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