British Brewday: Wonmisan Brunner (Northern Brown, v.2)

I decided it was time to get brewing today, so I quickly updated a recipe that Miss Jiwaku really enjoyed — my original Northern Brown recipe — to include things I have on hand. And since it’s a Northern Brown ale, I thought I’d name it in honor of John Brunner, a British author many consider the “godfather of cyberpunk.” Not that my ale is cyberpunky, but it is brun, and English, and (hopefully) cool.

Usually, I do double-batches, but there are a few reasons why I decided to do this beer as a no-sparge brew. For one thing, English ales are supposed to be maltier, something that no-sparge brewing apparently facilitates, albeit at a notable loss in efficiency. Secondly, I feel like doing a single batch, and specifically like doing a single batch without all the hassle of running my wort into a second container, dumping the grain from my brewpot (which is how I do single batches — my boil kettle is my MLT!) and then returning the wort to the kettle for the boil. I figured, I might as well experiment with no sparge and make my return to brewing easy — since I seem not to have brewed anything new since late November!

Miss Jiwaku likes English-style ales, and particularly enjoyed the English Northern Brown Ale I made for her last year, so I figured I’d replicate this, with a few improvements. My goals for this brewday were:

  • experiment with no-sparge brewing
  • get a clearer wort into the fermenter (because clarity is one of those issues I haven’t yet dialed in)
  • produce a really nice Northern Brown Ale
My recipe (also here on hopville, if you prefer reading just the facts) is simple:
  • 4kg of Pilsner Malt (because I can’t get Marris Otter or Pale Malt in Korea)
  • 0.3kg of English Dark Crystal Malt (as a Brit brewer friend told me the English Crystal makes a big difference)
  • 0.2 kg of  wheat malt (head retention, etc.)
  • 0.1 kg of chocolate malt (for color and a touch of flavor)

The hops are Fuggles all the way: 25.6 IBU total (BU:GU = 0.52), derived from 32 grams at 60 min, 14 grams at 15 min, and then 28 gram to be dry hopped in secondary (or, more likely, in the keg) for a week. [See update below.]

Whirlfloc at 15 minutes is part of how I plan to clarify the beer. I’d been adding it at 5 minutes, according to something I’d read online that claimed it got denatured after 15 minutes. Besides that, I plan on letting it rest for at least 30 minutes (probably more) before racking it to the fermenter. After some consideration, I decided to try whirlpooling the wort, while chilling it, and rack it with a racking cane.

The yeast is a single pack of Safale S-04, and I’ll try keep the beer at around 68°C, where it will be low enough to prevent weird flavors, but high enough to get some of that fruity English character going on.

One more thing: while I really like my barley crusher, I think I need to get an electric drill; perhaps some people find hand-cranking their mills relaxing, but for me, it’s more like… well, like unnecessary work! Still, today it was all by hand…

As for how things went: it was a really quick batch, at only five hours or so from mash-in to walking out the door. (And meanwhile I kegged two beers I’d been putting off dealing with, so…) The wort ran very clear most of the time I racked it to the fermenter, so I shouldn’t have too much trouble having it run clear. And I even “sparged” the grain to try a mini-experiment with the effects of pressure cooking wort.

(Preliminary results: it is a LOT darker after two 20-minute sessions in the pressure cooker at 14 psi, but I’m not 100% sure whether that’s because the fructose caramelized, or the wort is just clearer of protein: during pressure cooking, the proteins and gunk caked up in a serious ring around the top of the wort, to a degree that left me wondering why commercial brewers don’t do it for the sake of clarity (even if, in the end, one must do a normal boil to gvet rid of dimethyl sulfide and the nasty cabbagey smell it gives a brew.)

The big disappointment is the gravity. I was shooting for 5.0%, but I realized far too late that I’d made 6 gallons of wort, not five. That kind of changes things, right? Changes them in terms of bitterness and the level of sugar in the wort. The problem is, I ended up with an OG of 1.029, which is much lower than my estimated OG of 1.044. MUCH lower. So I am thinking that I should probably boil up some more of the leftover wort — which I was planning to use for feeding my yeasts — with some DME to bring up the OG to where I wanted it. Not to disparage no-sparge brewing, but I got an efficiency of 41%, which is basically unacceptable with the price of grain in Korea.

So… no more no-sparge for me (here, anyway)!

Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing how this brew turns out… I’ll post updates.

UPDATE (18 Jan 2012, 1:00am): Well, I went ahead and boiled up nearly a kilo of extract in  a gallon of 1.020 wort, but forgot to add hops. I suspect this beer will therefore end up somewhat under-bittered, but there’s not much I can do about it now.  The best I can say is that the Northern Brown I last made for Miss Jiwaku wasn’t all that hoppy, and she liked it fine. I will, however, be dry-hopping it, so that should help some, anyway. (In terms of the psychological effect of tasting hops, and thinking there’s perhaps more bitterness than there is.)

UPDATE (18 Jan 2012, 12:00pm): Fermentation took off nicely, and was going, at a moderate pace, when I woke this morning. Looks like there’s no need for a blowoff tube, but I think this should ferment out properly in a week… which has me thinking maybe I should be pitching something else on top of it. Perhaps, an English-styled pale ale? (With the other half receiving adjuncts stuff added to it, to become a Belgian Pale Ale?)  Hmmmm. And here I was, planning to make a Saison and a Belgian Golden Strong Ale…

I think I need a new bucket!

UPDATE (4 Feb 2012): I just racked this from the carboy to the keg, and I am blown away. It’s gorgeously clear — though a little darker than I’d imagined it — and even flat and at room temperature, it has a wonderfully caramel, malty taste and it’s good. (Then again, it is an English ale, so flat and room temperature is the expected serving conditions, right? Ha!)

I was going to dry hop it a bit aggressively — I’m not sure why I planned to do that, actually — but tasting this, I kind of feel like I should either dry hop it very gently, or not at all… and I’m tending toward not at all. By the way, this brew finished out at an FG of 1.011.

Tomorrow, I shall rack the ESB to secondary in the carboy that this was in… but I will hold off on dry-hopping until I’ve racked that to the keg… and the ESB will be dry-hopped aggressively! (Well, by English ale standards, that is!)

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