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Australian Pale Ale: A Guide to Home Brewing in Australia

Daniel Angus July 13, 2010


I’ve been home brewing for 3 years now and in that time have brewed a lot of different styles, some good, some very bad! The recipe included in this guide is one of my most well received beers to date. To this day when I offer someone a home brew they’ll tell me how all home brew tastes like crap, then they take a sip of this recipe and tell me that all home brew tastes bad except for this (they could be lying to protect my feelings though!). In my opinion the problem with most home brew is that brewers try to get away with using cheap and substandard ingredients thinking that some kind of magic will happen in the bottle and turn it into gold. In my experience if you start with a good recipe and quality ingredients you can rarely go wrong. I’ve written this guide for anyone that is interested, with a budget of around $120-$200 to get started in homebrewing. I started with a Coopers TM homebrew kit and from there have acquired all manner of extra equipment. This guide will show you how to get the most out of your brews without the need for lots of expensive gear. The guide is written in a very simple language and is targeted at the beginner brewer. Enjoy the read and good luck with your brewing!

What is Beer?

This might sound dumb, but before we can make our own beer it is good to get a basic understanding of what it is that we are trying to create! Beer is made up of 4 basic ingredients:

Fermentables: These are the sugars that give a beer its body and alcohol content. They are usually derived from a grain like barley, but often other sugars can be used such as wheat malt, dextrose, rice malt, etc. Fermentables such as barley malt give beer its beautiful golden or amber colour. Barley grain is allowed to begin germination and then it is roasted in a kiln. This process allows the grain’s enzymes to be utilized in later brewing to convert the starches in the grain into sugars that can be converted by the yeast. The longer the barley stay in the kiln the darker it becomes and it also generates different flavours such as chocolate or coffee. This is how we can create styles of beer such as Pilsner (uses very lightly toasted malt), or dark ales and porters (use dark roasted malt). Simple sugars like dextrose don’t really add flavour to the beer, they are used as a cheap bulking agent to up the alcohol content, and are useful in later bottling stages (I use it sparingly!).

Hops: This vine flower gives the beer its bitterness and comes in a wide variety of styles. The basics of hops are flavour, aroma and bitterness. Hops can be used to give beer citrus flavours such as the cascade variety, or passionfruit such as is the case with galaxy hops. The bitterness of the hops is usually measured as a percentage (related to the amount of Alpha Acid), the higher that value the less is needed to impart bitterness in the beer. As a general rule the longer hops is boiled the more bitterness is extracted, but the more the aroma and flavour is cooked off, which is why some recipes will add the hops right at the end to impart maximum aroma.

Yeast: This little micro-organism converts our fermentables into alcohol and other by-products. Usually purchased in sachets, yeast comes in a variety of strains for particular styles of beer. Ale yeasts ferment at high temperatures of around 15 25 C, whereas lager yeasts ferment at a much lower 5 15 C.

Australian Pale Ale: A Guide to Home Brewing in Australia

There are also yeasts specific for wheat beers, and ales with a high malt load (English ale yeast). The biggest trick here is to use quality yeast such as the Safale brand yeast, and to keep the yeast comfortable at a constant temperature. It never ceases to amaze me how some brewers expect their brews to work out well in a back shed that is fluctuating between 5 and 35 degrees, a tip: it won’t!

Water: Some people spend a lot of money on filtration and other water treatment equipment. Unless you are brewing all grain I’d say that in Brisbane and Melbourne where I’ve brewed you don’t need to worry.

Beer has some natural enemies:

Infection: Bacteria can get onto equipment like the pots, flasks, measures, tubes and infect the brew in the fermentation stage, or later when it is sitting in the bottle. Sanitising spray will help keep everything free from these unwanted intruders. Heat also helps kill of the little bugs.

Heat: Yeast likes to be kept within a finite temperature band, too cold and fermentation will slow and

but don’t worry as it can be heated up to get it cranking again. Too hot however

may even stop

and the yeast can produce off tastes and ultimately you may even kill it.

Light: Ever wondered why beer (except cold filtered beer) comes in dark green or brown bottles? Light is a natural enemy of beer, best to keep it in a dark spot away from direct sunlight.

Oxygen: Except in the case of when you are about to kick off fermentation for the first time, oxygen will spoil a beer if it is exposed to it for too long. It is natures luck that carbon dioxide is heavier than oxygen as this means that the fermenter should generally have a nice protective layer on top of it while the beer is brewing, but if you disturb the beer too much you could be letting too much oxygen in which will foul your beer.


Thus begins the process of turning your bathroom or spare room into something resembling a meth lab. The first port of call is a brew shop, or the local KMart. A Coopers TM kit contains everything you need to get started including:

Fermenter (container, tap, lid, airlock and grommet) (See Fig. 1a).

Bottling siphon (See Fig. 1c).

Specific gravity tester (See Fig. 1b).

Mixing spoon (See Fig. 1c).

30 plastic long necks (750ml)

30 plastic caps

1 instructional video starring Paul Mercurio

Can of Coopers extract brew

Packet of brewing sugar (dextrose)

Packet of brew tablets (these are measured portions for bottling)

If you use everything in this kit you’ll make your money back straight away. 2 1/2 slabs of coopers quality beer for around $70 ain’t bad in my opinion. But we need some more stuff to up the quality to the next level so in addition to the kit I’d recommend the following:

2nd Fermenter (container, tap, lid, airlock and grommet).

Australian Pale Ale: A Guide to Home Brewing in Australia

1.5m of food grade siphon hose

Bottle capper (so that you can cap glass bottles), don’t get a hand held one instead get a good bench top capper.

Sanitising concentrate such as brew shield

Cooking Thermometer

Strainer (fine meshed metal one will do)

When you get really cranking temperature control is going to be important. In Brisbane it is absolutely necessary as it gets way too hot to brew well here between September and April. In Southern States not so much, however a sealed container with temperature control could still help remove some of the fluctuations in temperature to keep the yeast happy. It can sometimes get too cold in winter to brew ales but I’d say brew lagers and pilsners instead before worrying about buying heating equipment. These are difficult to brew in hot states and are to die for in the summer so stock up in winter and enjoy the fruit of your labour come the bbq months! I bought a wine fridge off ebay for $80 and it has seen me through a Brisbane summer fine (See Fig. 1d). It is low power (40W peak) as it uses a solid state cooling device to bring the temperature between 14 20 C. You don’t need to worry about changing anything like with a fridge which requires a temperature controller, and it fits a 25L fermenter perfectly! I reckon the makers could open up a massive market with brewers if they wised up to it.

Dan’s Simple Ale

As the title suggests this is a very simple beer that doesn’t require thousands of different ingredients and processes. It can be whipped together in about 2 hours and the end result is a mid level bitterness, slightly fruity, clean refreshing ale that your mates and you will hopefully love. The process described below can be adapted with any other ingredients so go and experiment with different hops to see what effect different boil times and hops have on the beer. As well, try different grains and malts to give the beer different malt characteristics. I just did an ESB that used twice as much malt and hops as in this recipe and it came out superb. The process was the same but the ingredients were different.

Going Shopping

My local brew shop is Annerley home brew and I’ve bought the ingredients for this recipe there. I was a big fan of Brewcraft in Richmond when I lived in Melbourne. Any brew shop should have the ingredients I’ve listed, if they don’t then ask them for a suitable replacement and I’m sure they’ll be able to help you.

1 can of light malt extract. This is a barley malt syrup in a can. (See Fig. 2a)

1kg of dry light malt. Pretty much the same as the can but in a powder form. I use one of each as the powder can be hard to disolve, whereas the liquid malt is pretty easy to work with. (See Fig. 2b)

50g Cascade hops (pellets) (See Fig. 2c)

250g Crystal malt (See Fig. 2d)

Safale US-05 Yeast sachet (See Fig. 2e)

The Night Before

If you’ve got yourself a fridge like me I usually fill the fermenter up to about 14L and get that water chilled down to 14 C. What it means is that when you make your partial mash on brew day you can add the hot liquid to the cold and the end temperature will be perfect to pitch the yeast. If you don’t have a fridge then I used to fill 6 of my plastic beer bottles with water (making sure the bottles were sanitised) and chuck them in the freezer with the lids on, leaving enough room for the water to expand when it freezes. Go get some sleep before brew day.

Australian Pale Ale: A Guide to Home Brewing in Australia

Australian Pale Ale: A Guide to Home Brewing in Australia (a) Fermenter with tap and airlock

(a) Fermenter with tap and airlock

Home Brewing in Australia (a) Fermenter with tap and airlock (c) Mixing spoon and bottling siphon

(c) Mixing spoon and bottling siphon

with tap and airlock (c) Mixing spoon and bottling siphon (b) Specific gravity tester (d) Brew

(b) Specific gravity tester

spoon and bottling siphon (b) Specific gravity tester (d) Brew fridge (actually a wine fridge) Figure

(d) Brew fridge (actually a wine fridge)

Figure 1: Brewing equipment

Australian Pale Ale: A Guide to Home Brewing in Australia

Australian Pale Ale: A Guide to Home Brewing in Australia (a) Liquid Malt (b) Dry Malt
Australian Pale Ale: A Guide to Home Brewing in Australia (a) Liquid Malt (b) Dry Malt

(a) Liquid Malt

Ale: A Guide to Home Brewing in Australia (a) Liquid Malt (b) Dry Malt (c) Hops

(b) Dry Malt

to Home Brewing in Australia (a) Liquid Malt (b) Dry Malt (c) Hops (d) Crystal Malt

(c) Hops

(d) Crystal Malt

(a) Liquid Malt (b) Dry Malt (c) Hops (d) Crystal Malt (e) Yeast Figure 2: Ingredients

(e) Yeast

Figure 2: Ingredients for Dan’s Simple Ale

Australian Pale Ale: A Guide to Home Brewing in Australia

Brew Day

Grab two pots, one should be a large pot over 5L, the other can be around 3L. Place 250g of crystal malt and 1L of water in the 3L pot. Put the mixture on the stove top and bring it up to 65 C stirring it the whole time. It shouldn’t go above 70 C otherwise you’ll kill the enzymes in the barley. Once it is up to temperature, turn off the heat, put a lid on the pot and wrap the pot up in an old towel to keep it warm. Leave the pot for 30 minutes. This process is known as steeping. Open the lid on the pot and give it a stir, the water should be a deep caramel colour and should give off

a beautiful biscuit and sugary smell. Strain this liquid into the 5L pot using a fine sieve and use a spatula

to push the liquid out of the barley husks. Add an extra 2L of water to the 5L pot and bring the mixture to the boil. Once it is about to boil start slowly adding the 1kg of dry malt to the 5L pot. Be very careful as at this stage it is easy for the liquid to boil over. If this starts to happen turn the heat off or move the pot off the heat and the foam should settle back down. You’ll have to play around a bit to get the temperature

right for a rolling boil that doesn’t boil over and create a massive sticky mess. Make sure all of the dry malt

is dissolved in the liquid, sometimes it can form clumps and it takes a bit of work to get rid of these. Now the hops can go in! The following is what is commonly referred to as a hop schedule. It lists the

times that the hops need to boil, have a clock on hand so you can keep track of this properly.

25g cascade @ 60 minutes

15g cascade @ 15 minutes

10g cascade @ flameout

To decipher what this means, you’ll have to add 25g of the hop pellets at the start. Let that go for 45 minutes stirring occasionally and then add 15g more. After another 15 minutes you should turn the heat off and add the remaining 10g of hops. Makes sense? At about the same time as you add the second bunch of hops put the kettle on to boil. When the kettle boils put the can of malt into the sink or a small pot and pour the boiling water over it. Basically you’re trying to loosen up the malt in the can a bit to make it easier to pour out. Now after doing the hops schedule above you’ve probably got 3L of hot sticky hoppy mess sitting in a pot. You need to get this and the extra can of malt into the fermenter and make sure it is mixed well. How you do this depends on if you went the ice in the bottle trick or the fridge water:

Fridge water already in fermenter. What I do at this point is to get the can of malt and crack it open, pour into the fermenter with the chilled water stirring well the whole time. Then strain the the remaining liquid from the brew pot into the fermenter catching a lot of the hops in the strainer on the way. Make sure it is all mixed well and top up to 21L with tap water if required.

Empty fermenter. Put the brew pot in the sink and place a few of your frozen bottles in there as well. Fill the sink with some water to chill the pot and the liquid inside it down. After about 10 minutes get the can of malt and crack it open, pour the contents into the fermenter. Then strain the the remaining liquid from the brew pot into the fermenter catching a lot of the hops in the strainer on the way. The ice in the bottles is probably half melted so empty the water inside it into the fermenter. Mix this together, and keep adding water to the bottles to get all of the ice out of them into the fermenter. The originally boiling malt liquid and the chilled water should combine to get it to the right temperature. Now its just about getting the final volume up to 21L using more tap water.

After using either of the methods above you should be left with a brew that is around 18 20 C. It’s up to you to work out whether it is too cold while you are topping it up and add some water from the kettle to warm it up. If it’s not getting cold enough then next time try some more ice. I’ve pitched the yeast at up to 23 C but it’s best to get the temp below 23 C if you can. So now that the fermenter is full it’s time to measure the specific gravity and then pitch the yeast. Place the fermenter in the spot where it’s going to stay for the next couple of weeks and dunk (making sure it has been sanitised using hot water or brew shield) the specific gravity tester in the fermenter. Let go of it and watch where it sits. Record the level (it should be around 1.044) and take it out. Now pour the yeast out into the fermenter. Don’t stir it just let the yeast sink by itself. Now put some water in the airlock and seal up the fermenter. Go drink a beer and clean up your pots and pans.

Australian Pale Ale: A Guide to Home Brewing in Australia

Now you should try to keep the brew at a stable 18 20 C for the next 2 weeks. The yeast will generate some heat by itself so keep that in mind. Also 21L of liquid has a lot of thermal mass so it is hard to quickly heat or cool it which will eliminate minor fluctuations in temperature through the day and night.

24-48 hours later

You should have noticed that the beer has created a foamy head that may have created a ring about an inch above the top of the liquid on the inside of the fermenter. This is a good sign. Another good sign is the airlock letting gas escape, making funny gurgling sounds in the process.

1 week later

This stage is pretty subjective and I’ve had brews go for 5 days or up to 2 weeks in the primary fermentation stage. For this recipe with the temperature as I’ve described 7 days should be enough for the beer to have ceased vigorous fermentation activity. A good guide is to count 48 hours from the last time you saw a bubble escape the airlock. You can also siphon a little bit of beer into the plastic cylinder that came with the specific gravity tester, dunk the tester into it and measure the specific gravity. Anything around 1.014

is pretty good and I would proceed to rack the beer.

Racking is a process that dumps the beer from one fermenter to another, leaving the trub (dead yeast and other crap) in the bottom of the first fermenter. It will result in a clearer beer and one that I think tastes cleaner and better. Take a length of hose, sanitise it and insert it into the tap of the first fermenter. Mix 3 tablespoons of dextrose with a small amount of water (making sure the measuring cup and spoon are sterile), and add this to the empty secondary fermenter. Take the hose and coil it into the secondary fermenter. Make sure the tap on the secondary is off, remove the airlock from the first fermenter and open the tap up to transfer the brew from the first fermenter into the second. When the hose starts running dry you may want to carefully tilt the fermenter slightly forward to get the last bit of liquid out, however be careful not to let much trub in with it. Now remove the hose, being careful not to splash the beer too much as this will increase the amount of oxygen contact, and seal up the secondary with a lid and airlock. Leave for a week.

2 weeks later

The beer should have slightly charged the airlock about 24 hours after the racking process, if it hasn’t don’t worry as sometimes the seal in the fermenter isn’t the best and at this stage the beer is releasing very small amounts of carbon dioxide anyway. About a week after racking it’s probably time to bottle! Don’t worry if you leave it a bit longer, I’ve left

a racked beer up to 2 weeks in the secondary and the beer has been fine. Remove the airlock and pour a little bit of beer out to measure the specific gravity again and make a record of it. Taste it, and see whether it tastes nice. Although it is warm and flat it should still taste nice and give you an indication of the final product. Dissolve 130g of dextrose in water and put it in a sanitised empty fermenter. Take the sanitised tube and rack the beer as you did a week ago into the second fermenter. This step removes the requirement to put sugar in every bottle and is known as bulk priming. Insert the sanitised bottling siphon with the dongle on the end pointing down. This dongle allows you to turn the tap on and leave it on without beer spilling out everywhere. When you push a bottle over the top of it it will depress the dongle and proceed to fill the bottle. Fill until it is full and remove. When removed from the siphon the gap left in the top of the bottle should be perfect. Cap the bottle and fill the remainder. Leave the beer for a month before chucking it in the fridge. In that time the beer will ferment out the priming sugar and charge the bottles with a bit of carbon dioxide. Don’t let the bottles get too hot (> 23 C) or it may spoil the beer or even worse explode the bottles. You’ll notice a little bit of trub in the bottom of the bottles, don’t worry about it!

Happy brewing!