Category Archives: Brewing

The Woes of Conversions: McQuaker’s Oatmeal Stout

After the American Pale Ale went as well as it did, I had a busy summer. Unfortunately, I was busy with everything but brewing. I found myself hating my job, and looking for something else, and just generally dreading the winter doldrums. The shining light through all of this is that winter means heavy dark beers, the stouts, porters, and heavy malt and spice beers come out and it’s just delicious! With that in mind, I asked two buddies of mine if they wanted to brew an oatmeal stout with me. We agreed that yes, we would like to get trashed and brew beer together, as you can imagine, it was a tough decision and I had to twist their arms!

Well life seemed to conspire against me to brew this batch. I bought the ingredients in October/November 2012 and didn’t end up brewing until February 9th, 2013! There were plumbing issues in my apartment, scheduling conflicts, and life in general that got in the way. One of my buddies and I decided to just plow ahead and brew.

As brew day approached I got very excited, and started gathering the ingredients together, the yeast and hops from the fridge, and the crushed grain from the paper bags in the pantry. Everything smelled fine, and I began sanitizing. I will caveat this batch and say, that I have never been good at knowing how many ounces there are in anything, let alone in gallons, now I know there are 128 oz. in a US gallon.

The grain was steeped in 5 gal. (actually 2.5 gal) of 158° F water for 40 minutes, and then I added the dry malt extract, and some additional water, I brought the liquid to a boil and added the hops for a full 60 minute boil. After the cool down, I poured the wort into the primary fermenter. Shock ensued as I was at just under 3 gal! That’s when it hit me, I should have just looked up how many ounces are in a gallon, as opposed to trusting myself. Though, I will say you don’t learn unless you step in a pile of shit, and have to scrape it out of your tread. I added as much pre-boiled water as I had on hand then added ::sharp inhale:: tap water, ugh! I was for sure that this batch would turn out off-flavored and just all around terrible.

At this point, the only thing left to do was to pitch the yeast and wait for about 4 weeks to taste the beer. As I was reflecting on the process, I wasn’t really that disappointed. Every time I brew a batch of beer, no matter how good or bad it is, I always learn something new. And to be honest while having good tasting beer is rewarding, I feel like I don’t learn as much as when I have a batch go wrong, either on brew day, or in the bottle (as a latent result of an error along the way!) Thus each batch makes me enjoy brewing all the more. I think the one pursuit in my life that I like coming back to again and again, is learning. There are so many things in this world to learn and so many experiences to have. Why not try to have experiences that not everyone else has. Life should be interesting, life should be challenging, life should be tasty!

Grain Type:

  • 2 lbs US 2-row malt
  • 1 lbs UK flaked oats
  • .75 lbs US Chocolate Malt
  • .75 lbs US Victory Malt
  • .5 lbs TF&S Dark Crystal 185L
  • .5 lbs UK Roasted Barley

Extract Type:

  • 3 lbs Plan light muntons dry malt extract

Bittering Hop Bill:

  • 1.8 oz. US Kent Goldings


  • DCL S-04-SafAle (English Ale)


Tasting Notes:

This beer, as I thought it would, turned out terribly weak and watery. The great thing was that this was done right in time for St. Paddy’s day, so I dubed it a Session Stout. In the depths of the beer there was that great roasty taste, with all the elements that you love from stouts, but it was just way way way watery. Live and learn right?!


Beware The Ides of Bottle Conditioning!

Hop Monster

Type of Beer: IPA/IIPA

Name of Beer: Hop Monster

Grain Type:

  • 6 lbs UK Pale Malt
  • .5 lbs US Carmel 20L

Extract Type:

  • 3.3 lbs liquid malt extract
  • 1.0 lbs light dried malt extract

Bittering Hop Bill:

  • US Cascade 2.0 oz.
  • US Centennial 1.5 oz.
  • Simcoe leaf 1.0 oz.
  • US Ahtanum 0.5 oz.
  • US Citra 0.5 oz.

Finishing Hop Bill:

  • US Citra 0.5 oz.
  • US Ahtanum 0.5 oz.
  • US Centennial 0.5 oz.


  • Two packages of Wyeast 1272 – American Ale (smack pack liquid yeast)

Process Followed:

I started on 3/3/2013 with a recipe from Brew and Grow in Chicago modified from their Hop Lobster stock recipe. I mashed grain at about 150° F for 60 minutes in about 2 gallons; then sparged with about 3 gallons of water at 170°. At the end of the mash and sparge I had about 4 gallons of wort. I added to my brew kettle and had about 3 inches of room left at the top, so just barely made it! Added back to heat and dissolved the dry and liquid malt extract and brought to a boil. The boil was actually hard to achieve as the volume was so large, after about 40 minutes on the heat I just started adding the hops and shortly after it boiled.


I put all hops into hop/muslin bags for a 60 minute boil in the following order

  1. 1.0 oz. Cascade for 60 minutes
  2. 0.5 oz. each of Centennial, Cascade, and Simcoe leaf for 30 minutes
  3. 0.5 oz. each of Centennial and Ahtanum for 15 minutes
  4. 0.5 oz. each of Cascade, Simcoe leaf, Centennial, and Citra at flame off


Wort chilling didn’t go great as I had forgotten to buy ice, so I had to use what ice there was in the freezer and extra cold water. Of course, then it took about 30-40 minutes to get the wort down to the right temperature. I finally got it down to the pitching temperature but tasted it and tested for O.G. prior to pitching. The pre-pitched wort was VERY sweet, but still had a decent amount of bitterness and hop aroma. I was worried about the yeast, as the night before (when I bought the ingredients) I forgot and left the yeast out of the fridge overnight… After smacking the yeast though, both pouches puffed up really nice and big, so I wasn’t too worried that there was damage to the yeast cells. Original Gravity was 1.113 (temperature corrected), which I think is astronomical, at least, I’ve never brewed something with that much sugar pre-fermentation!

Best part of brew day, the reward of sweet sweet pre-beer!

Best part of brew day, the reward of sweet sweet pre-beer!

The wort sat in the primary fermenter for 7 days, and I forgot to get a specific gravity reading at the time of transfer to the carboy. After moving the beer to the secondary fermenter, I added the dry hops. I used 0.5 oz. of each of the following:

  • Citra
  • Ahtanum
  • Centennial

I used a muslin bag with a knot at the top, but dropped the whole thing, including the tail of the muslin bag, into the carboy. This turned out not to be a great idea. The hops were to sit in the secondary for one week, but I let them sit for 10 days. At that time, I am used to bottling, but the recipe called for an additional 2 weeks of aging. So I had the problem of getting the hop bag out of the carboy. I settled on using a coat hanger. I am sure there was a collective gasp there, but I did clean and sterilize the coat hanger. It wasn’t ideal, but I needed to get the hops out of there.


After the additional two weeks of aging, I then bottled on 4/1/2013. The finished gravity was 1.014, which translates to about a 13% ABV which I don’t believe. So somewhere I must have messed up the reading. Maybe I corrected for the wrong temperature pre-pitching.

Tasting Notes:

10 days of bottle conditioning (4/13/2013):
Complete lack of carbonation. VERY alcoholy, I can’t tell if the yeast has autolyzed, or if it just isn’t ready yet. I was quite disappointed and I think that the yeast sitting out may have had an impact after all, or maybe the coat hanger… Not very pleasant to drink, very sweet, and only a bit bitter. With the amount of hops added during the boil, and the dry hopping, I would expect a least a bit of floral nose, but I couldn’t detect one, if it was even present.

15 days of bottle conditioning (4/17/2013):
Still a complete lack of carbonation, despite the hiss when opened (same as at 10 days). The alcohol, while still forefront is mellower. There is more bitterness this time so it’s helping to balance out the sweet maltiness. I was concerned about what to do about this batch, so I looked online and found this forum post. The suggestion is that for high ABV beers it will take upwards of three weeks (could be 6-8) for a “big” beer to be carbonated. This gives me hope as I am sincerely hoping this batch didn’t go up in… bubbles?

22 days of bottle conditioning (4/25/2013):
After vigorous pour, there showed a ton of head generation, which wasn’t present at all previously. The head was retained for about five minutes. I don’t notice any residual carbonation, but there is that telltale acidic bite of carbonation. It still is very alcohol forward, but still mellowing. I’m not picking up much hop aroma/bitterness, but that could just be because this bottle was pulled out of the fridge. As I keep drinking, I can tell that the carbonation wasn’t really retained, so I think I would still call this young, but it is changing. I have to say, this so far has been the MOST interesting beer. I have never alternately loved and hated a beer as much as this one. After letting it sit out for a bit, and it does get more alcoholy.

57 days of bottle conditioning (5/30/2013):
This beer keeps me guessing that’s for sure. Almost 60 days in and still changing. This time I pulled a bottle from the case where they sit when NOT in the fridge. At popping it open there was a loud and noticeable “psssht” which was a good sign. I grabbed a brandy snifter style beer glass, gave it a vigorous pour and was presented with great head. Well as often is the case the great head didn’t last. This time though I wasn’t left with flat beer and a mirror surface, now I have about a dime’s height worth of head remaining at the edges with a skim of bubbles through the middle. The taste, oh, the taste!! I am falling in love with this beer. It still has an alcohol front nose, but not in such a distracting way. It’s still a malt heavy, but it does have some hop balance to it, the bitterness really rides the sides of my tongue with a long finish. When the head was present, the alcohol smell was masked considerably, and there were light notes of toastiness and bread, I almost want to say that there was some warm fruit in it as well, but that was fleeting, and I may be misremembering that now… I feel that this has finally become drinkable by others but me.

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