For Christmas this year, I wanted a special small-batch beer to sip on a cold, dark evening. I usually buy some barrel-aged commercial beers (Firestone Walker’s 2019 Old Man Hattan is particularly nice), so that flavor profile didn’t terribly appeal to me as a homebrew, especially not in larger volumes. After a bit of thought, I settled on a smoked ale. I’ve done a handful of those over the years, trying out the porter and brown ale styles previously. For this iteration, something in the Scottish ale space was appealing. I could get plenty of malt and plenty of body, and it would (hopefully) stand up well to any smokiness. Thus, the Yule Log Smoked Scottish Ale was born!
The recipe is built around the Scottish Export Ale BJCP style, which according to my reading sometimes is made with smoked variants. My version was based in part on Brulosophy’s Short & Shoddy Wee Heavy Recipe. To add a bit of smoked character, I put in two pounds (~16% of the total grain bill) of Briess cherrywood smoked malt.
In the spirit of the Short & Shoddy series, I cut a ton of corners in the brew day. I only did a 30 minute, full-volume mash, and a 30 minute boil. I used some oldish yeast, which meant I needed three packages total.
Yule Log Smoked Scottish Ale
- 9 lbs. Maris Otter malt (Crisp)
- 2 lb. Cherry wood smoked malt (Briess)
- 5 oz. Biscuit malt (Dingemans)
- 5 oz. Caramel 120° malt (Briess)
- 5 oz. CaraPils malt (Briess)
- 4 oz. Crystal 75° malt (Bairds)
- 1 oz. Whitbread Golding Variety hop pellets (8.7% alpha), 15 minute boil
- 2 pkg. Tartan yeast (Imperial Yeast #A31)
- 1 pkg. Safale American ale yeast (US-05)
- 1.063 s.g, 1.019 f.g., 5.8% abv, 21 IBU, 15 SRM
- 3.25 gallon batch
- Full volume infusion mash, 156° target temperature
- Claremont tap water, with Campden tablet treatment to remove chloramines
- I mashed in with 5.35 gallons of water at 165.5°, hitting a mash temperature of 155°. By the end of the 30 minute mash, temperature was down to 152°.
- I vorlaufed and collected 3.75 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.068, for 56% mash efficiency. This is a bit “thicker” than targeted, so I added 0.5 gallons of water to get 4.25 gallons of wort at a slightly lower gravity.
- I boiled for 30 minutes, adding hops at the 15 minute mark. I then chilled down to 70°, transferred to the fermenter, and pitched the yeast.
- Starting gravity was 1.066, on 24 November 2019. I fermented at 67°.
- I kegged the beer on 10 December 2019. It had a final gravity of 1.014, for 6.9% abv.
- Copper colored beer, moderately hazy, with a thin but persistent head.
- Faint smoke aroma, but not overbearing. Slight caramel note, and very mild fruity esters as the beer warms up.
- Modestly smoky, balanced nicely against the caramel and bready aspects of the malt. Bitterness is moderate, clean, and just about perfect for this beer. There is a very slight but pleasant sweetness to the beer. As I finish a glass, the smoke disappears behind the rest of the beer. On the one hand, it would be nice to smokiness be a bit more prominent, but on the other hand I think the drinkability would suffer. This is a rare smoked beer that can stand up to multiple pints!
- This beer has a reasonable bit of body, and a medium-sweet finish. Carbonation level is moderate.
- Would I brew this again?
- I liked this beer pretty well! I find commercial smoked beers to be hit or miss, and I think the very moderate level of smoked malt I use paid off. Pretty much everything works about this one, and it’s a nice beer to enjoy on a cool SoCal winter day. I wish the clarity was a bit better at this point, but I never bothered to cold-crash the beer, nor did I use gelatin or even hot-side finings. I expect a combination of these would clear things significantly. I might also mash just a touch higher, as this beer would benefit from a slight bump in body.
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.
My homebrew club is serving at an upcoming regional festival, and I volunteered to provide a keg of beer. In order to highlight the stuff our group of brewers is doing, I figured something outside of the ordinary (i.e., a generic American IPA or whatever) would be best. What better than a smoked porter?
A few months back, I made a smoked porter that turned out pretty darned delicious (in fact, it was one of my favorite beers of 2016). So, it was an easy decision to bring that recipe back! Once again, I’m using the peachwood smoked malt from Copper Fox–it’s really delicious stuff. Try it out if you can! Otherwise, I made a few very small tweaks for ingredients–in particular, I made some minor adjustments to use up a half ounce of Willamette hop pellets, and I also used dry yeast instead of liquid because I didn’t quite have time this past week to spool up a starter.
Olde Persica Porter 1.1
- 7 lbs. Vienna malt (Weyermann)
- 3 lbs. peach wood smoked 2-row malt (Copper Fox Distillery)
- 1 lb. 80° crystal malt
- 1 lb. 40° crystal malt
- 0.5 lb. black (patent) malt
- 0.5 lb. chocolate malt
- 2 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.1% alpha), 60 minute boil
- 0.8 oz. Willamette hop pellets (5.1% alpha), 10 minute boil
- 1 oz. Willamette hop pellets (4.1% alpha), 5 minute steep/whirlpool after flame-out
- 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
- Safale American ale yeast (US-05), 1 package
- 1.065 o.g., 1.017 f.g., 6.3% abv, 37 IBU, 36 SRM, 5.5 gallons into the fermenter
- I added 4.3 gallons of water at 172°, and let it cool until it hit 166.5°. This was a little below my target (I got distracted by some other tasks in the brewery), so the mash temperature only hit 154°. Thus, I added 1 quart of boiling water to hit 154.5°. The mash was only down to 153° after an hour.
- After 60 minutes of mashing, I collected the first runnings and then added 4 gallons of water at 190°, to hit a mash out temperature of 169°. I let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the second runnings.
- Altogether, I collected 6.25 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.052, for a mash efficiency of 69%. I’m not entirely sure why I was a bit below my target–maybe a volumetric issue when measuring out the mash and sparge water?
- I brought the runnings to a boil, and added hops and other stuff per the schedule. After 60 minutes, I turned off the heat and chilled the wort to 75°. Just to see if the whole Cascade hops would create enough of a filter to keep the pelletized gunk out, I left the hop pellets loose rather than bagging them or using my hop spider. That was a mistake! The kettle screen ended up clogged, and I only got about 4 gallons into the fermenter. This lessened volume is OK in my view, because past experience shows that we generally use only 2-3 gallons of a typical beer during a typical festival pour.
- After transferring to the fermenter, I pitched the yeast. Starting gravity is 1.061. I will be fermenting at 67°.
- This beer was brewed on 1 April 2017, with vigorous fermentation underway within less than 24 hours.
- Update: Final gravity was 1.018 on 23 April 2017, which works out to 5.5% abv.
Sometimes you make a beer that just nails it. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does…wow! Olde Persica Porter is one of those beers.
- The Basics
- Original gravity = 1.060, final gravity = 1.016, abv = 5.8%, estimated IBU = 37
- Smoky and rich, really nicely balanced. The smokiness has subsided a bit since first sampling a few weeks back, but is still quite pleasant. It’s hard to find the exact words for the smoke character, but it’s about spot-on for what I like in a beer.
- Brown head with decent retention; deep, chocolate brown beer, with decent clarity.
- The malts are wonderfully at the centerpiece of this beer. A moderate smokiness, roastiness, and slight hint of chocolate combine into something incredibly tasty.
- This beer has a moderate body, and a smooth finish. Carbonation is right about perfect.
- Would I brew this again?
- In a heartbeat! This ranks up there as probably one of the best beers I have ever made. The smokiness and overall body combine beautifully in this one. A week or so back I was thinking I needed to up the smoked malt percentage (as the smoke character faded over time), but now I’m not so convinced of that. I’ll keep it as is (although might adjust my boil slightly to achieve a slightly greater final gravity). This is one of those beers made for a cold night in front of the fire, and I’ve done exactly that.
My smoked porter has been in the primary fermenter for 13 days, coasting along at around 66°. So, I kegged it tonight. Final gravity was 1.016, down from 1.060, for 5.8% abv. The aroma and flavor are pretty darned delicious! The level of smokiness is just about perfect for my palate, too. Everything is carbonating and conditioning now at 40°.