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Style of the Week: October Beers!

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October 16, 2015 by fhsteinbart


Here we see a typical Old Ale served in a traditional Brandy Snifter style glass.

Here we see a typical Old Ale served in a traditional Brandy Snifter style glass.

Generally speaking the beers of October are not a style per se, but rather a group of beers that were brewed before refrigeration when the weather permitted fermentation to recommence in the fall.  These beers were generally speaking stronger, darker, hoppier, roastier, toastier, and more alcoholic.  While most of these beers were used as blending beers some were kept and sold as aged beers which we today would call old ales.  Most commonly names for these beers have the word “old” in them, such as Old Ebenezer, Gale’s Prize Old Ale, Theakston’s Old Peculiar, or Avery’s Old Jubilation. Often called winter warmers these beers possess a balanced bitterness to gravity ratio and sit somewhere between standard strength beers and barley wines.  When made for the holidays spices were frequently used to enhance the flavor, aroma, and palate profile to go with the seasonal offerings of rich foods.  Whether you choose to use spices or not, the beer should have a pleasing balance between hop bitterness and residual malt extract and sufficient alcoholic strength to allow for multiple pints of this warming and pleasing beer style.  Below is an example of spiced holiday ale that I created that gives a nice balance of the malt and hops while hiding the evident alcoholic strength with spices which can be omitted if you so choose in order to make a more traditional winter warmer.

Extract:

  • 9 lbs. Light DME
  • ¾ lb. Crystal 120
  • ¼ lb. Black Patent Malt
  • 2 oz. Goldings Hops (Bittering)
  • 2 oz. Willamette or Fuggles Hops (Flavor)
  • 2 oz. Czech Saaz Hops (Aroma)
  • ¼ oz. Calcium Chloride in the boil
  • 1~2 Tbs. Pumpkin Pie Spice (Optional)
  • Wyeast 1968, White labs WLP002, Imperial Pub, or Safale S-04 Dry Yeast

Instructions:

  • Heat ¾ gallons of water to 155°F.
  • Turn off heat and add steeping grains, and steep for 20 minutes.
  • Remove the steeping grains, adding the malt extract and stirring until fully dissolved, then add water to volume.
  • Return to heat, bring to boil for 10 min. then add bittering hops. (Goldings, 60 min).
  • At 20 minutes remaining in the boil, add the flavor hops.
  • At 15 minutes remaining in the boil, add a Whirfloc tablet.
  • At the end of the boil, add the aroma hops, and the spices (optional).
  • After boil has finished, turn off heat and cool wort by placing kettle in an ice bath or use a wort chiller. (0 min)
  • Add mixture to fermenter, removing hops, and bring total volume to 5 gallons using non-distilled bottled water or filtered tap water.
  • Aerate unfermented wort (shaking works well).
  • Pitch yeast and ferment at 68° F until completed (about a week).
  • Allow to age an additional four to six weeks before packaging up as usual.

All Grain:

  • 12½ lbs. Pale Ale Malt
  • ¾ lb. Crystal 120
  • ¼ lb. Black Patent Malt
  • 2 oz. Goldings Hops (Bittering)
  • 2 oz. Willamette or Fuggles Hops (Flavor)
  • 2 oz. Czech Saaz Hops (Aroma)
  • 1~2 Tbs. Pumpkin Pie Spice (Optional)
  • ¼ oz. Calcium Chloride in the mash and in the boil
  • Wyeast 1968, White labs WLP002, Imperial Pub, or Safale S-04 Dry Yeast

Procedure:

Infusion mash at 152°F for 1 hour. Sparge to 6.5 gallons of wort, and bring to a roiling boil. Add the bittering hops 10 minutes into the boil. Add the flavor hops at 20 minutes remaining in the boil. Continue boiling for 10 more minutes, then add a Whirlfloc tablet or Irish moss. At the end of the boil, add the aroma hops and cool the mixture by placing kettle in an ice bath or using a wort chiller. Add mixture to fermenter, removing hops, and aerate unfermented wort (shaking works well). Pitch yeast and ferment at 68°F. Gravity may vary depending on system efficiency, so adjust accordingly.

Package up as usual; bottled versions should use 100 gms. corn sugar (approx. ¾ cup), or kegged to 18 psig, and allow two weeks to come into condition. Serve at 55°~60°F in a Brandy snifter mug, share, and enjoy! This beer will continue to evolve and change over the coming months, so make enough to last you through your next brew.

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2 thoughts on “Style of the Week: October Beers!

  1. terence says:

    Hi.
    I have been thinking of making a holiday beer, too. My plan is to make a spiced porter, flavored with cinnamon and sweet orange peel. As I read through your recipe directions, I did not see when to add the pumpkin pie spice. That makes me wonder, when do you suggest adding spices? For your recipe? And others?
    I am unsure if there is a best time. Boil? Flameout? Fermentation?
    Thanks for writing this column. I enjoy getting the recipes.
    Terence

    Like

    • fhsteinbart says:

      Excellent questions Terence! I usually and customarily add spices at flameout, and also when I rack from 1° to 2° just before packaging. I find that the dual addition gives more flavor when done late in the boil, and more aroma when done late in fermentation. This prevents those precious volatile compounds we enjoy in our spices from evaporating away in the case of the hot side, or scrubbed out from carbon dioxide formation in fermentation. As with all things your results may vary, as there’s all sorts of things I can’t account for, like ambient temperature, barometric air pressure, kettle and fermentor geometry (height vs. width), and yeast viability/vitality. If you have further questions, please feel free to ask here, or at the store, we’re all here to help you make the best beer that you can possibly make!

      Like

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