Recipe - Summer Ale, a variant

I love the summer ale base recipe: 4 pounds maris otter, 4 pounds pale 2 row, 1 pound crystal, 1/2 pound wheat, 1 pound cane sugar...and then experiment.

I always make it as an american style ale...american hops, SafAle S-05.

Between the cane sugar and the S-05, it's always crisp and dry.  A favorite at the lake.

Here's this variant:
5 gallons

Mash @ 154F overnight mash
  • 4.0 # pale 2 row
  • 4.0 # maris otter
  • 2.0 # 20L crystal
  • 1.0 # carapils
  • 0.5 # wheat 
  • 1 oz citra, first wort
  • 1 # cane sugar 60 minutes
  • 1 oz citra, 15 minutes
  • 2 T black pepper, 5 minutes

Cool and pitch 1 sachet hydrated SafAle S-05.

That easy.  First taste (during bottling) is great.

Update - Dragon Milk

Just an update on the Dragon Milk experiment.  Bottled yesterday.  Tastes a tinch thin.  Flavor's good, but not much mouthfeel.

Looking forward to what you other guys did with this come brew day.

My new tun.

I'm, exclusively, a no sparge and batch sparge  brewer, so my setup has always been pretty simple.

The new setup starts with a 50 quart MaxCold cooler Rox picked up for me.

I'm using the same spigot I use for the 5 gallon tun.  I just popped out the drain fitting that came with the cooler.  This uses the same baby  bottle washers discussed in the kettle mod post.

I'm using the standard plumbing supply stainless braid fitting I made...I think every homebrewer in the world uses this trick.  That's a stainless hose clamp holding it to the brass fitting.

Here's the inside with everything hooked I said, pretty simple.

Works great!  In a 40 degree garage I lost 1 degree in a 60 minute mash. 

Sometimes you got no pot

I believe the two things that discourage most beginning homebrewers are poor sanitation (so the beer gets spoiled) and a crummy pot (so the frustration gets high).

But a good pot for a 5 gallon batch of beer is expensive!  Even a generic stainless steel pot with a good thick bottom and decent handles, 8 gallons or so, no bells and whistles, can run $100.

Who wants to drop that kind of money on a hobby you don't even know if you're going to enjoy?

But you can make great, even outstanding beer without that kind of investment if you just do it kind of backwards. You're going to need a spaghetti or canning or stock pot...something 10 or 12 quarts...if you don't have one in the house, borrow it from your grandmother....offer her a beer to rent it or something...or a neighbor.

Here's an extract recipe for an American IPA.

Go to your local homebrew store and get

  • 9 pounds of liquid malt extract (unhopped), something with a little color like a northern brewer gold.
  • 3 ounces of amarillo hops.  they should be somewhere around 9% alpha acids.  If you don't know what that means, roll back to the hops 101 post
  • 1 sachet of SafAle S-05 yeast.

Should run you about $30-35 and it's going to make 50 bottles of really good beer.

Now here's the deal -> the malt extract is you don't have to do the whole hour boil for the extract.  If you DO try to do the whole boil with the extract and you're using less than 5 gallons of water, then the wort is too thick and you won't get good bitterness and flavor from you hops.

So we're going to boil the hops (only) for an hour, get a really good extraction of alpha acids and flavors and we're only going to add the extract for the last 10 minutes, just to make sure the whole mess gets a good solid boil and sanitized.

Here's the 1, 2, 3 of the process:
  1. put 1 ounce of hops and 2 gallons of water in your pot. maybe only 1.5 gallons if you only have a 10 quart pot
  2. bring it to a boil and start your timer.  and we mean a good roiling boil.
  3. after 40 minutes (20 minutes remaining) add another ounce of hops
  4. in 10 more minutes, stir in the extract.  keep stirring and, from here on out, don't leave the have to keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't boil over...if it starts to, remove from the heat and just manage it, so you have a good boil for 10 minutes.
  5. after the extract has come back to a boil and isn't threatening to make a huge sugary mess, add the last ounce of hops and boil for 5 more minutes.
  6. turn off the heat.
  7. add water or ice to bring to 5 gallons in your fermentation vessel, bucket, carboy, whatever

chill, pitch and ferment; each of those are a entire book in their own right and we're not going into that scour the web or read a book or ask me a specific question if you need help.

But that's it.  How to make a great beer when you got no pot.

Note:  a slight variation of this is to put, roughly, 1/3 of the extract in at the beginning and save 2/3 for the last 10 minutes.  There are a couple good reasons to consider this, namely getting some carmelization out of the wort and, when following a recipe to get a more accurate hops extract to what the original creator intended.  

How Beer Saved the World

A discovery channel special.  You know it's true, but now you can see all the details.

     see the IMDB writeup

     $15 for the dvd

     Stream it on NetFlix

     Or watch online

101 - extract, all grain...conversions

First a word about my own prejudices:

  1. I think most beers benefit from, at least, the addition of specialty grains (i.e. not entirely extract) and 
  2. I don't really think there's that much difference between all grain and extract in terms of the quality of the finished product.  I thing other factors like sanitation, fermentation temperature, etc play a much bigger role.

That being said, I am, myself, 90% of the time, an all grain brewer...but I think it's probably more the tweaking, gear building part that makes me hassle with it rather than thinking my beer tastes demonstrably better for it.

So, that being said, we only want to use LME (liquid malt extract) or DME (dried malt extract) to substitute for the pale malts in the recipe...we want to keep the special grains as they are and perform a partial mash or steep them.


Converting an all grain recipe to an extract recipe
  • pale malt X 0.75 = LME
  • pale malt X 0.60 = DME
Example:  if the all grain recipe calls for 10 pounds of pale malt, you need 7.5 pounds of Liquid Malt Extract or 6 pounds of Dried Malt Extract as a substitution.

Conversely, converting extract to all grain
  • LME / 0.75 = pale malt
  • DME / 0.60 = pale malt

Again, all pretty simple.

Here's the "grain bill" (the list of grains/fermentables in the recipe) for a simple recipe I like a lot, Summer Ale.  We'll convert this to an LME recipe
  • 4.0 pounds pale 2 row malt
  • 4.0 pounds maris otter malt
  • 1.0 pound 45L crystal malt
  • 0.5 pounds wheat malt

Converted to LME
  • 6.0 pounds LME (3 pounds for the 2 row and 3 pounds for the maris otter)
  • 1.0 pound 45L crystal
  • 0.5 pounds wheat malt 
There are plenty of sources to tell you how to steep your grains and boil your LME so we won't go into that here.

If you're converting from an extract recipe TO an all grain recipe, you have a ton of choices.  Maris Otter, Golden Promise, Pilsners...all kinds of things to play with.  Just make sure that you're using "base malts" instead of the crystals and roasteds for the converted LME/DME.

The Summer Ale recipe is simple and clean and works really well for variations.  One of the full recipes is a couple posts back but don't stick to it...change it up, play a does well with all kinds of hops, bitterness levels, other specialty grains added to it...just don't go dark with is, after all, SUMMER ale.

101 - gravity...the basics

Again, a background, a 10,000 foot view...

You hear it all the time, "high gravity beer" or "the OG was 1.072!", etc.  But what's it mean?  Its really cool and really easy science and it will all make great sense in just a minute.

Ok, before we start with the brewing specifics, some background.

"gravity" is short for "specific gravity" and it is the measure of density.  In our case, the density of a fluid, but solid objects are also measured with specific gravity.  Heavier things have a bigger "specific gravity" number than lighter things...and I'll show you, down below, why this is important to you.

The whole concept was invented / discovered by Archimedes back about 200 B.C. You probably  remember, from sixth grade science class, the story of the guy that jumped out of the tub and started running down the street naked yelling "Eureka! Eureka!". That was Archimedes and buoyance / density what what he was shouting about.

Brewers use a device called a hydrometer to measure the specific gravity of their wort and beer (wort is nothing more than the fluid that hasn't fermented yet but is going to be beer in a week or so when the yeast get done doing their thing).

The hydrometer, as far as we know, was invented by Hypatia of Alexandria somewhere around 400 A.D.  She was an early scientist / physicist (they called them "philosophers" in those days) that was finally killed by a Christian mob in one of those periodic science versus religion things that humans seem to go through from time to time.

It works like this:

  • The specific gravity of water is 1.000.  
  • As you dissolve sugar in water, it gets denser and the specific gravity rises.
  • Then, as the yeast turn the sugary water into alcohol, the gravity lowers.  

Just to give you some quick frame of reference.  A medium strength beer might start fermentation with an OG (original gravity) of 1.050 and might end, after fermentation is complete, with an FG (final gravity) of 1.008.

As a brewer, you measure your gravity while the wort is fermenting into beer and you see the gravity get lower and lower as the days go by.  When the gravity stops getting lower, that means the yeast are done and you can bottle your beer.

Another quick aside here...sometimes your gravity stops getting lower way too soon...that's called a "stuck fermentation"...after brewing a few batches, you'll get a feel for when the fermentation is done and when it's stuck.

Just for some extra jargon, how much the gravity drops is known as attentuation and different yeasts attenuate differently.  In the example above, a low attenuation yeast might be completely finished when the FG is 1.014, but a high attenuation yeast might drop it as far as 1.004.

So there's two things going on here you need to think about...a low attenuation yeast, all other things being equal, makes a sweeter, less-alcoholic beer (because it stops turning sugar into alcohol while there's relatively more sugar left in the fluid). Conversely, a higher attenuating yeast will make a drier, more alcoholic beer, all other things being equal.

One more term and then we'll be ready to take on a specific example.  "Gravity points".  To keep things simple, we're going to use LME (liquid malt extract - the thick syrup you get at the homebrew store to make your beer).  A basic LME might have 36 gravity points.  What that means is that, if you dissolve 1 pound of LME in 1 gallon of water, the gravity will be 1.036.

We typically brew in 5 gallon batches, so 1 pound of LME in 5 gallons of water will make an OG of about 1.007 (36 points per gallon spread out amongst five gallons is about 7 points per gallon...or put arithmetically, 36 divided by 5 is about 7).

So here we go with an example:

We want to brew a beer and we buy 6 pounds of LME.  We boil 5 gallons of water and stir in the LME, boil for an hour, cool and use our hydrometer to measure the OG.  We expect to see somewhere around 1.043 (6 pounds of LME times 36 gravity points is 216 gravity points in ONE we divide that by 5 because we used FIVE gallons.)

We write down the date and the OG because we are, after all, master brewers keeping accurate records.

We pitch our yeast, put on the airlock, put the bucket or carboy into a place where it doesn't get too cold and it doesn't get too hot, lets say 64-68F, and we just let the yeast work for a couple days.  Then we measure again...and we wait a few more days and measure again...wash, rinse, repeat.

Eventually, usually about a week or two, depending on a ton of variables, the gravity will stop getting lower.  When the gravity stays the same for 3-4 days, the yeast have done all they can.

Congratulations.  It's now beer.