Simple vs Complex Pale Ale: Which is Better?

by Karl Updated on November 11, 2021 American Beer Brewing Recipes

We’re going to brew a pale ale. I’ve got the simple recipe. And this is the complex recipe. [American Pale Ale Recipe]

It’s the same beer, but completely different ingredients. Let’s see the difference.

So I’m Caleb Whitenack and I have psychdocbrewery. I’m a psychiatrist and I’ve been brewing for about 13 years. So this is the 20 gallon spike solo system. And normally I brew bigger batches, but this is a five gallon batch.

And although you can do that with the basket, we’re going to go back to the old grain bag and pull it and go from there.


6 lbs 4.0 oz Maris Otter
0.50 oz Cascade [5.50 %] – Boil 60.0 min
0.50 oz Cascade [5.50 %] – Boil 20.0 min
2.00 oz Cascade [5.50 %] – Steep/Whirlpool 30.0 min
1.0 pkg American Ale (Wyeast Labs #1056)


7 lbs 8.0 oz 2-row American Pale Malt
6.0 oz Biscuit Malt
6.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt – 20L
6.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt – 80L
6.0 oz Carared
6.0 oz Munich Malt – 20L
6.0 oz Special Roast
3.0 oz Acid Malt
3.0 oz Carapils
0.50 oz Centennial [10.00 %] – Boil 60.0 min
0.50 oz Cascade [5.50 %] – Boil 20.0 min
1.00 oz Chinook [13.00 %] – Steep/Whirlpool 30.0 min
0.50 oz Cascade [5.50 %] – Steep/Whirlpool 30.0 min
0.50 oz Centennial [10.00 %] – Steep/Whirlpool 30.0 min
1.0 pkg American Ale (Wyeast Labs #1056)

Brewing three gallons. And I’m using my 110 volt claw hammer system and a ready for mashing this in. So let’s get this in.

Even though I’m on the road here, still got the whisk. So going to be mashing this in at 152 Fahrenheit, and we’re going to be doing that for about an hour. Okay.

Here we go. No, whisk for me….

All right. All done. Let’s wait an hour. My brewery has grown, uh, significantly over the years, uh, started out on a kitchen pot on the stove, and now I have the spike brewing 20 gallon, uh, system. And I absolutely love it.

So, uh, just like Martin, I kind of wanted to have everything here, uh, so that if I wanted to brew, I could just wake up and brew.

So I’ve got my grain, my mill, I’ve got yeast storage, uh, and in all the, uh, water additives and things like that. And so I can basically wake up and brew if I want to. It’s a lot of fun.

We wanted to try these two different beer recipes. So I’m gonna read out mine. And, uh, you know, I’ve got the piece of paper because this is very difficult. The, uh, the recipe for this pale ale in the mash is 100% Maris Otter. That was it.

Um, so we figured that would give a little bit of biscuity character to support the hops that we’re going to add in. But that’s it now, how about you?

So mine’s a little more complicated and we, we made it complex on purpose. Like we just wanted to go over the top with specialty malts. So the base is 2-row, then we have some biscuit malt, caramel 20, caramel 80, carared Munich malt, special roast, acid malt and carapils.

So we just wanted to throw a whole bunch of different specialty malts in trying to still keep it pretty light. So it’s still an SRM of a 10.8, uh, but just see what, how it was different.

So normally on the spike solo system, I’ll lift the basket out and has little clips that you clip on the back. Being that we’re doing brew in a bag, I just hooked up with my mash pedal and let it drain that way.

All right. So we’re going to do a half an ounce of Centennial at 60 minutes.

So for my first hop addition, I’m using cascade and I am using another scientific half an ounce at 60 minutes for this one.

Next addition is half an ounce of cascade. My 20 minute hop edition is the rest of this cascade packets so half an ounce.

We’re going to Whirlpool now. We have half an ounce of Centennial, half an ounce of cascade and a full ounce of chinook. We’re going to Whirlpool at 180 degrees for 20 minutes.

Now for my Whirlpool, we’ll just be using cascades. So this is a single hop beer. I’ve got two ounces of cascade. This is down to about 180 Fahrenheit. Um, I’m just, re-circulating just to keep things moving around in here, and I’m going to add these directly into the kettle.

So the beer is done and we’re ready to chill it. So we’re going to run it through our counterflow chiller. We have cold water coming in the bottom and then out the top.

And then we’re going to have hot wort coming in the top and then cold wort coming out the bottom. So run it nice and slow. That’s how that works.

Now my 20 minute Whirlpool is done. I am just going to transfer this into my already sanitized keg and bring it home so I can put it in my fermentor. I’m not going to bother chilling it.

Gravity is actually about 10 59. It’s a little higher than expected. My, uh, boil off was probably more than expected. Perfect. So it is definitely lighter than the complex recipe. 10 52.

We are ready for yeast. So this is wyeast 1056 American ale yeast. Worts at about 73 degrees. There we go. That’s it.

Welcome to the tasting room. Yeah. Awesome. We’ve got our two beers here. They look pretty different. Absolutely. Very clear difference.

So we have the simple glass on the complex glass. This is pretty golden, the simple, which is I think what we were expecting. Yeah. That would be a SmaSh beer basically. That’s fine. Right.

But this one is really a sort of a copper color. Yeah. It’s amazing how much those specialty malts really, really changed the look. I texted a little bit darker than I expected, uh, to be honest, and you smell the smell of hops, it smells more malty. Right? Does it not? Yes. Yeah, it definitely does.

Well. Should we get into it? Yeah. Which one should we try for that? Oh, definitely. The simple, simple first. All right. Cheers.

I think it’s living up to its name. I think so. Yeah. It’s simple. Isn’t it? There’s not much going on. You’ve got a bit of the hop bitterness for sure.

Yeah. It’s a nice, nice body. Nice light body. You said that it finished at 1.015? 1.011. Oh 10 11. Yeah. Yeah. This is a very pleasant drinkable beer, I think. Yes.

So I am so curious. I tried ridiculously complex recipe, just overly complex. Just for fun. What? Will we be able to pick out all of those specialty malts. Oh, absolutely. I don’t know.

All right. Let’s try it. All right. I’m excited. Oh, wow. Have very different. Um, we’re definitely malty, yeah. A little bit of roast, but not over, over the top. There is a, a roasty turns into the caramel. Yes. Uh, almost like toffee. Yeah. So the, the difference in malt bill is like just astonishing different.

Drinks about the same. Uh, mine came out a little bit higher, uh, on the final gravity, I think just because of all the complex malts and that kind of thing.

Um, but I think they actually ended up because mine was a higher original gravity. They actually came out about the same alcohol. Yeah. I think mine was 5.2 and yours was a 5.5, five, five. Okay. So I got very close from the alcohol perspective.

I feel like, I think there’s a little bit of a grapefruit. That’s not on the simple, maybe coming from the Centennial.

So what’s your pick. They are completely different, so different. So different. Um, I think hot summer afternoon. Oh yeah. That’s just like lawn mower beer. Absolutely pool. You know, a pool beer. Yeah. Yep.

And then, uh, sitting down dinner, then I would pick this [complex] because there’s this much more refined. You’ve got much more of a sort of interesting taste.

Now, Caleb. You’re not just a beer guy. Coffee guy too. Oh, definitely. So we have a pretty interesting video that you are also in. Yeah. So I’m going to teach you how to roast coffee on an electric roaster, The Behmor Electric Coffee Roaster. Yes. It check that video out.

And uh, I don’t know how we do the cheers here. Both double fisted? Cheers.

Karl S: Lead marketer, brewer, dad, and husband. Pretty much an all-round awesome guy.