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

Malts

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)

Hops

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

Yeast

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

Water

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

Mash

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.

Boil

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.

Fermentation

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

Saison and the Owls

Saison and the Owls

Sometimes I decide on what recipe to brew based on ingredients I have kicking around. Maybe I have a sack of Maris Otter so I will brew a streak of British Beers or a lot of american hops so I’ll do a streak of IPA’s.  In this case, I had a container of ECY30 Brettanomyces naardenensis that I bought from Al at a home-brew club meeting and some Danstar Belle Saison dry yeast packets given out at the National Homebrew Conference. These two yeasts could work very well together so I came up with a saison recipe based loosely on some rye saisons The Mad Fermentationist has over on his blog. For the base beer malt selection the rye adds some color and a subtle spiciness, the wheat should help with head retention, and the pale would result in a fuller malt flavor.

Saison aging with Brett

Saison aging with Brett

Overall I was really impressed with the performance of the Belle Saison yeast. I rehydrated the two packets, pitched into 68* wort, and had fermentation activity within 30 hrs. I set the BCS controller to slowly ramp the beer up to 75* over 3 days and then hold there. The beer finished off at 1.006 with a great balance of dryness and sweet fermentation esters. The rye was definitely background and I would go up to 30% if I really wanted to have it as a prominent flavor. I kegged 5 gallons of the beer and the other 5 gallons I racked into a glass carboy and pitched the Brett. It has been aging for about three months now and I plan to give it another three before sampling.

Saison with Rye (Batch Number 146)

16C – Saison
Recipe for 11.5 gallons Post Boil

Malts

9 lb/43.9% Dingemans Belgian Pilsner
6 lb/28.6% Breiss Pale Ale
4 lb/19% Breiss Rye
2 lb/9.5% Weyerman German Wheat

Hops

3 oz Slovenian Styrian Goldings 3.8 % 60 Min
2 oz Slovenian Styrian Goldings 3.5 % 10 min

Yeast

Danstar Belle Saison Dry Yeast – 2 Packets
East Coast Yeast ECY 30 Brett Naardenesis – 1 vial

Mash pH measurement

Mash pH measurement

Water

Strike: 7 gal, 3.5g caso4, 2.1g cacl2, 57.4 ml phosphoric 10%
Sparge: 9.25 gal, 4.6g caso4, 2.8g cacl2, 51.4 ml phosphoric 10%
CA 106
MG 10
NA 3
SO4 66
CL 29
HCO3 0

Mash Schedule

Strike at 131 and hold for 10 min. Raise heat to 149 and hold for 40 min. Mash out to 168. All temperature increases via recirculation and heating HLT.

Measurements and Calculations

Wort Volume Before Boil:13.00 US gals
Wort Volume After Boil:11.5 US gals
Volume Transferred:10.75 US gals
Volume Of Finished Beer:10.00 US gals
Pre-Boil Gravity:1.050 SG
OG:1.056 SG
FG:1.006 SG
Apparent Attenuation:88.8 %
ABV:6.6 %
IBU(Rager):28 IBU
Color (Morey): 4 SRM
Mash Efficiency:83.6 %
Mash pH: 5.35
Fermentation Temp: 75 ?F
Fast ferment test: 1.005

Process Notes

Measured the Mash pH at 5.36 at 78? 14 min into the mash. Ran a slow lauter and sparge and collected 13 gal of wort.

Rolling 90 min boil. Added bittering hops 30 min into boil. Added ½ tsp rehydrated Supermoss HB and 1 tsp Wyeast nutrient at 10 min. After 90 min, whirlpooled in boil kettle for 5 min then shut off pump to let settle. Racked into conical (first batch in conical) at 65*.

Filling the Conical post boil. This was its maiden voyage.

Filling the Conical post boil. This was its maiden voyage.

Used Danstar Belle Saison dry yeast that I got for free at the National Homebrew Conference in Philadelphia. Oxygenated wort for 2min. Redydrated both packets and pitched into wort. Active fermentation within 30 hrs. After 10 days cold crash to 35 degrees and let settle for 3 more days. Rack under pressure into one keg and the other 5 gallons I racked into a 5 gallon glass carboy. Pitched oen vial of ECY30 into carboy and let sit at room temperature. Carbonated keg at 3 vol CO2.

Tasting Notes

The carboy has been aging on Brett for almost three months now and I will let it go another three before tasting. Al Buck from East Coast Yeast recommends giving this Brett some time to age. The kegged batch is almost gone but has been very enjoyable. A lot of this beer is about the fermentation and I would definitely use this dry yeast again! It dried the beer out nicely while not being too dry because there are plenty of sweet alcohols and esters to balance. The rye and pale malt work very well together for a subtle complexity. Its going to be tough waiting another three months to taste the brett version.

Judging Setup at NHC Round 1

Judging Setup at NHC Round 1

On Saturday I had the pleasure of participating in the 1st round of judging of the National Homebrew Competition. This was my first time judging at NHC and I was very excited to say the least. The first round of NHC is held at 12 different judging location centers across the country over about three weeks. My local regional judging was at Singlecut Beersmiths in Queens, NY. Each region evaluates about 750 entries over the 28 BJCP categories. The top three placers in each category then advance to the final round which is judged as part of the National Homebrewers Conference. This year’s conference will be held in Grand Rapids Michigan and I will be attending with some friends from my homebrew club.

The drive into one of the boroughs can always be a bit hectic for me but it went pretty smoothly at 8 in the morning. I arrived at Singlecut and my good judging buddy Tom pulled up and parked behind me. Inside the brewery we were treated to some bagels and coffee for breakfast and got to mingle with the other judges. There were a lot of familiar faces from when we judged at Homebrew Alley in February. After some milling about we finally got down to business and Chris Cuzme announced the judging assignments. I was sent over to category 16, Belgian and

Judges in Action

Judges in Action

French Ale, with 7 other judges. There was something like 50 entries in that category. I sat next to Josh who was judging his first competition so we went over the process a bit before jumping into our beers. For this competition we used the BJCP checklist style score sheets instead of the standard written score sheets. Click the link to see what these sheets look like.

There was a bit of a learning curve at first with this style score sheet but once we got the hang of it we seemed to cruise right along and it probably saved about 2-3 minutes a beer. My only problem with this style score sheet was that, at first, it made me hunt for some of the flavor descriptors in the beers. For example, I might not have necessarily written that I perceive a grainy malt aroma, but since the word was put in front of me I thought, “hmm yes I do slightly smell a grainy malt flavor”. So I checked the box. After I got through the first one though, I became more comfortable with the sheet and checked boxes as appropriate. There was also a lot less room to write brewing feedback so I feel I didn’t provide as much as usual.

The category had some really excellent beers with the majority of entries being in Saison 16C and Belgian Specialty 16E categories. Some of the 100% Brett Fermentation examples were particularly exciting. My judge partner and I chose three beers to send to the mini best of show, which I had the privilege of sitting on. For the mini BOS there were 8 beers in total.

Mini BOS for Belgian and French

Mini BOS for Belgian and French

We poured samples of all 8 and made our own personal notes. This is such an exciting process especially knowing that the chosen three get to move on to the finals. I won’t go into who won since the results are not posted yet but I will say that the caliber of beer was pretty awesome! My flight was one of the last to finish up since there were so many entries. I really needed to get some lunch so I immediately went and at the sandwiches provided when we were finished. After what felt like only 15 min we jumped into the second round.

Both Tom and I were assigned to the Specialty category and we decided to sit down and judge together. This ended up being really fun since we did all of our studying together and were really comfortable sharing our perceptions. Specialty is a fun category to judge since it is basically a catch all for all for any beer that does not fit in another

Judging the mini BOS for Specialty

Judging the mini BOS for Specialty

category. One of the keys to being successful in this category is what information you give the judges about what makes the beer special. Sometime too much information does not help since, if it is specified, the judge should really be able to perceive it in the beer. The beers that were the most successful only specified the dominate flavors. Two of the beers we judged were clear standouts and it was an easy decision on what to send to the mini BOS. Our table of 6 judges decided to have 4 judges sit at the Mini BOS so Tom and I flipped a coin for which of us would take part. He won, but I got to sit and watch. It was a good thing I was there because I got to be the tie breaker for one of the final placement decisions. There were some heated and exciting discussions on which beers to place and which to send home. The two that Tom and I judged ended up placing which was pretty exciting.

Mini BOS for Specialty

Mini BOS for Specialty

After all of the judging was over, Tom and I stuck around for our free pint from Singlecut. I had their 19-33 Queens Lagerrr which was a much needed clean and easy drinking beer after two long flavorful flights. All in all I evaluated 25 beers over the two sessions. Sitting around the towering conical fermenters at Singlecut was a wonderful judging setting. Once in a while a waft of co2 blowoff from fermentation would hit us, but that was easy to judge under. The Judging seemed well organized and well run. Thank you to all of the folks at New York City Homebrewers Guild for putting on a successful event. Now we just all have to wait for the results to come out!