Learn One of the Dangers of Home Brewing

What’s Happening Now

We were finally was able to get back into brewing after a several week hiatus. I apologize for the lack of brewing updates – renamed What’s Happening Now. We heat with wood here in the valley and our weekends have been spent cutting, splitting, and stacking it. I estimate we have half of our wood supply for the winter ready to burn and 20 years worth already cut in the woods ready to split.

We brewed the brown ale for the second time over the weekend. Check out my Brewing Over an Open Fire post for the story of the first time. We followed the recipe exactly with the exception of adding about half a cup of maple syrup to the wart as it brewed. This was an in-the-moment decision and the first time that we have strayed from the original recipe. I’m excited and a little nervous to see what comes up. Now we wait a month. I’ll be sure to give a full report when that is done.

Other beers that we have are the Imperial Stout  and the IPA. I’m not sure what we will brew after the stout has run out. We have less than half a case left. It’s the house favorite. I like having two beers to drink and one in the fermenting/conditioning stages. I’m open to suggestions. Comment below.

I would like to discuss a serious danger with home brewing. Be careful of the over boil. I cannot stress this enough and we almost had a catastrophe over the weekend. We have had wart start to foam up before, but never come close to the top of the brewing pot. The other day was the closest that we have had to an over boil. The wart foamed up to nearly the rim when I was able to reach it, take it off the heat, and snap the featured picture. This type of incident is the thing that will ruin your stove and consume hours of your time in clean up. Make sure you are always controlling your heat and stir occasionally. I have to admit I was not watching the boil. I drafting the next section that was, Factoid, now called Hey, Did You Know? Brew safely my friends.

Hey, Did You Know?

“Why does my beer smell bad? It doesn’t taste well either. What happened?” I’m sure you’ve heard or uttered those words to yourself before. That would be called skunked beer. There are several ways that beer goes bad while still in the bottle, but the most common factor is ultraviolet light. A term for beer being exposed to too much ultraviolet light – sunlight or florescent light in store – is light-struck.

Have you ever noticed that your favorite beer comes in cardboard packaging with the bottleneck covered with a paper band and probably in brown bottles? These elements are not just for marketing purposes, but also to protect the beer from ultraviolet light that is emitted from the florescent lights in the store. When beer is exposed to ultraviolet light for a long time the hop molecules, isohumulons, are ripped apart. At this point there are atoms floating around in the beer looking for a home. The lost atoms bind to sulfur atoms and they create a molecule similar to the smell of a skunk. Hence, skunked beer.

If you are fermenting or aging beer in a carboy make sure that your beer is not exposed to light. If your carboy is clear then cover it with a towel or paper bag. We age our beer in food grade plastic buckets that sit in a dark room. Once the beer is bottled we put it in sealed cardboard boxes and store them in a closed cabinet under a sink in the basement. The beer doesn’t see light until we pour it into a glass to drink.

Some beers will come in a clear or green bottle and are usually import beers. Breweries are not in the business selling skunked beer to Americans. These beers usually have that bitter, sulfur taste on purpose. This is the foreign equivalent of sour beer.

Now you know.

 My Unadulterated Opinion-

This week’s flavor comes from Rivertown Brewery and their take on Winter Ale. I had very high hopes for this beer considering it hails from Rivertown and it’s a dark winter ale. It has all the characteristics of a classic winter ale. It has pumpkin, cinnamon, and burnt almond notes, which spell out for a great seasonal beer. The color is right and the little head is aromatic. It goes down smooth and lines the throat with a creamy texture.

However, I found the cinnamon to be over zealous. There should be a harmony of flavors in a

Rivertown Winter Ale and Rivertown Glass from our tour

Rivertown Winter Ale and Rivertown Glass from our tour

sweet winter ale to compliment the cider drinkers and the smell of ham at the Christmas table. I didn’t get these here. This arrangement is all about the cinnamon and it’s too much.

I also found that my sample was a little flat. Maybe that was just an isolated incident to that batch, but there was not much of a head as you can see in the picture. That picture was taken a minute after I poured that glass of beer.

I had very high hopes for this beer and bought the six-pack for $8.99. It’s not a terrible beer, but I will finish my six beers and won’t buy it again. There are plenty of great winter ales out there. This is not one of them. I hoped that I would never find a beer from Rivertown that I didn’t like. I even liked their sour beer. Don’t let this review be a reflection of the brewery as a whole. I love Rivertown and the great guys I met there – check out our Tour of the Rivertown Brewery to see how much I like them, but I just don’t like this beer. Check out Hop Baron, Old Bruen, or Dunkel.

Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to comment on the discussion, follow, like, and share the blog. You can email me at mylifeasahomebrewer@gmail.com. Make sure you go and read the backlist posts.



  • What do you look for in a winter ale style beer?

Hey, Did You Know? Credit: Skunked Beer


2 thoughts on “Watch for the Over Boil

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