When is the best time to add honey to a 5 gallon wort of Brown Ale, and what is the best amount? I don't know weather it would be best at the beginning or closer to bottling time!
I like to add honey to ales, but it is a bit tricky to use. If you add it to the boil, it typically dries out completely and is just an expensive way of increasing the alcohol content without adding much in the way of flavor. If you add 50% of your malt bill in honey, you have a braggot. If you add it after primary fermentation is complete, it tends to retain more honey flavor. Honey can carry spores and other naturally occurring germs, so some people may desire to boil it, while many brewers will simply warm it to facilitate racking. If you boil it for long, it will have a burnt taste (like a bochet). If you don't actually boil it, but slowly bring the temp to 170F (77'C) or so and keep it there for 30 minutes, you can caramelize it a bit, which will not only help kill some bugs, but also it will make some of the honey less fermentable and leave more honey flavor. If you use 1 lb or less, it will be fairly subtle. If you use more, you may need to age it much longer than a normal ale, so it won't taste like soap (what I think a young mead tastes like). I've also just used honey to prime with, and it works pretty good and retains a honey flavor. This is probably the least expensive and most reliable way of adding a subtle honey flavor, especially if you boil a pint or so of water and add the honey to it and keep it at 170F (77'C) for 20-30 minutes. If you just boil the honey, it won't have much flavor (might as well use corn sugar). Good luck!
UPDATE: I added honey to a brown ale Memorial Day and tried a slightly different approach. I followed these instructions for the most part, but used 1 cup water, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 3 lbs of nearly raw, local honey. I let it boil lightly about 10 minutes, until it turned from gold to red, I tasted it this weekend and was pleasantly surprised. This was a robust, dark, brown, so I was afraid the honey might not punch through, but it makes a significant addition of toffee, honey and caramel tones. I am looking forward to kegging this :D
I was also a little surprised as according to this post, especially this picture, , it should have taken much longer to achieve the red color.
I tried honey once in a 5 gallon batch of blonde ale. it was recommended that I put it in 3 mins before flame out and used 1 pound.
My results were less than amazing, so much less that I couldnt taste the honey, which was a Hawaiian variety purchased at the LHBS.
I was told at the time that the sugars in honey are not highly fermentable so ABV will not substancially increase. I ended up with the usual 5.1% or so if memory serves.
This summer I am going to try the method Wyrmwood suggested above, adding honey to 170F water and then adding that to primary, maybe after a week or so, and increase from 1 pound to 2.
Good Question and nice complete Answer Wyrmwood!