When I attempted to recreate the classic recipe for Samuel Adams Summer Ale, I may have come off as the old man yelling at a cloud. With this brew you may think I am doubling down on my malcontentment.
|Shoals was typical of New England craft beers 25 years ago. Sad to see it go.|
Recently I was disappointed to learn that Smuttynose is discontinuing Shoals Pale Ale. Sadly for me the English-inspired pale ales that helped start the craft beer movement are being hazed out so to speak. Even Goose Island isn’t bottling Honkers Ale anymore. Smutty’s problems were far more pronounced when they decided to pull the plug on Shoals than Boston Beer’s were when it changed the recipe for Sam Summer. I am not going to show up to their previously over-leveraged brewery with a pitchfork, but I am sad to see Shoals go.
When I saw Shoals was going away, I wanted to come up with a recipe that was at least inspired by it, if not an outright clone. Then at a Northshore Brewers meeting, the topic of the club’s 25th anniversary party came up and I was asked if I would brew something for the event.
The club’s anniversary felt like the perfect time to brew an English-inspired ale. When the club was founded in 1994 these were the type of beers that were being brewed at ‘microbreweries’ and brewpubs. Malty and darker ales, or at least beers darker in color than urine, were positioned as an answer to big beer. Having enjoyed beers brewed by some of the long-time members of the club, I am comfortable saying these were the type of beers brewed in the early days of the club.
Like the best early craft beers made in New England, Old North Shore Ale uses a base of the finest British malts; Muntons Planet Pale, Caramalt 30 (15L), Crystal 150 (60L), and a pinch of Chocolate Malt. “Malt backbone” might be one of the most tired flavor descriptors in beer. Well, this beer is going to have one!
For hops I am using Chinook and Cascade hops grown on the North Shore. Ok Amesbury, which is pretty close to the North Shore. I was given these hops when I bought some second-hand glass carboys. What better hops for a North Shore ale?
Using whole cone hops is itself more traditional, but it does present some challenges that modern hop pellets do not. At the end of the boil, the cones clogged the ball valve on my kettle. I had to siphon most of the wort into the fermenter. As I got toward the bottom of the kettle, I poured the wort through a funnel with a screen, which kept getting clogged. Next time I use whole hops I will be sure to use a bag.
For yeast I am using WLP008 East Coast Ale yeast. It is not as dry and has a touch more character than most American Ale strains. It was easy to repitch some slurry from OG Sam Summer right into my fermenter. The re-pitched yeast took off like a rocket. Krausen formed within three hours, and the temperature was up to 90 degrees. I covered my fermenter with a wet t-shirt, and left it outside overnight. By the next morning the temperature was back under control.
Following another traditional method, after two weeks I racked the beer to a secondary fermenter. I have always thought racking improved clarity of my beers. The WLP008 really doesn’t like to flocculate. With this batch and OG Sam Summer the beer was quite hazy after primary fermentation with a layer of yeast stubbornly floating at the top. Here is a pic of OG Sam Summer which went from the primary directly to the keg:
|Wheat beer is supposed to be hazy. I think this looks sexy.|
Old North Shore Ale had a similar haze after primary fermentation. Here is how the beer looks after 10 days in the secondary:
|Noticeably clearer and exactly what I was going for.|
As a traditional craft beer evocative of a bygone era I wanted the beer to be reasonably clear. The slight haze gives it a characteristic “unfiltered” look. Not only were copper-colored ales novel 25 years ago, unfiltered beer was too.
That time in the secondary really gave the beer needed time to condition. The samples I tasted when racking were very bitter and green. When I tasted the beer again before packaging it had smoothed out considerably. I imagined the beer as pale ale, but it really straddles the line between a pale and amber ale in terms of balance. It could almost pass as an ESB if the American hop flavor was less pronounced. If I wanted to make this more of a pale ale I could easily dry hop it, but I enjoyed the samples exactly as it was.
At packaging I added some priming sugar to a keg to naturally carbonate the beer. It seemed like another nod to traditional. My keezer was also full.
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