Ask Mr. Wizard

Brewing Pale Ales


R. Hawthorne asks,

I am an avid homebrewer, and have been for about a decade, off and on. I’m quite confident that I have a pretty good grip on the fundamentals of brewing both ales and lagers, from extract to all-grain, even decoction mashing, which I do a lot. But I’m stuck at a dead end when it comes to brewing pale ales. I’ve had great success (here and there, anyway) with dark ales and lagers and even pale lagers, but I cannot make a decent pale ale to save my life. I have experimented with absolutely every conceivable parameter of recipe design; mash temperature, water chemistry, hopping level, yeast type, malt bill — you name it, I’ve tried it. Not only do I not get a decent beer, I get exactly the same result every time, which is a weird, citric, vaguely yeasty-tasting liquid which doesn’t really resemble pale ale at all. I’m at my wit’s end and have sworn off ever attempting to brew a pale ale again unless I can get some kind of expert advice on what I’m doing wrong. I’ve read every article, and even whole books, on the subject of brewing pale ales, that I can get my hands on, and I can’t seem to find any answers anywhere. You’re my last hope. Is there anything you can tell me which you think I might not know already that might help me brew a good pale ale?

  Unfortunately I don’t have much information to digest from your question. All I know is that you have no luck brewing pale ales and I seem to be your last resort.
Response by Ashton Lewis.