The Throwback Brown Ale

This week’s brew was more of a plan ahead kind of thing. I will be brewing a barley wine in the next two weeks, so I need yeast. So, how bout a 3 gallon batch to steal the yeast cake from….

Since I will be using Nottingham yeast, why not an good old Brit Brown? Haven’t had a good British Brown ale in a long time. All the ones you find now days are too Americanized.

So I went back into the vault and found o e of my long lost extract brown ales. (Needs a new name)

Basement Brown 3 gallon extract

  • 1 can light LME
  • 12oz crystal 80
  • 8oz carapils
  • 8oz biscuit
  • 3/4oz EKG
  • 1/4oz EKG
  • Nottingham yeast

Well for some reason, I could not get Beersmith to work they way I wanted. I don’t know if I was using wrong profile or what, but it wanted me to be using 8+ gallons of water for a 3 gallon batch.
But figuring out an extract batches needs is like nothing.

3.125 gallons into fermenter
1.75 lbs grain x .12 water absorb
1.5 gallons boil off
.125 gallons kettle gunk loss
= 5 gallons water

I took 1/2 gallons of that water and mashed/steeped the grains in the mini masher while I was bringing the rest of the water to boil. Once I got boil I dumped it I to the kettle and got under way.

I did do a full boil with all of the extract. I wanted to get a little darker color since I used the golden light Lme.

Mmm the smell of a British Brown is awesome. Caramel, EKG.. Oh yea.

Sure looks like a good color going in. As the way with my first rounds of extract beers, I’ll just chuck it in the basement and let it go at what ever temp it is down there.  And right now it’s still 58.  Perfect for Notty.


Honey, and strange hops

Well it’s National Homebrew Day, so let’s brew!

Nephew wanted to see how the brew process works so he dropped in to check it out. 

 I needed to make a beer for Memorial Day and a something with honey. So a very quick 3.5% honey bitter. Plus I got these free hops from Tenatious Badger. (More on these later.

Honey Burst – 5 gallons

  • 4.5 lb 2 row
  • .5 victory
  • 1 lb honey
  • 1oz Michigan Copper @10
  • 3/4 magnum @10
  • Nottingham 
  • Mashed at 155

This was the first brew in quite a while that I made outside. In fact this beer should be completely brewed, fermented, kegged and drank entirely in the garage.

Now these Michigan Copper hops. They are described as “fragrant floral and tropical fruit”  

If fragrant and floral means vomit and parmesan cheese, then I concur. I really had to force my self to put them in my beer. If would have had another 10% hop laying around, these would have been dumped. 

But once they got into the boil they smelled exactly like fresh cut lemon peel.

Both before and after smells aren’t really something I’m excited about having in my beer.. but we will see.


First a quick update on the Golden ale made for the Wine Walk. The beer was a big hit.  We were billing it as a cream ale, but I would have called it a blonde ale. Light,  slightly malty with just the faintest of hops. As good of reception that this received, there is no doubt it will be brewed again. 

Moving on to this weekends brew. For our February club meeting we are brewing with oats. Oat malt,  flaked oats, oatmeal… Stuff like that. I figure there will be a few oatmeal stouts,  so I went the other way. A Pale Oatmeal mild

I was looking to get something light colored, but decent body,  and very low hopped to showcase the oatmeal. I came up with.. 

  • 4lbs maris otter
  • 1.5lbs oatmeal
  • 1/4 lbs 40L crystal
  • . 75oz Fuggles @60
  • Nottingham yeast
  • Mashed at 156

This beer hands down is the best smelling beer of the year. Even the kids came downstairs to see what I was making. But cloudy.. Wow.  Pretty sure this will never drop out by February. 

I took several pics but none of them captured how hazy this really is. I can’t wait to see how this one comes out.  

Next I have to try to replicate the heavily caramelized Ipa for an upcoming contest.

Golden ale 

Today I brewed up a Golden Ale. A style I’ve never brewed before, but one that looks pretty basic feel to it.

The local homebrew shop is part of a December wine walk and  wants to have a few beers up for it. Only have about 4 weeks to get something up and kegged for it though, so this Golden ale fits the bill. 

Light easy drinking beer. I’d call it a British blonde ale maybe. Nothing complicated. Not over the top hoppy or malty. Balanced low gravity.

Now the only thing that may cause a hiccup is the clarity in this particular time frame  Maris Otter and the bit of wheat might leave a bit of a haze that won’t drop  in the two weeks or less it will have.

Will need a bit of bitterness to firm it up. But don’t want to get deep into the pale ale range. So keep a light hand on the late end hopping.

I chose the grain bill to give a more malty impression that would hold up with such a light mash temp. This style is known for it cleaner yeast, so went with Nottingham for its low, but still noticeable esters.

  • 5 lbs Maris Otter
  • 1.5 lbs Munich 
  • 1.5 lbs wheat malt
  • .5oz Amarillo @6o
  • .5oz cascade @60
  • .25oz Amarillo @15
  • .25oz Amarillo during whirlpool 
  • Mashed at 148 with a ramp to 152 at 15 minutes.
  • Nottingham yeast  

I did an extended hop stand during whirlpool. Like 25 minutes. Temp only dropped to 197, and really let the cone firm up and add you can see in the pic, the wort was very clear going into fermenter.  

Mix and go graff

My cider cider keg is getting low so need to get it filled soon. The black graff went over well so I’ll make another one. 

This time I’ll go back to the lighter version I used to make. Like today’s Reds Apple ale. 

  • 1 prehopped extract beer kit
  • 4 gallons apple juice or cider
  • Yeast of your choice  

I wanted to used an ESB kit but they were out, so I grabbed this old ale kit. I’m guessing it will be a bit more raisiny but that should be just fine. I’ll just be using the enclosed yeast packet this time around. 

Easy stuff here. I just heated up a gallon of water and stirred in the extract. Just wanna get it liquid enough to pour into the carboy
(If your extract is still hot that’s fine, but pour in a gallon of your juice first to buffer the heat or you’ll probably break the carboy)

Pour in the rest of the juice and add your yeast. That’s it.

Take your graff home and let it ferment.

I have a cider keg and line now, but used to bottle this Same carbonation as beer so prime how ever you normally do. 

This came out with an OG of 1.06o


Lets face it. Brewing beer is easy. Real easy. Once you find your groove you sometimes go on autopilot.

You know your basic flight path, take off and landing routines. And if something minor occurs you can quickly course adjust and get back on track.

But then there are days when autopilot mode goes off course, but because you have become so trusting, you dont see the problem until its too late to turn back.

This past weekend was one of those situations.

I was brewing my Russian Imperial. Not a regular brew of mine, but one I’ve done a few times, so I used my regular recipe. Everything seem was normal except that I got a new phone and didnt have my app installed yet. So I get the app loaded on the new phone and put in the details.

I take a quick glance compare old phone recipe to new one to make sure they match up, and they appear to do so. Well ok, they are off a few points, but nothing much.

Probably have a setting off a bit, but they are very very close, it will be ok. (first warning sign)

Read the recipe, heat the water, start the mash.. Blah blah blah.

Hmmm this mash seems pretty damn thin,, that must be where the setting is off.

(second warning sign)

But looks like it will even out.

Right here I knew something was wrong. And even when I was getting ready to start heating the sparge water, I looked again because the amounts just seemed off. (third warning) But I ran the water calcs thru my head and they did come out reasonably close. So,, keep going.

During sparge I emptied, and filled once and was done. Again right here I knew,, I KNEW,,, Something was not right. I actually said to my to myself that it seems weird that I’m not rinsing more. (fourth warning) But, I wrote it off as being a big beer, so might be a bit different.

But I keep on going. Starting to heat to boil. But AGAIN, my flight alarm is flashing, and I run the volumes thru calculation again because something in the back of my head is saying something is not right. (fifth warning)

But, I end up with the right amount. So with a good to go signal from the pre boil volume,, I continued on.

Boil. Chill. All good. As I’m draining into fermenter I literally say out loud to myself, “hey, I never took any readings” I better get one now.

WTF! I’m supposed to be about 1.105 and I’m sitting at 1.085! Holy hell,, thats a lot to be off. And not a whole lot I can do now.

Immediately, my brain says “the mash” I knew it. I KNEW IT! I knew when it was happening that I somehow got water volumes messed up.

It should been a thicker mash with less water upfront, leaving more water to rinse and sparge with, to get those loose sugars out.

And I knew that,, but I just left it go without thinking. Even after 5 warnings that something was wrong.

But you how I could have realized my mistake? Thats right. Checking my gravity.


If I had checked my pre boil gravity, I would have seen right then and there what was going on. Although the mash process was already messed up, I still could have taken action and fixed it,, or at least gotten closer.

I could have quickly heated some more sparge water did another sparge and took some more heavy wort off. Sure my volume would have been over, but a slightly longer boil fixes that too.

Brewing is easy,, but you still have to pay attention.

My mistake here wasn’t my entering the recipe into the app wrong so much as it was that I didn’t follow the simple procedures.

Check those numbers when you’re supposed to check those numbers. And don’t get complacent.  

Setting up the Imperial

Russian Imperial–

Our Local contest has a “special” category each year. One that forgoes any style guidelines, and is judged solely on taste and impressions.

This year,, 2017,, is Russian Imperial Stout.

And once again I’m a bit behind. But still a good 6 months out so If I can get it in the can now,, we should be alright.

(this is how I thought it out and came to my recipe after a few trials and errors)

Now this is a style that I am familiar with. Familiar with,, not expert with. These bigger beers are a tough brew. Its very easy to over compensate. Especially when you read the descriptions of this RIS

“Overall Impression: An intensely-flavored, big, dark ale

with a wide range of flavor balances and regional

interpretations. Roasty-burnt malt with deep dark or dried

fruit flavors, and a warming, bittersweet finish. Despite the

intense flavors, the components need to meld together to create

a complex, harmonious beer, not a hot mess.”

A lot of people see the “intense” and “roasty burnt”, but don’t see that last part,, meld together. The most often overlooked part of the entire guideline. So many Imp stouts I’ve had are ashtray roasted grained to deth, or hop bombed, or sickening sweet. All of that needs to play together not one standing out over the other. All while being it stouty self.


And I think most of those things are interconnected. Mostly starting with the over sweetness. These beers have huge starting gravities. 1.075 and usually alot higher.  This means that even though the alcohol is high, so is the final gravity. 1.020 to 1.030 or even higher! That’s a lot of sweet left behind.

But when one reads the guidelines you will see it reads,, full or extremely full body,, and try to equate this to high mash temps when there really is no need to. Those high final gravities are more than enough body. The high mash usually leads to that over sweetness. Keeping mash temps in the 150 range really helps the sweet problem with not much worry about being thin.

So now that the sweet is under control, you don’t need to boost the roast to overcome it.

While the black malts will still be used more than your average low baller like a Dry Irish stout, they don’t need to rip your face off.  And the kind of black malts does make a difference. Especially in a beer like this that’s going to aged for a while.

Normally I wouldn’t use much, if any chocolate malt or black patent in my every day stouts that are drank fairly quickly because they tend to be overly harsh and sharp tasting in the short term. So I prefer to use roast barley in with those young beers.


But ones that are gonna sit a few months I personally think you need those other black malts. Maybe not a full replacement,, but in greater percentage anyway.

Over a few months of aging the roast seems fall out a bit. Not disappear, but lose its edge a bit and be “softer”  Roast barley starts out much “softer” to begin with, so when it drops out, you notice it.

The harsher black patents and chocolate malts drop out somewhat as well, but they do keep their burnt characteristics much better. So over the course of aging you’ll still have a bit of  those coffee and burnt notes.

So I need to be a bit more aggressive with the roast, but still cant go overboard or I find a wet charcoal flavor.

Hops are a bit easier to figure on such a big, roasty beer like this. Easier because during the aging they really drop out of contention. The bittering level may round off slightly to be smoother with less bite, but will still be there. Its the later hops that do most of the changing.

I personally use very little in the flavoring range (10-15 min) and put the majority of late hops in at flame out to steep for 15, plus a day or two of dry hopping, if you want any kind of hop character at all. Those roasted grains do cover up alot of the hop aroma, so late hopping is what I want.

Now yeast is you biggest concern. You need your yeast to be ready and roaring to go. You dont want it stalling out or dying off and leaving you with black syrup. If you havent mess with starters,, you might wanna think about them here. Or pitch a couple packs of dry yeast.

Or like me,, brew a smaller beer a couple of weeks a head. Keg that beer same day as your brew day and put the stout right on top of that yeast cake. (Warning! Doing this also make for explosive fermentations. Be prepared).

I prefer a British style yeast, but that is personal choice. I usually use Windsor, but have also used US-04.

I usually make 5 gallons of this,, but I am going 3 gallons this time.

Imperial Disruptor Stout. 3 gallon:  ABV 11.36%, IBU 80, OG 1.106, FG 1.021

  • 10lbs pale malt
  • 12oz roast barley
  • 8oz chocolate malt (or black pat)
  • 4oz carapils
  • 4oz crystal 80 (just because I put 80 in nearly everything)
  • 1.5oz centennial @60 min
  • .5oz centennial @10 min
  • 1.5oz centennial@ FO

    Mash @ 150       Windsor yeast cake