Big Al Brewing: Replicator

Dear Replicator, Working in the commercial aircraft industry, I get to travel a lot. They send me to Seattle at least once a year, where the craft beer scene has really exploded. There are a bunch of good breweries and brewpubs to choose from, but my favorite is Big Al Brewing. It is a laid back, out of the way little tasting room but they crank out some delicious beers. I think their smoked porter has the most character and I would like to try to copy this one. Can you help give me some ideas for a recipe?

Colin Wallace
Torrance, California

It seems that you and Big Al Brewing owner, Alejandro Brown, followed similar paths to find great craft beer. He is also from southern California and moved to Seattle.

In 2001 Al discovered Larry’s Brewing Supply and found that you can brew excellent beers at home. Members of the local homebrewing club, the Impaling Alers, helped him hone his skills and recipes. Brewing became an obsession and in 2008 he left his corporate job with Nissan Motor Co. to pursue his dream of commercial brewing. While developing a business plan, the closing of Seattle’s Pacific Rim Brewery was announced. Things fell into place and in August 2008 he became the proud owner of their brewing facility.

There were challenges to overcome like scaling up homebrew recipes to 15-barrel batches. Soon, Al discovered that brewing and owning a brewery was more than a full-time job. Employing the help of some of

his friends from his homebrewing days, Al built a team that now cranks out some of the best beers in the Seattle metro area.

Even with annual growth of over 10% (up to 2,400 barrels this year), Al still takes time to involve the local homebrewing community. Each year he hosts two or three “Local Hero Series” competitions where homebrewers enter their best beers for a chance to have one selected for production on a commercial level. Al just released the 14th brew in this series.

Distribution is only in Washington with 70% of production going to keg accounts; however, the smoked porter is one of the beers that is also bottled. When asked what is next for the brewery, Al says he is excited about the trend toward sour beers. I think some bugs may be in his future.

While discussing the smoked porter, Al says it leans toward a robust porter style. The combination of heavy doses of both roasted and chocolate malts provide the bulk of the flavor while the crystal malt adds to the residual sweetness and body. The Nugget and Fuggle hops are a good marriage to add some subdued bitterness but still allow the smoki-ness of the peated barley to come through. Almost black with a creamy, tan head, it is a great beer for the dark nights of winter, yet enjoyable during any season.

There will be no need to fly to Seattle to get a fine smoked porter, Colin, because now you can “Brew Your Own.” For more about Big Al Brewing and their other fine beers, visit


Big Al Brewing Company’s Smoked Porter clone

(5 gallons/19 L, extract with grains)
OG = 1.056 FG = 1.012 IBU = 44 SRM = 45 ABV = 5.8%

3.3 lbs. (1.5 kg) Coopers, light, unhopped, liquid malt extract
1.5 lbs. (0.68 kg) dried malt extract
1 lb. (0.45 kg) 2-row pale malt
21 oz. (0.60 kg) crystal malt (80 °L)
21 oz. (0.60 kg) chocolate malt (350 °L)
10 oz. (0.28 kg) roast malt (450 °L)
5 oz. (0.14 kg) peat-smoked malt
11.7 AAU Nugget hop pellets (60 min.) (0.9 oz./26 g at 13% alpha acids)
1.25 AAU Fuggles hop pellets (15 min.) (0.25 oz./7 g at 5% alpha acids)
0.25 oz. (7 g) Fuggles hops (0 min.)
½ tsp. Irish moss (30 min.)\
½ tsp. yeast nutrient (15 min.)
White Labs WLP004 (Irish Ale) or Wyeast 1084 (Irish Ale)
¾ cup (150 g) of corn sugar for priming (if bottling)

Step by Step

Steep the crushed grain in 2.5 gallons (9.5 L) of water at 156 ºF (69 ºC) for 30 minutes. Remove grains from the wort and rinse with 2 quarts (1.8 L) of hot water. Add the liquid and dried malt extracts and boil 60 minutes. While boiling, add the hops, Irish moss and yeast nutrient as per the schedule. When the boil is complete, add the wort to 2 gallons (7.6 L) of cold water in the sanitized fermenter and top off with cold water up to 5 gallons (19 L).

Cool the wort to 75 ºF (24 ºC). Pitch your yeast and aerate the wort heavily. Allow the beer to cool to 68 ºF (20 ºC) and then hold at that temperature until fermentation is complete. Transfer to a carboy, avoiding any splashing to prevent aerating the beer. Allow the beer to condition for 1 week and then bottle or keg. Allow the beer to carbonate and age for 2 weeks.

All-grain option:

This is a single-step infusion mash using an additional 8 lbs. (3.6 kg) of 2-row pale malt to replace the liquid and dry malt extracts. Mix all of the crushed grains with 4 gallons (15 L) of 173 °F (78 °C) water to stabilize at 156 ºF (69 ºC) for 60 minutes. Slowly sparge with 175 ºF (79 ºC) water. Collect approximately 6 gallons (23 L) of wort runoff to boil for 60 minutes. Reduce the 60-minute Nugget hop addition to 9.8 AAU (0.7 oz./19.8 g) to allow for the higher utilization factor of a full wort boil.

The remainder of this recipe and procedures are the same as the extract with grains recipe.



Issue: November 2013