Brewing a Perfect American Pale Ale: A Step-By-Step Guide

American Pale Ale

The American Pale Ale is a hop-forward, pale beer with a pleasant, supporting malt character. This style ranges widely, but when done right it is a wonderful session ale. The guidelines are listed below.

  • Original Gravity: 1.045 – 1.060
  • Final Gravity: 1.010 – 1.015
  • Alcohol by Volume: 4.5% – 6.2%
  • Bitterness: 30-50 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 5-10

American Pale Ale Ingredients

Malt

The base of the American Pale Ale is a 60 / 30 split between pale malt and Munich malt. We like to use Maris Otter as our pale malt to add additional maltiness and more biscuit and toasty notes, but you can use any pale malt. The Munich malt will add a rich maltiness. We also add a small amount of light crystal malt. Keep it under 40 Lovibond, any higher can start to add too much caramel flavor. Also, keep the crystal addition below 5%. More than this can add too much color and sweetness.

Hops

For the hops, use American varieties that will give you citrusy and floral flavors. Hop character should be apparent in this style, but not overpowering. We add between 25-30 IBUs at the 60-minute mark, 5-10 IBUs at the 30-minute mark, 3-5 IBUs at the 5-minute mark, and 0.5 ounces per 5 gallons at flameout. We do not add any dry hops to our American Pale Ales. The American hops we would recommend looking at are listed below.

  • Amarillo – has an alpha acid percentage ranging between 8 and 9 percent, and adds a nice citrusy and flowery character.
  • Cascade – has an alpha acid percentage ranging between 4 and 7 percent, and adds a flowery, spicy, citrusy, grapefruity character.
  • Centennial – has an alpha acid percentage ranging between 8 and 11.5 percent, and adds a citrusy and floral character.
  • Citra – has an alpha acid percentage ranging between 10 and 15 percent, and adds a citrusy and grapefruit character.
  • Mosaic – has an alpha acid percentage ranging between 11.5 and 13.5 percent, and adds a berry, fruity, and earthy character.
  • Galaxy – has an alpha acid percentage ranging between 11 and 16 percent, and adds a citrusy, peachy, passion fruit character.

Yeast

For the American Pale Ale, you want a yeast that promotes a good malt and hop character. Some of our favorite strains for this style are below

  • American Ale – 1056 (Wyeast)
    • This strain has a clean and crisp flavor and is great for a beer style that requires a dominant malt and hop character.
  • California Ale – WLP001
    • This strain produces clean flavors and accentuates hop flavors and aromas.
  • East Coast Ale – WLP008
    • This strain is similar to the California ale yeast, but leaves some mouthfeel and residual sweetness that nicely balances hop bitterness.

Water

Last but not least, the water. For all beers we brew, we use a reverse osmosis filtration system and build up my water profile from scratch. For the American Pale Ale, We recommend going slightly higher with the sulfate. It will add a sharper, dryer, and fuller edge to highly hopped beers. My water profile looked like this:

  • Calcium: 50 ppm
  • Sodium: 15 ppm
  • Sulfate: 105 ppm
  • Chloride: 50 ppm

Recipe

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

  • Original Gravity: 1.051
  • Final Gravity: 1.010 – 1.015
  • Alcohol by Volume: 5.1%
  • Bitterness: 36.9 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 7.9

Grain Bill

  • Maris Otter – 6 lbs (63.2%)
  • Munich – 3 lb (31.6%)
  • Caramel/Crystal 40L – 8 oz (5.3%)

Hops

  • 0.75 ounces of Centennial at 60 minutes (25.8 IBUs)
  • 0.5 ounces of Cascade at 30 minutes (7.3 IBUs)
  • 1 ounce of Cascade at 5 minutes (3.8 IBUs)
  • 0.5 ounces of Cascade at flameout

Yeast

California Ale – WLP001

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 us, the strike water was 3 gallons at 163 degrees Fahrenheit. After 60 minutes, raise your mash temperature to 168 degrees for mash out. After mash out, begin to sparge until you reach a pre-boil gravity of around 1.045. For us, it was 4.95 gallons.

Boil

Boil the wort for 90 minutes. Add the hops in at the given times. At 10 minutes, we added yeast nutrients and at 5 minutes we added whirlfloc tablets as our 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 and pitch the yeast. Initial gravity should be around 1.051. 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, then let the temperature free-rise up to 72 degrees to finish off fermentation. 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 2.6 vols. After 3 days in the brite tank, keg it. These types of beers are best fresh, so enjoy it while the hops flavors are in their prime!

If you decide to try this recipe, or another American Pale 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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