Monday, February 13, 2012

English Oatmeal Porter Recipe - Big and Small

Despite its rich brewing tradition, beers from England often seem to be overlooked with all of the frenzy surrounding Belgian and American breweries. Even German and Czech lagers seem to be regaining some cachet after the initial backlash against lagers. I think part of the problem is that some of England's best beer styles are low alcohol and best at their freshest (unlike many other beers that are shelf stable for at least a few months). Most of the American craft beer movement was built on English styles (adapted to American tastes and ingredients) IPAs, Brown Ales, Porters, and Imperial Stouts are all rooted in the British tradition. Maybe that is the problem, are we overly familiar with the flavors, always looking for what's next?

I have the same problem, while I love drinking a great mild or bitter when it is put in front of me, they aren’t the sort of beers that I tend to get really excited about. The ideal English session ale has a relatively simple flavor that doesn’t fatigue the palate (unlike my low-alcohol IPA). Brewers strive to use a light hand with assertive specialty malts and hops, letting the base malt and yeast strain play lead roles. I’m the sort of person who tends to order samples when I'm at a bar, and I almost never orders a second glass of the same beer (what’s next?).

A bottle of Thornbridge Bracia Stout.However, there are some English breweries deviating from tradition and brewing really interesting beers. I think Thornbridge is producing some of the best beers of this young group. Jaipur IPA is crisp, minerally, and bright (on tap and the fresher the better), and unlike many other English "IPAs" it is not just a bitter. Thornbridge Bracia is an almost gruit-like imperial stout with peat smoked malt, chestnut honey, and licorice. I wish they were getting the sort of hype that BrewDog does because their beers are certainly better. Williams Brothers is also sending some interesting casks to America. I thoroughly enjoyed a glass of New Beginnings, which is a golden bitter lightly hopped with Amarillo Nelson Sauvin on cask.

To straddle the line between these two divergent English brewing identities, my friend Nate and I decided to employ a traditional English technique, parti-gyle mashing. I’ve mentioned it before, but parti-gyle simply refers to running off multiple beers from a single mash. In this case, the mash was composed of traditional enough ingredients: bready Maris Otter, light-coffee brown malt, slightly burnt chocolate malt, a variety of caramel toned crystal malts, and a healthy dose of chewy oats.

The two fermentors getting some cold conditioning in my basement.
After conversion was complete, we took the bulk of the first runnings were used to produce an English-inspired beer Imperial Oatmeal Brown Porter (although I’m not sure an English brewery has ever brewed one). The second runnings (with a scoop of the first to boost the gravity ) were converted into a moderate gravity beer on the big side of Dark Mild at 4.5% ABV. Both worts were modestly bittered with hops, and then fermented with White Labs Yorkshire Square. Nate and I are planning to bottle in a few days so the batches are carbonated in time for a pre-trip to England party that he has been brewing for.

Chewy Brown Porters

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 5.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 21.50
Big OG: 1.078   
Small OG: 1.045
SRM: 32.6
Big IBUs:  21.0
Small IBUs: 17.9
Brewhouse Efficiency: 83% (total)
Wort Boil Time: 105 minutes

69.8% - 15.00 lbs. Maris Otter                
9.3% - 2.00 lbs. Brown Malt    
9.3% - 2.00 lbs. Quick Oats      
4.7% - 1.00 lbs. Crystal 80L
4.7% - 1.00 lbs. CaraMunich Malt
2.3% - 0.50 lbs. Chocolate Malt 

Big: 1.25 oz. Styrian Goldings (Pellet, 5.00% AA) @ 75 min.
Small .75 oz Crystal (Whole, 6.00% AA) @ 60 min

.5 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.
.5 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.

White Labs WLP037 Yorkshire Square Ale

Water Profile
Profile: Washington DC

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest I - 60 min @ 154 F
Sacch Rest II - 15 min @ 160 F

Brewed 1/28/12 with Nate

Quick oats from Whole Foods. Two kinds of brown malt, 1.5 lbs were the darker variety.

Filtered DC water, no adjustments.

7.25 gallons of first runnings @ 1.066

Sparged with 7 gallons of 170 F water, collected the same back @1.030

Took 3 qrts of the first runnings a put them into the second runnings, 2 qrts back the other way.

Boiled first runnings for 30 min, then added 1.25 oz of Styrian Golding pellets.

Small beer got .75 oz of Crystal @ 6% AA @ 60 min for ~18 IBUs.

Chilled both beers to ~67 F, strained, shook to aerate. Yeast cake from 3.5% Vienna IPA thing. 4 oz for the big half, 3 oz for the small half.

Good fermentation on both by 18 hours.

2/13/12 Moved downstairs ~55 F to help clear the beers before bottling.

2/18/12 Bottled the 4.5 gallons of smaller beer (1.009) with 3 1/8 oz of table sugar, and the 5 gallons of the big beer (1.015) with 3 1/2 oz of table sugar. Aiming for about 2.3 volumes of CO2 for both.

6/9/12 Despite the reasonable target carbonation target the beer quickly became over-carbonated, with both halves drying out a few more points after bottling. Not sure what caused it. Full tasting notes, pretty happy with how the beer turned out otherwise.


Austin said...

Do you calculate your second running OG before brew day, or is it you get what you get? If you calculate it, what is the formula/software you use?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

You can ballpark the total gravity as what you would get from the mash if you were brewing a normal batch with the same total volume. From that number you can estimate that about 2/3 of the gravity will be in the first half of the runnings. The other rule that applies is that the first 1/3 of the runnings will have half the gravity (if you want less of the strong beer). In this case we wanted the beers to be a bit closer in starting gravity than 2:1, so we swapped a few quarts of the runnings between the two pots.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mike

Really glad you like our beers.


Matthew Clark

Brewer (Thornbridge)

Mark said...

Cool to see an American view on the UK 'craft' brewing scene. Thornbridge might not make as much noise as Brewdog, but they're certainly regarded as being at the top of the craft pile.

What have you got planned once you get over here? If you're visiting London and the South, I can suggest some good beer places to hit. :)


Ron Pattinson said...

The traditional way to parti-gyle (at least for the last 200-odd years) is to blend post-boil. That way you can mix the different worts to hit the target gravity exactly.

The separate worts to make separate beers technique died out about 1780.

I'm getting a bit tired of explaining this. I've yet to see a modern homebrewing source that describes correctly the type of parti-gyling that still continues today (for example at Fullers).

I've stopped mentioning any of this on homebrewing forums because people just shout at me.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I certainly won’t debate you on the history of English brewing (not sure anyone could), but what would you call this method if not parti-gyle?

From a practicality standpoint, the problem with blending post-boil is that it limits your options in terms of hopping or flavoring the runnings differently. This may be fine for a brewery like Fullers that is making a range of beers that all have a similar bitterness to original gravity ratios, but often isn’t what I am trying to. In the end the name of a technique is less important than the beer it produces to me.

Ron Pattinson said...

Combined grist brewing is what Derek Prentice calls the technique. As he knows more about British brewing techniques than anyone I've met, I'm not going to argue with him.

Anonymous said...

for your first mash how many qts/lb did you do?
Did you throw all the water in to get 7 some gallons?
Did you mash lowers 1.25 or so and then sparge before second running?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

You have to take all of the loss to grain absorption and dead space into account for your first runnings. We ended up adding about 8 gallons of water initially (~1.5 qrts/lb) and then another 2 gallons to boost the volume/temperature before running off. For the second runnings you return exactly what you put in, so just another 7 gallons.

Anonymous said...

Is it really surprising that people have not responded well to pedantic scolding about the "authenticity" of terms that they're using to convey practical brewing information?

If the particulars of the technique are outdated, that's an interesting historical footnote, but not necessarily a reason to break out the red pen.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the post above. I don't think mike deserves a scolding about terminology that has clearly shifted meanings, especially after all that he has contributed to the beer community.

Josh O. said...

Anonymouses - There is an important and recognizable difference between disseminating information and "pedantic scolding." The problem with text-based discourse between strangers is that many of the recipients of the former construe it as the latter. Most people are not receptive to criticism or refutation of their ideas in this context, and will fight to preserve them against logic and fact-based evidence (which, though not given here, I would assure you that Ron has plenty of).

Anyway, as someone who frequently practices "combined grist brewing" but has always referred to it as "parti-gyle brewing" I appreciate learning the distinction. Not sure CGB is going to catch on though, it's a bit of a mouthful. "Parti-gyle" flows off the toungue much more easily.

Anonymous said...

Well said above. Though, wholly apart from the veracity of the facts, one could take issue with (i) the tone and insistence and (ii) the rigid view of linguistics that would require a historical justification for a simple turn of phrase.

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