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The State of the Stout

by VM Brasseur on April 22nd, 2007

As promised, here’s a quick run-down on the initial steps of making the stout.

The ingredients for “Black Death Stout” were purchased from The Oak Barrel in Berkeley rather than my usual supplier of The Beverage People in Santa Rosa. This is only because I happened to be killing time in Berkeley before meeting a friend for dinner. Because they came from an unfamiliar source, the instructions for using the ingredients seemed odd to me. They lacked some details which I’m used to seeing but thankfully I had a few batches under my belt already and was able to make sense of things.

This recipe involves a lot more grain that I’m used to using and included the step of “cracking the grains” before steeping them. This was all new to me. You can buy
specialized grain-cracking doodads
but that wasn’t for me. A food processor was going to have to suffice. Yes, the grain got a bit more pulverized than cracked. Oh, well.

This was also my first experience with using liquid malt. Previously the recipes I’ve made have called for dry malt only. Liquid malt is a lot like honey in consistency and it makes a beautiful ribbon as you pour it into the pot of boiling water. I learned the hard way that it’s not a good idea to add some of that boiling water to the malt container, then close and shake it in an effort to get more malt out. Boiling water means steam and steam means that little plastic top won’t be staying where you put it for very long. When it comes off it’s going to be fast and it’s going to be followed by a fountain of hot sticky malt-laden water. Uh…yeah. The less said about that right now the better.

Aside from that little bit of excitement, the entire process was fairly textbook. One thing that did surprise me was the original gravity measurement I took on the wort before adding the yeast. 1.082?! Damn. That’s far higher than I would have expected (~ 1.06 or so). Assuming this ferments down all the way and doesn’t kill the yeast with the high alcohol content, this is going to be one hot beer.

Now the five gallons is residing in my closet awaiting a little yeast activity. I’ll be checking it again next weekend to see whether it’s ready to go into secondary. My experience with the nut brown earlier this year makes me think that I’ve been rushing my beers to secondary and to bottle, trying to make them fit my schedule rather than the other way around (as it should be). The beer was good, but I think it could have been better. So this time I’ll be trying to move it to the subsequent stages when it’s ready to move, not when I’m ready to move it.

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