How To Brew a Delicious American Amber Ale

American Amber Ale

Today we are covering a style I am very picky with – the American Amber Ale. As with all styles that use a significant amount of hops and caramel malts, it is easy to go overboard in either direction. In my opinion, a good American Amber Ale is a hoppy, session-strengthed, amber beer with a nice balance between a rich malt profile with caramel, biscuity flavors, and a noticeable hop profile with citrusy, fruity flavors. The hop profile should be apparent, but not overwhelming. Too much hop character in both flavor and bitterness will put you closer to an American Pale Ale. The BJCP guidelines are listed below.

  • Original Gravity: 1.045 – 1.060
  • Final Gravity: 1.010 – 1.015
  • Alcohol by Volume: 4.5% – 6.2%
  • Bitterness: 20-40 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 10-17

American Amber Ale Ingredients

Malt

Because I want a rich malt profile, I use Maris Otter as my base at a rate of 75% – 80% of the entire grain bill. This will give me a rich malty backbone with notes of biscuit and nut. To this, I add between 8% – 10% of Munich malt to bump up the malt richness a touch. There should be a noticeable caramel character, so I like to add an equal amount of light crystal malt (~40L) and dark crystal malt (~120L). I split these up because I like the delicate malty, caramel flavors from the light crystal and the complex toffee and burnt sugar from the dark crystal. I add around 8% of both of these malts. Finally, I finish with no more than 1% of a bitterless black malt for color adjustment.

Hops

The hop flavor and aroma for the American Amber Ale are moderate, so I focus on the later hop additions. I typically add a small bittering addition of around 6 IBUs at 60 minutes, but it is not necessary. In addition to the bittering addition, I add between 11 – 15 IBUs at 30 minutes, 7 – 10 IBUs at 10 minutes, and 4 – 8 IBUs at 5 minutes to maximize flavor and aroma.

Because we want a pronounced New World/American hop character, I recommend adding hops that are citrusy, fruity, and floral. This is where you can start to experiment and make this American Amber Ale your own. If you need a starting point, I like to use Citra, Amarillo, and Falconers Flight. These hops are loaded with notes of citrus and tropical fruit.

Yeast

For the American Amber Ale, all you need is a well-rounded yeast strain with good attenuation. I like to use either:

  • California Ale Yeast – WLP001
  • American Ale – 1056 (Wyeast)

Water

Last but not least, the water. For all beers I brew, I use a reverse osmosis filtration system and build up my water profile from scratch. My water profile looked like this:

  • Calcium: 50 ppm
  • Sodium: 15 ppm
  • Sulfates: 75 ppm
  • Chloride: 65 ppm

Recipe

The following is a 5-gallon version of our American Amber Ale. The numbers for this beer are listed below.

  • Original Gravity: 1.050
  • Final Gravity: 1.010 – 1.015
  • Alcohol by Volume: 5.0%
  • Bitterness: 32.5 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 16.6

Grain Bill

  • Maris Otter – 7 lbs (74.9%)
  • Munich Malt – 12 oz (8.0%)
  • Caramel/Crystal 40L – 12 oz (8.0%)
  • Caramel/Crystal 120L – 12 oz (8.0%)
  • Blackprintz – 1.6 oz (1.1%)

Hops

  • 0.15 oz of Citra at 60 minutes (6.3 IBUs)
  • 0.40 oz of Citra at 30 minutes (12.8 IBUs)
  • 0.70 oz of Amarillo at 10 minutes (8.1 IBUs)
  • 0.70 oz of Falconers Flight at 5 minutes (5.3 IBUs)

Yeast

  • California Ale Yeast – WLP001 (White Labs)

Mash

Add your salts and pH adjustment, if needed, and fill your mash tun to the required volume and temperature for your mash to drop to 152 degrees Fahrenheit.  For me, it was 2.9 gallons at 163.7 degrees. Mash for 60 minutes at 152 degrees and proceed to mash out. Sparge with 5 gallons of water. Pre-boil gravity should be around 1.044.

Boil

Boil the wort for 90 minutes. Add the hops as needed. At 10 minutes, I added yeast nutrients; at 5 minutes, I added whirlfloc tablets as my fining agent. Once the boil is complete, whirlpool the wort for 10 minutes and let it wind down for 10 minutes.

Fermentation

Knock the wort out in your heat exchanger so that the pitching temperature is 64 degrees and then measure the gravity and pitch the yeast. Initial gravity should be around 1.050. I let the temperature free-rise to 67 degrees as fermentation starts. Hold the temperature at 67 degrees for 5-7 days until you are about 4 specific gravity points away from terminal gravity. At this point, let the temperature free-rise up to 72 degrees for the diacetyl rest. Once fermentation is complete, cold crash to 33 degrees for at least a day and then transfer to the brite tank to carbonate it to 2.5 – 2.6 vols. After 3 days in the brite tank, keg it and enjoy!

If you decide to try this recipe, or another American Amber Ale recipe, feel free to send us a comment and let us know how it went! And if you want to see more recipes like this, sign up for our newsletter below to be notified when a new post is released. Cheers!

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