Here in New Jersey, spring has arrived a little early, and that means I'm already craving lighter, hoppier beers. I've just about had my fill of stouts, porters, and dark heavy winter beers. Rye pale ales seem to be a pretty popular style these days, and actually I have one brewing right now. But for this article I'm thinking something even simpler, perhaps best titled as an American Mild. A light beer, but not too light. A hopped beer, but not too hoppy. Something to ease in the season and transition to the explosion of summer beers that are soon to follow.
We'll start with our standard base malt, American 2-Row. Let's give it an ABV of 5.5%. Not quite a session beer, but not that high either, just somewhere in the middle. 10 pounds of 2-row gives us an estimated original gravity of 1.052 according to BeerSmith, which yields a 5.4% ABV. So far, so good. But we don't want too plain of a beer. Let's substitute 1 pound of Crystal 40. Our SRM now is up from 3 to 8. I think it could go a little darker, so to make it more interesting, let's also replace 1/2 pound of base with a 1/2 pound of Chocolate malt, which imparts some more color and a nutty flavor to play off of the mild roast of the Crystal 40. SRMs are now up to 19, which is even beyond style for an American Amber, so I think we're good there. The OG estimate has dropped slightly to 1.051 though, so let's put that 1/2 pound of base back. Now the gravity is up to 1.054 with an estimated ABV of 5.5%, right where I wanted it.
Now that I'm happy with my malt profile we move onto the hops. I'm feeling more flavor over bitterness in this, with a muted aroma - no need to knock your socks off yet. To keep it American, let's start with 1 oz of Cluster, which BeerSmith reports as a 7% alpha acid. That bumps us to 24 IBUs, which is a good start. One hop combination I've started to become more familiar with is Simcoe/Amarillo. I imagine 1 oz of each would add too many IBUs, so we'll try 1/2 at 20 minutes. That essentially doubles the IBUs up to 45, which I think is too high for my American Mild. I can see that Simcoe has the higher AA at 13%, so I'll drop that down to 1/4 oz. Combining that decrease with a decrease in boil time of 5 minutes yields 36 IBUs, and that I can live with. So we now have 1 oz of Cluster at 60 minutes, 1/2 oz of Amarillo at 15, and 1/4 oz of Simcoe at 15.
To be resourceful, we'll just throw the rest of the hops in at 5 minutes for aroma. 1/2 of Amarillo and 3/4 oz of Simcoe at 5 minutes. That should result in a nice nose that hints at the hops but doesn't really stand out. Moving on, the last variable to determine is the mash temperature, which I think you can probably guess. That's right, we're going to shoot for right in the middle. 152f will give you a thin, dry beer - that's a typical mash for a dry stout. 158f will give you a thicker, sweeter body due to the production of less fermentable sugars - that's a typical mash for a scottish ale. 155f is smack dab in the middle, and a pretty common target.
So here's our final recipe:
9 lbs 2-Row
1 lb Caramel 40
0.5 lbs Chocolate Malt
1 oz Cluster at 60
1/2 oz Amarillo at 15
1/4 oz Simcoe at 15
1/2 oz Amarillo at 5
3/4 oz Simcoe at 5
Mash at 155f for 60 minutes
Target gravity: 1.054 SG
Target ABV: 5.5%
And I'll leave the choice of yeast up to you - what do you think would fit the character of this beer best?
Please note, this recipe has not been tested! You've just followed along with my entire thought process during the creation of this recipe from scratch. But hey, that's half the fun of brewing. Let me know if you end up trying it out, and I'll do the same.