Citra ‘Dirty’ Blonde Ale
One of my favorite aspects of beer brewing is playing with different types of hops. It’s amazing how many different types of hops there are, and how unique each variety can be within a beer. I’d recently had a few beers using a heavy dose of the Citra Hop. Widmer, especially, has managed to create a couple of beers I really enjoy that employ the Citra. I’m not entirely sure how I decided on the grain bill, but it’s pretty similar to my Blonde Ale I made previously. It uses less Munich, more Carapils, and no wheat. I kept the hop additions very neutral for the style. I’ve had bad luck with super hoppy beers, so I wanted to err on the weak side.
Ingredients: Citra Blonde Ale
- 8 lb German 2-row Pils
- 3 lb Munich malt
- .7 lb Carafoam
- .3 oz Citra (10.3%) – added during boil, boiled 60 min
- .3 oz Cascade (5%) – added during boil, boiled 30 min
- .2 oz Citra (10.3%) – added during boil, boiled 30 min
- .5 oz Cascade (5%) – added during boil, boiled 5 min
- .6 oz Citra (10.3%) – added during boil, boiled 0 min
Additional Details / Notes
- SG 1.048 / FG 1.005
- 5.6% ABV
- Brewed 08/27/11. Racked to Secondary 09/11/11. Bottled 09/29/11.
Brewing the Citra Blonde Ale
Heated 2.8 gal of (2.6g/1.3g RO/Tap) strike water to 165°. Was a couple degrees hot, but stirred to get to about 153°. Also added 1tsp of 5.2 pH balancer. I let this sit for an hour, while boiling the leftover water +4 gallons (2RO/2Tap) on the stove. I’ve never properly termed it before, but after letting the mash rest for an hour, I always do a vorlauf. The vorlauf is the process of recirculating the wort over the top of the grain bed in order to increase filtration and clarify the wort. A new term!
I did the sparge as I normally would, but it’s worth noting that this batch taught me a lesson about the water temperature used for sparging. I’d always gotten the water above 170°, added to my HLT and let it rip. My eventual issues with this batch and the previous Black IPA caused me to look in to sparging temps, only to realize I’d likely been erring on the hot side a little too often. I probably wasn’t overheating the grain bed, but the possibility of extracting excessive tannins from overly hot water was certainly there. I’ve since made sure to use water right at about 170°, but not hotter.
The boil went pretty smooth on this batch. Used the turkey fryer outdoors, which had me to a rolling boil in about 30 minutes. I let it roll for about 25 minutes before my first hop addition. As usual, I added the Wort Chiller and Whirlfloc at 10min. Cooling took about 30 minutes, and the eventual pitch was about 87°. The yeast was scooped from the bed of the Black IPA that had just been racked to the secondary. NOT a great choice to reuse Black IPA yeast on a Blonde Ale without washing first. Added 40 seconds of oxygen before capping the fermenter. As I love to do, I grabbed a sample to test gravity, but left it on the counter overnight without writing it down. It fermented…
This brew sat for the usual 2 weeks in the primary before being racked to the secondary. I aged this my standard two weeks before it came time to bottle. The final gravity on this batch is LOW. Either very high attenuation or my original efficiency was low, I wish I knew this part. The taste at this point was GREAT. Light citra, sweet body, tangy but not tart. This would change.
I tried a bottle just a few days after bottling, and it was actually fully carbonated already. The taste was decent, but already not as nice as I’d thought it was before bottling. As weeks passed, this trend would continue. As with the Black IPA… this batch has an issue. Both batches have a very specific excessive bitterness partnered with an overall dryness and excessive carbonation. I’d considered an overly hot sparge, but with such a drastic change from Secondary to bottle, I think dirty equipment has to be the culprit. I ended up buying a heavy duty detergent and soaking all my equipment, replacing all hoses and canes. This was my last batch bad. THANKFULLY!
Drinking the Citra Dirty Blonde Ale
So yeah, judging this batch is tough. Honestly most people I’ve served it to just think it’s a hoppy IPA, but not a great beer. The Citra hop is such a unique hop that it’s hard to taste where the Citra ends and the contamination begins. In all honesty, I’d pour it down the drain just like the Black IPA if it weren’t for so many people around me willing to drink it. I hate the taste of failure.
Based on the taste going in to the secondary, I think the recipe was probably decent. I think American 2-row might be a better choice to pair with a citrusy hop. I’ve got a batch coming up where I actually did just that, and it turned out great. Stay tuned!