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

Water chemistry was always one of those aspects of brewing that I thought was too advanced for me. I would always tell myself “I’ll get to that eventually” and just kept on brewing without giving it a second thought. My beer was alright but certain styles just didn’t seem to be as crisp or clean as they should be. Finally one day I decided to take the leap and start learning about water adjustments. So where did I start? Bru’n Water!

LaMotte BrewLab Case

 

Martin Brungard (now a member of the AHA governing committee) came up with a very user friendly spreadsheet that allows you to enter your water parameters and then make real time adjustments tailored to any beer style. His first sheet in the workbook has some excellent explanations of how and why you should adjust different aspects of your water. It goes over the sulfate to chloride ratio, acidifying your sparge water, adjusting for mash pH, calcium levels, and countless other parameters to check. The best part is that all of this is free! You can donate to him via paypal and you will receive an even more user friendly workbook. If you like his product I highly recommend a donation!

In order to begin making adjustments to your water you need to know what your water parameters are to begin with. You 100% cannot begin adding salts or acids unless you know what you are working with. Even if you buy bottled water from the store you do not know the alkalinity, pH, calcium, sulfate, chlorite, etc of that water unless it is distilled or RO. This is where the LaMotte BrewLab comes into play. Before I found the BrewLab I used services of Ward Labs. They are a great resource for brewers but the costs can add up. It is $40 for the full test plus you have to pay for shipping. The BrewLab is good for at least 50 tests and costs $125 before shipping. That works out to $2.50 per test. While Ward Labs gives you results that are much more precise, the BrewLab gets you in the ballpark which is good enough (if not better) for our purposes.

LaMotte BrewLab Organization

When playing with Bru’n Water you should not be concerned with + or – a few ppm. All of these numbers are just guides to get you within a range. In reality your source water changes frequently and a test performed in Spring may read significantly different than a test performed in the Fall. Road Salt alone can have a huge affect on the Sodium and Chloride levels. That is why it is valuable to perform frequent water tests. Some professional breweries do this daily!

The BrewLab contains the following tests: Total Hardness, Calcium Hardness, Chloride, Sulfate, and Total Alkalinity. You can then take these values and calculate: Magnesium Hardness, Magnesium, Calcium, Sodium, Bicarbonate, and Residual Alkalinity. These are all the major ions you need in order to adjust water for flavor and pH. The BrewLab Plus comes with a pH meter. I use the BrewLab basic since I already had a pH meter.

The first test is for total hardness which consists of three steps. You fill one of their test tubes to the 10ppm level, add 5 drops of hardness reagent #5, and then add a hardness reagent tablet #6. Once the tables is dissolved you start adding and counting drops of hardness reagent #7. Each drop equals 10 ppm until the solution changes from red to blue.

Hardness Test Step 1 Hardness Test Step 2 Hardness Test Pre Reagent Hardness Test Reagent Drops Hardness Test Color Change

The next test is to determine calcium hardness. Using the same test tube you fill it to the 10ppm level and add 6 drops of sodium hydroxide reagent. Then you add a calcium hardness tablet and swirl to dissolve. Using the hardness reagent #7 again you add and count drops. Each drop equals 10ppm. Once you have this value you can calculate the magnesium hardness by subtracting the calcium hardness from the total hardness. Using multiplication factors you then can calculate the calcium and magnesium levels.

Calcium Hardness Test Step 1 Calcium Hardness Test Step 2 Calcium Hardness Test

The next two tests are for the individual chloride and sulfate ions. The chloride test uses a different test tube with a 25ml sample. You add 5 drops of chloride reagent A which turns the solution yellow. Next you add and count drops of silver nitrate until the solution turns orange-brown. Each drop equals 10ppm. For the sulfate test you use the same tube with a 5 ml sample. You add a sulfate turb tablet and shake until it dissolves. You then immediately place the tube on the target to see how cloudy the sample is. This test is the only one that I feel is not precise enough as it has a 50ppm resolution. This will get you in a range though and you can use the bru’n water spreadsheet to help approximate what the level should be between your observed range.

Chloride Test Before Change Chloride Test After ChangeSulfate TestSulfate Turbidity Test

The last BrewLab test is for total alkalinity. Using the same test tube as the previous two tests with a 25ml sample, you add three drops of the total alkalinity indicator and swirl until the sample turns green. You then add and count drops of sulfuric acid until the solution turns red. Each drop equals 10ppm. The bicarbonate, residual alkalinity, and sodium can then be calculated once this value is obtained.

Total Alkalinity Test Total Alkalinity Test Post Change

The final thing to test is your pH. Using a calibrated and well maintained pH meter you easily measure your sample. I had some evil water the day I was running these tests.

Devil Water

Devil Water

The BrewLab is easy and intuitive to use and gives the home brewer valuable water parameters that can be confidently used to adjust your water. A good way to offset the price tag is to offer tests to your home-brew club. I have been doing this for my club with positive reviews so far. Once the kit is paid of you can use it as a club fundraiser.