Elkland Amber Lager Brew Day

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I am a Pennsylvanian. It should go without saying that I’m a big fan of Yuengling and their Traditional Amber Lager. For a lot of people, this beer is a first step away from macro beer towards craft culture. For some people, it is the only step. A recent change in the wording of the Brewer’s Associations’ definition of “craft beer” means that Yuengling is now officially a craft brewery. Previously, their use of corn kept them out of that category.

Who cares? Well, I guess a lot of people do. I’m not one of them, though. I liked them before and I still do. Considering how much corn is grown here in Pennsylvania, it only makes sense that “local” “craft” beer should use the ingredient. But I’m getting off track here…

I brewed a beer today with American two-row and six-row pale malted barley, crystal malt, corn, Cluster and Cascade hops and lager yeast. If you’ve spent as much time on Yuengling’s website as I have, this may sound familiar. I have to be clear that I’m not necessarily trying to “clone” Yuengling, but I would definitely like to make something that is reminiscent of it and in doing so I read a lot of supposed clone recipes.

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In my opinion, most of them seem to be trying too hard. Face it, you’re not going to be able fully clone their water and fermentation regiment and their bottled and canned beer are pasteurized so the yeast is a lot of guesswork. Flaked barley, acidulated malt, random assortments of dark malts, decoction mashes, boiling fermented beer… I’ve heard and read all of these ideas to try to get around it but I just don’t buy it. Yuengling has a house character and it makes their beer special and you can’t replicate it. Why try?

They tell you their grain and hop ingredients. Add your own house character and make your own beer. That is my goal.

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There is a lot of caramel malt sweetness in Yuengling. This and the color indicate to me that it has a lot of 80L caramel malt. Despite what other people say, I swear I taste a little bit of those Cascade hops. I know they use corn as an adjunct and use a combination of six and two row American pale malt. That is pretty much all the information I went in with and after reading other people’s ideas, it is pretty much all I decided continue with.

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The one bit of useful information I found was from some conversation on Homebrew Talk. People were trying to determine the finishing gravity, which would in turn allow them to find the starting gravity (although, Yuengling utilizing high gravity brewing, watering down the beer after fermentation so that isn’t exactly accurate). I was having trouble determining how low it fermented because of all the caramel malt sweetness.

The corn ferments dry, but also lends some creamy character and the caramel malt adds some body and unfermentable sugar, so they kind of go against each other. Other people’s research says that the terminal gravity of canned Yuengling is somewhere between 1.010 and 1.012. The Weihenstephan lager yeast I’m using should get me pretty close to that range, so I won’t be using the champagne yeast I’m adding to my other adjunct lager.

I’m still sticking with the high gravity brewing method I used for Elkland Golden Lager, though. I started with nine gallons of wort after the lauter and boiled it down to about eight. After primary fermentation in a bucket, I’ll split it into two five gallon carboys and add another gallon of water to each.

Yuengling’s website tells you straight away that they use Cluster and Cascade hops. How they use them is not given. Other recipes I’ve seen have one for bittering and one for flavor with no consistency as far as which is which. As I said, I taste a little bit of Cascade, so I’m using them for flavor. I added an ounce with ten minutes left in the boil. That may seem a bit late for this style of beer, but I had to take into account the size of the batch. It takes me a lot longer to chill eight gallons of wort than five (especially all the way to lager temperatures). Were this a five gallon batch, I may have bumped that to fifteen minutes.

I originally planned to use all Cluster for bittering, but I had half an ounce left from Elkland Golden Lager, which wasn’t enough. I don’t think I’ll have any use for another partial ounce of Cluster hops anytime soon where as a half ounce of Cascade will easily fit into something I’ll brew in the coming months. Their alpha acid content is close enough that for a sixty minute bittering addition, it shouldn’t make much difference that I’m using half Cluster and half Cascade.

My efficiency was higher than I planned on today. I decided to try mashing for an extended time. I normally mash for between sixty and seventy five minutes, but I haven’t been happy with my efficiency and my recent thermometer upgrade has shown that my temperatures have been hitting the mark, so my next adjustment was a ninety minute mash and this did the trick. Since I’m already high gravity brewing, I will likely just end up with a little extra beer as a result.

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The plan was for this and Elkland Golden Lager to have similar starting gravities, but for that beer to finish much drier and thus have significantly more alcohol. At this rate, they may be about equal in ABV. Either way, I am very excited to try these two beers together, especially up at the cabin in Elkland Township on a hot Summer day. Or just to drink them in general. My recipe is below.

Style: 1B: Standard American Lager (only darker)
Brew Date: 4/1/2014
Serve Date: May 2014
OG: 1.062
Expected FG: 1.012
Approximate ABV: 4.4% with water added, probably more due to unexpected efficiency
IBUs: 17ish

Fermentables:
32% 6 lb 2 Row Pale Malt
32% 6 lb 6 Row Pale Malt
26% 5 lb Flaked Corn
10% 2 lb Caramel Malt 80L
(Plus a couple handfuls of Rice Hulls to keep the Corn from causing a stuck mash)

Hops:
60 min .5 oz. Cluster 7.8% AA
60 min .5 oz. Cascade 7.1% AA
10 min 1 oz. Cascade 7.1% AA

Yeast:
Cake from Elkland Golden Lager, originally 2 packets rehydrated Saflager W-34/70

Process:
24 quarts of water at 162º to achieve a mash temperature of 150º-152º and held for 90 minutes
Sparge with water at 170º to collect 9 gallons over 90 minutes
One hour boil with hop additions at 60 and 10 minutes from end of boil
Irish Moss addition at 15 minutes
Chill as quickly as possible and rack on top of yeast cake
Ferment in 8 gallon bucket around 50º until visual activity subsides
Rack into two carboys and top up with one gallon each of boiled water and lager for 3-4 weeks
Bottle when fermentation has completely stopped and gravity is consistent for a week

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6 thoughts on “Elkland Amber Lager Brew Day

  1. Pingback: Week Seven | Non-Existent Brewing
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  5. Pingback: Elkland Amber Lager Tasting Notes… Plus Yuengling | Non-Existent Brewing
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