The Four Brewing Seasons (1 of 4) - Brewer's Friend
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The Four Brewing Seasons (1 of 4)

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

Each season has at least one beer style that it is known for, if not several. This is part one in a four part (season) series about these seasonal brews. Winter is quickly approaching, and has already placed some parts of the US and other countries in its grip, so there is no better time to discuss winter beer styles and share some recipes.

Winter beers are typically (not always) dark beers with relatively high levels of alcohol (ABV). These beers are not your typical summer quaffers that are made to satisfy a thirst, no, these ales and lagers are typically like a meal in a glass. Full bodied, robust, spiced (or not) and made to be sipped during the cold winter months while they warm you from the inside out. The spiced versions often utilize spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom and allspice.

All of this being said, you will find that winter ales and lagers come in all colors, spiced and un-spiced, heavy hitters with ABVs exceeding 10% ABV and lighter quaffers that will come in at or about 4% ABV. Here are a couple recipes, one from each genre.

Belgian White Winter Ale (5 gallons)

This ale is light in body, light in color and just plain refreshing. It is spiced with coriander and bitter orange peel (a famous combination), but also receives some of its spicy nature from the Wyeast 3944 and its phenolic character.

Belgian 2-Row 4.00 pounds
Belgian White Wheat 3.00 pounds
Flaked Oats 0.75 pounds
Carapils 0.50 pounds
Flaked White Wheat 0.50 pounds

Mash at 155F for 90 minutes

Hallertau .50 ounce 60 mintues 7.7 IBUs
Crystal .50 ounce 60 minutes 6.3 IBUs
Hallertau .50 ounce 5 minutes 1.5 IBUs
Crystal .50 ounce 5 minutes 1.3 IBUs

Bitter Orange Peel 2.00oz 15 minutes
Coriander Seed 1.50oz 5 minutes


Wyeast 3944


Ferment at 68F for 3 weeks

OG: 1.049
FG: 1.012
IBU: 16.8
SRM: 4.3
ABV: 4.86

Samichlaus Clone (5 gallons) (BYO 150 Classic Clones Edition)

This lager should be brewed in the spring if you hope to have it ready in time for winter sipping, and I do mean sipping. A heavy hitter with the grain bill of a 10 gallon brew, boiled down to 5 gallons and then inoculated with the yeast from a nearly 2 gallon starter… this is the definition of specialty beer.


Pilsner Malt 21.00 pounds
Vienna Malt 2.00 pounds
Carahell Dark Malt 1.50 pounds
Cane Sugar 2.00 pounds

Step mash to rest at:
104F for 15 minutes
122F for 15 minutes
140F for 15 minutes
158F for 45 minutes

Collect 13 gallons of wort and boil down to 5 gallons. Yes, collect 13 to achieve a final volume of 5 gallons! If you are using propane to boil, you will need to have a spare gas tank at the ready!

Northern Brewer 1.50 ounces 60 mintues 28.8 IBUs
Tettnang .50 ounce 15 minutes 2.3 IBUs
Hallertau .50 ounce 2 minutes .3 IBUs

Bitter Orange Peel 2.00oz 15 minutes
Coriander Seed 1.50oz 5 minutes

WLP 885 (7L starter!!!) The yeast must be treated well, and the size of the starter is not only to manage the high OG, but also to create a large enough cell count to overcome the cool fermentation temperatures of this lager. Remember to oxygenate your wort very well prior to pitching, your yeast will need all the help that they can get. See How to Make a Starter here at


Ferment at 52F for 30-45 days
Rack to secondary, add fresh yeast and allow temperature to rise to 60F, then lager for about 180 days at 38F

OG: 1.139
FG: 1.034
IBU: 31.4
SRM: 15
ABV: 14%

Winter brews are typically specialty beers and therefore the style specifics are wide open. Try one of the above recipes the next time that you brew a winter lager or ale, or formulate something that fits your tastes. Who cares about style points here, brew what you like and offer your friends and family members something special when they arrive for winter visits.

  1. 3 Responses to “The Four Brewing Seasons (1 of 4)”

  2. I like the series. But isn’t it “late” to start winter beers? (I bottle).
    What about suggestions, recipes which allow maturation time for the brew? It would help me, as I always start these things too late [my Oktoberfest is finally ready, for example!]

    By Wendy on Nov 19, 2009

  3. First day of winter is still a month away, and a brew can take ~45 days to be ready, some much less, some longer. High gravity beers do take longer. Anyone who brews in the next few weeks will still have time to enjoy the winter brew before the first day of spring. We’ll do our best to publish the Spring, Summer, and Fall articles with more lead time.

    By Larry on Nov 21, 2009

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