Citra Pale Ale

The perfect pale ale recipe is elusive.

Most homebrewers brew this style early on in their careers, but spend years trying to master it. A great pale ale satisfies the hop heads but is balanced enough for the casual drinker. It’s one of my favorite beers, and one of those beers I always want to have on tap.

Like many recipes, you start the quest towards a homebrewed pale ale by using a commercial version for inspiration.

Do you want it to taste like Dale’s? How about Mirror Pond, or Sierra Nevada, or Alpha King? Maybe you want your pale ale to lean more towards the British side, with more balance from the malt.

I’ve always enjoyed the grapefruit-like citrus flavors from the cascade hops used in Sierra Nevada’s pale ale, as well as the tropical fruit flavors from the citra hops found in their Torpedo IPA.

With that in mind, I created this Citra Pale Ale, named for the citra bittering hop but brewed with both citra and cascade. I love the beer, and others do to. I will continue to make some tweaks to the recipe, but I’ve finally found my house pale ale.

The cascade and citra hops blend beautifully together. There is a bright, fresh hop flavor but no harsh bitterness. The malt profile is simple but provides a solid supporting act for the hops.

Here are a couple of reviews from people I’ve sent bottles to:

And here is the recipe for those interested in trying it. It will never be perfect but to my palate it is really really good:

Citra Pale Ale Recipe

Batch size: 6 gallons
Original Gravity: 1.056
Final Gravity: 1.011
ABV: 5.9%
IBU: 35

Malt
11 lbs. 2-Row
.75 lbs Crystal 40L
.5 lbs CaraPils

Hops
Citra AA% = 12
Cascade AA% = 6

.5 oz Citra (60 min)
.5 oz Citra (15 min)
.5 oz Cascade (15 min)
.5 oz Citra (0 min)
.5 oz Cascade (0 min)
.5 oz Citra (dry hop)
1 oz Cascade (dry hop)

Yeast
WLP001 California Ale yeast with 2 liter yeast starter.

Extract Option:
Replace the 2-Row with 8.25 lbs light liquid malt extract. Add half of the extract in the beginning and half with 15 minutes left in the boil to preserve the lighter color of this beer.

Process
Mash at 152F. Cool to 66F and pitch yeast. Ferment at 68F until fermentation stops, then transfer to secondary and dry hop for 7 days. Carbonate to 2.2 volumes.

Notes
The next time I brew this recipe, I will increase the mash temperature to 155F to add a bit more body. This comes from the recommendation of BJCP judge Marty Nachel as seen in the above linked video. He says that it will add some needed malt sweetness and balance to the beer by making it a less fermentable wort. It’s a good idea and I’m excited to see how it works out.

You could also play around with the dry hopping proportions. I think 1.5 oz is a good number, but you could try flipping it around and using more citra than cascade. The good thing about this recipe is that you can buy 2 oz of both citra and cascade and be set. Hey, I like convenience, and it worked.

I would love to hear if anyone brews this recipe, along with any tweaks they made to the recipe.

Enjoy!

About Billy Broas


He is the founder of The Homebrew Academy, a BJCP beer judge, and the homebrewing expert on the Rocky Mountain PBS television show Colorado Brews. He lives in the fine beer town of Denver, Colorado.

Comments

  1. Sounds like a recipe I’d love to try when I get more experienced.

    • Billy Broas says:

      The only tricky part is maintaining the fermentation temperature to get a really clean flavor. If you can do that, then this recipe is easy to brew. Maybe you can have your assistant brewmaster start hunting for used chest freezers on craigslist ; )

  2. Nice recipe. I’ve actually never used Citra hops, but I’ve heard good things, so maybe I’ll have to use some soon.

    You didn’t list the AA% on your hops. Do you adjust your hop quantity and / or hop addition time based on changes to the Alapha Acid % on your hops, or do you just stay at the quantities / times regardless of the batch of hops?

    If I make a recipe more than once, I tend to try to get the same IBU’s by adding a little more or moving the bittering and flavor additions up or down in time. But, I’m wondering if I am over-thinking things by doing that. There is a certain appeal to nice even .5oz additions.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing the recipe.

    • Billy Broas says:

      I’ll get the AA% up there later today. I pulled this recipe from my notes but the AA% is in my brewing software.

      I usually do the same as you and shoot for the same IBU if I’m making a recipe more than once. For this recipe, for example, if my Citra hops come in at a lower AA% then I will use more of them. I tend to keep the timing the same and adjust the weights.

      Definitely try the citra hops. They’ve got character I haven’t found in other varieties.

  3. I just brewed an almost identical beer this weekend with a slightly different grain bill (0.5 lb Crystal 40, 0.5 lb special roast, 0.25 Vienna) but the exact same hops (only I reversed the order, starting with cascade and will dry hop with citra). I’m also using Wyeast 1332 NW Ale yeast. I cannot wait to try this beer and will let you know how it turns out. I’m hoping I can fine tune it enough to make it a go-to beer for all seasons.

    By the way, have you tried a Hot Scotchie yet? I forgot to do it this time.

    • Billy Broas says:

      Hey Shane, I’ve actually made the hot scotchie a couple of times since you told me about them. It’ delicious. I’ve even got a couple homebrewer friends making them now. Definitely give it a shot, and let me know how your citra brew turns out.

  4. Ryan Murphy says:

    Suprisingly enough, I am not a huge fan of many American hops, notably Cascade. Citra, however, is one that I absolutely love. I’ve done an India Black Ale and an American Stout with Citra. Both came out very well.

    Might have to tweak this recipe and give it a shot. Thinking I’ll switch out the Cascade for some Ahtanum.

  5. This really is a very solid beer and I would love to produce it. Now how to convince the wife that I need homebrew equipment, hmmmm. All ideas welcome.

    • Billy Broas says:

      Thanks Rick, and good luck with the wife. Maybe you guys could brew together one time on someone else’s equipment. If you’re lucky, she’ll love it and demand you guys get your own gear.

  6. The idea is a great one with one major flaw, She does not like beer :)

    I have been trying for the pat year and she has found 2 that don’t make her want to vomit, but she doesn’t “like” them.

    • Billy Broas says:

      Hmm that does throw a wrench into things. I think your best bet is to get on your hands and knees and beg. No homebrewers will judge you.

    • Bret Burge says:

      Im in the same boat as you Rick. I found that the only beer she will drink is a Hefe, Blonde, or a beer aged in chardonnay barrels. Just a suggestion. Good Luck!

  7. billy busby says:

    my first beer that i made was simaliar
    i used gambrinus honey malt light extrac 6lbs and cascade and cirta hops
    love this beer
    i am doing a batch now trying
    citra 1oz
    honeymalt 1/2 lb
    6llbs amber dme
    white labs pacific ale
    and add 1 pint honey to secondary

  8. This sounds like a great brew! I was looking for a clone of Widmer’s Citra Blonde Ale and came across this. Have you had the Citra Blonde and if so how does it compare? I love the citrus notes in it and with the Cascade I could imagine this being even more citrus flavor.

    • Billy Broas says:

      Sorry I wasn’t aware of the Citra Blonde but I’m now interested in trying it. The main different (to me) between Cascade and Citra is that Cascade is more like grapefruit while Citra is more like tropical fruit. Would love to hear if you try this recipe.

  9. I’m making this brew today. I saw your reviews, including the video review, and added 1/2 lb of honey malt, since the reviews recommended upping the sweetness a bit.

    I notice your recipe says 8.25 lb malt extract for 6 gallons. Calculating with 36 ppg, 6 gallons should require ((56*6)/36) = 9.33 lb of LME. I can’t imagine that the steeping grains would contribute much to the OG. So what’s up with that?

    –Mark Johnson
    Silver Spring, MD

    • Billy Broas says:

      Hey Mark sorry I didn’t get back to you in time for your brew. I plugged the extract recipe into beer calculus real quick and it did come out a point low, 1.055. The pound of specialty grains give you about 5 points.

      I’m pumped you’re trying this. Please let me know how it turns out.

  10. We did your beer as our November 5th “Learn to Brew Day” beer. My friend Chris and I had about 5 other people show up and we showed them how to brew an all-grain beer. We just finished bottling / kegging it a few hours ago and now wait the arduous 3 weeks for carbonation / conditioning. But man oh man, it smelled really good and tasted good even without any carbonation. Thanks for posting such a good recipe.

    • Joel – It’s so cool when I hear about people making this recipe. That smell is intoxicating isn’t it? Something special happens when those two hops meet. Glad you like it, and please let me know how it turns out after it’s carbed up.

      • Hello,
        I am hoping to brew this one in the next week or so. This will be my 2nd batch I am brewing so I was going to follow the recipe for the most part.

        Does anyone have anything to add to the recipe that may be applied to a malt extract with specialty grain brew? Again, I was going to follow the suggestions above but would not be opposed to building up the body of the beer a touch as Billy mentioned.

        Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Stoked to try this one, it sounds delicious! Thanks!

        • Hey William, I hope you like the recipe. I haven’t done an extract version but maybe someone will chime in who has. I would brew the recipe as is and then see if there’s anything you want to change. If you decide you want more body, you might try upping the CaraPils to 0.75 – 1 lb. Thanks for reading!

          • Thanks, I am really looking forward to trying this one! In your opinion, when brewiing using the extract recipe, should I be brewing a 6 gallon batch or should I back the size down to 5-5.5 gallons? Thanks for the help!

            • I do 6 gallons to make sure I bottle 5. It’s really up to you. Just decide what you’ll end up with factoring in your losses to the kettle, fermenter, etc.

  11. I was joels brewing partner in the above comment. This is the best tasting beer we have ever brewed, and will likely be our first repeat brew. Everyone who tasted it, loved it and said it could be on tap and theyd pay good money for it. It makes a great presentation, too! Thanks for sharing. It’ll be on my tap this summer for sure! Cheers.

    Care to tell the story of how you developed this recipe? We’re just now branching out and trying our own recipes and we could learn a thing or two about your style of designing beers.

    • Hey Chris, this is music to my ears. I’m so glad everyone liked it. Not a ton of R&D went into creating this recipe really. I experimented with the hops on a few batches and decided I liked how they complemented each other. I also wanted to focus on hop flavor over bitterness. The grain bill is pretty straightforward for a pale ale. As long as your process is sound (especially fermentation) it’s hard to go wrong with this one. Cheers!

  12. Hi Billy, After years of making classic British beers from Dave Line’s recipes, I was looking to make a beer of this style for the first time, and came across your recipe. I have made a variant (http://hopville.com/recipe/1449387/american-pale-ale-recipes/citra-pale-ale), substituting the Cascade for Simcoe (my LBS was out of Cascade!). I mashed at 68C (154.5F) as you suggested, and sure enough an OG of 1.065 resulted in an FG of 1.018, well above my normal 1.012-1.010. I ended up with an excellent beer, with an incredible aroma of passion fruit and mango, just the right amount of bitterness (I am not keen on really bitter APAs), and good sweetness and body. It’s my favourite brew yet, and my friends love it too!

    This gave me the encouragement to go an and experiment with designing my own recipes more, but I will be returning to this recipe again for sure!

    So thanks for sharing, it’s been a great boost for me. Cheers! (Raising a cloudy but tasty glass of the hop strainings from bottling the latest batch, which includes fresh elderflowers)

    Tom

    • Hey Tom, so great to hear that your brew is a hit. I’m sure the simcoe was a great substitue – that’s one of my favorite hops. I’m completely with you on really bitter APAs. I’d rather have more hop flavor and aroma, especially the tropical type that this recipe gives you.

      Cheers!

  13. This one sounded pretty good, I’ve been looking for an interesting Citra recipe for a couple of months. I brewed this tonight originally intending on mashing at 155, but ended up closer to 153. I think I’ll be alright though, I went with a 1.25 L starter of Northwest 1332 for a little more malt backbone. I plan on mid sixties fermentation temps. We’ll see how it ends up.

    • Being only 2 degrees off it will be tough to tell a difference. It’ll be fine. Let me know how it turns out!

      • John Allyn says:

        Wow! I just racked to secondary and dry hopped. I have never drank the whole hydrometer sample before tonight! I’m resisting the urge to recheck my gravity… 1.056 OG/1.010 FG, The northwest was still bubbling and had a firm 1cm thick krausen after three weeks but I’m pressed for time since I’m moving out of state in a week. The grapefruit is predominant with additional citrus, it seems pretty dry- I’ll have to wait till the end but I suspect that a higher mash temp would indeed help- at least with the 1332 (although it’s attenuation isn’t all that high at 67-71) and the idea of reversing the dry hop amounts sounds interesting too. I’ll keep you posted, thanks again for the recipe.

  14. Am I guessing right were it says 0 minutes I just add the hops and cool the hole thing down? So I don’t boil the last hops? (Beginner from denmark)

  15. I’m going to brew this the first week of January as my first all grain brew. I had a question about the batch size. Is 6 gallons the “after boil” volume? I have a 32 quart boil kettle and I am thinking the pre-boil volume might make it a little too full. Might have to scale the recipe back to a 5 gallon batch.

  16. > but spend years trying to master it.
    yes, so true! I’ve yet to master anything, but this #(%#& rocked! Spot on w/ “no harsh bitterness.”

    tweaked w/ Crystal 10, and added some Carapils & cornsugar

    thanks for the inspiration!

  17. Luke Finegan says:

    This recipe sounds great. A style of beer I simply cannot get enough of this summer. I am really keen to try the extract version of this recipe, I would just like to clarify a couple of things: The 2-row is replaced with malt extract, should the crystal and carapils malts still be used ? If so, how long and at what temperature should they be steeped? Also the recipe says carbonate to 2.2 volumes… What exactly does that mean I intend to bottle the beer so I assume this will influence how much sugar I put in the bottle.

    Sorry for the mundane questions all this stuff is new to me!

    Cheers.

    Luke.

    • Billy Broas says:

      Hey Luke
      – Keep the Crystal and CaraPils the same.
      – Steep between 150-170F for 30 minutes
      – Correct – the volume refers to the amount of carbonation and how much priming sugar you add. I suggest signing up for the free Just Get Brewing course here on the Academy. It has detailed lessons and videos for all of these steps.

      Cheers!

  18. KC Dunstan says:

    I’m thinking about reversing the hop additions (using cascade where it calls for citra and vice versa). I’m wondering- should I bump up the quantity on the cascade additions to compensate for the decreased IBUs since the AA is half what it is for citra? I plugged the recipe into Brewtoad and it looks like .75oz first wort hopped cascade would bump my IBUs up from 21 to 34.

    Does that sound about right?

    • Billy Broas says:

      Hey KC,

      Yes, if you switch the hops then I would use more Cascades to compensate for the lower AA%. You can keep the dry hop amounts the same though since the AA% doesn’t factor in.

      • PS- Flipping the hop additions worked like a charm. The citra dominates the nose like I wanted, but I think next time I’ll add a little more bittering hops to give it a bit more edge. Thanks for the guidance!

  19. I brewed this the other day, looks like a great recipe. I do have a quick question though. I currently have 5# of frozen peaches, remnants from last summers harvest. I was think about splitting this batch in half and adding the peaches to half when I dry hop. Since I haven’t tasted the finished beer yet, I was wondering what your opinion was on doing this.

  20. jnelson11490 says:

    Hi Billy,

    Thanks a lot for posting this recipe. Since I’ve always been a huge fan of any and every pale ale that includes citra hops, I wanted their tropical, citrus flavor present in my first home brewed beer. And when I found your recipe, it sounded like it would turn out to be a clean and refreshing beer, perfect for the warmer months coming up. Well, I brewed it yesterday and everything from steeping, to boiling, to cooling, to transferring went great. Then I looked at the carboy and realized the beer seemed a bit dark…

    Well I was right, it was too dark. For some reason, my brain had turned off in the middle of the boil and I mistakenly poured the entire last can of LME into the boil at 15 minutes left in the boil (instead of leaving 1.65 lbs in the can to end at the 8.25 lbs as it called for, I poured it in). At this point (a little over 24 hours since transferring the wort to the carboy) I’m wondering if there’s anything I can do to alleviate this so that the batch doesn’t end up ruined (possibly adding a half gallon of water to dilute the extra malt?). Thanks a lot for your help Billy, I really appreciate whatever thoughts or ideas you may have.

  21. I had been looking for a citra pale ale recipe and found this one. I’ve only done 5 or 6 batches, but this is *easily* the best that I’ve made! I brewed with a buddy and we doubled the recipe and split it. Instead of the Cascades we used Simcoe hops and this beer is delicious – I’m sure I’ll make it again!

  22. Mike Slade says:

    This recipe is bang on at 155 mash, although I downsized the 2row from 11# to 9.5 # and 1# crystal 40 for 5.9%. Turned out great 5g trial brew everyone love it so much, had to put a 10g batch on. Ready for third 10g batch now. Us-05 fermentis

  23. Hi! this recipe looks good and some friends and I are thinking of using it shortly.
    but I’m missing some information (maybe this is because I’m a rookie in this…)
    What’s the amount of water per quantity of grain to be mashed and boiled?
    How much time of mashing and boiling? I imagine it’s not less than 75 min each, but I’d like to be sure.
    And last: when you describe the hops you use, there’s “0 minutes” of cascade and citra. What does this mean?
    Thank you very much!

  24. Highflowing says:

    Billy I’m into the second time brewing this Citra Pal Ale, Awesome Beer I
    ve sone some tweaking on my own and still awesome. I missed my 155 Steep temp by 5 degrees. most of the steep has been at 160. What will this do? My tweaks have been adding a couple more Oz of hops and reducing the Int. boil to 55 Min. and increasing the middle boils by Five Min. What do you think? Should I go back to a 60 Min Int. Boil?

  25. Highflowing says:

    I also increased the Grains to 1 lbs of 40L Caramel and .75 lbs of Carapils to Boost the Final ABV.

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