American Pale Ale (APA) is probably one of the most widely brewed styles for homebrewers. OK, maybe it falls behind IPA and Stouts but I would bet that at some point in your brewing career you have crafted one. APA can be a difficult style to master though as brewing them really is an exercise in balance and finesse. I have heard brewery owner’s comment on how creating an APA can be a good test of a new (or prospective) employees brewing chops. Sure their new brewer can create exciting experimental styles but how do they do when it comes to this old classic? It’s kind of like a good chef being able to make a quality omelet.Hops Pic

There are a few moving parts to an APA. The first, and arguably most important, is the hop character. You need to hit a good level of hop bitterness while not going into IPA territory. One metric that helps keep you in the correct range is the bittering units to gravity units (BU:GU) ratio. This ratio is simply your IBUs divided by the last three digits of your OG. For me that sweet spot for an APA is between 0.7 and 0.8. The other end of the hop character equation is hop flavor and aroma.  I like to get at least half of my bittering from late hops and even lightly dry hop to really get the point across. This is where you need to be careful. Since you are working with a lower gravity beer, excess late process hops can lead to grassy flavors.

For the malt bill I generally like to use American 2-row with about 10% Munich and 5% C40. The Munich adds a subtly bready character and the C40 obviously a caramel character. This is another area where finesse is key. You want to create some malt complexity without taking away from drinkability or distracting from the hop character. If you overdo it with the caramel malt you can easily create a muddled APA. Use restraint here! Instead of using 2-row and Munich you could also try using 90% Maris Otter to get a similar effect. Additionally I like to use 5% carapils to help with body and head retention but you could also try using malted white wheat instead.

Water chemistry has a profound impact on an APA and this style greatly benefits from high levels of sulfate. I like to go all the way up to 300 ppm to make the beer very crisp and accentuate the hop character. Yeast should generally be neutral but sometimes I enjoy blending WLP 090 with an English strain to get a hint of fruity esters. This plays particularly well with new world fruity hops.

When I brew this APA I always keep the grain bill, water, and (usually) yeast the same but use different hops for each batch. The recipe below uses a blend of Belma, Amarillo, and Cascade but you can substitute any hop combination you want so long as you pay attention to your BU:GU. This recipe is also great for experimenting with new hop varieties by simply using one type.

I hope this recipe gets you closer to brewing that perfect APA! Feel free to comment below with questions or let me know what hop or yeast combinations you find enjoyable. You can follow all my brewing adventures on social media @hungusbrews and if you ever find yourself brewing one of my recipes, feel free to use #hungusbrews. Cheers!

Hand Stand Happy Hour

2008 10A – American Pale Ale  2015 18B – American Pale Ale
Recipe for 6 gallons of post boil


9 lb / 81.8% US 2-Row (Briess)
1 lb / 9.2% German Munich (Weyermann)
8 oz / 4.5% Carapils (Briess)
8 oz / 4.5% Caramel 40 (Briess)


20.5 IBU / 0.5 oz 10.4% Belma 60 Min
5.2 IBU / 0.5 oz 10.4% Belma 5 Min
2.5 IBU / 0.5 oz 5.0% Amarillo 5 Min
3.2 IBU / 0.5 oz 6.3% Cascade 5 Min
4.3 IBU / 0.5 oz 10.4% Belma 0 Min
2.1 IBU / 0.5 oz 5.0% Amarillo 0 Min
2.6 IBU / 0.5 oz 6.3% Cascade 0 Min
0 IBU / 0.5 oz 10.4% Belma Dry Hop
0 IBU / 0.5 oz 5.0% Amarillo Dry Hop


WLP 090 – San Diego Super Yeast
Feel free to use other neutral yeasts or even blend with English varieties


CA 165 ppm
MG <10 ppm
NA <20 ppm
SO4 305 ppm
CL 53 ppm
HCO3 65 ppm
Alk 54 ppm


Mash at 151? for 1 hr with a pH of 5.3. Mash out at 168 if your system allows. Sparge with 168? water acidified to under a pH of 6.0.


Add the bittering hops at 60 min. At 10 min left add your kettle fining (SuperMoss/Irish Moss/Whirlfloc) and your yeast nutrient (I use White Labs WLN-1000). With 5 min left add your second hop addition. At flame out add your last hop addition and whirlpool to create a trub cone. If not whirlpooling and cooling quickly with an immersion chiller you may want to move your late hops to a 10 and 15 min addition.


Rack to fermenter at 66? and ensure the wort is well oxygenated. Pitch at 66? and hold below 68? until fermentation is complete. Once fermentation is nearing 90% completion, add your dry hops and let fermentation finish. After 3-4 days, cold crash slowly to 40? and rack into keg or bottle.

Measurements and Calculations

Wort Volume Before Boil: 7.0 US gals
Wort Volume After Boil: 6 US gals
Volume Transferred: 5.5 US gals
Volume Of Finished Beer: 5 US gals
Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.043 SG
OG: 1.051 SG
FG: 1.010 SG
ABV: 5.4 %
IBU (Rager): 40.4 IBU
Color (Morey): 5.7 SRM
Mash Efficiency: 75 %
Fermentation Temp: 68 ?F

Recirculating wort during the mash

Recirculating wort during the mash

Yeast selection can have a huge impact on the overall balance of the beer you are brewing. This became very apparent to me recently when I brewed two examples of American amber ale. Both were hopped very similarly and both had similar grain bills. The main difference was the yeast I chose to ferment each batch. The first batch was fermented with ECY21 East Coast Yeast Kolsch while this batch was fermented with yeast that I harvested from a can of the infamous Heady Topper. The amber that was fermented with the Kolsch yeast was clearly malt dominated with very restrained hop flavor and bitterness while the amber that was fermented with the Heady Topper yeast had a more pronounced bitterness and hop flavor with a balancing malt profile. I instantly fell in love with the head topper yeast.

Filling kegs of Amber from the Conical

Filling kegs of Amber from the Conical

The recipe below is the batch that was fermented with that yeast. The recipe has its roots in Brewing Classic Styles as the west coast blaster. BCS is an excellent book and one that I have gotten many recipes for over the years. This is the fifth time this recipe has been brewed and I must say this is one of my favorite versions so far. The third batch of this recipe won a first place out of 59 American Ales in the 2013 National Homebrew Competition round 1. The name comes from one of my good friends, Tribes, for whom I usually split this beer with. He loves the hop flavor and aroma balanced by the caramel and toasty malt sweetness. Now let’s get to the recipe.

Tribes Amber (Batch Number 151)

10B – American Amber Ale
Recipe for 12 gallons Post Boil


18lb/80.1% Breiss 2-Row
1.5lb/6.7% Breiss Caramel 20L
1lb/4.3% Weyerman Munich
.75lb/3.3% Breiss Caramel 120L
0.75lb/3.3% Breiss Victory
0.5lb/2.2% Fawcett Pale Chocolate


1 oz US Horizon 10.3 % 60 Min
1 oz US Centennial 10.0 % At Flameout
1 oz US Cascade 6.3 % At Flameout
2 oz US Centennial 6.3 % 10 min into whirlpool
2 oz US Cascade 8.9 % 10 min into whirlpool


Heady topper bottle culture pitched approx 420 billion cells.


Strike: 7.5 gal, 4.9g caso4, 2.9g cacl2, 1.7 ml phosphoric 85%
Sparge: 9 gal, 5.9g caso4, 3.4g cacl2, 3.1 ml phosphoric 85%

CA 88
MG 10
NA 3
SO4 111
CL 50
HCO3 46

Mash Schedule

Maintain 151 for 1 hr then mash out through recirculation to 168.

Measurements and Calculations

Wort Volume Before Boil:13.00 US gals
Wort Volume After Boil:12.00 US gals
Volume Transferred:11.25 US gals
Volume Of Finished Beer:10.00 US gals
Pre-Boil Gravity:1.054 SG
OG:1.060 SG
FG:1.016 SG
Apparent Attenuation:72.2 %
ABV:5.8 %
IBU:36.6 IBU
Color:13.3 SRM
Mash Efficiency:85.6 %
Mash pH: 5.3
Fermentation Temp: 66 ?F
Fast ferment test: 1.014

Process Notes

Measured the Mash pH at 5.32 at 72?18 min into the mash. Ran a slow lauter and sparge and collected 12.5 gal of wort. Overshot gravity and undershot volume so I added 0.5 gal water to hit 13 gal and 1.054 pre boil gravity.
Rolling 60 min boil. Added bittering hops at beginning of boil. Added 1/2tsp rehydrated Supermoss HB and 1 tsp Wyeast nutrient at 10 min. Killed flame and added 2 oz hop charge. Whirlpooled in boil kettle for 15 min then shut off pump and added 4 oz hop charge. Let hops steep for another 5 min then started racking to conical at 63.
Used a heady topper yeast that was built up from a slant. 10ml-> 250ml->2.6L for 420 billion cells. Oxygenated wort for 2min and pitched entire starter. Active fermentation within 21 hrs and by 40 hrs was fully fermenting. After 10 days cold crash to 40 degrees and let settle for 4 more days. Rack under pressure into two kegs. Carbonate at 2.5 vol CO2.

Tasting Notes

The Heady Topper Yeast accentuated the citrus and grapefruit flavors and aromas of the hops. Also developed a fruity sweet ester profile that complements very nicely. Malt is mainly caramel and toast and nicely balanced by the bitterness. Nice white head with good retention and fine bubbles. Medium mouthfeel with a fairly dry finish. When I brew this again I would like the beer to attenuate a bit more to lower the malt sweetness.