Sep 22

Designing Beer with Dr. Brad Smith (aka the BeerSmith guy!)


Click image to see the flyer

As part of Baltimore Beer Week, CSI has lined up an awesome opportunity for all homebrewers in the area.  On Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013, we will be hosting Dr. Brad Smith, author of the highly acclaimed BeerSmith brewing software, brewer with 23 years experience, host of the BeerSmith podcast, and founder of for a talk on designing beer.  The event will take place at Maryland Homebrew at 6770 Oak Hall Ln #108, Columbia, MD 21045 from 6:30pm to 9:00pm.

If you are looking to bring your brewing game to the next level, especially those of you looking to get your beers into competitions, this is a great opportunity to bring some homebrew, share it with other homebrewers, get quality feedback, and learn about what you can do to design better homebrew recipes.  Members from CSI will be on hand to talk about homebrew clubs in the area and why joining a homebrew club will also result in brewers crafting better beers.

The event will begin at 6:30pm with a social hour.  Here you can share your homebrew, enjoy samples of beer from other homebrewers in a social forum, talk about brewing technique, recipe design, or whatever you want.

At 7:30pm we will all take our seats and Dr. Smith will give us a presentation on designing beer.  Similar to his presentation at the 2013 National Homebrewers Conference in Philadelphia, PA, he will offer a structured approach to beer recipe design, starting with a target style and walking through research, selection of ingredients and application of brewing techniques to create a great beer recipe. He will review examples of recipe design, as well as cover some of the newer techniques brewers are using to enhance their beer. This presentation is oriented towards all-grain beer design, though most of the techniques could also be used by extract brewers, which he would be happy to explain.  Before he finishes, we have asked him to give a quick demonstration of how all this can be done in the BeerSmith software.  He will wrap up the evening by holding a questions and answers session with those in attendance.

This looks to be a great event and best of all, it is FREE!  In order to attend, registration is required as seating is limited.  Registration can be done at the following URL:

If you wish to print up a flyer for the event to share with fellow homebrewers or your homebrew club, you can find the flyer here.

The members of CSI hope you can enjoy us in this fun, yet educational homebrewing event.

If you have any questions, please contact CSI President, Brent MacAloney.

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Sep 12

Flanders Get Together (Party)

I know there was some confusion about when the whole Flanders gathering kicks off. We would like to have everyone start coming at 4 pm. It would be sort of cool to bring a bottle of commercial Flanders red (they aren’t too expensive) to make it an all around Flanders event. Kids are welcome.

We are going with Pot Luck. Trying to organize food with the brewing folks is like herding cats.

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Aug 17

Group Brew Project Showcasing Unique and Exotic Hops

NHC LogoWith the 2013 National Homebrewers Conference (NHC) being held right up I-95 from Baltimore in Philadelphia, it provided CSI club members who have never been to a national conference with an excellent opportunity to attend one.  In fact, CSI had around 20 members register to attend the event.

In the months leading up to the NHC, as we met to discuss CSI’s presence at the NHC, it became apparent that it would be both fun and educational to come up with a series of single hopped beers featuring rare and exotic hops to serve at club night.  The goal was to allow those tasting the beers the opportunity to really pick up on the characteristics of each hop variety.  It also provided a chance to those in the club who primarily brew with malt extract, to team up with an all-grain brewer, giving them the chance to try out the process.

First, we wanted to come up with a malt bill that provided for a solid drinking base, but did not overpower the hops.  So we went to the club’s resident IPA expert, Matt Barra, for a recommendation.  He brought a very simple, but enjoyable malt bill that he had used several times before.  The malt bill for a 5 gallon batch was:

  • 8 pounds of Pale Malt (UK)
  • 4 pounds of Vienna
  • 8 ounces of Victory
  • 8 ounces of Crystal 80L

Next we needed to find some hops.  We remembered back to the January 2013 club meeting when CSI member Mike Pietropaoli brought an IPA to the meeting that featured Caliente hops.  Prior to that meeting, no one in the club had ever heard of Caliente hops, let alone used them.  The hop profile in the beer was so unique and enjoyable, members immediately started asking where he found this variety.  Mike pointed us all to

Yakima Valley HopsFor those brewers who have not been to, you are severely missing out.  YVH is a legit hops super store.  In fact, I’d argue that there isn’t a shop out there with a larger variety.  At any given time, they probably have around 40 varieties of domestic hops and around 30 varieties of imported hops to choose from.  This provided us with an amazing selection of hop varieties to choose from for our project.  After printing up the current stock and reviewing the hop profiles with the club members, we ended up settling on buying a half pound of each of the following varieties for our group brew project:

  • Bravo
  • Caliente
  • Calypso
  • Comet
  • Falconer’s Flight
  • Millenium
  • Sorachi Ace
  • Super Galena

Note:  I was late on putting the hops orders in and the good folks at YVH were more than accommodating in making sure the hops were in my hand in time for the brew session.  Thanks sooooo much to the staff there.  Talk about tip top customer service!!!

Additionally, we had some brewers with Simcoe and homebrown Cascade hops on hand, so they used those for the group brew.

Members of the club got together on Saturday, April 6th in the parking lot behind Maryland Homebrew in Columbia, MD to take part in a group brew.  The rules were simple.  Everyone uses the same malt bill (along with some help from the MDHB staff, we measured the portions out and milled the grains the night before) but we left it up to the brewer to decide how to best use their half pound of hops.  No other hop varieties other than the single hop could be used.  Brewers could use as much of the half pound as they wanted and make their hop additions whenever they wanted during the brew session.  For example, I ended up adding an ounce at 60 minutes, half an ounce every 10 minutes during the boil, and then another ounce at flameout.

In order to serve all of these beers at the Club Night, I built a 9-tap draft box for the club out of spare wood that I had left over from previous woodworking projects.  That way attendees could go down the line and try up to 9 of these beers in a row, allowing them to compare and contrast the characteristics of each hop.  The draft box turned out awesome and is a nice piece for the club to have and use for years to come.

Draft Box

Feedback on the beers and the project from attendees at the NHC was awesome!  On top of many people just swinging by to try all the different beers and enjoying learning about hops they’ve never tried or heard of, in talking about our project with attendees, I had more than one person come up to me and say they wanted to try something like this with their homebrew club.  It is so exciting that our project inspired other clubs to try something similar.

Pouring Beer at NHC

The point of this post is to encourage CSI members and members of other clubs to organize and try a group project like this or something similar.  Below you will find a few other ideas that may be worth trying with your friends or you club, but however, I encourage you to think outside the box, and experiment on an aspect of homebrew that interests you or that you would like to know more about.

  • Large batch of homebrew using the same malt, hops, and yeast, portioned off and fermented at different temperatures.
  • Large batch of homebrew using the same malt and hops, but using different yeasts.
  • Several separate batches of homebrew using different base malts, but the same specialty malts, hops and yeast.
  • Several separate batches of homebrew using the same malt, hops, and yeast, but using different mashing temperatures.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me and I’ll be glad to talk to you about setting up a project like this for you and your friends.  The sky is the limit here and the end result is a lot of fun and extremely educational.  Cheers!


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Jul 15

$15 carboy cooler

If you need to cool your beer about 10 degrees below ambient, here are two great ideas. The first is the age-old “pot-in-pot” method, where you put the carboy inside a large unglazed terra-cotta pot, and fill the pot either with water, or a mixture of water and sand. Then blow a fan on the pot and the evaporation can cool the carboy down at least 10 deg. I couldn’t find any pots big enough for my Better Bottle, but while wandering through the garden section at Lowes, I did find an EnduraCool towel ($15) which is a thin, synthetic towel that is extremely efficient at evaporating. It wraps perfectly around the 6-gal Better Bottle. I secured it with two paper clips and put the carboy in a shallow tub that I feed with a slow trickle of water. Blowing a fan on it has cooled it down ten deg below ambient. Many brewers call this a “swamp cooler” and use a wet t-shirt; I tried this but it only gave me 3 deg drop. I’ve included a pic below.  I believe this would be even more efficient if I were doing it in a small room with a dehumidifier also running.

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May 07

How To Build a Keezer or Freezer Kegerator

This is a video link that I’ve been meaning to put up on the website for a while and just haven’t gotten around to it. It is a video from Northern Brewer on how to build a keezer or freezer kegerator.


The video is approximately 14 minutes long, but having helped people build a keezer before, I think it does a very good job at explaining the process in pretty good detail.

Now if you are going to embark on the journey of building a keezer, the first place I would look for a bargain on a freezer is over at Homebrew Finds. It seems as if they are posting a deal every week or two on freezers that can be used to convert to a keezer.

Finally, I would recommend asking around in the club. There are several members that I know of that have made some pretty sophisticated and beautiful looking keezers. Just show up at a meeting and ask around, or head over to our Facebook page and make a post.

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Mar 27

Flanders Update

I’m sampling the Flanders after filling it to the top, I’m guessing it took about 2 or 3 quarts. The beer is quite clear and red. The sourness is very pleasant and quite fruity in the tropical range, still some malt backbone left though. Dry but really refreshing. We got the bugs just right, its not vinegar.

We need to start making plans on what to do next with the Barrel. It would be nice to empty the thing and fill it right up. I suspect we need a barrel tasting party and a empty/fill party.

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Jan 27

Tickets and Brewing for AHA

Irregulars, I need to get a head count on those who are brewing for the AHA conference. The only other confirmed brewer I have right now is Shawn who is in for a beautiful 10 gallons. I’ll be pitching in at least 10, likely more. Brent’s goal here is to show up with 30 kegs- so we got 26 more kegs to fill. I can help you brew – we can have a big brew event at my place to help create the volume, I have the tools. Be ready for dates by next meeting.

The other thing you need to be aware of is that when the tickets go on sale, you need to get on top of it fast. The expectation is that the conference will sell out on 02/05/13 probably within an hour or so of tickets going on sale. Also BOOK your rooms at the conference rate ASAP after they open that up. Rooms go quick too.

With the conference so geographically close this is no time to “think about it”. The reasons these tickets are so hot is that it’s still a bit of a secret that this event is better than the other thing they do in Denver in the fall.

So plan now and take the time off work … get after it.

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Jan 11

Loch Ness Porter – Brian Ferullo

BeerSmith 2 Recipe Printout -
Recipe: Loch Ness Porter
Brewer: Brian Ferullo
Asst Brewer: 
Style: Robust Porter
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (30.0) 

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 7.56 gal
Post Boil Volume: 7.02 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 6.00 gal   
Bottling Volume: 5.60 gal
Estimated OG: 1.064 SG
Estimated Color: 36.9 SRM
Estimated IBU: 45.1 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 84.4 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt                   Name                                     Type          #        %/IBU         
7 lbs 10.5 oz         Maris Otter (Crisp) (4.0 SRM)            Grain         1        55.1 %        
2 lbs 3.0 oz          Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)           Grain         2        15.7 %        
1 lbs 5.6 oz          Caramel Malt - 80L (Cargill) (80.0 SRM)  Grain         3        9.7 %         
1 lbs 1.3 oz          Brown Malt (Crisp) (65.0 SRM)            Grain         4        7.8 %         
13.0 oz               Oats, Flaked (Briess) (1.4 SRM)          Grain         5        5.9 %         
13.0 oz               Chocolate (Crisp) (630.0 SRM)            Grain         6        5.8 %         
1.00 oz               Warrior [13.70 %] - Boil 60.0 min        Hop           7        36.0 IBUs     
0.25 oz               Willamette [7.50 %] - Boil 30.0 min      Hop           8        3.8 IBUs      
0.54 oz               Willamette [7.50 %] - Boil 15.0 min      Hop           9        5.3 IBUs      
1.0 pkg               Ringwood Ale (Wyeast Labs #1187) [124.21 Yeast         10       -             

Grain	                  13.91	lbs
Mash Ratio	1.2	qts/lb of grain
Absorption rate	0.2	gallons/lb grain
Boil Off Rate	1.25	gallons/hour
Boil Time	        60	minutes
Volume to primary	6	gallons

(below based off spreadsheet, not Beersmith)
	                 Gallons	           Quarts
Mash Water	         4.17	                   16.69
Water Absorbed	         2.78	                   11.13
Wort After Absorbtion    1.39	                   5.6
Sparge Water	          5.86	                   23.4
Boil Volume	          7.25	                   29.0

Mashed in at 168 which yielded final mash temp of 152 

1st sparge was 4 gallons resting 10 minutes followed by 2nd sparge with about 2 gallons with no rest

RINGWOOD (wyeast) yeast had a long lag time time (at least 72 hours)
Didn't use a starter, just pitched smack pack after a few hours
Bottled 10/5/12 with Coopers Carbonation Tabs ---> 1 per 12 oz bottle

Amounts calculated by Beersmith, rounded hop additions to nearest tenth.  

Created with BeerSmith 2 -

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Jan 09

Roasted Sweet Stout Recipe from Jan 2013

Here is the recipe for my Roasted Sweet Stout, approximately 5 gallons:

Mash at 154:
10.00# British Munich
0.60# American Crystal 80
1.00# Belgian Chocolate
0.15# Belgian Roasted Barley
0.10# Debittered Black Malt (approx.)
0.25# Belgian Black Patent
0.50# Oats (flaked – head retention)

1oz of EK Goldings (6.6%) for 60 minutes

Add 1.00# Lactose for final 5 minutes

Used WLP005 British Ale Yeast, fermented at ~68F.
Added 4 oz of pre-Vodka-soaked cacao nibs in the secondary.
OG ~1.064
FG ~1.017

Bottle (or keg!) and enjoy.

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Dec 25

Flanders Red Update

First of all Merry Christmas to all.
I was prepping some beer for the upcoming parties and it was a convent time to top off the barrel. Everything is quite smooth here, with quite a nice sour note that is well balanced with the malt, the beer is crystal clear. A slight thin white pellicle is covering the beer. I would guess I filled it with about another quart or so of fresh beer from Greg’s keg. I would estimate that we still have 3.5 – 4 gallons left in that keg.

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