This beer started with a long ago read article from Brew Your Own. Around that time, I had a tasty “Colonial” ale from remember not which brewery at a World Beer Festival, in Durham. I think it was a Virginia brewery. And it was somewhere between a couple and several years ago. The beer seemed “bright” and intriguing. So I searched for recipe ideas and came up with Dan Mouer’s piece from BYO.
Basically, he’d discovered a beer recipe during a dig on a Virginia plantation. He translated the recipe to today’s available measurements and ingredients and brewed it up. I translated it to what I had available and brewed that. One element of the recipe was brown malt, which at the time I couldn’t get at my local homebrew shop. And I didn’t want to fool with shipping. I told Mike, my local homebrew shop guy, what I was after, and he suggested I substitute special roast, and mash for a good two hours.
So that’s what I did. To this day, it’s one of the coolest beers I’ve ever done. The grain bill was simple: 7# pale malt and 7 # special roast (5 gallon batch). It was dark, roasty, chewy with dark fruit nuances and a touch of alcohol warmth, somewhere between a porter and an old ale–OG around 1.072. Out of necessity on another occasion, I substituted biscuit instead of the special roast. The beer wasn’t the same (duh). One summer, I scaled it back to drop some of the alcohol, and it wasn’t the same (duh). While I fully recognized the Bob Ross “happy accident-ness” of the original beer and knew that to be my Colonial Ale, I’ve always wanted to try it with the originally intended brown malt.
That’s what I’ve got in the keg today, though fortunately, I screwed up my order. I did 10 gallons with the intent of oak aging half of it (also adding juniper berries and a touch of molasses), but somehow I ordered 14 pounds of pale malt and only 7 pounds of brown malt. The brown reduction was probably the good thing.
I make it sound like this beer came out poorly. It did not. I enjoy it very much, but I can sense where half again more brown malt would be overkill. It’s got a roasty element, but not the roasted barley kind of roastiness found in a glorious stout. This is more like if you stuck your tongue on spent Folgers coffee grounds, with a little sweetness and more body. Again, I don’t mean to say that it’s a chore to drink it, but I’m just trying to give you a place to imagine your tastebuds.
Interestingly, the “regular” version of this beer scored below 30 and the oak-aged version took a blue ribbon. Click on the correct “here” link above to read why I take both results with a grain of salt. Oh, nevermind. Here it is again.
Never again will I jack with this beer. I intend to brew the special roast version again, sometime in the next few months. I won’t dumb it down for summer, because I both like this beer and happily drink dark, beastly stuff at all times of the year.
I haven’t really talked about the hops, as they’re generally irrelevant on this brew: a dose for bittering and that’s it. I used 2 ounces of Fuggles for 60 minutes of a two hour boil. For the record, I mashed at 155F.
Try this if you like, but I’d recommend the special roast version. In that case, I’d start the sentence with, “Try this if you love…”