American Cream Ale Recipe Changes

American Cream Ale is a favorite beer style of mine. Its the only American style I brew that competes with the English styles I brew most of the time. American Cream Ale is a great beer for the craft beer uninitiated. And for craft beer lovers, American Cream Ale is still a great everyday any occasion beer to drink. Because of its lighter flavor profile it still offers some challenge to brew well. Making it dry enough and clean enough is a good skill that can be applied to all your brews. Despite the simple grain bill you can still make some changes to the recipe and explore some different avenues.

If have largely stuck to a basic split of American 2-row and Pilsner malt with a pound of flaked corn and a pound of table sugar. I like to use Liberty hops throughout the boil. And classic California Ale yeast has been my staple yeast of choice.

I felt however that I could make some changes to better understand the flavor options available in the style. This time around I went for a grist that was almost all Pilsner Malt (continental pilsner) with only a pound of Vienna Malt…just because. I also bumped up the corn to two pounds and dropped the sugar addition. Instead relying on a low mash temp (147F) to get a good dry beer.

This time I supplemented the hop schedule with tettnang hops. I basically did an equal pairing by wait at 60minutes and 20minutes; one ounce of each at the two time points.

My last change to the recipe was the use of the White Labs Cream Ale blend (WLP080). This blend is supposedly a combination of an ale strain and a lager strain. I suspect the ale strain is kolsch yeast because I detect a soft malt edge very characteristic of that yeast. I fermented this beer at 62F to start and after 2 days rose it up to 65F. The beer fermented fine. Threw a fair amount of sulfur which I suspect to be the lager strain in there. I got good attenuation going from 1052 OG to 1011 FG. Interestingly, this yeast strain hasn’t settled out yet. The flocculation is pretty poor. Normally my cream ale would have dropped clear after a month in the keg. This batch is still pretty cloudy, albeit its getting better.

Overall the beer is just as drinkable as my original recipe. John however feels that the new hop bill lingers on the palate more than it should. The original with just Liberty is a bit crisper. I think I agree with the crisper part.

I may make a couple more adjustments next time I brew it. I like the grain bill on this one. But next time I’ll go back to predominantly Liberty Hops and ferment with just the American Ale yeast like US05. In the short term though I think I’ll keep enjoying this beer just as it is.

Dry Hopping and the Diacetyl Rest

It’s the name of my new novel – Dry Hopping and the Diacetyl Rest. Do you think it will sell?

Probably not as well as The Joy of Homebrewing.

The title of this post is more of a mashup of what I did with my harvest lager last week and this past weekend.

In lager brewing, diacetyl rests are a way to get your yeast to clean up buttery flavors that can be present due to the production of diacetyl by the yeast earlier in the fermentation process. These rests are a period of time where the beer is allowed to warm up so the yeast can become more active.

I didn’t detect any buttery or butterscotch flavors in the lager but it doesn’t harm your beer to raise the temperature towards the end of fermentation.

Following a hot tip (said in a breathy voice – hhhhhot tip) I read in Brew Your Own magazine about dry hopping, I decided to add nearly 3 ounces of home grown hop cones to my fermentor during primary fermentation, which just so happened to coincide with the diacetyl rest.

The tip was to add the hops while the yeast were still active so that there was enough carbon dioxide to keep any yucky microbes from infecting the beer. With home grown hop cones, I thought it was a good idea. They were stored in my freezer but not vacuum sealed and still in contact with air.

With a few days to go in the fermentation, I moved the carboy out of my fridge and let it come up to room temperature which was about 65 degree F in my basement.

Boiling The Mesh Bag

While that was happening, I boiled the mesh bag I planned to use to hold the hops during the dry hopping time. It was boiled on my stove top for fifteen minutes along with some marbles. The marbles were my plan to keep the bag submerged in the bag. If you want to hear something annoying, boil some marbles in a stainless steel pot.

Once the boil was done, I put the hops and the marbles in the bag. I then put the bag in the carboy, which was a fun challenge. It took some effort to shove the whole bag through the carboy’s small opening.

The lager was moved to sit next to the cider I have fermenting.

Fermentation Buddies

After three days, I cold crashed the lager for 24 hours and then I racked it to a new carboy. The lager smelled wonderfully hoppy and tasted okay. Once the lagering period is over and it carbonates, we’ll see how well my hopping did.

Racking the Dry Hopped Lager

Brew On!

Mr. Beer Kit

Before you dive into this weeks video lets make one thing clear, brewing should be fun. In the end if you enjoy the beer you make, then you’ve won. Plain and simple. These Brew Dudes make no qualms about how people make their beer. Brew and let brew. That said, we take a fun somewhat tongue and cheek look at the infamous Mr. Beer Kit this week. As lovers of homebrewing we should all be good stewards and embrace the many ways people can get into this hobby. Role film!

I got this kit because my brother in law didn’t want it. I think he got it through a christmas swap or something. He likes some craft beer but its not really his thing. Besides when he’s in town he likes to get his beer from me! (I hope.)

I know there are a lot of haters on the web regarding Mr. Beer. Really its nothing more than a better marketed and glitzy version of most of our first extract kits. They set themselves apart from the mainstream further by going to a 3 gallon batch size as well. I think this must cut down on shipping costs for the small extract cans they sell.

The basic boxed kit comes with 8 bottles and caps, a can of prehopped extract, a packet of dry yeast and a barrel shaped fermentor with a large lid and a spigot. Interesting the plastic fermentor is brown but somewhat transparent. So unlike the classic white pails most of us start with you are likely to see the fermentation (maybe you’d need a flashlight to be sure though). This kit came with an American Style Light Lager extract. I suppose its nothing more than some 2-row extract maybe some mashed rice or corn in the original grist hopped with something neutral.

I am excited to have a small fermentor in my arsenal of toys. Been thinking of some small batches and paying $25 dollars for a 3 gallon better bottle when a full size one is $28 just doesn’t seem right.

Anyway, I don’t bottle beer much anymore but the plastic bottles seem interesting. I might use these for some soda or something.

Have you ever used a Mr. Beer Kit? Did you get your start with a Mr. Beer Kit? Drop us a note and tell us your review.

BREW ON! (Anyway you can!)

2014 Cider Making

Autumn brings the harvest and for me, at least for the past few years, cider making.

Like anything, it took me a few tries to make a cider that I really liked.

The New England version I like, but it can be boozy. I made a cran-cider that was ok but it got very tart over time in the bottle.

The ciders that I have liked the most have been the ones that were fortified a bit with some simple sugar and fermented with a neutral English ale yeast.

This year, the recipe was simplified. No blends of different sugars (white, brown, molasses, etc.) and no special ingredients like raisins or oak conditioning.

I went back to Cider Hill Farms in Amesbury, MA to buy the pressed apple juice. It’s very good even before fermentation so I bought 5 gallons – one for drinking now.

The rest of the juice went into the recipe:

4 gallons of pressed apple juice
1.5 pounds of local honey
2 teaspoons of pectic enzyme
2 teaspoons of tannin
1 tablespoon of acid blend
2 teaspoons of yeast nutrient
1 packet of Danstar Nottingham yeast

The pressed apple juice I bought was not pasteurized and had no preservatives. It was stored in a refrigerator at the farm store (naturally) so I had to let it warm up to around 60 degrees F before I started the process. While the juice was sitting there on my basement floor, I heated up some water and put the honey containers into the pot.

While the juice and honey were getting warmer, I proofed the one packet of yeast. By the time the yeast was ready, the other main ingredients were at temperature.

I mixed the apple juice, honey, and the other ingredients together. I have used the pectic enzyme before and it has helped with clarification. The tannin and acid blend additions were experimental. I wasn’t sure of the quantities but I thought they were good starting points.

The yeast nutrient is crucial in cider as it is in mead to get a good fermentation going. I will be adding a little to the cider over the next two days to keep it going.

The ale yeast will leave the cider a little less dry than a champagne yeast, which I am counting on. In two weeks, the primary fermentation should be done then the conditioning phase will start. Here are some photos from the cider making day:

Saison Redux

Second chances are tough to come by. Thankfully, homebrewing is more forgiving. Don’t like a batch simply try again! That’s what John did with a new attempt at Saison. A tough but popular style to brew well. We compare last years to the new batch head to head.

First off last years batch is visibly different. Darker. Is that age or recipe? It did t really matter once you tasted it. It had some strong dead yeast character. A touch of oxidation. And a minerally finish the was just plain weird. I described it as hammy.

The new batch was bright and vibrant. A balance between slight acidity and a Belgian phenol and ester character. Where the acidity comes from is hard to say but it works here and works well. The beer is definitely dry as we have come to expect from Belle Saison yeast. Interestingly my Saisons with the same yeast were more restrained when it came to that Belgian character. My best attempt being more citrus like.

It’s interesting to wonder how much the base grist recipe plays in the final product. Seeing as most Saison yeast will take you well down into single digit SG readings one must begin to think that the yeast must be digest some of the dextrins. And if different dextrins are present from different grits you could envision significant variances between beers brewed with the same yeast. More research to be done is suppose.

There you have it. Don’t give up in a style too soon. Taste, learn and rebrew.