While brewing in China I quickly realized that common pale ale recipes were not going to do as well as they do in the West due to the particular tastes of the local and expat beer drinking crowds. Continued trial and error led to a new, Chinese inspired pale ale recipe.
China consumes more beer than any other country on Earth, yet they are also a late adopter of the craft beer movement. In fact, in China, craft beer – even coupled with imported beer – takes up less than 1% of total beer sales. Of the 50 billion liters the Chinese population drinks every year, 99% are watery, low alcohol, low flavor lagers.
This China Pale Ale (CPA) is something like a Session IPA, but with extreme flavors subdued for more delicate palates. If you love a subtle but prominent hop presence layered in front of a dry ale malt profile, you will love the CPA.
This is a low gravity beer that will not leave you wanting for flavor. The recipe below is designed for use with the Igloo Cooler mash tun.
Batch Size: 20L (about 5 gallons)
About the Mash
We quickly discovered that Chinese malt was highly inconsistent. Crystal and caramel malts were rarely recognizable by any Western standard measurement and the dark and roasted malts were almost always unusable. In fact, the only consistent factor was under-modification. What this means is: 1kg of Chinese malt would yield less fermentable sugars (and usable flavors) than 1kg of a similar Western malt.
To counter this we had to employ some old-school mashing techniques, such as protein and beta-glucan rests as well as some seriously complicated decoction mashes. If you don’t know what this means, consider yourself lucky that modern Western malt is of such a high quality.
Eventually we discovered a source of good quality, reliable malt – but by then our recipes and techniques had been able to produce a relatively popular brew in the small area we were supplying. And so, I eventually developed the following mash schedule to incorporate maximum efficiency, resulting in a very dry but delicious session ale.
The mash-in occurs at 49°C (120°F) and is raised to the initial saccharification rest of 66°C (151°F) over the course of ten minutes. This activates plenty of enzymes needed to break down complex proteins chains – or, more simply put, creates a pleasing dry beer with a minimal grain bill.
There is also an extra-long boil to break up any residual proteins or starches and get the most out of the bittering hops despite the low boil gravity.
The CPA Recipe
This recipe has, I am proud to say, had some influence on the craft beer scene of modern Canton. Whether the CPA style takes off across the rest of China or any other part of the world has yet to be seen.
- 0.5g Calcium Chloride
- 0.25g Gypsum
Please note that the water treatment is minimal – in fact you may be able to skip this entirely if you have a good starting water profile in your current location.
- 3kg (6.6 pounds) German Pilsner malt
- 0.4kg (0.88 pounds) Munich 1
- 0.2kg (0.44 pounds) Melanoidin
- 8g (0.3 oz) Nugget @ 13% AA (75 minutes – bittering)
- 20g (0.7 oz) Cascade @ 7% AA (30 minutes – bittering / flavor)
- 20g (0.7 oz) Cascade @ 7% AA (0 minutes – aroma)
- 28g (1 oz) Mosaic @ 7% AA (dry hop)
- 12g (0.4 oz) Amarillo @ 8% AA (dry hop)
- Mash in at 49°C (120°F)
- Over ten minutes, raise to 66°C (151°F)
- Hold at 66°C (151°F) for 60 minutes
- Raise to 72°C (162°F) and hold for ten minutes
- Raise to 78°C (172°F) and begin lauter (mash out)
- 5g Irish Moss (five minutes)
- California Ale (US05, WLP 001 or WY1056)
- Pitch at 22°C (71.6°F)
- Yeast off (or rack to secondary) when gravity reaches 1.009 or lower
- Dry hop immediately after racking
- Keg or bottle to standard carbonation levels once clarity is achieved.
This beer tastes especially good in the hot, tropical humidity of a South-East Asian Summer. The low alcohol content is especially refreshing – right up until you drink eight of them and it all suddenly hits you.
Please don’t be fooled: this is a low alcohol beer, but it’s very more-ish. It’ll creep up on you before you know it. Please drink it responsibly.
I hope you enjoy this China Pale Ale. This was the work of a lot of trial and error in an untested market, and eventually produced a really unique offering in the modern Chinese craft beer world.
This recipe is modified for homebrewers using an Igloo Cooler mash tun. Please click here to find more details on this system.
If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, please let me know in the comments below!