My first designer beer (recipe included)

Glass of dark beer with light head

I haz designed my first beer and I like it a lot!

I’m pretty picky, mind you.

This batch of beer is only about 4%  and has an FG of 1.024; to me it tastes plenty sweet.  The nose has plenty of  fruit; banana comes through, and a hint of spice.  Mouthfeel is big and full.  It is dark; backlit it shows red highlights.  I went for a dessert beer, and I certainly got it.  The person I designed and named it for doesn’t like it.  He says it’s too bitter, not malty enough.  He wants it lighter in color and alcohol content, with more unfermented sugars.

For the first time ever I like it more bitter than a guy.  It is quite possibly a sign of the end of the universe as we know it.  Or the beeriverse as I know it.  What is the world coming to?

I really like it  *sniff* so it’s getting a new name.  Until I come up with an appropriate and memorable one, this is Designer Beer #1.  We’ll drink it up and I’ll think about how to make a less bitter version with more unfermented sugars for my friend.

So here’s the backstory: I wanted to make a tribute ale as a way of just being nice to somebody.  The tributee means to be helpful but is not; he says he likes “ale”, but as beer brewers know, “ale” could mean almost anything.  We’re medievalists, in which “ale” means unhopped.  That’s not what this guy intends, but he doesn’t know that.  Apparently, about 15 years ago, he had a recipe he really liked, that was the one beer he knew how to make himself.  He has long since lost the recipe.  (Apparently he thinks 1.024 isn’t sweet enough, and 4% is too alcoholic.)  In short, I really have no idea what he actually likes, except that he drinks Young’s Double Chocolate Stout a lot. (On the other hand, he’ll drink Midas Touch, a regular chez moi, I think because it’s named after a king and it made with expensive saffron.)    Like a lot of people, he can’t really tell me. I’m guessing here.

I went with history and serendipity: I found some clone recipes for a no-longer-made English with a name a lot like his:  William Younger Ale (Newcastle bought Younger, then Carlsberg Group bought Newcastle and Heineken bought Carlsberg; somewhere in there production stopped on William Younger Ale).  I read up on it, and found another recipe for a hard-to-find English ale that was supposed to taste a lot more like William Younger on tap than my first recipe: Traquair House Ale.  I took the two recipes, shook hard, modified to make more sweetness, and gave ‘er a try.

What I got was probably entirely predictable for me: dark and a tiny bit sweet, complex, the kind of beer you like to age a bit.  For heaven’s sake, I make a killer bee braggot that ages ten months before I’ll touch it.  This is a style of beer I like.

Goal: a dessert ale, big and slightly sweet.  OG 1.075-1.076   7%  (I got 1.064 4%; my setup is not the most efficient.)

This is a partial mash version.

The recipe:

Crush and steep in 1 gal water 150F 30 mins:

1 lb 60L crystal malt, 2 oz roasted barley, 2 oz Belgian aromatic barley

Sparge with 12/2 gallon water about the same temp (150F) into boil pot.  Bring to boil, add:

5.5 lbs light DME, 3.3 lbs Coopers light malt syrup, 2 oz Goldings hops

Add water to bring total volume up to 2.5 gallons and ** boil 45 mins.

Add 1 oz Fuggles

Boil 13 more mins.

Add 1 oz Goldings

Boil 2 more minutes, then cool to pitch temp.

OK, that last bit is written to please a beginning brewer I know.  In regular parlance, it goes like this from **:

[Time 1 hr: 1 oz Fuggles 15 mins, 1 oz Goldings 2 mins to flameout, cool to pitch.]  I now return you to our regularly scheduled recipe.

Add 2.5 tsp Fermaid and Wyeast 1084 Irish ale yeast smackpack.  (Next time I’d make my own yeast starter.)

After 3 weeks I racked wort onto 1/2 oz Fuggles. At that point it had a lovely malt aroma, but tasted a little hoppier than I usually enjoy.  However, guys usually like it hoppier than I do…

Ten more days passed.  I racked again and added 1 lb orange blossom honey.

After two more months I bottled it using 1 lb. plain dark DME as carbonation starter, instead of corn or beet sugar.  I thought, he wants sweet and malty, I’ll give him sweet and malty!

OK all you experts, the floor is open.  You can tell me all the things you’d tweak, all the reasons the guy thinks it’s too hoppy and not sweet enough, what you think the original recipient would like better.  I know my setup is not efficient, and I don’t always achieve the kind of fine control I’d like to when I’m making beer.  Go for it.


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  1. I agree, Seamus. I made some real newbie mistakes here – funny how your head disengages (mine did anyway) when you look at something from a different angle. The pound of extract at bottling was meant to add some more richness to the flavor as well as carbonation sugars (what was I thinking?). No bottle bombs, mercifully, though I have had one bottle (the one I took to IKBG competition, of course) foam and foam; it took quite a while to settle down, but so far it’s the only bottle with that issue – alarming nonetheless.
    I don’t trust my hyrdometer readings, and I do adjust for ambient temps. If I dedicate to a software I’m afraid I’ll dismiss all environmental checks – I know that’s being overly self-judgemental…
    Next time: regular carbonation procedures, and less in the way of hops for sure, then see where we are.

  2. Something about this recipe was bothering me so I plugged it into Beer Smith and the numbers don’t seem to match up with your measurements. Assuming a final volume of 5 gallons, just the extracts alone would have had your starting gravity at 1.073 (system efficiency doesn’t matter when adding extracts since there is nothing to convert). The addition of a pound of honey adds another 7 points to the gravity and since you your final product was naturally carbonated I have to assume the honey fermented out during those two months. Also, the addition of an entire pound of DME at bottling is 3 – 5 times more than is needed to achieve carbonation, depending on the level of carbonation desired. That level of priming sugar could have produced bottle bombs.

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