Two of my cousins have been brewers for longer than I have. When I decided I wanted to try homebrewing it was likely inevitable that we would brew together at some point. During our first collaberation my cousin Greg proclaimed that, “they didn’t brew light or session beers!” at their brewery. That spring day in 2013 we brewed an imperial stout. As summer approached that proclimation got my wheels spinning.
Most summer beers are your typical cloudy, light bodied American Wheat style beers with some type of citrus like Samual Adams Summer Ale. I love Sam Summer, but I didn’t want to make a beer that there are ten thousand commercial examples of and all kind of taste the same. When I had Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ for the first time it was a revelation. It was the first time I had had a big, hoppy wheat beer.
That along with Greg’s inspiration was the basis for the original Summer of ’18. Almost all of our beer names are baseball themed, so the name Ruthain for our imperial beers was quite appropriate. Last year’s recipe included lots of malted wheat, unmalted (torrified) wheat, 2 pounds of corn sugar, and 6-row barley to help convert the starches in the unmalted wheat. For hops I used Cluster for the bittering to give it a bit of an American lawn mower beer pedigree, and Sterling for the finish and aroma. I also put in an obnoxious amount of fresh lemon zest. The yeast was some old Wyeast 1056. The “Chico strain” is the most widely used yeast by homebrewers and commercial brewers because it works in almost any American style ale. Every time you use yeast in a beer it multiplies. The more you reuse it the yeast can mutate, especially it it’s been used in boozy or hoppy beers which will stress the yeast. The yeast I used had seen better days.
The end product came in at around 8% alcohol by volume. It was a dry, harsh, and vaguely Belgian (likely from the Sterling hops). The beer sat for awhile, and like big beers do sometimes it improved over time. A big beer with lots of flavors and ingredients can be like a soup or a lasagna that gets better the longer it sits in the fridge. I still have a few bombers from last year and the one we opened on brew day was excellent.
For this year I wanted the beer to be a little more sessionable and not require two months of aging to be tolerable. I eliminated the corn sugar. It’s a cheap way to up the alcohol by volume, but can dry the beer out. I swapped out the Sterling hops for Crystal. The Crystal has a similar flavor, but isn’t as high in Alpha acids which give the beer bitterness. Its aroma is more aromatic and less assertive. That should make the beer less Belgiany. I added a touch of rye in honor of Andy and Greg who love brewing with rye. I also found it gave the Leinenkugel’s Canoe Paddler a bit of complexity.
When brewing fresh ingredients are always the best. You can find dried lemon peel at a homebrew shop, but if you zest fresh lemons the difference is noticeable. A zester or cheese grater will do the job for the lemon zest. Three to four lemons should be enough.
I’m using the same Vermont Ale yeast I used in the Subway Series Stout. The floccuation of the yeast is medium-low which means more of the yeast will float around in the beer as opposed to clumping and sinking to the bottom during fermentation. This yeast has high attenuation so it converts a high percentage of the fermentable sugars into alcohol, accentuating the hops in the process. For a hoppy American Wheat this should work perfectly.
Ruthian Series: Summer of ’18 Ale
American Wheat or Rye Beer
All Grain (5.00 gal) ABV: 6.72 %
OG: 1.061 SG: 1.059 FG: 1.010 SG
IBUs: 47.4 IBUs Color: 4.0 SRM
5 lb – Pale Malt (6 Row) US
Mash addition (43.5%) – 2.0 SRM
4 lb – White Wheat Malt
Mash addition (34.8%) – 2.4 SRM
2 lb – Wheat, Torrified
Mash addition (17.4%) – 1.7 SRM
8.0 oz – Rye, Flaked
Mash addition (4.3%) – 2.0 SRM
1.00 oz – Cluster Hops
Boil 60 min (29.4 IBUs)
1.00 oz – Cluster Hops
Boil 30 min (15.0 IBUs)
1.00 oz – Crystal Hops
Boil 10 min (2.9 IBUs)
1.50 oz – Lemon Zest
Boil 10 min
1.00 oz – Crystal Hops
Boil 0 min (0.0 IBUs)
The Yeast Bay # WLP4000
Our brew days typically consist of us brewing two batches; one batch will be my recipe, and one batch will be theirs. This time we did three batches. Andy and Greg did a Parti-gyle mash where they used the first runnings from the grain for a triple IPA, and the second runnings for a session IPA. They have a keg that they converted to a boil kettle (keggle) which can accomodate a full volume boil for a five or even ten gallon batch. They also have a cooler they fit with a stainless steel ball valve attached to a braided steel line for their mash tun. The cooler works great when you add your heated strike water to your grains and holds the mash temperture in place during the mash rest.
In the end the measured starting gravity was 1.055 at around 90F. Adjusting for the temperature that gets us to 1.059, almost where BeerSmith estimated. We also ended up with about 4.5 gallons of wort. I need to adjust the settings to accurately account for the evaporation during the boil.
I can brew full volume boil, all-grain batches with my cousins every couple months. This gives the brewer the most control over how the beer comes out and guarantees 100% hop utilization. Eventually I’ll have a similar setup, but I’m sure we’ll still be brewing together even then. We can share our beers, enjoy commercial beers together, and just hang out. We definitely hang out more now after we started brewing together. At it’s best drinking beer is a social experience best enjoyed with friends and loved ones, homebrewing is no different.