Cascade-o Classico Pale Ale

IMG_20191005_144434Lately, I’ve had a soft spot for “classic” American pale ales, from the era before Citra, Mosaic, and Simcoe were a thing. I love the more subtle flavors of Cascade and Centennial…and the cheaper price point for those hops doesn’t hurt, either. I recently got a shipment of the new Cascade crop from my dad in South Dakota (he raises them for his own brewing), and decided to do another iteration of my Classico Pale Ale. Aside from the hops (Cascade instead of Falconer’s Flight), the only other change is upping the percentage of Maris Otter versus 2-row, from around 50/50 to 66/33 in the current recipe.

I know that you’re not supposed to put crystal malts in pale ales and IPAs, but I’ve decided that piece of advice is bunk in a well-brewed recipe with modest amounts of crystal malts. For this formulation, I think they add a subtle but important character, and I ain’t likely to remove them for future brews!

Cascade-o Classico Pale Ale

  • 7 lb. 0.5 oz. Maris Otter malt (Bairds)
  • 3 lb. 9 oz. 2-row pale malt (Rahr)
  • 8 oz. caramel 40 (Briess)
  • 4 oz. caramel 60 (Briess)
  • 0.70 oz. Warrior hop pellets (15.8% alpha), 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)
  • 2 oz. Cascade whole hops (~5.5% alpha), dry hop in keg

Target Parameters

  • 60 minute infusion mash, 152°, batch sparge
  • 1.058 o.g., 1.013 f.g., 46 IBU, 8 SRM, 6.0% abv
  • Claremont water with 1 tsp. of gypsum added during boil


  • I mashed in with 3.2 gallons of water at 162°, to hit a 152.5° mash temperature.
  • After 60 minutes, I added 0.8 gallons of water at ~185°, let sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings.
  • Next, I sparged with 3.4 gallons of water, let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the second runnings.
  • In total, I collected 6.2 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.048, for 71% efficiency.
  • As I heated the runnings to a boil, I added 1 tsp. gypsum. Once the boil started, I added the various hops and Whirlfloc per the recipe.
  • After 60 minutes, I turned off the heat and chilled the wort. I transferred to the fermenter while aerating, and pitched the yeast. I am fermenting at 68°.
  • The beer was brewed on 24 August 2019, and fermentation signs were quite visible by the next morning.
  • I kegged the beer on 6 September 2019. Final gravity was 1.011, down from 1.058, for 6.2% abv. The dry hops were added to the keg in a mesh bag.



  • Appearance
    • Pours with persistent ivory-colored head; brilliantly clear and copper-colored beer
  • Aroma
    • Lightly caramel, citrus/piney aroma
  • Flavor
    • Slightly grainy, caramel flavor, with firm bitterness. Bitterness is slightly piney
  • Mouthfeel
    • Medium-light body, moderate carbonation, off-dry finish.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Yes! This is a nice base recipe, and a good way to highlight classic American hops. I feel like it could use just a touch more body, so might mash at 154° next time. It might be interesting to try this with 100% Maris Otter or even Vienna malt, too, to give a bit more malt character I love how clear this beer has turned out–it clarified really quickly and nicely, to make an incredibly pretty brew.
  • Overall
    • 9.5/10

Beer Tasting: Lemondrop Wheat Ale

20170704_155850I am absolutely thrilled with this beer! In fact, a little too thrilled…the keg is nearly dry. Time for a tasting, then!

Lemondrop Wheat Ale

  • The Basics
    • O.G. = 1.047; f.g. = 1.011; 4.8% abv; 4 SRM; 34 estimated IBU
  • Appearance
    • Hazy light straw color, with firm and persistent white head. When poured well, it’s like a topping of meringue. Gorgeous!
  • Aroma
    • Light citrus (slightly lemony) and slightly bready aroma
  • Flavor
    • Citrusy forefront, with a smooth and doughy middle, fading then into a lingering but pleasant bitterness.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Light body and moderate carbonation, with a medium-dry finish
  • Would I brew this again?
    • In a second! This is solidly in the running for favorite beer of 2017 so far. It’s just about the perfect summer beer–light, refreshing, and ridiculously drinkable. I’m burning through this keg at a pretty quick pace! The Lemondrop hops are a fun addition, too. Although I wouldn’t call them distinctly “lemon” in all aspects of their character (i.e. it’s not “lemon oil” or “Lemon Pledge”), they definitely have a citrus note that contributes nicely to the overall character of this beer. The only, very minor, flaw in this batch is that the finish has gotten just a touch harsh over time, likely due to the extended keg dry hopping. That’s easily fixed in the next iteration, though. I am quite pleased with just about every other aspect of this recipe; the balance between pilsner and wheat malt is perfect, and the yeast is also a true winner. WLP320 has just a touch of character, but it’s not overwhelming like European wheat beer yeasts. Also, it stays in suspension forever, which also helps with appearance and presentation. I don’t think this would be as good of a beer with a Chico strain yeast. I also think my water adjustments paid off; it’s not overly minerally in character like some of my past lighter beers.
  • Overall
    • 9.5/10

Thumbspike Saison 2.1

The Lake Arrowhead Brewfest is coming up in August, and I’ll be there with the Horse Thief Brewing Association to serve up some tasty homebrews! I’ve promised two beers–one is the second iteration of my raspberry Belgian, and the other is my wild hop saison! I recently kicked the keg on this one, and I was overall pretty pleased with it.

The latest version of Thumbspike Saison is virtually identical to the last, with only a few very minor changes. First, I did a mix of Bohemian and Belgian pilsner malt for the grist, because my floor-malted Bohemian pilsner malt was nearly gone. Second, I ditched the rice hulls from the grist, because the percentage of wheat was so low as to be a non-issue for sparging (and this was proven in the easy collection of the first and second runnings). Finally, I modified the hop schedule very slightly to try and increase the hop character in the brew.


Thumbspike Saison 2.1

  • 5.25 lbs. Château Pilsen malt (Castle Malting)
  • 4 lbs. floor-malted Bohemian pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.75 lbs. Munich I malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.75 lbs. white wheat malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
  • 1 oz. Carafa Special II (Weyerman)
  • 1.1 oz. whole wild hops (5.8% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.5 oz. whole wild hops (5.8% alpha), 10 minute boil
  • 1 oz. whole wild hops (5.8% alpha), 2 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 2 pkg. French Saison Ale dry yeast (Mangrove Jack’s M29)

Target Parameters

  • 1.056 o.g., 1.003 f.g., 7.0% abv, 26 IBU, 7 SRM, 5.5 gallons into the fermenter
  • 90 minute mash at 148°, batch sparge, 60 minute boil


  • To use up my RO water and thin out the Claremont waters a bit, I added 1.5 gallons with 2.2 gallons of tap water for my mash water. I heated it up to 160°, added the water to the mash tun, and let it slide to 157°, before adding the grains. This hit a mash temperature of 148.3°, which was down to 144° after 90 minutes.
  • After 90 minutes, I added 1.2 gallons of water at 170°, let it rest for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings. I then added 3.5 gallons of water at 170°, let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the remainder of the runnings.
  • In total, I collected 6.75 gallons with a gravity of 1.048, for 80% efficiency.
  • I aimed for a 60 minute boil, adding the various hops and finings per the schedule.
  • After 60 minutes, I turned off the flame and started chilling. Once I hit 85° (which is pretty close to the limit of what I can chill with our water during the summertime!), I transferred to the primary fermenter and pitched the yeast.
  • I brewed this beer on June 25, 2017. Starting gravity was 1.055, nearly exactly hitting my target gravity.
  • I plan to ferment at ambient temperature, which is around 75°. It will probably sit for a few weeks, because I am in no particular rush to get this batch on tap.

Beer Tasting: Hell Creek Amber Ale 1.1


Hell Creek Amber Ale, appropriately served in a fossil-themed glass

The keg is gone barely a week for my wild hop amber ale, so it’s better late than never in posting this review. Also, I bottled up a few of these and enjoyed sharing them with some folks at Homebrew Con (including a paleontologist or two)!

  • Aroma
    • Malt dominates the aroma, with malty-sweet toffee and light caramel character. No appreciable yeast or hop character.
  • Appearance
    • Very clear beer with a deep amber color. The head is ivory in color, and settles down to a low but persistent quality.
  • Flavor
    • Hoppiness dominates on the front end of the flavor, and persists throughout the tasting and into the finish. The hop character is fairly herbal, and the bitterness has a slight rough edge to it. The malts come across moderately, with a caramel and bready quality. There is a minerally character to this, and next time I’ll probably adjust the water a bit to lower that. 100 percent Claremont tap water apparently doesn’t work with this recipe!
  • Mouthfeel
    • Moderate body and moderate carbonation. The finish tends toward the dry and bitter side.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • This is an improvement, certainly, on the last version of this beer. I think it was a good move to ditch the special B. This is an interesting beer, because I “have” to brew it within some self-imposed constraints (only Montana/South Dakota ingredients). I would say that the beer doesn’t age entirely well, probably due to the high percentage of caramel malts, and had a bit of an oxidized note towards the end of the keg. For the next iteration of this recipe (assuming there is a next, of course!), I’ll probably switch up the grain bill and see what other amber ale recipes are out there. The caramel is just a touch heavy in this for my tastes. As noted above, I’ll also play with the water a bit.
  • Overall
    • 6.5/10

Lemondrop Wheat Ale

Summer means wheat beers! My intention with this batch is to have something light and refreshing that won’t take too long to turn around, either. I also wanted to experiment with Lemondrop hops, and this seemed like the perfect style in which to do so.

In terms of recipe design, the grist (52% pilsner malt, 46% white wheat malt) is fairly standard. I vacillated on whether or not to include flaked wheat as a way to increase body and prolong haze in the keg, but in the end neither factor is terribly important to me on this batch. The other decision I had to make was whether or not to dope the beer with some homemade lemon extract. My first version of the recipe had this, but after discussion with some other homebrewers at the AHA forum, I decided not to use it. My main purpose with this batch is to explore the hops, and I don’t want those to be overwhelmed by citrus extract. Depending on how this turns out, I may add some extract towards the end of the keg, but we’ll see. Discussion on the forum also led me to use pilsner rather than 2-row, for a slightly lighter malt profile against the hops.

When testing the hops before I threw them into the kettle, I noted that they had some citrus (not nearly as prominent as I expected, given the name and the hype) along with a hay note (not necessarily grassy in the way I often think of grassy–it was dried hay, not freshly cut lawn). My suspicion based on these findings is that I’ll likely use the extract before the keg is finished!

Lemondrop Wheat Ale

  • 4.5 lbs. floor-malted Bohemian pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 4 lbs. white wheat malt (Great Western)
  • 2.7 oz. rice hulls
  • 0.3 oz. Warrior hop pellets (15.5% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.5 tsp. Fermax, 10 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Lemondrop hop pellets (6.2% alpha), 15 minute steep/whirlpool
  • 1 oz. Lemondrop hop pellets (6.2% alpha), dry hop in keg
  • 1 pkg. American Hefeweizen Ale yeast, WLP320 (White Labs)

Target Parameters

  • Infusion mash to hit target of 152°. Batch sparge.
  • Claremont tap water with RO and salt additions to hit targets of 82 Ca, 8 Mg, 9 Na, 89 SO4, 73 Cl, 78 HCO3, 64 ppm alkalinity, 1 ppm RA.
  • 1.045 o.g., 1.012 f.g., 4.4% abv, 20 IBU, 4 SRM, 5 gallons into fermenter


  • The day before brewing, I made a 1L starter for my yeast and set it going on the stir plate.
  • I mashed in with 3 gallons of Claremont tap water treated with a quarter of a Campden tablet. The water had a target temperature of 162.2°, which hit my target mash temperature of 152°.
  • For my sparge water, I added 3 g gypsum, 1.2 g epsom salt, and 4 g calcium chloride to 5 gallons of RO water. Added with the strike water, I should hit my target.
  • The mash was down to 148 or 149° after 60 minutes. I added 1.6 gallons of water at 160 degrees, to raise the mash temperature to 152°. Then, I let the mash rest for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings.
  • I added 3.4 gallons of sparge water at 183°, to raise the mash temperature to 164. I let this sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the remainder of the runnings.
  • In total, I collected 6.75 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.038, for 78% efficiency.
  • I brought the wort to a boil and added the hops and other items per the schedule.
  • After a 60 minute boil, I turned off the flame, added the last hop charge in a mesh bag, and let it sit for a few minutes before cooling. I started cooling, which brought the wort down to 165°. I paused the cooling, let it sit for another 10 minutes, and continued chilling down to 75°.
  • I transferred the wort to the fermenter and pitched the yeast.
  • I brewed this beer on 9 June 2017. Starting gravity was 1.047, just a bit more than predicted (0.02 above target). I’m fermenting this at 66°.