Tuesday, October 19, 2021

In Praise of Extract Beer

It is a cliché for sure, but there are times when I look at my kids and wonder to myself "where the hell did the time go?". This weekend was the twins 4th birthday and with time speeding by at a fair old clip, it feels difficult to justify taking 8 hours, give or take, to brew an all grain batch of homebrew. While there is no shortage of decent beer to be had in the central Virginia region, either locally produced or from further afield, there are still times when I just want to drink something I have brewed myself. Enter pre-prepared malt extract.

Now, I know that many homebrewing purists get a bit haughty about using malt extract, but cutting that 8 hours down to about 3 just makes life a whole lot easier. Thankfully if you still want to use specialty grains you can just steep some in your brewing water as it warms up, I find it much easier to add extract to warmer water so that helps as well. When you get your hands on some fresh extract though, there is nothing to stop you from just doing an all extract beer, which I what I did about 2 months ago, to brew this...

The beer in the picture was something of a mashup, a top fermented 10° pale beer vaguely in the style of a Czech desítka. I used 6lbs of Briess Pilsen malt extract in this recipe, which is according to their spec sheet 99% pilsner malt and 1% carapils, and gave me a 5 gallon starting gravity of exactly the 10° Plato I was looking for. Being something of a lazy git at times, it is nice to work with a product that gives you exactly what you expect when you do things right. My complete recipe was as follows:

  • 6lbs Briess Pilsen liquid malt extract
  • 11 IBU of Saaz for 60 minutes
  • 8.5 IBU of Saaz for 30 minutes
  • 5.5 IBU of Saaz for 15 minutes
  • Wyeast 1007 German Ale
A very simple recipe really, and I used a top fermenting yeast as I don't have a temperature controlled fermentation chamber or any of that jazz. I find that 1007, which is Zum Uerige's yeast I believe, ferments really clean at my cellar's fairly constant 65°F and is well suited to the 5 weeks lagering the beer got at about 35°F. With the boys' birthday soirée about to start, I poured myself a half litre...


Sure it was a wee bit hazy, but not too bad for an unfined, unfiltered beer. You could call it a nefiltovaný if you so pleased, but to my mind it was a lovely looking půllitr, simply redolent with that lovely soft spiciness blended with a hay character that makes me think of Saaz. I have no evidence for this, but I do wonder if boiling up an already reduced wort actually mimics some of the maillard reactions you would get from a decoction mash. Easy drinking it was.

Given the ease of using liquid malt extract, I think I will be retiring the mash tun for a while, at least until the boys are able to listen enough to be handy assistant brewers. Next up, an ESB...

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