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Creating A House Beer: The Pale Ale

There’s something about having a brew that you know well, is easy to make and most importantly that you and your friends like enough to always have on hand. For me, the style that lends itself best to being my “house beer” is an American Pale Ale. Unlike its big brother, India Pale Ale, this APA doesn’t have to prove itself with a hop bomb or a high ABV. After all, a house beer is your go-to, everyday beer that you may drink multiple pints of in a day. Now let's look at what makes the humble Pale Ale a great candidate for being a go to house beer.

History of American Pale Ale

According to beer author Michael Jackson, American Pale Ale can trace its roots back to 1970s and 1980s California with Anchor Steam’s Anchor Liberty Ale and New Albion’s New Albion Ale and of course, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. In 1975, Fritz Maytag’s Anchor Brewing Company brewed Anchor Liberty Ale. Maytag took inspiration from European brewers but used a new citrusy hop variety called Cascade for the 6% brew. Similarly, New Albion founder Jack McAuliffe spent time in Europe in the U.S. Navy and developed a taste for European ales. In 1976 he started a brewery and used what he could get his hands on: 2-row pale malt and Cascade hops for his signature New Albion Ale. The first commercial use of the term “Pale Ale” was in 1980 with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. [caption id="attachment_1709" align="aligncenter" width="1000"]A House Beer doesn't have to be a Pale Ale however; it can be whatever beer you can "never have enough of"[/caption]

The Style

So what makes American Pale Ale different from English Pale Ale? The ingredients are usually American (shocker!), and the hops tend to be on the citrusy side, while . APA is also higher in alcohol and hoppier than its European cousin. The BJCP vital statistics place APA between a sessionable 4.5% and 6.2% ABV, with IBUs between 30 and 45. Here’s what’ you’re shooting for according to the BJCP:

Appearance: Pale golden to deep amber. Moderately large white to off-white head with good retention. Generally quite clear, although dry-hopped versions may be slightly hazy. Flavor: Usually a moderate to high hop flavor, often showing a citrusy American hop character (although other hop varieties may be used). Low to moderately high clean malt character supports the hop presentation, and may optionally show small amounts of specialty malt character (bready, toasty, biscuity).

Water: If you want to treat your water, here are some general mineral guidelines for the style from John Palmer: Calcium (ppm): 50-150 Magnesium (ppm): 0-30 Alkalinity as CaCO3: 40-120 Sulfate (ppm): 100-400 Chloride (ppm): 0-100 Sodium (ppm): <100 Residual Alkalinity: (-)30-30 If you would like to treat your water accordingly, but don't have the ability or confidence to build your water from scratch, the easy-to-use ACCUmash water treatments can get you in the right direction in no time.   

Recipe Formulation

In many ways, recipe formulation is as much trial and error as anything. A good place to start is with a recipe you’ve already brewed. Was there something about that batch that you loved? Was there something that didn’t quite seem right? Assuming you’ve kept good records, you should be able to start tweaking the recipe to get to that perfect pale ale. Recipe tweaking is all about embracing the different variables in brewing. On the malt side, you can experiment with different base malts to change the flavor and ABV. Different quantities or darkness of crystal malts can change the color, flavor and body of the beer. Raising your mash temp can lead to a sweeter, fuller bodied beer, while lowering it may result in drier, thinner beer. For a Pale Ale, most of your experiments are going to be with different hop varieties, quantities and timing. As with any experiment, it’s important not to change too many variables at once and to keep good records. For instance, maybe you like the hop flavor, but want to focus on changing the hop aroma. Leave your 15-minute hops alone, but experiment with different late additions and see how that affects the finished product. Because you maybe making a number of revisions, this is where small batches come in handy. A one- or two-gallon batch can help you dial in changes without spending the time or money on a full size batch. [caption id="attachment_1710" align="aligncenter" width="800"]A batch of my house pale ale is always fermenting[/caption] Here is my pale ale recipe. However you should feel free to tune it to your tastes, as you're looking to create your own house beer

My “house pale ale” recipe:

My recipe, which you can find below, is simple; a bunch of 2-row, a little bit of crystal 40, Simcoe, Amarillo, and the Chico yeast strain. If Simcoe isn’t your thing, feel free to experiment with different American hops to match your tastes. For example, switching out the 15 minute Simcoe addition with Cascade might be nice. I chose American 2-row for its clean flavor and adherence to the style. I added the Crystal 40 primarily to add color. I chose Simcoe because I really like the woodsy aroma and piney characteristics. I went with Amarillo hoping it would add the citrusy flavor that is common in the style. 5 gallon All-grain batch 10 lbs 2-row 8 oz Crystal 40 .5 oz Simcoe at 60 minutes .5 oz Amarillo at 60 minutes 1 oz Simcoe at 15 minutes .5 oz Amarillo at Flameout .5 oz Simcoe at Flameout Yeast Options US-05 / Wyeast 1056 / WLP001 Mash 1 hour at 152° Batch Sparge 1 hour boil Anticipated OG:1.054, Anticipated FG: 1.010Anticipated ABV:,  5.7%, Anticipated IBU: 52 Homebrew Supply's Pale Ale kit is also great jumping off point when looking to create your very own house favorite. What is your house beer? Is it an ESB, an easy drinking Porter, Blonde Ale? Let us know in the comments!