Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Polecat Porter Tasting

Standard on left, eised version on right.
It’s rare that I brew the exact same beer twice:  typically if I am doing a re-brew, I’ll tweak something in either an attempt to update the beer more to my liking or to try out a new process/flavor ingredient.   My original Baltic porter exceeded my expectations though and instead of trying to create an even better beer, I wanted to replicate the original so that I could proudly serve one of my favorite beers that I’ve made at NHC.  Unfortunately, I don’t think that will be the case this year…or at least in its intended form.

Although the standard version turned out to be a great tasting beer in its own right, it’s certainly not my original Polecat Porter and probably is a far cry from even being classified as a Baltic porter.   For whatever reason, the beer is lacking in the malt depth/complexity that the original possessed, the color is slightly lighter, and the body is much weaker than it should be. 

I try to keep thorough notes when I brew and after looking over both brew sessions, it appears as though my processes were identical.  It’s possible that I accidentally left out or incorrectly measured a malt, but  I’m starting to think that maybe the difference lies in the brand of malts that I used.  I never really recorded this in the past and, as an example, with SRMs of chocolate malt ranging from 350 to 600 depending on the maltster, not using the exact same grain as before really can alter the outcome of the beer.  I’m not sure if this is what happened with my beer in or not, but going forward, you can bet that I’ll be recording all of this information so that I can eliminate this variable should the problem rise again.

The good news is that, while technically still not a Baltic porter, the eised version turned out be fantastic.  Since my standard version is still lagering uncarbonated in the fridge, I plan to eis the entire keg.  It may not be the original beer that I intended to serve at NHC, but it’s a unique option and one that I think a lot of people will enjoy.

Standard – Very clear, dark brown with a sort of ruby highlight when held up to the light.  Sandy head that fades quickly.
Eised – Very clear, more of a dark chestnut color, almost tobacco, and less of the ruby highlights.  Very difficult to get any head.

Standard – Very clean and smooth with a mild chocolate flavor.  Quite a bit of soft fruit flavor from the Special B, but not in a sweet way.  Almost no roast, but there is considerable breadiness and slight toffee notes.  Clean bitterness without any hop flavor.
Eised – Compared to the standard, there’s less chocolate and more toffee/caramel.  Slightly sweeter too, but not overly so or in a cloying manner.  There’s also some warming alcohol, but no heat whatsoever.  Very rich flavors, but they’re extremely smooth and have meld together quite well.

Standard – Too thin and dry to be categorized as a Baltic porter.  Sample was carbonated too quickly and needed more time to really integrate well.  No astringency.
Eised – Medium-full bodied with moderate carbonation that kept the beer from being too heavy on the tongue.  No astringency.

Standard – If I didn’t tell  you that it was supposed to be a Baltic porter, I think it would be a highly enjoyable beer….sort of a  nice, malty lager with background chocolate flavor.  To me though, it’s completely flawed because it’s not what I wanted it to be and it's hard to get past that.
Eised – This beer is great…loads of layered flavors with rich complexity.  It’s totally different from the base beer, and as expected, my original intentions, but in its own right, it’s unique and highly enjoyable.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Naked City Collaboration RIS

Courtesy of club member, Nick L.
Back in the fall of 2011, the Washington Homebrewers Association (WAHA) sent out an email to all of the Washington AHA registered homebrew clubs to see if there was any interest in working on their own commercial collaboration brew for the NationalHomebrewer’s Conference ( Bellevue, WA in June 2012).   Our highly motivated club, the Homebrewers Guild of Seattle Proper, jumped at the opportunity and responded right away.  Unfortunately it seemed as though WAHA wasn’t quite as ready to begin the process as they originally expected, and so rather than waiting until their anticipated start date of Spring 2012, we began the process on our own.  One of our first choices, and a favorite brew pub among many of our club members, NakedCity seemed like the ideal candidate for such a collaboration project.

Courtesy of club member, Nick L.
Although we would have been more than happy to brew anything with Don, the brewer and owner of Naked City, we decided that as a club, we should come up with a few ideas to present to him beforehand.  One club member had recently picked up a 30 gallon whiskey barrel from the Woodenville Whiskey Company which was recently drained of their Harvest Release American Whiskey.   We had been planning on using it for a club project, but with the advent of a collaboration brew and a little time on our side, we thought it would be fun if we could brew a larger batch of beer on Naked City’s system and then age a portion of it in our whiskey barrel.   If it comes out too strong, we can use some of the standard version to blend back and if not, we’ll have a fun, 100% barrel aged collaboration brew to serve at NHC.

Courtesy of club member, Nick L.
With the decision made to use the whiskey barrel for the Naked City project, the 8 of us in our club next debated about what to fill it with.  A multitude of ideas were tossed about, but in the end, Don and the other members of our club decided to go with the always-popular-among-beer-nerds Russian Imperial Stout.  Fitting of his completely laid back style, Don left the recipe formulation completely up to us and so in designing the grist and recipe, we went with a combination of grains that leaned towards a chewy, chocolate base with a mild residual sweetness and just enough clean bittering hops to keep it from being cloying.   One of our secret ingredients that we were planning on using was Golden Naked Oats, which is a mild caramel malt that adds a touch of nutty sweetness along with a velvet like texture.  Unfortunately on brew day, after adding all the grains to the mash tun, we realized that flaked oats were added instead of Golden Naked Oats.  With 7% of the grist once scheduled for this caramel malt and now substituted for flaked oats, it’ll be interesting to see if the roast is now running strong in the forefront or if there’s enough residual sweetness to balance out the hops.  We ended up mashing at 154° instead of the originally planned 149°, and with the increase in temp, hopefully the slightly less fermentable wort will result in body and sweetness closer to what we originally intended.

All in all it was a great brewday at Naked City and I can’t wait to see how both the barrel-aged and standard version turn out.  If by chance you’re headed to NHC this year, come check us out and see for yourself what you think of our collaboration brew.


Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 100
Total Grain (Lbs): 427
Anticipated OG:  1.110
Actual OG: 1.100
Final Gravity: 1.024
Courtesy of club member, Bob Y.
Anticipated SRM:  57
Anticipated IBUs:   121
Wort Boil Time:  120 minutes
Pre-Barrel ABV:  10.2%

Grain Bill
48.2% - 206 lbs Gambrinus Pale Malt (2-Row)
28.8% - 123 lbs Gambrinus ESB Malt
7% - 30 lbs Golden Naked Oats Flaked Oats
4.4% - 19 lbs Roasted Barley
3.6% - 15 lbs Chocolate Malt
3.6% - 15 lbs Pale Chocolate Malt
2.3% - 10 lbs CaraMunich 40
2.3% - 10 lbs Special B

1400 grams Magnum (pellets, 14.0% AA) @ 60 minutes
300 grams East Kent Goldings (Pellets, 5.0% AA) @ 15 minutes

White Labs WLP039 Nottingham (Slurry from Naked City’s Mayfield Mild)

Water Profile and Additions
Mash: 1.0 g/g baking soda (see notes below)
Boil: 1.2 g/g Calcium Chloride, 0.35 g/g Epsom Salt

Mash Schedule
60 minutes @ 154°

1/13/12 – Brewed with the club and Don at Naked City

Don had all the grains milled and ready to go.  Doughed in and settled at a rest temp of 154°

According to our calculations, we needed about 2.0 grams per gallon of baking soda to reach our target mash pH of 5.3.  Taking it slow, we added in half the amount (145 grams) and then measured the pH…6.0.  It should have been way below this, so we opted to not make any more additions.  After realizing the grain issue, we speculated that the lack of 30 lbs of crystal malt caused our initial pH to be higher than expected.  Adding the 145 grams of baking soda only increased it further, so without it, we probably would have been in about the perfect range.

Boiled for 2 hours with mineral and hop additions as noted above.  Minerals went in at 60 minutes.

Whirlpooled for 30 minutes, and then chilled as we racked off (using plate chiller).  Oxygenated inline and pitched yeast at about 70 degrees with fermentor set at 68.

2/9/12 - Beer was transferred out of fermenter and into barrel and brite tank.
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