Amber Rye Ale

I firmly believe that amber ales deserve more love than they get nowadays. A well crafted amber ale is one of my favorite beers, but ambers are often hard to find relative to their zenith around 20 years ago. I make them semi-regularly, but wanted to take things in a slightly different direction this time around. So…why not add some rye?

With this particular batch, I wanted a beer that had the caramel quality and dry hop character of my favorite ambers, while adding a bit of rye spice to help it stand out. The recipe was loosely based on one by Charlie Papazian, “Choco Red Rye Wedding Ale.” I got a bit of feedback via the AHA forum, which was helpful in further refining my plans. For something a little different, I used Lutra kveik — it is supposed to ferment fairly clean at lower temperatures, so I thought it would be an interesting experiment.

I served the beer at the Lake Arrowhead Brewfest this past weekend, and it was pretty well received. I maybe have a gallon left, and will be savoring that.

Amber Rye Ale

  • 8 lb. 2-row malt (Rahr)
  • 2 lb. rye malt (Weyermann)
  • 10 oz. crystal 60 (Great Western)
  • 8 oz. caramel/crystal malt 135/165L (Bairds)
  • 2 oz. chocolate wheat malt (Weyermann)
  • 6 oz. rice hulls
  • 1 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), 15 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. Lutra kveik (Omega OYL-071) dry yeast
  • 1 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), dry hop in keg

Target Parameters

  • 1.048 s.g., 1.012 f.g., 4.8% abv, 31 IBU, 17 SRM
  • Full-volume mash, no sparge, at 156°
  • Claremont tap water, treated with Campden tablet

Procedure

  • I heated the strike water to 162° (with Campden tablet), and mashed in to hit a mash temperature of 156. I added 5.6 mL of 88% lactic acid to adjust the pH.
  • After 60 minutes of mash with recirculation, I raised the temperature to 168° for a 10 minute mash out. Then, I pulled the grains. In total, I collected 5.9 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.045, for 67% mash efficiency.
  • I brought the kettle to a boil, adding hops and finings per the recipe.
  • After a 60 minute boil, I chilled the wort to 85°, transferred to the fermenter, and pitched the yeast. I let it ferment at ambient in the garage, which was around 66° for most of the time. Vigorous fermentation took off in under 12 hours.
  • I brewed this beer on 25 May 2022, and kegged it on 9 June 2022. I added the dry hops to the keg in a bag.
  • Starting gravity was 1.052. Final gravity was 1.017, for 4.6% abv.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • This beer pours with a creamy, tall, and persistent ivory head. The beer itself is deep amber and brilliantly clear. It is beautiful in the glass!
  • Aroma
    • There is plenty of rye “zing.” I pick up a little dried stonefruit, and some fresh hay from the hops. The fermentation profile is surprisingly clean.
  • Flavor
    • Rye and rich malt, with a touch of dark caramel behind that. The bitterness is moderate and clean. Just like with the aroma, I don’t get anything really for yeast.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Medium body, moderate carbonation. Smooth finish.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • YES! This is a fantastic and interesting beer from start to finish. The end product was exactly what I envisioned. Fermentation profile is wonderfully clean (or at least playing well with the malts and hops). I can’t think of anything to change.
  • Overall
    • 10/10

Summer Helles

Last year, I made a Munich helles following a recipe in Gordon Strong’s Modern Homebrew Recipes, with pretty excellent results. Munich helles is such a great summer lager (among many great summer lager varieties!), but it was only on my 2021 batch that I felt I had finally gotten close to nailing the style.

This year’s version is along the same lines as last year’s, but I used different brands/variations of ingredients for what I had on hand or needed to use up. For instance, I used Weyermann’s Barke pilsner malt instead of their “regular” pilsner malt, and their Munich I malt instead of Chateau’s equivalent. I had Briess’s aromatic Munich 20L on-hand, so that went in as a substitute for Carahell, and I just flat-out skipped Carapils. I used Hallertau Tradition in place of Hallertauer Mittelfrueh, and finally went with Diamond Lager yeast instead of 34/70. I guess that’s a long way of saying it is a completely different recipe, but has largely the same proportions of ingredients and targets pretty similar numbers.

Because this was a really busy summer (filled with fieldwork, a house move, and COVID), the beer ended up conditioning in the keg for over two months. I rarely have a lager that sits for so long, and the end result was something that was crystal clear. As you’ll see in the tasting notes, I’m overall quite pleased with this iteration!

Summer Helles 2022

  • 8.25 lb. Barke pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 1.25 lb. Munich I malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.25 lb. Aromatic Munich malt 20L (Briess)
  • 0.75 oz. Hallertau Tradition hop pellets (6.1% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. BruTanB, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • Repitch of Diamond Lager yeast (Lallemand)

Target Parameters

  • 1.044 o.g., 1.007 f.g., 17 IBU, 5 SRM, 4.9% abv
  • Full-volume infusion step mash, 45 minute rest at 144°, 45 minute rest at 160°, 10 minute rest at 168°
  • Water built from RO, to hit 23 Ca, 8 Mg, 32 SO4, 40 Cl, -21 RA

Procedure

  • I added 2.5 g epsom salt and 2.5 g CaCl to 7 gallons of RO water, to hit my target water specifications.
  • I heated the strike water to 148°, and added the grains along with ~1.1 mL of 88% lactic acid in order to hit my target pH of 5.4. I held at 144° for 45 minutes while recirculating, and then raised the mash to 160° for another 45 minutes. Finally, I mashed out for 10 minutes at 168°.
  • After removing the grains, I had collected 6.4 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.041, for 72% mash efficiency.
  • I brought the kettle to a boil, adding hops and finings per the recipe. After a 60 minute boil, I turned off the heat and chilled the wort to ~70° before transferring to the fermenter. I chilled overnight to 49°.
  • I brewed the beer on 15 May 2022, and pitched the yeast slurry from my Alta California Lager the next morning, 16 May 2022. At this time, I oxygenated with 30 seconds of pure O2.
  • I starting fermentation at 50°, holding it there until 23 May 2022, when I let it free-rise to 60°. Then, I cold crashed to 34° on 28 May 2022.
  • I kegged the beer on 8 June 2022. Starting gravity was 1.046, and final gravity was 1.012, for 4.5% abv. The beer cold conditioned at ~34° for over two months, before going on tap.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Brilliantly clear, gold beer. It pours with a white, medium head that subsides to a persistent white ring around the edge of the glass.
  • Aroma
    • Malty aroma, at a modest level. Very clean fermentation, with no noticeable yeast character. No hop aroma apparent.
  • Flavor
    • Moderately rich malt flavor, with a lingering sweet maltiness against a moderately low level of hop bitterness.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Medium-light body, moderate carbonation, very smooth finish.
  • Would I Brew This Again?
    • Yes! This is a great recipe. The low level of head on this is the only minor flaw. Otherwise, this is an incredibly gorgeous, tasty, and easy drinking beer. Next time, I’ll probably add the Carapils back in, and switch back to Carahell instead of Aromatic Munich.
  • Overall
    • 9/10

Scottish 70/- Heavy

Continuing my quest to try new forms of session ales, earlier this summer I turned my sights to a Scottish Heavy, or Scottish 70/-. The style is relatively low alcohol, packs a fair bit of malt character, and can be completed relatively quickly. I found a recipe in the September 2019 issue of BYO, from a style profile article by Gordon Strong. I adapted it with minimal modification, other than some slight adjustments to account for differences in efficiency.

reddish amber colored beer in English pint glass

Scottish 70/- Heavy

  • 6.75 lb. Golden Promise Finest Pale Ale malt (Simpsons)
  • 7 oz. flaked barley
  • 4 oz. Caramunich II (Weyermann)
  • 2 oz. pale chocolate malt (Crisp)
  • 2 oz. roasted barley (Bairds)
  • 0.75 oz. Fuggles hop pellets (4.6% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. American Ale yeast (US-05)

Target Parameters

  • 1.034 s.g., 1.010 f.g., 3.1% abv, 14 IBU, 13 SRM
  • Full-volume mash, no sparge, at 158°
  • Claremont tap water, treated with Campden tablet

Procedure

  • I heated 7 gallons of water to 163°, and added the grains to hit a mash temperature of 158°. I added ~5 mL of 88% lactic acid, to adjust pH. I held the mash at 158° with recirculation for 60 minutes, before raising the temperature to 168° for a 10 minute mash-out.
  • After the mash, I collected 6.25 gallons of runnings at a gravity of 1.033, for 74% mash efficiency.
  • Next, I brought the runnings to a boil, adding hops and finings per the recipe. I boiled for 60 minutes, before turning off the heat and chilling down to ~70°.
  • I transferred the wort to the fermenter, and measured a starting gravity of 1.037. I brewed the beer on 7 May 2022.
  • To achieve a slight fruity character for the yeast, I fermented at ambient, around 68°. My hope is that it shouldn’t be too over the top, but will have a touch of interesting character.
  • I kegged the beer on 21 May 2022, measuring a surprisingly high final gravity of 1.020. I’m guessing this is due to the high mash temperature, but even so I hadn’t expected such low attenuation (45%). Ah well! That means I have a wonderfully low abv of 2.2%. I force carbonated to about 2.0 volumes.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Crystal clear, amber beer, that pours with a persistent, fine ivory head. It is very pretty in the glass!
  • Aroma
    • A moderate level of malty and caramel aroma at the front. Not much else.
  • Flavor
    • Moderate level of maltiness, with a bit of caramel. Moderately low bitterness.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Fairly thin bodied, with low carbonation. Rounded finish, not quite dry.
  • Would I Brew This Again?
    • This is a fairly good beer, and certainly drinkable, but the tepid body detracts a bit from enjoyment. I don’t actively dislike this beer, but I can’t say I’m going to be brewing it again anytime soon. It’s just too thin. The beer is definitely one to let warm up a bit in the glass, although even then the malt character doesn’t come out as much as I’d like.
    • As a side note, I made a beer vinegar from this one. It was okay, but not quite as acidic as I would like–this is a good learning experience to ensure I focus on slightly higher abv beers for future vinegar projects.
  • Overall
    • 5.5/10

Alta California Lager 2022

I brew this recipe nearly every year, with only minor variations–usually in yeast or corn form. The 2022 version is another winner! I rolled it out with Diamond Lager Yeast for something a shade different.

Alta California Lager 2022

  • 6.5 lb. Barke pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 2 lb. flaked corn
  • 1.75 lb. Vienna malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.25 lb. rice hulls
  • 0.5 oz. Magnum hop pellets (10.1% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. BruTanB, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • 0.75 oz. Saaz hop pellets (4.0% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. yeast nutrient (WLN1000), 5 minute boil
  • 2 pkg. Diamond Lager Yeast (Lallemand)

Target Parameters

  • 1.046 s.g., 1.010 f.g., 4.8% abv, 19 IBU, 3 SRM
  • 8.75 gallons of RO water with 1.7 g CaCl to hit target parameter of 14 ppm Ca and 25 ppm Cl
  • 75 minute full volume infusion mash, 149°

Procedure

  • I mashed in with 8.75 gallons of RO water and 1.7 g of CaCl, heated to 160°, to hit a mash temperature of 149°. I added 2.5 mL of 88% lactic acid, to adjust the pH.
  • I recirculated for 75 minutes, and then raised the mash temperature to 168° for 10 minutes, before pulling the grains.
  • In total, I collected 7.6 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.037, for 76% estimated mash efficiency.
  • I boiled the runnings for 30 minutes before adding hops, to bring up the gravity for a bit.
  • Once the Magnum hops were added, I boiled for 60 minutes total, adding aroma hops and finings per the recipe.
  • I did an initial chill with my coil, and then dropped it the rest of the way in the fermentation chamber to 48°, overnight.
  • I pitched the yeast on 24 April 2022, and fermented at 52°.
  • Starting gravity was 1.049.
  • I raised the temperature to 60°on May 6.
  • I cold crashed over a few days starting on May 10, dropping to 50°, 40°, and then 33°.
  • I kegged the beer on 15 May 2022. It had a final gravity of 1.010, for 5.1% abv.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Light gold color, slight haze, creamy and persistent white head. The haze had dropped out, but when I moved the keg between houses, it must have kicked up a bunch of sediment, because even after a week it was still hazier than two weeks prior. Very annoying! The head is gorgeous, so that makes up a little bit for the haze. After another month of settling, the beer was back to its crystal clear original nature.
  • Aroma
    • Amazing! A sweet and light corn aroma comes through at the front, with a touch of malt behind that. I think I might get a whiff of the Saaz character, but that is highly variable.
  • Flavor
    • A moderate level of nuanced malty flavor through at first, with the sweet hint of corn sitting next to that. A clean bitterness balances out the malt, with a smooth and unobtrusive character. The malt really shines here, making it a highly drinkable beer that is a bit more flavorful than your typical Corona.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Medium-light body, moderate carbonation, smooth and a very slight bit of dryness to the finish.
  • Would I Brew This Again?
    • This is consistently one of my very favorite recipes…or rather recipe families. It is slightly different every time, in terms of the brand of malt, mode of corn, and yeast involved. The Diamond lager yeast worked exceptionally well here, and I will probably keep that going forward (unless I choose a bona fide Mexican lager yeast). I suspect the flaked corn contributed to the persistent haze; my original cereal-mashed version was crystal clear. Or maybe it just needs a little more time to settle. Either way, I love this beer–the slight haze is my only minor gripe, and it did drop out in the end.
  • Overall
    • 9.5/10

Big Hop Summer IPA

Although many of my IPAs have been on the session side, I do try to make a full strength version every once in awhile. In this recipe, I aimed for something highly drinkable and packed with hop flavor. Towards the first item, I mashed low and added some dextrose to keep things light. Towards the second end, I looped in some HOPBOX finds–Azacca, HBC 586, and Idaho Gem. Finally, I wanted to experiment with Lutra, a kveik strain that has a reputation of a quick and clean fermentation. It’s a bit of a kitchen sink beer, in order to use up some grains and hops, but it’s all with a purpose.

Big Hop Summer IPA

  • 5.25 lb. Golden Promise malt (Simpsons)
  • 5.25 2-row pale malt (Rahr)
  • 1.75 lb. Vienna malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.25 lb. Munich I malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.75 lb. dextrose (added to boil)
  • 0.75 oz. Bravo hop pellets (14.2% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Azacca hop pellets (12.7% alpha), 15 minute whirlpool
  • 1 oz. HBC 586 hop pellets (11.8% alpha), 15 minute whirlpool
  • 1 oz. Idaho Gem hop pellets (14.2% alpa), 15 minute whirlpool
  • 1 pkg. Lutra kveik (dry), Omega OYL-071
  • 1 oz. Azacca hop pellets (12.7% alpha), dry hop in keg
  • 1 oz. HBC 586 hop pellets (11.8% alpha), dry hop in keg
  • 1 oz. Idaho Gem hop pellets (14.2% alpa), dry hop in keg

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • The beer pours as a hazy gold, with a persistent white head that leaves nice lacing down the side of the glass over time. I am surprised that the haze hasn’t dropped out, even after two months in the keg at temperatures below 40 degrees.
  • Aroma
    • Orange peel aroma at the front; very citrusy character overall.
  • Flavor
    • The balance is tipped towards the hops (no surprise), with a very citrusy and resin character. I also pick up a bit of stone fruit, which might be from the hops or perhaps from the yeast. There is a little bit of a “twang” of something somewhere in the background, which I suspect is from the yeast but I can’t be 100 percent certain. Even though Lutra is supposed to ferment clean, I’ve seen remarks that it is still a farmhouse-type strain, and they remain a bit rustic. As the beer sits on the tongue, I wonder if some of it is some citrus pith character. In any case, there is something that detracts a little bit from complete enjoyment of the beer by my tastes, but it’s not overwhelming, and it isn’t totally out of character for this kind of beer. The malt is in the background, as it should be, but provides a nice bit of body and a touch of malty flavor to balance against the hop bitterness.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Medium-light body, with moderate carbonation and a dry finish. It goes down super easy.
  • Would I Brew This Again?
    • I like the beer overall, but I might switch up the hop varieties. I tried Azacca years ago, it didn’t overwhelm me with awesome then, and I had a similar experience this time around. I think it’s just not a hop that does much for me. I’m surprised by how persistently hazy the beer has been, even after two months in the keg; the haze doesn’t terribly detract from the beer, but it’s just a bit more haze than I expected. Those remarks aside, this is a very drinkable beer, especially for something that clocks in at 6.7% abv. The combination of low mash temperature and dextrose addition likely contributed to keeping things on the lighter side.
  • Overall
    • 7.5/10