West Coast Brewer Home Brewing Blog

Tag: Ale

Pliny the Elder All Grain Homebrewing Recipe

Pliny the Elder All Grain Homebrewing Recipe

Pliny the Elder All Grain Homebrewing Recipe


For anyone who is interested in brewing an all grain homebrew batch of Pliny the Elder, I have posted the recipe that I brew.  It is a great recipe and tribute to one of the most famous and hard to get Double IPA’s out there. In fact it is so hop packed that this home brewing recipe even calls for a hop addition to the mash!


Click here to view the Pliny the Elder Homebrewing Recipe

New Homebreiwng Device Called The Trub Trapper

Trub Trapper Homebrewing Screen

Trub Trapper Homebrewing Screen


Every now and then a new homebrewing product comes out that catches my eye and I say, I can not believe nobody had thought of that. The Trub Trapper is one of those home brewing equipment idea.


So what is the Trub Trapper and why is it so great? Well, lets start by talking a little about trub first. Trub is that thick sludge left at the bottom of your boil kettle after you have transferred your wort to the fermenter.  It is a combination of hops, compounds, proteins and solids left over after the boil. The problem is that it is very difficult to stop the trub from passing in to your fermenter. Trub formed during the boil can adversely affect fermentation and produce undesirable flavors and haze in your finished beer. It is something that you want to avoid if at all possible and I will explain further in a couple of paragraphs. You worked to remove these unwanted compounds and byproducts during the boil so you do not want to allow them in your homebrewing fermenter.


How does the trub trapper work? Well, it is pretty simple really, you place the TrubTrapper in the bottom of your home brewing kettle so that your brew kettle dip tube is outside the tub trapper ring before you fill your boil kettle. You conduct your boil as you normally would and then whirlpool post boil.  Let the wort settle for approximately 10 minutes and you are ready to go. It is that simple.  The high temperature soft silicone gasket and overall weight of the TrubTrapper will keep it in place during the boil and whirlpool so there is no need to re-position, or try and unclog anything.  A small amount of the overall trub will settle outside the trub trapper filter ring during the whirlpool process, and a portion of that will flow in to the fermenter but the grand majority of the trub will be trapped inside the trub trapper which is where you want it.


The TrubTrapper

The TrubTrapper


Why is trub transferring in to your fermenter such a bad thing? Well, excessive trub can coat yeast membranes impeding transport in and out of the cells which encourages metabolic by-products.  Not to mention fine particulates in trub can lead to haze formation in your finished beer. Trub can also be responsible for head retention issues, impact aroma, flavor stability and off flavors such as sulfur, harsh bitterness and soapy notes.  If you have been experiencing any of this in your home brew then the trub trapper may be exactly what you are looking for.


If you like to reuse your homebrewing yeast, the trub trapper can help with that too. Excessive trub affects your ability to harvest and re-use yeast effectively and efficiently.  High trub levels make it more difficult to collect and clean the yeast and poor yeast health caused by excessive trub eliminates the ability for you to maintain the quality of your yeast which impacts the quality of your beer!


So how much is the trub trapper and where can I get it? It runs for about $50 and you can find the TrubTrapper here!

Tips for making a great pumpkin beer!

Brewing a Great Pumpkin Beers

Brewing a great pumpkin beer



There are two types of pumpkin beers out there, great ones and terrible ones. Brewing up a great pumpkin beer can be easy if you know what you are doing and I have put together a few tips to help you out if you are brewing up your first batch of pumpkin homebrew!


1) Most importantly, start with a great base beer recipe!

Pumpkin Beer Recipe Kits are great because they take all of the guess work out of it and the good ones are well balanced when it comes to pumpkin flavors. There are a bunch of great pumpkin beer recipe kits out there including these ones which are two of my favorites:

 MoreBeer Pumpkin Beer Recipe Kit

Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown Ale

But if you want to design your own recipe, make sure that you start with a great base beer that will showcase your pumpkin beer well. I personally enjoy the malty flavor of darker beers for a pumpkin ale, like a nice brown ale.  I also try to keep the ABV down if it will be for a party where people will be enjoying several pints. The following is a great kit to start with, just make sure you pay attention to tip #2.

Nut Brown Base for a Great Pumpkin Beer


2) Highly important, DO NOT over hop your pumpkin beer!

Trust me on this, I have made this mistake in the past.  The last thing that you want is for your hops to compete against the pumpkin and spice flavor in your beer.  The hops should just add a very subtle bitterness to your beer. I would recommend an IBU of around 10 – 20 for a pumpkin ale, but it will depend on the estimated ABV of your beer so that it is balanced.  If you use the Nut Brown Ale listed above, you may want to consider halving the amount of hops used.


3) This is pretty important too, DO NOT over spice your pumpkin beer!

Okay, so I may have made this mistake in the past as well. You do not want your pumpkin beer to taste like someone accidentally dropped a spice rack in your kettle.  A great pumpkin beer is flavorful but not overpowering.  I will leave the quantity of pumpkin spice that you use up to you, but will give you this advice.  You can always add more!  What I do is add a moderate amount of spice at the start of fermentation and then add the spice to taste at the end of fermentation.  I will slowly add more spices to the fermenter and sample the beer until I am pleased.  Since I keg, I will even sometimes add additional spice to the keg once the beer has been conditioned if I feel that it is lacking in flavor.


4) This is kinda important, DO NOT rush your pumpkin beer!

Pumpkin beer is just like every other beer that a home brewer creates, it requires time to properly ferment and condition. If it is 7 days before your Halloween party and you are thinking of brewing a pumpkin beer for it, you may want to brew a Thanksgiving pumpkin beer instead.  Give yourself at least a month.  Make sure your ferment at an appropriate and  stable temperature that is right for your yeast and give your beer time to properly carbonate, clear and condition.


5) I guess this is important as well, if you are going to use fresh pumpkin, then use pie making pumpkin, not your sons Jack-o-lantern.

So there are different types of pumpkins out there, the type you carve, the miniature type that is the size of a muffin and the type that you make pie out of.  If you want to go all Martha Stewart on me and use a fresh pumpkin, then make sure that you use a pie making pumpkin and not some little ornamental pumpkin or some giant jack-o-lantern style pumpkin that you got from a bin in front of Walmart. If you use fresh pumpkin, clean and cut the pumpkins flesh into cubes.  Bake those cubes at a low temperature (about 325 F) until the cubes become nice and soft and start to brown.  If you are not an over achiever, I use Libby’s Pumpkin Pie mix and add 2 large cans per 5 gallons of beer.


6) Okay, so this is really important, add your pumpkin to secondary fermentation!

There is much global debate in the world on when to add your pumpkin to your brew, in the mash or at fermentation.  I personally add it at the tale end of primary fermentation,  I simply add my Libby’s pumpkin pie mix and pumpkin pie spice to a clean fermenter and transfer the beer onto it.  I allow the beer to complete fermentation for an additional 2 weeks or so and then cold crash for another week before racking to a keg.


7) This is not too important, give your beer a cool and festive name!

Some brewers enjoy naming their beer as much as they enjoy brewing it.  If this is you then go for the gold!  If you come up with a good one, I would love to hear it.



Brewing yeast strains are unicellular fungi that convert simple sugars into approximately equal parts of alcohol and carbon dioxide during the fermentation process. There are two main types of beer yeast varieties: saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is a top fermenting ale yeast, and saccharomyces pastorianusis, a bottom fermenting lager yeast.




A wide selection of home brewing ale and lager yeast can be found here:

Home Brewing Yeast



Below is an image of a fermenting Flanders Red Ale style beer in two glass carboys with a flask of yeast in front of them:

Yeast and Fermenting Beer

Yeast and Fermenting Beer

Top Fermentation

Top fermentation, or top fermenting, describes the tendency of ale yeast cells to conduct the majority of fermentation on the surface of the fermentation vessel as opposed to the bottom, as is common with lager yeast. Top fermenting ale yeast is typically fermented at a temperature range between 65° F and 75° F; the lower the temperature, the slower the fermentation is carried out.


Excessive fermentation temperatures have been known to generate off flavors in beer, and that is why a temperature range of 65° F to 75° F is typically recommended. When a top fermenting ale is most active, a thick head of foam known as a krausen forms on the top of the fermentation vessel and will subside as the fermentation draws to an end. The length of fermentation is dependent on the health of the yeast, the original gravity of the wort, the temperature of the fermentation and the amount of yeast pitched, but typically takes anywhere from one week to three weeks for the majority of fermentation activity to complete.  A secondary fermentation is oftentimes conducted so that any remaining fermentable sugars can be converted to alcohol, and the beer can condition and allow the yeast to precipitate to the bottom of the fermenter in preparation for bottling or kegging.


Below is a photo of a top fermenting ale that was recently transferred to a secondary fermentation carboy.

Top Fermenting Ale - Beer

Top Fermenting Ale – Beer

Cask Conditioning

Cask conditioned beer refers to unfiltered and unpasteurized beer that has been conditioned in and served from a cask. This method will impart a distinctive flavor. Cask conditioned beer is naturally fermented and is typically served from the cask using a beer engine or hand-powered style pump as opposed to pushed using a CO2 tank. Cask beers tend to be served with lower levels of dissolved CO2 than one might find in a typical kegged beer. The shelf life of a casked beer is also much shorter, and the potential for oxidization is much higher since the cask walls are air permeable.

Brettanomyces – Brett

Brett or brettanomyces is a high attenuation yeast strain that is known for the acidic, funky, wild\barnyard type tastes and smells that it produces. In most beer styles, brett it is perceived as an unwanted contaminant due to its strong and distinct flavors that can overwhelm more subtle beer flavors. Yet it is highly prized in some Belgian ales, such as gueuze, lambics, farmhouse ales, and Flanders red ales.


It is even used in one of my favorite Belgian Trappist beers called Orval, where their brewers add it at bottling, and allow it to ferment out and condition over time. Brettanomyces has grown in popularity over the last several years and is now used in a wide variety of styles and by many US craft breweries. When brewing with brett, it is important to avoid cross contamination with your non-brett beers as it is a robust yeast strain that can easily modify a beer’s flavor and aroma.


The most commonly used brett yeast strains are White Labs WLP644 Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Trois, White Labs WLP645 Brettanomyces Clausenii, White Labs WLP650 Brettanomyces Bruxellensis and Wyeast 5526 Brettanomyces Lambicus.





An ale is a beer that has been fermented using a top fermenting yeast. Ale yeasts are typically more resilient to warmer temperatures then their lager counterparts and are usually fermented at a temperature range of 65-75 F.  Since the yeast is more active at higher temperatures, an ale ferments much quicker then a lager.


Examples of ales include golden ales, pale ales, India pale ale, old ale, Belgian ale and barley wines.


Something to keep in mind when fermenting an ale is that ale yeast can ferment beer above a temperature of 75 F, but when doing so it will oftentimes create undesirable esters and off flavors.   Also, liquid ale yeast is vulnerable to high temperature, and it should be refrigerated to maintain its viability in transit and in storage. Due to the delicate nature of liquid yeast, I always create a yeast starter to verify its viability prior to pitching it in the cooled wort.