Thursday, November 15, 2012

Revisiting Your First Homebrew

My very first homebrewed beer was back in the the fall of 2006. My brew-buddy (who long ago gave up the hobby) bought a nut brown ale extract ingredient kit from Oak Barrel Winecraft in Berkeley, CA (I had purchased the brewing equipment for him as a birthday present), and we got to brewing. After 2 weeks in the bucket fermenter and another 2 weeks in the bottle, we had 50 bottles of cloudy, sweet dark brown beer with about a half inch of sediment on the bottom of every bottle. But it tasted all right - more than all right - I was hooked.

Flash forward to the fall of 2012. I have now been brewing for 6 years and I am a pretty advanced-level all-grain brewer who has presented on brewing techniques and beer styles, and who is an active member of 2 different AHA- sanctioned homebrew clubs. I have brewed so many styles several times, and so many recipes have been honed and improved upon over the years. But I never went back and brewed another Nut Brown Ale.

Well, after a few different American-style brown ales came out pretty tasty - and after the malty, English-style brown ales seemingly faded from existence on the shelves of my local beer shops - I decided to brew up another batch of Nut Brown Ale inspired by my first homebrew.

Now that first homebrew was an extract beer, it was very dark brown (chestnut-colored), and it was balanced in favor of the malt. It also had an OG of 1.060 (we followed the advice of the guy working the counter of the LHBS and added a half cup of brown sugar to the boil). I was pretty sure some of the extract was "amber" and I remembered it had chocolate malt and crystal malt, but I wondered whether any other "steeping grains" were included - and what kind of extract did we use? Thankfully, someone on Hopville posted the recipe, although I am nearly certain that when I brewed it, the late hops were East Kent Goldings and were dropped in with 15 minutes left in the boil (not a flameout addition as indicated on the posted recipe). Nonetheless, I think I figured out how to brew this thing right - a lot of crystal malt, some chocolate malt, and some out-of-style "homebrew" flourishes.

I settled on using my ample inventory of Canadian Vienna Malt as the base of this recipe (not too far off from the Munich Malt base of the posted recipe). And on utilizing my beloved British Extra Dark Crystal Malt (120L from Crisp, though I usually use a darker one from Fawcett or Simpson's). And in keeping with the "homebrew flourish" concept, I added a bit of Golden Naked Oats. In lieu of standard chocolate malt, I went with some Crisp Pale Chocolate Malt (which, at 400L is actually darker than standard 350L American chocolate malt from Briess).

For the hop rate, I wanted to avoid anything citrusy or fruity and keep it similar to the 60 min Northern Brewer, 15 min East Kent Goldings recipe I remembered from my original brew. So I decided to use Nugget for bittering (a 60 min addition) and FWH with Glacier. I did add double the Glacier compared with the EKG/Willamette of the original recipe, but there is no way this beer will turn out to be a "hop bomb" by any means, with less than 2 oz of hops in it for a whopping 32 IBU at 1.060.

I mashed at 152 and used Nottingham (the yeast that came with my original kit, though we opted for a single vial of WLP002 with no starter because that was recommended to us by the LHBS. Everything in the brewday went pretty smoothly, aside from running out of propane while I was heating up my mash water (no harm done). I was shooting for 1.055-1.057, but a bump in extract efficiency (I think that Canadian Vienna Malt has a higher extract potential than the US Vienna Malt I used for my calculations), as well as a bit too much evaporation has led me to a situation where my beer will be just a bit bigger than planned (but even closer to my first batch), as I hit 1.060.

I followed the instructions on the yeast packet to rehydrate the yeast properly, then I added it to the fermenter with the wort temperature at 60F. I am shooting for a clean 62F fermentation, and planning on giving this beer 9 days at 62F followed by a few days (maybe a week) at ambient temp, and then a cold crash before I keg it.

Here is a simple un-scientific version of the recipe:

11 lbs Gambrinus Vienna Malt
1 lb Crisp Extra Dark Crystal Malt (120L)
8 oz Simpson's Golden Naked Oats
8 oz Crisp Pale Chocolate Malt (400L)

30g Glacier (5% AA) FWH
20g Nugget (10.9% AA) 60 min

Nottingham Dry Yeast (1 packet)

Mash at 152 for 60 min, no mashout
90 min boil
Ferment ~62F

SRM 26 (Somewhere between a Northern English Brown Ale and a Brown Porter, if you ask me)
IBU 32 (pretty tame for 1.060, but Nugget is a bold bittering hop, so I think it will come across fairly balanced)