Brewer Bites: Slow-Fermented Brown Ale

In 2009, we acquired a “new” four-vessel copper brew house from Germany and began brewing all of our flagship Switchback Ale on this 66 barrel system rather than on our original two-vessel 15 barrel system, allowing us to make significantly more beer at a time and subsequently giving our brewers a whole lot of extra free time. But of course, a brewer’s mind never sits idle, and thoughts immediately turned towards new beers and recipes that we could brew on the old 15 barrel system. It was during this period when we were finally able to brew and release Dooley’s Belated Porter (which had been in the works for nearly 5 years!), and many other thoughts and ideas quickly came and went. Our head brewer, Tony Morse, really likes Genesee Cream Ale, and with the obvious exception of Switchback Ale, it might even be his favorite beer of all time. When he suggested that we brew our own version of a Cream Ale, everyone else laughed, except for him and Switchback’s owner/founder/brewmaster Bill Cherry, who knew that Tony was actually on to something big.

Bill had been wanting to brew and release another malt-forward beer for a while, and he began thinking about the effects of fermenting a malty brown ale at temperatures slightly lower than normal for typical ale fermentation. These conditions would suppress a number of the fruity esters produced by the yeast during fermentation, allowing the flavors of nutty and caramel malts to shine through. Also, when the yeast has to work in these cooler environments, they struggle to break down the sugars and convert them into CO2 and alcohol, but this struggle also produces a smooth, creamy mouthfeel like that of a Cream Ale, and this beer can indeed only be described as “crazy smooth.”  

Sean Reen
Switchback Brewer