Dos Equis Amber: All Grain Brew Day

dos-equis-amber-boil

Dos Equis Amber is one of my favourite general drinking beers. I know Mexican lagers are maligned in the craft beer world, and sometimes for good reason. They can be bland and tasteless and substitute almost seamlessly for water on a hot day. But there’s something compelling about the darker Dos Equis – every hardcore pale lager drinker who I’ve introduced to the Amber has fallen in love immediately. This brew is a strange paradox; thin yet rich, sweet yet dry and somehow still retaining that thirst-quenching character of a pale lager. So with summer around the corner in Australia I thought I’d brew up an amber to keep on hand and try to convert a few more pale lager drinkers!

About Dos Equis Amber

This recipe isn’t really intended to be a direct clone of Dos Equis Amber. I still find it a little thin for my taste so I’ve decided to take it up a notch and revisit the beer’s European heritage. Dos Equis Amber is based loosely on the Vienna Lager style, which was brought to Mexico by immigrants in the 1800s. A traditional Vienna Lager has a strong malt character and is made up mainly of Vienna and Munich malts. These richer malts also lend a darker colour to the finished brew. A Dos Equis Amber contains a reasonable quantity of corn as an adjunct, giving it a thinner body and grainy sweetness that would not be found in a traditional Vienna Lager.

The all grain recipe I’ve used here is one I created myself, with some reference to the American Standard Lager recipe from Brewing Classic Styles by Zainasheff and Palmer. It takes the malt richness and colour of a Vienna Lager and combines it with the thin body, low bitterness and slight sweetness of an American Standard Lager. There is no crystal malt in this recipe for two reasons. Firstly, I don’t really like it. I find it can really make a beer seem thick and syrupy, and I also prefer the more refined and subtle malt character that comes from the base malt. Secondly, it is not really appropriate for the style. The sweetness in a Dos Equis Amber comes more from unfermentable sugars created by alpha-amylase activity in the mash, and also from the use of corn as an adjunct. To read more about malts, check out this article.

The Recipe

This recipe is for 23L of 1.054 wort, assuming 75% extraction efficiency.

5kg Pilsener Malt
500g Flaked Corn
300g Munich Malt
70g Black Malt

Mash at:
62 degrees Celsius for 40mins
70 degrees Celsius for 20mins
76 degrees Celsius for 10mins (mashout)

10g Perle (8%AA) at 60mins
20g Hallertau (3.5%AA) at 60mins
Targeting about 16 IBU

Ferment at 10 degrees Celsius with Saflager W34/70 lager yeast. Expected FG is 1.009 (5.9% ABV)

Raise to 16 degrees Celsius for a diacetyl rest after 2 weeks in primary
Rack to secondary, clarify with gelatin
Lager at 2 degrees Celsius for 2 weeks
Rack to keg, lager for further 4 weeks at 0 degrees Celsius

Shamelessly spruik to all non-craft-beer-drinking acquaintances!

Procedural Notes

Flaked corn can be added directly to the main mash. Flaked grains have the starch pre-gelatinised and so don’t need to be treated with a cereal mash. To read more about adjuncts in brewing, check out this article. The black malt was finely crushed and added at the 10 minute mash out rest. This was to extract maximum colour and minimal roast character from the malt. Weyermann Carafa Special II could be used too.
A step mash was used for starch conversion, favouring the beta-amylase enzyme end of the temperature range. This should create a highly fermentable wort and drier finish to the beer. For more information about the science of mashing, check out this article.

My water is slightly alkaline, so 3mL of lactic acid was added to the mash water to lower the mash pH to the optimal range of 5-5.6. Only do this if you know it’s required with your water. Approximately 500mL of thick healthy yeast slurry from a previous batch was pitched for fermentation. If using dry yeast, use at least 2 10g packets, and rehydrate before pitching. A good lager fermentation needs plenty of healthy yeast! If you are bottling rather than kegging it may be necessary to add some fresh yeast with the priming sugar. Allow 3 weeks for the bottles to carbonate before lagering.

So there you go, give this one a try and let me know how it goes. Don’t be afraid of the Mexican lagers, they can be truly tasty brews. Plus, they can really please a crowd on a hot summer’s day!

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