15-Minute Pale Ale

Brewing a delicious, hoppy American Pale ale is a breeze with extract brewing. Homebrewers can use the ease of brewing with malt extracts to their advantage to brew beers that are showcases for American hops during a surprisingly short brew day.

Preserve all the flavor of American hops with a quick extract ale.

Many homebrewers turn their noses up at extract beers. Once they have conquered the summit of all grain brewing, some brewers feel brewing with extract is a step back down the slope. However, brewing with extract can have its advantages.

Obviously, extract brewers skip the labor- and time-intensive steps of milling, mashing, lautering, and sparging. There is an added time-saving advantage to malt extract: the extract does not have to be boiled for a full hour.

Since the extract is essentially an all grain wort that has been fully boiled at the manufacturer and has simply had most (or all) of the water taken out, the malt extract company has done most of the work for you. All you need to do is to boil the extract long enough to sanitize it.

“But,” you may be asking, “what about hop utilization? Don’t I have to boil hops for a full hour to get the full bitterness out of them?”

Well, yes and no. For a standard addition of bittering hops, you do have to boil for a full hour. Boiling hops for a shorter period of time may result in a smaller amount of hop isomerization and utilization. The solution: add more hops. If adding bittering hops for only fifteen minutes in the boil will result in half the utilization of a 60-minute boil, double the amount of hops you would normally add at the beginning of an hour-long boil.

Adding a lot of hops late in the boil increases the hop flavor and aroma in the beer. Some refer to it as “hop bursting.” So, adding double the amount of bittering hops at fifteen minutes before the end of the boil achieves two goals. First, it gives us the bittering we want. Second, it preserves a lot of the fruity and citrusy flavors American Ale fans crave.  Any hops added later than the fifteen-minute mark will only increase the effect of American hoppiness.

The result is a very short brew day and a very tasty American Ale.

15-Minute American Ale
5 gallon batch

6 lbs. Light Dry Malt Extract
1 lb. 60 L Crystal Malt
2 oz. Simcoe Pellets (or your favorite American hop) – 15 minutes
1 oz. Simcoe Pellets – 5 minutes
1 oz. Simcoe Pellets – Flameout
Safale US05 Yeast

Steep the crystal malt in a grain bag in the water as it is coming up to a boil. When the temperature reaches 170F, take the bag out. Add the extract before the wort comes to a boil to help avoid a boil over. When the wort begins to boil, add hop additions at times above. Only boil wort for 15 minutes. Chill and pitch yeast.

One note: you will not need as much water as a typical one-hour boil, since you will not be losing as much water to boil off.

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  1. I’m a huge fan of this technique. I use it for trialing new hop varieties. I can brew 6 or 7 one-gallon batches using this technique in the time it takes for one typical all-grain brewday.

  2. I think I may try this on my recipe after next. I would do it on the next but I have everything planned out already 🙂

  3. Michael gray says

    Couldn’t you take and boil your hops by themselves in water and then add then to the wart post boil to get the bitterness desired? Just a thought.

    • I’ve tried boiling hops in water alone, and it’s hard to integrate them into the boil. They just want to float on top. It would make a fun small-scale experiment, though.

    • Michael D says

      An article in a recent issue in Zymurgy (I forget the author) explained that you want a little bit of extract for you hop boiling for pH purposes. Low gravity wort for hop boiling is good. No gravity, not so much.

      • Thanks for the info. I’m behind on my reading. I’ll have to find that one. Makes sense.

      • Chris Colby says

        Yes, hop utilization (alpha acid extraction) goes up with increasing pH, but the quality of the bitterness goes down. So, a little malt extract will take the pH down, lowering the amount of bitterness yielded, but increasing it’s quality.

  4. After I brew my preplanned batch this weekend I will try the above recipe. Wow what a time saver!

  5. I used your 15-Minute Pale Ale (with Simcoe nonetheless) when I taught the beginner’s homebrewing class at the local hackerspace a couple weekends ago.

  6. Tony Perkins says

    Two days ago I used the 15-minute boil technique to make an extract Saison, and I made it even easier by doing a partial boil. About 2.75 gallons on the stove top (including the volume from the steeping grains), add half the extract at 15 minutes, the other half at 5, chill and dilute to 5 gallons in the carboy. Fun and very easy. It was the first extract batch I’ve made since going all-grain two years ago, but I’ll definitely try this technique more often, especially when I want to grow up a new pitch of yeast. For the same amount of work as making a yeast starter, I can have five gallons of a nice, low gravity ale!

    • Tony,
      Cool! I like the idea of a 15-minute Saison. I got a packet of Saison yeast in the goody bag at the Homebrew Conference. Hmmm.

      The reason I boil dry extract for the full fifteen minutes is to ensure sanitization. I may be over-cautious, though. With liquid extract, I wouldn’t hesitate to boil it for less time – or just to add at the end of the boil. If it’s in an unopened can, it’s going to be ready to go – unless the can is bulging. Then, it should be thrown away. Let us know how your Saison turns out!

      • Tony Perkins says

        Yep, I went with LME. Easier to use, in my experience, than DME. I used the hops I got from Hops Direct’s Hop Yard Sale: Magnum for “bittering,” and imported Whitbred Goldings Variety for “flavor and aroma.” (I use quotes because every hop is dual purpose with this technique, isn’t it?) It will be interesting to see what three ounces of late hops tastes like in a Saison. I’ll let you know.

  7. I am planning to do something similar, but will be using the pre-hopped LME from Munton’s. It has a clean bitterness, but no aroma or flavor. I will be doing a five-minute and a zero-minute addition of a blend of cascade, chinook and centennial.

    I am debating just bringing the water up to the range of 180 degrees F, adding the hops and letting it sit for five minutes before chilling.

    I understand with either method, I am giving up control of the bittering portion, but I am planning to do this for a presentation on how easy it can be to make beer.

  8. Scott Reinke says

    James, I just finished this with Citra hops instead of Simcoe, I also scaled it down for a 1 gallon small batch. I will keep you posted on the results.

  9. Travis Van Ee says

    I’m getting ready to do a 15 minute no chill IPA this weekend. After listening to the last couple episodes of Basic Brewing Radio I was inspired to give no chill a shot. I was reading about adjusting the hops due to the extended high temperatures after the boil while in your no chill container. I estimate that by using this technique I may be able to get 40 minutes worth of temps high enough to allow for bittering. We will see how it goes.

  10. I used this idea and James’ favored method of doing 1 gallon batches to get a single hop experimental series going with my brew club. A pound of DME, 1 gallon of water, and 1oz of high alpha hops (11AA or higher works best), employing a 15 minute boil yields about 8 beers at 1.048 with between 35-50 IBUs. This is a great way to test drive new hop varieties while employing almost no time and very minimal investment in ingredients.

  11. Have you substituted either 20 L or 40 L crystal malts for the 60 L crystal? If so, what differences did you notice between the resulting beers?

    • I haven’t on this recipe, but I have played around with those specialty malts on all grain recipes. You can certainly substitute. The 20L is more about adding body, while the 60L and 90L crystal malts will add more color and flavor. You can steep a bit of these malts in some water to make a tea to see the differences.

      • Thank you for the idea about steeping different crystal malts. We’re going to do that at our next club meeting. (The Basic Brewing Video episode about steeping crystal malts has helped me plan that activity.)

        I brewed the 15-minute pale ale recipe earlier this week. I substituted equal amounts of Citra and Cascade for the Simcoe.

        I also followed a couple of Chris’s summertime brewing tips on dealing with high temperature fermentations. I hope my experience with Wyeast 1056 in the mid-70s is similar to his experiences.

        • Chris Colby says

          1056 is a champ at those temperatures (assuming a healthy pitch rate). Let us know how your mid-70’s beer turns out.

          • I brewed on Monday. Feeling the urge to be environmentally responsible, I kept my pre-chiller and immersion chiller in the garage, and let the beer cool in the kettle over night. While I was brewing, I made a 2 L starter (2 liters of water; 200 grams of light DME) from a mason jar of rinsed 1056. I pitched the yeast around noon on Tuesday. The temperature of the wort was in the higher 70s. The morning after I pitched it, I found the airlock three feet from the carboy. (Fortunately only a little krausen escaped the fermenter.) It’s been chugging along in the mid-70s since. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

          • The pale ale turned out pretty well. The FG was 1.004. (iBrewmaster estimated it would be 1.011 so I was surprised.) I don’t detect any off-flavors or aromas from the yeast; however, the aroma and flavor from the Citra and Cascade hops are very prominent. Thank you both for giving me additional ways to approach brewing under different temporal and temperature constraints. Cheers.

  12. Definitely leaning towards doing more brews like this. Rather brew a gallon like this every week than a gallon of all-grain once a month! Also keep to try out different yeasts etc… Did a yeast starter of Brettb Trois over the weekend and tasted the starter beer last night. Was SO pineappley 🙂

  13. I’m brewing a 30min Saison with Amber Extract and 60gr of Caramunich Type I steep (small batch of 1 gallon). I steeped caramunich for 30min before boil, took off the bag and when water started to boil, I added the extract. 30 min boiling adding East Kent Goldings at 10 min, 20 min and 1 min.
    I’ve used Danstar Belle Saison yest (dry), and 4gr/l of sugar. Now is bottled, I hope to drink one in a couple of weeks!

  14. Can this method also be done with Pilsner DME?

    We know that Pilsner normally requires a long boil (except in Berlinner Weisse it seems) to prevent DMS. Is the process of creating malt extract enough to drive off the DMS or should we still boil Pilsner DME for longer periods of time? From the little that I have read, it seems a short boil of Pilsner DME is fine but would be great to get your comment 🙂

    • Chris may want to chime in, but I believe the DMS is driven off from the extract at the manufacturer. Extract is all grain wort that has gone through a full boil, then has had most of (or all) the water taken out. You just need to make sure it is sanitized. Fifteen minutes should be enough time in the boil to do that.

      • I’ve added the Briess CBW Pilsen Light LME with 5 minutes left in the boil before with no DMS problems. I assume the DME would have the same results.

  15. I’ve done various versions of this recipe several times, usually varying the hops schedule. Result is always a very nice beer. This past weekend a minor variant took 3rd place in the APA category at the March Mashness competition. Proving again that making great beer need not be difficult.

  16. Jeff Becks says

    James how much water do you start with when steeping the grains , full 5 gallon or top up after cooling thanks in advance


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