Most of my ale evangelism, it seems, has been focused on the brewing aspect of my life, lately. I’m ok with this. You see, if you’re willing to live the life and go through so much trouble to create something that you can go to the store and buy for less than $10 for a 6-pack, there must be something to this stuff that people just aren’t getting, right? After all, how many people do you know who would take 7 hours out of their Saturday, get a system for chilling their beer down to lagering termps, and work that hard to brew something like Budweiser? The answer? Not too many. Simply investing the time and money in the hobby is enough to tell someone how passionate you are about this beer. Some people will shake their head at you. Others will start to wonder if there’s something about this “beer” stuff that they’ve been missing for all this time.
This Saturday I’ll be brewing a coffee brown ale. A brown ale is not something most people think will blend with coffee. Now, I’m not saying I’m going to be able to master this beer, but it’s definitely something that CAN be done. As I’ve said in other posts on this blog, I have had a well-executed coffee brown ale in Alaska, and it was an absolutely tasty beer. I want to do one because I can’t get a single commercial version of a coffee brown ale around here.
The brown ale style is a widely varied style. I’m talking about an American Brown Ale, which can be either sweet, or slightly on the dry side, and can be hop-subdued or hop-forward. From what I understand, most homebrewers are very hop-forward, while commercial examples of the style are more on the sweet-malty side. I’m leaning more toward the sweet, malty side of things and letting the hops fade into the background on this one.
My high-level overview of this beer is that I want the roasty notes provided by the chocolate malt to tie in the roasty, coffee bitterness. I want the fruity notes of aroma hops to be very background, as I think they’ll clash too much with the coffee and roasty flavors I want to be present. I want the crystal malt in the recipe (2 different kinds, 40L and 60L) to add a complexity of residual sweetness which would be reminiscent of a rich, caramel coffee creamer. The dextrine malt / cara-pils, along with the caramel, will give the beer a rich, full body, also reminiscent of a coffee with creamer in it. Finally, I’m adding some victory malt both because it’s recommended by Jamil (a well-known homebrewer-gone-pro) for an American brown, and because the profile of this grain is to add a toasty, nutty flavor to the beer. I’m hoping if a nuttiness comes through it might be reminiscent of a hazelnut, commonly added to coffee.
For my technique, I’m planning on mashing a tad on the high side to help contribute to the richness and residual sweetness of the beer. Maybe 153 or 154F. The boil will be a standard 60 minute boil. No weird late hop additions for this one, thanks. Finally, I’ll add my 32 oz. of coffee (or so) into the fermenter at pitching time. I usually do a cold-brew of the coffee so as not to extract too many tannins from the coffee grind, itself. By all accounts, a cold-brew helps to extract rich roast flavor without doing a ton to get harsh bitterness; precisely what I’m looking for.
Execution of this particular beer has been sort of….lame in the past. Nothing I’d throw out, and I got some really good comments from other brewers on it. However, it’s not what I was shooting for. I redesigned the recipe to improve upon the “BEER” aspect of it, because I felt that I got a lot of good coffee flavors before. I’m keeping my coffee addition the same, and we’ll see how it turns out. I have high hopes for how this beer is going to turn out. I do have a couple gotchas, though.
– For one, I need need NEED to get a handle on my mash temps. I’ve been way too lax about measuring lately, and I need to be more detail-oriented about this. Without that mash temp dialed in, I could end up with a dry beer, etc. Since I don’t direct-fire my mash tun, I will need to control temp with water infusions. Could be hectic, but I will do what I can to get the temps of the grain, temps of the cooler, etc. before I strike. If I can get this down, I’ll have a lot more control over the finished product.
– For another, I can’t keep forgetting the whirlfloc tablet. This addition helps the stuff fall out of suspension and keeps an excess of trub from getting into the fermenter. I’m doing a whirlpool these days both to cool the wort and to help keep junk out of the fermenter, but if I’m not using finings or a whirlfloc tablet, then I might as well not bother.
Overall, if I can remember some of these things, use my new thermometer, and get a handle on my process, there’s no reason why this shouldn’t turn out to be a tasty, tasty beer! I’ll keep you all posted.