Maltzbier, Malta, Kinderbier, Small Beer

I used to spend time brewing my own soda. I was particularly interested in brewing from base ingredients rather than from extract, because I like the idea of being able to make stuff from scratch. But I got bored with it, or something, and put all of the ingredients and the bail-top glass bottles in the garage and sort of forgot about it.

Last October when my youngest daughter turned 11, I made some homemade root beer for her birthday party, and that was quite a hit. I did it with dry ice, extract and sugar in a 5-gallon drink cooler, and it wasn’t very fizzy, but it was birch beer instead of straight root beer, which meant it had a bit of a kick to the flavor. My older daughters weren’t very impressed because they remember me doing sodas years ago, but the youngest was fascinated. And so, eventually, I got back to making soda with yeast.

A few weeks ago, I got my ingredients back out of the garage. Some of the dry malt extract (DME) had stuck together in big lumps, but everything else was there. I made some root beer and some maltzbier, but this time instead of putting pints in bottles and letting the fizzy start there, I put the 1-gallon batches into empty 2-liter bottles. This has a number of advantages. First, I only have to wash out two bottles for each batch. Second, there’s much less guesswork when it comes to knowing whether the batch is ready to go into the fridge, since I can just feel the bottles and decide whether the bottles are firm enough to denote enough carbonation in the mix. And lastly, I have been tasked with labeling the bottles as they go into the fridge, so it’s much easier to put tape labels on the plastic bottles, and there are only two bottles per batch.

This time around, I have decided that I will make stuff from extract. I never did get a good ginger ale from ginger root (although I want to try it again), but the ginger ale from extract is nicely strong. I like the birch beer extract and even the spruce beer extract. I really like the cream soda extract. So where I had tried in the past to make stuff only from roots and vanilla beans and so forth, now a batch of soda takes only a small amount of time.

Additionally, I have decided to work on my maltzbier recipes. A quick history of small beers: there used to be very little distinction between beer and soft drinks other than the alcohol content. The same ingredients were used: malt, yeast, water and hops. But small beers had very small amounts of alcohol, and that was essentially the only distinction. Small beers are still made today, although I haven’t seen much available around here except for at the German food store. Wikipedia has this to say about Malta, which is a pretty good overview.

There are a lot of resources available on the internet for beer recipes for the home brewer, but there are very few resources for the home brewer who wants to make sodas or small beers. I’ve had to experiment a lot on my own to try to make stuff that I like a lot, and I’ve had some success. I’ve also had plenty of failures. But I wanted to document some of my successes here, just in case I ever lose my brewing notebook.

Malted Root Beer
Make root beer as described on the bottle. Typically, the recipe will call for 2-4 cups of white sugar per gallon of water. In the case of malted root beer, we’ll substitute DME for some of that sugar. I have used 2 cups of sugar and 1 pounds of DME to good result. There will be more head to the soda, and a pleasing taste of malt along with the root beer flavor. I typically use champagne yeast for these sodas.

1 pound dark DME
2 cups raw sugar or brown sugar
1 gallon water
1 teaspoon hops
1/4 teaspoon yeast

This is a sweet soda with nice hop bitterness for balance. It’s somewhat heavy, so perhaps a better winter ale.

4L water
500g dark DME
4g Cascade hops
3g Citra hops
5g Ahtanum hops
1/4 teaspoon Nottingham ale yeast

Note that I have started to move to using metric weights for the recipes, except for the yeast, which is such a tiny amount I can’t get an accurate weight on it.

Here’s the way I made this one:
Boil 2L of water. Put the hops in tea bags (to save time straining and filtering later). Add the hops so that they boil for this amount of time:
– Cascade 60 minutes
– Citra 10 minutes
– Ahtanum 3 minutes
Turn off the heat and add the DME, mixing well. Add 2L of ice water and fill the bottles, making sure to leave at least 3cm of air at the top of the bottle (it seems to aid in the yeast action). When the mix seems cool enough (what the old recipes call “blood warm”), then add the yeast to the bottles and set aside. It took less than 24 hours for the bottles to be ready for refrigeration.

This was interesting in that the tea bags were VERY full when the hop pellets were done expanding. I may need to invest in some nylon brewing bags to give the hops more room for steeping. However, it seems to have let a lot of the aromatics steep from the hops into the brew without lots of bitterness. More experimentation is needed. The resulting drink was very aromatic, but only slightly bitter. There was little sweetness remaining, so it was actually very close to what I had expected from a Small Beer. I think this one would be an excellent refreshing drink to have after a hard day of yard work.

I will add photos when I remember to take them.

Comments (2)

LieneMarch 18th, 2015 at 1:33 am

Do you have some all grain recipes? .
I wanna make, but still i didnt get good result. Some after tastes, little to stiff or to light . If i have good body, taste is not good, if is taste, i dont have good texture of drink. Its looks that manufacturers are using mixt tehnologies. All grain+malt extract+sugar+co2

derickAugust 5th, 2015 at 12:07 am

I have pretty much just used regular beer recipes. I have found them on

I have also bought all-grain kits from

I simply brew those as though I’m making beer, but I stop at the yeast pitch and instead just carbonate the resulting wort. They’re sweeter than a beer would be, but they have most of the same characteristics as the beer would.

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