Wooden Pickle Brewing: Pride, Milan and Homebrew

Pride seems to be everywhere. In Finland there are ongoing discussions surrounding the fact that the Evangelical Lutheran church is an official partner of this year’s Helsinki Pride. Also, here in Milan where I am currently on a business trip, you can see rainbow colors everywhere. That may partly be explained by the fact that I seem to have sat down at a gay bar, but already when navigating from the subway station to the hotel, I noticed that Google Maps had the Pride parade mapped out in rainbow colors. (By the way, if you’re only here for the homebrew stuff, jump right to part three of this post. More of my usual rambling in store before that)

Personally, I haven’t taken part in any Pride event, or even in the discussion in general for that matter. But since I’m most definitely sitting at a gay bar, I feel it’s time for me to say something. Here goes; I am all for letting people live their lives the way they choose, as long as they aren’t hurting anyone else. I have also yet to hear a valid argument against homosexuality. The three most common arguments against homosexuality and same sex marriages I’ve heard are:

1. Homosexuality is against the law or a religion. Well, if you need to refer to a book or a text that some other person wrote, in order to form an opinion of what is morally right or wrong, then I don’t care about your opinion.

2. Gay couples shouldn’t be allowed to have children because their children will be bullied. I don’t know if that argument is true or not, but I accept it as an argument. Children can be cruel. On the other hand, I doubt that children of gay couples are raised up to be bullies themselves. In that sense, isn’t it more of a solution to bullying than a problem?

3. If you allow people of the same sex to get married, what’s next? People will be allowed to marry their dogs? This one’s my favorite! No, it does not mean that people will be allowed to marry their dogs! Already from a legal point of view, that would be way too complicated. Imagine if your dad divorced your mom, and got married to his dog, who already had children from a previous relationship. Wouldn’t it mean that you had to split your inheritance from you dad with 12 puppies? I don’t see that happening anytime soon. I understand if you don’t want it to happen, but at the same time, have a little more faith in your dad would you please.

Although I am far from gay myself, (not that there’s anything wrong with it), there would be obvious benefits. Most of the time, socializing with men is more relaxing. Think about it; you could be drinking beer, watching sports or playing PlayStation all day long. It’s just that awkward conversation every once I a while… Hey Slobodan, you know what we haven’t done in while? Why don’t you turn off the lights and I will light up a few candles. Vanilla or strawberry?

2. Milan

Usually business trips suck. Rarely do you have time to do any of the fun stuff associated with traveling. This time however, I arrived in Milan at 8pm of the evening before my first meeting, meaning that I did have some time for myself. I could not think of anything better to do than having a pizza and a few beers. The pizza was unfortunately a bit of a disappointment. Even though they called it Neapolitan style and had gotten 4.5 out of 5 stars on Facebook, it was far from Neapolitan style. I was so disappointed that I didn’t even take a picture of the pizza.

Next stop was Pub Birrificio Lambrate. Now this place did not disappoint! I’ve had a couple of their beers before. Once on a previous Milan trip at their other pub, where I only had one saison before I ran out of cash… They did not accept credit cards at the time, which I wasn’t prepared for. The other beer of theirs I remember having is a black chili rye IPA called Grateful Deaf. Once I got it for Christmas and another time I found it at a pub in Tallinn. Birrificio Lambrate was also serving at this year’s Tallinn Craft Beer a Weekend, but I don’t remember if I had any of their beers or not.

I had three beers at the pub; a west coast pils, a west coast Italian grape ale and a traditional pilsner. The west coast pils and the pilsner were both great. In the grape ale I found the wine character from the grapes clashing a little bit with the hops, but by no means was it a bad beer. What really stood out about this place though was the atmosphere. The guy behind the bar I recognized from Tallinn. I believe he is an owner/brewer. It looked like he knew most of the people there, and many of the customers sitting at different tables seemed to know each other as well. Coasters were even thrown between tables, all in good spirit. I exchanged a few words about Tallinn and TCBW while ordering at the bar, and already I was considered a friend and asked if I wanted to open a tab. I will for sure be back given the opportunity.

3. Homebrew

I took a couple of months off from brewing earlier in the spring, but once I got back to it, I came back strong. Since my previous homebrew related post I have brewed; a west coast double IPA, a Belgian triple, a NEIPA and a black IPA that is still being dry hopped. Quite many IPAs, but I still had some hops in the fridge from 2016 and 2017 I wanted to get rid of.

The West Coast Double IPA

This beer was brewed together with two friends that aren’t homebrewers. It was our second brew together and we already decided that It’s going to be an yearly tradition. As I’m writing from Milan and don’t have my notes at hand, everything I say is purely from memory. I am quite sure however that the malt bill was pretty much; ~5% Munich malt and the rest pale malt, perhaps a blend of pale ale and Pilsner malt. I know it’s not uncommon to replace some of the base malt with sugar, to get it to dry out, but I decided to instead mash really low, at 63C for 90 minutes.

The low mash temp really worked, at least on paper. FG ended up at 1.012, resulting in a 9% beer. Still, despite the fairly low FG, the beer is too sweet for my liking. Not really sure why. Perhaps it’s just the alcohol giving a perception of sweetness. Perhaps I should have skipped the Munich, I don’t know. Considering it was my first ever double IPA, I think it came out ok. It’s not a style I’m likely to re-brew anytime soon though, as I like my IPA’s in the 6-7% range.

My guest brewers got to choose the style, and the hops. I got a text from one of the guys a couple of days before brew day, saying that he feels we should put Mosaic in the beer. Luckily, I happened to have some Mosaic at hand. To this day I’m not 100% sure he knew that Mosaic is a hop. I just know he had been drinking a Mosaic IPA when sending the text. The hop bill for the 5 gallon batch was 50g Chinook at 60 minutes, 100g Amarillo at flameout and 200 grams of Mosaic as dry hops.

The Belgian Tripel

My second attempt at a Belgian tripel. Recipe wise, the only differences between this and the previous version was that the previous one had a small dose of melanoidin malt, whereas this only had Pilsner malt and ~8% table sugar. Also, this one was fermented with WLP530 instead of WLP500.

Conclusion; use WLP500 from now on. For two reasons; I prefer the character it gives the beer, and also, this one quit on me at 1.016. A tripel should be much drier than that. I’m considering adding Brett to the beer to both give some extra character as well as to dry it out.

Why it stopped fermenting at 1.016 I don’t yet understand. Actually, this has been an issue for me with my three latest beers. My mash schedule far all three beers has been a 45 minute rest at 63-64C after which I raise the temp to ~70C for another 45 minutes. All three times I did overshoot the temp when I raised it after 45 minutes; I wanted the second rest to be at ~67C. But, should it really matter that much? Especially lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about starch conversion happening faster than people realize, and that a 30 minute mash should be sufficient. If that’s the case, why should it matter if I raise the temp 3 degrees higher than I intended, if conversion has already happened? Maybe the 30 minute rule is true only for higher temps, I don’t know.

Anyway, I will be much more careful with my mash temps from now on. The issue is that if I add direct heat to the mash tun, it takes 5 minutes before the thermometer reacts, and by that time I’m already up 7-8 degrees. I should be adding boiling water, which would be more accurate, but I often forget to heat up water. Next time I will heat the mash tun for exactly 3 minutes at full power, and stop even though the thermometer hasn’t yet reacted at all.


I had 400 grams of 2016 hops left in my fridge. This beer has 400 grams of 2016 hops in it. They still smelled great! Pretty certain the hops were Eldorado, Galaxy, Citra and Simcoe. 150 grams went in the kettle, most of which in the whirlpool after the wort was cooled down to 85C, in order to avoid additional isomerization. The malt bill was 90% pale ale malt, 7% wheat malt and 3% oats. It was fermented with Wyeast London Ale III.

As mentioned above this, also this beer ended with too high of a FG, 1.018, if I remember correctly, giving an ABV of below 6%. I does not taste too sweet, but I can feel myself getting fat when drinking it. Taste wise it turned out ok!

The Black IPA

For a black IPA this beer is pretty darn brown. Not even dark brown. Brown! I would have added more roasted grains, but I needed to save enough for my next stout. The malt bill was 88% pale ale malt, 4% cara malt, 4% crystal 150 and 4% chocolate rye. Fine, it’s a brown IPA! I just never saw myself as someone who makes brown ales. When was the last time you went to a bar an asked for the brownest IPA on tap? Never happened.

Same as the NEIPA, this one also got 150 grams in the kettle and 250 grams in the dry hop. Haven’t tasted it yet, but this one also finished with a gravity of 1.018.