May 26 2008

California Common – Batch 3

Published by at 8:18 pm under Amber Hybrid Beer,Homebrew

Note: It has been some time since I have logged a brew session. Have been able to brew approximately once a month, however have not been able to organize a post out of them. I’m going to back date these entries to when I brewed them.

California Common Beer or also known as the trademarked Steam Beer, is a semi-historic semi-native beer style to the West Coast and particularly San Francisco. Way back when I was in school I remember reading the novel McTeague, where in the first chapter the protagonist is described drinking a pitch of “Steam Beer”. McTeague was first published in 1899. California Common ale is somewhat related to a German style of beer called altbier or “old” beer, that utilizes a special strain of lager yeast that can tolerate high temperatures, without producing sulfury off-flavors. California Common is also distinctive in the use of a particular hop variety, Northern Brewer that has a somewhat woody character.

Follows is our recipe for 10 gallons of finished beer:

whirlpooling california common brew16.00 lb. American Two-row Pale Malt
2.00 lb. American Crystal 40L Malt
1.00 lb. American Victory Malt
0.25 lb. Special B Malt
0.25 lb. CaraFoam Malt
(SRM ~ 11, target gravity 1.053)

1.50 oz. Mt. Hood 5.1% AA, 60 min.
2.00 oz. Northern Brewer 8.1% AA, 15 min.
2.00 oz. Northern Brewer 8.1% AA, 5 min.
(IBU ~ 36.5)

2 vile WLP810 San Francisco Lager yeast, 2000 ml. starter 48 hours on the stir plate, in the keg-o-rator at around 50° F

Mash and Boil:

alpha rest, target 153° F / recorded 153° F, 60 min.

The Mt. Hood hops here I think were rather old, and should impart only a light bitterness. I wanted the emphasis to be mainly on the Northern Brewers as flavor hops. Which turned out to be the case, yet still with a pleasant bitterness. A bit strong and to really be to style, one might want to reduce the hop additions a bit.


The brew session went fairly smooth up until the cold crash. This is where the wort is dropped to the appropriate fermentation temperature (as quickly as possible) before pitching (adding) the yeast. I use a counter-flow wort chiller, that circulates cold tap water around a copper tube that the hot wort travel through to the fermentor. Was only able to bring the wort down to 77° F, and so had to let the wort sit for several hours (refrigerated) till it dropped down to 66° F, then pitch.

calif common brew fermenting

Let primary fermentation go for 13 days at around 55° F. I used my keg-o-rator which has a dial setting for temperature. Not the most accurate, but seemed relatively constant. Then racked the beer into kegs and lagered the beer for 27 days at around 34° F, the coldest setting.

Unfortunately, this batch suffered from some diacetyl, a not so pleasant butterscotch flavor. This may have something to do with the pour performance of the wort chiller. I have read that some people preform a diacetyl rest, in which they raise the fermentation temperature up to room temp. before lagering. The diacetyl dissipated eventually.

Orig. Specific Gravity 1.052
Final Specific Gravity 1.012
Alcohol by Volume ~5.2 %

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