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American Brown batch #2

Squirrels in the Attic Brown Ale batch #2 in the boil

It was Thanksgiving of 2011 when I first brewed Mike ‘Tasty’ McDole’s “Janet’s Brown Ale.” Having not tasted the original, but knowing it’s been very highly regarded by homebrewers and commercial brewers alike, and having enjoyed other McDole recipe results, I was all for it. Unlike English nut brown ales, American Browns tend not to present much in the way of yeast-based flavors. English Browns can have fruity, nutty,  plum, and raisin flavors from the malt or yeast. American Brown Ales are more closely related to American Pale Ale and American Amber Ales, with robust dark malt flavors as well as American hop flavor and aroma. Bitterness is a bit more noticeable than the English browns, and some can go up in the American IPA range of strength and hoppiness.

The JBA recipe calls for equal amounts of carapils and crystal 40, plus wheat and dark chocolate malts. And Like McDole’s Amber recipe, the hop bill calls for Northern Brewer bittering and 30 min additions, lots of Cascade late boil additions, and Centennial dryhops. Big differences in the grain bill between the Amber and Brown is the amount of base malt which greatly adds to the ABV, and the addition of a 1/2 lb of chocolate malt in the Brown, vs the pinch of roasted barley in the Amber . The tiny amount of the roasted barley gives the amber all it’s color, whereas the larger amount of chocolate malt in the Brown recipe gives it color and flavor. With the first batch, I named my attempt at the JBA recipe “Squirrels in the Attic” Brown Ale, given the horde of flying squirrels who took up residence in our home’s attic. This second batch appears to be celebrating the fact that either the one-way door OR my tossing of D-con pellets into the soffit areas (while balancing on boards across the ceiling joists over the cathedral ceiling of the great room) has removed and/or killed the last couple of the buggers (after having caught 9 in the have-a-heart trap last winter).

As Tasty McDole is a hop head, his JBA is almost more of a Brown IPA: 6.7% abv and over 60 IBUs, it’s big for a brown ale, American or not. But I recall with that first batch a year ago, it was very drinkable. You didn’t taste the alcohol, and the bitterness was balanced with the malt.

Squirrels in the Attic

As for the actual brewing of batch #2, there were a couple things I didn’t quite nail. First, my mash temp was about 153-154°. I had hoped for 156°, hoping for more unfermentable sugars, which would add to the mouthfeel. (Batch #1 I have noted that the mash temp was 154° and it finished a bit more dry than I expected. Seeing that I didn’t change anything in the recipe this time (other than a little gypsum in the mash and boil), I expect a similar result. Also, I didn’t hit my Original Gravity. Goal was an OG of 1.067, and I got 1.063. I seriously wonder if this was relatd to my grain crush. The mill at the homebrew shop I use has been acting up, and this time it was jamming quite a bit. I’m thinking more grain got through uncrushed than I thought, which could have lead to lower than expecting mash efficiency. The owner did explain they have a new mill on the way, which I am looking forward to. Would love a grain mill of my own, but that’s investment I don’t see happening soon.

So other than those two issues, the brew session went well. Multi-tasked (cleared gutters during the 60 minute mash, played with the kids in the yard during the boil) and got it chilled and cleaned up at a decent hour. The ferment was slow in starting… but that’s likely because I chilled the wort down into the low 60s and needed to kick it up to 67 with the fermwrap. But once it started, it’s been cooking well ever since. After 3 full days it was still bubbling along this morning. Likely give it at least a week, maybe 10 days in the primary before racking onto the dryhops in the secondary. Hopefully will be sipping on these in mid December.

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