Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Blonde Ale

Simple, gorgeous and satisfying. Who doesn't love a blonde?

Blonde Ale, that is – what did you think I meant??

This easy style makes for a nice, uncomplicated quaffer, which also makes it a good tool for initiating those who consider "Bud Heavy" branching out. At the same time, there's enough going on here to keep beer geeks from turning up their noses. Better still, of course, the homebrewer is free to do as he pleases in concocting the Blonde of his dreams.

In my case, this golden beauty was conceived with a number of purposes in mind. First, of course, was to have something light and drinkable on hand. Second was to get some yeast going from a Wyeast smack pack I had just purchased. Third was to use up some hop leftovers I had on hand. And fourth, an ancillary objective, was to do a little experiment of sorts with some other yeast I had on hand – more on that in a second.

The stats:

OG 1.046 FG 1.011
ABV 4.6% AA 75.4%
IBUs 30 SRM 3

100% Canadian two-row
0.28 lbs light dry malt extract*

11 IBUs Simcoe – 55 mins
9 IBUs Newport – 55 mins
5 IBUs Cascade – 55 mins
0.4 oz Mt. Hood – 20 mins
0.4 oz Mt. Hood – flameout

Wyeast 2450 "Denny's Favorite 50"

* for starter; pitched along with yeast

I fermented this at about 65°. It was around 18 days from brew day to keg, with several days' worth of crash-cooling in there. About two weeks of carbonating/cold conditioning was all I had the patience for before tapping.

This beer is a pale golden color with a nice white head. The clarity has continued to improve with time; it's now just about crystal clear. There's not too much on the nose except a light floral note and some fruitiness that I take to be yeast-derived. (This was my first time working with this yeast, a strain noted in homebrew circles for its association with the even-more-famed Denny Conn, who donated some of his club's stash to Wyeast for this limited release.)

Flavor-wise, this beer is light and uncomplicated, with a touch of fruitiness as previewed by the nose. The mouthfeel is soft and smooth, the finish increasingly bitter from the above-style 30 IBUs.

In general, I do not care for much fruitiness in my beers, and this is particularly so in lighter styles, where there is less to hide behind. As such, I'm guessing I'd prefer this beer more with a cleaner yeast, like US-o5. But that's OK – as I said, this beer was as much about growing some yeast for larger subsequent batches as anything else.

This Blonde Ale was actually only half of a double batch. Into the other half I pitched White Labs 400, a Witbier yeast. I had some slurry on hand and I wanted to see how this yeast would perform in a "naked" beer like this. I had already brewed a pretty good Belgian Pale Ale with this strain; at any rate I can only control my fermentation temperature for one batch at a time, so a second batch has to ferment at room temperature. That made WL 400 a good candidate, being that it has a fairly high temperature tolerance. I may devote a post to the outcome of that little experiment, but in the mean time suffice it to say I'm not blown away by the results. Oh well, guess I'm stuck with five more gallons of beer I have to drink...

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