Call me a beer geek if you must, but never call me a beer snob. I hate snobbery and in the right situation, I love light American lager. Well, that’s not exactly true. I love pale American lager, Lite lager, not so much. Despite what some people will have you believe, there is a big difference between Budweiser and Bud Light.
Last year, I brewed a partial mash batch of what I called Elkland Adjunct Lager, which was my first time brewing with corn. Elkland, by the way, is the township my family’s cabin is located in, and it is a great place to drink a light lager over the Summer. The beer turned out great and was enjoyed by lots of people who wouldn’t touch most of my other homebrew. I added a bit of light Munich and crystal malt to give it a little more malt flavor than a lot of the macro brews but it was still very light and crisp. This year, I’m planning to do two similar brews. I brewed the first one, Elkland Golden Lager today.
It is very similar to what I brewed last year except this time I’m using rice. The second adjunct lager, which I’m planning to brew in two weeks, will use corn and a lot of crystal malt to make an amber beer similar to Yuengling, a perennial favorite in my home state. Since I’m using all that crystal in my amber lager, I decided to cut it from this year’s golden lager. I only used half a pound of very light crystal last year, anyway.
This is my first time brewing with flaked rice. Flaked rice and corn are both used for similar reasons in brewing. They lighten the malt flavor of the beer. They usually ferment drier than all barley malt beers. Rice, they say, will get even drier than corn. Corn can add some creaminess and, despite lowering the final gravity, give the impression of a bit of sweetness. Rice adds no flavor and lets the barley malt come through a little more.
You can brew with rice and corn in different forms, but the easiest, and what I’m doing, is to use flaked rice or flaked corn. In their flaked form, they’re pre gelatinized, which means they can be added to your regular infusion mash. Raw rice and other forms of corn can be used but they must be cooked before mashing. If you buy them from a homebrew store, you should be getting the flaked versions and all you need to do is also get some six row barley, instead of two row.
Most homebrewers use two row malted barley, which is standard for craft brewers as well. Two row barley is said to give a mellower more rounded flavor than six row, but the main concern is that it has a higher yield. Less two row will give you more fermentables than six row. The main reason to used six row is that it has a higher percentage of enzymes and protein which are needed to convert low protein adjuncts’ starch to fermentable sugar. There are other factors, but that is what matters in this instance. There is a lot of starch in both rice and corn, but not enough enzymes to convert the starch into sugar.
I’m not sure if it’s different for big brewers buying their ingredients in huge quantities, but despite their reputation, these adjuncts are not any cheaper than barley malt on the homebrew scale. Corn and rice are not a way to make your beer cheaper, just lighter. The fact that I’m buying flaked adjuncts probably affects this as well. Raw ingredients may be cheaper, but the extra time to cook them is not worth the savings in this situation.
While I’m not trying to clone them, I’m going for something similar to Budweiser with the golden lager and Yuengling with the amber. Yuengling is much fuller bodied and sweeter and that may mostly be attributed to all the crystal malt, but the corn adds to it as well. I’ll post more about that beer when I brew it in a couple weeks, though.
For my golden lager, I’m going as far as I can to make the beer light and dry. In addition to adding over 20% of flaked rice to the grist, I mashed at the lowest temperature I feel comfortable with and I plan to add champagne yeast after primary fermentation to take the final gravity as low as possible. This is a ten gallon batch which I brewed as eight gallons using the high gravity method. This means I’m brewing it stronger than the final product will be and I’ll simply add some more water later. It is fermenting in an eight gallon bucket. After two weeks (or so) in primary, I will split it into two five gallon carboys and add a gallon of water and a packet of champagne yeast to each.
I did something similar last year, though I wasn’t planning to. Last years batch was fermented with a third generation yeast cake and it crapped out on me. I’m not sure what happened, it started out fine but stopped fermenting around 1.020. After rousing it a couple times, I nervously added some champagne yeast and got it going again. It fermented all the way down to 1.004! I was again nervous, but this extra dry final gravity served the beer perfectly and I decided to utilize champagne yeast again.
According to the BJCP, there are three styles of Light American Lager. Lite American Lager, Standard American Lager and Premium American Lager are all basically the same thing, just at different gravities and strengths. You can split hairs, but for the most part, Lite Lager is 3-4% ABV, Standard Lager is 4-5% ABV and Premium Lager is 5-6% ABV. I’m shooting for about 5.5%, so I’m in the Premium category. If I can get my final gravity as low as I had it last year, and I hope to, that will put me slightly out of style according to BJCP guidelines. I still think it suits any of these beers the best to be as dry as possible, though. Here is my recipe.
Style: 1C: Premium American Lager
Brew Date: 3/19/2014
Serve Date: May 2014
OG: 1.059 (estimated 1.048 with two gallons of water added)
Expected FG: very low
Approximate ABV: 5.5%
72% 15 lb 6 Row Pale Malt
23% 5 lb Flaked Rice
5% 1 lb Light Munich
60 min 1 oz. Cluster 7.8% AA
20 min .5 oz. Cluster 7.8% AA
2 packets rehydrated Saflager W-34/70 in primary
2 packets rehydrated Champagne yeast in secondary
25 quarts of water at 162º to achieve a mash temperature of 150º-152º and held for 60 minutes
4 quarts of boiling water added to raise mash temperature and held for 10 minutes
Sparge with water at 170º to collect 9 gallons over 90 minutes
One hour boil with hop additions at 60 and 20 minutes from end of boil
Chill as quickly as possible and add two packets of rehydrated yeast
Ferment in 8 gallon bucket around 50º until visual activity subsides
Rack into two carboys and top up with one gallon each of boiled water
Add champagne yeast to each carboy and ferment another 4 weeks or so
Bottle when fermentation has completely stopped and gravity is consistent for a week