Date Style IBU Boil Target OG Actual OG FG ABV %
2/25/14 Dry Stout 32.2 90 min. 1.051 1.057 1.006 6.8%

Over the winter, I finally got around to finishing off the last bottles of my Beamish stout clone, “Milky Way“. The gusher infection calmed down somewhat, and I lost very little of the remaining bottles to it. The rich dark flavor renewed my resolve to do this one again, and maybe even improve on the recipe. The roasted barley adds great color and depth to my beers, but I find that it requires a softer touch than I normally employ with it, and when too much is used, it can add an unpleasant charcoal aftertaste, as I found in the last batch. As I reduced the amount of the barley, I decided to balance it out with more chocolate malt than I used before, to enhance that flavor more. Also, when I went to Steinbart’s to pick up my grains, I found they were selling a new base malt – “Irish Stout Malt”, with a similar profile to the Maris Otter I normally use, and in the immortal words of Dr. Emmet Brown, “I figured, what the hell?” The hops remained subtle, as I stuck with just two additions of the very mild Goldings East Kent.

Ingredients

Grain Qty %
Irish Stout Malt 8 lb, 12 oz. 77.8%
Crystal Malt, 60L 1 lb. 6 oz. 12.3%
Chocolate malt 12 oz. 6.7%
Roasted Barley 6 oz. 3.4%
Hops/Additions Qty Time IBU
Goldings East Kent 1.55 oz 60 min. 28.8
Goldings East Kent .5 oz 10 min. 3.4
Irish Moss 1/2 tsp. 5 min.
Yeast/Fermentor additions Qty
Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale 2 pkg.

Brewing Notes

Feb 25: My first goal with this brew was to improve my efficiency, which I’ve been constantly struggling with, even in spite of my new mash-tun. On the advice of another regular Steinbart’s customer, I went ahead and ran my grains through their mill twice, and I can’t believe the difference it made! I had no trouble at all hitting my target gravity, and even blowing past it by 6 points! The thrill when I saw those readings in my refractometer felt like hitting a home run for the first time. If you’re having trouble with your brewhouse efficiency, start by looking at your mill settings, and make sure you’re getting your grist to the right level of ground.

I feel like I must be improving my process overall, because nothing at all went badly during this batch’s brewing. I was able to get my strike water up to mash temperature within 30 minutes, I didn’t lose more heat than expected during the 60 minute mash, sparging the grains went wonderfully. I took frequent readings during my sparge to make sure the gravity wasn’t dropping into dangerous territory (at around 1.010, the chemistry of the mash changes a bit and the grains begin releasing tannins, or so I’ve heard). I had nothing to worry about, though, I was able to pull off about 6 gallons of thick, sweet wort before my gravity dropped even below 1.030. I probably could have pulled another gallon or two and made a decent wee stout with the second runnings. I’ll have to consider that next time!

My pre-boil gravity was at a whopping 1.052, which was already higher than the 1.051 I was shooting for as a Final gravity, so I knew right away the second-milling of the grains had done the trick. Knowing that I still had a 90-minute boil ahead of me, I started to worry that I was going to end up with more of an Imperial stout by accident, but I suppose there are worse problems to have. I could have shortened the boil to 60 minutes and been okay, but I wanted to see what I could get out of the recipe as it was laid out in front of me.

The boil went fine, all of my additions were made without incident, and I ended up with a respectable final gravity of 1.057 of extremely sweet beer. As I was cooling, I made my first real mistake, as I dropped the thermometer into the still-200° stout. It was too dark to see the thermometer below the surface, and still too hot to go fishing for it, so I just left it alone and got out a candy thermometer. Transferred to the fermenter with no problems, and pitched two packs of active Wyeast Scottish Ale yeast.

Feb. 25: My next mistake was forgetting to aerate the wort before I added the yeast. It was several hours still before I realized this mistake, and I got concerned that I wasn’t seeing any fermentation activity by the end of the night (normally I can see some small islands of fine bubbles forming on the surface, at least).

Feb. 26: I decided to try to aerate the beer really quickly this morning, and was surprised by an immediate eruption of foam, up and out the top of my carboy. Luckily I ferment the carboy in a plastic tub, so spillage isn’t a problem. Clearly there was some activity going on in there, even if it wasn’t visible. I decided to leave it alone after that, and had a nice thick layer of kreusen by the end of the day.

Mar. 2: Fermentation kept up a good clip for the last four days, slower but steadier than normal. Wondering if that’s a result of the poor aeration, or if it’s just a characteristic of this yeast strain. Either way, it smelled fantastic! Activity has slowed to nothing now, so I took a gravity test. Was surprised to see it was at 1.006! The yeast was much busier than I would have thought. This pushes the ABV much closer to 7% than I had expected, and the finished beer is deep and dense so I’ve dubbed it Dark Matter.

Tasting Notes

Mar. 5: Last tasting before kegging, the flavor is rich and dark, with a mild tartness. There’s a mild fruitiness, it almost tastes like there’s a bit of acid malt, even though I know there isn’t. So many areas of my palate are being activated here, it’s hard to tell the flavors apart. I’m looking forward to trying it after it’s had a few days on the CO2.

Mar. 8: Pulled a couple 3oz tasters off the keg while I was filling up a growler for my friend’s birthday party later tonight. The small tastes show a great head already (even at room temperature). This stout jumps right out at you with a strong hop aroma, similar to a bitter dark chocolate. The chocolate notes carry through to the flavor, and also give it a flavor that’s somewhere between coffee and toffee. I still need to try it cold, but I think this would be amazing poured over some vanilla ice cream.