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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

German Pale Ale

My experimental German Pale Ale has now had time to condition in the bottle. I have tasted a few samples and have had others taste samples too. The verdict is a consensus: it is good!

German Pale Ale

To refresh my readers’ memories, I will give a rundown of the origins of the “German Pale Ale”. It arose from my continuing desire to do something different. In this case I came up with the idea of using proven dark beer yeast to brew a proven pale beer grain bill. So this experiment was a bit of a criss-cross of past successes. I always advocate such mix-ups of ingredients as a way to grow and explore. I am continually frustrated by brewers who live in a world of hard categories. To them, the world is made up of ale yeasts, lager yeasts, IPA’s Double IPA’s, blah, blah, and blah. Is it not the height of ignorance and irony for some alleged expert to declare, “A good beer, but not to style”? May God, or whoever may be in charge, never allow that I should live in such a pathologically defined world. Good beer is good beer; style is in the eye of the beholder.

So it is I found myself brewing “German Pale Ale”. I made a starter of Wyeast German Ale yeast. For grain, I used 6 lb Pale Pearl malt, 4 oz 40L crystal malt, and 4 oz Cara Munich malt. For hops, I used 1 oz of my own hops, which will be the subject of an upcoming blog. For a mash, I did a single temperature infusion. All in all, this was a fairly simple recipe.

The only difficulty encountered during the creation of this beer was that the yeast, like so many Wyeast products, was a slow starter. Even mixing up a starter in advance was not enough, this yeast was a dog. After 48 hours, it had shown little, if any, activity. In an effort to get things going, I racked the whole mess into another fermenter. That did the trick and within a few hours a vigorous fermentation was progressing.

When it came time to bottle, I added 1 ½ cups of dark dry malt extract. I have always preferred using dry malt extract to using sugar for priming. It seems to me that sugar does not give as thick and smooth a head to the beer as does dry malt extract. Further, when I sugar primed my beers it seemed that I often got a cidery taste.

So now three weeks have passed since bottling the “German Pale Ale”. As the photograph shows, it is a nice golden colored brew (Note the reflection of the alien in the mug. Word of this beer spread fast). The flavor is a smooth malty sweetness overlain by a surprisingly strong hop flavor. This is not the harsh hop bitterness of modern India pale ales or other hop bombs. Rather it is true hop flavor.

I do not know quite how to describe the hop flavor of this beer. I know of no commercial beer with a similar hop flavor, though it is probably closest to a traditional Kolsch. The best I can do is to describe the taste as reminiscent of the aroma of a bucket of freshly picked hops. Indeed, I suspect that those who have never picked hops for themselves may well not recognize the flavor for what it is. For me, as the grower and harvester of the hops used in this beer, it is a real treat to have them make such a significant contribution to the overall flavor of such a fine beer.

So there you have it, the “German Pale Ale” is a success. Perhaps a new style? I will let the drinker decide.

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