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:
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