Texas Brown Ale

This will be my brew for the upcoming Northern Craft Brewers event in April 2014.  Alongside the bottle competition, there will be a full bar of homebrewed beer to explore, this being one them.  I’ve brewed an American Brown Ale before, but this time I’m taking inspiration from one of the craft brewing pioneers – Pete Slosberg and his Wicked Ale (circa. 1986).  Sadly this beer was discontinued in 2011*.  More recently a Bear Republic / Fat Head’s and Stone Brewing Co. collaboration paid tribute to Pete’s Wicked Ale, when they brewed TBA, a 7.1% / 80 IBU “extra hoppy brown ale“.  Sounds good to me!, however, as this will be on a packed bar, with fairly limited drinking time, and dispensed from cask, I have toned it down, and in doing so hopefully making it more akin to Pete’s beer.  I can always brew it again at full volume, for bottle consumption.

Original Gravity (OG): 1.051
Final Gravity (FG): 1.011
Alcohol (ABV): 5.3%
Colour (EBC): 50
Bitterness (IBU): 45 (Average)

The Stone collab recipe calls for; Victory malt – substituted for biscuit malt; Toasted Wheat Malt – which I will sub in some home-tasted pale wheat malt; and molasses – which I will omit for this lower abv version.  I think this wants to be a medium-bodied beer, so no point in overloading it, for the sake of “cloning” a recipe.  I think it will be complex enough with the roasted malts.

Golden Promise Pale Malt
Biscuit Malt
Crystal Malt (120L)
Chocolate Malt
Pale Wheat Malt (toasted)

The hops in a Texas Brown Ale should be Cascade heavy, but taking direction from the Stone TBA, I’m going to layer it up with Columbus and Brewer’s Gold (leaf hops) and dose it with a Cascade dry hop (pellet).  In comparison to the Stone beer, my target IBUs don’t look wayward enough, but I’m shooting for a BU:GU of 0.9, so should be plenty for the strength.

Columbus (bittering/late copper)
Brewer’s Gold (late copper)
Cascade (dry)

If I’m given enough encouragement, I may be persuaded to brew a 7.1% abv / 80 IBU version.  Comments welcome, as ever.

Thanks for reading.

*Brookston Beer Bulletin – “Gambrinus Discontinues Pete’s Wicked Ale

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AG#25 & 26 Prohibition APA

This is the write up from my brewday from Sunday gone.  It’s an American Pale Ale that will serve two purposes; my entry for the Revolutions Brewing Co. competition (AG#26) and my test brew for the Northern Craft Brewers event in April (AG#25).  As this is an American Pale I wanted to use US hops, opting for trusty Galena for bittering and then Cluster as the main copper hops.  I chose Cluster hops having decided to try a new variety and was happy with my choice.  During the boil I was reading a little more about Cluster hops and stumbled upon this by Beervana;

By the turn of the 20th century nearly every hop grown in the country was Cluster (96%). After Prohibition, Clusters continued to dominate; in 1935, they occupied 90% of the market – Beervana

From a quick read of Beervana’s blog post you learn that Cluster hops were gradually overlooked over the years, and in their place came the ‘C’ hops we enjoy in many of the beers we enjoy today.  Despite all of this I started focusing on one of the comments made at the bottom of the blog;

If you see any brewers talking about them, the phrase they generally use is “catty,” or “cat piss.” They aren’t being catty themselves, cluster literally smells like a litterbox – Daniel Warner

I was 20 minutes into the boil when I read this and started doubting whether Cluster were the right hop for this brew….I had in mind an easy-going, fruity APA (nothing wrong with a bit of cat piss aroma right!).  I Tweeted my dilemma and with 10 minutes to spare before needing to make the hop addition, the ever-friendly Jay Krause (Quantum Brewing Co.) tweeted some sense into me and I stuck with my original plan.

Original Gravity (OG): 1.052
Final Gravity (FG): 1.010
Alcohol (ABV): 5.6%
Colour (SRM): 9.3 (EBC): 18.3
Bitterness (IBU): 40.0 (Average)
Brew length: 21.0L

3.000 kg (82%) Pale Ale Malt (Dingemans)
1.500 kg (10%) Golden Promise Pale Malt
0.600 kg (6%) Crystal 40
0.200 kg (2%) Pale Wheat Malt

14g Galena (12% Alpha) @60 minutes from the end (boil)
20g Cluster (8.1% Alpha) @30 minutes from the end (Boil)
50g Cluster (8.1% Alpha) @5 minutes from the end (Boil)
10g Cascade (7.8% Alpha) @5 minutes from the end (Boil)
25g Cascade (7.8% Alpha) in secondary for 3-4 days (dry hop)

Water treatments: Campden tablet (HLT), 1 tsp gypsum (mash). My weighing scales aren’t great and I only need 3-4g, which is a tsp (approx). Same rule for the epsom salts in the boil.

Strike temp of 75C, 13.2L liquor for 5.300kg grain.  Mashed in at 67C, a degree higher than my target as my mash tun loses a bit of heat (single step infusion).  Mashed for 60 minutes and temp dropped to 66C.  Sparged at strike temp of 87C, to sparge at 78C, 18L liquor.  The boil was scheduled for 60 minutes.  All went to plan, Galena in at 60 minutes (from the end of the boil), followed by additions of Cluster at 30 minutes and Cluster and Cascade at 5 minutes.

I collected 21L of wort post boil with SG of 1.052 and ran this off into two FVs:

  • Pitched US-05 at 18C into FV2 (10L) and liquored back 1.8L (total 11.8L) to achieve an OG of 1.044.  I’ve also tweaked this batch with another ingredient, but more about that once the judging has taken place.
  • Pitched WLP090 at 18C into FV3 (11L) leaving the OG at 1.052,  I’ll be dry hopping both batches  Cascade (in primary FV).

Updated 23/01/13

Interesting to see the progress of the different yeast strains.  The only real difference being the OG.  US-05 had taken the SG in FV2 to 1.012 in 3 days, whereas WLP090 (the highly flocculant San Diego Super Yeast) had only managed 12 points in the same time, SG 1.040.  I’ll take another reading today, but here’s how they look (and by the way, no cat piss yet, just lovely fruity hop smells):

Experimentation

It’s a word that will mean different things to different brewers.  There are homebrewers and pro brewers who will push the boundaries, introduce new methods to the brewing process, fuse beer styles and general food for thought for those of us who like to keep things simple.  I’m glad others do it so I can taste/read the results and learn from it.  The Brewdog / Flyingdog Arms Race was met with mixed results, unsurprisingly considering the current climate of, hop it big or go home.  Beer without hops is experimentation and I’m glad they did it so I don’t waste a day of my life.

However, I do experiment to a degree and plan to take things a little further in 2013.  It won’t be groundbreaking stuff, but after listening to Basic Brewing Radio (BBR) I do think it’s important to give things a go firsthand.

None of this will be strictly scientific, but split batches seem to be the best way to maximise the returns for your efforts.  I’ll be brewing 23L batches and splitting four ways into demijohns.  Based on what has gone before, I’ll brew a base beer with simple hopping and four yeast strains.  Another idea is using a base wort, then boiling with different hopping schedule late in the boil (“Hop Bursting“) and the other being dry hopped.  I have a fair idea of what I might expect for this one but I still think it’s something I can learn from.  Afterall, the late hopped beer should be more bitter and the dry hopped more fragrant….right?

Image from pdtnc

First Wort Hopping

I have already played around with First Wort Hopping (FWH) but can’t really see the need to play around with this too much.  From listening to Stone Brewing Co’s Mitch Steele on BBR it sounds as though they have looked into mash hopping and FWH and drawn a blank.  Obviously the effectiveness of mash hops and/or FWH will be largely dependent on the hop variety, quantity of hops used, mash temps, length of mash, the temp of the wort when transferred onto the hops in the copper and the length of time your copper takes to come to a rolling boil.  I’ll most likely use FWH from time to time, I think it can be a useful technique if you use the right hop variety, Magnum and Pilgrim are two I have used and can vouch for.  For example, a Double IPA can take any extra IBUs you can leach from FHW and if you’re watching the pennies then it could reduce the later hop additions? Difficult to calculate I suppose.  Check out this blog for examples of FWH, specifically his HopZilla IPA.

Anyway, I’m rambling a little too much now.  The purpose of this post was to get some ideas down on paper and as ever, feedback is valued.