Why We Died: Burial Beer Co Comes to Life.

January 11th, 2013 No comments

Wondering where the hell we went? 14 Months ago, the Beer Blotter team visited Asheville, North Carolina with a dream of starting a brewery. After spending a few days here – we knew it had to be. The plan to launch Burial Beer Co in Asheville in 2013 began.

So Jess, Doug, Tim (and our keg boy – Axel) have moved from Seattle and now anxiously await their Brewers Notice from the TTB. With a number of pilot batches under our belt and a cool little spot in Asheville’s South Slope, we are well on our way to giving the public a new brewery.

If you never got to have our beer, Burial focuses on Belgian classics, German standards, West Coast ales and other flavor bombs. We hope you can make the trip to visit Asheville and its roughly 15 breweries! Make sure to let us know if you are from the Seattle area – because we miss you all!

For now, please keep up with us at BurialBeer.com. Our blog is regularly updated, including this little ditty today from head brewer – and Lazy Boy Brewing and Sound Brewery alum – Tim Gormley.  You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Alright – off to find the best in local coffee for our Imperial Stout. We miss our Bedlam blend, almost as much as we miss the Beer Blotter. Seattle does have coffee on lockdown – and it knows a thing or two about beer as well. Onward.

The Homebrewer’s Brain – Nut Brown Ale

July 7th, 2012 No comments

Photo cred: ohsheglows.com

Note: if this is your first time reading The Homebrewer’s Brain, please check this articlefor a background on what we are doing here

In my opinion, most beer styles of English origin have been vastly improved by “new world” brewers (there are obvious exceptions).  By which I mean, ‘Merica is better.  It should be said that, in almost all cases, the English examples that I have sampled and am basing this opinion on are mass marketed beers by macro English breweries.  I’ve never been to England and there are very few, if any, English craft breweries that distribute to Western Washington.  I can only assume that the English craft breweries make much better products than those I’m used to seeing and drinking.  But, I still think it’s safe to say that Americanized versions are much less boring in comparison, mostly due to the types of hops that American brewers have available to them.  Old world hops are often much more subdued in alpha content and aromatics.  I also have a feeling that American brewers have a vaster array of yeast strains and specialty grains available to them but that is a wild assumption.

I get that a lot of English ales are designed to be what we now call in America “session beers”.  That’s all well and good.  I like sessionable beers just fine, but I like them to have flavor.  This is possible.  A near humorous example is the English style dubbed “mild”.  There it is, right in the name.  I don’t see how I could get excited about anything called a mild, beer or not.  Just so that I’m not completely bashing the Brits, I will say that they get a ton of respect from me for making it tradition to serve beers at a warmer temperature that what is considered standard in America.  It’s a scientific fact that ice cold beer numbs the taste buds.

So, I’ve decided to create a brown ale recipe.  This is, traditionally, a British style.  I guess, at this point, it goes without saying that I don’t want it to be like a traditional British brown.  I’m not trying to go high alcohol and I don’t even want it to be super hop forward, but I do want it to be robust and flavorful.  I want it to have a smooth mouthfeel and I want it to have a complex malt profile full of nut and biscuit notes.

According to a lot of recipes I’ve seen, the BJCP Style Guidelines, and the fantastic book Designing Great Beer by Ray Daniels, it’s pretty much standard that the majority of brown ales get their color from a variety of crystal malts and a small amount of chocolate malt.  I’m happy with that, but I don’t plan to stop there.  I want to go heavy on the biscuit/toasted malts and use a good portion of Munich.   I’m essentially going to make a pretty simplistic style not so simplistic.

I want to keep my base grains at or around 80% of the total mash to minimize astringency.  Of that I’ll use about 75% British Pale since it has a bit more color and malt flavor than American 2-row and 25% Munich.

For specialty grains I want to pretty much use every grain available to me that has any semblance of nuttiness.  This turns out to be victory, special roast, amber, and British brown.  Beyond that, I want to achieve a SRM between 20 and 30.  I’m fine with using chocolate to some degree, so I’ll go with the darkest chocolate malt I can find.  Since crystal malts are also used in a large majority of brown ale recipes, and I still need to get my color up, I’ll use some crystal rye and special b.  It worked out that, in order to fit all 7 (!) of these specialty grains into 20% of the entire grain bill I can do equal parts of each (which amounts to 4oz each) in a 5 gallon batch.

Another variation on brown ales that came to mind is honey brown.  I thought about putting some honey malt or actual honey into this beer, simply for added complexity, but that seemed too normal.  This beer is anything but normal so I decided to try agave nectar instead of honey.  As I mentioned before, I don’t want this beer to be extremely boozy, so I’m only going to add 8oz of agave at flame out.  This may not even come through in the flavor, considering the plethora of bold specialty grains, but I’ve wanted to try it in a recipe for a while now so…there it is.

Excluding the agave, I have a total of 10 pounds of grain in this recipe (5 gallon).  That will put my O.G. at 1.057.  I’ll be using Wyeast American Ale II for my yeast since it also contributes a nutty flavor.  American Ale II has 74% attenuation.  That, coupled with the specialty grains I’m using, should give me a final gravity around 1.015 which is about perfect in my opinion.  I’d be happy with anything between 1.012 and 1.016.  I’ll also plan to mash high – around 154/156 degrees.  Like I said, I want this beer to have some legitimate body and residual sweetness.  This will be a desert of a brown ale.  It might even resemble a lightly colored old ale in more ways than one.

This is a malt forward beer so the hops are almost not worth contemplating.  I’ve decided to use crystal leaf simply because I have a ton of them right now.  I’ll just do two additions of this 3.5% alpha hop and shoot for an IBU in the low 20s.  1.5 oz at 60 minutes and 1 oz at 10 minutes gives me 23.1 IBUs.  Done.



The Homebrewer’s Brain – A Comparison of 2-Row and 6-Row

June 2nd, 2012 No comments

Photo Credit: www.learnhowtomakebeer.com

It seems to me that a lot of homebrewers stay away from using 6-row barley as a base-malt, but the question is, do they know why? There seems to be a near ubiquitous lack of knowledge as to the attributes of 6-row. Yes, American 2-row, Maris Otter and Pilsner malts (all of the 2-row spec.) are much more commonly found base malts in the recipes that are available in books and online, but almost all of the American macro breweries are using 6-row. We can therefore assume that 6-row is the most common base malt used in America (based on volume). What do they know that we don’t?
I found an excellent article entitled A Comparison of North American Two-Row and Six-Row Malting Barley by Paul Schwarz and Richard Horsley online. It may not be the be-all and end-all article on the subject but I found it to be highly informative and I have based my findings here on the information presented in said article.
I should preface that history, as is so often the case in brewing, has played a large role in the traditional usage of 6-row vs. 2-row. In the early days of brewing in America, 6-row was likely used more often because it was planted with more regularity than 2-row. This is simply because it was better suited to flourish in the climate of the growing regions there. In these modern times, the evolution of the agricultural industry has changed that situation. In some cases, breweries may still use 6-row out of habit from those early days but it’s important to know that, as far as growing a brewing quality barley goes, of either type, you can now consider them on a level playing field.
As far as the name goes, it’s much simpler than you make think. All barley has what’s called a “spike”, or flower, at the end of the grassy stalk. These spikelets open upon maturity as to spread their seeds to reproduce. 2-row barley literally has 2 rows of seeds or kernels in their spikelets. 6-row has, you guessed it, 6 rows of kernels.
Here is some analytical data from A Comparison of North American Two-Row and Six-Row Malting Barley that will hopefully make more sense after completing this article.
Table II: Comparative Analytical Data*     Two-Row         Six-Row
Extract (% dry basis)                                               81.0                  79.0
Total protein (% dry basis)                                   11.5                   12.5
Soluble protein (% of the malt, dry basis)       5.0                      5.5
Soluble total protein (%)                                       43.5                   44.0
Diastatic power (�Lintner)                                  120                     160
a-amylase (dextrinizing units)                               50                       45
Wort viscosity (cP)                                                    1.5                       1.5
Wort ß-glucan (ppm)                                               110                       140
Wort color (�SRM)                                                   1.5                       1.5

*Typical two- and six-row malt quality parameters for barley produced in the United States. Malt quality data represent approximate averages. It must be remembered that considerable variation due to changes in growing conditions, barley quality, or malt processing can occur, even within the same cultivar. Malt quality data are based on the methodology of the American Society of Brewing Chemists.


Some key areas of interest:


Kernel Size and Uniformity – 2-row kernels are highly symmetrical and plumper than those of 6-row. The 2 kernels of 6-row barley that are closest to the stalk are similar to those of 2-row but the outer kernels are smaller and asymmetrical.

Effect on your brew – The plumpness of the kernels can be attributed to the extract yield but modern technology has rendered that factor nearly negligible with 6-row being just 1-2% lower than 2-row. Plumpness (and symmetry), however, play a major role in both the grinding of the grain and the laughter process. 2-row is therefore superior in this area, allowing for a more uniform grind that can have positive effects on brewhouse efficiency and ease of the sparge process.


Husk Content – 6-row, due to its thinner kernels, is thought to have a higher husk content than 2-row.

Effect on your brew – A higher husk content is advantageous in filtering and preventing stuck sparges during the laughtering process but can cause astringency and haze formation in high percentages.


Protein Levels – 6-row barley, generally, has a higher level of wort-soluble protein than 2-row.
Effect on your brew – A higher protein content leads to a lower starch content, which in turn reduces the level of malt extract in the grain. Therefore, 6-row yields slightly less fermentable sugars per pound. Proteins do, however, contribute to mouthfeel, head retention, color, flavor, and yeast metabolism. But, too much soluble protein can lead to too much color development during the boil, problems with filtration, poor clarity, and increased levels of DMS (cooked corn off-flavor). The protein levels in 6-row are in the “too much” category. These super high protein levels can be advantageous in some cases though, which I will get to after I discuss enzymes… because they are linked.


Malt Enzymes – Traditionally, 6-row barley had higher levels of a-amylase enzymes that convert starches to dextrins but modern 2-row has equal or even slightly higher levels of these enzymes. The major difference here is diastatic power (which has to do with ß-amylase enzymes). Diastatic power has to do with enzymes that break down complex carbohydrates in to sugars, or convert starches to fermentable maltose. High levels of protein and diastatic power are positively correlated and therefore 6-row is superior here.

Effect on your brew – A higher diastatic power will lead to faster and more flexible starch conversion during the mash. If you end up mashing at a higher temperature than you had planned, the use of a higher diastatic power grain, 6-row in this case, would allow for a more fermentable wort.
6-row’s superiority in increased soluble protein content and diastatic power is the key reason why it is used so heavily by macro breweries. These breweries, having a core business philosophy of reducing cost, use a lot of unmalted cereal adjuncts such as rice and corn (cheaper than malted barley). The proteins in rice and corn are mostly insoluble and like I said earlier, soluble proteins are important to yeast metabolism and therefore fermentation. So, with the use of 6-row, a brewer can get a good, healthy, fermentable wort from the use of up to 40% cereal adjuncts and save some money in the process.
Though rice and corn are not used often by homebrewers or even craft breweries, the advantages of using 6-row can still be seen with the use of other adjuncts that are used more commonly such as unmalted wheat, unmalted barley and various flaked grains such as oats. One could also supplement their 2-row with a small portion of 6-row to increase extraction, conversion time and fermentability.

The Homebrewer’s Brain – San Diego IPA

May 21st, 2012 1 comment

Photo credit: www.alibaba.com

Note: if this is your first time reading The Homebrewer’s Brain, please check this article for a background on what we are doing here.


I have been asked by a friend to brew a beer inspired by San Diego for an upcoming event.  I didn’t have to think for more than…hmmm…a half second about what style I’d brew.  In my opinion, San Diego is the epicenter of West Coast IPA country.  Between Stone, Port, Alpine, Coronado, Green Flash, Alesmith, Ballast Point, etc… there’s more world-class IPAs in that part of the country than anywhere else.  Something tells me that this won’t be an issue for the party planner.

So what makes a San Diego IPA a San Diego IPA?  Well, part of it just may be the water.  Since I can’t have San Diego water shipped up to me, or I guess I should say I refuse to go to such great lengths, I’ll dig a bit deeper into what sorts of hops and grains are typically used by the brewers of the area.

In referencing several texts available to me at Homebrew Heaven such as Brew Your Own Magazine and Clone Brews by Tess and Mark Szamatulski, I have come to surmise that my goals should be to use the following: American 2-row, crystal malts, something for body like cara-pils or flaked grain; hops such as Centennial, Amarillo, and Simcoe; American Ale yeast; and shoot for an original gravity of 1.070 and a final gravity of 1.012.  This should give me a final product with a nice light amber color, some sweet grainy balance, a ton of pungent citrus/pine hop flavor and aroma, a clean fermentation, and about 7% alcohol by volume.  This shouldn’t be too difficult.

I don’t see any reason to stray from using American 2-row as the base malt.  It’s probably the cheapest route possible as well, so there’s that.  For crystal malts I think I’m going to go light.  I generally prefer my IPAs to be on the lighter side of the spectrum color wise.  6 SRM is the lightest color acceptable for BJCP style guidelines so I’ll shoot for that.  If I can get the color I want with crystal 20 I’d be stoked.  I was also thinking about supplementing the base grain with some Vienna for added grain flavor, but since I need a little boost on my color I think I’ll use Caravienne.  For body I have decided to go with flaked rye.  This will supply me with some viscous gums and hopefully a dash of that wonderful rye spiciness that should complement the hopiness.

Since I’ll be extracting some unfermentables from the specialty grains, in order for me to have any hope in achieving the final gravity of 1.012, I’ll need to have above average attention from the yeast.  This fact leads me to making a huge starter and mashing at a temperature that is as low as possible but still converting the starches.  As always, I’ll make my starter with light DME and water at a ratio of 1 cup DME to every 4 cups of water.  In this case I’ll use 6 cups of water and 1 ½ cups DME and boil it directly in my 2000ml Erlenmeyer flask for 10 minutes.  I find that my dial thermometer with the 12” stem and holder clip is extremely convenient to use when chilling the starter.  It clips right on to the lip on the flask and allows for hands free, accurate measurement as the starter cools to about 70 degrees.  I’ll pitch Wyeast 1056 American Ale since it’s neutral and very popular for American style IPAs.

I’ll aim to mash at 148 degrees.  Lucky for me, my converted keg mash tun has a ½” NPT threaded thermometer with a 2” probe on it so it’s super easy to determine if I’m mashing at the temperature that I aim to.

Though Simcoe and Amarillo are often hard to find these days, I was able to stock up when they were available so I have enough to go heavy-handed with both in this IPA.  Centennial has been pretty consistently available but, for purposes of experimentation, I have chosen to abandon them and go with Galena.  This is a hop that I have never used before but have for a long time now wanted to try out.  It is most often used as a bittering hop but I’m going to spread it throughout the boil to see how it affects this IPA.  I’m also going to throw in some Summit, simply because it’s one of my favorites.

Wish me luck.

The Homebrewer’s Brain – Black Saison

May 11th, 2012 No comments

Logsdon Farmhouse logo - one of our favorites

Note: if this is your first time reading The Homebrewer’s Brain, please check this article for a background on what we are doing here.

I’m a really big fan of saisons and due to that fact I end up brewing them often. Sometimes, believe it or not, I brew what I want to drink.
I think part of my fandom, other than the obvious flavor factor, has to do with my great fascination with farmhouse breweries. I love the history of them – brewing beer for the farm workers to drink after a long, grueling day laboring in the fields. I am also enamored with the concept of growing ingredients on brewery property to be used in the beers brewed there. It’s exciting to me to have that much of a hand in what goes into the beer. I am working toward making this sort of lifestyle a reality for myself.
But, history notwithstanding, it’s the yeast and the yeast alone that makes a saison a saison. So I guess, more specifically, you could say that I love saison yeast. I think it’s so brilliant because it has a unique quality to it that makes it distinctly Belgian (or French) but it’s more subtle than your traditional abbey style yeast that’s often just packed with esters and phenols. Saisons are very distinctive. You know you’re having a saison the very moment you take a sip, no matter what the liquid looks like, but they’re never overpowering and always very drinkable and refreshing.
With that being said, it seems to make the most sense to start with a yeast and work backwards. I’m a Wyeast guy, so taking a look at what they have to offer reveals four options. Wyeast 3711 French Saison, Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison, Wyeast 3726 Farmhouse Ale (Private Collection, available seasonally), and Wyeast 3725 Bier De Garde (Private Collection, available seasonally). 3725 just so happens to be available as I’m writing this article (Apr-Jun 2012) and I’ve never used it before so I have chosen to give it a try. I have come to learn that it was cultured from Brasserie Fantome in Belgium, which makes insanely unique saisons, so I’m really excited to try it. Bier De Garde is, obviously, a different style from saison, but shares the “farmhouse” connotation so I’m not too concerned, especially since Wyeast suggests a fermentation temperature range of 70-84 degrees (which is very much unlike a traditional Bier De Garde which is lagered).
From here I’m going to develop the grain bill. I’ve decided that I want to make this saison black or dark brown in color, perhaps around 24 SRM. I’ve wanted to use Midnight Wheat to darken up a beer style that isn’t traditionally dark for a while now. I have heard that it imparts a great depth of color without lending a roasty character. I also want to put Rye in the beer to add to the traditional spicy flavor element found in many examples of the style (most often from yeast derived phenols). Because many saisons yeasts tend to produce an extremely dry (and therefore often thin) finish, I want to add a few grains that will impart some unfermentables to increase the mouthfeel . Since I now have Rye and Midnight Wheat I thought it would be fun to do Crystal Rye and White Wheat so that I have two different types of each grain. Admittedly, this concept is somewhat inspired by a black saison brewed by New Holland Brewing from Holland, MI.

Photo cred - guysdrinkingbeer.com/

I’ll use European Pilsner as a base and a half pound of rice hulls to prevent a stuck mash due to the extensive use of wheat and rye (both grains do not have a husk). My false bottom generally does a good job at filtering but one can never be too safe. I’ll go lightest on the Crystal Rye to minimize the caramel flavor and use just enough Midnight Wheat to gain my desired color. I’ll try to keep my base grain at about 70% of the grain bill, but I’m really not too concerned with astringency since wheat and rye are acceptable as base grains themselves.
I must admit that I was pretty stumped at first with regards to the hops in this recipe. I was unsure if the standard bitterness numbers for the style would stand up to the added malt complexity. I decided that there was no harm in attempting to contact Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal and picking his brain on the matter. His Existent Black Saison is definitely an inspiration for this beer. To my surprise, or maybe not, Brian responded to my query and suggested that I go with something in the 30-35 range but no higher. I heeded his advice with a bit of conservatism and chose to go with 28. I had some Hallertauer hops in the fridge that had to be used so I chose to pitch them in at 60 minutes for bittering. I also had some Sorachi Ace that I was holding onto for a saison. I have never brewed with the hop but I have sampled quite a few commercial brews that use it and I have always been very impressed. I chose to put some in at 20 and 5 minutes to get a good blend of flavor and aroma without over doing it.
I have made it habit to filter my water for the brew the day before and let it sit out so that the chlorine has time to dissipate. I think it has helped the flavor of my beer quite a bit. After all, water is the most substantial ingredient in beer. Another practice that I feel has been crucial to the success of my recent brews is doing a starter the night before and leaving it stirring on a stir plate the entire time to make sure it’s well oxygenated. To make sure that nothing unsavory gets into the starter I put a musting cap on the top of my Erlenmeyer flask with an air filter in place of the airlock. I currently have an oxygenation system on my wish list which would allow me to have more control of the oxygenation.
I think that about covers it. Let’s hope it turns out as good as I project it to be.