Brewing an Amarillo Blonde Ale
Making beer is a balancing act. Of course, I want to make beers that I enjoy, but I enjoy Pale Ales and IPAs. The people who help drink my brews mostly find favor with lighter, less hoppy styles. Sure I could brew the beers that I want, and try to perfect my favorite styles, but then I’d never get to brew. If I’m the only one drinking the beer, it takes a LONG time to get through it all. After seeing the response to my recent lighter styles, I’ve decided to spend some time focusing on a few lighter beers that I can keep around for guest. My love of brewing has managed to surpass my love of drinking (amazing, really), so I’m happy drinking anything I make, as long as I get to make more sooner.
So I set out to make a lighter beer. I was really happy with the Ledbetter Blonde that I’d made, but I wasn’t ready to repeat a recipe, so I made the decision to take the Blonde base, but change up the hops. As I tweak any recipe, my goal is always to see how different variables effect the end result. I have a fascination with single hopped beers, lately, because it really puts the focus on just one hop. The beers may not end up as interesting (or good), but it’s cool to be able to isolate a hops characteristics in order to use that knowledge later. Not sure why, but I picked Amarillo.
Ingredients: All-Grain Blonde Ale
- 8 lb German Pilsener malt
- 1 lb Munich malt
- .5 lb Carafoam
- .5 flaked Wheat
- .3 oz Amarillo (8.5%) – added during boil, boiled 60 min
- .7 oz Amarillo (8.5%) – added during boil, boiled 20 min
- .5 oz Amarillo (8.5%) – added during boil, end of boil
1 ea Safale S-05 – Reused from Black IPA
Additional Details / Notes
- SG 1.058 / FG 1.013
- 5.91% ABV
- Brewed 03/19/11, Secondary 04/02/2011, Kegged & Bottled 04/16/2011
- Efficiency 81% – Attenuation 78% (from Beer Tools)
- Fermentation temps: ~60° in Primary, ~64° Secondary
Mash & Boil
I had a new product to try out for the mash on this one. 5.2 pH Stabilizer is supposed to level out your pH to 5.2, which in theory would give you better efficiency. I had added to another order I made a while back. I figured it was worth trying out. Comparing my efficiency from this batch vs. my original Blonde Ale with identical grains and temps, I did get increased efficiency. Cool.
My mash calculator told me 3.38 gallons of strike water at 165° to get down to 152°. As usual, I shot high and had to cool to about 153° before I put the lid on. After about ten minutes I realized I’d neglected to add the Wheat, so I tossed it on the top and recapped. Just before the end of the mash, I drained the first gallon of wort, then poured it gently back over the top. Next up, I started my ~hour long sparge at 170°.
The boil went pretty standard. I used a single hop, and it was a little higher alpha acid than the previously used hops, so I only had 3 smallish additions to make. I dropped in Whirlfloc and the Wort Chiller for the last 10 minutes of the boil. I cooled outdoors using the hose, which goes pretty quick in March.
While the wort was cooling, I was also racking my Black IPA to the secondary, so that I could reuse it’s yeast cake. Sometimes when reusing yeast I will sanitize a fresh fermenting bucket and scoop the yeast in to that. Most of the time, though, I take the lazy route. I wipe the away the old krausen with a sanitized cloth, and just strain my cooled wort on to the yeast cake in the same bucket. Finally, I oxygenated the cooled wort for about 40 seconds with my new oxygen tank.
Fermentation went well. I kept the primary in the temp controlled beer fridge at 60° for the first 2 weeks. After racking to the secondary, I placed the carboy in a closet at about 63°. I bottled this batch in to 2 growlers, 9 bottles, and a keg.
Drinking the Amarillo Blonde Ale
I really liked the predecessor to this beer. The Saaz and Hallertau were great on this bready base. The Amarillo hops are made for a nice beer, but they didn’t completely compliment the beer’s base… at first. To me, the Amarillo had a nice, subtle citrus edge to it. Closest to tangerine or orange than anything else, I thought. Once again, I was really happy with this grain bill on this beer. It may not play as well with citrus hops, but it’s such a smooth, golden base, that it’s just crisp and refreshing. I don’t think I liked this one as well as the Ledbetter Blonde, but I did really like it. The hop combination could be improved, but it’s an overall nice Spring/Summer beer. I’ll likely use this same recipe for future single hop ales.
Update: Being a Blonde, I ran through this beer pretty quick, but there were a few survivors that made it to late June. This beer aged amazingly well. The hops and malt have really come together, and it turns out that this is one of the better beers I’ve made. Quite nice, actually. Go figure.