Category Archives: Homebrew

A Mostly True Story: Homebrewing

Homebrewing Wood Chipper Irish Red Ale

Earlier this year I took a bugbeater plane to Fargo, N.D., to attend the Prairie Homebrew Companions’ annual Hoppy Halloween Competition. In addition to being a fun contest with skits, costumes, and decorated bottles (in a special category, mind you), I found myself reminded why it’s important to get away from your usual haunts.

It’s tempting to think regionalism has been homogenized out of existence, but a little trip can remind you that things do look different in other places. From my West Coast perch, the world seems dominated by IPAs and Saisons. In Fargo, I was reminded of flavors that I rarely see anymore—namely malt. I kept running into malt-forward beers like Irish Red Ales, a style I didn’t realize I missed.

My first introduction to the style (so to speak) was ages ago with Coors’ Killian’s Irish Red, which is as dubiously Irish as those “Pub in a Box” Irish bars. The true style is a bit confused between the export versions we see in the US and domestic Irish examples. Too often our copies of the style are super sweet crystal bombs, while the Irish versions are variations on Bitters.

This take involves a bunch of pale malt, a restrained bit of crystal, and a smidge of roasted barley for more brilliant color. You could use Red-X or Sacchra-50 for a modern “blood red” beer, but I think you’ll miss the roundness from the crystal.

For 5.5 gallons at 1.049 OG | 22 IBU | 15.2 SRM | 4.9% ABV

9.5 lbs pale malt
0.5 lbs medium British crystal malt
0.25 lbs roasted barley

Rest at 152°F for 60 minutes.

Hops (Pellets)
0.5 oz Target | 11% AA | 60 minutes
0.5 oz Bramling Cross | 6% AA | 0 minutes

Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale, WLP004 Irish Ale, or your favorite low-ester ale strain. ■



Dogfish Head Brewery Tour

Like kids to a candy store, Brewing TV finally makes the pilgrimage to the World of Dogfish Head, its mothership brewery in Milton, DE and the O.G. brewpub in Rehoboth Beach. Join BTV as we learn about Dogfish Head’s homebrew-scale Small Batch Brewing program and see how the ideas behind small-batch experimental brewing influence the brewery’s large-scale commercial releases. Off-Centered brew for all!



The Ultimate Thanksgiving Beer Pairing Guide

Any true foodie knows that Thanksgiving isn’t all about the food. What you’re pairing with your food is equally important, as it will enhance and bring out the delicious flavors in your feast. What better way to celebrate giving thanks than with your favorite food and beer? Our Thanksgiving beer pairing guide, detailing beers for the first course to dessert, should help you enjoy the most delicious meal possible this holiday season.

Snack and Starter Pregame: Oktoberfest

Easy-drinking Oktoberfest beers are perfect for salty snacks, like nuts and crackers, along with mild or sweet cheeses. They’re also festive, making them a great way to kick off a fall holiday such as Thanksgiving. Berghoff’s Oktoberfest is deeply malty with enough hops to balance out the sweetness, resulting in a crisp and complex finish. It’ll cut through salty snacks and starters beautifully, while enhancing the creaminess and sweetness of mild cheeses.

First Course: Hefeweizens

If your first course includes a seasonal soup or salad, a bottle of hefeweizen will be your ideal companion. A hefeweizen’s creamy mouthfeel and subtle layers of sweet banana, bubblegum and spicy clove will enhance notes of  cranberry, pear, nuts, and squash. It’s a delightfully smooth beer for a light first course. Check out our classic Straight-Up Hefe-Weizen.

Main Course & Autumn Desserts: American Strong Ale

Your average beer won’t be able to keep up with a gravy-flooded plate of turkey, mashed potatoes and veggies. You need to pair your main Thanksgiving dish with a beer that has big flavor. American Strong Ales should do the job, with rich, strong, malty flavor. The complex cookie, caramel and raisin notes of our Winter Ale combined with its floral and citrus hop flavor will enhance the complex sweet-and-savory flavor of a glazed turkey, along with rich gravy.

The complex sweet notes of our Winter Ale also pair beautifully with rich autumn desserts, like pecan and pumpkin pies. If you’re having a different type of dessert, a weizenbock may be a better choice for you.

Chocolate and Caramel Desserts: Weizenbock

With strong toasted caramel and fruity flavor followed by a warming spicy clove finish, weizenbocks are the perfect way to finish off your Thanksgiving feast. The beer’s complex and rich flavors enhance chocolate and caramel desserts, and its carbonated body and spicy notes help to cut through heavy, creamy dishes. A weizenbock will keep you warm and comforted through the evening. Take a look at our version of the classic weizenbock: Rockin’ Bock.

We hope this guide helps you make your Thanksgiving gathering more deliciously unique than any you’ve had before! You can use our beer finder below to find the Berghoff beers we listed in the guide near you. Happy Turkey Day!

Specialty Malts and You

Before getting too deep into the waters, let’s first discuss what makes a specialty grain, well, special. Any brewer would probably admit that all malts are pretty special, given they are usually beer by the time we finish with them. However, when you want to branch out into certain styles, you need something a little different. Something a bit … special-er.

Specialty malts are created by the maltster, by kilning or roasting the grains at varying times and temperatures. The two main categories being caramelized malts and roasted malts.

Caramelized malts are created when the maltster mashes uncrushed malt in the kernel to hydrate it. When the water is heated to around 150°F the malt enzymes begin to break down the starch. Much of the starch will convert into simple sugars. From this point, the maltster will dry the mashed malt kernels at varying degrees between 180°F and 350°F, causing the sugars to crystalize. This also causes the acids and proteins to undergo a reaction that forms melanoidin, which is what gives crystal/caramel malts their red or brown hue.  The higher the drying temperature, the darker the resulting malt.

Roasted malts are not kettle mashed like caramelized malts, and get its color and flavors from the heat of the kilning process. Roasted malts can vary from as low as Vienna malt (around 4° Lovibond) to roasted barley (around 575° Lovibond).


Specialty malts provide a lot of flavor and mouthfeel, in a surprisingly small package. Many people start out with specialty malts adding a lot more than necessary, thinking it will provide them a deeper range of flavors. Don’t go for 40% Chocolate malt in that stout, it’s not going to taste more like a candy bar because of it. What you’ll be left with is an under-attenuated, unbalanced, tannin filled mess. 5-15% is generally the safe range you’ll want to stick with.  At only 10% of a grain bill, 1 lb of roasted barley will take your SRM from 2, all the way to 37. Imagine what it’ll do to your flavor. Always heir on the side of less is more when designing a recipe. You can always tweak it the next time if you think it needs more.



People often forget that specialty grains will provide less fermentable sugars than base malts. Keep this in mind when building your recipe and planning for your final gravity. The higher the percentage of specialty malts, the higher your final gravity after fermentation.



Caramelized Malts

Crystal malts are a great way to add some sweetness to your beer. They are also a great way to add mouthfeel and head-retention. Depending on the style, this is where many people turn to when they are looking to add some red or brown coloring to their beers.

Low levels of caramel malts such as 10L will mostly add light sweetness and caramel flavors (such a pale ales and mild ales), while darker versions like 120L will begin to bring out notes of burnt sugar and raisins (think Belgian Dubbel). With many variants between these two polar opposites, you are sure to find something that works for your style.

Like crystal malts, there are many other caramelized malts such as Cara-Munich, Cara-Vienne and Cara-Pils that do a great job of adding body, head retention and varying flavors and colors to your beer. I’ve been known to throw a handful of Cara-Pils in most of my recipes due to its very light color (less than 2°L) and almost devoid flavor. It adds great head retention, mountain like foam, and a smooth mouthfeel.

Roasted Malts

Roasted malts also vary in color and flavor and definitely pack a punch.  Most have little to no enzymatic activity and rely on your base malts for starch conversion. On the low side, you will find malts such as aromatic malt and biscuit malt. Aromatic malt will provide a clean, yet intense malt flavor; while biscuit malt, true to its name, will give more of a bread or cracker like aroma. When you want to go darker, think Chocolate, Black or Roasted. These provide a lot of color and flavor, but when overused can also add astringency, which can be very off putting. Save these for your stouts and porters.


Other Specialty Grains

Now that we’ve discussed malts, we should address the other specialty grain options. These are non-barley malts or unmalted grains. These include your wheats, oats, ryes, corns and rices.

Want a dryer, more crisp beer? Consider wheat or rye as a major player in your grain bill. Replacing around 60% of your base malt with these options is a nice twist on some classic recipes.

Making an oatmeal stout? You’re going to need flaked oats, up to 10% sometimes. This will give your stout a sweeter smoother finish.

Whatever you are doing, remember that making beer is a lot like getting a haircut. Once you’ve gone too far, it’s not always something you can fix. So best to stay on the lighter side at first until you are comfortable and adjust your notes for next time.

Below is my go to Black IPA. I’ve made this a few times and I absolutely love it. It’s got the perfect balance of hops to roasted malts. I think it’s a great example of what a Black IPA should be. Not to roasty, very hop forward, and goes down easy.

Man in Black IPAblackipa

OG: 1.066
FG: 1.013
ABV: 6.9%
IBU: 81
SRM: 31
Batch Size: 5.5 Gallons
Mash: Single Temp. Infusion – 150°F for 60 min.

Grain Bill
11 lb. – Pale 2-Row
.75 lb – Crystal 80L
.4 lb – Special B
.3 lb – Black Malt
.3 lb. – Chocolate Malt
.3 lb. – Victory Malt
.3 lb – Roasted Barley

1 oz – Northern Brewer @ 60 min.
.75 oz – CTZ @ 30 min.
.75 oz – Cascade @ 30 min.
.75 oz – CTZ @ 10 min.
.75 oz – Cascade @ 10 min.
2 oz – Cascade @ 5 Days Dry Hop

Safale S-05 (Fermented @ 68°F)