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Category 7B: California Common Beer

Aroma: Typified by the rustic, wood-like or minty qualities of Northern Brewer hops in moderate to high strength. A light fruitiness may be present. Low to medium toasty and/or caramel notes support the hops. There should be no diacetyl present.


Appearance: Color is fairly clear, with a medium amber to pale copper appearance. Medium off-white head with good retention.


Flavor: The pronounced hop bitterness is balanced by a moderately malty backbone. The malt flavor is often toasty and caramel-like. Medium to large hop flavor from the Northern Brewer qualities; rustic, wood-like, minty. A dry, crisp finish leaves a lingering hop bitterness and a solid, grainy malt flavor. Faint fruity esters fit the profile, but it should be otherwise clean with no diacetyl.


Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied. Medium/medium-high carbonation.

Overall Impression: Lightly fruity with a firm, grainy malty backbone. Flavors of toast and caramel help to showcase the character of the Northern Brewer varietal hop.


Ingredients: The base malt is typically pale ale, American hops (usually Northern Brewer, no citrusy varieties), small amounts of crystal and/or toasted (but not roasted) malts. The yeast is a lager yeast that ferments at the lower end of the ale spectrum, between 50 and 60ºF. We suggest White Labs California Ale (WL001), Wyeast California Lager (ACT2112) or White Labs San Francisco Lager (WL810)

OG: 1.048 – 1.054, FG: 1.011 – 1.014, IBUs: 30 – 45, ABV: 4.5 – 5.5%, SRM: 10 – 14


Our California Steam recipe kit is a good example of this style.


We’ve formulated this partial-mash recipe for you to try:



Cisco Steamer

5 Gallons, partial mash


Make sure you take the yeast out of the refrigerator just before you begin.

  1. 1. Heat 7.5 quarts of water to 168ºF. Place all of the grains in a large straining bag and submerge it in the water. Your temperature should be 155º-156ºF. If it's higher than that, add a quart of cold water and stir. If it's lower than that, heat until you reach the desired temperature. Once the "mash" is at 155º-156ºF, take your stirring spoon/paddle and poke the bag several times. Don't be shy about this; you want to make sure that all of the grain comes into contact with the water. If you have dry spots (called "dough balls"), you will not be extracting sugar from those grains, which will result in a lower extract efficiency.

  2. 2. Place the cover on your kettle and turn the heat off. Hold the mash at this temperature for 60 minutes. Monitor the temp; if it falls below 155ºF, hit it with a little heat to get it back in the range.

  3. 3. Meanwhile, heat up enough water to make up the remainder of your boil volume to 170ºF. In this case, if your boil size is 5 gallons, you'll want to heat up 12.5 quarts of water. This will be your sparge water, used to rinse the extract from the grains.

  4. 4. Now it's time to sparge. Our large strainer comes in handy for this part. If you have a large colander that can sit atop your brew kettle, that will work also. Pull the grain bag out of the water, and slip the strainer underneath it so that the strainer is resting on top of the kettle and the grain bag is resting in the strainer. Now use a pitcher or other container to pull some of the sparge water out, then slowly pour it over the grain bag. This will rinse all the sweet wort off of the grains you mashed. Repeat this until you have used all of your sparge water.

  5. 5. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. At this point, you may add your malt extract, or you can use the Late Malt Extract Addition method. At the first sign of a boil, set your timer to 60 minutes and add 1-1/2 oz. German Northern Brewer hops.

  6. 6. When there are 15 minutes left in the boil, add the Irish Moss.

  7. 7. When there are 2 minutes left in the boil, add 1/2 oz. German Northern Brewer hops.

  8. 8. Chill the wort down as cool as you can get it, ideally to 70ºF, and pitch your yeast.

Fermentation schedule


Primary: Approximately 10 days at 68°F.


Transfer to Secondary: Keep it at the same temperature as you did the primary, and give it 2-4 weeks.


Prime and bottle, or keg


Enjoy and share with friends!

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