Citra Blonde Ale 1.1

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)

Target Parameters

  • 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

Procedure

  • 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.

Tasting

  • The Basics
    • O.G. = 1.0542; f.g. = 1.008; 5.8% abv; 5 SRM; 20 estimated IBU
  • Appearance
    • Light gold and beautifully clear. The beer pours with a thick white head that settles to an even blanket.
  • Aroma
    • Lightly grainy and slightly sweet malty aroma; a hint of citrus behind that.
  • Flavor
    • 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.
  • Mouthfeel
    • 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.
  • Overall
    • 8.5/10

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

Citra Blonde Ale Kegged

After 11 days in the primary, I kegged the Citra Blonde Ale tonight (August 19, 2015). Final gravity was 1.015, down from 1.049, which works out to 4.5% abv. The beer is definitely a touch more malty than my usual blonde ale recipe. Because the wheat beer is just about out and I hate the thought of an empty tap, I’m speed-carbonating this batch (40 psi at 36° for 24 hours, then down to 25 psi for 24 hours, and then adjust down to serving pressure).

Citra Blonde Ale

During the warm months, it’s nice to have some refreshing beers on-hand. The wheat beer is rapidly dwindling, and I suspect the same will be true also for my session IPA. So, it’s best to get out in front of the inevitably empty keg and brew up a replacement!

In the interests of maximum drinkability to the greatest number of friends and family, I’m aiming for a blonde ale. Although my “house” blonde recipe is quite tasty, I wanted to branch out and try something different.

Gordon Strong’s Modern Homebrew Recipes had a beer called “New World Blonde,” which was intriguing in terms of the malt bill as well as the technique. The malt bill was interesting because it was a little more complex than my usual blonde ale recipe. The suggested technique departed from my usual, in that it was a no-sparge step mash. The single wort collection schedule is supposed to provide a slightly richer malt flavor. The step mash is presumably to incorporate a protein rest for the pilsner malt. Because I am just mashing in a cooler, I am somewhat limited in the types of steps I can incorporate, but this recipe was simple enough (target of 132° to 152° to 168°) that I could approximate it. Of course, I couldn’t quite raise the final step as high as needed (I maxed out at 161°), but for my purposes I deemed it sufficient.

I made a few minor changes from Strong’s recipe, primarily to use all Citra hops (his called for 1 oz. of Australian Galaxy too, but I didn’t want to buy yet another bag of hops that would only be partly consumed) as well as to switch to WLP051 from the recommended Wyeast 1272. In terms of overall process, I hit my temperature targets fairly well, and my actual efficiency was a bit better than estimated prior to the brew.

Citra Blonde Ale

  • 5 lbs. 2-row malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
  • 5 lbs. Pilsner malt
  • 0.75 lbs. 10° Munich malt
  • 0.5 lbs. Caravienne malt
  • 0.5 oz. Citra hops (13.2% alpha, 4.0% beta), 10 minute boil
  • 0.5 oz. Citra hops (13.2% alpha, 4.0% beta), 5 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Citra hops (13.2% alpha, 4.0% beta), 5 minute steep
  • 1 tbs. 5.2 pH stabilizer (added to mash)
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. California Ale V yeast (WLP051), prepared in 0.75 L starter 12 hours in advance
Procedure
  • I mashed in with 5.1 gallons of water at 139.5°; the mash temperature settled at 133.8°. After 15 minutes, the mash was down to 133°.
  • Next, I added 2 gallons of boiling water, which raised the mash temperature to 153°. Temperature was down to 150.4° after 30 minutes and 148° after 45 minutes.
  • After 60 minutes (past the first boiling water addition), I added 7 quarts of boiling water for the mash-out, which raised the temperature to 161°.
  • After 15 minutes, I vorlaufed and then drained the mash tun completely.
  • In total, I collected 7.3 gallons of wort at a gravity of 1.042. This works out to 75% efficiency – a bit higher than expected!
  • I brought the wort to a boil, for a total of 90 minutes.
  • At 10 minutes and 5 minutes remaining, I threw in the appropriate hops additions. At flame-out, I removed the first two hops bags and added the final bag (1 oz.).
  • I chilled the wort down to 80°, transferred to the fermenter, and pitched the yeast.
  • Starting gravity was 1.049 (confirmed on both refractometer and hydrometer). The beer showed signs of fermentation within 7 hours of pitching. I brewed this beer on August 8, 2015.