Spring Rites

The maple sap started running late but in the end it was a pretty good season. I put up over a gallon of syrup (just enough for a year’s household use), gave away a few gallons of straight sap, and brewed 4 different batches with more sap.  One was a mead, one was the Oktoberfest in the last post. Today I present the latest pair, a Canadian-style Golden Ale and a Scotch Ale. Both are richer and more full-bodied because of the sap used in the mash. Both also have a smoky, woody flavor.

Maple Leaf Golden Ale
5 gallons, all grain


  • 7 lbs. Maris Otter 2-row pale malt
  • 2 lbs. 30°L crystal malt
  • 1 pint maple syrup
  • 1-1/2 oz. whole Chinook hops (home grown)
  • 1/2 oz. whole Cluster hops (home grown)
  • 1/8 oz. whole Hallertauer hops (home grown)
  • White Labs Australian Ale yeast (WLP009)
  • 1/2 cup corn sugar and
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup for priming

Boil 5 gallons maple sap down to 12 quarts. Cool down (or heat up) to 165°F. Crush grains, dough in and hold 60 minutes at 154°F. Heat 15 quarts water to 170°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 25 quarts sweet wort. Add 1 pint maple syrup to kettle, bring to a boil. Add Chinook hops, boil 15 minutes. Add Cluster hops, boil 40 minutes. Add Hallertauer hops, boil 5 minutes and turn off heat. Remove hops, chill to 80°F and pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Take a hydrometer reading, pitch yeast and seal fermenter. Ferment warmish (68 – 70°F) for ten days. Rack to secondary, age cooler (60°F) for ten to twelve days. Prime with corn sugar and maple syrup, bottle and condition for three to four weeks.

OG: 1080
IBU’s: 55 (a guess, as I don’t have alpha ratings for my own hops…)

Note on maple: if you don’t have maple sap, mash in water to which you you have added a cup of real maple syrup. Don’t use maple-flavored corn syrup!

Note on yeast: The Australian yeast is very similar to the basic neutral yeasts used in many American pale ales and Golden ales as well as one of the better known Canadian ale breweries. It produces a malty, clean-tasting beer and ferments equally well at warmer and cooler temperatures.

Vermont Highland Ale
5 gallons, all grain


  • 7 lbs. Maris Otter 2-row pale malt
  • 3-1/2 lbs. Weyermann Abbey malt
  • 1 lb. 60°L crystal malt
  • 6 oz. Cara-Belge malt
  • 6 oz. British amber malt
  • 4 oz. dark Munich malt
  • 1 oz. peated malt
  • 1 oz. Styrian Goldings hop pellets (@4.5% aa)
  • 1 oz. Fuggles hop pellets (@4% aa)
  • White Labs Edinburgh Ale Yeast (WLP028)
  • White Labs Kölsch yeast (WLP029)
  • 2/3 cup corn sugar for priming

Boil 7.5 gallons maple sap down to 16 quarts. Cool down (or heat up) to 167°F. Crush grains, dough in and hold 60 minutes at 155°F. Heat 15 quarts of water to 170°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 24 quarts sweet wort. Boil 30 minutes without any hops. Add Styrian Goldings, boil 30 minutes. Add Fuggles, boil another 30 minutes (60 total with hops, 90 overall). Remove from heat, chill to 80°F and take a hydrometer reading. Pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeasts, seal and ferment cool (58 – 60°F) for two weeks. Rack to secondary, condition cooler (50°F) for three to four weeks. Prime with corn sugar, bottle and age at 45 – 50°F for six weeks minimum.

OG: 1092
IBU’s: 28

Note on sap: Again, if you do not have sap you can mash with water to which you have added syrup – 1/2 to 3/4 cup for this brew.
Note on wort: I took the first 4 quarts of runoff and started it boiling immediately. The extra boiling time caramelizes the sugars and develops additional dextrines to help the beer become more full-bodied.

Note on yeast: The Edinburgh yeast imparts the classic malty/caramel notes of a Scotch Ale but does not always attenuate enough to dry this beer out. The Kölsch yeast will tolerate a little higher alcohol level so will help to finish this beer to a medium sweet profile instead of a cloying, heavy beer.

Note on bottle conditioning: I am brewing this beer in April to enter into a competition in July, but I am not sure if it will be ready – it will be finished and bottled, and certainly drinkable, but will probably be much better in November at St. Andrew’s Day… This is a strong beer that needs a long cool aging period to mature and smooth out.

Are You Really Putting That In Your Beer?

It started off innocently enough. I have a tremendous 8-month old Belgian Golden Tripel that I am rationing, hoping to still have some left when it’s two years old or more. But I like Belgian Golden ales well enough that I decided to brew another one, this one not as strong but just as flavorful. As I pictured how it might taste, an evil thought crept into my mind: What if you added… No, my mind said, you can’t. That would ruin it. The evil thought insisted: But just imagine… No! Make it straight, you know you’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t come out…

So I went back to my original plan, I wasn’t going to add anything. Or was I? I decided to leave it to fate. If at the last minute, as I was brewing, the evil thought came back to me, I would see what I could do…

Long story short, I did it. I put a couple of secret ingredients into the boil as “aroma hops”… I will not divulge the exact nature of what I added until I am sure I like it (a couple months down the road…), and maybe I will not even notice them, maybe I didn’t add enough… maybe I will decide to add more as “dry hops” in the secondary… but at least I’ll know, and I will have tried something different.

Basilique, Belgian Golden Ale with herbs

5 gallons, all-grain


  • 8 lbs. Belgian pale malt
  • 1 lb. cara-Belge malt
  • 1 lb. malted wheat
  • 1 oz. Perle hop pellets (6% aa)
  • 1 oz. Saaz hop pellets (4% aa)
  • small pinch each of 2 secret ingredients…
  • White Labs Belgian Golden Ale yeast (WLP570)
  • 2/3 cup corn sugar (for priming)

Procedure: Crush grains. Heat 14 quarts water to 162°F. Mash in grains, hold at 152°F for 75 minutes. Heat another 14 quarts water to 170°F, begin runoff and sparge. Collect 26 quarts sweet wort. Bring to a boil, add Perle hops, boil 30 minutes. Add Saaz hops, boil another 28 minutes. Add small pinch of first secret ingredient, boil 2 more minutes (60 total). Remove from heat, add small pinch of second secret ingredient. Steep 5 minutes then chill to 80°F. Take a hydrometer reading, pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast, seal and ferment 8 to 10 days warm (65 – 68°F). Rack to secondary, age two to three weeks cool (50 – 55°F). Prime with corn sugar and bottle, condition cool for four to six weeks.

OG: 1055

IBU’s: 35.1

Secret Ingredients: don’t worry, nothing illegal going on here. Common kitchen herbs, I am just reluctant to share the recipe until I have tasted it! Even a Guru gets to have some secrets… I will let you all know what I used when I know if it worked or not – stay tuned!

Variation On A Theme

There was a time, early on in my brewing career, when I used to make up beer recipes based on a name or an image. Instead of following a style, a traditional recipe, etc., I would get a name in my head, a great name, and then try to match a beer to it. I used to dream like this about great names for bands too, thus proving some kind of serious geek-hood…

Anyway, once in a while it worked out. I once looked at a calendar and noted that, right around my birthday, Germanic Pagans celebrated the feast of Mjollnir, Thor’s Hammer. This seemed so cool to me that I had to come up with a beer. It had to be strong, of Norse inspiration, bright golden in color… I brewed what I guess must have been sort of strong Kölsch (nowadays it would probably be labeled “Imperial”…), and it was amazing. I lost the original recipe, which was a partial-mash & extract beer, and never really revisited it until last fall. I attempted to re-brew it from memory, with great success, this time as an all-grain recipe. Several people tried it, and almost unanimously declared it one of the best beers they had ever tasted. All modesty aside, I kinda liked it too…

So with my recent run of really good lagers, the thought bubbled up from somewhere that Mjollnir the Ale could have a twin brother, Mjollnir the Lager. And that is what I brewed today, and coincidentally it should be ready in time for the Feast of Mjollnir in May. Using exactly the same grain bill and hops, same mash time and temp, same boil schedule, changing only the yeast, I hope for similar excellent results.

Mjollnir, Strong Scandinavian Lager
5 gallons, all-grain


  • 6 lbs. lager malt
  • 3 lbs. light Munich malt
  • 1/2 lb. cara-Hell malt
  • 1 lb. carapils malt
  • 8.3 AAU’s Perle hop pellets (1 oz.)
  • 5.1 AAU’s Tettnang hop pellets (1 oz.)
  • 3 AAU’s Hallertau hop pellets (1 oz.)
  • White Labs Copenhagen Lager yeast (WLP850)
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar (for priming)

Crush grains. Heat 14 quarts water to 160°F. Mash in crushed grains, hold at 150 – 152°F for 90 minutes. Heat 15 quarts water to 170°F. Begin runoff, sparge, collecting 27 quarts sweet wort. Bring to a boil, add Perle pellets. Boil 30 minutes, add Tettnang pellets. Boil another 15 minutes, add Hallertau pellets. Boil 15 more minutes (60 total), remove from heat and chill to 80°F. Take a hydrometer reading, pour wort into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast, seal and ferment at 60 – 65°F for ten days or until fermentation slows down to a bubble per minute or thereabouts. Rack to secondary, age cool to cold (38 – 45°F) for three weeks. Prime with corn sugar, bottle and condition three to four weeks.

OG: 1062
IBU’s: 52

Note on style: There’s no real style to which to compare this – I made it up. No, really.

Note on glassware: Among my hundreds of beer glasses, I have a glass horn (like the one in the old Carlsberg commercials) which will be my glass of choice for this beer. I also have an old steer’s horn that I cut and cleaned, from which I will occasionally drink my mead. I acquired a really ugly faux-pewter horn-shaped mug at a flea market, but it’s not much fun to drink from…  I also have a reproduction of an ancient mead cup – it’s made without feet or a flat bottom, just a rounded semi-conical shape that can’t be set down when full – the idea being that your enemy can’t poison your mead if you never set it down anywhere. The only thing wrong with the cup is that it’s is made from recycled electrical transformer glass – so it’s a bright cobalt blue…