Ziegensauger Doppelmaibock

What would you get if you tripled every ingredient in a lager beer except the water? Zeigensauger Doppelmaibock: a recipe that has evolved from the German bock lager tradition, but inspired also by ‘t Ij Columbus beer, brewed in Amsterdam.

Ziegensauger, like Columbus, comes in at 9% ABV, making it considerably stronger than Maibock-style beer, which traditionally maxes out at around 7.5%. That makes this a Doppel Maibock! The traditional symbol of bock beer, the goat, has been consumed in this case by the German version of the Chupacabra. Zeigenrsauger is a goat hell-bent on destruction. bock goatw

Zeigensauger gets its fullness of flavor from a micro-mash of pale, pale crystal, Munich, CaraPils, and even black malt. The backbone is provided by 3.4 kilos of Cooper Pilsner extract, and 1.5 kilos of Breiss extra light DME. The beer is hopped with German Hallertau, Crystal, Pearle and Saaz varieties for the main additions, and dry-hopped with more Hallertau, which lays down a spicy aroma beside the rich maltiness.

Wyeast 2112 California Lager yeast, with its high alcohol tolerance, ferments the brew for four months at a temperature below 16 C (61 F.) It is bottled using corn sugar syrup made with a Saaz hop tea. Held another two to six months, this is a monumental beer that crashes around like a goat, sucker!

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.

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!

Egyptian Bouza


Bouza is the beer of the Pharoahs. As I see it, this was a rough beer, naturally fermented in vessels that “remembered” how to make it. I found a source for a sourdough yeast strain from a bakery in Cairo that has been in continuous operation for three thousand years. This was bouza in the making.

Bouza was made in a way that is unique in comparison to today’s methods. The key ingredient was bread–partially baked grains that would saccarify during the slow, prolonged baking process. Bouza bread is made from pale barley malt, crystal malt and barley flour that is mixed with gesho tea to make a stiff dough. A pint of Red Sea Starter is added to the dough, along with macerated medjool dates, honey, salt and netch azmud seeds.
Bouza Bread

The dough is shaped into round loaves, and left to proof for 12 hours. The loaves are baked at low temperature until the interior is hot and gooey. Cooled, they can be stored for some time before brew day.

Because much of the saccarification of bouza bread’s starches has been completed by the baking process, to brew, the loaves are crumbled into mash-temperature water and soaked for an hour. The liquid is drained off and the grains are rinsed with hot water. The wort is infused with blue lotus flowers, boiled and cooled. Sourdough culture is added, and the mixture fermented for three days at a temperature between 70F and 80F to taste (the higher temperature range favors the lactobacillus in the sourdough culture, making the bouza more tart.)

When the bouza has finished fermenting, it can be bottled with a small amount of honey in each bottle. This batch is very dark amber, with a sourdough bread aroma. The flavor is tangy, with hints of malt, pepper, corriander and nutmeg.

As it tends to ferment out very dry, and consequently sour, the bouza can be mixed to taste with date sugar for sweetening before serving it. Show up at the Pharoah’s pad with a jug of this, and you’re sure to receive a warm welcome.

Aged Chhaang

chhaangChhaang is the refreshingly tart, lightly-alcoholic drink popular in Tibet and Nepal. It seems to be a close relative of rice wine, although it can be made from rice, millet or barley, whatever’s handy. As I understand it, Tibetan chhaang is usually made from rice, and Nepali chhaang from millet. In the “whatever’s handy” spirit I used rice, millet, barley and wheat.

The fermenting agent in the Himalayas is a mysterious ingredient known in English as “yeast balls.” Evidently these are highly revered, and perhaps passed down in the family, though they are said to be available in ethnic grocery stores. I tried to find a source for them through the internet, and a Chinese variety is now manufactured by Toronto’s Onto Yeast Company. A bag sufficient for 10 liters of rice wine—if my simplified Chinese translation can be trusted—costs about $10. Sous Chef also sells a smaller bag online at considerably less cost, depending on where they ship to.

According to my research, Himalayan yeast balls are made with local ginger, grain flour, and water. The ginger is said to have the necessary organisms residing on it’s skin–yeast and Aspergillus oryzae . This fungus is able to convert the starches in grains into sugars without the need to sprout or malt them, and is used to ferment soy beans for tamari, and rice for sake.

I tried mixing shredded store-bought organic ginger with barley flour and water, formed this into cakes and proofed them for 3 days under a damp cloth. I got a smelly mess. I guess the ginger just isn’t the same. Probably too clean for one thing. So instead I steamed some rice, added koji-kin, and made myself a moto starter as I would for sake.

I mixed mold-coated rice with Windsor Ale yeast, known for its estery, fruity contribution to a brew. After three days this starter was nicely soupy, and so I added a culture of two strains of lactobacillus bacteria and let it ferment for another day.

The main mash consisted of malted barley, to which was added pearl barley, millet, rice and dark wheat, all of which had been boiled for 20 minutes in a ginger-root tea. This was mashed for two hours and cooled to room temperature. The moto starter went into the mash soup with all the grains, and fermented for three days.

Traditionally, the mash would at this point be placed in a bowl or mug, warm water poured over, and the drink sipped through a bamboo straining straw. More water would go in until the drink was too weak to continue. Because I wanted to keep the chhaang for a while, I strained it, bottled it, and kept these bottles refrigerated. At this time the chhaang has been aging cold for about 2 years.

Aged Chhaang is a dark creamy color, opaque and has a nice layer of bubbles on the surface. The moto/koji/sake aroma is very prominent. It is very slightly sweet, with a mostly tart flavor. Sugar may be added to taste. Full-bodied and lightly carbonated, it finishes with a mouthwatering tang. I don’t know what Nepalese chhaang tastes like, but this one is certainly an interesting and mildly inebriating beverage. I would be proud to serve it to a visiting yeti.

Oaked Burton Ale

Oaked Burton This is a heavy one, and definitely a keeper. I wanted a barley-wine-style ale that I could age for ten years, to see how it develops. Oaked Burton was brewed in August, 2008, and it’s maturing very well.

My original tribute to the legendary Ballantine Burton Ale, Oaked Burton derives its name from the tincture, made from a half-ounce of home-toasted oak chips soaked in Everclear, which was added to the secondary fermenter. Significantly, this addition boosts the ABV by almost a point, to about 9.4%.

Oaked Burton is a partial-mash brew that is based on Munton light DME. The mash was 2-row pale barley malt, with additions of four kinds of crystal malt, English brown malt, chocolate and black malts, and roasted barley. Burton salts and gray sea salt went into the boiling water. Maltodextrin adds body. To further boost body and alcoholic content, I added Lyle’s Golden Syrup and Malawi demerara sugar.

Hopped with Northern Brewer bittering, Golding flavor and Fuggle aroma varieties, it is only moderately bitter, with the malt components dominating its profile. The excellent White Labs’ WLP023 Burton Ale yeast contributed its uniquely mild fruity character.

Oaked Burton pours a medium brown with hints of gold; almost an extreme amber. It has a tan, long-lasting head that leaves very little lacing on the glass. The aroma is malty, with hints of oak. The taste is of malt, with caramel, almonds and dark fruit like plum. Roasted grain, oak, and mild alcohol dance in the background. It finishes with a hoppy tang, oaky astringency and an alcoholic warmness.

No one is going to age a commercial beer for ten years these days. The era of the ancient barrel-aged Ballantine is over. But a home-brewer can certainly put a few bottles away for five years, and ten is only double that and well worth the wait–if you’ve got some West Coast Amber to tide you over in the meantime.