American Amber Ale

Our recently formed brew club is having its first competition, an American Amber Ale or a Brown, with the winner going on to represent the club in a contest in Michigan. Neither style is a personal favorite, but with the recent success of the Irish Red Rye, I thought we might tweak that recipe to make it more “American” and at least get our feet wet in the competitive pool.

Grain Bill-

  • 8# American 2 row
  • 1# crystal 60L
  • 1/2# Munich malt (present in many American Amber recipes)
  • 1/2# rye malt (echoing the Irish Red Rye recipe)
  • 2 oz roasted barley (for color)

Hop Bill- 2 oz Willamette ~4% for 60. Should consider a small late addition of hops for some aroma. If Willamette is not available, Irish Mike suggested Glacier or Chinook as possibilities.

Yeast- I think my first choice is Wyeast 1332 Northwest Ale.The temperature range goes up to 75F and my cellar right now is at 72F.  It seems to be a pretty generic ale yeast suitable for a variety of American ales. American Ale II (1272) would be my first choice but it tops out at 72F. I would rather not work that close to the ceiling, but we’ll see what the options are at the brew store.

Mash Schedule- The plan will be to mash in at 122 for 30 minute protein rest. Then step up to 158F for 30-60 for saccharification (may try iodine test). Then mash out 168F for 10 minutes.

To try new techniques, I’m reading in Snyder that a thicker mash (1 qt per pound) is preferred for the protein rest and a thinner mash is better for saccharification. Snyder recommends a step infusion process adding 200F water to the kettle for temp raises. Sounds sufficiently hippy and perfect for a Pacific Northwest style ale.

BJCP states, “Medium to medium-full body” so perhaps 158 F for the sugar rest is too much.

So, here’s the schedule

  • 2 1/2 gallons liquor at strike temp 130F
  • Mash in 10# of grain at 122 for 30 minutes
  • Stir in 200 F liquor in quart batches to reach 158 F, add no more than 2 gallons of hot liquor total. Hold temp for 30-60 minutes. Maybe try the iodine test to determine if saccharification is complete.
  • If 2 gallons liquor have not been added, add more hot liquor to mash out at 168F for 10 minutes.
  • Note- Stir constantly while adding hot liquor. Temp will continue to rise so go cautiously.

Yeast Starter- Wednesday, July 24, 2013

I got the 1332 Northwest Ale yeast started, but I’m kinda disappointed to discover that the final gravity will likely fall short of a dry beer, about 1.017. That seems too sweet to me, but the brew calculator shows this yeast not finishing out like I would like it. Will this yeast cease to produce when we hit that level? I’m not sure why and if so, how are we gonna carbonate this beer with bottle conditioning.

Brew day- Saturday, July 27, 2013

A gorgeous weather day, cool and sunny. Charlie and Rich came over and we focused on brewing. Everything went well.

We did the infusion mash by adding hot water to the mash for step increases, but I felt that the mash was getting pretty thin so converted back over to just adding flame to the kettle once we added about 1 1/2 gallons of hot water.

I felt that the iodine test was a bust. As soon we stepped to the sugar rest, we tested and didn’t  see any blue color, perhaps a few dark streaks. We tested every 10 minutes for about an hour without seeing any significant change. We elected to hold saccharification for an hour.

No surprises with lauter or sparge.

We boiled 7 gallons for 1 1/2 hours. 60 minutes with 1.5 ounces of hops (Willamette 5.9%) and then added the last .5 ounce with 5 minutes to go. Should be a relatively balanced beer.

Sample was good. Good color, no off flavors, perhaps a small taste of stale hops but I think it’s just the American hops I’m not used to.

Starting gravity = 1.050

A strong bubble within an hour of pitching yeast.

Secondary Fermentation- Racked beer one week after brewing

Gravity = 1.016, where expected. No off flavors. Sample was good.

Packaging- August 21, three weeks after brewing

Charlie came over and we bottled. I think it’s a winner. Great color- a perfectly clear dark gold with a hint of red, good aroma- a soft hoppy nose, excellent flavor- a mildly hoppy finish that balances the malt, and representative of the style. How can we possibly lose?

Filled (3) 2-Liter jugs, (12) 12 oz bottles, (11) large swing top bottles, & (1) stray pint capped bottle. We’ll take a 6 pack of 12 oz bottles to club. The jugs and the swing top bottles will be nice for displaying at Oktoberfest (which is now less than a month away).

One note on the gravity- it checks 1.012. However this is a new hydrometer; when I checked it in water, it read 0.096 or so. I think it’s off and 1.016 makes more sense. I gotta keep an eye on this new hydrometer.

Results-

At the contest the beer didn’t show well. IMO, we weren’t the best American Amber. Ours was good but not the best. The Brown Ales stole the show, taking 1st, 2nd and 3rd. I thought the other Amber was the best of show and most representative beer there. I felt like ours was thin and needed more mouthfeel.

Another two weeks in the bottle and ours improved. We drank most of it at Oktoberfest, but I’ve now discovered that people will drink about anything that’s labeled free beer.

Not my favorite style, not my favorite beer, but I learned a lot.

November 15, 2013-

There’s apparently a big-deal, STL home-brew contest in December. Brewminati wanted all of us to enter a beer to help represent the club. I offered up two bottles of the Amber. I don’t expect anything to come of it, but we can help make a presence.

December 22, 2013

We entered this beer in the Happy Holiday’s Homebrew Competition 2013, a rather large, regional competition with over 700 beers. We scored 34 out of 50, the “Very Good” class, from two independent judges. Paraphrasing the comments from the judges the beer was representative of the class but needed more hops and more complexity in the malt profile. Both judges liked the beer and found it drinkable. They wanted it more extreme. I brew my beers to be less extreme, to be balanced, to be drinkable, in a traditional Euro-fashion, so their comments are not surprising.

Several of the Brewminati members were judges or stewards at the competition. They commented that they tasted a lot of bad beer and anyone that ended up in the “Good” or above range, should feel confident in their brewing.

American Amber score_Page_1 American Amber score_Page_2 American Amber score_Page_3

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