Adam is back with one of his favorite homebrew recipes - his American Brown Ale called Portage Town Brown.

Brown ale got its start in England as a malt-driven beer with roasted notes, low bitterness and low hop presence. English brown ales can be dry or sweet; the drier would be considered Northern English and the sweeter Southern English. The BJCP used to have the two regional browns separated into their own categories (Northern and Southern) but now it’s simply one: British Brown Ale. I once spoke with a well-travelled and well-respected “beer person,” and he said that while visiting London, he asked where he could get a Southern brown ale. He got only blank stares in return. They have brown ale, and that’s it.

The history of the American brown ale begins in the basements and garages of home brewers. These brewers would brew their version of an English brown ale, but like any good American, they amplified the recipe by adding more hops and malt. One of the first examples of the style was Pete’s Wicked Ale. If you’re out of your 20s, chances are you remember this beer. Its rise to fame is well documented, and it spawned many other brown ales. As time went on, more hops were added, which spawned the brown IPA, once known as a Texas brown ale.

American browns are malty and rich (sometimes sweet), with chocolate and caramel notes dominating. Some versions can be nutty or toasty. The hop aroma and flavor is generally moderate but at times can be more intense. American hops can give a citrus, fruity and tropical character to the beer. Overall, this is a balanced beer. The flavors in this style can be accentuated with ingredients like coffee or chocolate and even offbeat ingredients like peanut butter.

When I created my recipe, I focused on the more robust flavors that I appreciate in the style. This meant using the sweeter base malt Maris Otter and a higher percentage of chocolate malt. For depth of flavor, I used two different caramel malts and added some amber and smoked malt in the hopes they would impart a subtle toasty background note. I used the American hops Willamette and Sterling for their spice and floral notes with a hint of citrus. The yeast strain should be fairly neutral, but some esters are welcome. I opted for the Wyeast ESB 1968 strain, which produces nice malty beer without muting any hop notes. It also adds some nice fruity esters that complement this beer very nicely. Ferment at 68F and do not allow temperature to exceed 70 F.

Portage Town Brown Homebrew Recipe

Boil Size: 6.87 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal 
Bottling Volume: 5.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.058 SG
Estimated Color: 25.7 SRM
Estimated IBU: 32.6 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 76.4 %
Boil Time: 75 Minutes

10 lbs Pale Malt, Maris Otter (Thomas Fawcett) 81%
10.0 oz Chocolate (Briess) (350.0 SRM) 5.1%   
8.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L (60.0 SRM) 4%  
8.0 oz Special B Malt (180.0 SRM) 4%             
7.0 oz Amber Malt (22.0 SRM) 3.5%                  
4.5 oz Smoked Malt (Weyermann) (2.0 SRM) 2.3%        

0.89 oz Sterling [7.50 %] - Boil 60.0 min (20.9 IBUs )
0.63 oz Willamette [5.50 %] - Boil 20.0 min (6.6 IBUs )
0.63 oz Chinook [13.00 %] - Boil 5.0 min (5.1 IBUs )
0.75 oz Sterling [7.50 %] - Boil 0.0 min (0.0 IBUs)

1.5 oz Willamette [5.5 %] – 4 days                    

Single Infusion
Add 4.6 gallons of water at 161.8 F      
152.0 F for 60 minutes       

Batch sparge with 4.5 gallons of 168.0 F water

10 days at 68 F (primary)
24 hours at 72 F for diacetyl rest
4 days at 68 F (dry hop)