On May 8, my friend Phil married his betrothed, Meredith. It was a delightful ceremony at a winery outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. The rehearsal dinner and reception took place nearby at Meredith’s parents’ house, a mere 18th century farm house. I wrote about some of this experience in my Cornhole Comeback post a few weeks ago.
A couple months before the wedding, I decided to brew up a beer to bring to the rehearsal dinner as my wedding gift. What do you expect from a homebrewer, His and Her Pillowcases for Lovers?
The rehearsal was going to be a casual, outdoor barbeque with a wide range of guests, so something light was in order. I’m usually one for trying to push people’s palates and challenge them to try something new, but I thought I would use this opportunity to try something new myself: brewing a session beer.
As I started to look through style guides and recipes for lighter beers, I came across the old standbys like pale ales, english bitters, brown porters and the like. Then I stumbled across a style I don’t believe I’ve seen commercially, but sounded like it fit the bill: english summer ale.
According to the Brewer’s Association style guide, an English-style Summer Ale is “light straw to golden colored with medium-low to medium bitterness, light to medium-light body, and low to medium residual malt sweetness… The overall impression is refreshing and thirst quenching.” Sounded good to me.
I set out to develop my recipe, and once I settled on my ingredients, I found it an incredibly easy and inexpensive beer to brew. Due to it’s light nature, it was easy on the malt and low in hops. I can see now why it’s so appealing for the big boys to push light beer on the public. Despite the low price, their margins are pretty good.
Not only was it easy to brew, but it fermented and finished very quickly. It was pretty much done fermenting in three days. I gave it a week in secondary to clarify then kegged it.
I think I’m going to continue on this session beer theme and try some other styles. I’m really digging the drinkability and low-cost, while still delivering a satisfying flavor. Next up will be a session porter. Stay tuned.
So where did the name come from? I’ll give you the abbreviated version of the story. Our friend Phil has a rich and colorful history within our circle of friends. Some people, such as Phil, seem to easily attract and retain nicknames. Among the half-dozen or so I can think of off the top of my head, one is “English Phil.” He earned this nickname from the photograph below.
Over a New Year’s Eve gathering a few years back, we stayed at a mountain house in Asheville. One particular afternoon, while most of us were already slinging beers, Phil sat fireside drinking tea. We thought this highly amuzing and thus dubbed him English Phil, because, well, it just seemed like the English thing to do.
Years later, the nickname remains, and it seemed the perfect name for Phil’s wedding beer.
About the Beer
English Phil’s Summer Ale is a light, straw-colored ale with a white, foamy head. The head lingers nicely for several minutes after pouring.
The body is light, but present. It’s not watery and actually has some substance to it for such a light beer. The aroma is bready and subtle. No hops present.
The flavor is crisp with a toasted malt character. No hops in the forefront, though there is a very slight, nearly imperceptible bitterness on the back end. It finishes clean without a lot of aftertaste.
Overall, it does what it set out to do. It’s light, clean and highly drinkable. I actually like the flavor, and for a light beer I feel like it brings a subtle malt complexity that is absent from your standard American Golden Lager.
If I were to do it again, which I probably will at some point, I think some hop flavor and aroma would be a nice touch, but just enough to perceive, not so as to take away from the malt.
Recipe to make 10 gallons
12 lbs Maris Otter
0.5 lbs caravienne
0.5 lbs honey malt
0.5 lbs carapils
0.15 lbs special B
1.25 oz Willamette (60 min)
1.0 oz Willamette (20 min)
1.5 oz Willamette (0 min)
Wyeast 1098 British Ale
Original Gravity: 1.040
Final Gravity: 1.014