 sixtels of variants that we didn’t sell a drop of. Not to mention paid employees to work (and at $15 an hour as tipping was light without tabs). Most of that cost was in our time, but we’ll continue to incur costs as we give bottles, decanter baskets (below), and events that club members paid for last year. Not only do we want to ensure that customers (and many friends) are happy they joined, we’d like to over-deliver so many consider re-upping for 2020!

Decanter Baskets

The rest of this year our biggest focus will be on packaging. Direct sales of canned and bottled beer should give us the chance to increase total revenue, but it will also lower our per-ounce revenue. While many people are willing to pay $8 for a 14 oz pour of DIPA... $5 for a 16 oz can of the same DIPA is about the top of the market. Cans have higher costs associated with them as well, both in terms of labor and materials (especially when you don't own a canning line). That really slims down the margins, and will dictate which beers are more likely to be canned (e.g., Pillowfort with Azacca rather than Snip Snap with Galaxy). The most important thing for us will be avoiding turning draft sales into can sales. Ideally cans are an add-on to tabs or an additional trip for a release rather than a replacement for draft consumption and growlers.

Shared Kingdom at Black Flag

What makes sense for a brewery will depend on the types of beer they brew and their goals as a company. If you want to be a large production brewery, it may make sense to start fighting for draft accounts early. We don’t have any resources dedicated to outside sales, in fact we turn down most offers to put our beer on tap. We’d rather have an excess of demand, and be in strong position rather than fight for a limited number of tap handles with an ever-increasing number of breweries.

Having the huge catalog of homebrew recipes between the two of us has been a big advantage too. On Saturday we tapped a scaled-up version of Atomic Apricot. The price difference on the apricot puree was particularly stark, $1.71 per pound at the commercial scale vs. $7.84 for the same product (Oregon Fruit/Vintners Harvest). I haven't been doing much homebrewing or test batch brewing so most of my social media posting has moved to the Sapwood Cellars Facebook and Twitter accounts (Scott does Instagram because I usually avoid posting from my phone).

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We're doing pretty well at Sapwood Cellars so far. Our most recent batch of Snip Snap (Citra-Galaxy DIPA) only lasted 2.5 days on draft, about 200 gallons drained by the pour and growler fill. Ratings on Untappd were stellar. Is this how good Scott and I were at homebrewing or is our new 10 bbl brewhouse and temperature controlled fermentors making our beer better than it was?

I shot video of the big batch of Snip Snap and brewed a small batch at the brewery with my old pots and fermentor. We tried to keep them as identical as possible, using malt/hops/yeast from the same bags for both batches. I sampled both beers blind, and we served them to 49 customers in the tasting room to see which they preferred for this Video!




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Brewing beer at home changed the course of my life. At first it was merely a fun way to explore my drink of choice, and an excuse to hang out with friends. As time passed it became a larger part of my life, a side-hustle, a reason to travel, altered who I am. I always hated public speaking… until I figured out that I’m engaging when I care about the material. I was never passionate about reading, researching, and writing, until they meant I could learn to brew better beer and share my passion. I met many of my friends at homebrew club meetings, through this blog, and homebrewing forums. I worked a boring government desk job for 12 years, until brewing allowed me to open a business!


That’s why I'm sad that homebrewing is on the decline in America. I see it at DC Homebrewer’s meetings, where there aren’t nearly as many fresh faces as there were five years ago. The closures of retailers, like the recent announcement from Love2Brew. The surveys from the American Homebrewer’s Association gives hard numbers: from 1.2 million homebrewers in 2013, to 1.1 million in 2017.

Anecdotally over the last 30 years, American homebrewing has experienced three similar dips. Roughly the early-1990s, early-2000s, and the last few years. These coincide with three pivotal moments in commercial beer availability.

By the early 1990s most parts of the country had a selection of bottled craft beer from the likes of Sierra Nevada, Boston Beer, not to mention a few local breweries. No longer were beer drinkers limited to macro lagers and stale impotrs, because hoppy pale ales, malty browns, and roasty stouts were available coast-to-coast. I've met a few former homebrewers who thought that was enough selection to make homebrewing superfluous. There were still plenty of people who wanted to drink a wider range of styles though, and that still meant brewing their own.


A decade later with the opening and expansion of breweries like Allagash, Dogfish Head, New Belgium and hundreds more, the selection and availability of craft beer had exploded. You could find wit, kolsch, imperial stouts, apricot pale, IPA and a multitude more everywhere. Most cities had stores where you could pick from hundreds if not thousands of bottles. Again, some homebrewers didn’t see the need to keep brewing when they could drink a solid example of pretty much any style. Still though, many homebrewers wanted greater variety, unique flavors, and ua-fresh beer.


Now we’re in another slide. With more than 6,000 breweries spread across the country, most Americans can take a short drive to visit a different brewery tasting rooms every week for a few months without repeating. Not only that, but the old model of four core beers, four seasonals, and a couple special releases is  gone. Many breweries are producing 50 or more beers each year. The variety is staggering, and again many former homebrewers are happy to reduce their risk/effort and sample as many new beers as they desire. Not only is homebrewing suffering, but so are many of the breweries from those previous waves… Smuttynose, Green Flash etc.


In the chart below, the red line represents Google searches for "Brewery" the blue is "Homebrewing." December 2008 is the closest they have been (29 to 13), while July 2018 was the furthest (100 to 5). That's to say that while search interest in breweries has more than tripled over the last ten years, during the same time interest in homebrewing has dropped in half.


Where does homebrewing go from here?

There have always been different types of homebrewers, different reasons they brew. There will always be homebrewers. Those who brew not to save money, or drink the “best” beer, but who love the process. Those who are passionate about recipe design, microbiology, botany, community. engineering, culinary techniques, and experimentation. For them craft beer is a source of inspiration, but not a replacement for the hobby!

I don't view automated homebrewing systems as a threat to traditional homebrewing or a big boon for the hobby. If I hear one more new product that bills itself as the “Keurig” of beer… I’m going to lose it! It isn’t even like Keurig is synonymous with high quality coffee. I just don’t see any product that makes brewing that easy gaining a strong foothold because brewing beer involves more care than coffee and to-the-minute freshness isn't as important. You can buy a six pack at the store for less than it takes to brew these, and enjoy a bottle each night. The automated systems will always make beer that isn't as good as commercial, at a higher price-point. Not that automated wort production isn't appealing (and useful) for homebrewers looking to devote less time to the process.

If this time is like the previous two lulls, homebrewing is due for another bounce. Maybe the continual push for novelty in craft brewing, extra-bold flavors, and lack of true originality turns people off. Lack of quality, high prices, poor quality control, beer that sits too long before being sold… honestly now that I know how good IPA tastes within a month of brewing, I rarely buy a six-pack off the shelf. Hopefully as more consumers become accustomed to really fresh beer at tasting rooms, they get interested in brewing it for themselves! Maybe the greater number of people drinking craft beer simply gets more people interested in brewing.

The second option is decline. As quality beer becomes more accessible the price will be pushed down, making it an even more attractive option for marginal-homebrewers. Homebrewing becomes an even more specialized/nerdy hobby, and we lose out on the vibrancy that new hobbyists bring.

My best guess is that we're reaching stasis. There won't be a return the levels of excitement and engagement we saw ten years ago. There will still be plenty of people who drink craft beer, and try their hand at homebrewing, but only enough to replace all of the homebrewers who stop to drink craft beer or join the industry.

Homebrewing Matters

Drinking beer wouldn't have done the same thing for my life as homebrewing. An active engagement with brewing is the best way to really understand and appreciate beer. It caused me to learn and grow in areas that aren't really connected to beer or brewing. I understand that drinking a beer and checking in on Untappd is no-risk (I wrote a couple hundred reviews on BeerAdvocate), but it doesn't really lead to anything. Drinking beer is a diversion, brewing beer can change your life!


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My homebrewing frequency has taken a nosedive recently (surprise), but I still try to find time to brew a weird batch when I can. In August, when Scott and I drove to pick-up our first hop order in western Maryland, I noticed that Staghorn Sumac was in full bloom along I-270 . I’d read about flavoring beer with it in The Homebrewer’s Almanac, but never actually tasted a beer brewed with it. Sumac is tart and fruity, traditionally used in a tart lemonade-like beverage.

Staghorn Sumac "Berries"

I pulled over and harvested about a pound. The range I’d read was 1-5 lbs per 5 gallon batch. Without a beer ready for them, I took the clusters of dusty berries off of the central twig, vacuum sealed them, and froze. That was enough of an excuse to brew a batch of Berliner weisse (fermented with US-05 and Omega Lacto Blend - similar otherwise to this recipe). After primary fermentation I racked 1 gallon onto the resulting .75 lbs of sumac, and another onto .5 oz of dried Turkish sumac from Penzeys for a month. Obviously if the dried version is just as good, it certainly would be easier!

Me, harvesting sumac


Dried Turkish Sumac Berliner

Smell – Aroma is light, doughy-grain, lightly citrus and roasted pear. An odd note of cinnamon as well.

Appearance – Clear pale yellow. It’s almost so pale that yellow isn’t the right word, it looks washed out, faded. Retention isn’t great, but the tight, white head sticks around for much longer than the other half of the batch.

Taste – Bright acid without being obnoxious. The finish has an odd fall-spice note as in the nose that I suspect is from the sumac. Dry without being a desert.

Mouthfeel – Classic Berliner, light and spritzy.

Drinkability & Notes – The not-entirely-pleasant musty-herbal flavor the dried sumac provided when the beer was young seems to have mostly faded to a light spiciness. I’m not sure I’d even pick it out if I didn’t know it was in there.

Changes for Next Time – Maybe a different/fresher source of dried sumac would provide a better flavor and aroma?

Staghorn Sumac Berliner

Smell – Aroma has the generic fruitiness of Hawaiian Punch, or Hi-C, but with an herbal hint of a Ricola cough drop. I don’t get any of the base beer, at this elevated rate it is all sumac. Certainly in the same sort of flavor-family as hibiscus.

Appearance – To go along with the aroma, it has the color of Hawaiian Punch. Similar head retention too…

Taste – The same fruit flavor from the nose, but more pronounced cherry candy. It’s a really fun flavor, that doesn’t stray into cloying. Acidity is snappy, sort of Vitamin-C, quick and punchy. No sweetness, finally breaks the comparison to "fruit" beverages.

Mouthfeel – Light, medium+ carbonation, but not excessively thin or harsh.

Drinkability & Notes – Staghorn sumac is a foraged ingredient that has a real chance for broader appeal. The flavor is fun, quenching, and somewhat familiar. The color certainly doesn’t hurt either. With how much it took, a mild base beer like this makes the most sense.

Changes for Next Time – I was sort of hoping this one wouldn’t be delicious so that I didn’t have to source a couple hundred pounds to put into a beer next summer. Likely could drop down closer to .5 lbs/gallon for a more balanced beer, but it is delicious as is!


I’m hopeful I can get this formula approved by the TTB for Sapwood, as there are already a few commercial beers from the likes Sumac Sour from Four Quarters, Backroads from Suarez Family, and of course several sours and saisons from Scratch. That said, it seems like they are clamping down as I had both acorns and Eastern Red Cedar rejected already. I’ve had several brewers tell me that the step isn’t necessary unless you are getting label approval (not true) or that it is better to ask forgiveness than permission…

I'll be making the trip down to Asheville, NC March 22-23 for another round of BYO Boot Camps! As usual I'll be talking about Wood/Barrels one day and Sour Beers the other. I said it before, but this really is looking like the last one of these for me given how much time running a brewery takes!
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The first week of October, DC posted a notice on our front door informing us that an arborist deemed the oak tree in our front yard hazardous. Up until that moment, it would have been illegal to cut down as a "heritage" tree (over 100" in circumference). They gave us 10 days to apply for a permit and have it removed. The tree had obviously been on the down-slope for the last 10 years, but this summer a large swath had gone brown mid-August and the rest in late-September.

I was sad to see the tree go, but glad I got to brew a beer with acorns foraged from it before it went!

Oak tree removal

Last fall, inspired as usual by The Homebrewer's Almanac, I collected acorns over a few afternoons. While fresh acorns are loaded with tannins, fermented they are said to take on a wonderful aromatics reminiscent of bourbon, Madeira, and plums. The various parts of any plant usually contain shared compounds (and flavors). It has become fashionable to cook with the "garbage" parts of plants (and animals) usually thrown away. While it takes more effort to prepare collard green stems or pork feet, it can be well worth it. While oak wood is used to age thousands of beers, its acorns, leaves, and bark are not nearly as popular.

I inspected each acorn to remove any that were cracked, or otherwise marred. I briefly rinsed them, and then arranged in a single layer on a shallow baking dish in the basement to allow them to dry.

Acorns before sorting and drying

Apparently my inspection wasn't thorough enough as I missed several small blemishes (example below) that indicated an acorn weevil had laid an egg inside.

Acorn Weevil hole

A week later, after discarding those where a larva bored out, I moved the acorns to five lightly sealed pint mason jars. I didn't add water, microbes, or anything else.

Fermenting acorns in mason jars

Over the next nine months in my 65F basement the acorns slowly fermented on their own. First producing carbon dioxide and the pleasant aroma of ethanol. Then slowly a more complex aromatics of apricot, chocolate, and bourbon. Exactly which microbes are responsible is a mystery to me.

When I visited Scratch Brewing last November (on my drive from St. Louis to Indianapolis for the BYO Boot Camp... next one is March in Asheville) I had the chance to assist Marika on a batch at Scratch, and see their jars of fermenting acorns. Luckily for them, Aaron told me weevils haven't been an issue!

Acorns fermenting at Scratch Brewing

By the following summer, my acorns were smelling like a combination of whiskey distillery, apricot orchard, and old library. While their exteriors were unchanged, the interior transformed from beige to leathery brown. Non-enzymatic browning, that is to say the Maillard reaction may be at work as with black garlic? While these processes are accelerated at high temperature, they still happen when cooler.

I thought an oud bruin-ish base would provide a solid foundation for those darker flavors. I added flaked rye for body and fermented with East Coast Yeast Oud Brune (which contains no Brett, only Sacch and Lacto). ECY Flemish Ale is still hard at work on the other half of the batch. Once the Oud Bruin was finished, I added a tube screen with one cup of the cracked (with a hammer) acorns. After a few weeks I added another cup to increase the flavor contribution.

Cracked acorns

I'm hoping to use the remaining fermented acorns in a small batch at Sapwood Cellars, but the TTB isn't going along with my plans... yet. They've directed me to contact the FDA. It's amazing how many weird chemicals are approved, when a food that people have eaten for thousands of years is not.

Requiem for an Oak

Smell – Even at the higher rate the acorn character doesn’t leap out of the glass. It does have a richer, more woody-fruity aroma than any other quick sour I’ve brewed. I get some of that old book smell mingling with the Munich maltiness. There is also a brighter stonefruit aroma that prevents it from being too heavy.

Appearance – Pretty amber-brown color. Mild haze. Retention of the tan head is OK especially for a sour beer, although nothing remarkable.

Taste – Firm lactic acid, snappy without being overwhelming. The fermented acorns add leathery and fruity depth to the flavor without stepping all over the malt. I’m pretty happy with this as a lower alcohol oud bruin.

Mouthfeel – The flaked rye really helped considering this is a low alcohol sour beer. Doesn’t taste thin or watery.

Drinkability & Notes – For such a unique beer, it is pleasant to drink. The flavors meld nicely and the acorns help to simulate in a way the effect of barrel aging and Brettanomyces.

Changes for Next Time – I’d probably go even more aggressive with the acorn-rate, really to show them off. The beer could be bigger, but more malt might obscure the acorns even more.

Finished acorn oud bruin

Recipe

Batch Size: 11.00 gal
SRM: 18.0
IBU: 2.0
OG: 1.046
FG: 1.010
ABV: 4.7%
Final pH: 3.43
Brewhouse Efficiency: 72%
Boil Time: 90 mins

Fermentables
-----------------
60.4% - 16.00 lb Briess Pilsen Malt
22.6% - 6.00 lb Weyermann Munich I
11.3% - 3.00 lb Flaked Rye
3.8% - 1.00 lb Castle Special B
1.9% - 0.50 lb Weyermann Carafa Special II

Mash
-------
Mash In - 45 min @ 157F

Hops
-------
1.25 oz - 8 Year Old Willamette (Whole Cone, 1.00 % AA) @ 85 minutes

Water
--------
11 g Calcium Chloride @ Mash

Calcium
Chloride
Sulfate
Sodium
Magnesium
Carbonate
100
110
50
15
10
90

Other
-------
Whirlfloc Tablet @ 5 mins
2 Cup Fermented Acorns @ Fermenter

Yeast
-------
East Coast Yeast Flemish Ale
East Coast Yeast Oud Brune

Notes
-------
9/29/17 Harvested five pints of acorns from the White Oak in my front yard. Allowed to dry open in the basement.

10/6/17 4 larvae of an acorn weevil hatched. Tossed any acorns with exit holes, and tried to identify all of those with small entry holes to toss. Moved remaining acorns to one-pint mason jars, attached lids, and returned to the barrel room for fermentation.

Brewed 7/9/18

7/29/18 Added 1 cup of acorns (split and in a mesh tube with marbles) to the Oud Bruin half.

8/18/18 Added another cup of acorns, loose, as the flavor wasn't there yet.

8/28/18 Racked Flemish half to secondary in glass.

9/9/18 Kegged acorn half.

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So odd to get one of my favorite and least favorite sours out of the same wort (recipe). The half with cherries was magical, the half without is bland and listless. In addition to no cherries, this half had BM45 red wine yeast and Wyeast Roeselare in place of 58W3 and dregs from a De Garde bottle. I had reasonable results with BM45 in this Red Wine Yeast Flemish Ale, so I don't think it is to blame.

It seemed like a good time to revisit this batch because the scaled-up version went into barrels on Saturday. For the 10 bbl batch we used 58W3 for primary fermentation in stainless steel. We procured three Pinot Noir barrels plus two bourbon barrels for aging. My hope is that the spirit barrels provide a nice vanilla character to mingle with the cherries. Each will get a dose of microbes, East Coast Yeast Flemish Ale, Wyeast Roeseleare, and maybe additional microbes from our collection. Two of the barrels got 25 lbs of dried sour cherries. Next summer, when fresh sour cherries are available, we'll select barrels and blend into a tote for additional fruiting.


Wine Yeast Sour Red

Smell – Spice, caramel, apple sauce. A weird mix that doesn’t really remind me of a Flemish red. That wouldn’t be a bad thing if the flavors were enticing or synergistic.

Appearance – Pretty thick head. Nice reddish-brown color with abundant chill haze (judging from the clarity of warmer pour previously). Pretty beer at least!

Taste – Interesting spice notes as in the nose. Cinnamon especially. The fruitiness reminds me of quince paste, sort of apple, but not quite. Tart, but not really sour. The malt is one-dimensional, toasty. Not impressed by Roeselare as the sole source of microbes.

Mouthfeel – Thin, a bit watery despite finishing at 1.016. Solid medium-carbonation.

Drinkability & Notes – A real meh beer. Not off in any specific way, there just isn’t anything to carry the beer.

Changes for Next Time – For the scaled-up version, we swapped the Briess base malts for equivalent Castle malts. Other than the variety of microbes and barrels, we'll be sticking pretty close to the script for the cherry version.


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Brewers often joke that they spend more time cleaning than on any other aspect of the job. That isn't quite true at Sapwood Cellars, but the cleaning aspect has been the biggest change from homebrewing. By comparison, wort production hasn't been that difficult or different. Sure it took a few batches to acclimate to the efficiency and losses on our 10 bbl Forgeworks brewhouse (as with any new brewing system), made more challenging by an unreliable flow meter. Even 15 batches in despite hitting our target mash temps, wort fermentability seems to be lower than expected. We're also still dialing in hop utilization given the thermodynamics involved with large wort volumes. Still, the concepts, ingredients, and techniques are all pretty similar to homebrewing.

When it comes to cleaning and sanitizing though, we've had to relearn the entire process. You really can't fill a fermentor with 360 gallon of Oxiclean Free and soak overnight or swirl and scrub... I miss those days. First, let's talk about chemicals and what they do. Our main supplier is AFCO, but Berko, Five-Star, and Loeffler all have fans. Prices seemed similar, we just didn't think about ordering until a couple weeks before we started brewing and picked the one with the quickest turnaround time. We buy most of the chemicals in 5 gallon jugs, and pump them into beakers to measure and dose.

The chemicals we use to clean and sanitize our brewery.

Chemicals

Caustic (5229 Caustic) - Caustic is the primary cleaner used by most breweries. Usually sodium hydroxide based and heavily alkaline. It is ideal for breaking down and removing organic deposits (e.g., krausen rings). You can do a bit of trading-off between time, temperature, pressure, and concentration. That said, 2-3% caustic at ~150F (66C) for 20-30 minutes through the sprayball has been a pretty good place to start for us. Caustic is dangerous because it is capable of breaking down your skin (the lye used in soap making is similar). We started with a powdered caustic (Wash-It), but given the price and efficacy we transitioned to liquid.

Phosphoric-Nitric Acid Blend (5397 Microlex Special 30) - Acid helps to remove inorganic deposits, i.e., beerstone (calcium oxalate). It also helps to neutralize any residual caustic (not that there should be any with adequate rinsing) and to passivate stainless steel. Acid blend is used at similar temperatures and cycle lengths as caustic, although slightly cooler, ~130F (54C).

Five Star Peroxyacetic Acid (PAA) - While there are many sanitizers available, PAA is the most popular for breweries. At the right concentrations it is a robust sanitizer with high effectiveness. It breaks down to acetic acid, so it can be used no-rinse. It is a powerful oxidizer, which makes it important to drain any residual before fermented beer enters a tank or keg. Our bucket was leftover from the old brewery in our space, so we bought a pack of test strips and it still reads the expected concentration after dilution.

Five Star PBW - We have a bucket of this alkaline powered cleaner for soaking hot-side equipment and other gear where we don't want to have to be as careful as we would with caustic. We both used it at home, so were more comfortable with it than the Chlorinated Manual Cleaner we started with.

Iodophor (4330 Spark I2) - Similar to the PBW, it is nice to have a less hazardous sanitizer for spraying ports or soaking fittings. It is only effective on clean surfaces, so it is important to remove of detritus before expecting it to work.

Grain Alcohol - Given its quick kill times and evaporation ethanol is the ideal sanitizer for spray bottles and any surfaces that are highly sensitive (e.g., yeast culturing). Isopropyl alcohol is another option.

General Concepts

Pre-Heating - At this scale a tank has so much thermal mass that you can't simply put 15 gallons (57 L) of hot water to a tank and expect it to still be hot after circulating. As a result if you want the caustic or acid to stay hot, you need to pray hot water into the tank. A tank with an electric element (like our keg washer has) helps too.

Sprayball - Most tanks have a port that leads to a sprayball, a small metal orb that spins and sprays when liquid is forced through. These aren't always perfect, and can have blind spots, especially in ports and above it. In addition, it isn't effective at cleaning its own exterior.

A sprayball from our kettle.

Passivation - This is what makes stainless steel stainless, a thin layer of chromium atoms at the surface that prevents iron from rusting or leeching into the beer (which weakens the equipment and shortens its lifespan). With a pristinely clean surface, the oxygen in the atmosphere is enough to accomplish this, but acids (especially nitric) are more effective.

Safety

These chemicals aren't anything to joke about. Many brewers have scars gained from caustic or acid dripping onto their skin . Safety glasses, long gloves, chemical resistant boots and pants are a must when handling them. Read the safety data sheet for each chemical you are using and know what to do if some gets on your skin or in your eyes. I don't get to drink as much beer as I used to because the end of the day is usually the most dangerous time.

Scott and I prefer to have all of the tank's arms connected from the start, allowing us to use valves to direct the flow of the cleaning and sanitizing solutions. We started off using a manifold coming off the pump, but have changed to daisy-chained T's between the arms. Many brewers prefer to simply move a single output line from the pump between the arms. This requires less setup time, but more active effort once cleaning begins (moving the hose from arm to arm ~10 times through the process). It also carries additional risks if you move the hose without closing a valve.

Our Fermentor CIP Process

1. Once the beer is out of a tank, we turn off the glycol jackets and open the dump valve. We then shoot high-pressure cold water through the sprayball to remove most of the hops/yeast struck to the sides and bottom.

2. We use our on-demand hot water heater to generate 130F (54C) water to spray through the sprayball and manually through a hose to dislodge the bulk of the crud stuck to the sides/top of the fermentor. We'll run it through the pump to get good coverage.

Tankless on-demand hot water heater.

3. We briefly remove the lower fittings on the tanks (including manway, racking arm, thermometer, sample port) to spray out the trub caught in them.

4. We blow compressed air through the sprayball at ~30 PSI with the bottom valve open for 30 minutes. CO2 neutralizes caustic, so best to remove as much as possible before proceeding. This long is likely overkill for a 10 bbl tank, but can't hurt.

5. We assemble our cleaning rig, usually a pump running to the sprayball, with a T to connect it to the racking arm and another to the blow-off.

The pump we use for cleaning.

The fermentor during the cleaning process.

5. We preheat the tank for a couple minutes by spraying 160F (71C) water in and letting it drain. We hook the water line in right before the pump so we can immediately go to cleaning once it is preheated. Our goal is to get the tank to read ~130F (54C).

6. We then use the hot water heater's built-in meter to send 10-15 gallons of 160F (71C) water into the tank. We dose in 3 oz of caustic per gallon (2.3%) using a stainless steel elbow on one of the ports (chasing the caustic with water to ensure it get in). We then turn the elbow down to allow that port to equalize the pressure inside the tank, while preventing caustic from spitting out.

7. I like to send a little flow through the blow-off and racking arm first to soak them during the 20-25 minutes sprayball at full pressure (60 hz on our pump - or a bit slower if it cavitates). Then five minutes through the other arms, before a final five through the sprayball.

6. Dump the caustic. Rinse each arm with hot water, then burst rinse 10 times for 10 seconds at 130F (54C) through the sprayball, allowing it to drain before each successive rinse. I'll often put 10-15 gallons (38-57 L) into the tank once or twice and recirculate at the end to make sure there is enough pressure to spray all the surfaces. You can check the pH of the drained rinse water to ensure it has returned close normal before proceeding.

2. We then take off all of the fittings (including the sprayball itself), soak them in PBW or caustic. We inspect the fittings and gaskets, rinse and put into a bucket of iodophor. For the ports we spray, scrub and spritz with iodophor before reassembling. We also take the chance to inspect the interior with a flashlight to ensure there are no deposits.

7. We run acid blend at 2 oz per gallon (1.5% by volume) using roughly the same process and times as the caustic. Significantly higher concentrations should be used on new equipment and once a year to ensure adequate passivation.

8. Usually we'll air-dry at this point unless we need the tank the following day. In that case we'll rinse and then sanitize with peroxyacetic acid in cool water at 200 PPM using the same rig, and pressurize the tank to 4 PSI of CO2 to ensure it holds. The next morning we'll dump any residual sanitizer from each port before running wort or beer in.

The whole process including sanitation takes three hours, but most of that time isn't active (just waiting for a purge, or cycle). Going longer on any of the times isn't a big deal, so it is easy to run while working on other things if you keep track of your progress and don't miss a step.

We haven't gotten a CIP cart with dedicated vessels and pump, so our biggest issue currently is that it is difficult for one of us to clean a tank while the other person brews because they require some of the same equipment. Luckily our current schedule of two batches a week doesn't make that too much of an issue.

I am by no means holding this up as a perfect or ideal process. It'll likely be viewed as overkill by some, and inadequate by others. But if you have constructive suggestions, I'd love to hear them! I'd rather err towards overkill because we're dealing with several yeast strains (including killer wine yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae var. diastaticus, not to mention Brettanomyces and Pediococcus in a dedicated tank), although we do have the advantage of only dealing with kegs stored cold.

Other Pieces

We addition we'll pump the same chemicals through our heat exchanger and carbonation stone. For the heat exchanger we also heat pasteurize by running 180F (82C) water for 20 minutes inline once we assemble our knock-out rig (we discard the water until we see wort before sending to the fermentor). Our keg cleaner automatically does the same process on our sanke kegs, including air and CO2 purges to recapture the caustic and sanitizer.
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Cleared by the final runnings.

My homebrewing-rate has slowed dramatically the last couple months, not coincidentally we brewed our first batch at the brewery around that time (House Saison brew day). Part of that is brewing 10 bbls about twice a week, the rest is how much time I spend at the brewery doing other stuff. My plan for The Mad Fermentationist is to keep up the same style of post, with recipes and tasting notes for occasional Sapwood Cellars beers. I'll still document homebrew batches when I can, mostly test batches or experiments with impractically weird ingredients.

The first beer I wanted to cover is my favorite of the initial four clean batches, Rings of Light. For those interested the name, is a subtle The Fellowship of the Rings reference: "They watched the pale rings of light round his lanterns as they dwindled into the foggy night." It is exactly the sort of beer I love drinking, moderate alcohol (4.8% ABV), but with a huge hop flavor and aroma and a surprisingly luscious mouthfeel. Luckily Untappd reviews have been pretty positive, and it is our tasting room's top seller so far!

You'll likely recognize most of the elements of the recipe as things Scott and I have been doing for years. Golden Naked Oats, Chit malt, Boddington's yeast (RVA Manchester), moderate-high chloride and sulfate, less expensive hops in the boil (Cascade and Columbus), and Citra dry-hopping. We added mid-late fermentation additions to several of our other batches, but this one was soft-crashed to 58F before dry hopping so we could harvest the yeast for re-pitching into an IPA (Cheater Hops) and DIPA (Uncontrollable Laughter). 

Scott dry hopping Rings of Light.

The process tweaks have mostly been to account for the differences related to the physics of working at scale. For example, usually I'd add a small dose of hops at 15 minutes to up the bitterness, but in this case the extended contact after flame-out makes that unnecessary (between whirlpool, settling, and run-off near-boiling wort is in contact with hops for more than a hour). In fact, we added one barrel of cold water at flame-out to lower the whirlpool temperature to reduce isomerization. Beersmith 3 includes the capability to specify the average temperature of the wort during the whirlpool, still the estimate seems to be wildly higher than the perceived bitterness. I wonder if the hops settling, mixing with the proteins in the trub-cone slows the isomerization rate?

It has taken a little time to dial in our Forgeworks brew house. We achieved slightly lower efficiency and attenuation on this batch than expected for example. We've made a few mistakes and miscalculations along the way, but given neither of us had brewed frequently at a commercial scale I'm happy to report that things have been relatively smooth. Our biggest issues have been with the durability of the equipment itself. For example the rakes in the mash tun detached from the motor twice, and our burner shorted after a boil-over. What is taking the most effort to optimize is our cleaning and sanitation regimen. 

Kegging pale ale.

Thanks to everyone who came out to our grand opening last weekend! I didn't expect as many fans of the blog to drive from an hour or more away to try the beers and say hello. Either Scott or I will be there most of the time we're open, so let us know! Happy to show you around and talk brewing. For those further away, I'm also running the brewery's Twitter and Facebook accounts for now (Scott took Instagram because I couldn't figure it out).

Rings of Light in the tasting room.

Rings of Light

Smell – Pleasantly mango-melon hop aroma. As it approaches room temperature I get a slightly toasty-vanilla-richness thanks to the yeast playing off the Golden Naked Oats. Otherwise a pretty clean/fresh aroma.

Appearance – Pleasantly hazy yellow, glowing in the right lighting. I guess we did an adequate job avoiding oxygen pickup during transfers and kegging as it hasn’t darkened! We certainly pulled some hop matter into the bright tank, but it mostly settled out and stayed behind when we kegged, as I don’t see any particulate in the pour. Head is really thick, but could have better retention.

Taste – I really love the flavor on this, really saturated with juicy hops. Similar to the aroma, the tropical flavors from the Citra dominate the Cascade and Columbus. We were surprised how hop-forward it was even before dry hopping (perhaps thanks to the deep kettle slowing the evaporation of the oils?). Bitterness is pleasant, but restrained. Well below the estimated 70+ IBUs, more like 40-50 to my palate.

Mouthfeel – Full bodied, especially for a  sub-5% beer. That is thanks to the oats, and low attenuation (which allowed for more malt for the given alcohol). As usually the substantial texture of the head from the chit malt really enhances the perception of creaminess.

Drinkability & Notes – Glad this beer ended up as an early-fall release. It is a little full for a quenching summer pale ale, but it is perfect for temperate weather. The hops are well balanced, and provide enough interest to demand each additional sip. The malt mostly stays hidden, while providing adequate support.

Changes for Next Time – We’ve already got a new batch of this fermenting with the same grist and kettle-hops, although given the tweaks (higher original gravity and different yeast: Lallemand New England and S-04) it may receive a different name.

Recipe

Batch Size: 315.00 gal
SRM: 4.9
IBU: 73.7
OG: 1.052
FG: 1.018
ABV: 4.8%
Final pH: 4.54
Brewhouse Efficiency: 68%
Boil Time: 60 Mins

Fermentables
-----------------
75% - 495 lbs Rahr 2-Row Brewer's Malt
16.7% - 110 lbs Simpsons Golden Naked Oats
8.3% - 55 lbs Best Chit Malt

Mash
-------
Mash In - 60 min @ 153F

Hops
-------
11 lbs Cascade (Pellets, 7.20% AA) - Steep/Whirlpool 75.0 min
11 lbs Columbus (Pellets, 15.70% AA) - Steep/Whirlpool 75.0 min
22 lbs Citra (Pellets, 12.00% AA) - Dry Hop Day 10

Other
-------
40 g Whirlfloc G @ 15 mins

Water
-------
200 ml Phosphoric Acid 75% @ Mash
1.00 lb Calcium Chloride @ Mash
0.70 lb Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) @ Mash
50 ml Phosphoric Acid 75% @ Sparge

Calcium
Chloride
Sulfate
Sodium
Magnesium
Carbonate
120
150
100
20
5
100

Yeast
-------
RVA Manchester Ale #132

Notes
-------
Brewed 8/29/18

Collected 315 gallons of water.

All salts and 100 ml acid right after mash-in. Ran rakes for 15 minutes, started recirculation 10 minutes after mash in. After 10 min of recirculation, measured temp at 152.8F.

Measured mash pH at 5.42, add 50 mL more acid. 5.39, add 50 mL more acid. 5.34.

Sparge water 183F, pH 6.47 with acid addition - more next time

Start of boil with 11 bbls of 1.055 runnings.

Added 1 bbl of cold water at the start of the whirlpool. Combined temperature 196F, added hops.

Run-off started at 66F. .5L/min of O2 through in-line stone.

Ended up with a wort temperature of 64F. Set tank to to 66F. By the next morning the glycol chiller had popped the breaker and the tank was at 69F... Reset and lowered to 67F.

8/31 Raised set-point to 69F to ensure finish.

9/3 Fermentation appears nearly complete from lack of CO2 production. Tastes good, better hop aroma than expected. Up to 70F to ensure it is done before soft crashing.

9/6 Harvested yeast. Left blow-off open so no dissolved CO2.

9/7 Dry hopped with 22 lbs of Citra through the top port while running 25 PSI of CO2 and blow-off arm closed. Closed everything and add 5 PSI as head pressure.

9/8 Pushed 15 PSI through racking arm for 1 minute to rouse, 18 hours after dry hopping. Dropped temperature to 54F.

9/9 Pushed 15 PSI through racking arm for 1 minute. Dropped temperature to 50F.

9/10 Crashed to 36F.

9/12 Moved to bright tank. 3 L/min of CO2 set to 16 PSI got to ~11 PSI at 36 F. 2.6 volumes of CO2 prior to kegging.

9/15 Kegged, 17 kegs with the last almost full.

I get a commission if you buy something after clicking the links to MoreBeer/Amazon/Adventures in Homebrewing/Great Fermentations!
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Split Test Batch Rye

I have nothing against brewing to-style. You can make magnificent and delicious beers by using ingredients from a single region with the goal of a classic balance. That isn't who I am as a brewer though. The recipe for Sapwood Cellars' False Dragon is the sort that I'm passionate about. We selected ingredients from all over the globe to create a flavors and aromas that aren't authentic to any one tradition. What I wanted was an earthy-crisp malt flavor, a white-winey hop aroma (for less money than Nelson Sauvin), and a subtle spicy and fruity-boost from the yeast without getting in the way. That required malts from America and England, hops from America and Germany, and yeast from England and Belgium.

Scott adding Centennial hops to the whirlpool

I'd been experimenting with the hop bill for a few months to get the ratio right, and eventually settled on 2:1 in favor of Mosaic. After a few test batches, Scott and I have embraced adding less expensive hops on the hot-side (Cascade, Columbus, Chinook, Centennial etc.) with the more aromatic and expensive varieties saved for the fermentor. I wanted to split my homebrewed test batch to compare S-04 alone against S-04 with 8% T-58. As with Ziparillo, dry yeast is cost-effective especially if you can't repitch thanks to early or mid-fermentation dry hopping. Belgian strains have shown heightened biotranformation abilities is some studies, so it seemed like a good candidate for double dry-hopping.

Dry yeast pitched into a 10 bbl batch

For the 10 bbl batch we decided to fill-in a gap in our range when the first batch of Rings of Light (our Citra dry-hopped hazy pale ale) came in under-alcohol at 4.8% thanks to lower-than-expected efficiency. In effect the two recipes switched places with False Dragon becoming the "bigger" pale ale at 5.3% rather than the 4.7% of the test batch. Our attenuation has been lower than expected across the board for our first five batches too. We're still trying to figure out the cause given it has happened with multiple yeast strains - likely mash related. Luckily our hop flavor and aroma have both been wildly better than either Scott or I have been able to achieve at home, I'm sure surface-to-volume ratio plays a role.

Your first chance to try this beer is at the Sapwood Cellars grand opening, Noon-10 PM on Saturday 9/29. We'll be open Thursday-Friday 4-10 PM and Saturdays Noon-10 PM from then on. Stop in, drink a beer, say hello!

The name False Dragon come from The Wheel of Time series of books by Robert Jordan. My commute has gone from 20 minutes on the subway to my desk job to ~40 minutes by car. Audio books are my new friend. While I'm sure brewing podcasts would be a more productive use of my time, after 12 hours brewing it is nice to have a little escapism.

Test batch False Dragon with S-04

False Dragon S-04

Smell – Had to go for a fresh pour after taking photos as it had gone a hint skunky after five minutes in the sun… Nose is a fresh “true” hop aroma to the Mosaic and Hallertau Blanc. White wine, but also some blueberry and green/herbaceous. Certainly Nelson-reminiscent, but a unique character as well.

Appearance – Pale yellow, pleasantly hazy. Good head and lacing, but the foam itself feels airy on the tongue. I guess I’ve gotten used (and miss) to the contribution of chit malt.

Taste – A firm amount of bitterness in the finish, but it doesn’t linger. Light and bright with the tropical-fruity hops starring. Rye doesn’t really make a strong showing, although I’ve always found it more subtle than some others taste.

Mouthfeel – The rye helps prevent it from being watery, but it is a summery pale ale. Glad we ended up a little higher OG/FG on the big batch. Medium carbonation, nice for a lighter beer.

Drinkability & Notes – A pleasant session IPA. The Mosaic and Hallertau Blanc work better together than apart.

Changes for Next Time – 10% chit in place of the base malt wouldn’t hurt. Could certainly up the rye too for a bigger contribution.

Test batch False Dragon with S-04 and T-58

S-04 and T-58

Smell – More rounded, less grassy-distinct hop aroma. Tropical, juicy, inviting. The green flavors are now more honeydew melon. Impossible to say how much of that is actual hop chemical reaction, or synergistic between the hops and esters. Lightly bready.

Appearance – Looks similar in terms of head, color, and clarity.

Taste – Lower perceived bitterness. A more saturated/integrated fruity hop flavor. Passionfruit especially. I think this is the more approachable and interesting beer, and distinct from the other English-only fermentation we are doing (using RVA Manchester). Slightly elevated phenols, but much lower than from the WB-06 in Ziparillo.

Mouthfeel – Slightly creamier (perhaps just the lower perceived bitterness?), identical carbonation.

Drinkability & Notes – I was able to identify these pretty easily in a blind tasting. It is amazing how much impact such a small amount of yeast can make.

Changes for Next Time – We decided to back down the T-58 4.4% of the blend to allow a bit more of that fresh/distinct hop character through. Other than the higher gravity, the recipe was otherwise unchanged for the 315 gallon batch! We’ll probably up the rye for batch #2 now that we know we can handle higher percentages of high beta-glucan huskless grains.

False Dragon - Test Batch

Batch Size: 11.00 gal
SRM: 4.1
IBU: 30.0
OG: 1.046
FG: 1.012/1.012
ABV: 4.7%
Final pH: 4.43/4.49
Brewhouse Efficiency: 72%
Boil Time: 60 mins

Fermentables
-----------------
75.6% - 17 lbs Rahr 2-Row Brewer's Malt
14.4% - 3.25 lbs Briess Rye Malt
10.0 % - 2.25 lbs Crisp Floor Malted Maris Otter

Mash
-------
Mash In - 45 min @ 156F

Hops
-------
8.00 oz Centennial (Pellet, 7.20%) @ 30 min Steep/Whirlpool
6.00 oz Mosaic (Pellet, 12.25%) @ Dry Hop Day 3
3.00 oz Hallertau Blanc (Pellet, 10.50%) @ Dry Hop Day 3
6.00 oz Mosaic (Pellet, 12.25%) @ Dry Hop Day 7
3.00 oz Hallertau Blanc (Pellet, 10.50%) @ Dry Hop Day 7

Other
-------
1 Whirlfloc Tablet @ 5 mins

Water
-------
18 g Calcium Chloride
12 g Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate)
6 tsp Phosphoric Acid 10%

Calcium
Chloride
Sulfate
Sodium
Magnesium
Carbonate
150
150
150
15
10
90

Yeast
-------
11.5 g SafAle S-04 English Ale
or
11.5 g SafAle S-04 English Ale
1 g SafBrew T-58 Specialty Ale

Notes
-------
Brewed 8/19/18

Mash pH = 5.44 (at mash temp) after acid additions.

Collected 14.5 gallons of 1.046 runnings.

Added heat to maintain a whirlpool temperature of 200F.

Chilled to 64F. Half with 1 g of T-58 and 11 g of S-04, and half with only 11 g of S-04. Left at 62F ambient to begin fermentation after shaking to aerate.

69F internal temperature during peak fermentation.

8/22 Dry hopped each with 3 oz of Mosaic and 1.5 oz of Hallertau Blanc.

8/27 Second dry hop for both.

9/1 Kegged both, 1.012, moved to fridge to chill.

9/2 Hooked up to gas and tapped to remove sludge. S-04 batch clogged poppet a few times.

I get a commission if you buy something after clicking the links to MoreBeer/Amazon/Adventures in Homebrewing/Great Fermentations!

Brite tank sample of False Dragon

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I, Pencil is a classic economics essay from 1958 by Leonard Read about the complexity of making a pencil. The iconic yellow #2 seems so simple, yet no one person could make it on their own (e.g., harvest the rubber, synthesis the polymers and pigments for the eraser, create the yellow paint, precisely cut the wood and graphite, mine and forge the metal band etc. ). The global economy doesn't have any person or group coordinating all of this activity, but to earn money people and companies fill niches, specialize, and compete to buy and sell in ways that creates things of immense complexity requiring the sum work of hundreds of people across continents so you can buy a pencil for $.25. This video gives a more hands-on view of what it takes to make a chicken sandwich when you don't buy anything from a supermarket.

It is tempting to say that beer isn’t like that. After all, each all-grain batch starts with the four basic ingredients and we do the rest… sure it would be a challenge to grow and malt barley, harvest and dry hops, isolate/propagate wild yeast, and haul water from a local stream, but what vessels would you use to boil/ferment? What about sanitizer, minerals, clarifiers, compressed CO2?

What follows is a high-level overview of what is required to brew a single batch of beer at Sapwood Cellars. Obviously, you could keep digging deeper into each one of these, peeling back layer-after-layer to the inputs of each input (e.g., the shoes that the hop harvester was wearing). I’ll arbitrarily stop where I lose interest. Needless to say though, the work of thousands in not millions of people goes into each of our batches. Scott and I just get the credit (or blame) because we're the ones at the end of the chain!

Ingredients

Water

Our water comes from Liberty Reservoir. From there it goes to Baltimore’s Ashburton water treatment plant. Baltibrew posted a nice series on the Baltimore water system. Luckily for us the existing minerals are mostly beneficial to the character of our beer. The carbonate is a bit higher than we’d like, but not by enough to require the waste of reverse osmosis.

Once pipes take it to the brewery it passes through a carbon filter to remove chlorine, and then an on-demand hot water heater. The fuel is natural gas piped into the brewery by BG&E (by way of fracking or older methods, and then refining). From there the water travels through a hose to our hot liquor tank where an electric element allows us to adjust the temperature. The electricity comes from a mix of fossil fuels, nuclear, and ~5% renewables.

To adjust the mineral content of the water, we add calcium chloride (from limestone-hydrochloric acid reaction or natural brine concentration) and calcium sulfate (harvested and refined from gypsum rock deposits). In addition, we add 75% phosphoric acid to adjust the pH of the water. Phosphoric acid is usually produced by combustion, hydration, and demisted from three ingredients: phosphorus, air, and water.


Grains

The grain we mash is a mixture of barley, wheat, oats, and rye depending on the beer. These are grown primarily on farms in North America and Europe. It is then soaked, sprouted, dried, and kilned by a maltster. The precise equipment required varies by malt and producer. In some cases it is a large industrial operation, in others the malt is still manually turned. The bulk of our base malt is Rahr brewer’s 2-row from Minnesota, but in our first order we also had sacks from Briess, Chateau, Simpsons, Crisp, Best etc. Most of the unmalted flaked grains (steamed and rolled to gelatinize their starches) are from Grain Millers.

We decided to hold-off on buying our own mill, to save the cost at the start… but after a few brews I can say a mill and auger are in our near future. We order our grains from Brewers Supply Group, which pre-mills the grain. We also occasionally add a few sacks to a Maryland Homebrew order from Country Malt.

Once we’re done with the now “spent” grain, they are picked-up by Keith of Porch View Farms. He feeds it to his animals as most of the carbohydrates are extracted into the wort, but proteins remain.


Hops

Our hops are grown throughout the higher latitudes of the globe, primarily the Pacific Northwest of the United States, but also Australia, Germany, and Czech Republic. The hops are first stripped from their bines, dried in an oast, and then baled. After selection, various lots are blended to create a consistent product and the hops are pulverized and pelletized. They are then vacuum-packed in mylar and stored cold to preserve their aromatics. Our hops primarily came from Hop Havoc, but we’re working on getting contracts for the upcoming harvest.


Yeast

Most of the yeast we’re using are the decedents of yeast that have been fermenting beer for hundreds or thousands of years. A couple hundred years ago their ancestors were part of a mixed-culture at breweries in England and Belgium, only to be lucky (and talented) enough to be isolated as a pure culture that gained success. Our Saccharomyces cerevisiae so far has come from RVA, Fermentis, and Lallemand for our “clean” beers. These needed to be isolated, propagated, and in some cases dried.

The sour and wild beers are too complex to track. They come from labs, bottle dregs, and a house culture. They may have come via a barrel, the breeze, an insect, or any number of other vectors into a brewery or labs. For example the Hanseniaspora vineae we are fermenting a hoppy sour for Denizen's Make It Funky festival came from Wild Pitch Yeast which isolated it from tree bark.


Fruit

We don’t have any beers far enough along for fruit, but we’re planning to source as much of it as we can directly from local farms and orchards. Most fruit is at its best when it is picked ripe and used quickly. I'm sure we'll use dried fruit, aseptic purees, juices, and freeze-dried fruits depending on quality, availability, and desired results as well. The first batch will probably be a tart saison on grape pumace (the pressed skins) from a local natural winery.


Other Consumables

Gas

Carbon dioxide is usually produced as a byproduct of some other activity (e.g., hydrocarbon processing). Our CO2 is stored in a 750 lb tank in a liquid state. We use it to carbonate and serve beer. It isn't economical at our scale to recapture the CO2 released by fermentation. Our supplier is Robert’s Oxygen.

As the air on Earth is 70% nitrogen it is usually concentrated with the use of a nitrogen generator. These rely on a membrane that allows nitrogen through. We need nitrogen to help push the beer through the long-lines from our walk-in to the tasting room (pure CO2 would lead to over-carbonation at those pressures). As the second most abundant gas in the atmosphere, oxygen generation uses similar technologies. We pump .5L/minute into the wort as it exits the heat exchanger, the yeast quickly uses it to create sterols for healthy cell walls when they bud. We get these two gases in large cylinders that are swapped out.

Chemicals

We need cleaners like caustic (sodium hydroxide) to remove organic deposits, and a phosphoric-nitric acid blend to remove inorganic beer stone and passivate the stainless steel. For sanitation we use iodophor for fittings in buckets, and peracetic acid for the tanks. These are made in a variety of industrial processes that I’m totally unaware of. Our chemicals are provided by Zep/AFCO.

Clarifier

Whirlfloc G helps proteins clump together in the last 15 minutes of the boil to be left behind. It is derived from Irish moss (seaweed) that is dried and granulated. As a vegan brewery, no gelatin or isinglass for us.

Barrels

Oak barrels start as oak trees. They are processed into planks, and then purchased by a cooperage which dries (either in a kiln or naturally). They are then assembled into barrels with metal hops, toasted, and sealed. From there they go to vineyards and distilleries that age their products in them. Beer is best in barrels that have already lost much of their oak character, so we buy them from other producers. A small amount of the wine or spirit is still present in the wood, providing a moderate contribution to the first batch, diminishing with each additional batch.


Equipment

The stainless steal for the vast majority of our equipment comes from China. Our brewhouse was constructed by Forgeworks in Colorado. Our fermentors and bright tank from Apex and DME in China. Our keg washer from Colorado Brewing.

The cooling of the fermentors is accomplished by a glycol chiller from G&D Chillers in Oregon. The ethylene glycol itself comes from ethylene and oxygen. The chiller also assists chilling the wort with our two-stage Thermaline heat exchanger (primarily more stainless steel). The copper pipes that carry the glycol are insulated with Armaflex. The flow of the glycol to individual tanks is controlled by electronic temperature sensors and solenoid valves.

Other equipment includes hydrometer, refractometer, pH meter, hoses, gaskets, and all manner of other valves and fittings.

For the space itself there was already plenty of concrete, bricks and metal. We hired Kolb Electric and B&B Pipefitters to do the installation of the bulk of the wires, pipes, and connections.

There is also everything that goes into serving a beer once it is ready. Kegs (Corny kegs for the sours and infusions, sanke for the standard clean beers), stainless steel fittings, beer lines, glasses (including the printed logo and the glasswasher) etc.


What’s the Point?

I don’t really have one. To me it is just remarkable how much of the complexity of brewing a batch of beer is now hidden in the inputs. I know how to brew beer at my house or a brewery, but if you put me out in the woods even with all the ingredients, I couldn’t brew a batch. Thinking about what is required for each batch makes me appreciate how nice it is to live in a time when I can brew beer as simply as going online and ordering the equipment and ingredients I want. It also shows me how much I still have to learn about making beer.

At the same time, it means that beers everywhere are mostly separated by the choices the brewer makes rather than the availability of ingredients. The exchange of information accelerated by the Internet. I hope there continue to be regional variations, specialties, and preferences. Traveling isn't as exciting when everyone brews NEIPA and pastry stouts.


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There are a lot of IPA drinkers out there, but I get the feeling that there are just as many people who would enjoy the fruity-tropical flavors in New England IPAs, but were scared off by the IBU-arms-race of earlier this decade. I wanted to develop a session beer for Sapwood Cellars that showcases fruit-salad hoppiness without assertive bitterness. Sort of a Belgian white, with hops instead of spices. The result is a beer we're brewing 10 bbls of today... Ziparillo!

Dry hopping mid-fermentation is a great technique for chasing away raw-green hop aromatics that turn-off some drinkers. The problem is that adding hops early makes harvesting yeast far more difficult. Our solution was to use dried yeast. For a fraction of the price of a liquid pitch (~$60 for 500 g dried) it means we don't feel bad not cropping and repitching. Dry yeast also allows for easy strain blending by weight. In this case the test batch was 85% S-04 and 15% WB-06. The goal was to support the fruity hops with a little banana from the hefeweizen strain. An idea I first tried in my American Oat Ale.


The grist is a callback to what we developed for Modern Times Fortunate Islands, still my favorite of their regular offerings. The grains were in turn inspired by Three Floyds Gumballhead. We decided to go a bit lighter on the wheat until we get used to how large amounts of huskless grains lauter on our Forgeworks brewhouse. Hot-side hopping is a single dose of Cascade in the whirlpool. A classic variety with a good blend of oils, but without excessive alpha acids (or cost). Despite that, for the up-scale we're going to lower the whirlpool temperature to ~195F with a barrel of cold water at flame-out to keep the IBUs under 20. Dry hopping with Amarillo for stonefruit aroma.

Hefeweizen yeast, CaraVienna, Cascade, and Amarillo is a combination I tried back in 2010 for this Hoppy Hefeweizen. Not the same intended balance on that batch, but a similar palate of flavors.



The wrinkle in this test batch was that I split it pre-boil. I've been editing Scott's draft for "The New IPA" and the research suggested that many hop oils peak very quickly at higher temperatures and then dissipate. So I split the batch, half with a 20 IBU addition at 60 minutes followed by a flame-out addition immediately after turning on the immersion chiller. The other half I added a hop-stand/whirlpool addition allowing it to sit for 45 minutes before starting the chill. I even left the heat on low to better replicate the slow cooling of a commercial-scale whirlpool.

Going in I was suspicious. I'd changed from quick-chilling to hop-stands a few years ago, and felt that my beers had gotten a better more saturated hop flavor. The beers came out surprisingly similar, but not exactly the same.

Ziparillo - Quick Chill

Smell – Clean yeasty-doughy nose. Banana. Cascade grapefruitiness shines through as the dominant hop character. Certainly reminds me most of hoppy hefeweizens that I’ve brewed previously. Surprising how much yeast character there is from a low percentage of WB-06.

Appearance – Pale-gold, mildly hazy of the standard hefeweizen type. Not milky-haze. Good head retention and cling.

Taste – Bitterness is present, a bit higher than 20 IBUs in my estimate. Crisp finish with some lingering hop resin. Amarillo comes in a bit towards the end, apricot. Odd that I get the kettle hops in the nose and the dry hops in the flavor. The quick chill seems to have imparted a more dry-hop like character. Dry, with a finish that reminds me of some sort of herbal spritzer?

Mouthfeel – Snappy, good firm carbonation, but not as high as a traditional hefe. Dry, slightly tannic finish.

Drinkability & Notes – A nice session beer. The polyphenols from the early-boil addition may be making the bitterness come-across higher than the calculated IBUs would suggest.

Changes for Next Time – Drop the bittering addition to 10 IBUs, and this would be much closer to the balance I was looking for. Nice as is, but likely too bitter for many hop-phobes. Yeast character is a bit distracting.

Ziparillo - Hop Stand

Smell – Similar, but the yeast character comes across as leaning more bubblegum than banana. Slightly more phenolic as well, peppery. Hops are better integrated into the yeast character or maybe just less assertive. I get honeydew melon.

Appearance – Identical. In this case the timing of the boil hops and speed of chilling doesn’t seem to have effected clarity.

Taste – Bitterness seems lower/smoother, and the finish rounder despite the same calculated IBUs. Like the nose the line between fruity yeast and hops is less distinct than the other version. There is more banana than in the nose, but it is still relatively subdued. Hops are bright and citrusy.

Mouthfeel – Smoother, less tannic. Coating compared to the other half. That isn’t a character that necessarily sounds beneficial to a session beer, but in this case it makes it easier and more pleasant to drink.

Drinkability & Notes – Closer to what I was looking for, the hops and yeast meld together into a pleasant fruit salad. Rather than a generic fruitiness throughout the effect is different flavors from nose and mouth, evolving as it warms. One friend noted that it has sort of an Allagash White thing going on, which was exactly my intent.

Changes for Next Time – We’ll be cutting the WB-06 from 15% to 7.5% in the big batch. The taller fermentor should suppress ester production as well. We’ll add a barrel of cold water at the end of the boil to lower the temperature and further smooth the hop bitterness contributed by the whirlpool addition.


Recipe

Batch Size: 12.00 gal
SRM: 4.8
IBU: 18.3
OG: 1.048
FG: 1.008
ABV: 5.25%
Final pH: 4.60
Brewhouse Efficiency: 72%
Boil Time: 60 mins

Fermentables
-----------------
68.2 % - 15 lbs Rahr 2-Row Brewer's Malt
22.7 % - 5 lbs Briess Red Wheat Malt
6.8 % - 1.5 lbs Briess Caravienne
2.3% - .5 lbs Rice Hulls

Mash
-------
Mash In - 45 min @ 158F

Hops
-------
V1
1.00 oz Cascade (Pellets, 5.5% AA) @ 60 min
3.50 oz Cascade (Pellets, 5.5% AA) @ Flame-Out
2.00 oz Amarillo (Pellets, 9.2% AA) @ Dry Hop Day 2

V2
3.50 oz Cascade (Pellets, 5.5% AA) @ Whirlpool 45 min
2.00 oz Amarillo (Pellets, 9.2% AA) @ Dry Hop Day 2

Other
--------
1 Whirlfloc Tablet @ 5 min

Water
-------
18.00 g Calcium Chloride
5.50 g Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate)
9.00 tsp Phosphoric Acid 10%

Calcium
Chloride
Sulfate
Sodium
Magnesium
Carbonate
140
170
100
15
10
90

Yeast
-------
22 g SafAle English Ale S-04
4 g Safbrew Wheat WB-06

Notes
-------
Brewed 8/5/18

5.28 at mash temperature after all additions (~5.5 corrected to room temperature).

Split between two boils:

1. 1 oz of Cascade @60 min, and 3.5 oz of Cascade with a quick chill at flame-out (added hops right after starting IC).

2. 3.5 oz of Cascade with a whirlpool at 212F (with heat) for 45 minutes... mostly stayed 190-200F.

Chilled to 68F, pitched 1 pack of S-04 and 2 g of WB-06 into each (no rehydration). Shook to aerate.

Same fermentation, beer temp 65F.

8/7/15 Dry hopped ~36 hours after pitching. Set beer temp to 68F to continue fermentation.

Kegged 8/16/18

I get a commission if you buy something after clicking the links to MoreBeer/Amazon/Adventures in Homebrewing/Great Fermentations!
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I've brewed a surprising number of beers with ingredients grown on our .1 acres of Washington, DC. Including hops, cherries, juniper, ground ivy, mulberries... and recently fermented acorns! Rather than showcase a single ingredient though, I wanted to brew an estate beer with five ingredients grown and harvested on our land!

Aged homegrown Cascade hops in the boil.

The extent of the influence of aged hops on sour beer is still a bit underestimated. While the generally stated goal is preventing rapid souring by Lactobacillus in a traditionally fermented lambic, what they add to the flavor and what particular characteristics of the hops best serve this isn't widely studied. There are a few studies that oxidation can boost certain fruity aromatics. Which has lead Scott to threaten to use old hops on the hot-side for a NEIPA... he promised to do a test batch before brewing a 10 bbl batch on the new Sapwood Cellars brewhouse.

I thought it would be fun to brew with aged Cascades from the bines in my backyard, especially because fresh they didn't have a huge aroma. They'd been sitting open in my basement since they were dried a few years before. 

Flour slurry pouring in.

I don't have the space or effort to grow or malt grain, so I took the easy way out and brewed with wheat malt extract (a blend of 65% wheat malt 35% barley). I'd had good results from extract lambics previously, but this time in addition to maltodextrin I added wheat flour slurry to the boil. Mixing the flour with cold water prevents it from clumping when it touches the boiling wort. A turbid mash pulls starch from the unmalted wheat into the boil, which eventually feeds the various microbes in the late-stages of fermentation. The microbes must have enjoyed it as the resulting beers are completely clear.

All of the frozen berries (cherries, blackberries, raspberries, and mulberries.

Fruit was provided by our four berry trees/bushes. Sour cherry, blackberry, raspberry, and mulberry. To keep things easy I added roughly equal amount of each (other than the raspberries). I briefly froze most of the fruit, but I added the raspberries a small handful at a time as they ripen slower than the rest. I only had enough of each for one gallon of beer, as most of the rest of the fruit was spoken for. The leftover beer went onto local plums!

Video Review



Backyard Berries

Smell – Cherry and raspberry lead, not surprising as they are more distinct than the blackberry and mulberry. There is an underlining wine-iness that likely comes from the rest of the fruit. The base beer behind the fruit doesn't make itself known other than a subtle maltiness.

Appearance – Clear garnet on the first pour, a little haze when I emptied the bottle into the glass. Alright head retention thanks to the wheat.

Taste – Reminds of the nose with raspberry up front and cherry jam into the finish. Not as bright and fresh as it once was, but still reasonably fresh. The malt and hops don’t add a huge amount of character, but they support the fruit. The Wyeast lambic blend similarly stays mostly out of the way, adding edge complexity without trying to fight through the fruit.

Mouthfeel – Not a thick beer given the relatively low OG, and all of the simple sugars from the fruit. Solid carbonation, CBC-1 did a good job despite the acidity.

Drinkability & Notes – The combination of four berries works surprisingly well to my palate. They play together without becoming generic fruitiness. The base beer is unremarkable, but that’s fine in a beer where the fruit is the star.

Changes for Next Time – Would be nice to brew more than a gallon, but otherwise my only real changes would be to go all-grain.

The finished mixed-berry sour beer.

Plum-Bus

The rest of the batch went onto a two varieties of local plums. I've brewed with plums before in a dubbel. I wasn't sure about plums in a pale beer, but after trying spectacular examples from Tilquin and Casey I was convinced!

Smell – Clear it isn’t a kettle-soured fruit-bomb, lots of lemon pith and mineral along with the moderate fruit contribution. Plums aren’t nearly as aromatic as the more common sour beer fruits, but they add a depth without covering up the base beer.

Appearance – Beer is more rusty-gold than purple. Clear despite the flour. Thin white head, but this bottle appears less carbonated than the last few I’ve opened.

Plum sour beer.

Taste – Tangy plum skin, apricot, and lemon. Beautiful blend of fruit and beer. Wyeast Lambic Blend with dreg-augmentation again does a really nice job. Strong lactic acid without any vinegar or nail polish. Finish is moderate funk, hay, and overripe stone fruit.

Mouthfeel – Light, but not thin. Carbonation is too low, maybe the cap-job on this one wasn’t perfect.

Drinkability & Notes – Delicious. The plum could be a little juicier and fresher, but it works well. Sad I didn’t leave any of this half unfruited for comparison.

Changes for Next Time – I’d like to keep experimenting with other plum varieties in beer. Glad the pale base worked out well. Despite “plum” being a common descriptor for darker Belgians, actual plums don’t shine with all of that malt.

Defrosting plums in a 3 gallon Better Bottle.

Recipe

Batch Size: 10.00 gal
SRM: 5.5
IBU: 5.3
OG: 1.046
FG: 1.006/1.006
ABV: 5.25%
Final pH: 3.45/3.45
Boil Time: 90 mins

Fermentables
----------------
92.3% - 9 lbs Breiss Bavarian Wheat DME
5.1% - .5 lbs Maltodextrin Powder
2.6% - .25 lbs King Arthur All Purpose Flour

Hops
-------
2.50 oz - Homegrown Cascade: Aged 3-4 Years (Whole, ~1.00% AA) @ 90 min

Yeast
-------
Wyeast Belgian Lambic Blend
or
Omega OYL-218 - All The Bretts
Omega OYL-057 - HotHead Ale

Notes
-------
Brewed 1/15/17

Hops were homegrown and aged open over several years.

Fermented and aged in 6 gallon BetterBottle without transfering. Added some various dregs over the course of fermentation.

7/21/17 Filled a 1 gallon jug with the Wyeast half onto 6 oz each homegrown sour cherries, blackberries, and mulberries (plus maybe an ounce of raspberries - maybe 4 oz total over a couple months). The remainder went onto 3 lbs of methly plums.

8/24/17 Added an additional 1.75 lbs of Castleton plums to the plum portion

12/14/17 Bottled the 2.75 gallons of the plum with 61 g of table sugar and rehydrated CBC-1. Bottled the .8 gallons of backyard fruit with 21 g of table sugar and CBC-1.

All the fruit growing in my backyard!
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The first beer club I joined was Lost Abbey’s Patron Sinners in 2008. It was a relatively novel idea at the time, essentially a CSA for beer. It was the easiest way for me to get bottles I’d heard such wonderful things about. Clearly the concept has caught on. For breweries it is an easy win, money months before the beer is ready. For consumers it can be a win, access to limited beers without the need to wake-up early or wait in line.

It’s an easier ask if the beers offered already have a good reputation. Signing up for Lost Abbey's club meant an opportunity to try "whales" like Cuvee de Tomme for the first time. It also gave me access to their microbes… those Red Poppy dregs colonized our first wine barrel for the group Flanders Red.

For Sapwood Cellars, Scott and I are in a bit of a unique situation. Many more of you have read about our homebrew-exploits, listened to us talk brewing, and brewed recipes based on ours than have actually tasted anything we’ve personally brewed (although you may have tasted something I collaborated or consulted on). Although I've been surprised how many people who signed-up mentioned tasting our test batches at festivals as a deciding factor!

Sapwood-Modern Time Collaboration - The Fruitening!

With the barrel program we have planned there is a bunch on money required now: barrels, racks, microbes, equipment, and wort-production. All for beers that we won’t be able to sell until 2019 or even 2020. If you choose to join, your money will go directly to allowing us to get more beer into barrels in the next few months. That will in turn provide a greater variety of stock available for blending, fruiting, and dry hopping. Our goal is to extend our homebrewing roots as long as we can, producing weird and wonderful beers… and dumping beers that aren’t up to our standards!

I completely understand if you don't want to spend $200-500 to buy beers that we haven't brewed or even named yet. I don't want anyone angering a spouse, or blowing their annual beer budget. Most of our beers will be readily available at the taproom, and I'd guess that there will be extra club slots available for 2020. Honestly I see the Wood club as good for someone who lives a less-than convenient trip to the brewery and can only visit a few times a year (but wants to know they can go home with a variety of sour bottles). The Sap club is good for someone local who plans to be a regular and loves fresh hoppy stuff.

We take the trust that people are putting in us seriously. We'll do our best to make sure that not only do you get beer, but it is the best possible beer we can create. That said, there is certainly a chance timelines will be slower than we expect and I'd rather have the final allocation of great beer in early 2020 than rushed bottles with carbonation issues in late 2019.

If you'd rather an experience over beer, today we launched opportunities to join me for a web chat about our sour beers, blending session, commercial brew day, and homebrewing. Most of these are permanently gone once the stock hits zero. There are also a couple slots for a group or anyone who has recently won the lottery to have us design a sour beer or hoppy batch to your tastes, we'll likely do a few of those each year. We still have plenty of merch available as well (shirts, glasses, and inscribed copies of American Sour Beers) for people who can't make it to the brewery!


We should be able to finally brew our first 10 bbl batch in the next few weeks. The last major piece of equipment to arrive is our glycol chiller, scheduled for next Wednesday. All of the piping is run for it already and the concrete pad it will sit on is curing. Other than that, a gas-meter upgrade and a tweak to the usage listed on a 1979 site development plan are the only things between us and opening!

Our first batch is going to be a kitchen-sink brew using the leftover ingredients from the brewery that was previously in the space. It was crushed 18-months ago… we’ll be giving away the wort to anyone interested! Of course, club members will get first dibs... but I'm guessing there will be second and third dibs at least!

I'm shocked at how amazing the response has already been. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has helped give us a little extra cash buffer, the beer (and our sleep) will be the better for it! We started with 50 memberships for our Founders Club... and they are all gone! Still plenty of the two individual clubs available for the time being, and we'll leave them up until the 2018 (unless they sell-out first).

---------------------------------

Sap Club 2018-2019

Sap Club Membership entitles you to $1/off each full pour or growler at our tasting room with a sweet membership card. It also allows you to purchase growler fills of any fresh hoppy beers, even the special kegs and weird experiments that no one else can bring home - in your club exclusive 1 L growler. Includes admission for two to our annual holiday party (December 2018) and pre-release access to canned IPAs (when that finally happen). This inaugural “year” of the club will run from opening through the end of 2019. First-year members will have right of first refusal for membership in the club's next year.

Wood Club 2019

The Wood club is for sour and funky folks. Membership grants you two .5L bottles of each of our first eight barrel-aged sour/funky bottle releases. This will include at least two releases exclusive to club members - using fruits and other ingredients too rare or costly for large batches. We won’t have a set release schedule as the beers will tell us when they are ready, but we'll allow semi-annual pickups. Plus $2 off and priority access to pre-purchase limited sour beers before the unwashed masses! You’ll also receive a Sapwood decanting basket. 2019 members will have right of first refusal for membership in the club's next year.

---------------------------------

In news closer to the blog, Mad Fermentationist T-shirts are available again, this time print-on-demand style. I've also got posters of the updated Brewery Connections graphic... which will feature prominently in the Sapwood Cellars bathroom decor!


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Squeeze that grain bag!If you've followed this blog, you've likely picked-up on my my interest in low-alcohol hoppy beers. For example 3.6% ABV Vienna IPA2.3% Session NEIPA, all the way down to this 2.1% Nelson Wheat-IPA. I'm always looking for new techniques to shoehorn the body, malt flavor, and balance associated with IPAs into a smaller package.

This batch was inspired by a couple of rye-heavy table beer that James Spencer shared with me (video of his process). Rye malt is a powerhouse of mouthfeel, and meshes well with hoppy beers. I paired it with Golden Naked Oats in an attempt to infuse more malt flavor and perceived sweetness.

For a grain bill with more beta glucan than husk the only option is brew in a bag (BIAB)... or start buying rice hulls by the sack. I further enhanced the malt flavor by using a 165F (74C) mash to allow me to add more grain without increasing the ABV. Add to that a quick 30 minute boil, and it was an easy brew day.

I've used Mosaic many times, but Hallertau Blanc only once in this Alsatian Saison. I've always associated the flavors I get from these two varieties with that of Nelson Sauvin. It all made sense when I read all three contain the same thiol 3S4MP, which is also a signature of Sauvignon blanc wine and provides a grapefruit-rhubarb aroma. With the increasing demand for Nelson, it made sense to see if the other two in combination could serve as a passable replacement.

The old laptop I wrote American Sour Beers on...As if this beer didn't need another twist, it was my first time attempting to use sound waves to speed dry hop extraction. I'm not the first one to pump decibels into beer (Cambridge Brewing, Green Man, and Baladin all have), but I'm not aware of anyone doing it specifically for dry hopping. When you add pellets they have a tendency to either float, or sink to the bottom. Either way it isn't ideal for extraction. Playing 80 Hz through an old USB speaker  vibrated the BrewBucket pretty well, hopefully increasing the beer-hop contact. Hard to know how much it accomplished without a control...

Look for my Brew Your Own article about Table Beers in the October issue where I go more into depth on this batch and an ESB that I mashed at 70F!

Rye Table Pale Ale (RTPA) 

Smell – Good Nelson-reminiscent gooseberry Sauvignon blanc wininess from the hops. Herbal notes too from the Hallertau Blanc. Without the alcohol as a vector for the dry hops, the aroma doesn’t pop - or maybe the sound waves drove out CO2 and aromatics with it. A light graininess fills in the gaps in the hop aroma.

Appearance – Hazy without particulate after three weeks cold. Ua-pale, almost looks like a cloudy Berliner weisse. Head retention is pretty good for such a small beer, but the bubbles are bigger and less stable than the dense foam of my NEIPAs.

Taste – Hop flavor is stronger than the nose. Similar white wine flavors, but with a subtle berry flavor from the Mosaic. Mid-palate is a tad lacking in terms of malt flavor, but the hops linger into the finish covering for it. Bitterness is present, but restrained, just about right for this lean beer. Tastes like beer rather than a malt soda.

Mouthfeel – The body is remarkable for a beer under 2% ABV - a friend called it "creamy" in a blind tasting. Moderate carbonation doesn’t disrupt.

Drinkability & Notes – I’m not sure I’ve brewed a beer that I want to drink more of in a session. One of those that doesn’t wow unless you know what is special about it.

Changes for Next Time – Would be interesting to add some light crystal malt and/or Vienna to try to increase the malt flavor. The body is there. For the hops I might go 2:1 in favor of Mosaic and add a second dry hop to try to enhance the aroma.

Recipe

Batch Size: 5.50 gal
SRM: 5.6
IBU: 44.5
OG: 1.029
FG: 1.015
ABV: 1.84%
Final pH: 4.52
Brewhouse Efficiency: 73%
Boil Time: 30 Mins

Fermentables
-----------------
72.4% - 5.25 lbs Briess Rye Malt
27.6% - 2.0 lbs Simpsons Golden Naked Oats

Mash
-------
Mash In - 45 min @ 165F

Hops
-------
2.00 oz Hallertau Blanc (Pellets, 10.50% AA) @ 185F for 30 min Whirlpool
2.00 oz Mosaic (Pellets, 12.25% AA) @ 185F for 30 min Whirlpool
2.00 oz Hallertau Blanc (Pellets, 10.50% AA) @ Dry Hop Day 2
2.00 oz Mosaic (Pellets, 12.25% AA) @ Dry Hop Day 2

Water
-------
10 g Calcium Chloride @ Mash
3 tsp Phosphoric Acid 10% @ Mash

Calcium
Chloride
Sulfate
Sodium
Magnesium
Carbonate
100
170
30
10
5
40

Other
-------
.5 Whirlfloc Tablet @ 5 min

Yeast
-------
SafAle English Ale S-04

Notes
-------
Brewed 6/9/18 with Spencer (Sapwood's tasting room manager)

BIAB.

Mashed with 4 gallons distilled, 2 gallons of DC tap.

Topped up with 2 gallons of DC and .5 gallons of distilled.

Cool to 185F for 30 whirlpool addition.

Chilled to 75F. Moved to fridge set to 45 for a few hours to cool. Pitched at 62F, set to 68F to allow to warm.

Dry hopped after 48 hours. Hit with 80 hz for 24 hours immediately after adding hops.

Kegged 6/15/18 FG 1.014, 52% AA (1.84% ABV).

I get a commission if you buy something after clicking the links to MoreBeer/Amazon/Adventures in Homebrewing/Great Fermentations!
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The newest version of the graphic can be ordered here!

Most recent update, December 2019:
---

On Friday I posted a visualization of the connections between the ownership of American breweries, both craft and macro. I was inspired by this graphic of American food companies and leaned heavily on existing aggregations. The response was enthusiastic. Between Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit it was viewed ~150,000 times, plus being featured in a Paste Magazine article.


However, it's the Internet so of course there were complaints:

- You're missing (insert recently sold or Canadian brewery)!

- You're lumping in total ownership with partial!

- List the rest of the 124 AB InBev owned breweries!

- That brewery is closed now!

- That logo is for the 7 Bridges in Da Nang, not Jacksonville!

I spent far too many hours over the weekend correcting, tweaking, and expanding the graphic to address many of those issues. Thanks to those who created other sources I could use as source material (/u/Hraes' spreadsheet, Craft Beer Joe, Philip H Howard, and of course Wikipedia).

Any visualization is a balancing act of information and intelligibility. My first version was likely too simple to provide any deep understanding of the complex web of brewery ownership... while the updated version may be so complex that it is overwhelming (and that's still without 108 AB Inbev brands).


Feel free to let me know if I missed anything. I intentionally left-off private equity firms that own a piece of a single craft brewery (e.g., BrueryStone). I'm sure that there are other conglomerations outside the US that didn't come to mind. It's already starting to look like one of those crazy conspiracy diagrams, so I'm not sure how much more I could add.

With this many complex relationships it is difficult to be completely accurate while maintaining legibility... especially when it comes to unique situations and convoluted relationships. So here it is without distinguishing different levels of ownership.



If you're reading this after July, 2018 don't expect the graphic above to be up-to-date. Obviously no rights other than fair-use claimed on the brewery logos.

I didn't start working on this with the goal of changing what beers people drink. I don't refuse to buy beer from "sellout" breweries... but all-else equal, I'd rather my dollars didn't go to a company that uses its size to muscle small craft breweries off the store shelf or tap list (for example). It's the same reason I stopped shopping at Northern Brewer and Midwest. In that regard there is a big difference between breweries owned by AB InBev, and to a lesser extend Molson-Coors, compared to those owned by CANarchy and Duvel-Moortgat. Even with those though, I'd rather support a small brewery where the money goes back into the brewery, rather than a private equity firm or international conglomerate.

Independent craft beer isn't always delicious. Wide-scale distribution of delicate beers takes both skilled brewers and a level of packaging and distribution channels that many small breweries don't have funding for. That said, I'm not going to buy an insipid or uninspired beer simply because it has a low-level of DO (dissolved oxygen) and an absence of diacetyl and acetaldehyde. There are enough great beers available that I don't need to sacrifice on quality or consistency!

Here is an interesting piece on the Old Dominion-Fordham relationship with AB InBev. Jim Lutz, CEO: "In the years I’ve been here I’ve only met with the AB InBev people twice..." I was fond of Old Dominion before they were acquired in 2007. The first noticeable change was that the tasting room went from smoke-free to smoking permitted. Pretty quickly they closed the brewery in Ashburn, VA and moved production to Fordham's facility in Delaware. The old head brewer didn't follow (he, along with the equipment, became Lost Rhino). I may be out of the loop, but I remember Old Dominion producing a few interesting beers (like their Millennium barleywine aged in barrels... and even a version with Brett). Now all I see from them are pin-up girl logos and uninspired beers. Whether that is the result of AB InBev or the brewery itself doesn't change many of the reasons I don't buy their beers.

While the Brewers Association had to draw a line somewhere for what is craft, I don't find anything special about the 25% non-craft brewery ownership definition. What really matters is the relationship between the brewery and ownership. How much control of the beers is put into the hands of marketing or accounting? What sorts of incentives/investments are there for brewing innovation versus sales growth. Are resources primarily used to increase consistency/quality, or reduce costs? In the past BA has been all too happy to raise the barrels-per-year cap for Boston Beer, even though producing ~4,000,000 bbls/year as a publicly-traded company owned by a billionaire puts their trade-group needs much closer to a macro brewer than it does mine as a ~1,000 bbl/year start-up brewery.

We're at an interesting time in the growth of craft beer, hopefully the visualization helps illustrate that!



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Shaking the wort to introduce oxygen.The Bootleg Biology isolated version of my house Brett-saison culture is available for the next few days, so I decided to hustle to write this post featuring my OG blend... especially because after I just quit my day job of the last 12 years with the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Gotta get that yeast money until Sapwood Cellars is up and running!

I'm a bad microbe owner. I don't do well when I have to keep a culture going with regular feedings. Whether it was kombucha, ginger beer plant, or sourdough eventually whatever the yeast or bacteria it ends up in the fridge, ignored until I toss it. My house saison culture was getting close, having sat in a growler for nearly seven months since the Juniper-El Dorado Saison. Luckily, years of neglect and mistreatment have selected for only the hardiest bugs...

Wort from the buckwheat saison... a bit gray.This batch was a bit of a cupboard raid. I had two bags of Arrowhead Mills buckwheat flour that I impulse-bought on sale. A few years ago, I brewed a sour amber ale with buckwheat (milled and pre-boiled) with good results. Buckwheat contains caprylic acid, which there is some chance Brett converts to pineapple-scented ethyl caprylate. It also seems to have the same beer-darkening effect as oats when I left this batch exposed to the air (despite much lower oxidation-catylizing manganese - 1.3 mg/100g vs. 4.3 mg for oats). On the mouthfeel-side, the two contain a similar amount of beta glucans according to this study.

I didn't love the "whole wheat dishwater" gray color of the wort, but it looks great now that it is finished!

I also had a pound of Cashmere hops in the freezer untouched from my last bulk order. They are a relatively recent hybrid of Cascade and Northern Brewer. They seemed like a potential candidate for a NEIPA hop-blend, with positive descriptors of tropical, citrus (including lemongrass), peach, and coconut. I've enjoyed several hop-forward beers with this blend (e.g. New Zealan' Saison). So I added a large dose at flame-out as the sole hop addition.

Despite pitching the yeast directly from the fridge (to avoid gushing), the they woke up in a hurry. By the next day the head was thick enough that it looked more like bread dough than beer. Even if you don't need the culture immediately, clearly it can handle a few months in your fridge!

I decided to leave half the batch as is (currently naturally conditioning in the keg) while the Cashmere dry-hopped half is on tap force-carbonated.

Indian-Subcontinent Saison

Smell – Nice blend of citrusy top-notes plus earthy base from the buckwheat and saison yeast. I don’t get coconut specifically from the hops, but there is richness to the aroma. At less than a month old the Brett isn’t bold, but it doesn't smell completely clean.

Appearance – GLOWING. The ua-pale base really lets the light into the hazy body. Anti-gravity head retention.

Taste – Grapefruit, melon, faint spices, and a hint of pancake batter. Slight bitterness from the whirlpool addition, no real acidity. The yeast pepperiness isn't as strong as a classic saison, which is one of the things that makes this culture work well with fruitier hops. Not as dry as saisons (including this blend) usually are, not sure if that is poor conversion of the flour or unhealthy yeast.

Mouthfeel - Saisons around 5% ABV are often thin, but thanks to the high FG and the beta glucans from the buckwheat this one has some of the softness of a NEIPA. The carbonation is still a little low, which contributes to that impression as well. That will likely change with more time on gas.

Drinkability & Notes – Saturated with a diverse array of flavors and aromas. Despite the haphazard construction it all actually works. The yeast is subtle enough not to get in the way, and interesting enough to connect the hops and grain. The bigger body makes me forget it is a session beer... especially next to the 2.2% and 1.9% ABV beers on tap now. I'll have to try Cashmere in a cleaner base beer, but a great first impression!

Changes for Next Time – I’ll be interested to taste the non-dry hopped half with more time warm to develop fermentation character. Hopefully the Brett doesn't generate too much carbonation while it is sitting warm. I might go back to whole buckwheat next time to see if that removes some of the "raw" grain notes.

The finished Buckwheat Saison with Cashmere hops.

Recipe

Batch Size: 11.00 gal
SRM: 2.8
IBU: 31.2
OG: 1.047
FG: 1.010
ABV: 5.0%
Final pH: 4.42
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 mins

Fermentables
-----------------
87.8% - 18 lbs Briess Pilsen Malt
12.2 % - 2.5  lbs Arrowhead Mills Buckwheat Flour

Mash
-------
Mash In - 45 min @ 150F

Hops
-------
Whole Batch
8.00 oz Cashmere (Pellets 8.50 % AA) - 30 min Steep/Whirlpool Hop

Half Batch
3.00 oz Cashmere (Pellets 8.50 % AA) - Dry Hop @ Day 3

Water
-------
10.00 g Calcium Chloride @ Mash
10.00 g Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) @ Mash

Calcium
Chloride
Sulfate
Sodium
Magnesium
Carbonate
120
100
140
15
10
90

Other
-------
3.00 tsp Phosphoric Acid 10% @ Mash
0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient  @ 10 mins
1 Whirlfloc Tablet @ 5 min

Yeast
-------
Mad Fermentationist Saison Blend

Notes
-------
Brewed 6/16/18

All DC tap water, carbon filtered. Wort looked a little gray and gloppy thanks to the buckwheat initially. Cleaned up pretty nicely with the boil.

Chilled to 75F, shook to aerate, pitched decanted house saison blend straight from the fridge (harvested seven months earlier... from the juniper El Dorado saison).

Left at 75F ambient to ferment.

6/19/18 Dry hopped half.

6/30/18 Kegged at 1.010. Force carbed for the dry hopped half, 2.5 oz of table sugar for the non-dry hopped half.

Nice looking head!

I get a commission if you buy something after clicking the links to MoreBeer/Amazon/Adventures in Homebrewing/Great Fermentations!
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Pouring a glass of carbonated water from the tap!The only dedicated tap on our kegerator is the one for carbonated water. All beverages are marked up when you buy them by the serving rather than in bulk, but carbon dioxide dissolved in water is one of the most egregious. Making 5 gallons at home costs less than a dollar. When it comes to bottles, smaller is better because after opening the bubbles begin to escape. Having it on tap ensures the water is always ideally carbonated, and wonderfully cold (especially compared to our 75F/24C summertime tap water).

Seltzer, sparkling water, fizzy water, and bubbly water are synonyms, referring to water with carbon dioxide bubbles. In the US, "mineral" water is required to have 250 parts per million total dissolved solids (TDS), usually from a natural spring. Club soda or soda water is similar, but usually has the minerals added to it. Adding quinine (from cinchona tree bark) would turn it into tonic water. I don't think there is any need to get technical when making your own.

Luckily the process to carbonated water at home couldn't be simpler, if you already have a kegerator. Fill a keg with good tasting water (e.g., carbon-filtered tap water, reverse osmosis) and connect to a CO2 tank. Set your regulator for between 20-30 PSI, depending on how strong you want the bubbles to be. Once the keg is connected vent the head-space and then let the water chill and the CO2 infuse. To speed things up, once the water is chilled, you can shake the keg to speed up the absorption of the gas. Cold water can hold onto CO2 much easier, so you're wasting your time to shake room temperature water.

We add a small dose of chalk (calcium carbonate) to move our tap water closer to the profile of Perrier. Chalk doesn't readily dissolve at water's roughly neutral pH, but it is happy to once there is carbonic acid in solution. This is essentially the same thing that happens with acid rain meets limestone, the carbonic acid dissolved in the rain eats away at the calcium carbonate in the rock.

My Treated Water
Calcium
Chloride
Sulfate
Sodium
Magnesium
Carbonate
150
30
50
15
10
250

Perrier
Calcium
Chloride
Sulfate
Sodium
Magnesium
Carbonate
160
19
30
9.6
4.3
366

The calculator on this site includes many more profiles if you have a favorite mineral water.

If you are a fan of flavored seltzers like Polar or La Croix, you could add a small dose of a natural flavoring of your choice. It is best to dose a glass to taste and then scale up, a little goes a long way when it comes to these super-concentrated "natural" flavorings like those from Amoretti. You can also use actual natural ingredients like citrus peel. In that case I'd remove those after hanging them in the keg for a day or two. If you stick with plain water there is no need to clean or sanitize between fills, but with strong flavors you may need to clean if you are switching flavors.

This post is also available in video form on my YouTube channel.

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