As the end of another year approaches and brewers scramble to decide what holiday beers to brew, there ultimately is a question from friends and family—what beers do I want with my holiday dinner? Which beer would be good for New Year’s Eve? While taste and preference is subjective, if looking to brew beers for New Year’s Eve, then consider brewing a champagne-inspired beer using champagne yeast. This is a fun way to stay true to the beverage of choice—homebrew—while keeping the celebratory spirit of the occasion—sparkling wine. While some beer drinkers do not enjoy champagne, they might enjoy beers made with champagne yeast, so it is a great compromise. If desired, cork and caged bottles work here too; shake it and spray homebrew all over the living room and friends at the stroke of midnight. Wasting of precious homebrew is usually frowned upon, but in this case, it will be allowed.
Bière de Champagne is a hybrid style, one that only a handful of breweries are producing in the US, but Belgian breweries have been making this style of beer for ages. Some of these beers are even cave-aged in the Champagne region of France. While not an official style, according to the 2008 Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Style Guide, most resources agree that the beer is light in color and body, while higher in alcohol and quite carbonated. Generally, they range from 9-14% ABV and are served in a flute glass or chalice. Examples of Bière de Champagne or Bière Brut are Infinium by Boston Beer Company, DeuS by Browerij Bosteels, and Malheur Bière Brut by Brouwerij de Landtsheer. The DeuS and the Malheur both undergo the Methode Champenoise, where bottles are stored, aged and riddled. This is an intensive process that for most homebrewers is a bit too much of an undertaking, but it does produce a special beer. The style returns only a handful of options on review sites as well. There are not many US breweries producing this style of beer, so looking for beers to sample before brewing may be difficult.
Since the beer is harder to find in stores, if still looking to brew something special, some styles of beer can be made to be similar to a champagne beer, by adding champagne yeast at bottling. Most commonly, this is done with Belgian style triples. Finally, you could take a simple drinking beer, like a kölsch and then add champagne yeast at the end. This should result in a beer that’s champagne-like, but more for the common drinker. There’s a time and place for the Champagne of Beers, and when else is it more appropriate than New Year’s Eve? Light lagers and the decision to brew a clone of a beer like Miller High Life are some of the hardest beers to homebrew, so don’t think this is an easy way out.
To help the homebrewer decide, here are two recipes, one all-grain and one partial mash (using extract). Important to note, true Bière de Champagne needs time to mature. If you’re thinking of brewing this, you’ll need to plan ahead. Also, adding fresh yeast for bottling, especially champagne yeast can result in dreaded bottle bombs. Store at appropriate temperatures and in a place your family won’t mind if a bottle decides to pop. These recipes cover a hybrid approach to achieve the styles discussed, as any good homebrewer would, take the recipes and tweak them to fit your brew set-up and style. Thanks to the members of the Philly Homebrew Club who gave advice and input on the recipes.
Bière De Brute Force
This beer is a Belgian triple recipe designed to ferment very dry, resulting in a high in beer flavor and alcohol with added effervescence.
• 10 lbs. Belgian Pilsner
• 2 lbs. Crystal 8L
• .5 lb. Aromatic Malt
• 2 lbs. Light Belgian Candi Sugar
• Styrian Golding – 60 minutes
• Czech Saaz – 10 minutes
• Wyeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity Yeast – Primary
• Wyeast Champagne Yeast for bottling
Info & Process:
Est. Org. Gravity: 1.080
Single infusion at 149° for 90 minutes.
Bière De Grande Vie
This clone of a favorite Miller beer should be slightly more complex than its massed-produced brother. The yeast can quick condition and produce pseudo-lager beer, and according to Wyeast, ferments well cold. You may need to filter to achieve the same bright beer in clear bottles you’re used to.
• 3 lbs. 2 Row
• 2 lbs. Flaked Corn
• 5 lbs. LME
• Willamette – 60 minutes
• Saaz – 60 minutes
• Wyeast Kölsch
Mash: Partial Mash
• Steep grains in 4.5 gallons at 150°F for 60 minutes
• Sparge with 1 gallon at 175°F
• Bring to boil, once at boil, remove from heat to add LME, stir in before bringing back to a boil.