My lighter-colored beers lately have been primarily lagers, but it is nice to switch this up from time to time. So, I decided to create an experimental ale recipe that hit the target of being sessionable, flavorful (with some malt character and a bit of hop character too), and light in color. It doesn’t really conform to any style, although I guess you could make an argument that it’s an American(ish) blonde ale. No matter what you call it, it’s pretty darned good! I also have the memory of sharing a few glasses of this with a good friend who was going through a pretty rough spot in life…although it sounds cheesy (and perhaps it is), so much of brewing isn’t just the end product, but the memories that go with each glass and the people with whom it is shared.
Easy Days Ale
- 4 lb. Finest Maris Otter Malt (Crisp)
- 4 lb. 2-row Xtra Pale Malt (Viking)
- 1.5 lb. white wheat malt (Briess)
- 11 oz. caramel 10L malt (Briess)
- 4 oz. Melanoidin malt (Weyermann)
- 4 oz. rice hulls
- 0.25 oz. Magnum hop pellets (10.1% alpha), 60 minute boil
- 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
- 0.8 oz. Simcoe hop pellets (12.7% alpha), 15 minute whirlpool
- 1 pkg. Safale American ale yeast (US-05)
- 1.047 s.g., 1.011 f.g., 4.7% abv, 18 IBU, 6 SRM
- Claremont tap water, treated with Campden tablet to remove chlorine
- Full volume infusion mash at 154°, 60 minutes
- I mashed in with 7.25 gallons of water at 160°, to target 154° for 60 minutes, with recirculation. I added 7.5 mL of 88% lactic acid, to reduce the mash pH. After 60 minutes, I raised the mash to 168° for 10 minutes, before removing the grains.
- In total, I collected 6.4 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.041, for 67% mash efficiency.
- I brought the runnings to a boil, adding hops and finings per the recipe. After a 60 minute boil, I turned off the heat and added the whirlpool hops for a 15 minute whirlpool.
- After the whirlpool, I chilled the wort down to ~75°, before putting it into the fermentation chamber and chilling it the rest of the way to 68°.
- I brewed the beer on 16 April 2021, and it had a starting gravity of 1.048.
- I fermented at 68° until 23 April 2021, when I moved the beer to ambient temperatures.
- I kegged the beer on 6 May 2021, and noted a final gravity of 1.015. This is a bit higher than expected, working out to 4.3% abv.
- Medium gold with slight haze, moderately persistent white head
- Lightly malty; light bread dough character, with a light hint of caramel. No hop aroma.
- Moderate doughy, light malty character; relatively low, clean bitterness; a light tartness from the wheat that is pretty pleasant.
- Moderately light body; smooth finish; moderate carbonation.
- Would I brew this again?
- This is a very solid session ale; it’s nothing spectacular, but I’m OK with that. I think it would benefit from a little more hop character; the bitterness is fine, but I think a little dry hop charge or a hop stand would help to liven this up a bit. It’s very drinkable, and makes a nice go-to on the tap selection. The malt character is pretty nice; it’s a little more interesting than the usual “2 row+crystal” malt zone that many ales of this type occupy.
I desperately needed to get my taps fully filled before a new baby arrived (I was down to only two armed and operational faucets, and one of those was ready to give out at any moment!). I had a schwarzbier and an IPA spooling up within the next few weeks, but wanted to have a light and drinkable beer to replace my wheat ale once that keg kicked. Something with fast turn-around and tasty, interesting drinkability.
Time for another batch of my Citra blonde ale! This beer turned out excellent last time (nearly two years ago), and is worth another go.
Compared to my last batch, I made some very minor edits for my ingredient stockpile (different brands of malt, etc.). I also went with a single infusion, rather than multiple infusions to hit different temperature rests.
Citra Blonde Ale 1.1
- 5 lbs. Château Pilsen malt (Castle Malting)
- 5 lbs. 2-row pale malt (Rahr)
- 0.75 lb. Munich II malt (Weyermann)
- 0.5 lb. caramel malt 20L (Briess)
- 1 Whirlfloc pellet, 10 minute boil
- 0.5 oz. Citra hop pellets (14.1% alpha), 10 minute boil
- 0.5 oz. Citra hop pellets (14.1% alpha), 5 minute boil
- 1 oz. Citra hop pellets (14.1% alpha), 5 minute whirlpool
- 1 package American ale dry yeast (US-05, Safale)
- Full volume infusion mash to hit target of 152°, 60 minutes, no sparge
- 1.050 o.g., 1.011 f.g., 5.1% abv, 20 IBU, 5 SRM, 5 gallons into fermenter
- Water adjusted to hit 83 ppm Ca, 5.4 ppm Mg, 5.6 ppm Na, 79.4 ppm SO4, 87 ppm Cl, 50.7 ppm HCO3
- For the mash water, I mixed 1.8 gallons of Claremont tap water with 6 gallons of RO water, in addition to 3 g gypsum, 1 g epsom salt, and 5 g calcium chloride. I also added 3.1 mL of 75% phosphoric acid, to adjust the calculated pH.
- I heated the sparge water to 160°, added it to the mash tun, and added the grain when the water hit 156.6°.
- After 60 minutes, I vorlaufed and then collected 6.25 gallons of runnings. These had a gravity of 1.047 (a bit higher than expected), so I added 0.25 gallons of RO water to bring the gravity down to 1.045 and increase the overall volume a bit.
- I boiled for 60 minutes, adding ingredients per the schedule.
- After flame-out and the whirlpool addition, I chilled to 80° and finished the rest of the chilling in my fermentation chamber. Once the wort hit 66°, I pitched the dry yeast directly.
- I brewed this beer on 15 July 2017, and fermented at 66° for two weeks. Starting gravity was 1.052.
- I kegged the beer on 29 July 2017. It had a final gravity of 1.008, which works out to 5.8% abv. Then, I force carbonated.
- The Basics
- O.G. = 1.0542; f.g. = 1.008; 5.8% abv; 5 SRM; 20 estimated IBU
- Light gold and beautifully clear. The beer pours with a thick white head that settles to an even blanket.
- Lightly grainy and slightly sweet malty aroma; a hint of citrus behind that.
- Light, very slightly sweet and candy-like aspect, with gentle maltiness; there is a bit of orange citrus behind that. Very clean flavor, with a mild and smooth bitterness.
- Moderate carbonation, light body, with a gentle and moderately dry finish.
- Would I brew this again?
- As always, this is a very nice beer! I slightly prefer Great Western 2-row as a base malt, but Rahr is also respectable. I target mash-in a touch higher if doing a single infusion mash, or else follow the multi-rest schedule, because the beer ended up a bit more attenuated than expected, but that’s a minor point. The late-hopped Citra comes across really nicely, and this is a winner. As an additional variant for next time, I might follow the original Gordon Strong recipe a bit more closely and mix some Galaxy hops in with the Citra.
After a month conditioning in the keg, my latest blonde ale seems to be at its peak!
- The Basics
- O.g. = 1.051; f.g. = 1.011; 5.2% abv; 5 SRM; 24 estimated IBU
- Malty sweet aroma, with a very slight fruitiness behind that.
- Light gold and clear, with a low and persistent white head.
- The flavor on this one really highlights the malt, which has a rounded maltiness. The hop level is moderate, maybe a touch stronger than I care for, with a slightly earthy and woody finish.
- The beer has a moderately light body, moderate carbonation, and off-dry finish.
- Would I brew this again?
- Overall, this is a tasty and easy-drinking blonde ale. I think my moderate water adjustments helped a lot in this recipe versus some previous ones, in that the hop character avoids the flabbiness that I’ve had in some previous batches without adjustments. I could probably dial the overall hops back a tiny bit for my taste, but in general I’m pretty happy with this recipe!
I did a whole mess of kegging tonight, to clear out fermenter space and move along some projects.
First up was my Holy Helles (a Munich Helles), which I split into two 2.5 gallon kegs. The reason behind this was that I plan to enter it in the National Homebrew Competition, and also to serve it at Easter. I didn’t want to dose the Easter beer with gelatin (in case some of our guests don’t do gelatin), but don’t much care for the NHC one.
A few notes on the helles fermentation…on 21 January 2017, the gravity was down to 1.014. At this point, I raised the temperature from 50° to 68° for a diacetyl rest. I left it at this temperature for about a week, and then dropped it down to 34° until kegging.
Final gravity was 1.012, a touch higher than predicted (1.010). With a starting gravity of 1.047, this equals 4.6% abv. That should make a nice, drinkable beer!
Next, I kegged the First Amendment Blonde Ale. Final gravity was 1.011, down from a starting gravity 1.051, for 5.2% abv. I hit my numbers perfectly on this batch–wow, what a nice treat!
I’m storing these beers at 34°, and force carbonating the blonde ale right away.
This batch is a slight rework of my favorite blonde ale recipe. I upped the base malt a slight bit, and have switched to just Warrior as a bittering addition. I recently bought a pound of the stuff–my intention is to use it for the bulk of my bittering additions in various recipes going forward. Warrior’s bittering properties are supposed to be fairly gentle (attributed to its low cohumulone values), so I figured I would try it out as an alternative to some other hopping strategies I have used in the past.
The name honors the Women’s Marches that took place across the country on the day I brewed this (I was there with my family at the Los Angeles one)–and of course, it honors all who peacefully and proudly exert their constitutional rights, regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum.
Overall, I was quite pleased with how the brew session went. Other than a high-than-expected efficiency (which is not the worst thing on the planet), I hit my temperatures and brew numbers quite effectively.
First Amendment Blonde Ale
- 9.5 lbs. 2-row brewer’s malt (California Select, Great Western Malting Co.)
- 0.5 lb. 20° caramel malt (Briess)
- 0.4 oz. Warrior hop pellets (15.8% alpha), 60 minute boil
- 1 Whirlfloc table, 10 minute boil
- 1 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
- 1 pkg. California Ale yeast (WLP001, White Labs)
- 152° mash, 60 minutes
- 1.051 o.g., 1.011 f.g., 5.2% abv, 24 IBU, 5 SRM, 5.5 gallons into the fermenter
- Three days in advance, I made a 1.5L starter. It ran on the stir plate for two days, before I split it up and cold-crashed it. I set aside 0.64L for another batch, and the remainder will be used in this batch.
- I built up my water from RO for this batch, adding all of the minerals to the strike water (3.375 gallons). I used 4.9g gypsum, 0.9g epsom salts, and 4.6g calcium chloride. I also added 2 tsp. of phosphoric acid (10% concentration), to acidify the mash. The final target brewing water profile will be 75 ppm Ca, 100 ppm S04, and 75 ppm Cl. This profile, based on one in the Palmer and Kaminski water book, will hopefully avoid the “flabby” taste I have been getting in my blonde ales brewed with local tap water.
- I warmed up my mash tun with 3.375 gallons of water at 170°. Once it hit 164°, I added the grains, to hit my target mash temperature of 152° on the dot.
- I mashed for 60 minutes. I checked the pH, and it was around 5.4.
- After 60 minutes, I added 1.3 gallons of water at 185°, let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings.
- Next, I added 3.5 gallons of water at 185°, let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the second runnings.
- I total, I collected 6.8 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.044–82% efficiency! I’ll aim for a lower boil in order to ensure I don’t overshoot my target gravity.
- Once I brought the brew to a boil, I added the hop pellets in a bag and boiled for 60 minutes, adding the Whirlfloc and Fermax with 10 minutes to go.
- After 60 minutes of boiling, I chilled the wort to 70°, transferred to the fermenter while aerating, pitched the yeast, and sealed it up.
- I brewed this beer on 21 January 2017. Starting gravity was 1.051, precisely on target. I plan to ferment this batch at 66°.