The Great Reveal
The last couple months have been busy at the brewery. While I’ve been able to squeeze in a few non-alcoholic trials, I have unfortunately not been able to squeeze in a new blog post about those trials. So to get you caught up I thought I would run you through the last five trials at 2X speed and hit on some of the highlights and learnings.
Spoiler Alert: The last few trials have resulted in a beer that I’m ready to officially release in the taproom on October 21st, and as a bit of validation my NA Brown just won a double gold medal at the SIP Magazine Best of the Northwest competition!
So let’s quickly recap how we got here over the last few months.
Summary of Trial Six
In trial five I began to experiment with cold mashing. For trial six the big change I made was to only cold steep my specialty grains (i.e. the crystal and roasted malts). I then brought the resulting wort up to 175 degrees and mashed in the remainder of my malts. This seemed to have the desired effect and brought my attenuation back down to what I had seen in previous trials.
Between Trials five and six I also discovered a new malt, Carapils Copper from Briess. I have used regular Carapils from Briess in lots of different beers over the years and I have also been using it in many of my NA trials. Carapils is a type of dextrin malt which adds body, mouthfeel, and head retention to the beer. This is all beneficial to an NA beer, but I’ve also been using it because it has zero diastatic power (lacks enzymes) which can help lower my mash efficiency and therefore lower the abv of resulting beer.
The only drawback to Carapils is the fact that it adds very little in the way of color or flavor, which is where Carapils Copper comes in. Carapils Copper shares all the same properties as regular Carapils but is much darker and contributes color and toasty flavors to the beer. They don’t sponsor me, I promise, but maybe I should ask them. This allows me to use a greater percentage of dextrin malt and still achieve the color and flavor profile I’m looking for in a brown.
Summary of Trial Seven
The main change on trial seven was an increase in the amount of dextrin malt in an attempt to increase my starting gravity slightly and further increase the body of the beer. My recipe now had eliminated all base
malts and was made up of only specialty malts and dextrin malts. I followed a similar procedure as trial six where I cold steeped my specialty malts overnight and then mashed in the dextrin malts at 175 degrees.
Trial seven ended up being my best attempt at an NA brown up to that point. While there was still no mistaking it for an alcoholic brown, it did have a decent amount of body and exhibited a lot of the toasty, malty, caramelly notes of a brown.
Summary of Trial Eight
While trial seven was getting really close to satisfying my threshold for quality in order to release to the public, I wanted to test and see if I could simplify my process and make it more scalable. For trial eight therefore I went back to a basic single infusion mash. I took the same malt bill as I used in trial 7 but instead of cold steeping the specialty malts, I simply mashed the entire malt bill at 175 degrees.
While the beer ended up very similar to trial seven, I felt it came off a little more “worty” and didn’t have as much malt complexity. As a way to get some feedback on these trials I decided to enter the beer in both the Washington Beer Awards and the SIP Best of the Northwest competitions. Based on my side-by-side comparison I decided to enter trial seven into the competitions. Funny enough I ended up mixing up the batches and actually submitted trial eight to the competitions, but it ended up receiving a double gold in the SIP competition none-the-less (WA Beer Awards have not been announced yet, cross your toes for me).
Summary of Trial Nine
Since I thought trial seven was the best so far, I revisited that recipe and process for trial nine. The only significant change was subbing a bit of flaked oats for some of the dextrin malts in an attempt to add some additional body to the beer.
Trial nine ended up very similar to trial 7 and tasted pretty good. While the oats might have added slightly more body, the main drawback is that it made the beer very cloudy and almost murky. Both the added body and cloudiness are due to the beta-glucans present in oats. While the cloudiness does not impact the taste of the beer, I’ll be experimenting with ways to remove the cloudiness or other methods to create body in future trials.
Trial Ten and the Great Reveal
After nine trials I finally felt like I was getting close to an NA product that I felt was good enough to release in the taproom. So for trial ten I decided to scale it up to a full 6 gallon batch and make it the first batch released for sale. Experimentation, tweaks, and refinements will continue but it was time to let customers start to try the beer and provide some feedback.
Here’s the complete recipe for trial ten, aka release #1:
2 lb. 12 oz Carapils Malt
2 lb. 12 oz Carapils Copper Malt
12 oz Flaked Oats
10 oz Crystal 120
5 oz Victory Malt
6 oz Crystal 65
5 oz Chocolate Malt
2 oz Roasted Barley
.75 oz East Kent Golding Hops @ 15 min
.75 oz Willamette Hops @ 5 min
Cold mash specialty malts 38 F overnight, drain cold mash and bring to 175 F. Mash in Carapils, Carapils Copper, and Oats and hold for 45 minutes. Sparge and top up to 7 gal. and then bring to a boil and proceed as normal.
Trial ten will be on draft in the taproom on October 21st, so please stop by, give it a try, and let me know what you think!
My wife tells me that I’m never happy with anything and I’m always looking for ways to make things better, well here I go again. I’m going to continue to make tweaks to my recipe and process to hopefully make the NA Brown better and better. I also plan to expand my trials to include some other styles as well. Besides improving the quality of the brown, here are a few other objectives as I move forward:
Scalable Process – As I hope my NA beers become popular with customers, I’m going to quickly outgrow my 5 gallon batch size. So I’ll be experimenting with my process to come up with something that I can scale and use our existing brewhouse to make a 2 or 3 barrel batch.
More Styles – I’m going to start a new round of trials to create both a light beer and a stout. I also want to experiment with some different yeasts to determine the feasibility of creating an NA Belgian-style beer.
Body and Clarity – Future trials will also explore different raw materials in the search of more body and better clarity in the finished product. For trial 11 I’ll be substituting flaked wheat for the flaked oats to see how they compare.
If you live in the Seattle area I hope you come down to the taproom to try the NA Brown and please leave me some feedback. Also keep following this blog as I continue my quest to create a range of great tasting NA beers!