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Home sweet homebrews.

Byline: Anthony St. Clair For The Register-Guard

Not only is fall a great time to enjoy Belgian-style and German-style beers, it's a great time to learn how to brew them at home.

European-style beers such as altbier, marzen, pilsner, dark strong ale, dubbel and tripel have become favorites of Northwest homebrewers, including long-time local homebrewer extraordinaire, Denny "Grainfather" Conn.

"Oktoberfest is the German beer most people are thinking of right now, but other fall choices would be Munich dunkel, altbier, and bock or doppelbock," says Conn, whose recipes have been brewed commercially. "Since these are mostly lagers that take awhile, it may be too late to have a batch of Oktoberfest on tap for Oktoberfest this year, but don't let that stop you! In terms of Belgian styles, you might want to think of beers like a Belgian dark strong ale. For something a bit more easy drinking, you could brew a darker version of a Belgian single."

Have fun, be efficient

Since 1998, Conn has brewed more than 500 batches of beer, but his brewing philosophy remains the same: "Make the best beer possible while having the most fun possible while doing the least work possible." Living in the foothills of the Coast Range, Conn is a nationally ranked Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) beer judge, a prolific writer, brewery consultant, homebrew advocate, Experimental Brewing podcast co-producer, contributing author to "Craft Beer for the Homebrewer," and co-author of "Experimental Homebrewing" and "Homebrew All-Stars."

"Altbier is my favorite beer for fall," Conn says. "It's malty but not sweet and has an assertive bitterness that helps cut through and balance the malt flavor. Also, since it's an ale it can be ready a bit more quickly than a lager would be."

Here is Conn's advice to brew solid representations of these beers:

Quality ingredients are essential.

European malts will be truest to style.

Use noble hops such as Hallertauer or Tettnang, or American equivalents such as Mt. Hood. Avoid "fruity American-style hops."

Yeasts: Use Wyeast 2124 or Saflager S-189 for malty styles such as bock, maibock or marzen, or a "clean ale yeast" like Wyeast 1007 for altbier.

Start fermentation of Belgian-style ales with temperatures no higher than mid-60s. After five to seven days, gradually raise the temperature to 70-72 degrees F and finish fermentation then, "then reduce the temperature to 33 degrees F for a week to help it clear."

Added sugar gives Belgian-style beers their drinkability. For lighter colored styles, use table sugar for 20 percent of total fermentables. For darker styles such as dubbel and dark strong ale, use candi syrup (not to be confused with candi sugar) as 20 percent of your total fermentables. "The syrup will give you the characteristic dark Belgian flavor. There's no other way to get that."

The starting point

Eugene's two homebrew shops offer comprehensive homebrew starter kits, but you'll also need to control the beer's temperature. "Fermenting too hot or too cold will not make good beer," Conn says. "Temperature control can range from putting the fermenter in a tub of water with ice packs (to cool it down) or an aquarium heater (to warm it up)."

When learning to brew any beer, patience, repetition, curiosity and tasting are critical. "Ask questions. Learn from other brewers. Joining a homebrew club is a great way to learn," Conn says. "Everybody knows how to drink beer, but not everybody knows how to taste beer. Spend some time learning how to recognize both good and bad flavors in beer and it will greatly increase your brewing skills."

Casey Lyon of southwest Eugene couldn't agree more: "Just start enjoying beer and their different flavors, and then try to brew it. Ultimately, you're trying to make the perfect beer that you like, that suits your taste."

Lyon, who has been homebrewing since he made a New Year's resolution back in 2010 to learn how, is in pursuit of the perfect IPA, but he likes German lagers, too. Most recently, Lyon was brewing a saison farmhouse ale at home, using an all-grain technique he has learned from mentor Russ Kazmierszak.

"It's a nice refreshing beer this time of year," Lyon says. "It's generally a fruitier, spicier kind of beer. It's really good. It's got a French saison yeast, so it's kind of Belgiany in flavor. It's a good seasonal beer, for the end of summer going into fall."

Lyon admits that he's drawn to the chemistry of beer making. "I just like the science of it, the fermentation process. It's fun."

For beginners, Lyon recommends getting a starter brew kit and a how-to book and "then start building from there."

Online and local resources abound to help the novice homebrewer hone their skills.

"The basics are easy to understand and execute, but you can go into great depth if that appeals to you," Conn says. "The more you brew, the more you learn. And hey, you get beer out of it!"

How long before Lyon's saison farmhouse ale is ready to drink? In about a month, he says, eyeing late September, or early October on the calendar. "You could speed it up if you really wanted to, but it's always better after it ages for a while." BREWING RESOURCES Local homebrew shops: Home Fermenter, 123 Monroe St., 541-485-6238,; Falling Sky Fermentation Supply Shop, 1331 Willamette St., 541-484-3322, Books: "How To Brew: Everything You Need to Know to Brew Great Beer Every Time" by John J. Palmer (Brewers Publications, 2006); "The Complete Joy of Homebrewing," Fourth Edition, by Charlie Papazian (William Morrow, 2014); "Homebrew All-Stars: Top Homebrewers Share Their Best Techniques and Recipes" by Drew Beechum and Denny Conn (Quarto Publishing, 2016). Organizations: American Homebrewers Association,; Cascade Brewers Society, Oktoberfests And while you're waiting for your homebrew to mature, it's time to plot local Oktoberfests onto the calendar for maximum enjoyment of this annual celebration of harvest and beer. Most Oktoberfest events in Oregon fall within the same time frame of the world's foremost Oktoberfest in Munich, this year Sept. 16 through Oct. 3. Find events on Page D3.

Staff writer Christine Sherk contributed to this story.
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Title Annotation:Home Life
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Sep 9, 2017
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