Big ‘Murican Brown Ale (all-grain)

recipeIt’s winter. It’s cold. It’s time to make something big, bold, and ‘murican to get through this dreary winter season. I’ve been really into brown ales recently – everything from mild ones, to india-style-hopped-up ones – so I’m going to try and settle somewhere in the middle on this brew.

  • 6 lb US 2-row
  • 6 lb Marris Otter
  • 1.25 lb Amber malt
  • 0.5 lb Victory malt
  • 0.5 lb Wheat malt
  • 0.25 lb Chocolate malt
  • 0.13 lb Roasted barley
  • 1 oz Vanguard hops, 5% aa (FWH)
  • 0.75 oz Warrior hops, 14% aa (60 min)
  • 1 oz Vanguard hops, 5% aa (4 min)
  • White Labs London Ale yeast

// Strike w/ 4.75 gal 165F water (1.33 qt/lb) – initially though it settled way too high (160F), but turned out I just hadn’t stirred it enough – wound up adding 1/2 gal cold water, which brought it too low (146-148F). Should have trust the initial temperature! Collected ~7.75 gallons, boil 90 minutes. On the side bring 0.75qt water to 150F, and steep chocolate and roasted barley for 25 minutes. Rinse the grain bag with enough water to collect ~1qt total of dark grain juice. Add this into the boil with 15 minutes left.  Wound up with around 6.5 gallons 1.054 wort at the end. Chilled to 75F, pitched yeast start in glass carboy. Brewed 12/21/12 //

So this “big” brown ale won’t be as big as I planned, but that’s alright. Using the recipe calculator on hopville.com, this beer should have been around 1.070 gravity if I boiled down properly to 5 gallons, but I wound up with a little too much product and consequently a weaker beer. Just like with the milk stout, I steeped the dark grains on the side to avoid any astringency it might add. I was a little to worried that the darker grains would make it too stout-y and less brown-y, but the color balanced out really nicely to a dark brown.

DSC_0964UPDATE 1 (12/26): Fermentation was out of control to start, overflowing and shot the airlock all the way across the room. Reset it with a blow off tube (should have done this up front given how little headspace there was in the carboy. Doh’.). Racked to a secondary after 5 days, gravity at 1.012. Tastes really great so far – warm, nutty, roasty, brown, delicious. The amber malt is definitely up front with a nutty, light coffee-ish flavor, but the chocolate malts come out in the finish. The hops aren’t very noticeable at the moment but I think they’ll come out more with some carbonation.

UPDATE 2 (12/29): Racked to keg. Most of yeast dropped out, much clearer. Gravity 1.012.  Taste is nice – same as before but a little yeasty.

THE VERDICT

Really happy with how this beer turned out! It’s an all around pleaser amongst most everyone that’s tried it.  It wound up being slightly astringent and dry in the end, which I’m not sure the cause of.  Could have been from mashing lots of specialty malts for the entire 60 minutes, or maybe from adding the roasted extract too early in the boil. I’ll likely switch up the yeast next time. This yeast was very easter-y and, though it works, I’ll probably switch to something cleaner.  I think I’ll add a tiny bit of melanoidin for some body, maybe even some flaked oats. I think vanilla flavor would sit really well with this beer – so maybe a half bean in the secondary.

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