Brü’s Views w/ Olan Suddeth | On Brewing With Kids

Historically, the consumption of alcohol has been spun as a vice, at least in American culture. Undoubtedly influenced by puritanical perspectives, even occasional imbibing by responsible adults is viewed by some as an ineffectively weak form of self-treatment for deeper emotional issues. And that’s just the drinking part. Homebrewing brings on a whole new slew of concerns.

Is that even legal? Are you making meth? You’re going to drink all of that? You let your kids help you make beer?

Just like any other hobby, homebrewing serves as a creative outlet into which many people invest copious amounts of time and money, all for the sake of fun. We hangout with other brewers, join clubs, go to conferences, and some of us even use it as a way to connect with and teach our kids. However, unlike most other hobbies, ours involves alcohol, which requires some consideration.

Given the focus of today’s Brü’s Views, I wanted to make sure the guest was a homebrewer with extensive parental experience and could think of no one better than the Homebrew Dad himself, Olan Suddeth. Reigning from the state of Alabama, Olan and his wife married 21 years ago and immediately started having kids, bu_logo_desktoptheir 7th born last year around the time their oldest was moving out. In addition to his role as super awesome dad, Olan is deeply invested in the online homebrewing community and runs the Brew United website, a fantastic resource for brewing calculators, recipes, and discussion. Thanks to Olan for sharing his thoughts on brewing with kids! (more…)

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The Gelatin Effect – Pt. 5: Gelatin vs. Biofine Clear | exBEERiment Results!

Author: Matt Waldron

It’s no secret my fellow Brülosophy comrades love the beer clarifying powers of gelatin– not only is the first xBmt on the topic the most commonly viewed on the site due in no small part to being featured in basically every article, but gelatin as a variable has been investigated more than any other. However, it’s not what I use. I love clear beer as much as the next person, but my wife and brewing partner, a primary consumer of the beer we make, is vegetarian, so fining with gelatin is out of the question. Given the paucity of post-boil fining options, I was left with few alternatives and ultimately settled on an animal-parts-not-included product called Biofine Clear*.

Biofine is described as “a purified colloidal solution of silicic acid (SiO2) in water that has been specifically formulated for the rapid sedimentation of yeast and other haze forming particles in beer.” While the method of action of Biofine is similar to gelatin in that it clarifies by attracting and dropping out oppositely charged particulate matter, they differ in polarity with Biofine possessing a strong negative charge while gelatin has a strong positive charge. Despite being sold as performing the same task, this information indicates each fining precipitates different suspended solids based on the polarity of the particle.

The fact I’ve been regularly using Biofine is evidence of my belief it’s doing something for my beer, though it seems some view this gelatin substitute as having as much utility as a homeopathic small pox vaccine, with stories laden with hazy beer photos “proving” its ineffectiveness. Could it be that I’ve been blindly using a product that doesn’t work as well as a fining derived from slaughterhouse remnants? Even more, does it have an impact on the character of the finished beer? Time to put this one to the test!

*It recently came to our attention the manufacturer of Biofine Clear, Kerry Chemicals, produces another fining agent that goes by just Biofine, a powdered isinglass made from fish bladders, which is not vegan friendly. For the purposes of this article, the term “Biofine” refers to the vegan-friendly Biofine Clear. 


To evaluate the differences between a beer fined with gelatin and the same beer fined with Biofine Clear.


For this xBmt, I wanted to brew a beer that would be light enough to ensure any differences caused by the variable were noticeable and thought a nice Honey Kölsch fit the bill nicely.

Honey Bee Kölsch

Recipe Details

Batch Size Boil Time IBU SRM Est. OG Est. FG ABV
5 gal 60 min 27.7 IBUs 4.4 SRM 1.049 1.009 5.2 %
Actuals 1.049 1.009 5.2 %


Name Amount %
Pale Malt, 2 row (Gambrinus) 4 lbs 44.44
Pilsner (2 row) (Gambrinus) 4 lbs 44.44
Carapils 8 oz 5.56
Honey Malt (Gambrinus) 8 oz 5.56


Name Amount Time Use Form Alpha %
Hallertauer Mittelfrueh 56 g 60 min Boil Pellet 4


Name Lab Attenuation Temperature
German Ale/Kolsch (WLP029) White Labs 75% 65°F - 69°F

My 5 gallon mash in a bag brew day began with the collection and heating of water, during which I milled the grains.


When the water reached strike temp, I mashed in and hit my intended temperature dead-on.


Click pic for ThermaPen review

The mash was stirred a couple times over the hour long rest.


Click pic for The Brew Bag MLT bag review

The timer beeped and I collected the wort in my kettle, which would be boiled on my stove-top.


As soon as a boil was reached, I tossed in the single hop addition and let it go for an hour. Once complete, I transferred the hot wort to a clean no-chill cube and left it in a cool area of my house for a few hours before placing it in my 58°F/14°C fermentation chamber. The following day, I transferred the chilled wort to a sanitized fermentor, making a small but appreciated mess.


I pitched 58˚F/14˚C slurry of WLP029 German Ale/Kölsch yeast from a prior batch directly into the wort, forgoing a starter since this was a sub-1.050 OG beer and the slurry harvested not 2 weeks prior. Fermentation was active when I checked on the beer 18 hours later and proceeded without issue. At 1 week post-pitch, I raised the temperature in the chamber to 70˚F/21˚C for attenuation and byproduct clean-up purposes. Signs of activity were absent 10 days later, so I took a couple hydrometer measurements over 2 days that were the same, and the sample was clean with nothing off, so I started the cold crash. After 2 days, I split the beer evenly between two 3 gallon Better Bottle carboys serving as secondary vessels, each receiving approximately 2.5 gallons of beer.


Finally time to introduce the variable! I measured out half the recommended amount of each fining agent given the relative difference in batch size.


A gelatin solution of 1/4 teaspoon combined in 1/4 cup hot water was added to one carboy while approximately 1/4 teaspoon BioFine was added to the other carboy, then both were returned to the cold chamber. In an effort to give both batches a fighting chance, I let the finings work a little longer than some people prefer. After 6 days, I removed the carboys in preparation for packaging and noticed they looked pretty similar at this point.

6 days post-fining

6 days post-fining

The beer was transferred to 3 gallon kegs then placed in my keezer where they were force carbonated. When it came time to collect data the following weekend, the beers were looking nice and not terribly different.

Left: Biofine Clear | Right: Gelatin

Left: Biofine Clear | Right: Gelatin


A total of 22 people participated in this xBmt, all blind to the variable being investigated. Each taster was served 1 sample of the gelatin fined beer and 2 samples of the beer fined with Biofine Clear in different colored opaque cups then asked to select the one they perceived as being different. Given the sample size,  12 correct responses (p<0.05) would be required to achieve statistical significance. However, only 7 participants (p=0.64) correctly identified the odd-beer-out, suggesting this panel of participants was not able to reliably distinguish a beer fined with gelatin from one fined with Biofine, despite the difference in clarity.

My Impressions: Based on aggravation levels I’d observed online regarding post-fermentation finings, I thought Biofine Clear would have produced a significantly different beer than gelatin, and perhaps this bias would impact my perception of the beers I made for this xBmt. But the finished beers had little difference. At first, earlier on in the process, I thought the gelatin fined beer was slightly clearer and possibly somewhat darker with a vaguely crisper, hop forward aftertaste whereas the Biofine fined beer came across as bready with a malt forward aftertaste. Then I did multiple blind triangle tests and could not pick out the unique sample with any accuracy. In regards to the actual beer, it was really good, the Honey Malt imparting a sweeter twist on the style, yet finishing with a very nice Kölsch-like character.


As we continue to hammer away at the variable of gelatin and how it impacts beer quality, I find myself consistently surprised with the fact it doesn’t seem to have the impact on flavor many claim. While the Biofine batch did take a little longer to clear than the gelatin fined beer, in the end they finished with a very similar appearance, and there is no evidence to suggest they tasted any different. Prior to my post-fermentation fining days, beers like the one I made for this xBmt tended to require around 2 weeks of cold conditioning after packaging to drop as clear as both the Biofine and gelatin fined beers were in less than a week, which says both products work.

These results are useful to me in that they validated not only my use of Biofine Clear as an effective clarifying agent, but demonstrated it doesn’t seem to have a big impact on the character of the finished beer, at least when compared to gelatin. For these reasons, I’ll continue using Biofine for clarification, confident that my wife and I can enjoy delicious and clear beer sans animal stuffs in less time. For brewers of the carnivorous persuasion, gelatin’s effectiveness combined with its low price-point may make it the more appealing option.

What do you use to clear your beer? Are you a die hard lagerer, do you employ other methods for ensuring your beer ends up clear, or do you even care? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!


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The Hop Chronicles | Experimental #09326

Author: Marshall Schott

In the quest for the next best hop, growers around the world continue breeding new varieties designed to impart unique flavors and aroma in our beer. Following my very positive experience with Denali, I was excited when Hopsteiner’s Bill Elkins reached out to say he had a new experimental hop he wanted us to try out, explaining it has having “a big orange/lemon/grapefruit/lime thing going on with tropical, juicy, and floral back notes.” A mouthwatering description if I’ve ever heard one!



Fermentation Vessel – Pt. 2: Plastic (PET) Carboy vs. Glass Carboy | exBEERiment Results!

Author: Marshall Schott

There are few things I worry less about when it comes to brewing than the type of fermentor I use, mostly because it seems like a variable inconsequential enough to have little if any impact on beer quality. I’ve heard arguments regarding the effect of fermentor geometry, amount of headspace, and O2 permeability, but in my experience, it has never seemed to matter.

Then I did the first fermentation vessel xBmt and was shocked that a majority of people were able to distinguish the sample fermented in a PET carboy from one fermented in a bucket. Given the small sample size of only 10 participants, I wondered if the results were a fluke, but 7 out of 10 people is pretty nuts, certainly enough to keep me curious. I was inspired to revisit this topic after reading a comment left by someone in a popular homebrewing forum about how they can “taste oxidation in beers fermented in plastic.”

Really? (more…)

Sparkle & Fizz: Carbonation Methods

Author: Marshall Schott

Of all that contributes to the goodness of beer and other adult beverages, I view carbonation as being one of the most important. While guidelines list “required” amounts of carbonation based on style, I’m of the camp who prefers nearly all of my beers to have a decent sparkle, to me it’s what adds that refreshing touch. The beautiful thing about brewing our own beer is that we get to choose the carbonation level we so desire! Want a petillant Pilsner or sparkling Stout? Go for it!

What I’ll be discussing here are the various carbonation methods I’ve used not only for beer, but sparkling cider, mead, and non-alcoholic soda. The focus of this article is on the more practical side of carbonation, what I’ve done over the years to achieve what it is I’m looking for, as this is the stuff most people seem to ask me about. Naturally, as someone who kegs, force carbonation methods are those I know best and will be discussed a bit more in depth, though I’ll briefly go over bottle conditioning since that’s where I cut my teeth and it’s the method many rely on today. (more…)

Water Chemistry – Pt. 4: Phosphoric vs. Lactic Acid for Mash pH Adjustment | exBEERiment Results!

Author: Malcolm Frazer

I use the same multi-step but simple process every time I make water adjustments for a beer. Based on the style, I select my preferred water profile, calculate the mineral additions, then check to see what the mash pH is predicted to be. Relying on my moderate alkalinity (~145 ppm) municipal water for at least some portion of the brewing liquor, my mash pH is often higher than I prefer, which I remedy by using liquid acid.

Readily available at local homebrew shops, 88% lactic acid is a popular option for pH adjustments due to its low cost, effectiveness, shelf stability, and relative safeness. Phosphoric acid is also used commonly by homebrewers for pH adjustment, though it’s maligned by some due its reaction with calcium, and it’s also a bit weaker at the commonly available 10-15% strength. While the decision of which acid to use is likely made without much forethought by many homebrewers, both react in their own idiosyncratic ways that are worthy of consideration. For example, phosphoric acid adds flavor neutral phosphate that precipitates out a small amount of calcium, thus lowering the total calcium potential in the beer, which can have a negative impact on yeast health and beer clarity. Lactate ions, on the other hand, may have a noticeable flavor impact when used in higher amounts.

As a brewer who uses water with a decent level of alkalinity to make beers with low mineral character, I came to rely on liquid acid to achieve my target pH. While I developed a personal preference based on my own system and experience, I began to wonder if acid type contributed to the character of the beer and decided to put it to the test! (more…)

The Conference Formerly Known As NHC, or Why You Need To Attend Homebrew Con 2016

Author: Marshall Schott

Regretfully, it took me 12 years of homebrewing before I attended my first National Homebrewers Conference in San Diego last year. I’d heard about it and how much fun people had, but every year I came up with reasons to avoid going. Today, I’m going to go over some of my favorite aspects of NHC, now known as Homebrew Con, in the hope I can help others avoid making a similar mistake.

The People

NHC2015_6Online personas serve to anonymize the real us, allowing for the occasional presumptively terse remark to someone we don’t really know, fully aware that we may never come across these people in real life. Unless you go to Homebrew Con! I often say that the community is my favorite aspect of this hobby, and a large part of this community resides on the internet where we engage with illusory versions of peers in the safety of the warm glow of a computerNHC2015_3 monitor. Rather than pretending to know a person based solely on their a/s/l, attending Homebrew Con forced me to interact with actual human beings, all who had one very cool thing in common: a love for brewing and beer. Whether attending seminars, moseying around the convention center, or even taking a stroll to a nearby burger joint, I was surrounded by cool fellow conference-goers more than willing to strike up a conversation that usually elicits stares of 09_NHC_4misunderstanding from my wife and non-brewing friends. One of the coolest experiences was bumping into people I’d interacted with online, many who I developed friendships with and continue to talk to today. Furthermore, there is no event on earth that puts so many favorite brewing celebs in a single place at the same time, and in my experience, most are down for sampling, sharing, and shooting the shit about beer. In addition to all the planned seminars and nightly events, various informal meetups occur at different times A motley crew of homebrew experimentersthroughout the conference such as those put on by the Milk The Funk crew and the AHA Forum. Not only is this a rad opportunity to put faces to names, but to sample the amazing beers made by your distant peers. So cool! Ultimately, there’s a high cool people to asshole ratio at Homebrew Con, and while the latter can be found if you look hard enough, the atmosphere by and large encourages everyone to chill out and have a good time. (more…)

Hop Stand vs. Boil Addition | exBEERiment Results!

Author: Ray Found

Traditionally, hops were added at three main points during the boil, the timing of which served a clear purpose– bitterness, flavor, and aroma. However, these days, IPA brewers have begun employing various techniques in an attempt to maximize hop character without overwhelming their beer with bitterness. Chief among these is the hop stand, referred to by some as a whirlpool addition, which involves hops being added to the wort at flameout and left to steep for an extended period of time. As most new brewers learn, the amount of time hops spend in the boil is positively correlated with bitterness and negatively correlated with final hop character. Given the amount of time it takes for large commercial batches to chill, it seems logical that desirable volatile compounds could be lost and bitterness gained from large additions made during the boil, hence adding those hops at flameout would allow for more control of these characteristics in hoppy styles.

But I don’t brew on a commercial system. It takes me just a few minutes to chill my wort to 120°F/49°C, and still I, like many homebrewers, have taken to utilizing the hop stand method, faithful to the promise it yields more hop flavor and aroma without excessive bitterness compared to boil additions. This despite claims that whirlpool additions made on a commercial scale are equivalent to 20 minute boil additions on the homebrew scale.

So what gives? Is there actually something to the hop stand method or can similar results be achieved using a less time consuming boil addition? Only one way to find out! (more…)

Brü’s Views w/ Annie Johnson | On Vagina Beer

A few weeks ago, articles began popping up all over about a crowdfunding campaign promising to produce a novel and exciting beer using bacteria from an unconventional source:

A woman’s vagina.

The idea to address this topic in a Brü’s Views article came as the hype train was chugging along, though it appears to have since fizzled out. Having already secured a guest contributor who provided a response, and being a neurotic follower of schedules, I thought it best to go ahead and publish rather than sweep it under the rug. If this incites unpleasant flashbacks, I do apologize, please feel free to bloviate in the comments section below. As always, each contributor’s opinion was written without influence from the others, as was the guest’s.

When it came to select a guest contributor for this topic, I thought a woman’s perspective would be most appropriate and provide balance, ab_gfc_anniethough I was admittedly anxious how it might come across– me asking a woman to talk about something so, I don’t know, private. I also wanted the person to be plugged into the beer and brewing world. Working through my hesitation, one person immediately came to mind, someone I’ve come to know as being incredibly well-spoken and willing to engage in passionate debates on brewing methods. A huge thanks to 2012 Pilsner Urquell Master Homebrewer recipient, 2013 AHA Homebrewer of the Year, and current PicoBrew Master Brewer Annie Johnson for taking the time to share her thoughts on vagina beer. (more…)

The Gelatin Effect – Pt. 4: Standard Amount vs. A Lot | exBEERiment Results!

Author: Marshall Schott

At this point, Brülosophy regulars are well aware that we’re big fans of using gelatin as a beer clarifier. Besides being incredibly easy and quick, it’s super cheap– I still have half of a box of 32 pouches left that I ordered back in November of 2014, and I brew quite a bit. By my calculations, this puts me at just under $0.10 worth of gelatin per 5 gallon batch, a small price for those of us who prefer our beer to clear in short time.

During a conversation I had about gelatin with John Palmer a few months ago, he asked if I’d ever used more than the 1/2 teaspoon per 5 gallon ratio I discussed in the first gelatin xBmt article. Seeing no need to fix something that isn’t broken, I admitted I’d never strayed from this method, but that I’d heard from many brewers who used amounts ranging from 1 teaspoon to a full tablespoon, all who reported success. It was around this time the first Short & Shoddy batch was done fermenting and I added the same gelatin solution I use for 5 gallon batches to the 1.75 gallons of beer. Later that day, it was crystal clear, leaving me curious if the larger amount of gelatin somehow expedited the clearing process. (more…)