Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Brewing a Southern English Brown - no-sparge method

I would say that one of my biggest dilemmas as a homebrewer is finding the time to brew all of the beers that I'd like to brew. Aside from all of the new beer styles out there, along with the numerous tried-and-true recipes available in books, from other homebrewers, and on the internet, there's also a lot of recipes that I've done myself that I really enjoyed and would love to brew again, exactly as before. And yet another group of beers: the styles I've brewed before, and would like to try again with some tweaking to the previous recipe.

All you can really do is find a balance that works for you. I usually do new recipes that I haven't tried before, and sometimes I'll fit in a style where I try to improve a previous attempt (like my Twenty Dollar Blonde). This can be pretty enjoyable, as it's really a great way to increase your knowledge of homebrewing ingredients and methods, along with basic recipe-formulation. Two years ago I brewed a Southern English Brown, a malty-sweet, medium-bodied, low-ABV, smooth session ale. I'm pretty low on sessionable homebrews at the moment, so it seemed like a good time to tackle the style again.

While I generally liked how the beer turned out the first time, I don't think I was a huge fan of what the Special Roast grain added to it, and would have liked the body and carbonation to be a bit higher. Here are the basic changes I made to the beer this time around:

- Completely cut out the Special Roast.
- Decreased the Crystal 80 L and 120 L, and added Crystal 40 L to make up the difference.
- Increased the amount of Pale Chocolate malt.
- Added a bit of Amber Malt for flavor and darkening purposes.
- Mashed at a slightly-higher temp for (hopefully) more body (155 F vs. 153 F the first time).
- Changed the yeast from Wyeast 1968 London ESB to Wyeast 1028 London Ale (mostly on a whim).
- When bottling, I'll likely aim for a carbonation of around 1.8-2 vol CO2 (vs. the 1.5 for my first SEB).

After reading up on and posting on the subject, I also decided to try the no-sparge method. Since many claim this approach gives a richer and more-intense malt flavor, I figured a SEB would be a good style to try it on. I went with Strong's suggested method, where you increase your grist by 33%, mash and mash-out as usual, then make up the remaining boil volume by simply pouring water into the boil kettle. I assumed 80% efficiency on BeerSmith and multiplied my grain amounts by 1.33, and luckily only missed my target OG by one point.

I still have one bottle of my first SEB on hand. It's almost two years old now, but I'd still like to compare the beers when this current batch has been bottled. With a high mash-temp, the no-sparge method, and 35% of the grist coming from specialty malts, I'm hoping this beer will come through with more malty-sweetness and a fuller body than my first attempt.

I should also note that my brew day came about a little short-notice, and it happened to be Learn to Homebrew Day. Unfortunately, it was too last-minute to get some friends who have been curious about homebrewing in on it... but luckily my mother was visiting, and was more than happy to assist!

Recipe targets: (5.5 gallons): OG 1.036, FG 1.010, IBU 14, SRM 22.5, ABV 3.5%

64.3% Maris Otter
10.7% Pale Chocolate malt
7.1% Crystal 40 L
7.1% Crystal 80 L
7.1% Crystal 120 L
3.7% Amber malt

East Kent Goldings - 28 g (3.7% AA) @ 60 min

1/2 tsp yeast nutrient @ 15 min
1/2 tab Irish moss @ 5 min

Yeast: Wyeast 1028 London Ale (PD Oct 6/12, with a 750 mL starter)

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered

- Brewed Nov 3rd, 2012, with my mother. 60-minute saccharification rest with 13.8 L of water for a mash temp of 155 F. Mashed-out with 4.85 L of boiling water, resulting temp low at 163 F. Let rest for another 10 minutes, then vorlaufed 3-4 L and drained into kettle. Filled kettle with another ~4 gallons of filtered-water, to a final pre-boil volume of 6.75 gallons.

- SG 1.029 (target 1.030). 60-minute boil. Began chilling at flameout; took about 30 minutes to get to 64 F. Poured into BB; OG 1.035. Pitched yeast at 65 F, aerating by shaking well for several minutes before and after.

4/11/12 - In AM, airlock bubbling two times per second, temp 68 F. Some beer in airlock, but krausen has already settled back.

5/11/12 - In AM, activity virtually over, maybe bubbling q 10-15 seconds, krausen gone completely. Temp 68 F. Moved the BB into a separate room the next room, with the ambient temp set at 70 F.

20/11/12 - FG high at 1.014.

21/11/12 - Bottled with 67 g table sugar, aiming for 1.8 vol CO2 for 5 gallons, with max temp of 68 F reached.

22/1/13 - Tasting notes. Very malty and sweet, and extremely sessionable at 2.6% ABV, but I'm disappointed with the thin mouthfeel.


  1. Have you tried adding salt?
    I'm finding that I really like adding salt to my darker, maltier beers. About a 1/4tsp in the boil to start and see where it gets you with your water. Brings out the maltiness and flavours and makes the body smoother, just like in cooking...

    1. Nope, I've never added salt before. I assume that the increased maltiness is from the bump the salt is giving to the chloride content?

    2. that as well as the sodium enhancing the flavour, just like in cooking...