I might have guessed that it would be that way from the very beginning. It looked a little pale from the onset even after all the ingredients were added. In the back of my head, I thought, "Well maybe it will darken over time." Now I know for the future that it won't--at least not in any substantial way. I have two theories about what happened; it could be either or both. The recipe I used called for two cans of light malt extract. It struck me as funny that one would use light malt extract for one of the darkest styles of beer.
Second, (and brace yourself for nerd talk) the darkness of the barley malt is measured in degrees lovibond or ˚L. The recipe I was using called for a rating of 675˚L and the darkest I could find was 413˚L-450˚L. As I've mentioned in a previous blog, we went to the Brooklyn Kitchen to pick up all of the ingredients. They didn't have exactly what the recipe called for so I had to settle for a lesser lovibond. What's the big deal right?
Now I know the significance. The Nut Brown Ale turned out a lot darker than the Stout and I think it has a lot to do with the type of malt extract used (Amber as opposed to Light) and the grains used (338˚L was the darkest grain used, but there was more grain used overall.)
So the Stout didn't turn out exactly as I planned. But you know what? It's still really good and I learned a lot from that batch of beer. It was my first attempt at making a yeast starter and it was a rousing success. For those new to brewing, a starter gives the yeast a fighting chance by letting it reproduce by itself before pitching it into the wort. It was difficult to tell if the starter had the proper amount of activity inside. I only sealed the top with a piece of plastic wrap fastened loosely with a rubber band--the MacGyver approach to staving off bacteria. For a good chunk of time, I didn't know if it was working. This time around, for the Nut Brown Ale, I picked up a rubber stopper that I can attach my airlock to so I can actually watch the air escape bubble by bubble. Less than a dollar is a small price to pay for piece of mind.
I've learned that priming the beer with sugar before bottling is easier than priming with malt extract and produces a thicker head and more carbonation. I will still continue to toy with different priming sugars to see the different qualities of each. People use corn sugar, honey and even maple syrup. The possibilities are endless and delicious.
But I could not be more pleased with the latest beer. It's fairly dark, almost to the point of looking like a porter, and it's got a bit of bite to it. It's nice and warm and roasted and goes down smooth. I like it a bit more than the last one. Take a look at the picture on the left and guess which is the Stout and which is the Nut Brown Ale. You'd be wrong. I'm still getting the swing of things.
I'm really enjoying this whole beer brewing process and look forward to brewing more and blogging about it in the future, but unfortunately I'll have to hang it up for the season. Brewing requires consistent temperatures of about 65˚F-70˚F and our apartment just gets too hot. As you've read in my posts before, I was tempting fate as it was by keeping the fermenter in the bathroom with the window open to keep it cool. I was entertaining the idea of emptying out the fridge, putting the fermenter in there and just eating take-out every night, but Heather nixed that idea pretty quickly. Women--am I right fellas? Always letting sanity get in the way of good beer.