Since I can’t seem to dedicate one particular day to home brew blogging, I think a better standing title is “Weekend Homebrew Blogging”.  Hope y’all like that.

Last night, the girlfriend and I went to her employer’s annual Christmas Party, at their home in Princeton. The hubby’s a writer and an art collecter, the wife is an architect and preservationist, so it was just a lovely evening.  The girlfriend’s gift to her employer was a 6-pack of our two holiday beers: Happy Birthday Jeebus strong ale and Happy Harmonica spiced ale.  Both had been in the bottle for about 2.5 weeks, and neither of us had sampled the finished beer.
I’m happy to report that both were delicious.  The Jeebus could have used another week to achieve full-carbonation, so it went down more like a brown ale or a porter, but it’s clearly well on its way.  It’s got a touch of diacetyl, a usually unwanted ester that provides a bit of a butterscotch aftertaste.  However, a little in a brown ale adds a wonderful richness, and this was no exception.

The spiced ale was an even better surprise. During the period when the wort was in the primary fermenter, the ambient temperature dropped to the low 40s, so in an effort to keep the temperature closer to the more optimal 60s, I put a space heater nearby. Too nearby as it turned out, because in the morning the bucket was warm to the touch: primary fermentation stopped soon thereafter, and I was convinced we’d have a very low alcohol brew. For the girlfriend’s part, when we sampled the green beer before bottling, she was concerned we hadn’t added enough spice (cinnamon, a little cloves, orange peel).  To our delight, the beer was as rich and flavorful as gingerbread, a smashing success. The carbonation level was perfect, as was the alcohol level.  If left for a month or two to condition, that stuff is going to be awesome.

So: with winter coming on, the keg getting low, and hops in short supply and at high prices, we’re looking toward brown ales, stouts, and porters for the next batch.  Maybe even a barleywine at some point.  Whatever it is, I love a good dark beer during the winter months.  There’s something warming and comforting in a pint of porter or stout, a quality you’re just not going to get in an IPA (and why would you, anyhow).  I think of tweed and fireplaces, old English pubs lit with gaslights, all that happy crappy.

One of the nicest things about all of these styles is they don’t necessarily need secondary fermentation, and if you keg, that means you can be drinking fresh beer within a week to ten days.

George at Home Sweet Homebrew, my supplier suggested Ringwood Ale yeast for this one.  We’re also using a malt style I’ve never used before.  Share your winter warmers in the comments below!

Reminder: all my recipes are extract/grain hybrids. Assume that the fermenter is already holding 2.5 gallons of cooled, boiled water. YMMV if you do all grain.

Brown Ale #1

1/2# US Victory Malt, 25Lovibond (this has a really nice nutty flavor)
1/2# crystal malt, 30-45L.
4 ounces chocolate malt
6.6 pounds Light Malt extract
2 ounces W.G.V Goldings hops, 5%, @ 60minutes
1 tsp Irish moss, 15 minutes
1 ounce Admiral hops, 12% 5minutes
Wyeast 1187 Ringwood Ale

Steep the grains in 160-165 degree water for a half hour, then stir in extract.  When the wort comes to a rolling boil, set your timer for an hour and pour in the WGV Goldings.  At fifteen minutes, add your irish moss, and at 5 minutes add the Admirals.  

Cool rapidly with a wort chiller or ice bath, and add to the primary fermenter.  Within a week (give or take a few days) this ale should be ready to bottle or keg.  

What’re YOU drinking?

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