Oak’d Brown Ale (all-grain)

I wanted this beer to be all about rich, bread-crust-y, savory malts, and a spicy earthiness from the hops. I had a Flying Fish Farmhouse that had an awesome earthiness from Styrian Goldings hops, which I think could go really well in a brown ale. (The “oak’d” in the title came as an afterthought – but it was delicious in the end!). Anticipated 5.5 gal OG 1.052, 23 IBU, 23L for around 70% eff.

  • 4 lb Marris Otter
  • 4 lb Munich malt
  • 0.75 lb instant oats
  • 1.5 lb Biscuit
  • 0.75 lb Crystal 80
  • 0.5 oz Carafa Special III
  • 1 oz Styrian goldings 20 and 10 (3.2% aa)
  • 0.5 oz UK Target hops (7.5% aa) 60
  • WLP001 California Ale yeast

// Mash in with everything except Carafa at 146-148 at 1.75 qt/lb for 10 minutes. Raise to 156-158 for 50 minutes. Raise to 168, add Carafa, hold for 10 minutes. Sparge to collect 6.5 gal 1.042 wort. Boil 90 minutes. Chill to 78, pitch a 2qt starter. OG 1.050. Brewed 8/4/2013 //

I was hoping to get much more dark color out of the carafa. My recipe calculator said this should be around 23L, which is borderline black/very dark brown. I’d say this medium brown, if that.. more of a dark copper. I’ve had a similar experience with carafa before, where it doesn’t seem to yield as much color as black malt or chocolate malt. Hmpf. Maybe I’m just not handling it properly. The runnings tasted pretty good though. I did a side-by-side comparison of before and after the Carafa, and it did add just a hint of roasty flavors, which balanced out the sweetness fairly well. I was hoping for a sort of graham cracker / pie crust type of effect from the biscuit malt and crystal 80, but it really just tastes more nutty and caramel. The guy at my LHBS suggested a seasonal malt by Briess called Carabrown, which is supposed to achieve that sort of effect. Maybe I’ll try that next time.

UPDATE (8/7): Yeast started to drop out, moved carboy to fridge at ~40F.  Aroma is interesting, sort of a mild spicy hop sensation with some bready and nutty malts. Taste is OK – mostly bread flavors with a hint of roasted-ness. Not a ton of flavor.. fairly mild tasting but with a good amount of body. Malts up front with some crisp hop flavors towards the end.  Color is a weird dark brown that sort of wants to be darker but isn’t. I’m not super impressed with it thus far – it’s decent – but it feels like more the basis for a beer. There’s a fairly complex malt taste, but it still feels like there’s something major missing. I went a little crazy and added 1/2 vanilla bean and about 1 oz of oak chips soaked in about 1/2 cup bourbon. I’ll let this sit for at least a week in the fridge. FG 1.012

THE VERDICT

Well, oddly enough, this beer came out awesome despite the late alterations. The oak contributed a really nice rustic flavor that pairs with the toasty, toffee-like English style malts really well. Many people complimented it on how well it suits the colder weather; one person, after tasting, said “Let’s go chop some wood!”… I think they liked the oak a little too much! The vanilla was subtle but just enough to be pleasant in the finished beer. In the end I just deemed this an “oaked brown ale”, and I think the name suited it perfectly. I would definitely make this beer again, but probably with some slight alterations.

This is a guess, but I think the initial lack of flavor (prior to adding oak/vanilla) can be attributed to the large amount of Munich malt in this recipe. Last time I was at my LHBS, I munched on a bunch of base malts. Compared to others, Munich didn’t really have as much sweetness; Maris Otter, 2-row, and other pale malts were much sweeter and rich flavored. Also, thinking back to the Bock I did last year, which used all Munich as the base, this was also was fairly light flavored. I enjoy using Munich; it definitely provides character, but I’m not sure I’ll ramp up to 4 lbs (or half the base malt) anytime soon again. The hops were nice, but honestly not very noticeable in the final beer after the oak and vanilla. It would probably survive fine without it.

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Filed under All-grain, Brown

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