How To Brew a Delicious English Brown Ale

Brown Ale

Next up on our list of recipes is the English-Styled Brown Ale. It has a beautiful color ranging from copper to dark brown and is packed with biscuity, malty, and nutty flavors at a low abv. The BJCP guidelines are listed below.

  • Original Gravity: 1.040 – 1.050
  • Final Gravity: 1.008 – 1.014
  • Alcohol by Volume: 4.2% – 6.0%
  • Bitterness: 12-25 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 12-24

Brown Ale Ingredients

Malt

For the Brown Ale, most brewers prefer to use a British Pale Ale malt, such as Maris Otter, as the base malt. If you do not have that option, American 2-row will work. The British malts are usually a little darker and add a mild malty flavor with slight nuttiness and biscuit characteristics. If you do use American 2-row, I would recommend adding biscuit malt between 10% and 15% of the grain bill to bump up the nuttiness and toastiness. There are many different paths you can take from here depending on if you want it to be more of a nutty brown ale or malty brown ale. For specialty malts, you can add:

  • Caramunich (5% – 8%) – contributes to a nice deep amber and copper color, and adds a rich malty, biscuity, caramel flavor
  • British Crystal 65 (5% – 8%) – adds sweet caramel, crystal, and toffee flavors to your beer
  • Victory (5% – 10%) – a lightly roasted malt that adds nutty, toasty, biscuity flavors and aromas
  • Crystal 60L (5% – 10%) – adds a rich sweetness and pronounced caramel notes
  • chocolate malt (less than 5%) – at low percentages is mostly used for color adjustment and adds rich roasted coffee and cocoa flavors

You can also use wheat up to 5% of the grain bill to help with head retention. Whatever you end up choosing for your specialty malts, I would try to limit it to three different malts and below 20% of the grain bill.

Hops

The hop aroma and flavor for this style depends on whether you are wanting a British or American brown ale. British brown ales have low to non-existent hop aroma, flavor, and bitterness, so avoid using American hops that are very citrusy. I would recommend using English hops such as Fuggles or East Kent Goldings, which are both described below. For the American style, you can use Cascade, Mt. Hood, Willamette, Liberty, or Crystal. The American style tends to have medium levels of hop aroma and flavor and medium to high levels of bitterness.

Hop Descriptions

  • Cascade – has an alpha acid percent ranging between 4.5 and 8.9 percent, and adds a floral flavor with hints of citrus and grapefruit
  • Crystal – has an alpha acid percent ranging between 2.8 and 4.4 percent, and adds a woody, floral, and slight citrus character
  • East Kent Goldings – has an alpha acid percent ranging between 4 and 6 percent, and adds a sweet, silky, honey character
  • Fuggles – has an alpha acid percent ranging between 3.5 and 5.5 percent, and adds a woody, earthy character
  • Liberty – has an alpha acid percent ranging between 3 and 6 percent, and adds mild floral and spicy characteristics
  • Mt Hood – has an alpha acid percent ranging between 4 and 8 percent, and adds clean bitterness with a sweet, honey-like character
  • Willamette – has an alpha acid percent ranging between 4 and 6 percent, and adds a herbaceous spiciness, floral, and fruity character

Yeast

For this style of beer, you want a yeast that has a nice malt roundness with low to medium-low ester production. Also consider using a yeast strain that leaves a little residual sweetness.

  • London Ale III – 1318 (Wyeast)
    • This yeast strain has a nice malt profile and compliments the hop profile nicely. It has a light and softly balanced palate and leaves a slight residual sweetness.
  • English Ale Yeast – WLP002
    • This strain leaves a residual sweetness that helps accentuate the malt profile of your beer. This strain also has appropriate ester production, which adds to the complexity of your finished beer.
  • London Ale Yeast – WLP013
    • This strain does not leave the finished beer as sweet as the other two strains, but it has a very nice malt and hop profile and is commonly used in classic British beer styles.

Water

I use a reverse osmosis filtration system and add any additional salts. For the Brown Ale, I added calcium chloride, gypsum, and epsom salt to get the following water profile.

  • Calcium – 50 ppm
  • Sodium – 30 ppm
  • Sulfate – 50 ppm
  • Chloride – 50 ppm

Recipe

The following is a 5-gallon version of a sample British Brown Ale. The numbers for this beer are listed below.

  • Original Gravity: 1.042
  • Final Gravity: 1.008 – 1.014
  • Alcohol by Volume: 4.1%
  • Bitterness: 19.9 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 20.2

Grain Bill

  • Maris Otter – 6 lbs (76.2%)
  • Caramel/Crystal 60L – 12 oz (9.5%)
  • Victory – 12 oz (9.5%)
  • Chocolate Malt – 2 oz (4.8%)

Hops

  • 0.70 oz of Mt. Hood at 60 minutes (15.6 IBU)
  • 0.50 oz of East Kent Goldings at 15 minutes (4.6 IBU)

Yeast

London Ale III – 1318 (Wyeast)

Mash

Have your strike water at the required volume and temperature for your system to have the mash drop to 156 degrees. Mash for 40 minutes at 156 degrees and proceed to mash out. Sparge with water necessary to get to pre-boil volume. Pre-boil gravity should be around 1.037.

Boil

Boil the wort for 90 minutes. Add the hops as needed. At 10 minutes, I added yeast nutrients. You can add whirlfloc tablets at 5 minutes if you want to. Once the boil is complete, whirlpool the wort for 10 minutes and then let it wind down for 10 minutes.

Fermentation

Knock the wort out in your heat exchanger so that the pitching temperature is 64 degrees and then measure the gravity/pitch the yeast. Initial gravity should be around 1.042. I let this free rise to 67 degrees as fermentation starts. Hold the temperature at 67 degrees for 5-7 days until the primary fermentation is complete. Let the temperature free-rise up to 72 degrees to really finish off fermentation. Once fermentation is complete, cold crash to 33 degrees for at least a day and then transfer to the brite tank to carbonate it to 1.9 to 2.3 vols. After 3 days in the brite tank, keg it, and enjoy!

If you decide to try this recipe, or another Brown Ale recipe, feel free to send us a comment and let us know how it went! And if you want to see more recipes like this, sign up for our newsletter below to be notified when a new post is released. Cheers!

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