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Pale Ale – Amarillo – Brew

May 27, 2011

Now that warm weather has been a frequent visitor (nevermind the 62 F high temp today), I’m in the mood for some pale ale.  I’ve been enjoying Hopalicious, Texas Speedbump, and even Ranger IPA lately; and I’d like to make something of my own.   Add to that, my reading of Gordon Strong’s Brewing Better Beer and his discussion of first wort hopping (and characterizing of hops in general) and I want to make a beer to experience all that the Amarillo hop has to offer.  Amarillo is – I believe – a relatively new variety that intrigues me.  As such, I’ve chosen it to be the first type I’d like to showcase in an APA this summer.

Taking Jamil’s basic American Pale Ale recipe, I’ve incorporated some of Gordon’s advice on evaluating hop varieties to come up with this recipe.  Essentially, I’ve replaced Jamil’s 10 minute flavor and 60 minute bittering additions with a first wort hop of 1 oz. Amarillo and his 0 minute additions with another 1 oz. of Amarillo.  While I have some nagging suspicions, this results in a reasonable 0.759 BU:GU ratio and I feel is a good starting point.

To top it all off, this will be my inaugural brew on my new brew stand.  No longer should I have to worry about splitting my hop additions across two pots, instead I can throw it all in the keggle.  No doubt I’ll have any number of other little quirks, but I’m excited to give it a go.


BeerSmith Recipe / Brewsheet

Brew Day – 6/5/2011

Since this is my first time brewing on my new system (it’s a test batch for Amarillo hops anyway) and I can’t find my digital thermometer; I’m chalking this up as a learning experience and not dwelling too much on details:

  • Initially wanted to perform the night-before pre-boil treatment in the HLT on its burner, but I ended up being the sole caretaker of a the little one that night and thought it best not to be playing with fire.  Instead I just did the treatment on the kitchen stove in two batches.
  • Got HLT up to ~165 (target was ~166) when I turned off the flame.  I let it get so high, because I thought the temp would coast back down as I stirred.  It actually kept going up, in part because the flame doesn’t go out immediately.  I turn it off at the tank to let the propane clear out of the manifold so the flame stays alive for a while after.
  • Strike temp ended up being 167 – 168 and mash temp was in the upper-150’s (~158) after I stirred everything (MLT was pre-heated).
  • HLT burner was making the stand red-hot so I put the grill grate over it (this was when I was initially trying to pre-boil).
  • When I finally got to real brewing (i.e. heating the strike water), I noticed red hot drips on the grate (pics to follow).  It looked like melting metal.  That can’t be the case though, can it?
  • Calculated ~10% boil-off rate 40 minutes in
  • Forgot gypsum until ~40 minutes into mash – I don’t expect it will have much affect


Against my better judgement, I brewed this the day before we left on a 6-day trip out of town (to NYC).  I knew it would probably ferment above 70 so I tried to cool the rubbermaid that it was in before we left, hoping it would stay low for the most important first few days.  I have no way of knowing that I accomplished that, but I hear it got pretty darn hot at least a few days.  It was in the upper-90’s in NYC while we were there, so I imagine it wasn’t too much better here.

I setup the blow-off tube, not expecting to need it, but to my surprise, there was a pretty healthy yeast slurry at the bottom of the blow-off jar when I got back and a good bit of krausen stuck to the blow-off tube.  Luckily it didn’t over fill the jar.

The only knowledge I have of fermentation is that it had started pretty solidly before we left (<12 hours), as evidenced by the steady bubbling I heard from the closet.  Unfortunately, we were in such a crazy rush to get out the door that I didn’t even take the time to peek in.  I can only imagine that it got even more vigorous while we were gone since the blow-off tube was necessary.

Kegging (6/13/2011)


I didn’t have a lot of time brew day or shortly after to think about the low OG, but I’ve now realized that I measured the 7.37 gallons of boil volume using my mash spoon that was calibrated for volume above the spigot.  This means that while I was supposed to include the ~1.5 gallons below the spigot, I didn’t.  This meant I really had ~8.87 gallons of boil volume instead.  When you plug these values in, I actually get a really good efficiency (as much as 80%).  I’m not ready to believe that, but I’m sure my efficiency should have been much higher than it was and it gives me confidence that I can actually hit the 1.055 range I want to for most of my beers without having to replace the MLT or do a partial mash for everything.


Aroma:  Strong orange aroma from the amarillo hops and biscuity from the malt.

Appearance:  Very hazy, golden.  Nice white head (~2 fingers) that fades to thin skim that stays to the end.

I have since found out that Wyeast 1056 has low/med flocculation and it’s apparent in this beer.  I figured since it was an american strain it would be more flocculant and kegged it after only 1 week.  Now, even though it’s been in the keg in the mid-30s (Fahrenheit), it’s still really cloudy.

Flavor:  Biscuity (I think this is more descriptive of it than “bready”) with orange front; followed by smooth bitter, orange finish.  The bittering is very smooth and the malt flavor seems to have some good complexity (I’ll have to try to pick it apart more some other time).

Mouthfeel:  Medium body with dry finish.  Smooth, yet not quite creamy carbonation.

Overall:  I think this is a fine beer.  It’s nicely light, dry, and refreshing with very good hop presence.  If it was less hazy and the hop character was more complex it would be a very good pale ale (obviously the lack of hop complexity was intended).  I’m really pleased with the smooth bitterness and nice hop flavor that I attribute to the first wort hopping.  I will need to try a re-brew sometime using a more standard hopping to be sure, though.  Also, the low alcohol makes it ultimately sessionable.  I have had several of these in a row at times without any noticeable effect.  Thankfully, the flavor, aroma, and other characteristics don’t seem to have suffered from the “small-ness”.


After cleaning the empty keg from this, I think I know why it was so cloudy the whole time.  At the bottom of the empty keg, there was a yeast slurry up to the level of the dip tube.  I figure that each time I took off a pint, some of that slurry was sucked up with it.  When I stopped drawing the beer, it would all settle back and be ready to come up with the next pour.

Until now, I didn’t really understand why people would cut off the lower portion of their dip tubes.  It seemed to me that by leaving it low, you would be able to suck up the yeast with the first pint and then be clear after (which had been my experience up until this brew).  I think as long as I let the beer sit in the fermentor long enough, I don’t have to worry about this, but it’s nice to have a reason why this beer stayed so cloudy.  Also, the mild I made after this with the same yeast hasn’t had a problem with clarity.  I let it sit in the carboy for a full 2 weeks (my standard length for an ale) and it’s nicely clear every pint.


From → Ale, All-Grain, Brews

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