Craft beer is more common than ever, but it still seems like the style landscape has contracted. Hazy IPAs are everywhere, and of course you can get double IPAs and the barrel aged stouts. These are great from time to time, but every once in awhile I long for one of those “classic” styles that disappeared as breweries expanded their repertoire and chased the latest trends. I want a beer that tastes like it came from around 2002; something you might find at the local “microbrewery” alongside a plate of greasy boneless wings from the kitchen in back. What is more classic than an amber ale?
I love the American amber ale style. It can fit just about any time of year and any occasion, and the best ones bring a nice dose of maltiness and hoppiness into a cohesive package. I also like that they’ve been mostly immune from the double-triple-imperial crazes, and clock in between 4.5 and 5.7% (by the 2015 BJCP style guidelines). They’re fairly simple to brew, but also have a broad stylistic interpretation that rewards experimentation.
I put together a recipe that would have a nice dose of malt, drawing on Munich I (Weyermann) for nearly 50% of the grist, backed up by 2-row pale malt. To add a bit of zest, I put in a dose of rye malt, along with a generous helping of two kinds of crystal malt. The results came together in one of my favorite beers as of late!
I brewed this batch on 6 July 2019, just after two days of fairly large earthquakes in southern California. There was no choice for the name, then, other than “Aftershock Amber Ale.”
Aftershock Amber Ale
- 5 lbs. Munich I (Weyermann)
- 3 lbs. 2-row pale malt (Rahr)
- 1 lb. 1823 Heritage crystal malt (Bairds), 75°
- 1 lb. rye malt (Viking)
- 4 oz. 2-row crystal 60° malt (Great Western)
- 3 oz. rice hulls
- 0.5 oz. Warrior hop pellets (15.8%), 60 minute boil
- 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
- 2 oz. Cascade whole hops (~5.5% alpha), 5 minute boil
- 1 pkg. Safale American ale yeast (US-05)
- 1 oz. Amarillo hop pellets (9.2% alpha), dry hop in keg
- 60 minute infusion mash, 152°, batch sparge
- 1.048 o.g., 1.010 f.g., 4.9% abv, 34 IBU, 13 SRM
- Claremont tap water
- I mashed in with 3.5 gallons of water at 162.5°, to hit a target mash temperature of 152°.
- After 60 minutes, I added 1.3 gallons of water, let sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings. Next, I added 3.6 gallons of water at 185°, and did the same procedure before collecting the rest of the runnings.
- In total, I collected 6.6 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.042, for 73% efficiency.
- I brought everything to a boil, adding hops and finings per the schedule. After 60 minutes, I turned off the heat, chilled the wort, transferred it, and pitched the yeast.
- Starting gravity was 1.048. I brewed this on 6 July 2019, and fermented it at 68°.
- I kegged the beer on 17 July 2019. It had a final gravity of 1.011, for 4.9% abv.
- Beautiful, fairly clear, reddish amber hue to the beer, with an ivory-colored head that is fine and quite persistent.
- Mild rye aroma, with a bit of caramel behind that. Not much for hops.
- Moderately bitter and highly malty, with a pleasant rye flavor at the forefront. The malt and bitterness are nicely balanced against each other; it’s not too sweet, but just about right. The hop character comes across as somewhat piney and woody…there’s less citrus than I would expect, probably because of the malt overriding the hops.
- Moderate body, moderate carbonation, with a slightly dry finish.
- Would I brew this again?
- Absolutely! I love the mouthfeel and flavor on this; it really is exactly what I hoped for. I think I would probably ditch the dry hops on this; they aren’t really perceptible and might even clash with the malts a bit. Plus, they don’t really seem necessary.