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Ledbetter Blonde Ale : All-Grain Brew

After several batches of beer that aren’t exactly “crowd pleasers”, I decided it was time to make something a little less interesting.  Reading through the Radical Brewing book, I found a recipe for what they call “Bambi’s Best Blonde Ale.”  A Blonde Ale seemed like a pretty safe bet, as it’s not overly hoppy and isn’t going to be too dark colored.  This was just my third All Grain batch of brew, so a recipe out of a book was also a good idea.  I’m all about reducing the number of ways I can screw up a batch!

Ingredients:  All-Grain Blonde Ale

Fermentables

  • 8 lb German Pilsener malt
  • 1 lb Munich malt
  • .5 lb Carafoam
  • .5 flaked Wheat

Hop Additions

  • 1 oz Hallertau (3.2%) – added during boil, boiled 60 min
  • .5 oz Hallertau (3.2%) – added during boil, boiled 20 min
  • 1.5 oz Saaz (3.8%) – added during boil, boiled 20 min
  • .5 oz Hallertau (3.2%) – added during boil, end of boil
  • .5 oz Saaz (3.8%) – added during boil, end of boil

Yeast

  • 1 ea Safale S-05 (dry yeast)

Additional Details / Notes

  • SG 1.054 / FG 1.010
  • 5.68% ABV
  • Brewed 12/31/10, Secondary 1/15/2011, Kegged & Bottled 1/19/2011
  • Efficiency 76% – Attenuation 80% (from Beer Tools)
  • Fermentation temps:  ~60° in Primary, ~64° Secondary

The Mash

Before brewing this batch I talked to the guy at my LHBS and he mentioned that we have really hard water through the Winter months, and it’s a good idea to either create your own or dilute it.  He suggested using reverse osmosis water from the grocery store to dilute our tap water in order to reduce hardness and pH.  For my strike water, I decided to go with 3 gallons of RO water to 2 gallons of tap water.

My mash calculator told me to use 3.5 gallons of strike water at 166° to start the mash at 152°.  It would have told me 3.0 if I had entered things in correctly… but that’s beside the point.  Anyways… I came out too hot and had to cool with ice.  This also meant I had about 1/2 a gallon more water than was suggested, as well.  Turns out this can be a problem, but not necessarily.

While my grains were taking their bath on hot water, I started my sparge water heating.  I used the remaining 1.5 gallons of 3/2 RO water along with 2 additional gallons of RO water and 1 gallon of tap.  I heated this to 170°.  Before starting the sparge, I recycled about 2 gallons of the wort, pouring it back over the top of the grains.  Then I let the sparge run for about an hour, collecting just over 6 gallons of wort.

Boil & Fermentation

The Winter weather sucked the day I made this batch, so I decided to test my ability to boil a 5 gallon batch on my stove.  Things moved along a little slower than usual, but in all reality it worked just fine.  Good to know…  Also worth noting is how crazy green these hops were.  I’d never used Saaz or Hallertau, but both were BRIGHT green colored.

I like to let an all-grain batch boil for 15-30 minutes before adding any hops.  I read someplace that it’s good for removing astringent flavors from the grains, if there happen to be any present.  After about a 20 minute boil, I made my first hop addition of 1oz Hallertau hops.  The next hop additions didn’t come for another 40 minutes, at which time I added .5 oz Hallertau and 1.5 oz Saaz.  The original recipe called for 1.25 Hallertau, but I am a cheap ass and decided to save money and buy one less package of hops.  At 15 minutes left I dropped in a Whirlfloc tablet and my Wort Chiller.  The final hop addition was added at flame out.  .5 oz each of Hallertau and Saaz.

I chilled indoors using my kitchen sink as the water source.  This worked pretty well, actually, as I had the ability to use very cold water.  Cooling took about 35min to 78°.  I pitched my yeast packet to the top of the wort and let site for about 5 minutes, then vigorously stirred it in before capping the bucket and placing in the fermentation fridge.

I set my fridge temp to be about 57° for the first few days of fermentation.  The wort temp hung out around 63° for most of this time.  By the fourth day I raised the temp to about 61° for both.  After two weeks I racked the beer to a glass carboy secondary and placed in a dark closet at 64°.  I saved the yeast cake for use in the Honey Ale that followed this batch.

This beer didn’t need to do much clearing, and I was eager to drink it, so I bottled and kegged after only 4 days in the secondary.  This started a long run of 1/2 and half batches.  Half the brew gets bottled, while half is kegged.  This is a best of both worlds where I get great beers on tap, and have a good bunch to take with me to share.  Nothing special to the process.  I dissolve 3/4 c. of priming sugar in to the beer as I rack it to the bottling bucket.  I fill as many bottles as I feel the urge, then drain the rest in to a keg.  I pressurize the keg as usual.  I don’t know if the sugar provides and CO2 there, but I haven’t seen it settle or come out through the tap, either.

A Beer Worth Naming!

I’ve had a lot of okay beers since I started brewing.  I’ve had a few beers that I’d like to forget, and a couple that I’ll try again in the future.  This was the first beer I was completely excited about.  Typically I’m not a fan of a Blonde Ale, but this one is great.  I tasted this one when I racked it to the secondary, and I knew then that I was on to something.  It’s smooth and light, with an awesome bread/biscuit quality to the malt.  The Saaz and Hallertau are a great spicy, earthy compliment to the malt.  I love citrus hops, so I think I was just excited to taste something so different that tastes so good.  Oddly enough, some of the great flavor is lost once this beer is chilled and carbonated.  In the end, it’s a VERY smooth beer with a nice creamy head from the wheat used.

This beer is very well received by boring beer drinkers, but I often feel the need to defend it to my more advanced drinkers.  It’s perfectly light and tasty, but lacks anything that gives it a solid identity.  I fully succeeded in my goal of making a crowd pleasing light beer with some character, and I’ll definitely use this base to make some more experimental beers in the future.  I fully plan to brew this again, so I hath dubbed this and future versions to be my “Ledbetter Blonde Ale“.

Reused the yeast from this batch in the Honey Ale that followed.

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