Liquid Bread

I believe it was Trappist monks who first referred to beer as liquid bread – as a drinkable nutritious substitute for baked loaves when some kind of fasting was in order. The theory also has been put forward that the first loaves of bread, way back at the dawn of civilization, were merely beer starters, holding yeast and fermentables in a dry form. In both cases, the underlying idea is that there is much in common between beer and bread – similar ingredients (grains, sugars, yeast), similar process (fermentation happens to a certain degree in rising bread dough), similar artisan/craftsman approach (in the best cases), and of course a large body of people making their own at home.

Like making bread, sometimes you use a recipe and sometimes you throw together whatever you have on hand. Today I sort of cleaned out the grain cupboard, looking to use up some leftover malts before they went stale. Only a few more brews before I take a couple weeks off from beer to concentrate on cyder. Based on immediate results, I might do this one again – what a beautiful deep golden color, and the aroma is amazing. I got to use up some of my 2010 hops as well, making room in the freezer for the 2011 crop which promises to be pretty good.

Amber Waves IPA
5 gallons, all-grain


  • 5 lbs. 2-row pale malt
  • 2 lbs. malted rye
  • 3 lbs. malted wheat
  • 1 lb. flaked oats
  • 1/2 lb. 30°L crystal malt
  • 1/2 oz. whole Cascade hops (home-grown)
  • 1/2 oz. whole Cluster hops (home-grown)
  • 1-1/2 oz. whole Chinook hops (home-grown)
  • 1 oz. Centennial hop pellets (@8.7% aa)
  • 1/2 oz. whole Nugget hops (home-grown)
  • White Labs American Ale Yeast blend (WLP060)
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar (for priming)

Procedure: Crush grains. Heat 15 quarts water to 164°F. Mash in grains, hold 90 minutes at 152°F. Heat another 14 quarts water to 170°F. Place Cascade, Cluster and Chinook hops in a muslin bag in the kettle. Begin runoff onto the hops, and sparge, collect 27 quarts sweet wort. Remove hops and bring wort to boiling. Add Centennial hops, boil 60 minutes. Add Nugget hops (in a muslin bag), remove kettle from heat and steep 15 minutes. Remove Nugget hops, chill to 80°F. Take a hydrometer reading and pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast, seal and ferment eight to ten days at 70°F. Rack to secondary, condition cooler (55 – 60°F) for three to four weeks. Prime with corn sugar and bottle. Age cool (45 – 50°F) for three to four weeks.

OG: 1061
IBU’s: because most of the hops used were my own home-grown (untested), and because the majority were either “first wort” hops or dry hops, It’s virtually impossible to estimate the IBU’s of this beer. At a guess, I would say it’s probably around 85 – 90…

Note on grains: Nothing says “bread” like a mixture of wheat, barley, rye and oats. The rye is hard to mill, and the oats need to be added at the top of the mash to avoid a badly gummed-up runoff. I was tempted to use a baker’s yeast to ferment this, but couldn’t bring myself to go that far…

And now for something a little different…

I really have no idea when or how the idea for this beer came to me. I lived with it for a long time before finally deciding I’d better brew it or go mad… With some perspective, it’s really not that weird or unusual a beer, just not on a logical radar screen…

I’ve decided recently that I am just not a big fan of wheat beers, especially true-to-style hefeweizens. I can certainly appreciate a well-made one like the one my friend Ben gave me the other day. I do like a good Belgian Witbier from time to time, and I can appreciate a wheat-based lambic or other fruit beer. But the banana/clove/bubble gum aromas and flavors of the typical weizen or weissbier just don’t do it for me. I do feel the need to brew with wheat, however, and will on occasion make what I call an “American Wheat Beer” – which is basically a Pale Ale with a substantial percentage of wheat in the mash, hopped like a West Coast ale, and using a neutral (i.e. non-fruity) ale yeast. But this one is even less like a Hefeweizen. It’s amber to reddish, with some nice roasty notes, substantial hop bitterness but little aroma, and I decided to use an Irish ale yeast just to mix things up… It will be on the light side in terms of body and alcohol, so it will be a summer beer, but because of the color and malt flavors I expect it should still be my kind of beer…

Amber Waves Red Wheat Ale

5 gallons, all-grain


  • 4 lbs. lager malt
  • 2 lbs. dark wheat malt
  • 1 lb. light wheat malt
  • 1/2 lb. 120°L crystal malt
  • 1 oz. roasted barley
  • 1 oz. Styrian Goldings hop pellets (@ 7.0% aa)
  • 1 oz. Cascades hop pellets (@ 7.3% aa)
  • White Labs Irish Ale yeast (WLP004)
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar (for priming)

Procedure: Crush grains. Heat 14 quarts water to 165°F. Mash in grains and hold at 154°F for 60 minutes. Heat another 14 quarts to 170°F, begin runoff and sparge. Collect 26 quarts sweet wort. Bring to boil, add Styrian Goldings hops. Boil 75 minutes, add Cascades hops. Boil 15 more minutes (90 total), remove from heat. Chill to 80°F, take hydrometer reading. Pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Add yeast, seal and ferment at 70°F for 8 – 10 days. Rack to secondary, age 10 – 14 days at 65°F. Prime with corn sugar, bottle and condition 10 – 14 days.

OG: 1050

IBU’s: 40.6

Notes on style: There are none, as this is something I made up. Well, there are dark wheat beers and amber ales with wheat in them, but not like mine… I expect this will be like a medium-bodied “amber ale”, whatever that is, with a slightly breadier/more cracker-like malt profile… not much hop aroma, more focus on the malt in general…

Notes on brewing: Wanting to get a dryer, less full-bodied beer, I went with a higher mash temp than I usually do, as well as a shorter mash and a bit thinner consistency…

Fruit beers…

When the craft brew and micro-brew boom was launched in the 80’s, one of the outcomes, for better or for worse, was the new-found enthusiasm for adding unusual ingredients to brews, experimenting with spices, fruits and other foods. Some new brews were based on long-standing traditions, others were, in fact, direct revivals of older styles gone more or less extinct. Still others, however, were brand new ideas, products of (in my opinion) brewers with too much time to think, too much freedom to experiment.

I’m not really serious, there is no doubt in my mind that every idea deserves a shot. But. Some ideas only deserve one shot and should not be repeated, once they have been tried “for the sake of trying”…

So on to fruit beers. There are of course many traditional beers brewed with fruit. Most of them come from Belgium, and most of the Belgian fruit beers are sour, brewed as lambic-style ales or Flanders Reds. There are traditions of using Damson plums, raspberries, even strawberries, in England, but they are rare. At a guess, more than half the fruit beers brewed in the world today are made by US craft and micro-brewers. I have had beers made with cherry, apricot, peach, blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, kiwi, grape, rhubarb, melon, banana, plum, passionfruit, guava, grapefruit, tangerine, cranberry, elderberry, apple, mango… I have tried to make some version of many of them as well… Some have been excellent, some only so-so, some… well, some should never have been tried.

The one fruit that I get consistently pleasing results with is cherry. I’ll admit that it is my favorite fruit flavor, although not my favorite fruit to eat. I do make an annual batch of lambic, which I divide between cherries, blackberries and apples, usually. I always enjoy the cherry (“kriek”) best. Among commercial fruit brews, I tend to prefer cherry to anything else as well, even Sam Adams’ Cherry Wheat (which I know makes many people, including my daughter, cringe…).

I got it in my head a couple weeks ago that a light cherry-flavored wheat beer would be a perfect summer beer. Today, two days after a weird spring snowstorm that left anywhere from 3 to 20 inches on the ground in parts of Vermont, I brewed my first summer beer.

Cherry Wheat Ale
5 gallons, all-grain


  • 4 lbs. lager malt
  • 3 lbs. malted wheat
  • 1 lb. cara-wheat malt
  • 1 oz. Willamette hop pellets (5.8% aa)
  • 1 oz. Tettnang hop pellets (5% aa)
  • Nottingham dry ale yeast
  • 2 bottles (8 oz. each) Knudsen’s Black Cherry Juice concentrate
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar (for priming)


Crush grains. Heat 13 quarts water to 162°F. Mash in grains, hold 60 minutes at 150°F. Heat 15 quarts water to 170°F, begin runoff and sparge, collect 26 quarts sweet wort. Bring to boil, add Willamette hop pellets. Boil 30 minutes, add Tettnang hop pellets. Boil 30 more minutes (60 total), remove from heat. Chill to 80°F, take a hydrometer reading, then pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing to aerate well. Add first 8 oz. bottle cherry juice concentrate, pitch yeast. Seal and ferment 7 – 10 days. Rack to secondary, condition cool (55 – 60°F) 10 – 14 days. Prime with corn sugar and add second bottle cherry juice concentrate (mix well!), bottle and age 8 – 10 days.

OG: 1048
IBU’s: 36.7

Note on ingredients and procedure: As this is a spring brew, fresh cherries are not readily available in Vermont. The Knudsen’s concentrate is awesome stuff, and I would probably use it even if there were cherries available. In the summer, however, when I do my Kriek, I use fresh cherries (my own Montmorency and wild sour black and choke-cherries) because I think the flavor derived from the cherry pits is an important one in a lambic.

I have developed an aversion of late to hefeweizens, so I decided to use a neutral ale yeast for this brew. I have really begun to dislike the clove/bubblegum/banana esters that most hefeweizens have, and I don’t brew them. Personal taste, and I will still try yours if you offer it to me.

This beer will be a pale pinkish amber in color, when finished. Half of the cherry juice will be part of the fermentation, giving it some sour fruit flavor, half will be added at bottling giving a sweeter fruitier finish (but not a cloying syrup/extract flavor).