Two words: bourbon dubbel. That is the Belgian-style ale that I have fermenting in my kitchen as we speak. And it's all thanks to this new cookbook (brewbook?) from Erica Shea and Stephen Valand, the creative geniuses behind Brooklyn BrewShop.
We've talked about Brooklyn BrewShop before. They make the one-gallon beer brewing kits designed specifically for those of us with tiny apartment kitchens. I made their Everyday IPA kit brew last spring and was hooked.
I have found everything about a one-gallon batch to be easier, from being able to lift the brewpot without calling for assistance to actually drinking the beer in a timely manner (nothing like losing enthusiasm for that peanut butter porter you brewed with three cases still left to finish). I like the fact that one-gallon batches mean I'm less worried about messing up and more inclined to take chances on a new style or ingredient. And if I land on a beer that I love, I can always scale it up to make a five-gallon batch if I so desire. I have Brooklyn BrewShop to thank for opening me up to the world of one-gallon batches.
And now they've released a cookbook of all their favorite one-gallon recipes. Let me tell you, this is not your hippie uncle from California's book of homebrew recipes.
Erica Shea and Stephen Valand bring ingredients and flavors into these recipes that appeal to the foodie in us. There's a Grapefruit Honey Ale that plays with the traditional flavors in a pale ale. And a Peach Cobbler Ale that brings fresh summer peaches into the mix. The very idea of their Coffee & Donut Stout makes me laugh, and I want a bottle right now. And of course, that Bourbon Dubbel grabbed me right from the start and wouldn't let go until I brewed a batch.
If you're not into the crazier beer flavors, they have included some tried-and-true basics like their Everyday IPA, World's Greatest Dad Brown Ale (a basic malty brown ale), and a Well-Made Tripel. They also include a gluten-free beer recipe in each section with lots of tips on how to play with the basic format.
These recipes stay within the philosophy of the BrewShop's kits: they make brewing engaging, approachable, and most of all, loads of fun. The ingredients are all things that are available at your local homebrew shop, or as the case may be, your local farmers market. Anyone could pick up this book and brew any recipe they turn to regardless of skill level.
I also found it interesting to see the recipes arranged into seasons. There are really only four chapters in the book, one for each part of the year. We don't always think of beers as being seasonal, but this arrangement makes sense once you think about it. We crave different beers at different times of the year (pale ales in the summer) and some beers do better when brewed in certain weather (lagers during colder months).
Throw in the local, seasonal ingredients called for in many of these recipes, and a seasonal beer brewing rotation starts to have a lot of appeal. And with 52 recipes in the book, you could practically brew once a week for a year with no repeats!
A few quirky things stood out to me. I found their measurements to be confusing. Not wrong, no worries there; just confusing. In the same recipe, you'll be asked to measure .7 ounces of one ingredient and .05 pounds of another. Why not just give any measurements below a pound in ounces?
This becomes doubly tricky if your scale only works in fractional increments instead of decimal increments, as mine does. I found myself having to re-read the recipe multiple times to be sure I'd read and converted the measurements correctly into amounts my scale understands. Then still worrying that I'd gotten everything wrong.
They also list the hop additions during the 60-minute boil opposite the way it's listed in most brewing recipes. Which is to say, the BrewShop's instructions have you add hops after 15 minutes, 40 minutes, and 55 minutes of boiling instead of at 45 minutes, 20 minutes, and 5 minutes remaining in the 60-minute boil. I'd agree that their instructions make more sense to a newbie brewer, but it takes a few seconds to translate the times if you're used to thinking of it the other way.
At the end of the day, these quirks do nothing to detract from the book or the recipes; they just require a little adjustment period. And once you flick the cap off your first homebrew, all is forgiven and forgotten. I can already tell that I'll be brewing from this book for many seasons to come.
• Brooklyn Brew Shop's Beer Making Book: 52 Seasonal Recipes for Small Batches by Erica Shea and Stephen Valand, $14 on Amazon
We love the vanilla and smoky charred notes bourbon gets from aging in oak barrels. To get the same effect in small-batch beer, we soak dark oak chips in bourbon overnight, then add them to the boil. Most commercial bourbon beers are super-heavy stouts that can knock you out after the first sip, but we chose a lighter style of Belgian dubbel for the base, more spice and plum than syrup.
0.75 ounce dark oak chips
1⁄3 cup bourbon
60-minute mash at 152°F
2 1/4 quarts water, plus 1 gallon for sparging
1.7 pounds Belgian Pilsner malt
0.25 pound Munich malt
0.2 pound Special B malt
0.15 pound Caramel 60 malt
* all grains should be milled
0.3 ounce Styrian Golding hops, divided into thirds
0.25 pound clear Belgian Candi Sugar
1/2 packet Belgian ale yeast, such as Safale S-33
3 tablespoons maple syrup, for bottling
Prep: The day before brewing, in a shallow tray, soak the oak chips in the bourbon at room temperature. Keep covered overnight.
Mash: In a medium stockpot, heat the 2 1/4 quarts water over high heat to 160°F. Add all the malts and stir gently. The temperature should reduce to 150°F within 1 minute. Turn off the heat. Steep the grains for 60 minutes between 144°F and 152°F. Every 10 minutes, stir and take the temperature. If the grains get too cold, turn on the heat to high while stirring until the temperature rises to that range, then turn off the heat. With 10 minutes left, in a second medium stockpot heat the 1 gallon water to 170°F. After the grains have steeped for 60 minutes, raise the heat of the grains-and-water mixture to high and stir until the temperature reaches 170°F. Turn off the heat.
Sparge: Place a fine-mesh strainer over a pot, and pour the grains into the strainer, reserving the liquid. Pour the 1 gallon of 170°F water over the grains. Recirculate the collected liquid through the grains once.
Boil: Return the pot with the liquid to the stove on high heat and bring to a boil. W hen it starts to foam, reduce the heat to a slow rolling boil. Add one third of the Styrian Golding hops after 30 minutes, 55 minutes, and 59 minutes. At the 60-minute mark, turn off the heat, add the oak chips, bourbon, and the Belgian Candi Sugar, and stir to dissolve the sugar. Prepare an ice bath by stopping the sink and filling it with 5 inches of water and ice. Place the pot in the ice bath in the sink and cool to 70°F, about 30 minutes.
Ferment: Using a sanitized funnel and strainer, pour the liquid into a sanitized fermenter. Add any water needed to fill the jug to the 1-gallon mark. Add the yeast, sanitize your hands, cover the mouth of the jug with one hand, and shake to distribute evenly. Attach a sanitized stopper and tubing to the fermenter and insert the other end of the tubing into a small bowl of sanitizing solution. The solution will begin to bubble as the yeast activates, pushing gas through the tube. Wait 2 to 3 days until the bubbling has slowed, then replace the tubing system with an airlock. Wait 11 more days, then bottle, using the maple syrup.
Related: Gift for Beer Buffs: The $150 Homebrew Kit
(Cover Image: Deryck Vonn Lee/Clarkson Potter Publishers)