brown malt experiments

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brown malt experiments

I've been on a bit of a historical brewing kick lately and am going to give a lecture/tasting next year at our local beer week on the evolution of British porter. I've got two porters on tap now from the Barclay Perkins brewing logs, one from 1805 which is pre-invention of black malt and the other is from 1820 which is a few years after black malt was invented. The 1805 batch uses 50% brown malt, 10% amber malt and 40% pale malt. The first time I brewed it, it was fantastic! loads of coffee/espresso notes, almost opaque black. I brewed it again using the same maltster's (Fawcett) brown malt but a different lot. This time it was still good but much more intense coffee/roast. I think slight variations in the manufacturing of brown malt can make big changes in the beer flavor when used at 50%.
The original porters were 100% brown malt so I decided to try it out. I got great extraction and a 1.070 gravity but when the yeast were added it was obvious that they weren't happy, no krausen and minimal airlock activity. After two weeks the gravity had only dropped to 1.060. The flavor was actually pleasant like a triple espresso but not really a beer. I guess the takeaway from this experiment is that brown malt doesn't really need to be converted as it is better thought of as a crystal malt in that sense, not in flavor but in that it is already "converted". Think of a 100% brown malt beer as you would a 100% dark crystal malt beer.
The 50% brown malt porter seems to ferment out decently so the pale malt must change some of the sugars into a more fermentable form.

drew's picture
I'm glad you had good results

I'm glad you had good results with the Brown, the one Porter I tried to do that was "traditional" turned out terrible because modern brown malt is a way different beast than the old stuff. I finally just pitched mine with BRett and let it rock and roll for a few years before serving!