In trying to keep up with my Year of Brewing Beer this past Sunday I went ahead and brewed a Southern English Brown. You may not be familiar with this style as there are no real commercial examples available in St. Louis (at least that I’m aware of.) Here’s a quick rundown from the BJCP:

Overall Impression: Malty-sweet, often with a rich, caramel or toffee-like character. Moderately fruity, often with notes of dark fruits such as plums and/or raisins. Very low to no hop aroma. No diacetyl.

History: English brown ales are generally split into sub-styles along geographic lines. Southern English (or “London-style”) brown ales are darker, sweeter, and lower gravity than their Northern cousins.

As you may or may not remember, I brewed this beer in early September for a party we were having in October. I’ve quickly found this is one of my new favorites, it’s lush and slightly chocolaty. Also, at 3.8%, it’s a perfect session beer. The other great thing about this beer, is because I enjoy it so much, it gives me a chance to really hone my techniques and start focusing on making sure to do all of the little things right. It gives me the ability to see what differences there are from batch to batch and where I might need to improve in the future.

Warning, really nerdy homebrewing stuff lies ahead.

This was also the second time I got a chance to use my whirlpool immersion chiller. If you’re not familiar with brewing beer, one of the most important parts after you’ve finished brewing your wort is to cool it as quickly as possible. You get benefits not only from a flavor and sanitization standpoint, but also because it saves you time. An immersion chiller is really nothing more than a coiled copper pipe that you attach to a hose or your sink. You push cool (or at this time of the year, cold) water through the pipe and in turn it cools your wort.

One of the problems with this though is that you’ll get an envelope effect going on in your pot. You’ll find that you’ll have pockets of cooled liquid and where the immersion chiller is touching the wort and pockets of hot or warm liquid where the immersion chiller isn’t in direct contact with the wort. Well, the whirlpool method that Jamil Zainasheff came up with helps to resolve that problem. By using a small pump and a small copper pipe that dips into the pot, you can take liquid from the bottom of the kettle and pump it past the immersion chiller, allowing you to cool your wort more quickly than letting it sit there alone. Here’s a picture that gives you a quick run down:

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I’ve also included a video of the pump in action:

After the jump there is a run down of the day in picture form.

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I actually begin the brewing process the night before a brew day by making a yeast starter. Notice the yellow stir bar at the bottom of the flask.

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I’ve now measured out 100 grams of dried malt extract. You want a 10:1 ratio of water to DME. In this case I’ll be making a 1000ml starter.

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After I’ve added my water I then boil it for about 20 minutes to make sure the mixture and the stir bar is sanitized.

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After the starter has been chilled, I add the yeast and put it onto my magnetic stir plate. The magnet spins the stir bar at the bottom of the flask. This allows the yeast to be in constant contact with oxygen.

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I begin the next day by heating my water and weighing out my grain for grinding.

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Here is a photo of the mill and the crushed grain.

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Here’s a close up of the grain. Notice that many of the husks are still intact. This provides a natural filter bed later in the process.

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I’ve now brought my grain upstairs and I’m measuring off the amount of water I’ll need to add to the grain.

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I’ve now “doughed-in” which means I’ve added my grains to the water. It’s important to break up any clumps.

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This is a single step infusion mash, which means I add water to bring it up to a single temperature and hold it there for a certain amount of time. In this case 60 minutes.

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After the mash process is complete and the starch has been changed into sugar by enzymes I begin sparging. This basically means I’m trying to extract as much sugar from the grains as possible.

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After I’ve collected all of the sweet wort, I add it to the boil kettle and begin boiling the wort. Once the boil has begun, I add my hops. The plastic device you see allows me to easily add hops and remove them after the boil has completed.

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After the wort is cooled (in the process described above) I can then put it into a glass carboy for the fermentation process. In this photo you’ll also see my in-line oxygenator. Yeast need oxygen to ferment, adding oxygen to the wort helps them do their job better and more quickly.

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Here’s a close up of the in-line oxygenator. Notice the bubbles near the neck of the carboy, coming from the stone.

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This is a hydrometer, it tells me how much sugar is in the wort. In this case I was shooting for 1.041 and you’ll see I’m just about on the money.