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Brown Ale Brew

October 3, 2010

A few things conspired to me brewing a brown ale this weekend.  First, I picked up a sampler from New Glarus that contained Fat Squirrel.  I was never too excited to try a brown ale, but I thought this one was pretty good.  That lead me to picking up Ale Asylum’s Mad Town Nut Brown Ale later, which I think is even better.  Second, I wanted to try a few methods for improving my efficiency.  Finally, I had a fermentor open after bottling my Test Porter.

Pre-Brew

My poor efficiency since coming to Madison led me to the internet again for possible reasons and fixes.  I’m still inclined to believe it’s the crush at the brew shop, but I’ll go ahead and try other methods to improve it until I get some inspiration for how to get around that problem.

A couple of the suggestions I found were a longer mash and more sparging.  From these, I decided to incorporate a 75 minute mash and 2 gallons of sparging.

I also briefly entertained the idea of messing with water chemistry, but it seemed that the amount of roasted grains I had in my recipe should counteract the somewhat high pH that the mash would start at based on Madison’s water.  Now that I think about it more, maybe I should make sure that my assumptions are valid given my small batch size.  I would expect that the percentage of dark grains is all that really matters and the ratio with the amount of sparge water, but I should probably revisit Designing Great Beers and How to Brew.

Recipe

BeerSmith Recipe

Brew Day (10/3/2010)

  • Slow cooker mash tun
  • 3rd repitch of London Ale ESB yeast (because of a chart that says that WLP002 is most closely replicated by the ESB yeast version from Wyeast))
  • Efficiency

Fermentation

It’s now been 24 hours since pitching and I’m not sure if I can say that it’s fermenting or not.  Something appears to be, but I’m not positive that it’s yeast.  The airlock is very slowly bubbling and some slimy, almost cerebral-looking conglomeration is floating on the top.  It’s an image that tickles at a memory, but I’m not sure if I’ve seen it on one of my brews before or online.  And if online, whether it was a good thing or bad.  I guess time will tell.  Many will say to sit back and relax and see what happens (RDWHAHB), so that’s what I’ll do.  Maybe the yeast are performing differently now that it’s the third pitch.

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Bottling (10/16/2010)

I was afraid I’d open the fermentor up and be blasted back by some foul stench.  Instead it smelled OK.  There was still a pretty good head of brain matter and the bottom layer seemed interspersed with black.  I went ahead and bottled, noticing a good bit of carbonation.  I decided to put the bottles in my bottling bucket, covered and put them in the closet in case of any explosions.  I tasted what was left over and it actually tasted fairly good.  Decent aroma and some fairly good maltiness seem to be present.  It will be interesting to see how this turns out.

Badger Brew-Off Results

Scoresheets

I decided to enter this because it has such an awesome aroma (perfect for a brown ale in my opinion) and I thought it’s main failing was the same as my other beers in that it was just too bland.  It turns out that the judges pretty forcefully noticed a vegetal flavor.  My first inclination is to blame the brain matter in the fermentor (or at least blame what caused it), but I’m not really sure.  There is a possibility that vegetal flavors are just something my beers tend to have and I’m not noticing it.  Generally when that flavor description is used, it indicates DMS.  I’m not sure how that would be a problem with me.  I boil uncovered for 60+ minutes and make sure I have good turnover on the surface of the wort.  With this just being a 1-gallon batch, I can’t imagine I was too slow to get it cooled down.  I would imagine even just letting it sit wouldn’t result in too much DMS with only 1 gallon.

I didn’t notice the vegetal flavors when I first tasted it and I’m down to just one bottle, so I haven’t had a chance to taste it again myself to look for the vegetal flavors.  I’m hoping to taste it once I get a good brown ale so I can compare.

Final Tasting

Since I broke into the final bottle of the re-brew for this, I figured I’d break into the final bottle of the first brew.  Again, I’m struck at how nice it smells.  It’s really caramelly and promises such a pleasant experience.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t deliver one…

Aroma:  Very caramel.  Almost candy-like in its power.  It’s very appealing, making the flavor even more disappointing.

Appearance:  Beautiful.  Dark (maybe too dark) brown.  Very clear.  Head is nice, though maybe not quite up to snuff, though it lasts pretty well.

Flavor:  Now that I’m looking for it, I taste some vegetal flavors, otherwise really lacking in flavor.  Second impressions reveal some fig/plum flavors.

Mouthfeel:  A little on the thin side.  Not necessarily out-of-style, but a little less than I’d like.

Overall:  I won’t miss this beer.  It has such an awesome aroma, that I want it to be so good, but the flavor just isn’t there.  It’s really more disappointing probably than a Leinie’s Fireside Nutbrown and very similar (more carbonation flavor than anything), though it is nice to pick up the fig/plum flavors hiding inside.

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