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Old 09-12-2010, 10:58 PM   #1
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Default Northern English Brown Ale - Flavor Fail - What went wrong?

Long time beer fan. First time brewer. For my first batch, I used a Northern English Brown Ale kit from BrewCraft. I followed the directions that it came with to a "t" but the flavor just isn't there and I'm wondering if some of you more experienced brewers can help me figure out why.

To be up front, I've only tasted it before bottling. I tried some last night as I was bottling. Maybe I'm wrong but I figured the flavor profile probably won't change in the bottle over the next two weeks.

Here's the just of it... It really smells and tastes to me like it's lacking the malty, sweet, grainy flavors. The hops are adequately/appropriately there and there's a bit of sweet maltyness but it's VERY lacking. And I'd say the color is only like a 1/3 to 1/2 the SRM that a New Castle is. Actually, I'd say the flavor profile overall is like a 1/3 to 1/2 the flavor of a New Castle.

I wish I could give you some details on the ingredients used but the kit didn't say (lame). Here's what I can give for details:
-5'ish gallon batch
-Carbon filtered water
-Kept things pretty sanitary (although sour notes doesn't seem to be an issue so far.)
-Dry yeast: The kit only says "British Ale strain by Muntons"
-DME: Don't know exactly how much but there were two large bags. Don't know what kind.
-Specialty grain: don't know how much or what kind. I'd say about four cups?

Process used:
-Steeped specialty grains at 160 (or less) degrees for 30 minutes in 3.5 gallons of water.
-Squeezed the steeping bag to get out some extra flavor/sugars
-Dissolved the DME into the hot water
-Brought to a boil
-Added bittering hops (don't know what kind) and continued to boil for 45 minutes
-Added aroma hops for another 20 minutes
-Added wort into a bucket of 2 gallons of cold water
-Cooled in sink with ice water until it was down to 79 degrees (took almost 3 hours!)
-Pitched my yeast
-Fermented for two weeks
-Tasted/bottled

Starting Gravity: 1060
Final Gravity: 1010
(So I think my yeast did just fine)

So what happened to the flavor? My apologies if there's not enough information to know but any input would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks in advance for any help!

-Jason

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Old 09-12-2010, 11:25 PM   #2
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Give it a minimum of 3 weeks in the bottle, then try it again. From what I can tell, your process looks good. Though I have read you shouldn't squeeze the bag as that can release some unwanted flavors, though I've never done that so I can't say for sure.

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Old 09-12-2010, 11:34 PM   #3
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I think you're off to a fine start. Give it three weeks in the bottle, and maybe a few more. I've had batches where the malt flavor really started to come out after some time in the bottle, so be patient.

And while you're waiting, get that next batch going mister!

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Old 09-13-2010, 12:37 AM   #4
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You can't tell how it's going to come out before carbonating, it's going to change completely. The only one I know can taste the differences before bottling is a BJCP Grand master 3. I would say you got a few batches to get through before you get to that level.

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Old 09-13-2010, 12:58 AM   #5
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Welcome. I made an almost identical post ( albeit with a different kit ) back about a month and a half ago.

The advice I got boiled down to ( and I have seen hundreds of times elsewhere on other threads ) - Give it some time. Put it away, get another batch going, ocupoy your mind - and let it work it's magic. I was polite and thanked everyone but thought "no way this is going to get any better".

Well, it did. In the fridge a week before Labor day, and as of this afternoon only 12 (!) of 49 bottles left - no one has told me yet that it tasted like cat poo. Rather, on that simple little kit beer alone I have 2 friends who are about to each put together thier first brews.

So yeah, it WILL get better, you will love it - in the mean time, grab another kit, make up a batch, hit the local pubs and taste taste taste, and in about a month you will be a very happy brewer.

( And by the way - the folks here are really helpful - I find the old threads interesting, and when I have had a problem or question, they have always answered like long time friends, looking to help out)

Happy Brewing!

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Old 09-13-2010, 05:33 AM   #6
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Dont sweat it. In my experience beer can taste pretty gross but "drinkable" maybe "not bad for my first try I guess" at bottling... Try it every week or so and notice the changes that take place. I'm guessing as the others have said, around the 3 week point you will have that "holy crap, this is good!" moment. Patience!

And seriously, start another batch soon!

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Old 09-13-2010, 08:37 AM   #7
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You guys are awesome. Very encouraging. Honestly, I didn't think I'd get much of a response but I was certainly wrong. I'm glad I found this place. I can already tell I'm going to be here a lot.

So it sounds like I need to stop whining and be patient. =) I'll give it three weeks and then crack one open. Hannable1975, I'm glad to hear the same thing happened to you, I hope I get the same results.

And you guys are right... I need to get going on my next batch! I'm thinking of doing a pumpkin stout to have ready for Thanksgiving.

Thanks again for the help and encouragement. I'll update this post when I start opening bottles to let you guys know how it turned out.

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Old 09-13-2010, 02:18 PM   #8
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You can judge a finished product from the cooled wort or pre-bottling stages, but it takes years of training.

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Old 09-13-2010, 02:26 PM   #9
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Just an FYI on your process... you should try to cool down the wort in an ice bath first, THEN add the top-off water. You'll get the quickest change in temperature by cooling the lowest mass with the highest temperature differential, if that makes sense. 3 hours to cool the wort is uneccessary waiting. If you cool down the wort prior to topping off, I bet you'll be ready to pitch in 30 minutes or so.

Good luck with it.

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Old 09-13-2010, 03:27 PM   #10
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All good advice. I turned a porter kit into a chocolate cherry porter over a year ago. At bottling it tasted bitter and bland. After a month in bottles it had a weird dirt taste. I ended up writing it off as a loss and left it in boxes in the basement. I forgot about it until we moved a few months ago. I put a few bottles in the fridge to give it another shot and it is an entirely different beer. Patience is tough but usually worth it.

Also, don't squeeze the grain bag. Heat up a half gallon of water or so and pour it over the grain bag to get the extra goodness out. Even just recycling some of the wort through the bag would help.

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