19. Amber and Brown American Beer

Don’t Panic

American Brown Ale (19C) BeerSmith Recipe File


I’ve had very few American brown ales and I’ve never brewed one.  It’s a style that has eluded me, mostly because I’m always seeking imperials, hop bombs, and belgians.  Perhaps I find brown ale, in general, boring.  It probably deserves a revisit and after reading the profile for this style in the Guidelines, I’m excited about this beer.

I decided to grab some Mosaic hops for this beer.  Everybody is going bananas over these hops and I can see why.  The time was ripe for an american IPA to have something other than grapefruit.  Stone’s B & B IPA was god-damn amazing, and I am thinking a Mosaic IPA is in my future, but for now I used some for aroma steeping in this recipe.  I’m hoping the fruity aroma additions will play nicely with the chocolate malt flavor.

I’m using CO2 hop extract again for bittering.  The IBUs and ABV will be close to the upper range on this beer and I’m hoping the more substantial flavors impress.

The name, of course, is from a silly little book series that I adore.  I’m hoping this beer is bitter and chocolate, with fruit notes; something that will calm the nerves after a long day.  Something that makes you feel better.



9 lbs. US Pale 2-row
0.62 lbs. Chocolate Malt (US)
0.5 lb. Caramunich II (German)
0.5 lb. 120L

Mash @ 154° for 60 minutes (1.5 qt/per pound, single infusion) Sparge with 4 gal of 168°

Boil for 60 minutes
5mL CO2 Hop Extract, boil for 60 minutes
1 oz each of Amarillo, Citra and Mosaic at flameout, steep 10 minutes

WLP090 San Diego Super, 60mL yeast slurry (no starter)

OG: 1.053
FG: 1.012
ABV: 5.4%
IBU: 33
Color: 24 SRM

Fermentation Temperature: 65-68°


Brew Day

John finally joined me again for this brew session, which was nice because I saved a lot of brewery related work for him!  While we were mashing and boiling, we bottled some Conquest to make room, transferred Wee Lad to the keg for lagering, and cleaned.

I’m still making progress on the water chemistry front, and I built a profile from scratch last brew day as an ignorant experiment  (Wee Lad), but I haven’t nailed down my procedure yet, so I’m putting off the debut.  For this beer, we used filtered tap water, which before I started this blog was all I ever brewed with.  I did notice right away that mash pH was on the low side, about 5.0-5.1, and I think our efficiency did suffer.  Also, I remember Palmer saying on a Brew Strong podcast once that low mash pH can result in one dimensional character from your darker grains.  We’ll see if that happens here.


The aroma hop addition smelled fantastic, and John and I resolved that when we get around to brewing an American IPA for this blog, Mosiac will be in there.

Something we did do here that you might never have heard of, and that we’ve done before: used olive oil in place of aeration.  New Belgium apparently uses it, and they’ve done some detailed research to support its use (1).  The short version: add literally 2-3 drops of olive oil, shake to mix, and that’s it.  We noticed that fermentation can be a bit slower, but the beers we have brewed using this method have been tasty.  Of course, The Stig hasn’t gotten his hands on any olive oil beer yet, and we plan to use this beer as a sort of Stig litmus test.  Though it should be said that New Belgium’s own professional tasting panel found the olive oil beers to be very close to the oxygenated beers, and well within acceptable variation to release the product for sale.

Otherwise a fairly straight forward brew day, with nothing major to report.  Hops were steeped, temperature was crashed, yeast was pitched, and fermentation was underway.

Yep, it’s brown



A fairly straight forward fermentation at 66°.  Significant activity 24 hours in and I let the beer climb to 68° after 5 days.



On day 14 the beer was kegged, and carbonated to 2.5 volumes of CO2.  I bottled The Stig’s sample and dug into the rest like it was my job.


My Take

Simply sublime!
Simply sublime!

Holy cow, I really like this beer.  The Mosaic hops are downright amazing, and I think they do play very nicely with the subtle chocolate flavors in this beer.  This is not going to last long…


The Stig

And now it’s time to turn the beer over to our Team Tasting Imbiber.  Some say He never travels without a towel, and that He holds the universe record for the number of Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters consumed in a single sitting.  All we know is, He’s called The Stig!

Aroma: Grassy, woodsy, pine resin, toasted brown bread. Some Acetaldehyde.

Appearance: Deep mahogany body with garnet edges. Sticky tan head with good retention. ~ 20 SRM

Flavor: Mosaic hops really shine through with earthy, forest floor type woody flavors and pecan pith, nutty bitterness. Toasted, bready flavors as well. Nice balance between hop bitterness and toffee-like sweetness. Again, noticeable Acetaldehyde.

Mouthfeel: Light-medium body with fairly soft carbonation. Little to no warming alcohol. Frothy texture upfront with a mildly drying finish.

Overall: A solid hoppy brown ale that is well balanced and sessionable. Perhaps some longer rest in secondary/more time on lees and the Acetaldehyde could have been avoided.



Any day The Stig uses “solid” to describe something positive about my beer is a good day.  The acetaldehyde I can directly attribute to the olive oil trick.  The professional tasting panel at NB also noted increased acetaldehyde production against the control, though it was not outside their own thresholds for sale.  Without a doubt, however, Don’t Panic would have been better had it not had the acetaldehyde present.  The olive oil trick is neat, but I just don’t see what the point is for us home brewers.  I can understand for a professional brewery, oxidation stalling reactions are a concern, especially when you go around bottle shops and see beers sitting at room temp on the shelf for months.  I can’t speak for all home brewers of course, but I’ve never thought oxidation was a problem in my brewery.  And for those beers that I do age longer than a few months, those oxidation reactions are actually beneficial (perhaps even essential) in giving those “aged” qualities. I’m willing to bet the freshness of the olive oil is important, and linoleic acid isn’t the only compound yeast gets from aeration (see page 27 of the thesis).  So, I really cannot recommend this procedure, since it essentially fixes something that was never broken, and especially since it leaves flaws for wily Stigs to detect.

(1)  This is Grady Hall’s 2005 Master’s thesis.  Definitely checkout the tasting comments.

Books I referred to for this recipe:
BJCP Style Guidelines.  2008.
Palmer, John.  How to Brew.   2006.
Zainasheff & Palmer.  Brewing Classic Styles.  2007.

Leave a Reply