At some point, almost all homebrewers will split a batch. This can mean many things, but usually it means to take one wort and separate it into more than one fermentor and change one variable such as yeast, dry hop, fermentation temperature, etc. This allows for a somewhat accurate (albeit subjective) interpretation of what that variable brings to the table. It came a surprise to me that I’ve never personally broken up a batch, besides a couple of collaborative brews but one of those was a barleywine and the other a sour ale still fermenting after nine months. If you’ve been following this blog you’ll probably have noticed that I’ve moved up to ten gallon batches, which makes splitting that mich easier. No need to buy smaller fermentors (three gallon glass or plastic carboys for splitting a five gallon batch) I can just use my standard six gallon joints to get my experiment on.
The first batch on the new ten gallon system was a closet-cleaning batch which I had low expectations for. I call it a closet cleaner because I tried to use up what I had remaining from previous batches. That included three different base malts and a pound of special roast that I bought from the Brooklyn Kitchen when I first started brewing about two years ago. I chose to split the batch up and use two different yeast strains to see how they stacked up against eachother. I chose two English strains, Wyeast 1187 Ringwood Ale and a dry pack of Safale S-04 Whitbread and used organic New Zealand Rakau hops along with one of my new favorites, Glacier.
Appearance: Both beers are amber to copper colored but the Ringwood version is much clearer. I remember that I added gelatin to the Ringwood in order to have it ready for one of Josh Bernstein’s homebrew tours, but ended up serving them both for comparisons sake. The S-04 is much cloudier and stays in line with my experience of dry yeast being a bit less flocculent than its liquid counterpart (S-04/1098 Whitbread and S-05/1056 American Ale). Dense white head lasts a few minutes.
Aroma: Both have a distinct baking spice and cocoa smell with some toasty bread crust behind it. I also sometimes get some floral notes, possible from the late addition of Glacier. The Ringwood strain gives me a slight cherry note when I really get my nose in there.
Taste: Both of these beers benefit from being served somewhat warmer as the gentle breadcrust notes seem to blend in with the fruity hop profile a little better. When cold, the toastiness fromt he Briess Special Roast seems to be prominent and a bit harsh for my tastes. The Ringwood tops the S-04 in this category with gentle notes of peach and cherry that linger in the mid-palate. The S-04 seems a bit bland in comparison and seems somewhat neutral, with a slight tartness.
Mouthfeel: This is also where the Ringwood trumps the dry yeast by being more full bodied and “chewy” without seeming under attenuated and sweet. The S-04 seems a bit thin and not very exciting. The Ringwood version reminds me a lot of a fresh Newcastle Brown.
Overall impression: The recipe needs some work mostly in the hop profile which seems a bit disjointed and generally too prominent for an English style brown. Doesn’t have that intangible quality I look for in a beer that makes you want reach for another sip. Unfortunately, I don’t plan on working on this recipe but I do feel fortunate that I now have this knowledge of the different strains side by side as well as a good sense of what special roast does in a recipe.
Recipe to follow: