Beer Recipe: “River Thames” Southern English Brown

I’ve been trying to get some more low alcohol beers into the rotation lately.  For whatever reason, there is sort of a sweet spot of 6.5-8% ABV that I can easily and consistently produce good beer without having to worry about it being too watery or bland on the low end or extreme fermentation issues on the high end.  But, I wanted to be able to drink more beer (and thus brew more beer), which meant pushing ABV lower.

This beer is my first to hit 4% after conditioning.  My last attempt was thwarted by extremely high extraction efficiency.  Both beers are very dark and malty, though this one has a more complex malt bill.  I figured something rich and malty would still be very interesting with the lower OG.  This beer, too, ended up a bit higher on the OG, but I recently started testing pre-boil gravity and adjusting my hopping schedule to keep the balance I wanted, unlike my last attempt which did not have the proper hop bittering charge.

This recipe is largely based on Zainasheff’s in Brewing Classic Styles.  I had originally formulated it to start with a lower OG, but I ended up right about where Jamil’s recipe specified.  I also modified the malt bill a bit, mainly with the addition of some Briess Special Roast malt, which I think adds another nice layer to the beer.

Batch Size: 5.5 gal/ 20.8L (post-boil volume)

Malt:
5.5lb/ 2.49 kg     Pale ale malt (Briess)
12 oz/ 340 g        Special roast (Briess)
10 oz/ 280  g       Crystal 120 (Briess)
8 oz/ 230 g          Crystal 80 (Briess)
6 oz/ 170  g         Pale chocolate malt (Fawcett)
4 oz/ 115  g         Carafa II, dehusked (Weyermann)

Hops:
0.85 oz/ 24 g     Kent Golding, 6.2%, 60 min, 18.2 IBU
Total IBU:           18.2 (Tinseth)

Yeast:
1 pkt                     Safale S-04 (not rehydrated)

Other:
1 tsp                  Hydrated irish moss (10 min)
1/4 tsp              Wyeast nutrient
30 sec              oxygen, 0.5 micron stone, 30 min after pitching

Target CO2:     1.4 vol

Gravity:
OG:                    1.044 (87% mash eff; target 1.038, 75% eff)
FG:                    1.017 (61% apparent atten.)
ABV:                 4% after conditioning

Water:
Mash temp:          154.5F/ 68.1C (target 154F/ 67.8C)
Mash thickness: 2 qt/lb/ 4.2 L/kg
Single infusion mash, single (batch) sparge
Boil time:              60 min

Calculated Profile:

Calcium 59.4 Sulfate 60.4 Hardness 172
Magnesium 5.8 Chloride 72 Alkalinity 130
Sodium 135.3 Bicarbonate 157.5 RA 84

Mash pH: 5.3, Sparge pH: 6

I was pretty happy with this water profile, save for the sodium content, which is just how my water is served up.  I adjusted the sulfate to chloride ratio for a maltier finish (higher chloride).  I added the sparge calcium additions directly to the kettle instead of the sparge water.  (See my water treatment post here.)

Fermentation Temperature: I pitched at 66F/18.9C and it pretty quickly rose to 74F/23.3C during fermentation (74F/23C ambient), peaking at about 76F/24.4C briefly.  As fermentation wound down, I turned a lamp on in my brew cabinet to keep it around 74F for another day or two.

Tasting Notes:

southern english brown ale

Mmm…. brown ale.

Appearance: pours with no head owing to the low carbonation and probably washing the glass in the dish-washer; dark brown, nearing black- dark yellow brown when held to the light

Aroma: interesting nutty, slightly roasted aroma

Taste: A bit of roast nut and slight dry almost sourdough bread, fading to roast and a lingering hop and dark grain bitterness

Mouthfeel: very low carbonation keeps this beer smooth and drinkable; medium body

Overall: I really enjoy this beer.  Its exactly what I was looking for: a low ABV beer with a ton of character and malt layers.  It seems to finish dry, in spite of its high FG and low attenuation, and keeps you reaching for the next sip.  I don’t know that I would change much of anything on this beer; I wanted a bit lower OG, but I don’t think I would risk the recipe change.

– Dennis,
Life, Fermented

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About Dennis
Home brewer, home chef, garage tinkerer. Author of Life Fermented blog.

2 Responses to Beer Recipe: “River Thames” Southern English Brown

  1. David says:

    Hmmm….interesting, I might try something along those lines. French people here keep asking for a lower alcohol beer.

    • Dennis says:

      Like I said, I don’t have too many small beers under my belt, but this is by far my own most successful. Its easy drinking and full flavored, and doesn’t leave you thinking you’re missing out on something by not drinking a bigger beer. Let me know how it turns out if you brew it up!

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