As I am pretty sure I’ve lamented previously, I sometimes get too far down the rabbit-hole of brewing to a particular style. IPA, stout, porter, pilsner…all are great, but that can be at expense of creativity. On the other hand, I grew wary of the big and bitter beers that I gravitated towards early in my craft beer days. And yet…I now find myself picking up a bottle of Arrogant Bastard every few weeks, and kind of enjoying it. The excesses of craft beer recipes are still excessive, but I’m finding that they can be enjoyable in moderation and on occasion.
To scratch this itch, I paged through the Craft Beer For the Homebrewer book, and my eyes settled upon a clone recipe for something called Ill-Tempered Gnome. Produced by Oakshire Brewing, this recipe looked big, dark, and bitter, and was billed as an American Brown Ale (on the website) or a winter warmer (in the beer book).
Quite intrigued, I pulled together the ingredients, making a minor substitution or two based on availability for some of the harder-to-find malts (e.g., I had to go with a different brand of coffee malt versus Franco-Belges Kiln Coffee Malt in the original recipe). That said, I did try to adhere as closely as possible to the book’s version, which I was told (by Denny Conn himself) came direct from the brewer.
Ill-Tempered Gnome Clone
12 lb. California Select 2-row malt (Great Western)
11 oz. crystal 15° (Great Western)
5 oz. coffee malt (Simpsons)
5 oz. honey malt (Gambrinus)
5 oz. special B malt (Dingemans)
4.5 oz. special roast malt (Briess)
3.5 oz. chocolate malt (Briess)
1 oz. Nugget hop pellets (12.9% alpha), 60 minute boil
0.5 oz. Centennial hop pellets (8.1% alpha), 20 minute boil
0.5 oz. Crystal hop pellets (4.5% alpha), 20 minute boil
Full volume mash at 154° for 60 minutes, with 10 minute mash-out at 168°
Claremont tap water, adjusted to reach estimated profile of 75 ppm Ca, 11 ppm Mg, 93 ppm Na, 149 ppm sulfate, 105 ppm Cl, 156 ppm bicarbonate; RA 68, 128 ppm alkalinity; 60 ppm effective hardness.
I heated 7.5 gallons of water to 161°, adding a Campden tablet to remove chloramines. Then, I mashed in with the grains to hit a temperature of 154°. I added 7 mL (1.5 tsp.) of 88% lactic acid to adjust the pH of the mash, and recirculated at 154° for 60 minutes. Then, I raised the mash temperature to 168° and held it there for 10 minutes, before removing the grains.
In total, I collected 6.35 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.055, for 68% mash efficiency.
As I brought the runnings to a boil, I added 5 g of gypsum to adjust the water profile.
To bring the gravity up a bit, I boiled for an extra 10 minutes, before beginning to add the hops. I then boiled for an additional 60 minutes, adding hops and kettle finings per the recipe.
After the 60 minute boil, I chilled to ~75°, transferred to the fermenter, and chilled down to 65° in the fermentation chamber. Then, I pitched the two packages of yeast.
I brewed the beer on 9 October 2021, and fermented at 65°. Starting gravity was 1.061.
On 20 October 2021, I let the beer free rise to 70° (after removing it from the fermentation chamber).
I kegged the beer on 23 October 2021. At this point, its gravity was 1.017. This equates to 5.9% abv.
The beer pours with a thick and frothy ivory head, and awesome lacing as the head subsides slowly. The beer is a brilliantly clear reddish amber in color in a tulip glass, and is a nice even brown in a tall glass.
Resiny hops are at the front, with toffee and coffee malt aroma alongside some caramel. The malt/hop balance is spot-on.
Moderately high bitterness, with a resin and pine quality to the hops, for an extended bitterness in the finish. This beer has a full malt character, with caramel at the front and a slight bit of chocolate at the back. Delicious!
Medium-full body, with moderate carbonation and an off-dry finish.
Would I Brew This Again?
YES! The resiny hops plus rich malt character are an awesome combo. The beer is straight out of 1997 in terms of its traditional hops and big flavors, but I love it for that. Who knows if my version is a true clone, but do I really care? I love this beer! In particular, it’s not really a winter warmer (in terms of the overspiced recipes so common out there), but definitely closer to an American brown ale. I’ll do this one again.
As the days turn towards winter, I’m in a dark [beer] mood. This is the time of year when I really like having a stout, porter, brown ale, or even an amber ale on tap to round out my beer choices.
To kick things off for the fall/winter dark beer season, I brewed up “Kveik the Keg Brown Ale.” It’s a total experiment, pulling together something that’s vaguely an American-style brown ale, with a repitch of the Hornindal kveik culture used in my recent pale ale. The idea was to make a sessionable beer holding ample malt character and a citrus highlight…something like a “chocolate orange” feel. I modified this from the Wasatch Premium Ale recipe in the Brewing Session Beers book by Jennifer Talley, because it looked like it had many of the initial features I was hoping for. For the malt base, I mixed American 2-row and light Munich malt, supplemented by a hefty dose of crystal 75, some chocolate malt, and a touch of Carafa Special III for color. For hops, I used all whole-Cascade hops. The Hornindal culture, which produces a subtle citrus character, would hopefully work alongside the Cascade. As you’ll see in the tasting notes, this was a pretty successful experiment!
Kveik the Keg Brown Ale
6.25 lb. 2-row brewer’s malt (Great Western)
2.5 lb. Munich light malt (Chateau)
1 lb. crystal 75 malt (Great Western)
2.6 oz. Carafa Special III malt (Weyermann)
2.5 oz. chocolate malt (Briess)
1 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), 60 minute boil
0.5 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), 30 minute boil
1.5 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), 10 minute boil
1 tsp. yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
Hornindal Kveik (Omega OYL-091), repitched from previous batch
1 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), dry hop in fermenter
1.044 s.g., 1.011 f.g., 4.4% abv, 18 SRM, 33 IBU
Infusion mash, 156°, batch sparge; 60 minute boil
Claremont water, with Campden tablet to remove chloramines.
I mashed in with 3.4 gallons of water at 166°, to hit my mash target of 156°. After 40 minutes, I added 1.5 gallons of hot water (~175°), to raise the mash temperature to 164°. I let this sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings.
Next, I added 3.75 gallons of hot water, to hit a ~164° mash temperature. I let this sit for 10 more minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the second runnings.
In total, I collected 7.3 gallons of runnings at a gravity of 1.038, for 76% mash efficiency.
I brought the runnings to a boil, and added hops, nutrients, and finings per the indicated schedule. After 60 minutes, I turned off the heat, chilled the wort down to 89°, and transferred it to the fermenter.
I brewed this beer on 19 September 2020. Starting gravity was 1.045, pretty close to my target. I pitched around 8 ounces of yeast slurry (which had been harvested a week prior), and saw signs of fermentation within 90 minutes of pitching the yeast! Within 18 hours, there was vigorous fermentation. What a solid start for this culture! I fermented this at ambient temperatures.
On 23 September, I added 1 oz. of dry hops directly to the fermenter.
I kegged the beer on 3 October 2020, adding 2.8 oz. of corn sugar boiled in 1 cup of water. The keg sat at ambient for ~10 days, before I topped up the pressure using force carbonation.
Final gravity was 1.017, down from 1.045, for 3.6% abv.
Very clear, deep brown beer with a persistent ivory head. It is exceptionally pretty!
Moderate chocolate character to the malt aroma, with a slight citrus character, presumably from the yeast and hops. Very clean!
The beer has a surprisingly rich, bready malt base (must be that Munich malt!), with a dark caramel and chocolate character behind that. Bitterness is at a moderately high level, but not over the top relative to the malt. There is definitely an orangey citrus character in play here.
Moderate carbonation, with a fairly light body and a crisp finish. There is a very slight bit of what might be astringency on the extended finish, but it’s barely noticeable. It’s not harsh at all, but does seem a touch out of balance with the rest of the beer.
Would I brew this again?
Yes! I might make a few minor modifications, perhaps to dial the bitterness back just a touch and maybe reduce the dry hopping level or dry hopping time. I think the beer would also benefit from swapping out the 2-row base malt with a Vienna or Maris Otter-type malt, to enrich the malt character. All that said, it’s overall a pretty good beer. I really like how the kveik culture worked in this beer, and it’s pretty nice to find something for this yeast that’s not yet another oversaturated IPA. I’ll probably be brewing more beers like this down the road!
A friend of mine who lives out east experimented with smoking his own malt–in this case, he scrounged up some sassafras root, and used it to smoke a two-row malt. It took me a bit to think about what kind of beer I wanted to make with it, because I’ve already done smoked porters, and a stout wasn’t really appealing either. Why not try a brown ale? It’s not so heavy as to be undrinkable in the summer heat, and the other malt flavors would hopefully meld well with the smoked malt. This recipe is also intended to use up many of my specialty malts, so I freshen up my stockpile with newer malts. Although they seem to keep pretty well, it probably doesn’t hurt to rotate from time to time.
Summer Haze Brown Ale
4.1 lbs. California select 2-row malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
2.5 lbs. Vienna malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
2 lbs. sassafrass smoked 2-row malt
14 oz. 40° crystal malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
8 oz. pale chocolate malt (Crisp Malting Co.), 225° SRM
4.3 oz. chocolate malt (Briess), 350° SRM
1.9 oz. Carafa III malt (Weyermann)
0.6 oz. Carafa Special II malt (Weyermann)
1 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), 60 minute boil
1 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), 10 minute boil
1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
1 pkg. Safale US-05 dry yeast
1.052 o.g., 1.011 f.g., 5.4% abv, 26 IBU, 25 SRM
Infusion mash to hit target of 152°, 60 minutes, batch sparge.
Claremont tap water, treated with Campden tablet
I mashed in with 3.5 gallons of tap water at 163°, to hit a mash temperature of 151°. After 60 minutes, I added 1.5 gallons of sparge water at 170°. This rested for 15 minutes, before the vorlauf and then collection of the first runnings.
Next, I added 3.5 gallons of water at 170°, before resting for 10 minutes, vorlaufing, and collecting the rest of the runnings.
I collected 6.5 gallons of runnings at a gravity of 1.041, for 71% efficiency.
Next, I brought the kettle to a boil, adding hops and Whirlfloc per the schedule.
After a 60 minute boil, I chilled around 80° before transferring to the fermenter. I then chilled it the rest of the way in the fermentation chamber, down to 68°.
I sprinkled the yeast directly into the wort, fermenting at 68°.
Starting gravity was 1.046–I notched back the boil intensity a bit on this one (per recent recommendations from various corners of the internet), so I’ll need to start compensating for a change in evaporation rate.
I brewed this batch on Wednesday, August 22, and kept it at 68° until Friday, August 31. Then, I pulled it out of the keezer (to make room), finishing up at 75° ambient temperature.
Today, after two weeks in the primary fermenter, I kegged my Vienna Brown Ale. Final gravity was at 1.013, down from 1.048, for 4.6% abv. I am hoping this one mellows a bit in the keg; right now it has a little acidity at the backend, and my fingers are crossed that’s not an infection in the making!
Many of my recent brews have explored styles that are new to me–saison, Bohemian pilsner, witbier, and altbier, to name a few. This has been a ton of fun (and produced some tasty results), and I am ever-searching for new ways to expand my brewing repertoire further. For the next round of exploration, I want to really delve into Vienna malt. My standard base malt has been American 2-row, and last winter I spent a bit of time playing with Maris Otter too. I’ve certainly brewed with Vienna malt as a minor ingredient, but still don’t feel like I have a good handle on its flavor characteristics. Time to change that!
Descriptors for Vienna malt are typically vague–phrases like “full-bodied” and “golden colored” don’t really tell me much about the flavor itself. “Toast” and “biscuit” aromas are also supposed to be present. I’m not yet confident what this means within this particular malt, so I need to find out firsthand.
Thus, I recently purchased a 55 pound bag of Weyermann Vienna Malt from my local homebrew shop. I plan to do a whole series of brews with it during the rest of 2016. First up is a brown ale, then an IPA, and after that a classic Vienna lager (because it would be a shame not to!).
My brown ale recipe for this time around is fairly simple, veering towards the malty side (which I like in a brown ale). I have a good feel for what the various crystal and chocolate malts taste like, so this batch makes a solid first chance to get my brain cells around the overall properties of Vienna malt.
Vienna Brown Ale
9.5 lbs. Vienna malt (Weyermann)
0.5 lb. chocolate malt (Briess)
0.25 lb. crystal 40 malt
0.15 lb. de-bittered black malt (Dingemans)
0.5 oz. Nugget hops pellets (13% alpha), 60 minute boil
1 tablet Whirlfloc, 10 minute boil
1 pkg. Nottingham dry yeast (Danstar)
1.051 o.g., 1.012 f.g., 5.1% abv, 24 IBU, 23 SRM, 5.5 gallons into the fermenter
I mashed in with 4.1 gallons of water at 163°, to hit 154°. This was down to 151° after 45 minutes. After 60 minutes, I added 1 gallon of water at 190°, to hit a mash temperature of 155°. I waited 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected 3.3 gallons of first runnings. Then, I added 3.7 gallons of water at 182°, to hit 166°. After 10 minutes, I vorlaufed and drained the mash tun.
In total, I collected 7.1 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.039, for 71% efficiency.
I boiled the wort for 60 minutes, adding hops and Whirlfloc per the schedule. The wort had boiled down to around 6.25 gallons (unchilled) by the end of the time.
After 60 minutes, I turned off the flame and chilled the wort to 80°. I transferred the wort into the fermenter (5.5 gallons total), and pitched the dry yeast directly. I sealed up the fermenter, and will begin fermentation at 68°.
Starting gravity was 1.048, slightly below my target of 1.051. I brewed this batch on 20 August 2016.