Posts Tagged 'english brown ale'

AG#2 – Penny Lane Brown Ale


My first partial mash recipe back in May in 2012 was a great success and was the first indicator I had that “going all-grain”, at least partially, would be the key to producing good beers at home. Krook’s Pale Ale (named after Johnny Vegas’ character in BBC’s Bleak House. Don’t ask, long story…) being a partial-mash recipe allowed me to use some grains that had previously been off-limits because they need to be mashed. Mashing is steeping grain at a controlled temperature for a certain period of time. It’s different from simply steeping grains, which I’d already done as an extract and kit brewer, because temperature is more critical. It’s easy as pie though.

Krook’s used Nottingham dried yeast, which is supposed to be fairly neutral in flavour (though it tastes very English to me) so most of the flavour was coming from the amber malt, which gives the beer a super-malty flavour. I also used dark crystal malt which lent the beer a dark colour and lots of raisin-like caramel flavours. The problem with the recipe though, was that the beer simply came out too dark. So I decided to do a re-brew and designate it a brown ale instead. I’ve rowed back just a bit on the dark crystal and a little on the amber malt. I’ve also added a fair portion of biscuit malt, just because I love it. I’ve added a bit more of the medium crystal malt too, because this is supposed to be a more caramelly beer. Hopping is all EKG.

Recipe Specifications

Boil Size: 26.88 l
Post Boil Volume: 22.88 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 19.00 l
Bottling Volume: 17.50 l
Estimated OG: 1.051 SG
Estimated Color: 11.7 SRM
Estimated IBU: 27.2 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 69.5 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes


4.300 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM), 83.1 %
0.300 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (40.0 SRM), 5.8 %
0.200 kg Wheat Malt, Bel (2.0 SRM), 3.9 %
0.175 kg Amber Malt (22.0 SRM), 3.4 %
0.075 kg Biscuit Malt (23.0 SRM), 1.4 %
0.075 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt -100L (100.0 SRM), 1.4 %
0.050 kg Pale Chocolate Malt (300.0 SRM), 1.0 %
25 g Goldings, East Kent [6.90 %] – Boil 60.0 Hop, 23.4 IBUs
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10.0 mins)
20 g Goldings, East Kent [6.90 %] – Boil 10.0, 3.8 IBUs
20 g Goldings, East Kent [6.90 %] – Boil 0.0, 0.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg Dry English Ale (White Labs #WLP007)  – 1.5 litre starter

Mash Schedule: Bubbles’ Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 5.175 kg
Mash In           Add 14.49 l of water at 74.6 C          68.0 C        60 min

Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (4.61l, 13.91l) of 77.0 C water

06/11/2013 Brew Day – Despite being in the midst of water restrictions, I decided that I had to get another brew on. For this brown ale, I had 25 litres of mash water in the boiler which had been treated with campden tablet the night before. After the last brew which involved numerous boils of the kettle in order to the bring the water up to mash temperature, I heated the water up much more this time to 85°C. Directly before adding the mash water to the MT I added a kettle-full of boiling water and swirled the contents around. I drained the MT and added 15 litres of water from the boiler. after transfer the mash liquor measured 79.9C. After I added some jugs of cold water it had dropped to 68°C!! So then I had to use my kettle adjustment method to bring it back up to a strike temperature of 73.3°C.

Assuming the mash liquor loses 5°C on transfer to empty (but heated) MT, this means my mash liquor should be heated to 79°C in order to achieve a strike temperature of 74°C.

After doughing-in, I took a temperature reading of 66.9°C and snapped the lid on. I heated 18.5 litres of sparge water to 80°C. But my batch sparge temperature was well below what it should have been after the water had been transferred back to the MT. Obviously I didn’t heat my sparge water high enough but I think the grain bed had cooled so much by the time I did my batch sparge that the resulting temperature was a really low 71.1°C. Assuming the sparge water loses 9°C on transfer to the MT, this means that future sparge water will have to be heated to 86°C to get a proper sparge temperature of 77°C.

I got a disappointingly low OG of 1.040-1.042 (from an expected 1.051) which I suspect is caused by the grain consistency coming from my new grain mill. I’ve only used the mill once and I thought the crushed grain looked a bit coarser than the pre-crushed grain I usually buy. I did think that some grains were barely cracked. However, I couldn’t be sure and decided to trust the factory settings on the mill and mash in. At the end of the mash, the grain definitely looked different from usual. I picked out some grains and it appeared some of the grains were not crushed through. I used the factory setting on the mill which is 0.05, though it’s also possible to adjust the rollers (thinner at 0.025 and thicker at 0.1).

I’m not sure if this has any bearing, but I used a drill on a screwdriver setting and it flew through 5kg of grain. Would I get a different result from doing it manually? My effiencies were set pretty low as it is in BrewSmith (60% total efficiency and 70% mash efficiency) so I have to get this issue sorted before I do another brew. I was thinking of grinding a few test bowls of base grain at the various settings and comparing them to the pre-crushed malt from the HBC. I could also adjust the rollers on the mill but I’m concerned that the 0.025 setting would result in lautering issues.

My pre-boil volume was spot-on but my post-boil volume was a little high, as was my volume in the fermenter. I’m sure this hasn’t helped the efficiency problem either.

One positive that came out of this brew was my discovery that the two kettle elements work very well together at the same time. My pre-boil volume of 27 litre took 21 minutes to come up to a rolling boil. On my previous brew, this process took about 45 minutes. That’s an incredible improvement.

09/11/2013 – I was rather concerned this morning to see that the yeast had completely flocced out, so this evening I took a temperature and gravity reading. The beer was at 13.5°C (holy shit!) and the gravity was just over the 1.010 mark! I decided to move the fermenter into the hall and gently rouse yeast with a sanitised paddle. The slightly warmer conditions will hopefully make sure this attenuates further.

11/11/2013 – I moved this into the kitchen and have it sitting on the worktop as it was 15.5°C out in the hall! It’s definitely bubbling a bit more as a result of the warmer temperature. No more kreusen developing but the layer of bubbles is definitely thicker. I’ll have to take another temperature reading.

11/11/2013 – Evening time, and I’ve just taken a temp reading of 19°C. The bubbling has calmed down a lot, so hopefully it took the increase in temperature to make the thing finish out. I’ll leave it where it is until tomorrow and then move it back to it’s first location in order to cold-crash it before bottling next week.

20/11/2013 – Bottled with 90g of dextrose (18 litres at 2 vol). Got 36 bottles out of the batch.

21/11/2013 – After bottling this last night I checked the bottles first thing this morning to see how cloudy they were. They were absolutely sparkling clear which made me think the yeast had instantly flocced to the bottom of the bottle. So I shook up the bottle and discovered there is no yeast or trub on the bottom of the bottle either. This is a little worrying. There seems to be plenty of bubbles in the beer when I shake the bottle up, however. I’ll have to open up a bottle in a couple of weeks (before I bottle my Pork Chop Porter) to see if I need to be re-seeding these bottles. I think I’ll have to leave it for an extended period at fermentation temperature though – if there are only a few yeast cells in each bottle, then I’ll need to give them time to work.

24/11/2013 – Just drank the beer that was sitting on the saved yeast that is destined for my new batch of Pork Chop Porter. The beer is pretty damn good.  I was concerned there was diacetyl in it, but my fears have been proved unfounded. There’s plenty of English yeast character in the beer – whoever said this yeast is clean is talking out of their arse. The flavour is a little mild, however. You can tell that this is a low-gravity beer you’re drinking and not the 5% brown ale it was intended to be. It’ll be great with a bit of carbonation in.

01/12/2013 – Not even 2 weeks in the bottle but I wanted to check that the batch was carbonating correctly in the bottle with the WLP007 before I bottle-condition another beer with the same yeast. Carbonation is quite light in this particular beer, but it seems to be just fine. The beer is surprisingly good – light bodied as you’d expect considering I missed the target OG so badly, but it’s got quite a good flavour, particularly when it warms up a little. Definitely not competition standard, but a nice easy drinker for the winter months.

10/12/2013 – I think this one is going to disappear pretty quickly! Fantastic malty flavour from the amber malt which works really well with the WLP007. Plenty of crystal sweetness with the C100 showing nicely but nicely subtle. The pale chocolate malt works really well with the amber, giving a nutty flavour. Very faint chocolate tones too. Much nicer when it warms up. Great amber colour. Low head but lasts well. Carbonation well judged I think.

BIAB#3 – Born To Be Mild


I never thought I’d be interested in a beer called a “mild”. I like my beers to be the complete opposite of mild – clovey hefeweizens, hoppy American pale ales, roasty Imperial stouts. But I was interested to see an entire section for “Mild” recipes in Graham Wheelers book and started a bit of research.

Historically, the name “mild” referred to a beer which hadn’t been aged in vats and didn’t have a slightly sour tang. These days, mild generally means a beer with less bitterness than a regular English bitter or pale ale. They are generally low in gravity, easy to drink and have a restrained hop flavour with little or no aroma.

I wanted to squeeze another small all-grain batch in over the Christmas holidays and wanted to try something different so I decided on this recipe. The grain bill is pretty complex for a mild and I doubt you’ll find an English brewery putting so many different malts into their mild, but I wanted to add a little complexity, so in addition to the Maris Otter base I went for two different types of crystal, biscuit, black malt, torrified wheat and pale chocolate malt for colour and some coffee/roasty notes. The smell of the grains in the bucket was fantastic, even before I doughed in!

I followed the same procedure as my last two BIAB batches, using 11 litres of treated water to mash with, and using 4 litres for dunk-sparging. My efficiency worked out at 60% which is not very efficient at all, but at least it’s consistent. Most of the recipes in Wheelers book tend to have IBUs around 22 so that’s what I was shooting for here. Most of the recipes also seem to include Fuggles hops so I bittered with EKG and used my last remaining 7g of Fuggles as a flavour addition.

The colour of the wort is amazing – a deep mahogany colour. I’ll attempt to serve this with slightly less carbonation than usual. About 2 volumes should do it.


Boil Size: 12.00 l
Post Boil Volume: 10.00 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 15.00 l
Bottling Volume: 15.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.040 SG
Estimated Color: 17.7 SRM
Estimated IBU: 22.1 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 60.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes


2.700 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM)
0.160 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 75L (75.0 SRM)
0.120 kg Wheat, Torrified (1.7 SRM)
0.095 kg Pale Chocolate Malt (300.0 SRM)
0.040 kg Amber Malt (22.0 SRM)
0.040 kg Biscuit Malt (23.0 SRM)
0.040 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt -100L (100.0 SRM)
0.024 kg Black (Patent) Malt (500.0 SRM)
16 g Goldings, East Kent [5.80 %] – Boil 60.0 min, 20.3 IBUs
0.50 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 mins)
7 g Fuggles [4.30 %] – Boil 15.0 min, 1.8 IBUs
1.0 pkg Fermentis SafAle S-04


20/01/2013 – Bottled using 65g grams of table sugar and got 25 bottles. Great nutty smell from the fermenter. Cold crashed in the shed for two days before bottling.

01/03/2013 – First taste after almost 6 weeks in the bottle.

03/03/2013 – Scored 28 points in the 2013 NHC competition. I suspect this was judged in the wrong category. One of the judges described it as “a little mild”. The other judge wrote “Northern English Brown” on the scoresheet. Pretty respectable score considering the judges didn’t even know what it was they were supposed to be judging. In any case, I think it’s an excellent easy-drinker and I’d definitely do it again.

21/04/2013 – I’ve got about 2 bottles of this left and it was a real success – I don’t know why I never updated the notes on this. It could easily be described as a brown porter. It’s got a nice caramel, mocha quality. Fairly light body but an assertive bitterness that I wasn’t expecting from the paltry 22 IBUs.

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