Posts Tagged 'imperial amber'

AG#31 – Big Dawg Imperial Amber Ale


This is the fourth time I’ve brewed this beer now, with only minor changes on each re-brew. I love the great balance of malts in it, though it did come out a lot darker than I wanted that last time. I did consider replacing the chocolate malt with pale chocolate (like I did with my American barleywine) but I don’t want to alter the character of the beer too much. I was worried that if I used pale chocolate malt it would simply be there as a colour adjustment, but I want to keep the hint of roast that the chocolate malt provides. So I’m going to use 20% less than last time, so 40g instead of 50g.

I’m going to leave out the massive Citra flameout addition this time and replace it with Centennial. I’m also reducing the alcohol, to make it a bit more sessionable at 6.5%. I’ve also reduced the bittering hops while keeping the same gravity to bitterness ratio. But on this recipe, I’ve also utilised BeerSmith’s ability to calculate IBUs for steep/whirlpool additions, something I normally ignore. This gives me an IBU rating of 61, which will hopefully be enough to balance all that crystal malt.

Recipe Specifications

Boil Size: 27.92 l
Post Boil Volume: 23.92 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 19.00 l  
Bottling Volume: 17.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.062 SG
Estimated Color: 24.5 EBC
Estimated IBU: 61.0 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 73.7 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes


4.900 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (5.9 EBC), 81.1 %       
0.450 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (78.8 EBC), 7.5 %        
0.200 kg Wheat Malt, Ger (3.9 EBC), 3.3 %        
0.150 kg Biscuit Malt (45.3 EBC), 2.5 %        
0.050 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt -120L (236.4 EBC), 0.8 %        
0.040 kg Chocolate Malt (886.5 EBC), 0.7 %        
9 g Summit [17.70 %] – Boil 60.0 min, 22.6 IBUs    
0.250 kg Corn Sugar (Dextrose) [Boil for 20 min], 4.1 %        
30 g Cascade [7.80 %] – Boil 15.0 min, 8.1 IBUs     
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10.0 mins)
25 g Summit [17.70 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 12.6 IBUs    
50 g Cascade [7.80 %] – Steep/Whirlpool  10.0, 7.0 IBUs     
50 g Centennial [11.00 %] – Steep/Whirlpool, 10.8 IBUs    
25 g Summit [17.70 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs     
1.0 pkg Safale American  (DCL/Fermentis #US-05) (400ml yeast slurry from Easy Company)
25 g Cascade [7.8 %] – Dry Hop 5.0 Days, 0.0 IBUs
25 g Centennial [11.00 %] – Dry Hop 5.0 Days, 0.0 IBUs     

Mash Schedule: Bubbles’ Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 6.040 kg
Mash In           Add 16.21 l of water at 74.6 C          68.0 C        60 min       

Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (Drain mash tun , 18.01l) of 77.0 C water

28/03/2015 Mash Day – Very slow run-off from mash tun for some reason. I screwed up my strike temperature again and got a mash temperature of ~65C.

29/03/2015 – Absolutely chucking it down today, so I had to deploy the parasol on the deck where I do my boil. I used my fine mesh hop bags and got great run off from the boiler. I don’t think this has ever happened before when brewing Big Dawg. Fantastic aroma from the wort.

08/04/2015 – I had my fermenter, siphon, yeast bottles ready to transfer this beer over to secondary and dry-hop when I realised the beer was still fizzing! I did want to get the dry-hopping out of the way, so I ended up leaving the beer in primary and putting the hops into it. I used 60g Cascade pellets. A little more hops than intended because I couldn’t get any hop aroma off it. Though that could be because of the cloud of CO2 on the beer and also a terrific whiff of sulphur, which was a surprise. I’d probably been fermenting this too cold. I have the fermenter in the kitchen now anyway where it’s warm. this should finish off the fermentation nicely and allow good extraction of oils from the dry hops.

09/04/2015 – Checked the fermenter this morning and the sulphur aroma is gone, replaced by a massive blast of hops. [Update: just realised why this damn thing hadn’t finished fermenting! It’s only been in the fermenter for 11 days! I thought it had been in there longer. No matter, the leftover fermentation will drive off  any oxygen present in the hops. Will remove the hops after 5 days and cold crash. I’m not sure yet if I’ll do a secondary. I could also do a second dry-hop stage, but I probably won’t.

13/04/2015 – Removed the bag of hops from the fermenter and moved to a colder room to let any residual yeast settle out.

15/04/2015 – Bottled with 138g corn sugar (18 litres at 2.6 vol). Got 17 x 750ml bottles and 11 x 500ml bottles.

07/05/2015 – I was a bit worried about how this one was going to turn out having reduced the OG significantly, but it’s really good. The flavours are great but the head retention isn’t as good as usual. Beautiful red color, the best it’s ever been – I think I have the level of roasted malt and dark crystal just right in this attempt. The bitterness is a little overwhelming but should fade over the next few weeks. A tasty beer for the summer months ahead.

17/05/2015 – This is tasting terrific. Even though I would have said that the grain and hop bills are entirely different, it tastes remarkably similar to Brewdog’s 5AM Saint, one of my favourite beers of all time. Very tasty stuff. It doesn’t quite taste the same as “regular” Big Dawg, as it’s 1% less alcohol, but a great beer nonetheless. Only a few 750ml bottles left. I must try a session version of this again.

12/08/2015 – I just accidentally happened upon a bottle of this, thinking it was a bottle of California Common. Still very drinkable, lots of bitterness there, and poenty of hop flavour, though not as intense as when first opened. Great beer, but far too much bitterness for the gravity, compared to the original incarnation of Big Dawg.

AG#24 – Big Dawg Imperial Amber Ale


This is, without a doubt, one of the best beers I’ve done to date. The recipe was a little bit of accident. It was originally intended to be an amber IPA, but it came out darker than I intended and with a lot more dark crystal character than I wanted. It also had far too much residual sweetness to be considered an IPA, a style of beer which is supposed to be reasonably dry and easy to drink. However, the residual sweetness was perfectly balanced by the 70 IBU and beer turned out to be a delicious hoppy monster. I did a re-brew of it last year and it turned out well, but not quite as good as the original. This is my third attempt and my first all-grain version of the recipe, so I have high hopes for it. I hope to get as close to the original by closely watching my mash temperatures and volumes.

Recipe Specifications

Boil Size: 26.90 l
Post Boil Volume: 23.40 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 19.00 l
Bottling Volume: 17.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.072 SG
Estimated Color: 25.9 EBC
Estimated IBU: 70.1 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 72.1 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes


5.800 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (5.9 EBC), 82.9 %
0.450 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (78.8 EBC), 6.4 %
0.200 kg Wheat Malt, Ger (3.9 EBC), 2.9 %
0.150 kg Biscuit Malt (45.3 EBC), 2.1 %
0.050 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt -100L (197.0 EBC), 0.7 %
0.050 kg Chocolate Malt (886.5 EBC), 0.6 %
32 g Magnum [10.70 %] – Boil 60.0 min, 47.5 IBUs
0.300 kg Corn Sugar (Dextrose) [Boil for 20 min], 4.3 %
30 g Cascade [7.80 %] – Boil 15.0 min, 7.9 IBUs
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10.0 mins)
30 g Summit [17.70 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 14.7 IBUs
60 g Cascade [7.80 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
60 g Citra [14.40 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
30 g Summit [17.70 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg Safale American (DCL/Fermentis #US-05)  (500ml slurry from Little Dawg)
50 g Centennial [8.0 %] – Dry Hop 5.0 Days, 0.0 IBUs

Mash Schedule: Bubbles’ Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge

Total Grain Weight: 6.995 kg
Mash In           Add 18.75 l of water at 74.6 C          68.0 C        60 min

Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (Drain mash tun , 15.36l) of 77.0 C water

07/12/2014 – Good brew day, all additions made at the right times. Mashed at 66-67C. Pitched yeast pretty cold as it was so cold outside. The yeast slurry I pitched was pretty rank looking (lots of pellet hops and trub) but I’ve done this before and had no issues. Likewise, I had the same trouble I always have separating the boiled wort from all the hops and break material. But I’ve always had the same problem with this beer and had no problems. Finished just after lunch but seeing fermentation before night fall. Got an OG of 1.070, so 2 points under target.

08/12/2014 – Impressive kreusen on the beer.

15/12/2014 – Fermentation has completely finished and cleared so I started sanitising siphon etc. in order to do racking and dry-hopping – then I realised it’s only been in the fermenter a week!! Will leave it on the yeast for another week. Might do a first dry-hop in the primary.

23/12/2014 – Dry-hopped with 48g of Centennial pellet hops, just because I had them open. Unfortunately I gad some problems with the siphon and I was forced to give up after getting only 15 litres into the secondary fermenter. Great nose off the beer.

28/12/2014 – Bottled with 99g of corn sugar (15 litres at 2.5 vol). Got 9 x 500ml and 12 x 750ml bottles from the batch.

25/01/2015 – I’d better post a tasting update on this before it’s all gone! Really delicious, as always. There’s little roasted flavour coming through, but it’s a little bit darker than I want it. I think I’ll cut the chocolate malt down by 25% next time. It’s currently more brown than amber. The hop flavour is a tiny bit grassy still, but that will dissipate. Great aroma and very good head retention. The topical flavours of the Citra are definitely poking through on both aroma and flavour. Might a little more carbonation.

11/02/2015 – Down to the last few bottles of this and it tastes amazing. Definitely a shade too dark. Will use a bit less chocolate malt next time. Hopping is great, but might substitute Citra with something different next time too, like Amarillo or Centennial.

AG#6 – Diabolus in Lupulus Imperial Amber Ale


My goal with this beer is to make the most insanely hoppy beer I can, to really push the envelope with regard to hop flavour and aroma.  It’s somewhat inspired by Arrogant Bastard in that it will be a big, hoppy red ale, though without the huge levels of bitterness that the Stone beer has. I like the idea of prominently featuring the Chinook hop, the same hop used in AB, but I’m also going to supplement it with huge amounts of my old favourite, Cascade. I’m going to use the same levels of gravity and bittering units that I used in my Big Dawg Imperial Amber in order to achieve a good balance. And I’ll be doing massive late additions and dry-hopping in order to achieve the BIG American hop flavour and aroma. My plan at the moment is to use 300g of kettle hops in my standard 19 litre batch. I’ll be using three fresh, unopenened packs of pellets and I’m planning on doing the flameout additions in stages – doing a ‘hop stand’ and adding a fresh charge when the chilling wort hits 80C. This will hopefully capture lots of the volatile hop oils and give the beer several different levels of aroma and flavour. I’ll also be doing two separate dry-hop additions.

I’ll doing something a little wacky with the yeast this time. I’m planning on doing a mixed-strain fermentation with WLP007 and US-05. I really like the flavour of the WLP007 – it really accentuates the malt flavours in a beer, but I can’t seem to get a good level of attenuation from it, probably because I’m not fermenting at a high enough temperature. Even though it’s supposed to be a “dry” English ale yeast. So I’m going to add a sachet of US-05, which will theoretically chew up the last of the sugars left by the WLP007, leaving a much drier ale behind. The English yeast should kick off first, because it’s in the form of yeast slurry left over from a previous beer, and the dry-pitched US-05 should ramp up 24 laters later and do it’s job. That’s my theory anyway, I hope it works out.

However, I don’t want to take any precautions with the attenuation, just in case my yeast experiment doesn’t work, so I’ll be adding a small percentage of corn sugar to the kettle. To keep the beer dry and drinkable.

With two yeast strains and almost a pound of hops, this is going to be one expensive little brew!


Boil Size: 25.88 l
Post Boil Volume: 22.88 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 19.00 l
Bottling Volume: 17.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.072 SG
Estimated Color: 33.7 EBC
Estimated IBU: 75.9 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 70.3 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes


5.700 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (5.9 EBC), 81.1 %
0.400 kg Caramunich Malt (120.0 EBC), 5.7 %
0.300 kg Wheat Malt, Bel (3.9 EBC), 4.3 %
0.150 kg Biscuit Malt (45.3 EBC), 2.1 %
0.150 kg  Special B Malt (400.0 EBC), 2.1 %
0.025 kg Roasted Barley (1300.0 EBC), 0.4 %
15 g Chinook [13.30 %] – Boil 60.0 min, 28.2 IBUs
50 g Cascade [7.90 %] – Boil 30.0 min, 28.5 IBUs
0.300 kg Corn Sugar (Dextrose) [Boil for 15 min], 4.3 %
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10.0 mins)
50 g Cascade [7.90 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 11.2 IBUs
25 g Chinook [11.40 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 8.1 IBUs
50 g Cascade [7.90 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
50 g Cascade [7.90 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
30 g Chinook [11.40 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
30 g Chinook [11.40 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg Dry English Ale (White Labs #WLP007) (400ml unwashed slurry from Pork Chop Porter)
1.0 pkg Safale American  (DCL/Fermentis #US-05)

25 g Cascade [7.90 %] – Dry Hop 5.0 Days, 0.0 IBUs
25 g Chinook [11.40 %] – Dry Hop 5.0 Days, 0.0 IBUs

68 g Cascade [7.90 %] – Dry Hop 5.0 Days, 0.0 IBUs
32 g Chinook [11.40 %] – Dry Hop 5.0 Days, 0.0 IBUs

Mash Schedule: Bubbles’ Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge

Total Grain Weight: 7.025 kg
Mash In           Add 18.83 l of water at 74.6 C          68.0 C        60 min

Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (Drain mash tun, , 14.28l) of 77.0 C water


23/12/2013 – Mash temperature 68C. I thought the wort looked a little light in colour, so I decided on the spur of the moment to add a little cap of roasted barley, just to drive up the red colour a bit. I’m not sure it made a huge amount of difference – it definitely doesn’t look as red as the Buckshot Flag ale did. Got a bad result with an actual OG of 1068. Had an absolute nightmare trying to “lauter” the wort from the huge amount of trub and pellet hops. But after my last brew, at least I was expecting difficulties with this. I got my 19l of wort but I got a LOT of trub into the fermenter. Pitched about 400ml of wlp007 slurry along with a sachet of US-05.

24/12/2013 – I was expecting some activity from this morning but it was looking pretty dead. Perhaps a little white foam just starting. I thought the WLP007 slurry would have started this off very quickly. A good job I added the sachet of US-05. A decent layer of kreusen by evening time though. Great hoppy and dark caramel smell.

26/12/2013 – Thinking about it, it’s possible that the WLP007 hasn’t done anything and the reason it took 24 hours to kick off was just the US-05 ramping up. I guess I’ll know from the flavour when it’s finished.

27/12/2013 – Fermentation seems to have completed. Dry-hopped with 25g of Cascade and 25g of Chinook.

28/12/2013 – Still plenty of bubbling going on. I noticed the aroma from the fermenter was quite different from my usual American ales, and I’ve just put my finger on it. It’s the WLP007. I originally thought it was just the darker caramel malts in the recipe, but it’s more distinctive than that.

01/01/2014 – I was going to rack to secondary in order to do a second dry hop (there’s a LOT of trub in the fermenter, and I don’t want the beer sitting on it for any longer than is necessary) but there’s still a steady stream of bubbles breaking the surface. I’ll leave it another day or two before racking and dry-hopping with more Cascade and Chinook.

02/01/2014 – Still a few bubbles coming through the surface, but I figured it was just off-gassing CO2? I took a gravity reading of 1.012 which would imply that it’s finished, so I decided to rack to secondary and do the dry-hop. I used 68g of Cascade and 32g of Chinook…. This is either going to be a fantastic success or an unmitigated disaster…

05/01/2014 – Moved back to the colder room as I was concerned that that kitchen was getting too warm. Will bottle in a few days.

08/01/2014 – Bottled using 125g of dextrose (17l @ 2.6 vol). In actual fact I got closer to 16 litres from the batch, due to the losses from the big dry hops. The beer definitely has potential, though I’m a little unsure about it. It smells like an English beer, big malt aromas – not the huge punch American hops you’d expect. However, the resiny hop flavour certainly comes through the malt. On subsequent sips, I was actually reminded of Arrogant Bastard! Strange to get so close when the malt bill is quite a bit different. I’ll definitely be doing a side-by-side tasting of AB when this has fully conditioned. Not the red colour I wanted, though a good strong amber colour. Taste is good, but I’m not getting the hop assault I expected. Hopefully it will become more apparent when it’s fully carbed and conditioned. Got 31 bottles from the batch.

31/01/2014 – First taste and it’s pretty damn good. Though, it still tastes young. The yeast doesn’t seem to have compacted in the bottle though, which is quite worrying. The first thing that strikes you is the HUGE head forming on the beer. Thick, compacted, silky head. Massive hop aroma. Big citrus. Very hazy. Tastes a little immature, but there’s plenty of sweetness to balance the hop bitterness. Very promising – eagerly anticipating what another 4 weeks aging does to this beer. Catty, funky, dank, fruity. Feck, this could be very good.

11/03/2014 – The flavours have mollowed quite considerably in this now, and in a good way. The prominent grassiness has faded a lot, and there’s some nice candy-like caramel sweetness in the background. Still excellent head retention and massive hop nose. Hoppiness carries through on the flavour, with intense American hop character. Great balance of malt and hop bitterness. Not sure I’d do the “Diabolus” like this again though. I think next time I’d like to do it with some roasted barley for colour and lots of caramalt. The hops are spot-on though. As it’s improved so much, I’m now really interested to see how it scores in the competition.

21/03/2014 – Nothing new to report, except to say that the malts and hops in this beer have mellowed and mingled into a rather fantastic drop. Not an every day beer, admittedly; it’s insanely hoppy. Bitter too, but still very well balanced. I still maintain that I’ll take a different approach with this next time. I think I’d get a better result by doing an “Imperial” version of my “Buckshot Flag Irish Red Ale”, but with huge amounts of American hops. It would at least have that “devilish” colour that I’m after with this beer.

PM#11 – Big Dawg Imperial Amber Ale


It’s funny. I had a blog post all ready to go about how I was going to make improvements to my “Big Dawg Amber IPA” – to lighten the colour, reduce the bitterness, increase the attenuation etc. Well, it’s supposed “flaws” drove me to re-designate the amber IPA to “Big Dawg Imperial Amber Ale” as the dark malt flavours made it seem much more like a super-charged American amber. I entered it in the “Specialty” category of Ireland’s first national homebrewing competition where it scored a very respectable 40 points and took the bronze medal in that category. While I’m sure there’s still room for improvement, it seems a bit silly to go tinkering with the recipe now. Here, for posterity is how I was planning to turn the recipe around to make it more like an IPA:

  • I’ll be omitting the Crystal 100 altogether. Even though there’s only a small amount of this grain, I think the heavy caramel flavour comes through and I don’t think it’s appropriate here.
  • I do still want this to be an “amber” IPA, but I’m going to be much more conservative with the colour adjustments this time. I’ll sub the chocolate malt with the pale variety and use half the amount.
  • I’ll be reducing the Crystal 40 to 150g but adding 200g of Crystal 15. This will lighten the colour considerably I hope.
  • I’ll be upping the amount of base malt to 2kg, up to the limit of my mash pot capacity. Instead of taking the easier option by drastically increasing the amount of corn sugar in an attempt to dry out the beer, I’m going to try to achieve this by decreasing the mash temperature. I’ll be aiming for 65C. However, I’ll also be increasing the amount of corn sugar slightly from 180g to 250g.
  • The hop schedule will stay the same as the hop flavour and aroma is fantastic. I’ll be shooting for the same level of IBU aswell, even though I’ll have less residual sweetness in the beer. Hopefully it will work out. I’m going to aim for 7 days of dry-hopping this time.

There’s a lot of merit in these changes I think and they will prove useful when I get around to actually doing an amber IPA again.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to do a re-brew of Big Dawg Imperial Amber Ale, an exact copy if I can. I got some feedback from the judge in the competition who said that it was just slightly too bitter for the gravity. I went back and looked at my recipe and realised the AA rating on my Summit hops was incorrect. When I adjusted the AA, the IBUs in the beer climbed to 72.5. So I’ll be paying close attention to my hops this time and I’ll also be reducing the IBUs to around 67. I also want to reduce the carbonation ever so slightly, as the beer was just a bit too lively.


Boil Size: 16.00 l
Post Boil Volume: 14.11 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 15.00 l
Bottling Volume: 15.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.071 SG
Estimated Color: 16.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 66.9 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 65.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes


  • 2.200 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM), 52.5 %
  • 0.350 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (40.0 SRM), 8.4 %
  • 0.160 kg Wheat Malt, Ger (2.0 SRM), 3.8 %
  • 0.120 kg Biscuit Malt (23.0 SRM), 2.9 %
  • 0.039 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt -100L (100.0 SRM), 0.9 %
  • 0.039 kg Chocolate Malt (530.0 SRM), 0.9 %
  • 10 g Summit [16.80 %] – Boil 60.0 min, 34.1 IBUs
  • 1.100 kg Light Dry Extract [Boil for 20 min](8.0), 26.3 %
  • 0.180 kg Corn Sugar (Dextrose) [Boil for 20 min], 4.3 %
  • 0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 mins)
  • 24 g Cascade [6.80 %] – Boil 15.0 min, 8.0 IBUs
  • 24 g Summit [16.80 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 16.4 IBUs
  • 24 g Cascade [6.80 %] – Boil 5.0 min, 5.0 IBUs
  • 24 g Cascade [6.80 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
  • 24 g Summit [16.80 %] – Boil 0.0 min, 0.0 IBUs
  • 1.0 pkg Safale Fermentis US-05
  • 28 g Cascade [6.80 %] – Dry Hop 5.0 Days, 0.0 IBUs


16/04/2013 Mash Day – Mashed at 67-68°C.

17/04/2013 Boil Day – Nothing much to report. Used my 15 litre fermenter to sparge. Didn’t bother taking an OG reading.

24/04/2013 – Dry-hopped with 28g of Cascade leaf hops. I used my new marbles to weigh down the hop bag! I used 300g of marbles which was over half the bag, but it still didn’t make the bag sink. I guess I’ll be going for the full bag of marbles next time. Surprising for such a small dry hop. I’ll give this 4-5 days before bottling – depends on when suits best to do my bottling.

28/04/2012 – Bottled with 85g of glucose. The beer was a total of 11 days in fermenter,  just one day less than the first batch. Had no problems with clogged siphon this time and I got 12 x 750ml swingtop bottles and 8 x 500ml regular bottles. Fantastic hop aroma from the dry-hopped Cascade.

18/05/2013 – Pretty good, but it still tastes a little young as it’s not even 3 weeks in the bottle. Will give it another 2 or 3 weeks. Definitely the same beer I brewed before, but the darker crystal malts need a little more aging. Looking good though.


21/09/2013 – Comparison with Brewdog 10 Heads High – I was very excited to see a few weeks ago that Brewdog had not only released what they were calling an “Imperial Amber Ale”, but that it was 7.5% ABV, the same as “Big Dawg”. I snapped up a bottle as soon as I saw it in my local offie.

Appearance – The Brewdog beer is a definite shade darker than the Big Dawg. Much better head formation and retention in the home brew. Huge globs of yeast in the Brewdog bottle. Please, oh please Brewdog, tell us when your beers are bottle conditioned rather than filtered. This is the third time this has happened to me with BD bottles. We seasoned Brewdog drinkers are just not used to unfiltered beer from yourselves. Sort it out.

Aroma – A little stronger in the Brewdog. Aroma is of dark caramel and tangerine fruitiness. The Big Dawg is quite old at the moment though, and is likely to have lost much of it’s aroma.

Taste – The first difference that hits you is the whack of roasted malt in the Brewdog. That’s not present in the Big Dawg. The difference in hop character is not huge but the Brewdog has slightly more residual sweetness, perhaps lots of that CaraMalt that Brewdog likes using in a lot of their beers.

Mouthfeel – the mouthfeel is pretty much the same in both beers, as is the level of carbonation.

Overall Impression – my chief taster, in a blind taste test, preferred the Big Dawg and pointed out the “smoky” note in the Brewdog which is the roasted malts I referred to earlier. I quite agree, the Big Dawg trumps the pro beer just slightly, though I’d love to taste both beers with a little less age on them.

That’s the last bottle of Big Dawg. I’ll definitely be doing many rebrews of this beer. Excellent.

PM#7 – Big Dawg Imperial Amber Ale


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


  • 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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