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All-Grain Honey Ale

A homebrewing friend recently made a variation of the “Honey Steamer” recipe found on BYO’s website. It turned out great, and I wanted to see if I could pull off a similar all-grain version of the same thing. I’d purchased Beer Tools just before deciding to make this batch, so it was the first I really got to run through that program (which I love, btw).

I made quite a few changes from the original recipe, but kept it fairly in line with a California Common using Honey as an adjunct. I used Northern Brewer hops, which would be common for a Common, but I opted not to use the traditional lager yeast used, so I don’t even refer to mine as a beer of that style. It’s a light beer that is hopped with Northern Brewer, but that’s about where the similarities end.

This batch reuses the yeast from my Blonde Ale. My goal so far this year has been to get multiple batches out of each packet of yeast. The Blonde Ale was the first of many batches to use Safale S-05, which this Honey Ale and the upcoming “Leftover Ale” will reuse. I like to play with variables in my brewing, so I’d decided to use the same yeast for a while as a way to limit the changing effects of the yeast on each batch.

Ingredients: All-Grain Honey Ale

Fermentables

  • 7.5 lb American 2-Row
  • .5 lb Caramel Malt 40L
  • 1.8 lb Honey – added at end of boil, (0 min)

Hop Additions

  • 1 oz Northern Brewer (8%) – added during boil, boiled 40 min
  • 1 oz Northern Brewer (8%) – added during boil, boiled 10 min

Yeast

  • 1 ea Safale US-05 (dry yeast) – reused from Blonde Ale

Additional Details / Notes

  • SG 1.056 / FG 1.006
  • 6.46% ABV
  • Brewed: 01/15/2011, Secondary: 1/29/2011, Kegged & Bottled: 2/12/2011
  • Efficiency 82% – Attenuation 89% (from Beer Tools)
  • Fermentation temps: ~60° in Primary, ~64° Secondary

Mash & Boil

As with my Blonde Ale, I diluted my tap water with filtered water to remove some of the hardness. Overall, I kept the water ratio about 3 gal jug to 2 gal tap. I call the RO water “jug”, as I have been refilling 5 gallon jugs at the grocery store. With the use of Honey in this recipe, the amount of grains is the smallest I’ve used on a batch to this point. I managed to use my mash calculator incorrectly on this batch, so I used 3.5 gal of strike water at 166°. I’d measured for 9 lbs of grain instead of 8, so I had extra water, and it came in a little hot. Hot was easily fixed with ice. I was originally concerned with the extra water, but I don’t think the extra .8 gallons was a major disaster. Once things leveled out, my mash temp came in at 153°. After an hour in the mash, I ran the first gallon of drained wort back over the grains, then started the sparge at 170° for about an hour.

The weather was okay on brew day, so I was able to use my turkey fryer setup outside for the boil. The wort originally takes about 30 minutes to get to a rolling boil, which I let run for about 20 minutes before starting 60min boil clock. This batch had an EASY boil, with just 40 & 20 minute Northern Brewer additions. I dropped in the Wort Chiller with 10 minutes to go, then stirred in the Honey at flame out. Forgot to add Whirlfloc, but would have added that with the chiller if I’d remembered.

I was able to brew outside for this one, but it was too cold for hose water. I was forced to use the Wort Chiller in the kitchen sink. This isn’t the fastest option, so it took about 45 min to get down to 70°.

Fermentation & Reused Yeast

Here’s where this batch gets kind of fun. For just the second time, I wanted to try reusing yeast from a previous batch of beer. In this case, I planned my Honey Ale brew day to coincide with the day I racked my Blonde Ale to the secondary. While I was cooling the Honey Ale, I was also racking over the Blonde. This times out perfect to reduce the amount of time the yeast is left exposed to air. I decided to go ahead and pour my Honey Ale wort right on top of the old yeast cake, and not transfer both to a new fermentation vessel. The Blonde had left behind a krausen ring, though, so I wiped it away with a sanitized cloth. I also left behind a bit of the Blonde Ale, which I swirled and poured off to get rid of some of the hop chunks from the top of the yeast cake. Maybe not the safest practice, but it worked.

Now that the Primary is ready for action, I put my strainer on top and strained the cooled wort in to the bucket. This removes a good portion of the hops from the wort, as well as doing a little to aerate the wort. Once the wort is poured over, I gave it a good stir to get the yeast mixed in, then I capped the fermenter. In addition to the existing yeast cake, I’d added more than 5 gallons of wort, so there wasn’t a great amount of head space in the fermenter. I decided to use a blow off tube instead of an airlock, just in case things got overly active. Turns out this was a VERY good decision. The fermentation on this batch was really aggressive. I’d used a small container filled with sanitizer as an air lock, and things were so active that that container filled with bubbles and eventually overflowed. I have a feeling I would have had a pretty sweet explosion if I had used a normal bubbler.

I gave this batch 2 weeks in the primary at ~60°, another 2 weeks in the Secondary about 64°, then bottled half & kegged the rest. Same as the Blonde Ale, I used 3/4 c. of priming sugar for all. Again, no problems with settled crud in the keg from this process.

Drinking the Honey Ale

I had really high hopes for this batch, but it didn’t really live up to the hype. Side by side with my Blonde Ale, this one is nowhere near as good. There’s nothing especially bad about it. Once again, the use of filtered water made for a really smooth beer, and I think my process was perfect again on this one, too. My recipe here is to blame for any displeasure I have. While the Honey doesn’t provide a sweetness that you might associate with Honey, there is a specific flavor that it contributes. As a dominant flavor in the beer, the honey flavor isn’t really that impressive. I’d like to see it backed off a bit and supplemented with something a little better as a beer flavor – Carapils or Honey Malt, maybe. If the honey wasn’t to blame, the conservative hop additions would be. I kept it at 2 oz so I wouldn’t have to spend the additional money, but I think another ounce or more would have been better. I’d like more bittering and more flavor from the hops.

Complaints aside, I’m damn proud that I pulled off a second light all-grain beer. I’m not in love with this one, but it’s still one I’m glad to serve to people. It stands up as a decent homebrew, just not a keeper. Next batch up is my “Leftover Ale”, which used this yeast for a third time!

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