The American amber ale, commonly referred to as amber ale, is a beer style with bold hop flavors and distinct bitterness. It is darker than pale ale with stronger notes of malt.
According to the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), this beer style is categorized as a red ale with an outstanding caramel flavor and a sweet finish. What makes amber ale a much-loved style is the nice balance between bitterness and sweetness, making it an easy-drinking beer variety.
Whether you are making your foray into the world of homebrewing or are looking to try out a different recipe, you will find the red ale to be one of the easiest beer styles to prepare. And, in this article, we are excited to show you how to make amber ale at home.
So, let’s get started!
Tools and Equipment For Making Amber Ale
Making amber ale at home is super easy and the best part is that you do not need expensive tools. You might need to buy some items but most of the equipment is things you probably already have at home.
Here is a list of the tools you will need:
- A source of heat like a stovetop
- 5-gallon pot
- Long-handled stainless steel or plastic spoon
- Cooking thermometer
- Kitchen timer
- Foil paper
- Kitchen scale
Below are some of the items you might need to buy. Check online or buy from your local homebrew shop or hardware.
- 5-gallon bucket
- Paint strainer bag where you will put the grain
- Bottling wand and tubbing
Now that you have all the equipment, let’s take a look at the ingredients you will need for the simple amber ale recipe that we are about to show you how to make:
- 6 ounce Centennial (60 minutes)
- 1 ounce Cascade (20 minutes)
- Wyeast 1272 American Ale II
- 11 ounce Crystal 80 malt
- 11 ounce Crystal 40 malt
- 5-ounce corn sugar
- 5-pound pale dry malt extract
- 2-pound pilsner dry malt extract
Step-by-Step Guide To Make Amber Ale
Step 1: Mill Your Grain
If you have whole malt grain on hand, you will need to mill the malt to remove the outer husks and to break the grain to extract the sugar in it before making your amber ale.
Don’t worry if you do not have milling equipment—you can ask your local homebrew shop to mill the grain for you.
How the grain is milled is important. Crushing the kernels too much will leave you with a lot of residues or ‘flour’ but the fine grain will also offer up more extracted sugar. Someone with experience should do the milling and it is why we are recommending your local homebrew shop.
Once you have your grains ready, you can move on to the fun part of actually brewing your amber ale.
Step 2: Steep the Water Using the Grains
Steeping involves extracting the flavors of the milled grain. It will also give the final beer a deep and rich color.
First, place the 5-gallon pot on a stovetop and pour in 2 gallons of pure distilled water. Bring the water to 170°F then turn off the stovetop.
Meanwhile, as the water heats up, transfer the milled Crystal 80 and Crystal 40 malt grain to the paint strainer bag. Tie a knot at the top of the bag and leave some space for the grains to expand when they are placed in hot water.
To steep the water, gradually lower the paint strainer bag containing the grains into the hot pot of water in the same way you would do with a teabag.
Leave the grains inside the pot for 1 hour to allow the full flavors to be extracted. You should also cover the pot to retain the heat of the water.
Step 3: Add Malt Extracts and Sugars
After the 1 hour is up, remove the grain bag from the pot. Allow the grain bag to drip or, if it is not too hot, you can give it a squeeze to remove all the water and grainy flavors.
Now, it is time to add the malt extract to the steeped water. Malt extract, whether in liquid or powder form, takes out the fuss of making your own mash from scratch. You can look at malt extract as a pre-made mash that saves you time and energy, and makes home brewing more fun.
In this recipe, we use dry malt extract although you can use liquid malt extract if that is what is more accessible to you. The Home Brewers Association does a good job of explaining the difference between the two types of malt extracts. You can read the article here.
Slowly add the extracts into the pot of steeped water. As you do this, make sure that you keep stirring until all the extracts dissolve. What you have now is wort, which will be fermented to make amber ale.
Step 4: Add the Hops
Return the pot containing the wort to the stovetop and turn the heat back to medium-high. Bring the wort to a rolling boil.
Once the wort reaches a boil, set a timer for 60 minutes and add the Centennials hops first. This first batch of hops will give the beer more bitterness while the other ones that you will add later will add aroma and flavor.
After the 60 minutes are over, turn off the heat and add the 20-minute Cascade hops. Set the timer for 20 minutes and leave the hops to steep in the liquid to extract the aroma and flavor. There is no need to boil the liquid after adding this second batch of hops.
Step 5: Pitch the Wort
Pitching simply means adding yeast to the wort to start the fermentation process. Before pouring in the yeast, allow the wort to cool. Adding yeast into hot liquid will kill the yeast and therefore fermentation will not happen.
There are many ways to cool wort but a simple method is to use an ice bath. Simply place the pot containing wort in a basin or sink filled with ice-cold water and wait for the liquid to cool to below 700F. The cooling part takes a bit of time so you will have to be patient.
Once the wort has cooled, pour it through a strainer and into the fermentation bucket. Top up the wort with an additional 3 gallons of water.
Next, we are going to add yeast, which will ferment the wort into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Like malt extract, yeast comes in liquid and powder form and both get the job done. For this recipe, we will use the powder Wyeast 1272 American Ale.
To pitch the wort, pour the entire contents of the yeast into the fermentation bucket and cover the bucket.
Pro tip: Cover the fermentation bucket with tin foil instead of a lid. Covering with a lid can cause too much pressure to build up inside the bucket, resulting in a potentially messy explosion.
Step 6: Store the Wort for Fermentation
The wort is now ready to be stored in a cool, dark place. Pay attention to the recommended temperature range indicated on the yeast packet and store the wort within that temperature range.
Give the wort about 2 to 3 weeks to ferment after which your amber ale will be ready to bottle or transferred to a keg ready for your enjoyment!
- Before starting the fermentation process, make sure that you clean and sanitize your equipment to prevent contamination. The fermentation process can be affected if microbes, bacteria, and germs come into contact with the equipment.
- Malt extract clumps up easily but you can prevent this by stirring the liquid thoroughly until there is no extract at the bottom of the pot.
- Before bottling your ale beer, add dissolved corn sugar for carbonation. If you want to store the booze in a keg, force carbonation is the best method.
Are you ready to make your first batch of amber ale?
Amber ale is one of the easiest beer styles to make using basic home brewing equipment. All you need to do is choose the right type of yeast and malt extract for this particular beer style.
Keep a close eye on temperature and timing recommendations whether you are steeping, hopping, or cooling your alcohol. In the world of beer making, any temperature or timing deviations will easily affect the quality of your beer.
Follow the simple instructions we have outlined here and you will be well on your way to making the most delicious amber ale to enjoy with friends and family.