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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

March 16, 2013

While I certainly don’t approve of drinking to excess to honor the man who brought the good news of Jesus to Ireland, I do enjoy this song.  The brewer geek in me is smiling inside.  It’s just fun.  Enjoy!



Agnostic Historian Schools Atheist Radio Host on the Historical Jesus

February 11, 2013

The following is a clip from a Atheist Radio show. The atheist radio host has Bart Ehrman, an agnostic historian and author, call into his radio show to discuss Jesus Christ.  What is great about this clip is it shows the lengths many atheists will go to in their commitment to deny Jesus Christ.  The historian confronts the radio host with his biased criteria for believing that Jesus was a real, historical figure.

Why Believe in Christianity Over Other Religions?

January 31, 2013

In a comment on one of my blog posts I was asked the following question:

“So Christians, why is your religion more valid, than say, Hinduism? Judaism? Islamicism? Buddhism? Sikhism? What is so veeeery believable about Christianity that you take it above all other religions?”

This is a very good question.  It is first important to establish that not all religions can be correct.  They make exclusive truth claims so that they are in clear contradiction.  They can’t all be true.  If one is right, the others are wrong.  Greg Koukl explains this well in the following video:

So if all religions are not equally valid, then how can we know if one or any of them are correct?  Why do I think that Christianity is correct and the others are wrong?  This is the question I hope to give an answer for in this blog post.

There are many important differences between Christianity and the other religions.  I pointed out a few in a previous blog, (such as how Christianity is unique in the fact that is about God coming to man instead of man trying to earn our way to God).  However, I thought this question was worthy of some deeper discussion.

Christianity is also very unique in that it is the only faith that actually addresses and deals with the problem of our sin.  The reality is that there are no “good people”.  It doesn’t matter what your faith is, you aren’t good by God’s standard.  Everyone falls short.  God doesn’t have to save any of us.  In fact, He shouldn’t. If He overlooked our crimes He would be acting unjustly. He cannot remain holy and be unjust. The only way God can remain just and we can go free is for someone to pay our penalty for us. But, this can’t just be another person. They aren’t qualified. They have their own sin. No, the only way would be for God, Himself, to pay it for us. He is the only one who is qualified. He alone is perfect and without His own sin.

This is why other religions cannot offer salvation. They do not successfully deal with the problem of our sin. They have no one who is qualified to pay the debt caused by our sin. It is only Jesus, the God-man, who can step in between you and God and pay this penalty. No other person can do this. Other religions teach you must earn favor and merit from God by the good things you do. However, this does not pay for the bad things you have already done. We instinctively know this is true. If I am found guilty of murder by a jury and I stand up to give my last remarks before I am sentenced and I tell the judge, “Yes I did it, but I have been so good since then. I have walked old ladies across the street and worked at the local food bank”, what do you think the judge would say? He would respond, “Yes, but that doesn’t change the fact that you committed this crime. You must pay the penalty for it.” It is the same with our crimes against God. Being a “good person” doesn’t erase them. They must be paid for. Only Jesus can do this.

All of this is good, but the person who commented on my blog asked a very valid question when they said, “What is so veeeery believable about Christianity that you take it above all other religions?”  I think this is the question that everyone should ask about all the religions. How can you know they are true?  How can they be tested?   It isn’t enough to just believe in something, it is crucial that what we choose to believe in is actually real, that it is actually factual.  This is where Christianity is so strong.  Unlike the other religions, Christianity hinges on a historical event: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  If this didn’t really happen, if it isn’t a historical fact, then we might as well believe in an invisible pink unicorn as our savior!  This is exactly what the Apostle Paul claimed . . .

“And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ. . .” ~ 1 Cor 15:14-15

So, Christianity gives us a truth test.  No other religion does this.  There is no other faith that hinges on a historical event this way.  But how can we know if the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus actually happened?  We can approach this question the same way historians do when they research historical events.  We can look at all of the evidence available, establish what the known facts are, and see which possible account of events best lines up with these facts.  The following is a list of twelve facts, concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus, that can be clearly shown to be historical realities.  These facts are virtually universally accepted as true by historians and scholars (even by those who are not Christians).  If you are interested in statements from historians and scholars, you can see many examples here.

  1. Jesus died by Roman crucifixion.
  2. He was buried.
  3. Soon afterwards the disciples were discouraged, bereaved and despondent, having lost hope.
  4. Jesus’ tomb was found empty very soon after his interment.
  5. The disciples had experiences that they believed were the actual appearances of the risen Christ. These experiences occurred to both individuals and groups of people.
  6. Due to these experiences, the disciples lives were thoroughly transformed from doubters who were afraid to identify themselves with Jesus to bold proclaimers of his death and resurrection. They were even willing to die for their belief.
  7. The proclamation of the Resurrection took place very early, from the beginning of church history.
  8. The disciple’s public testimony and preaching of the resurrection took place in the city of Jerusalem, where Jesus had been crucified and buried shortly before.
  9. The gospel message centered on the preaching of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
  10. Sunday was the primary day of worshiping and gathering.
  11. James, the brother of Jesus and a skeptic before this time, became a follower of Jesus when he believed he also saw the risen Jesus.
  12. Just a few years later, Paul became a believer, due to an experience that he also believed was an appearance of the risen Jesus.

You might at this point ask, “Yeah but how do I know those are really facts?”  I don’t have the room here to explain the historical evidence for each of these points.  But, the following short videos do a good job of summarizing the evidence:!

Ok, so now we have some historical facts to go from.  Now we need to look at the possible explanations for these facts and which one fits the best.  Many people have put forward theories to try to explain the empty tomb of Jesus.  The following 9 are the ones that have been considered the strongest possibilities.  All of the following are serious theories that the opponents of the resurrection of Jesus have actually proposed to try to explain these well established facts:

  • Wrong Tomb – The disciples simply mixed it up and went to the wrong tomb.
    • This theory does not satisfy facts 5-12 from the above list.
  • Legend – This is just something that people made up after the fact.
    • None of the facts are satisfied by this theory.
  • Twin – Jesus had a secret identical twin who pretended to be the risen Christ after Jesus’ death.
    • Fails to explain facts 4 and 11.
  • Hallucination – The disciples hallucinated seeing Jesus after his death.
    • Fails to explain facts 5, 11, and 12.
  • Existential/Spiritual Resurrection – The resurrection is not intended to be literal.  It is a metaphor for what happens in our hearts.
    • Doesn’t explain 4, 5, 11, or 12.
  • Disciples Stole the Body
    • Can’t explain facts 5, 6, 11, or 12.
  • Authorities Hid the Body
    • Cannot explain facts 5 – 12.
  • “Swoon” Theory – Jesus did not die on the cross; he fainted from exhaustion. The cold temperature and spices revived him.
    • Can’t satisfy 1 and 6.  Additionally, medical science has determined that Jesus could not have survived the scourging and crucifixion.
  • Alien Jesus – Jesus was from another advanced civilization and was “transported” back to his spacecraft, thus leaving the tomb empty.  I’m not making this up.  That’s actually a theory.
    • This actually fits all the facts.
  • Supernatural Resurrection – The biblical account is accurate and Jesus bodily rose from the dead.
    • This explains all of the facts.

So, the available information demonstrates that the only two theories which satisfy all the known facts are either that Jesus was an alien, or he was truly resurrected in the body.  Since Jesus claimed to be God and testified in advance that he would be resurrected, I think this points towards the last theory to be the most likely.  Also, the alien theory has some trouble with fact 1 (that Jesus was crucified).  It’s actually hard to believe I am really arguing against that theory.

The bottom line is that the biblical account of Jesus death, burial and resurrection passes the test of historical analysis.  It is the only religion that has a proof test and can indeed pass it.  If you would like more information on other testable facts that can demonstrate the reality of Jesus and the bible, I have written on this at length in this blog post:

Much of this information was taken with permission from:

Dr. Craig J. Hazen
Professor of Comparative Religion and Christian Apologetics at Biola University
13800 Biola Ave, La Mirada, CA 90639

Theology Matters!

May 24, 2012

This video is a great quick look at why theology is so important.

New Belgium 1554 Enlightened Ale Clone (All Grain)

March 18, 2012

New Belgium is probably my personal favorite US craft brewery.  I love most every beer I’ve tried from them.  One of my favorites is their 1554 Enlightened Ale.  I find it one of the best, most well-balanced beers I’ve ever tasted.  It is dark, rich and delicious.  I find it very drinkable and not too heavy to be a session beer.  It is one of the few darker beers that I think is great to drink all year round, even on a hot sunny afternoon.

I searched the internet high and low to find a suitable clone recipe.  I found several recipes but each seemed to deviate from the published information on this beer available at the NB web page.  I tried to stick by all of the details they give on this beer and used the close recipes to fill in the gaps when necessary.  Here is where I landed.

Ingredients (5 Gal)
7 lbs Pale 2 Row Malt
0.5 lbs Cara-Pils (for body)
4 lbs Munich Malt
1 oz Black (Patent) malt
10 oz Chocolate Malt
1.1 oz Willamette pellet hops (bittering)
Wyeast 2124 Bohemian Lager yeast
1 gram Paradise Seed
0.25 oz Coriander Seed

Single Infusion
Sparge Water: 1.73 gal
Sparge Temperature: 168F
45 min Mash In Add 3.99 gal of water at 167.0 F to achieve 154.0 F
10 min Mash Out Add 2.89 gal of water at 190.4 F to achieve 168.0 F

Boiled for 1 hour. Propane tank froze up with 15 minutes to go.  I had to swap out tanks.  Took a few minutes to bring it back to a boil.  So, my boil lasted a little longer than an hour.  Volume was too much.  ~5.8 gallons.  Not sure what happened.  I think the tank freezing caused less water to evaporate.  Not sure what else.  Brewery Eff was only 69%. But, I ended up with more wort than planned so, accounting for that, the Brewery Eff was actually closer to 75%.  Not sure a mash-out is really necessary.   SRM looked right on at about 22. Beer looks right on track to achieve 5.6% ABV if yeast does its job.

Fermenting using a lager yeast at ale temperatures in accordance with the notes on the New Belgium web page.  I am trying to keep the room between 64-70 degrees.  Beer was steadily and gently bubbling next morning and continued through 4-5 days.  However, it abruptly stopped fermenting after I transferred it to the secondary.  This was my first stuck fermentation.  The SG didn’t budge from 1.018 for a week after transfer.  We sought advise on what to do from the homebrew store.  It appears I underpitched since this is lager yeast.  I thought fermenting at ale temps would mean I’d only need 1 smack pack.  But the beer was >5 gallons which is actually borderline for 1 smack pack with ale yeast.  We added 1 package of dry Saflager 35/70 yeast, which I was told was the same strain as the Wyeast 2124.  The beer did start going again for about a day, but then stopped.  I let it ferment another 3.5 days and I was able to get the gravity down to about 1.017.  In the future if this happens again, I would create a yeast starter and pitch all of the starter when the yeast is at its peek activity (per the Yeast book).

Beer finished a little early.  It should have gone all the way to a SG of 1.014.  The beer may be a little sweet because of this.  If I brew it again, I will mash at a lower temp and pitch a lot more yeast.  I used 2 oz DME to bottle condition 1.4 gallons (15 bottles) targeting 2.6 vols CO2.  I kegged the rest (almost 3 gallons).  I only did 15 bottles because I thought the fermentation was stuck and wasn’t sure it would carbonate.  It turned out it was fine.

The beer had a slight “sulfury” smell.  This faded as the beer sat in the keg.  I think this might have resulted from the high fermentation temperature for the lager yeast.  I don’t notice this in the NB version, so perhaps they use a different lager yeast.  I might try again using the California Steam Ale yeast or a different lager yeast. The yeast says it can be fermented at 75 degrees and not have sulfur production.  Perhaps this is a good yeast for this beer, but I needed to ferment warmer? I also added coriander seed and seeds of paradise.  I’m not really sure what they added to the beer, but it did have a spicy taste that I didn’t think went well with the beer.  I would avoid adding this in the future.  My version has a more chocolaty aroma while the NB version is smells more citrusy. My beer is more bitter.  It has a slight astringent flavor, possibly from the spices or the fermentation temp.  I definitely pick up the coriander aroma in the original.  Perhaps more coriander and less or no pepper.  Mouthfeel and color are spot on.  Head retention is about the same.  Mine could be a little sweeter or slightly less bitter.

Vol of CO2: 2.6
SRM: 22
OG: 1.057
FG: 1.017
ABV: 5.3%
IBU: 20
Brewery Eff: 75%
App. Attenuation: 70%

The Brewer’s Window: What Temperature Should I Mash at?

February 1, 2012

“What temperature should I mash at?” is a question that all all-grain brewers will eventually ponder.  Like most brewing questions, there is no one right answer.  If you search the web and brewing texts you will find recipes with widely different mash temps called out.  If you search for “the brewer’s window” or try to find specifics on alpha and beta amylase you will see a diverse opinion on what temperature are ideal for each.

Most brewers are aware that the magic in the mash that converts starches in the malt to sugar is due primarily to two enzymes: Alpha and Beta Amylase.  Beta amylase is an enzyme that brakes straight starches (without branches) into maltose, and is the predominate factor in the fermentability of a wort.  The ideal temperature for beta amylase activity is lower than that of alpha amylase.  So in general, the cooler you mash at the more fermentable your wort will be, and the dryer (less sweet) the resulting beer will be.

Alpha amylase breaks down starches with branches, and allows the beta-amylase to further convert them to maltose.  Alpha amylase is most active at higher temperatures.   It also causes the resulting sugars produced to be less fermentable (more dextrins) and thus adds to the body of wort.

Over the past few decades it has become clear that both of these enzymes can be activated at one mash temperature range.  This is because the vast majority of malt in production today is well modified.  This it is possible to have both enzymes active simultaneously in 95% of mashes.  This method is called single infusion mashing.  This eliminates the need for various temperature steps and rests.  The most frequently sited well balanced mashing temperature is 153 degrees F.  This strikes a good balance between good fermentability and good body.

While this is good information for most beers one might brew, the question becomes when should I deviate from this mash temperature, and how far should I drift from it?  I will attempt to address these questions here.

Flexibility in mash temperature is one of the great benefits from all-grain brewing, because it allows the brewer the ability to change the character of the sugars in the wort.  There are certainly occasions when a beer style (or personal preference of a brewer) may call for highly fermentable wort.  One such example would be when brewing a style like German Altbier.  This is a style which has very high fermentability (80+ % attenuation).  While selecting a high attenuative yeast could help in this, this level of fermentability could not be achieved without lowering the mash temperature.  This would result in a cleaner, lighter tasting beer.  Conversely, there are certainly times when a sweeter, fuller bodied beer is desired.  One example could be Scotch ales, where a more malty and full body profile is desired. This is achieved by mashing at higher temperatures.

Ok, but how far should I deviate from 153F?  This is a good question and one that there isn’t total agreement on.  This question is essentially asking, what is the window that is acceptable to mash in?  This is called “The Brewer’s Window”.  I have spent a good deal of time researching this and trying to get the best, most reliable sources for what this window is and what the ranges are for both enzymes.  The Brewer’s Window is between 147-158F.

I noticed that there really isn’t a good chart that shows all this information visually (at least not that I could find).  So I endeavored to create one.  As far as I know this is the first chart that shows all this information in one place.  It is as accurate as possible.  I made an effort of reconciling contradictory information and taking the most cited and best information whenever possible.  Notice that there is also a plot showing the percent of fermentable sugars vs. dextrins at each temperature.

I hope this will be helpful to brewers.  I know it is certainly useful for me in formulating mashes.  Happy mashing!

Black Cherry Stout (Extract)

January 24, 2012

Ingredients (10 Gal)
13.2 lbs Dark LME
2.5 lbs Dark DME
1.5 lbs Crystal Malt – 120L
0.5 lbs Special B
1.5 lbs Black Patent
2.3 oz Northern Brewer hops (bittering)
1 oz Willamette whole hops (finishing)
8 lbs sour cherries (frozen)
32 oz bottle of unsweetend black cherry juice

I started this recipe using Charlie Papazian’s Cherry Fever Stout recipe from “The Complete Joy of Homebrewing”.  I modified it some, since I don’t have access to choke cherries.  Also his recipe calls for John Bull dark malt extract.  This isn’t made anymore.  So, I just used the dark LME from my local homebrew store.  Additionally, the homebrew store was out of roasted barley so we had to modify the recipe a little.  I think it came out a little too roasty.  I brewed a 10 gallon batch because it split it with a friend and gave a lot away.

Effeciency was 100%.  It’s going to be a strong beer.  Added 8 lbs of sour cherries and let steep for 15 minutes.  Recipe called for 10 lbs, but I wanted to be able to add the black cherry juice when I rack to secondary.  It turns out that it was good I didn’t add all the cherries because the beer was pretty sour.  There was a bit more beer than I had calculated.

I picked Wyeast 1272 because I like the fruity aroma and flavor.  Since this beer will have cherries, I thought it was a natural pick.  I knew the beer was going to blow off some since we over filled it.  I rigged a blow off setup, but the cherries plugged the small hose and the carboy blew it’s top and sprayed beer everywhere.  Messy.  We got a slightly larger hose and it was ok.  I ended up with only 4 gallons in this fermentor.  After 5 days I racked both batches to secondary and removed fruit.  The beer tasted very dark and sweet with notes of chocolate.  There was not much of a perceptible cherry flavor, but it was VERY tart and had a cherry aftertaste.  I went ahead and added all 32 oz of unsweetend black cherry juice (from Fred Meyer).  I split it proportionally between both batches.  I am hoping some of the tartness will mellow.

Pretty strong beer ~7.2%.  I bottled most of it and gave it away to friends.  I only kegged about 3 gallons.  I used a nitro-tap for the kegged beer.  This added a nice smooth texture.  I carbed the bottles to about 2.3 vols.  This seemed about right.

I wasn’t very satisfied with this beer.  It was the first time I’ve brewed it and there is certainly room for improvement.  I was glad I only added 8 lbs of sour cherries because the beer was too sour for my taste.  I would back this off to 6 lbs for a 10 gallon batch.  Also, the cherry juice did give it flavor, but it made the beer taste kind of ‘winey’ (wine-like).  In the future I probably wouldn’t use the juice,  but instead I might consider an artifical cherry flavoring.  The beer lacked a little body (too thin).  This could be fixed by switching to all grain and adding some carapils.  I would also pick grains that are a little more on the malty, sweet side and less on the roasty side.  I think there was also too much hops.  The bitterness compounded the effect of the sourness and the result was that the desired sweet-cherry character was understated.  I would reduce the bittering hops and maybe eliminate the finishing hops?  Over all the beer was fair.  Very roasty, somewhat dry and tart.  Aroma was rosted grain.  Great head retention.  This beer got much better as it aged.  The last beer from the keg was the best (4 weeks later).  The strong tart tones and wine taste began to mellow.  I would plan to allow this beer to age a month or more before drinking in the future.

Vol of CO2: 2.3
SRM: 45
OG: 1.071
FG: 1.016
ABV: 7.2%
IBU: 18
Brewery Eff: 100%
App. Attenuation: 78%