2017-02-12 Brewer’s Journal

12 Feb

The past few weeks were the tail end of brewing projects from last year and the very start of this year, including my first attempts at cream ale and something akin to a Kentucky common, my most recent attempt at Burton ale, and the tale end of my double brown stout.

Cream Ale

I just kegged my cream ale, Top of the World, yesterday. It was my first beer made with barley grown and malted right here in Maryland, not too far from where I live. It is the lightest beer I have ever made. The 6-row that makes up the majority of the recipe had a lot of protein. The beer going into the fermenter was really cloudy, almost gray. I hoped that my skill was up to clearing this beer so it shows off the local malt to best effect.

According to my reading on the style, like a lager, a cream ale is best made by extended cold conditioning. I upgraded to temperature controlled fermenters at the end of last year. My experience so far suggests they are not quite up to lagering, at least not with some more thought on what to use as a cold water reservoir. Thankfully cream ale doesn’t need to be conditioned quite that cold. All the same, I think my poor little pump was running in the ice chest pretty much non-stop with this beer. I had hopped to keep the beer in the low forties but struggled getting it consistently into the mid-forties.

Beer is a forgiving passion. Even when what you make isn’t quite what you intended, by a wide or narrow margin, it usually is enjoyable. Often the variables we work hardest on seemingly have far less effect. In this case, the beer turned out great. The temperatures I was able to attain seemed to do the job well enough. I still want to save my pennies for a gycol upgrade to my chillers. That is more about my insatiable brewing gadget lust and less about productivity gains, specifically saving the time of constantly swapping out frozen water jugs and better supporting two fermenters at the same time.

The cream ale is delicate with a soft sweetness. The flaked maize in the recipe undoubtedly boosted the sweetness but there is a great texture to it that is all from the 6-row. The beer is still pretty green, mostly noticeable as stronger yeast and hop aromas. It is intensely drinkable and should only get more so as the beer conditions. I was able to get the beer pretty bright which also should improve with time.

Overall I am thrilled with this beer and plan to give most of it to the maltsters who made it possible. Danny and Jesse were very generous to give a bunch of their malt to an unknown, if enthusiastic, home brewer. I hope they agree that the beer shows off their malt very well and that they find it useful in spreading the word about their business.

Maryland Common Ale

I stopped by the malthouse this week to check it out and pick up some more grain. What I had left of the 6-row was maybe about half what I need for my next beer, a variation of a Kentucky common I am immodestly calling a Maryland common. I am thrilled that Danny and Jesse seem to be doing well, if still working really hard. I got enough extra 6-row to make this next beer. Danny gave me a sample of their 2-row on promise of doing a sensory analysis and sharing my notes with them.

I have most of what I need for this next beer. I need to double check my hop inventory. I may need a bit more and I know I need to get more flaked maize anyway. While I am at my local homebrew shop, Maryland Homebrew, I’ll likely grab some more bottles. I have a case of bombers but will need extra for the cream ale in particular.

I will be making the common on the 25th. It will be an open brew day. If you are local and interested in checking it out, contact me privately.

First Citizen makes use of an ingredient I tried last year for the first time, caramel rye. I love this malt, it has a subtle spiciness and a rich, dark sweetness. The common will be taking the place of one of my usual Spring beers, my 80 shilling. I made a wee heavy version of that beer so it won’t be entirely absent from this year’s brews. I imagine the common as being in much the same color and flavor range as the 80 shilling. Darker and sweeter but much lighter than my Winter brews.

Double Brown Stout

My last beer of the year for 2016 was Cursing the Darkness, a Scottish double brown stout. I based my recipe on some historical research from a wonderful beer historian, Ron Pattinson. He wondered in his post about this beer what it must have tasted like? I have no idea if my version is anything like what Younger’s used to make but I think it turned out well.

It was smokey and a bit phenolic right after kegging. The recipe calls for a higher percentage of roasted barley than any other beer I’ve made. That is the most likely source for that smoke. Thankfully as the beer conditioned, that flavor became a bit more manageable. The end result had round fruit notes on the middle of the palate from both the British ale yeast and the Bramling Cross hops. I used a ridiculous amount of hops in the late additions, then dry hopped the beer with more before kegging. The dark malts and roasted barley worked against the lactose to keep the beer from being overly sweet, giving it some texture and complexity.

I think this beer has earned a place in my rotation, replacing my oatmeal stout recipe as the last brew of any given year.

Burton Ale

I’ve made my burton ale twice before, once as a barley wine and again as a table beer. I loved the barley wine but it takes a lot of patience to make, aging for an entire year. The small version was tasty but didn’t really satisfy what I was after like the bigger version.

At the tail end of last Summer I made the third iteration of this recipe, informed by my experiences with the two prior batches. I put it down for six months, instead of a year. It will go into a keg next weekend. When I dry hopped at the start of this past week, I get a nice whiff. It reminded me strongly of the barley wine though it smelled understandably a bit more green. More impressions when that beer goes into the keg.

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