American Brownie Ale

This beer was brewed January 25, 2005

Grain Bill-

  • 10 pounds American 2 row
  • 1/2 lb. crystal malt, 60 L- German Caramunich II
  • 1/2 lb. dextrin malt- American Carapils, 1.5 L
  • 2 ounces chocolate malt- British 375 L
  • 1/2 lb. pound flaked barley- gelatinized unmalted

Hop Bill-

  • 1 oz. Northern Brewer (7.7% alpha) for 60 min.
  • 1 oz. Cascade (6.0 alpha) for 30 minutes
  • 1 oz. Willamette (4.7 alpha) for 15 minutes
  • 1 oz. US Hallertau (4.2 alpha) for 7 minutes

Yeast- Wyeast 1275 Thames

Other-

  • 3 teaspoon gypsum- to mash water
  • Phosphorus acid- to sparge water,
    • a teaspoon per 5 gallons is too much, sneak up on it
    • final sparge pH: 4.9
    • thank you Dan for stopping to pick up the acid J
  • 1 pill Irish moss (came in the form of a tablet)
  • 1 pound dark brown sugar (put in the boil)

Mash Schedule-

  • Mash Water: 15 quarts St. Louis County Tap, unfiltered (try filter next time)
  • Mash Water Ratio (MWR): 1.3 quarts/pound
  • Mash Water pH: 9.6- adjusted down to 9.3 with 3 teaspoons of gypsum
  • Strike Temp: 134 F
  • Mash Temp: 127 F (shooting for 122 F) hold for 30 minutes
  • Mash pH: 5.4 (grains brought the pH down to where it needed to be)
  • Raise to: 134 F hold for 15 minutes
  • Raise to: 154 F hold for 90 minutes
  • Mash out at 164 F for 10 minutes (which turned into 30 minutes as I didn’t get sparge water hot in time)

Brew Notes-

I took this recipe from the internet and modified it, both intentionally and unintentionally.

I spent the last few weeks trying to get the materials ready. Hoses needed replacing; everything needed cleaning; I made a wort chiller and used it for the first time.

Emma helped brew the beer by being a good girl all day. It snowed the night before, so we made a snowman in the front yard before getting started.

I began prepping around 10:00 am. I started warming mash water around 11:30.

Sparging went well, but I wish I had a little more fine control over the flow from the lautertun. One notch was too fast; the next notch was too slow.

In hindsight, I should have used at least 5 gallons in the sparge. I only sparged with 4. I think that resulted in a higher gravity beer than expected.

Once the wort was boiling, I added brown sugar and began hop schedule. I used all leaf hops. I put in a tablet of Irish moss with about 15 minutes left in the boil. I have never used Irish moss before, but this recipe called for it.

A slight panic occurred when I couldn’t find the sink adapter for the new wort chiller. After a 30 minute delay, the new wort chiller dropped temp to 70 degrees in less than ½ an hour, a new record for me.

By 9:00 pm or so, I was wore out. I had Christine hold the funnel for me, while I poured into the big primary carboy. She scooped hops away from the screen grate with a spoon. That was the best I could do for wort aeration.   All spent grains and hops went to compost.

Primary Fermentation-

I broke the smack pack late and didn’t have a balloon bag of yeast until the next day. I decided to rack the beer again since a lot of trub had settled to the bottom.

I checked the gravity and was shocked to see it at 1.080. This is way too high. I’m thinking 1.060 would have been normal. Not enough water in the sparge? After pulling out the volume for the hops and the trub, there’s only 4 gallons of beer. I’m thinking if I would have used another gallon of sparge water, for a total of five gallons, I would now have an additional gallon of beer. This would thin out the beer a little and bring the gravity down. I’m hoping to get the final gravity down to 1.020. This would be in the neighborhood of a 7.0+ % alcohol beer. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

I moved everything into a 5 gallon carboy and pitched yeast.

Only four gallons remained so there’s plenty of headroom for the yeast cap to form, or so I thought. I left the clean beer in the 5 gallon carboy rather than putting it back into the big 6+ gallon primary. A day later it started bubbling tremendously. I came home from work on Monday and the foam had filled the top of the carboy and spilled into the air hose and into the cup the air hose was sitting into. It was shades of a Boulder apartment when Irish Mike woke up in the middle of the night.

I’ve kept the air hose clean and after two days of tremendous fermenting, the batch is finally slowing down. I’ve kept it upstairs to keep the yeast active in a warmer environment, but will move it to the basement soon for the secondary fermentation.

Secondary Fermentation-

It is now eight days later; the bubbling is slow, but still steady. I left the beer upstairs in 70 F for the first six days. I moved it down stairs to 60 F on day six of fermentation. This seemed to slow the rate of bubbling, but it still continues. Also I racked the beer off the dead yeast while still technically under primary. Unfortunately, I moved the beer before racking so the yeast cap fell back into the beer. It is cloudy now; dumb move. Next time, rack the beer and then move it.

Two weeks after pitching yeast the bubbling is slow but steady. I racked the beer into a clean carboy, which seems to have stopped the bubbling. I would like to get enough bubbles to ensure that all the air is out of the carboy, leaving only CO2, but I’m not positive this is the case. For now my plan is to leave the beer sit for a week or so in order to clear the beer as much as possible and then bottle.

Packaging-

March 20- First day of spring and a month since I last racked the beer. I bottled the beer. The whole process was a mess. I brought bottles back from the farm, and they were all pretty crappy looking from non-use. I messed around for weeks trying to get bottles clean, buy a bottlebrush, buy cleaners, get the corn sugar for priming, bottle caps, etc. Every time I thought I was ready to go, I realized I was missing some other piece of the puzzle, and of course the beer store has short hours on the weekend preventing me from just running up and buying another bottlebrush on a Saturday night.

The actual bottling was a total mess. After hand scrubbing all the bottles to the best of my ability and patience, I ran all the bottles through the hot cycle on the dishwasher. I primed with ¾ cup of corn sugar boiled shortly in water. I racked the beer into my kettle and poured in the sugar syrup and stirred with a sterile spoon. I had a hell of a time all night long with maintaining a siphon. I had to re-start the siphon multiple times, each time making a wet mess in the basement and the kitchen (I was running between the two since my clean operation was upstairs in the kitchen and the beer was in the basement). I lost a lot of beer in the bottling process, at least three or four beers worth. I was very tired and frustrated by the end of the evening. I must remember not to get pissed off when things don’t go well because they will, undoubtedly, not go well at some point.

However, there was some good news. I thought the ale tasted good, perhaps the best ale I’ve made to date, and that is probably the most important factor thus far. Also, the final gravity was around 1.022, which will make for a relatively high alcohol beer; if my calculations are correct, the alcohol is around 6%. Also, the beer cleared considerably over the last month. It has a very nice deep, clear, brown color. It’s not as clear as a filtered beer, but I’m very happy with the result so far. I keep my fingers crossed that my bottles are clean enough and sound enough to bring my beer to fruition in the next few weeks. I currently have all the bottles sitting in the basement bathtub in the event that they start exploding.

Drinking-

April 19, 2005- I tasted the brew this weekend and it was way too sweet, as I knew it would be, but I was hoping from the sample tastes that it would be less pronounced than it is. It’s slightly over-hopped, but that could be lived with if it weren’t so damn syrupy. Gary and Dan tasted it as well and I think both were polite when they continued to drink. They both agreed it was too sweet. Gary’s girlfriend, Katie, who is not a beer drinker, claimed that she liked it, so I have some condolence. However, in general the beer is a bit of a disappointment as far as beers are concerned, but as far as first batches are concerned it isn’t all bad. I can fix the sparge water issue and the delays created in equipment problems on subsequent batches; that should bring this ale to a place where it needs to be. As it stands, I can drink it, but I wouldn’t offer it to anyone as a prime example of my brewing skills. Currently, I rate this beer a 3 out of 10.

January 3, 2006- A year has passed and I have not brewed another beer. Irish Mike came out for a visit in the fall and tasted this brew. He proclaimed it the best Brown Ale he’s ever had (but he also claimed that he’s not much of a fan of the Brown Ale). The beer has definitely improved with age. It’s not as sweet as it originally started. The color is still good. I have two bottles left in the basement that will be drunk as the brew season opens again in 2006.

Brownie

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