Make Your Best, cont’d
Soon, a certain style of really-for-fall-but-it’s-already-out beer will hit the shelves. I’m not going to tell you how to make one, but if I did, the base style would be this Northern English Brown ale.
Style: Northern English Brown ale is not even a proper “brown” ale. My version is lighter in color than my mild, coming in more at medium-amber! But the name indicates that it’s simply darker than bitters but not as dark as porters. As a style, there’s a lot of room for interpretation here. The key is a fundamental drinkability.
This beer relies on malt character but at the same time isn’t particularly malty: you should taste a good amount of medium-crystal flavor (caramel, toffee), but it should have a nice balancing bitterness to it. It should also taste fairly “light,” both in terms of mouthfeel and alcohol. Despite being a darker beer, it typically has no more alcohol than an English bitter.
Ingredients: The key to this beer is good-quality ingredients that shine through. Our grist is composed of one of each class of malt: Base—8 lb (3.6 kg) Maris Otter; Crystal—1 lb (454 g) British Medium Crystal (65L); and Chocolate—0.25 lb (113 g) British Pale Chocolate (220L).
Some like to add flaked maize, torrified wheat, or flaked barley to smooth out the texture, and if I happen to have some flaked barley on hand, 0.50 lb (227 g) might find its way into the mash. The important thing about this grist is that you end up with a predominately caramel/ bread flavor profile, with a touch of toffee and some slight drying roast, all for about 48 gravity points that yield an ABV of about 4.8 percent. If you notice a coffee flavor in the finished beer, increase your crystal malt addition and back off your roast addition until it goes away!
Hopping is, likewise, pretty simple. One oz (28 g) East Kent Goldings at 60 minutes will impart about 25 IBUS, and 1 oz (28 g) Fuggles at flame-out will give you that great, earthy, “I love the smell of England in the morning” aroma.
For yeast, I prefer Wyeast 1028 (London Ale). It’s one more backstop against an overly sweet beer.
Process: Start fermentation relatively low in the ale temperature range (65°F/18°C) and increase throughout fermentation to promote attenuation and hold off/clean up diacetyl. Wyeast 1028 is a great attenuator and isn’t particularly prone to diacetyl, but it’s still good practice. Resist the urge to over-carbonate this beer. It’s terrific at cask pressure (about one volume of CO2)— the malt flavors are wonderfully delicate. If you want to make a beer-that-shall-notbe-named-while-it’s-still-summer, I like to cut and roast my gourd material and add it to the mash, then add my other ground-up special ingredients post-fermentation, to taste. Use a light hand with both and you’ll get a beer that is reminiscent of the season but that leaves people to wonder if you’ve really made a seasonal squash-based fermented beverage at all.