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Holiday Ale Recipe

Spiced Bourboned Oaked Holiday Amber
For 6.5 gallons final volume.
8 gallon run off, 90min boil.
Anticipated OG is 1060-1065
Mash efficiency is 75%

12lb American 2-row (or 7.5lb DME)
2lb crystal 40L
1lb crystal 60L
0.125lb crystal 120L
0.125lb chocolate malt

1.0oz Nugget (12%AA, pellets) 60-min
0.5oz Nugget (12%AA, pellets) 15-min

4.0oz American Oak Chips
8.0oz Bourbon/Whiskey (see comments below)
1/4 tsp cinnamon-ground fresh
1/8 tsp nutmeg-ground fresh

Mash in at 154F, 90 minute mash.
Boil for 30min, then start with 1st hop addition.
Irish Moss at 20-min mark.

Yeast WLP002 (or WY1028)
Use two vials of yeast or pitch a hearty dose of yeast cake from a previous batch.

Primary ferment at 68F for two weeks.
During primary:
Steam Oak chips in water steamer on high heat, 5 minutes. Steam chips, do not submerge.
Place oak chips and bourbon in a clean mason jar, cap immediately. Let sit in cool place during primary fermentation. Right before transfer to secondary strain the oak out, add spices to the bourbon, and shake well (This will sterilize the spices).
Rack beer to secondary, dump in oak bourbon spice mix. Secondary for two months at 68-70F.

Notes on secondary and Bourbon:
OK, so I don’t actually use bourbon, I have found that Johnny Walker Red Label is sort of smokey and hot, but when mixed with the beer it ages out to a smooth bourbon like quality. But this is where the extended secondary comes in, it really helps move that HOT nasty Red Label taste to the back of the beer, but it keeps a just noticeable supporting role. You can leave the oak chips in during secondary if you want a stronger oak flavor, it’s an experiment I haven’t done. When adding the bourbon mix, you can prime and bottle right away. Then bottle condition for two months and get the same effect. But there is something about bulk aging the entire 6 gallons together that just works for me.

Check out our Christmas Ale Recipe.


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  1. Quick question: When you say DME are you meaning Dry Malt Extract or Dark (liquid) Malt Extract? This recipe looks like something that I would really enjoy. How much does the hop flavor come through?

  2. DME for me means Dried Malt extract. For any recipe I post, unless explicity labelled, I fully recommend using the lightest DME you can find for any recipe. Then get you flavor and color from specialty grains.

    Good luck with the recipe!

  3. Missed the question about the hops!
    The hop flavor is just enough to balance the crystal malts out. There is some hop flavor, but its the spices and the liquor that carry the Holiday flavor in this brew.

  4. Thanks for answering. The reason I asked is that I saw 7.5 lbs DME which would shoot the O.G. up to something like 1.081 and you were wanting 1.060 to 1.065 and thought that maybe you were meaning dark liquid malt extract….then I realized that you boil is 8 gallons which kinda answered my question since I think in 5 gallon batches. Thanks!

  5. I am a little wierd with the 8 gallon thing. I haven’t optimized my kettle with a pick up tube, so I tend to leave about a gallon behind. I try to shoot for 8 gallons out of the mash and boil down to 7 or so. That way I get about 5.5 into the fermentor.
    I’ll try and be more conscience of the 5 gallon thing for the extract brewers.
    Sorry for the confusion.

  6. Kevin

    This recipe looks seriously tasty, have a few questions for you though:

    1) Since this posting, have you made any modifications?
    2) Are you happy with this recipe or feel it is still a work in progress?
    3) There is no little cinnamon and nutmeg for such a large volume of beer, do the flavors come out that noticeably?
    4)What do you finish out as % alcohol wise? 1.060-1.065 seems bit low for OG, but I have no idea what the addition of bourbon does to the final product.


  7. Mike

    Thanks for the reply Kevin. Here are my thoughts on your questions.

    1. This recipe is as is for the past several years. The only mods is that I don’t steep the wood really. The soak in bourbon seems to sanitize the wood just fine.
    2. See point 1… I am very happy with this recipe and I do not have plans to modify it.
    3. The spice levels are balanced enough to give you a spiced essence, but the beer still tastes like beer. The spice levels vary in other recipes if they are added to the boil. Boiling requires higher levels of spice to be able to taste them.
    4. The OG seems low for what??? I don’t brew for ABV. ABV is a consequence of the recipe. And in my book it should never be the other way around. Another way to put it is… I want to brew beer that tastes good first. I’ll drink more of it if I need to get drunk. I’d rather drink 4 of these than one 12% monster of a beer. (If the recipe was to start at 1.060 and finish at 1.012 that would be 6.3%ABV.)

    Good luck with the recipe!

  8. Ken

    If I am reading this correctly, on the Holiday Ale Recipe, mash for 90 minutes and then boil for 90 minutes – 30 minute mark of boil add the first hops. Is this correct?

  9. Yes, you are correct about 90 minute mash and boil.

    Yes, at 30 minutes into the boil (60 minutes to go until the end) add in the 1 oz of Nugget Hops.

  10. Brian

    So i know this is an old thread, but i have a quick question, do you find that after aging for 2 months that you need to repitch some yeast in order to get a good carb going?
    Thanks a lot!!

  11. Joe Geiger

    I had a question about the Extract version of this. Can I start with 2-3 gallons and then steep the grains and add the hops and Malt Extract and combine that with cold water in the fermenter to get to 5.5 gallons or do I really need to start with 8 gallons and boil it down?

  12. Andrew

    I’m rather new to homebrewing so please forgive this question if it is very novice. But I’m interested in making this recipe for this coming Christmas, but sadly there is not enough time for it to be ready considering the 2 month secondary fermentation. My question being, is the secondary fermentation so long because of the bourbon or because the bourbon suggested is Johnny Walker Red (a Scotch) or because of the oak chips? Would it be possible to have a 2 week or so secondary fermentation with this beer ending up just fine? Any advice would be great!

  13. Brian:
    No need to repitch, at least in my experience. If you are concerned, I would just suck up a little yeast with the transfer to the bottling bucket. But if that makes you nervous, pitching 3-4grams of dry yeast per 5 gallons with your normal priming sugar step should work fine.

    With extract you can certainly use a partial boil method as you describe, I would up your hops by 10-12% just to be sure you have enough bitterness, as the concentrated boil will reduce your hop utilization. Then I’d add enough water to get to what ever you are comfortable with in your fermentor. I would think about final gravity though. My recipe is for 6.5 gallons in the kettle, of which 5.5 makes it into the fermentor. So if you use the same extract amounts in only 5.5 gallons total your starting gravity will be ~20% more than mine. So you may need to calculate out some of the base extract to not have to high a starting OG. If that does’t make sense, email use through the contact page and I’ll give you a more detailed look at it.

    Two months is not necessary to have good drinkable beer. You can go ahead and brew and bottle when you normally would. I’d suggest holding a couple bottles and trying them in February, then you’ll see how the flavors really marry and blend over time. But I have pushed this beer through rather quickly in the past and it’ll be great either way.

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