Session Pale Ale

So inspired by reading the “Session Beers” book I decided to start a series of batches of low ABV beers to see how I could manage the flavor balance on such delicate beers. I started by putting together a recipe for a Session American Pale Ale with a target of 3.8% ABV and 30IBU and very aromatic. Actually I started the recipe before completing reading the book and I targeted a very dry finish/high attenuating beer. After reading the book I realized that due to the lower ABV I should target a bigger mouthfeel and lower attenuation but for that I just decided to change my mashing temperature without changing the planned yeast strain.

The recipe ended up as this (for 12L):
2.3kg Pilsner Malt
0.15kg Carahell Malt (Weyermann)
0.1kg Flaked Oat
This was actually my first experience using Cologne’s tap water (since there is no chloryne in it) plus 5.2pH Stabilizer on the mash water.
Mashing was done at 68oC for 90 minutes + mash out at 74oC for 15 minutes

12g Galena hops for 60min boil
25g Centennial flower hops flame out
25g Simcoe flower hops flame out
Wyeast American Ale (1056) yeast – 1 smack pack
2 days fermenation at 17oC +5 days fermentation at 19oC
25g Centennial flower hops dry hopping 7 days
25g Simcoe flower hops dry hopping 7 days
7 days of cold conditioning at 5oC
Bottled with 2 carbonator drops per 500ml bottle and left for 2 weeks for bottle conditioning.

In the end the beer I just re learned that when you brew a low ABV beer (with a high water to grain ration on the mash and a lot of sparge water) the brewing efficiency is a lot higher than when doing high ABV beers. So I overshoot my planned density before boil and my boil kettle was already full. So I did some calculations and prepared some boiled water to dilute my wort during the boil of the main wort. Luckly all went well and I was able to hit my 1041 target OG but with a lot more wort then planned (around 15.5L), which was good since considering the beer loss due to trub and hops absortion I would still end up with around 13.5L of finished beer. But then I had another problem, the beer attenuated a lot more than planned. Target FG was 1015 and it ended at 1006. So my 3.8% ABV beer ended at 4.5%. So maybe next time I’ll increase the amount of Carahell in the recipe or use an English Ale yeast strain and try to control the ester production with a low fermentation temperature. And another problem, the bottles reached 2.5bar of pressure after bottle conditioning which indicates high carbonation levels, another thing you don’t want on a session beer. Not sure what to do next time since I use carbonator drops.

Tasting the beer.

After 1 week of bottle conditioning the bottles already reached 2.5bar so I decided to try one. The beer had a bright yellow/pale color and moderate hazzyness (due to the yeast not settling in fully and dry hopping, need a higher flocculation yeast). It poured a nice white foam head but not very stable (need more oats). It showed very high hop aroma, mainly citric and piney with a little spice on it but some level of diacetyl (again). Mouthfeel was light and crisp with a dry hoppy finish. Bitterness was somewhat harsh and higher than I wanted.

After the 2nd week of bottle condition I opened another bottle and the diacetyl was gone. YAY. So all in all the beer turned out very nice even though it didn’t deliver exactly what I wanted.

I also took some bottles to the homebrewing club meeting and everybody liked it and didn’t notice any problems.

Next I’m planning to take some bottles to the Brouwland Open Days in May 19th to get some expert opinion and guidance on how to improve it.

Next one will be a session Oatmeal Stout which I’ll tweak the recipe based on the lessons learned from this one.