The California Common is a smooth, toasty, fairly bitter beer that is unfortunately not as popular as the name would suggest. The toasty, caramel malt flavors pair wonderfully with rustic woodsy, floral American hops. It has a dry, crisp finish with a lingering bitterness. The style guidelines are below.
- Original Gravity: 1.048 – 1.054
- Final Gravity: 1.011 – 1.014
- Alcohol by Volume: 4.5% – 5.5%
- Bitterness: 30 – 45 IBU
- Color (SRM): 9 – 14
California Common Ingredients
The grain bill for the California Common is simple, with the vast majority of it being pale malt. The pale malt will build up your malty base and give you the fermentable sugars you need.
In addition to the pale malt, I would add some Munich malt and medium crystal malt. The Munich malt will beef up the maltiness while adding light caramel and bready notes. The medium crystal will add amber color to the wort, along with additional notes of caramel and toastiness. Keep the crystal malt under 15%, you don’t want the sweetness to be cloying.
For the California Common, Northern Brewer hops are traditionally used. Northern Brewer is a dual-purpose hop that has an alpha acid percentage ranging between 8% and 10% and adds woody, mint notes. We will add these at 60 minutes, 15 minutes, and flameout.
The California Common is what is known as a hybrid beer. This is a beer with lager-like characteristics fermented at ale temperatures. For this, I recommend using one of the yeast strains below.
- San Francisco Lager – WLP810
- This strain adds a clean, crisp flavor and retains lager-like characteristics at fermentation temperatures between 58 and 64 degrees Fahrenheit.
- California Lager – Wyeast 2112
- This strain retains lager-like characteristics up to 65 degrees Fahrenheit and produces malty, brilliantly clear beers.
- California Ale Yeast – WLP001
- This one works well enough if you cannot get your hands on the above. This yeast strain adds a clean and crisp flavor while accentuating hop flavor and aroma. It attenuates well, leaving you with a brilliantly clear beer.
Last but not least, the water. We use a reverse osmosis filtration system for all beers we brew and build up our water profile from scratch. Our water profile is below.
- Calcium: 50 ppm
- Sodium: 15 ppm
- Sulfates: 110 ppm
- Chloride: 50 ppm
The following is a 5-gallon version of a California Common. The numbers for this beer are listed below.
- Original Gravity: 1.051
- Final Gravity: 1.011 – 1.014
- Alcohol by Volume: 5.0%
- Bitterness: 37.2 IBU
- Color (SRM): 10.8
- Pale Malt – 7 lbs (71.8%)
- Munich Malt – 1 lb 8 oz (15.4%)
- Caramel/Crystal 60L – 1 lb 4 oz (12.8%)
- 0.75 ounces of Northern Brewer at 60 minutes (22.4 IBUs)
- 1 ounce of Northern Brewer at 15 minutes (14.8 IBUs)
- 1 ounce of Northern Brewer at flameout
San Francisco Lager – WLP810
Have your strike water at the required volume and temperature for your system to have the mash drop to 152 degrees. For me, it is 3 gallons at 163 degrees. Mash for 60 minutes at this temperature and proceed to mash out. Sparge with 5.2 gallons of water. Pre-boil gravity should be around 1.043.
Boil the wort for 90 minutes and add the hops as needed. At 10 minutes, I added yeast nutrients and at 5 minutes I added whirlfloc tablets as my clarifying agent. Once the boil is complete, whirlpool the wort for 10 minutes and then let it wind down for 10 minutes.
Knock the wort out in your heat exchanger so that the pitching temperature is 60 degrees and then measure the gravity/pitch the yeast. Initial gravity should be around 1.051. I let this free rise to 62 degrees as fermentation starts. Hold the temperature at 62 degrees for 5-7 days until the primary fermentation is complete, and then let the temperature free-rise up to 72 degrees to finish off fermentation. Once your fermentation is complete, cold crash to 33 degrees for at least a day and then transfer to the brite tank to carbonate it to 2.6 vols. After 3 days in the brite tank, keg it, and enjoy!
If you decide to try this recipe, or another California Common recipe, feel free to send us a comment and let us know how it went! And if you want to see more recipes like this, sign up for our newsletter below to be notified when a new post is released. Cheers!