Brew Day: Essex Extra Pale Ale (American Pale Ale)

Almost every craft brewer has a pale ale. Usually the pale ale is the flagship beer, or it is at least a year-round offering. An extract pale ale was one of the first original recipes I came up with when I started brewing. I benchmarked a few local pale ales that I liked: Samuel Adams Boston Ale, Wachusett Country Pale Ale, and Shipyard Chamberlain’s Pale Ale. My first pale ale was a success, but tasted more like an English Pale Ale. Given the beers I benchmarked it in hindsight was to be expected.

The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) guidelines for an American Pale-Ale are incredibly broad. I enjoy the more English-inspired beers like the ones that inspired my first pale ale, but I also enjoy hopper interpretations like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and the excellent Fort Point Pale Ale by Trillium. What I want to do is brew several one gallon pale ales that explore the broad parameters of the style. It helps that I have a ton of leftover hops from previous batches. Experimentation is a good way to put them to use.

My girlfriend picked up a mix 12-pack from Southern Tier. The first beer I tried was the PMX. It was an extra pale ale in the sense the beer was extra pale in color and flavor, not an extra big or malty pale ale. It reminded me of Flying Jenny by Grey Sail and Pamola by Baxter. It was relatively light in color and malt flavor. It had a nice hop balance and a subtle notes of toasted bread which dried out the finish nicely. Having just bottled a hop-forward IPA, and with dark winter beers in the pipeline, an extra pale ale felt like a good place to start in my pale ale experimentation.

The grist was 2-row, some Caramel 60 malt, and toasted malt. The toasted malt was 2-row I literally threw in the toaster oven at 350F for 15 minutes. It’s a trick Charlie Papazian outlines in The Complete Joy of Homebrewing. Per BeerSmith:

Similar to Biscuit or Victory malt – this malt adds reddish/orange color and improved body without sweetness. Toasted flavor. Mashing required to avoid haze.

An added plus is the intoxicating aroma of freshly toasted barley. The apartment smelled of malted goodness. If I were to scale the recipe up to a five gallon batch I probably would use Victory Malt as opposed to toasting large quantities of malt at home. I used Centennial hops for bittering and flavor additions to give the beer a distinctly American flavor, and UK Fuggles for finishing/aroma. The earthy flavor and aroma should go nicely with the dry finish I am going for. I used the same WLP001 yeast I have been using of late simply because it’s what I had lying around.


Essex Pale Ale is on the left, I have another wort boiling on the right.

The brew day was off to an inauspicious start when I spilled a bunch of grain trying to pour it into my BIAB bag. As a result my extra pale ale turned into a session ale. I still may add some corn sugar to boost the alcohol level. As I continue to experiment with different recipes and ingredients I eventually want to develop a house pale ale recipe that is all mine. In the meantime I can experiment blending different flavors and ingredients to see how they work together.

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