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Old 05-17-2013, 11:34 AM   #1
ericbw
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Default Troubleshooting a brown ale

Looking for advice on this brown ale that I just bottled last night. It tastes bad (and that's being nice).

I originally made it as a 1 gallon batch, then made some changes and scaled up to 3 gallons. I should have tried it with the changes as a small batch first.

My goal was something like Newcastle or Sam Smith Nut Brown, but maybe a little more body. Not a clone, just in that vein. I think the grain bill is fine, and the problems are with the mash, fermentation, and/or yeast. But I am looking for some thoughts.

Original recipe (based on a modified recipe from HBX called NoPo Nut Brown):

2 lb 2-row
2 ox Crystal 80
2 oz Victory
1 oz Chocolate malt

.125 East Kent Goldings at 60 min
.125 EKG at 30 min

OG was 1.060 (And I know I mashed at a high temp - probably 158-160)

I used 1/2 a packet of Munton's yeast.

Fermented 4 weeks and it only got down to 1.028. Taste was really good, but a little sweet. I assume that this was because I mashed high AND because Munton's doesn't seem to attenuate really well, especially at that kind of gravity.

Here's the modified recipe for 3 gallons:
4lb 14 oz 2-row
6 oz Crystal 80
6 oz Victory
3 oz Chocolate malt

.75 oz Willamette @ 60
.75 Willamette @ 30

The mash was about 150 (aimed for 153, but it was the first time out with he cooler). This is low, but because it was so sweet last time, I thought it might be ok. I think this is problem 1.

This time I used WLP005 (Ringwood?). This is problem 2.

I forgot to read the gravity (or forgot to write it down), but I am guessing it was 1.050-1.053 based on the recipe.

It fermented at about 65 degrees for 4 weeks.

FG: 1.010.

This is the opposite of the first batch. It is thin and dry, and sour like a cider. It is definitely fruity, which I assume is from the yeast? It is not good. We'll see how it is when it is carbonated, but I will probably end up dumping it.

So, my guesses are:

- Mash was too low and ended up making it drier [Solution: get mash temp right at 153-155]

- The yeast really went to work and attenuated really low making it even drier [Solution: different yeast]

- The yeast has a unique taste, and it turns out that I don't like it [Solution: different yeast]

Any other thoughts? Yeast suggestions for brown ale? Just go with S-04 or WLP002? Do you think carbonation will help to lift some of the intensity and make it an ok summer brew?

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Old 05-18-2013, 06:55 PM   #2
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Sounds like it may be Acetaldehyde. Acetaldthyde can be cidery and give a green apple fruityness so there may not be additional fruity issues with the yeast. Acetaldehyde is typically caused by racking off the yeast cake too soon or less than optimal yeast health in general. Did you make a starter?

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Old 05-18-2013, 07:04 PM   #3
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How accurate do you think your thermometer is? If it's a few degrees low, you might have actually mashed in the mid 140s, which would be pretty thin (and, to my taste, pretty unpleasant). I had a lot of temp problems for my first several all-grain batches. If it's a decent thermometer, try calibrating in a glass of mostly ice and a bit of cold water, stirring it up to get it as cold as possible.

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Old 05-19-2013, 08:40 PM   #4
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All good points.

*I kept it in primary 4 weeks, so i didn't rack too early.

*i did not use a starter. It was a 3 gallon batch, and I used 1 vial of yeast. I put it in 1/2 cup water while brewing. Maybe not enough yeast? One vial should handle a 3 gallon batch, though.

*i got a new thermometer today and calibrated it. The old one didn't calibrate. They seem to be close, but maybe it was low.

I will do a brown again, mashing at the right temp and making a starter.

Does acet-whatchamacallit condition out?

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Old 05-19-2013, 08:51 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ericbw View Post
Does acet-whatchamacallit condition out?
ass-uh-tal-de-hyde does tend to condition out to a degree.

One vial of yeast would be just enough to ferment 3 gallons of 1.048 wort if it was pitched the day it was harvested from white labs. If the vial was even two months old you would have underpitched by as much as 50%. With an OG of 1.060, I'm guessing you underpitched by quite a bit. I'm betting acetaldehyde on your cider flavor. If it's strong, it can take quite a while to age out. Good luck!
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Old 05-19-2013, 09:46 PM   #6
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That second batch looks pretty good on paper. Might consider raising the mash temp up to 156-158 or so. You'd get less abv but it'd leave it a little maltier, a nice profile for a brown ale imo. And maybe try a pack of Notty next time if you'd like an alternative on the yeast.

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Old 05-19-2013, 09:57 PM   #7
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The thin-ness could certainly be a symptom of your mash temps, but the off flavors you report are telling me something else is going on. Your OG probably came in around 1.049 depending on your efficiency, which means pitching at .50 mil cells/ml/*plato, 1 vial of 005 should be fine. Also, I've had no problems under-pitching white labs yeast in the past, your mileage may vary.

It could be oxidation, but I bet some lacto or pedio got into your batch. I'd recount the steps in your process and concentrate on sanitation going forward.

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Old 05-20-2013, 12:53 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hops2it
That second batch looks pretty good on paper. Might consider raising the mash temp up to 156-158 or so. You'd get less abv but it'd leave it a little maltier, a nice profile for a brown ale imo. And maybe try a pack of Notty next time if you'd like an alternative on the yeast.
That makes sense. I think i tried to change too many factors at once, so now i have multiple problems i am figuring out. Mashing that high might be fine with the right yeast, so it gets down under 1.020.

What are the differences between wlp002, s-04, and Nottingham?
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Old 05-20-2013, 12:58 PM   #9
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you managed to pick a notoriously problematic strain for homebrewers. as i understand it, it has a very particular taste, throws STRONG diacetyl, and generally needs to be fermented in an open fermenter to produce something decent.

try it again with 1028 and marvel at your brewing skills.

on a different topic, in my optinion newcastle and Samuel smith nut brown are very different beers. to me newcastle is fruity and crisp whereas SS is smooth and full. both are insanely good.

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Old 05-20-2013, 06:38 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by progmac
you managed to pick a notoriously problematic strain for homebrewers. as i understand it, it has a very particular taste, throws STRONG diacetyl, and generally needs to be fermented in an open fermenter to produce something decent.

try it again with 1028 and marvel at your brewing skills.

on a different topic, in my optinion newcastle and Samuel smith nut brown are very different beers. to me newcastle is fruity and crisp whereas SS is smooth and full. both are insanely good.
I think I realized how particular that yeast is, but for some reason ran with it. No good reason.

I get your differences between Newcastle an SS but I just mean something like either or in between. Something close. Probably more SS, though.
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