Wulf's Webden

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Brown Brewday

It has been a while since my last home brewing effort  but I got a sack of crushed pale malt for Christmas along with a few other bits and finally got round to kicking off another beer today.

This one is based on the Monkey’s Paw Brown Ale in Charles Papazian’s The Complete Joy of Homebrewing (3rd edition). I think it may have also been the basis of my previous all-grain brew but unfortunately I didn’t keep sufficient notes. Since it is a test, and since I don’t have the boiling vessels to do a full scale brew, I have scaled it down to produce about 4l of fermentable wort. I have also used twice the amount of chocolate malt (since I don’t have any black malt) and slightly upped the hops, as I enjoy a strongly hopped result:

  • 780g pale malt
  • 44g chocolate malt
  • 90g crystal malt
  • 6g fuggles hops (early addition)
  • 6g fuggles hops (late addition)

To start off, I weighed and combined the malts and then added 1.9l of water at 63°C. The malts were in a grain bag for easy lifting out later. The temperature dropped to the mid fifties and I left it to soak for half an hour (with a couple of small boosts from the hob to stop it going below 52°C. I then added 1l boiling water and kept the temperature at about 68°C or slightly under for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Temperature control was based on a probe thermometer and manual adjustments to the hob; not entirely satisfactory but it was easy enough to sit there with a book and listen for the temperature alarm. The temperature was then raised to 70°C for a further 20 minutes. This process promotes two different kinds of enzymatic reaction which create the fermentable component of the wort.

The next step was to get as much goodness as possible out of the grain with a process called sparging. I had 2.3l of water ready at 76°C and used this to rinse the grain bag. I tried to squeeze as much as possible out of the grains (a colander and bowl are useful). At this point the grains can be discarded (or, in my frugal case, set aside for other recipes). The bag was rinsed and then used to add the first hop addition to the wort, which was kept at a boil for 50 minutes. This stops further enzymatic reactions, sterilises the mixture and extracts the hops bittering flavour. A second batch of hops (Goldings in the orginal recipe but I only had Fuggles to play with) was added to the bag and the wort was allowed to boil for another ten minutes; this is more for aroma than bittering.

The hot wort was then decanted into a sanitised plastic jerry can and left to cool while I got on with other things. The standard all-grain technique involves cooling it as swiftly as possible with complicated equipment but a previous experiment has shown that the jerry can trick works quite well. Later in the evening, I put some yeast in one of my decanting vessels and poured on the cooled wort. I dropped in my hydrometer, which showed quite a high gravity, so I added some warm water to bring this to a reading of 1.050. The whole lot has now been packed away wrapped in a rug to keep it warm and I will watch the fermentation over the next few days.

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