It’s time again for another recipe of the month blog from Great Fermentations! As we are finally starting to escape the cold winter here in Indiana, I have been thinking about what beer would be good for this time of year. Still cold, yet easing into spring and the eventual summer, what would I want to drink at this time of year? It didn’t take long for me to reach a decision: American amber ale!
Think of American amber ale as the American answer to an Irish red ale, which also makes it a perfect beer to feature this month. While we all love a good Irish red ale, sometimes you need something a little bigger, a little maltier, and with a little more hop character to get you through the spring.
American Amber ales are often touted as having a wide range for interpretation, and rightly so. They are generally amber in color, ranging from copper to light or medium brown. They are supposed to have a better malt-to-hop balance than American pale ales, which are more balanced towards hops. To accomplish this, a larger portion of crystal or caramel malts are used, and usually darker crystal malts are used as well. These darker malts will tend more toward caramel, stone fruit, plum and raisin flavor characteristics and be less sweet tasting, which lends itself to the finished product, as well as help develop that beautiful amber color that is the namesake of the style. Other specialty malts may also be used, such as victory, biscuit, Munich or aromatic malts, to give a toasted or biscuity flavor to the beer. Adding these malts is not 100% necessary, but can help give the beer a nice complexity as well as balance out some of the hops.
Speaking of hops, since this is an American amber, we can go ahead and use those piney and citrusy American hops that we would use in a pale ale or an IPA. Again, style interpretation means that you can add just enough hops to balance the malt character, or step up the hops a bit to make a American west coast style red ale. All of your quintessential American hops will work nicely. In my recipe, I have chosen to use Warrior for bittering, as it tends to be nice, clean and have a high alpha acid percentage. Centennial comes through for the flavor and aroma, giving this beer a nice citrus nose that helps to balance the caramel and toasted notes.
As far as yeast goes, a clean American strain works nicely to keep the yeast flavor neutral. Standard American ale yeast strains work nicely, but you could substitute out with a lesser used strain, like Wyeast 1332 Northwest Ale or 1272 American Ale II. Or you might even try the Imperial Organic Yeast Joystick, a yeast purported to be Rogue’s Pac-Man strain, which is what Rogue’s website claims they use in their amber ale.
We’ll mash just slightly higher than we would for a pale ale or IPA to keep this beer from drying out to much, and use a balanced water profile that isn’t too high in sulfates or carbonates to avoid accentuating hops too much. Let’s do this!
Red Yum American Amber Ale Recipe (for final volume of 5.5 gallons)
Estimated O.G. = 1.058
Estimated F.G. = 1.0.14
Estimated ABV = 5.8%
Estimated bitterness = 42 IBUs
0.5 oz Warrior hops (15.8% AA), added at the beginning of the 60 minute boil.
0.5 oz Centennial hops added with 20 minutes left in the boil.
0.5 oz Centennial hops added with 10 minutes left in the boil.
0.5 oz Centennial hops added with 5 minutes left in the boil.
2 packs (or make an appropriate starter) of Wyeast 1056 American Ale yeast, White Labs WLP001 California Ale, or 1-2 packs of dry Safale S-05 yeast. You may also choose to try 2 packs (or an appropriate starter) of a different American strain, such as Wyeast 1332 Northwest Ale yeast or Wyeast 1272 American Ale II yeast. You might also use 1 can of Imperial Organic Yeast A07 Flagship, A15 Independence, or A18 Joystick.
- Mash at 153F for 60 minutes. A mash-out at 168-170F for 15 minutes is recommended, but not necessary. Drain, sparge, and proceed with a 60 minute boil.
- Chill to 64-66F and pitch yeast. Ferment at 66F for two weeks before bottling or kegging.
- A secondary fermentation for one week to improve clarity and reduce sedimentation is optional.
Extract Version: Replace the 2-row brewer’s malt with 6 lbs of light dry malt extract . Steep the specialty grains (crystal 80L, Munich and victory) at 150-155F for 30 minutes using a muslin grain bag. Remove the bag, allowing the grains to drain into the boil kettle. Turn off the flame and dissolve the extract in the kettle. Turn the flame back on, bring to a boil and proceed as above. NOTE: as the extract version is slightly different than the all-grain, you may have a slightly lower starting gravity of around 1.054 at the beginning of fermentation.