Homebrewing by the Seasons

Ever wonder why you have a subconscious thirst for a full bodied beer when there’s snow on the ground? Or how about a beer that offers a certain level of refreshing crispness when you’re at the picnic table for a 4th of July party?  Perhaps you’re at a renaissance fair on a cool fall day and you have your palate is craving a brew that’s malty instead of hoppy.  Beer Brewing kits can quell these cravings and provide a fun, rewarding way to put your own stamp on brewing beer at home.
Most seasonal home brewing recipes offer obvious generic names to stand out amongst other recipes.  Names such as “Winter Lager” and “Summer Ale” come to mind.  While these recipes are, in their own rite, still very satisfying beers, there are many more recipes for home brews that coincide with the seasons.  To enjoy these beers during the season in which they are designed for it is recommended that you give ample time for preparation and fermentation.  Starting the process during the prior month of its consumption is the typical practice. (For example, to enjoy a summer beer in the summer, start the process during spring.)
 

Winter Style Beers

Winter style beers are typically brewed to yield high percentages of alcohol to get you through the cold winter months.  The colors usually range between light brown and black.
Scotch Ale– Scotch Ales are considered a fairly strong beer with colors ranging from amber to light brown. They tend to be sweet and full bodied with a pronounced malty caramel and roasted malt flavor. They can typically yield an ABV% ranging between 6-11.
Winter Warmers– Winter Warmers are the typical winter beers.  Most commercial winter lagers are modeled in the Winter Warmer fashion.  They tend to rely heavily on a malty sweet presence rather than a hoppy bitterness.  Winter warmers can typically yield an ABV% ranging between 6 and 9 and their colors range from reddish-brown to pitch black.
 

Spring Style Beers

Spring style beers begin to transition from the heavier, darker beers into beers that emphasize wheat flavoring.  They offer a myriad of characteristics including beers that are citrusy, cloudy, crisp and refreshing.
Bocks– Bocks are common spring beers that offer medium to full bodied profiles, but no roast flavor.  They tend to favor more of a malty influence with low levels of hop bitterness.  They are generally brown to dark red in color, but bock variants such as Maibock can come in a golden color.  Transitioning from the stronger winter beers, the Bock’s ABV% ranges between 5.5 and 7.5.
American Blond Ales– Blond Ales offer pale yellow to deep gold colors. It is an all malt brew, with most showing a level of subdued fruitiness. Hop character is of the noble variety, or similar, leaving a light to medium bitterness. A balanced beer, light bodied and sometimes lager like.  Blonde Ales generally hold a ABV% between 4-7.
 

Summer Style Beers

Summer style beers are brewed to be relatively pale, light, crisp and relying heavily on wheat elements and citrus nodes that are smooth and pleasing to the palate.
Saison– Saisons are traditionally brewed in the winter, to be enjoyed throughout summer. It is a French beer in origin but has a strong following in the United States.  Saisons typically are fruity in aroma and flavor resembling a wheat beer and brewed with heavy amounts of spice to build a mild tartness.  The typical “summer ale” is modeled off of Saison Variants.  They tend to be semi-dry with many only having touch of sweetness.  The ABV% of Saison beers range between 5 and 8.
Kolsch– Light to medium in body with a very pale to clear color, hop bitterness is medium to slightly assertive. Some versions of Kolsch are considered to be very similar to pilsners.  ABV% ranges from 4-6.
 

Fall Style Beers

Fall style beers, typically varieties of ales, are brewed to transition back into the cooler fall months.  They generally rely on malty, spicy elements to provide a beer that is sweeter than it is bitter.
Pumpkin Ale– The Pumpkin Ale is quite varied and can sometimes be referred to as a variant of Harvest Ales.  Flavorings can come from actual hand cut pumpkins to pumpkin purees.   These beers also tend to contain ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice. Pumpkin Ales are typically malty, with a spicy aftertaste due to the combination of the “pumpkin pie spices.”  The ABV% of Pumpkin Ales range between 4 and 7.
Marzen/Oktoberfest– The prototypical fall beer, Marzenbier is full-bodied, rich, toasty, typically dark copper in color with a medium to high alcohol content.  The common Marzenbier contains roughly 5-6% ABV and has a mild hop profile relying mostly on a malty influence to blend its robust flavor.

Beer Brewing: Understanding the Various Types of Brews


It is likely you have come across hundreds, maybe thousands of different beers in your lifetime, all with a special taste and unique history. The differentiation between the third most popular drink in the world starts with the beer brewing process. The two main types of beer are lager and ales, which are characterized by the type of yeast used in the fermentation process.  There are endless types of ales and lagers, as well as specialty beers that all can be brewed from the comfort of your own home with a home beer brewing kit. It is important to understand the difference between these types of beer, especially in homebrewing.
Ales: Typically served at “cellar temperature” (not too cool, around 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit), ales are more complex and full-bodied in flavor than lagers.  When brewing ale, the yeast tends to gather at the surface of the fermentation tank for the first couple of days prior to settling at the bottom.  Ale brewing must be done in warmer temperatures, between 60 and 72 degrees, which allow the yeast to multiply. Ales are usually more complex, robust, and flavorful, with higher alcohol content than lagers. After fermentation, ales are aged for a few weeks at 40 to 50 degrees.  The types of ales are many, and because of the fact that they are quicker and easier to brew than lagers, they’re great choices for home beer brewing!
Barley Wine: Despite its name, barley wine is a type of ale beer that has been around since 1903. In brewing barley wine, there is not a difference in the grain, but the quantity of grain packed into the brew.  There is around double the grain in barley than in pale ale, and more than double the grain than in a pilsner. A barley wine is boiled longer than other beers, which causes the sugar to caramelize which intensifies the color and the taste.
Pale Ale: The British are responsible for this improvement in brewing expertise, discovering that using coal instead of wood in a kiln would cause beer to amber colored and clearer than pervious British ales. Many pale ale brewers find the type of water to be the most important element in making this type of beer. They often try and chemically treat the water to make it identical to the naturally occurring water from the original brewery in England. Pale malt is naturally used to make this understated and woody brew, and some mixtures have small amounts of crystal in them.
Indian Pale Ale: In the 1700’s, several British service men and citizens resided  in India as part of the colonial rule and did not have access to British ale, which led to the creation of IPA. To protect this brew from high temperatures and motion of the British ships, generous amounts of hops were added which are responsible for its high alcohol content.  When the British occupation of India was over, the popularity of IPA grew due to a shipwreck off the coast of England. The barrels were recovered from the ocean and sold in England, which soon were high in demand because of the atypical amount of hops in the ale. The beer also has a bit of crystal malt to sweeten it up, with a golden amber body.
Porter: Porters were very popular before the creation of pale ale, and declined in consumption because of the Prohibition in the U.S. and the beer tax in Britain. Porters are very dark in appearance, with touches of roasted grains, chocolate, coffee, toffee, and licorice. This brew uses traditional English hops and is thin and mild to the taste.
Stout: This creamy brew is black in appearance, with a thick and creamy flavor. Stout is typically brewed at higher gravities than most beers because of its high density. Stout is made with black unmalted barley and specialty grains, adding non-fermentable sugars, which is responsible for the thickness.  It can be brewed with coffee, oatmeal, or milk sugar to add aroma and uniqueness.
Lagers: Lagers are smooth and crisp in taste and when serving, the colder the beer the better. In brewing a lager, the yeast sinks to the bottom of the fermentation tank instantaneously, which is why it is known at bottom fermenting. Lagers are brewed successfully at cooler temperatures, typically between 46 and 55 degrees. Light and dry are adjectives that classically describe lagers, which are the most frequent type of beer sold in the United States. Lagers have higher alcohol content than ales and are aged for longer and at cooler temperatures, on average between 32 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. There are various different types of Lagers, which are the most popular type of brew sold in the United States today.
Bock: In brewing a bock, ingredients aren’t the only important element. Decoction, a German style of heating mash, taking out parts of it, boiling those parts and then returning it to the mash is practiced when making this rick, malty beer. Munich malt contributes to a bocks deep color, and yeasts with low congealing tendencies are used so they can survive in the high gravity liquids that come from mashing the grains.
Oktoberfest: In 1872, Spaten brewer Josef Sedlmayr made a beer comparable to the Vienna lager that was a hit during the first Oktoberfest in Munich, which is now known as Oktoberfest brew or Maerzen brew. Oktoberfest is undoubtedly German and is made with Pilsner as the base malt, and Vienna or Munich malt. The hopping in this brew is classically light and uses yeast that doesn’t result in a dry beer. Oktoberfest should be malty but not nutty, with a light brown flavorful body.
Pilsner: Commanding more than half of the beer market internationally, Pilsner is undoubtedly the most admired style of beer and is brewed all over the world. Pilsner’s are made with lightly kilned malted barley and Noble Saaz hops that create a fresh and simple beer. This brew has a light grain flavor that allows for a refreshingly clean and cool beer.