Hello brewing friends, and welcome again to Great Fermentations’ Recipe of the Month blog! This month, we’ll be taking a look at, and brewing, an American Brown Ale.
American brown ales are open to quite a wide range of interpretation. While there are three distinct subcategories of English brown ales (mild, northern and southern), the American brown ales get lumped into a single category that can have a lot more variability than their English counterparts. This comes from a history where homebrewed versions of the style were often heavily-hopped, bigger and bolder versions of the classic British styles with a higher alcohol content. These days, commercial examples have become more tame in comparison with these early experimental versions, but nevertheless retain a certain big malt and roast character that is well-balanced by the hops. Consequently, you can have versions with more or less malt, roast, hop character, and alcohol than others.
I have called our American brown ale “Fall Down Brown” because I was down to make a brown recipe for the Fall, and if you have too many of this delicious beer (as with any), you are likely to fall down. It is along the more tame lines of the style, and uses a simple base of American 2-row, biscuit, chocolate, and crystal 120L malts. Half pound of Biscuit and Chocolate help to give the toasted and roasted notes respectively, while a whole pound of crystal 120L give it even dark color, with a richer stone fruit sweetness.For the all-grain, mashing at 152F will give a nice medium body and allow the beer to attenuate out well while leaving some residual sweetness and dextrins.
As far as hops go, using a mild dual purpose hop like Glacier for bittering gives it just enough bitterness, while a 15 minute addition of Cascade can give this beer that quintessential “American” hop character. Those who are adventurous or want a more hop-focused brown may choose to go with a full ounce at this addition, and may even do a flame-out or dry-hop addition with 0.5 to 1 full ounce. The BJCP style guidelines list a strong hop aroma or a fresh dry-hop character as optional. I’m going to leave these out of my version, but leave it up to you if you want something hoppier!
As far as yeast goes, Nothing beats a standard American Ale strain such as Wyeast 1056, White Labs WLP001, or Safale S-05. However, if you are feeling adventurous and want to switch this up with another American strain, both the Wyeast 1332 Northwest Ale strain and the 1272 American Ale II strains are nice. If you want to go hoppier, I would suggest the Wyeast 1272 strain, as it tends to do well with accentuating hop character. Today is a cooler day here in Indiana, and the return of cooler temperatures hopefully means that the ambient temperatures will be kind to us, allowing us to ferment this beer at a good 66F or so to keep fruity esters in check. However, for the style, up to moderate esters are allowable.
So there you have it! Let’s have a great beer for a great start to the fall with our Fall Down Brown ale! Cheers!
Fall Down Brown American Brown Ale Recipe (for final volume of 5.5 gallons)
Estimated O.G. = 1.053
Estimated F.G. = 1.012
Estimated ABV = 5.4%
Estimated bitterness = 28 IBUs
9.5 lbs. American 2-Row
1 lb. Crystal 120L
0.5 lb. Chocolate Malt
0.5 lb. Biscuit Malt
1 oz Glacier hops (6.0% AA), added at the beginning of the 60 minute boil
0.5 oz Cascade hops (7.6% AA), added with 15 minutes left in the 60 minute boil
2 packs (or make an appropriate starter) Wyeast 1056 American Ale, White Labs WLP001 California Ale, or Safale S-05 dry yeast. You may also try Wyeast 1272 American Ale II if doing the hoppier version described above, or try Wyeast 1332 Northwest Ale for a change of pace.
- Mash at 152F for 60 minutes. A mash-out at 168F for 15 minutes is recommended, but not necessary. Drain, sparge, and proceed with a 60 minute boil.
- Chill to 64-66F, pitch yeast, and allow to ferment at 66F for 2 to 3 weeks before bottling or kegging.
- A secondary fermentation for one week to improve clarity and reduce sedimentation is optional.
Extract Version: Replace 9.5 lbs of American 2-row with 6 lbs of light dry malt extract. Steep the specialty grains (crystal 120L, chocolate malt and biscuit malt) at 150-155F for 30 minutes using a muslin grain bag. Remove the bag, allowing the grains to drain into the boil kettle. Turn off the flame and dissolve the extract in the kettle. Turn the flame back on, bring to a boil and proceed as normal.