Last year was my first season of growing hops. Everyone says not to expect to get any cones your first year. I did get a few cones on two of my five plants, though. Sure, it was only about two ounces of wet hops, but how could I not try to brew a harvest ale?
I knew it wouldn’t be enough for a full five gallon batch, but I thought maybe if I added some pellets for bittering and only brewed a two and a half gallon batch, I could get some nice aroma from a flameout addition with those hops.
I was wrong.
At the time, Amber Malt had just become available at my local homebrew shop. This malt is best known to me for its use in Dogfish Head’s 60 Minute IPA. This malt blows past toasty and verges on roasty. In small doses it can add great complexity, but it is, in my opinion, very easy to overuse. Dogfish Head obviously know how to utilize it. I didn’t.
What I’m getting at with all this is that my beer had no hop flavor and a surprisingly harsh roasted malt character, despite its relatively light color. This beer was, paradoxically, dull and tasteless as well as surprisingly harsh and unpleasant at the same time. It looked very pretty in pictures and that was its only redeeming quality.
People on Facebook were impressed by the beer I had made with the hops that I grew all on my own. I am fairly confident that this year’s harvest beer will be better. I’m not sure that it will be great, but better than this… that is almost guaranteed.
If you’re going to use Amber Malt, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t, you need to balance it. It is an extremely flavorful malt. It can add great complexity, but use it sparingly or be prepared to load up on hops to balance it.
I haven’t even mentioned my yeast choice yet. S-04? An English ale yeast that adds a lot of esters? Why? This is supposed to showcase the hops, but the truth is: I had an extra packet of this yeast and wanted to get rid of it. I didn’t have high hopes for this beer to begin with, so I figured why not clean out my stash?
Anyway, my recipe is below, but don’t use it. Please.
Style: American Pale Ale/Harvest Ale
Brew Date: September 4, 2013
Serve Date: October 12, 2013
Expected FG: 1.012
Approximate ABV: 4%
92% American Pale Malt
8% Amber Malt
.3 oz Magnum @ 60 min
1 oz Wet Centennial @ Flameout
1 oz Wet Cascade @ Flameout