PM#8 – “Pie-O-My” Amber Ale


It’s New Year’s Day and I’ve already got two brews done for 2013! I was feeling very pleased with myself after getting my second BIAB bitter in the fermenter and I had a quiet house, so I decided to do a partial mash American ale. It was all very “spur of the moment”, both in the planning and the execution. I decided it was time for another stab at an American Amber Ale. My last attempt didn’t go so well due to missing my target OG by 4 points! As such, what should have been a luscious, caramelly beer turned out thin, overly bitter and weak in flavour. Perhaps I’m being too harsh on myself. It wasn’t too unpleasant to drink, but it took me a lot longer to get through the 19 litres than I expected.

So I’ve decided go for a slightly different style of amber/red this time. Instead of relying on dark crystal malts to give colour and flavour, I’m going to do a beer which is more typical of an American pale ale, but I’m going to use a small charge (70g) of pale chocolate malt to give a nice hue to the beer. I’ve not used pale chocolate malt before so I’m not sure whether what colour this is going be when it’s in the glass. Flavour-wise, I want a hint of roasty character, but not too much. I’m using a mix of light and medium crystal malts and a decent portion of biscuit malt. In my haste, I forgot to add something like CaraPils or wheat malt to aid head retention. My last few beers have included malts like these and I’ve been very pleased with the results. However, there is a full pound of crystal in this so I’m not expecting any issues with body or head retention.

I recently got my grubby mitts on some 2012 Amarillo and Centennial so generous additions of these hops will provide the flavour and aroma for this beer. I’ll use a small addition of Columbus for bittering. I’ll be shooting for 40 IBU and watching the AA rating on my hops closely this time.


Boil Size: 12.00 l
Post Boil Volume: 10.11 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 20.00 l
Bottling Volume: 20.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.052 SG
Estimated Color: 12.6 SRM
Estimated IBU: 39.2 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 65.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes


1.600 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM)
0.250 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 15L (15.0 SRM)
0.200 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (40.0 SRM)
0.150 kg Biscuit Malt (23.0 SRM)
0.070 kg Pale Chocolate Malt (300.0 SRM)
0.500 kg Light Dry Extract (8.0 SRM)
10 g Columbus [14.20 %] – Boil 60.0 min, 19.7 IBUs
1.100 kg Light Dry Extract [Boil for 20 min](8.0  SRM)
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 mins)
25 g Amarillo [11.20 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 7.1 IBUs
25 g Centennial [13.50 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 8.5 IBUs
25 g Amarillo [11.20 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
25 g Centennial [13.50 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg Safale American  (DCL/Fermentis #US-05)
30 g Centennial [13.50 %] – Dry Hop 7.0 Days
30 g Amarillo [11.20 %] – Dry Hop 7.0 Days

01/01/2013 – My quiet house inevitably turned to chaos during the brew and the concentration started to lapse – I forgot the late addition of malt extract and only realised my error with one minute left in the boil. I had a choice – add the extract and boil for another 10 minutes (which would extract a lot more bitterness out of my high-alpha flavour hops) or add the extract at flameout and risk an infection with extract that isn’t fully sanitised. I decided to add the extract and keep it on the heat for a couple of minutes (it never came back up to boil). Adding the extract to boiling wort surely killed any nasties in there and I didn’t want an overly bitter beer.

I got an OG of 1.052 when topped up to just under the 20 litre mark. Pitch the dry yeast directly into the fermenter, as the brew day had been long enough at that point with the hassle of rehydrating yeast.

All in all, an unsatisfactory brew day. There’s nothing wrong with the recipe per se, but it wasn’t the recipe I actually wanted to do. My forgetting to add the late extract could have been partly due to the fact that my last two brews have been BIAB/AG and I haven’t needed to carry out this step. I think I’ve been bitten by the all-grain bug as the BIAB method I used just seemed really simple. A full-size boiler and the move to all-grain beckons it seems.

11/01/2013 – Dry-hopped with 60g of hops. I jammed the floating hop bag down to the bottom of the fermenter using a sanitised paddle. I think this might be my biggest dry-hop to date.

20/01/2013 – Bottled with 130g of table sugar. Got 33 bottles from the batch. Cold crashed in the shed for two days before bottling.

09/02/2013 – With only about three weeks in the bottle this is drinking extremely well. I wish I could say the same about my series of BIAB English bitters! The amber ale has a decent hop presence but really only reveals its charms when the beer warms up to “cellar temperature”. It’s like a scaled-down version of the Big Dawg Imperial Amber. It would be good to do a side-by-side comparison but I’m fast running out of bottles of the Big Dawg. I think the next amber ale I do will be following Jamil’s recommended 35 IBUs. The 40 IBU of this beer fights the caramel sweetness just a little too much. I was concerned about having no wheat malt or CaraPils in this beer. Out of habit really, I’ve been including it in most of my recent American ales, but the head formation and retention is great.

18/02/2013 – I think I’ve changed my mind about this. The last couple of bottles I’ve had have been quite bitter, astringent almost. I think the dry-hop might have been too much, even though it falls within the generally accepted guidelines for dry-hopping. It does seem very grassy. I’ll leave another couple of weeks before tasting.

20/02/2013 – I think I’ve figured out the problem with this beer. I think the astringency I’m tasting is actually just hop bitterness. I’ve been doing some reading up on the effects of hop steeping or flameout additions on IBUs. Some people calculate their IBUs using the final kettle addition at the 1-minute mark, even if the hops are only added at flameout. It seems to make sense. A lot of the podcasts I’ve listened to have commercial brewers telling us about the bittering contributions they get from whirlpool additions. As an experiment, I changed the two flameout additions specified in the recipe above (25g Amarillo, 25g Centennial) to 1 minute. The result? The IBUs shot up from 39 to 53!! You are definitely going to taste an extra 14 IBUs in a 1.052 beer with a moderate amount of crystal malt. I think I’ll definitely be doing some further experimentation with this. It seems that the last few pale ales I’ve brewed have been really over-bittered. I’d like to do some playing around with hop-bursting also, adding all of the hops in the last 15 minutes or so, with no traditional bittering addition at 60 minutes.

08/03/2013 – Definitely too bitter but the hop flavour in this is just lovely. Big-ass grapefruit from the Centennial. A decent American Amber Ale is still beyond my reach it seems! Next time I’ll be dropping the IBUs drastically and increasing the crystal malt by 50%.

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