How It All Started

Bob Phillips

The title of this blog was inspired by one of my Spanish professor's at Miami University of Ohio, Dr. Robert Phillips, who died in the e...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


"Hello, professor," I heard over my shoulder as I walked into the new Homebrew Emporium in Weymouth. I have learned not to be too surprised at being recognized when I'm out and about, but I really did not expect to encounter a student in this little warehouse of a store. When I turned around, I recognized a student -- don't worry, well into his 20s -- from a class I had taught last fall. And I remembered that the student and I had traded -- not in class, again don't worry -- bottles of our home-brewed efforts. He is a bit more accomplished as a brewer than I am (this is not coffee, after all), so it all made sense, once I got my bearings.

Perfect timing, as we just
saw Blueman Group
on Sunday!
And I was glad to find him there, because I was on a bit of a mission. More than a decade ago, our first visit to Firefly's Bodacious BBQ (a regional chain with fiery food that we do not often find in New England) was also Pam's first encounter with Wachusett Blueberry Ale -- from a relatively new microbrewery near the center of our adopted state. We were delighted at the simple innovation of putting blueberries (known in our household as blubes) in the beer, where the rising bubbles rolled them like little lottery balls or some kind of strange aquarium.

Although that beer is still made, it is off the menu at Firefly's. I am not really so much a fruit-beer person, but since my sweetheart -- and brewing assistant is -- I decided this spring that it was high time to try my hand. So I entered the warehouse with a vague interest in making some blueberry beer, but no clue how to do it. After talking over some options with my former student, we devised the "recipe" that follows.

We started with a Witbier kit from Brewer's Best, which the manufacturer describes as "A classic white ale brewed with wheat, barley, orange peel and coriander. It is lightly hopped and fermented with Safbrew WB-06 resulting in a fruity, spicy, refreshing beer with a dry finish." I must admit I used a standard yeast in place of the Safbrew because I once ruined a batch with fancy yeast, and though I understand why, I'm still a little cautious.

So, I brewed this, adding four ounces of blueberry extract along with the priming sugar when we bottled about three weeks ago. For the premiere, I went looking for local blueberries, which I've seen recently, but which are starting to be in short supply. I was pleased, therefore, to get some blueberries from Hilltop Farm in Blandford, Massachusetts.


I had written most of the foregoing when I started to have a little tickle of a doubt in the back of my mind. After all this great, blog-worthy prelude, was I brewing with the wrong berry? Just before we opened the first two beers -- with the blubes on the table next to a local farm-box dinner -- I mentioned that this might in fact be raspberry beer. We dumped the blubes in anyway, and got to watch them swim around. Then we tested, and I had my doubts. Pam -- who has better taste than I -- both literally and figuratively -- confirmed that in my indecision back in that warehouse, I had gone with the raspberry extract..I think I did so because a four-ounce bottle would be about 2/3 the recommended strength, which sounded like a good compromise.

The outcome was all good -- the beer was perfectly conditioned and delicious. Sometimes even a successful beer has not developed enough pressure by the first time we open it, but this was just right -- a good head of foam and a sweet/tart flavor that made a nice berry medley!

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