Monday, 13 October 2014

Brew Day: English Summer Ale

Following on from the bitter I brewed last week, this weekend I brewed another pale and hoppy English-style beer, based on a recipe from Randy Mosher's Radical Brewing.  I had intended to brew it this summer, but somehow never got round to it---instead it will be brightening things up in a month or two as the winter starts to set in.

Martyn Cornell has a brief but informative chapter on "Golden Ale" in his book Amber, Gold, and Black.  He mentions that the tradition of golden beer goes back to at least 1842, referencing an advertisement for "East India Pale and Golden Ales" from William Saunders' brewery in Burton on Trent.  I would have thought A.K.s might fit in this tradition too, but Cornell seems to differentiate between beers that are golden and beers that are simply pale or straw-coloured---at any rate, he discusses A.K.s in a different chapter.  He identifies two beers as key players in shaping contemporary golden ale: Exmoor Gold, originally brewed in 1986 by the Golden Hill brewery; and Summer Lightning, brewed by John Gilbert of the Hop Back brewery in 1989.  He goes on to describe what might look like a bewildering array of 'summer', 'blonde', and 'golden' ales and bitters that have cropped up since.  The terminology isn't really fixed, and as always the characteristics of these beers probably vary quite a bit, but for me at least there's a definite expectation of the kind of beer I'd get if I ordered something with one of those names in a pub back home.

Mosher provides a nice summary of the characteristics of some of these beers in his book:
"Paler than most English bitters, summer ales are likely to be a little more intensely hopped as well.  Most versions hover between 4.5- and 5-percent alcohol.  Hops have center stage, with moderate to high bitterness backing up loads of fresh, citric aroma.  Late kettle additions, and perhaps even dry hopping, contribute to this forward expression of hop personality."
I suppose it sounds a lot like an American pale ale, and Cornell mentions that modern golden ales are often brewed with American hops, though of course many still stick to English and European varieties.  Perhaps its just the fact that I'm used to drinking them on cask, but I still think of these beers as being slightly different from their American counterparts---and I suspect that if you come to them expecting an American pale ale, you'd be disappointed.

Anyway, I've gone on before about the fact that the variety of beers encompassed by "Bitter" often seems to be under-represented here in the U.S, in a way that gives a distorted picture of what English pale ale has been in the past and what it can be today.  I think that goes hand-in-hand with some other gems that I've heard, like "Bitter isn't bitter".  I did a little research this weekend, and noticed that the current BJCP guidelines do recognize that bitters needn't be copper-coloured and caramel flavoured---hopefully the new guidelines, which I believe are going to include a category for golden bitter, will reinforce this further.  I care about this because these pale ales are some of my favourite beers, and ones I think might find an appreciative audience with at least some American beer drinkers.

A few quick notes on the recipe.  Randy Mosher calls for Maris Otter base malt, and demerara sugar; I used Golden Promise and Invert  #1.  I didn't have any Saaz on hand, but I did have some "Saaz Special" that I won in a recent HBT giveaway by Hop House Brewing Supply.  Otherwise, it was a pretty typical early morning brew session.


Measured O.G: 1.047
Measured F.G:

Mash: 152°F:


62%  Golden Promise
25%  Pilsner
8 %   Wheat Malt
5%    Invert #1


Challenger     60               27.8 IBUs     (17g@8.2%)
Challenger     30               8.30 IBUs     (10g@8.2%)
Challenger       5               2.70 IBUs     (10g@8.2%)
Saaz Special    5               2.0   IBUs     (10g@6.0%)


Wyeast 1028


  1. Youve inspired me to try this one. Very interesting.
    You intending to carbonating it? Or to hand pump it?

    1. Glad to hear it, let me know how it turns out! All my beers are bottle-conditioned, but if I could I'd serve this from a hand pump.

  2. Hi!
    Is that a 5-gallon (19L) recipe? If yes, do you think that this the right amount of hops or would you increase the quantity of aroma and flavour hops?
    I am going to brew a similar recipe and I don't know how much hops use to have the "right" intensity of flavor and aroma.
    Thank you

    1. I converted this to a 3 gallon recipe. You can find the original, which I think is for 5.5 gallons, in Randy Mosher's Radical Brews. Its been a while since I made this one, but looking back at my tasting notes I said might change or increase volume of finishing hops. I think it would depend largely on the quality of the hops you have on hand. Here's the tasting notes: