Homebrewing: The Curse of Brown Ale

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The culprit

Split batch: Ol' Dillydally English-style Brown Ale & Parchcrusher Nut Brown Ale

Ever since I began homebrewing in 2007, I've felt a wee bit cursed when it comes to making brown ales. The cursed feeling began, as these things often do, with a sub-par batch (admittedly, our second brew ever). The feeling has lingered all these years, but now it seems our new batch of brown ale has removed that feeling. Mostly.

The flaw in the plan

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Fine so far

The error in the first batch was simple: temperature. Our house was chillier then, especially in the area of the kitchen where we store bottled beer developing its carbonation. That first batch hardly fizzed, and while drinkable, it was just barely so.

The flaw in this most recent batch was also simple: too much damn hazelnut extract.

The plan itself was decent: Brew a 5-gallon batch of English-style brown ale, somewhere in between an American-style brown (for hoppiness) and, say, a Newcastle Brown Ale (for smooth maltiness). At bottling, bottle half the batch as-is, but before bottling the second half of the batch, add 1 oz. of hazelnut extract.

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Things are about to go awry

The logic was common sense. The bottle said to add the full 2 oz. of hazelnut extract to a 5-gallon batch of beer. Naturally, obviously, of-course-ed-ly then, for 2.5 gallons of beer, add one ounce.

While common, common sense is rarely sense. The bottle should read: "For a beer-colored liquid that just happens to taste completely like nuts, add 2 oz. For a beer-colored liquid that tastes almost completely like nuts and somewhat like beer, add 1 oz."

The error was clear: I should've added, say, 1/2 oz. At the most.

Salvaged

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The remedy

While drinkable, the resulting nut brown ale has been very, very nutty in flavor and aroma. Too much so, but not so much that we can only bung the batch on the compost heap. The batch is salvageable. And the joy of a salvageable batch of beer? It can be mixed.

Results thus far are pleasing: 1/4-1/3 part nut brown ale mixed with 3/4-2/3 part brown ale results in a nicely nuttied brew, with good hop and malt coming through.

Next test? Mixing the nut brown ale with some of our Jubilation Chocolate Porter. After all, what better than hazelnuts and chocolate?

The curse

I now consider my brown ale curse half-removed. While the second half of the batch, which on a wild hair I named "Parchcrusher" is so-so, the first half of the batch more than makes up for it. "Ol' Dillydally" chases away curses, woe, frustration and any daft sense of need-to-hurry.* It is a fine summer beer.

Who knows? Perhaps next year I'll be able to brew away the rest of my brown ale curse.

* These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, CDC, AMA, AA, AHA, Skull & Bones, Bull & Scones, the Illuminati, or the Order of the Phoenix.

Brown Ale (split batch)

Ol’ Dillydally English-style Brown Ale & Parchcrusher Nut Brown Ale

Source/Based off Brown Ale Recipe #4. Home Fermenter Center.

  • Brew Date: May 23, 2010
  • Initial Gravity Reading (O.G.): Forgot
  • Bottling Date: June 19, 2010
  • Split Batch
    • Black Cap Plain: Ol’ Dillydally English-style Brown Ale
    • Red Cap Nut: Parchcrusher Nut Brown Ale
  • Bottling Counts, Black Cap Plain Brown
    • 22 oz.: 5
    • Flip-top: 1
    • 12 oz.: 12
  • Bottling Counts, Rep Cap Nut Brown
    • 22 oz.: 6
    • 12 oz.: 15
  • Final Gravity Reading (F.G.): 1.018
  • Alcohol: probably ~5%
  • Open Date: July 9, 2010

Ingredients

  • 6 lb. Dark malt extract
  • 1/2 lb. Crystal malt, amber

  • 1/4 lb. Chocolate malt
  • 2 oz. Willamette hops, boiling
  • 1/2 oz. Cascade hops, finishing
  • 1 packet Safale S-04 dry ale yeast
  • @15 minute 1/2 tsp. Irish moss
  • @ bottling: 1-1/4c. dried malt extract
  • @ bottling: 1 oz. 1/4-1/2 oz. hazelnut extract (for adding to half of batch)

Brewing & Fermentation

Place crushed grains in 2 gallons of 150-160ºF water and let steep for 30 minutes. Strain out and sparge with ~2 quarts hot water. Bring to a boil, while adding malt extract. After 30 minutes, add Willamette hops.

Clean/sanitize carboy and other equipment during this time. Add 1 gallon cold water to sanitized carboy. At 45 minute mark, add Irish moss. At 2 minute mark, add aroma hops.

Remove from heat and cool wort to 90-100ºF.

Strain wort into carboy, sparging through hops. Add cold water until total amount of liquid in carboy is 5 gallons. Shake to aerate. Take a sample for initial gravity reading.

When wort temperature is between 68-76ºF, pitch yeast. Cap carboy and set in a warm, quiet place.

Ferment at approx. 72 degrees F for 3-30 days. Bottle with DME solution. Bottle first half of batch as-is. For second half of batch, add 1 oz. 1/4-1/2 oz. hazelnut extract and bottle. Age one month.

Notes

5/23/10 — Brew went well. Thermometer fell into wort during cool-off, but I vodka-sanitized some tongs and got it out. Hopefully no harm done. Name — Neukie Nut Brown Ale?

5/28/10 — Ferm almost done. Krausen cleared, some bubbling remains. May bottle next weekend?

6/19/10 — Bottle day! Going to bottle 1/2 batch as-is, and half w/ 1 oz. hazelnut extract. Black Cap: plain brown (1st bottle, flip-top, with gold star on cap) Red Cap: hazelnut brown Bottle prep: 42 12-oz., 12 22-oz. (inc. 1 flip-top). Beautiful medium brown, caramel color. Hints of red and copper. Mild flavor, good sweetness. A good, refreshing warm-weather session beer.

7/13/10 – More nut flavor in the Parchcrusher than intended. Will mix it with other beers at serving. For future brews using these types of fruit, nut, etc. extracts, always remember to use far, far less than what label recommends.

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