Glacier BrewHouse’s Imperial Blonde Ale: Replicator

Dear Replicator, I will be retiring as a Boeing 777 captain for a major package delivery company soon, and one fine establishment that was a regular stop for me was Glacier BrewHouse in Anchorage, Alaska. The one beer that really stands out for me is their Imperial Blonde Ale. Since I will no longer be flying I hope you can help me replicate it so I can still enjoy one of my all time favorite beers.
Captain Michael M. Keeley
Hot Springs Village, Arkansas

While Alaska is far from having as many breweries as Colorado, California or Oregon they have been doing their best to catch up. In fact, the state is now vying for the title of “most breweries per capita.” Founded in May of 1996 Glacier BrewHouse has helped to lead the charge. They were one of the pioneers of bringing good craft beer to what was previously a macro beer stronghold. Now they are expanding Alaskan palates even further with their extensive barrel aging cellar.

Brewmaster Kevin Burton’s college law degree and a lucrative law practice couldn’t prevent him from succumbing to the brewing bug. His wife bought him a homebrewing kit for his 30th birthday and he was hooked. Attending the Siebel Institute and a two year stint at another Anchorage brewery, Midnight Sun, prepared him to take the helm at Glacier. Lead brewer, Drew Weber, was stranded in Anchorage on 9/11. He liked the area so much that he got a job at Glacier as a busser and eventually worked his way into the brewery. After completing the Siebel online course he quickly became Kevin’s right hand man.

Glacier’s beers are found only in limited distribution to Alaska and Washington state and fully 50% of their production is sold through their own taps. Total production for 2011 was 4,400 barrels.

The Imperial Blonde Ale was originally brewed as a request beer for the Denali mountain area climbers from Talketna, Alaska. They preferred to call it Ice Axe Ale. The goal was to produce a higher alcohol beer that was light in body, creamy and smooth but with low bitterness. Each gallon is made with a full half pound of honey which contributes to the light body and clean dry finish.

Glacier BrewHouse’s Imperial Blonde Ale clone

(5 gallons/19 L, extract with grains)
OG = 1.081 FG = 1.010 IBU = 25 SRM = 6 ABV = 9.0%


6.6 lbs. (3.0 kg) Muntons light, unhopped, malt extract
2.5 lbs. (1.13 kg) dried malt extract
14 oz. (0.39 kg) 2-row pale malt
14 oz. (0.39 kg) Pilsner malt
10 oz. (0.28 kg) flaked barley
12 oz. (0.34 kg) Carapils® dextrin malt
2.5 lbs. (1.13 kg) clover honey (last 5 min.)
6.8 AAU Centennial hop pellets
(0.65 oz./18.4 g at 10.5 % alpha acid) (60 min.)
2.6 AAU Centennial hop pellets
(0.25 oz /7.16 g at 10.5% alpha acid) (30 min.)
5.25 AAU Centennial hop pellets
(0.5 oz /14.2 g at 10.5% alpha acid) (0 min.)
1⁄2 tsp. yeast nutrient (last 15 minutes of the boil)
1⁄2 tsp. Irish moss (last 30 minutes of the boil)
White Labs WLP 001 (American Ale) or Wyeast 1056 (American Ale) yeast
0.75 cup (150 g) of corn sugar for priming (if bottling)

Step by Step

Steep the crushed grain in 2 gallons (7.6 L) of water at 155 ºF (68 ºC) for 30 minutes. Remove grains from the wort and rinse with 2 quarts (1.8 L) of hot water. Add the liquid and dried malt extracts and boil for 55 minutes. Add the honey and boil for an additional 5 minutes. While boiling, add the hops, Irish moss and yeast nutrient as per the schedule. Now add the wort to 2 gallons (7.6 L) of cold water in a sanitized fermenter and top off with cold water up to 5 gallons (19 L).

Cool the wort to 75 ºF (24 ºC). Pitch your yeast and aerate the wort heavily. Allow the beer to cool to 68 ºF (20 ºC). Hold at that temperature until fermentation is complete. Transfer to a carboy, avoiding any splashing to prevent aerating the beer. Allow the beer to condition for 1 week and then bottle or keg. Allow the beer to carbonate and age for 3 to 4 weeks and enjoy your Imperial Blonde Ale.

All-grain option:
This is a single step infusion mash using an additional 3 lbs. (1.36 kg) 2-row pale malt and 8.5 lbs. (3.9 kg) of Maris Otter pale malt to replace the liquid and dry malt extracts. Mix the crushed grains with 4.5 gallons (17 L) of 175 °F (79 °C) water to stabilize at 155 ºF (68 ºC) for 60 minutes. Sparge slowly with 175 ºF (79 ºC) water. Collect approximately 6 gallons (23 L) of wort runoff to boil for 60 minutes.

Reduce the 60-minute hop addition to 0.5 oz. (14 g) Centennial hop pellets (5.25 AAU) to allow for the higher utilization factor of a full wort boil. The remainder of this recipe and procedures are the same as the extract with grains recipe.
Note: For better flavor, Kevin recommends additional aging time for this high gravity beer.

Issue: July-August 2012