Honey; The Bees Knees and the Brewers Need

Part One: The Bees Knees

As far as natural sweeteners go, there is simply nothing better that honey. Incredibly flavorful, naturally preserved, produced by fluffy little bright yellow critters, many health benefits and even more uses. Honey is complex and has been very important to human health for thousands of years. It has been used for medicinal purposes as well as culinary. One of the most significant uses was, and still is, brewing.

Honey is as ancient as history itself. In fact, there are many estimations on when humans first started consuming honey, most ancient being dated around 6000-8000 BCE, depicted as cave paintings in Valencia, Spain. The Egyptians were perhaps the earliest dated recordings of bee-keeping and purposefully building honey-beer habitats; workers had been inscribed on the walls of tombs blowing smoke into hives and extracting honey combs around 2422 BCE and ancient pots of honey have been found still intact and still well-preserved in many tombs, including Tutankhamen’s tomb. In ancient Greece, aspects of the lives of bees and beekeeping are discussed at length by Aristotle. In every corner of ancient history, the collection and consumption of honey can be found.

The type of honey is dependent on two key factors: the type of bee and the nectar source (blossoms) visited by the bees. I north America alone, there are 300 unique types of honey available, each originating from a different local flower source. Honey can range as much in color as it can in flavor; it can be nearly colorless and very light in flavor or dark brown and very strong-tasting.White_Clover_0

a few very common types of honey are:

Clover: which is a very familiar flavor. considered very middle of the road.

Heather: Pale, yet intense, resinous; gel like thixatropic properties. comes from the pollination of heather flowers

Tupelo: Complex, floral/fruity flavors; high in fructose

Buckwheat: Dark and very intense, malty, molasses characterbuckwheathoney

Alfalfa: Extremely pale color and delicate flavor

Sage: Three varieties of varying color; all have an elegant floral character.

Bees, much like the honey they produce, are unique snowflakes which are have different characteristics and physiological differences. There are close to 25000 known types of bees all around the world and these 25000 species can be divided into roughly 4000 genera (types of bees) belonging within 9 groups of “families”, all under the title or banner “Apoidea”, which also includes ‘sphecoid wasps’, from which bees are believed to be descended.

Honey bees also have their own special family which is classified as “Apis Mellifera” and each breed has their own pros and cons. Some breeds are more hardy and can withstand long winters, others are more aggressive and are prone to “swarming”, and some are bred to withstand specific pests and diseases. A few common types of honey bees are:

Italian Honey bee: Considered more calm than western honey bees, very good housekeeper, more suited for warmer temperatures.

Carnolian honey bee: very peaceful, easy breeders but tend to swarm.

Caucasian Honey Bee: Inclined to drifting and robbing, but very calm.

Russian Honey bee: Hardy, accustomed to long winters, but pretty aggressive and prone to swarming. immune to many pests and diseases

In each hive, there is one queen; who lays the eggs and is the only female bee in the hive who has the full reproductive capacity. Then there are worker bees. There are usually between 10,000 to 50,000 in a colony, and they are female bees who lack the ability to breed. Worker bees essentially collect nectar from plants to create honey, pollinate the local flora and rear the larva.When the nectar is sucked up through the proboscis, mixed with enzymes in the stomach, and carried back to the hive, it is stored in wax cells and evaporated into honey. The ladies lead they way in honey production, the male honey bee (aka drone) leave the nest to mate and then die. There are usually between 100 and 500 males in each colony.



Honey production mostly takes place within the hive, however having a productive apiary takes a lot of hard work and planning. Bee keepers need ample access to the correct plants that the bees require for nectar, a breed of bee which is suitable for their environment, properly built hives, the right equipment and a profound knowledge of how pesticides, mites and diseases can detrimentally affect the bees. Bee hives constructed by man should resemble a bedside table with drawers that contain the brood and other layers which contain the honey. University of Missouri gives an excellent depiction of how to build a bee hive:

Purchase new equipment at first. Assembling new equipment is a learning experience you should not overlook.

Regardless of how you acquire the equipment, make sure you get standard size, Langstroth equipment with hanging, movable frames (Figure 1). You can interchange and add standard hive equipment as needed. A brood chamber should consist of

  • Two hive bodies (deep supers)
  • The hive body and two shallow supers
  • Four shallow supers
  • Three medium supers.

The standard hive body is 9-5/8 inches deep, 16-1/4 inches wide and 19-7/8 inches long. The shallow super is the same width and length but is only 5-11/16 inches deep. The medium super is 6-5/8 inches deep (Figure 2). You can use all shallow boxes to reduce the weight of individual sections and make them easier to handle, but this can also be inconvenient. Remember four shallow boxes are required for a brood chamber.

Wooden frames for holding the combFigure 1
Wooden frames for holding the comb, hang inside the body of a hive. Frames are sized for shallow, medium or deep hive bodies.

Parts of a bee hiveFigure 2
Parts of a beehive. Bees are reared in a brood chamber in the lowest level of the hive. Honey is stored in upper levels.Hive boxes are built to contain 10 frames, but using nine frames and a following board is more convenient than using 10 frames. The following board is a 1 x 10-inch board (1 x 4-inch for shallows) the same length as a frame. It hangs in one end of the hive body and is removed when you’re working the bees. The board reduces damage to the brood and reduces hive inspection time.

Use full sheets of crimp-wired foundation for brood frames. The wax foundation is wired vertically at the factory. In addition, use two banjo wires strung horizontally across the frames to prevent warping of brood comb. Various plastic foundations and foundation-and-frame combinations are available. Plastic foundation material works well but it must be coated with beeswax, and bees must either be fed or in a honey flow before they will “draw out,” or build their comb on, a plastic foundation.

A strong colony will require at least four shallow supers for honey storage. Add them as needed in the spring and extract them when full. Many beekeepers prefer to use medium boxes for brood and supers.

Use crimp-wired wax foundation or plastic foundation in frames. Use nine frames in each super and use stoller spacers on the frame rests. Stoller spacers properly space nine frames in a 10-frame box.


Part Two: The Brewers Needs

Brewing with honey was possibly the first type of fermentation that took place among humans. Honey, the main ingredient in mead is growing in popularity in modern brewing and is considered a very “niche” oriented craft. Mead is known from many sources of ancient history throughout Europe, Africa and Asia. Brewing with honey provides a rich array of aromas and flavors which add complexity and character to many beers.

The misuse of honey in beer can lead to some undesirable attributes: Boil the honey too much and you destroy many of its palatable aromas and flavors, if honey is not fully fermented, it can also lead to gushing bottles. Furthermore, although honey is technically naturally preserved by the high sugar content (which is estimated to be 90-95% fermentable), it is essentially a mecca of bacteria, enzymes and yeasts which may end up being harmful to beer production. Careful handling and pasteurization of honey must be taken very seriously as a result.

Sine honey is so fragile and yet poses some serious threats to beer, the brewer is left with the dilemma of needing to pasteurize the honey without losing the incredible, delicate, delicious flavors and aromas. to pasteurize honey properly, you must:

  1. Mix the honey with water to dilute it to approximately the same gravity as the wort you are planning to add it to.
  2. Heat the honey to around 80C and hold it there for around 60-90 minutes. if you can, hold they honey under a CO2 blanket, but if not just use a pot cover.
  3. After cooling the honey to room temperature, add it immediately to the beer either while it is fermenting (preferably at high krausen) or after flame out when the wort has cooled to below 70C.
  4. Allow adjustment to your fermentation time. Honey takes a notoriously long time to ferment, so be patient and take samples before you package your beer. It is suggested that you should allow an additional 3-8 weeks for full fermentation, although meads are fermented for up to a year or more.

The type of honey you use depends entirely on the flavor profile you wish to add to your beer. Often the types of honey which are used for mead are best suited for brewing, however with some flavor profile analysis, any type of honey could add beautiful characteristics to any beer.

In regards to modern beer, honey if more often seen as an adjunct; most commonly in lager, porters and brown ales. Belgian lambic beers have been known to call for honey as well. Common honey type fermented beverages include:

Braggot: a combination of malts and honey fermentation

Brochet: Mead made from honey that has been boiled and darkened; “burnt sack mead”mead

Cyser: Mead and apple cider fermented together

Eismead: made by removing chunks of ice from partially frozen mean, concentrating alcohol and flavor, which is considered distilling and is also illegal… so please don’t try it.

Hippocras: mead fermented with grapes, grape juice  and spices

Pyment: mead fermented with grapes and raisins

Melomel: mead fermented with various fruits

Metheglin: Mead flavored with herbs and spices

Miodomel: hopped mead

Sack Mead: Heavy sweet mead made with sherry (sake) characteristics

Weirdo-mel: Mead which has been fermented with what-the-fuck-ever you could find… (like atomic fireball jaw breakers, jolly ranchers, ponies, gym socks… whatever…)

Ode to sustainability

With all of this incredible information of the importance of honey in mind, and being that One out of every three bites of food we take relies on bees for pollination, there are some serious concerns about how bees going extinct due to out pollution of the atmosphere, dangerous pesticides called neonics. Out of 100 major crops, 70 are pollinated by bees (mostly vegetables and fruits). These critical critters are dying at some of the highest rates ever recorded 42 percent of North American bee colonies collapsed in 2015, well above the average 31 percent that have been dying each winter for nearly a decade.







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Heather Ale by Robert Louis Stevenson

Heather Ale

From the bonny bells of heather,
They brewed a drink long syne,
Was sweeter far than honey,
Was stronger far than wine.
They brewed it and they drank it,
And lay in blessed swound,
For days and days together,
In their dwellings underground.

There rose a King in Scotland,
A fell man to his foes,
He smote the Picts in battle,
He hunted them like roes.
Over miles of the red mountain
He hunted as they fled,
And strewed the dwarfish bodies
Of the dying and the dead.

Summer came in the country,
Red was the heather bell,
But the manner of the brewing,
Was none alive to tell.
In graves that were like children’s
On many a mountain’s head,
The Brewsters of the Heather
Lay numbered with the dead.

The king in the red moorland
Rode on a summer’s day;
And the bees hummed and the curlews
Cried beside the way.
The King rode and was angry,
Black was his brow and pale,
To rule in a land of heather,
And lack the Heather Ale.

It fortuned that his vassals,
Riding free upon the heath,
Came on a stone that was fallen
And vermin hid beneath.
Roughly plucked from their hiding,
Never a word they spoke:
A son and his aged father –
Last of the dwarfish folk.

The king sat high on his charger,
He looked down on the little men;
And the dwarfish and swarthy couple
Looked at the king again.
Down by the shore he had them:
And there on the giddy brink –
“I will give thee life ye vermin,
For the secret of the drink.”

There stood the son and father
And they looked high and low;
The heather was red around them,
The sea rumbled below.
And up spoke the father,
Shrill was his voice to hear:
“I have a word in private,
A word for the royal ear.

“Life is dear to the aged,
And honour a little thing;
I would gladly sell the secret”,
Quoth the Pict to the King.
His voice was small as a sparrow’s,
And shrill and wonderful clear:
“I would gladly sell my secret,
Only my son I fear.

“For life is a little matter,
And death is nought to the young;
And I dare not sell my honour,
Under the eye of my son.
Take him, O king, and bind him,
And cast him far in the deep;
And it’s I will tell the secret
That I have sworn to keep.”

They took the son and bound him,
Neck and heels in a thong,
And a lad took him and swung him,
And flung him far and strong
And the sea swallowed his body,
Like that of a child of ten;
And there on the cliff stood the father,
Last of the dwarfish men.

“True was the word I told you:
Only my son I feared;
For I doubt the sapling courage,
That goes without the beard.
But now in vain is the torture,
Fire shall not avail:
Here dies in my bosom
The secret of the Heather Ale.”

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Real Ale: Let me tell you how I really feel.

“Real ale is fucking incredible and I believe it could change the relationship that people have with alcohol for the better and save lives.” -Me

Sound crazy? I hope so.

Now that I have your attention, let me explain:

Real-AleReal ale is most commonly found in the United Kingdom. It is a type of beer that is typically low in ABVs and is traditionally served from a non-pressurized cask (firkin), with very little to no effervescence, at room temperature. The beer can be clear or slightly cloudy, light or dark with a small layer of foam (head) on top that dissipates over time. Real ale is non pasteurized, unfiltered, and, as a result, usually (hopefully) is very fresh since it doesn’t have a very long shelf life. I recently read an article on the interwebs about real ales which had a lot of misleading information. It stated that all beers including, real ale should be effervescent, cold and have sturdy fluffy head retention. This is quite simply not true and goes against what CAMRA (campaige for real ale) and good ol’ tradition defines as real cask ale and . First of all because carbonation only contributes a little bit to head retention and thickness. The head on a beer is mostly made from proteins that come from the malts and hops. Furthermore, it is much easier to detect all the complex tastes and aromas beer has when it is served slightly warmer. Real ale can range from being dark, complex and malty, to light and watery all the way to being quite hoppy and bitter; they are each individual, unique little gems that are extremely under-appreciated, in north America especially, and I think that’s a damn shame.


I started drinking real ale when I was 18 or so in England with my boyfriends family. As a young person who only just leveled up in life to “legal drinking age” I enjoyed bubbly, light, ice cold crisp beers, usually in extremely unhealthy quantities. I was prone to drinking something called “Fosters top”, which is Fosters lager mixed with Sprite or 7-up, and I was probably the least likely person to fall in love with real ale. One fateful day,  I went for a drink with Toms mom, dad and sister to a small historic pub called The White Horse which is located in Hedgerly. The pub itself is absolutely incredible; white stone walls White_Horse_1that are prettily decorate with hanging baskets of flowers for most of the year, a dark wooden door that might be the original copy, an antique interior and a gigantic beer garden for sunny days. It is quaint, quiet and is now one of my favorite places to have a beer. I remember being at the White horse for the first time and having my first real ale, thinking, “I don’t know if I like this… its so different to what I’m used to… is it meant to be warm and flat? This seems backwards…” It took me a few visits to the white horse to start to really appreciate what I was experiencing. The large variety of flavors made it fun and easy to try something new with each visit and eventually I started to really appreciate the beers being served flat and slightly colder than room temperature because you could actually taste the beer! Not only that, Since it had little to no carbonation you didn’t have to belch every three minutes and could also comfortably drink more. I believe that this change of attitude towards beer is the reason I no longer “drink to get drunk”.


Which brings me to my next point:

Real ale served from a firkin gives the act of drinking beer its dignity back. When people learn to appreciate what they are drinking, get excited about new flavors and pay homage to the historic relevance of beer, it changes their attitude about the act of drinking. With this change of attitude and higher appreciation, I believe that people will spend more time thinking about what they are putting into their bodies, which in turn could encourage them to eat healthier non processed foods. If we can create a “healthy attitude” about beers, why not everything else? Furthermore, since cask ale is hard to store and doesn’t really travel well, it is served locally which might in turn make communities start to think about where the rest of their food and drinks are coming from. for example, “Should I buy the orange juice that was made in the next province over, or the one which was made in a different country?” and “Where is my meat coming from? some of that locally dried sausage would pair really nicely with the local beer I just had.”  I’m not saying that I want to turn everyone into a beer snob, but wouldn’t it be great if we all started drinking non pasteurized, fresh, local, low alcohol, delicious beer and started thinking the same way about our food? Not only are we stimulation local economies, lets be real, the less you eat McGross Double amonia burgers, the longer you will live and the healthier you will be.

So there.

Real ale could save lives.

Lets make it happen.

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Hop Plugs: Stout and Round, but No Less Beautiful

In beer, hops are the ingredient which balances the malty sweetness by adding bitterness and a wide variety of flavors and aromas. Hops contain essential oils, which provide aromas, and acids (alpha acids and beta acids) which proved bitterness to beer. There are hundreds of different hop varieties grown all over the world and each one has a unique profile of essential oils and acids that add a unique character to beer. Hops can be processed into a few different hop products which include type-100 hop pellets. Also known as hop plugs, t-100 pellets are whole hop cones that have been pressed into a cylinder or cut from a bale and then sliced into discs that are typically 10mm to 30mms thick and weigh roughly 14-28 grams.

     Hop plugs are primarily used for “dry hopping” cask ales (primarily in the UK) which is the process of adding hops to the fermenting beer after the primary fermentation is completed in order to add to the pre-existing hop aroma. Since cask ales complete the secondary fermentation in the cask, T-100 pellets are typically thrown directly into the cask. Hop plugs are generally said to be easier to use for dry hopping for small breweries an3964192001_a9515ed443_zd home brewing because the whole cones, leaves and vegetal matter is much easier to remove from the beer once the dry hopping is complete and the beer is ready for bottling. It is also said that since the hops have not been crushed and processed in type 100 pellets, they haven’t had the opportunity to lose any of their essential oils or resins and they tend to give a slightly fresher aroma to the beer. Because of this, we can also assume that the most common t-100 pellet hop varieties would be popular aroma hops such as Czech Saaz, Centential or Cascade.

     When thrown in the boiling wort, type 100 hop pellets break up into whole cones and very prettily float around in the wort. However when hop plugs are used for bittering, other types of pellets 3556994447_86f844ea9c_z(t-90 or t-45) tend to have a higher extraction efficiency by weight than whole hops (about 10% more) and thus, one ounce of other hope pellet types will yield about 10% more IBUs, giving the beer more bitterness, than one ounce of the same hop variety in the form of a hop plug or whole cone. This is why hop plugs are more popular for adding aroma rather than bitterness.  Another downfall to Hop plugs is since they are mostly composed of whole hops, they do not store as well as other kinds of hop pellets. The risk of them developing undesirable aroma and flavor attributes, due to exposure to oxygen, is much higher. Hop plugs should be stored in a freezer in an air tight bag for optimal shelf life.

Cask ales are non-pressurized, non-pasteurized and unfiltered beers which have been allowed to go through the secondary fermentation in a cask (barrel or firkin), which essentially means that cask ales have a very short shelf life: approximately 4-5 days. This makes cask ales more common among craft breweries which are typically small scale and locally focused and, therefore, unique and special to each town and city they are brewed in. Before the 12th century, the use of hops in beer was not common place and beer had very low alcohol content. The introduction of hops to brewers, given that they are not only delicious, but also a natural anti-bacterial preservative, meant that beer could have an extended shelf life and a less likely chance of going bad before consumption. Perhaps the act of dry hopping cask ales was an attempt by historic brewers to, not only add beautiful aroma to their beers, but also improve its shelf life.


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Brew Like a girl!

Here inlays the steps on how to get started brewing your own beer combined with a look into the semi-regular days of three amateur brewers from Olds College

Water + [heat] + Grains + [time] = Wort + [heat] + x(Hops + [time]) + Yeast + [time] =  Beer 

  From whence doth beer come? Many people in this wonderful world don’t know how beer is actually made, and, quite frankly, up until about three weeks ago I only had a vague idea. Brewing is a complicated process that involves a little science, a lot of preparation and even more time and patience. Even after many brewery tours, discussing mash tuns, kettles, whirlpools and fermenters, I still didn’t really understand what was going on. This is mostly because I’m a “hands on” kind of learner; its very hard for me to really understand something unless I can do it myself; learning by trial and error. The next big step for me was to get my hands gristy and do a home brew.

Curtis, a fellow classmate, very generously offered to let us use his home brew equipment if we could store it for him. After our lovely trip to Yakima, we picked a day to all brew together, chose a couple recipes and got started. Your first step as a brewer is acquiring the proper equipment you will need:

  1. Sanitizing solutions
  2. A reasonably accurate temperature sensor
  3. A large ladle to stir with
  4. 2-3 rubber tubes to transfer the wort(beer) form one vessel to another
  5. A large measuring cup
  6. Sanitary rubber gloves
  7. A few large pales
  8.  A hydrometer and measuring cylinder
  9. Blow off tube
  10. A controlled source of heat
  11. A Brew/ Mash kettle: (very large stainless steel pot that has a spout at the bottom)
  12. A Whirlpool/ Lauter/ Mash tun: (a tub in which the mash can rest and eventually filter off the wort. Temperature must be monitored. Its like a very large Thermos equipped with a spout and a false [filter] bottom)
  13. A wort Chiller (optional, but exteremly handy)
  14. A safe vessel in which the wort can ferment (carboys. Glass is preferable)

I want to very passively say something before we get started: A clean brewer and clean equipment = Good beer. Home brewers world wide have a “less than great” reputation for cleanliness and unfortunately, there just isn’t very much they can do about it. Since they don’t really have access to all the right tools to keep their brewing space and equipment clean, they tend to produce hazy, dirty, ropey beers. That being said, it doesn’t mean they should not try! The more conscious your are about your cleaning habits, the better your beer will taste. Why? because there are germs that can contaminate beer on everything you touch including the air. It does not matter that you think you are boiling off all the germs in the boil kettle. There are always bugs lingering in and around your beer. So I will say now: Sanitize, sanitize and sanitize again. Do not fear the foam caused by a no rinse sanitizing agent, for when you rinse with yucky tap water, you have now contaminated your stuff all over again. Wear a hat, wear sanitized gloves, wear clean clothes, sanitize the surfaces on which you rest your stirring ladle and have at least two spray bottles of sanitizing solution handy. Be paranoid about cleanliness and your beer will be better.

Once you have your pretty, freshly sanitized equipment, it will be time to choose a recipe. You can find recipes online (be careful about which ones, some of them are a very interpretative) or you can take one from a published recipe book. Tom, Curtis and I chose a clone recipe of Lagunitas IPA from Clone brews for our first beer. If you have never brewed before in you life, I highly recommended that you choose a really simple recipe that will produce beer you are familiar with; American Pale Ales are a good place to start. If you pick a beer which requires a little more “Babying”, like a Belgian triple for example, the likelihood that you will run into problems are much higher. Become a master of the basics, and the more complex recipes will not be as hard.

Now that you have a recipe, you need to go grocery shopping! This was probably my favorite part of the whole process. Going to measure out the grains, weighing hops and choosing yeast felt like a scavenger hunt that took all day. For our recipe, the malts we used are 2-row Pale Ale, Crystal 15, Crystal 40 and Specialty B. Once you measure out your grains, you have to mill them (put them through a grinder to break the hard grains up to expose the starches) you can do this manually (mortar and pestle), but it will take a very long time. Also on the topic of milling, you don’t want to grind it too fine or too course. just enough to break open the grains is sufficient.

Hops usually come pelleted, in extract form or as whole leaf hops from craft beer stores. In most recipes, you will have a few different hop varieties which have been chosen and then added in the beer at different times to create different flavors and aromas in the final product. The first hop addition you make will  be added to create the bitterness in the beer. The rest of the additions will be thrown in for flavor and aroma. If your recipe calls for a specific ingredient that you cannot find anywhere, its pretty easy to make substitutions. For example, if you need Challenger hops but cannot find them anywhere, you can replace it with German Perle hops which has similar essential oil content; if you need superior 2-row pilsner malt, American 2-row pils will work in its place as well. The General idea with substitution of hops is to pick a different hop from the same continent/ growing climate that also has a similar essential oil content. The same rule applies to grains, but instead of essential oil, look at starch content, what country it is from and what it is designed to do in beer.

Yeast is most certainly something you will need to pick up for your brew. It is a common misconception that hops are the ingredient that creates the most flavor and aroma in beers. WRONG! its yeast. Yeast is almost always the largest contributor for flavor and aroma. No, you may not use bakers yeast. No, its not the same thing. There are hundreds of different strains of yeast and each one has a specific use. Use the yeast that your recipe suggests. Try not to change the yeast that your recipe calls for unless you know it will do the exact same thing. You can usually buy little pouches of yeast which will have instructions on the back for how to turn it into liquid yeast and what temperature to pitch it at. Some people just put the powder in the wort, others prefer to add water and then pitch. I prefer to liquefy it first to get the juices flowing before pitching it.

This websight makes comparing beer ingredients easy! beerlegends.com


OK, you have your equipment and your ingredients are all milled, measured and ready to go….

Now what?

     Sanitize your equipment again and get brewing! Start by measuring out the appropriate amount of water for your recipe (usually 3:1, water:grain) Heat your water in your Mash Kettle to the appropriate temperature listed in your recipe. Once your water is hot enough, carefully transfer your water from the kettle to your second vessle (Whirlpool/ Lauter tun/ Mash tun), add the grains, stir it up until the grain is nice and saturated, then close the lid to keep the heat in and monitor the heat for however long your mashing time is (for us it was 90min mash). if the temperature drops, add boiling water a cup at a time to bring the temperature up again.

IMG_20150924_133707 (2)

Now you have some time to have a beer, read your latest craft beer magazine and relax. keep an eye on that temperature though! The starches in the malt need a specific combination of heat and time to produce the right sugars at the right quantities for the beer you chose. Give it a stir every 25 minutes or so to ensure all the grain is being utilized.

With ten minutes remaining on the clock, you need to get yourself set up for the next stage of the brewing process: Separating the grain from the wort or in other words Sparging. I like to recirculate my wort a little bit before the actual sparging begins. This helps with clarifying and cleaning out the big bits of grain that are floating around in the wort. Place your mash on a raised surface and place a large, clean pale below your mash tun. Attach a sanitized tube to the spout and drain a couple liters of the wort slowly into the pale. Then carefully and gently return the wort to the mash tun by pouring the wort you took over a large spoon, letting it run down the side of the mash tun back to the grain bed. Do this about four or five times and you will notice a significant difference in the clarity of your wort. After recirculating, you may begin to sparge! BrewWiki.com gives a fairly accurate description on the process. “After the mashing process is complete, the grains, water and sugar are still in suspension in the mash container, called the mash tun. The sugars are separated from the grains in a process called sparging. The mash tun typically has a false bottom or screen at the bottom with a spigot that allows the brewer to draw run-off from the bottom of the grain bed. Hot water at approximately 178 F is slowly added to the top of the grain bed, run through the bed, and drawn off the bottom through the false bottom and out the spigot to the boiling vessel“. You should be adding water at around the same speed as you are draining you wort. the Point of adding water is to help separate the grain bed from the wort. It is the same physical work as recirculating, but instead of putting the wort back into the mash, you let the wort drain completely and put hot water into the grain bed with the spoon technique I mentioned earlier. Capiche?


OK, lets talk about gravity. This is the “sciency” part of brewing that scares a lot of people. Fear not! its not that hard and its very important to keep track of the density of your wort since we are doing a lot of boiling and, as a result, your water content is changing through the process of evaporation. The SG (specific Gravity) should be indicated in the recipe. If the numbers are way off, you may either need to continue boiling (high numbers = low concentration) or add boiling water (low numbers = high concentration) to the wort. You should be testing the gravity of your beer at least three times in the brewing process.

  1.  After sparging (Pre Boil gravity)
  2. before fermentation (Original Gravity)
  3. After fermentation (Final Gravity)

Take about 30ml of your wort in a clear glass test tube. put the hydrometer in and spin with your fingers (like you were spinning a toy top)  it so that it floats in the center of the sample. take note of where the top of the sample is on the hydrometer, write down the number make the appropriate adjustments to the wort as need be and your done!


Now potions class begins!

IMG-20151002-WA0003Take your wort and drain it back into the brew kettle. turn the heat back on until you have a nice boil happening and then add your first hop addition. Stir for the first 5-7 minutes or so and set your timer for however long your boil should be (indicated on your recipe, usually about 60 minutes) USE CAUTION HERE. Beer has a mind of its own; it has attitude. When you add your first hop addition there will usually be a reaction called the “hop break”. Without getting too deep into it, the essential oils in the hops are not naturally soluble until you heat them at a high temperature for a certain amount of time. When they are heated for a while, they change their molecular structure and then become soluble. The result in this chemical reaction is an over boiling, grumpy ass wort. To avoid any spillage and potential burns have a spray bottle of cool water on hand to spray the hop/wort foam down if you notice a quick accumulation of foam. After the hop break, you usually don’t have to worry about your wort giving you any attitude about the rest of the additions; just the first one. Keep an eye on the clock! at around the fifteen minute and five minute mark on most recipes there will be the other hop additions. Stir them in and then once the timer goes off, its time to chill your wort!

The reason we need to cool the wort before adding your yeast is because the yeast will not survive at temperatures that high.(Dead yeast = no fermentation = no alcohol) On the essential equipment list, I have listed a wort chiller as optional. You can just let your wort sit at room temperature until it cools down completely, however that will take a very, VERY long time. I absolutely adore anything offers a simple solution to problems and the simple solution to this problem is the wort chiller. It is this amazing copper hose/ coil that gets hooked up to a cold water source and allows cold water to run through the coil and out the other end.IMG-20151002-WA0005

When the coil is placed in the wort with the cold water running through the coil, it cools the wort down very very quickly. You can go from 70C to 18C in a matter of ten minutes and, in my humble opinion, that makes this springy bit of metal a work of art. Go buy one and save yourself the trouble of waiting.

Alright, your wort is cool and still sitting in your boil kettle. At this point, you should measure the gravity again. After that, you simply have to siphon the wort into your SANITIZED fermenter/ carboy and pitch your yeast.

” I don’t care if your beer is running around raging and puking green flames [after you add the yeast during fermentation]. Give it a week and see what happens.” -Michael Ostlund

A comment on yeast: It is a living organism with a mind of its own. Often times when you pitch yeast it doesn’t behave exactly the way you expect it to. as my good friend Mike said to me, Give it time and see what happens! Pitch your yeast into the carboy full of wort, put the blow off tube on the top of the carboy, run the tube into a pot of water and Bobs your uncle! Leave it alone for a week or so and watch the magic happen.

Beer should be left to ferment for about 2-3 weeks. check the gravity a couple of times during the fermentation process. The primary fermentation takes place in the first 5-6 days. At this stage, the yeast is converting the sugars in the beer into alcohol and producing CO2. A foamy layer will form at the top of the beer called the Kraeusen (Fun fact about kraeusen: you can actually use it to carbonate your beer through a process called kraeusening) Most brewers like to move the beer to a different carboy at this point (6-14 days) to help with clarification. This is the second stage of fermentation which usually allows for unwanted flavors, proteins and yeast to fall out of the beer.


I am going to stop at this point, because my beer is not ready to to cold crash or bottle yet! Since I have not done anything past the second week of fermentation, I can not blog about it. Stay tuned for the rest of the story and happy brewing!

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Class Trip to Yakima, Washington: For the Love of Beer!

We departed from the Land sciences building at 8am on the tenth of September with little understanding of what we were up against for the next five days; an overwhelming line up of brewery tours, beer tastings, hop farm tours and countless hours on a bus which smelled like hangover farts and the broken spirits of Canadian brew students due to excessive alcohol consumption, lack of sleep and because someone got curious and asked how much it actually costs to set up a self sustaining brew-pub, to which, “a lot” was the only tactful response. Despite the lack of nutrition, pickled livers and exhaustion, the trip proved to be an extremely valuable bonding experience for all thirty of us, as classmates and the brewing industry as well, as aspiring brewers. In each brewery, we were greeted with warm smiles, open arms and, of course, many samples of fine craft beers.

Our first stop was Fernie Brewing company. The brew-pub was hearty and smelled like pumpkins, spices and hay which blended nicely with the autumn colors of the British Colombia mountains. They had recently invested a lot of money into their brewery and very proudly showed it off during the tour. They covered everything from mash tons to canning and were very detailed. Even though I have had a few of their beers before, I sampled Kickstand, What the Huck and Sap Suckler, which was the local favorite. Sap Suckler without question stood out and stole the show. It was dark maple porter; full of flavor and good ol’ Canadian “Get-it-in-ya-bud” attitude that left you feeling wrapped in flannels and warmed from the inside out.  Fernie brewing company seems to have a very strong relationship with the community. They had a few different charities and had some really cool recycled, Eco-friendly items you could purchase. Overall, the tour left me feeling all warm and fuzzy with Canadian pride and I will definitely be returning for a visit.

Our next stop was Kalispel which is a medium sized fun-filled city that has great taste in beer since it has so many breweries in the surrounding area. We unfortunately only had time to visit one brewery- Kalispel Brewing company- which was very impressive because it was pretty much a one many show based on my understanding. The Head brewer had and impressive degree in Physics and had fitted most of the piping in the brewery himself. He made the CO2 piping so that you could take it apart to clean it if it ever got infected. This tour was really educational for us on the technological and sanitation frontier of brewing and it still remained very interesting. I sampled the Dunkle which has notes of coffee and chocolateand was very refreshing. After the brewery we split up for dinner. A classmate and I stumbled upon a restaurant called Hops which has an extensive beer menu that includes many international brews (including trappiste beers) and a very wide selection of craft beers. Not only was the beer selection impressive, the food and atmosphere were both lovely. five stars for Kalispel, and with that we departed for the main event: Yakima, Washington.

So we visited two very different, yet both very substantial hop farms while in Yakima, Both of which were ridiculously fragrant, charming and educational. Our first stop was Puterbaugh which felt more like gram-grams country cottage mixed with an antique hop harvesting unit. It was a wonderful experience being able to get so up close and personal with the hops and the equipment that stripped the decadent little cones off the vines. The women who lead the tours were extremely hospitable, cooked us a fantastic lunch and gave us all some beers to sample and share. The second hop farm we visited was definitely more updated and bigger in many ways. Sunshine Ranch (Gamache & Sons) dwarfed Puterbaugh and actually owned the Amarillo variety of hop, which no doubt contributed to their success. This tour was a little more interactive, as we had the opportunity to actually feed a hop vine through the equipment. Seeing the insane quantity of hops, the vast fields and high tech processing equipment mixed with family owned, hand-me-down business labels sort of impacted me in way; I had my first realization of the sheer vastness of the industry and how historical and the impact brewing really has on communities worldwide.

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We visited a few incredible breweries as well as hop farms in Yakima as well. At about this point in my journal, my writing and note taking became very vague and lacking in detail, probably as a result of the insane amount of beer I had consumed and the lack of sleep. The first brewery we visited was Bale Breaker, which was phenomenal. They have a very large set up for a brewery that hasn’t been up and running for very long. (they had larger than or equal size equipment to Fernie) Bale breaker is a managed and owned by a family who has been growing hops since 1932. Since they grow all their own hops they have the freshest IPAs i have ever tasted. The Top Cutter IPA and the Bottom Cutter Double IPA were both outstanding examples of how local agriculture and strong family business skills can produce top of the line products. The next Brewery we visted was HAAS (or JohniHaas). This was a very interesting company that brews experimental beers using the research they do on Hop breeding and Hop extract making. They definitely had they most high tech, well thought out brewing lab i out there. (even the tiles on the floor were specifically engineered for breweries). As soon as i walked in the front doors, I thought to myself, “This is where I want to do an internship. These are the people that can educate me the most post-graduation”. The building and equipment was impressive,they received the LEEDS award (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) the experimental beers they allowed us to sample were out of this world! all of the beers start by being a fairly normal Lager that they call “Flex” and they they add different hop extracts that they manufacture to create different brews like Snap (reminded me of gram-grams ginger snap cookies). In a nutshell, HAAS was mind boggling and they are the super heros of brewing ingenuity.  Next on the list for Yakima breweries, naturally, was Yakima Craft Brewing company. It was much smaller than both the brew-pubs we had visited, but produced some beers that certainly packed a punch and held their own when compared to the larger breweries. they Marketing scheme was incredible and each beer seemed to have its own “soul”. My favorite was the one they called heather; light, refreshing and very easy to drink (Heather Ale is a very traditional Scottish herbal ale, apparently so delicious and important that the Pictish king, when taken captive, through himself off a cliff rather than share the secret of the heather ale recipe). The brewery also had another pub in the city that served up an INCREDIBLE steak salad and all of their breweries beers. I also tried their “Good monk” Belgian style beer which was a very good attempt at a style which is not easy to brew properly unless you’re a trappiste monk.

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After all of our adventures in Washington, we began to make our way back home. We went for a tour and lunch at Snipe brewery in Sunnyside, Washington. This was a brewery with a very interesting “old west/ settler” history. Way back when America was still brand new, a cattle farmer set up a lodge that acted as a safe place to rest for travelers trying to make it big in the North-West. The lodge became so popular and well known in the area that it just managed to survive all those years and now is a wonderful little brewery. The beers were lovely, the service was lovely and I wish we had more times to explore and get a good feel for the company, but we were on a mission to get home! After snipe mountain, we spent the night in Spokane touring and sampling the beers from the Steam Plant restaurant and brewery. It was a very creative place in a very interesting historic building! The building was literally an old steam plant that had been modernized into a brew-pub restaurant. The architecture was staggering and had a very industrialized beauty. They served up a sample platter of eleven beers (one of which was jalapeno ale…not my thing!). The beers for steam plant which stood out most for me were the Oktoberfest and the stout. both stayed very true to the style and were very delicious.

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Our last two stops were Laughing Dog Brewery and Kootenay Brewery. I have nothing but good things to say about both the Breweries, but Kootenay seemed to be yet another company i could see myself really learning a lot from if i could do an internship with them.The Head brewer (and ONLY brewer) was a fountain of knowledge and beer wisdom. He runs this brewery all on his lonesome, was obviously very talented and would make a fantastic mentor.

Alas, after what seemed to be the longest bus ride home ever, we arrived at home. This has certainly been one of the most valuable and educational five days. We met some of the most influential brewers and brewing industry leaders this great continent has to offer and I hope we can all cross paths again, have a pint and some laughs for the love of beer.

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Allow me to Introduce Myself!

Hello, great world of brewers! Allow me to introduce myself; my name is Taylor Leigh Larson, and I have recently started the Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management Diploma Program at Olds college. I was born and raised in Red Deer Alberta, but fell in love with brewing while I was living in England and traveling semi-regularly to Belgian with my better half, Tom Ross. My fascination with beer (which sparked my passion for brewing and the brewing industry) began in a small pub, drinking my first wheat beer, (Rothaus, Hefe Wiezen) and deciding to seek out where to drink the best beer in the world. Off to Brugge we went! We have now been to Brugge three times and have visited many breweries in England and Canada. After a year or so of countless brewery tours, hundreds of beers and a serious lack of financial stability due to buying so many delicious beers and traveling every 4ish months, I came across the diploma program at Olds College. I am now started in the program and am eagerly awaiting my departure to Yakima, Washington with my class mates to try some of the freshest American craft beers and explore some hop farms.

Many more beers to drink and brew, breweries to explore and many more blog entries to come.


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