Brewing High Gravity Beers with John Palmer – BeerSmith Podcast 33

by Brad Smith on February 26, 2012 · 1 comment

This week I invite John Palmer back to talk about brewing high gravity “big” beers. John shares some of his tips on getting the most from your high gravity mash, scaling recipes up to higher gravities, balancing your big beer and fermentation and aging.

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Topics in This Week’s Episode (40:54)

  • John Palmer, author of “How to Brew” at is back to talk about high gravity “big” beers and how to brew them at home.
  • We start by discussing how high gravity brewing is fundamentally different from brewing a regular beer, and what defined a high gravity beer.
  • John talks about the grain bill and why brewing a high gravity beer is not just a matter of scaling up an average beer but in fact requires you to add more malt.
  • We discuss why high gravity mashes are much less efficient due to the lower grain to sparge/mash water ratio used.
  • I briefly mention that mash tun capacity is a problem as well since a typical 5 gallon mash tun only holds about 13 lbs of grain at max capacity.
  • John talks extensively about the importance of balancing malt and bitterness for a large beer. He explains how the bitterness ratio needs to be balanced for large brewing.
  • John refers to his “How to Brew” book, page 212 which has a diagram showing OG/bitterness ratios for different styles
  • We talk about hop presence in big beers and how most big beers don’t need a huge hop finish (except for a few styles like Imperial IPA)
  • John talks about fermentation of big beers and the importance of pitching plenty of yeast for a big beer – as yeast requirements grow with the starting gravity
  • We also discuss the need for wine/champagne yeast but John takes the position that if you properly pitch an appropriate yeast starter you rarely need to use wine/champagne yeast for finishing.
  • John explains proper fermentation for large beers and makes the case that proper pitching and fermentation can actually significantly reduce your need for long aging.
  • Along the way we also discuss parti-gyle brewing (getting more than one batch from a single mash)
  • John shares a few of his favorite high gravity beer styles
  • Finally he talks for a minute about his new book about beer brewing water which will be published in the fall. He’s planning to cover water from start to finish including filtration, preparation, additions, and much more. Look for the book from Brewer’s Publications this fall.

Thanks to John Palmer for appearing on the show and also to you for listening!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

crush March 9, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Wow, John Palmer, what a gentleman! Or as you might say the other side of the pond, Seriously Cool Dude!

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