How to Brew a GRAF (Beer-Cider Hybrid)

Part cider, part beer, but fully delicious. A graf might be a drink you’ve never heard of, but I’m here to tell you you have to try it out. It’s a hybrid beverage that brings the flavors from two different worlds and melds them perfectly together without any added complication to the brew day.

Today we’re pointing from the pages of a fantasy novel to make this truly unique hybrid drink. I’m Trent Musho and this is The Bru Sho. Let’s make a graf.

Inspiration for your latest brew can come from many places, but it’s not often that it comes from a modern book series. The term graph originates from the Stephen King book series, the Dark Tower in which a hard apple cider beer hybrid is consumed.

Interestingly, there isn’t much more description beyond that, it can be tart and be lower or higher in alcohol content.

While beer cider hybrids, I’m sure were around prior to King’s novel, he definitely put it on the map for home brewers to experiment with and with such a vague description, there’s a lot of room to play. You can go with a strong ABV, dark grains, or light grains, use various apple juices and even try out different yeast and get equally varying results.

There’s a few good recipes out there on the internet, but when I started to think about what a good graf looked like to me, I immediately thought of a saison.

I prefer dry cider anyway, and saisons tend to be quite dry. Plus the fruity esters would work well to blend these ingredients together nicely. And boy was I right. This came out crisp, dry, and popping with apple, almost champagne light flavors.

Using cascade as the hop, it added a citrusy grapefruit light character and it really brightens the cider flavor, but it also has a slight multi background that makes this drink a little more complex and unique. The finish is slightly tart, but it doesn’t linger too long at all.

It’s extremely easy to drink, almost dangerously so, and as you’ll see, it’s really not any harder than making a normal beer. All you need is a little bit of apple juice. Let me show you how it’s done.

So for this recipe, I made a 50 50 beer cider hybrid, but you could totally experiment with the ratio. Again, there’s no rules or guidelines to this. It’s a fictional drink we’re bringing to life. This will be a two gallon total recipe, so you need to make one gallon of wort first.

Start by heating up one gallon of water to about 156 degrees. As mentioned, you can go a million ways with this beer base, but I’m keeping it pretty light today. Once the water is heated, I milled the grains and then add them to a mesh bag.

The grains I used were 86% Pilsner for a clean, crisp background and 14% Munich Malt for just a touch of bread complexity. I’ll mash that at 152 degrees for 30 minutes. This bag was a tad mall, so it just takes some stirring and poking around to get it motivated and fully saturated.

If you wanted, you could also simplify this recipe even more and just use DME or dry mall extract.

While that was mashing, the weather started to change quite a bit. Dark clouds began to circle above. I didn’t know if I was summoning some portal to the other world or if it was just gonna be that one day in LA where it rains.

Either way, I quickly pulled the grains and squeezed as much wort out of the bag as I could. I then sparged with a half gallon of water to help rinse the grains and bring up the total pre boil volume.

Since the skies were getting darker by the minute, I opted for a quick 20 minute boil, and right at the top of the boil, I added the only hop addition, a third of an ounce of cascade for about 30 IBUs. I thought Cascade would add a nice floral citrus touch without overpowering the cider and beer.

Towards the end of the boil. With about five minutes left, I decided to add in some yeast nutrients. This is completely optional, but I figured in ciders and in light grain bills, I like to use them to help the yeast perform at their best, so it wouldn’t hurt here.

I used 10 grams of DAP and three grams of fermaid O. These can easily be found at any home brew store or online. At that same moment, the winds picked up and it started to rain.

So now I was really in a hurry to wrap up, so I cooled down the boil and turned off the burner. Checking the time, this was only a little over an hour for the brew day might be my fastest yet.

Now let’s talk cider. We’ll need one gallon. Any store bought juice would work fine here. Just remember the golden rule it can’t have any preservatives like sorbate, benzoates, or sulfites. These will inhibit yeast growth and it won’t ferment like we want it to, but today I splurged a bit and got some fresh pressed cider from a local orchard.

Fall is a great time to get out there and get some fresh juice or apples and make this recipe, but the same rules apply. Make sure it doesn’t have any preservatives.

This one says lightly pasteurized, and I confirmed that it was only slightly heat pasteurized, so we’re good to go here. An easy way to cool the wort down to yeast pitch temp is to stick the cider in a fridge the day before, and then when you reach the end of the boil, add the cider in first and then dump the wort in. It should get you close to the right temp.

Here I’m actually doing the opposite, and it definitely helps to have the stainless fermentor with the hot wort. But if you’re using plastic, I recommend cooling the wart slightly before doing this. Melty plastic graf probably won’t taste too great.

A quick note on the gravity. It’s a good idea to check both wart and cider gravitys to give you an idea of what the blended gravity will be, but you can totally just blend them and then check. For this recipe I aim for a 1.050 original gravity, which happens to be the same as the cider gravity, so not much change there.

Back inside, safe in the rain and with the wort juice combo cooled down to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. I added in the yeast, I used omega OYL-026 French saison. I dumped it in, gave it a good mix with a sanitized spoon to incorporate some oxygen. Then close it up covering the bung with some sanitized aluminum foil.

Saison yeast can be a bit finicky when it comes to pressure during fermentation. Even with an airlock, saison yeast can have the tendency to stall and not fully ferment. The foil wound ensure CO2 can escape without too much pressure buildup.

I set it and forget it from one week at 67 degrees Fahrenheit. After one week fermentation was done and I took a final gravity reading, which was 1.010. That means this graph comes in at about 5.3% ABV.

From there, I kegged it up. I also decided to add in 10 milliliters of biofien clear, just to help with clarity and then added pressure. Since this has some champagne like characteristics, I dialed up the pressure to about 15 psi for some extra fizz, and within a few days it was ready to drink.

I absolutely love how this came out. I’m not sure why. I’m so surprised considering I love cider and beer by themselves, so of course a hybrid would be fantastic. This one is almost wine like, but with an easy drinkability, like a table saison, the fruity apple flavor comes through and it’s backed by the floral citrus notes from the cascade.

There’s just a touch of breadiness from that malt, but more than anything, I think it adds body to the drink. Then at the end, it’s slightly tart and a dry finish on the pallet, washing away until the next sip. I think what I love most about a graf is how easy of a brew day it was.

Going in you think it’s complicated, but really adding juice to beer is all there is to it, and the fact that you can customize this to any beer style you want at any ratio makes me definitely wanna try and experiment more with grafs.

If you have any good ideas, let me know what style of beer you think would make a great graf in the comments. Thanks so much for watching. I really encourage you to try this one out. You won’t regret it. Cheers, and happy brewing.

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