Base Malt for Californian Common

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davidgrace

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A few months ago, I brewed a Californian Common using Maris Otter as the base malt. Recipes I have seen online use different base malts. One uses Briess Brewers Malt 2-Row (difficult to get); another uses Weyermann Premiere Pilsner Malt and there are others. I was happy with my Maris Otter effort, but wonder if this base malt results in a beer that is actually true to the style. Can anyone offer any suggestions on this?
 

davidgrace

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Your being happy with the result is more important than being "true to style", unless you're entering a competion.
I was happy with the previous brew, but now wonder if it might be even better if I use a base malt closer to the style.
 
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The style calls for 2 row malt MO is a 2 row malt as are most pale malts in the UK.

But not all 2-row malts taste the same. And if you believe the origin story of California Common, it would have been using whatever grain was available during the California gold rush, which would have been 6-row barley if anything. British pale malts in general are more kilned than in other parts of the world, and Otter in particular has more character than most other barleys. So if you can't readily get US malts, I'd probably go with a standard UK pale malt (as opposed to a premium one like Otter) and make it blander by diluting it with some pilsner or extra pale.

But what is currently thought of as California Common is not really a style as such, it's really an attempt to retrofit a style onto Anchor Steam, which claims origins in 19th century California but which was reinvented when Fritz Maytag bought Anchor in the 1960s, at a time when he was significantly influenced by British beers. I've seen suggestions that the actual 19th century beers were rather different, but of course we'll never really know.

Local styles of beer in general are all about taking inspiration from favourite beers from elsewhere, but making do with local ingredients and local conditions - you see it at the moment with the 4% cask ales made with Citra etc, taking the idea of the US kegging a 6% Citra IPA and adapting it to British tastes. And California Common is a specific example of that make do and mend approach to adapting to local conditions, so in a way it's not a "style" to be "true to".
 

MrRook

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But not all 2-row malts taste the same. And if you believe the origin story of California Common, it would have been using whatever grain was available during the California gold rush, which would have been 6-row barley if anything. British pale malts in general are more kilned than in other parts of the world, and Otter in particular has more character than most other barleys. So if you can't readily get US malts, I'd probably go with a standard UK pale malt (as opposed to a premium one like Otter) and make it blander by diluting it with some pilsner or extra pale.

But what is currently thought of as California Common is not really a style as such, it's really an attempt to retrofit a style onto Anchor Steam, which claims origins in 19th century California but which was reinvented when Fritz Maytag bought Anchor in the 1960s, at a time when he was significantly influenced by British beers. I've seen suggestions that the actual 19th century beers were rather different, but of course we'll never really know.

Local styles of beer in general are all about taking inspiration from favourite beers from elsewhere, but making do with local ingredients and local conditions - you see it at the moment with the 4% cask ales made with Citra etc, taking the idea of the US kegging a 6% Citra IPA and adapting it to British tastes. And California Common is a specific example of that make do and mend approach to adapting to local conditions, so in a way it's not a "style" to be "true to".
Technically steam beer is more a process than a style: brewing a lager at ale temperature.
 
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I found an old article about "Steam Beer" some years ago which attempted to capture the brewing methods. I added a few comments of my own.

 

MickDundee

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Technically steam beer is more a process than a style: brewing a lager at ale temperature.
California Common is a BJCP style though with set parameters around colour, hop usage etc, although as NB said the style has been set to basically be the colour, IBUs and hop usage of Anchor Steam Beer.
 

davidgrace

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But not all 2-row malts taste the same. And if you believe the origin story of California Common, it would have been using whatever grain was available during the California gold rush, which would have been 6-row barley if anything. British pale malts in general are more kilned than in other parts of the world, and Otter in particular has more character than most other barleys. So if you can't readily get US malts, I'd probably go with a standard UK pale malt (as opposed to a premium one like Otter) and make it blander by diluting it with some pilsner or extra pale.

But what is currently thought of as California Common is not really a style as such, it's really an attempt to retrofit a style onto Anchor Steam, which claims origins in 19th century California but which was reinvented when Fritz Maytag bought Anchor in the 1960s, at a time when he was significantly influenced by British beers. I've seen suggestions that the actual 19th century beers were rather different, but of course we'll never really know.

Local styles of beer in general are all about taking inspiration from favourite beers from elsewhere, but making do with local ingredients and local conditions - you see it at the moment with the 4% cask ales made with Citra etc, taking the idea of the US kegging a 6% Citra IPA and adapting it to British tastes. And California Common is a specific example of that make do and mend approach to adapting to local conditions, so in a way it's not a "style" to be "true to".
Thanks for this informative reply.
 

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