Maple Cream Ale

I do not know exactly why it took so long for me to brew up my next batch of beer. I guess I wanted to wait to see how the pumpkin beer was received. Then I suppose the winter holidays came and went pretty quickly, filled with days of shopping and drinking said pumpkin beer. As I got to the end of my supply of homebrew, I quickly ealized that I didn’t have another batch to replace it with.

Which taught me a very important lesson about timing homebrews: Always have one fermenting in the pipeline.

I was thinking about the beer though. I wanted to go a bit seasonal again to celebrate the melting of the snow and one of Quebec’s greatest staples, maple syrup. If I wanted to get the beer ready for March (and not two months after the season like my pumpkin beer) I would have to start soon.

It’s easy to get lost in research and the science of homebrewing but at a certain point you just have to go for it. After looking up recipes suitable for maple syrup and how the syrup reacts with the yeast and what flavours it imparts I got my ingredients and hit the ground running (or boiling). So I present to you my Maple Cream Ale.

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Homebrew Process: Day 1 – Recipe

Now that I have spent most of yesterday researching and thinking about maple syrup, it’s time to formulate a recipe. I won’t lie to you, I’m not an expert in brewing beer or crafting recipes yet. I am still an extract brewer. I just know what I like and what I want to try and make. With that, I will go online and look for a recipe to base my experiment on. Then I will tweak and add to it as I see fit to create the beer I want.

In this case I had the idea of a Maple Cream Ale. So I looked at how-to’s and recipes for cream ale. The essentials to a typical cream ale are using corn adjuncts and the type of yeast (and the temperature it ferments at). Normally you would use a lager yeast at higher temperatures at around 20°C but some strains of ale yeast fermented at around the same temperature will work.

How will a cream ale work with maple syrup anyway? Most of the cream ales I’ve tried were mild in flavour, light in colour and a bit bitter. I want the creamy mouth feel but this beer won’t taste like a traditional cream ale. It needs to be a bit sweet and because of the maple it will be a lot darker. So I searched the homebrewtalk forums for a hybrid cream ale recipe and I found an extract Caramel Cream Ale recipe. Reading the comments for the recipe, it sounded like this is a sweet beer, which is perfect to compliment the maple flavours. But a bit of tweaking will be needed.

When maple is boiled and fermented, the yeast will eat the sugars in the syrup leaving a dry wood flavour. It is distinctly maple but without the instinctive sweet taste. The Caramel/Crystal malt and a hint of vanilla will add back a bit of the sweetness expected with maple syrup. Adding lactose, which is an unfermentable sugar, will also add sweetness and a nice smooth body to the beer. I just need to make sure that the beer ends up balanced. The last thing I want is a sweet candy beer. I will probably add more hops and dial back the vanilla and lactose. And of course, add maple syrup.

There are a lot of recipe applications out there. I use BrewTarger simply because it is free. It works well in organizing ingredients and calculating expected values. It will also print out a nice recipe and brew day sheet. There are other applications out there like BeerTools but I do not have any experience with them.

Now I use BrewTarget to add my ingredients, tweak it a bit and then I’ll make sure my local home brew store carries what I need. My tentative recipe looks something like this:

Maple Cream Ale
3lbs Extra Light Dry Malt Extract
3lbs Light Wheat Dry Malt Extract
1lbs Crystal Malt (steeped at 150­°F – 165°F)

25g Cascade Pellets (60 minutes)
25g Saaz (20 minutes)
25g Tettnanger (10 minutes)

4oz (liquid oz) Lactose (15 minutes)
1tsp Irish Moss (10 minutes)

? Vanilla Extract
? Maple Syrup

As you can see I am not sure when to add the maple and how much I will need. I will have to keep thinking about those amounts and will probably only decide on brew day.

The recipe also calls for 1 cup lactose, vanilla and dry malt extract at priming. I will decide that when I taste the beer at that time and judge if it needs more sweetness/vanilla flavour. Also, I will just use dextrose for priming. It is easier to prime with and from what I understand there is no difference in taste. DME is a bit more unpredictable when priming.

Next step is looking at my equipment and buying the ingredients.

Homebrew Process: Day 0

The process begins with a thought, an idea, for the perfect beer. Something good. Something different. Before any of the real heavy lifting, since I am relatively new to homebrewing, I will take that idea to the internet to nurture and grow it.

This time my idea is to brew with maple syrup. Spring is around the corner and in Quebec it is the perfect time of the year to indulge in lots of maple at a Cabane à Sucre. There are a lot of questions to ask when brewing with maple and I have no idea how to properly use it.

The first place I will look for answers is the forums at Pretty much any questions you might have about brewing will already be answered. A quick search of their forums or wiki will get you a good portion of the information you need or at the very least a good starting point for deeper investigation. Also, Google is always your friend.

There will be a lot of information out there. In my case, there are many different opinions on using maple syrup. Some say it doesn’t add any flavour, some say it does. Then there are different times to use it in the process. Boiling it will add a dry woody flavour. Adding too much will dry out the beer and up the alcohol content. Some books add maple during fermentation. Some people use it to prime their bottles (and then you have to make the proper calculations). There are also different grades of maple (and then Canada has different grades than the labels in America).

That’s a lot of information to process. Which is why I won’t jump in head first. I probably won’t decide how to use maple properly until brew day.

Here’s what I know so far about using maple syrup.

  • Adding it to the boil will produce a dry woody flavour.
  • Adding it to the fermentation will help retain more maple flavour. However there is a risk of contamination and halting the yeast productivity. If you don’t use a fresh bottle of maple then you should boil it with water to sanitize before adding it. Remember that the yeast will eat the sugar and it won’t be that classic sweet taste you’re expecting.
  • I’ve read some warnings of botulism cultivating in home made maple syrup but using bought syrup from a can or bottle should be fine.
  • Using maple to prime your bottles will retain the sweet smooth taste. But you have to calculate the amount properly or you risk messing up your carbonation.
  • You will have to use a lot of maple syrup to maintain a taste which can be expensive. Although, in my opinion, taste is arbitrary to individuals so you have no idea what is the ‘right’ amount of ‘taste’ is unless you try it.
  • There are different grades of syrup. Using a higher grade (lighter) will give you more fermentable sugars while using a lower grade with more “impurities” will contain less pure sugar but will have more flavour. Using cooking grade maple will probably be the best bet if your goal is to create flavour in your beer and not higher alcohol content.
  • Keep reading tomorrow when I begin to craft the recipe.

    Bacon Beer, Words To My Ear.

    While eating breakfast on one of my homebrew days, eating bacon no less, I got to thiking: “Could I brew a beer using bacon?”. Why not. It could be a bit of a challenge getting the right flavours in the beer and balancing it out right. I envisioned a darker, smoky, fried bacon taste. Could be possible…

    Going through some of the beer blogs today, I noticed that a group of homebrewers are doing a sort-of “ironman” brew challenge. The ingredient… BACON!


    For this brew I actually decided to use bacon grease in the brown ale lending to it’s name, the Greasy Pig Brown Ale. The smell of the beer while in the boil was friggin’ amazing. My garage was overtaken by the ludicrous smell of fresh cooked bacon. I still haven’t decided if I’m got to “Dry Pork” the beer. (Stealing Jamey’s phrase). Going to try the beer again in two weeks to see if it needs more bacon before I carb it. We are all going to be tasting the beer in feb; so I have a couple more weeks for it to settle in the corney before I decide what to do.

    The “grease” doesn’t sound very appealing in a beer since it will kill the head and give it a really awkward mouth-feel but it sounds like the brewer lagered the beer and removed the oil from the top.

    Very interesting. One of my ideas were to create bacon salt and use that for flavour… Somehow… I’ll keep an eye on the progress and report back in here to see how they end up accomplishing this.

    Do You Use Hop Extract?

    I love the smell of a freshly opened pack of hop pellets. I haven’t had the opportunity to smell the home grown hops my friend gave me but I get excited every day I think about using them for an IPA soon. There is something very appealing with the smell and look of those physical little green things. Hops come in flowers, pellets and extract.

    Hops can be added into beer as flowers, pellets, extract or oil. The Oxford Companion to Beer says that ‘more than 50% of all hops used by the brewing industry worldwide are processed into extracts.’ CO2 extract contains all of the good stuff you want from the hop – alpha acids, beta acids and oils – in a concentrated form. Hop Union explains that ‘the brewing characteristics of the original hops are maintained,’ so equivalent flower or pellet additions for bitterness or aroma will be the same with extract.

    If I wasn’t confined to my apartment I would use grains to mash. Unfortunately I have to use extract but it is still an acceptable way to brew. I think hop extract might not be as well known or as widely accepted. Even though the extract would yield greater efficiency in taste and aroma. Using extracts and not fresh ingredients probably loses a bit of the charm in brewing and that might be why most home brewers enjoy using fresh hops (and even growing their own).

    I’m curious if anyone has ever used hop extract? Comment below and let us know your experience with it.