Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The English (Not So) Mild

I promised to write about the beer I made at Hopman's Homebrew shop on November 3rd, and here I am to do so! I downloaded a recipe from an internet site (Brew Monkey)for an English Mild. An English Mild is a brown ale that is light in alcohol content but malty and roasty and full of flavor. This is a beer that weighs in at 3 to 4.5% alcohol by volume and is a light brown in color. There really are few commercial examples in this country to cite, so I won't. Suffice to say that it is a flavorful alternative to your megebrew low-carb offerings.

When I brewed this beer, I had to double (approximately) the ingredients list to make a ten gallon batch, as the recipe was for a five gallon batch. I was brewing this beer approximately an hour's drive away from home in a parking lot. This is to say that I needed to carry everything I needed with me to Hopman's brewshop. I forgot the hops and the two half-gallon yeast starters I made the day before! I did bring everything else I needed, though, and since I was in the parking lot of a homebrew shop, the hops weren't hard to find (in fact, Rick Hopman gave me the three ounces of English Kent Goldings I needed for the recipe. Thanks, Rick!).

When it came time to heat my sparge water, I second guessed myself and somehow, came up a couple of gallons short on the volume. I can only say that this was a teaching session and I was very busy both brewing and answering questions from curious would-be brewers who were there to learn a bit about the hobby. I screwed up on the calculation and as a result ended up with only about eight gallons of liquor! I could have added some water to the liquor tank and heated it to 170 degrees and added it to the mash tun to gain the expected volume but instead I decided that everything happens for a reason and boiled the volume I had for a stronger but less voluminous batch of beer.

After boiling, I had some problems with my equipment. The homemade screen I use to strain the hops from the wort (unfermented beer) clogged on me due to a kink in the hose near the outlet. Imagine as your hero explains to the adoring crowd that he prefers to use whole hops for their filtering properties and when asked if they clog the runoff, replies, "Nope. Never had that problem". Then watch horrified as the device he proudly points to as something that will do the job quickly and efficiently-that he made himself-clogs and slows to nary a dribble as the runoff commences! Oh, ignoble Law of Murphy! This caused me to have to ladle the wort through a screen into the kegs I was using for transporting the beer home. This certainly was a dangerous practice because it increased the chance that an infection could occur! Remember, this is cooled wort and is susceptible to bacterial invasion at this point. I had little choice, so I did what I had to do and went home with nearly eight gallons of unfermented beer.

When I got home I tranferred the wort to glass fermenters and pitched the yeast starters. The original gravity of this beer was 1.064. This is perhaps twice the normal gravity of an English Mild (normally between 1.030 and 1.038)! I guess the resulting beer could be considered a Strong Ale but really, since it was brewed as a Mild, I think I'll call it an Imperial Mild! Strong versions of normal beers are often categorized as Imperial beers, following an old habit begun when the English brewed strong Stouts for the Russian court, called Russian Imperial Stouts. Nowadays, one can find any number of American craft brewers producing Imperial Stouts, Imperial IPAs and other stronger versions of normal beers. Imperial Pilsners are the current rage.

So, to cut to the chase, I racked the finished beer into a keg and force-carbonated half of it on Saturday. I tried it an hour or so later. It is fantastic! My new favorite beer! I bottled the rest of it-37 12 oz. bottles-on Sunday. It is carbonating naturally now, in the bottles. This one is a winner, folks! I don't know how I'll enter it into any contests, with it's unusual character but I'll have to find a way because this beer needs to be recognized as the star that it is. Strong-at about 6.5 to7% ABV-but so flavorful! I'm certain that it will age gracefully, too.

I'll file this one under the heading of Serendipity. I may call it Kismet Imperial Mild. Or, how about Serendipity-Dew?


Ms RightWing, Ink said...

I recall a Three Stooge comedy where they went to jail for making beer. I hope they don't come with axes and rip your house down.

Wheneve you develop the orginal fire-brewed Strohs like they used to brew backin the 60's--give me a call.

Beerme said...

Ah, fire-brewed Strohs! That takes me back to my youth. I remember smelling the beer being brewed downtown, when I lived in Detroit in those days. I didn't know for the longest time what that smell was. I remember asking people and getting different answers. Some said it was the Uniroyal plant making tires, some said it was the Walker distillery across the river making whiskey. Once I began making my own beer, I knew right away what that smell was!

Hawkeye® said...

Don't you just love it when a plan comes together... NOT! Yet, it sounds like a true success story nevertheless.

"Nazdrovye!" my friend.

(:D) Regards...

mig said...

I hope you wrote down what you did, errors and all so that you can get a second batch as good as the first. Otherwise, it will be a memory. A gift. A fish story, the brew that got away.

Husband brought home some African beer 'Castle' which says: Brewed in perfect balance to satisfy an African thirst.

Here's to you and here's to me.

camojack said...

Sounds like work...I'd rather just buy my beer.

Beerme said...

That's serendipity for you!

The entire episode was recorded for posterity. I usually keep good records while brewing but in this case I was busy training and answering questions so I had to wait until I got home to do the notes. But they're there!

Yes, it is work, but when you are done-if you make beer like I do-you've got something you can't buy. IF you could buy this beer, which you can't because no one in the world makes it but me, it would be quite expensive (say $10/sixpack). I made it for $10/case. This weekend I made a thirteen percent Barleywine Ale. There are few of those available anywhere-and none like this one!

camojack said...

You can peruse what's available to me locally HERE.

Beerme said...


That's a fine list of offerings at Michael's Deli! I don't recall seeing any of our quality Michigan beers there, though. Pity. I'm sure you're familiar with Bell's offerings (Oberon is a big seller across the nation).

What I am referring to is the fact that this beer I was discussing is a totally new beer. There is no style to describe it, so no commercial brewers make it. The malt bill for a commercial brewer would be cost prohibitive. As a homebrewer, I can do things that make no economic sense, like draw off only two-thirds of the wort (unfermented beer) that I made and pitch the grains before all of the wort has been extracted, just to make a stronger version of an established beer. And, because the cost is cheap for me, I still save money. Of course my time is worth much but since it is my hobby and I'm always learning, I count it as a brewing lesson and chalk it up to training!

camojack said...

Michael's Deli has won Philadelphia Magazine's "best beer selection" award many times...and they're right in my township.
(Upper Merion)

Beerme said...

I'm really quite jealous of your choices there. We have few good beer retailers in my immediate area. There are some good beer retailers in the state of Michigan but probably none that can match Michael's Deli! One of the problems is the fact that beer distributors have lobbyed for and receieved legislation making it illegal for retailers to buy beer from anyone other than a distributor. Distributors then limit brands to what they carry. Many microbrewers would be happy to have their beer sold in lots of mom and pop stores but can't get it done...

camojack said...

First of all:

As you can see, with money not being a factor, I have little incentive to brew my own beer...not that I don't find zymurgy fascinating. Once I retire to someplace far away, I may be more interested in the pursuit...