Peppermint Chocolate Stout

Peppermint Chocolate Stout (A holiday beer!)

I had a request to brew up a mint chocolate chip stout from a neighbor of mine.  So I let my imagination go and will use cacao nibs, vanilla bean and fresh peppermint from my wife’s herb garden.  I’m going to use a very basic Dry Stout recipe for this one.  I’ll be brewing up a 10 gallon batch.  Half for my neighbor and the other half for my 2016 Holiday Beer.

Here is the recipe I’m going to use.  I’ll be brewing for the AHA Learn to Brew Day event being held by our homebrew club at my home on November 5th, 2016.  I’ll post photos of the event afterwards here.


Cereal Killer Challenge


Honeynut Cheerios Box2

The Cascadia Brewers Alliance (the homebrew club that I belong to), is having an “in club” competition on making beer with breakfast cereal.  This competition was thought up by Christopher Cericola, who has been a member of our club for a little over a year, after moving out here to Vancouver, Washington from the East Coast.  Chris is a creative brewer and constantly thinks outside of the box.  In this instance though, he’s thinking inside the “cereal” box (pun intended).  He threw the following cereal brands into a hat and pulled out two of them.

  • Fruit Loops
  • Cap’n Crunch (regular)
  • Cap’n Crunch (w/Crunch Berries)
  • Cocoa Krispies
  • Frankenberry
  • Lucky Charms
  • Chex (regular)
  • Honey Nut Cheerios
  • Golden Grahams
  • Cinnamon Toast Crunch

The two brands that were pulled were Cap’n Crunch (w/Crunch Berries) and Honey Nut Cheerios.  The rules are as follows:

  • The brewer must choose one or both of the two cereals listed and the chosen cereal must be at least 10% of the grain bill.  If the brewer choses both cereals, he/she will still only need 10% and it can be split between the two cereals.  The nongeneric versions are preferred.
  • The brewer my dry hop with the cereal, but it will not count towards the mash requirement.
  • The beer should be based off of the BJCP 2015 Guidelines styles.  This is restricted to beer only.  No ciders, wines or meads.
  • There are no limits on adjuncts, grains or yeast.
  • The brewer must submit their recipe and process for the beer.
  • The brewer must brew at least 1 gallon.
  • For judging, the brewer must provide three 12 ounce bottles.
  • The brewer does not need to be present at the tasting to enter/win, just have your entries and info ready.  You can have them brought to the tasting by anyone.

I chose to use the Honey Nut Cheerios.  Below is a photo of my mash midway through stirring in my strike water.


Midway through stirring the mash in

The beers will be judged as follows:

  1. Taste 5 points (was it drinkable, would you drink this again, etc.).
  2. Creativity 5 points (how did the cereal affect the style, was it just added as an afterthought, etc.).
  3. Style 5 points (did it adhere to the style chosen).

Final scores will be determined by adding all scores together, and find the average.



Because of the judging rules, I had to put a lot of thought into my creation.  My main thought was to try to create a flavor that adhered to the judging criteria as closely as possible.  I made notes about Cheerios and the flavors.  You can definitely taste oats, honey and nuts when you eat this cereal.  I happen to not like the aroma of Cheerios, but do enjoy the flavor.  I did a lot of reading online about making beer from breakfast cereals.

I learned that a lot of the time the flavors don’t come through and when they do, they are very subtle and can be easily overlooked.  I didn’t really consider the Cap’n Crunch at all.  The Honey Nut Cheerios option already has many attributes that work really well in beer.

For example:

  • Oats work well in beer, especially in oatmeal stouts.
  • Honey works well in beer, but sometimes it can be difficult to get honey flavors, because of how fermentable honey is.  If put in early (such as in the boil), honey’s flavors and aromas can disappear.
  • Nuts also are used in beer.  In addition, nutty flavors are in many beer styles, without actually putting nuts into the beer.

My goal was to try to enhance the Oats, Honey and Nut flavors that the Cheerios bring to the table.  I also wanted to create the “breakfast” experience.  Cheerios are eaten with milk, so I am striving to bring that flavor to the breakfast table (once again, pun intended).

I also love flavored oatmeals for breakfast.  I used to eat an instant oatmeal that was a banana nut oatmeal and another that was brown sugar oatmeal.

As you can see from all of this research/thinking, I’m trying to create something quite complex.  My idea is to create a cross of a milk stout and an oatmeal stout.  I want to enhance the flavors of the oats, honey and nuts already found in the Cheerios.  I also wanted to create banana flavors, since I love bananas in my oatmeal.  Lastly, I want the “milk” factor in the beer.

I ended up using two boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios.  Through research about how honey nut cheerios are made, I realized that I wouldn’t have to convert starches to sugars, as cheerios are a “puffed” type of cereal.  Some breakfast cereals need to be gelatinized to be able extract the sugars from the cereal.  This was a plus for me, as I didn’t have to really on a crap load of enzymes in the mash.  Those enzymes only had to deal with my normal grain bill.  I’m going to list my grain bill now, and the reasoning of why I chose those grains for my banana nut milk/oatmeal stout.

  • 2lbs. 2 oz. of Honey Nut Cheerios (Two boxes)
  • 4 lbs. Pale Ale Malt (Great Western)
    • This was chosen as the base malt.  It’s one of my favorite base malts and I use it a lot.  It has plenty of diastatic power to convert starches to sugars.
  • 3 pounds of Belgian Wheat Malt
    • This was chosen so that I can create the banana flavors.  I’ll do this by using Weihenstephan Weizen (Wyeast #3068) yeast.  This yeast is reknowned for throwing off a lot of banana aromas and flavors.  Especially when the wort is under-oxygenated, the yeast underpitched, and the fermentation temperature controlled to be mid-60s F at pitch and allowed to free rise to about 70 to 72F.
  • A combination of 4 specialty malts.
    • 1 lb. of Victory Malt
    • 8 oz. of Pale Chocolate Malt
    • 8 oz. of Roasted Barley
    • 8 oz. of Special Roast
      • These specialty malts do two things for the beer.  They should enhance the nuttiness, as they are used frequently in beers for this very reason.  They also are the specialty grains needed to make it fit the style of a Milk or Oatmeal Stout.
  • 1 lb. of Honey Malt
    • Instead of using honey to get honey flavors, I decided on Honey Malt.  It creates intensely sweet honey flavors and aromas without roastiness or astringency (exactly the flavors I’m looking for in this beer!).  I’m already using some Roasted Barley, so I’m getting some roastiness, but I want it to be mostly undetectable.  Oatmeal is not roasty or astringent, so those types of flavors wouldn’t be appropriate.
  • 1 lb. of Flaked Oats
    • This is to fortify the oat flavor of the cheerios.  It will also lend a smooth, silky mouthfeel and creaminess to the beer.  Just what I’m looking for.
  • 1 lb. of Lactose (Milk Sugar)
    • It is a “Milk” Stout, after all.  This is not fermentable by the yeast, so it will add that residual sweetness and the “milkiness” that makes it a “Milk Stout”.
  • 1 lb. of Rice Hulls
    • I’m so glad I had these in the mash.  I think this was the stickiest, gooeyist mash I’ve ever had.  It took me nearly two hours to batch sparge this beer.

I ended up with 5.5 gallons of 1.071 wort into the fermenter.  No oxygen added, except for some stirring and splashing.  One smack pack of the Wyeast #3068.  No starter.  I want to stress the crap out of the yeast, so they’ll create those banana flavors I’m after.

So far, at 1 day in it’s bubbling away nicely at 67F.  It was at 65F this morning when I got out of bed, so it’s rising slowly.  When it gets to about 70F, I’ll start trying to hold it there or slightly warmer.

Here is the recipe:  Banana Oatmeal Milk Stout

I’ll post more on the experiment in the future.  I’ll also take notes on the other entries and let you know how they did.

Please comment or ask questions.  I’ll be happy to answer questions or just trade stories about creative brewing experiments.

Scott Ickes

SMaSH Barleywine

SMaSH Barleywine Recipe.


Back on November 22, 2015 I brewed  the SMaSH Barleywine pictured above.  I was surprised at how a beer with only NW Pale Malt could come out such a beautiful, golden amber color.  This might have had something to do with my mashing and boiling techniques.  I pulled the grains out of the mash and boiled them like porridge for 20 minutes before adding it back into the mash tun, to get up to my mash out temperature of 168F.  If you try this, make sure you stir it constantly to avoid scorching the grains.  I also boiled for three hours!  With only having the single base grain, I wanted to somehow create complexity.  IT WORKED!

Appearance:  The beer is a crystal clear golden amber color.  It’s a beautiful beer in the glass

Aroma:  Aromas of honey and malt with just a touch of the Sonnet Hops.

Taste:  It’s nectar.  Sweet, but not cloying.  Much more complex than I expected.  I detect honey, caramel, toffee and raisin.  It’s definitely a sipping beer, made for imbibing around a fire with good friends.

Mouthfeel:  Full mouthfeel, that coats the tongue with the sweetness mostly and just enough hops to keep it from being cloying.

Overall Impression:  I’m quite pleased with how this one turned out.  A year from now, I’m expecting it to be spectacular.  It should age very nicely, considering the ABV of 12%.  Right now it’s in a keg.  I’m taking it to the Pacific Northwest Homebrewers Conference at the Hilton in downtown Vancouver, WA on March 5th, 2016.  It will be on tap for registered conference attendees.  We have enough kegs donated from our club, that I should have some left for extended aging.



Happy Holidays!

I wish the best to all of you that follow my brewing blog during this wonderful holiday season.  No matter what your religion or lack of religion, take care and enjoy this time with your family and loved ones.

Scott Ickes

Inaugural Pacific Northwest Homebrewers Conference

March 4-5, 2016
Vancouver, Washington

The inaugural The Pacific Northwest Homebrewers Conference (<<<Link to the site) will bring together homebrewers from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and British Columbia to share a homebrew, learn tips and tricks, share ideas and celebrate our fun hobby.  This event will be held at the Downtown Vancouver, Washington Hilton Hotel.

The website is in the link in the previous paragraph.  You can register there.  There is also a block of hotel rooms, at special pricing for the event.

NOTE!! – You must register and pay in advance to attend this event!  There will be no walk-in attendees.  We can only serve homebrew at private events in Washington State, so you must register and pay in advance to attend!

The cost ($150) includes a goody bag at registration, plus:

Friday, March 4th:

  • Workshops from 2 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.
  • Dinner from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Pro Brewers Night – Brews from local Pros served to all attendees. (Taste what the Pacific Northwest Pro Brewers are creating!)

Saturday, March 5th:

  • Exhibit Hall open from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
  • Workshops from 9 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.
  • Lunch with a Keynote Speaker from Noon to 2 p.m.
  • Workshops from 2 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.
  • Dinner from 5:15 p.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Club Brewers Night from 7 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. (Taste what the Homebrewers are creating!!)
    • I belong to the Cascadia Brewers Alliance in Vancouver, WA and will have my 5 tap Keezer at the Club Brewers Night so that you can taste what our club is brewing (from wild yeast fermentations, to Cascadian Dark Ales, Imperials and everything in between).
    • This is your chance as a homebrewer to share your creations with homebrewers from all over the Pacific Northwest!

Bus Tours:

There are also brewery bus tours scheduled for Thursday, March 3rd and Friday, March 4th.  If you’ve never visited this area on a beer themed vacation, you have no idea what you’re missing.  I travel for my day job, and I have never been to a better beer scene than what we have in this area!

Thursday, March 3rd:

Hood River Bus Tour … 10:30 am – 3:15 pm
Travel from the Hilton to Hood River and visit Full Sail Brewing, Double Mountain Brewery and Pfriem Family Brewers. Besides the beautiful scenery through the Columbia Gorge, Hood River is a great town you’ll want to visit again. Beer, goodie bags, bus transportation and lunch are included in each tour.

Portland Bus Tour #1 … 10:45 am – 2:30 pm
For four hours, this tour will head to the Northeast and Southeast parts of Portland to visit Laurelwood Brewing, Co., Breakside and The Commons Brewery. Each of these breweries are perennial GABF winners. Beer, goodie bags, bus transportation and lunch are included in each tour.

Friday, March 4th:

Portland Bus Tour #2 … 9:30 am – 1:00 pm
An eclectic group of breweries make up the last tour before the conference festivities commence. Don’t miss Ecliptic, Basecamp and Occidental and experience a glimpse at the wide range of craft beer offerings in the great Pacific Northwest. The tour leaves the Hilton at 9:30 am and returns by 1:00 pm. The first conference workshops don’t start until 2:00 pm so you won’t miss a thing.



Parti-Gyle Brewing

Sometimes you just have to change up what you’re doing with your brewing to keep things interesting.  One way that I keep things interesting is to brew the occasional Parti-Gyle.

Parti-Gyle is an old technique that still gets used today when brewers wish to make two beers from one mash.  I usually do this when I have ingredients that I want to use up and have plenty of open fermenter space.  It allows me to brew twice as much or more beer in one brewing session in about the same amount of time as my standard 5 gallon batch.

This past Sunday, I looked at the ingredients that I had left.  I had just over 30 lbs. of NW Pale Malt and 14 ounces of Sonnet hops.  I didn’t have any other grains or hops.  I wanted to use up the NW Pale Malt and the amount of hops that I had would do nicely for a 15 gallon batch.

When Parti-gyle brewing you have options.  You can make a 5 gallon larger beer (for example; 1.070 – 1.085 OG range) with your first runnings.  Then you can make a smaller beer or beers by running more water through your mash.  There are many styles combinations that you can make with this technique.

Here is a list from Brewtoad’s article (link below).

  • Weizenbock / Dunkelweizen
  • Dopplebock / Dunkel
  • Imperial Pilsner / CAP
  • Tripel / Pils
  • Tripel / Belgian Pale
  • Belgian Strong Golden / Kolsch (both low mash temp)
  • Old Ale / Dark Mild
  • Bock / Munich Dunkel
  • IPA/ Ordinary Bitter
  • Scotch Ale/ Scottish Ale
  • Barley Wine/ Pale Ale
  • Belgian Strong Dark / Belgian Abby Ale
  • Helles Bock/ anything pils based
  • Maibock/ Belgian Pale
  • Imperial Stout / Foreign Extra or Dry Stout


Here are two links that I’ve used to help me learn about the technique and apply it to my brewing.

Brewtoad’s article about Parti-Gyle brewing.

Randy Moshers link about Parti-gyle brewing.

When you read through the articles, you can see that there are different combinations that you can use.  You can split the total wort 1/2 – 1/2 or split the wort 1/3 – 2/3.  In the past, I’ve always split the wort 1/2 – 1/2.  For this past Sundays brew session, I split the wort 1/3 – 2/3.

First Beer

I made a 5 gallon batch of a SMaSH Barley Wine.  I mashed in 27 pounds of grain at 156F.  I ended up with an OG wort of 1.094.  Since it’s a Barleywine without any specialty grains, I decided to use some carmelization techniques to make the beer more complex.  I used a decoction mash out.

Decoction Mash Out

This is basically, pulling out grain at the end of the mash with a colander and bringing it to a boil (like boiling oatmeal).  You have to constantly stir it to keep it from scorching.  I let it boil slowly for 10 minutes.  This provides some carmelization and darkens it up.  Then I put that back into my mash tun and stirred it really well, shut the lid and let it sit for 15 minutes.  The temperature of the mash during this 15 minutes had settled perfectly at 168F!  I then lauter and drain as usually, then batch sparge.

I collected 8.44 gallons of wort for this Barley Wine.  I then proceeded to boil for 2 hours.  The reason for the long boil is to get even more complexity and carmelization.  I’ve found that long boils on my SMaSH brews seem to create more complex beers, than the shorter 1 hour boils.

Since Sonnet Hops are very similar to EKG hops, it should have a nice English Barleywine flavor!

Second Beer

I then capped the 27 lbs of spent grain with the remaining 3.684 lbs. that I had.  I heated up water and filled my mash tun to full, and hit 152F.  I wanted a slightly more fermentable wort, because I planned on pitching Abbey style “wild” yeasts into the 10 gallon second batch.  I let this mash during the entire boil time of my first batch.  Once the first batch was finished boiling and my boil kettle was available, I pulled wort out and heated it up to about 195F and then put it back into the mash tun.  This brought my mash up to 170F (close enough).  After 15 minutes, I lautered and drained, as usual, and then batch sparged to collect about 12.75 gallons of wort.  This wort ended up being a low 1.032.  I put in just enough corn sugar to bring it up to an OG of 1.040.  I proceeded with a 1 hour boil, using the remaining sonnet hops to create an English IPA.  I then split the batch into two 5 gallon batches.  I pitched “wild” honey Abbey yeast into one and “wild” Russian Sage Abbey yeast into the other.

So, in summary, I had one brew session that yielded 15 gallons of beer and three different flavors.  At the same time, I’m able to run a side by side comparison of the two wild yeasts that I have in my yeast bank and compare the flavors.

Brewing a lot of beer and learning at the same time.

Does it get any better than that?

Please comment if you liked this article!


Wild Saison (Lavender Yeast) Tasting

Wild Russian Sage Saison

I took my Wild Saison, fermented with yeast harvested from the Lavender Bush (actually it’s a Russian Sage bush) in my back yard, to my local homebrew club meeting this past Thursday evening.  I had some really nice comments about it.  I also took two pints of the wild yeast.  One pint went to my friend Matt, who assisted me in harvesting this wild yeast and the other went to my friends Jeff and Alan.  All three make superb beer and I’m curious to see what they create with this yeast.

Here is my article about my brewing of this beer.  Here is my recipe.



Appearance:  The beer is a cloudy medium dark golden hue, with maybe a hint of light red, that pours with a thin 3/8 inch white head that quickly dissipates to a very thin wisp.

Aroma:  I get whiffs of honey, licorice with no hop character present.  A sweet aroma is how I would describe it.  Some malt is present, but it’s difficult to detect.

Taste:  The licorice is there and so is the honey.  Sweet tasting, despite the final gravity of 1.006.  Definitely yeast forward flavors, since the grain bill was 90% Belgium Pilsner, 5% Munich and 5% Belgium Wheat Malt.  The hops were Hallertauer (2 ounces at 60 minutes and 1 ounce at flameout).  I detect a floral spice (coriander?), some lemon maybe, but a not a citrusy flavor.  I think the flavor is mostly coming from the yeast, with the remainder coming from the pilsner and munich malts.  What’s lacking that I’d like to have is a drier finish.

Mouthfeel:  Medium bodied and silky.  I think it needs to have more carbonation, to help with a drier finish at the end.

Overall Impression:  Very easy drinking, but a little too sweet for my tastes.  I mashed at 147F, so I can’t lower the mash temperature too much more to get it to dry out.  Maybe the Munich Malt was too much for this yeast to be able to dry it out.  The next version, I’ll probably up the Wheat Malt considerably and maybe do away with the Munich Malt.  That should help with head retention and maybe get a drier finish.  Still, it’s a great first attempt at a “Wild Saison”.