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Style Matters - American Strong Ales
In each issue, CBQ spotlights a particular beer style and provides tips from an ingredient and fermentation perspective. In this issue, we look at American Strong Ales.

Malt Notes: Sitting at the midpoint between Pale Ales and India Pale Ales, the malt attributes of American Strong Ales are a deep golden to amber color, with a low to medium maltiness. Caramel malt character can be present, but is not required. When formulating the grain bill for this style, we would suggest that you consider the type of balance between hop and malt character you would like in the finished beer, and choose your malts accordingly.

If you are aiming for a more hop forward Strong Ale, Cargill 2 row would be our first suggestion. Malted at our Canadian malthouse, it is a blend of Kendall and Metcalf. This base malt is on the cleaner side of the malt spectrum and will let the hop flavors shine through. On the other hand Cargill Special Pale, in the 3 4 Lovibond range, has a more robust maltiness, in both flavor and aroma. Perfect for a beer demonstrating a balance between hops and malt.

If your goal is to brew a beer on the amber side of the color range we would suggest using a caramel malt. Two possibilities come to mind, again depending on the hop/malt balance. If the thought is an amber, hoppy, slight caramel Strong Ale, we would suggest using a kilned caramel malt. Kilned caramels have red burgundy hues, and a light caramel sweetness which will provide color and allow the hop flavor to be highlighted. If a slightly more roasted, malt character is desired we would suggest roasted caramel malt.

Dingemans Cara malts, malted in Belgium, will provide color, sweetness, and a hint of roastedness to balance the hop characters.

Cargill Malt

Hop Notes: If brewing to style guidelines 35-48 IBU with the emphasis on American Hop Varieties, one should shoot for high hop bitterness and a moderate fruity-ester flavor and aroma.

Bittering can and has been developed by using any of the American Super Alphas (Columbus, Tomahawk, Zeus and Warrior) but these varieties can be somewhat aggressive on the aroma side and can hide any aroma contribution from your late hop or dry hop additions. For a clean front forward bitterness that will not overpower any late hop additions, try using US Magnum (10-12% AA), or for those who look for low Co-H try Horizon (10-16%AA).

For the fruity-ester finish try using Crystal (4-5.5% AA), Vanguard (5-6% AA) or Nugget (12-14.5% AA) .. yes I said Nugget, it has great fruit nose when used as a late addition and for dry hopping.

Hopunion CBS

Yeast and Fermentation Notes: Because these are strong beers you need to have a lot of healthy yeast. This is why I suggest using the second or third generation of your yeast for this style. It is best to build up your yeast in another beer to make them stronger, but not too many generations because you do not want to lose viability.

The temperature range will vary, of course, but you want to be on the lower end of the range to keep esters and fusel alcohols in control.. This will give your beer desired fruity characteristics without being overdone.

A good yeast strain for this style is WLP001 California Ale Yeast. You are going to use a lot of malt in your strong ale, and the malt flavor will come through nicely with this yeast strain.

WLP007 Dry English Ale Yeast is another proper choice. This strain will go to higher gravity than other ale stains and it will give your beer a bit of English character.

You could also consider using a lager yeast strain such as WLP830 German Lager Yeast and WLP840 American Lager Yeast. This will lend your beer a bit of Maibock-like flavor. The German strain will give your beer more of a European flavor with more sulfur.

Chris White, White Labs