By: James Walsh

 

 

On those hot summer days when the heat outdoors feels like the surface of Mercury, a frosty bottle of beer can feel like liquid deliverance. For homebrewers, that moment is even better when drinking something that’s been malted, steeped, fermented, and bottled all in your own kitchen or basement. It’s like tasting your own ingenuity. But brewing in the summer as temperatures near and achieve triple digits is not so easily done.

 

The Challenge of Summer Brewing

Fermentation is temperamental. If the underlying science is one iota off, the expected chemical reactions can be altered. Plenty of external factors can highjack your batch – bacteria and wild yeast, residual sanitizer, ineffective aeration– but temperature is the biggest threat to summer brewing.

Temperatures inside your fermenter are already high. As yeast covetously feasts on the sugary wort, the ensuing bacchanal releases its own heat, increasing temperatures 5° to 10° Fahrenheit higher than ambient levels. Summer heatwaves make it easy for certain chemical byproducts to flourish.

Esters can dwell in your beer and give it inappropriate fruity flavors. Ethyl acetate can annihilate any nuances with an astringent, paint thinner taste. Some bacteria take the opportunity to replicate like rabbits and produce loads of foreign flavors when temperatures are over 75° Fahrenheit. Then, your beer is no longer your own.

But summer brewing isn’t impossible or a lost cause. Heck, it doesn’t even need to blow your AC bill.

 

Choose the Right Beer

Different styles of beer are brewed at different times of the year for a reason. Up until Frederick Pabst and Adolphus Busch introduced refrigeration to commercial breweries, ales were made in the summer and lagers in the winter because of the temperature their yeast needed.

Lager yeast is best between 48° to 58° Fahrenheit while ale yeast thrives between 62° to 72° Fahrenheit. Though central AC can make lagers and stouts doable, your typical IPAs, blonde ales, and American ales require less of your time.

 

Keep Your Beer Cool

Even with ale, your beer temperature is best kept low. Heat rises, so dark basements or cellars are ideal storage sites. Anyone without these options need to get a bit more creative.

One low tech method involves evaporation. Insert your fermenter in a large plastic tub with enough water to reach one-third or a quarter of the fermenter’s height. Take a towel, dampen it, and drape it over your brewing beer. A portion of the towel should be submerged to wick the water. Water rises up the towel, evaporates, and then cools the liquid inside.

Ice water is another option. Either through frozen water bottles or pumped in from a recirculating pump, you keep beer temperatures in reason. If you go the pump route, the price can be $70 to $180, way cheaper than any refrigerator. Beyond that, you’ll only need to refreeze the bottles or replace the melting ice cubes.

The rest of your brewing tips remain the same. Keep consistent and your summer brewing will be as refreshing as beers year-round.