Pandemic Pale Recipe

So, every beer has a story. This beer started when I opened my freezer and found a half pound of Centennial hops that had been completely forgotten about. I love this hop variety. It features in some of my favorite beers. Described as:

…balanced bittering and aromatic hop with a decidedly American nature and uniquely pungent flavor. An intense citrus aroma with pronounced lemon notes also gives off some floral qualities…


I didn’t want to see this bag go to waste. This pound had been bought to make a clone of Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. It would be a shame to throw these hops out because they had sat in the freezer too long and lost their aroma, flavoring, or bittering properties. I sat there with my nose in the bag smelling these poor forgotten pellets, cursing myself, wondering what to do with them. Only one thing to do with them, make a hop forward beer and see how they taste.
The question with this beer is, am I too late? Will these old hops found in the back of the freezer still be any good? What have they lost? Can I perceive it?

Where to Start?

First step, select a style to go after here. I want to be able to put the hops in this beer firmly out front, and see how they taste, smell, and bitter. I also wanted to select a style that was less then 15 SRM and less than 6% ABV [for a now abandoned Spring Beer competition]. After digging through the BJCP styles in BeerSmith, I decided on American Pale Ale. It’s the perfect style to evaluate a hop variety.
This style is a perennial favorite of mine. It focuses primarily on the hops, but still needs to have enough malt to provide some balance to them. Two row for the base, and Victory for the specialty grain. I like Victory, because it brings a bit of biscuit & nutty character that broadens the base note of the beer. Cal Ale yeast because I love this yeast, you can use it to make anything.
I am also a fan of Tasty McDole’s Hoppy Water Profile. It has treated me well over the years. Water is one of those areas where I could seriously stand to learn a bit more, but until then I have Tasty’s water profile to lean on.

Pandemic Pale

Recipe Details



2-Row9 lbs
Victory Malt1 lb


NameAmountTimeFormAlpha %IBU
Centennial30 g60Pellet10%39
Centennial30 g30Pellet10%30
Centennial30 g15Pellet10%19.4
Centennial30 g0Pellet10%0
Centennial40 gDry – 5 daysPellet10%0
Centennial40 g Dry – 2 daysPellet10%0


NameLabAttenuationTemp Range
American Ale – 1056Wyeast75%60-72 F

I moved to the Robobrew mash & boil system a little over a year ago, and it has been a massive improvement over my old Frankensystem. Don’t get me wrong, I love that old system and spent a lot of time & money on it, but this simple mash & boil system has reduced the friction in my brew day and incresed my enjoyment in my brew day.

My lil Bucket of Malt Joy aka Robobrew

Brew day went relatively smoothly. Was higher on the pH and lower on my volume than I would have liked to have been, but in general all the numbers came in about where I was expecting them to.

Nerdy Session Measurements

pH: 5.60
PreBoil Grav: 1.038
PreBoil Volume: 24.3L (6.4 gal)
OG: 1.048
Post Boil Volume: 19.7L (5.2 gal)
FG: 1.010
Batch Volume: 17.4L (4.6 gal) Little on the low side, didn’t quite have a full keg due to all the hop mass in the bottom of the bucket

Fermented at my standard 67 for Cal Ale yeast. It took two days to make it to the turn, and began ramping up to the Diacetyl rest. My little Tilt died on the last batch, thought I had fixed it. I was wrong. But I would like to say that their customer service group is awesome! I have a new one ready to go for the next batch that goes in the bucket.

I was happy with fermentation of the beer. I love Cal Ale, because it’s so damn dependable. It ran down to the bottom of fermentation in a little over a week and through diacetyl rest in a little over a week. Following the diacetyl test, it was ready for packaging and carbonation.


The finished beer is pretty. Light gold in color with a thick, billowy head. It might be too much head actually, it has been tough to pour with the amount of foam that it produces. The aroma is good but somewhat more subdued than I would expect for the aggressive hop bill. It really falls down on flavor though. The bitterness is completely over the top. The bitterness far outstrips what I’d expect from this beer based on the aroma alone. There are times when I really enjoy it, primarily when it is over-carbonated, but when the carbonation is low the bitterness overwhelms the biscuit of the Victory malt and the mitigated hop flavor all take a back seat to the bitterness. It almost has a Malort-like bitterness at times; kind of medicinal and lingering. It’s strange because it’s not astringent or mineral, but definitely persistent.
I would not call it a success, but I wouldn’t call it a failure. It will be drank in this time of crisis. I feel like what I’ve learned from this experiment is that the hops lost flavor and aroma in an amount not proportional with the loss of bitterness. I think a control experiment is necessary too though to really vet that conclusion. It would be good to remake this beer with fresh hops to see how the flavor & aroma of this beer compare.


You can find the BeerXML File here.


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