The Next Generation of Brews (Brown Ale)

In my previous post, I talked about some of the improvements I was making to my brewing process in order to yield better beer. The first brew with which I implemented these changes was my brown ale. In the rundown, I’ll indicate which steps were different from what I usually did in the past.

Left Nut Brown Ale (brewed on 11/4/16)
5 gallons (anticipated efficiency 70%)

Fermentables:
Maris Otter 78.1%
Victory 7.6%
Crystal 120 5.7%
Special Roast 5.7%
Chocolate Malt 2.9%
(Target SRM: 22.44)

Water Profile: Ca 50ppm, Mg 10ppm, Na 22ppm, Sulfate 71ppm, Cl 68ppm, Bicarbonate 58ppm
(Water chemistry was new here. Instead of using unadjusted bottled spring water, I used distilled bottled water and added my additions as noted below).

scale

Strike Water: 5 gallons distilled bottled water. Added 1g gypsum, 2g calcium chloride, 2g epsom salt, and 1.5g baking soda. Dissolved additions and heated to 161F and mashed in.

Mash: Water to grist ratio 1.9. Target temp: 153F, Actual Temp: 152F
Mash Time: 60 minutes, measured pH: 5.5

ph

Sparge: 2.1 gallons distilled bottled water. Added 0.1mL phosphoric acid 10%, 0.4g gypsum, 0.8g calcium chloride, and 0.8g epsom salt. Dissolved additions and heated to 170F before executing sparge.

Boil: 60 minutes

wort

Hops: 1oz Northern Brewer AA 4.9% @ 60 min
1oz East Kent Goldings AA 5.1% @ 15 min
(Target IBUs: 29.5)

hops

I chilled the wort after boil using my copper immersion chiller. I stirred constantly during the cool down where previously I would only stir periodically. I was able to cool it down to 90F in about twenty minutes.

Hydrometer reading (adjusted for temperature): 1.052 (target 1.054)

og

I then transferred the wort to the fermentor bucket, sealed it and placed it in my chest freezer set at 67F to cool down further. When the wort was down to 67 (5-6 hours later), I pitched 2 packets of Fermentis US-05 dry yeast (previously I would have only pitched one packet and when the wort was 90F or high 80s before putting in the freezer). I let the yeast sit for 30 minutes before vigorously stirring the wort with a sanitized spoon.

After one week, I removed the fermentor from the freezer and placed it inside the house where it is normally 75F and let it sit for an additional week.

After a total of 2 weeks in primary, I took a hydrometer reading (1.010) and then bottled as I normally would, batch priming with cane sugar. The bottles sat at ambient house temperature for two weeks before refrigerating and drinking the first pour.

Below is a summary of my changes:

Water
Before: Used unaltered bottled spring water.
Now: Added minerals/salts to bottled distilled water to achieve a specific water profile. In this case, it was the Brown Balanced profile from the Bru’n Water spreadsheet.

Mash pH
Before: Didn’t pay it any mind. Didn’t measure, didn’t adjust.
Now: Used the Bru’n water spreadsheet to dial in my desired mash pH through the use of minerals, salts and acids. Measured the pH at about 15 minutes into the mash using an inexpensive pH meter to confirm.

Pitching Temperature
Before: Pitched yeast when wort was still in the 80s or 90s (right after finishing the chilling step with the immersion chiller), then placed the fermentor in the chest freezer.
Now: Put the fermentor in the chest freezer first until the wort was at the desired fermentation temperature before pitching yeast.

Yeast amount
Before: 1 packet of yeast
Now: 2 packets of yeast

brown

The final product:
The color is a deep dark brown with an off white head. The carbonation is full and the head is lasting. Aroma is roasty, toasty and clean. The taste is clean, crisp, a little on the dry side but has a nice full roasty flavor. Mouthfeel is a nice medium. Reminds me of why I love browns. It has the crispness and easy drinkability of a lighter beer but contains the darker roasty notes in the realm of a stout. My past attempts at this recipe had left me unsatisfied. There was this unquantifiable offness to it that I couldn’t describe. But this version hits the mark. I must say that whatever I did differently did improve this beer and I’m sold. So I will continue to incorporate these “better brewing practices” moving forward. I have a tripel that’s just about done and I’m about to bottle a milk stout. We’ll see if these beers are also as solid as this brown.

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