Monday, October 22, 2012

Rumble-Barrel Cinnamon/Vanilla Imperial Porter

The series of four clean barrel–aged beers I’m working on has been a lot of fun so far, but it has also been slightly stressful. Considering their extended aging, trying to keep these beers squeaky clean with all of the wild beers I brew has been my top priority. So I bought a fresh round of post-fermentation gear, passing down the old plastic to my sours. I bought two new buckets, one for bottling and one for storing/sanitizing gear. My dual use buckets always seemed to end up with a ring of scratches around the bottom from the sharp plastic on the tips of bottling wands, auto-siphons etc, creating good places for microbes to hide. I’ll also be bottle-conditioning all of these beers (who wants a five gallon keg of Whisky Barrel Trippelbock?), a challenge as they are all pushing 10% ABV.

This Imperial Porter was loosely based on and inspired by Birth of Tragedy, which I drank a glass of during my visit to Hill Farmstead over the summer. Both are strong dark beer subtly spiced with cinnamon, and vanilla. Shaun aged his in bourbon barrels, while mine is currently resting in a second use barrel that held Rumble (distilled from figs, demerara, and honey).

Cleaning the five gallon barrel with near boiling water.The base beer for my batch is essentially a scaled up version of the Coffee-Oatmeal Stout I’ve been dialing in for Modern Times. It relies on lower color dark malts than those used by most brewers, so I was able to load them in without too much concern about creating a harsh/burnt flavor. I’d grown bored of pitching American ale yeast for so many batches, so I made the switch to Irish Ale (which I really liked in the Scandinavian Imperial Porter I brewed a few years ago).

When I tried to pull my first sample of the Quad that was sitting in the Rumble barrel originally, I discovered the bunghole on the 20L Balcones barrels are just barely wide enough to accommodate a standard auto-siphon. It takes some tilting and pressure, but it pops in eventually. However, it is easy to knock-off the cap while pulling it back out through the hole. So when drawing a sample it may be best to leave the cap off.

The Quad was oaky enough for my tastes after just 22 days, so I bottled it yesterday. Before refilling, I rinsed the barrel with three changes of just-off-the-boil filtered water. If you attempt this, be careful as filling the barrel with hot water, bunging, and shaking generates a decent amount of pressure, so crack the stopper slowly and away from yourself. A hot rinse will remove most of the spent yeast from the barrel, hopefully enough that any Belgian yeast will not affect the cleaner yeast character of the porter. I allowed the barrel to sit for a few hours to cool before refilling to minimize foaming.

Being the second fill, the Imperial Porter should benefit from a bit more time in the barrel; I’m guessing it will take four to six weeks. When the oak character approaches where I want it, I’ll split a vanilla bean and add it along with a few grams of cinnamon. I’m still debating whether or not to add coffee (which Birth of Tragedy had); if I do, it will be whole beans for a couple days right before bottling. I want to taste the character of the barrel-aged and spiced beer before making a decision, there will already be so many flavors flying around that I don’t want to disrupt the balance.

Filling the Rumble barrel with Imperial Oatmeal Porter.Rumble Winter Porter

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 6.30
Total Grain (Lbs): 23.50
Anticipated OG: 1.086
Anticipated SRM: 50.2
Anticipated IBU: 65.1
Brewhouse Efficiency: 67 %
Wort Boil Time: 110 Minutes

68.1% 16.00 lbs. Pale 2-Row Malt
12.8% 3.00 lbs. Rolled Oats
6.9% 1.63 lbs. American Roasted Barley (300 L)
4.8% 1.13 lbs. American Chocolate Malt (350 L)
3.7% 0.88 lbs. CaraMunich
3.7% 0.88 lbs. Crystal 90L

10 ml HopShot (Extract) @ 60 min.

0.50 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.
0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.
1.00 Vanilla Bean for 14 days
2.00 gm Cinnamon Spice for 14 days
1.00 oz Coffee Beans Coffee for 1 day

White Labs WLP004 Irish Stout

Water Profile
Profile: Washington, DC

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest - 65 min @ 154 F

10/7/12 Made a 1.6 L starter on the stir-plate.

Used Bob's Red Mill Extra-Thick Rolled Oats

10/8/12 Brewed with Josh H

Added 3 g baking soda, 2 g CaCl, and 2 g Chalk.

Collected 8.25 gallons of 1.070 runnings.

Chilled to 66 F, 50 seconds of pure O2, pitched the starter, left at 64 F to begin fermenting.

10/21/12 Racked to the triple washed (just-off boiling water) Rumble barrel. Filled to the brim, no vanilla or cinnamon yet.

11/25/12 Added 2 grams of ground Penzey's cinnamon and one split vanilla bean, soaked in half a cup of just off the boil water for five minutes.

12/6/12 Bottled with 2.5 oz of boiled table sugar. Aiming for just under 2 volumes of CO2. FG 1.024.

5/1/13 The residual Belgian yeast ended up drying out the beer to 1.016 in the bottle, resulting in it being considerably over-carbonated. Otherwise pretty pleasant.


Middle Class Middle Aged White Guy said...

Care to elaborate on the challenges of conditioning a beer in the 10-11% ABV range?
I have a maple barleywine in secondary right now that I'd like to cask condition with maple syrup (It's in the 10 1/2- 11% ABV range.)

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

At that level the yeast can get lazy. This can cause two different problems. If the yeast stalls near what you might expect to be full attenuation, it could wake back up in the bottle and cause over-carbonation (similar story if you pitch a more attenuative strain at bottling). Alternatively I've had a couple big beers refuse to carbonate simply too much alcohol to get the yeast started again.

I have the added issue of judging how much CO2 will be lost during barrel aging. Our barrel aged sours normally get down to ~.4 volumes of residual CO2 (from the usual ~.8 volumes). Meaning you need to add enough sugar to get 2.5 volumes in a normal beer if you really want 2.1 volumes actually. However, the sours age for a longer time and go through more temperature fluctuations. I aimed low on the Quad, I'd rather undershoot on a big beer like this than risk it being thin and spritzy.

Good luck!

SeƱor Brew™ said...

I would like a five gallon keg of whisky barrel triple bock.

Unknown said...

I think I have asked this once before if you dont mind answering again. You have a lot more going on than what I would guess the "average home brewer" does at any one given time.

Is it completely unreasonable to think you can keep that barrel "clean" or is it a matter of time before you give it to the good delicious sour microbes?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Very few professional brewers seem to go more than two turns of a barrel with clean beers (many only one), and that's all I'm willing to push it. After the second beer into each barrel I'm planning to fill both with the same sour brown. After they get enough oak, I'll rack the whisky barrel onto cherries, and the Rumble onto raspberries. Not sure what I'll do from there.

Unknown said...

Cool...Thanks again for answering!

Alterior said...

Where are you getting these barrels? Thanks

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

The barrels were a barter from the distillery, but they are also available for purchase from some homebrewing stores. For example. That is for the whisky barrel, not sure where you can get the Rumble currently.

Jonathan Brewster said...

I'd leave out the coffee beans personally. Imperial Porter, with (a) Rumble barrel, (b) vanilla, and (c) cinnamon. I think that's already enough action on the palate - I would guess that +coffee would muddle everything down & take away from the overall end product. Just personal opinion though. Sounds delicious though!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

My concern as well. If I add coffee, it would be just an ounce... we'll see. If I don't coffee-ize the whole batch, I may add a couple beans each to a few bottles to see what might have been.

Arian Solberg said...

Hey Mike, love the blog. Going to attempt a Balcones barrel brew myself pretty soon. I'm curious though, given the uncertainty with bottle conditioning these high-alcohol long-rested beers, why not just force carbonate in a keg and bottle from there? There are a number of beer filling "guns" that attach to kegs for just this very reason.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I actually own a Beer Gun for bottling off the samples for Modern Times, but there are two reasons I won't be using it for these barrel-aged beers. First I haven't been able to get it to produce consistent results in terms of the carbonation in the beer. I also don't trust it completely in terms of minimizing oxygen (the active yeast in a bottle conditioned beer scavenge oxygen, enhancing the aging potential of the beer).

I had to crack a bottle of the quad after just a week, and already a faint fizz despite the ~65 F basement where they've been sitting.

Erik R. Wood said...

Great work Mike, as always.

I'm wondering the same, my Imperial Stout has been in the Balcone's Barrel for almost 2 weeks now and it's at desired character for the most part.

When bottling a 13.1% stout, how am I to achieve adequate carbonation...? I mean it doesn't need to be two finger head, but a decent ring lacing is plenty sufficient for my tastes.

Any help is appreciated.


The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

You'll loose some residual carbonation just from the time spent in the barrel. As a result you should add enough priming sugar to get ~.4 volumes higher than what you "really" want to aim for.

What yeast did you use? You could repitch a small amount of the same strain, but it may have reached its alcohol tolerance. Pitching another strain is risky. You want one that is less attenuative and more alcohol tolerant. Wine yeasts are an option because they are specialists in the simple sugars found in fruit.

Good luck!