My employer Cranker's Brewpub has been interested in an amber ale to be our first beer in package available to the public. Throughout my homebrewing career I always stuck with recipes from a great book called Brewing Classic Styles by Jamil Zainasheff. Jamil was really my brewing mentor. Aside from his book on recipes and beer styles he also hosts a couple of shows on The Brewing Network, a homebrewing podcast that I have spent countless hours listening to. (Did I already mention my 135 mile commute?) Jamil has won every homebrewing award and medal you can win and he is gracious enough to share any and everything he has learned with the public.
As a homebrewer and a father of three, now four, I couldn't brew whenever I felt like it. With the lag time between now and the opening of the brewery, I am branching out with the concepts that I learned from Jamil and forming my own recipes. Case and point: Bulldog Red.
There are a few ways to go with amber ales. Malt driven, hop driven, or a give and take of both. For my own personal preference, and per the style guidelines, I prefer this beer style on the hoppier side. The competition brewer in me is driven to brew that beer because that is what will score best with beer judges. The flip side is that I am not brewing for competition anymore, I am brewing for the public who will pay for my beer (hopefully).
With my first iteration of Bulldog Red I decided to go with a complex malt character achieved by using three different british caramel malts. I have heard from the brewers at Fuller's in England that the british caramel malts carry a different level of complexity than their american counterparts. I decided to go with two hop additions, a sixty minute bittering addition with magnum hops for the lions share of the beers clean bitterness, and a late kettle addition of chinook hops to leave a backing impression of citrus. The beer weighs in at 5% ABV with 25 IBU. I used the WLP007 Dry English Ale yeast from White Labs as it is a workhorse and flocks like mad. This is the ale yeast I plan on using for all of my ales brewed at Cranker's. It is very versatile.
I was pleased with the outcome with this beer but found myself feeding a critter in the back of my mind that was trying to get me to make this beer hoppier. I rebrewed this beer twice. Version #2 was the exact same beer as the first batch but dry hopped with amarillo hops to drive up the citrusy aromas. Version #3 used a different blend of caramel malts calculated to give me the same color as the original batch of beer. The goal here was to play with the caramel impression. I have both beers kegged up in the basement and will be bottling them up tomorrow for my employer. I am looking forward to these beers coming together for a week or two to see how they stack up to the original recipe.
I am really looking forward to the Michigan Homebrew Festival (www.mhfsite.com) in late August. I will be rebrewing the original Bulldog Red recipe and I will share the three versions with some trusted palates and use that feedback in going forward with the beer's formulation.
In the meantime, drink good beer with good people.