British Brewer

Recreating the perfect British Pint

17 April
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Recipe: Samuel Smiths Nut Brown Ale

Samuel Smiths Nut Brown Ale

Samuel Smiths Nut Brown Ale

So we reach our last brew in the Old and Browns series.  So far we have a Theakston Old Peculier (10/10), an  Old Speckled Hen, a Left Over Old Ale (my own take on the Old Ale style using left over ingredients) and finally we get to the Samuel Smiths Nut Brown Ale I have been promising.

I must admit to having a significant bias to Sam Smith’s, at the age of 18 I got a job there. The manager (a rather scary Mancuian) took a liking to me and began to teach me the art of cellaring and before you know it I was handling the oak barrels in the cellar, learning how to tap and spile, prep the beer lines, and take care of these hand crafted brews. It was the time I transitioned from drinking beer at parties to really beginning to appreciate real-ale as an art.

Samuel Smith’s brewery is a classic Yorkshire brewery located in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire. Founded in 1758, it is also Yorkshires oldest.  The family owned brewery was not originally founded by the Smith’s. In 1847, Samuel Smith (a cattle dealer for Leeds) asked his son John to purchase a struggling Tadcaster brewery owned by the Hartley family.  John was joined by his brother William and John left his share of the firm in the custodianship of his other brother, Samuel.  William bought out Samuel’s half and moved the brewery next door where another classic Yorkshire ale, John Smiths Bitter, is still brewed to this day. The Smith family has quite the ale legacy.

In 1886 Samuel’s son Samuel Smith inherited the Old Brewery on Williams death and re-opened the brewery under his own name where it still runs as an independent brewery to this day. The firm is fiercely independent. They own over 200 pubs and refuse to carry any expensive branded drinks, they don’t play music to avoid paying the license fees and pass off the cost savings back to the customers by keeping the ales priced really cheap only increasing in price as the cost of raw materials and tax increases.

The brewery has other notable characteristics. It still uses a yeast strain that dates back t0 1900, it draws water from the same well the brewery was founded over in 1758, and still employs the Yorkshire Squares style of brewing. And for all you Vegans out there all Sam Smiths brews are vegan (with the exception of Old Brewery Bitter).

Now onto the beer.  Nut Brown Ale would have been traditionally called a “mild”. Not a reflection on its strength but because it was not sour as some of the aged strong ales became.  These sour ales were then blended with the newer mild’s in the local pubs to the taste of the custodian. It would be defined today as a “Northern English Brown Ale”, a topic we covered in the overview post on Brown Ales.  A Northern Brown is defined as:

Drier and more hop-oriented than the southern English brown ale, with a nutty character rather than caramel.

Research for this ale was tough. The Old Brewery folks are as tight with information as they are with their money.  I must admit to being a little concerned with replicating this ale. On the US importers website page on Nut Brown Ale it is claimed the nutty flavour is derived from the Yorkshire Squares technique. Something I will not be able to replicate.

The taste we are trying to replicate is described as follows (from the brewer):

Walnut-like color and palate of hazelnuts. Wonderful balance of roasted crystal malt and aromatic hops. Long clean finish.

I got some more stats from BeerAdvocate: 5.00 ABV, creamy mouthfeel with light carbonation.  So the rest we must derive from a process of deduction. We know all Sam Smith’s brews (with the exception of Oatmeal stout and the fruit beers) consist only of malt, water and hops with no adjuncts used. We also know the brewery uses the same strain of yeast in all its beers.

From comparing the recipe given for Old Brewery Pale Ale (OBPA) in an old version of Graham Wheelers “Brew Your Own British Real Ale” (the new version has no Sam Smiths recipes), the OBPA review in the Almanac, and both the Sam Smiths recipes in “Clone Brews” book, it is clear all make use of Fuggles as the flavour hop and East Kent Goldings for the bittering hop.

I also found a reference online to another Graham Wheeler book where he apparently has a recipe for Samuel Smiths Nut Brown Ale. I could not find a list of ingredients but I found the stats listed as 5% ABV, OG 1048, 35 IBU, 36 EBC (~19 SRM). The IBU’s seem a little high to me but I think we can figure the hop load out by referencing some classic Brown Ale recipes. Given the ale is a brown the hop load should be kept low to bring out the malt.

So in compiling this recipe I will follow the other Sam Smith recipes and go with East Kent for bittering and Fuggles for flavour. For yeast I am going to go with Whitbread dry, a popular strain for brewing Northern Brown styles. It has a high attentuation so will finish dry, a requirement for Northern Browns. For malt I will stick with crystal and chocolate malt, a staple in brown ales.  I shall use parameters set in the BJCP Northern English Brown style guide to help construct the recipe. So here goes.

(recipe can be found online @ hopville.com)

Samuel Smiths Nut Brown Ale (BJCP Beer Style: English Brown Ales, category: Northern English Brown)

  • 2.5 Gallon, 60 min boil
  • OG 1048, FG 1012
  • 4.8-5.0% ABV
  • 28 IBU (used the Rager formula)
  • 17° SRM (Light to Medium Brown)
  • Ready to drink in 2+ Months

Base Malt and Fermentables:

  • 2 lb 8 oz Light Dry Malt Extract (60 mins)

Specialty Grains:

  • 3 oz British Crystal 60L
  • 2 oz Chocolate Malt

Hops

  • Bittering Hops – 0.5 oz East Kent Golding (60 mins)
  • Flavour Hop – 0.25 Fuggles (15 mins)

Yeast

  • Wyeast British Ale (1098)

Other Additions

  • 1 tsp Irish Moss (15 mins)
  • 1/4 tsp Yeast Nutrient (10 mins)

Process

  • Please follow the process guidelines outlined in my post here.  You will require all the equipment specified here.
  • Primary Fermentation: 7 days at 65-75°
  • Secondary Fermentation: 1-2 weeks in the same location as the primary
  • Prime and store in the bottle for at least 4 weeks before consuming
  • Peak flavour will be reached after 4 weeks in the bottle
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03 February
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Pretty Things

Pretty Things

It was with great sadness that I recently learned Buzzards Bay brewing down in Westport MA had stopped brewing their own brands. Great ales in a beautiful farm setting. The place was owned by the Westport Rivers Winery guys (great wines also) who still appear to be going strong but alas the brewery was not to be.  I took a tour down their a couple of years ago and sampled some brews fresh from the kettles, yum.  It appears they are now a contract brew location opening up the brewery to third parties and appear to have launched a new brand called Just Beer.

So it was with great pleasure that I learned over the weekend that Buzzards Bay Brewing is contracting with the Pretty Things Brewery. A great project brewing fantasic ales.  Just as BritishBrewer is re-creating and brewing authentic real ales, Pretty Things is going one step further and actually brewing ales using authentic old recipes and techniques, researched by top beer historians, using traditional methods.

This past Saturday evening, thanks to my friend and great ale critic Mike Chase who I use to critique my own fare introduced me to Pretty Things and poured a few bottles of their ST BOTOLPH’S TOWN Rustic Brown Ale, only batch #2 bottled last April.  It reminded me of Theakstons Old Peculier, the brew I happen to be avidly researching as my first experimental Brown/Old Ale recipe.  So I come home and fire up the internets and what do I find but the brew master of Pretty Things was a former brewer from Yorkshire, England, and the Rustic Brown is actually inspired by Old Peculier and a couple of other rustic darker Yorkshire ales, right down the use of Yorkshire malts and the northern england fermenting technique of open Yorkshire squares. It was a fantastic beverage, and I only wish we had more because when the word got out about (via the oohs and aahs) there really was not enough to go around.

Check out Pretty Things at these locations. I am really looking forward to the London Mild inspired by the Milds brewed in 1800’s London and something I briefly mention in my post on Brown Ale.

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28 January
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Brown Ale

For those of you who are regular readers you know we have spent the last 8 weeks or so looking into classic British Pale Ale recipes such as Fullers ESB, Pride, Flowers, and Wadworth 6X.  Next up we will be focusing on Brown Ales and their big brother, Old Ales (which we covered in a previous post). I hope to get some great recipes together and have been hard at work researching the best ones to try out.

But before we move on this post is for those of you that enjoy a glass of brown ale or two (its my wife’s favorite ale) whether its Smuttynose Old Brown Dog or a Newcastle Brown from back home in the UK.  I thought it would be worthwhile to highlight a little of Brown Ales rich history, which dates back to 1600’s Britain, before getting into some recipes.

But first, what is Brown Ale?  The BJCP classification of English Brown Ale encompasses the Northern and Southern English varieties along with Mild Ale. The Southern Brown Ale is described as:

A luscious, malt-oriented brown ale, with a caramel, dark fruit complexity of malt flavor. May seem somewhat like a smaller version of a sweet stout or a sweet version of a dark mild.

with the Northern:

Drier and more hop-oriented than the southern English brown ale, with a nutty character rather than caramel.

Whatever the classification Brown Ales have a cult following and are among one of the most popular styles for homebrewers, following stouts and porters.

The term Brown Ale was first used by brewers in the late 1600’s London to describe the beverages they sold at the time such as Mild Ale, a lightly hopped sweet beer made entirely of brown malt.  This type of beer died out in the early 1800’s with brewers moving to pale malt which proved cheaper due to higher sugar yields and is still used by modern brewers today.

The term “Brown Ale” was revived again in the early 1900’s by the London brewer Mann, who create Mann Brown Ale (still available today and brewed under contract by Thomas Hardy Burtonwood).  By the 1920’s Brown Ales were very popular again with large brewers such as Whitbread began brewing strong browns, far stronger than the modern browns brewed today with an ABV of over 5%. The popularity of Mann Brown and Whitbread Double Brown continued through WWII at which point breweries began to produce weaker, cheaper Brown Ale (I suspect due to rationing and the economic conditions of the time) all but wiping out the expensive, more premium forebears. Today, with the exception of homebrewers, the strong Brown Ales are hard to come by, being replaced with Porters, Stouts and Old ales.  Great examples of Northern English, strong, Brown Ales would be Samuel Smiths Nut Brown Ale and Newcastle Brown.  Mann’s Original Brown Ale would be a good Southern example.

It is actually in the USA that Brown Ale has seen a resurgence, mainly from the legion of homebrewers like myself who like to brew strong flavoured, robust ales. The grass roots movement has not gone unnoticed by the micro-brewers who have developed a broad array of full-bodied Brown’s for the American public. American Brown Ales tend to be drier than either of their English counterparts, with a slight citrus aroma and bitterness due to American varieties of hops used.  Popular American varieties include Petes Wicked, Smuttynose Old Brown Dog, Sam Adams Brown and Brooklyn Brown. A whole host of Brown Recipes are available online also.

So my quest will be to recreate a selection of Old and Brown Ales in the coming months and I welcome any suggestions for brands you would like me to try.  I fully intend to attempt at least Samuel Smiths Nut Brown and possibly a Smuttynose.  Should be fun. Would love to get a Brown and an Old onto my completed recipes page.

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