People seem to like doing things the hard way. Home brewers often go out of their way to do some things the hard way. They appear to have a great need to brew pilsners in summer. “How can I ferment at 10oC when it is over 40oC in the shed?” This is balanced by a real need to brew ales in winter. “How can I ferment at 20oC when it is 8oC in the garage?”
Now you can brew at any temperature at any time of the year if you have enough fridges and heat pads (a bloke I know really well has too many of both). However, there are limits to this approach such as having enough room, outlay costs and running costs. Also, often it is good to do it the simple way. So why not chose the yeast and beer style that suits the seasonal temperature at your brewery?
Firstly, find a spot at your place that has a stable temperature that suits the beer style. For example I have a slab of concrete under the house where fermenting beer stays at 10-11oC during July and August. You can also wrap the fermenter in an old blanket or jumper to moderate temperate fluctuations.
Secondly chose a style that suits the fermentation temperatures. Brew your lagers in winter. They will reach their peak condition in late spring and thirsty summer. Late spring and late summer/early autumn are good time to brew those ales that will warm you when the days shorten and the cold winds start to blow. Belgian beers can be brewed when fermentation temperatures can be kept in the twenties while Saisons can be brewed even in the sweltering days of high summer. They will last well and can be enjoyed in all seasons.
Thirdly log on to Weatherzone at www.weatherzone.com.au and type in your post code. You now have temperature forecasts for the next five days as well as the monthly averages for your area. This will help you avoid sudden temperature variations and extremes. I log on each morning to view the forecasts but my life is not all that exciting.
Finally, and most importantly, choose the yeast that best suits the fermentation temperature.
In winter you can brew Australian lagers, Viennas, pilsners, bocks, Baltic porters and many more. Most liquid yeasts have optimum fermenting temperatures of 10-13oC. So if you have that magic cold spot at home you can experiment with a very wide range of different liquid lager yeasts (see www.whitelabs.com/beer/homebrew_strains.html#LAGER_YEAST ). My favourite lager yeast is WLP810 San Francisco which is said to be at its best at 14-18oc. It makes very good steam beers at this temperature range but I have found it to be excellent at 10-14oc for all those malty lager styles. It is also forgiving of some temperature variations. A great, easy to use lager yeast if you want to try a liquid lager yeast for the first time. It is also a good time to use dried lager yeasts. Saflager W-34/70 has a range of 9-15 oC which allows room for temperature variation without unneeded worry.
The warmer months of Spring and Autumn are the best time to brew ales of all types. There are a wide range of liquid ale yeasts which have optimum temperatures over the 18-23 oC range (see www.whitelabs.com/beer/homebrew_strains.html#ALE_YEAST). Choose the ale style and yeast that best suit the conditions and your taste. Dried ale yeasts such as Safale S-04 and US 05, with temperature ranges of 15-24 oC, are also a good option.
The long hot days of summer are the hardest time to brew. However, most homes have some spot that stays a bit cooler. Weatherzone can help you avoid brewing in periods of extreme heat. Also there some styles and yeasts that can handle, and even like, higher temperatures. Belgian ales can be fermented up to the mid twenties. For example;
I have found Saison yeasts work well even when fermenting in the very high twenties.
So if you want to be drinking a great lager at your summer BBQ’s go and buy that lager yeast right now and get brewing.