Where’s the Time Gone?

Well, damn.

Time flies when you’re an adult (in the legal sense, not the – ya know – maturity sense). A lot has happened since the Jambo update. So let’s go through the highlights.

The Return of Symphony of Decay

Last year I brewed two pumpkin beers, and entered a pumpkin milk stout into our club’s annual Pumpkin Beer Competition. Two things of note: I won the first year of this competition, and the trophy is named after me. When the pumpkin milk stout didn’t win, I had to hand over my beloved trophy.

Me, crying over lost trophies

Me, crying over lost trophies

So for this year’s competition, there was no fucking around. I rebrewed and slightly retooled Symphony of Decay for this year’s competition and well… the trophy is back where it belongs. Below is the updated recipe for Symphony of Decay:


Amount Fermentable Maltster Use PPG Color
11.5 lb

Maris Otter Pale (UK)

Any Mash 38 3 °L
1.0 lb

Maple Syrup

Any Boil 30 35 °L
14.0 oz

Crystal 20L

Any Mash 34 20 °L
0.5 lb

Rice Hulls

Any Mash 0 0 °L
0.25 lb

2-Row Chocolate Malt

Briess Mash 34 350 °L


Amount Hop Time Use Form AA
0.75 oz Northern Brewer (US) 60 min Boil Pellet 9.0%


Name Lab/Product Attenuation
San Diego SuperYeast White Labs WLP090 79.5%


Amount Name Time Use
30.0 oz Pumpkin 0.0 min Mash
1.0 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice 5.0 min Boil
30.0 oz Pumpkin 60.0 min Boil


  • Mash at 154*F for 60 minutes
  • The pumpkin is Libby’s Organic Pumpkin Puree. This is available at most grocery stores in 30oz cans
  • I spread the pumpkin across a cookie sheet and roast it at 350*F for 60 minutes
  • The first 30oz goes in with mash water before the grains. I have no scientific reason for this (or anything I do) but my thinking on it is that adds more orange color to the wort and makes it less likely to create a stuck sparge. Again, I base this on absolutely zero facts.
  • The second 30oz of pumpkin is added at 15 minutes left in the boil
  • The maple syrup goes in at 5 minutes
  • Boil time is 90 minutes

2016 Changes

  • The pumpkin pie spice addition is always more art than science. This year I used 2tbsp of McCormick’s Pumpkin Pie Spice with 5 minutes left in the boil.
  • Along with the pumpkin pie spice, I added some cinnamon, nutmeg, and all-spice. This was all based on feel (or rather, smell). If I had to estimate I’d say I added a tsp of cinnamon and 1/4tsp each of nutmeg and all-spice.
  • I also added a tbsp of vanilla extract with 5 minutes left. I can’t say that this was noticeable in the finished product and might be something I adjust for next year’s batch.

Presidential Election

The United States will soon be run by a fascist Cheeto, and in similar fashion my homebrew club will be trading down from a competent leader to an inexperienced buffoon. In the case of the Mash Holes, that buffoon might end up being me. Our long-term president has decided to step down. As the Vice President that will make me the de facto leader if no one else decides to step up. Club elections are in two weeks so we’ll see how that all shakes out.

The December meeting is also our Wee Heavy competition. It’s the last of our four club competitions that will ultimately decide our Brewer of the Year for 2016. I still need to brew an entry this week, which is going to be difficult with the weather, but I’m shooting for Thursday as a brew day. It doesn’t give me a lot of time for fermentation and aging, so my entry will be a bit young, but we’ll see how it turns out.

Non-Controversial Pipeline

As far as other brews in the pipeline, I have Obie’s Oatmeal Stout about to go into the keg. It’s another “classic” recipe that I’ve updated as I’ve gotten more experienced at brewing. The club just brewed a Russian Imperial Stout to into a Woodford Reserve barrel two weeks ago. That’ll probably spend 6 months in the barrel. We’re also working on pulling out a barleywine in the next few weeks and replacing it with a golden sour ale.

Back here at Anti-Hero Brewing, I plan to do something really crazy: science. Brulosophy recently did an ExBEERiment on flaked oats in New England Style IPAs. The purpose was “[t]o evaluate the differences between a NE-Style IPA made with flaked oats and the same beer made without flaked oats but an otherwise similar recipe.” The idea being that flaked oats impart some of the smooth mouthfeel and haziness typical of NE IPAs. I’ve written about NE IPAs before, and one of my theories is that it’s the dry-hopping timing has the biggest impact on haze. So I’m planning on doing my own *gasp* exBEERiment to test this theory.

Closing Up

So 2016 is winding down to a close, and I intend to do a year-end recap next month, so be on the look-out for that. It looks like I’ll miss my goals in some areas and hit them in others. As of now I’ve brewed about 70-75 gallons of beer this year, which is easily a personal record. I’d like to shoot for 100 gallons next year.

Until then.

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What Does Your Favorite Beer Style Say About You?

You can learn a lot about someone from the type of beer they drink (is the way that most of these articles start). So what does your favorite beer style say about you?

IPAs and Double IPAs

You like IPAs. And maybe Double IPAs. Possibly even the occasional Session IPA.

Pale Ales

You like pale ales.

Stouts or Porters

You like stouts. Or maybe porters. Or maybe both!

Sour Beers

You like sour beers. Or you’re trying to stay up with the trends, but since I don’t know you I’ll assume you just like sour beers.


You like hefeweizens. You might also like fruit in your beer, but you might not. You should eat it anyway though, because you’re probably not getting enough Vitamin C.

Some other type of beer not listed here.

Look, man, I don’t care what you drink. In fact, I don’t even judge you for what you drink (unless it’s Heineken, because fuck that shit). And really this post has no reason to exist, much like it’s several billion click-baity predecessors. Instead of reading crap like this, maybe – I don’t know – go have a brown ale, or a bock, or an Oktoberfest, or an amber ale, or shit even…

Macro-Brewed Light Lager

You don’t give a fuck, and I respect that.

Some Days You Just Need A Beer

As the title says, some days you just need a beer. Tonight’s beer is Out of Bounds Stout by Avery Brewing out of Colorado. The label depicts a skier traversing a back-country slope. I had the privilege to get stranded in Colorado while on a snowboarding trip. A big storm hit Boston and delayed our flight home; my dad, brother and myself spent the weekend in Denver and made a trip out to Avery’s brewery. Avery is fantastic. The majority of their beers are just killer.

Anyway, it’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog. Summer was busy, which is to be expected. Birthdays, BBQs, camping trips, weddings, and (unfortunately) funerals. As this is, ostensibly, a homebrewing blog I didn’t feel much need to update it since I hadn’t been brewing very much. The last two brew-days I’ve had were group brews with the Metro South Homebrew League. I’m hoping to squeeze another one in this week after Sunday’s semi-successful session. The club bought two barrels from Jack’s Abby, and we’ve brewed a Belgian Dubbel for one and a Flanders Red for the other. It’s shaping up that the Belgian barrel will get some kind of stout next.

Avery OOBS

Out of Bounds is roasty and dry. It smells sweet and chocolaty, but the flavor is more bitter with a strong roasty flavor. The bottle states that Avery isn’t “afraid to use a ton of roasted barley and a mountain of hops to give this full-bodied stout that little extra something.” It is definitely robust, finishing dry with a little bit of sweetness. A solid beer. Not what I was hoping for, but certainly not a disappointment.

I’m planning the next beer to be my pumpkin ale, Symphony of Decay.

Quick Beer Review: Heavy Seas’ Siren Noire

Look, it’s only Tuesday and it’s already been a long week. So this is the compromise: I steal someone else’s picture, give you my quick thoughts on a pretty damn tasty beer, and you get off my case. Deal? Good.

Unlike most things that go into and come out of Baltimore, I like Heavy Seas. Siren Noire is an imperial stout that is brewed with chocolate and aged in bourbon barrels. I’m guessing they couldn’t find a way to work unicorn tears into the recipe. This is the 2013 entry from their “Uncharted Waters” collection.

The beer pours a rich black color with a brown head that starts off strong but fades quickly, probably due to the 9.5% alcohol. The smell is a tantalizing mix of cocoa powder, dark chocolate, vanilla, bourbon and maple syrup. The taste is similar to the smell: rich, heavy chocolate character; a oaky, vanilla bourbon flavor, some light roasty notes and a warming alcohol finish that is dry. The beer is thick but not syrupy or cloying. A perfect body for a heavy beer like this. Siren Noire is definitely a dessert beer, and it is delicious.

Final Verdict: 4.5 out of 5. Buy it.


Brew Year Goals for 2014

Happy New Year, kids.

I kicked off 2014 right with a can of Heady Topper, while my girlfriend and dog slept on top of me/my couch in the post-midnight afterglow. Today consisted of some Winter Classic action, some homemade pizza and now this blog. I want to kick off 2014 with something I rarely make: resolutions.

As I try to mature (pronounced “ma-tour”) as a brewer, I want to give myself some milestones and guide-markers to aim for; so I’m setting some Brew Year Goals for 2014.

2014 Brewing Goals

  1. Compete in a Homebrew Competition. Pretty straight-forward. The best way to improve is to have your beers critiqued. While I appreciate the general thumbs up/thumbs down from my friends, so more pointed criticisms should help me as a brewer.
  2. Join a Homebrew Club. I sought to do that in my first year as a brewer, but I’ve struggled to find one whose time and geography fit my schedule. Since I travel a lot for work, weekday meeting nights don’t really work for me. I also don’t want to drive more than 30 minutes away from home if I can avoid it.
  3. Improve my Homebrew Setup. This is one-part buying new/better equipment, and one-part analysis of my setup to better understand where I’m losing efficiency and how I can make my brewdays more productive.
  4. Re-Brew Cheeky Bastard. Cheeky is probably my most successful brew to date. The aroma on this brew was awesome – 5 outta 5 awesome. I’d like to dial in the bitterness and mouthfeel on this beer because I think it could help me with…
  5. Develop a “House” Beer. I want to start establishing a “roster” of beers that are 1. good and 2. re-brewable so that I can start dialing them in and perfecting them. Obviously an IPA should be one of those brews, so I think Cheeky will make the short-list. I’m also enjoying Winter Sun, but want to wait to see how Hairy Dog’s Breakfast turns out before settling on a stout.
  6. Switch to Kegging. This is something I almost pulled the trigger on multiple times this year. So far the more consistent problem I’ve had with brewing is carbonation. I pitched extra champagne yeast into Cheeky and that sort of threw off  the mouthfeel of that brew; Suicide by Hops, 187 and Midnight In the Garden all failed to carbonate.
  7. Improve My Yeast Ranching. Part of the reason I believe those beers failed to carbonate was due to poor yeast ranching on my part. I want to improve my ability to wash, harvest and propagate yeast. I have some Conan from Cheeky that I plan to propagate for another brew.
  8. Finish Reading BrewingYeast, and HopsI have been buying/reading various different brewing books, but I haven’t finished one since How to Brew. I plan to sit down and focus on reading a few of these books to help improve my brewing knowledge.
  9. Brew 20+ Time in 2014. This is a pretty ambitious goal and comes down to one brew every 2-3 weeks for a year. I think I can hit this target and if the brews keep improving, I should make for some interesting beers.

Is there anything else that you think should be on this list? I’m leaving room for #10 (because 9 is my lucky number), so feel free to leave some ideas/advice in the comments.

Happy New Year!

Beer Review: Sam Adams’ Merry Maker

I’m like 99% sure I had this beer last year when it was called Merry Mischief. And Google says I’m not mistaken. Wonder what prompted the name change? Anyways, I remember really digging this beer last year, so I’m interested in this year’s version.

From Sam Adams:

This rich dark gingerbread stout entices with the aromas of the holidays.  The flavor of gingerbread comes alive, beginning with the smooth sweetness and heartiness of dark roasted malts and a touch of wheat.  But it’s the intensity and spices of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, & ginger that add a wicked kick for a jolly playful brew full of merry mischief

HOP VARIETIES – East Kent Goldings and Fuggles

MALT VARIETIES – Samuel Adams two row pale malt blend, wheat, Special B, Paul’s roasted barley, and flaked oats

YEAST STRAIN – Samuel Adams ale yeast


SPECIAL INGREDIENTS – Cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, & ginger

ALC. BY VOL/WT – 9.0%ABV – 6.9%ABW

IBUs – 25

BeerAdvocate: 83, 85
RateBeer: 97, 99
Untappd: 3.63
Sam Adams Merry Maker 1

Appearance: Dark brown to black; your standard stout range for color. A dark tan to brownish head that doesn’t really linger or leave much lacing, probably due to the 9% alcohol. It looks like a stout, basically.

Smell: Very potent note of ginger spice here. It smells like raw ginger, not the kind of syrupy-sweet ginger smell you’d associate with gingerbread, but more like ginger root. There’s some underlying cinnamon there too, and some clove character that is probably a combination of the yeast and the cloves used. Very powerful, enticing smell.

Taste: This is lip-tinglingly ginger-forward. Wow. Not quite as potent as a ginger beer but if you told me that someone poured ginger beer into a stout, I’d believe you. Obviously there’s no hop character here, I’m guessing those 25 IBUs were used to balance out the sweetness of the stout. But the ginger does a good job of that as well. In the video I linked above, he talks about last year’s version not being very spicy forward; I agree. I remember last year’s being a more hearty stout with a hint of ginger. This is a ginger spice-beer. I’m not getting a lot of roasty, stout-like characteristics here but there is substantial cinnamon and clove in the taste. As it warms you get more of the traditional stout notes and the ginger becomes more subdued.

Mouthfeel: I said above that I remember last year’s version being heartier. This is still well within in the right body for a stout, but I feel like they dialed down some of the malts and upped the ginger. It’s a little lighter in the body and has a nice dry mouthfeel. The ginger leaves your upper-lip tingling, like I imagine kissing a man (or woman) with a mustache would… but probably more pleasant and less creepy.

Final Verdict: 3.75 out of 5. Try it.

This one sort of teetered between 3.5 and 4.0 for me, and I think a lot of it had to do with the expectations I had going in. If you like ginger, you’ll love this beer. I enjoy ginger; I’ve drank cans of straight ginger beer in earnest. I was just expecting something a bit more chocolatey, more roasty and a bit more viscous. Depending on the price point at your local, I’d pick up a bottle of this because it is a nice beer just not the great beer I remembered. Enjoy it with a penguin!

Sam Adams Merry Maker 2