Thursday, September 19, 2013

Brew Day: Harvest Amber

For the past few years now, when September comes around and my brewing interests move on to maltier beer styles, I've brewed what I consider a 'harvest bitter.' While you wont find such a thing in any style guideline, I like to think that harvest bitters and/or ales are amber colored and easy drinking malty beers with an emphasis on caramel malts and earthy hops. And rich yeast esters. With that said, I can't say that I've had the best success executing such a thing. Last year's version turned out merely ok, pretty "meh" overall, and the batch before that ended in complete disaster, getting dumped out, due to fermentation off flavors.

With that mind, the beer I am brewing this time is a step apart from those before, as I am forgoing the whole 'bitter' thing and instead brewing an American Amber ale. As for the recipe, I am using Gambrinus' ESB malt - which is basically a more flavorful 2-row with a lightly toasted grain character - and rounding things out with a light and dark crystal and some pale chocolate malt for color. I have been brewing my amber ales with this malt bill for sometime now and I've been very happy with the results. As for the hops, going along with the 'harvest' theme, I am using a mix of my recently dried Cascade and Northern Brewer hops for flavor, and throwing in some Amarillo for a stronger citrus aroma.

Lastly, for the yeast, I am using WhiteLabs 051 California Ale V. While I've used this yeast with good succes in the past, my principle reason for using it this time is to see how it compares to the Mangrove Jack M44 West Coast Ale yeast. I've been brewing with this yeast quite a bit lately - I made two pale ales and an amber with it, all of which turned out fantastic, tasting notes to come - and I would like to see if the MJ44 strain is indeed just a dried version of Wyeast and Whitelabs 1272/051. From observing the differences in fermentation between the yeasts so far, it seems like they might just be different strains after all. How it compares to Danstar's BRY-97 West Coast Ale (the Ballantine II strain) will be left for another brew day. If the resulting beer is moderately malty and my homegrown hops don't taste like garlic and onions, I'll be happy.

Harvest Amber: American Amber

Recipe Specifics: 
Batch Size (Gal): 4.0
Total Grain (Lbs): 8.40
Anticipated OG: 1.055
Anticipated FG: 1.012
Anticipated SRM: 14
Anticipated IBU: 30
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

89.3% - 7.50 lbs. Gambrinus ESB Malt
6.0%   - 0.50 lbs. Crystal 60L
3.0%   - 0.25 lbs. Crystal 120L
1.8%   - 0.15 lbs. Pale Chocolate

0.75 oz. Northern Brewer @ 60 min for 20 IBU
0.50 oz. Homegrown Cascade @ 15 min for 7 IBU
0.50 oz. Homegrown Northern Brewer @ 5 min for 3 IBU
0.50 oz. Homegrown Cascade @ flameout
1.50 oz. Amarillo @ flameout

Yeast: WhiteLabs 051 California Ale V
Mash 156F for 60 min
Brewed on 8 September


  1. Will, I get plenty of sulphur produced during fermentation with WLP051. I'd be interested to know if you get the same, and whether this is also present with the M44 you've been using in other brews.

    1. Yep, pretty much all of my fermentations with wl051/wy1272, including this one, have produced some sulfur. I was expecting the M44 yeast to do the same, but it has done nothing of the sort.

      However, it does exhibt a similar fermentation profile in that it is a vigorus fermenter, producing a large krausen, and it takes a week+ to fully ferment out. Flocculation is about the same too. Just from observing the course of fermentation, I'd be inclined to think they might be the same, had it not been for the lack of sulfur in the M44.

      Regardless of whether or not they are/taste the same, the M44 yeast is well worth using.


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