From the HBD Archive
Subject: Re: Pale Ales?
Date: 1989-01-30 18:40:17 GMT writes:
> I posted a query with asking for pale ale recipes, and got
> no reply. I've tried the usual 6-7 lbs amber extract, 1 lb crystal malt,
> and 1/4 lb roasted malt, with 2 oz Cascade boiling, and 1/2 oz Kent
> Goldings finishing. I obtain a pale ale that is challenging, but nowhere
> near Samuel Smith's. I have come to the conclusion that the water formula
> is primary in determining the flavor and body.In addition, knowing when
> and having the ability to stop fermentation is also useful in obtaining
> the proper sweetness.

This is my first posting to this newsletter, so I might as well point out
up front that I'm a purist. I've been brewing since 1980. I know from
long experience how difficult it is to figure out what is causing the
problem(s) and hence what to do. I could write 50 pages on red herrings
I've chased. I tried all kinds of malt extracts and procedures and got
many drinkable but no great beers until I started mashing. Water
composition is a red herring here, unless you have really weird water.
That is, you're okay unless your water has well over 1000 ppm hardness
or has nasty things like iron or lots of Mg.

What do you mean by stopping the fermentation? Ales are either fermented
out completely and primed with sugar or wort, or are kegged with a
little fermentation to go. You can control sweetness by using more malt
or malt extract. You can also add dextrins to the wort. Dextrin powder
available at homebrew suppliers; I've not used it. I control sweetness
by controlling the mash temperature. English brewers add complex
unfermentable sugars and of course have a degree of control over mash
pH and temperature that we homebrewers can only dream of.

Traditional pale ale is made with hard water, containing calcium sulfate
(gypsum), magnesium sulfate (epsom salts), and NaCl. Adding Burton water
salts to soft water will give you what you need. BUT--the water is more
important in the mash that in the boiler or fermentor. You're on the right
track if you're trying to make drinkable beer in the style of pale ale.
You may be able to make small improvements, but if you want to rival
imported pale ales you can't do it this way. Use malted barley, crystal
malt, maybe some roasted unmalted barley, and quality hops (I prefer
whole, but many like pellets). Once you've taken the leap to mashing
you might use pure culture yeast, too. This produces a noticeable
improvement, but is not as big a leap as extract to mashing.

To me, you're question is similar to saying "I've tried a dozen cake
mixes but I can't rival the best restaurant chocolate cake. What can
I do?" The answer is start from scratch with quality chocolate, not
cocoa. I don't believe that one can make pale ale or pale lager from
extract that can stand up to head-to-head taste tests with good
commercial beer.

Well, so much for a first posting. In the future I'll not be as dogmatic
nor as long winded. I know that in what is ostensibly a followup
posting I've not been helpful. Sorry. IMHO you're a year of difficult
work away from that great pale ale. It's time for me to go home and
compare my Pilsner (malt, leaf Saaz, Wyeast Danish lager yeast) to
Pilsner Urquell. (Well, I can dream, can't I?) I suspect my wife
will prefer my brew--it's a little softer due to the yeast and the lower
hop rate, and she's a wimp when it comes to hops. She doesn't even
like Guinness! I suspect *I* shall be humbled. But I know that none
of this batch is going to waste.

Len Reed

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