Brew Day #64: Celtic Ale

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Celtic Ale is my “house beer”. It’s a malty, copper-colored ale with a thick, creamy head that lasts to the bottom of the glass, and at around 4.6% ABV it’s a great session beer. I first started making this as an attempt to make something like Highland Brewing’s flagship Gaelic Ale, which is my wife’s favorite commercial beer. After the first couple batches however, I started experimenting with aspects of the recipe, using the constant extract and specialty grain bill as a background to try different yeasts. The last couple batches I settled on a Scottish Ale yeast, which seems to suit the character of this beer well.

Celtic Ale

Original Gravity: 1.048-1.050
Final Gravity: 1.010-1.013
4.6% ABV
28 IBU

ingredients for five gallons:

6 gallons spring water
1.5 lbs. Munich malt 10° L
.5 lb. crystal malt 60°L
1 lb. crystal malt 40°L
4 oz. Briess Special malt
3.3 lbs. Briess Golden Light malt extract (liquid)
2 lbs. Briess Golden Light dry malt extract
1 oz. Perle whole leaf hops 9.1% AA (bittering: 60 minutes)
.1 oz. Nugget hop pellets 13.1% AA (bittering: 60 minutes)
1 tsp. Irish Moss (boil 15 minutes)
1 oz. Willamette whole leaf hops 5.1% AA (flavor: 15 minutes)
.25 oz. Willamette whole leaf hops 5.1% AA (aroma: steep)
.6 oz. Cascade whole leaf hops 7.3% AA (aroma: steep)
Wyeast #1728 Scottish Ale yeast

brewed as above May 17, 2014

Crush and steep the Munich malt, crystal malts, and Special malt in one gallon of 150°F water for 30 minutes. Strain and sparge the water from the steeped grains into your brew pot with another gallon of 150°F water. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and add malt extracts and bittering hops. Boil for 45 minutes and add Irish Moss and flavor hops. Boil for 15 minutes and add aroma hops, remove from heat and chill for 20 minutes. Strain the chilled wort into the fermenter and add cold, aerated water to obtain slightly over 5 gallons. Pitch yeast!  When fermentation is complete, bottle with 3/4 cup corn sugar.

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I have brewed this beer with Munton’s light extract when the store was out of Briess, and it turned out just as good.  The Briess Special malt is supposed to add a biscuity, tangy flavor, but with it only constituting 1/13 of the steeped grains, I am not sure how much it affects the flavor in the end.  As I have just run out of it, I am going to leave it out of my next batch.

This recipe is about balance between malt and hops: it’s not a bitter beer, nor is it sweet. Since the hops are not on the front of the palate for this beer, I use this beer to clean out the odds and ends of hops in my freezer left over from other batches. I had Perle hops left from a batch of pale ale I made last month and used them to bitter this batch; however, I didn’t have quite enough so I added a smidge of Nugget hop pellets to bring up the HBUs. Generally, you need 9 HBUs for five gallons of this beer if you’re using hop pellets, and 10 HBUs if you’re using whole leaf hops. You can leave the flavor hops out completely (which I have done) and still have an excellent beer.

I’ve bittered this beer with Chinook (a great choice), Magnum, UK Northern Brewer, UK Northdown, Centennial, and now Perle hops: all turned out great!  I like Fuggles or Willamette for flavor, and a combination of .5-1 oz. total Willamette and Cascade for aroma.

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Originally I brewed this with Wyeast #1056 American Ale yeast, which is what I believe they use for Gaelic Ale at Highland.  1056 ferments very clean and bright, and results in a pretty crisp flavor for such a malty beer.  I have also tried Wyeast # 1084 Irish Ale yeast, Whitelabs WLP028 Edinburgh Ale yeast, and Wyeast #1728 which I have used twice now.  I thought that the Irish yeast fermented too dry for this beer.  The Scottish yeast seems better suited for a malt-forward beer that is nonetheless not sweet, however I am thinking about returning to 1056 to compare now that I have tried others.

Cheers,

phirx

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