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Articles in this section
Articles in this section

Smooth Session & Spritzy Smoked Brown Ales

Winter 2012 will go down in North American history as the year of the great weather swap. It's been the year in which El Nino facilitated the trade of gargantuan snowfall for milder malaised dry weather between Minneapolis/St. Paul & Seattle/Portland. I don't like to suggest that I could get used to any specific winter weather pattern. Whether I'm hopscotching cold puddles or waddling across icy sidewalks, I'm steadfastly dreaming of carelessly strolling the landscape amidst an atmosphere of high sunshine & humidity.

This new, mild kind of winter seems to have slightly betrayed the craft brewers who stocked their reserves with burly winter ales. A fortified malty beer seems overkill when one's winter coat is merely a cardigan. The holiday celebration ales that were meant to provide adequate grit to ride a bicycle head on into Alberta Clipper winds make for an aloof ride down streets that are barely dusted with road sand. Flexible times for mother nature call for flexible definitions of winter ales; and I've got a couple recipes inspired by smooth, dark session ales to suit the season.

The first is a modest brown ale inspired by a porter from Epic Brewing, Salt Lake City's only brewery devoted to higher gravity bottled beers. The chocolate malt addition is the star in this beer, not at all distracted by the light & neutral hop character. A dark ale with a perfectly smooth finish, ready for thirst quenching gulping. A great beer to fill a stein & while away the belated task of raking the leaves you thought would be hidden under snowfall by now.

8 lbs. 2 oz. English Maris Otter
1 lb. English Pale Chocolate
6 oz. English Roasted Barley
4 oz. Briess Carapils Mash @ 150 degrees

EXTRACT OPTION: Replace the Maris Otter with 5 lbs. of Muntons Light DME & steep the other grains as weighed out.

0.3 oz. Nugget @ 60 min.
1 oz. Tettnang @ 15 min.
2 liter starter of White Labs WP051 California V fermented at 67 degrees for 2 weeks, keg conditioned for 2 weeks thereafter.
OG. 1.049
FG. 1.008

A smoked ale had been on my honey-do list for over two years, but it wasn't until I sat down at Minneapolis' only gastropub/skee ball emporium that I got hoisted to the point of inspiration to do so. Furthermore Beer's Three Feet Deep is a rare instance where peated malt character didn't totally turn me off. Though I suspect it was a mouth balancing act with a nice bacon burger that pushed my taste buds over the edge of acceptance. I had to push aside my ample supply of Chinook hops to accommodate some minty/spicy German Perle, and excavate last year's Hallertau Mittelfruh in a frosty corner of the freezer. This recipe utilizes the vastly underused Briess Cherrywood Smoked Malt for a very graceful smoke flavor that's not at all overpowering, and hardly considered dominant.

8 lbs. Rahr 2-Row
2 lbs. Briess Cherrywood Smoked Malt
6 oz. Briess Carapils
4 oz. English Dark Crystal
4 oz. English Chocolate Mash at 150 degrees

EXTRACT OPTION: Replace the Rahr 2-row with 6 lbs. of NB Gold malt extract syrup. Steep the other grains as weighed, but reduce the Cherrywood Smoked Malt to 12 oz.

1 oz. Perle @60 min.
0.5 oz. Hallertau Mittelfruh @30 min.
OG. 1.052
FG. 1.006

2 liter starter Wyeast 1332 Northwest Ale, ferment 2 weeks primary, 2 weeks secondary.