Month: January 2014

Bacon’s Rebellious Smokin’ Maple Porter

Bacon's Rebellious Smokin' Maple Porter-10.7

I opened a bottle of  my fifth test batch of this smoked porter the other day. For whatever reason, it turned out fairly close to what I was looking for.  It is finally coming around to what I envisioned. What could be better than bacon and beer?

My four previous test batches were a smoked porter concoction that was either too bitter or two sweet. The first two batches had a little  Peat smoked malt in them. Not bad if you wanted a good stout, but not exactly what I was looking for. Someone suggested using Cherry smoked malt and the remaining tests had a better taste. Next to be altered was the amount of maple syrup. For my one-gallon test batches, I began with 20 ml and increased up to 51 ml. The last batch was 40 ml. After adding the LME to the equation, I might have to adjust it down a little bit.

I received 3.3 lbs of Porter LME as a Christmas gift, and couldn’t imagine how I was ever going to put it to use. Shazam!  What better way to increase ABV than to add some liquid malt extract? So in went 40 oz as a late extract addition. By doing that, my SRM went to almost 64 and my gravity increased by 40. A little out of the Porter style, but would still be good for either 22b or 23 in the BJCP.  Hopefully, the next gallon will be the exactly what I am looking for. Oh, and the best part – bacon!!! I finally got the taste to come through loud and clear. Looks like I’ll be using about a pound of hickory smoked bacon for 5 gallons.

About the label.

Nathanial Bacon lead a group of frontiersmen in 1676 against the ruling Governor William Berkeley and British forces in what became the first rebellion of the colonies. I could have went with a play on a movie star’s name, but for whatever reason, anarchy and Kevin Bacon don’t go together. Anyway, the pig’s head represents the bacon part of the smoked porter. A tricorn hat adorning the head is simply not historically accurate, however, most people would not recognize the head dress of the 17th century as relating to a rebellion (something closer to the Three Musketeers, maybe). Further, Nathaniel Bacon was not captured, nor was his head served on a platter. However, dying of dysentery would hardly convey a rebellious person. Finally, an anarchist’s quote that I felt summed up the drink.



Is it better to drink or not?

I am thoroughly enjoying an online science course on beer. The professor, Dr. Mark Morvant from The University of Oklahoma, is leading a 16-week course on the Chemistry of Beer. Although well beyond any course I took in college (some 43 plus years ago), many of the discussion questions he poses are quite interesting.

The unit we are currently working on is titled, Health Impacts of Alcohol.  Besides being crammed with scientific information and chemical equations, we are also reminded of the societal impact alcohol plays on the lives of individuals who overindulge. Thus, when Dr. Morvant posted the question, “Is it better to drink or not?”,  it made me pause and think.

Before you read this, however, let me explain a little about my philosophy. I am an anarchist in the truest sense, not what modern media portrays. Thus my home brewery is know as, The Anarchist Brewhous. I believe that each person is capable of determining what is best in their life, and that each person should be allowed to live their life as they see fit. This, however, is not what media talks about. According to media, an anarchist is one who believes in chaos. That is further from the truth and is what stops most people from honestly looking into anarchism as a viable alternative to a highly regulated police State. Regardless, I do believe in law and order – both of which anarchy can provide. All true anarchists believe that any form of coercion or violence against an individual is wrong. We also believe that taking anything from another person without their consent is wrong. It then stands to reason that each individual should be able to do what they want as long as it does not impact the life of another.

After much consideration, this is what I posted on the Chemistry of Beer discussion board.

Making the assumption that this question is directed to the writer, my conclusion would serve only as antidotal evidence and opinion. However, taking this question to the generic “you,” an assertion could be made that abstinence from alcohol would benefit individuals and society in general. It is well documented that alcohol abuse can lead to many physiology problems that ultimately could negatively impact a person over their lifetime (CDC, 2013). Additionally, negative societal impacts can be quantified over many sectors, ranging from lost production hours to increased healthcare costs (CIBHP, 2009). Furthermore, data suggest many crimes are committed as a result of excessive drinking (NCADD, 2014). Assuming a person’s judgment is impaired after even one drink, (Segal & Duffy, 1999), a strong case could be made that total abstinence from any form of alcohol would benefit the individual and society as a whole.

Nonetheless, recent data suggest that moderate consumption of alcohol can provide health benefits. A recent study conducted by Oregon Health & Science University stated moderate consumption of alcohol boosts the immune system (OHSU, 2013). Other studies suggest people who are moderate consumers of alcohol show substantially reduced risk of coronary heart disease when compared to those who abstain from drinking alcohol and heavy drinkers (Rehm, Sempos & Trevisan, 2003).

In America, it is believed that protecting the minority is the quintessence of justice. Assuming the individual is the smallest minority; each person must decide for themselves as to whether consuming alcohol is beneficial. Additionally, as a country, we must protect that individual’s right to make that decision. Thus, I personally adhere to the “Buffalo Theory” (Wogan, 2014), and strive to eliminate the slowest brain cells each day so I can think faster. I am reminded of the Hunter S. Thompson quote, “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013, December 26). Fact Sheets-Alcohol Use and Health. Retrieved January 29, 2014 from

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (2014). Alcohol and Crime. Retrieved January 29, 2014 from

Oregon Health & Science University. (2013, December 17). Moderate alcohol consumption boosts body’s immune system, study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 29, 2014 from

Rehm J, Sempos CT and Trevisan M. (2003). Average volume of alcohol consumption, patterns of drinking and risk of coronary heart disease – a review. Journal of Cardiovascular Risk, 10:15-20.

Segal, B., and Duffy, L.K. 1999. Biobehavioral effects of psychoactive drugs. In R.J.M. Niesink, R.M.A. Jaspers, L.M.W. Kornet, and J.M. van Ree, Eds. Drugs of Abuse and Addiction: Neurobehavioral Toxicology (pp. 24–64). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

The Center for Integrated Behavioral Health Policy. (2009, November). Alcohol Cost Calculator. Retrieved January 29, 2014 from

Wogan, T. (2014, January 18). Buffalo theory-or how alcohol might be good for you. The Telegraph. Retrieved January 29, 2014 from

Current project – part 1


I began this current project with a few simple questions – how many bugs are flying around my lab? Is my work area really as “clean” as it looks? And, how likely is it that any batch of beer is going to be infected by a bug (bacteria, wild yeast, etc.)?


As most projects go, I started by researching the subject.  I read and reread Yeast, watched several YouTube videos on how to culture yeast, and read many blogs and articles on the process of yeast ranching. Taking some of the yeast (Lallemand Nottingham Ale) from a current fermenting beer, I began my journey as a yeast rancher.

I have yet to read anyone who says culturing dry yeast is worth it, but I think losing $3.99 is better than $6.99. So, this was my test batch to see whether I could keep the area clean and sanitary while culturing the yeast. I began by putting everything that could fit into my stove-top autoclave. Spend some money and get a good autoclave rather than a pressure cooker. If you are going to herd yeast, this is one piece of equipment that you must have.  Be sure to follow the instructions. You’ll want to purge the autoclave of air and allow pressure to build up to around 17 -20 psi (about 235-240 F) to sterilize your glassware and agar.


Purging air from autoclave

The next step requires that you pay attention to your surroundings. There are many formulas for agar, all sharing the same ingredients: agar, DME, and yeast nutrients. Boil the DME and nutrients, then add the agar. Pour into either a culture tube or petri dish. The amount of agar in the petri dish need not be very thick. The culture tube should have a little less than half the total volume available (if the tube is 30ml, then you need a little less than 15ml). Place everything into the autoclave and sterilize for at least 35 minutes.

After the glassware is touchable, remove everything from the autoclave. While the dish is warm, but the agar is set, turn the dish upside down and let cool for several days, or until the condensed water is gone. Take some Parafilm and wrap the petri dish if you do not intend to inoculate immediately. The culture tubes are a bit different. Remove them while the agar is still liquid and place them on a 30 degree angle (thus the name slants). Be sure the screw cap is semi-loose while the agar is setting up. As with the plate, allow enough time for the condensation to dry. Parafilm when ready.


My lab / brew area


If you take away anything from this blog, remember to make sure that everything you touch – that will in any way come into contact with anything from this point on – is sanitized and/or sterilized. Remember, you want your laboratory to be as clean as possible; free from draft, dirt, and anything that will contaminate your yeast. If you think your area is clean, it isn’t. If you are of the mindset that there is absolutely no way mold or bacteria can get into your culture, you are imagining things. Unless you have a cleanroom (as in a commercial laboratory), you’ll have to take every precaution you have heard or read about to even have the slightest hope of culturing yeast that carry zero contaminants.

Getting back to inoculating your dishes and slants.

Make sure you have a Bunsen burner, inoculating loop, nitrite gloves, and alcohol (look below for a complete list of necessary equipment). Before you attempt to inoculate your plate or slant, you should practice holding two tubes with one hand, know where you will put the cap, and practice taking a sample from one tube and placing the inoculating loop into the other. There are many great articles written by experts showing how this should be done.

 bunsen burner  Take the loop and place above the flame.

20131230_204152 This will kill all bacteria. 

I used to pride myself on keeping my lab clean, making sure no bugs would enter my beer. Oh, was I ever in for a rude awaking.

Black Hand Smokin’ Porter

Black Hand PorterMmmmmm, Porter. Stout. Brown Ale. Bitter and Wee Heavy. Maybe on an off day, when my choice is water or a lesser brew, I might partake in a Red Ale. Anything lighter (except  maybe an Oberon here or there in the summer), I leave for those who do not like beer but don’t want to stand out at a party. In short, give me a full-flavored, full-body meal in liquid form.

That being said, my house ale is a smoked porter.

The first beer I brewed was an English Porter, the second a Peat Smoked Porter. Being new at brewing beer, I purchased an extract kit with specialty grains from Northern Brewer. The wait was well worth it. I enjoy the bite from the peat smoke and the overall appearance and aroma. After several batches I decided to have it on tap at all times. The difference today – BIAB (Brew in a Bag).

A little about the label.

The rather regal-looking gent is Archduke Franz Ferdinand  of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The “Black Hand” referenced in the name belonged to a secret Serbian military society seeking to unify ethnic Serbs. Because the malt used in this porter was smoked peat, “Smokin'” could be taken as a double entendre – Archduke Ferdinand was shot by Gavrilo Princip, a member of Young Bosnia formed by the Black Hand, with a .32 caliber handgun.