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Foothiller

Agave Cerveza

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Amazon and other sources sell an "International Series" pack of 2 refills:  Oktoberfest Lager, and Aztec Mexican Cerveza.  I and others have had good results with Oktoberfest, but the Cerveza has not had as good of reviews.  So, I am trying alternative recipes for the Cerveza.  I made the following as a simple recipe, and found it to be tasty midway through conditioning, so I entered it in a county fair that had entries from all around Northern California as I was also submitting another entry (knowing it would condition more before judging) - and won an honorable mention.  I also shared this at my homebrew club meeting, and got many compliments as well as discussion of using an unusual ingredient with good results.  In a 2.25 gallon batch in the LBK, my recipe was:

1.87 lb Mr Beer Mexican Cerveza

0.5 lb Pale DME

0.4 lb Booster (half bag), hoping for head retention

0.5 oz Cascade hops in a 20-minute hop boil

0.7 lb Agave Nectar

Mr Beer dry ale yeast

Use the normal procedures, but add the agave nectar one week into the fermentation, ferment for a total of 3 weeks, and bottle-condition for 4 weeks.  I fermented in the low 70's.

There have been a variety of descriptions for the fermented agave flavor:  dry wine, honey-like, tequila, apple, apricot, etc.  An area for improvement is that this ended up with little head, and it probably would have done better if it had head.

While it was fermenting, before developing the agave flavor, I had the impression the Cerveza would make a nice base for fruit beers - so that will be what I try next.

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instead of using the booster for head, try steeping some CaraFoam. About 1/4 lb for a 2.5gal batch.

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I agree the CaraFoam (or CaraPils) would help for folks who are ready for steeping grains.  In this case, I originally put this recipe together using as the simplest techniques possible while getting more than a weak beer (which has been a concern to some about the Cerveza).

For those with a slight amount of experience, I do recommend steeping grains as an easy technique that opens the door to partial mash and eventually all-grain.  Which I do depends on what I want a beer to be and how much time the technique takes, compared to the time that's available.

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I would not dismiss CaraPils or CaraFoam as probably giving better head, but a 2nd theory also occurred to me.  Having a refractometer, I could measure the gravity daily for the first several days, without losing much beer.  The attenuation reached 73% within 2 days, and didn't change much more until I added the agave on the 6th day, and it settled down again about a day after that.  Although this yeast's temperature range is stated as up to 76 degrees, and my temperature on the side of the LBK was 72-74 degrees, the yeast apparently works fast toward the top of its range.  With 3 weeks in the LBK before bottling, the yeast may have dropped out, leaving little if any for bottle-carbonating.  This could be an exception to the 3-weeks-in-LBK rule. 

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No I've done the Azteca similar to your recipe, (only I used honey instead of agave, but I like that idea) and dumped it all in the LBK.  I let it sit for 3 weeks, bottle primed with 2.5 tsp / Liter (I like carb)  for 4 weeks and it was pretty good. I use maltodextrin for head, and actually when I make this with zest and juice from 3 limes, my wife drinks all I make. She likes it. I like it too. :)

I think that even after sitting for 3 weeks, there are still enough yeast cells floating around to carb the beer. 

Monty

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Confirming that there is indeed enough suspended yeast to conduct the carbonation.

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Generally I agree that there would be enough suspended yeast left for bottle conditioning after 3 weeks in the LBK.  I have harvested yeast a couple of times from my beers that had been in bottles for a few months, with good success, when I wanted to use a particular yeast again but didn't have it in stock when it was time to brew.  Similarly, I have harvested yeast from a Sierra Nevada beer once, since I have read that SN uses the original yeast for its bottle conditioning.

And I am reluctant to disagree with the expertise in the previous post.  But having done 60+ brews since I started, I think I have my procedures down enough that I would not have forgotten the priming sugar.  So, I did an experiment to test the theories.  I opened two bottles, added another 1/2 tsp of priming sugar to each 12-oz bottle (my normal amount), and re-capped to see if it would carbonate now.  I have now opened one of them a week after that, and again it is totally flat, along with being slightly sweeter than originally.  Pouring it straight into a clean glass, I only got a few bubbles, and these dissipated within about 10 seconds.  As I noted before, this fermented at the top of the yeast's temperature range, the fermentation was very fast, and this yeast is known to have high floculation.  I will post again if the second bottle with added priming sugar has more head after an additional week of conditioning, but my conclusion is stronger now than just stating my theory before, that after 3 weeks in the LBK, the yeast in this brew had settled out before I bottled.

Nevertheless, I also stand by my finding that this is a good combination for the Aztec HME, which I like even without more carbonation.  The honorable mention in this competition, when the beer didn't have any head and very low carbonation, confirms that the rest of the recipe and process was a success. 

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I actually used some light agave (1-1/2 cups) in a batch of Canadian Blonde (2 cans HME) that is bottle conditioning in the fridge right now.  I even batch primed with the agave.  Very excited to see how it turns out.  A brewing mentor of mine uses it with a good bit of success.

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