Category Archives: Stout

Long time…

…both since I wrote on the brew blog (or any other blog for that matter), and since we put some beer down. It took several months after my daughter Coraline was born for us to get back into the brewing routine, and when we did the beer languished in secondary for a really long time.

Back in August we started a Russian Imperial Stout. Looking to imitate my favorite beer on Earth–Rogue’s Russian Imperial Stout–it was a spendy batch, with nearly double the ingredients for those voracious yeast to chew on.
With that well under way, we also put an IPA in the works. We’d done one late last year, and it has been among our most popular brews when sharing with friends and family. The intensely hoppy beers of the Northwest have been growing on me, I have to admit. I’m still most fond of the dark beers, but some nice, spicy, hoppy beer doesn’t go down wrong either.
So that got us up until the end of September, with both batches in the secondary when life suddenly exploded. Weeks flew by, we were out of town, swamped around the house, didn’t manage to catch Andrew for ages, and before I knew it I couldn’t exactly remember when we’d made that beer in the secondary. Every once in a while it’d bloop┬áin the corner. There wasn’t anything green or pink or orange growing, but I felt guilty for not treating my beer right. It deserved to be bottled and enjoyed.
This past weekend we finally got together and bottled (along with brewing a rather pale looking batch of Amber–we’ll see how that goes). There was a great deal of tension as we got the first bit of the beer into a glass to sample, then move it on into the bottling bucket. Would it be ruined by the long sit on a small layer of yeast? Would the light and time in the carboy have flushed ten gallons down the drain?
Hallelujah! The Russian was excellent, even flat (we prime in the bottles). The IPA also showed no ill effect from the time in the carboy, although it was a little sweeter than I remember the recipe being before. Hopefully it’ll smooth out in the bottles.
So there’s an answer for those who might be wondering how long you can have a beer sit in secondary. Three or four months doesn’t seem to be an issue, though I’m not likely to try that experiment again.

A Year in Brews

Hard to believe, but it’s been over a year since Andrew and I started brewing. Things have gone much better than I had originally imagined, and I’m enjoying myself even more than I would have thought possible.

In celebration, here’s a rundown of the brews we’ve made and how they turned out:

  • Porter (P1) — Our first attempt, 1 1/2 gallons short and a little weird, but drinkable. Ah, sweet success!
  • Stout (S1) — Tasty, and especially excellent after the “passable” port
  • Trappist Ale (T1) — Kit was a Christmas gift. Very nice, with the bubble gum/banana fruitness expected of the variety.
  • Nut Brown (B1) — First real failure… just turned out with a weird flavor, overly foamy.
  • Porter (P2) — Fantastic redux on the porter. One of my favorite batches.
  • Irish Red (R1) — Good red color, nice flavor, a solid entry.
  • West Coast Stout (S2) — Great stout. When I found one more six-pack of it recently in the utility room, I actually cheered.
  • Habanero Amber (H1) — Solid Amber ale + habanero kick. Not kill-your-taste-buds-off hot, but you definitely need another drink by the end of it.
  • Belgian Wit (W1) — Our lightest beer yet. Expected more of a spiciness from the coriander and orange zest, but drinkable.
  • IPA (I1) — Enter the hops! Not quite as light as many IPA’s in color, but good flavor.
  • Stout (S3) — Another good stout. Intended for gift-giving (really, I will give it away soon once it’s rested enough!)
  • Porter (P3) — Ditto the S3. Good porter effort, but not long for my home unfortunately.
  • Porter (PB) –Arg, busted thermometer screwed the batch!
  • Porter (PB’) — Still in the carboys, but it’s the “baby porter” for after my wife can drink again.
  • Stout (SB/S4) — Stout base for a bourbon spiked stout. Still in the primary, but hopes are high!

All in all, far more success on that list than I expected getting into the brewing game. Plenty of other challenges ahead, but then the rewards make it all worthwhile.

Keep brewing out there folks!

Is it getting chile in here?

Today’s a momentous brewing day. Several weeks ago, Andrew and I did our first double-batch! He’d recently moved into his own home, and since we’ve got two houses, it only makes sense that we’d have two beers brewing.

So it’s bottling day for those next two batches. One is a redux on the stout that we’d done earlier, shooting for a bit more malty, less hoppy take. Turns out the original recipe we were using was more of a West Coast stout, which tends to the hoppiness more than we’d prefer.

The second batch was the more exotic and exciting–a habanero amber ale! We’d finally gotten comfortable enough with the last couple batches to try something a little different. Now one of my favorite beers ever is called the Hot Tamale is only available on tap at the Old Market Pub and Brewery, which I don’t live too close to. I’ve had a lot of chile beers that give you a hint of heat, but this beer was hot!

Given my love for all things spicy, we had to try this concoction ourselves. After talking to the guys at Main Street, we found the procedure was pretty simple. You put the peppers in for the last fifteen minutes of the boil. To test it out before-hand (and you should check it, since peppers vary wildly in heat levels!), just boil 1/20 of the pepper amount you’re considering for fifteen minutes, then let that cool all the way down to room temperature. Then test it out. This is going to be a bit hotter than the final product, and in our case was spicy! It’ll be a few weeks before we can give it a real check, but I’m hugely excited.

And to make matters even better, after bottling today, we’re going over to hang out with some friends who do all-grain brewing. Not sure I can imagine a better brewing day!

Stout!

This last weekend was another bottle and brew–Trappist-style ale going into the bottles, and a nut brown ale brewing. My friend Brian was in town, and brown ales are his favorite variety, so we took the opportunity to start a batch and share the joy of brewing.

But beyond that, it was the moment of truth for our second effort. The stout had been in the bottles a couple weeks. Not long enough to reach their full potential maybe, but long enough to give it a try.

After our passable porter, I was anxious over how the stout would turn out. We fixed the rookie mistakes we made the first time around (i.e. filled the bucket to the full 5 gallon mark, duh!) and at the bottling things looked good. But the proof is in the drinking, so we cracked open three bottles.

First good sign was the aroma. Our inaugural porter had a funky, almost sour scent to it (reminded me of the bottle room when I worked at Albertsons… not a good thing). The stout by contrast smelled nice and beery, just like a stout ought to. Carbonation level was a positive too, some foaming but nothing out of control.

And the taste? Bingo! It had the dark, rich, full bodied flavor I look for in a stout. It is still pretty fresh, so there’s a zip that a few more patient weeks should smooth out, but overall it was more than just passable. Here’s a beer I can gladly share with friends and not feel the need to qualify, “Remember, it’s my first batch!”

Ah, success!

Bottle and Brew

Last Friday was the first big bottle and brew for Andrew and myself. Our second batch of beer, a Northwest-style Stout, sat ready in the carboy, sediment nicely settled, for bottling. For Christmas, Andrew had gotten a kit for making a Trappist style ale, and since it had liquid rather than dry yeast, we decided to get going on that sooner rather than later.

For bottling, we bought a dozen 22 oz. bottles, along with another case of 12 oz. ones liked we’d used before. Our first batch boiled off way too much liquid, and we didn’t realize it until we bottled up. This time, we’d topped off properly, and came out with the equivalent of 49 12 oz. bottles. Not a bad job all told. We sampled a bit, and it tasted like stout–flat, not terribly interesting stout, but that’s to be expected. The magic continues once beer is in the bottles.

After we’d resterilized the bucket and additional equipment, it was time to brew the Trappist. Our third batch, it went quite smoothly. The whole process is getting more comfortable, and I at least didn’t feel compulsed to hover over the pot every last second of the brewing.

The Trappist recipe had several major differences from the porters and stouts we’d tried before–longer time for the hops, the addition of “brewer’s candy”, and liquid yeast. As far as I can tell, the candy was simply amber colored sugar crystals. They got stirred in with the malt extract. Apparently, the hops and sugar balance each other out in the final product. Although it will be considerably hoppier, the added sugar keeps it from getting too bitter.

Liquid yeast didn’t have much difference in the pitching compared to dry–you do let it come to room temperature, and then put it in the cooled wort. However, there have been some significant differences in the behavior over the last week of primary fermentation. One of the guys at Main Street Brewing explained to me that it isn’t unusual for liquid yeasts to act more gently and, hence, take a longer time. As of today, the spacing between bubbles from the airlock is still running around 15-25 seconds (the sweet spot we’re looking for is between one minute and a minute thirty).

Another detail of the Trappist-style ale that’s different is the fermentation temperature. Belgian breweries routinely run their primary for this type of beer at almost 80 degrees! We were gone over the first weekend and stashed it in the closed bathroom, which stayed nice and toasty. Since then, it’s been out in cooler climes, which might have robbed us of a flavor. In hopes of getting a bit back (and finishing sooner) we’ve moved it back to a corner of the bathroom, closed the door and put on a space heater to reach those balmy temperatures the beer is craving.

Another couple weeks until sampling time with the stout, but the brewing is progressing quite nicely.

Obligatory Introduction

After many years of dreaming it finally happened–I’ve started brewing with my good friend Andrew. As a beer lover, the idea of crafting my own brew has always appealed both for building an understanding of how it’s made and enjoying the results. Plus, who could resist the call of harnessing millions of wee-yeasties to do my bidding!

Between a gift certificate that Andrew got and my own birthday present from my lovely wife, we were finally set in October. Our first attempt was a porter, and I suggested we call it “Passable Porter”… assuming it was passable. I’ll ramble more about the process and details later, but we came out with something drinkable, which was more than I expected from a first batch.

From there, we’ve got a West Coast stout sitting in the primary, and plans to use a Trappist ale kit that Andrew received for Christmas this weekend. All in all, we’re off to a great start.

I’ll be inviting Andrew to write here too, and we’ll record the trials and travails as we learn the ins and outs of making that most potable of potables–beer.