Beer Tasting: Summer Blonde Ale 1.1

My Summer Blonde Ale 1.1 has been carbonating and conditioning in the keg for the past month, so now is as good of a time as any to sample it. We’ve really been enjoying this beer, and I think it’s definitely earned its place as a “go-to” summer recipe.

  • The Basics
    • Starting gravity = 1.047; final gravity = 1.009; abv = 5.0%; IBU = 21 (estimated)
  • Appearance
    • Clear (but not brilliant), light golden color; fine and fairly persistent white head.
  • Aroma
    • Lightly malty and ever so slightly fruity.
  • Flavor
    • Smooth and very lightly fruity maltiness; a delicate bitterness but certainly not prominent on that end.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Medium carbonation, within bounds for the style; a light and smooth body with a nice light finish (just a hint of malt and hops).
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Certainly! This is my second iteration of the recipe (and first one to be kegged). Pretty much everything about it is spot-on as an easy-drinking summer beer. It also got pretty good marks at the recent homebrew club meeting, so I’ll count that as a positive too.
  • Overall rating
    • 9/10

Summer Blonde Ale 1.1 Kegged

Tonight I kegged the Summer Blonde Ale that I brewed up on May 10. It has been in the primary for 12 days, with a very vigorous fermentation. Starting gravity was 1.047, with a final gravity of 1.009. This calculates out as 5.0% abv, nearly identical in stats to the first iteration of the recipe. The flavor is clean and lightly malty, at least in its uncarbonated state. Approximately 4.75 gallons of beer went into the keg. I’ll be force carbonating this, with an aim to have it on tap within a few days.

Summer Blonde Ale 1.1

Thanks to a few recent gatherings at which I have served my homebrew, my three kegs all kicked this past week. That means…more brewing! My Pannotia White IPA just came online this weekend (and wow is it tasty!), but I’ve got two taps to fill as soon as possible. So, I’m fulfilling this “obligation” first with a blonde ale and second with a “wild and crazy brew” (more on that one in a subsequent post).

For tonight’s brew, I elected to rebrew a blonde ale that I did last summer. That one turned out pretty nicely, and the warm summer months are approaching, so on we go again! I made a few minor modifications, partly to account for the efficiency of my equipment but also to use up some hops I had on-hand. Also, I switched yeast strains from US-05 to WLP001.

Summer Blonde Ale 1.1

  • 9 lbs. 2-row malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
  • 8 oz. 15° crystal malt
  • 1.10 oz. Willamette hops pellets (5.2% alpha, 3.7% beta), 60 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Irish moss (10 minute boil)
  • 1 pkg. California Ale Yeast (WLP001, prepared in 1L starter)
  • I mashed in with 3.1 gallons of water at 160°. The temperature stabilized at 151°, was down to 148° after 35 minutes, and was down to 147° after 55 minutes.
  • After 60 minutes, I added 1.25 gallons of water at 160° to the mash, let the mash sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected 3.3 gallons of wort.
  • Then, I added 3.1 gallons of water at 185°, which raised the mash bed to 168°. I let it sit for 10 minutes and vorlaufed.
  • All told, I collected 6.6 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.039. This works out to 74% mash efficiency.
  • Once the wort came to a boil, I added the hops and boiled the mixture for 60 minutes. 10 minutes prior to flame-out, I added the Irish moss.
  • After removing the kettle from the heat, I chilled the wort down to 70° and transferred all to the fermenter (aerating with the Venturi pump). I pitched the starter (which I had put together five days previous; cold-crashed for two days, and decanted spent wort leaving all but ~0.5 L yeast slurry).
  • My starting gravity is 1.047, with 5 gallons of wort into the fermenter. I’ll be fermenting at 65°.

Beer Tasting: Summer Blonde Ale

The summer blonde ale is at its peak, turning out to be a pretty delightful brew. The full specs are below.

Summer Blonde Ale

  • I brewed this up on June 28, 2014, and bottled it on July 13. Thus, it has had about a month to condition. The sample I am evaluating here is from a bottle.
  • Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.046; final gravity = 1.008; abv = 5.0%.
  • Appearance
    • Clear, straw-colored
    • Head is white, fine, and low, with fair retention over the course of the sampling
  • Aroma
    • Clean and slightly malty
  • Taste
    • Clean and slightly malty; pleasant
    • A subtle hops finish
    • Good balance between hops and malt
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Absolutely! This is perhaps one of the best all-grain beers I’ve done to date, and it is perfect for sipping on warm summer evenings. As near as I can tell, the recipe (and this batch) nails the style quite squarely, and is very much to my taste. I don’t know that there is much, if anything, that I would change; maybe up the malt and hops ever-so-slightly, but that’s about it. Probably a bad idea to mess with a good thing.
  • Overall rating: 8/10

Summer Blonde Ale Bottled

Success! My experiment with summer brewing (using a temperature-controlled freezer) has gone well, so last night I bottled my summer blonde ale. Here are the stats:

  • I fermented it from June 28 to July 7 at 62°. I didn’t see quite as much krausen as I’m used to, but I suspect that is because of the lower temperatures and thus a less vigorous fermentation.
  • On July 7, I raised the temperature to 64°, so that the yeast could clean up any stray diacetyl.
  • I bottled on July 12. Final gravity was 1.008, down from a starting gravity of 1.046. This works out to 5.0% abv, and an apparent attenuation of 82% (right in line with the expectations for the yeast, Safale-05).
  •  I kegged 5 L in a mini-keg, with 1.5 tbs. of corn sugar.
  • The remainder (3.75 gallons) was bottled. I wanted a target carbonation of 2.5 volumes, which worked out to 3.1 oz. of corn sugar boiled in 2 cups of water.
  • Bottling yield was 22 12-oz, 6 18-oz Grolsch, and 4 22-oz. bottles.
The flavor was somewhat malty with a touch of hops bitterness (but not overly bitter). No off flavors were detected, thankfully. The beer is hazy in appearance, but not overly so. I expect this will settle out during conditioning and refrigeration.