The Blonde Ale and How to Brew It

Blonde Ale

Overview

We were itching for another light, low abv beer, so we went ahead and brewed a blonde ale. A blonde ale is a delicious, light, crisp beer that is perfect for all craft beer lovers. It is also a fantastic beer to brew as a new brewer with its easy grain bill and hop additions. The style guidelines are below.

  • Original Gravity: 1.045 – 1.054
  • Final Gravity: 1.008 – 1.016
  • Alcohol by Volume: 4.1% – 5.1%
  • Bitterness: 15 – 25 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 3 – 7

Blonde Ale Ingredients

Malt

The success of your Blonde Ale will be determined by the quality of the malt you use. This beer does not have many, if any, specialty malts, so almost all of the flavor comes from the base malt. You can make a delicious SMaSH (single malt and single hop) Blonde Ale, but I will discuss my recommended specialty malts below if you decide you want a little more complexity. Some brewers use a mix of Maris Otter and Pilsen malt as the base, but I used all Pilsen malt for my base. North American two-row is another excellent base malt choice.

For the specialty malts, you can add a little bit of either crystal 40L or 60L for color and a touch of sweetness, but I would not add more than 5%. Adding more than 5% can add a little too much color and sweetness due to the lower fermentability of the sugars produced from crystal malts. You can also add a small amount of wheat for head retention, Vienna to boost the grainy, malty profile, and/or victory to bump up the toasty character, but I would caution against much else. Try to keep all specialty malts below 15% of the grain bill.

Hops

For the Blonde Ale, I would recommend using a hop that adds a nice clean bitterness. This can be done with a noble hop like Tettnang, Saaz, Hallertau, or a noble hop substitute like Liberty, or Mt. Hood. I would caution against pungent hops like Centennial or Columbus. For bitterness, many brewers use an IBU to original gravity ratio of 0.3 to 0.6. For example, a beer with an original gravity of 1.040 and a bitterness of 16 IBU is 16 / 40 = 0.4. Wherever you fall in this range is up to your preference, but I usually fall towards the lower half. Too much bitterness will produce a beer closer to an American Pale Ale instead of a Blonde Ale.

Yeast

For the Blonde Ale, you want a yeast that has a clean, dry finish. You don’t want too much residual sweetness or fruity esters, but some is acceptable. When I first brewed a Blonde Ale, I actually used High-Pressure Lager Yeast from White Labs. Pressure fermentation will be discussed in a later article, so the yeast strains listed below are our favorite ale strains.

  • American Ale – 1056 (Wyeast)
    • This yeast has a very clean, crisp flavor profile with low fruitiness and mild ester production. It is a good choice for malt-dominant beers.
  • California Ale Yeast – WLP001
    • This yeast strain adds a nice clean flavor to the beer and can be used with many different styles of beer.

Water

Last but not least, the water. For all beers we brew, we use a reverse osmosis filtration system and build up our water profile from scratch. Our water profile is below.

  • Calcium: 50 ppm
  • Sodium: 5 ppm
  • Sulfates: 75 ppm
  • Chloride: 60 ppm

Recipe

The following is a 5-gallon version of a sample Blonde Ale. The numbers for this beer are listed below.

  • Original Gravity: 1.041
  • Final Gravity: 1.008 – 1.016
  • Alcohol by Volume: 4.0%
  • Bitterness: 16.8 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 5.3

Grain Bill

  • Pilsen – 7 lbs (91%)
  • Crystal 40L – 5.6 ounces (4.5%)
  • Victory – 5.6 ounces (4.5%)

The majority of the grain bill, as mentioned in the malt section, is Pilsen malt. I added a small amount of crystal 40L to bump up the sweetness a touch and to add a small amount of color. I added Victory to ensure some toasty flavor comes through.

Hops

Bittering

  • 0.75 ounces of Mt. Hood at 60 minutes (16.8 IBU)

Yeast

American Ale – 1056 (Wyeast)

Mash

Add any brewing salts and enough acid, if needed, to get mash pH to 5.4. I use 10% phosphoric acid. I mashed the Blonde Ale right at 152 degrees Fahrenheit for 60 minutes to get a nice mix of fermentable and unfermentable sugars. Have your strike water at the required volume and temperature for your system to have the mash drop to 152 degrees. For me, it is 2.4 gallons at 163 degrees. Mash for 60 minutes at this temperature and proceed to mash out. Sparge with 5.3 gallons of water. Pre-boil gravity should be around 1.036.

Boil

Boil the wort for 90 minutes and add the hops in at 60 minutes. At 10 minutes, I added yeast nutrients and at 5 minutes I added whirlfloc tablets as my clarifying agent. Once the boil is complete, whirlpool the wort for 10 minutes and then 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/pitch the yeast. Initial gravity should be around 1.041. I let this free rise to 67 degrees as fermentation starts. Hold the temperature at 67 degrees for 5-7 days until the primary fermentation is complete, and then let the temperature free-rise up to 72 degrees to really finish off fermentation. Once your fermentation is fully complete, cold crash to 33 degrees for at least a day and then transfer to the brite tank to carbonate it to 2.6 vols. After 3 days in the brite tank, keg it, and enjoy!

If you decide to try this recipe, or another Blonde 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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