Friday, May 30, 2008

Top 10 Summer Home Brews.

So, what are the top ten home brewed beers that homebrewers enjoy the most on that hot summer day, lounging in the cool shade? Here is a list that I present to you in no specific order. And remember, this is what I think. I'm sure there are plenty more home brews that are great for the summer time that I haven't listed, I just think these are the most popular.

1. Witbier

You can't go wrong drinking a witbier (think Hoegaarden). It's a great, light bodied, thirst-quenching beer that showcases the coriander and bitter orange peel. Just for kicks you can add a slice or orange or lemon to it. Because of it's lighter abv you can drink plenty and drink often.

2. Hefeweizen

German wheat beers are great for the summer time. They usually have a heavy-hitting banana and clove flavor that rolls around in the mouth. Usually they have a lighter body to them and the great part with this beer is that if you keg you can literally be drinking this beer in one week! Drink it young and drink it fresh.

3. American Wheat/Fruit

Can't go wrong making a standard wheat beer and adding some us-05 to it in order to make a nice neutral wheat beer that you can add fruit to. A nice refreshing fruit wheat beer goes great on the front porch in the summer time.

4. Kolsch

A nice, light straw-colored beer that can resemble a standard pilsner, kolsch is a great beer to drink. It goes down smooth and has a very clean profile to it. Moderately hopped and finishing dry, this beer is a good thirst quencher in the summer time. Coming in around 4-5% abv, you can enjoy this one all day long. Serve cold.

5. American Pale Ale

Ahhhhh . . . the pale ale. Wonderful malt flavor backed with some heavy hop bitterness and flavoring, this is a fantastic beer for the summer or all year round. With a medium body and a slightly sweet finish, rounding out with some great citrus flavor and bitterness, this one is sure to please, especially after a day mowing the lawn.

6. California Common

Otherwise known as the "steam" beer. This style was created in . . . . hmmm . . . let me guess . . . California! Bingo. Basically a beer fermented at ale temperatures using a lager yeast. It has a lot of estery/fruity aromas and flavors, a nice bitter bite to it and a clean dry finish. It has a light to medium body and is usually a nice golden color. Makes for a great summer beer.

7. Saison

Saison means "season" in French. French brewers would usually take the second runnings from a beer and ferment that up into a very mild beer for the workers in the field. It was meant to quench the thirst but not get you inebriated. Traditionally, abv was 2-4% but now it can be seen as high as 8%. It has a very dry crisp finish and has some spicy notes to it from either the yeast or from some spices (usually coriander or seeds of paradise) adding during the boil. This one usually ferments above 80 degrees and sometimes can go beyond 90 degrees!

8. Cream Ale

Nothing like a cream ale for the summer. Nice, sweet corn like flavor that rounds out to a mellow malty flavor. Not hopped very high and has a good light to medium body. Sometimes has a slighty nutty flavor, too depending on the malt used.

9. Pilsner

You can't beat a good german pilsner in the summer time. A beautiful light golden color, high carbonation, decent spicy/floral hop aroma but virtually no hop bitterness, this is a fantastic beer for the summer time. It doesn't fill up the stomach and with a nice dry finish it leaves you wanting for more.

10. Ordinary Bitter

An English Pale ale, ordinary bitters are good to have on tap during the summer time. They can range in abv from 3.5-5.5%. Very malty beers which usually use Mariss Otter malt and have a nice dark amber to medium brown color. Hop bitterness is pronounced with some hop aroma and flavor, but not too much because it's the malt that sits at the front seat of the bus with this bear. Easy drinking and wonderfully delicious. If you haven't brewed one, try it out. Carbonation on this style is usually lower due to cask conditioning. Drink fresh and drink young!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Adding fruit to home brew?

Ok, so you went out and had a wonderfully delicious blueberry hefeweizen beer at your local microbrewery. You thoroughly enjoyed it and want to make it yourself. However, you've never experimented with adding fruit to your home brew and you have some questions. Enter: Homebrew Junkie.

When is the best time to add fruit to your home brew?

You want to add fruit in the secondary. Why? Well, if you add fruit to your primary fermenter, the aggressive nature of fermentation is going to blow off a lot of the natural fruit flavor you want to preserve in your home brew. You're best bet is to add it during secondary.

Do I sanitize/sterilize it?

No. If you are using fresh fruit I would recommend freezing it so it ruptures the cell walls ensuring they juices to flow more easily. I've never had any issue with adding straight frozen fruit to secondary. If you want, you can purchase some Oregon fruit puree and add that directly to secondary fermentation. It's already sterile. If you are really concerned you can add the fruit to some water and bring it up to 170 degree temperature for 15 min to pasteurize the fruit and kill off any bacteria. If you go beyond 170 then you run the risk of setting the pectins in the fruit and having a pectic haze.

How long should I wait?

Generally speaking, you want to wait at least a week before bottling or until fermentation is finished. I also recommend stirring up the fruit every other day with a sanitized spoon. For best results, allow the fruit to rest in the home brew for two weeks before bottling or kegging.

How much fruit should I use?

If you are brewing 5 gallons I would recommend at the minimum 3 lbs of fruit. I highly recommend using 1 lb of fruit per gallon of home brew, though for best results. Again, make sure you stir with a sanitized spoon. During secondary fermentation, and when you add fruit you are naturally going to restart another smaller fermentation. Don't worry, it's natural. The yeast just start chewing up the natural sugars in the fruit. Again, wait two weeks before you actually bottle or until fermentation is complete and you have a consistent reading on your hydrometer for three consecutive days. Bottle it up and enjoy!

Here's a recipe I brew up every summer:

Apricot Harvest Wit

6 lbs Briess Bavarian Wheat
1.5 oz saaz hops (45 min)
2 tsp crushed coriander (15 min)
.5 oz bitter orange peel(15 min)
1 can oregon fruit puree (added to secondary)