Friday, December 23, 2011

American Pale Ale II Tasting

I brewed this beer on 6 November and just started drinking it this week, after a nearly a month in the keg. I really didn't have a set beer in mind when I brewed this, only aiming for something that had a solid malt base (golden promise) and plenty of American hop character. I tend to prefer my APA's to have more malt character than your average hop bomb APA and I figured a base of golden promise, munich, medium crystal, and amber malt would give me a malty beer and still pair well with lots of American hops. With that said, I'll definitely be brewing more beers like this in the near future. 

Levi's Pale Ale : American Pale Ale                   

Appearance - Pours a nice honey-orange color with a two finger head that leaves fine lacing. Clarity is good, although the dry hopping has given the beer a bit of a hop-haze. 

Aroma - First impression is of a very floral, flowery hops and grapefruit citrus balanced by a lightly toasty-full malt character. The amarillo-centennial dry hop character is very noticeable with a predominant centennial hop aroma. I was expecting some piney simcoe character, but I'm not getting any. 

Taste - Lots of floral, herbal, grapefruit and some very light passion-fruit hop flavors. No pine! The malt character holds up well to the hops and it has a very nice, clean and pleasant toasty flavor. The golden promise, munich, and amber malt has really made a difference here. The beer flavor is very well balanced, not too hoppy or malty. Yeast esters are mildly fruity and the beer finishes with the same pleasant, yeast flavor I get with all beers fermented with this strain. Bitterness levels are soft-medium and balanced.

Mouthfeel - Carbonation is adequate and the beer has a nice, smooth mouthfeel.  
Drinkability & Notes - I brewed this beer as a memorial of sorts to my brew buddy and I am pleased to say I am very happy with how it turned out. The overall character of the beer reminds me more of a hoppy, Americanized ESB than your typical Cali APA, but without a strong caramel/toffee character. I am surprised that the simcoe did not impart much flavor/aroma to the beer... although I did go with .25 oz additions - I am glad I did that as I think the floral character of the centennial/amarillo goes much better with the malt profile than a piney flavor would. The only thing I would do differently at this point is to get the sulfate closer to 250ppm. I won't be changing the malt bill - it should be a good base to experiment from. Maybe try out a few different yeasts and hop varieties.

O.G: 1.058, F.G: 1.012, 6% ABV, 45 IBU, Wyeast 1332 Northwest Ale


  1. What are you feelings about the use of amber malt in the pale like this one, vs a less-toasted malt like biscuit/victory? Does the amber malt have more impact than the biscuit even in smaller amounts, or does a biscuit malt end up coming across differently than the amber malt in it's larger doses?

    I'd also be interested to hear you take the taste you get with the golden promise & amber combo vs a straight Maris Otter base which is said to come across as bready / biscuity on it's own.

    1. I took this beer to my homebrew club last night and it went over superbly well. So good that a few of the guys didn't believe it was homebrew. A fitting homage to my brew buddy.

      Concerning the malt, I honestly don't know if you could tell the difference by switching the amber malt for something like belgian biscuit. At only 2.5% you may not notice if you weren't familiar with the recipe. However, considering that amber malt has a very unique malt character, I would definitely say you could notice the difference between the same beer, one with it and one with something else (even at the same amounts). I have always felt that the character you get with amber malt is much more of a deeper biscuit, almost roast like flavor than that which you get with a victory or biscuit. And its not like you can add more of one or more malts to get something similar.

      My whole ethos on using base malt is pretty simple. If I am using a high quality, floor malted MO or GP, I really don't want to cover up the wonderful base-malt character with a bunch of other biscuit flavors. It would be like painting a room with a really high quality paint and then going back and painting it a shade darker with a crappy one. If my recipe uses MO, chances are I wont be using any biscuit type malts, since I want the rich, sweet maltiness of the MO to come through. As that's what I'm paying for. However, a little amber malt and MO is a wonderful thing in a bitter. Golden promise is the same type of thing. While it lacks some of the richness of a good MO, it has a very clean, full malt profile that you don't get with a regular old pale, 2-row. And it goes great with high hopping, as you are still getting that full malt and hop profile without muddling up the flavor by adding all sorts of biscuity malts.

      To answer your question, IMO, GP and amber malt are not going to give you the same type of flavor as a MO, since the GP lacks much of the sweet, honey biscuit flavor. The same is true for the opposite. It has taken me a long while, but I am just starting to get back to brewing with simple, less heavy handed recipes. The kitchen sink can work in big or dark beers, but I'm really starting to appreciate a beer with very clean, individual flavors. Whoa, that was a mouthful!

  2. That's a great write-up.

    I'm with you on brewing some simple recipes. I've only been brewing on my own for 9 months, so for me it's both for learning and drinking. I want to know malts like Maris Otter, Golden Promise, Biscuit, Amber, Brown, Munich, Aromatic, and Melanoidin inside and out.

    Heading toward spring seems like the ideal time for me to do a multiplicity of small, lightly hopped beers with one malt or a base malt and one specialty grain.

    Doing small batches reduces the 'risk' of my disliking something experimental I brew. Brewing smaller amounts but more often should also help me refine my process more than infrequent large batches.

    I was thinking of GP as a richer, sweeter, lighter, more 'transparent' malt base as compared to MO, and hence I was considering it the 'ideal' base malt to use in an otherwise single specialty malt beer. That said, going forward I don't intend to brew 'real' batches with any pale base malt other than GP or MO, so I may as well use one or the other.


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