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Brown Porter Brew

September 27, 2010

Introduction

To follow-up my Scottish ‘Tweener as a potential Badger Brew-Off entrant, I’m brewing a brown porter.  My initial inspiration was to make a good porter that could be a base for a raspberry porter (something I’ve been enamored with since listening to Jamil’s fruit beer episode).  Reading Designing Great Beers, I decided that I’d rather go with the brown porter than the robust porter that I was envisioning (I’m wondering now if that might be a bad idea if I want to make it a fruit beer, but that’s a little off-topic).  I figured I like a little residual sweetness and not so much roastiness, so I went with the seemingly less popular brown porter.

Pre-Brew

After composing my recipe, I noticed that my grain bill called for 88 oz. total.  A quick reference to my Evil Twin partial mash revealed my note that “this amount of grain seems to stretch the limits of [the grain bag’s] size,” so I decided a second bag would be wise.  Unfortunately, I was presented with another disappointment at the brew shop when they didn’t have the selection of nylon bags that I had at Main Street (they were all much longer than they were wide) so I decided to go cheap until I could buy one I liked and got a $0.75 muslin bag (another note, these bags that I didn’t like were also more expensive than the ones I did like at Main Brew).

Recipe

BeerSmith Recipe

Brew Day (9/26/2010)

This was the first brew day with my new ThermoWorks RT600C, so I spent more time messing with the mash than I had been previously.  First I got the strike water to 163.4 as BeerSmith instructed (and no, I wasn’t too anal about the 0.4, but it got there anyway).  After putting the water in the cooler, adding the two grain bags, and “doughing in,” I noticed the temperature to be in the 145F range.  My trusty BeerSmith told me to add 0.83 gallons of boiling water, so I did.  After this, the mash was at an acceptable 150 – 151 F.  Knowing that there could be a lot of variation through the grain bed, I left well enough alone for the next 50 minutes or so (it took ~10 minutes to get the additional water boiling).

Following the mash and after soaking my grain bags in ~1.5 gallons of water for 10 minutes and sparging with another 1/2 gallon (standard operating procedure), I was floored to learn that my pre-boil gravity checked in at 1.032 for a whopping 49.83% efficiency!  So it turned out with my correction for low efficiency, I still ended up low for my gravity.  Given the fact that I’ll only have 1 fermentor open next week, I think I’ll take the weekend off and try to figure out what’s messing with my efficiency.  My suspects so far:

  1. Milled too coarsely at the brew shop
  2. Water Chemistry (not a topic I know much about)

…and I’m thinking that the further reduced efficiency of this last batch was either the muslin bag, or a too high concentration of grain to water (though I forget what that ratio really impacts other than lautering ability).

Another note of interest:  I found my new thermometer reads about 8 degrees lower than my previous analog one in the mash temperature range.  This would mean that when I thought I was mashing high at 158, I was actually at 150 and when I thought I was mashing standard, I was actually in the mid-140’s.  I believe – and think I have sufficient circumstantial evidence to support the belief – that my new thermometer is more accurate than the old one.  So it might be interesting to see how a re-brew of some of my higher-temp mashes – in particular – might taste when mashed according to the new thermometer.

Following the boil – which I extended to 90 minutes to hit my target OG – I performed the same approach as the Test Porter by putting the wort in my 5-gallon plastic fermentor on the porch to let the break drop to the bottom.  I left it with the repitch yeast for several hours while I waited for the water in the cooler to get down to 65.  I had filled the cooler up with the outflow of the immersion chiller so it was pretty warm.  Ten or so gallons of water at 90 – 100 F tends to take quite a while to cool (even putting ice packs in a couple times), so the wort and yeast had several hours to equalize to temperature.  Following that, I left them in the 65 F cooler until they stabilized at 65F and pitched the yeast.

Fermentation

The following morning, I finally noticed some activity in one fermentor (they had both failed to show life in the few hours following pitching before I went to bed).  Unfortunately the second one didn’t wake up until just about 24 hours after pitching.  I’m not sure if I should be worried that the pitching rate was low, or I stressed the yeast, or what but I’ll be interested to see if I can detect any difference between the two fermentors.  I had initially thought to bottle one of them after a week to test the effects of bottle conditioning (with the main reason being to free up a second fermentor for a batch of brown ale), but I think I’ll scrap that idea as it seems that it might throw in another variable such that I won’t notice if a result is from bottle conditioning or the fermentation.

Regardless of lag time though, the fermentations are nice and steady now.  Unlike my Test Porter that I think I jumped the gun to say was chugging along slowly, these actually seem more subdued than others.  I actually hope that’s the case, because I expect that to be a byproduct of the reduced temperature from the current setup.

After about 3 days of restrained fermentation, both of the fermentors appear to have completed primary fermentation.

After the 1st week, I removed the late bloomer to make room for my Brown Ale.  I’m putting it in the closet in 2 gallons of water (standard operating procedure).  This will allow it to warm up a little bit and if there’s anything left to ferment, hopefully it will wake up and take care of it.  Unfortunately it will add another variable to differences in the final product, but 1) I don’t think there will be a noticeable difference between them and 2) if there is a difference, I’ll be alright not knowing specifically what it is, I can try to narrow it down some other time.

Bottling

  • Nice roasty, chocolatey flavor pre-carbonation

Evaluation

Still haven’t hit the right beer for the raspberry porter.

37/50

Aroma (9/12):  Much stronger roasty, chocolatey aroma (compared to the test porter).

Appearance(2/3):  Nice tan head, with a little better staying power than the test porter.  Maybe a little darker, too but the same deep red with light shined behind it.

Flavor(15/20):  Definitely more roast, chocolate flavor than the test porter, but still somewhat lacking.  A little biting also.  No hop flavor, but solid, balanced bitterness.

Mouthfeel (4/5):  Nice and full, but not overly so.

Overall (7/10):  Pretty decent beer.  Still not to the point where I think it would be good enough for my raspberry porter base, though.

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