Beer Tasting: New World Blonde Ale

blonde_aleMy New World Blonde Ale ran out last week, but I did a tasting before the keg kicked. Results are below.

  • The Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.045; final gravity = 1.008; abv = 4.9%; estimated IBU = 24
  • Aroma
    • Initial aroma has a bit of orange with a hint of grainy maltiness behind that.
  • Appearance
    • Moderately hazy and light gold beer, with a low and fine but persistant white head.
  • Flavor
    • Light malt flavor with a slightly grainy and bready aspect. Hops are at a moderately high level for a blonde ale, with a slight orange pith aspect to it. When I first tapped this beer, the citrus was a bit overwhelming and unpleasant–almost like rotten orange. I think somewhere this flavor was euphemistically called “candy orange,” but I can’t say it is a particularly pleasant flavor. It has moderated quite a bit, but is still hanging around in the shadows.
  • Mouthfeel
    • This is a light-bodied beer with moderately high carbonation, so that it has a slightly effervescent feel on the tongue. The finish is dry, and the hop bitterness persists as the dominant character.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • This is a decent beer, but not a great beer. Or I should say that it’s not really to my tastes. I think I will lay much of the “blame” on HBC 438–the hop comes across as a bit harsher than I like. Perhaps it is good in other styles, but it just doesn’t do the trick in this particular beer. Apparently HBC 438 has been a pretty divisive hop–people either love it or hate it. I wonder if there’s not some compound in there similar to the various stuff in brussels sprouts, where folks with one taste receptor taste awesomeness and folks with another taste receptor taste awfulness.
  • Overall rating
    • 5 / 10

Honey Fuggle Ale Kegged

Today I kegged my Honey Fuggle Ale, after 11 days in the primary fermenter. This will definitely be a unique beer, in all of the best ways (I hope). The lightly fruity esters from the yeast and the sweet notes from the honey malt have melded in a way that’s not really common in an American blonde ale. I would bet it’s going to be on the edge of that style, but it’s a blonde ale in my mind still! What’s homebrewing without pushing boundaries?

Time and conditioning will tell how this shapes up. The final gravity was 1.012, down from 1.047, for 4.6% abv.

Honey fuggle ale in the primary fermenter

Honey Fuggle Ale

I recently ran across a fun-looking recipe in BYO (December 2015 issue), for a clone of Firestone Walker’s 805. I was in the mood to make a blonde ale, and particularly in the mood to make a new recipe of blonde ale. With a few minor modifications (US Fuggles instead of Willamette for the hops, and a touch less wheat malt, to use up my stash without having to buy more), I had everything in order.

The original recipe suggested building up from RO water; given the highly mineralized nature of our tap water, that seemed like a good idea. I’ve noticed that many of my lighter-flavored beers come across as a bit “flabby”, and suspect that the water is behind it. So, I bought a bunch of distilled water and some more brewing minerals. For the 3.75 gallons of mash water, I added 7 g of calcium chloride and just under 1/4 tsp. of 10% phosphoric acid. The 4.9 gallons of sparge water were treated with just 1/4 tsp. of 10% phosphoric acid.

I have to say that I really enjoy the honey malt addition in this one–it adds a deliciously sweet and distinct character to the wort. Although it certainly isn’t a malt for all occasions, it’s a nice ingredient to keep in the back of my mind for other batches. I’m intrigued to see how the honey malt plays out in a blonde ale like this one.

I had planned to use my culture of Conan (Yeast Bay’s “East Coast Ale” yeast), but when growing up the culture I noticed the aroma was a bit “off” from the first few generations. It wasn’t awful–just not quite right. So, I made a decision to toss it and go with dry yeast instead. The yeast didn’t really owe me anything–I got three good batches out of it, so that seemed to be plenty fine. I’m not sure if it was a contamination issue, or if the yeast had just drifted genetically.

20160521_072106

Grains ready for the mash tun.

Honey Fuggle Ale

  • 8.25 lbs. 2-row malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
  • 0.75 lbs. honey malt
  • 0.5 lb. white wheat malt
  • 1 oz. US Fuggle hops pellets (4.5% alpha, 3.1% beta), 60 minute boil
  • 1 oz. US Fuggle hops pellets (4.5% alpha, 3.1% beta), 5 minute steep after boil
  • 1 tsp. Irish moss (10 minute boil)
  • 1/4 tsp. yeast nutrient (10 minute boil)
  • 1 pkg. Nottingham dry yeast (Danstar)
  • Brewing water prepared as follows:
    • 3.75 gallons of mash water, with 7 g. calcium chloride and 1/4 tsp. 10% phosphoric acid
    • 4.9 gallons of sparge water, with 1/4 tsp. 10% phosphoric acid

Brewing Targets

  • Mash temperature = 156°
  • Original gravity = 1.045 (actual = 1.048)
  • Color = 5 SRM
  • IBU = 19

Procedure

  • I mashed in with 3.75 gallons of water at 167.9°, to hit a mash temperature of 157°. The mash was down to 152° after 60 minutes.
  • I collected the first runnings, and then added 4.9 gallons of water at 185°, to bring the mash bed up to right at 170°. I let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the rest of the wort.
  • I collected 7.2 gallons of wort at a gravity of 1.039, for 81% efficiency! Wow! I am not sure if this was the result of my water treatment, or something else, but it was certainly unexpectedly high.
  • I brought the wort to a boil, and added the various ingredients per the schedule in the recipe.
  • After 60 minutes, I added the final dose of hops and chilled the wort down to 80°. After transferring it into my carboy, I let it cool in the fermentation chamber for an hour or two, down to 68°, and then sprinkled the yeast on the wort.
  • The starting gravity was 1.048, and I am fermenting the beer at 68°. This beer was brewed on Saturday, 21 May 2016.

New World Blonde Ale

20160415_190959Time to make a classic summer beer! For this batch, I wanted to try something different, by mixing techniques used on two previous blonde ales that have turned out well. Firstly, following my Summer Blonde Ale, I elected to keep a simple grain bill. This meant mostly 2-row malt, with a touch of dark Munich malt (somewhere in the 10 to 20 lovibond range). However, I wanted a slightly more complex hops character, so I followed a version of the hopping schedule from my Citra Blonde Ale, in that all of the hops were added in the last 10 minutes of the boil. I had two ounces of the experimental HBC 438, and this seemed like a fine batch in which to highlight those.

New World Blonde Ale

  • 9 lbs. 2-row (Great Western Malting Co.)
  • 9 oz. Dark Munich malt
  • 0.5 oz. HBC 438 hops pellets (16.6% alpha, 6.2% beta, 10 minute boil)
  • 0.5 oz. HBC 438 hops pellets (16.6% alpha, 6.2% beta, 5 minute boil)
  • 1 oz. HBC 438 hops pellets (16.6% alpha, 6.2% beta, 5 minute whirlpool)
  • 1 tsp. Irish moss (10 minute boil)
  • 1 pkg. California Ale Yeast (WLP001, White Labs), in 1L starter

Procedure

  • 48 hours in advance, I prepared the yeast in a 1L starter
  • I mashed in with 3.5 gallons of water at 161º, to hit a mash temperature of 149º. The mash was down to 149º after 40 minutes. After 60 minutes, I added 1.5 gallons of water at 180º, which raised the mash bed to 152º. I vorlaufed and collected the first runnings, and then added another 3.5 gallons of water at 180º, let it sit for 10 minutes, and then collected the remainder of the wort.
  • All told, I collected 6.8 gallons of wort at a gravity of 1.040, for 78% efficiency.
  • I boiled for 60 minutes, adding the hops and Irish moss per the schedule.
  • After flame-out, I chilled the wort down to 75º, transferred to the fermenter, and pitched the yeast slurry.
  • The starting gravity was 75º. I brewed this on 15 April 2016, and fermented it at 66º for six days.
  • The beer was kegged on 21 April 2016. At this point, it had a final gravity of 1.008, which equates to 4.9% abv.

Beer Tasting: Citra Blonde Ale

Time to taste the Citra Blonde Ale! It has been in the keg for about two and a half weeks, and turns out to be an incredible beer.

  • The Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.049; final gravity = 1.015; abv = 4.5%; estimated IBU = 19
  • Appearance
    • Clear with just a very faint haze. The head is white, medium-fine, of moderate size, and persistent.
  • Aroma
    • Very lightly malty, with a refreshing hint of citrus.
  • Flavor
    • “Juicy” is the best descriptor; that flavor is robust but not overwhelming. The hops are definitely in the foreground, and I can pick out light citrus. It’s really interesting how “juicy” this beer is – I can’t say I’ve ever picked up on this before in my beers, but it’s definitely there. It’s almost like a bit of watermelon was squeezed into the beer. The hops are noticeable more for the flavoring and aroma than bitterness.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Moderate body and carbonation, as is appropriate for this style.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Absolutely! This is an incredibly tasty beer, which really nails a unique set of flavors and aromas. I love pretty much everything about it! The special techniques–including no-sparge–as well as the Citra hops added up to something quite nice. It’s interesting how different it is as a blonde ale from my other favored recipe, the Summer Blonde Ale.
  • Overall Rating
    • 10 / 10