Friday, February 25, 2011

Knock 'Em Down Brown Ale

I've concocted a new beer, but before I write about it, I'd like to add this little addendum to the last time I wrote about a custom homebrew. See, the thing is with homebrew is that when you let it sit for a while, it can taste a bit different. I had mentioned that while I could definitely taste the coriander in my ginger-coriander Saison, I could barely taste the ginger, and I suggested that next time I should add some more. Funny thing is that now I can taste the ginger just fine, and I think that adding some more would ruin it.

Anyway, my latest brew came as a result of trying Wilco Tango Foxtrot from the Lagunitas Brewery. It's been some time, but I remember it as a nice, strong, hoppy brown ale. Unfortunately, it was a limited edition, so I was unable to get my hands on any more. Still, as a homebrewer, I figured I could make something similar.

I also had this idea of putting maple syrup in my beer. I didn't want to put so much in that the beer actually tasted like maple; I just wanted to see if some syrup would compliment the flavors of beer, and I figured that a brown ale would be a good place to start. I also realized that by adding syrup, you're basically adding to the alcohol content, as it would provide more sugars for the yeast to eat and convert to alcohol.

So, I took my idea of making a strong brown ale and my idea of using maple syrup and put them together. I started with MoreFlavor's American Brown Ale kit and made some adjustments. The first thing I did was add another two pounds of malt extract to the recipe, making for nine total. Here's the thing though, if you add more malt/sweetness, you want to add some more hops to balance the flavor. I didn't want something super-hoppy, so I figured another two ounces of Cascade Hops would do it, bringing the total to six ounces. (I should note that all this is for a five gallon batch.)

I added the extra two ounces of hops at the last twenty minutes of the boil. Basically, the longer you have it in there, the less pronounced the flavor will be. I figured that was enough time to mellow it just a bit while still significantly adding to the hop flavor of the beer. I had the same thought with the maple syrup. I put it in at the same time, figuring that would be enough for it to convert to a fermentable sugar and not have too much of a maple taste.

There's something that took me a while to learn when it comes to high-alcohol beers. With those, you need a lot of yeast or the fermentation will die off before it completes, which leaves you with an overly-sweet beer. To solve this, I first made a standard American Brown Ale, and then after I bottled that, I poured the unfermented strong brown ale on top of the huge yeast cake that was created by making the first beer. I suppose that one could also make a yeast starter, but that can be a pain in the butt.

The result? Fantastic. As of now, I don't really notice the maple, but it seems to have given it a nice, dry finish. The hops are definitely pronounced. It's not like an IPA, but it's definitely hoppier than your average pale ale. I broke my hydrometer some time ago, so I don't know the alcohol content, but I'd guess that it's at least 6.8% or higher. I'll need to make sure that I don't have to drive anywhere when I decide to crack open one of my 22 oz. bottles.

My brewing instincts seem to be pretty good. What's next, I wonder?

Here's the complete recipe for any homebrewers out there:

Steeping Grain:

8 oz. Crystal 60L
8 oz. Honey malt
4 oz. Chocolate malt (This is not literally chocolate, mind you. It's just malt that has a chocolate aroma)


9 lbs. light malt extract
16 oz. Grade B Maple Syrup - added at the last 20 minutes of the boil

1 oz. Northern Brewer - boiled for 60 minutes
2 oz. Cascade - added at the last 20 minutes
2 oz. Cascade - added at the last 10 minutes
1 oz. Cascade - added at the last 1 minute

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