The November 2011 issue of Brew Your Own Magazine includes an article by Dave Louw called “No Sparge Brewing”. I glanced at it quickly at work, dismissing it as a quirky but ultimately unusable idea. Then a customer asked me what I thought about the concept. I went back and reread it more carefully, considering the pros and cons and thinking about how it would work in my brewing system. In the end I decided to give it a try, to prove or disprove, or at least have a practical knowledge to back up my opinion.
The author recommended the technique to improve the maltiness of lower gravity beers. That sounded like a good idea to me – I tend to brew heavier, richer beers so I am rarely worried about having enough body or sweetness to balance the hops. When I have tried a lighter beer, a Kölsch, a Brown Ale, or something like that, I have often found them somewhat too dry, over-hopped. The more I thought about a No-Sparge beer, the more I liked the idea. I decided to try to brew an old-fashioned English Mild ale. Most of the recipes I found had a starting gravity in the 1030’s – not my cup of tea, really. Then I found one in Graham Wheeler and Roger Protz’s book, “Brew Your Own Real Ale At Home”, a gem of an insight into the British homebrewing scene of the early 1990’s. Their recipe for “Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild Ale” claims to be a Victorian brew, a throwback to 19th century milds. I liked the looks of it, so I made my own adaptation.
As I prepared to brew, I had to explain to several people what I was attempting to do. I began to refer to it as a “No-Sparge Mild” but in the back of my mind it sounded like “No-Sparge Marge”… Now, I’ve never been one to name my beers after a real, living person. I once named a beer after one of my cats and he promptly ran away, never to be seen again. I’ve recently been lucky enough to enjoy, on several occasions, the excellent beers brewed by Shaun Hill of the Hill Farmstead Brewery. Shaun names many of his beers (Edward, Abner, Earl, etc.) after relatives and close friends. I know I’m tempting fate on this one, but Marge happens to be my Mother-in-law. A wonderful lady, with a great sense of humor, and boy could she bake – I used to love the smell of her kitchen on cookie or pie-baking days. I would not classify her as “mild”, however – she has her opinions and is not shy about sharing them.
I don’t see much of Marge these days, as they live on the West Coast. I do think of her baked goods often. Which is why I opted to include some toasted malt in this beer, recreating a friendly kitchen aroma.
Marge (Old English Mild Ale)
5 gallons, all-grain
- 5 lbs. mild ale malt
- 2 lbs. toasted mild ale malt
- 2-1/2 lbs. 60°L crystal malt
- 1/2 lb. Carafa I malt
- 1 oz. East Kent Goldings hop pellets (at 4.5% aa)
- 1-1/2 oz. First Gold hop pellets (at 8% aa)
- 1/2 oz. Bramling Cross hop pellets (at 5% aa)
- White Labs Bedford British Ale yeast (WLP006)
- 2/3 cup corn sugar (for priming)
Toast 2 lbs. mild ale malt for 15 minutes at 375°F (on a cookie sheet). Crush grains. Heat 28 quarts water to 164°F. Mash in grains and hold at 152°F for 60 minutes. Runoff, collect 22 quarts of sweet wort. Bring to a boil, add the EKG hops and 1 oz. of the First Gold hops. Boil 45 minutes, add the other 1/2 oz. of First Gold and the BC hops. Boil 15 minutes, remove from heat. Chill to 80°F. Take a hydrometer reading. Pour wort into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast, seal and ferment at 65°F for six to eight days. Rack to secondary, age eight to ten days. Prime with corn sugar, bottle and condition cool (50°F) for ten to fifteen days.
Notes on style: Modern mild ales are basically less hoppy brown ales, session beers that rarely top 3.5% abv. They usually have an OG of 1033 – 38. Apparently, though, they used to be bigger and more full-bodied, called “mild” to distinguish them from “bitter”. This is one of those, although it does have a hoppier bite than tradition probably dictates.
Note on my system: The no-sparge procedure seems really simple compared to my usual routine. I cut out a whole step, the heating of sparge water and setting up a second level of equipment. I mash in a converted 10-gallon insulated cylindrical cooler, and lauter through a perforated false bottom. My usual mash volume is something like 4-1/2 gallons total. This one, after adding the grist, hit the 8-1/2 gallon line. I guess that means I could try this with a little bigger beer, if the results are good. The only problem is heating the water – my biggest kettle is 30 quarts, so I would need to use two kettles to heat more water than I used today.