What Is This New GRAFF(T) from New Belgium?

One of the most interesting homebrewing concoctions in the last few years has been a beer based beverage called Graff (it should be spelled “Graf,” but more on that later), and its starting to make its way onto the craft beer scene.

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Just today, New Belgium announced that it will soon be releasing its own version of Graf called GRAFF(T). This is a collaboration with a small craft brewery and a cider maker that are both based in Washington state. But what is Graf, where did it come from, and how can you make your own? It’s another interesting story about how Stephen King (yeah, the horror author) and the homebrewing world have affected craft beer.

What The Hell Is Graf?

Equals Graf

Technically Graf is part beer and part cider, a sort of apple beer. It has malted barley, hops, and apple juice or cider. It’s not exactly beer, it’s not exactly cider, it’s a little bit of both. What makes Graf great is that it’s incredibly cheap ($25-$30 for five gallons) and simple to make, tastes great, and you don’t have to let it age for a long time like normal cider.

You Have My Attention. Now Where Did It Come From?

The Internet.

Graf first became popular in 2009 when homebrewtalk.com user Brandon O, decided that he didn’t like waiting so long for traditional Apfelwein (German hard cider) to age. Brandon O, thought he may be able to cut that waiting time by using some beer making techniques. He shared his recipe using malt, hops, and apple juice on HomeBrewTalk, and homebrewers all over the world began tweaking and modifying that recipe to create a whole new class of homebrew. To this day there are people on that thread still posting new recipes based on the original instructions.

Where Did Graf Get Its Silly Name?

The first brewers of Graf didn’t really know what to call it and just referred to it as “Malty Slightly Hopped Cider.” But as popularity grew it became clear that this new beverage needed a distinctive name. Around this time another HomeBrewTalk user suggested the name “Graff” from Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. The story in this series mostly takes place in a fictional land called mid-world, where the primary alcoholic beverage is a type of apple beer called “Graf.” The name quickly caught on (although misspelled) and it has been known as Graf/Graff ever since.

How Easy is it to Make Really?

From what I have read it may be hard to find New Belgium GRAFF(T) unless you’re in Washington state, but you can always make your own.

Graf is incredibly cheap and simple to make. Even if you’re not a homebrewer you can make Graf in under an hour (plus the several weeks it takes to ferment and age). You really only need a small pot, a stove top, and something to ferment in. If you have any interest then just head over to the original thread on HomeBrewTalk.com, and start with the original or with one of the many, many other recipes. When I made mine it cost about $25 for five gallons, and only took 45 minutes before I had it in the fermenter.

For more info, here is New Belgium’s official press release on GRAFF(T):

Introducing GRAFF(T): A Rare Collaboration Between New Belgium Brewing, Two Beers Brewing and Seattle Cider Company

Unique “graff” beer-cider hybrid slated for release January 12; available in 22-ounce bottles and on tap throughout Seattle

SEATTLE (January 6, 2014) – Two Beers Brewing, Seattle Cider Company and New Belgium Brewing have joined forces to create a one-of-a-kind graff, a unique style combining unexpected hops and malt with small batch cider from Washington state. Coined GRAFF(T) – a nod to the style of beer as well as the process of bonding a shoot from one plant to another – this 7.3 percent ABV beer was brewed at Two Beers Brewing in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood using New Belgium Brewing hop varieties and unfermented apple juice from Seattle Cider Company. A truly unique concoction, Seattle-area beer and cider lovers can find GRAFF(T) on tap and in 22-ounce bottles beginning January 12, as well as at a host of launch events taking place around town.

“A graff is an exciting new style we’ve been keeping our eye on and have been dying to create,” said Lindsay Guerdrum, brewer for New Belgium Brewing. “With the recent launch of Seattle Cider Company and their exceptional approach to craft cider, plus their connection with Two Beers Brewing, we saw the opportunity for a unique partnership and more importantly, a beer unlike any other.”

GRAFF(T) is an India Pale Lager (IPL) brewed with 100 percent Pilsner malt, Mosaic hops from Yakima Valley, Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand and a 10 percent by volume addition of unfermented apple juice (also known as “must”) from Seattle Cider Company. After fermentation, the brew is then dry hopped with Nelson Sauvin hops. With 53 IBUs and 7.3 percent ABV, the result is a dry, crisp, effervescent beer-cider hybrid with notes of grapefruit and citrus, accompanied by a brite and dry palate.

“It’s a lot of fun to see these three companies come together to offer something completely new to the Seattle market,” added Joel VandenBrink, founder of Two Beers Brewing and Seattle Cider Company. “We’ve looked up to New Belgium Brewing since we opened our doors and are honored to be working with them. Plus, it was a ton of fun to brew this beer together!”

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4 comments

    • Erin, great question. In most fruit flavored ales fruit often makes up less 5% of the fermentable sugars (but of course there are always exceptions). The malted barley is still the main fermentable ingredient with the fruit primarily there for flavor.

      In the original Graf recipe the apple juice makes up ~70-75% of the fermentable sugars with the malt and hops are just there to help smooth the flavor. The malt and the apple juice are swapping roles when compared to a fruit flavored ale. Now this isn’t a hard rule or anything, just an observation on most Graf recipes.

      Does that help?

      Like

  1. Sorry, but “Graf” or “Graff” is actually called “Brapple” and has been around in the UK brewing scene for ages, and t’s almost certainly a traditional country drink. I certainly brewed it in early 2000 an know many including my dad who have been brewing it for years. Don’t believe me? Well go buy yourself a copy of The Penguin Book of Home Brewing and Wine-making by W. H. T. Tayleur (written in 1973) and you’ll find the recipe for Graff (or “Brapple” as it’s really called) on page 127! Nice to know its been “re-discovered” by someone though…

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    • Thanks for the info, and I have to say that Brapple is a great name. It also sounds very British.

      The funny thing about any fermented drink is that no matter how creative you are someone else has definitely tried it. Who knows what else will be rediscovered in the next few years.

      Like

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