Softland Aleworks

Big Beers Brewed in a Tiny House

Category: Uncategorized

Fall Update

Great googily moogily! Where does the time go? Into the fermentor, it would seem, and not into the blog.

I am planning a barrage of posts to roll out in the next few weeks — Here’s the sneak preview:

Golden Gallows Special Bitter Ale
We have done several repeat brews of what has become my house bitter (first dubbed “Pride of Guadalupe,” now christened, “Golden Gallows”). After having brewed it about half a dozen times, slightly adjusting the recipe or process each time, I am pretty pleased with it. Everybody else seems to be as well — we can’t seem to keep a keg of it around longer than 10 days!

Whiskey Barrel Project & My First Stout — an Old Rasputin Clone
I had the opportunity to purchase a 3.5 gallon used bourbon barrel from a local distillery, and jumped at the chance to procure it in pursuit of a solera project. But first, to soak the oak character from the barrel…and what better way than a Russian Imperial Stout. Barrel-prep hijinks ensued, including a botched partigyle attempt. Buy hey, I still came out with a great beer — my first stout!  Now, which bugs to inoculate with…

Mosaic-hopped IPA
A buddy of mine from the homebrew club came into several ounces of Mosaic and Nugget. I happened to have a bunch of Citra and Cascade to unload. It would seem the fates were leading us down the road of a blissful, citrusy American IPA collaboration. Brewed in the beginning of November, this one looks to be tasty! Look for a full review of the beer as well as these in-demand new(ish) hop varieties.

Biere de Noel
A re-brew of the Biere de Garde we made earlier in the year, slightly adjusted for the holidays: A relatively big beer with a round malt profile, accents of Belgian spice and citrus zest of both sweet and bitter orange peel. Brewed earlier this fall, the Biere de Noel is currently being lagered in the keg, waiting to be tapped — Happy Holidays, indeed!

Book Reviews
Lastly, I frequently cite the beer-books I am reading or use for reference. If I am in a used book shop, chances are you will find me in the Food & Beverage section, looking to see if they have an old recipe book or style guide that I don’t already own. Over the past few years, I have amassed a decent beer library. So, in between tasting notes and brewday reports, I figured I would offer short write-ups on the books I have found particularly helpful, how I use them, what they cover, etc.

So stay tuned, plenty of good beer nerdery and homebrew wankery on the way!



I think every homebrewer dreams about seeing the beer that he or she works so hard to perfect on the shelves of the local bottle shop, or brewed on a 10bbl system — I know I do.   And I would wager most of us take the craft of making beer every bit as seriously as the pros.  Many are even chipping away at business plans in their heads, as evidenced by the number of new breweries and breweries-in-planning that are popping up all over this country.  A small step towards reifying this daydream is to brand your beer: Most folks have a name for their brewery (ours is the Softland Aleworks) as well as for their original recipes.

And so, it is with not a little pride that I present our first offering:

Label for Augustus Saison

The label for our Augustus Saison — tasting notes to follow!

Gluten-Free Brewing

In the May/June 2012 issue of Zymurgy, there is a wonderful article on gluten-free brewing that includes useful information on the health conditions surrounding gluten intolerance as well as recipe formulation. I enjoyed it so much that I immediately brainstormed a recipe, which I jotted down on the back of an envelope.

After a few tweaks, I settled upon:

5.0 lbs Sorghum syrup
2.0 lbs Orange Blossom Honey (late addition)
2.0 oz  Hersbrucker (60 min)
1.0 oz Hersbrucker (20 min)
0.5 oz Cracked Coriander (10 min)
Safale US-05

A lot of these ingredients will be new to me; therefore, I wanted my first stab at G-F brewing to be a simple recipe for a pretty small beer.  I started with a moderate amount of Sorghum (which almost always makes up the bulk of fermentables in G-F beers), backed up by the honey, which I am hoping will dry out the beer and impart a subtle orange blossom character. As is recommended by Charlie P, I kept the honey to around 30% of the total sugars.  I wanted to stick to noble hops and chose Hersbrucker as a low-alpha, balanced hop. Between the 20min addition and the coriander, however, I may run the risk of barreling over the subtle honey notes.  As it turns out, all dry yeast is gluten-free (Who knew?). I went with US-05 as a neutral, crisp strain, which I am hoping will aid in this beer being a refreshing ‘lawnmower’ brew.  However, I may opt for T-58 in the next attempt for a more Belgian character.

With any luck, this beer will be a good xmas present for my sister, who hasn’t had a beer in years. We’ll see how it turns out in a few weeks!

Beginners Brewing

For the first time in months we have nothing fermenting, so I thought I would take the opportunity to reflect a bit on our progress thus far and what’s coming down the pike:

The Summer Saison and the Brown Porter are both in bottles and should be carbed in a few weeks’ time.  I suspect the latter will be ready to drink sooner than the former. I don’t like my Porters overly carbed and the dry-hop character should have a nice freshness to it, so hopefully we can enjoy this one in another 2 weeks. When we bottled, I noticed a bit of a tang akin to what we got in the Extra Pale Ale clone. I am hoping that this is my imagination or else dissipates — final judgment will come during the tasting notes. As previously posted, this was our first attempt at using a swamp cooler and I am wondering if perhaps I was fermenting at too high a temperature.  Next time I will keep the water closer to the 60 – 62F range.  This was also our first use of WLP002, which is known to be extremely flocculant and can drop out early.  Despite multiple attempts to rouse the yeast, I was only able to get the final gravity down to about 1.017 or so.  In hindsight, I think I should have pitched a packet of Nottingham to clean up any residual sugars. As it is, I will chalk it up to rookie mistakes. The dry-hopping did go well and imparted a subtle Fuggle aroma to the beer, which is not altogether out of character (I didn’t want it to have the nose of an IPA — just a soft hop note).  I took the liberty of having a glass of the beer from the bottle of the carboy, which had tons of whole leaf hops in it — Man, was it great!  It left me wanting to do another brown porter, but this time doubling the hops.  There is, of course, another option, courtesy of our friends at Dogfish Head:

The Saison will no doubt benefit from a bit more time in the bottle and, I suspect, be ready in another month or so.  I had a taste after one week (couldn’t wait) and it was already surprisingly carbonated; however, there are a lot of flavors that will need to mellow out and blend together. While I will wait to give proper tasting notes, I will say that this beer had a fair amount of banana esters up front, with a whole lot of clove and spiciness to follow it up.  It has a beautiful hazy orange color and I am so looking forward to cracking open the first proper bottle in due time.  For the next round of Saison-brewing, I may look into corking in Champagne bottles to give an authentic presentation. I love Belgian ales and look forward to brewing more and more of them. I also look forward to trying out a number of different yeast strains, finding one that I like, and ultimately developing a “house strain”.

This leads me to my next topic: The move to All Grain (AG).  There are many reasons to get into brewing and there is no doubt that you can make beautiful beers using extract. For a lot of folks, there is really no need to move over to AG brewing. There is afterall a sizable increase in gear, tools, knowledge, time, etc., that goes into AG. However, the appeal of AG to me is in further understanding the process of brewing, including the conversion of starches, the role of mash temperatures, different mash techniques, etc; having more control over ingredients and recipes; and generally having more of an opportunity to be creative with my beer. For me, the move to AG is inevitable and will hopefully take place soon.  In the meantime, however, I will continue to hone my skills in the fundamentals (fermentation temperatures, pitching rates, sanitation, etc.) and look forward to making new mistakes to learn from.

Next up: the Imperial Black Rye IPA kit from AHS, which we should be brewing next week!


Greetings! And welcome to our little homebrew blog, which we are calling Softland Ales (and, eventually, lagers too with any luck).

My intention is that this will serve mainly as a sort of clearing house for updates on the beers that we are brewing as well as information that we have found helpful along the way.  At this point, I doubt that I will offer much in the way of advice or advanced knowledge, but perhaps will be able to point towards folks who might.

As you’ve stumbled upon our little patch-of-grass in Internetland, Welcome and Cheers!