PM#7 – Big Dawg Imperial Amber Ale

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This is going to be my first attempt at a West-Coast American IPA. This generally means a very heavily hopped ale with vast quantities of late hops to preserve the intense citrus flavour and aroma. This will be my first time using the Summit hop, a variety which tends to divide brewers, so I’m hedging my bets and adding equal quantities of Cascade, a perennial favourite of craft/home brewers.

I’ll be taking some inspiration from The Mad Fermentationist and attempting to make this an “amber” IPA. For this I’ll be doing colour adjustments using chocolate malt. I’ve got some wheat malt and biscuit malt in there for head retention and a bready flavour respectively. I’ll also be adding a little corn sugar to increase the attenuation and ensure that this high-gravity beer doesn’t taste too syrupy.

This is the most heavily hopped beer I’ve done to date, with close to 200g going into a 15 litre batch. Brewdog, eat your heart out! 🙂

Recipe Specifications

Boil Size: 12.00 l
Post Boil Volume: 10.11 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 15.00 l
Bottling Volume: 15.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.071 SG
Estimated Color: 16.3 SRM
Estimated IBU: 69.9 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 65.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 1.500 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM)
  • 0.350 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (40.0 SRM)
  • 0.160 kg Wheat Malt, Ger (2.0 SRM)
  • 0.120 kg Biscuit Malt (23.0 SRM)
  • 0.039 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt -100L (100.0 SRM)
  • 0.039 kg Chocolate Malt (530.0 SRM)
  • 0.600 kg Light Dry Extract (8.0 SRM)
  • 15 g Summit [15.50 %] – Boil 60.0 min 37.6 IBUs
  • 0.900 kg Light Dry Extract [Boil for 20 min](8.0 SRM)
  • 0.180 kg Corn Sugar (Dextrose) [Boil for 20 min]
  • 0.39 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 mins)
  • 24 g Cascade [6.80 %] – Boil 15.0 min 7.3 IBUs
  • 24 g Summit [15.50 %] – Boil 10.0 min 13.7 IBUs
  • 24 g Cascade [6.80 %] – Boil 5.0 min 4.5 IBUs
  • 24 g Cascade [6.80 %] – Boil 0.0 min 0.0 IBUs
  • 24 g Summit [15.50 %] – Boil 0.0 min 0.0 IBUs
  • 1 pkg Safale US-05 Yeast
  • 28 g Cascade [6.80 %] – Dry Hop 5.0 Days 0.0 IBUs

Mash Day 03/12/2012 – Heated 8 litres of water to 72°C for mash in small brewpot. Doughed in and mash temperature settled at 67°C. Excellent. Checked after 30 minutes and mash hadn’t lost a degree so I just left it at 67°C and didn’t apply any heat to the pot as I usually would. Mash was pretty loose so I might increase my mash/liquor ratio next time in order to get more grain into my mini-mash beers. I had 5 litres of sparge water heating in the large brewpot (the kettle) but I overheated it. I added a big glass of cold water and added it but that only cooled the water down to 71°C. I figured the higher temperature might help my efficiency as it would function as a “mash-out”, dissolving some extra sugars during my dunk sparge. I didn’t squeeze the grain bag at all but I’ve got nearly 13 litres of wort now sitting on the stove and no idea if I’ll be to bring that volume to a boil. I suppose I can always boil a portion in the smaller pot if necessary.

The wort is a bit darker than I intended, but it might still come out as “amber” in the finished beer. Smells very, very nice.

I’m in a serious quandry over the Summit hops. After doing some more research on ‘tinternet, I’m seeing a lot of negative comments about Summit giving off powerful onion/garlic flavours. And the information is completely inconsistent. Some people are advising only to use as a bittering addition. Others are recommending only to use it as a late addition or dry-hop. I’m going to open the bag tonight and if I think they smell nice, I’m going to use. If they smell rank I’ll replace with Columbus. Either way, I’ll hopefully end up with the dank, powerful, hoppy IPA I’m looking for. (My next IPA is going to be lighter, slightly less pungent on the hops (Amarillo & Centennial) and slightly less alcohol.)

Brew Day 04/12/2012 – I set some heat under the brew kettle and cracked open my first ever bag of Summit hops. Got a blast of tangerines and some pungent piney aromas. That’ll do me. So I followed my original hop schedule and hopped with Summit and Cascade. It took a while to come up to a boil but the cooker just about managed it. Serious amount of hop material which I strained out using a sieve. I was too tired to calibrate my large fermenter as planned so I just topped up with water to just over 13 litres and got an SG reading of 1.078. SO I added some more water to just under the 15 litre line. I didn’t want to overshoot it as there was a lot of foam on top of the wort. I pitched about 400ml of yeast slurry from the “Hoppy Feet Pale Ale” which is just over 2 weeks old. It’s currently foaming away. I hope to get 24 bottles out of this batch given that I’ll be doing a very big dry-hop. The sample from the trial jar was incredibly sweet and very hoppy as expected. I’ll probably leave it go for 2 weeks before dry-hopping for a week.

11/12/2012 – Dry-hopped with 28g Cascade in a muslin bag weighed down with 2 sanitised shot glasses. I also topped up with a little extra cold water as i don’t want to overshoot my FG.

16/12/2012 – Bottled using 90g table sugar, my first time to use plain old sucrose. Based on 14 litres at 2.5 vol. In actual fact I got less than 14 litres out of the batch, so I hope it’s not over-carbonated. I was happy to get two whole crates (24 bottles) out of it, though I did have to pull off some very yeasty beer out of the first fermenter using a turkey baster in order to make up the last bottle. For the first time ever, I didn’t have a taste – hope it’s okay. Smells very powerfully hoppy so I might have to leave this alone for a few months to let it calm down!

12/01/2013 – First taste and the surprising thing is that it’s extremely mature and drinkable after less than 4 weeks in the bottle. The hop flavour and aroma is absolutely awesome – lots of orange and grapefruit underpinned by a smooth toffee backbone. The biscuit and wheat malts are in there too, giving a nice grainy flavour. The only downside in an otherwise amazing beer is that the colour is far too dark. Not that I’m bothered about where it fits into the style guidelines, but the fact that it’s quite cloudy from the intentionally excessive hopping means that the beer looks extremely murky. No bother, I’ll drink with my eyes closed. And omit the chocolate malt next time..

13/01/2013 – Tonight I had a very nice example of the India Pale Ale style from the Norwegian craft brewery, Nogne. Very delicious obviously, but it’s interesting to note the differences between a commercial IPA and my homebrewed version. Even though both beers were exactly 7.5% ABV the commercial beer was so much drier. Extremely dry in fact. I can’t imagine Nogne are using sugar to dry the beer out so I can only conclude they achieve this by using a low mash temperature and judicious use of crystal malts. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really pleased with my own beer, it’s just not really an IPA. I think it would be better described as an “Imperial Amber” ale due to the colour and the much higher sweetness and body.

08/02/2013 – Very high hopes for this beer in the forthcoming National Homebrew Championship. I’ve entered it as an “Imperial Amber Ale” in the “Specialty” category – a safer bet as it doesn’t fit into any other category. It’s like a super-charged version of 5am Saint, though it doesn’t have the same dank hop flavour.

06/03/2013 – What a fantastic way to finish this post. “Big Dawg” Imperial Amber Ale won a bronze medal in the inaugral National Homebrew Championship. The beer scored a whopping 40 points (the best of show also scoring 40!) to win 3rd place in the “Specialty” category. The category winners were decided by the following judges:

  • Grainne Walsh (Co-owner and brewer with Metalman Brewing Company)
  • Patrick Gallagher (Brewer at Donegal Brewing Company)
  • Ciaran Kelly (Qualified professional brewer with Carlow Brewing Company, producers of O’Hara’s)
  • John Devlin (Premier International, Beer Importers)

Now, what to do with the remaining 3 bottles… 🙂

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