Alta California Lager 2020

Another go at my favorite beer of last year, Alta California Lager. I made a few minor adjustments for this iteration, to simplify brewing. Specifically, I used flaked corn (rather than a cereal mash with grits), and used the Imperial version of the Mexican lager yeast instead of White Labs’ version, due to availability at my local shop.

Alta California Lager 2020

  • 6.5 lb. Superior Pilsen Malt (Great Western)
  • 2 lb. flaked corn
  • 1.75 lb. Vienna Malt (Great Western)
  • 0.25 lb. rice hulls
  • 0.40 oz. Magnum hop pellets (13.2% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.50 oz. Sterling hop pellets (7.4% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax
  • 1 pkg. Que Bueno liquid yeast (Imperial Yeast L09)

Target Parameters

  • 1.046 o.g., 1.009 f.g., 4.9% abv, 20 IBU, 3 SRM
  • Infusion mash, 149° for 60 minutes, batch sparge
  • Blend of Claremont tap water and RO water, to achieve calculated water profile of 19 Ca, 7 Mg, 46 Na, 15 SO4, 53 Cl, 102 HCO3. RA=66 ppm, alkalinity=84 ppm, effective hardness 18 ppm.

Procedure

  • I spooled up a 1.5L starter on 2 April 2020, and cold crashed it on the morning of 4 April.
  • My water was a mix of tap water (4.25 gallons) and RO water (4.5 gallons), to get 8.75 gallons total. Given the stay-at-home orders, I didn’t want to run out for more RO water.
  • I mashed in with 3.75 gallons of tap water and 5 mL of 88% lactic acid, to hit my 149° mash temperature. The mash was down to 143 after 75 minutes, so I added 1.5 gallons of hot tap water/RO water blend to bring up the temperature and prepare for collection of the runnings.
  • I added rice hulls just before first runnings were collected. Once the first runnings were in the kettle, I added 4 gallons of RO water, let sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the second runnings.
  • In total, I collected 7.25 gallons with a gravity of 1.042, for 80% efficiency.
  • I brought the kettle to a boil, adding hops and finings per the recipe.
  • After 60 minutes, I chilled, and transferred the wort to the fermenter. I let it chill the rest of the way overnight, down to 50°. I brewed the beer on 5 April 2020.
  • On the morning of 6 April 2020, I oxygenated with 45 seconds of pure O2, and pitched the yeast. I am fermenting at 51°. Starting gravity was 1.050.
  • I let the beer free-rise to 62° on 18 April 2020. On 25 April, I lowered the temperature to 52°, and then to 42° on 26 April, and 33° on 27 April.
  • I kegged the beer on 10 May 2020, after purging the target keg with CO2.
  • Final gravity was 1.008, for 5.5% abv.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Light yellow, slight chill haze for the first few weeks on tap, but otherwise clear. I finally achieved good clarity about a month after kegging–patience pays off! The beer pours with a nice dense head with excellent retention.
  • Aroma
    • Light spice hop note; malt has a slight graininess with a maize aroma too (not DMS!).
  • Flavor
    • Light grainy maltiness, slight maize character with that; distinct but not overpowering bitterness; this beer is definitely more tilted towards the bitter end than I expected, though. It’s not IPA levels, but I think I could notch the IBUs back about 10 percent. I wonder if I got higher utilization this time with the hops free floating rather than bagged. The finish tilts towards bitter.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Crisp, off-dry, moderately high carbonation.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • I’m going to tweak a bit more, and think I’ll go back to a cereal mash for the next version, and perhaps try the White Labs yeast again. I’ll also notch the hops back a touch, to reduce the bitterness for when I use free floating hops in the boil. It’s a pretty good beer, but the slight persistent haze was mildly disappointing, and the slight overbitterness could be fixed. That said, it’s pretty good with a lime slice!
  • Overall
    • 7.5/10

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2 Responses to Alta California Lager 2020

  1. Pingback: What’s Brewing? June 2020 Edition | Andy's Brewing Blog

  2. Pingback: What’s Brewing? July 2020 Edition | Andy's Brewing Blog

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