Advice on spicing for a Christmas ale

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Eddiebosox

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So I recently made a Christmas ale, specifically Austin Homebrews Winter ale (2 row, pale chocolate malt, de-bittered black malt, flaked barley, dry English ale yeast and some bittering hops). I screwed up my volumes and it ended up finishing with 6.5 gallons of 6.7 ABV instead of the 5 gallons of the 8.9 the original one was supposed to be. I just finished main fermentation and I tasted it. It's kind of boring. Tastes like a fairly bland porter to me.

But I see this as an opportunity. If anything, it is a blank canvas for me to start working on spice additions. I am thinking of splitting it into two batches and trying out different spice batches. I need advice. What works well for a fairly bitter, dark ale, that is very close to a porter. I have some great Madagascar vanilla beans I want to use, but what else? Cinnamon, clove? Maybe even some mole (not "christmasy" but I recently had a mole porter and was blown away)? But how much and for how long in the secondary? I know it’s a fairly broad question, but any ideas would be appreciated.
 

RoKozak

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Don't know how much this will help, but my holiday nut brown is currently fermenting. I took 2 tsp of cinnamon (~.5 tsp = 1 cinnamon stick), .5 tsp of nutmeg and .5 tsp of ginger and boiled them in 8 oz of water and added that to the last five minutes of the boil. I then took 1 tsp of vanilla extract and added it at the last two minutes of the boil. It smells delicious. I took these addition ideas from multiple beers people had success with in the past. People say you can even add a few cinnamon sticks or partially crushed vanilla beans (to get the goods) if you secondary, but it's not really necessary if you added it during the boil. I don't really know much about vanilla beans so don't take my word on the crush.

I've also read a few comments about it taking some time bottle conditioning to fully bring out the spices. Most have experienced that with their pumpkin ales.

Lastly, I plan on bottling with brown sugar.
 
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Eddiebosox

Eddiebosox

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thanks, unfortunately this has to be in the secondary as its already fermented out.
 

LandoLincoln

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Well...I've heard that you can add flavors by taking some vodka and soaking whatever flavor items you want in that for a while, maybe like a week or so, and then taking that vodka flavored mix and pouring it into the beer. So you could do some small test batches of various flavor infusions and then adding that to glasses of beer to see how the infusions would interact with your beer.
 

duboman

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You can add some vanilla beans, orange peel, cinnamon sticks, bourbon. All would add some element of flavor and interest to the beer but I don't mean add them all:) Vanilla and bourbon go well together and the orange peel/cinnamon compliment each other well.

The additions should be added to taste but not overwhelm.
 

kmos

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FWIW, I add my spices at bottling -- Just add the spices to your priming sugar to sanitize them.

As for figuring out what to use, it seems to me that the most reliable thing to do is play around mixing spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, for instance) and use them to make a "tea" that is close to what you had in mind. Then pull a sample of your beer and blend the two until you find the proportion of spices to beer that works for you and scale up.

Good luck!
 

Dr_Jeff

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Sam Adam's Old Feziwig Christmas Ale, has cinnamon, ginger and orange peel.
 

Piratwolf

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Dr_Jeff said:
Sam Adam's Old Feziwig Christmas Ale, has cinnamon, ginger and orange peel.
For my $ it's also one of the worst commercial beers ever. That being said, I think the flavors you mention could be awesome in the OP's beer if kept subtle (esp given the low ABV).
 

diS

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I had same issue for my next batch of Christmas ale.
Since I never used spices I didn't want to possibly ruin 10gal batch so I decided to make potion (spiced dissolved in vodka) and add it during bottling. Advantage (as I see it) is that you can combine and add several spices to see what can you expect before adding them to whole batch.
 

Trokair

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If you like Austin Homebrew's kits, try the "Our Special Holiday Ale" kit or the spice pack that you can buy seperatly for $1.99. Has ginger root, cinnamon, nutmeg. I just opened my first ones over the weekend and it was a great hit.

I've already ordered another kit to see if I can finish one to have enough to make it through Christmas. I'm going to add another spice packet because I like the spice to punch me in the face but with the standard kit you get a good brown ale taste and spice balanced to each other. Highly reccomend it.
 

Odin_Brews

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Im planning cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg to a brown ale which is currently in secondary, I figure by making a tea with the spices I can add and mix at bottling time and taste test as I go so as not to overdo it and end with too much spice
 
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