Sunday, August 01, 2010

Brew day: Village Green Mild Ale

As the calendar turns to August, I'm reminded that my Maibock (Mai being German for "May") is not long for this world. And though we're cranking out the brews right now, they're all for various events in the fall (as I described in this post). With our other two beers on tap right now being our Big Mistake (a soured rye beer with raspberries that was originally supposed to be our Roggenbier) and our 1908 Old Ale, we need a session beer to carry us over until around November.

With our chest freezer currently filled to capacity with lager, I needed something that could ferment at ambient temps (low 70's right now). I also wanted something quick. That was when it occurred to me: why not try something British? My first thought was an ordinary bitter, but I had recently enjoyed an awesome dark mild at Flossmoor Station so I've had that on my radar for a while. Doing a little research, I discovered there's a quasi-defunct British substyle called AK that's essentially a cross between a bitter and a mild. If one relies on the BJCP guidelines, a beer overlapping the mild and bitter styles would have the following specs:

O.G.: 1.032-1.038
IBU's: 25
SRM: 12-14

So now I had something to start with. When it came to developing the grain bill, I was fairly clueless. The German brewing tradition rarely uses crystal malts, so I don't have much of an intuitive sense on how to work them into a beer. Fortunately my buddy Brian over at the Daily Ikura is as passionate about British beer as I am about German beer. He's never brewed a mild but for his bitters he generally goes with around 6% crystal, a mild toasted malt, and a combination of either a medium or dark roasted malt such as Victory.

Next I consulted Ron Pattinson's "Shut Up About Barclay Perkins" blog. If you've never checked out his blog, you should. Ron's an English beer researcher who's got more historical figures on beer than you could ever use. Anyway, I found some grain bills for milds brewed in the 1950s and discovered they used invert sugar for milds. Subsequent googling found various British beer geeks lamenting that American brewers don't understand the importance of sugar in milds. Okay, okay, I'll add the damn sugar!

Anyway, when all was said and done I came up with the following fermentables:
5.25 lb. Maris Otter pale malt
0.5 lb. Crystal 120L
0.25 lb. Special Roast
0.65 lb. invert sugar

That only gets you up to around 10 SRM but I want to keep it light (I always like to have one brew on tap for people who are afraid of dark beers). I also decided to back the hops down to 20 IBU's instead of 25 because in the end I wanted it to be more mild than bitter. So I finally had my recipe and was ready to rock!

The brew day itself was fairly straightforward (and pretty quick given that I was only dealing with six pounds of malt). I mashed in at 149°F at 10:10am (with Dorrie helping me stir the mash as I added the grain), began to recirculate at 11:10am, sparged until 12:30, and boiled until 1:30. I added 1/4 tsp. acid blend to the mash to keep the pH down, I added the invert sugar at 15 minutes, and I added Irish moss right after the sugar. I chilled down to around 71°F.

Only a couple of minor issues... First, my gravity came in at 1045 instead of the targeted 1038; it's an imperial mild! Honestly, I'm not sure what happened. Perhaps it's because I sparged so slowly with only six pounds of malt? Anyway, I didn't discover this until after I had already chilled (I actually just bought a refractometer so I could monitor such things--you can see Jonas below pretending that an old yeast vial is a refractometer--but I completely forgot about it during the brew day), and I thought about diluting the wort to 1038 but then my IBU's would be diluted as well so I decided to just let it be. The second issue is that I pitched a Wyeast smack pack and apparently I didn't actually smack it properly because I discovered the yeast nutrient pouch was still intact when I added the yeast. As such, I underpitched and as of 9:45am the next morning fermentation is just getting started.

So it may not technically be a mild, and it's certainly not a bitter. But hopefully our Village Green Mild will be good enough to get me through the fall!


Blogger Señor Brew™ said...

Nothing ever goes completely according to plan with home brewing, does it?

1:39 AM, August 17, 2010  
Blogger Ron Pattinson said...

AK is really a type of Bitter, not Mild.

5:06 AM, September 10, 2010  

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