Last year I brewed a beer originally called Bill’s Brown Ale. The idea was to brew a brown ale inspired by the first beer I ever brewed. The finished beer ended up tasting more like a brown porter than an American brown ale. I even renamed the beer.
In the interim I judged the English Brown Ale category at the Boston Homebrew Competition. As defined by the 2008 Beer Judge Certification Guidelines, mild (like my Midland’s Mild) and Southern English brown ale are practically extinct commercially. At the competition the judging flight consisted of one mild, followed by seven consecutive Northern English Brown ales. It is higher in alcohol and drier than Mild or Southern English Brown Ale. Newcastle Brown Ale is the best-known commercial example of the style and a personal favorite of mine.
None of the beers I judged were terrible, but most of them were very similar. Thick, caramel sweetness from the use of English crystal malts, varying degrees of nuttiness characteristic of British barley, and a dry finish provided by chocolate and/or roasted malts, which also provide the brown color. There were two beers that stood out. One beer had a hint of diacetyl which is not entirely out of place in the style. Diacetyl is a byproduct of fermentation that is especially common in English beers, that has a butter, toffee, or butterscotch flavor. The light butterscotch in that beer from the diacetyl added some complexity. The clear winner of the flight was the only beer to have a noticeable hop flavor and aroma. My eyes probably lit up when I had a whiff of earthy, English or English-derived hops.
After having so many of the same style of beer consecutively I really have a firm grasp on the style and thought about the kind of English Brown Ale I want to make. I want the beer to have a crisp finish without being too roasty. I don’t want the beer to be overly sweet or malty. To accomplish that I decided to use White Labs WLP007 Dry English Ale yeast. It attenuates more than WLP023 Burton Ale which has been my English yeast of choice in recent batches, and should lead to a drier beer. I can compare this beer to Midlands Mild as a way to compare the two yeasts in two similar beers. Another recipe I plan to brew soon also calls for Dry English Ale.
I wanted some identifiable hop flavor and aroma. I took stock of the hops I had and tailored the hop amounts and schedule accordingly. A small addition at 10 minutes, and an even smaller addition at flameout should provide the hop character I am going for while still fitting into the style parameters.
I originally designed a BIAB partial-mash recipe. While working on the recipe I realized how easily I could brew the exact beer I wanted using all extract with some steeped specialty grains. English-made Munton’s Amber liquid and dry malt extract will have the exact base and crystal malt character the beer needs.
I toasted some English bast malt in my toaster oven to provide a biscuit flavor. Toasting malt at home provides a similar contribution as a malt like Victory Malt. When brewing on a small scale at home it is easy just to toast some base malt at home. The aroma from the freshly toasted malt will fill your brewhouse and is intoxicating.
I steeped the Toasted Malt with a very small amount of Chocolate Malt. Just enough that when added to amber-colored extract to give the beer it’s brown color and to dry out the finish.
It has been over a month since I have brewed anything. This summer has been very busy making a quick extract batch ideal. The day I brewed this beer was the first free weekend day I have had in weeks. As it was I had to do laundry during the day and brew at night. The things I do to give you the readers fresh content!
I heard John Travolta say in an interview that an actor should ideally have one film in theaters, one “in the can”, and be filming another one to ensure you always have work and as a hedge against one of the films tanking. A homebrewer should have at least one drinkable batch in bottles or kegs, another batch fermenting, and be planning the next batch to ensure you always have homebrew to drink. If you have to dump a batch, more beer will be on the way! Even for an experienced brewer, an extract brew day is a great way to get back on the horse and jump-start the beer pipeline again.
As you can see my color was on point. I chilled my water I added to my concentrated wort to bring the temperature down. This enabled me to pitch my yeast at 68F.
I carefully designed this recipe to be middle-of-the road in terms of color and malt flavor. With how simple this was to brew, less should be more. This shouldn’t be a beer I have to rename.
See the full recipe