A Recipe for Trying Hops

KISS Me

This recipe was named after the KISS principle: “Keep It Simple, Sillyhead”. I’ve used it to test out a variety of hops, most recently Medusa.

The recipe produces a nice, light-colored, low-alcohol beer that tastes delicious and gives you a good baseline for comparing hop flavors and aromas. This produces a 5 gallon batch, of approximately 1.040 gravity.

Malt Bill

9 Pounds Weyermann Pilsner

1 Pound Crystal 15

Hop Schedule

0.5 Ounce at 60 minutes

0.5 Ounce at 30 minutes

0.5 Ounce at 15 minutes

0.5 Ounce at 0 minutes

Ferment with your favorite neutral ale yeast.

Pilsner malt may seem like an odd choice, but I like the toasted bread flavor it contributes and slightly more body than plain 2-row. I also find the light crystal malt adds a hint of sweetness without contributing lots of color or strong caramel flavors.

By sticking with what may be considered an old-school hop schedule, I get to see the range of bitterness, flavor, and aroma the hops contribute. Also, by using a set weight of hops, you could brew multiple batches and see how differences in alpha acids affect the flavors and aromas in your beer.

Not Just for Hops

I have also used this recipe as a base for experimenting with different yeasts. I’m particularly fond of a batch made with all cascade hops and fermented with Kveik Hornindal at 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you want to experiment with ingredients, find a good base recipe you can get familiar with, adapt it to your tastes, and then try stuff out. Learning can be both fun and delicious!

#BrewUpAnAdventure

New Keg Prices are Weird

When I was setting up my kegerator, and looking to add kegs, I remember being confused on why different sizes of new kegs were basically the same price.

Looking at the current prices in December, 2020, Adventures in Homebrewing has 5 gallon, 2.5 gallon, and 1.75 gallon, brand new, ball lock kegs for the same price: $75 (on sale). They also have new 3 gallon kegs for $69, which is weird since the regular price for all 4 sizes is $119.

My Flawed Logic

When I was first getting kegs, I was confused why kegs that were half the size weren’t half the price. Or at least, like 60% of the price.

My assumption was that since they’re so much smaller, there should be a significant price difference.

What’s the Deal?!

I was talking to someone about a different product that this person helped make. But they were talking about how difficult it was to explain why their shirts cost the same amount of money, regardless of size.

They went on to explain that the cost of the material is the smallest part of the cost of producing the shirt. The main expense is the labor needed to precisely cut the pieces, then carefully arrange and sew the pieces together.

This made me realize that the extra 6 inches of a sheet of stainless steel is not the expensive part of producing kegs. The expensive parts are producing the precisely machined holes and threads where the posts and lid attach; making sure the bottom of the keg is shaped correctly so the low spot is where the dip tube lines up; and producing clean, sanitary welds along the seams between the top and bottom of the keg and the sides.

The small amount of extra stainless steel and the extra couple inches of welding along the side don’t cost much more for a 5 gallon keg versus a 1.75 gallon keg.

Buy What You Need

I guess this is a long explanation focusing on the fact that if you want small kegs because you’re splitting batches, or just because that’s the size batch you make, don’t overthink it. Buy the size you need.

Sometimes, I get too focused on getting the best bang for my buck and end up getting something that doesn’t really solve the problem I’m trying to solve. Don’t do that, get the best tool for the job you’re doing.

#BrewUpAnAdventure

Considering Yeast for Hard Seltzer

Use What You Like

OK, use what you like may not be the best advice. Better advice would be to use what the consumer of your seltzer likes. It makes a difference.

Some general guidelines, though, are that you will want to use a yeast strain that is known for a fairly neutral flavor profile. In the photo below, both strains below are known for being fairly neutral. These strains are commonly used in meads and fruit wines, where you would not want yeast character to overpower the more subtle characters of the musts.

When I’ve made hard apple cider in the past, I learned quite a bit about my wife’s preferences. Yeasts considered neutral, like US-05, produced enough esters that my wife did not enjoy those ciders. She preferred the ciders I made by fermenting them with champagne yeast.

I agree that the end product tasted more like apples when fermented with the champagne yeast. However, as a beer lover, I did enjoy the extra esters from the ale yeasts.

What’s the Goal?

In my opinion, the goal of making a hard seltzer is to make a base for other flavors to be added to. My wife’s preference for champagne yeast does seem like the logical route to me.

By producing a seltzer with minimal character, it gives you the flexibility to select your desired flavor without interference from the fermentation character. There are a few things that will help you reach that goal.

Sanitization

It is critical that everything you use to make your hard seltzer is properly cleaned and sanitized. Since your goal is a neutral background for your selected flavor, you do not want a wild yeast, bacteria, or flavors from your last batch of beer to corrupt your seltzer.

You’ll also want to make sure you boil the sugar and water to eliminated any risk of contamination.

Healthy Yeast

You’ll want to give your yeast the best chance for producing a neutral product. Given that most recommendations for hard seltzer recommend using a neutral-flavored sugar, you will need to add the proper amount of yeast nutrient for your batch.

Proper Fermentation

Keep your yeast from throwing off-flavors that can be produced if the yeast gets stressed.

You’ll want to make sure the fermentation temperature is stable and in the recommended range for that yeast. Too hot can produce fusel alcohols, which are not pleasant to drink, but too cold can stop the fermentation prematurely.

Even temperatures near the edges of the ideal range for your yeast can cause the yeast to produce more esters or phenols.

Making seltzer for friends and family who don’t like beer can be a great way to share your passion for brewing! Don’t be afraid to experiment and see what you and your group enjoy.

Let me know what works for you, or what doesn’t.

#BrewUpAnAdventure