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Active primary fermentation
Active primary fermentation

Brewing a British Brown Ale

Grains #1/2: Maris Otter Pale malt, Brown malt, Crystal 40L malt
Grains #1/2:
– Maris Otter Pale malt
– Brown malt
– Crystal 40L malt

Previously in this series of articles on How to brew different Styles of Beer? we covered Brewing a Belgian Golden Strong Ale, this time the Beer Style comes from the ‘Brown British Beer’ category in the BJCP 2015 Guidelines and is the style of a British Brown Ale.

In the following sections we are going to examine different aspects of this style such as its background, the style guidelines, ingredients used, selected recipe, brewing process, and finally the outcome of brewing a batch of this beer.


Grains #2/2: Victory malt, Chocolate malt
Grains #2/2:
– Victory malt
– Chocolate malt

According to the BJCP Guidelines this style has a long history in Great Britain,
although several different types of products used that name at various times. Modern brown ale is a 20th century creation as a bottled product; it is not the same as historical products of the same name. A wide range of gravities were brewed, but modern brown ales are generally of the stronger (by current UK standards) interpretation. This style is based on the modern stronger British brown ales, not historical versions or the sweeter London Brown Ale. Predominately but not exclusively a bottled product currently.

Commercial examples of this style include Maxim Double Maxim, Newcastle Brown Ale, Riggwelter Yorkshire Ale, Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale, and Wychwood Hobgoblin.


In the BJCP 2008 Style Guidelines there were both Southern and Northern versions of English Browns within the English Brown Ale category together with Mild. The category has now been changed to Brown British Beer with Mild being renamed as Dark Mild and the Southern version being dropped in favor of the Northern one which has been renamed to British Brown Ale. English Porter has also joined this category to in effect give three different strength versions of similar yet differing beers:

BJCP 2015 BJCP 2008
Category 13: Brown British Beer
11: English Brown Ale
Styles 13A: Dark Mild 11A: Mild
11B: Southern English Brown
13B: British Brown Ale 11C: Northern English Brown
13C: English Porter

The vital statistics of the British Brown Ale are as follows:

  • Original Gravity (OG) = 1.040 – 1.052
  • Final Gravity (FG) = 1.008 – 1.013
  • Alcohol By Volume (ABV) = 4.2 – 5.4%
  • Bitterness (IBUs) = 20 – 30
  • Color (SRM) = 12 – 22

There are no changes in the above from the 2008 guidelines.


East Kent Goldings hops
East Kent Goldings hops

According to the BJCP 2015 Guidelines the following are characteristic ingredients used in the brewing of a British Brown Ale:

  • Malts: British mild ale or pale ale malt base with caramel malts. May also have small amounts darker malts (e.g., chocolate) to provide color and the nutty character.
  • Hops: English hop varieties are most authentic.
  • Yeast: Not specified.
  • Water: Not specified.
  • Additions: None.


Usually within these articles I would find some sample recipes and choose one based on how accurately they reflected the style. In this instance the recipe is one which I have brewed previously with impressive results so re-brewing it was an easy choice.

– Nutcastle –

Source: Brewing Classic Styles
Author: Jamil Zainasheff & John J. Palmer

London Ale yeast
London Ale yeast


  • 9.75 Lb British Pale Ale malt
  • 0.75 Lb Special Roast malt (50L)
  • 0.5 Lb Victory malt (28L)
  • 0.5 Lb Crystal malt (40L)
  • 0.25 Lb Pale Chocolate malt (200L)
  • 1.2 oz Kent Goldings hops (bittering – 60 mins)
  • 0.5 oz Kent Goldings hops (aroma – 5 mins)
  • White Labs London Ale (WLP013) or Wyeast 1028 London Ale yeast


  • Mash @ 152 deg F (67 deg C) for 60 mins
  • Boil for 60 mins
  • Ferment @ 68 deg F (20 deg C)
  • Carbonate to 1 – 1.5 volumes of CO2
Mash pH 5.4
Mash pH 5.4


  • OG: 1.051
  • FG: 1.013
  • ABV: 5.1%
  • IBU: 26
  • SRM: 13


  • Malts: The base malt and use of C40 (Crystal 40L) malt are both exactly to style with the specialty malts looking to be within style for adding color and a nutty character.
  • Hops: The hop selection is 100% to style.
  • Yeast: Although the style guidelines do not mention choice of yeast, an English Ale yeast is the logical choice.
  • Statistics: Both gravities are at the top of their respective ranges and the alcohol content is in the upper half of the ABV range. Bitterness is in the middle whilst color is towards the bottom end.


Sample of wort
Sample of wort

Below is the tweaked version of actual recipe that I went with:

  • 8 Lb Maris Otter Pale malt (3 SRM)
  • 1 Lb Brown malt (65 SRM)
  • 8.0 oz Crystal 40L malt (40 SRM)
  • 8.0 oz Victory malt (25 SRM)
  • 4.0 oz Chocolate malt (630 SRM)
  • 1.35 oz East Kent Goldings hops (bittering – 60 mins)
  • 1.00 oz East Kent Goldings hops (aroma – 5 mins)
  • White Labs London Ale yeast (WLP013)

The malts and hops were adjusted to target an alcohol content and bitterness that were closer to the middle of their respective ranges and for my BIAB (Brew In A Bag) system.

Brewing process steps
Brewing process steps

With the process the mash temperature was also adjusted from 152 Deg F to 149 deg F to help keep the target Finishing Gravity (FG) down as well as being extended to 75 mins to ensure full conversion. The beer was also carbonated to 2.3 volumes of CO2 because I felt that 1.0 – 1.5 volumes is a bit low compared to commercial examples back in England.

The 5 gallon batch of beer was brewed following these steps:

  • Charcoal filtering the borough water and leaving it to stand overnight in order to vent off the chlorine.
  • Measuring out and milling the grains, also measuring out the hops and Irish Moss.
  • Sterilizing the fermentation equipment.
  • Heating the strike water to 151 deg F before mashing-in.
  • Mashing for 75 mins at 149 deg F for the Saccharification rest so the starches convert into sugars (pH 5.4).
  • Raising the temperature to 168 deg F to mash-out for 10 mins to stop enzymatic activity i.e. halt the conversion of starches to sugars.
  • Removing the grain bag.
  • Boiling for 10 mins to allow time for the hot break to clear.
  • Continue boiling for 45 mins with the bittering hop addition.
  • Add Irish Moss with 15 mins left of the boil to help clear the beer.
  • Add aroma hop addition at 5 mins left.
  • A yeast starter was prepared comprising of 8 oz of DME (Dry Malt Extract) in two liters of water and placed in a flask on a stir plate together with one packet of yeast.
  • Yeast nutrient was added to the wort once it had been cooled.
  • Wort was aerated with Oxygen (60 secs) via a diffusing stone connected to an O2 tank with a regulator.
  • Yeast starter was decanted prior to pitching into the wort so that most of the spent wort did not go into the beer.
  • Primary fermentation was at 68 deg F for ten days in a temperature controlled freezer.
  • The beer was racked off the trub (sediment) into the secondary fermenter and held at 68 deg F for another week before cold crashing and bottling.
  • Beer was force carbonated to 2.3 volumes of CO2 after cooling the beer to 36 deg F.


Measuring Original Gravity (OG) with hydrometer
Measuring Original Gravity (OG) with hydrometer

According to the style guidelines a British Brown Ale should have the following characteristics:

  • Appearance: Dark amber to dark reddish-brown color. Clear. Low to moderate off-white to light tan head.
  • Aroma: Light, sweet malt aroma with toffee, nutty, or lightchocolate notes, and a light to heavy caramel quality. A light but appealing floral or earthy hop aroma may also be noticed. A light fruity aroma may be evident, but should not dominate.
  • Flavor: Gentle to moderate malt sweetness, with a light to heavy caramel character and a medium to dry finish. Malt may also have a nutty, toasted, biscuity, toffee, or light chocolate character. Medium to medium-low bitterness. Malt-hop balance ranges from even to malt-focused; hop flavor low to none (floral or earthy qualities). Low to moderate fruity esters can be present.
  • Mouth-feel: Medium-light to medium body. Medium to medium-high carbonation.
  • Overall: A malty, brown caramel-centric British ale without the roasted flavors of a Porter.

How did my batch of British Brown Ale turn out?

Carboy of British Brown Ale
Carboy of British Brown Ale

The brew day went smoothly though the Starting Gravity fell three points short though remained in the middle of the style range. The Finishing Gravity was pretty much spot on but resulting in a slightly lower alcohol content though this was still within the ABV range.

Here are the actual vital statistics:

  • OG: 1.046
  • FG: 1.012
  • ABV: 4.46%
  • Bitterness: 24.9 IBUs*
  • Color: 19.7 SRM*

* calculated via BeerSmith software.

British Brown Ale taster
British Brown Ale taster

The tasting notes are as follows:

Brown in color with a cream head. A roasty and nutty aroma and flavor. Moderate carbonation with a medium mouth-feel.

Overall I am happy with the outcome of this beer, it is certainly both roasty and nutty as anticipated. A slightly higher ABV would help with the flavor but it remains according to style and I will soon find out how it scores in two upcoming competitions including the National Homebrew Competition (NHC) 2016.

What’s Next?

In my next article in this series I will be examining Brewing a Double IPA which is in the ‘Strong American Ale’ category so please check back for that article to be published.

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