Beer Tasting: Experimental Amber Ale

After about 10 days of carbonation, I felt that my Experimental Amber Ale was ready for a serious evaluation. The overly malty flavor at kegging–almost to the point where I was worried that it might be diacetyl or some other flaw–has disappeared, and the beer tastes quite nice. The full story is below.

  • Basics
    • Starting gravity = 1.047; final gravity = 1.013; abv = 4.5%
  • Aroma
    • Clean and lightly malty; nothing to speak of for hop aroma.
  • Appearance
    • A rich amber in color, and clear in appearance. The head is off-white, with good retention, but is not particularly “big” in size.
  • Flavor
    • Malt-forward, with a moderate bitterness that finishes smoothly. Nicely balanced.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Moderately light (but not thin) body and moderately carbonated.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Probably so, but maybe with a bit of crystal 60 added. I wouldn’t place this into the “absolutely outstanding” category, but there is nothing terribly offensive about it, either. It could probably have a little more of a caramel presence to fit the style guidelines for an amber ale (and indeed, I had intended to add this, but forgot when at my homebrew store), as well as to round out the flavor. If I enter this in a competition, I expect it would get dinged a bit for style. On the other hand, I still like this beer!
  • Overall rating:
    • 7/10

Experimental Amber Ale Kegged

Last night (11 January 2015) I kegged the Experimental Amber Ale. It had been in the primary fermenter for 10 days. For the first eight days, I had it at 65°, and for the last two days I raised it up to 68° to clean up any lingering diacetyl. During the course of fermentation, gravity dropped from 1.047 to 1.013, which works out to 4.5% abv.

I’ll be force carbonating this at ~13.5 psi at 42°, which works out to around 2.5 volumes of CO2. Yield was about 4.5 gallons of beer in the keg. Aroma is predominantly malty, and the flavor is fairly smooth. The maltiness is maybe a little more prominent than I like (which is probably my fault for making Maris Otter a good chunk of the malt bill); I am hoping it balances out a bit as the beer matures.

Experimental Amber Ale

As I work on a keezer build(!) over the winter break, I’m also developing beers with which to populate said keezer during its launch. Eagle Face Oatmeal Stout will be the inaugural tap, but I’m also hoping to build two more beers for this three-keg system. For my second tap, I thought an amber ale would be a nice balance–it also was a chance to use up some of the hops packages that were cluttering my freezer. Thus, the Experimental Amber Ale was born!

I will note that the recipe in the end was a bit of a mistake; I had intended to throw in a pound of crystal 60, but forgot to write it down when I went to the brew store. The resulting malt bill was thus a little simpler than I intended. This also meant that I miscalculated my mash steps (I didn’t remove the crystal malt from BeerSmith’s recipe calculations), and the mash was a bit thinner than it should have been, at least by a little. But…I am hopeful that the strong mix of Maris Otter malt will balance out the flavor, and I do not think the mash was thin to the point of inhibiting enzymatic reactions (I achieved 85% efficiency!).

Experimental Amber Ale

  • 4.5 lbs. American 2 row malt
  • 4 lbs. Maris Otter pale malt
  • 0.25 lbs. chocolate malt
  • 1 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha acid; boil 60 minutes).
  • 1 oz. Willamette hops pellets (5.3% alpha acid, 3.7% beta acid; boil 10 minutes)
  • 1 oz. Liberty hops pellets (4.5% alpha acid, 3.5% beta acid; whirlpool ~30 minutes)
  • 1 tsp. Irish moss
  • 1 tbs. 5.2 pH stabilizer
  • 1 pkg. Safale US-05 dry yeast (rehydrated in 1 cup water)
  • I mashed in with 3.1 gallons of water at ~172°, which stabilized to 156° within 10 minutes (and was still at that temperature after 20 minutes).
  • After 60 minutes of mash, I added 1.2 gallons of water at 185°, which bumped the mash temperature up to ~160°. I let this sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and then collected ~3.3 gallons of wort.
  • I then added 3.15 gallons of water at 185°, let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the rest of the wort, for a total of ~6.7 gallons. This had a gravity of 1.041, which works out to 85% efficiency! This high efficiency, I suspect, is due to the fact that I sparged more than I would have normally (due to assuming the extra pound of crystal malt in the calculations, which wasn’t physically in the recipe).
  • I brought the wort to a boil, and added the Cascade hops.
  • After 45 minutes of boiling, I added the Irish moss.
  • After 50 minutes of boiling, I added the Willamette hops.
  • After 60 minutes, I turned off the flame, added the Liberty hops, and started chilling. The volume in the brew kettle at this point was around 5.8 gallons.
  • I rehydrated the yeast in 1 cup of water, and pitched it.
  • The starting volume was ~5.5 gallons and had a gravity of 1.047 at 60°.
  • I set the temperature for the fermentation chamber at 65°. The beer was brewed on 1 January 2014.
Despite my mistake in my calculations, I think this will (inadvertently) be an OK brew. I’ll be curious to see how it ends up with no crystal malt, and how the combination of 2-row and Maris Otter play together. It probably won’t be true to the American amber ale style, but it should still be drinkable!