This is among the simplest wholegrain beers I know and it is very reliable. The brewing process itself is as straightforward as things can be in a wholegrain brew. If you are new to beer-making I strongly suggest you try this brew first, or at least read the recipe carefully as it gives an essential introduction to the basic process of wholegrain brewing. I have divided the stages to make what will still seem like a horribly complicated process a little less forbidding. Each of the subsequent brews will follow, more or less, the same basic process. Temperatures, quantities, timings, ingredients and occasionally parts of the method will vary, but once you know how to make this brew you will understand how to make the rest. Even malt-extract brewing follows the same process except that it leaves out the first two steps, replacing them with the adding of malt extract at the start of the boil.
Orange beer is one of the three beers that I do not like to find myself without, so I make a batch every few months. It uses only a base malt – English pale ale malt – and a single hop – East Kent Golding, an all-round hop which is mildly bittering (4–5.5% alpha acids) and has flowery finishing qualities. The finished beer is very light with a nice top note from the orange peel. The orange can be left out if desired and other flavourings added – two (gloved) handfuls of nettles will give you a nettle finished beer, a sliced 3–5cm piece of ginger root will give you a ginger beer, and so on. Among the best of the variations is spruce beer. Gather the young, pale green tips in spring and early summer and add a small handful instead of the orange peel.
As with all beers, temperatures are critical, so do keep to them as closely as you can. There is a great deal of logistical manoeuvring with liquids being poured from one container to another so keep calm. As this is a model brew I will go through all the stages in detail. This and all the other beer recipes are for about 25 litres. The specific gravities you actually get may vary from those provided – it all depends on how efficient your mashing and sparging are. Don’t worry about this unless it is a long way out. If it is more than three or four points too low then either add some malt extract before the boil or, since the wort becomes a little more concentrated during the boil, you can make a little less beer instead. In this case miss out or reduce the liquoring down. The only potential issue with this is that if you are leaving it in the cask it will have an air gap at the top, though since this is usually filled with carbon dioxide it is seldom a problem. If your specific gravity is too high then you will just get a stronger and sweeter (full-bodied) beer.
- Yield: 25 litres
- 4 kg pale ale malt
- 30 g East Kent Golding hops
- 200 g brown sugar
- 1 unwaxed orange zest
- 2 tsp dried carragheen
- 11 g sachet ale yeast
- 1 tsp beer finings
- 50 g sugar for priming
- Mashing Place the malt into a fermenting bucket. Your humble fermenting bucket has now been promoted to a ‘mash tun’. It is important to make sure that the malt is at about room temperature before you begin the mash. Heat 13 litres water in your copper to 76°C. Pour and stir the hot water into the malt to make your mash, which should end up at close to 66°C; this temperature is called the ‘mash heat’. You can safely tweak it by stirring in hot or cold water. Fit the lid. The temperature should be maintained for 1¼ hours, so stand the fermenting bucket on something insulating and cover closely with blankets or a duvet.
- Sparging While your mash tun is doing its bit, heat about 17 litres water to 78°C in your stockpot. It will need to be kept at this temperature throughout this process, which calls for constant checking with thermometers and adjusting hob knobs.
- Now a bit of kit preparation. Fit the lid with the very large hole cut out of the centre onto the 25-litre fermenting bucket without holes in the bottom. Stand the fermenting bucket with the holes in the bottom on top of the other bucket, with its bottom resting on the lid. Drape the mash bag inside the top bucket and tie in place with the string provided. It is worth putting the handle of a teaspoon between the bottom of the top bucket and the lid of the bottom bucket to release air, which can force the wort all over the floor.
- When the mash is ready, carefully pour all of it into the top bucket. The wort will run through to the bottom bucket. Wait until most of it has gone through then use a plastic jug to carefully pour 2 or 3 litres hot water over the surface of the malt until it floods a little. Wait until the wort almost stops running out of the bottom then sprinkle on another 2 or 3 litres water. Continue until you have almost 25 litres wort in the bottom bucket. About another 1 litre wort is available to make up the 25 litres by lifting and gently squeezing the mash bag. Do take your time with the whole sparging process – at least an hour – so that as much of the sugar is collected as possible. You can, if you want, use the practice of slowly sprinkling the hot water onto the mash but it is boring and will not produce better results. The grains are no longer required for your brew (but chickens love them).