Pectic enzyme is included in many of the wine recipes here on Home Brew Answers, it is an integral additive in the winemaker’s arsenal. Did you know it even has uses in beer making depending on what kind of beer you are brewing? When you see it included in a home brew recipe you may wonder why it is needed, that is what we are going to cover in this article.
What is Pectin?
Pectic enzyme or pectolase is a fairly common ingredient in the vast majority of fruit wines and fruit beers because many fruits contain pectin.
Pectin is a type of carbohydrate called a polysaccharide which helps maintain the structure of a plant or fruit. The effects of pectin as a gelling agent are most evident in things like jam making where pectin is the key ingredient to set a jam after being heated with sugar. If you don’t have enough pectin in your fruit when making a jam it won’t set and stays runny.
There are some fruits that have higher amounts of pectin, fruits such as pears, apples, plums gooseberries and citrus fruit have high amounts whilst softer fruits like strawberries, grapes and apricots have lower levels of pectin.
Pectin is important when you are cooking and want something to set or gel together but for the winemaker or brewer introducing fruit with high levels of pectin can be problematic for several reasons.
Pectins Effect On Wine or Beer
If you are making a fruit/vegetable wine or a beer with a lot of fruit in then you are introducing pectin to a liquid. If you don’t take preventative measures it’s highly likely there will be a permanent haze in the finished wine or beer. This can be fine in some styles of beer where haze is a natural occurrence but it is definitely not good for wine, I can’t think of any instances where a haze in a wine is acceptable.
The other problem caused by having pectin in your wine is that if you intend to filter the wine prior to bottling then it is very easy for the filter to get blocked and stop running at all.
Fortunately, it is easy to reduce the amount of pectin in your wine or beer using a pectic enzyme which is also referred to as pectolase.
Using pectic enzyme has the following effects:
It breaks down the fruit you are trying to extract juice and flavour from. After you pulp or mash a fruit pectin still acts as a structural member, using pectic enzyme breaks this structure getting more juice and flavour into the wine.
Prevents pectin forming a haze in the finished wine or beer.
Aids filtering should this be part of the process prior to packaging.
Using Pectic Enzyme / Pectolase
Pectic enzyme is a protein that works specifically to break down pectin. It is recommended you use this in almost all fruit wines you make, even commercial wine producers will add pectic enzyme as it aids juice extraction.
This is the reason why it is desirable to add pectolase before fermentation as you will produce a wine better colour, clarity and you will importantly extract more juice and flavour from the fruit you are using.
How Much To Add and When to Add Pectolase
The typical dosage for pectolase is 1tsp per gallon added directly to the wine “must” and stirred thoroughly before fermentation. If you forget to add it before fermentation you can add pectic enzyme later but you will have less juice extracted from the fruit. It will not inhibit yeast growth or activity if added later.
Elderflower wine has one of those flavours that is so distinct you cannot really compare it to anything else. That elusive floral bouquet seems to be amplified in a wine and the number of elderflower bushes in the UK makes it one of the most popular ingredients for wine making. Most people opt to make an elderflower champagne but in all honesty, I prefer an elderflower wine, the elderflowers really do fill the palate even without the bubbles.
Elderflowers have a unique flavour all of their own in most cases you either like it or you don’t. If you like something like an elderflower cordial or presse then this wine recipe really does showcase that distinct flavour and aroma.
As Elderflower bushes are so abundant around the UK finding and picking Elderflowers is your best option for making a wine.
One of the great benefits of elderflowers in the use of winemaking is the ease of harvesting. The flower heads grow in umbels so it is just a case of snipping the whole flower head at the base of the umbel. When harvesting the flowers I would recommend taking a few from each bush you encounter rather than taking all the flowers from each bush.
It should be noted that if you are picking your own Elderflowers that you are 100% certain you have correctly identified the plant as an elder bush. Once you spot a few bushes they are quite easy to identify using a field guide for confirmation.
When to Pick Elderflowers
Elderflowers will start appearing in early June so keep an eye out for them at this point. If they stay on the bush too long the flowers will start to go brown. You should be able to harvest some throughout June into July in most places in the UK.
When you go picking take a curved handled walking stick and you’ll be able to hook down branches to get some of the florets that are higher up on the bush.
To make a gallon of this wine you will need roughly 24 elderflower heads which should take you no time at all to pick. Any more than this and the wine can become a little too pungent.
Using Dried Elderflowers
You can make this wine with dried elderflowers should you not be able to pick your own. As they are dried you will need to use a lot less, check the details of the recipe down below for exact quantities.
Preparing The Elderflowers
When you pick the Elderflowers, give them a gentle shake to dislodge any debris or bugs before putting them in an open container, if you seal the container or bag the flowers will sweat and turn brown.
You can wash the flower heads whilst they are intact and this is recommended, especially, if you picked the flowers next to a bust road.
You will also need to strip the flowers from the stalks, they best way to accomplish this is once the flowers are picked and are dry grab a fork and comb the flowers from the stalks into a bowl. It’s a fairly simple process and will result in a much better wine.
What You’ll Need To Make Elderflower Wine – Makes 1 gallon / 4.5 litres
The equipment needed for this Elderflower wine recipe is fairly straightforward. You will need the following items
Fine Straining Bag / Sieve
Airlock & Bung
Elderflower Wine Ingredients
24 Elderflower heads, flowers removed from stalks or 20g Dried Elderflowers
1.4kg of Sugar
4 litres of Water
1 Campden tablet
1 tsp Yeast Nutrient
1 Sachet of Wine Yeast (Our recommendation is Lalvin 71B 1122)
Elderflower Wine Method
Remove the zest from the lemon taking care not to grate the white pith, add this to the sanitised fermenting bucket along with the Elderflowers.
Bring 4 litres of water to a boil and add the sugar to dissolve, pour over the flowers and the lemon zest. Allow to cool and add the Campden tablet, yeast nutrient and the juice of the lemon, leave for 24 hours.
After 24 hours pitch the yeast into the fermenter, allow the wine to ferment for at least 6 days until activity starts to slow down.
After the initial burst of fermentation activity pass the wine through a sieve or straining bag into a sanitised demijohn. It is probably easiest to accomplish by placing a funnel in the demijohn with a sieve or straining bag in it.
Let the Elderflower wine complete fermentation and condition in the demijohn for at least a 2 – 3 months, racking off the sediment as and when needed. Check this guide for more information.
Once cleared you may wish to stabilise the wine before bottling, this Elderflower wine is best sampled after around 6 months but will last well for a year or two.
Fermenting a beer with a lager yeast at ale temperatures. There are probably a few purists that will say the beer will end up a mess of off flavours and fusel alcohols. I have bent the rules however and done this very thing, fermented a lager yeast at 18°C and the result, is quite simply, a fantastic beer!
The term lager is not really appropriate to a beer fermented at ale temperatures. One of the most distinguishing features of lager is that it is matured in cold storage (store/storeroom is the literal translation of lager). The other defining feature of lager however, is the yeast strain used to ferment it. Ales are fermented with top fermenting yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and lagers are fermented with a different species of yeast (Saccharomyces pastorianus) which are bottom fermenting.
It’s safe to say a lager made at ale temperatures cannot be called a lager at all, it is a hybrid beer. Will it taste like a lager, though? Or will it taste like a complete mess? Depending on your recipe and the lager yeast strain you use, it can taste just like a lager, there may be some differences in a side by side comparison but you get a lot of the same characteristics as well as a delicious beer in its own right.
If you would prefer a more traditional lager recipe you will find my go to Pilsner recipe here.
Warm Temperature Lager Yeast Strains
When choosing a yeast strain to use you have to do a little research. If you look at the note released with each strain provided by the manufacturer you can easily find suitable lager yeast strains that can deal with higher temperatures without producing a lot of undesirable flavours. It should be noted, not all lager yeast strains are going to make a pleasant beer if you ferment them warm.
Every yeast lab will give you recommended fermenting temperatures for each yeast strain they produce. As an example take the dry yeast from Fermentis:
Saflager W-34/70, it states right on the front of the packet the recommended fermentation temperature range is between 9 – 22°C, this is something I only first noticed from a post on Brulosophy, the range does seem incredibly wide.
Wyeast 2124 Bohemian Lager is another yeast strain I have experimented with. Bohemian Lager, this is another yeast strain that has the detail we are looking for right in the notes from the lab;
A versatile strain, that is great to use with lagers or Pilsners for fermentations in the 45-55°F (8-12°C) range. It may also be used for Common beer production with fermentations at 65-68°F (18-20°C).
If you spend a little time looking up various yeast strains it is possible to find something you can use in an unconventional way. These two strains just go to show that yeast can be a very versatile ingredient of a beer recipe.
In the quote from Wyeast above, you may have noticed the term Common beer. This refers to an American lager beer style like California Common or Steam Beer. One notable example of a common is Anchor Steam Beer. The defining features of these American Lagers are that they are fermented with lager yeast strains at higher than usual temperatures.
This quote from the BJCP guidelines gives us an idea why these lagers are fermented warmer:
Large shallow open fermenters (coolships) were traditionally used to compensate for the absence of refrigeration and to take advantage of the cool ambient temperatures in the San Francisco Bay area. Fermented with a lager yeast, but one that was selected to thrive at the cool end of normal ale fermentation temperatures.
Common beers are usually fermented around 14 – 18°C, which, as you can see is just in the ballpark of an ale fermentation temperature. This makes the case for using lager yeast at warmer temperatures even stronger, one particular yeast strain that is synonymous with steam beer is WLP810 San Francisco Lager yeast from white labs. The recommended fermentation range for this yeast is between 15 – 18°C.
California Common is not a beer that is widely produced in the UK, I’m not too sure why this is but there are many hundreds of examples brewed in the US that the British drinker may be familiar with, the previously mentioned Anchor Steam and Flying Dog Amber Lager are a couple of examples.
Designing A Warm Fermented Lager Recipe
Now we know there are some lager yeast strains that can turn out a beer when fermented warm then we can think of how to make a beer around them. I decided that there was not much point in following any particular style guidelines for this kind of beer. You could, of course, follow a particular lager recipe if you wanted.
I know that I wanted a beer that was light in colour like a pilsner but also that uses ingredients that were closer to home just like the early California Common brewers would do.
It’s for this reason I have chosen a grain bill made up of 50% Pilsner malt and 50% Extra Pale Maris Otter. Extra pale Maris Otter is a grain I’ve been using a lot recently and it provides some of the character of Maris Otter we all know while lending itself to lighter coloured beers.
The hops are a combination of Perle from Germany and a classic hop variety for lagers alongside East Kent Golding to give the lager an earthy and floral note.
The yeast strain in this beer is the most important part of the recipe. I chose Saflager W-34/70 and held the fermentation temperature at 18°C, there was plenty of sulphur notes coming from the fermenter on the nose but not very much at all, if any, in the taste when the beer was bottled. Whether you agree with me or not this yeast strain has made a delicious lager and I am in the process of experimenting a little more with these “common” style beers.
Maris Otter EP Lager - Dortmunder Export
Batch Size: 18.000 L
Boil Size: 21.000 L
Boil Time: 60.000 min
Bitterness: 22.3 IBUs (Tinseth)
Color: 6 SRM (Morey)
Name Type Amount Mashed Late Yield Color
Pale Malt, Maris Otter Grain 2.300 kg Yes No 82% 6 L
Pilsner (2 Row) UK Grain 2.300 kg Yes No 78% 2 L
Total grain: 4.600 kg
Name Alpha Amount Use Time Form IBU
Perle 8.0% 20.000 g Boil 60.000 min Leaf 17.9
Perle 8.0% 10.000 g Boil 10.000 min Leaf 3.2
Golding 5.0% 10.000 g Boil 5.000 min Leaf 1.1
Name Type Form Amount Stage
Saflager Lager Lager Dry 11.000 mL Primary
Name Type Amount Temp Target Time
Mash In Infusion 11.960 L 73.092 C 65.556 C 75.000 min
Final Batch Sparge Infusion 11.031 L 87.450 C 75.556 C 15.000 min
Rhubarb Wine is actually a vegetable wine, although, rhubarb is the vegetable that is almost always used like you would a fruit. The sharp tartness is a great quality that really shines through in a country wine so this rhubarb wine recipe is a definite winner.
Most people will be familiar with rhubarb in the form of rhubarb Crumble. Plenty of sugar helps to restrain the acidity and tartness of the rhubarb. If you like the taste of rhubarb then you’ll be pleased to know the flavour comes through in the finished wine.
The reason why rhubarb is so tart is because the stems contain an excess amount of oxalic acid. This is also the reason why some people have an aversion to rhubarb. Too much oxalic acid is bad for wine yeast and may result in poor fermentation so we will take this into account when preparing the recipe.
Reducing the amount of acid is a fairly simple process of making a small addition of chalk which causes a reaction and reduces the acidity in the wine. Apart from this one small step the process is the same as almost any country wine recipe.
It should be noted that rhubarb leaves should not be used in wine or eaten. The levels of oxalic acid are far too high and can in fact be poisonous (you would have to eat a lot for it to be problematic). The stems are perfectly edible and can be used in wine. Rhubarb is always sold without leaves so it’s only really an issue if you are picking your own rhubarb..
Using Rhubarb In A Wine
Rhubarb has two crops in a year, the first crop is forced rhubarb and is grown earlier in the year, around January to February. The stems and leaves are grown under pots and the result is a pale pink stem that is more delicately flavoured and tender.
The second crop of rubarb is grown outside and arrives late March until June, the resulting crop is slightly hardier darker in colour and contains more oxalic acid than the forced rhubarb. This stronger flavour may be less desirable to cook with but is still great to make wine with.
Later in the season some rhubarb stems can become a bit tough and stringy which makes these stems less desirable to eat but still fantastic to make wine with. If you grow rhubarb yourself then consider using the larger and tougher stems to make a wine.
What You’ll Need To Make Rhubarb Wine – Makes 1 gallon / 4.5 litres
The equipment you’ll need to make this rhubarb wine is fairly straightforward if you’ve made wine before you may have everything you need:
Fine Straining Bag
Airlock & Bung
Rhubarb Wine Recipe Ingredients
1.5kg – 2kg of Rhubarb Stalks
250g Chopped Raisins
1/4 tsp Wine Tannin
1/2 tsp Pectic Enzyme
1 tsp Yeast Nutrient
1 Campden Tablet
1 tsp Calcium Carbonate (Precipitated Chalk)
Rhubarb Wine Method
In a clean and sanitised fermentation bucket add the rhubarb stalks cut up into inch pieces and chopped raisins to a straining bag. Break up the rhubarb slightly with the end of a rolling pin, just enough to split the stalks, you don’t need to completely mash them.
In a pan combine the sugar with 1.9 litres of water and bring to the boil. Once boiling turn off the heat and pour over the ingredients in the straining bag. When the mixture is cool add the campden tablet, stir thoroughly and let stand for 48 hours.
After 48 hours lift out the straining bag and squeeze out the juice. Into the remaining liquid add 1/4 tsp of Calcium Carbonate (Precipitated Chalk) every 30 minutes stirring thoroughly. The mixture will fizz as the chalk reacts with the oxalic acid.
After this step add the pectic enzyme, stir and leave for 24 hours.
After 24 hours add the tannin along with the yeast nutrient, mix thoroughly and then sprinkle the yeast on the surface of the must.
Is It Possible To Go From Grain To Glass In 10 Days?
Brewing a quick turnaround beer or a “fast” beer is entirely possible and something I have done before in a pinch. Today we will look at some of the factors to take note of brewing a beer quickly.
You have just gone to get a bottle of home brew from the fridge, there are only a couple left. You check the keg you started a few weeks back and there is only a few pints left. Pretty soon you’ll be all out of beer. If you brew fairly regularly then you may have had the experience of getting caught out in a position like this. What you need is a home brew that has a quick turnaround. From grain to glass in as short of a period as possible. You want to get the fridge stocked and a keg filled.
Of course taking your time with each batch of beer is likely to yield the best results in the long term. There are ways, however, of making good beer that don’t require lot’s of time to be ready. It is a case of thinking about the way beer conditions and ages and then building your recipe around this.
How To Brew Quick Turnaround Beers
The length of time it takes for a beer to be ready is variable. A lot of factors can make affect the time from grain to glass. Trying to compress this period to get a beer ready to drink requires a little bit of thought.
There are definitely beer styles that you won’t be able to brew quickly and you can take off the list. High gravity beers and sour beers require a lot of time fermenting and conditioning to be contenders for a quick turnaround beer. The same applies to lagers which take much longer to ferment at low temperatures than ales fermented at warmer temperatures (although commercial brewers even turn lager out quickly).
Now we have excluded a few beer styles it gives us a bit more direction on what we should be looking to brew. A beer that has a low starting gravity will ferment quicker than a high gravity beer and a quick fermenting ale yeast to shorten the time it takes to get to final gravity.
The Importance of Yeast For Brewing Beers Quickly
When brewing any beer the biggest chunk of time from the brewday to getting the beer kegged or bottled is the fermentation and conditioning period. If you can shorten this phase of making the beer then the turnaround will be much quicker.
This fermentation and conditioning phase is all down to the yeast and the environment they have in the wort you produce. Producing a wort that has ideal conditions and pitching the right amount of healthy, viable yeast cells will mean they can ferment the wort and produce less undesirable flavours during the process. Reusing yeast from a previous batch is an ideal way to pitch enough yeast.
Choosing A “Fast” Yeast Strain
Selecting a yeast strain to ferment a beer quickly means you need to look for certain traits. The best strains will likely have the following characteristics:
High attenuation – High attenuation means the yeast will ferment out to a low final gravity and usually in a timely fashion
Highly flocculant – High flocculation will result in the yeast dropping out of suspension quickly so once fermentation is complete the beer clears a lot quicker. Although wheat beer strains are an exception
Tolerates higher fermentation temperatures – If you can ferment a beer warmer, around 22°C for example, the yeast will attenuate out much faster than at 18°C. Optimal ranges for yeast are always listed on the package, at these higher end of these optimal ranges the yeast will ferment quicker without producing undesirable compounds such as higher alcohols and phenols.
Picking yeast strains with these traits will usually result in faster fermenting beers and beers that condition a lot quicker than usual.
Utilising Bold & Strong Flavours
“Fast” brewed beers can suffer from being “green”. In other words, most beers take a little time for the flavours and byproducts created during fermentation to even out and round off. This is why we want to choose a yeast strain that limits the production of byproducts that will affect the taste of the beer.
Conditioning the beer for a period of a few weeks to allow the flavour to round out really isn’t an option if you want to brew a beer quickly and be drinking it in around 10 days. If however we make a lower alcohol, bold flavoured beer any potential undesirable flavours can be overwhelmed so you don’t notice their presence. Clean tasting or subtle beers are usually best avoided for quick to brew beers.
Choosing roasted grains and caramel malts with bags of flavour will fill the palate when you drink it, the same is true of using bold, fruity and citrusy hops. When you fill a beer with flavour any undesirable flavours that are a consequence of short brewing times get disguided.
A Couple of Examples
Make a 4% ABV Stout and the dominant flavour you are going to taste straight from the fermenter is toasty, roasty, chocolate and toffee notes. Big bold flavours will always shine.
A Session Pale Ale of around 3.8% with bags of hops added at the end of the boil. The main flavour will be these aroma hops even before the beer has been carbonated the flavours fill the mouth
A 3.2% Mild although being a really low ABV has complex malt driven flavour. Mild are a definite contender for being one of the best fast to brew beers.
A 4.5% wheat beer although it uses simple fairly neutral tasting ingredients has one of the boldest tasting yeast strains. Wheat beers are also hazy by nature so flocculation of the yeast isn’t really a concern.
Packaging & Carbonating Your Beer
A truly quick beer will need to be kegged and force carbonated, a process that will take far less time than bottling and waiting for the beer to carbonate over a week or two. Once the beer is racked into a keg you can add CO2 immediately by either shaking the keg or if you have one using a carbonation stone. This will easily carbonate the beer within 24 hours and you can start pouring straight away.
If you have no other option than to bottle the beer, you will have to wait at least a week to achieve any kind of carbonation. The process can be sped along a little by holding the bottles at around 26°C for 3 – 4 days. This is how many commercial breweries bottle condition beers by using warm rooms. After a few days, you can let the bottles condition at normal temperature and check the carbonation by opening a bottle. Once carbonated the bottles can be chilled and served as and when needed.
As you may or may not be aware, there is now a shop here on Home Brew Answers primarily selling small batch malt extract beer kits. When I initially setup this website the whole point was to get more people brewing. When I tell people I brew they are always interested. It’s not always the easiest hobby to explain in a conversation so Home Brew Answers is where I try to direct people.
The first article I published here was “How To Make A Beer Kit”. It is still one of the most popular pages here. It seemed pretty obvious that I should do something to try and make beer kits a little bit better than the old “Kit and Kilo” (beer kits that rely on plain sugar) type of brewing kits that new brewers start out with.
That is why I chose to make all the core small batch beer kits in the range using malt extract, plus steeped grains, hops and quality dried yeast.
Why Malt Extract Beer Kits?
Malt extract is a great way to make beer and that’s why we have chosen it for the core beer kits in our range. The quality of malt extracts available today is a lot better than a few years ago, plus the range of malt extracts mean you can brew a large range of beers without having to compromise or be limited on which styles to brew.
When we set about designing our malt extract beer kits the primary goal was to brew beers with maximum flavour, clean tasting with no undesirable characters. If we couldn’t do that using malt extract, we wouldn’t use it at all.
What Is Malt Extract?
All of our beer kits currently use dried malt extract. You can get both liquid malt extract (LME) or dry malt extract (DME). The beauty of dry malt extract is its stability is a lot better than LME which can pick up flavours in storage and dried extract is far easier to handle and package in the correct quantities.
The way any malt extract is made, is in a brewery. We use Muntons malt extract who have a commercial brewing facility. They take malted barley and add it to a vessel called a mash tun to convert the starches in the malt to sugar, a process called the mash. This is exactly what pretty much every commercial brewery in the world does to make a beer. The grain is separated from the liquid which is now called wort. After this the wort is boiled exactly the same as a commercial brewery would do. At this point, however, the wort is concentrated by boiling to create a syrup which is liquid malt extract or, alternatively, dried completely by spraying the wort into a heated chamber to make a powder which is dry malt extract.
Malt extract beer kits are just one step away from brewing beer like a commercial brewery would.
Malt Extract Beer Kits Are A Lot More Consistent
This process means one step of brewing is completed by a commercial brewery. The product we use, malt extract, is consistent every single time. It will produce the same results and therefore using it in a beer kit means you can consistently create the same beer no matter who brews it.
We spend a lot of time brewing and re-brewing each beer before it gets made into a beer kit to sell on Home Brew Answers. You could say we are well versed in what you can and cannot do with malt extract beers. The thing is there are far too many benefits to brewing with extract to not develop beers using it. If you have ever made one of our extract beer kits you’ll know just how easy it is to use.
First of all utilising malt extract as a base for our beers means you the brewer get a consistent result. All grain brewing has a lot of variables to control which impact the final beer, by removing the mash and using malt extract our beer kits are a lot more consistent when you are starting out, meaning you get a better tasting beer.
Secondly brewing a malt extract beer kit require less equipment and smaller size vessels than brewing an all grain beer. We want anyone to be able to brew and for it to be as accessible as possible meaning the cost to get started brewing is lower
Adding Special Malts To Our Beer Kits Builds Flavour
We use malt extract as a base for our beer kits. On top of this, we select grains for each of our recipes that add layers of flavour, colour and body. These speciality grains are steeped before the malt extract is added, the steeping extracts complex flavours and colours.
It’s these speciality malts that allow us to brew a stout that is almost black in colour and also a very light pale ale, both these beers use the same malt extract but 90% of the malt flavour comes from steeping these special malts.
Using a combination of malt extract and steeping grains gives you the best of both worlds, it makes brewing a lot quicker and simpler but also enables you to create complex and unique flavours and beer styles. Plus this method it so much more adaptable than pretty much every other beer kit on the market.
What’s Next For Home Brew Answers Beer Kits?
The range of beer kits is slowly expanding, there are plans for more beer kits in different styles. Each one we release is brewed multiple times and tweaked to get it just right so this process takes time. Eventually, we want to offer a wide range of beer styles and unique seasonal beer kits too.
All Grain Beer Kits
At the same time as developing more extract kits, we are shortly going to be releasing small batch all grain beer kits. These are going to make the same amount of beer, 8 litres, which will use primarily all the same equipment as the extract beer kits.
All grain beer kits will open up the possibilities of which beer recipes we can create so the possibilities will be almost limitless. We have already developed a German Weissbier and a New England IPA that are ready to go.
Any Suggestions / Feedback
If you have any suggestions on the sort of beer styles, types of beer kits or just anything you would like to see available in the shop please drop a comment below or email. Cheers
As a home brewer there is nothing quite as exciting as the weather warming up and the thought of all the beers you are going to make with the intention of sitting out in the garden, on the beach or the backyard and sipping on something thirst quenching. A pale and light beer.
We are talking lawnmower beers, which is an American phrase I am particularly fond of. The idea is to have a highly quaffable beer that’s perfect for drinking after a day working in the sun. In this recipe, I’m calling it a Blonde Ale, sometimes I call it a Summer Ale and other times even a Pale Ale, I’m not all that interested in categorising.
I have the vision of a beer that is all about being drunk outdoors. I live by the beach so as soon as the sun arrives here in Cornwall I’m thinking about making the most of it a taking a picnic and more importantly a few beers. Drinking beer in this sort of environment calls for something easy drinking and refreshing, not a hop bomb or a dark beer.
A Bit About Blonde Ale
Blonde Ale is technically an American beer style although you could say the beer style is just as common in the UK. The intention is to brew something crisp, refreshing and a beer that is a close reflection of a Lager or Pilsner. Blonde Ales are a little bit tricky to define more than that, it would seem to be an attempt more than anything else to brew a pale beer that will appeal to people who usually drink lager. I like to think of them more than that though I think they are a beer to encapsulate a feeling, mood or even a season.
Blonde Ale Recipe
I come up with the recipe using the hops I had available and those just happened to be nice traditional varieties suited to lighter beers and lagers, Bobek and Perle. I want flavour from them though, more so than a typical Lager will deliver so the aroma additions are bigger and later.
The yeast I chose was Safale S-04, although this was more a case of having that around, the beer would be good with Safale US-05 although slightly less fruity. If you choose a liquid yeast a Kolsch yeast would be a good choice or for more flavour an English strain.
The malt bill is primarily Pilsner malt with a little dab of Maris Otter and Vienna for a maltier backbone than 100% Pilsner malt and a little bit of Carapils to aid head retention.
This Blonde Ale is a combination of everything I try to aim for when brewing a beer. The first thing is trying to keep everything as simple as possible.
What I mean by keeping things simple is to only add what is necessary to achieve what you are aiming for in terms of flavour, colour and body. There is no point having 7 types of malt when 2 or 3 will do, the same with hops.
The second thing about this Blonde Ale is using up what you have. My advice is always use the freshest ingredients. If you have leftover ingredients stored away, try and use them as soon as possible. The last thing you want to do is have to throw away beer ingredients because they go stale or deteriorate.
Summer Blonde Ale
Batch Size: 19.000 L
Boil Size: 22.000 L
Boil Time: 60.000 min
Bitterness: 31.4 IBUs (Tinseth)
Color: 4 SRM (Morey)
Name Type Amount Mashed Late Yield Color
Pilsner (2 Row) Ger Grain 3.400 kg Yes No 81% 2 L
Maris Otter UK Grain 500.000 g Yes No 78% 3 L
Cara-Pils/Dextrine Grain 120.000 g Yes No 72% 2 L
Total grain: 4.020 kg
Name Alpha Amount Use Time Form IBU
Perle 7.0% 30.000 g Boil 60.000 min Leaf 23.8
Saaz (Czech Republic) 4.5% 30.000 g Boil 15.000 min Leaf 7.6
Saaz (Czech Republic) 4.5% 15.000 g Aroma 0.000 s Leaf 0.0
Perle 7.0% 15.000 g Aroma 0.000 s Leaf 0.0
Name Type Form Amount Stage
Safale S-05 Ale Dry 11.000 mL Primary
Name Type Amount Temp Target Time
Conversion Infusion 11.256 L 77.000 C 66.000 C 60.000 min
Final Batch Sparge Infusion 15.106 L 82.000 C 75.000 C 15.000 min
The beer turned out pretty clear with a lot of floral notes from the late addition hops. It has an almost tangerine quality and a very gentle maltiness. This beer like most of my beers now was bottled. Although bottling beer can be a chore the beauty is they can be taken out and that as I explained earlier is the purpose of this beer.
A new trend has emerged in the world of home brewing, the rise of the “One Gallon Brewer”.
It had to happen sooner or later, it is obvious to see that not everyone is going to want 5 gallons of beer at a time. It’s a large barrier of entry to invest both the time and money in producing 5 gallon batches in a hobby that should be easy to get started in.
Why The Small Batches?
I am a fan of making smaller batches, I’ve written a fair bit about why, here and here. I am pretty sure that if I started home brewing again today I would be looking at brewing one gallon brews or at least smaller batches than 5 gallons. To start with there is a lot less space and cost in getting all the equipment you need together. I am a fairly cost conscious person and to see that you can get started brewing small one gallon batches for less than £100 including the cost of the ingredients for your first batch is much more desirable than spending, say, £300 up to £600 or more to brew 5 gallon batches.
I believe it is also due to the way modern craft beer is marketed that has drawn home brewers to one gallon beer making. A lot of the marketing and branding of craft brewers focusses on the fact that small batch is better than macro brewing. Small breweries put more care, craft and thought behind producing their beers than big brewing corporations. It might not necessarily be true but it does emphasise the point that smaller is better somehow.
This is also reflected in the kind of people who choose to start with one gallon beer kits. Like craft beer, which has a younger, more mixed audience than more traditional real ales and beers one gallon brewers seem to be younger with more women getting involved. There is a lot more coverage by sites like The Kitchn whose audience is more mixed than one of the many home brew forums. This is great for home brewing as a hobby. A YouGov poll shows around 75% of people in the UK, interested in home brewing are male and I have to say I thought this percentage was going to be close to 90%.
One gallon brewing seems to be attracting a new demographic to home brewing. You don’t have to be exiled in the shed, garage or even just outside to make a one gallon beer. You brew in the kitchen standing by the hob just like you would if you were cooking a meal or baking a cake.
Baking is a hobby that seems to get increasingly popular every time “The Great British Bake Off” come on television. I’ve seen comments on social media asking for a home brewing equivalent, the problem is though, watching someone brew a beer is a lot less interesting than watching people make cakes. The point is, though, by making brewing more like cooking it will appeal to much wider range of people. One gallon beer making has the power to do that because it is exactly like cooking.
Start One Gallon Beer Making
Now that I’ve just gone on about one gallon brewing and how accessible it is I guess I should explain the best way to get started. What is the best method to go from knowing nothing about brewing to knocking out your first one gallon batch?
I know I may have a vested interest in this but I created these beer recipe kits to make them as easy as possible and use a minimal amount of equipment. Technically they are not one gallon kits they actually make 1.75 gallons of beer. This is because they are malt extract you can squeeze out a little extra beer from the same size brew pot as you would need to make one gallon of all grain beer. The 0.75 extra gallons of beer is a bonus.
All of the beer kits you see here are based on recipes I have brewed many times, tweaked and perfected so I can guarantee they make great tasting beer. This is the perfect way to go from knowing nothing about brewing to brewing a beer that will be much better than any tinned beer kit you can get at the home brew shop.
If you do want to dabble with a one gallon all grain batch though I have luckily written a few guides to show you what can be done with only a tiny amount of equipment.
Take a look at one of the guides above and you can see just how simple brewing small batch beers can be. It can be the foundation you need to get started home brewing and then progress onwards to making larger batches. A lot of new brewers will skip straight to 5 gallon batches immediately and then find actually perfecting the process of brewing is a little trickier when you end up with 40 bottles of home brew to store and eventually drink after each batch.
One Gallon Beer Recipes
The great thing about beer recipes is they are easy to modify to your needs. Pretty much all beer recipes published on the internet are formulated to make somewhere around 5 gallons. I have written a guide on scaling beer recipes here but it pretty simple so to scale a beer recipe just do the following:
Scaling a beer recipe by volume is easy. Take all of the ingredients in the recipe, this will include each type of grain, hop, yeast, spice, fruit or other flavourings listed. Divide by the volume listed for the recipe and then multiply by the volume you intend to brew. It’s that simple.
As an example If a 21 litre recipe calls for 3.5kg of Maris Otter and you intend to brew 15 litres simply do the following:
3.5 / 21 * 15 = 2.5 – so you would need 2.5kg of Maris Otter for the recipe.
You then work through each type of grain listed in the recipe to get the amounts used for each type and do exactly the same for each addition of hops as well as the amount of yeast to pitch and any other ingredients.
If you want to scale a 5 gallon beer recipe to brew a one gallon beer recipe take each of the ingredients and divide by 5. That is all you need to do to get the amount of each ingredient in your one gallon beer.
One Gallon At A Time
There may be some of you reading this who think brewing one gallon at a time is not enough. I usually make small batches when experimenting with something new. I don’t want to devote a whole keg or bottle 21 litres of experimental beer. If I like something enough after a small batch I can use it as a pilot and then scale up to a bigger batch so I know I’ll have some beer that is just how I want it ready to go.
Is one gallon brewing or one gallon beer kits going to make home brewing more popular? I hope so. It seems people are generally losing interest in home brewing compared to a few years ago, anything to rejuvenate the hobby is welcome in my book.
I spent last weekend brewing an all grain beer in the kitchen, using the minimum of equipment and I can tell you, it was the most relaxed brewday I think I ever had. It wasn’t by any means a demanding beer to brew, just a small batch of easy drinking German wheat beer. Rather than spending a day in the shed or outside (it was raining) I brewed in the kitchen on the stove watching the rain run down the window.
All the equipment I used would have fit into a space smaller than the cupboard under your kitchen sink. The batch size was a modest 9 litres, around 18 bottles. The ingredients cost £7.00 for everything, malt, hops and yeast. This has got to be the easiest way to get into all grain brewing, right?
When you first start all grain brewing you follow the advice of buying a 30 litre boiler or brewpot and burner, a mash tun that can hold up to 8 kilos of grain plus 20 litres of water, immersion chillers, sanitary valves and fittings. It’s quite a big barrier of entry and probably the reason why most brewers never start brewing all grain beers from the first batch.
I mentioned this quite recently, brewing can be as complicated or as simple as you want to make it. I like to try and simplify as much of the brewing process as possible because I find there is less to worry about when making a beer. I don’t want to be rushing around trying to deal with lots of stuff happening at the same time, I prefer to relax and concentrate on making the best beer I can with the minimum steps necessary for that particular type of beer.
Smaller Can Be Better
It’s clear if you want to minimise the amount of equipment you have, or the amount of space you want to dedicate to brewing then you will be limited to making smaller batches. If the amount of space you have is limited, for example, if you live in a small flat/apartment then the setup we will go into below is a great place to start.
The other great thing about smaller batches is you can brew more often without having lots of beer piling up. If you are brewing 20 – 25 litres at a time you are going to have a big surplus of beer if you are brewing more than a few times a month, even if you are giving your beer away. A smaller batch around 8 – 10 litres means you could brew every week and have multiple beer styles ready to drink at all times without having a cases of beer all over the house.
Brewing more often gives you that practice that we all need in order to improve. The more often you do anything the better you get at it. The same principle applies brewing beer, smaller batches more often means you hone your skills and develop your craft. I have written about smaller batches before so check out that article for more of the virtues of small batch beers.
The Basic Brewing Gear You’ll Need
To brew all grain beers you’ll need to have the ability to mash your grains, sparge, boil wort, cool it and ferment the beer. In larger batches it makes sense to have separate vessels and chillers to do these things, and these are largest and costliest pieces of equipment to get started all grain brewing.
Brewing smaller batches means you can get away with a small brewpot of around 12 -15 litres which you will be able to heat on the stove, a mashing bag and a fermenter. This is what I use to make small batch beers and everything fits in a kitchen cupboard. I put the fermenter inside the brew pot and tuck it away.
So, you’ll need the following equipment for small batch all grain brewing:
12 litre Brew Pot
12 litre Fermenter
You will of course need items like a thermometer, hydrometer and airlock but all these items are inexpensive and take up hardly any space.
Small Batch All Grain Brewing Process
Step 1: Put 6 litres of water in your stock pot and begin heating to strike temperature of 72°C. Put your grain bag in the pot and fold the opening over rim of the pot.
Step 2: Ensuring you are at 72°C turn off the heat. Pour the grain into pot and stir thoroughly to ensure there are no dry spots in the grain and everything is well soaked. Take the temperature again it should be around 65°C
Step 3: Put the lid on and leave for an hour. Make a cup of tea, watch TV, read a book all you need to do is maintain the temperature between 62°C and 69°C. Check every now and again and apply heat if necessary.
Step 4: Towards the end of the hour, heat another 6 litres of water to 80°C and put in the fermenting bucket. If you don’t have another pot big enough use a big pan and the kettle and add 4 litres of boiling water to 2 litres of cold water this will give you a temperature around 70-80°C.
Step 1: After the hour has elapsed carefully lift up the grain bag from the stock pot and allow as much as possible to drain back into the pot. Once you have drained thoroughly without squeezing the bag gently lower the bag into the fermenting bucket full of water. Again tuck the opening around the rim and stir the grains thoroughly again.
Step 2: Leave for 15 minutes.
Step 3: Lift the grain bag once more and allow to drain as much as possible. Put this to one side I would suggest in a bowl to catch any extra drips. Now carefully pour the contents of the fermenting bucket into the stock pot. Begin bringing to the boil slowly.
Step 1: Now that it is boiling it’s time to add the hops. Again be careful the hops will add to the foaming so make sure it’s under control before putting them in.
Step 2: Keep boiling for 60 minutes adding hops when indicated on your beer recipe.
Step 4: Remove from the heat and begin cooling. The easiest ways to do this is place the pot in a cold water bath in the sink and replenish the cold water as the heat transfers.
Step 5: This cooling should take 30 or 40 minutes to get to around 20°C. It is now time to pour the beer into your sterilised fermenting bucket. Make sure you’re on the correct temperature ready to pitch the yeast. This will be written on the tube or packet. Pour it straight in the beer.
Step 6: Fit the lid on the fermenting bucket and fit the airlock in the hole with a small amount of water in.
Step 1: Leave for 2 weeks.
Step 2: All activity in the fermenting vessel should have finished. There should be no bubbles emerging from the airlock. If there is still activity then stay patient and wait a few more days.
Step 3: Package or bottle as normal.
The Cheapest & Simplest Way To Start All Grain Brewing
As you can see the process is pretty simple. I find that making small batches like this takes around 3 hours and then however long it takes to let the beer chill for. It’s a lot quicker than brewing 20 litres batches.
The beauty of brewing small batches like this is you can make pretty much any recipe you find. As you are all grain brewing there are no grains you cannot use and you can even do step mashes if you wish because the mash tun can be heated directly.
Brewing big beers like this Barley Wine recipe is always a bit more of a challenge and more interesting than the regular old “house beer” that we grow accustomed to brewing time and time again.
These heavy, high alcohol beers develop over time and you should be brewing something like this barley wine to store away and just have a bottle every now and again. On special occasions and when friends or family come around it’s nice to have something a little different to showcase your brewing skills.
There is a lot of examples of Double IPAs that seem to be increasingly popular at the moment and the thing with those beers is they need drinking fresh to get the most from the hops. The Barley wine we have here though needs time and rather than being a showcase for hops is a showcase for malt and how those flavours evolve with time.
English Barley Wine Recipe
The first thing you may notice about brewing a Barley Wine is the amount of alcohol. This is why I decided to ramp up some yeast by making a smaller beer in the first instance and then using the yeast slurry from that fermentation for the Barley Wine. This is not entirely necessary of course you may want to just use a couple of packages of yeast which will have a similar effect of pitching a higher cell count. I am brewing a smaller beer anyway so it makes sense for me just to reuse the yeast.
This will be more than enough to ensure a good fermentation of a higher ABV beer like this Barley Wine. I have talked about reusing yeast before so if you’re wondering what’s involved take a look at this post – Reusing Yeast.
What I Want In A Barley Wine
Generally speaking, a Barley Wine is a very strong bitter in many aspects. Barley Wine is a bit more special than a strong bitter because of the malt bill being beefed up so much you end up with richer, deeper and more complex malt flavours and this is what I want to really shine through in my version.
Flavor: Very rich and strongly malty, often with a caramel-like aroma. May have moderate to strong fruitiness, often with a dried-fruit character. English hop aroma may range from mild to assertive. Alcohol aromatics may be low to moderate. The intensity of these aromatics often subsides with age. The aroma may have a rich character including bready, toasty, toffee, molasses, and/or treacle notes. Aged versions may have a sherry-like quality, possibly vinous or port-like aromatics, and generally more muted malt aromas. Low to no diacetyl.
Mouthfeel: Full-bodied and chewy, with a velvety, luscious texture (although the body may decline with long conditioning). A smooth warmth from aged alcohol should be present. Carbonation may be low to moderate, depending on age and conditioning.
Ingredients: Well-modified pale malt should form the backbone of the grist, with judicious amounts of caramel malts. Dark malts should be used with great restraint, if at all, as most of the color arises from a lengthy boil. English hops such as Northdown, Target, East Kent Goldings and Fuggles. Characterful English yeast.
The Barley Wine Recipe
Now with the above in mind I have come up with my own take on a Barley Wine and like pretty much all my recipes I have gone pretty simple, when I look at recipes that contain a whole array of malts, sometimes in such small quantities I can’t really tell what they are going to add I tend to move on. I think allowing each ingredient to speak for itself is what makes a good beer.
Barley Wine - English Barleywine
Batch Size: 19 L
Boil Size: 23.4 L
Boil Time: 60.000 min
Bitterness: 50.0 IBUs (Tinseth)
Color: 26 SRM (Morey)
Name Type Amount Mashed Late Yield Color
Pale Malt, Maris Otter Grain 8.800 kg Yes No 82% 6 L
Caramel/Crystal Malt - 80L Grain 500.000 g Yes No 74% 158 L
Brown Sugar, Dark Sugar 700.000 g No No 100% 50 L
Total grain: 10.000 kg
Name Alpha Amount Use Time Form IBU
Target 11.0% 60.000 g Boil 60.000 min Leaf 39.4
Goldings, East Kent 5.0% 20.000 g Boil 30.000 min Leaf 4.6
Goldings, East Kent 5.0% 40.000 g Boil 15.000 min Leaf 5.9
Name Type Form Amount Stage
Safale S-04 Ale Dry 22.000 g Primary
Name Type Amount Temp Target Time
Infusion 18.000 L 76.546 C 65.000 C 60.000 min
Final Batch Sparge Infusion 16.000 L 89.137 C 74.000 C 15.000 min
Barley Wine Specifics
Now as you can see there is an addition of dark brown sugar. I am aiming to get those sherry and liquorice like flavours from this addition and also add a bit of colour. Add this in toward the end of the boil to aid hop utilisation.
The hops are simple and are there to balance, I want my Barley Wine to be rich and malty rather than bitter. The IBU is around 50 which may seem high but remember that because of the amount of malt (and thus higher alcohol) the bitterness will not be the same as 50 IBU is in a pale ale.
I should be ready to brew this soon. As soon as my smaller beer is out of primary I will be able to reuse the yeast and get this going. Bear in mind this Barley Wine is going to need considerable time fermenting and then conditioning we are talking about a month in secondary and then at least 8-12 months conditioning in bottles. You could, of course, sample a bottle every now and then in between this time to give yourself an idea of the way the beer is ageing in the bottle.