How To Brew Australian Sparkling Ale

by Steve Thanos | Updated: September 24, 2020

Australian Sparkling Ale is Australia’s very indigenous beer style. Much like America’s cream ale and California common, the Australian sparkling Ale has its roots deep in its own native land.

Unfortunately, most of Australia’s brewing history pre-European colonization is completely lost.

Due to Australia’s remoteness factor, indigenous grains and fermentables such as honey were used extensively.

The Difficulty of Brewing in Australia

Documentation of Australia’s brewing history after British settlement in 1788 is actually much better. However, the same can’t be said to England’s government. Basically, England saw brewing beer “as a less intoxicating alternative to harder spirits.”

Undependable supplies and an extremely hot environment made it difficult. Just the thought of trying to brew English style beers without any refrigeration is laughable at best. As a result, Australia fell in the subpar category when it came to brewing beer, even with government support.

Hard Times Follow

It’s no surprise that many breweries were closing after a few short years. Practices such as adding tobacco, copper sulphate, and cocculus indicus. Cocculus indicus is a bitter poison which adds bitterness to a beer and gives the drinker a stronger feeling of intoxication.

As a result, many locals were choosing imported beers instead of the local beers that could potentially kill them.

The New Style of the Land Down Under

As beer historian, Martyn Cornell, points out, the Australian summers were so warm that lagers took the land down under by storm. Still restricted to ferment cold, the idea of lagering was still very much a problem.

A new ale that was lighter in color and body than any British ale was the way around this difficult situation. A bottle conditioned, highly carbonated beer gained the descriptor, “sparkling.” The high carbonation gave the impression of lightness and the yeast kept the body medium and added smoothness.

Unfortunately, this ale was unable to overtake the popularity of the lager. Cooper’s Brewing was founded in 1862. There are rumors of a recipe floating around at that time. After 150 years, the brewery still produces a solid example of Australia’s only beer style.

Style Profile for Australian Sparkling Ale

Appearance

Color ranges from golden yellow to copper amber. Foam is large with excellent retention. Outstanding clarity when poured gently.

Aroma

Hop aroma is that of herbs, earthiness, or resin. Malt will range from sweet to grainy with no caramel notes. Easters of apple and pear, and even banana. There may be some slight yeast and/or sulfur aroma.

Mouthfeel

Medium to moderately full bodied beer. High carbonation. Crisp and spritizy. No residual sweetness. There can be possible alcohol warmth,

Taste

Low to medium maltiness with no caramel flavors. Hop bitterness and flavors range from medium to moderately high with no floral notes. Fruity esters can range from low to high. Dry finish to the beer.

Food Pairing

This beer pairs well with battered seafood, spicy fried chicken, Asian or Thai dishes, and lamb chops. Also pairs well with a light salad, brie cheese, and a light fruit tart.

Tips for Brewing your own Australian Sparkling Ale

Grain

Before you commit to making your own Australian Sparkling Ale, ask yourself how authentic do you want to make this beer. At the very least, try and find some Australian base malt. Pilsner malt such as Joe White’s Pilsner malt or pale ale malt from Joe White’s Traditional Ale.

English pale malt could be a solid choice too. It is still authentic since it was traditional to use it during colonial times.

Some caramel malt is also added. If you are using Pilsner malt as a base grain, then add up to 10% of caramel malt. If you are using pale malt as your base grain, use only 5% of the caramel malt. Joe White malting does have some caramel malts that can be used, but Simpsons and Crisp also make good cara-malts as well.

Hops

If the grain is rather difficult to keep authentic, then the hops should be your target for authenticity. Australian hops such as Pride of Ringwood is a traditional choice. Super Pride, Topaz, Galaxy, or Australian Cascade all will work fine here too.

Yeast

Since this beer is bottle conditioned, the easiest way to find good yeast is to harvest it from Cooper’s Sparkling Ale. Harvesting is done by sanitizing inside of the bottle opening and pouring an inch of liquid into a glass without rousing the yeast.

After that, you can rouse the yeast by swirling the bottle. Pour a couple of inches of cooled sparkling ale wort into a bottle, cover with sanitized aluminum foil, and let it sit for 24 hours at 75°F (23°C).

After 24 hours, pour the reactivated yeast into your fermentor. Using two or three bottles of Cooper’s will increase the chances for success here. White Labs also makes an Australian Ale yeast, WLP009. Safale S-04 and Danstar Nottingham or Windsor will work well.

Australian Sparkling Ale By the Numbers

  • Color Range: 4 – 7 SRM
  • Original Gravity: 1.038 – 1.050 OG
  • Final Gravity: 1.004 – 1.006 FG
  • IBU Range: 20 – 35
  • ABV Range: 4.5 – 6.0%

Martin Keen’s Australian Sparkling Ale Recipe

Grain

50% 5 lbs Marish Otter

40% 4 lb 2-Row

5% 8oz Crystal 45 Thomas Faucet

5% 8oz White Wheat Malt

Hops

.5oz Pacific Jade – Boil 45 min

.5oz Galaxy – Boil 10 min

.5oz Galaxy – Flameout

.5oz Pacific Jade – Flameout

Yeast

1.0 pkg British Ale Yeast WYeast #1098

Mash at 152°F (66°C) for 60 mins

Boil for 60 mins

How To Brew Australian Sparkling Ale 3

Transcript: Officially Australia has only one officially recognized native beer style. And that is Australian sparkling ale!

It’s and ale that shares many of the characteristics as a lager. And we’re going to brew one today and we’re going to use a single vessel for fermentation, carbonation, and serving. Let’s do it.

Hi, I’m Martin Keen. I’m taking the Homebrew Challenge to brew 99 beers in 99 weeks. And today’s beer is going to use this guy; the fermzillas’ all-rounder.

This is a pressurized fermentation vessel that can hold up to 35 PSI of pressure. It was provided to me by kegland, link in the description below. Now I’ve used this guy before to perform a fully pressurized transfer.

So I fermented the beer in here and then I use its pressure capabilities to transfer directly into a keg without any exposure to oxygen.

This time I’m going to use this thing for well, pretty much everything.

How To Brew Australian Sparkling Ale 1

So I’m going to ferment the beer in this all arounder and then I’m going to leave it in here. I’m going to force carbonate by adding some pressure here to this gas post, and then I’m just going to take the whole thing and move it into my Keezer and serve the beer directly from here as well.

Now, this beer style Australian sparkling ale is going to be a really good test to see how feasible this is, because I want to see if I can get a really clean light beer out of this thing with all of the trub and whatnot, still in here from the fermentation.

So it’s going to be an interesting experiment, but before we do that, we actually need to make some beer.

So let’s go talk about ingredients.

Now, if you’ve seen any of my recent videos, you’d have seen, I’ve been struggling a little bit to describe the amount of ingredients that go into my recipe. I am brewing mainly two and a half gallon batches these days, but I know most people aren’t.

So instead of talking about absolute amounts, I’ve been talking about percentages that works fine when you’re talking about the grist and it gets super awkward when you’re talking about things like hops.

So well, I’ve got a new plan and that new plan is to continue to brew 2.5 gallon batches, but talk about amounts as though I were brewing a five gallon batch, because that is the most common batch size.

So what do I have in this beer? Well, the base malt is a combination of Maris Otter and regular 2 row malt. So I have five pounds of Maris Otter, and then four pounds of 2 row.

For specialty malts I have two, I have Thomas faucet, crystal 45 malt. I have eight ounces of that. And then I have eight ounces of white wheat malt just to improve the mouthfeel to get that desirable, mouthfeel that we’re looking for.

This will get me a beer about 1.051 OG. And it’s going to turn out to be about a 5.1% beer.

Now, if you want the easy way to brew this recipe yourself, you can get the ingredients from the same place I did, which is Atlantic brew supply. There is a link in the video description to this very recipe and clicking on that will get you a kit that contains all of that malt. Plus the hops and the yeast you need to brew this up yourself.

These brew days can start pretty early. My son has been encouraging me to try these energy drinks like this one. This is Bang it’s full of caffeine and amino acids and who knows what else? And you’re, you’re supposed to be 18 to drink one.

Anyway, let’s talk then about Australian sparkling ale, because it’s a best style that I’m actually quite familiar with as I’ve had it a number of times while visiting Aussie family down under. That’s my niece and nephew.

Now, when you think of commercial examples of Australian beer, the first brand that probably comes to mind is, uh, hopefully not Fosters cause ain’t nobody drinking fosters down under. The best known commercial example of Australian sparkling ale is in fact, Cooper’s pale ale.

Now this beer is probably a little similar to a cream ale in that it has the properties of a lager, but it’s actually brewed as an ale. Now, I was actually down in Australia last month, visiting family, and I’m very much used to getting a schooner full of Australians sparking ale down there.

But what was really interesting to see this time was how many craft breweries are opening up now and all the cool different types of beer that are being made down under in Australia.

Hops

The hops, I have two packets, galaxy hops these are good Australian hops. And then I have Pacific Jade. These are actually from New Zealand. Now I’m going to add in, as my bittering hop at 45 minutes, half an ounce of the Pacific Jade.

I’m looking to ultimately get to an IBU of about 34 with this beer. Now with 10 minutes to go, that’s something we’re going to start looking at flavor and aroma. And at that point, I’m going to add half an ounce of the galaxy hops. And then flame out, so zero minutes, that is when I will add the remaining 0.5 ounces of the Pacific Jade and the galaxy.

If you’ve not smelled the aroma of galaxy hops, well, I’d highly recommend it. This, uh, yeah, this smell of tropical fruit is making me very excited to try this beer. So we’re at the end of the boil now. So it’s time to add the final edition of galaxy and Pacific Jade.

Something to get this guy sanitized then. So I put some star san in here and now what I’m going to do is I’m going to reuse the water from my chilling to sanitize this.

Chilled the beer to 66-68 is what I’m looking for. So now it’s time to move it into the allrounder.

I’ve got two and a half gallons of beer in here. Now the gravity came out at 10 54. So now time to add the yeast I am using, Wyeast 1098, that is British Ale Yeast.

Now time to get this thing air tight, where it will remain until the beer is drunk. I will not be opening this thing up again. Uh, now kegland do you recommend that you use, uh, petroleum jelly just around the seal of this thing. So I’m just going to put a little bit of petroleum jelly around this before putting it on the top. And then I’ve got this tool to tighten this lid. Add it into my fermentation chamber. Now we’re going to keep this at 68 Fahrenheit.

Now we do need something to relieve the pressure as fermentation builds. Last time (weizenbock recipe) I used the spunding valve and just set it to a couple of PSI. This time, I’m just going to take a, uh, a little growler here of sanitizer. And then I’ve put on here, a connector for a gas post. I’m going to connect that to the gas post on here.

And that way any CO2 that’s generated will go out and then just bubble into the growler. Okay? So that is fermentation. Ready to go. We’re going to leave this running and then come back when fermentation is complete and move on to the next stage.

And that next stage is a couple of weeks later now. So I have removed the beer from the fermentation chamber and I have pressurized this vessel. So this is now a 30 PSI. I’m now going to cold crash the beer. And while the beer is cold crashing, it’s also going to be carbonating because it’s under pressure.

So it should actually be able to go to the tasting of this beer in about two days.

How To Brew Australian Sparkling Ale 5

Well it’s tasting time and I have with me Lauren. So this guy is now carbonated. It’s still got the yeast cake on the bottom. We’re going to drink directly from it. Awesome. I am super excited…. You’re looking a little skeptical. I must say. Kind of weird. I’ve never seen it and this light. Yes, I’m used to it just coming out of the tap. So we’ll see how it goes.

So to dispense this, I am just got little picnic tap here with a liquid post. So let’s put this on. Um, I’m kind of worried that this is going to spill everywhere. So if you could just hold this into pointing into a glass, don’t pull the trigger yet, but I just want to make sure that it’s not going to come out. Okay. Give it a go.

That’s very foamy. I feel like we should have had a test cup. So it looks like that one. Oh, not bad. No. Well, okay.

Uh, taking up the foam pretty quickly though. So it looks quite carbonated. Yes. It, it, it certainly does. And actually this one, what a beautiful poor it’s really very clear as well. You see right through it. I can, yeah. I was not expecting to get that much clarity considering that we have just left this set on yeast cake and all the gunk there at the bottom. Yeah.

Yeah. The lovely looking good looks pretty nice. Well, from my take, it smells quite light.

Yes. It’s got that kind of, um, golden ale or lagery kind of smell to it and light like, like there, well, we should taste this. I will be a gentleman. Let my nose get covered in foam.

I didn’t really talk about the color though. I know you said about this, but personally, like you did say it was very clear. Um, and I, secondly agree that I like it. It’s very golden and I see a lot of bubbles.

Yeah. This looks absolutely beautiful to me. This is, this is what you’d expect that the Aussie pub, just a, a nice golden clear beer. Yeah. I think it looks really good.

All right. So let’s try it, Give it a go. But this one has like hints of like a citrus kind of citrusy, but it’s also like the smell is, is quite light. Yeah.

Yup. So I think that’s the galaxy hops that we added coming through. Um, okay. Well, yeah, we added some Australian hops and some New Zealand hops, which are known for their fruitiness, the citrus, citrusyness? Yeah. Um, but yeah, that’s definitely coming through, right. This is not just sort of like a plain, um, cream ale or lager or anything, although it’s the same color as that as definitely a bit of fruit coming through.

Hmm. That’s very, that’s very summery. It’s a summerry beer, despite appearances. This is actually a very effective way just to, um, just to keep the beer in here, the entire journey. So this has never been exposed to oxygen.

Like I brewed the beer, put it in here with the yeast and that has been in a closed loop ever since. So no, no off flavors are going to come through oxygen exposure and yeah, this, this thing really works.

No, I’m pleasantly surprised and I’m really liking this beer. Well, very good. Yeah. We’ll do a triple cheers. Cheers. Cheers. Cheers. Cheers.

No Australian on that one? Crikey? Crikey farmzilla..

I am the former President of my homebrew club, Plainfield Ale and Lager Enthusiasts (PALE) in the western suburbs of Chicago, IL. I brew on my BIAB system with my incredibly patient and understanding wife, adorable 9 year old daughter, and 12 year old brew dog.