American Amber Ale Recipe and Brewing Method

American amber ales seem to be an almost forgotten style when it comes to home brewing. People always ask me for the best IPA recipe, a stout beer recipe, a brown ale recipe in the winter months, and even sometimes a cider recipe.

However, it’s very rare that anybody asks for one of my favorites, which is the American amber ale recipe.

A cornerstone of the original craft beer revolution, in the 1980s start-up microbreweries used the colors as a simple beer description customers would easily understand.

There were dark ales, brown ales, pale, and of course, amber ales. However, the amber ale soon found acceptance as an official style of beer, even recognized by the all-important folk at the BJCP (Category 19A).

Sitting halfway between a pale ale and a brown ale, one of the things I love about brewing an amber ale is the versatility this sort of beer can offer. Amber in color, they usually range from a copper to light or medium brown and can even veer towards a red hue.

An American amber should have a more level hop-to-malt balance than an American Pale ale, but not quite as malty as a brown ale or other darker beers.

Also, since we’re talking American amber ale, they normally use those citrus and Piney American hops you would find in a pale ale or IPA.

If you are thinking about what your next brew should be, consider an American amber ale, it’s a great style of beer to experiment with and fairly easy to brew too.

Although we have included a couple of recipes both all-grain and partial extract below, you could even tinker with your favorite pale ale recipe by adding some specialty malts to the mix.

Just be careful of how many hops you throw in, as you may end up with more of an IPA, and while that’s not a bad thing, it isn’t quite the amber ale you were aiming for!

American Amber Ale – The Numbers

  • OG: 1.045 – 1.060 (I normally aim for the top end of 1.060 with most ales)
  • FG: 1.010 – 1.015
  • SRM: 10 – 17 (14 – 15 tends to be a good median)
  • ABV: 4.5 – 6.2%

American Amber Ale – What You Are Aiming For

clear drinking glass with beer against the black background
Photo by Giovanna Gomes on Unsplash

Calling an American amber a more malt-forward pale ale is too simple for describing this popular beer. While there are some ambers out there on the craft beer scene that are simply Caramel APAs, they aren’t indicative of this beer style as a whole.

Amber is a style with a wide range of flavors, which makes them a great playground for us brewers who like to get a bit more creative.


The beautiful amber color of this style of ale is perhaps one of the most important factors, hence the name. It could also vary from a very light copper to a medium brown and sometimes even red.

The BJCP guidelines acknowledge that in some areas an amber ale is also known as a red ale.

However, I prefer to think of an amber color as a gentler, more malt-focused beer that has an even balance with a lighter color and a more restrained hoppiness.

Red ales tend to be much bigger and bolder beers like those brewed on the West Coast.

They often have higher levels of alcohol by content, increased use of dark crystal malt flavors and a bolder hop character of American citrus/piney hops like the Big Cs for aroma and a more bitter beer.

An American amber ale should be clear unless it has been dry-hopped, which may result in a slight haziness.


The aroma of moderate maltiness should balance the hop aroma, and in some cases can completely hide it.

A caramel quality is normally found in the malt aroma, with the hop aroma being low to mid-range depending on any late kettle additions or if dry-hopping is used.


Medium to strong malt flavors should carry a malty sweetness which first hits the palate and then develops into more of a caramel flavor.

The hop flavors should be moderate and showcase some of the American hops with their typical citrus qualities.

This balance of malt caramel sweetness and the hop character can often linger in the tastebuds, but the beer should have a medium to a full finish. Fruity esters can sometimes be detected, but no diacetyl should ever be present.


With a moderate to a high level of carbonation, the mouthfeel of an American amber should be smooth with a medium-light to medium body to the beer. Alcohol warmth can often be tasted in some stronger amber ales.

Food Pairings

When it comes to beer with food, you really can’t go wrong with an American amber ale. The balanced malt and hop profiles go with just about anything.

BBQ foods like bbq chicken, sausages, and burgers work well with an American amber, but it can also accompany spicier foods and seafood too. For cheeses (and who doesn’t love a decent wedge of cheese with a beer), a sharp cheddar would be good.

Brewing Tips for American Amber Ales

black glass bottles on table top
Photo by Adam Wilson on Unsplash

Grain Bill

The grist of an American amber will normally use some type of American pale malt, which should make up anywhere between 80 – 95% of the total grain bill.

Usually, something like a domestic 2-row brewer’s malt would be used, but crystal malts can add to the complexity of the beer and enhance the color, too.

Darker crystals will often be less sweet and add more burnt caramel, stone fruit, plum, and even raisin flavors to the finished beer.

Specialty malts like Victory, Biscuit, Munich, or aromatic malts can also offer a toasty breadiness or biscuity flavor to the ale.

Although it’s not always necessary to add such malts, they can help give a nice complexity and further balance with the hops used.


We’re not talking about a crazy high number of IBUs like found in some IPAs, but an American amber ale does need a significant hop flavor to balance out the malt.

Hops can be added at the beginning of the boil for bittering with further additions added at the 15, 10, or flame-out stages for more flavor and aroma.

Being an “American” amber ale, many showcase the hops of America such as the classic “C hops”, C Cascade, Chinook, Columbus, and Centennial, with Amarillo hops often showing up to the party too.

Some popular combinations you could consider are:

  • Ahtanum, Centennial & Simcoe
  • Cascade, Chinook, El Dorado & Mosaic
  • Citra, Simcoe & Amarillo
  • Galaxy & Citra
  • Centennial, Chinook & Colombus
  • Centennial & Amarillo

If in doubt, you can’t go wrong with the five big Cs, considered to be the cornerstone of American craft beer brewing.


Choose an American neutral-style yeast that is well attenuating. An uncomplicated yeast like White Labs WLP001 California ale yeast would work well with other suitable options being Wyeast American Ale 1056 and American Ale II 1272.

Personally, I like to add a bit more complexity with the fruity esters that come from yeast such as the Wyeast 1007 German Ale yeast, but I suppose that’s the chef in me coming out again – season everything well!

A Classic American Amber Ale Recipe (ALL-GRAIN Version)




  • 9.5 lb (4.3 kg) Great Western 2-row malt (2 ºL)
  • 0.75 lb (340 g) Great Western crystal malt (40 ºL)
  • 0.5 lb (227 g) Durst Munich malt (8 ºL)
  • 0.25 lb (113 g) Great Western crystal malt (120 ºL)
  • 6.5 AAU Horizon hops (0.5 oz/14 g at 13% alpha acids) – Add at 60 mins
  • 1.5 AAU Cascade hops (0.25 oz/7 g at 6% alpha acid) – Add at 10 mins
  • 2.25 AAU Centennial hops (0.25 oz/7 g at 9% alpha acids) – Add at 10 mins
  • 1.5 AAU Cascade hops (0.25 oz/7 g at 6% alpha acid) – Add at 0 mins
  • 2.25 AAU Centennial hops (0.25 oz/7 g at 9% alpha acids) – Add at 0 mins
  • Wyeast 1065 (American Ale) or White Labs WLP001 – 2 packets of liquid yeast or 1 package of liquid yeast in a 1.5-liter starter


  1. Mill the grains and dough into the mash at around 1.5 quarts of water to 1 pound of grain. You should be aiming for a liquor-to-grist ratio of about 3:1 by weight.
  2. Heat the mash to a temperature of 154ºF (68ºC) and hold for about 60 minutes until the enzymatic conversion is complete.
  3. Infuse the mash with near-boiling water while stirring constantly or using a recirculating mash system to raise the temperature to 168ºF (76ºC) to mash out.
  4. Sparge slowly with water at 170ºC (77ºC) collecting the wort until your boil kettle volume is around 6.5 gallons (25L) with a gravity of 1.040.
  5. Bring the wort to a boil. The total boil time is 90 minutes. Add the bittering Horizon hops at the 60-minute mark, any Irish moss, or other finings should be added 15 minutes before the end of the boil. Add the other hop additions at 10 minutes remaining, and flame out as detailed in the ingredients list.
  6. Chill the wort to 67ºF (19ºC) and aerate thoroughly before pitching the yeast. The correct pitch yeast rate for a beer of this kind is 9 grams of rehydrated dry yeast, 2 packages of liquid yeast, or 1 package of liquid yeast in a 1.5-liter starter.
  7. Ferment at 67ºF (19ºC) until the yeast drops clear, with fermentation normally taking about a week to complete. Allow the yeast lees to settle and the beer to mature for another two days without pressure after the fermentation is complete.
  8. Rack to either a keg to force carbonate or a bottling bucket and add priming sugar to the bottle. You should be aiming for a carbonation level of about 2.5 volumes.

The Partial Extract American Amber Ale Recipe




  • 6.0 lb (2.72 kg) Alexander’s light liquid malt extract (2ºL)
  • 0.75 lb (340 g) Great Western crystal malt (40 ºL)
  • 0.5 lb (227 g) Durst Munich malt (8 ºL)
  • 0.25 lb (113 g) Great Western crystal malt (120 ºL)
  • 6.5 AAU Horizon hops (0.5 oz/14 g at 13% alpha acids) – Add at 60 mins
  • 1.5 AAU Cascade hops (0.25 oz/7 g at 6% alpha acid) – Add at 10 mins
  • 2.25 AAU Centennial hops (0.25 oz/7 g at 9% alpha acids) – Add at 10 mins
  • 1.5 AAU Cascade hops (0.25 oz/7 g at 6% alpha acid) – Add at 0 mins
  • 2.25 AAU Centennial hops (0.25 oz/7 g at 9% alpha acids) – Add at 0 mins
  • Wyeast 1056 (American Ale), White Labs WLP001 (California Ale), or Fermentis Dry Safale S-05 yeast


  1. Mill or coarsely crack the specialty malts before mixing well and place them in a muslin grain bag. Try not to pack the grains too tightly, as it may cause the bag to split as you remove it from the steeping liquid, or some grains may not be steeped enough.
  2. Steep the grain bag in about 1 gallon of water (4 liters) at 170ºF (77ºC) for about 30 minutes. Lift the bag out of the steeping liquid, rinse with warm water, and then allow the bags to drip back into the kettle (without squeezing them) as you add the malt extract to the steeping liquid in the kettle.
  3. Add water to the malt extract and steeping liquid to make a volume of 5.9 gallons (22.3 liters) with a gravity of 1.043 while stirring thoroughly, and bring to a boil.
  4. The boiling time is a 60-minute boil in total. Once the wort is boiling, add the Horizon bittering hops, any Irish moss, or other kettle fining should be added 15 minutes before the end of the boil. Add the other hop additions at the 10-minute mark and flame out as listed in the ingredients.
  5. Once the boil is finished, chill the wort down to 67ºF (19ºC) while aerating thoroughly.
  6. Pitch the yeast at a rate of 12 grams of rehydrated yeast, 2 packages of liquid yeast, or 1 package of liquid yeast in a 2.5-liter starter.
  7. Ferment for about seven days at 67ºF (19ºC) or until the yeast drops clear. Once the lees have settled, leave the beer for another two days after fermentation before racking.
  8. Rack into a keg and force carbonate or run off into a bottling bucket and add priming sugar before bottling. You should be aiming for about 2.5 volumes of CO2 in the finished beer.

This blog is reader-supported. Posts may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.