Dec 27 2010

Northern Brown Ale with Black Japonica Rice – Rice Burner

So the latest of my strange ideas was to make a beer with rice. This is far from unusual since the macrobreweries in the U.S. use rice all the time to make beer. It thins the body of the beer and boosts the alcohol level, and leaves the beer as tasteless as it always was.

What I wanted to do was to work with some strange rice, but I really had no idea which rice or what style I wanted to make either.  I was happy to let the rice that I chose dictate that.

So I started out by cooking up a few pounds of different rice to see what flavors and aromas they gave me. The basmati rice was very interesting and it gave me a mild popcorn note. I cooked up some wild rice, too, (which apparently isn’t rice at all but various types of grass) and I liked that, as well. Much of the rice I cooked ended up tasting like nothing at all but starch.

The one that stood out for me, though, was the black japonica rice.  It looked cool (ok, that wasn’t really as factor) and it gave you a nice, subtle nutty flavor. I thought that would go well in a Northern Brown ale. Then I was off.

The black japonica is easy to grab at most good grocery stores and I decided to use 2 pounds of it in a 5 gallon batch.

Per the instructions on the package, I cooked the rice for 50 minutes. It turned the water a very vibrant purple color that I wished I had captured on film. I think it would be a cool experiment to use this rice again in a pale beer where the purple could dominate.

I rounded out the grains with Maris Otter, Pale Chocolate, 40L Crystal, roasted barley and victory malt.

In case you thought you were too old for Spin Art, don’t worry as you can still do it with your grain mill:

The brew day went very smoothly and uneventfully. I mashed the 2 pounds of rice in with the rest of the grains and held them all at 152° Fahrenheit for 60 minutes. (If you cooked the rice in advance or if you cooked and immediately poured it straight into the mash, be prepared for the rice to have an effect on your mash temp. Plan accordingly.) I didn’t use rice hulls and had no problems with the sparge.  My OG was 1.060 and I pitched a big starter of Nottingham yeast on the cooled wort, and it was fermenting pretty powerfully at 68° less than 12 hours later.

I’ll update this post once I get it bottled and I get to try the black japonica brown ale. So far, it is darker than I had anticipated since I didn’t expect the purple coloring that was contributed by the rice, but that is a minor cosmetic thing. It seems a bit roastier than expected too, but that has me thinking about faux-barrel aging some of this batch. Perhaps bottling 3 gallons as is, and then putting 1 gallon on rum-oak and another gallon on something stranger. Perhaps cognac-oak.  We’ll see….

The recipe:

Northern Brown Ale with Black Japonica Rice

Starting Gravity: 1.060 (12/18/10)

Mash (65 minutes ~154°)
8 lb Maris Otter
1 lb Victory Malt
0.75 lb Munich Malt
0.50 lb Crystal 40L
0.25 lb Pale Chocolate Malt
2 lb Black Japonica Rice (Cooked for 50 minutes, then added to mash)

Boil (60 min)
1.5 oz Kent Goldings (4.5% AA) Pellet Hops (60 min)               
0.5 oz Kent Goldings (4.5% AA) Pellet Hops (5 min)                  

Primary (68º F)  
2 Packets Danstar Nottingham, Rehydrated and starter made


Nov 25 2009

More Split Batches and Falling off the Blogging Horse

I took an accidental hiatus from the blog for a while.  Yeah, I fell off the blogging horse, so I’m dusting myself off and getting back on track.

I’m still moving forward with split batches, and I’m still trying to squeeze as much learning as I can out of these brews.

Sour Saison

My sour saison split is still getting funky. That was the one that I split a saison into two 3 gallon carboys, and I pitched brettanomyces B on one, and the cultured up dregs of an Avery Brabant on the other. They are still aging and they have both dropped ~0.001 in the gravity department.  The biggest difference between the two, from my infrequent visits to them, is that the Brabant is showing the signs of having some pediococcus and lactobacillus.  Neither are particularly enjoyable to taste, but these things take time to clean up. Before it is all over, I’m sure I’ll be adding the last bits of some sour commercial beers in the brett-only saison to fill out the flavors and complexities of the beer.

I might be bottling these beers in the near future. Although they have only been souring for about 3 months, I was aiming for more of “at bottling time” addition of brett than the long souring and aging variety.

Robust Porter

The robust porter split is done and bottled, and I’ll be comparing the robust porter fermented with Safale US-05 against the same wort fermented with the Safale-04 in a future blog post. I’ve tried them side-by-side once and there were slight, but obvious, differences. I’m not sure what I was expecting to find with this split, and I think I’m still better off not having expectations until after the last taste.

Belgian Dark Strong Ale

The next split was my Belgian Dark Strong Ale which is going three ways. Six gallons of the BDSA went down in a typical fashion with lots of grain, some simple sugars delivered through cane and candi syrups, and that was all fermented down with a gallon starter of the White Labs WLP530 Abbey ale yeast.  This was a relatively small BDSA, and it weighed in only (merely!) at an 1.081 OG. After that fermented down, I bottled about a gallon of that beer and then pitched the Wyeast brettanomyces lambicus on the rest, along with pinot noir & French oak. 

The third part of this brew was a gallon that BDSA wort that was fermented with Safale US-05 yeast (a clean, American strain).  What exactly is the style of a beer that has the malt and sugar bill of a Belgian Dark Strong ale, but is done with a California yeast?  A dry and malty Old Ale? I don’t know.  We shall see.


The latest split brew is a Mild, and I will probably bottle that this week.  This is a low-alcohol session ale that weighed in at 1.038 OG, and it  finished at 1.009 (and rockin’ 3.8% ABV).  I’m really happy with how this one tastes so far. It is as close to a worty, grain flavor as I’ve ever gotten out of one of my homebrews without being cloyingly sweet, as well.  The other part of the split was the same exact beer and yeast (Danstar Nottingham), but I threw in some French oak when I pitched the yeast on the second portion of the mild. I’m only leaving the wooded mild on those oak cubes for two weeks, and I will be bottling that one, too, this week.

Sour Cider

The last atypical brew that I have in motion isn’t a beer at all. It is a cider. Now, I made a cider a month or so ago under the tutelage of a fellow homebrew club member who is the cider master.  That turned out great, but I am making another batch of cider with the questionable idea of fermenting it with the Wyeast 3278 Lambic Blend. I had a plan to go brett-only, but it takes time for the brett to take off and this is fresh juice (off the tree, into the press, and into the carboy) with lots of wild and unpredictable yeast on the skins and in the press.  This mixture of two brettanomyces, a Belgian wheat, and a sherry yeast strain, as well as a lactic acid bacteria, will hopefully beat out the unknown critters.  I picked up the fresh juice last night (which was 50% Staymens, and 50% Pink Ladys) and I added the sodium metabusulfite to hold the natural yeasts at bay for a time.

A friend, in a moment of genius, has called this… thing “Lambicide”.  I don’t know how that name CAN’T stick.

The Battle of the Bocks

A few weeks from now, I have an epic brew day scheduled. My friend Greg and I are planning to do two 12 gallons batches at the same time. One will be a Doppelbock, the other an Eisbock.  At the end of the day, we should both go home with 6 gallons of each beer. No experiments or splits are planning for this. That 24 gallons should be enough.

Details of the above beers and ciders will follow….