I’ve been homebrewing for nearly a decade. And while I’ve hit my stride –brewing the things I love over and over again– I’ve also brewed quite a few recipes and variations over the years. In all that time, I’ve come to believe there are a few recipes that any homebrewer should try at least once. So whether you’re a beginner or have decades of experience, these are four must-brew recipes to try at some point in your brewventure:
Apple juice is cheap. And just after the holidays, it always seems to go on a deep discount sale – make sure you get 100% juice (not “lite” or anything with preservatives). I typically pick up five gallons for less than $15. A little bit of wine or ale yeast will ferment it dry. To kick it up a notch, throw in a tablespoon of powdered wine tannin (per five-gallon batch) and enough sugar to crank it up to 1.08-1.1 on your hydrometer. Or you could follow the iconic apfelwein recipe by Edwort. Bottle it still or sparkling. The higher the ABV, the longer it will need to age. Under ideal circumstances, you’ll bottle-age it for a year before cracking one open.
Pro-tip: mull your cider hot in the frigid months and drink it icy cold on warm days.
Sometimes considered an enigmatic “other” existing somewhere between wine and beer, mead is deserving of its own spotlight. Honey is often delicate, floral, and expensive. But don’t let that deter you. A traditional mead can be a mind-blowing treat using about 3-4 pounds of honey per gallon of spring water and just a little pH adjustment with an acid blend (if needed). A melomel made with fruit in addition to honey can take it up another notch.
I know what this sounds like, but I promise you’ll be pleased you tried it. Skeeter Pee is a now-infamous recipe for fermenting lemonade. You’ll need some granulated sugar and three big bottles of lemon juice. Skeeter Pee uses the remaining slurry from an existing batch of wine or mead. So, for example, if you’ve just racked off your apple cider and have a yeast cake sitting in the bottom of an empty carboy – don’t dump it! Use that strengthened yeast slurry to make Skeeter Pee. The juice goes in with step-additions throughout several days. Add frozen berries to amplify your flavors!
Pro-tip: due to all the acid, Skeeter Pee can stress the yeast – take your time and oxygenate well, or you might end up with rotten egg smelling gases that you’ll have to splash-rack out.
Fruit can be expensive. Exotic fruits even more so – gooseberries, dates, and elderberries can all set you back a pretty penny. Enter jam wine. It’s exactly as it sounds – wine made from jam. Use about four pounds of jam per gallon of water. Your gravity reading may be a little bit off from all the pectin in the jam, so don’t worry about getting too scientific with this one. The fruit wine wizard Jack Keller recommends some tannin and acid for adjustments. Jam wine is a great way to wade into the waters of fruits that may be non-native to your region. Give it a try, but be patient on clarifying!
Pro-tip: check out your local Asian supermarket for some more obscure jams and preserves.