Brown ale, in just about any of its varieties, is probably my favorite style of beer. Northern English, Southern English, American, even the granddaddy Old Ale – I love ’em all. So today’s beer is going to be a big winter American brown. Here are the basics:

Big American Brown
3.5 Qts
1.75# Marris Otter
1.5 oz British Crystal 50 – 60L (I like the character it gives over the American 40L or 60L)
1 oz Chocolate Malt
0.75 oz Victory (I like the toastiness this gives brown ales)
0.375 oz Willamette @ 90 min
0.167 oz Willamette @ 35 min
0.125 oz Willamette @ 0 min
WLP001 Yeast

My methods were a little different this time from the last brew, but not much. First off, the grain crushing. I read on the More Beer forums that some people were using a blender to “crush” their grains. It seems easy enough, so I gave it a go.

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As per the recommendations in the forums, I put one cup of grain in at a time. Three two second pulses seemed to do the trick, resulting in a “crush” that left some kernels intact and ground some to flour.

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For the most part, the result isn’t much different from the Corona mill I’ve been using, and since this took a fraction of the time and was infinitely easier to clean up I think I’ll stick with the blender method for all my small batches.

The next change in method was the bag for the mash. I went to the hardware store and picked up a two-pack of 5 gallon paint straining bags for $2. It’s way better for the beer-in-a-bag mashing setup than the little grain sack I used last time. Here it is sitting in the water with the thermometer and steamer basket waiting for some grains:

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In addition to the new mesh bag, I decided to change the sparging technique…by eliminating it entirely. I just heated up enough strike water to make up for the grain absorption. The water got heated to 160F and the grains were mashed in. The temperature dropped to 155F and I tried to keep it there for an hour. It involved some stirring and adding some heat to the kettle every now and then, but not as much as last time. Then I just pulled the bag out and let it drain over the kettle for a few seconds while I turned the flame on for the boil.

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I didn’t really squeeze the bag, like I’ve heard some people do. I just let it drain off and threw the whole sack into the sink to cool down. This method, with the blending and mashing in the kettle, got 75% mash efficiency, which is roughly what I was getting with the 5 gallon cooler and batch sparge method on my 2.5 gallon batches a while back. So I’m pleased as punch. Let’s move on and see if I can’t screw this up somehow.

I boiled for an hour, throwing hops in at 60 and 5 minutes as my recipe was originally written. Then when it came time to cool down I noticed that there was WAY too much wort in the kettle. Back on the heat for another half hour to try to boil off more water. That’s how I ended up with a 90 minute boil with hops at 90, 35 and flame-out. After all that I ended up with too LITTLE wort – 3 quarts instead of 3.5. Not a big deal, I guess, but it would have been nice to finish up having gotten just about everything right for once.

This beer’s stats:
OG = 1.062
IBU = 61
Expected FG = 1.015

Assumptions for next time:
Evaporation rate of 2.25 qts/hr
Mash efficiency of 74%
Brewhouse efficiency of 64%
Total brewing time of 4 hours