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Help with Christmas Brew

I made a Nut Brown Ale with spices last year to hand out at Christmas that was a big hit with the family. I’ve formulated a recipe and have all the ingredients on hand but am looking for any suggestions to change/improve it. I’m going for a malty/sweet English style with a hint of some mulling spices. Please anyone chime in and offer suggestions (or encouragement :cheers: ). I hope to brew it this weekend or next.

Partial Mash
1.066 OG; 1.015-17 FG
26 IBU
18 SRM

2 lbs Maris Otter
.5 lbs Caramel/Crystal 60
.5 lbs Special B
.25 lbs Nocturnal Select Grain Blend (Fawcett’s Pale Chocolate, Simpson’s Dark and Extra Dark Crystal and Weyermann Carafa III according to this
http://forum.northernbrewer.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=116734&hilit=Nocturnal&start=15#p1021775
)

Mash 156F for 60 mins & sparge with 170F to get to ~3.25 gallons before additions (below)

3.15 Maris Otter LME
3 lb Amber DME
1 lb Brown sugar

1 oz UK Golding @ 60 mins
1 oz Fuggle @ 15 mins
1 oz UK Golding @ 5 mins

1 oz dried sweet orange zest @ 5 mins

Ferment with Safale S-04 (mid 60’sF)

Add high quality vanilla extract and 1 oz mulling spices 3-5 days prior to bottling (will taste and adjust time/amounts when checking gravity).

If it was a hit last year, brew it again the same way!

If you want to change it, the only suggestions/comments I would have:

-Do you need the flavor/aroma hops? I would think they would just get in the way of the holiday spice aromas. Though some floral/grassy aromas from UK hops couldn’t hurt.

-if you are going to get a high quality vanilla extract, maybe consider making your own with some good beans? Taking it a step further, why not just make a tincture/extract with the other spices while you are at it? Most use vodka, but with a beer like this, you could maybe even use some kind of whiskey/rye. Then you can add this at bottling/kegging.

[quote=“Pietro”][size=80]If it was a hit last year, brew it again the same way!
If you want to change it, the only suggestions/comments I would have:
-Do you need the flavor/aroma hops? I would think they would just get in the way of the holiday spice aromas. Though some floral/grassy aromas from UK hops couldn’t hurt.
-if you are going to get a high quality vanilla extract, maybe consider making your own with some good beans? Taking it a step further, why not just make a tincture/extract with the other spices while you are at it? Most use vodka, but with a beer like this, you could maybe even use some kind of whiskey/rye. Then you can add this at bottling/kegging.[/size][/quote]

I agree with not changing it at all if went over so well before. I also like the idea of making a homemade tincture of vanilla with some quality v-beans and some whiskey (WIld Turkey 101 or maybe some Booker’s is great for this).
The only other thing I can think of (though it’s too late to implement for this brew) is to brew it earlier. I try to do mine at least by March or April (but usually earlier) and bulk age it until December. Aging very often makes an already great brew even better…especially the stronger ones.

I second the good Professor’s thought about letting a spiced brew age. My 2nd brew, back in Jan. 2012 was a dark winter spice ale that I added 1 Tbs. mulling spices late boil and another 1 Tbs. in a secondary. Took a full year before the spice kick had toned down enough to make it enjoyable. I found a bottle a couple weeks ago, and D**N it’s actually good now. You’ll be wiser than I was by adding it in increments at bottling time, tasting it to get it right. Brewed the beginning of September, bottled the end of the month gives you 3 months aging. That should help mellow and meld. Good luck! :mug:

Thanks everyone for your replies. They are all very helpful. However, now I realize I wasn’t clear in my initial post that last year’s recipe was different from this one. Last year, I used our host’s Nut Brown Ale extract kit and kind of winged it with the spice additions. I’d like to try something different this year.

The above recipe was created by myself but I haven’t brewed it so I don’t know if there is anything that stands out (thanks for the advice on the hops Pietro!) as being off or if you would change something based on your experience.

Thanks again all :cheers:

somehow i missed the extract additions below the partial mash. I would probably not use a full pound of simple sugar. It will thin it out. Maybe a half pound of blackstrap molasses for a beer like this, or if you want, mail order a really killer honey like Meadowfoam. Also with that malt blend you are adding, dial the special B back to .25#. Simplicity is golden.

Other than that I think your fermentables are fine. Might wind up being a bit ‘muddy’ with all the different malts, but that’s part of this style.

+1 on the above point to make the beer in advance for aging. I would go a step further and say age BEFORE you add spices. To the above point, the spices wont need to fade by aging it for a long time if you control exactly how much of that flavor goes in. Bear in mind the one thing that will not fade is clove (or at least significantly less than other spices).

[quote=“Pietro”]somehow i missed the extract additions below the partial mash. I would probably not use a full pound of simple sugar. It will thin it out. Maybe a half pound of blackstrap molasses for a beer like this, or if you want, mail order a really killer honey like Meadowfoam. Also with that malt blend you are adding, dial the special B back to .25#. Simplicity is golden.

Other than that I think your fermentables are fine. Might wind up being a bit ‘muddy’ with all the different malts, but that’s part of this style.

+1 on the above point to make the beer in advance for aging. I would go a step further and say age BEFORE you add spices. To the above point, the spices wont need to fade by aging it for a long time if you control exactly how much of that flavor goes in. Bear in mind the one thing that will not fade is clove (or at least significantly less than other spices).[/quote]

Thanks Pietro, you’re always helpful. I’ll definitely start earlier next year.

I will dial back the Special B and maybe wait until bottling to add the spice-soaked vodka. I added the brown sugar because I was afraid that the amount of extract in the recipe plus mashing at 156 would make it less fermentable. Don’t want a 1.025 FG :blah: Maybe I’ll add the molasses or switch the brown sugar to .5 pounds. I think I’ll also go with a half ounce each of the late hop additions so they don’t get in the way of the spices too much.

Thanks again all. Things to think about now and for next year’s, especially if I use spice again.
:cheers:

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