Steamboat Willie – California Common


Steamboat Willie is a beer we brewed up as our entry for the 2017 HOZER advent calendar. I’ve found it difficult to find fresh California Commons and the scant local options haven’t really met the expectations I have for this style.

After doing a bit of research through the BJCP style guides and a few recipes online I built up a fairly simple answer to the style.


  • 82% Thomas-Fawcett Maris Otter
  • 9% Briess Crystal 40
  • 9% Briess Victory
  • 36 “IBU” of GER Northern Brewer @ 100°C Whirlpool for 15m (see notes)
  • Escarpment Cali Common Yeast @ 1.0 – 1.5M cells / mL / °P

Mash Schedule

  • 60m @ 68°C for Conversion (see notes)
  • 15m @ 77°C for Mash Out


  • Pitch @ 15°C and allow to free rise to 16.5°C
  • Ferment at 16.5°C for 1 week, then raise to 19°C for Diacetyl Rest
  • Slow crash down to 2°C over 1 week


  • Re-yeast with Cali Common yeast
  • Add priming sugar for a target carbonation of 2.4 volumes
  • Allow to condition for 1 week at ambient (20°C+)


The isomerization of the hops during whirlpool was much lower than expected from my brewing software. This was actually confirmed by testing with a BeerLab demo we had going on at work. However, I feel that the hop aromatics are fairly appropriate, even though the bitterness isn’t as high.

The final gravity of this beer ended up slightly higher (1.018) than the desired final gravity (1.015). This is possibly due to the higher mash temperature, which resulted in less fermentable sugars than expected. Cali Common yeast is a relatively low attenuator, so to compensate for the low attenuation, lower the mash pH to 65 or 66°C in future batches.

Sensory Evaluation

The cold, flat beer smells quite minty and herbal, along with some fairly toasty and caramelly notes from the malts. On tasting there is a very up front caramel note from the malts, followed by a very earthy hop flavour. It is somewhat reminiscent of root vegetables such as beets.

Finished Product


Pours with an off-white fine foam. The beer itself is a copper-amber with a good amount of chill haze.


Very malt forward with smells of sticky buns, light toffee and a hint of tootsie roll.


Semi-sweet from crystal malts with a malt-forward finish. Lots of toffee and caramel notes. As the product warms in the mouth there are some herbal and minty notes from the hops.


Medium body with a light creaminess and moderate carbonation.


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About Chris

If there is a place that serves or sells beer I've never heard of, I'll find a way to get there. A fan of the humble Pale Ale, though always willing to try a pint of something new. I also enjoy brewing my own beers and love sharing the science of the beer making process.