Introducing Riverlands Brewing Company!

I haven’t posted on here in a long time.  I’ve been holding off until I had a bit more concrete info.  It’s been a hell of a time since I last posted.  I’ve been working my ass off dialing in recipes, studying every resource on professional brewing and brewery management I could find, and organizing business plans with my co-investors.  Things are finally moving along, and moving along fast!

We’re in the process of negotiating our lease in St Charles, IL.  St Charles is a suburb of Chicago and part of the Tri-City area along the Fox River.  This city was a perfect spot for a brewery and has an already awesome local culture.  I’ll continue to post here as we come along.  I know there are a lot of homebrewers who want to take the plunge as well, so if anyone has any questions about how going from garage to brewhouse has gone feel free to ask!

Followers of this blog will see some familiar looking beers and hop combos.  The beginnings of several of our recipes have started right here and evolved over time.

Check out our pages below and follow along with us as we progress towards opening! We’re targeting sometime in spring 2018!

Our official brewery website – https://www.riverlandsbrewing.com/

Our Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/RiverlandsBrewing/

Our Twitter page – https://twitter.com/RiverlandsBrew

Our Untappd Page – https://untappd.com/RiverlandsBrewingCompany

 

Cheers!

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Turning Pro

Hey guys,

The title says it all.  Some friends/investors and I are trying to do this thing for real.  You may have noticed (or maybe you didn’t, haha) that this site has been set to private for a week or so.  During that time I’ve been deciding what to do with this blog.  It didn’t make sense to me to keep it going as I start testing recipes for the new brewery, and that’s what my goal is for every batch of beer I brew this year.  I figured it wouldn’t be very interesting to read a homebrew blog without any actual recipes being published.

The thing is, I didn’t want to take this down.  I did delete a few posts that were recipes that I may use eventually, or I at least edited exact amounts out, but the article people read most was my yeast comparison.  I figured why take that down?

I’ve put a lot of work into this blog over the years, and while it doesn’t make sense for me to continue it for the time being, I couldn’t just take it down altogether.  Most of the posts are still up in their entirety.  About 5 or 6 were removed or edited, but a lot of useful info to homebrewers is still here.

I hope you guys still enjoy reading what’s here, and please wish me luck going forward.  It’s been a lot of fun writing this for you guys, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it.  I’ll be sure to post an update eventually with the new brewery info, it very likely won’t be White Pointer.

Cheers,

Eric

My 2016 Homebrewing Year in Review

First off, let me say thank you to everyone who reads this thing.  When I started this blog a couple years ago, I was excited when I got up to 30 page views in a day.  While I’m certainly nowhere near the level of some of the other blogs I read, the fact that more and more people are reading this and even commenting makes me feel like it is worth doing.  So again, thanks for reading!

This was a crazy year for me on a personal level.  Relationships and friendships ended while others began.  I had several different residences over the course of the year.  One thing that kept me level was brewing.  Special thanks to my friend Jason for allowing me to move in with him while I got back on my feet and for letting me turn his garage into my brewery.  We had a ton of fun having friends over to share some good beer with us while we made more.

This was by far the most productive year I’ve had in brewing beer.  While I continued honing my craft with hoppy New England style beers, I also found time to mix it up, taking on styles that I had never attempted including my first sour ales.  I had 19 batches brewed in total!  With that in mind, here are my five favorite beers of 2016 in no particular order.

2016 TOP FIVE BEERS:

 Wake Up Aurora – My Imperial stout with coffee, vanilla, and maple

White Death V7 – My main New England Style DIPA.  The recipe is 99% there!

Murky Waters Mango Shake – DIPA brewed with lactose, vanilla, and a ton of mango

Slow Dance – Wild ale aged on oak with wildflower honey

Serrated Summer Ale V3 – A hoppy blonde ale perfect for hot summer days

Honorable Mention:  ISO: Whalez Bro! 2016 – Coffee maple Imperial Stout aged on oak and bourbon.  I’d put this higher, but this beer was a huge pain in my ass!

2016 Needs Improvement:  There weren’t many I wasn’t very pleased with, but here they are!

Hop Harvest IPA 2016 – Just not enough flavor from the fresh hops came through

Juleol 2016 – A Norwegian spiced Christmas ale that I got the spice balance wrong on

Blitzen’d – I think the beer needed a bit more hop flavor, and I think I pushed the yeast generation too long on this Christmas IPA.  A good beer here, I just know I could do better!

House Blend Brown – A coffee brown ale that was a solid beer, but it would have benefited from a fuller, smoother body

 

Next, lets take a look at my 2016 goals and how I did!

My 2016 Goals:

  • Use Maple in a beer.  Done!  Both my Wake Up Aurora and ISO: Whalez Bro! used all natural maple extract.  Sure, its not maple syrup, but it was much more cost effective and easy to work with.  Read the post for Wake Up Aurora to learn why I used extract rather than maple syrup.
  • Finally finalize my White Death Recipe!  Almost.  I brewed this beer twice this year and it’s so damn close to being as perfect as I can make it.  The version 7 linked above was 99% there.  A couple tweaks to the hop bill and its done.
  • Brew another Lager.  Done!  Done twice as a matter of fact.  I brewed an Oktoberfest lager again, and Haifisch, a Munich Helles for the first time.
  • Brew a Brown Ale.  Done, although I can brew a better example of the style.  My House Blend Brown, as detailed above, could use a fuller body and maltiness.
  • Brew a Belgian Quad. Nope, and honestly my desire to do this one has faded so it will likely remain unfulfilled.

My Goals for 2017:

  • Finalize White Death:  This will get done
  • Develop a list of two hop House IPAs:  I’m going to call this my Shark Series.  I plan on keeping the malt bill the same, but changing the hops up.
  • Do a fruited sour and use wine:  I’d like to age a sour on oak with some wine added to simulate wine barrels.
  •  Use coconut in a stout:  I’m thinking this may happen in my next ISO: WHalez Bro!

Again, thanks to everyone who read my blog this year, and I hope you will continue to do so.  I had almost 20,000 views from over 9,000 different people.  This is WAY up from the 4,000 views from 2,000 people in 2015.  Once again, my write up on looking for my house yeast comparing Conan to Wyeast London Ale III was the most read, but my beer recipe page was almost as high, indicating people were browsing my recipes more which is pretty cool.  I hope that my recipes inspire anyone who reads this to get creative with their beers.  Feel free to use any of my recipes as they are, but I encourage anyone reading this to take these recipes and make them your own.  The fun of brewing is to take a recipe and tailor it to your palate and personalize your beer.  Good luck to a happy 2017 and a great year of brewing!

 

The Dreary Brit – English Dark Mild

dsc_1380The Dreary Brit was brewed on 12/26/16 as part two of my double brew day along with Murky Waters Mango Shake, my take on a “milkshake” DIPA.  I wanted a beer that was an easy drinking ale for the dreary weather in Chicago this time of year, but one that wouldn’t put me on my ass if I wanted a few.  A friend of mine brought a homebrewed Dark Mild to an Oktoberfest party this fall, and I really loved the simple, yet awesome flavors of the beer.  It was easy drinking and sessionable while still having enough flavor to keep it interesting.

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Checking my strike water temp

The English Dark Mild is surprisingly the first straight up English style that I’ve ever tackled.  Milds where once the “it” beer in the UK.  They were light in alcohol, easy to drink in quantity, and still had enough flavor to be interesting.  If you walked into a pub and wanted a beer, it was probably a mild that would be served.  Milds are of course mild in flavor, with the hops providing just enough bitterness to balance the beer.  The English hops can provide a bit of spicy or earthy flavor and aroma, but it should be very subtle as this is a more malt forward style.  The malt flavors should come from a combination of good base malt like Maris Otter, and a combination of specialty grains to provide toasty, sweet, chocolate, and roasted notes.  Yeast esters are also acceptable here to enhance the flavor profile.  Milds were eventually replaced in popularity by bitters and lagers almost to the point where they were to become a thing of the past.  With the craft boom happening in England just as it has here across the pond, Mild ale has made a comeback.

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Mashing in!

When I decided to brew this beer, I thought a lot about what I wanted it to be.  I still wanted a dark, low abv beer that I could put a few away on a work night if I wanted and not feel it in the morning, but was interesting enough that I would be satisfied with just one.  To that end, I debated if I wanted to “Americanize” this traditionally subtle English ale.  I thought about adding American hops in low quantities to make it a bit more bold, or to bump the abv up just a bit into the mid 4% range.  But then I thought, “why?”  Why mess with this beer to the point where it isn’t really mild at all?  So I decided on a more traditional approach.  Really the only departure from a number of mild ale recipes that I saw was the additon of flaked oats.

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Hi Guys!

The idea behind the oats was two fold.  First, I had a half pound from the beer I brewed earlier in the day.  Secondly, I want this beer to have a fuller body for the low abv so it still feels substantial and never watery.  I chose good old Maris Otter for the base malt for its wonderful bread and biscuit notes.  I would have used English chocolate malt, but I still had a half pound of Briess chocolate, which is paler, so I just used that.  It will still contribute a ton of flavor into this ale.  English medium crystal will provide the bulk of the sweetness, while UK Fuggle hops will provide the bitterness.  As usual Wyeast London Ale III, my house ale yeast, will bring it all together.  This was the last pitch of a continuous harvest since summer, so this yeast has served me well!

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The brew session for this beer went off without a hitch.  I had a few more people over for this batch, even my old neighbor!  Sometimes when I have that many people around, especially after I’ve had a few, mistakes get made, but I was on point here.  I got the mash going during the hopstand and chilling of my first batch, so I was able to save some time there.  I mashed this beer at 158 to help achieve a nice, full body for the low abv.  I boiled the beer for an hour as usual and then went straight to chilling it.  No hopstands here!

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My brew day helpers

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Phil provided some tasty Apple Pie shots left over from Christmas!

I got the beer chilled down to about 70 degrees and took my hydrometer sample.  My OG came in at 1.039, just one point over what I had shot for.  Its right at the top of acceptable for the style, so I’m happy with it.

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It’s been so long since I brewed a really simple, but nuanced ale.  I did that a few times this year with lagers,  but most of my ales were various New England style hop bombs or flavorful imperial stouts.  The only thing that I’ve made that come close to this would be my Irish Red and I haven’t made that in over a year.  I truly can’t wait to see how this one turns out!  As usual, my recipe and water are below.  I’ll update with kegging and tasting notes as they come.

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Water Profile:

Ca+2          Mg+2          Na+          Cl-            SO4-2          HCO
143              12.0           36             150            104               196

Recipe Specifications
————————–
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.039 SG
Estimated Color: 21.7 SRM
Estimated IBU: 22.7 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 78.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients:
————
Amt Name Type # %/IBU
5 lbs Pale Malt, Maris Otter (Thomas Fawcett) Grain 1 66.7 %
1 lbs 8.0 oz Crystal, Medium (Simpsons) (55.0 SRM) Grain 2 20.0 %
8.0 oz Chocolate (Briess) (350.0 SRM) Grain 3 6.7 %
8.0 oz Oats, Flaked (1.0 SRM) Grain 4 6.7 %

0.75 oz Fuggles [4.50 %] – Boil 60.0 min Hop 5 13.6 IBUs
1.00 oz Fuggles [4.50 %] – Boil 15.0 min Hop 6 9.0 IBUs

1.0 pkg London Ale III (Wyeast Labs #1318) [124. Yeast 7 –
Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Light Body, No Mash Out
Total Grain Weight: 7 lbs 8.0 oz
—————————-
Name Description Step Temperat Step Time
Mash In Add 9.38 qt of water at 172.9 F 158.0 F 75 min

Kegging Update 01/08/17:  I kegged this beer with my usual C02 transfer from the carboy into a purged keg.  I took a gravity reading that came out to 1.013.  That gives me an ABV of 3.5%, right in line with the style.  The beer already has a nice flavor, but with a beer like this it doesn’t need much conditioning.

Tasting Notes 01/14/17:

Appearance: The Dreary Brit pours a deep amber or brown color with a moderate level of haze.  There’s a thin off white head that quickly fades to the edges of the glass.  This isn’t a style where I’m concerned about clarity especially with the addition of oats, but I fined with some gelatin anyway.  I’ll be interested to see if it clears.

Smell:  This beer is actually pretty aromatic.  There’s pleasant notes of toffee, hints of dark fruit, and caramelized sugar.  There’s also some really nice coffee-like aroma, but not in a dark roasted way.  Very little in the way of hop aroma or aroma from the yeast.

Taste:  The beer is very well balanced, almost more than I’d have preferred.  The style is malty, and I wish just a bit more sweetness came through.  Still, there’s some nice malt flavors of toasted bread, caramel, bread crust, and a bit of roast in the finish.  I think I’d maybe up the chocolate malt next time, or use a version from the UK instead.  The flavors are all pretty mild as the name would imply, and this is a very easy drinking beer.  The hops didn’t contribute much flavor, just a hint of earthiness and spice.  I would have liked a little more character from the yeast.

Mouthfeel:  The beer is medium bodied which is good for a beer of such low abv.  I think the addition of the oats contributed nicely here.  The beer is on the lower side of medium carbonation.

Overall:  I haven’t had a ton of examples of this style, but this falls right in line from what I remember of them.  I would have liked the malt to be a bit more assertive, but there really shouldn’t be bold flavors in this beer.  It should be what it is, a mild easy drinking beer that one can consume in quantity.  I’m glad I stepped outside of my usual box and brewed something both different for me, but also very traditional and classic.  I’m not sure if I’ll revisit this beer anytime soon, but I’m glad to have done this.

Tasting Notes for Blitzen’d, Cold Black Eyes, and House Blend Brown

The tasting notes are up for Blitzen’d, my New England style Christmas IPA featuring Chinook and Simcoe hops.  Read about that beer HERE!

Also up are my tasting notes for my double one gallon batch brew day.  I brewed an American Porter called Cold Black Eyes, and a coffee infused American Brown Ale called House Blend Brown.  Read about those beers HERE! 

Blitzen’d – New England Style Christmas IPA

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A little blurry, but shows the color better

Blitzen’d was brewed on 11/11/16.  I’m getting around to this brew day post almost two weeks later after the beer has already been kegged on the second round of dry hops.  Oh well.  This beer is another in my line of New England style hoppy beers, but it’s a bit different than the juice bombs I usually make in this style.

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Brew day was a cool, clear evening

The inspiration for this beer was Sap by Tree House.  I never set out to clone beers though, and cloning Sap wasn’t my goal here, especially since I’ve never even had it.  I love the idea behind the beer though.  Sap is brewed primarily with Chinook hops to get those pine and herbal notes that the hop is known for.  Sap started off as Tree House’s Christmas IPA, though it apparently is in regular rotation now.  I love the idea of a Christmas tree inspired piney IPA mixed with the New England juicy style.  I imagine that Sap is truly reminiscent of pine sap, the Chinook giving that pine aroma and flavor while the NE IPA base calling to mind that golden stickiness of tree sap’s consistency.  Most of these types of beers, mine included, are made with hops like Galaxy, Citra, Mosaic, El Dorado and so on.  It’s fun to try other types of hops in this style to see the results.

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The burner, up close and personal

In keeping with Sap’s spirit, I mostly used Chinook hops in this beer.  This might be my first time ever using Chinook hops now that I think about it.  Simcoe takes a supporting role to give the beer a bit more depth of flavor, as well as a bit of fruitiness.  Simecoe is also known for having a very unique pine aroma, but I’ve also gotten pineapple and citrus from it was well, especially when used in a NE style IPA.  I’ve always used Simcoe with fruity hop varieties though, never with another piney or herbal hop.  I’m really excited to see what happens with this beer.

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Prepping my brew water

I’m also trying out a new hop schedule that I’d like to implement in all my future New England style IPAs/DIPAs.  Almost like a template to get my bitterness and flavors where I want them.  I’ll be using .5oz of Apollo hops for bittering, and then 1oz of Apollo at 10 minutes.  All flavor and aroma hops then go into a hopstand and massive dryhops.  I had been using hops like Citra and Galaxy or whatever in 10 minute additions, but when you do a 30 to 45 minute hopstand on top of that, I’m wondering how much flavor those are really contributing in the end or if its more bitterness?  I’m thinking rather than potentially wasting expensive flavor and aroma varieties in an addition where I might not be maximizing their use, why not use just a single ounce of Apollo to get the same bitterness and maximize my whirlpool and dryhops.  Every clone recipe I’ve seen for Trillium beers uses this method, just with Columbus rather than Apollo.  I prefer Apollo since it seems less sharp to me.  Blitzen’d is my first shot at what will hopefully be my IPA hop schedule template going forward.

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Staying warm around the kettle

The grainbill is a bit different from my usual New England base beer, but not by much.  Most of these beers I make are a golden/light orange color, very orange juice-like in appearance.  I’m going for a more deep glowing orange appearance for this one.  I had some English dark crystal on hand that I used in a previous batch, so I used a bit of that for color.  I also had some light caramalt to had just a bit of sweetness.  I skipped my usual honey malt in this one.  Honey malt is great for adding a bit of fruity sweetness to help with the juiciness of my NE IPAs, but I didn’t want that sweetness to detract from the pine of the Chinook and Simcoe.  I figured a small amount of the light caramalt will still contribute just enough to add some depth of flavor.  Other than that, my usual flaked oats and white wheat are there to achieve the creamy body that the style is known for.

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Brew day was pretty smooth for the most part with one exception.  I overshot my mash temp by about five degrees, and then overshot my sparge temp as well.  To compensate for this I added ice to bring me to my 150 degree mash tempt and 168 degree sparge.  Well, that turned out to be a problem because I undershot my OG of 1.068 by a few points in the end due to the added water volume.  The recipe posted here was adjusted with the new OG of 1.065, which isn’t a bit deal, but its worth noting.  Other than that, everything went smoothly.  The beer was boiled for 60 then I did a 30 minute hopstand prior to chilling.  The beer fermented for 3 days at 65 degrees.  I added the first round of dryhops on day three and ramped the temperature to 70 to help the beer finish out, though activity had slowed by then.  The beer was fermented for another five days on the dryhops.  I normally have these posts typed prior to kegging, but I’m a little behind.  I’m typing this on 11/23, two days after I kegged this……soooooo see below the recipe for the keg update like I usually do.

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Alyssa’s first brew day!

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10 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 68.4 %
2 lbs Oats, Flaked (1.0 SRM) Grain 2 13.7 %
White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM) Grain 3
Acidulated (Weyermann) (1.8 SRM) Grain 4
Caramalt (Thomas Fawcett) (15.0 SRM) Grain 5
Carapils (Briess) (1.5 SRM) Grain 6
Crystal, Dark (Simpsons) (80.0 SRM) Grain

Apollo
Chinook
Simcoe

Kegging Update:  This beer was kegged on 11/21/16 on the second round of dryhops.  The transfer went smoothly under my usual closed Co2 transfer process.  The FG came in at 1.015, a point or two higher than I would have liked, but thats ok.  The ABV on this beer is 6.5%.  The hydrometer sample tasted really good, it definitely had some pine notes mixed with a bit of grapefruit and pineapple.  I should be ready to drink in another five days or so.

Tasting Notes 12/05/16:

Appearance:  Blitzen’d pours a deep golden orange with a white head supported by fast, tiny bubbles.  It has the typical juice-like appearance of my other New England IPA’s which in my opinion is a thing of beauty.

Smell:  The aroma of Blitzen’d is pretty interesting.  There’s definitely pine from the Chinook and Simcoe, but there’s more fruitiness than I would have expected.  There’s prominent aromas of orange citrus, a bit of peach, some papaya, and some pineapple.  I dare say the fruit is even more prominent than the pine.  I’m sure some of the fruit comes from the Simcoe, but I think the 1318 yeast probably provides a lot of those fruity aromas as well.  I get a lot of those same citrus/peach/pineapple aromas in most of my pale ales using this yeast, so I’m sure its a contributing factor.

Taste:  This beer has a pleasant mild bitterness that quickly gives way to a predominant herbal flavor that I’m pretty sure is the Chinook hops from what I remember from other beers I’ve had where they feature.  There’s just a hint of piney resin in there as well.  The Simcoe hops provide a bit of pineapple and citrus in addition to the resin, and the 1318 yeast flavor profile tends a bit towards a peach flavor when used in beers like this.  There’s a bit of underlying sweetness here, but it’s not juicy in the way most of my beers of this style are and that’s good since juicy wasn’t the goal here.

Mouthfeel:  Medium carbonation with a medium body.  As usual with beers with this percentage of oats and wheat, there’s a smoothness and fullness without feeling heavy and chewy.  The beer remains dry enough that it’s easy drinking.

Overall:  I’m really interested to try Tree House Sap after this beer, I’d love to know what flavors they get out of those Chinook hops, and what they do with the malts to balance it.  All in all, this is a fine, tasty beer, but if I’m being 100% honest I expected more.  Maybe I’m not the biggest fan of Chinook hops since I had a pale ale from Goose Island featuring Chinook that didn’t do a whole lot for me, and it had a similar flavor.  This beer is different being a New England style beer than anything I’ve ever had from Goose, and I DO like it, but it just doesn’t blow me away in the way I’d hoped it would.  Again, I admit I’m being really picky here.  I’d be interested to brew this beer again with some major tweaks.  I think I’d make Simcoe the star of the show and either scale the Chinook back or replace it entirely.  I’d also make it a bit darker orange, just to set it apart a bit more than my usual pale ales.  I’m not sure what I’ll do next year though, I kind of missed brewing my Black December this year, but I’d like another crack at this with some changes.  We’ll see next year!