The last few years have been spent doing more craft beer consumption than home-brew production. But after a few home-brew club meetings I was motivated to buy a large bag of pale malt. It will serve as my base grain for many future home-brews.

In past decades I’ve always ordered my grains milled, or cracked, by the home-brew supply shop. This bag of malt is unmilled. Unwilling to wait for the grain mill I’d ordered I decided to experiment a little. I hand milled five pounds of the grain, one pound at a time. The grain was in large resealable plastic bags and I used a rolling pin. It took approximately fifteen minutes.

Such was the extent of the grain bill for this beer, five pounds of pale malt. The recipe was completed with a quarter of an ounce of Galena hops and Safale 05. The total volume was 3 gallons. I guess that’s a blonde. Since one of my favorite home-brew recipes is a Belgian blonde named “Marilyn,” it seemed appropriate that this blonde be named “Norma Jean.”

BJCP Characteristics

An American blonde ale is in the same category as the American pale ale. It should be pale in color and tend towards a malty character. The hops will be much reduced in a blonde. The aggressiveness of the pale ale is not present. It’s a gateway beer.

Norma Jean does a have a nose full of grain, but it doesn’t seem bready or caramelly. No discernible fruitiness or hops. It is a pale yellow color but is not brilliantly clear. It was in primary for fourteen days, no secondary fermentation. Perhaps that would have helped clarity? It’s a pasty yellow and resembles a wit beer more than a blonde. It does possess an adequate white and rocky head.

The body is light, medium carbonation which I think was done very well. But it does seem to have a harsh, grainy texture. I actually doctored it with two teaspoons of grenadine to make it more palatable. One week later and the grainy astringency remained but was much more moderate. Perhaps some more time will further reduce this. Once past that taste there is some sweetness from the malt and an enjoyable softness on the palate.

It would still garner a low score, I think. I made it and I’d give it maybe 30/50. If that harshness continues to abate it may improve.


At first I thought the harshness was due to the hand milling of the grain. I thought perhaps I’d not gotten a good enough crush and all I was tasting was barley husk. Additionally, while I anticipated a starting gravity of 1.040 I only achieved 1.024. Bad mill again? Brewing publications I read noted that a husky/grainy flavor can come from overcrushing the grains. This might cause sparging obstructions, if I understood everything correctly, thus not rinsing the mashed grains enough. To be sure, my final boil volume was lower than I expected.

So I’m not sure about the cause of the harsh flavor but it is slowly going away. Still a fun experiment.

The grain mill did arrive and I used it for the next batch I made, an English dark mild.

One thought on “Home-brewed Blonde

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