When homebrewing was legalized in 1977, brewers had access to little more than a dusty can of pre-hopped malt extract with a package of dry bread yeast taped to the top. The results were often as uninspiring as they were predictable. Things have changed though. Even modest homebrew shops typically carry a wide variety of fresh malts and hops from around the world with dozens of different pure yeast cultures optimized for every imaginable style. While the expanded options are liberating, the selection can also be overwhelming.
To help make sense of the bewildering array of options, we assembled five ridiculously simple homebrew recipes to help cut through the clutter. We also include suggestions for how you can riff on each to make it your own making your buddies green with envy.
Our recipes rely on liquid extract for the base malt, but we also include all-grain versions that assume a 65-percent mash efficiency. All batches boil the wort for 60 minutes and are designed to produce five gallons of beer.
The simplest recipe concept that we’ve ever come across is the SMASH Ale. SMASH is an acronym for Single Malt And Single Hop. By using just one malt and one hop, you’ll be able to zero in on the exact flavor contribution provided by each ingredient. We recommend starting with English Maris Otter malt and a classic American hop for a bready body and citrus zing, but the beauty here is how easy it is to experiment and compare ingredients.
Recipe Batch Size: 5 Gallons Boil Size: 6 Gallons (After losses for sediment and evaporation, you’ll get 5 gallons of fermented beer) OG: 1.053 FG: 1.013 IBU: 32 Alcohol: 5.2%
Malt Extract 8 lbs Maris Otter Liquid Malt Extract
Hops 1 oz Cascade pellets (6.3% AA) boiled for 60 minutes 1.5 oz Cascade pellets (6.3% AA) boiled for 10 minutes 1.5 oz Cascade pellets (6.3% AA) boiled for 1 minute
Yeast Wyeast 1056 American Ale Yeast or White Labs WLP 001 California Ale Yeast
Procedure Heat six gallons of water, and as it approaches the boil, add the malt extract. Once boiling add your first hop charge. After 50 minutes add your second hop charge and after 9 more minutes add your third hop charge, boiling for one more minute. Chill to 68º F and pitch your yeast. Allow a week to ten days for fermentation. Check your final gravity. If it has reached 1.013 (or is at least within a few points) proceed to bottling or kegging your beer.
All-Grain Version Use 12 lbs of Munich malt in place of the extract and mash at 150F.
Riffs Experiment by swapping out any one ingredient at a time. For example, make one batch with American Cascade hops and another with English Kent Golding and you’ll get a great example of how the aggressive grapefruit and pine notes of the Cascade hop differ from the mellower floral, herbal aromas of the Kent Golding. Or keep the malt and the hops constant to see what kind of flavors an English Yeast brings to the party. There really are no limits here.
2. American IPA
The American IPA is a go big or go home beer style. You want citrusy, piney hop flavor and lots of it. First you need to use generous doses of aggressive hops that have a great flavor affinity for one another. Second you need to make the beer strong enough to stand up to the hops without being too thick or sweet.
One of the most famous and effective hop combinations among double IPAs is shared by the C Hops — American varieties starting with the letter C. It’s weird, but it works. The classic C hops are Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Citra, and Columbus. Each offers varying levels of bitterness, citrus, and pine flavors. Use them all together with big charges at the end of the boil and in dry-hopping to maximize the aroma and flavor.
To keep the malt sweetness in check, use a modest dose of corn sugar in the boil. The sugar will ferment out completely, leaving the body of the beer drier, relative to its strength.
Hops 2 oz Columbus (15% AA) boiled for 60 minutes 1 oz Columbus (15% AA) boiled for 15 minutes 1 oz Chinook (12% AA) boiled for 15 minutes 2 oz Citra (13.7% AA) boiled for 0 minutes (ie: throw them in, and turn off the flame) 1 oz Columbus (15% AA) boiled for 0 minutes 1 oz Cascade (7% AA) boiled for 0 minutes 1 oz Centennial (10.5% AA) boiled for 0 minutes 2 oz Citra dry hopped for 3 days (1st charge) 1 oz Chinook dry hopped for 3 days (1st charge) 1 oz Cascade dry hopped for 3 days (2nd charge) 1 oz Centennial dry hopped for 3 days (2nd charge) 1 oz Columbus dry hopped for 3 days (2nd charge)
Yeast Wyeast 1056 American Ale or White Labs WLP 001 California Yeast
Procedure Steep the Crystal 45 and Carapils malt in 150F water for 30 minutes. Remove the grain and bring to a boil. Add the malt extract, dextrose, and 2 oz Columbus hops. After 45 minutes add another 1 oz of Columbus Hops and continue boiling. At the end of the boil, add 2 oz of Citra, 1 oz of Columbus, 1 oz of Cascade, and 1oz of Centennial, then turn off the flame. Chill and ferment at 68F. Allow a week to ten days for fermentation. Once fermentation is complete add the first charge of dry hops using a sanitized nylon sack. Remove the first charge after three days and add the second charge for another three days, again using a sanitized nylon sack. Remove the second charge, check your final gravity and rack the finished beer to bottles or a keg.
All-Grain Version Substitute 15 lbs of two row pale malt for the extract malt and mash with the other grains for 60 minutes at 149F.
Riffs Another set of hops with a great flavor affinity is Warrior, Simcoe and Amarillo. Use the Warrior for the early bittering charges and similar amounts of Simcoe and Amarillo for the late additions and dry hops for a deeply piney and tropical take on the IPA.
3. German Hefeweizen
With big clove, bubblegum, and banana flavors, German Hefeweizens are fantastic session beers and ridiculously easy to brew. The recipe is simple: Wheat malt extract comes blended as half wheat and half barley, and that’s exactly the mix we need. A touch of hops at the beginning of the boil will keep it from being too sweet. Use a German Hefeweizen yeast, and let it rip through fermentation.
Malt 8.5 lbs Wheat Liquid Malt Extract (a 50/50 or 60/40 wheat and barley blend will work)
Hops 1 oz Hallertau Hops (4% AA)
Yeast White Labs WLP 300 Hefeweizen Ale or Wyeast 3068 Weihenstephan Weizen
Procedure Add the wheat liquid malt extract and bring to a boil. Once you reach a boil, add hops and continue to boil for 60 minutes. Chill to 65º F, pitch yeast and ferment. Allow a week ten days for fermentation. Take a gravity reading and if the final gravity is 1.012 rack (or at least within a few points), proceed to bottling or kegging.
All-Grain Version Mash 5.5 lbs of Wheat Malt and 5.5 lbs of German Pilsner Malt together with a half pound of rice hulls to keep the mash from getting gummed up. Mash at 155º F for 60 minutes.
Riffs Use an American ale yeast and an ounce or two of American hops late in the boil to convert this into an American Wheat beer.
4. Belgian Saison
When it comes to brewing a refreshing beer, it’s tough to beat Belgium’s saison style. These beers were historically made for farm workers as thirst quenching compensation during the summer harvest. Saisons are incredibly easy to brew if you follow the right plan. The key is in the fermentation, since the yeast creates the dominant flavors. Classic Belgian saison strain tastes great, but it’s notoriously unreliable. Instead, look to the Wyeast French Saison yeast, it consistently produces dry and delicious saisons batch after batch. Adding a pound of acidulated malt creates a faint puckering, and Sorachi Ace hops bring a lemony snap. Our recipe takes more than a little inspiration from Brooklyn Brewery’s fantastic Sorachi Ace, but it’s not a direct clone recipe.
Malt Extract and Sugar 7.5 lbs Extra Light Liquid Malt Extract 1 lb Acidulated Malt 1 lb Dextrose (Corn Sugar)
Hops .5 oz Sorachi Ace (12% AA) boiled for 60 minutes .5 oz Sorachi Ace (12% AA) boiled for 30 minutes 3 oz Sorachi Ace (12% AA) boiled for 0 minutes (Throw them in and turn off the flame) 2 oz Sorachi Ace (12% AA) dry hopped for 3 days
Yeast Wyeast 3711 French Saison
Procedure Steep the Acidulated Malt for a half hour at 149º F. Remove the grain and bring the six gallons to a boil. Once boiling, add a half ounce of Sorachi Ace. Add another half ounce 30 minutes into the boil and the final four ounces at the end of the boil. Turn off the flame immediately and chill to 66º F. Pitch yeast and allow a week to ten days for fermentation. Do not be surprised if this beer ferments even lower than our predicted final gravity. Add the dry hops using a sanitized nylon bag. After three more days remove the dry hops and bottle or keg the beer.
All-Grain Version Mash 11 lbs of Belgian Pilsner malt along with the acidulated malt at 149º F for 60 minutes.
Riffs Replace the Sorachi Ace with Citra and add an ounce of fresh orange peel in the last five minutes of the boil for a more tropical take on the saison.
5. Dry Irish Stout
They say everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day so surely no one will object if we use an American ale yeast to ensure that our stout has the requisite amount of dryness to earn its name. That dryness will showcase the sharp flavor of roasted barley and the smooth palette provided by flaked barley. It’s like Guinness, but better.
Malt Extract and Sugar 6 lbs Maris Otter Liquid Malt Extract 1 lb Flaked Barley 1 lb Roasted Barley
Hops 2 oz Kent Goldings (5% AA) boiled for 60 minutes
Yeast Wyeast 1056 American Ale Yeast or White Labs WLP 001 California Ale Yeast
Procedure Steep the flaked barley and roasted barley at 150º F for 30 minutes before removing the grain and raising the temperature to a boil. Add the malt extract along with your hops and boil for 60 minutes. Chill and ferment at 68º F for a week to ten days. Take a final gravity reading and bottle or keg the finished beer.
All-Grain Version Swap out 9 lbs of Maris Otter malt for the extract and mash it at 150º F along with the flaked barley and roasted barley.
Riffs For an American stout more akin to Bell’s Kalamazoo or the Rogue Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout increase the amount of malt extract for more strength, but also fold in about a half a pound each of chocolate malt and crystal malt along with an ounce of American hops late in the boil.