Like Just An Amber Ale

I was discussing beer with another ex-pat colleague last year, he’s in his late 40’s or early 50’s, and a solid Midwestern kind of guy. He had just been back to the States to visit family and asked me “Is it even possible to get like just an ‘amber ale’ anymore?” I asked him if it meant like the one’s he drank in the late 90’s, and he said that’s exactly what he meant. It’s true that the craft beer landscape is pretty unrecognizable compared to the micro-brewery boom and crash of the late 90’s, when I got into beer in college. While I became a hop-head pretty much right from the get-go I think I understood what he was talking about.

This beer is inspired by Mark, my American colleague. I am brewing it to help overcome my fear of crystal malt and because I think it’s cool to brew something I normally wouldn’t even think twice about. I still utilized some newer school techniques like a small hop stand, but I will forgo a dryhop of any kind because I want this to be distinctly an amber, and not just a darker coloured pale ale. 

10 litres, Brew in a bag – Beersmith File


  • 60% Maris Otter (Muntons)
  • 19% Belgian Wheat
  • 7.3% Cara Red
  • 4.8% Cara Aroma
  • 1.7% Special B (Castle)
*I realize this doesn’t add up, but it’s close enough to copy the recipe, which is the point here.


  • Safale US-05*
*Rehydrated of course, see this Brulosopher post on the subject.


  • 60 min – 25-26 IBUs Magnum
  • 20 min steep at flame out – 7 IBUs Cascade and 8.5 IBUs Centennial

Brew Day

I had a little trouble with my last brew day maintaining temperature in my cooler, so I tried a new approach this time. First I mashed in a couple degrees F higher than my intended sacch rest temperature. I also reserved 2 litres of liquor. After 45 minutes I added 1 litre of reserved liquor at a full boil, this bumped the temperature up into the range of a very fermentable wort. I did the same 30 minutes later with the last litre of liquor. and let the mash go for an additional 30 minutes for a total of 1 hour and 45 minutes of mash. I am hoping the additional time will help with a mash that probably spent a significant amount of time below a sacch rest temp. Last time I used a small decoction, but this is far less finicky and messy.

Taking this picture actually required some skills.
Taking this picture actually required some skills.

Again I nailed pre-boil gravity, which feels great, since this system is so new, I still have not managed to do this once on my Igloo cooler 5 gallon system.

During the long mash I was again able to be productive, de-weeding and turning over the horribly maintained raised beds left for us by the previous owners.

My wife was so proud.
My wife was so proud.

I used this article as a recipe formulation guideline, and like Jamil I am doing a 90 minute boil, hopefully to accentuate a true amber colour. I am also hoping the aroma malt adds something special which distinguishes this beer from a pale ale, even though I am using very pale-ale like ‘C’ hops to keep it classically American.

Looking forward to a quick turn-around with this beer (bottle conditioning not-withstanding.) No secondary, I’m hoping it ferments out in under 5 days, plus a  diacetyl rest, and I’m hoping this is drinkable in 40 days.


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