Category: Fermentation


My notes for my Trouble-Free Tart Beers seminar can be found here.

Beer Fermentation Homebrewing Speed Brewing Uncategorized

Fermentation Feast

Not only is April’s TSNEM theme Edible Crafting, but it’s also the month of the annual Ferment!Ferment! festival. Which means an extra push for me to try some new ferments. The pic above shows the seven fermented foods that Cuzme and I made and brought to the fest. I tried a lot of new techniques, recipes & ideas and I’m thrilled with how they all turned out. There will be much more experimenting, tweaking & testing but I’ll go over these ferments if any of you would like to give them a try.

Let’s start with the sourdough tortilla bites. I’ll write a future post that goes more in-depth about sourdough starters but for now, if you have a sourdough starter, this is an easy recipe for using your starter without all of the work that goes into bread or other leavened baked goods. I love making bread but there are so many other things that you can make with your starter! The sourdough contributes a really nice flavor to the tortillas. Just mix the dough either the morning of or the night before you’d like to use it. I started with this recipe from The Prairie Homesteader and made a few modifications.

Sourdough tortillas

Sourdough Tortillas or Tortilla Bites (vegan)


  • 1.5 cups white whole wheat flour (you might need more or less depending on humidity, type of flour & other ingredients)
  • 3 Tbsps melted coconut oil ( I used Trader Joe’s organic)
  • Himalayan sea salt (around 1 tsp)
  • 1/2 cup sourdough starter (room temp)
  • 1/2 cup homemade cashew milk* (room temp)
  • small pinches of dried powdered ginger & citric acid (not necessary but helps keep tortillas soft, click here for more info on natural dough conditioners)

*to make cashew milk: soak cashews in enough water to cover plus a little more (they swell a bit while they’re soaking). Soak at least 4-5 hours – an overnight soak is great. Drain and rinse well. Using blender, pulverize until they won’t blend any more and/or are pretty creamy. Add dechlorinated water in a 3:1 ratio. I usually start with 1 cup of cashews before soaking and add 3 cups of water. Puree until creamy. I usually then strain through my brew bag, which is made of a voile fabric – tighter than cheesecloth, looser than muslim. You might not need to strain if you have a killer blender. Not much pulp remains after straining – I’m looking into interesting things to make with what does remain. If you make more than you need, you can freeze the extra.


Sourdough tortilla dough
This is what my dough looked like before kneading.
  1. Combine the melted coconut oil, sourdough starter, cashew milk, sea salt, ginger & citric acid (if using). Note: if your starter & cashew milk are cold, this might cause your coconut oil to revert to it’s normal solid state and make it difficult to mix in. This happened to me the first time. This is why I recommend using room temperature starter and cashew milk.
  2. Gradually add in flour until combined. I use a stand mixer for this but you could do this by hand or with a hand mixer. You’re looking for just enough flour so the dough holds together and is slightly sticky to the touch. It should be able to form a cohesive ball.
  3. If using a stand mixer, change to your dough hook and knead for a couple of minutes. Otherwise, turn out onto a nonstick or floured surface and gently knead for a couple of minutes.
  4. Place in a bowl, cover and leave in a room temperature or slightly warmer area for 8-24 hours. There should be some headspace in the bowl – the dough will rise a bit.
  5. After fermentation, flour your rolling surface. If you’re making regular size tortillas, pinch off enough dough for the size of tortilla that you’d like. Mine were around the size of a ping pong. If you’re making bite size tortillas, pinch off as much dough as your surface can accommodate. Regardless, roll out using a rolling pin. I rolled most of mine out pretty thin, around double credit card high. Some were a bit thicker and all were good. It’s also pretty difficult to roll out perfect circles – slightly wonky shaped tortillas taste just as good as perfectly round tortillas. I used a biscuit cutter for cute round tortilla bites.

    Sourdough tortilla bites
    Sourdough tortilla bites on a cast iron pan
  6. Preheat your skillet or grill pan to medium-high. A cast iron skillet is perfect for these – no oil is necessary. I haven’t made this on a different type of pan but a little oil might be necessary for other skillets that aren’t of the no-stick variety (I’ll have to test this in the future and amend this post). They cook pretty fast, between 30 seconds to just over a minute per side.
  7. Eat fresh or refrigerate for a day or two. They can also be frozen. Unused dough can be refrigerated for a few days.

Serving suggestions: We’ve eaten these with cheese, beans, avocado, tomatoes and Mexican spices (garlic, cumin, cilantro & dried chiles) but they also work well with other spices. I combined homemade yogurt with Ras El Hanout (shown above), a North African spice blend, for a dip that worked well with these. I bet mango salsa would be delicious, as would traditional Thai or Sri Lankan fillings, flavors and spices. The coconut is apparent so think savory flavors that compliment.

Variations: Use milk, water or whey instead of cashew milk. Use butter or lard instead of coconut oil. Add herbs or spices to the dough when mixing. I’m betting you could stuff these if you sandwiched a thin layer of cheese (regular or nut) or other soft or meltable filling between two of them before cooking. They’re very versatile and quite delicious.

Fermented Cashew Cheeses

If you haven’t tried a fermented nut cheese before, I highly recommend it. They’re not true cheeses, but are a nice substitute for vegans and those who are lactose-intolerant. For the rest of us, they’re just plain tasty. They’re not only versatile, readily taking on whatever flavorings you add, but are also chock-full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and probiotics. They make a great snack or party dish. I’m just beginning my journey down the fermented nut path but I’m in love so far.

Most recipes call for adding a starter culture to nut paste and allowing fermentation to take place at room temperature for a few days. However, fermented nut cheeses seem to be a lacto-driven ferment, meaning that a strain or more likely, multiple strains, of lactobacillus bacteria are driving the fermentation. Lacto strains vary in their preferred temperature range but many lacto strains do well at higher temperatures, say between body temperature and around 110º F. It occurred to me that I could make cashew cheese like I kettle sour beer and make yogurt, by keeping it at a consistent warmer temperature. I use an Anova sous vide stick for this – sous vide uses a circulating water bath to keep food at a specific and constant temperature. The food is contained in either a plastic or glass container (bag, jar, etc). This is also how I make yogurt. If you don’t have a sous vide setup, you can do this in any area that you can keep a relatively constant and controlled temperature in the 104-110º F range. A yogurt maker would work very well. Other ideas (some of which I used before I got the sous vide stick) include using a heating pad or grow mat in a box, cooler or other enclosed area, using a water bath with an aquarium heater (or several), or using the inside of your stove or a cooler with a low-watt light bulb inside. You’ll need to test these out a bit but it’s pretty easy to rig up one of these methods. Regardless, this is a fast and very reliable way to ferment nut cheese.

This was my first batch of fermented nut cheese. As you can see in the first photo, I made three different flavors of cashew cheese. I made a base batch and split it into three, adding different seasoning combinations to each.


Base Batch:

  • 4 cups of cashews
  • de-chlorinated water
  • 1/2 cup lacto-fermented pickle brine
  • 2 vegan probiotic capsules (I used Jarrow brand)
  • 1 Tbsp aged rice miso (I used homemade)
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (fresh preferred but bottled is just fine if you find yourself lacking lemons)


Rosemary-Garlic-Roasted Tomato:

  • 1.5 tsps fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 small tomatoes, roasted

Roasted Red Pepper:

  • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning blend (Marjoram, Thyme, Rosemary, Savory, Sage, Oregano & Basil)
  • 6 mini bell peppers, roasted

Chai Beet:

  • 1/3 cup minced pickled beets (I pickled mine with a little star anise & cinnamon)
  • 1/4 cup brine from pickled beets
  • 1/2 tsp Hawaij spice mix (ginger, cinnamon, cloves & green cardamom)

Note: I made these knowing they would be consumed that day. While they were quite flavorful and were consumed immediately, I might knock down the spicing a bit if I were planning on holding them for a day or two before consuming.


  1. Soak 4 cups of cashews in dechlorinated water for 4-6 hours. Use enough water to cover the cashews plus a little more (about 1/2″ above the cashews).
  2. Drain and rinse cashews with dechlorinated water.
  3. Cream in food processor. You might need to do this in several batches depending on the size of your food processor. It takes a while for them to cream but keep going until you reach smoothness. You might need to stop & stir occasionally to keep things going.
  4. Add your pickle brine and probiotic capsules & mix thoroughly. You can do this in the food processor or in a bowl if you’re doing a large batch.
  5. Place in a 105-109º F (40.5-43º C) area overnight (or between 8-10 hours). As mentioned above, I use my sous vide stick to do this. I placed the cashew mixture in a glass jar, capped it with a plastic lid and placed it in a water bath (below the lid line) overnight with my sous vide stick set to 109º F.
  6. Make-do mold for cashew cheese
    Cheesecloth over upcycled berry container

    After your cashew paste has fermented to your liking, transfer it back to the food processor. Add miso, nutritional yeast flakes and lemon juice and thoroughly combine. You could also do this with a hand mixer or by hand.

  7. Split your cashew puree into three parts. Using food processor, hand mixer, hands, spoon or fork, thoroughly mix in seasonings into each batch.
  8. The beet cheese was not as firm so I served that in a bowl. I molded the other two cheeses by placing a piece of cheesecloth into a plastic container formerly occupied by fruit or veggies (the kind that you find berries or grape tomatoes in at your grocery store). The cheesecloth should be larger than the container, enough to drape over the sides. Spoon your cashew cheese onto the cheesecloth, smooth out and wrap the cheesecloth over the top. This made for an easy to transport and quite presentable cashew cheese.

I’m continuing to experiment and refine my fermented cashew cheese process and recipes – more posts coming soon!

Gjetost Cheese

I’ve been looking for interesting things to make with the whey left over from straining my homemade yogurt and came across this recipe. I followed the recipe with less whey, adding cream to taste. It made a really tart but interesting spread. And while it was a nice accent to other foods, it was too tart on its own. However, I think this would make a really interesting tart caramel-type candy if I added sugar to it. So, more experiments to come. Give it a try if you have a bunch of whey on hand & let me know how it goes, please.

Pickled Beets & Turnips

I didn’t specifically make these for the Ferment! Ferment! fest – I made these a couple of weeks before as I had too many beets & turnips on hand. I didn’t write down the recipe but used a 2% brine (this is a great site for brine %s), star anise and a bit of cinnamon for flavorings. Very tasty.

Yogurt with Ras El Hanout

Ras El Hanout is a spice blend from North Africa. It’s one of my favorite blends and we use it in all kinds of dishes. It’s an easy addition to yogurt – serve it with homemade tortillas, rice or couscous. It would also be nice with all kinds of meats.

That’s it. This post took far, far too long for me to write – I started it three weeks ago, jeez. I am going to get better at this whole blogging regularly thing, I promise. And I need to add more pictures, too. My kitchen lighting stinks but I’ve come up with some work-arounds and am getting better at color correcting. I’m continuing to ferment and will be updating and sharing my successes (and failures) here.

I also co-host a weekly podcast on all things fermented called Fuhmentaboudit. Each show usually features a guest but I actually talked about my ferments, and more specifically, the ferments in this post, on a recent episode, #160. You can listen to it on iTunes, Stitcher, or right here on Heritage Radio Network, the amazing not-for-profit network that allows us to spread our love of fermentation.

Happy Fermenting!

DIY Fermentation Food Recipes Try Something New Every Month

Heart Skips a Beet Short Mead

The Inspiration:

I’m a latecomer to beets. They were not part of my childhood diet and I really didn’t start eating them until sometime in the last ten years. But now they’re one of my favorite foods – a good beet salad can’t be beat (harhar)! And while I’ve had several beet beers that I enjoyed in the past, I hadn’t yet made a beet beverage myself. So when I volunteered to teach a workshop at the annual Ferment! Ferment! festival this year, I had the perfect excuse. Ferment! Ferment! is a fantastic free fermentation fest that takes place every February here in Brooklyn – there are workshops, live music and the attendees bring all kinds of wonderful fermented foods & beverages to share. It’s pretty amazing. I wanted to pour a couple of short meads made with local, seasonal ingredients during the workshop so I headed to the Stannard Farm stand at the Tompkins Square Greenmarket and picked up honey and beets to make my first fermented beet beverage.

Heart Skips a Beet Short MeadThe Recipe:

-1 gallon batch-

  • 4.5 oz local beet, diced (about half a beet)
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 1 lb local Stannard Farm honey
  • filtered water
  • Red Star Pasteur Champagne dry yeast (yellow packet)
  • ~1/16 tsp Wyeast beer yeast nutrient
  • Added diced beet, star anise and nutrient to Pyrex measuring cup, poured off-boil water to cover and steeped for 10 minutes
  • Poured honey into a 1-gallon wide-mouthed glass jar
  • Added a few cups of filtered water to honey in jar and stirred until honey dissolved
  • Removed 1 star anise pod from “tea” and added liquid, beets and remaining star anise to jar
  • Topped off with filtered water and pitched around 1/3 packet of yeast
  • Fermented at around 78º F for four days
  • Cold-crashed and force-carbed 2 liters in a plastic soda bottle with The Carbonater Cap, bottled remainder in a glass flip-top jar

OG: 1.040 (3.10.2015)

FG: 1.004 (3.14.2015)

ABV: Around 4.7% (the beet may have added sugar but I have no way know if it did or guesstimate how much)

Tasting Notes:

I really love this one. The star anise complements the earthiness of the beets perfectly. Highly drinkable.


This is a terrific late-summer/fall/winter seasonal short mead to make. It’s easy, ridiculously quick and delicious – plus it is such a beautiful color! I have another half-gallon batch going now and will definitely be adding this one to my go-to short mead recipes for events, tastings and the like. It’s an attention-getter that tastes as good as it looks.


Fermentations in Progress:
  • sourdough starter
  • Jun & Kombucha
  • more Heart Skips a Beet Short Mead

Happy Fermenting!

Fermentation Recipes Short Mead Speed Brewing

Passion Fruit Mosaic Saison

The Inspiration:

I was invited by Brooklyn Homebrew to brew a beer for a local event: Allagash Brewing Company‘s Saison Day at Three’s Brewing. Allagash debuted their new Century Saison by holding Saison Day events around the country celebrating the style. For the event at Three’s Brewing, eight local homebrewers were invited to brew a saison and pour samples. I recently had a delicious passion fruit sour ale brewed by Oskar Norlander, Erik Norlander and Peter Salmond that inspired me to try passion fruit in one of my beers. Why Mosaic? Well, because I freaking love that hop. And as it turns out, it goes perfectly with passion fruit.

BIAB draining with wide potThe Recipe:

(a 5.5 gallon batch brewed on my stove top using the Brew in a Bag method)

Malt Bill:
  • 8 lbs Belgian Pils Malt (80%)
  • 2 lbs White Wheat Malt (20%)

Mashed in at 154º F for 60 minutes then mashed out at 170º F.  No sparge – drained grain bag in colander over oven rack into my brew pot.

Pre-boil gravity: 1.046

Addition Schedule (60 minute boil):

  • 60 min: 1 oz French Strisselspalt pellet hops (5.6% AA)
  • Flame-out: 1 oz Mosaic pellet hops (11.6% AA)

Approximate IBUs: 21

Pitched 2 packets of Danstar Belle Saison dry yeast (not rehydrated)

Fermentation Schedule: (6-gallon Better Bottle)

  • Days 1-3: 64-65º F
  • Days 4-7: 79-80º F
  • Moved to 33º F fridge on Day 7.
  • Day 9: Split batch into two 3-gallon Better Bottles. Racked under CO2: half onto 14 oz of Mamitas passion fruit pulp (thawed in bag & bag sanitized with StarSan before opening) and half onto 1 oz Mosaic pellet hops. Kept at 33º F. I split the batches as I was considering kegging the two separately but they were so delicious together I ended up blending in the keg.
  • Day 14: Blended, kegged & served (yep, last minute keg shake-a-roo. Not ideal but it works.)

OG: 1.050 (3.7.2015)

FG: 1.001 (3.14.2015)

ABV: 6.5%

Tasting Notes:

Delicious! The Mosaic hops and passion fruit compliment each other beautifully. Both are present but not overwhelming and the passion fruit is not sweet. A non-traditional yet tasty dry saison.


Holy cow – I’m definitely brewing this one again. Although I did not win the mini-comp as the judges thought it was not traditional enough, it got compliments galore (from the public & brewers) and was very popular. I’d like to brew a more sessionable version, perhaps around 4.5% ABV, and I’ll probably use slightly less passion fruit and hops for that version. I’d also like to try using passion fruit and Mosaic hops in cider and kefir beer (boozy water kefir).

Fermentations in Progress:

  • sourdough starter
  • Greenmarket Beet Short Mead (recipe coming soon!)
  • some very old sour beers
  • Jun & Kombucha

Happy Fermenting!

Allagash Saison Day at Three's Brewing
Allagash Saison Day at Three’s Brewing Top Row: Allagash Owner Rob Tod with comp winners Brett Taylor, Jason Sahler & Zack Kinney. The Crowd. Middle Row: Brooklyn Homebrew owners Danielle Cefaro & Benjamin Stutz. Rob Tod, Allagash rep Kristen Demergian & me. Bottom Row: Homebrewer Jason Sahler, me & Three’s head brewer Greg Doroski. Homebrewer Fritz Fernow. Homebrewer Jeff Lyons.


Beer Fermentation Homebrewing Recipes Speed Brewing

ACBF mosaic
1. Mystic Brewing, 2. Notch Session Ale, 3. Night Shift Brewing’s table, 4. slumbrew

I’ve found inspiration for some of my favorite homebrews at beer festivals. I first fell in love with the Smuttynose Chai Porter at the Extreme Beer Festival in Boston, learned about lichtenhainers at a fest in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and tasted my first gratzer, Blind Bat’s Vlad the Inhaler, at the Bellport Charity Fest. I have no doubt that I’ll be able to say the same thing about several beers that I tried at last weekend’s American Craft Beer Fest in Boston. I have not kept up with the Massachusetts craft brewing scene lately and was very pleasantly surprised to find that eight new breweries opened in the state in 2011. I was pouring for one of them, Wandering Star, which I am fortunate to be able to drink in NYC but the others were completely new to me. I’d like to share some of my favorites with you and some of the ideas they are inspiring. Perhaps you will find inspiration along the way as well.

  • Notch Brewing from Ipswich brew delicious session beers. I had heard of Notch but didn’t know anything about them other than the fact that they brewed session beers. And session ales are my obsession at the moment. I drink the Carton Boat Beer every chance I get and am planning a fall meeting on Session Ales for the New York City Homebrews Guild. This is where I headed on my first break from the Wandering Star booth.  They were pouring 4 beers: the 3.8% Saison, the 4% Session Pils, the 2.8% Tafelbier and the 3.7% Coffee Milk Stout, the latter two on cask. I tried every one. My favorite was the Coffee Milk Stout – flavorful and ridiculously easy to drink. I’d like to keep at least one session ale on tap at home at all times (that is, after we finally get around to building the kegerator this summer) and this would be a lovely one to have. I’d start with a basic milk stout recipe, likely from  and decrease the malt bill to work out to somewhere between 3.5 and 4%. How to get the coffee flavor? I’d like to try adding coarsely ground coffee beans in secondary. Adding cold-ground coffee at kegging would be another option. I’d probably choose an English Ale yeast and carbonate on the lower side. All of the Notch beers were good, a Tafelbier-inspired beer would be next on my list. Notch is kind enough to list their basic ingredients on their website which is always a nice reference when formulating a homebrew recipe.
  • Night Shift Brewing in Everett is brewing some very creative beers. They were pouring Viva Habanera (habanera rye), Bee Tea (wheat ale brewed with sweet orange peel and orange blossom honey and aged on loose green tea), Taza Stout (brewed with chicory root and ginger and aged on cacao nibs from Taza) and Trifecta (brewed with 3 Trappist ale strains and aged on vanilla beans). The Viva Habanera and Taza Stout were my favorite. I picked up some delicious smelling cacao nibs at Keystone Homebrew last month and really need to use them. The chicory-ginger was an interesting combo and makes me wonder what other creative combinations are out there. I really enjoyed Peter Kennedy’s homebrewed Pistachio Stout earlier this year and would love to make a pistachio stout with cacao nibs. Or perhaps a coconut stout with cacao nibs. Peanut butter & cacao nibs. Vosges Chocolate is a fantastic place for more inspiration – how about a sea salt, almond & cacao nib stout? A white milk/cream ale with lemon zest and pink peppercorn? I’ll have to think on that one for a while. I see a series of experimental one gallon batches in my future. I’d like to start with a larger batch of a basic stout, though one that was lighter on the roastiness, split the batch up in secondary and play. Cacao nibs in all, toasted shredded coconut in one, roasted pistachios in the second and sea salt & toasted almonds in the third. I’d also like to play with tea more. I made an Earl Grey Ale last year that was definitely drinkable but not the beer that I had envisioned. I’d like to work on that recipe a bit and also experiment with smoky Lapsang souchong (a session souchong?) and jasmine (a wheat beer base might work here). A green tea short mead might be tasty…
  • Mystic Brewery in Chelsea brewed my favorite beer of the festival, the Flor Ventus, a truly lovely sour. This just reminds me that I need to bottle my 2-year old sours and think about brewing some more to drink a year or two from now. Their saisons were also excellent.
  • slumbrew in Somerville brewed a style I’ve never come across before, a Dampfbier. Their Rising Sun Ale is an all-barley beer fermented with wheat yeast. Traditionally, these beers were fermented above 70°. A very drinkable beer and something to experiment with at some point in the future. Perhaps the NYC Homebrewers Guild needs to have a historical styles meeting at some point. I tasted a lot of other fantastic beers during the festival but these were the most inspirational in relation to homebrewing. I’m looking forward to drinking more beers from each of these breweries on a future Massachusetts trip as well as the adventures in homebrewing that they have inspired. Cheers!

What recent inspirations have you found? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.


20120601-141411.jpgThis post is part of The Session which is hosted by The Beer Babe this month. I had grand plans of merrily blogging away on the 4+ hour Megabus ride to Boston this morning. But alas, a Coach bus with no wifi was substituted and I am relegated to thumb typing on my iPhone. On to the subject at hand…pale ales.

The first beer that I ever brewed was a pale ale. Brewed from a kit that I purchased at the hydroponics shop in Queens, it was certainly drinkable, but lacked hop character and distinction. I’ve made quite a few pale ales since then, but none that lie within traditional guidelines, instead usually non-traditional hops, adding fruit & spices and funking them up. I tend to go through pale ale stages, both in drinking & brewing. It’s often a style I take for granted – Sierra Nevada Pale Ale taps are ubiquitous these days and tend to blend into the woodwork for me among the smokes, sours and saisons at 20 tap craft beer bars. Don’t get me wrong – SNPA is a highly quaffable beverage and I’m always delighted to order it at airport bars, work functions, cheesy rooftop bars and other places where it’s often the only craft beer available. And I enjoy other American Pale Ales from time to time (the Hill Farmstead Edward is a delicious example) but it’s not a style that usually catches my eye on draft menus. And that’s even more true with English Pale Ales. I’d even go so far to say that that is a style I tend to avoid. Although I drank a lot of them on a trip to London a few years ago, I never order them in America. Perhaps it’s because they tend to not be at their freshest over here or maybe I just find them subtle to the point of boring against the more stimulating American sours and IPAs. I even avoid judging these styles in homebrew competitions, always preferring sours, smoked beers and other specialty categories. Suffice it to say, both American and English Pale Ales are underrepresented in my drinking and brewing repertoires. So I set out last night to gain a new perspective. I hit the jackpot only a few blocks from my apartment at Freddy’s Bar where both Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Fuller’s London Pride were on tap. The bartender was kind enough to pour me two half pints and I carried them out to the bar’s backyard for some thoughtful tasting in the twilight. (note: according to the BJCP guidelines, which is my go-to for style reference, London Pride is a Special/Best/Premium Bitter but it can be argued that bitters and EPAs are the same with differences only in degrees of ABV, IBU, etc. Close enough for me.)

My notes on the two:

Fuller’s London Pride:

Aroma: caramel and a hint of butter in the aroma

Flavor: light caramel, moderate bitterness which lasts after swallow, lightly fruity, esp after swallow, caramel remains after the swallow as well

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale:

Aroma: citrus

Flavor: lightly bready, citrus, earthiness, bitterness moderate to high, esp at end and after swallow

The beers were extremely similar in color. The most noticeable difference in aroma and flavor was the caramel quality of the London Pride. The Sierra had a citrus quality that the LP lacked as well as a higher carbonation and slightly lighter mouth feel.

I really enjoyed both beers – very quaffable, especially on a warm Spring evening. And I’m be much more inclined to order either of them in the future – they’re easy-drinking yet flavorful brews.

Let’s take a look at homebrewing these two beers.

Brew Your Own magazine has a darn good article and recipe on how to brew a Fuller’s London Pride clone. I had no idea that they used the same grist and blended back to get those 4 beers. Now I really want to do a side-by-side tasting of the four. And possible some experiment home brewing using that technique and 3 gallon Better Bottles. Hmmm.

These two recipes are a good start for cloning a Sierra Nevada:

I haven’t tried either recipe, but the SN website lists the ingredients as two-row pale & caramel malt, Magnum & Perle hops for bittering and Cascade hops for finishing.

This was a nice exercise in style comparisons, something that I really enjoy and do far too infrequently. It also begs me to do a post on the endless creative options for the style. Cheers to future musings and highly drinkable pale ales!


Short meads fermenting

The Inspiration:

I first learned about short meads when my friend Molly bought some Ambrosia Farm kits at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival a few years ago. Short meads are a quick, lower alchohol mead version. I really enjoyed the Elderflower mead that she made from the kit. After a little online research, I created a lavender mead last February that I really enjoyed. I was at Keystone Homebrew in Montgomeryville, PA in late March judging the 1st Round of the National Homebrew Competiton and lo and behold, they stock the Ambrosia Farms kits. With the New York City Homebrewers Guild annual Mead Meeting approaching in May, I picked up 2 kits to make. And then Chris Cuzme and I created two of our own short meads a few weeks later.

Ambrosia Farm Short Mead Kit mosaic
1. Ambrosia Farm Short Mead Kits, 2. Brewing tea for the short mead, 3. Raspberry and Midsummer Elderflower short meads 4. contents of the Ambrosia Farm Raspberry Short Mead Kit

Part One: Review of the Ambrosia Farm Short Mead Kits

The Ambrosia Farm kits are fantastic and I highly recommend them for anyone that wishes to make short mead. A lot of thought has been put into the creation of these kits and the flavor combinations show this. The ingredient combinations are wonderful. The instructions are thorough and very easy to follow. The kits contain everything that you need to make a short mead except the honey and the water. The kits can be ordered directly from Ambrosia Farm for $9 each with free shipping. We spent around $7-8 for the flavor ingredients for each of ours below and the Ambrosia Farm kits have a lot more ingredients – this is a good value. Truly, anyone can make a lovely short mead with one of these kits.
Short Mead mosaic 2
1. Ingredients for our Strawberry-Peppercorn Short Mead, 2. Blueberry-Nutmeg short mead ingredients, 3. Pulverizing the freeze-dried strawberries for a short mead, 4. Strawberry-peppercorn short mead ingredients, 5. Warming the water & honey for short mead, 6. Making short meads, 7. Water cap with gasket inserted, 8. Blueberry-nutmeg and strawberry-peppercorn short meads fermenting

Part Two: Our Short Meads

The Recipe:

I based my recipe on several that I came across on the internet as well as my experiences with my lavender short mead and the Ambrosia Farm short mead kits.

Base ingredients:

  • a gallon jug of spring water – we used Nirvana, purchased for 99₵ at our local Brooklyn Pathmark
  • 2 lbs of honey – we used goldenrod honey from Tremblay Apiaries purchased at the Union Square Greenmarket
  • champagne yeast – we used Lalvin EC-118 purchased at Brooklyn Homebrew
  • gasket & air lock, Go-Ferm, StarSan (these are optional)
  • bottles – I love these flip-top bottles from Ikea and highly recommend them for your meads.


  • Strawberry-peppercorn: 1 bag of Trader Joe’s freeze-dried strawberries and 1/2 Tbsp mixed peppercorns
  • Blueberry-nutmeg: 1 bag of Trader Joe’s freeze-dried blueberries and freshly grated nutmeg

The Process:

  1. Place water jug and honey in sink with warm water to bring up in temperature. You want the water at around 70℉ and the honey to be viscous enough to pour.
  2. Prepare tea: prepare fruit & spices. We powdered the freeze-dried fruit by pouring into a ziploc bag and pulverizing with a rolling pin. We crushed the peppercorns in a mortar & pestle and grated the nutmeg. Pour 4 cups of the water from your gallon jug into a pan, add the fruit and spice and bring to a simmer. Hold at a simmer for around 10 minutes with lid on, remove from heat and chill pan in a sink or large bowl of ice water.
  3. Prepare honey mixture: Pour out 3 more cups of water (drink this or whatever) to make room for the honey. Place water jug on scale, zero scale and add 2 lbs of honey. Put lid on and shake the heck out of the jug to mix the water and honey.
  4. Prepare jug lid: I converted the lids to hold an air lock by cutting a circle in the lid with an exacto knife and inserting a gasket, which I purchased at Brooklyn Homebrew. Trace the inside of the gasket with a permanent market and cut the circle a bit bigger to accomodate the gasket. Place in StarSan mixture along with your air lock.
  5. Prepare Go-Ferm and yeast. I just started using Go-Ferm and I really like it – it gives your dry yeast a healthier start. I purchased mine at Keystone Homebrew but I’m sure that you can either purchase at Brooklyn Homebrew (or your local homebrew shop) or they can order it for you. We added 1 tsp of Go-Ferm to 2 oz of 110℉ water. Cooled to around 104℉ then sprinkled the dry yeast on top. Allow to sit for 10 minutes, then stir with sanitized spoon.
  6. Once your tea has cooled to around 70℉, add it to your jug of honey-water mixture, pour in your yeast mixture, screw your gasketized cap on and add your air lock on top. Ferment in a dark place (I covered mine with a t-shirt) somewhere between 68℉ and 86℉. We fermented ours in the upper 60s/low 70s.
  7. Taste after a week.Bottle when they are at the sweetness level that you like. Although the air lock was still bubbling, we bottled these after a week and a half. We found the easiest way to bottle was to attach hose to the bottom of a funnel, place the funnel/tube on the bottle with a strainer on top and gently pour the mead in – you can see a pic here. We weren’t worried about oxidation as this will not be allowed to age. We let them sit out for 24 hours then placed in the refrigerator.

Tasting Notes:

All four of our short meads were tasty. We prefered the blueberry-nutmeg and strawberry-peppercorn as we had bottled these earlier than the kit meads and they retained some residual sweetness. They were much loved by our members at the May Mead meeting as well. These are light-bodied, dry to semi-sweet, carbonated beverages with a lot of flavor. One of my favorite summer drinks.


These are meant to be drunk young. They are somewhat volatile in the bottle as they are still actively fermenting and need to be stored in the refrigerator. But that’s the great thing about making only a gallon – you can drink them pretty quickly. I’m looking forward to experimenting with more flavors this summer and will continue to add recipes to this blog.

Happy Fermenting!


5 Favorite Homebrewing Books

  1. How To Brew by John Palmer.  This is my homebrewing bible and an absolute must for every homebrewer’s shelf in my opinion. John covers everything from extract brewing to decoction mashing to bottling in very readable and understandable manner.  I love his allegory for how mashing works.  I am still amazed at how much useful information this book contains every time I flip through it.  Highly recommended for every level of homebrewer.  The first edition of this book is available for free here but I think it’s worth purchasing the latest and more complete addition.
  2. Brewing Classic Styles by Jamil Zainasheff and John J Palmer.  I use this book in two ways.  The first is as a reference when I am formulating a recipe based on a particular style or two of beer.  It gives me a good idea of what base malts, hops and yeast I want to think about using.  The second is when I am feeling utterly lazy and want to brew to style – you can’t go wrong with any of these recipes.  Both extract and all-grain options are given for each style.  Highly recommended for beginner to intermediate homebrewers and those feeling lazy about recipe formulation.
  3. Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher.  While this is technically not a homebrewing book, it is a fantastic reference for any homebrewer.  I use this book every time I teach an off-flavors class – Chapter 3, Brewing and the Vocabulary of Beer Flavor, is invaluable for learning the flavors & off-flavors of beer.  Randy covers classic styles as well as new, history, beer & food, judging and much more in this book.  Highly recommended for every level of homebrewer.
  4. Brewing with Wheat by Stan Hieronymus. Covers the history of wheat beers, the styles and variations.  I mostly bought this book for chapter 14, Four Resurrected Recipes, which contains Kristen England’s recipes for a Berliner Weisse, Lichtenhainer, Gose and Gratzer.  I’ve made all four of these styles and the recipes and information in this book were extremely helpful in formulating my recipes and brewing the beers.  Honestly, I found wheat beers pretty boring before I picked up this book but Stan opened my eyes – there are a ridiculous number of interesting beers to brew with wheat.  Highly recommended for intermediate and up homebrewers.
  5. Radical Brewing by Randy Mosher.  This one is probably my favorite of the bunch.  This book has provided more inspiration for my beers than any other source.  Although Randy does include some recipes for basic styles, this book is all about the weird stuff.  There’s a lot included in this gem – historical recipes, types of sugars, a lovely chart of herbs and spices, alternative grains, honey and so much more.  This book is designed to spark your brewing creativity – highly recommended for intermediate and up brewers and anyone who likes to color outside the lines.

What homebrew books do you use the most?  Please share your recommendations in the comments.


As an avid homebrewer and current President of the New York City Homebrewers Guild, I often get asked, “Where can I learn to homebrew in New York City?”. A few years ago, I would have had a tough time giving them even one recommendation. But this has all changed in the last couple of years and we New Yorkers are lucky to have several excellent places to take homebrewing classes. Here are my recommendations, in no particular order:

Ongoing classes:

Brooklyn Homebrew:

Brooklyn Homebrew in the Gowanus area of Brooklyn is my local homebrew shop and offers two monthly classes – Homebrew 101: Beginner and Homebrew 102: Intro to All-Grain. They also offer an occasional yeast class and other homebrew-related events. The Homebrew 101 and 102 classes are $35 each and last around two hours. Both classes include full instruction on partial-mash (101) or all-grain brewing (102) and a tasting of beers of Brooklyn Homebrew-made draft beers. Participants in the 101 class bottle a previous classes beer and take home some of the bottles.

Bitter & Esters:

Bitter & Esters has a full electric brewing system in their Prospect Heights store in Brooklyn. They offer a variety of classes, ranging from Brewshop 101: Homebrewing Essentials to Brewshop 501: All Grain Brewing. These classes include full instruction on homebrewing. Bitter & Esters also have a series of Brew Like A Pro workshops, where participants brew a clone beer with the same ingredients and a scaled-down recipe as a commercial beer and more focused classes on yeast. The Brewshop 101 & 501 classes are $55 while the other classes usually range from $65 to $70.

Brooklyn Kitchen:

This full-service kitchen supply shop in Williamsburg offers a 2.5 hour Homebrewing class on a regular basis. They also offer more advanced classes from time to time. The Homebrewing class is currently $125 and takes participants through the extract brewing process. The class tastes beer brewed by a previous class and commercial examples and discusses how to homebrew those styles. Participants take home bottles brewed by a previous class as well as a Homebrew kit.


My friend and fellow NYCHG member Fritz Fernow offers homebrewing classes through sidetour. The $35 workshop is held at Fritz’s apartment in Cobble Hill. Participants get to watch Fritz brew a beer, sample some of his homebrews and have a complimentary pint at 61 Local with Fritz and the rest of the class after the brew session concludes.

Occasional classes:

(Please visit their websites to see if they have something going.)

  • Homebrew kit purveyor Brooklyn Brew Shop gives workshops and demos around town occasionally.
  • The Bowery Culinary Center at the Whole Foods Bowery on the Lower East Side has occasional homebrew workshops.
  • The Queens Kickshaw in Astoria recently held a series of classes on homebrewing.
  • 3rdWard in East Williamsburg has offered homebrewing workshops.
  • Sam Burlingame gives occasional classes around the city – please like the BrewHeister page on Facebook to find out when the next one is.

Once you’ve started brewing, please consider attending a local homebrew meeting or get-together – we’ve compiled a list of Tri-State Homebrew clubs on the New York City Homebrewers Guild site. Homebrew meetings are a fun way to get feedback on your beers, inspiration from others’ beers and further your homebrewing education. Happy Fermenting!


Off-flavor Kit Ingredients
I’d been toying with the idea of making my own off-flavor kit for a while.  The Siebel Sensory Training kit is wonderful but I had wanted something simpler, cheaper and made from easily attainable ingredients to teach classes and go through friends with – a kit that any homebrew group in the country could create and learn from.  When I was asked to teach an off-flavor class at a local wine/beer/liquor store, Amanti Vino, I finally had the excuse I needed to stop procrastinating.  I was inspired by this post on the Barlow Brewing blog and went to work experimenting.  Luckily, Chris Cuzme was willing to help with the tasting.  We used Miller Lite as our base beer.  You can use a lighter tasting craft beer but I would recommend the most neutral beer you can find, especially when you’re starting out. We played around with the dosing until we found what we thought would be detectable to most, but not so powerful that it wouldn’t taste like something else or complete overwhelm your taste buds.

  • Diacetyl – Wilton Clear Butter Flavor, $2.99 for 2 fl ozs. at New York Cake in Chelsea.  If you’re not in an urban area with crazy cake baking specialty stores, you should be able to find this at the large craft supply stores, like Michael’s or AC Moore.  We found that 4 drops per 12 oz bottle or 24 drops per six pack worked well.
  • Acetaldehyde – Loran Gourmet Apple Candy & Baking Flavoring, $3.99 for 2 .125 fl oz bottles at New York Cake.  8 drops per 12 oz bottle or 48 drops per six pack.
  • Acetic – Heinz white vinegar which I had at home.  24 drops per 12 oz bottle or 6 1/8 tsp per six pack, although I do add more drops to some glasses when I teach the class upon request so you might need to go up a little on this one.
  • Astringent (specifically tannic) – LD Carlson Wine Tannins, $3 for 1 oz at Bitter & Esters (a homebrew/wine making shop) in Brooklyn.  To be honest with you, I’m not entirely happy with this one as it is difficult to mix in and doesn’t give me the ideal feeling that I want.  It does give a drying effect but no tingling. We mixed 1/8 tsp in 1/4 cup water and added that to a six pack of beer.
  • Phenolic/Medicinal – Generic brand Menthol Sore Throat Spray, $3.49 at my local independent pharmacy.  I was unable to find a non-Menthol or non-fruity throat spray but the menthol works pretty well.  We used 8 drops for 12 ozs of beer or 48 drops per six pack.
  • DiMethyl Sulfide – generic brand of canned corn from Eagle Provisions, my local grocery store.  We decided on 1/4 cup strained liquid per 12 ozs or 1.5 cups per six pack.

I’ve used this kit in three different classes and although it is far from perfect, it is an easy and inexpensive way to teach basic off-flavors to a group.  I’m working on refining the components of this kit and adding more and will write those up when I’m satisfied.

General off-flavor resources: