Honey | Orange Pale Ale – Recipe and Review

_DSC1871Synergy between ingredients is something that I often seek out when writing a new beer recipe. In this particular case, I started with the premise of wanting to use orange blossom honey in a beer. Orange blossom honey has a delicate orange flavor as well a soft floral honey bouquet. Building a beer recipe around these attributes, I started with a Belgian Pilsner malt base which I’ve found to produce a honey like sweetness in my beers. From there, the base malt was accented with a small amount of Gambrinus honey malt to emphasize the honey character. Additionally, I delicately hopped the beer with Mandarian Bavaria hops which I’ve found to have a pronounced sweet orange (not pith) character that would be delicate enough not to overpower the honey.

Honey | Orange Pale Ale Recipe

Size: 3.75 gal
Efficiency: 68%
Attenuation: 80%

Original Gravity: 1.050 SG
Terminal Gravity: 1.010 SG
Color: 6.07 SRM
Alcohol: 5.28% ABV
Bitterness: 20.3 IBU

Malt Bill:
5.5 lb (72.1%) Pilsner Malt (Dingemans)
0.75 lb (9.8%) Munich TYPE I – (Weyermann)
6 oz (4.9%) Honey Malt – (Gambinus)

Mash Profile:
146 °F – 60m
168 °F – 5m

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
2g Gypsum (to mash)
4g Calcium Chloride (to mash)

16 g Mandarina Bavaria (7.2%) – 90 m

Note: After boil was complete, the kettle was topped up with cold water to lower temperature to 180°F.

2 oz (43.8%) Mandarina Bavaria – 180°F Steep – 15 m
1 lb (13.1%) Orange Blossum Honey – 180°F Steep – 15 m

2 oz (43.8%) Amarillo® – Hop Back (Blichmann Hop Rocket)

Kettle Additions:
0.5 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) –  15m
0.5 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – 10 m

WYeast 1056 American Ale™- Starter on stirplate to achieve 1 million cells per milliliter of wort per degree Plato. Use Mr. Malty to determine proper starter sized based on age of yeast package. Pitch into 60°F wort and allow to free rise to 64°F. As fermentation begins to slow, raise temperature to 70°F.

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP Category 23 Specialty Beer

_DSC1966Aroma (10/12):
Low to moderate floral honey notes. There is a medium to medium-high sweet citrus / orange / tangerine hop aroma. Some soft candy-like malt sweetness is in the background. No alcohol, DMS, or diacetyl. The is a touch of grassy hops in the background.

Appearance (2/3):
Color falls somewhere between a light copper and a deep blond. There is a slight haze to the beer. Fluffy white persistent head.

Flavor (17/20):
Moderately high hop flavor that is like sweet or candied orange. None of the pithy bitter citrus flavors that are often associated with traditional types of citrus hops. Honey is strongly present and quite floral. Malt is soft and bready with a light crackery character. The hop bitterness is medium-low and leaves behind just a hint of malt sweetness. There is a wonderful honey flavor that persists through the finish.

Mouthfeel (3/5):
Crisp with a medium to medium-low body. Quite balanced. No astringency. Beer has a medium-high carbonation which is slightly biting.

Overall Impression (8/10):
This is a very nice balanced pale ale that showcases the honey content. The beer is exceptionally balanced with layer of flavors; none of which stick out or feel out of place. Very well crafted beer.

Excellent (40/50)


Session Ale – Thoughts, Recipe, and Review

The original brewdog Zeus pondering the sessionabilty of my beer.

The original brewdog Zeus pondering the sessionabilty of my beer.

There is a lot of debate in the beer world about what exactly defines a true session beer. Alcohol levels typically weigh heavily in the debate. Alcohol is a quantifiable variable with very specific implications, especially as it relates to the length of a drinking session. The specifics off what ABV is truly considered ‘sessionable’ makes for a fun debate, but is one that I’ll defer to the experts. For the Brits, frequent pub visits are an important part of daily life and culture. Taking queue from the ordinary bitters that frequently flow in pubs across the Isles, I’d suggest that a true session beer should be kept somewhere in the range of 3.0-3.5% ABV. Whether these levels were consciously set, or simply a by-product of the taxes imposed upon beer, the effect is clear. This level of alcohol strikes a good balance between the pleasant alcohol induced euphoria beer can produce (AKA a buzz)  and running the risk of prematurely ending a drinking session in a drunken stupor. Until a couple of years ago, it was difficult to find a beer this low in alcohol at American brewpubs. Luckily, a trend towards more moderate alcohol levels has taken root, and homebrewers are able to find numerous wonderful examples of commercial session beers.

Aside from alcohol content, there are other very important factors which improve a beer’s sessionability. To me, session beers should be relatively dry in order to prevent too much fullness. That said, low-gravity beers can easily become watery or tea-like if the gravity drops too low. There is a hugely important distinction that must be understood when formulating a session beer, and that is the difference between sweetness and body. A beer can be round with a medium body and moderate amount of residual gravity without tasting sweet. The key is making sure that all fermentable sugars have been consumed by the yeast and that the gravity that remains are dextrins which provide ample body without perceivable sweetness. Balance is the key.

Another important factor in sessionablity is flavor and complexity. Session beers should be complex enough to remain interesting, while not overburdening your palate. The Brits do this well with the bready malt components and nuanced yeast character found in their bitters. Personally for me, the same end result can be accomplished using hops. There is something amazing about drinking a beer with the balance and hop intensity of some of the bigger more intense American Pale ales while doing so at a more moderate ABV.

Single Hop Huell Melon Session Pale Ale

Recipe Specs:
Size: 3.23 gal
Efficiency: 68%
Attenuation: 64%

Original Gravity: 1.043
Terminal Gravity: 1.015
Color: 8.25 SRM
Alcohol: 3.53% ABV
Bitterness: 39.5 IBUs
Mash Temp: 159 °F

Grain Bill:
4.75 lb (79.2%) Weyermann Pilsner Malt
.25 lb (4.2%) Briess Victory® Malt
.25 lb (4.2%) Weyermann Pale Wheat Malt
.5 lb (8.3%) Weyermann Carahell®
.25 lb (4.2%) Weyermann Carared®

0.75 oz Huell Melon (5.2% AA) – 60 m
1 oz Huell Melon (5.2% AA) – 20 m

3 oz Huell Melon – 180 degree hop stand (5.2% AA) – 20 m

2 oz Huell Melon (5.2% AA) – Dry Hop 3 Days

Kettle Additions:
0.5 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – 15 m
0.5 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – 10 m

WYeast 1056 American Ale™ – Build appropriately sized starter
Pitch yeast once beer is at 62°F. Keep beer at 64°F during the start and peak of fermentation. Slowly raise to 70°F as signs of fermentation taper off.

Water Treatment:
Soft NYC municipal water with 2g Gypsum and 4g Calcium Chloride added to the mash.

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP Category 23 Specialty Beer

Aroma (7/12):
While not as much melon as I had anticipated given the hop’s name, there is a nice round fruity hoppy character on the nose. The fruitiness is somewhat non-descript, although it is definitely not the typical citrus found in American hops. If I really search, I can convince myself there is some honeydew-like melon aromas, but it is a stretch. The hops have a touch of grassiness which isn’t offensive. The malt is really nice. It is soft with a hint of sweetness complemented by biscuit and sourdough bread.

Appearance (2/3):
The beer is a rich golden color bordering on copper with a touch of haze. The glass is capped with a white, fluffy, persistent head.

Flavor (17/20):
The hops are much more subdued in the flavor than the aroma. The malt is wonderful. Lots of toast and biscuit. The bitterness is firm and balancing, while being quite clean. The beer goes through a great procession on the palate with malt up front, then some juicy hops, and ending with a toasty malt finish.

Mouthfeel (5/5):
Beer is medium to medium-low bodied. The mouthfeel exceeds what I would have expected given the low starting gravity. Soft carbonation enhances this impression. No perceptible alcohol heat.

Overall Impression (10/10):
This is a really crushable session beer that exceeds my expectations. The new German hop variety used is pretty tame, and much more nuanced than other varieties being grown in the New World. All in all, the beer hits all the right chords in terms of what I search for in a session beer. Wonderful beer.

Excellent (41/50)

Citrillo American Pale Ale Review

apaTasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP Category 10a American Pale Ale.

Aroma (8/12):
Big, juicy, citrusy hops upfront that feature notes of orange, tangerine, and some tropical mango. Aroma is very citrus forward, although there are some hints of piney hops in the background. There is substantial malt presence that is very bready and offers a whisper of sweetness. The fruity hops and malt sweetness combine for an almost candy-like impression. No alcohol or other off-aromas present. Clean fermentation.

Appearance (2/3):
Deep gold with some orange hues. Capped with a persistent white head. Beer is quite hazy.

Flavor (10/20):
Each sip fills the palate with big, juicy hops that are very citrus-forward. This is balanced against a substantial, sweet and slightly, toasty malt character. The beer is a touch sweet, which is accentuated by a bitterness that is low for the style. On the finish there is a bit of a minerally astringency that detracts.

Mouthfeel (2/5):
Medium-full bodied. Again, a touch of astringency on the finish detracts. The carbonation is a bit low, which gives the beer a very creamy mouthfeel.

Overall Impression (5/10):
This is a nice citrus-bomb American Pale Ale. Unfortunately, the beer is a bit under-attenuated giving the beer some undesirable sweetness and excessive mouthfeel. Additionally, the water feels overmanipulated and minerally. In the future, I will dial back my water additions and make adjustments to this recipe that will lead to better attenuation.

Total: 27/50 Good

Read the full recipe here.

Citrillo Pale Ale Recipe and Brewday

citraUpdate 3/25/14: Tasting and Review

I have a bit of nostalgic love for the humble American Pale ale. I can only assume this sentiment is shared by a large number of craft beer drinkers that came of age during the beginning of the craft beer explosion we’re currently in the midst of. Experiencing the relative extremity of a beer like Sierra Nevada pale ale for the first time was somewhat shocking and admittedly, not instantly pleasurable. To my inexperienced palate, the beer was extremely bitter and intense, something radically different from the adjunct-laden lagers I cut my consumption teeth on. It took some time to acclimate, but since those early experiences with SNPA, I’ve rarely looked back.

Revisiting SNPA today makes me realize just how much my palate has changed. The  transition my drinking habits have made towards bigger and bolder closely aligns with the shifts that we’ve seen within the APA category. SNPA would now barely register as a pale ale compared to the highly alcoholic hop bombs that are the most popular examples of the style today. My goal with this recipe is to capture the intense tropical and citrusy hop flavor and aromatics that today’s most popular APAs possess (Zombiedust comes to mind) while pairing down the alcohol to be more in-line with something like SNPA.

Citrillo Pale Ale Recipe

Size: 4.0 gal – My goal is to net 2.75 gallons into the fermenter after hop-related and equipment losses.
Efficiency: 68%
Attenuation: 78.0% (estimated)

Original Gravity: 1.056 SG
Terminal Gravity: 1.012 SG (estimated)
Color: 8.82 SRM
Alcohol: 5.76% ABV (estimated)
Bitterness: 4.5 IBU – Note, my software doesn’t take into account isomerization during the whirlpool where I am getting the majority of my bitterness.

7.75 lb (81.6%) 2-Row Brewers Malt (Briess)
1 lb (10.5%) Vienna Malt (Weyermann)
6 oz (3.9%) 2-Row Caramel Malt 40L (Briess)
4 oz (2.6%) 2-Row Caramel Malt 10L (Briess)
2 oz (1.3%) Acidulated Malt (Weyermann) – Used for pH Adjustment

2 g Citra™ (13.7% AA) – 60 m
2.75 oz Citra™ (13.7% AA) – Whirlpool 20m
1.25 oz Amarillo® (8.7% AA) – Whirlpool 20m

3 oz Amarillo® (8.5% AA) – Hop back. Unfortunately, my hop back broke during the brew day. In lieu of the hop back addition, I ended up adding the hop back hops to my kettle with 5 minutes left in the whirlpool.

1.5 oz Citra™ (13.7% AA) – Dry Hop 3 Days
0.75 oz Amarillo® (8.5% AA) – Dry Hop 3 Days

Kettle Additions:
0.5 ea Whirlfloc Tablet – 15 m
0.5 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – 10 m

WYeast 1056 American Ale™ (1 very fresh packet)

Mash Regiment:
Saccharification Rest – 154 °F – 60m
Mashout – 168 °F – 5m

1. Chill to 60°F and let rise to 64°F. Hold until activity begins to slow.
2. Raise temp to 70°F until all activity is complete.
3. Dry hop at room temp (74°F or so)
4. Crash to 32°F 2 days then package.