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Batch 36 : Nut Brown Ale

My favorite brewing book, Radical Brewing, has a recipe for a Nut Brown Ale, using actual nuts.  This sounded like a damn cool concept for my 2011 Winter Ale, so I decided to try it out.

The recipe given in the book I used was pretty vague, with items like “Mild Ale Malt, Biscuit/Amber Malt, & Brown Ale Malt” that are open to some interpretation.  I’m not in the business of interpreting, but I let the guy at my LHBS pick my malts for me based on this.  I had some Walnuts in the cupboard, so I roasted Pecans and Walnuts.  I just used some leftover hops, as they’re not a major factor in a Brown Ale.

Ingredients:  Nut Brown Ale

All-Grain Recipe

  • 8.5 lb – Maris Otter Malt
  • 4lb – Biscuit Malt
  • .5lb – Brown Malt
  • 1 tsp. – 5.2 pH Stabilizer
  • 1 Tablet – Whirfloc – added to during boil, boiled 10 min

Hop Additions

  • .7 0z – East Kent Goldings (6.7%) – added during boil, boiled 90 min
  • .4 oz – Willamette (4.7%) – added during boil, boiled 60 min
  • .5 oz – Willamette (4.7%) – added during boil, boiled 20 min

Yeast

  • Cold Break

    WYeast 1056 American Ale – Reused from IPA

Additional Details / Notes

  • SG 1.063 / FG 1.012
  • 6.72% ABV | Color: 17.14 °SRM | 29.5 IBU’s
  • Brewed 11/05/11, Secondary 11/20/2011, Bottled 12/11/2011
  • Temps: ~154° Mash, ~63° in Primary, ~70° Secondary

Brewing the Nut Brown Ale

I started my brew day by crushing and roasting some nuts.  This took longer than I wanted it to, and I probably rushed it.  I turned the oven on as low as it’d go, and let the crushed nuts roast a bit.  I alternated removing pans of nuts and crushing them with paper towels to soak up the oils.  I’d read a few places where the nut oils can destroy the final beer – at least the head retention, so I did the best I could to soak off oils.

I had water heating while roasting the nuts so that I could pour my strike water as soon as I was happy with the nuts.  The nuts went right in to the mash with the grains.  I used 170° strike water, and settled in about 153-5°.  5.2 pH Stabilizer was added to the mash water, as I like to try to keep the pH in check.

After an hour, I recirculated 2 gallons of the wort (vorlauf).  I’d originally done about 1 gallon, but decided to move to two around the brewing time of this Brown.  At the time of writing for this post, I’m currently doing 3 or 4 – circulating until the wort changes colors and visibly clears up.  I heated my sparge water to 165° and let that go for about an hour.

This part is exciting.  I got a new boil pot and burner!  Both were ordered from Amazon for a great price and are in the sidebar on the right side of this page if you want to check them out.  The stainless steel pot is great, and the burner is a bad ass, gets the water to a rolling boil so fast I have to make sure it’s not turned up too high.  I’ve had more than one pot boil over.  I loved my old turkey fryer setup, but this was a massive step up, for a decent price.

Boil went fine.  I made the mistake of not measuring gallon lines on my new pot, so I had NO idea how much wort I collected to boil.  I ended up grabbing what I thought was a bit extra, then boiling longer to get thicker malt.  Added Whirlfloc and the Wort Chiller with 10 minutes left in the boil.

Cooling in the middle of the Winter goes pretty quick.  I was able to run hose water AND keep the boil pot in a snow pile. After cooling, I added about 40 seconds of oxygen and poured the wort in to the same bucket I had just racked my previous IPA out of.  This would be the second of 4 batches on this yeast.  I popped the bucket in the ferm fridge to ferment at about 63°.

Drinking the Nut Brown Ale

This beer was technically okay, but it’s by far the most boring beer I’ve ever made.  I’m assuming the grain bill needed to be spiced up a bit.  I also think that the flavor from the nuts conflicted with the malts.  The nuts weren’t exactly apparent, but I’m sure the Walnuts were a bad choice – they’re not exactly a nut you would normally be excited about for flavor.  The malts were also probably too boring for a brown.  Overall, not a beer you won’t drink, but not one you’re excited to have again.

One nice thing about this beer is that it mixed really well with other beers, especially an upcoming Chocolate Milk Stout.  The decently high alcohol content also helped.  After a couple, it doesn’t matter how it tastes!

Washing Yeast

I wasn’t ready to brew on the day I racked the Brown Ale to the secondary, so I saved the yeast in a couple of boiled jars.  I just scooped it from the bottom of the bucket and put it in to a pair of jars that had been boiled and cooled.  I then added boiled and cooled water to fill the jars.

After a good mix, I left them in my beer fridge to use for the next batch, which is a Red Ale.  This went ‘okay’, but I think poor yeast health had adverse effects on the Red.  More to come on that…

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Looking up and down the long aisle of beer kits at my local homebrew shop, I weighed the pros and cons of each type of beer.  My first batch of beer needed to be something I would enjoy, but it also needed to be something I could share with other people.  I like darker beers, but other people like their lighter beers.  I settled on a Brown Ale as a middle range compromise.

Most of my brewing supplies come from a one batch run about 8 years ago.  I was in college, brewed a single batch, then lost interested (short attention span).  I saved all of the buckets, hoses, etc., so I wanted to reuse as much of it as possible.  My buckets were still in good shape, but some of the hoses were suspect.  I decided to give them a try anyway.

brown-ale01

Boiling, Cooling, & Fermenting

This first batch of beer is something I’ll remember for a long time.  If there was a mistake to be made, I made it… really.  I didn’t have a large brew pot, but I did have 2 smaller soup pots.  I ended up trying to split the recipe between two pots on the stove – so I was managing 2, 2 gallon pots of boiling wort.  4 boilovers later, I made the decision to purchase a bigger pot for my next batch.   I was brewing the English Brown during the winter, so I decided to cool my wort in the snow.   Decent idea, but it was snowing and I didn’t have lids (2 pots remember).  Aside from the snow falling into the liquid, I also ended up with a ton of snow stuck to the pot.  I had a heck of a time getting it knocked back off to take the pot back inside – then I’m sure I was dripping snow water into my bucket when I added the wort to the clean water in my fermenting bucket. I eventually got both pots of cooled wort into my fermenter, which I then capped.  It was at this point that I realized I hadn’t added the yeast yet.  Kind of an issue.  I cracked open one side of the bucket and poured the yeast in, then recapped the bucket.  I swirled around the liquid a bit to try to get the yeast mixed in.  So not only did I not activate the yeast before it was added, I also didn’t stir it.  Amateur hour… My kit instructions suggested waiting a week in the fermenting bucket.

Bottling the Beer

I waited the week, cracked it open, and started the bottling process.  I didn’t think ahead on how to get the siphon hose started, so I just immersed the entire sanitized hose into my fermented beer, then I put my thumb on the end of the hose and tossed it into my bottling bucket.  Again, very sanitary…   I mentioned earlier I was reusing old buckets and hoses.  This is where it bit me.  The old hoses had been stored with bends in them – unbending them meant making tiny cracks.  I couldn’t keep the siphon going to save my life.  I’m immersing the hose, sucking on the end to get it started.  You name it, I was trying it.  The crack was small enough that I could keep it rolling just enough to get through the process – slowly but surely.  Again, very sanitary to put your mouth on the siphoning hose. I got through the actual bottling pretty smoothly.  I used a mixture of regular 12oz bottles, grolsch style bottles, and even one growler as an experiment.

brown-ale02

My kit suggested giving the beer a week to carbonate, then it would be okay to drink.  Again, my first batch, that sounded fine to me!  I cracked one open after a week, afraid that all of my hard work would be in vain after all of my sloppy procedure.  The moment of truth…  popped the top, poured the beer in to a glass… BUBBLES!  I’d at least carbonated it right!  Now the real moment of truth… I tasted the beer.. and it was pretty damn good.  It had only been aged one long week, but it wasn’t half bad.  Not the best beer ever, a little bit sweet, but tasty at least.

Final Results & Thoughts

With each passing week, the beer aged and came to taste better and better.  Not only had I not failed, I’d actually pulled off a decent beer. Not all was well, though. The first batch turned out great! Longer aging resulted in better flavor, but ready to drink after 1 week in the bottle.

Overall: Great flavor.  Possibly a little bit sweet.  Also, alcohol content seemed low.

Next Batch:  Weizenbeer – Wheat Beer

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