Stocking Up on homebrew for summer.

beer in the summer

Spring is both a joy and a sorrow for me. I’ve had enough winter, but the warmer weather means less brewing. Most people prefer to be picnicking, swimming and golfing when the weather turns nice. Standing over a brew pot on a hot day is not something I call fun. So how do you prepare for summer brewing and more importantly avoid an annual drought of homebrew?

There are three problems with summer brewing. First is time. Considering that there are really only two seasons around the Great Lakes (10 months of cold and wet, and two months of bad brewing) time allocation is critical. Trying to convince your significant other that spending a weekend mashing and brewing can take more time than a 3-step decoction. Besides, there are the other two problems to deal with.

Some of you may already be feeling the effects of allergies brought on by the increase bacteria and other wild things which fill the air in spring and summer. Those wild things love beer too, especially sweet wort. Protecting your beer from infection becomes difficult unless you have invested in chilling and refrigeration equipment. This brings us to the third problem; temperature control during fermentation is a must in 80 degree weather. It’s possible without enormous expense. I have heard homebrewers tell stories of fermenting under water in their swimming pool and burying carboys in the backyard. These may be extreme cases but we are a creative bunch aren’t we.

The easiest way to prevent a shortage of homebrew (which tastes better in summer than the winter for reasons that will become obvious later) is to brew it now. Homebrew which is prepared and packaged with proper care will not even reach its peak in flavor and character for two months. Brewing a few extra batches now will pay off big in July and August. In February of 1996 I brewed a big ale which I named Buxom Blonde. Quite by accident I placed this bottled brew into cases and stacked them away and forgot about them. I know that sounds ridicules but it was at this time that Leeners was born so I was preoccupied. Eileen and I didn’t get around to trying them until late spring and what a surprise it was. It is even fair to say that’s how the concept of Leeners Brew Works was developed; on our patio, over chilled glasses of well-aged Buxom Blonde.

When brewing for summer enjoyment you must take the drinking time of year into account. Summer requires refreshing thirst quenching beer. Ones that are best served ice cold. Lager is the first thing that comes to mind but light ales work just as well. Buxom blonde was an ale made with dry ale yeast but after the extended laagering time it lost most of its fruity ale-ness and developed a wonderful clean dry finish. Leener is a wheat beer fan and wheat’s are great summer ales. Steam beer is another candidate since it uses lager yeast fermented at ale temperature. There is ample brewing time still available between now and Memorial Day. The brewing season can even be extended through June with a little care and creativity.

The traditional homebrewer that brews in hot weather can add a few simple techniques that will reduce the effects of hot weather. Using a wort chiller will greatly reduce the time your wort is subject to contamination. Don’t compromise on quality when buying or building a wort chiller. Look for rigid construction, safety features and a minimum 5 feet cooling coil per gallon of brew pot.

Pitching a fully active liquid yeast culture which is selected more for fermentation temperature than beer style will reduce the lag time associated with dry yeast. The sooner the brewers yeast takes hold the better the beer.

Temperature control is where you will need to get creative. An old refrigerator with a beer thermostat is the best. The thermostat allows you to control temperature to within 3-4°F. If space or wallet will not allow this luxury, don’t lose heart. Take a survey of your house, condo or apartment. Most structures have an area where the temperature is always lower. Basements are great and provide the added value of concrete floors. These are natural heat exchangers and can be harvested by placing fermenter vessels directly on them and then enclosing the fermenter in an isolated box. Rigid foam wall insulation works best. It can be cut to size (allowing at least 1" of clearance around the fermenter) and held together with duct tape. Be sure to allow your airlock to poke through the top. The insulation will prevent sudden temperature changes and the direct contact with the floor will absorb all the heat generated by fermentation.

homebrewed beer with malted grains and hop flowers

Home Beer Brewing

Brewing beer is an American Tradition.