Many avid brewers claim that in order to make great beer, you need to invest in the best equipment; stainless steel FVs, all singing and dancing boil kettles with recirculation pumps, and temperature controlled chambers. In reality, you can make incredible beer with just a pot and a plastic bucket.
Having said that, beer fermentation temperature is one area that is widely accepted as pretty important. But if you’re on a budget, investing in a temperature controlled fermentation chamber might not be a great solution. Fortunately, you can brew a wide range of beers with absolutely zero fermentation temperature control. You just need to know which styles to brew at which time of year.
This largely comes down to the yeast used, with some strains throwing out awful off flavours at high temperatures and others stalling at lower temperatures. If you’re stuck brewing at room temperature, don’t worry, you can still make some great beer. Let’s take a look at some of the best styles to brew during each season.
Staying Ahead of the Game
Before you start brewing anything, it’s good to know what the ambient temperature is where you’re planning to leave your fermenter. A cupboard, basement or even the bedroom floor can all work as long as the temperature remains fairly consistent over the course of 5 days or so.
To check this, simply leave a thermometer in your chosen area and check the temperature over the course of a day or 2. You could also fill a fermenting bucket with water at your desired fermentation temperature and see how it holds up over the course of 5 days. Bear in mind that during the first couple of days of fermentation, your beer will increase in temperature, sometimes by as much as 5℃ for a 21 litre batch. Once you know the room temperature, you’ll have a better idea of what you can work with.
Brewing from season to season, just like in the old days, requires you to think ahead and brew relevant styles. Keep one step ahead of yourself and brew the beers you’ll want to drink in times when brewing that particular style might not be so easy. Maturation time is important here, with certain styles benefiting from longer periods, while other can be ready in as little as 3 weeks.
Autumn is a pretty good season for brewing throughout most of Australia. The summer temperatures begin to drop, allowing a wider range of beers to be produced. It’s still too warm to attempt lagers or pilsners, but you can knock out some pretty good bitters and pale ales.
With winter coming, now is also the time to take a crack at some darker beers; stouts, porters or red ales. These will benefit from a period of maturation and should be ready to enjoy as the temperatures begin to drop.
The beginning of autumn can be a good time to try your hand at a Belgian quad, which will generally be okay fermenting at the upper end of the temperature range, around 25℃. After a couple of weeks in primary, the beer can be left to condition; ideally in a cellar, otherwise in a normal fridge.
As winter temperatures don’t typically drop too much throughout most of Oz, you can probably continue to brew a variety of pale ales, bitters, IPAs and anything else that thrives between 18 and 23℃. However, if you’re feeling adventurous and want to try your hand at a lager or pilsner, winter is the season for it.
You’re much more likely to maintain a lower fermentation temperature and in some regions could even ferment outside or in a cool garage to bring it down to where you need it.
As these beers need at least 6 weeks to condition at a colder temperature, around 1℃, you may need to use a fridge. In colder climes, you could simply leave the beer outside to mature, though few places in oz facilitate this.
Kolsch and Altbier are also interesting styles to brew over winter and can make a good alternative to lager if you can’t quite get down into the 14 — 17℃ range. These hybrids are fermented using ale yeasts at ale temperatures, before being cold conditioned for up to 6 weeks, ideal for cracking open as spring begins.
Sitting Pretty in Spring
Like Autumn, spring in most of Oz is perfect for brewing more or less any ale. At the start of the season, aim for styles that offer a cleaner taste from the lower fermentation temperatures. Crisp and refreshing APAs would work well here. As things begin to heat up, more malt forward bitters and ESBs can work well, benefiting from the fruity esters derived from a higher fermentation temperature (22 — 23℃)
Many Belgian style beers also work quite well in this temperature range, or even warmer, with Belgian pales, dubbels and tripels all coming out nicely in time for summer.
Summer in Australia presents perhaps the biggest problem for the country’s homebrewers. As temperatures rocket across the land, it might seem as though some form of fermentation temperature control is essential. However, some styles are well suited to a warmer fermentation.
Wheat beers — both classic German and hoppy American styles — derive a lot of their defining traits from fermenting at around 24 — 26℃.Banana, clove and bubblegum flavours are created by the esters in the yeast. This style can also be ready to drink in a few short weeks. Plus, you can play around with wheat beers, dry hopping to create refreshing white IPAs.
For really warm areas, Saison is the supreme style, which can ferment as high as 35℃ depending on the yeast you use. Saisons can have dry hops or fruit added after primary fermentation to spice them up a bit. Another yeast strain to experiment with if you can get your hands on it is Norwegian Kveik, which can operate at up to 37℃ and was traditionally used to make farmhouse ales.
Finally, using a pressurised fermentation vessel, such as the Fermentasauruscan help keep the estery off flavours at bay. Fermenting under pressure generally prevents hot glue and other off flavours linked to hot fermentations, from forming. This enables you to brew a range of ales at a slightly warmer than normal temperature throughout summer.
With a little planning ahead, you can ensure a constant flow of beer throughout the year, all suited to the season you’re drinking them in. This can be achieved with zero fermentation temperature control, as long as you can find an area that more or less maintains a workable temperature.