Beer Recipe of the Week: Newcastle Brown Ale Clone

New Castle Brown AleConsidered by some to be the quintessential northern English brown ale, Newcastle was at one time the best-selling bottled beer in the UK. The beer, now ubiquitous throughout the US, was originally brewed in 1927 at Newcastle Upon Tyne. It’s a reddish-brown ale that highlights nutty malt flavor.

Though Newcastle is now brewed by the macro-brew powerhouse Heineken, many craft beer drinkers remember it fondly as a “gateway beer” to other traditional beer styles from around the world. Brew this Newcastle clone beer recipe and rediscover your love for brown ales!


Newcastle Brown Ale: Ingredients and Procedures

  • Malt – The key component in this brown ale is the crystal malt. The mid-range crystal 60°L malt is responsible for the nutty flavor in the beer. Small amounts of chocolate and black malt contribute color and a hint of dryness.
  • Hops – The classic English hop, East Kent Goldings, is used mostly for bitterness. Some hop flavor should be detectable, but will not overpower the malt.
  • Yeast – English ale yeast for this style of beer is essential. In the traditional brewing of this beer, the brewers would actually brew two separate beers, one high-gravity and one low-gravity. The high gravity beer would encourage the yeast to produce more fruity esters, which can then be blended down by the lower gravity beer. This is a lot of extra work for the homebrewer and is completely optional. It’s not impossible to do, but you’ll need an extra fermenter. It will be easiest if you’re using the all-grain method, taking the first runnings for a high-gravity boil, and the second runnings for the low-gravity boil. Then ferment the beers separately and blend them together at bottling time. (Again, this is completely optional.)

The beer recipe below is modified from the American Homebrewers Association. It was original printed in Zymurgy Magazine.


Newcastle Brown Ale Clone Beer RecipeShop Dried Malt Extract
(5-gallon batch, extract with specialty grains)

OG: 1.049
FG: 1.012
ABV: 4.8%
IBUs: 26
SRM: 15

5.5 lbs. light dry malt extract
12 oz. Crisp 60L crystal malt
4 oz. torrified wheat
1.5 oz. black malt
1.5 oz. Crisp chocolate maltShop Hops
1 oz. Kent Goldings hops at :90
1 oz. Kent Goldings hops at :30
1 tsp. Irish moss at :15
Wyeast 1028: London Ale or Fermentis Safale S-04: English Ale Yeast
corn sugar for priming

Heat about 3 gallons of clean, chlorine-free water to 150˚F. Place crushed grains in a grain bag and steep for 30 minutes. Discard grains and bring wort to a boil. Remove from heat, and stir in the malt extract. Return to a boil, taking care to avoid a boilover. Boil for 90 minutes, adding hops and Irish moss according to schedule above. At the end of the boil, chill wort to 70˚F or boil. Add enough cool, chlorine-free water to make five gallons of wort. Mix well with a sanitized spoon to aerate, then pitch yeast. Ferment at 65-70˚F. When fermentation in complete, bottle with priming sugar and cap. Beer will be ready to drink in 2-3 weeks.

All-Grain Substitution: To brew this beer all-grain, replace the malt extract with 8 lbs. Crisp Maris Otter malt and reduce each of the hop additions to .67 oz.

Do you have a Newcastle brown ale clone beer recipe you’d like to share? Just leave it in the comments below.

David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

American Brown Ale Recipe (Extract & All-Grain)

Pouring A Brown Ale BeerToday I’d like to share with you a homebrew beer recipe I recently brewed with a friend. It’s a hoppy brown ale with deep chocolate malt flavors and a hint of spicy, citrusy hop flavor and aroma. We just doubled the ingredients for the five-gallon recipe (below) to make it a ten-gallon batch.

We modeled this American brown ale recipe after some of the popular American-style brown ales being made by our local craft breweries. It’s a little on the hoppy side for what some consider a brown ale, but for a lot of craft beer fans, that’s a good thing!

This beer recipe features some complex roasted malts to bring in a range of caramel, biscuit, and chocolate flavors along with some lower-alpha hops that work great as aroma hops and provide a clean bitterness. To further enhance the aroma and clean bitterness, we utilize a technique called “first wort hopping.” All that means is to add some of the hops before the wort comes to a boil, which helps keep more of the aromatic hop compounds in the beer.

We hope you’ll enjoy this American brown ale recipe! Both all-grain and extract versions are given below. Give it a try and let us know how it turns out!


American Brown Ale Recipe
(5-gallon batch, all-grain)

OG: 1.058
FG: 1.011
ABV: 6.2%
IBUs: 42
SRM: 23

10 lbs. two-row malt Shop Steam Freak Kits
1 lb. caramel 60L malt
0.5 lb. chocolate malt
0.5 lb. crystal 77L malt
1 oz. Willamette hops (FWH)
1 oz. Kent Goldings hops at :60
0.5 oz. Willamette hops at :30
1 oz. Kent Goldings hops at :10
1 tsp. Irish moss at :10
1 packet Safale US-05 ale yeast

Mash crushed grains at 152˚F for one hour. Sparge to collect 7.5 gallons in the brew kettle. Add first wort hops (1 oz. Willamette) to the wort and bring to a boil. Boil for 60 minutes, adding hops and Irish moss according to schedule above. Chill wort and transfer to a clean, sanitized fermenter. Ferment at 68-70˚F.


American Brown Ale Recipe
(5-gallon batch, partial mash)

OG: 1.058
FG: 1.011
ABV: 6.2%
IBUs: 42
SRM: 23

6 lbs. light dry malt extract Shop Conical Fermenter
1 lb. six-row malt
1 lb. caramel 60L malt
0.5 lb. chocolate malt
0.5 lb. crystal 77L malt
1.5 oz. Willamette hops (FWH)
2 oz. Kent Goldings hops at :60
0.5 oz. Willamette hops at :30
1 oz. Kent Goldings hops at :10
1 tsp. Irish moss at :10
1 packet Safale US-05 ale yeast

Steep crushed grains for 30 minutes at 152˚F in one gallon of water. Strain wort into brew kettle, then add enough water to make 3.5 gallons. Thoroughly mix in the dry malt extract, then add the first wort hops (1.5 oz. Willamette) to the wort and bring to a boil. Boil for 60 minutes, adding hops and Irish moss according to schedule above. Chill wort and transfer to a clean, sanitized fermenter. Ferment at 68-70˚F.

David Ackley is a writer, brewer, and craft beer marketing consultant. He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

A Quick Guide To Dry Hopping Your Beers

Dry Hopping A BeerDry hopping is a popular technique for adding a burst of hop aroma to beer. Basically, all you do is add hops during the secondary fermentation. Because the hops aren’t boiled, they won’t contribute much bitterness (IBUs) to your beer. Dry hopping your beer can lend desirable pine, grapefruit, citrus, or floral aromas, depending on the hop variety you use.

Many popular American craft beers are dry hopped, especially pale ales and IPAs. Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo Extra IPA, makes use of a hop back, or torpedo as they call it, which circulates conditioning beer through a stainless steel vessel packed with whole cone hops.

But don’t let complicated brewing equipment intimidate you — dry hopping your beer at home is easy!

When should I add the dry hops?
The most convenient time to dry hop is when transferring from primary to secondary fermentation. Hops can be added at any time during the secondary fermentation, but for best results, they should have at least a few days to work their magic.

What variety of hops should I use for dry hopping?
Hops with low alpha-acids, usually referred to as “aroma hops”, are best suited for dry hopping. Examples of aroma hops include:

Shop HopsShould I use pellets, plugs or whole leaf for dry hopping?
It is best to do your dry hopping with pellets as opposed to whole leaf hops. Due to the processing involved in producing hop pellets, the aromatic oils are more accessible. They’re also a little easier to separate from the beer than whole leaf hops.

How much hops should I use?
A good range to stick with is 1/4 to 2 ounces of hops for a 5 gallon batch, though I think some hop aficionados are prone to adding more.

Will adding hops contaminate my brew?
If you’re worried about contamination you could briefly steam the hops before adding them to the fermenter, but most will agree that the alcohol present in your beer after primary fermentation will protect it against bacteria.

What about straining the hops?
Regardless of how you go about dry hopping your beer, the hops will need to be strained from the beer one way or another

  • DIY screen – You can try attaching a sanitized screen to the bottom of your racking cane when siphoning the beer from the secondary fermenter. An auto-siphon, which makes life much easier for the homebrewer, has a tip that won’t let much through, you could tie a sanitized hops bag around the bottom for some added filtering.
  • Put the hops in small mesh hop bagShop Wort Chillers – Placing the hops in a hop bag before even adding them to the beer is probably the easiest option. A brewer in this forum recommends tying dental floss to the bag for easy removal – you’ll probably want to use unflavored floss, unless you’d like a little mint or cinnamon flavor in your brew!
  • Cold crashing – Dropping the temperature on your secondary fermentation will help the hops settle out to the bottom of the fermenter, making it easier to siphon beer into a bottling bucket or keg without pulling along a lot of hops material.

Hopefully, this information will help you out. Just remember that the best way to go about dry hopping is to use hop pellets in the secondary fermentation. Use somewhere around 1/4 to 2 ounces, and stick with a variety of hops that is big on aroma and low in bitterness.

Have you tried dry hopping your beer? How did it turn out?
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

Style Guide: Brewing An American IPA

American IPAMany craft beer aficionados have heard the story about where the name “India Pale Ale” (or IPA’s) comes from. In short, to supply the colony in India, British breweries made ales with increased amounts of hops, taking advantage of the plant’s antimicrobial properties to ensure that the beer would survive the long trip. The American version of the IPA is more robust than the English version and also uses American-grown ingredients. But before I get into to brewing an American IPA, I’d like to share a little more about some of the history behind the style.

I recently picked up Ray Daniels’ book, Designing Great Beers, and learned a couple interesting tidbits about pale ales and IPAs. First, that pale ales were a product of the Industrial Revolution. The advent of steel allowed British maltsters to build better kilns, which gave them increased control over their product, which in turn made pale malts possible. Secondly, that these pale ales were considered beers for high society, while the lower classes stuck with the dark beers, like stouts and porters.

I found this quote, from 1934, to give an interesting perspective on the popularity of the style:

“[The India Pale Ale] is carefully fermented so as to be devoid of all sweetness, or in other words to be dry; and it contains double the usual quantity of hops; it therefore, forms a most valuable restorative beverage for invalids and convalescents.”

I don’t know about you, but I always feel better after an IPA! Now, back to brewing!

The BJCP Style Guidelines give us some parameters for brewing the American IPA (style 14B). The overall impression of the beer should be “an American version of the historical English style, brewed using American ingredients and attitude.” Whatever you do, don’t forget the attitude!

Here are the more easily measurable characteristics for an American IPA:

  • IBUs: 40-70Shop Conical Fermenter
  • Color (SRM): 6-15
  • OG: 1.056-1.075
  • FG: 1.010-1.018
  • ABV: 5.5-7.5%

Now, let’s look at some of the specific ingredients you might use for brewing your own American IPA:

Grain Bill

  • All-Grain: Start with a well-modified US 2-Row Malt for the base of your grain bill (70% or so). Then use 1-2 pounds of Crystal Malt (20-40L) for color and caramel malt flavor. If you want, try a little (up to 5%) of Munich, Vienna, or Biscuit Malt for added complexity.
  • Extract: If brewing with extract, use light or pale malt extracts and consider steeping some crystal malt for flavor and color. Consider the Muntons Connoisseur Kit Type India Pale Ale kit, which contains malt extract that has already been hopped.


  • An American IPA should be brewed with US-grown hop varieties. Consider using Cascade, Centennial, Columbus, Chinook, and/or Willamette. Use 1-2 ounces during the boil for each of your bittering, flavor, and aroma additions. For increased hop aroma, dry-hop your beer by adding an ounce or two of hop pellets to the secondary fermenter.


  • Use a classic American ale yeast, such as Safale US-05 or Wyeast’s #1056 American Ale. American IPAs should have a “neutral” fermentation character, so be sure to keep the fermentation temperatures within the acceptable range for your chosen yeast strain.

Shop Home Brew Starter KitFollow the above guidelines and profiles for brewing an American IPA, and you’ll have a beer that is tasty and to style. What’s your favorite IPA? Do you have an American IPA recipe you’d like to share in the comments below?

Til next time…Cheers!
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

How to Know When to Bottle Your Homebrew Beer

Homebrewer who knows when to bottle his beer.You’ve been waiting patiently while your homebrew ferments away in the closet and you can’t wait to try the beer you’ve worked so hard to create. But how do you know when it’s ready to bottle? How do you know when to bottle your homebrew beer?

First of all, let’s talk about why it’s important to bottle your beer at the right time. The main concern is that if you bottle before it has completely fermented, you run the risk of having excessive carbon dioxide in the bottle. The result: bottle bombs! Not only is this a safety hazard, but if your bottles explode, you lose that precious beer!

The best way to figure out when to bottle your beer is to take hydrometer readings. In the final days of the fermentation period, take a hydrometer reading every 1-2 days until there is no change in the reading. That’s how you know when fermentation is complete. (Note: Most homebrews finish in the ballpark of 1.010-1.020.)

If you’re using a fermenting bucket, hydrometer readings are pretty easy. Just open up the bucket, drop your sanitized hydrometer in the beer, give it a spin to dislodge any bubbles, and take your reading. (Don’t forget to correct for temperature!) Another method is to use a sanitized measuring cup to pull a sample out of the bucket, which you can then pour into a hydrometer testing jar to conduct your reading. Of course, a bucket with a spigot makes pulling a sample even easier!Shope Hydrometers

If you’re fermenting in carboy, taking a hydrometer reading is a little more tricky. You could drop the hydrometer into the carboy, but then it would be a challenge getting it back out. The easiest way around this is to use a sanitized fermentation sampler, sometimes called a thief, to pull a sample from the carboy. All you have to do is dip the sampler in the beer and pull it out again. A one-way valve will automatically lock in a sample of beer, then you can do your reading right in the tube! That’s about as easy as it gets!

Sometimes it’s tempting to pour the beer sample back in the fermenter, but I don’t think it’s worth the risk of contaminating your beer. If you choose to pour the beer back into the fermenter, just make sure you use impeccable sanitation. I’ll usually just use the sample for a taste test — a preview of what’s to come!

So, after a couple identical hydrometer readings you know the fermentation is done, it’s time to bottle your beer! Learn all about bottling your own homebrew on our post Bottling Beer at Home.shop_beer_bottles

Many homebrewers guess, but using a hydrometer is, by far, the best way to know when to bottle your fermented beer after fermentation. So, take some readings and bottle your beer at the right time.

Til next time…Cheers!
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

An Introduction To Partial Mash Brewing

Mug Of Barley GrainSo, you’ve been brewing with malt extract and you’ve got your routine all figured out. The beer’s coming out pretty good, but you’re ready to take it to the next level. Enter: partial mash brewing. Partial mash brewing combines the simplicity of extract brewing with the slightly more advanced part of all-grain brewing called mashing.

The big advantage of partial mash brewing is that you get to learn how to mash without having to buy a lot of extra equipment. If you’re already brewing with malt extract, this is the only additional equipment you need to make the move to partial mash brewing:

shop_brew_kettlesUnlike steeping grains, as we sometimes do with extract brewing, what we’re going to do here is convert the starches in the grain into fermentable sugars. To do this, we’ll soak the grains in warm water for 30-60 minutes. Here’s the trick: for the naturally-occurring enzymes in the grain to break down the starches, we need to control two important factors: temperature and pH. To properly break down the starches, we want to hold the mash water at a temperature between 150-158F and a pH level between 5.0 and 5.5. That’s it!

Here’s are the basic partial mash brewing instructions. See how it compares with what you’re already doing:

  1. Clean and sanitize as you would normally. This something that should be followed, regardless of your brewing method.
  1. Add 1-1.5 quarts of water per pound of grain to your stock pot.
  1. Heat the water to about 170°F. Since the grain is at room temperature, we heat the water a little above the ideal mash temperature. When we add the grains, we should be right in range.
  1. Add the crushed grain to the stock pot. Stir well to avoid clumping.
  1. Check the pH of your mash. If it’s above 5.5, add 1/4 tsp. of gypsum and stir. If it’s below 5.0, add 1/4 tsp. calcium carbonate and stir. Adjust until you’re in the proper range.
  1. Check the temperature of your mash. Hold the temperature as close to 154°F as possible. If below 150°F, add heat and stir. If above 158°F, add a little cold water and stir.Shop Homebrew Starter Kit
  1. Mash for about 60 minutes, adjusting temperature as needed.
  1. At the end of your mash, pour the mash through a strainer into your brew kettle. Recirculate the wort through your grains as needed to clarify.
  1. Add water to reach your desired boil volume and proceed as if you were brewing with extract.

There you have it: basic partial mash brewing instructions. That’s not too hard, is it?

Partial mash brewing is an easy way for homebrewers to transition from extract brewing to all-grain. Once you master the mash technique, you’re ready to brew all-grain!

Questions? Feel free to ask in the comments section!

Til next time…Cheers!
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

Recipe of the Week: Amber Rye Ale

Glass Of Amber Rye Ale On TableSometimes a beer recipe can be better than the sum of its parts. This week’s amber rye ale beer recipe is a mash-up of two excellent beer styles that are great for fall brewing: amber ale and rye ale. The amber ale brings a malty flavor, medium to medium-full body, and a rich amber color, while the rye brings a distinctive spicy grain note. The hop flavor on this beer is noticeable with a spicy hop character, but the bitterness is balanced at just over 30 IBUs. It’s an American-style ale of moderate gravity that should make a balanced beer to enjoy throughout the fall season.

The beer recipe below uses a pound of rye malt combined with Munich malt, caramel, and chocolate malt for layers of malty flavor. Chinook hops provide the classic American citrus and pine hop profile that plays so nicely with the rye. A classic American ale yeast is used, Wyeast 1056: American Ale, sometimes referred to as the Chico strain. If you’d prefer to use dry yeast, try Safale US-05 or Mangrove Jack’s. There should be little to no yeast esters in this style, so do your best to keep fermentation temperatures in the recommended range for your selected yeast strain. Continue reading

7 Tips For Clearing A Homebrew Beer!

Clear homebrew BeerFor some styles of beer, such as the Bavarian hefeweizen and the Belgian witbier, cloudiness is to be expected. The average consumer, however, has come to expect beer to be crystal clear — or “bright” as it’s known among beer geeks and professional brewers. Clarity has more influence on aesthetics than flavor, but since the appearance of a beer is the drinker’s first impression, it’s an important factor in assessing beer quality. To avoid your friends raising their eyes at your cloudy homebrew — and to achieve better scores at homebrew competitions — it’s important to know how to clarify your homebrew beer.


What Makes Beer Cloudy in the First Place?

Before we can talk about clarifying or clearing your homebrew beer, it would help to understand a little bit about what’s making the beer cloudy. Cloudiness in homebrew can come from a few different sources:

  • Malt can contribute proteins, fatty compounds (lipids), and tannins to your beer. Excessive protein can result in “protein haze” or “chill haze”, which happens when beer is clear at room temperature, but becomes cloudy when chilled.
  • After being boiled in the kettle, hops can break down and leave behind debris.
  • Yeast, as it multiplies and feeds on the sugar in your wort, it becomes suspended in the beer.

All of these a common sources for potentially keep a homebrew beer from becoming its clearest.


Common Ways to Clarify Your Homebrew Beer

There are several different ways to clarify or clear a homebrew beer. Here are the most common:

  1. Whirlpool – At the end of the boil, and before transferring wort to the fermenter, give the wort a strong stir. Proteins, lipids, and hop compounds will collect at the bottom of the kettle and form a pile of “trub” in the middle, making it easier to draw off beer and leave behind most of the protein and hops.Shop Irish Moss
  1. Kettle finings – Clarifying a beer with clearing agents is very effective. Irish moss (a.k.a. “carrageenan”) is a type of seaweed that works as a coagulant. It’s added in the last 10-15 minutes of the boil and helps make the whirlpool more effective by aiding in the coagulation of proteins.
  1. Cold break – Rapidly cooling the wort, such as with an immersion wort chiller, helps proteins settle out after the boil.
  1. Secondary fermentation – Transferring your beer from a primary fermenter to secondary fermenter is an opportunity to leave behind trub and yeast that has settled to the bottom. The length of the secondary fermentation is also a factor – the longer the fermentation, the more settling will occur. Fourteen days is usually enough for ales; lagers tend to take longer.
  1. Fermenter finingsShop Wort Chillers – Some beer finings are added to the secondary fermenter. Gelatin is a popular one. It’s derived from animal collagen, so beer made with it technically isn’t vegetarian. Clearing a homebrew beer with gelatin is quick and easy.
  1. Cold crash – Dropping the temperature on the secondary fermentation helps yeast and other particulates settle out.
  1. Filter – Many commercial breweries filter their beer, and while there are some filters available to homebrewers, in most cases the above techniques will result in sufficiently bright, clear beer.

What methods do you use to clarify your homebrew beers? Have you ever used gelatin or other fining or clear agents? Let us know about your experience!

David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

German Altbier Beer Recipe (Partial Mash)

Altbier In GlassSimilar to Kölsch or steam beer, German altbier is something of a hybrid beer style. Though it’s generally considered to be an ale, it’s fermented on the cooler end of the temperature range and goes through a cold conditioning period, resulting in a smooth, clean brew with lager-like characteristics. If you’re looking for an easy-drinking, yet flavorful beer to add to your homebrew lineup, brewing a German altbier beer recipe is a great option!


History of the Style

In German, “alt” means old, referring to the habit of brewing with top-fermenting ale yeasts before bottom-fermenting lager yeasts came into practice. Most of the remaining authentic versions of altbier come from the German city of Düsseldorf.


Style Guidelines

  • Aroma – Clean with rich, bready malt character and spicy, German hop notes. Hop aromas range from low to moderate. Saaz hops are frequently encountered. Some mild esters may be present.
  • Appearance – A good German altbier beer recipe should produce a beer light amber to copper in color. Clear with a billowy, creamy, off-white head.
  • Flavor – Malt-forward with an assertive hop bitterness. Beer is relatively dry, but balanced by rich caramel malt flavors. Often has a complex, nutty finish with both hop bitterness and moderate noble hop flavor.
  • Mouthfeel – Smooth, medium-bodied, with moderate to moderate-high carbonation. Full of flavor yet easy drinking.

Due to the need for temperature-controlled fermentation, altbier can be a difficult style to brew. But it’s well worth the challenge and can be a delicious go-to option for your home brewery!


German Altbier Beer Recipe
(five-gallon batch, extract with grains)

OG: 1.051
FG: 1.013
ABV: 5%
IBU: 38
SRM: 15 

Shop Steam Freak Kits6.6 lbs. Munich LME
1 lb. Munich 20L malt
12 oz. Caramel 60° malt
2 oz. Chocolate malt
1.5 oz. Perle hops at :60
1 oz. Saaz hops at :15
1 tsp. Irish moss at :15
1 oz. Saaz hops at :5
2 packs Wyeast 1007: German Ale Yeast 

Place crushed grains in a grain bag and steep in 3 gallons of water at 154˚F for 30 minutes. Remove grain bag and discard. Add liquid malt extract to brewing liquor and mix in thoroughly. Bring wort to a boil and add hops and Irish moss according to schedule above. At the end of the boil, chill wort and transfer to a clean, sanitized fermenter. Pitch yeast and ferment at 58-60˚F for about two weeks. Optionally, transfer to a secondary fermenter. Cold condition at 32-40˚F for about 1 month, then bottle or keg for about 2.5-2.8 vols CO2. Cheers!

Sound tasty? Also consider brewing the German Altbier beer recipe kit from Brewer’s Best!

David Ackley is a writer, brewer, and craft beer marketing consultant. He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

The Pros & Cons Of Using A Secondary Fermentation For Your Beer

Adding Beer To Secondary FermenterMany homebrewers like to take advantage of a process called “secondary fermentation,” and claim that it improves the quality of their homebrew beer. Secondary fermentation, also known as two-stage fermentation, is simply transferring (“racking”) your homebrew from one fermenter to another. The optimal timing as to when to start the secondary fermentation is up for some debate, but it is about midway through the fermentation process. But why go through the trouble? Is putting your beer through a secondary fermentation really necessary. What are the benefits?

The Pros of Secondary Fermentation for your Beer

Here are a few of the benefits of secondary fermentation:

  • It gets the beer off spent yeast sediment. After two or three weeks, yeast starts to break down and contribute off flavors to your beer. Most homebrewers don’t ferment their beer long enough to cause any noticeably problems, but for those who choose to do a longer fermentation, racking the beer into a secondary fermenter or carboy is highly recommended.
  • It allows the beer to mature. Time allows the malt, hops, and yeast flavors to blend together and balance.
  • It improves clarity by reducing the amount of sediment in the finished beer. Putting your beer through a secondary fermentation allows time for more yeast, hop trub, and protein to fall out of the beer. Adding a fining agent, such as gelatin, into the secondary fermenter can aid in this process significantly.
  • It gives the homebrewer an opportunity to “dry-hop” — or “dry-spice” — their beer. Dry-hopping is just adding hops to the secondary fermenter, which contributes hop aroma to the beer. You can also take this opportunity to add spices, flavorings, wood chips, or other additives to your brew.

The Cons of Secondary Fermentation for your Beer

There aren’t many disadvantages to using a secondary fermentation, but they’re worth considering:

  • It takes a more time and effort. Yes, it takes some time to transfer or rack your beer to a secondary fermenter. How long it takes varies depending upon your set-up, but usually the time it takes to transfer is much shorter than brew day or bottle day.
  • There’s a risk of contamination. By opening your fermenter and passing your beer through a siphoning hose, you risk bacteria or wild yeast getting into your beer. But, as long as you practice good sanitation, you should be fine.
  • Potential to lose hop flavor. Hop flavor degrades over time. In most cases, a few weeks won’t make a difference, but if you’re brewing a very hop-forward beer, the length of the fermentation period should be considered.

How to Transfer Your Beer for a Secondary Fermentation

To transfer your beer to a secondary fermenter, keep in eye on the bubbles coming out of the airlock and wait until the fermentation slows down (4-5 days). Clean and sanitize your secondary fermenter and transfer tubing, then add the beer to the secondary fermenter – usually a carboy – by siphoning. Re-seal with an airlock. In 7-14 days, bottle or keg your beer as you would normally.

Do you use a secondary fermentation when you homebrew? When do you start yours? How long do you leave it in the secondary? Leave a comment!

Til next time…Cheers!

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David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.