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Cloning Coniston's Old Man Ale v1.0

Much darker than the real beer, below
While out to dinner at a local tavern, I had the opportunity to try Coniston's Old Man Ale.  I found it to be an enjoyable and slightly tart brown ale.

Looking online, I couldn't find a clone recipe, so I decided to see if I could create my own.

The brewery's web site gives the following clues:
  • Malt:  Roasted Barley, Crystal, and Pale Ale Malts
  • Hops: Challenger and Mount Hood
  • ABV: 4.2%
  • Description:  "A radically different beer... it has roast barley added to the pale and crystal malts. It has a deep burnished copper color, a rich port wine aroma, a big chocolate and creamy malt palate and a dry, grainy, roasty finish balanced by hop bitterness and tart fruit. It is a remarkably complex beer that deepens and changes as you sup it."
The Beer of the Month Club says that you should drink it at 58F or you miss a lot of the nuance.  They describe it as "extremely toasty, crackery, with fruity notes favoring orange tones, but grounded in a robust earthiness."  Another web site suggested that the "Pale Ale Malt" referenced on Coniston's site was actually Maris Otter, so I may try that in a future version if this doesn't work out.

With all of this in mind, I came up with the following first crack at a recipe and brewed it today.

Ingredients

3.75 pounds Two-row Pale Malt
1 ounce Roasted Barley Malt
12 ounces Crystal 80L
0.30 ounces Challenger hops @ 6.8% AA (60 min.)
0.20 ounces Mount Hood hops @ 5.6% AA (15 min.)
0.20 ounces Challenger hops @ 6.8% AA (15 min.)
0.40 ounces Challenger hops @6.8% AA (5 min.)
0.35 ounces Mount Hood hops @ 5.6% AA (5 min.)
1 packet White Labs WLP023 Burton Ale yeast
1/2 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm
3 gallons plus 16 ounces starting water in Zymatic keg

The Picobrew recipe crafter estimates the following characteristics:

  • Estimated Original Gravity: 1.049 SG (actual was 1.052 SG or 12.5 Brix)
  • Estimated Final Gravity: 1.014 SG
  • IBUs: 26
  • ABV: 4.6%
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons (2.5 gallons actual)
  • 60-minute boil
  • High-efficiency mash profile
Actual measurements post-brewing were:

  • Actual Original Gravity: 1.052 SG or 12.5 Brix
  • Actual Final Gravity: 1.010 SG
  • ABV: 5.5%

In retrospect, I probably should have gone with Maris Otter for the Pale Malt, but that didn't occur to me at the time.  If I re-brew this, I'll go that route.  I chose Crystal 80L because it fits in somewhere between British Medium and Dark Crystal malts. Since one of the descriptions I read said that Crystal was added for color, a darker malt seemed more appropriate.

Challenger is a dual-purpose hop, used for both bittering and aroma, so I decided to leverage it throughout the boil.  Mount Hood is more an aroma hop, so I added it nearer the end of the boil to allow it to serve that purpose.  It wasn't a particularly bitter beer, so I went for enough hops to fit into the middle of the English Brown Ale BJCP range, but no more.

Brewing Notes

3/1/2018:  I loaded the Zymatic step filter and keg, then started it brewing.  There was a bit of foaming on top of the step filter lid, but no wort made it into the drip tray or onto the table.  

The brew yielded about 2.3 gallons of beer at a much higher gravity than the recipe crafter estimated, so I added some distilled water to bring it to the full 2.5 gallon batch size. Even at that, the gravity was higher than expected.

I pitched the wort, the full packet of yeast, and Clarity Ferm into a sanitized fermenter and sealed it up. I then went about cleaning the Zymatic, including running a deep clean session.  During the rinse cycle, it became clear that one of the hoses is dripping.  I've reached out to Picobrew for assistance as the hose clamps used are an unfamiliar type that requires a crimping tool I don't own - so tightening them is probably not an option.

3/2/2018:  About 26 hours after pitching the yeast, airlock activity was taking place. The thermometer showed that the beer was below the yeast's ideal fermentation range, so I attached temperature control to keep it at or above the low end of the range for days 1-3, then push it toward the upper end after that to ensure it finishes out completely.

3/11/2018:  Today, my wife and I bottled the beer directly from the fermenter, priming each bottle with a Cooper's Carbonation Drop to ensure a consistent and mild level of carbonation. Yield was 24 bottles. The room temperature, uncarbonated beer seems well-balanced, with a hint of roasty grain and chocolate to it. I'm hopeful that it will be even better carbonated.  It should be ready to do a taste test on March 18.

3/17/2018:  I opened a bottle today to sample. The carbonation seemed a bit low, which was disappointing. The flavor, however, was excellent. It reminds me more of a Foreign Extra Stout than the Old Man Ale I was aiming for.  While being reminiscent of the Coniston beer, it was not tart as I recall that beer being.  This one is also considerably darker in color than the actual Coniston beer.  That said, although it's not a very good clone of Old Man Ale, it's actually a very tasty beer and one I'll likely brew again.

Actual bottle of Coniston's Old Man Ale (note reddish brown color)

To get the beer closer to the original, my plan for next time is to replace the Pale Malt with Maris Otter, switch to a lighter Crystal malt, and see if I can get the color down into the SRM 12-14 range to get closer to the actual beer's color.  I'm currently thinking something like 3 pounds and 2 ounces of Maris Otter, 6 ounces of Light Crystal (or Crystal 60L if I can't get that), and the ounce of roasted barley.


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