Brewing A Beer Style You’ve Never Tasted – Kentucky Common

by Robert French | Last Updated: April 4, 2016

How do you build a recipe for a beer style you’ve never tasted?

How do you do you know it tastes right?Grits

I decided to brew a Kentucky Common, a historic style that was recently added to the BJCP guidelines. I didn’t pick this style because my friends don’t know what it should taste like so if it sucked, I could easily blame it on bad historic records.

No, I picked this style because it had elements of homebrewing that I never tried before.

  • 6-Row Barley
  • Corn Grits
  • A Cereal Mash

Where to start?

The new BJCP guidelines provided a quick historical review of the Kentucky Common. It dispels the notion that the beer was brewed with a sour mash. It does describe the beer as a quick, inexpensive beer. And 6 to 8 days from mash to kegging? Damn that’s quick.

Here the specs:

  • 60% Six-Row Malt
  • 36% to 38% Corn Grits
  • 1.5% to 2% Black Malt
  • 0% to 1.5% Caramel Malt
  • .2 lbs of Western Hops for bittering
  • ¼ lbs per barrel New York  hops for flavor (Cluster?)
  • German or Bohemian hops for aroma
  • Cereal Mash
  • 2-hour boil
  • Late addition of dark malts

Kentuckymash

  • OG: 1.044 to 1.055
  • FG: 1.014 to 1.018
  • IBU: 15 to 20
  • SRM: 11 to 20
  • ABV: 4 to 4.4%

Armed with the historical specifications, I set out to build my recipe.

Kentucky Common Recipe

Batch Details

  • 5-Gallon Batch
  • OG 1.044
  • FG 1.010
  • ABV 4.38%
  • IBU 27
  • SRM 12.4
  • Based on a 75% efficiency
  • 60 minute boil

Gravitycheck

Grain Bill

  • 5 lbs (61.1%) American 6-Row
  • 3 lbs (36.6%) Grits
  • .18 lbs (2.3%) German De-Husked Carafa III

Hops

  • .5 oz Northern Brewer 9.9 AA @ 60 minutes
  • .5 oz Northern Brewer 9.9 AA @ 5 minutes

Yeast

White Labs Cream Ale Yeast WLP080 w/2 liter starter made 24-hrs before the brew day

Process

This was a two-step mash, a combined cereal and standard mash

Cereal Mash

  • Mixed 10 oz of the 6-row into the 3-lbs of the corn grits.
  • Added 96-ozs of water stirred in and raised the temperature to 137 degrees and held for 15-minutes.
  • During the 15-minute rest, I started the mash for the remaining grains, see below
  • After the 15-minutes hold, I slowly raised the temperature to a soft boil. I added 6-oz of water during this process to thin it out the mix and allow easier stirring.
  • I held a soft boil for 30-minutes and stirred during the entire time.

Soft boil = The mix was thick and could not maintain a rolling boil. It would build heat within the mash and create mini surface eruptions. In trying the keep the entire mash from exploding, I was constantly adjusting the heat up and down while stirring.

Mash

While the cereal mash was in the 15-minute rest I began the normal mash.

  • Heated 6.25 quarts of water to 160 degrees, and added the remaining 6-row malt stirred and held the mash temperature at 155 degrees for 60 minutes.
  • At minute 40, I added the grits and 6-row from the cereal mash.  The one thing to keep in mind is to make sure the cereal mash temperature has dropped below 155 degrees.  I did this by occasionally stirring the cereal mash to dissipate some of the heat.  I also placed the pot in a water bath for about 15-minutes.
  • After combining the cereal mash to the regular mash, the temperature dropped down a few degrees. With my system, I have a burner on the mash tun and was able to bring the mash back up to 155.
  • At the 60-minute mark I added the Carafa malt to the top of the mash and began a 60-minute fly sparge with 170 degree water.

I pitched the yeast at 66 degrees and let the temperature rise to 68 degrees and held at that temp for 2 weeks and then kegged.

Kentuckyfinished

Analysis

Color

Straight up copper, a few shades lighter than a beer like Newcastle. While it’s still within the BJCP guidelines, it’s a little darker than I was going for. The photo looks darker than it really is.

Aroma

Slight corny sweetness, with a mild hop spice.

Flavor

Malt forward with a clean bitterness.  Neither the malt or the hops take over the beer. Clean finish with little to no residual hop bitterness.

Mouthfeel

The body is light, but not hallow. The beer needs to be on the high side of carbonation.  I kegged this beer, and tasted as it carbed. Very crushable at just under 4.5% ABV

Overall

The flavor and mouthfeel give you the impression that this is a higher ABV beer. I’m very happy with the end results and have received positive feedback from my friends who have tried it.

Final Thoughts

On the next batch I will change out the Carafa, for brown malt.  This was a suggestion from the head brewer and owner of Bootleggers Brewery (Thanks Aaron and Robert for the feedback).

I will also try to simplify the cereal mash by using only one vessel for both.

Have you tasted or brewed a Kentucky Common? If not, think you’ll give one a shot now?

Kentuckykeg

Native to Southern California, Robert brewed his first homebrew with a good friend back in 1995 and has been brewing ever since. One of the driving forces that keeps him homebrewing is the sharing of beers. He gets far more enjoyment from sharing one of his brews than from just having a pint at home.