Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Brew Day - Ye Old Confused Brown Ale

One of the more popular brews on Home Brew Talk Gluten Free Forum seems to be LCasanova’s American Brown Ale.  After searching all over Europe for Briess Sorghum Extract Syrup, I gave up on trying to replicate the exact brew since there wasn’t a source for Sorghum Extract in Europe and shipping it from the good old USA was going to cost at least $100USD.  Looking at what I had local, I came up with using Brown Rice Syrup.

Brown Rice Syrup is basically made by boiling brown rice or brown rice flour to get as much starch out as possible, then an enzyme is added to convert the starch to sugar and the whole thing is reduced to get it to the right consistency.  Commonly the enzyme comes from sprouted barley, which is a no-no for any GFer, but gluten free versions can be purchased that are made from a fungal enzyme. 

Brown rice syrup is on the left.
Using Beersmith, which is a brewing calculator, I substituted Brown Rice Syrup for Sorghum Syrup and charged ahead.  There are certain values that are tracked and talked about when it comes to brewing, and by trying to maintain these values; I was able to come up with a clone recipe.  The basic values are Original Gravity (OG), Final Gravity (FG) and International Bitterness Units (IBU).  OG and FG are measurements of the amount of sugar in a liquid at defined times in the brewing process.  OG is a measure of the sweetness of the wort (beer before it hits puberty and begins that special time of change that will turn it into an Adult BEvERage) before the yeast is added.  FG is the measurement of the sweetness after the yeast is all tuckered out and there isn’t anything left for them to eat.  By comparing the difference between OG and FG you can find the amount of alcohol in the beer.  IBU is a measure of how bitter the beer is.  For example Bud Light chimes in around 6.4IBUs.
From the boiling pot to carboy.
This worked out great I thought, until brew day and I realized that I carried the wrong 1 somewhere and my brew pot was way too small to boil the full 10L of beer I was planning.  No big deal, I just moved forward with my plan putting only about 6L in the pot.  Everything was running fine, I steeped the grains that I had roasted 2 weeks before, boiled the hops and syrups as I was supposed to and after 90 minutes, set it all to cool outside.  When the wort cooled and I topped it off to the right volume, took a gravity reading (how much sugar is in there).  The OG was almost 20 points higher than it was supposed to be. 
No surprise an Engineer's mind came up with this set up!

What was I to do, I could add more water and dilute the sugar, but that would also dilute the hops and it would wind up tasting like bland, thin tea.  After some thought I pitched the yeast as is, and by the next morning it was burbling away happily.  After going back into Beersmith and adjusting for my brew pot and the partial boil I realized that some of my assumptions of the syrups are off.  I adjusted the Maple Syrup and Molasses so that the estimated OG matched the reading with the hydrometer.  All that done I found that the bitterness might wind up a little low (with an IBU at about 13) and the beer may finish a little high on the alcohol (8.3% ABV).  Either way, I’m going to let this one ride, chalk it up to experience and I figure, it may need to age a while, but I’ll probably end up with something drinkable (eventually) and better than Redbridge.  Being the kind of person I am, I did a little research into Brown Ales.  In the 1700s Brown Ales were a lot stronger in alcohol than they are today with less of a hop bite.  So based on the history of brown ale and the fact that I used UK hops, this seems to fit right in with the English Brown Ales from the 18th century.  Therefore, let me please introduce you to:

Ye Old Confused Brown Ale

Here’s the final recipe, I’ll follow up with some tasting notes before the end of the year.
Grain Bill
0.45kg Roasted Buckwheat – Steeped for 30 minutes @ 70°C
0.45kg Roasted Flaked Millet – Steeped for 30 minutes @ 70°C
1.8kg Brown Rice Syrup – Added 60 min remaining in boil
0.25kg Black Strap Molasses – Added at 20 min remaining in boil
0.25kg Maple Syrup, Grade C – Added at 20 min remaining in boil

Hop Schedule
10g Fuggles (4,98% AA) – Added at 60 minutes remaining in boil
15g East Kent Goldings (6.00% AA) – Added at 15 minutes remaining in boil

Misc Ingredients
5g Irish Moss for clarifying – Added at 10 minutes remaining in boil
100g Malto-Dextrin for body – Added at 10 minutes remaining in boil

After roasting the grains.

The grains were roasted to a nice brown colour with a little water added to the pan.  This is probably what gave me the most trouble through this whole process.  I didn’t want to burn anything so I went really slowly, with low heat and it took almost 6 hours to reach a colour I deemed good enough, though it might have been because it was 1am and I had to go to work in the morning.  Next time, I’ll use a higher heat to get less time and no water in the flaked millet; it just becomes a sticky paste that is a pain to work with.

Before nearly bursting open.

Another fun little lesson I learned is that the roasted grains soak up water like a sponge.  I think it was mostly the flaked millet, but good Lord the muslin bag nearly popped and I lost almost 2.5L of water from the brew kettle. 

All in all this was a fun experience.  Nothing disastrous happened (yet) so I think I’ll keep the hobby going.  I think I’ll plan on a Chocolate Oatmeal Stout next, Mrs. Thirsty loves chocolate and that should make the house smell like chocolate for a day or three.


Photos courtesy of Mrs. Thirsty