In the pursuit of perfect homebrew, failure still makes beer.


New Equipment and Plum Hazelnut Brown

Wow, when I finally get back to homebrewing it’s apparently in a big effing way.



Nice Pumpkins 2.0 Brew Day

I paired up with my buddy Eric and broke in my backyard as the new Bono Brew headquarters on October 13th. It was a glorious sunny October Sunday, and I had cooked all the pumpkin the night prior which saved me a ton of time in the morning. I was able to put to use some new equipment I’d just bought from @HomebrewFinds:

  • Refractometer ($15)
  • Candy thremometer outfit on Big Blue mashtun ($10)
  • 10 Gallon pot, without a cover, I used tin foil in the mean time ($70)
  • 300K BTU burner (3$0)

You can see for yourself that those prices are pretty low for equipment that I’m very happy with. Certainly check out @homebrewfinds for your equipment and ingredient kit needs.

I mashed in and looked at all the grain I had… 14lbs for a 5-gallon batch. I certainly have to increase my efficiency from above its basement-dwelling 68%, but it’s tough without a pump to pull my liquor out of the mashtun. Ideally, I’d love to institute a continuous recirculation system for vorlafing (pulling wort out of the tun and recirculating it to compact the grain bed) but the time, money, and tools escape me at the moment. I’d also love to try a decoction mash now that I have a “leftover” 20-qt pot. But for Nice Pumpkins I had to deal with what I had.

After I fixed the burner up and finished the mash (still only dropping 2 degrees in an hour, that beautiful machine) I hit my pre-boil gravity spot on the nose. Refractometers are so freaking cool. Get one.

I started the full-volume boil without boilovers – unlike my compatriot Eric, who had no less than 5 boilover events in a single session brewing a Zombie Dust PA clone. His fiance was a great help in trying to stir it down whilst adding the hops. My boil took a long time to heat, but I attribute that to my lack of a pot cover. Regardless, I hit my post-boil on the nose as well. How loverly.


Only after cooling my boil and pitching the yeast did I see that I neglected to vorlauf completely, and there were still some medium particulate in the beer. It will just settle out in the trub, but still I may have missed out on precious sugars and added a little tannin. I didn’t taste it when I checked 8 days into fermentation, but it might present itself later after the beer cleans up. I fermented with WLP051 at outside-my-kitchen-backdoor temp (62-65) for 10 days and finished it off in front-closet temps (68-72).

Bottling tomorrow night will give me lease to start my sour experiment, Gourds Gone Wild, where I take 1 gallon of Nice Pumpkins and spike it with homebrew lambic dregs from another friend, Chris. We’ll see what these bugs will do to the beer – I’m not sure what to expect! I’ll probably only leave it for a week or two before cracking and tasting it.




Strawberry Wit Brewday


I brewed this recipe last Sunday using my ever-mobile all-grain setup as my first scale-down experiment for a 2-gallon test batch arrangement. I popped over my Slumbrew buddies Eric and Kristina’s house and set up in the backyard just as Eric’s extract saison brewday was coming to an end. What a great way to spend one of the nicer, hotter weekend days in June this year – it’s been crap for most of it!

My efficiency, even with sparging, is still around 65%. I think this is due to the strange configuration of my mash-tun braids, along with the space between the true bottom of the tun and the ball valve spout, where I lose some liquids. I also collected a lot more liquor than I intended to, and I should have increased boil time in order to hit my OG – but it missed low by about 8 points, so I may be making a sessionable wit. I won’t hate it! Still worthwhile for my experiments.

From Brewer’s Friend:

Amount Fermentable PPG °L Bill %
1.5 lb American – Pale 2-Row 37 1.8 43.5%
1.5 lb American – Wheat 38 1.8 43.5%
0.36 lb Flaked Oats 33 2.2 10.4%
0.09 lb American – Vienna 35 4 2.6%
3.45 lb Total
Amount Variety Time AA IBU Type Use
0.36 oz Kent Goldings 60 min 5 17.83 Pellet Boil
Show Summary View
Mash Steps
Amount Description Type Temp Time
Ferulic Acid Rest Infusion 111 F 20 min
Conversion Temperature 154 F 60 min
Mash Out Temperature 165 F 15 min
Batch sparge Sparge 165 F 30 min
Other Ingredients
Amount Name Time Type Use
0.27 oz Coriander Seed 5 min Spice Boil
0.27 oz Fresh Orange Peel 5 min Spice Boil
1 oz Whirlfloc 5 min Fining Boil
16 oz Frozen Strawberries Other Secondary
White Labs – Belgian Wit Ale Yeast WLP400
Attenuation (avg):
Optimum Temp:
67 – 74 °F
Fermentation Temp:
Pitch Rate:
0.75 (M cells / ml / ° P)
72 B cells required

OG:1.041 FG: 1.011 (primary) %abv: 3.81% (primary)

Pro-Style Homebrew Bottling Protips

In my homebrew, I kind of obsess about the quality of what’s inside those mysterious, unlabeled brown bottles. But what about the outside? It’s one thing to brew beer you like, and any amount of lab/masking/painters tape and Sharpie can be appropriate… for your own consumption. As long as you know what’s in your homebrew bottle, it’s the brew that counts, right? Of course.

But how about kicking your presentation up to the next level? Can anyone really appreciate your corny hop pun name without you describing the image you had in your mind? When you tell a fellow homebrew drinker to try your “Megazord’s Mega Sword” Barleywine, why hand them a bottle that doesn’t look the part?

If you’ve ever taken a trip over to any of my recipe pages (top o’ the page up there, drop down menus are SWEET) you’ll see that I’ve done some amateur label design of my own. This is just the start of how I try to kick up my homebrew presentation another notch. BAM, mofo. You can be like me, too. Read on, push the limits of your creativity, and add more fuel to the homebrew fire with these tips for homebrew bottle labeling and presentation.

beer bottle blank

Your bottle is an empty canvas.


Some Homebrewing Updates.

So I’ve had several homebrewing projects going on behind the scenes here at Bono Brew, and I just wanted to update because this IS, after all, a homebrewing blog and I haven’t been doing much blogging about homebrewing. Go figure. Whatevs. (more…)

OneBoston Collaboration Beer Release – 100% Charitable and Homebrew Recipe

A press release by Todd Alström on Beer Advocate this afternoon announced the release of a collaboration beer by Boston-based Trillium Brewing Company and The Publick House named, “OneBoston.” The sales of the beer will 100% go towards the One Fund Boston.


Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Clone Recipe

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Clone

Just tossing in an extract kit today that I’ve had for a few weeks, and I want to make sure that I use the White Labs yeast I have before it “expires.” This will definitely be a celebration beer (no Sierra Nevada pun intended) – I’m about halfway through going through a no-grain, no-dairy, no-sugar, no-processed diet challenge with the Crossfit box I’m part of. 15 days without beer has been no fun. But this will make me appreciate my beer more, won’t it? Right?

  • 4oz Crystal 40
  • 6.5# Briess Light DME
  • 1oz Nugget (60 min)
  • 1/2oz Pearle (15 min)
  • 1 tsp irish moss (15 min)
  • 1oz Cascade (1 min)
  • 1/2oz Cascade (dry hop)
  • Yeast: White Labs WLP051 – California V Ale

BABES in Boston: Off-Flavors Education for the Masses

What kind of fellow, in his right mind, would pay a local club good American dollars to drink bad-tasting beer? The kind of fellow that has had his fair share of home-brew shortcomings, and would like to learn more about what certain flavors mean in a beer. I had the opportunity to drink some Siebel Institute samples with the BABES club – Boston Area Beer Enthusiast Society.


A mean green mead-making machine… oh, and cider.

Cover PhotoOne of my latest ventures since changing locales back to the old homebrewery has been the pursuit of other things seasonal. For quite a while I’ve been interested in delving into mead, or honey-wine, since it trades very little effort on the hot side (prep) for a lot of patience on the cold side (waiting for the mead to be ready). Like wines, meads need only a little bit more yeast-centric attention than beer for full attenuation and proper fermentation, and they will only get better with age, so it seems like the perfect weekend project to, as Ron Popeil says, “Set It and Forget It!”


Pumpkin Beer – to Spike or Not to Spike?

So I’m not quite into the newfangled beer cocktail / beertail (for all you fans of merds) scene. This trend seems to be growing exponentially in a tiny sector of an already very niche category of beer drinkers. But this idea may be just crazy enough to work.