Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Brew Day: Albany Imperial Ale

This is a beer I've been wanting to brew for a long time now, but kept putting it off for a lazy day or when all my kegs were filled. Anyways, for those of you not familiar with the original "King of Beers" (in America at least), Albany Ale was among the most important pre-prohibition beers brewed in this country and has done much to shape our brewing history. But what is Albany Ale and why has no one heard of it? Well, a quick Google search will provide you with more historical tidbits and histories of the stuff than I care to write about here. There is even an "Albany Ale Project" on Facebook that documents what is known about the beer... which isn't a whole lot when it comes to the nitty-gritty. Generally speaking, most Albany Ales of the early to mid 1800's were essentially pale stock ales with original gravities around 1.065-1.095, highly hopped and bittered at 2-3lbs per barrel and thoroughly boiled. While I have yet to come across an original recipe for Albany Ale, from what we know of the other American stock beers of the time, the grist would have likely been pale malt with a large portion of sugar added at the end of the boil. How much, if any, wheat was used is still being debated. Hops would have been locally grown American varieties, such as English Cluster, Red Vine, Pompey, and Humphreys among others. Interestingly, from what we know of these hops still growing today, they tended to have a rather intense citrus character not unlike that of Cascade or Chinook. 

The recipe I am using is based on Randy Moshers recipe for a historical Imperial Pale Ale, of which is inspired by John Taylor's "Imperial Cream Ale." The grist is a mixture of two-row pale, Tipple malt, and 12% demerara sugar added just before flameout. As for hops, I am lucky to own an original English Cluster and Humphrey Seedling hop plant and I have a freezer full of the cones I harvested last fall. These hops are probably the closest we can get those used over 160 years ago. My yeast choice is Wyeast 1098 British Ale, since Albany area brewers were certainly using English yeasts. Lastly, my goal here isn't to brew a spot-on-historical "Albany Ale," but rather make a beer that will share some of the flavors and characteristics of those legendary ales brewed so many years ago.                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Albany Imperial Ale : Pale Stock Ale 
                                                                                     
Recipe Specifics
-----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 3.0
Total Grain (Lbs): 8.00
Anticipated OG: 1.075
Anticipated FG: 1.012
Anticipated SRM: 4-5
Anticipated IBU: 70-90
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 120 Minutes

Grain/Sugar
------------
62.5% - 5.00 lbs. Pale Malt, 2-Row 
25.0% - 2.00 lbs. Pale Malt, Tipple
12.5% - 1.00 lbs. Demerara Sugar (flameout)

Hops
------
1.50 oz. E.Cluster/Humphreys @ 120 min for 40 IBU
1.00 oz. E.Cluster/Humphreys @ 60 min for 23 IBU
1.00 oz. E.Cluster/Humphreys @ 30 min for 12 IBU
1.00 oz. E.Cluster/Humphreys @ flameout

Yeast: Wyeast 1098 British Ale
Mash 152F for 75 min.
Brewed 26 June 

Edit: As you can see, the color of the wort after the 2 hour boil is darker than the 4-5 SRM that I originally thought it would be. Also, the flavor of the hops is quite unique - floral grapefruit and tangerine with a bit of that earthy 'roughness' one expects from Cluster type hops. I estimated the AA of the hops to be around 5%, but the wort is tasting a lot smoother than 75+ IBU.

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