By Chris Conway
A new year means new targets. Maybe that means trying to finally medal at a homebrew competition. Or perhaps that means brewing more frequently. Or even just finally taking the plunge into this amazing hobby! In all these cases, the new year can be a great time to go back to basics to see where you’ve come and where you can go.
The most back to basics we can get is by looking at how we can improve our usage of the four main brewing ingredients and how we keep track of them. So let’s start!
- Know Your Water
Ground water is different in almost every city across Canada and the different mineral concentrations found in the water can drastically affect the overall perception of your beer. Make a goal of learning what your water offers and what it’s missing. But, first and foremost, consider filtering your water to remove chlorine. No matter the source, this is often a quick way to improve your beer quality.
- Malt Matters
While using generic two-row barley is fine for many styles of beer, often it’s worth considering your base malt as a key component of your recipe. If you’re brewing something English, rely on a lovely Marris Otter or Perle malt to do some lifting you might expect from a caramel malt. If brewing German or Belgian-sourced styles, Pilsner malt will greatly enchase the brightness of those beers.
- Buy more Hops
Dry hopping rates in many great American breweries are skyrocketing and trying to emulate the latest hop bomb they produce requires a lot of hops. Some breweries are hopping as high as five pounds per barrel, which ends up as around 20 g/L or 2.5 oz/gallon. Yikes! Look into club bulk buys and vacuum seal (often members at bulk buys will share) larger hop quantities to save on hop costs.
- Pitch more Yeast
Yeast pitching rates are key to making quality beer. Not enough yeast is one of the major reasons beer ends up under-attenuated and with unpleasant off-flavours. Always lean on the side of too much yeast, rather that too little. If you cannot do a yeast starter (or better a stir plate starter) for liquid yeast, don’t be afraid (or ashamed!) to use dry yeast which often has higher cell counts.
- Keep Better Records
Brewdays, especially with friends, often can be a bit blurry once the mash has started. Make up a simple sheet that you can record times for the mash and boil as well as gravity and pH readings at set times. And when you try the beer, be sure to write up notes. That way, this time next year you’re not wishing you had kept better track of that amazing ESB you brewed two years ago.
So we can focus on our basics, let’s brew a super classic all pilsner malt saison using dry yeast and French hops. This is a simple beer that is a good check to see how your techniques have evolved over the last year. Or it’s also a great easy first all-grain beer!
All Pilsner Malt Saison Using Dry Yeast and French Hops
SPECS (FOR A 20L BATCH AT 70% EFFICIENCY)
OG = 1.062 (13.5 °P), SRM = 3, FG = 1.010 (2.0 °P), ABV = 6.2%, IBU = 30
VOLUMES AND TIMES
Mash Volume = 14L, Mash Strike = 74C, Mash Rest = 60 Minutes at 66C
Sparge Volume = 16L, Sparge Temperature = 77C
Boil Volume = 24L, Boil Duration = 60 Minutes
Filtered water, if you have soft water add 1 g CaSO4 (Gypsum) and 1 g CaCl to the mash.
5.5 kg (12 lbs) Weyermann Pilsner Malt
20 g (0.7 oz) German Magnum – First Wort Hop (Before Adding Wort to Kettle)
42 g (1.5 oz) French Strisselspalt – Flameout/Whirlpool (After turning off Kettle)
YEAST AND FERMENTATION
Lalamond Belle Saison is a good option. Pitch one pack and ferment warm (22-24 C) for two weeks. Once terminal gravity is achieved, bottle or keg as per usual, targeting slightly higher carbonation.
Chris Conway is the co-head brewer at Folly Brewpub in Toronto. Follow along Taps Homebrew for more articles on beer styles, brewing techniques, and profiles and recipes from homebrewers across the country.