Aging a California Common

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by messyhair42, Mar 4, 2012.

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  1. messyhair42

    messyhair42 Initiate (0) Dec 30, 2010 Colorado

    A week ago I made my first lager, a CC from an Anchor Steam recipe. Since the yeast is technically a lager yeast I was wondering what the typical aging schedule is for a beer of this type. Does it need a longer lagering time or can I bottle it after 5 weeks like my other ales?
  2. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (2,567) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I have read that Anchor performs a ‘cool conditioning’ of Anchor Steam: they cool condition at 50°F for three weeks after primary fermentation has completed. I mimic this process when I brew my California Common beers: I secondary in a carboy for 3-4 weeks at a temperature of 50°F.

    I have never brewed my California Common beers without conducting a cool conditioning so I can’t comment how the beer would taste otherwise.

    I bottle my beers. I have noticed that my California Common beers improve with age in the bottle. The beer tastes good after it is carbonated (two weeks in the bottle) but after a few months in the bottle the beer is even ‘better’. I am not sure why this beer improves with age in the bottle.

    I use Wyeast 2112 yeast and I conduct my primary fermentation at 60°F.

    mrjimcat likes this.
  3. pweis909

    pweis909 Meyvn (1,303) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin

    Unlike Jack, I bottle mine when primary fermentation is finished. For priming, I keep the temp at ~65 for a 2-3 week period. I'll check a bottle now and then, and when priming levels seem consistent, they go in the fridge for cooling. I'll drink them over the next 2-3 months. Like Jack, I like my beers too. It could be I'd like them more if I did it his way, but I like them my way too.
  4. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (2,567) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania


    You state: “…they go in the fridge for cooling. I'll drink them over the next 2-3 months.” Do you keep all of your California Common beer in the refrigerator for the 2-3 month time period? If you do, then you are effectively lagering your beers within the bottle.

    There are multiple ways to achieve the process of lagering. Out of habit (based upon the traditional way that beer is lagered) I perform bulk lagering: I perform cold conditioning in a secondary vessel (a carboy for me). I somewhat alter this procedure for California Common beers to be consistent with Anchor Brewery:

    · I cool condition at 50°F (vs. my typical lagering temperature of 35-40°F)

    · I condition for 3-4 weeks (vs. my typical lagering timeframe of 6 weeks)

    I have thought about conducting a lagering in the bottle approach but I have never done it because I don’t have a second refrigerator or freezer and therefore I don’t have the capacity to cold condition two cases of beer (it would be even more than two cases for me with my brewing schedule).

    For the ‘interested reader’, here is an interesting discussion of bottle lagering from Mr. Wizard of BYO:

    “If you want to hold your Pilsner for a couple of months prior to drinking I would suggest the hold step after bottling because the bottle has everything you need for lagering; yeast, beer, fermentable sugars and a mechanism to hold the carbon dioxide in the container (the bottle cap). This is of course not traditional for lagers. Most lagers brewed in the old days, which is what brewers often reference when discussing “traditional” methods, were aged in large tanks or barrels and then moved into smaller barrels where they would be transported to the tavern for serving.”

    inchrisin likes this.
  5. pweis909

    pweis909 Meyvn (1,303) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin

    Yep, I lager in the bottle. I do this for all my beers, not just Cal Commons and other lager styles (except when I keg, i.e., until only very recently when I got a kegging setup). The catch is, I'm not too particular about the time period. I'll start drinking them after they are primed, but a 5 gallon batch generally lasts a couple months, longer if I have multiple batches around the house, so I drink them over a long stretch of time, and they stay in the fridge at about 35 deg F. Often I find they do get better with time, but if primary fermentation is done cleanly (healthy pitch, proper fermentation temp, diacetyl rest as needed), the beers start out delicious and any improvements are subtle and subjective, IMO.
    inchrisin likes this.
  6. Pegli

    Pegli Initiate (0) Aug 30, 2006 Rhode Island

    I've done quite a few Commons and the ones I treat like lagers (ferment cool ~ 60*F, secondary, and lager) definitely come out better than the ones I tried to rush along (ferment > 60*F and drink ASAP).
    inchrisin likes this.
  7. messyhair42

    messyhair42 Initiate (0) Dec 30, 2010 Colorado

    When is a good point to transfer? I pitched a 3 step yeast starter for ~330B cells and had a very vigorous fermentation at 62F, it was made Feb 28. I have a room that can hold 50F very well and I'd like to get the fermenter freed up.
  8. Pegli

    Pegli Initiate (0) Aug 30, 2006 Rhode Island

    The obvious answer is when it's done fermenting...but you should be able to get away with 14 days (depending on many variables) if you're going to do a secondary.
  9. messyhair42

    messyhair42 Initiate (0) Dec 30, 2010 Colorado

    I'm always very weary of opening a fermenter unless I'm racking or bottling. I've never gotten into the practice of sampling in the middle of fermentation. I now have a refractometer, I know it for measuring sugar, but can I get a SG reading by knowing the OG/original Brix of my wort?
  10. inchrisin

    inchrisin Defender (653) Sep 25, 2008 Indiana

    This advice is exactly what I needed. I'm going to do a taste of my first CC, keg it, and probably not tap it next. It'll take another few weeks in the cellar. I'll tap the APA or the pumpkin beer.
  11. ssam

    ssam Disciple (310) Dec 2, 2008 California

    My cali common is the beer all my friends can't get enough of, and I treat it like any old ale. Ferment at 68*, bottle after 3-4 weeks. Prime as usual. Last time I made 2 cases and brought them to a friend's place before leaving for a week and they were all gone when I returned. Nothing but praise.
  12. messyhair42

    messyhair42 Initiate (0) Dec 30, 2010 Colorado

    Wow to see this resurrected after so long. bit of additional info since I end up making this beer every year, usually about January to help keep things coolest. I like to ferment no higher than 62F and found no need to rack the beer to get it to clear up/mature. four weeks in primary and three in the bottle seem to suit my recipe fine.
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