Coachman’s Double Andover Stout

AndoverDstoutWIn 1973 an American with a taste for good beer and little money to buy expensive imports had few options. There were some widely scattered retail shops selling wine-making supplies. At that time brewing beer was illegal, but buying the makings was not. A look inside these shops revealed that they often sold the ingredients for beer too. In fact, since the ingredients were food items, there wasn’t even a tax on them.

Along with ingredients such as canned malt extract, and perhaps some crystal and black malt, there were dried ale yeasts by Edme, and Red Star. Vierka offered light and Munich dark lager yeast. There were also a couple of books available that were pretty simplistic by today’s standards, but were enough to get one started. With a bit of reading it was possible to brew a first batch that was excellent.

C.J.J. Berry’s Home Brewed Beers and Stouts was first published in 1963, shortly after the law changed in England making home brewing legal without a brewer’s licence or duty payment. This was the first book in modern times to deal with the process in sufficient detail to ensure a successful enterprise. An instant success, it sold more than 300,000 copies over four editions.

The recipe names in the book reflect the locale from which a beer example has been drawn. One of these is the town of Andover, Hampshire. A major stage coach stop on the Exeter-London road during the 18th and 19th centuries, it’s no surprise that Andover was known for its heavy, satisfying stout.
In England, circa 1963, it was possible to find numerous bottle-conditioned beers containing yeast samples from their respective breweries. In that sphere at least, the home brewer was afforded a respectable range of possibilities, and Berry’s book suggests exploiting the situation. This recipe similarly takes advantage of the 21st Century’s availability of obscure English yeast strains by employing a Platinum English strain from White Labs’ yeast bank. East Midlands yeast, with its dry finish, low ester production and moderate alcolol tolerance, is comparable to the more familiar Nottingham strain.

This adaptation of Andover Stout, while inspired by the C. J. J. Berry book, also pays homage to William Black’s Brown Stout of 1849, a recipe discovered by the Durden Park Beer Club. That brew featured amber and brown malts, along with the black malt.
Coachman’s adds a full-spectrum touch by taking advantage of the even wider variety of ingredients now available.

A double stout, coming down the highway at 7.8% ABV, this is a monumental beer. A coach and six taking you to the coast.

Barrel Body Winter Warmer

I’m not a big fan of winter. In late October, scraping enough frost off the windshield to make a frozen Daiquiri, I’m dreading the ice to come. White Christmas is great. January skiing is fun. But as a California guy, by February I’m ready to go on a picnic.

That said, one thing that sustains me through the frigid season is Winter Warmer. A roaring fire, a good book, and a righteous, spicy ale make all the difference when the wind blows cold, the snowflakes fly, and the nights are long.

In the old days, folks could huddle around the barrel body of a pot-belly stove to keep warm. These days, even a gas log will do if there’s a fine winter warmer close at hand. Barrel Body Winter Warmer fills the bill.

Barrel Body starts out as a pretty straightforward copper ale. A full grain bill augmented with lots of caramel and crystal malt is topped off with Melanoidin malt to boost the red color, and provide plenty of heavy mouthfeel. The recipe adds golden sugar and Belgian dark aromatic candi to raise the starting gravity and tweak the umami.

The baseline spiciness comes from cinnamon and nutmeg. To kick it up a notch, a hint of Voodoo Elixir in the secondary fermenter adds flavors of coffee, chicory, cubeb, gumbo, licorice, sassafras and sarsaparilla.

Safale US-05 ferments this one out full and dry. At about 7.9% ABV, Barrel Body Winter Warmer lives up to its name.

Hakkō Chairo Amazake

HardAmazakeWAmazake can be considered a “precursor” to sake. In sake fermentation, steamed rice starches are converted to sugar with the use of a catalyst named kome koji–fungus-infected rice; then the sugar is fermented using conventional saccaromycetes.

And as is with the unfermented barley-based soft drink Malta, there is a Japanese version using rice: amazake. Amazake is, theoretically, the sugary mash that is formed when the fungus A. oriazye saccarifies starches in the rice, but before yeast turns those sugars into alcohol. Amazake is refrigerated or consumed shortly after the conversion is comeplete.

However, if the mash is allowed to continue sitting at room temperature, it will start to bubble and fizz, as sugar is metabolized into alcohol and carbon dioxide. You get a mild sake anyway: hard, “Hakkō” amazake if you will.

If you make amazake out of brown (chairo) rice you get a drink that is much more flavorful than the traditional recipe that calls for glutinous white rice. Sweet glutinous white rice forms the key ingredient in the Japanese dessert “mochi.” This sweet rice is available in a brown version too, with all the more rounded umami flavor characteristics you would expect.

Because koji has fermented out all the sugar that is in a conventional amazake, this version adds back a bit of rice syrup solids to balance the tartness of the citric acid used to prevent wild yeast infection. The drink is back-sweetened, then pasteurized in bottles. Served slightly chilled, the flavor is a sweet-tart burst, balanced with umami flavors of toast, caramel and mushroom.

Scott’s Revenge BC Brown Ale

British Columbian brewers have been trying hard to establish a unique style of beer, in the shadow, alas, of the huge brewing scenes of Washington and Oregon. Those two states, in turn, have led with their own brewing evolution, against the mega-hopped IPAs of Southern California.

The trend in all three Northern areas has been to less aggressively bitter, but no less flavorful beers, including Northwest Pale Ale, with the characteristically citrus-flavored hop varieties now emerging from the Oregon/Washington growing region.

In the 1940s B.C. grew more hops than any other region of the Commonwealth. The Molson Export recipe of that time specified only “B.C. Hops.” But since 1997 or so, there had been almost no commercial hops grown in British Columbia. Recently, however, that trend is reversing, as the demand from craft brewing again makes hop growing a viable industry in B.C.

What does not seem to be occurring though, is the expansion of flavor sensations accomplished by full-spectrum recipe formulations. B.C. beers, though tasty, frequently lack complexity. Scott Beauchamp, manager and buyer at Nelson Liquors in Nelson B.C. has tasted a lot of British Columbia beers, and he agrees. That’s why I brewed a full-spectrum beer using B.C. hops, with him in mind: Scott’s Revenge. The color is really more of a dark amber to copper, and the aroma is dominated by malty notes, with very light hoppiness.

Scott’s B.C. Brown has plenty of caramel flavors from five grades of crystal, plus CaraAroma and CaraMunich malts. Chocolate and Black Prinz malts provide deep roasty flavors.

The hops were grown in Nelson, B.C. and consist of a blend of Nugget, Willamette, Fuggle and Golding varieties. They were lightly air-dried for a week before going into the brew in three additions. Safale US-05 fermented it out nice and dry.

Next season I will likely get a bigger Golding crop, and I plan to try this recipe again with wet-hop and dry-hop additions. Then Scott’s revenge against bland B.C. ales will be complete.

Big Chico Creek Water


Big Chico Creek runs ice cold out of the Colby Mountain watershed, over the basalt rocks of the Lassen volcanic shield, and through Bidwell Park and Cal State University in Chico, California. When the temperature hits 117 F in downtown Chico, the swimming holes of Big Chico Creek offer a welcome relief.

Big Chico Creek Water is another ice-cold treat for a hot summer day. I first brewed it for a Fourth of July party I went to in Chico. The hostess, my boss, had invited a few of her employees over for the party, but when we got there it became obvious that we were expected to be wait staff for the real guests, who were her neighbors! The most ambitious guy among us went over to the barn and mucked out the stalls. Big Chico Creek Water offered a welcome relief….

Big Chico Creek Water has no fixed recipe. A beer constructed of leftover amounts of specialty grains, it nonetheless retains certain characteristics. It is very malty, dark amber, with assertive hop bitterness and hop aroma, medium-full body and a bitter finish. Its 5.5 to 6% ABV makes it a bit more than a session beer, but still eminently quaffable. The key ingredient is the “Chico” California ale yeast, which produces a dry but malty beer with a nice full flavor accentuating the hops.

A typical recipe is about 75% pale malt. Anywhere from 400 to 700 grams of specialty malt for a 20 liter batch provide the amber maltiness. This version uses Cara Munich, crystal blend, Special B, Breiss Extra Special, chocolate, and black malts. Flaked barley contributes graininess and a full head.

As with the grain bill, the hop additions vary depending on what is at hand. I have used Nugget, Columbus, Ahtanham, Kent Golding, Challenger, Chinook, Cluster, Cascade, Styrian, Fuggle and Willamette in various combinations. This one is a melange of home-grown hops. A bit of gypsum and sea salt adds an edge to the hop ingredients.

This is a great beer if you want to be drinking a full, rich malt-hop extravaganza in less than four weeks. The yeast ferments quickly, drops out fast, and leaves a bottle-ready brew right in the primary fermenter. Two weeks in the bottle and the potion is dry and smooth, though it will develop its complex flavor for six months or more.

Umami Hack: Cooper Pils

Cooper HackAll-grain home brewing may be the ultimate umami experience when it comes to beer, but sometimes it’s just too hard to find the six to eight hours it takes to homebrew from scratch. Sometimes 20 minutes for a kit beer is all there is time for. The brewer who is able to put in an extra hour though, can change a mediocre canned kit into a very nice session beer.

The base for this beer is Thomas Coopers Selection Pilsener liquid extract, prehopped with Saaz hops. The Coopers Selection series are marketed as premium products, although they are typically priced the same as all the other Coopers extracts. Coopers recommends the kit be made with 500 grams of dry malt extract and 300 grams of corn sugar. The instructions for making a batch say that the ingredients should be merely stirred into six gallons of hot water, which I have found results in a weakly-flavored beer of perhaps 4% ABV.

The key to the hack is a mini-mash of Munich and Victory malts, flaked barley and sea salt. Munich malt is typically used in Bock-style beers, and contains enough enzymes to convert its starches to sugar. It’s a bit darker than pale malt; the type in this recipe is about 10 Lovibond in color and adds a smooth malty sweetness to the beer. Victory malt is a Breiss Malt specialty roast that adds a clean nutty, baked bread flavor. Both of these are used only in small amounts to add roundness and complexity to the flavor of the standard kit brew. The flaked barley adds mouthfeel and enhances head retention. Sea salt reacts with the umami-producing components of the malted grains to increase the roundness of flavor.

To hack the kit I extracted about a gallon of wort from my mini-mash, added two more gallons of filtered water, brought this to a boil and poured in a half-kilo of light dry malt extract. This was simmered for a half hour, with 20 grams of fresh Willamette hops added continuously during the boil: five grams every seven minutes.

The Cooper Pilsener extract was added with five minutes left to the boil. A half-kilo of corn sugar was added at the last minute. The wort was cooled and topped up to make 20 liters. Starting gravity was 12.5 Plato.

I have found that the Coopers premium Pilsener yeast supplied with the kit actually works pretty well, delivering a crisp dry taste when the brew is fermented and lagered at cellar temperature (about 60F or less.) I speculate that Coopers has worked on developing a strain that will produce good results without the average home brewer needing to invest in a special lager brewing set-up that will maintain colder temperatures.

This turned out to be a very nice golden lager that I was able to make, with the kit on sale, for about $20. With a firm white head and an aroma of malt and hop spiciness, it is full-bodied, with a good malty flavor finished with considerable hop bitterness. The ABV is about 5.3% making it a decent tipple. Its nonetheless moderate alcoholic strength makes it a beer that is fine for a couple of pints after a hard day hacking bits down on the cube farm.

Sparkling Dry English Cider

Sparkling English CiderSparkling hard cider may hold only 1% of the beer market, but sales grew 84% in 2012, eclipsing by far the 17% growth rate for craft beer. A well-made cider is certainly a thing of beauty, but even a middle-market commercial cider offers a welcome respite from high amplitude hop bombs.

In the UK and Ireland though, beer and cider taps exist as equals at the pub. Locally crafted brands of cider have been there for decades. The key to these brands’ drinkability is the care that goes into the blending of juices that create a full-spectrum flavor.

English ciders are known for the blend of varieties specifically grown for the purpose. These apples are virtually unobtainable outside the small areas in which they are grown. It’s possible to make a good beverage without them, however, with a little creativity.

The recipe for this cider starts with a base of Cortland, Red Delicious and Gold Delicious sweet apples. Gravenstein and McIntosh varieties provide aroma, and Jonagold offers tartness. Crab apples substitute for English cider apples in furnishing tannins, as well as additional acid. The apples were milled, and pressed to express blended juice, which was pitched with White Labs’ WLP775 English Cider yeast. A malolactic culture was added to the secondary fermenter to make the acid flavor more smooth. Oak chips contribute a mild, woody barrel taste and aroma.

While this doesn’t qualify as an English Farmhouse Cider–it was sweetened a bit with wine conditioner and carbonated with the Charmat process, it is an excellent brut with about 1% residual sugar, well-balanced acid and a full, rich vanilla flavor with very light oaky background notes. The aroma is quite apple-y, and an empty glass retains this for quite some time. It’s disappearing from the cellar very quickly.

Alt Radschläger

AltRad2 Der Radschläger is a Düsseldorfer tradition. In the most famous version of its origin, it refers to the legend of children performing cartwheels in the streets, celebrating the victory of John of Brabant over Henry VI, Count of Luxembourg, at Worringen, in one of the largest battles of the Middle Ages. Today the cartwheel is still celebrated across the city in sculpture, art and events, becoming a virtual symbol for Düsseldorf.

Altbier is also a Düsseldorfer tradition. This is a hoppy ale, brewed in the “alt” (old) manner, as it was before lager became the predominant style in German brewing. Over time the yeast used in Düsseldorf became acclimated to lower fermentation temperature, allowing Düsseldorf brewers to create a beer that was crisper, with less fruity flavor than the ales typical of warmer brewing regions. Altbier is brewed at cellar temperature, and then aged at a lager temperature, making it in the parlance of brewing style definition a “hybrid” beer.

Alt Radschläger is a partial-mash brew, based on pale malt, Munich malt, four kinds of crystal malt, Melanoidin malt for copper color, and a portion of wheat malt. These are prepared using a triple-decoction mash schedule, to develop a rich flavor. The grains themselves were delicious while cooking. English light dry malt extract was added to this wort, along with a few grams of French sea salt.

The hops were all home-grown, consisting of Nugget, Willamette, and feral Fuggle varieties from Nelson, BC. The brew was pitched with White Labs WLP036 Düsseldorf Alt yeast and cool fermented in the primary after racking off the trub. After ten days the beer was racked again and cooled to 3 Celsius, to lager for six weeks. It was then bulk-aged for six months at cellar temperature.

Alt Radschläger probably qualifies as a sticke alt or “secret” ale, a stronger version that is often brewed for seasonal or special occasions. Starting at 14 Plato and finishing at 1.5, with the bottling sugar it contains about 7.2% ABV–producing a noticeable desire to turn cartwheels, even among the elderly.

It is a copper-gold color with a thick, long lasting head. It has a malty aroma with just a hint of hops. The flavor shows very complex maltiness with a strong taste of caramel. Big roundness of flavor ends with a bitter finish. Alt Radschläger won a gold medal to advance to the national homebrewing championships in Seattle. One of the judges noted “If this beer was commercially available I’d buy it.” I would too!

Jamaican Ginger Beer

Jamaican Ginger

This is an extra-spicy, alcoholic ginger beer, with an addition of traditional Jamaican roots wine. Ginger beer was once a staple of British households, often potent as Porter, but miraculously free–or a few pence a gallon. For more than 100 years ginger beer, made from ginger, lemon juice, cream of tartar, sugar and water, was coaxed into life by an symbiotic fermentation community called a “ginger beer plant”. No one knew what it was or how it worked, but, like sourdough starter, these “plants” were passed down among families and friends.

In the late 1800s the responsible organisms were identified: Saccharomyces florentinus and Lactobacillus hilgardii. Along with its resemblance to the sourdough fermentation agent, a ginger beer plant is also like the komboucha organism. These are all combinations of fungus and bacteria that live and work together, much as does the familiar lichen (fungus and algae.) Unless you have a great-aunt in Yorkshire though, an authentic ginger beer plant can be hard to come by, though there is at least one online source. This source claims to offer a descendent of the pure strains isolated in the original research into its composition.

While pedigreed ginger beer plants are rare and expensive, several sources offer instructions on making your own. Success depends on what organisms are living naturally on the ginger root, as is the case in making chhaang yeast balls. In his 1963 book Home Brewed Beers and Stouts C.J.J. Berry suggests using ground ginger and bakers yeast obtained from a bakery.

Today’s hyper-clean supermarket ginger has failed to provide me with the necessary ingredients. Instead I’ve taken a different tack, forgoing whatever sourness the lactobacillus might contribute, and substituted Lallemand Windsor ale yeast, known for its fruity fermentation characteristics. As I wanted a ginger beer that was quite spicy, I used about 66 grams of fresh grated ginger per gallon. Since this was a Jamaican tribute, I used demerara sugar together with lime juice and zest. Instead of the cream of tartar called for in conventional recipes, I included wine-grade tartaric acid which dissolves more readily.
Roots Man

To atone for my blasphemous use of commercial yeast I added Roots Wine, at a rate of one ounce per gallon. These are legendary Jamaican tonic drinks, purported to increase vitality, strength, and “go-power” particularly among men.

The names of their root ingredients are wonderfully evocative: Tan Pan Rock, Search Mi Heart, Poor Man Friend, Nerve Wisp. Some drinks contain more than 20 ingredients, creating a complex flavor sensation.

Brands seem to come and go, with Baba Roots a recent market leader. Mandingo appears to be the latest drink darling. Of those I have tried “Natural Vibes” has been my favorite, but it is evidently out of production. In any case, the addition of a small amount of one of these tonics adds a mysterious background note to the ginger beer that combines smoky aroma with tart, tangy and sweet tastes.

While ginger beer made in this way ferments out very dry, it is far better when it has been sweetened a bit to taste. I have tried mauby syrup with good results. Agave nectar and raw sugar syrup also work well. Jah Guide Protek I&I.

Letenachin T’ej

t'ej2T’ej is an ancient Ethiopian honey wine flavored with the leaves and stems of a local thornbush known as gesho.

I can believe that fermented honey was the first alcoholic inebriant. It’s easy to picture a bee hive in a tree, leaking a bit of honey, soaked with a bit of rain, sitting for a couple of days, encountered by a thirsty traveler….

The leap from a drunk encounter to a full-spectrum beverage was certainly taken by the Ethiopians when they created T’ej:

The choice of honey was limited to wildflowers, and while this can sometimes be bland, some is very amber, and full-flavored. A t’ej maker can be sure that whatever wildflower honey is at hand, it’s sure to be authentic. Add the local spring water of your choice. It’s fun to get it from the local natural spring, but not necessary!


T’ej comes out a nice gold color, slightly hazy. The aroma combines the flowery notes of the honey with wood, and an almost grapefruit smell from the gesho.

Bittering is also the work of the gesho, either twigs or ground leaves. The leaves and twigs have different flavors, with some recipes favoring one, some the other. From what I understand, the leaves produce a more “refined” flavor–whatever that means! I tried a blend of both. I found the flavor very refined, with honey mixing with citrus, woody bitterness and a residual sweetness. This t’ej has aged for four years, resulting in a light effervescence.

Roasted kolo grains add umami to this recipe, and netch azmud provides a trace of peppery spice. To increase the honey aroma the recipe calls for a small amount of tincture of propolis, which also serves to mimic the “throw the whole hive in” method of early honey wine production.

It finishes with tartness, and a mild alcoholic end. There are a lot of words for honey wine in Ethiopia–this is one of them! Letenachin!