Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

April 12, 2007

Home Brewin’:

Homebrew Epiphany: The Scratch Batch

Letting your spontaneity and creativity run wild is a fun way to potentially stumble across a masterpiece.
by Jug Dunningan

Jug Dunningan is just here for the beer.
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Most of you know me (or about me) well enough to know I am a first class Beer Dork, and a bonafide home brewing junkie. I brew it all: pale ales, bocks, belgian trippels, weissbiers, stouts—you name it, I brew it. I brew all-grain, extract, partial mashes. I brew from kits or hand-selected ingredients. I make my own recipies or get them from friends, books, magazines or on the web. I experiment with different brands of extract, different grains from different producers, and of course different hops and yeast strains. Get the point? I brew a lot.

As a consequence of all this brewing I end up with tons of leftovers. I’m talking about four ounces of chocolate malt here, a packet of cheap dry yeast there, half a bag of DME, four pounds of two-row pilsner, several half bags of various hops, etc. It’s really amazing how fast all these ingredients accumulate, and I’m not one to waste anything. But what to do with all these scraps? Well, that’s what I like to call the Scratch Batch.

There are a few very simple rules for brewing the Scratch Batch I need to cover:

1. The Scratch Batch cannot be planned. It is imperative that it is brewed when you feel it is time. You must be in the mood to brew, and you should be inspired. What defines inspiration to brew? Well its your Scratch Batch, only you can answer that.

2. Shopping for ingredients is not allowed. Again, the Scratch Batch cannot be planned. If you find yourself short on ingredients, simply make a smaller batch or you’ll just have to improvise. Or wait.

3. Limit your measuring. The Scratch Batch is divine inspiration, an art. It is not a science project. I’m not telling you to put a pound of hops in a 5 gallon batch just because you have them, just use what your experience, inspiration and inventory allow you to.

4. Be creative. If your Scratch Batch is going to use a British ale yeast, don’t be afraid to use your Hallertau hops just because they’re from Germany. We’re not brewing a classic style here, we’re creating an art masterpiece. Don’t be afraid to mix and match. That is the point.

5. Your Scratch Batch must be named after your inspiration. The gods demand it.

With your limited inventory, don’t be afraid to improvise with some common ingredients you may find in your kitchen. Some of these may include honey (of course), table sugar, brown sugar, molasses, sorghum, corn syrup, maple syrup, hard candies, fruits and even vegetables. If you’re lacking hops, other ingredients you can use to spice your brew may be ginger (my favorite), peppers, cinnamon, coriander, cloves, basil, horseradish, anise, coffee, garlic, oregano—the list goes on. These are not for everyone, but its your Scratch Batch, so try what sounds good to you.

I’d hate to guess how many Scratch Batches I have brewed, but there isn’t one that has turned out bad. Some were better than others, of course, but I enjoyed brewing and drinking every one. Among the most memorable were Bad Luck Brew (brewed on Friday the 13th), Hooky Tuesday (I’m not going to work cuz I wanna brew!), and Shooting Star Draft (a shooting star is a true inspiration!). Today (April 11th) the Midwest is getting battered with 8-10 inches of snow despite already having 80 degree temps this year. I collected some of this snow (obviously sent by the beer gods) and turned it into a Scratch Batch. Stop by in 3 weeks and we’ll have a “Snowy Robin Ale” together. I might even share the recipe with you!


Drinkin’ And Thinkin’

Beer Dorks News

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It's Bud Light so doesn't really matter, but we expect this beer to be sitting around for awhile.
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