This recipe is meant to clone 21st Amendment's Bitter American, a low-alcohol (4.4% ABV) American pale ale that combines a balanced bitterness with a ton of hop aroma and flavor. This is my second attempt at this recipe, my first attempt was mediocre but this second pass incorporates the lessons that I learned from that beer as well as lessons I learned from one of the 21A owners.
The two big tricks to a beer like this are creating interesting flavors without a lot of grain and adding enough hop character without throwing the beer out of balance.
21A begins tackling the first goal by using Munich and Caramel 10 as specialty grains. The Munich should add some malty and toasty notes, while the very light crystal should add some sweet notes, but without the heavy caramel flavors that come from darker caramel malts.
21A also supplements their normal base grain -- Rahr 2-row -- with Golden Promise. Golden Promise is an incredibly flavorful base malt, full of toast and malt flavors, far more interesting than the bland American 2-row.
I know the grains that 21A uses in Bitter American, and I know roughly why they use these grains, but I don't know the exact percentages -- so the amounts I'm using are a guess on my part.
As for the hops, I have a fair amount of information. I know the varieties that 21A uses and I know their standard hoping schedule. I've mirrored that as best I can in my recipe, adjusting only the dry hop additions which 21A would add earlier. I'm still not sure exactly what the IBU level is of Bitter American, since the 42 reported by 21A is only a guess on their part. But the 36 IBU I'm aiming for in my beer should give it a solid bitterness without over-bittering it, which was a problem I had in my last batch.
Today was a thankfully dull brew day. My last batch was full of surprises and constant adjustments. Today every number was exactly where I wanted it to be. This doesn't exactly make for exciting reading, but hopefully it will result in great beer.
I've made a few process changes that will hopefully improve my beer. First, I had been filling my water buckets with water from the laundry tub run through a garden hose. In a recent episode of BrewStrong they said that garden hoses were a bad idea, and that I should use a white utility hose instead, as it contains less plasticizer and is safe for drinking water.
Second, while reading up on using potassium metabisulfite (aka Campden Tablets) to remove chloramine, I found that I only needed to use about 100mg of potassium metabisulfite instead of the 500mg I had been using. I don't know if this had an adverse affect on the beer, but it could have been adding excess sulfates to the water and it was easy to cut back on the amount I added while treating the water.
Long term I'm trying to figure out why my extract efficiency remains in the high 60%. I more-or-less follow the Denny Conn Batch Sparge method, and he reports his efficiency is usually 85%. So why the difference? That's something that I want to investigate over the next few weeks.