Homebrew Adventures: A Retrospective

Note: This is part two of a look at two homebrew recipes I’ve made. Click here for part one.

While the watermelon wheat I made this summer was great for that time of year, it’s only natural that fall brings about the perfect seasonal pairing of an apple-based beer. I talked to a friend about the idea this summer, thinking another form of “harvest” style beer might be good once the temperature drops and leaves start changing colors.

That was the goal when I set out to make a beer-cider hybrid, combining the malt and hops of extract brewing with the base of a homebrewed cider – apple juice. It’s a super-easy recipe that I’d argue is great for beginner homebrewers, like myself. It’s also been a hit with friends – and even The Missus – so it’s got that going for it.

So how did this mixture of ingredients turn out? Hit the jump to see.

An up-close look at the beer

The beauty of this recipe is that because it’s done through extract brewing, things are nice and simple. I used three pounds of extra pale liquid malt extract and steeped .75 pounds of honey malt. The key with his brew is the other two ingredients…

Apple juice
Because this is an extract brew, the juice takes over all the water you’d otherwise use to “top off” your batch. That is, after the initial two-to-three gallons are brewed you pour that into a fermentation vessel and pour water on top of it to bring it to the five(ish) gallons needed. In this instance, it’s just apple juice to add with the malty wort. It all creates a very sweet mixture.

I suppose you could use juice or cider and get somewhat varying characteristics. I bought three gallons of unfiltered juice from Whole Foods. Out of the bottle the juice was super sweet with lots of sediment on the bottom. I tried to keep the sediment out of the fermentation process, but some still fell in, joining the trub.

Hops
There were two ounces of hops used: one ounce of Northern Brewer and one ounce of Cascade. Both are mid-level alpha acid options, but using the full ounce of Northern Brewer and half ounce of Cascade as bittering hops at the start of the boil makes sure to give this brew a real bite for the first month or two after brew day. To offer context, that 1.5 ounces is almost the amount one might use as bittering hops for a five-gallon batch of pale ale or IPA, depending on recipe.

The other half once of Cascade was used at the end of the boil for aroma, but doesn’t really do much. Bottle conditioning for at least four weeks is a must.

Payoff
The beer has a wonderful smell of fresh apple, but none of the over-the-top sweetness you’d find in a lot of ciders. It’s a natural aroma. I’d be very curious to see what it’d be like if I added some cinnamon to the recipe. The hops counteract all this very well and offer a slight, bitter bite at the front as the beer-cider slowly balances it out with some sweet on the finish. Despite the lack of grains used, I got pretty good, foamy head out of each bottle and the retention was pretty great too.

I know many guys have a thing about drinking “Girly Beers,” but I can assure you this recipe struck a nice balance for any of our foolish gender-specific drinkers out there. (It’s cool for anyone to drink whatever they want – just do it responsibly) Plus, between the sugars of the juice and wort, I was able to get this brew to just a touch over 7 percent ABV, so it’s more manly than Budweiser but not quite Steel Reserve. Sorry, guys.

If you’re curious about further details of the recipe, here you go.

Beer-cider hybrid stats:

  • Malt: Extra pale LME
  • Hops: Northern Brewer and Cascade
  • Yeast: Safale US-5 for clean fermentation
  • Adjuncts: Apple juice, I guess
  • ABV: ~7 percent

5 Comments

Filed under homebrew

5 responses to “Homebrew Adventures: A Retrospective

  1. 7% is definitely respectable. I think you should have aged some in a used apple brandy barrel. You have room for a barrel-aging program, right?

    • Until I have the wondrous basement I crave, the only space for aging I have is in my liver. Even then, it only sticks around for an hour or so and will only take on light acidic notes and add some chewy fat mouthfeel.

      I mean, if you’re into that kind of thing.

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