Lepidoptera Pale Ale

Every morning for the last two weeks, I have walked past the elder bush in front of our house and thought about the rather nice “Sureau”-beer made by one of our local breweries. Of course, my resolution of eventually not having to buy beer anymore dictated that I had to have a go at this myself.

As with the Amber Ale I made recently, I decided on a top-fermenting ale instead of the lager they make at the Lago Lodge. The recipe is based on a classic pale ale (with added bits):

  • 4.5 kg Pale Malt (7 EBC)
  • 200 g Crystal Malt (140 EBC) for a bit of colour and a light sweetness
  • 18 g Fuggles hops (5.2% Alpha), not too bitter
  • 25 g Goldings hops (4.9% Alpha) for aroma, added at 40 minutes
  • 25 g Polaris hops (21.8% Alpha), added to the primary fermenter for some fresh hop flavours
  • about 150 g fresh elderflowers
  • 11 g Fermentis Safale US-05 yeast, should bring out the extra hops and elderflowers nicely.

The grains were single-infusion mashed at 66°C for about 70 minutes after iodine tests showed just negative after an hour, then mashed out at 78°C for 5 minutes. After the same grain bill gave me a stuck sparge last time I made an IPA, I was slightly worried, but sparging and lautering worked fine and took close to an hour with nice clear runoff. What was slightly tricky was that the cooking pot was full to about half an inch and came extremely close to overflowing when the hot break started to form. Careful watching and stirring the foam back down prevented any disasters though.

At the same time, I steeped about 90g of fresh elderflowers (stems removed) in a litre of water with 30 grams of caster sugar at 90°C. These were strained off after an hour and added to the fermenter with 25g of Polaris hop pellets. The flavour of the infusion seemed quite muted, so I added an extra handful of flowers to the wort just after pitching the yeast. If that doesn’t help, I will make a stronger infusion and use it for secondary fermentation.

The beer will now ferment for about a week and will be force-carbonised following the success I had with this method. The only problem I have now is that my beer fridge (see one of the next posts) is already full with the last two kegs. I have to consider getting a second beer fridge or look into extending our house with a walk-in cold storage. the WAF is probably not exactly in my favour though.

The name I wanted to give the beer originally was “Pliny the elderflower”. Unfortunately, a quick prayer to Isidor of Seville (patron saint of the Internet) filled me with the insight that there are already several breweries who use that name. My next choice, “Seneca”, is also already taken, so I settled for “Lepidoptera”. This word contains all the letters of “Elder Pale Ale”, and butterflies generally like elderflowers too. I haven’t cut the label for the keg yet, so if anybody has any better ideas – the comment section is below.


29 May 2014

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