Homebrew DC: $12 (or so) Cream Ale

Photo courtesy of timomcd
Brewing Cream Ale
courtesy of timomcd

This is another in a series of articles about homebrewing in the DC area by Carl Weaver of RealHomebrew.com. Want to learn about making your own beer? Keep an eye out for Friday homebrew features.

I wrote about cream ale before. It is a good beer for the coming summer, light and refreshing, not too bitter, and easy-drinking – a perfect companion to while away the time with as you enjoy the evening whir of insects or traffic, whichever is more pervasive in your neighborhood.

The American Homebrewers Association recently had what they call $12 Cream Ale as a homebrew recipe of the week. I just about howled at the moon, I was so excited. $12 for a whole batch of beer? Sign me up! It sounded almost too good to be true. I looked at the recipe, and I am sure it would produce a fine brew, but the only way this is a $12 recipe is if you get half the stuff for free. The grain alone, 11 pounds of it, will cost nearly $2 per pound at Northern Brewer. Even if you buy a giant sack of it at 50 Pound Sack, it is slightly more than $1 per pound. That’s almost $12 right there.

Maybe if you are buying in bulk at wholesale prices, you can get down to almost $12. I priced it at my local-ish homebrew store (yes, they ship too, and have great prices, as does Derek at My Local Homebrew Shop) and it is a little more than $30 before tax. Northern Brewer could get me everything for more than $40. Even if I malted my own regular supermarket barley, that is $1 per pound at the cheapest. No way this whole brew is $12.

In short, unless you rob someone, I have no idea how you can make this homebrew recipe for $12. All the same, it looks like a good recipe. Nothing complicated, just good, honest beer. I bet it tastes great. It won an award, so I am guessing the judges know what they are talking about. Honestly, I can’t wait to try this.

Here is the recipe, copied from the AHA website. Do you know how to make this for the amount in the title? Please share the secret if you do.

11.0 lb (4.99 kg) Briess two-row malt
0.75 oz (21 g) Willamette pellet hops, 4.7% a.a. (60 min)
0.5 oz (14 g) Willamette pellet hops, 4.7% a.a. (30 min)
0.25 oz (7 g) Willamette pellet hops, 4.7% a.a. (0 min)
White Labs WLP051 California Ale V yeast
2.6 volumes forced CO2 to carbonate

Mash grains at 154° F (68° C) for 60 minutes. Mash out at 168° F (76° C) for 10 minutes.

I recommend a 60-minute boil, following the hop schedule. If you are not force-carbonating the brew, use about 5 ounces of priming sugar at bottling time.

As my friend Reggie would say, “Easy peasy lemon squeezy.” I am not sure exactly what that refers to, but this is not a complicated recipe. Sometimes the simple ones produce the best results, though. Let me know what you think when you try this.

This post first appeared at RealHomebrew.com.

Carl Weaver is a writer and brewer for RealHomebrew.com and has been making beer and wine for more than 20 years. He is also an avid photographer and writer and just finished his first book, about a trip he took to Thailand to live in Buddhist monasteries. He considers himself the last of the Renaissance men and the luckiest darned guy in the world. Follow him on Twitter.

2 thoughts on “Homebrew DC: $12 (or so) Cream Ale

  1. http://morebeer.com/view_product/17159/102161/Domestic_2-Row_50_lb_Sack

    The link is to a domestic 2 row barley at morebeer for $36 per 50# sack which comes out to $0.72/lb, which would be $7.92 for 11 lbs.

    While there would be shipping added from morebeer for someone in your area there are ways to find bulk base grains at or below these prices. If you have been a loyal customer of your lhbs, ask the nice shopkeeper to add a sack of base grain to his next order for you, offer him 10% over his cost and offer to pay him up front. Get involved with a homebrew club and participate in a group buy with them, often malting companies are willing to sell to homebrew clubs, but only in pallet quantities. Alternatively, become buddies with a brewer at your local microbrew of brewpub and ask them to add a sack to their grain order for you, once again at least offer to pay up front.

    OTOH, $30ish for 5 gallons of tasty small batch cream ale is still a bargain.

  2. Carl,
    Let me assure you that I did not rob anybody but indeed brewed this 5 gallon batch of beer for $12.
    I originally made this recipe as an attempt to make my father a craft/home-brew fan & make a solid recipe using minimal ingredients. My wife challenged me to brew an award winning beer using only base ingredients, and to my surprise…this recipe was the result.
    It all started with a certificate for a free vial of Whitelabs yeast that I won in another brewing competition. The Briess 2-row and hops I bought in bulk from Rebel Brewer (my favorite home-brew store). At that time, Briess was just under $1/pound and willamette was $0.89/ounce. Free yeast + Rebel prices = $12 Cream Ale!
    Sure the price of propane, CO2, water, etc. makes the beer cost more, but hey, who cares if the math isn’t exact. As Charlie reminded us, “Relax, don’t worry, have a home-brew!”
    It was the best $12/5 gallon batch of beer I ever made. Unless I re-pitch my yeast for a couple generations or win another free vial of Whitelabs, this was the one and only $12 batch of cream ale I’ll ever make.

    Keep on homebrewing!!!