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Messages - gordonstrong

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Ask the Experts / Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« on: November 30, 2013, 03:03:39 AM »

  Do you have a style or two that you like to brew nowadays more often than others ?

For the last two years, every recipe I've brewed has been a new recipe.  But I think I'm almost done with that project.

But in general, no.  I go through different moods, or I make things based on what ingredients I have around.  I had no interest in making a wheatwine, but I had a big sack of Durst wheat and not much else around, so I thought it would make the biggest dent in it.  Same with hops or yeast.

I like a wide range of styles and have a lot of kegs, so I tend to have a big variety on hand most times.

Ask the Experts / Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« on: November 30, 2013, 02:29:11 AM »
Hey Gordon,

Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience!

Do you know how many competition medals and BOS awards you have won over the years?

What do you do with all those medals, are they on display or are they tucked away in a rather large box somewhere?


Tim Thomssen

Medals?  No idea.  BOSs?  18.  Haven't really entered anything since NHC 2010, though.

Medals and ribbons are in a variety of bags in storage.  Nicer awards (plaques) are on a wall.  The Ninkasis are on the wall.  Some of the nicer trophies that are glassware or an actual award are on shelves.  The Utopias bottles are on a shelf too.  My wife let me use our great room for all this stuff.  It has some favorite framed beer posters, like a Belgian Beer poster and a Stille Nacht poster I got at the brewery, also a sweet Anchor Brewing mirror that I won at the 2007 NHC.  That room has a pool table, various bookcases with beer books, a fireplace, a bar, a stereo, etc.  Kind of the home pub without the pub.  All the beer is in the walkin, which is through the adjacent garage door.  Basically, it's the stuff I'd have in my basement if I had a basement.

I'm not allowed to bring home new glassware, t-shirts, or hats.  Special stuff I have to sneak in ;-)

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: IPA's
« on: November 30, 2013, 01:39:35 AM »
I think the keys to long-living IPAs are to have them well-attenuated from the start, to keep oxygen out of the works, and to keep them stored cool. 

American barleywines I tend to overhop, knowing that they'll fade back into balance over the course of several years, but most modern IPAs are essentially running beers made to be consumed quickly.  Historical recipes can be different, but most people today want to enjoy the freshest hop character possible.

If you're getting additional sweetness, I'd probably suspect oxidation first.  Or just too much crystal malt.  Unless you're going for the baby barleywine kind of IPA.  Nothing wrong with that, but it's more of a keeper/sipper than other types.

Ask the Experts / Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« on: November 30, 2013, 01:28:33 AM »
The window is now open to ask Gordon Strong questions!
Good evening Gordon,
     Is there a preference with brewers that you know, in regard to adjusting brewing water ph vs monitoring mash ph and directly adjusting the mash. Thanks for your time.

Snook, the Q&A period is officially closed now.  But maybe Gordon will pop in and see you question.

Although, I can tell you he'll say mash pH is the key.

Mash pH is the key, but I personally adjust my brewing water to get that.  I use RO water, which makes the whole process really repeatable.  I think it's better to get your brewing process set up so that you never have to adjust your mash pH.  So, just to be clear, I normally hit my RO water with about 1/4 tsp of 10% phosphoric acid per 5 gallons of RO water, which gives me a pH of around 5.5.  I measured that in a lab several times, so I know it's repeatable on my system.  So now I just measure the volume of strike water and the volume of phosphoric and I know I hit my target.  Using that kind of mash water with a pale grain mash settles in the desirable range every time.

But I know this because I measured it several times until I knew that's how it worked on my system with my ingredients.  Verify that it works that way for you and you can do something similar.

So the mash pH is what is ultimately what you want to control, but you tend to do it indirectly by adjusting the strike water pH and using an appropriate grist for that type of water.  You can do it other ways, but it tends to involve spreadsheets and gram scales, and is different for every batch.  My method is repeatable, so I don't worry about those things any more.

I tend to use about 1 tsp of CaCl2 in the mash to give me some available calcium.  That salt doesn't affect the pH like gypsum or chalk does.  If I want to add those flavor ions, I'll tend to do so after the mash is done.  Likewise, I'll add the various dark grains and crystal malts after the mash.  Those grains don't need to be mashed, so you don't need to add them early.  During the vorlauf is fine.  That has other beneficial effects in my experience, but not worrying about mash pH ever is something that I think is a great simplification to my process.

I've brewed about 20 batches this fall, from extremely pale to extremely dark, all basically using the same water, and all tasting great.  Anyone who tells you that you must vary your water chemistry significantly to brew those is making too many assumptions about your brewing process; there are other ways that work just fine.

But don't interpret this advice to mean that "Gordon said that you can ignore water chemistry entirely and brew whatever you want" -- pay attention to the control points that I said were important.  My approach assumes a specific method; if you do something else you might get different results.  Just remember that as long as your mash pH is in a good range and your beer tastes good when you're done, don't worry about it.  I don't.

Ask the Experts / Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« on: November 22, 2013, 03:16:57 AM »
Hello Gordon,
   Last december (12/5/12)  i made a 17% braggot, its been aging a year in the secondary. Its come time to bottling, and  i really want to bottle condition it. How should i go about it?
   fyi-my friends said to force carb and bottle.



Sounds like you have smart friends...  Much easier and more predictable than anything else you could do.

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: Wyeast 1469-PC West Yorkshire Ale Yeast
« on: November 13, 2013, 03:47:24 PM »
Get some Golden Promise and Styrian Goldings and make a Timothy Taylor Landlord-type bitter.

It's kind of a minerally-tasting yeast.  Mashing higher or adding more dextrinous malts would help offset that character.

Ask the Experts / Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« on: November 08, 2013, 05:05:50 PM »
Thanks to everyone who posted a question for Gordon Strong to consider! The question submission window is now closed, and Gordon will post his answers by 11/11/13. Stay tuned!


OK, got through them all.  Thanks everyone for the questions.  Hope you got something useful out of the answers.

Ask the Experts / Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« on: November 08, 2013, 05:04:22 PM »
Hi Gordon,

Listened to an interview with you on Beersmith.  Enjoyed it very much!  I had a couple of questions:

* You mentioned that you have a false bottom in your kettle.  Do you prefer whole hops or does your false bottom filter pellet hops as well?

* As a big fan of FWH do you have a preferred variety?

* I had read some tips that you gave in Zymurgy.  You said that one of the ways you can brighten up a finished beer is to add some phosphoric acid to it.  Do you have a target pH range for hoppy beers?  Do you think lower pH helps with flavor and aroma?  How low is too low?

Sorry for all the questions!


Glad you liked the podcasts.  Brad has been very kind to invite me on his show several times, so I always like to know people are listening and getting something out of them.

My system has a two-piece (think half moon) slotted copper false bottom that sits on top of a stainless steel stand.  The false bottom has a rim to it, so when put in place, it's kind of like a tray in the bottom of the kettle that is level with the ground.  I think whole hops work best with the system, but I've lately been using all pellet hops to good effect.  As long as I let the wort stand for 20 minutes at the end of the boil and as long as I don't runoff too quickly, I get pretty good clarity.  The false bottom is basically acting like a hopback, so it is able to filter pellet hops fairly well.  But having some whole hops does improve the process.  If I could get all the hop varieties I liked in whole form, and they were always fresh, I'd probably use them.  But I can't, and I don't want to miss out on using some hop varieties that I can only get as pellets.

I will use many different varieties of hops when I FWH.  Basically, anything that I think has a good flavor.  Looking over my last several batches, I've used FWH with Styrian Goldings, Hallertauer, Tettnanger, Willamette, Mosaic, Galaxy, Citra, Centennial, Motueka, Pacific Jade, and Saaz.  And that is just for stuff I've made this fall.  So, I guess I'll use any hop as long as I think it tastes good.

Regarding tweaking a beer with phosphoric acid, I don't normally measure it.  I just do it by taste.  You can overdo it, though.  Adding a little bit can brighten a beer, but too much can make it actually taste acidic or sour, and it gives it a thinner mouthfeel.  I did measure the pH on a few beers when I was first experimenting with it, and there is no specific rule -- it depends on the balance of the beer and the other flavors present.  In general, I think you want to avoid going below around pH 4.1 unless it's a sour beer.  I think it helps with the flavor more than the aroma.  It's something I sometimes try if the beer tastes too dull or heavy, but that's rare.

Ask the Experts / Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« on: November 08, 2013, 04:48:14 PM »
Hi Gordon,

Do you feel that competitive brewers and the BJCP have become too exclusive? Do you think more casual brewers have an equal playing field, particularly at the national level? Is there any thinking about restructuring competitions to address the "submit as many beers to as many competitions as possible" game?

Any recommendations on the testing process for BJCP judging? What's do you think is the best place to start?

Thanks, Matt

As a reformed competitive brewer, I don't think so.  I don't think either competitive brewers or the BJCP are exclusive.  When I was competing, I wanted to compete against the best brewers.  Excluding people wouldn't help me meet that goal (and is probably one of the reasons I don't enter the NHC any more -- too many limits).  I don't think the BJCP is exclusive at all.  Anyone can take the test and become a judge; it's all based on demonstrated skills and knowledge.

I think there has always been an even playing field.  You could always enter whatever you wanted.  That's about as even as it gets.  Every beer is judged on its own merits.  Someone who makes better beer and more of it is likely to win more awards.  Equal opportunities don't really imply equal outcomes.  I've never been a fan of 'participant' medals; I want them to mean something.

In the modern NHC, I think casual brewers have an even better chance of winning something since brewers are limited in their number of entries.  However, they still need to make great beer to have a chance.  So as long as 'casual' means 'infrequent' and not 'mediocre'...  Quality still matters; it's just the quantity that's being restricted.

I've seen more and more competitions introduce quotas on entries.  As the hobby expands, more people will want to enter competitions.  That often strains traditional competitions, so they have to respond by making it more manageable.  But that's basically a competition-by-competition decision.  No competition should accept more beers than it feels it is able to adequately judge.  Anything else does a disservice to the entrant.  But I don't see the BJCP introducing any limits; there's no way we could understand 400+ competitions better than the people who are running them.

As to the BJCP exam, I think the BJCP Study Guide is a great place to start.  We cover the topics that will be on the exam, and talk about other reading sources.  Secondary reading is great for learning and becoming a more knowledgeable judge and brewer, so I really do recommend that.  But the material on the test is generally covered in the study guide.  A good understanding of the BJCP Style Guidelines is critical, so I would spend more time there than anywhere.  And since the new exam format emphasizes proven tasting skills for new judges, getting practical experience judging with other BJCP judges is pretty important.  You can't really develop a good sense of scoring calibration if you're only judging beers by yourself.  So get out and attend competitions, volunteering to steward and judge, and let those people know that you are training for the exam and that you'd like to be paired with experienced judges who have an interest in educating and training new judges.

Ask the Experts / Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« on: November 08, 2013, 04:36:37 PM »

When building your water profiles do you fine adding magnesium to be a desirable flavor ion for any styles?

I tend not to add magnesium to my brewing liquor.  It can be a bit metallic and sour tasting if used too extensively.  I've added some when making a Flanders red, but I keep it very light.

For most styles, I use RO with calcium chloride only.  For a few styles, I will swap in some gypsum.  But that's basically it.  I don't like excessively minerally beers.  Maybe I have Pilsen genes in my lineage...

Ask the Experts / Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« on: November 08, 2013, 04:34:10 PM »
Hi Gordon,

For a spiced ale; is it best to add the spices (tea or tincture or...) to the secondary or are some OK for the boil? I worry about astringency when tossing cinnamon sticks in the kettle. Boiling wood doesn't sound like a good idea to me. What is your take?

Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience!


You can do it either way.  I tend to add the spices at the end of the boil and let them steep for awhile (5 or 10 minutes, usually; I put them in a fine mesh bag to make it easier to remove), then do final adjustments through teas once fermentation is complete and I can taste the final balance of the beer.  I don't boil the spices; I just let them steep, like you're making tea.  I keep track of adjustments made post-fermentation so I can revise what I do in the kettle in the next batch.  However, keep in mind that the intensity of spices can vary based on their age, source, and handling, so you may want to keep it on the lighter side and nudge up to your target when you can actually taste the beer.  I don't like the taste of raw spices, so I do like them to see some heat, whether in the kettle at knockout or through making a tea for later adjustment.  I've made a few spiced beers recently (pumpkin pie spiced beer for autumn, and a Chilean-inspired foreign stout with honey, coffee, and smoked chile pepper) and have used these methods successfully.

Ask the Experts / Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« on: November 08, 2013, 04:27:43 PM »

What is your general process on the cold side of making a lager?  I have only made 3-4 lagers but none of them have really been up to my standards yet and I am looking for ways to improve.  I have temp control, make large yeast starters, oxygenate my wort alot, etc... I tend to have alot of issues with acetaldehyde the most...  I have tried leaving the beer in primary for many weeks to allow the yeast to clean it up they just don't seem to...


Hmm, seems like you're doing the right things.  In general, acetaldehyde says to me that the fermentation is incomplete.  You may wish to use yeast nutrients (I like the Wyeast brand, using the dosage recommendations on the package) to ensure a healthy start.  You didn't mention if you are using different yeast strains.  It could be that you are using some that produce higher levels of acetaldehyde (Budweiser yeast, anyone?).  Maybe you should beechwood-age your beer  ;)   I don't like high sulfur levels in beer, so I try to avoid strains that produce a lot of that character.

According to Kunze, acetaldehyde is increased by: (1) rapid fermentation, (2) temperature increase during fermentation, (3) increased yeast dosage, (4) pressure application during primary fermentation, (5) too little wort aeration, and (6) infected wort.  It is reduced by (1) all measures to promote vigorous secondary fermentation and maturation, (2) a warmer maturation stage, (3) sufficient wort aeration, and (4) increased yeast concentration in the maturation stage.

Assuming your temperature isn't getting too high, I'm guessing you might be overpitching and/or getting too quick a fermentation, based on these.

For a normal strength lager, I typically use a smackpack of Wyeast or make a 1L starter with a vial of White Labs.  I don't go crazy on yeast, but I will often repitch from a normal batch if I'm making a stronger lager.  I oxygenate and pitch with the yeast and wort at the same temperature.  I ferment at about 50F, waiting until it seems pretty well done, then I rack to a keg and lower the temperature slowly until it gets to about 33-34F.  Then I let it hang out for a long time.  I'm more inclined to use the traditional German method of 1 week for every degree Plato of original extract (even though most German breweries only lager for 2-3 weeks nowadays).  Then I fine with gelatin and rack to a serving keg.  I almost never do a diacetyl rest, but I don't tend to pick strains that are big diacetyl producers.  I do taste my beer before lagering, and only do a d-rest if it needs it.  I'm kind of fond of WLP833, Wyeast 2124, and Wyeast 2206 for my lagers.  Lagering at a very cold temperature for a long time and fining the keg do give me better results.  Most off flavors in lagers I taste usually are from rushed processes, or insufficient yeast separation.  Be sure not to crash your temperature too fast, because you want the yeast to continue to work during lagering.  Temperature control helps because you can knock it down a couple degrees a day until it's where you want it.

Hope that helps.

Ask the Experts / Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« on: November 08, 2013, 04:01:56 PM »
Are there plans to update the guidelines for IPAs, category 14?  It seems that the style has rapidly evolved, both with alcohol content (triple IPA) and with balance between hops and malt.  The current description includes "the malt backbone will generally support the strong hop character," which is not necessarily the case in the current best and most popular commercial examples.

I recently entered a well-brewed variant of a highly hopped IPA (PTY) that scored 42 in one competition and 28 in another.  The results varied only based on the judge's interpretation of the style, not on flaws in the beer.

Yes, the IPA guidelines will be revised in the next release, as I've mentioned in other responses.  I still think that statement about the malt supporting the hops is true, although some people may interpret it incorrectly.  IPAs shouldn't be rocket fueled hop juice; some malt is needed to balance, but that doesn't mean they should be malt-forward.

Even with changes in the guidelines, you will often see variability in judging.  Some judges will always insert their own opinions rather than allowing for the full range of the style.  That's unfortunate, but about all we can do is make sure the guidelines are correct and try to increase awareness and training.  You can make a wide range of beers called IPA and have them be delicious; no need to assume all of them taste the same.

It's not a new problem, and it isn't isolated to IPAs.  I could tell you stories of the ranges of scores some of my beers have gotten over the years.  You have to accept some of that as part of the game, but yes, we'll try to do our part by making the guidelines more accommodating to modern trends.

Ask the Experts / Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« on: November 08, 2013, 03:56:38 PM »
Hey Gordon,

Pleasure meeting you at the NHC in Philly during the BJCP Tasting Exam, and again at your book signing.  I must say that you were super friendly and approachable, which was a pleasant surprise given your notoriety.

In your book, and you when you talk about your home brewery I cannot help but think that you have a Sabco Brew-Magic setup, is that what you brew on?

BTW, loved your recent "Hop Techniques" podcast on BeerSmith!


Thanks for the compliments.  I'm always happy to meet fellow homebrewers at these events.

I don't have a Sabco Brew Magic system, but it kind of looks similar.  I have a Pico brewing system, which I don't think are made any more.  I met a Sabco rep once that said that Pico got their kegs from Sabco, so that could be it.

I've often thought about getting a new system, but I don't really want to go through the down time of relearning how the new system responds.  I know how to make good beer on my current system, so I keep using it.  I make small upgrades occasionally, but I try to keep changes incremental so I can adjust my processes more easily.  I don't really have a recommendation on a system today since I haven't used them, but there are certainly a lot of solid choices.

Ask the Experts / Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« on: November 08, 2013, 03:52:27 PM »
It seems that when I brew my favorite recipe, I can have great hop aroma in about 2 weeks of bottle conditioning, but the malt flavors are missing, or I can have a nice roasty malty tasting beer in 4 weeks but the hop aroma is almost non-existent.  How can I get that balanced malty and the nice hop aroma at the same time?  I should note that I bottle condition... would kegging help?

That's a hard problem to diagnose; it's not something obvious.  Are you talking about repeating the same recipe, or recipes in general?  If it's repeating the same recipe, then all I can say is that you should try for repeatable processes and ingredient selection.  If you're using the same things the same way every time, then you might need to tweak your recipe to get the balance you want.  If you're talking about general variability in brewing, then I'm not sure there's much you can do other than trying to get the same result every time from honing your process and watching your ingredient freshness and quality.

Beers can change during conditioning, and that's usually a good thing.  Some beers require some age to mature properly.  If your beers change during the early weeks of conditioning, do they tend to stabilize after a certain point?  If so, adjust your recipe for the balance you want after it stops changing.  Then remember how long you typically need to condition your beers, and wait until that time passes before sampling them.

Beers can change character at a different rate depending on whether you are warm conditioning them or cold conditioning them.  If you get the beer to where you want it, I recommend moving it to cold storage to try to stabilize it at that state for as long as you can.

I wish there was an easy tip to address your problem, but without some more information it's hard to get to the bottom of it.  I tend to think you probably just need to accept that there will be changes in your beer and try to optimize your recipe for the flavor after it finally does condition.  That's likely to give you the best long term results.  But it means that you have to wait longer to try your beer, unfortunately.  So keep brewing other batches so you always have something ready!

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