One of the more fascinating talks I attended during National Homebrewers Conference 2014 in Grand Rapids wasn’t even about beer. Ken Schramm (author of the excellent Compleat Meadmaker, and founder of Schramm's Mead) talked passionately about bees, amino acids, and agriculture during "Really Understanding Honey." While he talked he passed around ten varietal honeys for us to taste with single-use straws. The range from a mild honey like blackberry to some of the weirder ones (e.g., leatherwood) was interesting. Others demonstrated how different a single varietal (like orange blossom) can be depending on what part of the world the bees collect nectar (milder California versus the more more acidic/juicy Florida).
The two that really stood out to me were meadowfoam (toasted marshmallows) and Mexican coffee blossom (hint of coffee-like roast). I knew I had to get my hands on one or both of these to add to a stout! Last month I finally got around to brewing with meadowfoam honey. The base beer was a relatively straight-forward oatmeal stout, with 10% home-toasted oats rather than a breadier base malt. If I really wanted to play-to s’mores, I could have added a bit of smoked malt, but I didn’t want the flavor of the honey to be lost.
As with other honey beers I've brewed, I added the concentrated nectar when primary fermentation was nearing completion (four days after pitching). This prevents destruction of the volatile aromatics by the heat of the boil, and scrubbing by the vigorous primary fermentation. For the first time I also saved a few ounces of honey to add directly to the keg for natural conditioning. I'm usually not an advocate for using priming sugar to add flavor, but the pressure should trap the volatiles, and I can a easily adjust the carbonation with CO2 once it goes on tap.
Meadowfoam Honey Oatmeal Stout
Batch Size (Gal): 11.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 25.38
Anticipated OG: 1.056
Anticipated SRM: 42.2
Anticipated IBU: 34.4
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70 %
Wort Boil Time: 75 Minutes
59.2% - 15 lbs. Valley Malting Pale
8.9% - 2.25 lbs. Rahr Pale
10.3% - 2.63 lbs. Home-Toasted Oatmeal (25 min @ 340F)
9.9% - 2.50 lbs. Simpsons Roasted Barley
3.0% - 0.75 lbs. Briess Crystal 120L
3.0% - 0.75 lbs. Simpsons Extra Dark Crystal
5.9% - 1.50 lbs. Meadowfoam Honey
1.38 oz. Magnum (Whole, 12.00% AA) @ 70 min.
2.00 oz. Challenger (Whole, 6.10% AA) @ 10 min.
1.00 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.
1.00 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.
White Labs WLP028 Edinburgh Ale
Profile: Washington, DC
Sacch - 60 min @ 154F
2/13/15 Made a 3.5 L starter with 1 vial of month old yeast. Crash chilled after 24 hours on the stir-plate.
2/16/15 Brewed with some guy
Oats toasted at 340F 25 min. until they smelled toasty (only minimal color pickup).
Measured 5.3 mash pH.
3 gallon cold sparge. Collected 13 gallons of 1.045 runnings. Adjusted hops down by 1% AA.
Chilled to 65F, shook to aerate, pitched 2 L of the starter. 24 hours at 65F ambient, then to 58F ambient.
2/19/15 Back to 65F ambient to finish.
2/20/15 12 oz of Winter Park meadowfoam honey and 1/2 gallon of water to my half.
3/8/15 Racked my half (FG 1.020) into a keg with about 3 oz of meadowfoam honey. Purged and sealed. Left in the mid-60s to condition. Extra beer went into a growler with a small amount of the honey.
7/15/15 Tasting notes. Happy with the overall character of the beer, but the flavor of the meadowfoam honey itself barely comes through. I'd up it next time or find a more characterful supplier.