Thursday, 16 February 2012

Tasting/Recipe : Suits Us Amber

While there are many beer styles that are not, unfortunately, available for purchase here in Fredericton, one that you can find almost anywhere is American Amber. A popular style to brew due to its quick turnaround (if desired), and relative drinkability for most everyone, most North American breweries have at least one Amber that they have available year-round.

There are basically two types of American Ambers that you see... the "normal" one, which is more balanced in terms of maltiness and bitterness/hop flavor and aroma, with it usually tipping towards malty, if anything; and the "West coast U.S." side, which some also often refer to as an "Imperial Amber" or "Red IPA", which is bigger, bolder, and pretty huge with hop flavor and bitterness.

I enjoy both sub-styles very much. One of the really enjoyable regular American Ambers I've had is the Anderson Valley Boont Amber. It's an interesting beer because it's quite malty, with very low hop bitterness, even for the style (15 IBU!), but it still has a nice hop presence in terms of aroma, and to a lesser extent, flavor. Luckily, this was one of the beers that the team from the Can You Brew It podcast decided to tackle, contacting one of the brewers at Anderson Valley and obtaining as much info as possible about how to brew this beer at home.

Back in June of 2011, Geoff and I decided to try this recipe while he was visiting again. You can find a text version of the recipe here, along with all of the CYBI recipes. I was able to get quite close to the recipe, with just a minor change here and there due to available ingredients. The recipe has a large Crystal malt presence, with a total of 2 lbs. Hop additions are generally very low, except for 61 g of Cascade added at flameout, to give that nice, citrusy hop aroma. Anderson Valley uses the equivalent of the Wyeast 1968 London ESB (the Fuller's strain) for their house yeast, which is easily obtainable and provides a lot of character when used. While I only have a few bottles left, this beer has held up quite well, despite the fact that it was bottled over half a year ago.

Appearance: Pours a dark copper/reddish color, with a moderate-sized, off-white head that sticks around for a good while before fading to 1-finger after a minute or so. Body is extremely clear.

Aroma: Sweet, bready malt, with a some caramel sweetness present in the background. Some mild fruitiness from the Cascades is definitely there as well.

Taste: The malt definitely dominates in this beer, but I’m having trouble placing the exact flavor of malt. It’s definitely a bit crackery and slightly sweet. Hop bitterness is quite low (too low for the style, but that’s what the Boont calls for). Hop flavor is low.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, with moderate-high carbonation.

Overall: I can’t remember if this is close to the Boont Amber or not, only having tried it once (over a year ago). It’s a very decent Amber regardless. I'd be happy to brew it again.

Recipe: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency): OG 1.054, FG 1.013, IBU 18, SRM 14.7

3.98 kg Canadian 2-row
500 g Caramunich II (45 L)
500 g Crystal 80 L

Magnum - 4 g (10 % AA) @ 90 min
Magnum - 4 g @ 60 min
Tettnang - 10 g (4.8% AA) @ 20 min
Chinook - 4 g (12.5% AA) @ 20 min
Cascade - 61 g @ 0 min

1/2 tsp yeast nutrient @ 15 min
1/2 tab Irish Moss @ 5 min

Yeast: Wyeast 1968 London ESB (12.5 mL slurry from early May, with a 1 L & 1.75 L starter)

- Brewed June 13th, 2011, with Geoff. 60 minute mash with 16.43 L of strike water, mashed in at 152 F. Sparged with ~5.25 gallons of 173 F water for final volume of 7.25 gallons in the kettle. 90 minute boil. Added half of Cascade hops at flameout, and the other half a couple minutes into chilling.

- Chilled down to 66 F with immersion chiller. Poured and filtered into Better Bottle. Pitched decanted yeast starter, aerating by shaking for several minutes before and after.

- Active fermentation for several days, reaching as high as 71 F. When it began to visibly slow, put the fermenter in a room with the heat on for a diacetyl rest, getting up to 74 F.

- Bottled 3 weeks after brewing with 125 g table sugar, aiming for 2.5 vol CO2 for 5 gallons.

- 30/7/12 - Finally, the comparison with the real thing.


  1. Seems like a pretty detailed hop menu for something that's around 18 IBU!

    Interesting that you bring up Red IPAs, as this is something we're thinking of brewing up for St. Paddy's Day. Maybe some kind of psychic link between Maritime home brewers?

  2. Could be...

    I brewed a West Coast-U.S. Amber a few months ago... a retweaked version of one I did a couple years ago. Came out pretty good. I'll post the recipe in a few days in case you want to take a look for any ideas.