American Amber Ale in Carboy

This post marks my second batch for this year’s run at the SOBA National Homebrew Comp. You can learn more about the project here. Not surprisingly I’m already well behind on my goals. Hopefully I’ll be able to pick up the pace and make up for a few missed batches.

My choice for a second batch this year was largely dictated by the need to brew something quick for a house party I had coming up. I wanted something malty, but with a decent amount of hop flavour and aroma. But most importantly I needed to brew it quickly.

I began brewing as an all grain brewer, but for this batch I thought I’d take a crack at brewing with extract and steeping grains. My first extract batch ever. I’m a big fan of hop bursting, and thought that this might be a good opportunity to try making a beer that used only middle to late hop additions for just a moderate bitterness contribution, but a ton of hop flavour and aroma.

Here’s what the BJCP has to say about style 19A, American Amber Ale:

From the BJCP 2015 guidelines: “An amber, hoppy, moderate-strength American craft beer with a caramel malty flavour. The balance can vary quite a bit, with some versions being fairly malty and others being aggressively hoppy. Hoppy and bitter versions should not have clashing flavours with the caramel malt profile.”


Batch size: 26.5 Liters (after boil, only 21 L into fermenter)
Starting Gravity: 1.054
Final Gravity: 1.014
ABV: 5.3%
SRM: 14
IBUs (Rager Formula): 33

3.4 KG Briess Sparkling Amber Malt Dry Malt Extract
300 grams Briess Wheat Dry Malt Extract
200 grams Dark Crystal Malt (Bairds 240 EBC)
200 grams Victory Malt

13 grams Amarillo Pellets (9.3% AA): 30 Minutes
12 grams Simcoe Pellets (12.1% AA): 30 Minutes
13 grams Amarillo Pellets (9.3% AA): 10 Minutes
15 grams Simcoe Pellets (12.1% AA): 10 Minutes
21 grams Amarillo Pellets (9.3% AA): 1 Minutes
21 grams Simcoe Pellets (12.1% AA): 1 Minutes
14 grams Amarillo Pellets (9.3% AA): Dry hop for 5 days
14 grams Simcoe Pellets (12.1% AA): Dry hop for 5 days

WLP007 Dry English Ale Yeast (with a simple starter) at 18.5 C.

Approximately 26 Liters Tongariro bottled spring water

Note the odd batch size of 26.5 liters*** As this was my first extract batch I had one major oversight… I forgot to account for the fact that the DME would take up volume in the kettle, and so I added my intended total batch volume of water to the kettle before steeping the grains. But once I added the DME I quickly realized that I had several liters of additional volume. This lowered my intended ABV, but luckily it resulted in a great beer. And given the beer’s finishing gravity, I am glad I did not have any more malt to contend with.

I added my steeping grains to approximately 26 liters of water and heated to 69 degrees C. Once at temperature I let the grains steep for an additional 25 minutes.

I removed my grain bag and heated to a boil. As the water neared a boil I started stirring in the DME a little at a time. This brought my total volume to about 28 Liters. Far more than I wanted as my goal was to finish with 23 Liters, after just a 30 minute boil.

Once boiling I ran through my hop additions. But my final volume was approximately 26.5 liters (3.5 liters more than I was anticipating.)

I chilled and fermented 21 Liters of the wort in a 23 Liter carboy.


Dec, 4th:  Pitched yeast at 18.5 degrees C.

December 5th: At 24 hours the airlock was foaming over.

December 6th: Started raising temp by .5 degrees C each day until I hit 21.5

December 11: Hit final gravity of 1.014. Tastes really nice. Clean, malty, solid apricot/peach-like hop flavour and aroma. Dry hopped for 5 days.

December 16th: Kegged and carbed to approx 2.5 volumes.

This beer turned out great. It was a crystal clear amber beer (much redder than the picture above would indicate). The finished beer retained a slight sweetness, which is appropriate for American Ambers, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any sweeter. The hop flavour and aroma was pronounced, but the bitterness was fairly subdued. That classic apricot/peach quality of the Amarillo/Simcoe combo was prevalent but there was still a nice malty sweetness with a smidge of chocolaty flavour that combined beautifully with the fruity hop flavours and aromas. It reminded me of Dogfish Head’s 90 minute IPA with a much lower ABV, while retaining the sweetness that you get from the double IPA’s high ABV. As the beer aged for a couple of weeks it became more balanced and was perfect by the time it was served at the party it was brewed for.

The bad news: The beer was so popular at the party that I blew the keg before having a chance to bottle a few for competition. Doh! Not off to a good start here. The good news is that I now have a great recipe that’s easy to brew for the future, and which I will definitely brew again.

For my next attempt at this beer I think I will brew it as an all grain batch, in the hopes of bringing down the final gravity a few points. I liked the sweetness, but I think it would be even better if it was a touch drier.

While this style is open to interpretation, this take on the style has a lot more hop flavour and aroma than I typically find in other examples of the style, which tend to be more caramel forward. I personally like it exactly as it is, but if I brew this again for competition, I might rethink the dry hop to be more typical of the American Amber commercial examples I’ve had.

One final observation: Having been a beer judge in the past and tasted my share of oxidized, metallic kit beers, I wasn’t sure how good an extract beer could ultimately be. While I felt I could detect a very slight candy-malt-ball-like flavour that was coming from the DME, it was still very pleasant, and nothing you would ever pick up unless really looking for it. I tasted none of that classic extract “twang” that many have noted from extract beers, and I feel more confident that great beers can be made using extract; particularly DME.

Leave a comment below if you have any questions about the recipe or process.