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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Oak, Barrels, and Recipes

I’m just a guy writing about beer. The reason this is important is that whatever is happening in my home brew life is what I blog about here. What’s happening is that I am getting a barrel from HomebrewStuff. 10% off an already low price is pretty darn good. This barrel is going to be the focus of the next few posts here. First I’m going to cover building a recipe from scratch, in my case it is an American Stout to show case the oak. Then we will cover oak and oak aging. Third, we’ll cover Barrels, from how to prepare a new barrel, aging in a barrel, and maintaining it and getting it ready for the next beer. Lastly, we’ll have a follow up on the Oak Stout tasting notes, possible recommendations on changes you can make to make it better.

Recipe Research and Building:
So you want to brew but don’t have a recipe, what to do?  This usually hits me about Thursday as I start preparing for the weekend’s brew session (it’s going to be an American Stout this weekend).   I think about all those great beer styles I like, all those I have previously brewed and which ones turned out well. I think about the beers I’ve tasted and the homebrews my friends have had me sample. Once I figure out what style of beer I want to brew I dig in and work out a recipe
I have several standard ways of getting a new recipe, or at least a base to build on. First and foremost is your homebrew store. Often they will have kits on sale that correspond to the style you want to brew or at the very least they will have advice on how to build up a recipe for that style. Also, ask your fellow home brewers for ideas, tips, and tricks. A fellow home brewer sent me a sample of his single hop Session IPA. I was pretty wowed by it and asked for the recipe. Next time I want to brew something like that I’ll pull it up, take a look at the grain bill and hop schedule to give myself a starting point and play with it to make it more my own.
Next, hit the books! One book that I always recommend is “Brewing Classic Styles” by Jamil Zainiasheff and John Palmer. This book covers each beer style, as well as tips and tricks for making the style.  Each recipe in the book has won an award so you know they are good recipes. Another book series is the Classic Styles Series. There are several books in the series, each book covering a specific beer style as well as several recipes.  While discussing publications, I need to also recommend BYO magazine. Each month they cover a variety of topics with many recipes, a lot of which are online.
I know about now you are sitting there reading this asking why I didn’t just go straight to recipe forums like, and I’ll tell you why. You can find some great recipes out there on the internet (and a lot of bad ones), and while this is the next stop in recipe building, it shouldn’t be your first or only stop. You need to trust the source of the recipe. That is why my first stop is usually the home brew store or fellow home brewer followed by major publications. Finally for online sources, I usually look up the style on the BJCP website. Each style is covered and has a basic overview that describes what the beer should be like as well as standard ingredients that are used.
So far this has all been pretty straight forward. Basically asking others what they do, reading up on beer styles, and hopping online to see what the community at large does. So how do you go from what others have done to making it your own?
Only you know what kind of beer you like. More or less bitterness, darker or lighter grains, it’s a playground of flavors.  This is where the chef side gets to come out to play (or mad scientist maybe….). Look at the flavor and aroma descriptions of grains and hops. Potentially change the hops to be more spicy or floral, maybe drop some of the Crystal Malt and replace it with Cara-something malt. Perhaps instead of using chocolate malt you could replace it with chocolate wheat malt. Change up the yeast from nice clean American ale to malty or bready English yeast.

Let’s put this to practice: says this about American Stout
Overall Impression: A hoppy, bitter, strongly roasted Foreign-style Stout (of the export variety).
Comments: Breweries express individuality through varying the roasted malt profile, malt sweetness and flavor, and the amount of finishing hops used. Generally has bolder roasted malt flavors and hopping than other traditional stouts (except Imperial Stouts).
Ingredients: Common American base malts and yeast. Varied use of dark and roasted malts, as well as caramel-type malts. Adjuncts such as oatmeal may be present in low quantities. American hop varieties.
Brewing Classic Styles says a base of two row malt or light malt extract, roasted barley, chocolate malt and crystal 40.
This means we can assume the base will be American two row malt or Light malt extract, we should include Roasted barley, maybe a little Black Patent, some medium Crystal,  maybe a pinch of darker Crystal, even a little bit of chocolate malt, Munich malt, or some other malt to make it stand out a bit.
 I think I am going to use some Cara-Red and Munich Malt, Crystal 60 and 120. Why Crystal 60 and 120? Briess Malting Company says 60 should provide pronounced Caramel flavors and 120 should provide slight burnt sugar, raisin and prune flavors as well as caramel flavors. For bittering I’m going to shoot for 60 IBUs at 60 min, likely Horizon or Magnum hops, and one ounce of Centennial hops at flame out for about 5 IBUs.  My goal is to produce a nice clean American Stout that will show case the oak that we will add once primary fermentation is finished.

Oak Stout:
15 lbs. two row (10.5 lbs. LME), 1 lb. Roasted Barley, 0.5 lb. Cara-Red, 0.5 Crystal 60, 0.25 lb. Crystal 120, 0.25 lb. Munich malt. For hops use 1.5 oz. Horizon at 60 min., 1 oz. Centennial at flame out. For yeast use a clean American Ale yeast. Once primary fermentation is done add 2 oz. oak chips for 3 to 5 days before bottling.
I’m brewing this in a few days. We’ll pick up next week with a discussion about oak. I’ll be splitting this batch between light, medium and heavy toast oak and a second batch in a barrel. Reviews and tasting notes to follow in a few weeks!

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