The Northwest pale ale is a well balanced style of beer that emphasizes hops over malt, but to a lesser degree than that of an IPA. When made well it combines drinkability with great hop and malt flavour, and is one of my favourite styles. Few quality local examples exist, but one great one is Driftwood Ale, which has become my go-to beer. (Before I receive any angry responses I am not referring to amber ales, another type of pale ale, of which there are many fine local examples such as Phillips Blue Buck and Driftwood Crooked Coast)
The Frontiersman pours a medium orange/amber and has a thick head of fine bubbles that lasts until the bottom of the glass. It has a citrus hop aroma from being dry-hopped (I'll explain this process later) and a moderate hop flavour of earthy, citrusy hops that is balanced with a good malt backbone. It has medium body and finishes well with moderate bitterness. I went through my supply of it in a painfully quick fashion and it soon became apparent that a new batch was necessary, and so here we are.
|Barley, hops, water and yeast|
As I mentioned before I was keeping to my previous recipe with two small exceptions: I would be using whole cone hops instead of pellets and purified water instead of good old Victoria tap-water. The first step was getting all the equipment and ingredients together: barley, hops, water and yeast. Once everything was ready it was time to mash. The mash is a process where malted barley and sometimes other grains are steeped in hot water usually around 65 degrees Celsius. This allows the enzymes in the malt to convert the sugars to a form were the yeast can use them, and thus produce two of my favourite byproducts: carbon dioxide, and alcohol. After this is completed the grains are rinsed, a process known as sparging, to extract any remaining sugars, and the liquid, known as wort, is collected. It is from this wort that beer is made.
|The barley after the mash|
|Boiling the wort|
Wort acts as the backbone of a beer's taste, giving it its colour and contributing flavours such as sweet, roasted, or smoked depending on the type of malt used. For this brew I only used simple 2-row malted barley for body and alcohol and crystal malt for colour and some caramel flavour. These grains would provide the structure to build the beer's hop character upon.
|The hops, weighed and ready to go|
The boil for this batch would last 60 minutes and as it began I put in the strong Zeus hops to give the beer its bitterness. As the boil approached its end I put in some Perle hops to give a floral and slightly spicy flavour to the beer, and at the very end I put in Cascade, the classic North American hop, to impart its signature citrusy aroma. Once the boil was finished I cooled the wort and strained it into the fermenter, and finally added the yeast, one of my favourite liquid strains.
|Transferring to the Secondary|
Secondary fermentation is somewhat of an optional step that some experienced homebrewers declare unneccesary and it acts mainly as a clarifying stage. Apart from preventing the unlikely occurrence of autolysis, or yeast death, transferring to a secondary also allows the brewer to take readings to see how fermentation is progressing and taste the beer to see how the flavour has developed.
|With the dry-hops sitting on top|
the Frontiersman goes back in the closet
The Frontiersman will probably spend around two weeks in the secondary, allowing it to finish its fermentation and letting the yeast and dry-hops settle out. Once it is crystal clear and shows no sign of fermentation It can be bottled. When carbonation is finished comes the moment of truth, when it can be tasted and see if it lives up to the reputation of its predecessor. Until then I can only wait, but if all goes well in the end we should get...