My wife had gotten me a brew book last year for Christmas titled “Extreme Brewing” by Dogfish Head craft brewery owner Sam Calagione. I’m a big fan of Dogfish Head beers, especially their 60 Minute IPA and their Ta Henket Egyptian beer. I thought now was the right time to dive into their first recipe in the book…..A-Z Brown Ale. It is found on page 50 of this book…
He names it A-Z because there are 26 basic steps to making this beer and there are 26 letters in the alphabet. This recipe isn’t nearly as extreme as some of Sam’s other recipes, but could be one of my most “extreme”, or unique beers I’ve made to date. It involves brown sugar, molasses, and maple syrup. Let’s get right to it. The ingredients are as follows. Warning: you have to be drinking to be able to read it…….
I had asked my dad if he was interested in assisting me. He obliged. We first added the ½ lb. of crystal crushed grains to the pot using a filtered grain bag. The recipe says to have 4 ½ gallons of water to the pot. That would be too close to the top of the pot we have, so I had 3 ½ gallons. It will interfere with the O.G. and finished alcohol % once done, but won’t be that far off. We steeped it up and down a few times, much like a tea bag in hot water. Once the temperature got to be 170 degrees, we tossed the grains into the garbage, moved the pot off the burner, and added the 6.6 lbs. of light liquid malt extract. Here is my dad adding the liquid malt extract…
We stirred in the liquid malt, making sure none of it stuck to the bottom. We then covered the pot and put it back on the burner for a few minutes until it came to a boil. At the first 5 minute mark of the boil, we added 1 oz. of Northern Brewer hop pellets and stirred vigorously, making sure there was no boil over. Here’s my dad taking the temperature of the boiling wort. He wanted to see how hot it was, but as he quickly found out with the lack of equipment we had, it was too hot to hold the thermometer in the wort.
30 minutes into the boil, we added 1 lb. of Belgium candy sugar and 1 oz. of Cluster hop pellets.
With 20 minutes left in the boil, we added 1 teaspoon of Irish Moss. This was a recipe where Irish Moss would be needed to clarify the brew. The crushed grains, hops, molasses, and brown sugar would definitely add sediment to this brew. 5 minutes after adding the Irish Moss, we added both the 8 oz. of brown sugar and 8 oz. of molasses. Here I am adding both of these to the wort……
By this time, our house smelled like a brewery and also had a sweet/candy smell to it. With beer, I prefer bitter and hops over sweet, but I am still excited to try this one.
With 10 minutes remaining in the boil, I added the 1 oz. of whole leaf Golding hops(within a filtered bag). They say you can get more hop bitterness, flavor, and aroma out of whole leaf hops as opposed to the hop pellets. I really don’t think there is much of a difference between the two. At least I haven’t noticed a difference in the beers I have made so far. This recipe called for whole leaves, so I followed it. Once the last 10 minutes finished up, I removed the pot from the burner. I am about ready to do just that in the picture below….
The idea is to get the finished wort cooled to around 75-80 degrees as fast as possible. This can take some time. I filled the sink with cold water and ice and let the pot sit in there for about 20 minutes. I then transferred the pot outside, since it was about 35 degrees outside. It is important not to get any dirt or debris in the wort during this time due to risk of contaminating the brew. I covered the lid when I took it outside, but in order to get the wort cooled in a timely manner, I tilted the lid a bit.
About an hour and a half after taking the pot off the burner, it was within the 75-80 degree range. I poured the wort into the fermenting bucket and I took the O.G. reading, which showed 1.062…down from the 1.072 expected for this beer. This was due to me adding 3 ½ gallons of water to the pot, not the 4 ½ gallon recommendation. That’s fine, it won’t mess with the quality at tasting time. I added water to make it a 5 gallon batch. I then pitched the yeast and stirred thoroughly, activated the yeast with all the sugars that had been added to the wort. Within 24 hours, there should be some awesome fermenting action taking place….I can’t wait!
Once the fermenting starts to slow(after 2 or 3 days), we are to add 8 to 10 oz. of maple syrup. That will re-activate the yeast that is still in the bucket with the new sugars of the maple syrup. The book warns the brewer that major fermenting should take place and be prepared for possible bubbling out of the airlock. I can’t wait to see that!
After 2 weeks in the fermenting bucket, I’ll transfer it to a secondary bucket for a week to settle more of the condensation and clarify the beer even more. I’ll then transfer it to a bottling bucket, adding the 5 oz of priming sugar, will bottle the beer, and 1-2 weeks after being in the bottle, should be ready to drink. It’ll be a New Year’s celebratory beer for sure!