British Brown Ale, beer for Match Beer 2018/2019, elaboration and tasting

While the new edition of Match Beer is going to start in a few weeks, in this post we are going to describe the beer we brewed for last year edition for our team, West Basque Country. Before I get into details, for those of you who don’t know, I’ll give a brief explanation about Match Beer, in my opinion one of more interesting activities organized by the Spanish Homebrewers Association (ACCE) and also a competition where you can learn a lot from your teammates and homebrewers from other teams. It is a competition only for members of the Association, so if you are interested, you can become a member visiting ACCE website.

Match Beer is a team competition in which teams from different regions of Spain (even some homebrewers living in other European countries) brew three styles of beer according to BJCP guidelines. These styles are previously voted by ACCE members. There are different rounds in which beers are judged by other teams and, in the end, there is a final round that it is usually held during the annual ACCE Congress with certified BJCP judges. Each team can select the beers they send to competition as they want. In our case, we made a previous round with all the beers we had brewed to select which ones were the best to be entered in Match Beer. In this case, we were lucky and our beer, a British Brown Ale, was selected to represent our team in that style (the other two beer styles were American Stout and Doppelbock).

Grist for our British Brown Ale

Even though the calendar for Match Beer is announced a long time in advance, months passed and we almost had no time to brew on time (something similar happened this year too). The only style we could brew to be ready in a little less than three weeks was British Brown Ale. American Stout and, especially, Doppelbock would have taken a lot more time. As we usually do, we did a little research about the style, although in this case everything seemed well defined. Evidently, hops and yeast should be of English origin. Regarding malts, there wasn’t a wide range of options to choose from, but it was maybe where you could make a difference in this style. According to BJCP guidelines, British Brown Ale is meltier than Bitter, stronger than Dark Mild and without the roasted flavors of Porter. This reduces the spectrum of malts for this style to pale malt (English if possible), caramel malts and, in some cases, a little bit of a darker malt.

Based on this information and considering our stock, we picked Golden Promise as our base malt, with two caramel malts, Crystal T50 for maltiness and some residual sweetness, and Crystal DRC to add more complex and darker notes without using roasted malts. Both of these malts will give also color, which we adjusted with a little amount of chocolate malt. Finally, some flaked barley to promote foam. As for hops, we used Fuggles, a classic English variety. Windsor from Lallemand was the yeast selected to perform fermentation this time.

Wort before boiling

BRITISH BROWN ALE (MATCH BEER 2018/2019)

MALTS/GRAINS
2.00 Kg (4.40 lbs) (82.5%) Golden Promise (Thomas Fawcett) (5.0 EBC)
0.25 Kg (0.55 lbs) (10.3%) Crystal T50 (Simpsons) (133.0 EBC)
0.10 Kg (0.22 lbs) (4.1%) Crystal DRC (Simpsons) (300.0 EBC)
0.05 Kg (0.11 lbs) (2.1%) flaked barley (Thomas Fawcett) (3.0 EBC)
0.02 Kg (0.04 lbs) (1.0%) chocolate malt (900.0 EBC)
HOPS
20.00 g (0.71 oz) Fuggles (5.71% AA) leaf (boil 50 minutes, 26.3 IBUs)
YEAST
Windsor (Lallemand)  (1 sachet, previously rehydrated)
THEORETICAL DATA
Volume: 10.50 L (2.8 gallons)    OG: 1.046   FG: 1.011     ABV: 4.6%     IBUs: 26.3     Color: 34.4 EBC     BU/GU: 0.572     Efficiency: 65.00%
WATER PROFILE
Ca: 111 ppm; Mg: 3 ppm; Na: 7 ppm; SO4: 80 ppm; Cl: 140 ppm; HCO3:35 ppm
MASH
67.0ºC (152.6ºF) for 60 minutes
BOIL
60 minutes

As you can see above, we did a single infusion as it is common with English styles, at a temperature to give us medium body. Water profile was modified adding 25 mL of sulfuric acid and 3.6 g (0.13 oz) of calcium chloride to adjust mash pH to a theoretical value of 5.38, predicted by Bru’n Water. As a bonus this would increase calcium level. The chloride:sulfate ratio was towards chloride to promote malt flavor.

This time everything went more or less as planned, with original gravity few points above the predicted value (1.050). After boiling, we cooled the wort with an immersion chiller and in a few minutes it was at 18.5ºC (65.3ºF), thanks to cold winter water. After transferring wort to a PET demijohn, about 11 liters (2.9 gallons), we pitched yeast we had previously rehydrated in about 100 mL of pre-boiled and cooled water.

Windsor, yeast for our British Brown Ale

Our fermentation chamber had no free space, so we left the demijohn in a room with a quite stable temperature of about 18ºC (64.4ºF). Next day, 16 hours after pitching yeast, a good krausen was present and the airlock was bubbling a lot. Later that day, krausen got thicker and temperature in the beer raised to 20ºC-21ºC (68.0ºF-69.8ºF). The following days krausen slowly disappeared and temperature of the liquid decreased day by day until it reached 18ºC (64.4ºF) again. It seemed that fermentation was coming to an end. Since beer also had cleared, six days after brewday I planned the bottling session. However, when I measured final gravity, it was a bit high, 1.019, so I decided to wait a little more. Well, in fact, only a day more because I needed to bottle the beer in order to have it carbonated when our team had set the meeting to choose which beers were going to represent us in Match Beer. So, a day later, and with a final gravity of 1.018 (4.2% ABV) I proceeded to bottle.

British Brown Ale on bottling day

Since I wasn’t sure that fermentation was finished (on the contrary, I thought it was more than likely that it had n’t finished), I decided to add sugar only for 1.8 volumes of CO2 in the final beer, thinking than the rest of carbonation could come from what was left to ferment (yeah, I know we shouldn’t do this). There were almost 10 liters (2.6 gallons) of beer, enough for 28 33 cL bottles. I crossed my fingers hoping that the day we were going to taste it the beer had an adequate carbonation.

Two weeks later, (I told you I had no time) we tasted the different beers all the members of the team have brewed. In the end, as I said before, ours got selected to represent the British Brown Ale style, which made us happy, especially because the beer had a good level of carbonation. It was quite clear and it could be considered a good example of the style. Maybe a little punch in malt aroma would had been ideal to round the beer.

British Brown Ale, final result

For the last part of the post, the tasting of the beer, I will try to summarize the opinions the beer got from members of other teams as well as from the BJCP judges that were present in the final round during the celebration of the ACCE Congress in Bilbao.

APPEARANCE: Medium brown, with a little haziness. Beige creamy foam with medium retention.

AROMA: Low to medium caramel from the malt. No esters. Hints of earthy hops. In the first tastings, there was also some diacetyl, which could be in part due to the fact it was bottled before it should be. However, in the final round, none of the judges detected diacetyl, so I guess yeast made its job cleaning it during the weeks that passed since the first tastings until the final round. However, in this final round, the BJCP judges claimed there was some oxidation.

FLAVOR: Medium caramel malt, with some residual sweetness. Low to medium bitterness, with low earthy hop flavor. Balance towards malts. In the first tastings, diacetyl was also mentioned.

MOUTHFEEL: Medium body, with medium-high carbonation. No presence of alcohol. A slightly creaminess and without astringency.

The beer got an average rating of 31 after all the tastings, which helped our team to win the third position in the team competition (being the American Stout the absolute star of our team). So in the end, considering all the circumstances, we were quite satisfied with the result. For future brews of this style, we will try to increase malt aroma. And once again, as we did when we brewed a Dark Mild, we had realized that English styles, although they seem not to be trendy among homebrewers (and commercial brewers in general), are quite easy and fast to brew and, most of the times, result in very enjoyable beers. Brewing an English style once in a while is always a good idea.

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