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Author Topic: Ask Sierra Nevada’s Experts - Week 1 winners and questions  (Read 3631 times)

Offline sierranevadapromotion

  • 1st Kit
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  • Posts: 8
    • Sierra Nevada Beer Camp
After a week of dilliegent review to the questions submitted to the Sierra Nevada experts we've narrowed down the first week's enteries to final two winners...

And the week 1 winners are:

Mike Myers []

Pale ale is the ultimate style for me.  If it is good, man is it good and when it is bad, it can be ugly.  I have recently began experimenting with dry hop additions at different days during secondary in order to create a layering and unique hop profile.  Do you have any experience with continually dry hopped beers that you would like to share.  

Long Live the Pale Ale - Mike

SNB Experts Answer - Mike, are you the scary Mike Myers or the funny Canadian Mike Myers? It’s important…our answer will change! Seriously, though, you’re breaking into your fermentation too often when adding hops continually during fermentation and adding oxygen into the beer, risking bad oxidized character. We add all of our hops during dry-hopping with 1-1.5 plato left of fermentable sugar. We recommend using different varieties to add layers of flavor rather than continually hopping.  Try making the same batch of beer, or, better yet dividing your wort into two vessels and dry-hopping with different combinations of hops.

Kirk LaVecchia (JerseyKirk on AHA forum /

Dear Sierra Nevada Beer Geeks,

Hey guys, my name's Kirk LaVecchia and I've got a huge question for you fellas if you're up to the challenge.  I'm from just outside Philadelphia and wanted to make a Philly Cheesesteak Beer(stout or
porter).   I know it seems outlandish but what started as a joke in our
homebrew club has now turned into reality.  I have started on the recipe and have figured out how I'm going to use meat in the beer ("dry-hogging", lol) but I'm having difficulty coming up with a non repulsive cheese element in the beer.  So here's my question, how do I make this beer have a cheesy flavor?  I want the cheese to be subtle and really just an after thought with the smoking meaty flavor being at the forefront.  I know some yeasts give cheese like tastes and there's a possibility of using dry cheese spices but I need your help Sierra Nevada!  Thanks in advance, you guys rock!

Thank You For Your Consideration,
Kirk LaVecchia (JerseyKirk on AHA forum) [Creator of the original Philly Cheesesteak Beer]
P.S. Love your Torpedo IPA and Bigfoot Barleywine!

SNB Experts Answer - Good God, I’ve heard everything! Meat and Cheese in the brewhouse is very tricky. The fat content is not a good beer additive. I hope you’re using cooked or cured meat or somebody could get very ill!  Our best cheese solution is: 1.) get some very old whole-cone hops. Room temperature old hops get a distinctly cheesy character and might be a good solution. 2.) Buy yourself a package of boxed Mac and Cheese…you know the kind with the powdered flavored packet. Wet the rim of your pint glass and dip the rim into the cheesy powdered mix and then fill your pint glass with beer. Garnish your glass with an onion slice and you’re money!

Representatives from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. will be in contact with our winners to provide the ultimate beer experience and visit to Chico, California!

Here are answers to our additional first week enteries:

Nick Dugan []
Dear Experts,

One thing I struggle with in my homebrewing efforts is consistency. I go to great lengths when brewing to take meticulous notes, follow a standard process, and try to account for variables that may affect the final product. Occasionally I'm successful but often find that brewing the same recipe multiple times can produce dramatically different results.
What methods does Sierra Nevada employ to ensure that a Pale Ale tastes like a Pale Ale, whether I purchase it in May or November, Northern California or North Carolina? Any tips for a home brewer that doesn't have access to a full lab, automated temperature control, and a panel of willing tasters? I could probably come up with the latter, but would need to increase my batch size. ;)

Nick, you seem to be working in the right direction. Consistency is one of the most important things a brewery can have, and really one of the number one things that separates commercial brewers from home brewers. We do lots of things to achieve consistency; Extensive QA on all incoming ingredients, meticulous record keeping, and taste panels…probably the main thing, though, is blending. We always have several batches of the same beer moving through our cellars at the same time and we are tasting and blending all the while to make sure we hit carbonation, alcohol, color, and of course flavor spec.

One big step in the right direction would be consistent temperature control in your cellars. That will go a long way in ensuring some sort of consistency.

No matter how careful you are, there will always be variations in beer from batch to batch. The only way to guarantee consistency is through blending. This probably isn’t too practical on a home brew scale, but hey, brewing should be fun. Try your best to keep it accurate, but remember you’re brewing a hand-crafted artisan product. Sometimes a little variation ain’t such a bad thing!

Johnson, Sean []
Contest Question (and huge point of curiosity for me):
What is your hop philosophy?

By this I mean:
What is the best way to think about hop varieties?  Which are better for aroma vs. bittering? Old world vs. new world?  Time in boil?  Dry hop?  Pellet vs. whole hop?
The question is pretty broad, and I am sure that Sierra Nevada could write a book (or two) on hops and how they are utilized in your beer.  
 I have a friend who owns a barbeque restaurant in Chicago and before he set it up he wrote a "bbq manifesto" to express his philosophy (  I was wondering if you had such an approach to your use of hops.
 Keep making that awesome beer!
Sean Johnson

Sean, that’s a whale of a question, and one I’m not sure we can answer here. We’ll try and speak about what we do. First things first, we only use whole-cone hops for everything we do. Period. We believe that the hop flavor comes across cleaner and more pure with whole-cones than with pellets or extract. We’ve found pellets to have a somewhat off-putting vegetal flavor due to the processing. We prefer whole-cones all the way.
Aroma vs bittering…well, that’s tough. We’re all across the board with that depending on beer styles. We feel that the hops should match the style…US hops with American-style beers, German or Euro hops with Continental styles, English hops with English…etc.  We use a lot of clean hops for bittering: Magnum (both German and US) Perle, Millenium, Warrior, Challenger…etc. For the most part, all of our bittering hops are all early in the boil (90 minute mark or more)

For aroma and dry hop, again we’re all across the board. We’ve been using Cascade since the beginning and still consider that to be one of our signature flavors. Lately with some of our more intensely hopped beers we’ve been playing with oily and resinous hops such as Citra, Simcoe, and several proprietary and experimental varieties. The key for us with aroma and flavor hops is depth…not just grapefruit, or pine, but deeper more rich hop profiles. We like some of the new hops herbal, floral and tropical flavors and I think this is really going to be sea change in brewing over the next couple of years!
Hi!!!  thanks for giving an opportunity for homebrewers to attend Beer Camp!
on with the question....

what is the best way to prolong the shelf life of my hoppy beers?

I know that oxidation is the main reason my IPAs lose their wonderful hop aroma and flavor over time.  I try to purge all vessels with CO2 upon transfer, but my hop aroma seems to fade in a short time (2 weeks).  I feel like Sierra Nevada does an excellent job at minimizing the introduction of oxygen to their beers because they retain their hop aroma much longer than my homebrew does.  What does SNBco do to prolong shelf life?  Is there some kind of anti-oxidant that can be added mid-ferment to reduce the oxidation of hop oils?


Jake, first off, we need a little bit more information. 1.) Are you kegging or bottling? 2.) Are you doing post-fermentation hopping (dry-hopping)? If so, how long are you leaving the hops in contact with the beer?  

If you’re bottling, make sure you get your bottles cold as soon as possible after filling If you can, find barrier crowns. Same thing goes for kegging. Get your kegs cold soon after filling. If you are bottle or keg conditioning that will help too.

If you are not dry hopping…give it a try.

Either way, cold storage and limited exposure to oxygen is the key to retaining hop flavor.  There aren’t really any great anti-oxidants that will help with more flavors.

N Benson []
What temperature does Sierra Nevada Pale Ale use in the mashing process?

Most of our beers are single infusion mashes. We are lucky to have a hydrating wet-mill, meaning that our grain comes into a hopper, moves into a mixing chamber where it briefly steeps in hot mash water, THEN runs through a 4-roller mill and into the mash tun. We do this because the wet malt husks separate more cleanly with less shattering which provides a better lauter bed further down the process. To answer your question, the wet-mill water is typically around 152 degrees F and we raise the mash temp slightly as it enters the mash tun. Our end goal is a 155 degree single infusion mash.
Best regards,
Norm Benson, freelance writer

Adam Reinke []
Dear Sierra Nevada Experts,
The whirlpool seems to be fairly common process in the commercial craft beer industry, but much less used in the typical homebrew process .  Other than helping to filter out some solids and hop matter, what benefit does the whirlpool process offer the brewer and final product?  I am curious what the experts would suggest for a home whirlpool process as way to improve homebrewed beer.
Cheers and beers,
 Adam R. Reinke
Asheville, NC

The whirlpool, as you’ve said, is a common fixture in commercial brewing. The primary reason for the whirlpool is to help separate leftover grain husks, hop matter not collected by the hop strainer, and to gather the coagulated “hot break” proteins and assorted trub. The collective gunk settles into a cone at the bottom of the tank and relatively clear work is taken from the side and send through the wort chiller before fermentation.

On a homebrew scale, the whirlpool is not as necessary, and depending on your method of chilling, and your kettle setup, may be impossible. If you’re using an immersion chiller you could simply use a sanitized spoon to create your own whirlpool in your kettle before transferring wort to a carboy or other fermenting vessel. If you are using a plate chiller or counterflow chiller you could orient the output valve back into your kettle along one of the sidewalls creating a whirlpool as the chilled wort returns to the kettle. You don’t want the wort to be spinning fast…just fast enough so that the forces will naturally pull the hot break and trub into the center. Pinch your kettle drain off to the side of the kettle and your wort should come out clear and cool.

We always prefer a low tech method whenever possible. At home, I like to use a copper immersion chiller, and once my wort gets to a safe pitching temp, pull the chiller grab a sanitized spoon and stir until I get a tornado in the kettle. Stop stirring, and let the wort slowly spin itself out and start draining. DIY whirlpool!

Libby Mongue-Wymore []

So, I'm still just a fresh home brewer, but my husband has big hopes of having a little micro brewery at some point.
I have three questions for you!
1. Brewing beer in Utah, how does one work towards the 3.2 ABV rule? Currently I just make a beer and drink it, with out worrying about the end ABV so much.
 2. Spent grains. What do you guys do with yours? Any creative ideas on what to do with them, besides seeing if a local farmer wants them for live stock?
 3. Is it true if you are a brewer, you somehow need to have a tattoo? How many Sierra brewers are tattooed, and what are said tattoos of? :)
Thanks guys!

1. Libby, we sell plenty of beer in Utah and don’t make a single 3.2% beer. Working through the state system limits the number of total accounts, but also means we don’t have to compromise our recipes to fit the market. The alcohol laws seem to be coming around…slowly, but surely.

As a home brewer, you don’t need to worry about the 3.2 laws. That only applies to beer being sold, not brewed at home. That’s one of the great things about being a home brewer. You get to make whatever beer you can imagine…without having to rely on what’s currently available, or what’s the status quo. If all home brewers worried about the current state of beer, our current renaissance might never have happened!

2. We raise our own heard of cattle in conjunction with Chico State University and also sell our spent grains to farmers around the area… this is such a great system because we get rid of our grains, and also get steak for the restaurant! There are lots of things you CAN do with spent grains at home… my wife uses them to bake bread and pastries, and I use the leftover in my compost bin which will eventually feed my garden. I hear some brewers use the damp spend grains as a growing medium for mushrooms but we haven’t tried that out. I suppose they could be turned into a biodiesel but we haven’t done too much experimentation with that either.

3. You don’t NEED a tattoo to be a brewer, but it helps. So does a beard if you’re keeping score! Most of our brewers are clean-cut, God-fearing gentlemen who help old ladies cross the street, and keep their lawns nice and tidy. Unfortunately, in every barrel there are a few bad apples, and Sierra Nevada is no different. We have a range of tattoos from the butterfly above the ankle all the way to full-sleeves, depending on the individual. As far as I know, there aren’t too many beer related tattoos…mostly just the usual stuff: skulls, tribal bands, giant elaborate maps of a maximum-security penitentiary…

Robert Salgado []

What's the best advice you could give to a brewer?
Robert, this is a tough question. If we had to pick something, it would be to work clean and keep records. 90% of great brewing is clean brewing. If you want to be a brewer, you better like to scrub…keep everything immaculate. Remember, at the end of the day, beer is a food product. You wouldn’t want your food handled in a sloppy way, and the same goes for beer. You’ll never get consistency without cleanliness and consistency is really one of the hallmarks of great brewing. In addition, keep records. That way, if something goes wrong, or doesn’t turn out the way you wanted, you’ll be able to change one thing without starting over from scratch. In order to conduct a proper experiment, everything needs to be identical…then change one variable at a time and observe the results. The same thing goes for beer…beer just happens to be a tasty experiment.

Robert Salgado []

What's the most important thing about beer?
This is like asking us to pick a favorite child… there are so many important things about beer it’s tough to choose. If we had to pick ONE thing, though, it would be drinkability. It’s tempting as a brewer to use every ingredient under the sun to make your beer more complex, but you can make a 15% Imperial oatmeal stout with chipotle chilies and vanilla beans aged for 18 months in anejo tequila barrels, but if you take one sip and you’re done, what was it worth?  Beer is for drinking. You’ll be much happier with a solid glass of beer that you can revisit time-and-time again, than you will be with the world’s most complex ale that’s great in a thimble sized portion. Beer is a social beverage, and there’s a time and a place for big “extreme” beers but there’s a lot to be appreciated in your “daily driver” beers too. Make a good beer, a solid beer, and yes, a complex beer, but also make a drinkable beer. You’ll be glad you did!; on behalf of; Eric Allain []
Dear Sierra Nevada Brewmasters,

My question is concerned with yeast pitching rates.  It is widely accepted that pitching the proper amount of yeast is important for high quality beer.  

1.  What are the effects of under pitching and over pitching?
Under pitching can expose you to microbial infection…On a homebrew scale, over-pitching is always the better method.  As far as flavor development is concerned, over-pitching can lead to higher-alcohols and “hot” tasting beers. That said it is the lesser of two evils and I would always prefer over to under. Under-pitching can produce excess pear and bruised-apple-like esters.

2.  What specifically causes these effects?  (for example, why does under pitching cause increased ester production?)
Stressed yeast is the cause of all of life’s problems. There is a “holy trinity” of cell count/gravity/dissolved oxygen. Adjust one and the other two change.  

Thanks in advance for your help.


Dave Chmela []
To Whom it May Concern,

When I read about water profile and adjusting your local water to be like others, I am really looking for just a good generic profile that will give me flexibility between styles. I mostly brew hoppy pale ale/IPA’s, Belgian Saison and Tripels. Does your brewery change the water for different styles or do you create beers with the set water profile in mind and don’t change it? Would adding any minerals to my profile helps enhance certain flavors?

I buy Spring Water from the store with this profile.
                Dave, we do change mashing and kettle salts for different beer styles. For example, we add additional CaCl2 Calcium Chloride in our Porter and Stout for enhanced mouthfeel. We add more CaSO4 Calcium Sulfate dependant on pounds of malt per barrel.   We don’t try and match water styles from famous brewing cities (AKA Burtonization from Burton on Trent.)
                Your water seems fine, but your magnesium, sodium and pH is a tad high. You may want to try buying distilled water and adding salts to match water to the traditional beer styles you are trying to produce.

Thank you
Dave Chmela