Brew Day #2 — “Nuts About Coffee” Nut Brown Ale 

For our second brew day, and our first completely solo project, we purchased a Nut Brown Ale kit from Morebeer.com. Brown Ale is a darker, maltier version of Pale Ale. They are usually slightly sweet, a little bit nutty, and conservatively bittered. Truth be told, I find the style boring, mostly due to the fact that there just isn’t a whole lot of variety to be found in Brown Ales amongst brewers. Maybe we should do something about that.

To help make things a bit more interesting, we decided that we’ll add about 8 oz of strongly brewed coffee to the beer when we rack it to the secondary fermenter. From tasting the wort, we have a good feeling that this will work out well, and add some badly needed complexity. Our bathroom also tends to run a little warm, so the fermentation should produce some nice esters, adding a hint of fruitiness to compliment the roastiness of the coffee. Here’s hoping!

5 June, 2008
“Nuts About Coffee” Nut Brown Ale
5 gallons

8 lbs Ultralight Malt Extract

8 oz Crystal Malt 60L
8 oz Caravienne Malt
4 oz Victory Malt
4 oz Chocolate Malt

1 oz Glacier Hops (60 min)
1 oz Willamette Hops (5 min)
1 oz Willamette Hops (1 min)

1 tablet Whirlfloc (20 min — clarifier)

White Labs English Ale yeast

8 oz quadruple-brewed hazelnut coffee (secondary fermenter)

4 oz corn sugar (bottling)


Steep grains at 155°F for 30 minutes.

Remove grains, turn off heat, and add malt extract while stirring

Bring to a boil. Add remaining ingredients as indicated above.

Chill wort to ~80°F. Pitch yeast. Allow to ferment to completion at ~75°F.

Brew coffee using a French press. Filter dregs and allow to cool to room temperature. Add coffee to secondary fermenter.

Rack fermented beer to secondary fermenter. Age for at least one week.

Let’s go through these ingredients and get an idea of what we should expect when this is done.

First, the hops: There isn’t much happening here, really. They’re just there to balance out the sweetness of all of that malt, which is what leads us to choose Glacier and Willamette hops, both of which are fairly mild in flavor and aroma. However, these two hop varieties also contribute an earthy smoothness to the beer, which should compliment the nutty roastiness that we should be getting from our specialty malts.

Now for the malts. We start off with 8 lbs of Ultralight extract. Ultralight does not contribute anything interesting to the beer — it’s mostly just a base that we build off of. Most homebrews start with it. We are using quite a bit of it, though, so we can probably at least expect a nice medium body in the finished beer. To be honest, you could probably stop with just this and still come up with something that you enjoy drinking, but where’s the fun in that?

Beyond the extract, we also have a total of 1.5 lbs of specialty grains that we steep into the wort before the boil begins (and before it’s even wort, really [Ed. Steph points out in the comments below that it is called sweet wort until the hops are added.]).

The first specialty grain is 8 oz of 60L Crystal malts. Crystal malt usually lends a sweet, caramel taste to beer, while also increasing body. The 60L in the name indicates the color type of the malt (in degrees Lovibond, which we’ll discuss another time), as Crystal comes in many different color varieties. 10L would be very light, while 90L would be quite dark, so we can say that this will give us a medium-dark color in the beer.

After that, we have Caravienne, Victory, and Chocolate malts. Caravienne produces a toffeeish flavor, Victory lends a toasty, nutty flavor, and Chocolate malt results in (get this) a cocoa flavor. Combined with the Crystal malts, we can deduce that this beer will have a sweet, caramel flavor punctuated by toffee, nuts, and cocoa, which Mel and I hope will compliment the shot of coffee that we’ll add after the beer is done fermenting.

My hope is that the coffee gives a little extra punch to the brown ale, because like Ray said, the style can be a little un-exciting. Nevertheless, it was a good beer to brew to continue to hone our skills, and the addition of coffee to the fermenter will give us a chance to try a technique that I hope to use with our next beer… but the specifics of that, I’m not telling!

7 Responses to “Brew Day #2 — “Nuts About Coffee” Nut Brown Ale”

  1. Just a little tidbit – before you add the hops, it’s called “sweet wort.”

  2. Ah, I knew that. I’ll add that to the post.

  3. As I said, I’m curious to find out how this one turns out. And it was kinda neat watching the brewing live, even if there long stretches of nothingness. It gave me something to have on in the background while I was doing the dishes, and it inspired me to get a little creative with my meals this week. Perhaps I’ll have to start a food blog of my own someday…
    Just a few observations: It was sometimes hard to see and hear everything that was going on during the process. Not sure if there’s a way you could move the camera/mic a little closer to the action.

  4. Yeah, there was a lot of white noise coming from the laptop’s fan. We’ll figure something out eventually.

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