12. Pale Commonwealth Beer


English IPA (12C)  BeerSmith Recipe File


The idea for this beer started with a sip of Blackheart from 3 Floyd’s Brewing in Munster, IN.  If you haven’t been there dear reader, I consider it the Midwest Beer Mecca, even if I don’t agree with their approach to distribution (or more accurately, the lack thereof).  I’m an IPA lover for sure, and the English versions, when done right, can be amazing and a welcome reprieve from the west-coast hop hammers we are used to.

This recipe is almost all from “Classic Styles” with a couple of deviations.  First, a little more 120L in mine, because I love that malt, I feel it brings out some serious complexity in the grain bill; I use it in an American Barleywine recipe, and I think it makes it killer!  The 120L also pushes the color towards the darkest appropriate for the style, which I also like.  I think visually, the darker color sets the drinker up for the maltier experience.  Also, I’m pushing the ABV of my recipe about 1% higher than Jamil’s, because this is IPA people, and I like mine ready to party.

This hobby may be getting out of hand...
This hobby may be getting out of hand…

Lets talk hops for a second: First, I’m using a CO2 hop extract as the bittering addition here. (1) Secondly, having brewed many an IPA in my time, I’ve learned that the more hops you add late in the game, the better your IPA will be – late in the boil kettle, first wort hopping, and dry hopping.  And don’t get me started on LHBS kits that “simplify” the process by cutting the number and quantity of hop additions. The best IPAs I’ve brewed had so many ounces of hops I was questioning whether or not it was too much.  If you have only relied on the standard bittering addition and 1 oz max dry hop, and have been wondering why your IPAs don’t taste like the pros, spend the extra coin, double or even triple your late hop and dry hop additions and prepare to be amazed.

Lastly, I’m mashing a couple of degrees cooler than “Classic Styles” recommends, to compensate for less attenuation (compared to cali-ale strains), to help dry out the beer.  I worry that 152º, with 14 pounds of grain and London Ale yeast, might leave me with a beer that finishes close to 1.018 or even 1.020, which while acceptable, I personally don’t care for in an IPA, and I think most American beer geeks would agree that dryer is better.

Also, I’ve formulated the recipe for a final volume of 5.25 gallons, to adjust for wort loss from the hops.



12 lb. Maris Otter
0.5 lb. Pale Wheat Malt
0.5 lb. Biscuit Malt
0.5 lb. 40L
0.5 lb. 120L

Mash @ 150º for 75 minutes, single infusion (1.125 qt/lb), fly sparge with 4.8 gal @ 168º
Boil for 60 minutes

7.5mL CO2 Hop Extract boil for 60 minutes
1 oz each of Fuggles (4.5%) & East Kent Goldings (5.0%) boil for 10 minutes
1 oz each of Fuggles & Challenger (7.5%) @ flameout, steep for 10 minutes before cooling
1 oz each of Fuggles, Challenger & EKG dry hop for 7 days
1.25 oz EKG for an additional 4 days (after first dry hop is removed)

WLP013 London Ale, 1500mL starter

OG: 1.074
FG: 1.015
ABV: 7.8%
IBU: 52
Color: 13 SRM

Fermentation Temperature:  66-70º

Brew Day

A fairly uneventful brew day, so I’ll share an issue I was having that I recently resolved.  Once upon a time, I was getting terrible extract efficiency from my system.  Now, in all-grain brewing, sometimes one can focus too much on efficiency, and you have to decide what is considered “good” for your system and procedures.  I was getting low 60s and even mid 50s sometimes, so I began narrowing down the likely culprits.  I discovered that my analog thermometer was way off; even after calibrating with the boil test, the thermometer would fail the freeze test by several degrees. I can’t totally blame the equipment though; I had dropped it in the mash several times over its life, which probably compromised the bi-metallic strip inside that responds to the temperature changes and moves the dial.)  I wasn’t convinced that this was the problem however, since mashing a tad too low should, in theory, only make the wort more fermentable, perhaps lowering efficiency slightly, but not 15-20%.  Mashing too high (i.e 4 or 5 degrees above 154º), I would have definitely noticed the husky, astringent flavor in the final product.  But, it was good to discover and solve a completely different issue.  I scoured the Internet and my library, trying to find what I should be looking at to fix this problem.  Many places online told me to relax, my system is just going to preform like my system, and that’s what makes it unique.  That sounded suspiciously like total utter nonsense to me, so I kept pursuing the issue.  I focused on my grain crush, my dough in procedure, my mash pH, but all of these facets were acceptable.

I began to focus on the mashing process itself, as well as lautering/sparging.  First I ensured my rate was good (Palmer recommends ~1 qt/min).  My mash tun is 5 gallon cylindrical cooler with a false bottom, and I was always having to play with the valve during lautering/sparging, as by itself, flow would slow down or speed up.  I was also getting grain bits into the wort well into the lautering process.  This led me to believe that my false bottom wasn’t sitting flush on the bottom of the mash tun, and was allowing grain through while also creating a mini-river of high flow in only one small part of the grain bed, while the rest of the grain bed wasn’t being rinsed nearly as well.

I set my false bottom on a flat table and immediately noticed it did not sit flush.  So, using my fine adjustment tool (a small framing hammer,) I began to reshape it.  I would caution that many small taps are preferred to a few large ones here: tap a couple times, reexamine, repeat.  Also, I noticed tapping the edge of the concave side of the false bottom (what most would say was upside-down) was more effective than taping the convex side.  After about 10 minutes of this, the false bottom was sitting flush.  That particular brew day saw 80% mash efficiency, changing only the false bottom; my problem was solved.  Now I make sure the false bottom is stored safely, without anything heavy resting on it.

I’d say that this is how you should approach issues in your brewery.  When you have an issue like this, don’t “RDWHAHB” (2), fix it!  Be methodical, systematically narrow the possibilities, hit the books for answers and eventually you’ll figure it out.  In a case like very poor efficiency, your final product may still taste great, but in the long run, you’ll lose an awful lot of money sparging only a small portion of your grain bed.

Now that you’re sufficiently bored, the brew day was fairly normal.

Mash tun at capacity
5-gallon mash tun at capacity

The flameout hop addition is steeped for 10 minutes, with the lid off!  Now I’ve heard people say you should keep the lid on to keep the temp above 200º, as the wort won’t stay hot enough to extract those lovely aromas and flavors we want.  First of all, I call bunk on the whole concept that the wort can’t stay warm, and present the following evidence:

Taking temp 10 min after flameout (ambient temp 80*)
Taking temp 10 min after flameout (ambient temp 80°)

Second of all, leaving the lid on can be detrimental as DMS is still forming after flameout, and if the lid is on, the vapor can condense and fall back into the wort. (4)

Cooled the wort to 65º,  siphoned, aerated and pitched the starter, and put that bad boy in the fridge, with the controller set to 66º.

Auto-Siphons assemble!



24 hours into primary, significant airlock activity.  After 48 hours I bumped the temp controller up to 68º where I left it for 8 days.  On day 9, I set the controller to 70º.  On day 13, I took a gravity reading (1.015) and transferred to the keg for dry hopping.

Digging the color!
Digging the color!
Hop it real good
Hop it real good

I performed the first dry hop at room temperature, before cold-crashing the beer. (3)  The second dry hop was after the beer had been in the fridge about a week at 41º, under CO2 pressure.  (This dry hop I weighted and dropped to the bottom of the keg, so that when I bottled the samples for The Stig, it would draw the beer right past the hops)

So, the ABV here is a tad above the Guidelines.  The obvious solution for future English IPAs would be to shoot for a lower OG.  I’m not sure one could taste the difference, but it does make this beer almost imperial, which wasn’t what I was trying to do. Even though I said I like my IPA ready to party, this may be too much party.  Hopefully The Stig doesn’t punish me too much for the violation.



I carbonated to 2.2 volumes, removed the second dry hop with a sanitized spoon after 4 days, and then  I served this guy straight from the keg at an event using a picnic tap.  Of course, for The Stig, I bottled a couple using the Blichmann Beer Gun.


My Take

Conquest Beer

Nice hop aroma. Even though acceptable as per the Guidelines, not as clear as I wanted it (a bit clearer than the picture shows.)  Very nicely balanced. This is a dangerous IPA because it drinks real easy!  I was weighing whether or not to do the second dry hop, and I’m glad I did.  I think the IBUs are near perfect, and while this isn’t a BlackHeart clone, it is damn delicious!


The Stig

Now it’s time to turn the beer over to our Team Tasting Imbiber.  Some say he was secretly knighted by Her Majesty, The Queen with a mash paddle in place of a sword, and that he rubs UK hops on his underarms for deodorant.  All we know is, he’s called the Stig!

Aroma: Floral, bordering on medicinal. Some rosy, fusel alcohols as well. Nutty, caramel like malt notes.

Appearance: Hazy, medium – dark amber ~ 14 degrees SRM.  Definitely on the dark end that is acceptable for this style, too dark for my preference.  Appropriate head retention and soft beaded lacing of off white foam.

Flavor: Caramel, apricot honey sweetness, with a hint of maple.  Hop bitterness is present, but not much hop flavor.  Missing out on requisite woodsy, spicy EKG hop flavor.  Also, seems too sweet for the style.  Would like more biscuit/butterscotch Maris Otter-like maltiness rather then the flavors perceived.

Mouthfeel: Excellent mouthfeel, very subtle carbonation yields soft, creamy body.  Finishes dry, but not astringent.

Overall Impression: Looks decent, albeit slightly too dark.  Not enough hop aroma for IPA, and lacking strong hop flavor.  Too fusel, and without traditional fruity esters that English IPAs and Bitters posses.  Could do with more minerality as well, doesn’t have that chalky, seltzer-like quality.  Otherwise, mouthfeel is spot on.



So, my adding 120L crystal malt did not impress The Stig.  I really like the flavors that result in this beer from the grain bill, but perhaps He’s right and I should have let the Maris Otter stand out more.  Also, the darker color offended The Stig, but I like it.  Differences of opinion are more than welcome here!

The lack of fruity fermentation esters is probably due to my selection of WLP013, which White Labs says will impart a oaky ester profile, and does not mention fruity esters.  Perhaps WLP023 would have been a better choice, at least if The Stig had to choose.  Perhaps the oaky esters are coming off as fusel to The Stig? He thinks not.

The lack of hop aroma noted by The Stig is weird.  Especially considering the 3 oz 10 minute boil addition AND the 3 oz flameout steep addition AND the 4.25 oz dry hop!  I get hop aroma, and while it certainly isn’t off the charts, I wouldn’t call it MIA.  I can’t figure out how 9 ounces of aroma hopping didn’t reach The Stig’s nose.  Perhaps using all 3 major UK hops muddled the aroma affair, and prevented Him from getting the EKG notes He seems to desire.  Perhaps the hops I used were too old.  I like the hop aroma, subdued perhaps when compared to American versions, but still there.

The fusel comments are weird too.  Fermentation temps were most definitely under control, I did not over pitch, and I aerated pretty darn good before primary.  Maybe my temperature control set-up isn’t doing as good a job as I think it is…

As for the mineral water comments, I’m hard at work on Palmer’s water chemistry book, so hopefully the next English beer with be a little more to style.


(1) CO2 hop extract is about as complicated as you can make hop alpha acid.  I really can’t recommend it to anyone, because I think it’s more trouble than it’s worth.  It may be cheaper per IBU in the long run, and it may help with volume loss on Imperial IPAs, but I’m not sure I’ll ever order it again.  Utilization of this stuff is a tricky subject, and Scott from Bertus Brewery is the only guy I know in the blogosphere that has it right: treat every 5mL of CO2 hop extract as 1oz of 10% AA hop in your recipe.  His simple calculation works so well, HopUnion’s own Alpha Analytics confirmed the IBU values within less than an IBU!  Yes, I sent a 12oz sample of Conquest to a beer analysis firm… so what?  HopUnion’s own calculator is confusing, and I can’t get it to even remotely agree with Scott.  Northern Brewer’s HopShot sheet is out to lunch and a senior scientist at Alpha Analytics had trouble figuring out why HopUnion’s numbers were so weird (though I must say, he was very pleasant to deal with and very attentive).  See?  More trouble that it’s worth.  So, if you’re a nut job, and you like to tinker with weird stuff, get some CO2 hop extract.  If you’re anyone else, just buy hops in bulk and save money that way!


(2) I wonder if Charlie Papazian knew the toxic and pervasive impact his advice would have on our hobby.  I personally know nuclear engineers, and I cannot believe that Charlie dispensed his “don’t worry” advice with the intention of it being applied to every issue in home brewing.  Unfortunately, his encouragement has been commandeered by dum-dums, and they have made it their brewery battle cry.  This mentality has infected  countless new brewers, who have been motto’d into never fixing their problems.  At a club meeting several years ago, one brewer was lamenting that he was having to refill his CO2 bottle every month, with minimal use.  He obviously had a leak somewhere.  The advice he got, from a brewer far more experienced than me, was to simply disconnect the CO2 from the keg and shut it off.  Only connect it when you want a beer, he said. Now I know, this is a HOBBY, not rocket surgery, but how lazy could you possibly be?  When I suggested that perhaps he find and fix the leak, several people parroted the RDWHAHB line to me.  This brings me back to a point I cannot let go of: why on Earth would a craft beer lover, someone who loves craft beer so much they decided to brew it, so willingly accept anything less than their best?  Let me tell you something: if you have a problem, worry.  Worry until you fix it.


(3)  An article in BYO recommends 70º for dry hopping, as warmer temps extract more hop oils.


(4) Check out this primer on Wort Boiling.  The take-home here is that DMS forms and vaporizes when boiling and at near boiling temperatures.


Books I referenced for this recipe:
Noonan, Greg.  New Brewing Lager Beer.  1996.
Palmer, John.  How to Brew.  2006
Zainasheff & Palmer.  Brewing Classic Styles.  2007.
2008 BJCP Guidelines.

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