At the 2017 HomeBrew Con in Minneapolis, I was wandering the exhibition hall on the last day with a few friends and one of the Briess representatives looked at my badge and saw I was part of the AABG. Every year Briess brings some grain to give away, and presumably they brought more than they needed and didn’t want to transport it home. The rep offered me a bag of this new Copper Malt if I shared it with my club, and I was happy to do so.
I decided to organise what our club calls a Brewola, where everyone brews the same or at least very similar recipe, and then we all get together and compare the brews. After a brief poll we settled on make a Biere de Garde style beer as it offered some flexibility in things like yeast choice. It took us (me) a while to get the ball rolling and actually distribute grain, brew, and then set the date for comparison. We finally set the date for our April meeting, which was April 13th, 2018.
Here’s the recipe, as I brewed it: AABGBdG – Briess Copper Malt Biere de Garde
Copper Malt Biere de Garde Stats
I collected information from those that participated about the beers they brewed. Here are some of the stats:
- 10 brewers participated
- 9 different yeasts: CCYL115*, CCYL129*, WLP011, WLP029, WLP590, Safbrew T58, WY1728, WY3711, WY3725
- With split fermentations, a total of 12 versions of the beer
- Average Starting Gravity: 1.072 (max: 1.079, min: 1.065)
- Average Finishing Gravity: 1.013 (max: 1.016, min: 1.008)
- Average ABV: 7.9% (max: 8.4%, min: 7.2%)
- Average Age: 132 days (4 months, 11 days)
* CCYL = Craft Cultures, a MI based yeast lab
We didn’t end up taking real notes – something we plan to do in the future – but I took some mental notes about the comparisons at a high level. At this point I’m surprised, but I do continue to marvel at the difference yeast choice makes. The saison strains imparted the expected spicy phenols on top of the solid malt base, though not drying the beer way out like you might expect. This was a positive as the beers were already in a solid ABV range and I think needed the residual sugar for balance. The European ale strains were largely clean and subdued (the Scottish WY1728 included), letting the malt shine. We had a couple made with WLP029 (Kolsch yeast), fermented at different temperatures. One was fermented below the White Labs stated range at 58F, and the other was fermented in a cool basement, so likely in the low 60’s. Both had hints of esters, with the cool fermented beer showing some signs of banana (isoamyl acetate) and the warmer fermented beer having the unmistakable fruitiness of ethyl acetate.
All the beers had unmistakable common malt flavours, though the degree to which they stood out varied. Malt flavours noted were graham cracker, biscuit, and low levels of dried fruits. One of the goals of this Brewola was to evaluate how Copper Malt impacted a beer, so we purposely used a large amount in the grist. The grain was certainly prominent in all the versions of the beer, but never overpowering. It added a nice complexity, and I think at lower levels would do very well to complement many styles. I would say this was a very successful brewola and we all agreed we want to do this more often!