Thursday, June 20, 2013

Columbus / Conan Brown Ale - Recipe & Tasting Notes

hoppy brown ale

Brewery: Bear Flavored
Style: Brown Ale
Brewed: 4.8.2013
ABV: 6.5%

Appearance: black with browning at edges, fluffy tan head
soft sweet berry, melon, coffee, chocolate, bread, citrus
Taste: pine, melon, roasted coffee, dark chocolate, nutty, dry bread, mellow berry
Mouthfeel: soft, smooth, semi-creamy body, medium carbonation, medium bitterness

After that whole kerfuffle a few weeks ago about craft brewers making every beer too hoppy, well... guess what? I present to you today an American brown ale that is definitely too hoppy. For the style, that is. But not for my tastebuds: this little guy was just meant to be a test run to put a "brown ale" notch under my belt, and ended up being one of my favorite brews from 2013 so far. So, sorry everyone, for ruining non-hoppy craft beer, but also I'm not sorry, because this shit's good.

Here's the story on this one: firstly, it was a necessary re-attempt to brew a brown ale after my first try, last fall, resulted in my only infected batch to date. And that was a bummer. A brown ale isn't necessarily something I'll ever brew on a frequent basis, but it's a style I enjoy from time to time, and a style that I'd like to have a solid recipe for. Secondly, I wanted to brew a brown ale for a friend's birthday, as it's one of his favorite styles. He seemed almost as disappointed as me that last fall's brown ale turned out to be a dumper, so I figured this was the perfect occasion to give it a second try. 

Why did this turn into a hoppy brown ale? Well, my inclination with Conan-fermented beers is to mix in some extra hops, just because I know the yeast plays so well with them. And I wanted to put a different sort of spin on the basic brown ale category, so I figured a hop burst of Columbus (a major component of Heady Topper), would give it some interesting dankness and fruitiness, a character that seemed like it would compliment the "brown" well. But partly, too, I just didn't anticipate how hoppy this would come out. Compared to my recent Simcoe single hop pale ale, this brown ale comes across as the hoppier, more aggressive beer, and yet there were almost twice as many hops in the Simcoe pale ale. (And both are exponentially more hoppy than my weirdly-sweet historic IPA). There are lots of dark malts in this brown that should be covering up the hop character, but Columbus is not a hop to be trifled with.

Hoppy can mean a variety of things (and confusing the term "hoppiness" as meaning only bitterness is definitely a pet-peeve of mine), but this batch hits the trifecta of bitter, hoppy, and aromatic. There's a fantastic aroma of mellon and berries and general fruit, especially considering I didn't dry-hop this batch. It might smell better than some IPAs that I have dry-hopped, which I think mostly demonstrates the aromatic power of Conan when left to its own devices. But I also believe that Columbus — though it does give a firm, bitter bite to the finish — also contributes a wonderful fruitiness that it's not often given credit for. It's a general, indistinct kind of fruitiness, somewhat berry-like and floral. Paired with the peachy/melon fruitiness of Conan, and the creamy, velvety mouthfeel, the fruit character here is very much to my liking, like some kind of chocolate-coated fruit tray (with a splash of sweetened coffee to wash it back).

The roast adds a nice background without dominating, though this probably isn't "nutty" enough to truly nail the brown style — it's a hoppy brown ale, not a nut brown. But with the creamy-yet-light body, the fruit character, the touch of coffee-roast, this is a treat. Could it be... browner? Yes. At some point maybe I'll try to brew a more 'accurate' brown ale. Just as my aforementioned weirdly-sweet historic IPA was the result of a couple brewing ingredients coming together in a way that I didn't anticipate, so too with the combo of Conan and Columbus — this time with extremely pleasing results. My only regret is that I didn't brew a larger batch.

3.5 Gal., All Grain
Brewhouse Efficiency: 76%
Mashed at 154 F for 65 minutes
Fermented at 66 degrees F
OG: 1.065
FG: 1.015

55.7 % 2-row malt
15.5 % Munich
12.4 % brown malt
12.4 % flaked oats
4.1 % chocolate malt

Hop Schedule-
1 oz Brewer's Gold @FWH
3 oz Columbus@1 min + hop stand for 20 min

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