Gondwana Pale Ale 1.5

african_queenMy local homebrew shop happened to have a pound of African Queen hop pellets during my most recent visit…for those not in the know, this is a variety grown in South Africa, and one of the few that is available (for now) in the United States. Due to some recent hop farm purchases, future South African hop availability is likely to be even tighter than before, so I had to jump at this chance to brew with this variety.

These hops are touted as being on the flavor/aroma end of things, so I wanted a good pale ale recipe that would highlight this. My classic Gondwana Pale Ale seemed like just the ticket! I subbed in a little Vienna malt for the 2-row to help bolster the maltiness. Otherwise, there is very little changed here from my most recent iteration, just the hops.

Gondwana Pale Ale 1.5

  • 6.5 lbs. 2-row malt (Rahr Malting Co.)
  • 3 lbs. Vienna malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
  • 0.5 lb. crystal 40 malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
  • 7 oz. Carafoam malt (Weyermann Malting)
  • 0.35 oz. Warrior hop pellets (15.8% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 2 oz. African Queen hop pellets (14.5% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 2 oz. African Queen hop pellets (14.5% alpha), dry hop in keg
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. California Ale yeast (WLP001)

Target Parameters

  • Infusion mash to hit target of 152°. Batch sparge.
  • Claremont tap water.
  • 1.053 o.g., 1.011 f.g., 5.4% abv, 41 IBU, 6 SRM, 5 gallons into fermenter


  • A few days in advance, I made a yeast starter, cold-crashing it and setting aside some for a future batch.
  • On brew day, I mashed in with 3.5 gallons of water at 163°, to hit a 152° mash temperature. The temp had dropped to ~150° after 30 minutes.
  • After 60 minutes, I added 1.25 gallons of water at 185°, let sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings.
  • Next, I added 3.5 gallons of water at 185°, let sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the remainder of the wort.
  • In total, I collected 6.6 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.045, for 78% efficiency.
  • I started the boil and added everything per the schedule.
  • After 60 minutes, I chilled the wort down to 70 degrees, and pitched the yeast. I’ll be fermenting at 66°.
  • Starting gravity was 1.053 (right on target!). I brewed this beer on 27 May 2017.
  • Final gravity on 7 June 2017 was 1.012, which equates to 5.4% abv. I added the hops to the keg in a mesh bag, and began carbonation and dry-hopping at room temperature.

Wild Times Pale Ale

I recently acquired a pound of wild hops from the Seattle area of Washington state, courtesy of a generous friend who found them on his property. The plus side of wild hops is that they have a definite “cool” factor. The negative side is that wild hops are indeed wild (or naturalized, if they are “feral” versions of cultivated hops)–you have no real published guidelines to constrain expectations for aroma, flavor, and bittering properties. It’s all lab analysis and careful sensory evaluation. In other words–a grand opportunity for a motivated homebrewer.

My first order of business was to figure out the chemistry of these things, particularly alpha acids. Because I had a good quantity of the hops, I didn’t mind sending them off for analysis. My go-to place has been BrewLaboratory; they are relatively inexpensive, fast, and supportive of homebrewers. They use HPLC (High Performance Liquid Chromatography), and their turn-around time has been less than 2 or 3 days from receipt of the sample.

I was pleasantly surprised by the alpha acid values–5.8%! Beta acids clocked in at 3.2% and cohumulone at 30%.


HPLC Profile for Washington State Wild Hops

The analysis nicely covered the basic chemistry, but what about the more complex aromas and flavors? When rubbing the hops between my palms, I noted a dominant, very perfume-like aroma! Behind that is a bit of vegetal/allium aroma. To help formalize my thinking on the matter, I roughed out the hop profile using spider diagrams. There are two slightly different formats that I found in my research, included below. Each breaks out the aroma descriptors slightly differently–for instance, one specifically has an “onion/garlic” category, whereas in the other that is lumped in with “vegetal”.

Wild Hop Spider Diagrams

Wild Hop Spider Diagrams, Showing Level of Intensity of Different Aroma Components

With nearly a pound of thoroughly analyzed wild hops in hand, I wanted to put together a nice and simple batch of beer to highlight their flavor and aroma. After consulting with some friends, I settled on an American pale ale. The goal was for something that was clean and not overly malty, to let the hops shine. Because I didn’t want to commit to five gallons of beer for the first round on these hops, I settled on a 3 gallon batch, which will fit into a 2.5 gallon keg that I have on-hand.

The weather is turning cool, and I didn’t want to deal with the thermal loss of brew-in-a-bag. So, I also elected to do a full-volume, no-sparge mash in my mash tun.

Wild Times Pale Ale

  • 5.5 lbs. California Select 2-row malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
  • 0.5 lb. 10°L caramel malt (Briess)
  • 0.25 oz. Galena hop pellets (13.8% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1.5 oz. Washington wild hops (5.8% alpha, 3.2% beta), 10 minute boil
  • 1.5 oz. Washington wild hops (5.8% alpha, 3.2% beta), 1 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Washington wild hops (5.8% alpha, 3.2% beta), 5 minute whirlpool
  • 0.5 tablet WhirlFloc, 10 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. Safale American dry yeast (US-05)
  • 1.5 oz. Washington wild hops (5.8% alpha, 3.2% beta), 10 day dry-hop

Target Parameters

  • 152° mash, no sparge, 60 minutes
  • 1.051 o.g., 1.011 f.g., 5.2% abv, 43 IBU, 4 SRM, 3 gallons into the fermenter


  • I mashed in with 5.3 gallons of water at 168.8°, to hit a mash temperature of 152.4°. The mash was down to 149.5° after 25 minutes and down to 147° after 50 minutes.
  • After 60 minutes, I drained the mash tun. I collected 4.5 gallons of wort at a gravity of 1.036, for 74% efficiency. Not too bad!
  • I started the boil, and added the hops per the recipe specifications.
  • After 60 minutes, I turned off the flame, added the whirlpool hops, and chilled the beer down to 76°.
  • I transferred the beer to the fermenter while aerating, and pitched the yeast. I’ll be fermenting this at 68°.
  • Starting gravity was 1.046, a bit less than expected. However, I am not surprised because I kept a gentle touch on the flame to avoid overboiling with the smaller volume of wort.
  • I brewed this beer on 21 November 2016.

Hell Creek Amber Ale

bottleGimmick beers can be a fun way to liven up familiar styles, especially when there is a good pun involved. A friend recently located some wild (or more likely, feral) hops growing on an old homestead in eastern Montana. This happens to be right on top of the Hell Creek Formation, a ~66 million year old package of rocks that preserves some of the last dinosaurs to live on the planet. It also yields fossil amber…and a pun was born!

Hell Creek Amber Ale makes a great name–but could I capitalize on it any further? How could I build a recipe around the concept?

Early on, I made a decision to use ingredients primarily from the home region of the Hell Creek Formation (Montana, South Dakota, and North Dakota). I had a small quantity of wild Hell Creek hops on-hand, and supplemented them with a few ounces of my dad’s Cascade hops from South Dakota. Malt presented a bit of a challenge, though. After some research, I learned about MaltEurop’s Montana malting facility. Fortuitously, one of their flagship products is billed as being malted from barley “grown in and around Montana.” The recipe was rounded out with a few non-thematic malts, to produce a nice American amber ale.

The base recipe is a modification of the American Amber Ale from Zainasheff and Palmer’s Brewing Classic Styles. However, I used American malt instead of English malt, and substituted Special B malt for some of the darker crystal malts suggested by the recipe. The latter gambit was to create a slightly richer flavor, evoking the deep color of fossil amber as well as the rich aromas that must have permeated the ancient Hell Creek landscape. I also modified the hop additions a bit–the only late addition was that of the wild hops, with a steeping to allow any interesting aromas and flavors to come to the forefront. The dried hops had a moderate herbal aroma, which I expect should play nicely with the caramel qualities of the specialty malts.

Hell Creek Amber Ale

  • 9 lbs. 2-row American pale malt (MaltEurop)
  • 1 lb. Munich malt
  • 0.8 lb. 40° crystal malt
  • 0.5 lb. Special B malt
  • 0.5 lb. Victory (biscuit) malt
  • 2 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.1% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.44 oz. wild Hell Creek hops, 10 minute steep after boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. California Ale Yeast (White Labs, WLP001), in 1L starter

Target Parameters

  • 1.059 o.g., 1.014 f.g., 5.9% abv, 33 IBU, 14 SRM, 5.5 gallons into the fermenter


  • I mashed in with 4.75 gallons of water at 167.5°, to hit a mash temperature of 156°. It was down to 153° after 40 minutes.
  • I added 1 gallon of water at 185°, stirred, let it rest for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and then collected the first runnings. Subsequently, I added 3.5 gallons of water at 180°, let it rest for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the remainder of the wort.
  • In total, I collected 6.6 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.050, for 77% mash efficiency.
  • I brought the wort to a boil, adding hops per the schedule above. At flame-out, I added the wild hops and then let them steep for 10 minutes before chilling the wort down to 80°.
  • Approximately 5.5 gallons went into the fermenter, and I pitched the yeast immediately. I’ll be fermenting the beer at 66°.
  • This beer was brewed on 10 October 2016.