Recently I had a local breweries recreation of a Kentucky Common. The only problem was they jazzed it up with additions I doubt were used like apples and perhaps rye. Their result was a quite sour brown ale and IMO it missed the mark. I’m sure some sour beer fans would be all giddy, but having researched and made the long-lost style before I can tell you it wasn’t a beer to pucker your mouth.

So let’s go back to the basics and what we know. Wahl & Henius list two different variants depending upon which edition you check. (This research is from long ago and the links are ones I just located for the books so you may need to dig deep to find the information.)

In the 1902 Edition the specs are:
1902 Edition – OG 1.040-1.044, ~20 IBU, 30% corn
In the 1908 Edition the specs are:
1908 Edition – OG 1.040-1.050, 20-30 IBU, 25-35% corn, slight lactic sourness

There have been some other interesting notations about the style over the years. Here is an article by Lisa Grimm and a short Kentucky Beer History page. Here is a web page from Rich O’s with a description. At any rate I doubt the beer was tart sour unless it went off. Also the IBU were much higher than the 7 IBU in the commercial example.

If you would like to make your own Kentucky Common you will need to sour a portion of the grist for a few days, you can do that by adding some raw grain to ~20% of the grist after mashing. Here is a tried and true homebrew recipe you can follow:

-6 lb. Marris Otter (Sour 20%, see below)
-13 oz. American crystal 120L
-3.5 oz. American chocolate
-2 lb. Gelatinized grits (see below)

-158° F for 1 hour, 170° F for 10 min.

-90 minute boil

-0.5 oz. Cluster (6.5% AA, 65 min.)
-0.5 oz. Cluster (6.5% AA, 30 min.)
-0.5 oz. Cluster (6.5% AA, 2 min.)

-Neutral yeast

-OG 1.048, FG 1.016-1.018, IBU 24, SRM 18

-Sour 20% of the Marris Otter for 2 1/2 days. Mash first at 158°F and after 170°F mashout reduce to 90-105°F and add raw grain. Combine sour mash with main mash before sparge.
-Gelatinize grits by boiling for 30 minutes. It will take about 1 gallon water per pound of grits to keep them runny.