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Spring Pale Ale

April 22, 2014

I would like to be able to bottle-up my subpar Oatmeal Stout and let it get its act together for a few months to see if it straightens up.  That unfortunately leaves me with just ~3 gallons of Munich Helles while my Maibock ferments for at least 3 more weeks.  To solve this dilemma, I will turn to the good old American Pale Ale.  Now I haven’t been much of a fan of the style, but I thought it might be fun to do a string of american beers for the first time in a while and listening to some old and newer Jamil Shows have my interest piqued.  I haven’t thought too much about what beers would follow, but figure I could easily do an Amber and Brown.

Being a hoppy beer and liking previous experiments with first-wort hopping (FWH) – a Amarillo Pale Ale and an ESB – I want to do the same with this beer.  Reading the BYO style guideline by Gordon Strong seems to indicate it’s a reasonable style to use the technique with, so I figure I’ll replace one of Jamil’s flavor additions (a 10-minute Cascade addition) to be FWH.


Beersmith Recipe / Brewsheet

Pre Brew

On Thursday, I decided to brew on Friday.  Seeing as how I needed to do a 2-stage starter, it didn’t leave me much time so I got the first step started Thursday night.  During the process, I learned that my kitchen counter is a bad location for my stir plate.  Unlike the living room end table where I normally run my starters, I was having a lot of trouble keeping the stir bar from throwing despite increasing the volume with boiled water up to 2 L (I had previously thought throwing only happened when the volume was too low).  When performing the second step, I tried using the end table and it worked much better.

Unfortunately, by morning the first stage was clearly not finished.  I let it sit while I brewed, checking on it periodically.  When I started noticing separation as if the yeast was dropping out, I threw it in the fridge.  Even after a few hours in there, it was clear there was still a lot of yeast in suspension, so I decanted what I could to a sanitized gallon jar, trying to leave as much in the starter flask as possible, and adding the second-stage wort to it.  After letting that grow for a couple hours (the brew day was otherwise done and I didn’t want my wort sitting around too long at room temperature without yeast), I added the second-stage starter to the first stage.  After mixing them together with a good shake, I siphoned half off to one carboy and the other half to the other.  Hopefully there was enough growth to get a proper pitching rate. indicated 2-1.5 L starters would be overkill, so I’m optimistic.

Brew Day (4/25/14)

Probably the least manual labor I’ve had in a brew day.  Prior to chilling, I was able to get the return tubing to stay in place (by zip-tying it to the cold water outlet tube), keeping me from having to hold it the whole time like the last brew (which was the first time I’d used it).  The bad news is that the cooldown took significantly longer than using a spoon (taking ~18 minutes to get to 70°F vs. ~13 minutes for 10 gallons – not counting hop whirlpool time), but it’s probably worth it for the labor savings.

Decided last minute to let the whirlpool hops sit for 5 minutes before turning on the faucet for cooldown.  Temperatures coasted down from boiling to about 203° F in that time.


Since the house has been a pretty consistent 68°F lately, I decided to forego the Rubbermaid this time.  An added bonus is that both carboys can fit in the closet this way (only one can fit in the Rubbermaid).  After pitching, I ended up with close to 6 gallons in my 6-gallon carboy and probably a little over 5 gallons in the other, meaning there wasn’t much room for krausen so I set up a blowoff tube on both, running down to a 1-gallon glass jug with a little sanitizer.  Good thing because fermentation was vigorous by the following morning, emitting delicious hoppy smells into my closet and bubbly blowoff from the 5-gallon carboy into the jug.

Given my recent past and desire to get something other than the Helles and Stout on tap, I figure I will keg up one of the carboys (the 5-gallon since it was the first to be run off to, meaning it has more trub) sooner than I really should (probably about a week from brewing) while leaving the second to properly finish up.  After kegging the first, I want to consider dry hopping the second (i.e., if the first makes me think I’d like some more hop aroma).

Sample after 6 days:  1.015

Sample after ~10 days: 1.012


Kegged the 5-gallon fermentor after about 10 days.  Final gravity was 1.012 as indicated above, which was surprisingly low.  Decided to take a patient approach with carbonation so I did not force carbonate.  Unfortunately, the keg I chose doesn’t seem to hold pressure well and the pressure is pretty much gone every time I check it (about once in the afternoon when I get home and again near bed time).  Not being happy with how long my CO2 tanks were lasting, I long ago decided to only bump up pressure every once in a while instead of keeping gas constantly hooked up.  Times like this make that seem like a wise decision, as I’d otherwise be losing CO2 at a pretty healthy clip.  I need to consider transferring to a second keg, I suppose that can maintain pressure, though.

Update on CO2:  Turns out the gas was leaking out of the gas in poppet, so I wouldn’t have had the pressure problem if I’d just left it hooked up (which I eventually did after doing a leak test with some StarSan Sanitizer.

Kegged the 6-gallon fermentor after close to 4 weeks.  I was wanting to dry hop it but never got to the brew shop to pick some up.  Once I was closing in to 4 weeks, I decided I should get it off the yeast finally.


Appearance:  Really nice golden/amber.  A little bit of haze when compared to the Maibock, but not too bad.  Modest, thick white head that lingers well.

Aroma:  Great citrus hop aroma, though I think it could have used some dry hopping to make it a little more assertive.

Mouthfeel:  Pretty full.

Flavor:  Firm bitterness throughout with secondary malt character that’s substantial enough to keep the hops from being overwhelming but hard to characterize.  I know it should be caramelly, bready, biscuity, but it’s hard to pin down due to hop bitterness.

Overall:  I’m pretty happy with this beer.  It’s got a really nice hop character (though I think it would have benefited from some dry hopping) with enough malt to keep it from being overwhelming.  In the future though, I’d like to dry hop it.


From → Ale, All-Grain, Brews

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