Thursday, December 15, 2011

Kate the Great Clone Tasting

Kate Clone with Ecuadorian 70% dark chocolate and a few raisins.Imperial Stout is one of the handful of styles that I love, but just can't seem to nail. I've made several ~B+ versions based on well regarded recipes, but none that stack up with the best commercial (or homebrew) examples. As a result, a few months ago I took a crack at the recipe for Kate the Great (one of my favorite commercial versions) that Todd Mott of Portsmouth Brewing gave out. This batch is pretty young, but I'd gotten several emails asking me how it was coming along...

Kate the Great Clone

Appearance – The viscous pitch-black liquid consumes my snifter. The dense/creamy tan head has outstanding retention and lacing. Really a picture perfect beer.

Smell – The nose is very closed (even after it warms), not nearly enough coffee/chocolate/roast for an RIS. There is some toastiness, a bit of dark fruit (port and raisin), but not much else. Hint of alcohol in the nose as it warms up to my (cool) room temperature.

Taste – Smooth flavor, with loads of port soaked dark fruit. Again just not enough of the roast or complexity I want. Some bitterness to counter the slightly sweet finish, giving it a balance reminiscent of good dark chocolate.

Mouthfeel – A bit over-carbonated at the pour, but a few swirls and it is down to the low level I like in my big dark beers. Great creamy body with a thick almost milkshake consistency.

Drinkability & Notes – Not unpleasant at all, and as an Imperial Porter it isn't bad, but the reliance primarily on Carafa Special III for color (not to mention only 6.5% dark grains) leaves it lacking the firm roast of a stout. I'm not sure exactly what the difference is in the results Portsmouth gets from this recipe, maybe a finer grind? Water chemistry? Scaling issues? Maybe just the slightly lower original gravity?

I am hoping a few months of cold conditioning in the fridge will help to clarify the flavors and bring out the roast. I'll be revisiting this one in a few months, I find it often takes a year for RIS to get to where I am happiest with them. As it stands, if I brewed this again I would probably go with at least 50% more of the dark grains (other than the Carafa) to get the flavor I am looking for.


Shawn said...

It's funny, even after brewing this myself just last month, it never occurred to me until I read this post how little of the grist is "roasted" grains. There were so many grains in the recipe that I just ASSUMED it would have a ton of roastiness to it.

Hopefully you're happier with the effort in another 6 months or so.

smagee said...

I noticed the lack of dark malts when I brewed it simply because it wasn't as dark as I'd expected (although your experience sounds like it differed). It's interesting; mine has a pretty good chocolate/coffee character, although definitely little in the way of roast. I haven't carbed it up yet, so that may change some; I'm giving it another month or two in the keg first.

I wonder if using Carafa standard instead of dehusked would help out a bit? As I recall, the source recipe called for special, although I might be misrecalling.

Royski said...

I've read that the classic stout profile calls for alkaline or chalky water (the roast grains are apparently acidic).

I've made some satisfying stouts using relatively large amounts of roast barley, but haven't made a stout in years thanks to Mrs. Royski's preferences.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Yep, the original calls for "Carafa DH# 3" which I assume is the dehusked (aka Special).

It is strange, I remember pulling a sample of this before bottling and loving it. Not sure if the carbonation caused the problem, or if there is something else going on.

I added a few grams of chalk and baking soda, but it was restrained, just enough to boost the mash pH back into range. I find that water adjustments really help if you are doing a stout with loads of dark grains (especially black patent) which can get acrid.

Adam said...

In my most recent RIS attempt I added some very finely ground roasted barley right to the kettle. I found that as a mentioned technique listed on BA site profile on RIS. So I gave it a shot along with the WY9097. It has a very strong roasted flavor by the way.

oilbird said...

looking at the recipe is really not that much roasted grains. in my last stout i used 1 pound of RB, .75 of chocolate malt (550 L) and .25 of black patent for a 5 gallon batch and it had a really nice roasted aroma and flavor but not over powering, very similar to Shakespeare stout from rouge. I think we (homebrewers) tend to overestimate the contribution of dark malts.
recently I run in to a clone recipe for st ambroise oatmeal stout and it has 40 % dark malts!!! this amount actually comes from their website. so next time don't be afraid of go with more than 2 pounds of roasted grains, I think you'll get what you are looking for.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I had heard about that roasted grain directly to the kettle idea from a Ron Pattinson historical recipe, I'll have to give it a try.

That is the problem with following a recipe from someone else. If it is from a good source I try to make the first brew as close as possible to the recipe given. I think for my next RIS I am going to have to write my own recipe, I tend to have better luck with that in general.

Evan Twomey said...

Me and my friend just split a bottle of Kate the other day, and we were struck by how little roast the beer had. It was better described as dark brown rather than black. If someone handed it to me and told me it was an Old ale I don't think I would have batted an eye. So, maybe this is how the clone recipe is supposed to taste?

Rick said...

I brewed this clone recipe and my results were very similar to yours. It's a decent beer, but it was more like an "Imperial Brown Porter" than a stout. My thoughts were almost exactly what yours were... boost the roasted barley, black patent, and chocolate by at least 50%. In fact, I ended up making about a small batch with the extra roasts, boiled the heck out of it to about a 1/4 gallon, and added it to the keg (early results are positive).

My guess is that the recipe as posted has rounding/estimating issues and that the actual % of roasted malt in KTG is higher.