Well, it had to come to it. After a year’s worth of style exploration, barleywines and imperial stouts, it was time to take a crack at the baseline of American craft beer: the American Pale Ale. This style has been one that I’ve put off for a while, not because I don’t like it, but like most homebrewers, I was enjoying the chase of the unusual and the exotic (and the high-gravity).
Having reached a point where it was time to start nailing down some regulars, and being summer (albeit in Maine), it was time for a more sessionable beer. I have to admit, after all the procrastination, I was a little bit anxious about this beer. After all the practice, I can’t screw up on a pale ale, right?
Well, I consulted all my favorite books before starting the recipe build, and decided to take the non-crystal malt approach. I wanted a dryer, crisper beer, one that would be refreshing and not too sweet. I also wanted to focus on hop flavor, so I left the grain bill rather mild to leave room for some dry-hops to shine.
UK Pale Ale Malt 11.32 lb (79.0 %) In Mash/Steeped
German CaraRed 1.00 lb (7.0 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Munich Malt 1.00 lb (7.0 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Wheat Malt 1.00 lb (7.0 %) In Mash/Steeped
US Centennial (8.5 % alpha) 1.24 oz Loose Pellet Hops used First Wort Hopped
US Cascade (5.9 % alpha) 0.99 oz Loose Pellet Hops used 10 Min From End
Yeast: Wyeast 1318-London Ale III
After cool fermenting the beer (I wanted to minimize ester production by the english yeast), I let it lager for a couple weeks while I waited for keg space to open up. In this time, I decided to go for another first: dry-hopping in the keg. My buddy has been doing this recently with a massive tea ball he got for a gift, and I was hopeful that I could pull off the same approach by using a muslin bag for grain steeping. I sanitized the bag by soaking it in Star-San for a few minutes, then filled it with about 3oz of Cascade and Centennial hop pellets, then twisted it closed, doubled over the bag, twisted closed, then tripled it over. I took this sock-full of hops, and shoved it (gently) under the dip tube of my Corny keg.
After two days, I tried a sample. Wow. That fresh hop taste coming from the keg is awesome, and without the added transfers and delays of a secondary. I’ll definitely be doing this again. Oh, and the recipe. Well, it turned out more like an amber. Good, but a little sweeter than I had hoped for. I’ll be cutting the CaraRed in half next time.