Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Brew Day & Tasting Notes: International Amber Lager

So far I can best describe 2024 as painfully busy. After my position with Muntons Malt was eliminated at the end of 2022, I started working as a consultant for one of Muntons' distributors Pro Brew Supply. Ironically most of what I have been selling for the past year has been yeast, although we will be making a push to sell more malt in my territory which is Virginia up to Maine. I have been supplementing my income with a variety of side hustles which have been consuming my weekends for the past four months or so.

Behold, the Jar of Destiny!

This has left very little time to drink beer, let alone brew beer.  I only just finished my kegs from Ales over ALS in March as I kegged this batch. I also dumped what was left of Inverted Fest, and a version of Derby Wharf Porter I brewed for an in-club competition last year.

Ah yes, in-club competition! Last year the North Shore Brewers started doing quarterly in-club competitions. Every quarter a style is pulled out of a jar (the idea was stolen from Brew Dudes), club members brew that style, and at a meeting all the beers are tasted and club members vote for the batch they think is best. At the end of the year, the brewer who accrues the most points is the club's Brewer of the Year. For the first quarter of 2024 the style was International Amber Lager

I should have blogged about the four beers I brewed for 2023. Here is a quick review:

Q1: Pre-Prohibition Porter - A style I have quite a bit of experience with! I did not make my own porterine for this batch. What I did do was ask for samples of two Muntons extracts before I was let go: Roasted Malt Extract and Ultra Dark Malt Extract. These are two extracts made with 100% Black Malt, and are currently not available to homebrewers. The difference between the two is the level of filtration. The Ultra Dark is designed to be a coloring agent, it is ultra filtered which makes it darker and removes almost all of the roasted flavors. The Roasted Malt Extract is less filtered and retains more roasted flavors. Muntons technical brewers advised on how much extract to use to achieve my desired color. 

Finally got to play with these.

I measured the extracts in mason jars, and dissolved it with boiling wort to ensure it all made it to the fermenter.

I dosed two separate carboys with each extract.

I was shooting for identical color.

I made a six gallon batch, and split it dosing one three gallon keg with Roasted Malt Extract and the other with Ultra Dark. The base beer was Pugnacious Pete. Of the two beers, the one with the Roasted Malt Extract was closest to style and was excellent. I forget exactly where it placed, but it was second or third in the voting. If anything the Munich Malt in the base beer made it a little malty for the style. The version with the Ultra Dark extract tasted like a Cream Ale with a super light roasted flavor. Maybe I should have tried it blindfolded in a side-by-side with Genesee Cream Ale!

Q2: White IPA - I did not rebrew the WAR IPA I made a few years ago. Instead I designed a new recipe to use up hops I had on hand. It was a double brew day with last year's batch of Summer Somewhere. Unfortunately, the dry hops that were supposes to go into the White IPA went into the English Golden Ale. The two beers came out tasting VERY SIMILAR. I may have brought the wrong beer to the club meeting. Whatever I brought got no votes.

This hop blend had a lot of potential.
Color on point going into the carboy.
One is a White IPA, one is an English Golden Ale.

Q3: English Porter: I found Muntons extract on sale and brewed an extract batch of my Derby Wharf Porter. I fermented the beer with Muntons Premium Gold  is yeast, and used 100% homegrown hops. The resulting beer was full-bodied, but lacked hop bitterness and came out a little sweet. Using homegrown hops for bittering is a roll of the dice because you don't know the alpha acid content unless you send a sample to a lab to be tested. This is the first time I was really burned doing it. This was not a horrible beer, but the Anchor Porter clone I brewed a couple months later was miles better. Most of this keg was dumped.

Love the smell of steeped specialty malts.

Converting this recipe to extract was straightforward.

Hot break starting to form.

Q4: Old Ale: I finished the year strong with this one! This was another new recipe instead of a rebrew. I should say new-ish recipe. I started with my TED Talk Best Bitter recipe from my 2022 Homebrew Con seminar, scaled it up to increase the gravity, converted it to extract, replaced the medium crystal malt with extra dark crystal malt, and used homegrown Brewers Gold and Willamette. After tasting the porter, I made sure to use more hops. For yeast, I harvested Muntons Premium Gold from the porter. 

Love the flavor Extra Dark Crystal malt provides, but it is quite strong.

Maris Otter base, wheat for creaminess and head retention. 

Copper colored wort going into the fermenter.

I brewed this beer at the end of August, racked it to a secondary to let it age for two months, before bottle conditioning with brown sugar. I was torn whether or not to prime with treacle or molasses, the brown sugar was a half measure. The resulting beer was very good! It placed second in the club. It maybe could have used a little toasty flavor to balance the crystal malt and add some complexity. I could see this scoring well into the 30s in a competition. 

By the time mid-February rolled around I realized I was running out of time to brew a lager for the Q1 meeting in March. The style itself is a bit of a catch-all for any amber lager that doesn't quite fit or isn't as full flavored as traditional styles like Vienna Lager or Bock.

For my recipe I designed another beer inspired by Leinenkugel's, this time drawing inspiration from Leine's Red Lager. I kept a pamphlet from when we visited the Leinie Lodge which says the beer has "Three Pale, Carapils, and Caramel" malts, and Cluster and Mt Hood hops. 

Using both Carapils and Caramel malt felt redundant to me, and "three pale" malts could mean anything. I'm willing to bet the marketing copy was not written by a brewer. I built a grist I thought made sense and fit the style. Malty and toasty flavors are supposed to be subdued and that is what I was going for. The BJCP guidelines also include, "Color malts such as Victory, Amber, etc" as ingredients, so I used quite a bit of Amber Malt.

The hop schedule was the same as Pa's Lager with a small late charge of Mt. Hood, and a blend of Mt Hood and Cluster for bittering. For yeast I tried another Lallemand strain for the first time, Diamond Lager.

Given my rushed timeframe, I couldn't do a full lager period. The beer got five days at 50F, was then ramped up to 59F for a week, before cold crashing and kegging. The beer was kegged only a couple of days before the club meeting. Unfortunately, I had a beer industry event in Albany the day of the meeting, so I had to drop off a growler before driving west. 

My growler is #8 on the far right.
All entries lined up side-by-side.

I didn't have the highest of hopes for this beer, but at least it gave the club another beer to taste and evaluate. I was happy to see that Richard won with his beer. Richard is an extract brewer who bottle conditions. Another example that you can make great beer with extract.

A week later I did a side-by-side: my Amber Lager versus Samuel Adams Red Zone Lager, a beer included in a sample pack. 

Guess which one is the homebrew.


Homebrew (HB): Copper, hazy, thin off white head that faded
Red Zone Lager (RZ): Lighter than the homebrew, thick off white head with good retention


HB: Medium toast, some bread 
RZ: Lightest toast


HB: Brady & toasty malt. Moderate spicy hop flavor. Well balanced between malt and hops. Feels very green with some acetaldehyde.

RZ: Much cleaner. Toasted flavors more pronounced. More malt-forward without being malty. Hop bitterness moderate, and flavor low but present.


HB: Med full body, low carbonation. Finish fairly smooth. RZ: Med light body, moderate carb. Neutral finish


Sam Adams kicks my ass here. My beer is green, and as the final gravity indicates under-atenuated. My rushed fermentation did this beer no favors. Need to read up on this yeast before using again.

Interesting Sam would include an Amber Lager in a sampler that’s not Boston Lager. Red Zone Lager is a less intense beer than Boston Lager. Less hoppy and complex, but a smooth and easy drinking brew.

Revisiting my beer a week later it is noticeably less green which suggests with proper lagering the beer will finish nice and clean. The final gravity was a flabby 1.017, way too heavy for the style.

One takeaway from this batch is that Diamond Lager needs to be handled more delicately than more forgiving strains such as Weihenstephan or Berlin lager strains. It needs to ferment cold, needs at 2-3 weeks of primary fermentation time, and a full lagering period to produce a crisp and well-attenuated lager.

My recipe feels solid. This is one I want to brew again without the rushed fermentation.

As it is this is the only beer I have on tap. My other three taps are empty. This is a situation I need to fix with summer approaching. Especially if I actually have free time come the summer. Plus the style for Q2 is Double IPA.

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Recipe: NSB Int'l Amber Lager
Style: International Amber Lager
TYPE: All Grain

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 6.18 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.68 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.25 gal   
Bottling Volume: 5.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.052 SG
Estimated Color: 11.2 SRM
Estimated IBU: 19.9 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 77.9 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt              Name                                             Type          #          %/IBU         Volume        
7.42 gal         Amber Balanced (7-17 SRM)                        Water         1          -             -             
2.87 g           Epsom Salt (MgSO4) (Mash)                        Water Agent   2          -             -             
1.79 g           Chalk (Mash)                                     Water Agent   3          -             -             
0.50 g           Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) (Mash)                  Water Agent   4          -             -             
0.50 tsp         Lactic Acid (Mash)                               Water Agent   5          -             -             
5 lbs 8.0 oz     Mapleton Pale Malt (Maine Malt) (2.0 SRM)        Grain         6          55.0 %        0.43 gal      
3 lbs            Munich Malt (Muntons) (10.2 SRM)                 Grain         7          30.0 %        0.23 gal      
1 lbs            Amber Malt (Muntons) (23.9 SRM)                  Grain         8          10.0 %        0.08 gal      
8.0 oz           Crystal 150 (60L) (Muntons) (76.1 SRM)           Grain         9          5.0 %         0.04 gal      
0.50 tsp         Lactic Acid (Sparge)                             Water Agent   10         -             -             
0.50 oz          Mt. Hood [6.00 %] - Boil 60.0 min                Hop           11         10.9 IBUs     -             
0.25 oz          Cluster [7.00 %] - Boil 60.0 min                 Hop           12         6.4 IBUs      -             
0.50 oz          Mt. Hood [6.00 %] - Steep/Whirlpool  15.0 min, 1 Hop           13         2.7 IBUs      -             
2.0 pkg          Diamond Lager (Lallemand #-) [50.28 ml]          Yeast         14         -             -             
Recipe: North Shore Brewers Old Ale
Style: Old Ale
TYPE: Extract

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 3.52 gal
Post Boil Volume: 3.02 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.25 gal   
Bottling Volume: 5.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.079 SG
Estimated Color: 15.5 SRM
Estimated IBU: 41.7 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 0.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt              Name                                             Type          #          %/IBU         Volume        
8.0 oz           Crystal 400 (150L) (Muntons) [Steep] (203.0 SRM) Grain         1          4.3 %         0.04 gal      
1 lbs 1.7 oz     Spraymalt DME - Wheat Malt [Boil] (5.0 SRM)      Dry Extract   2          9.4 %         0.08 gal      
3 lbs 4.8 oz     Maris Otter® Light Malt Extract (Muntons) [Boil] Extract       3          28.2 %        0.27 gal      
1.50 oz          Homegrown Brewers Gold CY21 [8.50 %] - Boil 60.0 Hop           4          40.0 IBUs     -             
0.25 tsp         Irish Moss (Boil 10.0 mins)                      Fining        5          -             -             
6 lbs 9.6 oz     Maris Otter® Light Malt Extract (Muntons) [Whirl Extract       6          56.4 %        0.55 gal      
1.00 oz          Homegrown Willamette CY21  [5.50 %] - Steep/Whir Hop           7          1.6 IBUs      -             
1.0 pkg          Munton Fison Premium  (Munton-Fison #-)          Yeast         8          -             -             
3.0 oz           Brown Sugar, Light [Bottling] (8.0 SRM)          Sugar         9          1.6 %         0.01 gal      
Recipe: Derby Wharf Porter
Style: English Porter
TYPE: Extract 

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 3.78 gal
Post Boil Volume: 3.28 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal   
Bottling Volume: 5.25 gal
Estimated OG: 1.055 SG
Estimated Color: 25.3 SRM
Estimated IBU: 30.4 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 72.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 0.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt              Name                                             Type          #          %/IBU         Volume        
8.0 oz           Chocolate Malt (Muntons) (520.3 SRM)             Grain         1          5.9 %         0.04 gal      
4.0 oz           Crystal 400 (150L) (Muntons) (203.0 SRM)         Grain         2          3.0 %         0.02 gal      
1 lbs 1.6 oz     Spraymalt Wheat (Muntons) [Boil] (7.6 SRM)       Dry Extract   3          13.0 %        0.09 gal      
3 lbs 4.8 oz     Light Malt Extract (Muntons) [Boil] (4.6 SRM)    Extract       4          39.0 %        0.28 gal      
1.00 oz          Homegrown Brewers Gold CY21 [8.50 %] - Boil 60.0 Hop           5          25.6 IBUs     -             
0.26 tsp         Irish Moss (Boil 10.0 mins)                      Fining        6          -             -             
3 lbs 4.8 oz     Light Malt Extract (Muntons) [Whirlpool] (4.6 SR Extract       7          39.0 %        0.28 gal      
1.00 oz          Homegrown Brewers Gold CY21 [8.50 %] - Steep/Whi Hop           8          4.7 IBUs      -             
1.0 pkg          Munton Fison Premium  (Munton-Fison #-)          Yeast         9          -             -             
Recipe: North Shore Brewers White IPA
Style: White IPA
TYPE: All Grain

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 6.18 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.68 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.25 gal   
Bottling Volume: 5.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.062 SG
Estimated Color: 3.3 SRM
Estimated IBU: 53.0 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 80.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 83.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt              Name                                             Type          #          %/IBU         Volume        
7.63 gal         Yellow Dry (Under 6 SRM)                         Water         1          -             -             
5.87 g           Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) (Mash)                  Water Agent   2          -             -             
1.76 g           Epsom Salt (MgSO4) (Mash)                        Water Agent   3          -             -             
1.00 tsp         Lactic Acid (Mash)                               Water Agent   4          -             -             
6 lbs 4.0 oz     Super Pale Malt (Muntons) (1.0 SRM)              Grain         5          55.6 %        0.49 gal      
3 lbs 12.0 oz    Wheat Malt (Muntons) (2.5 SRM)                   Grain         6          33.3 %        0.29 gal      
1 lbs 4.0 oz     Torrefied Wheat (Muntons) (1.0 SRM)              Grain         7          11.1 %        0.10 gal      
0.50 tsp         Lactic Acid (Sparge)                             Water Agent   8          -             -             
0.50 oz          Falconer's Flight [11.00 %] - Boil 60.0 min      Hop           9          18.4 IBUs     -             
0.50 oz          Falconer's Flight [11.00 %] - Boil 30.0 min      Hop           10         15.6 IBUs     -             
2.00 oz          Ahtanum [6.00 %] - Steep/Whirlpool  15.0 min, 19 Hop           11         9.9 IBUs      -             
1.00 oz          Falconer's Flight [11.00 %] - Steep/Whirlpool  1 Hop           12         9.1 IBUs      -             
1.0 pkg          Belgian Wit II (White Labs #WLP410) [35.49 ml]   Yeast         13         -             -                    
2.00 oz          Homegrown Centennial CY21 [10.00 %] - 11.0 Days  Hop           15         0.0 IBUs      -             
2.00 oz          Homegrown Chinook CY21 [13.00 %] - 11.0 Days Int Hop           16         0.0 IBUs      -             
Recipe: Jar of Destiny Q1 (Roasted MX)
Style: Pre-Prohibition Porter
TYPE: All Grain

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 4.80 gal
Post Boil Volume: 3.80 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 3.15 gal   
Bottling Volume: 2.90 gal
Estimated OG: 1.053 SG
Estimated Color: 22.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 0.0 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 80.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 92.7 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt              Name                                             Type          #          %/IBU         Volume        
5.14 gal         Salem/Beverly, MA                                Water         1          -             -             
0.95 g           Chalk (Mash)                                     Water Agent   2          -             -             
0.89 g           Epsom Salt (MgSO4) (Mash)                        Water Agent   3          -             -             
3 lbs 10.0 oz    Mapleton Pale Malt (Maine Malt) (2.0 SRM)        Grain         4          63.7 %        0.28 gal      
1 lbs 2.0 oz     Corn, Flaked (1.3 SRM)                           Grain         5          19.8 %        0.09 gal      
8.0 oz           Munich Malt (Muntons) (8.1 SRM)                  Grain         6          8.8 %         0.04 gal      
4.0 oz           Crystal 150 (60L) (Muntons) (76.1 SRM)           Grain         7          4.4 %         0.02 gal      
1.26 g           Chalk (Sparge)                                   Water Agent   8          -             -             
1.18 g           Epsom Salt (MgSO4) (Sparge)                      Water Agent   9          -             -             
3.1 oz           Roasted Malt Extract (Muntons) [Boil] (812.2 SRM Extract       10         3.4 %         0.02 gal      
0.16 tsp         Irish Moss (Boil 10.0 mins)                      Fining        11         -             -             
1.0 pkg          Safale American  (DCL/Fermentis #US-05) [50.28 m Yeast         12         -             -             

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