Tag Archives: homebrew

Sustainable Homebrewing

Earth Day 2015 is now receding in the rear-view mirror, but it’s worth keeping the Earth Day ethos in mind whenever we fire up our brewing systems. With the annual Big Brew festivities rapidly approaching, we may even want to challenge ourselves to put some of the following ideas into practice.

The folks over at CustomMade have put together a helpful infographic in conjunction with a ten-step plan for sustainable homebrewing, and have been asking beer writers and bloggers to spread the news. Since it’s been a busy month in Tempest Land and I haven’t had as much time to dedicate to writing about beer (to say nothing of brewing!), I figured now would be the perfect time to post their ideas here. I encourage you to read all of Abby Quillen’s “10 Must-Do Steps for Sustainable Homebrewing.” In the meantime, here’s a quick outline of what you’ll find, followed by a brief commentary on a few points:Barley Field (Wiki)

  1. Transition to Grains
  2. Use Sustainable Equipment
  3. Go Local and Organic
  4. Grow Your Own
  5. Reuse Spent Grains
  6. Reuse Yeast
  7. Chill More Efficiently
  8. Reuse Water
  9. Downsize Container Waste
  10. Green the Clean

In terms of sustainability, perhaps the most important concerns are Points #7 and #8 on water consumption. Between cleaning and sanitizing, brewing, and cooling, the beer-making process uses a prodigious amount of water.IMG_1409 My partner in crime urged me to think of ways to cut back on water waste, so I started collecting my cooling water in empty plastic carboys. To my surprise, it took roughly 14 gallons of water to cool 3 gallons of wort from boiling to around 70F. We used that water to keep the trees, lawn, and garden happy, but it was still a lot of water. So I came up with a pump system that recirculates ice water from a bucket through my immersion chiller. I add a combination of ice cubes and ice packs to a cooler, and use the chugger pump that I bought for the day when I build a larger system. An aquarium pump would achieve the same purpose. Now it takes only 3-4 gallons of ice water to cool the same 3 gallons of wort that once took 14 gallons to cool. That leaves enough to water our herb planters.IMG_1408

With regard to Point #5, I’d caution against the occasional rock or pebble that gets into grain. I may be the only person this has happened to, but the first time I made black bean veggie burgers with my spent grain, I chomped down on a pebble and nearly broke my tooth. What I do now instead is use my spent grains to feed the squirrels during the winter, and add it to the compost heap at other times of the year.

I have a tendency to go on at length about the merits of lagers and other beers brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot, but over half of my own brews are experiments that go well beyond the strictures of the Reinheitsgebot . Growing your own or buying locally are great ways to go. So far, I’ve used home-grown lavender and basil in a few of my beers, and have plans to grow a gruit concoction of herbs at some point. I’ve been the beneficiary of home-grown hops, and have also bought peanuts, pumpkins, and honey for my brew days from the local farmers’ market. One of these days I’ll put together a comprehensive post on my experiences using various ingredients in the brewing process.

Without further ado, here’s the CustomMade infographic.

Click to Enlarge Image

10 Must-Do Steps for Sustainable Homebrewing

10 Must-Do Steps for Sustainable Homebrewing
Infographic by CustomMade


Stay tuned for my post on bottles versus cans in the coming weeks. I’ve been working on it forever, but it’s almost done.

Related Tempest Posts

Pinning Down Place

Drinking Lager in an Age of Extreme Taste

A Bavarian in Texas: Franconia Brewing Company. Dennis Wehrmann of Franconia (north of Dallas) has been so successful with his combination of solar energy and bio-fuel electricity generation that he sells power back to the grid. That’s quite something, considering how much power breweries need to heat the kettles and keep the fermenting beers cool.

Green Pints at Asher Brewing Company. When I completed this article on Chris Asher’s brewery in the northern reaches of Boulder, Asher was still the only one hundred-percent organic brewery in Colorado.


A Field of Ripening Barley, The Palouse, USA: Viktor Szalvay (Wiki Commons).

Water recirculation system and diagram: F.D. Hofer.

Sustainable homebrewing infographic: Abby Quillen.

© 2015 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

So You Wanna Brew a Weizen

In this post, we’ll explore some of the ways you can brew up a 2.5-gallon batch of German Wheat Beer in your kitchen. I’ve included a recipe below for a variation on the Weizen theme: a Roggenbier (rye beer) that you can easily convert into a Dunkelweizen. If you’re new to homebrewing, consider picking up a starter kit from one of the many online homebrew suppliers, and take a glance at a book like Charlie Papazian’s The Complete Joy of Homebrewing.

If you haven’t already read it, check out my “Hefeweizen: A Beer for All Seasons” for some historical and stylistic notes on Weissbiers. Also included in the “Beer for All Seasons” article is a brief set of tasting notes spanning some of the more widely available Hefeweizens, Dunkelweizens, and Weizenbocks so you can get a sense of the style.

WheatHarvest Idaho (Wiki)

Now that we know something of the general characteristics of Weizenbier, how do we go about brewing one? I’ll focus on Hefeweizens and Dunkelweizens, but you can find recipes for Kristalls and Weizenbocks online or in other published sources. (Refer to the BJCP Style Guidelines for brewing parameters.) The vital statistics for both Hefeweizens and Dunkelweizens are similar: 4.3-5.6% ABV; low noble hop character from varieties such as Hallertauer, Tettnanger, Spalt, or Perle; a moderate starting gravity of 1044-1052 for Hefeweizens and 1044-1056 for Dunkelweizens; and a finishing gravity in the 1010 to 1014 range. Wheat typically makes up more than fifty percent of the grain bill in these refreshing medium-light to medium-bodied beers, imparting a creamy richness and sometimes a peppery, citrus-like acidity. The grist composition is usually rounded out by Pilsener malt in the case of Hefeweizens, and augmented by specialty malts such as Munich and crystal malts in the case of Dunkelweizens.

BJCP LogoWhat does this translate into on the palate? Here’s what the BJCP guidelines have to say:

Medium-light to medium body; never heavy. Suspended yeast may increase the perception of body. The texture of wheat imparts the sensation of a fluffy, creamy fullness that may progress to a light, spritzy finish aided by high carbonation. Always effervescent.

As with all beers in BJCP Category 15, the key to brewing an “authentic” German-style wheat or rye beer is yeast selection. Two of the more popular yeasts are Wyeast’s 3068 Weihenstephan strain, and White Lab’s WLP380 Hefeweizen IV. Bavarian wheat beer yeast strains give the beers both a fruity character often associated with bananas (and sometimes with apples) and a spicy character most often associated with cloves (and sometimes cinnamon).White Labs Yeast (thebrewhut-com) As I mentioned in the “Beer for All Seasons” article, “Hefe” means yeast; agitating the yeast in the bottle and pouring it into the glass at the end contributes to the classic hazy appearance of Weizens.

In his Brewing Classic Styles, Jamil Zainasheff suggests that the simplest malt bill formulations are the best: at least fifty percent wheat, and the rest a good Continental Pilsener malt. I have also used moderate amounts of Munich malt (less than ten percent of the grain bill) to give the beer a slightly toastier and breadier malt accent. Single-infusion mash temperatures should be in the 152-154F range (around 67C, give or take) so that you get sufficient body. The Weissbier yeast strains attenuate fairly well (around 73-77%), so you don’t have to worry too much about the beer being cloying.

Dunkelweizens exhibit a greater degree of malt richness and complexity due to the addition of Munich malts. Crystal malts may also feature in the malt bill along with small quantities of roasted malts like Carafa malts. The malt bill results in beers that are light copper to mahogany brown in colour. As with all beers in this style, the head is tall, dense, and mousse-like. Yeast and aromatics are similar to those of Hefeweizens – banana esters and/or clove phenols. Dunkels tend to be sweeter than Hefeweizens, with notes of toast, caramel, nuts, and even chocolate in the aromas and on the palate. Despite the additional sweetness, Dunkelweizens are rounded beers with a relatively dry finish.

After yeast selection, fermentation temperature is probably the single most important factor in brewing a tasty Hefeweizen. And that goes not only for Hefeweizens, but for all the beers in this category. Watch those fermentation temperatures! It’s best not to let these beers ferment much above 70F (21C), even if the stated range for the given yeast strain might fall between 62-75F (17-24C). Higher temperatures yield more banana esters, and lower temperatures yield more phenolics.

A Brief Word on Other Weizenbiers

Kristallweizen does not constitute its own BJCP category. These beers are very similar to the more ubiquitous Hefeweizens, but are filtered (hence the modifier, Kristall), and are generally fruitier, less phenolic, and more delicate than Hefeweizens.

Weizenbocks are strong, malty, fruity, and spicy wheat beers that combine elements of Hefeweizens and Dunkelweizens with the rich body and warming alcohol character of a Bock. These beers are typically dark, with a grain bill resembling an amped-up Dunkelweizen. That said, Weihenstephan does produce a compelling honey-gold version called Vitus. Schneider’s Aventinus is, technically, a Weizen Doppelbock, but it tends to get lumped in with the Weizenbock category. If you’re brewing a clone, check out this recipe in Brew Your Own.

WildRye (Wiki)Roggenbier is similar to a Hefeweizen or Dunkelweizen, the major difference being the replacement of malted wheat with malted rye. I have had one commercial German example only, and have yet to see a German Roggenbier in North America. Rogue produces a Roguenbier Rye Ale, but I have not been able to find it in my distribution area.

I did, however, take a stab at brewing my own Roggenbier in March, and just cracked my first bottle last night. One problem that I encountered was a high level of viscosity that didn’t dissipate much from mash through post-fermentation. Fortunately, the high levels of carbonation for these beers managed to tame the slickness of the rye somewhat. The viscosity comes from a high level of beta glucans in malted rye, and its persistence through to the finished product likely has something to do with mash temperatures. I have three years of home-brewing experience under my belt, and started formulating my own recipes only this season, so I’m by no means a pro at this. Once I get the beer into the hands of an experienced brewer who can provide advice on the mash schedule, I’ll let you know how to keep the viscosity in check. If you’re an experienced brewer and have any suggestions regarding process or recipe formulation, please leave a comment.

*Once fermentation’s all said and done and the bottles have conditioned, don’t forget the proper glassware to keep that towering foam cap in place! It’s tempting to drink these beers on the cold side – and that’s just fine – but at 48-54F (9-12C) you’ll be giving the subtle malt characters of these beers a chance to expand.

Post-Script: Keep On Roggen’ Rye


  • 2.5 gallons (pre-boil volume: approx. 3.3 gallons)
  • OG (Original Gravity): 1.052
  • FG (Final Gravity): 1.014
  • ABV: 5%
  • 90-minute boil

Grain Bill:

  • 3.3 lbs (1.5 kg) Rye Malt, 3.5ºL
  • 1.5 lbs (680 g) Munich Malt, 10ºL
  • 1 lb (454 g) Pilsener Malt, 1.8ºL
  • 0.6 lb (272 g) CaraMunich III, ~55-60ºL

Like wheat, malted rye will gum up a mash. Add about 2-3 ounces of rice hulls to the mash tun to ensure a happy brew day.

Hop Additions:

  • ½ oz (14 g) Northern Brewer (9.4%), 75 minutes
  • ¼ oz (7 g) Spalt (5.2%), 75 minutes
  • ¼ oz (7 g) Tettnanger (4.5%), 20 minutes
  • ¼ oz (7 g) Tettnanger (4.5%), 5 minutes

When I brew another Roggenbier, I’ll likely keep the bittering additions to 60 minutes, and will use Perle or Hallertauer in place of the Northern Brewer. I found that a slightly higher hopping rate compared to a Hefeweizen or Dunkelweizen helped counter some of the sweeter malts, but the Northern Brewer’s bittering qualities seemed to accentuate the peppery quality of the rye a bit much.


Wyeast 3068 Weihenstephan (One pack will do for 2.5 gallons, but making a small starter wouldn’t hurt.)


Step-mash the grains for 60 minutes total. Perform a protein rest for 20 minutes at the high end of the range – 130F (54C) – followed by a 40-minute saccharification rest at 154F (68C). I added more hot water to my mash tun at this point in an attempt to hit a 168F (76C) mash-out temperature, but only got things up to 162F (72C). You could easily skip the mash-out step and begin recirculating the wort and sparging after the saccharification rest. (One step I would add next time is a 10-minute ferrulic acid rest at the outset of mashing to break down the beta glucans.) Boil for 90 minutes to reduce DMS. Ferment at 63F (17C). Carbonate the fermented beer to between 3.3 and 3.5 volumes of CO2. Since you want all that aromatic yeast in your glass, this is one style for which you might want to forego kegging in favour of bottle-conditioning.

*Substitute wheat for rye and add a bit of chocolate malt and/or carafa malt, and you’ve got a Dunkelweizen.




Wheat harvest in Idaho: Wikipedia


Yeast vials: www.thebrewhut.com

Rye: Wikipedia

Tempest’s Roggen: F.D. Hofer

© 2014 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Accoutrements and Provisions for the Classy Imbiber

Aside from puzzling over gifts for those of my friends who scorn the pleasures of barley and hops, holiday shopping for me is fairly straightforward: buy beer. Beyond the eminently sound gift of beer, however, lies a whole realm of possibilities. Part One of this short series on holiday gift ideas is sure to keep the Bookworm Beer Enthusiast occupied between sips. (For those of you who missed Part One, it’s here.) Part Two of the series puts some of those ideas to work.

As with Part One, so too with Part Two: I’m going to assume that not all readers are avid homebrewers. But why not become one? Homebrew kits come in all shapes and sizes. Most kits will get you started for just shy of $100, sans ingredients. Chances are there’s a homebrew shop near you, but if not, a number of reputable outfits will ship to you, including Midwest Supplies, Northern Brewer, Austin Homebrew Supply, MoreBeer, High Gravity, and Brooklyn Brewshop.

If cash and space are restricted commodities, you can get friends and family members brewing up batches of IPA in a Manhattan-sized studio apartment with some of the one-gallon kits available on the market. One-Gallon Kit 1If the recipient doesn’t like the hobby, at least the person will have a cool one-gallon jug and a batch of beer to drink. But these kits generally suffer from one very major drawback: no hydrometer. I began my brewing adventures on just such a kit, and promptly brewed up a batch of bottle rockets. Hubris had gotten the better of me. If I can cook, surely I can brew. Who needs a hydrometer? Let’s just say it wouldn’t hurt to read up a bit – especially about the importance of hydrometers – before whipping up your first batch. (See the Papazian gift suggestion from Part One). If vendors of these otherwise convenient little kits are reading, just stick a hydrometer in with the package! It won’t make the kit any less affordable. And it might keep someone from losing an eye.

For those who like to experiment with food and beer pairings, Lebkuchen from Leckerlee in NYC makes a unique addition to the epicure’s repertoire. Lebkuchen is a seasonal baked good that originated with the Franconian monks of the Middle Ages. Somewhat akin to gingerbread, regional bakers keep their wares distinct with honey, aniseed, coriander, cloves, allspice, almonds, or candied fruit. Leckerlee LebkuchenLebkuchen is a fixture of many a Christkindlmarkt stall across the Germanic countries at this time of year, where the aromas of Lebkuchen mingle with mulled wine. The baker behind Leckerlee’s Lebkuchen went straight to the Franconian source for inspiration, spending a year developing her recipe for Nürnberger Lebkuchen. Now those of us on this side of the pond can find Lebkuchen that complements the rich, caramelized fruit-accented malt notes of a German Doppelbock. Barley wines and Scotch ales from the other side of the North Sea also make nice drinking mates for Lebkuchen.

Coffee and Lebkuchen sometimes find themselves dining at the same table, too. If that’s the case where you reside, a mug from Planet Beer will signal to others that you haven’t given up on the malted fermentables.

And what’s a good lager or ale without a decent drinking vessel? Normally I’d recommend proper glassware, but a glass-bottomed tankard introduces a sprinkle of historical legend into your pintly partakings. Tankard - Classic PewterThe glass bottoms ostensibly played a role in avoiding military conscription in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain. As legend has it, recruiters pressed the unsuspecting into service through a number of subterfuges, including placing a shilling in the bottom of a tankard. This “King’s shilling” was a form of earnest payment (a deposit of sorts) given to potential recruits who agreed to enlist in the Royal Navy. If the drinker drank deep of the draft, he “took the King’s shilling,” unwittingly sealing his agreement to enlist. The glass bottom allowed the wilier denizens of the dockside taverns to “refuse the King’s schilling.” Alas, I don’t yet have a logo for A Tempest in a Tankard, but check back next year for tankards festooned with something fitting. In the meantime, Amazon lists plenty of purveyors of these prized drinking vessels.

© 2013. F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.