Thursday, 19 November 2015

Brewing a Columbus Pale Ale (inspired by Epic Pale Ale)

With summer over (yeah, it's been a couple of months already, but I'm way behind), the annual brewing-lull has come to an end. Time to get back into it!

Around the beginning of September, I needed to brew. The summer was really busy with the usual combination of work and being away for vacations, so I was looking to brew up something fairly simple that didn't involve a lot of planning, and that I could quickly turn around and have on tap within a few weeks. I have a short list of beers that I would like to rebrew, and after a quick scan I picked out an Epic Pale Ale clone that I brewed years ago, just a few months after starting this blog. Epic is a great brewery in Auckland, New Zealand; I've had several of their beers, back when they were distributing to Maine (I assume they are no longer? I don't recall seeing their beers on recent trips to Portland). Their Pale Ale is brewed with all Cascade hops; the clone recipe I followed was one from the old Can You Brew It? podcast. Featuring plenty of Cascade, it was a great clone recipe, so I thought it would be a nice beer to brew again.

However, before I entered the recipe into BeerSmith again, I did a quick scan of my hop inventory. I had just enough Cascade to brew a smaller batch of this beer, but realized that I had more than twice as much Columbus. Now, I've always planned on brewing a Columbus single-hop beer; it seems like such an underrated hop variety to me. It's used in plenty of beers, but because it's been around for a long time, it often gets overlooked, what with all the fancy new varieties out there (I'm admittedly a victim of this overlooking, myself). I've used it in several beers with one other variety, and I always like what it brings to the table. It seems to offer a combination of dank and resiny tones, with some fruity qualities as well. With extra on hand, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally brew a beer that brought Columbus front and center.

The grist for this recipe is definitely for an "olden-days" APA; that is, it's not just a super-light, lower-ABV IPA (I DO love those types of APAs, by the way). There's a fair amount of Crystal malt in it (over 20% is CaraRed and Carapils, combined), but luckily it's still mashed low at 148 F, to keep it as dry as possible. The rest is made up of equal amounts 2-row and Maris Otter; I of course planned on adding some Acid malt to bring down the mash pH, but when brew day came along, I forgot yet again that I was out of Acid malt. Dammit! Oh well, the first time I brewed this beer I wasn't using Acid malt, so I figured the beer wouldn't suffer too much. I also added some gypsum and calcium chloride to the mash this time around.

This APA, however, is still hopped pretty heavily for the style... 9 oz of hops in total, with most of that being from flameout on. Two separate flameout additions are used, one for a hop steep, the other after chilling begins (the original recipe calls for a 10-min steep, then ANOTHER 10-min steep, so I changed it up a bit this time), and then two separate dry-hop additions after fermentation ends. The beer was fermented with US-05; I should point out that the original Epic Pale Ale recipe calls for Wyeast 1272 American Ale II. I didn't go through the trouble of ordering it when I actually brewed the clone recipe, and I didn't have a chance to here, either. However, if you're looking to actually clone Epic Pale Ale, I recommend you try to track down the 1272, at the recommendation of Epic's brewers.

I was pretty happy with how this beer came out. It's definitely a bit sweeter than most of the APAs I've been brewing lately; I think part of this is due to the grist, and partly due to Columbus. While the beer's aroma and taste are both quite dank and resinous, there's this kind of sweet, candy-like quality in there... reminds me a lot of Rockets. Oddly enough, it all works. The bitterness is about perfect, probably in the moderate category, and the beer finishes just dry enough to make it easy-drinking, but balanced with enough maltiness to make it clear that it's not an IPA. While not my favorite APA I've brewed, it IS tasty, and an interesting experiment to focus on the Columbus hop.

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 80% efficiency) OG 1.052, FG ~1.010, IBU ~42, SRM 6.5, ABV ~5.7%

1.7 kg (39.1%) Canadian 2-row
1.7 kg (39.1%) Maris Otter
600 g (13.8%) CaraRed
350 g (8%) CaraPils

CTZ - 14 g (10% AA) @ 60 min
CTZ - 35 g @ 10 min

CTZ - 42 g @ 0 min (with a 15 min hop steep)
CTZ - 42 g @ 0 min (after started chilling)

CTZ - 56 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)

CTZ - 63 g dry-hop for 5 more days (DH keg)

Misc: 1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min

Yeast: US-05 Safale (1 pack, rehydrated)

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 4 g Gypsum and 4 g calcium chloride added to mash

- Brewed on September 9th, 2015, by myself. 50-minute mash with 13 L of strike water, mashed in at target of 148 F. Sparged with ~4 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~6.75 gallons.

- Pre-boil gravity a bit low at 1.040 (target 1.042). 60-minute boil. Final volume ~5.75 gallons; OG low at 1.048. Chilled to 66 F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 60 seconds of pure O2, pitched rehydrated yeast at 68 F (a bit higher than I like, but the ground water was still quite warm).

- Good fermentation activity over the next few days; the temperature luckily never went higher than 70 F, thanks to keeping the BB in my laundry sink with some water and ice packs.

- 16/9/15 - Added first round of dry-hops into primary. FG 1.010.

- 22/9/15 - Racked beer to DH keg, added second round of dry-hops, purged again with CO2.

- 27/9/15 - Transferred beer to serving keg and began carbing to ~2.3 vol CO2.

Yeah, yeah, don't remind me
Appearance: Pours with a moderate-sized, slightly off-white head that shows very good retention, before fading to 1/2-finger. Body is dark orange/light amber coloured, with very good clarity despite the two dry-hop additions.

Aroma: Resinous, slight candy-like aroma that is definitely interesting, and something I don't really recall experiencing before. Pleasant malt backbone keeps the beer out of IPA territory, but still does a nice job of allowing the hops to express themselves.

Taste: The hop characteristics in the aroma pretty much come through the same in the taste, with a resiny/dank overtone that is quickly followed by that candy-sweetness. It finishes more on the dry side, with a moderate bitterness that kind of sticks around a bit.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, moderate carbonation.

Overall: Enjoyable. Don't think I'll probably go out of my way to brew it again, but I wouldn't mind doing one of my one-hop Session IPAs with Columbus, to really let the hop express itself more. Would probably work really well in a SMaSH beer, too.


  1. Sounds nice, the 4g/4g CaCl and CaS04 is more than I've been using, what ppm are you shooting for with hoppy beers?

    1. To be honest, I wasn't really aiming for particular numbers, but with my water, the resulting Chloride and Sulfate came to about 75 ppm each. With some recent hoppy beers, I've been aiming for double that, in the 150 ppm range for each, based on some other homebrewers' results. Haven't tasted them yet, so we'll see how that goes!

  2. I recommend keeping around a bottle of lactic acid, just in case :)

    It's saved me before