Chris’ “Turn”

Few homebrewers have an opportunity like the one I recently enjoyed.

A high school friend of mine, Chris Ranson, took a job at Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she does public outreach and is a Jane of all trades. Chris holds this place together. She hires and herds the nationally renowned tour guides, she orchestrates much of the Friday Fish Fry (which are legendary in this area), and when you see Lakefront at a festival or event, chances are you see Chris.

Chris and I meet up from time to time and, eventually, our conversations always turn to beer or brewing. Chris usually brings a Lakefront sample and I bring a homebrew or two.

Through Lakefront’s “My Turn Series,” the Klisch brothers (former homebrewers and owners of the brewery) allow every employee to brew a batch for one-time release. Chris was the most recent employee in the rotation for “My Turn.” The only problem — Chris had never brewed before. We agreed it would be good for her to see what life is like for a 5-gallon (19-L) brewer and experiment with a recipe before making one on a large scale.

I planned a maibock recipe with all Wisconsin malts, noble hops with a special adjunct and flavoring. She was able to relate my small-batch process to the spiel her tour guides present on tours. We hit our target gravity and started transferring the wort to my fermenter. I was talking to my wife, Sandy, and Chris when it happened: I dumped four of the five gallons all over the garage floor. There were three pairs of eyes as big as ping pong balls. We were like Wisconsin deer in headlights. Criminny!

I was heartbroken but I still had one gallon — trub, hops and all. I followed through with the plan and lagered my micro-batch. I force-carbonated half the maibock in a two-liter plastic bottle to give me a point of reference, but I suggested we do something different with the other half to make it really special. I shared my idea with Chris and she was very enthusiastic. I soaked some medium-toast oak chips in water in one jar. In another I added lager yeast to maple syrup and lagered it beside the maibock. When it was ready, I blended the maple and oak to get a nice balance and then blended this mixture with the other two liters of maibock until balanced. Chris and other friends acted as a “sampling committee,” and they all agreed they liked the traditional maibock, but unanimously said we should definitely make the second one.

Chris put me in touch with Matt Hofmann, who runs the lab at Lakefront. Matt and I made a 10-gallon (38-L) batch on their system. I changed the recipe to make it practical for the brewery, which called for the maple syrup addition late in the boil. The challenge was duplicating the toasted oak flavor. The primary taste from the toasted oak is vanilla, but it is sublimely more than just vanilla. On the day I washed the garage with wort I shared with Chris a bottle of Sam Adams Griffin’s Bow, an oak-aged barleywine. After another taste I recognized what it was that made toasted oak more heavenly than simple vanilla. Bittersweet. I could get the vanilla flavor from vanilla beans. To set the flavor apart I needed to adjust the grain bill, so I added a few ounces of 120 °L crystal malt.

Matt and I made the test batch. It came out great. Chris received the green light. June 22 was release day. By the time you read this, “My Turn – Chris” may be sold out. No problem, you can brew your own. Store a few bottles away for the next few Chris-tmases. Prosit!

Your Turn Maibock

(5 gallons/19 L, all-grain)
OG = 1.08 FG = 1.02 IBU = 30 SRM = 10 ABV = 7.5%


7 lbs. (3.2 kg) Pilsner 2-row malt
2 lbs. (0.91 kg) Munich light malt
3 lbs. (1.36 kg) Vienna malt
0.70 lbs. (0.32 kg) carapils malt
0.30 lb. (0.14 kg) crystal malt (120 °L)
3 lbs. (1.4 kg) Pilsner liquid malt extract (10 mins.)
7.5 AAU Northern Brewer hops (60 mins.) (1.25 oz/35 g at 6% alpha acids)
1.2 AAU Hallertau Hersbrucker hops (2 mins.) (0.5 oz/14 g at 2.3% alpha acids)
12 oz. (0.34 kg) maple syrup (10 mins.)
1.5 vanilla beans (10 mins.)
WLP833 (German Bock Lager) or Wyeast 2206 (Bavarian Lager)

Step by Step

Place all grains in your mash tun. You want your initial mash temperature for a drier beer so target near 148-151 °F (64-66 °C). Mash in 4.5 gallons of water. Mash for one hour. Run off wort and sparge with 160-170 °F (71-77 °C) sparge water until you have six gallons of wort. Boil wort 60 minutes adding hops and other additions according to the schedule. Cool wort to 55 °F (13 °C) or cooler and follow the lagering schedule you normally use. Pitch a large starter or three commercial yeast packages that are also at 55 °F (13 °C). Aerate or oxygenate well. Allow a long fermentation of about three weeks due to the high OG. Include a two- or three-day diacetyl rest in the mid-60s °F (~18 °C) as needed. Transfer to secondary and step down the temperature 2-3 degrees per day. Lager one month or longer, stopping when you get as close to freezing as you can get. Do not crash the secondary temperature or this may finish a bit sweet.

Your Turn Maibock Extract Ale option

(5 gallons/19 L, extract with grains)
OG = 1.08 FG = 1.02 IBU = 31 SRM = 11 ABV = 7.7%


6.6 lbs. (3 kg) Pilsner liquid malt extract
3.3 lbs. (1.5 kg) amber liquid malt extract
1 lb. (0.45 kg) amber dry malt extract (10 mins.)
0.30 lb. (0.14 kg) crystal malt (120 °L)
9 AAU Northern Brewer hops (60 mins.) (1.5 oz/43 g at 6% alpha acids)
1.2 AAU Hallertau Hersbrucker hops (2 mins.) (0.5 oz/14 g at 2.3% alpha acids)
12 oz. (0.34 kg) maple syrup (10 mins.)
4-5 tsp. vanilla extract (10 mins.)
WLP028 (Edinburgh Scottish Ale) or WLP 011 (European Ale)

Step by Step

Bring five gallons (23 L) of water to 160 °F (71 °C). Place the 120 °L crystal in a nylon bag and allow to stand 30 minutes. Remove grain. Raise temperature to 190 °F (88 °C). Turn off heat and add liquid malt extracts. Boil wort 60 minutes adding hops according to the schedule. Add the amber dry malt extract, maple syrup and vanilla extract for the last ten minutes of the boil. Top off to 5 gallons (19 L) and cool wort to 65 °F (18 °C). Pitch a large starter or three commercial yeast packages that are near 65 °F (18 °C). Aerate or oxygenate well. Place in a cool corner of the basement and allow it to ferment three weeks. Then transfer to secondary and return to basement for four to six weeks.


Issue: November 2013