November 7th was Learn to Homebrew Day so I took it upon myself to find an eager friend and teach him the basics of brewing. I’m a pretty basic person in general so I was up to the task.
This noob was my buddy Joey, A Starbucks Store Manager who puts the java smack down on the stores he manages. Joey likes good beer and had been saying he wanted to come by and brew. You can tell when you have a friend that is truly interested and is going to really get into brewing. Instead of being that guy that just comes over to drink and BS.
For another friend’s wedding a few months ago I had brewed a beer similar to our Quicktoberfest ingredient kit here at the shop. This kit is a Marzen style beer brewed with ale yeast instead of lager yeast. I wanted to do something similar but with a lot more hop character. Basically, I wanted to make an American Amber (19A). We have the Alamo Amber recipe kit but I wanted to use some different hops and different caramel malts. The beer we brewed was extract with specialty grains. Brewing with extracts is the best way to start brewing as it takes out a lot of variables and is fun way to learn.
For this recipe I started with Golden Light LME and Munich LME as the base. I wanted plenty of that distinctive maltiness that Munich provides. When extracts are made, they usually contain more than one grain. So, Briess Munich LME is actually made with 50% 2-Row and 50% Briess Munich 10L. Golden Light LME is made with mostly 2-row base malt and a little Carapils. When developing a recipe with extract I like to know what is in that malt extract so I don’t add too much of a specialty grain that is already in it.
Also, when developing a recipe I do not like muddling up my beers with too many or too much specialty malt. We used one specialty and that was Weyermann CaraMunich III which would be close to a caramel/crystal 60L. It adds that amber color wanted and enhances the caramel malty presence.
I generally do not brew a lot of hoppy beers. They can be expensive and at times it is hard for me to find that perfect balance when I brew a hop forward beer. This beer was to be both malty like an Octoberfest with some American hop character. I wanted to get some of the tropical fruit characteristics I have come to enjoy in a lot of American IPA’s. We ended up going with Centennial , Mosaic, Mandarina Bavaria, and Simcoe. I have tasted a lot of Mosaic beers and think our High Noon Session IPA is an outstanding kit which displays the uniqueness of Mosaic’s various citrusy/tropical fruit flavors and aromas. We also chose to do our bittering addition at 45 minutes with Centennial and the rest of the additions in the last 10 minutes. I have become a fan of adding my bittering hops later in the boil. This reduces harsh bitterness from the hops and allows for a smoother tasting beer. The only thing is, you have to adjust your additions to account for the loss of hop utilization in your beer.
As for our yeast selection, we went with the very popular Vermont IPA from GigaYeast. It is the same yeast used in Heady Topper which is a very popular commercial IPA from a brewery called The Alchemist. It is described as having some citrusy/apricot characteristics that would definitely enhance the hops in this beer. I’ve been wanting to give this yeast a try as many of the beers I have tried with it have been outstanding.
Fast Forward 2 Weeks
I kegged this beer 15 days after we brewed it and after tasting it, I felt like there was a bit too much caramel which I’m sure will fade with a little more time. The Mosaic really comes through in this beer. Lots of tropical fruit flavor and aroma that will fade as well with a little more time. One thing to note is that the beer is not overly bitter but more hop flavor forward. Of course, I enjoy a hoppy beer from time to time. Overall, I think this beer is pushing the limit on the actual American Amber Ale guidelines and could easily be placed in in the Specialty Red IPA Category.
Below is an adjusted recipe with less CaraMunich III and Description of the American Amber Ale Category from the BJCP Guidelines.
19A. American Amber Ale
An amber, hoppy, moderate strength American craft beer with a caramel malty flavor. The balance
can vary quite a bit, with some versions being fairly malty and others being aggressively hoppy. Hoppy and bitter versions should not have clashing flavors with the caramel malt profile
JROID’s 'Merican Amber Ale
OG 1.065ish FG 1.016ish
IBU 40ish SRM 12ish ABV 6.5%
5 lbs. Briess Munich LME
5 lbs. Briess Golden Light LME
8 oz. Weyermann CaraMunich III (Steep 30min @ 152)
1 oz. Centennial (9.4% @ 45min)
1 oz. Mandarina Bavaria (8.5% @ 10min)
1 oz. Mosaic (12.5% @ 5min)
1 oz. Simcoe Leaf (13% Steep/Whirlpool @ 0min)
1 oz. Mosaic (12.5% Dry Hop for 5 days)
Yeast - Vermont IPA GigaYeast
Jerrod has been homebrewing for the past 8 years. He is a regular contributor to the Come and Brew It podcast series, and is almost always at the shop if you need any help.