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  • Writer's pictureLuke Nyswonger

Refining an Apricot Pale Ale with ChatGPT

The beauty of homebrewing lies in its mix of tradition and innovation. Take Pale Ales, for instance. Rooted in18th-century England, these classic brews have grown and adapted over centuries, always leaving room for creativity. One such creation that has caught the fancy of craft brewers and beer lovers alike is the fruit-infused Apricot Pale Ale.


Fruit-infusion in Pale Ales is a delightful evolution of the brewing process. Brewers have discovered that the sweet tartness of apricots can create a beautiful balance with the natural bitterness of hops, resulting in a beer with unique complexity. This has led to some popular commercial iterations, such as Pyramid Breweries' famed Apricot Ale.

Apricot Pale Ale beer sitting on a counter, fresh apricots next to it, vibrant, very realistic
Midjourney: Apricot Pale Ale beer sitting on a counter, fresh apricots next to it, vibrant, very realistic

There's a distinct nostalgia to the Apricot Pale Ale that takes me back to the enjoyable pre-game ritual of savoring a Pyramid Apricot Pale Ale before a Seattle Mariners game. The unfortunate closure of Pyramid Breweries in Seattle has left a void, but it also inspired me to recreate this beloved apricot-infused ale in my home brewing setup.


The core of my Apricot Pale Ale recipe is a tribute to the excellent work of Josh Weikert, whose brewing expertise and insightful guidance have been truly invaluable in my homebrewing journey. Inspired by his delightful 'Aprikose Apricot Pale' recipe featured in Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine, I've carefully adapted his original formula to create a brew that fits my personal style and preferences.


As someone who's always keen on improving and learning, I decided to bring a touch of AI into the brewing process of my existing recipe. My existing recipe, crafted over time with care, was a great starting point. It has Pilsner and Victory malts, Caramel/Crystal Malt, a mix of Mosaic and Azacca hops, and the star ingredient - apricot puree. It's a delightful beer, but I wanted to see how AI could push it a step further.


My Current Recipe


🍑 Apricot Pale Ale Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 9 lbs Pilsner (2 Row) UK (1.0 SRM)

  • 8.0 oz Victory Malt (25.0 SRM)

  • 4.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt - 40L (40.0 SRM)

  • 0.50 oz Mosaic (HBC 369) [12.25 %] - Boil for 60.0 min

  • 1.00 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil for 10.0 mins)

  • 0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient (Boil for 10.0 mins)

  • 0.50 oz Azacca [15.00 %] - Boil for 5.0 min

  • 0.50 oz Mosaic (HBC 369) [12.25 %] - Boil for 5.0 min

  • 1.0 pkg Flagship (Imperial Yeast A07)

  • 3 lbs Apricot Puree (Added in the secondary fermentation stage)

Mash Schedule:

  • Single Infusion, Medium Body, No Mash Out

  • Mash In - Add 12.19 qt of water at 163.7 F for a 152.0 F mash for 60 minutes

  • Fly sparge with 6.24 gal water at 168.0 F

Boil Time:

  • 90 Minutes

Notes:

  • The boil starts with the addition of the first hop, followed by the immersion chiller.

  • A Whirlfloc tablet and yeast nutrient are added 10 minutes before the end of the boil.

  • The final hops are added 5 minutes before the end of the boil.

  • The boil is then stopped, and the wort is cooled before being transferred to a carboy. The yeast is then added and it's left to ferment.

  • Apricot puree is added directly to the primary for 2-3 weeks.

This recipe has served well so far, producing a flavorful Apricot Pale Ale. Now, let's see how we can refine it further with the help of AI.


Picture of an apricot pale ale
Apricot Pale Ale - Brewed June 2023 (without AI)

Enhancing the Brew with AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about brewing beer. But, in this era of technology, the possibilities are endless, and brewing beer is no exception. For the uninitiated, AI can help brewers like myself fine-tune our recipes, suggesting alterations based on massive datasets of beer recipes, ingredient interactions, and user preferences.


To refine my Apricot Pale Ale recipe, I turned to ChatGPT. As a robust language model, it has been trained on a diverse range of internet text. But what makes it particularly powerful is its ability to understand and generate human-like text based on the given prompts. By inputting my existing recipe and preferences to the AI, I was curious to see how it would assist in potentially formulating an even better Apricot Pale Ale recipe.


Starting Prompt

As always, it's important to start with a precise prompt. A well-crafted prompt for ChatGPT brings clarity to the conversation, steering the AI towards a more accurate and helpful response. Detailed prompts enable a precision of reply, utilizing the rich context or background information to better tailor the response to the user's needs.

Prompt: As a dedicated homebrewer, I'm continuously seeking to refine my Apricot Pale Ale recipe to perfection. I'm eager to hear the perspective of a BJCP judge on this brew. Considering the characteristics of an ideal Apricot Pale Ale - a harmonious blend of flavors, aroma, and appearance reflecting its Pale Ale roots and apricot infusion - I'd appreciate if you could evaluate my current recipe. I'm particularly interested in your feedback on the ingredients and their proportions. Do you have any suggestions for adjustments or enhancements that could take this beer to the next level?

Here was the feedback I received from ChatGPT:


ChatGPT conversation

Breaking down ChatGPT's suggestions

Given that I'm quite satisfied with my current brew recipe, what alterations could I consider? Let's dissect each component based on feedback and explore potential modifications to envisage a reimagined beer recipe:

  • Grain Bill: After many successful brews, the idea of swapping out my foundational Pilsner malt for a pale malt doesn't sit quite right. Pilsner malt lends a distinct crispness and light sweetness to my brew that I've grown fond of. Although changing the grain bill might introduce a fuller malt character, I am content with the current flavor profile, valuing the balance I've achieved between the malt and the apricot infusion.

  • Hops: Now, this is where I envision a bit of tinkering. While I appreciate the flavor profile my current hops bring to the table, there's room for exploration. I'm toying with the idea of dry hopping in my next iteration—specifically using Mosaic. Renowned for its tropical and fruity characteristics, Mosaic should dovetail nicely with the existing apricot flavors, potentially imbuing a more nuanced layer of complexity.

  • Yeast: The yeast strain employed in brewing profoundly impacts the final product. Although I didn't initially get alternatives to my choice of Imperial Yeast, upon deeper consideration, some strains piqued my interest. Three options stand out: A04 Barbarian, A24 Dry Hop, and A38 Juice. Each offers unique properties, from emphasizing fruity esters and enhancing hop flavors to adding a juice-like character to the brew. Any one of these could create an interesting shift in the beer's flavor dynamics.

  • Fruit: The amount of apricot puree presently incorporated provides a bright, tangy burst of apricot that I personally like, and I don't think it's too much. However, the idea of incrementally upping the fruit addition has crossed my mind more than once. It's a fine balance, though—adding more could either amplify the beer's distinctive character or threaten to overpower the other nuances.

  • Yeast Nutrient: ChatGPT, with its sharp observation, highlighted a discrepancy in my recipe, even though the yeast nutrient wasn't actually subjected to a 3-day boil.

  • Boil: Pilsner malt, a key player in my recipe, necessitates a longer boil to eliminate DMS, an unwelcome guest that can leave behind an unpleasant off-flavor. Despite some opinions on reducing the boil duration, it's a step I don't intend to modify.

  • Mashing: This is another area of the brewing process that I feel no need to alter. The existing method fits well with the desired profile of my Apricot Pale Ale.

Tweaking the recipe

After pondering the insights and recommendations offered by the AI, I've decided on two key adjustments for the next time I brew this.

  1. Dry Hops. Firstly, I'm introducing Mosaic hops in a dry hop addition. Mosaic hops, renowned for their burst of tropical fruitiness, should gracefully accentuate the existing apricot essence in the beer, offering a more multifaceted flavor profile.

  2. Different Yeast. Secondly, I'm opting for A24 Dry Hop yeast from Imperial Yeast. This strain, noted for its ability to enhance hop aromatics and introduce subtle esters, could really elevate the overall hop character and complexity of the beer.

I'm looking forward to seeing how these modifications will amplify the depth and allure of my Apricot Pale Ale's flavor and aroma. Adding more hops through dry hopping and using a yeast that enhances hop flavor will certainly bring the beer closer to an IPA in terms of hop profile. However, I don't intend to increase the overall bitterness and alcohol content of the beer, so it should be more of a hop-forward or hoppy Pale Ale rather than a full-blown IPA.


Conclusion

In the end, the beauty of homebrewing lies in the journey as much as in the final product. With every iteration, we have the opportunity to learn, to experiment, and to refine our craft. The changes I plan to implement in my Apricot Pale Ale - dry hopping with Mosaic and employing the A24 Dry Hop yeast - reflect my commitment to continual improvement and the thrill of experimentation.


While the AI-generated feedback has been a fascinating tool to leverage in this process, the real testament will come when the first sip of the new batch crosses my lips. So, whether you're an avid homebrewer like me or a beer lover, I hope this exploration into the process of recipe refinement has inspired you. After all, every beer tells a story. And in this story of my Apricot Pale Ale, the next chapter promises to be a captivating one.


Cheers! 🍻

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