Tag Archives: homebrew

Rick Jensen’s Thirsty Thirsday

Rick Jensen’s Thirsty Thirsday, Featuring the Bongo Zeptobrewery (4/4/13) – click to download

In case you missed it, I was on Rick Jensen’s Thirsty Thursday (WDEL 1150AM) last week. I had a great time talking about beer! Check out the podcast, and be sure to check out Thirsty Thursday on WDEL every week at 3pm. Check out his other podcasts.

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Hop and Circumstance: Hop Ice Cream (Crème Glacée à l’Essence d’Houblon)

Even as homebrewers and adventurous cooks find many culinary applications for brewing elements such as malts, extract, finished beer, and even yeast, hops remain particularly troublesome considering their characteristic bitterness (my hop-crusted trout turned out not so great). After all, while malt is often used in chocolates and candies, and yeast is used in baking, hops are confined rather exclusively to the realm of beer. Perhaps there’s an unspoken inverse-Reinheitsgebot that prohibits hops from leaving the brewery. God forbid.

While in Desserts and Plating class, my instructor offered me a challenge. Being a homebrewer himself, he dared me to make a West Coast IPA/Pliny the Elder ice cream. This was not a challenge I would back down from. But where to start? I began by analyzing the components.

1)      The Ice Cream Base

2)      The Flavoring

3)      Garniture

I decided, for this trial at least, I would make a custom crème anglaise base and then simply dry-hop it for two days with Cascade and Centennial cones. I may have used too many, as the dry hops sucked up much of the base. I plan to try this again with fresh hops this harvest season.

French Ice Cream Base

What is crème anglaise? ‘English Cream’ is a dessert sauce made of sweetened heavy cream and milk, tempered with eggs. It is delicious as is, but when freeze-churned it becomes known as French style ice cream. American style ice cream is made without eggs for a lighter product. Varying amounts of fat (cream, milk, egg, etc) in either style of ice cream affects texture and flavor. There is a whole science to ice cream, what with all the proteins, fats, sugars, and temperature changes. Adjusting the ratio of ingredients, much like with dough, can change the overall product dramatically.

Let’s talk about sugar. There’s nothing wrong with using white, granulated sugar, but you can use demerara or turbinado, just as you might in brewing. Some may suggest using Dry Malt Extract (DME), but I have some reservations. First of all, DME is somewhat expensive. Secondly, it can be a pain to work with. In a non-humid environment, it is easily scaled (one reason it is good for brewing, in contrast to Liquid Malt Extract), but once it is introduced to moisture it becomes gummy and must be blended over heat. Good luck getting DME into those egg yolks (see procedure below). My last reservation is of overall effect: I once made an apple tartin made with 50/50 white sugar and DME. In a class full of a dozen other tartins, there was no noticeable difference in flavor. So if you want to try DME, use 100%, but I think you’ll get more effect from character malts. Of course there’s the gumminess issue with 100% DME – if you’re making American style, it’s more of a possibility. And while I did use all white, granulated sugar, I steeped hops in it for two weeks before hand to make a hop-scented sugar, the same way chefs make vanilla sugar. It might be for naught, considering any hop scent is probably cooked out.

Bitter ice cream? Considering the hops aren’t boiled, bitterness shouldn’t be an issue. The alpha acids require boiling to be isomerized into a liquid – homebrewers work with this concept in timed intervals when making beer, known as a hopping schedule. However, my trial-churn turned out rather bitter, but I think I know why. Like I said, my hops were dry and sucked up much of the base. When straining them out I had to press them with a spoon to get enough base for churning. I likely disturbed the lupulin glands, or something of that nature. I will try fresh cones (which of course are less potent), but they are only harvested at certain times in the year. Barring wet hops, I would recommend rehydrating dry cones in cream or milk so that it doesn’t take your entire base.

Someone set us up the bomb…

So, at this point you’ve got a rich, delicious ice cream with a bright grassy, herbal, citrusy flavor. Some added grapefruit zest could accent it well, which begs the question: should garniture be included? The time to do it is right when it comes out of the machine, unless you’re at a Cold Stone Creamery. I doubt I will ever see the day they make hop ice cream. But what kind of garniture goes with hop flavor? Consider the anatomy of beer: a terribly sweet liquid that is balanced out with bitter hops. So let’s consider it in reverse and use a terribly sweet garnish. It would be a lost opportunity to go with something as simple as chocolate or nuts – stick with the beer motif and consider a swirl of malt extract, much like a caramel or fudge swirl in commercial ice creams. I would recommend thinning out the extract with milk or cream, otherwise its high sugar content will force it to become too hard when frozen. In my trial I ended up topping the small scoop with raw wildflower honey. While not thematically congruent, it was delicious.


After Two Days

RECIPE: Hop Ice Cream

Yield: about 2 quarts

10 oz egg yolks
15 oz sugar
40 oz milk
20 oz heavy cream
2.5 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ oz dry Cascade cones, hydrated in milk
½ oz dry Centennial cones, hydrated in milk
pinch, salt

a)  Crack and separate eggs.

b)  Scale liquids.


1)  Gently whisk about half the sugar into the egg yolks until smooth.

2)  Combine the other half of the sugar with the milk and whisk together. Scald the milk over high heat until just about to boil. Kill the heat.

3)  Temper some of the milk into the yolks until fluid. Combine this mixture back into the rest of the milk.

4)  Cook over medium heat while stirring, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If the custard gets too lumpy, you can buzz it with a blender.

5) Add the vanilla and salt to the cold cream, which should be in a large bowl.

6)  Strain the custard.

7)  Pour the strained custard into the cold cream while stirring to shock it.

8)  Have the hops in a large container that will go in your fridge. While the base is still warm, pour over the hops. Cover with plastic (push down on to the surface of the base), and chill for two days before straining and churning.


  • Play around with your sugar choices, as described above.
  • Garnish with ribbons of malt syrup loosened with milk or cream.
  • Try with fresh hops when available.
  • Hydrate dry hops in milk to avoid pressing the base out of them (or experiment with the  bitterness).
  • I wouldn’t recommend using pellet hops.
  • Drop the eggs for a lighter, American style ice cream. Take this opportunity to use a high proportion of DME.
  • Steep crystal malt in the cream first at 150° – 160° F for about 25 minutes, then chill it. Continue with recipe.

    Cake and Ice Cream

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Straight Shooter: All-American Free Love

The time has come.

It is time to go all-grain. I’ve got my mash/lauter tun (MLT), my false bottom, my stainless steel valves, my high-temp silicone tubing, my mash paddle, and a good thermometer.

But here’s the thing: I can’t formulate recipes until I know the efficiency of my MLT. Basically, when you mash, you stew the malted grain in hot water, converting the starches to fermentable and unfermentable sugars.  When you measure the amount of sugars in the resulting extract (sweet wort) you get it’s specific gravity, which is its density (water @ 60° F = 1.000). Different malts will have varying potential extract, but efficiency is never 100%. In order to hit a target gravity for a recipe, I need to know how much malt to use based on my personal efficiency. I’m hoping for at least 75%, but my false bottom is renowned for its efficiency so I might very well get it in the 80’s.

A couple things affect mash efficiency:

  • Temperature: Single-infusion conversion mashes are generally conducted in the 150’s° F. The lower on that range, the more fermentable sugars you’ll get resulting in higher efficiency and higher yeast attenuation (more alcohol); however, you’ll get less unfermentable sugars which would give a beer body. You also want to sparge (rinse) the grains at about 170°, to pull off the sugars, after raising the temperature of the mash to meet it there (“mashing out”).
  • Time: A good conversion rest for an infusion-mash should be 45+ minutes. Less time, less conversion. But efficiency is also affected by the length of your sparge. Sparging also makes up much of the volume of liquid you intend to boil. You want to take your time with sparging, 40+ minutes to drain, say, five or six gallons. Patience.
  • Manifold: As I mentioned, my false bottom is touted for efficiency. Other popular solutions include cpvc pipe, copper pipe, pie tins, etc.

    False bottom made possible by weldless fittings.

    The false bottom I will be using is fairly similar to those used by professional breweries,except the liquid has to flow up tomeet the valve, where a professional brewery would have it drain straight down and be pumped, through tubes, into the brew kettle.

    DIY Copper Lauter Manifold

    The false bottom design allows even draining. The positioning of slotted pipes must be considered carefully to allow for maximum flow and evenness. Pipes and braids simply make more sense for rectangular MLT’s only. See this guide on “Tun Geometry and Flow Potential” from John Palmer’s “How to Brew.”


Galena, of which I recently scored a cache from the Dock Street brewpub. Galena was developed in the late 60’s as Brewer’s Gold that was openly pollinated (free love, man) in Idaho. It was once one of the most widely grown hops. The water will be straight Philly tap and the yeast, you guessed it, 1056 American Ale.

After the mash I calculated my efficiency to be between 67% and 75%, depending on the specific potential of the malt, which could be between 34 and 38 GUs per pound per gallon. It’s not a bad efficiency, but I could have definitely done a better job of mashing out closer to 170° F, perhaps upping my efficiency into the 80s.

In a month in a half “Straight Shooter: All-American Free Love” will be ready to drink.

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