New to Craft Beer? These 7 Dark Lagers are Easy on the Palate

 

Bitter IPAs and boozy, barrel-aged beers might shock the palate if you’re trying to introduce a curious newcomer to craft beer. Instead, it’s generally better to hand them a beer style that simultaneously feels familiar and also enlightens — dark lagers embody those traits.

German-style Schwarzbiers, dunkels, bocks, and American dark lagers might seem intimidating, but appearances can be deceiving. Dark lagers drink like their golden counterparts but enjoy exquisite depths of flavor that demonstrate a brewer’s skill and imagination. So, if you are trying to get a friend to see the light, have them try something dark. Here are some craft beers that’ll help them get started.

(MORE: 2017’s Great American Beer Bars)

Magnetron Black Lager | Metropolitan Brewing | Chicago

Tracy Hurst, Metropolitan Co-founder and President, explained, “Magnetron is a gateway beer in the best way; because it pleasantly surprises people. And being pleasantly surprised is a memorable experience. For some pretty good reasons, here in the States, we have the impression that the blacker a beer is, the heavier, boozier, viscous, etc. Of course, we couldn’t be more wrong.“

The 2016 World Cup Silver Medal winning German-style Schwarzbier is roasty and rich, almost dark chocolatey, but super clean and dry on the finish. Hurst added, “The Germans drink Schwarzbier by the liter. There’s no way this beer can be heavy on the palate or high in ABV.”

dark lagers

Credit: New Belgium Brewing

1554 Black Lager | New Belgium Brewing | Fort Collins, CO & Asheville, NC

New Belgium 1554 pours a gorgeous mahogany with malt accompanied by subtle notes of fruit, herb, spice, and coffee. Bryan Simpson, New Belgium PR director notes, “1554 has this romantic origin story wherein the original research materials were lost to a flood, our brew team traveled to Belgium to learn more from a crumbling text in an old village archive, and it was only our second beer to embrace a lager yeast. The beer itself has the roasty, malty and chocolatey notes of a porter or stout, but the lighter lager yeast gives it a very approachable and satisfying drinkability. Creating balanced beers that are complex, interesting and approachable is a great challenge for any brewer, and one we embrace wholeheartedly as part of the portfolio at New Belgium.”

Baba Black Lager | Uinta Brewing | Salt Lake City, UT

Baba, a five-time medal-winning and certified organic black lager, includes a few attributes common to smoked porters. A pleasant malt aroma graces the drinker’s nose before the beauty of the caramel malt flavor is enjoyed. Baba’s smokey surprise lingering in the background provides depth. The beer feels like a standard lager, but it will certainly wake up a craft newcomer’s palate from its slumber.

(MORE: 12 Breweries In Historic Buildings)

Smoke & Dagger Black Lager | Jack’s Abby | Framingham, MA

dark lagers

Credit: Jack’s Abby

Arley Donovan, marketing coordinator for Jack’s Abby, described Smoke & Dagger as, “A black lager/smoked porter hybrid but the smokey campfire notes are not at all overpowering, and they really accompany the other flavors and aromas of chocolate and caramel. It has a great mouthfeel, not too heavy and not too light which makes it very drinkable and a good gateway to other beers of this variety.”  Of course, one need not be new to appreciate it. Indeed, Smoke & Dagger is a favorite of the brewery’s co-owner, Sam Hendler.

Shiner 97 Bohemian Black Lager | Spoetzl Brewery | Shiner, TX

Visually, Shiner 97 is a twin to stout beer with an opaque black color and tan head. However, the light-bodied dark lager can be consumed like cold water on a hot day.  The moderate carbonation also reminds one of a pilsner, albeit more subdued. Alongside the prevalent malt sweetness, flavors involve gentle toastiness up front, a hint of oat in the middle, and a slight hoppiness at the end.

dark lagers

Credit: Pollyanna Brewing Co.

Commentator Doppelbock | Pollyanna Brewing | Lemont, IL

Pollyanna Brewing has two brewers with resumes that include Doemens Academy in Munich; a Bock is in this brewery’s wheelhouse.  One of them, Brewer Chris Koentz, explained, “Commentator, our Doppelbock lager, is a big ole’ German lager that will invite the novice drinker as well as the seasoned beer geek.”  He added, “It’s slightly sweet, low in bitterness, and finishes with a pleasant, clean toasty caramel flavor that leaves you wanting more. Doppelbocks are not as roasty as an imperial stout, they don’t have as much bitterness as an American barleywine, but their rich malt character combined with the depth of flavor derived from Maillard reactions results in a complex, flavorful beer for those who delve beyond the easy drinking exterior.”

Munich Dunkel | Carver Brewing | Durango, CO

A German-style dunkel, sometimes referred to as a Munchner dunkel, offers beer fans a dark beer option that is known for a chocolate-like, roast malt, bread-like or biscuit-like aromas that come from the use of Munich dark malt. Despite the flavors, this beer does not offer an overly sweet impression, but rather a mild balance between malt sweetness and hop character. Expect roasty flavors up front, followed by a clean lager finish. So good, Carver Brewing‘s Dunkel won Gold at the 2013 GABF.  One of the beer’s most unique features is its exceptionally smooth texture — most enjoyable.

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Better German Pilsner

 

This recipe from Josh Weikert, author of the Beer: Simple blog is for a bare-bones, but crisp and flavorful, German Pils. The grist is simplicity itself, all Pils with just a touch of Victory to bring out a rich grainy malt flavor, and it has plenty of IBUs and hops flavor to keep it firmly in the Pilsner family. He says that the key is fermentation: use any and all tricks in your arsenal to dry this one out, with effective temperature control during fermentation being key.

ALL-GRAIN
Brewhouse efficiency: 72%
OG: 1.049
FG: 1.010
IBUs: 41
ABV: 4.9%

MALT/GRAIN BILL

9 lb (4.8 kg) German Pilsner malt
0.25 lb (113 g) Victory malt

HOPS SCHEDULE

0.5 oz (14 g) Warrior [15% AA] at
60 minutes
0.5 oz (14 g) Hallertau [4% AA] at
10 minutes
0.5 oz (14 g) Hallertau [4% AA] at
flame out

YEAST

Wyeast 2124 Bohemian Lager

DIRECTIONS

Mill the grains and mix them with 3.2 gallons (12.1 liters) of 164°F (73°C) strike water to reach a mash temperature of 152°F (67°C). Hold this temperature for 60 minutes; if your water is soft to slightly hard, you may consider adding 1/4 teaspoon of gypsum to the mash.

Vorlauf until your runnings are clear. Sparge the grains with 3.8 gallons (14.4 liters) and top up as necessary to obtain 6 gallons (23 liters) of wort. Boil for 60 minutes, following the hops schedule and adding Irish Moss as desired.

After the boil, chill the wort, aerate, and pitch the yeast.

Ferment at 50°F (10°C) until final gravity is reached; increase the temperature by a few degrees at the latter stages of fermentation to aid in diacetyl cleanup. Once the beer completes fermentation, but before packaging, you may want to cold crash it to 35°F (2°C) for 48 hours to improve clarity. Bottle or keg the beer and carbonate to approximately 2.5 volumes. Store carbonated beer at near-freezing temperatures for at least 4 weeks before drinking.

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Scratch Brewing’s Dead Leaves and Carrots Beer Recipe

 

Published: 2016-11-01

This is one of Scratch Brewing (Ava, Illinois) customers’ all-time favorites. It’s a lightly bready English bitter with a touch of smoke and a dry, crisp finish. It was inspired by the crisp crunch of fall leaves and that dry, almost toasted paper aroma. The oak leaves add extra bitterness and tannins, and the carrots add extra body and a little spice.

ALL-GRAIN

OG (est): 1.049
FG (est): 1.013
IBUs: 23
ABV: 4.7%

MALT/GRAIN BILL

  • 7.5 lb (3.4 kg) Maris Otter
  • 1 lb (454 g) Munich
  • 0.6 lb (272 g) Caramel 40
  • 2.8 oz (79 g) German Rauchmalt

HOPS AND ADDITIONS SCHEDULE

  • Carrot water and juice (see below) at 60 minutes
  • 0.7 oz (20 g) Columbus hops (15.6% AA) at 60 minutes
  • 2 lb (907 g) roasted carrots at 20 minutes
  • 2 qt (1.89 l) dead or dried oak leaves at 20 minutes

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Chop the carrots into chunks and roast with about a cup (237 ml) of water until the carrots are soft and starting to caramelize. Remove from oven. Add the water with carrot juice to the boil kettle at the beginning of the boil. Put the carrots in one fine mesh bag and the dried leaves in another fine mesh bag before adding them to the boil.

Mash at 154°F (68°C) for 60 minutes. Boil for 60 minutes following the schedule for hops and additions. Pitch the yeast at 64°F (18°C).

YEAST

Safale English Ale (S-04)

BREWER’S NOTES

If you don’t live near oak trees, maple and hickory will also work well. When gathering the leaves, try to find the driest, crispest leaves. Damp leaves may already be starting to mold.

Recipe is built to yield a batch size of 5 gallons (19 liters) and assumes 72 percent efficiency.

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Make Your Best Scottish Light Ale (60/-)

 

If it’s November, it’s time to brew the beer that will carry me through the winter holiday parties. And if you’re like me, you want beer on tap that will be flavorful but also low in ABV so that your guests can still make their way home safely. So what’s a brewer to do? In my case, I make sure that one of my taps features one of the hidden gems of the craft-beer world: The Scottish 60 Shilling (60/-). Although one of the lightest beers around, it still offers a wonderful array of delicate flavors and doesn’t seem at all out of place in the dead of winter.

Style

One of the best things about the Scottish ales (of varying strengths, but following the same basic flavor guidelines) is that they’re genuinely indicative of the region in which they’re brewed. Scots have access to great barley and ferment in the cool conditions of northern Britain, but when it comes to hops…well, let’s just say that there’s not much to be had. When tariffs limit access to hops, beers are taxed by their ABV, and the weather only rarely strays above tweed-wearing temperatures, you get Scottish ales: caramel and toffee flavors balanced by a minimum of hops, highly restrained esters, and the skirl of bagpipes if you put your ear up to the edge of the glass (Okay, maybe not that last thing, but wouldn’t it be great if it were true?).

These beers are meant to get the most bang for the buck that they can, much like the English Mild. They’re very low in alcohol (some register ABVs as low as 2.5 percent) and are highly drinkable, but they also feature the best that high-quality malts can offer. Far from being thin in flavor, they overperform relative to their gravity and grist, thanks to kettle caramelization and a judicious use of crystal malts.

Ingredients

The key to this recipe is using authentic British crystal malts—my personal preference is Fawcett. But first things first: start with 5 pounds (2.3 kg) of Maris Otter to give yourself a nice biscuit base and tack on a pound (454 g) of Munich (9L) malt. Someone once told me that “a pound of Munich makes every beer better,” and if I could remember who that was, I’d buy him/her a beer for the advice. The kind of depth Munich adds is incredible, and I sincerely believe that adding a pound of Munich helps nearly all recipes and hurts almost none. Once you have those base malts, you need a rather limited set of character malts to get you where you need to be. Add half a pound (227 g) each of British Medium Crystal (65L) and Victory malt and a quarter pound (113 g) each of Pale Chocolate and Crystal 120. That blend of malts should give you a broad spectrum of malt flavors without adding too much “weight” to the beer. The tendency in so light a beer is to overdo the crystal malts to add body: resist that urge. We’ll get it elsewhere.

Hops, as noted, are minimal. In fact, they’re practically non-existent. Get 16 IBUs from literally any hops you want in a 60-minute addition. It could hardly matter less which you choose—I doubt that even a professional sensory panel could pick out a Fuggles from an Amarillo at these levels.

And for yeast, blasphemy though it might be, I like the Wyeast 1084 (Irish Ale) yeast. Say what you want about those brewers across the Irish Sea, but that yeast seems like a perfect match for this beer. It lends a roundness and fullness to the malt flavors, which is precisely the counterpoint needed for a beer that is otherwise so light: this recipe should come in at about 3.5 percent ABV.

Process

Two things are going to bulk this beer up, and both are to be found in the process. First, we’re actually going to increase the body: mash this beer high, at about 156°F (69°C) (this is one of the few that deviates from my standard 152°F/67°C mash temperature). That mash will yield a lot of long-chain sugars that the yeast won’t be able to convert into ethanol and CO2, and when left in the beer, they will impart a fullness in the mouthfeel that will make the beer feel much more mature and “big” than its ABV would suggest. Second, run off about a gallon of wort and boil it down by 50 percent. This “kettle caramelization” will add a rich malt flavor to the beer, but it will also increase the perception of body.

Once you’ve done your kettle caramelization, run off the rest of the wort (remember to add in a bit extra to your sparge water calculation to account for the evaporation you’ll get during kettle caramelization) and boil as usual.

Fermentation should resemble the kind of conditions our Scottish friends would recognize: cool. Treat this beer like a hybrid rather than a proper ale: I ferment mine at 60°F (13°C) for about two weeks. You can ramp up the temperature if you want, but I’ve never found it necessary. This is a “set-and-forget” fermentation for at least two reasons. First, the yeast doesn’t have much to do—there’s not much sugar hanging around. And second, a less-thorough fermentation won’t hurt you that much, since it will simply add a touch of sweetness and body to the finished beer.

After activity ceases, cold crash and carbonate to 1.5 volumes of CO2. It’s a little low, but I think you’ll find it makes it possible to really appreciate the malt character!

In Closing

By the time our Christmas party rolls around, this beer will be ready to go, and even if the party-goers don’t kill it (they will, though), it also ages wonderfully despite its low alcohol content. Feel free to lager this beer for a while before cracking it open—in fact, given its wonderful malt flavors, it should only improve with age as the weeks tick by and the weather gets warmer! Enjoy, and drink a pint for me this holiday season.

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How to Make Beer Clone Recipes

Although I make a vast majority of my own beer, I still like to head to my local tap house and have a fresh, quality craft beer from time to time. I benefit from this in a couple of ways and so can you.

First, it helps with the continuous education of my passion for beer making by discussing the specifics of the beers I am drinking with the knowledgeable bar staff. I also solicit feedback from my fellow patrons at times and their input can be informational as well. This can lead to inspiration for tweaking an existing recipe you use or creating one from scratch.

Second, have you ever been out at a bar or restaurant and tried a beer that you absolutely loved? That has happened to me more than once. For most people, that initiates the desire to purchase more of that beer whenever they visit their local watering hole or liquor store. However, for me and the eager home brewer, this could be an opportunity to duplicate our favorite adult beverage. The problem is that the beer bottle does not have the recipe on it and most of the time, that information can be a highly guarded secret.

Well, it’s a good thing that there are clone recipes to make beer like our favorites. The easiest way is to Google “beer clone recipes”. You will find and adequate amount to start exploring. One of my favorite sites for clone recipes and home brewing information in general is BYO.com. I have hand picked 5 clone beer recipes from their site to get you started. Good luck and enjoy!

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Clone Author: Greg Snapp

Hundreds of our customers at my homebrew shop have made this. Most swear it’s identical to the original. Dry hopping is essential for classic Cascade flavor and aroma. (5 gallons)

Ingredients:

* 8 oz. caramel malt, 30degrees Lovibond * 6 oz. DeWolf-Cosyns cara-pils malt * 6 lbs. light malt syrup * 1.5 oz. Perle hops (8.2% alpha acid) for 60 min. * 2.5 oz. Cascade hops (5.4% alpha acid): 1 oz. for 15 min., 1 oz. for 5 min., 0.5oz. pellets (dry hopping). * Wyeast 1056 (American ale) * 11/4 cup dry malt extract

Step by Step:

Add grains to 1.5 gal. water. Bring slowly to 170degrees F. Remove grains and bring to a boil.

Total boil is 60 min. Boil 10 min. and add Perle hops. Boil 45 min. more, adding water as needed to maintain liquid level. Make first Cascade addition. Boil 5 min. more. Turn off heat. Wait 10 min. Add 1 oz. Cascade. Wait 3 to 5 min. Remove hops and transfer to fermenter.

Top up to 5 gal. Pitch yeast at 70degrees F.

Ferment three days and rack to secondary. Dry hop with 0.5 oz. Cascade pellets. Ferment two weeks at 65degrees F. Prime and bottle.

Fullsail Golden Clone Author: James Crane

The rye adds a pungent fruitiness characteristic of Full Sail Golden ale. (5 gallons)

Ingredients:

* 6 lbs. pale malt extract * 1 lb. light dry malt extract * 8 oz. crystal malt, 10degrees Lovibond * 8 oz. flaked rye * 3 oz. Cascade hops (6.1% alpha acid): 1 oz. for 60 min., 1 oz. for 30 min., 1oz. for 2 min. * 750 ml. starter of Wyeast 1056 (American ale) or White Labs California Ale pitchable yeast * 3/4 cup dextrose for priming

Step by Step:

Steep grains for 30 min. in 2.5 gal. water at 150degrees F. Remove grains and bring to a boil.

Remove from heat and add extract. Total boil is 60 min. Return to boil and add 1 oz. Cascade. Boil 30 min. more and add 1 oz. Cascade. Boil 28 min. more and add 1 oz. Cascade. Boil 2 min. more. Top up to 5 gal. with cold, preboiled water. Cool below 75degrees F and pitch yeast.

Ferment at 68degrees to 70degrees F until completed (about five days). Secondary ferment 10 days to two weeks. Prime with dextrose and bottle

Sierra Nevada Stout Clone

Creamy and malty with notes of dark caramel, chocolate, light molasses and ripe plums. An American stout that truly typifies citrusy hops and black malt.

(5 gallons/19 L, all-grain) OG = 1.065 FG = 1.019 IBU = 60 SRM = 40 ABV = 5.8%

Ingredients:

* 9.0 lbs. (4.1 kg) American pale malt * 3.0 lbs. (1.4 kg) Munich malt (10 degrees L) * 1.0 lb. (0.45 kg) American Black Patent malt (500 degrees L) * 0.67 lbs. (0.30 kg) American crystal malt (60 degrees L) * 14 AAU Magnum hops (60 mins) o (1.0 oz./28 g of 14% alpha acids) * 5.8 AAU Cascade hops (10 mins) o (1.0 oz./28 g of 5.75% alpha acids) * 2.0 oz. (57 g) Willamette hops (0 min) * Wyeast 1056 (American Ale), White Labs WLP001 (California Ale) or Safale US-05 yeast * 1 cup corn sugar (for priming)

Step by Step:

Mash 154 degrees F (68 degrees C) for 60 minutes in 16 qts. (15 L) of mash liquor. Boil wort for 60 minutes. Ferment for 7 days at 68 degrees F (20 degrees C). Rack to secondary and condition for 14 days at 68 degrees F (20 degrees C).

(5 gallons/19 L, partial mash) OG = 1.065 FG = 1.019 IBU = 60 SRM = 40 ABV = 5.8%

Ingredients:

* 0.33 lbs. (0.15 kg) American pale malt * 3.0 lbs. (1.4 kg) Munich malt (10 degrees L) * 1.0 lb. (0.45 kg) American black patent malt (500 degrees L) * 0.67 lbs. (0.30 kg) American crystal malt (60 degrees L) * 2.0 lbs. (0.91 kg) Briess Light dried malt extract * 4.0 lbs. (1.8 kg) Briess Light liquid malt extract (late addition) * 14 AAU Magnum hops (60 mins) o (1.0 oz./28 g of 14% alpha acids) * 5.8 AAU Cascade hops (10 mins) o (1.0 oz./28 g of 5.75% alpha acids) * 2.0 oz. (57 g) Willamette hops (0 min) * Wyeast 1056 (American Ale), White Labs WLP001 (California Ale) or Safale US-05 yeast * 1 cup corn sugar (for priming)

Step by Step:

Mash at 154 degrees F (68 degrees C) for 60 minutes in 7.5 qts. (7.1 L) of mash liquor. Combine partial mash wort with dried malt extract and enough water to make at least 3.5 gallons (13 L). Boil wort for 60 minutes. Add liquid malt extract with 15 minutes left in boil. Ferment at 68 degrees F (20 degrees C). Rack to secondary and condition beer for 14 days at 68 degrees F (20 degrees C).

Sam Adams Winter Brew

(5 gallon, extract with grains) OG = 1.069 FG = 1.016 IBUs = 26 to 30

Ingredients:

* 6.6 lbs. Briess wheat malt extract syrup * 1.5 lbs. crystal malt (60degrees Lovibond) * 1 lb. wheat malt * 1.5 lbs. Munich malt (20degrees Lovibond) * 1 teaspoon Irish moss * 1 oz. Curacáo orange peel (bitter orange peel) * 0.5 oz. ginger root (freshly grated) * 0.5 tsp. cinnamon (powdered) * 9.5 AAU East Kent Goldings o (2 oz. of 4.75% alpha acid) * 4.5 AAU Tettnanger o (1 oz. of 4.5% alpha acid) * 4.7 AAU Hallertau Hersbrucker o (1 oz. of 4.7% alpha acid) * 3/4 cup corn sugar to prime * German Lager yeast (White Labs WLP830) or Bavarian Lager yeast (Wyeast 2206)

Step by Step:

Steep the grains in 2.5 gallons of water at 150º F for 30 minutes. Strain out the grains, add the wheat malt syrup and return to a boil. When the wort begins boiling, add East Kent Golding hops, Irish moss, and boil for 60 minutes. Add spices for the last 15 minutes of the boil.

Add Tettnanger and Hallertau hops for the last 2 minutes of the boil. Remove from heat and cool wort in ice bath or with wort chiller. Transfer to fermentation vessel (glass carboy). Add enough cold water to the wort to bring the volume up to 5.5 gallons. Pitch yeast and ferment at 50º to 55º F for 3 to 4 weeks. Prime, then bottle or keg. You should lager this beer for about 4 weeks prior to serving.

All-Grain Option:

Replace the wheat malt syrup with 3.5 pounds of pale malt. Increase the Munich malt to 4 pounds and the wheat malt to 4 pounds. Also change the boiling hops to a smaller quantity, 7 AAU (1.5 oz of 4.75% alpha acid). I would suggest a two-step mash schedule for this beer. This involves doing a 30-minute protein rest at 122º F, followed by 60 minutes at 155º F.

Note that the quantity of boiling hops are slightly lower for the all-grain batch. This is due to the greater hop extract efficiency that results from a full boil of the entire wort volume. The remainder of the hop, spice additions and fermenting instructions are the same as the above extract-with-grains recipe instructions.

Bend Brewing Co. Hophead IPA Clone

The secret to a good Imperial IPA is dry-hopping. It can make or break this style. It is very important to have a huge aroma that leads you into the beer, complementing the inherent bitterness. – Tonya Cornett, Brewmaster

Hophead Imperial IPA Bend Brewing Co.

 

American-Style India Pale Ale (5 gallons/19 L, all-grain)

OG = 1.073 FG = 1.017 IBU = 100 SRM = 6 ABV = 8%

Ingredients:

*14 lb. 10 oz. (6.6 kg) 2-row pale malt *8.0 oz. (0.23 kg) crystal malt (30 degrees L) *1.1 oz. (31 g) Saaz hops (first wort hops) *19 AAU Chinook hops (90 mins) o(1.6 oz./44 g of 12% alpha acids) *1.8 oz. (51 g) Northern Brewer hops (5 mins) *1.8 oz. (51 g) Cascade hops (5 mins after knockout) *1.5 oz. (43 g) Cascade hops (dry hop) *Wyeast 1968 (London ESB) or White Labs WLP002 (English Ale) yeast (2.5 qt./~2.5 L yeast starter) *0.75 cups corn sugar (for priming)

Step by Step:

Mash at 155 degrees F (68 degrees C) for 60 minutes. Boil for 90 minutes. Ferment at 68 degrees F (20 degrees C). Dry hop for 7 days.

Extract option:

Reduce amount of pale malt to 1.5 lb. (0.68 kg).

Add 7.1 lbs. (3.2 kg) light dried malt extract at beginning of boil. You will need to perform a full-wort boil to get the specified level of bitterness.
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Beers Made with Barrel-Aged Coffee Beans are ‘Blowing People’s Minds’

When we think of barrel-aged beer, we usually think of beer that’s been brewed and then left to age in whiskey or wine barrels. But a few brewers are putting a new twist on that and spinning things around the other way: Introducing a beer, brewed with barrel-aged coffee beans.

If you’re not into coffee, you may not have heard of such a thing, which has taken flight in coffee houses across the country. Barrel-aged coffee is actually aged before it is brewed. Before they are roasted, coffee beans are green and very susceptible to their environment. In other words, they soak up aromas like a sponge. Traditional coffee makers do everything they can to limit green bean exposure to foreign flavors, but in this case, they are intentionally exposing it to something they deem favorable: oak barrels. The beans absorb the flavors of the barrel, both the oak and whatever was in the barrel previously, typically wine or whiskey. After a period of aging, they are roasted as usual.

Just in the last year or two, breweries have begun to use these beans to make coffee beers. At present, Montavilla Brew Works in Portland and Modern Times Brewery in San Diego are two of a very small group of breweries nationwide experimenting with barrel-aged coffee. Our research revealed only three doing it extensively, the other being Middle Brow Brewing of Chicago. Modern Times ages and roasts its own beans in-house. Middle Brow and Montavilla partner with local coffee roasters for their barrel-aged beers.

Coffee Beans Barrel Aged

Portland’s Second Favorite Thing (After Beer) Is Coffee

Montavilla’s Bipartisan Porter, brewed in partnership with Bipartison Café, uses barrel-aged beans from local roaster Water Street Coffee. Founder/Brewer Michael Kora said the idea was sort of a natural one, a tribute to the morning and nighttime rituals of the city. When he discovered the neighborhood coffee shop was doing the new thing in coffee, he wanted to make it the new thing in beer.

“Heading into fall, we wanted to brew something special for the dark season,” said Kora. “In Portland, the only thing bigger than coffee is beer, so we wanted to blend those two together.”

The beans were aged in an oak barrel that had aged a pinot noir wine previously. Once roasted, the beans were cold brewed to reduce acidity and the barrel-aged coffee was added to the porter at the very end of the brewing process to cut down on the bitterness. Kora said the Bipartison Porter was widely successful and called it a “huge hit.”

“The flavors are distinct,” Kora said. “There’s concord grape and pinot in there and the oak is a supporting player. They all blend so well together with the porter, and we cold brewed it so you get a nice big aroma from the coffee.”

Coffee Beans Barrel Aged

“It’s Blown People’s Minds”

Though the idea came naturally for Montavilla in a coffee and beer loving city like Portland, it was even more logical for Modern Times in San Diego. It operates as both a brewery and a coffee roaster — that’s been its business plan since day one — so once the coffee side of the business started experimenting with barrel-aged beans, it didn’t take long until they decided to throw some into a batch of beer.

“The idea came very naturally the first time we tasted barrel-aged coffee and decided to make some ourselves,” said Founder Jacob McKean. “We just combined the two things we make in the same building.”

Both Kora and McKean expressed some initial hesitation throughout the experimentation process, wondering whether the detailed flavors of a barrel-aged coffee would survive the brewing process and show up in the beer.

“We had no idea going into it if the barrel character of the coffee would translate to the beer, but it did, in a big way,” said McKean of his bourbon barrel-aged coffee stout, City of the Dead. “It’s not a subtle aroma or flavor. It has strong notes of the barrel it was aged in along with a really amazing toasted marshmallow character. It would be impossible to mistake a beer made with barrel-aged coffee for a beer made with non-barrel-aged coffee.”

“Their eyes get really wide and they say something like, ‘Whoa. That’s incredible.’” ~Jacob McKean, Modern Times Beer

Like the Bipartisan Porter, City of the Dead was met with extreme regard. McKean said they brewed it using whole beans and have found that this the best way to add coffee to beers.

“It’s blown peoples’ minds,” said McKean. “The very concept of barrel-aged coffee is totally alien to most people, and the idea that it could influence a beer so much is just completely baffling at first. Then they smell it and taste it, and it’s like coffee beer from a different universe. Usually, their eyes get really wide and they say something like, ‘Whoa. That’s incredible.’”

Though this concept will not become a style in its own right — it will live under the arm of coffee beers — it will be fun to see the combinations brewers can come up with as coffee roasters continue to experiment with wine and whiskey barrels. You can be sure that there are more brewers out there playing around with this, and if there’s not, there will be soon, given the success the pioneers have found. Talk to your local brewers to see if they have something in the works. If not, maybe you can convince them.

“Coffee beers have a lot of potential to grow,” said McKean. “I love seeing coffee and beer geekdom growing in tandem, and there’s a lot of crossover in the people who get really into them. So I see the relationship continuing to deepen.”
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How to Make Hard Cider – The Easy Way

I’ve never been a big cider fan, but a friend sent me a recipe he said I must try, so I made my first batch and it actually came out great! I thought I would share the recipe and method with you so you can give it a try. This is a simple recipe made from apple juice, though you can certainly use fresh pressed cider if you have access to it.

Cider Making Equipment

Most home brewers have what’s needed to make cider on hand. Here’s what I used for a 5 gallon (38 l) batch:

  • Large carboy (6.5 gal or 43 l) and airlock
  • Transfer siphon and tube, funnel
  • Aeration wand and oxygen (works best) or alternately you can use an aquarium pump or just shake the carboy to aerate
  • Keg system

I do not recommend bottling this cider as we will be back-sweetening it, so if you were to bottle you run the risk of fermentation starting again and creating bottle bombs. This recipe works best with a keg system such as Cornelius kegs that let you reduce pressure if fermentation starts again.

Juice and Cider Making

Easy Cider Recipe

Here’s what I used to make the cider. The recipe was provided by Nathan McBride who attended a Craft Beer retreat with me:

  • 2 lbs (1 kg) Brown Sugar
  • 4 gal (15 l) of 100% Apple Juice (no preservatives!)
  • White Labs Cream Ale Yeast (WLP080)
  • Diamonium Phosphate (DAP) Yeast Nutrient – staggered into 3 x 1 tsp additions
  • 3-4 Containers Apple Juice Frozen Concentrate (for backsweetening, each would make 2 quarts (2 l) of apple juice if water was added)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract (at kegging)
  • 2 Cinnamon Sticks (kegging)
  • 1/4 tsp Nutmeg (kegging)
  • 1/4 tsp Allspice (kegging)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of Potassium Metabisulfite (see instructions)
  • 2.5 tsp of Potassium Sorbate (see instructions)

Pouring the Apple Juice

Steps for Making the Cider

  1. Boil 2lb (1 kg) of Brown Sugar in 2 quarts (2 l) of water to sterilize it, then cover and chill slightly
  2. In large 6+ gal sanitized carboy, add four gal (15 l) of apple juice. Make sure the apple juice has no preservatives such as sulfites or sorbates which will inhibit fermentation. Sanitize the tops of the apple juice before opening/pouring.
  3. Add brown sugar mixture to the carboy, then top carboy up to a bit over 5 gallons (19 l)
  4. Add 1 tsp of DAP yeast nutrient, and aerate cider (I used pure oxygen) or you can shake it or use an aquarium pump to add some oxygen to the mixture.
  5. Pitch the yeast into the mixture at 70F, and seal it with the airlock. The original gravity should be around 1.048
  6. Within 24 hours you should see some active fermentation. Add 1 tsp of DAP yeast nutrient at 24 hours.
  7. Add one final 1 tsp dose of DAP at 72 hours (3 days) and allow it to ferment out for at least 10 days. Mine took a bit over 14 days to complete fermentation. You may get some sulfur odors from the yeast – this is normal.
  8. Rack the cider into a keg, leaving at least 2 quarts (2 l) of headspace in the keg so you can back sweeten it.
  9. When racking, add 1/4 tsp (to 1/2 tsp) of Potassium Metabisilfite which will inhibit remaining yeast. Purge air from the keg and cold crash the cider in a refrigerator. My final gravity came in at 1.007 before backsweetening for an alcohol content of 5.5%.
  10. After another 12 hours, add 2.5 tsp of Potassium Sorbate which will also inhibit yeast growth. You want to wait until you have some sulfite in the cider before you add the sorbates or you run the risk of a “geranium” (gerinol) off flavor. Return the keg to the fridge for conditioning.
  11. After at least three days, the yeast should be rendered inert, and you can backsweeten. Now add the two spices, Vanilla extract, and cinnamon sticks. Finally add 3-4 containers of apple juice concentrate. Each container should make (if mixed with water) 2 quarts (2 l) of apple juice, though we’re not mixing them with water here – just adding the concentrate directly to the keg. I prefer 3 containers, but if you like really sweet cider you can use 4 containers.
  12. If you want to clear the cider more quickly you can use Super-Kleer at this point. This is a two part clarifier and it works quite well.
  13. Seal and purge the keg one final time, then return it to your keg fridge and put it under pressure to begin carbonating it. I server my cider fully carbonated at roughly 2.5 volumes, just like my beer.
  14. If you can wait, the cider will reach peak flavor in another 3-4 weeks. There is an initial sharp flavor that will fade over time and also the spices will settle and smooth out over time.

Again, I recommend kegging the cider and not bottling it as there is always the risk of fermentation starting again and over-pressuring your bottles.

The Verdict

I was not a big cider fan, but that has changed now. I actually really enjoy this cider! Its not overly sweet, but its also not dry like plain fermented apple juice. It is surprisingly clean and drinkable, and is light enough to be enjoyed by non-cider drinkers. The spices which come through strong at first will mellow with age and add a nice counterpoint to the dry alcohol and sweet juice addition.

Variations

Once you have the base recipe down there are a ton of potential variations. For a strong winter cider you can add more brown sugar to up the alcohol content, and also increase the holiday spices to add more of a holiday finish to the cider. Fruit is also a great addition. You can add fruit to the fermenter or add it when backsweetening. Non-apple fruit juice concentrate is another great addition. Finally you can vary the yeast used or base apple juice used for varying effects.

I spoke with Marshall from Brulosophy and he recommended a 3-4lb bag of frozen mixed berries or frozen tart cherries from Costco. He lets them thaw overnight, then squishes them up in the bag and adds the contents directly to the primary after primary fermentation has completed. He then lets it ferment for an additional week before adding the sulfites/sorbates and backsweetening. He says that the fruit adds a nice fruity hint to the finished cider. I may give this a try on my next batch.
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Brewers Find Bold Beer Flavors in Barrels Beyond Bourbon

 

The number of craft breweries with some level of barrel aging program has risen dramatically over the past decade, with most gravitating toward used whiskey casks, particularly bourbon, to add new oaky, vanilla and boozy flavor elements to select batches. But whiskey certainly is far from being the only game in town, especially as brewers experiment with oak containers that previously held everything from brandy to Italian-style amari.

Placentia, California’s, The Bruery has been among the leading innovators in that space. In addition to bourbon, Scotch and rye whiskey barrels, the company has used rum, brandy and tequila barrels, as well as casks that were once home to fortified wines like port and Madeira.

(MORE: Coolship Fever in American Craft Brewing)

A few years back, The Bruery released Sucré, its sixth-anniversary ale, in various barrel-aged iterations, including rum and Madeira. The now-retired 16.9 percent ABV English-style Old Ale was blended using the solera method, a traditional practice in blending sherry where fractions of liquid from younger barrels are merged with small portions from older ones.

Strong, bold brews like Sucré — French for “sugar,” as “sugar” is the traditional sixth-anniversary gift — are the ones that hold up best in rum barrels.

Patrick Rue

The Bruery founder Patrick Rue experiments with aging beer in barrels like rum and Madeira. (Credit: The Bruery)

“You get some of the richness from a dark aged rum, some of that sugar cane flavor,” says The Bruery founder Patrick Rue. “Sometimes it can come off a little like airplane modeling glue, it can be super hot — it’s really dependent on the distillery. I’ve had some rum barrel beers that were really nice and some that were not really nice. A really assertive beer generates the best results.”

Rum barrels also worked quite well with The Bruery’s 19.7 percent ABV Black Tuesday imperial stout. Madeira casks were also a good match for those hefty beers, imparting a bit of a burnt raisin flavor, an unusual note for a barrel to deliver.

Port barrels, meanwhile, add hints of dried plum and other dark fruits. One year in the wood tends to be the standard for The Bruery, though its Chronology series features beer that’s been racked at six, 18 and 24 months, in addition to 12 months. “Some are best at six months, some at 12 months and some at 24 months.”

(MORE: Mind-Blowing Beers Made with Barrel-Aged Coffee Beans)

Even more out of left field was Fort Collins, Colorado, based Odell Brewing Co.’s Fernet Aged Porter, a limited release that spent some time in wood that once held Leopold Bros. Distillery’s riff on the dark, opaque herbal Italian amaro. Known for its minty, licorice-like flavor profile (in addition to hints of other botanicals like lavender, honeysuckle and ginger root), fernet brought a kind of Good ‘n’ Plenty-crossed-with-Andes-Candies dimension to the 9.8 percent ABV roasty, chocolaty porter.

While fernet, Madeira, port and rum all typically spend varying lengths of time in wood, one doesn’t traditionally think “oak-aged” when talking about gin. Most gin is unaged, but an increasing number of barrel-matured gins are on the market, combining the woody elements with the juniper-forward spirit’s mix of botanicals — which, in turn, leave their imprint on the oak. And, once those barrels are empty, many brewers have been quick to get their hands on them.

Pat Korn

Green Flash barrelmaster Pat Korn found gin paired well with their Belgian-style tripel. (Credit: Green Flash)

San Diego’s Green Flash Brewing was among them, using those erstwhile gin vessels to flavor Divine Enebro, the third in its limited-edition Cellar 3 Barrelmaster’s Reserve series. Green Flash found that the fruity esters and gum drop flavors of its Belgian-style tripel would pair well with the gin botanicals.

Barrelmaster Pat Korn found further inspiration in fellow San Diegan Old Harbor Distilling Co.’s San Miguel Southwestern Gin, which marries Southwestern flavors like cilantro and cucumber with the more traditional botanicals.

“I wanted to incorporate those flavors into the beer,” Korn says. “To do this, we added cucumber, juniper berries and coriander in a large hop sack, racked the beer onto this and kegged it off when we felt the botanicals had reached their peak in integration and flavor.”

Distillers Get a Flavor Boost from Beer Barrels

Distiller-brewer collaborations are now proving to be anything but one-way transactions. Just as craft breweries are reaching flavorful new heights aging in spirits barrel, distillers are realizing they can enhance their own products in vessels that once held beer. Across the pond, Jameson last year unveiled its Caskmates series, whose blends incorporated some of the iconic Irish whiskey matured in barrels that previously held beers brewed by some of Ireland’s craft brewers.

Closer to home, Louisville, Kentucky, based craft brandy distiller Copper & Kings recently kicked off its Cr&ftwerk project — the ampersand is a core element of the company’s branding — a series of brandies aged for a year in beer barrels.

(LEARN: CraftBeer.com’s Big Glossary of Beer Words)

Copper & Kings already had been partnering with brewers that were aging beer in its brandy barrels before the distillery launched the project to do the reverse.

Chico, California’s, Sierra Nevada, Munster, Indiana’s, 3 Floyds, Longmont, Colorado’s, Oskar Blues and Louisville’s Against the Grain Brewery are among the breweries that have supplied barrels for the Cr&ftwerk line.

The distillery released a brandy aged in wood that previously held 3 Floyds’s Dark Lord Russian imperial stout, which infused the spirit with malty, dark chocolate and coffee notes.

“The easiest to use are the imperial stouts,” notes Copper & Kings founder Joe Heron. “There’s a lot of dark chocolate and it’s very viscous, which retains really well in the barrel.”

Copper & Kings’s partnership with Sierra Nevada has so far resulted in two distinct products. One used Sierra’s Imperial Smoked Porter barrels, imparting strong vanilla and malt flavors, with hints of smoke. There’s even some noticeable hop character. Sierra’s Cherry Chocolate Stout served as the basis for another, producing a brandy with flavors of baked cherries, chocolate toffee and a nose of dried cherry and cacao nibs.

“We’ve always been inspired by craft brewers — that authenticity, that creativity, that imagination and just that ability to think differently.” Joe Heron, Cooper & Kings

Oskar Blues’s G’Knight and Deviant Dale’s brought, as you would expect, plenty of citrusy, grapefruity hop character to the brandy. Against the Grain’s Mac FannyBaw, a rauchbier that attempted to replicate the flavors of a peaty Islay Scotch whisky, brought some of that smoke to the brandy, as well as a touch of salinity.

The spirit typically enters the wood at 130 proof (65 percent ABV) to ensure maximum beer flavor extraction. It’s not chill-filtered, as that process would strip out some of the desired flavor. It’s then bottled at 111 proof (55.5 percent ABV).

“Brandy is quite a promiscuous spirit,” notes Heron. “It takes on flavor very quickly and maturation has to be managed quite carefully. If you leave it in new American oak too long, it gets very oaky.”

As the number of craft distilleries in the U.S. grows and the players within the segment diversify beyond bourbon and other whiskeys, expect to see more of these alternative barrel collaborations between small brewers and spirits makers. There’s plenty of innovation on both sides, so it would be a shame for each not to mine the talent of the other from time to time.

“We’ve always been inspired by craft brewers — that authenticity, that creativity, that imagination and just that ability to think differently and inspire people to drink differently,” says Heron. “That’s why we started the Cr&ftwerk project and started working with brewers in that way. It was more than, ‘It’ll be cool to age in craft beer barrels.’ We were much more reverential and deferential to the philosophy of great craft brewers.”

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Brewing with Chocolate, Methods and Process

Chocolate and beer are two of the best substances in the world, so they can only be better together, right? There are a number of ways to infuse the goodness of cacao, along with all the antioxidant power packed into those little beans, into your homebrew. Armed with sharp taste buds and a hint of imagination, the home brewer can develop a recipe that will delight the masses – even purists who think nothing belongs in beer but barley, hop, yeast, and water.

The first step is to consider your personal tastes. What do you currently like to pair with chocolate? Fruit? Nuts? Beers that have a sweeter finish can find a twist with the addition of chocolate. Let’s not forget the savory and bitter components of raw chocolate. The complexity that chocolate adds to a mole sauce is extraordinary. The bitterness of chocolate can be used to balance the sweetness of malts.

From Altbier to Weizenbock, many beer styles can accommodate an infusion of chocolate.

Flavors of Chocolate

A visit to a cacao farm offers a quick education in the complexity of flavors that occur in nature as cacao beans are grown. Beans grown in Madagascar have different flavors than the cacao beans grown in Trinidad or Hawaii. Plant genetics, as well as environment and soil, contribute to the differing flavor profiles. Additional flavor development occurs during the processing of the beans. Like beer, cacao beans are fermented for maximum flavor development by yeasts, lactic acid bacteria, and acetic acid bacteria.

Drying also affects the flavor and quality of the chocolate. Raw cacao beans are often brown, but this is a result of drying rather than roasting. Drying too fast or too slow can compromise the quality of raw beans and result in gray, lavender, or pale cocoa beans.

The next step in developing flavor is roasting. Different temperature roasts bring out different flavor profiles. Unless you plan to roast your own cacao beans, you’ll have little control over this step, however beans that are subjected to a medium temperature roast tend to develop the most desirable flavor profiles in beer.

Conching, the final step in chocolate making where the product is ran through a series of heavy rollers in order to ensure a uniform smooth consistency, is key to flavor and texture development. It is the most complex step, but only applies to chocolate products on the other end of the bean stage.

The Basic Flavors Chocolate Fall Into:

  • Earthy (musk, truffle, mushroom)
  • Fruity (berry, citrus, dried, tropical, tree-fruit)
  • Vegetative (fresh, cooked, dried)
  • Caramel (honey, butterscotch, molasses, milk, butter)
  • Nutty (hazelnut, almond, peanut, walnut)
  • Spicy (licorice, coffee, vanilla, cinnamon, black pepper)
  • Floral (rose, jasmine, violet, citrus bloom)

These flavors are often associated with various components of beer and can be used to enhance, deepen, or contrast the flavors of hops and malts.

Once you’ve identified the flavor you’d like to incorporate in your brew by tasting some different chocolates, it’s time to look at the choices of chocolate form to carry that flavor through to the glass.

Forms of Chocolate

chocolate nibs

Cacao nibs

Chocolate comes in a variety of forms from roasted beans to extracts. The variety is narrowed by the choice of form, so if an exotic chocolate is your preference, there may be a limitation of the additive forms readily available.

  • Raw cacao beans (fermented, dried)
  • Roasted cacao beans (fermented, dried, roasted)
  • Cacao nibs (fermented, dried, roasted, separated from the outer cacao husk)
  • Cocoa powder (conched, ground, separated from butter)
  • Chocolate syrup (conched, some butter, liquid, may contain sweetener)
  • Baker’s chocolate (conched, reunited with cocoa butter, unsweetened)
  • Sweetened processed chocolate (conched, reunited with cocoa butter or other fat* and sweetened with some form of sugar or sugar alternative)
  • Chips (conched, reunited with cocoa butter or other fat* and sweetened with some form of sugar or sugar alternative)
  • Liqueur (not to be confused with chocolate liquor, a step in chocolate production)
  • Extract (cacao nibs extracted into an alcohol base)

*Cheaper chocolates often have fillers in place of more expensive cocoa butter.

Raw Beans

Raw cacao beans are often available at health food stores and at online retailers. The color of the bean will impact the flavor, so it’s best to taste it before adding it to the brew. Raw cacao beans have been fermented and dried, but not roasted.

Pros: Purity, Taste selection
Cons: Require preparation (cracking)

Roasted Beans

Roasted cacao beans are a little harder to find, but available if you want to go that route. There’s not a significant flavor reason to go after the roasted bean instead of using nibs.

Pros: Purity, Taste selection
Cons: Require preparation (cracking), Availability

Cacao Nibs

Cacao nibs are widely available and carried by many LHBS, as well as health food stores and some grocers. Nibs are available roasted or raw depending on the source. Raw nibs should be roasted first to bring out the chocolate flavor before use. Roasted nibs are ready to use.

Pros: Versatile usage, Availability
Cons: Longer contact time needed, Potential for contamination when added post-boil (can be mitigated by either soaking the nibs in alcohol or pasteurizing them)

Cocoa Powder

chocolate powder

dutch processed cocoa (right) and natural cocoa powder (left)

Cocoa powder is widely available, but not all cocoa powder is created equally. Like chocolate, cocoa powder has the characteristics of the bean it came from. Natural cocoa powder has a pH between 5 and 6, and is the powder found in most supermarket brands. Dutched or European cocoa powder is washed in a potassium carbonate solution to adjust the acidity to around 7, darkening and mellowing the powder and bringing out the earthy notes. So called “black” or “brute” cocoa powder is alkalinized to a pH of around 8, bringing out the more bitter chocolate notes. Think “Oreo.”

The choice doesn’t stop there. Cocoa powders are often blended, offering a wider range of flavor profiles. “Double-Dutch” is a blend of black and Dutch cocoa powder. “Triple blend” combines Double-Dutch and natural process cocoa powder. “Bensdorp Dutch” adds back fat content. “Cocoa Rouge” is a Dutch process that results in a reddish hue. There is also “raw” cocoa powder, made from unroasted cacao nibs that are cold pressed to remove oils.

Pros: Versatile usage, Availability, Lower contact time required when used in fermenter
Cons: Heat can release less desirable characteristics

Chocolate Syrup

The syrup, traditionally used as a condiment or dessert topping, comes in a variety of flavors and consistencies. A simple syrup can be created from cocoa powder, a sweetener such as sugar, and water; however, modern commercial versions may include other things like corn syrup, preservatives, emulsifiers, and artificial flavorings. When considering chocolate syrup for brewing one should read the label carefully for unwanted additives.

Pros: Availability, Easy to use
Cons: May contain sugar or other unwanted additives

Baker’s Chocolate

Baker’s chocolate is “whole” chocolate, as oil in the form of cocoa butter is retained. Like any form of chocolate, flavor is dependent on origin.

Pros: Flavor choices, Availability
Cons: Head retention, Mouthfeel, Potential to sink to the bottom of the pot and burn, Uneven distribution in wort, Decreased beer shelf life

Sweetened Chocolate Bars

Sweetened chocolate crosses the threshold into a different realm. At this point not only do you contend with cocoa butter, depending on the quality of the chocolate you may have other oily fillers, dairy solids, and of course, sweeteners. Look at the ingredients to minimize introducing unknown elements into your beer that could potentially affect fermentation or introduce bacteria friendly hosts into the wort.

Pros: Flavor choices, Availability, Includes white chocolate
Cons: Head retention, Mouthfeel, Potential to sink to the bottom of the pot and burn, Uneven distribution in wort, Decreased beer shelf life

Chocolate Chips

Chocolate chips, unless made from unsweetened chocolate, are just a less labor-intensive version of the above.

Pros: Flavor choices, Availability
Cons: Head retention, Mouthfeel, Potential to sink to the bottom of the pot and burn, Uneven distribution in wort, Decrease beer shelf life

Chocolate liqueur

Commercial liqueurs may contain milk or other ingredients, so read labels before adding. Most commercially available liqueurs are sweetened.

Pros: High retention of flavor and aroma, Availability
Cons: Potentially decreased beer shelf life due to additives, Potential flavor disruption due to additives interacting with components in beer

Chocolate Extract

Available both commercial and as a DIY option using alcohol and cacao nibs. It does add an alcohol note, but offers excellent flavor retention.

Pros: High retention of flavor and aroma, Availability
Cons: Adds an alcohol note

When to Add it During the Brewing Process

Beer style will largely dictate your form choice. If brewing an IPA, a cloyingly sweet chocolate-bar taste isn’t likely what you have in mind. On the other hand, a peanut butter stout recipe would benefit from a more traditional chocolate punch. The form that you choose influences where in the brewing process it will be utilized. Chunks of chocolate bar can’t be successfully added to the bottle. Likewise, extract would lose its flavor if added pre-boil.

The following offers a hint at how to choose forms of chocolate and where to use it, depending on the flavor impact and beer style. Feel free to get creative with flavor, however. The only limit is your imagination.

Mash/Steeped With Specialty Grains

mashing with chocolate

Chocolate added in the mash

Adds complexity and hints of chosen chocolate characteristics. Good for all beer styles.

Works well with:

  • Raw or roasted cacao beans slightly crushed and added to the grain bill (or steeped with specialty grains)
  • Cocoa powder (all types)
  • Nibs

Added to Grain Bed Before Sparge

Less pronounced flavor/complexity addition than mashing. Good for all beer styles.

Works well with:

  • Cocoa powder (all types)

Boil

More pronounced chocolate flavor, but mainly added complexity. May increase bitterness, adjust bitter hops accordingly. Use less chocolate in high gravity beers as alcohol releases more flavor. Good for all beer styles. One tip on usage is to melt them in hot wort before adding to the kettle to minimize risk of burning on the bottom of the pot.

Works well with:

  • Cocoa powder
  • Baker’s chocolate*
  • Sweetened chocolate*
  • Chips*

*Be mindful when boiling these types of chocolate as they may affect mouthfeel and head retention, especially if any oils they contain are not volatilized. Add extra boil time.

Secondary Fermentation

Cacao has anti-fungal agents that may affect yeast. So it should be avoided during primary fermentation. Secondary is okay though.

More pronounced chocolate flavor and added chocolate aroma. Reserve for beer styles where chocolate notes will be the highlight.

Works well with:

  • Cocoa powder
  • Nibs
  • Liqueur
  • Extract

Bottle/Keg

Most pronounced chocolate flavor and aroma. Reserve for beer styles where chocolate flavor and aroma are desired as a major component.

Works well with:

  • Liqueur
  • Extract

Developing Beer Recipes Containing Chocolate

chocolate beer feature

Give a man a recipe, he’ll brew a beer. Teach a man (or woman) how to create a recipe… they’ll disappear into the basement forever. There are many recipes employing cacao on the internet just waiting to be sampled. However, there is a certain satisfaction that comes from developing a recipe using your imagination, taste buds, and brewing software. The following can serve as a general guide to making your  journey a successful one.

Guidelines on Quantity by Form Based on a 5-Gallon Batch:

Use one of these as a standalone, or reduce amounts and use a combination of forms:

Stouts:
Raw cacao beans, cracked (6 oz)
Roasted cacao beans, cracked (6 oz)
Cacao nibs (3 oz)
Cocoa powder (2 TBSP)
Baker’s chocolate (2 oz.)
Sweetened processed chocolate (6 oz)
Chips (6 oz)
Liqueur (1/4 – 1 cup)
Extract (4 tsp – 4 TBSP)

Brown Ales:
Raw cacao beans, cracked (3 oz)
Roasted cacao beans, cracked (3 oz)
Cacao nibs (2 oz)
Cocoa powder (1 TBSP)
Baker’s chocolate (1 oz.)
Sweetened processed chocolate (4 oz)
Chips (4 oz)
Liqueur (1/4 – 1 cup)
Extract (4 tsp – 4 TBSP)

Pale Ales:
White chocolate (6 oz)

Black Lagers or IPA’s:
Raw cacao beans, cracked (6 oz)
Roasted cacao beans, cracked (6 oz)
Cacao nibs (3 oz)
Cocoa powder (2 TBSP)
Baker’s chocolate (2 oz.)
Sweetened processed chocolate (6 oz)
Chips (6 oz)
Liqueur (1/4 – 1 cup)
Extract (4 tsp – 4 TBSP)

Fruit Beers: (can stand up to the heavier end of dosing)
Raw cacao beans, cracked (6 oz)
Roasted cacao beans, cracked (6 oz)
Cacao nibs (3 oz)
Cocoa powder (2 TBSP)
Baker’s chocolate (2 oz.)
Sweetened processed chocolate (6 oz)
Chips (6 oz)
Liqueur (1/4 – 1 cup)
Extract (4 tsp – 4 TBSP)

Generally, if a recipe has chocolate malt, consider that it could also benefit from additions of actual chocolate. There are no rules here. If a dark-chocolate, orange IPA sounds good, choosing a citrusy hop and adding chocolate to a favorite IPA recipe is a no-brainer.

You can always experiment by adding a little chocolate extract to a favorite recipe to get a preview without dedicating an entire brew to a bizarre flavor combination. No matter how you decide to approach it, brewing with chocolate is a great way to expand your beer selection.
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6 Beginner Beer Recipes and Styles

We find ourselves in a golden era of beer. There are more breweries open in the United States than ever before, with more and more opening every day. Countless styles and amazing quality are at our fingertips, and tips of our tongues, in nearly every city in the country. As homebrewers, this massive quantity of great beer can be inspiring, urging us to follow their lead, try new styles, and better our craft. If I drink a great beer, my first reaction is: How can I brew this?

But this immense quality can also be very intimidating. After a failed batch or two (or three), we can easily lose our will to continue. As one friend of mine put it: “With so much great beer, why on earth would I bother trying to make my own?”

While it takes perseverance and years of practice to brew those A+ beers consistently, the good news is, that it isn’t that difficult to be brewing really good beer at home on a regular basis. In fact, with two very simple rules, the quality of your beer will get noticeably better immediately. Those rules: Keep it simple, and Brew Seasonably.

Keep It Simple

When I first started brewing, I didn’t really understand how different ingredients worked together (or competed with each other) in the finished product. Wanting to brew a pine-forward IPA, I reached for a bunch of different hops, threw in juniper berries, and had a malt-soup with a menagerie of different caramel malts. The result was a sickly sweet mess that tasted more like peanut butter than it did an IPA. It went immediately down the drain.

The second batch was better, except this time I was aiming for a spicy Belgian Pale Ale. I threw in a half pound of cardamom pods, and WHOA: the finished product tasted like a cardamom-laden cleaning product. (If only I had realized that I could have replicated those flavors from the yeast alone!)

We live in an age of experimental brewing. There are delicious commercial examples of beers that use different fruits, spices, nuts, flowers, and even meats, and it’s tempting to try producing some crazy recipe yourself: how about a Salad Porter brewed with dandelion greens, arugula, and iceberg lettuce! But what I was slow to realize in my early homebrewing attempts, is that great beer can be brewed with the most simple of ingredients. In fact, many traditional brewing practices use only four basic ingredients: hops, barley, yeast, and water. And while there is nothing wrong with trying to brew a Salad Porter, before one can successfully experiment, it’s important to know exactly what each of those basic ingredients contribute to the final product.

Below, I’ve compiled six simple recipes that use relatively few ingredients, and yet are consistently household favorites of mine to brew. These are beers that anyone can brew, and I regularly feature them on draft at my house.

But the recipe isn’t the only contributing factor to brewing great beer. While there are dozens of tiny variables that can make or break a beer, perhaps the most significant of them is insuring that you are fermenting your beer at the right temperature.

Brew Seasonably

The single biggest factor that can separate good beer from mediocre or bad beer is fermentation temperature. Understanding what conditions your yeast thrives in will immediately take your homebrew to the next level.

Many homebrewers either purchase or build temperature controlled chambers for their beer. Some – like myself – retrofit a refrigerator or old chest freezer with heating elements and a thermostat, and others wrap heating pads around their carboy. There are also commercial examples – like the BrewJacket – that can regulate your fermentation temperature electronically. But as important as it is to control fermentation temperature, I rarely advocate for a beginner to invest in this equipment: it takes both space and capital, and there are enough initial startup costs (brew kettle, carboys, racking canes, bottle caps, bottle capper, etc.) that these extra toys can wait.

Instead, I encourage you to be a seasonal brewer, and take advantage of the natural environment in which you live. Does it regularly get to 90°F in the summer? Try brewing a Saison that thrives in really hot temperatures. Do you live in a place with a lot of snow and ice in the winter? Try a good winter lager like a Schwarzbier and lager it in a snowbank. After all, this is how most styles developed in the first place! Most importantly, see if you can find one location in your house that is consistently around 68-72°F: this is where you’ll want to brew your American ales.

What follows is a list of five of my favorite seasonal recipes that can take advantage of the natural climate, with brief introductions to those styles and simple how-to instructions.

A Note on the Beer Recipes

For each recipe, I’ve included percentages of grains and calculated hop IBU’s in parentheses with exact quantities by weight to the left. I’ve found that different homebrewers prefer different sized batches: many beginners start out with one gallon batches, I prefer three gallon batches, and I have several friends who opt for five, five-and-a-half, or ten. Therefore, I’ve chosen to include the percentage of each ingredient required.If you’re brewing 5 gallons, feel free to use the exact amounts.

There are lots of free on-line brewing software sites – like brewtoad.com, which is my favorite – that can help find the exact quantities for each batch.

Petite Saison

beginner recipes saison beer

A Saison is a farmhouse ale that was typically brewed by farmers in the warm months of the early summer and drunk throughout the year. Lighter Saisons were brewed for quick consumption in the summer, while heavier Saisons tended to be conditioned in their cellars and saved for the winter months. Saisons can be very different from each other: Belgian Saisons tend to be dry with spicy clove-like phenols and a biscuity finish. French Saisons tend to have a little sweeter profile and a fruitier aroma. Many American Saisons are often spiced with various spices or botanicals. (To learn more about the history and variety of Saisons, check out Farmhouse Ales by Phil Markowski.)

Saisons should be fermented very warm: usually around 80°F or even 85°F. Though the beer will show fermentation activity almost immediately, the yeast is a very slow worker, and it can take as long as a month for the beer to fully attenuate. However, if brewed in the warm months of July, the beer will be ready to drink in the hottest moments of the summer in August.

This particular Saison is a low ABV example of the style with a lot of spicy pepper and clove flavors, and – if allowed to fully ferment – it finishes really dry. The beer itself is crazy simple … if you’re patient!

Grain:
5 lbs – Belgian Pilsen Malt (67%)
1.75 lbs – Rye Malt (22%)
0.75 lbs – White Wheat Malt (11%)

Hops:
1oz Tettnang @ 60 minutes (19 IBU)

Yeast:
Wyeast Belgian Saison 3724

OG: 1.040
FG: 1.009

Single Infusion Mash, 148°F – 60 minutes
Raise Temperature to 170°F – 15 minutes

Boil 90 minutes. Chill, pitch yeast at 68°F. Ferment one month or until FG is reached.

Dry Irish Stout

dry irish stout beer recipes

Guinness! The quintessential Irish beverage: can one even think of Dublin and not think of Guinness?

Dry Irish Stouts are pitch black beers (that, despite Guinness’ claim that they are, in actuality, “a very dark shad of ruby”) with a distinct roasted flavor akin to coffee. Roasted barley is the key ingredient here; this is what lends the beer that unique coffee and bittersweet chocolate character. Irish Stouts tend be to served on nitrogen, something that homebrewers cannot accommodate without special equipment, but even when on CO2 or bottle conditioned, a long lasting, tan, frothy head is expected.

These beers are great in winter, and as long as your ambient house temperature is somewhere between 68°-72°F, they are easy to consistently brew. If you want a softer roast character, try cold-steeping the dark grains: immerse them in water in a covered glass jar, let steep for 24 hours, strain, and then add it to the last few minutes of the boil.

Grain:
5.25 lbs – Maris Otter Pale Malt (67%)
1.75 lbs – Flaked Barley (22%)
1 lb – Roasted Barley (11%)

Hops:
2.25pz East Kent Goldings @ 60 minutes (40 IBU)

Yeast:
Wyeast Irish Ale 1084

OG: 1.042
FG: 1.011

Single Infusion Mash: 156°F – 60 minutes
Raise to 170°F – 15 minutes

Boil 60 minutes. Chill, pitch yeast at 68°F. Ferment at 70°F for ten days, or until FG is reached.

Hefeweizen

hefeweizen beer recipes

Hefeweizen, literally translated as “Yeast Wheat,” is, together with Pilsner, the unofficial national drink of Germany. Nearly every brewery in the country brews one of these refreshing brews: cloudy and hazy with a thick, foamy head, Hefeweizens have a strong banana aroma accompanied by spicy cloves. Though American versions were quite common in the early days of craft beer, they’ve grown a little less popular amongst the wider public, and domestic examples can be surprisingly difficult to find. Thankfully, they are among the easiest beers to brew ourselves! (If you are looking for further reading on the history of the style and brewing suggestions, I highly recommend Brewing With Wheat by Stan Hieronymus.)

Grain:
5.5 lbs – Wheat Malt (52%)
3 lbs – German Pilsen 2-Row (34%)
0.5 lb – Munich Malt (8%)
0.25lb – Rice Hulls (4%)

Hops:
1.25 oz Tettnanger @ 60 minutes (14 IBU)
1 oz Tettnanger @ 30 minutes (11 IBU)

Yeast:
WYeast 3068

OG: 1.052
FG: 1.012

Single infusion mash 150°F for 60 minutes.
Raise to 170°F for 15 minutes.
Boil 90 minutes. Chill, pitch yeast at 64°F. Ferment 7 days or until final gravity is reached.

American Pale Ale

american pale ale beer recieps for beginners

Without question, APAs (American Pale Ales), IPAs (India Pale Ales), and DIPAs (Double India Pale Ales) are the most popular beer styles right now in the United States, and their popularity has spread to places as far and near as Canada, England, and New Zealand. Hops are used in beer for two purposes: as a preservative (to prevent the beer from going rancid) and a bittering agent (to counteract the natural sweetness of wort). Hops are used in every beer style (by definition, to be called beer it must have hops), but they take center stage in these hop forward styles.

Besides “Pale Ale” (basically lower gravity IPAs) and “Double IPA” (double the hops, double the alcohol, double the fun!), there are multiple different versions of the IPA. A few of the more popular variants:
Session IPA: a low alcohol IPA that one can drink multiple of in one sitting without getting highly inebriated. Usually under 5% abv.
White IPA: a hybrid of a Belgian Witbeer and an IPA, it’s brewed with coriander and orange zest.
Black IPA: also called a Cascadian Dark Ale, it’s brewed with dark malts and more pine forward hops.
Belgian IPA: a Pale Ale fermented with Belgian yeast and heavy doses of (typically American) hops.
New England IPA: a hazy, cloudy, beer with minimal bitterness and bursting with juicy hop aromas and flavors.

A trip into any homebrew shop will reveal a dizzying array of different hop varieties, and though some hop combinations are magic in a glass, if one isn’t careful, these hops can really clash with each other. Thus, for a first foray into the wild world of hops, I recommend a pretty straight forward single-hop American Pale Ale. Highlighting the Citra hop, this particular recipe features flavors of grapefruit juice and orange zest, and is best brewed in Fall to take advantage of the hop harvest. (I strongly recommend Hops by Mitch Steele for anyone looking to learn more about this style.)

Grain:
7.25 lbs – American 2-Row (75%)
1.25 lbs – Light Munich Malt (12.5%)
1.25 lbs Victory Malt (12.5%)

Hops:
1.75oz Citra @ 15 minutes (39 IBU)
1.5oz Citra @ 5 minutes (16 IBU)
3.3oz Citra @ Flameout – Hold 20 minutes (this is called a hop stand)
5oz Citra – Dry Hop into primary, roughly five days into fermentation (1 oz per gallon) – 7 days

Yeast:
Omega Yeast DIPA Ale (OYL-052)

OG: 1.054
FG: 1.014

Single infusion mash at 148°F for one hour.
Raise to 170°F for 15 minutes.

Boil for 60 minutes. Add flameout hops and let sit for 20 minutes. Chill to 68°F and pitch yeast. Ferment 4-5 days, then add dry hops. (Optional: split the dry hops into two separate batches, one pitched 4 days into fermentation, the other 7 days). This beer will leave a lot of hop particulate in suspension, and it is recommended to cold crash and fine with gelatin when fermentation is complete before packaging.

Hoppy Amber Ale

hoppy amber ale beer recipe

One of my favorite beers I’ve ever made was an American Amber Ale. Not quite as sexy a style as IPA, Ambers – which are descendants from the Red Ale – have a dark (amber!) caramel color, moderate hop bitterness, and a full mouthfeel. This recipe actually came about early in my homebrewing days when I just dumped all my leftover ingredients into a kettle and hoped for the best. What I got was actually the best!

This particular recipe thrives off the interplay of the Citra and Columbus hops with the brown malt. The brown malt lends a pleasant nuttiness with just enough bitterness to counteract the full malt presence. My favorite winter beer, it is a regular on draft at my house.

Grain:
7.3 lbs – Marris Otter Malt (74%)
1.75 lbs – 17% Caramel/Crystal 20L (17%)
0.8lbs – 8% Brown Malt (8%)

Hops
0.4oz Columbus @ 45 min. (29 IBU)
0.4oz Chinook @ 20 min. (14 IBU)
0.4oz Columbus @ 15 min. (16 IBU)
0.8oz Chinook @ Flameout (15 minute hop stand)
0.8oz Columbus @ Flameout (15 minute hop stand)
0.8oz Citra @ Flameout (15 minute hop stand)
2oz Citra – Dry hop 4 days (0.4oz per gallon)

Extras
1 tsp Irish Moss @ 15 minutes

Yeast
Wyeast 1272 American Ale II

OG: 1.051
FG: 1.013

Single infusion mash at 152°F for 60 minutes.
Raise to 170°F for 15 minutes.
Boil for 60 minutes, add hops at flameout and let sit for 15 minutes. Chill to 68°F and pitch yeast. Ferment two weeks at 68°F. Add dry hops after 10 days of fermentation.

Berliner Weisse

beginner recipes berliner

Berliner Weisse is a low ABV sour ale that was very popular in Berlin in the 18th and 19th centuries. Dubbed by Napoleon “The Champagne of Beers,” it is highly carbonated and lightly tart. Traditionally, the beer was served in goblets (or bowls) and a sweet woodruff syrup was added. Though the beer has lost favor amongst most native Berliners, it has been gaining massive popularity throughout the United States, and is frequently blended with fruit, dry hopped, or barrel aged.

Berliner Weisse gets its sourness from a bacteria called lactobacillus (the same bacteria that sours yogurt). Though not the only souring agent found in beer, it is easy to work with, and at its best produces aromas of lemon curd; at its worst, it gives off aromas of vomit and urinal cake.

Some may argue that Berliner Weisse is a more advanced style to brew, and the last sentence in the previous paragraph may initially scare off some rookie brewers. But no fear! This recipe is easy, inexpensive, refreshing, and perfectly suited for brewing in the hottest months of summer: not only does lactobacillus thrive in temperatures between 100-115°F, but it only takes 15 minutes to boil! Just be sure to drink it fresh: with so few hops in this beer, it’s shelf life is only a few weeks. (There’s a great chapter on Berliner Weisse in Brewing With Wheat, as well a more thorough chapter in Wild Brews by Jeff Sparrow.)

Grain:
5.25 lbs – American 2-Row (83%)
1.25 lbs – White Wheat (17%)

Hops:
0.5oz Tettnang @ 15 minutes (4 IBU)

Yeast:
Rehydrated Safale US-05

OG: 1.033
FG: 1.005

Single infusion mash at 148°F for one hour. Raise temperature to 170° for 15 minutes. Mash out and collect ¼ gallon more than your batch size (if doing a 5 gallon batch, collect 5.25 gallons of wort) into a sanitized brew kettle or cooler. Pitch a handful of unmilled American 2-Row into the wort, and cover the top of the wort with sanitized plastic wrap: the goal is to keep oxygen out of the wort. Cover and keep as close to 100°F as possible for one-two days. (The longer it sits, the more sour it will become.) Remove the plastic wrap and boil 15 minutes. Chill and pitch yeast at 68°. Ferment one week.
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Pils_glasses.jpg

Run to the Pils Recipe

Jeremy Myers, head brewer and co-owner of Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company (Croydon, Massachusetts) notes that there are no brewing salts added for mash pH adjustment. This recipe follows the Reinheitsgebot, so he uses acidulated malt.

ALL-GRAIN

Batch size: 5 gallons (19 liters)
Efficiency: 83%
Attenuation: 83%
OG: 1.049 (12.17°P)
FG: 1.009 (2.14°P)
IBUs: 36
ABV: 5.34%

MALT/GRAIN BILL

6.83 lb (3.1 kg) Weyermann Pilsen Malt
0.57 lb (258 g) Acidulated Malt
1.08 lb (490 g) Cara-Pils Malt

HOPS SCHEDULE

0.44 oz (12.5 g) Herkules [15.% AA] at 60 minutes
0.26 oz (7.4 g) Spalter Select [4.8% AA] at 45 minutes
0.44 oz (12.5 g) Spalter Select [4.8% AA] at 15 minutes
0.2 oz (5.7 g) Spalter Select [4.8% AA] at 10 minutes
0.2 oz (5.7 g) Mandarina Bavaria [6.0% AA] at 10 minutes
0.88 oz (25.1 g) Mandarina Bavaria [6.0% AA] at flameout

YEAST

Jeremy highly suggests White Labs WLP802 Czech Budejovice Lager strain for dry, hop assertive Pilsners. For something in a more traditional German direction that shows a bit more malt character but still lets the hops character shine through, try Hessian Pils from The Yeast Bay.

DIRECTIONS

Mash the grains for 60 minutes at 148°F (64°C). Boil for 75 minutes following the hops schedule. Ferment at 55°F (13°C) for 2 or 3 days. Once you hit a gravity of 1.034 (8.5°P), ramp the temperature to 65°F (18°C). Hold at final gravity for 5 days and then do a forced diacetyl test. If there is no perceived diacetyl, cold crash to 40°F (4°C) and lager for at least 3 weeks—the longer the better

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Make Your Best Southern English Brown

Style

The southern English brown ale or London brown ale is a style that’s rarely seen on the shelves these days, but it’s still a good one to have in your arsenal. It’s a beer that drinks a lot “bigger” than it actually is, with a deep flavor palate and body but relatively little alcohol. It occupies a middle ground between porter and mild and incorporates elements of both.

There’s a word here that you want to keep in mind throughout because it’s the hardest thing to get right: sweet. Most recipes and processes in beer and brewing are about minimizing (or at least balancing) sweetness, and of all the beers in this style that I’ve judged in competition, at least ninety percent fail to offer a genuinely sweet flavor profile. We’re gun-shy. And since we don’t regularly see these on draft at our local bar, we lack the palate training to know where that appropriately sweet level is. I can’t teach you that—you really should take a pub/brewery tour of England to learn for yourself!—but I can at least tell you that however sweet most brewers think this beer should be, they’re coming in on the low side, so don’t be shy about it.

You’ll find that the flavors themselves are pretty similar to the northern brown—toffee, caramel, and biscuit predominate. On top of that, we’re adding in some dark fruit flavors from the esters and dark crystal malts. One thing this beer should not feature, though, is roast. Don’t let its dark color fool you; it’s got much more in common with the darker and richer doppelbocks than the milds in this case. A hint of roast is all right, but in my experience, the tendency is to add too much, which has a drying effect on the tongue, and that defeats the purpose. We want this beer to seem sweet. Also, this isn’t the place to feature those great, earthy British hops. Bitterness, hops flavor, and hops aroma are all minimal. This is a crystal malt show.

Ingredients

Let me apologize in advance for the breadth of this grain bill—there’s a lot going on, but it’s all for a reason. It’s also going to seem like an irresponsible amount of unfermentables, and that, too, is happening for a reason.

  • Your base malt is Maris Otter, about 4 lb (1.8 kg).
  • Next up is British Extra Dark Crystal (about 150L)—1 lb (454 g) of it will yield all kinds of plum, fig, and raisin flavors.
  • Add that with ½ lb (227 g) of British Dark Crystal (80L) malt, which adds some deep toffee flavors.
  • The last three grains will require ¼ lb (113 g) each: chocolate rye (for some spicy-but-not-really-roasty chocolate malt flavor)
  • Crystal 20 (for some light sweetness)
  • Carafa II (mostly for color, but it also adds a slight touch of dry roast).

You’ll end up with a balance of a bready base, light sweetness, darker caramel/toffee flavors, and a dark pit fruit background with a touch of roast. And you’ve guarded yourself against drying this beer out through excessive attenuation, which means you don’t need to fiddle with your mash or fermentation process—doing that introduces all kinds of risk and uncertainty, so you’re well off to be able to stick to your normal routines.

Bittering is easy:

  • 15 IBUs from any source you like. I don’t do any flavor or aroma additions and simply add the hops at the top of the boil.

As for yeast, Wyeast 1318 (London Ale III) is an excellent choice. It’s my go-to for most English styles anyway, but in this case, its virtues are a perfect match. It adds berry esters and is a relatively low attenuator, which is what we’re shooting for.

Process

I virtually never advocate for changing up your process significantly to get what you want out of a beer—go as far as you can with recipe adjustment first. In this case, we have everything we need in terms of flavor profile and perception of sweetness right there in the recipe, so mash as usual!

My consistent (and consistently well-performing) choice is 152°F (67°C). You might heat your strike water just a hair above your usual temperature to make sure you aren’t going too low, but I wouldn’t recommend explicitly going higher—some swear by a 156°F (69°C) (or higher) mash for beers like this, but I’ve never been convinced they’re right.

Boil and chill as usual, and for that matter, ferment as usual; this yeast strain seems perfectly happy at 64°F (18°C), and you can hold it steady for the entire run. Two weeks should do it. To be frank, I don’t even go out of my way to avoid diacetyl, but if you want to keep up your routine, go ahead and let the temperature rise a few degrees at the tail end of fermentation.

Finally, carbonation: keep it low. About 1.5 volumes of CO2 will accentuate the impression of heft and sweetness in your finished beer, and people will be shocked to learn that they’re drinking a true session ale. Your finished recipe should only be clocking in at about 3.7 percent ABV.

In Closing

If you find that the beer is too sweet, try dropping out the light crystal and/or increasing the carbonation. If it’s too dry, increase the light crystal by a couple of ounces (or grams) or even add ½ lb (227 g) to the base malt to increase ABV. The additional alcohol shouldn’t affect the overall drinkability, but it will add a bit more sweetness!

You’ll know you’ve hit the sweet spot (pun not intended, but unavoidable and oddly appropriate) when you can enjoyably drink two pints of this beer in one sitting. It makes for a great winter session ale and will be popular at your deep-winter parties!

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Make Your First Batch an IPA

So you’ve decided to take up homebrewing. You’ve bought starter equipment (or received a kit as a gift). You have a reference book or two. And you’ve obviously found the Craft Beer & Brewing website. You’ve used your acute need for bottles as justification for buying more beer. All that’s left is to pick a recipe and get to it.

So what will it be? Pale ale? Brown ale? Hefeweizen? Porter? All are good choices, for sure. But I’m here to advocate for IPA. It’s the ideal beginner beer and one you should seriously consider brewing for your first batch. Read on to find out why.

IPA is delicious and tastes best fresh.

Few styles match IPA for the variety of flavors available to the homebrewer. While experienced brewers coax complexity out of special yeasts, sugars, and malts, hops let anyone achieve phenomenal flavor with little effort.

Today’s hops range from herbal to grassy, resinous to citrusy, and fruity to berry-like. Look at some of the hops varietiesused in our IPA recipes. Simcoe packs a punch of citrus, pine, and berries, while Citra offers up notes of passion fruit, mango, and peaches. Amarillo conjures up orange groves, Nugget could be an herb garden, and Nelson Sauvin may very well moonlight as a white wine.

In addition, IPAs require very little aging. In fact, IPAs taste best fresh because hops aroma and flavor fade quickly. So when you make your first batch an IPA, you’ll enjoy the fruits of your labor much sooner than you could with a style that improves with time.

IPA is forgiving.

Experienced brewers would rarely recommend that you start with Munich Helles or barleywine. Light lagers such as Helles give you nothing to hide behind if your technique isn’t perfect. And potent styles such as barleywine present special fermentation challenges and require extended aging.

But IPA isn’t picky. It showcases robust hops character that can cover up many mistakes. When your beer features so many hops, you might not even notice the subtle bubblegum notes of a warm fermentation.

And unlike styles that rely on complex lists of specialty malts to achieve their unique personalities, IPA’s hops focus guarantees that you’ll make great beer with what’s available. Virtually all homebrewers enjoy ready access to pale malt (or pale extract) and caramel 40°L or 60°L, which are all you need to turn out a great IPA. In fact, when choosing malts for your India Pale Ale, simplicity is best.

IPA is versatile.

IPA has come a long way since those legendary casks sailed from London to Calcutta. Today’s IPA is more a spectrum than a style, and brewers are pushing the limits of what it can be. Try your own experiments. If your homebrew shop is out of Amarillo hops, try Centennial. And if they don’t have Centennial, try Citra. More than any other style, IPA uses malt as merely the canvas upon which you paint a hoppy masterpiece. And you have an immense hops palette at your disposal.

So if you’re just starting out in this rewarding hobby, sure, you can brew a pale ale. You can brew a brown. You can make a Hefeweizen. But for total flavor bang for your effort buck, IPA makes others pale in comparison.

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Exploring The Tastes of Beer – Using Extracts

Once you have mastered regular beer brewing you may want to branch out and explore other beer tastes. You can easily use extracts to add special flavors to your next batch of beer. These specialty beers can be fun and interesting to make and taste. When experimenting with beer recipes be sure that you always write down your exact measurements for each particular batch. That way you can be sure to duplicate it exactly if it turns out well.

The best type of beer you can use to add flavorings to is a moderate, light grain beer. Often a wheat-based beer provides the perfect simple backdrop for the addition of other flavorings. The alcohol content of these beers is generally low, making the beer tasty and refreshing. Be sure to adjust your recipe accordingly whether you use actual fruit juice or extract as this may change your outcome.

Fruit Extracts

The most common extracts used in beer brewing are fruits. Traditionally fruit juices and extracts have been added to regional beers based on the availability of the local fruit. Adding fruit to the mixture changes the recipe and the way the beer ferments. Fruit juices typically add sugar to the recipe, which will change the way fermentation takes place. You may need to adjust your other ingredients. As you begin to use fruit juices, start with a tested recipe. This will help ensure that your mixture will work correctly.

Cherry – Adds a deep flavor to the beer with notes of cherry. The color may very from deep red to dark reddish brown.

Raspberry – Notes of raspberry flavor make this beer a tasty treat. It often takes on a reddish color.

Peach – Peach extract will add a delightful flavor to beer, making it a refreshing summer beer.

Blackcurrant – Blackcurrant will add a dark, deep berry flavor undertone to the beer. The color of the blackcurrant will darken the color of the beer.

Spices

Another common addition to beer is spice. Certain spices are commonly used to flavor beer, many of them in addition to fruit flavors. The most common of spices are coriander, orange peel, cumin, cardamom and grains of paradise. These types of spiced beers are often served with a lemon slice.
Source by Graham Williams

 

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Scratch Brewing’s Basil Ale Recipe

Many brewers have put basil into beer, probably because of basil’s kinship with hops. Not only is basil extremely aromatic, it lends both a spicy edge and a sweet finish—hops-like without the extra bitterness.

Batch Size: 5 gallons (19 liters)
OG: 1.053
FG: 1.010
ABV: 5.7%
IBUs: 25

GRAINS

8 lb (3.6 kg) Maris Otter
1 lb (454 g) rye
1 lb (454 g) flaked wheat
6 oz (170 g) crystal 60°L

MASH

Mash in with 4 gallons (15 l) water to hit 150°F (65°C). Sparge with 6½ gallons (24.6 l) water at 168°F (75°C).

HOPS

½ oz (14 g) Nugget at 60 minutes
1 oz (28 g) East Kent Goldings at 10 minutes
1 oz (28 g) East Kent Goldings at flameout

ADDITIONAL INGREDIENTS

1 (12″/30 cm) fresh Genovese basil plant at 60 minutes
1 (12″/30 cm) fresh Genovese basil plant at 30 minutes
1 (12″/30 cm) fresh Genovese basil plant at 10 minutes
1 (12″/30 cm) fresh Genovese basil plant at flameout
or
¼ cup dried basil at 30 minutes
¼ cup dried basil at flameout/whirlpool

LENGTH OF BOIL

60 minutes with 15-minute whirlpool at flameout

YEAST

American Ale

FERMENTATION

Start at 67°F (19°C) until fermentation is almost complete, then raise to 70°F (21°C) until complete.

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brown ale

Overseas Further Stout

There was as soon as a beer destined for lands far and huge throughout the seven seas. To make sure its secure passage, it was made within the mildew of a preferred home model in what’s now the UK, however with a better quantity of hops and a extra strong grain invoice. The ensuing preservational qualities from elevated ranges of ethanol and iso-alpha acids allowed the beer to journey midway across the globe unhurt by Mom Nature’s microbial pests.
The model I current is alternately known as  international further stout (by the Beer Choose Certification Program’s (BJCP’s) 2008 Fashion Tips) or international export stout by the 2010 Brewers Affiliation (BA) Fashion Tips.
A number of the favourite business examples are Lion Stout (Sri Lanka), Dragon Stout (Jamaica) and De Dolle Further Export Stout (Belgium), Coopers Greatest Further Stout (Australia) and Guinness Overseas Further Stout (Eire).Usually talking, the traits of the model will be regarded as the middleman between dry/candy stouts and the granddaddy of all of them, Imperial Russian Stout. The official BJCP tips recommend an unofficial division throughout the model itself between tropical and export variations — the tropical being a extra strong model of a candy stout and the export being a scaled up dry stout. This offers you loads of latitude with regards to which approach you need to go when formulating your recipe.
Malts
The bottom malts that can be utilized in a international further stout aren’t something out of the atypical. A 2-row pale malt from both the US or the UK is just about the usual. Maris Otter would additionally work for those who needed to provide the beer a little bit of conventional British aptitude. The bottom malts on this model are primarily there to supply sugars and enzymes to the mash. A bit completely different from the likes of a Bohemian Pilsner or a Belgian triple the place the bottom malts give you a big a part of the beer’s signature taste. You don’t want to worry an excessive amount of over them. As all the time is the case in extract brewing, you could discover the freshest malt extracts accessible. Gentle liquid malt extract will work simply fantastic as an alternative to the 2-row pale malt. On the finish of the day, you’re taking pictures for a beer that is available in at 5.5–eight% ABV.Roasted Grains
The wealthy, roasted flavors and aromas supplied by the specialty grains/malts used are the precise essence of this model. With the bevy of on-line retailers at your disposal as of late, the range you must select from is fairly in depth. What you determine to place into the grist will decide the extent of espresso, chocolate, barely burnt grain and candy flavors which are perceived within the closing product. A lot of the well-known business examples use both black malt or roasted barley as the one darkly-roasted grain. Crystal malt and a few sugar as a kettle adjunct incessantly spherical out the checklist of fermentables. Given the broad traits of the model, homebrewers might strive including extra sorts of darkish and specialty malt to construct complexity, so long as you don’t overdo it with any single considered one of them.The roasted facet of a international further stout is often supplied by a number of the most highly-kilned grains round, roasted barley or black patent malt. Roasted barley offers loads of coloration, a coffee-like aroma and in addition offers the added bonus of higher head retention as a result of larger ranges of proteins within the unmalted grain. Black patent malt will also be used. Black malt offers coloration, simply as roasted barley does, however with out the coffee-like aroma. A mix of the 2 might offer you good outcomes. Though not frequent within the well-known business examples, one other one you could take into account to supply a portion of the roasted taste is chocolate malt, which might present a little bit of nuttiness as properly. It must be famous that the export model of the model ought to include extra of the roasty character and the tropical usually has much less.Crystal Malts
The extent of sweetness within the taste and aroma of the model additionally is dependent upon which model you need to give attention to.Tropical variations ought to have a sugary, virtually rum-like high quality. This may be obtained in a wide range of methods. Using crystal malts can present a few of this character. Personally, I like to make use of crystal malts within the 60–120 °L vary as I feel that the burnt sugar flavors they supply complement the model properly. As well as, variations in mash temperature and the yeast pressure used may even have an effect on the quantity of residual carbohydrates left within the beer.

The export model ought to have little or no in the best way of sweetness. On this case, the usage of crystal malts must be scaled again. Many business brewers use easy sugars within the kettle to reinforce the dry character of the beer.

Mash
Utilizing a single infusion mash with a conversion relaxation within the vary of 152–156 °F (67–69 °C) ought to strike a pleasant stability between fermentable and non-fermentable sugars to provide the physique you might be on the lookout for (within the beer, after all). Which finish of the vary depends on the model you select to emulate. I’d use the upper finish for the tropical model and decrease finish for the export. Carbonation must be average to moderately-high. An excellent quantity of bubbles goes to assist hold that good, creamy head propped up for you within the glass, which is in step with the model’s expectation of excellent head retention.

A few different grains that may present fascinating traits for the model are wheat malt and flaked barley. Utilized in small portions (1.zero lb./zero.45 kg or much less for a 5.zero gallon/19 L batch) they each assist enhance that every one vital head retention.

One possibility that some brewers carry out is to intially mash within the pale malt and different “mild” grains, then stir the darkly-roasted grains into the highest layer of the grain mattress. That is finished to stop any issues with lautering, however isn’t neccesary until you incessantly expertise situation throughout lautering.

Boil
All-grain brewers will most likely want , rolling 90-minute boil to cut back the quantity of wort collected and focus the wort to succeed in your goal authentic gravity. Extract brewers can boil their wort for 60 minutes.

Hops play a really singular notice with regards to this model. They’re added to supply bitterness and never a lot else. It can be crucial to not overdo it with the early addition hops because the extremely kilned grains will add a few of their very own bitterness to the get together. The goal bitterness vary for the model is 30–70 IBUs. A lot of the well-known business examples use just one hop addition at the start of the boil. The precise selection used for bittering isn’t all that vital because it doesn’t contribute a lot, if something, in the best way of taste. I might recommend utilizing no matter excessive alpha hop you’ve bought laying round or you could simply get your palms on.

Hop taste and aroma ought to vary from non-existent to barely perceivable at most. If you need the beer to have only a trace of hop taste, I might suggest solely including them up till 15 minutes remaining within the boil. You ought to be fantastic utilizing a really small quantity (zero.50 oz./14 g) or much less of any typical English aroma hop or American equal corresponding to Goldings, Fuggles or Willamette. Then again, for those who do “overhop” this beer, you received’t wreck it. It should merely be higher categorized as an American stout.

Fermentation
As beforehand talked about, the aroma must be predominantly roasty with little or no hop presence. Dried fruit, molasses and licorice notes have additionally been deemed as acceptable. A number of the darkish crystal malts will assist present these, however the fermentation temperature can be a key part with regards to the aromatics. Esters produced by the yeast throughout fermentation can provide the medium to excessive ranges of fruitiness anticipated in a international further stout. By sustaining a fermentation temperature vary of 70–72 °F (21–22 °C), you possibly can assist the yeast produce these fascinating compounds whereas additionally retaining the fermentation in verify. If the temperature goes a lot larger than that, you run the danger of disagreeable flavors from extreme quantities of esters and fusel alcohols.

The pressure of yeast you determine upon may even have an have an effect on on the ester manufacturing. There are lots of to select from that will match the invoice and which one you go together with must also improve the traits of which model you are attempting to emulate. The export model wants a yeast that attenuates a bit on the excessive aspect (73–77%) and can assist attain the required dry character. I might recommend utilizing White Labs WLP007 (Dry English Ale Yeast) or Wyeast 1275 (Thames Valley) for that. If you wish to lean extra towards the sweeter, tropical model, a yeast that has a bit decrease attenuation (69–73%) will work finest. White Labs WLP 004 (Irish Ale Yeast) or Wyeast 1728 (Scottish Ale) ought to be capable of accomplish that for you. Some business variations of the tropical sub-style are fermented with lager yeast.

To forestall an abundance of diacetyl in your beer, you should definitely give it a pleasant relaxation after it has reached its closing gravity for at the very least a pair days at across the identical temperature you saved it at throughout fermentation. In the event you switch the beer to a secondary vessel instantly after closing gravity is reached, the identical guidelines apply. Although nearly all of the yeast might be left behind, there are nonetheless loads of cells in suspension to complete the job. Simply keep in mind to not crash cool it till you could have given sufficient time for the yeast to show that buttery character into cleaner, flavorless compounds.

Getting the colour proper when brewing a international further stout must be pretty simple compared to a number of the lighter kinds. This model is way more forgiving and permits you a spread of 30–40 SRM. Something from deep brown to fully opaque is totally acceptable. The grain invoice alone ought to present loads of coloration to the beer. In the event you made a tropical model with a small quantity of the extremely kilned malts and wish it to be as darkish as attainable — since you love the concept of staring into that darkish Guinness-like black foamy oblivion — then simply boil it longer. You’ll get the advantages of the Maillard response which is able to aid you decide up a few of that coloration you’re on the lookout for. Simply you should definitely regulate your pre-boil wort quantity to compensate for the elevated quantity of evaporation. You possibly can additionally add some debittered black malt, for those who so want, for further coloration depth.

In the event you actually need to get wild, you possibly can take a web page from the folks at Guinness and add small quantity of Brettanomyces to your wort throughout fermentation. For directions on how you can go about that, I’ll defer to the newest BYO 250 Basic Clone Recipes particular situation. In the event you dare to go that route, the ensuing beer could be thought-about by most model purists to suit into the specialty class when getting into it right into a homebrew competitors.

The beauty of this model is that you’ve loads of choices. You can also make a candy, fruity, liqueur-like stout or go the wrong way and make a dry, bitter model that tastes prefer it simply walked out of Starbucks. And who says you must select? Take a number of parts from each and see what you provide you with!

Recipes

Capt. Leo’s Overseas Further Stout
(5 gallons/19 L, all-grain)
OG = 1.074   FG = 1.zero20
IBU = 43  SRM = 40  ABV = 7.1%

Components
9.5 lbs. (four.three kg) home 2-row pale malt
2.zero lbs. (907 g) Munich malt (10 °L)
1.zero lbs. (454 g) wheat malt
1.zero lbs. (454 g) flaked barley
eight.zero oz. (227 g) American crystal malt (80 °L)
eight.zero oz. (227 g) American crystal malt (120 °L)
eight.zero oz. (227 g) roasted barley (300 °L)
6.zero oz. (170 g) American chocolate malt (350 °L)
6.zero oz. (170 g) black patent malt (500 °L)
1 tsp. Irish moss (or 1 whirfloc pill) (15 min)
7.5 AAU Amarillo hops (60 min) (1.zero oz./28 g of seven.5% alpha acids)
three.75 AAU Amarillo hops (30 min) (zero.5 oz./14 g of seven.5% alpha acids)
2.5 AAU Willamette hops (15 min) (zero.5 oz./14 g of 5.zero% alpha acids)
White Labs WLP007 (Dry English Ale) or Wyeast 1275 (Thames Valley) yeast
zero.75 cup (150 g) priming sugar

Step by Step
Mill the grains apart from the flaked barley. Dough in (together with the unmilled flaked barley) utilizing 5.zero gallons (19 L) of water and a goal mash holding temperature of 154 °F (68 °C). Maintain the mash temperature for about 60 minutes or till the conversion is full. Increase the temperature of the mash to 168 °F (76 °C) and start sparging with 170 °F (77 °C) water till you acquire 6.5 gallons (25 L) of wort within the kettle.

Boil for 90 minutes. After 30 minutes of a full rolling boil have handed, start your scheduled hop additions. When there are 15 minutes remaining within the boil, you should definitely add your Irish Moss or whirfloc tablets to assist with precipitation of the recent break.

Cool the wort to 70 °F (21 °C), switch to your fermentation vessel and aerate the wort adequately. Add the contents of your yeast starter to the chilled wort. Ferment round 70 °F (21 °C) till the ultimate gravity is reached, which must be in 5 to 7 days. Rack to a secondary vessel and permit the beer to mature one other 5 to 7 days across the identical temperature. Your beer is now able to rack right into a keg or bottles together with the priming sugar.

Extract with grains model:
Exchange pale malt, Munich malt and wheat malt with 1.zero lb. (zero.45 kg) of 2-row pale malt, 6.5 lbs. (2.9 kg) mild liquid malt extract, 1.zero lbs. (zero.45 kg) Munich liquid malt extract and 10 oz. (zero.63 kg) wheat liquid malt extract.

Mill the specialty grains apart from the flaked barley. Place the flaked barley and the milled grains in a grain bag. Steep them in 5.eight qts. (5.5 L) of 154 °F (68 °C) water for 30 minutes. Rinse the grain bag with about 2.zero qts. (1.9 L) of water and permit it to drip into the kettle for about 15 minutes, however make certain to not squeeze the bag.

Add sufficient water for a pre-boil quantity of 6.5 gallons (25 L). Stir in all three malt extracts and start the boil. The entire wort boiling time for this recipe is 90 minutes. After 30 minutes of a full rolling boil have handed, start your scheduled hop additions. When there are 15 minutes remaining within the boil, you should definitely add your Irish moss or whirfloc tablets to assist with precipitation of the recent break. (In the event you can’t handle a 90-minute, 6.5-gallon (25-L) boil, attempt to boil at the very least three.5 gallons (13 L) for 60 minutes. Add bittering hops instantly after the boil begins and withhold half of the malt extract till late within the boil.)

Cool the wort to 70 °F (21 °C), switch to your fermentation vessel and aerate the wort adequately. Add the contents of your yeast starter to the chilled wort. Ferment round 70 °F (21 °C) till the ultimate gravity is reached, which must be in 5 to 7 days. Rack to a secondary vessel and permit the beer to mature one other 5 to 7 days across the identical temperature. Your beer is now able to rack right into a keg or bottles together with the priming sugar.

Bewaren

brown ale

Plan Bee Farm Brewery’s Dandeliaison Recipe

 

Plan Bee Farm Brewery’s Evan Watson has provided this recipe for their farmhouse ale with dandelions and honey. He says, “If you’re crazy like me, [you can] cultivate a yeast via generations of starters and raw honey. Happy Brewin’.”

ALL-GRAIN

OG: 1.044
FG: 1.008
IBUs: 10
ABV: 4.8%

FERMENTABLES

90 percent 2-row base (local malt, if you’re lucky enough to have a maltster nearby)
10 percent raw local honey (add post-boil—the later the better/wilder)

HOPS AND ADDITIONS SCHEDULE

5 IBUs Cascade leaf (preferably local/homegrown) at 60 minutes
Handful of dandelion greens and stems (no roots) per 5 gallons (19 liters) at 60 minutes
Kettle finings and yeast nutrient at 15 minutes
5 IBUs Cascade leaf at 15 minutes
Honey and as many dandelion flowers as you can collect (just pop them off the stems) at whirlpool (post boil).

DIRECTIONS

Single infusion mash at 150°F (65°C) for 75 minutes. Boil for 60 minutes following the schedule for hops and additions. Pitch a healthy starter of the yeast at 72°F (22°C) and let her rip.

YEAST

Wyeast 3711 French Saison (similar to Plan Bee’s honey yeast profile)

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Easy Irish Stout

Irish stout is the perfect dark beer for warm weather. It’s full-flavored, low in alcohol, and has about the same number of calories as that watery “lite beer” your brother-in-law brings to your backyard barbecue. And speaking of grilled meat, Irish stout is a great pairing.

If you’ve spent any time on the Emerald Isle, you know that the black stuff is the year-round staff of life, equally at home in summer as in winter. Served at a cool—not cold—45°F (7°C) with low carbonation (nitro is de rigueur for most commercial examples), the style is both flavorful and immensely drinkable. It was a session beer before the term became trendy.

Irish stout is also incredibly easy to brew. With just three grains, one hops, and a nicely attenuative dry yeast, you can turn this around in a couple of weeks if you keg your beer. My interpretation is just a touch stronger, and I dare say more flavorful, than the world’s most famous stout, and it doesn’t spend several weeks on a boat.

A very wise man named Albert Einstein is often quoted as having said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Brew this Irish stout, and I promise you’ll feel a lot smarter.

O’Davey Stout

ALL-GRAIN

Batch size: 5 gallons (5.25 gallons before packaging)
Original Gravity: 1.045
Final Gravity: 1.011
IBUs: 43
ABV: 4.4%

MALT/GRAIN BILL

6 lb (2.7 kg) pale malt
2 lb (0.9 kg) flaked barley
1 lb (0.5 kg) roasted barley

HOPS SCHEDULE

2 oz (57 g) Willamette [6% AA] at 60 minutes

DIRECTIONS

Mash for 60 minutes at 152°F (66°C). Boil for 60 minutes following the hops schedule. Ferment 10 days at 64°F (18°C), keg or bottle, and enjoy!

YEAST

Danstar Nottingham dry yeast

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Make Your Best Tropical Stout

For most beer styles, there are a lot of paths to the top of the mountain. That’s the good news. The bad news is that with all of those paths, it’s easy to get turned around, waste time, and frustrate yourself! Beers such as tropical stout require you to produce a wide array of flavors, any one of which can make the beer a bit unpleasant if overdone. There are undoubtedly better versions of this beer out there, but this one carries very little risk of getting an overly-sweet, overly-off-flavored version and tastes great as well! In this case, I’ll take reliable over exceptional (and done well, it can still be the latter, too). The key is to control what’s easy to control—and don’t mess with your process.

Style

The tropical stout is one variation of the foreign extra stout, a bulked-up version of the standard stouts (this one is about double the ABV of my dry stout), that features a noticeable sweetness, prominent fruity flavors, and (of course) the dry, coffee-like flavors of roasted barley. Although originally a beer that was brewed by the likes of Guinness as a higher-ABV version export beer (ostensibly to help it survive long journeys), local breweries in the Caribbean and elsewhere now make incredible versions of it for themselves. Beers such as Dragon Stout, brewed in Jamaica, have become not only local favorites but beers that travel the world, and one of the best things about this style is how well it will pair with all kinds of dishes, from appetizers right through dessert—and in hot or cold weather (ironically).

The trick, though, is making a beer that is sweet (but not cloying), fruity (but without the kinds of by-products that ramped-up esters tend to create), alcoholic (but not hot), and roasty (but not dry). This one takes some creativity, if you want to minimize your risk and maximize your flavor!

Ingredients

To recap: we want sweet and sugary, roasty, and fruity. Think outside the box here. Too many brewers will try to accomplish this in process: high mash temperatures, high fermentation temperatures, atypical yeast strains, and the like. Others will turn to higher-risk ingredients such as big doses of sugars. Neither gives you want you want, reliably. This recipe is rock-solid stable because we’re not messing with your process or introducing any atypical ingredients.

So, starting with the grist, you’ll want about 12 pounds (5.4 kg) of Maris Otter to get a nice bready base. Then, of course, you’ll want some roast: Add a half a pound (227 g) each of roasted barley, chocolate malt (450L), and chocolate rye. The rye adds some spice: think rum cake. “But isn’t that too much roast? I thought this was supposed to be sweet?” Yes, it is—but we want to guard against a cloying beer, and as you’re about to see, we’re going pretty heavy on the caramel malts! Add half a pound (227 g) each of the following (for the following reasons):

  • Crystal 10 (light caramel sweetness)
  • Crystal 80 (darker caramel and dark fruit)
  • Crystal 120 (toffee, prune, raisin)
  • Special B (plum, dark cherry)

This should bring you to a calculated FG of about 1.080, with a target ABV of about 8 percent.

Now, for hops. You want to balance the sweetness (and there’s going to be plenty, between the crystal malts and the alcohol!) but still let it come through, so about 45 IBUs will do the trick. Get hold of some Citra and any other tropical fruit hops that you prefer (I’m an Equinox guy, but some don’t care for it—Motueka, Galaxy, even Amarillo are good alternatives). Blend them together (alpha acids should be about 12 percent) and add half an ounce (14 g) at 60 minutes, an ounce (28 g) at 10 minutes, and an ounce (28 g) at flame-out or in the whirlpool. Bang: instant tropical fruit flavor.

For yeast, some will tell you to use a warm-fermented lager yeast to emulate the great tropical stout breweries of Jamaica. Traditionalists might tell you to use a nice English yeast, like the original export stout brewers. I say go with what you know. Use Wyeast 1007 (German Ale) and treat it as you always would, for the same reason: good attenuation, low fruity esters, and very few off-flavors.

Process

Much is made about process in tropical stouts. And if we were facing the same environmental conditions, emulating those processes would make sense, but we’re not (though to our Caribbean readers, I suppose you might be). We’ve already covered our bases on sweetness, fruit, spice, caramel/sugars, and more in our recipe, so the process can proceed exactly as it always does. Mash at your usual temperature (the big dose of crystal malts will add plenty of body), boil as usual, chill as usual, and oxygenate as usual. Same process, different beer.

Fermentation will sound familiar, too. Start at about 65°F (18°C) (I go lower, to 62°F/17°C, but I know that freaks some of you out), hold there for the first 72 hours, and then start ramping up the temperature by a degree a day Fahrenheit (half a degree Celsius) until you hit something in the 70–71°F (21°C) range. That will limit fusel production, reduce diacetyl, and promote a reasonable level of esterification. If you’re reading this in the summer months (what took you so long?), maybe cap fermentation at about 73°F (23°C) at the end, but for those making this in the autumn for the winter months, you probably won’t get that high, even letting the beer free-rise. Give it plenty of time to wrap up (terminal gravity should be around 1.018, but don’t panic if it stops in the low-1.020s), and then cold-crash, package, and carbonate to about two volumes of CO2.

In Closing

This week’s beer illustrates my baseline philosophy about brewing: process is golden. If a flavor can be produced using ingredients, that’s my route. If it can be done with just a few simple ingredients, even better. But if necessary (as it is here) don’t be shy about throwing a wide array of malts and hops (and even yeasts!) at the problem. But don’t mess with your process—if it makes one great beer, it’ll make them all. Now go make this one, fire up the steel drum music, and add some Jamaican sunshine to your soon-to-arrive, dreary winter.

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Breakside Liquid Sunshine Pilsner Recipe

Ben Edmunds, head brewer for Breakside Brewery in Portland, Oregon, shared this recipe for their classic German Pilsner with an emphasis on late-kettle hops.

ALL-GRAIN

Brewhouse efficiency: 88%
OG: 1.049 (11.5°P)
FG: 1.010 (2.6°P)
IBUs: 26
ABV: 5%

MALT/GRAIN BILL

7 lbs 6 oz (3.35 kg) German Pilsner malt

HOPS SCHEDULE

0.4 oz (11 g) Opal [8.7% AA] at 60 minutes
0.8 oz (23 g) Opal [8.7% AA] at 10 minutes
3.2 oz (91 g) mixed low-alpha German hops (Hersbrucker, Tettnanger, Mittelfruh) at the end of boil/whirlpool

YEAST

Augustiner yeast—Ben suggests White Labs WLP838 Southern German Lager.

DIRECTIONS

Mash Temperature: 151°F (66°C), then mash out to 165°F (74°C).

Adjust water to hit a mash pH of 5.4.

Boil for 75 minutes (to drive off DMS) following the hops schedule.

Pitch the yeast at 52°F (11°C) and ferment at 54°F (12°C) for 5 days before raising the temperature slowly to clean up any diacetyl. Rack to secondary day 18 and allow at least 7–10 days of cold lagering time before packaging.

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Make Your Best Roggenbier

Roggenbier is, in many ways, a simple beer: it’s principally a variation on the Weizen theme but instead of wheat uses rye, which adds more spice and less bread to the flavor profile. There’s some overlap in terms of the grist and the yield on esters and phenols (at least if you use a Weizen yeast—but as you’ll see below, it isn’t a requirement), but this beer deserves an identity of its own. The conventional style wisdom is that it should be a relatively simple and low-key beer—a Dunkelweizen with rye instead of wheat with a bit more heft, relying mostly on the yeast to provide interest, and using the rye simply as an accent flavor.

This is one of the times, though, when I’m going to go ahead and differ with the style mavens and recommend that you go rogue with it. This is a historic beer style that’s open to a great deal of interpretation, and my goal with it is to create the best showcase possible for the rye rather than play it safe. The recipe below can be split and tweaked on the cold side to create an interesting lager-yeasted “drinking” batch and a strait-laced Dunkelweizen-esque “competition” batch—you can modify it to suit how you’d like to use it. But for the record: it was the interesting version that yielded me my second-highest-ever score in competition (45/50) rather than the traditional version. So…

Ingredients

Obviously, we’ll need some rye to start with. Fifty percent should do it, or about 7 lb (3.2 kg). For the balance of your base malts, I like a 50/50 blend of Munich and Maris Otter to accentuate the biscuit flavors in the background—use about 3 lb (1.4 kg) of each. Now for the character malts. The goal is to add some dark stone fruit and caramel flavors: I like 6 oz (170 g) each of Caramunich, Carafa I, and Crystal 120 (or, if it’s available at your local shop, Simpsons DRC). Throw a 1 lb (454 g) bag of rice hulls into the cart, too—you’re going to want them later. You should end up with an OG of about 1.060.

Hopping should aim to maximize on spice with a touch of herbal/earthy flavor, and for my money, not many do that better than Styrian Goldings. One ounce (28 g) at the top of the boil should yield you about 20 IBUs (adjust for your specific gravity and AA%), and I’d add another ounce (28 g) with about 10 minutes to go (which will add a few negligible IBUs, but a significant shot of spice character).

Now…yeast. If you’re playing it safe, then go with the White Labs Hefeweizen yeast (WLP300). If you’re committing to the malt-lovers’ side of things and going for broke, you’ll want Wyeast 2206 (Bavarian Lager). As I said, though, there’s nothing stopping you from splitting the batch and using both. I suspect that you’ll only ever do so once—people seem to naturally prefer one or the other.

Process

Remember those rice hulls? You’ll want them in the mash (about 1 lb/454 g). Rye has a reputation for creating a gummy mash, and the rice hulls will help prevent stuck sparges and let you get your wort out with a minimum of trouble. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve forgotten the rice hulls and still had no issues lautering or sparging, but better to be safe than sorry, and they do no harm! Otherwise, this is a standard mash, 152°F (76°C) (or whatever your normal mash temperature is). Drain your tun, boil as usual, chill as usual, and pitch your yeast(s) as usual.

If you’re using the Hefe yeast, don’t go wild with the temperature: you want about half the ester/phenol intensity you’re looking for in a Weizen and more clove than banana/bubblegum. Ferment on the cool side, about 63°F (17°C), and hold there for the first 4−5 days of fermentation before allowing it to free rise and complete fermentation.

If you’re using the lager yeast, ferment at about 51°F (11°C) and give it some time: say, about 2 weeks to complete primary fermentation, with temperatures staying steady for the first week and then rising slowly after that (about a degree/day). You may get a touch of sulfur, but the one time that happened to me, it didn’t seem like much of a detriment to the overall flavor!

In both cases, though, carbonate relatively high—2.5 volumes of CO2 should do it, but you could go as high as 3. You can drink it as soon as it carbonates, even the lager, and while it ages well, there’s no need to do so. My 45-pointer was about nine months old at the time.

In Closing

My version of this beer goes by the name JDS Rye, in honor of Mr. Jerome D. Salinger, author of…Catcher in the Rye! I know it’s a pun, but I came by it honestly: we attended the same boarding school. I hope Sonny (his childhood nickname) would be a fan of this one—the rye adds a great rustic, earthy quality to the beer while the crystal malts impart some great plum and toast notes, all of which set up well against the spice from the hops. It makes for a wonderful flavor profile, especially for the late winter months, and if you brew it around Thanksgiving or so you’ll be ready to drink it just after the new year.

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17 Chocolate Beers for National Chocolate Day

Brewers often tell me that chocolate as a brewing ingredient adds complexity, well-roundedness, and smoothness to a beer’s flavor. It’s not easy to brew with chocolate—its oils can cause head retention issues, and it often require long and labor-intensive boils—but these beers make it all worth it. Here are seventeen beers compiled in honor of National Chocolate Day (October 28).

Sexual Chocolate

Foothills Brewing (Winston-Salem, North Carolina)

Perhaps the most cult-followed of all of the country’s chocolate beers is Sexual Chocolate, and not just because it’s so cleverly named. Foothills Brewing releases this Russian imperial stout each February, and that day you can expect a line out the brewery door.

Lugene

Odell Brewing Co. (Fort Collins, Colorado)

Lugene is a chocolate milk stout that is named for the dairy farmer who feeds his cows Odell’s spent grain. This sought-after beer is brewed with milk sugar and milk chocolate and is available from January through March.

Organic Chocolate Stout

Bison Brewing (Berkeley, California)

This chocolate beer has returned annually at Bison Brewing since 1989. It’s made with organic Peruvian cocoa added in the mash and has a bittersweet espresso flavor.

Choklat

Southern Tier Brewing Company (Lakewood, New York)

Southern Tier is known to put sweets in its beers, and the Choklat imperial stout is no exception. This 10 percent ABV beer is bittersweet with hints of cherries.

Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti

Great Divide Brewing Co. (Denver, Colorado)

This incarnation of Great Divide’s popular Yeti imperial stout is brewed with cacao nibs and a dash of cayenne. Vanilla flavors soak in from the oak barrel, and the result is pure decadence.

Chocolate Stout and Double Chocolate Stout

Rogue Ales (Newport, Oregon)

Rogue’s Chocolate Stout is the only American-brewed beer to win an award at the Mondial de la Bière Festival in Strasbourg, France. Rogue brews Double Chocolate Stout, an imperial version of this ale, as well. The chocolate flavor is derived from chocolate malt and real chocolate, and the hops used give it a bitter and sweet finish.

Chocolate Meltdown Stout

Penn Brewery (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)

This milk stout is made with Pittsburg’s Betsy Ann chocolate and lactose as well as chocolate malt, black patent, and caramel malt. Look for it in 24-pack cases, 12-packs, and 6-packs in January and February.

Bear Hug Cherry Chocolate Stout

BridgePort Brewing (Portland, Oregon)

Who doesn’t want a Bear Hug? This chocolate stout is brewed with roasted malt and cocoa, as well as 15 lb (6.8 kg) of dark, sweet cherries per barrel.

Chocolate Indulgence

Ommegang Brewery (Cooperstown, New York)

This Belgian-style brew, brewed with Belgian chocolate, of course, debuted at Ommegang’s tenth anniversary party in 2007. Its Belgian yeast lends a fruity note to it, making it full of flavor.

Oompa Loompa Chocolate Cream Stout

Fat Heads Brewery (North Olmsted, Ohio)

This chocolate cream stout, “the golden ticket to luscious indulgence,” is made with Belgian dark chocolate and Madagascar vanilla beans, with roasted malt and caramel malt to round out the flavors.

Cocoa Fuego

DuClaw Brewing Co. (Baltimore, Maryland)

Here’s a chocolate stout with a little something extra—chipotle peppers. Roasted malt, chocolate, sweet, and espresso notes make for a balanced beer with a spicy pepper bite.

Chocolate Ale With Raspberry

Boulevard Brewing Co. (Kansas City, Missouri)

This specialty ale uses rare chocolate by renowned Chef and Chocolatier Christopher Elbow from Kansas City and is a reimagined version of their past brew, Chocolate Ale. This version uses raspberries and cacao nibs to achieve a bright, rich flavor.

Dubious Black Chocolate Stout

North Peak Brewing Co. (Traverse City, Michigan)

A combination of rich specialty malts and chocolate gives Dubious its undoubtedly chocolate flavor, and it’s further spiced with a generous helping of hops. This black chocolate stout is available year-round in stubby bottles.

Black Hand Chocolate Milk Stout

Speakeasy Ales & Lagers (San Francisco, California)

Black Hand is brewed with Ghanaian and Ecuadorian-roasted cacao nibs from TCHO chocolate in Berkeley, California. Dark and chocolate malts also contribute to its flavor, and the milk sugar addition creates a creamy, smooth body. As one of the beers in Speakeasy’s Limited series, it comes out in January and sticks around until March.

Banana Split Chocolate Stout

Thomas Creek Brewery (Greenville, South Carolina)

This beer is surprisingly dry and drinkable for a stout that’s brewed to taste like an ice cream treat. The addition of flaked oats creates ice-cream creaminess and pale, black patent, chocolate, and crystal malts create its toffee and caramel notes.

Mexican Cake

Westbrook Brewing Company (Nashville, Tennessee)

Mexican Cake is an imperial stout that is conditioned on habaneros, cinnamon, vanilla, and cacao nibs. It is the first beer they brewed in their Anniversary series. Now it makes an annual appearance to celebrate the brewery’s anniversary every May.

Chocolate Beer Recipes for Homebrewers

We would be remiss if we didn’t share some of our amazing recipes for chocolate-flavored beers! Below are some of our favorites.

Chocolate Coffee Stout

Smoked Chocolate Rye Stout

Copper Kettle Mexican Chocolate Stout

Chocolate Achromatic Stout

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brown ale

Your Father’s Mustache Pre-Prohibition Lager Recipe

Jeff Renner, a founding member of the Ann Arbor Brewers Guild, began a successful campaign in the 1990s to get Classic American Pilsner recognized as a style in homebrewing competitions. In 2015, the new BJCP Style Guidelines recategorized it as a Historic Beer and a Pre-Prohibition Lager. Renner first brewed “Your Father’s Mustache” when he began his own investigation into what is now called pre-Prohibition lager. We’ve scaled it for a 5-gallon (19-liter) batch.

ALL-GRAIN

Batch size: 5 gallons (19 liters)
Brewhouse efficiency: 80%
OG: 1.050 (12.5° P)
FG: 1.010 (2.5° P)
IBUs: 35
ABV: 5.2%

MALT/GRAIN BILL

8 lb (3.6 kg) 6-row malt
2.25 lb (1.02 kg) flaked corn, separately mashed with a portion of the malt and boiled in a cereal mash, then added to main mash (see “Directions,” below)

HOPS SCHEDULE

1 oz (28 g) Mt. Hood [5% AA] at first wort (12 IBU)
0.75 oz (21 g) Cluster [7% AA] at 60 minutes (20 IBU)
0.5 oz (14 g) Mt. Hood [5% AA] at 10 minutes (3 IBU)

MASH DIRECTIONS

Schedule for 95-minute American Double Mash (times are listed in countdown format)
95 minutes: In a separate pot, mash in the flaked corn and one-third of the malt to hit 153°F (67°C).
80 minutes: Mash in the main mash 104°F (40°C).
75 minutes: Bring the cereal mash to a boil.
65 minutes: Cereal mash boiling.
60 minutes: Add boiling water and/or a burner with recirculation to ramp up the main mash to 144–146°F (62–63°C).
30 minutes: Add the cereal mash to the main mash and adjust temperature as needed to 158°F (70°C).
0 minutes: Ramp the temperature to 170°F (76°C).
Mash out, maintaining the wort temperature at 170°F (76°C).

YEAST & FERMENTATION

Any lager yeast will do. Renner prefers White Labs WLP833 German Bock, originally from the Ayinger Brewery in -Germany.

Ferment at 48–50°F (9–10°C) for about ten days until fermentation slows, then rack to a keg and drop the temperature to 32°F (0°C). “When I do it right, the remaining malt sugars perfectly carbonate the beer in the keg,” Renner says. He lagers for six weeks.

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