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Behold a Pale Ale

Sherwood and I had lunch at LBC yesterday, and we both got their Amarillo APA, which is tasty but like most of their beers seems watery and one-dimensional. Amarillo is a fantastic hop, but in my experience, at least, it needs something else to really shine – just like potatoes don’t taste quite right without salt. At any rate, I went to their website today and was surprised – shocked, really – to see that it took bronze at the State Fair. (In Category 7, no less; I certainly wouldn’t score it well as either an alt or a steam beer.) It definitely cemented my conviction that my “house” APA recipe, now on its fifth revision, is ready for primetime. So, without further ado, the perfect APA.

The grain bill is extremely straightforward – 95% two-row pale, 5% 40L crystal. The crystal is there primarily to keep it from becoming absurdly dry; essentially all of the perceived sweetness comes from the hops. I use a single-infusion mash for an hour at 67°C (153°F).

Hop-wise, using Centennial for the bittering charge is kind of a big deal. Magnum also works well because it allows the finishing hops to shine, but as the beer gets a little less fresh having that bright citrusy bitterness becomes more important. It’s hopbursted, though, so keep it to around 10 IBU. After that it’s a blend of Amarillo, Simcoe, and Cascade, 4:2:1. The precise ratio of Simcoe and Cascade probably isn’t all that important (and in fact it’s almost as good without Cascade) but you definitely want to keep the Amarillo dominant. I add equal portions at 20, 15, 10, and 5 minutes. At flameout (and later for dry hopping) use a big dose of Amarillo.

Previously, I’ve made this beer with US-05 dry yeast. This last brew session was the first time I tried WYeast 1272 American Ale II, and it’s definitely a winner. It keeps the mouthfeel soft and full, even at 86% apparent attenuation. But it also contributes its own subtle sweetness, helping to round out the back end of the hops’ fruity flavors. Make sure to pitch (the slurry from) an appropriately-sized starter, and ferment around 19°C (66°F). Having only used it once, I don’t know how the 1272 would respond to different temperatures, but in the middle of the road the esters are kept well in check.

Finally, water. Don’t think you can make an exceptional pale ale with your tap water, unless maybe you live in Burton-on-Trent. I have to dilute mine 2:3 with distilled water to get the carbonates under control, then add a fair amount of gypsum. The resulting profile is:

Ca2+: 65 ppm
Mg2+: 13 ppm
Na+: 9 ppm
SO42-: 93 ppm
Cl-: 19 ppm
HCO3-: 98 ppm

And there you have it.

Behold a Pale Ale recipe

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