Monthly Archives: July 2010

American Pale Ale (All Grain)

apaWell, 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.

Recipe Overview

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.

Farmhouse Ales by Phil Markowski

farmhouse-alesThe term “farmhouse ales” conjures up romantic mages of simple country beers brewed on self-sufficient farms as a matter of necessity.

The first sentence of the introduction to Farmhouse Ales by Phil Markowski perfectly sums up most people’s approach to this style of beer, and mine too. Farmhouse ales, as far as this book goes, include two major categories: Bier de Garde and Saison. Two beers which most Americans don’t see in stores very often, and aren’t inclined to try unless they’re getting a sampler from a brewpub.

Prior to reading this book, I’ve only had an opportunity to try Bier de Garde once, and a Saison once or twice, and very far apart. That said, I was excited to read this book because who doesn’t like the idea of a farmhouse beer? Even more exciting than that, I did know that many of these beers are fermented at high temperatures and turn out well. As a homebrewer who likes to brew year-round, this is also very appealing to me, as I don’t have a convenient way to control fermentation temperature.

After reading Farmhouse Ales, I have a greater appreciation for the style(s), and an even greater appreciation for Phil Markowski’s work. Farmhouse ales are a very broad and general type of beer (within the two sub-categories described in the book), and within each sub-category, there seem to be a nearly infinite number of variations, making it extremely difficult to get very specific. Markowski takes the approach of highlighting historical and modern examples of each style, and describing their qualities, leaving it up to the reader to draw their own conclusions as to how one should brew a beer in each style.

Each of the two major sections of the book (Bier de Garde & Saison) are divided into subsections: a historical review, how to find and appreciate modern examples, and how to brew your own. These sections are jam-packed with information, nearly demanding several re-reads from the reader before possibly digesting it all.

If you have ever been interested in Farmhouse ales and their rich history and tradition, I highly recommend this book.