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Identifying Source(s) of Flavors/Aromas

So, I just bottled a new version of one of my recipes, and it has an aroma and flavor that reminds me a lot of NB’s nut brown ale. When I brewed the latter, the flavor and especially the aroma were quite distinct. I thought it was the yeast, but I’ve now gotten it from brews using both US-05 and Nottingham. So, now I’m thinking it might be a malt characteristic, especially since my custom recipe uses some of the same specialty malts as NB’s nut brown ale. I’m really not sure how to describe it, other than to say that both are reminiscent of New Castle Nut Brown, but more powerful.

Maybe the easiest way to approach this is to ask if an abundance of any particular malt aromas might be prevalent in the second recipe below, and, if so, which ingredient(s) would impart them?

Original custom recipe (aroma/flavor more or less absent - masked by roasted barley and higher IBUS?):
76% 8 8 Briess 2-row Pale Malt
13% 1 8 Dingemans Belgian Biscuit Malt
4% 0 8 Briess Caramel 60L
4% 0 8 Muntons Chocolate Malt
1% 0 2 Roasted Barley - 675 L

New version (aroma/flavor prominent):
81% 10 0 Briess 2-row Pale Malt
12% 1 8 Briess Caramel 60L
4% 0 8 Dingemans Belgian Biscuit Malt
3% 0 6 Muntons Chocolate Malt

NB Nut Brown (aroma/flavor prominent)

  • 6 lbs Gold malt syrup
  • 0.25 lbs English Chocolate Malt
  • 0.25 lbs Belgian Special B
  • 0.25 lbs Belgian Biscuit
  • 0.25 lbs Briess Special Roast

It would be a LOT easier if you’d describe what you’re smelling and tasting. I have no idea what NB’s Nut Brown ale is like.

Haha, I hear ya. Unfortunately, I’m not quite sure how to describe it. There’s a subtle hint of coffee, but that’s either behind or a small part of the over all aroma/flavor I’m talking about, so I’m not sure I can attribute it entirely to the chocolate malt.

The character is present in New Castle Nut Brown, more in the flavor than the aroma, although it is much more subtle in their beer. It’s not something I would necessarily call “nutty”, although I suspect it’s the flavor that leads to that designation. By that I mean, I’ve never thought New Castle tasted “nutty”, but I do recognize a distinguishing flavor. What I’m talking about is that flavor on steroids.

I know this isn’t terribly helpful, and I appreciate your taking the time to inquire further. I’d really like to isolate where it’s coming from so it won’t crop up unexpectedly like this. It’s not bad, just not what I was going for.

Man, I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do for you with that description. Sorry…

It’s all good, and thanks again.

Do you (or does anyone else) happen to know what’s in New Castle that imparts “nutty” flavor? That might be a good place to start.

I’m finding that learning how to taste beer is like 50,000 times harder than learning how to brew it :wink: .

Are you trying to describe bready? Does it smell like fermenting bread or toast? The biscuit malt would give you that and might hide in a beer with higher roast malts.

I don’t think so. It’s more pungent than that. Actually, pungent is a good word for it, almost funky. Still, I’ll crack one of the NB nut browns tonight and see if bready or toasty fits, and will do the same with the custom recipe when they’re carbed. Newcastle reviews also tend to mention toffee. Maybe I’ll try to get my hands on some good toffee and see if that’s akin to what I’m sensing. But, I really think it’s the aroma/flavor often referred to as “nutty.”

I think one of the problems may be that when I think of flavor descriptions like “nutty” or “bready”, I think of what those things literally smell like, as though a beer smells “bready” if it smells like my house when I’m baking or toasting bread and that “nutty” would smell like a tin of roasted nuts. My guess is that it isn’t typically quite so literal. In any case, only once have I smelled something distinctly “bready,” and that was coming from the airlock during fermentation of the first recipe in my first post.

At some point I’d love to sit down with a BJCP judge (or other knowledgeable person), an array of beers, including some with off-flavors, and learn what’s what.

The one common ingredient I keep coming across as critical to nut brown ales is crystal malts, and this article

associates them with “nutty” flavors. I always thought of crystal malts as imparting more of a caramel-like sweetness, not nuts. But, the biggest changes from the first round of this beer and this round is upping c60 from .5 lbs to 1.5 lbs, dropping biscuit from 1.5 lbs to .5 lbs, and eliminating the roasted barley.

This has me thinking that the c60, in conjunction with the chocolate malt sans roasted barley, is imparting the aroma and flavor I’m talking about.

Of course, then you have Palmer attributing nutty flavor to toasted malts
, in which case the first round should’ve been ultra nutty (lots of biscuit), but maybe the roasted barley masked it…

Who knows…

Best way is to have the beer with a set up of the things like you suggested with the toffee. Have some nuts in a bowl, some toffee in a bowl, some toasted bread present, Maybe even try having some butter present in case youre getting diacetyl, or something like that.

Good call…I’ll give it a try tonight. I know BJCP recommends adding almond extract to a base beer to emulate “nutty” flavors, but I think I’ll just get a variety of nuts because I’ve seen walnuts, peanuts, hazelnuts, and others mentioned.

Oh yeah, I noticed a very similar overtone in my fresh ground Colombian supremo this morning. I can still taste it in the water I’m currently drinking from the same mug. Various sites mention that Colombian supremo has a nutty quality, so I’m starting to think that’s the name typically given to the flavor I’m talking about. And, of course, there was the coffee undertone to the gravity sample last night, which is obviously much more up front in my…coffee :wink:

At any rate, it will be interesting to brew this again and see how various grain bill alterations affect this quality. Ideally, I’d like to significantly reduce the nuttiness (assuming that’s what it is) while retaining the hint of coffee pretty much exactly as it is.

Take a look at these…

Got it: roasted almonds! Almost to a ‘t’, both in terms of flavor and aroma. As a matter of fact, roasted almonds and NB’s nut brown ale turn out to be a great combo.

Anyway, I chewed on some c60, chocolate, and biscuit malt to see which might have contributed this character, and without a doubt the c60 brings most of the nuttiness. The chocolate adds a bit more, but mostly makes it roasted almonds vs. just almonds. Very cool! I continue to be amazed by the ways beer attains its flavors. I never would’ve guessed such a strong, pungent aroma could come from malts.

Thanks for the links, Denny! Those will be very useful.

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