So, I’ve been given the honour of writing a blog for UK Craft Beer Network and I thought I’d better get typing. I’m flattered really, as I’m only in my third year of AG brewing – so there are plenty of people out there with more experience – but Craft Brewer and others seem to enjoy my brews and for reasons known only to them they trust that I’ll have something of interest to say.
I thought I’d start with something on a Chocolate Truffle Stout I brewed as a Christmas ale; partly because Stuart Pickard reviewed it just before the time of writing so you can tap into an impartial and honest appraisal from a very experienced drinker from Yorkshire right here. He’d had a few of my brews that day, and it was starting to show! If you want to cut to the chase the recipe is at the end, but below is the ‘story’ of this beer…
I think that the reason people like my beers is because I have only ever shared decent ones with them. I have in the past brewed some awful muck, and this beer has its roots in one such brew. My ex was a fan of chocolate stout and it seemed inevitable that I’d have a stab at the style at some point. Unfortunately, that point was during the hot weather last summer: weather which I believe found a flaw in my sanitation for the starter I was making from reclaimed yeast. Come brew day the starter wasn’t exactly boisterous, and it smelled… OK… maybe… so I pitched it and crossed my fingers. Crossing fingers does not constitute good practice – don’t rely on it. If you use a starter and it doesn’t seem 100% to you then it probably isn’t so have a plan b up your sleeve. And hot weather is unforgiving unless your sanitation is first class.
As it happens, my relationship failed about the same time as the beer, and it was a while until I tried the style again :).
I wanted to do something more than ‘just’ a chocolate stout, and Bath Ales do a cracking rum porter as a Christmas brew so I thought a dash of Sailor Jerry would help to add a ‘fire in the belly’ quality to the brew. I also thought that a bit of vanilla wouldn’t go amiss. I’d used the Burton Bridge Top Dog Stout recipe from Wheeler’s Brew Your Own British Real Ale as a ‘base recipe’ for stouts before (even the though the hopping rates are wrong in the 3rd edition) so that was my starting point (for 19 litres):
Pale Malt 3120
Torrefied Wheat 905
Chocolate Malt 300
I Burtonised my liquor (although it might be excessive) and mashed for 90 minutes at 65C. I’ve been buying Optic Pale Malt from the Otley brewery for the past year or so, and that’s the temperature they mash at. After I’d collected 19l I gave it a good stir and checked the gravity – 1.050 – spot on! I sparged a further couple of litres to compensate for evaporation, and fired up my boiler.
For bittering I used 28g of 8.5% alpha Challenger at start of boil, which would make approx 30 IBU – sweet by some standards, but I was after just enough bitterness to tone down the malt, and I didn’t want any obvious hop character. I also added 5g of crushed licorice root at start of boil to add a different quality of sweetness to the final brew. Looking back at my notes, I boiled for 70 mins – can’t quite remember why I picked this odd timing! I think I might have had second thoughts about the bitterness level and decided to cut back from 90 mins to stop further isomerisation of alpha acids. Ten minutes before end of boil I added 5g of Irish Moss, then at flame out I sieved in 200g of decent quality cocoa powder, stirred carefully, and left it for 20 minutes.
I then chilled it to 20C, which resulted in good cold break but also disconcerting little lumps of cocoa-related fat in the boiler. I ran the wort into a fermenter, pitched 11g of (rehydrated) Nottingham yeast and fermented it with my brew fridge set to 18C. The temp inside the wort will be 3C higher due to the heat produced by fermentation activity, and I didn’t want a higher temperature fermentation anyway, due to the ‘extras’ this can bring to the party such as increased acetaldehyde.
OK – if you’re still reading and you didn’t skip ahead to the recipe in order to pick holes in it and cogitate on how it could be vastly improved by the addition of 5g of melanoidin malt or 20.2g of light carapils blah blah, then here’s a minor challenge for you: so far the recipe has been exclusively AG, and the use of torrefied wheat excludes the possibility of an extract version. I’d like to make this blog inclusive and to offer the chance of kit brewers to try this recipe, so the first person to pm me via Facebook with a good suggestion of a kit that could be used as the base for this beer will be sent a bottle of the brew, providing they live in the UK (NB the UKCBN Admins’ decision will be final, and we reserve the right not to enter into correspondence regarding this 🙂 ). I’ll then work-up a suggested method using the kit.
Six days later it had fermented out quite well to 1.010, so I gave it two more days for the yeast to tidy itself up and racked it into a secondary, under airlock, along with two fresh vanilla pods. At this point there was around 15l of beer left. A taste whilst racking seemed a little on the bitter side still, so a day later I added 125g of lactose (boiled in about 400ml of water for 15 mins and then cooled). Lactose – where is it all? With all the lactose-free stuff around there should be piles of it on every street corner, but I had to order mine from The Malt Miller. The next day the flavour seemed well balanced: not bitter, pleasantly sweet, and the vanilla appeared to be acting as a flavour enhancer for the chocolate rather than having a distinct presence of its own.
Day four in the secondary I added 40 proof rum at a level of 10ml per litre of beer, which lifted the abv by about 0.4% to nudging 6%. Next day I bottled the 15+l of beer along with a) 60g glucose, boiled in about 300ml of water for 10 mins then cooled and b) 45ml of Star Kay White chocolate extract. This is the key ingredient for adding chocolate aroma and keeping a chocolate character to the beer from first sip to last.
The beer took a few weeks to develop a head – the fat content of the cocoa had an impact on the surface tension – but patience paid off and a decent brew resulted.
Here’s the recipe without the waffle:
Grain bill for 19l:
Pale Malt 3120
Torrefied Wheat 905
Chocolate Malt 300
Mash according to your preferences, with or without Burtonising your liquor.
Boil – 70 mins
70 mins: Challenger 8.5% 28g
Licorice root 5g (crushed)
10 mins: Irish Moss or equivalent
0 mins: 200g good quality cocoa powder (sieved)
Leave covered for 20 mins.
Chill to 20C
Pitch 11g of Nottingham or other British yeast
Ferment at 20C
When primary fermentation has finished, rack to secondary and add two whole vanilla pods, and 125g of lactose which has been boiled for 10+ mins in 300-400ml water.
Leave in secondary for at least five days.
The day before bottling, add 10ml of your favourite rum per 1l of remaining beer.
At bottling, add 3ml of good quality chocolate extract per 1l of beer, and prime for lowish carbonation (say, 4.5g glucose per litre). Or do what you want, I don’t care :).
There are plenty of variables to play with here, so have fun.