California Common: Tasting Notes

Enjoying a homebrew California Common

Enjoying a homebrew California Common

Almost three months since brew day, the California Common is nearly gone. Having saved the San Francisco lager yeast from the SMaSH Blonde I served at the Zealots summer picnic, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to make a California Common for the fall season. While sadly I’m almost out of this fantastic brew, I made sure to take a few pictures and tasting notes before I kicked the keg. A review and recipe below. Cheers and happy brewing!

Tasting Notes
Pouring into a Hess Brewing can glass, the California Common is light amber in color with white head and nice lacing. The aroma is woody, earthy and slightly fruity along with some balancing notes of light caramel and toast. On the palette, the beer starts out with a fruity, caramel-like sweetness then quickly transitions to woody, rustic in quality with hints of toast, finishing bitter and dry. At 4.6% ABV, this beer came out exactly as I intended, nice & sessionable with more malt character for the coming fall weather, yet hoppy and refreshing like an APA. Perhaps a re-brew is warranted for the spring season.

California common with October blooms in Texas

California common with October blooms in Texas

Recipe Design
For this brew, I wanted the overall character of the beer to showcase the Northern Brewer hops with the caramel and fruit character to provide just enough balance. To do this, I wanted to ensure good attenuation given the amount of caramel malts and fixed fermentability of the malt extract. As an insurance policy, I used ~8% corn sugar of the total fermentability to help dry things out. On the fermentation side of things, I made sure to pitch adequate amounts of yeast and used lager oxygen rates (~26 ppm) for good growth. My work paid off with ~77% attenuation, and from the tasting notes, it’s evident the caramel character was present but complimentary. For a future re-brew, I would likely keep things the same. Given the time, I would love to try this recipe out using all-grain and a low mash rest. For a bigger, more malt forward recipe, I would recommend including a small portion of Munich malt in 10-20% range, either as extract or partial mash. Also, as an experiment, I think an IPA-grade version would be very nice, kind of a West coast red ale with Northern Brewer hops, which are fantastic when used in conjunction with the San Francisco lager yeast strain. Overall, this is a solid recipe for the extract brewer.

Have you ever brewed a California Common or made an extract brew when busy? Leave your experience in the comment section below. Cheers and happy brewing!

Recipe: California Common
4.5 gallon batch, extract + speciality grains
Stats: OG 1.045, FG 1.010, ABV ~4.6% IBU:~30

Sugars
5 lbs ultra-light malt extract
8 oz corn sugar

Steeping grains
10 oz crystal 60 L
2 oz pale chocolate
Steeped for 15 minutes at 155 F

Hops
Northern Brewer at 60, 12, & 0 minutes to get to 30 IBU

Yeast
White Labs San Francisco Lager (re-pitched, ~250 billion cells) pitched at 58 F slowly rising to 64 F over 7 days.

Water
Clean soft-ish water. I kept the sulfate to chloride ratio 1:1

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