How to Brew American Blonde Ale | Homebrew Challenge

by Steve Thanos | Last Updated: January 2, 2021

American Blonde Ale has been in the American beer lexicon for a short amount of time here in the states; around the 1970s.

However, the origins of Blonde Ales can actually be traced back to the later half of the 1800’s in Europe. Usually a lighter version of the Pale Ale or even Kölsch.

The Everyday Easy Drinking Beer

Sometimes known as a Golden Ale or Summer Ale, the American Blonde Ale should be known for more than just its color distinction. With a relatively easy grain bill and hop schedule, this quaffable beer can be a real go-to after mowing the grass or working around the house.

With its low alcohol by volume, beer drinkers can partake in a few without destroying the entire day.

A Blonde Ale Around the World

Modern Blonde ales are now brewed around the world; from Belgium to Brazil; from France to the US. However, the Belgian version of the Blonde ale is a style distinctly its own. Each area has its own variation on the same beer. 

More Than Just a Color

It should be noted that blonde does not just indicate the beer’s color. There’s more to the beer than just its color. Calling a light colored beer a blonde does not necessarily make it a Blonde ale style. 

The Gateway Beer

Aboveall, American Blonde ale is an easy-drinking, approachable, malt forward beer. It is often said to be the beer that can transition macro-beer drinkers into craft beer drinkers.

With its well-balanced and clean fermentation, it is refreshing without the aggressive flavors that other styles could possess. It can be considered an alternative to the standard American lager

Style Profile for American Blonde Ale

Appearance

Light yellow to deep gold in color. Beer is brilliantly clear with a low to medium white head. Also contains good head retention. 

Aroma

Light to moderate sweet malty aroma, with some possible light bready or caremelly notes. Low to moderate fruitiness is optional, but acceptable. May have low to moderate hop aroma, with a hop variety of floral, fruity, and/or spicy notes.  

Flavor

Soft malty sweetness (bread, toast, biscuit, wheat) can be detected. Caramel flavors are typically absent, but if they are present, they are low. Low to medium fruity esters are optional, but welcomed.

Light to moderate hop flavor, but should not be too aggressive. Medium-low to medium bitterness. Finishes medium-dry to slightly malty-sweet. 

Mouthfeel

Medium-light to medium body. Medium to high carbonation. Smooth beer without being heavy. 

Food Pairing

When it comes to pairing an American Blonde ale with food, lighter foods such as chicken, salads, salmon, bratwurst are all great ideas to start. Also, Monterey jack, brick, or some nutty cheeses pair well. For dessert pairings, light apricot cake or lemon custard tart are all good choices. 

Tips for Brewing your own American Blonde Ale

Grain

A good quality base grain such as domestic 2-Row or Pale malt is a good starting point for an American Blonde ale. As for specialty grains, keep them to a minimum here. Light crystal malts, 10-15L would be appropriate. Some flaked wheat for head retention.

A small portion of Vienna, biscuit, or Munich malt could be added for some interest in the malt bill along with some slight biscuit/toasty flavors. Keep these malts to under 15% of the total grain bill. 

Hops

Hop selection is pretty open here.  A bitterness-to-starting-gravity (IBU:OG) of 0.3 to 0.6 is average for the style. A low alpha hop variety should be considered for the bittering hops at 60 minutes. It is recommended no more than two hop varieties for flavor and aroma additions.

Dry hopping can also be done to add more aroma to the beer. Playing around with hop varieties here is helpful. Find a combination of hops that you are happy with. The possibilities are almost limitless.  

Yeast

Choose a yeast that produces some fruity esters, but not in excess. American Ale Wyeast #1056, White Labs American Ale (WLP002), Safale US-05, and Danstar Nottingham would be good choices for yeast.

Ferment at the lower end of the temperature range, which tends to bring out the clean, light malt character looked for in an American Blonde ale. 

American Blonde Ale the By the Numbers

  • Color Range: 3 – 6 SRM
  • Original Gravity: 1.038 – 1.154 OG
  • Final Gravity: 1.008 – 1.013 FG
  • IBU Range: 15 – 28
  • ABV Range: 3.8 – 5.5%

Martin Keen’s American Blonde Ale Recipe

Grain

79%            7 lbs         Pale Malt     

11 %           1 lb           Vienna Malt     

  5 %           8 oz          Victory Malt

  5 %           8 oz          White Wheat Malt

Hops

1 oz          Cascade – Boil 60 min

.5 oz         Cascade – Boil 10 min

.5 oz         Cascade – Boil  0 min

Yeast

1.0 pkg   Whitbread Ale Yeast Wyeast Labs #1099

Mash at 152°F (66°C) for 60 mins

Boil for 60 mins 

Not every beer has to be a double hopped IPA or a barrel aged stout. Today I’m paying homage to the simple pleasures of the easy drinking blonde ale.

I’m Martin Keen taking the Homebrew challenge to brew 99 beers in 99 weeks. And in past weeks I’ve been brewing some pretty big beers. So it’s going to be nice to have something on tap that is a bit lighter, easy drinking, and very sessionable.

Now, in addition to whipping up a blonde ale, I’m also taking a look at measurements and in particular, I have a new scale, a high capacity digital grain scale provided to me by Anvil, which I’ll be putting to the test.

But before we get to that, let’s talk a little bit about the recipe for blonde ale.

Now there are multiple styles of blonde ale. One of my favorites is Belgium blonde ale, and I’ll be brewing that a little later in my Homebrew challenge, but today I’m going to focus specifically on American blonde ale.

So I’m going to use primarily American ingredients for the grist and for the hops. Now I’m building a beer here with an original gravity of 10 44. So looking at about a 4% beer.

My base malt is two row pale malt, and that’s going to make up 79% of my grist. I’m adding also Vienna malt , which we’ll just add a little bit of malty sweetness to the beer that we want at 11%. And then I have 5% each of victory malt and white wheat malt.

Now let’s talk just a little bit about weights and measures because it’s a big part of everyone’s brew day. It’s not like we’re, uh, we’re taking some grains, putting them in a bucket and saying, yeah, this looks like about seven pounds.

We’re going to use scales, right, to measure stuff.

So there’s a couple of digital scales that I actually use every brew day. The first one is my small scale. This is a blade scale. And I just use this for measuring this small stuff, which is water salts that I had at the start of my brew day.

And then also for measuring out the hops as well.

It’s very inexpensive and can go down to 0.01 grams. So I make use of this all the time. Really handy, have a little blade scale here for that.

But if I’m measuring out grains, this is not going to get the job done. Of course, I need something a bit bigger for that.

I have this scale here, and this a bit more expensive, but it does a nice job of weighing the big stuff.

Now it comes with a battery. I have used this for about two years now and have never replaced the battery. And there is also an AC outlet on the back as well. So this thing is good. The only issue I have really with this is the, um, the actual measuring surface itself. Isn’t that huge. So when I come to put a big bucket on like this, um, it kind of hangs over the edge.

So it’s a bit, a bit wobbly and also it kind of obscures the screen a little bit as well, especially if I’m above this and looking down, I can sometimes struggle to read the measurements. So it could do a thing just a little bit bigger when I’m using big buckets like this to measure stuff out.

Okay, well, I am pretty excited now to take a look at this high capacity digital grain scale that I was supplied by anvil to see if it fixes some of those problems.

Anvil
High Capacity Digital Grain Scale (65lbs)
$60.52

Anvil brewing equipment high capacity digital grain scale handles up to 65Lb with 0.02Lb accuracy


Detail Page Learn More
06/19/2021 06:32 pm GMT

So inside of here, we have a manual and we have have the actual scale itself, which you can see is much, much larger. So just to compare a much bigger surface area.

And the other nice thing about this is it is connected to a separate device, which has the led screen in it. So there is in fact, a six foot cord here between these two things, which means I can put this out of the way of my bucket.

So my view is not obscured. There are mounts on the back here, so I could mount it onto a wall if I wanted. Um, so generally this is really something that looks very much like you to find at the home brew store.

It’s brushed stainless steel. So it looks absolutely fantastic. Now it also comes with a included AC adapter so that you don’t have to run it on batteries, but you can also elect to put batteries in there as well. So if I plug this in this, by the way, supports up to 65 pounds of weight, don’t think I’m going to be needing anything more than that for my brew days.

And just on the controller itself, there’s only four buttons. It’s nice and simple as the on, off button, the top button, the unit select, and then the hold button. So if I take my bucket and you see if there’s now plenty of room, plenty of surface area on here for that bucket, and I can move this display wherever I want it so that I can make sure I can see it.

This is going to sit proudly on my desk here in the brewery. I’ll be using this one soon.

Hops for this beer. Well, this is not particularly hoppy. You want to aim for an IBU around 25. At least that’s what I’m shooting for. And I’m using cascade for everything for bittering, aroma, and flavor hop.

I picked cascade for my bittering hop because you really want to use quite a low alpha acid. And this is about 5% alpha acid for your bittering.

So, uh, at the start of the boil, I’m going to add about one ounce of these cascade hops into the boil. And that’s assuming you’re brewing a five gallon or 19 liter batch. Then at 10 minutes to go, I will add in half a bag. That’s half an ounce. And at flameout, I’ll throw in the other half of the bag.

The beer has come in with an original gravity of at 10 46. Now for yeast, this is the time where I actually am going to deviate away from using American ingredients. Uh, if you do want to use American yeast, Wyeast 10 56 American ale would be a really good choice.

However I am using Whitbread ale. This is Wyeast 10 99.

I’m adding this into the beer and then going to ferment at 68 Fahrenheit or 20 Celsius. We want to keep the temperature relatively low, uh, just to sort of keep this beer as a nice clean blonde beer.

Alright, let’s add this yeast in and then let it ferment.

I’ve got a light beer for you this week. Lauren. I see. Let’s take a look at this one and that certainly is on the light side. Right? Lovely clarity with this one. Yeah. It’s very, uh, golden looking. You can see all those bubbles in there. Yeah. Yeah. It looks so pretty beer.

So let’s see what we get on the smell of this one. Well, to me personally, it smells a little bit, has got a little bit of fruity sweetness smelling to it. Um, that would be like, uh, the malt, right? Yeah. Yeah. I think malty sweetness. Yeah. I’m getting the same sort of thing. Um, I don’t want to say too much about the taste of what it should be without you trying it. So let’s, let’s give this a try.

Well, that is a good change of pace in beer. Yes. They’re all of the heavy, strong ales we’ve been brewing.

This is refreshing. This is good. Refreshing is the word. Um, the BJCP guidelines described this as having a softer mamlty sweetness. And I think that sums up this bit perfectly. I agree, very pleasant, soft mouth, feel a little bit of sweetness, clearly quite malty and very easy drinking. Yeah. Is, um, it has a nice taste on the tongue too. It’s not bitter after taste or anything like that. It’s a very smooth summery tasting beer.

Do you know what a lawnmower beer is?

I assume that’s when you have one of those little ride on lawn mowers with your beer in the cup holder, right? Beer for drinking while you’re mowing the lawn. Right. And I think, I think this, this is exactly what you want. It’s very refreshing as you say, uh, easy drinking and yeah. It really hits the spot. Yeah. That’s really good.

Now, normally at this point I would tease next week’s beer to you, but I have a sneaking suspicion you might know what next week’s beer is.

So tune in next week when we’ll be making a beer, that’s a little bit, hoppier a little bit more floral and has a little bit more Lauren as well.

Hmm. Until then, Cheers!

I am the former President of my homebrew club, Plainfield Ale and Lager Enthusiasts (PALE) in the western suburbs of Chicago, IL. I brew on my BIAB system with my incredibly patient and understanding wife, adorable 9 year old daughter, and 12 year old brew dog.