Mercury in Retrograde Amber Ale

posted on December 24, 2008 in homebrewing

Ambers are a great first-time brewer’s beer. Not too complicated, pretty forgiving, and just plain tasty.

When I went to buy my beerkit at the HomeBrew Outlet in Sacramento, I was so excited to start my homebrewing I wasn’t thinking straight and bought an Oktoberfest ingredient kit. Oktoberfests are not first-time brewer friendly beers; in fact, even many experienced homebrewers are wary of lagers due mainly to their temperature control demands. But it was early October, I was a bit overwhelmed, and all I could think was Oktoberfest. I would have appreciated it if the lone HBO employee gave me some sort of heads up about lagers not being novice-brewer friendly, but sans such advice, I came home with the Oktoberfest kit.

Enter my beer mentor, John. John’s been brewing for a few years and I think has brewed only one lager (a super-tasty pilsner) - not just because he is partial to ales. Lagers are about as temperature-sensitive as a menopausal woman (I’m a chick, I can say that). Without the high-tech machinery of industrial breweries, precise temperature control can be, well, challenging. As Palmer notes in How To Brew (AKA basic homebrewing bible), ales also tend to be a lot more forgiving if off-flavors do occur. So John wisely ordered me ingredients from MoreBeer for an amber recipe he concocted using his nifty BeerTools software when I told him how much I like the Boont Amber Ale we have on tap at the restaurant I serve at.

The recipe for what I later dubbed “Mercury in Retrograde Amber Ale” is the following:

7.75 lb Ultralight Extract
.75 lb Caramel Malt
.5 lb Victory Malt
.5 lb Caramel Malt 120L
.75 oz Horizon (12.0%) - added during boil, boiled 60 min
.25 oz Centennial (10.0%) - added during boil, boiled 10min
.25 oz Amarillo (8.5%) - added during boil, boiled 10 min
1.0 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) - added during boil, boiled 10 min
0.25 oz Centennial (10.0% - added during boil, boiled 0.0 min
1.0 ea Fermentis US-05 Safale US-05

We brewed on November 2 and seeing as how we were getting to know my new system and John was teaching me everything along the way, it took about 5 hours to complete everything and get everything clean and sanitized again. Thanks to John, there were no real problems to report.

I let the ale sit in the fermenting bucket (John advised I forgo the glass carboy, especially since it didn’t hold nearly the 5 gallons it was supposed to) until the 25th - a little over 3 weeks. After bottling, I waited until December 10th (two weeks and a day post bottling) to crack open my first one. My next post will give a thorough review of MinR. As a preview, I disclose my first and second draft of the front MinR label and the back label I made using photoshop (also a total noob at that), giving a brief description of the story behind the name and the beer itself.

First Draft
First Draft
Second Draft
Second Draft

Back labels
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  1. This is really intense! i didnt know it took so much time and effort.

    Comment by K-Dub — March 30, 2009 @ 12:06 pm

  2. Thanks for the soigestgun. gave me , I hope Pintly delivers equally memorable recommendations. Hoping they roll in a “where to buy near you” feature.

    Comment by Kahraman — February 10, 2012 @ 12:23 pm

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