Yesterday (Sunday the 18th) I brewed up this year’s holiday beer. This year it is a modest gravity (1.056) brown ale. I used a bit of torified wheat and a good bit of oats in the grist to give it some tang and elegant body.

I chose a relatively unattenuative yeast (Wyeast Northwest Ale Yeast) so that the finished beer is a bit on the sweet side. That way its flavors meld with the spices (dry, hoppy beers don’t typically lend themselves to wintry spices). I didn’t completely shy away from the use of hops (resulting beer should be close to 20 IBUs). Instead, I chose a variety (Centennial) whose citrus character will hopefully blend well with the spices I chose: cinnamon, coriander seed, and orange peel. I also used a little bit of Saaz for aroma.

The resulting wort certainly smelled good – though perhaps too much cinnamon. I’m thinking it will fade since, in virtually every other beer I’ve made using cinnamon, the spice is always strong in the aroma immediately after brewing, but muted in the flavor of the finished product. The last thing I want this year is another spice monster (last year’s holiday beer might as well have been called Hump’s Cloven Porter and come with a complimentary pack of Djarum cigarettes…).

Fermentation was evident in less than 12 hours and was really vigorous in less than 24. A quick start to fermentation is always a good sign that things are going well (and, luckily, is the norm once you start using a wort aerator). The bubbles emerging from it smell sweet like candy with a touch of spice – almost like Big Red chewing gum, except less cinnamon.

The bubbles from the fermenting carboy actually smell surprisingly similar to the aroma of Hump’s Praying Monk Ale (now on draft in my basement). This Belgian Dubbel turned out quite well. I’ll add tasting notes on it to the Brews section of this site soon.