Monday, February 22, 2016

Czech-Baltic Porter

There are some brewers who see almost all of the possible drinkable beers neatly fenced in by established styles. Most on a continuum like mild, to brown ale, to porter, to stout with no spaces between. The only places not bounded by styles being the willful targeting of gaps, for example a Pilsner dyed black (and even then that’s just a schwarzbier...). I see much more fertile ground where new styles and recipes are waiting to spring forth!

One of my favorite ways to come up with unique beers is to imagine what sort of recipe the brewers from one country might brew if they wanted to make their own version of a style from another country. A few examples have been my Scottish Stout, New Zealand Saison, and India (American) Wit. This isn’t as silly as it might sound because Flemish red, Munich helles, schwarzbier, and American pale ale each grew from brewers taking a style from somewhere else and adapting it to their local ingredients, equipment, and tastes!

This batch is the big brother to tmavé pivo. It was from the same mash, but had a higher proportion of first runnings, a longer boil, higher bittering rate, and a cool rather than cold lager-yeast fermentation. It is my re-imagining of a Baltic porter brewed by a Czech brewery!

Czech-tic Porter

Appearance – Not as pretty as the tmavé, head retention and chill haze are worse. Luckily it’s a dark beer which means it's still pleasant on the eyes, but I’m not sure how two beers from the same mash and fermented with the same yeast could differ so much.

Smell – Clean malty aroma. Fresh spent coffee grounds, whole wheat toast, and some caramel especially as it warms. No hop aroma. Yeast comes across clean despite a mid-60s F fermentation temperature peak, in line with the baffling Brulosophy experiments (the third of which I participated in).

Taste – Flavor is similar to the aroma, that Munich-like (Weyermann Bohemian Dark) breadiness comes through, but a little less rounded than the classic flavor of bock and dunkel. The roast is subdued even for a Baltic porter, coffee ice cream, milk chocolate, and subtle dark fruit - more plum than raisin. Drier than I expected it to be, maybe thanks to the good attenuation and the more substantial bittering charge. Again, a clean fermentation behind all of that malty goodness.

Mouthfeel – Medium-full body, medium carbonation. Feels substantially wintery, without being sticky.

Drinkability & Notes – A pleasantly substantial speciální tmavé-porter 18°! I will say it doesn’t exhibit the depth and complexity of my favorite Baltic porter (Les Trois Mousquetaires Porter Baltique), but it also isn’t nearly that strong at 6.8% ABV compared to 10%. The Czech influence comes in in the softer palate, less assertive roast, and firmer bitterness.

Czech-tic Porter Recipe

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 5.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 15.34
OG: 1.075
SRM: 33.1
IBU: 49.1
Brewhouse Efficiency: 73 %
Wort Boil Time: 110 Minutes

51.9% - 8.00 lbs. Weyermann Floor Malted Bohemian Pilsner
29.6% - 4.50 lbs. Weyermann Floor Malted Bohemian Dark
13.0% - 2.00 lbs. Weyermann CaraMunich II
3.7% - 0.56 lbs. Weyermann Carafa II
1.9% - 0.28 lbs. Weyermann Carafa Special II

2.00 oz. Sterling (Pellet, 7.50% AA) @ 55 min.

0.50 Whirlfloc @ 5 min
0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 5 min

White Labs WLP800 Pilsner Lager

Water Profile
Profile: Washington, DC

Mash Schedule
Protein Rest - 15 min @ 126F
Sacch I - 30 min @ 145F (direct)
Sacch II - 20 min @ 158F (direct)

Two stage starter made a week in advance (1.25 L to 3.5 L). Second stage was mini-mash of Bohemian Dark. Crashed in fridge prior to brew day.

Brewed 10/25/15

Note: adjusted the amounts above so that this recipe could be brewed as a single batch.

5 g CaCl added to the filtered DC tap water for the mash. Started with only Bohemian grains. Added specialty malts as I heated to the second Sacch rest to ensure conversion, but reduce intensity/astringency.

Collected 8 gallons of first runnings at 1.055 for the Baltic Porter. Chilled to 58 F. OG 1.075. Shook to aerate. Pitched 1/2 starter. Left at 60F to ferment.

11/2/15 Up to 65F.

11/3/15 Gravity down to 1.028 (63% AA). Hoping for a bit closer to 1.022.

11/6/15 Down to 1.024 (68%, 6.8% ABV). Solid, malty, sweetish, coffee. Likely won't fall much more.

11/7/15 Into a flushed keg and into the fridge at 60F for the slow ramp-down. Looked pretty yeasty and there was a dense persistent krausen. 1 extra liter into a growler with 1.25 tsp of sugar.

2/22/16 Tasting notes above.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Post-Fermentation Malt-Infused Porter

Tried five different roasted grains I had on hand.Why can’t beer just taste like beer anymore? Maple beer, passion fruit beer, elderflower beer... even new hop varieties are marketed as smelling like "coffee" and "garlic." What about a beer flavored with malt? Sure the Reinheitsgebot was an artificial constraint on the ingredients available to German brewers, but it focused their creativity on process (think: decoction, acidulated malt, first wort hopping).

With the ever increasing prevalence of weird-ingredient beers, American brewers (both craft and home) are overlooking the possibilities that weird process provides! Whether that is dry hopping before fermentation, concentrated Maillard-intensifying boil, or adding malt after fermentation (which is what I'm investigating with this post)!

The second filtration was likely unnecessary, but couldn't hurt.The concept for this porter was to age it for six months (while the other half was on tap), and then add cold-extracted dark grain to refresh the dark malt flavor and aroma. I've used cold-extracted dark grains before, but only before fermentation (like Dark Saison IV). Over the years I've drank a few stouts and porters (fresh Deschutes Abyss comes to mind) that have exhibited a hint of dough-in: that wonderful combination of fresh coffee and bready malt. That's what I wanted to accentuate. While not as sensitive as hop compounds, malt aromatics are driven off by the boil and fermentation and muted and muddled by age and oxidation. This isn’t always a bad thing, but it can be boring when that is what all malt goes through on the way to the glass!

The base for this experiment was the “plain” half of the chocolate-butternut squash porter that I brewed in early August. It had some roastiness, but after five months in the keg it was beginning to show its age, too dark-fruit forward. Dosing into a glass let me play with different rates and malt combinations without risking the whole batch. After testing a variety of dark malts in small scale infusion I settled on equal parts Weyermann Carafa Special II and Chocolate Rye. Both are husk-free, and provide a softer flavor contribution than black malt and roasted barley.

Paper filter after it was done with the extract.To make the extract for the full-batch infusion I ran the grains (2.5 oz each) through my Barley Crusher. While you can use a blade-style coffee grinder for dark malts, the fine particulate makes the spent grain sludge difficult to separate from the liquid. I combined the grain with 48 oz of filtered water in a sanitized growler, shaking occasionally to aid extraction. After 10 hours I decanted the liquid through a mesh coffee filter to remove large pieces of grain that hadn't settled. I then passed it through a paper filter to remove any dust (stouts and porters often taste better after roasted particulate is allowed to drop). Despite being a second pass this still took about 30 minutes.

I pasteurized the resulting inky black concentrate at 170F for a few minutes. While I doubt it would have caused a microbial issue going into cold/fermented beer, the extra effort was worth the peace of mind. Heating the extract also helps to reduce the amount of dissolved oxygen, although not as much as boiling would have. After cooling, I did another taste test to dial in my ideal ratio, and then dosed 23 oz directly into the depressurized mostly-full keg. This technique might also benefit from combination with water adjustments, but I didn't find that necessary flavor-wise (beers on nitro often benefit from slightly lower pH to replace the absent carbonic acid).

No idea what this glass is intended for, $.79 at Goodwill.ReMalted Porter

Appearance – Doesn’t look much darker than it was prior to the cold extraction, but when held at an angle to the light it is less translucent (still transparent, but brown rather than red right at the edge). Nice big tan head, a bit voluminous though, needed to settle and top-off to get a full pour.

Smell – Not quite brew-day morning, but much fresher grainy-roasty flavor than the beer was prior to the transfusion. Still has some dark fruit behind the coffee and roasted grain. On the upper-end of mocha for a porter. No hop aroma.

Taste – Roast is mellower on the palate than it was in the nose. Smooth cold brewed coffee, minimal roasted bitterness. Hops were never prominent, but by now they add just a slight bitter edge. Smooth, although a bit dry for my tastes. Fermentation seems clean, no noticeable off-flavors.

Mouthfeel – Not quite as full as I prefer for a cold-weather rye porter, although the creamy head helps with that body while it lasts. Low carbonation after running through the stout faucet. Amazing how much mouthfeel the butternut squash added to the other half!

Drinkability & Notes – This method breathes malty freshness into an aged beer, the malt equivalent of a hop tea. Adding more dark malt after fermentation certainly improved this beer, but at this rate it doesn’t provide a showcase character. It would be interesting to taste a dark beer with all of the roasted grain added like this! It could also be an easy way to make a split batch without having to divide the wort pre-boil. You could even try a shorter/hotter extraction if you wanted to see how that changes the roast impression. Lots of options, and certainly not the last of my attempts to use traditional ingredients in new ways!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Maple Bourbon Adam Tasting

Maple imperial stouts... so hot right now. Like coconut last year, mole a few years ago, and whiskey-barrel-aged before that (not that any of those have gone anywhere). Maple syrup is a comparatively mild flavor, difficult to showcase in a flavorful style without resorting to "natural" flavorings or fenugreek.

Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout was the first to really get beer nerds excited about maple-stout. I aged a Breakfast Stout inspired recipe on maple syrup-soaked bourbon oak cubes to replicate the contribution of bourbon barrels that subsequently held maple syrup, but only got a hint of flavor.

More recently Tree House has Good Morning sitting at #1 on BeerAdvocate. I was amazed how intense the maple flavor was, really jumped out of the growler (although I’ve talked to other people who had growlers from later in the same batch with only a hint of maple, not sure if it was palate or beer differences). Toppling Goliath’s Mornin’ Delight is #2 on BA (although I’ve yet to get a chance to sample it).

Rumor is that some well-thought-of maple beers are brewed with 10% or more by volume (e.g., a half gallon of maple syrup in a five gallon batch!). That seemed like too much simple sugar, so for this batch of Adam I added only a quart (5%) of Grade B as fermentation slowed. Some brewers suggest dosing the syrup into cold beer to prevent refermentation, but I didn't want that much sweetness in the finished beer. Others suggest adding it early in the boil to encourage the Maillard reaction between the sugars and proteins, but I worried that the fermentation would scrub out volatile aromatics. I wasn't worried about boiling them off though, as maple syrup is created by boiling for many hours.

A glass of Adam with maple syrup and bourbon.Usually I bottle big beers to space out my enjoyment, but not 13% ABV big! I didn't want to risk two cases of uncarbonated beer (like my first Adam clone) so I kegged and force carbonated. Nice to have the option to pour a few ounces without committing to a whole 12 oz bottle, but tough to tie-up a tap long-term. After a few months I disconnected the keg to put the Saphir Pilsner on. Doubt I'll tap it again until next fall. I actually dusted off the last bottle of my original Adam clone to share while brewing a more traditional adambier with a group of homebrewers in Fargo, ND a few months ago: still delicious, and Hoppy Halloween was a blast!

Maple Bourbon Adam

Appearance – Brunette body with a tan head. Dark enough to be nearly opaque, but clear edges when held at an angle. Decent retention for a liquor-infused strong ale.

Smell – Light woodsy smoke, caramel, vanilla, and hints of clean ethanol. Varied aroma, but given everything that is in there not especially intense. Not too phenolic as I’ve heard complaints about Briess cherry wood smoked malt.

Taste – Sticky-intense caramel maltiness. Bourbon notes come through in the finish (vanilla with a hint of butterscotch), about the right intensity. Mellow maple syrup contribution despite accounting for 12% of the fermentables. Finish is a nice blend of oak and hardwood smoke. The cherry wood malt melds well with the bourbon and maple, but none of them are bold. How some of those commercial maple beers get such an assertive aroma/flavor is beyond me!

Mouthfeel – Full and luscious. Despite being on the same PSI as my other kegs this one never seems quite as carbonated, not that I’m complaining!

Drinkability & Notes – The blend of smoke, booze, and maple evokes my trip to Montreal and dinner at Au Pied de Cochon, which was the goal. A hulking 13% ABV beer in a relatively drinkable cloak. That is good and bad – for that much alcohol I want a WOW beer and this is a pleasant sipper. I’m not an “It hides its alcohol well” fan, I’d much rather a 9% beer drank like 13% than vice versa (not hot or boozy, but rich, full, complex, intense etc.)! Should age beautifully!