Grain vs. Extract

Hello and welcome to Hops, Brew, and Blog, where we will talk about the art of brewing. Brewing is a fun hobby that anyone can do. We will talk about everything from cloning beers you already love (and hopefully making them cheaper than buying), to experimenting with recipes no one has tried yet. We will also talk about the debate items of brewing including brewing with grain vs extract, what hops are better, the friend-breaker of liking IPAs, and many more. So sit back, grab your favorite brew (if you can) and prost!

For our first post, we’re going to dive right in…Grain vs Extract when brewing. Everyone has a say in this on whether you want all grain because it makes your beer a “pure brew” or some say you won’t be able to tell the difference so why take the extra time. Well, I am here to share what I have experienced in my time brewing. And there is a simple remedy to the debate that some might know. 

First things first, what is the difference. For those new to brewing, having a grain brew is using the actual grains you want. When you go to the local store for brewing, they will have tubs on tubs on tubs of different grains to choose from. It can be overwhelming if you don’t know the differences (heck, it is still for me sometimes). When you get your grains, you need to crack them. You can do this at the store or at home if you can. You then take those cracked grains and use them in the brew to start (we will go through the brewing process in a different blog, best to stay away from that rabbit hole while down this one). Now, there are other steps that can be added because of grains or more tools needed as well. If you are new to brewing, that can also push you away from using grains. In the end, you will have your beer, enjoy your beer, and make sure you saved what you did to make again. 

Now for extract brewing, there are fewer steps involved. Instead of being overwhelmed by all the grains available, you just have to go down a different aisle at the store to find them. They are labeled very simply as the beer you are trying to make (lager extract, ale extract, and so forth) and the only choice is either a dry version (DME) or liquid version (LME). It doesn’t really matter which type you pick. LME is like a syrup so it can make things very sticky, but easier to pour into your pot with the steam and heat while the DME is a powder that is easier to clean but the steam makes it harder to pour in what you want. Speaking of pouring, that is all you need to do. No extra tools and anything extra steps. Once you have your temperature in the pot, you pour in what you need and stir. For a new brewer, that makes the job easier. And, like the grains, in the end, you will have your beer, enjoy your beer, and make sure you saved what you did to make it again. 

Now some say that only the purest of beers are all grain and that extracts will taint the beers. Some say that it is still beer that I enjoy so I will stick with extracts. Do you need to do an all grain brew if you want to share or even enter into a competition? Not really. When I first started brewing, I knew the owners of a local brewery near me at the time. I asked the very same question. And the answer given…not a lot of people can tell the difference. I now compare it to gin. To most people, gin tastes like a pine tree. You could line up different brands of different cost and in a blind tasting, most drinkers won’t know the difference. The person that will know the difference are those that have been drinking gin for most of their lives. They are the connoisseurs of gin and can tell you everything about each bottle. They have their favorite and if that isn’t used in the gin martini, they will know it. The same can be said for this. Yes, you will get someone that can tell, but most times, especially when drinking yourself or with friends, it won’t matter as long as it came out to what you wanted it to be. 

Now it is time for the trick. I say trick, but really it is a kinda obvious step to make. But what you can do is a mix of both. This is how I brew. You get a few main grains to steep in your pot, but you will also use some extract as well. Again, will people know the difference? Probably not, but it is a nice middle ground if you want to eventually do an all grain after some practice. In the end, it doesn’t matter. I know homebrewers that do all extract and I know people that do an all grain brew as well. There are no turf wars over this. And in the end you brew you. 

I hope you enjoyed the read! If you have any thoughts or anything about this topic please let me know. I love learning more myself. All brewing is welcomed here. Cheers!

New Toys

Happy New Year Everyone and welcome back to what we hope will be a better year. To start that train, or get back on it, I am going to share with you a few new toys I got for my homebrew set up.  Some are basic and you would think not that cool, but to me they are.  Let’s dive in!

The first is a very simple thing but something that I needed to get for a long time.  It is a big ole graduated cylinder!  That’s right, nothing exciting at all to start us off.  But I went full science here.  It is a 500ml cylinder that is all glass.  I am excited when my brother-in-law comes over to record next to show that off to him because he works with that kind of stuff all the time.  With this, I have a much better vessel to use to check my original gravity (OG) and final gravity (FG).  As you all may know, that is the one weird thing I don’t do with my beer, and now I have no excuse. 

Next I got something I have never used before and will need to try out and test so I don’t hurt myself.  My brother and sister in law got me two things that do the same.  If you listen to the podcasts Mike said in crafting a recipe and in a typical brew day, that he does close transfers with kegs and never having his beer touch the air (keeps it sanitary).  Will I not only have the connector to do keg to keg (I think this is from my Grandfather) but I also can go from a carboy to a keg now.  This can be tricky as you can’t use too much pressure since the carboy can’t handle it, so I will need to be safe.  

The next thing is a very fancy gadget I got from Plaato that my amazing wife got me.  If you read my Tools of the Trade blog a while back, you would remember the bubbler they have that will check your temperature, determine the number of bubbles in a minute, and then estimate your FG and with that your ABV.  I usually don’t brew in the winter here in Michigan due to the cold, but I had to make a mead to test this baby.  I started it last week and I know the estimated ABV is almost 30% (Needed adjustments but you can do that in the app).  I am still going to test the FG (because I have my amazing graduated cylinder) to make sure it is close but this thing is so cool.

The final thing I got was a new tap handle.  Doesn’t sound like much, but it was handcrafted by Richard L. Smith here in Michigan as the brand on the back says.  My father-in-law made this himself.  It has my Wise Old Owls logo and a spot with chalkboard paint so I can write in what is on tap.  This is a one of a kind thing that I will hold as long as I can.  

I did buy myself a new five gallon keg to help with everything doing the closed transfers but that is something for myself.  We all need to get those sometimes.  I hope you all had a great holiday and share what new toys and gadgets you got for homebrewing.  Cheers!

Go To Beers

Hello and welcome back to Hop, Brew, and Blog. Today we are diving into opinions here and I want everyone to give me your opinion on this topic…your go to beers. This is about your own choice of beers and I know everyone is different here. This isn’t about beer you like or beers you want to try, it is your deserted island beer. You can have any beer and that is the only beer you will drink, what will it be? I will tell you mine, I have three of them myself. 

My first one is Negro Modelo. This beer is my number one go to beer of choice. This is from the same Mexican brewery that makes Modelo Especial, that is a light beer, but Negro Modelo is the better beer by far. This beer is a lager that has a darker color to it. The brewing makes such a different beer that I want to brew a clone of it some day myself. People may say, “if you go Mexican beer, go Corona or Dos XX” and I say no! Negro Modelo has far more flavor to it and just as drinkable as any other light beer, and doesn’t need a lime to make it drinkable. 

My next choice is Guinness. This is the staple of stouts and is the best overall in my opinion. You get plenty of flavor and still have a smooth creamy beer that goes down easy (all what she said, I know). This was my first beer too and when I ordered it at bars with friends and family for the first time, people always said “oh you going to eat your beer since it is so thick” and my response is to have three of them and still be soberish and not full. This beer is not filling at all. They do chugging contests in Ireland with this beer that I wish to one day participate in. There is no crazy abstract flavor, just a creamy flavorful and easy drinking beer. 

My last one is tough to choose, but I am going to say it is Two Hearted from Bell’s brewing. This is not only the gateway IPA for most, but is still an easy drinking beer no matter the season. The IBUs are not too high but you still taste the Centennial hops that are used here that are grown in the UP (Upper Peninsula for those not from the Midwest). This beer has changed many friends and family members to change their thoughts on IPAs, and mess them up too since it is 6.7% ABV. This was tough because there were a couple others that were right there including Pabst Blue Ribbon, Founder’s All Day IPA, and Bell’s Oberon. But, there are seasonal issues with some of these and I already have a lager on this list. You want an easy drinking that will most likely lead you to more IPAs. 

Tell me what your go to beers are! Love to hear what you all choose. Leave your comments below. Cheers!

Fall Beers

Hello and welcome to the end of fall (depending on where you are, as Michigan starts winter on and off starting in October).  With it the end of my favorite season, I wanted to talk about the beers that come out during this time.  We know the obvious one with pumpkin beers that come with all the other pumpkin spice beverages that start in August, but there are others and those that start the transition from summer to winter. Let’s dive in!

Let’s get the obvious out of the way with pumpkin. So many breweries make their own version now and though a lot taste the same, there are some that stick out. One that is very different is from Sam Adams called Jack-O where it is actually called a pumpkin spice shady! Yes, a shandy in the fall. It is a very sweet beer and not like the others out there. Others out there all do a typical pumpkin beer and there are many to choose from that are not nearly as sweet (or bad) as Jack-O and some are actually good out there Including Dogfish Head Punkin Ale (great beer and great story on how they started it). But there are too many to really dive into that would just make this blog too long on just pumpkin beers alone…I can’t do that because there are so many other better beers for the fall. If you want to hear more about pumpkin beers, check out this Brewthers-In-Law podcast where we try six different pumpkin beers. 

The next style is one of the best and has become very easy to find than it was in the past…Oktoberfest! This beer is the pinnacle of fall and is so good and refreshing. The style picked up steam here in the US with Sam Adams starting it about a decade ago and they made bank from it. Since then, a lot of other breweries, mostly microbreweries, have started making their own. In the Midwest area, at least a dozen are doing it and all doing a great job with it. But Sam Adams, making up for Jack-O (sorry, not sorry), does a great job and is easy to find nationwide.

The next are your red ales. As we talked a month or two ago, there are three of them, but all fit into that fall feel. Whether you like the Flander Red with a sour taste, or a basic Irish Red, they are great to sip on while the leaves themselves turn red. An easy find would be Killians Red but this style, in any of the three ways, are easy to find by your big breweries or your microbreweries. 

The last style I will talk about is your swing style that leads you to winter and colder times. Stouts and porters. Check out the slightly unseasonal blog I wrote on it back in summer. I know you all know the main guy on campus with Guinness but there are so many out there that this post, the previous blog and a possible podcast by (you guessed it) Breather-In-Law can’t cover them all. Try an off the wall flavor of either style too because someone did it. 

Those are your fall beers! Let me know if there are others you like and any specifics of the ones I mentioned too. Don’t forget (I know) to check out Brewthers-In-Law Podcast and of course…Cheers!

Tools of the Trade

Welcome back to Hop, Brew, and Blog.  Sorry it has been awhile since my last post but I have started a podcast with my brother-in-law called Brewthers-In-Law.  As the moment of release, the very first episode is out to listen to.  For today though, we are going to step back to some basics of brewing.  Mainly, what tools you need to have in order to brew.  I will talk about some basics you will need but also some cool things that I have that helps the process or wish I had.  I will leave some links at the end to find them throughout different sites and of course, you can find your local homebrew stores near you.  

It is brew day and you have all your ingredients and now you need your tools of the trade (This is where Peter Griffin points at the screen when the title is in the story).  Let’s start with basic brewing with either using either extracts 100% or only partially.  Here you will need three major things:  a large pot, thermometer, some brew bags (for partial grains), and a large spoon.  The first thing is your pot.  I recommend at least a five gallon pot and made of stainless steel.  Bayou Classic makes a great pot that is made for deep frying, but works perfectly here to brew with.  They also have thermometers that can be used as well (though they are not digital).  With that segway, thermometers are important here as you need to be at a certain temperature for boil, prior to the boil with grains, and when you are cooling as well.  I have had a couple of wireless, handheld, digital thermometers and they have all died on me.  I currently have a basic thermometer from Bayou Classic that so far still works after a few brews.  I would like to have something bluetooth that would help that I don’t have to stand and watch and has a digital feed to get a more accurate temperature, but two have kicked the bucket on me so far.  The next thing is the grain bag.  These are simply nylon bags that can hold the crushed grains or hops without getting them into the beer.  These can easily be purchased at any brew store near you or online.  These are also cheap so you can buy a lot at once.  You can upgrade to a cheese cloth as well.  These are pricier, but are reusable.  I have one that I use, but I have plenty of the cheap ones.  The next is a spoon.  This is simple as a wooden spoon or metal and can be found almost anywhere as you can also go to cooking stores or any other store with cooking items.  

Now if you want to do all grain, you will need just a couple more things.  The main one is an outdoor gas burner.  If you have the space and a gas stove (space is the hard part) you can do all grain inside, but you use a lot of grains and need a system to work that and from those that I know that do all grain, it is heavy (especially when wet) and can be messier too.  The next one is a mash tun and two kettles.  This makes a full grain pricery, but I know those that do it and love it to have a pure brew.   

Now after the boil, you need to cool your wort.  Here, you need to really have one tool and that is your cooler.  This can range from a ton full of ice water or an actual cooler made of copper pipes to run water with.  This is all you need really that is new and can easily be made if you want to save money.  You will need your thermometer here and this is when a wireless one comes in handy.  

Now you need to move to fermentation.  This is where you can get cool gadgets, but I will start with the basics.  First, you need your carboy and siphon.  Carboys can be simple buckets, or can be an actual carboy that can be plastic or glass.  Siphons are basic and nothing fancy to them.  Then the gadgets start to come out.  The next item is the bubbler (that’s what I call them, you might call it something different).  You can buy very basic ones that you pour sanitized water or vodka and plug the top.  As for your upgrades, there are two fun ones here that I do not have, but hoping for christmas gifts. The first is a device that you drop into the carboy with the beer and via bluetooth, can check the temperature, your gravity readings, and many other things.  If not that, there is something that you replace the bubbler with that goes in it spot to read the gravity levels as well.  If you are like me, and forget to get your gravity readings (yeah, I know…don’t judge), you can get your large graduated cylinder and your hydrometer, and get your original gravity reading.  For those that don’t know, test gravity levels (original and final) helps you check your percentage of alcohol the beer has.  

Those are your tools!  If you shop local, most homebrew shops will have these or can order them for you.  The upgrades might be harder to find this way, but first make sure to shop local and check them first.  Now for those that shop online, some of the larger stores are online and have a decent selection.  You can also browse Amazon to find different tools there too for basic tools.  Hope this helps to find what you need and make sure to find some cool gadgets as well online.  If you have any cool things, please share them!  I love to find new things that can make brewing easier.   And check the links below to sites that you can buy your equipment.  And again, make sure to check out the new podcast by visiting www.brewthersinlaw.com or looking up Brewthers-In-Law where you listen to podcast.

Main Kit

Five Gallon Pot

Fun Gadgets

Online Stores


Irish Red vs American Red vs Other Red Beers

Ever wondered the differences between beers?  Lager vs Kolsch or Whit vs Wheat?  Well we are going to figure that out for the red beers.  Most know Killian’s Irish Red and the red beer we all know, but there are other red beers out there.  There is the American Red and the Flanders Red.  They are all red in color, but are all very different beers. So let’s see what makes them all different 

The first style is the Irish Red.  Like I said before, this is the Killian’s of the red beers.  Most Irish reds have that red (you don’t say) color and a wonderful malt flavor.  To make a red, you generally use malts that are roasted or kilned and added with barley that is also roasted.  The hops are mild to make the bitterness levels very low.  Hops can include kent golding, fuggle, and are generally added in the beginning.  These hops are very low in the acidity level (check out HOPS BLOG to see what that means) and keeps that bitterness low even when put in at the beginning.  With all of those roasted grains, this gives it a caramel flavor and sometimes an almost buttery flavor.  Some people even consider Irish reds to be like drinking buttered toast.  Beers around the country that fall in this style of beer include Three Floyds Brian Boru, Sam Adams Irish Red, Dragonmead Erik the Red, and many others both here in the US or across the pond.

The next style of red is the American Red.  This style would look exactly the same with the color, but can have a very different flavor.  Americans have more love for hops, so american reds have more hoppy flavor to them.  These hops are grown here in the US and include Cascade, Centennial, Columbus, Simcoe, and Amarillo.  As for the rest of the parts, these are very similar beers.  Though popular, this beer style doesn’t get a lot of love and is usually placed in the same category with American Ambers, and even back in 2012, was only considered a hybrid beer at the time.  Beers that fall in this style are New Holland Fat Tire, Lagunitas Censored, and Ballistic California Amber.

The third style is the Flanders Red.  This beer is the exact opposite of the previous two.  The only thing this beer has in common with the others is the red.  The malts are red to give the color, but the hops are minimal and this beer is instead a sour beer.  This is actually closer to a wine than a beer with the flavor. Flavor could include sherry, different fruits, and possibly some tannin.  Some of these reds are barrel aged as well.  If you are looking for a usual red beer, i would not recommend this beer for you.  Beers include Jolly Pumpkin La Roja and Lost Abbey Red Poppy.

Not all red or amber beers are the same.  Make sure you are looking for what you want, but also try something new.  You never know what you will like.  If you have other red beers that you have made or found, make sure to share them below and as always, cheers!

Great Deku Mead

Welcome back everyone. I am glad you have all enjoyed the blogs so far. In this one, we are going to dive into one of my favorite meads (and hated by my wife) the Great Deku Mead. As you may know from the previous blogs, this one exploded on me making a wonderful mess and a ban from brewing by my wife until “we have a basement” and now we have one I always make to have in stock. 

As we talked before, mead is very simple to make and I recommend trying it out, just be patient and don’t be greedy. When making mead I would only do a gallon batch. You don’t want five gallons of something super strong and not that great (unless you are in college and want a good time….been there, done that). The other issue if you do a bigger batch is cost. Honey is not that cheap and you will need a lot for a gallon alone. So take it easy and do a gallon. 

For your ingredients, you need to start with your water and honey. Get the water going to just under a boil and then add your honey. In a gallon batch, I use about two pounds (yeah now multiply that by five to know how much you need for a bigger batch). Stir it in and help it dissolve and get it back to just under the boiling point again. Once there, chill it back down to about seventy degrees and then move it to your carboy. Add your yeast and let the science work. For yeast, I use a dry wine yeast to get what I want, but, to tell the truth, I haven’t experimented a lot with the yeast in my meads. 

After two weeks, it is time for the rerack. Here you are going to need the next round of ingredients of fig and elderberries. Figs can be found pretty easily, but the elderberries I order online. In a blender or food processor, add those two together and pour the mixture into your reracked mead. I feel like I haven’t said this enough, don’t be greedy with how much mead you get out. Try to leave as much yeast as possible when you rerack. 

After about another week or two, it is time to rerack again to get the fig and elderberry mixture out. I usually let it sit another week before I bottle it. I like to make sure I have no yeast leftover. I bottle into empty fifth bottles that I have collected as long as there is a cork top (I drink a lot of scotch so I get a lot of them). After bottling them, I will check them every so often to make sure there isn’t any pressure building up (I’m gun shy, don’t judge). Then it is the waiting game. They say the longer the better, but they also say at least six months and then enjoy it. It does get better with the passing time as my brother in-law will attest to. 

And that is the Great Deku Mead. If you are wondering why I picked that name, we can’t be friends….just kidding….but really. One of my favorite video game series of all time, The Legend of Zelda. I also have a beer named after it too. I even blog about that at Another Zelda Podcast. Hope you give it a try and do give it the proper time to age. If you have any comments or questions, please leave them below. I will continue to give out recipes I have so everyone can enjoy and I apologize as there is no actual recipe to use when you attempt this…I got to keep some things to myself. Cheer!

How to Make a Recipe

Welcome back to another day in Hop, Brew, and Blog!  Today, we are going to be talking about making a recipe.  I will be giving tips on how to make a recipe from scratch or even just using another recipe as a base. Let’s dive in. 

Since I started brewing, I have made about a half dozen recipes and have successfully made half of them and two that will need adjustments. I have made my IPB Session IPA with Tangerine, Short and Stout Breakfast Tea Stout, and The Dude Coffee Ale successfully, but, I had issues with my All Damn Day Cucumber Kolsch, and Irish Complexion Red Cream Hybrid Ale. I have also just brewed my first New England IPA called the Hazy Triforce NEIPA that turned out to be a great success. Of these six, I used other recipes as a base for four of them and then the other two are completely made from scratch. Now I am not going to give away my recipes here (maybe in a different blog…just means you need to keep reading!) but I will go into making something new or just adding more to an established recipe from somewhere else. 

The first will be adding to a recipe. You may notice as you get into recipe-making, when it comes to interesting combinations of ingredients… chances are, someone has already done it. There are so many breweries and homebrewers out there now, it is like you are Butters in Southpark trying to come up with a plan and your sidekick just keeps saying, “Simpsons did it!”  But it is easier to tweak a recipe than tweak an evil plan. The easiest way to adjust is to change your hops. A lot can happen with changing the hops or changing your hop schedule. With IPAs especially you can take a double IPA and change the hops around to make it more like an easy-drinking session IPA. You can also adjust your malts and grains and even change the yeast you use, but these can have a huge effect on your beer as they are the base of all your beers. Use caution, but try something new in a smaller batch. 

The next easy way to change is the dreaded (to some) fifth ingredient. Doesn’t matter if you are doing a stout or lager, you can add something in the secondary rack to change the flavor. Look at Bud Light…you now have lime and orange. You can do the same to a recipe. Have a porter you like that has chocolate in it already? Try adding coconut or coffee. Have a lager you love? Try lemongrass or cucumber to give a more refreshing taste (my opinion). 

The next thing is to be bold and do something completely from scratch. Again the  “Simpsons did it” mentality is here too but you can always find something no one has tried. Like I said, I managed to make two that I did not see any record on the internet (the internet is always right, right?) but so far, only one has worked. The easiest way is to see what is out there for a style and try to find a different route. The other is to experiment. Using small batches, try and combine different beers. Think anyone has done an IPA lager? (IPL? Might be done but you never know). The best thing to do is to think outside the box and try it out. You never know what something will be like unless you try it. If it fails, make adjustments. 

Now, if this isn’t something you want to try, there is nothing wrong with that. I know homebrewers that simply stick with kits or clones because they know what they like and stick with it. That is the brewing world, you make what you want to drink and that’s it. 

I hope you enjoyed the read. When I first started brewing, I did a lot of kits and clones and then I made my first adjustment to a kit for an IPA and I came up with the IPB…my very first creation. I didn’t do much, just added to the secondary of a session IPA, but I love it and try to make it every year. Make sure to leave comments below and voice your thoughts. Cheers!


Hello and welcome back! Seems you like this since you made it this far so thanks for reading so far!  Today we are going to switch gears to a different brewing that I actually love to do. It is very simple, but one must have patience. We are going to talk about brewing mead. So grab your drinking horn and braid your beard because here we go. 

Now don’t sigh and roll your eyes, but a quick lesson on mead. Mead is a honey wine. That’s right wine but you brew very similar to beer. Mead has a history back to the Viking ages and was said to be the nectar of the gods. That right you are on Thor’s and Odin’s level now. Back then it was very basic compared to what we have going on now so it was easy to make and easy to store and easy to get drunk, best for a Viking while on a boat adventuring and such. 

As I said, mead is simple and supplies are just as simple. Let’s start with ingredients. All you need is water, honey, yeast, and that’s it. For a basic mead that is all you need. Now you can dive in deep to add things, but we will go over that later. To make mead I recommend small batches of a gallon. It will generally yield you a few bottles worth (and when I say bottles I mean fifths or wine bottles) and that is plenty. Get your water to temp and then add the honey to it (called must with mead) and then let it warm and dissolve the honey in the hot water. Once you have that, you will need to cool it and then move to your carboy and pitch the yeast (better to use a dry wine yeast here). Then you let it sit for a week. After the week, rerack to get all the yeast out (as I told you in the Whoops blog) and let sit for another week. After that you can bottle it and let it sit. The longer it ages, the better but most say to wait at least six months. 

Now there are many ways you can change your mead flavor. So far, I have done:




Pumpkin Spice

Elderberry Fig

Green Tea

But there are so many other options out there. The best is fruit combinations. The sweetness works very well with more sweet fruit. You can do what is called a Metheglin where you add spices to it (I have not done this yet myself but had some and it is good). You can change out water for apple cider as well (if you have found it, that is what Zombie Killer is from B. Nectar they add cherry to it as well). The options are only held back by your imagination. Think of anything that goes well with honey in it. Or even something just crazy enough to work. 

So I told you all the funny story with the Great Deku Mead, but there is another.  I have a couple when making mead because I made the mistake of not getting all the yeast out multiple times, and as we know, when you make that mistake you have the possibility of explosions. The first one was the Great Deku Mead in the carpet, but the next one involved the pumpkin spice mead. I had a giara glass that had a stopper attached, and when I opened the full one liter bottle in the kitchen, it exploded like Mt Wannahockaloogie leaving most on the walls, ceiling, cabinets, floor, and me covered in mead and barely any left in the bottle. I was very sad, because A.  I wanted some because it was actually very good, and B.  It happened in front of my parents-in-law.  So, learn from me, get out as much yeast as possible and check your bottles for gas build up once you bottle them. 

I hope you enjoyed it and even got a good laugh at the end. Again leave your thoughts down below. You can talk about mead recipes that you have done and if you have more questions, I will be glad to answer them. You can also reach me on Twitter @rambokuhn.  Cheers!

Lawn Mower Beer

Welcome to the summer edition of this blog.  And with the sun up, that means we got to stay hydrated.  So today we are going to talk about lawn mower beers. And I know that some of you will read that and be like, “Gross, that stuff?  What are we, back in college?”  And there are some that have no idea what that is.  Lawn mower beers are the cheap beers, and though they don’t have a lot of flavor, they hydrate better than say, an IPA or stout.  So, let’s talk about cheap beers…what makes them more hydrating, the dismay some may have to them, and some of my go-to favorites.

The first thing is what makes them what they are.  The main version of them are the American Lagers.  We all know these…Bud Light, The Highlife, and Miller Lite.  There are also those in Canada like Labatt and Molson.  The reason these were made was for lack of ingredients.  Germans that immigrated to the area brought pale lagers with them, but couldn’t make it the same since they lacked the correct two-row barley from Europe and the Tettnanger and Saaz Hops.  And as we know from the Hop Blog those are Noble Hops that can’t be grown in North America.  Another change was adding corn to the mash to help balance the flavors from the different barley and hops.  They were able to get close to it, but to get the beers that we know now, it would be when we get to World War II.  

During WWII, they were forced to ration grain, and were forced to use rice.  As for hops, many used American grown hops including Cascade and Cluster.  So, we are no longer making a clone of European Lager…we have added corn and used different barley, different hops, and then added rice later on.  By their powers combined, we have the current forms of the American Lager.  Though there were tough times with Prohibition, most breweries managed to survive (Canada lost quite a few, but the big ones made it), the recipes continued for the most part.  Due to the lack of strong flavors like an IPA or Porter would have, this beer becomes light (or lite) with less grain and hops that give a slight bitterness when added at the beginning of the boil.  This makes it a quantity beer that you can drink a lot of, and not a quality beer that has a great flavor profile.

Let’s talk about our past college lives.  We have all been there, and some of us are there now.  Poor college kid that needs a drink, what can we do?  We found ourselves looking at a “dirty thirty” (kids, if you are reading this, stop, but if you didn’t listen to me just there… ask your parents).  We do mostly grow out of only buying the thirty packs, but there are some that stay with the lagers, and there is nothing wrong with that.  My late uncle Norm lived by only drinking Labatt Light.  He had no qualm with other beers, I even bought him an IPA called Norm’s Raggedy Ass and he enjoyed them, he just grew up with Labatt Lights and he stuck with what he knew.  My big brother from my fraternity also loves him some Busch Light and even comes down from Canada to get thirty packs in the US that they do not sell in Canada.  Myself, I do prefer flavor in my beer, but there are plenty of times I will reach into my beer fridge and pull out a Budweiser.  And to all of those that only say “gross” you know, deep down, that there is a special place in your heart for a cheap beer that you don’t want to admit.  It’s ok, there is no shame here, drink what you like no matter what it is, just accept it and own it.  In one sitting I will pour me a glass of the coffee ale I made and then get me a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Now let’s talk about what is out there.  We all know about the major ones like Budweiser, Bud Light, Miller Lite, Labatt, and Labatt Light.  Regionally, there are many others from slightly smaller breweries from Atwater to Yuengling.  There are classics as well that could be hard to find like Strohs or Red Dog.  It is fun to look out there and see what is made (as it is with all beer style) and even some microbreweries are considering making their version of the American Lager.  But if I had to make a choice on an American Lager, I would choose between Pabst Blue Ribbon or Budweiser.  I don’t mind others, but there are those out there that do not like either.  What are your lawn mower beers or choice?  Leave a comment here or reach out on Twitter @rambokuhn or look for Wise Old Owls Brewery on Facebook.  Cheers!

Stout vs Porter

Hello and welcome back to today’s blog. We are going to compare similar beers and try to find the differences in them. I will do this a couple more times as there are beers that some think are pretty much the same. Some can’t tell the difference between a lager or a kolsch or a pale ale and a India pale ale. Right now, we are going to talk about a porter vs a stout. We will dive into what they are as beers (hop profile, usual malts/grains) and then see what we can find as differences. I know a lot of people that love both, and I know some that like one and not the other (I honestly fall in the latter).

Let’s start with the stout (mainly because I love them more). A stout is a dark beer (duh) that has hops with a lower alpha acid level (fuggle is a usual choice) and has malt and grains that can have a chocolate or coffee flavor to them. Most leave as is but you can also add more to the chocolate or coffee flavor or add other flavors including, maple syrup, oatmeal, bananas, milkshake, blueberry pancakes, and so many more. The most commonly known stout is Guinness (it is known) but a lot of microbreweries have made new ones that have made my imagination implode. 

Now with porters, you may guess that it is also a darker beer as well. Hops are also the same with a lesser percentage of alpha acids and with dark malts and grains. Flavors are also added to it like honey, vanilla, bourbon, Neapolitan (yes it was chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry) and chocolate (sounds familiar, I know). Porters were made back in the 18th century and were very popular with (get this) porters on Thames River as it was a stronger beer. Porters have had their ups and downs with popularity, but have become popular in microbreweries as well. 

So what’s the difference? Well it first comes down to which came first and in this case the porter was first and the stout came from porters. A stout is just a stronger porter and was originally called “extra porter” or “stout porter” and was then just shortened to be called stouts. Even Guinness was first called “extra superior porter”.  Porters are usually 6% while stouts can get into the 7% or 8% ABV. So why do some like one and not the other. I had to ask myself this and my answer was simple but not right…I always had a soft spot for Guinness and the creamy light stout is so good (no, they did not sponsor) and porters, when I first started drinking, were not on that level. Now this was prior to my own microbrewery renaissance, so maybe I should give them more of a chance, and I might after trying that Neapolitan porter (it was so weird but really good). And both become better when they are nitronized giving the flavors more of a boost. 

Which do you prefer? Do you even like stouts or porters? After hearing of all the flavors out there, are you willing to give them a try? I know people have preferences, but all beer is good when you give them a chance. Leave a comment below on how you feel about these two styles and we will discuss more next time. Cheers!