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Hop matter left at the end of the boil
Hop matter left at the end of the boil

Brewing an American Pale Ale

Previously in this series of articles on How to brew different Styles of Beer? we covered Brewing an English IPA, this time the Beer Style comes from the ‘Pale American Ale’ category in the BJCP 2014 Guidelines and is the style of an American Pale Ale.

In the following sections we are going to examine different aspects of this style such as its background, the style guidelines, ingredients used, sample recipes, brewing process, and finally the outcome of brewing a batch of this beer.


Grains: Domestic 2-row Pale malt, Munich malt, Victory malt, White Wheat malt
Grain bill:
– Domestic 2-row Pale malt
– Munich malt
– Victory malt
– White Wheat malt

According to the BJCP Guidelines this style is a modern American craft beer era adaptation of an English Pale Ale, reflecting indigenous ingredients (hops, malt, yeast, and water). Prior to the explosion in popularity of IPAs, this was traditionally the most well-known and popular of the American craft beers with Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale being regarded as the defacto example of the style.

Commercial examples of this style include Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Firestone Walker Pale 31, Deschutes Mirror Pond, Great Lakes Burning River, Flying Dog Doggie Style, Troegs Pale Ale, and Big Sky Scape Goat.


In the BJCP 2008 Style Guidelines all the American Pale Ale (APA) was grouped with American Amber and American Brown in the ‘American Ale’ category (see here). In the revised 2014 (now 2015) Guidelines the APA has been moved into a new category along with Blonde Ale as follows:

BJCP 2014 BJCP 2008
Category 18: Pale American Ale
10: American Ale
Styles 18A: Blonde Ale
18B: American Pale Ale
10A: American Pale Ale
10B: American Amber Ale
10C: American Brown Ale

In the new guidelines the vital statistics of the American Pale Ale are as follows:

  • Original Gravity (OG) = 1.045 – 1.060
  • Final Gravity (FG) = 1.010 – 1.015
  • Alcohol By Volume (ABV) = 4.5 – 6.2%
  • Bitterness (IBUs) = 30 – 50
  • Color (SRM) = 5 – 10

The only changes from the 2008 guidelines are a reduction of the upper bitterness range from 50 to 45 IBUs and a lowering of the upper color range from 14 to 10 SRM making the style a little less bitter and slightly lighter.


Hops: Horizon pellets, Cascade whole flowers, Centennial whole flowers
– Horizon pellets
– Cascade whole flowers
– Centennial whole flowers

According to the BJCP 2014 Guidelines the following are characteristic ingredients used in the brewing of an American Pale Ale:

  • Malts: Pale ale malt, typically North American two-row. Specialty grains may add character and complexity, but generally make up a relatively small portion of the grist. Grains that add malt flavor and richness, light sweetness, and toasty or bready notes are often used (along with late hops) to differentiate brands.
  • Hops: American or New World hops, with a wide range of allowable characteristics.
  • Yeast: American or English ale yeast (neutral to lightly fruity).
  • Water: Water can vary in sulfate content, but carbonate content should be relatively low.
  • Additions: None specified.


Below are some recipes for 5 gallon batches of American Pale Ale from leading authors in the homebrewing community together with some analysis on how they comply with the style guidelines:

– American Pale Ale –

California Ale yeast starter
California Ale yeast starter

Source: Brewing Classic Styles
Author: Jamil Zainasheff & John J. Palmer


  • 11.3 Lb American 2-row malt
  • 0.75 Lb Munich malt
  • 0.5 Lb Wheat malt
  • 0.75 Lb Victory malt
  • 0.66 oz Horizon hops (bittering – 60 mins)
  • 0.5 oz Cascade hops (flavoring – 10 mins)
  • 0.5 oz Centennial hops (flavoring – 10 mins)
  • 0.5 oz Cascade hops (aroma – 0 mins)
  • 0.5 oz Centennial hops (aroma – 0 mins)
  • White Labs California Ale (WLP001) yeast or Wyeast American Ale 1056 yeast
Brew In A Bag (BIAB) brewing equipment
Brew In A Bag (BIAB) brewing equipment


  • Mash @ 152 deg F (67 deg C)
  • Boil for 60 mins
  • Ferment @ 67 deg F (19 deg C)
  • Carbonate to 2-2.5 volumes


  • OG: 1.056
  • FG: 1.013
  • ABV: 5.7%
  • IBU: 40
  • SRM: 6


  • Malts: Base malt is American 2-row with specialty grains to add the character and complexity as per the guidelines.
  • Hops: Classic US c-hops and Horizon that is frequently used in American-style beers.
  • Yeast: Both options are American variants.
  • Statistics: All the statistics fall within the style.

– Avant Garde –

Brew-Boss tablet controller
Brew-Boss tablet controller

Source: Brewing Better Beer
Author: Gordon Strong


  • 6.5 Lb Maris Otter malt
  • 1 Lb Vienna malt
  • 0.75 Lb Crystal 40L malt
  • 0.25 Lb Crystal 80L malt
  • 0.5 Lb Wheat malt
  • 1 Lb white sugar
  • 1.0 oz Amarillo whole hops (FWH – First Wort Hopping)
  • 0.5 oz Tomahawk whole hops (flavoring – 20 mins)
  • 0.5 oz Tomahawk whole hops (flavoring – 15 mins)
  • 0.5 oz Tomahawk whole hops (flavoring – 10 mins)
  • 0.5 oz Simcoe whole hops (aroma – 5 mins)
  • 1.0 oz Amarillo whole hops (aroma – 2 mins)
  • 0.5 oz Simcoe whole hops (aroma – 0 mins)
  • White Labs WLP060 American Blend yeast
Brew-Boss power unit
Brew-Boss power unit


  • Mash @ 150 deg F (66 deg C)
  • Boil for 75 mins after hot break clears
  • Ferment @ 70 deg F (21 deg C)


  • OG: 1.060
  • FG: 1.012
  • ABV: 6.3%
  • IBU: 45
  • SRM: 10


  • Malts: The choice of a British base malt is not as specified in the style guidelines.
  • Hops: These are popular modern hops that are often used in West-coast American beers.
  • Yeast: WLP060 is often used to accentuate hop flavors and bitterness.
  • Statistics: The Starting Gravity is at the top of the range and the alcohol content is slightly high for the style. The color is also at the top of the style and the bitterness is within range.

– Sierra Nevada Pale Ale –

Recirculating mash
Recirculating mash

Source: CloneBrews
Author: Tess & Mark Szamatulski


  • 11 Lb American 2-row Pale malt
  • 4 oz Crystal 60L malt
  • 4 oz Maltodextrin
  • 0.7 oz Nugget hops (bittering – 90 mins)
  • 0.5 oz Perle hops (flavoring – 15 mins)
  • 1.0 oz Cascade hops (aroma – 1 min)
  • 0.5 oz Cascade hops (dry-hopping in secondary)
  • Wyeast 1056 American Ale yeast or Wyeast 1098 British Ale yeast
Mash pH 5.4
Mash pH 5.4


  • Mash @ 152 deg F (66.5 deg C) for 90 mins
  • Boil for 90 mins
  • Ferment @ 68-72 deg F (20-22 deg C)


  • OG: 1.058 – 1.059
  • FG: 1.015 – 1.016
  • ABV: 5.5%
  • IBU: 32
  • SRM: 17


  • Malts: The choice of base malt and Crystal for mouth-feel and color are typical for this style.
  • Hops: Perle is more commonly used in Stouts and Nuggest is frequently used in Barleywines so both seem to be out-of-style here though Cascade is a classic choice.
  • Yeast: Wyeast 1056 would be the preferred choice here to avoid too many esters which would make it more like an English Pale Ale.
  • Statistics:


Using Iodine to text starch conversion in the Mash
Using Iodine to text starch conversion in the Mash

The recipe chosen for brewing this batch of American Pale Ale is the first one from Brewing Classic Styles because the choice of malts, hop varieties, yeast choices and statistics all fall nicely within the style guidelines plus I had some Cascade whole leaf hops in the freezer which will suit this recipe perfectly.

Below is the actual recipe that I went with:

  • 12.5 Lb Domestic 2-row Pale malt
  • 12 oz Munich malt
  • 12 oz Victory malt
  • 8 oz White Wheat malt
  • 0.75 oz Horizon hops (bittering – 60 mins)
  • 0.50 oz Cascade hops (flavoring – 10 mins)
  • 0.50 oz Centennial hops (flavoring – 10 mins)
  • 0.50 oz Cascade hops (aroma – 0 mins)
  • 0.50 oz Centennial hops (aroma – 0 mins)
  • California Ale yeat (White Labs WLP001)
A very vigorous boil
A very vigorous boil

The amount of base malt was upped slightly to achieve the desired Starting Gravity whilst the bittering hops were increased in order to achieve the target amount of IBUs.

The 5 gallon batch of beer was brewed following these steps:

  • Charcoal filtering the borough water and leaving it to stand overnight in order to vent off the chlorine.
  • Measuring out and milling the grains, also measuring out the hops and Irish Moss.
  • Sterilizing the fermentation equipment.
  • Heating the strike water to 154 deg F before mashing-in (adding the grist to the hot water).
  • Mashing for 75 mins at 152 deg F for the Saccharification rest so the starches convert into sugars (pH 5.4).
  • Raising the temperature to 168 deg F to mash-out for 10 mins to stop enzymatic activity i.e. halt the conversion of starches to sugars.
  • Removing the grain bag.
  • Boiling for 10 mins to allow time for the hot break to clear.
  • Continue boiling for 50 mins with the bittering hop addition.
  • Add flavoring hop addition and Irish Moss at 10 mins to help clear the beer.
  • Add aroma hop addition at flame-out.
  • A yeast starter was prepared comprising of 8 oz of DME (Dry Malt Extract) in two liters of water and placed in a flask on a stir plate together with one packet of yeast.
  • Yeast nutrient was added to the wort once it had been cooled.
  • Wort was aerated with Oxygen (60 secs) via a diffusing stone connected to an O2 tank with a regulator.
  • Yeast starter was decanted prior to pitching into the wort so that most of the spent wort did not go into the beer.
  • Primary fermentation was at 67 deg F for ten days in a temperature controlled freezer.
  • The beer was racked off the trub (sediment) into the secondary fermenter and held at 67 deg F for two weeks before cold crashing.
  • Beer was force carbonated to 2.3 volumes of CO2 after cooling the beer to 36 deg F.


Hop matter left at the end of the boil
Hop matter left at the end of the boil

According to the style guidelines an American Pale Ale should have the following characteristics:

  • Appearance: Pale golden to light amber. Moderately large white to off-white head with good retention. Generally quite clear, although dry-hopped versions may be slightly hazy.
  • Aroma: Moderate to strong hop aroma from American or New World hop varieties, typically with citrus, floral, pine, resinous, spicy, tropical fruit, stone fruit, berry, or melon characteristics. None of these specific characteristics are required, but hops should be apparent. Low to moderate maltiness supports the hop presentation, and may optionally show small amounts of specialty malt character (bready, toasty, biscuit, caramelly). Fruity esters vary from moderate to none. Dry hopping (if used) may add grassy notes, although this character should not be excessive.
  • Flavor: Moderate to high hop flavor, typically showing an American or New World hop character (citrus, floral, pine, resinous, spicy, tropical fruit, stone fruit, berry, melon, etc.). Low to moderate clean grainy-malt character supports the hop presentation, and may optionally show small amounts of specialty malt character (bready, toasty, biscuity). The balance is typically towards the late hops and bitterness, but the malt presence should be supportive, not distracting. Caramel flavors are often absent or fairly restrained (but are acceptable as long as they don’t clash with the hops). Fruity yeast esters can be moderate to none, although many hop varieties are quite fruity. Moderate to high hop bitterness with a medium to dry finish. Hop flavor and bitterness often lingers into the finish, but the aftertaste should generally be clean and not harsh. Dry hopping (if used) may add grassy notes, although this character should not be excessive.
  • Mouth-feel: Medium-light to medium body. Moderate to high carbonation. Overall smooth finish without astringency and harshness.
  • Overall: A pale, refreshing and hoppy ale, yet with sufficient supporting malt to make the beer balanced and drinkable. The clean hop presence can reflect classic or modern American or New World hop varieties with a wide range of characteristics. An average-strength hop-forward pale American craft beer, generally balanced to be more accessible than modern American IPAs.
Fermenter blow-off
Fermenter blow-off

How did my batch of American Pale Ale turn out?

Brew day went very well with the Starting Gravity only falling short by 2 points yet managing to get a full 5.5 gallons. Thanks to a good yeast starter the fermentation was very aggressive with little lag time.

The Finishing Gravity was 1 point lower than targeted but this helped make up in part for the slightly low Starting Gravity and meant the alcohol content was only 0.2% lower than expected.

Here are the actual vital statistics:

  • OG: 1.054
  • FG: 1.012
  • ABV: 5.5%
  • Bitterness: 35.7 IBUs*
  • Color: 6.4 SRM*

* calculated via BeerSmith software.

American Pale Ale sampler
American Pale Ale sampler

The tasting notes are as follows:

Yellow in color with a white head. A slight hop aroma. Flavor is hoppy and malty. Moderate carbonation with a clean finish.

This beer was brewed with local whole flower hops for a charity event and went down very well with the attendees. I personally like the malt and hop balance as often found in east-coast versions of an American Pale Ale. I would brew this beer again with no changes.

What’s Next?

In my next article in this series I will be examining Brewing an Old Ale which is in the ‘Strong British Ale’ category so please check back for that article to be published.

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